Saturday, 27 February 2010

Amnesty, the Taliban and womens rights - getting the balance right

I’ve been an Amnesty member for over 30 years. It’s one allegiance I’ve never lost, despite losing faith in most NGOs and ‘human rights defenders’.
Externally, as long as governments quote Amnesty reports to slag off other governments and slag off Amnesty reports about their own country you know they’re hitting the spot. Internally, while I’ve had minor quibbles over the years, they usually get the balance between a rainbow coalition of interested parties about right, and that balance is reached at scrupulously fair and open national conferences where folk from tiny groups get the same chance as major supporters, like the unions and churches who send along national reps but get one vote like me.
Recently one issue is causing worry, and rather than give small detail I’ll quote verbatim the text of a petition to Amnesty, which I suggest secularist individuals and groups might want to at least read, and maybe sign up to.
The petition reads:
"As organisations and individuals who stand for and support the universality of human rights, we have noted with concern the suspension of Gita Sahgal, Head of the Gender Unit at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London, for questioning Amnesty International’s partnership with individuals whose politics towards the Taliban are ambiguous.
We come from communities that recognize and appreciate the work of Amnesty International in defending human rights and women’s rights around the world. Many of us work closely with Amnesty International in their campaigns at various levels.
We believe that Gita Sahgal has raised a fundamental point of principle which is “about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination”.
This issue of principle is critical at the present moment, with the United States led “War on Terror” leading to the suspension of human rights and increased surveillance over individuals and the body politic. Ironically, the language of human rights and human rights defenders is being taken over by the US/NATO alliance in its efforts to legitimise a re-born imperialism. Equally disturbingly, this language is also being hijacked by organizations that espouse extremist and violent forms of identity-based politics. The space for a position that challenges both these is shrinking, and human rights are becoming hostage to broader authoritarian political agendas, whether from states or communities.
In this context, it is crucial for human rights defenders and organisations to clearly define principles and core values that are non-negotiable. Our commitment to countering, among others, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and xenophobia should at no time blur our recognition of the authoritarian, often fascist, social and political agendas of some of the groups that suffer human rights abuse at the hands of the big powers.
The broader issue of principle which we raise here, is one which concerns all of us as human rights defenders from different parts of the world. Many of us who work to defend human rights in the context of conflict and terrorism know the importance of maintaining a clear and visible distance from potential partners and allies when there is any doubt about their commitment to human rights. Given the circumstances in which questions regarding the partnership with Cageprisoners appear to have been raised, we feel that Amnesty International should have refrained from providing them with a platform. It should have been possible for Amnesty International to campaign against the fundamental human rights abuses that have occurred at Guantanamo and elsewhere without making alliances that compromise Amnesty International’s core values, just as other human rights organisations have done.
History has repeatedly shown us that anti-democratic organisations can and do manipulate information and their own self-representation for narrow political advantage. In any situation of ambiguity, we feel that the benefit of doubt should have been given to the expert staff members of Amnesty International. We feel that in this instance there has been a lack of respect for the opinions expressed by Gita Sahgal, who is a senior member of staff, and a critical failure of internal democratic functioning at Amnesty’s International Secretariat.
What is needed is democratic debate, internally as well as in the public sphere, on the human rights principles that should guide Amnesty International and all of us in determining our alliances. We have to ensure that the partnerships we form are true to the core human rights values of equality and universality. Our accountability in this area, internally as well as externally, to all our diverse constituencies, cannot be put at risk. We need a rigorous examination of potential partners. Given the complex situations we work in, what is needed is open debate, not a censoring and closure of discussion on these important issues. Shifting the debate and turning this into a discussion about ‘Othering’ and ‘demonisation of Guantanamo prisoners’ is merely obscuring the real issues at stake. It puts at risk the work that Amnesty International is attempting to do in Afghanistan and other areas. Unfortunately, it also fails to answer the very serious questions that have been posed to which we are also seeking answers.
In the present context of ‘constructive engagement’ with the Taliban, as proposed at the recent Conference on Afghanistan in London, it is our obligation to ensure that we do not barter away the human rights of minorities and of women for ‘peace’. There are enough recent examples of such attempts which show that these deals are a chimera and do not result in either peace or security. Whatever the nature of ‘engagement’ with authoritarian groups, and whatever partnerships and alliances we enter into with individuals or organisations involved in such ‘engagement’, the positive conditionalities and checks based on human rights, which are universal and indivisible, must remain central and non-negotiable for human rights organizations and defenders.
We call on Amnesty International to clearly and publicly affirm its commitment to the above in all areas of its work; and to demonstrate its obligation to make itself publicly accountable, as it has so often demanded of others.
We extend our solidarity and support to Gita Sahgal, who is well known and widely respected for her principled activism on human rights internationally, for her courageous stand in raising this issue within and outside Amnesty International.
Drafted and initiated by:
• Dr. Amrita Chhachhi, Women, Gender and Development Program, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, member Kartini Asia Network of Women/Gender Studies
• Sara Hossain, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
• Sunila Abeysekera, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka"
You can sign up at if you agree, and/or find an interview with Gita Sahgal at if you want to know more.

Social Services run by basket cases

While checking the IOM Newspapers site (to see if anything about the Civil Partnership Bill had made it there yet) I found a sick joke I’d missed in January and will now share with you all.
Take a look at , but not until you have a bucket to puke into.
For the benefit of off-island readers, or those who don’t track Manx evangelicals, Stanfield is pastor at Port St Mary’s Living Hope Church – better known as Living Hell for the damage it inflicts on the community. Living Hell started out as a Baptist church, and changed its name to avoid confusion with Broadway Baptists in Douglas, who are the Crips to Living Hell’s Bloods in the turf war that passes for evangelicalism on the island. It also linked to a US megachurch to get all the benefits of international spook franchising, but they don’t like to talk about that. Stanfield even used to boast that he once went to a prayer breakfast with George Bush, but I think he wants us to forget that too.
And look at this quote:
“Mr Stanfield said when it came to dealing with government departments, such as hiring schools, 'it is like dealing with Eastern Europe — the Soviet bloc. There is not the commercial thinking we could earn money from that building'.”
Funny thing that, because if you look carefully at any collapsing Eastern European country you’ll see Stanfield clones, usually with US accents and double figure IQs, collaborating with neo-fascist political groups, taking jobs from conscientious local teachers and care workers while closing schools, hospitals and orphanages, taking an increasing percentage of EU and other development grants under the pretence of opening their own sub-standard ‘facilities’ instead, and siphoning the loot back to huge US ‘religious foundations’ via complicated chains of churches and shady ‘faith charities’. As even Eastern European clerics have said to me, at least with Ceacescu and chums you dealt with total bastards who never pretended to be anything else.
But this ‘Third Sector’ scam is all part of the Balkanisation of the Isle of Man.
For as long as I’ve lived here we teetered on being an embarrassing third world adjunct to the rest of the British Isles. These days any developing African nation would also look at us with horror, and East Europeans laugh quite openly at the village idiots posing as cultural missionaries we send there because they’re too illiterate to be employable here.
For a handy way to judge the competence of institutions you could ask two questions.
Firstly, is the service provision worse than the State? Secondly, is the management and ethos more addled with superstition, tradition and nonsense in general than the Church? If the answer is’ Yes’ or even ‘Similar’ then the institution is unfit for purpose and responsible adults would avoid it like the plague.
The Third Sector, in practice, serves the same purpose as the Ocupational Therapy Unit in the Victorian era mental hospital I once worked in. Here the long term deluded were kept in a safe but secure environment and given baskets to weave for pin money, to keep them too busy with practical but useless tasks to dwell on their delusions and do harm to the general public.
So what we have then, to be blunt, is not a paramilitary wing of the Social Services (which, like the faithful’s Magic Invisible Friend, also don’t exist) but a basket case convention which hangs out in government broom cupboards.
It would be OK for Manx society if they just stayed there, chuntering to each other about their collective delusions and not bothering the real world. But the idea that we should pay them, allow them to hang out in public buildings or let them loose on our vulnerable relatives?
Now that is one very, very sick joke.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Save Bita from an honour killing

The ever busy IKWRO (the force behind International Coalition Against Honour Killings) has yet another important fight on their hands.
Our help is needed for Bita Ghaedi, who has been on hunger strike for 22 days now since being refused asylum by the UK Government and told she would be deported.
Since Bita’s arrival in London, she has been imprisoned at Holloway prison and twice detained at the infamous Yarl's Wood. More on that at
IKWRO (see for more) believes Bita faces a severe risk of falling victim to an 'honour' killing if returned to Iran. She’s from a very traditional family in an area where 'honour' killings are common and the killers unlikely to face any serious repercussions.
Do the right thing and also give a UK politician a chance to be human for once.
Go to where you’ll find a petition stating:
We, the undersigned ask the UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband to personally intervene to ensure Bita Ghaedi is NOT forced to return to Iran, where it is certain she would be arrested and in physical danger under the current regime.
It’ll take you less than a minute, and could save a life.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Manx history is made tomorrow

Tomorrow one of the few decent men in Manx politics will make history. Allan Bell is (finally) due to move the Civil Partnership Bill that his knuckledragging colleagues have delayed for years.
Yes folks. Go to , read Item 3, and weep!
For the text of the Bill itself, go to
We can expect to see the House’s resident retard, John Houghton, trying to delay matters with more of his usual idiot questions earlier in the day. But the fun won’t really start until debate over the clauses begins later in the year, at which point just spot the liars and hypocrites in action.
For example, expect some porkies over the question of consultation with faith groups. There wasn’t any, whatever Sentamu’s Apprentice and his allies try to suggest. None of the island’s major churches debated the issue, the congregations were just told what they think. The government’s idea of ‘consultation’ was a nod from Churches Together in Mann’s executive, which is simply (in theory) the heads of the four major churches taking a decision without consulting their flocks.
I say in theory, because in fact the four never meet. Two of them hate each other so much they both ring ahead to check the other won’t be there, and later all four agree to put out a joint, pre-agreed, statement on the relevant ‘moral issue’ to continue the illusion of unity.
Other faiths weren’t consulted full stop, because at the point when they should have been some years back a senior Anglican told Government there weren’t any other faiths on the island, therefore it was a waste of time to seek their opinion about whether they might like to conduct religious civil partnership ceremonies.
As it happens, at least one group did say they would like to conduct them, and submitted detailed evidence on failures in UK government consultations and also amendments and missed opportunities when the Marriage Act was amended in Scotland. You won’t hear about that either, as you can tell immediately from the lack of any of the suggestions in either the present Civil Partnership Bill or last year’s amendments to the Marriage Act, which instead of changing anything significant merely increased the number of places where a superstitious halfwit can legalise your marriage if you’re still sad enough to get married on the Isle of Man instead of a civilised country – Scotland for example.
We can also expect either Sentamu’s Apprentice or another of the afflicted to raise the issue of ‘conscience clauses’ for the registrars. This was cooked up years ago on advice from CARE, the sicko Christian lobby group who so kindly gave a job to the daughter a Manx government minister, a notoriously unemployable wierdo who would only work for Jeebus.
‘Coincidentally’, whenever the first attempts at registering a partnership are made on the island, we can expect a local registrar to try and pull that clause, acting on advice contained in a letter originally written by CARE and mailed to all UK registrars, and which has since formed the basis of various attempts to derail civil partnerships in the UK.
But all that is a long away away. Tomorrow, just enjoy the rare sight of a Manx politician doing something decent for a change.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sign up, sign up against Jeebus Freakery

Some excellent petitions on the web asking for international signatories.
Each, in their way, a chance to protest the privileges afforded by the State to religious figures and organisations who have done some downright disgusting stuff, often to innocent kids. is an Irish petition which asks:

"Please sign this petition if you think that clerical child abusers and all who covered up for them should be brought to justice for the horrific crimes that these criminals have perpetrated.
Since the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports, the government has done as little as possible under pressure from the victims and the public as they wait for this issue to blow over. The government, the religious and the media are talking about compensation but few are talking about bringing prosecutions. If as many people as possible sign this petition it will be evidence of the anger of the Irish and international public and our insistence that these criminals be brought to justice." is another Irish petition, this time to have the Papal Nuncio expelled from Ireland.

It states:

"The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Sexual Abuse in the Dublin ArchDiocese clearly states that the Papal Nuncio, the Diplomatic representative of the Vatican, refused to reply to investigators.
This is not acceptable. The Irish Government has the power to expel diplomats.
If we are to take the report's findings seriously, we must expel the Papal Nuncio."

And finally, good old Peter Tatchell has succeeded in getting a petition on the Number 10 website protesting the visit of Benny the Boy Nazi to the UK. You can find it at

The petition reads:

'We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to disassociate
the British government from the Pope's intolerant views ahead
of the Papal visit to Britain in September 2010. We urge the
Prime Minister to make it clear that his government disagrees
with the Pope's opposition to women's reproductive rights, gay
equality, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms
to prevent the spread of HIV. We ask the Prime Minister to
express his disagreement with the Pope’s role in the cover-up
of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, his rehabilitation of
the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and his decree
paving the way for the beatification and sainthood of the
war-time Pope, Pius XII, who stands accused of failing to speak
out against the Holocaust. We also request the Prime Minister
to assure us that the Pope’s visit will not be financed by the
British taxpayer.'

Indulge in a bit of proper democracy. Be an active citizen. Wind up a faith nazi........

Look, just sign up and help put these nonces in their place!

Dangerous, deluded, and coming for our kids

I was too busy last week to pose a child protection warning up here, after I noticed something worrrying on the government website about some imbeciles called Northern MAT.
“Established by the Isle of Man Government last year to bring about closer co-operation between agencies working with children and families, the Northern MAT meets in Ramsey once a fortnight.”
And from we also learn that:
“The Northern MAT’s 11 members represent various groups in the north, including social services, police, health, primary and secondary schools, the prison, local authorities and charity/voluntary organisations.”
Oh dear. I think we can guess which ‘charity/voluntary organisations’, and hope we could agree that village idiots capable of believing six impossible things before breakfast are not what we want around children. The fact that, due to that charming Manx mix of incest, racism and superstition, such loons also get first consideration for posts with the government agencies involved doesn’t really help matters either.
Northern MAT’s lynchpin, Tracy Power, helpfully explains that:
‘We aim to provide services and support to people before things go wrong for individual children or families, based around the five outcomes determined by Government that should be attained by all children – staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, prospering and making a positive contribution.’
Yes Tracy, but the last time the Manx government tried to do that two kids in a government care home got murdered due to the negligence of the fundie freaks given the contract to run it. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t exactly whoop with joy now you’re coming after everybody’s kids, not just the ones most obviously damaged by local Christo-fascism.
And this week things got worse when the buffoons at Northern MAT tried to give us advice that watching too much TV is bad for kids.
They posted , which has a link to . Even by the usual standards of the fairy-fanciers and aromatherapists now ‘advising’ on child care this has to be the most cretinous piece of junk science I’ve seen published yet with Manx government funds.
For the record, the last academic attempt to show a link between kids, TV and anti-social behaviour was in the 1970’s and so full of holes that it became a byword for sloppy research. It was discredited entirely when, on top of everything else, it became obvious the evidence was also falsified.
From time to time it still appears, uncredited, in the likes of fundie Christian parental literature. This is because it is the only scrap of ‘research’ such spookchasing throwbacks can muster to pamper their delusions, but to the civilised world it’s on the level of nutters who used to tell us that playing heavy metal records backward revealed secret messages from Satan.
Knowing that Manx government departments are still using bilge like this to formulate policy means all reasonably serious parents need to be further on their guard.
Manx child protection services have always been a haven for idiots, superstitious halfwits and the generally deluded. On the evidence of this........(holds head in hands and groans).........
I know it's harmless, I know I shouldn't give it a second thought, but somehow the antics of these chapel-going simpletons just get to me!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Different Strokes

As I know from various friends, one reason for respectable hard-working people coming to the Isle of Man is to escape sectarianism or even outright theo-fascism elsewhere. As I discovered yet again this week, they still won’t be safe as long as the Manx government and churches are packed with self-serving bigots.
The latest example can be seen with the apparently innocent announcement in this week’s Courier that regular multilingual orthodox services are being held at St. Matthews in Douglas, with the hint that maybe the Manx community should somehow ‘help’ to establish a local Orthodox priest to cope with the ‘growing demand’.
Except that there isn’t a growing demand because, as in the UK, the number of East European guestworkers has peaked and they’re now returning home. Falling attendances at the local Catholic churches alone show that, never mind work permit figures.
Such ‘demand’ as there is actually comes from another group.
The thing is, St. Matthews is the Manx centre of Forward in Faith/Anglican Mainstream activity. While they will never openly admit it, those who study such oddballs know that what they’d really love, short of controlling the Anglican church, is not defection to the Catholic church (which is big enough to resist their petulance) but a link-up with the even odder Eastern Orthodox gang. And as the Effineffers hold the balance in the Manx synod El Bish has little choice but to meet them halfway if he is not to lose a church or two and some rich but eccentric punters.
It’s also coincidentally funny that the priest is being flown in from Belfast. As if Northern Ireland hadn’t bred enough sectarian hate of its own, it is now cultivating and exporting an East European variety.
Because this, as I discovered when mentioning the article to a Russian friend, is the nub of the matter. Surprisingly, a number of Russian-born Manx residents who have mortgages, good and useful jobs and are here to stay are not Christian but Muslim. They came here because, as Jews before them suffered late 19th century pogroms, the new links between Putin and Orthodox theo-fascists made new and convenient scapegoats of an often relatively secular and moderate Muslim community. So they upped sticks and took their skills instead to a place where Stalinists and priests don’t run the finance sector.
My guess is that the Eastern Orthodox worshippers won’t face the problems of Manx Muslims – no Facebook sites, no mutterings about wierdly bearded foreigners putting up strange and distinctly un-Manx buildings. Which is quite funny, because wierdly bearded folk from here and elsewhere are meeting to celebrate a version of Christianity linked to both past and present fascist activity, and doing it in a listed church designed by a notable 19th century architect. Meanwhile, business people join quietly with a few doctors from the Asian subcontinent to worship in a garage. Not a veil or burqa in sight either, from what I hear, and the women are differentiated from locals only by their designer clothes.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Buried alive, meanwhile UK government buries the evidence

I was alerted to another gruesome Turkish ‘honour killing’ story by my wife, who read it yesterday on a Hungarian website. It may well have been in the UK press, but if so I missed it. Thankfully, the excellent International Campaign Against Honour Killings have the facts at
In brief, Turkish police found the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive in December by relatives as punishment for talking to boys. The girl was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.
The postmortem revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.
An informant told the police she had been killed following a family "council" meeting.
Her father and grandfather are said to have been arrested and held in custody pending trial. The girl's mother was arrested but was later released.
Official figures show more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey.
Also on the ICAHK website is an appeal for petition signatories protesting funding cuts to IKWRO, an organisation based in London which works to help women and girls who speak Kurdish, Farsi, Dari, Turkish and Arabic in the UK. IKWRO runs the ICAHK website, deals with thousands of calls every year and offers advocacy and advice in cases of domestic violence, forced marriage and 'honour'-based violence (HBV).
Sadly, while receiving praise from the police and the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), it is doubly a victim of funding cuts. Firstly, a grant for a Kurdish outreach worker was not renewed by the FMU, and secondly, the UK government, in breach of its own agreement, rescinded a grant for campaign workers after it had been granted.
The 'Honour Network Helpline' (a project by Karma Nirvana, which operates with IKWRO's collaboration) may also have to restrict services and may even close due to lack of support . This though taking 6,702 calls between April and September, and even though the reported rate of HBV and forced marriage in the UK is increasing. is the link if you want to know more, You can also link to petitions protesting what sounds awfully like decent folk being put out of business due to private talks between government and faith-bigoted QUANGOs who’d like the cash themselves for a spot more evangelising.