Robert Burns great poem seemed appropriate for my friend Nabeel Rajab who has just been detained again in Bahrain for comments on Twitter which allegedly, “denigrated government institutions.” No irony that a Government that has shot and killed peaceful protesters, arrested and tortured doctors and human rights defenders and young kids, demolished mosques and engaged in widespread and brutal repression in order to maintain its corrupt and autocratic rule, should think that it is comments on Twitter rather than their own actions which reflect badly on them. Honest men and women look and laugh at that.
In the 1980s the US and the UK encouraged Saudi Arabia to support the armed opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The US and UK had earlier entered into a Faustian pact with the Saudi regime. In order to secure access to oil, the Western powers agreed to turn a blind eye to the corruption, brutality and misogyny of the ruling house of Saud. The poor Westerners had delusions they could guide their protegés. [Read more…]
How can we help the people of Gaza? There is a humanitarian and medical catastrophe which the UNRWA and others are seeking to respond to. But this is the third war to have targeted the civilians of Gaza in the last 6 years. The killing of civilians, the killing of over 300 children, the deliberate collective punishment are war crimes. And the only way to stop the whole bloody cycle coming around again is to make some progress on bringing those responsible to justice. [Read more…]
I started the week thinking that the manufactured furore about Alex Salmond’s remarks on Putin was a storm in a tea-cup best ignored. However, the desperate attempts of the unionist parties, the BBC and the right wing press to smear Salmond and divert attention from their failing campaign has reached a level of absurdity that is so disrespectful to the rights of people in Ukraine and Russia that I feel compelled to respond. [Read more…]
England don’t go.
England don’t go and drift off into a fantasy isolationism,
anti-immigrant, anti-EU and anti the interconnectedness of the modern world.
England don’t go and vote for UKIP.
England don’t go on fuelling the London City-state with subsidies and tax-breaks,
denuding the rest of your country of jobs and opportunity.
England don’t go on privatising the NHS and education.
England don’t go on down the road of small-state neo-liberalism,
delivering fortunes for the fat-cats, huge inequality and massive social problems.
England don’t go on blaming the poor for the sins of bankers.
England don’t go on giving billions in subsidies to the governments of China and France
to build nuclear power stations in your green and pleasant land.
England don’t go and invest further billions in the post-imperial delusion
of Trident weapons of mass destruction.
England don’t go on living in the past.
England don’t go in the huff when we vote Yes.
England don’t go on thinking our self-determination is about you.
It is about democracy, our future, our children and grand-children, fairness and prosperity.
England don’t go. We secretly like you in an awkward, blokeish, unverbalised kind of way.
We couldn’t live with out you. The ferry to France would become a slog.
England don’t go.
John Sawers the Head of MI5 claimed at Westminster that, “our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee.” Unfortunately he did not spell out the reasons why this might be true, nor did the members of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) engage in any serious questioning of the assertion, nor of the behaviour of the three agencies. The reality is that it is the actions of the UK and US security services that are boosting violent extremists. [Read more…]
David Torrance wrote a somewhat strange article in The Herald today about Alex Salmond’s visit to China. He correctly describes the approach of the Scottish Government as being pragmatic and focused on developing trade and economic links. For some reason he feels this contrasts with the brave line of the UK Government on human rights as evidenced by a quote from Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire. Perhaps David Torrance was in North Korea when the Boris and Osborne show was in Beijing and he therefore missed the bumbling Etonian charm offensive with its references to being fashionably late to the party. Not to mention Conservative Party efforts to damage the international protection of human rights by campaigning to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. [Read more…]
The Cyberdialogue organised by the impressive Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto brought together a stimulating mixture of academics, technology experts, diplomats, politicians, private sector representatives, journalists, military & security professionals and civil society. It was refreshing and sometimes quite challenging to be in a discussion with genuinely diverse perspectives. [Read more…]
Kenyans took to social media in the last days before their election to criticise foreign journalists and NGOs for talking up the potential for violence. There were multiple fairly scathing comments on twitter with the hashtag #TellCNN because of what was perceived to be a sensationalist and ill informed report. There continued to be barbed comments about foreign journalists looking for violence to report and cliches to use.
It is therefore with some trepidation that I write down some reflections as a mzungu who flew in for only a few days. However, I did have the privilege of meeting and discussing with a diverse group of Kenyan human rights defenders as well as of talking to an eclectic mix of people at polling stations and in some of the villages which bore the brunt of the 2007 post-election violence. [Read more…]
It was a little strange to hear the phrase “they don’t like it because they want to be perceived as Robin Hood,” during a discussion in Spanish on attempts to close down independent community groups in the barrios of Caracas. I didn’t know Robin Hood was so famous in Venezuela. I did know that the supporters of President Hugo Chavez claimed to be working to deliver health and education to the poorest communities. [Read more…]