New Age Islam Edit Bureau
September 08, 2017
Trump cut a deal with the
Democrats. Is a new era upon us?
Modi misses opportunity to be a
We are ready to boycott Qatar
for 700 days
North Korean nukes and the
Aung San Suu Kyi does not
deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
A ‘truly credible election’ in
Syria? The UN envoy is dreaming
A major game-changer of
alliances in the Middle East
Trump is not fearless, he is
EJ Dionne Jr (Wide Angle)
Turkey at a crossroads
Britain’s clampdown on FGM is
leaving young girls traumatised
The murder of journalist Gauri
Lankesh shows India descending into violence
Mari Marcel Thekaekara
Britain is no longer a
civilised country – the UN’s disability report confirms it
The Book That Made Us Feminists
Carol J. Adams
Is it already time to sit at
the table with Syria’s al-Assad?
Compiled by New Age Islam Edit
Is there any end to the plight
Bangladesh can feel that she is
not alone in combating the stupendous pressure brought on her by an
unprecedented Rohingya influx into her territory. The immediate outpourings of
sympathy and expressions of humanitarian concerns for the victims, messages of
solidarity and support to Bangladesh and condemnations of the Myanmar regime
can be seen from two angles: First, these are indicative of a certain arousal
of international conscience; and secondly, the outburst is at an initial stage,
to be developed into a package of actions ensuring the return of Rohingyas to
the Rakhine State.
It won't be easy, but is
attainable provided we pass a few reality checks in order to be pragmatic and
reasonably fail-safe. The pivot around which we need to rebuild our case is
that as per the 2014 census in Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim population stood at
2.4 million. If that figure is not credible, a fresh count may be made in a
normalised environment in due course. The point I wish to highlight is this: In
spite of the waves of exodus into our territory, amounting to a large number, a
substantial number of Rohingyas do remain in the Rakhine State or thereabouts
on the unassailable grounds of continuous residency. So it will be a
worthwhile, in fact a morally obligatory mission, to protect them from
atrocities as we work to secure repatriation of the refugees encamped in
The three other factors we have
to bear in mind as we embark on a decisively remedial approach are: One, the
humanitarian concerns, however eloquently expressed for the weak and
vulnerable, have scarcely, if ever, overridden geopolitical considerations
including trade and investment priorities of the big powers. We have a
considerable potential geo-political clout ourselves; we only need to play our
cards to work our way on to the right side of the equations.
Secondly, an ethnic minority
with an Islamic identity is liable to be suspected of militant inclination,
especially when a step-motherly treatment has been meted out to them by a
Thirdly, and importantly, Aung
San Suu Kyi, as the foreign minister and state counselor of her country is not
in the driving seat. She cannot apparently overrule the military which is in
charge of ethnic minorities. Besides, the army maintains control over the
heartland by extracting from the largesse of mineral wealth of Myanmar and
sharing it with the powerful countries.
On a side note, earlier this
year, U Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim personality and legal advisor to Daw Suu was
shot and killed at Yangon airport. He was purportedly working on an amendment
to the 2006 constitution that would have clipped some of the powers of the military.
We expected that India being
the nearest and professedly most friendly neighbour to Bangladesh would be
sensitive to our present plight—a huge Rohingya refugee influx even as we reel
from the effects of a devastating flood. Well, that expectation seems to have
The Times of India in a report
on September 6, 2017 gave the highlights of the Modi-Suu Kyi meeting in Yangon
in the following, rather one-sided terms:
a) "India shares Myanmar's
concern over the violence in the Rakhine state.”
b) "Suu Kyi thanked India
for taking a strong stand on the terror threat that Myanmar faced recently.”
In his 35-minute address to the
Indian Diaspora, Prime Minister Modi "did not allude to the Rohingya
Muslim crisis," even though Myanmar is facing international censure and
its repercussions spill over to India in the shape of "illegal
The Times of India noted that
Modi's observations came at a time when Bangladesh was facing refugees pouring
across the border two weeks after Myanmar's military crackdown in the Rakhine
State. The Hindustan Times also reported that Modi was silent on the Rohingya
We think, the Indian prime
minister has lost an opportunity to play an honest broker here. Given the
prestige India enjoys with the Myanmar establishment—Suu Kyi saying “Myanmar
looked up to India for (guidance) and support”—and Bangladesh's close ties with
India, a process of engagement could be initiated by Modi.
China has remained equally
silent over the imperilled Rohingyas. She has an important vision of a corridor
girdling Myanmar and Sri Lanka. But having regard to her traditional clout with
Myanmar topped up by infrastructural investments and a sliver of ethnic
connectivity, China can persuade Myanmar to see reason to make up with Dhaka.
Doesn't Bangladesh have a claim to it as a friend of China?
In these days of distracting
global issues with newer complexities amid "post-modern confusions"
it is difficult to stick by any line of distinction between friend and foe. In
such a context it's imperative for Bangladesh to craft her own policy package
and implement it with selective but effective international assistance.
The components of such a policy
can be various forms of diplomatic pressure on Myanmar if it continues to be
defiant of the Human Rights Charter of the UN; reinstatement of citizenship
rights that were divested of them in 1982. Interestingly, cards were given to
them to participate in the 1990 election and they won some parliamentary seats
as well. While annulling the results of the 1990 election, the military didn't
only throw the winner Suu Kyi in jail but also dubbed the cards the Rohingyas
used as “fake”.
The immediate task is two-fold:
Take the refugees under the wings to provide emergency medical attention, food
and shelter. Secondly, we must take up repatriation of the refugees with the
Myanmar government, spearheaded by the UNHCR. Their orderly return to their
homeland and resettlement will have to be ensured under the UN auspices, if
necessary, buttressed by an appropriate UN resolution.
Shah Husain Imam is a
commentator on current affairs and former Associate Editor, The Daily Star.
cut a deal with the Democrats. Is a new era upon us?
7 September 2017
Is this the beginning of a new
The president, who has governed
like a rightwing Republican and terrified vulnerable people everywhere, struck
a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday to lift the debt
limit and finance the government until the middle of December.
The debt ceiling increase was
combined with a stopgap funding measure to provide aid for the areas devastated
by Hurricane Harvey, and temporarily avoids a government shutdown. For once, a
needless and brainless fight was avoided in Washington.
Trump actually circumvented
Republican leaders to get it done. Neither speaker Paul Ryan nor majority
leader Mitch McConnell were willing to accept the terms, so Trump went behind
their backs. These are strange times, indeed.
Trump is impulsive and
mercurial, typically devoid of ability to think in the long-term. He watches TV
and gets ideas. Building the most conservative administration in recent memory,
he has existed so far under its influence, empowering the kind of people who
want to punish the poor and people of color.
Nothing more should be expected
out of Trump on this front. He is who he is. He wisely cut a deal with
Democratic leaders because even he understood that holding up disaster relief
was cruel and idiotic. He may have also been hungry for a positive headline
from the mainstream media he allegedly reviles, but is actually obsessed with.
Chuck Schumer, the minority
leader of the Senate, is a natural collaborator, his ideology resting somewhere
in the milquetoast center. He would love to do more deals with Trump. Trump
likes the idea of deals. They are both from New York, after all.
So maybe, just maybe, a new era
is upon us. But Trump can change his mind tomorrow. He usually does.
Congressional Republicans are furious. They are still waiting to build Milton
Friedman’s Eden, here on Earth, and this reality show president who calls
himself a Republican has been too incompetent, at least so far, to make it
happen. They will yell at him and maybe he’ll listen. The last person in his
ear usually has the advantage.
What people should remember,
always, is how obstructionist congressional Republicans were under Barack Obama
and how they alone brought government to a standstill. Democratic lawmakers,
for all their flaws, worked with Republicans when they were in power to at
least keep the government functioning.
Bipartisanship for its own sake
is stupid – no one should be celebrated for helping to deregulate the economy
or crushing the working class – but there are basic things (like raising the
debt limit) that both parties can agree upon and usually did until the tea party
rose to power.
Trump shouldn’t be praised for
cutting this deal. It’s an obvious deal, and we can’t set the bar so low just
because this president was so unprepared to run the most powerful nation on
Earth. Instead, understand that it is congressional Republicans who deserve
your scorn. They are the people who see government as an unmitigated evil, who
endorse austerity at all costs.
Paul Ryan is not your friend,
and never will be. Mitch McConnell has no serious legislative accomplishments.
They are smarter men than Trump and ultimately, barring Trump starting a war,
more dangerous. If they had a partner like Mike Pence in the White House,
America would be transformed forever.
Remember, it can always get
misses opportunity to be a true statesman
September 7, 2017
Few Indians are aware that
their nation shares a 1,600 kilometre border with Myanmar. Indian ignorance of
this neighbour allowed China to hop in and practically make Myanmar a silent
Indian Prime Minister Narendra
Modi stopped over in Myanmar on his way back from a rocky and still largely
ambiguous meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the ninth Brics summit
and an uneasy rapprochement over the Doklam impasse.
It is a calculated risk because
Beijing can interpret this two-day layover as a deliberate slight seeing as how
the Indian delegation made no secret of its intent to compete commercially with
China in this market. Already India's $500 million investment in the Kaladan
multi-modal transit transport project which has a whole link missing and the
Tri-Lateral Highway still unfinished, has produced no great results.
India now belatedly wants to
strengthen ties with Yangon so that a balance of power is maintained in that
region. It is a bit of a forlorn hope with Myanmar pretty much in the fiscal
pocket of Beijing already and having a closer nexus in cultural terms. On both
those nations the winds of democracy are seen as ill winds.
But Modi has chosen to go and
he does have a persuasive personality. Even as he basks in the sunny warmth of
the reception accorded to him, it is incumbent on the leader of the largest
democratic nation in the world to address the Rohingya problem frontally and
use his stopover effectively to bring some comfort to these displaced
If you elect to visit a country
in the throes of a conflict seen by many including Turkish President Erdogan as
an ongoing genocide, then you have to less than discreet. This is Modi's
opportunity to be a statesman on a global stage. After all, the litany of
atrocities is heartbreaking. There are nearly 150,000 displaced Rohingya
Muslims. Over 40,000 are at the Bangladesh border, men, women and children
escaping the gunfire that follows them. Over the stench of cordite a death toll
of over 400 already and rising by the day. Government troops are burning bodies
of civilians to conceal the evidence. Myanmar is again risking ostracisation by
the global community.
And the Indian leader in situ,
extraordinarily well-placed to save lives and offset any impression of his
holding any ethnic prejudice. By coming to the rescue of the Rohingyas and
using his influence to good use Modi can send out a loud message to the Islamic
world that he cares about humanity regardless of caste, colour or creed.
Even if it is not to be seen as
a politically expedient and tangible appeasement of the huge Indian Muslim vote
bank any move to generate peace is doing the right thing and saving lives of
non-combatants can never be wrong.
Will Modi take that major step?
The initial 24 hours of his visit seemed dedicated more to hearty camaraderie.
To an extent this is understandable.
Modi cannot, ipso facto,
antagonise the military junta or offend the gathering of generals who run the
country. Even Aung Suu Kyi who was seen as the strong defiant one chose a
discreet silence on the Rohingya issue in case it tees off the military high
More importantly, Modi knows
that India has had a rather indifferent relationship with Myanmar. Few of the
1.2 billion Indians are even remotely aware that their nation shares a 1,600
kilometre border with Myanmar and it is adjunct to the northeastern states
which are already in an uneasy relationship with New Delhi. Indian ignorance of
this neighbour allowed China to hop in and practically make Myanmar a silent
satellite. For this closed country while it is laudable that Modi has realised
Indian foreign policy shortsightedness in staying away, his presence at this
crucial juncture demands more assertion than he has shown so far.
The joint statement is low on
solution and high on rhetoric.
"Being the neighbour, in
security, our interests are the same. It is necessary we safeguard our border
for security and stability. In black money project, work has been completed.
The road component work has started. And under our comprehensive partnership,
we have been cooperating in high quality health care."
But the direct comment on the
crisis and the killings is far too soft; "We share your concerns about
extremist violence in Rakhine state and violence against security forces and
how innocent lives have been affected."
One gets the feeling that Modi
has placed Indian priorities on the front burner and is more concerned about
out-manoeuvring China on this chessboard rather than condemning the ethnic
In all fairness, one cannot
totally blame him because it is not easy to meddle in the affairs of a
sovereign state, especially one which could form a backdoor corridor for the
Chinese to exercise fifth column influence on India's seven sister states.
Having ignored Myanmar these
past seven decades and already lost a massive lead to China where fiscal clout
is concerned, this visit could have been postponed to a later date if the
Indian Prime Minister was not prepared to show more intent and vigour vis a vis
the Rohingya problem.
This way not much is gained and
a major opportunity to do the greater good lost.
Bikram Vohra is
former editor of Khaleej Times
ready to boycott Qatar for 700 days
Arab countries that boycotted
Qatar have reiterated their position and voiced their willingness to continue
to boycott Doha, which supports terrorism and interferes in the affairs of
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel
al-Jubeir clearly said on Tuesday: “There is no harm if Qatar crisis continues
for two more years.” UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash
also confirmed this more than once.
Qatar must choose and either do
what’s right and end its support of terrorism and funding of terrorists or let
the boycott continues. It must realize that the inciting media campaigns
against the Saudi kingdom, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain will not benefit it for
Arab and foreign media figures
who are affiliated with Qatar and funded by it and Al-Jazeera anchors will be
thrilled for a while with the lies they propagate and which some people
believe. However, this media is losing its credibility and its influence will
come to an end soon, in less than the two years which Jubeir specified.
The world has clearly seen that
Qatar’s allegations that it’s besieged are fake propaganda and mere attempts to
gain the global public opinion’s support and pressure the boycotting countries
to end their boycott. There’s no blockade whatsoever and there’s nothing
illegal about the crisis with Qatar.
As Jubeir stated on Tuesday:
“What we said is that we will not deal with Doha and will not allow it to enter
our airspace.” All countries have the right to make such decisions. Now that
it’s been 90 days since severing ties with Qatar, it turns out this was the
right decision as Qatar did not respond to the demands of the boycotting
countries and either ignored these demands or mocked them.
Doha also hurled accusations
against the four boycotting countries and did everything that prevents reaching
a solution to this crisis. It refused to take any measures towards resolving
the crisis. This is Qatar’s problem and not the problem of the boycotting countries.
When Jubeir states that the
crisis may last for two years, reasonable men in Qatar must pause for a while
and contemplate this serious statement and analyze what does a boycott that
lasts for 730 days mean. When a Qatari hears this, he is supposed to think
about the political, security and economic repercussions and even about the
psychological repercussions on the Qataris and residents in Qatar.
Qatari people no longer call
the situation they are going through a “crisis” or a “blockade” but a “dark cloud”
and they’re wondering when they will turn this page. The question to this lies
with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim.
The solution is to simply end
the schemes of the Hamad bin Khalifa’s and Hamad bin Jassim’s regime and stop
interfering in other countries’ affairs, particularly Arab and Gulf ones, and
end support to terrorists.
This will not be achieved
unless by exiling one of the Hamads and trying the other. This is how Qatar can
go back to being a positive and efficient Arab Gulf state that exists and co-exists
with its surroundings – as today it’s only among us in body while its heart is
with our enemies!
is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Ittihad newspaper and Executive Director of
editing and publishing at the Abu Dhabi Media Company. He founded and was
Editor-in-Chief of the Arabic edition of National Geographic magazine, and has
held numerous positions in journalism since joining Al Ittihad in 1994.
Al-Hammadi has been a columnist for more than 15 years, including writing a
daily column for seven years and producing a weekly political column in Al
Ittihad since 2001. He has also worked as a parliamentary editor for seven
years, covering the proceedings of the Federal National Council in the United
Arab Emirates. In addition to being an active participant on social networks,
Al-Hammadi has an interest in new media and is currently working on a project
to ease the transition from traditional to digital and smart media. Al-Hammadi
has received numerous awards and is a member of a number of organizations and
federations. He features regularly in broadcast media as a regional political
commentator and has authored several books including Time of Ordeal (2008), The
UAE Democracy (2009) and The Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood (2016). Twitter:
Korean nukes and the Iranian nexus
The flavor of geopolitical
discussions these days is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),
commonly known as North Korea. As always, it is the present-day context that
makes the country quite the hot potato.
The starting point for such
discussions is invariably North Korea’s heretical brand of communism that
follows a dynastic order. It is also a Stalinist state, which distinguishes it
from other ‘mainstream’ communist regimes.
The last bastion of Stalinism
Lenin’s Bolshevik Russia was a
vicious place from its inception. But it was under Joseph Stalin that evil
reached diabolical extremes, hitherto unknown in human history. Murder,
torture, mass deportation, incarceration of millions in concentration camps and
the unbridled excesses of security services were the mainstay of its state
policy. Stalin had himself once famously said that a single death is a tragedy,
a million deaths a statistic.
On Stalin’s death in 1953, the
world heaved a collective sigh of relief as his reign of terror had infested
every aspect of life in Bolshevik Russia. His successor Nikita Khrushchev was
quick to remove all Stalinists from positions of power, and is famously known
for denouncing the crimes of Stalin at the 20th congress of the Communist Party
of the Soviet Union in 1956.
Also read: Nuclear deal allows
Iran to become the next ‘North Korea,’ US envoy warns
However, Bolshevik Russia
remained a brutal place, with no real freedoms available to its citizenry, but
Stalinism never returned. Even Stalingrad — the city that bore Satlin’s name
and was the place where one of the most important battles of the 20th century
was fought — was deserted.
The famines, summary
executions, concentration camps, dragnet of security services, terror and
torture of innocent civilians that once characterized Stalin’s Russia now beset
North Korea. As a violator of human rights, the regime in Pyongyang finds
itself among the worst in history. Only Stalin, Hitler and Mao perpetrated
greater barbarity than the present Kim dynasty.
With regular news of mass and
summary executions and a country perpetually on the brink of famine, with
orphaned street children desperately seeking food, warmth and shelter, the
sadism of North Korea is only topped by ISIS. So from the vantage point of what
we know about the DPRK, let us take a look at the things that we do not know.
Nuclear missiles on mobile
The recent inter-continental
ballistic missile (ICBM) tests conducted by Pyongyang are critical for two
reasons. Instead of being tested from a fixed position, these missiles were
fired from mobile launchers with a nose cone capable of carrying nuclear
The Kim regime is the greatest
proliferator of ICBM’s around the world, but it seems that some power has
supplied the country with both the mobile launchers and the nuclear-missile
nose cone. What are the strategic implications of this development for the
Middle East? There may be several serious ramifications of this development for
the region, which need looking into:
1. We know that the Assad regime in Syria has been working on a
nuclear program with North Korean assistance. To what end have North Korea and
Syria been working together in this regard? Is there still a relationship
between Pyongyang and Damascus on nuclear issues?
2. Recently, two North Korean ships were intercepted at sea en
route to Syria. Is North Korea actively shipping weapons to the Assad regime
that are used for killing the people of Syria?
3. Iranian engineers and scientists were present at the ICBM
launches in North Korea. What common cause brought the theocratic Shiite state
of Iran so close to an atheist, Stalinist regime?
4. How has Pyongyang aided Tehran with in its missile development
program? Has DPRK shared its technology on developing Iran’s ICBM’s,
particularly in the development of mobile launchers? Is the nature of this
exchange limited to the missiles or does it also include the nuclear-tipped
cones that Pyongyang has recently obtained?
5. In an environment of heightened sanctions and limited access
to foreign currency, it is estimated that this new technology would have cost
North Korea about $1.3 billion annually to have reached the stage of conducting
these tests, which also includes both research and development and
manufacturing expenses. According to The CIA Factbook, the GDP of North Korea
in 2013 was an estimated $28 billion. It seems someone is helping North Korea
finance these tests? If so, who?
Tehran provides the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated terrorist group, with the
weapons it procures from Pyongyang. It is also reasonable to conclude that
these weapons eventually pass on to Hezbollah, Houthis and the sectarian
militias in Iraq.
To put it bluntly, one can
surmise that North Korean weapons may have killed soldiers and citizens of
Saudi Arabia over the years, and this might be happening in Yemen even today.
North Korea impacts the Arabian
It is indeed a matter of
collective shame for the world that a Stalinist regime not only exists on the
planet today, but enjoys official recognition and the legitimate right to exist
by having its diplomatic missions around the world.
It should now become abundantly
clear that the actions of North Korea not only destabilize Northeast Asia,
threatening Seoul and Tokyo, but also have a cascading effect on the security
situation in the Arabian Gulf. North Korea is not just problem for South Korea,
Japan, and United States. It is a problem for The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The
Gulf Cooperation Council, and even the people of Syria.
Faisal Al-Shammeri is
a political analyst based in Washington DC. He tweets @mr_alshammeri.
San Suu Kyi does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
"There are no more
villages left, none at all." The accounts of the systematic ethnic
cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar, now effectively ruled by the world renowned
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, are finally making it to the
mainline news these days. "There are no more people left, either. It is
The pathological hatred of
Muslims ingrained in the leading US and European media (now aggressively
replacing the historic anti-Semitism of these societies) scarcely allows them
to see or to report the magnitude of the calamity masses of Muslims face at the
hands of Myanmar security forces and the Buddhist nationalist vigilante mobs.
Just imagine, for a minute, if
it were Jews or Christians, or else the "peaceful Buddhists" who were
the subjects of Muslim persecutions. Compare the amount of airtime given to
murderous Muslims of ISIL as opposed to the scarcity of news about the
murderous Buddhists of Myanmar. Something in the liberal fabric of
Euro-American imagination is cancerously callous. It does not see Muslims as
complete human beings.
"Nearly 20,000 Rohingya
flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar," Al Jazeera reports, "refugee flow
gathers pace amid renewed fighting as the international community expresses
concern for civilian safety."
"More than 100 Rohingya
Muslims massacred in Rakhine state," other reports confirm, as the icon of
human rights in the West, the sweetheart of every single European and US
leader, Ms Suu Kyi has either remained deadly silent on the slaughter of
innocent human beings or else dismissed such widely reported facts as
"I don't think there is
ethnic cleaning going on," Suu Kyi told the BBC in April. "I think
ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is
happening." Why so? What word should we use to please Her Majesty's
lexicography of murder and mayhem?
"It is not just a matter
of ethnic cleansing as you put it," she said. "It is a matter of
people on different sides of the divide, and this divide we are trying to close
Is this Trumpian charlatanism
at work in Myanmar or is it another entirely different kind of Aung San Suu Kyi
Newspeak? Hard to tell. But more urgently: Does this shameless power monger
deserve to carry the title of a "Nobel Peace Prize laureate?"
"No one told me I was
going to be interviewed by a Muslim," she complained indignantly in 2013,
after a BBC reporter questioned her hypocrisy in refusing to address the
slaughter of Muslims in Myanmar. The more blatant her hateful racism is and the
more evident her implication in the ethnic cleansing of her country, the more
the Norwegian Nobel Committee must ask itself about the moral grounding of
bestowing any such honour on the next recipient.
Nobel 'Peace' Prize?
Nobel Peace Prize has become
something of a global recognition. The fact, however, is that it is a
Swedish-Norwegian, or Scandinavian-European, or as they say "Western"
recognition force-fed to the world at large. We may agree or disagree with
their choices but their choices have become a global marker in science,
literature, and peace. They make the decision for the world. We have to live
There are choices they have
made that at the time they were made, they may in fact have made some sense -
such as Barack Obama (and later you cringe at the very idea of it), and then
there are choices they have made that make you reach for your pillow when you
heard their name in association with Nobel Prize for the first time: the
director of a poisonous gas factory Fritz Haber (1918 - chemistry), the
inventor of lobotomy Antonio Egas Moniz (1949 - medicine), the war criminal
Henry Kissinger (1973 - peace), or more recently the European Union (2012 -
In the more recent years,
however, it is the more egregious case of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese
politician, who is now at a head of a state apparatus engaged in mass murder of
Muslims that needs urgent attention.
The widely documented slaughter
of Muslims in Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi's callous disregard for their fate
and even possible political collusion with the mass murderers now leaves no
doubt that even if she originally deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, she most
certainly no longer does.
Here is the point where the
United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Union, the International
Criminal Court, Amnesty International, and any other international organisation
concerned with human rights should be among the global institutions to put
pressure on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to rescind the honour they once
bestowed upon such people who are now implicated in gross violation of the very
idea of "peace" on which they had awarded this prize in the first place.
The world at large cannot be at
the mercy of the Nobel Peace Prize spectacle to bestow such spectacular honour
on a person and then wash its hands of the subsequent actions of these people.
To be sure the idea of at least
regretting the award of Nobel Prize to certain recipients has perfectly logical
foregrounding and precedent. For example, we know for a fact how "Nobel
secretary regrets Obama peace prize". Geir Lundestad is reported to have
said: "Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009
failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would."
If the idea of the Nobel Peace
Prize is to acknowledge and honour those who have contributed significantly
towards the realisation of peace, the committee awarding it must stay apace
that cause and monitor the behaviour of its awardees to see in what ways they
have remained true to it or else diverted from it. Otherwise the whole
ceremonial spectacle is an exercise in futility.
The point of this proposal to
the Norwegian Nobel Committee is not to single out Aung San Suu Kyi or any
other past recipients of the prize for reprimand or rescinding of the prize but
to rethink the very logic of the recognition in a manner that makes it more
engaging, responsible, and enduring. Today Aung San Suu Kyi must be the single
most embarrassing name on the roster of the Nobel Peace Prize recipients. That
global embarrassment is necessary but not sufficient. The committee must
restore its own credibility and the credibility of the future recipients it
will honour by publicly rescinding this prize from a person so blatantly
affiliated with genocide.
Dismissing the Nobel Peace
Prize altogether as irrelevant or too political or Eurocentric in politics and
taste is of course too easy and yet too pessimistic and nihilistic. We only
have one world and that is the world in which we live and the urgent task at
hand is to see how we can save this world against its own evils with any means
at our disposal. The task is therefore to see how the very logic and mechanism
of Nobel Peace Prize can be used to save it for a better global mechanism of
encouraging peace and denouncing violence.
Hamid Dabashi is
Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature a
‘truly credible election’ in Syria? The UN envoy is dreaming
“What we are seeing is… the
beginning of the end of this war,” UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said Friday,
referring to his prediction that Daesh’s remaining Syrian strongholds will fall
by the end of October. That, he added, raises the possibility of a “truly
credible election” in Syria “within a year.” These statements display a
worrying degree of naivety.
This is not the first time de Mistura
has indicated that he sees Daesh’s defeat as the key to ending the war in
Syria. How can a peace envoy hope to succeed in his role when he misdiagnoses
the cause of the conflict he is tasked with ending? It did not start with
Daesh, which did not even exist at the time — this should go without saying. As
such, the conflict will not end with its demise.
From a military standpoint,
much of the country remains outside the Syrian regime’s control, and the war
could escalate as opposing sides fight over the carcass of Daesh’s “caliphate.”
Furthermore, realizing President Bashar Assad’s repeated vow to recapture the
whole country would mean opening an entirely new front, against the Kurds, who
control swathes of northern Syria and with whom the regime has thus far avoided
conflict. Planning their own elections, the Kurds do not seem to be in any rush
to roll back their declared autonomy.
De Mistura’s hope for free and
fair elections within a year of Daesh’s downfall is predicated on “the
international community… helping both the opposition and the government by
pushing the government to accept a real negotiation.”
How can someone so familiar
with the regime’s obstructionist negotiating tactics — he has presided over the
‘peace process’ for most of its lifespan — think that Assad would finally
entertain “a real negotiation” when the military tide has turned decidedly in
It is preposterous to think
that a dictator who preferred to destroy his country than relinquish his
absolute grip on power would finally decide to heed his people’s democratic
rights and aspirations, at a time when his regime is no longer under
It is equally preposterous to
assume that Assad’s allies, having invested so much in his survival and
dictatorship, would “push” him to adopt a genuinely democratic system that
could see their investments undone.
In March 2016, Assad said he
would consider an election before his current seven-year term ends in 2021 “if
the Syrian people wanted it.” This from a man who deems himself sole arbiter of
what his people want. Were he at all interested in heeding his people’s will,
the conflict would never have started.
The only election Assad would
entertain is a sham one designed only to rubberstamp his authority. This is not
hypothetical — the elections of 2000, 2007 and 2014 clearly display his warped
idea of what passes for democracy.
Having won 99.7 percent of the
vote in 2000 (when the constitution was amended just so he could ‘run’) and
97.6 percent in 2007, Assad in 2014 — needing to burnish his democratic
credentials amid international calls for him to step down — settled for a
slightly less ridiculous electoral victory of 88.7 percent.
To verify the authenticity of
the 2014 election, the regime invited observers from “friendly countries” —
bastions of democracy such as North Korea, China, Tajikistan, Zimbabwe and
It was the first time in 40
years that more than one candidate was allowed, but eligibility restrictions
ensured that Assad faced no real opponents. Candidates need the support of 35
members of Parliament, which is so dominated by the ruling Baath party that no
one could run without its blessing.
Candidates must also have lived
continuously in Syria for 10 years prior to nomination, automatically ruling
out those in exile for daring to voice dissent. Furthermore, anyone “convicted
of a dishonorable felony” is not eligible “even if he was reinstated” — in
other words, no one who has ever been a political prisoner (not exactly a
rarity in Syria).
No wonder, then, that the
Supreme Constitutional Court accepted only three of the 24 applications to run
for president: Assad, Maher Hajjar and Hassan Al-Nouri. But to call the latter
two challengers would be woefully misleading. Besides being unknown before
their nominations, and having far less exposure than the incumbent in the
run-up to the vote, they heaped praise on him throughout, and expressed total
agreement with his handling of the war.
The Associated Press, which
interviewed Hajjar, reported that he “offered little to differentiate himself
from Assad.” And Al-Nouri may as well have been the president’s campaign
spokesman, saying Syrians “need Assad to continue leading” the country.
Al-Nouri described the
incumbent as a “great” and “very strong leader” who is “believed in by many
Syrians.” He added: “You have to respect what he’s doing.” Al-Nouri’s icing on
the cake: “I’m not opposition.” At least he spared us the pretense.
The Syrian electorate also
faced severe limitations, rendering the official turnout of almost 74 percent
absurd. New ID documents that can only be issued by the regime were necessary
to cast a ballot, and voting only took place in regime-controlled areas, where
Syrians reported threats and pressure to take part and re-elect Assad.
Refugees could only take part
if they left the country via official border crossings (most in neighboring
Turkey and Iraq did not), and they had to cast their ballots at a Syrian
Embassy. The Interior Ministry said only 200,000 Syrians outside the country
would be eligible to vote — less than 8 percent of the total refugee population
at the time. They too said they received threats, such as not being allowed to
re-enter Syria or having their homes confiscated.
In Lebanon, there were reports
of men — identifying themselves as members of a Lebanese political party allied
to Assad (hint hint) — asking Syrian refugees who would be voting, and taking
down names. “Their presence was a reminder to the more than one million Syrian
refugees in Lebanon that they are still within the reach of (the) Damascus
government,” Reuters reported.
This is Assad’s notion of
democracy — a tool to manipulate in order to remain in power, rather than to
give the Syrian people genuine freedom of choice and expression. Expecting him
to embrace true democracy is to be as deluded as the useful idiots who believe
he was freely and fairly elected last time.
• Sharif Nashashibi
is an award-winning journalist and commentator on Arab affairs.
major game-changer of alliances in the Middle East
When it comes to political
alliances in the Middle East, Syria has emerged as the main game-changer. The
Syrian conflict has allowed Russia to draw Iran and Turkey to its orbit, while
the US shifts its focus to domestic politics. The new alliance between Russia,
Iran and Turkey is no longer temporary; it is strategic, based on trilateral
Last month, US President Donald
Trump approved fresh sanctions against Russia, bearing in mind differences
between the two countries over the latter’s annexation of Crimea, its
interference in Georgia, and its continued support for Syrian President Bashar
US forces and their allies in
eastern and northern Syria are working to build a “national army” from Kurdish
cities to engage more in the war against Daesh and other militant groups. This
means the Pentagon program to train and arm Syrian rebel groups has been
replaced by another project. Those groups that refuse to limit their fight only
to Daesh, rather than the regime also, will not be part of the new army.
The end of US support for
rebels fighting Assad means Washington does not seek regime change. Some have
viewed this decision by Trump as a US concession to Russia, as Washington today
relies on Moscow to limit Iran’s regional influence.
In a few days, the Assad regime
will control Deir Ezzor in the east without fearing attacks in other areas. The
Syrian-Iraqi border has been handed over to the Iranians, who have established
a corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean, at a time when the Syrian
Democratic Forces (SDF) do not want to fight the regime or seize land beyond
the Kurdish areas due to Russian-Iranian-Turkish coordination.
Moscow knows that the US needs
its cooperation regarding Iran’s expansionist policies in the region. In the
coming months the Assad regime will work to restore its authority in eastern
Syria, and 2018 is likely to see the defeat of rebel remnants in the west; no
self-government in any part of the country will be allowed.
Iran and Turkey have succeeded
in neutralizing the West, signaling the end of its role in Syria. The major
issue will be Idlib province, which borders Turkey; that is why Moscow is
maintaining good ties with Ankara.
It seems the biggest winner in
the war is Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country has become a
prominent player in the Middle East. Russia is working hard to consolidate and
expand the “de-escalation zones” in Syria in cooperation with its allies Turkey
and Iran. The three countries are also guarantors of the Astana process.
The US is counting on a rift
emerging between Russia and Iran over Syria, but that may take a long time.
Tehran and Moscow have long-term strategies in the Middle East, and are able to
cooperate on all levels, getting other countries to join them, including
Turkey, whose relations with the EU are fast deteriorating.
The US and its allies are in a
state of confusion and retreat, while Turkey, Iran and Russia remain coherent
and in a state of progress regarding the liberation of Syria from terrorism and
the maintenance of its territorial integrity.
• Maria Dubovikova is a
prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs.
She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club
is not fearless, he is just insecure
Dionne Jr (Wide Angle)
Lacking any deep instincts or
convictions, he tries to move in several directions at once, an awkward
manoeuvre even for an especially gifted politician.
One of the most cynical
quotations in history is also one of the most widely attributed. Let's ponder
the version associated with Groucho Marx: "Sincerity is the key to
success. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."
From the moment Donald Trump
opened his quest for the presidency, this idea has defined him and served as an
organising principle of his politics.
He presented himself as the guy
who said whatever was on his mind, who didn't talk like a politician, who
didn't care what others thought and who railed against "political
In fact, just about everything
that comes out of his mouth or appears on his Twitter feed is calculated for
its political and dramatic effect. Trump is the exact opposite of what he tries
to project: The thing he cares about is what others think of him. So, he'll
adjust his views again and again to serve his ends as circumstances change.
He's not Mr Fearless. He's Mr Insecure.
Putting aside the catastrophe
of his presidency, this approach has worked remarkably well for Trump. But when
the input on which he bases his calculations is garbled or contradictory, he
doesn't know which way to go.
Lacking any deep instincts or
convictions, he tries to move in several directions at once, an awkward
manoeuvre even for an especially gifted politician. In these situations, Trump
offers us a glimpse behind the curtain, and we see there is nothing there.
This is the most
straightforward explanation for the fiasco created by the president's
mean-spirited decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
programme, known as DACA. Trump was trying to square incompatible desires: to
look super tough on immigrants to his dwindling band of loyal supporters, and
to live up to his expressions of "love" (you have to wonder why Trump
throws this word around so much) for the 800,000 residents who were brought to
the United States illegally as children, conduct productive lives and are as
"American" as any of the rest of us.
His solution is a non-solution.
First, Trump showed how little he believes in his policy - of ending DACA but
delaying its death sentence by six months - by having Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, the administration's ad hoc director of nativist initiatives, make
Trump shifted responsibility
for his impossible political dilemma to Congress.
It's true that Congress should
have acted on this long ago, but Trump undercut his claim by not telling his
allies what he wanted done. He was simply tossing the choices down Pennsylvania
Avenue in the way a lousy neighbour might hurl unwanted debris into the yard
And then, when the bad reviews
poured in, Trump backed away from even his muddle of a policy. He tweeted that
if Congress didn't act, "I will revisit this issue!" So a six-month
delay might not really be a six-month delay. It might be extended. Or maybe
not. Who knows? Adding an exclamation point to your waffling doesn't help.
The improvised character of the
Trump presidency owes to his inclination to see politics as entirely about
public performance. He cares above all about the reactions he arouses day to
day and even hour to hour.
There is no strategic vision of
what a Trump administration should look like because he doesn't have any clear
objectives of his own. On some days, he buys into the Sessions-Steve
Bannon-Stephen Miller nationalist world view. On others, he goes with his
practical generals or his business-friendly Wall Street advisers. He doesn't
resolve the philosophical tensions because they don't matter to him.
All this underscores what a
waste this presidency is. Trump's campaign was irresponsible in many ways, but
it did highlight problems the US needs to grapple with, particularly the vast
gap in opportunity and hope between the country's prosperous metropolitan areas
and its economically ailing smaller towns and cities. We are doing nothing to
ease this divide, and the policiesTrump does embrace by default (he goes with
conservatives in Congress on many issues as the path of least resistance) may
worsen it. Stasis also rules on health care and infrastructure.
Those who condemn the
fundamental cruelty of using "dreamers" to make a political point are
right to do so. The mobilisation for decency in reaction to Trump has already
altered the direction of his weather vane. But there is a larger lesson here:
It is a genuinely bad idea to elect a president who worries far more about how
his actions look than what they actually are.
-The Washington Post
EJ Dionne Jr is
senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a government
professor at Georgetown University and a frequent commentator on politics for
National Public Radio
at a crossroads
TURKEY made its first formal
approach to join the European Union thirty years ago under the reformist
premier Turgut Özal. Özal opened up his country for foreign investment and
began the demolishing of the state-controlled industries which had been built
up after Ataturk founded the Republic in 1923. Until then the country had
sought to be self-sufficient. Pick up most any manufactured good in the 1970s
and it would have “Türk imal” stamped on it somewhere.
The quality of these products
was not always of the highest — an automobile called the “Anadolu” rivaled East
Germany’s “Trabant” for the title of the world’s worst motorcar.
But what this independent
manufacturing demonstrated was that Turkey possessed the capacity and indeed
the will to become a potent economic power. And as Özal welcomed foreign
investment, embarked on widespread privatization, including selling off the
first Bosphorus Bridge to the public, it was clear to the Europeans that Turkey
was going to be an attractive market as well as an effective partner.
Turkey also benefitted from a
trading agreement with the old European Economic Community. This had been put
in place in part because of the crucial role that Turkish gastarbeiter — guest
workers — played particularly in the German car industry. In textiles and white
goods Turkey has now become a leading international player. The chances are
that your kitchen stove, fridge or freezer were made in Turkey even though they
carry famous international brands.
The British were the biggest
backers for Turkish EU membership. The Germans and Dutch appeared in favor and
the Italians — whose style and culture the Turks have long admired — seemed
equally supportive. Only the French were reserved. In the early 1990s an
eminent Turkish banker was at a dinner in Brussels, when a French banker
brought an awkward halt to the conversation at their table after he said that
of course Turkey could never be part of Europe because it did not share its
Accession talks between Ankara
and Brussels have dragged on for years with the EU raising issues such as human
rights, freedom of the press and the transparency of commercial law. One
initial concern was also political stability. The Turkish military, which saw
itself as protector of the secular Kemalist republic, has three times
overthrown parliament democracy in the name of public order.
But under the moderate Islamist
leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the teeth of the military have been pulled.
Erdogan has proved a remarkable politician but his increasingly authoritarian
style has polarized his own people. And even before last year’s failed coup,
Erdogan had torn up of his own peace deal with the Kurds, which had earned him
international kudos and begun to exert pressure against, political and media
Since the coup, his substantial
clampdown on political opponents and his muzzling of the press have played into
the hands of those in the EU who never wanted Turkey to join. Erdogan has now
challenged Brussels to abandon accession talks with Ankara. It is likely that
if Angela Merkel wins the German election at the end of the month, that this is
precisely what will happen. Overnight, the future for NATO-member Turkey will
look very different. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Erdogan
will look for a considerably closer relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
clampdown on FGM is leaving young girls traumatised
The whispers have been growing
in volume for a while, tentative, but more and more concerned about exactly
what the Female Genital Mutilation Act, passed in 2003, has achieved. The whole
subject of FGM has sometimes seemed to emit more heat than light over the past
few years, and now there is a growing concern that measures aimed at protecting
children are actually harming them.
While the desire to protect
every child from physical and psychological harm is laudable, the lack of
clarity over what is actually happening to children in Britain with regards to
FGM is now being seen to have a potentially negative impact on child
In 2015, Keith Vaz, then chair
of the home affairs select committee, described a situation in which “young
girls are being mutilated every hour of every day”. Perhaps he was referring to
NHS figures, recorded between April 2015 and March 2016, that showed “a case of
FGM is newly recorded every 92 minutes on average”; or the numbers of patients
with FGM who were “assessed on average every 61 minutes”.
No doubt Vaz had noble
intentions in raising the issue, but the NHS figures in fact refer not to young
girls who have been cut in Britain under the noses of doctors, social workers
and the police, but to adult women who have received medical treatment for a
variety of issues, who were subjected to FGM at a young age in their home
What about the other claims
around FGM? The planes full of children shipped to Africa and Asia when
“cutting season” begins? In 2015 Baroness Tonge, on her return to London after
a flight to Addis Ababa, reported passengers she’d seen to the Metropolitan
police, concerned that she had stumbled on one of those rumoured FGM
Had she overhead something? Had
a girl quietly asked for help? Did she observe any signs of abuse that worried
her? Apparently not: that “the plane was heaving with mainly British-Somalia
[sic] families returning to Somalia for ‘the holidays’”, and that there seemed
to be more girls on the flight than boys, was enough to raise her suspicions.
“It was just odd,” she said. The police, feeling both public and political
pressure to act assertively on FGM, checked the flight records and questioned
the families on their return.
There are also routine checks
of flights carrying “at risk” children, where sniffer dogs and uniformed
officers meet departing families and warn them of the FGM law. The message is
drummed in at nurseries, schools and GP surgeries too.
What happens to those who are
accused of subjecting their children to FGM? A BBC Newsnight investigation this
week featured one woman whose children had been put under a protection order –
which can ban certain family members from contacting their children or taking
them abroad. The reason for this order, the mother believes, was a question she
had asked of her midwife regarding what FGM actually entailed (she came from a
Kenyan background where it was not practised). This mother had to wait four
months before a medical examination proved that neither she, nor her two
daughters, had had FGM.
Other families have had
children taken into care, sometimes for more than a year, while they wait for
one of the accredited doctors who can perform the forensic exam needed on young
girls’ bodies to prove whether FGM has taken place or not. One particularly
upsetting case I came across involved an eight-year-old Somali girl who was
taken from her parents at an airport, and kept in care for months before an
exam exonerated them. She was traumatised by the separation from her family and
experienced absence seizures while in care.
As Toks Okeniyi, of the Africa
gender rights group Forward, says: “If there are bottlenecks in the system, it
needs to be resolved to ensure that families are able to have access to clinics
very early on in the investigation, to eliminate them and to protect the
interests of the child.”
Discussion of FGM in Britain
rests on just how many girls are “at risk”. In 2016, the Health and Social Care
Information Centre reported 5,700 recorded cases of FGM in the previous 12
months: 5,657 of those women were born outside the UK. The cases of the 43 born
here are extremely worrying, as are the reported 18 cases where the FGM
actually took place in this country; however, around 10 of those UK cases were
genital piercings, presumably freely chosen, which are now recorded as FGM type
These much smaller figures
accord with my experience – of opposition to FGM among the vast majority of
British Somalis, who make up roughly a third of the historical cases. We are
now seeing the second and third generation of British-Somali girls who only
know of FGM from campaigns rather than lived experience.
It is still widely reported by
campaigners that 23,000 girls in Britain are “at risk” of FGM every year, but
there is little evidence of this from the NHS. It appears more likely that
nearly all UK families from countries where it is prevalent know it is harmful
and illegal; and away from the dominant societies and cultures where it is practised,
they see no reason to continue the tradition.
This is a success born from
many decades of hard work within communities by women who experienced the pain
and harm of FGM themselves. But in treating the lack of cases and prosecutions
as a failure, – with loud voices calling for tougher crackdowns – the
government risks actually harming little girls. Those who sincerely want to
help vulnerable youngsters should ask if the methods used so far have really
achieved what they set out to do.
• Nadifa Mohamed is a
British-Somali writer and author of The Orchard of Lost Souls
murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh shows India descending into violence
Once quiet, civilised Bangalore
is shaken to the core by the news of the shocking murder of its most famous
journalist, Gauri Lankesh. In big cities and small towns across India thousands
of people are protesting at the murder of a gutsy woman who fought for the
marginalised, who called Dalit victims her sons, and who protested against
injustice and venal politics in the face of death threats.
When you know someone, their
death hits you harder. Lankesh was the recipient of endless hate mail from
Hindu extremists. She was vilified on two fronts. She dared to take on the
powerful Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), currently ruling most of India. She
criticised them and their cohorts for attacking minorities and creating a
culture that enabled lynching, mob violence and hate crimes. She also defended
Dalit rights, provoking the ire of many dominant-caste Indians across the
I have been told off for
comparing the current political climate to Nazi Germany. “Don’t go over the
top, you’ll lose credibility,” critics advise. Yet for 16-year-old Junaid, a
hapless Muslim youth recently stabbed more than 30 times on a public train when
he had merely gone out to buy festive clothes for Eid, the pattern is
chillingly similar to films we’ve watched on the attacks on Jews in Hitler’s
Junaid and his friends were
first pushed, then abused as “dirty Muslims”, then told to vacate their seats,
their distinctive skull caps thrown on the ground. They tried to escape but
Junaid was held down while his assailant stabbed him multiple times. The other
boys, who were merely beaten or stabbed, were the lucky ones. They escaped with
Harsh Mander, former civil
servant and activist writer, has appealed to the majority of peace-loving
Hindus of India to stop the violence, to stand with the minorities. Even as
Lankesh was being lethally mown down, a peace pilgrimage, or yatra, had been
initiated in faraway Assam. Called the caravan of love, Karwan e Mohabbat
(Kem), it aims to atone for the violence against minorities, and beg for peace
and harmony to replace the politics of hate. Currently Muslims, tribal groups
(the Adivasi), Dalits and Christians have been singled out in violent attacks.
A US state department report
quoted in The Hindu says: “Authorities frequently did not prosecute members of
vigilante ‘cow protection’ groups who attacked alleged smugglers, consumers, or
traders of beef, usually Muslims, despite an increase in attacks compared to
Kem proposes to travel across
India, to meet the families of people victimised, attacked, raped and murdered
for being minorities. It began on 4 September when Mander and other activist
writers visited two women whose teenage sons had been brutally killed.
The cousins, Riyaz and Abu, had
gone fishing on their day off. Someone screamed that they were cattle thieves.
Within minutes a mob assembled. The boys were thrashed mercilessly while
pleading for their lives. Their mutilated bodies came home with eyes gouged out
and ears cut off. Two carefree, laughing boys left home promising their mums a
fish feast. Instead the women received the worst news possible for any parent:
their children had been murdered.
Kem urges Indians to fight to
uphold the values of the Indian constitution, which promises its citizens
liberty, justice, equality and fraternity after centuries of oppression. Now we
appear to be turning into that which we hated, that which we fought against:
oppressors, cruel tyrants, intolerant murderers.
In the last two decades, the
voices of Hindu extremists have become more vocal, frighteningly shrill.
They’ve become emboldened with the culture of impunity which seems
all-pervasive. When minorities are killed, often falsely accused of trading,
eating or carrying beef, by cow vigilantes, our most vocal, always tweeting
Prime Minister Modi says not a word. The silence is deafening. This has
encouraged the fanatics to lynch, attack and kill people.
Shockingly, the fanatics
glorify Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi, because he believed
Gandhi had caved in to Muslim demands by allowing the creation of Pakistan. The
once-banned Godse cult is now thriving. Social media are powerfully used to
propagate lies, hate and distorted facts.
Critics of Hindu nationalists’
fanaticism are being murdered to scare all dissenters into silence. Two years
before Lankesh’s death, the eminent intellectual MM Kalburgi was also shot dead
outside his home. That same year, Govind Pansare another vocal critic of
extremist Hindu groups, was murdered. In August 2013, the Dalit campaigner and
atheist Narendra Dabholkar killed. All of these martyred Hindus were fighting
for the idea of India. They were battling to save Hinduism from bigots and
All over India, people are
waking up to the reality that their beloved country could be destroyed. Never
has the country witnessed the flood of hatred and vitriol currently being
openly spewed. The voices of sanity plead: “Stop the descent. We cannot become
Kosovo or Rwanda.”
Mander issued a challenge to
India, but especially to the Hindu majority. “It’s a call of conscience to
India’s majority,” he says. “We need our conscience to ache. We need it to be
burdened intolerably.” Silence can mean complicity. The silent majority needs
to speak up. And to speak out now. Otherwise the Hindu stalwarts who fought for
justice will have been martyred for nothing.
In spite of these dark, dismal
days, hope has not died. People are protesting: “Not in my name.” And India’s
supreme court has just ordered all states and union territories to appoint
police officers in every district to track down and prosecute cow vigilante
groups. Perhaps sanity will be restored. Perhaps peace will return to this
beleaguered nation again. Perhaps Lankesh and the martyrs who preceded her will
not have died in vain.
• Mari Marcel
Thekaekara is a human rights activist and writer based in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu
is no longer a civilised country – the UN’s disability report confirms it
7 September 2017
It’s often said that the mark
of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens in times
of austerity. And in the past week, Britain has had not one but two damning
judgments – the first from a committee room in Geneva, the second in a
courtroom in London.
Last Thursday a United Nations
inquiry into disability rights in the UK ruled that the government is failing
in its duties in everything from education, work and housing to health,
transport and social security. Presented with overwhelming evidence of a range
of regressive policies and multibillion-pound cuts to disability services, it
described the treatment of disabled people in this country as a “human
Less than 24 hours later, Luke
Davey lost his appeal against his local council cutting his care package almost
in half. I wrote about Luke in the Guardian last year, just as the
then-39-year-old started his court battle. Luke is quadriplegic, has cerebral
palsy and is registered blind. But in this climate of cuts to disability
services, after 23 years of 24/7 support, his care hours have been suddenly
gutted. Without enough funding for full-time personal assistants, his mother,
Jasmine, is forced to fill in the gaps: sitting in the bungalow to ensure he’s
not alone, and lifting her 14-stone son into a hoist. Jasmine, it’s worth
noting, is 75 and has cancer.
This is grotesque, but it
becomes more grotesque still when we consider this situation is not rare. By
this financial year, around 200,000 disabled people will have lost between
£15,000 and £18,000 in income through a combination of cuts, from the bedroom
tax to the abolition of disability living allowance. Meanwhile, 1 million
disabled people now have to live without the social care they need to wash,
cook, or leave the house.
I am struck daily by the number
of readers who tell me what’s being done to them by this government, simply
because they have the nerve to be disabled and, often, poor. Grandmothers
falling into depression and anxiety waiting to hear whether they’ll be deemed
“fit for work”. Middle-aged men with arthritis sitting in a coat in their
living room because they can’t afford to put the heating on. Young disabled
women turning to sex work after having their Disability Living Allowance
removed, and having no other way to pay the bills.
Bit by bit, the abuse of
disabled people in Britain is being normalised. This isn’t simply the result of
newspapers and politicians dehumanising the “scrounging” disabled. It’s that
the hardship being witnessed is now so common, so widespread, it’s as if it’s
Resisting this becomes almost
an act of defiance: to say that it’s not normal for a self-proclaimed global
leader of disability rights to have to be shamed publicly by the United Nations
over its treatment of disabled citizens; that it’s not economically necessary
for one of the wealthiest nations on Earth to cut benefits and social care so
deeply that disabled people are housebound, hungry, or suicidal.
When the “most vulnerable
citizens” line is used by well-meaning voices, there’s a secret second sentence
that’s rarely uttered: disabled people, truth be told, do not need to be
vulnerable. Contrary to the myth sold by years of austerity, to be afraid,
desperate or isolated is not a normal state of affairs for people with disabilities.
Vulnerability comes when politicians choose to pull the support disabled people
need in order to live dignified, fulfilling, independent lives – knowing full
well the misery it will cause.
“I’m nervous, really nervous,”
Luke had told me last year when I asked how he was feeling about his court
battle. “But I have to do it. If I don’t, God knows what will happen to me or
This was the week this country
lost the right to call itself civilised. If that doesn’t shame politicians to
address its treatment of disabled citizens, surely nothing will.
• Frances Ryan is a
journalist and political commentator
Book That Made Us Feminists
SEPT. 7, 2017
I was 19 years old when I
bought a first edition of “Sexual Politics” in 1970. Kate Millett’s first book,
published the year before, was that unlikeliest phenomenon — a dissertation
heard around the world. What I remember most about that year was the dizzying
experience of reading Ms. Millett, who died on Wednesday, and the new theories
of her sister feminists that came in its wake. Like one of Yayoi Kusama’s
“Infinity Rooms,” my consciousness, and that of the women I knew, gained new
In my library today, that
volume of “Sexual Politics” sits next to the feminist classics that soon
followed. Both “The Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone and “Sisterhood is
Powerful,” Robin Morgan’s ambitious anthology, appeared in 1970. The following
year, Germaine Greer published “The Female Eunuch” in the United States. Each
year thereafter brought a major new work: Phyllis Chesler’s “Women and Madness”
(1972); Mary Daly’s “Beyond God the Father” (1973); Andrea Dworkin’s “Woman
Hating” (1974); and Susan Brownmiller’s “Against Our Will” (1975).
These women and many others,
including Adrienne Rich and Angela Davis, offered new insights, shaking
foundation after foundation for me and my peers. But it was Ms. Millett’s book
that made us feminists.
I remember staring at Alice
Neel’s image of a confident-looking Ms. Millett on a Time magazine cover in
August 1970. It made me feel a little indomitable, too. That fall, I started to
offer feminist analyses in my literature classes. Maybe I wasn’t ready to take
on the world, but I could take on John Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.”
In 1963, Betty Friedan had
called the “feminine mystique” the problem with no name. It was Ms. Millett who
gave it a name — sexual politics — and explained its cause: patriarchal
society. By introducing the concept of “patriarchy as a political institution,”
she equipped her readers to become their own theorists of culture. Ms. Millett
revolutionized our thought by helping us to perceive the power structures in
what had previously been cast as apolitical terrain: the home; literature;
It felt so liberating to
realize that we could follow her lead. We could take this fundamental insight
to our jobs, our schools, our marriages — and to politics itself. Theory
mattered. It was capable of propelling real change.
It’s been 47 years since that
white cover with the stark black capital letters appeared. The challenge for us
in thinking about “Sexual Politics” now is the weariness of knowing Ms.
Millett’s analysis isn’t yet outdated. President Trump has made second-wave
feminism relevant again. Sexual bragging? Discussing women’s bodies as objects?
Fascination and repulsion by women’s bleeding and other bodily functions?
Check, check, check.
For Ms. Millett, misogynist
literature — exemplified by the writings of D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller,
Norman Mailer and Jean Genet — was the primary vehicle of masculine hostility.
The tools for disseminating such hostility — @realdonaldtrump — have increased
When Ms. Millett talks about
the “politically expedient character of patriarchal convictions about women,” I
think about the health care debates of the past year, the reference by one
state legislator to pregnant women as “hosts” and of the fact that not a single
female senator was invited to help write the health bill this past spring.
Ms. Millett challenged the
gender conditioning of early childhood that “runs in a circle of
self-perpetuation and self-fulfilling prophecy.” How else to think about
“reveal” parties, where expectant parents announce the sex of their baby?
And her discussion of the
family as “patriarchy’s chief institution” feels suddenly acute when one
considers our current first family. Patriarchy, literally "the rule of the
father,” has found new meaning in the Trump White House.
Ms. Millett’s work wasn’t
exhaustive. Later feminist theory pursued other important ideas about equality
and inequality, about intersectionality and colonialism. But I love Ms. Millett
for her ambition. She wanted us to take it all in: from the gas station that
stood in the 1960s where the Seneca Falls women’s rights meeting was held in
1848 to the anatomical discussion of the female orgasm. She would consume it
all; she had consumed it all, devoured the wealth of material from anthropology,
theology, history, philosophy, economics and literature, and showed us how to
recognize the sexual politics that undergirded everything.
Kate Millett ended her book on
a hopeful note, of how “the new women’s movement” would “ally itself on an
equal basis with blacks and students in a growing radical coalition.” At a
time, “poised between progress or political repression,” Ms. Millett hoped that
women might swing the national mood toward social revolution. “For to actually
change the quality of life is to transform personality, and this cannot be done
without freeing humanity from the tyranny of sexual-social category and
conformity to sexual stereotype — as well as abolishing racial caste and
economic class.” The next Women’s March could adopt this as their motto.
On Wednesday night, after
hearing of her death in Paris earlier that day, I went to my bookshelf. There
they all sat: the volumes that changed how we saw the world. I pulled out Ms.
Millett’s book and opened it to the Postscript. Perhaps, after all these years,
it wasn’t just Ms. Millett’s élan, or confidence, or ambition, or erudition. It
was that she ended with a visionary hope for us all, that we might create “a
world we can bear out of the desert we inhabit.”
Carol J. Adams
(@_caroljadams) is the author of “The Sexual Politics of Meat: A
Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory,” now in a 25th anniversary edition.
already time to sit at the table with Syria’s al-Assad?
Two interesting developments
occurred in our neighbor Syria on the day our National Football Team beat
Croatia and rose to third place in their group in the World Championship
The national football team of
Syria, which has fallen into pieces in its sixth year of civil war, fell 2-2
with Iran and won the right to participate in the eliminations for the World
This victory was celebrated
with joyful demonstrations on the streets of Damascus.
These celebrations can also be
regarded as the first photographs marking the end of the civil war in Syria.
Yes, a World Champion team came
out of the ruins of war.
On the same day, troops under
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s command took back a region that had been controlled
by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for three years.
One day later, the United
Nations stated the troops of Assad used nerve gas in Idlib.
The U.N. also stated that until
today, 33 different kinds of chemical weapons were used in the civil war in
Syria and seven of them were used by the Assad regime between March and July.
This means that in the civil
war, there are also those who use chemical weapons among the opponent groups
against Assad. Only, this statement alone already shows the size of the human
The war in Syria is almost
coming to its end.
Aside from us, the whole world
has understood this reality very well.
The best solution with regard
to world peace is if the Assad regime takes back control over the country
This historical tragedy showed
everyone that every region the regime could not control was seized by ISIL or
This is a mindset that cuts
heads, burns people alive and makes women sex slaves.
Just like in the beginning of
the war, today I am still writing with the same realism.
It is time for Turkey to sit at
the table with the al-Assad regime and start discussions.
The question to be put forward
will then be: “Are we going to sit at the same table with the butcher of
I know very well what reaction
those, dreaming of “performing prayers at the Emevi Mosque in Damascus” will
give to my writing.
They will say: “Are we going to
sit at the same table with the man who killed 200,000 Muslims in Syria and used
My answer is ready: “Those who
met al-Bashir, the butcher of Darfur who killed 200,000 people in Sudan, with a
ceremony by the state at the Atatürk Airport and welcomed him like a king in
Turkey, may as well sit at the same table with Assad.”
What it takes is to put the
interests of our country above your egos.
Observations of Erbil
It is a big loss for me to see
journalists such as Cengiz Çandar and Fehim Tastekin out of mainstream media
when the whole world’s attention is on the Middle East.
Luckily enough, Tastekin writes
on the website “Ilke Haber” and I follow him closely.
Tastekin has gone to Erbil and
wrote a very interesting article there at a time when we were all curious about
the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) referendum.
I will share with you the most
interesting lines of this article.
The Kurdish are stuck in the
triangle of “yes,” “no” and “boycott.”
In the first group, there are
those who see the answer “yes” as “Kurdishness” and “patriotism,” and “no” as
“the betrayal to the dream of Kurdistan.”
On the other hand, there are
those who believe the timing is wrong and it is an effort to cover the failures
of KRG President Massoud Barzani.
Even more interesting is there
are those who believe a conspiracy theory, the referendum is a trick by Turkey,
in an attempt to make Kurdistan a “second Cyprus.”
In another group, there are
people who say regional actors are pushing the independence project so it
fails, as the KRG will hold the referendum without being prepared.