Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights

The Left and Solidarity with East Ghouta.

leave a comment »

Image result for east ghouta

Arbin Hospital after an airstrike carried out by Assad regime forces in Arbin district of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on 21st of February Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Left and East Ghouta  

This piece merits reading in full but these extracts can give a taste of this deeply thought out and heartfelt article.

Why has East Ghouta become a living hell recently, even more so than in the past? Perhaps this is the result of Assad finally turning to a remaining rebel enclave after final victory in places like Homs and East Aleppo was achieved. Once East Ghouta has been “liberated”, the regime will be free to finally deliver the death blow to Idlib, the last sanctuary for “terrorists” in the country.

For much of the left, especially the Gray Zone 3, East Ghouta is condemned territory—a haven for al-Qaeda that deserves to be annihilated. Not much research is available on East Ghouta but a few things should be kept in mind. It is part of a belt of mostly agricultural towns and cities that abut Damascus to the east and south. It is like most of the places that rose up against Assad in 2011 and that were largely invisible to the Western press that found Damascus irresistible. After all, it was a place where you could enjoy scotch in a hotel bar, eat at 3-star restaurants, and stroll around in the evenings absorbing local color. Yes, there were people being tortured in Syrian prisons through the CIA extraordinary rendition program but they probably deserved it.

The revolutionary struggle in Syria certainly had goals that seem quite modest in comparison with the July 26th Movement in Cuba or any other leftist cause I have been involved with over the past half-century. But in order to overthrow capitalism, you need the freedom to organize the workers movement. That is why Marx and Lenin always stressed the need to oppose absolutism whether it took the guise of the Junkers monarchy or Czarism. That the left has lost track of such an elementary need is a terrible deficit. To build a worldwide revolutionary movement that can abolish class rule once and for all, we have to support the right of people to speak freely and to form political parties without fear of being tortured or killed. It is impossible to say how events will unfold in the Middle East and North Africa over the next 25 years or so but if we can’t defend basic liberties such as the kind the Arab Spring demanded, we are useless.

Louis’ views will be endorsed by those of us on the left who support universal human rights.

In a piece in French on the anti-capitalist left an even more heart-rending contribution is made by


Via the website of the International Socialist Organisation (US),

We, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists oppose the various military attacks on Afrin, Idlib and Eastern Ghouta  and support all the innocent civilians in Syria. . . There has been a consensus between all the international and regional powers on the necessity to liquidate the revolutionary popular movements initiated in Syria in March of 2011 . .


Solidarity with Idlib and al-Ghouta against the attacks by Assad’s regime forces and its Russian ally

At the same time, we condemn the Assad regime’s attacks on Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, areas which are supposedly considered “de-escalation zones” according to the Astana « peace » negotiations, led by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

In the face of this counter-revolutionary consensus,  what is desperately needed is  solidarity between all (Arabs, Kurds and all other ethnic minorities) revolutionaries who are against the Assad regime and all the regional and international imperialist powers and support the struggles for social justice, women’s rights and the rights of oppressed minorities.  

 The Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists supports the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people in Syria and in other countries. This does not mean that we take an uncritical stand  on the policies of Kurdish parties leading these struggles, whether the PYD or  the Kurdish Democratic Party or others, notably regarding violations of Human rights against civilians.

Oppose all forms of sectarianism and racism

Our destinies are linked

Join the Alliance’s Campaign in Solidarity with Middle Eastern Political Prisoners.

Syria and the Problem of Left Solidarity by Donya Alinejad & Saskia Baas.

Salvage. 1st of March 2018.

Crude notions of anti-imperialism have for too long yielded dubious analyses of Syria and the Middle East. The contribution of the Left has often been dominated by an unsophisticated ‘campism’ wherein the enemy of our enemy should not be criticized. This has recently taken startling and contradictory forms: a recent petition calls for the leaders of Russia, Iran, and the U.S. to “ensure that the sovereignty of Syrian borders is not breached by Turkey.” The petition was signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Michael Hardt and David Graeber. Staggeringly, the petition appeals to the key perpetrators of war crimes in Syria for help in the protection of Afrin.

There are a multitude of ways we might explain such a turn, among them a Euro/American-centrism wherein the Left’s positions simply mirror and are dictated by those of their liberal opponents, the Western left’s long-running ideological links to the PKK, Left sectarianism, refusal to update expired Cold War categories, incidental ignorance and laziness, and the relative sophistication of the YPG/J’s communication networks and media branding with Western audiences. We end up engaging with Syria as no more than a distant war in which our task as the Left is merely to discuss and select the correct armed faction to support. But this filters out the less spectacular but equally courageous initiatives for self-organization still going on in various parts of the country and among its refugee diaspora; compelling cases such as the recent women’s campaign against forced disappearances. In ignoring these, we surrender our key principles of upholding the value of human lives in the face of militarism, state interests, and divisive borders.

Our internationalism must cultivate a willingness to grasp the complexity of Syrian polity, society, and culture as it unfolds in everyday life under the current circumstances of extraordinary duress. Rather than a lapse into apolitical humanitarianism, defending the lives of those brutalized by violence is based on an international solidarity that registers survival in this context as struggle. Similarly, our welcoming and hospitality to those who fled Syria in recent years must not smother them into politically pacified victimhood. We must seek out and listen to what a variety of Leftist Syrian political activists and intellectuals have to say about Syria. Their migration experiences and diasporic self-organization are part of the story of the Syrian revolution, an inexhaustibly rich resource for understanding and learning from the realities of this important contemporary struggle. It is a struggle that lives on in many of them and contains intimate knowledge of the notions of racial and ethnic discrimination, prison state, political disenfranchisement, and neoliberal policies we also fight against. The vast contextual differences make articulating the common ground all the more profound.

In short, let us stop approaching Syria in the way a colonial power approaches its subject’s civil war, calculating which intervention(s) of force to back and then vehemently spreading the chosen party’s war propaganda. Let us focus, instead, on building a socialism that modestly but consistently puts into practice the radical internationalist idea that we inhabit the same world as all those who struggle for a dignified human existence.

This is how the so-called People’s Daily, the Morning Star, is ‘reporting’ the tragedy.

UN aid convoy enters Islamist-held enclave near Damascus

Syrian forces are besieging Eastern Ghouta, a largely agricultural area to the south and east of Damascus.

It is one of the last holdouts of mainly foreign-backed jihadist rebels, who have been firing shells and mortars at Damascus proper from their positions there.

The Syrian government has been pursuing tactics similar to those that broke the grip of Islamist fighters on Homs and Aleppo, shelling rebel-held areas and then using ground forces to retake districts.


Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Atheists face prison in Egypt as Non-Belief may be made illegal.

with 60 comments


Charged in 2012 with “defamation of Islam and Christianity, insulting the divine and satirizing religious rituals and sanctities and the prophets under articles 98, 160 and 161 of the Egyptian Penal Code”

There are many countries where Atheism is a crime.

Atheists, and those accused of defection from the official religion, may be subject to discrimination and persecution in many Islamic countries. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, compared to other nations, “unbelievers… in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment” Wikipedia.

Last year the Independent reported,

In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith

1.    Afghanistan

2.    Iran

3.    Malaysia

4.    Maldives

5.    Mauritania

6.    Nigeria

7.    Pakistan

8.    Qatar

9.    Saudi Arabia

10.    Somalia

11.    Sudan

12.    United Arab Emirates

13.    Yemen.

These regimes have laws that put people to death for ” blasphemy or apostasy”.

In Egypt, a state where the Sharia is one of the ‘sources’ of legislation, there has long been intolerance and the criminalisation of non-belief.

In January 2015 this happened:

A student has been sentenced to three years in prison for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist and thereby “insulting Islam”. Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, aged 21, was arrested in November 2014 with a group of other people at a cafe in Cairo.

Police then closed down the so-called “atheists cafe” in what is being viewed as a coordinated government crackdown on atheists. A local administrator told a news website that the coffee shop was “known as a place for satan worship, rituals and dances”.

Egyptian police shutdown ‘atheist cafe’ accused of harbouring ‘Satan worship’


The café, on Falaky Street in the downtown neighbourhood of Abdeen, was “destroyed” after local residents reported customers as spreading “wrong thoughts regarding religions”, Arabic-language daily Sada al-Baladreported.

“We have destroyed the café of the devil worshippers in Falaki Street for being illegal and for having a number of atheists spreading their thoughts,” local police chief Gamal Mohi told the daily.

However, when speaking to independent outlet Mada Masr, Mohi denied the café had been demolished and said it was actually shutdown in November “following noise complaints from local residents”.

“There was no demolition involved, only confiscation of the coffee shop’s property,” he said. “This was all done in accordance with the law and legal procedures.”

The café owner was the only person arrested in the raid, according to Mohi, who said he was being held “as his coffee shop was unauthorised, unlicensed, and also because drugs were found inside”.

“There was no sign reading ‘atheists’ café’ outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance,” the police chief said.

No publicly available evidence has been produced to verify the police chief’s allegations of Satan worship at the café and he did not explain why atheists – who reject the existence of both God and Satan – would be engaging in such practices.

Egyptian rights activists denounced the café closure as being “the wrong and criminal action”, providing the business was operating legally.

“No one has the right to arrest someone for his thoughts,” Ali Atef, from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post. “And to be fair and honest, usually these incidents happen for arresting atheists, and later they explain that the café papers were illegal, which is usually wrong.”

In August 2017 there was this,

Egyptian TV presenter El-Beheiry was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy—a charge filed against him by Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni authority. El-Beheiry’s show had tackled controversial issues on Islam such as punishments for apostasy, early marriage, and different interpretations of the Hadith—the sayings and teachings of Mohamed.

According to article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, those found guilty of insulting the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) could face a fine or up to five years in prison. But the blasphemy law works mostly in favour of Muslims because they are the ones who bring this charge against people the most.

As can be seen, ‘insulting’ religion is punishable by law, but atheism is not as such, yet, a crime.

But now the Egyptian authorities are considering extending this persecution to make atheism itself a crime.

Lawmakers in Egypt are seriously considering passing a law that would make atheism illegal.

Blasphemy is already illegal in Egypt, and people are frequently arrested for insulting or defaming religion under the country’s strict laws. The newly proposed rule would make it illegal for people not to believe in God, even if they don’t talk about it.

“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief, when this is totally wrong,” Amro Hamroush, head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, said when he introduced the bill in late December.

“[Atheism] must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions,” he wrote in the local daily paper Al-Shorouq.

As France Info points out in a new broadcast, you are obliged to declare your beliefs to the authorities., which will then appear on your identity card.

Already Christians and non-Muslims are second-class citizens.

Now, if the legislation is passed, you will not be a citizen at all, and a resident of a prison cell.

Égypte : les athées seront-ils bientôt mis en prison ?


Egypt’s war on atheism

There have been waves of panic about atheism in the predominantly conservative Islamic country for some years, largely driven from the top-down by government officials, religious leaders, and some media. The ‘crackdown’ on atheism has included a campaign to ‘inoculate’ or ‘educate’ young people away from atheism. Some highly questionable regional polling data in 2014 determined that there were precisely 866 atheists in the country. The figure was used as a justification for the ‘war on atheists’, though ironically the figure (which would represent just 0.001% of the population) is undoubtedly a huge underestimate and was dismissed by atheists locally as “highly unrealistic”.

The former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, in September 2014, put the level of atheism at 12.5 percent of young people (which is more realistic but the origin of the figure is unclear). Figures from the Family Court state that 6,500 women filed for a divorce in 2015 due to their husbands’ atheism. (Under the Personal Status Law, Muslim women can apply for divorce if their husbands denounce religion.)

The Sisi government has been pushing a line that has been described as “militantly mainstream“, targeting some conservatives and extremist interpretations of Islam as well as atheists and liberals.

Police have raided internet cafes that were alleged to be meeting places for atheists, and while atheism has become a hot topic in the country’s media, those invited to advocate atheism in televised debates have faced death threats and harassment.

Last month, a 29-year-old computer science graduate Ibrahim Khalil was detained on the accusation of ‘contempt of religion’. He was accused of running a Facebook page called ‘Atheism’ on which he allegedly published “distortions of the Quran” and advocated atheism.

Another student, 21-year-old Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, was sentenced to three years in November 2014 for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist.

The media, religious leaders and politicians sometimes link atheism to homosexuality, which is similarly reviled, and promote the idea that atheism and homosexuality are mutually reinforcing “psychological imbalances”.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Stop pretending that you can’t do anything to save Syrians.

with 3 comments

“Hours into second attempt at implementing Russian truce, government shelling intensifies in towns near front lines.” Al Jazeera.

Lois Proyect has just published this from Pulse.

It should have the widest circulation.

“This open letter was first published at the New York Review of Books.”

The World Must Act Now on Syria

Stop pretending that you can’t do anything to save Syrians

The UN says it has run out of words on Syria, but we, the undersigned, still have some for the governments, parliamentarians, electorates and opinion leaders of the powers on whom the international legal order has hitherto depended.

The world is a bystander to the carnage that has ravaged the lives of Syrians. All has happened in full view of a global audience that sees everything but refuses to act.

Through Russian obstruction and western irresolution, the UN Security Council has failed to protect Syrians. To the extent that it has been able to pass resolutions, they have proved ineffectual. All they have done is provide a fig leaf to an institution that appears moribund. Perhaps conscious of the stain this might leave on its legacy, the UN has even stopped counting Syria’s dead. After seven years, these nations appear united only in their apathy.

It will be redundant to list the nature and magnitude of all the crimes that the Assad regime has committed against Syrians, aided by local and foreign militias, by Iranian strategic and financial aid, by Russian airpower and mercenaries—and by international indifference. The world that watched and averted its eyes is its passive enabler.

Syrians were shot and killed in broad daylight for protesting injustice. They were imprisoned, tortured and executed. They were bombed and shelled. They were besieged, raped and humiliated. They were gassed. They were displaced and dispossessed.

Those with the power to act have been generous with expressions of sympathy but have offered nothing beyond the wish that this war on civilians—which they grotesquely call a “civil war”—would end. They call on “all parties” to show restraint, even though one side alone has a virtual monopoly on violence; they encourage all parties to negotiate, even though the opposition is entirely without leverage. They say there is “no military solution” though the regime has given no indication that it believes in a solution of any other kind.  Meanwhile, pleas from aid agencies and endangered Syrians fall on deaf ears.

Refugees—the only Syrians to have received some assistance—have seen their plight depoliticized, isolated from the terror that forced them to flee.

Today, as Idlib and Afrin burn, the inevitable is unfolding in Ghouta, the huge open air concentration camp about to enter its fifth year under siege. What happens next is predictable because the same formula has been applied repeatedly over the past seven years. After holding a civilian population hostage, blocking food, medicine and aid of any kind, the regime bombs the area relentlessly, in particular its medical facilities, until it capitulates. Those that survive are then forced from their homes that are then expropriated for demographic engineering with the aim of creating politically homogenous geographies.

While there are no longer any illusions about the role of the Security Council, every member state has nevertheless adopted and pledged to uphold the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine under the UN’s Office on Genocide Prevention. The destruction of Syria was preventable, and can now only be ended by the elected and appointed members of democratic bodies if they fulfill their obligations under R2P to protect Syria’s endangered population from war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and what UN war crimes investigators have themselves labeled the “crime of extermination”.

For the agony of the people of Syria to come to an end, it must be forcibly stopped. The perpetrators of these colossal crimes against humanity must be halted once and for all. There are myriad geopolitical reasons why this is an imperative, but none as immediate and important as the sanctity of life and the exercise of free will. Inaction would reduce these principles to the status of platitudes devoid of all meaning. To their misfortune, Syrians dared to believe in these principles; they dared to believe that while their struggle for dignity was theirs alone, they wouldn’t be abandoned to such a fate in the 21st century.

Today, appealing once more to the ethics and the codes of moral conduct on which democracy and international law are built, we ask you to act now to stop the Syrian genocide: demand an immediate ceasefire, an immediate lifting of all sieges, immediate access for relief aid agencies, release of political detainees, and immediate protection for all Syrian lives.

Affiliations for identification purposes only

  • Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, writer, Berlin
  • Robin Yassin-Kassab, writer, Scotland
  • Rime Allaf, Writer
  • Leila Al Shami, Syrian writer and human rights activist, UK
  • Mohammad Al Attar, Syrian Playwright, Berlin
  • Michel Kilo, Syrian writer and Politician, Paris
  • Moncef Marzouki, Former President of Tunisia
  • Burhan Ghalioun, Academician and Thinker, Paris
  • Karam Nachar, Syrian Writer and Academic, Istanbul
  • Mohammad Ali Atassi, Journalist and Filmmaker, Beirut
  • Ossama Mohammed, Filmmaker, Paris
  • Yasmin Fedda, Filmmaker, UK
  • Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairperson of the Syrian Network for Human Rights
  • Ebrahim Alyousef, President of Human Rights Association in Syria, Germany
  • Nisrin Al Zahre, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
  • Nadia Aissaoui, Sociologist, Paris
  • Leila Nachawati Rego, Writer, Spain
  • Hala Mohammad, Syrian Poet, Paris
  • Afra Jalabi, Syrian Writer, Canada
  • Mohja Kahf, Syrian writer
  • Yasser Munif, Emerson College
  • Mohammed Hanif, Writer and Journalist, Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Samih Choukaer, Syrian Musician, Paris
  • Professor, Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsink
  • Professor, Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsinki
  • Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS

Further list on site.

For reasons to back the call see Shiraz Socialist,  The bombing has not stopped: Ghouta after the ‘ceasefire’.


Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Sara Khan, Islamism, and her Critics.

with one comment

Image result for sara khan Inspire

Is there a problem with violent racist Islamism in Britain?

The Independent wrote last October.

More than 400 British Isis jihadis have already returned to UK, report warns.

Thousands of Isis fighters have already returned to their home countries amid confusion over the number of foreign jihadis remaining in the dwindling caliphate, a new report has found.

Research by The Soufan Centre estimated that at least 425 British Isis members have so far returned to the UK – the largest cohort in Europe.

But there are fears many have “disappeared” from the view of security services, who will not publicly confirm how many returnees have been jailed or are being tracked.

These people fought for a group that has engaged in ethnic and religious cleansing and genocide.

How can the support which led to their participation be tackled?

There are many reservations about the Government’s Prevent strategy, beginning with the fact that is initiated by the government, and extending to an appeal to “British values”.

Sara Khan wins over many by this saying this instead, (Mirror).

“The Bradford-born founder of Inspire vowed to tackle Islamism “in the name of our shared values, fundamental freedoms and human rights.”

Her statement  shines in contrast to the following,

Sara Khan’s appointment as the UK’s counter-extremism chief is symbolic of how the problem of radicalisation is ultimately addressed by the state.   Professor Tahir Abbas Visiting senior fellow at the department of government, London School of Economics.

..government rhetoric focuses on ideology, regressive interpretations of Islam, anti-integration sentiment, resistance politics, anger and disaffection towards failed Western foreign policy and lumps them all together as elements of a problem that has a singular solution. The solution is to modify and moderate Islam.

This is the heart of the problem for the last decade and a half.

Everything else that is important in understanding, breaking down and helping to eliminate issues of radicalisation points to a multivariate set of factors that are important in understanding the processes and the mechanisms through which radicalisation can be eliminated.

The research suggests strongly that radicalisation on the basis of religion is a later-stage process, whereas it is the sociological, political and cultural pressures that act as the initial push factors in relation to radicalisation.

In place of this – alas representative – gibberish Shiraz Socialist  In Defence of Sarah Khan  says,

Human rights and anti-extremism campaigner Sara Khan has come under renewed attack for accepting the Lead role in the government’s new Commission for Countering Extremism. Before this she has been condemned for accepting Home Office funding for her Inspire project and for being willing to work with Prevent.

Much of this criticism comes from Islamists and their apologists like the SWP. Some of it comes from left wingers genuinely concerned about Khan’s willingness to work with the government. Bizarrely, one of  the most outspoken critics of Khan’s appointment is former Tory Party Chair, Lady Wasi!

New counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan faces calls to quit BBC.

MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) is another prominent critic of Sara Khan.

This organisation issued a speech about Holocaust Day (Wednesday).

While worthy in its content, in defence of refugees and Muslims facing persecution, manages the hard task of not mentioning once the genocide and ethnic-religious cleansing taking place in Syria and Iraq at the present moment. (MEND Head of Policy speech in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.)

The National Secular Society writes,

Many of those who claim to speak for Muslims do not like Khan because she promotes a positive message. She encourages a degree of integration into British society. She says Muslims should obey the same laws as everyone else and cooperate with the British state. She has called for honesty among Muslims about hateful ideologies and intolerant practices which are specific to, or particularly prominent among, those who share their religion.

Her organisation Inspire encourages girls and women from Muslim backgrounds to be aspirational. It has done important work countering the narrative of grievance and resentment peddled by so many. And Khan wrote a book, The Battle for British Islam, in which she tackled many of those peddlers, as well as their counterparts on the white far right, head-on.

Is this really work that we should explicitly describe as ‘controversial’? Anyone interested in the future of British society should support the general thrust of what Khan has tried to do.

That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be reasonable analysis and criticism of her work. But if such a thing exists it has been drowned out today amid a hurricane of apologism. Advocacy groups such as 5PillarsUK, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee have berated Khan. Politicians such as Sayeeda Warsi, Naz Shah and Diane Abbott have cravenly jumped on the bandwagon.

The Mirror also reports,

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The fight against terrorism requires equal partnership between all parties, including Muslim communities.

“This appointment risks sending a clear and alarming message that the government has no intention of doing so.

“Sadly it will be seen as a move to placate those small sections of society who see Muslims as foreign, alien, rather than as equal citizens in this country.”

This is another comment.

The more moderately toned response from the Muslim Women’s Collective offers problems of its own,

We and the British Muslim women who participate in the online forum we founded – the Muslim Women’s Collective – are keen to ensure that the commission and the government engage with diverse voices in the spirit of partnership. With the increase in Islamophobia that has occurred (particularly the attacks on visibly Muslim women) our concern is that the commission will neglect this idea, and cast an unjustifiably wide net in terms of who it considers religious extremists, in a manner that risks being counterproductive.

Bushra Wasty and Sulekha Hassa

That amongst the extremists we are talking about there are those that have committed war crimes on a scale that can only be compared to those that took place during the Second World War escapes these critics.

It is recommended that these people read what Sara Khan has actually written.

This is how we can reclaim the British Muslim identity from extremists. Independent April 2017.

The rise and appeal of global terror groups are acutely felt here; approximately 1,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq, many seeking to join violent jihadist groups.  Between 1998 and 2015 there have been 269 convictions for Islamist-related offences. Intolerance and extremism has erupted in violence as we saw last year with the brutal killing of Ahmadiyyah Muslim Asad Shah by Tanveer Ahmed. And Muhammad Syeedy, a 21-year-old Isis supporter from Rochdale, murdered 71-year-old imam Jalal Uddin.

These facts depressingly represent the tip of the iceberg. Online, the spread of Islamist beliefs is unprecedented. There are 54,000 searches each month in the UK alone for extremist material.  Teenagers and children as young as 10 have been declaring their support for Isis. In some cases the authorities have had to deal with parents who have been found guilty of radicalising their own children. The challenge of Islamist extremism is anything but insignificant, and the damage done is immeasurable.

Yet despite this clear threat, public debate about Islamist extremism has become toxic and polarised. Entrenched black and white parochial positions, a common feature of our divided post-EU referendum society, predictably emerge.

On the one hand there are those who try to imply that all Muslims are de facto Islamists. Others go into denial mode, play down this reality and erroneously criticise those who dare raise the existence of Islamist extremism as “Islamophobia”.

Part of the reason for this is because both sides are guilty of homogenising British Muslims; terms like the “Muslim community” are woefully unhelpful, outdated and do a great disservice to the highly diverse and complex picture that exists among Britain’s three million Muslims. There quite simply is no single community. Yet when language is so important, this term is repeatedly used by politicians, the media and sometimes by Muslims themselves.

These entrenched positions cloud our inability to recognise the reality about British Muslims.  We fail to recognise the emerging positive trend: how young Muslims are excelling and contributing in many fields, whether in the arts, music, politics, fashion, the arts and drama.  They serve in the Armed Forces and the police, work in the NHS and, much to the displeasure of Islamists, are patriotic, rejecting wholesale the idea of an Islamic caliphate.

But there also exists a negative trend among some British Muslims, albeit smaller yet highly significant.  When third generation British Muslims inspired by Islamist belief want to join Isis or seek to carry out attacks in London because of their hatred for Britain, hard questions about identity, integration and belonging need to be asked.

Khan concludes,

Muslims must define what British Islam stands for: an ethical and moral religious framework which advocates for human rights and equality while weeding out hate, violence and discrimination. Likewise, confronting the wider obstacles facing Muslims in our country – socioeconomic and political issues, as well as widespread anti-Muslim discrimination – is vital. It’s important to remember that no one, apart from extremists, benefits from the presence of Islamist extremism in Britain.

 We can be critical of the Prevent Strategy, we can be hostile to the government’s foreign policy, but as a person Sara Khan comes across as a serious individual deeply committed to human rights who deserves attention and engagement not the kind of  denunciation she now faces.

See also:  Congratulations to Sara Khan  Sarah AB.



Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Pressure Grows on Labour to Defend Human Rights in Iran.

with 6 comments


The Clarion publishes this:

The following motion was passed unanimously at a meeting of 60 Labour Party members at Stretford and Urmston CLP in Manchester on 5 January.This CLP supports the working class and popular protests in Iran that started in the city of Mashad on 28th December 2017 and which have since spread to over 40 cities in the country.

We note that the protests:

• Directly oppose poverty and the systematic corruption of the “Islamic Republic” regime.
• Include the wide participation of working class people – men and women – many of whom are young and unemployed.
• Demand an end to the “Islamic Republic”, the end to rule by “Supreme Leader” Khamanei and “President” Rouhani and the dissolution of the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
• Demand an end to military interventions in Syria and Lebanon.
• Call for freedom for political prisoners in Iran and an end to the dictatorship.

We therefore call on the National Executive Committee and Party leadership to:

• Support the protests and the calls for workers’ rights and an end to repression and dictatorship.
• Support campaigns in solidarity with political prisoners in Iran such as the Solidarity with Middle Eastern Prisoners campaign organised by The Alliane of Middle Eastern Socialists who are calling for the release of: Reza Shahabi from the Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate; Narges Mohamnadi from the Centre for Defence of Human Rights in Iran; and Zeynab Jalalian, a Kurdish women’s’ activist.
• Cease any co-operation between the Party or Labour MPs with “Press TV” – the English-language arm of the clerical-fascist regime in Iran.
• Urgently investigate how best to co-operate with and support worker and popular organisations in Iran who share Labour’s commitment to socialism and freedom and build support for their activities.

Let us know what you think? theclarionmag@gmail.com

This comes as appeals for solidarity multiply.

Hamid Taqvaee: To: Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party

Dear Mr Corbyn

In solidarity with the heroic struggle of the people of Iran against one of the most despotic, brutal, anti-working class and misogynistic regimes in the world, and on behalf of the largest working-class party of the left opposition in Iran, I am writing to ask you to distance yourself immediately from the disgraceful comments made yesterday by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry. I am asking you to break your silence and to come out unreservedly on the side of the people in Iran in their heroic struggle against their oppressors.

Siding with the oppressors of the people or even staying silent or prevaricating on the rightful protests by the workers, women and the youth in Iran against the corrupt and reactionary Islamic Republic, whose leaders have amassed billions, while subjecting workers to abject poverty, smashing workers’ organisations, throwing trade unionists to jail, committing state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against women and LGBT people and executing dissidents in their tens of thousands, would be a grave political folly for the Labour Party. Once this regime is overthrown by the ongoing heroic rising of the people, the people of Iran will not forget who was on their side and who sided with their oppressors.

Your declared aims of fighting for a better world, for economic equality and for social justice won you great following among millions of people in Britain and internationally, who enthusiastically supported you in your leadership campaigns and in the 2017 general election on a progressive platform to address the widening inequality and the growing injustice in the UK.

However, these are exactly the same issues – on a far harsher and more brutal scale – that have brought millions of people onto to the streets of Iran today. The workers, women and youth in Iran are protesting against grotesque levels of inequality, lack of basic political and social freedoms and a medieval religious dictatorship that is an affront to the collective conscience of humanity in the 21st Century. People in Iran do not want the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the 1% and the billionaire clergy while they try to survive on a minimum wage that is one-fourth of the official poverty line. They do not want the vile state discrimination against women, which officially defines them as minors and the property of their male guardians; they do not want compulsory veiling and gender apartheid. They do not want the imposition of a religious state and religious thought. In one word, the people of Iran do not want the Islamic Republic. They have risen up against the Islamic Republic because they want economic equality and political and social freedoms. They want a better world and a life worthy of human beings. They are right to demand this, and should have the people of the world’s unreserved support.

Siding with such an obnoxious regime and disgracefully declaring, as Emily Thornberry has, that it is not clear who is right or wrong in this struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors will forever stay in the memory of the people of Iran. It will seriously harm the credentials of a progressive and egalitarian party that you are trying to build. It will disillusion millions of your supporters who rushed to your support precisely because they believe in equality and social justice everywhere. It will alienate your grassroots from the leadership, and mark a shameful moment in the life of your new party. It will be an irredeemable political folly and a historic moral disgrace for the Labour Party.

I hope the utterances of Emily Thornberry were an isolated case, which she will come to regret and openly apologies for. In any case, I urge you, as the Leader of the Labour Party, to distance yourself in the clearest terms from those comments and to come out unreservedly and unambiguously on the side of the people of Iran in these momentous days.

Hamid Taqvaee,

Leader of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.

The Morning Star meanwhile publishes this article.

THE United States slapped sanctions on five subsidiaries of Iran’s Defence Ministry yesterday as the war of words between Washington and Tehran escalated.

The sanctions are related to allegations that the subsidiaries are involved in the production of ballistic missiles used by Houthi rebels in the Yemen war, and are unconnected to the wave of protests that has swept Iran over the past week.

The US says Iran is the main sponsor of the Houthi movement, whose takeover of Yemen in 2015 prompted a murderous Saudi assault on the country in which the US and Britain have supplied weaponry used in air raids on hospitals and schools.

The sanctions came after Iranian Prosecutor-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri claimed the anti-government demonstrations were instigated by the CIA, with the aim of turning them into an armed insurrection against the Islamic Republic by mid-February.

At least 21 people have been killed in the protests, which broke out last Thursday over widespread poverty and unemployment, and included calls for an end to theocratic rule.

The communist Tudeh Party of Iran says some of the deaths were “false flag” killings by government agents to justify a heavier crackdown, and a source in the party told the Morning Star over 1,000 people have been arrested — around half in Tehran — for involvement in the protests.

At the same time, the government has organised major pro-regime demonstrations, “significantly slowed internet access generally” and cut access to some areas and networks completely in order to impede the spread of unrest via social media. On Thursday it announced that all unregistered mobile phones would be denied connection to the internet.

The Interior Ministry placed the total number of participants in anti-government protests at 42,000 and said the biggest single rally involved 1,500 people.

The size and duration of the protests, which it said were drawing to a close, were testimony to the “leniency, restraint and tolerance” with which the government had responded, according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.

But more protests — including some involving tens of thousands of people — were breaking out on Thursday night, according to the Tudeh Party source, though they acknowledged that the “deployment of the most brutal militiamen and thugs” to the streets to crush the protests was beginning to stifle the upsurge.

To get a grasp of the forces opposing the growing consensus of support for the protests from the left,  the US ‘Conspi’ (conspiracy) ‘left’ site, Counterpunch publishes  this,

Thoughts About Iran on Twelfth Night

The US is ravenous to destroy Iran. It’s hard to know if the CIA instigated the recent demonstrations as Iran claims but it is our usual modus operandi. UN Ambassador Haley’s bloodthirsty cries (“The people of Iran are crying out for freedom! All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause!”) certainly match, in both intensity and ignorance, those of Secretary-of-State Clinton, before we destroyed Libya seven years ago.

Our role in Iran’s impoverishment however is undeniable. As the three Wise Men swung along on their camels, discoursing on Peace (for that is what they thought the Baby was to bring) could they possibly have conceived of such malignant phantoms, in their starlit visions,  as The Plan for the New American Century and its vicious nihilism, 2000 years into the future?


Written by Andrew Coates

January 8, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Emily Thornberry and Labour ‘Cautious Approach” to Defending Human Rights in Iran.

with 2 comments

Image result for emily thornberry Iran

Thornberry, Cautious Approach to defending Human Rights when it comes to Iran. 

The shadow foreign secretary said a ‘cautious approach’ to the protests was needed because it was difficult to determine the political forces behind them


Thornberry told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast: “Our approach now is one of extreme caution when it comes to Iran and a recognition that the society in Iran is an immensely complex one, and seemingly contradictory.

“For example, with these current riots, sometimes they are calling to reinstate the monarchy, sometimes they’re calling out against the [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, sometimes they’re calling for Khamenei, sometimes they’re calling for the price of eggs.

“It’s very difficult, in those circumstances, to actually come to a conclusion as to what political forces are behind the current disputes on the streets of Iran. So we take a cautious approach to Iran and we don’t want to leap to judgment and say: ‘Well, we don’t like the regime in Iran, these people are against it, they must be the guys with white hats.’ Because it doesn’t work like that. We’ve seen that in Syria, we’ve seen it in Libya, we see it time and time again.”

Some have commented that Thornbury seems to think Iran should be like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the goodies in the Scooby Gang fighting the First Evil before Labour will take a stand.

Meanwhile these have no hesitation in defending human rights.

Iranian human rights defenders: “We support the protests”

A group of Iranian human rights defenders have issued a statement in support of the popular protests launched in Iran and Rojhilat and demanded an immediate unconditional release of detained protesters.

Support for the popular protests launched by the peoples of Iran and Rojhilat (Eastern Kurdistan) against poverty and the oppressive policies of the regime continues to pour in. 6 human rights defenders who live outside the country issued a joint statement and announced that they stand by the demands of the people.

Most famous human rights defenders in Iran, Muhamed Ewliyayîferd, Mehmud Rehmanî Îsfahanî, political prisoners’ rights activist Nesrîn Studa, Muhamed Seyfzade, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Şirîn Ebadi and human rights defender Ebdulkerim Lahici issued a joint statement declaring that the right to protest is the most fundamental right.

Human rights defenders stated that they support the protests launched by the peoples of Iran and concluded their statement with the following: “Citizens on the streets are not pro-violence, but the regime forces do resort to violence. Many protesters have lost their lives to date. We offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and a swift recovery for the wounded. We demand an immediate unconditional release of the detained and arrested protesters.”


Written by Andrew Coates

January 6, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Syria, Hasna al-Hariri: Will the Left Speak Out Against Assad’s Tortures and Rapes?

with one comment

Image result for Syrie, le cri étouffé,

Assad’s Prisons: It is hard to get out alive from this place. In the corridors you see heaps of corpses.

The Stop the War Coalition’s official position on Syria is the following,

1. The STWC has never supported the Assad regime. Just as we never supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi. Only in the minds of ‘them or us’ pretend patriots does the opposition to our own government’s wars mean support for dictators or terrorists. Our case has always been that war will worsen the problem and not solve it. We were right in that analysis in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

2. The STWC has never supported Russian intervention in Syria and issued a statement opposing the bombing as soon as it began.

3. The STWC does believe that it is the people of Syria who are the only ones who should decide the fate of their country free of all great power and regional power interference.

4. The STWC is utterly opposed to the IS as a totally reactionary and, in the Arab Spring, counter revolutionary force.

5. The STWC believes that the invasion and dismemberment of Iraq, and western support for Saudi Arabia, were and are instrumental in the creation of the IS.

6. The STWC does not support calls for western invention, including an air war to establish a no fly zone, whether those calls emanate from Syrian exiles or anyone else, just as we did not support such calls from anti-Taliban or anti Saddam Afghans or Iraqis. Syrians do not all speak with one voice but many are opposed to western bombing.

At the end of the declaration is this:

The STWC concentrates on campaigning against UK government policy because this is where we are citizens and voters. No one else can change UK government policy but a movement in this country. But of course we support anti-war movements in other countries who, rightly, are focussed on opposing their own governments. This is how genuine internationalism work

It is a very narrow take on “internationalism” that excludes the duty to come to the aid of people suffering the brutality of,  which is too often ignored on the left, the Assad regime.

That this is not just the result of the actions of the ISIS genociders or the result of bombing by outside forces is clear.

This was published in Le Monde last week: « En Syrie, le viol était le maître mot »

It is, to say the least, a harrowing account of the  tortures carried out by Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

The full article is behind a pay-wall (or in the print edition, where it takes up a full page).

In the main section Hasna Al-Hariri,  54 years old, talks of the cruelty to which prisoners are subjected, a long calvary of horror.

Women, raped, later give birth amid ” la crasse, les poux, les infections, à même le sol”, filth, lice, infection and the soil.

Victims who are released have been shunned as ‘dishonoured’.

LesInrocks rightly says, the account by “freezes your blood”.

Enfants nés de viols, tortures, humiliations : une survivante raconte l’enfer des prisons de Bachar Al-Assad.

L’Echo published this letter to Hasna Al-Hariri,

Votre mari a été assassiné en essayant de vous libérer de prison contre une grosse somme d’argent. Vous avez été emprisonnée trois fois, pendant de longs mois. Pendant vos détentions dans ces centres de “renseignement”, vous avez été torturée. Vous avez été violée. Vous avez vu des femmes, de 55 ans, de 40 ans, de 25 ans se faire violer. Vous avez vu des adolescentes se faire violer. Vous avez vu des petites filles de 13 ans se faire violer. Vous avez vu une enfant de 13 ans se faire violer devant sa maman.

Vous avez aidé à la naissance de cinquante bébés. Vous avez vu mourir dix bébés. Vous avez vu mourir cinq mamans. Vous n’aviez aucun matériel pour ces accouchements, pas un drap, pas un essuie, pas un seul bout de tissu, pas même d’eau.


Your husband was murdered trying to free you from prison with a large bribe. You have been imprisoned 3 times, during many long months. During your time in gaol in the “investigation” centres you were tortured. You were raped. You have seen women, 55 years old, 40 years old, 25 years old, violated. You have seen adolescents raped. You have seen young women of 13 years old being raped. You saw a child of 13 years old being violated in front of her mother.

You have helped 50 babies be born. You have seen 10 babies die. You have seen 5 mothers die. You had no material to help with these births, no towels, no  wipes, not a shred of a tissue, not even water.

The letter continues,

Vous avez vu une jeune femme qui avait ses règles. Pleine de sang. Vos geôliers lui ont jeté des rats. Les rats lui ont dévoré l’entrejambe. Elle est morte.

You saw a young woman having her period. She was covered with blood. Your gaolers threw rats on her. The rates ate her crotch. She died.

I stop there, it is already distressing.

This discuss the documentary, Syrie, le cri étouffé, revealing the horrors to which women are subject in Assad’s prisons, and  which forms the basis for these articles.


This is the only account I can find in English.

Atem Al Zinzaneh (Darkness of Jail)

Hasna al-Hariri—the mother of martyrs, or Syria’s Khansa’ [traditional heroic Arab female symbol of stoic heroism], as she likes to be known—is a 65 year-old lady and Syrian Revolution activist since its inception in 2011 from Deraa. She is today’s Atem al-Zinzaneh’s guest.

Hasna never for one day expected that either the regime or the Syrian army would shoot, for the mere cause of Deraa’s people asking for their detained children. She never imagined that they would abuse Deraa’s elders, or their wives and honor. This was the main reason behind her own participation in the Revolution. She was arrested for the first time in May 2011—for attempting to bring medicine, bread, and food to children during the siege of Deraa—in the Deraa branch of military security.

Hasna tells of seeing Hezbollah men inside the branch in May 2011. She personally saw Hussein Hamiyyeh, an officer of the Lebanese Hizbollah. Investigations then centered on the extent of Israel’s, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s, role in financing the demonstrations. Hasna was surprised how they would think of foreign intervention—but not at all care for the injustice to which Syrian citizens are subjected. She was arrested for a second time with her daughter Bushra at the 12th Brigade of the Syrian army, then transferred to the Deraa military security branch.

Hasna al-Hariri remember that rape cases in the branch were perpetrated by Brigadier General Abu Habib in the Suweida branch; and by Brigadier Wafiq Nasser, Captains Zuhair al-Ali and Abdullah Amoury, and officer Rawad in Deraa. She tells of incidences of sexual assault of both males and females inside the military security branch; in addition to forcing them to sexually assault one another. She also mentions the killing of more than one hundred and twenty young men, whose blood flowed to reach the women’s prison dormitories.

More on the crimes of the Assad regime:  Syria Solidarity Campaign.


Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm