5 years ago today, 34 mine workers were shot dead in South Africa during a bitter dispute with British firm Lonmin. Today their community is taking their demands for accountability to the firm’s HQ.
In August 2012, mine workers at British company Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in South Africa went on strike to demand the living wage. In the week leading up to 16 August, the workers tried to access the managers’ offices but they were pushed back by security. This was where the battle began.
Pushed back from the managers’ offices, the mine workers decided to go to the koppie, a small mountain near Lonmin’s mine, outside the company’s premises. They were there for a few days waiting for management to reply to their demands, and the rest of us in the community were not allowed to go near them. Every day when the men came down from that mountain, we asked them to tell us what was going on. Ten people were killed between 12 – 14 August, including two police officers.
We watched what was happening on TV constantly and in the afternoon of 15 August, we saw a crowd of people. Horses and police officers were growing in number on the koppie and, as women and leaders of the community, we were very upset. We were waiting for good news, for the management to make good decisions.
Early in the morning of 16 August, we saw the barbed wire encircling the koppie and we knew that people there were going to die. We collected the women of the community and, as leaders, we said that we should go straight to Lonmin management and tell them that if they didn’t want to give the mine workers the extra money, then it was better that we take them home because the situation had become so bad.
We collected the women and when we met near the mountain, we were too late. We heard the bullets, and then the ambulances.
Thirty-four mine workers were shot dead.
We couldn’t get there afterwards, there was a large crowd and we were told not go there, that it was very hectic. We turned back and didn’t sleep that night. Early in the morning, we went to see the police at the koppie and were fighting with them, trying everything. Then we cried.
We went to the police stations and hospitals to look for the missing. We were looking for a guy that was staying in the yard of one of our houses. He didn’t come back and we weren’t sure if he died or was in hospital or jail.
They shot Paulina
A month later, on 15 September 2012 we were near the koppie with Paulina Masuhlo, an ANC councillor and our good friend. The police had weapons and fought the mine workers near the koppie. They killed Paulina. I don’t know how I (Primrose) survived because I was next to her. I just took my hood and closed my eyes and then I waited for the bullet. We took Paulina to hospital where she died.
After Paulina’s death, we met again as women and formed an organisation called Sikhala Sonte (We Cry Together). We organised as women in solidarity with those who died. They were brothers, fathers, friends, they were related to us. As women, we gathered together in the hospitals, funerals, prisons and courts.
Sikhala Sonke is now a registered non-profit organisation and last year filmmaker Aliki Saragas approached us about documenting our community’s struggle for justice. We are in the UK to show the finished film, called Strike a Rock, and to represent the mine workers, widows, orphans and everyone in our community. We are demanding action from Lonmin because they promised to help the widows, to compensate them, to compensate Paulina’s family, but they’ve said nothing about her since.
While Lonmin have given us promises, the conditions in Marikana are even worse than they were before 2012. We have no roads, toilets, running water and no proper housing. if somebody is sick they will die because the ambulances cannot reach them. Many widows were forced to work in the mines to replace their husbands because their children were starving. They had no choice.
The miners that weren’t killed on 16 August 2012 were taken to prison and charged with the murders of their co-workers. Men were arrested in the days, months and years that have followed under an apartheid-era law, called the Law of Common Purpose. Some of them are still fighting charges and have recently been in court. Many of those accused have been tortured by the police and are traumatised. The whole community is traumatised.
Over 30,000 people live in Marikana and most are still living in shacks. Many adults are not working and gender-based violence, domestic violence and drug-use is common.
Sikhala Sonke demands reparation from Lonmin
Lonmin has an obligation to the community. In its Social Labour Plan it has committed to building 5,000 houses for the community, a promise made before the Massacre to improve living and working conditions. Up until the film was released, it had built three. Sikhala Sonke has repeatedly asked why these houses have not been built, particularly as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the finance arm of the World Bank – paid $50 million to Lonmin in 2007 to fulfil its commitments to the community.
We want to know where that money has gone.
In recent months, Lonmin has built some houses, for mine workers only, but many are paying high rents. Some 4,400 homes are meant to be built by 2018, according to Lonmin’s 2016-2018 Social Labour Plan. The South African Department of Mineral Resources must get tough on Lonmin for not complying with the Social Labour Plans, because they are legally binding regulations.
Sikhala Sonke participated in dispute resolution talks with Lonmin last year but we realised that it was a waste of time and decided to pull out. The company promised us each time we met that in the next meeting they would discuss our demands but, when we returned, they told us that they had no money. We didn’t demand money from them, all we wanted was justice.
Neither the ANC government nor the police protected the mine workers. But now Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, wants to come to Marikana and apologise. This is because he’s trying to become president. He is too late. Where were the apologies in 2012? ANC leaders should have gone to Marikana before and said sorry to those they have wronged.
We are picketing Lonmin’s Headquarters in London because we want them to be held accountable for what has happened. We want them to take care of their workers and to give them a share of their profits.
Over 90 per cent of Lonmin’s business is in South Africa but its headquarters and shareholders are in the UK – this is where the profits go. Our visit to the UK must make some changes for our community.
A lot of people in Ecuador have been hurt over the last ten years by Correa’s bull headed attitude to getting things done. Español
When I think about Rafael Correa, and I suppose that in Ecuador we all do more often than is good for us, the image that comes to mind is that of a bull. A bull: strong, fierce and tireless, capable of a great deal of work. The problem of course is that bulls can also be dangerous and destructive; get too close to a big animal in a small space and you’re likely to get hurt.
Ecuador is a small space, and a lot of people have been hurt over the last ten years by Correa’s bull headed attitude to getting things done. To be fair, he did get a lot of things done. For the outside observer it’s obvious that the country has changed, and not only on the infrastructure level. Correa gave Ecuadorians political stability after a tumultuous period of seven Presidents in ten years, and a sense of pride that they had never witnessed before, with the possible exception of a military victory over Peru in the border war of 1995. And after the economic disaster of the early century, when poverty levels briefly rose above fifty percent (50%) and it seemed that half the population was migrating, or at the very least considering it, this was nothing short of astounding. He put them on the map.
Calling Moreno weak is nothing more than arrogance.
But to get back to the negatives. I confess to admiring those blessed with the spirit and energy to create, while recognizing that the ability to ‘get things done’ is often accompanied by a desire (presented as need) to trample on the unfortunate sods that happen to get in the way. And this coupled with a vicious attitude towards political opponents who try to derail the ‘project’. Many in both categories have felt the bull’s hot breath down their necks over the last ten years.
As a consequence the governing party’s candidate in the last presidential elections, Lenin Moreno, barely scraped over the line, and did so principally because he was not Rafael Correa. He promised a different style of government. And after the first two months we can clearly say that we have exactly that. Strangely, that has made a lot of people within the governing Alianza País unhappy. Moreno has been called a traitor, weak, a liar, a neoliberal, a sellout to the Right, and all this by those who are his own side, including the ex-president himself. Correa has actively gone after his successor, taking a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book, twittering on a daily basis and causing a great deal of damage by blundering about in his own china shop.
Why? The basic reason has little to do with ideology, although that’s how it’s been dressed up by many of the members of the Ancien Regime. Calling Moreno a traitor to the project requires defining the project, which could be difficult given that a major feature of Correa’s government has been pragmatism. Calling Moreno a neoliberal is to forget what neoliberalism is, to forget that the Free Trade Agreement with the EU was signed by Correa (it was probably inevitable), that Correa himself leased oil fields, and proposed selling off hydro-electric installations (long lease), and selling the nationalized Banco del Pacífico as well as the National Airline, Tame, which would be a blessing if in fact it were possible to find a buyer at a price over US$100. Calling Moreno weak is nothing more than arrogance.
The economy is also not in great shape, and lowish oil prices mean that the government no longer has the ability to stoke the economic boiler. Moreno might have been more careful about some of his ministerial appointments, naming people that he knew, or should have known, were going to be a problem for many of his party members. On the other hand, real changes to previous government policies are likely to be few. It’s been evident for some time that major cooperation with the private sector was going to be necessary, and would come at a cost of increased political clout. It’s doubtful that Correa himself could have done much about that; he even prepared the ground. The difference is that he doubtless would have dressed it up as heroic.
That word: Odebercht
The scandal related to the Brasilian company and its corrupt and corrupting practices has become a very big fly in a very big jar of ointment.
The real issue here is probably Moreno’s lack of interest in playing Medvedev to Correa’s Putin. In response to the latter’s criticisms and, to be fair, his need to solidify his approval ratings and consequent ability to govern, he has hit back. In the process Moreno has distanced himself from ex-President and committed the heresy of suggesting that not all was bright and beautiful in the house that Correa built. By criticising the ex- president for his own political purposes, and also due to genuine disagreement, Moreno may have seriously compromised the chances of the ex-president successfully running again in 2021. Correa, and those political allies who would benefit by his return, are not at all happy about the criticism, to say the least. This is speculation of course, but to be honest it’s hard to find another plausible reason for the outpouring of hostility by Gabriela Rivadeneira and Marcela Aguiñaga: respectively Ex-President and Vice President of the National Assembly.
Then there’s that word. Odebrecht. And sticking to animal metaphors, the scandal related to the Brasilian company and its corrupt and corrupting practices has become a very big fly in a very big jar of ointment. Keeping the lid on corruption scandals in Ecuador over the last ten years has been possible by means of threats and promises. Only rumours survived the pressure. Correa and Glas were even said to have been involved in a punch up over Glas’s corruption. But who knew for certain if it was true? It was just a rumour. But Odebrecht is not a rumour, it’s something else entirely: an international scandal in which international actors have an interest in making sure the lid stays open. The very sound of the word must send shivers down the spines of many of the faithful.
Two past ministers have fallen and now the noose is slowly tightening around the neck of the Vice President, Jorge Glas and his uncle Ricardo Rivera who appears to be the linchpin. Recordings made by José Conceição Santos, previous Odebrecht representative in Ecuador, of conversations between himself and the State Comptroller Carlos Polit, presently out of the country and unlikely to return, mention Glas as asking for money for all Odebrecht contracts. The pieces are beginning to fit together. To complicate matters there are other cases of corruption that appear to implicate the Vice President. Up to now the Correa-Glas supporters seems to believe that just stating their support for Glas and blaming everything on a campaign to discredit him will make everything go away. But it won’t. Denial will only make things worse.
The Vice president, almost certainly aware that Lenin Moreno was on the point of stripping him of his functions, attacked him in an open letter, which of course made the demotion even more certain. Denying everything has been Glas’ chosen tactic, and while it is a fact that no hard evidence has yet been found, as Moreno has recently said, the finger is pointing in his direction. And it’s a really big finger. The Attorney General is under pressure to formulate charges, but to subject Glas to criminal proceedings or destitution the National Assembly would have to give the green light. That only appears possible if the Vice President’s own party approves. If it does, the Correa faithful will be put in an extremely awkward position, if, on the other hand, it does not, the whole structure, President Moreno aside, will suffer a major blow to a credibility which is already creaking under the strain. As one local commentator stated, cynicism will become the party’s byword.
Whether Glas is guilty or not, and it would be hard to find a dozen people outside the Alianza País structure who think he isn’t, the major question is why Rafael Correa insisted on forcing the now Vice President onto the electoral ticket. Glas was a clear liability for the campaign, and Moreno would probably have won handily with another running mate. So why do it? Why insist against the wishes of many of his own people, including Moreno, who in the early stages supposedly refused to run if Glas was on the ticket.
Shooting yourself in the foot is one thing, pointing the gun at your head is quite another.
According to one theory, the plan was to find a way to get rid of Moreno so that as Vice President Glas could take a step upwards; another implied that a way would be found to install José Serrano, the actual President of the National Assembly and previously Minister of the Interior in the Correa government. Both ideas sounded somewhat plausible, but whatever the reality, the first is now impossible and the second unlikely given that Serrano appears to be clearly in Moreno’s camp.
It is now evident that insisting on Glas, and continuing to do so in the face of the recent revelations, has in fact turned out to be the shot in the foot that many imagined it would be. The outcome could be a disaster for Alianza País, and involve a major reconfiguration of the political scene. Calls are being made for unity with the party, but unless agreement involves allowing Glas to be processed, little or nothing will be gained. Shooting yourself in the foot is one thing, pointing the gun at your head is quite another.
I call my homeland Aotearoa New Zealand. Where I’m from, biculturalism is not a radical position, it’s a common experience.
Earlier this year I spent 9 weeks touring the US with my partner. We stopped in Boston, Providence, Indianapolis, New York City, Washington DC, Tucson, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Oakland, Eugene, Portland, New Orleans, and Asheville.
We met folks in many different political spaces. Many of them do not self-identify as “left”, or even as “political”, but I’d say they’re all “organising”, and all of them share the “values of the left”: social justice, environmental justice, racial justice, etc.
I don’t know the collective noun to describe what they have in common so I’ll just list some of their keywords: grassroots, social entrepreneur, community development, cooperative, anarchist, activist, civil servant, journalist, consensus, sociologist, organisational development, movement building, artist, permaculture, non-hierarchical, cohousing, think tank, network, researcher. Part of the struggle is that we’re lacking good names for what to call “us”. The new political actors in Spain call themselves “organised citizens” which I really like.
This trip was a huge experience. I’ve been digesting for two months and still feel like I’m just getting started. I have a strong urge to share some of my reflections, even the ones that are only half-digested. If you don’t have capacity for a long read, you can skip to the end to see my conclusions :)
I may turn a nice phrase now and then but please keep in mind that I’m not a journalist. This is a highly subjective snapshot of my current thinking. I’ll try to not masquerade as a social scientist or pretend to be objective.
I’m a White male outsider, so my sample is skewed and my biases are large. It was a high-speed long-distance trip, so most of my encounters were shallow. I’m going to say a bunch of challenging stuff, so if any of it triggers your rage button, my invitation is for you to take a breath, assume positive intent, and if possible, share constructive feedback to help me learn.
I grew up in a welfare state. After 30+ years of uninterrupted neoliberal economics, it is a pretty threadbare and punitive kind of welfare these days. But still, our socialised healthcare and unemployment systems protect a huge number of people from the worst consequences of bad luck or bad decisions.
Let me give you an example: my collarbone was broken in a traffic accident recently. I was evaluated in the field by an emergency first responder, shuttled to hospital by an ambulance, X-rayed and diagnosed by a specialist, and prescribed painkillers, a sling, and rest. I was back home within about 3 hours start-to-finish, and I think I had to pay a total of $3, for the drugs. We have a “no fault” socialised accident insurance scheme, which means the cost of accidents is covered by taxes, and nobody gets punished for honest mistakes. So that night, the driver of the car who hit me visited my house with a hot meal and a genuine apology. Everything about this story is ludicrously fantastical to my friends in the States.
Until I visited the US I didn’t appreciate just how much difference the welfare state makes to people’s choices. Social welfare makes it safe to fail. When you’re safe, you can try risky things, like starting a co-op, prototyping a community currency, or running for local office. I felt the economic forces in the US pushing people into self-preservation mode, with little left over for creative or social endeavours. Frankly, I didn’t find as much practical, local mutual aid work as I expected.
We’ve known forever that organised workers have more power than the fat-cat boss. Organised citizens have more power than the oligarch. But you can’t organise hungry people: first they need to be fed. This is why it is so important for organisers to work in the economic plane. Trade unionists know this. The Black Panthers knew it too. It’s old news, but it was brought into stark focus for me as we encountered hunger and homelessness on a scale I couldn’t imagine existing in a wealthy country.
So if I were organising in the US, I’d focus on material needs first: improving the economic security of members and agitating for political change to shift the playing field for everyone. In practical terms, this could traditional workplace organising or fresh approaches like starting savings pools to wipe bad debt, or livelihood pods to mutualise the income of precarious workers. I saw signs that some social justice movements are heading in this direction, e.g. see Cooperation Jackson, the economic justice policy of the Movement for Black Lives, and the work of the New Economy Coalition.
Silicon Valley could be a massive leverage point here, if you can drag entrepreneurs’ attention to solving real material problems (which means dragging investors away from their obsession with 100X returns). See Zebras Unite, Indie.VC and Platform Coop for optimistic signs on that front.
I call my homeland Aotearoa New Zealand. That’s two names stuck together, representing my understanding that we are two societiesstuck together by Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the founding document of our country). Where I’m from, biculturalism is not a radical position, it’s a common experience.
In addition to te tiriti, there’s te reo (the language), whakapapa (genealogy traced back to the first arrivals), tikanga (protocols and ways of being), marae (meeting grounds), and many more tāonga (treasures) for Māori and Pākehā (foreign) people to draw strength from. By the way: as a result of decades of language activism, it’s really common for Pākehā folks to know these words.
I don’t want to gloss over the ongoing harm done to Māori by the arrival of Pākehā. Colonisation leaves many of the same bruises wherever it grips around the world. Māori population was literally decimated as their land was expropriated by White immigrants. Within these brutally constrained boundaries though, Māori culture, language, identity, and values are thriving.
Many of the most potent organisers I know in Aotearoa New Zealand are Māori. They have a kind of credibility and tireless energy that I interpret as the result of having their roots planted in a living breathing alternative to capitalist modernity. Their political demands are grounded in lived experience of a different social order. One of the tragedies of genocide and slavery in the US is that it has cut off most Black and Native folks from that source of energy.
Before I visited the US, I thought about slavery mostly in terms of racist subjugation: the horror of having one people forced to serve the will of another. I hadn’t considered the trauma of cultural dislocation, of being ripped from your land and ancestry, often with no way of tracing your bloodlines back home.
In Aotearoa New Zealand it is comparatively easy for me to encounter another self-governing autonomous culture. Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) is visibly distinct from Te Ao Pākehā. From time to time I’m invited to visit. The invitations come more frequently as I learn how to be a good manuhiri (guest). The closer I come to Te Ao Māori, the more I’m able to imagine an alternative to the individualistic, disconnected, suicidal society I inherited.
I believe there is so much to learn when autonomous cultures encounter each other, without one trying to consume the other. These lessons are particularly urgent with the current rise of nationalist authoritarianism.
If I were working in the US I’d need new methods to make these encounters. I guess the first step would to be work with Black-led organisations, like the Kheprw folks I wrote about in April. I knew while I was in their spaces I was invited into a different logic, to use different language and tactics in pursuit of different aims. The feeling at Kheprw was unique among all the spaces we visited: encouraging, inclusive, optimistic, alive, connected. That is what “autonomy” feels like to me.
I was quite disturbed by my experiences in some activist spaces. I’ve been chewing on it for weeks, and the best way I know how to describe it is censorship: the feeling that there are important things not being said. I’ll try to explain…
Over the past decade, as I started to understand my role in patriarchy, one of the first things I learned was how to stop talking. This is a great step! Wow, when I’m not talking, I can listen! I don’t think anyone can be an effective ally to feminists without completing this first challenge.
So it is good to learn how to share space, but there is much more to being a good ally than shutting up. In my understanding of justice, it’s not enough for me to stop participating in oppression and violence, I have to get in the way.
Coming to terms with oppressive systems like patriarchy and white supremacy is really hard work for anyone. It takes a lot of study, self-interrogation and conversation. As a White man, it’s really easy for me to mess up. The conversation can feel like walking a high-wire: one false step from me and we all topple down into this immense chasm of historical trauma. Ah fuck sorry, what I meant to say was “I respect you and I have your back” but I can see how you heard “I want to be your White Knight”.
Even with the best intentions, I know I’ve done a bunch of harm by showing up to a traumatic conversation without enough knowledge or consideration to keep it safe for everyone. The only way I’ve learned how to do that less, is by practice. Over the last few years I’ve found a few people that are willing to have those clumsy conversations with me, so I don’t have to inflict my learning experience on whatever activist meeting I happen to be in at the time.
I think that’s what I mean by the censorship I picked up in some of the political spaces we visited. Folks don’t seem to have good spaces to learn in, so they shut their mouth to avoid causing harm. If I’m not comfortable talking about sexism it’s safer to say nothing.
At best, censorship results in reduced capacity. People with more privilege have more opportunity to shape the world, so we need to learn how to talk about oppression unapologetically.
At its worst, censorship turns to rot, resentment and shame, which is a resource that neo-fascist recruiters know how to exploit. Trump said it is cool to be sexist again, and I’m sure a ton of men breathed a sigh of relief.
This one is not constrained to the US, so I have a sense that it might be my work for the next few years. Just as SURJ is hosting spaces for mostly White folks to learn and organise against White supremacy, I’m thinking I want to host spaces for mostly men to learn and organise against patriarchy.
In the States I found myself repeatedly saying “Y’all don’t know how to grieve!” Time and time again I met people who were organising, when I think the best thing they could be doing is recovering. When we left Indianapolis, I wrote this piece about grief, trauma and shock.
It took me weeks to appreciate the irony: ohhhh, I’m in shock too!
I left the US behind me the way you leave a wildfire: sprinting in terror, not looking back. I was invited to Barcelona for the OpenDemocracy Team Syntegrity. A couple days in to the event, I was knocked over by a massive wave of feeling, crying on the couch as I tried to explain some of what I’d seen in the US.
The place is so fucking terrifying! We met folks in Arizona who are working against border militias, people who are openly hunting for humans the way other folks hunt for deer. The day after we left Portland two people were murdered on a train in broad daylight after confronting a racist loudmouth. In California (a state with a multi trillion dollar economy), we saw thousands of people living in tents and makeshift shelter. The situation is fucking drastic, with many indicators that things are going to get worse.
The sheer scale of injustice and suffering stunned me. I could only start to make sense of it once I got far far away. With the privilege of distance, I could escape the daily assault and start to process the experience. There’s no way for me to reckon with this kind of stuff without first feeling the sting of hot tears, the ache of empathy, the despair of powerlessness. I need to feel my feelings first, before I can act strategically.
For a more informed perspective on the role of trauma and therapy in political organising, I hugely recommend this article by liberation psychologist Megan Clapp: Harnessing Pain and Burning It as Fuel for the Revolution.
One of the most brutally effective techniques of the Trump administration is to keep the resistance in shock: if you keep lashing people with urgentconcerns, they’ll never get to the important work of building counter-hegemonic alternatives.
So if I were organising in the US right now I’d be looking for spaces to grieve and to heal. I’ve heard phenomenal things from people who have engaged with The Work That Reconnects so I’d start there.Phew…
I’m feeling a degree of clarity I’ve been struggling for since last November. I have a set of bullet points I can hold in one hand:
What strikes me now in writing this, is just how extraordinarily privileged I am to have the peace and space for contemplation and dialogue. My clarity is the product of thousands of miles of travel, hundreds of conversations, days of writing. The major question I’m left with is how on earth can folks in the US find the peace to make sense of the present and dream of a future worth fighting for?
And shit, I’m crying again.
This article was originally published on medium.
A new generation of Roma women is rising up against multiple forms of discrimination, to claim their rights to jobs, education, and healthcare.
From her small sewing workshop in Isernia, in the centre of Italy, Concetta Sarachella designs clothes that have won awards across the country and abroad. “I always try to put in something from my Roma origins: the colours, the tissues, the laces,” she tells me.
Sarachella’s family is part of a Roma community which arrived in the Molise region centuries ago. The 35-year-old fashion designer and cultural mediator works under the name “Sara Cetty” and is seen as a rising star in Italy. One of her creations was exhibited in Rome during celebrations to mark 150 years since the country's 1861 unification.
Despite honors and awards, Sarachella says she has had to fight discrimination due to her Roma heritage. “I am an Italian national and I’ve never had problems with papers, but I’ve faced other kinds of trouble”, she explains. When she applied for jobs, “companies rejected my résumé without even reading it. They saw my surname and they guessed that I was a Roma woman”, she says.
“companies rejected my résumé without even reading it. They saw my surname and they guessed that I was a Roma woman”
Discrimination against Roma people is common in Italy. The demonisation of Roma communities, routinely described as a threat to public security, has featured in Italian election campaigns for the last decade.
Anti-Roma sentiments erupted across the country after the murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian Roma man in 2007. Politicians took notice, using this to their advantage.
After the 2008 election, Silvio Berlusconi’s government claimed that the presence of informal Roma settlements across Italy constituted a "state of emergency”. Roma were forcibly evicted from these settlements and sent to live in segregated “nomad camps” planned and financed by the state.
These camps are typically on the outskirts of cities, lacking in basic services including public transport. They have been described by rights groups as slums with poor sanitary conditions, often infested with mice and cockroaches.
Italy is the only country in Europe that has created official camps for Roma.
This strategy included promises to increase Roma participation in schools, jobs, and public life. Things have not changed very much, however.
Earlier this year, the rights group Associazione 21 Luglio said that around 28,000 Roma in Italy had been recently targeted with forced evictions, or were living segregated in camps or in other emergency housing situations.
“The conditions of Roma living in these settlements are clearly below sanitary standards and the life expectancy among these people is 10 years lower than the average of the Italian population,” said their report.
In 2015 the Pew Research Center found that 85% of Italians have “unfavorable opinions of the Roma who live in their country”.
Stigma is fed by disinformation. 2008 research revealed that only 0.1% of those interviewed said they had a basic knowledge of Roma, while 42% said they knew almost nothing.
There is a common perception that there are “too many” Roma in Italy, while they number only about 120,000-180,000, or just 0.25% of the country’s population.
This contrasts with figures in other EU countries where Roma comprise, for example, 9.3% of the population in Bulgaria, 6% in Hungary, 1.8% in Greece, 1.7% in Spain and 0.5% in France.
Other common refrains are that Roma "have to go back to their country," or somewhere else, "because they are nomads". But at least 70,000 Roma are Italian nationals. Others are from EU countries and the former Yugoslavia. Many are stateless.
Most Roma aim to live in houses, not in camps, and some already do. According to the Ministry of Interior – but contrary to popular belief – only 2-3% of Roma families travel in caravans and maintain real nomadic lifestyles.
'the situation for Roma women is harder still'
If being Roma in Italy isn’t easy, the situation for Roma women is harder still.
Saska Jovanovic is a Roma woman who came to Italy from Kosovo after the war in the former Yugoslavia. She studied electrotechnical engineering and works as a cultural mediator.
“Roma women are the most exposed to discrimination and the least represented and visible,” she told me.
“They are discriminated [against] three times: as women, as Roma and inside our communities in all areas which are relevant for independent and dignified life such as education, healthcare, employment”.
In 2011, the European Roma Rights Centre made a submission to the UN alleging violations of Roma women’s rights in Italy including police violence, racist violence by private individuals, domestic violence and discrimination in accessing jobs and basic services.
According to the EU project Barabal, “the average situation of Roma women in core areas of life is worse than Roma men,” due to persistent gender gaps in education and employment. “Moreover," it said, "Roma women are less aware of their rights and anti-discrimination legislation”.
“A strong patriarchal culture makes their position even worse,” says Jovanovic. “Those girls who have tried to emancipated themselves have found a wall from the Roma community. They are left alone, pushed away from their people”.
“a strong patriarchal culture makes their position even worse”
“I worked in nomad camps, and I realised that proud and educated women were not welcomed in the world of associations supporting Roma people, that are mainly or exclusively composed of male members,” she said.
“Roma women are totally excluded, they have no rights. Moreover, in Italy very few of them have education, economic independence, adequate language and cultural abilities to represent Roma needs,” she warned.
Sarachella, the fashion designer in Isernia, is the president of the Rowni network. She says: “I think the change can start from us. Women have the ace up their sleeve to change things”.
Many Roma women live in shacks and roulottes, in slum-like conditions severely limiting their ability to lead healthy lives.
In 2008 Save The Children interviewed Roma women who lived in camps in Rome. 70% said they didn’t have access to the national health service because of their legal status or lack of information.
Jovanovic says she has also experienced discrimination from doctors. “But I am educated and I know my rights, so I could argue,” she adds. “Many Roma women are not able to do so”.
Lack of education is a significant challenge. An EU rights report found 23% of Roma women in Italy are unable to read or write, compared to 12% of Roma men. Researchers noted that deeply gendered family and care roles make attaining education and training goals hugely difficult for women and girls.
Another EU study found that 31% of Roma women in Italy reported feeling discriminated against when looking for work.
Early marriage is also a concern in the fight for Roma women’s emancipation and integration.
“Teenagers' marriage means no school, no work, and [high] risks for health and poverty,” notes Jovanovic. For this reason, Rowni contributed to a EU project called Marry when you are ready.
Half of the women they interviewed got married between the ages of 16 and 20. 40% before they were 15 years old. Only 10% after the age of 20.
The average age for becoming a mother, meanwhile, was just 18. In 84% of cases partners were also Roma or Sinti (a Romani group).
“Early marriage has always been the absent in dialogue and political planning for the inclusion of Roma," says Jovanovic.
"We worked on the awareness of Roma families, parents of boys and girls. Every Roma parent who decides to postpone marriage, to respect a daughter's choices, to ensure a proper schooling, is a victory for us".
The plight of Roma women has also been acknowledged by the Italian National Anti-Discrimination Office which warns that they “are more likely to suffer from multiple discrimination” and that this also “creates multiple barriers to the inclusion of their children”.
It said it’s crucial for "gender-sensitive" polices to consider “the main role Roma women have as mothers and the positive influence of their empowerment on future Roma generations, which would lead to long-term inclusion”.
But Jovanovic’s organisation marks a turning point in the landscape of Roma associations. It is the first founded by a Roma woman. Her co-workers are also exclusively women. “Only united," she insists, "can we win and change our future”.
When women in the North Caucasus are murdered by their families for “immoral behaviour”, justice is rarely done.
“You can’t say that Sultan Daurbekov ended his daughter’s life, that he killed her.” This is how Ilyas Timishev began his defence of his client. “What you have to say is that he took her away from life, so that she couldn’t bring shame to herself, her father and her entire family. That’s the correct description.” Timishev’s client, Sultan Daurbekov, a resident of Chechnya, was on trial for the murder of his daughter, Zarema. In April 2015, this “honour killing” case, held in Grozny’s Staropromyslov District Court, was drawing to a close, and the public prosecutor had already requested an eight year sentence in a high security prison colony.
According to witnesses, Zarema Daurbekova “led an immoral life”. Reflecting on whether Zarema’s father deserved to be punished for killing her, Timishev remarked that the man was being judged under laws which belonged in a different cultural tradition.
“Our lawmakers are, in general, members of the Russian-speaking population. They will find this father’s actions unacceptable. Why is this?’ asked the defending counsel before immediately answering his own question: “Because they don’t have any traditions.”
“A father who killed his child after enduring 20 years of humiliation from her, the amoral behaviour of a Muslim daughter, cannot, in principle, face responsibility for murder”
Indeed, as Timishev claimed, the Daurbekov case involved not only legal issues, but ethical and cultural ones as well, and these needed to be properly resolved, “taking into account the mindset and traditions of the Chechen people.” Despite the annoyance of the judge, who tried to return Timishev to the facts of the case, the defence counsel continued to describe in great detail Chechen traditions and the differences between Muslim and Christian “cultural codes”.
“On the one hand, we have the Criminal Code. On the other, traditions, good ones. The honour and dignity of women,” Timishev continued. “This is why I believe, Your Honour, that we need to find a fair balance between the interests of the state, the penal system, law enforcement and the interests of the defendant.” Timishev insisted that Daurbekov killed his daughter in a state of “intense spiritual conflict”, and so his actions couldn’t be classed as murder. “A father who killed his child after enduring 20 years of humiliation from her, the amoral behaviour of a Muslim daughter, cannot, in principle, face responsibility for murder.”
On the evening of 24 November 2013, Zarema Daurbekova, a resident of Grozny, was returning home from work. She and her husband had recently divorced, she had found herself a job in a hairdressing salon and she and her 10 year old son were living with her parents. But that evening, Zarema decided to visit her sister, who lived nearby, and spend the night there. When she got off the bus, she phoned her mother to say that she was on her way from the bus stop, but she never arrived at her sister’s home and didn’t phone again. Her family called the police, thinking she might have been abducted.
Nothing further was heard of Zarema Daurbekova for almost a year, and then, in September 2014, her father turned up at a police station and confessed to her murder. On the day she disappeared, Sultan Daurbekov had been waiting for her at the bus stop where she alighted and asked her to get into his car, to talk. He drove her off into some wasteland, where he stopped and started accusing his daughter of “indecent behaviour”. A row broke out between them. At a certain point Daurbekov grabbed a length of rope, wrapped it round his daughter’s neck and pulled it and held it tight until she died. Then he hid her body in a hole dug in the wasteland and covered it with rubbish.
“There are no reliable statistics on killings of women whose families believe they have brought shame on them”
The witnesses called by Timishev — the Daurbekovs’ neighbours and relatives — discussed Zarema’s private life in every detail. They said that the divorced woman drank alcohol, wore her hair uncovered and got into strangers’ cars. Her mother got her share of criticism as well: according to the neighbours, she covered up for her daughter. In court, Nina Daurbekova did indeed deny that Zarema behaved “immorally” and asked people not to shame the deceased. At the same time, however, she said that he didn’t want her husband sent to prison.
“I just wanted to frighten her,” said Sultan Daurbekov in court. “But the way she was threatening me, I lost control and blanked out. I don’t remember where the rope came from and how I slung it round her neck. I was sitting in the back of the car. I don’t even remember how long it took to kill her. She held up her hand and I thought she had the rope in it, so that’s why I held it so tight. It was only when she fell that I realised I’d killed her. I’d never done anything bad to anyone, never said a cross word to my children. I don’t know how it happened… I’m ready to take my punishment.”
“She threatened her father with her boyfriends. She said: ‘If you touch him, you’ll disappear’,” Timishev told us. “They all deserved that, but you couldn’t punish them all. After all, she was partying and Sultan couldn’t go after them all with an axe. A lot of them were cops anyway. We questioned them in court, but they wouldn’t talk. None of them admitted [to being close to the deceased]. They said they were just friends. They’d go to her salon to have their hair cut.” The counsel for the defence believes that a Caucasian man who kills a female family member for her “licentious” way of life cannot be, in principle, tried for deliberate murder.
We were told by Timishev that the prosecuting counsels and judges, as Chechens themselves, understood and sympathised with Daurbekov, and that the two detectives who led the investigation admitted privately that they would have done the same thing in the defendant’s place. Talking to us, the defence counsel echoed the thought he had expressed in court: “If it were up to me, there would be no penalty imposed, but as we live in a constitutional state where the laws are made not by Muslim, but by Russian lawmakers who find our customs alien, then we need to find an appropriate charge to try him on.”
In April 2015, Daurbekov was sentenced to seven years in a high security prison for murder. His counsel argued that at the moment of the crime he was “in the heat of passion”, aroused in him by the “indecent behaviour” of his daughter and the threats she made, but expert witnesses did not accept this as a defence.
Daurbekov’s lawyer is not satisfied with the sentence. After all, Timishev believes that Zarema’s father was “forced” to commit the crime. “They didn’t regard him as a proper man any more. They didn’t criticise him directly, but when he came to a funeral, for example, they would say: ‘Sultan, go back home, we don’t need you here,’” says Timishev. “He felt like an outcast. Murder is a tragedy, of course, but everybody will know that it wasn’t a fair conviction. Or should he have just got used to everyone laughing at the very sight of him and passing him by without a word? Now, nobody thinks he’s a hero. It’s a normal thing to happen. He killed his daughter. He did the right thing and that’s it. But nobody will laugh at him any more.”
In May 2015, Abdulaziz Abdurakhmanov, from the village of Chirkey in Dagestan’s Buinaksk district was tried for the same offence as Sultan Daurbakov: he killed his cousin Asiyat for “immoral behaviour”.
In court, Abdurakhmanov told the judge that he had seen on the internet a video “of an intimate nature” involving his cousin and an unknown man. What exactly it showed is unknown, but after watching it he went to his cousin’s house and demanded to hear who the man on the video was and who was the father of Asiyat’s second child, born just two weeks earlier. According to his testimony, his cousin refused to explain anything and just said that the video showed her with the man she loved and nobody had the right to poke their nose into her private life.
The cousins got into an argument, with Abdurakhmanov screaming that Asiyat had brought shame on the whole family and her telling him to get out of her house. Then, according to Abdurakhmanov, she grabbed a kitchen knife and went for him, but he managed to snatch the knife out of her hand and stabbed Asiyat in her side. In court, Abdurakhmanov repeatedly stated that when he left, she was still alive. He then told his family about what had happened and turned himself in to the police, still unaware that his cousin was dead. Doctors found nine stab wounds on her body. Like Daurbekov, Abdurakhmanov claimed that he had killed his cousin “in the heat of passion”.
“Honour killings” don’t happen spontaneously — these crimes are planned by members of the women’s families in advance
Zulfiya Isakadzhiyeva, the lawyer who defended Abdurakhmanov in court, hoped to have the charge reduced from murder to manslaughter. The client, Isakadzhiyeva said, had no intention of killing his cousin and couldn’t even remember the details of what happened. At his trial, Abdurakhmanov repented of his actions, asked his victim’s mother to pardon him and promised to support her children, and the families of Abdulaziz and Asiyat (whose fathers were brothers), made peace with one another. The victim’s father supposedly even told his brother, “I have nothing against Abdulaziz: he did what I should have done.” And Asiyat’s mother asked the court not to send Abdurakhmanov to prison, supporting the defence’s appeal for a psychological-psychiatric examination of the defendant.
In conversation with Mediazona, Isakadzhiyeva said that the court tried to avoid any discussion of Asiyat’s private life. All that was known was that she was divorced from her husband. “Asiyat’s mother said that she had been married to her husband as a second wife,” the lawyer said. “Her mother thought that her two children had been born in that marriage, but her ex-husband told the court that he couldn’t be sure he was the father. And rumours were flying around the village. But family members didn’t openly approve of Abdurakhmanov’s action and many couldn’t believe him capable of such a thing. He himself made a partial confession, denying that he had meant to kill her. He couldn’t even remember stabbing her so many times, he said: he thought he had only knifed her twice.”
The forensic psychiatric examination, which took place in Astrakhan, didn’t corroborate Abdurakhmanov’s claimed state of mind at the time of the killing. The court found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to six years in a high security prison colony.
“Honour killings” don’t happen spontaneously — these crimes are planned by members of the women’s families in advance, says Svetlana Anokhina, editor-in-chief of Daptar.ru, a website devoted to women’s rights in Dagestan: “As a rule, the decision is taken by the family together and more than one person is involved in the actual murder.”
Anokhina also tells us that there is no correlation between “honour killings” and a family’s devoutness or lack of it: “It’s difficult to say why these ‘traditions’ arose, Dagestan is a very diverse society. I know a village where there are ‘swingers’ among the inhabitants. And next door you have a family where there have been four ‘honour killings’.”
“As a rule, the decision is taken by the family together and more than one person is involved in the actual murder”
It is often members of the extended family — uncles, cousins — who initiate the murder of a young woman for unacceptable behaviour. In the winter of 2010, for example, police officers arrested Tarkhan Ozdoyev, a resident of Ingushetia, whom they suspected of killing his cousin and her two daughters. The bodies of Madina Ozdoyeva, 42, Zarema Ozdoyeva, 20, and Fatima Ozdoyeva, 18, were found by passers-by on the outskirts of the village of Ali-Yurt. Their corpses, which had been dumped in the woods, had been practically beheaded and were covered in bruises and abrasions — before being killed they had been badly beaten.
Ozdoyev admitted to murdering his relatives: they had, in his opinion, behaved in an immoral fashion — walking along the street with their faces uncovered, smiling and talking freely with other villagers. He was convicted of multiple murders and sentenced to 12 years in a high security prison colony.
“Fathers often take pity on their children. That’s only natural. But less close relatives can raise the subject and go around spreading the word. And in the end the woman gets killed,” says Svetlana Anokhina. “Male relatives can theoretically intercede for a women accused of ‘immoral behaviour’: in that case, several men have to agree to stand surety for her in front of other family members. But I’ve never actually heard of men trying to save a woman in this way.”
“Honour killings” are often a front for banal, mercenary aims — there is a well-known case where a brother murdered his sister for an inheritance, but excused his crime by claiming that she had an immoral lifestyle. And these killings are also useful for covering up the traces of incest, for example, says Anokhina: “So each of these crimes have to be studied closely, to uncover the real reasons behind them.”
The concept of family honour occupies a special place in the general value system of the peoples of the Caucasus. As Naima Neflyasheva, a specialist in Caucasus history at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ African Studies Institute explains, the behaviour and reputations of girls and women was always of importance to the whole family. “Under local customary law, a married woman who slept with another man could face corporal punishment — 19th century oral sources talk about 100 strokes of the birch; or she could have the tip of her nose cut off and be sent in shame back to her father’s house with her hair loose or cut short,” Neflyasheva says. “Some written sources mention that an unfaithful wife may be killed. But ethnographers’ field studies suggest that both physical punishments and killing were rare occurrences.”
“I’ve heard of young women being expelled from their village, but I don’t know of any cases of their being whipped in today’s Caucasus”
According to Neflyasheva, a bride whose husband discovered she was not a virgin would be returned by his family to her father’s house on a cart with her back turned towards the horse. And if a young woman who was not yet betrothed was found to be “impure” she was usually despatched to relatives in another village, to be married as soon as possible to an elderly widower or the “village idiot”.
“However, these customs had generally died out by the 1930s-1950s”, says Neflyasheva. “And as for the Shariat penalty for premarital sexual relations, that is ideally decided by a Shariat court — a qadi and imams — not by the young woman’s family.” Shariat Law makes a distinction between licentiousness and premarital and adulterous sexual relations – for unmarried women the punishment is a certain number of lashes with a whip and expulsion, as far away as possible, from the village.
“I’ve heard of young women being expelled from their village,” says Neflyasheva, “but I don’t know of any cases of their being whipped in today’s Caucasus. Islam condemns the taking of someone’s life. I feel that the so-called ‘honour killings’ that have taken place in the last few years in the Eastern Caucasus (I want to stress that this practice is region specific) should be regarded as the shariatisation of violence, where everyday violence becomes identified with Sharia Law and is seen as such by the people who commit these crimes.”
Of course, by no means all divorced women are persecuted by their families, Svetlana Anokhina tells us. Nonetheless, some realise that their relatives won’t let them live a quiet life in Dagestan and try to leave the republic. This was the case with Maryam Magomedova, from the village of Nechayevka in the Kizilyurt District, who was forced to move to Moscow with her mother and sister because of continual rows with relatives. Then in August 2010 she was invited to a wedding back in Dagestan and agreed to go.
“When she arrived in the village, Kasum Magomedov, her uncle on her father’s side, summoned her for a chat,” says Salimat Kadyrova, who represented the interests of the dead woman’s mother in court. “At his trial, he said that he had long wanted to talk to her, as he had heard that she and her husband had split up after she was unfaithful to him. Magomedov was also annoyed that her hair was uncovered. He drove her off to the edge of the village to talk to her. She told him to stay out of her life, and he lost his rag. He claimed that he had blanked out and when he came to his senses she was already strangled to death.”
Magomedov buried his niece in the village cemetery himself. When a search for her began Murtazali Abdulmuslimov, her uncle on her mother’s side, discovered that she had been last seen getting into a car with Magomedov and his nephew. After talking to them he suspected foul play, and later noticed a fresh grave in the cemetery and took Magomedov to task again. The same evening, members of Magomedov’s family called for Abdulmuslimov and asked him to go with them to visit Kasum, their oldest brother. There he was told that Kasum had wiped out the stain of shame they bore for Maryam’s unseemly behaviour and proposed that the whole thing be hushed up and Maryam re-buried with all proper funeral rites. Abdulmuslimov, however, didn’t agree and the victim’s mother, Kusum Magomedova, also refused to be reconciled with the family of her daughter’s killer.
“In ‘honour killing’ cases, once the defendant’s guilt is established, he will be convicted, but there remains the question of the length of his sentence”
“Although Kasum’s relatives also condemned his actions, at his trial they still tried to stick up for him and wouldn’t admit that he had met up with Abdulmuslimov and confessed his guilt,” Kadyrova recalls. During Magomedov’s first trial, the defendant denied his guilt. In April 2013, the Kizilyurt District Court acquitted Magomedov and released him from custody in the courtroom. However, his victim’s mother appealed against the verdict and Dagestan’s High Court overturned it.
“Maryam’s mother said that if it had been a real ‘honour killing’, she might have let it go, but she was sure that her daughter was being slandered,” says Kadyrova. “And indeed, witnesses testified that Maryam was a modest young woman.” In the autumn of 2013, the case was reopened, and in spring 2014 Kasum Magomedov made a partial confession, but claimed he killed his victim “in the heat of passion”. An expert examination concluded that the defendant was of sound mind and he was sentenced to seven years in a high security prison colony.
“In ‘honour killing’ cases, once the defendant’s guilt is established, he will be convicted, but there remains the question of the length of his sentence,” the lawyer tells us. “I think the sentences are sometimes too short, but most killings like this manage to be passed off as suicides or accidents. Or the whole thing is hushed up: a young woman disappears and no one will ever know that she was murdered. And even if they know, even their mothers rarely tell. If [the young woman’s “improper” behaviour] is confirmed, her mother has to share the blame — she didn’t bring her up right — so she has to keep silent and hold it all in. But these men are supported by society, sympathised with and their crimes absolved. They’re seen as something like orderlies, cleaning up mess.”
In 2015 Marem Alieyeva, a resident of Ingushetia, also tried to escape from a husband who beat her, but gave in to her family’s persuasion and returned to the republic. Two weeks later, some relatives of her husband Mukharbek Evloyev gathered at their home. Marem could see on the CCTV screen that they were having a discussion about something, and told her sister, just in case. Alieyeva disappeared the same day and has never been seen since, alive or dead.
“The only people they try hard to find are potential suicide bombers,” says Daptar.ru’s Svetlana Anokhina. “But for a search to begin, someone has to report a missing person, and this doesn’t always happen. And the police themselves are very unwilling to open cases of disappearance, so it collapses at the first hurdle. The cops just don’t look for women who have disappeared. They tell the families that the young woman probably just decided to run away. And here it’s a question of: ‘no body: no case’.”
“Why do the dead women’s mothers so frequently keep silent about it? Because they don’t want to get their other children into trouble”
“Sometimes cases are opened because they find a body,” says defence lawyer Timishev. “Although then you can say: ‘They deserved all they got’. Seven or eight women have been found in various parts of Chechnya with bullet holes in their heads, killed five to seven years ago. But they were all ‘tramps’.” The lawyer was evidently referring to the case in November 2008 where six women were killed at the same time, in various districts, by shots to the head. Nothing was stolen from them — neither jewellery, nor cash — so the investigators came up with the idea of “honour killings”. Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov said at the time that they were women of easy virtue who had been punished by their families. As Kadyrov said, “In our culture, if a woman lives like that, if she sleeps with a man, her family kills both of them.” He also admitted, however, that the killings couldn’t be justified by any appeal to tradition.
“Why do the dead women’s mothers so frequently keep silent about it? Because they don’t want to get their other children into trouble,” says Svetlana Anokhina. Also, the murder of a supposedly morally compromised daughter gives her family greater authority in their community. “It means that this family is pretty influential, and has a concept of honour and connections that might protect it from criminal charges. A family like this is afraid of nothing.”
“There are no reliable statistics on killings of women whose families believe they have brought shame on them,” concludes Olga Gnezdilova, a lawyer working for the Netherlands-based Justice Initiative Foundation. “In most cases their deaths are not even registered as murders. The young women are just buried, either with a proper funeral or just in a hole somewhere. The neighbours, of course know about it, but don’t report it, of course.”
Translated by Liz Barnes.
Luke Wright's explosive play takes us into the dilemmas of the eighties left and helps tell the story of where we are today.
Every generation thinks ‘their’ decade is the one. Mine was the 1980s and funnily enough it was ‘the decade’. It was of course a ten-year span of Margaret, the Malvinas, Miners, Militant and Morrissey. While the 1960s threw off post war gloom and the 1970s merely acted as the start of the break down, the 1980s was the decade of polarization. It was raw. It was riots. It was Red Wedge. It was the start of now almost four decades of free market fundamentalism, of cash, capitalism and chaos.
Today in August 2017, Luke Wright, the Essex poet takes us back to that tumultuous decade in both content and style in the shape of his breathtaking, exhausting and uplifting play Frankie Vah. In particular Wright takes us back to Labour and polarization of the party as the left/right spilt, that had always been a feature, became a chasm and dramatically shapes Labour now. Wright has form when it comes to poems about Labour, his What I learned from Johnny Bevan won awards and is a searing insight in to the disappointment that was New Labour. In Frankie Vah he takes the political content up to 11 on the Spinal Tap amp.
It’s 1987 and an aspiring young poet Simon Mortimer has flunked out of Uni, changes his name to Frankie Vah in the vein that Johnny Lydon to Johnny Rotten and goes on tour with an indie rock band against the backdrop of that years general election. Through spitfire verse and hurricane prose Wright weaves together the music, events and politics of the moment, focusing in on Labour and Neil Kinnock as the tour and the election heat up.
Wright, who is in his mid thirties, is too young to have experienced this explosive era directly. I did, and he gets the details and the sentiment of the events spot on. Nothing jars. The conference decisions, the leadership speeches and the policy moves. He opens up the soul of Labour as the battle between power and principle are played out on stage.
Frankie Vah is a love story on two levels – of his relationship with his artist girlfriend and how it degenerates with all the temptation and distraction of a life on the road. But it is a story about the love of Labour, of hope, authenticity and belief. Frankie watches Labour shift to the right in search of votes and is horrified. He loses his love and his Labour. But does he learn about either? What Wright invites us to consider is a third way – not between capitalism and social democracy but between the paradoxical values of principle and power, the need to see grey and not just black and white, the need to connect with those you don’t agree with to learn, adapt and be empathetic. Frankie, like Labour, needs to grow up.
Labour in the 1980s was too rocked by Thatcherism and too seduced by marketing to understand let alone manage the paradoxes of a politics in which pragmatism became dirty word. The left spilt between hard and soft and allowed the careerists and those without any form of compass through to the top. The hard left, incredibly, toughed it out and have earned their reward at the helm of Labour. But control and belief are never enough without deep cultural roots in which meaningful alliance for change can be made.
Wright does live poetry performances within the play – as Frankie takes to the stage but gets nowhere near Hollywood, spitting out anti-Thatcher bile in the fashion of the punk poets of the day – only better. Frankie Vah is an hour in which you are transported back to the moment in which the faultiness of the politics of today were first formed. Wright memorizes and mesmerizes in equal measure. Unlike Ed Miliband no important sections of the play are forgotten. He leaves you spell bound, a storyteller and performer at the top of his game.
Luke Wright is performing Frankie Vah at the Underbelly on Cowgate at the Edinburgh Fringe and is then touring The Toll.
Buzz Lightyear is tortured and becomes a prison guard in the surveillance-laden dystopia of Toy Story 3. Does it matter?
“Ten percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and ten percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.” Susan Sontag.
Who would ever have thought that there would be torture scenes in G and PG-rated children's films, or that video games would allow someone to feel the rush of killing, or that the Disney corporation would try to trademark ‘SEAL Team 6’ so that they could use it for toys, Christmas stockings and snow globes after this elite military group had killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani compound?
Who could have imagined that a child would write a few loving words on her desk and then be arrested in front of her classmates, or that the U.S. government would torture real children in the ‘war on terror?’ Alexa Gonzalez, a 12-year old girl from Queens, doodled “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here. 2/1/10,” adding a smiley face for emphasis. The next thing she knew she was escorted from school in handcuffs and detained for hours.
And what of 14-year old Mohammed El-Gharani, who was subjected to sleep deprivation and hung from his wrists while a U.S. soldier threatened to cut off his penis with a knife? Welcome to the new face of childhood in America.
Seeing “little Boo,” the toddler who can barely speak in Monsters, Inc., strapped into a seat with holes in the bottom for draining bodily fluids just like the electric chair on death row convinced me to take a closer look at what children all over the world are watching as their purported ‘entertainment;’ what this might be doing to their minds and their emotions; and how all this is related to public policy and the institutions of society.
I don’t think it’s accidental that—as cartoon images of violence, militarism and incarceration fill children's heads—the school-to-prison pipeline is increasingly active in the schools of poor neighborhoods and communities of color, many of whose children are slated for a life in jail or in the armed forces. Pushing students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system—often for minor offenses such as getting behind in their homework—is as disturbing as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instituting programs on the middle school level as a way of attracting new recruits, or the use of images in children’s films that justify the ‘war on terror.’
Yet the propaganda continues. In the film The Incredibles, children are shown the 9/11 trope of a plane bent on destruction that’s heading toward a U.S. city while an entire family ends up on a torture table; the film also shows “Mr Incredible” being blasted by viscous bubbles similar to the supposedly non-lethal incapacitant sticky-foam weapons that are currently being proposed for crowd control in the U.S. and elsewhere. And what are children to think when their beloved Buzz Lightyear—shown as a friend to all for two of the three films in the series—is tortured, has his personality changed, and becomes a prison guard for the cruel overlord in the surveillance-laden dystopia of Toy Story 3?
These examples and many others like them matter enormously, because children's beliefs about other people are molded from a very young age—think how the characters in the Disney film Aladdin, for example, may have encouraged children to see the Arabic world as mean-spirited at a time when support for the first Gulf War was being consciously built up by the U.S. Government. The cultural critic Henry A. Giroux found that Disney not only included offensive language toward the Middle East in both this film and its sequel, but didn't even bother to write actual Arabic in the scenes where it was called for, choosing instead to substitute a scribble of nonsensical scrawl.
In addition to the language of death, war scenes, and general barbarism, there are other disturbing features of G and PG-rated children's movies. In Turbo, the tale of a snail trying to enter and win the Indianapolis 500 for example, nearly all of the African-American characters have an inner-city vibe. Spanish-speaking characters are presented as poor, lazy and/or loud, a stereotype repeated in Open Season, the story of a pet bear who is sent back to the wild.
Women are shown as either ‘bitchy’ or subservient—as in Beauty and the Beast, pretty much a primer for women to learn how to endure an abusive relationship (‘If I'm nice enough he'll come around’). Or watch how Ratatouille presents a woman as psychotic when the character “Colette” stabs the sleeve of a fellow kitchen worker’s uniform. Native Americans are invariably depicted as mysterious figures who speak monosyllabically, as seen in Rango, for example. “Rango,” the new sheriff in town in what appears to be an old racist Western film, says to “Wounded Bird,” “You wanna sniff the air or commune with a buffalo or something?”
Children themselves are presented as either endangered beings or as monsters, and sometimes both, as in the Toy Story series and Nanny McPhee. Guns, cruelty, and bullying are woven through just about every children’s film in the U.S., but according to This Film Is Not Yet Rated, the Motion Picture Association of America doesn't care about the level of violence so long as no one hears any cursing or is a witness to drug use or alternative lifestyles.
This last point is especially harmful because ritual ridicule in a brutal gender binary system has been linked to a recent rise in school shootings. “Most of the boys who opened fire were mercilessly and routinely teased and bullied” as researchers Michael S. Kimmel and Matthew Mahler put it. Our definitions of what it means to ‘be a man’ are injected early on. Seeing the character “Ken”—who is depicted as effeminate—being threatened by “Barbie” in Toy Story 3 tells boys to be wary of having nice handwriting or displaying any other purportedly-feminine behavior. Or take the example of the ‘minion’ in Despicable Me who is teased for wanting some affection.
Meanwhile, children are busy learning how to kill from video games, repeating the cruelties they learn from films, watching playground fights on YouTube, and being patted down for guns and knives at school. At the same time, American tax dollars are hard at work being used for nationalistic ceremonies at pro sports events and censoring directors who don't promote ‘patriotism’ and the virtues of war. Pro-war movies like Black Hawk Down had no trouble enlisting support from the U.S. military, but those with a different message like Forrest Gump and GI Jane were ostracized.
“Of course the people don't want war...That is understood...But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Propaganda and other more subtle forms of media communication have always been used to build support for war, militaristic policing and government surveillance on the grounds of ‘national security.’ The images and messages contained in film, TV, popular music and video games form an important part of this process, especially because there are now only five big media conglomerates that control over 90 per cent of everything that is seen and heard across America.
Against this background we are growing accustomed to torture and militarism in children’s films. What next—Darryl the Drone or Larry the Land Mine and his escapades? When we laugh at the suffering of others we become complicit in the darkness of violence, cruelty and war. Is that the kind of upbringing we want to give to our kids?
The case of two Brighton brothers killed in Syria raises fundamental questions for local authorities, says Fiyaz Mughal, who sat on a Serious Case Review into their deaths.
Brighton and Hove Council has published the results of a two-year long Serious Case Review on vulnerable young people who are at risk of exploitation through radicalisation, following the deaths of two brothers in 2014 in Syria.
Hailing from the Brighton and Hove area, Abdullah Deghayes, 18, and his brother Jaffar, 17 had gone to join an elder sibling who was in Syria. Their uncle Omar Deghayes had been held in Guantanamo Bay for five years until his release in 2007 and received £1 million compensation for his detention.
The brothers were believed to have joined the Al-Nusra Front, which had pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2013, and died the following year. Abdullah Deghayes was killed by a sniper while chasing retreating forces in Latakia in April 2014 and Jaffar died six months later during a firefight amid the ruins of Idlib.
Both had a long history of engagement with police and statutory services in Brighton, some of which was related to anti-social behaviour and on other occasions connected to the continued targeting of their family by racist and anti-Muslim hate campaigns.
I sat on this Serious Case Review (SCR) with an independent lead role as a cultural advisor. My role ended up being less about the ‘culture’ of the Deghayes, and more about what differentiated the line between ‘Islam’ and ‘Islamist extremism’. Yet this review also highlighted the silo working which took place as different agencies dealt with these young men, raising questions about effective risk management of their case. The issues affecting the Deghayes family – the racism, anti-Muslim hatred, access to extremist rhetoric, anti-social behaviour and failures in addressing ongoing abuse – meant that they were seen as people who had to be dealt with, rather than as a family that needed to be safeguarded from serious risks. Allied to this was a sense of helplessness within statutory services in Brighton and Hove Council over how to work with black and minority ethnic (BAME) families who had migrated to the UK from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
The lack of prosecutions against those targeting the family for racist and anti-Muslim hatred must have sent a message that their experiences and pain were unimportant and easily disregarded. I know from the work of Tell MAMA, the national anti-Muslim hate monitoring project I founded, that such hate crimes (where victims feel they have no access to justice) can build grievances which simmer away and may later erupt.
Add this to a fractured sense of identity within young men and with hindsight it is easy to see where such a set of experiences can lead. The burning grievances cease to be internal rages and turn instead outwards towards those who are perceived to come from ‘perpetrator’ communities. Everyone who looks like, sounds like or even comes from a different faith or cultural background of the perpetrator, can become ‘the enemy’ and is dehumanised through the embers of hate, fuelled by a sense of victimisation and grievance.
In the Brighton and Hove case review, the amount of hatred that the family suffered was extensive. Windows were broken, graffiti scrawled on their homes, the family physically attacked and intimidated and verbal abuse on an ongoing basis. These hate campaigns against them went on for long periods of time, probably further destabilising any sense of connection that the two brothers felt to the local area. It may partly explain why they simply got up one day and left the coastal town.
Yet it is easy to point the finger at local authorities who have failed to stop young men and women leaving for Iraq and Syria, drawn by the glorified nihilistic pull of the Islamic State’s propaganda. Work on Prevent, the community related arm of the Counter Terrorism strategy (CONTEST), was still developing when the Deghayes brothers decided to go to Syria. Training on understanding the risks of extremism were also missing.
This meant that the Deghayes brothers were not seen as extremely vulnerable to radicalisation but were viewed instead by various agencies and the local authority through the prism of anti-social behaviour and ‘troubled’ families. In addition, who could have comprehended the slick and Hollywood-style propaganda that Daesh (Islamic State) was producing and which would play on identity and belonging within the minds of a small number of British Muslims? This was alluring messaging for some troubled young men. In hindsight the environment and the troubled lifestyles of the Deghayes all pointed to deep vulnerabilities that needed addressing.
In this case it was an Educational Support worker who first made a referral to Prevent after she heard one of the brothers make anti-American statements on his return from a country in conflict. The support worker was from Northern Ireland and the comments alarmed her because she understood the brutality of the conflict back home and the rhetoric of division and extremism that existed there.
The missed opportunity, the risks that international crises pose to young fractured minds, extremist rhetoric and the fundamental lack of awareness within Brighton and Hove Council and other agencies, allied to the fact that the family were seen as ‘troubled’, meant that two young Brighton men lost their lives fighting in foreign lands for groups who used them. Al Nusra, Daesh and other extremist groups will fall and these lives will have been lost in vain, but the real legacy of these deaths should be in how the local authority can save lives in the future, through early interventions and paths that can divert people away from extremism and, ultimately, save lives.
يبحث موقع openDemocracy عن مشاركين لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط لتونس.
openDemocracy is looking for participants for the Middle East Forum for Tunisia.
The Middle East Forum is a project that encourages emerging young voices to express themselves, exchange views and be heard. The project provides participants with a series of workshops to develop writing skills, media presence, and digital security as well as a free discussion space where they have the capacity to debate constructively. Participants in the forum host speakers, acquire skills, share knowledge, and give feedback to one another.
We are currently looking for 7 participants in or from Tunisia to join the project. If you are interested in participating in this project and developing your journalistic skills read the information below and send in your application.
We expect that each participant will have the opportunity to achieve the following benefits:
In addition to these general expectations, the participant will also be required to meet the following requirements during the program:
You can apply for the position if you fall under any of the following:
Deadline for applicaiton: September 15th.
منتدى الشرق الأوسط هو مشروع يشجّع الأجيال الصاعدة الشابّة على التعبير عن نفسها وتبادل الآراء وإيصال صوتها. يقدّم المشروع للمشاركين سلسلة من ورش العمل لتطوير مهاراتهم في الكتابة والحضور الإعلامي والأمن الرقمي كما يوفّر المشروع فضاء للمناقشات يمنح المشاركين فرصة التحاور بطريقة بنّاءة. يستضيف المشاركون في المنتدى متحدثين ويكتسبون مهارات ويتشاركون المعلومات ويعبّرون عن رأيهم بعمل زملائهم.
نبحث عن 7 مشتركين من تونس للانضمام إلى المشروع. إذا كنت مهتماً بالمشاركة في المشروع وبتطوير مهاراتك الصحفية، تابع القراءة وأرسل طلبك.
- خبرة مهنية
- معرفة عملية بالكتابة الصحفية والمناظرات ووسائل التواصل الاجتماعي
- تدريب يعزّز الإلمام بالأمن الرقمي والتطرّق إلى قضايا حقوق الإنسان
- إلمام إضافي وخبرة في كيفية تعزيز الحضور الصحفي على الإنترنت
- احترام السياسات والإجراءات والقواعد الملائمة للسلوك المحترف
- المحافظة على علاقة عمل دقيقة وموثوقة والالتزام بالجلسات المعيّنة وبعدد المقالات المتفق عليه
- التواصل بانتظام مع الميسّر، وتحديداً في المواقف التي يحتاج فيها المشترك إلى تعديل شروط علاقة العمل (مثلاً، تغيير موعد الحصة/الاجتماع)
- احترام السرية والآراء المعبّر عنها ضمن المجموعة
- أخذ المبادرة للتطوّع لمهمات أو مشاريع يجدها المشترك مثيرة للاهتمام
بالإضافة إلى المتطلبات العامة، يجب أن يلتزم المشترك بالتالي خلال البرنامج:
- الالتزام بحدّ أدنى من الحصص يساوي 12حصة
- تطوير علاقة عمل مع الميسّر للعب دور المرشد بشكل صحيح
- المشاركة بالمناظرات بنشاط والتركيز على المواضيع وكيفية تبلور النقاش
- تدوين الملاحظات فعلياً خلال كلّ حصة وتشاركها مع المجموعة
- الانخراط في تطوير فضاء إلكتروني للمناظرات والمشاركة فيه
- كتابة مقال واحد على الأقلّ في الشهر، استناداً إلى المناقشات التي حصلت
- فهم كيفية تحسين عملك وتطبيق ذلك
- تقييم ومراقبة نجاحك استناداً إلى اتساع نطاق تأثيرك
- التفكير في تجربتك والكتابة عنها لدى إتمام البرنامج
يمكنك التقدّم بطلب إذا:
- كنت بين سنّ 21 و30؛
- كنت تطمح لتصبح صحفياً أو مدوّناً؛
- لديك إطّلاع واسع على المنطقة المحددة للبرنامج؛
- تتكلّم وتكتب العربية و/أو الإنكليزية بطلاقة.
كيف يمكن التقدّم للتدريب؟
أرسِل نصّاً من 1000 – 1500 كلمة باللغة الإنكليزية أو العربية عن موضوع يهمّك، مثلاً حوار أثّر فيك أو مراقبتك لمحيطك أو حدث ثقافي أو مبادرة مثيرة للاهتمام أو وجهة نظرك حول سياسات المنطقة أو سبب اهتمامك بالمشاركة في البرنامج بالاضافة الى سيرتك.
الرجاء إرسال جميع الطلبات والمستندات المرتبطة بها إلى موقع firstname.lastname@example.org والموعد النهائي للتقديم هو 15 سبتمبر.
يبحث موقع openDemocracy عن ميسّر لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط في تونس.
openDemocracy is looking to hire a facilitator for the Middle East Forum in Tunisia.
The Middle East Forum is a project that encourages emerging young voices to express themselves, exchange views and be heard. The project provides participants with a series of workshops to develop writing skills, media presence, and digital security as well as a free discussion space where they have the capacity to debate constructively. Participants in the forum host speakers, acquire skills, share knowledge, and give feedback to one another.
We are currently looking for a facilitator to coordinate a group of 7 participants from Tunisia. openDemocracy has a standard of expectation from our participants as well as from each individual facilitator.
This is a freelance role, 35 days of work spread over 11 months with a salary of $109 per day.
In general, facilitators will be expected to:
- Ensure a safe space for all the participants to express themselves freely;
- Host debates but allow for the creative process to take its due course;
- Cultivate a good working relationship with the participants, and serve as their mentor;
- Maintain a good line of communication with the participants, and be available for any questions;
- Be responsible for training the participants, providing them with the tools necessary to complete the program successfully, and the ability to organise other professional trainers where needed;
- Outline learning objectives for the group;
- Oversee and support the participants’ work, and assist where necessary;
- Provide constructive feedback and suggestions to enhance the participant’s learning experience.
We are looking for people who are passionate about journalism and its potential to change the world, and have:
- Expertise in the specific region of the program;
- Experience in debate moderation;
- Prior experience of digital publishing and social media;
- A background in journalism and journalistic writing;
- Fluency in both Arabic and English - able to write and edit;
- Knowledge of online security, computer systems and office-related software;
- Possess strong interpersonal and communication skills.
Specific responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:
- Finding, screening and selecting seven candidates for the program;
- Meeting the commitment of 15 sessions;
- Actively developing an online space for debate;
- Developing a working relationship with the participants, such that you can adequately serve as their mentor;
- Actively moderating debate;
- Managing communication with participants;
- Ensuring that notes for each session are being taken. Share notes with all participants;
- Editing articles written by the participants in both Arabic and English;
- Liaising with the project coordinator and editor;
- Writing progress reports;
Who can apply?
You can apply for the position if you fall under any of the following:
- Previous experience as a journalist or editor
- Currently completing or recently completed post-graduate studies in related field
- Possess expertise in the specific region of the program
How to apply?
Send in a sample piece of 1000 words in Arabic or English of why you believe you are suitable for this role and your resume
Please send your application documents to email@example.com by the 28th August 2017.
يبحث موقع openDemocracy عن ميسّر لمنتدى الشرق الأوسط في تونس.
منتدى الشرق الأوسط هو مشروع يشجّع الأجيال الصاعدة الشابّة على التعبير عن نفسها وتبادل الآراء وإيصال صوتها. يقدّم المشروع للمشاركين سلسلة من ورش العمل لتطوير مهاراتهم في الكتابة والحضور الإعلامي والأمن الرقمي كما يوفّر المشروع فضاء للمناقشات ويمنح المشاركين فرصة التحاور بطريقة بنّاءة. يستضيف المشاركون في المنتدى متحدثين ويكتسبون مهارات ويتشاركون المعلومات ويعبّرون عن رأيهم بعمل زملائهم.
نسعى إلى توظيف ميسّر لتنسيق عمل مجموعة من 7 مشاركين من تونس.
ثمة معايير يتوقع موقع openDemocracy من المشاركين ومن كلّ ميسّر احترامها.
هذا منصب حرّ (freelance) يتضمّن 35 يوماً من العمل ممتدّ على فترة 11 شهراً.
- تأمين منبر آمن لجميع المشاركين للتعبير عن آرائهم بِحرية؛
- استضافة مناظرات والسماح للعملية الخلّاقة أن تأخذ مجراها المناسب؛
- بناء علاقة عمل جيدة مع المشاركين وتأدية دور المرشد؛
- الحرص على تأمين التواصل السليم مع المشاركين والتوفر للإجابة عن جميع أسئلتهم؛
- تحمّل مسؤولية تدريب المشاركين ومدّهم بالأدوات اللازمة لإتمام البرنامج بنجاح وبالقدرة على تأمين مدرّبين محترفين آخرين، إذا دعت الحاجة؛
- وضع أهداف التعلّم للمجموعة؛
- الإشراف على عمل المشاركين ودعمهم ومساعدتهم لدى الحاجة؛
- تقديم تعليقات واقتراحات بنّاءة لتحسين التجربة التعلّمية للمشاركين.
نبحث عن أشخاص شغوفين في مجال الصحافة ويؤمنون بقدرتها على تغيير العالم. يجب أن يتحلّوا بالمهارات التالية:
- إطّلاع واسع على شؤون المنطقة المحدّدة للبرنامج؛
- خبرة في إدارة المناقشات؛
- خبرة سابقة في النشر الرقمي والتواصل الاجتماعي؛
- تخصّص في الصحافة والكتابة الصحافية؛
- طلاقة في اللغتين العربية والإنكليزية والقدرة على الكتابة والتنقيح في اللغتين؛
- معرفة في أمن الإنترنت وأنظمة الكمبيوتر والبرمجيات المكتبية؛
- امتلاك مهارات متقدمة في التواصل والتعامل مع الآخرين.
- إيجاد 7 مرشحين للبرنامج وفحص مهاراتهم والاختيار من بينهم؛
- القدرة على الالتزام بحضور 15 جلسة؛
- تطوير فعلي لفضاء إلكتروني للمناظرات؛
- تطوير علاقات عمل مع المشاركين للنجاح في دور المرشد؛
- إدارة المناظرات بشكل نشط؛
- القدرة على التواصل مع المشاركين؛
- الحرص على تدوين الملاحظات في كلّ جلسة وتشاركها مع جميع المشاركين؛
- تنقيح المقالات التي يكتبها المشاركون باللغتين العربية والإنكليزية؛
- التنسيق مع مدير المشروع والمحرّر؛
- صياغة تقارير عن سير العمل وتقدّمه.
يمكنك التقدّم بطلب للحصول على الوظيفة إذا:
- لديك خبرة سابقة كمحرّر أو صحافي؛
- أتممت دراسات عليا في مجال مرتبط أو إذا كنت في طور إتمام هذه الدراسات؛
- لديك إطّلاع واسع على المنطقة المحددة للبرنامج.
أرسِل نصّاً من 1000 كلمة باللغة الإنكليزية أو العربية تفسّر فيه الأسباب التي تجعلك مناسباً لهذا المنصب، بالإضافة إلى سيرتك الذاتية.
الرجاء إرسال جميع الطلبات والمستندات المرتبطة بها إلى موقع firstname.lastname@example.org والموعد النهائي للتقديم هو ٢٨ أغسطس ٢٠١٧.