Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status

BBC News Middle East

The emblem of
The emblem of (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
President Abbas received a standing ovation when he delivered the Palestinian application for full member state status to the UN in September 2011

The Palestinians plan to ask the United Nations to upgrade their status to become a “non-member observer state” on 29 November 2012.
It follows a failed bid to join the international body as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the UN Security Council.
Here is a guide to what is likely to happen and its significance. Continue reading “Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status”

Commonwealth writers conversation

Hay Festival in Dhaka

Writer Farah Ghuzhnavi speaking at the Commonwealth Writers Forum with activist Shireen Huq looking on. Others on the panel were entrepreneur?Kamal?Quadir and photographer. The session was moderated by Belize writer Godfrey Smith. ???Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Our autumn festival odyssey across four continents begins in?Kenya, continues in?Spain, races on to?Mexico, then ventures to?Turkey, and on to?Bangladesh.

As we travel four continents we hope you will join us by downloading podcasts from each festival, signing up for our regular newsletters for monthly updates and following our international?Hay Festival blog?where writers from around the world offer their thoughts and reflections on the festivals they visit and the debates they take part in. We look forward to sharing our conversations, re-imagining the world with you.

About the festival

The three-day programme of events in 2012 will include authors and speakers from Bangladesh and across the world. The festival will take place over the 15th, 16th and 17th November at the Bangla Academy Ground.

The Hay Festival presents a wonderful opportunity to create dialogue between leading British and Bangladeshi authors; I hope this event will herald a new wave of Bangladeshi writing as we bring some of the magic of Hay to Dhaka.?Tahmima Anam

Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is located in the geographic centre of the country, in the great deltaic region of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The city is within the monsoon climate zone, in one of the world?s leading rice and jute growing regions. Dhaka is divided into an old city and a new city.
A?panel?chaired?by?Godfrey?Smith,?the?award-winning?writer?from Belize,?explores?how?artists?can?participate?in?the?mechanisms?which affect?our?lives and?what participatory?governance?really?means.?With writer?Farah Ghuznavi,?entrepreneur?Kamal?Quadir,?activist?Shireen Huq?and photographer?Shahidul?Alam.
Full programme?Please Retweet #hayfestdhaka
More images from DrikNews
Protest against Hay Festival in Dhaka

Zoe Rahman wins MOBO award for Best Jazz

BBC Review

Witness the power and conviction of Zoe Rahman live…
Michael Quinn 2009-05-06

Zoe Rahman’s prowess at the piano shouldn?t be underestimated. In the decade since she shot to national attention as the Perrier Young Musician of the Year, Rahman has matured into a pianist of keen intelligence and wide-ranging imagination. Evidence of such is to be found in dazzling abundance on this first live album from the British-Bengali soloist. Continue reading “Zoe Rahman wins MOBO award for Best Jazz”

?Extradite me, I?m British!?

Event | Review:  (The Rich Mix, London)

 By Samira Quraishy

On Saturday, hundreds of human rights activists, politicians, artists and concerned citizens gathered in London to highlight the plight of Talha Ahsan and other British citizens detained without trial for years and facing unjust extradition to the US. Samira Quraishy reports for Ceasefire.

Hamja Ahsan, brother of Talha Ahsan and Campaign Leader for the Free Talha Ahsan Campaign (photo: Aimee Valinski) #ExtraditeNight

?Extradite me I?m British!? the t-shirt reads as we walked into the Rich Mix! arts theatre in Bethnal Green. The venue was packed out and there were near to no seats left, but my husband and I eventually found a seat near the front. Looking around me, I saw the familiar faces of fellow activists alongside those of popular personalities currently engaged in the fight for prisoners? rights; particularly the rights of individuals incarcerated without charge in British high security prisons. Many of these prisoners are Muslims being held on trumped up terror-related charges.
The aim of tonight?s event was to raise awareness about the four men facing imminent extradition to the US should the British government continue to dance to America?s tune. The four men are Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad, Richard O?Dwyer and Gary McKinnon. From the films showcased and the discussions that were had, it soon became apparent that the former two are facing the arbitrary and soul crushing hand of US law simply because of their faith. But this does not mean O?Dwyer and McKinnon will have it easy either.
Ahsan?s younger brother, Hamja Ahsan, has been running a campaign with the help of family, friends and a new community of people who have been affected by the arbitrary anti-terror legislation put in place by the Labour Party under Tony Blair ? most notably the notorious 2003 US-UK extradition treaty . This is not to say that the current coalition government is free from guilt. According to David Bermingham (one of the Natwest 3 and now a campaigner against US extradition), the Tories and LibDems are worse than Labour in that they pledged to change the law should they came to power, but have failed to do so.
The evening was filled with messages of support from family members and activists alike; an open letter to Samantha Cameron, written by Talha?s mother, was read out to a quiet room, as she made a heartfelt plea, mother to mother. In a video message, Robert King, the only free member of the Angola 3, stated that ?if he (Ahsan) is sent to an American prison where he faces the possibility of 70 years, he will die in prison?if Great Britain extradites Talha to the United States, he will be executed?maybe not imminently?America has many ways to kill?. Actor and fellow campaigner, Riz Ahmed, also lent his support to the cause and short message from human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabati was delivered.
Hamja informed those present that since the unforgiving verdict on their case from the European Courts of Human Rights was delivered, he has now taken the campaign on fulltime dedicating himself to his brother?s cause and subsequently to the campaigns of other prisoners in British prisons. And this is true for all other family members and friends of those waiting extradition. When asked if he could have imagined his brother being detained 6 years ago, Hamja shakes his head emphatically stating that they had both been at a rally in support of Babar Ahmad shortly before his arrest. ?It can happen to anyone!?, he said.
The evening is dotted with light-hearted moments provided by British comedians Ahir Shah  and Jeff Mirza, but by far my favourite personality of the night was the formidable Ashfaq Ahmad, Babar Ahmad?s father. Thrown into the thick of things almost overnight, Ashfaq, or ?uncle Ashfaq? as Moazzam Begg likes to call him, has been heading the campaign for his son?s release since 2003. A man of many depths, over the years Ashfaq has won the hearts of many with his sincerity and integrity in the face of great injustices and heartache as his son essentially lost a decade of his life.
Indeed the most tear jerking moments were when we watched the documentary on extradition by the Islamic Human Rights Commission in which both Ahsan and Ahmad?s fathers are interviewed and professed their desires to see their sons walk free and rejoin their families. In the documentary, human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, highlighted the shocking details of Babar Ahmad?s traumatizing arrest; police officers were briefed in such a way that it was deemed similar to ?activating attack dogs?.
The evening was structured in a way whereby the audience was immediately drawn in –  rather than the usual speeches, we were treated to a more relaxed and personal discussion with the key personalities sitting on stage and discussing their personal stories and perspectives, and sharing their ups and downs.
We had Victoria Brittain in conversation with Moazzam Begg;  Begg in conversation with Ashfaq and Hamja. At one point Begg mentions that ?Uncle Ashfaq is a very funny and brave man?, to which Ashfaq mumbled away from his mic, ?I?m married?I have to be brave!? ? Only the few closest to the stage could have caught his quip. While you can hear the pain etched in his voice when he talks about his son, the most notable aspect that comes through about Ahmad, and indeed Ahsan, is their ability to give strength and to inspire others.
Fellow human rights campaigner and the patron for Cage Prisoners, Victoria Brittain, talked about her conversations with the prisoners; Ahsan?s eloquence and concern for his family, and Babar?s thoughtfulness and anxiety for other prisoners are constantly eluded to by all those who have been privileged to speak to them. In fact Ahmad prioritises his replies when writing to those who have written to him ? other prisoners first, then children and then any other well-wishers.
When later asked what she thought of the event, Brittain stated it was ?an important reaffirmation for the families of the men facing extradition; that they have much support from people in the UK from many walks of life through this traumatic long waiting period. And, although the catchy title of the event focused on the British names of Babar and Talha, it was good for everyone to remember too the less well-known man in the same small deportation unit at Long Lartin prison, namely Egyptian lawyer Adel Abdul Bari, who has been fighting his extradition to the US for 13 long years.?
It seems that beyond the new development in the form of a private prosecutor who has put forward ?20,000 to try Ahmad and Ahsan here in the UK, all avenues have been exhausted in trying to get the four Brits? cases heard. However, whatever the case: whether the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) accepts this proposal or not, the families of these prisoners are not going to give up the fight.
Ashfaq Ahmad confessed that there had been several moments of helplessness in the beginning, but it was his son Babar that had made him strong enough to continue campaigning. He asserted that if his son were to eventually get extradited, that ?we are mentally prepared for it and will continue the fight [sic]?. Begg added that early on in his imprisonment, Ahmad had asked him for tips on how to survive the US prison system, and even Guantanamo if it came to that.
Throughout the evening the audience was treated to Talha Ahsan?s poetry recited by an array of speakers including Brit actress Manjinder Virk; award winning author A.L Kennedy introduced  ?The Rose Garden? by highlighting the injustice of his detention and stating five ?terrible things? he was guilty of: that he was a young active man, that he was Muslim, that he has Asperger?s, that he was actively spreading  the truth of the injustices in the world and finally, that he was a poet.
Just as the evening was drawing to a close, his brother received a note and with pride read out that Ahsan had won a Platinum award for his poem ?Grieving? in the Koestler awards (the highest Koestler award- Talha had entered into the Koestler Trust Award Writing Awards for prisoners.) Most of us left feeling a) hopeful and impassioned that we need to continue fighting this ridiculous law, and b) concerned that if they do get extradited, a precedent will be set. What?s to say we or our loved ones won?t be next?

Arab monarchies of Persian Gulf

Relics of barbarism, handwriting on the wall

By Webster G. Tarpley?Sat Aug 18, 2012 PressTV

Anti-regime protesters stage rally in Saudi Arabia?s coastal town of Qatif on July 8, 2012.
Anti-regime protesters stage rally in Saudi Arabia?s coastal town of Qatif on July 8, 2012.

The Arab monarchies that emerged under British auspices from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire have always represented an anachronism, in sharp contradiction to the whole direction of modern history and human progress elsewhere in the world. Continue reading “Arab monarchies of Persian Gulf”

What's gone wrong at The Guardian?

Ali Abunimah
Ali Abunimah
Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He is a co-founder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and a policy adviser with Al-Shabaka.

The Guardian and its sister paper, The Observer, are regarded as leading left-leaning news sources [GALLO/GETTY]
Something has gone badly wrong at The Guardian. In the name of “robust debate”, the venerable left-leaning liberal newspaper has effectively given its stamp of approval to speech that goes beyond mere hate, speech that clearly crosses the line into incitement to murder unarmed civilians and journalists. What lies behind this worrying development, and what does it tell us about the state of media in general?On 15 August, the Guardian announced the hiring of Joshua Trevi?o as a correspondent with the paper’s US politics team. Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the Guardian US, said that Trevi?o would bring “an important perspective” to readers.
Trevi?o is a Republican party operative, paid political consultant and ideologue for hire. But while some may not like those attributes, they would not make him unique among columnists. What does distinguish Trevi?o is his propensity to call for violence. Continue reading “What's gone wrong at The Guardian?”

America?s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally

by Craig Murray on August 16, 2012

UPDATE (Note by Craig)
I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided ? after immense pressure from the Obama administration ? to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.
This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries ? arguably millennia ? of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.
The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms. There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty. Continue reading “America?s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally”

South Africa Mine Killings: Thousands Protest


South African police reveal 34 miners died and 78 were wounded when armed officers opened fire on strikers

Link showing video of shooting and protest (graphic content)
Police in South Africa say 34 miners were killed and another 78 injured when officers fired at strikers armed with ‘dangerous weapons’.
Police chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega told a press conference today that her officers acted to protect themselves when miners armed with spears and machetes charged towards them.
Shocking video of the incident emerged yesterday, showing police fire automatic weapons and handguns into the crowd of strikers for about a minute.

Aftermath: South African protesters lie motionless on the ground as heavily armed police officers check them at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South AfricaAftermath: South African protesters lie motionless on the ground as heavily armed police officers check them at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa Continue reading “South Africa Mine Killings: Thousands Protest”

The New Totalitarianism of Surveillance Technology

If you think that 24/7 tracking of citizens by biometric recognition systems is paranoid fantasy, just read the industry newsletters

by?Naomi Wolf

Published on Friday, August 17, 2012 by?The Guardian/UK
A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy ? with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were ? so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.
Watching You, Newkirk Avenue and East 16th Street
(photo: Flickr user Flatbush Gardener)

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant.
Except that it?turned out to be true.?News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government ? for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd. Continue reading “The New Totalitarianism of Surveillance Technology”

On Forced Marriage, and Insourced Torture

Rahman?s case is one of the latest in a growing number of cases ? 29, at last count ? in which British intelligence services have been accused of colluding in the torture of British nationals and residents: Rangzieb Ahmed, Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Rashid Rauf by the ISI, Binyam Mohamed in Morocco, Alam Ghafoor in Dubai, and Azhar Khan in Egypt. Rahman?s case provides the clearest indication so far, of torture outsourced

The Loving Face of British Imperialism

rahnuma ahmed

…the [Nigerian] nationalist leader Nnamdi Azikiwe urged Africans and other colonized peoples to prepare their own blueprint of rights themselves instead of relying on those who are too busy preparing their own.
— Bonny Ibhawoh, Imperialism and Human Rights, p. 155.
Forced marriage, says a British High Commission press release, is a crime (British High Commission, ?The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit Launches National Publicity Campaign on Forced Marriage,? Dhaka, 28 March 2006. The link, for unknown reasons, has gone dead). As opposed to arranged marriages, forced marriages — by dint of not being based on consent — are a form of domestic violence and human rights abuse.
To increase awareness, both in Britain and abroad, the British home ministry (HO), and the foreign ministry (FCO), jointly formed a Forced Marriage Unit in January 2005. The unit was tasked with launching a publicity campaign: radio and press adverts, TV fillers and poster campaigns, and providing information. To those at risk, those affected, and those who are survivors.
The British government, said the state minister for home, Baroness Scotland QC, is determined to protect young people’s “right to choose” their spouses. A determination backed by the state minister for foreign office Lord Triesman’s assurance that “help is available” for its victims. Continue reading “On Forced Marriage, and Insourced Torture”