50.50 https://opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/5971/all en Immigration detention: "expensive, ineffective and unjust" https://opendemocracy.net/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first ever parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK has published its report today. Finding that we detain far too many people for far too long, the report calls for radical structural change to the system.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Yesterday, during a press briefing session at Parliament, I was listening to three MPs talk about the detention inquiry’s findings to a group of journalists.&nbsp; </p> <p>This first ever parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention has published its <a href="http://detentioninquiry.com/2015/03/03/time-for-a-time-limit-parliamentarians-call-for-a-28-day-maximum-time-limit-on-immigration-detention-to-be-introduced/">report</a> today, and the briefing session was our attempt to secure some media coverage.&nbsp; </p> <p>While people carrying cameras and recording gear milled around, the session was held under strict embargo and those of us organising the briefing were anxious about the whole proceedings.&nbsp; </p> <p>To confess, I had already had several occasions to read through the report before the press briefing session.&nbsp; </p> <p>A pdf version of the embargoed copy of the report was sitting in my email inbox for about a week, while we nervously fretted about whether the printer could churn out the hard copies of the report on time and what they would look like.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>So although what was said was not supposed to be news to me, hearing about the inquiry’s recommendations through the voices of Sarah Teather MP, David Burrowes MP and Paul Blomfield MP still surprised me. </p> <p>Human voices are powerful things. </p> <p>They speak in a way that written words cannot. </p> <p>Through their voices, the recommendations sounded more real and grounded.&nbsp; </p> <p>Their voices also confirmed that those voices which gave evidence to the panel – people with experience of detention and other experts – were indeed heard and we are now going somewhere. </p> <p>These voices also made me realise that I had not fully really appreciated the significance of this report, until now.&nbsp; </p> <p>The most headline-friendly key recommendation from the inquiry is the introduction of a 28 day time limit on immigration detention, to bring the UK in line with other countries who are managing their immigration control system with a time limit on immigration detention.&nbsp; </p> <p>According to the most recently published Home Office statistics, of those who left the detention estate in 2014, almost 11,000 people did so after more than 28 days of administrative incarceration. </p> <p>However, a far more profound conclusion is found in the report’s foreword, written by the panel’s Chair, Sarah Teather MP.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>“Crucially, this panel believes that little will change by tinkering with the pastoral care or improving the facilities. We believe the problems that beset our immigration detention estate occur quite simply because we detain far too many people unnecessarily and for far too long. The current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust.” <br /></em></p> <p>From September to December 2014, the Detention Forum and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50:50</a> explored the impact and the reality of immigration detention through our joint programme, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-unlocking-detention">Unlocking Detention</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>Over several months, we ‘visited’ each immigration detention centre in the UK, metaphorically unlocking the gates of the detention centres to hear what is indeed going on in there.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Detention Forum members contributed most of the articles in the series, and also ran a separate dedicated <a href="http://www.unlocked.org.uk/">website</a>. </p> <p>Some articles where reprinted at other websites, including <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2014/09/migrant-lives-uk-deprivation-liberty/">the Justice Gap</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>The series was deliberately timed to coincide with the parliamentary detention inquiry, to generate more interest in this hidden world of gross human rights abuse that no one seems to want to talk about in public.&nbsp; </p> <p>While the phrase “deprivation of liberty” should sound alarm bells in any thinking person’s mind, the UK has largely remained silent on the issue of over 30,000 migrants, routinely locked up indefinitely in prison-like conditions, year after year. </p> <p>The inquiry panel, rightly, decided to hear from those very people who have been largely forgotten.&nbsp; </p> <p>This prompted many of us to start collecting evidence from people who experienced immigration detention – up and down the country, in community halls, in interview rooms, over the phone, in detention centres, in visitors’ halls.&nbsp; </p> <p>We started calling them “experts-by-experience” instead of “ex-detainees” or “detainees”.&nbsp; </p> <p>We have had enough of people being defined by their experience of state abuse. </p> <p>We did as much as we could to bring the voices of people who are caught in this detention system. </p> <p>I recall writing the concluding piece to Unlocking Detention, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/eiri-ohtani/detention-knows-no-borders"><em>Detention knows no borders</em></a>, on the train back from Bristol to London, on International Human Rights Day, genuinely wondering what the detention inquiry was going to find and how the panel was going to respond to those voices demanding change.&nbsp; </p> <p>When you examine specific recommendations made by the inquiry panel piece by piece, there is probably nothing new or surprising about them. </p> <p>Many of us have condemned the sheer inhumanity of indefinite detention for many years. That the government thought it was okay to lock someone up without proper judicial oversight has always been hard to believe. </p> <p>The problems surrounding access to legal advice or good quality health care in detention have existed for many years, with numerous reports written about them. Likewise specific problems encountered by “vulnerable” groups of individuals.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is understandable that those who do not study the report carefully might dismiss it ‘as yet another report about immigration detention’ or a simple shopping style list of oft-repeated recommendations. However, there are three things that are refreshingly different about this report. </p> <p>The clue is in the report structure, divided into two parts, in which the first part outlines the fundamental changes that have to happen and the second part outlines issues which should not exist after the recommended changes. </p> <p>And the emphasis is very much on the first part – the panel wants to see fundamental changes.&nbsp; </p> <p>So firstly, the report warns against the danger of just tweaking detention conditions, leaving detention’s harmful and dysfunctional aspects intact.&nbsp; Instead, it calls for a radical structural change to the system, starting with the introduction of a time limit on the period anyone can be detained in immigration detention, so that far less people are detained for far shorter periods.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Secondly, the report calls for a political commitment from whoever forms the next Government to begin the process of radical reform. </p> <p>Thirdly, the report, almost for the first time in the history of UK detention advocacy, looks out of the parochial world of domestic detention practices and finds that in other countries, far more progressive discussions are taking place. </p> <p>The report discusses community based alternatives to detention, by which people can stay in the community while going through the immigration control system, instead of being locked up in detention. </p> <p>The panel heard extensively from UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency and International Detention Coalition, who have made it their mission to ensure that the states across the globe use less detention by investing in more humane, and let’s not forget, cheaper, models.&nbsp; </p> <p>The report is very carefully put together to encourage serious consideration of process change.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is realistic in acknowledging that there is no quick fix, pre-empting political parties from taking a “let’s stick a plaster over a gaping wound” approach.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is also bold in declaring that the current detention system, which detains far too many people for far too long, simply cannot go on.&nbsp; </p> <p>A&nbsp; remarkable thing about the media briefing was its calmness and frankness. </p> <p>The panel members, all coming from different political parties, simply said that they were overwhelmed by the strength of the evidence that they received and were able to agree on the key recommendations despite all their differences of opinion on immigration in general.&nbsp; </p> <p>Labour MP Paul Blomfield said that when he first started this inquiry, he was not particularly convinced by the idea of community-based alternatives. He went to say that after hearing from individuals and learning of other countries’ practices, he came out totally convinced by the need to reframe the debate and change the approach. </p> <p>Conservative MP David Burrowes said, simply, “No one should be treated without dignity”.&nbsp; </p> <p>Confronted by this unusual cross-party unity over immigration matters, the journalists present at the briefing session initially fell a little quiet. One of the journalists’ main interests was, of course, how this is going to play out in the volatile political arena where the topic of immigration poisons any conversations.&nbsp; </p> <p>The report answers that there needs to be strong political leadership to turn the tide:&nbsp; </p> <p><em>“Given the scale of the task, we recommend that the incoming Government after the General Election should form a working group to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of this inquiry. This working group should be independently chaired and contain officials from the Home Office as well as representatives from NGOs in order to widen the thinking and approach. The working group should produce a time-plan for introducing a time limit on detention and the creation of appropriate alternatives to detention, drawing on the best practice that is already in place in other countries.” <br /></em></p> <p>After the briefing session, we watched the MPs and “experts-by-experience” being photographed and interviewed on camera by the journalists on College Green outside Parliament.&nbsp; </p> <p>It was a sunny crisp day, although the wind was chilly.&nbsp; </p> <p>We huddled around, rather dazed by the whole experience, guarding the open box containing copies of the report. </p> <p>I glanced at my smartphone to find many emails, asking why they hadn’t received the embargoed copy of the report at the pre-arranged time of 1pm.&nbsp; </p> <p>My colleague, whose task it was to send out the report, was standing beside me looking exhausted and hungry; 3:30pm and still no sign of lunch. </p> <p>One of the “experts-by-experience”, who had always expressed healthy scepticism about the inquiry came up to me, looking confused. </p> <p>‘So, what do you think?’ I asked.&nbsp; </p> <p>‘I can’t believe that this is the result. This is a huge step,’ he answered squinting into the bright sunlight, holding the still embargoed copy of the report.&nbsp; </p> <p>After a long pause, he continued, ‘But what is going to happen next?&nbsp; Is it really going to change?’ </p><p> And I heard my own voice: ‘That’s now up to us, isn’t it?’</p><p><strong><em>Read more about the lives of those in detention and hear their voices in our series</em> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-unlocking-detention#0">Unlocking Detention&nbsp; </a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear">Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jackie-long/%27headbutt-bitch%27-serco-guard-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/detention-knows-no-borders">Detention knows no borders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ali-mcginley/detained-at-uk-border-mould-cat-calls-and-barbed-wire">Detained at the UK border: mould, cat calls and barbed wire </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/crisis-of-harm-in-immigration-detention">A crisis of harm in immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/judith-dennis/not-minor-offence-unlawful-detention-of-unaccompanied-children">Not a minor offence: the unlawful detention of unaccompanied children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lea-sitkin-bethan-rogers/immigration-detention-most-unbritish-phenomenon">Immigration detention: a most un-British phenomenon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani-heather-jones/extraordinary-things-visiting-women-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-detention-centre">Extraordinary things: visiting the women at Yarl’s Wood detention centre </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nic-eadie/real-cost-of-detaining-migrants">The real cost of detaining migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-alexander/like-chicken-surrounded-by-dogs">Like a chicken surrounded by dogs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ben-du-preez/no-end-to-horrors-of-detention">No end to the horrors of detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shauna-leven-sam-grant/helping-other-particular-experiences-universal-outlooks">Helping the Other: particular experiences, universal outlooks</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/saskia-garner/life-after-detention">Life after detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melanie-griffiths/immigration-detention-in-media-anarchy-and-ambivalence">Immigration detention in the media: anarchy and ambivalence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rita-chadha/migrant-vs-nonmigrant-two-tier-policing">Migrant vs non-migrant: two tier policing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani-jennifer-allsopp/migrant-lives-in-uk-deprivation-of-liberty">Migrant lives in the UK: the deprivation of liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/lonely-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">The lonely death of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-to-despair">Fast track to despair</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-walter/unheard-and-unseen-in-britain">Unheard and unseen in Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Unlocking detention Eiri Ohtani Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:54:47 +0000 Eiri Ohtani 90987 at https://opendemocracy.net Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear https://opendemocracy.net/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Abuse at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre is finally mainstream news. When a woman died at Yarl’s Wood in 2014, a woman who knew her inside spoke by phone to Jennifer Allsopp.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Yarlswood_IDC_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_78530.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yarl&#039;s Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Yarlswood_IDC_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_78530.jpg" alt="" title="Yarl&#039;s Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405</span></span></span></span></p><p><span><em>This article was first published on 31 March 2014.</em></span></p><p><span>JA: Can you tell me why you wanted to speak to openDemocracy 50.50?</span></p> <p>A: [Name withheld] died here on Sunday morning and I wanted to say that we’re all so upset and we're not happy here. There are so many people in here who are unwell and not to fit to be detained and deported. </p> <p>JA: Did you know her?</p> <p>A: Yes. I spoke with her before she died. She’d been here about nine days. She was telling me that she was scared because she was going to be taken to the airport. She was taken there but then she was brought back here because of her solicitor. She was worried the Home Office were going to issue her with another document and send her again. To me, when I saw her, she was well. She seemed strong and was moving around. </p> <p>Some people told me that two days ago someone opened the door hard and she had a shock and was very frightened. The previous day, Saturday, she asked her friend to do her hair and then she said, when she was doing it, ‘I can’t carry on, I’m feeling unwell’.</p> <p>JA: This was a friend she’d met in detention.</p> <p>A: Yes, a friend from detention. </p> <p>JA: How have the women in Yarl’s Wood responded?</p> <p>We’re very upset. Especially yesterday, nobody went to the afternoon meal, and only some people on medication went to the evening meal. We’re all remembering her, every discussion we had with her. She was really very nice. In nine days in here she was in touch with so many people. She was strong you know. When I met her she said ‘I’m going to go and get my clothes from the reception’. I told her ‘but where will you wear your clothes in here?’ and she said, ‘yes, but they are new and I am going to wear them!’</p> <p>JA: So the women are in mourning?</p> <p>Yes, the women are in mourning. The women are in fear. We were all just thinking, this could happen to me as well. This could happen to any of us. There are other people here who are sick and most of us are not believed when we tell them. It’s common. There are vulnerable women who will keep dying in here. There are women here now in wheel chairs...there’s a paralysed woman here. </p> <p>JA: It sounds like there is an atmosphere of solidarity.</p> <p>A: There’s an atmosphere of solidarity, we get to know people’s stories. We get the stories of people who’ve been here 2 years, 2 months...</p> <p>JA: Have you been given much information about what has happened? </p> <p>A: Now the situation is in shutdown. All they’ve told us is that they’ve tried to contact her next of kin.</p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit about your own experience of being detained in Yarl’s Wood?</p> <p>A: In Yarl’s Wood it’s like looking out of a window in the middle of nowhere. There are no houses when you look out of the window. You’re brought here in the middle of the night so you’ve no idea where you are: no idea what the gates look like or what’s outside.</p> <p>There’s little peace. Every day you have a roll call, four times a day. Yesterday there were countless roll calls because of the situation. It was so, so uncomfortable. I don’t know what word to use.</p> <p>If a new person comes in, at 2am, 4am it doesn’t matter, they take them into your room while you’re sleeping. They just bring them in. They don’t care if you’re asleep or not asleep. They don’t care if you don’t sleep again until morning.</p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit more about the roll call?</p> <p>A: They knock on your door and check you’re there. The guard could be male or female, they don’t really care.&nbsp; You have to be dressed, that’s your responsibility. They knock and just come straight in. They’re doing one right now [<em>there’s a loud voice in the background and a door banging.</em>] If you’re dressing you should do it in your bathroom. They find women naked all the time. </p> <p>We have cards with our name and number. You have to carry it with you all the time, even when you go to the toilet.</p> <p>JA: What would you like to see change?</p> <p>A: I look forward to the day Yarl’s Wood will be shut down. We’re all in here and we’re not criminals. Most of us have been in detention before we fled our countries and we thought that running away would free us from detention. We didn’t think that instead of getting help, we’d be detained again here in England.</p> <p>I’m hoping that Yarl’s Wood will be closed down and asylum seekers will not be treated like animals in this country; that asylum seekers’ cases will be looked at properly; that we won’t just be bundled in here and given a ticket for three days time. It’s so unfair the way the system works. You don’t have time to appeal. Even on the outside they make you report every Monday and you know you could be taken into detention at any time. You do that for years and years with so much fear inside you. Because detention is like a prison. There's no difference as I can’t go out; I can’t breathe fresh air. There’s just a little square between the houses but it’s still an enclosed space.</p> <p>I think about the people who have been here one year, two years: the need for fresh air! I feel I’m locked up in a room and there’s no door and no fresh air. It’s an uncomfortable feeling but again, this word... imagine that for one month, one year. It’s unbearable.</p><p><em><strong>The name of the interviewee has been withheld at her request.</strong></em></p><p><em><strong><em><strong><a href="http://opendemocracy.net/5050/refugee-week">Refugee Week: Women's Voices</a>: To mark Refugee Week, from 16-22 June&nbsp;openDemocracy 50.50 presents a range of articles written by refugee women authors&nbsp;and refugee rights' activists around the world. All articles are taken from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">People on&nbsp;</a><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">the Move</a>, 50.50's migration, gender and social justice dialogue, edited by Jennifer&nbsp;Allsopp.</strong></em></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">Seeking asylum, ending destitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/latefa-guemar/seeking-safety-in-algeria-syrian-refugee-women%E2%80%99s-resilience">Seeking safety in Algeria: Syrian refugee women’s resilience </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-blagojevic/detention-and-human-rights-in-uk-maintaining-presumption-of-liberty">Detention and human rights in the UK: maintaining the presumption of liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/kate-nustedt/what-happened-to-me-here-thats-what-broke-my-spirit">&#039;What happened to me here. . . that&#039;s what broke my spirit&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/sun-sandand-indefinite-detention">Sun, sand...and indefinite detention </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 OurKingdom UK human rights Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Refugee Week Refugee Week - highlights 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights violence against women gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Anonymous interviewee and Jennifer Allsopp Tue, 03 Mar 2015 10:54:27 +0000 Anonymous interviewee and Jennifer Allsopp 80885 at https://opendemocracy.net I shall leave as my city turns to dust: Queens of Syria and women in war https://opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/i-shall-leave-as-my-city-turns-to-dust-queens-of-syria-and-women-in-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In ‘Queens of Syria’, ancient Greek tales of loss and dislocation in conflict echo through to the contemporary realities of Syrian women, whose experiences of war and exile have often been ignored</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;‘Queens of Syria’, a film directed by Yasmin Fedda <a href="http://www.screendaily.com/home/blogs/yasmin-fedda-talks-queens-of-syria/5083585.article#.VPBrNL1rrRY.twitter">which had its UK premiere in Glasgow last week</a>, seeks to redress the silencing of the experiences of Syrian women who have lived through the continuing war in their country.&nbsp; In doing so, it also reveals the deeper universals of war that underpin but are frequently obscured by media headlines and graphic ISIS videos – the deep ache of loss for the homeland, and the exhausting task of rebuilding a life after you have watched your homeland burn.</p> <p>The film follows the rehearsals and performance, by a group of Syrian refugee women now living in Amman, of Euripides’ ‘The Trojan Women.' Produced in 415 BC during the Peloponnesian War, the play's themes of loss, dislocation, and the pain felt by women as war rips through their lives are made hauntingly universal by the rehearsals and the innovative stage production by the women in Amman in late 2013.&nbsp; The chorus of women acting the lines from the Greek text are interspersed with monologues from their experiences in contemporary Syria, but the tones and themes are so closely linked that it is hard to tell which lines are from Euripides and which are from<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/25/rape-violence-syria-women-refugee-camp"> the lives of women who had fled the Syrian conflict</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/HM%20queens%20of%20syria.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/HM%20queens%20of%20syria.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photo via 'Queens of Syria'</em></p> <p>“My fathers and brothers live in the land of the dead” the women proclaim in unison – a line from Euripides but also a fact of their experience in Jordan, where many households are now headed by women as a consequence of the numbers of Syrian men who have died or gone missing as a result of the conflict.&nbsp; Similarly, in the play, the chorus speaks of women who are “allotted their masters…but all the Trojan women who have not been allotted are in these tents”, conjuring both ancient battlefields and the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/01/jordan-syrian-refugees-patience-running-out%20http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/01/jordan-syrian-refugees-patience-running-out">contemporary image of Zaatari</a>, the refugee camp in northern Jordan where more than 100,000 Syrian refugees now live in temporary accommodation.</p> <p><span>The film follows the group of around thirty women, none of whom have acted before, rehearsing for the play in Amman and talking about their experiences, as Syrians, as refugees, and as women adjusting to these new realities.&nbsp; Several of the women involved make self-conscious parallels between their own experiences and the stories in Euripides’ play, with one explaining&nbsp; as she cooks in the kitchen of her new, precarious home in Amman: “Hecuba is so close to me…she lost everything she owned. She lost her children and her family… It’s like us.&nbsp; She was a queen in her house.&nbsp; Her house was her kingdom, she ran it as she pleased. Hecuba says ‘I used to run this place but now I am nothing.’ That’s us now.”&nbsp; Another woman performing in the play, more overtly political in her description of her experiences under the brutalities of Assad’s regime, says “the character of Cassandra is similar to me.&nbsp; This is because I want to avenge what happened to me.”</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/HM%20queens%20of%20syria.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/HM%20queens%20of%20syria.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photo via 'Queens of Syria'</em></span></p> <p>The film takes us into the internal dynamics and discussions of the rehearsal process, as the women engage in drama exercises such as each writing a letter to someone inside Syria who they want to see – letters which are then read on the stage throughout the performance of the play.&nbsp; Fredda’s directorial choices, in interspersing footage from the final performance with scenes from the rehearsals and intimate conversations with the women, contributes to the sense of the many interwoven stories, and the recurring themes of the female experiences of war that are so often sidelined.</p> <p>As the women chant as a haunting chorus: “I will be a slave in the house of my enemies. I will have to forget my love and open my heart to my new husband. And then I will appear to be a traitor to the soul of my dead husband.”&nbsp; The brutality of the Syrian conflict has played out in a gendered way reminiscent of the former Yugoslavia: initiatives such as the <a href="http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/syria-has-a-massive-rape-crisis">Women Under Siege project</a>, and organisations such as Human Rights Watch, have <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/02/syria-war-s-toll-women">documented</a> “epidemic” levels of sexual violence as a result of the conflict, as well as torture, physical abuse and arbitrary detention committed upon them by Assad’s forces, pro-government militias, armed opposition groups and more recently by ISIS/Daesh.&nbsp; The UN has described rape in Syria as a “weapon of war”, and its after-effects follow Syrian refugee women as they flee the conflict to neighbouring countries.&nbsp; A women’s clinic in the Zaatari refugee camp opened in 2013 by Dr Manal Tahtamouni, who <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/25/rape-violence-syria-women-refugee-camp">claimed</a> she was seeing 300 to 400 cases a day, mostly from domestic violence and the after-effects of sexual violence, a subject which remains taboo and culturally coded with shame and stigmatisation on the part of survivors.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens%20of%20syria%20photo_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens%20of%20syria%20photo_1.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photo via 'Queens of Syria'</em></p> <p><span>Euripides’ recurring themes of dislocation and the warped purgatory of life in the aftermath of war echoes through to the experiences of female Syrian refugees, who face a series of difficulties even after they have managed to escape the fighting. &nbsp;The women draw maps of their journeys from Syria to Jordan, and one woman explains she moved house a dozen times within a year. &nbsp;As the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan mushroomed from 2013, a </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/world/middleeast/in-jordan-ever-younger-syrian-brides.html?_r=0">bridal boutique shop</a><span> sprang up to cater for the rushed marriages of young Syrian women – many of whom, according to UNICEF, were under eighteen years old, leaving them at increased risk of domestic violence and an increased likelihood that their education will be abrupted ended. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Moreover, both in the Zaatari camp and in Amman where the women of ‘Queens of Syria’ have moved to, life as a refugee is stifling and laden with obstacles.&nbsp; While Jordan has been praised for its efforts to accommodate displaced Syrians compared to the levels of discrimination that Syrian refugees have faced in Lebanon, even in Jordan both the official restrictions on the right to work for refugees and exploitations in daily life have left Syrians in the country with a continued sense of vulnerability.&nbsp; In December 2014, the UNHCR recorded 640,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, although the government claims that the real figure is twice as high, and that public services have been strained beyond capacity.</span></p> <p>‘Queens of Syria’ touches upon these realities while leaving it to the women performing the play to approach such topics in their own time and on their own terms.&nbsp; During rehearsals, the women act out scenes of powerlessness, one recalling an incident from Syria as she acts out a memory: “fifteen armed masked men came in. You could only see their eyes.”&nbsp; The play and the film together thus both speak to and for the women, as the final performance and film convey the struggles of women in conflict to the audience, the workshops and rehearsals provide a space for the women to explore and process their trauma through drama therapy.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens-of-syria%20pic%203_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens-of-syria%20pic%203_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photo via 'Queens of Syria'</em></p> <p>Although both the play and film carve out a space for Syrian women to articulate and enact their experiences, the theme of silencing also recurs, from Euripides to the narrative of the documentary itself.&nbsp; Walking slowly together as a chorus on stage, the women place their hands in front of their mouths as they recite the lines from ‘Trojan Women’ “I have reached the end of my sorrows. I shall leave as my city turns to dust”, moving together both as a chorus and as a presence that shows itself as often voiceless – throughout drama, throughout history and in the present day.&nbsp;</p> <p>Silencing is also a more practical theme in the film, as the group of women rehearsing the play becomes smaller every week, starting with fifty women and ending with about twenty participants. &nbsp;The play’s director, Omar, struggles to negotiate with the women who are concerned that appearing on stage will have negative consequences, either for their family lives and reputation, or for their connections back in Syria.&nbsp; Some of the women attended the rehearsals but didn’t perform in the final play, others have their faces blurred on the camera, others face pressure from their husbands not to perform, and another explains to Omar “I have a brother in Syria. I’m scared this will affect him.” While the final performance of the play itself is deeply haunting, a collective cry of loss and displacement, these behind-the-scenes conversations captured on camera are somehow even more revealing of the intersecting forces that constrict women during and after conflict: fear of political forces, fear for their family, combined with personal family dynamics and their strain on an individual woman’s freedom.&nbsp; </p> <p><span>Both the play and the ‘Queens of Syria’ film perform a similar tightrope walk in terms of politics in the narrow sense, allowing the space for women who wish to articulate a specifically anti-Assad position to voice their position and their experiences of brutality by the Syrian government, whilst also broadening the scope of voices so that the play and film also speaks more universally of the human loss of war.&nbsp; One woman, Suada, describes how “four hundred people were killed in a massacre where we lived and it wasn’t in the newspapers or television…so I want the world to hear our story.”&nbsp; Another, Maha, says simply that as ordinary Syrians they are simply caught in the middle of politics, “lost in the middle”, and sings to her child “I am like a flower that has been pulled from the soil.&nbsp; In exile you only feel oppression.”</span></p> <p>From Euripides’ choruses to the contemporary stories the women tell of “snipers on our beautiful street” the tales of human suffering in war layer over one another, and build to the crescendo of the final performance, where the women’s many voices speak of all that has been lost.</p> <p><em>‘Queens of Syria’ will be screened at the <a href="http://www.jdiff.com/JDIFF_2015_Programme.pdf">Jameson Dublin International Film Festival</a> in March</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/syria-women-peacework-and-lesson-from-bosnia">Syria: women, peacework, and the lesson from Bosnia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-charlotte-eagar-georgina-paget/trojan-women-in-twenty-first-century-women-in-wa">Trojan Women in the twenty first century: women in war from Euripides to Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/plotting-for-woman-shaped-peace-syrian-and-bosnian-women-confer">Plotting for a woman-shaped peace: Syrian and Bosnian women confer</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Syria 50.50 Peacework & Human Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights 50.50 newsletter Heather McRobie Mon, 02 Mar 2015 08:58:05 +0000 Heather McRobie 90932 at https://opendemocracy.net We feel that we found our self after we lost it in the war https://opendemocracy.net/5050/reem-assayyah/we-feel-that-we-found-our-self-after-we-lost-it-in-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>My home Syria is a beautiful place, but war took it from us. As refugees in Amman, rehearsing and performing Euripides’ The Trojan Women gave us a way to explain our new lives, and what we have lost.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At twenty-three years old, today I live in Amman, far from my home in Damascus. Participating in the Syrian Trojan Women project, and later the Queens of Syria film, had a significant personal influence on me and on the other women who took part. My participation in this project made me bolder and more confident of myself and changed me for the better.&nbsp; It gave me a way to cope with the difficulties of asylum experience. It also made me feel like I am doing something about what has happened, and is happening, in my home country.&nbsp; Feeling that you have do something, anything, even if it is just to say the right word, is good feeling, for sure. &nbsp;And I think the rest of the women who were with me in this project have the same opinion. None of us had ever acted before, but the workshops eased us into the process.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/kTWheBIoNuYweEtiJ4MCUn6jfzGDWgIhFT9VjkpuFxg/mtime:1425286865/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens-of-syria%20pic%203.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/iqhQIeEcMi33vH3reQnO3prx-YhhM4nmWln2qWgKhRM/mtime:1425276535/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens-of-syria%20pic%203.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Photo via 'Queens of Syria'</em></p> <p>Most of the women involved did not ever imagine that they may stand on stage and tell their stories to a live audience looking at them directly. &nbsp;This experience earned them great courage.&nbsp; One of the women told me that she has become stronger and more self-confident and she is very happy with this. Others also said that they always dreamed to be an actress and this experience gave them the opportunity to achieve one of their childhood dreams.</p> <p>The impact the play had on the community of refugees in Jordan, and in our lives, is felt, but indirectly. In our society theatre in particular is not a very popular artform the same way it is in the West, but there is documentary about the project, directed by Yasmin Fedda and has won the best director award at the Abu Dhabi documentary Film Festival.&nbsp; I think that the spread of the film across cinema screens or even television and which is the most popular will convey the idea of the project to the community – that is, that everyone can do something and nothing is impossible.</p> <p>We have faced a lot of difficulties during this project. In particular, among the women there has been fear, dread, and a lot of problems because acting is not a popular in our society unfortunately, especially for women and society's perception of women who participate in the theatre. Unfortunately, we started with 50 women and just 25 women stayed to the end of the project for multiple reasons, including the dread and fear of the theatre and performing, or society's negative perception of theatre, and family problems – especially with husbands.&nbsp; Many of the women left the training because their husbands prevented them from continuing, but many women faced this and insisted and eventually persuaded their husbands to stay and continued in the project and I think that the survival of 25 ladies until the end is a success in itself.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/DKMwos0WEqAGUdjaEH3nBXYpOTz_6yvLcyMzlI58yRc/mtime:1425286865/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens%20of%20syria%20photo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/NLnNwY5kBJ8iHyGqyFJQ3ShdUG-bfsT8cIZBo33CKf0/mtime:1425276343/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens%20of%20syria%20photo.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Still from 'Queens of Syria', via Queens of Syria</em></p> <p>Being a refugee in a theatre production trying to perform a play can cause many problems, in addition to the difficulties of rehearsing the play itself.&nbsp; We received invitations from the University of Georgetown and Columbia in America to perform the play there, but it did not happen, unfortunately, because half of the women do not have passports and even those who do have passports unfortunately had their visas to America rejected by the American embassy in Amman – without any apparent reason.&nbsp; It was frustrating. But that did not stop us from continuing, the event happened and we were there via Skype and talked with the audience and answered the questions. It was a great experience, and after that we performed the play in Geneva, Switzerland after we received an invitation from two organizations, Tällberg and CERN.</p><p> For the last two years I have faced lots and lots of challenges here in Amman. All the other women have also suffered just like me, but this project was the best thing that happened for us since we came here to Jordan.&nbsp; We feel that we found our self after we lost it in the war.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/p-OLCZhAb6U1WbCP4IiHaoxGTT7vnnR-V9T84adjzu4/mtime:1425286866/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens-of-syria%20pic%202.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/EKubiMoC0oGyJ0SrQ8i1FExOcvmxKVFUITmk6J3lIzI/mtime:1425276423/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens-of-syria%20pic%202.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>via Queens of Syria</em></p><p> After coming to Jordan our lives totally changed, with nothing but challenges, from finding a house to rent to trying to find a job.&nbsp; It's illegal for Syrians to work in Jordan. &nbsp;They have to get a work permit which is costs a lot of money, and if they work without the permit they may be arrested, or at least they would be exploited by employers. Trying to find a house is also difficult, now Amman has many Syrian refugees looking for housing.&nbsp; But participating in the play, the workshops and the performances, made us forget this suffering and made us know that we can do something whatever the situation is. It made us stronger in facing the challenges that refugees face – but those challenges are still there.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The importance of this project stems from being a projection of the epic of Euripides on to the Syrian tragedy through real life testimonies, told by women who were witnesses to what happened and who have suffered because of this war – to know that history repeats itself and that the tragedy of war does not change, even if the man has reached the development at all levels as it is now.&nbsp; The fundamental part of war does not change. Unfortunately, despite the media, and the armies which are deployed on each satellite channel, the picture of what is happening in Syria is still blurry, vague and confused, so I think that this play may have to explain the truth about what happened in Syria and the fact that the Syrian people are very kind and peaceful one way or another, away from the storms of the media.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/uhuIzHD4eO_uOPDfdzG_5dHdquK5_fVT_Z-B0lgeMDE/mtime:1425286866/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens%20of%20syria%20pic%204.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LcDgILsrKoakdfSFzaeqG21ik7jZ3XYIAC_63KQDTmE/mtime:1425276482/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/queens%20of%20syria%20pic%204.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>via Queens of Syria</em></p> <p><span>This is what I hope. Now when the people talk about Syria they talk about war, death, torture, rape, destruction and apprehension. So one of my biggest dreams is to make people around the world know that Syria is a beautiful place with kind people, but the war stole it from us. I love my home, Syria is my paradise. Don’t ask what it feels like to have to leave paradise.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-charlotte-eagar-georgina-paget/trojan-women-in-twenty-first-century-women-in-wa">Trojan Women in the twenty first century: women in war from Euripides to Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/syrian-women-demand-to-take-part-in-peace-talks-in-geneva">Syrian women demand to take part in the peace talks in Geneva</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis/syrian-women-refugees-out-of-shadows">Syrian women refugees: out of the shadows</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/audio/syrian-womens-rights-the-fight-does-not-stop-here">Syrian Women&#039;s Rights: &quot;the fight does not stop here&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/syria-women-peacework-and-lesson-from-bosnia">Syria: women, peacework, and the lesson from Bosnia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Women's Power to Stop War 50.50 Peacework & Human Security AWID Forum 2012 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Reem Assayyah Mon, 02 Mar 2015 08:49:00 +0000 Reem Assayyah 90929 at https://opendemocracy.net Women seeking asylum: closing the protection gap https://opendemocracy.net/5050/zoe-gardner/women-seeking-asylum-closing-protection-gap <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Globally the British government is pushing for better protections for women, yet the same protections are unavailable to those seeking asylum. Asylum Aid is asking why a quarter of women’s claims are overturned on appeal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Mariam has always been outspoken, an agitator, a nuisance, she says. Even now she speaks vigorously in sudden bursts of words, like somebody worried they won’t be given the chance to finish their point. In Eritrea, where she comes from, this is a lot more unusual in a woman, “We are raised to feel inferior to men” she says, “From the day we are born. If a son is born we celebrate with seven ululations, but if it’s a girl it’s only three. We have been taught, every day, not to speak up.” </p> <p>But Mariam is speaking up, has been doing it her whole life, and as a woman in one of the world’s most brutally repressive states, this eventually led her into danger. “I had to flee because I dared to raise my voice against the unconstitutional actions of my government.” A pro-democracy activist, Mariam came to the attention of the authorities in Eritrea and was forced to flee for her life. Now, she is concerned for other Eritrean women in England, and the problems that they face in accessing their rights in a country where they are supposed to have them. </p> <p>“When you come from a lawless country like mine, what you get is people who do not know the law. They do not know it can protect them; it has only been used to repress them in the past. To us, the government has always been just a bully, how can we know that things are different here? The women from my community have real difficulty trusting authority figures.</p> <p>“When women come here from Eritrea, we do not know we have rights. We think it is normal to be disciplined by our husbands. I work in my community and I have seen how common this is. These women have been prevented from educating themselves. It should be compulsory to give women seeking asylum when they arrive here some information explaining to them that they have rights and they can be protected, what services there are for them.”</p> <p>What Mariam has picked up on is the protection gap that faces the small numbers of women coming to this country from sexist and repressive cultures, seeking protection from human rights abuses and the chance to build safe lives. Such women, Mariam argues, are caught in a vicious cycle on arrival – unaware of laws against domestic violence and rape, but unable to trust figures of authority, stand up for themselves, and ask because of their trauma.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is ironic that while around the world, the British government is attempting to push for better protections for women in these regards, women like Mariam are not provided with them here in the UK. The Foreign Office’s much lauded <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-launches-new-government-initiative-to-prevent-sexual-violence-in-conflict">current programme</a> on violence against women seeks to introduce minimum standards for women reporting sexual violence in conflict zones. But these same standards are not offered at home, to the survivors who make it here to ask for help. Just last week, the Joint Committee on Human Rights reiterated this discrepancy in its <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/violence-aganist-women-and-girls/">report</a> on violence against women and girls.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/PPPPPPO.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Still from new Asylum Aid campaign"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/PPPPPPO.jpg" alt="woman asylum seeker" title="Still from new Asylum Aid campaign" width="400" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still from new Asylum Aid campaign</span></span></span></p><p>Women and girls in our asylum system are not given clear information about the asylum system and their&nbsp;<span>rights as women within it. They are not referred to counselling if they report rape or gender-based violence as part of their claim, leaving their mental health to suffer. Without psychological support, as Mariam has noted, it is difficult for these women to open up about their ordeals. They may hold back details that are particularly difficult to discuss because of this, and this could mean the difference between being allowed to stay and being refused and perhaps </span><a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">detained</a><span> and sent back into danger.</span></p> <p>Another barrier for women like Mariam, unbelievably, is motherhood. It is a matter of chance whether mothers who are seeking asylum will be sent to the part of the UK where childcare is provided during interviews. If they are not, then they could be forced to bring their young children along when they explain their ordeal, and obviously they won’t feel able to discuss how they have been abused in front of them.</p> <p>For Mariam, who had managed to bring her son, then just two years old, with her, how he suffered when they arrived still haunts her. “I love my son, he is my world, but sometimes I still feel guilty about that time. I know I wasn’t able to provide for his emotional needs. The system is so demanding and I lost my energy. Sometimes I think that I emotionally neglected him because I was so overwhelmed, so unable to cope with the asylum process. He was just a little child, he hasn’t done anything to deserve this.”</p> <p>Women seeking asylum are expected to give a full account of everything that has happened to them when they first arrive, or risk that any inconsistency or new information provided at a later date could damage their perceived credibility and their chances of being allowed to stay. Without the appropriate support to recover from traumatic experiences, is it any wonder that so many cannot share every detail right from the start? Without good quality information about their rights, how are these women supposed to know that the fact, for example, that their husband beats them, is something they should tell their Home Office caseworker? Furthermore how are they supposed to tell their caseworker about such things if their young children are in the room? </p> <p>“I was drained,” says Mariam, the simplicity of what she says she needed a stark contrast to the complexity of the system she had to navigate, “I needed support. Mothers need to be supported to be able to support their children. We need counselling, we need information about how to deal with these things. We need someone to say, I know you are stressed, I know it is hard.”</p> <p>Given the barriers facing women in the asylum system, the lack of basic humanity shown to them that would allow them to trust and to open up, is it then any surprise that the Home Office gets over a quarter of its initial decisions in women’s cases wrong? Asylum Aid’s <a href="http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/unsustainableweb.pdf">research</a> has shown that the rate of bad decisions is actually higher in women’s cases than in men’s, although the rate of poor decisions remains very high overall.</p> <p>One explanation for this is that while both men, and women like Mariam, are persecuted for their political activities, and seek asylum on those grounds, it is overwhelmingly women who are at risk of persecution in the private sphere. Survivors of rape and domestic violence are often unable to prove their experiences – there’s no video of them at a demonstration, or membership card for an opposition party, there’s no certificate that’s handed out to women who have been abused. For this reason, women are more likely to rely entirely on their own testimony in their asylum application, and thus are at greater risk of being refused because they are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarahjane-savage-mohbuba-choudhury/you-faked-your-life-towards-culture-of-protection-in-uk-asyl">disbelieved</a>.</p> <p>The very least we can do for women in this situation is to provide them with a fair chance to explain what has happened to them, so that the right decision can be made on their asylum application. In order to allow women to tell their stories, we return to the same basic standards that the Foreign Office is recommending in countries like Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – childcare, counselling, the chance to speak to a woman who has been trained on how trauma can affect memory and good, clear information about the system and their rights. It is hypocritical that we are pushing these standards abroad when we do not offer them ourselves.</p> <p>“I am lucky to be here now and to enjoy the freedoms of this country.” Mariam says, that defiance back in her voice, the speed of her words picking up again, “But I don’t simply want to enjoy them, I want to protect them. There is justice and there is peace in this country, not like mine, and for the most vulnerable women to benefit from those values, we must all raise our voices for them.”</p> <p><em>Find out more about Asylum Aid’s <a href="http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/protectiongap/">campaign</a> to close the protection gap for women seeking asylum.</em></p> <p><em>Names have been changed in this article.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarahjane-savage-mohbuba-choudhury/you-faked-your-life-towards-culture-of-protection-in-uk-asyl">You faked your life? Towards a culture of protection in UK asylum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amanda-gray/equal-access-to-asylum-process-for-women">Equal access to the asylum process for women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear">Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chlo%C3%A9-lewis/invisible-migrant-man-questioning-gender-privileges">The invisible migrant man: questioning gender privileges </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Equality International politics Continuum of Violence 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights women's health violence against women Sexual violence gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Zoe Gardner Mon, 02 Mar 2015 08:33:33 +0000 Zoe Gardner 90905 at https://opendemocracy.net Remembering, contesting and forgetting: the aftermath of the Cairo massacres https://opendemocracy.net/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/remembering-contesting-and-forgetting-aftermath-of-cairo-massacres <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Egyptian Government’s anti-terrorism measures in the wake of the Rab'aa mosque massacre continue to colour people’s daily lives with the suppressed trauma and memory of these events.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/l3HTCntFZPJfP8mN4P__vydj-nPn6zlltIUaM13Fqyo/mtime:1424776420/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaChak-Mosque.jpg" alt="Mosque and street scene" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rab’aa Mosque today</span></span></span>“The mosque evokes death, bloodshed and tangible grief.” Standing in the hot Cairo sun, looking at the everyday scene outside the Rab’aa el Adawayya mosque, my friend’s words at first strike me as incongruous. But almost immediately my mind flashes back to the same spot a year ago, where I had stood gazing with horror at the blackened facade of the burnt out shell left by the Egyptian Army’s violent clearance of the huge pro-Morsi protest camp which had grown up around the mosque - which I <a class="western" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/takeovers-and-makeovers-using-landscape-to-re-write-history-in-post-revo">wrote</a> about on openDemocracy at the time, and the sheer scale and brutality of which Human Rights Watch has since <a class="western" href="http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/08/12/all-according-plan-0">documented</a> in detail.</p> <p class="western">Up until the August 2013 massacre, the Rab’aa mosque had been a landmark and community hub at the crossroads of two major arteries in Cairo’s sprawling northern suburb of Medinet Nasr (Victory City). Its brilliant whitewashed walls had always stood out from the drab concrete and brick of the surrounding tower blocks – and also from the ‘army standard’ ochre wash of the many military installations in the area. The throngs of locals streaming in and out of the mosque’s open, airy arches, and the gates of the hospital building within its walls, likewise contrasted sharply with the military sites’ blank, forbidding walls and guarded entry points.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HT6aPHBDMarPqErLOEKGfCGXrFpoy2m9cDvJgcfv87k/mtime:1424776483/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaChak-BeforeAfter.jpg" alt="The mosque, the fire and the damage done to it as a collage" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Before and after</span></span></span>Now, a year later, the scene seems barely recognisable from the scorched battlefield I had stood in. There is barbed wire, and lines of military tanks, positioned in selected locations to ward off trouble and protect military installations. The streets surrounding the crossroads have also been given a facelift with more streetlights, large advertising billboards and plants to add a splash of colour to the location. Walls protecting military buildings, once littered with revolutionary graffiti, seem to have been hurriedly washed and waiting to be given a fresh coating of colour. </p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/TREx6vNx_sWTaGDLiXwEgLn6QI871G6BLS4kaIC0HXE/mtime:1424776838/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaChak-Grafitti.jpg" alt="A clear, clean concreted public space, alongside an image of some graffiti." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffito (“The crimes of the Military – Mohamed Mahmoud & Rabaa”) from a pro-Morsi protest camp cleared from the square</span></span></span>An eerie silence now lingers at the major junction where the mosque stands. To make sense of the overwhelming feeling of lifeless ‘greyness’ I am experiencing, my gaze steadies on the signage with which the Military Engineers Corps have marked the completion of their ‘renovation’ of the destroyed mosque - intended, in the <a class="western" href="http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/11/10/armed-forces-complete-rabaa-restoration/#dnePhoto/0/">words</a> of the army’s Facebook spokesman, to “restore the aesthetic and civilised image of Egypt’s streets after they were vandalised at the hands of terrorists and those who abuse its security and stability.” The mosque’s original signage had been unashamedly <em>shaabi </em>(working class, populist), mounted above its main entrance. My memory of how its garish ‘movie billboard’ lettering somehow remained shining through the soot of the smoked out wreckage helps me recognise its replacement as ‘military standard’ in terms of its placing (embossed directly on – not raised above - the building’s walls) and its standardised, metallic lettering. My eye is then drawn to the colours in which the mosque’s walls have been repainted, the brilliant whitewash and bright green of the original replaced with an ochre wash and brown highlighting. With a sinking heart, it dawns on me that the Rab’aa mosque has been given a new frontage uncannily similar to that of the nearby Republican Guard Officers Club (which was fiercely protected during the time of the protest occupation). It is clear that the Egyptian military has claimed the ‘protest mosque” as its trophy, and rebranded it in the same architectural uniform as all other military sites across Cairo and the length of Egypt, its gates now as firmly and forbiddingly closed as all the others.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/475X2bUUvy40c6u3TLdVc1_wx09_piphFcA5EKaYo-s/mtime:1424776927/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaChak-Military.jpg" alt="Collage of images of the building: scorched, flanked by military, cleaned-up" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rebranding a community hub as a military building</span></span></span>The friend from the neighbourhood who is driving me around reflects on the locked gates and doors to the empty, silent (though previously always open and bustling) mosque:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘It’s as if Ramadan never happened this year. It was stripped of any meaning. A void. No festive weight or substance. Listen - do you hear the call to prayer? That’s all that’s left of the Rab’aa we knew. Now you never see the neighbourhood’s residents going there for their regular prayers as before: who can live with all that grief and bloodshed? What happened is still raw - even though everyone gets on with their business as usual.’</span></p> <p class="western">Hassan (as I will call him) turns his thoughts to the night of the massacre, taking place in the streets under the apartment block that has been his home for fifteen years:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘From 4.30 am on that fateful day, we heard military planes flying low. The tear gas was overpowering, we had to close the shutters and put the AC on. We didn’t want to leave Mom alone in her flat nearby, so we had to find a way to get there quickly and get her here. When we reached her, we found that one of her elderly neighbours, a woman in her 70s, had taken a bullet to her neck as she was closing her window. She’s on the 7th floor, so it must have come from one of the Army snipers who were raining down bullets. There was much panic as there were no ambulances working. Mercifully, a medical student living next door rushed to help, and she survived. It went on like that all day. When it was declared safe to venture out, the scale of destruction and the stench made me think we had been transported to Palestine, or Syria. Was this really our neighbourhood? It was the worst 24 hours of my life. ’ </span></p> <p class="western">He goes on to reflect on what he sees as the unjustified killing of innocent victims: </p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘Many reasons are given for why the violence was necessary. The most common is that protestors were armed and it could have got nasty. I’m baffled by this allegation. During the <em>fad</em> (the slang word by which the clearance is invariably referred to), protestors were running for their lives. Where was the arsenal we were given to believe had been hidden in secret chambers and dark tunnels under the mosque? And again, why shoot the protestors in the chest and head? This troubles me. I mean, if you shoot a man running for his life in the leg, you take him out of combat but with a decent chance of saving his life. However this kind of free-for-all shooting, where you target everything or anything that moves, has always been alien to how we see ourselves as a society. And now it won’t stop here. The massacre has been a game-changer - from now on it’s a case of <em>il-dam il-masri rekhis</em> (Egyptian blood is cheap). My thoughts keep coming back to this fundamental revelation.’</span></p> <p class="western">Driving me back to his family flat, Hassan gives thought to practicalities of clearing a protest site.</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘It’s still a valid question why other alternatives were not considered. A first step might have been using water cannons to force out the families trapped in the protest compound. Why did they not arrive with a fleet of buses ready to transport the protestors elsewhere? Why did the special forces not use the intelligence they claim they had to dig out the so-called ‘hidden arsenal’ and make arrests? Yet local eyewitnesses have told us that the special forces only allowed two exit points from the mayhem: one where you’d get arrested if you came out alive, the other straight to the morgue.’ </span></p><p class="western">I have known Hassan’s family for well over 15 years. Resident in Nasr City for almost 20 years, his father was a GP in the army – a job that not only allowed the family to travel and live in a range of military posts in Europe, but also provided access to the privileges attached to the well-rewarded professional ranks in the military. These include free housing, the right to buy property at subsidised rates in an array of residential compounds, access to large supermarkets and shopping arcades designated as military outlets, and also to health care and recreational facilities such as sports clubs – in short, a comprehensive welfare system for the members of Egypt’s military establishment. The range and scale of the military’s welfare provision is not only unmatched by any other state apparatus, but in the current bleak economic climate is also considered more secure, stable and ‘respectable’ than the affluent and ostentatious lifestyle choices available to the country’s newly enriched civilians. </p> <p class="western">It might be thought to follow that any Egyptian family with such connections would be robust supporters of the new military-led Government of former Field Marshal Mohamed Abd el Fatah el Sisi, and its promises for a more secure, stable and generally ‘better’ Egypt. Yet the conversation round the family lunch to which I am treated back in the safety of Hassan’s flat leaves me in no doubt that, following the ousting of the elected Muslim Brotherhood Government, their former pride in the military has turned to disillusionment.</p> <p class="western">Hassan and his younger brother Hussein, the family’s two sons, are both currently lawyers – and both are, within the wall’s of Hassan’s flat, openly critical of the reluctance of the Egyptian military to embrace a civilian and more democratic rule. Yet Hassan’s wife and mother are staunch Sisi supporters, and see Egypt’s 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ uprising as a ‘waste of life and resources’. For an ordinary Egyptian family that routinely keeps a low profile about its allegiance with the military, and refrains from expressing any political or religious preferences, a surprisingly spirited discussion develops over the generously prepared lunch table. The two pro-Sisi women face bitter opposition from other family members to the doubts they are prepared to express over the ‘authenticity’ of the events of January 25, 2011 leading to the ousting of the seemingly impregnable President Mubarak. The ambiguity unravels itself in such questions as: was 25 January (2011 – the ousting of Mubarak) a ‘real’ revolution or a staged ‘Photoshop’ (a local term to mean ‘fake’, a simulacra of a revolution funded by Western governments) revolution? Was 30 June 2013 (the day the military ousted the subsequently elected President Morsi) the start of the ‘real’ revolution - or of a military coup? Was the final 18 August clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps murder? or a necessary measure in ‘Egypt’s fight against terrorism’? </p> <p class="western">Manal, Hassan’s sister-in-law, a secondary school teacher makes clear her acceptance of the spirit of the times:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘Hussein and Hassan were frequent participants in the <em>milioniyya </em>(million-strong protests) of Tahrir Square. Their engagement with protestors on Fridays following noon prayers was experienced as a kind of solidarity, a one-ness. For them Egypt was not just a geographical location we happen, by some freak coincidence, to be part of. It was a grander entity - and much larger than the bank balances or the economic power of the super-rich who parade themselves in our country. Through these crowds, the essence of what Egypt is, and what it could achieve, was more defined. No barriers could limit our horizons, or the potential and possibilities lying ahead. Those moments were transformative – we saw bare courage’.</span></p> <p class="western">As lawyers, Hassan and Hussein regard the high turnout in Egypt’s open and free Legislative and Presidential elections of 2012 as providing <em>shar’iyya</em> (legitimacy) for the new Muslim Brotherhood government, in terms not only of raw numbers and percentages of votes cast, but also of a new politics that re-invented the terms of participation at grassroots level. They saw the elections as the start of a process of civil constitutional reform, mobilising the voices from the ballot as instruments of power and leverage in the bargaining that would follow with the deeply entrenched ‘Security State’. An early indication of the likely response could be seen in the way in which Egypt’s official media manipulated the term <em>shar’iyya</em>, deliberately conflating its meaning with the somewhat similar-sounding <em>shar’ia</em> (Islamic law) in order to de-legitimise the newly elected government and highlight its sectarian aspects. These manipulations helped lay the groundwork for the 30 June ousting of the Morsi government by the army.</p> <p class="western">For many of Hassan’s family members, kinfolk and neighbours in Nasr City, the claim to <em>shar’iyya</em> nevertheless continued to provide an explicit political stance that epitomised the Rab’a sit-in after 30 June. As Manal continues:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘Last year we spent time in the camp set up to protect <em>el-shar’iyya</em>. It was the fasting month, and most days after <em>iftar</em> (the sunset meal that breaks the day’s fasting) we’d join the street life in Rab’a. What had started as a protest had soon grown into a good-natured, festive jamboree. We saw nothing of what the TV and some social media were describing as lavishly-funded, venal or even criminal activities. These were just rumours accentuating the politics of envy during hard times. Many of the outsiders we befriended were just simple Egyptians who came because the food and drink was free. Others were beneficiaries attached to different Muslim Brotherhood charities. A good number of familiar faces came from our neighbourhood. Others were like us, educated and relatively comfortable, who supported <em>il-shar’iyya</em> and joined the protest for this reason. The spirit of the whole surrounding community resonated with the emotional generosity of the rally.’ </span></p> <p class="western">Lunch over, we move to the <em>salon</em> where through sheer habit Hassan reflexively switches on the TV, talking over it while reflecting on the mood in the neighbourhood on the first anniversary of the massacre. </p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘On the anniversary of the massacre conspiracy theories ran wild. There were warnings of <em>ikhwaan</em> (Muslim Brotherhood) movements in our area. The neighbourhood was put on red alert, with extra army tanks arriving to block connecting roads and barbed wire rolled out to control mobility, making all the shortcuts we use exceedingly difficult. On the day we were warned of ‘World War Three’ - nothing happened. Did the ghost at the feast ever make an appearance? <em>(He laughs silently).</em> Doesn’t that tell you something? The media systematically presents itself in the role of a well-informed and matter-of-fact advisor. But their dramatic claims are based on inconclusive facts - so that their audience, as listeners, are metamorphosed into fearless truth-seekers outwitting ‘terrorism’ – the dangerous ‘hidden powers’. And because they confirm their prejudices, these lies have to be correct.<br /><br />But there is a bigger conspiracy. This is the conspiracy of silence, and becoming complicit in the ‘anti-politics wave’ that pretends as if nothing out of the ordinary ever happened. It boils down to the internal authoritarianism endemic in our local way of thinking – what we know as centralism. It translates into siding with the more powerful for the sake of protection. If protecting one’s interests, be they economic or political, pushes us to turn a blind eye to injustices, whether small or big, who do we trust to protect our basic rights? Or are we going to live like animals – each one fighting its own corner? It is troubling.’ </span></p> <p class="western">His voice tails away as he concludes his train of thought, ending up barely audible over the chattering TV:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘I can’t see light at the end of the tunnel right now. I once had hopes that I could see a fairer society in my lifetime or my children’s. That possibility is now remote.’</span></p> <p class="western">As lawyers, both brothers helped neighbours identify relatives from the city morgue where the bodies of the massacred were taken. This sobering experience of dealing with death informs their thoughts on how the cards have been dealt. Hussein explains: </p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘The worst scenario we encounter as lawyers is with the dead. A martyr was once a revered body, with <em>kisas</em> (civil rights) and <em>haq</em> (religiously imbued social rights), which made accountability a necessary term of reference. But is this still the case? If you are <em>titkhittif</em> (‘snatched’ ie arrested without charge and held in secret) for months on end and your family frets over finding your whereabouts using its resources to track down the missing person; or if the charges are so ludicrous that they are routinely described as <em>il-rosheta </em>(the ‘standard prescription’); or when the authorities turn a deaf ear to any petition required to be heard in open court; or if families who visit prisons to bring necessities such as food and drink are <a class="western" href="http://www.madamasr.com/tags/prison-visits">treated like scum</a> - who then will continue to see the struggle for <em>shar’iyya</em> as a worthwhile collective cause? <br /><br /> The state holds the families of any activist by the scruff of their necks. Corpses are not released unless the family unconditionally agrees to sign the official documentation produced by the state. What is stated is never ‘torture’ but some dubious explanation such as <em>(said sarcastically and more loudly)</em> ‘suicide’. The blame is transferred to the victim, who is labelled a ‘troublemaker’ or an ‘enemy of Egypt’ who deserves everything they got. And because it goes against religion not to bury one’s dead quickly, these grieving families are coerced into the trap – even while sensing deep isolation in their bereavement. The trick works. Death in a prison cell means that the victim has no voice - and the concept of ‘victim’ is made irrelevant.’</span></p> <p class="western">He grows more outspoken in voicing his concerns for the future: </p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘In our line of work as lawyers, we witness on a day-to-day basis the implications of 30 June. People’s rights are eroded and it’s the power of might, and fear of retribution, that gets to rule. You see it in the increased bullying and violence spreading in the street and in private lives. At the same time a general consensus is enforced which insists that the environment can be freed of chaos simply by eradicating from view a government that was unpopular because of a distinct religious group called the Muslim Brotherhood. Following this logic, people become less prepared to question how this state of affairs has come about, or the probabilities of a counter-revolution and whether a counter-revolution has taken place. <br /><br /> Nor are they willing to reflect on how the insistence on narrow categories of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ (the military vs the Brotherhood) is tearing us all apart to consolidate conflicting interests. This is evidenced in the vocabulary that calls any form of opposition treason, and comes with ready-made labels such as the ‘fifth column’ (reserved for intellectuals, and derived from Stalinist terminology), or the ‘sleeper cells’ (reserved for Muslim Brotherhood members keeping a low profile). In the end nobody knows who is grey, black, or whiter than white. These are issues that are still causing deep friction within families in our neighbourhood. Every family will tell you that – you have even heard some of it over our lunch here - and how friends, once inseparable, have ceased to speak.<br /><br /> Yet despite all this, intellectuals such as Amr Hamzawy (a politically prominent Professor of Political Science) have spoken out and actually defined 30 June a coup. What excites me is that the truth is now out. It has been <a class="western" href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/19/cairo-egypt-government-crackdown-adhaf-soueif">spoken</a>. So if we start to connect the dots, what’s to stop us from thinking that all the chaos that followed Mubarak’s departure was not <a class="western" href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/01/egypt-thought-democracy-enough-morsi">masterminded</a> in its detailed planning? Undermining activists, shoving them in prison cells, shooting them at point blank range and setting up 30 June as the ‘true revolution’ become staging posts in the drive to keep the army’s hold on power more or less permanently. <br /><br /> I am impatient with offensive remarks that Egypt is not ‘ready for democracy’, or that ‘democracy is good, but for our neighbours’, or that the activists were bribed, or that US intelligence was involved, or that disadvantaged groups were scavengers living off the benefits they could get out of the uprising as if the state is an innocent or wronged bystander. Has anyone considered what created the consensus in 2011? It is because the slogan “<em>Eish, Horreya, Adala igtima’iyya</em> (Bread, Freedom, Justice)” resonated. Tell me, who can beat the precision of these three simple, straight-to- the-point demands?' </span></p> <p class="western">Using the remote to flick through TV channels to see what else to watch, he summarises his thoughts: </p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">‘There will come a tipping point to this charade. I don’t believe this grotesque imbalance is sustainable. They want an Egypt of the past where cracking the whip guarantees results. They lose sight of the limits and constraints of these tactics. Remember: even Morsi failed to deliver on his promises. That should serve as a warning.’</span></p> <p class="western">It is at this point that the room is abruptly plunged into silence by another of Cairo’s frequent power-cuts, expected to last for a couple of hours. Somehow the gloom feels appropriate.</p> <p class="western"><em>This is the first of three related articles by the author. Articles exploring the effects of the subsequent security and media campaigns on the lives of those bound up in Cairo's vibrant informal service sector - whether as consumers or providers - will be published in March 2015.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/from-strongman-to-superman-sisi-saviour-of-egypt">From Strongman to Superman: Sisi the saviour of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maha-abdelrahman/report-thy-neighbour-policing-sisi%E2%80%99s-egypt">Report thy neighbour: policing Sisi’s Egypt </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/takeovers-and-makeovers-using-landscape-to-re-write-history-in-post-revo">Takeovers and makeovers: using the landscape to re-write history in post-revolutionary Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/opportunities-and-pitfalls-in-egypt%E2%80%99s-roadmap">Opportunities and pitfalls in Egypt’s roadmap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/entrepreneurs-of-revolution-jockeying-for-livelihood-and-security-in-pos">Entrepreneurs of the revolution: jockeying for livelihood and security in post-Arab Spring Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/chez-morsi-palace-petitioners-and-street-entrepreneurs-in-post-mubarak-e">Chez Morsi : palace petitioners and street entrepreneurs in post-Mubarak Egypt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Arab Awakening Egypt Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Continuum of Violence 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Leila Zaki Chakravarti Mon, 02 Mar 2015 04:18:27 +0000 Leila Zaki Chakravarti 90795 at https://opendemocracy.net Ebola: exposing the failure of international development https://opendemocracy.net/5050/amber-huff/ebola-exposing-failure-of-international-development <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Ebola crisis has revealed the consequences of deep-seated, unequal global social and economic relations that international development, as practised in recent decades, has had a role in creating.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;A year ago, Guinea’s Ministry of Health and <a href="http://www.msf.org.uk/ebola">Médecins sans Frontières</a> received reports from health centre staff of a mysterious disease killing people in rural southern Guinea. Within weeks of the reporting, the infection was identified, and cases were being investigated in the bordering countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. A toddler named <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/28/ebola-virus-guinea-first-victim-patient-zero">Emile Ouamouno</a> was eventually identified as the first victim of what we now call the Ebola crisis – a crisis that has since bestowed tragedy on tens of thousands of affected people and families in West Africa. </p> <p>The extent, impact and grave difficulties in controlling the disease since its identification last March have not been haphazard. Far from it. Rather, the Ebola crisis has revealed the consequences of deep-seated, unequal global social and economic relations that international development, as practised in recent decades, has had a role in creating. </p> <p>Indeed, if anything positive is to come out of the Ebola crisis, it is the unmasking of this truth.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Causes of epidemic disease <br /></strong></p> <p>Since his death, little Emile has become known to most simply as ‘Patient Zero’, and widespread attention has focused on the role of <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/">bats</a> (the likely carrier of the virus that killed Emile) and the consumption of <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201404030751.html">bushmeat</a> (which is <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-12/e-baa122614.php">not likely</a> to be the origin of this epidemic). </p> <p>However, epidemics of diseases like Ebola do not have simple, single causes. They arise from the interaction of ecological, economic, social and political <a href="http://steps-centre.org/project/drivers_of_disease/?referralDomain=health-and-disease">factors</a>. It is important to remember that following Emile’s death, each of the thousands of incidences of Ebola virus disease in this epidemic has been transmitted from one person to another, primarily in the care contexts of hospitals, home care of the sick, and care for and burial of the dead. </p> <p>The current Ebola epidemic is <a href="http://blogs.plos.org/speakingofmedicine/2014/11/11/factors-might-led-emergence-ebola-west-africa/">unprecedented</a> in terms of duration, <a href="http://apps.who.int/ebola/en/ebola-situation-report/situation-reports/ebola-situation-report-28-january-2015">deaths</a>, livelihood losses and geographic scope. Also, in terms of the resources allocated to avoid spread to richer more privileged settings. Survivors will feel its <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/nov/24/ebola-reducing-stigma-survivors-libera-sierra-leone-guinea">social</a>, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/10/ebola-liberia-catastrophe-generation-poverty">economic</a>, and <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/report/100952/mystery-over-ebola-survivors-ailments">bodily</a> consequences far into the future. <br /></p> <p>These circumstances highlight just how central to our wellbeing are the ‘ecologies’ that we create. </p> <p><strong>Opening the debate <br /></strong></p> <p>As we near the first anniversary of the identification of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, it is past time to examine the conditions that created an environment for a disease like Ebola to flourish. </p> <p>Bringing together a diverse group of key policymakers, NGOs and researchers, today marks the launch of <a href="https://www.ids.ac.uk/project/ebola-lessons-for-development"><em>Ebola and Lessons for Development: Inequality,&nbsp;Structural&nbsp;Violence&nbsp;and Infectious Disease</em></a>, an <a href="https://www.ids.ac.uk/">Institute for Development Studies</a> initiative. Authors present nine briefing papers that argue that we must look beyond the immediate issues of response and control to reflect on bigger and broader questions and lessons learned about relationships between international development practice and the current crisis. </p> <p><strong>Global health and health systems <br /></strong></p> <p>For much of the past decade, global control of infectious diseases has been largely oriented around developing mechanisms to link health and security concerns. The World Health Organization (WHO) has made strengthening global health security a strategic objective, but was unable to marshal a rapid international response to the epidemic due to the organisation’s institutional structure and recent cutbacks affecting its emergency response capacity. </p> <p>International efforts around containing the outbreak were relatively powerless when confronted with the lack of effective and accessible treatments or vaccines for Ebola, and with weak national health systems in countries experiencing the worst of the raging epidemic. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have all experienced the repercussions of <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(14)70377-8/fulltext">harsh social and economic reforms</a> that have been pushed as a condition of international aid, weakening states and decimating their public sectors and services, including health systems.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Beyond the Ebola crisis response <br /></strong></p> <p>Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have unique national political, economic, and social histories. Yet, in recent years their pathways have been linked through international agreements, policy reforms, and conflicts. Prior to the outbreak, they were all recovering from major socio-political and economic ruptures, including over a decade of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-17768957">violent armed conflict</a> in Sierra Leone and Liberia that spilled over into Guinea. </p> <p>At the same time, they have recently experienced dramatic economic growth. Economic growth is often assumed to lead to mass improvements in quality of life in developing countries, but this has not been the case in these three countries. Rather, recent growth has been largely inequitable, benefitting international investors but not resulting in equal improvements in public services and economic opportunities for everyday people. </p> <p>These trends are related to important ecological changes in the region as well. Primary causes of environmental change in West Africa involve expansive ‘land grabs’ – deals in which companies and foreign governments lease large areas of land in lower-income countries for the commercial production of <a href="http://wle.cgiar.org/blogs/2012/10/16/landgrabbing-feeding-the-world-or-the-corporate-bottom-line/">food or fuel crops</a>. These <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/apr/15/risks-over-increasing-global-land-deals">grabs</a> are facilitated through policy reforms designed to attract and incentivise international investment in large-scale mining, timber, and commercial agriculture, especially for the production of hybrid oil palm, one of the world’s most rapidly expanding cash crops due to its use in producing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/apr/04/energy.indonesia">biodiesel</a>. </p> <p>Across West Africa, establishing large oil palm plantations causes massive changes to <a href="http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0114-urey-ebola-palm-oil.html">ecosystems</a><strong>,</strong> and fragments the habitats of wild animals (like bats) that are the natural hosts for diseases like Ebola. As wild animals face large-scale environmental changes, often changing migration patterns and feeding behaviour to survive in ways that can increase people’s risk of exposure to diseases. </p> <p><strong>Gender, community and control in context <br /></strong></p> <p>In another facet to this complex epidemic, vulnerability to Ebola infection is highly gendered, and women have made up as many as three-quarters of the cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This is related to the important roles that women play as providers of professional and home-based care in giving life, and in burying the dead. </p> <p>Elizabeth Mills (Institute of Development Studies) and Jennifer Diggins (University of Sussex) <a href="https://www.ids.ac.uk/publication/the-pathology-of-inequality-gender-and-ebola-in-west-africa">highlight</a> that ‘<em>Livelihoods, and especially women’s livelihoods and the wellbeing of female-lead households, have been heavily impacted by epidemic control measures. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, for example, where women play a critical role in food production and cross-border trade, restrictions and border closures have greatly diminished women’s earning power.</em>’ </p> <p>Control efforts have been structured around curfews, mass cremations, lock-downs, quarantines – of houses, villages and entire regions – and the use of military force to maintain these measures, severely rupturing fundamental features of social, political, economic and religious life. </p> <p>During the crisis, much attention has been focused on the fact that people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have avoided health facilities and actively resisted public health teams, which is often attributed to ignorance of biomedicine and refusal to abandon ‘traditional culture’. In fact, these ideas encourage those working in international development to underplay the persistence of inequitable policies and practices of exclusion and neglect that create atmospheres of mistrust between states, citizens, and response partners. These practices underpin the vulnerability of people who live in some of the world’s poorest communities. </p> <p>These powerful ideas, too, distract from the importance of <a href="http://www.ebola-anthropology.net/">learning from</a> and supporting local responses to hazards like Ebola. Evidence emerging from the current epidemic and previous outbreaks of Ebola and other diseases shows they can be better addressed through coordinated collaboration between medical response teams and those with a range of other forms of expertise, including community members with deep knowledge of the social and environmental context of the outbreak, and sometimes long experience with the disease itself. </p> <p><strong>Lessons for development</strong> </p> <p>There is now an urgent need to reinvest in global health and national health systems to support the development of sustainable rapid response programs and build trust across sectors. </p> <p>Linda Waldman (Institute of Development Studies) <a href="https://www.ids.ac.uk/publication/urbanisation-the-peri-urban-growth-and-zoonotic-disease">argues</a> that <em>‘we must bring people at the social and economic ‘margins’ of urban societies to the forefront of development planning. Only in this way can urban communities help to dismantle institutions that have functioned to exacerbate and entrench inequities and foster atmospheres of mistrust.’</em> </p> <p>We must invest in the capacity to learn from local experiences and support local responses. Pervasive stereotypes about ‘traditional culture’ can have dire consequences when they misdirect planning and interventions. <a href="http://steps-centre.org/2014/blog/ebola/">Local knowledge</a> and perspectives must be at the heart of the political, public health and biomedical responses to development planning and crisis response. </p> <p>Legacies of inequitable development create the vulnerabilities that result in hazards turning to disasters. To focus only on the immediate circumstances of the Ebola epidemic is, to use the language of medicine, to address the symptoms of a pathological condition rather than the underlying and complex dynamics that allow the problem to arise in the first place. </p> <p>In this context, we must learn from and address underlying causes to build a more just, resilient and sustainable future. If we are to take an overarching lesson from this Ebola crisis, it is quite simply, that now is the time to radically rethink development. </p> <p><strong>Read the IDS briefings </strong><a href="https://www.ids.ac.uk/project/ebola-lessons-for-development"><strong><em>Ebola and Lessons for Development: Inequality,&nbsp;Structural&nbsp;Violence&nbsp;and Infectious Disease&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></strong></a><strong> </strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/tooni-akanni/confronting-ebola-in-liberia-gendered-realities-0">Confronting Ebola in Liberia: the gendered realities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/philippa-atkinson/ebola-crisis-exposing-failures-of-local-and-global-governance">The ebola crisis: exposing the failures of local and global governance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/bob-rigg/ebola-between-public-health-and-private-profit">Ebola: between public health and private profit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/experts-from-range-of-disciplines/ebola-and-global-health-politics-open-letter">Ebola and global health politics: an open letter</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights-blog/alicia-ely-yamin/ebola-human-rights-and-poverty-%E2%80%93-making-links">Ebola, human rights, and poverty – making the links</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Liberia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Guinea </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Sierra Leone </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Sierra Leone Guinea Liberia Civil society International politics Ebola 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick women's health 50.50 newsletter Amber Huff Wed, 25 Feb 2015 09:30:33 +0000 Amber Huff 90792 at https://opendemocracy.net You faked your life? Towards a culture of protection in UK asylum https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sarahjane-savage-mohbuba-choudhury/you-faked-your-life-towards-culture-of-protection-in-uk-asyl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To ensure those in need of international protection receive it, attention must be given to the impact of the societal, political and institutional context on decision-makers’ ability to assess an applicant’s credibility.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For governments the world over, the subject of immigration is a double-edged sword. Immigration policies have the potential to <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/18/britons-expect-tories-to-win-may-election">rally some voters whilst alienating others</a>.&nbsp; In the lead-up to the May 2015 UK General Election the political and public rhetoric on immigration is, predictably, growing <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11366207/Health-immigration-and-the-economy-where-the-election-will-be-won-and-lost.html">increasingly firm</a>. While the aim is to paint a picture of a government that is capably and confidently tackling weak spots in the management of migration, what is less evident is the particularly detrimental impact of this rhetoric upon the asylum system, particularly in the area of decision-making known as the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">credibility assessment’</a>.</p> <p><strong>The challenge of assessing ‘credibility’ in asylum</strong></p> <p>In the UK and around the world it is well known amongst those working in refugee protection that assessing the “credibility” of an asylum applicant’s claim is an extremely <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-cochrane/inconsistent-story-doesnt-mean-youre-lying-on-psychology-and-asylum-proces">challenging task</a>.&nbsp; Decision-makers are expected to gather and consider as much relevant evidence as they can in order to determine which aspects of an asylum applicant’s claims about past and present events (‘past’ being an experience of torture, ‘present’ being gay, for example) they can accept. This is even before they go on to assess, based on what they accept of the claim, whether the individual may be at risk of persecution if returned to their country of origin. &nbsp;</p> <p>In the UK, flawed credibility assessments by UK civil servants have been the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/7102.htm">focus of criticism</a> for almost a decade. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/get_it_right_0.pdf">Studies</a> have <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CCMQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amnesty.org.uk%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fa_question_of_credibility_final_0.pdf&amp;ei=S-vhVJGTEYGv7AbN24HoDg&amp;usg=AFQjCNE6Yf18irAYjgqQ4S5VDPxsZ">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CCMQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.asylumaid.org.uk%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F02%2Funsustainableweb.pdf&amp;ei=c-vhVNHJFoeC7ga63oHADw&amp;usg=AFQjCNHg_xN8DJtVTCfPWCzX4XqY0yeHFg&amp;">shown</a> they are the primary reason for the high rate of initial asylum decisions being overturned on appeal. The Home Office has itself been commendably transparent about the fact that credibility assessment is a key area of difficulty for their staff as highlighted by its own internal Quality Assurance mechanism.&nbsp; </p> <p>One asylum seeker <a href="http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/uk0210webwcover.pdf">commented </a>on her experience of the credibility assessment process: <em>“I was in shock, weak, but I should have told the man who told me I was lying, that if I would get my mother and sisters back I would happily leave ... I loved my old life, people came to my country [Sierra Leone] in the past you know ... I am a fighter, I am used to fight to live, but to be told ‘you faked your life’ is a little like death.”</em></p> <p><strong>Turning to other disciplines</strong></p> <p>In a recent comparative study entitled <a href="http://www.refworld.org/docid/519b1fb54.html"><em>Beyond Proof: Credibility Assessment in EU Asylum Systems</em></a> &nbsp;UNHCR examined state practice in the area of credibility assessment at first instance (i.e. prior to any appeal) in the UK, Belgium and Netherlands.&nbsp; A fundamental observation of the study is that a proper and thorough assessment of an individual’s credibility requires input and expertise from a multiplicity of specialised disciplines. The study emphasises, for example, that it is vital for decision-makers to understand that behaviours or statements from an asylum applicant may deviate from what might the decision-maker might consider “normal” and that these are not necessarily indicative of a lack of credibility. Instead, an applicant’s behaviours, statements and actions must be interpreted against an understanding of how, for example, human memory works, particularly in the context of <a href="http://www.freedomfromtorture.org/news-blogs/3306">torture or trauma</a>. </p> <p>Indeed, the full spectrum of an applicant’s individual and contextual circumstances must be taken into account. The study acknowledges the challenge this brings for decisions makers who must navigate geographical, cultural, socio-economic, gender, educational and religious barriers in order to take account of different individual experiences, temperaments and attitudes, all of which impact upon the evidence provided by an asylum applicant. </p> <p>Importantly, the study goes further by highlighting that whilst individual and contextual circumstances of the <em>applicant</em> are crucial to the credibility assessment, so too are the individual and contextual circumstances of the <em>decision-maker</em>. Factors such as the decision-maker’s emotional and physical state, individual background, value system, beliefs and life experiences all influence the assessment of an applicant’s credibility. </p> <p><strong>The societal, political and institutional context of asylum decision-making</strong></p> <p>All decision-makers perform their functions in a particular context.&nbsp; Long ignored or at least not formally acknowledged as an important variable influencing how credibility is assessed, UNHCR’s report usefully highlights the impact of the societal, political and institutional context in which an asylum decision-maker works upon their ability to assess an applicant’s credibility.&nbsp; </p> <p>The context in which asylum decision-makers work in the UK is a very particular one.&nbsp; Since April 2013 the authority responsible for assessing asylum applications and for hiring and managing the decision-makers who do so is ‘UK Visas and Immigration’ (UVKI), a division of the Home Office. This same body also operates the visa system and considers applications from foreign nationals seeking British citizenship.&nbsp; </p> <p>A welcome shift in emphasis for the UKVI over its predecessor, the UK Border Agency, is its focus on customer service.&nbsp; However, to date, the only published high-level policy available on the UKVI website is entitled “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/securing-borders-and-reducing-immigration">Securing Borders and Reducing Immigration</a>”.&nbsp; This is in line with public messaging of the Home Office which focuses on objectives such as ‘reducing and tackling abuse,’ ‘securing the border,’ and ‘reducing costs.’ Indeed, the only mention of ‘asylum’ in the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/home-office-business-plan-2012-to-2015-may-2012">Home Office Business Plan 2012-2015</a> is found under a priority entitled ‘Secure our border and reduce immigration’ where the Home Office commits to ‘process asylum applications more quickly’. </p> <p>Meanwhile, beyond the walls of the Home Office, a simple glance at the daily UK newspaper headlines highlights further messaging that fuels an increasingly hostile atmosphere towards immigrants. Headlines such as ‘<a href="http://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/leo-mckinstry/443677/A-multicultural-hell-hole-that-we-never-voted-for">A multi-cultural hell hole that we never voted for</a>,’ and ‘<a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/thunderer/article3808366.ece">Immigration is creating shanty towns in Britain</a>’ provide a flavor of the material circulating in the public domain. It takes an astute reader to appreciate the distinction between an economic migrant and one seeking international protection, <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/en/About-us/News/2012/October/Call-to-set-record-straight-on-refugees-and-asylum-seekers">a distinction the media rarely draws to the reader’s attention</a>.</p><p>Asylum decision-makers are public citizens themselves.&nbsp; They live and work within and amongst both the institutional and societal context described.&nbsp; As such, the link between messaging, the findings regarding the quality of first-instance decision-making in the area of credibility assessment, and the high overturned appeal rate should not be ignored.&nbsp; While decision makers may express an intention to examine each individual asylum claim from an open, neutral starting position, it is inevitable that such messaging consciously or unconsciously influences the mind-set of the decision maker who then approaches the assessment of credibility with varying levels of skepticism and disbelief. One asylum decision-maker <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CDEQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.refworld.org%2Fpdfid%2F519b1fb54.pdf&amp;ei=iAziVOy_JOu57gbn9YCIBQ&amp;usg=AFQjCNEUbSYCnkb-ELF3CMC2hC7B9TwrVw&amp;sig2=EMI6D5VQVl2yTJZGKtnNTw&amp;bvm=bv.859">commented</a>: “<em>Applicants lie and abuse the immigration system, they abuse the benefits system; it is quite apparent to me what is happening here. When you are exposed to this, you become highly cynical.”</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/518120c64.pdf">Research</a> has demonstrated that the operational guidance provided by the UK government to their asylum decision-makers on the subject of credibility assessment, whilst itself fairly well-rounded and encouraging a neutral, fact-finding methodology, is often not being followed in practice<strong>. &nbsp;</strong>We suggest it is here, in this gap between policy and practice that the government’s own public and internal messaging is failing and detrimentally impacting upon its own asylum system.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Influencing the context: a role for government</strong></p> <p>To ensure those in need of international protection receive that protection, it is of paramount importance that decision-makers are supported to approach and assess each and every asylum claim from an objective stand-point.&nbsp; Whilst external factors such as media rhetoric cannot easily be controlled, it is within the power of the government itself to take measures to foster a ‘protection sensitive’ culture. We suggest that asylum decision-makers require and deserve support from the Home Office and from UKVI to acknowledge and appreciate the impact of listening to accounts of human rights abuses upon them.&nbsp; Further, the impact of the institutional and societal context in which they work and live upon their decision-making should also be acknowledged and explored with them.</p> <p>There have been some recent encouraging initiatives within UKVI that can serve to encourage a ‘protection-sensitive’ culture. For example, one asylum decision-making hub has named its teams of decision-makers after prominent human rights defenders, reminding staff on a daily basis of the importance and gravity of their work.&nbsp; At the same time, UKVI is piloting a combined training and peer support mechanism that encourages decision-makers to reflect upon the nature of their work they do and how it affects them.</p> <p>It is not only in an asylum applicant’s interests to receive a high quality decision in the first instance, it is in the interests of the government assessing the claim. &nbsp;An asylum system that produces quality decisions the first time around avoids additional costs associated with supporting applicants for longer periods of time as well as with unnecessary appeals proceedings.&nbsp; Furthermore, where decisions are timely and backlogs are avoided, greater faith in the asylum system from the voting public will follow.</p> <p>Decision-makers should be consistently reminded that their task is to uphold fundamental human rights whilst aiming to protect those who qualify for international protection.&nbsp; There is a role here for the asylum authority.&nbsp; By acknowledging and including in their institutional objectives and business plans reference to the important aim of protecting and upholding human rights, the government can foster an institutional mind-set that is protection-oriented and an institutional culture that is protection-sensitive.&nbsp; In doing so, the government may find applicants are believed where they should be and overturned appeal rates drop, thereby not only saving the government money but justifying a sense of pride in providing timely protection to those who deserve it.</p> <p><em>The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the position of UNHCR or of the United Nations.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amanda-gray/equal-access-to-asylum-process-for-women">Equal access to the asylum process for women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/bogus-asylum-seekers-ethics-of-truth-telling-in-asylum-system">&#039;Bogus&#039; asylum seekers? The ethics of truth-telling in the asylum system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk">Poverty: a human rights abuse in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/roland-schilling/your-asylum-procedure-is-too-fast-and-not-fair-unhcr-tells-uk-government">Your asylum procedure is too fast and not fair, UNHCR tells UK government</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/anti-immigrant-sentiment-time-to-talk-about-gender">Anti-immigrant sentiment: time to talk about gender?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sonal-ghelani/government-in-dock-destitution-and-asylum-in-uk">Government in the dock: destitution and asylum in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system">Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">Seeking asylum, ending destitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/latefa-guemar/seeking-safety-in-algeria-syrian-refugee-women%E2%80%99s-resilience">Seeking safety in Algeria: Syrian refugee women’s resilience </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK International politics institutions & power 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Mohbuba Choudhury Sarah-Jane Savage Tue, 24 Feb 2015 08:45:33 +0000 Mohbuba Choudhury and Sarah-Jane Savage 90774 at https://opendemocracy.net Report thy neighbour: policing Sisi’s Egypt https://opendemocracy.net/5050/maha-abdelrahman/report-thy-neighbour-policing-sisi%E2%80%99s-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A regime bereft of legitimacy, save for its promise to guarantee national security, turns citizens into active players in a new culture of surveillance and reporting.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>During his recent visit to Cairo in November 2014, Alain Gresh, former editor- in-chief of <em>Le Monde Diplomatique</em>, met with a couple of Egyptian acquaintances (a journalist and a student) in a downtown Cairo café. During their chat, which unsurprisingly involved Egyptian politics, a middle-class Egyptian woman at the next table became highly alarmed by the exchange. Her anxiety did not stop at shouting at the journalists, accusing them of conspiring to destroy Egypt, but extended to actually calling upon the security personnel guarding the nearby British Embassy to investigate the said conspiracy. The sad saga, which lasted for a few hours, ended with embarrassment for the Egyptian authorities and an apology to the French journalist. </p> <p>Despite the Kafkaesque tone of the event, the ‘concerned citizen’ had actually behaved in the only logical way expected of her after a relentless, year-long campaign by the regime and dominant pro-regime media to create a state of mass hysteria regarding Egypt’s security. Since the military takeover of 2013, a public discourse has evolved churning out incessant <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abla_Fahita">accounts</a> in which enemies of the Egyptian state and its people, external and internal, known and unknown, human and otherwise, are constantly conspiring to plot against the country and target its security as well as the health of its national economy. Against a rich tapestry of intrigue and terrorist discourse, the security apparatus has emerged, in this narrative, as the only national saviour capable of protecting the country from complete chaos. In fact, the legitimacy of the Sisi regime continues to derive largely from his promise to rid the country of terrorists and to restore security and order. In this regard, he makes grateful use of actual violent attacks against military and other targets especially in Sinai. </p> <p>However, restoring a sense of trust in the police after the 2011 uprising remains unimaginable for the time being. After all, the 25 January uprising was in many ways a revolt against police brutality and the role of security institutions in reproducing Mubarak’s authoritarian neoliberal order and protecting its elite.</p> <p>Contrary to mainstream accounts of the 25 January uprising as a peaceful episode led by middle-class, technology-savvy youth, the 18 days uprising saw heavy violence by protesters directed mainly against police targets. During the first days of the uprising, almost 100 police stations were set on fire, many detention cells opened to release detainees and police cars torched. To revamp the image of the police and its tarnished standing for the majority of citizens, an atmosphere of panic in which the police is presented as the only guarantor against total chaos is employed as a strategy. All the same, succeeding in this strategy has been no&nbsp; small feat especially against the backdrop of a shocking series of acquittals of all police officers of any charges of killing thousands of protesters since the January uprising. The regime’s objective of elevating the police image to that of national protector has required the spinning of a web of laws, of deepening&nbsp; layers of surveillance into areas of the everyday lives of citizens and, more importantly, enlisting citizens as participants in an omnipresent police regime.<em> <br /></em></p> <p><strong>Criminalising the everyday <br /></strong></p> <p>During 2014, and in the absence of a functioning Parliament, two consecutive presidents, Adly Mansour and Sisi, decreed 140 new laws between them. The laws either criminalised new areas or made the penalties for already defined criminal activities more severe. This legal arsenal has resulted in criminalising many everyday activities and turning the mundane into the subversive in the public’s mind. The 140 new laws cover areas as varied as civil society organisations receiving foreign funding, practising politics inside university campuses and insulting the national flag. The last instance, embodied in the presidential law 41 of 2014, criminalised any form of insult to the national flag or national anthem which is punishable by a prison sentence of no more than one year and a 30,000 EGP fine. In a bid to comply with the law, the Ministry of Education decided that the same punishment will apply to school pupils whose behaviour in morning assembly could be perceived as ‘insulting’ the Egyptian flag. This could simply be the act of <a href="http://wwww.elwatannews.com/news/details/581818">moving or passing in front of the flag</a> while it is being saluted in morning assembly. The responsibility for surveillance and reporting of miscreant pupils is left to fellow-pupils, teachers and school management. </p> <p>Turning citizens against each other and fuelling existing tensions between competing groups in order to create a ‘culture of informing against fellow citizens’ reached high levels in 2014. One <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/533004">example</a> stands out. After repeated failures to clear Cairo’s city centre of street vendors, despite the use of violence, increased fines and prison sentences, especially since 2012, the Cairo governorate issued a shrewd decree. The decree went beyond pursuing street vendors to targeting fellow citizens who could now be punished for not reporting the offending vendors. The decree punishes, by closure and licence confiscation, any shop owner who allows street vendors to set up their stalls in the immediate vicinity of their shop. Sure enough, the new decree led to a wave of clashes between street vendors and shop owners who had long resented their presence and regarded them as unwanted competition. Many shop owners were only too happy to report the vendors, especially when egged on by the fear of losing their licences.&nbsp; </p> <p>In a similar spirit of this informing against other, the Ministry of Transport has recently launched the <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/648059">campaign</a> ‘Long live Egypt-Security is our collective responsibility’, encouraging conscientious citizens to report any suspicious behaviour of fellow commuters through a number of hotlines. The reward for reporting is an annual free transport subscription. </p> <p><strong>Layers of policing <br /></strong></p> <p>Implementing the myriad new laws and providing surveillance for new areas of criminality has inevitably required an <a href="http://eipr.org/sites/default/files/pressreleases/pdf/national_initiative_for_police_reform_en.pdf">increase in the police force, its budget and its mandate</a>. Already under Mubarak, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) employed 1.7 million individuals in 2009, including 850,000 police personnel and administrative staff, 450,000 Central Security Forces (CFS) personnel, and 400,000 individuals as part of the State Security Investigation Services (SSIS). In addition to formal forces and in order to support the needs of an ever-expanding regime of terror, the MOI started to ‘outsource’ its most ‘dirty’ business to <em>baltagya</em> (thugs). <em>Baltagya</em> are criminals, known to the police, usually with a record of violence, who are paid to carry out duties of ‘disciplining’ members of the public in return for the police turning a blind eye to their criminal activities. </p> <p>The <em>baltagya</em>’s job description expanded to include voter intimidation, beating up, raping and sexually abusing criminal suspects and political activists, breaking up demonstrations and workers' strikes, forcibly removing farmers from their land and much more. With the increasing dispossession and impoverishment of more groups in society due to intensive marketisation, Mubarak’s regime became heavily reliant on the police. Since the 1990s, therefore, the MOI budget has consistently increased its share of general expenditure, exceeding those of education and health combined. Since the 25 January uprising, the trend has continued and the budget of the MOI has increased further. </p> <p>To meet the growing demand for personnel, Egypt’s Police Academy admitted 1850 students for the new academic year in July 2014. The successful candidates, accepted on the basis of lower academic achievements compared to previous years, constituted the largest class intake in the history of the academy. In a press conference held by MOI to mark the occasion, Ahmad Gad, assistant to the minister, quoted the <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/478587">inspiring role of the police force</a> during the June 30th ‘revolution’ to a new generation of youth as the main factor for the rush of young people to join the academy. On the same occasion, it was also announced that new screening procedures had been put in place to exclude from admission any students who belonged to the banned Muslim Brothers (MB) organisation.&nbsp; Around the same time, 75 existing students were being investigated, and facing the prospect of expulsion, in an effort to purge the academy and the police force of any MB elements. </p> <p>A larger, more tightly-vetted group of police graduates will come in handy to serve the proliferation of new police units.&nbsp; In July 2014, the MOI also reintroduced the traditional system of <em>darak</em><strong>,</strong> which was abolished in 1952 in favour of more modern forms of policing. The traditional <em>darak </em>consisted of a single, low-ranking police officer who would patrol the streets to provide surveillance. The reinstated system will now consist of mobile units of three security officers working together. These include one officer armed with a pistol and two conscripts armed with batons. The role of the <em>darak</em> is one of surveillance and reporting. The unit will patrol the streets and report any suspicious behaviour to the closest police station, thus creating a better network of informing and surveillance. The plan is for this new system to be <a href="http://altagreer.com/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D9%84%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%B1%D9%83/">introduced</a> in the two middle-class areas of Zamalek and Qasr El Nil (downtown Cairo) as a first step in a wider national plan. </p> <p>The MOI has also been recruiting beyond graduates of the academy. In October 2014, the legislative section of the state council approved a draft law establishing community police, a new branch envisaged to involve a larger section of citizens in policing society. This new branch will hire both men and women in the age group between 18 and 22 who hold the minimum qualification of a middle school degree. They will be granted the power of arrest. The <a href="http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=11092014&amp;id=ac932afc-152d-468e-9ff0-a18819b5ccfc">new community police units</a> will work on ‘aiding the police in facing crime, enhancing a sense of security among citizens and [more importantly]… creating a culture of security’.&nbsp; </p> <p>An inflated police force is not unique to Egypt. With the rise of neoliberal capitalism and its strategies of ‘accumulation by dispossession’, many regimes, including those in the ‘democratic’ west, have increased investment in policing and surveillance, especially targeting particular localities and populations; namely the poor, the unemployed, migrants and blacks&nbsp; Different policies such as the infamous ‘stop and search’, the ‘<a href="http://ipna.co.uk/">Injunctions for the Prevention of Nuisance and Annoyance</a>’ in the UK and the ‘<a href="http://www.police.wa.gov.au/Yoursafety/Antisocialbehaviour/tabid/1076/Default.aspx">Prohibited Behaviour Order</a>’ in the State of Western Australia have created a ‘culture of reporting’ and often given increasing discretionary powers to the police.</p><p> However, what is peculiar to Egypt is the total sense of impunity that the police has long enjoyed.&nbsp; This impunity, along with the increasing resources and extended mandate discussed above, is set to continue into the foreseeable future as the police serves the current regime in one crucial way. A regime bereft of any source of legitimacy, save for its promise of guaranteeing security to the nation, stops at nothing to inflate a discourse of national security around which to rally an otherwise disgruntled citizenry. Central to cementing this security discourse is the enlisting of large sectors of the population into becoming active players in the surveillance and reporting of society. Perhaps the <a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/journalists-syndicate-chairman-calls-reporting-journalists-inciting-against-army-police">recent call</a> by the Chairman of the Journalists Syndicate on journalists to report any colleagues ‘proven to have incited against the army and police’ is a taste of what is yet to come.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/from-strongman-to-superman-sisi-saviour-of-egypt">From Strongman to Superman: Sisi the saviour of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/opportunities-and-pitfalls-in-egypt%E2%80%99s-roadmap">Opportunities and pitfalls in Egypt’s roadmap</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/chez-morsi-palace-petitioners-and-street-entrepreneurs-in-post-mubarak-e">Chez Morsi : palace petitioners and street entrepreneurs in post-Mubarak Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/entrepreneurs-of-revolution-jockeying-for-livelihood-and-security-in-pos">Entrepreneurs of the revolution: jockeying for livelihood and security in post-Arab Spring Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/promise-and-peril-women-and-%E2%80%98arab-spring%E2%80%99">Promise and peril: women and the ‘Arab spring’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/takeovers-and-makeovers-using-landscape-to-re-write-history-in-post-revo">Takeovers and makeovers: using the landscape to re-write history in post-revolutionary Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maha-abdelrahman/egyptian-opposition-from-protestors-to-revolutionaries">The Egyptian opposition: from protestors to revolutionaries? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Arab Awakening Egypt Snooping on the innocent 50.50 Peacework & Human Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy 50.50 newsletter Maha Abdelrahman Closely observed citizens Mon, 23 Feb 2015 08:45:33 +0000 Maha Abdelrahman 90690 at https://opendemocracy.net Debating a 5th World Conference on Women: defiance or defeatism ? https://opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/debating-5th-world-conference-on-women-defiance-or-defeatism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The past four World Conferences on Women have galvanized activism and strengthened women's movement building. Now is the time to assess and rethink the decision not to convene a 5th global gathering of women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Throughout last week an exchange took place on Twitter about whether we had more to lose or gain from holding a 5th World Conference on Women. The conversation was sponsored by the international NGO, <a href="http://www.genderatwork.org/">Gender at Work</a> , and can be seen under the hashtag: #5thwcw. The discussion was triggered by an article that we wrote in January, ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women&#039;s-rights-have-no-country">Women’s rights have no country</a>’. </p> <p>We argued against a dominant position that it is too risky to hold another UN conference on women because the forces of conservative backlash are currently so significant that women risk losing the normative gains made at the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/index.html">Beijing conference</a> 20 years ago. This caution is evident in the meek approach of the upcoming UN <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">Commission on the Status of Women</a> discussed in an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/world%27s-girls-no-voice-no-rights">article</a> by Lyric Thompson this week on openDemocracy, where there will be no attempt to enrich and deepen the achievements of Beijing. Our point was that transnationalism has always been a crucial resource for feminists at national, regional and international levels. We argued that the mounting backlash against women's rights was all the more reason to find grounds for solidarity, build effective networks, and demonstrate a capability to work across borders to defend women’s rights. </p> <p>The Twitter discussion was an initial and fairly random foray into a global public debate - that we argue must be held - on the viability and value of holding another UN conference. There were over 1400 tweets and almost 200 individual contributors - a good start, but nothing to compare with the Twitter hysteria engendered by Emma Watson outing herself as a feminist.&nbsp; Still, some interesting points came up: a conviction that young people must be engaged more effectively in the struggle for gender equality; anxiety about intensifying conservative backlash; skepticism about the capacity of states to defend women’s rights, about the likelihood that the most excluded women and girls will participate, about the value of norm development in addressing the unfinished agenda of women’s rights, about the capacity of technology to enable a deepening of the women’s’ rights process,. </p> <p>One of the most frequently cited pre-occupations was the challenge of creating an inclusive process. From Day 1 of the 5-day Tweet-a-thon there was an over-focus on the conference itself, rather than an insistence on a process of national, regional and global organizing that engages millions in organizing and building a collective vision and agenda. </p> <p><strong>It is a process, not just an event</strong> </p> <p>In the 140 characters that Twitter allows, it’s hard to capture much nuance in a discussion about what kind of process and conference might advance women’s rights. For those who were involved in the process leading up to, during and following the Beijing conference and its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/my-beijing-diary">parallel NGO Forum</a> in 1995, it may be apparent that it is not simply a conference of elites talking to elites. It is a unique opportunity for transnational mobilization over a period of years. </p> <p>But it has been more than a generation since the last one. Many of the “twitterati” on our discussion had no frame of reference for a process that could generate change at local, national, regional and global levels. </p> <p>We stressed, in response, that the value of these processes is not just in the event itself, but the mobilization and lobbying leading up to it.&nbsp; It affords women’s groups opportunities to develop constituency strength and leverage so as to drive a home-grown progressive agenda.&nbsp; This process builds the size and strength of women’s movements.&nbsp; Analyses of the past four international women’s conferences show that preparation for these, as well as follow up processes, generate momentum and funding for women’s organizations.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>One tweet was blunt: “So now there’s a debate about having another ‘Beijing’ to see about the next 20 years for women’s rights. I'm not convinced. At all.”&nbsp; This was followed by tweets expressing skepticism about the UN’s capacity to generate meaningful changes in attitudes and actions from member states, and invoking Gayatri Spivak’s reflection on “<a href="http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/commentary/woman-as-theatre">’Women’ as ‘theatre’</a>” at the 1995 Beijing conference.&nbsp;&nbsp; An extract is worth citing: ‘We are witnessing the proliferation of feminist apparatchiks who identify conference organizing with activism as such [….] They often assume that altogether salutary debate in the conference will have necessary consequences in the lifeworld of oppressed and super-exploited women.” </p> <p>Ouch. </p> <p>The critique of the world of femocrats, and the drive to find consensus language for international agreements is fair enough.&nbsp; But neither Beijing nor the preceding conferences were just about the negotiated outcome document.&nbsp; These international convenings galvanized activism, strengthened women’s mobilizations and movement-building (especially in the countries where the world conferences were held) and provided a reference point against which national progress on women’s rights was measured.&nbsp; It may be true that we have reached the limits of what can be achieved with regard to norm-advancement in international forums.&nbsp; But we surely have much more to achieve through international networking, alliance-building, and joint action.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>De-link or re-think? <br /></strong></p> <p>A number of contributors expressed deep reservations about an international process convened and negotiated by states or governments. That feminists have reached this point of such profound skepticism about the willingness and capacity of governments to engage constructively in building women’s rights is itself an important and disturbing development.&nbsp; It speaks to the extent to which states have either refused to or been rendered incapable of advancing significant social change agendas in an era of economic globalization, where international corporations call the shots on labour rights, environmental protection standards, and social protection. </p> <p>Said one tweet: “states r out of touch with their people, especially women - this is why a #5thwcw cannot b run by govs”.&nbsp; </p> <p>Another said: “should we delink global gathering of women (and all the positives that would come from that) from negotiated text by govts?” </p> <p>A response to this was: “Not de-link, but re-think. Traditional barter in UN process not as useful anymore. How do we move agenda in new ways?” </p> <p>This is the crucial question. There is a growing impression that governments have no intention whatever of implementing the lofty goals to which they aspire, International agreements on gender equality are pressed into perverse service in providing venal administrations with a gloss of legitimacy.&nbsp; A significant number of contributions stressed the need to avoid the reductive process of bargaining over the lowest common denominator of mutually acceptable standards on gender equality and women’s rights.&nbsp; As one tweeter noted: “but isn't a global resolution the epitome of compromise? Is it possible it will be radical?”&nbsp; The answers are of course ‘yes’ and ‘no’, underscoring the feeling that perhaps it is best to leave governments right out of it. </p> <p>On the other hand, what would be the point of an international meeting if it did not demand action of governments to accelerate progress in guaranteeing women’s rights?&nbsp; De-linking a fifth world conference on women from government decision-making would provide for a valuable celebration of activism and innovation, but it would not oblige governments to confront the size and determination of global feminist networks. </p> <p>We do need to re-think the role of governments in these types of meetings - perhaps starting with how delegations are constituted so as to ensure that there is more space for the voice of women’s and feminist organizations.&nbsp; Perhaps the objective of an international conference would not be an encyclopedia of intent, but rather a focused, time-bound implementation plan with targets that can be measured and monitored – linked to the gender goal and specific indicators and targets under the Sustainable Development Goals that will emerge this year from the UN General Assembly. </p> <p><strong>Young people: what do they want?</strong> </p> <p>Twitter handles do not come with revelations about the age of the tweeter, but participants had the impression that about half of tweeters in this conversation were under 35.&nbsp; From this category of tweeters came an appreciation of the value of international caucusing: “I was 13 when #Beijing happened so I'd quite like a #5thwcw - would be such a highlight for new generations of activists!” </p> <p>Other tweets suggested that there are substantive reasons to engage youth in re-thinking feminism: “The idea of who's a feminist and what it means has changed radically since 1995. That's another reason that we need a #5thwcw”.&nbsp; Another tweeter noted the need to give voice to new perspectives: “Fight for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/genderequality?src=hash">#genderequality</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/womensrights?src=hash">#womensrights</a> won't be won by waiting &amp; hoping enough has been done, or by ignoring new/unheard voices.” And this same tweeter commented on the defeatism inherent in not calling for a fifth world conference: “Failure to have a <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/5thwcw?src=hash">#5thwcw</a> is an acceptance that there is nothing more to address, no other vital contributions/perspectives to be heard.” </p> <p>While many contributors to the tweetchat made lists of the ‘unfinished business’ in women’s’ rights that need international attention, those connecting to a ‘youth’ perspective raised these substantive issues most insistently:&nbsp; LGBTI issues, the role of technology in enabling stronger global networking, issues of faith, fundamentalism, sexual and reproductive rights. </p> <p><strong>Conservative backlash <br /></strong></p> <p>One tweeter noted of fundamentalist religious groups: “they are 100 years behind lived realities of people but backlash is huge #5thwcw would support setting new norm”.&nbsp; Several tweeters had a back and forth on the role of the Vatican/Holy See in these international meetings, noting the depressing return of the Vatican’s hostility to what it calls ‘gender ideology’, attacking the idea of the social construction of gender in schools in Italy, and most recently, in the proposed outcome document for the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women.&nbsp; We are back to having to negotiate square brackets off of the word ‘gender’, which does make a parody of international negotiations on women’s rights. </p> <p>One contributor reminded us not to make light of the serious demonization of feminist activists in a conservative environment: “If you think bold women are trolled on @twitter ? You should see governments troll women activists at these global conferences.” </p> <p>On the other hand, a lone voice expressed the need to answer back to conservativism and&nbsp; extremism:</p> <p>“<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/5thwcw?src=hash">#5thwcw</a> is needed to put Islamic feminism on the map of global feminist movements. Key in fighting radicalism and integrating Muslim women” </p> <p>It is this spirit of defiance that we would like to highlight.&nbsp; Feminist movements have not in the past caved to conservativism – and as a general principle, a reluctance to confront the tide of conservative backlash might be facilitating its current high-speed flow.&nbsp; In advance of the UN <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">Commission on the Status of Women</a> this year a cluster of 11 countries have signaled their intention to subordinate women’s rights to the family. For the record, they are called the ‘Friends of the Family’ and include: Belarus, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Turkmenistan, Yemen, Zimbabwe, with the Holy See no doubt as a silent partner.&nbsp; Hardly the most egalitarian or democratic cluster of states.&nbsp; Their intentions to act on a global scale as a ‘spoiler’ on women’s rights is despicable, but it is something that can be protested with international mobilisation. </p> <p><strong>Elitism and exclusion</strong> </p> <p>Issues of exclusion, bias, elitism were raised in a number of ways - in terms of the role of men and sexual minorities in the international feminist process, but most directly in relation to the sense that international gatherings are the prerogatives of the privileged few. This criticism must be addressed directly via proposals for an inclusive planning and participation process that reaches to all possible levels of societies around the world.&nbsp; </p> <p>Some of the tweets suggested the need to establish some non-negotiable starting points:&nbsp; e.g.: the bare minimum conditions that must be met to agree to have a process and conference. At the least they include: i) no back-tracking on what has already been agreed; ii) full partnership of women's organizations/movements and networks; iii) commitment to an inclusive process with a focus on the most excluded voices. </p> <p><strong>Ironies and urgencies <br /></strong></p> <p>“You do not have to be a woman to be a women rights activist. But you need a #5thWCW to press the point home and to remind the world :).”&nbsp; This tweet highlighted the need to impress upon a global audience the size and determination of - and a new diversity within - national, regional and international feminist constituencies. </p> <p>Our tweet-a-thon did not lead to any conclusions on the issue that we believe must be answered if we are to move forward: how to design a process and conference that is not a “re-do” of Beijing, how to change the form and tenor of global negotiations in a way that builds on and respects feminist values and principles and amplifies the voices and leadership of women on all of the issues that determine the fate of our countries and our planet. </p> <p>The tweet-a-thon strengthened our belief that the conversation must continue in different venues: at the upcoming CSW, at national levels, in different thematic networks, and other spaces. We hope that some of the larger women’s rights networks - from <a href="http://www.awid.org/">AWID</a> to the <a href="http://www.worldywca.org/">World YWCA</a> and new networks at global, regional and national level - will continue to pursue this question. And we would love to see UN Women or other organizations put out a call for innovative ideas for a truly 21st century process and convening that will generate a renewed, refreshed and resounding agenda for women’s rights and gender justice. </p> <p>There is an ironic historical echo to be heard in discussions about a global conference on women’s’ rights.&nbsp; A hundred years ago the world’s then most extensively networked women’s association, the <a href="http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb133-iwsa">International Women’s Suffrage Alliance</a>, had been planning its annual Congress for Berlin in the summer of 1915 but had cancelled it because of the outbreak of hostilities in Europe.&nbsp; The Dutch physician Aletta Jacobs appealed for an alternative convening in a neutral country, proposing Holland.&nbsp; She urged: “In these dreadful times in which so much hate has been spread among different nations, the women have to show that we at least retain our solidarity and that we are able to maintain our mutual friendship” (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_Suffragii">Jus Suffragii</a>, December 1914: 200).&nbsp; The IWSA membership of 26 suffragist societies elected however not to hold their congress at all, reflecting a serious rift in the membership between an internationalist pacifism and decisions to support specific nationalist war efforts. The Scotswoman Chrystal Macmillan forged on, arguing that individual women could meet and build proposals for global governance and peace in Europe<em>. </em>Late in April 1915, 1,200 women met in an International Women’s Congress in The Hague and developed a manifesto for international cooperation and conflict prevention whose terms are just as relevant today as then<strong>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong>After the Congress two delegations of the newly-formed <a href="http://www.wilpfinternational.org/">Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom</a> travelled the capitals of Europe urging peace. </p> <p>One delegate apparently had <a href="http://www.unive.it/media/allegato/dep/n18-2012/Ricerche/Monografica/08__Kay.pdf0">said</a>, according to the scholar Helen Kay : ‘I hope that the resolutions passed by this international congress be not only words, words, words, but that they be translated into actions’.&nbsp; One hundred and thirty-nine characters.&nbsp; A perfect tweet, and a good reflection of the concern of many of the participants in last week’s tweet-a-thon. </p> <p><em>The authors would like to&nbsp; thank </em><a href="http://www.genderatwork.org/"><em>Gender at Work</em></a><em>'s Executive Director, Aruna Rao, and Anindita Sengupta, Communications Strategist, for the idea and platform for holding the <strong>#5thwcw </strong>tweet chat. </em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/world%27s-girls-no-voice-no-rights">The world&#039;s girls: no voice, no rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/my-beijing-diary">My Beijing diary</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/janine-moussa/rightful-place-of-gender-equality-within-islam">The rightful place of gender equality within Islam </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zohra-moosa/csw-its-time-to-question-vaticans-power-at-un">CSW: it&#039;s time to question the Vatican&#039;s power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/csw-will-there-be-agreed-conclusion-to-csw-this-year">CSW: will there be an Agreed Conclusion to the CSW this year? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/gender-politics-of-funding-women-human-rights-defenders">The gender politics of funding women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/who-wrote-universal-declaration-of-human-rights">Who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-institutions_government/girls_rights_4386.jsp">Do women and girls have human rights?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/charlotte-bunch/remembering-sunila-honouring-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-defenders">Remembering Sunila, honouring women’s human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-gabriel/remembering-cassandra-balchin-24-may-1962-12-july-2012">Remembering Cassandra Balchin (24 May 1962 - 12 July 2012)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/framework-of-democracy-is-human-rights-law">The framework of democracy is human rights law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova/womens-human-rights-watering-leaves-starving-roots">Women&#039;s human rights: Watering the leaves, starving the roots </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/women%E2%80%99s-human-security-rights-in-arab-world-on-nobodys-agenda">Women&#039;s human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody&#039;s agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/sexual-violence-access-to-justice-and-human-rights">Sexual violence, access to justice, and human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality International politics 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power patriarchy gender feminism everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter Joanne Sandler Anne Marie Goetz Fri, 20 Feb 2015 10:33:27 +0000 Joanne Sandler and Anne Marie Goetz 90678 at https://opendemocracy.net Are we all beheaded Copts?: outrage in Libya https://opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya associated with a broader political project of cleansing the region of religious minorities? Would this not deserve demonstrations of solidarity?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians by ISIS on the 15th of February has triggered&nbsp; widespread international official condemnation. Human Rights Watch has <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/16/libyaegypt-murder-egyptians-war-crime">condemned</a> this atrocity as a war crime. However, the language is sufficiently opaque&nbsp; as to leave room for missing the point of who these civilians were and why they were targeted: “Egyptians – particularly those of Coptic faith and truck drivers carrying goods back and forth from Egypt – have been targeted for abduction or killing in Libya around a dozen times since late 2013”. Invoking Copts and truck drivers (even if non-Copt) implicitly suggests that they are both vulnerable to abduction and killing. Is this framing informed by an absence of knowledge of what is happening in Libya, or strategic - intended to underplay the explicit targeting of civilians on religious grounds?&nbsp; </p><p>An audit of the incidents of kidnappings that were announced in the Egyptian press since 2013, most of which were confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gives an unambiguous picture of what is going on. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/INfoTAble.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/INfoTAble.png" alt="Table of data" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Compiled by Akram Habib</span></span></span>Libya has for many decades been a country which has received hundreds of thousands of Egyptian migrants in search of livelihoods. While not all Egyptian residents in Libya are low income earners, it is likely that the majority are. Certainly, the twenty one beheaded Egyptian Christians fit that category. They came from a remote village in Minya, one of the Upper Egyptian Governorates with a low human development profile and high levels of poverty. Many Egyptians, Copts included, have often held low paid menial jobs in Libya, whether as day labourers or street vendors, with their poverty increasing their vulnerability. However, even when they are not in economically vulnerable situations (such as the doctor and his family who were murdered, see table above), they have still been targeted. </p><p>From the table above it is clear that of the 1,125 cases of kidnapping, only the Christian have been killed (though there may be more who were taken hostages, the whereabouts of which are unknown, undocumented in the media). This comparison of the predicament of captured Egyptians suggests that there is a pre-meditated plan of eliminating those who happen to be Copts on the basis&nbsp; of religion. The selective killing of the Copts, and the release of the others can&nbsp; only be explained by the will of the assailants. The BBC for example, reports that <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2015/01/150104_egypt_warning_travelling_libya">eyewitness accounts</a> in one incident of kidnapping involved the armed group which dashed into a house full of Egyptian workers and asked whether there were any Christians among them, seized them, and left the rest. </p> <p>In view of the long history of Egyptian Christian migrant labour to Libya, why are they being targeted now? Writer Salwa El Zoghby provides an <a href="http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/665044">astute analysis</a> of the main drivers of the religiously-mediated targeting.&nbsp; She suggests that these attacks have taken place predominantly in the centre and east of Libya which are areas characterized by the near absence of state authorities,&nbsp; prevailing chaos, absence of rule of law and widespread circulation of weapons. It is in these areas that Islamist militias have established strongholds, and found the conditions that have empowered them to target Christians on ideological grounds. She also points that these Islamist jihadi groups have been responsive to the announcement by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansar_al-Sharia_%28Libya%29">Ansar Al Sharia</a> ( Libya) in February 2014 of an economic reward for anyone who clears Benghazi of any Christian presence. There is also a performative dimension to how ISIS has captured the beheading of the Copts on video, in line with its other videoed assassinations in Iraq and Syria. By beheading Egyptian Christians, as opposed to their Muslim counterparts, ISIS assumes (wrongly) that it is not alienating Muslims and is only enforcing their message of zero-tolerance policy towards those whom it believes to be infidels. </p> <p>Certainly all of Libya has suffered as a consequence of the disintegration of any functional state, the country now being the centre of geopolitical power struggles between different contenders: the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Italy - and the list goes on. </p> <p>There is also a vendetta between the Egyptian leadership and the Islamist movements which has its roots in the overthrow of President Morsi through a popular uprising that was followed by military intervention. There are a number of concentric circles which are underpinned by complex <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya%E2%80%99s-downward-spiral">historical and contextual power dynamics</a> that have spill over effects on socio-political relations on the ground. </p> <p>However, to reduce the transparent targeting of Copts on religious grounds to an unfortunate fallout of a messy and chaotic situation is to deny the diffusion of an ideologically driven political project which is intended to clear the middle east of its religious minorities, and liquidate religious pluralism. Christians, being the largest religious minority in the middle east, become an obvious target, though not the only ones. There are strong resonances in the modalities of religious cleansing deployed by varied Islamist militant groups and ISIS in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The kidnappings, imposition of ransoms, the ultimatums of conversion to Islam or death in Syria and Iraq, have amounted to religious and ethnic cleansing according to the UN. A recently released <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/02/04/mideast-crisis-children-idINKBN0L828E20150204">UN report</a> produced by the UN body responsible for reviewing Iraq's record for the first time since 1998, denounced "the systematic killing of children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities by the so-called ISIL, including several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive". </p> <p>So where does this leave us? In speaking with some progressive academics, social justice advocates, human rights activists, I have sometimes noted a certain reluctance to recognize this phenomenon as ideologically driven, or to analyse the particular modalities of violence identified above as associated with religious targeting of non-Muslim groups in the Arab world. This is not due to lack of evidence (UN, Amnesty International and others have released reports, UN officials have already spoken of a genocide in Iraq), but to the invisibility of the nature of these outrages in our debates. I do not claim to understand why, but here are some propositions. </p> <p>First, many proponents of post-colonialism have repeatedly reminded us that colonial powers have used the “religious minority card” in order to divide and rule. Moreover, in some instances the entanglement of missionary movements with the imperial powers’ political agendas, and their privileged position in society, has left a rather infamous legacy of Muslim-non-Muslim relations. However, this history has left a number of unfortunate imprints on contemporary discourses around religious minority matters in Muslim majority contexts in the middle east. The first is that it generates the false assumption that the middle eastern Christians are all remnants of the missionary movement, rather than ancient denominations founded in the first four centuries AD. like the Copts, predating missionaries by millennia. Second, it <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">ignores</a> the very ancient non-Abrahamic religions whose ancestry goes back thousands of years and who are also at risk of extinction (the Zorastrians and Yazidis being cases in point). Could this past generate a reluctance to raise issues of religious diversity in case they smack of support of neo-colonialism?&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, many progressive western activists and thinkers are rightly conscious of their positionality - namely how they are perceived in the Arab world. There is a fear among some that appearing to be defending religious pluralism in the middle east would be equated with the American hegemonic project, often perceived to be strongly aligned with right wing Christian lobby groups. However, it is precisely the role of the US in aligning, supporting and nurturing militant groups in Libya, Iraq and Syria as a catalyst for the current existential threat to religious diversity in the region that we need to bring to the forefront. There is no longer a “western us” versus the “Muslim rest” – the entanglements of the US in deals and manoeuvrings with Islamist militants, not least in Libya, Syria and Iraq cannot be overlooked. </p> <p>Finally, our dread of&nbsp; Islamophobia at a time when right-wing political parties with racist overtones are on the rise in Europe, should not allow us to be cowed into the avoidance of anything to do with the&nbsp; “Islamic zone” in the name of political correctness. This reluctance to differentiate between the followers of the faith, and those who mobilize violently in the name of religion, may be a basis for exercising self censorship. It is what Bassam Tibi has termed Islamophilia: refraining from criticizing political Islamist groups so as not to offend. One classic example of this is raised by Professor Elizabeth Prodromou, who argues that there is a reluctance to talk about the contemporary political project of the instatement of an Islamic Caliphate. She <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-elizabeth-h-prodromou/a-basketball-guide-to-mid_b_5507894.html">argues</a> that skeptics from the middle east have been concerned understandably that the subject of ISIS formation of a new Islamic Caliphate “is freighted with neo-Orientalist attitudes and neo-imperialist designs, and critics in the US scholar-practitioner community have worried justifiably about the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideological posturing and policy blowback embedded in the topic. However, considered skepticism and principled criticism need not foreclose historically-informed analysis and prudent policy planning”. </p> <p>We need the courage to reflect, discuss and debate how we can carve a space that would allow us to engage with religious pluralism issues in the middle east head on, without equivocation, and without falling into the traps of easy stereotypes and reductionistic explanations. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">Religious minority women of Iraq: time to speak up </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-hard-road-ahead">Libya: a hard road ahead </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-tests-of-renewal">Libya: tests of renewal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/is-that-what-we-fought-for-gaddafis-legacy-for-libyan-women">Is that what we fought for? Gaddafi&#039;s legacy for Libyan women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Libya Civil society Conflict 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Peacework & Human Security 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Mariz Tadros Thu, 19 Feb 2015 11:22:01 +0000 Mariz Tadros 90646 at https://opendemocracy.net The world's girls: no voice, no rights https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/world%27s-girls-no-voice-no-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we address the global threat to women's rights with no space for girls’ - or even women’s - voices at the UN? How will we design a post-2015 framework that responds to the needs of the most marginalized?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>2015 is a milestone year that stands at the intersection of several major anniversaries for human rights and development. Perhaps most visibly, this is the 15th anniversary of the <a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/">Millennium Development Goals</a> (MDGs), and therefore the year world leaders will formally close out the Millennium Charter and adopt a new global development framework. For women and girls, it’s the 20th anniversary of the <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/peacewomen_and_the_un/peacewomen-un-monitoring/csw/about-csw">Fourth World Conference on Women</a> and its crucial policy framework, the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action</a>. </p> <p>One would think, therefore, that 2015 would be a year in which the global community would come together and imagine new rights standards that will set lofty goals for the next generation. Yet so far, this does not seem to be the case. Rather, global leaders are taking a more cautious - or even overtly conservative - approach to negotiations on women’s and girls’ rights. Advocates must not only push governments to set new standards, but must ensure they simply affirm, or worse still, not lose ground on, old ones. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/ETH01151277.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/ETH01151277.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Deniz Kandiyoti wrote recently on openDemocracy 50.50 about the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/triple-whammy-towards-eclipse-of-women%E2%80%99s-rights">transnational alliances</a> that are working to take “all matters relating to sexuality, to the control of female bodies, and to reproductive choice” out of the realm of civic deliberation. “Such is the momentum,” said Kandiyoti “…that the UN failed to pass a resolution for a Fifth World Conference on Women from fear of the consequences of re-opening international agreements on women’s rights.” </p><p>Indeed, thanks to the growing trend Kandiyoti describes, this inauspicious Beijing anniversary year finds advocates headed to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) next month with a <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/59/declaration_draft_20_jan%202015.pdf">tepid draft outcome document</a> - and one that will have been pre-negotiated, signed, sealed and delivered before they have even set foot in the UN complex. </p> <p>A small point on process, perhaps, but one worth exploring further: Typically, the CSW outcome document - the Agreed Conclusion - are negotiated during the course of the two weeks of Commission meetings. Thousands of feminist activists attend the CSW, host side events and lobby governments for their particular advocacy objectives. This year, there are no Agreed Conclusions, and the outcome document - a “political declaration,” - is being negotiated as we speak, a month in advance of the meetings. According to some, the decision to pre-negotiate a political declaration marking the 20th anniversary of Beijing was an effort to avoid the inevitable conservative backlash against affirmations of gender equality and female empowerment, an evasive maneuver to avoid reversing progress.</p> <p>Sound familiar? It should. Ann Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler similarly point out in their article, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women's rights have no country</a>, that the same line of thinking led to the ultimate decision not to mark the 20th anniversary of the ICPD with an international conference last year, and indeed that many women’s rights advocates “breathed a sigh of relief when UN Member States failed to pass a resolution in favour of holding a Fifth World Conference” for fear of losing momentum on women’s rights. </p> <p>This is an impossible position for an activist, particularly a young activist: to have the fire in one’s belly of wanting to push for newer, better rights standards that build upon those important platforms of Beijing and Cairo you’ve inherited, yet “knowing better”… knowing, or very strongly suspecting, that to do so might actually roll back those very rights standards the community holds dear. </p> <p>Certainly, it can be conceded, that a pre-negotiated document might be preferable if it were allowed to not only reaffirm existing standards, but also imagine new ones. Rights through the back door are still rights, one could suppose.</p> <p>But instead, the draft Declaration is a bland document lacking strong commitments to human rights, to adolescent girls, and to sexual and reproductive rights, among others. The pre-negotiated nature means the whole affair will be settled well before the thousands of activists who go to great trouble and expense to travel to New York from all over the world have arrived. It is then left to only those groups with permanent representation in New York - many of which, thank goodness, are strong and inclusive coalition leaders who funnel information and engagement opportunities back and forth to the global sisterhood with incredible speed and efficiency - to represent our global interests, in the ever-winnowing space that they have to do so.</p> <p>For no population is there a greater risk of being left off the agenda entirely, even after a year when global attention to them has arguably been at its highest (see Malala’s Peace Prize), than adolescent girls. At the first reading of the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/59/declaration_draft_20_jan%202015.pdf">draft Declaration</a>, which took place at the UN on 29 January, one government representative stated that Beijing did not address girls and therefore neither should the CSW review. The official had clearly overlooked the final critical area, part L, on “The Girl Child,” where governments explicitly asserted girls’ human rights to live free of abuse, discrimination, forced marriage and other harmful traditional practices, the current draft is noticeably deficient in attention to the specific rights, needs and assets of girls. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BAN022614760.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BAN022614760.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>This comes on the heels of similar developments in the post-2015 process. Late last year, the Secretary General released a <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49509&amp;Cr=post-2015&amp;Cr1=#.VIEvPzHF-NA">much-anticipated report</a> outlining his proposed framework for the post-2015, sustainable development agenda. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lyric-thompson/girls-left-behind-review-_b_6296748.html?1418154997">It left much to be desired</a>. Absent was a call for a stand-alone gender goal (though he did endorse the Open Working Group’s draft framework as a starting-point for negotiations). His report, too, lacked any reference to adolescent girls, who decades of research shows, are an important element of any effort to alleviate poverty. <a href="http://www.icrw.org/what-we-do/adolescents">ICRW’s research</a> has shown that when girls are treated equally at home and in public, they feel safer in school and are more likely to continue their education, which leads to more informed citizens, workers, souses and parents who can contribute to sustainable development.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.icrw.org/publications/more-power-her-how-empowering-girls-can-end-child-marriage">In Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and India</a> has further demonstrated the importance of empowering girls to change discriminatory knowledge, attitudes and practices - all of which was called for in Beijing, and that girl-focused programs expand girls’ ability to make strategic life choices by providing them with access to critical resources. It was as true in Beijing in 1995 as it is now: the global community must invest in girls themselves, in proven approaches that empower them to be agents of change. </p><p>Yet instead, in this important anniversary year, the community of feminist and girl advocates finds the global debate at the intersection of fundamentally important rights and development policy processes that make no room for their participation and hence, unsurprisingly, make no mention of their rights and needs. How will we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/retrospective-15-years-later-beijing%E2%80%99s-mandate-yet-unfinished">build on Beijing</a> with no space for girls’ - or even women’s - voices at the UN? How will we design a post-2015 framework that responds to our needs without articulating goals and targets designed to advance the most marginalized? </p> <p>How indeed?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/triple-whammy-towards-eclipse-of-women%E2%80%99s-rights">The triple whammy: towards the eclipse of women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sunila-abeysekera/challenging-ourselves-at-beijing-15">Challenging ourselves at Beijing +15</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zohra-moosa/csw-its-time-to-question-vaticans-power-at-un">CSW: it&#039;s time to question the Vatican&#039;s power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/gender-politics-of-funding-women-human-rights-defenders">The gender politics of funding women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-institutions_government/girls_rights_4386.jsp">Do women and girls have human rights?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/who-wrote-universal-declaration-of-human-rights">Who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/my-beijing-diary">My Beijing diary</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Equality 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women's health women and power violence against women gendered poverty gender justice feminism everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Lyric Thompson Mon, 16 Feb 2015 11:33:27 +0000 Lyric Thompson 90475 at https://opendemocracy.net Rest in power, Assia Djebar https://opendemocracy.net/5050/latefa-guemar/rest-in-power-assia-djebar <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why is it that the homeland always rejects its most erudite children? Latefa Guemar pays tribute to the feminist writer remembered for her intellectual honesty and unflinching stance against Algerian patriarchy, even from beyond its borders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>“I only see one way for the Arab women to free themselves from everything. The one of talking, talking non-stop, talking for yesterday and talking for today. Yet, talking to each other.</em><span>” &nbsp;-&nbsp;</span><span>Assia Djebar (1992) </span><em><a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/301501.Women_of_Algiers_in_Their_Apartment">Women of Algiers in Their Apartment</a></em></p> <p><span>Can you hear the call for dialogue? The much-needed dialogue that may reconcile us with ourselves and with each other?</span></p> <p><span>Paying tribute to writer Assia Djebar who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/books/assia-djebar-novelist-who-wrote-about-oppression-of-arab-women-dies-at-78.html?_r=0">passed away</a> on February 6th in Paris at the age of 78 may be one of the most difficult tasks I have sought to do in my life, simply because I thought she was immortal. Assia Djebar has been honoured by Algerians for her great work, her integrity, her intellectual honesty and her unflinching stance against Algerian patriarchy, even from beyond its borders.</span></p> <p>When I first read Djebar, I was in my early 20s. Her work opened my eyes to the plight of other Algerian girls of the post-colonial era, caught between three cultures: the French (as the spoils of war) and the Berber and Arab/Muslim cultures. Later, in my late 40s and living in exile, I discovered that Djebar was also honouring me, this time as a female Algerian academic living in the diaspora. Djebar is a great role model for many exiled Algerian women. Her intellectual commitment, her success and her notoriety are, and will always be, the greatest source of inspiration for many of us.</p> <p>Born on 30 June 1936, Djebar (real name&nbsp;<span>Fatima-Zohra Imalayen)&nbsp;</span><span>was a French-Algerian novelist, filmmaker and academic who frequently worked under a pen name. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages and reflects her life-long commitment to the fight against patriarchal and colonial societies. Djebar was born and educated under French colonial rule and she was frequently associated with women’s movements.</span></p> <p>In 1957, Djebar’s first novel, <em>La Soif</em> (<em>The Thirst</em>), won the hearts of all French-speaking feminists, who named her “the Muslim <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/1472616/Francoise-Sagan-teenage-rebel-and-best-selling-writer-dies-at-69.html">Françoise Sagan</a>”. By 1996, her work had been awarded the <a href="http://neustadtprize.org/">Neustadt International Prize for Literature</a>. To recount the hundreds of prizes that Djebar received for her collected <em>oeuvre</em> is beyond the scope of this article, but perhaps her greatest achievement was her election to the <a href="http://www.academie-francaise.fr/les-immortels/assia-djebar">Académie Française</a> in 2005 ­– the first writer from North Africa to achieve such recognition. However, it is important to mention that successive Algerian governments (that have ruled the country under the same regime since independence) never accorded Djebar or her work due recognition. Neither did they introduce her literature into the school curriculum, with the shameful result that many young women in Algeria today have never heard her name or read her work. Despite the lack of acknowledgment, Djebar was at the forefront of a new feminist wave which had its origins in the emergence of a new intellectual elite in Algeria.</p> <p>Peter Knauss, a political scientist whose work focuses on Africa, points out that Algerian feminism began in the first half of the twentieth century when a middle class began to emerge, graduating from the French colonial education system. This class was a social group of highly skilled Algerians, generally from the petite bourgeoisie (doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and so on), who were mainly concentrated in the big cities. This was in contrast to the majority of the country which remained very conservative, attached to strict Islamic rules and an indigenous patriarchal culture, and deliberately kept in backward conditions by the colonial system.</p> <p>It was from this new middle class that the intellectual elite emerged, and with it, nationalist and progressive movements, including a feminist movement. Although there were fewer highly educated women than men, women of this new social class were encouraged to further their studies, remove their veils and fully participate in the Algerian liberation struggle. Djebar took up her position within this milieu and embraced her role within the new feminist movement. She became the only female professor of contemporary Algerian history to work at the University of Algiers after the 1960s.</p> <p>Djebar published her first novel in 1957 and continued to write until her last book in 2008, <em><a href="http://www.babelio.com/livres/Djebar-Nulle-part-dans-la-maison-de-mon-pere/68933">Nowhere in my Father’s House</a></em>. Her films, made in the 1970s, were considered a turning point, establishing her conception of the power of artistic creation, and her literature introduced the world to a distinctive “Djebarian” style of writing. For the last 10 years, the name of Assia Djebar continued to gain prominence in the very highest spheres of literature; she was acknowledged as a giant of French literature, and was a prospective<strong> </strong>candidate for a Nobel Prize. The “Muslim Sagan” helped realize the dream of the thousands of women for whom she spoke to finally have their voices not only heard but also recognized as important.</p> <p>Throughout her 60 years’ writing and publishing, Djebar unreservedly condemned all forms of subjugation imposed on the Muslim Arabic, the Berber and the Maghrebi Arabic woman. At the age of 40, disturbed by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Algeria and the Arab world in the 1990s, Djebar decided to learn Arabic in order to tap directly into the original texts and thus to thwart any betrayal of the basic tenets of Islam.</p> <p>But she was also fascinated by the popular narratives of the socially oppressed women of her home town, Cherchel, in which she found inspiration. She framed her work within these narratives, and this enabled her to take on the challenge of exploring Algerian identity. The entire body of her literature thus reflects perfectly her Algerianity, this mixture of Arabo/Berberism, all wrapped within Islamic religion and culture. Ironically for someone who so embraced her home country and its many complex cultural layers, Djebar fled to exile in 1965, mainly because of the lack of academic freedom and the harsh patriarchal rules imposed onto women during the post-colonial Algeria. After living and working in France, Her last position was Silver Professor of Frech Literature in&nbsp; New York University.</p> <p>As a historian, Djebar was concerned with visions of the past, but also (and especially) she was able to project her imagination into the future. In her work, she fluently created a relationship between history and contemporary events: she not only addressed “the colonial conquest of Algeria, or even the early days of Islam” in <em>Far from Medina</em>, but also the latest Algerian tragedy of the 1990s. Greatly affected by the assassinations of a great number of writers and intellectuals, Djebar reiterated the responsibility of writers and academics to research the causes of this tragedy. I recall her words: “<em>When I write, I always write as if I was going to die tomorrow. And every time I finish, I wonder if that's really what was expected of me as the killings continue. I wonder what’s the point. If not to bite the bullet and not to cry</em>” [personal translation].</p> <p>More recently, even while fighting Alzheimer’s, Djebar embarked on researching and writing the life and work of Saint Augustine. She did not finish this valuable project, but she has left a great legacy for others to continue. She no doubt wanted to give another dimension to the history of Algeria, which has unfortunately been held hostage by both the Algerian regime and a religious fanaticism that has driven the country into an era of darkness. Re-affirming the Algerianity of Saint Augustin not only reconciles Algerians with their past and their identity, but also re-opens the dialogue between Muslims and Christians beyond the frontiers of North Africa. A challenge to which Djebar was more than capable of rising.</p> <p>In general, the memory of Algerian women has remained frozen in a sort of melancholic-exilic imagery, embedded in a nostalgic sorrow caused by their exile. This may have been the case for Djebar, who also held coherent, well-defined certainties about her host country and Algeria, the homeland to which she always dreamed of returning. During her exile, however, Djebar did revisit home many times, if only to draw strength from her roots, from those voiceless women of her hometown, to give birth to a literary masterpiece.</p> <p>Today, Djebar has permanently returned home. Dead and empty-handed, she may appear no longer capable of causing offence yet she is still seen as a threat to the established patriarchy, to religious fundamentalism, and to the mediocrity into which Algeria has sunk in today’s world.</p> <p>Why is it that this homeland always rejects its most erudite children? Those upon whom it can always count to honor Algeria?</p> <p>Rest in power, Assia Djebar.</p><p><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism"></a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/latefa-guemar/seeking-safety-in-algeria-syrian-refugee-women%E2%80%99s-resilience">Seeking safety in Algeria: Syrian refugee women’s resilience </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amira-mhadhbi/state-feminism-in-tunisia-reading-between-lines">State feminism in Tunisia: reading between the lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/triple-whammy-towards-eclipse-of-women%E2%80%99s-rights">The triple whammy: towards the eclipse of women’s rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria Equality Ideas 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power patriarchy gendered migration gender justice gender fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Latefa Guemar Mon, 16 Feb 2015 08:54:33 +0000 Latefa Guemar 90524 at https://opendemocracy.net Women living with HIV: a matter of safety and respect https://opendemocracy.net/5050/bev-wilson/women-living-with-hiv-matter-of-safety-and-respect <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last month the results of a global survey on women living with HIV were published. The survey was designed and conducted by women, and commissioned by the World Health Organisation. Will the findings be acted upon?&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 2014 the World Health Organisation commissioned the largest international survey to date on the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of women living with HIV. The survey was designed, led and conducted by women living with HIV.&nbsp; Last month the global survey was published: <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/BuildingASafeHouseOnFirmGroundFINALreport190115.pdf">Building A Safe House On Firm Ground</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>I live in Canada in a small rural setting, and I have been living with HIV for many years. The survey calls for "safety, support and respect for all women at all times".&nbsp; It is my hope that readers examine the survey in its <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/BuildingASafeHouseOnFirmGroundFINALreport190115.pdf">entirety</a>. </p> <p>A total of 832 women from 94 countries, aged 15-72, with another 113 women in focus groups from 7 countries took part in the survey. Violeta Ross (Bolivia) expressed how <em>"This consultation means for me, the opportunity to learn from one and other. Women living with HIV are the best positioned for the design of sexual and reproductive health <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/GlobalSurveyReportLaunchJan2015FINAL.pdf">policies</a>".</em><strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>The single most prominent finding of the survey was how women living with HIV experience high rates of violence, on a continuum throughout the life cycle: 89% of the respondents reported experiencing or fearing gender-based violence, before, during and/or after HIV <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/GlobalSurveyReportLaunchJan2015FINAL.pdf">diagnosis</a>. </p> <p>Violence was described as physical, psychological and/or financial, with an HIV diagnosis or disclosure acting as a trigger for violence at times. Over 80% of respondents reported experiences of depression, shame and feelings of rejection. Over 75% reported insomnia and difficulty sleeping, self-blame, very low self-esteem, loneliness, body image issues, or anxiety, fear and panic attacks, whether before, or as a direct result of, or after <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/GlobalSurveyReportLaunchJan2015FINAL.pdf">diagnosis</a>. </p> <p>Poverty ties in with violence, along with gender inequality. Many women with HIV come from diverse backgrounds, such as drug use, sex work, being lesbian or transgender. Women are often in relationships where they do not have the financial means to leave and are reliant on their partners, placing them in an unequal power dynamic and open to further abuse and blackmail. </p> <p>The survey reveals the way in which the lack of human rights-based approaches to women's services contributes to mental health issues, lack of satisfying sex lives, and lack of sexual and reproductive rights. All women with HIV have the right to achieving their sexual and reproductive rights as a fundamental part of being human. The survey also highlights the importance of women needing to achieve their own rights in all these areas in order for them adequately to support their children and partners – which women with HIV are very much wanting to do. </p> <p>The report strongly recommends the meaningful involvement of women living with HIV as active participants in all plans and research which affects them.&nbsp; </p> <p>As Sophie Strachan of the UNAIDS Dialogue Platform and the Global Coalition of Women and AIDS explained, <em>“The main importance of this consultation is that WHO hear and take up our recommendations, listen to our voices (as experts) to hear the needs of women living with HIV and include peer led support/services in their guidelines. We need gender specific policies to ensure the rights of women in all our diversities are <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/GlobalSurveyReportLaunchJan2015FINAL.pdf">met</a>."</em> </p> <p>Gender-based violence against women living with HIV is a world-wide phenomenon. In a Canadian context it takes place on a continuum from polite rejections, discrimination and regular experiences of being stigmatized, to more overt forms of violence including physical assault, threats of violence during disclosure of their HIV status or with partners who use the secret of “shame” of their HIV status to control women and keep them from leaving a relationship. </p> <p><a href="http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/aids-sida/publication/epi/2010/5-eng.php">Women</a> living with HIV in Canada often have children and cannot find adequate child care. So they cannot spend time furthering their education and are therefore trapped in a poverty cycle which is often impossible to break. This further exacerbates the potential for abuse and <a href="http://www.catie.ca/en/catienews/2013-09-03/domestic-violence-against-hiv-positive-women-and-its-impact-their-health">violence</a>. </p> <p>Indigenous women in Canada represent a small percentage of the overall population, but are over-represented in the number of women living with HIV in Canada, as are women of colour who have emigrated from other regions of the <a href="http://www.cwhn.ca/node/39483">world</a><strong><em>. </em></strong>Women living with HIV in Canada often live in isolation, keeping their HIV status private for fear of backlash from the community and to protect their children from stigma and discrimination.&nbsp; Living in <a href="http://www.cdnaids.ca/womenandhivaidssupportissues">isolation</a> leads to decisions to not seek treatment, not seek care and support to deal with stress and anxiety, and not take prescribed medication on a regular basis, if at all. </p> <p>It may come as a surprise to learn that Canada has one of the highest rates of criminalization of HIV for non-disclosure in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/louise-binder/criminal-law-hiv-and-violence-against-women">world</a>. This needs to be addressed to alleviate fear and silence about HIV. Canada demands that other countries adhere to basic human rights practices, yet at home we do not. Fortunately we have a strong organization, the <a href="http://www.aidslaw.ca/site/">Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network</a>, which lobbies for de-criminalization of HIV and changes in our government's position on this topic. Criminalization of HIV in fact serves to increase HIV transmission. With the onus on the HIV positive person to disclose their status to sex partners or risk prosecution, individuals assume and expect that everyone living with HIV will disclose, and they rely on this and do not ask questions, do not insist on the use of condoms or any safe sex practices. This causes a false sense of security for people on the dating scene, and indirectly creates a situation where people living with HIV are used as part of screening mechanisms for safe sex practices, with the rationale that a person can rely on prosecution if and when a person does not disclose their status. It places the burden of disclosure on the person living with HIV, and does not emphasize the need for each individual to take responsibility for their own sexual health and well being. Laws will not protect people from contracting HIV, personal responsibity for oneself will.&nbsp; </p> <p>Two recent court rulings in <a href="http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2013/08/16/jennifer-murphy-found-guilty-of-one-count-aggravated-sexual-assault-but-not-guilty-on-two-other-counts">2013</a> and <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/april-bullock-charged-with-sexual-assault-accused-of-hiding-hiv-status-1.2711127">2014</a> against women in Canada for non-disclosure of their HIV status highlight how the law lags far behind <a href="http://www.catie.ca/en/pif/fall-2014/insight-hiv-transmission-risk-when-viral-load-undetectable-and-no-condom-used">science</a> in relation to the virtual impossibility of transmitting HIV if one has an undetectable viral <a href="http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2013/08/16/jennifer-murphy-found-guilty-of-one-count-aggravated-sexual-assault-but-not-guilty-on-two-other-counts">load</a>. There is a critical need to decriminalize HIV; there is also a need for everyone to take responsibility for their own sexual health.&nbsp; </p> <p>Services to support women living with HIV in Canada exist in a splintered fashion and vary from province to province.&nbsp; In Quebec I have had many conversations with women living with HIV, but there seems to be no clear or definitive answers about why women are so reluctant to engage in services. Service providers do not have the solutions around engaging women in services either. From my own point of view I would like to see more concrete and&nbsp; practical services which will enable us to learn new job skills to integrate back into the work place. </p> <p>A human rights focus is needed as much in Canada as it is in the so-called “developing” world. The many components on the continuum of violence towards women living with HIV need to be addressed, including financial inequality, need for adequate housing, job security and human rights-based approaches to employment and care. </p> <p>There is an obvious need for a national cohesive voice for women living with HIV in Canada. What needs to take place here in Canada, as everywhere, is a serious attempt to practice the meaningful involvement of women living with HIV in the full cycle of all aspects of planning, programme implementation and evaluation. We are the experts, and we alone can identify what our needs are and how they can be addressed. This was clearly demonstrated in the Salamander Trust <a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/BuildingASafeHouseOnFirmGroundFINALreport190115.pdf">survey</a>, which has produced the most meaningful and authentic results I have read to date. </p> <p>World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines now need to be updated to reflect both the findings of the report, and to reflect recent political and biomedical aspects of the HIV response.&nbsp; </p> <p><em><a href="http://salamandertrust.net/resources/BuildingASafeHouseOnFirmGroundFINALreport190115.pdf">Building A Safe House On Firm Ground</a>.&nbsp; Principal author, The Salamander Trust, together with ATHENA Network, the Transgender Law Center, the International Community of Women living with AIDS Zimbabwe and Asia-Pacific chapters and GNP+. The survey was commissioned by the World Health Organization.</em></p><p><strong>Read more articles on 50.50's long running platform for critical perspectives on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS, Gender and Human Rights</a></strong><em><br /></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-witnessing-realisation-of-raw-human-rights">HIV: witnessing the realisation of raw human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/martha-tholanah/hiv-disclosure-changing-ourselves-changing-others">HIV disclosure: changing ourselves, changing others </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/louise-binder/criminal-law-hiv-and-violence-against-women">Criminal law: HIV and violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn-louise-binder/compulsion-versus-compassion-hiv-treatment-for-women-and-children">Compulsion versus compassion: HIV treatment for women and children </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susan-paxton/positive-and-pregnant-in-asia-how-dare-you">Positive and pregnant in Asia - How dare you</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/end-to-aids-not-through-medication-alone">An end to AIDS?: Not through medication alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/aids-2014-conference-stepping-up-pace-and-still-on-wrong-path">AIDS 2014 Conference: stepping up the pace and still on the wrong path </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/andrea-von-lieven/hiv-nothing-about-us-without-us">HIV: nothing about us, without us</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maria-de-bruyn/hiv-what-kind-of-evidence-counts">HIV: what kind of evidence counts ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/erica-gollub-ida-susser-zena-stein/right-to-know-women%E2%80%99s-choices-depo-provera-and-hiv">The right to know: women’s choices, Depo-Provera and HIV </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser-zena-stein/bioinsecurity-and-hivaids">Bio-insecurity and HIV/AIDS </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nell-osborne/against-coerced-sterilisation-resounding-victory-in-namibia">Against coerced sterilisation: a resounding victory in Namibia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/absence-of-evidence-does-not-mean-evidence-of-absence">Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-free-generation-human-sciences-vs-plumbing">An HIV-free generation: human sciences vs plumbing </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women's health violence against women gender justice bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Bev Wilson Mon, 16 Feb 2015 08:00:33 +0000 Bev Wilson 90473 at https://opendemocracy.net Sharia law, apostasy and secularism https://opendemocracy.net/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Opposing religious fundamentalism is a dangerous political activity. It is not a distraction from ‘real’ politics - the demands of social justice and civil liberties - but a pre-condition for achieving them. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The conference on <a href="http://ex-muslim.org.uk/2015/02/press-release-much-needed-7-february-conference-on-sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism/">Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism</a> on February 7th&nbsp;&nbsp; 2015, was intended as a celebration. Clear and decisive victories are rare in the work of our emerging coalition.&nbsp; Forcing two major professional bodies Universities UK and the Law Society to <a href="http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/equality-and-human-rights-commission-rules-that-gender-segregation-is-unlawful/">rescind bad advice</a> (permitting gender segregation and promoting so called <a href="http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/press-release-%E2%80%93-women%E2%80%99s-rights-campaigners-welcome-withdrawal-of-the-law-society%E2%80%99s-sharia-wills-practice-note/">sharia-compliant wills</a> ) were clear wins for secular principles. The withdrawal of their guidance in both cases was a sign that extremism can be checked by invoking human rights, rather than by suspending them. </p> <p>&nbsp;At the Secularism Conference in October 2014, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin">Caroline Fourest</a> had <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_BUjpqIgp8">described</a> the struggles of a small magazine called Charlie Hebdo that had reprinted the Danish cartoons. The international press who came to interview the journalists&nbsp; and cartoonists were frequently unsympathetic. British journalists, she said, were invariably the worst. </p> <p>By February 7th, it had become a tragic necessity to combine our celebration with a <a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/01/07/after-the-charlie-hebdo-massacre-support-those-fighting-the-religious-right/">tribute</a> to Charlie Hebdo and all the many people who had <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">lost their lives</a> in defense of freedom of conscience and the right to offend. Maryam Namazie <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/maryam-namazie/islam-and-culture-of-offence-missing-point">spoke</a> eloquently - showing cartoon after cartoon from Middle Eastern artists. </p> <p>The roll call of death that we heard throughout the day was a reminder that opposing religious fundamentalism is a dangerous political activity. It is not a distraction from ‘real’ politics - the demands of social justice and civil liberties - but a pre-condition for achieving them. The right to apostasy is the most fundamental of all freedoms in a religious dictatorship.&nbsp; As Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society pointed out, apostates are dangerous because they send out a message, “ You can be one too’. In countries that promote terrorism abroad, apostates become the terrorist at home - subject not only to persecution, but also the death penalty. </p> <p>In a new report, Human Rights Watch says that Saudi Arabia has specifically declared apostates to be <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/02/atheists-classified-terrorists-new-saudi-arabian-laws_n_5075129.html">terrorists</a>. The HRW <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/20/saudi-arabia-new-terrorism-regulations-assault-rights">report</a> concludes: “Provisions of Saudi Arabia’s new terrorism regulations that deny any ability to exercise basic rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression greatly exceed any notion of justifiable restrictions.” </p> <p>Although the left and many human rights activists have sprung to the defence of many terrorist suspects, they are often less likely to embrace atheists, none of whom have propagated a murderous ideology. Instead, atheists and artists are the ones being labeled ‘extreme’. Hardly surprising that many conference participants were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/02/atheists-classified-terrorists-new-saudi-arabian-laws_n_5075129.html">signatories to a sharp statement</a> addressed to the left and far left, “We are being slaughtered by your secondary enemy.”</p> <p>By ‘coming out’ the young apostates speaking are doing that most dangerous of things - making themselves visible - individually and as a community. Some grew up in Britain, others arrived here and were dismayed by what they found. They gained, they said from the example of Maryam Namazie, finally knowing that they were not alone. </p> <p>The panel on apostasy, composed of Iranian, Libyan, Moroccan, Somali and Sudanese speakers, demonstrated that coming west was not an easy solution either. <a href="http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/culture/moroccan-atheist-i-have-been-betrayed-by-both-east-and-west_29798">Imad Iddine Habib</a>, who founded the first Council of Ex-Muslims in a country where Islam is the state religion, described how political parties in Morocco refused to allow their group space in their offices, and how they had fought numerous different political tendencies across the political spectrum. Inevitably he was labeled an extremist. He talked about how secularists also instrumentalise religion to gain votes and was shocked by seeing that British Islamists and humanists were working together in Britain, “I feel betrayed by East and West.” </p> <p>Nahla Mahmoud described how a campaign against her had been conducted by an Islamist member of the Liberal Democrats. Even though being called&nbsp; ‘murtad’- apostate&nbsp; and ‘kuffr’ - unbeliever, are epithets that could be a target on your back, ex-Muslims have often been denied any protection by the police. Community surveillance meanwhile continues as individuals feel emboldened to reinforce what they see as ‘sharia’ precepts. Ramin Forghani described being told he shouldn’t eat ‘haram’ food, and expressed his disappointment at Britain’s silence over Raif Badawi. </p> <p>Reza Moradi, in one of the few lighter moments, said that when he first arrived and was studying English, he was asked to tell a joke. He responded with one about Mohammed, ‘the sort Iranians tell every day’, to the consternation and disapproval of his English teacher. </p> <p>In my talk, I explained that the roots of the campaigns to promote ‘sharia’ principles go well back before the twentieth century and cannot be explained simply by the blowback of the War on Terror. The banning of music and constant surveillance by CCTV cameras monitoring full time hijab wearing by little girls, even in private, described by Aliya Saleem, are aspects of a religious education in which austerity is enforced by technology. The deliberate starving of the human spirit which purifies the person, is an aspect of fundamentalist Islam designed to destroy its traditional music, and cultural norms. </p> <p>Notions of purity, underpinned Somali attitudes to the outsider as well. Amal Farah described how Somalis see themselves as a Muslim nation and refer perjoratively to outsiders. These concepts reinforced in the literalist background she grew up in and informed attitudes to FGM and women’s sexual pleasure. But her description was also a reminder that this was no timeless religion, but one under relentless assault to tighten up, and to introduce more extreme dress codes and other practices as Somalia suffered under war lords, the Islamic Courts and later al Shabab. </p> <p>Most of those who spoke were embedded in other movements for democracy and justice. In less extreme circumstances, they may well have been more active elsewhere, and indeed most of them are. This is a movement, in which rebellion against god is not an end in itself but a symptom of a wider search for justice. Peter Tatchell, who is not only one of the longest surviving campaigners against fundamentalism and a signatory to the&nbsp; <a href="http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/religion/sharia-law-versus-secular-democracy">Manifesto for Secularism</a>, but also a Green Party spokesman. Rumana Hashem is an activist on a range of environmental issues, and at the conference she spoke of the murder of Anjali Deb Chaudhury, a Hindu teacher of Nursing in Bangladesh, for upholding her institution’s policy against the wearing of burqas. Some Hindu sources alleged that the <a href="http://www.chakranews.com/hindu-nursing-lecturer-murdered-in-bangladesh-by-muslim-student-group-for-following-govt-policy/4767">reason behind her murder</a> was that the students of the Jamaat e Islami were determined to enforce their ‘Hijab fatwa’. </p> <p>The historic role of the Jamaat e Islami figures large in my own account of the lineage of the Paris murders - of Charlie Hebdo workers and Jews in the supermarket. In fact, the state of&nbsp; Pakistan’s, enthusiastic prosecution of blasphemy and its role in genocidal violence are the <a href="http://www.wluml.org/news/bangladesh-blasphemy-genocide-and-violence-against-women-case-bangladesh">hidden background</a> of&nbsp; the&nbsp; anti-Rushdie and Jyllands- Posten campaigns. They can only really be understood with reference to the role of&nbsp; the Jamaat e Islami&nbsp; and the state’s favourite jihadis the Lashkar e Tayyaba. </p> <p>A strange thing happened during the course of the conference. Secular conferences run by atheists can be difficult places for believers, as Yasmin Rehman found when she spoke to her ironically titled, “Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Muslim”. Her central point that she is a Muslim and a feminist, but not an ‘Islamic feminist’, was misunderstood.&nbsp; Inevitably, she was called on to justify various verses in the Qu’ran.&nbsp; But then the unexpected happened. Maryam Namazie jumped up to defend her. This movement she explained is one against the religious right. Addressing ex-Muslims, she said, ‘Religion has no meaning unless it has power’. Some atheists were bigots and some believers were secular. The principle that we are trying to establish is that religion is a matter for your conscience, you do not have to justify practice or belief that doesn’t relate to public policy or private discrimination. </p> <p>But that doesn’t mean there was a fear of discussing that the root of violence and discrimination may well be in the text itself . Magdulien Abaida discussed the different verses that justify apostasy, and the different verses in the Qu’ran of Medina versus Mecca. In her view, the narrative of ISIS is firmly rooted in the verses of the Qur’an with its justification of slavery, jihad and other discriminatory and violent concepts. For saying so, she often gets dumped on from a great height. Yet her prescription for the future would be that Muslims look carefully at their verses and firmly reject and modernize their religion. </p> <p>Ex-Muslims have no illusions of how hard it may be. But for the moment, they have a created a more welcoming space for secular Muslims than most Muslim identity based organisations.&nbsp; As a contributor from the floor, trying to create consensus said, “we think of religion as inherently political because we were not allowed to see it any other way. If you didn’t grow up in Iran you will think differently.” </p> <p>The work identified at the conference was almost overwhelming - and it was not exclusively about Muslim fundamentalism. Pragna Patel mentioned that the Christian right has occupied the debate on abortion restrictions relating to sex - selective abortion. Chris Moos reported on his research on whether universities were monitoring whether&nbsp; gender segregation&nbsp; was still occurring. His conclusions that many universities had no policies, and others were doing little, was not reassuring. Maryam Namazie said, ‘People are not my enemies, it is the religious right who are my enemies.’ And ‘ If we are going to win, we have to represent humanity, if we are going to win, we have to go beyond labels, we are facing a brutal fascist movement’. </p> <p>Movements are built when those who are under attack refuse to be the victim and stand for all. Movements are built when people lose their fear and stand up. I believe that we should stop despairing of the left and criticising their absence. We are an anti-fundamentalist progressive movement. And it is this extraordinarily diverse movement that will produce a better account of the possibilities - &nbsp;as well as the problems - of religion.</p><p><em>Gita Sahgal was reporting from the&nbsp;</em><strong><a href="http://ex-muslim.org.uk/2015/02/press-release-much-needed-7-february-conference-on-sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism/">Conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism</a><em> </em></strong><em>held in London, 7 February 2015.</em></p><p><em><strong>Read more articles on 50.50's platform <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></strong> </em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maryam-namazie/islam-and-culture-of-offence-missing-point">Islam and the &quot;culture of offence&quot;: missing the point </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/musawah-solidarity-in-diversity">Musawah: solidarity in diversity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin">&quot;Support the right to make fun of extremists&quot;: an interview with Caroline Fourest </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/no-exceptions-one-law-for-all">No exceptions: one law for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/tea-party-and-new-right-wing-christian-feminism">The Tea Party and the new right-wing Christian feminism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jenny-morgan-jessica-horn/spirit-hope-money-and-dose-of-patriarchy">Spirit, hope, money and a dose of patriarchy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainah-anwar/speaking-with-forked-tongue-whither-malaysia%E2%80%99s-moderate-islam">Speaking with a forked tongue: whither Malaysia’s moderate Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/akmal-ahmed-safwat/to-take-stand-is-more-important-than-to-take-distance">To take a stand is more important than to take a distance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Culture Democracy and government 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights secularism patriarchy fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Gita Sahgal Thu, 12 Feb 2015 10:27:33 +0000 Gita Sahgal 90458 at https://opendemocracy.net Islam and the "culture of offence": missing the point https://opendemocracy.net/5050/maryam-namazie/islam-and-culture-of-offence-missing-point <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the age of ISIS, dissent and criticism of religion is a life and death necessity. It has been - and remains - key for human progress.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Dissent and criticism of religion has always been a crucial aspect of free expression. Historically, it has been intrinsically linked with anti-clericalism and the dismantling of that which is deemed taboo, sacred and untouchable by the gatekeepers of power. </p> <p>Such criticism has been key for human progress and is still needed. In the age of ISIS, this criticism is a life and death necessity for those living under Islamism’s boot. </p> <p>So yes, I am Charlie – no ifs and buts. </p> <p>Those who condemn the massacre in Paris but blame Charlie for “offending Muslim sensibilities” (implying that they somehow got what they deserved) have bought into the Islamist narrative that “Muslims” are more offended by cartoons than mass murder. </p> <p>This is validated by multiculturalism as a social policy and cultural relativism, which sees Muslim “communities” and “societies” as homogeneous and one and the same with the religious-Right. </p> <p>So even though there is a rich historical and artistic tradition of depicting Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, over many centuries, it’s deemed offensive today. </p> <p>And despite many Muslims or those labelled as such have sided with Charlie, it is the terrorists/fascists who are deemed to be the “authentic” Muslims. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The homogenised “culture of offence” discounts the many believing secularists, feminists, freethinkers, and atheists and socialists amongst those deemed “Muslim”. </p> <p>It ignores the widespread dissent and resistance, which can also be seen in response to Charlie. </p> <p>An Algerian copy editor Mustapha Ourad was gunned down in Charlie’s hallway. </p> <p>Many “Muslims” joined rallies and held up “Je Suis Charlie” signs or pens. </p> <p>A French Muslim cafe owner was threatened for putting up a “Je Suis Charlie” sign in his East London cafe. </p> <p>Lassana Bathily, the Malian-born Muslim employee hid customers at the Paris kosher supermarket saving lives. </p> <p>Even in Iran – a theocracy where blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, enmity against god, and another 130 offences are punishable by death – Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer showed her solidarity whilst journalists trying to rally in support of Charlie were attacked and prevented from protesting by security agents wielding clubs and chains. </p> <p>An Iranian newspaper was shut down for publishing a photo showing solidarity with Charlie. In Turkey, two columnists from a daily are facing an investigation for ‘religious defamation’ after featuring the Charlie cover. </p> <p>Cartoonists across the Arab world – from Egypt to Lebanon to Qatar and Jordan took a stand with Charlie and against the terrorists. </p> <p>And still we are told that Charlie offended “Muslims” and must be held to account! </p> <p>Clearly not all Muslims were offended, and even those who were did not go on to kill for it.</p> <p>What is packaged as the “culture of offence” is really Islamism’s imposition of blasphemy laws and theocracy under the pretext of respect for “Muslim sensibilities”.&nbsp; </p> <p>Only in Europe of course does this far-Right fascist movement use “offence” to silence and censor. </p> <p>In countries where they have state power, there is no need for such niceties. </p> <p>In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, the “offenders” are called what they are - apostates and blasphemers - and legally murdered in broad daylight in the same way Charlie Hebdo’s journalists were “executed”. </p> <p>Terrorism and indiscriminate violence, including via Sharia laws, have been pillars of Islamist rule for decades, aiding in creating a climate of fear and as a warning to those who refuse to submit. </p> <p>The “culture of offence” absurdly implies that civility and manners are all that are needed to stop abductions and the slaughter of generations from Nigeria, Iran to Algeria. </p> <p>But the “culture of offence” is a smokescreen. It serves to legitimise Islamist terror and blame the victims. </p> <p>It misses the point. </p> <p>Islamism is an international far-right movement that has murdered innumerable Charlie Hebdos over several decades across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, including many “Muslims”, who have dared to speak or mock or just live 21 century lives prohibited by the Islamists. </p> <p>Being a woman, a freethinker, being gay, being unveiled, improperly veiled, an atheist, going to school, driving a car, having sex, falling in love, laughing out loud, dancing...&nbsp; “offends” them. </p> <p>Calling for civility, censorship, silence or “respect” for the “offended” is merely heeding the Islamist demand for submission at the expense of dissenters.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>But as Rosa Luxemburg said: “Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters”. </p> <p>So yes, I am Charlie but I am also the many Muslims, ex-Muslims and none who dissent day in and day out often at great risk to themselves. </p> <p>I am freethinker <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/saudi-arabia-activist-raif-badawis-1000-lashes-public-flogging-commence-after-friday-prayers-1482540">Raif Badawi</a>, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for a website promoting public discussion of religion and politics which has been deemed “insulting of to Islam” by the Saudi regime. </p> <p>I am 30 year old blogger <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSZARNztILY&amp;feature=youtu.be">Soheil Arabi</a>, sentenced to execution in Iran for “insulting the prophet” on Facebook. </p> <p>I am poet <a href="http://www.thecairopost.com/news/131854/editors-choice/religious-speech-freedom-of-expression-or-insult">Fatma Naoot</a>, on trial for “insulting Islam” in Egypt due to her criticism of Islamic animal slaughter. </p> <p>I am 28 year old Mauritanian journalist and anti-slavery activist <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/12/25/mauritania-justice-execution-idINKBN0K30OX20141225">Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir</a> who has been sentenced to death in December 2014 for “insulting the prophet”. </p> <p>I am 32 year old Egyptian journalist <a href="http://www.crossmap.com/news/imprisoned-egyptian-christian-journalist-awaits-impending-appeal-verdict-on-28-december-15047">Bishoy Boulous Armia</a> who has been given a five-year prison sentence for causing “sectarian strife” and “insulting Islam” because he reported on the persecution of Christians in Egypt. </p> <p>I am the artists and writers in the Gaza Strip who face a campaign calling for their murder for “insulting Islam”. </p> <p>I am Jakarta Post editor-in-chief, <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/jakarta-post-editor-amazed-by-accusation-insulting-islam-over-anti-isis-cartoon-1479263">Meidyatama Suryodiningrat</a> , accused of blasphemy for a caricature on ISIS, which according to an Islamist group filing a complaint, has “insulted Islam”. </p> <p>I am Algerian novelist <a href="https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/blogs/564559-islamists-call-for-public-execution-of-algerian-novelist-kamel-daoud">Kamel Daoud</a> who has had calls for his execution because of “insults [to] Allah”. </p> <p>I am bloggers <a href="http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/12/09/passports-of-blogger-political-activist-revoked/">Tan Jye Yee, 26, and Vivian Lee, 25</a>, charged in Malaysia under the Sedition Act for insulting Islam and Ramadan in Facebook. </p> <p>I am women’s rights campaigner <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-arabias-first-female-lawyer-detained-accused-insulting-islam-219350761">Souad al-Shammary</a> who has been imprisoned since 28 October 2014 on accusations she has “insulted Islam” and the prophet in Saudi Arabia for demanding an end to male guardianship rules for women. </p> <p>I am 47 year old British-Iranian <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/foreign-office-speak-iranian-authorities-3629764">Roya Nobakht</a> was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Iran for “insulting Islam” when she said on Facebook that the Iranian regime was “too Islamic”. </p> <p>I am 49 year old mother of five <a href="http://www.dw.de/a-subdued-christmas-in-peshawar-a-call-for-unity/a-18151375">Asia Bibi</a> has been in prison for five year awaiting execution for blasphemy in Pakistan. </p> <p>I am 27 year old <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/29/iran-executes-man-heresy-mohsen-amir-aslani">Mohsen Amir-Aslani</a> hanged in September 2014 in Iran for insulting prophet Jonah and making ‘innovations in religion’ through interpretations of Qur’an. </p> <p>And I am <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/pakistani-academic-accused-of-blasphemy-shot-dead-in-karachi-9744154.html">Muhammad Shakil Auj</a>, Dean of the faculty of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi, was shot dead by gunmen in September 2014 two years after being accused of blasphemy. </p> <p>And the list goes on. </p> <p>So yes, I am Charlie, Raif and Roya – no ifs and buts. </p> <p>I am, we are, all of them. </p> <p><em>This is a slightly adapted version of a speech by Maryam Namazie in </em><em><em>tribute to Charlie Hebdo and others, given </em>at the</em><strong> <a href="http://ex-muslim.org.uk/2015/02/press-release-much-needed-7-february-conference-on-sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism/">Conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism</a><em> </em></strong><em>held in London, 7 February 2015.</em></p><p><em><strong>Read more articles on 50.50's platform <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></strong> <br /></em></p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/%27shariafication-by-stealth%27-in-uk">&#039;Shariafication by stealth&#039; in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/conquering-fear-with-hope-secularism-2014">Conquering fear with hope: Secularism 2014 </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/%27shariafication-by-stealth%27-in-uk">&#039;Shariafication by stealth&#039; in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">&quot;Truth needs witnesses&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/akmal-ahmed-safwat/to-take-stand-is-more-important-than-to-take-distance">To take a stand is more important than to take a distance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Culture Democracy and government #CharlieHebdo 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism Continuum of Violence 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights secularism patriarchy fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Maryam Namazie Charlie Hebdo Thu, 12 Feb 2015 10:03:27 +0000 Maryam Namazie 90457 at https://opendemocracy.net Sudanese feminists, civil society, and the Islamist military https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sondra-hale/sudanese-feminists-civil-society-and-islamist-military <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite being circumscribed by an Islamist-military government, the NGO/civil society participation of progressive women in Sudan has become a quasi-movement in and of itself, representing a robust initiative on behalf of women and youth.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The double jeopardy for feminists of being caught between Islamism and militarism is glaring in the Sudanese case where women have been encased in an Islamist-military regime since 1989.&nbsp; &nbsp; </p> <p>In Sudan ( formerly Northern Sudan ) this seeming double jeopardy of Islamism and a military regime had the ironic effect of partially liberating many activist women from their secondary roles in Sudan’s patriarchal political parties.&nbsp; The last two decades has seen the growth of a&nbsp; heavily gendered civil society in which feminist activists have migrated/segued into national and international non-governmental organizations from liberal and leftist political parties such as&nbsp; the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and the liberal wings of the Umma Party and the National Democratic Party (the latter two being Sufi-based).&nbsp; Many&nbsp; women, including those in the Sudanese Women’s Union (an affiliate of the SCP) had already become disaffected by their <a href="http://publications.ossrea.net/index.php?option=com_sobi2&amp;sobi2Task=sobi2Details&amp;catid=3&amp;sobi2Id=2804&amp;Itemid=0">exclusion</a> from decision-making and leadership within these parties and their patriarchal attitudes toward women, not to mention the insistence within the SCP that such issues as domestic violence should remain in the private sphere. </p> <p>Women of the SCP were pressured not to interrupt the “<a href="http://cssaame.dukejournals.org/content/32/2/429.full.pdf+html.">heroic narrative</a>” of the Party by smearing it with accusations of domestic violence and other internal and family abuses (and in some cases, rape). Elsewhere I have written of the Sudanese Women's Union as the "wing of the patriarch". The so-called traditional and even progressive parties were part of the “crossfire” within which women were caught.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>An irony of contemporary Sudanese feminist politics is that when the parties were banned by the conservative Islamist military government in 1989, many women found new spaces for activism.&nbsp; Even when the parties became legal again a few years later, all parties, with the exception of the ruling National Congress Party, were still constrained and immobilized by the Islamist regime.&nbsp; As a consequence, the parties have done nothing significant for women for decades. During the period of the ban, men had gone into exile or underground, or were imprisoned, and although many women had the same experience of imprisonment or&nbsp; exile, many cloaked their political activism under the banner of such issues as mutual aid, literacy, health, and a bit later, various violence against women issues and legal rights under the banner of human rights. In operating this way they were able to create a space for activism that was relatively safe.&nbsp; All along, these feminists in the NGO’s have been hindered, challenged, kept in check, and endangered by the many legal and political obstacles the Islamist government has put in their way.&nbsp; The <a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/sudan16days2013.pdf">Public Order Law</a> “keeps them in check” in the public arena with regard to dress codes, circumscribed modes of social behaviour, and forms of participation in public spaces.&nbsp; At the same time, these political women have been unable and unwilling to collaborate with the Islamist military regime from which most of the funding for projects comes.&nbsp;&nbsp;They have had to seek funding from donors abroad (Norway and the Netherlands), which often has the effect of arousing government suspicion that they are under foreign influence.&nbsp; Feminists have to navigate the morass of bureaucratic hindrances and harassment that impede their work, and are finding that working with the masses or even within modest grassroots efforts has now become dangerous.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Grassroots efforts, civil society, and women’s ngos&nbsp; <br /></strong></p> <p>For many, “civil society” has meant the creation of free spaces for the formation of social and self-help associations and mutual solidarity.&nbsp; The ways in which these grassroots organizations and movements used public space are creative and, dangerous, operating in the face of not only the established Islamist authorities, but also <a href="http://www.theniles.org/articles/?id=1192">rising Salafism</a> and the active recruiting by groups aligned with Islamic State. </p> <p>Nevertheless, women political actors have moved into different and creative modes of political expression, buoyed by the increasing use of social media and the taking and converting of public space. While NGOs in general suffered considerable funding cut-backs over the last three years (some of the foreign funding has shifted to South Sudan, for example), some are making use of local resources to continue their activities. In Sudan, the "<a href="http://www.stafaband.info/download/mp3/lagu_khartoum_rising/">Khartoum Rising</a>" event in 2013, and “<a href="http://www.onebillionrising.org/">One Billion Rising"</a> in 2014, both co-organized by Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in collaboration with other civil society and youth groups, was an example of a relatively low-cost yet far reaching event. The organizers staged a dance of freedom by hundreds of young and older women, holding it in an open, semi-public space on the campus of Ahfad University for Women, videotaping it, and sending it viral on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b1w8JsUais">YouTube</a>. The association of the words “rising” and “spring,” did not go unnoticed, perhaps a quiet announcement of Sudan’s entry into the insurrections of contemporary times. </p> <p>The <a href="http://publications.ossrea.net/index.php?option=com_sobi2&amp;sobi2Task=sobi2Details&amp;catid=3&amp;sobi2Id=2804&amp;Itemid=0">causes of this abandonment</a> of authoritarian regimes, old ideologies, and “politics-as-usual” by youths, and women in particular, may be a result not only of neoliberal economic crises, but also of&nbsp; the exclusion of women and youth in the leadership of most parties; the domination of affiliated women’s wings by the parties; the influence from the diaspora where youth and women were freer to be active and vocal about contentious topics; the consequent migration of many youth and women into NGO’s, resulting in the growth of civil society and its heavy reliance on youth and women activists; and more recently, a result of the abandonment of any welfare role of the government.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>These independent gendered groups cross party lines<em>, </em>but mostly consist of unaffiliated people who belong to the larger social activism milieu. The seemingly ad hoc <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dalia-haj-omar/sudan’s-popular-protest-movement-will-international-community-continue-to-ignore">demonstrations</a> that took place in various towns in Sudan, especially in Greater Khartoum, in September, 2013&nbsp; began as a response to the government’s neoliberal austerity measures&nbsp; such as the announcement of lifting of subsidies for essential products like fuel, but soon began to move in the direction of demands for regime change. These groups formed a web of social media campaigns and alternative news channels.&nbsp; Young women, who are prominent in these all-youth groups and who had their share of arrests and deaths, have also formed all-women groups to mobilize and strategize their engagements. Examples from Facebook include “Women for the Revolution” and “Women Peaceful [demonstrations] for Our Martyrs.”&nbsp; Another powerful feminist group that crosses party lines periodically activates as a direct response to violations against women.&nbsp; Calling itself “No for Women Oppression,” it consists of older feminists aligned with a newer generation. In January 2015 a coalition of many women’s groups, including the one just mentioned, called itself “The Women’s Political Forces and Civil Society Organizations and Groups and issued a <a href="http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?iframe&amp;page=imprimable&amp;id_article=53678">statement in support</a> of the opposition’s Sudan Call for democratic changes.&nbsp; In their statement the women describe this Call as “signed by solid and different national civilian and military forces, who are concerned about the welfare of this country, as part of their collective efforts to save Sudan and establish a peaceful, equal citizenship and democratic State…as an alternative to the current authoritarian and totalitarian regime.”&nbsp; There are eleven signatories, ranging from liberal to leftist.</p> <p>In addition, new alliances are forming among the internally displaced persons, most of whom were formerly rural and now are among the urban displaced, and their creative uses of urban resources. These are activist roles now feared and combated, oftentimes violently, by the central authorities in Sudan, especially with the rise of Islamism and the recalcitrant, secretive military and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).&nbsp; </p> <p>These more radical women’s organizations are the heirs of slightly earlier Sudanese women’s non governmental organisations that were formed in large numbers after the worst years of the Islamist take-over.&nbsp; Examples include Salmmah: Women’s Resource Centre (1997) the <a href="https://interpares.ca/content/sudanese-organization-research-and-development-sord">Gender Centre; Sudanese Organization for Research and Development</a> (2007), and <a href="https://www.cordaid.org/en/partners/asmaa-society-for-development/">Asmaa Society for Women Development</a> (2005) that works for displaced people living in Greater Khartoum.&nbsp; Women political actors in Greater Khartoum formed mutual solidarity and self-help organizations that seemed relatively safe from government retaliation, while they went about their partially clandestine activist work on behalf of women.&nbsp; This came to an end in 2009 when the government expelled a number of International NGOs, and more recently in 2012 when it shut down four more.&nbsp; In mid-2014 Security raided and shut down Salmmah ( perhaps the most radical of the feminist organisations), and there are as yet unconfirmed rumours of more forced closures to come. </p> <p>It is clear that these women-oriented NGOs, more than political parties and their affiliated women’s wings, are among the most active - along with some youth groups- and make up the bulk of civil society. In fact, NGOs that serve women have taken up the role of women’s movements, not quite grassroots movements in the strict definition of the term, but as&nbsp; “civil society on the move.” </p> <p>Analyses of non governmental organisations are rife with contradictions. On one hand they serve the government by tending to the underserved, by actually taking on some of the burdens of the state as service providers. On the other hand, the government is highly suspicious of them, sees them as a potential threat, and tries to keep them under tight control. For example, mandatory registration is not made easy and is not just a bureaucratic formality. With impunity, the government can either refuse a registration or drop an NGO from the rolls, and many are being constantly harassed by the threat of refusal of registration, in effect, shutting them down. In 2012, a number of NGOs were dropped from the rolls and the numbers of progressive or radical ones that serve women in Greater Khartoum are declining.&nbsp; </p> <p>Partially, these assaults on the organisations are a result of the fact that in 2012 the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), which had previously supervised many of them, was moved under the Ministry of Interior and&nbsp; placed under more ruthless security apparatuses.&nbsp; Since then hey have been under more constant political surveillance and assault. But the various aggressive acts on the part of the government toward NGOs have been met with resistance.&nbsp; One outcome of the government attack in 2012 was the formation of the <a href="http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/taxonomy/term/17956">Civil Society Confederation</a>.<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>Despite relentless efforts by the Islamist military government to monitor and control public space for registered or informal civil society entities, a new surge of creative thinking and action is emerging. There is a search for safe spaces for programming, such as Ahfad University for women, and the British Council, plus organizing through social media by&nbsp; <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anonymous/we-are-fed-up-power-of-new-generation-of-sudanese-youth-activists">Girifna</a>, a radical mainly youth group and more recently <a href="https://www.facebook.com/public/Abena-Sudan">Abena</a>.&nbsp; Although NGOs have suffered considerable funding cut-backs over the last two or more years, some are making creative use of local resources to continue their activities.&nbsp; Another example is the “Youth to Youth” Salmmah program where the staff organized dialogues between NGO youth and the youth of some Sufi sects. Another creative activity has been the monitoring and documentation of the September and October 2013 fatalities, a data-collecting and disseminating strategy which was used by international news channels to find the other side of the story to that told on State media. </p> <p>The civil society participation of progressive women has become a quasi-movement in and of itself, perhaps displacing the more ideologically-inclined party participation, but representing a more robust movement on behalf of women and youth. The government is unstable, however, and it remains to be seen what will happen to these feminist-led NGO’s if and when the current Islamist-military regime falls or undergoes&nbsp; a metamorphosis and political parties become fully functional again. </p> <p><em>The author wishes to acknowledge that much of the research used in this article was done in conjunction with Dr. Gada Kadoda, independent researcher, Khartoum, Sudan. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous/we-are-fed-up-power-of-new-generation-of-sudanese-youth-activists">We Are Fed Up! The power of a new generation of Sudanese youth activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amel-gorani/sudanese-women-demand-justice">Sudanese women demand justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hala-al-karib/sudanese-women-you-can-beat-us-but-you-cannot-break-us">Sudanese women: you can beat us but you cannot break us</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dalia-hajomar/sudanese-university-students-demand-campus-free-of-violence">Sudanese university students demand a campus free of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sara-abbas/sudan-lonely-road-for-women-mps-in-opposition">Sudan: a lonely road for women MPs in opposition </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dalia-hajomar/un-should-not-let-sudan-get-away-with-murder">The UN should not let Sudan get away with murder </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights gender justice 50.50 newsletter Sondra Hale Thu, 12 Feb 2015 06:03:45 +0000 Sondra Hale 90464 at https://opendemocracy.net Trapped: women fleeing violence in the UK https://opendemocracy.net/5050/dawn-foster/trapped-women-fleeing-violence-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The raft of cuts affecting the women's sector, and election promises made by Labour and the Conservatives not to increase public spending, represent the biggest threat to domestic violence services and to women’s lives.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="NormalWeb"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cbldqcnu7xLu-LLAuomK3bzcWvdHt1Ynwl9e2W6Ma-Q/mtime:1423417553/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/bathwomensrefugee.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Zc1qvjOgtbJ4Ly6GYB9fxFBkAnWijooGRi1U9jN8SnQ/mtime:1423398448/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/bathwomensrefugee.jpg" alt="https://www.flickr.com/photos/theprosperousfellow/3383325733" title="" width="400" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Flickr/Ben McAdam</span></span></span></p><p class="NormalWeb">In the run up to the 2015 UK general election, the topics most discussed by the main parties have so far been the economy and immigration, the latter driven by a surge in support for the anti-immigration and anti-EU UK Independence Party. Disappointingly little attention has been paid to the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">problem of violence against women and girls,</a> especially since the UK Home Office project one in three women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary called for domestic violence to be treated as a specific crime, and said Labour would introduce <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28511862">new standards for police, and all bodies dealing with domestic violence</a>. The Prime Minister <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/25/david-cameron-consider-new-domestic-violence-offence">David Cameron meanwhile promised to “look into”</a> the current legislation around domestic violence. But both parties holding the balance have promised no public spending increases, which represent the biggest threat to domestic violence services and women’s lives. Smaller parties have also said little, prior to publishing their manifestos. The Liberal Democrats’ pre-election manifesto <a href="http://www.libdems.org.uk/policy_paper_121">failed to mention domestic violence</a>, while UKIP’s elected European representatives have voted against <a href="http://term6.votewatch.eu/cx_vote_details.php?id_act=1330&amp;euro_vot_valoare=&amp;euro_vot_rol_euro_grup=&amp;euro_vot_rol_euro_tara=&amp;vers=1&amp;order_by=euro_parlamentar_nume&amp;order=ASC&amp;last_order_by=euro_parlamentar_nume&amp;limit=0&amp;offset=0&amp;nextorder=ASC&amp;euro_tara_id=&amp;euro_grup_id=&amp;euro_vot_valoare=-&amp;euro_vot_rol_euro_grup=">combating violence against women</a>, while <a href="http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/">the Green Party only mention domestic violence</a> as part of their policy on reducing the number of women in prison. </p> <p class="NormalWeb">Those working in domestic violence services in the UK warn that changes in legislation and definitions alone can do little to stem the burgeoning crisis in the sector. Headline figures on cuts to UK domestic violence services often mask the full impact of government cuts on people fleeing abuse at home. Women across the UK have been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">hardest hit by austerity and attendant spending cuts.</a> Charities in the sector speak out about the problems they’re seeing: Women’s Aid warned that services were <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25195914">“at breaking point”</a>, with a third of women turned away from refuges due to lack of space, and the total number of refuges <a href="http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=0001000100100022&amp;sectiontitle=sos">falling from 187 to 155 </a>between 2010 and 2014. But for many of the women escaping violence, moving to a refuge is only the first step on the journey to safe, independent living.&nbsp; </p> <p class="NormalWeb">The housing crisis, especially in the south east and London, is one of the biggest factors affecting women trying to move on. Most women spend between six to nine months in refuges, where they’re assigned a support worker who offers counselling, signposts services, and advocates for the women, helping them build independent living skills, and getting them into education and training. The move to independence after surviving violence is crucial, as without support and safeguards put in place, the risk of returning home to violence and abuse is heightened. </p> <p class="NormalWeb">At one refuge in London, run by Hestia housing association, the service manager Louise Dickerson says: “It's really difficult in the climate now. Because social housing is pretty much abolished, local authorities discharge their duty through private rented accommodation now most often, which is maybe on a yearly license or tenancy.” Housing waiting lists in the UK’s local councils, who have a legal duty to help homeless and vulnerable people, are at an all time high. With so much pressure on councils, domestic violence survivors can struggle to convince council employees they are a priority. Moving to privately rented flats means the women and families are offered less security: most private housing offers tenancy agreement of no longer than a year, and Hestia report more women are being asked to have a financial guarantor, who agrees to be financially liable for rent arrears. For women fleeing violence, who’ve often cut all ties to their wider family and friendship groups, this is an impossibility. </p> <p class="NormalWeb">Even when women do find a home to move on to, the cuts mean they face even more hardship. In the raft of public spending cuts in the last few years, many of the financial assistance schemes councils offered have been slashed. The crisis loan fund, which provided a total of £180m in hardship loans to people in extreme financial need, has now been scrapped. A lifeline for people in extreme distress and very vulnerable situations, this puts even more pressure on domestic violence services. As Dickerson explains: “They’ve taken away the crisis loan, and women relied on that for resettlement. So women will leave without a mattress to sleep on, and some of them have young families. One woman was self-harming recently, living in a shelter that was not homely. It's very challenging for our workers. We work really hard just to make sure the women can survive.” </p> <p class="NormalWeb">Other lifelines of financial support are also being slowly eroded. The Discretionary Housing Payment funding, which provides payments of up to a year for people facing difficulty paying their accommodation costs, is to be slashed by 24%. For the women affected, the extent to which they’ve been hit <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-austerity-sounds-like-backlash-gender-and-economic-crisis">isn’t an afterthought, it’s ideological.</a> The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kate-donald/feminisation-of-poverty-and-myth-of-welfare-queen">rhetoric around benefits in the UK</a>, changing slowly for decades, has now ramped up to a poisonous invective around “scroungers”, and a false idea, promoted by government, that too many people treat claiming social support from the state is a “lifestyle choice”. This atmosphere, promoted by the media, but also politicians - shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves promised Labour would be <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare">tougher on benefits than the Conservatives</a> - isolates vulnerable people, while making councils reticent about awarding emergency funds to desperate people. </p> <p class="NormalWeb">One young British woman, speaking anonymously at the refuge, said there was a disconnect between how the police treated domestic violence, and the level help available once women left. ”There’s such a big discrepancy, I remember when I first reported abuse to the police, I got a bit scared and wanted to back down and told them I didn't want to follow it up any more. But the police rang me five times a day, and said they couldn't drop it until they saw me in person to make sure I wasn't being blackmailed to drop the claim,” she explains. “They said it was such a serious offence. So it's amazing how the police know it's something major, but that's where it stops. There's nothing else afterwards. I'm here, I'm being looked after, but what about the hundreds of other women who can't get in? Who are still being strangled, raped and tortured? There's no way to move people on from here, and it makes no sense. If the police know this, then how come the government don’t?” </p> <p class="NormalWeb">Speaking to women in the refuge, the atmosphere is not one of resignation or fear, but anger. Fleeing violence and danger, they’ve encountered only more hardship when trying to leave the refuge that has offered them respite and support. What should be a stepping stone, instead feels like limbo. Seated in a circle on sofas in the refuge’s communal space, they swap stories over cups of tea. One woman was told to “go back to Togo” by a council employee despite living in the UK since 1998. When she returned the following day a different employee sexually propositioned her.&nbsp; </p> <p class="NormalWeb">A young woman who moved to London from India, then fled her abusive husband says in tears "For one week, I ate nothing but water, because I was sick of begging for money. I didn't tell anyone, I saved the money I'd have spent on food. Then I had chest pains. I wonder why I was born, why I came to this country and married that man, and slowly I feel like less of a person. You think it's better to die than live like this.” The women’s problems intersect, and they each tell angry tales of failing to get the most basic support. Some have children, of whom a number are disabled. A lot of the women are experiencing severe mental and physical health problems. Most have experienced racism when dealing with gatekeepers of public services. A couple of the women are subject to <a href="http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=00010001001000040007&amp;sectiontitle=no+recourse+to+public+funds">the no recourse to public funds rule</a>, due to their immigration status, so are even more vulnerable financially.&nbsp;</p> <p class="NormalWeb">A point raised over and over again is how women are expected to support themselves, when everyone in the room has countless tales of battling councils to get tiny sums of money. “We’ll see more deaths, we’ll see more women having to go into prostitution,” one survivor says, echoing <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jenny-phillimore/gender-and-destitution-in-uk">many concerns over what happens to migrant women</a> when they’re regarded as second class citizens by the state. For the women affected, it’s clear they’re bearing the brunt of an economic crash and subsequent ideological austerity that’s completely beyond their control. But as women forced to flee, then live in fear and secrecy while hoping to start a new life, they’re almost completely silenced. </p> <p class="NormalWeb">In a speech to Women’s Aid’s annual conference in 2010 in the early days of the coalition, Home Secretary Theresa May told the audience both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would reverse the decline in rape crisis centres, but tentatively refused to make any funding commitments to the women’s sector in the face of looming local authority cuts. “Your problem is my problem”, May said. The drop in both funding and numbers of domestic violence refuges implies that is not the case. But domestic violence is a problem for all of society, and without accepting that all services must be welcoming and accessible for women fleeing violence and crucially that they must be adequately funded, more women will find their lives in danger.</p><p class="NormalWeb"><em>This is the second in a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dawn-foster/cuts-hit-home-austerity-in-oxford">series</a> of articles by Dawn Foster in the run up to the general election in the UK, May 2015 </em></p><p class="NormalWeb">&nbsp;</p> <p class="NormalWeb">&nbsp;</p> <p class="NormalWeb">&nbsp;</p> <p class="NormalWeb">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-green/british-democracy-and-women%27s-right-to-live-free-from-violence">British democracy and women&#039;s right to live free from violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/finn-mackay/right-to-walk-alone-without-fear">The right to walk alone without fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/roast-or-toast-mapping-changes-in-violent-men">Roast or toast? Mapping changes in violent men</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jenny-phillimore/gender-and-destitution-in-uk">Gender and destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women-in-uk">What will it take to end violence against women in the UK? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/gender-and-poverty-in-uk-inside-household-and-across-life-course">Gender and poverty in the UK: Inside the household and across the life course</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kate-donald/feminisation-of-poverty-and-myth-of-welfare-queen">The feminisation of poverty and the myth of the &#039;welfare queen&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/women-in-uk-back-to-future">Women in the UK: back to the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/uk-indifference-to-ending-discrimination-against-women">UK: indifference to ending discrimination against women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights violence against women Sexual violence gendered poverty gendered migration gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work Dawn Foster Mon, 09 Feb 2015 09:03:27 +0000 Dawn Foster 90342 at https://opendemocracy.net Roast or toast? Mapping changes in violent men https://opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/roast-or-toast-mapping-changes-in-violent-men <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recognising that we have reached a stalemate in dealing with violent men, and an impasse in policy and research on perpetrator programmes, there is fresh interest in whether men can be engaged in a process of change. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/tLVjH3xOqS1eb_WGmHcHSsTvOiSns7TAqF6ZEz-XCsQ/mtime:1423477091/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/millwomen.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/YykJ-bf2FmQ5dCtLKGSCuyIfToYGwvLTbWWkQiiuA6E/mtime:1423476835/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/millwomen.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Million Women Rise March, London 2012. Credit: Demotix / Nelson Pereira</span></span></span></p><p>Why should women have to take on the burden of working with violent men in order to reduce their offending behaviour?&nbsp; Isn’t it bad enough that they are victims of it? Shouldn’t men assume responsibility for changing their behaviour as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/alan-greig/men-challenging-male-supremacy">Alan Grieg</a> has done by setting up a Challenging Male Supremacy project? Or is it just feminist petulance to insist that it is a man’s problem?&nbsp; Anybody who has worked in the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector will have been asked the question of why aren’t they doing anything about the men? On the face of it, a sensible enough question. That would be going to the root of the problem instead of dealing constantly with the fallout. </p> <p>The problem with the question is that it assumes that violence is an aspect of individual behaviour, whereas feminists believe that violence is the linchpin of a patriarchal system and part of a spectrum of behaviours used to keep women in their place. Most feminists have, therefore, steered clear of <a href="https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/about-cafcass/commissioned-services-and-contact-activities/dvpp.aspx">domestic violence perpetrator programmes</a> (DVPP). </p> <p>At the same time, there is widespread recognition that we have reached a stalemate in dealing with violent men, and that we have reached an impasse in both research and policy on perpetrator programmes. Whilst sending men to prison is critical in holding the state to account and emphasising the seriousness of the crime, prison does not always work, it does not tackle re-offending and does not keep women safe in the long term. Hence there is fresh interest from feminists to see whether men ‘can be engaged in a process of change’ which has been the driver of DVPP intervention in the UK since the 1980s. </p> <p>So it was with some interest that I attended a conference, Changing the Story, which reported on the results of the <a href="https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/criva/ProjectMirabalfinalreport.pdf">Mirabal project</a>, an evaluation of 12 DVPPs, on behalf of Respect, an umbrella organisation for perpetrator programmes. It was all the more intriguing as the 15 month study was led by feminists with impeccable credentials: Liz Kelly, Head of Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at the Metropolitan University, and Nicole Westmarland of Durham University. In order to assess the impact of DVPP intervention, two groups of women were surveyed: the intervention group consisted of 100 women whose partners were on a DVPP, and a comparison group called the freedom group which consisted of 62 women, most of whom were separated from their partners and whose partners were not on a DVPP. </p> <p>The DVPP programmes last between 30-36 weeks and have been described in detail on openDemocracy 50.50 by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/angela-neustatter/changing-behaviour-of-male-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence">Angela Neustatter</a>. Jo Todd, CEO of <a href="http://www.respectphoneline.org.uk/pages/who-we-are-phoneline.html">Respect</a>, made an eloquent case for the challenges of DVPP intervention: that we should not underestimate how difficult it is for emotionally illiterate men to look at and acknowledge their own violence, which is a condition of being admitted to the programme, and over the course of it, to give an honest account of their behaviour, take full responsibility for it, develop empathy, understand the impact of it, unpick embedded notions of masculinity and entitlement, and then make a conscious choice to change. Little surprise then that over half the men in the study didn’t stay the course. </p> <p>The researchers were at pains to emphasise, as was Jo Todd, that Respect’s <a href="http://www.respectphoneline.org.uk/pages/domestic-violence-prevention-programmes.html">accredited domestic violence prevention programmes</a> are not a substitute for criminal proceedings, nor can they be used to mitigate sentences. The best of them follow the highly regarded <a href="http://www.theduluthmodel.org/">Duluth</a> model which is a woman centred analysis of domestic violence, drawing on the power and control perspective to hold the perpetrator to account. </p> <p>The findings were reported with refreshing honesty: a majority of women experienced a substantial decline in physical and sexual violence, ranging from 61% to 2%, although damaging property and slamming doors was still present in a quarter of the cases, down from 94%; whilst coercive control declined, it remained an issue for half the women. There was a small shift in the two factors that women valued most of all – respectful communication, and having more autonomy or ‘space for action’. Despite all this, 51% of women reported feeling very safe by the end of the survey. There was a noticeable improvement in men’s understanding of violence, but a majority of men were still inclined to make excuses for their abuse or blame the women for it. Although men’s parenting styles improved - mostly minimally, there was no change in the number of women worried about leaving the children alone with their fathers. However, the data around parenting and children was skewed by the fact that more than half the men had not had any contact with the children while they were on the programme. </p> <p>This brings us to one of the problems with DVPPs - an overwhelming number of men on the programmes have been referred by children’s services or <a href="https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/">CAFCASS</a> (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) which does cloud the issue of motivation. Are the men primarily interested in seeing their children and prepared to make short-term changes in their behaviour in order to facilitate that? Or are some of the men using it as a cover to retain control and influence in the woman’s life - as workers in the violence against women and children sector have found? </p> <p>Although the decline in physical violence is positive, ironically it makes it even harder for women to obtain police and Crown Prosecution Service intervention because allegations of coercive control, emotional and financial abuse - which continue even after DVPP intervention - have rarely been prosecuted anyway. Domestic violence has always been easier to prosecute when there is visible evidence of physical violence. The other factor that has a bearing on how we read these results is the big difference in the number of women who were with their violent partners in the intervention group – almost half were with their abuser at the beginning and a third were still with him 15 months on – whereas in the freedom group, the comparable figures were 13% and 9%. It is reasonable to assume that women who want to save their relationships, often for economic and social reasons, are likely to be more positive about the changes they report. </p> <p>Although these researchers did not count the number of relationships saved as a result of DVPP intervention as a marker of success, it is bound to be seen by governments in that light. It is cheaper to keep families together - and also fits in with conservative values. This would be a complete reversal of current indicators of success for the VAWG sector which are measured by the number of women who have left an abusive relationship. </p> <p>Because the results are not clear cut enough, and can be roasted or toasted depending on your bent, perpetrator programmes in a landscape of cuts and policies, like restorative justice, mediation, out of court disposals and a misogynistic and patriarchal culture, are viewed with suspicion by some who work in this sector who say that they amount to a relegation of domestic violence back into the private sphere, reversing feminist struggles to move it from the private to the public. If a woman does want to prosecute, she has to push even harder to get that to happen and risk being seen as unforgiving and vindictive, which instead of reducing the onus on women, could increase it. </p> <p>Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, says, “We are not against perpetrator programmes per se, but for us, the most important hurdle to overcome is police response to domestic violence which remains unsatisfactory and often not fit for purpose. Perpetrator programmes can only work if they are a part of an effective criminal justice system that ensures protection of women. This is far from the reality at present.” </p> <p>VAWG workers would not be so anxious about these programmes if extra government funding was being made available. At a time when refuges are being <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/03/domestic-violence-refuge-crisis-women-closure-safe-houses">closed down</a> and there is pressure on the sector to increase beds for male victims of violence, diverting more cash to DVPPs when their outcomes are debatable feels like a further assault on the sector. As the government is a signatory to the <a href="http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/convention-violence/default_en.asp">‘Istanbul convention’</a> on combatting violence against women, article 16 of which requires members to set up these programmes, DVPPs are likely to grow in importance. If they are here to stay, many VAWG workers have responded the way you might to an unwelcome bedfellow – has he, at least, washed his feet and brushed his teeth? </p> <p>It is better to support programmes that comply with the high standards set by Respect, operating within a feminist framework and evaluated by a highly respected feminist academic like Liz Kelly, than vacate the space and allow it to be run by conservative and/or religious groups as has happened with other <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/religious-lobby-and-women%E2%80%99s-rights">violence against women services</a>. This becomes the only pragmatic response to problematic policy developments. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alan-greig/men-challenging-male-supremacy">Men challenging male supremacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/changing-behaviour-of-male-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence">Changing the behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/michael-kimmel/from-men%27s-liberation-to-men%E2%80%99s-rights-angry-white-men-in-us">From men&#039;s liberation to men’s rights: angry white men in the US</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jimmie-briggs/men-time-to-stand-up">Men: time to stand up</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-barker/why-don%E2%80%99t-men-care">Why don’t men care?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/neoliberal-neopatriarchy-case-for-gender-revolution">Neoliberal neopatriarchy: the case for gender revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/richard-johnson/ageing-men-are-changing-men-debate-on-men-and-crime">Ageing men are changing men? The debate on men and crime </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ann-oakley-cynthia-cockburn/cost-of-masculine-crime">The cost of masculine crime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/challenging-militarized-masculinities">Challenging militarized masculinities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/who-do-they-think-they-are-war-rapists-as-people">Who do they think they are? War rapists as people</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn-ann-oakley/sexual-exploitation-in-street-gangs-protecting-girls-or-changing-bo">Sexual exploitation in street gangs: protecting girls or changing boys?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Culture Equality Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's movements violence against women Sexual violence patriarchy gender justice gender feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Mon, 09 Feb 2015 08:45:07 +0000 Rahila Gupta 90343 at https://opendemocracy.net Gendered paradoxes of Egypt’s transition https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nicola-pratt/gendered-paradoxes-of-egypt%E2%80%99s-transition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Four years after the downfall of Mubarak, women face a new patriarchal bargain: abandoning all forms of independent organizing in return for protection of their rights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Gendered paradoxes abound in Egypt following the departure of former president Hosni Mubarak four years ago. Under Mubarak, the women’s rights agenda was almost totally monopolized by the National Council for Women under the leadership of former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, whilst independent women’s organizing was severely constrained by limits on freedom of association. After the overthrow of Mubarak, women’s rights were threatened but independent women’s organizing flourished. Since July 2013, under the post-Morsi regime, advances have been made in women’s legal rights. However, independent women’s organizing is once again endangered by heavy handed control of the civic sphere. </p><p><strong>The price of mobilisation and new voices against violence</strong></p> <p>Despite their high visibility during the 18-day uprising in 2011, women protesters soon faced serious attempts after Mubarak’s departure to exclude them from the public sphere. In March 2011, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) cleared Tahrir Square of protesters, detaining 18 women, 17 of whom were then beaten, tortured, strip searched in front of male soldiers and forced to undergo so-called <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/egyptian-women-protesters-forced-take-virginity-tests-2011-03-23">virginity tests</a>. At the time, an army general (who later was revealed as <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-19256730">General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi</a>) <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/05/30/egypt.virginity.tests/index.html">defended the practice</a> as necessary to protect the army from accusations of rape, since ‘The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine … These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square’. </p> <p>The day before, a poorly attended march in celebration of International Women’s Day was attacked by unknown groups of men in Tahrir Square, who accused the protesters of being against religion. Islamist and some non-Islamist politicians and commentators began calling for the repeal of laws passed under Mubarak that women’s rights activists regarded as gains for Egyptian women, amongst them, the <a href="http://www.mei.edu/content/women-shari%E2%80%98-and-personal-status-law-reform-egypt-after-revolution">Khula’ law</a> (allowing women to divorce their husbands in return for relinquishing their financial rights), the criminalization of FGM, and increasing child custody rights for mothers. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hoda-elsadda/egypt-battle-over-hope-and-morale">Opponents of the laws referred to them as ‘Suzanne’s laws’</a>, inferring that their passage was due to the influence of the former First Lady, thereby associating women’s rights with corruption and dictatorship. When Islamists won 70 per cent of seats in the first parliamentary elections, many women worried that their&nbsp; rights were seriously in peril. </p> <p>After decades of state feminism, Egypt’s women’s rights advocates were ill-equipped to respond to the challenges. However, unprecedented mass activism for gender issues emerged outside of the established spaces of women’s rights organizations. Samira Ibrahim, one of the victims of the ‘virginity testing’, was supported by revolutionaries when she bravely raised a court case against the doctor who performed the procedure. After a video went viral of soldiers dragging a woman protester across the street, beating her and stripping her to her blue bra, <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/29824/Egypt/0/,-Egyptian-women-march-against-military-violence-a.aspx">thousands of women, and men, marched to condemn SCAF violence</a>, under the slogan ‘Egypt’s women are a red line’. In contrast to the previous year, the 2012 International Women’s Day march was well attended and presented a list of women’s rights demands to parliament. Throughout 2012, a number of very visible and loud marches were organized to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood’s constitution and the increase in sexual violence against women protesters. </p> <p>The ferocity of the backlash against women in the post-Mubarak period led to the emergence of a new feminist consciousness, not only amongst women but many men too, and revolutionized the paradigm of women organizing for their rights. The street, rather than the conference hall, became the prime space in which women claimed their rights. They legitimized their claims not in relation to international human rights and women’s rights conventions but in terms of their participation in the 25 January Revolution and its goals of social justice and freedom. Protesters held up banners and <a href="http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/03/08/in-pictures-egyptian-women-march-on-international-womens-day/">placards depicting icons of Egyptian popular culture</a>, such as Um Kulthoum, Souad Hosny and Faten Hamama, legitimizing women’s presence in the public sphere as part of Egypt’s heritage. Simultaneously, women revolutionized gender norms by redefining female respectability as active participation in public spaces. They also broke the social taboo surrounding discussion of violence against women, <a href="http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/11559/egyptian-women_between-revolution-counter-revoluti">celebrating the bravery</a> of Samira Ibrahim and the anonymous woman of the ‘<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/dec/18/egypt-military-beating-female-protester-tahrir-square">blue bra’ incident</a>, respectfully named ‘sitt al-banat’ or ‘the best of girls’, in graffiti images around Cairo’s streets.&nbsp; </p> <p>Women’s increased mobilization on the streets came at a heavy price. After June 2012, there was an alarming escalation in a particular pattern of sexual attacks against women protesters, in which large gangs of men surrounded an individual woman and brutally beat her, sexually assaulted her and even raped her, sometimes using sharp objects. <a href="http://nazra.org/sites/nazra/files/attachments/compilation-_of_sexual-violence_-testimonies_between_20111_2013_en.pdf">One report</a> presented over 250 cases of sexual assault and rape that took place between November 2012 and January 2013. During protests leading up to and after June 30 against former president Mohammed Morsi, <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/03/egypt-epidemic-sexual-violence">at least 91 women</a> were victims of sex attacks. In response, <a href="http://www.merip.org/mer/mer268/our-square">women and men organized</a> in unprecedented cross-gender alliances to directly resist this violence. Groups such as <a href="http://interactions.eldis.org/profile/operation-anti-sexual-harassment-opantish">OpAntiSH</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Tahrir.Bodyguards">Tahrir Bodyguards</a> patrolled protests, organized rescue teams and provided medical and psychological support to victims. Meanwhile, <a href="http://interactions.eldis.org/profile/shoft-taharosh-harassment-seen?vnc=XtGrzjNxgjnPJiFRnJuwNb0EDLWLNaaPWzjGxT1iJC8&amp;vnp=9">Shoft Taharrosh</a> and <a href="http://interactions.eldis.org/profile/bassma-imprint?vnc=XtGrzjNxgjnPJiFRnJuwNb0EDLWLNaaPWzjGxT1iJC8&amp;vnp=2">Basma Imprint Movement</a> worked to prevent sexual harassment and assault in other public spaces as well as providing awareness and education on the issue. Like other youth initiatives after 2011, anti-sexual harassment groups included women and men, however, OpAntiSH distinguished itself because women are also part of the rescue teams, thereby challenging the paradigm of ‘masculinist protection’. Significantly, women victims increasingly began to speak out publicly, such as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CGVbhDdK1M">Hania Moheeb</a> and <a href="https://cairobymicrophone.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/i-felt-betrayed-by-the-revolution-itself-yasmine-el-baramawy-about-sexual-terrorism-and-revolutionary-inadequacies/">Yassmine El-Baramawi</a> who were interviewed on prime time TV, directly resisting their victimization and stigmatization. The major achievement of the anti-sexual violence movement has been to reframe violence against women as a political and public issue and to challenge nationalist and Islamist discourses that reduce women’s bodies to repositories of collective honour and shame, blaming the victim for her violation.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The new deal: protection and obedience</strong></p> <p>With the ousting of Morsi, the controversial constitution of 2012 was cancelled and a committee appointed to draft a new constitution that would reverse the previous Islamization efforts. One of the few selling points of this constitution, which was passed in a referendum in January 2014, was the inclusion of an article explicitly committing the state to ensuring gender equality and women’s participation in state institutions.&nbsp; Despite this, many activists rejected the constitution for empowering the army and others were disappointed that there was no mention of a quota for women in parliamentary elections. Hoda Elsadda, a member of the drafting committee and a key actor in bringing about the gender equality article, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/hoda-elsadda/article-11-feminists-negotiating-power-in-egypt">argues that</a> the article’s inclusion was a result of a combination of factors, including the desire of the committee to differentiate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, to reaffirm the dominant narrative of Egypt’s modernity, of which progress on women’s rights is seen as a key marker, as well as to recognize women’s role in the revolution. No doubt these reasons, in addition to <a href="http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/Print/6483.aspx">a public outcry</a> over shocking footage captured of a woman stripped naked and brutally attacked during the celebration for El-Sisi’s presidential election in June 2014, also contributed to the government’s <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/103010/Egypt/0/Egypts-Mansour-issues-law-for-tougher-sexual-haras.aspx">amendment</a> of the Penal Code to stiffen punishment for sexual harassment, paving the way for the prosecution of some cases of gang rapes in Tahrir Square (although the majority are still not investigated), as well as the <a href="http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/07/07/government-body-implement-new-strategy-protect-women-violence/">announcement</a> of a national strategy to combat violence against women. Significantly, El-Sisi is the first Egyptian president to speak publicly about sexual violence against women. </p> <p>The gains made in legal rights for women stand in stark contrast to the reversals in the freedom of association and expression after the ousting of Morsi. The post-Morsi regime has broadened its circles of repression, initially focusing on Morsi’s supporters but later including other activists criticizing the post-Morsi political order, such as revolutionaries, politicians and human rights groups. They have been subject to smear campaigns and attacks in the media as ‘unpatriotic’ as well as harassment by state security. In November 2013, an anti-torture NGO was forced by state security to cancel a workshop on early marriage and the <a href="http://cesr.org/section.php?id=60">Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights</a> has been raided by police twice since July 2013. Following the passage in November 2013 of a law banning public protests, several non-Islamist protesters were arrested and tried, including high profile revolutionary figures, such as Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mahinoor Masry, as well as other women activists such as Yara Sallam and Sana Seif. </p> <p>Even those supporting the post-Morsi political order are no longer safe. On &nbsp;24 January, during a march to commemorate the victims of the 2011 uprising, security forces shot dead <a href="http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/01/25/pictures-shaimaa-al-sabbagh-shot-protest/">Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh</a>, a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party. </p> <p>Meanwhile, in the summer of 2014, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/amira-mikhail/obliteration-of-civil-society-in-egypt">government announced</a> that all civil society organizations should register with the Ministry of Social Solidarity or face dissolution, announced a new law that threatens NGO independence and amended the Penal Code so that anyone found guilty of receiving foreign funding for the purpose of ‘harming national interests’ would face life imprisonment and a fine of no less than half a million Egyptian pounds. These measures disproportionately impact human rights organizations as well as women’s rights organizations addressing taboo issues. These have been periodically accused of ‘tarnishing Egypt’s reputation’ by highlighting rights violations and relying on funding from abroad to sustain their operations. The new regulations also threaten to institutionalize and bureaucratize the myriad gender justice initiatives that have emerged since 2011, undermining their creativity and responsiveness to developing conditions on the ground.&nbsp; </p> <p>Whilst the state has declared its commitment to women’s rights, the surge of independent organizing for women’s rights that emerged after Mubarak is clearly in danger. Women’s protests have been almost absent from public spaces since the downfall of Morsi. For the first time since Mubarak’s departure, women’s rights activists did not organize a public march to celebrate International Women’s Day. Women activists are divided. Many are refusing to comply with the protest law that requires that the Ministry of the Interior be informed of any public gatherings, whilst others have rallied to support the pro-Morsi political order, including the 2014 constitution and the election of former general Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Even established women’s rights NGOs face challenges when it comes to building upon achievements in women’s legal rights given the new constraints on civil society organizations. This is problematic given the failure of the government to put into practice its gender commitments, most notably in relation to <a href="http://ecwronline.org/?p=1925">women’s inclusion in state institutions</a>. </p> <p>The National Council for Women and its president Mervat al-Tallawi (who incidentally oversaw the drafting of a <a href="http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/416/bfair12.htm">repressive NGO law</a> during her tenure as Minister of Social Affairs under Mubarak) have been rehabilitated as the official voice of women’s issues after being sidelined during the transitional rule of SCAF then the Morsi presidency. The Council is leading the drafting process for the new national strategy for combating violence against women, which has already been <a href="http://nazra.org/en/2014/12/feminist-groups-and-organizations-collaborate-together-order-present-their-vision-national">criticized</a> by women’s rights organizations for its lack of transparency and inclusivity. Some women activists stayed away from an anti-sexual violence <a href="http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/15/demonstrators-rally-sexual-harassment-2/">protest</a> in June 2014 because of NCW involvement. At the same rally, two men holding placards condemning sexual violence perpetrated by state security services were arrested. </p> <p>The new regime also threatens to reverse the revolutionized gender norms created through independent women’s organizing, which rejected any notions of honour and shame attached to the female body. In contrast, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/11/egypt-president-sisi-tackle-sexual-violence">in a statement</a> referring to the June 2014 sexual attacks during the celebrations for his presidential election, El-Sisi said, ‘Our honour is being assaulted in the streets’. Meanwhile, Mervat al-Tallawi <a href="http://www.madamasr.com/content/national-women%E2%80%99s-council-says-assault-used-discredit-women">threatened to sue</a> Al-Jazeera network for using the issue of sexual harassment to ‘tarnish the image of Egypt’ and discredit the ‘30 June Revolution’, thereby reducing women to symbols of Egypt’s reputation and, particularly, its post-Morsi regime. </p> <p>The ‘pro-women’ policies of President El-Sisi and his supporters do not aim to liberate Egyptian women but rather to co-opt them within a new <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/no-laughing-matter-women-and-new-populism-in-turkey">patriarchal bargain</a>.&nbsp; Women who are obedient to the new regime are deemed worthy of the state’s protection. However, the Islamist and secular women activists arrested for protesting against El-Sisi’s regime are subjected to numerous rights violations including sexual violence at the hands of security officers and police. The patriarchal bargain will remain in place as long as El-Sisi’s regime remains popular. Widespread disillusionment with El-Sisi will undoubtedly be accompanied with a backlash against his ‘pro-women’ agenda, similar to the backlash witnessed after the fall of Mubarak. Activists face a huge challenge in the coming period to maintain their dynamic paradigm for gender justice, to resist state cooptation and top-down impositions and to embed revolutionary gender constructs from the grassroots-upwards. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hoda-elsadda/article-11-feminists-negotiating-power-in-egypt">Article 11: feminists negotiating power in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/common-factor-sexual-violence-and-egyptian-state-20112014">The common factor: sexual violence and the Egyptian state, 2011-2014</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/feminism-of-patriarchy-in-egypt">The &#039;feminism&#039; of patriarchy in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/egypt-tale-of-two-constitutions">Egypt: a tale of two constitutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/patriarchy-and-militarism-in-egypt-from-street-to-government">Patriarchy and militarism in Egypt: from the street to the government</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/opportunities-and-pitfalls-in-egypt%E2%80%99s-roadmap">Opportunities and pitfalls in Egypt’s roadmap</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/egypt-politics-of-sexual-violence-in-protest-spaces">Egypt: the politics of sexual violence in protest spaces</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eba%E2%80%99-el-tamami/harassment-free-zone">Harassment free zone </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hania-sholkamy/egypt-will-there-be-place-for-womens-human-rights">Egypt: will there be a place for women&#039;s human rights? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/egypt-islamization-of-state-policy">Egypt: the Islamization of state policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hoda-elsadda/egypt-battle-over-hope-and-morale">Egypt: the battle over hope and morale </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egypt-space-that-isnt-our-own">Egypt: a space that isn&#039;t our own</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/military-trials-in-egypt-20112014">Military trials in Egypt: 2011-2014</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/chez-morsi-palace-petitioners-and-street-entrepreneurs-in-post-mubarak-e">Chez Morsi : palace petitioners and street entrepreneurs in post-Mubarak Egypt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Egypt Civil society Democracy and government Equality 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women patriarchy gender fundamentalisms everyday feminism Nicola Pratt Mon, 02 Feb 2015 09:45:33 +0000 Nicola Pratt 90107 at https://opendemocracy.net Bikinis and babas: the gender subtext of clichés about Ukraine https://opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/bikinis-and-babas-gender-subtext-of-clich%C3%A9s-about-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a conflict situation, humiliation of the enemy is frequently gendered. Yet the quasi-Orientalist tropes through which the west views Ukraine refracts both the country’s gender inequalities and its complicated feminist movements.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The writer and translator <a href="https://medium.com/@keithgessen/to-russia-with-love-175bec3dbcd5">Keith Gessen wrote last year</a> of how western coverage of his country of birth, Russia, was refracted through the distorted prism of the west’s own obsessions in the 2000s and 2010s.&nbsp; While self-identifying ‘left-wing’ writers in the west like Seumas Milne<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/29/counterweight-us-power-global-necessity-conflicts-spread"> fall into the same trap</a> as <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2000/mar/15/pressandpublishing.tvnews"><em>Living Marxism </em>magazine and Harold Pinter did over Milosevic in the 1990s</a> –an intellectually infantile apologising for an authoritarian leader just because the leader in question is “a counter-weight to the west” – Gessen pinpointed a more subtle cultural trend that is separate from but co-exists with the Putin-apologist contrarianism on parts of the western left.&nbsp; He sketched out the cartoonish depiction in much western coverage of Russia – and the former Soviet Union as a whole –over the last twenty years, shifting from Soviet-cliches to the ‘mafia state’ trope, as one that took aim not just at Putinism but at Russians themselves, blunting the complexities and realities of their experiences.&nbsp; </p><p>The piece came out around the same time as the <em>Calvert Journal</em> ran an <a href="http://calvertjournal.com/comment/show/1776/buzzfeed-russia-virals">analysis</a> of how the western online media treated Russia and the former Soviet Union, at least for the last decade up until 2014, when the Ukrainian crisis began: in this period, Russia was downgraded from its twentieth-century status as ‘enemy', and repositioned as the ‘slightly unhinged stepbrother’ of the west – whose excesses and idiosyncrasies (car crashes captured on dashcams, surreal wedding pictures, women lacquered with industrial-strength make-up) the liberal west was seemingly ‘allowed’ to laugh at without being accused of racism.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/RKP5p2J4R72QkakaFJU9TIBFodnNsh9vKnQmgrMS908/mtime:1422297016/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/dakh%20daughters%20.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/bd38VaWSzzPgfCgRKxbfZVk6FLrgOk22GO2qGQp0wX8/mtime:1422253921/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/dakh%20daughters%20.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Ukrainian band Dakh Daughters</em></span></p> <p>Cultural Russophobia and cultural Slavophobia against eastern Europeans as a whole is pervasive and transmitted by cliche and tired tropes (and, as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova/kremlinphobia-russophobia-and-other-states-of-paranoia">Natalia Antonova has outlined</a>, this thread in western thinking on Russia has in turn been disingenuously harnessed by Putin’s regime to depict the west as “Russophobic” <em>because</em> it does not support Putin, while in fact it comfortably coexists with Putin’s ‘eternal clash of civilisations’ worldview).&nbsp; And, as Antonova has outlined, this Slavophobia is also highly gendered. &nbsp;The adverts for “Ukrainian brides” plastering most tourism websites to Ukraine draw upon a series of deeply ingrained tropes and imagery of the (European) ‘east’ in the eyes of the ‘west’. &nbsp;This stretches from the sexist western fantasy of the ‘post Soviet woman’, hyper-sexual yet untarnished by western feminism, to the stock role of the ‘baba’, the old woman who, if you believed much western writing on the former Soviet Union, exists – without back-story or human complexity – solely to provide comic relief, comically bad amateur medical advice, and maternal encouragement to the young men visiting her country. &nbsp;Its as though the classic patriarchal virgin/ whore dichotomy is recalibrated so the two modes become trashy/ hypersexual young women and comic ‘babas’, two options on the menu of female experience.</p> <p>“Ukrainian babes and comic old babas” might have remained just another blindspot in a losing battle against the dominance of cliché, but in a war – as the conflict in Ukraine continues – these pre-existing tropes have become dynamic and loaded with power.&nbsp; In an interview with <em>The Guardian</em> last year, Oksana Forostina, the editor of <em>Krytyka</em> journal, explained her <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/may/29/rock-barricades-ukrainian-musicians-soundtracking-unrest">frustration</a> with the western media in which “eastern European women are caricatured and denigrated by their appearance – for wearing high heels and skirts, for example […] liberals wouldn't dare to do that to a Muslim woman who wore a veil." &nbsp;Yet the clichés of the ‘hyper-sexual, made-up Barbie doll Ukrainian woman’ is pervasive, and fuels the ‘Ukrainian bride’ industry, which, as <a href="http://muftah.org/eastern-europe-vladimir-manosphere/">Matthew Kupfer has noted</a>, is particularly beloved of Men’s Rights Activist-style sexists dismayed by the west’s move towards gender equality (who, in the process, essentialise and deny the agency of Ukrainian women by transposing onto them the image of the opposite-of-western-woman, fetishised through fantasy as ‘untainted and obedient’). &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Depictions of Ukraine in 2014 brought together two strands. For reductivist tropes used to shorthand eastern Europe in the west are highly gendered. And so is conflict.&nbsp; To claim that military conflict is gendered is not to view it in terms of “men versus women” or a crude assessment of who suffers more, but to make visible the gender binaries that become more rigid if a society demarcates young men as ‘soldiers’, and if this then constructs or reinforces a societal role of women as ‘carers’ and ‘subordinate helpers’.&nbsp; Extensive research has also shown that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/what-sex-means-for-world-peace">pre-existing gender inequalities</a> – particularly the levels of domestic violence in a society – colour the severity of gender-based violence in war once the conflict begins.&nbsp; In fact, academic Valerie Hudson has argued that the levels interpersonal violence against women in ‘peace time’ are <a href="http://www.ethicsandinternationalaffairs.org/2013/sex-world-peace-by-valerie-m-hudson-bonnie-ballif-spanvill-mary-caprioli-and-chad-f-emmett/">directly correlated</a> with the likelihood of the outbreak of conflict.</p> <p><strong>Acts of humiliation</strong></p> <p>As the conflict in Ukraine develops, although women have been present on the front line on both ‘sides’, pre-existing gender roles as well as gendered tropes in the western imagery of Ukraine, have transformed and mutated to the new, militarised context. &nbsp;A particularly uncomfortable example was the pictures <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/meet-irina-filatova-peoples-republic-luhansks-new-minister-culture-has-racy-vkontakte-1588770">posted of Irina Filatova,</a> the new ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ Minister for Culture, variously topless and in a bikini, which spread around both Ukrainian and western media in May 2014.&nbsp; There were many layers to the discomfort: the fact that the pictures were taken from Filatova’s private VKontakte profile (the post-Soviet equivalent of Facebook), making them a kind of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/29596583">revenge-porn </a>and an attempt to ‘shame’ a woman for being a sexual person, and the joy with which (largely male) western journalists sneered at her “trashiness” – a word, used for women, that pinpoints the moment where misogyny and class-hatred align.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not an apology for the rent-a-warlord ‘leaders’ or fairground-mirror bizarre ideology of the Luhansk and Donetsk ‘People’s Republics’ to note – as, for instance, <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n17/keith-gessen/why-not-kill-them-all">Keith Gessen</a> did in the <em>London Review of Books</em> – that the alienation felt in the neglected Donbass region, which the ‘People’s Republic’ leaders were able to trammel into their agendas, stemmed from a genuine sense of being on the receiving end of a kind of ‘social racism’ by the Kyiv elite.&nbsp; In a region where the average wage was around 300 Euros a month prior to the conflict, sneering at a young woman for being “trashy” – or for exercising her sexual agency in private – seemed like the eastern European equivalent of the class-loaded hate-word “chav.”&nbsp; Regional animosities were playing out as Filatova’s bikini pictures were smeared across Ukrainian social media, complete with captions about what a “whore” the woman in the photographs must be – the equivalent of middle-class southern English people sharing pictures of a working-class Glaswegian woman and gleefully exclaiming that she looked like a “slutty chav.” Yet the western media was comfortable harnessing this spectacle and the complex power-and-powerlessness woven into it, because – transposed over from its domestic context and into the global Anglophone media – it reinforced predominant western tropes of eastern Europe, where the women are ‘trashy’, and the aesthetics are naff, but its okay for liberals to laugh at that without being accused of racism.</p> <p>There was an additional layer of discomfort even for those who could smell the misogyny and class-tinged venom in the situation: Filatova is not a person whose actions as a political figure can be morally defended.&nbsp; Later in the summer of 2014, she was <a href="https://twitter.com/RobPulseNews/status/503913174933204992">photographed leading a march</a> as Ukrainian prisoners of war were publicly paraded in an act of ritual humiliation – a practice, since the conflict began, that has raised concerns of violations of the Geneva Conventions’ responsibility to treat prisoners of war respectfully and humanely.</p> <p>The two scenes together – unsympathetic-figure Filatova’s private bikini photographs shared around and ripped to pieces by internet commenters, then her unrepentant participation in the humiliation of others as the conflict developed – felt like an enactment in reverse of the French women who were punished for sleeping with German men during the French Occupation by having their heads shaved: the climate is created in which deliberate humiliation of the other becomes acceptable, because they have committed injustices too, because they have humiliated you, so you can use whatever you have over your enemy.&nbsp; And humiliation is frequently gendered.</p> <p>Yet there seemed to be a lack of introspection in western responses to these scenes.&nbsp; There is much social currency – and many easy internet clicks – amongst western liberals in mocking the garish, ‘trashy’ kitsch of the former Soviet Union, but still too often an insensitivity to when this is ‘punching up’ and when it is ‘punching down’ – mocking the naff glitziness of corrupt and authoritarian ex-President Yanukovych’s palace is punching up at the powerful – is mocking the ‘trashy’ clothing choices of women in a region where the average wage is 300 Euros a month, the same? &nbsp;Is using degrading gendered insults okay because there are more important things to consider and “there’s a war on”? &nbsp;There is a frequent failure to maintain a consistent respect for human dignity.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/xnTRWEwFIr9M9EJpZtS9dLBwybRDUv9Hw6JnARWwmA8/mtime:1422296998/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/poklonskaya%20fan%20art_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/oCGSJ_YYVTkno968TWLXW3KXVzqxjJwJxuv2YR4rGyc/mtime:1422253706/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/poklonskaya%20fan%20art_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>'Fan art' of Nataliya Potklonskaya&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>Virgin/whore – east/ west – Russia/ Ukraine &nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The dark underside of humanity that comes out in Filatova’s uncomfortable role as both humiliated and humiliator also had its opposite (although also on the same pro-Russian ‘side’), in the comedic episode in early 2014 in which the Crimean Prosecutor General, Nataliya Potklonskaya, was turned into a Japanese anime cartoon by her new global ‘fans.’ Although footage shows Potklonskaya&nbsp; laughed along as she is shown the cartoon depictions of herself – wide-eyed, pale and childlike – she did eventually exclaim in seeming exasperation “I’m a lawyer, not a Pokemon!”&nbsp; The anime cartoons seemed to play upon the same male western sexual fantasy of Ukrainian women as both childlike (i.e. undemanding and untainted by feminism) and hypersexual, which the multi-million pound ‘Ukrainian bride industry’ draws upon to bring western men to the country.</p> <p>The ‘Prosecutor General as anime cartoon’ incident in turn became a ‘comic’ story in the global media, marrying together Ukraine’s pre-existing gender inequalities and essentialist tropes of ‘Ukrainian women’ residing in the western lens, while more complex realities remained underreported even as the world began to take an interest in Ukrainian society – such as the rates of <a href="http://www.ua.undp.org/content/ukraine/en/home/presscenter/articles/2010/01/15/ten-unknown-facts-about-domestic-violence-in-ukraine-a-joint-eu-undp-project-releases-new-poll-results/">domestic violence in the country</a> prior to the start of the conflict.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Yet, for all the attempts to treat the post-Soviet space as ‘comic and unhinged’, the theme of violence against women threaded through the escalating political tension, such as the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10777765/Russian-politician-tells-aides-to-violently-rape-pregnant-journalist.html">incident</a> in April 2014 in which buffoonish populist Russian politician Zhirinovsky appeared to threaten a female journalist with rape at a press conference, going on to exclaim “you women of Maidan all have uterine frenzy”, and – to her colleague – “stop interfering here, you lesbian.”&nbsp; The fact that there were almost no expressions of solidarity from global journalists seemed to point to an attitude of “that’s just how things are in the former Soviet Union, backwards and sexist”, while the exclamations Zhirinovsky chose point to what Antonina Vikhrest highlighted as the ‘tactical misogyny’ of Putin’s propaganda machine.&nbsp; </p><p>As Vikhrest notes, a so-bad-its-almost-funny “documentary” aired in on the Kremlin-backed NTV channel in Russia <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/8/putin-s-tacticalmisogyny.html">titled ‘The Furies of Maidan’, which claimed to expose</a> how women who were involved in the Maidan revolution that overthrew authoritarian President Yanukovych were psychologically unstable, ‘disgustingly’ masculine harridans who were “aroused by fear.”</p> <p>Stirring up hatred for Ukrainians and the Maidan protests recalibrated the virgin-whore dichotomy, transposing it on to the binary of ‘Russian versus Ukrainian’ – the pure versus the dirty – making women the terrain on which delineation from the enemy ‘other’ is enacted.</p> <p><strong>Femen and Ukrainian feminism: lost in translation?</strong></p> <p>Yet although there are glaring gender inequalities in both Ukraine and Russia – and although the western lens of viewing Ukraine has been largely un-empathetic to lived female experience as it projects its own fantasies onto the country – there is also feminism.&nbsp;&nbsp; The Kyiv-based all-female band <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dakh_Daughters">Dakh Daughters</a> were for many the musical accompaniment to the Maidan revolution.&nbsp; And, as in Egypt in 2011, female protesters were integral to the struggle that brought down the corrupt and authoritarian government.&nbsp; Societies are not monolithic or internally homogenous, but engaged in internal conversations within themselves – as much as conservative voices within these cultures erroneously seek to depict local LGBT activists, feminists, and other progressives as ‘alien’, ‘elite’ and ‘imported from the west’.</p> <p>Yet when feminism in Ukraine is mentioned in the western media, one strand of the internal conversation within the movement continues to dominate the headlines – the tactics of Femen, the self-identifying feminist collective that began in Ukraine, who use female nudity ‘as a weapon’ in an attempt to draw attention to violence against women and the brutalities of patriarchy. &nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>There has been a significant backlash against Femen from within the global feminist movement – and many other Ukrainian feminists seek to distance themselves from the group. Most dismiss the group as ‘<a href="https://neocolonialthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/my-thoughts-on-femen-feminism/">colonial white feminists’</a> or ‘racist feminists’, whose culturally imperialist crusade to ‘liberate’ non-white and Muslim women denies the agency and humanity of these women.&nbsp; Femen’s fixation on the body and intellectually infantile ‘shock tactics’ seem, at best, an erroneous attempt to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. At worst, they are an embarrassing, racist distortion of feminism, who can then be used to dismiss the legitimate social movement for gender equality. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/oQ8QIuoUqsEJxvvg9rz7sWcXx_eeIt8x9kupCFxAZYo/mtime:1422297005/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/512px-Femen_Logo.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ZdBOy17DRWoI_WjE7V2Tk8KzHAnYtpVK-5kX4pXy5vw/mtime:1422254846/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/512px-Femen_Logo.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="528" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>'Femen' logo</em></p> <p>Whilst acknowledging these criticisms, writer Agata Pyzik has <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/voices/2013/04/white-doesnt-always-mean-privilege-femens-ukrainian-context">argued</a> that Femen must be contextualised as specifically eastern European – not simply as ‘white’ (and thus ‘imperialist feminists’, in the intersectional reading) but also coming specifically out of an experience of being on the receiving end of the west’s quasi-Orientalist fetishisation of eastern European women.&nbsp; Femen's fixation on the body as a terrain of protest comes from their resistance to sexual exploitation, the sex tourism of western men in post-Soviet countries that renders them ‘nothing more than bodies’, existing to please men.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>While Pussy Riot were conceptually stripped of their feminist message when they became human rights heroines in the eyes of the west, Femen have been conceptually flattened – with the strength with which other feminists understandably condemn them as ‘white feminists’ and ‘culturally imperialists’ – so that the regional-specific context from which their particular form of feminism has emerged from is lost in translation.&nbsp; None of which is to dismiss the criticism that, outside of this context, their tactics are misguided and imperialist –or that other Ukrainian feminist voices are sidelined by their headline-seeking actions.</p> <p><strong>Tymoshenko as Baba Yaga </strong></p> <p><span>The counter-argument that’s often drawn when gender inequalities are highlighted – usually by those seeking to deny that gender inequalities exist – is to point to the ‘exceptionals’, the outliers.&nbsp; “How can the country be sexist when it has had a female head of state?” is akin to saying “now Obama is President, there are no racial inequalities in America”, yet politician Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost the post-revolutionary election in 2014 after being released from prison, is pointed to in conversations as proof that neither Ukraine nor the western media’s treatment of Ukraine is sexist.&nbsp; </span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/bRJ9I-auY5HYw1uZjlO__vmmkBUJI_16YkERJglUXsw/mtime:1422297014/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/Yulia_Tymoshenko_November_2009-3cropped.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/DA7QPTmyojA-NUkqyeO-uS13iXlkNidhbWbUslMQBIk/mtime:1422254569/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/Yulia_Tymoshenko_November_2009-3cropped.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Yulia Tymoshenko</em></p><p><span>Like Filatova – or Sarah Palin, or Margaret Thatcher – Tymoshenko is </span><a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/23/yulia-tymoshenko-she-s-no-angel.html">not a person whose behaviour one necessarily wishes to apologise for</a><span>. &nbsp;Yet disagreeing with her behaviour as a public figure and her policy positions as a politician has often been seen, in both the post-Soviet and western media, as a green light to criticise her on the grounds of her gender – whilst simultaneously citing her as proof that gender inequalities don’t exist.&nbsp; In the liberal west, if you disagree with Obama’s position on, say, drone strikes, you would still not get behind a cartoon that depicted him in racist tropes, yet pointing out that Tymoshenko has been subjected to gendered insults throughout her time in politics (such as depictions of her as a ‘Baba Yaga’ harridan, unnaturally ambitious and vicious) is hard to sustain without being accused of defending her politics.&nbsp; </span></p><p><span>It is important not to draw binaries between ‘the backwards east’ and ‘the progressive west’ in its treatment of women– one needs only look at </span><a href="http://www.eurotopics.net/en/home/presseschau/archiv/results/archiv_article/ARTICLE14385-Segolene-Royal-in-the-face-of-sexism">Segolene Royal’s treatment during her campaign</a><span> for the French Presidency in 2007 to know that female politicians in western Europe are subjected to sexist abuse.&nbsp; But discussions about Tymoshenko have often shown that those who claim to have liberal, progressive politics are still comfortable dismissing women they dislike as “bitches” and “hags.”&nbsp; All of which is underpinned by the implication that women who hold power are somehow freakish and unnatural. &nbsp;And, as in the instance of Filatova’s VKontakte pictures – if you don’t like the person, you can humiliate them any way you like.</span></p> <p><strong>The enemy woman </strong></p> <p><span>The gendered dimension of western quasi-Orientalist visions of Ukraine – in which the women, ‘untainted by feminism’, lack both human complexity and agency – has been married, in more recent depictions of Ukraine, with the binary stirred up by the Kremlin propaganda of ‘The Furies of Maidan’, in which Ukrainians and Russians are positioned as opposites, just as the patriarchal virgin/ whore dichotomy positions ‘good’ women against ‘bad’ women.&nbsp; This constellation of gender binaries in a time when identity-lines become more rigidly demarcated is reminiscent of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, in which the women of the ‘enemy’ ethnic group were targetted for both their ethnicity and gender – or, rather, dehumanised for being the ‘enemy’ through humiliation and violence that played out in a gendered way. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>The pre-existing gender inequalities in Ukraine, both the levels of domestic violence and the power-dynamics of western sex tourism to the country, are not priorities for a country at war – while, as the conflict develops, nationalisms are stirred that generate identity binaries, such as linguistic identity, that were previously not salient identity fault-lines. &nbsp;Patriarchy and nationalism do each other’s work for one another, nowhere more so than in conflict.</p><p><span>Antonina Vikhrest, a Fulbright fellow researching gender issues in Ukraine, has </span><a href="http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/all-enveloping-silence-persists-around-rape-in-ukraine-conflict">noted</a><span> that reports have emerged that sexual violence has occurred in east Ukraine as a result of the conflict, although emphasises that the primary issue at present is one of documentation, as women are often unwilling to come forward due to the social stigma of having been sexually assaulted, a problem she encountered whilst researching at centres for internally displaced persons in several Ukrainian cities.&nbsp; Vikhrest quotes Human Rights Watch’s Russia researcher Tanya Lokshina, who explained that, in the cultural context of the Ukrainian conflict, “rape is seen as something that just brings shame to a woman…so out of concern for her security, her privacy, for her future life, she stays silent.” &nbsp;Moreover, the lack of training on the issue of sexual violence amongst humanitarian workers and journalists in the conflict in east Ukraine has made accurate documentation of gender-based violence more difficult.&nbsp; The new UN cross-agency Sub-Sector on Gender Based Violence in Ukraine, established in December 2014, will focus on the issue of sexual violence and the reports emerging from the conflict, but will need to begin by addressing the lack of training and gender-sensitivity amongst those working in the area affected by the conflict, which hinders accurate documentation.</span></p> <p><span>Yet the important work to be done on the gendered dimensions of the Ukraine conflict lie beneath layers of quasi-Orientalist tropes in the western ways of viewing Ukraine, false binaries, and silences. &nbsp;The lesson from the former Yugoslavia does not seem to have translated across -- <a href="http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/bosnia">pay attention</a> to what happens to gender in war.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Heather McRobie Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:45:33 +0000 Heather McRobie 89922 at https://opendemocracy.net To take a stand is more important than to take a distance https://opendemocracy.net/5050/akmal-ahmed-safwat/to-take-stand-is-more-important-than-to-take-distance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of distancing ourselves from terrorist crimes, as progressive Muslims we should confront the ultra conservative, violent <em>Wahhabi/salafi</em> version of Islam that is practised by both professional terrorists and despotic nations like Saudi Arabia.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>What used to be sporadic is now becoming grotesquely normal: waking up in the morning to news of massacres throughout the world committed by terrorists in the name of Islam. This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth that won’t go away, especially if you are, like me, a Muslim. </p> <p>Sadly, personal initiatives of denouncing terror do not change anything on the ground. They will neither help the victims of the current disaster nor prevent future ones. They will definitely not ease the anxiety of those who doubt Muslim loyalty to the democratic principles of Denmark where I live. </p> <p>It is an entirely different, however, when politicians ask moderate Muslims to distance themselves. I feel that this is the wrong thing to ask for and the wrong thing to do. </p> <p>It is crucially important to target mosques or organizations that have expressed radical and extremist views and ask them to distance themselves from specific crimes. But to demand this from law abiding Muslims who have never endorsed <em>jihad</em> ideas means that all Muslims are suspects unless we prove otherwise. It means that our loyalty is not assumed but must be declared and demonstrated, again and again. </p> <p>This is both dangerous and unacceptable. </p> <p class="Default">Instead of verbally denouncing terror, many Muslims in the West are now <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">challenging</a> the radical, ultra conservative and violent <a href="https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS21695.pdf"><em>Wahhabi/salafi</em></a> version of Islam that gives religious justification for hideous crimes. They are doing so through a growing movement of progressive Muslims such as <a href="http://www.bmsd.org.uk/">British Muslims for Secular Democracy</a>, <a href="mpvusa.org">Muslims for Progressive Values</a> (USA) and the <a href="islamineurope.blogspot.com/2010/01/norway-liberal-muslims">Liberal Muslim Network</a> (Norway). </p> <p class="Default">We progressive Muslims do not distinguish between atrocities committed by radical movements like Al-Qaida or Boko Haram and those committed by despotic dictatorships that dare to call themselves “Islamic” governments; the ones that administer the death penalty for apostasy and homosexuality; that practice stoning and flagellation; that legitimize child marriage. Both justify their atrocious practices through selected, outdated interpretations of primary Islamic scripture and a so-called “irrefutable authority” of ancient scholars and books. </p> <p class="Default">When progressives talk about reforming Islam, we mean new interpretations built upon solid Islamic theology that is guided by the scholarship of modern Muslim scholars such as <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/711003/Nasr-Hamid-Abu-Zayd">Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, </a>&nbsp;<a href="http://law.emory.edu/faculty-and-scholarship/faculty-profiles/annaim-profile.html">Abdullahi An-Na'im</a>, <a href="https://law.ucla.edu/faculty/faculty-profiles/khaled-m-abou-el-fadl">Khaled Abou El Fadl</a>, <a href="http://www.wisemuslimwomen.org/muslimwomen/bio/amina_wadud/">Amina Wadud</a> and others. Our goal is an informed confrontation with <em>Wahhabi/salafi</em> ideology to exterminate its hegemony and<em> </em>influence. </p> <p class="Default"><a href="https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS21695.pdf">Wahhabi/salafi</a> Islam is a literal way of looking at religious texts, taking it out of historical context and extending straight lines to current times. Its authority is often external to the <em>Qu’ran, </em>using things that are claimed to have been spoken <em>(hadith)</em> or performed (<em>sunnah</em>) by the prophet. These claims and interpretations are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">man-made</a>.</p><p class="Default">Progressive Muslims, on the other hand, believe that history matters and that these claims can be challenged. The ancient Islamic Scholar <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Shafi%E2%80%98i">Al-Shafi'i</a>, changed his <em>fatwas</em> when he moved from one Islamic country to another because he acknowledged how his previous ideas did not suit the new environment. Yet today’s <em>salafists</em> insists on applying Al-Shafi’s old <em>fatwas</em> unchanged, more than 1000 years after his death. </p> <p class="Default">Progressive Muslims essentially differ from traditionalists in the way we approach the <em>Qur’anic </em>texts. In his book, <a href="http://www.bostonreview.net/khaled-abou-el-fadl-the-place-of-tolerance-in-islam"><em>The Place of Tolerance in Islam</em></a>, UCLA scholar Khaled Abou El-Fadl says “It is impossible to analyse any verse, except in the light of the overall moral thrust of the <em>Qur’anic</em> message. The <em>Qur’an</em> commands Muslims to do the good and it is not accidental that the word used for ‘the good’ is <em>ma’aruf<strong>,</strong></em> meaning ‘that which is known to be good.’ Goodness in the <em>Qur’anic </em>discourse, therefore, is a lived reality, the product of human experience and constructed normative understanding.”<em> <br /></em></p> <p class="Default">So, when we progressives say Islam is a religion of justice, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">tolerance</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zainah-anwar/speaking-with-forked-tongue-whither-malaysia%E2%80%99s-moderate-islam">compassion</a>, we approach the holy texts with these values and vision and let the <em>Qur’an</em> guide us to an understanding of contemporary life. Consequently, we support <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">women’s rights and agency and human rights for all</a>. We support the civil rights of the LGBT community. We reject the idea that <em>shari’a</em> is immutable. We support procedural secularism and the separation of church and state. We oppose capital punishment. </p> <p>This is how we distance ourselves from Islamists’ crimes, by trying to live <em>ma’aruf</em> on a day-to-day basis. </p> <p>Progressive Muslim <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">voices</a> are actually everywhere, what <em>is</em> missing is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">critical mass</a>. The problem with challenging the status quo is that you are marching into an unequal battle. Progressive Muslims are <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX2PDOE4yz8">individuals and academics</a> facing radical movements as well as whole countries moving towards political domination. </p> <p>Furthermore, we are competing with Saudi Arabia’s unlimited petro wealth, a nation that has spent close to $100 billion dollars to export <em>Wahhabi</em> Islam into Islamic societies and thus assert its political influence. Through monopolizing satellite media and infiltrating religious institutions previously known for its progressive views, Saudi Arabian <em>Wahhabism</em> has managed to grip the hearts and minds of millions of Muslims. El-Azhar in Egypt is just one example. </p> <p>Despite an <a href="http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/saudi-arabia">appalling human rights record</a>, the Saudi regime can always count on the West’s unconditional support in its quest for dominating the Muslim world. </p> <p>In fact, a closer look would clearly show the striking resemblance between Saudi Arabia and the newly born Islamic State. It defies credibility and fundamental logic that Western nations would ally themselves with Saudi Arabia to fight ISIS, since the latter is the brainchild of the first and any difference between them is only in scale but not in kind. </p> <p class="Default">If they want to fight terrorism, Western governments must abandon their double standard and take a firm and consistent stand against - not just professional terrorist organizations - but governments that abuse human rights and break international conventions.&nbsp; Saudi Arabia and Israel are a good place to start. </p> <p class="Default">If Western governments want to fight terrorism, they should recognize progressive Muslims and reach out to us for assistance, reversing the current insulting assessment that says we are not Muslim enough to matter. Western governments have to face an inconvenient truth: they’re never going to “fix” Islamic extremism by working with conservative <em>salafi</em> imams. </p> <p class="Default">Legal philosopher, Abdullahi An-Na'im has <a href="http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14775.html">taught</a> us that the divide is not between Islam and western society but between people who have different values. He counsels us to promote connections between people who want to contribute to human values because people who share that commitment can collaborate effectively, irrespective of their own culture.</p><p class="Default"><strong><em>Read more articles on 50.50's platform</em> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism </a></strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainah-anwar/speaking-with-forked-tongue-whither-malaysia%E2%80%99s-moderate-islam">Speaking with a forked tongue: whither Malaysia’s moderate Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/musawah-there-cannot-be-justice-without-equality">Musawah: there cannot be justice without equality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/janine-moussa/rightful-place-of-gender-equality-within-islam">The rightful place of gender equality within Islam </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin">&quot;Support the right to make fun of extremists&quot;: an interview with Caroline Fourest </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? Civil society Culture 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick secularism gender fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Akmal Ahmed Safwat Charlie Hebdo Fri, 23 Jan 2015 10:12:54 +0000 Akmal Ahmed Safwat 89853 at https://opendemocracy.net The cuts hit home: austerity in Oxford https://opendemocracy.net/5050/dawn-foster/cuts-hit-home-austerity-in-oxford <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Across the UK different services are bearing the brunt of cuts in different areas. In Oxfordshire, the county which encompasses the Prime Minister's constituency, domestic violence and homelessness services are facing a staggering 38% cut in funding.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">After the 2008 financial crash, the coalition government on taking office in May 2010 announced the need for collective ‘belt-tightening’ and unleashed a raft of austerity measures across the UK with the stated aim of bringing down the deficit by slashing public spending. The Conservative mantra is that ‘We’re all in this together’: the party’s online shop even carries a <a href="http://shop.conservatives.com/product97024/were-all-in-this-together-poster.aspx">stylised rendering of the slogan in the shape of the United Kingdom</a>, should you wish to decorate your home with a rather hollow political slogan. </p> <p class="Body">Again and again, analysis has shown this is not the case. Women are hit disproportionately harder than men, with <a href="http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Budget-2013-Helping-or-Hurting-women.pdf">75% of cuts affecting women</a> according to a Fawcett Society report. The gender pay gap has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dawn-foster/whose-recovery-gendered-austerity-in-uk">widened for the first time since 2008</a>, as wage squeezes and service cuts hit the poorest in society. </p> <p class="Body">In the run up to the election in May, austerity and its impact on women has increasingly become a political talking point amongst campaigners, politicians and women’s groups. Yet both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">despite commissioning a gender audit of cuts</a>, have voiced their commitment to more public spending cuts, although their election manifestos have not been released yet. The Green Party have been far more vocal about their opposition to cuts, and also how <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/is-gendered-austerity-finally-on-political-agenda">austerity has an undeniably gendered effect.</a> </p> <p class="Body">The terrain of cuts differs across the country, with the poorest areas suffering the harshest cuts. These areas traditionally receive more funding as there is higher need, and the revenue they raise from localised “council tax” is lower. Travelling around the country, different services are bearing the brunt of cuts in different areas - for some, it’s adult social care, for others its libraries and education facilities. In many, including Oxfordshire, the county which encompasses the Prime Minister’s constituency, it’s domestic violence and homelessness services. </p> <p class="Body">Domestic violence services have been one of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">most concerning victims of austerity.</a> Oxfordshire Domestic Violence Service is one of the services facing the most recent cuts. Between January and May 2014, its advice workers answered 1,600 calls from women in distress, and have 29 beds in the refuges it runs across Oxfordshire. Women and children can stay for up to 12 months while waiting to be safely housed, and in 2013 alone, 55 women and 66 children were offered emergency refuge accommodation. For the service, the mooted cuts would mean losing £132,000 and potentially the helpline. </p> <p class="Body">Reports of domestic violence have fallen in Oxfordshire, from 2,435 in <a href="http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/11313001.print/">2011/12 and 2,336 in 2012/13 to 2,290 in 2013/14</a>, but the numbers are marginal, and don’t remotely reflect a need to cut the funding for domestic violence services by the staggering 38%. It’s apparent to everyone that the cuts will affect women’s lives, and women with the starkest need in the most dangerous situations. In the past two years, there has been increasing concern at the level of unreported sexual abuse and relationship violence in Oxford University, with the university introducing <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-29503973">compulsory “consent courses” for new students</a>. Any attempts to address this abuse, and the stigma around it, will doubtless be hampered by the potential loss of confidential, professionally staffed helplines offering support for young women.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">The 38% cuts apply to both domestic violence services, and homelessness services, both protecting the most vulnerable in society. “It feels like we’re teetering on the edge of an absolutely massive disaster,” Lesley Dewhurst tells me over a cup of coffee on the third floor of the Oxford homeless hostel she runs. </p> <p class="Default">The county council have been ordered to make £60m of cuts in the next four years on top of the £200m cuts enacted since 2010, as the UK government funding for councils is slashed throughout the country. The leader of the council, Ian Hudspeth, recently <a href="http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/11635550.Oxfordshire_council_leader_Ian_Hudspeth_signs_open_letter_to_end_austerity_cuts/?ref=mr">wrote an open letter</a> to the government in protest at the cuts.</p> <p class="Body">The <a href="http://www.oxhop.org.uk/">Oxfordshire Homeless Pathways</a> scheme is one such service facing severe cuts. Homelessness has increased dramatically in Oxford - Dewhurst cites figures that show around a 40% increase in Oxford in the past year, compared to 20% in the rest of the south east in the past two years. The reasons people cite for becoming homeless have changed too: Dewhurst says people are increasingly citing economic stress and money worries as the main catalyst in couples parting ways, causing homelessness. </p> <p class="Body">“With all homelessness, the biggest cause is relationship breakdown and that won’t have changed. But the factors that cause the stresses on family breakdown will be more skewed to towards financial pressure, economic pressures. Two things in this area - one will be the effects of the recession, all of which hits the lowest common denominator. But the other major one is the lack of affordable housing in the area,” Dewhurst explains. The hostels Oxford Homelessness Pathways run have always been full, but are finding more people presenting as homeless. </p> <p class="Body">Already at full capacity, the charity have tried to work to help as many people as possible on a dwindling budget. With 56 rooms, there’s a limit to how many people can sleep comfortably in the hostel, and more cuts will mean a lower staff budget, which in turn means being forced to help fewer people. In the past 6 years Oxford Homelessness Pathways has already experienced cuts of 20-25% and has been forced to cut their night team. More cuts will mean the quality of work they can carry out suffers. </p> <p class="Body">The London housing crisis has plenty of lip service paid to it, but Oxford’s cost of living crisis easily rivals, and in some aspects eclipses, the capital’s problems. Campaigning to prevent building on the greenbelt has stifled development in the area, and in <a href="http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11530585.Housing_crisis_escalates_as_no_new_affordable_homes_built_in_Oxford/">2013/14 no affordable homes were built. </a>&nbsp;Even outstripping London, Oxford now has the least affordable house prices in the UK, at 11.9 times the average salary. Activists recently hosted a three day conference on housing I was asked to speak at, and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/squatting-in-path-of-housing-crisis-global-capitalism-coming-home">squatted an empty university building</a> to highlight the plight of the young and precariously housed in the city. </p> <p class="Body">Two miles away in a quiet industrial estate on the outskirts of west Oxford, six people usher me into a small warehouse. The walk from the hostel to the food bank showcases the divides in Oxford - past the railway station and grand university buildings the city quickly appears like any other, with terraced housing, cavernous DIY and furniture shops and down at heel small grocery shops and hairdressers. Inside the warehouse, between two white transit vans bearing the Oxford Foodbank logo and a row of walk in fridges, sits a large pile of crates filled with loose carrots, potatoes, cabbages, onions and all manner of vegetables. </p> <p class="Body">The volunteers don’t hand food packages to individuals in need, as Trussell Trust food banks do, but collect excess food from nearby supermarkets, and distribute it to local charities. Anecdotally, they note that Sure Start centres have been keen to receive more food to package for people in desperate need, and charities have told them they’re experiencing far more contact from single mothers in food poverty. Sure Start centres were introduced in 1998 by the Labour government to offer support to young children and families, to improve children’s life chances by offering advice and support to poorer families. </p> <p class="Body">The food bank has been running for five years, starting just before the current coalition government came into power. The cuts in Oxfordshire have meant the charities they provide food too are experiencing higher referral rates than ever, and cutting the amount they spend on food is one of the only ways they can keep their services going. “A lot of charities are very dependent on the food bank for budgetary reasons, and one or two have told me they simply couldn’t keep going if it wasn’t for the food we gave them,” one volunteer tells me. Before I arrive in the morning, he has already delivered to 11 charities, including a drop in centre for single mothers that takes a large amount of food to distribute, and a Sure Start centre, attached to a primary school. </p> <p class="Body">The child poverty rate in Oxford stands at 16% before housing costs and 25% after housing costs - with a housing crisis in the city that shows no sign of stopping, the latter figure is projected to increase. The Sure Start centres in the area have had their funding reduced under the cuts and are finding it harder than ever to operate, while finding more and more people presenting with problems. Even in David Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/12/cameron-save-sure-start-children-centres-oxfordshire">one Sure Start centre was at risk of closure</a>. For these centres, and many other charities in the county, the food bank is a lifeline, as it’s the only way they can cut costs - by relying on free food to continue operating. The flip side is however, that the amount of food they receive from supermarkets varies, and with such high need, not all charities can receive as much as they’d like. </p> <p class="Body">The fear, amongst residents and charity employees alike is that stripping down the services and quality of support domestic violence services, homeless shelters and Sure Start centres offer in the short term has a catastrophic effect in the long term. For years, the homelessness centre has worked to build the skills and confidence of the street homeless, to decrease the chance of homelessness re-occurring. With fewer resources, the homelessness rate is likely to increase, while the number of people helped back into society decreases. </p> <p class="Body">The knock on effects of cuts to domestic violence services, child poverty and homelessness last far, far longer than the 8 years of projected cuts the government announced in 2010. </p><p class="Body"><em>This is the first in a series of articles from around the UK by Dawn Foster in the run up to the election in May.</em></p><p class="Body">&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/whose-recovery-gendered-austerity-in-uk">Whose recovery?: Gendered austerity in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/welcome-to-my-home-welcome-to-my-hell">Welcome to my home, welcome to my hell</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/gender-and-poverty-in-uk-inside-household-and-across-life-course">Gender and poverty in the UK: Inside the household and across the life course</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jenny-phillimore/gender-and-destitution-in-uk">Gender and destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/is-gendered-austerity-finally-on-political-agenda">Is gendered austerity finally on the political agenda?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">How women are paying for the recession in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-donald/feminisation-of-poverty-and-myth-of-welfare-queen">The feminisation of poverty and the myth of the &#039;welfare queen&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/staying-alive-in-britain-can-poor-afford-it">Staying alive in Britain : can the poor afford it? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-donald/vicious-circle-of-poverty-and-injustice">The vicious circle of poverty and injustice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk">Poverty: a human rights abuse in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-austerity-sounds-like-backlash-gender-and-economic-crisis">When austerity sounds like backlash: gender and the economic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/can%27t-find-job-in-uk-you%E2%80%99re-not-trying-hard-enough">Can&#039;t find a job in the UK? You’re not trying hard enough</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/dawn-foster/glass-ceiling-and-rock-bottom-women-in-2013-britain">Glass ceiling and rock bottom: women in 2013 Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/women-in-uk-back-to-future">Women in the UK: back to the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Democracy and government Economics Equality Governing poverty: risking rights? 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's health violence against women gendered poverty gender justice 50.50 newsletter Dawn Foster Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:33:27 +0000 Dawn Foster 89772 at https://opendemocracy.net #SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women https://opendemocracy.net/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The campaign against detaining refugee women must be part of the movement against violence against women and girls. Agnes Woolley reports from the National Refugee Women’s Conference in London.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/jjjjjjjj.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protest outside Yarl&#039;s Wood"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/jjjjjjjj.jpg" alt="Protest outside Yarl's Wood" title="Protest outside Yarl&#039;s Wood" width="460" height="151" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest outside Yarl's Wood</span></span></span><span>Energy, enthusiasm and anger: the key ingredients at this month’s National Refugee Women’s Conference run by </span><a href="http://refugeewomen.com/">Women for Refugee Women</a><span> and the </span><a href="http://www.movementforchange.org.uk/london_refugee_women_s_forum">London Refugee Women’s Forum</a><span>. Activist Beatrice Botomani’s rousing words at the end of the day seemed to capture the atmosphere of positive change: ‘We’re on fire!’, she insisted, ‘2015 – we are moving forward.’</span></span></p> <p>It has been a pivotal year for action on immigration detention. Following a legal challenge brought by <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/timelimit/end-the-fast-track-to-despair/legal-challenge">Detention Action</a>, on 9th July 2014 the High Court found that the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/jerome-phelps/interrupting-implacable-fighting-detained-fast-track">Detained Fast Track</a> system was ‘operating unlawfully’. Detained Fast Track places asylum seekers in detention the moment they file a claim and keeps them there for the entirety of the legal process. According to the <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Detention-Action-DFT-Full-Judgement.pdf">High Court ruling</a>, the system carries ‘an unacceptably high risk of unfairness’ to vulnerable asylum seekers and, according to Jerome Phelps, Director of Detention Action, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/jerome-phelps/interrupting-implacable-fighting-detained-fast-track">‘change is likely’</a>. In the same month the All-Party Parliamentary Group on migration launched an <a href="http://www.appgmigration.org.uk/news/2014/appg-refugees-and-appg-migration-launch-new-parliamentary-inquiry-use-immigration">inquiry</a> into detention, which has heard evidence from civil servants, charities, researchers and, most importantly, detainees themselves. The report is due to be published in February. </p> <p>Though not yet amounting to policy change on the issue, campaigns against immigration detention in the UK have gained traction both in the media and in political circles. It was notable that MPs Stella Creasy (Labour) and Richard Fuller (Conservative) both spoke against detaining women at the conference (though they stopped short of pledging to put a stop to immigration detention altogether). Women for Refugee Women activists have contributed to this exposure with the launch of the ‘Set Her Free’ campaign against the detention of refugee women in January 2014. </p> <p>The National Refugee Women’s Conference marked the end of a year of campaigning that began with the publication of <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">Detained: Women Asylum Seekers Locked up in the UK</a>, which describes the devastating impact of detention on a particularly vulnerable group of asylum seekers: women who have experienced violence and abuse. The report puts women’s experiences of detention front and centre, providing much-needed testimony from women with first-hand experience of the murky world of corporate-run detention. The latest publication, launched at the conference, is called <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/WRW_IamHuman_report-for-web.pdf">I am Human</a> and focuses on the experiences of 38 women detained at Yarl’s Wood detention centre between June 2012 and October 2014. It makes for grim reading. But it also showcases how dynamic this campaign has become thanks to energy and enthusiasm of diverse groups across the country. </p> <p>So, how can we transform this passion into policy and build on the growing optimism about the possibility of change? Activist and ex-detainee Maimuna Jawo spoke stirringly of the need for refugee women to take a lead on the campaign: ‘we are the leaders’, she asserted to much applause. Jawo, who gave oral evidence to the Parliamentary inquiry into detention in July, advocated speaking out about experiences of asylum and detention on behalf of those detainees who are deprived of a voice. And many do, whether by sharing their personal stories, or through performance and protest. Members of London Refugee Women’s Forum performed ‘Set Her Free’, a poem they had written collaboratively and performed at the opening of the Labour Party Conference fringe in September 2014. The Manchester arm of WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) performed several songs and devised sketches which drew on their experiences in detention. The group has even formed a ‘Shut Down Yarl’s Wood’ choir – complete with matching neckerchiefs – which has already intervened in the political debate by grabbing the attention of a local MP in Manchester.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/iiiiiii.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="WAST choir"><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/iiiiiii.png" alt="WAST choir" title="WAST choir" width="460" height="262" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>WAST choir</span></span></span></p><p>Such a mixture of performance and protest resonates with a long tradition of protest songs in the women’s movement, reminding us of the need to stand together with those who experience gender-based violence. As Natasha Walters, the founder of Women for Refugee Women noted, ‘If refugee women are able to speak out after they’ve crossed borders, and after everything they’ve been through, then we ought to too.’&nbsp; </p> <p>These refugee-led campaigns have an effect. We heard from enthusiastic and driven young women who have headed up campaigns from a young age as a result of their own experiences. One of the first speakers of the day was Meltem Avcil who, at the age of 13, was detained with her mother at Yarl’s Wood. Armed only with a mobile phone, and with the help of the NCADC (now <a href="http://righttoremain.org.uk/">Right to Remain</a>), Avcil began her campaign against the detention of children and families from inside Yarl’s Wood. The coalition pledged to end child detention in 2010 (there are some caveats to this pledge in the resulting <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/SN05591/ending-child-immigration-detention">2014 Immigration Act, </a>&nbsp;and recent evidence shows that many children and young people are still <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-children-are-still-held-in-adult-detention-centres-despite-coalition-pledges-to-end-the-practice-9050170.html">wrongly assessed as adults</a>). Avcil’s experiences formed the basis of <em>Motherland </em>a verbatim play, developed by Natasha Walters and Juliet Stevenson in 2008. It was performed by Stevenson and Harriet Walter at the Young Vic theatre and helped to kick start the campaign against the detention of children in the UK. Avcil is now instrumental in the campaign to end the detention of women and her <a href="https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-british-home-secretary-end-the-detention-of-women-who-seek-asylum">petition</a> has over 50,000 signatures. In 2014, she received the Liberty Human Rights Christine Jackson Young Person Award. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Set Her Free campaign is not confined only to refugee organisations. It is strongly intersectional in the way it positions itself as part of the fight against violence against women. Like many campaigns, it has to cut through a complex landscape of constituencies and interest groups that can appear fragmented and contradictory. For many refugee women, the focus has been on getting diverse groups to relate to the issue and throw their weight behind it. Perhaps surprisingly, the Women’s Institute has played an integral role. Rachel Walker of the Shoreditch Sisters explained that her ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rachel-walker/knitted-together-crafting-culture-of-welcome-for-refugee-women">Knitted Together’</a> campaign – which gets people to contribute a knitted square to a ‘solidarity quilt’ – made the issue of asylum and detention ‘discussable’ by providing a shared focus not directly related to often painful experiences. The quilt was taken to the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/sexual-violence-in-conflict">Global Summit to End Sexual Violence</a> in Conflict as part of the campaign’s presence there and was also taken into Yarl’s Wood. ‘Knitted together’ is also an appropriate metaphor for the network approach taken by Women for Refugee Women. This was reflected in the dizzying range of participants in the conference and workshop: representatives from LGBT groups, Music in Detention, Jesuit Refugee Services, Women’s Institute, Muf, Notopage3, Arts Admin, as well as academics, volunteers and refugee women. Even the hashtag #SetHerFree is flexible enough to accommodate gender issues across the spectrum: sex-trafficking, domestic slavery, domestic abuse. This is important because, as activist Nimko Ali put it, the campaign against detaining refugee women runs the risk of turning down a ‘cultural cul-de-sac’ if it is not part of the movement against violence against women and girls. &nbsp;</p> <p>There’s clearly a groundswell of activity on this issue. There’s also plenty of optimism that, at the very least, the detention of pregnant women, or women who have been experienced gender-based violence, will cease. But it’s also time to broaden the reach of the campaign even further. This means making as many people in Britain as possible aware of what goes on at the frayed edges of our democracy. The lack of judicial oversight of detention in the UK undermines democracy not only for those directly subject to its suspension in the form of criminalisation and dehumanisation, but for everyone who lives in that democracy. But it also means making connections with those fighting mandatory immigration detention in other contexts, such as the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-30875446">current protests</a> on Manus island in Papua New Guinea. At the time of writing, asylum seekers detained by the Australian government on Manus are entering their seventh day of a hunger strike in protest at their treatment. The ultimate aim must be an end to immigration detention for all asylum seekers, wherever that takes place.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani-heather-jones/extraordinary-things-visiting-women-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-detention-centre">Extraordinary things: visiting the women at Yarl’s Wood detention centre </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear">Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/detention-knows-no-borders">Detention knows no borders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/judith-dennis/not-minor-offence-unlawful-detention-of-unaccompanied-children">Not a minor offence: the unlawful detention of unaccompanied children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/melanie-griffiths/immigration-detention-in-media-anarchy-and-ambivalence">Immigration detention in the media: anarchy and ambivalence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ali-mcginley/detained-at-uk-border-mould-cat-calls-and-barbed-wire">Detained at the UK border: mould, cat calls and barbed wire </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-kennedy-and-penny-keza/immigration-detention-time-for-time-limit">Immigration detention: time for a time limit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 London UK Civil society Equality 50.50 Unlocking detention 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women gendered migration gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Agnes Woolley Wed, 21 Jan 2015 09:27:33 +0000 Agnes Woolley 89773 at https://opendemocracy.net The triple whammy: towards the eclipse of women’s rights https://opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/triple-whammy-towards-eclipse-of-women%E2%80%99s-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Caught in the cross-fire of political opportunism, neo-liberal triumphalism and geopolitical adventurism, feminist platforms are in retreat. Only a politics of coalition building can avert their eclipse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Eclipses are rare and mercifully transitory phenomena. They come about when planets enter into a specific alignment that plunges us into darkness. Had there been a political equivalent of such phenomena I would venture to say that women’s rights - which have ostensibly never enjoyed greater international visibility- are heading for dangerously turbulent times. No single or dramatic incident presages this possibility. It is, rather, the persistent drip-drip effect of a myriad of apparently unrelated influences that feed into a “feminism-phobia” that, sadly, has become quite <em>a la mode</em>. </p> <p>You may well wonder what led me to this gloomy prognosis at a point in time&nbsp; when a leading UK newspaper declared 2014 as “<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/dec/30/-sp-rebecca-solnit-listen-up-women-are-telling-their-story-now">the best year ever for women</a>”, celebrating it as “ a year of feminist insurrection against male violence: a year of mounting refusal to be silent, refusal to let our lives and torments be erased or dismissed”. There&nbsp; is little room for such complacency. On the&nbsp; contrary, there is a strong case to be made&nbsp; that a trio of influences is impoverishing the debates relating to women’s rights and constricting the discursive spaces for a feminist agenda. </p> <p>Before embarking on a discussion of these influences, I would like to draw attention to an apparent paradox.&nbsp; Between 2011-2014, we opened a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/women-and-arab-spring">platform</a> on openDemocracy 50.50 to monitor and analyse the gender effects of the 'Arab spring' and of protest movements in the Middle East more generally.&nbsp; One of the most hopeful features of youth-led protests, which took <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/contesting-patriarchy-as-governance-lessons-from-youth-led-activism">unprecedented forms</a> for the region, was their anti-authoritarian and anti-patriarchal thrust and their recognition of the primarily political nature of gender based violence. Not only were women taking part in street protests and being vocal in the public domain, but they were joined by many men of their generation in an unprecedented display of cross-gender solidarity. These movements were not clamouring for an Islamic state, nor did the parties of political Islam play a key leadership role despite their initial prominence in successor regimes. Notwithstanding the&nbsp; devastating developments that followed, there were unmistakable signs of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">heightened aspirations and a demand for inclusive citizenship, gender justice and equality</a> in the protests themselves. &nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/DancingInGeziPark-UrielSinai-GettyImages-620px_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/DancingInGeziPark-UrielSinai-GettyImages-620px_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dancing in Gezi Park. Credit: Uriel Sinai</span></span></span></p> <p>Yet despite evidence of grass-roots mobilization in pursuit of a broad range of rights, including women’s rights to freedom from violence and to public participation, at the level of academic, political and popular discourse, feminism was being increasingly discredited and dismissed as either irrelevant or passḗ or, even worse, as the handmaiden of imperialism and of overbearing security states. How can we explain this disjuncture? How did the struggle for women’s rights- which started out as one of the emancipatory movements of the past two centuries alongside the fight against slavery and racism- end up being kicked about and maligned not only by right wing misogynists or clerical establishments demanding a monopoly on the regulation of gender and sexuality, but by authors and commentators who consider themselves left-wing or liberal? Could<strong> </strong>we conceive of being told that the fight against racism had “gone too far” or “gone wrong” (except in extreme white supremacist quarters)? Yet it is quite commonplace, even banal, to hear this charge in relation to feminism. How did we get here? </p> <p><strong>The ugly sisters of feminism: the global nexus and its perverse appropriations <br /></strong></p> <p>There have been at least three defining encounters between women’s movements, which are historically diverse and context specific, and powerful global influences.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The first is the encounter with the global “institutionalization” of standards and mechanisms for gender equality through the workings of the United Nations (UN) system and major international donors. Leaving aside the broader debates on the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/eric-posner/twilight-of-human-rights-law">shortfalls</a> or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/beth-simmons/twilight-or-dark-glasses-reply-to-eric-posner">merits</a> of international human rights law, it is important to acknowledge the diverse ways in which&nbsp; women’s rights platforms became depoliticized&nbsp; through co-optation by donor- assisted governments (most glaringly so in the case of repressive, non-democratic regimes). In the case of the Arab uprisings, the previously opportunistic nature of engagements with gender equality platforms contributed to their <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hoda-elsadda/egypt-battle-over-hope-and-morale">rapid derailment and demise</a> and to attempts to claw back existing rights. </p> <p>Jumping on the gender equality bandwagon was a “soft option” used by numerous authoritarian regimes to indicate their commitment to a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/disquiet-and-despair-gender-sub-texts-of-arab-spring">democratization process they had no intention of honouring</a>. The same logic applies to other attempts to co-opt liberal norms in the realms of gender and sexuality, such as <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/06/17/pinkwashing_and_homonationalism_discouraging_gay_travel_to_israel_hurts.html">pinkwashing Israel</a> to boost its democratic credentials, thus deflecting attention from the human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinians. </p> <p>Do these appropriations of liberal/egalitarian norms turn women’s rights activists using international frameworks as a point of reference into uncritical dupes? What is there to be gained from a nihilistic approach to rights enshrined in international law? And what are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">the risks involved</a>? These are questions that cannot be dismissed lightly. </p> <p>The second ill-fated encounter took place after the global turn to neo-liberalism since the Regan -Thatcher era. Whereas initially many women’s movements were explicitly committed to social justice and redistributive goals, their incorporation into donor-funded machineries in the neo-liberal age produced both an ‘ngo’isation of political movements , with women’s ngos often acting as contractors for governments and donors, and the de-radicalization of their objectives, now transformed into technocratic fixes for the “empowerment” of women within the parameters of a market economy. In the West, this gave rise to a triumphalist boardroom or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/linda-burnham/1-feminism">corporatist feminism</a> extolling the virtues of the capitalist market for women who “make it”. In the South, meanwhile, the spaces left vacant by evaporating state provision and the dearth of social welfare were occupied by actors and social movements with conservative agendas and roots in faith-based organizations (whether these be Catholic, Evangelical or Muslim). Populist and religious movements claiming to speak on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the powerless in different regional contexts increased their appeal regardless of the often authoritarian or dogmatic overtones of their political messages. The drifting apart of gender justice and social justice goals was to have grave consequences: it marked out women’s rights as the alleged preoccupation of a privileged elite, especially in societies where <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/sami-zubaida/women-democracy-and-dictatorship">top-down modernization agendas</a> were implemented by authoritarian regimes. Losing sight of the fact that feminism cannot be divorced from a broader social justice agenda was to exact serious costs. </p> <p>The final and most devastating encounter was yet to come. It took shape in the geopolitical context of the War on Terror following the 9/11 events in the United States and Operation Enduring Freedom that led to the overthrow of the Taliban. The invocation of oppressed Muslim women as part of the rationale for military intervention provoked predictable outrage in the face of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-in-afghanistan-pragmatic-activism">naked instrumentalism</a> behind the feminist conversion of the Bush administration. This spawned a veritable cottage industry of critiques of feminism as imperialism (about which I shall say more below) and of the place of women’s rights as tools in this arsenal of oppression. </p> <p>One of the inadvertent consequences of these critiques, is to deligitimize the struggles of women in Afghanistan who attempt to expand their rights by whatever slender means at their disposal (including references to international conventions such as CEDAW and participating in donor-funded projects). Could they do so now without incurring the risk of being accused as abetters of imperialism? Does the fact that Western powers used the plight of Afghan women as propaganda material to drum up public support for the NATO intervention turn women into “native collaborators” when they opt to fight for their rights in the framework of international law? Or would they have been altogether better advised to keep silent or even find virtue in what the Taliban has to offer them&nbsp; -&nbsp; something that some Western commentators did in fact suggest at a point when negotiations for a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/negotiating-with-taliban-view-from-below">political settlement</a> with the Taliban were on the table. </p> <p>Such powers of dissuasion and intimidation can be overwhelming in polarized and conflict-ridden societies. This intimidation is already being perpetrated, by force of arms, by formations such as the Taliban; a Greek chorus of critics denouncing feminism as imperialism can only add to their woes and boost the propaganda arsenal of those opposing them. But why is it that women are being made to face such perverse choices?<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Beyond feminism-as-imperialism <br /></strong></p> <p>Critiques of feminism as imperialism are neither new nor the product of the War on Terror. Indeed, as early as 1984 Valerie Amos and Pratibha Parmar&nbsp; used the term “<a href="http://www.workersliberty.org/system/files/amos%20and%20parmar.pdf">imperial feminism</a>” in the British context to argue that the pretensions of white-middle class women’s movements to represent&nbsp; global “sisterhood” were based on a denial of racism (and difference) and of the more general oppression of Third World women by relations of imperial domination. Said’s <em>Orientalism</em>, published in 1978, became the foundational text for feminist post-colonial scholarship which&nbsp; has a long and distinguished pedigree. This legacy is now being built upon by Anti-Imperialist-Transnational-Feminist Studies (<a href="http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/12584/transnational-anti-imperialism-and-middle-east-wom">AITFS</a>), albeit in an intellectually messier way since anti-imperialism is sometimes made to serve as the “silver bullet” to address all oppressions. </p> <p>No one is contesting the fact that the colonial feminism perpetrated by European powers rested on the Orientalist trope of a backward and misogynistic Muslim world whose women needed liberation through the agency of an enlightened West. Indeed, this came to constitute the “original sin” of women’s movements. The entanglements of feminism with the politics of colonialism meant that women activists and early reformers were left with impossible choices. Those who sought an expansion of their rights under nominally secular post-colonial regimes were under enormous <a href="http://mil.sagepub.com/content/20/3/429.extract">pressure to conform</a> to anti-colonial nationalist priorities that singled women out as the repositories of cultural authenticity, even before resurgent Islamist tendencies got into the act of upping the stakes even further. Feminists engaging with Islam and attempting to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ziba-mir-hosseini/how-to-challenge-patriarchal-ethics-of-muslim-legal-tradition">unsettle patriarchal interpretations</a> of the Sharia were undoubtedly seeking a way out of this sterile bind. </p> <p>But, alas, far from alleviating this enduring predicament the current conjuncture has led to a further hardening of positions. &nbsp;During the long history of anti-colonial movements, from the Haitian revolution of the 1790s to the independence movements of the 1960s and ’70s in Asia and Africa, the struggles against colonialism did not rely on a wholesale repudiation of the revolutionary ideals of the West. In the polarized context of contemporary geopolitics, however, anything assumed to emanate<span> </span>from the imperial West may be considered as tainted goods by theoretical purists who denounce the products of the Enlightenment, most particularly secular humanism, as the fount of all evil.&nbsp; I followed this line of argumentation with a mild degree of intellectual curiosity at first, followed by mounting <em>ennui</em> (given the repetitive and almost formulaic nature of restatements of this position) until I got my wake-up call: never mind secular rights activists, even Muslim feminists endeavouring to find an indigenous voice for change and reform were now in the crosshairs of critics. To the extent that they fail to repudiate the principles of egalitarianism enshrined in international law- another tool of empire- could they not be similarly tainted with liberalism and, by association, imperialism? </p> <p>This logic may, of course, equally apply to <em>any</em> attempts at reform within Islam since Western powers are not only interested in, but actively, and quite ineptly, promoting the search for a so-called “moderate” Islam as a means of containing <em>jihadi </em>tendencies seen as a terrorist threat. To add yet another rhetorical question to my list, I would like to ask, again, : should the poisoned atmosphere of geopolitics permanently muzzle secular, ( or, indeed religious) dissenters in the Muslim world?&nbsp; Those voices, by the way, have always existed and been systematically persecuted.&nbsp; Let us not add to their burden. </p> <p><strong>Playing a weak hand <br /></strong></p> <p>We have now reached a disabling <em>cul-de-sac</em> that must be overcome if we wish to open up rather than constrict and constrain the spaces within which diverse feminist voices and positions can find legitimate articulation. The exchanges on imperialism and feminism featured on openDemocracy between <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-and-liberalism">Deepa Kumar</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/antis-antiimperialist-or-antifeminist-0">Meredith Tax</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/saadia-toor/second-response-to-meredith-tax-straw-men-make-poor-argument">Saadia Toor</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/ethics-of-feminist-engagement-debating-feminismasimperialism">Afiya Zia</a>, point to the urgency of transcending the parameters of&nbsp; these discussions. The protagonists - all women, all on the left, all pacifists and none inimical&nbsp; to women’s struggles for their rights - were not, in my view,&nbsp; arguing about imperialism <em>per se </em>but ultimately&nbsp; about the types of alliances feminists&nbsp; might entertain, condone or refrain from in pursuing their objectives. Even the all pervasive tensions around the secularist/Islamist dichotomy appear to me as surface phenomena&nbsp; concealing the deeper messiness of politics in countries like&nbsp; Pakistan. Here, a US- funded military has nurtured <em>jihadi </em>tendencies for its own geopolitical and domestic ends, tendencies which have destabilized the entire polity and become the target of the US War on Terror. </p> <p>Where does one even begin to draw the lines of entanglements with imperialism in such a context? With women’s NGOs benefiting from WoT funding largesse under Musharraf’s military regime? With feminists- and other groups- giving qualified support to the military for finally turning against <em>jihadi</em> groups with US assistance in the hope this may jolt the noxious nexus of Pakistani politics onto a new track? Let us face the fact that women’s rights activists are frequently thrust into impossible situations not of their own making and must muddle through, making pragmatic choices and alliances in order to play what is an extraordinarily weak hand. Because this is exactly what we are talking about; not the fiction of a powerful movement with the might of empire behind it, but the reality of&nbsp; weak and politically marginal constituencies whose meagre legal and political gains are at the mercy of political forces over which they have very little control. And whose rights, tenuous and fragile, have long been and continue to be the punching ball of male-dominated politics. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Denizimage.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Denizimage.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="379" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>It may serve us well to go back to basics and remember the words of British suffragist Rebecca West when she said&nbsp;“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”&nbsp; Let us not delude ourselves that this objective has been achieved. We do not need anything as dramatic as the IS slave markets of Mosul to remind ourselves of that fact. We only need to inject some common sense and realism into our evaluation of where women’s rights really stand when we take a broader perspective. Let us not overlook the fact that there are powerful transnational alliances cutting across continents and world religions aiming, above all, to establish the principle that matters relating to sexuality, to the control of female bodies, and to reproductive choice do not belong to the sphere of civic deliberation, public choice, or human rights but to a domain of non-negotiable morality defined by doctrinal imperatives. Such is the momentum of these platforms that the UN <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women&#039;s-rights-have-no-country">failed to pass a resolution for a Fifth World Conference on Women</a> from fear of the consequences of re-opening international agreements on women’s rights. Furthermore, this <em>kulturkampf </em>&nbsp;over the politics of gender does not readily map onto&nbsp; North / South or&nbsp; Christendom/Islam divisions.&nbsp; While some mobilize for gay rights in the US, others are busy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">bombing abortion clinics</a>.&nbsp; And it is not only in Uganda that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cassandra-balchin/ugandan-gays-and-muslim-womena-common-struggle-to-redefine-family">gays fear for their lives</a>. No region, country or religion holds a monopoly on fanaticism or plain bigotry. Nor do these positions necessarily pit men against women since there are cross-gender alliances on both sides of these arguments; this, in short, is about politics. Ultra-conservative forces, diverse as they are, are better established, better organized and better funded and many are not adverse to the use of violence. It is time to join the dots of this challenging conjuncture and creatively seek political alliances that can help to make the most of the weak hand most women’s rights movements and sexual liberties platforms have been dealt around the world.&nbsp; <strong><br /></strong></p> <p>To return to my astronomical metaphor, unless some planets rotating blindly in their set orbits are knocked off their course through our deliberate efforts and our skills at coalition building we shall unwittingly be expediting and legitimizing an eclipse of women’s rights. The principal ray of hope in this difficult landscape is that the sociological realities of many societies are running ahead of the ideologies of social control and authoritarian governance that power holders wield. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/feminismmontage.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/feminismmontage.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="122" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>A younger generation with new sensibilities-&nbsp; women and men, secular and religious, diverse in backgrounds and sexual orientation- is speaking to us with a new voice. Their demands for bread, freedom and dignity are still unmet. Let us listen with humility and open our minds to new possibilities. </p><p><em>Read more articles on 50.50's platform</em> <a href="we opened a platform on openDemocracy 50.50 to monitor and analyse the gender effects of the &#039;Arab spring&#039; and of protest movements in the Middle East more generally. ">Women and the 'Arab spring' </a><em>monitoring and analysing the gender effects of the 'Arab spring' and of protest movements in the Middle East more generally.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/has-neoliberalism-knocked-feminism-sideways">Has neoliberalism knocked feminism sideways? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/torunn-wimpelmann/problematic-protection-law-on-elimination-of-violence-against-women-in-afghan">Problematic protection: the law on Elimination of Violence against Women in Afghanistan </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/promise-and-peril-women-and-%E2%80%98arab-spring%E2%80%99">Promise and peril: women and the ‘Arab spring’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/disquiet-and-despair-gender-sub-texts-of-arab-spring">Disquiet and despair: the gender sub-texts of the &#039;Arab spring&#039; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ziba-mir-hosseini/how-to-challenge-patriarchal-ethics-of-muslim-legal-tradition">How to challenge the patriarchal ethics of Muslim legal tradition </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/andrea-cornwall/reclaiming-feminist-visions-of-empowerment">Reclaiming feminist visions of empowerment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/negotiating-with-taliban-view-from-below">Negotiating with the Taliban: the view from below</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/contesting-patriarchy-as-governance-lessons-from-youth-led-activism">Contesting patriarchy-as-governance: lessons from youth-led activism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/neoliberal-neopatriarchy-case-for-gender-revolution">Neoliberal neopatriarchy: the case for gender revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-in-afghanistan-pragmatic-activism">Gender in Afghanistan: pragmatic activism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/gender-based-censorship">Gender-based censorship </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mohammad-jawad-shahabi-torunn-wimpelmann/anti-women-gag-law-in-afghanistan-pitfalls-of-hasty-co">The anti-women gag law in Afghanistan: the pitfalls of hasty conclusions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women and power violence against women gender justice gender feminism everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Deniz Kandiyoti Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:45:33 +0000 Deniz Kandiyoti 89665 at https://opendemocracy.net The ethics of feminist engagement: discussing feminism-as-imperialism https://opendemocracy.net/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/ethics-of-feminist-engagement-discussing-feminismasimperialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The responses by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/saadia-toor/second-response-to-meredith-tax-straw-men-make-poor-argument">Saadia Toor</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-response-to-meredith-tax">Deepa Kumar</a> to Meredith Tax's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/antis-antiimperialist-or-antifeminist-0">article</a> depend on a one-dimensional and tired discussion of a collusive feminism as the continuing source of justifications for imperialism. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Exceptionalising Islamophobia</strong> </p> <p>In the wake of the ‘War on Terror’, academic and political accusations against feminism no longer emanate just from anti-feminist misogynistic sources. More than religious lobbies or conservatives, discrediting feminist politics seems to have become the curious pastime of self-identified groups of progressives who Meredith Tax <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/antis-antiimperialist-or-antifeminist-0">calls</a> the “Antis”. </p> <p>Before discussing the ethics of feminist engagement when debating such issues, I want to draw attention to a few specific points made in Toor’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/saadia-toor/second-response-to-meredith-tax-straw-men-make-poor-argument">defense</a> against Meredith Tax’s contentions about the anti-feminist strands among those who claim to be left-wing sympathisers. </p> <p>Saadia Toor’s polemic centres around her uncritical acceptance of the term and practice of ‘Islamophobia’ as some proven and permanent global condition. She objects to the fact that Tax and the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Centre-for-Secular-Space/146394662125826">Centre for Secular Space</a> (CSS) consider the focus on ‘Islamophobia’ to have displaced that of racism in Europe. The implication is that the CSS necessarily denies that religious discrimination also exists and this opens them to charges of being Islamophobes themselves. In fact, Tax discusses the toxicity of anti-Muslim policies in Europe in her own book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Double-Bind-Muslim-Anglo-American-Universal/dp/0988830302">Double Bind: The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights</a>, and the CSS made this observation based on statistical information showing that racism prevails over religious discrimination. The point was that to exceptionalise ‘Islamophobia’ deflects attention from the pervasive racist immigration policies and general attitudes of right wing European governments. </p> <p>More importantly, ‘Islamophobia’ is commonly found in scare quotes precisely because there is a debate on the usefulness of conflating the violation of an abstract religion (Islam), with that of a human rights violation (racism). Is it a human rights concern to shield a religion from being criticized, or should we be concerned about the non-figurative Muslim individual who may face discrimination on the basis of her race or of being prevented from practicing her faith? Are all Muslims discriminated against because of their faith, and therefore victims of a reductive ‘Islamophobia’, or are there more complex dynamics at work? In fact, the popular usage of the term ‘Islamophobia’ has merged religious and racial categories now, but why Toor’s mind should be easily “boggled” by this, and why she should censure those who remain sceptical about the uncritical usage of the term, is itself puzzling. </p> <p><strong>Feminist complexity</strong> </p> <p>In any case, due to her dependence on Dabashi's <a href="http://www.hamiddabashi.com/">views</a>, Toor chooses to ignore the specific instances where feminisms in Muslim contexts, such as Pakistan, have challenged and remain committed to resisting multiple sources of oppression. Katherine Allison, for instance, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17539153.2013.809265#.VKN-aM3iVdg">recognises</a> how Pakistani feminists such as “Nazish Brohi and Afiya Zia have explored the [complexity of how the] War on Terror logics extend beyond the primary protagonist, the US, and intersect with domestic contests in Pakistan over gender politics,” with far more acumen than Toor is able to. Toor is averse to referencing any formal article, essay or book written by Pakistani feminists in the post 9/11 period, and relies instead on labelling, accusations and email discussions. This allows Toor to selectively implicate some feminists in Muslim contexts as complicit with US imperialism, while exempting many who could demonstrably be shown to be directly serving US and/or, imperialist interests in mutually beneficial ways. </p> <p>Toor warns against feminists and human rights organisations for their “misplaced and dangerous” activism that “targets Muslim men”. But, feminists in Muslim contexts specifically challenge Muslim men when they are the powerful majority who take shelter behind discriminatory Islamic laws and collude with the Islamic state and its anti-secular, anti-women, anti-minority bent. </p> <p>The advice that Toor offers Tax is taken from her essay, “<a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10624-012-9279-5#page-1">Imperialist feminism redux</a>”, which argues that Muslim men should not be the focus of feminist activism because of their apparently universal, post 9/11 vulnerability. The disingenuousness of this is all too obvious when read in the light of the specific struggles against the practice of patriarchy in Muslim contexts. Islam is the divine shield and resource used with impunity that is most beneficial to Muslim men in Islamic states, and affords unaccountability - not just in the perpetration of injustices against Muslim women, but against non-Muslims across all classes. This ranges from resistance to land reforms and to unequal inheritance, as well as lesser legal and social status for women and minorities (who become easy targets of blasphemy laws and vigilantism). </p> <p>Toor’s Orwellian method of dealing with criticism is instructive in itself. She <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10624-012-9279-5#page-1">objects</a> to my riposte to her and her online-activist colleagues’ vilification of Pakistani liberals/secularists. The accusations that they are war-mongers and drone-supporters, I say, is identical to the method used by conservatives to demonise these same liberals/secularists. Instead of disproving this deeply problematic connection, Toor repeats the common and dated criticism that several of us have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/pakistan-liberals’-dilemma">already made</a> over the last decade - that there are sectors of liberals/secularists who did support General-President Musharraf, who are in favour of US assistance and aid, and some of whom condemn religious militancy but not always as a permanent and exclusive product of US imperialism. However, Toor refuses to name either these ‘sectors’ or the apparent multitudes of these liberal sell-outs. If anything is odd, it is this omission. But I will assist in addressing this oversight below. </p> <p>Even if we accept Toor’s <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10624-012-9279-5#page-1">original accusation</a>, are there only the four disparate imperialist feminists in Pakistan that she names?&nbsp; She also pretends none from the left, particularly men, and even liberal male activists, editors and other progressives were willingly co-opted by the Musharraf regime. Many of these liberal left men support anti-Taliban operations and are against political Islam, but somehow escape the charges of imperialism that Toor levels at feminists. Dabashi can say what he likes, but what stops <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/saadia-toor/second-response-to-meredith-tax-straw-men-make-poor-argument">Toor</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-response-to-meredith-tax">Kumar</a> from making the case that it is not just feminism that can be co-opted to serve imperialism but very much, if not more effectively, the spectrum of male left to right political ideologies, too? Below I will offer some helpful tips on how Toor can locate these positions in the case of Pakistan. </p> <p><strong>Selective targeting</strong> </p> <p>Most significant is the choice of exemptions that defines Toor’s own “method of madness” that she accuses Meredith Tax of deploying. For the sake of argument, let’s accept Toor’s selective definition of imperialist collaborators and even her criteria of who qualify as the pawns of a neoliberal political economy. This would mean that all those left-wing feminists who have headed and run donor-funded NGOs for decades, should stand indicted too. </p> <p>Leading feminists who have been scathingly critical of the Ngo-isation of the women’s movement, continued to run their own NGO programmes all through the Musharraf years, when Pakistan elected to be the front-line ally of the US in the War on Terror (WoT). This was the time when WoT aid flooded the development sector of Pakistan, and Musharraf’s ‘enlightened moderation’ rule attracted millions of dollars for all sorts of schemes for “women’s empowerment” from which many benefited. There was hardly an NGO that didn’t cash in on the bullish market on gender and development in those days. This was also the time that a handful amongst us refused to engage with any institution or programme related to the military regime. But many left-wing feminists and men took no such rejectionist stance, and some even went on to become directors of American and multi-donor aid agencies. (Toor may want to check the records of her colleagues in the anti-imperialist left party she associates herself with). </p> <p>Many of these feminists/activists also participated in the Musharraf government’s plans of action, prepared reports, cooperated with the national commission, and some represented the Pakistan government at international meetings. Several even accepted national awards, while nearly all engaged with the local and national elections. </p> <p>Practically all the NGOs headed by these feminists were involved in the 2002 electoral process under Gen Musharraf’s presidency. Admittedly, this politicised and empowered thousands of women, but it also legitimised the military regime and reinforced something called “controlled democracy”. Still, it seems those of us who remained aloof and criticised it from the margins out of some misguided principle that this would bolster the military regime, weaken democracy and tarnish feminist goals, deserve opprobrious accusations, while others are exonerated and exempted from their guilt by association, which is only reserved for a few feminists. </p> <p>If one is to follow Toor’s very tenuous logic of guilt-by-association, does this historical lapse not make them, her, and the parties on the left, guilty of the same imperialist culpability? Who decides on the boundaries and associations of such imperialist collusion?&nbsp; </p> <p>Is it possible that Toor suffers from the same “politically expedited historical amnesia” that she cites from Dabashi and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/saadia-toor/second-response-to-meredith-tax-straw-men-make-poor-argument">attempts to pin</a> on Meredith Tax? Since many or most of the feminists mentioned above belong to the Punjabi elite, Toor may have personal reasons for not discussing NGO-led feminist imperialism. This is unfortunate, because it would have been a concrete example of her claimed commitment to expose the links between the political economy and imperialist feminism. </p> <p>It would have made it easier for Toor to make her case too, because many of these left-wing feminists are also members of <a href="http://www.wluml.org/contact/wrrc/content/womens-action-forum-waf">Women’s Action Forum</a> (WAF). They have also doggedly and tirelessly campaigned against Islamist politics and the same Muslim men that Toor defends as unjustified targets of imperialist feminist politics. These feminists have been vocal and unrelenting in their anti-mullah views and anti-Sharia political campaigns. WAF is a non-funded pressure group, but many members in other capacities have also been steadily funded by the imperialist West for their opposition to Islamic laws - such as the Hudood Ordinances - and for their resistance to Islamist politics for decades now. Many of these feminists and left-wing men are unarguably, the gatekeepers of the bulk of foreign funding of neoliberal development projects for Pakistan. </p> <p>This is precisely the kind of deflection found in the left blame-game against feminism that Meredith Tax has criticised in her analysis of the “Antis”. If every response to such critique is that ‘we’ raise real issues (by using the words “political economy” but not discussing a single instance of its workings in relation to the thesis advanced) and ‘they’ raise “strawmen”, then a debate is bound to collapse into the personalised kind that Toor has resorted to in her original article, and in response to Meredith Tax’s criticism. </p> <p><strong>Methods beyond madness</strong> </p> <p>Tax’s article commented on the pattern of “Anti” arguments carried in an <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10624-012-9279-5#page-1">academic journal</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-and-liberalism">online magazine</a> by Toor and Kumar, respectively. My own <a href="http://new.livestream.com/SarahLawrence/re-envisioningpakistan">views</a> have been presented elsewhere and do not have to be rehearsed again.&nbsp; However, the Tax, Toor and Kumar exchanges are to my mind, an opportunity to talk about another aspect of this debate: the methodology and ethics of critical exchanges on feminist politics. Toor could not expect that her competitive effort to tarnish some feminists, in order to justify her own political positioning, would not evoke a response. The two methodological concerns are first, the selectivity and process of accusatory evidence through which Toor makes her case against a loosely defined imperialist feminism, and the ethics of the usage of sources and new forums where feminist exchanges are taking place. </p> <p>In her original <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10624-012-9279-5#page-1">article</a>, Toor named a select few Pakistani feminists as aiders and abetters of imperialism. Ergo, by association this was presented as proof of imperialist feminism in action, and by implication made into an overarching reason why the ‘War on Terror’ thrived in Pakistan. </p> <p>This tactic of selectivity and compartmentalisation is not unusual for the collective of self-identified ‘scholar-activists’ (a problematic identity-assemblage in itself) who depend on labelling and delegitimising some independent activists as ‘liberals’ and ‘native informants’, so as to claim their own identities as unimpeachably radical. Most of the activism of such scholars (students, in most cases, who are ‘active’ by way of the research they conduct for their PhDs) is dependent on cyber exchanges and web politics. </p> <p>Since I don’t subscribe to social media, I can only cite some cut-and-paste versions of such tweets and facebook exchanges sent to me by those who are themselves on the circuit of the Toor collective. There seem to be no codes of confidentiality on this social media instrument precisely because it’s ‘social’, not private. Historically, I have been only amused and sociologically intrigued by what has been shared with me, but would never think to reference them, mainly because I find the forum and content to be by definition social-lite, rather than academic or political. From what I gather, it is often anti-intellectual, and to some, an impoverished form of ego-tripping. </p> <p>However, Toor has opened up this grey area in her formal riposte to Tax, by referencing correspondence from an email list-server of the Socialist Pakistan Network (SPN). This is not ‘publicly accessible’, as Toor claims to justify the source, but in fact requires subscription for access. Since she’s presumably more authoritative on the responsibility and ethics of such practice, I feel it’s safe now to bring such informal correspondence and personalised commentary and opinions into play here.<span> <br /></span></p> <p>In some of these social media discussions, Toor has chosen to ignore the content specific arguments or detailed points in my articles that have been critical of her and her colleagues’ works. Instead, she and her male colleagues discuss how they have enjoyed the annoyed reaction of Pakistani feminists to the article in which she accuses them of being imperialist feminists. </p> <p>There are other sexist comments available on social media by the male colleagues of Toor who comment routinely on articles I have authored over how “ ‘she’s’ at it again”. They also take pride about getting their male friends to gang respond to certain articles, on twitter and facebook. In particular, Toor’s online response to a <a href="http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-254215-Beyond-sound-and-fury">published critique</a> that I had authored, of a conference attended by her and her colleagues, was outright offensive. </p> <p>Apparently, to write repeatedly and ad nauseam against ‘liberalism’ and liberals is justifiable, heroic even, but to critique these views, articles and texts with specific references, and to challenge the fallacies of these or of Islamist politics, is to be “obsessed”. Some fashionable topics - on Islamist subjectivity and criticism of liberal-secularism - are apparently fire-walled from any criticism or engagement. </p> <p><strong>Who qualifies as a liberal collaborator?</strong> </p> <p>Specifically, with reference to the online debate that Toor cites as proof of (what she diagnoses as) my paradoxical ‘liberal collaboration with authoritarianism’, the method of proving her case is instructive. The debate she references in her openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/sceptical-silence-pakistan’s-operation-in-north-waziristan">article</a> is on the ‘Zarb e Azb’ military operation in Pakistan’s tribal areas against the Taliban in the summer of 2014. Toor refers to the SPN online debate on this operation in order to selectively reproach me as the “endorser” of the Pakistan military. This is based on the fact that I am a member of Women’s Action Forum (WAF), which had issued a statement in support of the operation. As I understand it, this was a consensus position that emerged from a joint forum which included other organisations and members of the left in Karachi. </p> <p>With ahistoric imprecision, Toor singles me out as a member in order to indict the left-leaning, secular women’s rights group, WAF, for being a liberal colluder of authoritarianism. The accusation somehow does not apply to the other male-led organisations who signed the statement endorsing the Zarb e Azb. This is a familiar pattern also seen in Toor’s essay on “<a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10624-012-9279-5#page-1">Imperialist feminism redux</a>” where she equates prominent Pakistani activists Asma Jahangir and Hina Jillani, to ‘Rushdie type liberal hawks’, and myself as a third-world token woman member who lends “authenticity” as advisory member to the Centre for Secular Space. By contrast, Toor’s appointment at an American university is fully deserved and independent of her race, religion and colour, while respectful of her ‘radical’ political posturing. </p> <p>What Toor deliberately fails to mention in her haste to indict WAF members of being war-mongers - their historical struggle against military regimes aside - is that the WAF position on Zarbe Azb categorically stated that: </p> <p>“WAF is mindful that the state has had an ambiguous unwillingness to confront its 'assets' in the jihadists whether they are in FATA or South Punjab. It is in support of the political decision to confront these forces through the current operation that WAF supports it because it believes this may finally lead to a severance of military patronage of terrorists.” &nbsp; </p> <p>Further, if Toor had chosen to, she would have found a fairly large amount of critical positions on the military establishment in independent articles authored by myself, as well as by WAF, over the last decade. And those <em>are</em> publicly accessible. By referring to those sources she would have been able to cite the sustained and repeated criticism and opposition to the Pakistan military establishment, its jihadist nexus and the Musharraf regime. Along the way, she may even have happened upon some of the activism and political resistance of WAF members, including Asma Jahangir, Hina Jillani and myself. In particular, our distancing, non-cooperation, resistance and activism against the Musharraf regime right from 12 Oct 1999 may have helped her to contrast this stance with that of her colleagues and some left-affiliated feminists who worked in donor agencies and NGOs, and who were certainly direct beneficiaries of the unprecedented aid that poured into Pakistan under the 'War on Terror' rubric.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>The shaky moral perch of the Left</strong><span> <br /></span></p> <p>Here’s the most interesting feature and evidence of Toor’s selectivity. While citing the debate on Zarb e Azb on the SPN network and slating all NGO and WAF positions, she chooses to omit mention of her own political position, and the confusion and chaos that her cohort within the left Awami Workers Party (<a href="http://www.wp-pk.org/">AWP</a>) created on the same issue, and which played itself out on the same list server. </p> <p>In defiance of the original statement by the AWP which supported the military operation, Toor’s cohort (that associates itself with the AWP) issued a contradictory statement that “unconditionally opposed” the Zarbe Azb operation. Interestingly, this was not endorsed by the leadership or by many of her senior colleagues, but mostly by a younger generation whom she mentors. When I asked those who did sign the Toor et. al, ”opposing statement” which rejected all military operations unconditionally, some confessed they had done so purely out of “solidarity rather than conviction.” Others admitted that they supported military action under “certain circumstances” and they just weren’t sure how and when these would be opportune. </p> <p>Unlike Toor, I think it serves no ethical purpose to ‘out’ these members on the basis of email exchanges, and just to make a case that this left party is no more moral, righteous, ideologically consistent or radical as they imagine themselves. The intent was clear from the start, when Toor, Tahir and others sent out e-mails pressing individuals and organisations in mocking tone and language asking what their personal/political positions were on the Zarb e Azb, and then defended the exercise as “fact-finding.” If this is the result of such journalistic ethics, progressive politics is in even deeper trouble in Pakistan than we thought. </p> <p>Subsequently, the leadership of the AWP retracted this dissenting and oppositional position (which, it was noted, was closer to the conservative position of the Imran Khan-led opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, or read as an invitation to an IS-like situation in Pakistan). Toor accuses WAF of cheering on, or at best supporting Pakistan’s military with “pinched noses”, but doesn’t mention that it was with the same “pinched noses” that the AWP also supported Zarbe Azb with the acknowledgement that the role of the military is to defend the state from terrorists committed to defying its constitution, killing its citizens (including those in tribal areas) and attacking its institutions. Reportedly, the AWP central committee took disciplinary action against those who made the non-consensual move to circulate a counter-position. </p> <p>Paradoxically, the same military that Toor implies should not be carrying out any operations, and should, presumably, be totally disbanded because <a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1153146/barbarism-and-us">terrorism is a “dead horse”</a>, is simultaneously called upon by her colleagues, to conduct operations to dismantle state-sponsored jihadist outfits in Punjab. More recently, this cohort has taken the surreal position that ‘<a href="http://www.tanqeed.org/2014/12/the-peshawar-tragedy-a-tanqeed-statement/">we should not be looking to the state for resolving problems that it created</a>’, but then goes on to pledge support for other liberal activists who are <a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1151858">lobbying against</a> the ‘Taliban sympathisers’ in the Laal Masjid (a state owned mosque), and who are demanding that the state should arrest the clerics who run it, and are asking the state to reclaim such properties to prevent mosque-based hate-incitement. Such confusion and backtracking is common currency in the positions of such ‘radicals’. </p> <p><strong>Feminists are not dupes</strong> </p> <p>In many ways, what Toor has done inadvertently is to open up the internal challenges and generational and even locational differences that political organisations of the Left and feminists face. The WAF <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2005/07/01/pakistan-between-mosque-and-military/">statement</a> on military operations was clear in its historical opposition to military dictatorships and regimes, particularly on the military’s adventures in the name of jihad. Toor deliberately erases the complexity of feminist arguments reflected in the WAF position when it stated that: </p> <p>“WAF is also completely open to alternative recommendations that other progressive forces may have to make in the light of this military operation. Perhaps those who claim they are anti-war under all circumstances could advise WAF and other liberal civil society members of what their proposals are for the terrorists’ war waged against innocent working-class victims. As long as these are not vague, fence-sitting and hollow 'anti-war' slogans only, WAF would be happy to incorporate those into its own position as stated above. Otherwise we end up endorsing the army's own historical ambivalence over fighting our Taliban brothers which many believe, prevented resolution of the conflict a long time ago. Simply asking for transparency is not a position on whether a military operation is needed or not." </p> <p>Toor’s original attacks on feminist politics in Pakistan and selective myopia continue to inform her arguments against just the national security state as misogynistic, while advising silence on the internal hegemonic challenge of virile Islamist politics pitted against women, minorities and working class men, because according to her that would amount to ‘Islamophobia’. Consequently, Toor simply confirms the very essence of Tax’s warnings about the anti-imperialist mask that shields the anti-feminist implications of such arguments. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/antis-antiimperialist-or-antifeminist-0">The Antis: anti-imperialist or anti-feminist?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/triple-whammy-towards-eclipse-of-women%E2%80%99s-rights">The triple whammy: towards the eclipse of women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-and-liberalism">Imperialist feminism and liberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/saadia-toor/second-response-to-meredith-tax-straw-men-make-poor-argument">A second response to Meredith Tax - straw men make poor argument</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-response-to-meredith-tax">Imperialist feminism: a response to Meredith Tax</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/unpacking-idea-of-%E2%80%9Cislamophobia%E2%80%9D-0">Unpacking the idea of “Islamophobia”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women and power patriarchy gender fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Afiya Shehrbano Zia Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:43:27 +0000 Afiya Shehrbano Zia 89677 at https://opendemocracy.net Black deaths: still fighting for justice in the UK https://opendemocracy.net/5050/amrit-wilson/black-deaths-still-fighting-for-justice-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ken Fero's award-winning films about black deaths at the hands of the police in Britain record the continuing struggle to get justice. They have never been broadcast in the UK. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the last few weeks of 2014, I joined thousands of people in London to demonstrate in solidarity with Mike Brown's family and the protesters in Ferguson. On one occasion outside the US embassy, Carole Duggan, aunt of Mark Duggan, whose shooting by the police was a trigger for the 2011 riots across England, addressed us 'We know what it feels like' she said 'to know that a member of your family has been murdered in cold blood. That is why we stand in solidarity with the community in Ferguson'. Another speaker Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, a musician who died in 2008 after being arrested and 'restrained' by police in south London&nbsp; <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/26/ferguson-grand-jury-decision-protest-us-embassy-london">said</a>&nbsp; “What are they supposed to do? We try to go peacefully, just ask for the truth but all we keep getting is lies.” </p> <p>The anger and pain that day were palpable, not only in solidarity with Ferguson but in remembrance of those who have been killed in Britain at the hands of the police, prison officers, and private guards employed by the immigration service. Some of their names are fairly widely known - <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/celldeaths/article/0,2763,195387,00.html">Joy Gardner</a> in 1993, <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/jury-applauded-for-critical-inquest-verdict/">Sean Rigg</a> in 2008, <a href="http://justice4paps.wordpress.com/">Habib (Paps) Ullah</a> in (2008), <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/justice-blindfolded-the-case-of-jimmy-mubenga/">Jimmy Mubenga</a> in 2010 and <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-spotlight-is-back-on-black-deaths-at-the-hands-of-police/">Mark Duggan</a> in 2011. Others have not been mentioned by the mainstream media, they will not be remembered by British society but their deaths remain a testimony to the kind of country we live in. </p> <p>The numbers speak for themselves- in 2014 alone there were some 231 <a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/statistics/deaths-in-prison">deaths in prison</a>, <a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/statistics/deaths-of-immigration-detainees">immigration</a> and <a href="http://www.inquest.org.uk/statistics/deaths-in-police-custody">police custody</a> and in other contact with the police. </p> <p>What is it like to lose a loved one in these circumstances? How far is it possible to get justice from the complex and baffling apparatus which is the Criminal Justice System (CJS)? What is the alternative? These are the themes and questions addressed by Ken Fero's <a href="http://vimeo.com/34633260">five films</a> about Black deaths at the hands of the police in Britain. Made over the last three decades, each with the same intense empathy with the Black working class families who are fighting for justice, they tell of a continuing struggle uniquely relevant to the future. The most well-known, <em>Injustice</em> ( 2001), which Fero co-directed with writer Tariq Mehmood&nbsp; traces the struggles of the families of Joy Gardner, Ibrahim Sey, Brian Douglas, Shiji Lapite and Wayne Douglas who died at the hands of the police between July 1993 and December 1995. </p> <p>Despite winning international awards and being shown on television in South Africa, New Zealand, Greece, Iran and on cable channels in the US, not one of Fero's films has ever been shown on the BBC or Channel 4. He told me, 'Injustice has been screened&nbsp; internationally. In the UK it has been shown in cinemas across the country and by the British Film Institute,&nbsp; but UK broadcasters&nbsp; refused to take the risk of libel action as the police are accused of murder. The BBC negotiated for two years about showing it and then claimed it was out of date'.&nbsp; </p> <p>The films demonstrate stark parallels with the US. Shiji Lapite was walking home from a restaurant in East London when he was grabbed by the neck and brought to the ground by three police officers for 'behaving suspiciously'. The neck hold (or choke hold in American usage) continued with all three officers on the ground and Shiji face down or on his side. The post mortem on his body revealed 'crushed bones at the front of the neck'. </p> <p>Ibrahim Sey, was celebrating the birth of his daughter at home when he appeared to have a mental breakdown. His wife called the police assuming that they would take him to hospital. They took him instead to Ilford police station where he was thrown to the ground&nbsp; and sprayed with CS gas at close quarters. He was placed face down by four police officers who kept him 'restrained' for 15 minutes. Eventually,&nbsp; noticing that he was not breathing, one of them called an ambulance. When it arrived Ibrahim was dead - still in handcuffs and face down. As his cousin Kura Jagne Njie says, in <em>Injustice</em>, 'They treated him like an animal. He was nothing... He wasn't worth it...another piece of meat to them.'&nbsp; </p> <p>In the case of Joy Gardner, the suffocation was by other horrific means. Early one morning five policemen and women burst into her&nbsp; home. They claimed she had overstayed her visa. She was thrown to the ground and forced face down on the floor in front of her five year old son Graeme. Then sitting on her body, they bound her hands to her side with a leather belt, strapped her legs together, shackled her feet and wound thirteen yards of surgical tape round her head to gag her. <em>Injustice</em> shows her mother, the indefatigable Myrna Simpson, unable to hold back her tears as she speaks at a public meeting. 'It has been a long struggle', she says, 'it has been a lot of pain for me and my family and for Graeme...Sometimes I break down in court. I couldn't take in what I was listening to. I couldn't believe that human beings could be so cruel to another human being. You don't know how much I cry. My tears will catch them.'&nbsp; </p> <p>In Britain as in the US, racist stereotypes are used to justify murder. While Mike Brown was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/ferguson-decision-officer-darren-wilson-describes-michael-brown-as-like-hulk-hogan-and-a-demon-in-published-testimony-9881464.html">described</a> as 'like Hulk Hogan' and a 'demon', Jimmy Mubenga was <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/01/jimmy-mubenga-case-guard-not-remember-i-cant-breathe-shouts">described</a> by G4S officers recently as 'extremely strong', Shiji who was five foot ten and of medium build was <a href="http://vimeo.com/34633260">described</a> as 'the biggest, strongest most violent black man'&nbsp; and Joy Gardner the 'most violent woman' they had ever encountered. </p> <p>Not one of the families in Fero's films achieved justice despite negotiating every difficult step of the Criminal Justice System. Even verdicts of unlawful killing by juries in the cases of Shiji and Ibrahim did not lead to police officers being jailed. Faced with incontrovertible evidence, as Francis Webber <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/justice-blindfolded-the-case-of-jimmy-mubenga/">noted</a> recently, inquest juries have delivered at least nine verdicts of unlawful killing in the last twenty five years, but no police officer has ever been convicted of homicide.&nbsp; As Fero and Mehmood say in their <a href="http://www.injusticefilm.co.uk/screeninginjustice.html">Director's Statement </a>&nbsp;for <em>Injustice</em>, the message is that &nbsp;'in the UK, police officers can kill, safe in the knowledge that they will not be prosecuted for their actions, even if they are found by a jury to have been unlawfully killed'.&nbsp; </p> <p>Gradually the families realise that justice under the law is a mirage and <em>Injustice</em> shows their attitudes changing. Brian Douglas' sister, Brenda Weinberg, says bitterly, "I can't grieve, I can't put Brian to rest ever if I know someone's walking around out there responsible for his death and they haven't been brought to justice. The only thing that does happen is that as the time gets longer it's any justice. It can be legal justice or street justice. I don't really care anymore." </p> <p>In <em>Burn</em> (2014), his latest film, Fero once again collaborates with Mehmood. The film looks at&nbsp; the riots which followed Mark Duggan's death and explores the theme of&nbsp; collective memory. As always in Fero's films the main protagonists are working class. They include the families of four people who lost their lives at the hands of the police - Joy Gardner, Cynthia Jarrett, Roger Sylvester and Mark Duggan - who all live in a 3 mile radius of each other in the London Borough of Haringey. Interspersed with these voices, and highlighting them, are Ken Fero's own poems. </p> <p>Stafford Scott of Tottenham Rights Centre traces the thread of collective memory, 'Seven and eight year olds hear Mark Duggan's name and want to know more...they are going to grow up and be stopped by police officers on the street.... they don't need to be stopped and searched a hundred times... It needs to happen once or twice, a bad encounter. All they need is something that reaffirms the community's experience and then it becomes their experience and it runs deep.' </p> <p>Speaking of the riots, Minkah Adofo, of the United Families and Friends Campaign&nbsp; (a coalition of those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody set up in 1999) says, 'Even though we may have a temporary respite, as long as the issue of justice is not being addressed then you can expect to see more fires'. </p> <p>The community's&nbsp; view of the riots is counterposed with that of the police. Chief Superintendent Colin Morgan, for example, says that the police must learn to monitor social media even more 'If there is a significant incident, where people are aggrieved, possibly with the police... we must stay ahead of that use our own intelligence and be able to mobilise resources'. He is unable to see any cause for the 2011 riots 'What I saw was opportunism, criminality ...I struggled with what I saw to link it to any form of rebellion'.</p> <p>While police officers like Morgan may appear, on the face of it, very different from their American counterparts, there are clearly enormous similarities - a subject of discussion at next week's <a href="http://fergusonsolidaritytour.com/">Ferguson Solidarity Tour</a> which is coming to London from the US. The main difference seems to be that the use of guns in Britain is less frequent. The use of Tasers, which, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/02/guns-tasers-kill-black-people-us-ferguson-uk-review">according</a> to the UN Committee against Torture, are as lethal as firearms is on the increase. In the last two months of 2014 alone two people <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/22/man-dies-shot-taser-ipcc-police-staffordshire-suspected-burglary">died</a> after being tasered.&nbsp;</p> <p>How do people in the US react to Fero's films? He tells me about a screening of&nbsp; <em>Injustice</em> for the families of&nbsp; those killed by the police in Los Angeles, 'They were shocked!', he says,&nbsp; 'they said,&nbsp; in America, when the police kill people it is usually by shooting them. It is systematic and clinical. They were shocked by the level of sustained physical brutality in Britain'.</p> <p>As <em>Burn</em> indicates, and history demonstrates, riots&nbsp; are used by the state to increase coercion. After the 1981 riots, for example, Thatcher considered arming the police but settled on <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16313781">new equipment</a> and new tactics like <a href="http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/police/docs/mcveigh.htm">'saturation policing'</a> which had been developed in Northern Ireland.&nbsp; </p> <p>One is left wondering what form increased coercion will take in this neoliberal era. With Cameron's promised cuts in police numbers accompanied by the use of rapid response units&nbsp; greater use of privatised forces is likely, which, in the light of G4S and Serco's record will make things worse. These forces and the police themselves, like their <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/how-americas-police-became-army-1033-program-264537">counterparts in the US</a>, may well use military hardware and tactics from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. </p> <p><em>Burn</em> makes it clear that what we are facing is not just a crisis in relations between the state and the Black communities. As Minkah Adofo says, near the end of the film 'This is a crisis of democracy...How we as a society are going to be governed - are we going to be governed by just these elites and these lawless police? Or are we going to be governed by the people? With that understanding we can build up a base of resistance'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/deaths-in-british-police-custody-no-convicted-officers-since-1969">Deaths in British police custody: no convicted officers since 1969</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/suresh-grover/black-justice-campaigns-prepare-for-new-inquiry-into-undercover-policing">Black justice campaigns prepare for new inquiry into undercover policing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/lonely-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">The lonely death of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/jon-burnett/violence-of-denial">The violence of denial</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/rebecca-omoniraoyekanmi/black-and-dangerous-listening-to-patients%E2%80%99-experiences-of-mental-">Black and dangerous? Listening to patients’ experiences of mental health services in London</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/frances-webber/justice-blindfolded-case-of-jimmy-mubenga">Justice blindfolded? The case of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-bludgeoned-woman-to-death">G4S guard bludgeoned woman to death</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/colin-yeo/deaths-in-detention-and-britains-legal-duties-towards-vulnerable-detainees">Deaths in detention, and Britain&#039;s legal duties towards vulnerable detainees</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openSecurity UK Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Amrit Wilson Racism and discrimination Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:45:43 +0000 Amrit Wilson 89541 at https://opendemocracy.net A Health Service for all, free at the point of need https://opendemocracy.net/5050/liz-peretz/health-service-for-all-free-at-point-of-need <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we re-nationalise the NHS, Britain should redesign it as it was meant to be – without the compromises accepted in 1946.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/K9uu_gbTdXWLG5xs7ayU_TxmoGvIUZh9JsInO8nbj7c/mtime:1420836657/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/2226417.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="65th birthday of NHS in London (Photo: Velar Grant)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/TOoScvzyNNutjSeJ3dbFf1L2Vx3hoPl3x-Jvdn3Umno/mtime:1420825379/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/2226417.jpg" alt="" title="65th birthday of NHS in London (Photo: Velar Grant)" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>65th birthday of NHS in London (Photo: Velar Grant)</span></span></span>In 1946, following on from negotiations with the professions and others we would now call ‘stakeholders’, the Act to establish a national health service was finally passed.</p> <p>It was a hard won achievement and full of compromises. But it has served the United Kingdom well over its history and is still providing better health outcomes at lower cost than other equivalent countries. It has given people peace of mind while, in the US, health costs are people's greatest financial worry.</p> <p>With increasing privatisation of health services, we are having to fight to keep our NHS. Cartoonists portray it as a <a href="http://www.pharmafile.com/news/bma-hits-out-nhs-commercialisation">building riddled with cracks</a>, fought over by the global private sector giants in healthcare. Allyson Pollock’s excellent <a href="http://www.nhsbill2015.org/">Reinstatement Bill</a> undoes a lot of the damage.&nbsp;But it is worth revisiting the initial compromises to see how we could make the NHS even better.</p> <p>To get the original NHS Bill through parliament, Labour's health minister, Aneurin Bevan, adjusted his design to address the objections of medical professionals. </p> <p><strong>The separation of health and social care</strong></p> <p>The first compromise saw local authority services separate from health services, despite opposition from within the Labour Party. Bevan argued that if health services were planned and run by local government, inequalities would remain. So planning would need to be central and management health specific. Home helps, homes for the elderly, and environmental health came under local councils and could be means-tested. District nursing and midwifery moved to the NHS. This opened a split which has been problematic ever since.</p> <p>As Pollock shows, this allowed successive governments to shunt costs by redefining needs of people with chronic conditions as ‘social care’ rather than ‘health’ related. Costs and care were covered by people and their families and friends. Over the last decades of the twentieth century, ‘health’ procedures were increasingly labelled as ‘social care’. Long-stay wards in hospitals closed. Gradually, families had to pay for more procedures with a decline in those free at the point of access. Now many nursing functions happen in residential homes. Disagreements between the NHS and local authorities have led to a series of panels being set up at great expense to make case decisions, and have led to a mushrooming of court cases which centre around the question of <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/NHS-Plc-Privatisation-Health-Care/dp/1844675394">‘who pays’</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Parliamentarians should now address this particular fault line by making health and social care both ‘free at the point of need’. The cost of means testing, together with court and panel costs, would go a long way to funding such a sensible decision.</p> <p><strong>Private practice within the NHS</strong></p> <p>The second compromise in the original Act concerned NHS hospitals. Free hospital care was opposed by a powerful professional lobby. Doctors campaigned hard to keep their private practice. Compromises were struck. Specialists agreed to work for the new NHS providing they were allowed to keep a proportion of their time for their own private practice, which could take place in the NHS hospital. At the time, this seemed like a corner of the old system coexisting with the new. As time went on, however, it became the curious system we have today. If there's a waiting list, the consultant's secretary can suggest an appointment as a private patient where the patient can be treated right away in an NHS or private hospital. In an emergency the patient can be referred back through A&amp;E to the NHS. Private practice and private hospitals flourish at minimum risk or cost to the private practitioner. Doctors, nurses and other staff are trained by the NHS and when things go wrong the NHS picks up the bill.</p> <p>As a result, the system still contains the kind of inequalities it was set up to get rid of. This fault line, built into the system from the beginning but increasing in severity with limited NHS funding, has resulted in exactly what the NHS was set up to stop – comprehensive health care is not open equally to all. The treatments which cash-strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are denying their NHS patients are given by NHS-trained consultants and surgeons in their private consulting rooms to those who can pay.&nbsp; Leaving the poorer families in the population to cope with a reduced quality of life has a vast impact on our communities, as more people struggle with varicose veins, hernias, and other non-life threatening but none the less debilitating conditions for the remainder of their lives.</p> <p><strong>GPs, public health, local authorities: the disjuncture</strong></p> <p>The third compromise, built in from the beginning, was the disjuncture between public health, GP practices, and local authorities. Public health was left to grow in whatever way it could in the district health authorities. In 1946 the medical health officers with responsibility for epidemics, preventive health, community nursing, emergency dental treatment and ophthalmology were removed from the local authorities and put under district and regional bodies. GPs were paid under contract for their practice in single-handed surgeries or clinics with several doctors. All these other functions were managed outside GP practices. The effects were immediate with long-term consequences. Public health campaigns could no longer rely on the local democratic process to make them work while drainage, clean water, and decent housing were not in the same organisation as the public health departments. Teams were forced to work across boundaries, which <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-NHS-After-60-Patients/dp/1904750303">made working together difficult</a>.</p> <p>Local authorities increasingly took the attitude that health was not their concern, so when budgets were set, health was down the list. Hospitals increasingly dealt with budget problems by putting the bar higher, making ‘health services’ distinct from something they called ‘social’ services, thus shedding responsibility for all kinds of problems that could not be resolved by surgical or pharmacological interventions. Health budgets were protected for more and more complex medical interventions, which became more and more costly. In the meantime, those public health, preventative services which had grown up in the 1930s to reduce ill health through early intervention, such as education, exercise, campaigns for healthy eating, good infant care, to name a few, were dislocated from everything else.</p> <p>The moving of the deckchairs around this three-way disjointed system has now, through the link to Clinical Commissioning Groups, reunited health with the local authorities and to some extent with the GP surgeries. However this does not extend to hospitals, which now are mainly ‘foundation trusts’, the health equivalent of the school ‘<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_%28English_school%29">academies</a>’, in that they are competitive and required to manage their own budgets even if this means selling services on the open market. GPs, as ‘gateways’ to the rest of the health system, still have to refer to different agencies for their patients’ care, routinely to the local authority for ‘social’ care, the hospital for expert intervention, community nursing or midwifery for health needs at home, and (rarely) to the public health teams for healthy living, local walks, or gardening clubs. </p> <p><strong>The solution to fragmentation</strong></p> <p>What is the solution? All political parties toy with what they call integration of health and social care. They can see the waste of money and energy in the panel squabbles over ‘hospital discharge’ and which branch of the service pays for changing bandages or delivering and administering medicines. They can appreciate the sense of no gaps, no duplication, one point of access for the family. But this is hardly more than lip service at a time when the fragmentation of all health and social care is a growing reality. They may all have ‘NHS’ or ‘City Council’ on the logo, but more and more services are provided by private profit-motivated firms who deliver the medicines, do the diagnostics, provide the beds, do the cleaning, and make the instruments. The list of fragmentations seems endless.</p> <p>Allyson Pollock’s Bill suggests we want to stop this accelerating privatisation. But we also want to reunite our ‘health’ and ‘social’, our community, GP and hospital services in a sound way, without means tests or payment at the point of need, in a way that really would deliver an equal health system to the whole population. If private medicine remains at all it should be clear that it runs outside our own NHS, and that training and emergencies cannot conveniently be obtained for the private sector free of charge from the NHS – they should be paid for. And the democratic principle could easily be reinstated through our organs of local government having a real place, with the professionals, in the design and management of our services.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/greg-dropkin-karen-reissman/healthcare-in-britain-first-they-came-for-immigrants">Healthcare in Britain - first they came for the immigrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/colin-leys/liberalism-media-and-nhs">Liberalism, the media and the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/juan-camilo/migrants-fairness-and-nhs">Migrants, &quot;fairness&quot; and the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kagbe-rachel/wasted-lives-why-do-chadian-women-still-die-in-childbirth">Wasted lives: why do Chadian women still die in childbirth?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-austerity-sounds-like-backlash-gender-and-economic-crisis">When austerity sounds like backlash: gender and the economic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/samir-jeraj/gender-mental-health-and-intersectionality">Gender, mental health, and intersectionality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's health 50.50 newsletter Liz Peretz Tue, 13 Jan 2015 09:45:33 +0000 Liz Peretz 89444 at https://opendemocracy.net Ched Evans: football in the eye of a perfect storm https://opendemocracy.net/5050/beatrix-campbell/ched-evans-football-in-eye-of-perfect-storm <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This feels like the first time that sex and violence, football, capitalism and democracy have crashed into each other in a perfect storm.&nbsp;Has the Ched Evans debacle not only shamed UK football, but changed it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At the beginning of 2015 the Professional Footballers Association, the Football Association, and Oldham Athletic found themselves in a conversation they never wanted to have: how would they address the misogyny that swirled around football culture in Britain? If they could challenge racism - and they have -&nbsp; why not sexism? </p> <p>After weeks of ‘will they, won’t they’ take on Ched Evans, Oldham Athletic Football Club finally decided not to employ him. ‘Mob rule,’ he protested. Ched Evans had been released from prison in October 2014 after serving half of a five-year sentence for raping a young woman so drunk that, <a href="https://www.crimeline.info/uploads/cases/2012ewcacrim2559.pdf">according to the judge</a>, he must have known that she could not consent. </p> <p>He is out on license, and will remain on the Sex Offender Register for a minimum of 15 years. Meanwhile his victim has been forced to change her name and move home several times after being illegally named by his website. </p> <p>When Oldham Athletic’s sponsors threatened to withdraw, Evans’ prospective father in law, millionaire businessman Karl Massey, promised to plug the financial holes.&nbsp; </p> <p>If Oldham Athletic could ignore the ethics of rape, it could not withstand the economy of football. For a decade the ailing club’s future had depended upon investors motivated less by the sport than by property speculation. However, the club depended not only private capital and sponsors (some of whom had pulled out), but on a regeneration deal with Oldham City Council, and the council didn’t want a remorseless player convicted of rape.&nbsp; </p> <p>Oldham Athletic had been forewarned: when Sheffield United contemplated taking Evans back, it was forced to changed its mind after a <a href="http://change.org" target="_blank">change.org</a> petition attracted 169,000 signatures, the public support of local Olympian Jessica Ennis Hill, and club patron and TV presenter Charlier Webster, Lib-Dem party leader Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband. Latterly Prime Minister David Cameron and two Police and Crime Commissioners, Vera Baird and Tony Lloyd, pitched in.&nbsp; </p> <p>Not for the first time football is a space in which some big stuff gets aired. Not for the first time a rape story has thrown light upon a larger landscape than a dark alley. But this feels like the first time that sex and violence, football, capitalism and democracy have crashed into each other in a perfect storm.&nbsp; </p> <p>Football has constituted itself as the premier expression of national, popular culture. It captures more pages in our national newspapers than any other issue. More than the BBC, the NHS, the monarchy, politics, football is minted as the currency of national treasure.&nbsp; </p> <p>Football institutions recklessly blethered about rape and Evans’ conviction without bothering to check the facts about either. Football fans were revealed as more heterogeneous. This may be the beginning of the end of football as a man thing. &nbsp; </p> <p>It was not always so. Almost a century ago women’s football was a mass spectator sport. But the FA stopped that. Women’s football ‘offended the&nbsp; middle class propriety of the FA’s ruling council and, perhaps more importantly, it was grabbing some of the limelight from the male game,’ writes the historian of women’s football, Gail Newsham; this was ‘a state of affairs that wouldn’t be allowed to last.’ In 1921 the FA banned women’s football.&nbsp; </p> <p>Thus began the game’s correlation with masculinity. Like soldiering, boxing and crime, the game has created a context for the making and maintaining of working class masculinities; passionate dramas of domination and defeat, and sexism.&nbsp; </p> <p>But we are in new times. It seems that more women now play football than netball. Women professionals are joining the Professional Footballers Association. It has an equalities network, led by the highly respected Simone Pound, that has not been inactive during the Ched Evans debacle. It is a trade union affiliated to the TUC, which has strong policy on sexual violence, not that you’d know it from the pronouncements of PFA leader Gordon Taylor - it is years since a union leader sounded so inept.&nbsp; </p> <p>Whilst defending the principle of rehabilitation, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady insists, ‘that doesn’t mean all offenders have the right to return to the same job, especially when a crime as serious as rape is committed and the perpetrator has shown no remorse.’ The industry needed to ‘step up and show zero tolerance.’ </p> <p>When the Latics offer collapsed, the story was overwhelmed by the massacre of staff working at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris by supporters of&nbsp; the Islamic State. Yet, Hebdo was appropriated in the football/rape debate: Daily Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson tweeted that threats to Oldham Athletic ‘are the same intolerance that silenced Charlie Hebdo.’ The same? She accused <a href="http://jeanhatchet.blogspot.co.uk/">Jean Hatchet</a>, the woman who had launched the Sheffield United petition, of being ‘a jihadist’ who ‘wants to kill people who disagree with her.’ What brought the rhetoric of exterminating religious war into this? It is as if football, like rape, like Charlie Hebdo, is about everything. </p> <p>The exchange is a reminder that the emancipating ease of Twitter’s 140 characters can give women a public voice, and simultaneously broadcast ‘symbolic violence’ that reiterates populist traditions of contempt and domination, and the annihilation of nuance, ambivalence, or just thinking aloud. </p> <p>Professor Deborah Cameron, not a football fan, but a linguist and popular culture participant/observer, reckons that nevertheless, ‘this saga has done more than anything ever to dramatise what feminists mean by 'rape culture' and to shine a light into some of its less obvious corners.’ &nbsp; </p> <p>Jean Hatchet believes that ‘if we can take anything from this, it's that we have put the debate about rape culture everywhere, in every pub, over every gate, in every kitchen.’&nbsp; Football fans and civilians have been discussing what rape is and isn’t, risk and trust, who is to blame and who isn’t; why a rich father would want his daughter to be betrothed to a man convicted of rape; about women getting legless; men trawling for women too drunk - by definition - to be capable of consent.&nbsp; </p> <p>It was in response to Hatchet’s Sheffield campaign that Allison Pearson <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11226209/Ched-Evans-Sorry-but-all-rapes-are-not-the-same.html">wrote</a> in the Daily Telegraph that she and staff at a local beauty salon&nbsp; - is this the woman’s journo’s current equivalent to the proverbial taxi driver, or man on the Clapham omnibus? -&nbsp; believed that a woman should not expect a bloke ‘to know whether you want it or not.’ But knowing is exactly what is required by the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/contents">2003 Sex Offences Act</a>. </p> <p>Pearson reckoned that ‘the football pitches of England would be half-empty this Saturday afternoon if you removed every player who has done what Evans did. (And so would many of the clubs and pubs.)’ Pearson was championed by former Telegraph writer James Delingpole, a right wing Mr Nasty, who introduced another dimension to the debate - should feminists have a say in this anyway? How many of the campaigners&nbsp; ‘are really interested in football?’. His estimate, ‘about six.’&nbsp; </p> <p>He hadn’t checked Jean Hatchet’s provenance. When I asked her whether she was a football fan, she said she’d never been asked before. Yes, she was - lifelong. </p> <p>Like many feminists whose activism is online, she&nbsp; uses a pseudonym because the twitter sphere is unsafe. After thousands of abusive and threatening tweets and sleepless nights, she worried that ‘<a href="http://jeanhatchet.blogspot.co.uk/">I was losing my sense of humanity when I didn’t react to the vile and horrific, sexually explicit abuse.</a>’ </p> <p>She is especially surprised by the motifs of her mainly 15-25 year-old accusers; ‘they come out with&nbsp; archaic sexism, like ‘get back to the kitchen’, or ‘haven’t you got&nbsp; ironing to do?’ as if nothing had changed between my father’s and this generation. Though some of the more rapey things they say, I’m not sure older men would come out with.’&nbsp;</p> <p>Evans’ trial, and the reaction to it, opened a window on a sexual culture ‘we don’t know about. Someone pointed out to me that the trolls are young and saying they all have drunken sex at weekends.’&nbsp; Hatchet asks them,&nbsp; ‘are you sure you are not raping women? Are you sure about that?’&nbsp; It is an interesting question, and not one it seems that football’s clubs and youth academies are answering. </p><p>Is Pearson right, have half of our footballers, not to mention any group of men, ‘done a Ched Evans’? Professor Liz Kelly, Britain’s premier <a href="https://metranet.londonmet.ac.uk/research-units/hrsj/staff-and-associates/liz-kelly.cfm">researcher</a> on sexual violence, and a passionate football fan, resists the view of masculinity as uncontrollable, as predatory, ’Of course, when footballers are set up as celebrities, some young women see having sex with a footballer as an achievement. The issue is: do you exploit that status? Or do you act ethically?’</p><p>Jean Hatchet believes that the campaign has exposed sexually-explicit abuse uttered by men ‘without blinking, or thinking or linking it to the women they know. I think we've shone a light on their past. I think we've flicked a big light on their future. I think we've poked a torch into a few memories they have. Memories that were safe.’ </p><p>Now they’re not. &nbsp;</p> <p>Could it be that Ched Evans’ rape not only shamed football, but changed it ?.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-longstaff/rape-victims-prosecuted-for-false-rape-allegations">The rape victims prosecuted for &quot;false&quot; rape allegations</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jenny-morgan/crime-not-shame-challenging-ideology-of-rape">Crime not shame: challenging the ideology of rape</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/gender-violence-in-media-elusive-reality">Gender violence in the media: elusive reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/changing-behaviour-of-male-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence">Changing the behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/finn-mackay/right-to-walk-alone-without-fear">The right to walk alone without fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-green/british-democracy-and-women%27s-right-to-live-free-from-violence">British democracy and women&#039;s right to live free from violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/reeva-steenkamp-justice">Reeva Steenkamp: justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/guns-war-and-domestic-battlefield">Guns, war and the domestic battlefield</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/immunity-and-impunity-in-peace-keeping-protection-gap">Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/we-will-not-be-beaten">&quot;We will not be beaten&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/melanie-newman/toll-of-rape-and-lack-of-conviction">The toll of rape and the lack of conviction</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/holly-dustin/preventing-abuse-in-uk-matter-of-education">Preventing abuse in the UK: a matter of education </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn-ann-oakley/sexual-exploitation-in-street-gangs-protecting-girls-or-changing-bo">Sexual exploitation in street gangs: protecting girls or changing boys?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/it-takes-broken-bones-authoritarianism-and-violence-against-women-in-hungary">&quot;It takes broken bones&quot;: authoritarianism and violence against women in Hungary </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/who-do-they-think-they-are-war-rapists-as-people">Who do they think they are? War rapists as people</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 OurKingdom UK Culture Equality Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's movements women's human rights violence against women Sexual violence gender justice gender feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Beatrix Campbell Tue, 13 Jan 2015 09:27:33 +0000 Beatrix Campbell 89542 at https://opendemocracy.net Cuba: through her eyes https://opendemocracy.net/5050/cyd-bernstein/cuba-through-her-eyes-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What do Cuban women imagine for their country’s future? In the wake of recent reforms, Cyd Bernstein talks to four women leaders about feminism, culture and cultivating change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the weeks before<a href="http://www.tmz.com/2014/12/18/president-barack-obama-cuban-cigar-white-house-photos/"> Obama</a> was pictured grinning with a Cuban cigar in hand, Havana was abuzz with talk of transformation. Besides the indelible lyrics of Enrique Iglesias and Descemer Bueno’s “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUsoVlDFqZg">Bailando”</a>, the most common refrain heard on the streets of Havana is that life is changing. A small island with a large sense of history, the Cuban people are used to shifting currents. But how life is changing and for whom seems less certain.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/o1QJWR37vtSSF3Kh4zlAZ0uuHqgOe_u5NKe2KKsiGIM/mtime:1421052830/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10906295_10155087944790634_4333367230670263879_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Street art, Havana (photo: Jennifer Allsopp)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/bkTqdBpKS4FXkDw0ro7pmFJV_efufZiQbdY0EQN98ZE/mtime:1420807579/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10906295_10155087944790634_4333367230670263879_n.jpg" alt="Street art, Havana (photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" title="Street art, Havana (photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Street art, Havana (photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p><p>I spoke to women in Havana in the weeks before December 17th. I was in Cuba with a cultural exchange group, my fifth trip to the island. I wanted to hear from Cuban women how they conceptualise change and progress in their lives and in the life of their nation.</p> <p>I meet up with Yusumi<span>, a 40-year old filmmaker, at the ice cream parlour Coppelia. We chat about her life, her goals and her view of feminism in Cuba. Last time I saw her was 4 years ago in the eastern city of Holguín. She is sporting a new hairstyle and new sense of confidence.</span></p> <p>When in 2011 President Raúl Castro changed the laws controlling private enterprise,&nbsp;<span>Yusumi</span><span>&nbsp;leapt at the opportunity to move to Havana. She has returned to film school to finish the degree she left 19 years ago, age 21. She care-takes a small apartment for friends and supports herself by doing freelance translating and guiding work. She is living a life that was unthinkable three years ago.</span></p> <p><span>Yusumi</span>&nbsp;turned 18 at the beginning of the<a href="http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/havana/lperez2.htm"> Special Period</a>. She felt her life was put on hold and watched as many of her contemporaries and older artist role models left the country. “It was a time of mass exodus. Those of us who stayed felt as if we had no one to look up to, no model to follow. We were hanging from the paintbrush - the ladder was pulled out from under us.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/atCsk58bl1M-IN8ap2B17zMo3Krmd0j0_Zcdqthc_0w/mtime:1421052831/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10891772_10155087951950634_4300311263863225292_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Street art, Havana (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5h3OWyowj8xrOdA_E_6J3GBswcPuz_UIbZ8c0kaDZvc/mtime:1420808596/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10891772_10155087951950634_4300311263863225292_n_0.jpg" alt="" title="Street art, Havana (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Street art, Havana (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p><p>She withdrew from art school, married and put her artistic ambitions on hold. Last year she separated from her husband of 15 years. He was not ready to embrace the opportunities that she was excited to pursue. She felt they were growing apart, she looking forward, he content to do just enough to get by.</p> <p>“Things are changing; there are many more opportunities now. Cubans have gotten so used to living with restrictions that sometimes they do not see these new chances that are in front of them.”</p> <p>“I am inspired by the younger generation,” she continues. “They do not want to leave Cuba. The future they are dreaming about is here. ‘Why would I want to go,’ they say, ‘when I can be happy and make a living here in my own culture?’ ”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LlUMNfhE099Fu6V-ggnEooG4ii0Z9Raovw-uLP5-j-o/mtime:1421052831/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10806372_10155087946310634_6807562632340766602_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young musicians at the &#039;Cuban Art Factory&#039; (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9LpTj3ZmHrx-hKbB2rA0Afdc73CPHZ4xV_MwymG9JnE/mtime:1420808243/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10806372_10155087946310634_6807562632340766602_n.jpg" alt="" title="Young musicians at the &#039;Cuban Art Factory&#039; (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young musicians at the 'Cuban Art Factory' (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p><p>“Do these economic reforms have a particular impact on women?” I ask.</p> <p>“What you have to understand,” replies&nbsp;Yusumi, “is that feminism looks different in Cuba. From the beginning of the revolution, certain rights, to equal pay and education, to health care and maternity support, were institutionalised. The platform created by<a href="http://womenandcuba.org/Documents/FMCinfo.pdf"> The Federation of Cuban Women</a> has given women social mobility and this has liberated us from the need for extreme feminism, which to me is the woman trying to take on the role of a man.”</p> <p>“With the changes to the economy, a woman can stay at home and perform a ‘feminine role,’ making artisan crafts, cooking, running a private guesthouse, and make much more money than her husband who is an engineer. This gives women a new sense of confidence.”</p> <p>“Another thing that is changing,” she adds thoughtfully, “is the recognition and acceptance of homosexuals.” It is not lost on either of us that Coppelia, the backdrop to our conversation, was the scene of 1990’s film <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106966/">Fresas y Chocolate</a>, a film which exposed the repressive treatment of homosexuals and did much to galvanise the gay rights movement in Cuba.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/3KaH5z85WXqqojS00ORIgktG_3fU81LYYK2sdNqvQFM/mtime:1421052831/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10922509_10155087942205634_4998836079813366012_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Poster: Cuban Day Against Homophobia (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9g0-u3MlqrRb9RnAUmE5RH-RzPsfUlrGQSUIBJWTcgM/mtime:1420808028/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10922509_10155087942205634_4998836079813366012_n.jpg" alt="Poster: Cuban Day Against Homophobia (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" title="Poster: Cuban Day Against Homophobia (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" width="460" height="379" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poster: Cuban Day Against Homophobia (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p><p><span>Yusumi</span>&nbsp;sees the barriers to gender equality more in terms of culture than economics. “We still live in a patriarchy, upheld by cultural ideas of ‘machismo,’ ideas that limit possibilities for both men and women.”</p> <p>I catch up with Anna on the top floor of the Hotel Riviera, built in the 1950s by American mob financier Meyer Lansky, a looming brute of a building, meant to intimate as much as attract, a reminder of the last era of American involvement in Cuba. We stand looking out upon the city, the neighbourhoods of Vedado and Centro Havana to our right, the Malecón and the open sea to our left, Havana Vieja away in the distance.</p> <p>Anna is 28 and already a visual artist of repute. She has been sponsored to travel and exhibit several times in the US and Europe. Her art has given her the opportunity to see the world beyond Cuba, as few Cubans have been able to do.</p> <p>“What I see in Cuba is a growing inequality between people. Those who have access to money and opportunities and those that do not. And this new class of wealthy people, they have no taste, they have made their money in small time scams and now are buying up property.”</p> <p>“I am afraid,” she tells me, “of my country becoming like other places I have visited. I went to Columbia last year and there is such a large difference between rich and poor. Up until now Cuba has not had that problem.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/W4of5Y1edEWx2Tm64w2alSrIBnu-mizNqFfU5vbrK7Y/mtime:1421052832/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10653833_10155087945135634_3394112694086743513_n_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="55th Year of Revolution (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/p4xiIbkkRVVLaYZWGIw6-ltp3z2HvLjbOpoJxaMiQ1Y/mtime:1420808439/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10653833_10155087945135634_3394112694086743513_n_3.jpg" alt="" title="55th Year of Revolution (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>55th Year of Revolution (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p> <p>We move on to chat about the apartment she bought in Nuevo Vedado. With the money she saved she was able to buy the run-down apartment at a pittance and renovate it. She is now thinking about selling it and buying another derelict property in Havana Vieja, the old city centre. </p> <p>The emergence of a property market is a very new phenomenon in Cuba, birthed in 2011 by legislation introduced by Raúl Castro. For the first time since 1959, Cubans are able to buy and sell their own homes. Until now houses have passed through families or exchanged hands via trade or the black market. Homelessness is practically nonexistent, although overcrowding can be an issue. There is very little economic segregation in housing. A colonial mansion in the city centre is as likely to be inhabited by a pensioner as a doctor, government official or Miami returnee. </p> <p>Anna worries that in five years time the social mix of Havana will have changed, that Cubans will no longer be able to live in Havana Vieja, priced out by Europeans and Cuban expats returning from Miami.</p> <p>When I ask her about the future of the country, she says, “Cuba will not be as we see it now. There will be a rise in materialism. Cuban people do not consume because they do not have the opportunity. Given the opportunity, they will consume more than anyone because of this scarcity mentality.”</p> <p>I meet up with Tanya, a theatre actress born and raised in Havana, in a small park in Havana’s Vedado district. In a country where theatre is affordable and culturally accessible for everyone, her face is well known. Her career in theatre began when she was 15 and saw a production by the Havana based company Palpito. Enthralled, she committed herself to theatre. Twenty years later she is still passionate about her work. She attended the<a href="http://www.isa.cult.cu/"> Escuela Superior de Artes</a>, a premier art academy which offers free training to some of Cuba’s most influential artists. She remembers her university experience during the mid-nineties when Cubans were living through the Special Period. “Many people feel traumatised by this time. Myself, I wish we had not lived it, but I do not look back with a sense of tragedy. It was something we had to survive. I remember walking for blocks during the many blackouts to read books for my theatre courses under the one working street light. But I did not think of leaving. I was passionate about what I was doing.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/wEIKfWkRWHk9Ajwh12tepuHCYVyjn06QPt457kkyR50/mtime:1421052832/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10896907_10155087951990634_4293921413891818248_n_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Street art, Havana (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/mOndGeqFGlMitb70AAqC6P_2SCrp2Bgbo5TRzN44vLM/mtime:1420808635/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10896907_10155087951990634_4293921413891818248_n_1.jpg" alt="" title="Street art, Havana (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Street art, Havana (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p><p>I have just been to see her current play, a two woman show which she co-wrote with two of her close friends from acting school. The play, called “Escape,” is based on the film <span>Thelma and Louise</span> and is not set in Cuba. “I am not interested in political plays,” she says, “I want my plays to inspire people to change, not point a finger at them and force them. Cubans have enough material difficulty in their lives. For me theatre should be enjoyable - not superficial - but a diversion from the everyday.”</p> <p>I ask her about the economic reforms in Cuba. “The changes that the government have made [in allowing more private enterprise] are superficial, and people, now that they see a little bit of change are jumping on the opportunity to claim more for themselves. The government could take away the ability to have a license tomorrow. And there would be no recourse. People are not in the habit of asking why.”</p> <p>I heard this concern voiced elsewhere, that capitalist growth will not necessarily lead to more happiness or social harmony. I wonder what she imagines happening in Cuba’s future. </p> <p>“Some people would like Cuba to look like Miami. That idea terrifies me... Honestly I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t want to leave Cuba. I am a Cuban who loves Cuba. Some of my best friends have left the country and now live abroad. If I can change anything I would like to do it from here, from where I am in my work, in my own city. The question is how. There is a belief among Cuban people that there can only be one leader. I want the kind of change that comes from the bottom, from the grassroots, profound change. I want to see individual people believe that they can be leaders.</p> <p>I am interested in changes that bring more liberty, not the liberty to throw a rock through your window, of course, but the liberty to throw a rock up in the air and catch it, if that’s what I feel like doing.”</p> <p>When I ask Tanya how she sees her own future, she tells me she would like life to get more and more simple. More than anything she would love to have a little piece of land to grow vegetables. “To plants seeds and watch them grow, to cultivate tranquillity, that is what is most important to me moving forward.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/GN2ZEVnpZPoYbXrzShKN2YzJNeMvbCS3rTPoxVWgLT0/mtime:1421052833/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10676246_10155087944160634_4888931734006741326_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Vivero Alamar"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/VimcZt_4mMSrvKWWwugCF7ZCwB5gLT3CMVtKXy65C1Q/mtime:1420807464/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/10676246_10155087944160634_4888931734006741326_n.jpg" alt="" title="Vivero Alamar" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vivero Alamar (Photo: Jennifer Allsopp)</span></span></span></p><p>East of the city a few miles is the farm cooperative<a href="http://farmcuba.org/farm.html%23mission"> Vivero Alamar</a>. A derelict piece of land, it was taken over by a group of four visionary people who cleaned it up and began growing food during the Special Period. Now it is a thriving farm, employing over 100 people. Base pay is between 350 and 700 pesos a month - a standard salary in Havana is 400 - with the potential to earn more based on productivity and seniority. Workers receive two meals a day, and work seven hours in the winter and six in the summer. Women with children are given the option of coming in an hour later. Everyone works five days a week and has a paid day off once a fortnight to deal with personal business. They have free, onsite manicure and barber services.</p> <p>Cooperative business are the fastest growing sector of the Cuban economy, providing an attractive alternative or complement to state and privately-owned business.</p> <p>Walking around with Eva<span>, the daughter of one of the founding four, we see compost bins, rows and rows of emerald green lettuce, sunflowers planted to attract pollinators, corn to distract pests. Over a thousand people a week purchase their produce at the Vivero Alamar produce stand. “I had no intention of becoming a farmer. But now, I am proud to go everywhere in my rubber boots. I will be proud to have a career as an agronomist”, she says.</span></p> <p><span>Eva</span>&nbsp;has an interesting answer to the question of Cuba’s future. “It is no longer a fight between capitalism and socialism. We are in a transition to tierralismo.” Tierralismo translates as ‘landism’ or in a recent documentary of the same name, as ‘cultivating change.’ It strikes me as an important metaphor for the country as it searches for its way among the choppy seas of development. Change does not just happen; it is a process of cultivation and refinement. Certain seeds must be planted, tended, and nurtured if they are to survive into the future. As feminists, as activists, as those standing in solidarity with the Cuban people, our role is to listen and follow these leaders emerging from the Cuban soil.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/antoni-kapcia/how-us-elections-look-from-cuba">How the US elections look from Cuba</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/yates-mckee/art-after-occupy">Art after Occupy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/food-sovereignty-as-transformative-model-of-economic-power">&quot;Food sovereignty&quot; as a transformative model of economic power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susan-harris-rimmer/g20-can-women%27s-human-rights-and-economic-growth-coexist">G20: can women&#039;s human rights and economic growth co-exist?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Ideas International politics 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power patriarchy gender feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work young feminists Cyd Bernstein Mon, 12 Jan 2015 08:57:33 +0000 Cyd Bernstein 89428 at https://opendemocracy.net Women defenders of human rights: the good, the great and the gutsy https://opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/women-defenders-of-human-rights-good-great-and-gutsy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Harriet Wistrich is a beacon in the darkness that threatens to engulf the British legal system today with massive cuts in legal aid, and the prevailing culture of disbelief of asylum seekers and women escaping violence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/PMREV0HFS7CzvbyKa1rFOfShrR20A3y5BK3DDI5iSnQ/mtime:1421052680/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/P1012323.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2pzV2bWvfU0qTMmFN86lH_HBN-amx4djkGMbaBUQJZs/mtime:1421048981/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/P1012323.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Harriet Wistrich</span></span></span></p><p>In December 2014, At Liberty’s annual <a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/latest-news/liberty-honours-good-great-and-gutsy-our-human-rights-awards">Human Rights Awards</a> ceremony, which is described on their website as a recognition of ‘the good, the great and the gutsy’, women defenders of human rights had a particularly good year: Meltem Avcil for her campaign to end detention of women asylum seekers; Refuge for their work with women escaping domestic violence; and Harriet Wistrich who won the Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award. Richly deserved it was too! In typically self-deprecating style, Harriet wondered why I wanted to interview her when I contacted her after the Awards. </p><p>Raised in a progressive North London Jewish family, Harriet describes herself as ‘instinctually feminist’ from a very early age. She became politicised at her A level college in the late 70s, a journey which continued at Oxford where she read PPE and found feminist activism which offered a positive environment in which to come out as a lesbian. She was determined not to follow a career path and hitchhiked around England with a friend looking for a congenial city in which to live. They would go to a radical bookshop in each city and inquire about left-wing households with rooms to let. They ended up in Liverpool. There was no debt burden on graduation and it was still fairly easy to get unemployment benefit which allowed Harriet time to find her niche in life. After trying her hand at filmmaking with varying degrees of success, it was in her early 30s that Harriet decided to become a lawyer.</p> <p>Harriet’s interest in a legal career was sparked by her involvement with abused women who were in prison for having killed their violent partners. She and her partner, Julie Bindel and other feminists, set up <a href="http://www.justiceforwomen.org.uk/about-us/">Justice for Women</a> (JfW) in 1990; their first action was a well-attended picket outside the High Court in support of <a href="http://www.justiceforwomen.org.uk/sara-thornton/">Sara Thornton</a> during which JfW presented street theatre in which women dressed as judges in red gowns and wigs illustrated how sexist the judiciary was. Thornton lost that appeal, but the issue of domestic violence had caught media attention in an unprecedented way through a triumvirate of women which included Thornton, <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Provoked-Kiranjit-Ahluwalia/dp/8172236700/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1420704072&amp;sr=1-1">Kiranjit Ahluwalia</a> -whose campaign was led by Southall Black Sisters, and <a href="http://www.readabstracts.com/Retail-industry/Woman-who-killed-violent-husband-freed-Purchasing-policies-under-the-spotlight.html">Amelia Rossiter</a>, a 67 year old woman who stabbed her husband to death.&nbsp; JfW’s high media profile led inevitably to requests from women in prison to launch legal appeals on their behalf. <a href="http://www.justiceforwomen.org.uk/emma-humphreys/">Emma Humphreys</a>, who became an iconic case for Harriet and JfW both politically and personally, was one of them. </p><iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/yS80a5OO0ZA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>In order to get leave to appeal for Emma, her lawyers needed a fuller statement from her than was available at the original trial. As this part of the legal process was not funded by legal aid, Harriet volunteered to draft her statement which took weekly visits to prison over a period of six months. Harriet began her two year legal conversion course at the same time, qualifying the same summer that Emma’s appeal was to be heard. It was a ‘big moment’ as Harriet describes it. ‘Emma won her appeal but she was very damaged. It was quite tough. <a href="http://www.justiceforwomen.org.uk/about-us/">Justice for Women</a> (JfW) tried to set up a supported community for her to go into. We knew she’d been in prison since 17 and was very vulnerable. She couldn’t really cope with any institution. She ended up staying in our house.&nbsp; We tried to stay friends with her and support her. She tested the boundaries a lot. Eventually she settled down a bit. But she was so addicted to the drug chloral hydrate that she was prescribed in prison that she was always close to overdosing on it, and that was what killed her in the end, three years after she came out of prison.’</p> <p>In memory of Emma, and as a focal point for raising awareness around violence against women, JfW set up the <a href="http://www.emmahumphreys.org/">Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize</a> in 1998 to be awarded to individual women and groups that have taken remarkable and innovative steps to campaign against violence against women. This level of personal involvement with a ‘case’ is an ever present danger when working so closely and over a long period with deeply traumatised people. The ‘professional’ approach would be to keep the dividing line in clear view and not allow it to become blurred. That is what the social worker is trained to do, but such distancing in a client-worker relationship can feel inhumane and cold, especially for women like Harriet who are driven by passion for their cause, ‘Emma became part of our family virtually. Boundaries were blurred. Sometimes it’s the only thing to do, but it is not advisable. I have never got involved with any of my clients in that way again although I have become friends with some of them after their cases were finished.’ </p> <p>Harriet has been involved in a series of high profile cases starting with <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/05/london_blasts/tube_shooting/html/">Jean Charles de Menezes</a>, shot dead by the police because they mistook him for one of the suicide bombers who had struck London underground the previous day; the case of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/apr/21/john-worboys-cab-driver-jail">John Worboys,</a> the serial rapist and black cab driver which revealed catastrophic police failure to investigate; the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/24/serco-whistleblower-yarls-wood-pressure-immigration">Yarlswood</a> sexual abuse case where a male nurse abused a vulnerable asylum seeker, ‘Sana’, in a detention centre, and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/18/mike-hancock-settles-sexual-assault-claim">Mike Hancock</a>, a Lib Dem MP who sexually harassed a constituent. Harriet is currently representing eight women who have brought claims against the Metropolitan police for being deceived by <a href="http://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/">undercover cops</a> who used the women to infiltrate a range of political campaigns. </p> <p>The <a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/">Liberty website</a> specifically mentions her ‘groundbreaking victory’ in the John Worboys case. Harriet represented two of his approximately 100 victims who decided to bring action against the police for having disbelieved their allegations when they first approached them. Given that Worboys had been found guilty and the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) had found serious failures in policing, there was an expectation that the police would settle without a lengthy legal process. However, the police decided to fight it for fear of opening the floodgates to such claims. As the police have immunity against claims of negligence in investigating crime since the precedent setting case of <a href="http://www.e-lawresources.co.uk/Hill-v-Chief-Constable-of-West-Yorkshire.php">Hill v West Yorkshire</a> police, Harriet had to find another route. The Hill case was brought by the mother of one of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper. Hill argued that her daughter would not have been murdered if the police had carried out an effective investigation and stopped the Ripper in his tracks. The judge found against her; although the case went all the way to the House of Lords, it is no longer possible to sue the police for negligence in investigations. Harriet circumvented this judgment by deploying the <a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/what-are-human-rights/human-rights-act/article-3-no-torture-inhuman-or-degrading">Human Rights Act, article 3</a>, which is the right not be subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment, a legitimate way of framing rape. This places a duty on the state to protect women from rape, a duty which also incorporates the duty to have an effective criminal justice system which protects women. The judge held that there was a very clear violation of article 3 and elaborated a set of principles on the circumstances in which this duty arises. Hopefully the victory will not be short lived. The police are appealing the judgement at a hearing in May.</p> <p>We talked about the usefulness of the law to advance feminist objectives.&nbsp; Harriet recognises that individual cases bring only individual solutions but points to the wider impact these cases might have on specific issues. ‘By using&nbsp; legal action to highlight particular issues where, for instance, domestic violence was not recognised within the homicide laws or the police are failing to effectively investigate rape, you can create not only a precedent but raise awareness and the need for change.. The individual case can be hugely significant as part of a wider political struggle. As for changing the law, I feel much more pessimistic. Once it’s out of the news everything closes in again and a backlash takes place.&nbsp; In terms of rape laws, there has been an important change in relation to consent under the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/contents">Sexual Offences Act</a> but how much difference has it made to the conviction rate? Having said that, rape investigations may be better as compared to 20 years ago, but then you find more women are prosecuted for perverting the course of justice (where it is suspected that their allegation is false).&nbsp; Despite the JfW cases, women who kill their abusive partners are getting convicted again and again and I wonder if anything has changed at all? Men have become quite canny at using some of the things that we’ve fought for, like using the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/65">Sex Discrimination Act</a> to allege discrimination against them.’ </p> <p>All these provisos notwithstanding, a campaigning lawyer like Harriet Wistrich who has made it her life’s work to seek justice for the vulnerable and disempowered is a beacon in the darkness that threatens to engulf our legal system today with massive cuts in legal aid and the prevailing culture of disbelief of asylum seekers and women escaping violence.</p><p><strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-women-human-rights-defenders"></a></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-green/british-democracy-and-women%27s-right-to-live-free-from-violence">British democracy and women&#039;s right to live free from violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/british-justice-system-fair-structure-for-women">The British justice system: a fair structure for women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women-in-prison-cycle-of-violence">Women in prison: the cycle of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women-in-uk">What will it take to end violence against women in the UK? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lorna-gledhill/fleeing-fgm-bodies-on-frontline">Fleeing FGM: Bodies on the frontline</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-longstaff/rape-victims-prosecuted-for-false-rape-allegations">The rape victims prosecuted for &quot;false&quot; rape allegations</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/uk-indifference-to-ending-discrimination-against-women">UK: indifference to ending discrimination against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/holly-dustin/preventing-abuse-in-uk-matter-of-education">Preventing abuse in the UK: a matter of education </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/changing-behaviour-of-male-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence">Changing the behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-to-despair">Fast track to despair</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddolodge/responding-to-sexual-abuse-in-uk-class-race-and-culture">Responding to sexual abuse in the UK: class, race and culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ann-oakley-cynthia-cockburn/cost-of-masculine-crime">The cost of masculine crime</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-judge-is-woman">When the judge is a woman</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights women and power violence against women gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work Rahila Gupta Mon, 12 Jan 2015 08:45:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 89471 at https://opendemocracy.net "Support the right to make fun of extremists": an interview with Caroline Fourest https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are facing a political threat, a totalitarian Islamist threat that manifests in terrorism. Journalists are defending something which is elementary to our democracy: our freedom to breathe and to laugh. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/caroline-fourest/ ">Caroline Fourest</a> worked at Charlie Hebdo when it re-published the cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed. Karima Bennoune interviewed her for openDemocracy on the day of the Paris attacks.</em> </p> <p><span>Karima Bennoune</span>:<strong> </strong><em>What is your political analysis of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">attack</a> against the Charlie Hebdo paper where you used to work? How should we understand it?</em></p> <p><span>Caroline Fourest</span>:&nbsp; Charlie Hebdo has received death threats for more than ten years, since the explosion of the affair of the Mohamed cartoons almost 10 years ago. For Anglophone readers, I should explain that the paper occupies a very particular place on the French political spectrum. It is very leftwing, very <a href="http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2013/11/20/non-charlie-hebdo-n-est-pas-raciste_3516646_3232.html">anti-racist</a> and very secular all at the same time. It represents something that we cherish in France, this balance to which we are very attached between, on the one hand, the defense of secularism and the struggle against religious fanaticisms in any religion, and on the other, the fight against racism.&nbsp; This is what is so unacceptable for the jihadists.&nbsp; In France, this is what they reject the most. </p> <p>Charlie Hebdo re-published the Danish cartoons in solidarity with the Danish cartoonists who were threatened with death in 2006.&nbsp; It is a paper in the skeptical tradition and it makes fun of all religions, so it decided to show these drawings that had not been shown elsewhere. They had not been published in the US for fear of attack, or because of the fear of shocking religious sensibilities. Re-publishing these drawings was our way of defending freedom of expression when faced with fanatics.</p> <p>We published a cartoon that tried to differentiate Mohamed from the fundamentalists and showed how upset he was with the stupidity of their violent response to the Danish drawings.&nbsp; (Interviewer’s note: The <a href="https://carolinefourest.wordpress.com/category/charlie-hebdo/">cartoon in question</a> shows the Prophet Mohamed holding his head in his hands, crying, and saying “it is hard to be loved by idiots.”&nbsp; It is most relevant this week.) Since the time we published those cartoons, we have received death threats at Charlie Hebdo. We faced a court case brought by a Muslim organization which we won.&nbsp; Charlie continued to draw against all religions. We drew against the Pope.&nbsp; But there was more of a polemic when we drew Mohamed.&nbsp; The headquarters of the paper was burned in 2011 in a criminal arson attack. So Charlie Hebdo took refuge in another location where there was a lot of security. They did not even have the name of the newspaper displayed outside. My former colleagues and comrades who were killed on January 7th had been under police protection since 2006.&nbsp; Their lives were never the same since this affair. They knew they were hated by the fanatics.</p> <p><span>KB</span>:<strong><em> </em></strong><em>What are the best ways for the international community to respond to this attack, and what are the best ways for progressives and secularists elsewhere to stand in solidarity with the victims?</em></p> <p><span>CF</span>: Make drawings to support freedom of the press. Support the right to make fun of religions, and of extremists.&nbsp; Make fun of the fundamentalists. Continue to have a sense of humour. Continue to smile when they want to prohibit us even from smiling.&nbsp; Support the press.&nbsp; Journalists today are on the frontlines because they defend something which is elementary to our democracy: Our freedom to breathe and to laugh.</p> <p>Stand up to incitement on social media.&nbsp; Beyond the mentally ill people who committed this crime at Charlie Hebdo, there have been years of incitement against the journalists of Charlie Hebdo online.&nbsp; They were accused of being Islamophobic simply because they claimed the right to laugh at all religions.&nbsp; It must never be allowed to happen again, this way of designating someone as a target. It must never be accepted again.&nbsp; Such rhetoric must never again be excused. </p> <p>Racism must not excuse fundamentalism.&nbsp; And fundamentalism must not excuse racism. We have to unceasingly <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">fight both at the same time</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><span>KB</span>:<em> In the Anglophone media, some are resorting to a communitarian analysis and <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/9/french_muslims_fear_backlash_increased_islamophobia">blaming</a> the attacks on France’s failure to integrate Muslims.</em><strong>&nbsp; </strong><em>How do you reply to such an analysis?</em></p> <p><span>CF</span>: It is really the day of idiotic rhetoric.&nbsp; That is what the jihadists expect. The jihadists carry out terrorist attacks to make us idiots.&nbsp; Many countries in the world face terror attacks. We can make a sociological analysis if we want to, but it was not “the Muslims” who attacked Charlie Hebdo.&nbsp; It was three mentally ill people.&nbsp; Those fundamentalists who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">killed in Algeria in the 1990s</a> , were they Muslims who were not well-integrated in Algeria?&nbsp; Those who resort to such an analysis do not understand that we are facing a political threat, a totalitarian Islamist threat that manifests in terrorism.&nbsp; This analysis is another way of falling into the trap that the extremists offer us.</p> <p>We had people born in Normandy who are blond with blue eyes who <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30119868">went to fight</a> with “Islamic State”.&nbsp; There are Muslims who <a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">killed many other Muslims</a>, many more Muslims than Westerners. Today there are all sorts of flags flown by fanatics that are used to rally people without humour, without hope, without spirit. </p> <p>In fact, secularism is actually working very well in France.&nbsp; 90% of French people are very attached to secularism, including its citizens of Muslim culture. I can tell you that for ten years at Charlie Hebdo, those who sent the most solidarity messages, those who fought on our side the most were of Maghrebin background, whether Muslim or not Muslim.&nbsp; </p> <p><span>KB</span>: <em>As someone who has worked with Charlie Hebdo, as someone who has courageously fought fundamentalism for many years, what are you feeling today?</em></p> <p><span>CF</span>: I feel an even greater responsibility to continue.&nbsp; I keep with me the images of the faces of my colleagues who have fallen on the front lines of freedom of the press today. I have friends who have been found in their blood, and others who are in shock.&nbsp; The survivors said to each other that we will all meet tomorrow for an editorial meeting. We will make sure the <a href="http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/01/10/ac-intv-fourest-charlie-hebdo-spirit.cnn">issue will come out next week</a>. We will not have the same sense of humor we used to have, as they killed all of the best French cartoonists in one massacre.&nbsp; </p> <p>But, there is no way they will make us put down our pens.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Translated from French by Karima Bennoune.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aidan-white/charlie-hebdo-how-journalism-needs-to-respond-to-this-unconscionable-attac">Charlie Hebdo: how journalism needs to respond to this unconscionable attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/janine-moussa/rightful-place-of-gender-equality-within-islam">The rightful place of gender equality within Islam </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? France Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Caroline Fourest Karima Bennoune Charlie Hebdo Sat, 10 Jan 2015 10:27:33 +0000 Caroline Fourest and Karima Bennoune 89465 at https://opendemocracy.net Freedom of expression: a sacred right https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is a disconnect between the teachings of the Qur’an and much of the Muslim population’s understanding of the Qur’an. How do we address and resolve this issue?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I was interviewed by Charlie Hebdo in an issue published in October 2012 in a section of their magazine that deals with serious issues. As expected, the cover of that issue was adorned with a provocative cartoon, but regardless, I supported their right to express themselves freely. </p> <p>What is, however, offensive is the silencing of expression through murder, arbitrary detention and torture in the guise of Islam as ‘blasphemy’. </p> <p>The assault on one’s freedom to express has been a struggle in Muslim communities for centuries and it continues to carry on as we have witnessed through the murdering of staff members of Charlie Hebdo on January 7th; through the charges of deviant teachings under the Sedition Act in Malaysia for expressing a progressive understanding of Islam; and through the 10 year jail term and punishment of 1000 lashes that <a href="http://bit.ly/1Av5Hrn">Raif Badawi </a>&nbsp;received in Saudi Arabia for simply setting up a Liberal Muslim Network. The flogging of Raif Badawi <a href="http://akhbaar24.argaam.com/article/detail/198722">began today</a>, and just to make sure it is oozing with religiosity, they will execute the punishment after Friday prayers outside Masjid al-Jafari in Jeddah, where the congregation is invited to witness this brutality. </p> <p>There is a disconnect between the teachings of the Qur’an and much of the Muslim population’s understanding of the Qur’an.&nbsp; </p> <p>For example, Prophet Muhammad was often insulted during his lifetime. While kids often threw rocks at him, and his followers were tortured, starved and murdered. In spite of being mocked and humiliated, he did not avenge the Meccans upon his return to Mecca, nor force them to convert to Islam, but merely told them to ‘go on your way’. In fact, in a well-known narration, there was a woman&nbsp;in Mecca who would dump refuse at Prophet Muhammad’s door, lay thorns in his path and even poured dung on his head while Muhammad was praying. He never responded with anger or violence. To the contrary, when he noticed the absence of this woman’s insults, he visited her home to find that she was sick and wished her well.&nbsp; </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/3O4pZE2hCn3IWBdf3qE1tEarCl4SfsJIIjKqszjeDIY/mtime:1420825365/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/5faf8-image.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="400" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image of Prophet Muhammad from a 14th Century Persian manuscript</span></span></span>Given this narrative of the Prophet and the many Qur’anic teachings for compassion and patience, the killing of fellow humans supposedly in the defense of Prophet Muhammad and Islam is simply vile. Where did the teachings and practice diverge, how do we address the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/05/us-germany-islam-protests-idUSKBN0KE1TS20150105">polarization of extremes in the Western societies</a> and how do we resolve these issues? Here are some suggestions: </p> <p><strong>The media:</strong> </p> <p>Given that freedom of expression is paramount, it is regrettable that the voices of progressive Muslims are often silenced by the media. More often than not, the media, including the liberal media, gives too much space to radical Muslims and to ex-Muslims, while moderate Muslims are left voiceless. The media is partly to blame for the polarization of our societies by leaving out voices that promote peaceful co-existence. That void confronts many Muslims daily who are cornered with the question “where are the progressive/moderate Muslims?”. That void fuels fear and anti-Islam/Muslim sentiments, which further alienate Muslims in the middle, especially the Muslim youth who are already discriminated against for not being ‘European or Western enough’.</p> <p>The media is quick to label violent perpetrators as Muslim terrorists if they happen to be Muslim, but simply refer to mental-health issues when these violent perpetrators are non-Muslims. The media reports terrorism in the name of Islam, but does not report or highlight just as importantly <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/jesuisahmed">the Muslim policeman</a> who was executed for guarding Charlie Hebdo’s office, or the Muslim, or the imam or the community leader who called the police to report a potential terrorist activity. And in the Muslim world, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8238948/Pakistan-governor-assassinated-over-blasphemy-laws-campaign.html">murders of Muslims</a> by Muslim radicals is unfortunately a part of life. </p> <p>To help tackle the divergence of Qur'anic teachings and practise the media should include Muslims with an inclusive worldview to counter balance the radical activities being reported, and the opinions of representatives from established conservative organizations. </p> <p><strong>Governments: <br /></strong></p> <p>Should support <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/muslims-against-isis_b_5715563.html">progressive Muslim voices</a> and the positions we take against our radical right. As we have seen, the Muslim radical right is just as destructive to a cohesive society as the extreme right wing folks in Europe and the rest of the Western states. </p> <p>Scrutinize Islamic school curricula that promote misogynistic interpretations of Islam, homophobia, the concept of Islamic superiority with everyone else being sub-human, the promotion of a Caliphate, the overarching theology of intolerance that not only runs contrary to the core of Qur’anic teachings but also contrary to your own constitutions and the fundamental principles of justice and equality for all. </p> <p>The European governments should include Muslims with an inclusive worldview on panels and on advisory boards at all levels of governments. If you can not find them, we at <a href="http://mpvusa.org/">Muslims for Progressive Values</a> will help you find them! </p> <p><strong>The people around the world: <br /></strong></p> <p>It would be helpful if more of the non-Muslim population would support <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aljazeera.com%2Findepth%2Fopinion%2F2015%2F01%2Fparis-charlie-hebdo-cartoons-att-20151810528121783.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHjFR1PkcKTHV--Xny8bQXrGtRO9A">progressive Muslim</a> voices instead of attacking us for not being Muslim enough, or for quoting sermons of radical Imams as truth bearers, and that we progressive Muslims are the trojan horses. </p> <p><strong>To the Muslim population:</strong> </p> <p>No, we do not need to apologize for the heinous crimes of fellow “Muslims”, but we have to once and for all do away with the theology that has bastardized Qur’anic teachings into an Islam that is unrecognizable. We should no longer be tolerant of the intolerance. We should purge the corruption of Islam by Wahhabism, peddled by Saudi Arabia in every corner of the world with its petro-dollars, bribing Imams with money and lavish mosques, bribing Muslim-majority countries with pilgrimage visas to Mecca for their citizens through negotiated quotas, seducing the poor with food, and yes, the provision of free indoctrinated religious classes and books. We should cleanse Islam from a false belief that women are incapable of making decisions or leading prayer or government, that they need a ‘guardian’ who in actuality behaves more like an oppressor, that music and the arts is forbidden, and that the right to believe or not to believe is ‘haram’. </p> <p>That, is the description of blasphemy. It is the promoters and teachers of Wahhabism who are the true blasphemers. </p><p><em>Read more interviews and analysis with people of Muslim heritage working to challenge fundamentalisms in 50.50's series:&nbsp;</em><strong> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></strong> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">&quot;Truth needs witnesses&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/des-freedman/charlie-hebdo-tragedy-free-speech-and-its-broader-contexts">Charlie Hebdo tragedy: free speech and its broader contexts</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/conquering-fear-with-hope-secularism-2014">Conquering fear with hope: Secularism 2014 </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/janine-moussa/rightful-place-of-gender-equality-within-islam">The rightful place of gender equality within Islam </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Culture 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick secularism gender fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Ani Zonneveld Charlie Hebdo Fri, 09 Jan 2015 18:23:27 +0000 Ani Zonneveld 89442 at https://opendemocracy.net Charlie Hebdo: "There is no way they will make us put down our pens." https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pen against Kalashnikov: courage against atrocity. People of Muslim heritage call for combatting Islamist ideology by political means and mass mobilisation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>We are all Charlie!</p> <p>To those who attacked Charlie Hebdo yesterday shouting “Allahu Akbar,” I would like to say that your kind of God - a God of Hate and Murder - is not Great. Nor is that God the God of most Muslims, but rather of your own Islamist cult - which so many people of Muslim heritage <a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">oppose</a>. You are incapable of understanding satire; you openly revile the beliefs of others but brook no criticism of the medieval notions you believe. You claim to defend Islam while bringing only shame upon it. You are offended by cartoons but not by killing. You claim to have avenged the Prophet Mohamed but have instead defamed him with your cowardly attack on unarmed journalists in his name.&nbsp; </p> <p>As a Tunisian woman wrote to me afterwards, “It is so horrible, claiming the name of God while killing these poor people. But, about which God are they speaking?”&nbsp; With an ironic outrage, worthy of Charlie Hebdo itself, she insisted the deity would be “gratified” that they are “making him a God of intolerance and blood.”&nbsp; In the name of tolerance and peace, and in memory of the tragically murdered victims in Paris, and of so many others - even more numerous - in places like Peshawar, let us commit after this bleak January day to make 2015 the year we finally put an end to this ghastly jihad.</p> <p>While first information suggests the authors of the Paris attack may have claimed affiliation with Al Qaeda in Yemen, others suspect an “Islamic State” link. In any case, their indisputable connection is with the pernicious ideology of international Islamism and its myriad armed manifestations.&nbsp; These are, to quote Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie-Lucas, “political movements of the extreme right that… manipulate religion to achieve their political aims.” We must collectively denounce that ideology and do all we can to defeat these movements.&nbsp; As Helie-Lucas and Maryam Namazie wrote in an <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article8509.html">online petition</a> in denunciation of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a statement rapidly signed by activists from Iran to Sudan, “What is needed is straight-forward analysis of the political nature of armed Islamists: they are an extreme-right political force, working under the guise of religion and they aim at political power. They should be combated by political means and mass mobilization….” </p> <p>This latest horror is but one in a long line of Muslim fundamentalist assaults on thought. “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">Those who combat us with the pen will die by the sword</a>,” decreed the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria in the 1990s while slaughtering intellectuals.&nbsp; Just this December, an Algerian Salafist called for the public execution, possibly by crucifixion, of prominent writer Kamel Daoud, a free-thinker who recently made waves with his rewriting of Camus’s “The Stranger” from an Algerian perspective, and who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/books/an-algerian-author-fights-back-against-a-fatwa.html?_r=0">dared to say</a> in a television appearance that Arabs must reflect on the role of religion in their societies to move forward. </p> <p>While I am first and foremost outraged by the Islamist ideologues who make such threats, and the terrorists like those who perpetrated yesterday’s massacre, I also blame <em>some</em> liberals and left-wingers - and even human rights advocates - in the West who have for years apologized for Islamism and Islamist ideas, painted Islamists mainly as victims with legitimate grievances standing up to the West, or defenders of Muslim culture, rather than extreme right wingers with guns determined on squashing human rights.&nbsp; These Western apologists<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/At-Freedoms-Limit-Postcolonial-Predicament/dp/082325786X"></a> have justified everything from the burqa to theocracy in the name of cultural relativism – appalling many intellectuals of Muslim heritage who are determined instead to <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/At-Freedoms-Limit-Postcolonial-Predicament/dp/082325786X">buck extremism</a>. Some of these&nbsp; voices were <a href="http://portside.org/2015-01-07/let%e2%80%99s-not-sacralize-charlie-hebdo">heard</a> again in the U.S. media yesterday emphasizing the “offensiveness” of Charlie Hebdo’s content.&nbsp; In Western academia, this apologia has often been a politically correct stance, what Mahnaz Afkhami&nbsp; <a href="http://www.mahnazafkhami.net/">decries</a> as “Islamic exceptionalism.”&nbsp; So, one way to commemorate this terrible event and memorialize its victims is to unequivocally defend universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and to make clear that they apply to all.&nbsp; We must <a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/01/07/for-charlie-hebdo-rage-and-solidarity/">dare to defend</a> even the right to blaspheme, the right that the Charlie Hebdo staff paid with their lives for asserting. </p> <p>Many people of Muslim heritage – from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, from Afghanistan to Algeria, have been in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">frontlines of the fight against terror and extremism </a>. But so many more of us in the diasporas need to find the courage to speak out in support of them.&nbsp; After the Sydney attack and on the same day as the Peshawar massacre, CNN featured a Muslim American blogger whining about the fact that Muslims are expected to condemn jihadist attacks.&nbsp; I no longer have any patience for this sort of view.&nbsp; Those of us who are proud of our heritage, who have diverse and complex relationships with the Islam of our forebears, can make a difference by speaking out against every single one of these crimes whose miserable perpetrators wrongfully claim to act as agents of the religious heritage we value.&nbsp; (This is akin to suggesting that Jews can advance the cause of human rights by criticizing the Israeli government’s violations since it claims to represent them, even while they are in no way collectively responsible for such abuses.)&nbsp; We should have a Million Muslim March, or the virtual equivalent, every single time an event like this happens.</p> <p>Our community organizations should move from reactive condemnations of terrorism post hoc, to proactive, systematic efforts to root out Islamist ideology through awareness-raising, and humanist education.&nbsp; We must also do more to support those doing this work back home in our countries of origin.&nbsp; As difficult as it can be to speak out in our highly charged contemporary environment in which the Western far right campaigns against Islam – akin to “walking on a tightrope” as one young Arab-American activist recently described it - it takes just a fraction of the moral courage shown by those most at risk.&nbsp; Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, who has to have armed guards in her Lahore office, implored the diaspora community to speak out about the slaughter in countries like hers when I interviewed her. </p> <p>It is especially critical not to blame the victims for the Paris attack, however challenging some of their drawings and writings may have been for some.&nbsp; That is what satirists do – push boundaries.&nbsp; That is their right, and indeed modern society needs those who dare to claim that none of our emperors have any clothes.&nbsp; Charlie Hebdo are equal opportunity offenders, lampooning the Pope, Jewish orthodoxy and the Mullahs.&nbsp; Many people of Muslim heritage appreciate satire.&nbsp; The late great Pakistani arts promoter Faizan Peerzada <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583">told me</a> of the Danish cartoons that Charlie Hebdo reprinted, “if this cartoon was seen by Mohamed, he would have had a laugh.&nbsp; As simple as that.” </p> <p>Meanwhile, the extreme right wing and other anti-Muslim forces in the West cannot be allowed to overlook such defiance among people of Muslim heritage, or to smear all of Islam or its adherents - &nbsp;or immigrants writ large - because of attacks like the one in Paris.&nbsp; As <a href="https://carolinefourest.wordpress.com/">Caroline Fourest</a>, an expert on fundamentalisms and former member of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo told me yesterday, the magazine is itself both anti-fundamentalist and secularist - and resolutely anti-racist.&nbsp; “Racism must not be an excuse for fundamentalism.&nbsp; And fundamentalism must not be an excuse for racism,” she insisted. “We have to fight both at the same time.”&nbsp; She is absolutely correct, and these will both be long struggles.</p> <p>After twenty years of writing about Muslim fundamentalist violence, I am running out of synonyms for atrocity.&nbsp; And for courage.&nbsp; During my recent research about opposition to fundamentalism among people of Muslim heritage, I was given a copy of the newspapers published at Press House in Algiers on the very next day after a 1996 Armed Islamic Group bombing there that killed 18 press workers and their neighbors.&nbsp; I have thought about this story a great deal in the last 24 hours.&nbsp; </p> <p>Somehow the Algerian journalists rallied back in 1996 and got their editions out, working to do so in the rubble of their offices before the smoke had even cleared.&nbsp; One of them, a woman named Ghania Oukazi, posed the following question in that day’s heroic papers, a question just as relevant now. “Pen against Kalashnikov.&nbsp; Is there a more unequal struggle?”&nbsp; She answered it herself with this commitment.&nbsp; “What is certain is that the pen will not stop.”&nbsp; Yesterday’s terror attack in Paris is a stark reminder that to defeat all forms of fundamentalism and terror we must always honor Ghania’s pledge.&nbsp; As Caroline Fourest exclaimed when telling me her surviving former colleagues were determined to rally and get an issue of Charlie Hebdo next week: “there is no way they will make us put down our pens.”</p> <p><em>Read more interviews and analysis with people of Muslim heritage working to challenge fundamentalisms:</em><strong> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></strong> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aidan-white/charlie-hebdo-how-journalism-needs-to-respond-to-this-unconscionable-attac">Charlie Hebdo: how journalism needs to respond to this unconscionable attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">&quot;Truth needs witnesses&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? Civil society Can Europe make it? 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Charlie Hebdo Thu, 08 Jan 2015 09:54:33 +0000 Karima Bennoune 89392 at https://opendemocracy.net "Truth needs witnesses" https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The column Saïd Mekbel published the day before he was assassinated<strong> </strong>in 1994<strong> </strong>remains sadly topical today - recalling murdered journalists everywhere. <em>Republished in tribute to the people <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30710883">killed </a>today at the offices of the French satirical magazine <a href="http://www.charliehebdo.fr/index.html">Charlie Hebdo </a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on December 3, 2014. It is republished here in tribute to those killed today in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo</em></p><p>December 3, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Algerian journalist Saïd Mekbel. He was shot while eating in a restaurant near his Algiers office and died the next morning. That same day Mekbel had published an article<em> </em>in his paper <em>Le Matin</em> that&nbsp;would prove to be his own eulogy.&nbsp; Its raw words memorialize journalists everywhere who are targeted for practising their profession. The piece, known as "Ce voleur qui" or “This Thief Who…,” which describes the plight of press workers&nbsp;trapped in conflict, remains sadly topical today.&nbsp; It recalls not only Mekbel's murder, but also those of Iraqi journalists <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29613783">Raad Mohamed al-Azzawi and Mohanad al-Akidi</a>, and Americans <a href="http://www.cjr.org/darts_and_laurels/the_new_york_times_recreates_i.php">Steven Sotloff and James Foley</a>,&nbsp; all of whom have been killed by “Islamic State” this year.</p> <p>Throughout the 1990s, Algerian journalists were extra-judicially condemned to death and executed by the country’s murderous armed fundamentalist groups, while simultaneously facing endless restrictions and harassment by the military-backed government.&nbsp; Journalist and editor Lazhari Labter <a href="http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/index.asp?navig=catalogue&amp;obj=livre&amp;no=5213">analyzed the killings </a>&nbsp;in his profession as follows:&nbsp; “the fundamentalist terrorists implemented a systematic program of liquidation of members of the journalistic family – a program summed up in the sinister slogan of the Armed Islamic Group: ‘Those who combat us with the pen will die by the sword.’” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/krYemYVc5__Qrm5OX1qtJCj4boLCy3CFkIpF1BPcm-Q/mtime:1417548046/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/mekbelPhoto.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Saïd Mekbel</span></span></span>The Algerian writer <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahar_Djaout">Tahar Djaout</a> - one of Algeria’s first intellectuals <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">cut down</a> in the 90s&nbsp; - had expressed the reporters’ predicament perfectly: “If you speak out, they will kill you. If you keep silent, they will kill you. So speak out, and die.” Mekbel did just that. The nineties violence which claimed his life made Algeria, according to a 2012 United Nations <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Protectingthelivesofjournalists.aspx">report</a>, one of the five deadliest locations for reporters in the last twenty years. A total of a hundred press workers, including sixty journalists, were killed by the fundamentalist armed groups between 1993 and 1997, a terrible history chronicled by Ahmed Ancer, a journalist with the paper <em><a href="http://www.elwatan.com/">El Watan</a> </em>(the Nation), in a book appropriately entitled <em>Encre Rouge</em> (Red Ink). </p> <p>This violence was, as the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Protectingthelivesofjournalists.aspx">described</a> the murder of journalists, “the most extreme form of censorship. . . .”&nbsp; The journalists’ counter-attack was to survive, to keep writing no matter what. After Saïd Mekbel was killed, <em>Le Matin</em> reprinted his articles over many days “to spite the killers.” </p> <p>In life, Saïd Mekbel was an honest and humorous socio-politial critic who frequently took aim both at politicians in the Algerian government as well as at the fundamentalist armed groups that battled them.&nbsp; His son <a href="https://ajouadmemoire.wordpress.com/articles-documents-et-interviews-reportages/interview-avec-nazim-mekbel-president-de-lassociation-ajouad-algerie-memoires-la-societe-civile-doit-prendre-en-main-son-histoire/">Nazim Mekbel</a>, president and co-founder of <em><a href="https://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Ajouad-Alg%C3%A9rie-M%C3%A9moires/190787850940981">Ajouad (“the generous”) Algérie Mémoires</a>,</em> a collective of families of victims of the 1990s fundamentalist terrorism, wrote last December on the 19th anniversary of the killing about some of his father’s most pointed criticisms. “[T]o the Sheikh of the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), who advised that we should prepare to change our modes of dress and eating, he replied…. ‘I encourage you, in all fraternity, to go… reclothe yourselves.’” <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>As Nazim recalled, his father had also written of torture – which like fundamentalist violence was endemic in 1990s Algeria. “[P]olice officers should be given ashtrays with the explanation that they are to be offered to some of their colleagues… who in certain police stations, ask detainees to open their mouths so as to serve as ashtrays.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Of Algeria’s terrible wave of 90s political assassinations, Saïd Mekbel had noted that, “They are done so as to suit all the political extremes that want to gain or keep Power.”&nbsp; He asked a question that is still globally relevant. “Is there really nothing else that can be unrolled on the road that leads to the throne other than this macabre carpet made of the bodies of intellectuals?”&nbsp; Nazim recalled that his father wondered in print who exactly would kill him, remarking that&nbsp;“sometimes I long to meet those assassins and especially their commanders.”&nbsp;This was because, as he explained, “I want to know who will order my death.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Of his country’s youth, Saïd Mekbel had worried about “what sort of mutants” were being produced – “traffickers in arms and in drugs, economic con men and con men of religion.”<em> </em>According to Nazim, for his father, “a prime example of the intolerance which plagued his country was the letter he received from an ‘anonymous combatant’ who promised an Islamic Algeria while condemning another reader ‘who had the cowardice to sign his name and to affirm that he was a Christian Algerian, proud of his identity and living his faith, his convictions and his ideas.’ ”&nbsp; Mekbel was horrified by the violence such ideas produced.&nbsp; After the <a href="http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1370&amp;dat=19941022&amp;id=KKMxAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=2QoEAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=4579,4269981">assassination</a> of two Spanish nuns by the Armed Islamic Group in Algiers in 1994, he posed a question which still needs answering in the era of the so-called Islamic State: &nbsp;“Toward what world of darkness are we headed, we who dream only of light?"<em> <br /></em></p> <p>While Pope Francis today asks people of Muslim heritage to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30265996">condemn terrorism</a>, Mekbel was already doing so twenty years ago. His February 1994 open letter to the terrorists of Algeria distills the rage of many people in Muslim majority societies against those who butcher in the name of Allah.&nbsp; “Tell me, partisan of terrorism . . . you who regularly . . . explain that terrorist acts are done . . . to—I quote—‘bring down the military junta in power,’ tell me how assassinating a schoolteacher in front of . . . the children in his class, when he only had a little piece of chalk in his hands, tell me . . . how this ignoble execution contributes to ‘bringing down the military junta.’ ” </p> <p>Ten months later, on December 3, 1994, the man who had the courage to ask this question in print was himself fatally shot.&nbsp; Saïd Mekbel’s assassination was <a href="http://cpj.org/killed/1994/said-mekbel.php">claimed</a> by the Armed Islamic Group. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this crime, and as insisted by Mustapha Benfodil, who is currently <a href="http://www.djazairess.com/fr/elwatan/480044">writing</a> about Mekbel for the Algerian newspaper <em>El Watan,</em> some form of accountability for these 1990s atrocities <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">remains essential</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>Amongst his father’s 1300 columns from that period, Nazim Mekbel selected a particularly defiant one that should be remembered on this somber anniversary.&nbsp; It appeared in November 1991 when the still ascendant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) threatened to use the ballot box to reduce Algeria to an “Islamic State.”&nbsp; Entitled “Ya FIS” or “O FIS” (the acronym also means “son” in French), the piece is a sardonic reply to correspondence from a fundamentalist sympathizer.&nbsp; “A big thank you for your letter. I found it very nice, even if at the end of each sentence you promised me that I will do many things lying face downwards when the FIS comes to power… Your letter really put me in a good mood… I was able to laugh at treasures like this one:&nbsp; ‘Lying face downwards, you will fall from on high, Saïd, when you learn the results of the election of December 26, 1991…’”&nbsp; Mekbel signed his open letter with insubordinate courtesy.&nbsp; “Take care of yourself, <em>ya FIS</em>.&nbsp; I greet you, but not face downwards.”</p> <p>Lazhari Labter wrote recently from Algiers to say that “all his life Saïd Mekbel fought for FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, for DEMOCRACY, for HUMAN RIGHTS and WOMEN’S RIGHTS, for LIBERTY.”&nbsp; Summing up his own body of work, Saïd Mekbel <a href="http://www.lematindz.net/news/13024-said-mekbel-un-3-decembre-1994-la-verite-a-besoin-de-temoins.html">observed</a>&nbsp;that, “[t]ruth is like justice.&nbsp; It needs witnesses…. Even very small witnesses who can simply write things that will last.” &nbsp;While he has been gone for exactly twenty years, his words&nbsp; - written against extremism, terror, abuse and corruption and yet infused with humor wherever possible - <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">will never die</a>.&nbsp; In honour of both uncomfortable truths and elusive justice, this great Algerian witness wrote things that will indeed last.&nbsp; </p> <p>Here is a translation of his final column.</p> <p><strong>This thief who… </strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><em>This thief who, in the night, keeps a low profile when going home, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This father who recommends that his children not say in public what his miserable line of work is, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This bad citizen who skulks in the courts, waiting to appear before judges, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This individual picked up in a roundup and propelled by a riffle butt into the back of a truck, it is he.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>It is he who leaves his house in the morning without being sure he will arrive at work.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>And it is he who leaves work again at night, with no certainty of reaching home.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This vagabond who no longer knows where to spend the night, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>He is the one who is threatened in the secrecy of an official’s office, the witness who must swallow what he knows, this naked and helpless citizen….</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This man who makes a wish not to die by having his throat cut, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This body onto which they sew back a decapitated head, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>It is he who does not know what to do with his hands, apart from scribbling his humble writings, he who hopes against hope, because roses grow well – don’t they - on a pile of manure. </em><em></em></p> <p><em>He who is all of this and who is only a journalist.</em></p> <p>Translated by Karima Bennoune</p><p><em>The American photo journalist Luke Somers, who had been captured by Al Qaeda and held hostage in Yemen, died&nbsp; 6th December 2014.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>On December 5th the IWMF issued a statement: <strong>"The International Women's Media Foundation is gravely concerned about the detention of investigative journalist and 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Khadija Ismayilova, and is <a href="http://www.iwmf.org/courage-awardee-khadija-ismayilova-arrested/">calling</a> on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release her immediately."</strong></em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><br /></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aidan-white/charlie-hebdo-how-journalism-needs-to-respond-to-this-unconscionable-attac">Charlie Hebdo: how journalism needs to respond to this unconscionable attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-iraq-today-trampling-islam-underfoot-in-name-of-jihad">From 1990s Algeria to Iraq today: trampling Islam underfoot in the name of Jihad </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-911-and-isis-understanding-history-of-homo-islamicus-fun">From 1990s Algeria to 9/11 and ISIS: understanding the history of &quot;Homo islamicus fundamentalensis&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria Democracy and government Can Europe make it? 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Wed, 07 Jan 2015 18:45:33 +0000 Karima Bennoune 88421 at https://opendemocracy.net