Friday, August 26, 2005

British interpretation of human rights

According to The Guardian, the UK home secretary, Charles Clarke, had said earlier this month that he would deport foreign nationals whose presence was "not conducive to the public good", despite concerns that they might be tortured overseas. I guess he means people whose presence in the UK could promote terrorist acts.

Very well… but what happened to the human rights, if they ever existed? I thought “criminals” too should be protected by human rights regulations. It has been provided by the European Convention on Human Rights (article 3) that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The applicability of this article to cases of extradition and deportation has been repeatedly manifested in decisions of the European Court on Human Rights (see for example the case of Soering vs. the United Kingdom). The prohibition provided by this article is absolute. It permits no justification or limitation and cannot be derogated under Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights even in times of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation.

Beside the European Convention on Human Rights, there are other international treaties (i.e., The Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) which expressly and specifically address the question of sending individuals to a country where they will be exposed to the risk of prohibited treatment.

I guess human rights are important only when they justify invading another country. What was it called? Iraqi freedom….

P.s. Some info discussed above is adapted from a paper by Nuala Mole.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sean Penn in Iran

Prior to the presidential elections in June, Sean Penn has been in Tehran for a few days, doing a series of reports for San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle will publish this five-day series in sequence. The reports of the first two days of Penn’s visit is now available online.

I read his first report. Although Penn gives a rather shallow and at times one-dimensional description of Iran’s political and social circumstances, it can be an interesting account, especially for non-Iranians or Iranians who have lost track of all the social changes during the last 15 years. Note that Penn, in his main observations, might have been led by a top-down process, meaning that he wanted to have a certain story and he has sought places and circumstances that could validate his original account. I will comment on his other reports later.

Day one: discovering a culture in conflict
Day two: meeting with the son of a former president

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Keep them happy

This is what Fox News, a.k.a. RPN (Republican Propaganda Network) had to say about Bush's speech before members of the National Guard today.

“Bush also thanked the families of American service men and women in times of heavy sacrifice…. The families are standing for America and America appreciates the service and the sacrifice of the military families," he said. "There are few things more difficult than seeing a loved one go to war."

I guess we’re all used to this sort of nonsense by political leaders in times of great problems. Every person with an ounce of gray material in his head knows that the real purpose behind this speech is not to “thank” the military families. The real objective is to keep people calm, to let them believe that the death of their sons and daughters really does contribute to their own freedom and democracy (I still can’t figure out how Bush and co. came up with this equation…). Surely, the current administration doesn’t want to have another Vietnam. Therefore, the government desperately tries to convince its people of the political, moral and security aspect of its operation in Iraq. We have already witnessed how the administration has navigated through different “reasons” for war, from self-protection to freeing Iraqi people and back again. But apparently this type of deception is not enough; the American people should not see and hear certain information either. For instance, it is not allowed to film coffins, containing dead bodies of American soldiers, when arriving in the U.S. Also, current American casualties in Afghanistan are being systematically concealed. Although the country has had a quasi-election, just prior to the US’s, the situation in Afghanistan has not changed significantly. The security is almost non-existent in large parts of the country. Even in Kabul, the “allies” have not succeeded in creating an acceptable level of security. As a matter of fact the situation in Afghanistan is so terrible, that Doctors without Borders announced to pull out its personnel from the country due to security problems. Note that the organization had been active in Afghanistan for a long time even during the reign of the Taliban and war with the Northern opposition.

These families deserve the truth, not some lame words of “gratitude”.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Don't wanna find a title for this one

“A warrior takes his lot, whatever it may be, and accepts it in ultimate humbleness. He accepts in humbleness what he is, not as grounds for regret but as a living challenge.
“It takes time for everyone of us to understand that point and fully live it. I, for instance, hated the mere mention of the word ‘humbleness’. I’m an Indian and we Indians have always been humble and have done nothing else but lower our heads. I thought humbleness was not in the warrior’s way. I was wrong! I know now that the humbleness of a warrior is not the humbleness of a beggar. The warrior lowers his head to no one, but at the same time, he doesn't permit anyone to lower his head to him. The beggar, on the other hand, falls to his knees at the drop of a hat and scrapes the floor for anyone he deems to be higher, but at the same time, he demands that someone lower than him scrape the floor for him. “

- Don Juan Matus in Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Power (1974, p. 19)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Till death do us part

Today, I watched someone die on the street! Maybe, that’s not really accurate; I was looking at a few ambulance workers and police officers trying to reanimate someone. His colleagues were standing near the scene. I heard the guy was 38 years old. Not in a top physical condition probably, cause I saw his rather big belly shake quite visibly, whenever his chest was pressed down. It was at some level a surreal image. Probably, I chose to dehumanize him, by focusing on his body fat. Seeing an object shake is less painful than seeing a dying man struggling to make his last stand. So what happened to him? Apparently, he had a heart attack…just like that, on some regular sunny Monday morning.

In my life, I have experienced a lot of death around me. But I had never seen the drama of life and death as concrete as this. I’m deeply impressed by this experience. I am not sorry for that guy; I only hope that he’d had a good life. Why? Death is the only certain fact of life. Perhaps, death is one element that helps us define life. Would we have the same or any conception of life, if it would not to be ended by death? Sometimes we can only understand things, when we are familiar with their opposite. So why would I dislike death?

Our death watches us constantly. It’s always somewhere around the corner. It can happen anywhere and any time. We all know it. But we don’t really want to think about it, do we? Maybe we want to avoid anxiety, maybe we believe it wouldn’t really matter if we think about it or not. But the truth is, we have no time left. We are running out of time, every minute we lose ourselves in laziness, rationalizations, justifications and ignorance. I don’t know what the ultimate goal of life is: buying oneself a ticket to the heaven, reaching the nirvana, making a lot of money, indulging our senses, becoming a better human being or simply reproduction…. Whatever you think you should be after, pursuit it now, cause the guy who died today thought it would be just another day… exactly like what you and I think tomorrow would be.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The evil must resign

Dutch agriculture minister Cees Veerman is facing accusations of a conflict of interest over his ownership of a large farm in the Dordogne, as pressure grows in the Netherlands for reform of the lavish Common Agricultural Policy.

Campaigners estimate that the 300 hectares in southern France, which produce peas and sweetcorn, could be worth more than £100,000 a year in agricultural subsidies. In a recent television interview, Veerman called the farms 'my pension'. He threatened to resign if the prime minister and finance minister forced through plans to back Britain's calls for subsidy cuts.

Source: The Observer (read the entire article here).

As if one Silvio Berlusconi was not enough for Europe, we’re so lucky we just got two of them. But this guy is just a genius; he even dares to threaten with resignation if the government follows Britain’s proposal to cut agricultural subsidies. “No Sir, please do not resign and enjoy your yearly 180,000 dollars subsidies for a few more years. It’s not like millions of European tax payers, who practically provide you those subsides, care about your bank statements or your ‘pension’.”

Finally Europe cares to take a constructive step, by cutting agricultural subsidies, and then greedy idiots like Veerman try to block this decision. Why is it constructive? Because these subsidies are one the main reasons that agricultural products from developing countries cannot compete with western (subsidized) products on a fair basis. People like Veerman are responsible for poverty and suffering among many nations, for hunger and death in Africa, and for the continuing western domination in the world. Not only is Mr. Veerman a corrupt politician, but he also represents a far greater evil.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gaza withdrawal

Ariel Sharon began his promised pullout from Gaza on Monday and threatened Palestinians with Israel's harshest response ever should they attack once settlers have been evacuated.

In a televised address coinciding with the start of the withdrawal, the Israeli leader told Gaza's 8,500 Jewish settlers he shared their pain but also understood the plight of the 1.4 million Palestinians in the coastal strip.

"We cannot hold onto Gaza forever. More than a million Palestinians live there and double their number with each generation. They live in uniquely crowded conditions in refugee camps, in poverty and despair, in hotbeds of rising hatred with no hope on the horizon," he said in the five-minute address.

"The world is waiting for the Palestinian response -- a hand stretched out to peace or the fire of terror. To an outstretched hand we shall respond with an olive branch, but we shall fight fire with the harshest fire ever".

Source: Reuters

Hydra speaks:
Some people wonder why a hardline politician like Sharon would initiate the Gaza withdrawal, wiping out settlements he once helped building up. A while ago when Sharon announced his plans, everyone thought that it was the best thing that could happen to the peace process. In reality, the unilateral policy of Sharon has taken away any chance of progress in the peace process. A couple of reasons are:

1. By pulling out of Gaza without a mutual agreement in the context of peace negotiations, Sharon has created his state an opportunity to deny any further territorial compromises in the future. The world could hear a pre-announcement of this policy during the Bush-Sharon press conference directly after the planned withdrawal was announced. Bush stated in this conference that, in deciding the future borders between Israel en Palestine, one needed to consider the “existing reality on the ground”. Subtitle: “…forget about the 1967 borders, after this withdrawal, much of Palestinian land will remain under Israeli occupation, because there are simply to many Jewish settlements in areas once belonged to Palestinians…”.
2. As Sharon himself said, future Palestinian aggression will be severely punished. Of course, the Palestinian aggression will not end after this, simply because Sharon’s withdrawal plan does not satisfy Palestinians’ needs. Sharon is justifying future aggression towards the Palestinians in advance. And what exactly is “Israel's harshest response ever”? Can it get worse than the Sabra and Shatila massacre?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ganji and the opposition

First news:
Akbar Ganji, political prisoner in Iran since 2000, began a second hunger strike on June 11, 2005, protesting his continued detention for peaceful investigative journalism and public expression of views. In addition to Ganji’s unwarranted imprisonment and his periodic mistreatment in prison, he suffers severe respiratory problems. On July 17, Ganji was transferred to a hospital, where he has been placed under quarantine and prevented from regular access to his family and legal representatives.

On 3rd of August 2005, a number of Iranian political activists in the Netherlands gathered in front of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting department's pressure on the Iranian government so it would release Ganji or at least provide more information regarding his condition. The activists made also an absurd suggestion that the Dutch ambassador to Tehran would meet with Mr. Ganji in the hospital.

Second news:
Meanwhile, a group of five Iranian asylum seekers in the Netherlands has been on a similar hunger strike for approximately 44 days. The asylum seekers who have been transferred to a deportation center argue that the Immigration Service does not apply clear criteria in preparing and conducting the deportation of asylum seekers. They all demanded access to their official files at the Immigration Service. As soon as the story received some marginal attention from the media, the government decided to separate the hunger strikers and place them in normal houses, arguing that people in need of immediate medical care cannot be kept in a prison setting.

These developments took place in a context of national and international criticism on the Dutch Immigration policy. The Human Rights Watch condemned the treatment of asylum seekers in the Netherlands in a previous report. Earlier, the Inspectie voor de Volksgezondheid had criticized the non-humanitarian conditions in deportation centers.

Hydra speaks:
Let me just start with the so-called Iranian opposition gathering in front of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have been thinking about it a lot. But it is still not clear to me why these folks even bothered going to the Ministry building. First, no foreign country has ever been successful in correcting the Islamic Republic's treatment of its own people, although western powers certainly do like to interfere. Why these people think that the Dutch government could actually do something this time? Second, history teaches us that western governments simply do not really care if some journalist is dying in a prison in some exotic country. Third, what is the point of requesting a visit between the Dutch ambassador to Iran and Mr. Ganji? Is Mr. Ambassador a medical doctor, capable of conducting a medical examination and assessing Ganji's physical condition? Fourth, if the opposition groups want to protest, why don't they gather in front of the Iranian embassy in The Hague? They are the representatives of the wrong doers, anyway? And what is the meaning of this whole action? That the Iranian opposition in exile is not capable of changing things itself, so we need the foreign countries to assist us? I guess so... the Islamic Republic has absolutely nothing to fear. This opposition looks more like a cheap Saturday night TV act than a real political actor. Finally, Just what do you people think to achieve by requesting help from a government, which systematically violates human rights, and even create circumstances under which innocent asylum seekers decide to starve themselves to make a statement. Do we get their message? Do we?