A Wiser Approach in Regard to the Kingdom of Bahrain

Bahrain has a local population of some three quarters of a million, which marks it as about the size of the size of Washington DC, or the town of Bristol in the UK. And, as pointed out by Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed, the Bahrain Ambassador to the UK just this week, Bahrain is the most religiously diverse community in the Arabian Gulf. Bahrain even has a small Jewish community. Their Minister for Culture, Sheikah Mai, talks of tolerance being not an idea, but rather a way of living.

And yet Bahrain suffers from a brutal sectarian divide that sets neighbour against neighbour in a far more noxious head to head than those we are familiar with in Northern Ireland. Policemen are killed for as pastime by Shiite extremists in Bahrain. Whilst the Sunni establishment resorts to countermeasures that are often sledgehammer-like in character.

And what does the international community do? We fan the flames.

Iran for a start. Iran could be helpful. Instead, Iran puts pressure on Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, the spiritual leader of much of the Shiite community (photograph above). He in turn puts pressure on Ali Salman, the longest serving opposition leader in the world, who squares up to the longest-serving Premier (Bahrain has both). And Ali Salman put pressure on the opposition party he heads (Al Wefaq) not to stand at the last election in 2014.

The government’s response being to imprison Ali Salman and shut down Wefaq.

Were Iran to lift its heavy hand all of the above could be reversed. But it won’t. And so the Bahrain government won’t release Ali Salman. Which will make a sham of the forthcoming 2018 elections, as well as increasing the country’s sectarian divide.

And does the international community help? Not really. Not really at all. We browbeat Bahrain for its myriad perceived human rights failings, sometimes justifiably, sometimes less so. And when they do something good, like pass the most socially inclusive family law in the Arab world, a law that allows women to initiate divorce proceedings against their husbands, we fail to notice.

And the international community nags on. So Bahrain, at the behest of the United Kingdom which nags like the rest of them, introduces a remarkable restorative justice law to deal with young offenders. The most progressive in the Arab world. Again no praise.

Of course it is one step forward and two steps back, as prominent figures in the opposition have their nationality revoked or are imprisoned for what many would regard as the most minor of misdemeanours.

So the pressure mounts regarding allegations of torture and Bahrain, in response, appoints an independent Ombudsman to deal with allegations of the mistreatment of prisoners. My point being that progress gets little commendation, and meanwhile there is a cacophony of noise about human rights abuses, much of it of course justifiable, but so loud that it drowns out reasonable debate.

And where should the focus of reasonable debate be in Bahrain? On the 2018 elections of course. For true inclusivity at those elections. That’s what matters now.

Plastic Waste – an Issue that Demands our Attention

After news broke of an archipelago of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean with a composite area roughly the size of France, social media webpage LadBible teamed up with the Plastic Oceans Foundation in an appeal to have this mass of waste officially recognised as the world’s 196th nation-state. This proposed nation, ‘The Trash Isles’, has had its own flag, passport, stamps and currency devised, while former US Vice-President  Al Gore has applied for citizenship.

Indeed, what may appear a rather flippant approach to a serious problem is in fact underpinned by an urge to give this hugely worrying issue as much coverage as possible. While it’s an unmistakably humorous notion that a floating mass of plastic could ever be granted the status of a nation, the campaign draws people’s attention to an issue that is wreaking havoc on marine and avian ecosystems. The issue was given further exposure on the most recent episode of the hugely popular Blue Planet II, as emotive images of sea-life suffering the consequences of human negligence were enough to stir outrage, compassion and, hopefully, redoubled activism.

The numbers are astounding: according to National Geographic, 91% of plastic remains unrecycled; most plastic thrown away is from single usage; a staggering eight million tonnes of plastic waste makes its way into our oceans every year; there is forecasted to be a greater mass of plastic than of fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. The list goes on. Since plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, most of it still exists on the planet in some form. Further, the task of cleaning our oceans of already-existing plastic is made extremely difficult by the fact that, rather than degrade, plastic simply breaks down into much smaller pieces, spread over a far greater surface area. This massively complicates the task of removing waste from the oceans, whilst the debris is making its way into the organisms of sea life with increasing regularity, having an often-devastating effect on marine ecosystems.

It is a depressing thought that a great deal of this damage is irreversible. But that should make us no less motivated to drastically improve the ways in which we use and dispose of plastic. A concerted collective global effort must be undertaken to mitigate against the damage in which we humans are the complicit party. The effects of pollution are not notional, they are very real.

The 10th International Media Awards

On the 28th of June, the 10th edition of the International Media Awards were held at Whitehall, London. With guests attending from all over the world, including Russia, Israel, Afghanistan and Libya, the ceremony was a great spectacle of diversity. The ceremony was indeed a microcosm of the greater Middle East, the disparate nationalities and ethnicities of all those who participated reflected the vast array of people that call the region home. In an increasingly exclusionary, protectionist modern political landscape, this evening serves as a sharp contrast, offering a glimmer of hope to all of us who have been saddened by the current state of middle-eastern affairs, and those of us who are discontent with recent geopolitical developments.

The evening was not short of entertainment either, throughout the dinner multiple awards were given to deserving journalists, ranging from those who have just embarked on a journalistic career to those more seasoned, with some boasting 25+ year careers. Correspondents, documentary producers, and broadcasters were all recognised during the night. It is imperative these professionals are recognised for the work they do. They consistently risk their lives for the sake of uncovering the truth on complex conflicts and help us make sense of an increasingly interconnected world. Through credible, honest storytelling the winners have drawn our attention towards humanitarian crises whether they be in Yemen or Syria, the plight of those living under IS rule in Iraq and also highlighted the injustices some Palestinians face in everyday life.

Among the winners was Lyse Doucet, an accomplished broadcaster and frontline journalist, and is currently the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent. She won the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting’ award, which rewards those who have had an illustrious career in the field of journalism. Throughout her career, Lyse has upheld the universal media virtues of integrity, honesty and impartiality. She is a figure of the industry and an idol to many young journalists looking to begin their careers.

There was also a moment of profound reflection. During the 4-year International Media Awards hiatus, there have been over 100 media related murders in the Middle-East. This number serves to indicate the deteriorating security conditions for media personnel in the region. But it simultaneously, allows us to appreciate the dangerous but vital work these journalists undertake. The sorry state of freedom of speech in the region is disheartening, but as the International Media Awards have indicated: The Middle-Eastern region has been ushered into a new era of information and wide-spread knowledge, there has been a huge influx of young journalists breaking through evinced by the young set of winners this year. Those who are brave, courageous, and those who will always stand in the face of adversity to retell the stories of the unfortunate to those of us who are much more fortunate. It is safe to say that the future of journalism is in good hands.

 

King Salman’s son Prince Mohammed bin Salman named as new crown prince

On Wednesday morning King Salman of Saudi Arabia named his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the next heir to the Saudi throne, sweeping aside his son’s oldest rival, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. King Salman’s royal decree removed his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, from the line of succession and from his post as interior minister. The promotion of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince marks the end of the gradual removal of powers from the previous Mohammed bin Nayef.

While some are calling the royal decree emblematic of a coup d’état in which Mohammed bin Nayef has been ousted; the decision has not come as a shock. It is the case that the timing has been unexpected, but the influence of Mohammed bin Salman has been consistently growing culminating in this decision. The new crown prince has enjoyed growing influence following his father’s accession to the throne in 2015. Shortly after King Salman’s accession to the throne, he was appointed as defence minister and later in the same year was named deputy crown prince.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s influence is perhaps most apparent in his role as defence minister in leading Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen fighting the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen. It is widely believed that Mohammed bin Salman has been a driving force behind the decision to cut diplomatic ties and enforce a blockade on Qatar. Despite being behind this inconclusive and damaging military campaign, he is popular amongst Saudis for his reforms to the country’s ineffective state bureaucracy and his new long term economic plan “Vision 2030” which aims to wean the Kingdom off its dependence on oil.

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Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as Defence Minister, with US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis before a bi-lateral meeting held at the Pentagon, Washington DC, March 16 2017. 

King Salman’s decision to cement the position of Mohammed bin Salman brings into question what the consequences in the region will be, particularly with regards to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. Significantly, the decision to replace the 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef with King Salman’s 31-year-old son will give the Kingdom something it has not experienced in over half a century – a young King with the potential to rule for over 4 decades.

It is too early to predict the precise effects of this appointment on the stance of the Kingdom with regards to respective nation states in the region. That being said, given the current aggressive stance under King Salman towards Iran, it is likely that this will either continue or worsen under the crown prince. What is for sure, is that Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment will have significant ramifications for Middle Eastern politics, and more specifically for the Gulf, in the long-term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations Emmanuel Macron

We at the Next Century Foundation would like to wish the new President of France luck in his quest to unite France after the highly polarizing presidential election. He has a monumental task ahead of him. Macron must appeal to both the disillusioned minorities in France who feel marginalised as well as exasperated French patriots who have looked to the far right for answers to their economic and sovereignty fears.  We hope he continues to uphold the virtues of liberty, equality and fraternity upon which the Republic of France was built.  We also hope that Macron, as an exponent of the European project, adopts a foreign policy that reflects the values of the European Union, the most important of which are the respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, equality and the rule of law. Whilst there are many domestic problems that need to be resolved, including the stagnant French economy and his weak legislative powers, we are expect that Mr Macron will not turn a blind eye towards the injustices in the Middle-East and the humanitarian crisis that continues to persist on the shores of the Mediterranean.

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A New Hope for Libya

On the second of May, two of the most prominent Libyan political figures met in Abu-Dhabi for a meeting that lasted 2 hours long, mediated by both Arab and International actors. This was the first meeting of this type between the clashing leaders  since the UN sanctioned Libyan Political agreement was signed in January 2016, which instated the Government of National Accord.

Khalifa Haftar,  one of the two aforementioned leaders, has often been described by mainstream media outlets as a renegade military leader, with ambitions to institute military rule upon Libya. He has been exile in Virginia,  America for nearly 20 years after his failed attempt to overthrow Colonel Gaddaffi in a military coup, gaining U.S. citizenship. Currently, he is based in the east of the country and leads the self-named Libyan National Army or what is also known as Operation Dignity. Due to his unwavering stance towards Islamic extremism and his strongman demeanor, Khalifa Haftar has ascended to the forefront of Libyan politics, he now enjoys financial and military support from the Kremlin as well as the UAE, it has been noted that General Al-Sisi is also an ally of General Haftar. But we should be under no delusion, some Libyans (many of them non-Islamist) are opposed to any rule composed of General Haftar. They do not want what they perceive to be another military dictator, after paying in blood for their freedom.

In stark contrast Fayez Al-Sarraj the leader of the Government of National Accord and the head of the presidential council, has led a particularly uneventful life before his designation to the prime ministerial role. Mr Al-Sarraj hails from Tripoli and was born to a wealthy family, he trained as an architect and his father owned vast swathes of land. Much responsibility rests on his shoulders following his appointment, he cannot afford to alienate the General Khalifa Haftar because of the large foreign support he is provided with and the growing strength of his army. Conversely, it is the general consensus that the country needs to submit to civilian authority. President Al-Sarraj has been adamant in wanting a unified Libyan army under civil control, a stipulation which Haftar is against, although the General has never truly admitted so in public.

As is always the case in high level diplomatic negotiations, it seems that there is a disconnect between these ostensible leaders and the people governed.  General Haftar and Mr Al-Sarraj meeting in Abu-Dhabi was convened amidst a backdrop of a dire economic situation in Libya. Libya’s oil production output, the state’s most significant revenue generator, is a fraction of 2010 levels. Foreign capital investment has grounded to a halt, and the Libyan tourism industry has been devastated. This has all led to delayed and sometimes cancelled salary payments, substandard infrastructure even in Tripoli, virtually non-existent public services and inadequate healthcare, forcing people to travel to Tunisia and Egypt to obtain life-saving treatments. It is a sad fact that ordinary Libyan people are the ones  feeling this financial squeeze the most.

Robust, unified governance and rule of law is the hallmark of all developed and civilised countries. Through forging relationships, and crossing political divides this meeting  provides hope for the creation of such a government, all in the pursuit of a prosperous Libya. We wish the two leaders good luck, and remind them that they would do best by serving the populace rather than pursue policies of greed, and corruption which have bedevilled North Africa in the past.

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معاناة أهالي الحويجة

معاناة أهالي الحويجة

مازال الشعب مازال العراقي يعاني من تعذيب مجندي تنظيم الدولة الاسلامية للمدنيين رغم التقدم الذي أحرزته القوات العراقية المشتركة في تحرير بعض المناطق من سيطرة التنظيم في العملية التي قد بدأت قبل عدة أسابيع. يقوم مجندي التنظيم بالانتقام لخسارتهم المتعددة في عدة مدن بتعويض هذه الخسائر بسفك دماء المدنيين و خاصة في قضاء الحويجة في كركوك. حيث قام أعضاء التنظيم مؤخرا و تحديدا قبل يومين بإعدام 13 مدني رميا بالرصاص بعد محاولتهم الفرار من الحويجة إلى مدن قريبة للتخلص من الرعب الذي يسكنهم و الذي ينشره التنظيم في جيمع أنحاء القضاء حيث ان قام احدهم بالفرار من القضاء فالموت ينتظره و أما إن بقي في منزله فالجحيم يسكنه!

قام التتنظيم بالسيطرة على قضاء الحويجة و بعض المناطق المجاورة في كركوك في يوليو 2014 ، حيث أبلغ مجندي التنظيم أهالي الحويجه بعد إعلان السيطرة الكاملة على القضاء بأنه من سيحاول الفرار من جنوبي كركوك سواء كان رجل او امرأة او طفل سيكون عقابه و مصيره الموت، و قد قام التنظيم بالفعل بقطع يد من يرفض الانتماء له من أهالي الحويجة و إعدام 6 أشقاء بعد محاولتهم الفرار من الحويجة.

قام التنظيم بإحتجاز مايقارب 385 مدني من سكان الحويجه بعد محاولتهم الفرار نحو المناطق الخاضعة لسيطرة قوات البيشمركة جنوب غربي كركوك، و البعض حاول الفرار و الوصول إلى محافظة صلاح الدين. تم إعدام عدد قليل من المحتجزين فيما لا يزال مصير الآخرين مجهول. من بين المحتجزين رجال و نساء و أطفال حيث يتوقع البعض بأنه سيتم إعدام جميع الرجال و تجنيد الأطفال في صفوف التنظيم. فيما سيتم سبي النساء و استخدامهم فيما يعرف عند التنظيم “بجهاد النكاح”، و هنا نعود للإسلام الذي يدعي التنظيم أنه يمثله، حيث أنه من توجيهات رسولنا – عليه الصّلاة والسّلام – في الحرب أنْ لا تُقتل المرأة أو الشّيخ أو الطّفل، وإنّما يَحلُّ سبي النّساء في حالةٍ واحدةٍ فقط، وهي حالة القتال مع الأعداء، ودون ترويعٍ لها أو انتقاصٍ من كرامتها، و هذا ما لا يفعله التنظيم.

قصه واقعيه لرجل فر هاربا بعد أن احتجزه التنظيم بعد محاولته الهروب مع والده و زوجته و أولاده من الحويجه. بعد العديد من الترتيبات و التجهيزات جاء اليوم المنتظر الذي ظن فيه هذا الشخص بأن عذاب التنظيم و الخوف منهم سينتهي بعد الهرب من قضاء الحويجة إلى منطقة آمنة، و لكن سرعان ماتحول هذا الحلم إلى جحيم و عذاب مستمر بعد أن أمسك التنظيم به و بوالده بينما استطاعت زوجته الفرار برفقة أطفاله. قام التنظيم بممارسة جميع أنواع التعذيب من الضرب و الجلد و كل مايخطر على البال من أساليب معدومة الرحمة لمدة 5 أشهر على هذا الرجل بينما قاموا باحتجاز والده في مكان آخر و لم يستطع رؤيته. أعلن التنظيم عن أنه سيتم إعدام هذا الرجل و تم تحديد اليوم ولكن لحسن حظ هذا الرجل و لأنه لم يقطع أمله بالله نشب حريق في السجن الذي كان متواجد فيه حيث استطاع الهروب إلى الصحراء للوصول إلى منطقة آمنه في تكريت حيث استنجد بأهلها للوصول إلى كركوك لزوجته و أولاده، و لكن رغم هربه إلا أنه لايزال يجهل مصير والده و حاله و لا يعلم إن كان حيا أو قد تم قتله! وصف هذا الرجل التنظيم بأنه شديد الوحشيه و معدوم من الانسانيه و الرحمه حيث أن مجندوه يستمتعون بالقتل و رؤية عذاب الآخرين و يضحكون على من يموت و على من يعذب، و هنا أيضا نسأل أين الإسلام فيما يفعلونه؟ الإسلام يقول بأنه لايجوز على الميت إلا الرحمه و هؤلاء الوحوش يتراقصون فوق الجثث، الإسلام يأمر بالرحمه و الأخوه و لكن هؤلاء يقتلون أبناء وطنهم و آبائهم و إخوانهم و البعض منهم من يقتل أمه و يقتل العربي مثله و إن كان مسلم؟ فهو يقتل أخاه المسلم و هو شيء يمنعه الإسلام، فأين الإسلام فيما تفعلونه! نساء تترمل و أطفال يتيتمون و رجال عاجزون عن حماية عوائلهم.

مايقارب 28 شهرا مضت على دخول داعش للأراضي العراقية و السيطرة على مايقارب 40 % من الأراضي، و حتى الآن خسر جزء كبير من هذه الأراضي بفضل العمليات العسكرية التي تعمل على تحرير العراق من التنظيم، و لكن مازال التنظيم يعلن سيطرته على 7%من المدن التي يتواجد فيها عدد كبير من السكان. على مدى مايزيد عن العامين خسر التنظيم 30 ألف مقاتل من ضمن 45 ألف مقاتل دخلوا العراق و من بين ال30 ألف مقاتل 40 قياديا من الصف  الأول و مايقارب 500 قياديا من الصفوف الوسطى و الميدانية مما يوضح بدء انهيار التنظيم بشكل كبير. أيضا بعد أن كان التنظيم يقوم بتجنيد 500 مقاتلا شهريا و ضمهم لصفوفه ، بات يجند فقط 50 مقاتلا شهريا أو أقل. من ناحية أخرى، بعد أن كانت إرادات التنظيم تصل إلى مايقارب 80 مليون دولار شهريا في سوريا و العراق ، انخفضت الإرادات بشكل كبير بنسبة 62.5 %.

في العديد من المقالات نقرأ عن بعض أعضاء التنظيم يقتلون بعضهم البعض أو القيادات تأمر بقتل أحد أعضاء التنظيم ، كما تعلمنا عندما كنا صغار أن ماتفعله سيعود لك فيوم لك و يوم عليك ، بالأمس قتلت و اليوم أنت ستقتل ، بالأمس أمرت بقتل فلان أو إعدامه أما اليوم فسيتم الأمر بإعدامك. نحن لا نملك سوا الدعاء للأبرياء الذين يجبرون على معايشة الخوف في كل يوم و لحظه و ثانيه و الدعاء للمحتجزين لدى التنظيم بأن يفك الله أسرهم، و أن يعود العراق آمنا و شامخا و بهيبته كما كان سابقا و أن يعيش هذا الشعب الذي عانى الكثير و تغرب في جميع أنحاء العالم أن يعيش بسلام و آمان لأنه حان الوقت لأن ينتهي هذا العذاب.

Next Century Foundation team run Santa in the City!

On Saturday 3rd December the NCF interns ran 6km around Battersea Park  in support of the NCF. It was a fantastic day and great fun running around in Santa costumes!

All of our endeavours are currently underfunded. Your donations would enable us to continue our work tackling some of the most pressing moral and humanitarian issues in the Middle East and North Africa.

So far we have raised £1,400 which is a tremendous effort. Our target is £2,000 and there is still time to donate!

If you would like to donate please follow this link . Any contribution would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

The NCF team

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Freedom From Fear : A Nuclear Story

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In his 1941 State of the Union speech, Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined four fundamental freedoms which everyone, everywhere ought to enjoy. Freedom from Fear is the fourth and final freedom. In Roosevelt’s words, this means “a world wide reduction of arms to such a point that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour anywhere in the world.” De-arming the state is the central theme in this freedom. An important ethical principle underlies this human right : no one should live in fear of being attacked without provocation. 

Non-state actors play a crucial role in upholding this universal human right. For example, The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works to ensure every person enjoys a freedom from fear of nuclear war as an ‘Atoms for Peace’ organisation. The Agency’s objectives are two fold. They aim to 1) accelerate the contribution of atomic energy to peace and prosperity. 2) ensure that its contributions are not used to further any military purpose. 

The IAEA’s work with Iran since 2003 has been integral in securing the Iran Nuclear Deal. In January 2016, IAEA verified Iran’s compliance with a limitation of uranium enrichment agreed under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Agency will continue to monitor nuclear activities in Iran, thereby serving as a force for atomic peace and upholding a universal freedom from fear. An important aspect of this  ethical commitment is transparency. On the one hand, Iran have publicly declared their issuing of long-term visas and all necessary information to IAEA inspectors. On the other, the details of IAEA’s inspections have been made publicly available in regular reports. This relationship between state and non-state actors is crucial in providing the world with access to transparent information on nuclear disarmament in the pursuit to guarantee a universal freedom from fear.

However, in serving as this force for good, the IAEA has been criticised for issues related to one-dimensional research. Former senior officials voiced their concerns over the lack of vigorous debate and peer reviewed intelligence under the leadership of IAEA head Yakima Amano. These concerns are to be looked at alongside WikiLeaks revelations that Amano’s reminders (to a US Ambassador) that he remained “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision”. As mentioned, a real freedom from fear hinges on transparent information about the neutrality and rigour of research into nuclear disarmament.

In this age of seemingly cyclical conflict and crises, the international community ought to take seriously the idea underlying FDR’s Freedom from Fear. That is, every person should enjoy a life free from fear of national aggression. This idea is particularly pertinent in the context of the Middle East ; where the civilianisation of recent warfare means that geopolitical conflicts have devastating effects on ordinary communities. To this end, strong and transparent non-state actors are necessary drivers of peace. Their relations with global powers should be consistently reviewed and underlined by a commitment to a Freedom from Fear, which sits firmly at NCF’s ethical basis. 

The Refugee Crisis – a Long Journey for All

The recent conference on the pervasive refugee crisis, which was jointly organised by Initiatives of Change’s Sustainable Communities programme and ICEARAS*, provided an ideal platform for many to share harrowing yet inspiring stories from the front-line. All speakers featured were remarkable, with each contributing to the alleviation of the refugee disaster on either the individual or the broader institutional aspect. Some speakers such as the Rt Hon Lord Alfred Dubs, Sakira Suzia and Councillor Micheline Safi Ngongo were all former refugees to the United Kingdom. They are a testament to the humanitarian and economic development that inevitably transpires from the solidarity of man in the face of world-wide calamities. Other speakers such as Elizabeth Jones, member of UKIP’s National Executive Committee, provided a much-needed opposing perspective to the dominating opinion of lenient border controls for refugees.

Among the particularly distressing stories from the frontline was one voiced by Ms Suzia, a decorated Police Constable with the London Metropolitan police. Some of the most common occurrences she witnessed whilst volunteering in Lesbos was the lifelessness of the babies arriving via the precarious boats to the shores of Europe. The reasoning behind these disturbing scenes is equally alarming: Concerned parents are faced with a grave predicament, either medicate their babies unconscious to force their silence and thereby avoiding trafficker gunfire, or risk their babies’ lives by allowing them to travel unsedated. Leila Segal, a trained barrister and founder of the Voice of Freedom also provided a glimpse into rarely reported incidents of women trafficking. A particularly heart-wrenching story was one of a young Ethiopian woman named Desta Getaneh who at the innocent of age of 10 left home in search for a quality of life we (residents of developed countries) at times fail to appreciate. En route, she befriended a man who promised to aid her journey but instead sold her to a trafficker where the conspicuous exchange of money occurred right before her eyes. This anecdote perfectly underlines the influence the trafficking industry has on an indigent region. Traffickers are running rampant in countries with no enforceable regulation or security, it is therefore our duty as citizens of the world to propel these countries towards the road to liberation from this scourge.

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The event which gathered a crowd of over 70 people also provided a full opportunity for views from various political persuasions to be heard, most notably, Lord Alfred Dubs. The Rt Hon gave a particularly impassioned speech outlining the monumental amendment to the government’s immigration bill, which was rightly met with veneration from the attendees. The amendment compels the government to provide sanctuary for an undefined number of unaccompanied children through designation to local authorities. In a separate part of the speech he noted that although some momentum was lost due to hardening attitudes towards immigration, he recognised the ultimately compassionate nature of the British public , remarking that:

 

“without the enormous public support, this bill would have never passed”

 

Lord Dubs, once UK Refugee Council Director, slammed claims that accepting vulnerable children would create a pull-factor for countless other migrants, stating that there is little in the way of evidence supporting this theory. Many impressionable children residing in the camps, of which there are now 80,000 per Lord Dubs, would be led to a life of either crime or prostitution without systematic aid. Consequently, we should be unwavering in our belief that this amendment is right, just and undeniably moral.

The event also included constructive dialogue on the past and present state of political affairs. Elizabeth Jones, whom is an eloquent orator quite clearly revels in controversy as she managed to cause furore amongst the crowd whilst touting the advantages of trade diplomacy over military interventionism as a tool for conflict resolution. This was somewhat peculiar, as interventionism is incontestably the root cause of the predominantly Iraqi-Afghani-Syrian refugee crisis. On a similar note, Elizabeth also appropriately identified the ineffectual nature of foreign aid particularly to Syria, of which $1.12bn flowed to. Instead she cited Singapore’s independent success story that saw it rise from a predominantly agrarian economy to a financial powerhouse as a loose model to which Syrian development could be based upon. However, these intriguing points were unfortunately overlooked when she rather less forgivingly failed to distinguish between a refugee and an economic migrant and was met by cries of vehement objection from the attendees.

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Finally, the emotional outrage witnessed at the event which was incited by the mere presence of differing opinions certainly depicts the highly-polarised environment on the ground and the over-politicisation of the crisis. At times, politicians, government officials, immigration officers and indeed members of the public from both sides of the political spectrum need to be reminded that this is a humanitarian crisis, rather than a political one. Stripped to its bare essence a refugee is neither truly evil nor truly benevolent but rather a human in need. With this in mind politicians should forego career opportunism and instead work for what is moral. As for refugees themselves, they should take note from the past and realise that being a refugee is a not a badge of indignity and humiliation rather a badge of courage, bravery and resourcefulness of man, they should certainly wear it with pride.

 

*International Centre for Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

 

Majed Twijiri 7/11/2016

Updates from Mosul

Islamic State (IS) forces took control of the Iraq city of Mosul in the summer of 2014 and now the long-awaited military offensive to regain the territory has begun. Operations to retake Mosul started on 17th October using a combination of Iraq security forces, Sunni Arab tribesmen, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters – all assisted by a US-led coalition of warplanes and military advisers. The entire operation is expected to last months. There could be as many as 1.5 million civilians living in Mosul, which makes reducing the number of civilian casualties of paramount importance. However, there are reported to be between 3,000 and 5,000 IS fighters in Mosul. Intricate tunnels have been built under the city, allowing IS forces to navigate their way about relatively unharmed. According to the UN almost 6,000 people fled Mosul in the first three days of fighting. They predict that about 200,000 people will flee the city in upcoming weeks. Some estimates place the number currently displaced within Iraq as being over four million.

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Despite an impressive offensive to defeat the last IS stronghold in Iraq, there is an absence of attention being paid to the civilians who continue to be caught in the crossfire. In one particularly disturbing case, it was alleged that three women and three children (one of whom was disabled) were shot dead whilst trailing behind after being forced by IS to march from one village to another. However, it is now apparent that not all civilian casualties are purely a consequence of IS attacks, and that attempts made by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to push IS out of Mosul are adding to the humanitarian disaster.

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The world has become numb to the horrors of Iraq in the past two decades. However the very nature of the current operation relies on a pre-determined plan of action, and it is disturbing that more was not done to warn or relocate civilians before the attacks began. Surely more should now be being done to mitigate the numbers of civilian casualties. The various reports sent to UN human rights staff of the atrocities being committed by many of those involved begs the question as to how much the people of Mosul were considered when the plans to liberate the city were put in place.

Ellie Davies 1/11/2016