openDemocracy en Has being gay influenced my view of the war on drugs? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Most gay people know what it’s like to have the uncomfortable feeling of being told that the experience you regard as universal should in fact have flashing neon lights and a big sign saying “GAY!” above it</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A few weeks ago, somebody asked me a strange question, and at first I was a little bit offended.</span></p><p>It is now a century since drugs were first banned in the US and Britain, and as this anniversary approached, I set off on a three-year, 30,000-mile journey to try to understand what the war on drugs is really all about. I had a quite personal reason for setting off on this quest. One of my earliest memories is of trying to wake up one of my relatives and not being able to. As I got older, we had serious drug addiction in my family, and I had an on-off relationship with a guy who was sinking into crack addiction.&nbsp;</p><p>My journey – described in my book ‘<a href="">Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs</a>’ &nbsp;– allowed me to get to know some people I could never have imagined at the start, from a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn, to a hit-man for the deadliest drug cartel in Mexico; from a scientist who feeds hallucinogens to mongooses, to the only country in the world to ever decriminalize all drugs, from cannabis to crack. They taught me that almost everything we have been told about this subject is wrong. Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war is not what it has been portrayed as on our TV screens for so long.</p><p>But here’s the weird question. I am gay, and I never thought of it as having any relevance to this subject. But somebody who read the book – somebody I like – said: “Do you think being gay gave you a different insight into this question?” She pointed out that some of the most high-profile people to champion the book – Glenn Greenwald, Elton John, Stephen Fry, Andrew Sullivan – are also gay.</p><p>At first I felt a bit indignant. Although the person who said this is definitely not a homophobe, most gay people know what it’s like to sometimes have the uncomfortable feeling of being poked into a pigeon-hole – of being told that the experience you regard as universal should in fact have flashing neon lights and a big sign saying “GAY!” above it.</p><p>And yet, when I went away and thought about it, I began to wonder if gay people might have a particular insight into this question. All of these insights are, of course, accessible to straight people – but I suspect we might have short-cuts to them, for four reasons.&nbsp;</p><p>The first reason is related to <b>what drug use is really like</b>. I learned lots of facts about drugs on my journey that blew my mind – but there is one in particular I had to keep coming back to before I really understood it. If I asked you what proportion of illegal drug use is totally harmless – no damage, no overdose, no addiction – what would you say?&nbsp;</p><p>People guess a really wide range. Some say 10 percent; some go as far as guessing that 50 percent of illegal drug use is harmless. The real answer is 90 percent. That figure doesn’t come from a legalization group – it comes from the main drug war body in the world, the United Nations Office of Drug Control.&nbsp;</p><p>This seems wrong because for so long we have been told – by our teachers and our governments – that drugs are invariably dangerous. In fact, the danger is real, but rare. This means that all over the world, millions of people are being punished for a totally consensual act that very rarely harms them. In Arizona, I went out with a chain-gang of female drug-addicts who are forced to wear t-shirts saying ‘I Was A Drug User’ and made to dig graves. In Vietnam, I met people who had been put into forced labour camps and made to work 12 hours a day for no money to ‘discipline’ them out of being addicts.</p><p>I suspect that – for obvious reasons – gay people can very easily understand the pain of being punished for a harmless consensual act.</p><p>The second reason relates to <b>what addiction is really about.</b></p><p>Many readers, after reading my point about the harmlessness of most illegal drug use, will be totally reasonably asking at this point – yes, but what about the ten percent who are harmed? They are worth going all out to protect. And you are right. But what I was taught on my travels is that addiction has a very different cause than we think, and, again, I think gay people might find this easy to grasp.</p><p>Most of us believe that drug addiction is caused by drugs. This is so obvious to us that even writing it in a sentence looks a bit stupid – like pointing out that circles are round. It’s not hard to explain – if you and I used heroin together for twenty days, on day twenty-one, the chemical hooks in heroin will have got into our bodies, and we would physically crave the drug. That is what addiction means. We would become hooked.</p><p>But this view of addiction is – it turns out – not right. As I have written elsewhere: </p><p> <blockquote> “One of the ways the disease theory was established is through rat experiments – ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone. It has two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water and keep coming back for more and more until it kills itself. The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.” <br /> But in the 1970s, a Professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Alexander built Rat Park – a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then? <br /> In Rat Park, all the rats tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling. The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did… <br /> Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage. </blockquote> </p><p>At the moment, gay men seem disproportionately prone to addiction problems – as the excellent book <a href="">‘The Velvet Rage’</a> by Alan Downs has shown. Why would that be?</p><p>I think this new understanding of addiction helps us to get it.</p><p>Gay people are more likely to be disconnected – from our families and our societies and from our collective sources of meaning. Thankfully that’s diminishing now – but it’s there, and it’s a factor. This greater disconnection might make it easier to us to understand how disconnection is a driver of addictive and compulsive behaviour.</p><p>The third reason comes from <b>another cause of addiction</b> – one that is closely related to this.</p><p>I was taught about this theory by an extraordinary man called Gabor Mate, a doctor in Vancouver who worked with hardcore street addicts. After caring for them, and tending to them, and trying to listen to them, Gabor noticed something about all his patients that really struck him. They had all had horrific childhoods – neglect, abandonment, or abuse. He then discovered something called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey, which is the most detailed study of the effect of trauma on a kid. Their extensive research discovered something striking – that for each traumatic event you go through in childhood, you are two to four times more likely to grow up to be an injecting drug user. It’s because traumatized kids find it hard to trust people, or connect – so they become like the rats in the first cage, not the rats in the second.</p><p>Although lots of gay kids come from loving and supportive homes – as I did – we are more likely to have conflicted or chronically insecure relationships with our parents than our straight siblings. Then, in addition, we’re more likely to face violence at school. So we have higher rates of childhood trauma. Again – this might help us to understand why we are more likely to become addicted. We shouldn’t judge ourselves – we should understand ourselves, and respond to our flaws with compassion.</p><p>And there is another, fourth, reason why I think gay people might react to the drug war a little differently. This one is totally positive. <b>We know what it is like to live through a revolution.</b></p><p>Lots of people agree with the case for reforming the drug laws, but sigh and assume it’s hopeless. They have been in place for 100 years – why would they change now?</p><p>But gay people know from our own lives that seemingly impossible struggles – seemingly eternal prejudices – can be overturned in a generation. When I was a kid, homophobia was blasted at me from the front page of the Sun to prime-time TV. For my nephews, a homophobic remark on TV seems not just shocking but downright weird. It happened in just a few decades – and it happened because huge numbers of brave gay people, and our straight friends, fought for it.</p><p>I ended my long journey by going to the countries that have moved beyond the drug war – Uruguay, where cannabis has been legalized; Switzerland, where heroin has been legalized for addicts; and Portugal, where all drugs have been decriminalized. In every country, the results have been startlingly positive. I have seen the future, and it works. Just as I have lived through a revolution in how gay people are treated, I believe I will now live through a revolution in how drug users and drug addicts will be treated.</p><p>So I think, after mooching and mulling, that I was wrong to be irritated by my friend’s question. Gay people and straight people are both taken down by the war on drugs equally, but – because of our particular historical experience – it may be that we can see through the propaganda that keeps this tragedy going a little quicker. And we can see – because we’ve lived through it once – that a better world is possible, whenever we decide to choose it.</p> <p> <hr /> <b>A Date for the diary</b> openDemocracy and TheatreDelicatessen will be hosting a conversation in London on the War on Drugs with Johann Hari on Wednesday March 11th at 7.30pm 2015 at 119 Farringdon Road, Central London. <a href="">Tickets here.</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>A Date for the diary</strong></p><p>openDemocracy and&nbsp;<a href="">TheatreDelicatessen&nbsp;</a>will be hosting a conversation in London on the War on Drugs with Johann Hari on Wednesday March 11th at 7.30pm 2015 at&nbsp;<a href="">119 Farringdon Road</a>, Central London.&nbsp;<a href="">Tickets here.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This article is based on Johann Hari's new book, ‘Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’ (available &nbsp;<a href="">here&nbsp;</a>on Amazon). I<span>t tells the story of the journey Hari went on to discover what's known about about addiction - and much more<em>.&nbsp;</em></span><span>Find out more at&nbsp;</span><a href=""></a>.</p><p><span>The sources for all the facts and studies offered in this article can be found in the extensive endnotes for 'Chasing The Scream.' You can follow the author on Twitter - @johannhari101</span></p><div><span><br /></span></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/johann-hari/real-cause-of-addiction-has-been-discovered-and-it%27s-not-what-you-think">The real cause of addiction has been discovered - and it&#039;s not what you think</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/danny-kushlick/it-is-time-for-post-drug-war-marshall-plan">It is time for a post-drug war Marshall Plan </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/danny-kushlick/international-security-and-global-war-on-drugs-tragic-irony-of-drug-securitisation">International security and the global war on drugs: The tragic irony of drug securitisation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/juan-gabriel-tokatlian/war-on-drugs-time-to-demilitarise">The war on drugs: time to demilitarise</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> Conflict Johann Hari Sun, 01 Mar 2015 04:23:23 +0000 Johann Hari 90897 at Why Britain won’t talk about crucial elements of Jihadi John’s story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The role of our security services in the actions of 'Jihadi John' needs grown up discussion - we must not forget the lessons of Northern Ireland.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In “<a href=""><strong>Suspect Community: People’s Experience of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in Britain</strong></a>”, professor Paddy Hillyard produced what remains the world’s most detailed ethnographic study of the impact of repressive laws and state policies on what we now call “radicalisation”. That was 1993. Hillyard, a former chair of the National Council of Civil Liberties (now <em>Libert</em>y), had interviewed more than 100 people of Irish catholic descent and provided unequivocal evidence that their everyday treatment at the hands of the British state had boosted support for Irish republicanism, acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA and fuelled “the Troubles”. Of course it wasn’t the only “radicalising” factor: <a href=""><strong>Bloody Sunday</strong></a>, <a href=""><strong>a shoot-to-kill policy</strong></a> and <a href=";qid=1382644462&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=Lethal+Allies%3A+British+collusion+in+Ireland"><strong>state collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries</strong></a> also played their part. As of course did the violence, propaganda and popularity of organisations like the IRA. </p> <p>We could learn a lot from people like Paddy Hillyard and the <a href=""><strong>incremental moves toward truth and reconciliation</strong></a> in the north of Ireland. Instead, this valuable insight is being steadily exorcised from public debate – as are the <a href=""><strong>similar experiences of Muslim communities</strong></a> at the hands of the British state. </p> <p>Yesterday the identity of “Jihadi John”, the ISIS executioner-in-chief, was revealed to belong to British citizen Mohammed Emwazi. The human rights group <a href=""><strong>CAGE</strong></a> – the only organisation in Britain who offers legal support to Muslims who have been interrogated or harassed by the security services (support which is readily available to most others questioned by the UK authorities) – produced a <a href=""><strong>3,000 word dossier</strong></a> detailing his treatment between 2009 and 2013. This included, <em>inter alia</em>, the surveillance of his movements, the interception of his telecommunications, the orchestration of his arrest in Tanzania and transfer to the Netherlands where he was interrogated by MI5, attempts to coerce him into becoming an MI5 informer, harassment of his family and fiancé, and the prevention of his resettlement in Kuwait – all in the absence of any formal allegation, charge or prospect of official recourse. </p> <p>Since this occurred well before Mohammed Emwazi’s departure from the UK and appearance in Syria as “Jihadi John”, one might have thought our media duty bound to ask whether this and other encounters played any part in his decision to go there. Indeed the most revealing exchange, which should surely have been on the lips of any journalist worth their salt, is the following, spoken by MI5 agent “Nick”: “Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?” When Mohammed declines, he is told: “You’re going to have a lot of trouble... You’re going to be known... you’re going to be followed... life will be harder for you.”</p> <p>Let us be clear that whatever else may have transpired since this exchange, here is a credible allegation of state-sanctioned blackmail of one of our citizens upon pain of having his life ruined by unaccountable security forces. When things like this happen to Muslims in Arab dictatorships, we talk about “secret police” and “fearsome security apparatuses”. When they happen here, we put our fingers in our ears and demand that Muslims “get over themselves” and condemn acts of terrorism. </p> <p>And so it was that Kay Burley of Sky News duly began her <a href=""><strong>interview</strong></a> with a CAGE spokesman by asking “What level of harassment by the security services here in the United Kingdom justifies beheadings?” – a plainly preposterous straw man argument that literally no-one was making. Liberal pin-up Jon Snow also <a href=""><strong>glossed over the evidence</strong></a> produced by CAGE, before getting down to the most important business of the day: demanding that their spokespeople condemn terrorism, and seeking to belittle them when they question why this demand is only ever made of Muslims, or worse still, refuse to participate in the ridiculous spectacle. </p> <p>It was already a nailed-on certainty that the government and the media would turn the “extremist” spotlight onto CAGE and its supporters in a witch hunt that would make McCarthy blush. But having anointed Peter Oborne the Supreme Ruler of Media Integrity for taking on the <em>Telegraph</em>, perhaps they should ask him <a href=""><strong>what</strong> <strong>he thinks about CAGE’s treatment</strong></a> at the hands of the establishment. Or reflect on CAGE’s founder and director’s <a href=""><strong>own experience at the hands of MI5</strong></a>, or his three-and-a-half years of illegal detention in Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh prisons. Nope: they’re just “apologists for terrorism”, guilty until proven innocent. </p> <p>Human rights and social justice groups should be supporting CAGE in its endeavours to uncover the extra-judicial prosecution of the “war on terror” in this country. They won’t because they’re scared of the “public perception”. Much easier to support free expression from behind the comfort of a “Je Suis Charlie” banner. The country should be having a serious conversation about the way “intelligence-led policing” has undermined our national security and human rights by linking the treatment of Mohammed Emwazi to the <a href="">discredited use of informants and double agents in Northern Ireland</a>, to the <a href="">links between MI5 and extremist groups</a>, and to an <a href="">undercover culture that has perverted the pursuit of social and legal justice</a> in this country. It won’t, because we’ll turn a blind eye to anything at the drop of the T-word. &nbsp;</p> <p>Something fundamental has to change if we’re to have the grown-up conversations that can inform these policies, and that can temper the appeal of extremism and violence in all quarters. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/amnesty-working-against-oblivion">Amnesty: working against oblivion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/dangerous-liaisons">Dangerous liaisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ben-hayes/no-we%E2%80%99re-not-all-charlie-hebdo-nor-should-we-be">No, we’re not all Charlie Hebdo, nor should we be</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom Snooping on the innocent Ben Hayes Closely observed citizens Sat, 28 Feb 2015 11:04:37 +0000 Ben Hayes 90895 at Libya, containing the danger <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The chaos in Libya will not be stopped by lazy rhetoric or easy options. The country's neighbours, Tunisia and Algeria, can teach the west a lesson.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Many influential voices sound as if they are spoiling for a fight against Libya's violent militias and their friends in the region. Italy's interior minister Angelino Alfano predicts that the Vatican, as “the centre of Christianity”, is likely to be the next target of Islamic State. The Egyptian president, General Abdelfattah al-Sisi, is keen to intervene in Libya following the ritualised <a href="">murder</a> of twenty-one Coptic Christian migrant workers there. This incident followed a string of bloody attacks on security forces in the ungoverned Sinai peninsula by the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis <a href="">group</a>, and rising acts of terrorism in Cairo and northern Egypt (where al-Sisi's forces have targeted members of the <a href="">Muslim Brotherhood</a>, condemning hundreds to hang in kangaroo courts).&nbsp; <br /><br />The Islamic state is doing everything it can to provoke Egypt, Jordan and the west. The killing of the Copts was also preceded by the burning alive of the downed Jordanian pilot <a href="">Muath al-Kasasbeh</a>. Such acts may be bestial but they are not mindless: they are calculated to bring the "crusaders" - that is, European troops - into Arab lands. This <em>jihadi</em> dialectic is no different from al-Qaida’s flying civilian planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in <a href="">September 2011</a>. <br /><br />Egypt's head of state may try and convince Rome, Paris and Washington to play hardball in Libya. But his enthusiasm is not shared in Tunis or Algiers. In those capitals, cool heads argue that <a href="">Libya</a> is in a state of metastasis - the spreading of cancer from one organ to another not directly concerned with it. Both countries’ leaders believe their duty is to prevent the violence which <a href="">racks</a> Libya from spreading west. <br /><br /><strong>Tunisia's caution</strong><br /><br />Tunisia is on the frontline, and has much to lose from any Nato-backed intervention in Libya. It hosts at least half a million Libyan refugees. Many of them currently have the means to live on, but at some point will run out of cash as Libya's hard-currency reserves decline in the absence of oil-and-gas revenues. Tunisians showed immense solidarity with Libyan refugees in 2011-12 and received very little help from the European Union or international organisations for their pains. Today, though, patience is running out in Tunisia. Many Tunisians fear these Libyan “guests” will become a burden on a country which is trying to put down democratic roots and get its economy moving after four years of turbulent politics.<br /><br />Tunisia's experience, after all, was very different to Libya's. The downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 was engineered by a revolt of the Tunisian people, with no outside interference. Tunisia's new head of state, Beji Caid Essebsi, is mindful of this <a href="">inheritance</a> and of the results of the elections which brought him to power in December 2014. The <a href="">southern</a> Tunisian provinces of Medenine, Ben Guerdane and Tozeur voted massively in favour of his predecessor, Moncef Marzouki. In the parliamentary elections a few weeks earlier they had voted for the Islamist <em>An-Nahda</em> party, which may have lost out to "Si Beji’s" <em>Nidaa Tunes</em> party but has the second largest block of deputies in the new assembly. <br /><br />Southern Tunisia has traditionally looked more towards Egypt and Saudi Arabia than the richer coastal towns and the capital Tunis. After <a href="">independence</a> in 1956, people in the south had dreams of pan-Arabism, which set them on the collision course with the founder of modern Tunisia, <a href="">Habib Bourguiba</a>. This pan-Arabism has mutated into pan-Islamism. The new Tunisian president is the heir of Bourguiba’s conviction that women be granted equal rights to men. Tunisia recognises the internationally recognised Libyan government in Tobruk but many in southern Tunisia incline towards the Islamist dissident government in Tripoli, a city which lies close to the frontier. The south has long depended on jobs in Libya rather than Tunisia. Any western intervention could set southern Tunisia ablaze.<br /><br /><strong>Algeria's experience</strong><br /><br />Algeria for its part was humiliated when terrorists from Libya briefly overran the gas field of <a href="">In Amenas</a>, close to the border, in January 2013. Forty workers were killed and production was interrupted for over a year. The border between Algeria and Libya has since being reinforced and new weaponry deployed. This fits in with the Algerian army’s massive shopping spree since 2000 which aims to replace ageing Soviet weaponry with more modern hardware - largely <a href="">Russian</a> but also German, Italian and American. A new drone will be built with South Africa as Algeria absorbs the lessons of Kosovo, Iraq and Syria; in other words, of asymmetrical warfare. In the process Algeria has become one of the ten largest importers of weapons in the world and the largest in Africa.<br /><br />The army has also been redeployed geographically. Since the late 1990s, Algeria's security priorities have changed and attention turned away from Morocco, where a dispute over the international status of the former Spanish colony of <a href="">Western Sahara</a> has opposed the two countries since 1975. Instead, the fight against Islamist terrorism has moved to the top of the agenda - in Algeria itself, and along the borders of Mali, Niger, Libya, Tunisia and beyond. This has meant a refocusing of concern, and the deployment of troops, on the country’s long desert frontiers to the south and east. <br /><br />It was Algeria’s failed <a href="">attempt</a> to usher in bold political and economic reforms in 1989-92&nbsp; that forced its security forces and army to learn the hard way how to confront radical Islamism. Once the object of suspicion in western capitals, the country which trained the commandoes of the South African ANC and the Palestinian PLO, Algeria has become a country keen on maintaining the status quo in north-west Africa. Its leaders warned western states of the likely <a href="">consequences</a> of&nbsp; their intervention in Libya in spring 2011, but their advice was ignored. In Paris, London and Washington, the art of geostrategic thinking appeared, in the words of an American ambassador who knows the region, seemed to have been “all but forgotten". <br /><br />Since the <a href="">country</a> became independent in 1962, Algeria’s military doctrine has been very reluctant to condone armed intervention beyond the <a href="">borders</a> of Africa’s largest country. Today its foreign minister is <a href="">Ramtane Lamamra</a>, a former ambassador to Washington, the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity, who thus has deep knowledge of the area and is mindful of the intractable nature of the Libyan <a href="">crisis</a>. He knows there is no immediate answer to the huge mess the western intervention in Libya has spawned. <br /><br />It is a caution is shared by his president as well as by Tunisia's. Algeria and Tunisia cooperate closely today as they try to secure their common border. Loose talk of military intervention in Paris and Rome is easy, but Europe is unwilling to put boots on the ground. The European Union and the United States understand that neither Tunisia nor Algeria share Egypt’s agenda. They could do worse than listen carefully to and cooperate fully with the two Maghreb countries, which have most to lose by growing chaos in Libya. <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="st">Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (</span>Cidob)</a></p><p>Peter Cole &amp; Brian McQuinn eds., <a href=""><em>The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath</em></a> (C Hurst, 2015)</p><p>James McDougall, <a href=";amp;ss=cop"><em>History and the Culture of Nationalism in Algeria</em></a><em> </em>(Cambridge University Press, 2006) </p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href=""><span><span><em>Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi</em></span></span></a><a id="link9" title=" The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi" rel="nofollow" href=";title=Libya%3A%20The%20Rise%20and%20Fall%20of%20Qaddafi"><span><span><em>↑</em></span></span></a><em> </em>(Yale University Press, 2012)</p><p><a href=""><em>Maghreb Review</em></a></p><p>Martin Evans, <a href=""><em>Algeria: France's Undeclared War</em></a> (Oxford University Press, 2011)</p> <p>Kay Adamson, <a href=""><em>Algeria: A Study in Competing Ideologies</em></a> (Bloomsbury, 1998)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Francis Ghilès is <a href="">senior research fellow</a> at the <a href="" target="_blank"><span class="st">Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (</span>Cidob)</a>. He was the <em>Financial Times's</em> north Africa Correspondent from 1981-95, and now contributes to newspapers such as the <em>New York Times</em>, <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, <em>Le Monde</em>, <em>El Pais</em> and <em>La Vanguardia</em>. He is a specialist in emerging energy markets and their relationship to political trends, and has advised western governments and corporations working in north Africa</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/tunisia-arab-exception%27s-test">Tunisia: the Arab exception&#039;s test</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/france%27s-identity-crisis-seeds-of-change">France&#039;s identity crisis: seeds of change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-tunisian-odyssey">North African diversities: a Tunisian odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-moroccan-odyssey">North African diversities: a Moroccan odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/tunisia-from-hope-to-delivery">Tunisia, from hope to delivery</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-personal-odyssey">North African diversities: a personal odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/algeria-football-and-france%27s-black-box">Algeria, football, and France&#039;s &quot;black box&quot;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Algeria Libya global security Francis Ghilès Sat, 28 Feb 2015 06:42:04 +0000 Francis Ghilès 90894 at Detaining the president’s daughter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="Karimova under house arrest Dore Ryan.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" />A year on from her disappearance from public life, what does the treatment of Gulnara Karimova reveal about Uzbekistan’s rights crisis?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A year ago, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s authoritarian president disappeared from public life. Arrested under corruption allegations in February 2014 and apparently detained at her Tashkent home ever since, Gulnara Karimova – former ambassador, singer, fashion guru, social media star, and business tycoon – remains in a kind of sealed limbo, apparently unable to communicate directly with the outside world.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Karimova at a public function in an expensive dress. " title="" width="460" height="462" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Before her arrest, Gulnara Karimova was a noted socialite and businesswoman. (c) RIA Novosti/Vitaly Levitin</span></span></span></p> <p>Karimova’s treatment over the last 12 months is far superior to that of thousands of other people in Uzbekistan suffering severe human rights abuses. Yet her high-profile case provides a telling insight into the dire state of human rights in Uzbekistan today.</p> <h2>The black sheep</h2> <p>Islam Karimov’s daughter became the ruling family’s black sheep at some point in 2013, railing publicly, mostly on Twitter, against those in Uzbekistan’s political elite Karimova felt had crossed her. At first, her concerns were primarily with corruption allegations thrown at her in several European countries. Criminal cases have been opened against her and her associates in various jurisdictions, including for money laundering in Switzerland. In response, she accused others in the political elite of dirty dealing.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">She started mentioning human rights for the first time in her long career.</p> <p>Later, in 2013, she started mentioning human rights for the first time in her long career, accusing the country’s feared security services, commonly known by its acronym, the SNB, of torture. Even though Karimova’s statements almost exclusively concerned the supposed ill-treatment of her close associates, the public acknowledgment by a member of Uzbekistan’s ruling elite that such abuses are regularly committed by law enforcement bodies was unprecedented. This may have been the final straw for a father known for defiantly refusing to acknowledge any criticism, whether domestic or international, of his government’s appalling human rights record.</p> <h2>A political earthquake</h2> <p>In mid-February last year, Karimova’s home was raided – a political earthquake for Uzbekistan given her position in the ruling family and her previous formal roles with the government. By her account, security forces threatened her daughter, badly beat her long-term partner before arresting him and another close associate; and took several others into custody on charges of corruption. A military court in Tashkent sentenced her long-term partner Rustam Madumarov and business associate Gayane Avakyan to 7 and 6 years imprisonment, respectively, although it is unclear whether they are serving these sentences behind bars.</p> <p>A few days later, she was apparently under house arrest and has supposedly been there ever since, only able to leak out a few messages to the outside world through her son, Islam Karimov, Jr., and through a PR firm – both in the UK. Many years of speculation that her father might tap her to run as his handpicked successor for president in 2015 ended in January, when Karimov himself announced he would run for a fourth consecutive term as president, even though the constitution only allows him two. &nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">Karimova was an integral part of this government for many years and denied its systematic torture.</p> <h2>No sympathy</h2> <p>Many people, familiar with her history, are unconcerned about her situation. She had, after all, been infamously tagged in a WikiLeaks cable as the ‘single most-hated person’ in Uzbekistan.</p> <p>Karimova was an integral part of this government for many years and denied its systematic torture, its use of the forced labour of children and adults, and its mass killing of largely peaceful protesters in Andijan in 2005. As Uzbekistan’s representative to the UN in Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council is located, she never uttered a word in defence of human rights, despite our calls on the government to end its human rights abuses and our numerous exchanges on Twitter directly with her imploring her to speak up. She was contemptuous of universal human rights at every step of her career – until her own rights were threatened.</p> <p>Uzbekistan is holding dozens of journalists, human rights activists, and opposition figures on politically motivated charges; and thousands of peaceful religious believers have been locked up in horrific prisons and tortured, some for decades. Karimova’s conditions under house arrest remain murky, but they are certainly far better than those of long-term political prisoners in the country’s vile gulags.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Uzbekistan is holding dozens of journalists, human rights activists, and opposition figures on politically motivated charges.</p> <p>One example is the rights activist Isroiljon Kholdorov, in prison since 2006 for speaking to the media about the mass graves in Andijan. Uzbek security services kidnapped Kholdorov from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where he had fled for safety, and held him incommunicado in a room with boarded windows for six months before bringing him to trial on trumped-up charges.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Rights for all</span></h2> <p>Still, Karimova’s rights, like everyone else’s, should be protected. She has a right to a lawyer, and it’s unclear whether she has one. She has a right not be held in this sort of pre-trial limbo detention for such a long period. She has a right to a fair trial, too. But that is virtually impossible in Uzbekistan, where the judiciary is heavily dependent on the executive branch and where the independent legal profession has been dismantled through what have been described as legal ‘reforms.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">Karimova’s rights, like everyone else’s, should be protected.</span></p> <p>Karimova also has a right to free expression – at the very least through a lawyer – to address, among other things, her current conditions and whereabouts. By all indications she is prohibited from doing so. Even those of us who didn’t agree with the things she was saying publicly in 2013 can still agree she had, and has, a right to say them, just like everyone else in Uzbekistan has, despite the government’s persistent refusal to acknowledge that right.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Also, Karimova’s story does not only concern her personal rise and fall. It is reasonably clear there has been a purge of those associated with her, not only those in her closest circle, but even employees of her businesses and foundations. Some young people have told Human Rights Watch they are being punished for having even a very tenuous connection to her once vast empire. It appears that their rights are also being trampled, and their individual cases ought to be impartially investigated.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately, Karimova’s case is about much more than her. It is indicative of Uzbekistan’s desperate human rights crisis, and underlines the need for robust international attention to its myriad abuses such as the absence of civil and political freedoms, torture, and endemic corruption. If the Uzbek government can trample the rights of even the president’s own daughter, then what hope is there for the rights of ordinary people?&nbsp;</p><p><em>Standfirst image via via Davidson Ryan Dore.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nick-kochan-lidia-kurasinska/split-widens-in-ruling-family-of-uzbekistan">The split widens in the ruling family of Uzbekistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/john-heathershaw-alexander-cooley/dictators-without-borders">Dictators without borders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Steve Swerdlow Andrew Stroehlein Uzbekistan Justice Internal Human rights Central Asia Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:46:57 +0000 Steve Swerdlow and Andrew Stroehlein 90882 at Iraq: the assault on minorities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Islamic State is certainly a threat—but not mainly to the West, as the horrific experiences of members of minorities in Iraq testifiy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>At least they got away: women and girls crowded into a converted barracks&nbsp;in south-eastern Turkey,&nbsp;accommodating some 1,200 Yazidis who had fled IS attacks in northern Iraq. Flickr / <a href="">European Commission DG ECHO</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>The threat posed by Islamic State (IS) to security in the West has captured headlines and provoked fierce debate in recent weeks. But in its original zone of operation in Iraq, the devastating effect of IS on many communities in the north of the country may prove permanent. IS has pursued a systematic strategy of removing minority populations forever from large areas of Iraq—and it may well have succeeded. </p> <p>Within days of IS taking control of Mosul in June 2014, members of minority communities had to alter their behaviour drastically, to conceal their identities and renounce their traditions lest their lives be put at risk. For too many, survival became the paramount concern. And within weeks, nearly all minority communities in IS-held areas were forced to flee or be killed. Families were compelled to alter their life entirely or watch it crumble to pieces. </p> <p>Minorities lack the tribal-protection structures majority groups possess, leaving their members particularly vulnerable to human-rights violations. This became increasingly clear as IS advanced into the Anbar and Nineveh governorates, where ethnic and religious minority inhabitants were left vulnerable to a series of attacks, with catastrophic consequences. </p> <p>But the problems of Iraq’s minority communities did not start with the IS campaign. Religious and ethnic minorities have long been marginalised in its political and social life. </p> <h2>Disenfranchisement</h2> <p>IS has advanced in a society in which negative stereotypes have historically fuelled the discrimination and harassment faced by members of ethnic and religious minorities. The state has failed to meet international standards on the treatment of minorities, with prejudicial policies contributing to the disenfranchisement of minority communities and territorial disputes often dominating public policy towards minority populations. </p> <p>A report launched today (in <a href="">English </a>and <a href="">Arabic</a>) by Minority Rights Group International, the Institute for International Law and Human Rights, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation and No Peace Without Justice documents the plight of minorities since June 2014. The spotlight falls particularly on the abuses suffered by Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Kaka’i and Shabak at the hands of IS. </p> <p>The report documents summary executions, torture, abductions, forced conversions and mass forced displacement, and reveals IS as a group motivated by extermination. Indeed, the destruction of cultural and religious sites points to the group’s intent to eradicate the roots and identities of minority peoples. </p> <h2>Women and girls</h2> <p>There are particular consequences for minority women and children. Numerous reports of abuses committed against women and girls as young as 12 or 13 include abduction, imprisonment, rape, coercion into marriage, sexual enslavement and other forms of sexual violence. </p> <p>Sadly, these acts have occurred in a pre-existing environment of gender-based violence and discrimination, with high levels of impunity. Women and girls who have managed to escape their abusers often fear stigmatisation, and lack the necessary physical and psychological care to overcome their ordeal.&nbsp;</p><p>The report highlights an incident in which a 17-year-old Yezidi was captured and sold by IS, only to escape from the man who ‘purchased’ her. The girl said: “I got in a taxi and asked to be brought back to the place where they were selling girls, as I had no other place to go back to.” That she felt her only option was to surrender herself once more to her captors is an alarming indication of the lack of services and redress available to female survivors of such human-rights abuses. According to IS ideology, like many others she would be deemed a mere spoil of war.</p> <h2>Internally displaced</h2> <p>The number of internally displaced persons in Iraq has soared alarmingly, to over 3m. It is the state’s responsibility to meet the needs of IDPs, yet, faced with a humanitarian crisis and the security situation, the government appears overwhelmed. </p> <p>The extent of the displacement has compelled people to reside in camps, informal settlements and abandoned buildings. With the largest population of IDPs in the Kurdish autonomous region, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is coping with an enormous burden. But the increasingly high rents and discriminatory property ownership laws over which it presides seriously impede their access to housing.</p> <p class="pullquote-right">“I got in a taxi and asked to be brought back to the place where they were selling girls, as I had no other place to go back to.”&nbsp;</p><p><span></span>More generally, IDPs are suffering deteriorating humanitarian conditions and the resources available are not adequate to address their basic needs. There is a clear shortage of food, water, healthcare and medical supplies, while lack of income and restricted access to employment present further challenges. Financial contributions from the international community meet just 30% of what is required. </p> <p>For many IDPs, complications with registration have even barred them from obtaining food rations and basic non-food items or securing access to bank accounts. Without civil-status documents, some remain trapped in camps or roadside shelters or at checkpoints. </p> <h2><strong>Prejudicial</strong></h2> <p>And pre-IS discriminatory attitudes remain prevalent. Even where humanitarian aid or shelter is<em> </em>available, some minorities have trouble availing themselves of it, due to prejudicial rules or official policies which seek to tip the ethnic balance in the governorate or simply exercise control over beneficiaries. </p> <p>Much more must be done by the international community, as well as the Iraqi government and the KRG. Yet, each of these parties, on one occasion or another, has demonstrated obdurate<strong> </strong>reluctance to take steps towards a resolution.</p> <p>The international community ought to make a better attempt to bridge the humanitarian funding gap. Governance challenges and lack of co-ordination between the Iraqi government and the KRG also stand in the way of effective implementation of a crisis-response plan. </p> <h2><strong>Sacred</strong></h2> <p>The vast religious and cultural diversity of Iraq is sacred. Members of minority communities should not have to feel that they have no future in their own country and international actors must ensure that their efforts protect, rather than undermine, Iraq’s diversity. Any response should aim to ensure security and equal rights for minorities first and foremost <em>within </em>their historic homelands, rather than outside them. </p> <p>The joint report considers IS responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It paves the way for discussions of accountability and justice. But these discussions must quickly turn into action. Iraq should accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and accept the court’s jurisdiction from the beginning of the current conflict.</p> <p>Armed groups such as IS and other militias cannot however be attributed sole responsibility for violations against minority communities in Iraq. Comprehensive legal and social reform is required to tackle the longstanding marginalisation of minorities. </p> <p>It is critical that, with the support of the international community, Iraq begin its preparations for the post-IS era. Without this, the state and its vulnerable minorities will stagger from one crisis to another.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/donatella-rovera/fear-and-loathing-in-kirkuk">Fear and loathing in Kirkuk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/donatella-rovera/flight-from-mosul-%E2%80%9Cwe-left-everything-behind-to-save-our-lives%E2%80%9D">The flight from Mosul: “We left everything behind to save our lives”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iraq Conflict middle east iraq - the war & after human rights Mays Al-Juboori Non-state violence Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:13:58 +0000 Mays Al-Juboori 90876 at Rifkind: good riddance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Malcolm Rifkind has faced public rage this week. He deserves every decibel of it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Malcolm Rifkind/Wikipedia</span></span></span></p><p>Let me declare an interest. I don’t like Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the pompous and sneering politician who has thankfully fallen sword after the excellent sting operation by Channel Four Dispatches, exposing his avaricious and arrogant attitude to being an elected Member of Parliament.</p> <p>Last year Sir Malcolm co-chaired a press launch at the House of Commons of the Trident Commission. I asked from the floor how he and his fellow co-chair on the Commission, Lib Dem grandee Sir Menzies Campbell, as international lawyers, could support renewing Trident? Its procurement from the United States was in breach of the UK’s legal obligations under both Article 1 (prohibiting the transfer of nuclear explosive devices to any recipient whatsoever, directly <em>or indirectly</em>) and Article 6 (requiring all member states, including nuclear weapons states, and to enter into negotiations to halt the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date, ie from 1968) of the 189-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Sir Malcolm looked at me as if he had stepped in something nasty and smelly on the pavement, ignored my question, and let Ming Campbell attempt an answer.</p> <p>That is the measure of Sir Malcolm: pompously arrogant and loquacious, until struck dumb by somebody knowledgeable prepared to challenge him on his own area of supposed expertise!</p> <p>In December 2008, he became a leading spokesman of the <a href="">Global Zero</a> movement, which includes over 300 eminent leaders and over 400,000 citizens from around the world working toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons by multilateral negotiation. In backing Trident’s renewal, he seemed to be directly contradicting this organisation.</p> <p lang="en">Amongst the jaw dropping comments he made to the Channel Four undercover reporters, was the claim that he did not receive a salary – even though he is paid over £67,000 a year to be an MP. Trying to extricate himself from the hole he had dug for himself, he actually made this worse by letting slip he considered a salary of £67,000 was insufficient for a man of his background; he was entitled to much more, he opined.</p> <p>On his own constituency web site <a href="" target="_blank">he states</a>: “Members of Parliament are elected to the House of Commons to represent the interests and concerns of all the people who live in their constituency, whether they voted for them at the General Election or not. They are only able to deal with issues raised by people who live in their constituency, called constituents.” </p> <p lang="en">Apparently this "only dealing with issues raised by constituents" rule did not apply to meeting with lobbyists offering money to him to ask questions of ministers, officials or serving ambassadors, for a fat fee of £5,000-to £8,000 a day, as he told the undercover reporters. That would be about a third of the annual income for a day’s work for many of the constituents in the north of his constituency. Many erroneously think his entire Kensington seat in west London is super affluent; maybe Sir Malcolm did too, and never ventured too far north to see the real poverty there.</p> <p>That restraint, however, has not stopped him from as an MP venturing into very valuable, well-remunerated consultancies and directorships, earning £69,610 last year according to his latest entry in the <a href="" target="_blank">Register of Members financial interests</a>, published by Parliament on 2 February. As he told the undercover reporters, he had plenty of free time to undertake extra-parliamentary fee earning, as well as walking and reading.</p> <p>Also, if you look at his record as an MP, it's hard to find evidence of him paying much attention to its role, which includes keeping the government of the day to account. He boasted to the undercover reporters, "there is an awful lot of which is not secret which if you ask the right questions you'll get an answer." But either he was insufficiently curious or all knowing, as since the formation of the coalition government nearly five years ago he asked just one written question to government on behalf of his constituents. </p> <p>But Sir Malcolm knows how to be active when he wants to be. Here is an extract from <a href="">the </a><em><a href="">Independent</a></em> nine years ago: </p> <blockquote><p>“Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, undertook to lobby the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, in an attempt to land a lucrative oil contract in Iraq for BHP Billiton, according to evidence given to a public inquiry in Australia.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">“In the most blatant evidence to so far emerge about Western businesses jockeying for a slice of Iraq's oil wealth, the Anglo-Australian group BHP Billiton drew up a plan for getting access to the huge Iraqi Halfayah oilfield just weeks after outbreak of war in 2003.</p><p lang="en-GB">&nbsp;</p><p lang="en-GB">"BHP Billiton held a secret meeting in May 2003 in London with Sir Malcolm - who has worked as a consultant to the company since 1997 - and Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, to discuss how best to convince the Americans that BHP Billiton should be handed the Halfayah field in southern Iraq.</p><p lang="en-GB">&nbsp;</p><p>“The evidence came to light as part of a Royal Commission inquiry started late last year in Australia to examine any involvement of the country's businesses in breaching the sanctions that were in place against Iraq before the war. According to the minutes of the meeting, Shell, the oil giant, and Tigris Petroleum, a joint venture set up by BHP Billiton and some of its former executives, were also interested in "securing the Halfayah field investment".</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“The minutes, which were taken by Australian government officials and labelled "Confidential", note: "Sir Malcolm emphasised that it was critical to register the BHP Billiton/British Dutch [Shell]/Tigris interest early with the US administration... It was a good claim and required lobbying - including from the Australian government - in Washington."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The document said that BHP Billiton had briefed the office of Australia's Prime Minister adding, "it has only just started lobbying in the UK but intended to approach Downing Street and the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry]".</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>"The minutes said "Sir Malcolm would be seeking an appointment with Vice-President Cheney when the opportunity arose". And Mr Downer, who is still Foreign Minister, "agreed he would raise the matter both in Washington and in Baghdad with Paul Bremer [the US administrator of Iraq]". </p></blockquote><p>Last year Sir Malcolm was appointed Chairman of the World Economic Forum's Nuclear Security Council. Just last month, he was appointed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as a member of their Eminent Persons Panel on European Security. Let’s hope he has been un-appointed from both.</p> <p>Laughably, five years ago he was considered an eminent enough MP to chair the Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons until the dissolution of the House of Commons in April 2010. To think he was considered fit to chair Parliament’s “Intelligence” Committee too.</p> <p>There is an excellent book, published 24 years ago, written by Mark Hollingsworth, called <em>MPs for Hire</em>. He dubs the type of behaviour exhibited by Sir Malcolm as “pork-barrel politics”. Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn told the BBC this week that some MPs have got their body so far into the trough, all you can see is the soles of their Gucci shoes. Bye, bye Sir Malcolm.</p> <p lang="en">Now he is gone for good, unless the Tories dare nominate him for a peerage. Surely they wouldn’t, would they?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/it%27s-no-surprise-rifkind-and-straw-don%27t-get-it-westminster%27s-swimming-in-cor">It&#039;s no surprise Rifkind and Straw don&#039;t get it. Westminster&#039;s swimming in corporate influence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> OurKingdom OurKingdom David Lowry Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:45:31 +0000 David Lowry 90872 at The uncertain future of the Crimean Tatars <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="Taniec tatarski (Tatar&#039;s Dance). Juliusz Kossak painting - Wikipedia.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>As reports of kidnapping, intimidation and criminal investigations into Crimean Tatars continue to emerge from the peninsula, the future of this Turkic minority looks uncertain.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>‘In short, the situation in Crimea is like this: there are proper people, and then there are the ‘blacks’ – that’s us – and they need to be weeded out,’ says Zair Smedlya, a leading figure in the Qurultai, the elected council and highest political authority of the Crimean Tatars. The Qurultai meets only once every two years, and meanwhile delegates its powers to an elected 33 member executive, the Mejlis. But Moscow, unlike Kyiv, doesn’t recognise this body. </p> <p>Smedlya is currently involved in defending Tatars who have been charged with participating in mass rioting in 2014 during and after the occupation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian military. The annexation of Crimea by Russia is widely seen as a huge step back for the Crimean Tatars, who won the right to return to their homeland only in 1989, long after Stalin ordered the NKVD to deport them to Central Asia en masse in 1944. Despite winning moderate self-autonomy and property rights after Ukraine became independent in 1991, the achievements of the past two decades are now precarious at best. Reports of kidnapping, intimidation, and criminal investigations continue to emerge from the recently-occupied peninsula. </p> <h2><strong>Life in the balance</strong></h2> <p>As Smedlya reports, the situation for the Crimean Tatars hangs in the balance. </p> <p>‘My neighbours recently asked me: “Why are you building a house for yourself? They’ll only throw you out again.” It was just the same when we came back from Uzbekistan. But our children have never encountered this attitude before. And now people are saying that there’s no bread in the shops because the Tatars boycotted the unification referendum.’ </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Smedlya at a rally in a traditional fez. Image by Dimitry Okrest. All rights reserved"><img src="" alt="" title="Smedlya at a rally in a traditional fez. Image by Dimitry Okrest. All rights reserved" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Life on the sun-scorched peninsula has become distinctly more difficult since March 2014. No more so than for Smedlya, who, with a traditional fez atop his head, clutches a copy of the Russian Federation Constitution and a briefcase filled to the brim with documents. Defending the Tatars detained in connection with mass rioting requires an intimacy with Russian court procedure and the criminal code.&nbsp;</p> <p>On 8 February 2015, for example, one person was arrested for his part in the Euromaidan clashes of a year ago – he is accused of attacking members of the Crimean Berkut riot police. On the same day, another man was arrested for attending a rally on 26 February 2014 in Simferopol, the administrative capital of Crimea – the third person to be arrested in connection with this case. February-March last year was the height of the ‘Russian Spring’, when Crimean Tatars clashed with demonstrators outside the local parliament building, trying to impress their views on the deputies inside. While Crimean Tatars broadly align themselves with Kyiv in deference to the emancipatory power of post-Soviet independence, their opponents – also Crimean residents – believe Russia has their best interests at heart. </p> <p>Two people died in the crush, and a year later, ethnic Russian residents of Crimea’s capital still shudder at the memory. ‘I asked a Tatar friend to escort me home, and asked him, quite seriously, “How far will this go?”’,’ says Svetlana, who doesn’t want to give her last name. ‘His answer was: “Don’t worry, we won’t butcher you, we’ll just rape you.”’ Svetlana had known this man for many years, but has not spoken to him since. The majority of Crimea’s ethnic Russian and Armenian residents told a recent survey of their horror at the Tatar demonstration, and call Vladimir Putin a ‘peacemaker’ in response.</p> <h2>Fear of Russia</h2> <p>The Tatars’ explanation for this mass mobilisation is their own fear of Russia, which deported the majority of them in 1944. According to official Soviet history, after the Red Army’s retreat from Crimea in 1941, local Tatars deserted from their divisions in droves, and the civilian population welcomed the German invaders with flowers. </p> <p>When Soviet forces retook the peninsula in 1944, 190,000 Crimean Tatars, alongside 40,000 Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians living in Crimea, were accused of collaboration with the enemy and transported in freight wagons to Central Asia. A similar fate befell several Caucasian ethnic groups – Ingush, Karachai, Chechens and Balkars – as well as Russian troops who had been taken prisoners of war. Hardly reported in the press, the deportation was followed by the erasure of Crimean Tatar toponymy – the names of Tatar villages were changed to standard Soviet clichés, and Tatars were rarely mentioned in the press for over 40 years.</p> <p>For Smedlya, Crimean Tatar history has always been written by dilettantes, quoting a legal formula in justification: ‘When lawyers write “the peoples of Crimea”, they include all sorts of ethnic minorities in their list of indigenous groups. But Armenians have their own national state, Armenia. Bulgarians have Bulgaria. And Russians’ roots are in Russia. There are only three peoples indigenous to the peninsula – Karaites, Krymchaks and Crimean Tatars. They call us a minority, but this is the result of Russian imperialism. Catherine the Great won Crimea from the Ottomans in the 18th century, settling it with Russians and other nationalities sympathetic to Russia. Eventually they outnumbered the Tatars, and Stalin completed the process by deporting us.’ Smedlya recently trampled a portrait of Stalin underfoot during a Communist picket – not even the police could save the ‘Great Leader’ from this public retribution.</p> <p>Karaites and Krymchaks are Turkish-speaking peoples whose religion is Judaism, although the Karaites profess a <a href="">non-Talmudic</a> form of their faith. Together, there are roughly 1,000 Karaites and Krymchaks amidst Crimea’s population of two million. Under the Ottomans, the Crimean Khanate had seven million inhabitants. The imperial authorities in St Petersburg also actively colonised the peninsula. Now, following the return of &nbsp;the Crimean Tatars after 1989, they make up 300,000 of its inhabitants. ‘We are on the brink of extinction!’ cries Zair. &nbsp;‘How can we protect ourselves? The only solution is to have our own state! There was no ethnic conflict when the Ottomans ruled us. The Khan even built a monastery. And the creation of some kind of federation of peoples would just fudge the issue!’.</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘How can we protect ourselves? The only solution is to have our own state!’</p> <p>&nbsp;After our meeting, Smedlya is off to yet another session in court on the question of the Mejlis office – the building has been seized by the authorities, and its deputy chairman is currently in pre-trial detention. Smedlya has also recently been questioned by the FSB, the Russian security service, in connection with an investigation into Mustafa Dzhemilev, head of the Mejlis for the last 22 years. </p><p>On 3 March 2014, Dzhemilev tried to enter Crimea, despite being banned by the Russian authorities. Two thousand Tatars turned out to greet Dzhemiliev at the newly-established border with Ukraine but were blocked by riot police, and a scuffle ensued. Several people were later detained and released only after a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Reycip Erdogan – evidently at the latter’s request. The day we met, however, there was no FSB interrogation: with a new law recognising Crimean Tatar as one of the peninsula’s three official languages, Smedlya demanded to be questioned in his mother tongue and the FSB couldn’t find an interpreter in their ranks. Crimea’s legal system still functions solely in Russian.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>An abduction – and a top level meeting</strong></h2> <p>The village of Sary Su came back to life only recently, as Tatars returning from their exile began to re-occupy its one-storey houses. The village’s single street, without lighting, is on the edge of the town of Belogorsk (in Tatar, Karasubazar), which, before the deportation, was almost entirely Tatar.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Tatar village. Image by Dimitry Okrest. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Now Crimean Tatars make up a third of its population. Abdureshit Dzhepparov, a 54-year-old man in a shabby sweater, meets me near the mosque as the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer. ‘When my son and nephew disappeared on 27 September, I was sitting drinking tea with a guest, just like I am with you today’, he tells me.</p> <p>‘They had gone to visit a relative when a car with false number plates suddenly braked beside them and they were forced into it and driven away. We immediately ran to the police, who had never seen such a thing here before. People had been known to disappear, but not abducted.’ Since Crimea’s unification with Russia, 18 apparently random people have vanished – all of various ages and social backgrounds; some pious Muslims, others – not. </p> <p>Dzhepparov is convinced that Islyam, his younger son, is still alive. But he has no idea whether his elder son Abdullah is. Abdullah left to study in Turkey and then disappeared. Ill-wishers claim that he went off to Syria to fight for Islamic State and stepped on a mine, but Abdureshit dismisses this story. </p> <p>The news of Islyam’s abduction spread fast on social media, and the police started working more seriously on the case. Tension grew in Sary Su and, within a few hours, thousands of people from all over Crimea were crowding its alleyways. The army was also out in force, with snipers on roofs and machine gunners in jeeps. Abdureshit proposed a meeting with the peninsula’s leadership: ‘If they won’t meet us, we will go on asking them to do so. But our attitude will be different’. </p> <p>Dzhepparov met privately with the Crimean head of government Sergei Aksyonov in October: ‘I told him straight out, these people came together not just out of solidarity with me – there are lots of issues that need ironing out.’ They agreed to set up a civil rights contact group made up of lawyers and relatives of people who have disappeared, and this now meets monthly to discuss these questions. </p> <p>So far, the group’s achievements are modest, but significant. It has organised the issue of proper documents to returnees – which failed to happen when Crimea was under Ukrainian rule. A fine handed out to a teacher for possession of extremist literature has also been rescinded thanks to the group.After unification with Russia the police started actively hunting out and confiscating radical Islamist works which the Ukrainian authorities had considered harmless. And Dzhepparov and his colleagues have succeeded in releasing four people detained for their part in the ‘3 March case’. ‘My argument was simple’, Dzhepparov tells me. ‘I said to Aksyonov: “Russia and Ukraine are at war on all fronts, both military and propaganda. Why is Russia giving its enemies extra ammunition to use against it?” He thought about it for a while but wouldn’t budge, so I said, “Disarm your enemies on the Dnipro river – let the lads go”’. </p> <h2>‘We could start an insurrection today’</h2> <p>Sat beside a stove in his small, one-storey house, Dzhepparov believes that the abduction of his son and nephew is officialdom’s revenge for his social activism. When the Crimean Tatars started returning en masse from their exile in 1989, house prices went through the roof. Dzhepparov proposed a radical solution – a mass squat on collective farm fields all over the peninsula. And since then Dzhepparov has remained a tireless advocate for his community. </p> <p>‘These arrests and abductions have been designed to provoke us – they want to trigger a reaction, to inflame everyone’s emotions’, he says. ‘The Crimean Tatar community is well aware of this and is determined not to rise to the bait – it’s a question of our basic physical safety. But they won’t stop: I spend all my time going round putting out sparks of discontent, trying to avoid a conflagration.’&nbsp; I ask him whether this official provocation could set off an armed conflict, as happened in the Caucasus. But Dzhepparov doesn’t see any parallels here: ‘We are not Caucasians, we have a completely different mentality.’ He insists that when a relative disappears, a Crimean Tatar can’t imagine immediately selling his house, buying an AK-47 and joining an insurgent group in the mountains.&nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘The arrests and abductions have been designed to provoke us, but we are not Caucasians’</p> <p>‘If we wanted,’ Dzhepparov warns, ‘we could organise an insurrectionary movement or mobilisation this very minute. But it’s not the right thing to do. &nbsp;We could also set off a mass wave of discontent, like in the old days, but the Mejlis has taken a back seat now.’ Dzhepparov’s &nbsp;words are echoed by Renat, a student at the local university: ‘When things got hot last spring, the kids started to spend all their time training and honing their fighting skills, and immediately began carrying knives whenever they went out.’ Renat himself has lived for years in the town and finds the subject of inter-ethnic relations out-dated. </p> <p>Dzhepparov has no time for the Tatar establishment either: ‘As for the Mejlis returning from its self-imposed isolation ... It’s been a spent force for years; it’s just become more obvious now’, he says in his calm voice. ‘It worked well when everything was quiet. But it couldn’t react quickly enough to the new situation. It could govern from anywhere – the internet is everywhere – but there isn’t anything to govern, nor anyone to take charge.' </p> <p>'Dzhemilev, our supposed national leader, has now been banned from entering Crimea. But he wasn’t around munch before, either. He preferred to spend his time swanning around government offices in Kyiv, completely isolated from ordinary Tatars. And the Mejlis’ current head, Refat Chubarov, made a deal with the Russians: ‘I’ll leave Crimea, but you won’t let me!’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘I’ll leave Crimea, but you won’t let me!’</p> <h2><strong>A different strategy</strong></h2> <p>‘Although the Mejlis can’t speak for all Tatars, it does want peace. But Russia hasn’t given us any sign of wanting it either’, says Smedlya. Smedlya believes that Tatar discontent is being exploited by the FSB for its own purposes, to provoke the community into open revolt.&nbsp; </p> <p>‘Neither the Mejlis, nor our Muslim religious authorities have called for the desecration of Christian graves when the graves of our ancestors were vandalised. At our Qurultai assemblies we have always said that this was the work of atheists: the Christian dead were not to blame. But given the inaction of the Mejlis, will our hot-tempered young people respond to other, more extreme calls to action?’</p> <p>‘In the Caucasus, all you have to do to rouse a young man to insurrection is stick a cap on his head and shout “Allahu Akbar! Kill the Russians!”’, Smedlya tells me, waving his own fez in the air. ‘But here, tempers aren’t running high enough yet for that to happen.’ </p> <p>He doesn’t exclude the possibility that any sign of revolt might be used to justify a purge of the Tatar population, or indeed of a North Caucasus scenario where people with blood on their hands walk away with impunity. ‘You can see the same pattern in France, in Russia – everywhere’, he says. ‘The killers and the brains behind them are the same. When they murdered the journalists in Paris, anyone with a brain wouldn’t go on drawing the cartoons and provoking an escalation of the violence. There has to be a response to everything; people are fired up everywhere. Look at Donetsk: Ukrainians and Russians who used to go to the same church are now killing one another, and who knows what will happen next.’</p> <p>Dzhapparov takes a more pragmatic view of the future. ‘It was naive to imagine that Russia would make special concessions to us Tatars, to be nice to us. Who have they ever made concessions to?’ asks Dzhapparov. ‘Who are we to expect anything from them? But if Russia sees itself as the successor to the USSR, it would be good to make some reparation for our deportation. If they were to compensate us for all our losses and return what belonged to us, then people would put up with a lot.’</p> <p>Dzhapparov quotes the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which gives these peoples, among other things, the right to self-determination. He mentions as an example the national republics within Russia, where senior government posts are normally occupied by members of the titular ethnic group, no matter what proportion of the population they represent. ‘And it was the same under the Soviet Union: the head of each republic was always from the titular nation – Georgian, Uzbek, Latvian and so on – and his deputy would be a Russian. But there isn’t a single ethnic Ukrainian in the present Kyiv government. We now have three official languages in Crimea – Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar, but why is Ukrainian one of them? What have the Ukrainians done for us? We’re fighting for our rights here, and where are they?’</p> <p>At the end of our conversation, Dzhepparov takes it in an unexpected direction: ‘If we could implement even a tenth of the UN declaration, that would be enough for us. It doesn’t matter that we are only 12% of the Crimean population. In 1967, when we started drifting back from exile, we were all young men in our twenties and there were just a few thousand of us. But many of us had four or five children. In 1987, there were already 11,000 of us, and two years later there were 30,000. And we go on multiplying. Islam is becoming stronger in our community, and families are growing – my brother’s wife has just had her fifth and my neighbours their fourth. And we hope to Allah it won’t be the last. I believe that we will be in the majority in our own lifetimes. Russians will be fine here; they’ll have everything they need.' </p><p> ‘And if we leave, the Russians will leave with us. That’s what happened when we returned from deportation. There won’t be any form of discrimination –where Muslims live, life is comfortable.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Standfirst image: The painting 'Tatar's Dance' Juliusz Kossak. Image by Adelchi via Wikipedia.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-markedonov/crimean-%E2%80%98question%E2%80%99">The Crimean ‘question’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ildar-gabidullin/moscows-crimean-tatar-problem">Moscow&#039;s Crimean Tatar problem</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mansur-mirovalev/what-next-for-crimean-tatars-russia-islam-hizb-ut-tahrir">What next for the Crimean Tatars?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Dmitry Okrest Ukraine Human rights Conflict Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:14:26 +0000 Dmitry Okrest 90839 at Home, for Algeria’s Jews, is elsewhere <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="140" height="98" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xsmall" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Intolerance towards Algerian Jews has been driven by geopolitics and history, not religion. A contribution to the <a href="">openGlobalRights</a> debate, <a href="">Religion and Human Rights</a>.<em><strong>&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;"><a href="" target="_blank">العربية</a></span></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">In Algeria, like other countries of North Africa and the Middle East, there are red lines when discussing politics and religion. Some Algerian writers have bravely debated Jewish minority rights, but raising too many questions about Algeria’s Jewish minority is still taboo. This is because most people confuse Israel, Judaism and Zionism.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Algeria’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Mohamed Aissa, recently spoke of plans to </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">reopen</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> 25 synagogues closed down in the late 1990s, during Algeria's civil war. The news provoked some Algerian Muslims to protest. The minister, however, says Algerian Jews have a right to exist. Although welcome, the statement is ironic, because few in Algeria would openly acknowledge Jewish identity. Indeed, many observers </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href=",http:/" target="_blank">claim</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that the Algerian Jewish community no longer exists.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Radical Islamists have </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">reportedly</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> led opposition to the minister’s plan, but their anger does not stem from Islam itself. Muslims in the Maghreb have a history of coexistence with other religions, as is true in other Middle Eastern countries. Instead, their intolerance is driven by recent history and politics.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Muslims and Jews coexisted for centuries in Algeria until European clerics </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">introduced</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> “anti-Semitism.” French colonists offered Jews special treatment, allowing them to capitalize on new economic opportunities. In 1870, the famous Crémieux Decree granted French citizenship to Algerian Jews, elevating their status from “colonial subjects” to “French citizens.”Some Muslims felt betrayed, leading to the first significant rupture between the two communities. Later, Algerian Muslims accused Jews of failing to support the country’s war of liberation.</span></p><p>In Algeria, religious intolerance against Jews emerged from these processes of colonization and de-colonization, and from a war of independence that generated popular resentment of perceived injustice.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Today, Jews are like ghosts in Algeria; we hear about them living among us, but we never see them. Some say Jews still </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="">live</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in Algeria under strict surveillance, but most Algerians are confused: is there still a Jewish-Algerian community? And if so, is it safe to speak about it? Many suspect that the community exists, but fear that this is a matter of state security about which they should not comment.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Jews are not the only victims of Algerian intolerance; there is also discrimination against Christians. An Algerian Muslim who converts to Christianity is despised because s/he has given up her faith to embrace the ex-enemy’s religion. As a result, even people who are not religiously devout are likely to threaten a convert with rape or death.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In neighboring Tunisia and Morocco, the last few thousand remaining Jews can practice their faith and send their children to Jewish schools. Most Tunisians and Moroccans – ordinary citizens as well as scholars and academics – speak openly of Jewish contributions to their countries. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Algeria, where people vandalized both Christian and Jewish religious symbols, including cemeteries and places of worship, after independence, and during the 1990s’ civil war.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Arab-Israeli conflict has of course deepened the gap between Algeria’s Jews and Muslims, and has undermined hopes of re-establishing a Jewish presence in the country. Unfortunately, many residents of Arab countries confound anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.</span></p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="" alt="" width="444" /> <br/>Flickr/[john] (Some rights reserved) </br/></div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Can the Islamic population of Algeria normalize its relationship with a domestic Jewish population? </p> <p> <hr style="color:#D2D3D5; background-color:#D2D3D5; height:1px; width:85%; border:none; text-align:center; margin: 0 auto;" /> </p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Algerians often say, “We have nothing against Jews; it is Zionism that is the problem.” But then, many also say, “a Jew will always defend Israel’s interests, even if s/he is not a Zionist. All Jews believe in Israel, and it is therefore better to prevent them from returning to their (Arab) home countries.”</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Consider Jewish-Algerian singer Enrico Macias. The Algerian-born French citizen made two attempts, in 2000 and 2007, to visit his “homeland.” Algerian authorities </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">denied him entry</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, following pressure by </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">members of the public and Algerian political figures</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, including former Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem. Macias’ critics justified their position by saying that the singer supported Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Most Algerian Jews seeking to enter Algeria are interested only in visiting, not in relocating to the country. Most likely, few believe there is a place for them in their former country. </p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When the last Jewish emigrant from Algeria has died, the notion of visiting the “Algerian homeland” will likely die with them. For descendants of Jewish Algerians, “home” is now somewhere else.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="" target="_blank" onMouseOver="document.Imgs.src=''" onMouseOut="document.Imgs.src=''"> <img src="" width="140" name="Imgs" border="0" alt="Religion and human rights – Read on" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/nida-kirmani/religion-as-human-rights-liability">Religion as a human rights liability</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/elsy-melkonian/women%E2%80%99s-rights-in-tunisia-promising-future-or-religiopolitical-game">Women’s rights in Tunisia: promising future or religio-political game?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/larry-cox/human-rights-must-get-religion">Human rights must get religion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/muhtari-aminukano-ayaz-ali-atallah-fitzgibbon/islamic-and-un-bills-of-rights-same-d">Islamic and UN Bills of Rights: same difference</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/karoline-kamel/incorporating-religion-into-human-rights-bad-idea-for-egypt">Incorporating religion into human rights: a bad idea for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/xaviera-medina/what-do-muslim-women-want-finding-women%E2%80%99s-rights-in-islam">What do Muslim women want? Finding women’s rights in Islam</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/iyad-barghouthi/for-human-rights-religious-interpretation-matters-most">For human rights, religious interpretation matters most </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights Farah Souames Middle East & North Africa Response article Religion and Human Rights Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:00:00 +0000 Farah Souames 90558 at Arrest of a nonviolent leader in the Maldives challenges the international community <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Terrorism’ charges might give the government leverage against a bid made by Nasheed to participate in any official political action at any point in the future. What happens now?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Mohamed Nasheed." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohamed Nasheed. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The former President of the Maldives and global climate activist Mohamed ‘Anni’ Nasheed was arrested on February 22 on “terror” charges just days before he was to lead a mass demonstration against the current government. Both the UN and the EU have issued statements of concern over what now appears to be an escalation by entrenched power holders in the Maldives to stifle effective political opposition.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Known to outsiders for its pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and five-star luxury resorts, the Maldives is a nation of about 340,000 people spread across an archipelago of 26 atolls located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, roughly 500 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. Its natural beauty is its biggest asset, given that nearly one-third of the country’s GDP is generated via tourism. But that beauty also has a way of obscuring the intense political struggles that have come to characterize everyday life for most Maldivians over the past 30 years.</p> <p>In 2008 after almost a decade of nonviolent struggle for free and fair elections, Nasheed succeeded in becoming the nation’s first democratically elected president after defeating at the polls South Asia’s longest-standing dictator, Mamoon Abdul Gayoom. He served as president for three years, attempting to rebuild the nation’s crumbling institutions and infrastructure, and campaigning internationally for action against climate change by showcasing the effects of rising seas on the low-lying and densely populated island nation. </p> <p>In February of 2012, Nasheed was forced out of office in a swift and bloodless coup, staged by security forces working in concert with elements of the former regime and a notoriously corrupt, hostile and inept judiciary. He again campaigned for re-election in 2013, only to be stopped this time by judicial proceedings that cancelled one election in which Nasheed was placed first, and stalled another polling date for long enough for the current president, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the brother of the former dictator, to obtain a win.</p> <p>Nasheed and other Maldivian democrats responded by working within the system, through organizing popular pressure on behalf of reform, and drawing international attention to democratic backsliding, shrinking press freedom, and rising corruption. With decades of experience waging these struggles, credibility with diplomats in the region and international institutions, and increasing popular support, Nasheed’s efforts began to gain traction--until he was arrested on February 22.</p> <p>So what were these “terrorism” charges? </p> <p>The context of events began after the 2008 elections when, as president, Nasheed sought to bring cases against figures in the corrupt resort-owning elite that had amassed fortunes thanks to the cronyism that characterized the Gayoom years. Nasheed had been campaigning on a commitment to focus on needs in transportation, education, and public health, as well as infrastructure to combat rising seas--all of which were neglected and crumbling during 30 years of authoritarian rule. Just one problem: the nation’s judiciary remained largely in the hands of figures from those earlier decades.</p> <p>The country’s Chief Judge of Criminal Court Maldives&nbsp;quashed countless corruption cases involving members of the former regime until finally a constitutionally appointed committee charged with judicial oversight and reform tried to indict him. Judge Mohamed failed to show up at his initial hearing, and then later moved to quash his own charges and arrest warrant, prompting President Nasheed to arrest him. Nasheed’s decision to arrest Judge Mohamed was portrayed by his political opponents as a gross violation of his power and that was used to justify the putsch in February 2012.</p> <h2><strong>Retrospective terrorism</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Pres. Mohamed Nasheed summoned to police HQ in 2012." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pres. Mohamed Nasheed summoned to police HQ in 2012. MinivanNews/Flickr. Some rights reserved..</span></span></span>This same episode is now being re-invoked by the judiciary to justify Nasheed’s current arrest, somehow labeling his action three years ago as “terrorism”, despite the fact that force had been used against him to compel him to resign. Moreover, Nasheed has been refused access to his attorneys because they were unable to register themselves with the court, since a trial was called within 24 hours. To get him to the court, the authorities <a href="">dragged him on the ground</a> into the chamber, injuring him. </p> <p>All this is deeply ironic in light of Nasheed’s long personal history as someone dedicated to nonviolent struggle during his years of democratic activism. That dedication was honored by his receiving in 2012 the James Lawson Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Action. The Lawson Award is named after the famous nonviolent strategist and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the American civil rights movement. Nasheed is probably the Maldivian political figure who is least likely to have committed or condoned “terrorism”.</p> <p>It is now clear that if these charges go through, Nasheed could face three years in prison, just long enough to prevent him from running in the 2018 presidential elections. Even the possibility of pending terrorism charges might give the government leverage against a bid made by Nasheed to participate in any official political action at any point in the future.</p> <p>What happens now?</p> <p>In previous episodes when force or extra-legal action by Maldivian authorities were used to suppress Nasheed’s political activity, international actors were initially slow to take the initiative of bringing their influence to bear – although they must have recognized that the Maldives have been through a long and difficult process in achieving democracy. </p> <p>In 2008, success in bringing about the nation’s first free and fair elections was in no small part due to the pirate radio stations created by Maldivian democrats which ensured that the movement could reach both foreign and domestic audiences with its own voice. Through these ‘minivan’ broadcasts (‘minivan’ means freedom in Dhivehi), they were able to provide evidence of repression, corruption, and human rights violations to organizations like Amnesty International. Once these reports were confirmed, the way was open for other state and non-state actors to put pressure on the old regime.</p> <p>In the run up to the 2008 elections, the movement’s effectiveness in alerting the international community to support free and fair elections meant that the world was closely watching, ensuring that the state could no longer tamper with the electoral process and that all the opposition parties, not just Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, could participate on a level playing field.</p> <p>However during the 2012 coup it was the former regime that seized the initiative in laying down the&nbsp; narrative of events and shaping international perceptions, which helped ensure the success of the putsch. They forced Nasheed to ‘admit’ overreaches in his power as president and affirm the constitutional validity of the change in leadership. Meanwhile members of the former regime had their own supporters take to the densely populated streets of the capital, effectively creating the perception that Nasheed resigned amidst popular pressure.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Caged in corruption</strong></h2> <p>Of all the methods used by the political forces that support the former dictator and his family--in the effort to manipulate democracy, maintain a solid hold on the hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenue generated annually, and deal profitably with new business partners such as the Chinese government--their control over the nation’s judiciary is perhaps the most reliable. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When repression is wrapped in a judicial garment, it is easier to keep international actors at arm’s length. It not only applies a superficial veneer of legitimacy to political irregularities, it forces anyone who is suspicious enough to want the full story to try to disentangle a complicated web of history and judicial action before getting to the truth. This is one way that countries are kept in the cage of corruption. </p> <p>The present leadership of the Maldives doubtless hopes that influential international actors – who could otherwise deploy sanctions on behalf of rights and democratic standards – will continue to find the Maldives too small, too unserious, and too corrupt to justify such time and effort. But until they do, a kangaroo court may remain in control.</p> <p>Nevertheless Maldivian democrats understand that this process can work both ways and will devise their own tactics for framing the struggle internationally, as well as apply careful domestic leverage against the regime. At the very least, ‘political instability,’ i.e. popular protests, have been able to discourage tourists from coming to the islands and thus inflict measurable economic costs on the resort-owning elite. After the 2012 coup, Nasheed called upon the international community to ‘boycott’ the Maldivian tourism industry. He told the <em>Financial Times </em>“I’d say to anyone who has booked a holiday to the Maldives: cancel it. And to anyone who is thinking of booking one: please don’t bankroll an illegitimate government.”</p> <p>According to the Maldivian ministry of tourism, Nasheed’s actions along with the popular outrage that followed in the wake of the 2012 coup scared away an estimated 40,000 tourists for the remainder of that year. Such actions also forced the coup-government to spend the equivalent of 4.5 million US dollars on an international public relations campaign designed to offset the losses generated by negative headlines. In the present crisis, the UK government has already issued warnings stating political unrest brought about by Nasheed’s arrest might make for an unpleasant holiday.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bottom line is that ‘unrest’ is costly, however much the tourism industry has sought to protect itself by hiring legions of illegal foreign workers, mostly from Bangladesh, to supplant local employees. According to the Minister of Economic Development, as of mid-February 2015 there are 116,000 foreign workers in all sectors of the Maldivian economy totaling now roughly half the work force. Meanwhile youth unemployment for Maldivians has continued to hover around 43 percent.&nbsp;</p> <p>The present regime has already run afoul of world concern with its maneuvering to curb press freedoms. As of 2015 the Maldives is now ranked 112 out of 179 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, which marks a return to pre-2008 levels. The country’s ranking had improved from 144th&nbsp;in 2006 to 127th&nbsp;in 2007, and then to 51st&nbsp;and 52nd&nbsp;in the years following the election of Nasheed in 2008. The recent loss of ranking was likely due to the enactment of laws forbidding public protest as well as the act of documenting such protests, pushed through parliament by the coup government in December 2012. What is believed to be the most glaring case of jeopardizing media freedom is the disappearance of Minivan News investigative journalist Ahmed Rilwan last year. The grassroots campaign calling for a more vigorous investigation has seemed considerably more animated than anything the government has done to find this reporter</p> <h2><strong>Support local nonviolent resistance</strong></h2> <p>Reacting to this new arrest of Mohamed Nasheed, the early statements made by the UN, EU, and Indian Ambassador to the Maldives, all calling for transparency and the rule of law to operate in his trial, might be taken as a sign that the campaign to draw attention to the country’s unaccountable judiciary has had traction internationally. Yet the current situation in the Maldives still presents international actors such as the United States, the British Commonwealth, and the European Union with an urgent opportunity to call for enforcing democratic norms, without military intervention or involvement in regional disputes. </p> <p>Because this is a struggle being waged by Maldivians using local nonviolent resistance, international actors can support it simply by emphasizing the need to enforce the rights of citizens and protesters in the Maldives. Doing this will help boost confidence by ordinary people to make their voices heard against injustice while reducing the government’s room to avoid accountability.</p> <p>The attempt to blunt the successful and largely nonviolent Maidan revolution&nbsp;in Ukraine through armed rebellion and military intervention generated global news coverage, serious international sanctions, and international summit meetings. But can the international community only notice annexations, rebellions and other military crises? </p> <p>Or will it bother to take action when the people in a far less conspicuous nation, where general violence has not yet occurred, face a crisis equally alarming for them: the arrest under bizarre circumstances of their country’s first democratically elected president, by a rogue branch of a government that may be backsliding into its authoritarian past?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More on the Maldives in the <a href="">Minivan News</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/matt-mulberry/democratic-decline-in-maldives-will-world-wake-up">Democratic decline in the Maldives: will the world wake up?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/maldives-serial-coup-in-progress">The Maldives: a serial coup in progress?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Maldives </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Maldives Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Matt Mulberry Fri, 27 Feb 2015 07:57:23 +0000 Matt Mulberry 90866 at Forget venture capitalists: how a scrappy composting co-op found another way to get support <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can a just and sustainable society be financed in a capitalist economy?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">CERO worker-owner Josefina Luna (second from right) after a training session with employees at a local supermarket. Credit: <a href="">CERO Cooperative Inc</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>At age 60, when many of her friends are considering retirement, Josefina Luna is chair of the board of <a href="">CERO Cooperative Inc</a>. CERO is a five-member worker-owned cooperative on a mission to encourage composting and create jobs in the hard-up Boston neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, and East Boston. It's a small but unusually diverse team: of the five worker-owners, two are African-American, two are Latinas, and one is white. They communicate in English and Spanish. To kick-start their business, they’ve also had to learn the language of stocks and shares, but they just may have hit on a new way of raising capital for businesses owned by poor people.</p> <p>“How do we finance a sustainable society in a capitalist economy?”</p> <p>“I didn’t know anything about investments, stocks, or shares when we started,” says Dominican-born Luna, who is a former teacher, but she knew nothing good was happening in Roxbury, the Boston neighborhood where she lives. “In the 22 years I’ve been here, nothing’s changed. We see the same few stores; the same few jobs that don’t pay workers well.”</p> <p>When Luna got involved in setting up CERO Cooperative Inc. in 2011, the unemployment crisis in her area was dire. Luna had experience working with people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. She has been involved in community organizing campaigns that aimed to get better services. But what her neighborhood really needed wasn’t more services; it was more good jobs.</p> <p>The city of Boston doesn’t collect commercial waste, only residential, but at the time it was considering a plan that would require businesses to reprocess their food scraps. In those scraps, Luna and her colleagues saw an opportunity. What if CERO could offer local businesses a service they were about to need, gathering their organic waste and keeping it out of the local landfill, while also taking it away to a composting site, where all those potato peelings, eggshells, and apple cores could decompose back into nutritious soil or green energy?</p> <p>Good for jobs, the planet, and the local economy, CERO had an attractive triple bottom line and excellent timing. The challenge for Luna and her colleagues was finding the funding to buy the specialized collecting and compacting trucks they needed to start safely and efficiently operating and signing up clients. Heavy and wet, organic waste can’t easily be hauled in the same sort of vehicles that gather regular trash or recyclables. The CERO worker-owners calculated they’d need about $100,000 for a single custom-made compactor.</p> <p>“We can’t go to a bank; we’re working-class people, not people who have credit history,” explains Luna. “We don’t have lots of business with the bank.”</p> <p>“What we had was our sweat,” says her fellow worker-owner Steven Evans, a Roxbury native with an entrepreneurial spirit (he’s co-owner of a bike shop and a landscaping company) but no capital and no formal credentials. “Just waiting around for a job to come to us is never going to work.”</p> <p>Thanks to a relatively unknown financial instrument called a “Direct Public Offering” or DPO, that sweat may finally be paying off. After three years of filing applications to state securities regulators and working for free, CERO launched a DPO in October—a means by which a business offers stock directly to the public<strong>.</strong> Setting the minimum investment at just $2,500 and open to any resident of Massachusetts, CERO had raised the $100,000 they needed to go into a bank for a loan by the end of the year, and in January they did just that, receiving a $100,000 line of credit from the Cooperative Fund of New England.</p> <p>&nbsp;“People who are sincere about wanting to work with us and have a little cash can now put their money where their mouth is,” says Evans,</p> <p>Boston’s composting law went into effect on October 1. CERO is currently picking up four tons of trash a week. For now, Evans and his fellow drivers are still using box trucks rented for the day from Ryder, but they hope to buy their own trucks soon. Evans, who still works part time as a taxi driver, says it’s the “best thing that ever happened to me.” He’s cleaning up and collecting trash in the streets where he once hung out and looked for work.</p> <p><strong>“Investment apartheid” </strong></p> <p>Many people would like to make their neighborhoods healthier and less subject to the whims of global capitalists. But starting businesses requires capital and, as the old saying goes, the more you have the more you can make. For everyone else, it can be almost impossible to get investments or loans or credit.</p> <p>At the core of the problem is the way that financial systems operate in the United States. Although tools exist to fund nonprofit organizations on the one hand and profit-maximizing corporations on the other, small local businesses slip through the cracks.</p> <p>First there’s the question of expertise. Aaron Tanaka is a 2014 fellow with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and managing director at Boston Impact, an “impact investment” fund that uses loan financing, grants, and equity investments to incubate new worker-owned community businesses, including CERO. The idea of CERO grew out of a couple of failed vegetable oil collection efforts of which Tanaka, Luna, and Evans had been a part a few years back, at a time when Tanaka headed up the Boston Workers Alliance. Those projects were undercapitalized, but they were also ill-prepared, Tanaka says.</p> <p>“We were great at grassroots organizing, movement building, and getting grants, but that’s about where our expertise stopped<strong>.</strong>” Until recently, writing business plans had not been part of the typical activist’s experience.</p> <p>Far more familiar to most activists is grant writing. Philanthropy is big business in the U.S., a multitrillion dollar industry on which nonprofits tend to depend. Federal tax law requires foundations to give to charities, not to for-profit businesses.</p> <p>Of course, foundations don’t just provide grants; they also make choices about where to invest their endowments, and those investments are way bigger. Under federal law, foundations are only required to give away 5 percent of their net investment assets. The rest of their money is usually invested in high-yield stocks and not in projects like CERO. The money-making and money-giving arms of a foundation are often in conflict.</p> <p>“If a foundation invests 5 percent of its assets in its mission to support local food business and better nutrition and the other 95 in Monsanto, what’s it really accomplishing?” asks Deborah Frieze, co-founder of Boston Impact, where Tanaka works.</p> <p>There is a way in which foundations can invest in businesses. They can make “Program Related Investments,” or PRIs, related to their charitable giving. But most do not. It’s risky, and traditional trustees and asset managers don’t feel comfortable, says Jeff Rosen, chief financial officer of the Solidago Foundation, based in Northampton, Massachusetts. Asset managers are used to maximizing returns on investments, and grant makers are used to making grants.</p> <p>“It’s the question we’re always struggling with: How do we finance a sustainable society in a capitalist economy?” Rosen says.</p> <p>Exclusion from the foundation system is just the beginning of the problem for companies like CERO. The Americans who are most likely to want to invest in local businesses are essentially banned from doing so.</p> <p>“If a foundation invests 5 percent of its assets in its mission to support local food business and better nutrition and the other 95 in Monsanto, what’s it really accomplishing?"</p> <p>Under securities laws passed in the 1930s to protect people from fraudulent stock offers, Americans are divided into accredited and “unaccredited” investors. Accredited investors are required to have more than $1 million in assets, not including their homes, or more than $200,000 in annual income.</p> <p>“If you’re in the top 1 percent of income or wealth earners, you are allowed to invest in anything, no questions asked,” explains Michael Shuman, author of <em>Local Dollars, Local Sense</em>, who calls the system “investment apartheid.”</p> <p>“If you’re in the other 99 percent, you can’t put a penny in a local small business without that business doing massive legal work,” he says.</p> <p>Most mom and pop businesses can’t afford the legal fees involved in drawing up a thick stock-offering document. Because of that, even if they have means to invest, the majority of Americans invest in professionally managed mutual funds, which results in roughly 95 percent of the population investing in only half the economy—the large multinationals listed on Wall Street, says Shuman.</p> <p><strong>Threading the needle </strong></p> <p>CERO found a way to thread this tricky financial needle, but it took a lot of assistance. If raising a child requires a village, raising startup capital for a locally owned poor people’s business currently seems to take a planet. In CERO’s case, even with a lot of good will, getting off the ground required grants, loans, legal expertise, specialized training, investment dollars, and, of course, contracts.</p> <p>Add to that list some timely changes in federal and state law—and all that sweat. And they’re not out of the woods yet.</p> <p>In 2011, Luna, Evans, and the other members of CERO raised grant funds to hire a business manager named Lor Holmes, who came to the job with a master’s degree in community business development and years of experience setting up micro-businesses for women survivors of domestic violence. She got into it, she says, when the women turned to her and said, “Surviving’s not enough.”</p> <p>Holmes applied that same logic to CERO and aimed to make the project thrive. With Holmes’ help, CERO drew up a business plan, conducted a crowd-funding drive, and raised $17,000 in donations from more than 300 donors. The group used that money to hire Jenny Kassan of Cutting Edge Capital, an expert in the field of community capital development, who helped CERO submit their application to the state securities regulators in Massachusetts and prepare their public offering.</p> <p>The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ securities forms had space for only one owner’s signature, Holmes recalls, but all five co-owners signed anyway. “Here, we said, put your corporate seal on that.”</p> <p>“If you’re in the other 99 percent, you can’t put a penny in a local small business without that business doing massive legal work.”</p> <p>Direct public offerings have been around for years, but most investors and entrepreneurs don’t know about them. Professional fund managers don’t tend to inform their clients about this option, Kassan explains, because not doing so leaves them with so much power.</p> <p>“I don’t think there’s a conspiracy, but there are some very wealthy investors who benefit from small businesses having the belief that there are no other places to go,” she says.</p> <p>Efforts to make change at the federal level have been slow. In 2012, a coalition of odd bedfellows that Shuman describes as “Tea Party Republicans, locavore progressives, and high-tech young people who wanted to sell apps on their iPhones” pushed Congress to pass the Jumpstart Our Business Start Ups or JOBS Act, which made it cheaper for small businesses to “crowdfund” their operations and loosened the restrictions on which Americans could invest in securities or stocks.</p> <p>“The Securities and Exchange Commission was supposed to implement regulations for this, but for two years they’ve sat on it,” says Shuman.</p> <p>Funders found ways to get money to CERO anyway. Protecting them against loss through a deal drawn up between the Cooperative Fund of New England and the Solidago Foundation, Frieze at Boston Impact was able to persuade her board to give CERO a $10,000 no-interest loan. (If the business fails, the Solidago deal will enable the donor-advised fund of Boston Impact to write their loan off as a grant.)</p> <p>The loans and the crowdfunder enabled CERO to pay their bills long enough to release their DPO and begin operating. Almost at once, they started signing up clients. Among those so far are five America’s Food Basket grocery stores, Northeastern University, and Crop Circle Kitchen, a food service incubator that helps local truck vendors.</p> <p>The first contract from Northeastern is small, valued at $6,760 for the year, but a renewal could be worth 10 times that, says Holmes. Other local institutions, like the public school system, the public hospital, and the county jail, could all provide CERO steady business.</p> <p>As of mid-January, CERO's DPO had raised $143,000 of a $350,000 goal. Holmes says the money came from 40 investors, including the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF) and Equal Exchange Coffee, which each kicked in $5,000. “Investments range from $2,500 to $25,000 each,” she said, “with $2,500 being the average investment size coming in from individuals.”</p> <p>With another $20,000 donated in an end-of-year fund drive and a line of credit from The Cooperative Fund of New England, which specializes in working with co-ops, CERO will soon be buying their own truck, Holmes says. It’ll bear the names of all those who contributed to their crowdfunder.</p> <p>At last, Evans is getting paid for the day he spends collecting waste. He's still driving a cab part time, but it's a start. (All CERO worker-owners are paid the same: $20/hour.) The company’s hiring a sales person to work alongside Holmes to build up clients.</p> <p>“It’s amazing to go from austerity to finally having money to spend,” says Holmes.</p> <p>“Still, to spend a couple of years working without getting paid is not a model I support replicating,” she adds.</p> <p><strong>The rise of “community foundations”</strong></p> <p>The larger challenge may be to shift consciousness.</p> <p>“My retirement money’s in mutual funds,” Kassan admits. “Even though I know damn well the stock market is based on a big lie that we can grow forever burning fossil fuels—but we’re brainwashed that this is the only safe way to invest our money.”</p> <p>We need new analysis of what’s “safe,” what’s an acceptable risk, a moderate return, and collateral. Is “capital” only buildings and property, asks Shuman, or also community support and social impact? Do mom and pop stores have social impact?</p> <p>Many of CERO’s investors believe they do. Among the first was Glynn Lloyd, founder of City Fresh Foods, based in Roxbury, which provides economical meals to local schools, child care centers, and homebound elders. “I share their philosophy. It’s good for my business. If I’m not going to reach into my pocket, who will?” says Lloyd.</p> <p>Shuman and Rosen are part of an initiative to create a revolving fund of community-controlled investment dollars for food businesses in western Massachusetts. The number of investors and fund managers willing to invest in “good” enterprises with high risk and low returns will always be small, Shuman points out, especially in a media culture that celebrates the high-rolling gambler who scores the big stock market win.</p> <p>Another source of local capital may be community foundations. A report last fall from the Democracy Collaborative profiled 30 “community funds” that are experimenting with “whole portfolio integration”—putting more of their investments, like their grant making, into their mission.</p> <p>Currently there are about 760 place-based community funds in the United States, with combined endowments totaling $65 billion and annual grant making roughly $5 billion. Accountable to boards that are usually comprised of local residents, leaders, and activists, their grant making is local. As the idea catches on that local universities and hospitals (“eds and meds”) can act as “anchor institutions” for jobs and healthy development, some of those community funds are asking whether local foundations could be “anchor institutions” too, not just through their grant giving but through contracting with and investing in local businesses.</p> <p>If raising a child requires a village, raising startup capital for a locally owned poor people’s business currently seems to take a planet.</p> <p>Thirty out of some 760 funds doesn’t make a trend, says report author Marjorie Kelly, but more and more community funds are taking up the mission of building up community wealth.</p> <p>Given the options, Scot Sklar, adjunct professor at George Washington University and president of The Stella Group, an investment group targeting green energy projects, believes DPOs are going to take off.</p> <p>“There’s no non-pain-in-the-butt way to get money,” Sklar says. “DPOs are a way for the local community to play ball in the economy.”</p> <p>Main Street businesses using Wall Street tools is no simple matter, as the worker-owners of CERO discovered. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. State regulators vary in their attitudes to DPOs, says Kassan. Offering in more than one state requires complying with each state’s requirements. Once they receive approval from the state to offer stock, companies generally have one year to raise funds before they have to resubmit their financial information and reapply.</p> <p>Like any share offering, a DPO can be vulnerable to outside investors gaining undue influence. To keep control local, an offering needs to be structured in a way that explicitly favors local investors and offers them a return that keeps decision making in local hands. In CERO’s case, investor shares are nonvoting shares. Control over the business rests with the cooperative’s worker-owners. The offer's open only to Massachusetts residents.</p> <p>“What we need is a robust community banking system that works for all.”</p> <p>We can’t crowd-source our way to a new democratic economy, says Stacy Mitchell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “The state level approach means a closer, more democratic relationship between the investor, the producer, and the consumer—and that’s good in that it’s capital that’s rooted in relationship,” she says. But we should not imagine that we’re going to create a robust financing system for local businesses through DPOs alone, she warns. “What we need is a robust community banking system that works for all.”</p> <p>In the meantime, investment dollars are still coming into CERO, and its worker-owners are out there collecting waste. “We’re just getting started,” says Evans. “What have I got to lose?”</p> <p>This article was first published in <a href=";amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;amp;utm_campaign=20150130">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/max-zahn/compassionate-economics">Compassionate economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shannan-stoll/seven-practical-ideas-for-compassionate-communities">Seven practical ideas for compassionate communities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/money-in-terms-of-social-change-it%E2%80%99s-both-%E2%80%98beauty-and-beast%E2%80%99">Money: in terms of social change, it’s both ‘beauty and the beast’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation Laura Flanders The role of money Economics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 01:00:00 +0000 Laura Flanders 90847 at