Friday, May 29, 2015

In the eyes of the law are we defined by rights or privileges?

An article in The Guardian on David Cameron visit to Berlin for talks with Merkel over EU reform discusses the concept of freedom of movement and limiting migrant access to benefits.[1] The assertion throughout the article is on the right to work and travel freely. I wonder to what extent it is a right or wouldn’t it be more intellectually coherent and practical if we see it as a privilege.

George Byczynski, coordinator of the British Poles Initiative, said “... But with regards to people who want to work, want to provide for their families, I think that it is important to make them feel welcome and equal.” I think what you mean is not “people” but “polish people”, I appreciate the attempt to apply a broad principle since British are too “people” but contrary to your assertion and the human rights rhetoric not all “people” are “equal”.
(sorry for quotations, I want to be accurate).

For instance I was born in Afghanistan currently in the UK on an entrepreneur visa. In order to obtain the visa i had to meet strict requirement for instance masters degree equivalent English fluency, once in the UK I pay £25,000 in visa fee till settlement, create two full-time jobs for UK citizens, invest quarter of a million pound in the UK, sever restriction on work/business, requirements on the operation of the businesses, requirement on work schedule and plan, security requirement of regular checking in and reporting to police, no access to benefits, no access to in work benefits and even limits on my children rights in what might be considered crucial to child welfare. The psychological dimension of my life is living under continuous fear if something goes wrong or business is not doing well then one would be sent to the savages of war where i hail from. Even a slightest administrative error could see me removed since i have no right of appeal. so you see the lot of “polish people” is not that bad while compared with “people people”; for all practical purposes polish have equivalent to citizen rights in the UK.

some people are not good enough and its up on them to prove their worth and i am one of them. Before we hastily conclude that some how this is a fault of British people such as lack of compassion or supremacy complex allow me admit that i have found the British the most tolerant and welcoming people, by way of comparison for instance on my way here i was held against my will and without formal arrest or charges at Turkish Airport for several hour, supposedly to obtain superior clearance, more likely due to concerns about my place of birth.

Unfortunately, concepts of privilege and rights are engraved in human nature; to live and work in the UK is considered a privilege, so is the residence right in Poland. as a matter of fact as somebody who has visited Poland this privilege is tightly monitored in Poland than in the UK. as somebody with a different shade of skin i was exposed to things in Poland that were deeply disturbing. so if you are genuinely concerned about equality for people you would make better headways if you start in Poland.
I would love to wake up one day to see we are all equal as “people” because we were born with dignity and have inalienable rights as human beings but here is what we can do in the interim. we need to recognise that there are billions of people around the world who live in poverty and oppression with little glimmer of opportunity or chance to improve their lives while there are few bestowed with privileges that are protected by a megastructure of mighty states. we need to recognise this; we need to acknowledge that the status of the few are not their god given right but the privileges that are created and protected by the state. this would help us in many ways to address racism and inequality which is based on a perverted belief that some people are better than others by certain features. This belief will be dampened once we have a wide recognition that certain people are privileged which is often at the cost of others. We will help to diminish the belief in inferiority of unprivileged by having established that the choices available to them are between bad and terrible because they don't have the rights that the privileged call the "human rights". here is how George Byczynski should have said it “... Polish people should be given privileges they shouldn't be treated like citizens of nonwhite countries. I think that it is important to give them legally protected superior status."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

EU expanding further east into former Soviet Union

Today the EU held Eastern Partnership summit in Riga to discuss further expansion east into the former Soviet Union, at the time of lingering uncertainty about the future of the UK in the European Union and the nature of the long due reforms within the EU.

The European Union is already overstretched, new members such as Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia did not integrate well; Croatia is mired in crisis. The Balkans, which is poised for membership, the process is moving between back and forth. The EU-colony of Kosovo is faced with mass emigration, in Macedonia there is political chaos with armed gangs capturing towns and it was only a week ago when 23 people died in clashes between heavily armed gangs and security forces. 

Its called Eastern Partnership countries, but there is very little in common among them, only that they are former Soviet Republics, and that they strive to west. The desire to be western is so paramount for these countries that any obstacle to its actualisation is seen as an enemy. Many believe that Russia is such an obstacle and as such a threat to the nation. Russofobien yet another factor among the eastern partnership; this is not enough for partnership with these countries but recipe for trouble with Moscow.

The strength of EU comes from the strength of its member states and one of its strong members is the UK which is renegotiating its membership with the Union. The focus of the UK on hard economic benefits – for example, in advancing the single market, reducing bureaucratic burdens, or pushing for trade liberalisation as a healthy balance against too much focus on political integration or on European-style state interventionism has been beneficial to the Union.

Recently many have seen this positive role of the UK diminish, with a much greater focus on the UK domestic policy agenda and a high distrust of the EU among British policy makers and, increasingly, the British public. Even in areas where the UK in the past would have been a champion for European solutions, e.g. enlargement policy or the digital single market, there is a tendency of disengagement.

As the role of the western countries diminish in the EU any further expansion eastward will change the nature and identity of the European Union. The former Communist countries of the EU are active members of the EU and carry more weight in contrast with their size and strength, any further eastward expansion will shift the centre of power in the EU from the West to Eastern Europe. Under the current EU voting system Eastern Europe already has significant power. Germany, France and the UK combine have a population of 217 Million and a nominal GDP of close to US$ 10 Trillion and a total vote of 87 in the European council while Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia which pretty much cover all of Easterner Europe have a combined nominal GDP of US$1.3 Trillion and a population of 70 million have a total combine vote of 96. Any future accession from the east will shift the power of EU votes to the East despite the candidate countries being small and medium income.

There are three important implications for the EU policy. 
first, the EU will become more Russofobien, as the Euro barometer study of EU attitude toward Russia shows that eastern European countries are the most Russofobiske countries in Europe. furthermore the candidate countries have deep Russian complex. 

Second, the EU will become more xenophobic as there is strong anti-immigration sentiment in the Eastern Europe. A PEW study shows that 60% of population in Czech Republic is against immigration and there has been slightly over 1100 asylum applications in 2014 while that figure for Germany is over 220,000.  This is while Czech Republic is the most prosperous of all Eastern European countries.

third, the EU will become less coherent and influential as the institutional strengths and economies of member states diverse, the western nations will seek to curb immigration from the east and south states which will put the free movement pillar at risk.   

The dangers of conflict with Russia, weak national institutions within the EU, weakened EU and deterioration of human rights within an expanded union might or might not be clear to Brussels bosses, but what is clear is where to find new markets and play geopolitics. 

Many Iraqis Believe Washington Aid Islamic State

The general in charge of U.S. special operations forces in Iraq for the past six months has come out to speak about wide spread believe among Iraqi troops who believe America supports the Islamic State. The top generals fear this potentially leaving U.S. forces vulnerable to reprisal attacks from their nominal allies in the fight against the militants.

Gen. Kurt Crytzer believes this is a communication issue, convinced that Washington’s information campaign in the Middle East is so inadequate that many, “Our adversaries are constantly one step ahead of us in the IO realm,” said Army Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer, using the acronym for information operations, while talking to reporters in Florida.  This view is shared among American policy makers; on Tuesday, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command was also commenting on the release of multimedia material by US forces.

Foreign policy writes that “the nation that invented the Internet and which is home to Hollywood and Madison Avenue still has trouble competing with the message promulgated by terror groups whose worldview hearkens back to the 7th century but use a sophisticated online and social media strategy to raise money and recruit new fighters.”[1]

The US policy makers commit yet again the fatal error of mixing the remedies they have or can obtain with the solution for the problem and the media as usually carries the dominant narrative. This is not an information or rather misinformation problem, its how the policies of the US, the West and regional allies has impacted the region and its people. The information campaign on the contrary has had a negative impact on the image of the West in the middle in so far as justifying, promoting and reiterating the official line while it has been proven time and again that the western policies are detrimental to the region. As such sources associated with the west has lost their credibility while alternative media such as Aljazeera, RT, Iranian media and IS campaigns have gained audience either as primary or alternative source of information.

The Islamic State could not have emerged without support from western powers and their regional allies. They funded and facilitated the travel of jihadis from 80 countries into Syria and then trained and armed them. In so long as the Jihadists were fighting the Syrian government Western government turned a blind eye on the crimes they were committing against Syrians and all the signs of rising tide of fanatic Jahidism among the Syrian resistance. The idea of overthrowing Assad was primary and an imminent reality after the fate of Gaddafi and no neoconservative and liberal interventionist would have thought it would take this long.  Ecstatic by the prospect the liberals and neocons ignored all the key lessons learned in the last twenty years:

1.    War is unpredictable: this becomes more obvious if one studies the dynamics of conflict in Afghanistan; where the mighty US army failed to sway the tide in its favour against a ragtag band of peasants they labelled Taliban.
2.   People suffer in war: what if this war get uglier and become longer, are you willing to take that risk in order to achieve your strategic objective of ousting Assad from power? This question is left out but there should be a way to get this question into the policy thinking.
3.   States become weaker: as primary caretaker of the community and population a weakened state exposes the population to dangers and decline in living standards but also give rise to violence and tensions in society.
4.   Fanatic Islamism is not your friend: following the pattern established by al-Qaida (allies to Afghan Mujahidin) and the Taliban policy makers should have seen this coming.

We are at a point in history with human tragedy of millions suffering before our eyes can nudge us a bit and the primacy and pursuit of national interest as defined by western leaders is above all. Even if Gen. Kurt Crytzer was right and this was a media war the west has nothing but hypocrisy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Religious zest and the plight of women

Today as we stand looking at significant scientific, economic and technological advances that had been made in the last fifty years, you can’t help wondering how come the situation of women has improved so little or in parts of the world got worst. The reality is that millions of women are suffering and being oppressed under religious laws and Islamic cultures in many different parts of the world. The past fifty years have been some of the darkest in women’s lives. With the anti-secularist backlash, the rise of political Islam, and efforts over the past two decades to impose religion on the people, thousands have been executed - decapitated or stoned to death - and medieval laws to suppress women have been revived.

Islam is the ideology in power in most Muslim countries. In all of these, society has suffered serious setbacks in civil rights in general, and women’s rights in particular. Yet many voices seek to justify Islam: western academics, the mainstream western media, so-called moderate Muslims and some Eastern intellectuals all try to justify the operation and rationalize brutality. They tell us that what we are seeing is not the real Islam; they divide Islam into good and bad, moderate and fundamentalist. They tell us it’s their culture and that’s how they live. The British imams going on media to keep reminding us that all Muslims are not terrorists.  Outrageous and racist but because they are Imams or religious leaders their remarks are tolerable. They fail to address in any constructive way cultural, social, political and economic factors that has bedeviled Muslims across the world. Here are a few cultural issues that the Muslim leaders need to address.

1.     Equality of rights for women
Women are deemed to be inferior to men. Women are men’s belongings and women can have no authority over men. That a woman counts as only half a man in legal and financial matters; this is enforced widely and those Muslims who justify this rely on Islamic script. “And call into witness two men; or if two be not men, then one man and two women” (Koran, The Cow. Verse 282) and “ God charges you concerning your children: to the male the like of the portion of two female” (Koran, Women, verse 11)

2.     Sexual oppression of Women
Women earn God’s grace by obeying their husbands. The message is clear: men dominate, women obey. From a religious perspective, women are there merely for the sexual enjoyment of men and for purposes of reproduction. In Islam female sexuality is acknowledged, but limits and confines women to their sexual and reproductive roles. Most muslim has taken this too far by considering women as a potential danger by distracting men from their duties and corrupting the community. Orthodox interpretation place restriction on women’s sexuality, whilst men are given the right to marry up to four wives and the right to temporary marriage as many times as they wish. Free male–female sexual relations are considered a sin in Islam. This is justified by literal interpretation of Koranic verses that define which sexual relations are permitted under Islam, and the punishment for any transgression (called zena) outside these limits. Zena is punishable by flogging, imprisonment and stoning to death.

3.     Legal practice and women
Despite modernisation and reform, family law and the penal code have remained largely untouched, on the contrary in the last three decades fundamentalists have inserted their interpretation. Polygamy, men’s unconditional right to divorce their wives, the law regarding sex outside of marriage, men’s decision making over their wives’ employment and travel, and a woman’s lack of right to custody of her children are among them. Hijab is the definitive form of clothing for women. According to widely practice Islamic law, the legal age for a girl to wed is nine – an obvious case of sexual abuse and rape.


The state is a prerequisite for women’s liberation from religious oppression. A strong social movement and international support is needed with long-term commitment to build modern and stable states across the Muslim world.