Shahnaz Nazli, a teacher at a girls’ school in the Northwestern Khyber district of Pakistan, was murdered earlier this week. Officially, the motorbike-riding killers are “unknown” but they are clearly the same brand of gynaephobic fascist bastards who tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. The killing was quite widely covered by the likes of CNN, but I could find nothing in the Guardian or on the main liberal-leftist websites.
Can it be that sections of the Western liberal-left have come to simply accept that this kind of thing is inevitable in certain cultures? Or that sections of the so-called “left” even harbour a degree of sympathy with the Taliban as some kind of “resistance” movement?
Maybe Nick Cohen has a point.
And this book is essential reading.
On February 19 more than 100 trade unionists were arrested in co-ordinated raids by the authorities in 28 provinces across Turkey.
The workers are members of Kesk, a federation of public-sector unions, and include many members of the teachers’ union Egitim Sen.
The arrests come in the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack on the US embassy in Ankara on February 1, carried out by a self-styled “leftist” terrorist group.
This move is a transparent attempt by the Turkish government to link legitimate, democratic trade unions with an act of terrorism.
Sadly mass arrests of trade unionists are not uncommon in Turkey.
It is a favourite tactic of intimidation periodically used by the Turkish state.
Last June 72 other members of Kesk were lifted in a similar fashion and will go on trial in April.
Last February nine of Kesk’s women members were arrested after the union announced its programme of activities for International Women’s Day.
LabourStart has launched an online campaign for the release of these workers, in partnership with the ITUC and two global union federations.
The first 24 hours saw, on average, one message going off every 12 seconds.
We need to keep this up as one part of a strategy to free these workers.
We are asking anyone in the union movement, particularly public sector unions, to forward this on to their email lists and spread the word as widely as possible.
There can be no doubt who wins Person Of The Year as far as I’m concerned: Malala Yousafza , anti-fascist heroine whose courageous stand for human rights against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) nearly cost her her life.
A Pakistani writer, Saroop Ijaz, put the feelings of all civilised people into words:
There are those who are trying to inject complexity into the debate and some of them unwittingly are becoming apologists for this mindset of murder and blowing up girls’ schools. Yet, there remains very little room for complexity. It can either be Malala’s Pakistan or TTP’s Pakistan, it cannot be both. This should not be a choice. A Pakistan without Malala and her other fellow girls fighting for education will not be worth living in. I know binaries are supposed to be lazy and not nuanced enough, however, a 14-year-old child is shot in the head for “promoting secularism”. There is no provision for nuance. One has to set one’s face against this and summon all resources to fight. The debate on drone attacks can and should continue. However it has no bearing on our responsibility to fight these medievalists. They should be fought and eliminated — not negotiated with or mollycoddled. Firstly, negotiation is not possible. Secondly, and more importantly, negotiation with them is immoral. An attack on our children is as direct and frontal as an assault can be. This is not a question of politics; it has become a question of survival. The fight should begin by naming the enemy loud and clear, i.e., the TTP and their ideology of hate.
It is of some consolation to see the army chief condemning the assassination attempt on Malala. However, mere condemnation is not enough. The Pakistan Army has to stop the policy of considering the terrorist, any faction or network as “strategic assets”. The mindset has to be fought and fought as a whole and conclusively. It is now a choice between our children and these “strategic assets”. The Pakistan Army has, the over the past three decades, contributed to this ideology of jihad. For this reason, it also has the additional responsibility of erasing this misdeed and fighting these monsters.
George Orwell, writing about a young soldier of the Spanish War, wrote: “But the thing I saw in your face, No Power can disinherit; No Bomb that ever burst; Shatters the Crystal Spirit.” To understand Orwell’s words, have a look at the face of that child and the sparkle and resolve in her eyes. We are not Malala, but we should be, we can try. Let us hope Malala lives long enough to see her Pakistan.
Read the full article here
This is a short commentary on the development of the London Met/UKBA situation written by Workers’ Liberty Student, Vice-President of the Liverpool Guild of Students 2011-12 and NCAFC National Committee member Bob Sutton. It has been produced in order to provoke discussion about how to best resist the deportations that seem likely to result from what has happened at London Metropolitan University. It is not a finished blueprint for a campaign, but an attempt to raise important questions, suggestions and contribute to the debate.
This has been produced ahead of this weekend’s National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts activist training event at the School of Oriental and African Studies where student anti-cuts activists from across the country will be discussing issues across Higher Education. Due to the emergency situation at London Met a good chunk of the agenda – at 11.00 today and 10.30 tomorrow, has been given over to talk about it.
It has also been circulated widely amongst other activists in order to share ideas. If people in London are in a position to get to SOAS this weekend (nearest tube Russell Square) to contribute, they would be welcome.
Some preliminary thoughts on London Met
Myself and ULU President Daniel Cooper, along with other activists from the NCAFC, were at the silent protest outside Downing Street on Thursday morning.
While it is clearly important that there was a quick and visible response to the news from the night before, and the placards which sought to expose the hypocrisy of the government’s trumpeting of the Olympics, as an example of how Britain was a place which welcomed the world, were good, there was also cause for concern.
The demo had been called after a night in which the Executive of the London Met Students’ Union had been up half the night responding to individual students’ worried calls an emails, at a meeting at ten that morning between LMSU and the National Union of Students.
LMSU were reportedly warned against any action which might risk ‘external’ activists ‘hijacking’ the campaign – echoing the line the NUS leadership had taken since LM’s status had been suspended and permanent termination was looming.
It is probably worth saying at this point, that Workers’ Liberty, and many others across the student and workers’ movements are almost certainly amongst the kind of people the national leadership are referring to: Socialists, anti-racists, anti-deportation campaigners and class-struggle activists who would see the attack on London Metropolitan’s international students as part of the governments wider attack on black and migrant people, and any idea of public education.
If the NUS are worried about people not wanting to limit the campaign to lobbying and appealing to the idea that international students are ‘good immigrants’ who work hard and make shedloads of money for the British economy – they are right. We are for the right of everyone to come and stay here; to work, to study, to seek a better life or escape persecution. Those who come here to learn should not have to face being subject to surveillance or charged exorbitant fees.
From speaking to the LM students, it transpired that the University had sent out no formal correspondence to them. However, when they had tried to contact, University administration had told them they could not register. All they offered was help in finding alternatives studying at other universities – in effect washing their hands of them.
As it stands, students will be left isolated as individuals seeking to find themselves an alternative university [albeit with some help from whatever the provided assistance ends up looking like]. I had thought that there would be many who would simply not find places elsewhere, although I may be wrong about this – other Unis may well be prepared to sign up more cash-cows!
Even if the London Met ‘refugees’ do find places elsewhere, that will still mean a university has had to expel its entire non-EU student body and faces near or total collapse: students lives massively disrupted and those staff and students left behind almost certainly facing further course cuts, closures and job losses.
There is the further issue that, for many international students, their funding from their home countries is dependant on their studies not being interrupted or falling below a consistent level of high grades. Again this is something it would be good to get a better picture of, but it may well be the case that sponsors will not pay for tuition fees at a different university – let alone any increased living costs.
How to build a campaign?
There was a demonstration yesterday morning. I don’t have a clear picture of how it went. What is certainly the case is that after the demonstration on Thursday, NUS international Officer —– held a meeting with the LMSU President and one of the Vice-Presidents which NUS International Committee member Arianna Tassinari and, for that matter, anyone else who’d been at the demonstration, was excluded.
The single most important factor that will determine whether we win or not, will be that the students affected, the some 2,600 International students at London Met, are able to discuss openly and frankly amongst each other and their supporters about how the campaign is run. I don’t know yet how LMSU plan to get these people, or at least as many as possible, in one room at one time to have that discussion, but it needs to happen quickly. It needs to be run by the students themselves rather than decided in small meetings of the sabbatical team and the NUS officers and staff.
Something which I also think is massively important is that as many students as possible are on campus when term starts. Universities often make cuts, redundancies and other unpopular decisions during the summer in the hope that no-one will a) notice or b) be able to do anything about it. One of the reasons they will have done this now is that students are on their own spread across the world and separated from the ‘home’ students, students from other universities, staff and all the people who might be able to stop this from happening if they stood together. Everyone has the legal right to remain in the UK until the end of October when the 60-day period after the removal of trusted status (29/9). As many people as possible should be in and around the campus as much as possible, building links and building the campaign to stop the deportations before that point.
What do we want?
Again, the demands of the campaign will need to be something that develops by those who are fighting. But there are a few things which I think are important or worth thinking about:
Obviously, the central thing we want is for the UKBA reverse its decision to terminate trusted status and grant all London Met students the right to be here. One thing which I think might be worth bearing in mind, is whether to call such a thing an ‘Amnesty’. Amnesty suggests a one-off, an exception. I don’t think everyone who has used the term has meant it in this way, but I think we need to talk about in a way which does not cut against the fact that we think everyone should be allowed to stay here.
London Metropolitan University
The fact that London Met management has so easily abrogated any responsibility towards its students is disgusting. They should still be treated as London Met students. It is the University that has taken the decision to deny students access to their lectures, the library etc. Obviously they have said that they have no choice and that they will not be legally allowed to register these ‘illegal’ students officially. But it is their choice to police these things, to fail to do anything to try and get around it, and to tell people there is no point coming back to London. Any self-respecting educator would see it as their job to defend their students rather than accept without a fight. The idea that it was by being ‘too lax’ on foreign students which got them into this mess, and that the way to get out of it is by being even more draconian is absolutely perverse. Immigration laws in Britain have been getting more and more repressive for over 20 years. The way to stop them is not to bend over backwards for them!
The UCU – the lecturers Trade Union, has long-standing policy that academics should refuse to comply with the registering of attendance which. In recent years many Universities, including London Met, have installed hi-tech electronic scanners which take control of monitoring out of the hands of ordinary staff and therefore much more difficult to oppose. Despite this, we should have a serious discussion about how lecturers can best help get students back into lecture theatres – to talk to their classmates as much as to continue their studies.
I have already talked about how crap a solution getting students into other universities is. However I don’t think that means we should not necessarily demand other unis, or Universities UK, the organisation of all University heads, commit unconditionally to taking on all London Met students. The reason this could be important is that it gives people around the country a focus in campaigning at their own institutions. How we do this without accepting the pulling of the plug on London Met is something to be thrashed out.
A demonstration that is widely publicised and encourages the local community, staff, students from other campuses and other activists is essential to maintain the momentum and the widespread outrage this has caused. If people do not here about a campaign they can get involved in they will assume it is dead.
This should be used to get people into a meeting to build the campaign.
Dan Cooper is keen to build a meeting at ULU around resisting immigration controls – this has been an issue at London Universities for some time. At SOAS, where we are meeting this weekend, in 2009 the UKBA in collaboration with the University management and the cleaning agency ISS stormed the building with riot police and deported several cleaning workers. There was an occupation of the Vice-Chancellors office. At points in London there have been powerful anti-deportation campaigns which have had some success at stopping removals and we need to discuss those lessons. There isn’t a date pinned down yet but we should have one soon.
Bob Sutton 1/9/12
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
As long as they are following a legitimate course of study, have the appropriate qualifications (including a good command of English of course) and have no criminal propensities – international students should be welcomed with open arms to the UK. As well as bringing important income to universities, they also bring different perspectives and experiences which enrich the student experience for all.
The Coalition government has sometimes seemed determined to do whatever it can to make life difficult for universities, and its grudging attitude towards foreign students is just one example of this trend:
However it is not as yet clear, to me, what to make of the recent news that London Metropolitan University is no longer to be allowed to sponsor students from outside the UK.
If concerns over issues such as students taking on too much paid work or not having an appropriate level of English were raised six months ago and have not yet been addressed – perhaps the decision is not unreasonable, although it is clearly going to cause huge stress to many students who have done nothing wrong. However the fact that this story was leaked to the Sunday Times, before London Met itself was notified, reinforces suspicions that supporting the university, and its many students, is not a top priority for the government. However, that does not mean that London Met is beyond criticism, by any means.
Here’s a statement from London Met Unison:
From the British Humanist Association:
Free School due to open in September 2012 will ‘teach creation as a scientific theory’
A Free School due to open in September 2012 intends to ‘teach creation as a scientific theory’, the British Humanist Association (BHA) can reveal. Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, currently a private all-through school but approved last October by the Department for Education to open as a Free School from this September, has a ‘Creation Policy’ on its website in which they ‘affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally.’
Grindon Hall’s Creation Policy starts off by explaining that:
We will affirm the fact that “God created the world and everything in it”. We will affirm that he did so “ex nihilo” – out of nothing.
We believe that God, as sovereign Lord of the universe, is capable of creating the world in a few 24-hour days, or over a period of millions of years.
It goes on to state that the school does ‘not share the rigid creationist’s insistence on a literalistic interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis’ and that ‘We are therefore very happy to believe that God could have created the world in six days. But we do not feel that it is helpful to affirm it as an unarguable fact.’
However, it is clear that the school genuinely believes that there is genuine scientific controversy around whether or not God created the Universe and the world. The policy then explains:
we vigorously challenge the unscientific certainty often claimed by scientists surrounding the so-called “Big Bang” and origins generally.
We believe that no scientific theory provides – or ever will provide – a satisfactory explanation of origins, i.e. why the world appeared, and how nothing became something in the first place.
We will teach evolution as an established scientific principle, as far as it goes.
We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.
We will affirm that to believe in God’s creation of the world is an entirely respectable position scientifically and rationally.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Grindon Hall Christian School is a classic example of the so-called “teach the controversy” approach, often used by American creationist groups to get creationism taught in schools. Creationists do not argue that evolution should be taught; they simply argue that there is genuine scientific debate over the origins of the Universe and the Earth, and that therefore creationism should be taught alongside evolution.
‘The issue with the “teach the controversy” approach is that there is no scientific controversy over evolution and creationism: the scientific consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution.
‘Michael Gove said that he was “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact”. So it is startling to see two Free Schools that intend to teach creationism in RE and one that intends to teach creationism as a valid scientific theory. Either the scrutiny to which bids are being subjected is inadequate, or the government’s policy statements are untrue.’
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.
Yesterday afternoon the BHA posted a facility through which people could write to their MPs or Michael Gove. By today, over 1,000 emails had been sent: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/what-you-can-do-to-help/creationist-free-schools
Read the previous press release on Exemplar Academy, Creationists approved to open Free School in 2013, 13 July 2012: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1076
In 2011, the BHA came together with 30 leading scientists and educators and four other organisations to launch ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ Read the statement from scientists including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, and organisations including the BHA, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Ekklesia: http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/
View the BHA-backed Government e-petition on the same subject: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1617
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on countering creationism: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/countering-creationism
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
NB: From The Guardian: “A third of the free schools approved by the government to open from September next year are faith schools, including one turned down by ministers last year because of concerns that it would teach creationism.” Read the rest here.
H-t: Stroppy Bird
Guest post from Pink Prosecco
When visiting a friend who teaches at a university, I found myself looking at a printout of a strange pie chart. It looked at first glance like something produced by a cult targeting the terminally insecure, offering various paths to self-improvement and enlightenment. However it turned out to be a diagram presenting the skill sets required by postgraduate researchers.
An idle google brought up a whole website full of further documentation about this framework, produced by Vitae. It seems that there are 63 skills, each of which can be further subdivided into five levels of attainment. I was reminded of this (begins 12:30 minutes in).
Some people will leap on any opportunity to avoid what they should be doing in favour of peripheral preliminaries – and it’s very easy to imagine a certain type of student striving for perfection in all these areas, going up the levels like a Dungeon and a Dragons character – rather than actually producing a thesis.
Given the hike in student fees and the loss of the EMA – the production of this obsessively elaborate scheme and its reams of associated documentation didn’t seem like the best use of public money. My friend seemed to be drowning in grant applications, marking, publishing deadlines, research audits, and countless other still more thankless tasks. Bureaucrats have plenty of time to produce superfluous schemes, new hoops for everyone to jump through – but lecturers seem to have no time to fight back. But perhaps they – and their students – don’t want to? I’m surprised to find no critical or simply satirical comment on this – not because I think what it’s saying and promoting is particularly objectionable – simply because it seems so cumbersome and unnecessary.
Guest post from Pink Prosecco:-
Two important libraries are under threat due to the problems currently faced by London Metropolitan University. Both the Women’s Library and the Trades Union Congress Library are currently under the custodial care of LMU, and may have to massively reduce public access to their archives, or even close completely. Do sign the petition to the Secretary of State for Education if you want to save these libraries for students of Labour History and Women’s History.
Link to more information on the Trades Union Congress Library
Take a minute to help save the life of an Iranian trade unionist facing the death penalty.
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.