Tag Archives: Libya

Appy New Year!

Wishing everyone a very happy, productive and peaceful 2012.  My gift to you…

2011 by numbers:

1 new country, South Sudan, added to the world.

199 bloggers arrested, 31% increase on 2010 (Reporters Without Borders).

248 days from the first protests in Libya to the death of Colonel Gadaffi (15th February-20th October).

3,100 people arrested in connection with the Summer riots in England (BBC)

3,500 protesters killed in Syria (UN figures Nov 2011).

2 million people gather in Tahrir Square, Cairo, to demand the resignation of President Mubarak.

6.5 million people download Angry Birds on Christmas day.



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The Maldives on the map and finding a fan in Cameron.

Back in June, I was lucky enough to witness some of the goings on at the 17th meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, including an emergency session on the situation in Libya.  While unanimously condemned by the delegates, there was an absence of true revulsion at the situation until the Maldives took the floor. The delegate of this tiny group of islands (population 350,000) released such a passionate and hard-hitting condemnation of Libya it really took me by surprise and made the room squirm. Taking to Twitter (with something along the lines of ‘Go Maldives!” ) led to an RT by @ILoveMaldives, whose little blurb reads “1% Land & 99% Water- In the Maldives We Teach YOu The Art Of DOing Nothing- Please NO News And No Shoes here! :)” [sic]

From this, the Maldives sounded feisty, fun and I wanted to know more.   My interest was piqued in a bizarre interview with David Cameron in The Guardian recently when, and bear with me here,  street artist Eine hypothetically asked which 5 world leaders Dave would invite on hypothetical stag do, obviously organised by Berlusconi. Part of Dave’s answer was, “My new best friend is the President of the Maldives. He’s great.” What’s going on? Is this a bit like Gordon Brown attempting to boost his popularity by claiming a love for the Arctic Monkeys? Are the Maldives the new Arctic Monkeys?

The BFF in question, President Mohamed Nasheed, has been quietly creeping onto the world stage since election in 2008, taking office from a President who by all accounts ruled with an iron fist from 1978. President Nasheed’s activist roots at first makes you wonder what on earth he and Dave have in common…

Returning to the Maldives in 1989 after a British public school education and graduating with a degree in maritime law from Liverpool, Mohamed Nasheed (nicknamed Anni) was imprisoned and tortured by government forces for speaking out against the regime and accused of spreading Christianity. Nasheed was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1991 and eventually fled the Maldives in 2004 to be granted refugee status in Britain. Following another few years of return, arrest, imprisonment, becoming an MP, losing his seat, regaining his seat, Nasheed was eventually elected President in the first major democratic vote in the Maldives for decades.

Enemies continued to accuse him of spreading Christianity in a muslim country. A BBC article in 2008 claims Nasheed “enjoyed close links to foreign organisations such as Britain’s Conservative Party which undermined the country’s faith. He has strenuously denied the allegations.” The article is unclear whether the strenuous denial applies to spreading Christianity or to having links with the Conservative party. However, it seems the Conservatives had quite a lot to do with Nasheed’s presidential campaign including campaigning advice and even funding.

Cynicism aside, President Nasheed seems to be doing an alright job: the United Nation’s universal periodic review of the Maldives in 2010 uncovers the problems you would expect from a country under transition from dictatorship to democracy, including the population getting to grips with the concept and entitlement of human rights.

Environmental credentials are impressive; as the Maldives is seriously threatened by climate change due to rising sea levels, the aim is for the entire country to be carbon neutral within ten years. Nasheed was named Time Magazine Hero of the Environment in 2009 and one of the UN Champions of the Earth in 2010. Also in 2010,  Newsweek  placed Nasheed at Number 2 in their top ten of the world’s best leaders. And Number 1? David Cameron. I get the feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this ‘special relationship’.

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The Words That Maketh Murder

PJ Harvey recently said that when writing her latest album ‘Let England Shake’, she imagined herself as an official war song correspondent. Since dubbed the new ‘war poet’ by the critics, the director of London’s Imperial War Museum went so far as to announce they would be interested in commissioning her to go into conflict zones to write a body of songs from the front lines. The mind boggles.

Lead single “The Words That Maketh Murder” laments England and America for the destruction caused in their name:

What is the glorious fruit of our land?
Its fruit is orphaned children.

To close the song, Harvey pinches a line from Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’ , a song which lighthearteldy complains of being a teenager in 1958: Working a summer job, chasing girls, not being allowed to take the car out. As a remedy to this he proclaims,

‘I’m gonna take my problem to the United Nations!’

The character in Harvey’s song is having a very different summer. This soldier remembers the fierce sun, death all around, bodies blown apart hanging from trees, all the while longing to see a woman’s face. The song closes with the line,

‘What if I take my problem to the United Nations?’

Now this may be a very tenuous link, but it made me think about the change in the way the UN is perceived. The UN was only 13 years old when Cochran wrote ‘Summertime Blues’ and had achieved much in maintaining world peace and resettling millions of people displaced by two world wars. Founded in 1945, the UN’s mandate was to ensure the atrocoties of the Second World War were never repeated, set a benchmark for human rights standards and enforce the treaties adopted in the desire to preserve the dignity of the human being. The UN has since had to adapt to new threats to world security and human rights violations. Mistakes have been made, high profile ones in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Iraq and the jury is still out on the current situation in Libya.

Resolution 1973 adopted on March 17th 2011 made me give out a little cheer. The UK had done something to be proud of on the international stage, pushing for action to stop Colonel Gaddafi slaughtering his own people. But three little words in Article 4 amongst the no fly zone, the arms embargo and the asset freezing could have got us into a whole world of trouble (again): “all necessary means.”

A month later, Gaddafi has still not stepped down and we are still forcefully engaged in military campaigns, stopping short of an all out invasion or occupation. Rightly so, as our presence in Iraq almost 8 years after “mission accomplished” was declared serves as a painful reminder of the consequences of putting boots on the ground.

So what now? Resolution 1973 also calls for “action to be taken on the diplomatic front” but who with? Forty years of oppressing the Libyan people has ensured no political opposition, no clear rebel leader has emerged to present a political alternative and the Gaddafi family are hardly packing their bags.

This is the point where human rights and peace clash. Human rights law demands justice and remedy for victims of human rights violations, which would probably start by indicting Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court. If Gaddafi struck a deal to step down as long as he was allowed to go into exile, it is a blow to justice but would it bring about peace more swiftly?

And so, with no end in sight, millions of Libyans shrug, “What if I take my problem to the United Nations?”

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