A small socialist irony

In May through to June of 1994 a civil war broke out in Yemen between the Yemeni government in Sana’a and Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) supporters. As Ghaith Abdul-Ahad noted in the first of his Guardian articles yesterday about time spent in Yemen, fighting that war with the government of the time were Islamists who ended up bagging much political achievement in southern provinces of Yemen during the nineties.

When the socialists of the YSP, whose neighbourhoods and market places they created can still be seen, were defeated in the civil war the Islamists were handed authority of Jaar – a town in the province of Abyan, South Yemen.

Abdul-Ahad’s report shows that radical Islamist presence in the town grew from there, enjoying sums of money from Saudi Arabia and now being a hotbed for al-Qaeda.

The report interviews one man who remembers the time well; “Faisal”, a former Socialist party member and head of the Young Artist Association in the Abyan. He remembers that the:

socialists were defeated on 7 July 1994 [and] on July 8 a group of Islamists came and picked me up, blindfolded me and took me to the HQ of political security. I was handcuffed and beaten there. They wanted to know if I was a communist and their commander declared I was one. Then they tied my arms to a tree and hung me there and started beating me up with a stick.

Al-Qaeda has grown significant influence in the area and has claimed responsibility for attacks such as the attempt to assassinate the British ambassador to the capital of Yemen, Sana’a – the site of socialist defeat in the nineties.

It has been told that the Yemeni Socialist Party was key to establishing multi-party democracy when the Soviet Union collapsed and the country had been marred by previous civil conflicts and the tail end of British imperialism.

One of the mentors of this surge in extremism lingering in today’s Yemen is a man called Anwar al-Awlaki. As the Guardian report notes: “In Yemen, recruits can study ideology and take guidance from militant leaders, including the Yemeni-American cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been described as “terrorist number one” by the Democrat chairman of the House homeland security sub-committee, Jane Harman.”

Indeed al-Awlaki is infamous among those who follow terror politics. His reported links include the US Army Major Nidal Hassan (“gunman suspected of carrying out the 5 November 2009 attack on Fort Hood, Texas”) who attended the same mosque in Virginia Falls that al-Awlaki formerly preached in; two of the three 9/11 hijackers and Omar Abdul Rehman, “who was convicted for his role in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.”

Awlaki has praised US designated Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, was the inspiration for the so-called Toronto 18 cell, who were planning civilian attacks, supports armed jihad, where he is explicit that the “hatred of kuffar [non-Muslims] is a central element of our military creed” (see page 12), and talks of “driving the Jews of Palestine to the sea”.

It is a fair assumption to say this man is not the bastion of progressive thinking.

In 2006 the campaign group against Guantanamo Bay and registered charity the Cageprisoners requested that their supporters write to the Yemeni ambassador of the UK to seek the release of al-Awlaki. Here the relationship between the Cageprisoners and al-Awlaki grew strong, and he was invited to broadcast a live message to an event held by the Cageprisoners in 2008.

On October 2 2009, Cageprisoners republished on their website a defence of Awlaki by Cageprisoner member Fahad Ansari that first appeared in Crescent magazine. The report continues:

In the piece, Ansari was highly critical of the council’s decision and referred to Awlaki as “the inspirational Imam”

[…]

Mr. Ansari is also a researcher and spokesperson for the Islamic Human Right Commission (IHRC) which also supported the CP campaign for Awlaki’s release.

The IHRC is registered as a charity and limited company which Cageprisoners have demonstrable connections with through Fahad Ansari.

There have been a number of instances where Cageprisoners have claimed to be unaware of Awlaki’s extremist background. This assertion may be questionable if you consider that the group republished an article by Andrea Elliott of the New York Times which says “Mr. Hassan and another university student searched the Internet for jihadist videos and chat rooms, the friend said. They listened to “Constants on the Path to Jihad,” lectures by the Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is suspected of inciting Muslims in the West to violence.”

To bring this back to the point, the director of the Cageprisoners, Moazzam Begg, has given plenty of uncritical time to al-Awlaki rendering it extremely dubious to think he has no idea of the kind of character he is. If you heap as much praise as Begg does to al-Awlaki on the interview below, you would check your sources – and a glimpse at some of the sources show al-Awlaki to be an ardent jihadist and supporter of al-Qaeda.

It doesn’t bade well for anyone promoting Moazzam Begg, a former detainee in Guantanamo Bay, as a pillar of human rights and an example of human rights gone awry, when he gives uncritical, and even praiseworthy platforms to somebody like al-Awlaki. But indeed recently that is what Amnesty International did, causing the resignation of Gita Sahgal, a feminist, who used to work for AI, when the human rights group made Begg their poster boy.

Furthermore, from the 1-5 July central London was host to the Marxism festival of 2010, held by the Socialist Workers Party. On the Saturday they held a panel discussion which included Moazzam Begg, Gareth Pierce and Gerry Conlon.

Conlon was one of the Guildford Four, wrongfully accused back in the seventies for the Guildford and Woolwich bombings, and Pierce, a human rights solicitor, was instrumental in the case of Moazzam Begg.

You can tell from the set up of the debate what the producers of this discussion had in mind; Conlon being a victim of a miscarriage of justice, Pierce acting, as far as possible, to counter, with human rights, miscarriages of justice. But with Moazzam Begg – surely his feature on issues of human rights should have been put into jeopardy by the connections and suspected connections with some of the worst terrorist, pro al-Qaeda, pro-Taliban and pro-extremist characters this country and others have to offer.

Yemeni Islamists destroyed Yemen and reduced socialism in that country to nothing, where once it was strong and created a sense of stability where that had been absent since the destructive history of the Soviet Union. Islamism continues to be a presence in the country in the form of al-Qaeda. One of the chief ideologues of this presence, al-Awlaki, is held as an “inspirational imam” by a group fronted by a man who receives uncritical praise from the audiences of Socialist Workers Party organised events – now there’s something to think about.

Perhaps that is the reason the SWP won’t mind publishing articles that say this:

Yemen is indeed a country ravaged by war and instability – but this is the result of decades of imperialist interference in the region. And the ratcheting up of Western intervention will only make things worse.

Without even mentioning a single word about the destruction brought about by domestic terrorism, extremism and fascism.

The working men’s club and the age of austerity

Dr Ruth Cherrington works in the department of translation and comparative studies at Warwick University where her research focus is identity and representation in multicultural society. A few years ago she was the subject of much interest for research she had carried out on the rise and decline of working men’s clubs.

Image courtesy of the wesbite for Bishop’s Stortford and Thorley – A history [http://www.stortfordhistory.co.uk/

The subject for Cherrington has personal significance; she grew up near a working men’s club which she described as being her second living room. Since then she has noticed the gap which the demise of those institutions have created in society.

As homage to this dying institution she set up the club historians website in May of 2008 which provides a detailed history of the club, and gives people the opportunity to share photographs and memories of their times.

Cherrington reminds us in her history that the clubs came to prominence in the nineteenth century as a means to fill a gap; there wasn’t a lot for people to do other than work. Options to go to the pub, watch music and other leisure activities were usually very expensive, rather somewhere was needed that people could call their own, and not simply lined the pockets of landlords.

Cherrington is open about the problems posed by the working men’s club. The name itself suggests there may be problems of exclusion. Throughout the twentieth century the club was seen as somewhere largely dominated by white males, which suggested a strict exclusivity.

That there had been limited or no female membership in the nineteenth century had not been a point of contention; women enjoyed limited rights as it was and people’s attitudes in the men’s clubs – as can be imagined – were not perturbed by this.

Even by the middle to late twentieth century when women enjoyed more political rights the clubs were still very slow to adapt to a changing societal picture, and even though it was not unheard of to have female members, the exclusiveness was certainly a barrier that needed to be reconsidered.

The same must also be said about multicultural society. The national executive insisted that they could and would not tell individual clubs what to do or who to admit as members, but after the 1970s when anti-discriminatory laws were introduced, and society as a whole changed vastly, so too did the face of the clubs.

One of the more attractive elements of the club had been the so-called “club scene” and the “free-and-easy” nights, which were open microphone sessions for budding musicians and entertainment acts to try their luck among a listening, but generally not an easy audience. It has been said that the audiences of the free-and-easy’s did not suffer fools gladly.

Another overlooked part of the club, which Cherrington is very keen to point out, is the community activity and charity attachment. Cherrington makes note of the notion that charity begins at home, a sentiment embedded into Victorian values, which working men’s clubs utilised and reappropriated as charity beginning in our clubs – in what Cherrington calls acts of “mutual self-help”.

Examples of which can be seen by looking at work achieved by the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union (WMCIU). An example of their work was to set up convalescence homes, some time before the creation of the welfare state, which afforded men who may have been recovering from surgery or couldn’t afford to go on holiday, to stay for a week or two by the seaside funded through their subscription.

The clubs were once the hub of local charities who donated good sums of money for special schooling or operations for children where they were not available on the NHS. Cherrington recalls there always being someone passing by in the clubs requesting money for a local charity, alongside someone else selling bingo tickets.

What is worrying about the wide demise of the club is the question of what it will be replaced with, and never has that been a more relevant question. The severe package of cuts has hit community activity rather hard, local sporting centres are either being drowned by expensive private gyms or costs are increasing to keep the centres open at all. Modestly priced places for families to congregate and socialise with friends are all but gone and institutions that bring whole communities together are slow to gain traction – which, I imagine, has a lot to do with how time consuming it is, and how little time people have.

Cherrington sees the closure of Coventry working men’s club – the oldest one of its kind – as a symbol of a dying institution with nothing in its place. She praises charities such as Age Concern and Help the Aged, but notes that with an ageing population these organisations are pushed to bursting point, and are unable to resource for all who need its services. The problem of elderly social mobility, amid the demise of clubs and bingo halls, reduces many elderly people to experience their twilight years secluded and without the social purpose they once enjoyed.

Furthermore, little is available to reconcile the young and the old. In comparison to many countries, there is a noticeable conflict between youth and their elders that really wasn’t apparent in communities brought together by institutions such as the working men’s clubs. The absence of community cohesion is fairly recent and few inspirational ideas have emerged from think tanks and government departments on how to restore it – particularly between the generations.

I’m sure many would have you believe institutions such as the clubs are redundant in today’s society, and closures are not a product of community cohesion in decline, but of people finding different ways in which to entertain themselves. But I’d dismiss that. However my concern about the way in which many of the cuts have been organised, and our rapid descending into mass joblessness and increasing poverty, is that something like the club will be a necessity and not something to fill the hours with at night and at the weekend – and yet such institutions will be absent.

Many commentators and critics are starting to get the impression that what was meant by “cutting waste in public spending to reduce the deficit” was actually a means to, as the saying goes, “starve the beast” that is to say reduce the budget through cuts and breaks which subsequently weakens the role of the state and the social welfare programmes it funds, thereby appearing to strengthen the argument that cuts are necessary and private institutions do things better.

The club, for all its problems concerning who became members and who it excluded, promoted an ideal of “mutual self help” where in society such help had not yet been institutionally founded. We may return to a state where mutual self help is the only alternative – and despite its altruistic good, should not be relied upon since the function of the state, for any decent person, should be to ensure the inalienable right of citizens to welfare.

The return of the club should only be to restore communities and families, the element of the club which preceded the welfare state should be guaranteed by the state alone – since this is its primary function – and this current government is almost certainly trying to creep away from serving its primary function.

Wazhma Frogh and women’s rights in Afghanistan

Goodness, there has been a lot said on the subject that women’s rights as a narrative for war is absurd, hypocritical and wrong, notably when it is uttered by the US or UK.

I feel duty bound to seek answers from those who have raised this issue – Earwicga, The Atlantic, Max Dunbar, HM, Laurie and many more – how do you respond to the following by Wazhma Frogh.

Frogh is a gender and development specialist and human rights activist and recipient of the 2009 International Woman of Courage Award Afghanistan – she’s not short of a few things to say about women’s rights, human rights and the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, she tore up the “usual human rights” notebook for her interview with Warwick University – where she is doing her Master’s degree – in January of this year.

While talking about human rights, women’s rights and the future of her country (here – mp3 file) the question emerged: What is life like for women in Afghanistan at the moment?

To which Frogh answered:

Things have changed for them for the better in the last 8 years. As one of our MPs, a female MP … she said the past 8 years have been like golden years for the women of Afghanistan and that’s true; that the achievements that we’ve had are incredible.

In terms of the parliament for example we have  27 persons of women in the parliament. This is a big achievement, of course it is because of the quota, of women’s presence in the parliament, we have a ministry of women’s affairs and women in the urban areas … so the international presence has earned some credit over all of this, for women in parliament in Afghanistan.

But at the same time life has not changed for the women in the rural areas and it’s .. important to understand it, that there problems are not born yesterday, they have had these problems for hundreds of years, so they cannot be solved in 8 years.

However, one that was also kind of challenging was the lack of strategic spencidng of the international aid that comes to Afghanistan; it lacked community ownership in most of the times for example – for most of the time a community should have received the funds and it was a private company for example, a private international company because they had to comply with the international standards of importing.

The international aid is a bit controversial on the part of Afghans who do not believe life has changed.

The past 8 years have brought us a lot of achievements for women’s rights but within the urban cities. But at the same time, no matter how critical I am of the development, I would say that the past 8 years have been really the golden years for the women of Afghanistan, and credit should go to the international funders and donors of Afghanistan; the US, UK are the biggest donors [of] the communities; and that’s what I want to bring to the notice of the public

[…]

I didn’t know about it, the way the UK public is questioning the war in Afghanistan, the way they are questioning the presence of their troops. I think if I was a UK citizen, I would have been proud of my troops to be able to go to a country where women’s rights – I know that for example a UK troop has no responsibility to help women of my country, but they are fighting a war that is not a war of this country itself, like the London bombings we know came up because of the Taliban and al-Qaeda that are linked there, and the September 11 attacks, the Madrid attacks, so of course …the terror that has taken root on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan is not only our problem, it is very much a global problem, so I think as UK citizens they have to be proud of their soldiers, they have to be proud of their sons and daughters who are out there serving for such a cause that they are not only out there saving their own country, but … they’re helping the human rights of another country’s people and that is what I wanted to bring to the UK, that sort of voice.

The women’s rights narrative from the US/UK may be tinged with a modicom of hypocrisy, fine, but this doesn’t make it an illegitmate reason to support the ongoing state army building exercise, currently operating in Afghanistan against a global force intent on setting us all back a 1000 years.

Update: and here

In reply to a comrade in arms

My comrade in arms, and all round good egg, Harpy Marx, has written a post with me in mind today – well, I’m mentioned at the very least.

It’s in response to a blog I wrote in response to one written by Laurie Penny on women’s rights and the cod-feminist narrative for entering into Afghanistan.

I have replied to the response to the response by HM (response to the response – do keep up) on her comments thread.

For purposes of posterity I recall that response here:

It goes without saying that women’s rights under the Taliban was dreadful, reports emerged last year that women’s rights were put back a few notches before the election when Karzai resorted to dreadful inter-marriage rape – beyond the pale – just to notch up a few Shia votes.

But I detect two things with the argument that the imperialists made it worse: a) that we’re simply unable to hold our hands up and say there are people in Afghanistan who really want to make women’s lives tough – we have to explain this away by inserting the imperialists into the picture, and b) it follows logically that when “foreign imperial invaders” enter a country, a set of things will necessarily happen, like suicide bombing will increase, like Taliban membership will rise, and that women’s rights will be set back further.

They both look like this to me: unpalatable Afghans have only become so unpalatable because of the Americans.

Now of course it is not that simple, rather it is because of these unpalatable types, the size, the power and the networks of these unpalatable types that justifies a military effort by NATO forces to strengthen the Afghan state and army to contain the Taliban where it had no chance of doing so before, and it also necessitates the need to empower Pakistan for the reason that on the border between the two countries is where the Taliban are at its most effective and bloody – setting women back hundreds of years.

I’ll throw my hands up and say, most unorthodox I know, as a staunch socialist, but I think intervention in Afghanistan is justified; what grows in Afghanistan and Pakistan puts into jeopardy peace on this earth as much as any imperialist strategy.

The difference is that I don’t think the US went in too fussed about this myself; I think they wanted to get Osama, eventually they thought that Saddam Hussein had links to al-Qaeda – both flawed – but yet, crucially, I think whether neoconservatives were behind the the venture into Afghanistan or pinko lefty peaceniks, eventually the bubble that had been created by global terror networks al-Qaeda and the Taliban would have burst and necessitated NATO forces of all stripes to enter and strengthen the armies of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to beat a domestic problem and contain a global one (which terror cells pose now).

I’m happy to accept that the strategy hasn’t been always successful in Afghanistan, but I refuse to accept that because NATO forces entered the country, that by causality, so women’s rights have suffered – my finger most directly is pointing towards domestic movements in those countries who have had a historical part to play in putting women back a 1000 years.

Forget George Galloway

I’ve seen George Galloway argue with heavyweight Christopher Hitchens for two hours on whether it is right to invade Iraq, I’ve seen him wax lyrical over the injustices sanctioned by the Israeli government, I’ve seen him talk at length on the miscarriages of justice felt by Muslims in this country, I’ve even seen Galloway talk about why Jade Goody was not being racist as such in the Big Brother house, but rather, reacting to a series of overlooked class prejudices bestowed upon her by Shilpa Shetty.

Each time I’ve ever seen Galloway speak, despite not being his biggest fan, I’ve always been quietly impressed, and moved in some respects to the anger and fire that he has in his voice.

Which is why I am very surprised that during his light touch interview recently with, effectively his employer while being at PressTV, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the interview amounted to niceties and nothingness.

Although, quite why I should be surprised is beyond me. Galloway, after all, is obviously keen on Ahmadinejad – who he calls “his excellency” – and the President’s commitment to the poor of Iran.

In the video (below) Galloway’s last question directed to the Iranian President concerns the stoning of Sakine Mohammadi Ashtani, the woman in Iran due to be put to death by stoning for supposedly committing adultery.

Galloway asks:

Final question Mr President, every so often an issue comes along, which is seized upon by the enemies of Iran, and magnified, and it becomes a heavy problem. One such is the punishment, scheduled originally against a woman convicted of adultery. The so called stoning case. I see that president Lula from Brazil has asked Iran if he can take this woman into exile there, to solve this problem. Can Iran agree to this?

Ahmadinejad answers by saying little more that the courts are separate, he hopes to see the matter resolved soon, and on the point of whether President Lula of Brazil – who along with President Erdogen of Turkey recently – should offer asylum to Ashtiani, Ahmadinejad says he would prefer to export technology, not such people to Brazil.

The interview finishes there, no more is said, and Galloway in his closing comments back in the studio has the cheek to say “The president gave me the indication that this matter would be resolved.”

This is not something that could happen in the future; it is something that is happening now. Galloway shouldn’t just let Ahmadinejad get off by saying the courts are separate, but then what more should I expect from Galloway – whose sick perversion of politics and commitment to appealing to his enemies enemy as a friend has seen him “glorify the Hizbollah national resistance movement, and [him] glorify the leader of Hizbollah, Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah – who was reported to have said the numbers of Jews who died in the Holocaust had been exaggerated, and has shown courtesy to Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

In fact, Galloway made no mention of Ahmadinejad’s view that the figures of those who died in the Holocaust had been exaggerated. Galloway didn’t even touch on the subject of homosexuals, and how not only do they exist in Iran (see below), but they are frequently hanged in public for being so.

On the subject of Ashtiani, Galloway made no mention of how Iranian courts exploit Article 105 of the Islamic Penal Code which states “The Shari’a Judge can act upon his own knowledge in the cases of [defending] the God’s Rights and People’s Rights and carry out the punishment constituted by the God and it is necessary that he documents his knowledge.”

The sheer openness of this article means that judgements can be made entirely on interpretation rather than documented evidence, which is the case for Sakineh where forensic evidence of her adultery is missing.

Galloway made no mention of the fact that even within Islamic law itself, adultery cannot be proven satisfactorily before the perpetrator has confessed under free conditions on three separate occasions, or if four males, whom the court are happy to trust, actually witness the act of penetration – rendering the charge of adultery almost impossible unless these things have been satisfied.

Galloway made no mention of Mohammed Mostafaei, the lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtani, who is on the run from Iranian authorities after receiving a course of intimidation from them, who also pray on his wife and his brother in law who have been arrested.

Galloway did not mention the human rights abuses, particularly of women; in fact Galloway missed an opportunity so golden, I fail to see why we should listen to a single further word he has to say.

Mr Galloway knows how to make a clear, tangible argument, and is normally not afraid of doing so. But if he thinks he has satisfied his critics by asking Ahmadinejad a few soft questions, and not challenging him or his legitimacy as both President and bringer of justice, then he is wrong.

Mr Galloway is a coward and no element of the left wing in this or any other country should have anything else to do with him. He represents a perversion of politics based upon befriending those who his enemies distrust, and no sensible political theory or action can rest upon this.

Academies will not bring a new culture of independence to schools

The founding rule for academies from day one was that they would enjoy “Greater freedom and independence”.

Academies will no longer be a way of saving failing schools unlike in the Blair days, but for schools keen to show their excellence.

In addition to the “system-wide reductions in bureaucracy”, as it was put by Michael Gove, echoed by many others in the Con Lib coalition, the Academies Bill will ensure schools enjoy:

  • freedom from local authority control
  • the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff
  • freedom from following the National Curriculum
  • greater control of their budget
  • greater opportunities for formal collaboration with other public and private organisations
  • freedom to change the length of terms and school days
  • freedom to spend the money the local authority currently spends on their behalf.

That word again: freedom.

But we’re still unsure by the word freedom, as we are with independence. Forgive my peculiar desire for word play, but is this freedom to or freedom from?

There is a difference; freedom to involves carrying out the above from the school setting itself, creating what the kids are learning, being very creative, turning a blind eye to others because this is the me revolution, and I’m demonstrating the reason why I’m running this joint. Freedom from, however, simply designates a loss, and demands the filling of that loss.

This latter example, I imagine, is the type freedom employed when we look at the new Academies.

My educated guess is that many business-minded people who know a thing or two about the education system (or, indeed more likely, know how to employ – perhaps through unpaid internships – people who know about the education system; recent graduates for example) will be rubbing their hands together devising plans on how to capitalise in on that initial feeling of abandonment school leaders and headteachers will feel on the advent of their schools being granted academy status.

Consultancy is a business model that will thrive even in times of economic hardship and budget squeezes. Cambridge Education, for example, is an educational consultancy that a local authority can outsource the running of a school to, like which can be seen – in a way that  has dubiousness written all over it – in this insightful article written by Respublica researcher Sandra Gruesco.

But something even more strategic than consultancy is emerging in the business world; that of so-called intelligent services. In brief, this is a type of service that an organisation can buy into or become a member of as a way of gathering information necessary for the success of the service they provide.

It’s not consultancy, since this will often require one to one activity with an individual offering advice and expertise. Rather, the intelligent service provides best practice examples, stores them up on a database in the form of an article, for example, and makes the database public for a fee.

Such a service was once provided by the local authority, and is currently a service offered by trade unions in addition to legal advice. But a void has been allowed for enterprise to fill that gap, creating the potential for curriculum to be varied and part of the market place; competition perhaps for Avail – who run the Consultancy for Schools programme as delivered for the Department for Education (DfE) by a unique team of education and programme management experts.

Academies themselves are not without their own network organisations. United Learning Trust is one example of an Academy Trust Network, and is largest single sponsor of academies in the UK with 17 academies currently open.

A person who I spoke to recently – an assistant head for an Academy school within the ULT network – spoke not about the dawn of a new culture for schools, reinventing the wheel and loving it, but rather the assurance of the school that information will still be available to them from the network.

This kind of attitude might explain away Gove’s recent embarrassment when it was revealed the disparity between schools that wanted to become Academies and those who simply “expressed an interest” – which you would have to do in order to receive information about what Academy status would mean for the school you work in.

Schools are naturally places that want to feel aligned to something; be that other schools through the state or within networks. This is the preferred method; academies will only gain popular appeal if other schools in the local area are doing it, because schools won’t bring on their own abandonment themselves.

The culture of freedom in creating curriculum would be far more impressive, were it not for the fact that this will not happen. What critics may have once called top-down curriculum creation from the state will simply move houses to these largely unaccountable trusts, charities, or worse, impatient consultants or idealistic entrepreneurs.

For all his talk, Gove’s moves will not create a new culture of freedom and independence. It will move the dependence elsewhere, and those places could potentially be unaccountable pits set up solely for profit creation – now given new legitimacy by the abandoning state. But hey, that’s the big society.

A reply to Laurie Penny on women’s rights and war

Laurie Penny, true to form, has written a fantastic, detailed blog entry for the staggers today about the hypocrisy of the UK government, or the west in general, using women’s rights as a narrative and justification for war.

I wanted to reply with hyperlinks on the comments thread, but was unable, so I will do so here.

Firstly I wanted to find agreement with Laurie; I’m never quite sure what the criteria for deportation is in our home office, where we deport homosexuals and send them away with the message “just keep yourself quiet now” but give amnesty to others for seemingly trivial reasons. I certainly think the way in which we approach this subject should change. 

I also worry that all international campaigns must solely be down to whichever issue gets the loudest shouters; a few people have said on here that people are stoned all the time (which didn’t mean it was excusable, it just meant why do our ears perk up at Ashtani – it’s a fair question; I’ve done the same regarding the Ashtani case ) and their fate should not rest on the fact that governments worldwide have to wait until a shouting crowd overthrows their complacency.

Where I don’t agree with Laurie: as I say I think the system of deportation is mangled, but it would be hard to substantiate the claim that a dismissal of women’s rights informs it, so where I do think there is hypocrisy, it’s achieved by a stupid system that listens to the loudest voice rather than a sexist one.

In our stupid world of binaries I would like to remind us all of two things: just because you were against this war, doesn’t mean you aren’t throwing your weight against laws that are sexist. By which I mean, look at the non-grilling George Galloway, foremost UK anti-war campaigner, gives President Ahmadinejad below ( about four minutes in ) – I seriously question Galloway’s sincerity here, contextualising his question by calling those against the stoning as “enemies”.

The second thing: there is no reason why individuals cannot be for the war in Afghanistan for instance, with, in the back of their mind, women’s rights which should be given to all women, and not just be given importance in the West. A woman’s right is not a decadent thing of rich nations, but should be bestowed across the world, and it will not come from Ahmadinejad and the like.

For the reasons given above, I’m not won over by the article – however I still regard the debate that Laurie is instigating as important.