As I get set to dash off to Ghana again, a round-up of several issues.
Firstly, and most importantly, Wednesday 28 November has now been set as the date for Jahongir Sidikov’s deportation. The Home Office have received an impressive number of representations, including a united one from effectively all of Uzbekistan’s opposition and human rights groups. We now need a further push to try to save this man’s life.
While numerous individual bloggers have been involved in whipping up support they include, with the odd honourable exception, very few high profile ones. So far as I can see, neither Liberal Conspiracy nor any of its contributors – even though I emailed the site an urgent appeal for help. So maybe Liberal Conspiracy is just a New Labour sock puppet exercise after all.
When I read blogs abut Uzbekistan written by travellers I am sometimes moved to fury. Few people are more interested in architecture and history than I, but I don’t understand how it can blind people to everything else.
So congratulations are due to Apropos, for his excellently perceptive observations on his travel blog. Very well written too:
However, for an ordinary Uzbekistani, it would seem that life’s aspirations are much more modest with very few avenues of opportunity. Naturally, any discussion relating to politics is extremely dangerous for the average Uzbekistani, and although it is not impossible to find people who “will talk,” the average person seems frightened and oppressed. While ethnic Uzbeks (comprising about 80% of the population) are markedly warm, kind, family-oriented people, ordinary life in Uzbekistan seems a dull shade of gray, with little evidence of any living culture, intellectualism, arts, or creativity. Rather, the Uzbekistani people seem frightened and in some sense, dumbed-down, as if they are the end product of a society which has long hammered-down “the nail that sticks out.” And it is not uncommon to find Uzbeks — particularly young men — staring off into infinity with a stupefied, wall-eyed, bovine stare that seems to signify something like spiritual defeat.
One assumes that this descends from the governing system, which instead of facilitating growth and progress, appears designed to make life impossible. Everything — from the poor banking system, the absurdly denominated currency (time spent “counting money” is a significant activity in virtually every transaction), poorly maintained highways, the routine police checks everywhere, the internet is crawls where it exists, censorship is pervasive, the food shops are pitifully understocked in some places, economic opportunity is extremely limited, and the dense, inevitable bureaucracy overhangs virtually every part of public life — whether by necessity or design, all of this serves to make daily life more difficult and the disempowers the people.
The post includes links at the bottom to three Youtube excerpts from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Uzbekistan (and a bit about me). If anybody has the slightest doubt about the urgency of saving Jahongir I strongly recommend you to watch these, with the warning that some of the images are truly horrific.
Brian Barder’s blog is always worth a look and I highly commend his very sober analysis of the government’s current unpopularity:
There remain puzzling questions about why Gordon Brown and his colleagues persist in their attachment to policies which become more obviously indefensible by the day: the most obvious examples being the renewal of Trident, ID cards (especially including their accompanying national identity register) and the further extension of the already grossly excessive 28-day maximum time in which terrorist suspects may be imprisoned without even being charged, still less tried or convicted of any specified offence. The varying justifications advanced for these discredited policies have repeatedly been exposed as invalid. Refusal to drop them (if necessary by easy stages, to minimise humiliation) looks increasingly like personal obstinacy verging on the perverse.
Full piece well worth reading. I only disagree with his last few sentences, which I think reflect a residual Labour loyalty and really don’t logically connect with the rest of the piece. I rather feel that we have just passed an “Emperor’s New Clothes” point after which people will no longer readily believe the government about anything, particularly the hype about the War on Terror.
Both Newsnight and Sunday Edition deny that the cancellation of my appearances was anything to do with blacklisting. Here is the email from Sunday Edition:
Thank you for your email. I have been out of the office for several days and have only just received this, otherwise I would have replied sooner.
Firstly, thank you again for having agreed to come on the show, and apologies once more having cancelled at the last minute. This happens quite a lot on this type of programme ?” in fact we have even dropped guests as senior cabinet ministers in the past. In answer to your question, it was not a ‘blacklisting’, but a change in the emphasis of our debate. We decided to focus more on the domestic counter-terror proposals, rather than foreign aspects of the ‘war on terror’ and the other issues I had mentioned on the phone (Pakistan, Brown’s foreign policy speech). With your lengthy experience as a diplomat, we had envisaged asking you to comment mainly on these foreign policy issues ?” and then also comment on the domestic aspects. As our focus had changed, we instead had two guests to speak more on domestic side ?” Jan Berry of the Police Federation; and Patrick Mercer, former Shadow Homeland Security Secretary (who incidentally have differing views on the proposed counter terror legislation). We also included questions on prisons on which Jan was qualified to speak.
The ‘war on terror’ is a subject we should and will discuss in future on our current affairs programmes. We aim to represent a range of viewpoints when we cover any topic. The Sunday Edition has come to the end of its run, but we would be happy to have you on a future current affairs programme on a suitable discussion.
All the best
I may not have been formally blacklisted, but a media that believes that just the Conservative Party and the Police cover a reasonable spectrum of opinion for a discussion on “Homealnd security” is a media under the severest of intellectual constraint. I saw newspaper reports that “Sunday Edition” has been axed as too boring. It seems to me just the same pap as on the other channels.
Today the Oxford Union hosts a debate featuring David Irving and Nick Griffin. I really don’t have terrifically strong feelings. I don’t think the Oxford Union should have invited them, but I think the Oxford Union have the right to invite them if they so choose. I would never invite Nick Griffin to speak anywhere, but I think he has a right to speak where he has his meetings. I think it was very wrong to put Irving in jail for being a deluded nutter. Equally I think it was extremely wrong of us to jail a young Muslim girl, the “Lyrical terrorist” for thinking and writing obnoxious thoughts and bad poetry.
An idea, however wicked, should bever be illegal. If you persecute an idea you feed it. John Stuart Mill, as virtually always, was right. If we start jailing people for their thoughts, half the country should be put away for what flashes across their minds whenever Tony Blair appears on TV.
I spoke at the Oxford Union last week, in a debate on the War on Terror. I spoke against the motion “This house believes that in the war on terror the best defence is a good offense”. I spoke with Jeremy Greenstock and Ned Lamont, against Julian Lewis, Frank Gaffney and J D Hayworth. British readers might like to google the last two. We defeated the motion overwhelmingly – by about four to one. I believe that is indicative of the current intellectual trend. Annoyingly I haven’t seen any media reports of this major debate, and the Oxford Union appear not even to have put a report on their website – too busy taking sherry with fascists, apparently.
Finally, for this round-up, I had the honour to be the opening speaker at People and Planet’s Shared Planet conference in Sheffield. It gave me a big boost – over seven hundred highly commited student activists, in an organisation that really gets the connections between environmentalism, poverty, hydrocarbon dependency, corporate greed, human rights and war.