About eight or nine years ago, I had an Afghan friend who previously worked for a large US aid agency funding projects in the Afghan provinces. He had been hired to monitor their progress once work had got underway, but he did not hold the job very long for reasons that he explained to me.
The problem for the Americans at the local agency headquarters in Kabul was that the risk of ambush by the Taliban was deemed too high for them personally to visit the projects that they were funding. Instead, they followed the construction from one step removed, by insisting that the Afghan company involved should transmit back to Kabul, at set intervals, detailed pictures of its activities, to show that they were fulfilling their contract to the letter.
Almost as an afterthought, the aid agency thought it might be useful to send along an Afghan in their employ to check that all was well. His first mission was to go to Kandahar province, where some plant – I seem to remember it was a vegetable packing facility – was believed to be rising somewhere in the dangerous hinterland. He went there, but, despite earnest inquiries, was unable to locate the project. Continue reading →
The scandal surrounding Priti Patel, who was forced to resign as Britain’s international aid minister last week after secret meetings with Israeli officials during a “family holiday”, offers a small, opaque window on the UK’s powerful Israel lobby.
Patel’s off-the-books meetings with 12 Israelis, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were organised by a British lobbyist in violation of government rules requiring careful documentation of official meetings. That is to prevent conflicts of interest and illicit lobbying by foreign powers.
Government protocol was flouted again when Patel headed to the Golan Heights, occupied Syrian territory, escorted by the Israeli army. There she was shown an Israeli military field hospital that patches up Syrians, including Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters, wounded in Syria’s civil war. Continue reading →
Deadly Attack in Taizz Shows Need for International Inquiry
Yemenis were again mourning their children this weekend – this time in Taizz, Yemen’s third largest city. Houthi-Saleh forces indiscriminately shelled a residential neighborhood killing three children – two of whom were playing football – and gravely wounding nine more, activists said. The same day, a world away, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva was debating whether to create an international inquiry into all side’s abuses in Yemen’s armed conflict.
The war has taken a particularly heavy toll on Taizz. For over two years, Houthi-Saleh forces have fired artillery indiscriminately into the city. Human Rights Watch has documented repeated attacks that have struck the city’s populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians, including children. The attacks we’ve documented are a tiny fraction of the deadly bombardment Taizz’s residents have endured. We’ve seen list after list, photo after photo, video after video of lethal attacks documented by local activists. The shelling of Taizz, the UN human rights office reports, has been “unrelenting.” Continue reading →
To a certain extent, Aung San Suu Kyi is a false prophet. Glorified by the west for many years, she was made a ‘democracy icon’ because she opposed the same forces in her country, Burma, at the time that the US-led western coalition isolated Rangoon for its alliance with China.
Aung San Suu Kyi played her role as expected, winning the approval of the Right and the admiration of the Left. And for that, she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; she joined the elevated group of ‘The Elders’ and was promoted by many in the media and various governments as a heroic figure, to be emulated. Continue reading →
When old and young are systematically rounded up and shot. When women are gang raped and their babies thrown into waterways to drown. When their homes and businesses are burned. When all the atrocities of ethnic cleansing are plain to see, international law leaps into action. Global bodies and their constituent states work to simultaneously put an end to the atrocities, provide refuge for survivors and bring perpetrators to book, no matter the identity of the offender or the victim. Or so we are told. For as the on-going slaughter and displacement of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims reveals, international law is not so blind. Continue reading →
An Australian MP’s burqa-wearing stunt this week won’t be last time this issue will come up. But under the veil of the Western preoccupation with head covering, what is this really about?
This week, Australia’s far-right One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson walked into the Senate wearing a black burqa to demonstrate that it’s a security risk as it conceals a person’s identity. The stunt was part of the party’s call to ban the burqa.
In theatrical fashion, Hanson removed the veil to declare her identity as if it wasn’t already clear from the security process to enter parliament. But when it comes to the veil and the Muslim it conceals, emotions trump facts.
This is, of course, not the first time – and certainly won’t be the last time – the issue of head covering has been raised here. Just last month at its convention in Queensland, the Australian Liberal Party (LNP) rejected a ban on Muslim immigration, but did call for a ban on headscarves for children under the age of 10 in some schools. Continue reading →