The 75th Anniversary of Auschwitz

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In December 1946 in the so-called Doctors’ Trial opened the eyes of the World to the way in which medics and scientists had committed appalling and vile crimes against humanity: and which helped to pave the way to the horrors committed at Auschwitz. 

Between 1933 and 1945 they had been legitimised by a State that had  carried out a campaign to “cleanse” German society of individuals viewed as biological threats to the nation’s health.

 

The Nazis enlisted the help of physicians and medically trained geneticists, psychiatrists, and anthropologists to develop racial health policies.

 

These policies began with mass sterilization, elimination of the disabled, and culminated in the near annihilation of European Jewry. 

 

Earlier this week one of the few remaining survivor reminded us that “never again has a habit of happening all over again.”

 

In our generation we must leave no stone unturned in trying to prevent a repetition and to challenge new threats to humanity.

Auschwitz

 Although, in the 1930s,  too many were silent about the rise of Nazism never forget the example of those who did speak out – including some and those who lost their lives for doing so – In 1929  Bishop Johannes Gfollner of Linz had warned against “the false prophets” of Nazism and told Catholics: “Close your ears and do not join their associations, close your doors and do not let their newspapers into your homes, close your hands and do not support their endeavours in elections.”

In 1930 the Bishop of Mainz declared Nazism and Catholicism to be irreconcilable; in 1933 the bishops of Cologne, Upper Rhine and Paderborn said they would deny the sacraments to anyone involved in parties hostile to Christianity; and the bishops of Bavaria condemned Nazi racism and their eugenic ideology with its scorn for the sanctity of life of the unborn and its belief in euthanasia.

Even before the Second World War began the Reich had compulsorily sterilised 350,000 people and begun the elimination of what it called “useless eaters”, people possessing “life unworthy of life” – which the Vatican condemned in 1933 as government degenerating into cattle breeding laboratories and in 1940 as “contrary to both the natural and the divine positive law.”

In 1937 Pope Pius XI condemned events in Germany stating: “Seldom has there been a persecution so heavy, so terrifying, so grievous and lamentable in its far-reaching effects. It is a persecution that spares neither force, nor oppression, nor threats, nor even subterfuge of intrigue and the fabrication of false facts.” In 1938 he said that no Christian could be Anti-Semitic because “spiritually, we are all Semites.”

Above all others, the story of Bishop von Galen – the Lion of Munster – is one of immense courage and bravery – with Martin Bormann demanding his execution; .

von gallen

 

Von-Galen-flowers-and-children

Bishop von Galen described the National Socialists as “the hammer” and “we are the anvil” and “the anvil is harder than the hammer.” He resolutely lived up to his family motto: Nec laudibus nec timore (Neither men’s praise nor fear of men shall move me).

We must rekindle the  spirit of those who gave their lives speaking for truth.

Recall the stories of Erich Klausner, the General Secretary of Germany’s Catholic Action, who was shot dead; Adelbert Prost, Director of the Catholic Youth Sports Association, also murdered; Fritz Gerlich, a Catholic journalist murdered at Dachau (known as “the priest’s camp” because 2,670 priests from around 20 countries were held there: 600 died at Dachau and another 325 died during “transport of invalids”.

Recall the arrest of Catholic politicians, the suppression of Catholic political activity, the confiscation of church property and the suppression of over 200 Catholic publications.

Some stories – those of Blessed Titus Brandsma, St. Maximilian Kolbe (executed at Auscwitz), and St.Edith Stein are quite well known. Others, such as Fr.Jacques Bunel, Blessed Marcel Callo, Fr.Alfred Delp S.J., Blessed Nikolaus Gross (a miner and Catholic trades unionist), Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, the Austrian farmer beheaded by the Nazis, Blessed Restituta Kafka, guillotined on Bormann’s orders, Blessed Karl Leisner, Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg (declared “Righteous Among The Nations” at Yad Vashem), Blessed Rupert Mayer S.J., Fr.Max Metzger, Fr.Franz Reinisch, are less well known.

In 1931 there were around 21,000 Catholic priests in Germany and over 8,000 of them, one third, clashed with the Reich and several hundred were eliminated by the Reich (see https://davidalton.net/2016/07/29/pope-francis-at-auschwitz-and-why-bbc-reports-of-silence-during-the-holocaust-are-wrong/)_

Yet others collaborated and too many remained silent.  The 75th anniversary of Auschwitz challenges us to speak out and to act against ideologies that demonise, belittle, scapegoat or stir the embers of hate. 

Beyond Brexit, reflections after the Tories’ elections triumph – The United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union at 11 p.m., January 31, 2020.The British people voted to end government paralysis but Britain faces social problems that urgently need addressing It needs to reset its relationship with its European neighbours. Ending of one union, with the EU, may be a curtain-raiser for the ending of another: the UK itself….

Essay published by GIS (Global Intelligence Services)

https://www.gisreportsonline.com/essay-beyond-brexit-reflections-after-the-tories-elections-triumph,politics,3070.html

Essay: Beyond Brexit, reflections after the Tories’ elections triumph

  • Britain faces social problems that urgently need addressing
  • It needs to reset its relationship with its European neighbors
  • Ending of one union, with the EU, may be a curtain-raiser for the ending of another: the UK itself

Christmas came early for Boris Johnson last year – as he was handed a gift-wrapped Parliamentary majority of almost 80. He may see this, in the words of the Christmas carol, as “tidings of comfort and joy” but would be foolish to underestimate the scale of the challenges which face him. The decisive redrawing of the electoral map was a reminder to the Twitter- and social media-obsessed that what G.K. Chesterton called “the secret people” are still able to have the last word:

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,/ Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street./ … But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet. Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

The message

Those secret, quiet, often overlooked and forgotten people cast their votes as a demand that the political classes end the paralysis and get on with government.

It was also a vote against the extreme positions of opposition parties – but not a vote against addressing challenges of inequality, broken infrastructure and broken institutions referred to by the opposition.

As well as “getting Brexit done,” the redrawn map sends this further message. Conservatives now represent some of the poorest parts of the UK and, if their new members of Parliament (MPs) are to serve more than one term, they will need to address these pressing issues of social inequality and injustice.

By way of example, Westminster’s new MPs were elected in a week when Shelter, a leading charity working with homeless people, revealed that child homelessness in the UK is at the highest rate since 2006. Their report, “Generation Homeless,” shows that a new child is made homeless in Britain every eight minutes. Yet measured by the gross domestic product, the United Kingdom is the sixth-largest national economy in the world (the ninth-largest by purchasing power parity). If Prime Minister Johnson’s claim to be a “one nation” Conservative is more than rhetoric, he must get to grips with the UK’s searing divisions.

Social inequality has received scant attention at Westminster during three years of endless Brexit. During the general election, it was used as a dog whistle and reduced to a call to class war – for state ownership, enlarged public borrowing and to justify an attack on wealthy people.

Whatever Nicola Surgeon’s Scottish Nationalists may say, most people in the UK do not want more referenda

Sitting as an Independent in the UK Parliament’s House of Lords disqualified this writer from having a vote in a general election. I do not get a vote because I have the privilege of being able to speak and vote on all legislation that comes before Parliament. But it doesn’t disqualify me from having a view about the kind of country we have become. Having previously contested seven parliamentary elections for the House of Commons, and represented some of Europe’s most deprived neighborhoods, I see elections as an opportunity to restore a sense of hope and renewal.Chesterton’s secret people finally, get to have their say – and to demonstrate anew that representative government is a far better way of resolving complex and contested issues than plebiscitary democracy.

Whatever Nicola Surgeon’s Scottish Nationalists may say, most people in the UK do not want more referenda. And, incidentally, most people in Scotland, in the general election, voted for parties opposed to independence, by the margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. British elections are the way to test ideas and to select people to serve you.

Representative democracy is far from being a perfect system of government but, having traveled in countries like North Korea and the former Soviet Union, and Asian dictatorships and theocracies, I know that the alternatives are infinitely worse. Not enough of our citizens realize how lucky they are.

What election candidate hasn’t been wearied by the response of the voter who says “I don’t vote for any of you. I can’t be bothered.” Women like Emily Davison, a passionate Christian and campaigner for social justice and universal suffrage, would surely be turning in her grave on hearing such lazy indifference to using the right to vote. Davison was trampled to death in 1913 after walking onto the racecourse at Epsom as a protest in favor of women being given the vote. Fifty thousand people lined the streets of London to pay their respects as her coffin was taken to its burial place.

‘Mind the gap’

Observing the 2019 general election from her celestial vantage point, I wonder what Emily Davison and those who mourned her would make of the country we have created and the challenges it now faces?

Consider at first the huge gaps in British society.

The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn may well have been loathed and feared by vast swathes of the electorate, but many were prepared to hold their noses and vote Labour believing that they would benefit from his proposals to renationalize British industries and from the investment of 400 billion pounds to address social deprivation and climate change.

Public spending would have risen to 45.1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), funded by higher taxation, but glittering with promises of free and universal internet services and the transfer of shares into worker-ownership funds. These were Labour’s attempt to upturn the Thatcher years of free-market capitalism tempered by Blair’s social market interventions. Their manifesto reflected their neo-Marxist belief that the state is superior to the private sector. Beyond their core supporters, their solutions gained little traction, but the need to address these inequalities did hit home.

When he was mayor of London, Boris Johnson was in charge of the capital’s public transport. He will know that at many subway stations, a warning is endlessly repeated to travelers to “mind the gap” as they leave the carriage to step onto the platform. Because we fail to mind the gap, too many people live in substandard housing or blighted communities and have fallen through the gap. Children go to school hungry; 800,000 children have no contact with their fathers as we indifferently fail to strengthen families.

A chart showing that, quantitatively, the problem of homelessness among children in the UK has gotten significantly worse in recent years
The chart above shows that in 2019, the current number of homeless children in the UK was at its highest level since 2006 (macpixxel for GIS).

Children born into fractured families are less likely to attain qualifications, more likely to experience unemployment, more likely to have low incomes, more likely be on income support and more likely to experience homelessness. They are also more likely to be caught offending and go to jail, to suffer from long-term emotional and psychological problems, to develop health problems, to divorce or dissolve their cohabiting unions. They are more likely to have children outside marriage or any partnership. And politicians are telling us gender identity is a more pressing political priority than closing the gaps that these vulnerable children are falling through.In addition to the phenomenal social consequences, according to the Marriage Foundation, 44 billion pounds is the cost to the public purse of family breakdown. The National Audit Office says that the cost of youth offending is over 11 billion pounds every year and that Britain has the highest rate of adolescent offending in Western Europe.

Britain has the highest level of self-harming among young people in Europe and every day, there are reports of good young people, many from poorer backgrounds, who have drifted into gangs and drug culture.

How will we break the cycles of poverty and dependency, which lead to more children being locked up in British jails than any other European county, without honestly addressing these fundamental questions?

The issue for Boris Johnson’s government is how to promote moral capitalism and to cultivate human values which promote social solidarity

The experience of Britain for those who fall through the gaps is food banks, urban decay and poverty. People who have fallen through the gap live in sharp-elbowed Britain, Devil-take-the-hindmost Britain and rip-off Britain.There are many other long-term challenges too. An aging population (65- to 84-year-olds are due to grow by 39 percent compared with a growth in the working population of 7 percent over the next 20 years), the attendant growth in social care, an overextended, insufficiently funded National Health Service, dilapidated school buildings, the challenge of artificial intelligence and robotics, the unbridled power and influence of social media, and many other questions will all have to be faced as well.

What society?

A picture of makeshift bedding of a homeless person at a London subway station
London, Jan.7, 2020: People walk past the bedding and belongings of rough sleepers outside Westminster subway station. The Greater London Authority warns of rising numbers of homeless in the city, with eastern European migrants being the fastest-growing group (source: dpa)

Government figures show that the gap between rich and poor in Britain – deep-seated and systemic differences – are wider now than 40 years ago. So, we need to mind the gap and work to close it, but also to beware the assumption that market economies are themselves the problem.The issue for Boris Johnson’s government is how to promote moral capitalism and to cultivate human values which promote social solidarity and the common good, and use the market to champion fairness and justice to close the yawning gaps. This is about fairness and justice. In the 1940s three men – the economist John Maynard Keynes, the social reformer William Beveridge and Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple – all warned against the dangers of running an economy which ignored the poor or unthinkingly widened the gap.

Keynes admonished the men of the City of London: “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” He added:

I would like to warn the gentlemen of the City and High Finance that if they do not listen in time to the voice of reason their days may be numbered. I speak to this great city as Jonah spoke to Nineveh. … I prophesy that unless they embrace wisdom in good time, the system upon which they live will work so very ill that they will be overwhelmed by irresistible things which they will hate much more than the mild and limited remedies offered them now.

The economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, author of “Small is Beautiful – a study of economics as if people mattered,” understood that wealth and prosperity bring with it duties, while John Ruskin (a prominent social thinker of the Victorian era) once rightly declared that “Above all, a nation cannot last as a money-making mob.”

The “social market” – moral capitalism – remains our best hope, but it needs inspired and ethical leadership and to be rooted in personal values that do not feed on greed, selfishness, and the survival of the fiercest. It needs to seek justice and fairness for the poorest.  When we lose sight of that basic truth, the gaps in society widen into chasms.

Global Britain?

And then, of course, is the issue which dominated the general election – and which has paralyzed Parliament for the past three years: Brexit. As we leave the European Union, a priority will be to test the central claim that departure will enable a hobbled, emasculated Britain to regain its place in the world by strengthening its relationships with the United States, the Commonwealth, and developing economies.

The EU and the UK must also guard against the elitism of out of touch ‘we know best’ leaders whose narrow agendas play into the hands of populism

This “truly global Britain” will need to become much more fleet of foot and nimble if such an outcome is to be achieved. Simultaneously, the UK has to reset its relationship with its European neighbors – and show the imagination to forge new mutually advantageous ways of living and working with one another. The sometimes torrid and points-scoring atmosphere of recent years must not be allowed to prevent such a reimagining.The EU will be the poorer without the UK – which has often been a bulwark against the over centralizing tendencies of Brussels. If the rancid toxicity of frayed relationships which have accompanied its departure can now be dampened down, a looser and more accommodating associate relationship – more in tune with the spirit of the Common Market and European Community rather than the unwanted hegemony of a United States of Europe – could be forged. That would work to the advantage of all its member states and those who wish to remain its friends.

Boris Johnson says his great political hero is Winston Churchill. Perhaps he will now make sense of Churchill’s remark that “We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not comprised.”

Both the EU and the UK must also guard against the elitism of out of touch “we know best” leaders whose narrow agendas play into the hands of populism. Failure to appreciate the impact of issues like mass migration will further endanger the stability and future cohesion of both unions.

A refugee camp in Lebanon
Syrian refugees walk between the tents of Al Marj camp. Lebanon, which hosts some 1.5 million Syrians, has urged world powers to step up efforts to return them home regardless of a political solution to the conflict in the war-wracked Syria (source: dpa)

Every day, 37,000 people join the 70.8 million refugees or displaced people in the world. It is dangerous and absurd to demonize as racists and xenophobes all who question Europe’s ability to absorb migrants. But to do nothing about those who have been uprooted by conflict, persecution and war is a folly too.If a new generation of leaders saw the migration crisis as an opportunity rather than a curse, we could do for the displaced what the Marshall  Plan and Bretton Woods agreements did for monetary order and the reconstruction of Europe in 1944/45. In today’s money, the U.S. provided nearly $100 billion to rebuild Western European economies and to lay the foundations for the prosperity enjoyed by millions of people today.

More challenges

But back to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his hero, Winston Churchill. Thanks to Churchill, Britain is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Will “global Britain” now roar again when it sees injustice or meekly worry about offending potential trading partners? Mr. Johnson should recall Churchill’s warning not to feed the crocodiles, “hoping it will eat you last.”

This warning is especially apt in the context of the UK’s relationship with Communist China. How vocal will the UK be in defense of “two systems, one country” in Hong Kong? Since 2012, when Xi Jinping came to power, its autonomy, rights and freedoms have been under systematic attack. Democracy, as in 1989, is in a fight to the finish with autocracy. Will that desperate fight matter less than the trade deals that the UK wants to do with China?

Boris Johnson’s vision for the UK seems ill-defined – is it merely pragmatism, populism and personal ambition?

And what about the contempt in China for the rule of law, justice and human rights: a country which incarcerates to “reeducate” a million Uighur Muslims; imprisons dissenters; silences the internet and media; persecuted religious adherents; and tries to silence those outside its borders who dare to criticize?And it’s not just China. The sale of our utilities, infrastructure, blue-chip companies and the sucking of wealth into one overheated corner of England poses a fundamental challenge to what makes us proud to be a nation. Boris Johnson’s vision for the UK seems ill-defined – is it merely pragmatism, populism and personal ambition? Does he envy the plutocrats of Russia, China and Turkey? Does he need to be the poor man’s Donald Trump? Or does he have it in him to be something better?

Nation-building

There is a clue to Boris Johnson’s thinking about nation-building in his biography of Winston Churchill, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. Today’s prime minister wrote in it:

Churchill decides from very early on that he will create a political position that is somehow above left and right, embodying the best points of both sides and thereby incarnating the will of the nation. He thinks of himself as a gigantic keystone in the arch, with all the lesser stones logically induced to support his position. He has a kind of semi-ideology to go with it — a leftish Toryism: imperialist, romantic, but on the side of the working man.

That’s a pretty good description of the general election campaign which Boris Johnson has just fought. His attempt to identify with the working man was captured when he joined a milkman on his early morning deliveries of milk and pushed a trolley with factory workers; when he drove a tractor to knock down “gridlock wall” – and when he dared to target seats in the north of England which had been Labour Party strongholds for decades, where he proposed his own “semi-ideology” as an antidote to the state socialism of Jeremy Corbyn and the bizarre campaign of the Liberal Democrats (whose leader, Jo Swinson, decided to promote gender ideology as a central tenet of the campaign).

Portrait of British writer, historian, philosopher and mathematician
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) wrote: “No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” A fierce polemicist, he coined “the dismal science” as a derogatory term for economics (source: dpa)

Although today’s United Kingdom is very different from Churchill’s postwar Britain, and light years away from Emily Davison’s Edwardian England, it is surprising how many of the old challenges have resurfaced and how remote the political classes have become from the people facing those challenges. Take the way in which we govern ourselves.Consider particularly that Brexit may “be done” but the ending of one union may simply be a curtain-raiser for the end of another. Scotland’s independence movement has plenty of wind in its sails (taking 45 percent of Scottish votes) and like its counterpart in Catalonia will never settle for anything less than a breaking of the union of which it is currently part.

Northern Ireland, too, with a Remain majority and a disgruntled unionist minority – jilted by Johnson’s Conservatives – does not look like a settled question any longer. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended the separation of the people of Northern Ireland into victors and vanquished. That delicate piece of statecraft has been blown to smithereens – with untold dangerous consequences.

Keeping Northern Ireland in the UK costs UK taxpayers over 9 billion pounds annually and Scotland’s deficit (excluding oil revenues) exceeded 14 billion pounds last year.

So, paradoxically, the economic arguments for staying in the UK should strengthen the case within Scotland and Ulster for preserving the Union. However, the asymmetric high-cost economic arguments are chipping away and gazumping traditional Tory support for maintaining it.

The popular UK television program ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ which looks at personal genealogy, could now be applied to the UK’s national identity crisis

Having broken one union, they may have developed an appetite for breaking things rather than mending them. It used to be called the Conservative and Unionist Party, but that nomenclature may have reached its shelf life.Conservative politicians can already be heard making a case for the economic advantages of cutting England and Wales free of huge financial subventions and in shedding jurisdictions that have little Conservative Party support. Losing Scotland and Northern Ireland would simply strengthen their political dominance at Westminster.

So, a governing party that historically had a clear British identity, rather than an English one, no longer has.

This potential Balkanization of the Disunited Kingdom is further complicated by the identity questions facing any number of ethnic and religious minorities who already have had difficulty in describing themselves as British.

The popular UK television program “Who Do You Think You Are?” which looks at personal genealogy, could now be applied to the UK’s national identity crisis. It reminds me of the story of the circus magician who, having broken the glass ball, then forgot the magic words to put it back together again.

If Boris Johnson’s government can rediscover the magic words – and look at the challenge as a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty – he could strengthen the wonderful diversity and differences represented in a country which knows that the alternative to learning to live together is not a happy one.

Constitutionally and economically, the general election leaves the UK facing enormous challenges. But what Scottish philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle once dubbed “the Condition of England Question” is about more than that. Prime Minister Johnson now has the opportunity to show us what he is made of – and that is the opportunity given by a parliamentary democracy, by “the secret people.” That is certainly worth a cheer.

Government indicate that Magnitsky sanctions may be applied against members of the Chinese Communist Party, who they say are behind atrocities against Uighurs and others – Link to BBC Report available until January 31st

.Uigurs 3

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-51097159/the-kazakh-muslims-detained-in-china-s-camps

Read this article by Baroness (Sayeda) Warsi

https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/house/house-magazine/109147/baroness-warsi-we-are-standing-yet-another

And Tom Tugendhat MP

https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2020/01/tom-tugendhat-huaweis-human-rights-record-needs-scrutiny-before-5g-contracts-are-signed.html

At the end of last year the UK Government said that it is preparing to activate a new post-Brexit sanctions regime targeting the assets of those responsible for human rights abuses. In a major development this week the Government indicated such sanctions would be applied against members of the Chinese Communist Party, who they say are behind atrocities against Uighurs and others.

Watch this important news report from BBC World (available on line until January 31st)

 https://wetransfer.com/downloads/6cc6c4dce8be66b70cb14da3b8dd719820200124135943/9621e8db4817b70252e5de2c6e33cdac20200124135943/2b7c9c

 

On Monday of this week I asked the Government about the plight of the Uighurs:

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, has the Minister, in those bilateral talks, challenged the Chinese Government’s campaign about what they call extremism? 

In Xinjiang, extremism is measured by the length of a beard or the desire to pray in a mosque not controlled by the Communist Party. As we have heard, it leads to incarceration, torture and re-education, and to what a United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination recently described Xinjiang as: a “no-right zone.” 

As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, should we not be desisting from business as usual with companies such as Huawei, Dahua and Hikvision; that is, funnelling British money into companies which are arms of a communist state responsible for egregious human rights violation, about which I wrote to the Minister on 11 December 2019?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, on the point about extremism, that has been a narrative which the Chinese have put forward. We all have challenges of extremism; there are ways and means of dealing with them. While I do not have a beard, I fear I would fall short on the second of those signs of extremism: praying in a non-communist-led mosque. That said, the noble Lord raises important issues. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, we are looking at introducing a sanctions regime. Our relationship with China is an important one, the strength of which allows us to raise serious human rights concerns, as I said earlier.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2020-01-20/debates/482438EA-2CEB-4AE4-A703-233111FEC8B0/ChinaUighurs

And on Thursday I pressed the Government further on what this may mean:

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, on Monday last the Minister, in answer to his noble friend Lady Warsi, gave a welcome response in the context of the Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom are incarcerated in Xinjiang in western China. He said that sanctions would be examined in that context. Can he give us some idea of when Magnitsky-style powers might be used in those circumstances? Would he consider holding a round-table discussion for Members of your Lordships’ House to talk through with us precisely how and when these very welcome powers will be used?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, I suggest that a suitable time might be once we have finalised the statutory instruments. On the general issue of the Uighurs, I have made my and the Government’s position very clear. As I said, once the designation and scope of the sanctions have been determined, that would be the appropriate time to have any further discussions.

SOUTH SUDAN: UN PEACEKEEPERS ‘ABANDON’ VILLAGE ONE HOUR BEFORE 32 CIVILIANS MASSACRED – “The scale of suffering and depth of grief is altogether overwhelming. Local people feel abandoned. They are indignant at the failure of so-called peacekeepers to provide adequate protection” Baroness Cox

Sudan

SOUTH SUDAN: UN PEACEKEEPERS ‘ABANDON’ VILLAGE ONE HOUR BEFORE 32 CIVILIANS MASSACRED

On Wednesday 22 January, just after 7am, nomadic Misseriya herders attacked the Dinka village of Kolom in the disputed Abyei region on the Sudan-South Sudan border.

The herders arrived on tuk-tuks and motorbikes, armed with assault rifles and two RPG-7s. They killed 32 villagers and abducted 15 children, aged between 2 and 12. They also burned 22 tukuls (homes) and destroyed the local church and clinic.  

Baroness Cox visited the village just hours after the attack. Many homes were still burning as she witnessed the digging of mass graves for the charred and mutilated bodies. 

Survivors shared with her the following testimonies: 

“Six of our elders spoke with the UN on Tuesday night to warn them about an imminent attack by the Arab militants. The next day, all six of the elders were killed. Why didn’t the UN protect us?”

 “We feared an attack at any moment, so we asked the local UN peacekeepers whether we should hide in the bush. But they told us not to worry and to stay in our homes. The UN left at 6:10am and the attack happened an hour later. The peacekeepers failed to protect us.”

 “There have been other similar attacks [by Misseriya herders against civilian farmers] but this massacre was on a far greater scale. It is horrific. We are heartbroken. They burn our homes to occupy our land. We have never known anything like it.” 

 “If the UN will not protect us, then we must defend ourselves. Perpetrators must be brought to justice, otherwise there is a risk of retaliation. We are full of fear that there will be more violence and more deaths.”

 

Baroness Cox said: 

 

“The scale of suffering and depth of grief is altogether overwhelming. Local people feel abandoned. They are indignant at the failure of so-called peacekeepers to provide adequate protection.”

 

In a statement, she added:

 

“Survivors told me that they wanted to flee to the bush for safety. Yet they were urged by the UN not to take this course of action. Will the UN confirm and explain this? And given that UN forces are mandated to protect civilians in Abyei, why did peacekeepers fail to provide 24-hour protection to the villagers when they knew Misseriya fighters were nearby and preparing an attack? 

 

“The UN must launch a full investigation into the massacre, sharing immediately any findings with the entire community – otherwise there will be no confidence.

 

“The crisis facing civilians here is already so complex and delicate. Unless the UN steps up its efforts to provide the security required – as a matter of urgency – the conflict will almost certainly spiral out of control.”

 

For more information contact Sam Mason, Office of Baroness Cox: masons@parliament.uk

  • Baroness (Caroline) Cox is an independent member of the UK House of Lords. 
  • As Founder and CEO of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), she was already in South Sudan when the attack took place.  
  • The village of Kolomis located in the disputed Abyei region on the Sudan-South Sudan border. Before the attack, Kolom had a population of 1,000 people, with 50 households.

 

 

The role of religious identity in Middle Eastern Politics الهوية الدينية و الصراع في الشرق الأوسط انطباعات عن زيارتنا للعراق، كانون الأول ديسمبر ٢٠١٩ مقال بقلم: Reflections on our visit to Iraq, December 2019:David  Alton and Wael Aleji 

The role of religious identity in Middle Eastern Politics

 

Reflections on our visit to Iraq, December 2019: The role of religious identity in Middle Eastern politics

 

By: Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool, Member of the House of Lords and Dr. Wael Aleji, Political Researcher, Association for Middle Eastern Conservatives

 

 

The Arab Spring sparked a wide debate within political and academic circles about the universalities of concepts like “equal citizenship” and “human rights” and whether they are compatible, or indeed incompatible, with religious and cultural norms in the Middle East. Despite the rise of Political Islam Movements, the Arab Spring unleashed a “process (or a wave) of questioning (or intellectual questioning or debate)” of issues that had long been considered “red lines”, such as racism, sectarianism and women’s rights in the Arab World.

Religion plays an important (or prominent) role in Middle Eastern Politics, it also has a direct impact on the lives of individuals in general. In some countries, religion or sect (denomination) play a vital role in determining someone’s place (or status) in politics or public life, as well as their right to work and education. Most (if not all) Middle Eastern countries make sure that their constitutions, laws and education curricula comply with the religious norms dominant in each society, this sometimes fuelled (or inflamed) sectarian divisions and conflict, like what is currently happening in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Lebanon, let alone the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict which has a prominent religious aspect to it.  

We had the pleasure of visiting Iraq last December 2019, we met with politicians, religious and community leaders from different religious and ethnic groups. And despite the disappointment, desperation and scepticism many of them expressed (which we share to some extent) we sensed a glimpse of hope in a better future for all, especially in Kurdistan.

Iraq and Syria represent good examples of the complex relationship between the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although the three religions share many spiritual, social and cultural roots, the relationship between them was marred by competition, conflict and resentment during different periods in history. As a result, different ethnic and religious groups developed their own narratives of victimhood.  

  The Arab-Israeli conflict caused the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs, tens of thousands of them still live in neighbouring countries as refugees. Sectarian politics and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria caused the death and displacement of millions of Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis, Shiaas, Christians, Yazidis and many other ethnic and religious groups. As for Middle Eastern Jews, only 30.000 still live in the region (outside Israel): 17.000 in Turkey and 8000 in Iran.   

 

During our time in Iraq, we visited the site of Simele massacre which took the lives of nearly 5000 Iraqi Assyrians at the hands of the Iraqi army in 1933. It is still possible to see the remains of their bones (skeletons) at that neglected hill just outside the city of Duhok (the hill of martyrs as locals call it). It was the Simele massacre what inspired the Polish Lawyer Raphael Lemkin to coin the term “genocide”. It comes from the Greek word “genos” (race) and the Latin word “cide” (killing). Later, Raphael Lemkin lost many members of his own family during the holocaust.

Unfortunately, Simele massacre was not the last in Iraq. During Saddam Hussein, millions of Shiaa Arabs, Sunni Kurds and Assyrian Christians suffered widespread military operations which caused the displacement of millions and the death of tens of thousands in Ahwar, Halbja and Barwar. And following the fall of Saddam, revenge, Iranian influence and sectarian politics marginalised and discriminated against the Sunni Arabs, this contributed to the emergence of extremist organisations such as Qaeda and ISIS which caused death and havoc that affected everybody.

In Syria (under the rule of Assad family since 1970), where a sectarian regime (supported by Iran and Russia) caused the death of nearly half a million and the displacement of approximately 10 million Syrians, the vast majority of them are Sunni Muslims.

 

At Bardarash refugee camp in the northern part of Nineveh Plain, we met with many Syrian Kurdish refugees where were forced to flee following the latest Turkish military operation in NE Syria. We listened to stories about random bombardment, the use of white phosphorus and the grave human rights abuses committed by Islamist Military groups loyal to Turkey.

 

Almost every person (Iraqis and Syrians) we met with during our visit stressed the destructive role Iran is playing, and Turkey to a lesser extent, in fuelling sectarian sentiments and creating a state of polarisation and division to weaken Arab societies and further their own geopolitical interests.

 

Different interpretations of the role of religion in public life play an influential role in politics in the Middle East, this complicates the ongoing conflicts in the region. This is mostly evident in the attempts of Iran and Turkey to use their religious, political, financial and military influence to create political and military groups loyal to them and their interests. These strategies caused a sharp increase in sectarian violence especially after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the start of the Arab Spring in 2011.  Although the vast majority of Arabs, Turks and Iranians believe in Islam, many Iranian and Turkish political circles still remember (or haven’t forgotten) the roles the Arabs played in the collapse of the Persian Empire in the 7th century and the end of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. From Iraq to Libya and from Syria to Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, Iran and Turkey compete not only to further their influence and interests in the Arab World, but also on the leadership of the Muslim World; and Israel is monitoring both countries very closely.

 

This complex situation presents serious and existential challenges to the political, religious and social elites in the Arab World. These elites should respond immediately by launching radical reforms to combat sectarianism and corruption, to reform laws and education systems to promote human rights, women rights and equal citizenship, if they really want to stop this rapid deterioration which is threatening peace and stability not only in the Arab World but in the entire world too.   

 

In a region that had long suffered from dictatorship, corruption, sectarianism and violence, democratic reforms may take a long time. But this remains the only hope for this complex region which witnessed the birth of the three Abrahamic religions.   

 

 

  

الهوية الدينية و الصراع في الشرق الأوسط

انطباعات عن زيارتنا للعراق، كانون الأول ديسمبر ٢٠١٩

مقال بقلم:

اللورد ديفيد ألتون، عضو مجلس اللوردات البريطاني و أستاذ في جامعة ليفربول

د. وائل العجي، باحث سياسي و سكرتير رابطة المحافظين الشرق أوسطيين

 

أشعلت ثورات الربيع العربي جدلاً واسعاً في الأوساط الأكاديمية حول عالمية مفهومي المواطنة المتساوية و حقوق الإنسان و مدى توافقهما أو تعارضهما مع القيم الثقافية و الدينية في المنطقة العربية. و رغم أن ثورات الربيع العربي قد ترافقت مع صعود حركات الإسلام السياسي، لكنها أيضاً أطلقت العنان لتساؤلات حول قضايا كانت تعتبر خطوطاً حمراء حتى عهد قريب مثل استشراء الطائفية و العنصرية و حقوق النساء في العالم العربي.

يلعب الدين دوراً محورياً في سياسات الشرق الأوسط كما يؤثر تأثيراً مباشراً في حياة الأفراد بشكل عام، و في بعض البلدان يلعب الانتماء الديني أو الطائفي دوراً كبيراً في تحديد دور الأفراد في الحياة السياسية و العامة و حقوقهم و فرصهم في التعليم و العمل. تحرص معظم دول الشرق الأوسط على مواءمة دساتيرها و منظوماتها القانونية و مناهجها التعليمية مع القيم الدينية المهيمنة في كل مجتمع وهذا أدى في بعض الأحيان إلى تفاقم الشروخ و الصراعات الطائفية كما هو حاصل حالياً في سوريا و العراق و إيران و اليمن و لبنان ناهيك عن الصراع العربي الإسرائيلي الذي تلعب الهوية الدينية دوراً بارزاً فيه.

لقد كان لنا شرف زيارة العراق في شهر كانون الأول ديسمبر الماضي حيث التقينا بمسؤولين و قادة مجتمع و رجال دين من طوائف و أعراق مختلفة. و رغم نبرة الحذر و الأسى و الإحباط التي اعترت أحاديث معظم من التقيناهم و التي تتماشى مع خلاصة رأينا في هذا المقال، فقد لاحظنا بعض الأمل بمستقبل أفضل للجميع و خاصة في إقليم كردستان.

يمثل العراق و سوريا مثالين حيين عن العلاقة المعقدة بين الأديان الابراهيمية الثلاث: اليهودية و المسيحية و الإسلام. و رغم أن هناك الكثير من المشتركات الروحية و الاجتماعية و الثقافية بين هذه الأديان فإن العلاقة بين بعضها البعض قد شابها الكثير من المنافسة و المرارة و الصراع في فترات تاريخية مختلفة، أدت هذه العلاقة الجدلية إلى نشوء خطاب مظلومية خاص بكل جماعة دينية أو طائفية أو عرقية أحياناً.

لقد أدى الصراع العربي الإسرائيلي إلى مقتل عشرات الآلاف من الفلسطينيين و تهجير مئات الآلاف، مازال يعيش الكثير منهم كلاجئين في الدول المجاورة. كما أدت السياسات الطائفية و الصراعات الدائرة منذ سنين في كل من العراق و سوريا إلى مقتل و تهجير الملايين من العرب و الكرد، سنة و شيعة، إضافة إلى المسيحيين و الإيزيديين و مجموعات دينية و عرقية أخرى. أما بالنسبة لليهود فلم يبق منهم سوى ٣٠٠٠٠ موزعين على دول مختلفة في المنطقة (خارج اسرائيل) يعيش ١٧٠٠٠ منهم في تركيا و ٨٠٠٠ في إيران.

خلال زيارتنا الأخيرة للعراق ذهبنا إلى موقع مذبحة سيميل التي ذهب ضحيتها حوالي خمسة آلاف من المدنيين الآشوريين على يد الجيش العراقي في عام ١٩٣٣، مازال ممكناً رؤية بقايا عظامهم تبرز من خلال تراب تلك التلة المهملة في مدينة دهوك. لقد كانت مذبحة سيميل هي التي ألهمت المحامي البولندي رافائيل ليمكين مصطلح “الجينوسايد” أو الإبادة. يتألف المصطلح من كلمتين: جينوس و تعني عرق باليونانية و سايد و تعني قتل باللاتينية. لاحقاً، فقد رافائيل ليمكين عدداً من أفراد عائلته خلال جرائم الإبادة التي ارتكبها النازيون. للأسف الشديد فإن مذبحة سيميل لم تكن الأخيرة في العراق، ففي عهد صدام حسين تعرض الملايين من العرب الشيعة و الأكراد السنة و الآشوريون لعمليات وحشية أدت إلى تهجير و مقتل الآلاف في مناطق الأهوار و حلبجة و بروار و غيرها. في المقابل، أدت الروح الطائفية الانتقامية التي أعقبت سقوط صدام حسين، مدفوعة بالسياسات و التدخلات الإيرانية، إلى تهميش و قهر العرب السنة مما أسهم في ظهور تنظيمات القاعدة و داعش التي تسببت بتهجير و مقتل الملايين من العراقيين من مختلف الطوائف و الأعراق و تدمير حواضرهم. أما في سوريا، حيث يحكم البلاد منذ عام ١٩٧٠ نظام طائفي مدعوم من إيران، فقد تسببت جرائم النظام و حلفائه، إضافة إلى التنظيمات المتطرفة، في  قتل ما يقرب من نصف مليون  و تشريد حوالي عشرة ملايين سوري، غالبيتهم الساحقة من المسلمين السنة.

في مخيم بردراش في شمال سهل نينوى التقينا بالعشرات من اللاجئين السوريين الكورد الذين تم تهجيرهم بعد العملية العسكرية التركية الأخيرة في شمال شرق سوريا، استمعنا إلى شهاداتهم عن القصف العشوائي و استعمال الفوسفور الأبيض و الانتهاكات الجسيمة التي ارتكبتها فصائل عسكرية إسلامية موالية لتركيا.

لقد أجمع كل من تحدثنا معهم من عراقيين و سوريين على الدور السلبي الذي تلعبه إيران، و بدرجة أقل تركيا، في تسعير المشاعر الطائفية و استغلال ذلك في إضعاف و تفكيك مجتمعات المنطقة العربية و خلق حالة استقطاب تخدم المصالح الجيوسياسية لكلتا الدولتين.

إن التأويلات المختلفة لدور الدين في الحياة العامة تلعب أدواراً بارزة في سياسات الشرق الأوسط مما يؤثر في سير الصراعات الدائرة حالياً. هذا واضح تماماً في محاولات إيران و تركيا لتوظيف نفوذهما الديني و السياسي و الاقتصادي و العسكري لإنشاء جماعات سياسية و عسكرية موالية لهما تعمل لتعزيز نفوذهما في المنطقة العربية. أدت هذه التدخلات إلى تصاعد حدة العنف الطائفي خاصة بعد سقوط نظام صدام حسين في ٢٠٠٣ و أيضاً عقب اندلاع ثورات الربيع العربي في ٢٠١١. رغم أن الغالبية الساحقة من العرب و الإيرانيين و الأتراك تدين بالإسلام، فإن شرائح واسعة من الإيرانيين و الأتراك ما زالت لم تغفر للعرب إسقاطهم للامبراطورية الفارسية في القرن السابع الميلادي و مشاركتهم مع الحلفاء في إسقاط الإمبراطورية العثمانية في بدايات القرن العشرين.

من العراق إلى ليبيا و من سوريا إلى اليمن، مروراً بلبنان و فلسطين، تتنافس إيران و تركيا على تقاسم العالم العربي كما تتنافسان في الوقت نفسه على زعامة العالم الإسلامي بينما اسرائيل تراقب المشهد بدقة.

هذا المشهد العربي المعقد و الخطير يطرح تحديات مصيرية جدية ينبغي على النخب السياسية و الاجتماعية و الدينية العربية أن تتصدى لها بشكل عاجل عبر إطلاق عمليات مراجعة شاملة و نقد ذاتي و إصلاحات جذرية في قطاعات التعليم و الإعلام و تطوير القوانين و مكافحة الطائفية و الفساد و تعزيز ثقافة المواطنة و حقوق الإنسان و تمكين النساء أملأ بوقف هذا التدهور السريع الذي يهدد الاستقرار ليس في المنطقة العربية و حسب بل و العالم بأسره.

في منطقة عانت كثيراً من الاستبداد و الطائفية و العنف فإن خطط وبرامج الإصلاح الديمقراطي قد تأخذ وقتاً طويلاً، و لكن هذا يبق الأمل الوحيد في مستقبل أفضل لهذه المنطقة المضطربة من العالم.

Nigerians warn Parliamentarians that President Buhari is failing to curb a Genocide in the making and risks civil war and the breakup of the country if he fails to combat ISIS, Fulani and Boko Haram – and it’s fake news that this horrific violence is down to global warming rather than a murderous ideology.

Nigerians warn Parliamentarians that President Buhari is failing to curb a Genocide in the making and risks civil war and the breakup of the country if he fails to combat ISIS, Fulani and Boko Haram – and it’s fake news that this horrific violence is down to global warming rather than a murderous ideology.

Buhari
Three stories published today illustrate why the disingenuous narrative that Nigeria’s violence is to be explained by global warming, rather than ideology, is perilously close to becoming fake news propaganda.

leah sharibu

Global warming didn’t abduct these four seminarians in Kaduna; global warming didn’t abduct Pastor Lawan Andimi;  global warming didn’t close the Du Merci orphanage in Kano – and global warming wasn’t responsible for the abduction of Leah Sharibu or the beheading of 11 Nigerian Christians on Christmas Day.  

islamic-state-execution-01

The merging of Boko Haram, Fulani militias, and Nigerian’s ISIS – who between them have already taken thousands of lives – endangers the future cohesion of Nigeria and creates the conditions for genocide.

 

Nigerians whom I met this week said that there is a real danger of this becoming a civil war – and when Nigeria’s President Buhari comes to London next week he should be warned that unless he protects pluralism and diversity he risks turning the wonderful country of Nigeria into another Sudan – whose savage civil war took two million lives and led to the partition and break-up of the country.

 

 

Nigerian orphanage

Ministerial Reply on Police Brutality in Hong Kong and Response to Cross Party Support for an Independent Investigation ; Minister expresses concern at China’s imprisonment of Pastor Wang Yi; and Open Doors Launch Their World Watch List For 2020. House Magazine article on Hong Kong. Press Reports New Targeting of Christians In China

Hong Kong MOD replyHouse Magazine Hong Kong the Frontline of Freedom Jan 14 2020

Today in Parliament – Cross Party Support for an Independent Investigation into Police Brutality in Hong Kong; Minister expresses concern at China’s imprisonment of Pastor Wang Yi; and Open Doors Launch Their World Watch List For 2020.

Hong Kong
15 January 2020

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the situation in Hong Kong, including the recent elections, continuing protests, allegations of police brutality and the arrest of media and humanitarian workers.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare that I travelled to Hong Kong to monitor the recent elections as a guest of Stand With Hong Kong and Hong Kong Watch, of which I am a patron.

My Lords, we remain concerned at the situation in Hong Kong. The Foreign Secretary welcomed the peaceful conduct of local elections, and we continue to urge all sides to take the opportunity to find a way through with meaningful political dialogue. It is essential that protests are conducted peacefully and lawfully, and that the authorities respond proportionately. We expect arrests and judicial processes to be both fair and transparent, and we have consistently called for a robust, credible and, indeed, independent investigation.

My Lords, in welcoming that reply from the Minister, perhaps I might ask how the Government will respond to the evidence given to Parliament by Dr Darren Mann about the police arrest and zip-wiring of medics, which he said amounted to

“grave breaches of international norms and human rights law.”

He described disproportionate brutality, including the shooting of rubber bullets at close range and the use of tear gas in confined areas. Does the Minister agree that this is in contravention of the United Nations guidelines on the use of less-lethal weapons and breaks international law? Does not the arrest of a young woman outside our own consulate at the weekend mean that it is time for us to demand an independent inquiry, as the Minister said, and for us to take the lead in establishing it and explore the use of Magnitsky-type powers to bring the perpetrators to justice?

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s final point, as he will be aware, bringing forward Magnitsky-style powers through a sanctions policy is something we are looking at proactively at the Foreign Office, and we will be coming forward with recommendations in the near future. He raises important issues, and we pay tribute to his work in Hong Kong and in consistently raising this issue. We take the allegations set out by Dr Mann’s description of the arrest of medical personnel at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University very seriously. As we have said time and again, we also expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by their own laws and international obligations.

As I said in my original Answer, we believe that an independent inquiry into events in Hong Kong is a critical step, and the UK has repeatedly called for such an independent inquiry to take place. The noble Lord mentioned a recent arrest outside the British consulate-general. I assure the noble Lord that the UK fully supports the right to peaceful and lawful protest. Indeed, as he will know, a static protest has been in place outside the British consulate-general in Hong Kong for a number of months now.

Is my noble friend aware of the reports of police secreting themselves in ambulances, thereby putting at risk the neutrality of the medical services?

My Lords, there are many reports around the recent situation and unrest in Hong Kong. My noble friend raises one particular issue. Suffice it to say that we take note of any such news stories and ensure that there is an evidence base in support of them. There will be protests and injuries. I assure my noble friend that we continue to implore the Hong Kong authorities to act to support those attending to those injured through such protests to give the right medical attention as soon as possible.

My Lords, having just returned from the gas attacks in Hong Kong as a visitor and guest of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, I feel that it is really important that the Government understand and represent fairly the issues for the academic community. I talked extensively to the vice-chancellor of the university, who is massively torn between his need to protect his students and obeying what is required by law. Any noise and representation that the Government can make is therefore of immense importance, given the loneliness and difficulties they face at present.

I assure the noble Lord that we take very seriously our responsibilities in raising the issues around the protests and the response to those protests. We raise issues consistently both with the Hong Kong authorities and indeed with Chinese counterparts. The noble Lord said he has just returned from a visit. It is important to get a real insight into issues on the ground and, if the noble Lord is willing, I will seek to sit down with him to discuss his views and insights in more detail.

My Lords, having heard what the doctor said about how medical personnel in Hong Kong deal with the injured—be they protesters, policemen, journalists or bystanders—it is surely intolerable that their work should be interfered with in any way. Given that the Sino-British agreement is registered internationally, should we not be much more assertive in protecting humanitarian law?

I agree with the noble Lord, and think that it is right, whether we are talking about Hong Kong or anywhere else in the world, that medical professionals, when they are seeking to assist those injured, whatever the reason for the injury, are given unfettered access. As I have said on a number of occasions from the Dispatch Box, we are absolutely committed to the agreement. Indeed, as the noble Lord may be aware, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary released a statement on the 35th anniversary of the joint declaration in which he said:

“This agreement between the UK and China made clear that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms would remain unchanged for 50 years. The undertakings made by China, including the right to freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and the rule of law, are essential to Hong Kong’s prosperity and way of life.”

We stand by that.

Is there anything further that Her Majesty’s Government can do in this very difficult situation—perhaps in diplomatic terms, at the UN or wherever—to hold the behaviour of the Chinese up to the scrutiny of the whole world? It is not only the awful thing in Hong Kong, which the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has just spoken of, but also the Uighurs in the province of Xinjiang. It is shocking and should be exposed to the whole world.

My noble friend raises some very important points. I assure him that that we take seriously our responsibilities to raise the issues both of Hong Kong and of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. As the UK’s Human Rights Minister I have taken this forward and, during our formal statements at the Human Rights Council, I have directly raised the issue of the Uighur community, as well other persecuted minorities in China.

 

============================================

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL194):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the arrest of medics treating protestors injured in the recent demonstrations in Hong Kong, what assessment they have made of the implications for international (1) humanitarian norms, and (2) human rights law, of any such detentions. (HL194)

Tabled on: 08 January 2020

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

​We take any allegations relating to the arrest of medics treating protesters at demonstrations in Hong Kong extremely seriously. We expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by international humanitarian norms and laws. We continue to be concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and have called consistently for a robust, independent inquiry into recent events as a step towards resolution of the situation. The only way to resolve this impasse is through meaningful and effective political dialogue. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the authorities in Beijing.

Date and time of answer: 15 Jan 2020 at 14:35.

=============================================

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL198):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made as to whether the trial of Pastor Wang Yi met standards of impartiality for a fair trial; whether they intend to raise his case with the government of China; and what assessment they have made of the suppression of the open practice of religious beliefs. (HL198)

Tabled on: 08 January 2020

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We have raised our concerns about the closure of churches in China, including the Early Rain Covenant Church which Pastor Wang Yi founded, directly with the Chinese authorities. On 2 January, I issued a tweet expressing serious concerns about the recent sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi to nine years in prison following a secret trial and called on China to uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by China’s constitution and international law. More broadly, we remain deeply concerned about the persecution of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and others on the grounds of their religion or belief in China. The freedom to practise, change or share ones faith or belief without discrimination or violent opposition is a human right that all people should enjoy.

Date and time of answer: 15 Jan 2020 at 14:55.

==============================================

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL197):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the nine-year prison sentence given in China to Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church, the removal of his political rights for three years, and the confiscation of his personal assets. (HL197)

Tabled on: 08 January 2020

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We have raised our concerns about the closure of churches in China, including the Early Rain Covenant Church which Pastor Wang Yi founded, directly with the Chinese authorities. On 2 January, I issued a tweet expressing serious concerns about the recent sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi to nine years in prison following a secret trial and called on China to uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by China’s constitution and international law. More broadly, we remain deeply concerned about the persecution of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and others on the grounds of their religion or belief in China. The freedom to practise, change or share ones faith or belief without discrimination or violent opposition is a human right that all people should enjoy. ​

Date and time of answer: 15 Jan 2020 at 14:36.

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World Watch List Executive Summary of countries which persecute or discriminate

World Watch List

Unregistered Chinese Christians

https://www.hongkongwatch.org/all-posts/2020/1/10/senior-parliamentarians-relaunch-all-party-parliamentary-group-on-hong-kong

Hong Kong: Britain’s Minister for Human Rights calls for Hong Kong to abide by international humanitarian law, and calls for independent inquiry and Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, expresses “serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjang” about “widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at minorities.”

Britain’s Minister for Human Rights calls for Hong Kong to abide by international humanitarian law, and calls for independent inquiry

Britain’s Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for human rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, has told Parliament that the United Kingdom takes “allegations of the mistreatment of medical personnel in Hong Kong extremely seriously”.

Responding to a Written Question from Hong Kong Watch Patron Lord Alton of Liverpool, Lord Ahmad said: “We expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by international humanitarian laws and practices. It is vital that those who are injured are able to receive appropriate medical treatment.”

The questions were tabled the day after Lord Alton hosted a briefing in Parliament by Dr Darren Mann, a British surgeon who has worked in Hong Kong for 25 years and who first brought the arrest and mistreatment of medical professionals in Hong Kong to international attention in an article in The Lancet in November.

In response to another question from Lord Alton, the Minister said that the United Kingdom “made clear” during the crisis at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University in November that “it was vital that those who were injured were able to receive appropriate medical treatment, and that safe passage was provided to those who wished to leave the area. We take the allegations set out by Dr Mann relating to the arrest of medical personnel at Hong Kong Polytechnic University extremely seriously. We expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by international humanitarian laws and practices. We have called consistently for a robust, independent inquiry into recent events.”

Lord Ahmad added that: “The Foreign Secretary summoned the Chinese Ambassador on 19 November and set out his concerns about the situation in Hong Kong. The leadership in China and Hong Kong is in no doubt about the strength of UK concern over the current situation, and our commitment to seeing the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration upheld. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the authorities in Beijing.”

Co-founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch Benedict Rogers said: “We welcome the Minister’s reassurances that the United Kingdom is taking these reports extremely seriously. We urge the British government to go further and to support calls for an international inquiry if a domestic inquiry is not possible within Hong Kong and to impose targeted Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible for serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian norms. We also urge the Prime Minister himself to now speak out for Hong Kong’s freedoms, human rights and autonomy and to lead the formation of an international contact group of like-minded countries to co-ordinate a worldwide response to the crisis in Hong Kong.”

January 8, 2020

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the treatment of medical professionals in Hong Kong; and what representations they intend to make to the government of China about such treatment. (HL4)

Tabled on: 19 December 2019

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We take allegations of the mistreatment of medical personnel in Hong Kong extremely seriously. We expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by international humanitarian laws and practices. It is vital that those who are injured are able to receive appropriate medical treatment.

The Foreign Secretary summoned the Chinese Ambassador on 19 November and set out his concerns about the situation in Hong Kong. The leadership in China and Hong Kong is in no doubt about the strength of UK concern over the current situation, and our commitment to seeing the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration upheld. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the authorities in Beijing.

Date and time of answer: 07 Jan 2020 at 15:55.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL3):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the description of the arrests of medical personnel during a confrontation at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University on 17 November, by Dr Darren Mann, and his call for an international inquiry into breaches of international humanitarian norms and human rights law. (HL3)

Tabled on: 19 December 2019

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The UK was seriously concerned by the escalation in violence between protesters and the authorities at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University. At the time, we made clear it was vital that those who were injured were able to receive appropriate medical treatment, and that safe passage was provided to those who wished to leave the area. We take the allegations set out by Dr Mann relating to the arrest of medical personnel at Hong Kong Polytechnic University extremely seriously. We expect the Hong Kong authorities to abide by international humanitarian laws and practices. We have called consistently for a robust, independent inquiry into recent events.

Date and time of answer: 07 Jan 2020 at 15:45.

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  Speech in the Queen’s Speech Debate 

7.31 pm November 7th 2020

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords…. I should declare at the outset that ​I am a patron of Hong Kong Watch and visited Hong Kong in November to monitor the election and that last month I visited Kurdistan and northern Iraq.

Because of time constraints, I have given the Minister notice of several questions relating to Hong Kong, including evidence given in the House by Dr Darren Mann about attacks on and the arrest of medics there, which he says “amount to grave breaches of international humanitarian norms and human rights law”,  the potential use of Magnitsky powers and a request for an assessment of the post-election situation in Hong Kong.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con) replied saying that she will respond to these questions in writing.

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In a letter to Tom Tugendhat MP, who has served as Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, expresses “serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjang” about “widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at minorities.”

https://hk.news.appledaily.com/local/realtime/article/20200107/60460122

House Magazine Hong Kong the Frontline of Freedom Jan 14 2020

Iraq in grave danger of becoming a battle ground for a tit-for-tat undeclared war waged by proxies of Iran. This war by any other name will lead to more cruelty, more misery, and more refugees throughout the region. Reactivated ISIS cells will exploit the opportunity and vulnerable minorities will be gravely at risk. January 7th Interventions in Parliament

 

 

Statement in the House of Lords on Iran – January 7th 2020.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, will the Minister turn his attention for a moment to northern Iraq and Kurdistan, which I visited last month? In particular, is he aware that reactivated ISIS cells killed more than 30 Peshmerga soldiers during the course of December and that they were simultaneously fighting Iranian-backed proxies—Shabak groups armed by Iran—in Nineveh? Given that the vulnerable minorities they have been protecting, including people such as the Yazidis, are facing further genocide, can the Minister say what we can do to work with the Kurdish regional Government to give them reasonable protection and to do what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said earlier: bring to justice those responsible for these appalling crimes against humanity and genocide, who believe that they can continue to act in the way they have done with impunity because we are incapable of upholding international law, which is why we descend into cycles of assassination and revenge?

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

 

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for keeping me updated on various issues during the Christmas break. I expected nothing less in terms of the questions he asked, and I look forward to our more detailed sit-down to discuss some of the issues he has raised.

 

The noble Lord is quite right to raise the important issue of the situation in northern Syria. He also mentioned the KRI region. First, I will reflect Foreign Office advice. When it comes to the KRI, we are saying that non-essential travel should not be taken up, but, if travel is essential, stability continues to prevail in the KRI and we continue to offer support.

 

The noble Lord knows the importance of bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Therefore, during conversations between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Iraqi Prime Minister, we emphasised again that, while we respect the Iraqi Parliament’s decision, we want to ensure both that there is no withdrawal of either US or UK troops, as limited as UK troop numbers are, and that, in a wider respect, the positive impact on the ground of the measures we have taken—in beginning to see accountability and justice for the victims of crimes, particularly those committed by Daesh—is not lost because of these particular actions. I assure noble Lords that we are doing all we can through all necessary channels to keep that very much on the table.

lesson.

 

 

Speech in the Queen’s Speech Debate 

 

 

7.31 pm: January 7th 2020

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, on her maiden speech. I should declare at the outset that ​I am a patron of Hong Kong Watch and visited Hong Kong in November to monitor the election and that last month I visited Kurdistan and northern Iraq.

 

Because of time constraints, I have given the Minister notice of several questions relating to Hong Kong, including evidence given in the House by Dr Darren Mann about attacks on and the arrest of medics there, which he says

 

“amount to grave breaches of international humanitarian norms and human rights law”,

 

the potential use of Magnitsky powers and a request for an assessment of the post-election situation in Hong Kong.

 

In the light of events in Iraq, I will use my few minutes mainly to speak about the role of Iran and the increasing belligerence and confidence of new insurgent militias. For 40 years, Iran has been responsible for proxy terrorism, hostage taking and egregious violations of human rights. Thousands of Iranians have long since seen through this theocratic terror state and have been publicly protesting against its leaders, while in Iraq more than 400 people have been killed while campaigning for a more open and democratic and less corrupt Government no longer manipulated by Iran.

 

Many people I met told me that Iranian Shia proxies and the re-emergent sleeping ISIS cells with Sunni affiliations will ruthlessly oppose any change and endanger the remarkable achievements of the Kurdish Regional Government, who have valiantly protected both Kurds and the minorities. In the north of Iraq, especially in Irbil, the KRG, whose parliamentary Speaker and Deputy Speaker I met, have created a glimpse of what a peaceful Iraq and a wider region respectful of difference and diversity could look like.

 

 I visited some of the multi-ethnic villages  on the Nineveh plain. 

 

Iran has already mobilised Shabak proxies, endangering the reconstruction of ancient Yazidi and Christian settlements such as Bartella, and is trying to create a destabilising Iranian canton strategically wedged between Kurdistan and Mosul. The parallel re-emergence of ISIS in northern Iraq’s Hamrin and Qara Chokh mountains led, in December, to the deaths or injury of more than 30 brave Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers, while its ISIS affiliate in Nigeria beheaded 11 Christians in retaliation for the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

 

The signal failure of the international community to bring genocidaires such as Baghdadi or men such as Qasem Soleimani to justice or to challenge countries that arm proxies or bomb civilians creates a culture of impunity, eroding and degrading a rules-based international order.

 

 I saw the consequences of impunity at Bardarash refugee camp where, in increasingly cold weather, tents and makeshift shelters in a desolate location have replaced homes bombed by Turkish—that is, NATO—planes. 

 

Thousands of people who, until weeks before, had successfully supported themselves and their children, now queue up for rations, handouts and medical help. In Bardarash, a mother of four told me that, “As they dropped their bombs and chemicals many children were burnt. Some were killed. I just want to go home with my children, but everything was destroyed, and we would be slaughtered.”

 

When did it become acceptable to break the Geneva conventions, and potentially the Chemical Weapons Convention, illegally occupy territory, ethnically cleanse ​a population and face no investigation, little censure, no Security Council resolution and no consequences? What outrage must a NATO country commit before we declare it to be unfit for membership let alone seek its referral to the International Criminal Court?

 

If the rule of law is a casualty of international impotence, consider the phenomenal human consequences. Worldwide. a staggering 70 million people have been forcibly displaced, with 37,000 people forced to flee their homes every single day, while 17 years is the average length of time spent in a camp by a refugee. 

 

These camps are the perfect recruiting grounds for the exploitation of despair, hopelessness and betrayal. Bardarash is a symbol of the breakdown of global leadership.

 

In asking the Minister how we intend to fill this vacuum, I would also welcome her response to questions I have sent her about memorialising the Simele genocide site and the request of Baba Sheikh, the spiritual leader of the Yazidis, whom I met, concerning the 3,000 still-missing Yazidi women. 

 

Genocide survivors from Mosul and Sinjar told me that they had never been approached by British or international agencies to give their evidence. How will trials ever take place if we fail systematically to collect witness statements?

 

There can be no lasting peace and reconciliation without justice and the rule of law, which is why a central plank of our approach must be the creation of a regional court to try those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

 

 Until we do, I echo the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, when I say that lawless militias and proxies will go on behaving with impunity and retaliatory assassinations and killings will be the order of the day, with unpredictable consequences for people who have already experienced appalling suffering and persecution.

 

 

 7.37 pm

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DURING MY VISIT, LAST MONTH,  TO NORTHERN IRAQ AND KURDISTAN, I REPEATEDLY HEARD WARNINGS ABOUT THE INCREASED BELLIGERENCE   AND CONFIDENCE OF NEW INSURGENT MILITIAS – SOME QUARTER MASTERED BY IRAN – PAVING THE WAY FOR FURTHER CONFLICT IN IRAQ AND SYRIA.

 

Many I met  expressed their fears that a combination of Iranian Shia militias and the re-emergence of sleeping ISIS cells – with its Sunni affiliations –  would endanger the achievements of the Kurdish Regional Government in protecting both Kurds and the minorities, including Yazidis and Christians – who are in grave danger if Iraq once again becomes the chosen battlefield  – this time, for a tit-for-tat hybrid war waged by proxies.

Following Soleimani’s killing in Iraq – from which he was banned under UN Security Council resolutions –  the consequences could be full scale war by accident or, more likely, a cycle of retaliatory attacks which amount to war  by any other name.

The danger of escalation  and the recent sight of joint naval exercises involving Iran, China, and Russia, is hardly encouraging; while Israel feels increasingly at risk  from Iranian backed Hezbollah rocket attacks from Lebanon.

Iran thrives and capitalises on any differences that open up between the US and  its European allies. It exploits grievances and uses disaffection as a major recruiting tools.

It also uses hostages. Where this conflict leaves Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and 15 British and American prisoners in Iran is anybody’s guess.

Doubtless, it will try and seize other hostages and will be planning cyber-attacks like that carried out on our parliamentary estate in 2017.

Soleimani’s death last week follows the killing of hundreds of US service personnel. His Quds force have been engaged in a war against the US for decades and have wantonly destabilised the region.

Since September 2018, Iran Backed Groups of  militants have fired over 30 rockets at U.S. facilities in Iraq, including the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, consulate in Basra, and military training facilities in Taji, Mosul, and Nineveh.

Congress and the White House have repeatedly warned that this would not be tolerated forever.

Article 51 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter clearly permits a country, in this case America, to act in self defence once attacked – and it has been repeatedly attacked in Iraq

According to The Times, Iran attempted to build or has built a dozen underground missile silos in Syria and was doing the same in Iraq. In Lebanon they have over 100,000 missiles.

Recall, too, Soleimani’s  role in the deaths of large numbers of civilians, as Aleppo was starved into submission; his use of Houthi proxies in Yemen; with Hezbollah and Hamas proxies intent on the destruction of the State of Israel.

Soleimani’s fingerprints were on the acts of piracy in the Straits of Hormuz and the attack, in Saudi, on the Aramco petroleum complex – and the US says it was aware of plans to take further American lives.

In the days before Soleimani’s death a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk led to the death of an American civilian contractor. In response, America  deployed fighter jets to pound  Iranian backed militias in Syria and Iraq.

For 40 years Iran has supported acts of terror and been responsible for egregious violations of human rights. And we ca be certain that it will not balk at carrying out more.

Our failure to tame the crocodile has simply emboldened it.

Thousands of Iranians have themselves long since seen through this theocratic terror State  -and have been protesting publicly against its leaders.

Kata’ib Hizbollah is Iran’s proxy in Iraq and, although its leader was also killed alongside Soleimani,  it is his death which turns this into a fight between the US and Iran, not just their proxies. Having recklessly escalated the violence Iran almost certainly misread the US’s earlier reluctance to be provoked into  retaliation..

But Tehran has been misreading other signals too.

In recent months, millions of people have demonstrated against the oppression of that regime—both in Iran and across the Middle East, in Lebanon and Iraq.

Consider the rising generation in Iraq – where, in recent weeks, over 400 people have been killed as they have campaigned for a more open and democratic and less corrupt government  – one which is no longer manipulated by Iran.

We must hope and pray that a political strategy now emerges to empower those – especially Iraqis, Lebanese and Kurds, who wish to throw off Iranian hegemony and run their own societies and govern their own countries.  And that is also true for the people of Iran – who want a prosperous and peaceful society which respects diversity and difference..

In the north of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government  has created, especially in Erbil, a glimpse of what a peaceful Iraq – and wider region – could look like.

I visited its Parliament and held talks with , Dr Rewaz Faiaq the Speaker, and Hemin Hawrami , the Deputy Speaker.

Both drew attention to the threat to the stability of the region by armed militias – and the consequences of further waves of  displacements and refugees. I visited multi-ethnic villages on the Nineveh Plain. Shabak militias supported by Iran – and exploiting pre-ISIS Shabak grievances –  have endangered the reconstruction of these ancient Christian settlements – places like Bartella, where a school has been erected named after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini – and are an attempt to create a destabilizing Iranian canton in the Nineveh Plains, strategically wedged between Kurdistan and Mosul.

The re-emergence of ISIS – exploiting the disaffection and isolation of Sunni Muslims has seen its renaissance in northern Iraq, carrying out guerrilla attacks in the Hamrin mountains and Qara Chokh mountains –  leading to more than 30 deaths or injuries of brave Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers during December.

And its ideology mutates and spreads. In Nigeria, jihadists were responsible for the beheading of eleven Christians executed in retaliation for the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed  the Caliphate in 2014.

The failure of the international community in bringing men like Soleimani and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to justice –  has created the circumstances where countries like the US, sensing themselves to be under attack, inevitably invoke the doctrine of self-defence.

There are, of course, times when military options must be used but, in the increasing absence of international law and its enforcement, it is being used as a first resort rather than a last resort – and  perhaps with too little strategic sense of  the consequences.

And other nations have been embarking on undeclared wars, too.

In Kurdistan, in meeting refugees,  I  saw for myself the consequences of Turkey’s illegal invasion of north east Syria.  The misery which they have inflicted has been compounded by the appalling consequences of airstrikes and shelling by Russian backed Syrian forces in Idlib.

More than a quarter of a million souls have fled a province which had becomes the last bolt hole of around 3.5 million people who had been displaced from other contested areas of Syria.

During my visit I went to Bardarash refugee camp. It was established less than two months ago to provide a place of safety for refugees fleeing Turkey’s bombardment and invasion of North East Syria.

In a desolate location, it is home – if that is a word that can accurately be used – to 2,520 families – some 9,894 individuals with more arrivals expected.

Tents and makeshift shelters – in increasingly cold weather –  have replaced homes bombed by Turkish – that is,  NATO – planes and people who, until weeks before, had successfully supported themselves and their children queue up for rations, handouts, and medical help.

As always there were handfuls of dedicated volunteers and aid workers trying to apply poultices and bandages to keep people going.

But these people should never have had to become refugees  in the first place, and until we address the fundamental causes, and get angry with those who are responsible, the numbers and attendant suffering and heartbreak will increase exponentially.

What were our friends in the United States thinking of in  walking out on our Kurdish allies in north east Syria – and what message did they think that was going to send to Tehran?

And if Turkey can get away with illegality is it any wonder that Iran thinks it can do the same?

When did it become acceptable to break the Geneva Conventions – and potentially the Chemical Weapons Convention – and illegally occupy territory and ethnically cleanse a population, and face no investigation, little censure, no Security Council Resolution, and no consequences?

Perhaps the British Government will tell us what outrage a NATO country must commit – just what does it have to do to innocent civilians – before we declare it to be unfit for membership – let alone seek its referral to the International Criminal Court?

If the rule of law is a casualty of international impotence, consider the phenomenal human consequences.

On World Refugee Day, 2019, a staggering and unprecedented 70.8 million people had been forcibly displaced. From Cox’s Bazaar – and the Rohingya – to the Libyan Coast – and  a tidal wave of Eritreans, Nigerians, Sudanese, Iranians , and Syrians, some 37,000 people are forced to flee their homes every single day.

This is overwhelming due to man-made conflict or persecution.

My first visit to a refugee camp was in Beirut in 1981. Shatila and Shabra camps had been established for Palestinian refugees in 1948.

A year after my visit the camps were the scene of a horrific massacre.

One of my most heart-breaking experiences was hearing from refugees in Darfur about the genocide which had been unleashed upon them. 300,000 died, 2 million were displaced.

In Dadaab, Kenya, I saw one of the biggest refugee camps in the world teeming with 211,000 refugees – many from Somalia; and in Sudan and Burma I have spent time in camps where people have taken refuge to escape a crisis and end up staying there for years. 17 years is the average length of time spent in a camp by a fleeing refugee.

In Bardarash a mother of four told me that “ the war planes came at 4.00pm. As they dropped their bombs and chemicals many children were burnt. Some were killed. We all started to run. One of my children fell and concussed his skull. I just want to go home with my children- but everything was destroyed, and we would be slaughtered.”

Hamid, another Bardarash  refugee, described how he saw people choking as their homes were burnt: “children were throwing up and we had to leave the injured behind as we fled.”

Refugees were incredulous that the international community had allowed Erdogan to force them from their homes. They felt betrayed.

In adding to the global refugee crisis, we have created  perfect recruiting grounds for extremist organisations able to exploit despair, hopelessness and betrayal.

Bardarash is a symbol of the breakdown of global leadership and its occupants  are  paying a high the price. The UK Government should challenge and confront the destabilising activities of Turkey and Iran as their rivalry is contributing to the rise of extremism, sectarianism and the refugee crisis.

I have sent the Government a number of  other reflections from my visit to Northern Iraq.

During my visit I went to Simele where the Syrian Christians were subjected to genocide in 1933.  The site was in a deplorable condition and there should be a memorial to commemorate the victims. The  UK Government could help with this especially since that the massacre took place only one year after Britain terminated its mandate over Iraq in 1932. At the time, the Foreign Office rejected calls for an international inquiry into the killings, cravenly arguing that it might lead to further massacres against Christians. They did not support calls to punish the offenders as they had become national heroes. Here’s an opportunity to belatedly recognise what happens when you ignore genocides.

I also met Baba Sheik, the spiritual leader of the Yazidis. The UK Government could do more to  help  abandoned Yazidi children and to help find the still missing 3,000 Yazidi women who were abducted and enslaved. We could also do more to  help preserve and restore manuscripts and artefacts which were hidden during the genocide and tell the story of these ancient communities.

The UK Government should also be directly supporting schools, women unions and youth organisation of the minority communities. Most of those I met  said that they had little contact with UK officials. The UK Government can, and should, work collaboratively with organisations like CSW  – and I pay tribute to them and to the Assyrian Aid Society for their help in facilitating my visit to Kurdistan – to provide necessary training to empower and equip local activists and to facilitate reconciliation and inter-community dialogue.

Survivors of ISIS genocide in Mosul and Sinjar told me that they had never been approached by British or international agencies to give their evidence. How will trials ever take place if we have failed to collect witness statements?

I met two men whose families fled from Mosul and another whose home was burnt down in Sinjar. No one from the international community or the Governments in Baghdad or Erbil has ever asked to meet them or to take their statements. Yet we are endlessly told we are “collecting evidence “ and that perpetrators will “be brought to justice”.

In the context of the immediate crisis the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, is right to “urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.

But we need a new long term strategy too.

There can be no lasting peace and no sustained reconciliation without justice and the rule of law – which is why  a central plank of our approach must be the creation of a regional court to try those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. Until we do, lawless militias will go on behaving with impunity and retaliatory assassinations and killings will be the order of the day.

For 2020 – Make a New Year’s Resolution To Work For The Release Of Pastor Wang Yi -who, since the massacre in Tiananmen Square – has been a consistent voice for liberty, democracy, and freedom – and who has been given a 9 year prison sentence in China; Also see the NEW YEAR OPEN LETTER from 40 Parliamentarians and Dignitaries, from 18 Countries, Calling on Carrie Lam to Stop Police Brutality in Hong Kong; And read about the Lithuanian Foreign Minister who, following the desecration of memorials to pro democracy campaigners, who have died in Hong Kong, says such “shameful, disgraceful acts of vandalism…can’t and won’t be tolerated.”  This follows the desecration of over 40 Uighur cemeteries in Western China. In 2020 campaign to end the dishonouring of the dead and the dishonouring of the living.

 

For 2020 – Make a New Year’s Resolution To Work For The Release Of Pastor Wang Yi – who, since the massacre in Tiananmen Square – has been a consistent voice for liberty, democracy, and freedom – and who has been given a 9 year prison sentence in China.

Also see, below, the NEW YEAR OPEN LETTER from 40 Parliamentarians and Dignitaries, from 18 Countries, Calling on Carrie Lam to Stop Police Brutality in Hong Kong.

And read about the Lithuanian Foreign Minister who, following the desecration of memorials to pro democracy campaigners, who have died in Hong Kong, says such “shameful, disgraceful acts of vandalism…can’t and won’t be tolerated.”  This follows the desecration of over 40 Uighur cemeteries in Western China.

In 2020 campaign to end the dishonouring of the dead and the dishonouring of the living.

 

Asianews (30.12.2019) –

 

Chengdu (AsiaNews) – Pastor Wang Yi, founder of the Early Rain Covenant Church, has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and for “illegal trade”.

Wang was arrested in December 2018, along with 100 other members of his community in various locations in the Chengdu (Sichuan) district. After nearly a year of pre-trial detention, the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court today issued the sentence. The trial was held on December 26th. According to several witnesses, the court was surrounded by a police cordon and there were only lawyers in the courtroom. No member of the Church, nor the relatives of the accused, was allowed to be present.

 

In addition to the nine-year sentence, Wang will be denied political rights for three years and his personal assets, which are around 50,000 yuan (about 6,300 euros), will be confiscated.

 

The sentence for “subversion” is explained by Wang Yi’s standing as a public figure and his activism, already a democratic activist at the time of the Tiananmen massacre, he later converted to Christianity and became pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church. Defined by many as “the bravest” religious leader in China, Wang Yi branded the new regulations on religious activities as a tool to stifle religious freedom.

 

Recently, Wang Yi had also thrown himself against the “cult of Caesar”, after patriotic associations forced Christians to display – often on the altars – the photo of President Xi Jinping.

 

As for the “illegal trade” charge, it is linked to the fact that the community prints religious books and distributes them among its members and in Chinese society.

 

During the detention period, a letter was circulated to his community, which Wang Yi had written in anticipation of his arrest. In the text, he says he is “full of anger and disgust because of the persecution of the church by the communist regime, and of the wickedness in depriving people of freedom of religion and conscience”. At the same time, he says he has no desire to change China’s social order, but he does uphold the freedom to announce the Gospel.

 

For Wang, the persecution of Christians is pushing many Chinese people to “lose faith in their future, leading them to a desert of spiritual disillusionment and through this, to know Jesus”.

 

The persecution of Christians, he says, “is the most horrendous evil in Chinese society.” “All this – he explains – is not just a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against non-Christians. Because [in this way] the government threatens them in a rough and brutal mode preventing them from coming to Jesus. In the world there is no worse evil than this “.

 

The Early Rain Covenant Church has about 500 members and 300 sympathizers. Unlike many underground Protestant churches, its members practice faith openly; spread sermons and online studies; they evangelize on the streets of the city; they have a seminar to teach future pastors and a primary school for 40 children.

See also https://bitterwinter.org/early-rain-pastor-wang-yi-sentenced-to-nine-years-in-jail/ 

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OPEN LETTER: 40 Parliamentarians and Dignitaries from 18 Countries Call on Carrie Lam to Stop Police Brutality – click here for full text:

https://www.hongkongwatch.org/all-posts/2019/12/31/40-parliamentarians-and-dignitaries-from-18-countries-call-on-carrie-lam-to-stop-police-brutality?fbclid=IwAR0g_DbotLnrpCzwTphGNc7E6mhUydyw1ddFBC3vqW7i-8E4YijIT7IKLlI  

carrie lam

40 Parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries, including Asia’s leading Catholic cardinal, the daughter of Indonesia’s former president and former UK House Of Commons Speaker John Bercow, have written an Open Letter to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressing “grave concerns at the recent escalation of police brutality over the Christmas period.”

Signed by Parliamentarians and dignitaries from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, South Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Myanmar, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States, including the Co-chairs of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Hong Kong Baroness Bennett and Alistair Carmichael MP, Vice-Chair and Hong Kong Watch Patron Lord Alton of Liverpool, members of the German Bundestag Margarete Bause and Martin Patzelt, and former US Congressman Tom Andrews, the letter appeals to the Chief Executive to use her authority and responsibility to “seek genuine ways forward out of this crisis by addressing the grievances of Hong Kong people, bringing the Hong Kong Police Force under control, ensuring accountability and an end to impunity”. 

The letter also urges Ms Lam to begin a process of democratic political reform, noting the turnout and results in the district council elections last month.

We released it an hour ago, which was midnight Hong Kong time – New Year!

 

The Apple Daily have reported it here: – https://hk.news.appledaily.com/international/realtime/article/20200101/60434267?utm_campaign=hkad_article_share&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_content=share_link 

 

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Following the desecration of memorials to pro democracy campaigners who have died in Hong Kong the Lithuanian Foreign Minister has called for a Police investigation and has said that such “shameful, disgraceful acts of vandalism…cant and wont be tolerated.”  (see below):Uigurs 3

The desecration of people’s memorials and graves is a deeply offensive act. Reports of over 40 Uighur cemeteries in Western China being destroyed is now followed by the desecration of memorials to pro-democracy campaigners who have been killed in Hong Kong.  In traditional Chinese culture there is a deep respect for the dead and for ancestors who have gone before you. Along with so much else that is valued in Chinese civilisation such respect for the dead is a casualty of hard line ideological Communism.

 

Uighurs1

https://twitter.com/LinkeviciusL/status/1211253240102375425