Archive for the ‘Internet Freedom’ Category
“Enemies of Humanity” Says Pakistan Interior Minister.
Radio Pakistan ‘reports’:
NISAR VOWS TO BLOCK BLASPHEMOUS CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Interior Minister asks Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says those responsible for blasphemy will be dealt with an iron hand.
Talking to media after inaugurating citizen facilitation center in Islamabad on Thursday, he said the culprits of blasphemy are enemies of humanity.He said that we have asked Facebook administration to cooperate in removal and blocking of the blasphemous contents.The Interior Minister said that government is making all out efforts to block blasphemous material on social media. He said eleven people who commented on such posts are being interrogated.
He urged all Muslims countries to practice unity against sordid conspiracies against Islam as the matter of blasphemy hurts feelings of all Muslims.
He said the government will take strict action against blasphemous contents and will avail all the possible options.
The Minister said that cooperation from the US Administration is also being sought through US embassy in Pakistan in this regard.
He urged the international community to have immense consultations on the issue of blasphemy as it has become a critical matter for the world.
He said ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression will not be allowed
Al Jazeera reports,
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have contacted social media website Facebook for help in investigating the posting of “blasphemous content” on the platform by Pakistanis, according to a statement.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Insulting the Prophet Muhammad carries a judicial death sentence and, increasingly commonly, the threat of extrajudicial murder by right-wing vigilantes.
At least 68 people have been killed in connection with blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to a tally maintained by Al Jazeera.
“There have been positive developments in the matter of the Pakistani government’s contact with Facebook’s management regarding the blocking of blasphemous content,” an interior ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.
Facebook would be sending a representative to visit Pakistan with regard to the matter, the statement said, and the government has appointed an official to liaise directly with the social networking website regarding the censoring of certain content.
In a statement quoted by the AP news agency, Facebook said it viewed government requests with care keeping in mind “the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users”.
The move comes after Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, ordered a ban on all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” on Tuesday.
“Ridiculing a religion in the name of freedom of expression should not be allowed,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said on Thursday.
11 People under Threat.
Khan is spearheading the government’s efforts to have the material blocked.
Eleven people have been identified as having posted “blasphemous” comments or material on Facebook and will be acted against, the minister said. The identities of the 11 people in question were not immediately clear.
The authorities’ move comes after a senior judge at the Islamabad High Court called upon the government to block all blasphemous content online, “even at the cost of blocking entire social media”.
The petition at the High Court accuses five rights activists who were abducted in early January of running Facebook pages that had posted content deemed to be blasphemous.
No evidence has been shared directly linking the five activists to the Facebook pages in question, but during their three-week disappearance the men were the subject of a vast social media campaign accusing them of blasphemy.
“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands.
Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.”
Must-Read Background to Mania For Fake News.
Everybody is aware of the Fake News uproar.
But the extent of the wave seems now to have reached something out of the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, (1841).
MacKay covered financial manias (South Sea Bubble, Tulip craze, John Law and Mississippi Company), the Witch Persecution and such topics as ” the influence of Politics and Religion on the Hair and Beard”, alchemy, prophecy, and mineral, and afterwards of animal, magnetism, and, halting the list here, how Quoz became the must-say London catchphrase,
When a disputant was desirous of throwing a doubt upon the veracity of his opponent, and getting summarily rid of an argument which he could not overturn, he uttered the word Quoz, with a contemptuous curl of his lip and an impatient shrug of his shoulders. The universal monosyllable conveyed all his meaning, and not only told his opponent that he lied, but that he erred egregiously if he thought that any one was such a nincompoop as to believe him. Every alehouse resounded with Quoz; every street corner was noisy with it, and every wall for miles around was chalked with it.
No doubt Quoz is due for a revival, though I imagine that the later fashion for asking “Has your Mother Sold Her Mangle?” has had its day.
The Preface states, “THE OBJECT OF THE AUTHOR in the following pages has been to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes.”
The first chapter starts, “IN READING THE HISTORY OF NATIONS, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. “
Today Magnetisers, alchemists, fortune tellers and prophets have their own Twitter Accounts and Web sites.
The Internet means no doubt that ‘nations’ of posters and viewers, not to mention re-posters and commentators, are much, much, bigger. When they “go mad” the scale is beyond counting. It has become both a Baudrillardian “hyper-reality” and a “hypo-reality”, the beyond and beneath of the factual.
These are just a few examples:
This is more serious:
This is more serious (Reuters 2 days ago)
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is a “fake news” target of Russian media and his campaign is facing thousands of cyber attacks, his party chief said on Monday.
Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! (Onwards!) party, said that Russian state-controlled media Russia Today and Sputnik had spread false reports with the aim of swinging public opinion against Macron.
An independent centrist, Macron has surged in campaigning for the French election and opinion polls make him favorite to win election in May.
Ferrand said that Macron, as a staunch pro-European, was a Russian target because he wanted a strong united Europe that had a major role to play in world affairs, including in the face of Moscow.
Sputnik earlier this month ran an interview with a conservative French lawmaker accusing Macron, a former investment banker, of being an agent of “the big American banking system”.
“Two big media outlets belonging to the Russian state Russia Today and Sputnik spread fake news on a daily basis, and then they are picked up, quoted and influence the democratic (process),” Ferrand said.
This is really a hell of a lot more serious:
The ‘news'(from the satirical site Le Gorafi) that Marine Le Pen proposed to build a wall around France, paid for by Algeria, was treated seriously in the Arab world.
“Marine Le Pen propose d’entourer la France d’un mur payé par l’Algérie” (France 24. 15.2.17.)
The story made the Front Pages:
Galloway with Photos of Close Friends.
Standing up for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is a hard task these days.
But – hold the Front Page! – without fear or favour George Galloway has leapt to their defence.
As his employer Russia Today notes.
The credibility of a BBC documentary about US President-elect Donald Trump called ‘Trump: The Kremlin Candidate?’ has been questioned by ex-MP George Galloway.
The former Labour and Respect politician likened the broadcast, and the whole furore over Russia’s alleged influence on the US election and Trump, to an “Austin Powers film.”
Speaking to RT, Galloway also questioned why the BBC would commission such a prominent show when there was no concrete evidence to back up any of the assertions.
The Panorama documentary was broadcast on Monday and saw journalist John Sweeney travel to Russia, Ukraine, and the US to investigate whether Moscow’s cyber-warriors influenced the US election and whether it’s true the Federal Security Service (Russian FSB) is blackmailing Trump with compromising material.
The latter claim comes from a much-hyped dossier compiled by ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele.
In the broadcast, Sweeney also speculates that the only thing worse than Trump getting along well with Putin is if they don’t.
“As Shakespeare once put it, it was ‘much ado about nothing.’ The thesis of the problem was that it is really dangerous if Trump and Putin get along well and it’s really dangerous if they fall out,” Galloway said.
“It shows just how surreal this whole affair has become. Not so much a James Bond film as an Austin Powers film. Frankly, much of the ruling elite in the US and in Britain, across the road from me, across the river, at MI6, they really are making themselves look ridiculous.”
In this search for truth Galloway has also taken to re-tweeting Gilad Atzmon
Save Momentum from Saboteurs – Owen Jones. Statement by Momentum (External Faction, Majority ‘A’ Tendency).
People’s Front (British Left Training Manuel).
Before I begin this I note the following:
- When Momentum was set up there were discussions by long-standing left-wing activists, members of the Labour Party and/or Trade Unions, engaged in anti-austerity campaigning and a variety of social movements. The potential for small organised left groups to join Momentum, bathing in the reflected glory of Jeremy Corbyn, and use it for their own ends it was noted. One sectarian group, the Socialist Party even went so far as to try to set up its own front, called Trade Union Momentum, in order to recruit for their organisation (Steps towards setting up Trade Union Momentum. The Socialist. 9th of January 2016).
- The principal problem appeared to be the presence of groups trying to recruit for their ‘party building’. That is, to split off (as they call it) the ‘centrists’ and ‘populist’ left from the dyed-in-the-wool ‘reformists’ and get them to join their own ranks, either overtly or in classic ‘entryist’ style, through various ‘fronts’ (one might envisage something like the ‘socialist platform’ in Momentum.
- Leading figures in Momentum, notably Jon Lansman, were informed – repeatedly informed of these concerns. This is because the core of the original Momentum leadership are people we know and hardly unaware of this kind of thing. They were said to agree with us.
- Having expressed these views, and stated my own belief, that the Labour party should be encouraged to develop as a modern inclusive democratic socialist party, and not badgered from a half-in half-out group, I was encouraged by Momentum’s initial development. Notably its support for the Other Europe is Possible campaign, supporting a Remain Vote in the Referendum.
- I and many others from the European democratic left side have not been encouraged by the launch of an “our Brexit” campaign linked with Momentum without the members being consulted.
- I finally note that it the divisions in Momentum cannot be described as simply between “young idealistic” social movement types and older ‘Trotskyists’. The Trotskyists are battling ‘older’ people, and not all ‘Trotskyists’ are ‘old’, far from it. The way the decision on ‘Our Brexit’ ( just cited) was reached raises concerns wider than any of these splits.
It is, these points in mind, hardly out of the blue that the present crisis has happened.
Comrade Owen begins,
These are the things I want to write about, not the internal woes of the left. The left has had something of a reputation for turning infighting into an art form, immortalised by that People’s Front of Judea sketch in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But an emergent crisis in Britain’s left is so serious that, sadly, it cannot be ignored.
Momentum – the grassroots movement set up in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory – is currently facing a takeover bid by Trotskyist sectarians. If they succeed, Momentum will be destroyed. The most prominent sectarian figures are embittered veterans of struggles from the 1970s and 80s, people who have only experienced defeat, and who won’t let an unexpected opportunity afforded by the seismic political developments of the last two years slip through their fingers. This is their last chance.
They jump from organisation to organisation, and are adept at manipulating internal structures for their own advantage: sitting out long boring meetings, coordinating interventions, playing victim when it suits. They’re not interested in say, door-to-door campaigning, but rather in debating their obscure pet issues with long-winded interventions at meetings on a Thursday evening.
The only point that really strikes home is the lack of ‘door-to-door campaigning’.
But this is not a fault unique to the ‘sectarians’.
One could argue that setting up a parallel organisation to normal Labour bodies is bound to divert energy away from this kind of grass-roots work.
Owen strays into perhaps excessive prose in the following,
Their opponents are younger, idealistic, campaign-oriented and pluralistic, lacking Machiavellian strategic ability – all of which the sectarians exploit. The sectarians smear their opponents as rightwingers, Stalinists, bureaucrats, as having ulterior and sinister motives (this article will be dismissed as the work of a rightwing establishment careerist in the service of a Guardian conspiracy to destroy the left). Everything goes wrong, they believe, not because of their own almost farcical strategic ineptitude, but because of the betrayal of others. Momentum offers hope to young people who have long been demoralised by politics. Those wrecking Momentum – if they succeed – could destroy that hope, and that is unforgivable.
It is wrong to call these forces “Trotskyist sectarians” as if there is a common unity amongst them.
This is not classic ‘entryism’: there are very diverse groups. Some of them work well with other people on particular objectives – such as promoting a social Europe, or, say defending secular democratic demands in Iran. It is true, in a very general sense, that many of them refer to the Russian Revolution and Lenin (something I personally cannot empathise with). Others – I am thinking of former members of Left Unity – have more in common with 1970s New Left radical groups than with the kind of moribund organisations at present hanging on as the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party. Some of the opponents of the Momentum leadership have their own personal agenda, which appears to derive more from identity politics than the left, sectarian or not.
These are small groups, groupuscles if you will, or just alliances of affinity. There is no common unity – just cite the words Israel and Zionism, and, hey, see! – except on organisational issues within Momentum.
It is therefore not just false but highly speculative to claim that,
the sectarians are highly disciplined, highly organised, and highly experienced. The interests of their own sects are far more important than any movement. Only their sect, they believe, has the correct politics: everybody else’s are fatally flawed. They have no faith in the Labour party. Momentum, for them, is an embryonic political party. The prize is Momentum’s contact data, containing the details of tens of thousands of people. At an opportune time, they will walk away from Labour and found a new party, which will get 300 votes in a byelection. They will triumphantly hail these as 300 votes for socialism.
The ‘new party’ line, which is the decrepit Socialist Party’s objective, is too marginal even to bother with.
Having said this I must say that the following struck home:
Take the barrister Nick Wrack, one of the sectarian leaders. Last year he stood for the catchily named Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in Camberwell and Peckham, and secured 0.6% of the vote. There’s no life for the left in the Labour party, he told me in 2014.“Time for [a] new party that stands for socialism,” he lectured me before the general election. I was right to call for more working-class representation, he tells me, “but it won’t come from Labour,” he tells me, after Labour’s defeat.
Owen forgets: membership of the SWP, Respect, the Socialist Alliance, the Independent Socialist Network, and a host of other groups……
And, “Nick worked as a journalist for the socialist newspaper Militant. He became its editor in 1994.”
But surely these are sectarian points?
And is this a fair summary of the other side?
The younger Momentum protagonists aligned to Lansman – who himself has gone on a political journey away from top-down structures – are known as “movementists”: those who dislike hierarchies and who are attracted by social movements.
There are problems, which Owen chose to ignore in his introduction to this book, about ‘movementist’ democracy. In Podemos: In the Name of the People’ by Chantal Mouffe and Íñigo Errejón (foreword by Owen Jones) Jones celebrated this party’s success. But its own “democracy on-line” has worked to consolidate the party leadership. Critics, whom we have covered at length on this Blog, have asserted that Podemos is now organised on a “Pyramidal” “vertical” basis. It is said to have led to the withering away of the “circles” at the base of Podemos. It has, to put it simply, not been able to create structures – to many critics – that are markedly better than the old system. Podemos is now undergoing its own internal ‘factional battles, though one has to recognise that it’s on a healthy basis, that is, with real policy alternatives at stake.
I am not a member of Momentum, to the reasons I outlined at the start. Some elderly local people may be.
But it would seem that some kind of synthesis between these systems could be devised.
This would surely be preferable to this call for Armageddon:
….Jeremy Corbyn. An intervention by him would stop Momentum being taken over, allowing its rebirth as an open, campaign-focused movement. Without that, the sectarians will win. They must be stopped in their tracks. So much hope, so much optimism. We can’t let it end in rancour and betrayal.
Reports on Saturday 3d December Momentum Meeting Round-Up – Clarion.
Emmanuel Todd: Loathes Charlie Hebdo, Now Warns of European ‘Suicide’.
The Guardian loves France.
The France of a Year in Provence, and now, the film of Posy Simmond’s Gemma Bovray.
The Guardian hates France.
The France of secularism, of a left that is for ever rubbing the liberal warm feelings of the majority of its eceumentical readership.
The Guardian has an ignoble history of printing violent attacks on the secularist satirists of Charlie Hebdo.
After the murders at the Weekly, and at the Hyper Cacher Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’ – no doubt a serious warning to Bangladesh to cease its imperialist ambitions there if it wants to end the slaughter of secularist bloggers.
Now they have found Emmanuel Todd to stand as proxies for their campaign against the militant leftist secularist Charlie.
The printed article below contains a reference to Todd’s La Chute finale (1976), a study which predicted that the Soviet Union would decompose. He has been living off the reputation it gave him as a seer since 1989. Indeed (this is unlikely to be a coincidence) le Monde gave the book a favourable mention a few weeks ago (Emmanuel Todd, la fin de l’étoile rouge).
He is a ‘demographer’. Todd’s central theme is that changes in family structures (nuclear, extended) are related to economic and political change. His most famous claim is that “nuclear” families are the oldest form. We not competent in this field, but one be assured that his ideas are not ‘universally’ accepted.
Todd is the kind of French essayist, or polemicist, who churns out a yearly book on a “controversial” subject every year. Less repetitive than Régis Debray, but always, always, contrarian.
InL’Illusion économique : Essai sur la stagnation des sociétés développées, 1998. Todd advocated “Intelligent protectionism”.
Après l’empire : Essai sur la décomposition du système américain, (2002) is an extended essay on the title.
This recent statement (11.7.2015) should give pause for thought to those on the left, or to liberals, rushing to adopt Todd’s views on Charlie Hebdo,
Europe is “contrôlée par l’Allemagne et par ses satellites baltes, polonais, etc” et qu’elle est “devenue un système hiérarchique, autoritaire”. “On est en train sans doute d’assister à la troisième autodestruction de l’Europe”, estime-t-il, rappelant les précédentes : “Il y a d’abord eu la guerre de 14, puis la deuxième guerre mondiale.” Il en conclut que “l’Europe est un continent qui, au XXe siècle, de façon cyclique, se suicide sous direction allemande.”
Europe is controlled by Germany and its Baltic and Polish (etc) satellites” and it has “become an authoritarian and hierarchical system. ” “we are without doubt witnessing the third self-destruction of Europe, “he asserted, referring to the historical precedents, “First there was the 1914 war, then the second world war.” He concluded, “Europe is a continent which, in the 20th century committed suicide under German leadership.”
This year Todd published a book, and articles, attacking the massive wave of solidarity, mass demonstrations and commemorations for Charlie and the victims of the Hyper Cacher.
Now we have this in English.
The article’s main theme is this: “The street demonstrations were the self-glorification of the French middle class. That made me explode.”
With customary modesty he begins with,
…what he called his own “magnificently crafted Exocet missile” at the nation, with a book arguing that the street rallies were a giant lie.
This is the missile:
The rallies, he argued, were not what they claimed to be – an admirable coming-together of people from different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds standing up for tolerance – but an odious display of middle-class domination, prejudice and Islamophobia. To Todd, they represented “a sudden glimpse of totalitarianism”. These “sham” demonstrations, he claimed, were made up of a one-sided elite who wanted to spit on Islam, the religion of a weak minority in France. The working class and the children of immigrants had been notably absent, he said. The most enthusiastic demonstrations, he decided, had occurred in the country’s most historically Catholic and reactionary regions, an affirmation of the middle class’s moral superiority and domination, and their Islamophobic quest for a scapegoat.
Todd’s central argument is that there are fundamentally two Frances. There is a “central” France, including Paris and Marseille and the Mediterranean, where there is equality on the family level and a deep-rooted attachment to secular values of the French revolution and the republic. Then there is a France of the periphery, for example, the west or cities such as Lyon, which has stayed true to the old Catholic bedrock, where people may no longer be practising Catholics, but they’re still infused with all the social conservatism of that Catholicism, its hierarchies and inequality. He calls this “zombie Catholicism”. Infuriating his critics, Todd maintains that the post-attack rallies represented zombie Catholicism on the march.
The pro-Charlie Bloc (bloc MAZ, Middle class, Aged and Zombies) is given a fuller analysis in French (oddly….discussion of two parts of it are missing in the Guardian article – although written by a respected French journalist).
Its ideology is:
- « européiste », par son soutien à Maastricht en 1992 et à la Constitution européenne de 2005 ; Pro-European, backing the Maastricht Treaty and the European constitution,
- islamophobe, au vu de la diffusion d’une « obsession de l’Islam » dans la presse papier, du succès des livres d’Éric Zemmour et de la relégation des attentats de l’hypercacher au second plan du mouvement des « Je suis Charlie » Islamophobic, related to the racist rantings of Zemmour who wants to expel all Muslims from Europe.
- germanophile, par sa défense du « modèle allemand » que la France devrait imiter à tout prix. Germanophile, defending the German model, which they want France to defend at any cost.
It would be interesting to know how he found statistical evidence for the Je Suis Charlie marchers’ support – or even readership – of Zemmour.
Readers of the introduction above will note that Todd is, by pure coincidence, anti-European and something of a Germanophobe.
The statistics he used to bolster this analysis have been rigorously unpicked.
Joliveau questions, rightly, if you built a picture of the sociology mass demonstrations of public concern by aligning them to their geographical origin. Can one find evidence of this, “mystérieux indicateur de zombitude catholique” and transfer this to those who turned up on rallies? Nothing is less certain. The tie with Catholicism is even less clear. he notes, “Une légère sur-participation à la manifestation dans les villes de tradition catholique semble confirmée mais il est moins justifié par un traitement statistique que par une typologie du recul du christianisme que Todd sort un peu de son chapeau.” there is a slight over-representation of demos in Towns and Cities with a Catholic tradition appears confirmed, but is less justified by a statistical alignment with the retreat of Catholicism, which Todd has rather pulled out of his hat.
Joliveau also points out, by way of how you can shape statistics, in this lengthy and detailed examination, that you can equally draw a correlation between the areas where there were fewer demonstrations and zones where there are high numbers of low paid, unqualified and unemployed people, and supporters of the Front National.
What is clear is that there was a link between those with higher education and support for Charlie on the marches (les diplômés de l’enseignement supérieur court ou long).
There is a little doubt that there are a lot of (self-evident) indications this is true.
Is Todd saying that educated people – that is by definition those likely to read left-wing satirical magazines and are concerned about issues such as freedom of expression and (not the least!) defend a hard-line secularist weekly– are ‘Catholic zombies”.
That the scores of immigrant associations who backed the protests are all ‘Islamophobes’ is less certain.
The idea is so incoherent that it is barely worth considering.
His theory is that the rise in Islamophobia is in turn stoking anti semitism in run-down suburbs, and that anti semitism is growing in the middle class.
Presumably the same middle class that worshiped Charlie…..
We stood up, with millions across the world, for Charlie with every fibre of our being.
Todd can dislike the vulgar and 68er Charlie as much as he like.
He can engage in Anglo-American language about being careful not to offend religious sensitiveness.
As Joliveau says, the support was a “Symbole non d’un collectif, mais d’un rassemblement d’individus ayant chacun leur propre raison d’être là avec les autres.”
We all had our own reasons to show our sorrow, our internationalism, our solidarity and our love.
We are certainly not anti-Euro, protectionist nationalists like Todd.
We are not surprised that Polity Press is publishing a translation of this book.
Unlike pro-Charlie writings, (see the Tendance’s review of Charb’s pamphlet), it will not doubt be on university courses.
Note: this is another demolition of Todd’s statistics: Un esprit de système caricatural Les catégorisations opérées par Emmanuel Todd et son déterminisme sociologique sont discutables.
Free Raif Badawi !
It is exactly three years ago today that the pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi was arrested and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the draconian sentence handed down for his ‘crime’ of setting up a liberal website: ten years jail and 1,000 lashes.
Meanwhile, Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law, Waleed Abu Al-Khair – himself a human rights activist and founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia – had his 15 year jail sentence confirmed in February.
This is happening in a country that successive British governments have allied with, diplomatically and militarily, despite its tyrannical nature and its sharp divergence from our stated democratic, liberal and human rights values. Our foreign policy on Saudi Arabia doesn’t match what we say we stand for.
Indeed, as well as Raif’s and Waleed’s persecution, Amnesty international has documented ten different forms of gross human rights abuse perpetrated by the regime in Riyadh.
Despite UK government silence, human rights campaigners have kept the Badawi case in the public eye. English PEN has been holding weekly vigils outside the Saudi Embassy in London, and the Amnesty International petition calling for his release has over 1 million signatures. People worldwide are sharing the #FreeRaif appeal on social media, calling for his immediate, unconditional release.
Badawi is one of the human rights heroes of our age. He has been awarded several prizes, including PEN Canada’s One Humanity Award, and has been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Numerous Nobel laureates have voiced their support for Raif, as have well-known public figures such as Patti Smith, Jimmy Wales, Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky.
Today, on this third anniversary of Badawi’s arrest, we will be taking our campaign to Downing Street, with a delegation including representatives from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, English PEN, Index on Censorship, International Front for Secularism and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Our letter to the Prime Minister urges him to publicly call for the release of Raif and other political prisoners, and to condemn all human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. We also want David Cameron to make trade with Riyadh conditional on the regime’s respect for human rights and ethical norms of governance – particularly in relation to the sale of weapons that could be used to oppress Saudi citizens. These demands will be reiterated at a public meeting this evening in the Houses of Parliament with MPs, peers and campaigners.
Until it conforms to international human rights standards, Saudi Arabia should be treated as a pariah state. Arms sales must end, the British ambassador should be recalled, and key regime figures sanctioned internationally.
Dear Prime Minister
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.
In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.
The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.
But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.
The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion.
As the regime inflicts beheadings and floggings on its people, questions have to be asked about why more cannot be done to promote the human rights of citizens of a country with which there is such extensive business. Particularly questions have to be asked about the morality of providing such a regime with arms, particularly the weaponry and facilities they use in their brutal penal system.
We ask that you make publicly clear your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demand the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done. We also ask that you make publicly clear what measures you will take as a government to put any trading with this regime on an ethical basis and what conditions you will demand from the Saudi regime if all of that trade is to continue – particularly in relation to weapons that might be used in oppression or imprisonment.
If nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings that are committed there – then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can only be compromised.
In the spirit of consistency, transparency and humanity we ask you to take action to Free Raif and promote human rights in Saudi Arabia
List of Signatures and more information: Free Raif Badawi.
Day of action for Raif Badawi (from English PEN).