The British press has been in a frenzy recently over nineteen-year-old Shamima Begum and her desire to return to the UK from the refugee camp in Syria where she currently resides. There are probably very few people in the UK who are unaware that Shamima travelled from the UK to ISIS territory in Syria at the age of fifteen, where she married an ISIS militant, conceived and lost two children before giving birth to a third (who also passed away) in the refugee camp in Syria she currently calls home.
Content warning: article mentions airstrikes, chemical warfare
On Monday Theresa May announced to a packed House of Commons that bombing Syria was in the national interest of the United Kingdom. Classically, her sermon was based on the idea that the airstrikes were “the right thing to do.”
“We are not alone,” she bleated, “there is broad-based international support for the action we have taken.” The actions of the government had been rational, multilateral, and calculated.
As Islamic State strongholds tumble, the language of counter-terrorism in Europe and beyond expands exponentially.
Binaries lie at the heart of understanding terrorism and modern state security: ‘you’re either with us or against us’; a citizen of here or ‘a citizen of nowhere’; a supporter of the democratic, liberal state or ‘an enemy of freedom’. By targeting ‘us’ – both the individual and the state concurrently – terrorists force citizens into a position in which we all need to look beyond legal convention, to dispense with some rights to preserve others. So has trod the orthodox argument, refracted outwards from media, government and research.
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”
Everywhere we turn to some sort of crisis or damage control is taking place. North Korea’s recent testing of a hydrogen bomb, the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Hurricane Harvey devastating parts of Texas, the cholera epidemic and famine in Yemen, the failure of Brexit negotiations, US President Trump’s ever divisive actions, the list goes on. Our global problems are racking up and cracks are starting to appear.
Many of these problems have been long coming, but are now gathering lethal momentum. The world seems to be constantly on edge, waiting with baited breath for the next catastrophe or attack, humanitarian or economical, to happen. New problems are being created or the foundations of future conflicts being laid. What is probably most frustrating is that many are avoidable.
Content warning: mentions terrorism, The Troubles.
Not only has Theresa May’s snap election gamble backfired spectacularly, but the possibility of a partnership with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has left a sinister stain on the government going forward. Lurid headlines have been a constant feature of the campaign, attacking Jeremy Corbyn and his alleged links to the IRA and Hamas. But now, ironically, it is the current government that has turned to terrorist sympathisers in order to shore up their position. Time will tell if those tabloids will apply the same standard to the government as they did to Jeremy Corbyn.
Within these developments, there are two worrying aspects that have emerged – both nationally and globally. The first is the ease with which governments are able to use the fear of terrorism to further their own agenda. The second is the ability of governments to ignore or cover up their complicit actions.
by Jess Howard
Content warning: this article contains upsetting images.
In 2015 I wrote an article on an image of a Syrian child’s lifeless body being lifted out of the sea on a beach close to a Turkish resort. The photograph shocked people around the world at the time. It demonstrated the severity of the Syrian conflict, as the child in the photograph, and his family along with him, had been attempting to travel to Greece to seek refuge. September sees the anniversary of the photograph being taken, but how have our attitudes to photography and conflict changed in the past year?