Equality

When is a genocide a genocide?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/09/2017 - 6:02pm in

(Or, why is the world allowing the Rohingya to be
slaughtered?) There is a genocide happening before our eyes. If only we can
bear to look.

lead Rohingya Muslim refugees wait for relief on the Bangladesh side of the border after fleeing violence in western Myanmar, Sept. 11, 2017. NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association. All rights reserved.My heart has broken. Many times, in many ways over the past twenty
days. It has been splintered, hammered, shattered, parched, starved and numbed
beyond recognition.

As a human rights advocate who has worked on the Rohingya
issue for about ten years, I have experienced my fair share of despair in the
face of the many atrocities this community has endured. Through my work, I have
become familiar with an ever-growing list of violations against them, which
have increasingly convinced me that the Rohingya – widely recognised as the
most persecuted minority in the world – are the victims of crimes against
humanity and genocide. Not a conclusion I arrived at lightly, but one which I
have grappled
with
over time.

Even so, nothing prepared me for the last twenty days.

I lack the vocabulary to process, let alone describe what has
been happening in Rakhine state. Such extreme expressions of hatred, bigotry
and violence are beyond my comprehension. The thought of being at the receiving
end, beyond my imagination.

What words do I know to capture the agony of a two-year-old
being burnt alive, her parents forced to watch. Or a teenager gang-raped by a
horde of men, just after her father has been shot point blank? How can I even begin
to describe the sheer fatigue of a man forced to walk for a week, gun-shot
wounded, without any food, while carrying his grandmother? Or the all-encompassing
loss of a woman – home burnt, family killed, dignity torn to shreds?

Can my imagination be wild enough to understand the courage
of a mother who gives birth to her baby while fleeing blood thirsty genocidaires,
or the desperation of another whose starving, traumatised and fatigued body
cannot produce breastmilk for her infants? What about the nine-year-old child
who overnight became the sole protector of her one-year old brother, and had to
carry him across borders to safety? Or the disabled man who crawled on all
fours for days to escape his persecutors? Or the woman, who within touching
distance of the relative safety of Bangladesh, treads on a landmine planted by
the Burmese army? What words in what language can describe the sense of
betrayal that must be felt by the countless IDPs who are starving to death
because international humanitarian aid no longer reaches them?

Possibly over 400,000 refugees in twenty days. 20,000 a day.
Almost a thousand an hour. Each of them scarred, starving, traumatised, hunted,
degraded, persecuted, fatigued. Each of them denied their identity, branded
liars, systematically persecuted, deemed too ugly to be raped by the Burmese
state, its propaganda machine and murderous mobs.

And not for the first time.

The Rohingya have been beaten down, detested, dehumanised,
destroyed. Over and over and over and over again.

There is a genocide happening before our eyes. If only we
can bear to look.

The Rohingya genocide

The Rohingya genocide didn’t begin on 25 August 2017, or
September 2016, or even June 2012. It has been steadily going about its
business as the world went about its own, for many decades.

Under international law (the UN
Genocide Convention
and the Rome
Statute
), genocide is defined as killing, causing serious bodily or mental
harm, inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical
destruction, imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring
children of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intention of
destroying the group in whole or in part. 

For over 40
years
, the Burmese state has been engaged in wholescale persecution
of the Rohingya; denial and deprivation of their nationality; denial of their
history and identity; restrictions on marriage and children; forced
malnutrition and forced labour; restrictions on education, healthcare and
movement; arbitrary arrests and killings; all with the cumulative intent of
denying their participation in society, driving them out and destroying them.
This systemic
and structured persecution
has been interspersed with waves of acute
violence carried out by state and non-state actors alike – in 1978, 1991, 2012,
2015; and has been fuelled by the most vitriolic propaganda campaign which has
brainwashed a country into reviling and fearing the most vulnerable and
downtrodden among them.

For too long, the calls of human rights actors have been
ignored, dismissed, muted. For too long, other labels have been used so as not
to offend. ‘Inter-communal violence’ cried the world in 2012, when the state
apparatus lined up with Rakhine extremists to kill, plunder, drive out and displace
hundreds of thousands of Rohingya: ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ whispered
the activists who saw a deathly 40-year-old pattern. ‘Inter-communal
violence’ cried the world in 2012…: ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’
whispered the activists who saw a deathly 40-year-old pattern.

Genocide never happens in isolation, nor is it inevitable.
It is denied, enabled, enforced; through lies, complicity, counter-narratives,
propaganda, turning a blind eye, weighing human life against economic and
geopolitical gain. For genocide to be possible, the right environment has to be
carefully cultivated over many years. For it to actually be carried out, the
rest of the world has to be too divided, conflicted, selfish or indecisive to –
even for a short moment in time – come together to protect those under fire. In
the Rohingya genocide, we see all these ingredients and more.

Statelessness

The arbitrary denial and deprivation of Rohingya’s Burmese
nationality has played a pivotal role in how they are perceived
and treated
. Rohingya have faced targeted exclusion and persecution at
least since the 1970s; but it was the 1982 citizenship law which entrenched
their statelessness. The Rohingya were denied citizenship because they are an
unwanted minority. Once made stateless, this was used to reinforce the dominant
narrative that they are not from Burma, that they are illegal immigrants from
Bangladesh. Their statelessness was drawn on to deny their identity (they are
Bengali, there are no Rohingya) and their history. It became the justification
for the suffocating restrictions imposed on them. It mattered not, that there
was no international law or historical basis for any of this. The statelessness of the Rohingya, their resultant treatment
and the surrounding discourse, paved the way for what was to follow.

The jihadist
terrorist narrative

Myanmar justifies its brutalisation of the Rohingya, by
pointing to the ‘jihadist’, ‘terrorist’ ARSA. It is a convenient narrative that
feeds off a wider global islamophobia. The state – and particularly the
military – is intent on painting the Rohingya as violent extremists for two
reasons. First, to attribute state crimes against the Rohingya to the Rohingya
themselves. Second, to garner domestic and international support for the terror
that the military is unleashing.

The amateurish propaganda footage of the state, of clearly
non-Rohingya torch bearers setting houses alight has been dwarfed by the
testimony from among the over 400,000 refugees who have fled to Bangladesh, as
well as the few reports that have been possible for independent reporters
within Rakhine state. There is no doubt that the ARSA are a violent group, though
their size and capacity appears to be grossly exaggerated. And while violence
is never the answer, it is worth bearing in mind that members of many minority
groups, including others in Myanmar, have resorted to armed resistance in the
face of much less than has been meted out to the Rohingya over the decades. It
is also important to note that ARSA’s public demands have been for equal rights
and protection of the Rohingya, an independent UN investigation and
accountability for perpetrators. A convenient
narrative that feeds off a wider global islamophobia…

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is increasingly criticised for her position
on the Rohingya. However, many of these criticisms still flatter. She is
implored to break her silence. She is called upon to exercise her moral
authority to ease the Rohingya pain. She is sympathised with for being in an
impossible position. She is given more latitude than a slowly turning oil
tanker. Her pedestal may not be as shiny or tall as it used to be, but world
powers are still propping it up. She shields their inaction, as she shields
army action. The ever-diminishing sense is that things cannot be so bad if she
has not spoken out.

There is however, another way of perceiving her. She has not
been silent. She has used her voice to stoke hatred against the Rohingya, to
ridicule the testimonies of survivors of genocide. To accuse humanitarian
actors of colluding with terrorists. To justify the denial of the Rohingya
identity. she is only silent in her unwillingness to speak the name ‘Rohingya’.
And so, she no longer has any moral authority to speak of. She is a failed
leader, who is watching her country burn, her people turn against their
neighbours, her military perpetrate the most unspeakable and atrocious crimes
and who has taken a calculated and cynical decision to stand with the
oppressors. World
powers are still propping it up. She shields their inaction, as she shields
army action.

The military

These oppressors are first and foremost, the Burmese
military, which is led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The testimonies of
victims have consistently and repeatedly identified the military as the primary
perpetrators. Rakhine mobs have also played a crucial, violent role. But the
Burmese military, which still controls the country and which has set itself the
objective of finishing its unfinished business from 1942 is the all-powerful
hand that is orchestrating the unspeakable violence. Pushing the Rohingya out
is not only ideological, it is also economic. Plans for a special
economic zone in Maungdaw
are already in the public domain. Ownership of
burnt land reverts to the state. Natural
gas pipelines and the extractive industries are lucrative beyond belief
. The
military, stands to profit immensely from its crime against humanity. 

Fake news

In the absence of a strong presence of media or independent
monitors, accusations of fake news are commonplace. The propaganda front is as
important as ever, to whet the appetite for genocide and to deflect and deface
any critical attention. The same state which denied UN investigators entry and
does not allow journalists free access to the affected area, is seeking to
benefit from the resultant near impossibility to verify testimonies.

All news that exposes its hand is deemed to be fake. The state
is also producing its own fake news, forcing those under its control to enact
burnings, so the Rohingya can be blamed for committing mass harakiri. It is
terrifying that despite the sheer weight of evidence, countless Burmese choose
to believe the state version, and even international actors do not disregard it
completely. And so, legitimacy is being given to the lies that perpetuate
genocide
.

The international
community

This crisis has yet again highlighted the failures of the UN
to rise above partisanship, bureaucracy and ineffectiveness, despite the
consistent and increasingly louder warnings and pleas of its Human Rights
Office.

The international community appears finally, slowly, to be being
jostled out of its slumber of complicity and indifference. Too slow to prevent
the unimaginable suffering of so many, and it is still unclear if any decisive
action will be taken. Pushing the Rohingya out is not only ideological, it is
also economic… The military, stands to profit immensely from its crime
against humanity.

It is unthinkable that the Burmese military continues to
benefit from arms trade and training from many of the world’s super powers.
That even after the genocide began, they were mooted as a viable option to don
the blue helmets of UN Peacekeeping forces.

The genocide of the Rohingya has proven without doubt and at
great cost, that the world was too hasty to lift sanctions on Myanmar and
congratulate it for its democratisation gains, while lining up to do trade with
the mineral rich country. Such are the times we live in though, that such proof
alone isn’t enough to guarantee a stronger, more principled international
response.

'Islami Andolan Bangladesh' march to Myanmar Embassy to demand, Stop genocide on Rohingya in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on September 13, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.

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Critical voices in critical times: Fanon, race & politics - an interview with Mireille Fanon-Mendès France (part 1 of 2)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/09/2017 - 6:03pm in

Mireille
Fanon-Mendès France, activist, scholar, and daughter of Frantz Fanon, talks about the enduring relevance of his ideas and passions in
contemporary political life.

The Fanon artwork by Gaber at http://gaberism.net/ portrait of Mireille Fanon-Mendes France by Linda Herrera.

The work and life of
Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), whose incisive and visionary work on
revolution, liberation, race, emancipation, and decolonization,
continues to resonate in these “interesting” times. Who better to
talk about the enduring relevance of Fanon’s ideas and passions in
contemporary political life then his formidable daughter, Mireille
Fanon-Mendès France. In addition to being an authority on Fanon,
Fanon-Mendès France is a scholar of decolonialism, UN expert on
people of African descent, legal advisor in a law firm in France, and
human rights activist
on Palestine

and other places where the right to self-determination is in
question. She also works on issues of land tenure in countries where
people were enslaved and indigenous people annihilated after
colonization. She is a member of the Frantz
Fanon Foundation
.
Her most recent article is, “Charlottesville,
un rassemblement, une question allant bien au-delà des Etats Unis.

We met in the
Luxemburg Garden in Paris on
June 9, 2017 for
a conversation about Fanon, populism, race, migration, policing, new
social movements, and education. Above all, we pondered if and how
the kind of emancipatory movements that rose with such force half a
century ago during the anti-colonial and civil rights movements,
could have a chance in an era of policed and neoliberal
globalization.

This interview and
accompanying videos is in two parts.

 

 

 

How is the work
and writing of Frantz Fanon relevant today?

What
Fanon began to do as an activist, psychiatrist, and journalist, was
to find the way to free the people from alienation, colonial
alienation and, in the case of Fanon, social and mental alienation.
He was not alone. We have to underline, he was not the only one doing
that. In the 1960s there was a movement. We can think of [Patrice]
Lumumba (1925-1961), and also Steve Biko (1946-1977). But he was the
only psychiatrist linking his professional practice to his activism
and his thinking. We can speak of Fanon as
thought in action, this is one of his unique features.

[These figures] tried
to free the people of alienation, but they did not succeed [in
completing] the process of liberation. What they got was the
liberation of people, but not their emancipation.  We have to
think now about how to get the emancipation of people in order to
have a free Being, non-alienated, emancipated, and non-racialized,
non-stigmatized for reasons of skin color, gender, sex, class,
religion, or whatever the reason. And that’s why the work
introduced by Fanon is still relevant. Because in fact, his work is
not done. He thought about the first steps of this process of
emancipation. He was thinking about issues like women, and role of
the veil among Muslim women. He was thinking about what does it mean
to be a Being? The question of universality. Is there a real
universality or a “colonial universality”? Is it a “decolonial”
universality, or colonial? Until now, there is only colonial, not a
decolonial universality. We need now to find answers to all these
questions he raised.  

We [have to be
cognizant] that we are asking these questions from within a
financialized and militarized system that took shape after World War
II. This system tends to [divide humans] into “Beings,” and
“Non-Beings.” This universality we speak of denotes a colonial
perception of the world. In fact, it has become clear that the
capitalist world was built on a series of lies which are being
constantly repeated. They become truths through the international
community and its multilateral institutions, and also by a large part
of civil society.

There has been a
continuous wave of uprisings and popular movements around the world
since the Arab Uprisings of 2010/2011. Do you think we are in an era
of emancipatory movements, or are they something else?

In most of our
societies, people are ready to carry on and work for social
transformation, to break the divide of Beings / Non-Beings [but they
don’t know the way]. The financialization of the world
unfortunately even negatively impacts the way people live and think.
I think now people want to see some change, but I don’t think they
want to have political change. They want to see change for [the sake
of] change, but not for a strong project for social transformation.
[That’s
why I think] people don’t
care about social transformation. I really think they only care about
some small change at the political level. For example, to be able to
watch someone else on the television, [different from] the formal
politicians we have in France, the US, and other countries. We
are no longer in a society that fundamentally values human
emancipation. We are in a society of illusion, built from the past
but with more cynicism.

It
is in this narrowing space, in this time of decline, that populist
movements emerge. It’s very dangerous because these [populists] are
not in favor of the people. They are in favor of a certain part of
the society, and particularly in favor of the Being. Their concern is
with rich people, the powerful people, and how to keep the power
between them. Their objective is not to share the power, to see for
example, a participatory democracy, the application of fundamental
rights or environmental [issues]. They are not concerned about these
things. They give us just some carrots to eat. But just some very
small carrots to say we are happy, and it’s okay. But really, they
are just concerned with how they can keep the money and use the
system to work more in their favor, for their own profit.

You
can take the last US and French elections as examples. A lot of
people voted for Trump. He is a very dangerous person, and absolutely
unpolitical. He knows nothing about fundamental rights, not even
about human rights. Really, he does not know anything. He is very
focused on himself and his family. And in France there’s Macron.
He’s just a technocrat. He does not know about politics either. I
think the people who elected Trump and Macron made a huge mistake.
And for me, I am now hopeless. I don’t see how we can transform
this kind of situation. It will take a long time.

This
type of election has an impact on the mental health of a society. The
members of society feel themselves dispossessed of their intelligence
and of their right to think. The
question becomes, how we can find a space where thought can be
reconstructed and people allowed to think? In the meantime, we are in
a depressed state and somewhat hopeless.

In France, many
people supported Emmanuel Macron for president even if they opposed
his policies. They considered the far right National Front party,
Marine
Le Pen
,
more dangerous.

 I disagree
totally with all these people who were saying we should vote for
Macron because we don’t want Marine Le Pen.  If we decide to
vote for Macron in order to avoid having Le Pen as president, it
could be a solution. But then we [would have needed] to negotiate
with Macron, to say, “We are not in favor of your policies. We
refuse your policies. But we know we need to be behind you in order
to avoid Marine Le Pen.” But without any negotiation, the people
gave Macron the carte
blanche
.
And now Macron considers that the people support him. And he’s very
happy with that. He’s doing political games. Politics now is like
an internet game, [trying to have stories go viral]. 

I’m
sure he’s absolutely not aware about African descent here or what
it means to be racialized in this country where there is this stupid
slogan, “vivre
ensemble

(live together). That means absolutely nothing. They have individual
projects for their own interests, not for the good of the people. We
really shouldn’t wait for anything [positive] from them. Presidents
like Trump, Macron, and many others around the world, are very
destructive.

At the same time
as the rise of “anti-political” populists, we also have the rise
of more left-leaning figures like Bernie Sanders in the US and
Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France. Do you think they represent a
different kind of political project with possible emancipatory
elements?

For
me, Mélenchon is absolutely not at the same level as Bernie Sanders.
I don’t know Bernie Sanders very well, beyond what I read, but if I
make some comparison with Mélenchon, I can say Mélenchon for me is
not an alternative.
I do not see in him any real change of approach, or something
substantially different than what we have had in government for
decades. He’s
a nationalist, a chauvinist, and sometimes expresses curious
understandings of Islam and the Arab world. And even if during his
presidential campaign he took some lessons to appear politer and
[more politically correct], in fact, he has a background of verbal
violence. By this I mean he is
above all oriented by a “white” perception of the world, shaped
by European Modernity.

He’s
not concerned with [suffering] people and he does not know anything
about Africa. He knows of course about politics in South America, but
not about the largest part of the population, those Non-Beings in
South America. And here I’m speaking about people of African
descent. He knows nothing about the continent of Africa and nothing
about Asia, about India. He repeats things like, “China is the
enemy.” No, China is not the enemy. We have to deal with China. We
have to work with China to build a decolonial and social approach,
and not an approach based on hierarchy and domination.  For me,
this moment is really like a nightmare and every morning I ask
myself, “Oh, how is the world today? Is it the end?” Not in terms
of armed war, but in terms of war against the human being.

How has France
remained intertwined with countries of the African cont
inent?

The African continent
is still
under
colonization. We just have to note that it’s a new form of
colonization. It is under colonization not only by former colonizing
countries, but by the IMF, the World Bank, European Bank, European
commission, the European Union. Europe pays the salaries of the
functionaries of the African Union and imposes bilateral agreements
that are unfair and wrong.

One of the reasons
[France] is a rich country, though we have a lot of debt, is because
of the money given by the African states to manage their
own money
.
[This money is] coming from Africa. … And it’s terrible. 
Francophone states in Africa are obliged to pay a kind of tax from
colonial times. If they don’t, they are expelled from the CFA
[franc currency] system.Nobody thinks about that. And there is not
one current president from these 14 African countries ready to say to
France, “Ok, stop now. Enough is enough.” And really, they have
to do that if they want to work for their populations. Because by
accepting [these conditions], they accept that France transnationals
and private funds can plunder Africa’s natural resources without
any redistribution. You can see how transnational capital succeeds
with the help of [African] states to plunder the natural resources
and steal the lands. You see this in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda,
throughout southern Africa. It’s terrible to see how the population
is expelled from their lands in the interest of just a few. This
plundering partly explains the high level of poverty. Europe, the
“white world,” needs Africa’s and South America’s natural
resources to live. It needs to continue to do what it wants and to
exploit the world for its own profit. 

We need a strong
African continent in order to balance political international
relations and to have a real third force. We need a third force. We
cannot leave these [destructive] Occidental countries to do what they
want, to bring war everywhere. Because they put all people in danger
and they push the world to its fall.

Mireille Fanon-Mendes France, 2017 Picture by Linda Herrera.Do
you have ideas about how to build a “third force”?

It’s
always difficult because if there is something on Africa, it’s not
coming from Africans. It’s coming always from abroad, from the
“experts.” If you go to Africa you will find lots of people who
can speak about the future of Africa. They have projects. They have
political ideas. And they’re absolutely able to think about their
future. But the former colonizing countries do not want to see such
people. They don’t care. More or less they are considered as
enemies. And related to that, one of Frantz Fanon’s concerns in
the beginning of 1960s, the main objective and obsession for him, was
how to build African Unity without the former colonizer. Otherwise,
if you maintain the former colonizer in one way or another, you are
still under colonization. And it is the reality now. This continent
is still under colonization.

How can returning
to the work of Fanon help us to tackle some of these contemporary
issues in Africa and beyond?

Fanon is helping us
because he forces us to not renounce the project of emancipation. He
forces us to go further and continue his work. In fact, when you
read, The
Wretched of the Earth

(1961) or L'an
V de la révolution algérienne

(1959) (A
Dying Colonialism
),
there is some thinking on the evolution of the coming world, but via
the African continent. He anticipated that if the African continent
did not build unity, their liberation movements would fail. And this
is exactly where we are [today]. And that’s a problem also because
the African continent is not the continent we need to balance
international relations.

But
now, I don’t know how we can proceed. Really, I don’t know. It’s
a difficult situation. Here in France we are under a State of
Emergency. It means our private and public liberties are really
reduced and anyone can be arrested. For example, if someone here
passes and understands we are speaking about emancipation or
whatever, and he misunderstands something, he can go to the police.
We could be denounced. And we could be arrested under the fiche
S

[as a threat to national security.] And with no access to a lawyer
for 72 hours.

And
when there is a demonstration, like the COP21, (global
climate conference in Paris
in
November-December 2015), a lot of people [roughly 200]  were
arrested, without any reason. Without any tangible proof, just based
on denouncement, suspicion. And people are afraid. The consequence
now is that people are afraid to be engaged. It takes a lot more
courage now to be engaged. That wasn’t the case before, it was much
easier. Today to be active requires
a double commitment: a commitment to solidarity, but also a
commitment to be willing to give up your freedom for the collective
good.

There
is also an anxiety that permeates this elitist and financialized
world order, that of losing one's work or of never finding work to
begin with. And this is especially true for young people. Most
of the people are living with anxiety. And in this way, the dominant
class succeeds to win and to impose the kind of life they want, to
control the people.

I’m
thinking, related to Fanon, what Fanon said about colonization and
how it affects the colonized people. Now, we are in the same
situation but not because of colonization, but because of
globalization. They succeed to maintain in all of us a high level of
anxiety, of fear. For example, walking in the public space we don’t
know if we will have an attack, or whatever. And then there’s the
instability with work, the difficulty to get good healthcare, a
quality education for your children, whatever. At every level of life
you are under anxiety. Because with globalization, if you are out of
the globalization system, you may
be considered or feared to be out,
totally out of life. And for people, the most important thing is to
be maintained inside this globalization system. It’s functioning
exactly like the colonized system. I think really, we have to think
like that—what Fanon said about colonization, how it could be
applied to the globalization system. Really very intelligent
(laughs). It’s just because we have an interview [I came up with
this idea]. I did not think about this before that.

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Critical voices in critical times: the partition of India – lessons learned, an interview with Rajmohan Gandhi

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Another case of energy colonialism: Tunisia’s Tunur solar project

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/09/2017 - 4:00pm in

The unrestricted flow of cheap natural resources from
the global
south
to the rich industrialized north,
maintains a profoundly unjust international division of labour.

When
we hear about news of renewable energy projects, one must be forgiven
for thinking that it’s all beautiful and shiny. But scratching
a little bit
beneath the surface of this
language of "cleanliness," "shininess" and
"carbon emission cuts"
will reveal another picture, a picture of big capital robbing land
and resource rights from the global
south
in order to safeguard the
energy
security of the global
north.

TuNur
solar project in Tunisia is a joint venture between Nur Energy, a
British-based solar developer and a group of Maltese and Tunisian
investors in the oil and gas sector. In July, the company has filed
a request for authorisation

from the Tunisian Ministry of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energy for
an explicitly export-oriented solar project with
a capacity of 4.5 GW.

Like
Desertec
and the Ouarzazate
solar plant

in Morocco, this new project is a renewable energy grab or what has
been termed ‘Green Grabbing’: the appropriation of land and
resources for purportedly environmental ends. It involves massive
land grabs (10,000 hectares) as well as extensive water usage to
clean and cool the panels in arid and semi-arid regions to export
energy to the UK and Europe. Given that Tunisia depends on its
neighbour Algeria for its energy needs and faces increasingly
frequent power cuts, it would be outrageous and unjust to prioritise
exports over the urgent needs of local people.

Forced
liberalisations and scramble for resources

It
is in a regional context of forced trade liberalisation as well as a
scramble for influence and energy resources that we should understand
such mega-projects. These projects are mainly designed (usually by
Europeans themselves) to satisfy Europe's need for diversifying
energy sources away from Russia as well as contributing to its carbon
reduction targets. And what better region to achieve these aims than
North Africa and West Asia (NAWA): an area well endowed with natural
resources, from fossil fuels to sun and wind.

The
Sahara is usually described as a vast empty land, sparsely populated
and in need of ‘development’. This pretext provides a golden
opportunity for Europe to continue its extravagant consumerism and
profligate energy consumption at the expense of the global south.
Language recasting southern regions and countries as objects of
development is reminiscent of the “civilizing
mission”

used
to
justify mass dispossession throughout the colonial period, as well as
policies designed to control the populations and their environments.

It
seems that a familiar ‘colonial’ scheme is being rolled in front
of our eyes: the unrestricted flow of cheap natural resources from
the global
south
to the rich industrialized north,
maintaining a profoundly unjust international division of labour.
Interestingly, the map of the energy routes to Europe coincides with
the same pathways for migration from the African continent. Fortress
Europe builds walls and fences to prevent human beings from reaching
its shores for sanctuary but it accepts no barriers to resource
grabs.

British
and EU foreign policy aims to lock North African energy resources
(including renewable ones)
into the European grid and is heavily influenced by arms and
corporate interests. The
priority has always been
EU
"energy security" and interests,
usually in
a blatant disregard for the will of the people

in the region.

Plunder
hidden beneath "sustainability" promises

Projects
like TuNur are promoted as solutions to the ecological and climate
crises but in truth they are hollow, tokenistic techno-fixes. They
promise to address these problems without fundamental change,
maintaining the status quo and the contradictions of the global
system that created these crises in the first place.

Big
engineering-focused ‘solutions’ like Desertec,
Tunur and Ouarzazate
tend to present climate change as a shared problem with no
political or socio-economic context. This perspective hides the
historical responsibilities of the industrialised north,
the
problems of the capitalist energy model
,
and the different
vulnerabilities

between countries of the north
and the south.
North Africa is one of the regions hardest hit by global warming,
with water supplies in the area being particularly affected. The
spread of solar energy initiatives that further plunder these
increasingly-scarce water resources would be a great injustice. It
is often said that when it comes to the climate crisis, “we are all
in it together”, but there are many ways in which this is simply
not the case. Black and brown populations in the global south are the
first and hardest hit. Furthermore, this obscures the role of
neo-colonialism and imperialist domination and hides the injustices
they represent, from land grabs and displacements to a systematic
denial of people’s access to natural resources and energy of their
own countries.

We
should be very critical of such mega-projects and their
self-proclaimed good intentions, which often sugar-coat brutal
exploitation and sheer robbery. We must always ask the
relevant-as-ever questions: who owns what? Who does what? Who
gets what? Who wins and who loses? And whose interests are being
served?

Justice
and sovereignty

Answering
these questions through a distributive
justice lens
,
while taking account of the colonial and neo-colonial legacies
alongside issues of race, class and gender reveals an array of
parallels between “green projects” and the more obviously
destructive extractive industries they are supposed to replace: they
deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of
resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic
and foreign predatory elites and private companies.

The
Arab uprisings that started in Tunisia in 2010 were about bread,
freedom, social justice and national dignity. Projects like TuNur
stand in stark contradiction with these demands. To implement just
and truly green projects, which provide for the future of people and
the
planet,
we must take nature back from the clutches of big capital and recast
the debate around justice, popular sovereignty and the collective
good. The priority must be energy autonomy for local communities and
a radical democracy that takes precedence over the logic of a market
that sees our land and our livelihoods as commodities to be sold to
the highest bidder.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Jemna in Tunisia: an inspiring land struggle in North Africa

Morocco: green for the rich, grey for the poor

Kerkennah: on the frontline of resistance to the fossil fuel industry in Tunisia

Country or region: 

Tunisia

Topics: 

Economics

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Another case of energy colonialism: Tunisia’s Tunur solar project

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/09/2017 - 4:00pm in

The unrestricted flow of cheap natural resources from
the global
south
to the rich industrialized north,
maintains a profoundly unjust international division of labour.

When
we hear about news of renewable energy projects, one must be forgiven
for thinking that it’s all beautiful and shiny. But scratching
a little bit
beneath the surface of this
language of "cleanliness," "shininess" and
"carbon emission cuts"
will reveal another picture, a picture of big capital robbing land
and resource rights from the global
south
in order to safeguard the
energy
security of the global
north.

TuNur
solar project in Tunisia is a joint venture between Nur Energy, a
British-based solar developer and a group of Maltese and Tunisian
investors in the oil and gas sector. In July, the company has filed
a request for authorisation

from the Tunisian Ministry of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energy for
an explicitly export-oriented solar project with
a capacity of 4.5 GW.

Like
Desertec
and the Ouarzazate
solar plant

in Morocco, this new project is a renewable energy grab or what has
been termed ‘Green Grabbing’: the appropriation of land and
resources for purportedly environmental ends. It involves massive
land grabs (10,000 hectares) as well as extensive water usage to
clean and cool the panels in arid and semi-arid regions to export
energy to the UK and Europe. Given that Tunisia depends on its
neighbour Algeria for its energy needs and faces increasingly
frequent power cuts, it would be outrageous and unjust to prioritise
exports over the urgent needs of local people.

Forced
liberalisations and scramble for resources

It
is in a regional context of forced trade liberalisation as well as a
scramble for influence and energy resources that we should understand
such mega-projects. These projects are mainly designed (usually by
Europeans themselves) to satisfy Europe's need for diversifying
energy sources away from Russia as well as contributing to its carbon
reduction targets. And what better region to achieve these aims than
North Africa and West Asia (NAWA): an area well endowed with natural
resources, from fossil fuels to sun and wind.

The
Sahara is usually described as a vast empty land, sparsely populated
and in need of ‘development’. This pretext provides a golden
opportunity for Europe to continue its extravagant consumerism and
profligate energy consumption at the expense of the global south.
Language recasting southern regions and countries as objects of
development is reminiscent of the “civilizing
mission”

used
to
justify mass dispossession throughout the colonial period, as well as
policies designed to control the populations and their environments.

It
seems that a familiar ‘colonial’ scheme is being rolled in front
of our eyes: the unrestricted flow of cheap natural resources from
the global
south
to the rich industrialized north,
maintaining a profoundly unjust international division of labour.
Interestingly, the map of the energy routes to Europe coincides with
the same pathways for migration from the African continent. Fortress
Europe builds walls and fences to prevent human beings from reaching
its shores for sanctuary but it accepts no barriers to resource
grabs.

British
and EU foreign policy aims to lock North African energy resources
(including renewable ones)
into the European grid and is heavily influenced by arms and
corporate interests. The
priority has always been
EU
"energy security" and interests,
usually in
a blatant disregard for the will of the people

in the region.

Plunder
hidden beneath "sustainability" promises

Projects
like TuNur are promoted as solutions to the ecological and climate
crises but in truth they are hollow, tokenistic techno-fixes. They
promise to address these problems without fundamental change,
maintaining the status quo and the contradictions of the global
system that created these crises in the first place.

Big
engineering-focused ‘solutions’ like Desertec,
Tunur and Ouarzazate
tend to present climate change as a shared problem with no
political or socio-economic context. This perspective hides the
historical responsibilities of the industrialised north,
the
problems of the capitalist energy model
,
and the different
vulnerabilities

between countries of the north
and the south.
North Africa is one of the regions hardest hit by global warming,
with water supplies in the area being particularly affected. The
spread of solar energy initiatives that further plunder these
increasingly-scarce water resources would be a great injustice. It
is often said that when it comes to the climate crisis, “we are all
in it together”, but there are many ways in which this is simply
not the case. Black and brown populations in the global south are the
first and hardest hit. Furthermore, this obscures the role of
neo-colonialism and imperialist domination and hides the injustices
they represent, from land grabs and displacements to a systematic
denial of people’s access to natural resources and energy of their
own countries.

We
should be very critical of such mega-projects and their
self-proclaimed good intentions, which often sugar-coat brutal
exploitation and sheer robbery. We must always ask the
relevant-as-ever questions: who owns what? Who does what? Who
gets what? Who wins and who loses? And whose interests are being
served?

Justice
and sovereignty

Answering
these questions through a distributive
justice lens
,
while taking account of the colonial and neo-colonial legacies
alongside issues of race, class and gender reveals an array of
parallels between “green projects” and the more obviously
destructive extractive industries they are supposed to replace: they
deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of
resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic
and foreign predatory elites and private companies.

The
Arab uprisings that started in Tunisia in 2010 were about bread,
freedom, social justice and national dignity. Projects like TuNur
stand in stark contradiction with these demands. To implement just
and truly green projects, which provide for the future of people and
the
planet,
we must take nature back from the clutches of big capital and recast
the debate around justice, popular sovereignty and the collective
good. The priority must be energy autonomy for local communities and
a radical democracy that takes precedence over the logic of a market
that sees our land and our livelihoods as commodities to be sold to
the highest bidder.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Jemna in Tunisia: an inspiring land struggle in North Africa

Morocco: green for the rich, grey for the poor

Kerkennah: on the frontline of resistance to the fossil fuel industry in Tunisia

Country or region: 

Tunisia

Topics: 

Economics

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Now in English, our eBook: The ecosystem of an open democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/09/2017 - 8:24pm in

<<The ecosystem of an open democracy>> is an eBook that we have co-published with apps4citizens in Barcelona, within the framework of our Political Experimentation section, which has been publishing online the articles we now compiled here.  Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí, promoter of apps4citizens, and Francesc Badia i Dalmases, director and editor of DemocraciaAbierta are the editors of the publication. Español

Since a few years, we are witnessing the emergence of relational power, of transversality, of participation. This is the enclave that gives meaning and protagonism to technopolitics, to the political experimentation and to the democratic transformation that we are experiencing. 

The following authors from Spain and Latin America have participated in the eBook "The ecosystem of an open democracy": Ana Lis RodríguezMònica GarrigaRicard EspeltEduard Martín-BorregónEdgar RoviraSabrina Díaz RatoPablo ColladaTomas DiezMara BalestriniValeria RighiThamy PogrebinschiMatías BianchiCristian LeonAntonella Perini y Bernardo Gutiérrez

The eBook is available for download in English and Spanish (and coming soon, Portuguese) here:

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

El ecosistema de la democracia abierta

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Now in English, our eBook: The ecosystem of an open democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/09/2017 - 8:24pm in

<<The ecosystem of an open democracy>> is an eBook that we have co-published with apps4citizens in Barcelona, within the framework of our Political Experimentation section, which has been publishing online the articles we now compiled here.  Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí, promoter of apps4citizens, and Francesc Badia i Dalmases, director and editor of DemocraciaAbierta are the editors of the publication. Español

Since a few years, we are witnessing the emergence of relational power, of transversality, of participation. This is the enclave that gives meaning and protagonism to technopolitics, to the political experimentation and to the democratic transformation that we are experiencing. 

The following authors from Spain and Latin America have participated in the eBook "The ecosystem of an open democracy": Ana Lis RodríguezMònica GarrigaRicard EspeltEduard Martín-BorregónEdgar RoviraSabrina Díaz RatoPablo ColladaTomas DiezMara BalestriniValeria RighiThamy PogrebinschiMatías BianchiCristian LeonAntonella Perini y Bernardo Gutiérrez

The eBook is available for download in English and Spanish (and coming soon, Portuguese) here:

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

El ecosistema de la democracia abierta

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Pink buses and race politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/09/2017 - 2:57am in

To ally campaigns for women’s rights with racism is to accept the very logic that, at its ideological core, feminism seeks to destroy.

Depo Photos/ABACA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Hundreds of women marched in Istanbul, Turkey, on 29 July 2017 to protest against violence and animosity they face from men demanding they dress more conservatively. Depo Photos/ABACA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.If
you see a pink bus pass you on the streets of Istanbul, don’t be surprised. These
are the furiously debated, female-only buses that have been touted as the
answer to harassment on public transportation in Istanbul, and are already in
circulation in cities such as Bursa and Şanlıurfa.

Admittedly,
the first time I was asked for my opinion about the concept I was torn. Having
experienced the relentless exhaustion and fear of harassment, being able to let
my guard down on public transportation did not sound bad at all. No, it would
not fix the problem, but then again, the idea that women must remain victims
offered up on a platter while we do nothing to solve it did not thrill me
either.

The
pink buses are not a new idea, despite the recent
uptick in debate about them. If the motivating logic was truly to offer women
an optional safer public space while simultaneously
addressing the systemic sexism and violence that make such spaces necessary, I
might be on board (pun intended).

But, like their counterparts in the US, both
conservative and liberal politicians in Turkey have a long history of couching
harmful political agendas within the rhetoric of protecting and supporting
women – the pink buses are no exception. They are little more than the physical
manifestation of the idea that the problem is not men’s behavior, but women’s
presence in public spaces. 

There
has been a massive online backlash against the pink buses, and most of it has
been heartening and necessary. However, one image that has become popular
on Twitter serves as a disturbing warning of the ease with which feminist
rhetoric can slide into problematic racial stereotypes.

The image, which is
comprised of two separate pictures, is ambiguous without its accompanying
caption. It appears to show in the top picture a man who is reading on a train while
sitting next to a row of women wearing shorts. In the bottom picture, several
men are seen casually glancing in the direction of a veiled and ‘modestly’
dressed woman as she walks past. The generally included caption (roughly
translated) clarifies what we are intended to take from this picture: “It’s not
how you dress your girls, it’s how you educate your boys.”

The
sentiment is one of the most fundamental tenets of feminist social thought. Asking
women to change their behavior to meet increasingly impossible standards while
men are raised, in a myriad of different ways, to believe that they have a
right to our bodies and that their violence holds no consequences, is dangerous
and unsustainable.

But the image presents a more complicated message than that.
We are expected to understand that the top picture represents good, pure,
appropriate sexuality, whereas the bottom represents bad, perverse, backward sexuality.
It is not accidental that the people, both men and women, in the top image are
clearly white, and those in the bottom are conspicuously racialized.

The
rendering of brown people - particularly those who are visibly recognizable as
Muslims - as perversely sexualized or as in some way prone towards ‘unnatural’ sexual
behavior is not new. It was widely accepted and used across the political
spectrum in the United States following the 11 September attacks
to justify invasion and torture while maintaining the American self-image as a
morally righteous power. The body of the citizen was pure, the body of the
terrorist perverse. 

In
the US, the history of sexualizing race (or racializing sexuality) has its
longstanding historical roots in the creation of the nation and of the concepts
of citizenship and belonging. Despite their very different histories, the
modern state of Turkey is characterized by similarly problematic understandings
of race and ‘whiteness’ (or here, ‘Turkishness’) as a means of assigning
privilege and citizenship.

It is not strange at all that the same racialized
sexual panic in the name of ‘protecting women’ that so often finds root in
American feminist politics is also present here. Muslim/men of color, so the
story goes, are raised wrong in such a way that it results in a backward sexuality
that threatens the good, progressive sexuality of the community – with women as
the first victims. 

In
sitting with this argument, it’s difficult not to see the problems with it.
White boys, secular men, political progressives without a hint of religiosity
in them also abuse, rape, and kill. And those who don’t often find more
insidious ways to assert their power. As a personal anecdote, a white,
economically privileged man who I knew considered himself to be a genteel liberal
shoved me into a wall and spat in my face when, in response to his bluntly
stated offer of sex in his car, I laughed.

As Bianet writer Çiçek Tahaoglu wrote on who commits gender-based violence, “It can be a man with no
employment or it can be a lawyer who kills his wife, so there's not a social
pattern of this. This problem is bigger than that.” 

Now,
with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the helm of a massive,
post-coup-attempt restructuring of both political and social life, reports of
violence against women have increased. In these times, violence
committed by the State against women is made invisible, and the degree to which
gender-based violence in society has increased or decreased is made
intentionally hard to ascertain. Politically, parties
and organizations across the spectrum often give lip service to ending such
violence, while simultaneously relying on its ongoing existence as a political
tool.

Both
religious and secular parties alike campaign on the promise that they alone
hold the key to setting women free, conveniently ignoring their own ongoing
histories of silencing, whitewashing, and directly enabling physical, verbal,
and economic violence against women (and plenty of others).

This is not to say
that there is no difference between the values and ideologies of different
parties, groups, or social organizations regarding women. In cases where
gender-based abuse has been committed within a particular group or community,
groups with leftist and/or progressive ideological leanings are generally more
likely to take such acts seriously and as deserving of punishment. Yet the
violence still happens, indicating a troubling difference between ideology and
reality.

When
a bizarre form of capitalist, neo-Ottoman authoritarianism is the political order
of the day, it is easy to simplify the problem of violence against women by
blaming it on those who fall outside of a narrow brand of secular citizenship –
the poor, people of color, and religious conservatives, to name a few. But this
type of willful blindness to the depth and scope of the problem, and to our own
roles in it, is ultimately a self-defeating and xenophobic tactic that can yield
no positive change.

The
problem is not dark-skinned men watching a woman walk past, and the answer is
not white men covering their eyes on a train. When we talk about raising ‘our
boys’ differently, we cannot afford to only be talking about brown boys. To
ally campaigns for women’s rights with racism is to accept the very logic that,
at its ideological core, feminism seeks to destroy. It is to say that what we
want is not a more livable world for all, but rather a small slice of the power
for ourselves. 

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Please stop saying that Turkey is gone!

The 'Burkini Battle': France’s capitulation to extremism

Opting out: why my decision to not vote has everything to do with the attacks at Atatürk Airport

Erdogan and Gülen: two sides of the same coin

The problem with the 'women of ISIL'

Country or region: 

Turkey

Topics: 

Civil society

Conflict

Culture

Democracy and government

Equality

Rights: 

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Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

Is Liberia's Sirleaf really standing up for women?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/09/2017 - 11:11pm in

President Sirleaf's promise to campaign for women candidates in Liberia's upcoming elections comes too little, too late.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Paris in 2012. Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Paris in 2012. Photo: Lemouton Stephane/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.In a public statement in August, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa's first woman
elected head of state – vowed to campaign actively for female candidates
running in presidential and legislative elections in October. While her
pronouncement may appear praiseworthy, it is too little, too late.

In this
year's high-stakes elections – the country's third since the end of a
devastating 14-year armed conflict – only 163 out of 1,026 (16%) approved
candidates are women, including one running for president in a crowded field of
over 20 men. This represents only a marginal increase since 2005 and 2011, when
women accounted for 14% (110/762) and 11% (104/909) of candidates,
respectively. 

During a recent meeting with 152 female contenders, Sirleaf lamented the
abysmally low number of women in elected office. In 2005 when she triumphed over
footballer-turned-politician George Weah in a duel for
the presidency, only 13 women were elected to the national legislature. That
number dropped to eight in 2011, when the president secured a second mandate to
lead Liberia. There is a strong
likelihood that fewer women will win seats come 10 October.

This is
as much Sirleaf's doing as it is a reflection of Liberia's acutely patriarchal
political system. In the past 12 years, she has done next to nothing to
position women favourably to win votes.

'In the past 12 years, she has done next to nothing to
position women favourably to win votes.'

In 2009,
when female politicians petitioned Sirleaf to support a woman in her party
during a by-election to replace a deceased female senator, she campaigned
instead for a man (the candidate Sirleaf supported eventually lost to a woman
from the opposition).

Though a
2014 elections law amendment encourages political parties to increase their
representation of women in leadership roles, Sirleaf's own Unity Party ranks
below smaller, less-prominent parties in fronting female candidates this year.

This is
in part due to Sirleaf's lukewarm response to a gender equity in politics bill
similar to the ones that propelled women in Rwanda,
Senegal and South Africa to high public
office. When in 2010 the Liberian women's legislative caucus sponsored
an act mandating that
women occupy at least 30% of political party leadership, with a trust fund
established to finance their electoral campaigns, Sirleaf did not actively
support the proposed law and it was never ratified.

When a less radical bill
allotting five seats for women in special legislative constituencies was
rejected as "unconstitutional" by largely male legislators this year,
Sirleaf remained conspicuously silent.

In
high-level political appointments, Sirleaf has also failed women. Although she
hired a few female technocrats for executive positions in previous years, only
four of her 21 cabinet officials are women, with the strategic ministries
of finance, public works, education and commerce led by relatively
inexperienced and underqualified men.

Despite
these glaring missteps, much has been touted about Sirleaf's crusade for
women's empowerment before and after assuming the presidency, with a Nobel Peace Prize win in
2011 serving as the ultimate stamp of approval.

Sirleaf in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2015. Sirleaf in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2015. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Sirleaf's
cheerleaders may have some, but not complete, cause to celebrate. Her
administration has built or renovated hundreds of markets across the country
for thousands of female informal traders called "market women" – the
Liberian president's largest voting constituency.

Sirleaf
has also instituted policies to protect women and girls from male aggression –
including the most comprehensive anti-rape law in Africa, with the establishment of a fast-track
special court to deal specifically with gender-based violence.

Despite
the existence of the court, however, there remain gaps in access to justice for
Liberian women and girls, including the lack of viable forensic facilities.
Liberian authorities' recent failure to swiftly investigate and prosecute the
alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl by a sitting member of the national
legislature is a clear example of the Sirleaf administration's inability
to address sexual violence.

Liberia's dual legal system – customary and
statutory – has also presented significant challenges in implementing the rape
law. Furthermore, a decade after the court was set up to expedite gender-based
violence cases, it remains in the capital, Monrovia, and inaccessible to most
women across the country.

'A decade after the court was set up to expedite gender-based
violence cases, it remains in the capital, Monrovia, and inaccessible to most
women across the country.'

Moreover,
the person nominated by Sirleaf in May and approved by the legislator to
head the court, Serena Garlawolu, has gone on record endorsing female genital mutilation
(FGM), saying the practice "is not a violation of anyone's rights culturally". Liberian
women's rights activists petitioned to criminalise the harmful procedure, but
the proposed ban was omitted from a recently passed Domestic Violence Act.

Femocracy

While
Sirleaf's record on the socioeconomic empowerment of women remains contested,
her record on enhancing the political stature of Liberian women is woefully
inadequate. Her brand of femocracy – a term coined
by Nigerian feminist scholar Amina Mama – has severely stifled women's
political participation.

Mama
makes an important distinction between feminism and femocracy, arguing that
while feminism attempts to shatter the political glass ceiling, femocracy
deliberately keeps it intact. Her 1995 preoccupation with African first ladies
as femocrats remains relevant now that Africa can boast of women presidents,
including Sirleaf and former Malawian head of state Joyce Banda

The
over-glorification of Sirleaf as a feminist icon is particularly troubling
since her 12-year presidency has actually served the interests of a small,
elite group of women and men in politics and thus upheld long-standing
patriarchal norms (pdf) in Liberia. This is
particularly evident in Sirleaf's defence of nepotism (she has appointed three
of her sons to top government positions), failure in fighting corruption and continuous recycling of mostly
male government officials.

Other development challenges which have
intersectional feminist linkages to women's abilities to participate fully in
politics at community and national levels have either been compromised or
ignored, including the right to education for young women and girls free of
sexual coercion and exploitation.

'The euphoria of electing Liberia's first female head of state – twice – has completely lost its lustre.'

Having
recently gone on record rejecting feminism as "extremism", Sirleaf
has publicly distanced herself from the very movement that got her elected in
the first place. In her 2005 campaign, Sirleaf aggressively evoked her gender
as an alternative to the previous throng of authoritarian and brutal male
leaders. Twelve years later, the euphoria of electing Liberia's first female
head of state – twice – has completely lost its lustre.

Sirleaf
and others like her have demonstrated that a woman's assumption of the highest
political office in a country does not inevitably result in gender equity. Her
legacy on women's political participation, in particular, is characterised by
an individualistic approach that betrays the hard-fought gains made
by women's rights movements
across the globe.

Though
the international media machinery continues to hoist Sirleaf up as the matron
of women's rights, she is far less deserving of this title. That Liberia
currently has no viable female presidential candidate is a glaring indictment
of her two terms in office.  

In a
recent presidential debate, four male candidates presented very concerning
responses to questions about how they would address gender-based violence in
Liberia. If the first female president in Africa was not able to resolve this
quagmire, we have little confidence that the bevy of men vying for the
presidency will succeed.

If the
current political landscape in Liberia is any indication of future trends, it
may well be a century before we elect a female (or male) head of state who is
truly committed to a feminist agenda.

* This commentary was
originally published in Al Jazeera English.

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The long road to gender equality in southeast Asia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/09/2017 - 7:00pm in

Singapore may soon elect its first female president – but the struggle for gender equality in the region is far from being won.

Singapore presidential candidate Halimah Yacob, in 2012. Singapore presidential candidate Halimah Yacob, in 2012. Photo: Flickr/e_chaya. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.
This month, Singapore will go to the polls for its next presidential election. According to local reports, it looks likely that the country will elect the lawyer, trade unionist and former speaker in Parliament Halimah Yacob. She would be Singapore’s first female president and the first member of the Malay minority, in the Chinese-dominated state, to hold this office since 1970.

Yacob’s potential victory has already been hailed as a watershed moment for women across the region. Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid asked the women in his Umno party to “pray that she wins”. Mustafa Izzuddin, a Singaporean political researcher was quoted as saying that her election would be a major step forward: “She will not only break another glass ceiling within Singapore but also put Singapore on the world map.”

But this assessment is dangerously premature. Having Yacob in the presidential seat will hardly change the reality for women on the ground, where the struggle for gender and ethnic equality is far from being won.

Singapore’s own record on women’s political representation is hardly exemplary. It lags behind countries including the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand in its number of female political leaders. In the current parliament, 23 out of 100 MPs are women, fewer than the 30% minimum recommended by the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

In Singapore, it’s also worth noting that the president is largely a figurehead position. The president can veto the appointment of certain ministers, and the way the national financial reserves are spent, but real power lies with the prime minister – a position that is unlikely to be occupied by a woman anytime soon.

Netina Tan, a researcher based in Canada, argues that gendered expectations are still widespread in southeast Asian politics, where surveys show women facing significant “institutional and cultural barriers” in politics.

The cost of gender inequality

Entrenched beliefs and gender bias force women into subservient roles as wives and mothers, sending a diminishing message to girls about their worth, and sentencing women to lives spent at home under their husbands’ control. This also drives phenomena like the abortion of female babies, particularly in India, where the practice surged by 170% between 2001 and 2011.

Dependency and mistreatment of women, at the hands of men, also seems to translate into an inordinate number of mental health issues. According to the World Psychiatry Association, in Bangladesh twice as many women suffer from mental disorders compared to men, and three times more women commit suicide.

Gender-based discrimination limits women’s employment opportunities, and contributes to wider economic underdevelopment. Although more women than men attend higher education in southeast Asia, they are underrepresented in the official workforce. The gender gap in employment ranges from 16% in the Philippines to 20% in Sri Lanka. There is an average gender wage gap in the region of 30% to 40%.

One study, from the Asian Development Bank, estimated that if female participation in the workforce rose from 57.7% to 66.2%, Asia’s economy could see a 30% growth in income per capita in just one generation.

Beyond economic figures and financial abstractions, a particularly heinous manifestation of gender inequality is violence.

Beyond economic figures and financial abstractions, a particularly heinous manifestation of gender inequality is violence. In India, crimes against women including rape and domestic abuse are reported every two minutes. 2.4 million cases were registered in the last decade. An estimated 22 women died every day between 2005 and 2015 from dowry-related violence.

In neighbouring Bangladesh, the number of brides brutalised by their husbands or in-laws because of their parents' failure to pay the expected dowry almost doubled from 2004 to 2012. These are dismal figures; sadly, real numbers are likely even higher, as many incidents of violence may go unreported.

In Cambodia, violence against women appears so normalised that it has become a regular feature of media entertainment. Media monitoring research carried out by The Asia Foundation in 2016 revealed that a staggering 33% of TV programmes aired by the five largest national broadcasters featured scenes in which women or girls were the targets of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Where the integrity of a woman’s body means nothing, sexual assault is even considered a viable means of punishment. This was the case in a Pakistani village where the village council ordered the “revenge rape” of a 16-year-old girl whose brother had allegedly raped his 13-year old cousin.

Across southeast Asia, rape victims often face extreme stigmatisation. Women have been banished or killed by their families to clear their “honour” while perpetrators go unpunished.

Exposing brutality

Such brutality is not new. During the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975, Vietnamese women and girls, some as young as 13 or 14 years old, gave birth to thousands of children after being assaulted by Korean soldiers. Derogatorily called “Lai Dai Han” (literally “mixed-blood”), many of these children live in shame and abject poverty today.

Despite repeated pleas from survivors, South Korea has staunchly refused to recognise horrendous crimes during the war, let alone issue a formal apology. In a 2013 press statement, a defence ministry spokesman audaciously declared that “such intentional, organised and systemised civilian massacres by the Korean army is impossible” and that because the Korean military followed strict rules, “there was no sexual exploitation of Vietnamese women”.

In a region with the worst record of gender-based violence in the world, electing a woman for president is not enough to trigger fundamental changes. Discrimination and brutality against women need to be continuously exposed and remedied promptly. International pressure can help. If states were held accountable to international treaties governing equal rights, this could help shorten the long road to gender equality in the region.

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