Police harassment…but not the gulag

November 30, 2008 at 11:59 pm (Free Speech, Gordon Brown, Jim D, labour party, politics, stalinism, Tory scum)

Damian Green is a Tory MP in Britain. This means he’s almost certainly an enemy of social justice. In fact, his voting record places him firmly on the right of his already right-wing party. The best you can  say about him is that he isn’t part of the Tory religious tendency (on issues like abortion or embryology). Other than that though… he’s in favour of torturing dogs, does not support equal rights for
homosexuals and counts Ian Paisley high among his political friends. Not a nice man.
So from a strictly personal point of view, the fact that he’s just been the subject of a little bit of police harassment doesn’t upset me all that much. In fact, if people like Damian Green got harrassed a bit more by the police, then maybe they wouldn’t be so damn quick to champion the harassment of others (his opposition to drug-law reform and stance on asylum seekers being just two examples of that championing).

So how did this harassment manifest itself in Mr. Green’s case? Well it turns out he was suspected of releasing classified government documents into the public domain (”leaking” as it’s known). As a result he was arrested, questioned and then released without charge.

That the Tory party is describing this as “Stalinesque” is the final proof (if proof be need be) that they’ve completely lost the plot. Certainly the Tories aren’t above a wee bit of historical revisionism. We all know that. But are they really saying that one of the primary characteristics of Stalin’s regime was that political opponents were questioned for a few hours prior to being released? It’s 20 years since I read a biography of Stalin, but my memory isn’t that bad, surely!

Don’t get me wrong, clearly what’s happened here is a little heavy-handed and demonstrates the craven hypocrisy of the Brown administration. When it suits the Labour Party they are more than willing to leak stuff to the media. In fact, they’ve got such a consistent track-record of leaking stuff that it hardly raises an eyebrow any more. It’s got to the point where the Labour government leaking information is almost considered “official channels”. That the police aren’t banging on the doors of cabinet ministers and hauling them off for questioning on a regular basis demonstrates that there’s a double-standard at work. And when a government starts to employ the police to enforce its double-standards then they really need to be replaced.

But the last people that should be replacing them are a bunch of dangerous fools who are willing to cry “Stalin” when one of their own gets questioned for a few hours and then released, but who stay silent at — and indeed support — the systematic harassment of others.

I don’t recall the Tory outcry when police kicked down a door in Forest Gate and shot an unarmed suspect. I don’t recall the tories accusing the police of ‘Stalinesque’ tactics that day. In fact, just to demonstrate how divorced these fools are from reality, how utterly self-serving in their outlook, a Tory spokesman has described Green’s arrest as “unprecedented in its heavy-handedness”.

Unprecedented? Really? What complete tossers those tories truly are.

PS: I’ve nicked this well-written piece from someone else’s blog…and promptly forgotten who’s, and can’t find it…so:

1/ I apologise to whoever it was;

2/ Can anyone track down the blog in question?

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Mumbai: tragedy and farce

November 30, 2008 at 9:51 pm (anti-semitism, Champagne Charlie, fascism, hell, insanity, sectarianism)

We must never forget that the vast majority of the 200 or so victims of the Mumbai attacks were working class Indians. That alone means that this filthy act must be condemned by the real Left before there is any attempt to “understand” or “contextualise”. Which is why I don’t like the balance of the pro-Islamist SWP’er Lenny Seymour’s comments, accurate as they may be, because they seem to have been written with a willful agenda of ignoring the real (ie: Islamist / nihilist) “context” of these fascist attacks:

“Eight years of repression, scapegoating, and some of the worst anti-Muslim violence for years, might have radicalised layers…However, the Indian state has too much of an interest in demonising all Islamist as a means towards repressing Muslims in general…”

So the SWP’er Seymour’s response to an Islamist act of mass-murder against mainly working class victims is…to warn against “demonising all Islamist groups”… just as, of course, it could be argued that not all British far-right groups are the same. The rank and file membership of the BNP, for instance, is much more “understandable” than the cadre of Column 88…

Happily, many (and, I hope, most) Muslims in the UK are more forthright in their condemnation, than Seymour and the SWP. Here’s a letter from yesterday’s Graun that, I hope and believe, is representative of the thinking of most British Muslims:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives in Mumbai. Nothing can justify the slaughter and kidnapping of civilians. However, it is erroneous to portray all Muslims as terrorists. This will give jihadists the chance to set off a clash between the west and the Muslim world at a time of uncertainty. The silent majority of Muslims condemn such abominable attacks. The challenges ahead are daunting. It is therefore time to show our disapproval to terrorists’ twistsd mindset by standing together to extinguish the flames of global terrorism.

 Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob London.”

Another grotesque aspect of this outrage is that whilst Jews appear to have been a special target, with the Israelis in the Jewish Centre apparently subjected to “maximum torture” before being killed, the usual progromist mob of nutters, anti-semites and conspiracy-theorists are -farcically but all too predictably – blaming Israel and Mossad…

Chris Hitchens has an interesting and relevant article in the TLS, written before the Islamo-fascists (why do liberals object to that term?) attacked Mumbai, but highly pertinent.

H/t: (for the anti-semitic conspiracy theory stuff): Terry Glavin

PS: Seymour is just ignorant, miseducated and doesn’t realise what a racist he is…

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Woolas Boolas

November 27, 2008 at 3:35 pm (asylum, Human rights, immigration, Max Dunbar, reaction, twat)

woolasMost of you will be familiar with George Orwell’s classic essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ in which the great man argued that political leaders twist words into their opposite meaning. Thus:

Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.

Phil Woolas is the kind of politician who is routinely described as ‘brave’ and ‘outspoken’. But as Orwell might point out, these words have different meanings in the language of the political class than they do in general usage.

For example, ‘outspoken’ in political language means ‘Someone prepared to talk ill-informed bullshit, in public, without embarrassment and often looking directly into reporter’s eyes.’ 

And ‘brave’ as applied to a politician doesn’t mean bravery as you and I would use the term: i.e. to describe someone who fought in Afghanistan, or someone who intervened against a mugger or bully. Bravery in political language is always used to describe a comfortably-off politician who will denounce the weak and vulnerable and those who can’t answer back.

This is Woolas on immigration:

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has attacked lawyers and charities working on behalf of asylum seekers, accusing them of undermining the law and ‘playing the system’. In an interview with the Guardian, Woolas described the legal professionals and NGO workers as ‘an industry’, and said most asylum seekers were not fleeing persecution but were economic migrants.

Are we really back to the old 1990s binary thinking of ‘asylum seekers’ versus ‘economic migrants’? Perhaps Woolas hasn’t considered that economic migrants are good for the market. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, so far economic migration has:

a) pushed up economic growth, allowing the Treasury to revise its projections of future performance upwards by a quarter of a percent,

b) reduced labour costs, thereby helping to keep a lid on the inflation rate,

c) had no appreciable impact on the employment prospects of British workers – migrant workers have, for the most part, been filling gaps in the UK labour market rather than displacing British workers because they’re doing the jobs that British workers either don’t want or don’t have the skills to do, and

d) had no negative impact on the public finances. In fact migrant workers are net contributors to both the British economy and to the public purse. They pay their taxes, like everyone else. They contribute to the local economy in the area they live, by spending some of their earnings in local shops and on renting accommodation – and, of course, to the profitability of their employer. And they take less out the system than UK workers, because they have fewer rights in terms of access to welfare benefits, social housing and some other public services and have much less need of those services because, in general, they have fewer dependants and also tend to younger and therefore less likely to require the services of the NHS than Britain’s ageing population.

As Unity (from whose site the report can be read) has it, we’re in a win-win situation.

Woolas denies an affinity with Enoch Powell, claiming that ‘Enoch Powell was trying to divide this country. I’m trying to heal this country by allowing us to have a mature debate on immigration.’ Well, no one’s against debating immigration – but I think that Enoch had his own ideas of what national unity would look like.

But Woolas does concede that there are some genuine asylum seekers:

He recounted how another asylum seeker visited his constituency office in Oldham: ‘One lady showed me the scars on her thighs from where the soldiers had raped her, so I know,’ said Woolas, ‘but I cannot take a decision on that lady’s behalf if I am fogged by cases that are misusing the law.’

Oh, but Phil, don’t be taken in – that woman could have scarred her own legs to take advantage of Britain’s bloated welfare system.

In one case, Woolas said, an asylum seeker had won the right to stay after going through six layers of appeal. ‘That person has no right to be in this country but I’m sure that there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest.’

Why would someone want to get into this country so badly that they would appeal six times? Hmmm…

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the appeals process was a vital safety net for asylum seekers who are ‘criminalised’ on arriving in Britain. ‘Having your asylum claim rejected does not make you an economic migrant. For some nationalities, such as Eritreans and Somalis, almost half of refused asylum seekers have their cases upheld on appeal. These are people who would be in danger of persecution such as murder, torture or rape if sent back to the repressive regimes they are fleeing.’

Come back, Liam Byrne: all is forgiven.

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John Rees to be removed from SWP Central Committee

November 27, 2008 at 2:47 am (crap, SWP, voltairespriest, wankers)

Save the Goatee!Oooh, scandal. Well how do we feel about this one then kids? I for one feel that it’s just another scandalous denigration of ugly blokes with beards, which takes Sheriff of Nottingham impersonators further away from the acceptance and recognition that they so crave. Show some love for a goatee, you shameful Swoppies! A man who must have to go through a painstaking process of hours’ duration every morning in order to simultaneously maintain that Alan Rickman “Prince of Thieves” immaculate facial hair (see photographic model) and be able to recite exactly the same speech dozens of times a year deserves some support, I say!

Comrade Rees, rest assured that you have the unequivocal support of Shiraz Socialist in your struggle against the dinosaurian Harmanites in your party. I feel sure that with your proven Midas touch and peerless political skills, you and those who have the courage to stand with you in your hour of need will inevitably prevail. More power to yer elbow!

We are all John Rees!

Free The Goatee One!

h/t – Mod

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Farzad Kamangar, Teacher, Trade Unionist, Kurd

November 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm (Human rights, Iran, KB72, Rosie B, unions)

This is being posted around the blogosphere.

Farzad Kamangar is a Kurdish teacher and activist who was arrested in August 2006 by the Iranian regime. There is breaking news that after fifteen months of torture and no fair trial he has been taken from his cell and is to be executed in the next few hours.

Farzad’s crime was that he “belonged to the Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan and to other activist associations. He wrote for the review Royan, the review of Education department of Kamiyaran and for newspapers of local Human Rights associations”, although the Iranian government prefers to describe this as “endangering national security”.

Whilst Education International has a list of things you can do to push for a fair trial if we can’t prevent his execution then those longer term efforts will be in vain. I know it’s not much but I’d like to encourage you to send an email to the Iranian President to let him know that the outside world is watching and that Farzad’s “crimes” of being a Kurd and a trade unionist do not justify his execution.

Please write to dr-ahmadinejad@president.ir when you read this.

Sample email;

Dear President Ahmadinejad,

Having learned today that teacher trade unionist Farzad Kamangar faces hanging in the next few hours, I call upon you to immediately commute his death sentence and have his case re-examined through a fair trial.

Sincerely,

Actions like this are only small things – but sometimes they can make a difference.

More information here.

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BindelBollocks

November 25, 2008 at 10:04 pm (Feminism, sex workers, voltairespriest)

Only Rights Will Stop The Wrongs!This is just a short post by way of a debate with my little left-footer chum Red Maria, who has a post here imploring people advocating views which approximate those of many sex workers’ self-advocacy groups and professional workers in the helping services to stop “bullying” commentator and nationally profiled journalist Julie Bindel by disagreeing with her support for Jacqui Smith’s retrograde and counter-productive new rulings on sex work. I’ve made comments on Maria’s blog already about what a betrayal of the liberationist ideals of self-definition and self-representation I believe Bindel’s stances represent. What’s more, I think this reveals a genuine issue with the sort of politics that Bindel and some other feminists (they do not represent, incidentally, all feminist commentary on this question) have revealed by their stances on the question of sex workers.

Since when precisely do “radical” or “progressive” political activists of any kind seek not only to make truth claims about what oppressed groups should do, but also about who they are? I’ve seldom seen such essentialising comments about any oppressed group as there have been from people supporting the Government’s position in the debate about how best to help sex workers. Sex workers are cast into the role of 19th-Century figures – assuming of course that we ignore the Lady Chainmakers’ Strike and countless other incidences of self-emancipation which do not fulfil the victim narrative – oppressed by a brutal male world around them which is the sole root of their problems. If that world could be pushed back or made to realise that it is “bad” and therefore control its animal instincts, then the sex industry would disappear and these women would go on to live happy and full lives, presumably thanking their wise Rad-Fem sisters for having told them what was right along the way. I simplify and exaggerate, but not much.

The reality of the situation is of course much more complex. There are multiple reasons why women and men get involved in the sex industry and no amount of high-handed blame games (which are in any case proxies for other over-arching ideological battles) will resolve it. Indeed in the case of sex workers, the bizarre quasi-Victorian moralising spouted forth by the likes of Bindel will surely only serve to make the situation worse, as I have argued in a previous post.

But what, exactly is with the essentialising statements from Bindel. When she isn’t effectively accusing the GMB’s ground-breaking unionising programmes for sex workers (and de facto genuinely admirable figures such as Ana Lopez the International Union of Sex Workers) of legitimising pimping, Bindel also argues that women who were born as men (ie transgendered people) are not real women. This position is simply shameful, marginalising and belittling as it does one of the most vulnerable groups of people on the planet. Once again as well, she finds herself with some interesting right wing bedfellows; doubtless when he was taking time out from making bigoted statements about feminists and gay people being responsible for 9/11, the Reverend Jerry Falwell would have been more than happy to sign off on that particular stance of this “champion of the oppressed”.

You see, I think it comes down to that world-view again. It’s all about a Manichaean battle between men and women, which overrides questions of class, of race, even of gender and sexuality unless they fall within that convenient dichotomy. It’s an understandable view from some perspectives but it is crude and it is fundamentally false. In short it’s BindelBollocks. Sadly, she’s not the only person making pronunciations about complex issues on the basis of a crudified worldview, but I suspect she is one such.

She’d just be so much more convincing as a voice of the victims if she could manage to sound less like a Rad-Fem Savonarola on questions like these.

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Byas’d opinion

November 25, 2008 at 12:11 am (blogging, blogosphere, jazz, Jim D)

Looking at the stats and inside info regarding readers of this blog (as I can do, as a contributor), I’ve noticed that someone calling him/herself Byas’d Opinion has frequently looked in and linked to our stuff about jazz over the years. I presume his/her nom de plume is a reference to the great, underrated tenor sax player Don Byas (1912-1972), of whom Brian Priestly wrote (Jazz: the Rough Guide):

“Although derived ultimately from Hawkins, Byas’s style was more involved harmonically, a fact attributable to the direct influence of Art Tatum. Johnny Griffin has commented: ‘I used to say Don was the Tatum of the saxophone…He was using his harmonic solutions.’ In this respect he could justifiably claim to have had a decisive influence on Parker; and, while his on-the-beat- accentuation was shunned by Parker, it came back with a vengeance in the work of the Coltrane school. His huge tone could sometimes sound unwieldy at fast tempos, but it was particularly sumptuous on the ballads which were the source of his his post-war popularity, first in the US and then in Europe.”

So here, compadre, is the great man himself, at the Cannes Jazz Festival in 1958, playing not a “sumptuous ballad”, but Perdido with trumpeter Teddy Buckner and some very good Europeans (especially the trombonist):

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Saudi hunger strikers: why the silence?

November 24, 2008 at 12:05 am (Civil liberties, democracy, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, thuggery)

From fleshisgrass

I’m re-reading Arthur Koestler’s Scum of the Earth at the moment. It’s autobiographical reportage and reflections on his time as a political prisoner in France during World War 2. His accounts of the night terrors of his fellow detainees prompt this post.

“Each of us carried a weight in his memory to put in the Past scale of the balance and lift the Present scale. Yankel carried the weight of his two pogroms and the prison in Lublyana, where people were made to talk by introducing rubber tubes into their nostrils and pouring water through them; Mario carried the weight of his nine years of prison in Italy, including torture by electric shock during the preliminary investigation; Tamas, the Hungarian poet, had his three years of hard labour in Szeged – to quote only my three immediate neighbours in Hutment number 34 in Le Vernet. The fourth one, myself, had his hundred days under sentence of death in Seville.

Most of us had our periodical nightmares, dreams of falling once more into the hands of our persecutors, regularly recurring repetitions of the rubber tubes, the electric shocks, the death patio in Seville. Those amongst us who had no personal experience of torture replaced it by the fear of it. They had more acute, obsessive fear of the O.V.R.A and the Gestapo than those who had actually passed through their hands.” (p94)

He says of his Italian former-Communist friend Mario, whom he left in the appalling conditions of forced labour at Le Vernet shortly before the French turned it over to the Gestapo:

“I could never argue against that particular quiet smile of Mario’s; it made me feel futile and childish although he was younger than I. I knew it had taken nine years of imprisonment to form that smile – three years fermenting in solitary confinement and a further six years to become ripe and mellow while he shared twelve square yards of space with comrades. He had been nineteen when the cell door closed behind him – and twenty-eight when it opened again two years ago. This kind of experience either crushes a man or produces something very rare and perfect – Mario belonged to the latter category.” (p99)

See The Hub on the recent Saudi hunger strike to raise awareness of the Saudi human rights activists who have been detained without trial, several in solitary confinement for months. They went on 48 hour hunger strike earlier this month. Below is background and what has happened in the past week:

First a quick digression to say that the Hub – the media channel of human rights org WITNESS – is an impressive site as long as you keep in mind that mapping more human rights abuses for the US than the Democratic Republic of Congo doesn’t mean that the DRC is a better place to live, rights-wise. Imbalance and disproportionality dogs all participatory projects – in this case it’s probably explained by the fact that many human rights activists are from democracies and they – quite rightly – want to keep their own house in order. It kind of goes with the territory that the more restrictive the authorities in a country, the harder it may be to bear witness to human rights abuses. Taking that on board the untarnished records of Algeria and Iran don’t look quite so good. So basically don’t use the Google map mashup to judge concentration of abuse – it won’t tell you that.

So it’s important not to offer blind support to just anybody who is touted as a human rights activist. Some people and organisations adopt the human rights mantle to sow repression and hate. For example, we have the Islamic Human Rights Commission whose values are exemplified by the following (David T):

“What astonishes me is that the IHRC is regarded as a serious organisation, whose views on muslim issues should be listened to. It should certainly not be regarded as a Human Rights body. This is, after all, the group which shortlisted – as Islamophobe of the Year 2006

“King Mohammed VI of Morocco For his ’so called reforms’ aimed at removing Islam from the the Moroccan people.”.

The reforms in question were the prohibition of polygamy, and the legislation which made it easier for women to divorce their husbands. This the the IHRC’s definition of “Islamophobia”. This is the IHRC’s notion of “Human Rights”.

But shrugging and ignoring threatened human rights activists because we don’t have full reliable information about them risks depriving the people who need it most of international solidarity. The fundamental question should always be not who are they, but what do they want. And to look to trusted sources like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, and cross reference those with participatory sites such as The Hub (which has a conspicuous disclaimer acknowledging they can’t vouch for the veracity of the reports the host, but which has the potential to reach the parts that official NGOs can’t). End of digression.

The Saudi detainees on behalf of whom the hunger strike was observed are all political prisoners – academics, lawyers, writers, jailed for their opinions. Amnesty summarises how nine of them came to be arrested:

“The men are prisoners of conscience detained for their advocacy of peaceful political change and the protection and promotion of human rights, and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

 

All of those named above, except for Dr Matrouk al-Faleh, were arrested in the cities of Jeddah and Madinah on 03 February 2007 and are held in Dhahban prison in western Saudi Arabia.

 

 

These eight men were targeted because they had issued a petition calling for political reform and discussed the idea of establishing a human rights organization and challenging the impunity enjoyed by the Ministry of Interior’s arresting authorities. The Ministry of Interior, on the other hand, issued a statement claiming the detainees had been arrested because they were collecting money to supportterrorism.

 

 

Dr Matrouk al-Faleh was arrested in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, on 19 May 2008. He is held without charge in al-Ha’ir prison for political detainees in Riyadh. He has not been permitted access to a lawyer since his arrest and on occasions has been refused family visits. He is also reported to be denied access to medical attention.”

Human Rights Watch background - overlapping but going by the names, slightly different – I’m not sure how many campaigns are going on:

“In March 2004, Saudi authorities arrested al-Lahim, Ali al-Dumaini, Matrook al-Faleh, Abdullah al-Hamid, and eight other activists for having signed and circulated petitions calling for reform. Al-Lahim, who was released without charge, became the lead defense lawyer for the trial against al-Dumaini, al-Hamid, and al-Faleh, which started in August 2004. In November 2004, the authorities rearrested al-Lahim after he stated on Al Jazeera satellite television that he believed his clients to be innocent. A court in May 2005 sentenced al-Dumaini, al-Hamid, and al-Faleh to nine, seven, and six years in prison, respectively(http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/16/saudia10955.htm). Al-Lahim remained in solitary confinement in al-Ha’ir political prison until King Abdullah pardoned and released all four just days after acceding to the throne in August 2005. The other activists arrested in March 2004 also remain banned from foreign travel.

Al-Lahim quickly returned to human rights legal advocacy, defending two teachers in court against charges of blasphemy introduced by their colleagues and students who disapproved of their modern, unorthodox teaching methods. King Abdullah pardoned both teachers.

Al-Lahim was the first lawyer to bring a criminal case against Saudi Arabia’s religious police in a court of law. In 2005, he represented a woman, Umm Faisal, in a case against the religious police for wrongful deprivation of liberty. A court ruled that the religious police are “not to be held accountable.”

Religious policemen had stopped Faisal’s car, forced her driver out, and drove Faisal and her daughter at high speed through Riyadh before crashing the car, taking away the women’s mobile phones, locking them inside the car, and fleeing on foot. Al-Lahim is now representing Faisal in her lawsuit against the religious police for damages in that case in a civil court.

In 2007, al-Lahim also represented the family of Salman al-Huraisi in appealing a court’s acquittal of two religious policemen who faced charges of beating al-Huraisi to death in May 2007. The appeal is pending.

Al-Lahim came to prominence in Saudi Arabia and the wider region when he represented the “Girl of Qatif” in her appeal of a sentence to 90 lashes for having in 2006 illegally “mingled” with an unrelated man in a car, before a gang of seven men set upon her and the man and raped them both. After al-Lahim spoke out about the injustice of punishing the victim (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/28/saudia17433.htm), the appeals court increased her sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and confiscated his law license (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/16/saudia17363.htm).

Al-Lahim stood firmly in support of the woman while senior clerics, judges, and the Ministry of Justice besmirched the young woman’s reputation and others called him a “traitor to the country.” In December 2007, King Abdullah set aside the sentences of the woman and man. “

The prisoners, as listed on the Facebook site:

  1. Professor Matrook H. Al-Faleh, political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, detained by security forces in May 19, 2008.
  2. Attorney Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi, former judge and human-right advocate, detained in February 2, 2007.
  3. Attorney Dr. Mousa Mohammed Al-Qarni, former university professor and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  4. Professor Abdulrahman Abdullah Al-Shomairy, former professor of education and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  5. Dr. Abdulaziz Suliman Al-Khereiji, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  6. Saifaldeen Faisal Al-Sherif, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  7. Fahd Alskaree Al-Qurashi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  8. Abdulrahman Bin Sadiq, Human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  9. Dr. Saud Mohammed Al-Hashemi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  10. Ali Khosifan Al-Qarni, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  11. Mansour Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist, detained in December 12, 2007.

Their defence teams who observed the hunger strike:

  1. Ayman Mohammad Al-Rashed, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966505288354
  2. Saud Ahmed Al-Degaither, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966559201964
  3. Professor Abdulkareem Yousef Al-Khadher, College of Islamic Jurisprudence, Qassim University.
    mobil# +966503331113
  4. Dr. Abdulrahman Hamed Al-Hamed, professor of Islamic economics.
    mobile# +966503774446
  5. Abdullah Mohammad Al-Zahrani, human-right activist.
  6. Abdulmohsin Ali Al-Ayashi, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966553644636
  7. Fahd Abdulaziz Al-Oraini, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966502566678 email: fahadalorani@gmail.com
  8. Fowzan Mohsin Al-Harbi, Human-right activist.
    mobile# +966501916774 email: fowzanm@gmail.com
  9. Dr. Mohammad Fahd Al-Qahtani, college professor and TV show host.
    mobile# +966555464345 email: moh.alqahtani@gmail.com
  10. Mohana Mohammed Al-Faleh, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966505388205
  11. Nasser Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist.
  12. Hashim Abdullah Al-Refai, writer and activist.
  13. Waleed Sami Abu Alkhair, writer and activist.
    mobile# +966567761788 email: abualkair@gmail.com

Others are listed too, 65 in total. These people are unbelievable courageous to stick their necks out in that authoritarian regime.  They could all end up in prison and worse. It is a very rare act of protest and it mustn’t go to waste. This is why it is important that the Saudi government understands that if they do they will not be forgotten. Amnesty (scroll to the bottom of the following link) lists the addresses of the relevant officials to appeal to by post or fax.

What did they strike for? Most immediately, the rights due their clients according to Saudi’s own Criminal Procedure Law and Arrest and Detention Law, specifically habeas corpus (an instrument to safeguard individual rights against detainment without trial by their state; an independent court decides whether a custodian has the right to hold the detainee; pivotal, in James Somersett’s case, to abolishing slavery in Britain), access to legal representation, periods in solitary confinement to be restricted to 60 days, visits, and a fair trial. More on Saudi law and these detainees from Emudeer on the participatory site Now Public (I wish he’d link to the odd source). Indirectly they were hunger striking for the right to continue their work on constitutional reform – the right for Saudis to gather and express themselves freely.

What happened further to the strike?

Nothing on Amnesty since 11th. Nothing on the Facebook site Recent News since Oct 25 – the Wall is alive but there’s no news.

The last thing I found was The Hub reporting blowback from the action:

From the Saudi organisers on 20th:

“As in example of the latest witch hunts against human right activists is the cancellation of Dr.Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani’s TV talk show (Economic Issues) in Al-Eqtisadiah Business Channel (a Pan-Arab satellite channel) in response to the interviews he had with the international media outlets during the hunger strike. The episodes of blocking blogs that belong to human right activists continue, the authority’s latest casualty is Mr. Esam Mudeer’s Blog which has been blocked because of his involvements in publicizing, publishing, following and participating in the hunger strike. Unfortunately, these suppressive steps become the inevitable fates for those Saudi activists who intend to uplift and call for human rights.

The activists’ responses to the government’s suppressive campaigns have been very remarkable. The crackdown on venues for expressions has drawn activists closer to one another, and attracts new waves of sympathizers who will eventually join the human right activities. In particular, young followers are fascinated by the culture of human rights and justice due to the fact that it is built around virtues of peace and civic means, their supports to that culture are clear examples of the solidarity and dedication they showed to such a noble cause.”

Why are things so quiet?

As mentioned above Amnesty gives addresses of Saudi officials. I have a hunch they’re not so amenable to grass roots action so I will be contacting my MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

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‘Tis Autumn, by Paris

November 23, 2008 at 6:54 pm (jazz, Jim D)

He sang with Parker and Mingus. Very few people remembered him. Those that did thought he was dead. But he wasn’t: at least not until 2004, by which time film-maker and jazz fan Raymond De Felitta had finally tracked him down, and learning that the singer was terminally ill, filmed his last gigs within weeks of his death. This is truly incredible (though he takes a few bars to get in tune):

Jackie Paris: admired by Peggy, Ella, Sarah…and even Sinatra. Thank goodness De Felitta has given us this remembrance.

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Stories of resistance

November 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm (anti-fascism, cults, Human rights, immigration, Islam, islamism, Max Dunbar, reaction, religion, secularism)

report3Recently the Centre for Social Cohesion released a report, Victims of Intimidation: Freedom of Speech within Europe’s Muslim Communities (pdf) a series of profiles of Muslim and ex-Muslim politicians, writers and artists. All of them have been persecuted and threatened by religious fundamentalists.

The researchers don’t judge or theorise: they take a step back and let the activists do the talking. You may not agree with what these activists have to say, you may think the Centre for Social Cohesion is a Zionist/neocon front but it can’t be denied that the stories of the men and women profiled are studies in courage and dissidence.

Mohammed Anwar Sheikh was an Indian immigrant to Britain whose critical work on Islam earned the inevitable death threats from conservative clerics. As a young man he was a devout Muslim and in 1947 he killed three Sikhs during the riots that accompanied Partition. The murders would haunt him his whole life:

If it had not been for my fanaticism, engendered by the Islamic traditions those people might have been alive even today. And I might not have felt the guilt which I still do.

Before his death, living as a writer in Britain, he said this:

Britain is my home and unless you do something about Muslim fundamentalism there is going to be a huge fifth column in our midst. England must wake up. You [the British] spent hundreds of years getting Christian fundamentalism out of this country. Don’t let fundamentalism come back.

Now I’ve never believed in the ‘Eurabia’ conspiracy theory (which depends on the racist myth that all Muslims are fundamentalist by nature) but I do agree with Sheikh that Britain has not learned the lessons from its dark centuries of medieval Christianity. We’re faced by a resurgent fundamentalism: not just Christian or Islamic but ecumenical.

It reminded me of this post from Iranian immigrant Azarmehr, writing about the Channel 4 Undercover Mosque programme:

To think that secular pro-democracy activists, like Arash, who stood up to theocracy in Iran are locked up in Britain’s detention centres waiting for deportation, while Saudi sponsored preachers of hate like Um-Saleem and others, shown in the documentary, are free to enter this country and spread their gospel of hate and destruction is beyond the comprehension of any sane person.

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