In my regular weekly news posts about Syria and Iraq, I write often about the many obscenities committed by the Islamic State.
What those women and children must be going through, physically, emotionally and psychologically, particularly as many will be under-age, beggars belief.
As a psychotherapist I known that the consequences of these experiences, even if they ended today, will be with them for the rest of their lives.
Having worked with many victims of sexual abuse over the years, I can assure you that they do not just “get over it” as many people will exhort them to do.
Sexual abuse deeply damages a victim’s sense of self-esteem and leaves psychological and emotional scars that only prolonged therapy over many years will heal.
Typically, sexual (and physical) abuse victims will be afraid of close or intimate contact with others, particularly with those who look or behave like their abusers, will exhibit hypervigilance and anxiety which monitors everything (but everything) in their environment and be so stressed that normal functioning is almost impossible without the use of anti-depressants or stimulants of some kind.
On top of that, most victims of sexual abuse, male and female, feel so worthless, powerless and inadequate that they will be unable to seek, sustain or afford therapeutic help, even if it is available.
Those very, very brave souls that do undertake the journey of recovery and who are helped to feel and expiate the emotional pain from terror to anger, will do well. But they will never forget.
All the more alarming then that in the 21st century, slavery, and the sexual abuse that often accompanies it, is more prevalent than ever.
Across the world there are currently an estimated 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking. Add to that the estimated 20.9 million trapped in forced labour plus those in bonded labour where they endless work to repay a debt, child labourers working in clothing factories and other places for cents and the estimated 51 million girls that have been forced to marry against their will.
Getting out of poverty, of course, is often the driving force for those that end up in some form of slavery or extreme exploitation, plus the promise of a “better life” that never comes but only gets worse.
If you think this is not happening in your “backyard” – think again.
I guarantee that in your everyday activity you have passed someone who is trapped into servitude or exploitation in some way or you have purchased an article of clothing, a carpet, electronic products, cocoa and many other products that were made or harvested by someone on the poverty line and with no future prospects, for a few cents pay a day if they are lucky.
According to End Slavery Now.org, “The standard price for sex at a brothel in the U.S. is $30.
Typically, trafficked children see 25-48 customers a day.
They work up to 12 hours a day, every day of the week; every year, a pimp earns between $150,000 and $200,000 per child”.
Between 1995 and 2012, judges in the US allowed 178 children between the ages of 10 and 15 to marry in New Jersey, often to older adults and the Tahirih Justice Center reported a suspected 3,000 forced marriage cases across the US between 2009 and 2011.
In the UK, where forced marriage is now outlawed (though most assuredly still takes place in exploitative and closed domestic settings) there have been a number of cases of young Asian girls, who were born and educated in Britain, being taken to Pakistan or India for a “family holiday”, only to discover that they are actually there to be married off to much older relatives they have never met and with whom they have little in common. That is both sexual abuse and slavery.
Other cases in the UK have involved road and driveway laying gangs who have picked up off the streets men with mental health and addiction problems, imprisoned them and forced them to work for little or no wages and minimal amounts of food or illegal immigrants collecting cockles (seafood) in dangerous tidal waters for less than minimum wages while paying back “accommodation and signing on fees” all the time living in appalling, overcrowded and filthy conditions.
Slavery, in one form or another, is still common across the Middle East and especially in the Gulf States.
Although King Faisal abolished slavery in Saudi Arabia in 1962, the “employment” of domestic servants from the Philippines, Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Africa often results in conditions of enforced slavery and sexual exploitation.
Karl Anderson, a former Californian accountant, who became an accidental anti-slavery activist when a Facebook friend from the Philippines asked for help, now aids about 10 women a month escape abuse to go to one of the little-discussed shelters in Saudi Arabia established for “household maids.”
“It is slavery,” Anderson says. “Every day, I see the face of slavery.”
“There is a woman who was forced to eat a child’s faeces out of a diaper because she didn’t clean the diaper soon enough,” he says.
“Women are raped, tortured, denied food, denied water, made to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week. One woman was only allowed to eat the food that her sponsor family left on their plates. They are treated like dogs.”
In Qatar, an estimated 600 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh are dying every year in appalling conditions and extreme temperatures in the construction industry, including the building of the 2022 World Cup Stadium.
All of this has a long history of course. Slaves almost certainly built the Pyramids in Egypt and most other ancient buildings that survive throughout the world.
Slavery was abolished in the British Empire, which had been instrumental in shipping Africans to its sugar producing colonies in the West Indies for years, in 1833. The USA made slavery unconstitutional in 1865. The French abolished slavery in its colonies in 1848.
In my travels I have stood several times below a monument in Mozambique in southern Africa where “unruly” African slaves captured by British and Arab traders were hurled off the cliffs onto the rocks below, not unreminiscent of the behaviour of the Islamic State.
The sea there, where whales can be often seen migrating offshore, is wild and the noise, the blasting spray and the jagged rocks make you think; wondering what it must have been like for those young men and women to be ripped away from their families and tribes and set down in a completely alien environment after a very long and appalling sea journey shackled in the most terrible conditions.
Slavery is now illegal in all countries of the world, but in practice it continues in many places in many forms.
The fact is that there are now more slaves in the world today than ever there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade to the West indies and the southern United States.
President Obama declared January 2016 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
That’s a start, but let’s bring some more consciousness into our own lives.
First, let’s be more aware of how we treat others, particularly those who are weaker or less powerful than ourselves – and especially when we are angry or upset.
Secondly, let’s be more aware of others who may be the victims of exploitation. If you suspect something is going on, there are help or tip-off telephone lines in most developed countries.
And thirdly, if you want to discourage slave-worker exploitation you can find a list of slave-labour free companies by putting in your email address, (scroll down) HERE: and/or follow @EndSlaveryNow on Twitter.
PETER CLIFFORD 20th January 2016
When you ask the question “What do our children need most?”, the answer depends rather a lot on where they are.
I often write about violent countries such as Syria and Iraq and what the children need there most is food, water, protection, security and stability.
These things should be a given staple of life for any society but unfortunately in a 21st century wracked by conflict they are still too often not.
But wars are started and carried on by adults, not children; adults who were themselves children once, perhaps not getting their own needs met.
Clearly our childhood shapes hugely what sort of adult we turn out to be, though over the years there has been an ongoing debate over whether the adult we become is the result of “nature” or “nurture”.
Personally, I think it is a combination of the two, with “nurture”, how we are brought up, influencing us the most.
“Nature”, our genetic inheritance will give us pre-dispositions for certain potential character traits and modes of behaviour, both positive and negative – but which of those comes to the fore, for good or for evil, depends largely on the influences we experience throughout our childhood.
Some psychologists say that our basic character and the way we interact with the world is already formed by the age of 3.
From my professional experience working as a psychotherapist with many adults with recurring problems, I would say that is largely true.
We can modify our behaviour later and become subject to an enormous range of influences during the next 15-year journey into adulthood, both at school and in our local environment, but whether we relate to others assertively or aggressively, passively, dominantly or cooperatively, and act with confidence or reticence, for example, is already set.
The biggest and most powerful influences on our childhood, from both a biological, proximity and intimacy point of view (and for both good and bad) remain our parents – or if we have lost our parents (a devastating event in itself), those who take over that role.
Therefore, being a parent is perhaps the most responsible (and difficult) job going. Where’s the training? Only the quality of our own childhood experience.
Not only are our parenting skills crucial to our child’s future but to the world’s future too.
We as parents, have a major role in shaping future adults who are confident without being arrogant and cooperative and peace-loving without being fearful, aggressive and conflicting – plus all the degrees in between.
We can infect them with our negative prejudices or encourage them to be open, reasoning adults who will think for themselves and make up their own mind what is best for them and the general good in any given new situation.
Key to producing caring, reliable children who will turn into adults that respect others and the planet, as well as themselves, is “time”.
The amount of time, quality time, we give our children is vital to how they self-define their value as a person.
If as a parent you don’t spend positive quality time talking, listening, playing, interacting and demonstrating love for your children, they in turn, especially when small, will learn that they are not worth your time spent on those things – and by extension not worth much as a human being (that’s how children think).
And children that grow up to be adults that believe they are not worth much will either become very insecure or compensate by becoming overly aggressive (to one degree or another).
Following on from a worldwide survey they conducted in 2009, the market research company FK&Y, on behalf of furniture giant IKEA (probably commissioned for commercial reasons), ran an updated one in 2014 to determine both adult and child attitudes to “play”.
The Play Report 2015 pointed out that “play” is really important for learning about life. “It fuels development. Makes us more creative, stronger and more active. It teaches us to work together and care about each other. It sparks curiosity”.
The report goes on to say that, “Play is a state of mind. A way of finding fun in everything you do – especially those normal, everyday activities that are such a big part of our lives at home”.
The 2015 report interviewed 29,199 people from 12 countries on the continents of America, Europe and Asia, including the states of Russia, China, India and South Korea.
Of the 29,199 interviewed, 16,174 were adults, 6,235 were children aged 7 – 12 and 6,790 were 13 – 18 years old.
The most striking things from the survey were that overall 51% of children said that they would like to “spend more time with their parents” and 71% of parents felt their home should be “a place of fun and play”, yet 49% of parents admitted they “did not spend enough time playing with their children” and felt guilty about it.
51% of 7 – 12 year olds reported that their parents “always seem to be in a rush” and 41% of 13-18 year olds.
Interestingly, it is now emerging countries like India, China and South Korea where parents say most that they “do not have enough time to play with their children”. In India it was 60% of those parents interviewed, whereas in the Netherlands it comes down to 33%.
(The Netherlands has also been recognised by the UN as one of the best countries for children to grow up in, more families eating and sharing activities together than anywhere else.)
Other research shows that parents actually spend more time physically with their children now, than they did in the 1970’s when many of today’s parents were born. That’s possibly because back then we as children spent more time playing outside with friends than many parents would allow, for security reasons, now.
However, it is “quality time” that is missing. Entire families sitting around a table in a restaurant all playing separately with their smartphones is not an uncommon sight.
In other households a reaction to digital overload has provoked a ban in using all mobiles for an hour or so each evening so the whole family can interact more effectively, humanly and face to face. The choices are ours to make.
Nor is the attraction of digital devices all pervasive.
No less than 80% of children covered by the Play Report said they preferred playing with friends rather than watching TV (19%) or using the Internet (17%) and 51% said they would like to spend more time with their parents, as previously mentioned.
Though as parents we often want out children to change their behaviour, our children unsurprisingly want the same from us. The top 10 changes that children want their parents to make are as follows:
1. To come home earlier from work.
2. To spend time outdoors together.
3. To join in playing with toys.
4. To play video games together.
5. To play board games as a family.
6. To find time to read together.
7. To cook and bake together.
8. To help them with homework.
9. To watch TV as a family.
10. And to set time aside just to talk.
If we take on the responsibility of being a parent, is that too much to ask, especially given the consequences of not responding to these requests? I don’t think so. And I am horribly aware of the stresses of having to work to earn money to make ends meet. Too often life does not seem fair.
31% of parents in the Play Report said that when they do play with their children they are too stressed to enjoy it, while others admitted that they are bored – which says a lot about the quality of that relationship.
Conversely, children obviously find play therapeutic, nearly 50% of 7 -12 year olds saying that when they play they do not worry about things. Clearly a lesson for us all there.
The Play Report emphasises that play is important too for our children’s physical, social and cognitive development.
If it is also good for relaxation and stronger, more fulfilling relationships both now and in the future – perhaps more fun and play should be on all our agendas.
I therefore suggest that “More Fun, Play and Quality Family Time” should be our top resolution for 2016! (And if you haven’t got family, then with good friends.)
It sounds a lot less difficult than losing weight and more healthily compulsive in a good way that will benefit the whole family in the short term and eventually, with luck, the rest of the planet in the long term.
Peter Clifford 6th January 2016
My thanks to Ikea’s Play Report 2015 for providing resources for this article.
Firstly, I wish all my readers a Happy New Year plus good health, prosperity and lots of love and kindness throughout 2016. Many thanks to all of you who visited my blog throughout 2015 – 719,764 times to be precise! Which is a phenomenal increase on the previous year (244,133).
I started this blog on January 1st 2011, so today is my 5th anniversary. In those 5 years the blog has had in excess of 1.29 million visitors and was read by an average of 1,972 people a day from 198 countries in 2015.
For many though, will it be a happier new year in 2016?
Across the world there are now thousands affected by extreme climate change phenomena. In the US hurricanes and tornadoes have destroyed homes and killed householders, in the UK some people had their homes flooded for the 3rd time in a month and it will be months before they can get back in, and in South America tens of thousands are displaced after rivers 6 metres above their normal levels burst their banks. And that was only December.
There will, unfortunately, be a lot worse to come unless we get to grips with what we are collectively doing to the planet.
For Syria and Iraq, about which I have written extensively, things still look grim. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and more than 10 million have been displaced from their homes. Tens of thousands more have fled to Europe or eke out a desperate existence in a refugee camp. Thousands have died, including many children, trying to make it across the Mediterranean “to a better life” in the EU.
And it does not look to get better any day soon. While politicians and diplomats endlessly talk, on the ground the fighting continues all day, every day and thousands more needlessly die or are seriously maimed or injured. Add to that the appalling, unfeeling and devilish actions of the Islamic State, and there does not seem a great deal to be optimistic about.
But optimistic I am. Every bad and hateful action leaves a residue of energy which eventually builds to a good reaction against it. The worse things get, the greater the demand for a positive response.
Too often we feel helpless and that there is little we can do. But there is. If you have spare cash donate to those groups that are making a difference. If you don’t, give some time or energy to those groups. If you do not have those either, support the petitions of human rights groups across the world who fight against the false imprisonment of individuals and for suppressed and threatened communities irrespective of their race, sex or religion. There is no shortage of causes.
For my part, I will continue to highlight events which mainstream media often ignore once the ratings start to sag and do my best to angle everything towards human rights and an appreciation that we are all equally human ( unless, of course, like the Islamic State and other barbarians, people descend into inhumanity and madness). Plus, in the darkness, the odd spark of humour and stories to uplift and inspire.
I also hope to produce some other work to personally help and grow the confidence of everyone not functioning to their full capacity. Watch this space.
In the mean time, if you can’t be right – be kind. Stand up and be counted when its appropriate and right, and stand back and observe when it is not. And we will see if the world is a better place in 2017. But until then I wish you all ….
Peter Clifford 1st January 2016
Frankly, the world has little choice but to fight the Islamic State. So as 2015 ends I offer 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016.
It is a movement that is violent, cruel, irreligious and without compassion and it cannot be left to dominate and destroy social structures in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Modern society in either the West or the East is not perfect. It is riven with failed attempts at equality, plurality, democracy and inclusivity – but it has progressed and most of us benefit to one degree or another from this stuttering progress.
I can write this blog because I live in a society which protects my right, by and large, to express my views.
Still not so in many countries in the world where some significant powers have poor human rights and lock up bloggers because they dare to expose an attitude that is contrary to that of the ruling elite.
But unless all of us stand up against the Islamic State (IS), then any rights we currently enjoy, however tentative, will be swept away.
IS administers by rules of its own creation, fear and demonstrations of violence to subdue opposition. It is not interested in negotiating compromise.
Personally, I am against war and violence and I hate bombs and guns. But when your family is threatened do you hold to those feelings as “inviolate principles” or do you defend your family?
Although it clearly may take more than a year, I therefore put forward (in no particular order) these 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016.
1. Moslems – Stand Up For the Society in Which You Live:
All those Moslems who oppose the actions of the Islamic State need to stand up for the countries and society’s in which they live.
It is not enough just to condemn the dreadful actions of IS and their misguided adherents in Paris, Tunisia, the US and across the world. It is necessary for Moslems to shun fear of persecution and stand up and say, “We oppose this obscenity. We support and are part of this community and will defend its right to exist and its values”.
And be willing to question Islamic attitudes to violence and religious beliefs.
In the Tennessee town of Chattanooga in the US they have set an example by doing just that.
Last July four Marines and a Sailor were killed in Chattanooga, recently described as America’s “most bible-minded city”, by a young Moslem who grew up there and who went on a mindless rampage.
Mindful of President Obama’s call for Moslems to both condemn violence and build stronger ties to their non-Moslem neighbours, Bassam Issa, the president of the “Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga”, has been giving talks in local schools and colleges.
In them Mr Issa tells students that “What’s happening right now is not religious, even though IS and Al Qaeda are covered as a religious thing. In reality, it’s political.”
And he is right. It’s the politics of domination through control, violence and murder rather than the ballot box.
Dr. Mohsin Ali, a child psychiatrist and another member of the Chattanooga Islamic Society, said “We can’t ignore the fact that violent extremists use an interpretation of the very same books and texts that we use. I feel like the Muslim community does need to do more”.
The day after the killings in Chattanooga at a memorial service for the killed servicemen, Dr Ali told the congregation that he and other Moslems in the city were grieving alongside everyone else.
He then asked the Moslems in the Baptist Church to stand as a sign of the allegiance to Chattanooga and to peace. When dozens of Moslems stood, the rest of the congregation applauded loudly.
That’s the way forward. Coming together rather than tearing apart.
We are all in this – our religious or non-religious beliefs are irrelevant.
2. THE REST OF US – STAND UP FOR MOSLEMS:
Using the events of IS and its followers to justify anti-Moslem beliefs, actions and opinions is just ignorance and blind stupidity.
It’s a sign of the immature using their inadequacy and personal anger (whatever the origins) to dump on others. If you feel that way, look deep inside yourself – not at scapegoats.
Apart from which Moslems are not hereditarily more violent than the rest of us.
The whole history of Christianity is full of violence against “non-believers” and non-conforming sects. Buddhists (the supposedly “peaceful religion”) are accused of dreadful atrocities against the Rohingya in northern Myanmar (Burma). “Spreading atheist thought” is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Saudi Arabia.
At the end of the day we are all fellow human beings put on this planet presumably to exercise our individuality and creativity. Therefore, our diversity should be celebrated and respected as our community’s strength – not undermined or attacked and made into its weakness.
3. OPPOSE SECTARIANISM:
Sectarianism, the belief that my sect (of the same religion) is better than your sect, is about as bright as the stupidity of anti-Moslem feelings described above.
And it is probably the biggest problem affecting the Middle East today, polarising the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, on one side and the Shiites (Shia), led by Iran, on the other.
In fact, the rise of the Islamic State can be traced back to Sunni suppression and sectarianism in Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussain, a Sunni who had persecuted the Shia (and Kurds) for years, Shiite politicians gained power in Iraq and excluded the Sunni.
Some of the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq were taken over by former Sunni military officers in Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, who fanned the flames of Sunni dissent, and hey presto the Islamic State emerges with an extreme Sunni orientated philosophy.
Considering the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is based on who they revere as the family leaders of Prophet Mohammad’s legacy and all the clashes, deaths and abuses that have followed, it’s up there with the Inquisition which the Roman Catholic Church imposed on others in various forms in Europe between the 12th and 19th Centuries, killing and torturing tens of thousands.
Pointless abuse which seeks to impose thought control on others.
4. KEEP ATTACKING ISLAMIC STATE FINANCE:
According to research at the beginning of December, the Islamic State rakes in about $80 million a month, $1.1 million a day coming from oil sales alone. The rest of their income comes from emptying banks, selling antiquities, ransoms and local taxation (“zakat”).
According to the report an IS “Emir” known as Abu Fatima Al-Tunisi ran off with $25,000 worth of “zakat”, leaving a note on Twitter for his “comrades” saying, “What state? What caliphate? You idiots.”
Then there is the problem of “50,000 ghost soldiers”, with commanders drawing salaries for say 250 men a month, when in fact they only have 150 in their brigade.
To deal with the problem IS sent round administrators who paid the salaries in person, but then they made deals with the commanders to get a cut, with the same result.
In other words, corruption within the Islamic State is rife, again saying much about the spiritual nature of the organisation – or lack of spirituality in general.
At the same time, the Coalition and Russia should continue dismantling IS oil processing plants, tankers and well heads, making them unusable, and the world’s financial markets should block any attempts to do business with them or seize any transferred funds where they are identified.
Turkey, Israel and Assad have all been accused of buying IS oil and it is probably true as it comes through middle-men who ship it around the Middle East for a profit until its origins are obscure.
Easy to say that people should stop paying ransom bribes – but more difficult to adhere to when members of your family and community are imprisoned and brutalised by members of this loathsome organisation.
5. CONTINUE PRECISION BOMBING ON THE ISLAMIC STATE:
As I said at the beginning, I am no lover of military solutions – but sometimes there is no choice because IS and their followers are bloodily killing anyone they can.
Precision bombing by Coalition aircraft has done a remarkably good job with few collateral civilian deaths, hitting IS military targets time after time and empowering groups like the Kurds to advance and take territory away from the Jihadists.
Preferably there should be no civilian deaths at all but clearly IS hangers-on do know by now what they are in for if they stay.
By contrast, random and indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime and now the Russian Air force too, has killed thousands of innocent civilians in the last 4 years and Assad’s Air Force are by far and away the biggest killers of civilians in Syria, far more than IS.
6. BATTLE THE ISLAMIC STATE ON MANY FRONTS:
In 2015 the Kurds in northern Syria have nearly tripled the territory they control, while at the same time they have helped to reduce the size of the IS caliphate by 14%.
One of the reasons that the Kurds (YPG/YPJ) in Syria have been so successful, apart from their innate determination and passion to survive, is that IS have found themselves stretched on too many fronts fighting too many battles and the Kurds have taken advantage of that.
According to analysis by the security company IHS Jane’s, IS activity in areas it controls has recently been most intense around Baghdad in Iraq and Damascus in Syria and much less near Kurdish controlled areas, suggesting they were overstretched.
When the Kurdish YPG for instance launched a campaign to retake Tal Abyad in northern Syria near the Turkish border, the forces of the Islamic State were widely spread elsewhere fighting battles in central and western Syria and in Iraq.
“The remaining forces in Tal Abyad were so depleted that they had to be re-enforced with… religious police units from Raqqa,” says IHS Jane’s.
While IS will continue no doubt to use the strategy of surprise, popping up unexpectedly in the most unlikely places, all other sides battling them on multiple fronts will put their fighters and their command and control structures under severe strain. That tension can’t be maintained indefinitely.
Along with this, arm, train and equip those who are most effective against IS and send in special forces not only to guide and help forces like the Kurds with air support but to conduct raids to take out the IS leadership.
7. GIVE IT TIME TO SELF DESTRUCT:
As long as everyone keeps up the pressure, time itself will see the Islamic State degrade and self-destruct.
Firstly, disillusion will set in, with the foreigners in particular discovering the caliphate is not the “earthly paradise” it was cracked-up to be. Living in dirty, and uncomfortable, dangerous conditions with bombs raining down and expensive food and electricity in short supply is probably not what they signed up for.
Escaping is not so easy either. A 17 year old Austrian girl who travelled to Syria to join IS last year, Sabra Kesinovic, is thought to have been beaten to death as she tried to escape in November. Many other potential escapees have been caught near the Turkish border and shot.
Secondly, a number of Sunni tribes who originally gave their allegiance to IS have also changed their mind and some have paid a terrible price for their “disloyalty” – around 900 members of the Al-Shaitat tribe in eastern Syria are believed to have been executed, crucified and beheaded.
The Islamic State’s aim with this is to spread terror and prevent further physical desertions, but it won’t prevent the loss of hearts and minds, it will only accelerate it.
Thirdly, the Islamic State is also riddled with corruption, as mentioned earlier. That will only increase as those in a position to take advantage of it will recognise a “sinking ship” when the see it and get out with their booty while they can.
Fourthly, IS was very successful in winning hearts and minds initially in areas it went into by providing food handouts and community services including financial support. With time that will become more and more difficult to sustain and be outweighed by its cruel and unjust treatment of those it believes have transgressed their rules.
And with time, those who were attracted to IS for “spiritual” reasons will eventually see that the whole organisation was cynically built around a religious philosophy to justify its actions, when in fact almost everything it does is against all modern definitions of decency and humanity and decidely “unspiritual”.
Can the Islamic State be eliminated completely? Probably not. Like Al Qaeda it will linger on in the warped minds and heads of those with vengeful personal agendas looking for an excuse to justify themselves.
But like Al Qaeda, it can be contained.
There is no shortage of problems in the world that need solutions, but this is the most pressing and like the Nazi threat of World War ll it must be met head on. Implementing the above 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016 will go a long way to make that happen.
Congratulations to Saudi Arabia as Saudi women take one small step into the 21st century by both voting and standing for council posts in last weekend’s municipal elections.
Right across Saudi Arabia from small villages to the largest cities, 20 women were elected to municipal council seats.
Of the 7,000 candidates who stood for election, 979 were women and 2,100 seats were up for the taking in 249 local councils, so 20 female winners represent only 1% of those appointed – but it’s a start when before you have had no representation at all.
The Saudi King also has a quota of 1,050 seats to fill with his appointees, so hopefully he will he will take the opportunity to let in a few more of the women candidates.
4 women were elected in Riyadh, the conservative capital and 2 in the predominately Shia Islam Eastern Province.
Another woman was elected in Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia, perhaps the country’s most cosmopolitan city, while one more gained a seat in the holy city of Medina, the site of Prophet Mohammed’s first mosque.
Another woman was elected in the village of Madrakah, 150 kilometres north of Mecca which over bad roads has the nearest hospital, pointing out that many women in her village ended up giving birth in cars.
Other issues raised by the women candidates were more nurseries to look after children while mothers worked, more community centres for sports and cultural activities, the aforementioned better roads, improved garbage collection and greener cities.
I suspect there might be some more directly feminist issues waiting to surface in the background, but with this tentative level of suppression release it is probably wise to save those for another day. Saudi Arabia’s extreme clerics will be enraged at the changes as it is.
Credit for the policies all go to the new Saudi leader, King Salman, the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef and the Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, plus a coterie of relatively young, well-educated Cabinet members who frequently travel to the West and other countries worldwide.
While I am no great believer in the inalienable rights or abilities of hereditary royals, when it’s all you’ve got and they hold all the power and the purse strings, that’s what you have to work with.
In an attempt to make the elections a more level playing field for women forced to wear the full face-veil the General Election Committee, presumably on orders from the Government, banned all candidates, male and female from showing their faces in promotional posters, advertising boards or online. They were also not allowed to appear on television.
In Jeddah, 3 generations of women from the same family voted for the very first time, the oldest being 94.
Her daughter reflected on how important it was to vote, saying, “I walked in and said I’ve have never seen this before. Only in the movies. It was a thrilling experience.”
That response, while understood, would probably be seen as “sad” in the West.
Especially as Saudi women are still not allowed to drive a car, go out on their own unless accompanied by a male chaperone (usually a close family member), go to a mixed swimming pool, compete in sports, or wear clothes or make-up that “may show up their beauty”.
Interestingly, in a show of support, Uber drivers in some of the major cities drove women to the polling stations in last weekend’s elections, for free (though I can’t help wondering how many men refused to accompany their wives or even let them out of the house?)
There is still a long way to go.
Saudi women who competed in the last Olympic Games were described as “prostitutes” by hardline clerics back home and the Saudi consultant to the Olympic Committee has even proposed this year, 2015, that Saudi Arabia be allowed to host the Games – but with no women at all taking part!
At a recent book fair in Jeddah, where books by female Saudi writers were displayed and women took part in Q and A panels (and even Donald Trumps’ books were on display), 2 men got up and protested when a female poet started quoting poetry from her new book.
One of the men, addressing the audience, asked, “Do you accept that a woman recites poetry?” Fortunately, the audience responded with an unequivocal ‘yes’ and the two men were escorted out.
In Saudi Arabia the roots of all this, on the surface at least, lie in Wahaabism the official religion of the State founded on the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, an 18th century cleric from the remote eastern interior of Arabia.
The main tenets of this religious philosophy is that there is only one God, Allah, and any that do not believe in him are unbelievers or apostates. The sectarian philosophy also does not believe in the worship and revering of clerics or saints and that there should be no shrines or places of worship other than those purely devoted to the “one God” (as defined by them).
This therefore excludes the Shiite Moslems who have numerous shrines and places of pilgrimage. In fact, in the original Wahaabi doctrines, jihad, or holy war against all “unbelievers”, including all other Moslems, was fully permissible.
In its extreme form Wahaabism forbids the “performing or listening to music, dancing, fortune telling, amulets, television programs (unless religious), smoking, playing backgammon, chess, or cards, drawing human or animal figures, acting in a play or writing fiction” and even the keeping or petting of dogs.
As far as women are concerned, they are forbidden to travel or work outside the home without their husband’s permission on the grounds that their “different physiological and biological structure” means they have a different family role to play, and if the husband does give permission to his wife to work outside the home, it can be withdrawn at any time.
As mentioned before, Wahhabism also forbids the driving of motor vehicles by women and sexual intercourse out of wedlock may be punished with beheading – although sex outside marriage is permissible with a “slave woman” (though probably not a woman with a “slave man” of course?).
(Just as well as Prince Bandar bin Sultan [former ambassador to the US and director of Saudi Intelligence] was the result of a “brief union” between his father, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and a 16 year old “black serving women” – though slavery has since been “formerly banned” in the kingdom.)
In all of this it is easy to see the where the Islamic State gets its basic tenets and “vindication” from, offering a “pure” form of Islam which is “justified” in taking over the world (See last week’s post on The Anatomy of an Islamic State Jihadist).
Wahaabism has been so successful because it formed an alliance with the militarily aggressive House of Saud back in the 18th century, eventually taking over the whole of the Arabian peninsular, and more recently because of the billions of dollars of oil revenue monies used to promote it.
The result however is a bloody and deadly sectarian schism in Islam between the Sunni (of which Wahaabism is a part) and Shia branch descendants of Prophet Mohammad. Until this is sorted the Middle East and many other parts of the Islamic world will remain a mess.
However, the apparent misogynist aspects of Islam, Wahaabi or otherwise, are not restricted to males of the Moslem religion, they are still too common in the rest of the world.
Here in the UK, British boxer, Tyson Fury, who became WBA World Heavyweight Champion in November 2015, recently caused controversy by declaring that “a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back – that’s my personal belief.”
Undoubtedly, he should keep his “personal beliefs” to himself, but I suspect that covertly a lot of men, wherever they are in the world, think the same way.
Such beliefs, in my view, are based on fear, pure and simple.
Again, as I have often written, our values are formed in childhood and if we grow up with bullying mothers, for whatever reason, and/or are encouraged by other males in the absurd notion that somehow men are “superior”, then we are more likely to gravitate to a male ethos that tries to suppress women in adulthood.
In fact it may be that suppression of women in the Islamic world and elsewhere which contributes to the disdain and disrespect that males show as adults towards women, is sometimes started by frustrated women taking out there anger at exclusion from full participation in the world, on their male (and female) children. And so the circle of deprivation and loss continues into the future.
The key to accelerating change is female education, as Malala Yousafzai, the 18 year old Pakistani, Noble Peace Prize winner has championed and to which, unsurprisingly, the Taliban and the Islamic State remain fiercely opposed.
At the Jeddah book fair mentioned earlier, the Saudi Minister of Education and Information, Adel al-Toraifi, said that an Arab reads six minutes a day, compared to the world average of 36 minutes.
He also said that the Arab world prints 27,809 books a year, which translates into 12,000 Arabs getting one book.
Compare that with China which publishes 440,000 books a year and the United States and the UK which publish just under 500,000 books a year between them.
Hopefully, the spread of and access to the Internet (when its male viewers are not accessing pornography) can help to change all that.
Peter Clifford – 16th December 2015
What is the anatomy of an Islamic State Jihadist?
I don’t mean physically – they come in all shapes and sizes just like the rest of us – male and female.
I mean, what emotional and psychological state turns people, often with a mild, quiet background, into fanatical, ruthless, cold-blooded killers?
After almost 35 years working as a counsellor and psychotherapist I guess I know a little about why people behave the way they do, though I have worked mainly with the victims of extreme behaviour, rather than the extremists themselves.
What I am certain of though is that no baby is born as an extremist, a torturer or a murderer with no regard for the value of their own life or anyone else’s.
All of that is learnt behaviour and the big questions are how, why and where?
It is not straightforward, there are at least 6 different types of Jihadists.
1. First there are the religious fanatics. These must be distinguished from the genuine religiously pious who can be found in all faiths, not just Islam.
It’s one thing to be believe deeply in your God, your faith and its religious practices and try to live a good and honest life even if others do not share or understand the depth of your commitment.
It’s very much another, when you start to believe that anyone who does not share your God, your beliefs and your commitment is an “infidel”, opposed to you and your faith and “God” or “your prophet” commands that they be converted to your faith or destroyed.
There are plenty of examples of cults in the West that have almost gone that far, regarding “outsiders”, non-believers as less worthy human beings and a threat to the core structure of the “faith” or organisation.
2. Secondly there is a large body of people who feel disregarded, rejected by their family and those around them and the society in which they live, and for whom feeling lost and of little value is a prospect that is likely to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
People like this can be found in all cultures, within all religions or with none and in all countries. It comes mainly from poor child rearing, the breakdown of family support and structures and a lack of love, attention genuine support and guidance.
Children who are loved, respected, nurtured and encouraged to be themselves and to find and explore their abilities, do not become mass murderers.
Mass murderers are made from people with a grudge, a giant flaw in their being left after years of unloving or neglect, humiliation or suppression and a feeling of powerlessness.
It has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, the more intelligent a mass murderer is, the more dangerous he is.
Many of these may have similar backgrounds to Group 2, but they also may be have been emotionally and psychological damaged while growing up (or even physically damaged at birth), resulting in an immaturity, a lack of awareness and/or an inability to think for themselves, and difficulty in independently distinguishing right from wrong and make balanced value judgements.
Normally such people would be cared for, shielded and guarded by family members or by professionals who will look out for their needs.
However, in the hands of manipulative fanatics who quickly recognise their vulnerability and know how to use this and “befriend” them, they quickly become cannon fodder.
A recent example was seen in a video a few months back of an Islamic State suicide bomber, probably 17 or less, who was persuaded to drive his vehicle bomb into the opposition lines.
Despite “encouragement” and promises of some mysterious and unprovable heavenly reward to come, he was in tears and clearly afraid and unsure.
But there was no way out and he carried out the task anyway.
4. The fourth group is perhaps in many ways the most dangerous.
It consists of the disillusioned and the morally lost, who can both be well integrated into society seemingly leading useful lives or at the other end of the spectrum are jobless, hopeless and turning to drugs, alcohol and petty crime to get by.
Either way, they are deeply disappointed with the society/world they see around them and with their role in it. They do not see that they have the power to change it and are drawn to a religious philosophy that says they can live in a different world and raise their families and children in it.
For the jobless and those who have turned to crime, or alcohol or drugs as a way of coping and feeling a smattering of control and “power”, the Islamic State’s strict philosophy of living offers a path to redemption and forgiveness tied to their childhood religious roots.
The wealthy, more middle-class recruits perhaps are disappointed with extreme materialism and the corruption it often engenders. IS offers another solution.
“Follow the rules and we will give you authority, respect and rewards both in this life and the afterlife to come”.
Many foreigners and converts to Islam coming from outside Syria and Iraq will fall into this category. They are given free housing and money when they arrive in the Middle East and as we have seen in Paris, the UK, the USA and elsewhere they wreck murderous havoc on a large scale.
This group may well include intelligent foreign women who are attracted by the “glamour” of following a cause, marrying Jihadists and escaping perhaps the “restrictions” of their own family life back home. They are undoubtedly in for a rude awakening.
5. The fifth group are the politically and tribally motivated, especially Sunnis who see the Sunni aligned Islamic State (IS) as some sort of bulwark against the Shiite dominated government in Iraq and the Shiite associated Alawite sect of President Assad in Syria.
One of the reasons the Islamic State was able to spread across Syria and Iraq so quickly was because of these tribal alliances – IS knew how to tap into resentments and perceived injustices inflicted, as the locals saw it, by Iran sponsored Shia policies.
Indeed, the very core of the Islamic State when it started in Iraq was probably created by ex-Saddam Hussein military officers, Sunnis, who had lost their status, power and jobs after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Some tribes are now regretting their allegiance to the Islamic State – but backing out has turned out to be a bloody and vengeful business both for the tribes and individuals who have changed their minds.
6. And lastly, the sixth group is perhaps the most disturbing – the large number of children that the Islamic State is “educating” and indoctrinating in their awful world view.
Children who will grow up believing that executing people for having the “wrong” faith, world view or sexual preference, or who have transgressed IS rules in some way, is normal.
According to a recent video, IS children were engaged in a gruesome hide and seek game in a castle in Deir Ez-Zour province, hunting for shackled prisoners. Those children who did best were given, literally, “execution privileges”.
One of the young boys involved was a Yezidi, a “slave” taken prisoner when IS invaded northern Iraq, killing thousands of his Yezidi brethren and imprisoning thousands more women as sexual concubines. It shows how quickly young minds can be turned and warped. You can read more about the so-called “Caliphate Cubs”, HERE:
There may well be other groups of potential Islamic State Jihadists that we can describe, but what these individuals all have in common is that they are in need of “new family”.
When your own family, for whatever reason in your view, has “let you down” in childhood then psychologically and emotionally you are programmed to search for another one to which you can belong and become part of. (The only exception to this are those that successfully work through that hurt therapeutically.)
Cults – and IS is nothing more than a cult, if a deadly one – work on that basis. There is usually a charismatic paternal leader and provided you as an individual “follow the rules”, accept and promote the mantra or philosophy and wear the uniform where there is one, then you will be “loved” and accepted.
The Islamic State craftily justifies its actions with the authority of the Koran, Prophet Mohammed and the promise of entry into Paradise if you die fighting for the “cause”.
For many that will be a no-lose situation which makes the Islamic State, along with its stated ambition to conquer most of the developed and developing world, the largest threat to civilisation since World War ll.
That the Islamic State is medieval – as well as just plain evil – is without doubt. They would love to get thousands of US and other western troops to fight them on the ground to recreate another “Crusade” in which they can finally “defeat the infidel invaders” (which is why President Obama is wisely resisting that move).
But this is not 1098 when starving “Christian” Crusaders slaughtered 8,000 inhabitants in Ma’arat Al Numan (currently an Opposition-held town in Syria’s Idlib province) and ate them after pot-boiling the adults and spit-roasting the children – Islamic fighters would have some justification in wanting revenge for that.
This is the 21st Century, when the rights of all individuals and religions that reciprocally respect others must also be respected.
The Islamic State, and the individual Jihadists that choose to make it their home, ignorantly fail to do that, leaving us no choice but to fight them to destruction.
REGULAR NEWS UPDATES ON SYRIA AND IRAQ CAN BE FOUND, HERE:
TIMELINE 30th SEPTEMBER 2012 15.05 GMT:
For months now the loyal fans of British football club Leeds United have been waiting not for news of the latest new player signing but for the details of a proposed takeover of their club by middle-east investors. Is this another “dodgy deal”?
A member of the Bahraini royal family, Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Hamad Al Khalifa, who claimed to have “fallen in love with the club when he was 11 years old”, tried to take over Leeds United in 2003.
More recently he has been named as being involved with a consortium that has been negotiating with the football club’s owner – 80 year old Ken Bates – all summer.
Sheikh Abdulrahman is also well known in the UK for an alleged betting debt in excess of £350,000 (BHD207,230 or $565,000) which he is reputed to have owed to the British betting firm Spreadex since 2008. (See previous article: “Fake Sheikhs and Bahrain’s Fake Olympic Team” )
In the murky world of Middle East finance, it is likely that the Sheikh is still involved somewhere along the line, but his name was not mentioned when it was announced this week that an outfit called “GFH Capital” from Dubai have signed an agreement to take over the club.
Although financial details have not been released, it is thought the price the group is paying for Ken Bates shareholding is around £50 million (BHD 30,274,234 or $80.8 million dollars).
Four businessmen associated with GFH Capital attended last week’s game at the Elland Road ground, when Leeds beat Nottingham Forest 2-1, including the deputy chief executive officer of GFH Capital, David Haigh, and their chief investment officer, Salem Patel.
According to Patel, one of the their interests in the football club is that, despite having financial troubles in the past, it currently has no debt other than its ongoing lease.
GFH Capital hope to acquire the Elland Road site at some time in the future.
But their main interest is without a doubt that as from next season broadcasting rights for Premium League clubs will be a minimum of £60 million.
If Leeds, to the delight of their fans no doubt, can return to the top league, then £60 million would soon cover any interest payments that GFH Capital will probably be paying on money they will have borrowed to buy the club in the first place.
Apart from David Haigh (whose parents were from Leeds apparently and who also set up the political group “Conservatives in the Gulf” ) and Salam Patel, also present at last week’s game in Ken Bates’ director’s box was Hisham Alrayes, currently acting CEO of Gulf Finance House (GFH) of Bahrain.
GFH are 100% owners of GFH Capital, its subsidiary, and GFH’s Chairman, Esam Janahi, who was unavailable for last week’s meeting with Bates for “personal reasons”, has a long history of financial dealing across the Middle East, India and beyond.
However, red cards have been raised over the ability of GFH, which has suffered from the world economic crisis and in particular from falling land prices in Bahrain, to properly fund the Leeds deal.
Exotix, an investment firm that specialises in distressed assets, says in a research note that GFH is at “serious risk of default” and that its operations were not producing significant cash enabling it to pay future debts. “We remain wary of GFH’s ability to carry on as a going concern …” the research note continued.
According to Exotix, GFH has total debt amounting to $252 million and in May it received permission from creditors to restructure a $110 million debt that was outstanding. The National has further information, HERE:
A letter dated May 14 from the group’s auditors, KPMG, apparently says GFH “had accumulated losses of $300.69 million contractual obligations… and its current contractual obligations exceeded its liquid assets”. In other words, GFH already owes more than the value of any saleable assets that it holds.
While GFH Capital is a separate legal entity with its own funds and balance sheet, some are concerned that it plans to purchase Leeds with debt that could be put on the club’s balance sheet, an approach used in several foreign takeovers of English football clubs, notably Liverpool and Manchester United. More in the Independent, HERE:
GFH is well known in Bahrain for building the twin glass towers in the Financial Harbour district of Manama, the capital, a controversial development whose expensive office blocks remain largely empty.
According to an article published by Reuters in June 2011, “Land in the Gulf Arab region is largely controlled by a small number of ruling families who use it as a kind of currency, doling out plots to favored families and developers to forge political relationships and make money.
For it to work, the system depends on businessmen like Janahi, merchants who ostensibly operate independently from the state but whose success rests, at least in part, on political connections”.
“Our investigation shows,” continues Reuters, “The company charged investors huge markups on land deals and took out enormous up-front fees.
Such fees are legal in the Gulf but western bankers say they would be highly unusual in Europe or the United States, where the industry collects big payouts only when a project is successfully built and sold.
Documents obtained show that GFH, which has teetered on the brink of collapse for several months , also sometimes shifted investor money from one project to plug holes in another. The documents also suggest that GFH’s property projects were hurt by blurred lines between the personal interests of Janahi [the Chairman] and GFH itself. Investments and payments seemed to move back and forth between the two with very little scrutiny”.
Reuters says that “investors in GFH have been left with huge losses — $1.07 billion in 2009 and 2010 — and plenty of questions about whether the company’s myriad projects were ever going to be built in the first place”.
More recently GFH reported a profit of $4.7 million in the 2nd quarter of 2012, compared with a loss of $11.2 million in the same period a year earlier.
There are also questions around the connections of Bahrain’s dictators, the Al Khalifa family with GFH.
Documents shown to Reuters suggest that the “Ministry of Finance transferred the land on which GFH built its towers to the Bahrain Financial Harbour Company in 2003.
Bankers with knowledge of the deal say Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed Bahrain since independence four decades ago, granted the land in return for a 50 percent stake in the project. The other 50 percent was owned by GFH”.
The Bahrain Financial Harbour Company is chaired by Sheikh Rashid Khalifa Hamad al-Khalifa, the antique Prime Minister’s son-in-law, just another member of the ruling family that holds 50% of the Government’s cabinet positions and controls almost every other aspect of Bahrain’s political life, economy, judiciary, military and security forces and its media.
“Local bankers estimate GFH raised a total of $5 billion between 2002 and 2011 – much of that money is still locked up in unfinished projects”. You can read much more detail of on GFH’s “dodgy deals” in the Reuters special report, HERE:
For the majority of Bahrainis, the Financial Harbour and companies like GFH have come to symbolise everything they hate about the Al Khalifa Government, accusing it of corruption, lack of transparency, torture, human rights abuse and the trial of dissidents who oppose it, on false charges.
Commenting on the takeover of Leeds United by the Bahraini financial conglomerate, Gary Cooper, Chairman of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, said, “We’re hoping for investment in the team and for Leeds United to be glorious again”.
Leeds was relegated from the Premier League in 2004. With the right investment, good management and purchasing power to buy more first-class players, it stands a chance of making a significant come back.
However, given the risks with GFH, lets hope its fans are not left yet again with a club weighed down with financial problems – but this time with the added tarnish of being run and financed by leading members of one of the world’s most suppressive dictatorships.
BURMA: In my very first post on 1st January 2011 I wrote about women’s rights and how by depriving women of the opportunity to play their full role in society, we waste 50% of the earth’s human resources.
Two of the women in oppressive situations that I highlighted then were Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who was held under house arrest, on and off, for almost 24 years until her release on 13th November 2010, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, despite the fact that her husband was already dead at the time of the supposed “offence”.
It is with some pleasure then to note that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to travel, that she and her followers have won some seats in the Burmese parliament, that Burmese leaders after years of isolation are now communicating with the world (though probably through self interest), and that Aung San Suu Kyi has today arrived for a visit to the UK.
This is her first visit to Europe since 1988, although she was married to an Englishman, Michael Aris, a Tibetan scholar, who died of cancer in 1999. Fearful that the Burmese authorities would not allow her to return if she went to her husband’s bedside, she made the painful decision to stick by her people and remain in Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi also has 2 sons based and born in the UK and during her UK visit she will make a visit to Oxford where they all lived for a number of years. Today, Tuesday, is her 67th birthday.
She is expected to receive an honorary degree from the university while in Oxford, meet Prince Charles and his wife Camilla on Thursday and address both houses of the British Parliament, as well as meeting David Cameron the Prime Minister. She spoke in Ireland at the weekend, HERE:
Last Saturday Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the Nobel Committee in Norway and received the Nobel Peace Prize which they awarded her 20 years ago. She said she heard about it on the radio at the time, while under house arrest, and it helped reconnect her with the wider world. You can read more about her life, HERE:
So sometimes the world does get a little better it seems, despite all the pain, persecution, killing and torture.
IRAN: Of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian lady sentenced to death by stoning, there is no word as far as I can trace.
In January 2012 the Iranian parliament changed the law on “adultery” to death by hanging, but that is effectively no improvement on a punishment that seems to be reserved for women and remains cruel, inhuman and unjust.
Sakineh Ashtiani, may still be alive in prison, but it would not surprise me to learn that she has been quietly and secretly executed.
EGYPT: The 2011 “revolution” in Egypt that brought down it’s long time president and dictator, Hosni Mubarak, looks as though it may have stalled.
Despite reaching the point of parliamentary elections, a “Supreme Constitutional Court” (odd when the country still does not have a constitution) declared last week that the legislative polls last year were unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.
This has led the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf), which had controlled the country since Mubarak fell, still in complete power.
So everyone is wondering if anything has changed.
The question gains more stringency when you discover that of the 2 remaining candidates in last week’s presidential election run-off, one is a former army officer and prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, and the other is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group of whom the army are terrified.
Following the ruling by the constitutional court on the parliamentary elections, Scarf, dissolved parliament and prevented MPs from entering, and yesterday gave itself sweeping powers over legislation, the national budget and over who writes a new constitution, effectively removing power from any new president.
The Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi is believed to be slightly ahead in the polling but the results will not be declared until Thursday.
The former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who was 3rd in the first round of voting, said the declaration was a “seizure of the future of Egypt”.
So far the street revolutionaries, many of whom supported Sabahi, have been restrained.
However, if Thursday’s result is suspected of being gerrymandered in favour of the ruling army council, who seem to have guaranteed themselves jobs for life and have huge and lucrative business interests all over Egypt, then the revolution in Egypt may just have to take place all over again.
Whether the people have enough energy or stomach for that remains to be seen.
FATHER AND 4 YEAR OLD SON BLASTED BY POLICE BIRDSHOT WHILE SITTING IN THE STREET:
BAHRAIN’S PATHETIC LEGAL SYSTEM TOO AFRAID OF LOSING FACE TO ACQUIT ALL MEDICS ON ALL CHARGES:
BIASED JUDICIARY CONTINUES TO PLAY GAMES WITH VICTIMS OF LAWS PREVENTING SELF-EXPRESSION:
FURTHER RESTRICTIONS ON THE UNIVERSAL RIGHT OF SELF EXPRESSION VIA SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE WAY:
In a week that has seen a 11 year old released after more than 1 month in detention, more children arrested, some in the middle of the night, and now yesterday a small child serously injured with birdshot, Bahrain’s Opposition Tweeters can be forgiven for asking on Twitter whether the Al Khalifa Government has “run out of grown-ups to arrest and shoot?”.
Ali Hassan, the 11 year old (sometimes reported as 12) was released on bail on Monday this week after being initially imprisoned and then held in a juvenile detention centre.
While in detention the six grade student was forced to take his exams while behind bars, not the most conducive environment for clear thinking and exam preparation. All Ali wanted to do was to go home and be with his Mum.
Ali is still charged with “illegal gathering” and “rioting” and accused of trying to block the street against entry by police into his village, and will have to return to court on 20th June.
The youngster says he was just playing in the street with 2 friends when they were chased by plaincloths police. When Ali fell over while trying to escape, he was taken away and unecessarily incarcerated. You can hear his own testimony in this Al Jazeera interview, HERE:
As Ahlam Oun points out an “illegal gathering” is a meeting together of 5 people or more, which would of course make many family meetings “against the law”.
In her blog post Ahlam suggests that this has become the authorities “quick-fix” to neutralise anyone they don’t like, but conversely they fail to prosecute anyone who supports them when the Al Fateh movement for example hold an unlicensed rally. You can read Ahlam’s blog, HERE:
There have also been numerous reports of villages being raided this week by police in the middle of the night, especially between the hours of 1.30 and 4.30 am.
The raids seem systematic and deliberate, one by one targeting in the last 7 days the villages of Salmabad, Daih, Jidhafs, Al Musala, Aali, Sanabis, Sitra, Buri, Muharraq, Duraz, Bilad Al Qadeem and many more and arresting people while they are still half asleep.
The raids are often noisy, aggressive and violent. The usual “tactful” approach, and almost always without a warrant to arrest, can be seen in this daylight video of a group of imcompetent “Keystone Kops” attempting to break down a door, HERE:
Ali Ashoor, shown here, is 16 years old and has been detained since January 5th. He is currently the youngest prisoner in Jaw prison.
Yesterday Hassan AlSamea, 12 years old, was dragged away from his mother and arrested despite her attempts to prevent it.
The despondent face of Hassan’s Mother and those of the smirking female police officers having succeeded in their task, say it all.
You can see the “battle for Hassan’s freedom”, HERE:
FATHER AND 4 YEAR OLD SON BLASTED BY POLICE BIRDSHOT WHILE SITTING IN THE STREET
Worst of all this week is the shooting of a 4 year old child (earlier reported as 5 years old.
EDITOR: Can someone tell me why there are always problems in Bahrain getting ages right?)
Ahmed Naham was sitting in the street with his Father who was selling fish, as photographic evidence confirms.
Mr. Naham says the police coming down the street told them to “go away” but as he prepared to pick up his child, a policeman opened fire. The 4 year old now has 2 pellets in his left eye and more in other parts of his body. The father has pellets in his thigh, stomach and arms. Video on the Internet shows police carrying the boy away, closely followed by his father, HERE:
After arriving at the Salmaniya Medical complex, police and security service personnel prevented people and some members of the family from speaking to the father or seeing the little boy.
He is now undergoing treatment, HERE:
EDITOR: It seems very evident to me that this is a new tactic – target children and indirectly intimidate their parents in the hope that they will keep their offspring away from protests. Fat chance – far too late for that! Sumood.
BAHRAIN’S PATHETIC LEGAL SYSTEM TOO AFRAID OF LOSING FACE TO ACQUIT ALL MEDICS ON ALL CHARGES:
But of course, the persecution of adults in the Shia community in Bahrain does not stop either. This morning,Thursday, while nine of the medics who have been on trial for over a year in military and civil courts, were acquitted of all charges, nine others were convicted.
Those acquitted following a series of internationally condemned and farcical trials were Zahra AlSammak, Hassan AlTublani,
Fatima Haji, Nada Dhaif, Ahmed Omran, Rola AlSaffar, Najah Khalil, Mohammed AlShehab and Sayed Marhoon.
However, the following were found guilty, albeit with reduced sentences, Ali AlEkri (5 years), Ghassan Dhaif (1 year), Mahmood Asghar (6 months), Bassem Dhaif (1 month), Ebrahim AlDemistani (3 years), (Nader Diwani and Abdulkhaliq AlOraibi (both 1 month), Dhiaa AbuIdrees (2 months) and Saeed AlSamaheeji (1 year).
Two other medics did not appear in court to appeal their 15 year sentences, having either gone abroad or underground in Bahrain.
The court threw out some of the most serious charges such as “occupying the Salmaniya hospital” and “possessing weapons”, piles of which, including chains, a sword and an AK 47, were brought into court at a previous hearing.
“This is an unjust ruling,” Twefik Dhaif, the uncle of two of the convicted medics said.
“These are the elite doctors in this country. We have 15 doctors in my family, and most of the people they have treated were Al Khalifas,” referring to Bahrain’s controlling family. You can read Al Jazeera’s report, HERE:
Clearly this has nothing to do with justice. Everyone knows that all the medics did was help treat the injuries of protesters in very difficult circumstances.
Reducing sentences and freeing some is the best the Bahrain Government and judicial system can come up with in the face of continued international criticism and in an a pathetic attempt to save face. And it is not enough.
Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, said after the verdict, “It is a travesty of justice that the trials continued and that the medics are now sentenced to jail time”.
Dr. Nada Dhaif, the only one of the doctors on trial allowed to travel, spoke at a demonstration in Dublin on 12rh June, HERE: supported by other speakers such Jamila Hanan (aka Frankie Dolan), HERE: Respect to you both for your clear statements.
One of the nurses’ story, published at Philly.com, is very telling too.
INCOMPETENT JUDICIARY CONTINUES TO PLAY GAMES WITH VICTIMS OF LAWS PREVENTING SELF-EXPRESSION:
And the injustice continues. Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was due in court again this week but was remanded in prison again, without a court visit, until 18th June. He is also due in court on 19th May on another charge, but no-one will be surprised if that hearing is delayed also.
All part of the not-so-sophisticated sadistic mental torture practiced by the Al Khalifa Government.
Ahmed Aoun, an imprisoned 17 year old student, who had a police shotgun pellet embedded in his right eye, was denied an operation at the end of May, but now 2 weeks later the surgery has been carried out. The delay may have cost him his sight.
He was originally arrested while receiving treatment at a private hospital for his injuries which were sustained while supporting a peaceful demonstration.
Now comes news that Sayed Hadi Al Musawi, a former Opposition MP who recently gave testimony at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights, has been called for questioning today at the Public Prosecutor’s office following a complaint by the Ministry of Interior.
At the time of the UPR hearing local loyalist media in Bahrain referred to the participants as “traitors” and they were threatened with prosectuion by the Minister of Interior himself.
The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement, who also attended the UPR session, said “Regardless of whether this relates to Sayed Hadi’s involvement in the UPR there is no justification for the call for investigation. Sayed Hadi is an opposition activist and human rights defender who has always worked within the framework of the law.
This is is another attempt to try to silence the opposition and does not constitute a serious attempt by the authorities to take the country out of the current crisis.” There is further information, HERE:
FURTHER RESTRICTIONS ON THE UNIVERSAL RIGHT OF SELF EXPRESSION VIA SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE WAY:
In addition to all that the likely direction of further arrests and prosecutions is indicated by a statement reported in the press by the recently appointed Minister of State for Information Affairs, Samira Rajab.
Samira Rajab, a past supporter of dictator Sadam Hussein apparently, said that Bahrain is set to introduce tough new laws to combat the “misuse” of social media.
Claiming that action was necessary to “guarantee the security of the state”, the minister said, “We have a right to punish those who indulge in seditious behaviour and create disunity among the people.
We have to think of how to protect our national security. We have these new threats and we have to see how we can tackle those threats”.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Bahrain Centre for Strategic and International Studies and Energy, she asserted that “social media had been and continues to be abused by the so-called human rights activists”, citing claims “that drowning victims had been killed by torture” and that “sickel cell victims” had been killed by security forces.
(EDITOR: Though independent examination of victims in both those cases has indicated that the victims had been severely tortured before death.) The full report on the minister’s speech is HERE:
Compounding the Al Khalifa Government’s inane and immature ability to understand the rights of individuals to self-expression in the modern world, the King, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa held a meeting at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Command Headquarters.
Also present at the family gathering were Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, State Minister for Defence Affairs Lieutenant General Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa and BDF Chief of Staff Major General Shaikh Daij bin Salman Al Khalifa.
In his speech to the officers present, the King said yesterday, “Our armed forces are the protectors of the nation’s achievements and everybody must know that whoever disrespects the forces or its leaders is in fact abusing us”.
We cannot tolerate,” the King continued, “Any irreverence of our beliefs, social values and armed forces in the name of freedom of expression. All competent executive agencies have to take the necessary measures to address these violations in accordance with the law”. (You can read the full report, HERE: )
TRANSLATION: “Criticise the armed forces, police or security forces and we will take that personnally and make up new laws to prosecute you for defamation”. For the oppressed in Bahrain it does not get any easier.
AFTER 2 DAYS UN OBSERVERS REACH SITE OF 4th MASSACRE TO STILL FIND BODY PARTS AND THE STENCH OF BURNT FLESH:
HOURS OF FIGHTING AS FSA STRIKES BACK IN DEFENCE OF ATTACKED PROTESTERS IN DAMASCUS:
TIMELINE – 9th JUNE 2012 23.02 GMT:
UN observers finally made it yesterday into the deserted farming village of Mazraat Al-Qubeir, 2 days after a reported massacre of more than 80 people, at least half of them women and children.
Despite the claims by the Syrian Government that it was “nothing to do with them” there was clear evidence of armored-vehicle tracks in the vicinity and some homes were damaged by rockets from armored vehicles, grenades and weapons ranging in calibre.
Only the Syrian army has armored vehicles and heavy weapons.
In some houses there was still evidence of human flesh, blood and body parts and the air was filled with the stench of burnt bodies. The UN are still trying to establish exactly what happened.
Neighbours of the community blame miltia gangs from nearby Alawite villages. The BBC’s Paul Danahar accompanied the UN team and was witness to what they found in this video report, HERE:
HOURS OF FIGHTING AS FSA STRIKES BACK IN DEFENCE OF ATTACKED PROTESTERS IN DAMASCUS:
Early this morning, Saturday, Deraa in the south of the country came under heavy shelling and 17 people were reported killed, 10 of them women.
Yesterday also saw some of the heaviest fighting in Damascus since the conflict began with Syrian Army troops opening fire on anti-government protesters and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) retaliating in their defence.
FSA fighters openly appeared at a rally in Kfar Souseh and attacked an Army checkpoint in the same area.
Clashes additionally occurred in the Damascus suburbs of Qaboun and Barzeh with tank fire until 1.30 am on Saturday morning. The FSA attacked a power plant in Qaboun with rocket-propelled grenades, setting fire to a generator and causing blackouts. The attack left buses charred and a smashed car.
Maath al-Shami, an opposition activist said, “Yesterday was a turning point in the conflict. There were clashes in Damascus that lasted hours. The battle is in Damascus now.” Associated Press has a fuller report, HERE: