“Children and anybody with a free spirit have become terrorists in the eyes of the world.” My Syrian friend and I are discussing the current situation in Idlib. We are both exasperated that the world is standing idly by as thousands of innocent people are murdered or made homeless. Idlib, a governorate in North West Syria, is often portrayed as home exclusively to terrorists and violent Islamist extremists. My friend’s reference to “a free spirit” is his description of the people who participated in the Syrian revolution: those who dared to demand a free and peaceful life including the right to participate in democratic elections and to exercise freedom of speech and assembly without fear of being arbitrarily detained, tortured, executed or otherwise disappeared into the Syrian regime’s nightmarish prison system.
Content warning: mentions drone attacks, conflict, and terrorism.
While the US President, Donald Trump, has made it clear that the US presence in Syria was to carry out the extermination of Daesh, Russia’s intentions have always been to support their ally, Bashar al-Assad. Last September the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, made a surprise visit to Syria to announce that Russia had succeeded in its mission. While both might be correct, it is Putin who is in a more difficult position and the risk that Russia will be dragged further in has become ever more likely.
Syria was an opportunity for Putin’s Russia to flex its muscles on the international stage again after creating trouble in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Having already interfered in the election in the US and potentially in other elections in Europe, Russia remains largely unchallenged. Sanctions brought about by the US Congress do little to curb the ambitious plans of a nation seeking to relive past glories. Russia continues to forge relations with former satellite states and the lack of US involvement in NATO does nothing to deter the risk of another cold war breaking out in Eastern Europe. Yet, as with so many Western states, Russia has found itself stuck in the political and religious quagmire that is the Middle East.
On September 25th, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe called for one of those snap elections we all know and love. Unlike Theresa May, when the results were announced almost a month later on October 22nd, Abe managed to pull through and secure himself a majority in the Diet.
Japan is now swinging heavily to the right. With Abe possessing a mandate to attempt implementation of his main objective – revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution – is the country about to embark on a dangerous path of no return?
The Balfour Declaration carries the same incendiary charge as when it was first published a century ago this week.
For most Israelis, the short letter expressing British sympathy for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine continues to be venerated as the first formal recognition from one of the world’s great powers of the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise.
For the Palestinians it still stands condemned as an act of imperialist chauvinism according to which, in the withering assessment of the (Jewish) writer Arthur Koestler, ‘one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.’
The Declaration, so the conventional narrative goes, ignited a slow-burning process of settlement that had been edging forwards since the late 19th century.
This week, Norwich Pride held an emergency demonstration outside City Hall to protest a new wave of abductions, imprisonment, and killing of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. Over 50 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to hear speeches from local activists, and to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. These acts of solidarity are vital, and it has been encouraging to see similar displays across the country, but our actions must go beyond this.
by Zoe Harding
You know what? Everyone’s writing about how my racist Gran and 17,000,000 of her mates have screwed the UK over. Instead, let’s talk about something positive.
On June 23rd 2016, while the eyes of the world were decisively elsewhere, the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos emerged from negotiations in Havana with the left-wing FARC rebel group and announced a ceasefire. This ceasefire is the first major break in a fifty-year conflict which has claimed 200,000 lives and left Colombia a mess of drug trafficking and insurgencies. While the deal is nothing more than a ceasefire, it has been hailed by many Colombians as the first step in a peace process that’s been a long time coming.
by Zoe Harding
TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.
Last week, we looked at the UN’s recent history of sexual assault and corruption on peacekeeping operations around the world. Despite the best efforts of two secretary-generals and nearly 20 years of reported crimes, the UN has yet to eliminate the persistent problems of ‘transactional sex’ and straight-up assault from among its peacekeeper forces. The crimes are committed both by members of various national militaries contributed to UN forces and by civilian employees, all of whom are currently essentially immune to prosecution. But what is the United Nations doing about it? What other action could be taken?
The United Nations isn’t ignoring this problem, and after the forced resignation of Babacar Gaye, (commander of the particularly abusive MINUSCA mission in the Central African Republic) in August 2015 the organisation has actively begun implementing new measures to prevent this kind of peacekeeper abuse. Unfortunately, the action that’s been taken so far hasn’t been particularly heartening.
by Zoe Harding
TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.
Founded in 1948, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations is intended to ‘help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.’ Their role is not as direct military intervention during conflicts; instead, they observe ongoing peace processes and stop ceasefires and peace treaties from collapsing back into armed conflict, while also working to help refugees and the displaced. Peacekeepers aren’t just soldiers- they also employ aid workers, diplomats, medics, engineers and negotiators. They’re the ‘world’s army’, with their distinctive blue helmets and white-painted vehicles, and in their prime they’ve stood up to global superpowers and stabilised seemingly irredeemable trouble spots.
Despite very public failures like the disastrous Somalia mission and the failed attempts to prevent genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, the United Nations continues to operate peacekeeping missions around the world. They work to protect and improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world – those living in some of the world’s worst war zones.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem.
Ban Ki-moon wonders if he’ll look much better
wearing a bindi. He Googles to see if they sell
them at the airport. Everyone has been having
so much fun, and now it’s his turn. Darling!
he cries. I’ve booked a ticket to a ‘foam party’!
Ban Ki-moon poses his questions to a forum,
in a thread titled KOS BOYS.
Hello, I am the former Secretary-General of the United Nations…
The replies come flooding in. People are so kind!
Ban Ki-moon learns what minesweeping is.
Darling! he cries. These young men tell me
that you can buy hydration tablets! Imagine!
They have little pictures of chickens on them!
But Ban Ki-moon isn’t finished yet.
He wants to see the wonders of the world,
the odd ruin, a place to get that fetching
UV paint he’s seeing so much of.
He consults the KOS BOYS, who tell him that
nipple tassels and strawberry-flavoured lubricant
should see him through fine. So he opens up
Amazon — he knows it’s a bit corrupt,
but fuck it, he’s got Prime — and orders everything.
His wife pokes at the lubricant when it arrives.
Ban Ki-moon is going to have the best time.
Paulfitness92 tells him he’s going to get
absolutely fucking wankered mate absolutely trollied
which Ban Ki-moon thinks sounds very appealing!
Ban Ki-moon books his tickets. Ban Ki-moon finds
his shorts, crumpled at the back of the wardrobe.
Ban Ki-moon checks his emails and gets ready for work.
Ban Ki-moon kisses his wife goodbye for the day.
There’s been another catastrophic humanitarian crisis!
Featured image © Reuters
by Robyn Banks
This International Women’s day was supposed to be devoted to refugee women. Well, it was in name — the EU parliament website published a series of articles highlighting the plight of women refugees, such as the fact that two in five are underage. But as EU leaders hammered out a deal on the long night between Mother’s day and International Women’s day, it seemed that the only thing the EU really planned on doing to help women refugees was to use them as fodder for a Brussels photo exhibit.
For a long time, people in the EU from both left and right have been questioning if what they see is really what they get, and nothing is more exemplary of this dishonesty than the EU’s recent deal with Turkey. On two days when much fanfare was made about Mothers, about the trauma of women refugees, about family reunification, we learned about the EUs most absurd plan to date. The plan involves a one in, one out scheme whereby boats crossing to Greece from Turkey carrying ‘irregular’ or ‘illegal’ migrants — e.g. everybody not using official channels, refugee or otherwise — would be intercepted and forcibly turned back. In return for paying their life savings and risking their lives to make the dangerous crossing to Europe by dinghy, they will be sent to the ‘back of the queue’ for asylum seeking.
The recent Rohingya crisis in South East Asia is nothing new — clashes between the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, have been ongoing since 2012 through a series of riots. By October of that year, Muslims of all ethnicities had begun to be targeted.
The riots were supposedly triggered by widespread fears among Buddhist Rakhines that they would soon become a minority in their own ancestral state. Riots sparked after weeks of sectarian disputes, which included a gang-rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by Rohingyas and the killing of ten Burmese Muslims by Rakhines.
It is the refusal from fellow South East Asian nations to
take in tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees which
has been the main source of recent controversy.
Remembrance is a solemn and moving national event. Even more so this year as we look back on 100 years of wars since the beginning of the war to end all wars. I wear my red poppy with sorrow and my white poppy with hope.
Whatever we feel or know about the horrors of war, Remembrance Day itself day is about a generation who wanted to make a difference, and put their own bodies in mortal and horrific danger to do so. They trusted their leaders, if not to keep them safe, at least to keep them doing the right thing, and perhaps to take care of their families, and themselves if they survived. Community solidarity through shared grief is almost palpable at some Remembrance Events, as we are reminded that no family escapes if war comes to their county.
Few would deny the trauma or tragedy of war, or the need to help survivors, yet these can get lost in the pomp and ceremony, or worse, the glorification of war.
by George Appleyard and Louise Wiggins
The second in our series of articles from progressive and campaigning societies at UEA.
The UEA Model United Nation society was set up in 2012 and has been enabling students to engage in lively debates and negotiations over exciting world issues ever since. Members can debate matters on the UN agenda, allowing them to improve their communication and negotiation skills while engaging in current affairs. Members will also have the opportunity to analyse the way the UN works and develop their own opinions and ideas for solutions to the world’s biggest problems.
In the first year of its inception the society took a delegation of students, which had been fully trained and prepared, to the world famous London International Model United Nations Conference. Students had the opportunity to meet like-minded delegates from around the globe and contest the most important issues surrounding the notorious Millenium Development Goals. It was a great mix of serious debate and some incredible social activities.