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Algeria’s presidential elections: a litany of failures by the political class has wasted a golden opportunity for change

Open Democracy - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 4:55am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pTaking place sixty years since the Algerian revolution, today’s presidential elections presented the perfect occasion for the country to turn a new leaf after decades of mismanagement and stagnation. Instead, a litany of political and moral failures by the political class./p /div /div /div pOn paper, Algeria’s presidential election, due to take place today, Thursday April 17, could plausibly be decreed the region’s most important in years. It is certainly treated as such in a number of a href=http://www.dw.de/uk-puts-business-over-human-rights-in-algeria/a-17472837western capitals/a, which have been sending discreet (and less so) water-testing missions for a while now. Algeria is a pivotal player on a number of key regional and international hot fronts: from counter-terrorism, to a href=http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/africa/2014/04/10/The-U-S-Algerian-security-pact-secretly-strengthening-al-Qaeda-.htmlenergy security/a, to migration, to the environment, to the tribulations of global capitalism. What happens to the country in the coming few weeks, months and years, will likely have repercussions far beyond the tidy confines of an electoral window./p pAnd yet, anyone who has been paying attention to the April 17 countdown - particularly a href=http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/hamza-hamouchene/algeria-elections_b_5034680.htmlthe circus histrionics of official campaigning/a since February - would be forgiven for thinking this was an inconsequential bit of provincial kabuki. The campaign has lurched from one farcical episode to the next, including a href=http://www.algerie-focus.com/blog/2014/03/video-la-blague-de-sellal-sur-les-chaouis-choque-les-internautes-algeriens/off-mike indiscretions/a by campaign managers, popular electoral gatherings a href=http://www.frequency.com/video/prsidentielles2014-blida-la-reprsentante/161899040without any people in attendance/a, surreal TV ‘debates’ where bemused political dissidents are asked to a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDP2TIfQeyAchoose between ‘Algeria’ and ‘Democracy/a', politically-estranged ministers criss-crossing the country in tandem a href=http://www.elwatan2014.com/component/k2/item/1579-Quel-avenir-pour-A%25C3%25AFcha-et-Bendou-campaigning for the same candidate/a, not to mention a runaway favourite a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IivkmcUUDXwwhose public appearances are of such rarity/a they’ve turned into a href=http://euronews.com/2014/04/14/algeria-s-invisible-presidential-candidate/half-miraculous, half-macabre/a happenings.nbsp;/p pOf course, rather than a credible contest pitting a href=http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/5890/19/The-six-in-Algeria%25E2%2580%2599s-presidential-race.aspxsix viable pretenders/a, the 2014 elections were always destined to be a popular referendum on the past record - and future legacy - of the one candidate a href=http://www.kassaman.com/2014/04/mohamed-chafik-mesbah-bouteflika-sera-annonce-vainqueur-au-premier-tour.htmlmany have already accepted/a as the inevitable winner, presidential incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika. In power since his election to a first term in 1999, and already the country’s longest serving leader, the 77-year-old has had a rather eventful 12 months. Having suffered a minor stroke a year ago - which consigned him to a 3-month hospital stay in Paris - he has spent much of the period since his return in June 2013 trying to shore up his position at the helm of the Algerian governing ship. Seeing him as fatally weakened, many thought the prospect of a fourth term no longer thinkable, and the outspoken nature of such scepticism presaged a palace mutiny. Instead, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/hicham-yezza/algeria-bouteflika-strikes-backBouteflika took everyone by surprise/a with a brutal and wide-ranging summer reshuffle at the heart of the state apparatus, chiefly an attempt to cut his key rivals within the DRS (secret services), the FLN and the army, down to size. Whatever Bouteflika’s plans for 2014 were, a side-door gentle exit was not one of them./p pMost of the traditional parties, of both Islamist and secularist tendencies have long ago announced their boycott of the elections, declaring them electoral frauds-in-waiting. However, the boycotters’ rallying cry has not been served by their past dalliances with the Bouteflika court, with both the a href=http://www.tsa-algerie.com/2014/03/26/entretien-avec-said-sadi/RCD/a, a secular party largely anchored in the Kabylie region, and the MSP (the closest thing Algeria has to a Muslim Brotherhood franchise) having taken part in ruling coalitions during Bouteflika’s earlier terms in office./p pMeanwhile, Ali Benflis, Bouteflika’s former ally and only serious rival, has clearly refused to accept the emfait-accompli /emnarrative. The Benflis candidacy has proven especially hard to decrypt for analysts. An Algiers-based activist told me he thought Benflis was a em‘roue de secour’/em (a spare tyre) for the regime, “just in case”. However, everyone seems to agree that Benflis is a candidate with far too much pedigree to join a contest with a foregone conclusion. Indeed, he has been presenting himself in many ways as a “safe” alternative that would shake the nation’s political boat while ensuring it wouldn’t sink. Asked two days ago whether he a href=http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140413/bouteflika-accuses-algeria-poll-rival-call-violencewas fomenting civil unrest with his warnings/a that millions would flood the streets if rigging took place, he declared a href=http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/ali-benflis-repond-aux-accusations-du-president-candidat-la-stabilite-c-est-moi-16-04-2014-253464_109.php“emLa stabilité, c’est moi!/em”/a. In this light, one cannot exclude the possibility, however remote, of an upset.nbsp;/p pUnsurprisingly, Benflis’s message, and that of his fellow contenders, has been explicitly framed around the need for change – and his social media strategy has been openly, if rather ambitiously, mapped on Obama’s 2008 youth-courting triumph. However, having been Bouteflika’s campaign director in 1999 and his first prime minister before a famous falling-out, Benflis’s reincarnation as anti-system outsider has proved a tough sell for many, especially amongst the youth. He is hardly alone in this, of course. The vehemence of the disdain in which most of the population holds the political class is hard to exaggerate. One of the few consolations in an otherwise depressing political soap opera of bewildering mediocrity has been the emergence across social media of a vibrant and creative community of activists, artists and engaged citizens who have managed a href=http://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/cartoonist-acquitted-of-mocking-algerian-leader-1.1659644#.UyBt8_l_s2sto channel their dissent/a into an entire countercultural ecosystem of spoofs, parodies and subversive political commentary that has captured the popular zeitgeist with its a href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-26731854darkly inventive/a humour and youthful bravura./ppMeanwhile, the authorities have struggled to keep pace. Having used violence and intimidation a href=http://digitaljournal.com/news/world/algeria-silencing-critics-in-run-up-to-polls-amnesty/article/380813to crush dissent for decades/a, it has found it especially difficult to adapt to a new era where a policeman’s wayward baton is likely to end up in a YouTube exposé. The dependable spectres of “destabilisation”, “foreign hands” and “enemies of the revolution”, staple ingredients of official propaganda for decades, have lost their sobering mystique, and can today hardly be mentioned without evoking self-parodic connotations.nbsp;/p pFaced with what seems like another meaningless electoral charade, with an outcome a href=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMuXXzEQkVE#t=483deemed both irrevocable and irrelevant/a, many in Algeria’s civil society - notably youth activists - have been trying their best to upset yet another coronation. March saw the first major street protests in the capital since 2011, with activists beaten and many arrested. a href=http://www.elwatan.com/une/grande-mobilisation-contre-le-scrutin-du-17-avril-a-tizi-ouzou-a-l-appel-du-rcd-16-04-2014-253468_108.phpThousands marched/a in the Kabylie towns of Tizi-Ouzou and Bejaia on Tuesday. Yesterday, another sit-in of the Barakat (“Enough!”) movement in central Algiers a href=http://www.liberte-algerie.com/actualite/la-manifestation-de-barakat-violemment-reprimee-sit-in-empeche-a-alger-219595was violently repressed/a. Although Barakat has attracted most of the headlines, especially those in international coverage, the truth is that grassroots movements across the country have been gathering strength and members for more than a decade. Last year, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/hicham-yezza/algerian-activism-new-generation-draws-linetens of thousands marched in cities across the South/a, demanding an end to regional economic injustice, in a movement that continues to grow.nbsp;/p pStill, with no significant political opposition – not least the fragmentation between those against a Bouteflika fourth term and those advocating a wholesale boycott - and no prospects of any such coalition to emerge from the traditional parties anytime soon, it seems that Algeria’s ruling power structure – emLe Pouvoir/em – the fluid but seemingly unmovable network of interests and alliances that has run the country since Independence, is destined to secure another victory by default. Whether by accident or by design, the decision by the Bouteflika camp to delay the announcement of his candidacy until the very last possible moment proved to be one of propitious political timing, leaving too little room for those opposing the fourth mandate to gather the necessary momentum to generate a meaningful opposition.nbsp;/p pBouteflika’s quest for a fourth term - in the face of precarious health troubles and mounting dissent from within - seems both mystifying and inevitable. Some have reached for cod psychological readings to explain such persistence, diagnosing a href=http://www.algerie-focus.com/blog/2014/02/honte-a-toi-bouteflika-s-par-kamel-daoud/a classic case of megalomania/a on the loose, a man so obsessed with his sense of historical mission that he is no longer capable, or willing, to see the writing on the wall - surrounded by ‘advisers’ with questionable judgement, who have their own vested interests to consider./ppHowever, the more mundane truth is that Bouteflika’s fourth mandate gambit is not the result of a consensual choice by Algeria’s warring factions at the centre of power but rather its deferral for another day. The country’s ageing leadership is well aware that time is running out for it to salvage its historical legacy, yet has been so bereft of imagination, political courage and a sense of moral obligation towards future generations, that its only strategy seems to be to press ahead a href=http://themoornextdoor.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/the-army-and-the-status-quo/in its defence of the status quo/a, regardless of the costs. A number of national figures, notably former premier Mouloud Hamrouche, have called on key national players to a href=http://abedcharef.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/que-lancienne-generation-prepare-les-conditions-de-son-depart/safeguard the national interest and agree on a road map/a delineating a smooth transition towards democracy, a noble idea but one unlikely to be heeded anytime soon./p pLater this year, on November 1, Algeria will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary since the launch of its victorious armed struggle to overthrow 132 years of French colonial rule. With the country having enjoyed more than a decade of booming oil revenues, and foreign reserves at a healthy 200 billion dollars, the 2014 elections offered a golden opportunity for the old guard to present the country’s youth with the parting gift of a new beginning and a fresh start. Instead, that golden opportunity seems set to be a wasted one. Once again, Algeria’s rising generation, like that of its glorious forebears in 1954, will have to do the job all by itself.nbsp;/pdiv class=field field-country div class=field-label Country or region:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd Algeria /div /div /div

Deadly clashes at eastern Ukraine port base

Al Jazeera - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 4:19am
At least three assailants killed during attack on Mariupol base as top-level talks begin in Geneva over ongoing crisis.

In Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights address painful paradoxes

Open Democracy - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 4:11am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1AJixb4nQJAeZVCwX4HYmdvvOn7m_Q-QIDim9L-Bcsg/mtime:1397788298/files/Archerman1_0.jpg alt= hspace=5 width=140 align=right /In a world where so much blood is shed for religion, Rabbis for Human Rights believes that the Jewish faith must be a force for human rights. A contribution from Jerusalem to the openGlobalRights debate, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/religion-and-human-rights target=_blank“Religion and Human Rights”/aspan.em a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rabbi-arik-ascherman/en-israel-los-integrantes-de-rabbis-for-human-rights-enfrentanEspañol/a/em,nbsp;a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rabbi-arik-ascherman/%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C-%D7%A2%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%AA-%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99-%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%A4%D7%98%D7%A8%D7%91%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%9F-%D7%96%D7%9B%D7%95%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%90%D7%93%D7%9D-%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%A0%D7%AA-%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%A0%D7%94-%D7%9C%D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%93%D7%95%D7%A7 target=_blankעברית/anbsp;/span/p /div /div /div pThere are days when I wake up and say, John Lennon was right. Maybe we really would be better off in a world without nationalism or religion. So much blood has been shed throughout history in the name of these beliefs, especially in my part of the world, the Middle East./p pHere in Israel, we have a thriving if imperfect democracy plagued, as are most democracies, by racism and discrimination. There is democracy in Israel proper, including for those Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. There is no democracy for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, however. Israelis are deeply divided on many key issues. Many support the positions of the organization I have led for more than 18 years, a href=http://rhr.org.il/eng/ target=_blankRabbis For Human Rights/a, but ironically most supporting us on the human rights of non-Jews are secular. On issues of socioeconomic rights within Jewish-Israeli society, however, many religious Jews believe, as do we, that it is a Jewish obligation to build a society that cares for its weakest and poorest members. nbsp;spannbsp;/span/p pPainfully for me as a rabbi, however, polls consistently show that religious Jews in Israel are more likely to be racist, xenophobic and opposed to human rights for non-Jews. They are the ideological vanguard behind the settlement movement, believing that the religious obligation to settle the Biblical Land of Israel overrides our religious obligation not to oppress non-Jews. For some, the obligation not to oppress non-Jews is nonexistent./ppspanSo why not just acknowledge reality and work for a world without nations or religion, where we all speak Esperanto?/spanspannbsp;/span/p pHere’s why: Were we to eliminate all the divisions between us tomorrow, we would likely create new ones the very next day. Faith, moreover, is not something one simply turns on and off like a light. And finally, given religion’s tremendous power, it would be a terrible mistake to abandon the field to those who interpret it in xenophobic ways./p h2strongReligion as part of the solution/strong/h2 pSeveral years ago, I attended a conference co-sponsored by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and an Oslo peace organization. The premise was that, while civil society and diplomats had for years thought that they must circumvent religion to solve conflicts, the diplomatic community had come to realize this wasn't possible, and that religion must become part of the solution./p pAt Rabbis for Human Rights, our first mandate is to prevent or redress human rights abuses. Our second is to introduce to our fellow Jewish-Israelis another way of understanding Judaism, an interpretation very different from that which currently dominates./p pThe dominant understanding is very different from the Judaism I grew up with. In Erie, Pennsylvania, it was simply assumed that a basic part of what it means to be a Jew was to be committed to universal human rights and social justice. This is what I learned from my parents, from my rabbis, from my community. a href=http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/ target=_blankPolls consistently show/a that a commitment to justice is a key component of North American Jewish identity./p pFor many years, almost all of Rabbis for Human Rights’ financial and moral support came from Jews in the United States and Canada, particularly from our fellow rabbis. I was truly shocked when I discovered that values axiomatic to me were not shared by all Israeli Jews, especially religious Jews./p pIncreasingly, religious Jews, particularly members of what is called the national religious camp, are socialized into a very problematic mixture of extreme nationalism and Jewish particularism.spannbsp;/span/p pParticularism means that the ultimate value is the survival and wellbeing of the Jewish people. It means that all of the wonderful humanist values and Jewish commandments flowing from the teaching in Genesis 1:27 – that humans are created in God's Image – apply only to our treatment of Jews. Some would not even apply them to all Jews, but only to their own insular community.spannbsp;/span/p pAt Rabbis for Human Rights, however, we note that Genesis doesn't say that only Jews, or only the wealthy, were created in God's Image. The Torah specifically states that both men and women – emall /emmen and women – were created in God's Image.spannbsp;/span/p h2strongCircling the wagons/strong/h2 pAmerican and Canadian Jews who are liberal on just about any other human rights issue are often defensive when it comes to Israel. Unwillingness to confront Israel's treatment of Palestinians is not just a function of religious belief but also of our collective consciousness. This consciousness stems from 2000 years of oppression, along with the ongoing enmity toward Israel in our region and beyond./p pI penned these words shortly before our Jewish holiday of Purim, when we read the Book of Esther, a story about the precariousness of Jewish life when our fate is in the hands of others. In April, the traditional Passover Seder contains the words, In every generation there are those who have risen up to destroy us. These lessons give rise to the strong feeling that Jews must circle their wagons to protect themselves against the non-Jewish world./p pMany Jews who have concerns about human rights issues in Israel keep their thoughts to themselves out of fear that their words will be twisted by those who wish to delegitimize Israel's very existence. They can see those who violate this taboo as traitors. We see this same tendency in many groups with a history of oppression./p pMany Jewish Israelis aspire to be moral and just. Most truly believe that the human rights abuses we talk about are isolated, non-representative incidents that the government is doing everything it can to combat and that we have the most moral army in the world. It is frustrating that they live in a bubble, but it is positive that they aspire to having the most moral army in the world./p pAt Rabbis for Human Rights, our task is to find a way of holding up a mirror to our fellow Jewish Israelis, and to tell them, We know that you aspire to be good and decent people, but take a look at what we are actually doing. Is this who we want to be?/p pEasier said than done, of course. To tell Jewish Israelis that we don't have the most moral army in the world, or that our human rights abuses are often intentional and systematic, is to burst one of their most cherished bubbles. People get angry and resistant when their bubbles are burst./p pRabbis for Human Rights have just completed our 25th anniversary as an organization, and I am proud of the many instances where we have prevented or reversed human rights abuses. Among them:/p olliIn 2002 Palestinians attempting to harvest their olives and those of us acting as human shields to protect them were being shot at, beaten, threatened, etc., without the Israeli security forces intervening. As the result of a 2006 Israeli High Court victory, the army is now protecting Palestinian access to places they couldn't previously reach for as many as 15 years. /liliSignificant tracts of land have been returned to their Palestinian owners. In 2009, Rabbis for Human Rights returned residents to the village of Bir El-Id, abandoned for almost 10 years because of settler intimidation. /liliRabbis for Human Rights helped end the Israeli Wisconsin Plan, a carrot-and-stick approach to returning the unemployed to the workforce that around the world has almost always increased poverty. /li/ol pspanWe have helped to improve the lives of both our fellow Israeli Jews and of the many non-Jews who are part of our society or under our control./spanspannbsp;/span/p pYet I must also acknowledge that few of our successes are connected to the fact that we are rabbis. On April 6, 2014, we marked our anniversary with a panel discussion on what is, could and should be the role of Judaism in the struggle for human rights in Israel. We are still searching for the answers and looking for new ways to better fulfill our mission.spannbsp;/span/p pRabbis for Human Rights was founded in 1988 by a group of Orthodox, Reform and Conservative rabbis led by Rabbi David Forman (may his memory be blessed). In the late 1980s, during the challenging days of the first Palestinian intifada, Rabbi Forman wrote an open letter to Israel's Chief Rabbis, asking why the religious establishment focused almost solely on Sabbath observance and emKashrut/em, our Jewish dietary laws. As important as these things are, Rabbi Forman said, where were rabbis on the burning moral issues of the day? We should not ignore the very real dangers we faced, Rabbi Forman said, but these threats should not be used as an excuse to behave immorally. In the words of Hillel the Elder, If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?nbsp; And if not now, when?nbsp; /p pToday, Rabbis for Human Rights number approximately 100 rabbis from various liberal and Orthodox streams of Judaism, with some 30 full- and part-time staff members. Many of these are rabbis, but some are secular, Christian or Muslim. The organization defines itself as Zionist. We believe, however, that true Zionism, and our self-interest, lies in working for an Israel that is not just physically but morally strong, one that lives up to our highest Jewish values. These values were part of what we dreamed of when we wrote in our Declaration of Independence that Israel would be based on Freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel, and that it would guarantee Total social and political equality for all, regardless of race, nationality or gender.spannbsp;/span/p pA key principle of my Zionism is that I can't ask for myself what I am not prepared to grant to others. This includes the human rights and national aspirations of Palestinians. Rabbis for Human Rights believes that the Occupation must end because it inevitably leads to human rights violations. However, it is beyond our mandate to take a position on a one- or two-state solution, borders, or various possibilities regarding what ending the Occupation might look like.spannbsp;/span/p h2strongA beacon for all/strong/h2 pOur organization is involved in protecting the human rights of both Jewish Israelis and of non-Jews who are a part of our society or under our control. We serve as a beacon for all those Jewish Israelis, religious or secular, who believe that their humanistic values are rooted in Judaism./p pThe national Orthodox community does not like us, and often has misconceptions regarding who and what we are. But they are quite aware that we throw a monkey wrench into the symbiotic relationship they have created between Judaism and all those political positions that are antithetical to human rights./p pRabbis for Human Rights’ work often causes cognitive dissonance, forcing people to reexamine their stereotypes and beliefs. Ironically, we may have been most effective in breaking down Palestinian stereotypes of religious Jews. Many times I have gone to rebuild a demolished home or defend Palestinian human rights, and find that Palestinian parents insist that their son, who wants to grow up and be a terrorist, meet us in order to understand that not all Israelis come with guns to demolish their homes and trample on their human rights.spannbsp;/span/ppspanspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/YeTC8dT9gRFkyPgAGTAzl5pDAGNQVH9GAybxN7FuAlQ/mtime:1397788667/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549299/Archerman1_0.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/zrDobz3ssijNX9CW1WRYU6bc6DGN-BFca0gXy3vjhr4/mtime:1397788630/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549299/Archerman1_0.jpg alt= title= width=460 height=306 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge style= //a span class='image_meta'/span/spanspan class=image-captionCombatants for Peace, Rabbis for Human Rights and the Israeli Committee against House demolitions held a nonviolent demonstration alongside the inhabitants of Wallaje in Bethlehem province in January 2010.a href=http://www.demotix.com/photo/220999/combatants-peace-demonstrate-wallaje220999amp;popup=1 target=_blankRichard Stitt/Demotix./anbsp;All rights reserved./span/span/p h2The one who acts with decency/h2 pFaith has helped me continue in this work for so many years, when many have burned out. We are taught, You are not expected to complete the task by yourself, but neither are you free to desist from doing your part.” We each need to play a role in the grand drama that is God's plan. We believe that the eventual outcome will be a world that honors God’s Image, in every human being./p pAs the Middle East and Israeli Jews become increasingly motivated by religious belief, we must struggle for Judaism's soul. We must find a way to introduce our understanding of the Jewish tradition into the intellectual universe of our fellow Jewish Israelis. We must make Judaism part of the solution, and not just part of the problem. The religious text, emPirkei Avot/em, teaches us, In a place where no one acts with basic human decency, you must be the person who does./p pI would add, In places where rabbis are strikingly absent, you must be the rabbi who acts as rabbis should.spannbsp;/span/ppspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/B9Af2RUlldanykX1ojoHsGASxfsrABL4nJlSKrW2lWA/mtime:1397458332/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/WgJzRcU3P5NdUDJOlkzSEgki3wS0iFZRLm0CmiXWlv0/mtime:1397458315/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png alt= title= width=300 height=115 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'/span/span/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrightsimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/BPJIM4AI3jwzpn82PMXHHhRRu4AYEYcd9bSYCSlT7ZY/mtime:1397788476/files/openGlobalRights2.jpg alt= width=140 //a/p /div /div /div div class=field field-sidebox div class=field-label Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/religion-and-human-rights target=_blank onMouseOver=document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ReligionGrey.png' onMouseOut=document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ReligionBlue.png' img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4KIfAafjYbnrgWQCg1Gm7FCP5DHDmBQKfvvrnOmyfBk/mtime:1397246714/files/ReligionBlue.png width=140 height=auto name=Imgs border=0 //a/p /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/larry-cox/human-rights-must-get-religionHuman rights must get religion/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/nida-kirmani/religion-as-human-rights-liabilityReligion as a human rights liability/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/jack-snyder/on-wing-and-prayer-can-religion-revive-rights-movementOn a wing and a prayer: can religion revive the rights movement?/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/muhtari-aminukano-ayaz-ali-atallah-fitzgibbon/islamic-and-un-bills-of-rights-same-dIslamic and UN Bills of Rights: same difference/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/marie-juul-petersen/muslim-ngos-aid-and-human-rightsMuslim NGOs, aid, and human rights/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/wai-yan-phone/human-rights-abuse-in-burma-and-role-of-buddhist-nationalismHuman rights abuse in Burma and the role of Buddhist nationalism/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/arvind-sharma/rights-in-hinduismThe rights in Hinduism/a /div /div /div /fieldset

Muslim NGOs, aid, and human rights

Open Democracy - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 4:00am
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/lxZIWXQE5hqy4INffeWi_yDVBPq9C772eU3ddMRjWjU/mtime:1397788483/files/Petersen_1.jpg width=140 hspace=5 align=right /Drawing on studies of Muslim aid organisations in Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Bangladesh, the author explores how these organisations do and don’t engage with human rights. She identifies three potential areas of contention as well as some of the strategies the organisations adopt to overcome these dilemmas. a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/marie-juul-petersen/les-ong-musulmanes-l%E2%80%99aide-et-les-droits-de-l%E2%80%99homme target=_blankemFrançais/em/a, a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/marie-juul-petersen/las-ong-musulmanas-la-ayuda-y-los-derechos-humanos target=_blankemEspañol/em/a,a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/marie-juul-petersen/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%BA%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%88%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%88%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86 target=_blanknbsp;emالعربية/em/a/p /div /div /div pRecently, human rights have become very popular in the field of development aid, primarily through the so-called rights-based approach. This approach emphasizes an understanding of development and human rights as closely interlinked and interdependent, and aiming to incorporate principles of equality, non-discrimination, accountability, and participation into development aid./ppHistorically, the rights-based approach has been driven largely by secular development organisations. Apart from some a href=http://www.icco.nl/nl/linkservid/39FF5998-B5DD-797D-AD23DA65417D995B/showMeta/0/ target=_blankWestern Christian NGOs/a, very few religious organisations have adopted the rights-based approach. In fact, among the more than 50 Muslim aid organisations that I have visited and studied over the years, very few had fully or even partially integrated human rights into their work. Why does this approach have so little resonance among Muslim aid organisations when so many secular organisations have embraced it?/ppIt probably comes as no surprise to most people that Muslim aid organisations have difficulties signing up to certain human rights. Many are deeply skeptical of women’s rights or rights of homosexuals, for example, which they see as highly normative expressions of secularist, individualistic values, and thus difficult, if not impossible, to align with conservative religious values of family and community. These accusations echo views of human rights as an imperialist project of the West, put forth not only by Islamic scholars but also reflected in the a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_values target=_blankAsian values debate/a nbsp;and among the so-called a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World_Approaches_to_International_Law target=_blankTWAIL/a scholars (Third World Approaches to International Law)./ppWhile this is a relevant and necessary debate, there are other, equally important, conflicts at play in the relationship between human rights and Muslim aid./ppBased on studies of Muslim aid organisations in Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Bangladesh, this article explores the ways in which these organisations relate – or do not relate – to human rights, pointing to three potential areas of contention and identifying some of the strategies the organisations apply in order to overcome these dilemmas./ph2strong‘Ties of compassion and sympathy’ /strong/h2h2 /h2pOne conflict between Muslim aid organisations and the discourse of human rights centers on conceptions of relations between givers and recipients of aid. According to the rights-based approach, aid is the right of recipients, and as such, the relation between giver and recipient can be conceived in terms of a contract between equal parties. Muslim aid organisations, on the other hand, often conceive of aid as a gift to a grateful recipient from a generous donor, obliged by a religious duty towards God and the religiously defined community, the emummah/em./ppspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/nIPaIR99KPHDt9x6ufMAlRHIp5CvAZcWkA_M4W20WxI/mtime:1397702328/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549299/Petersen_1.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/sbb1BFmFtXU9OswL9vd9xUCYBMpSW01eCzGZlfdAQls/mtime:1397702291/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549299/Petersen_1.jpg alt= title= width=460 height=305 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge style= //a span class='image_meta'/span/spanspan class=image-captionA woman receives alms in East Java, Indonesia. a href=http://www.demotix.com/news/1390294/thousands-queue-receive-alms-east-java#media-1390278 target=_blankArief Priyono/Demotix./a All rights reserved./span/ppContrary to the rights-based approach’s emphasis on accountability and institutionalization, the notion of aid as a gift encourages a personal and intimate relationship between recipients and givers. Emphasising what one organisation describes as “ties of interdependence, compassion and tender sympathy”, some Muslim organisations see their aid is distinct from that of many others. “They don’t have the same feeling of family as we have, that the orphans are a part of our family,” says a staff member in a Saudi Arabian NGO, comparing his organization with secular ones: “For them, it’s routine, it’s just a job they need to do.” According to many people, personal care and compassion are more important qualities in aid provision than accountability and professionalism; in fact, such qualities may even be counterproductive to the ‘feeling of family’, injecting a sense of distance into the relationship between recipient and giver./ph2strong‘Solidarity between the sons of the Ummah’/strong/h2h2 /h2pA second reason for the reluctance of many Muslim aid organisations to adopt a rights-based approach may lie in the underlying rationale of solidarity shaping much Muslim aid, which is closely related to the ‘feeling of family.’ According to this rationale, Muslims are obliged to show solidarity and support one another because they belong to the same religious community. A a href=http://www.iico.net/home-page-eng/News-08/aug_08/iico-eng-6.htm) target=_blankstatement/a from a Kuwaiti NGO illustrates this:/pblockquotep[Charity] is one of the faith’s most effective tools for spreading the values of solidarity and support between the sons of the Ummah. It encourages them to remain united like one body; when one part of it suffers a complaint, all other parts join in, sharing in the sleeplessness and fever. /p/blockquotepUsing terms such as ‘Islamic society’ or ‘Islamic brotherhood’, many organisations seek to nurse a strong sense of solidarity between members of this community. The donor gives to a fellow Muslim brother (or sister) in a country far away, because they are both part of the same community, the umma. By receiving the gift, the recipient likewise aligns him- or herself with the umma, affirming its existence./ppContrary to the rationale of human rights, then, the solidarity rationale seems to prioritise the community over the individual. Likewise, this rationale also clashes with the human rights discourse’s emphasis on non-discrimination, insofar as it encourages a particularistic focus on fellow Muslims rather than a universalistic focus on humanity as such. This is reflected in most Muslim aid organisations’ choice of target groups, consisting primarily, if not solely, in Muslim countries and communities. As a staff member in a Kuwaiti NGO says: “A Muslim should help his brothers and sisters first.”/ph2strong‘Islam is the solution’/strong/h2 pThe third, and perhaps most fundamental, conflict between human rights and Muslim aid grows out of a particular interpretation of Islam, shaped by the a href=http://www.amazon.com/A-Modern-History-Islamic-World/dp/0814798195) target=_blankIslamic resurgence/a and found in many contemporary Muslim aid organisations. Epitomized in the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan ‘Islam is the solution,’ this understanding sees religion as an all-encompassing solution not only to moral and ethical problems, but also to economical, political and – not least – legal ones; what the historian of religion Bruce Lincoln calls a href=http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Terrors-Thinking-Religion-September/dp/0226482030 target=_blanka ‘maximalist’ religion/a. As the director of a Jordanian NGO proclaims: “Islam is a comprehensive system – it about politics, law, economy, social systems, culture, everything. You cannot just take a small part of it and leave everything else aside.”/ppIn this perspective, there is no need for additional legal systems such as the international human rights system, insofar as Islamic law already provides a comprehensive set of rights. “You can derive human rights from Islam,” says a woman from a Jordanian charity. In fact, international human rights law is not only superfluous; it is also potentially dangerous insofar as it establishes a parallel legal system to the Islamic one, challenging the authority of the latter./ppDespite the difficulties sketched in the above, some Muslim NGOs emare/em trying to integrate a rights-based approach into their work, in different ways and to different degrees re-interpreting Muslim aid traditions and principles./ph2strongZakat: A right of the poor/strong/h2h2 /h2pOne example of a relatively ‘mild’ reinterpretation of Muslim aid principles is the turn from an understanding of aid as a gift to a right, found in some Muslim NGOs. This is a reinterpretation that does not engage explicitly with discourses of human rights, but relies entirely on discourses of Muslim aid. However, it does so in ways that may facilitate implicit alignment with rights-based approaches to development./p pInstead of emphasizing conceptions of aid as a gift or a favour from the wealthy to the poor, this reinterpretation promotes an understanding of aid as a right endowed by God to the poor and a duty imposed by God upon the wealthy, drawing on Islamic traditions of redistributive justice. “God orders people to take from the rich and give to the poor. God also said that it is the right of the poor to receive this money,” one person tells me, quoting the Qur’an: “And those in whose wealth there is a recognised right for the beggar who asks and for the unlucky who has lost his property and wealth”. As such, this perspective encourages a contractual relation between equals, easier to align with a rights-based approach than that of gift-giving, but remaining squarely within well-established traditions of Muslim aid. /p h2strong‘We care about humanity, we don’t care about their faith’/strong/h2h2 /h2pOther organisations present somewhat more radical reinterpretations of Muslim aid traditions, engaging more explicitly with discourses of human rights and rights-based approaches to development. The shift from a rationale based on religious solidarity to one based on principles of universalism and non-discrimination is an example of this. /p pIn some organisations, the provision of aid is no longer restricted to fellow Muslims, but extended to “those in need regardless of gender, faith, background, or nationality,” as a href=https://www.facebook.com/islamicrelief.canada/info target=_blankone NGO writes/a. Another organisation a href=https://www.muslimaid.org/images/stories/pdfs/strategic_framework_2007_2010_final.pdf target=_blankdeclares/a: “Muslim Aid believes that all humans have the right to development.” In concrete terms, this means that these organisations now include Christians, Hindus and other non-Muslims in their aid provision. “We even give our Ramadan food packages to non-Muslims!” a staff member proclaims. “We care about humanity, we don’t care about their faith.”nbsp; /ppReferring to Islamic sayings and Qur’anic verses, the organisations seek to justify this shift religiously. One person explains: “Most instructions from the Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Qur’an are about motivating people to help others, to support and help the poor. And they don’t mention what kinds of poor – they don’t say what gender, what race, what religion.” Another person says: “This is the humanitarian spirit of Islam.”/p h2strong‘We don’t need to raise the Islamic flag…’/strong/h2h2 /h2pSuch a href=http://www.islamic-relief.com/WhoWeAre/Files/Annual%20Report%20and%20Financial%20Statements%202008.pdf target=_blankreferences/a to the ‘spirit of Islam’, ‘Islamic charitable values’ nbsp;and a href=http://www.muslimaid.org/index.php/about-us/faqs target=_blank‘the humanitarian teachings of Islam,/a’ nbsp;denote an interpretation of Islam as an a href=http://graduateinstitute.ch/files/live/sites/iheid/files/sites/political_science/shared/political_science/3205/Benedetti-Islamic%20and%20Christian%20Insipired%20Relief%20NGOs.pdf target=_blank‘ethical reference’/a, nbsp;nbsp;rather than an orthodox, visible religiosity. And this points to a third, somewhat more general, example of how contemporary Muslim aid organisations seek to make room for human rights: /p pTurning away from an all-encompassing, ‘maximalist’ religiosity, influencing all aspects of aid provision, some organisations instead promote a more ‘minimalist’ understanding of religion, relegated to the sphere of organizational values, underlying principles and personal motivation. A person from a British Muslim NGO says: “We don’t need to raise the Islamic flag when we do humanitarian work, we don’t need to say that we are more humanitarian because we are Islamic.” /p pCompared to an understanding of religion as law, such a religiosity, concerned with values and morals, can much more easily encompass discourses of human rights and a rights-based approach to development. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion Heiner Bielefeldt a href=http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/192285?uid=3737880amp;uid=2amp;uid=4amp;sid=21103431495171 target=_blanknotes/a, “the principles of human rights can be connected meaningfully with the spirit of the shariah, provided that the shariah is primarily understood as an ethical and a religious concept rather than a legalistic one”. /p pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/B9Af2RUlldanykX1ojoHsGASxfsrABL4nJlSKrW2lWA/mtime:1397458332/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/WgJzRcU3P5NdUDJOlkzSEgki3wS0iFZRLm0CmiXWlv0/mtime:1397458315/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png alt= title= width=300 height=115 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'/span/span/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-read-on div class=field-label 'Read On' Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrightsimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/BPJIM4AI3jwzpn82PMXHHhRRu4AYEYcd9bSYCSlT7ZY/mtime:1397788476/files/openGlobalRights2.jpg alt= width=140 //a/p /div /div /div div class=field field-sidebox div class=field-label Sidebox:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/religion-and-human-rights target=_blank onMouseOver=document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ReligionGrey.png' onMouseOut=document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ReligionBlue.png' img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4KIfAafjYbnrgWQCg1Gm7FCP5DHDmBQKfvvrnOmyfBk/mtime:1397246714/files/ReligionBlue.png width=140 height=auto name=Imgs border=0 //a/p /div /div /div div class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/larry-cox/human-rights-must-get-religionHuman rights must get religion/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/nida-kirmani/religion-as-human-rights-liabilityReligion as a human rights liability/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/jack-snyder/on-wing-and-prayer-can-religion-revive-rights-movementOn a wing and a prayer: can religion revive the rights movement?/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/rabbi-arik-ascherman/in-israel-rabbis-for-human-rights-address-painful-paradoxesIn Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights address painful paradoxes /a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/muhtari-aminukano-ayaz-ali-atallah-fitzgibbon/islamic-and-un-bills-of-rights-same-dIslamic and UN Bills of Rights: same difference/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/openglobalrights/wai-yan-phone/human-rights-abuse-in-burma-and-role-of-buddhist-nationalismHuman rights abuse in Burma and the role of Buddhist nationalism/a /div div class=field-item odd a href=/openglobalrights/arvind-sharma/rights-in-hinduismThe rights in Hinduism/a /div /div /div /fieldset

Guinea-Bissau to hold presidential run-off

Al Jazeera - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 2:56am
Jose Mario Vaz and Nuno Gomes Nabiam will compete in second round to become the country's next president on May 18.

Wildrose tells Craig Chandler to get lost; Tories might be smart to do the same

Rabble - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 1:42am
div class="story-teaser story-teaser-blog" div class="body" pIf Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party leaders were smart, they'd quickly find a way to send the same message to Craig B. Chandler he just got from Opposition Leader Danielle Smith./p pOn April 10, Smith, concerned Chandler was suggesting he was just the guy to bridge the gap between her Wildrose Party and the foundering Tories, a href="http://albertadiary.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/DANIELLE-TO-CRAIG-B-C.jpg" target="_blank" title="Danielle Smith Tweet on Craig Chandler" rel="nofollow"Tweeted/a to him: em"Your views amp; how you express them are wrong for Wildrose and Alberta. I would never let you be a candidate for #wrp."/em/p pSo, tell us Ms. Smith, what do you emreally/em think about Craig Chandler?/p div class="read-more"/div /div /div pa href="http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/djclimenhaga/2014/04/wildrose-tells-craig-chandler-to-get-lost-tories-might-be-smart-" target="_blank"read more/a/pdiv class="feedflare" a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:yIl2AUoC8zA"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=yIl2AUoC8zA" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:qj6IDK7rITs"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=qj6IDK7rITs" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:dnMXMwOfBR0"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=dnMXMwOfBR0" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:F7zBnMyn0Lo"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?i=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:F7zBnMyn0Lo" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:V_sGLiPBpWU"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?i=IrzjaES1LdQ:LGnSvA5onHc:V_sGLiPBpWU" border="0"/img/a /divimg src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/rabble-news/~4/IrzjaES1LdQ" height="1" width="1"/

South Sudan on brink of famine: UN chief

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:44pm
Ban Ki-Moon says up to one million will starve unless there is immediate action, as rebels announce gains in oil areas.

Syrian regime accused of chlorine gas attacks

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:28pm
Videos said to show victims of fresh attack on Kafr Zita, while residents show remnants of bomb cases marked "CL2".

West to press Russia for peace in Ukraine

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:55pm
Talks in Geneva come after a blow to Ukraine's efforts to retake control of its eastern regions from pro-Russian rebels.

Canadian arrested for Heartbleed hacking

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 9:59pm
Man arrested in first case linked to internet code bug which allows hackers to bypass encryption of private details.

The role of Palestinian women in resistance

Open Democracy - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 8:36pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pDespite fighting deeply rooted patriarchal structures, for decades Palestinian women have played an integral role in resistance. Without the prioritization of the emancipation of women, national liberation will not be achieved. nbsp;/p /div /div /div pIn his book about the village of Baqa al-Gharbiyeh, the Palestinian historian Subhi Biyadseh recalls an event the villagers relayed to him. During the British Mandate era in Palestine, the English had shelled the village of Baqa al-Gharbiyeh in 1936. The army then took all of the men of the village prisoners, which resulted in the women descending upon the military barracks at night with their children, armed only with rocks, demanding the army's release of their men, which they succeeded in achieving./p pThis episode highlights the role Palestinian women have so prominently engaged in when it comes to resistance against the foreign occupation of Britain and then Israel. It is also a testament to the fact that women in resistancenbsp;spanhave been an integral part of the struggle against the ongoing colonisation of Palestine./spanspannbsp;This contradicts a lazy type of sensationalist media reportage on the topic, that depicts women either as anomalies in patriarchal Palestinian society or as somehow relatively new phenomena./span/ppspanspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6ryTM2bxXsf_EOoPXtGulhgO_I4F7xaBI5D_detLqBM/mtime:1397750854/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/tumblr_mwqz0enzlB1qaj8obo1_500.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vivXVgGkH1ukjqkCBa86H6cPt6vloMOf6hja0Jo83CY/mtime:1397702281/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/tumblr_mwqz0enzlB1qaj8obo1_500.jpg alt=Shadia Abu Ghazalah. title= width=384 height=536 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Shadia Abu Ghazalah/span/span/span/span/ppThe participation of Palestinian women in the national struggle started with the emergence of the Palestinian cause towards the end of the nineteenthnbsp;century, when the first Jewish colonies were built. The first remarkable female political activity was in the town of Afula in 1893, when women demonstrated against the construction of a new Jewish settlement. The British mandate era (1917-1948) saw the establishment of charitable organisations and an increase of social work, as well as their political participation in demonstrations. Following the killing of nine Palestinian women in the 1929 Western Wall riots in Jerusalem, the first Arab Women’s Association was formed, in addition to the Arab Women’s Union. These unions embarked on several economic, social, cultural, and national efforts, such as planning and organising demonstrations and writing letters to Arab leaders to support Palestinians./p pIn their active resistance against the British Mandate and Zionism, Palestinian women were not confiend to their supportive relationships to a man as a wife, a daughter or a sister. These women bore a major responsibility for sustaining armed resistance largely undertaken by men by trading in/selling their jewellery for rifles, as well as supplying food, arms and information to the fighters.nbsp;spannbsp;/span/p pArmed women's organisations also existed, such as Zahrat al-Uqhawan (the Chrysanthemum Flowers), originally established as a social organisation in 1933 in the city of Yafa by the two sisters Moheeba and Arabiya Khursheed. The transformation into an armed group was a consequence of Moheeba witnessing a British Mandate sniper shooting in the head a Palestinian boy, who was in his mother’s arms. Zahrat al-Uqhawan were involved in fighting the Jewish armed gangs up until Yafa fell in 1948, where most of the city’s Palestinian population were ethnically cleansed, including Moheeba who lived out the rest of her life as a refugee in Jordan./p pThe Nakba, or the ethnic cleansing of approximately 800,000 Palestinians (two thirds of the indigenous population) at the hands of Zionist terrorist militias, was augmented by the collapse of the Palestinian economy and social life. Until 1967, there was no formal organisation of women's unions, and the informal organisations were confined to the elite classes. Palestinian refugee women were tasked with performing social activities that were earlier rejected in rural areas before the Nakba, such as leaving their homes to earn an income through employment.spannbsp;/span/p pFollowing the defeat in the June 1967 Six Day War, referred to as al-Naksa, as the West Bank, Gaza strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai all became occupied by Israel, Palestinian resistance escalated and took precedence over all forms of civil and social activity. Most of the publicly active women joined the Palestinian resistance factions and engaged in political work. The national participation of women continued in that period whether in armed resistance, social work, or in secret organisational work in the West Bank and Gaza strip, which produced several iconoclastic figures.nbsp;spannbsp;/span/p pShadia Abu Ghazalah, an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is one example of some intrepid female participation in armed struggle. She had refused to leave Palestine and was killed in her hometown of Nablus in November 1968, at the tender age of 19, as the bomb she was preparing accidentally detonated. Leila Khaled, also a member of the PFLP, grabbed the world’s headlines, as she became the first Palestinian woman to hijack a plane in 1969, and again the year after. Dalal Moghrabi, a member of the Fateh armed wing, was killed in 1978 after hijacking a bus heading to Tel Aviv from Haifa in what came to be known as the Coastal Road operation. Ten other Palestinian militants and 38 Israelis were killed./p pThe first Intifada ushered in a grassroots popular resistance to the violence of the Israeli occupation. Women demonstrated with men in large protests, and the former’s presence was seen as a deterrent to the arrest and brutal beating up of the latter at the hands of the occupation forces. Yet while the women’s role in the Intifada was recognised as crucial, their social status did not rise nor were they involved in political decision-making processes.spannbsp;/span/p pThe signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 normalised relations with Israel, ended the popular uprising, and conceded national principles of self-determination, liberation and justice in exchange for a promised consolidation of political and economic power. Although women had been active in non-governmental organisations and civil society, female participation in the newly formed Palestinian Authority (PA) government was weak and marginalised. Their job opportunities were limited to those of secretaries, typists, or teachers in public schools. Women are still underrepresented in the leadership of the main Palestinian political parties despite high levels of political activism.spannbsp;/span/p pThe second Intifada was more exclusionary due to its militarisation, which resulted in the participation of women in suicide bombing and martyrdom operations. Ayat al Akhras, who lived in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bathlehem, was only 18 years old when she detonated the explosive tied to her body outside a supermarket in Jerusalem in March 2002./p pAccording to a report by Amnesty International, Palestinian women hae been killed and injured by Israeli occupation forces either inside or near their homes, or while moving from one village to another. The report also says that some women died under the wrecks of homes demolished by the Israeli army. Other girls were killed by the occupation forces in their schools, such as 10-year-old Noran Deib who was killed in 2005 in her school playground in Rafah, Gaza./p pTo date, since 1967 there have been 10,000 Palestinian women arrested. The majority is subjected to psychological torture and ill treatment throughout their arrest and detention, such as beatings, verbal abuse, strip searches, sexual harassment and violence. In addition to living in hazardous conditions and being deprived of visits most of the time, women are exposed to pressure and degradation due to interrogators' use of patriarchal techniques to elicit confessions. Interrogators and guards are often men, which contradicts international law, which specifies that women prisoners are to be guarded and inspected by female guards only./p pPregnant detainees are given little to no pre- and post-natal care. A former prisoner Samar Sbeih was arrested when she was two months pregnant, and frequently threatened with abortion during her 18 hours a day interrogation, which lasted for 66 days in the infamous Maskubiya detention camp. When she was due, she was transferred to a hospital with cuffs on both her hands and legs and accompanied by guards; her hands were released only for thirty minutes during her forced caesarean delivery./p pBetween 2000 and 2007, 69 women gave birth at military checkpoints, or were denied or delayed access to hospitals. As a result 35 newborn babies died. One particular heart-wrenching story is of Maysoon al-Hayek, who in February 2002 was stopped at Huwarra checkpoint on her way to Rafidiya hospital in Nablus with her husband and father-in-law. The car was allowed to drive only a few hundred metres before shots rang out. She lay on the floor of the car screaming and crying in pain and fear as the contractions got worse: neither her husband nor her father in law replied. She was injured in the shoulder from the glass and shrapnel. Soldiers came and made her take off all her clothes as she lay on the ground bleeding. They called an ambulance that took her to the hospital where she gave birth to her daughter in the elevator. It was only there that she learned her husband was dead, having been shot in the throat and the upper body, and her father in law was in a coma for 40 days after bullets penetrated his lungs.spannbsp;/span/p pCurrently, in addition to the Israeli occupation, Palestinian women face repression from the PA government in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza strip. Protests are often met with beatings, sexual harassment, and intimidation. But within youth movements and the weekly protests that take place in several West Bank villages, there is still very little understanding that national liberation can never be achived within a patriarchal structure. Women's emancipation must come during the process of liberation and resistance, not afterwards. It cannot be postponed. Hopefully, we can witness a change and effectively dismantle the non-representative Palestinian governments and the Israeli occupation in order to secure an inclusive future built on the foundations of justice and self-determination./pdiv 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-labelTopics: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 Equality /div /div /div

One life in investigative journalism

Open Democracy - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 8:00pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pA Qamp;A with a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/clare-sambrookClare Sambrook/a, OurKingdom co-editor and co-founder of the ‘End Child Detention Now’ campaign. Interviewer: a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmiRebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi/a, writer-in-residence atnbsp;span style=line-height: 1.5;Lacuna./span/p /div /div /div pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/uv9BBRIgwbmFxAULX4SKm1IerBqNQ9ZCabaLt64SQeg/mtime:1397728485/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/screenshotcollageApril2014.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/VZZQptktOeKjPjkCA2eTpCaz0ShxzsTNwe0uRNxc3jw/mtime:1397727795/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/screenshotcollageApril2014.jpg alt= title= width=460 height=324 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge style= //a span class='image_meta'/span/span/ppspanstrongemWhat story or campaign are you most proud of?/em/strong/span/ppOne night, a few summers ago, friends of mine in York were disturbed by a loud banging on their door. There stood a Kurdish family —nbsp;men, women and children — distraught. A young relative of theirs in Cumbria, where I live, had been detained by the immigration authorities. Her two-year-old son was left parentless for four days. My friends found them a lawyer —nbsp;on the 31st phone call, and prompted letters appealing to the Home Office. I created a media campaign. After 26 days locked up at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, the family was released and, eventually, allowed to remain here. There had been no reason to detain them./ppOut of their damaging ordeal came our (unfunded)nbsp;a href=http://www.claresambrook.com/campaign-page/campaign-page.htmlEnd Child Detention Now/anbsp;campaign. We were amazingly successful at raising awareness about and combating the practice of locking up asylum-seeking families in conditions known to harm them./ppa href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/anthony-barnettAnthony Barnett/a at OurKingdom published our work relentlessly from the start. That relationship grew into the a href=http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/shine-lightShine A Light/a project, which continues to expose injustice and challenge official lying./ppstrongemWhy did you choose to become a journalist?/em/strong/ppI remember, when I was very small, my Mum saying: ‘You’re very inquisitive.’ Me: ‘What’s that?’/ppI have always wanted to know what’snbsp;emreally/emnbsp;going on./ppstrongemWhat path did you take?/em/strong/ppIt’s all a bit random. A bright kid, I got turned off education early. (‘Stop wriggling while Sister is hitting you!’ was one memorable phrase from my Catholic primary school.)/ppHome life wasn’t easy. I slouched through comprehensive school. To get into Sixth Form you had to achieve ‘O’ level As or Bs in the subjects you wanted to take at A-level. English apart, I had Cs and below. So I was heading for Scunthorpe Tech./ppBut then my best friend went to work on our school-teachers. She persuaded them that since I hadn’t done badly at History ‘O’ Level (I hadn’t taken it), couldn’t they let me take History A-level? My Art teacher agreed to waive his grade requirement if I’d spend lunchtimes drawing. So, with English, I had three A-Levels to study and a ticket into Sixth Form./ppExcellent teaching woke me up. I worked hard and soared. In Lower Sixth, my history teacher suggested I write an essay for the Vellacott History Prize. That’s a national competition judged by lecturers at Cambridge University. I won it. Then my teachers said,nbsp;emtry for Cambridge/em. Until that moment I had not considered university at all./ppspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/CN5S9ycT8CZM8iy1BwTKj_ctRKYUVt7vmttXPA5sG_8/mtime:1397702317/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ian-hislop-and-clare-sambrook.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/FT3cG03lRQ9qN02ZGXp8ago-4XrjRT6pQUXcbuuXADk/mtime:1397702285/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/ian-hislop-and-clare-sambrook.jpg alt= title= width=240 height=168 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Clare accepts the Paul Foot Award from Ian Hislop, 2010/span/span/spanOn the application form under ‘parents’ occupation’ I wrote: ‘Father, unemployed.’/pp‘What business was he in?’ drawled the admissions tutor. My dad had been a school caretaker./pp‘I think we can consider this interview over, don’t you?’/ppNext interview: the History man. He asked me about Quentin Skinner and a few other writers who excited me back then, and he wasn’t remotely interested in my dad. I did their exam. They let me in./ppThis was the 1980s. I got the full student grant and free tuition. The College paid for me to travel around Italy and Egypt./pp Cambridge was a freaky experience. Anyone from the wrong sort of background can tell you that.nbsp;spanFor the first time I lived among people who were materially privileged. Some of them were emotionally cauterised, stunningly sure of themselves and ignorant of life beyond their tiny elite; the kind of people now remaking Britain for the rich./span/ppAfter Cambridge I applied for and failed to get loads of jobs in journalism, made the final board of the BBC News Trainee scheme, then rejection. I was a terrible interviewee. /ppI got a job at the John Lewis Gazette, then moved to Marketing Magazine (the Haymarket Group). On days off, under a pseudonym, I worked shifts on the tabloids (Daily Express, Sun, Mail on Sunday). By post I offered freelance pieces that were usually ignored./ppThe Daily Telegraph published one —nbsp;about riding a motorbike in London, with a picture of me in my leathers. That landed me a three-month contract on the Daily Telegraph financial pages, because the City editor rode a moped. /ppHe ran what he called a ‘tight ship’. In other words, he ruled by terror. After three months of that, he sacked me./ppBack home, tears. A wise friend offered this advice: ‘emGo back in, go into his office, kick his bin./em’/pp‘His bin?’/ppem‘Yes, kick the bloody bin.’/em/ppI washed my face, got on my motorbike, rode to the office, challenged the tyrant, got a 6-month contract that turned into a proper job and then promotion and very good money. I never did kick his bin. (That’s one regret)./ppA brush with meningitis reminded me that life is short. I turned freelance so that I could do investigations. I wrote about the Lottery and corruption in the Olympics. Then my first novel,nbsp;emHide amp; Seek/em./ppstrongemAre there set ingredients to success?/em/strong/ppJournalism is a lifelong apprenticeship. Be immersed in the craft. Study the best: ask,nbsp;emhow is this piece working?/em/ppIf something feels dodgy, get digging. Own up to what we don’t understand; clarifynbsp;emthat thing/em./ppDon’t talk too much.nbsp;emListen/em. Ask questions: ‘What are the questions?’ is a good one./ppSeek critique from good writers and from experts in your field./ppImagine the reader is an intelligent 12-year-old. (Brighter than we are but lacks information and context.)/ppAnger may drive us and direct our research; it doesn’t belong in the final draft. Rage diverts attention from the information./ppstrongemWhat have been the biggest obstacles for you in building a career as a writer?/em/strong/ppCharm, confidence and connections can take you a long way in journalism. I’m rather lacking in those./ppFinancial anxiety isn’t helpful./ppHaving children is the best thing ever. Not a smart career move./ppstrongemHow has the industry changed since your first job?/em/strong/ppAged 15 I did some work experience in a tiny office of the Lincolnshire Times: electric typewriter, 3 carbon copies, no Tippex. The copy was parcelled up in brown paper and string (am I making this up?), then driven across the Wolds to the Humber Ferry for the crossing to Hull./ppThese days I publish online from my home in rural Cumbria (in my pajamas)./ppThere is so much material online. That’s exciting./ppstrongemWhat is your advice for those considering getting into campaign journalism?/em/strong/ppspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/kYichOoQC4BGw5N2Z0H_JP-GVdFpXvy12l4dHcJNn-o/mtime:1397728486/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/JUNE-2010-SOAS-RELEASE.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/EBzJVkPdT0kkg_R290v3vpAXp0H1zygS6oRoZ-kZhHU/mtime:1397728059/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/JUNE-2010-SOAS-RELEASE.jpg alt= title= width=240 height=195 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'SOAS Detainee Support Release Carnival London 2010 (Peter Marshall)/span/span/spanFocus. Find out who’s feisty (NGOs, campaigners, journalists) on your patch./ppLearn, volunteer, research, share material, be useful./ppOh, and . . . if an accident of birth has given you connections, don’t use them to get jobs or commissions ahead of other people. If you want to challenge injustice, challenge nepotism./ppstrongemIf you had to give a reading list to an aspiring journalist, what would the top three books be?/em/strong/ppOne very short book:nbsp;ema href=http://www.amazon.co.uk/the-way-write-ted-hughes/dp/0140272704The Way to Write/a, A complete guide to the basic skills of good writing,/emnbsp;by John Fairfax and John Moat, the poets who started the a href=http://www.arvon.orgArvon Foundation/a. The foreword is by their friend Ted Hughes./ppStephen King’s memoir and manualnbsp;emOn Writing/emnbsp;is warm and encouraging: he wants us to write well./ppAs writers we need to speak Human. So:nbsp;emThe Stories of Anton Chekhov/em. We may trawl documents and mine data, but the raw material is life./ppspanstrongemStories about injustice make the headlines one day, and the next day, very often, little changes: what, then, is the point of your work?/em/strong/span/ppDemocracy works only if people have got access to accurate information. Official information is so often unreliable. Exposing truths gives democracy a chance, informs our fellow citizens, helps and encourages campaigners and the dispossessed, gives ammunition to people who might use it./ppnbsp;/phr /pnbsp;/ppstronga href=http://www.claresambrook.comClare Sambrook/a/strongnbsp;exposes official lying, raises public awareness of inconvenient truths, and provides intelligence and ammunition to people trying to achieve policy change. In 2010 she won the Paul Foot Award and the Bevins Prize for outstanding investigative journalism. She was longlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2013. Clare is a freelance journalist, and co-editor at OurKingdom, the UK arm of OpenDemocracy. Her first novel, Hide amp; Seek, published in thirteen languages, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice./ppspanstronga href=http://rebeccaomonira.com/Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi/a/strong is a freelance journalist and writer-in-residence at Lacuna. Her reporting on immigration and asylum across the European Union was shortlisted for the 2012 George Orwell Prize for Political Writing (blog category). In 2012 Rebecca published Gardens, a collaboration with photographer Christina Theisen, which documents pockets of environmental and social activism in London./span/phr /pemFirst published at a href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/Lacuna/a, as part of a series illuminating the lives of storytellers including journalist a href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/insider/those-springbok-days/Jon Snow/a,nbsp;spandocumentary photographernbsp;/spanspana href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/insider/an-interview-with-lesley-mcintyre/Lesley McIntyre,/anbsp;playwrightnbsp;a href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/insider/the-writing-of-the-lady-of-burma-the-story-of-aung-san-suu-kyi/Richard Shannon/a,nbsp;/spanspancomedian/spanspannbsp;/spana href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/insider/mark-thomas-and-the-comedy-in-protest/Mark Thomas/a,spannbsp;/spana href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/insider/a-very-british-killing-looking-for-the-devil-in-the-detail/Andrew Williams/aspan, author of 'A Very British Killing: the Death of Baha Mousa' andnbsp;/spana href=http://www.lacuna.org.uk/insider/telling-stories-2/Rebecca Ominira-Oyekanmi/a./em/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/clare-wins-again-investigative-comment-and-future-of-journalism-on-webClare wins again! #039;Investigative Comment#039; and the future of journalism on the web/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-anThe UK Border Agency#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)/a /div /div /div /fieldset

Why I'll move to Scotland after I graduate if it votes yes

Open Democracy - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:11pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pOne Durham University student explains why he'll be moving north if it's a yes vote in Scotland./p /div /div /div pimg src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/t88xO3FT62IqdrbS5VildCksp0kxTjKEUZkV64rL3TU/mtime:1397592742/files/Welcome_to_Scotland_sign_A1_road.jpg alt= width=420 //ppemWikimedia/em/ppI am English. I was born in London, and despite living in the US for several years as I was growing up, I have now returned to the country of my birth. Now I spend my time between Gloucestershire—where my family is now living—and Durham, where I am in my second year of a degree in history. /ppAnd in just over a year, as my graduation looms nearer, I will face the choice of where to go next with my life. The most obvious choice would be to find a job and settle down somewhere in England, but there are many difficulties that come with that. I will face the uncertainty of finding a job, as there are simply not enough jobs going around, and most of those available would involve zero-hour contracts or wages below the living wage. I will be weighed down by decades of debt from the student loans I have taken out to attend university, a victim of the marketisation of higher education. As the policies of austerity pursued by the main political parties—Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP alike—continue and more benefits and services are cut, my future, like those of millions of others throughout this country, will be increasingly precarious. And due to the nature of the political system as it stands, I will be ‘represented’ in Westminster by a politician from a party I have not voted for and who will not represent my interests, but those of corporations and the wealthy. And I have to ask myself the question: is that really the sort of future I want? /p pIn recent months, I have found myself increasingly following the news and debate from north of the border, the discussion about whether Scotland should become an independent country. And I have found myself increasingly supportive for the possibility of an independent Scotland (an increasingly likely possibility, as the polls continue to narrow, and the yes campaign clearly holds the momentum), because it would give the people of Scotland—and potentially the rest of the UK—a crucial opportunity to engage with such central questions about what sort of future we want. Do we want a future where employment is precarious and finding a good job an uncertainty, or do we want to prioritise investment in creating good jobs? Do we want our system of higher education to be based around profit value for universities while creating a lifelong cycle of debt for graduates, or should education be valued as a vital service for society? Do we want a continuation of austerity, forcing millions more into poverty as they are forced to pay the bill for the financial crisis, or do we want a fairer alternative? Do we want political parties and politicians that are increasingly disconnected from their constituents or do we want them to truly represent the needs of people they serve?/p pThe people of Scotland face all of these questions as they confront the issue of independence, and an independent Scotland could pave the way for a better future for all. An independent Scotland would have the power to prioritise job creation instead of policies that would create further poverty and social inequalities. An independent Scotland would continue to value education as a public service and offer university degrees without pushing students into lifelong debt. An independent Scotland could show that an alternative is possible to the austerity politics of George Osborne and Ed Balls. And the political parties and politicians of an independent Scotland would be more answerable to the people of Scotland, as the Scottish parliament is elected through a fairer, proportional system, and Scotland would no longer be placed at the mercy of a Westminster government not voted in by the people of Scotland. /ppAll of these would be of great benefit to the people of Scotland, but an independent Scotland could also serve as a beacon of hope for the rest of the UK. An independent Scotland could serve to remind the rest of the UK that education can be valued as a public service free to all (as it is in much of Europe), that austerity isn’t the only solution to our financial problems, and that people can have more of a say in their lives as politicians are made more answerable to the people they represent. And with time, this progressive example of an independent Scotland could inspire positive change in the rest of the UK, as people in the rest of the UK must also engage with these same issues currently debated in Scotland. /ppBut to return to the topic of what I where to go next with my life after I graduate, the choice now seems clear to me. If the people of Scotland vote for independence in September, I will move to Scotland as it becomes independent. Of course this will not solve all the problems I face. But I would prefer to live in a country that values education as a public service, that could stand up to challenge the current political consensus of austerity politics, that would cut the Trident nuclear submarine system rather than jobs and public services. But above all, as a Scottish citizen, I would have a voice in the government of an independent Scotland, a voice that has been all but denied by the Westminster government system, built around an archaic and unrepresentative electoral system. I would have the chance to have a say in terms of what sort of future I want, and to feel that my needs are being represented. I would have the opportunity to help forge a new path for a new country—something I find exhilarating. Above all else, a vote for yes is a vote for democracy, and I would relish the chance to take part in the democracy an independent Scotland would bring. /ppemstrongspanOurKingdom needs to raise £5,698 to continue running our Scottish debate series until the referendum in September. /spana href=https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/scotland-s-conversation-with-the-world/x/6494721spanPlease contribute here/span/aspan./span/strong/em/pfieldset class=fieldgroup group-sideboxslegendSideboxes/legenddiv class=field field-related-stories div class=field-labelRelated stories:nbsp;/div div class=field-items div class=field-item odd a href=/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarreScotland isn#039;t different, it#039;s Britain that#039;s bizarre/a /div div class=field-item even a href=/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/scotland-isnt-playing-by-austerity-rules-and-london-media-arent-happyScotland isn#039;t playing by austerity rules, and the London media aren#039;t happy/a /div /div /div /fieldset

The politics of 'regeneration' in Euston

Open Democracy - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:11pm
div class=field field-summary div class=field-items div class=field-item odd pIt is absurd to replace inadequate housing for the poor with emadequate /emhousing for the poor - let's not repeat the mistakes of the past. Shiny regeneration will shift them out to somewhere they can afford and provide great opportunities for property speculation to boot. This is London, after all./p /div /div /div pspan class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'a href=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/hUSh6ItQAjQSKqPFvB7hjabuzZ5cO54Ia1cKKiUXl_Q/mtime:1397702313/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/euston.jpg rel=lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline] title=img src=http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/fpjHVMixYuuknxBvO4vJ3JngtY7ERpJ_cIDf1qWoOfw/mtime:1397702272/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/euston.jpg alt= title= width=400 height=283 class=imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large style= //a span class='image_meta'span class='image_title'Flickr/The Integer Club/span/span/span/ppI walk along Eversholt Street most days. It’s a funny, tatty old road. There’s the chip shop out of which local schoolchildren are always pouring, paper parcels of chips in hand, a few small corner shops, a car rental place, two churches, some pubs and cafes (probably pronounced without the ‘e’ in these instances, with all the cheap plastic furniture and sugary tea that that entails), a Royal Mail delivery office, a strip club and a transvestite clothes shop. It runs from Mornington Crescent down to Euston Road, with Euston Station taking up much of the west side, and Somers Town the east./p pI like it. It feels tired and forgotten, a sort of inbetween place, but it’s always lively, and it makes a nice change to the polished gentility of most of the rest of central London, which you’ll rediscover within a ten minute walk in any direction./p pThere’s a lot of social housing in the area, which is home to a diverse community of Somali, Bengali and white working class residents. At the northern end are a couple of housing estates, including three tower blocks which are very uncharacteristic for Camden. /p pWith the exception of a wonderfully bizarre stepped L-shaped estate in red brick by Peter Tábori, architect of Highgate New Town and one of the big names in Sydney Cook’s Camden borough architect’s office of the 60s and 70s, Somers Town is mostly made up of early twentieth century neo-Georgian deck access mid-rise apartment blocks. It’s some of the earliest, and most lauded, social housing in London./p pIt’s a really good area, busy and full of people getting on with their lives. So I was a bit surprised a href=http://www.homesandproperty.co.uk/property-news/new-homes/euston-set-be-transformed-new-homes-shops-and-officesto read recently/a that it is apparently considered a “lost quarter”. Although, given that I read that in the Homes amp; Property section of the Evening Standard, my surprise was perhaps naive./p pWhy is it regarded a lost quarter? Homes amp; Property never spells it out, but it gives some good hints. Somers Town is “now largely council estates”, and, it goes on to lament, when it was “first developed in the late 18th century it was envisaged as a middle-class address but suffered when the London and Birmingham Railway cut through the area in the 1830s.”/p pI think it is interesting how casually a poor working class or immigrant population has been described as a burden here, the visual representation of the area’s suffering. Not to fear though, because the area is being “targeted for new private housing” and so the end of its sufferings must be nigh as a new wave of middle class inhabitants gets ready to move in./p pI find it interesting the way in which this article, which is about a new proposal to redevelop Euston Station and the surrounding area, shines a light on how we presently measure value or worth in the built environment./p pThe council estates of Somers Town are contrasted with the “village square concept” of a nearby development which houses the offices of Unison, which brings together “an open public atrium, with glazed cafés (and I include the accent as it appeared in the article, which I presume one is meant to pronounce in this instance) and restaurants”./p pThis clear dichotomy, between continental chic, newness, glass, atria, plazas, and the private on the one hand and the suffering lost quarter of council estates on the other, is what is used to justify the sort of wholesale demolition presently underway at the Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle. It is an analysis of the built environment predicated entirely on surface appearances and lazily propagated connotations. It is a discourse which values the needs of a personified ‘city’, judged by its physical appearance, over any of the requirements or desires of those people who inhabit it. It is the reduction of the city to a consumer product to be perused on property comparison websites, and the equation of middle class with good, and working class with bad./p pThe article goes on to develop this discourse and follow it to its logical conclusion when it equates the proposal for the redevelopment of the Euston area with “the kind of radical makeover that has made King’s Cross a shining example of the power of regeneration.” In doing this it builds a link between tabula rasa redevelopment in a derelict former industrial area with the future of an area in which thousands of people presently live, in which it holds up the former as a model for the latter on the grounds that the council estates, like the unused post-industrial landscape, do not conform to our notion of the clean transparent good city./p pNote the use of the words emshining/em and emregeneration/em in the above quote. It’s clear at a glance that Homes amp; Property is entirely preoccupied with property development and speculation. With this discourse, of the positive connotations of newness, shiny transparency and regeneration, and of the commensurate need, therefore, to sweep away all of the tatty old stock that isn’t ‘period’, capital has a justification for the constant development and redevelopment of the urban fabric as even the newest new development necessarily dulls with age. An ever-thirsty sink for accumulated capital./p pSo, in the face of the behemoth of global capital hungrily trying to piggyback on London’s ever-rising property prices, and of a pervasive and uncritically accepted discourse which enables and justifies it, what alternative ways of looking at the city are available to us?/p pA glance at the last time Somers Town was redeveloped might be instructive. Ben Campkin, in his recent book emRemaking London/em, describes how residents of Somers Town in the 1920s and 30s, had “to cope without proper sanitation, in dwellings that suffered from rot, and were severely infested with various kinds of pests, including rats, fleas and cockroaches, as well as the minute but severely disruptive common bedbug, emCimex lectularius/em.”/p pDue to this infestation, and the unpleasant living conditions that it entailed, the St. Pancras House Improvement Society demolished all of the slum housing in the area and rehoused the inhabitants in newly built, humane and clean housing stock. This is the built environment being altered in order to make it more congenial for human beings to inhabit./p pVestiges of this discourse still lurk at the back of the contemporary debate about our cities. It’s there in the accusations of arrogance levelled at the architects who designed the streets in the sky of a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_GardensRobin Hood Gardens in Poplar/a and Park Hill in Sheffield, estates which have been damned as unsuitable for the habits and lifestyles of their intended inhabitants. What is depressing is that the new developments soon to go up in the stead of the condemned Robin Hood Gardens involve cramming a smattering of tower blocks onto the site as densely as possible, for obvious profit-margin related reasons, when exactly this approach has itself been discredited as inhumane since the 1960s, notably by the Camden architect’s office which flatly refused to build high rise towers in the borough./p pStill, at least it will look shiny and new for twenty years or so. Then we’ll just have to pull it all down again, I suppose./pdiv 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

Ukraine struggles to bring east under control

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 5:58pm
Separatists raise Russian flags after capturing column of Ukrainian armoured vehicles, a day before international talks.

Jordan: Combat vehicles from Syria destroyed

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 5:30pm
Syria says vehicles did not belong to its armed forces after reports of strikes carried out by Jordanian fighter jets.

Can sports superstars justify super salaries?

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 5:01pm
A global survey of salaries shows footballers and baseball players are the biggest earners.

Violence surges in Iraq's Anbar province

Al Jazeera - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 4:44pm
At least 16 civilians die when mortar shells land on houses in Fallujah, as suicide bombings kill soldiers in Ramadi.

Ukraine government crack down on protests backfires

Rabble - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 3:56pm
div class="field field-type-image field-field-image-for-node" div class="field-items" div class="field-item"img src="http://rabble.ca/sites/rabble/files/imagecache/380x275-front-multimedia/node-images/pro-russia_demonstrators_in_donetsk_eastern_ukraine_image_from_online_video.jpg"/div /div /div div class="field field-type-text field-field-summary" div class="field-items" div class="field-item"Pro-Russia sentiment in eastern Ukraine, no doubt with chauvinist overtones, is mixed with opposition to the austerity, anti-people policies that Europe and the U.S. want to impose./div /div /div div class="field field-type-nodereference field-field-connected-story" div class="field-items" div class="field-item"a href="/blogs/bloggers/roger-annis/2014/04/%E2%80%8Bukraine-government-risks-whirlwind-efforts-to-halt-protests-east"​Ukraine government risks a whirlwind in efforts to halt protests in east of country /a/div /div /divdiv class="feedflare" a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:yIl2AUoC8zA"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=yIl2AUoC8zA" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:qj6IDK7rITs"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=qj6IDK7rITs" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:dnMXMwOfBR0"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=dnMXMwOfBR0" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:F7zBnMyn0Lo"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?i=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:F7zBnMyn0Lo" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:V_sGLiPBpWU"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?i=GrF9H-dyaFw:wVW01BkgJJ0:V_sGLiPBpWU" border="0"/img/a /divimg src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/rabble-news/~4/GrF9H-dyaFw" height="1" width="1"/

A number is never just a number: Equal Pay Day facts

Rabble - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 3:46pm
div class="taxonomy-images"a href="/taxonomy/term/14793" class="taxonomy-image-links"img src="http://rabble.ca/sites/rabble/files/imagecache/thumbnail/category_pictures/Trish%20column.jpg" alt="Hennessy#039;s Index" title="Hennessy#039;s Index" width="100" height="100" class="taxonomy-image-term-14793 taxonomy-image-vid-14"//a/divdiv class="field field-type-date field-field-story-publish-date" div class="field-items" div class="field-item odd" span class="date-display-single"Wednesday, April 16, 2014/span /div /div /div div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-image-for-node" div class="field-items" div class="field-item odd" img src="http://rabble.ca/sites/rabble/files/imagecache/120-width-scaled/node-images/equal_pay_day.jpg" alt="Photo: UweHiksch/flickr" title="Photo: UweHiksch/flickr" width="120" height="79" class="imagecache imagecache-120-width-scaled imagecache-default imagecache-120-width-scaled_default"/ /div /div /div pstrong31/strong/p pPercentage pay gap between men and women in Ontario in 2011, the most recent year of data available, based on average annual earnings. That's up from a 28 per cent gender pay gap in 2010./p pstrong68.5 cents /strong/p pHow much Ontario working women made in 2011 for every man's dollar. That's down from 72 cents in 2010./p pstrong$200 /strong/p pIncrease in Ontario men's average annual earnings between 2010 and 2011. They earned an average of $49,000 in 2011./p pnbsp;/p pstrong$1,400 /strong/p pDecrease in Ontario women's average annual earnings between 2010 and 2011. They earned an average of $33,600 in 2011./p pstrong38.5 /strong/pdiv class="field field-type-text field-field-summary" div class="field-items" div class="field-item odd" Recognizing April 16, 2014 as Equal Pay Day is a step in the right direction. But what#039;s still missing is a strategic plan to close the gender pay gap. /div /div /div pa href="http://rabble.ca/columnists/2014/04/number-never-just-number-equal-pay-day-facts" target="_blank"read more/a/pdiv class="feedflare" a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:yIl2AUoC8zA"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=yIl2AUoC8zA" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:qj6IDK7rITs"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=qj6IDK7rITs" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:dnMXMwOfBR0"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?d=dnMXMwOfBR0" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:F7zBnMyn0Lo"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?i=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:F7zBnMyn0Lo" border="0"/img/a a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?a=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:V_sGLiPBpWU"img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/rabble-news?i=ctIM2CTSX4k:cDqtCHBwAFI:V_sGLiPBpWU" border="0"/img/a /divimg src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/rabble-news/~4/ctIM2CTSX4k" height="1" width="1"/