openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Security is not just CCTV: valuing ourselves is security https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marion-bowman/security-is-not-just-cctv-valuing-ourselves-is-security <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It feels as if the entire world has been given over to the most perverse notions of 'safety' &nbsp;that are really about death and destruction, cruelty and conflict, grandiosity and greed. Marion Bowman reports from the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Nobel Women’s Initiative conference</a> in the Netherlands.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It was a classic image of protectiveness. The figure of a soldier stood, fatherly, silent, unyielding, over a seated woman, small, lovely, smiling. But it was not how it seemed. The soldier was a full-scale replica of one of China’s Terracotta Warriors, one of several being used as ornaments in a country house hotel in the Netherlands. The woman was Dicki Chhoyang, a Tibetan politician who was leading a discussion at the 2015 Nobel Women’s Initiative conference on human rights.</p> <p>The image was poignant, for China has illegally and forcibly occupied Tibet for 65 years and the armour-clad warrior of an ancient Chinese dynasty, with his clenched fists ready to grasp weapons, loomed over Chhoyang reminding us that what is often passed off as protection in the relationship between women and men and between countries is really control. </p> <p>As in gender relations, so in international affairs. ‘Security’ is everywhere in official circles yet increasingly it feels as if the entire world has been given over to the most perverse notions of safety, notions of ‘safety’ that are really about death and destruction, cruelty and conflict, grandiosity and greed. From 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (ostensibly to win a war against terror but which have merely spawned ISIS and more violence), to increased efforts by the EU to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/juliana-wahlgren/securitisation-not-response-to-deaths-at-sea">control borders</a> in response to the Mediterranean migrant crisis, while hundreds of traumatised and terrified people die,&nbsp; governments around the world keep proving incapable of understanding what real human security is made of.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>It’s a point not missed at the Nobel Women's Initiative conference underway in the Netherlands. The people in the room listening to Dicki Chhoyang and her panellists were there to explore how women who promote and defend human rights can be protected. </p> <p>They started with hugging. Each person, and they were mostly women, was asked to hug the people next to them. I hugged Zaynab El Sawi, who recently had to leave Sudan because the women’s resource centre she helped run for 17 years was finally raided and closed last year by the government. ‘We had been training thousands of women and youths to be human rights activists,’ she said. ‘They said we were creating a generation that doesn’t match the ideology of the government. They couldn’t tolerate us anymore. They took everything, our bank account, our computers, our library.’ I shared another hug with Heli Bathija on my left, a Finnish doctor who represents the Global Fund for Women. Hope Chigudu, a founder of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network and the first moderator for the day, chided everyone so that the conference could begin: ‘Once women start hugging they will never stop.’</p> <p>This was not just conference group dynamics or New Age warm fuzzies. This was about women taking care of themselves and each other and keeping people alive. The theme of the conference this weekend is ‘<em>Defending the Defenders! Building Global Support for Women Human Rights Defenders’</em>. Chigudu’s first statement after everyone had sat down again and fallen silent was: ‘When we are being threatened, who will defend us? We have to defend ourselves.’</p> <p>There was an unremitting focus on this reality. Research by the Swedish <a href="http://www.kvinnatillkvinna.se/">Kvinna Till Kvinna</a> Foundation found that the women who face the most hatred, threats or violence are those working on violence against women, gender equality, gender stereotypes, LGBT rights, sexual violence, militarism, and corruption and organised crime. Fourteen percent of their survey’s respondents had survived murder attempts. Panellist Lisa VeneKlasen of <a href="http://www.justassociates.org/">Just Associates</a> painted a picture of the problem around the world: ‘What we see now is patriarchy and capitalism on steroids.’&nbsp; Sima Samar of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said: ‘The global war on terror and the emphasis on security has closed the space for activists to challenge power. When any woman confronts power, the closer they get, the more dangerous it is.’ While they spoke, a slide show silently rolled through on big screens either side of the platform, picturing women such as Ummaya Gabbara, women’s affairs adviser to the mayor of her town in Iraq , killed on 22 June 2014 defending it from ISIS; Nasseb Miloud Karfana, a television journalist in Libya killed for doing her job on 29 May 2014; and Farida Afindi, executive director of a human rights group in Pakistan, shot dead in cold blood on 7 July 2014.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite obligations on governments that are members of the UN to keep women human rights defenders safe, the women believe their own networks are their own best hope. ‘Networks are a historical tool of feminists,’ said Marusia Lopez of IM Defensoras. ‘Security is not just CCTV! Valuing ourselves is security.’ Since 2010, 39 women human rights defenders have been killed in MesoAmerican countries, she said. Women there have built networks in four countries which have varied activities, from registering attacks to supporting the self-care of women. ‘Women can go to a safe place and have some rest,’ she said. ‘We should recognise our own need for health and wellbeing, so each network has a small team assisting on health and healing.’ Such shelters and safe houses are replicated elsewhere. A system of Bamboo Huts has been created in Manipur, India, where an armed conflict has raged, forgotten by the international community and denied by the Indian government, for decades. ‘People bang with stones on lamp posts to warn women that armed men are coming,’ said Binalakshmi Nepram of the Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network. </p> <p>Yanar Mohammed, of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, said that setting up shelters itself is risky. When she was preparing to set up the first one in Baghdad, the campaign against it claimed it would encourage women to be promiscuous. Then in 2003, in an internet café, she received an email. In the subject line was ‘Killing Yanar Mohammed within days.’ ‘It was like an electric shock.&nbsp; I was too scared to cross the road from the café to go back to the office,’ she said. ‘I just had to go home and hide.’ She now lives in secret locations in both Iraq and Canada. ‘But we kept going and now there are six shelters including one for Iraq’s LGBT. We have tens of thousands of supporters in Iraq and thousands internationally. Women are not weak. They do not need defending, they just need to be supported and acknowledged. The future will be ours, it’s just a matter of when.’</p> <p>The weekend’s conference had opened with inspirational speeches by three of the six Nobel Peace laureates behind the Nobel Women’s Initiative. After Northern Ireland’s Mairead Maguire and Iran’s Shirin Ebadi came the US’s Jody Williams. Williams approached the podium haltingly. She said she was in pain from a bad back. She was weary. ‘I don’t have the fiery energy of Shirin or the global love of Mairead. I just want to thank you for coming,’ she said laconically. ‘This is a lovely place and that’s not an accident. We need to nurture ourselves so we can continue the struggle. We are in beautiful surroundings because we want you to have the space to breathe and enjoy yourselves, to take care of yourselves. You are here to learn from each other, the things that have worked and the things that haven’t but,’ she said,’ take time to look at the ducks on the pond and the leaves on the trees coming into life because when we forget the glory and beauty of the world we lose hope.’</p> <p>Under the dead-eyed gaze of the Terracotta Warriors, guarding the power of their ruler even in death, Dicki Chhoyang later told how she had met Yanar Mohammed for the first time over breakfast and, making conference small talk, asked where she lived in Canada. ‘I can’t tell you that,’ said Mohammed, ‘because it’s where I go when I get death threats.’ And they just carried on drinking fresh orange juice and eating lovely food off fine china at a table spread with crisp, fresh table linen as the spring birds sang outside in the morning sunshine.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Marion Bowman is reporting for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">oD 50.50</a> from the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: 'Defending the Defenders' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></strong></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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/brigid-inder/tribute-to-joan-kagezi-murder-of-human-rights-defender">A tribute to Joan Kagezi: the murder of a human rights defender</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</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/alice-welbourn/positive-women-human-rights-defenders">Positive women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Peacework & Human Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power women and militarism violence against women gender justice gender fundamentalisms feminism Marion Bowman Sun, 26 Apr 2015 07:45:27 +0000 Marion Bowman 92278 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq’s female citizens: prisoners of war https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraq%E2%80%99s-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iraqi woman human rights defender Yanar Mohammed spoke to Jennifer Allsopp at the Nobel Women’s Initiative <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/?ref=18">conference </a>about grass-roots responses to the atrocities women are facing under ISIS. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the second day of the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/shirin-ebadi/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">conference</a> on building global support for women human rights defenders, the 100 participants delivered a sobering and urgent message: history is still repeating itself. Watching the military-industrial complex wreak havoc in the Middle East, reflected Shirin Ebadi, holder of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, is like ‘rewinding a movie’. Women human rights defenders from across the globe were in agreement: the incalculable suffering of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have taught us, once and for all, that bombs lead to suffering, and never peace. </p> <p>In her keynote speech, Shirin reflected on what a different world might have looked like if, in response to the atrocities of September 11th, the United States and its allies had built schools in Afghanistan in memory of the victims instead of retaliating with war and occupation. ‘You can’t fight an ideology by bombing it’, she told us, speaking of the heinous war crimes currently being committed by the Islamic State. ‘If a terrorist is taken out, his children will replace him. We must throw books not bombs’.</p> <p>One participant who knows first-hand the horrors that come from forgetting history, and from erasing women from history in particular, is Yanar Mohammed, co-founder and Director of the <a href="http://www.owfi.info/EN/">Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq</a>. I spoke to hear about the situation in her country 12 years after I first marched for peace in London, and 12 years since the war on terror began.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/ooooo.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yanar leading a women&#039;s rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women&#039;s Assoc."><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/ooooo.JPG" alt="Yanar leading a women's rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women's Assoc." title="Yanar leading a women&#039;s rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women&#039;s Assoc." width="400" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yanar leading a women's rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women's Assoc.</span></span></span></p><p>Jennifer Allsopp: <em>Yanar, what is the situation of women’s human rights in Iraq right now? </em></p> <p>Yanar Mohammed: The new update of 2014-2015 is, of course, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">attack of ISIS</a>. But this is rooted in recent history. It is the direct result of all the politics that came into Iraq with the occupation. The US empowered the Shi’a Islamic political groups and marginalised a big part of the country who were recognised as Sunni people. It was only to be expected that the next step would be for the sectarian religious dynamics to surface, for one religious group to be fighting another religious group. The leading members of ISIS were either tortured in US military prisons or in the prisons of the Shi’a government which the Americans put in place. When you torture a person for long periods you might get a very passionate human rights defender but most probably you will get a beast whose only concern is to seek his revenge in the best way possible. And that’s what happened with <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_al-Baghdadi">Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi</a> who was in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Bucca">Bucca prison</a>, being tortured by the Americans and being prepared for his next role in life, head of ISIS. Before 2003, none of us knew which part of the country was Sunni and which part was Shi’a. This was something new to Iraq and we are reaping the results at this point. Women’s wellbeing has paid the price.</p> <p>As well as the crisis of ISIS we’re dealing with other fallout from the last war, like the ongoing crisis of Iraqi orphans. There are <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/70886/occupation%27s_toll%3A_5_million_iraqi_children_orphaned">5 million</a> Iraqi orphans of war, and tens of thousands of them have been trafficked in the last decade. Five million orphans growing into teenagers is a very big difficulty for any society. Young women growing into situations with no parents are usually material for exploitation in the brothels. Many do not have proper identification papers. Although the law is not against giving them papers, whenever they go to any governmental establishment and ask for them they are asked to bring their father or their brother, when they don’t have anybody. They reside in the worst houses in Iraq and they are exploited on a daily basis because they do not have access to citizenship. It’s been more than 10 years since this started. The exploited female teenager’s right to citizenship is a major, major issue. </p> <p>JA: <em>Before the emergence of ISIS, were things improving at all for women in Iraq?</em></p> <p>YM: We saw some relative peace in the previous years, relative in the sense that the capital was in control and the major cities had peace, but the religious parties always held the upper hand. They didn’t let a single year pass without surprising us. The last time was in 2013 when the Ministry of Justice announced their intention to introduce the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/erin-evers/women%E2%80%99s-rights-under-threat-in-iraq">Al Jaafari law</a>, which is the Shi’a Islamist law for personal status that rules family life. This law would allow the marriage of a 9 year old girl, the humiliating treatment of women in matters of marriage and divorce, and generally to treat women like objects, not as human beings. This law is hundreds of years old and they wanted to make it a reality for us now; they want to abort hundreds of years of improvement in Iraq. </p> <p>JA: <em>How did the women’s movement respond?</em></p> <p>YM: We demonstrated. We spoke over our radio. We have a community radio in Baghdad called Al Musawat, which means <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/27/iraqi-shiites-protestproposedfamilylaw.html">Equality radio</a>. We spoke out very strongly. We had slogans that said ‘we will not allow you to rape our young daughters’. We explained to the public what the law means and we were able to gather quite some opposition against it so that the government eventually had to announce that it will not be passed “at this point”. They say it needs to be amended, but this is an excuse for them to hide the draft of the law. Eventually we were ordered to close the radio on the pretext that our “registration was not complete”. So yes, even before ISIS, the government’s attack on women’s rights and women’s status in law kept us busy. </p> <p>JA: <em>How has the women’s human rights movement in Iraq evolved in response to ISIS?</em></p> <p>YM: When ISIS took over the Northern city of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/10/iraq-sunni-insurgents-islamic-militants-seize-control-mosul">Mosul</a> in June last year, which is the second biggest city in the country, that was a landmark for us all, that really was a landmark. We felt: the government is not the only oppressor of women, there is a new group which has emerged and which has turned gigantic, which is claiming a big part of the country. We were aware that the political situation was not secure and that our safety was not guaranteed. Many of us have our families in the parts of Iraq which ISIS has taken over. My father’s family is from the city of Telafar, which was taken by ISIS, and I have thousands of relatives who are homeless now. </p> <p>And what has ISIS done to the women in the cities they have conquered? Direct enslavement, humiliation and turning women into concubines to be bought and sold. This was something nobody expected to see in Iraq. In the beginning, in 2003, there was the Iraqi resistance, which didn’t want the US occupation, then they developed Al Qaeda, but even then it was never this monstrous, this inhumane and as misogynistic as what we’re seeing now under ISIS. </p> <p>We began immediately contacting the women in Mosul and in the other cities that were occupied. We set up a network of women in that city to whom we speak continuously. We try to be in touch with their difficulties and to be of use to those who face direct attacks. We also set up a coalition for ending the trafficking of Iraqi women and we came up with two recommendations. The first one was to gain legal status for our shelters for women and the second recommendation was that the Iraqi government recognise the Yazidi women’s enslavement and their status as prisoners of war who have been tortured by the enemy, and to give them benefits as such. We have had many wars with other countries and when a prisoner comes back they get many benefits, they get a house, they get a salary and we want the Iraqi government to do this for the Yazidi women so that they can have the social status that would allow a good future, a good family and a good status in society. </p> <p>The women of Yazidi faith in my country have witnessed the most horrific practices, things that not many women in modern times have seen. A few months ago, I made a trip to the Kurdish part of the county, to where the women who were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">enslaved by ISIS</a> had run away. I sat down with women in the Kadhiya camp and asked them about their experiences. A girl as young as 15 had been bought and sold more than ten times, from one ISIS fighter to another. She was raped by all those men. I asked her, “what was your most difficult moment during those two months that you were detained there?” She said, “it was the moments when one man would be selling me to the other and they would stand around me and look at me as a piece of meat on which they would be jumping the next day”. She told me that one of the fighters who had bought her would pray daily; after he finished prayer he would come and rape her. She told me stories that I would never expect to hear in a country where people were used to living peacefully with each other. We did have dictators, we did have times of war but it never reached the point where one person, or a group, would be attacking another group and would be enslaving all the women of that group.</p> <p>JA: <em>Are your recommendations being recognised, is the coalition having an impact?</em></p> <p>YP: We’re still working on it. We started the coalition in its embryonic shape last September but in January and March the campaign picked up and we are beginning to see some results. The campaign has many aspects but the shelter is the most important one. At the very start of the war on Iraq our organisation made it known that we intended to start a shelter for women at risk, but the government did not allow us to do that, they said it was illegal. But from that time until now, with the support of our sisters in the international community and with the support of some actors like the Dutch government and the EU, we have been able to do it anyway. We’ve set up three women’s shelters in Baghdad and two in Karbala for the refugee women who are escaping ISIS, in addition to one LGBT shelter in Baghdad. So although they try to illegalise our sheltering activity, in practice we’ve persevered and we’ve been able to multiply them. This is crucial. It means that, at this moment, when a woman feels threatened by honour killing, by domestic abuse and political oppression, they are knocking on our doors and they know there is the network that will protect them and be there for them. </p> <p>We see different kinds of things. Two months ago a woman came to me, her name is Zainab. She was in charge of a meeting hall in Baghdad and she’s extremely good looking. She was accused of being corrupt and of taking bribes by some officials who wanted to have sex with her. So they put her in prison, they made her go through very humiliating treatment, and when she left prison she felt she was threatened. She came and knocked on our doors and asked if we could protect her. So she is staying with us in one of our shelters and her daughter comes to visit her from time to time. </p> <p>JA: <em>And what’s the next step for you? What would you like to see happen in the next year?</em></p> <p>YM: In the next year I would like to see a law legalising women’s shelters in Iraq. I would like to see our radio being opened again as a result of the pressure that we’re putting on the governmental body that could allow this. I would like to see the Iraqi government guarantee social insurance for the Yazidi women who were enslaved and to recognise their status as prisoners of war.</p><p><strong><em>Jennifer Allsopp is reporting for 50.50 from the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: '<a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Defending the Defenders</a>' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></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/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/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 odd"> <a href="/5050/nadje-al-ali/iraq-gendering-authoritarianism">Iraq: gendering authoritarianism</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"> Iraq </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 Iraq Civil society Conflict 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Peacework & Human Security 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy fundamentalisms gender gender justice violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Yanar Mohammed Jennifer Allsopp Sun, 26 Apr 2015 07:33:27 +0000 Yanar Mohammed and Jennifer Allsopp 92275 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran behind the conciliatory veil https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/arash-falasiri/iran-behind-conciliatory-veil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Right-wing US and Israeli venom against the outline agreement is one thing; genuine concern about the Islamic regime’s Shia expansionism and human-rights record is however another.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>As Iran and the ‘P5+1’ (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) prepared for a new round of negotiations in late April to finalise the details of a nuclear agreement, a group of 24 executives and investors were touring the country on a ‘fact-finding’ mission. Although Iran still remains under a sanctions and American companies are prohibited from doing business there, the trip was the group’s third to the Islamic republic. So although several important differences remain between the US and Iranian interpretations of the tentative agreement on 2 April</span> <span>in Lausanne<em>, </em></span><span>some American firms are already signalling their hopes for new business opportunities with Iran.</span></p> <p>Sanctions have massively undermined Iran’s economy but that anticipated new era is a matter of mutual interest. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has implicitly supported the view of the president, Hassan Rouhani, that the nuclear issue is a “symptom” of mistrust and conflict, not a “cause”. For the first time in decades, he indicated that reaching a decent deal might lead Iran to more co-operation with the US in the region. A few days later in the <em>New York Times</em>, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, underlined that “there are multiple arenas where the interests of Iran and other major stakeholders intersect … This unique opportunity for engagement must not be squandered.” </p> <p>It seems then, that “the waiting list” of US companies—as Dick Simon, a co-founder of the Young Presidents’ Organization and one of the executives who visited Iran put it—is expanding. Another American investor told BBC Persian that the “vast number of educated youth, a huge market in the region, a western consumer middle class and the friendly attitude of the people” had made “the prospect of a changing Iran a very interesting one”.</p> <h2><strong>Substantial disagreements</strong></h2> <p>As the US president, Barack Obama, has made clear, however, this is not a done deal and hardliners on both sides are trying to sabotage it. There are substantial disagreements between the US ‘fact-sheet’ on the outline agreement and Iran’s understanding. Iran insists that nothing has been surrendered and “none of the nuclear facilities or related activities will be stopped, shut down, or suspended” but the US summary suggests otherwise. In addition to the lack of such crucial detail, there are at least two main differences: over the inspection arrangements and the lifting of sanctions. </p> <p>Contrary to the ‘fact-sheet’, Iran insists that its military bases are not to be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—as both Khamenei and the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, have reaffirmed. On the other hand, Iran maintains that all sanctions should go within days of the signing of the final agreement: “At the same time as the start of Iran’s nuclear-related implementation work, all of the sanctions will be annulled on a single specified day.” But the ‘P5+1’ are insisting that sanctions will only be suspended through verifications by the IAEA and “at the end of the first stage of implementation, not at the beginning”. According to the US secretary of state, John Kerry, this could take six months to a year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even more importantly, however, there is a critical suspicion as to whether the Islamic regime is genuinely changing. What puts Iran’s policy in question is its aggressive strategy, regionally and domestically. </p> <h2><strong>Hegemonic influence</strong></h2> <p>Some members of the US Congress have already discounted any agreement with Iran. The former Republican secretary of state James Baker alleged that it would “alienate all of our allies in the region”, making clear by this he meant not just Israel but all “moderate Arab states”. Yet Algeria, Oman, Iraqi, Lebanon and Tunisia all welcomed the framework deal as a positive alternative to war. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Since Shaheed assumed his post, he claims nearly 2,000 Iranians have been executed by the regime</span></p><p><span></span>Iran’s desire to increase its hegemonic influence in the region has agitated some countries, however, especially Saudi Arabia. Many Saudi media have claimed that Iran is trying to shape a ‘Shiite arc’, comprising Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain. And there is some evidence that the Saudi government sought to sabotage any agreement with Iran. Although immediately after the announcement of the potential deal Obama called King Salman to reassure him of America’s “enduring friendship”, Saudi officials have several times declared their anxiety about Iran’s nuclear programme. </p> <p>So Saudi Arabia has moved in advance of the outcome of further negotiations in July, partly because of Iran’s aggressive policy within some Arab nations to influence Shiite populations and challenge Saudi power. And there is no sign yet, from either side, of a peaceful resolution of this hegemonic conflict between the two regional powers, being played out in Syria, Iraq and Yemen (while some other Arab states in the Persian Gulf, like Bahrain, are not as stable as they might seem). </p> <p>King Salman did say he hoped “the deal would reinforce the stability and security of the region and the world” but this was an official gloss. <em>Al Arabiya</em>, a Saudi-backed news website, carried the unvarnished <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/04/01/Saudi-King-Salman-s-doctrine.html">claim</a> that “the Saudi king decided his country could no longer bear the provocative Iranian expansive policy in the Middle East, or the American silence over it”. In this perspective the skeleton deal has only reinforced Salman’s determination to push back against Iranian influence, with or without Washington. </p> <h2><strong>Total suppression</strong></h2> <p>“This is the new Iran,” the American entrepreneurs were told during their visit. Nasrollah Jahangard, Iran’s deputy minister of telecommunications, encouraged them to invest in a country where the number of smartphones was soon expected to reach 40m, or one for every two Iranians. Jahangard also told them privately that although the internet was filtered and Facebook banned in Iran, there were more than 30m users and at least 10m actively used Facebook every day. As one of the youngest countries in the world with a huge number of university students, there were many other socio-economic factors which could lead western companies to consider “the potential of getting involved in Iran”, Simon told BBC Persian after the group came back to America. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cy6L6JhBATViq4gJM0y8nSQI7Uk6F8PIfLolDuUIrL4/mtime:1430003539/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Hassan_Rouhani.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HAIs7ltyMp_bn6PSeXDWmAIJOQK8EYtEXdHrQXlv-ig/mtime:1430003148/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Hassan_Rouhani.jpg" alt="Hassan Rouhani" title="" width="230" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hassan Rouhani—his administration hangs on nuclear deal. Wikimedia / BotMultichillT. Creative Commons.</span></span></span>The main concern for human-rights activists, however, is the regime’s total suppression of socio-political demands while it open up economically to foreign investment—and here even the Islamic republic’s rhetoric has not changed. The most recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International indicate that human rights are sharply deteriorating and the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, has echoed that the situation has worsened since Rouhani was appointed. </p> <p>Since Shaheed assumed his post, he claims nearly 2,000 Iranians have been executed by the regime, while there are “around 900 prisoners of conscience in Iran, many of them in prison for simply expressing their opinions”. Based on official reports, during the past few months more than 200 people have been hanged and a large number on death row risk imminent execution. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Many experts thus suggest Rouhani’s administration has only one mission—to solve Iran’s nuclear problem with the west. In the annual budget socio-cultural sectors have faced a 62% cut over the past three years while provision for the military, allied to that of the police and domestic paramilitary forces, has increased just this year by 32.5%. The state remains utterly silent on the situation of minorities and those who were jailed following the protests against the controversial 2009 election, as well as the continued house arrest of the ‘green movement’ leaders. </p> <p>Domestically, therefore, not only is there no genuine change in the Islamic regime with Rouhani’s government but no hope of that is in prospect. So perhaps that US ‘enduring friendship’ with Saudi Arabia—regardless of <em>its</em> infamous human-rights situation—provides a new perspective for Iran to define an economic relationship with America.</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/odopensec" target="_blank"><strong>Like us on Facebook</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to follow the latest openSecurity articles, and tell the editors what we should publish next</strong>.&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/majid-siadat/iran-nuclear-deal-keeping-hope-of-peace-alive">Iran nuclear deal: keeping hope of peace alive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/scott-lucas/iran-celebrates-historic-nuclear-deal%E2%80%94all-eyes-now-on-supreme-leader">Iran celebrates historic nuclear deal—all eyes now on supreme leader</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"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran Conflict International politics wmd: proliferation & verification iran: how to avoid war? global security global politics democracy & iran Arash Falasiri Iran 5+1 Diplomacy Nuclear politics Sat, 25 Apr 2015 21:34:13 +0000 Arash Falasiri 92276 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Arab World: towards bi-polarity? https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/arab-world-towards-bipolarity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Maged Pic (1)_0.jpg" alt="Maged Mandour" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" /></p><p>In Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain, it will be very difficult for revolutionary democratic movements to succeed in such a bi-polar order.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>It has been four years since the Arab Revolt was ignited and the resulting social upheaval has all but left the region in tatters.&nbsp;</span><span>From Egypt to Syria and Iraq, it appears that the old elites in these countries are unable to remain in power without substantial international support. Beset by social unrest and the rise of violent non-state actors, some of these states have lost their ability to act autonomously in the international arena. They have becomes proxies to other regional powers, most notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, as they expand their quest for regional dominance.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5IRxHG6jV_xzV0g7zyOVi7lN2nU61fzHzo9PvcPfuCA/mtime:1429972135/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/7044206.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/LK2lrKx3EgZzdPrRq8Sk3UdQovhpLK1FbZZu2LhR4oE/mtime:1429971605/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/7044206.jpg" alt="US Secretary of State with King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Demotix Live News/Demotix. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US Secretary of State with King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Demotix Live News/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></span></p><p>Thus, the multi-polar nature of the regional order has steadily shifted towards bi-polarity, with Saudi Arabia acting as one regional super power, forming a coalition of Sunni conservative regimes, and Iran acting as the other, forming a coalition of Shia proxies. The powers of Egypt, Syria and Iraq - the traditional contenders for leadership - have all but evaporated, as their ruling elites rely on their patrons to maintain their flimsy grip on power.</p> <p>Kenneth Waltz, one of the most celebrated International Relations theorists, argued in <em>“The Theory of International Politics”</em> that the behavior of states in an international system depends on the distribution of power within that system. </p> <p>A system that has more than one major power is called a multi-polar system, which is considered unstable. While a system that has only two major powers is a bi-polar system, considered the most stable. Recently, under pax Americana, the age of a sole super power has emerged and the stability of this uni-polar world is still being widely debated. </p> <p>Waltz goes on to argue that the reasons behind the stability of a bi-polar system is the ability of the two powers to control their junior partners, so that no junior partner can jeopardize a full scale war by dragging the major powers into an undesired confrontation - the dynamic of World War I is cited as an example. There is also less uncertainty in this system and the threat of war can be averted, since there are only two major powers communicating - European peace during the Cold War is cited in support of this hypothesis. &nbsp;</p> <p>This is the theory, but how does this apply to the Middle East? </p> <h2><strong>The Saudi-led Sunni conservative camp </strong></h2> <p>Saudi Arabia has emerged from the past four years relatively unscathed. There were hopes of a possible “Saudi Spring”, however these hopes have been crushed. </p> <p>The Kingdom has actually emerged as a bastion of regional anti-revolutionary activity, as it supported the Egyptian military in its bid to maintain power and crush the revolution. The Kingdom led regional efforts, followed by the United Arab Emirates, to pump needed capital into the Egyptian economy, which is directly dominated by the military. In effect, this has allowed the Egyptian military to consolidate its grip on the country. </p> <p>The Kingdom also followed an active and aggressive foreign policy in terms of intervening in neighboring states, especially if Shia elements are involved in an internal struggle. The first of such interventions was in Bahrain, now in Yemen, where Egypt and other junior allies are set to play prominent roles.</p> <p>Based on this, one could argue that Saudi Arabia has become the most important power in the Sunni Arab World. The Kingdom has managed to accomplish this by ensuring a decline in its prospective competitors’ powers and their dependence on Saudi support to keep revolution at bay. As such, the only possible competitor was Egypt, which has been significantly weakened due to the revolution and become even more dependent on Saudi aid and international support to survive. </p> <h2><strong>The Iranian camp</strong></h2> <p>The same dynamic is visible in Iran. Iran through a careful and long-term policy of cultivating allies, combined with the folly of the United States and the Arab Revolt, has been able to amplify its influence in the Arab World.&nbsp; </p> <p>Iran has long-term strategic relationships with “radical” movements and regimes in the region, which include Hamas, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. This has allowed it to establish deep inroads in the Arab World by not only supporting the Shia cause, but by supporting issues that were of significant importance for the Arab populace, namely the occupation of Palestine, which it used skillfully to build its soft power in the region. </p> <p>The US has also contributed to the expansion of Iranian power by removing two major rivals, the Iraqi Baathist regime and the Taliban in Afghanistan, giving Iran significant freedom of movement particularly in Iraq, as the Iraqi polity became more sectarian. Moreover, the decline of other regional powers made them mere proxies of Iran, most notably Iraq and Syria.</p> <p>In Iraq, the increasing sectarian nature of Iraqi politics, which was culminated with the rise of ISIS, has all but led to the corrosion of the Iraqi state, opening up the way for an expansion of Iranian influence, which in some respects threatens to replace the state. </p> <p>This is very clear in the prominent role played by Iran in the battle for Tikrit, where Iranian backed militias played a prominent role, which in essence negates the role of the states and destroys their monopoly on violence. In simpler terms, the Iraqi state has become unable to protect itself and its citizens without Iranian backing, negating the reasons for its existence. </p> <p>In Syria, a similar scenario has occurred. The Assad regime has become reliant on Iranian backing in order to remain in power. Thus, losing all autonomy in the realm of foreign policy. For the foreseeable future, the Syrian regime has no choice but to follow orders from Tehran.</p> <p>In the middle of all this bloodshed, where is this stability predicted by Waltz? </p> <p>One needs to remember that International Relations Theory is exceptionally Euro-centric, which explains the cultural blind spots it has. It simply ignores the large number of regional wars, civil wars, proxy wars, coups and counter coups, and the involvement of super powers, such as the United States, and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Europe might have been stable, but the Third World suffered significant losses.</p> <p>Based on this, what can we reasonably expect? </p> <p>One could argue that a full-scale war between the two regional powers is neither desirable nor likely. However, a series of proxy confrontations, that have already been taking place in countries like Syria and possibly Yemen, are bound to follow, where both parties compete for the extension of their hegemony over the Arab World or what is, sadly, left of it.&nbsp; </p> <p>This does not bode well for democratic and revolutionary movements of what has now become the Arab Periphery. In Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain as they find themselves pulled into this regional conflict face, not only their oppressive governments, but also their governments’ supporters from either of the above mentioned camps. The success of revolutionary democratic movements in a bi-polar order will be very difficult, as attested by Mosaddegh, Allende and Patrice Lumumba. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&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="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/arab-autocracy-revolution">Arab autocracy &amp; revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/in-shadow-of-empire">In the shadow of an empire</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/arab-dictators-between-tactical-brilliance-and-strategic-stupidity">Arab dictators: between tactical brilliance and strategic stupidity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/isis-airstrikes-between-imperialism-and-orientalism">ISIS airstrikes: between imperialism and orientalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/isis-airstrikes-how-to-rehabilitate-dictators-and-destroy-revolution">ISIS airstrikes: how to rehabilitate dictators and destroy the revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/revolt-of-periphery">The revolt of the periphery</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 class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> United Arab Emirates </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia Iran Iraq Syria Egypt Conflict Democracy and government International politics Chronicles of the Arab revolt Geopolitics Revolution The future: Islam and democracy Violent transitions Maged Mandour Sat, 25 Apr 2015 15:18:40 +0000 Maged Mandour 92273 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The British syndrome: an abdication of responsibility https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-marquand/british-syndrome-abdication-of-responsibility <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are glaring absences at the heart of the UK elections contest. The new preface to his ‘Essay on Britain, now’ - by one of Britain’s leading political thinkers tells us why. Remarkably, it suggests ways in which to free ourselves from the trap we are in.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Blake_Dante_Hell_X_Farinata.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Blake_Dante_Hell_X_Farinata.jpg" alt="William Blake, Dante's Inferno, Canto X." title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>William Blake, Dante's Inferno, Canto X. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>My book, <em>Mammon’s Kingdom</em>, was born of incredulity. The global financial and economic crisis of 2008 was the second most devastating in the long history of capitalism. Only the crisis that began with the Wall Street crash of 1929 and culminated in the Great Depression of the 1930s did more damage to output, employment and welfare. </p> <p>And, just as the crisis of the 1930s made nonsense of the economic orthodoxy of the previous half century, the crisis of 2008 and its aftermath tore gaping holes in the intellectual system that had underpinned the assumptions of central bankers, ratings agencies, business schools and professional economists for a generation, and had shaped the policies of international economic institutions such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund. </p> <p>On a deeper level, the crisis exploded the dogmas spawned by that system: that government intervention in the economy does more harm than good, that markets should therefore be left to regulate themselves, that rewards reflect productivity, that, since ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’, the forces that make the super-rich richer also benefit the poor, that the information available to buyers and sellers in the market place is symmetrical, that the choices made by unfettered economic agents are rational and that the booms and busts which had been capitalism’s most obvious hallmark for centuries were no more. </p> <p>In my innocence, I assumed that Keynes would come in from the cold, and that a hunt would be on for a new politico-economic paradigm to replace the paradigm that had come so disastrously to grief.</p> <h2><strong>‘80’s common sense</strong></h2> <p>Nothing of the sort took place. The crisis of the thirties led policy makers in the United States, in Germany, in Sweden and even, to some degree, in the United Kingdom to jettison the economic orthodoxy of what was then the recent past and to search for new approaches. (The new approaches were not all benign: among them was Nazi Germany’s combination of brutal racism, illegal rearmament and economic autarchy.) </p> <p>This time, new departures are conspicuous for their absence. No modern-day Roosevelt has called on his countrymen to ‘drive the money changers from the temple’; no twenty-first century Lloyd George has called for a British New Deal. Left and right alike have spent the last six years searching for a cleaned-up version of business as usual, in the fond hope that a combination of somewhat more effective regulation and a somewhat fairer taxation system will keep the old show on the road. </p> <p>Left and right differ in emphasis and style.&nbsp; Raucous shouting matches during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons; smearing and jeering by the overwhelmingly right-of-centre popular press; and desperate attempts to give inconsequential policy distinctions more importance than they deserve are features of the landscape.&nbsp; But these are examples of what Freud called ‘the narcissism of minor differences’. </p> <p>What matters is that both political families have stuck to the fundamentals of the pre-crash public doctrine, just as they did in the long boom of the late-nineties and early-noughties. The three Cs which have encapsulated the common sense of the age since the early-1980s – Choice, Customer and Competition – still dominate public debate and shape public policy.&nbsp; The great question posed by the crash&nbsp; – what is to replace the public doctrine that came to grief six years ago – has rarely been asked, and even more rarely answered. Commentators like Will Hutton and Edward and Robert Skidelsky have challenged that doctrine and the behaviours that flow from it, but the response from the political world has been an embarrassed silence. </p> <h2><strong>Ending with a whimper</strong></h2> <p>Hence, my incredulity. How, I asked myself, could this be? Why the contrast between the radical new departures of the 1930s and the comatose intellectual conservatism of the last six years?&nbsp; Why the paucity of Joshuas trumpeting outside the walls of the market-fundamentalist Jericho? And why did Jericho’s leading inhabitants fail to see that the earth was shaking beneath their feet? </p> <p>Crises create opportunities for the future as well as suffering in the present. Political will and imagination, not ineluctable fate, determine the outcome. Cases in point include the crisis of stagflation that ended the long post-war boom in the 1970s and paved the way for the Hayekian ascendancy that followed; the fiscal crisis of the Bourbon monarchy that led through a succession of unsuccessful palliatives to the great French Revolution; the long-drawn-out crisis of British rule in Ireland that led, after much bloodshed, to the secession of the twenty-six counties of southern Ireland from the United Kingdom; and the crisis of the French Fourth Republic that brought De Gaulle to power and led to the establishment of the Fifth.</p> <p>Why have things been so different in present-day Britain? Why has our crisis ended with a whimper rather than a bang? And what does the story imply for our future as a people? </p> <h2><strong>One man’s search</strong></h2> <p><em>Mammon’s Kingdom </em>sets out the results of one man’s search for answers to these questions. But the key word in that sentence is ‘search’. The answers I offer are necessarily incomplete and in some cases provisional. Others will give different answers; some will pose different questions. </p> <p>The point of the ‘national conversation’ I call for in the final chapter (of which more later) is to refine and thrash out these differences. I do not envisage the conversation as an anodyne exercise in collective self-congratulation, but as a UK-wide equivalent and successor to the astonishingly profound and vigorous national conversation that took place during the Scottish referendum campaign in September 2014 – and, for that matter, to the searching, decades-long nineteenth-century conversation about the ‘Condition of England Question’ that I describe in chapter two.</p> <p>Mention of the Scottish independence referendum is a reminder that the political and cultural landscapes have changed a great deal since the manuscript of this book was delivered to the publishers at the end of May 2013. </p> <p>In chapter three I wrote that the ‘mystic chords of memory’ that Abraham Lincoln evoked in his First Inaugural now pulled the peoples of Great Britain apart instead of holding them together. The Scottish referendum result suggests a much more nuanced picture. On the other hand it has confirmed my view that the union state is unlikely to survive in its present form for much longer. </p> <p>Equally, I now think I under-estimated the significance of the privatizations of the Thatcher and New Labour governments. I was right to say that they did not make much difference to the public realm, but wrong not to add that the helter-skelter sale of public assets to private purchasers, often at knock-down prices, strengthened Mammon’s grip on the public culture as well as lining the pockets of extravagantly rewarded accountants, management consultants and former nationalized industry heads. </p> <p>As well, I should have acknowledged that the result was to give a powerful boost to the forces which have made Britain the most unequal of the long-established democracies of the European continent. (Only ex-communist Bulgaria, Latvia and Rumania on the eastern periphery of the EU, and ex-Fascist Portugal and Spain on its southern periphery are more unequal than Britain.) In a different sphere, I was right to argue that English local government should be rescued from its status as the ‘humiliated Cinderella of English governance’, but I should have argued much more forcefully for a constitutional convention to decide how the nations, regions and localities of the United Kingdom should relate to each other and to the centre.</p> <h2><strong>The British syndrome</strong></h2> <p>But these <em>caveats </em>do not touch the heart of the approach and supporting arguments that I put forward in <em>Mammon’s Kingdom. </em>About these I am unrepentant. I still believe, as I put it in chapter two, that ‘software’, not ‘hardware’ – the long, slow waves of cultural change, not the more obvious technological and economic changes that figure so prominently in public debate and academic social science – hold the key to the British predicament; that our ills form an interdependent system or, in medical language, a ‘syndrome’; and that they reflect the bewilderment and disorientation of a people who have forgotten the history that shaped them, and who therefore no longer know who they are. </p> <p>Equally, I am still convinced that we can resolve our predicament only through a revolution of sentiment, comparable in scale to the revolution that procured the neo-liberal ascendancy of the last thirty years; and that we cannot make such a revolution unless we first dig deep into what I called the ‘buried riches of our culture’. </p> <p>By the same token, I still believe that we need to rediscover and reinterpret the three overlapping political traditions – conservative, liberal and socialist or social-democratic – that have woven in and out of our history for well over a century; and that we have at least as much to learn from our complex religious traditions as from political ones. </p> <p>The ethic encapsulated in Christ’s immortal warning that ‘ye cannot serve God and Mammon’; in the Book of Deuteronomy’s complex provisions for redistributing resources from the rich and powerful to the marginal and dispossessed; and in the Islamic tradition’s prohibition of <em>riba </em>– lending money at interest and acquiring it in unjust ways – is the strongest barrier we have to the indefinite expansion of the empire of money. If a future regulatory system is to bite, that ethic will have to underpin it. </p> <p>The need is urgent. The attrition of the public realm; the remorseless growth of inequality; the social pathologies associated with its growth; the humiliations suffered by those at the bottom of the economic pile; the callous indifference of those at the top; the penetration of state institutions by corporate interests; the decline of public trust; and, not least, the hubristic irresponsibility of a sometimes criminal financial sector – all the stigmata of pre-crisis Britain – loom as large as they did before 2008. </p> <p>Not long ago the <em>Sunday Times </em>rich list revealed that there are now 104 billionaires in the United Kingdom, worth a total of £301.133 bn., and that London is home to more billionaires than any other city in the world. Soon afterwards, the High Pay Commission reported that the average income of the poorest 20 per cent of British households was lower than the equivalent figure in virtually all other north-western European nations and on a par with former Communist countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovenia. </p> <p>As I write, a frenetic house-price bubble is under way in London and South-East England, for which government policy bears a large part of the blame. The European Commission has urged the British Government to rein in house price increases; the IMF has warned that the bubble imperils Britain’s economic recovery. George Santayana’s aphorism that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it seems increasingly apposite.</p> <p>I don’t know if these evils can be overcome, but I am as sure as I was in the summer of 2013 that we have no hope of doing so unless we can hammer out a new public philosophy to replace the bankrupt philosophy of the long boom. I am equally sure that the conventional routines of party politics, indispensable though they are to the day-to-day working of a pluralist democracy, have little or nothing to contribute to the new public philosophy that the times demand. </p> <p>That is why I wrote, quite explicitly, in the introduction that <em>Mammon’s Kingdom </em>was not intended to be a programme for government and still less a political manifesto. In the final chapter of <em>Mammon’s Kingdom </em>I wrote that the new public philosophy I called for would not be ‘a blueprint for a future government, but a philosophy of dialogue, open-ended and indeterminate’; I added that another way of saying the same thing was that it would be ‘a philosophy of mutual education’. </p> <h2><strong>Towards a new public philosophy</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Beatrice_Addressing_Dante_%28by_William_Blake%29.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Beatrice_Addressing_Dante_%28by_William_Blake%29.jpg" alt="William Blake, Dante's Purgatorio. Canto XXX." title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>William Blake, Dante's Purgatorio. Canto XXX. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>To those who envisage the world as a place where polar opposites engage in a manichean struggle for domination – white versus black, good versus evil – the notion of mutual education will seem fanciful, even escapist. But the Scottish referendum debate was an exercise in mutual education, in which the contestants learned from each other, and from which they emerged as different people. </p> <p>To mention only a few other examples, the same was true of the astonishingly thoughtful and wide-ranging debate that enabled the thirteen former British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of what became the United States to form a lasting union; of the sometimes anguished debates in post-war France and Germany that enabled them, in Jean Monnet’s words, to ‘exorcise the demons of the past’ and to lay the foundations of the longest period of peace in post-Roman European history; and of the lively, remarkably open-minded debates between Muslim, Jewish and Christian thinkers that, in Rosa Menocal’s splendid phrase, made medieval Spain the ‘ornament of the world’ and, in due course, helped to give Aristotelian philosophy a central role in the intellectual life of Catholic Christendom. </p> <h2><strong>My critics </strong></h2> <p><em>Mammon’s Kingdom </em>was widely reviewed and I also received a number of thoughtful (and thought-provoking) comments, some from old friends and some from virtual strangers. These reviews and comments cut across the lines of party and ideology and elude the familiar pigeon holes of left and right. Richard Reeves, a former adviser to the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, chastised me for sins varying from my opposition to the coalition Government’s threefold increase in student fees to my suggestion that British society is the second most dysfunctional in the rich developed world. Favourable reviews came from Anthony Barnett, founder of the internet journal openDemocracy and prime animator of the&nbsp; constitutional reform campaigning group Charter 88; from Rowan Williams, former Archbishop and also former professor of theology; and from the Oxford economic geographer Danny Dorling. Broadly speaking, academics and churchmen were more favourable than journalists; and those outside the metropolitan media bubble than its denizens.</p> <p>The criticisms fell into three main categories: </p> <p>1<em>.My call for a ‘national conversation’ was a cop-out</em>. </p> <p>My old friend Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour peer as well as distinguished historian, thought we needed ‘action as well as conversation’, and chided me for failing to put forward a shopping list of concrete proposals akin to the shopping list of global reforms proposed by Thomas Piketty in his <em>Capital in the Twenty-first Century. </em>Gaby Hinsliff, writing in the <em>Guardian</em>, thought there was no point in a national conversation since for the last six years ‘we’ve talked about little else’. In a long review in the <em>London Review of Books, </em>Jeremy Harding wrote that if my proposed conversation were possible, ‘we’d have had it already’.&nbsp; &nbsp;<em></em></p> <p>These criticisms reflect an unconscious positivism which has been a bane of Britain’s public culture for almost a century. Like Thomas Gradgrind in Dickens’s <em>Hard Times, </em>their authors take it for granted, probably without realising it, that only ‘facts’ count; that ‘facts’ are hard, solid and impermeable, like billiard balls; and that ideas are, by definition, not ‘facts’. </p> <p>I take a different view. I think Keynes was over-egging the pudding when he wrote, in the famous peroration to his <em>General Theory, </em>that the world is ruled by ‘little else’ other than ideas, but I fervently agree with him that ideas ‘are more powerful than is commonly understood’; and that ‘soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or ill’. Twentieth-century British history is incomprehensible if Keynes’s – or for that matter Hayek’s – ideas are left out of the story. </p> <p>My approach to ideas goes wider than Keynes’s. To change society, I believe, ideas have to descend from the lofty empyrean of economists and philosophers to the common or garden world of ordinary citizens talking to and learning from each other. In other words, they have to become the stuff of a national conversation. &nbsp;As I tried to show in chapter two of <em>Mammon’s Kingdom, </em>Keynes’s ideas did just that – as did Thomas Carlyle’s, John Stuart Mill’s, John Ruskin’s and R.H. Tawney’s. Absent that national conversation and the social reforms of the post-war Attlee Government would never have been thought of, much less accomplished. Without an international conversation, Piketty’s shopping list of global reforms will be little more than an intellectual curiosity. </p> <p>But a monologue, or even a series of monologues, is not a conversation. Conversations involve listening as well as talking. Gaby Hinsliff is right that there has been a lot of talking in the last six years; indeed I described some of it in my last chapter. But the talkers have inhabited separate enclaves – Greens here; Occupy London there; Citizens UK in the middle distance; the Living Wage campaign alongside them; Compass, the non-party campaigning group of the democratic left, in the foreground – and, despite their captivating élan, they have not yet launched a true conversation. </p> <p>2. <em>I haven’t grasped the significance of the individualism I deplore.</em></p> <p>Richard Reeves was the main exponent of this criticism. Writing in the <em>Observer</em>, he quoted a passage in the second chapter of <em>Mammon’s Kingdom</em> in which I wrote that the established structures of post-war Britain, such as Parliament, the judiciary, the monarchy, the churches and, above all marriage and the family, ‘generated loyalties and promoted public trust. They told people who they were and where they belonged’. To Reeves, this was anathema. </p> <p>People no longer want to be told by others where they belong. They don’t want to be told who they are: they want to decide that for themselves. Marquand is quite right that society has, in this sense, become more individualistic. It is also why such progress has been made towards racial tolerance, lesbian and gay rights, and gender equality.</p> <p>Lurking in this passage is the unspoken assumption that society is nothing more than a collection of disaggregated individuals, solitary captains of their own souls, making their own choices for themselves. That assumption, I believe, is a perfect example of the ‘debased liberalism’ which I excoriated in my final chapter, and which I see as a formidable obstacle to the search for a new public philosophy fit for our times. </p> <p>In truth, we don’t make our choices in a social or cultural vacuum. We can’t; we don’t inhabit a social or cultural vacuum. Many of the structures of the past may have fallen on evil days, but new structures have replaced them: Google, Goldman Sachs, GCHQ, Barclays Bank, the Murdoch Press, the Premier League, BP and GlaxoSmithKlein, to mention only a few. These constrain our choices at least as tightly as did the structures of the past; and they tell us too where we belong and who we are. A society without such structures is unimaginable. It would be like Thomas Hobbes’s terrible vision of the state of nature. </p> <p>The robust and passionate social liberals of the past, from John Stuart Mill to L.T. Hobhouse and David Lloyd George, were well aware of this, but twenty-first century liberalism is a pale shadow of the liberalism of their day. The passion has withered into a querulous self-righteousness; in the liberal lexicon, positive freedom, freedom ‘to’, has given way to negative freedom, freedom ‘from’.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Reeves (and for that matter like Clegg), most of today’s liberals see individuals as free-floating, untethered social atoms, quite unlike the rooted, flesh and blood individuals presupposed by the social liberals of yesteryear. The moral I draw from Reeves’s contempt for the structures of the past is that the first step towards a new public philosophy is to re-phrase the tough-minded, challenging social liberal commitment to positive freedom in a modern idiom.</p> <p>3. <em>My call for a ‘revolution of sentiment’ is a nonsense.</em></p> <p>Writing in the <em>Literary Review,</em> the philosopher John Gray made this essentially fatalist charge with characteristic subtlety and panache.&nbsp; First, he lavished praise on the diagnosis I offered in <em>Mammon’s Kingdom</em> and on the incisiveness with which I did so. Then he changed tack. </p> <p>My implied suggestion that new elites could do for our time what the elites of the post-war period did for theirs, he wrote, ‘is as remote from the realities of Britain today as Cameron’s preposterous ‘Big Society’. Marquand’s ‘lost Eden’, he continued, ‘is the peculiarly British type of collectivism that came into being with the postwar settlement established by Labour in 1945’. But the post-war settlement, he added, could not be a model for the future. It was the product of a ‘very unusual war – one that was popular and socially unifying. The core policies and institutions of the postwar welfare state… were all products of wartime planning’. Then came Gray’s <em>coup de grace:</em></p> <blockquote><p>Behind David Marquand’s high-minded hopes looms a question he shrinks from confronting: what if most people actually prefer the raffish capitalism that prevails in this country today and – for all its unsightly blemishes – want more of it? His reply is that this doesn’t matter, since it’s a type of capitalism that is not sustainable. As he puts it in the last line of the book, ‘We can’t go on as we are’. But we can. And until some large event shifts the scenery in the way that the Second World War did when it produced the lost Golden Age for which Marquand pines, we will.</p></blockquote> <p>This is bad history and bad sociology, resting on bad science. It’s true that, in Britain, the post-war welfare state and mixed economy were pre-figured by the ‘war socialism’ of the Churchill coalition, and by the commitments to full employment, to a nation-wide system of compulsory social insurance and (less precisely) to a national health service made by the parties to the coalition. </p> <p>But it’s not true that the coalition made a clean break with the past. The Churchill coalition’s war socialism harked back to the <em>étatiste </em>interventionism of the 1930s. The commitment to nation-wide social insurance that William Beveridge advocated in his famous 1942 Report was evolutionary, not revolutionary; he sought to consolidate the partial systems that had grown up over the previous half century, not to father a completely new system, derived from first principles. </p> <p>Besides, as I pointed out in chapter two, Britain’s post-war settlement is best seen as a local variation on a theme that sounded right across the western world, from the Pacific coasts of Canada and the United States to the Baltic and the Adriatic. </p> <p>Other variations included the legacy of Roosevelt’s New Deal in the United States; Germany’s emerging social-market economy that harked back to the Catholic social teaching foreshadowed in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical <em>De Rerum Novarum</em>; and the combination of Keynesian economics and generous social welfare in Tage Erlander’s Sweden. </p> <p>None of these was a child of war. I don’t deny that Britain’s post-war settlement owed something to wartime experience. But the real significance of the war is that it speeded up developments that were already under way.</p> <h2><strong>Mind-forg’d manacles</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience%2C_copy_B%2C_1789%2C_1794_%28British_Museum%29_The_Human_Abstract_-_detail.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience%2C_copy_B%2C_1789%2C_1794_%28British_Museum%29_The_Human_Abstract_-_detail.jpg" alt="William Blake. The Human Abstract. Songs of Innocence and Experience. Copy B." title="" width="460" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>William Blake. The Human Abstract. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Copy B. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>More striking than Gray’s bad history is his bad sociology. Who are the ‘most people’ who might prefer our ‘raffish capitalism’ to a different economic system? Who are the ‘we’ who can and will go on as we are? I’m sure the ‘masters of the universe’ in banks, Murdoch-owned newspapers, hedge funds, private equity firms, management consultancies, accountancy firms and private health-care companies, many of them officially resident in tax havens in British jurisdictions, prefer Gray’s ‘raffish capitalism’ to any conceivable alternative. </p> <p>But are they really ‘most people’? The evidence suggests that most real people are shocked by the growth of inequality and the rise of the super-rich (or top 1.0 cent) which have been among the central themes of the last thirty years of British history. </p> <p>Equally, it would be preposterous to suggest that the humiliations inflicted on the growing number living in poverty – perhaps the ugliest feature of contemporary British capitalism – are welcomed by the victims, or that the marketization of the health service is welcome to its users or to the dedicated professionals who work in it. </p> <p>The truth, surely, is that ‘most people’ – indeed a large majority of British people – are trapped. We would dearly love to escape, but we don’t know how to. Instead, we thrash around in dumb despair. I believe we can spring the trap if we put our minds to it. But the key word in that sentence is ‘minds’. We won’t escape until we recognise that we <em>are </em>trapped and decide that we want to escape. That is what I meant by a ‘revolution of sentiment’. Policies and programmes will follow later. </p> <h2>‘Bad science’</h2> <p>Now for ‘bad science’. Gray suggests that we will go on as we are until some ‘large event’ shifts the scenery. But one of the central themes of <em>Mammon’s Kingdom</em>, repeated again and again throughout the book, is that we – and not just we in these islands, but the entire human race – are travelling at a rate of knots towards a very large, and very unpleasant, event which, on present form, is likely to make civilized life impossible. </p> <p>I refer, of course, to climate change. This features largely in my book and the facts are well-known. The consensus among scientists is that it is imperative to limit the rise in the global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. <em>Pace </em>the pedlars of gloom who confuse debates on the question, this goal is achievable – and without halting economic growth. </p> <p>But it won’t be achieved without a drastic shift in the world’s economic structures, That shift can’t be made by voluntary action or market mechanisms alone, though both have a part to play. As I point out in chapter three, Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at Oxford, and one of the most authoritative writers on the subject, has shown that the world’s response to the threat posed by climate change has so far been hopelessly inadequate, and that a world-wide programme of ‘de-carbonization’ is urgently needed. Helm argues that de-carbonization on the scale that is needed would require the co-ordinated replacement of all the capital stock ‘of the world’. </p> <p>For that to happen, state power would have to constrain market forces more radically than at any time since 1945. And that would mean the end of ‘raffish capitalism’. To be sure, the world in general and Britain in particular may fail to meet Helm’s challenge; Gray’s ‘we’ may prefer catastrophe to survival. But it is not realism to act on the assumption that they are bound to do so. It is an abdication of responsibility. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><em>Special thanks go for permission to publish a slightly edited version of the Preface to t<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mammons-Kingdom-Essay-Britain-Now/dp/0718195620/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;sr=&amp;qid=">he new paperback edition of Mammon's Kingdom.</a></em></p><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"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Science David Marquand Sat, 25 Apr 2015 12:16:25 +0000 David Marquand 92263 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns” https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sabeen Mahmud alleviated intellectual poverty until the day she was murdered, 24 April 2015. In an interview with Karima Bennoune in 2010 Mahmud explained why she founded a politico-cultural space in Karachi.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/world/asia/outpouring-of-grief-and-anger-as-pakistani-activist-is-gunned-down.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss&amp;_r=0">Sabeen Mahmud</a>, founder of the NGO <a href="http://www.t2f.biz/">Peace Niche</a> and director of Karachi’s cultural institution, T2F, was <strong><a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1178159/at-peace-sabeen-mahmud-laid-to-rest-in-Karachi">assassinated</a></strong> on Friday night while leaving the centre with her mother, who was also gravely injured in the attack.&nbsp; T2F had just hosted an event about human rights in Balochistan, and Sabeen had reportedly been receiving threats. </p><p><strong>This interview is published today in memory of Sabeen Mahmud <em><br /></em></strong></p> <p>Karima Bennoune<strong>: </strong><em>What made you decide to found T2F?</em><strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Sabeen Mahmud<strong>: </strong>I was studying in Lahore, and when I came back I was working in technology. But my mother works for an educational non-profit.&nbsp; This sense of social justice and standing up for what you believe in started becoming a part of everyday life for me, just thinking about what, as individuals, we are supposed to do about issues that confront society.&nbsp; I finished college, after trying to drop out for four years, unsuccessfully. I started working. By 2006, I was getting very restless and wanted to do something in development. The companies that were our large clients – Unilever, Shell, - I realized that I am helping them sell more toothpaste or more oil and I am angry about what they are doing in certain parts of the world. It started getting more difficult to reconcile my ideas around activism with the work I was doing. </p> <p>I am deeply interested in arts and music and technology and science. So, I thought, how about creating a space that would be able to host all kinds of events, would be a talent incubator, a platform for emerging artists, graphic designers, singers, poets, or other people who don’t have a platform?&nbsp; Then, I thought, when we talk about how young people are the future, what are we doing to create future leaders?&nbsp; We are not challenging them.&nbsp; </p> <p>There were coffee shops, but a lot of them were expensive. It was very businesslike. You go and have your meal and leave. Coffee houses used to be centers of intellectual activity and discourse.&nbsp; I know that was decades ago, but surely people still have things to say. </p> <p>In Pakistan, we don’t have bars. How are people supposed to meet new people? Then, one day I just decided I would do this. I wanted to set up a non-profit not to make money but to make meaning, with a quadrangle for theatre, and other things around it. But, we didn’t have money. It was a crazy idea. My uncle had sent some money. My mother and grandmother and I live together - three generations of women. I took the money my uncle sent and set up T2F which stands for “the second floor” because it was on the 2nd floor of a building. </p> <p>KB<em>: When did you open your doors, and how? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> May 13, 2007.&nbsp; It took a few months to set up.&nbsp; If you tell someone you’ve set up an NGO, no one is going to come.&nbsp; You want to reach out to young people. I wanted to think about how we could be self-sustaining. People will come here and sit for six hours and have one cold drink. And that does not make a space like this function. But others will come and just drop off a 1000 rupee donation. We operate on an honor code. People who understand and value will keep eating and drinking. Others will sit here all day and not even order that one cup of tea. The landlord served us notice in 2009. We had to vacate.&nbsp; And then somebody wrote about it in the newspaper and this wonderful man donated these two floors to us. It is rented out to us for 1 rupee a month. It took 9 months to build. I took loans, begged, borrowed and stopped just short of stealing to keep going. My mother said, “what are you doing?” I have developed gambler’s nerves. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What is the mission of T2F today? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> Changing minds does not happen in a week – especially with regard to the kinds of issues we were talking about at the forum you attended here on combatting violence against women with new technology [Take Back the Tech]. You do not get people to start thinking a certain way because you sat down one day and talked about it. What may be obvious to you and me is anathema to another person. You need that time and that engagement to hear out the other person as well as to present your viewpoint. Amartya Sen spoke of the many faces of poverty. Intellectual poverty alleviation is what we do. We work in three areas: 1) arts and culture, 2) science and technology and 3) advocacy. </p> <p>We are open every day from noon to 10 PM. Initially, in the original space there was just me and I used to be in for 14 hours a day. Today, we have Hindus and Muslims and Christians working together. They sit and eat together. </p> <p>KB<em>: How do you keep T2F going?</em> </p> <p>SM: I do not earn any money from this. I work nights in graphic design and technology consulting to pay my bills. When I say nights, it is actually in the middle of the day, and it could go on until 3 in the morning. I remember this one project we worked on - an interactive CD on <a href="http://www.faiz.com/">Faiz Ahmed Faiz</a>, a revolutionary Pakistani poet. I spent 30 days and nights in the office. I only went home to bathe. I used to be of the opinion that we can convert one day into two, if we work non-stop. Now, it is all catching up. I am 36. </p> <p>We have a few volunteers and interns, and a lot of young people, and I feel so maternal to them. This is exciting because you feel the hard work pays off - like these “First Fridays” that we instituted. The first time we did it someone from one of the leading radio stations came and he heard these two sisters who were playing together for the first time in public, and they were on the radio the next weekend. </p> <p>KB: <em>What have been some of T2F’s most memorable events? <br /></em></p> <p>SM: No matter what happens, I am a geek.&nbsp; So, one of my favourites was with a guy who was the first Pakistani to get an application into the Apple apps store, and about his approach to business and risk. The people he hires are supposed to dedicate a certain percentage of their time to work for social justice. That was one of my favorites.&nbsp; But, we have had over 250 events [as of December 2010]. Another really memorable event had to do with Faiz Ahmed Faiz.&nbsp; We got his daughter on the phone, and then an Indian singer and a Pakistani singer.&nbsp; They’re both very famous. They sang and told stories on Skype. We were able to use technology and show you can bridge boundaries in this way.&nbsp; Music transcends everything.&nbsp; If you go to our website, the events page has an archive back to 2007. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What do you feel you have achieved here?</em><strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> I have no grand illusions. I was brought up in a home where my mother’s focus was changing one teacher at a time, by changing the way she thinks. My mother was rebellious from the day she was born. She is not a get-out-on-the-street-and-protest kind of person. Instead, she has done incredible work in government schools changing mindsets. It takes so long and it takes so much effort. I am who I am because of her, undoubtedly. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>To what extent has the issue of fundamentalism impacted your work?</em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> There are certain buzz words, “combatting fundamentalism through fashion,” that get attention, publicity, donor money. We have never done anything like that. We try to quietly go about our business. By its very nature, we are doing all those things. But, you don’t have to shove it down people’s throats. Or give press releases to that effect. “We have had twenty musicians so we have changed everything.”&nbsp; We have changed nothing. We gave twenty people an opportunity to breathe for two hours. Maybe they would never be able to do that otherwise, and I am very happy we were able to do that for them. And, I hope they can find ways to do that for other people. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>How dangerous is your work? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> I stand up for what I believe in. But I can’t fight guns. I know that much, and nothing is worth dying for.&nbsp; You have to live for these causes. We do things on the blasphemy law and we do things on AIDS. You have to take calculated risks. </p> <p>You were asking about fundamentalism. We did this thing recently on the <a href="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2013/08/28/blasphemy-in-pakistan-why-is-asia-bibi-still-in-jail">blasphemy laws</a>. The people who were sending us the speakers said you might not say it in the title. I said, “all our lives we have been fighting against this.” We’ve marched on the streets for it. What will happen? We are talking about its [the blasphemy law’s] repeal. It is important to talk about this. Those kinds of risks we are happy to take. More people need to stand up. </p> <p>There are people from the [security] agencies who come. It’s quite clear they are from the agencies.&nbsp; I am sure a dossier has been prepared somewhere. They attend.&nbsp; They say, “don’t take my photograph.” They have a cup of tea.. You just have to work within what you have, and try and do as much as you can. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>How has the broader security environment in Karachi affected you?</em></p> <p>SM: There are days when the guys can’t come to work, because there is no transport. We can cancel an event or have it the next day. We have had to close down on occasion. There have been riots, there have been strikes. The security situation has always been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/karachi-violence_n_2267057.html">awful</a> in Karachi. </p> <p>But, this year [2010], Karachi has had a lot of violence. What upsets me is there is a huge gun shop at the end of the lane. It is awful. There is talk of a de-weaponizing Karachi campaign. But, I feel it is a battle we can’t win. We should focus where we can attain some victories, and feel empowered to move on. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What battles do you want to focus on?</em></p> <p>SM: The blasphemy law is something that I really want to see gone in my lifetime. We need more people to rise up and take a stand.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Sabeen Mahmud defied terror in multiple forms to champion the right to culture.&nbsp; She embodied the spirit of the line from Faiz Ahmed Faiz which insists that “tyrants… cannot snuff out the moon, so today, nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Though she is gone now, Sabeen’s light – which she bequeaths us all - cannot be snuffed out either.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Karima Bennoune interviewed Mahmud at T2F in December 2010 while doing research for the book “<a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>.</em><em>”</em></p><p><em><strong>This interview is published as a hundred women human rights defenders meet with Nobel Peace laureates at the Nobel Women's Initiative <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">conference on 'Defending Human Rights Defenders !</a> in the Netherlands, April 24-26.</strong>&nbsp;</em><strong><em><strong><em></em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong></em></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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </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/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </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/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</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"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Karachi </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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Karachi Pakistan Civil society Culture Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms gender justice violence against women women's human rights women's work Karima Bennoune Sat, 25 Apr 2015 11:46:01 +0000 Karima Bennoune 92271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After the recent tragedy in the Med, why can’t we talk about free migration? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/morten-thaysen/after-recent-tragedy-in-med-why-can%E2%80%99t-we-talk-about-free-migration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Who can imagine a democratic energy system, food sovereignty or anything resembling a fair trade system while people are blocked by arbitrary borders and quantified in terms of economic benefit?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1Au4nBt6cHG29TRBooxWSyEDtTN5x1y8XRaGU_CNNZE/mtime:1429959276/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/10052861263_95715db2c8_z%5B1%5D.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8e4eoK8dUbe3vUa7BgqIGOFsVc9HrtIqq4VG039QdTc/mtime:1429959203/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/10052861263_95715db2c8_z%5B1%5D.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wrecked boats in Lampedusa. Image: Marco Molino.</span></span></span><span>Last weekend 900 people drowned in the Mediterranean. The media has been awash with stories about the catastrophe and many organisations and groups have called for an increased rescue effort in the Mediterranean. But where is the real discussion about migration?</span></p> <p>Basically the question this week comes down to this: what should our solution have been for those drowned migrants? In my view there can only be one answer: We should have welcomed them to Europe. There is no such thing as a humane border policy. Migration has always happened and will always happen&nbsp;and any attempt to stop it will inevitably have catastrophic consequences. Yet the right to movement is virtually absent in the current public debate.</p> <p>I’ve heard many on the right complain in the media that they feel limited in discussing migration (mainly, it seems, because what they want to say is either directly racist, xenophobic or both). But the fact of the matter is that the current debate <em>is</em> stuck in that framing. When almost a thousand people trying to travel to Europe drown, we should not just be discussing rescue missions. When people are imprisoned purely for being in a different country from where they grew up, we should not just talk about the economic benefits of migration. Yet we seem to be unable to actually get to the heart of the matter: people’s right to move.</p> <p>Migration to Europe is not a situation in need of small policy fixes. Thousands of people die every year trying to cross into Europe and many more are held under appalling and in some cases life-threatening conditions in detention centres. Sure, we should step up the rescue effort in the Mediterranean (which the UK decided to cut only last year), but this doesn’t even begin to address the problem of migrant deaths.</p> <p>Rightly it is often pointed out that many people are forced to migrate because of European policies. Imperialistic wars and the support for multinational companies’ grab of resources are obvious drivers of migration. But even if we manage to stop this (and we should do everything we can to do so) people will still migrate as they have always done. And people will still drown in the Mediterranean. Not because there aren’t ships that are good enough to make the crossing, but because EU border enforcement prevents proper ships from passing unnoticed.</p> <p>And why should we stop migrants in the first place? Economic interests seems to be the one issue that always comes up in a discussion about migration these days: are migrants good for the British economy or not. It should be obvious that the lives of thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean should not be a question of UK economic stability. But somehow that is exactly what it has become to most people.</p> <p>What then should we make of the migrants that are not benefitting the UK economy? Though the government increasingly tries to pick and choose who is entering the country, that will never actually be possible to do in practise. And the point is that it shouldn’t be.</p> <p>The right has hijacked the discourse on migration and turned people into commodities. The left seems unable to change that. In the process we are ourselves being dehumanised and reduced to cost-benefit calculations - to either “benefit scroungers” or “ordinary hard-working people”.</p> <p>Why can’t we talk about the freedom to migrate? It is impossible to imagine a democratic energy system, to envision food sovereignty or anything that would resemble a fair trade system while people are blocked by arbitrary borders and quantified in terms of their economic benefit. If we want to reclaim the control of resources from rich, corporate elites, we will have to bring back people’s freedom to move to where the resources they need are.</p> <p>The recent tragedy in the Mediterranean has made it more obvious than ever: despite growing risks people continue to move - migration cannot be stopped without ever more aggressive policies. And we shouldn’t try to stop it. Migration is an issue of global justice, it’s an issue of democratic rights and the freedom of movement must be a central part our vision for the future.</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></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="/can-europe-make-it/christina-psarra/greece%27s-migration-policy-what%27s-next">Greece&#039;s migration policy: what&#039;s next?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Morten Thaysen Sat, 25 Apr 2015 10:52:04 +0000 Morten Thaysen 92270 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s not all about Islam: misreading secular politics in the Middle East https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/stacey-gutkowski/it%E2%80%99s-not-all-about-islam-misreading-secular-politics-in-middle-east <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Western policymakers once understood the dynamics of secular politics in the Middle East, but this knowledge has been subsumed under a fixation on Islam’s supposed threat to western security interests.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cYRO4LzhC_-eGQD1FKblpjWq0LdKIKl656VdiY3Xr3w/mtime:1429953621/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/232377.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/E4jc_3wsuiUMN2A5nFEBzzFwmSZxOqNwtPV7ZB29QuU/mtime:1429875698/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/232377.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Erika Szostak/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p><p><span>Much western, particularly French, media coverage of the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the kosher supermarket in Paris fell prey to an old orientalist trope of the ‘War on Terror’: that Western secular culture is innately peaceful, rational and tolerant, while Islam is distinctly ambiguous on these matters.</span></p> <p>In some of this coverage, the incident was reduced to an attack on secular freedom. This not only failed to capture the complexity of the events. It also failed to reflect accurately the tangled histories of secular ideas, political settlements, and ways of living in the west and the Arab Middle East, shaped by centuries of interaction, including empire and migration.</p> <p>The so-called ‘War on Terror’ was an important chapter in these tangled histories. War is always a social and cultural encounter between sides. One of the by-products of this terrible chapter was the re-assertion of orientalist binaries. Another, less appreciated by-product was increased western policy and media attention to the terms of western secularism. </p> <p>This is not to say in any way that the US and Europe have a monopoly on all things secular. It is merely to point out that the salience of Islam to the ‘War on Terror’ had the knock-on effect of drawing western attention to its own secular political ‘truths’, and the Christian cultural provenance of these. This spawned in the west both reaffirmation of the terms of western secularism(s) and some self-critique.</p> <p>This process of self-reflection did not quite translate into better understanding of the dynamics of secularism as a political project in the Middle East, and the complexities and contradictions of lived secularity there. Western policymakers have improved their understanding of political Islamism since 2001. But their understanding of other dynamics in the region—including secularisation and de-secularisation processes and their political impact—has not received much attention. </p> <p>Instead, a rather uncritical presumption that seemingly ‘secular’, westernised actors are somehow more pragmatic and trustworthy partners for the west has prevailed. This is too simple. To ignore this complexity is to misread the idioms through which many aspects of Arab political and social life are animated and contested, as well as the ways in which political authority is organised.</p> <p>More recently, with the rise of Islamic State, mainstream western media outlets have begun to report on Arab critics of religious authority over politics and social life. Most famously, the case of Raif Badawi—sentenced to ten years in prison, 600 lashes and a fine for his critique of the marriage of Wahhabism and Saudi authoritarianism—drew popular western condemnation. </p> <p>Not all of these Arab critiques come in an overtly secular political idiom, but some do, calling for separation of religion and state, increased rights for women and LGBT individuals, and a ban on apostasy laws. Like many Islamist groups, these secular critics also frame their calls within the language of political reform and democratisation.</p> <p>Still, where once western policymakers better understood the dynamics of secular politics in the Middle East, this knowledge has been lost, subsumed under a fixation on Islam’s supposed threat to western security interests. In what follows, I call for renewed attention to these dynamics.</p> <h2><strong>Secular politics in the Arab Middle East: a historical snapshot</strong></h2> <p>The label ‘secular’ is highly problematic, in theory and practice. Actors in the Arab Middle East are more inclined to use terms such as leftist, liberal, Ba’athist, communist, socialist and Marxist to describe their orientation, with a critique of Islam’s influence implied in the term. </p> <p>In the west, the designation ‘agnostic’, ‘atheist’ or ‘indifferent’ tends to mean someone’s personal belief rather than their politics. In the Arab world there is a public, political and performative aspect to these labels. Also, a person may simultaneously declare a religious affiliation (Sunni, Christian, etc.) to mark out their political identity in a national context.</p> <p>As in the west, religious practice and discourse run along a spectrum in the Arab world. Individuals situate themselves somewhere along the spectrum but engage in practices and language that are a mix of ‘religious’ and ‘secular’. There is no binary between the two. Western ways of living secularly and secular political settlements are heavily conditioned by their continuities with Christianity. The same is true of the Arab Muslim context.</p> <p>In the second half of the 19th century, intellectuals in Lebanon and Egypt began to articulate secular political and social ideas. These were inspired by, but not reducible to, contemporary European currents of thought. Intellectuals came into contact with these ideas through imperial occupation but also through their own study and travels to the west. The growth of Arab secular outlooks received a <a href="http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+rise+and+fall+of+secularism+in+the+Arab+world.-a018334431">boost</a> after World War I, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, abolition of the caliphate, and extension of the British and French mandates in the Levant.</p> <p>The originators of both Arab nationalism and Ba’athism during this period saw important continuities between Islam as heritage and the new, modernising direction in which they hoped to move the region. They recognised that Islamic practice would likely continue to be important to Arab populations. To a certain extent, secular political and social ideas were, and continue to be, held by the elite and middle class that emerged later in the twentieth century.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HPQQ3ypIz58XveSnRGnLv8JBdQuCYNoqVBI1cHnVvy4/mtime:1429956706/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/606178.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/rbNqUEV-kQs9Pod7u-eKFMWq1t9TtLQJfDseizeFe1w/mtime:1429875878/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/606178.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Peter Marshall/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>The secular forces of Arab nationalism, communism and Ba’athism vied with more traditional, monarchical forces after the end of the Second World War. During this period of the Cold War, US policymakers saw secular political parties and regimes in Egypt, Iraq and Syria as well as Iran as reinforcing their susceptibility to Soviet influence. In short, secular actors were seen as a threat.</p> <p>However, with the rise of political Islamism—in response to the failure of Arab nationalism, the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, the Iranian revolution, and the end of communist parties as a credible political force in the region—the content of secular political idioms no longer interested western policymakers. The PLO and Hafez al-Assad’s Syria continued to pose a threat to Israel, but the region was unlikely to fall under Soviet influence.</p> <p>By the end of the Cold war, the two remaining Ba’athist regimes in Syria and Iraq were seen as dangerous solely because of threats they posed to Israel, Kuwait and regional stability. By 1993, secular Fatah (though not the PFLP) set aside violent resistance and began to engage with the Israeli government under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo Accords. Indeed, the ascendance of Bashar al-Assad in 2000 inspired some western optimism that he might steer that secular Ba’athist regime in a more reformist, less antagonistic direction, which would lead to further stability in the region.</p> <h2><strong>The post-9/11 paradox</strong></h2> <p>A new chapter in this tangled history began in 2001. As has been widely discussed, the salience of Islam within Al Qaeda’s political idiom prompted western policymakers to crudely associate the followers of a world religion with security threats. In the middle of the twentieth century, secular Arab actors were sometimes perceived as ideologically suspect and a threat to western and Israeli interests. Now, it was Arab Islamist actors who were viewed with a suspicion previously reserved for the post-revolutionary Iranian regime.</p> <p>I argued in my 2013 book,&nbsp;<em>Secular War: Myths of Religion, Politics and Violence</em>, that&nbsp;a secular security habitus<em>&nbsp;</em>led the British—and potentially other western militaries and policy-makers—to misread Islamic idioms, symbols and social structures as both more and less dangerous than they actually were.&nbsp;Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu <a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=2478">defines</a>&nbsp;habitus<em> </em>as&nbsp;‘a set of dispositions which incline agents to act and react in certain ways’, not all of which are fully conscious.&nbsp;</p> <p>The contemporary British secular&nbsp;habitus&nbsp;is a mixture of liberal democratic political tradition, Christian heritage, post-imperial multiculturalism, and casual indifference towards religion.&nbsp;This social and political context shaped British policy, which then had a knock-on effect on the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Muslims in the UK.</p> <p>Secular habits of understanding the world made it difficult for western security services to come to grips with nuances within Muslim populations, to understand what was truly threatening and what was just unfamiliar. Despite ruling Muslim majority areas during centuries of empire, European governments had limited recent, in-depth experience. The US government was even more in the dark. </p> <p>As Islamist groups turned their attention towards the Middle East during the 1990s, their salience to western security priorities trailed behind the so-called ‘new wars’ in the Balkans and Africa and containing Saddam Hussein.&nbsp;Despite Al Qaeda attacks during the 1990s, western security experts were caught off guard in 2001. Bourdieu has suggested that hysteresis—or lag in the&nbsp;habitus—occurs when “the environment [it] actually encounter[s] is too different from the one to which [it is] objectively adjusted”. It took western policymakers the better part of the decade to catch up.</p> <p>While by no means the main driver, these habits helped to facilitate the imposition of security services into the lives of Muslims around the world, including during the devastating occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, global politics is full of contradictions, and the picture is not entirely negative. Western habits of secular state neutrality made possible political support for the participation of Islamists in Afghan- and Iraqi-led democratisation processes. They also made possible financial support for further development of Muslim civil society in Europe.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/zgcYv71pey-0auMi0AIuOE01V8yMNzabYNdUV1AAFeM/mtime:1429956710/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/43964.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/BAI9GyNDHER89ptTzFS72F0RlaMvIL52vKPo3EiZLxs/mtime:1429876063/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/43964.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Walter Gaya/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>The secular security&nbsp;habitus&nbsp;produced paradoxical effects.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Society%20%20social%20sciences/Politics%20%20government/International%20relations/Secular%20War%20Myths%20of%20Religion%20Politics%20and%20Violence.aspx?menuitem=%7BB820566C-5F26-49EA-8DAB-4B36B4470570%7D">For example</a>, while on the one hand secular hysteresis contributed to British misreading of the threat posed by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mehdi militia in 2003-4 (key instigators of the 2006-7 civil war), British habits of political liberalism also led them to work with Islamist politicians to facilitate representative democracy in Iraq.&nbsp;While the intention may have been to secure western interests, actors were able to capitalise on these opportunities and achieve some autonomy.&nbsp;Still, this somewhat ambiguous openness to Islamism should not be over-interpreted. Hamas and Hezbollah remained proscribed terrorist organisations in western eyes.</p> <h2><strong>The myth of ‘Islamic moderation’</strong></h2> <p>This brings us back to the point about tangled histories. One of the many ironies of the post-9/11 decade is that the western secular security&nbsp;habitus&nbsp;led policymakers to focus on Islam. Paradoxically, western policymakers did not pay very much attention to Arab secular critiques of Islamist politics or ways of living with less Islamic influence during the decade after 9/11. And with the occupation of Iraq, Arab secular critics saw Western governments as the enemy, not an ally.</p> <p>In the middle of the post-9/11 decade, western policymakers focused on the potential of Arab politics articulated in a western-friendly Islamic idiom to bring the containment of security threats against the West. Western policymakers, influenced by a secular security&nbsp;habitus, created a range of policies, programmes and campaigns&nbsp;which have depend on the notion that ‘moderate’ religion can be harnessed to promote alignment with western policy objectives and contain threats against western targets. <a href="http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~esh291/Elizabeth_Shakman_Hurd/research_files/hurdris2012.pdf">This</a> is the logic that has influenced western aid democratisation programmes and counter-terrorism policies, among others.&nbsp;While it figures more prominently in US foreign policy, the EU has started to follow suit.</p> <p>In reality, moderation is always a social construct, contextually dependent, with no real content. There are no inherent features—even non-violence—to which one can look and say ‘this is moderate’. But western policymakers and security experts continue to be wedded to the myth that there are features of moderation in the Middle East that are consistent, identifiable, uncontested, and that this will help them identify allies. One need only look to attempts to arm Syrian ‘moderates’.</p> <p>At the same time, Arab actors also seek to capitalise on the political and economic opportunities that have opened up by portraying themselves as ‘moderate’.&nbsp;Certainly the picture is far from straightforward. Civil society actors in the west and the Middle East capitalised on opportunities to manoeuvre themselves into positions of international and domestic influence <em>vis-á-vis</em> other groups, or to genuinely develop their community’s political and social capacity, often from a position of structural disadvantage. </p> <p>This has allowed smaller, quieter voices in civil society to exercise normative persuasion over more powerful states. However, regimes in Muslim-majority states in the Gulf and the Levant have also portrayed themselves as ‘moderate’ to successfully deflect western pressure to institute political reform or recognise human rights.</p> <p>The rise of the Islamic State and the re-emergence of jihadism at the top of western security agendas have provided, and will likely only continue to provide, more structural opportunities for self-styled Arab and ‘Muslim moderates’. </p> <p>It is unclear that western states can avoid relying on these alliances when Arab states hold the key to containing what the west sees as multiple overlapping security threats: state breakdown in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, the return of Islamic State fighters to the west, and the maintenance of a potential nuclear deal with Iran. The ability of the Islamic State to seduce supporters suggests that western and Arab efforts to counter its narratives with ‘moderate Islam’ will likely only receive a boost from these regional developments.</p> <h2><strong>Post-Arab Spring: secular security&nbsp;habitus&nbsp;2.0?</strong></h2> <p>By contrast, the Arab Spring forced western policymakers to pay more attention to Arab secular politics when secular political parties began to assert themselves. A less appreciated and understood knock-on effect of the western secular security&nbsp;habitus&nbsp;was the impulse among western policymakers to trust revolutionary actors they saw as ‘secular’. </p> <p>Some of these actors, such as Nidaa Tounes in Tunisia and SCAF in Egypt, articulate their politics in a secular idiom, pitting their social and legal agendas directly against the Islamist positions of their competitors. Others, such as Stronger Jordan which calls for equality between men and women, do not frame their calls for less conservative religious influence on the state so explicitly. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vCZ5L9fbCDk3XfWA4D4yJU6_YXXsyhzAlahP3BAfg3g/mtime:1429956715/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/1031382.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/pvpfzWVTnGiT00HP-rxtgHLIlwLsncjfuVPKHgqWSR8/mtime:1429897426/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/1031382.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Haysam Elmasry/Dmotix. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>But it has become accepted wisdom among western governments and security think tanks that actors that look ‘secular’ are likely to be trustworthy western allies, that a certain rationality, pragmatism and consistency guides their actions and that they are immune to ideology. They can be trusted to curb jihadist threats against the west. The March museum attack in Tunis under the eyes of the ruling secular party suggests that these two things are not related.</p> <p>These two western security myths—of ‘religious moderation’ and ‘secular moderation’—have inhibited the west from condemning authoritarian brutality. The US and Europe tentatively supported the Muslim Brotherhood government which ruled in Egypt between 2012 and 2013. However, their condemnation of the coup that brought General Sisi to power, and of subsequent violence against the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition forces, was muted. </p> <p>While western states were loathe to repeat the occupation of Iraq on Syrian soil, in 2011-2013 they also feared that unseating Bashar al-Assad would bring Islamist forces to power—either the Muslim Brotherhood or more radical groups—which would threaten regional stability. While recognising Assad as an egregious violator of human rights, western states figured a (more) secular regime was the lesser of two evils. </p> <p>This preference extends beyond the Arab states. Erdogan has escaped too much western condemnation for his increasing authoritarianism, and not only because Turkey is a key NATO ally on the Syrian and Iraqi borders. Lingering western enthusiasm for Turkish&nbsp;<em>laiklik</em>&nbsp;(secularism) as an antidote to Islamist extremism, so heavily touted by Erdogan in 2011-12, also plays a role.</p> <p>Western states have long upheld anti-democratic regimes in the region because it suits their interests. This is nothing new. However the secular security&nbsp;habitus, which emerged in western security policymaking after 9/11 and continues to animate it, has provided an additional, underpinning logic to these alliances. </p> <p>These alliances may be pragmatic, but that is not their only feature. In some ways, they are a continuation of past trends. Since the emergence of political Islamism as a credible force in the 1970s, western policymakers have trusted some (not all) secular dictators to stem threats to western interests—Sadat, Mubarak, Bourguiba, Ben Ali, Bouteflika, and in the 1980s Saddam Hussein—even while they cooperated with traditional monarchs. Obviously alliances with authoritarian regimes are built on more than a loose sense of secular affinity, but global politics is irrational and ‘seeming like me’ makes political trust that little bit easier.</p> <p>With the emergence in some states of secular, pro-democratic political actors on the left, the west has had a variety of potential allies to choose since 2011. However, particularly in North Africa, it has chosen to support regimes it knows rather than destabilise them through support for the opposition.</p> <p>The one notable exception is in Syria, where the training of so-called ‘moderates’, secular and Islamist, has come too little too late. Hope for these leftist forces looks likely to come from the Tunisian model of self-assertion, rather than through direct western sponsorship. While real political power for these groups is seemingly still far off, a lack of western interference in their political development is to be warmly welcomed.</p> <h2><strong>Islamic State and the western secular security&nbsp;habitus</strong></h2> <p>For nearly three and a half years, from late 2010, to mid-2014, jihadism was temporarily eclipsed as the primary western security animus. With the exception of the Amenas gas plant attack in Algeria in January 2013—in which western hostages were taken and killed—jihadist militancy, spearheaded by Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al Shabab, has been confined predominantly to non-western targets. </p> <p>Even the 2012 emergence of Al Nusra front as a key player in the Syrian civil war was overshadowed in western security thinking by a reluctance to take on the Syrian air force and get involved in yet another regional civil war. Western governments resisted military action against Islamic State for nearly a year, finally compelled not by the horrors suffered by people in the region but by the spectacle of the beheading of western hostages, the flow of young western Muslims to Syria, and plots against European targets.</p> <p>Western policy and media discourse on Islamic State echoes many of the tropes levelled at Al Qaeda after 9/11. Some echoes can also be seen among western analysts who over-interpret the role of sectarianism in Iranian-GCC regional proxy conflicts in Syria and Yemen. However, whether a Western secular security habitus&nbsp;will have any appreciable impact on a response to Islamic State remains to be seen.</p> <h2><strong>Policy recommendations</strong></h2> <p>In light of ongoing security instability in the Middle East posed by both Islamic State and authoritarian regimes, I have three policy recommendations for the governments of NATO states:</p> <p>1. Develop new analytical tools to better understand the evolution of secular politics in the Middle East, beyond the old categories of leftist politics, liberalism or nationalism.</p> <p>2. Approach the performance of moderation, Islamic and otherwise, with a critical eye, interrogating how Middle Eastern states’ and non-state actors’ use labels to forge alliances, undermine competitors, and engage in power politics as usual. Do not presume that actors who articulate their politics in a more secular or western-friendly idiom are inherently progressive or democratically inclined.</p> <p>3. Mainstream a check for distortive secular assumptions within the policy process.</p><p><em><span>This paper follows on from a November 2014 workshop at Chatham House on Islam, Secularism and Security.</span></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="/deepa-kumar/imperialist-feminism-and-liberalism">Imperialist feminism and liberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-david-w-montgomery/%E2%80%98muslim-radicalisation-of-central-asia%E2%80%99-is-dangerous-1">The ‘Muslim radicalisation of Central Asia’ is a dangerous myth</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mohammad-dibo/assad%27s-secular-sectarianism">Assad&#039;s secular sectarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/ahmed-e-souaiaia/tunisia%E2%80%99s-ennahda-movement-maybe-learning-from-egypt-and-turkey-comp">Tunisia’s Ennahda movement, maybe learning from Egypt and Turkey, compromises to remain relevant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lailufar-yasmin/crisis-of-modernity-and-secularism-cases-of-egypt-turkey-and-bangladesh"> Crisis of modernity and secularism: the cases of Egypt, Turkey and Bangladesh </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/bulent-gokay/race-and-racism-in-modern-turkey">Race and racism in modern Turkey</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"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Conflict Culture International politics middle east Secularism Stacey Gutkowski Sat, 25 Apr 2015 09:49:16 +0000 Stacey Gutkowski 92253 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The profile of today’s front line activist is different to that of the freedom fighter of old. We need to see her in her wholeness. Jennifer Allsopp reports from the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Nobel Women’s Initiative conference</a> in the Netherlands.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you think of the word freedom fighter, the image that comes to mind for many is that of a confident, charismatic, lone man. This is the image I grew up with. At university, my wardrobe proudly boasted both Martin Luther King <em>and </em>Mahatma Gandhi T shirts, and my diary had their words scrawled in quotation marks. At 18 I headed to Cuba as the history that I’d read told me that I’d find my heroes in the military museums there – I didn’t. Back then I hadn’t realised that I could find heroes in the present. At school you’re taught that everything important was done by men, in the past, and that it was often bloody and violent. We didn’t even learn the word Suffragette, and the Northern Ireland peace process was totally off the curriculum. We heard a bit about a woman called Margaret Thatcher, but I decided not to pursue that relationship as, let it be said, I found scant inspiration there. In short, I grew up in a world without women human rights defenders. </p> <p>Heroic men like King and Gandhi, along with others, have become such an engrained part of global rights culture that they now stand alone as cultural icons, devoid of context. As a group of modern day human rights defenders convened in the Netherlands today for the opening of the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/shirin-ebadi/">Nobel Women’s Initiative’s</a>&nbsp;fifth conference, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015"><em>Defending the Defenders: Building global support for WHRD</em></a>, it was clear that if we want activists to thrive and continue to inspire, this context is all too important. We need to look beyond the Disney image of a hero, said Ambassador Kees van Barre, as he welcomed the international delegation. Well, obviously. Look around, we all agreed. </p> <p>A quick glance at the 100 international activists around the room revealed the following:</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender is mobile. She needs freedom to travel, to find safety in exile, and to keep her identity. </p> <p>Today’s women human rights defender believes in a right to know the facts of what is happening and a right to access media.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender knows that the philosophy of human rights is peace, not war.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender takes time to remember the women who have lost their lives fighting for our human rights.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender sees human rights as constantly evolving and believes that no government can take these rights away from human beings.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender knows, to cite <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/mairead-maguire/">Mairead Maguire</a>, Nobel Laureate from Northern Ireland, that ‘we’re at a point in history that is going to be really revolutionary’. She continues, ‘there’s so much war, death, destruction, abuse, military, abuse of rights, and it’s spreading, that somehow we have to make a quantum leap into a new way of thinking.’</p> <p>And today’s woman human rights defender knows that women will play a leading role in this new way of thinking.</p> <p>The contemporary female freedom fighter is, to sum it up in the words <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/julienne-lusenge">of Julienne Lusenge</a>, activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, multifaceted. She exists not as a portrait in history books but in a vibrant, constantly shifting, precarious context. She comes with or without kids, with or without access to broadband, and in a range of countries. She may be operating in her home country, on a global stage, in exile, in hiding or in prison. In their unity of passion these women could not be more different. ‘People in this room’, announced Liz Bernstein, Executive Director of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, ‘are front line defenders taking extraordinary risks every day on behalf of communities’. Their mode of action varies. Some challenge fundamentalisms, some fight big business, some protect the planet and its people: but together they work every day to protect women's rights and human rights. ‘We’re peace people, environmental people, human rights defenders: but don’t limit me with a label for I am many things’, says Mairead.</p> <p>Existing alongside this creative difference are a set of fundamental challenges that are common to many of today’s women activists, who operate in a climate of risk and intimidation. Recent years have seen a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">raft of measures</a> at the International level to recognise and support their work. But it became clear in today’s plenary that these measures, designed in the halls of Brussels and New York, are all too often failing to be effective on the ground. </p> <p>The measures are noble in their intention, says Julienne: they seek to offer protection to women at risk. But they’re failing for one main reason and that is their inability to see activists as working in a context, and to see the women themselves as three dimensional. These women are not stand-alone figures to be championed in isolation: they are part of families and local and international networks, the preservation of which are fundamental to their cause. </p> <p>The main concern for Julienne is her family. It’s not good offering to protect me and leaving my family at risk, she explains. Her warning is all too familiar to some in the room. At today’s plenary, Iranian Nobel Laureate <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/shirin-ebadi/">Shirin Ebadi</a> who was awarded the prize for her tireless fight for justice and democracy as the first female judge in Iran, recounted how her husband and son had been imprisoned directly after she was forced to flee: ‘they couldn’t get to me so they got to them instead’. </p> <p>A second way in which the protection framework for women human rights defenders is failing, participants shared, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of their mission. Even when things get difficult, ‘as a woman human rights defender I don’t have the right to lose hope’, says Shirin. ‘I need to continue’. ‘What I need’, adds Julienne, ‘isn’t just a safe room but somewhere where I can continue my work. I need the resources and tools to keep going, then I can protect <em>myself</em>’.</p> <p>The core problem for other women is lack of access to even basic protection resources. With finite places available, be it in <a href="http://www.eidhr.eu/files/dmfile/FinalEUHRDReportMasterVersion.pdf">temporary safe houses</a> funded by the European Union or the Netherlands’ new ‘<a href="http://www.sheltercity.org/index.php/en/human-rights-defenders-eng">shelter cities’</a>, a tricky question arises: who is it that defines whose human rights deserve protecting over others? Who makes the decision about whose life is most valuable to the cause of protecting human rights? </p> <p>One participant from Manipur, India has been consistently denied support. The <a href="http://www.stoprapeinconflict.org/campaign_member_threatened_in_manipur_india">conflict</a> in her region is still not recognised by the national government or by the international community. ‘Everything is on paper for human rights defenders, especially women’, she says, ‘but it really doesn’t exist’. For women in Palestine too, the media blackout means that support isn’t being delivered, says Mairead. She’d like to see more resources to protect women human rights defenders there, and to ‘hear President Obama say that 70 years of suffering for the Palestinian people is enough’.</p> <p>For other women the problem relates to the accessibility of the frameworks. Julienne reflects that the guidance for documenting sexual violence which came out of the much-anticipated international <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/sexual-violence-in-conflict">#TimetoAct</a> summit in London in 2014 remains completely useless for many women. ‘For a start, many activists need to learn to read it to be able to use it’, she smiles up wearily. ‘If they really want to help victims then we need the means to disseminate it in our communities’. </p> <p>As I head to bed after the first day of the conference I’m struck by Julienne’s warning about the disappointment that can come with international meetings, ‘the initiators who set up the #TimetoAct project left the day after the conference’, she explains, ‘we don’t feel the continuity. There will always be yet another forum, yet another summit on sexual violence and it doesn’t change the lives of victims. It’s a ballet of summits at the international level, but to the women, what do I tell them? What does it serve?’</p> <p>The conference here, she explains, is different. It’s a unique opportunity for women working on the frontline to come together for the purpose of mutual learning. ‘We’re always talking about “taking things to the higher level, the higher level” but we need to look to the lower levels too to make it work.’ ‘For yes’, she reflects, ‘the fire of the London summit has burnt to embers. Then, it’s gone.’</p><p><strong><em>Jennifer Allsopp is reporting for 50.50 from the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: 'Defending the Defenders' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </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/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/hidden-women-human-rights-defenders-in-uk">Hidden women human rights defenders in the UK</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 Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Peacework & Human Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism gender justice violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements young feminists Jennifer Allsopp Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:27:33 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 92268 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mairead Maguire: breaking the silence on Palestine https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mairead-maguire/mairead-maguire-breaking-silence-on-palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Palestinian women human rights defenders and peace makers, in resisting the injustices being perpetrated upon their people, deserve our support and we must each do what we can to break the silence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>About 10 years ago, Doctor Mona El-Farra, one of Palestine’s greatest woman human rights defenders, visited Northern Ireland.&nbsp; Dr. Mona lives in the occupied Gaza strip, and she came to share with us the story of occupied Gaza and its people. Many people in the audience were moved to tears on listening to the painful stories of ongoing collective punishment of war and bombardment by the Israeli military upon the civilian population of Gaza. The majority of Gaza’s Palestinians are children and under the age of 2l years of age. Collective punishment of a civilian population breaks the Geneva conventions and is a war crime. What struck me was Dr. Mona’s comment ‘every single person in Gaza is completely traumatized by so much violence and war.’</p> <p>Today this collective punishment by Israeli Government policies goes on. Why has it lasted so long? The Palestinians have been most cruelly punished by Israeli policies of occupation, war and destruction. They say that ‘silence’ is golden but in the case of Gaza and Palestine, the ‘silence’ of the world regarding the plight of Palestinians, especially little children, shows a lack of&nbsp; moral and ethical leadership by the international Community. It behoves us to ask ‘why is President Obama not saying: ’70 years of Israeli occupation is enough – it is time for Peace for the Palestinians’?</p> <p>I believe, as do many people, that Palestine is a key to peace in the Middle East.&nbsp; Its occupation by Israel, is a sore in the body politic of the whole Middle East, and effects many people around the world. As long as it remains unresolved there will never be hope for peace for Palestinians, Israelis, or anyone else.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; But what can be done to turn this painful situation for all concerned around, where is the hope?</p> <p>I believe we must look to the Palestinian women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and peacemakers, and take their lead and guidance as to how best we can support and help them in their painful and dangerous work for human rights and freedom for Palestinians.</p> <p>As women living in the midst of an Israeli occupation, built on an apartheid system, Palestinian women know the high cost emotionally/psychologically/ physically and financially of the Israeli Military occupation and wars. Their solutions include working for an end to the repression and occupation, the right to self-determination, and a Palestine built on human rights and international law that deserves the support of fair-minded people around the world.&nbsp; </p> <p>Palestinian WHRDS and peacemakers, in resisting the injustices being perpetrated upon their people, deserve our support and we must each do what we can to break the silence. We can applaud and totally support their ‘spirit of resilience and their nonviolent peaceful civil resistance’. Palestinian women human rights defenders are an example to us all, showing by their lives how&nbsp; human dignity and equality must be won,&nbsp; by replacing fear with courage, hate with love, war with peace, enmity with friendship.&nbsp;&nbsp; Palestinian women know that the Israeli people are not their enemies, but it is the unjust policies of an Israeli Government they strenuously and courageous oppose.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Another form of violence faced by Palestinian women is the injustice of patriarchy, within which women’s voices are often silenced not only in Palestine, but in many countries.&nbsp; However, Palestinian women human rights activists know that whilst working for Freedom for Palestine, they must also work for individual human rights and freedom for themselves and their children.&nbsp; Freedom includes the civil rights of health care,&nbsp; development, etc., The women of Palestine, as have all women everywhere, a right to freedom of conscience, personal choice, and the right for their choice to be respected by religious, civic and political authorities.&nbsp; Particularly in the area of health care, it is important to affirm women’s moral autonomy in making healthcare decisions, and ensure they will have the means to follow their decisions in their lives.</p> <p>In spite of so many problems, there is hope, and Palestinian women human rights defenders and peacebuilders are the very bearers and channels of the hope and change that is already happening in Palestine. We global women help the Palestinian women human rights defenders by letting them know that we love them, we hear their voices, and knowing many Palestinians cannot leave their country, we will be their voices and tell their story to the outside world. We know their suffering and we take inspiration from their courageous spirit of nonkilling and nonviolent resistance.&nbsp; We know Palestinian women are great peacemakers simply because they give their lives each day, in service of their families and communities. This is the soul of peacemaking.&nbsp; Palestinian women human rights defenders are the custodians, carriers and transmitters of the moral and ethical values and standards of what it means to be truly human. How difficult, some would say impossible, it must be to teach the values of love, forgiveness, kindness and nonkilling whilst living in the midst of military occupation, siege and war. In my many visits to Palestine, I have witnessed in abundance all these values lived fully by the women of Palestine, and I have been touched and inspired by their lives.&nbsp; </p> <p>As the Nobel Women’s Initiative&nbsp; meets in the Netherlands this weekend to&nbsp; discuss how to protect women human rights defenders, I hope we can agree that breaking the silence on Palestine, and insisting that people have a right to know what governments are doing in their name, is a way in which we all, especially journalists and the media can help. We too can support the Palestinian nonviolent movement and respond to Palestinian civil society when they ask us to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign to help end the Israeli military occupation.&nbsp; We can especially pledge to support the ongoing Palestinian and Israeli&nbsp; human rights and peace movements for justice, believing that genuine diplomacy, dialogue and listening brings us to a new understanding of each other, and is the only way to peace.</p> <p>Let us hope too that the Israeli Government will begin to give leadership for peace by turning away from occupation, militarism and war, and by opening the door to diplomacy, give hope to the people of Palestine, Israel, the Middle East and the world.&nbsp; </p><p><strong><em>Women Nobel Peace laureates have gathered with a hundred women human rights activists for this year's&nbsp;</em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Nobel Women's Initiative conference</a>: 'Defending the Defenders'&nbsp; in the Netherlands, April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions. </em></strong></em></strong>Jennifer Allsopp and Marion Bowman are reporting for 50.50 Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>. <br /></em></strong></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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/brigid-inder/tribute-to-joan-kagezi-murder-of-human-rights-defender">A tribute to Joan Kagezi: the murder of a human rights defender</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/hidden-women-human-rights-defenders-in-uk">Hidden women human rights defenders in the UK</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/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="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/quest-for-gender-just-peace-from-impunity-to-accountability">The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability </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> </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"> Palestine </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 Palestine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Peacework & Human Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Highlights feminism gender gender justice violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Mairead Maguire Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:24:03 +0000 Mairead Maguire 92266 at https://www.opendemocracy.net