There’s a whole section on Wagner in this, and some humour. For the record… (you can order by clicking the cover to get to Zero then look for the sales tab lower right):
Click here to order: http://www.zero-books.net/books/pantomime-terror
Doc Richard Iveson is a harvester of obscure snippets and curios, none escape his ability to comb through the detritus of philosophy for gems to hold up to the gloaming (apols to Benjamin and Kracauer):
Hi John. I’m in the middle of writing a paper on Catherine Malabou and along
the way I came across an unusual use of the word “trinket” which (if
you don’t already know) I thought you might find interesting –
according to Wolfgang Sofsky (in ‘The Order of Terror’), in the Nazi
concentration camp at Ravensbruck (a women’s camp), the prisoners who
were beyond any possibility of surviving (i.e. the ‘Muselmanner’) were
known as ‘trinkets’. Odd, but provocative, don’t you think?
Details from We are Baba Ahmad campaign:
Emergency Protest in support of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October 2012
Thursday 4th October 2012
The ‘We Are Babar Ahmad Campaign’ along with partner organisations, is holding a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October from 10am asking for an immediate stay of extradition for Syed Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad.
As the Judges decide on representations from the lawyers of both men, it is important to note that their cases are very different from the others. Both are British Citizens accused of wrongdoing in Britain who have been held collectivey in maximum security prisons for 14 years without trial nor with any evidence being presented to them. The Home Affairs Select Committe which reviewed their cases has expressed grave concern. Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London has backed their right to be tried in Britain.
Dr Ismail Jalisi, speaking on behalf of ‘We Are Babar Ahmad’, said, “The extradition of these men to the United States must be stopped by the Home Secretary. The incarceration of these two men without trial and then carting them off to a country that does not need to provide any prima facie evidence even when it agrees that the allegations are based on actions that occurred here in Britain is quite frankly farcical.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declared in July 2004 and December 2006, as did the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in September 2006, that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to charge Babar Ahmad with any criminal offence in the UK. Since then in 2011 the CPS revealed for the first time that evidence had been sent to the US without ever having been reviewed by them. The Director of Public Prosecution has refused to prosecute the men despite being able to call on the Metropolitan Police to show them evidence that it deliberately witheld and sent straight to the United States.
As the Judges determine whether a stay of extradition should be granted to Babar and Talha the Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan MP has backed the campaign saying “If there is evidence against them they should be tried in the UK”.
Partners for the protest include: Stop The War, Muslim Council of Britain, London Transport Region – RMT, Enough Coalition, IHRC, Cage Prisoners, British Muslim Initiative, Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al Aqsa, Islamic Forum Europe, Muslim Safety Forum, iEngage and MDUK.
Details from the Free Tahla Ahsan Campaign site [now slightly dated, since extradition is immanent, see above]:
Talha Ahsan is a British-born poet and writer with Asperger syndrome facing extradition to America.
If convicted he will spend 70 years in “supermax” solitary confinement in ADX Florence.
Read on and help stop this injustice.
Who is Talha Ahsan?
Talha Ahsan is a British citizen born in London in 1979. He was educated at Dulwich College before receiving first class honours in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). In the week of his arrest he had job interviews to train as a librarian. His mother describes him as “a serious, bookish young man… a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy.”
Talha has Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism). In a medico legal report of June 2009, a consultant psychiatrist described him as “an extremely vulnerable individual who from a psychiatric perspective would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders.”
He is also a keen poet and has received acclaim from novelist A.L. Kennedy amongst others.
Why is he in prison?
Talha Ahsan was arrested at his home on 19 July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 which does not require the presentation of any prima facie evidence. He is accused in the US of terrorism-related offences arising out of an alleged involvement over the period of 1997-2004 with the Azzam series of websites, one of which happened to be located on a server in America.
He has never been arrested or questioned by British police, despite a number of men being so from his local area in December 2003 for similar allegations. All of them were released without charge.
One of them, Babar Ahmad, was later compensated £60,000 by the Metropolitan police after a civil case in March 2009 for the violent physical abuse during his arrest. It was evidence from this incident which formed the basis of Talha’s arrest two and a half years later.
Talha is currently making a final appeal to the European Courts of Human Rights (ECHR). He has now served the equivalent of a 12 year sentence at high security prisons without trial. He has never visited America. He denies all charges.
What is ‘Supermax’?
Imagine being confined in a 75.5sq feet cell with only a concrete slab and a thin mattress for a bed for 23 to 24 hours a day for every day of your life – the only window three inches wide looking out to a concrete pit…
This is the prospect Talha faces if extradited and convicted in the US – life without parole in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, Colorado.
Virtually all of an ADX prisoner’s daily activities occur within the confines of his single cell. Food is delivered through a slot in the door, and he eats his meals alone. He receives educational and religious programming – and some medical care – through a black and white television in his cell. When an inmate is moved outside his cell, he is shackled behind the back, and subject to a strip search.
His cell window looks out onto the concrete pit that serves as an outdoor recreation area. The sun is never visible. Prisoners at ADX rarely have contact with any other living thing, except the gloved hands of the correctional officers. Prisoners never touch soil, see plant life or view the surrounding mountains.
Prisoners in ADX receive one 15 minute social telephone call per month. Any call that is “accepted” (even by an answering machine) is considered “completed” regardless of the duration. Visits with family members are separated by a glass screen with only a telephone to speak through. The inmate is shackled throughout the visit.
In 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “prolonged isolation periods” and “the extremely harsh regime” in US Supermax prisons. It is little wonder that the former warden of ADX Florence described the prison as a ‘clean version of hell.’
What do his supporters want?
Talha deserves freedom or a fair trial in the UK. He has received a wide coalition of support. They include his local MP and shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan; novelist, A L Kennedy; former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, and the civil rights organisation, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC).
The Government accepts the possibility for the case to be resolved by a domestic prosecution as the ECtHR highlights in their admissibility judgement of July 2010. In November 2011, his co-defendant, Babar Ahmad, initiated a parliamentary debate with over 149,000 signatures in an e-petition for a UK trial demonstrating the will of the British public for these cases. There are many legal precedents to try these charges in the UK.
One case is R v. Sheppard and Whittle (January 2010), in which the appellants were charged with possession, publication and distribution of racially inflammatory material on websites hosted in California. Lord Justice Scott Baker ruled the UK was the appropriate forum for prosecution as the substantial measure of activities constituting the crime, such as the writing and maintenance of the websites, took place in the UK.
The Home Secretary should also give special consideration to his medical condition. In the USA 97% of defendants plead guilty under pressure from prosecutors. A decision to try Talha in the US will only ensure his trial is as unfair as prosecutors can make it.
How does this affect me?
The Extradition Act 2003 devalues the sovereignty of British citizenship. It was fast-tracked into UK legislation without proper scrutiny. Under the current provisions, British judges have no opportunity to decide which country is more suitable for prosecution and nor can they assess the quality of evidence from the requesting state.
In June 2011 the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights called for the implementation of a ‘most appropriate forum’ safeguard. This would allow a British judge to refuse extradition where the alleged offence took place wholly or largely in the UK.
The committee of MPs and peers also recommended that the Government ‘urgently’ renegotiate the US-UK extradition treaty to exclude granting requests in cases where the UK prosecution authorities have already decided not to investigate the individual on the same evidence adduced by the US authorities. These calls were reinforced by a cross-party consensus after parliamentary debates in November and December 2011, as well as the Home Affairs Committee report on extradition in March 2012.
A country that has demonstrated such a flagrant disregard for human rights in recent years is not the proper forum for justice. David Blunkett, the home secretary who was responsible for the act, now expresses regret at its consequences. Any concerned British citizen must work against such a law.
Refugees and asylum seekers in several German detention camps have gone on
strike in order to draw attention to and protest the inhumane predicament
they have found themselves in. 8 September 2012 marks the
beginning of their march from the detention center in Wuerzburg to Berlin.
Three near overlapping events in thee next 10 days for Centre for Cultural Studies people at Goldsmiths:
Write Now! BER-CPH-LON PhD Symposium (Feb 9-11 2012)
You have to, you want to, you need to Write Now!
But how do you publish?
In an atmosphere of loneliness, alienation, rejection, competition, anxiety, hierarchy, nepotism and jealousy, how does the “early career scholar” (re)negotiate the imperative to produce? Given the increases demands of the academic publishing industry, how can we avoid labouring under illusions, false promises and unrealistic expectations?
And yet the pleasures of the text, new platforms and opportunities for publishing and sharing, are there before us.
Open to Goldsmiths PhD candidates of all departments.
Practical aspects of working towards a book publication will be a core part of the symposium.
Bring your ideas, texts, criticism.
no charge (supported by the Goldsmiths Annual Fund).
Deleuze, Philosophy, Transdisciplinarity
Goldsmiths, 10th-12th February
Plenary Speakers: Jean-Claude Dumoncel, Eric Alliez, John Mullarkey, Laura Cull, Anne Sauvagnargues
Invited Speakers: Giuseppe Bianco, Andrew Goffey, Marjorie Gracieuse, Tatsuya Higaki, Christian Kerslake, Iain MacKenzie, Stamatia Portanova, Nathan Widder
Organised by the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University of London (Masa Kosugi) and the Faculty of Humanities and School of European culture and Languages, the University of Kent (Guillaume Collett)
We are now entering a new phase of Deleuze studies which seeks to understand the specificity of Deleuze’s mode of philosophising. This is necessary, firstly in order to establish an account of his work’s developments and ruptures which is neither reductive nor partisan and secondly, to be able to better situate Deleuze within the context of contemporary thought. While the concept of immanence has recently been seized upon as the way of measuring Deleuze’s philosophical development (Kerslake, 2009; Beistegui, 2010), this conference would like to shift the focus to another yet closely interrelated problematic, which is the concept of philosophy and its essential relation to transdisciplinarity.
What precisely does Deleuze understand by the term ‘philosophy’? In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze states that ‘Philosophy merges with ontology, but ontology merges with the univocity of Being’ (p. 205, Continuum, 2004). Does philosophy have privileged access to a univocal Being that is itself non-philosophical, and which subsumes not only philosophy but also philosophy’s preconditions – what The Logic of Sense refers to as the ‘sciences’ of logic, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, as well as art? Does Deleuze and Guattari’s re-formulation of this problematic in What is Philosophy? contradict the earlier Deleuze when it appears to posit a more extrinsic relation – or interference – between philosophy, science, and art, all three of which open up to Chaos, which they claim is equally distinct from the preconditions of philosophy, science and art (nonphilosophy, nonscience, nonart)? Are we to understand Deleuze’s concept of philosophy as essentially and inherently transdisciplinary, and if so, how? What is at stake here is the possibility of establishing a ‘common ethico-aesthetic discipline’ (Guattari, Continuum, 2000) and the role of philosophy in such a project.
We aim to have a wide range of papers converging on the concept of philosophy found in Deleuze’s work and dialoguing with the problems we have alluded to. Suggested paper topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
– Deleuze and the history of philosophy: his methodology, his conception of the history of philosophy, his readings of specific philosophers and thinkers
– The place of science and logic in Deleuze’s philosophy
– The place of art in Deleuze’s philosophy
– Deleuze and non-philosophy, and the role of the pre/post-philosophical in his philosophy
– Shifts in Deleuze’s readings of particular philosophers, and more generally in Deleuze’s own concept of philosophy, throughout his career
– The critical assessment of Guattari’s influence on Deleuze’s philosophy
Registration is free but please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) early if you would like to attend the conference.
**The event is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the School of European Culture and Languages and Faculty of Humanities, the University of Kent, the Centre for Cultural Studies Goldsmiths, and the Graduate School, Goldsmiths, University of London **
A piece written before this week’s release of Bad Girls, coming out soon in Social Identities.
Abstract: The recent work of the Sri-Lankan-British musician and sonic ‘curator’ known as M.I.A. (real name: Mathangi Arulpragasam) is considered as a commentary on atrocity and read alongside the well known essay ‘The Storyteller’ by Walter Benjamin and comments on Auschwitz by Theodor Adorno. The storytelling here is updated for a contemporary context where global war impacts us all, more or less visibly, more, or less, acknowledged. It is argued that the controversy over M.I.A.’s Romain Gavras video Born Free is exemplary of the predicament of art in the face of violence, crisis and terror – with this track, and video, M.I.A.’s work faced a storm of criticism which I want to critique in turn, in an attempt, at least, to learn to make or discern more analytic distinctions amongst concurrent determinations of art A careful reading of Adorno can in the end teach us to see Born Free anew.
Keywords: Benjamin, Adorno, Gavras, M.I.A, music, terror, racism, orientalism.
A vicious wound that demeans us all – Enis alerts me to this image from the film Abendland (see the trailer here) – its the aptly named Frontex border at Ceuta, Spain (between the EU and Morocco)
Saturday, 31 December 2011 – 4pm-6pm outside HMP Holloway Prison, Parkhurst Road, N7 0NU, closest tube station Holloway Rd.
Since student protests last year, when thousands took to the streets to demand an education accessible for all, and the large scale riots this summer in response to the police murder of Mark Duggan, hundreds of our youth have been targeted and many were given long custodial sentences.
This means many will be spending new year’s eve and the festive period in prisons up and down the country, away from their families, because they stood up to injustice.
Come along to this demonstration on New Year’s Eve outside Holloway women’s prison to show solidarity to some of those in prison. We are going to make lots of noise to make sure they hear us and know that we do not forget them. So bring instrument, pots and pans, banners or just yourself!
*poetry, spoken word, hip hop and music from different artists on the day coming to show their support*
visit defendtherighttoprotest.org and ldmg.org.uk for more info
supported by Defend the Right to Protest and Legal Defence Monitoring Group
“Activists are under the threat wherever they go, Dina (17 yrs old) and Israa (19) Abdallah Abo El-Azm, two sisters detained by the army three days ago for distributing flyers are now to be sentenced in front of a military court. In reality they were only walking down the street in Cairo at midday. They were kidnapped by the army and falsely accused. Not just the activists themselves are in danger, anyone who looks like what came to be stereotyped as a Tahrir Square protester, risks detention or beating”.
I do not know more about who has written this, but that the Military mates of Mubarak remain in place was always a concern – though not for the BBC who of course went on to other stories quick smart. Someone on Al-Jezeera did anticipate something like this, but I didn’t note who said it. More than one person for sure. Anyone got more on detentions in particular?
The entire article is here.
When the army hits the fan!
Posted by Leil-Zahra on 3/16/11 •
The Egyptian people have always loved the army, especially that they haven´t seen much of them since 1973 apart from a controversial participation in the Desert Storm war on the side of the United States. The army was always the romantic figure of glorious times under Nasser who stood in the face of Israel and pumped Arab nationalism and pride in Egypt and beyond. Movies, TV series, documentaries, songs, popular tales of heroics and braveries, novels, and school books all glorify the participation of the army up to 1973.
The popular memory froze in time in 1973, maybe because the Egyptian people didn´t have much to celebrate or take pride in under the rulers that came afterwards. Both Sadat and Mubarak destroyed the spirit of the people in every way possible and on every level imaginable (though this doesn´t mean that Nasser was the best thing that happened to this country). It became once again the tale of Pharaohs in the center-stage, the slaves building the Pyramids forgotten and marganilized.
Egypt is the country of romanticism par excellence. For decades while tens of millions of Egyptians were famished for collective self-esteem, reminiscing and nostalgia were the only survival tool available. The Pharaohs and the army were at the core of it all, equally present in the memory of the people and equally ancient history in the tangible reality. It was all memories of glorious days that lived in the reality of the people. Even some of those who found it emotionally hard to oust Mubarak did so because they respected him as a leading military figure from the war of 1973.
Full article continues: here.
SUNDAY March 20th. 2pm *U.S. Embassy/London- Join Us to Demand they “Stop Torturing Bradley Manning!
To demand the end of the torture pf Bradley Manning in Quantico U.S. Marine Base, Virginia USA. Although 23 year old Bradley Manning is a U.S. Army intelligence officer he is being held without explanation in the largest U.S. Marine Base in the world! Bradley is being held, in effect, in isolation and sensory deprivation, his conditions are tortureous. Techniques finetuned at Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo have been unleashed on what U.S. authoriteis see as a nonviolent dissident within the U.S. war machine.
U.S. anti-war and human rights activists, lawyers, military veterans and the former commander of Quantico are heading down to Quantico this Sunday March 20 to demand justice for Bradley Manning. Others of us around the world will go on Sunday March 20 to U.S. embassies and sites of siginifiance in the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and do like wise. Consider joing us or initiating your own activity for Bradley Manning on Sunday March 20.
Youtube – Previous Jan. 17 demonstration for Bradley at Quantico
Bradley has been accused of leaking, to WikiLeaks, footage of a U.S. helicopter gunship massacre in Iraq of 2 Reuters journalists, 9 Iraqi civilians and wounding the children in a vehicle that detoured from the “school run” to tend to the wounded and the dead. Those who carried out this massacre hve not been brought to account, the U.S. government wished to “shoot the messenger”.
We refuse to accept this. We hope you to do too? Show viisible solidarity with Bradley Manning this Sunday March 20. If not with us at the U.S. embassy at 2pm – in your own community, speak out at church, stand in your city centre demand Justice for Bradley Manning!
TIME? – Sunday March 20th. 2 pm
WHERE? – outside the U.S. Embassy, Gorsvenor Square.
Closest tube: Bond St.
HIgh School Kidz from Brad’s Welsh Village
Bruce Kent – Long time British Peace Activist and Organiser.
SAS Iraq Combat Veteran, Reusenik when he refused a 2nd tour deouncing the war, gagged from speaking of his experiences by the M.O.D./ High Court.
and others… more here
SUARA RAKYAT MALAYSIA
Press Statement by SUARAM: 7th March 2011
Mission Report on Malaysia by Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:
Implement Recommendations Now!
The findings and recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) from its visit to Malaysia from 7 to 18 June 2010 have added to the long list of recommendations and concerns pertaining to the Malaysian government’s legislations, policies and practices of arbitrary detention. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) has despatched Ms Temme Lee, SUARAM Secretariat member to make interventions at the UN Human Rights Council after the mission report presented by the WGAD. SUARAM supports the recommendations made by the working group to the Malaysian government.
“Classic Cases of Arbitrary Detention” under the ISA, EO, DDA, RRA
In their mission report, the WGAD states that it is “seriously concerned” about the existence and enforcement of laws which provide for detention without trial in Malaysia, namely the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance (EO), the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act (DDA), and the Restricted Residence Act.
“(These laws) impede the detainee’s right to a fair trial, consecrated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by international human rights customary law. They also severely restrict detainees’ access to legal counsel.”
The working group has also stated its concern on the periodic review by the Advisory Board. The working group considers that an appearance before an Advisory Board does not fulfill minimal fair trial guarantees. Although detainees may appeal every six months to the Advisory Board on the preventive laws, the detainees are not notified of its recommendations, its recommendations are not binding and they are not made public. On the other, the defence lawyers may appear on behalf of the detainee, attend the hearing without access to all the documentation, including evidence, and have no right to call witnesses.
During the press conference held by the WGAD on 18 June 2010, its Chairperson-Rapporteur El Hadji Malick Sow stated that detentions under the ISA, the EO, and the DDA are “classic cases of arbitrary detention”. The WGAD also noted with concern that “thousands of people” are being detained under the EO and the DDA.
“Systematic” Detention of Refugees
Also of concern to the WGAD is the detention of refugees and asylum seekers. The WGAD’s Chairperson-Rapporteur has described the detention of refugees as “systematic”, noting that even refugees who are in possession of identity cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are not exempt from arrests and detentions.
Malaysia’s non-ratification of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and non-recognition of the status of refugees and asylum seekers have resulted in the detention of many refugees under immigration laws in Malaysia for their alleged “illegal presence” in Malaysian territory. The WGAD notes that detainees who have served prison sentences under Immigration laws are often held in immigration detention centres for an indefinite period while awaiting deportation to their countries of origin.
Police Force: Excessive Power leads to human rights violations
The working group has also expressed concern over the excessive power given to the police force in Malaysia particularly under the preventive laws. The working group is of the view that the excessive power given to the police has led to their eluding the normal penal procedure for common crimes and offences. This has given an opportunity to the police and the Home Minister to detain persons without the need to sustain evidence or to probe penal responsibility. The Working group also concludes that the police often fail to inform the detainees about their rights to contact family members and to consult a lawyer of their choice.
The working group also raises serious concern about the deaths that occur during the police detention and while in police custody; the ill treatment and torture in police stations and detention centres in order to obtain confessions and incriminatory evidence.
Repeal All Detention-without-Trial Laws
On detention-without-trial laws, the WGAD unambiguously recommends that the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA be repealed. In the interim period, while the laws are in force, the working group has urged that the decisions by the non-judicial Appeals Advisory Board should be binding on the Home Minister, and decisions with regard to the Act should be subject to judicial review.
SUARAM thus calls upon the government to re-think the proposed amendments to all the detention-without-trial laws in the light of the latest WGAD’s recommendations. The ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA must be repealed forthwith; the government should immediately end all arrests under the detention-without-trial laws, and release all those currently detained under these laws or charge them in a fair and open court.
End Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Other Vulnerable Migrants
On the detention of immigrants, the WGAD states that:
“Detention of immigrants should be decided upon by a court of law, on a case by case basis, and pursuant to clearly and exhaustively defined criteria in legislation, under which detention may be resorted to.”
The WGAD stresses that immigrants should have an effective remedy to challenge the necessity and legality of their detention at any time; that immigration detention should not be applied to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable groups of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, families with minor children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, or people with serious and/or chronic physical or mental health problems.
The WGAD has also urged the Malaysian government to ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, a recommendation which has been made on numerous occasions by SUHAKAM as well as UN member states during the Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia in February 2009.
SUARAM strongly urges the government to immediately implement these recommendations and to stop arresting refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups of migrants. The government should provide a concrete timeframe for the ratification of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.
Invite UN Experts in Other Areas Too
While Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council can only visit a country with the host government’s invitation, SUARAM would like to point out that the WGAD had in fact made a request for a country visit to Malaysia way back in 2008. It was only in early 2010 that the Malaysian government officially and publicly confirmed its acceptance of the WGAD’s request to visit Malaysia.
To date, the Malaysian government has still not responded to eight pending requests by other Special Procedures Mandate Holders, namely the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (request made in 2002); the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples (2005); the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion (2006); the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants (2006); the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism (2005); the Independent Expert on Minority Issues (2007 and 2009); the Special Rapporteur on Racism (2008); and Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (2009).
SUARAM therefore strongly calls upon the Malaysian government to extend standing invitations to all Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council which have made requests for country visits to Malaysia as soon as possible.
Implement WGAD’s Recommendations Now!
Today, WGAD’s final report is being submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. The recommendations of the Working Group are clear enough for the government to make immediate human rights reforms. The working group has also urged the Malaysian government to become a party to the main international instruments on human rights, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, (CERD), the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol there to, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Similar recommendations have already been made by other bodies such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), the Royal Commission on the Police, and UN member states. As such, there is no justification for the government to delay implementing these recommendations immediately, especially when Malaysia currently has a seat in the Human Rights Council.
The Malaysian government’s attitude toward these recommendations of the WGAD will be an indication of either its commitment to human rights or otherwise, its sheer hypocrisy while sitting in UN Human Rights Council.
Released by, Nalini.E, SUARAM Coordinator
Douglas ‘Buzz’ Coupland’s new novel, ‘Generation A’, takes as its premise the disappearance of bees, much discussed in the press in the wake of hive collapse. The tale is told in an unfolding multi-part personal/police statement/autobiography mode. It works mostly well until the storytelling parts in the second half, which are really OK in themselves, but a great chance for some structuralist play was missed I feel. The links are there, but I am not sure Buzz knows how to join up the sides of his hexagon as well as he might have. A few weeks more work could have been good. Nevertheless, this book is as readable as the other DC highlights (eg ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, and the magnificent ‘All Families are Psychotic’). The distraction of the cover art gimmick (design your own colours for the jacket – I chose yellow!) and the lame title, dissuades the reader, and perhaps the author, from engagement with the covert security forces aspect of the scenario as written. War on terror meets eco-catastrophe is the topical theme of our times, yet this is not yet the novel that breaches the impasse of mere commentary. Terrible thing to say about literature, but I wanted it to do more – and instead, well, a meditation on celebrity is the danger here: I almost yawned at those parts. Although the boy’s own adventure espionage aspects are well rendered, they do not approach the necessary allegorical harshness required to compete with texts like Paglin and Thompson’s Torture Taxi. We live in dangerous times, and need a dangerous literature to engage. More cross pollination would not have hurt this text, I can’t help but feel there’s something a little flat about the landscape. All those rendition flights, and the stereotyped mad scientists, and the detention regimes, are treated with lightness and humour, and – fuck me with the tourette’s character’s PDA – I’m still not laughing over the war. I’m not over it, sorry. And getting all misty for the bees isn’t enough, no matter how much the Calvino inspired narrative game appeals (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller… echoes strongly here). I like Coupland in a Canadian way, its good, it should be read, but there could be more than a lame colouring-in participatory aspect to the reading.
Do you like the yellow cover I’ve designed? – no creativity there then. We are doomed. Buzz buzz buzz.
And do you remember the opening credits of of the 1985’s Luc Besson film ‘Subway’?
“To do is to be” — Descartes
“To be is to do” — Sartre
“Doo, bee, doo, bee, doo” — Sinatra
That’d be name dropping then, Cristopher Lambert – even if Jean-Hugues Anglade was in it, Lambert was good here. But speaking of Anglade, couldn’t his co-star from ‘Betty Blue’, Beatrice Dalle, play ‘Diana’ in the movie of Coupland’s book? Shahrukh Khan as ‘Harj’ (though not Sri Lankan, still… but drop the ridiculous Apu routine). Kurt Cobain as ‘Zack’ of course… Am I dreaming up an impossible cast? There are five roles. I probably need to get all hexagrammatical here too:
Ever wonder why bees use hexagons to make beehives? Two reasons. First, bees want to enclose the largest possible space with the least amount of wax. With this in mind, a circle would be best. So why don’t they use circular combs? Because hexagons are the shape with the most sides that “tesselate”. In other words, if you put a bunch of hexagons next to each other there will be no spaces between them. No shape with more than six sides will do this.
“‘There is no document of civilization that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism‘” (Benjamin p. vii)
A photograph of five young Americans in combat gear beside a ‘Homeland Security’ bus graces the front page of the New York Times on May 13 2009. This image catches my eye on a day when newly discovered atrocity photos from CIA ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan and Iraq should be published, but are not so as to avoid undermining the war effort and the troops at the front. Anxious excuses are conjured for spin and impression management… we get this unbelievable shot of Explorer scouts tooled up for the kill.
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.
“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”
I am taken by the photograph because it appears on the day the Obama administration plays the ‘don’t look’ card on terror (after a word from Pentagon chiefs, Obama backtracked and announced he would fight any release of the new set of detention images – this is reported on the same front page). But I am also curious about a quirky little detail in the bus picture. Look at the line of tooled-up scouts in the shot. The very last one doesn’t seem to think the situation is all that serious. A big grin on his face, forgetting the seriousness of the security role-play, has he tapped his colleague on the shoulder to say he likes his combat trousers? ‘Dude, I got these on special at ‘Old Navy” says his colleague. ‘Awesome’. I wonder if there is perhaps-possibly-maybe a little chink of critique, on the part of the NYTs photographer, in this edge-of-the-image smile? Such good terror-fighting teeth too. I would ‘hope’ we read this scene against the grain. Yes we can.
The article offers a great many other howlers – including strange juxtapositions: one such follows on from the news that neophyte Explorer Cathy is ‘attracted by the guns’ and says: “I like shooting them … I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.” We then get the observation that the police who supervise this ‘training’ have been exploring in their own perversions: “There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them”.
It seems though we are safe. This is after all only a role-playing game (with Arab dress-ups and other harmless panto fun). We are assured that ‘the training … is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting’. OK.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the same paper, another photograph of another line of troops catches my eye – a dead soldier is being returned to the US. RIP Michael P Yates, killed by one of his own in the counselling tent (image not online, but article here). The televisual reporting of the return of troop bodies was suppressed by a former President, but the correspondence between the line of Explorer scouts and the solemn line of the troops in the second picture is poignant. (Troops dead so far in Iraq and Afghanistan nearing 5000). This picture too appears a few pages before a full page ad taken out by a right wing group, suitably named the ‘Torture Truth Project’ that condemns those who would embarrass the US internationally by mentioning the ‘only three’ detainees that endured water boarding. The text of which is a special rhetoric all on its own when it tortures the truth by warning that ‘we are losing the goodwill of people across the world’. Welcome to the USA Today, in the NYTimes.
The Scouts, you may recall, are the spawn of Sir Colin Baden-Powell, also famous for having developed the detention camp at Mafeking over a century ago. Be Prepared. I remember this slogan from my own youthful disciplining as a scout (was mostly fun of course, smoking behind the troop hall) and I know my grandfather in the UK and father in Ukraine were also enthusiastic adventurers. Energy and curiosity turned into memoir.
Slowly the form of our meeting in Berlin has been taking shape, via disparate (and desperate?) emails, haphazardly. That will no doubt continue, but I think it good to gather it together here (in dialogic form):
John: I’ve no idea yet as to just what the Berlin workshop should be in April (week of 20th) – I just think we might want something on how the whole performance of Borders, or the Border Crossing, might make possible new thinking around immigration politics, border controls, divisions and divides etc.
What I am keen to do is extend from the discussions we had in the November meeting that raised issues around how people rethink the border when it comes to sound and through musicking, collaborative work, festivals and solidarity. And how the character of sound crosses the border differently perhaps – the metaphor of the sonic which moves us away from a visual and geographic conception of the Border. Is there something in the theatrical that tampers with border protocols that we can develop? Is the ‘live’ of theatre of use for thinking border as event? Is there something about the performance of the guard, the applicant, the visa, the passage. And that the border is performed everywhere, all the time, in the street, in the gaps we act out between each other? In the courthouse? In the detention centre? Or maybe either more esoteric, or more material – is the border a stage, or ‘in the round’? Are there actors, directors, a troupe – is it a puppet show? Is the border equipped with a back stage, house lights, curtains, inner circle and ‘the gods’ – what is its architecture? Is it opera, Brecht, or vaudeville? Is a rose by any other name a border control? or… Something like this/anyone?
Rustom: Many thanks for your very insightful comments relating to the border. Flogged to death as it is in a great deal of performance studies and cultural theory, it still continues to provoke and challenge. Following the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I guess it is the porosity of borders that is called into question, raising uncomfortable questions relating to surveillance. India seems to be caught in a double bind: on the one hand, it’s obvious that our existing mechanisms of surveillance are woefully weak and overly bureacuratized; on the other hand, in strenghening them, what are the implications for minorities and those migrants without papers who can be easily targeted?
Markus: As you know, here in Berlin we have a long tradition of thinking about crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders. There sure are quite a number of theoretical approaches that deal with the problem of border-crossing within the arts and humanities and it seems to me that the
next step would be to reimplement these ideas back into cultural and political theory.
Why not give each day a different topic, held together by the overall theme of body, theatricality and performativity in regards to bordercrossing or the blurring of borders? In this case it could very well focus especially on bodily borders, right? The political, social and phenomenological integrity and dignity of borders (or boundaries) between bodies perhaps? Combined with the old psychoanalytical question if there is such a thing as a coherent body with distinct borders in the first place, there should be many interesting opportunities for thinking about surveillance and counter surveillance for example. Or the notion of “staging violence” in the media. Just my quick two cents.
John: You had asked what the Clandestino people are doing. Their project for Berlin is derived from work on a play they are doing about the Detention Centre. Its due for performance in December 09 but the text will be ready (only in Swedish) in Feb. We will try to have it translated before April. This started because I said I would like to really push the Detention Centre as border idea. I’ve written on barbed wire before – its a border that really cuts into the body. A harsh theatre is required for this: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/489/detention.html
So Aleksander and Johannes have written a play, “FÖRVARET” (The Detention Center)? It will be performed at Göteborgs Stadsteater with premiere December 2009. They say they ‘think it is very good starting point for a discussion on the complexity of border surveillance seen from an inside the border control perspective, what happens with language of emotions in the context where the “not quite criminals”, those people who have been taken into “custody”, been placed in the “detention centre”, not beeing criminals for something that they have comitted but for a border they have transgressed. This is what me and Johannes have been working out in “Förvaret”.
Aleksander says: ‘I think my other colleagues Michal Azar (philosopher (Fanon, Lacan, Sartre, Camus, postmodern thinkers)/historian of ideas (war of Algeria)/play writer) and/or Edda Manga (philosopher (feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism)/historian of ideas (the Idea of a Just war from Victoria/bartolome de las Casas, etc)/activist, . . . ) would be great to bring since they are very much of intellectuals that can “reimplement the ideas crossing borders in terms of performativity and the “framing” of cultural and aesthetic borders back into cultural and political theory”. Also Cecilia Parsberg, artist that did many projects in on the Wall in Palestine’.
John: unfortunately we don’t have funds to invite other visitors, but if people could make their way to Berlin…
Things to discuss:
Format – ideally not too much lecture format. Lets experiment with formats. Panel discussion, round table, theatrical metaphor for seminars?
Text – three days, three themes related to Border performance. One on bodily Border. Another on Surveillance (of bodies, borders, nation states). Another one ___ detentions?
Participants: several of the PhDs have suggested good things. I will ask them to write up a paragraph for their presentations. Especially good ideas from Jen, Ray, Cristobal and Nick. So, more to come here, but at least we have a start. Comments welcome.
The main border page, with the back story to this event, is here.
[The picture is from Emile’s wish list on Amazon. Check here and read the comments].
On October 24th an all white jury found Lex Wotton, an Aboriginal man from Palm Island, guilty of ‘rioting with destruction’ for his involvement in the 2004 Palm Island uprising. On November 26th 2004 the people of Palm Island set fire to the local police station, court house and police barracks after a pathologist’s report claimed that the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee, a 36 year Aboriginal man in police custody a week earlier was an ‘accident’. Mulrunji died in a police cell, one hour after he had been arrested for being drunk. He suffered massive internal injuries, including a ruptured spleen, four broken ribs and a ‘liver that had been ‘almost cleaved in two’ from a huge compressive force.’ Following Mulrunji’s killing, Queensland’s then Premier, Peter Beattie declared a state of emergency. Balaclava clad Paramilitary style police, armed with semi automatic weapons, roamed the streets arbitrarily arresting Aboriginal people. Police unnecessarily tasered several people, including Lex Wotton. Houses were stormed and children were forced facedown onto the ground with guns pointed at their heads.
The officer who arrested Mulrunji, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, claimed that Mulrunji had fallen on stairs. A coroner’s inquest found that Hurley was responsible for Mulrunji’s death, as the injuries were consistent with a fierce beating. However, Hurley was found not guilty for manslaughter (by an all white jury) and has since been promoted to the position of police inspector on Australia’s Gold Coast.
In comparison Lex Wotton is now facing a possible life sentence in prison. He is being held in custody until his next court appearance in the Townsville District Court on November 7. Aboriginal Australians are still over 10 times more likely than non-Aboroginal Australians to spend time in prison, and are significantly more likely to die in prison than non-Aboriginal prisoners. The over-policing and criminalisation of Aboriginal Australians is a clear continuation of the colonial policies that have been violently enforced on them since the white invasion.
Following Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd’s apology for past injustices to Aborigines earlier this year many people in Australia and around the World assume indigenous Australians are no longer treated as second class citizens. The continuing unjust imprisonment and persecution of Lex Wotton shows that Aboriginal Australians are still treated with racist contempt.
November 6th is a global day of action to free Lex Wotton. Lex’s friends and family are calling out for people around the world to picket Australian High Commissions and Consulates. Please send any details of demonstrations, solidarity messages and pictures of protest action to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will all be passed on to Lex inside of prison.
Stand up in solidarity with the people of Palm Island against racism and police brutality!
Detention without trial, the Internal Security Act raises its very ugly head again in Malaysia.
GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA
ISA Updates: 23 September 2008
Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the popular political blog, Malaysia Today, today (23 September 2008) received a two-year detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The detention order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Section 8(1) of the ISA states, “If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view of preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof […], he may make an order directing that a person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”
According to Raja Petra’s lawyers, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, where he will be detained for a period of two years from today.
Under the ISA, this two-year detention order can be renewed by the Home Minister indefinitely. No clear explanation or details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact, under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. This clearly shows that the draconian ISA constitutes gross abuse of power by the authorities.
Raja Petra’s lawyers have also filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, in a bid to release him from his detention.
Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested on 12 September 2008, under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam.
Two other individuals – journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and member of Parliament Teresa Kok – were arrested on the same day as Raja Petra’s arrest. The two were subsequently released – Tan on 13 September 2008, while Kok on 19 September 2008.
On 16 September 2008, ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the editor of Malaysia Today, was allowed to see his wife and two children at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.
According to Raja Petra’s wife Marina Abdullah, Raja Petra spoke very softly and looked weak, pale and lost much weight. Raja Petra complained to her that he was suffering from lack of sleep because the night before, he was harassed on an hourly basis by officers who recorded statements from him. He said he was never physically abused, but was mentally abused. Marina said that his blood sugar level had dropped. She also added that her husband suffers from heart artery blockages and is on medication.
Raja Petra’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 16 September 2008, seeking his immediate release.
Detention without trial under the ISA a serious human rights violation
The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.
Our good friends at the Institute of Race Relations provided a link to this report recently released by the HM Inspectorate on Police Detention facilities in Southwark, Walworth Rd and Peckham. It condemns the condition of the holding cells (used for detaining a range of people on suspicion of offences or immigration irregularities, with Southwark almost wholly dedicated to immigration detainees) . The conditions as reported are disgusting. Yet the report reads bizarrely, mixing stunningly bland statements with atrocities – but overall the character of these human sinkholes cannot be hidden. Even the selected quotations from the survey at the end would suggest to anyone who has read Michael Otterman’s expose American Torture (Pluto Press) that there is also an English war crimes indictment to be written. The full report is available here.
There is lots of horrific stuff on conditions and procedures to read, but below I have excerpted only the quotes. The last one I guess is the (state of) exceptional good news!
Report on an inspection visit to police custody suites in Southwark Basic Command Unit
21 – 22 April 2008
by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
Q38 Do you have any other comments about your time in police custody?
Example comments included:
“They called my solicitor to come, but got told to wait a few hours.” (Unknown)
“[I had to wait for a solicitor] god knows how long, over a day.” (Peckham)
“The police were intimidating and not professional and lacked any skills when dealing with
human beings.” (Walworth Road)
“Asked for clean clothes which were brought in, but not given. I had the same clothes on for
almost 48 hours.” (Walworth Road)
“There have been other times when ‘Lights were left on’. The officer in charge seemed to have
a personal conflict against me, saying he would get me ’25 Rothams’ then not and getting me to
sign a notebook with ‘No comment’ on it.” (Walworth Road)
“…the officer made a point of telling me how badly he wanted to keep me in the station and not
give me bail.” (Walworth Road)
“The pillow and blanket smelt of piss.” (Walworth Road)
“…they need to raise their hygiene standards.” (Peckham)
“I was surprised that everything was to the book, I’m used to getting a bashing.” (Walworth
I have written on this before, here, and now it really is time Malaysia decided to lead the world and abolish their outrageous ISA (holdover from the anti-communist Emergency, and legacy of British colonialism). Seriously guys, get rid of this embarrassment, even if it means getting rid of Badawi as well.
GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA
Press Statement: 1st August 2008
48 Years of ISA: We have had enough!
1st August marks 48 years of existence of the draconian and infamous law called the Internal Security Act (ISA). The ISA has its origin in the Emergency Regulations Ordinance 1948, which served its purpose and was subsequently repealed when the Emergency ended on 30th July, 1960. However, the power of detention without trial under Regulation 17 was subsequently transformed into Part II of the ISA.
In 1989, ISA detainees’ recourse to the courts of law was further curtailed when we dutifully followed our southern neighbor in ousting judicial review in matters concerning the minister’s power to detain any person under ISA. With the amendment, detainees can now only challenge the detention on procedural grounds.
Abuse and torture under ISA
Under the ISA, detainees are subject to an initial 60-day detention period in special police holding centers, allegedly for the purpose of investigation. No judicial order is required for such detentions. The locations of these holding centers are kept secret, and detainees are transported to and fro in blindfolds. Visits by family members are purely discretionary and, contrary to Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution, detainees are denied access to lawyers. As a result, the ISA has morphed into a powerful instrument of fear and suppression.
There have been many reports of abuse and torture perpetrated on ISA detainees during their detention. Among them have been: continuous interrogation by Special Branch officers for long hours without any breaks; threat of indefinite detention if detainees fail to answer questions directed by the officers; detainees kept in a small dark room; being forced to drink their own urine etc. There have also been reports of the Police Special Branch (SB) officers hitting the detainees’ penis and inserting hard objects into their anuses. The physical abuse has often been accompanied by vulgar and obscene words.
In a recent case, Sanjeev Kumar Krishnan (25) is now confined to a wheelchair as he has become partially paralyzed as a result of torture while under ISA detention, having lost the function of his left leg and hand. In another case, when the daughter of a current detainee, Shahrial Sirin, was hospitalized in serious condition, authorities delayed permission for him to visit her; by the time he was finally brought to the hospital his daughter had already died.
The Use of ISA under Abdullah Badawi
Since Abdullah Badawi came to power in 2003, the ISA has continued to be used in the same way in the name of “national security”, on people ranging from persons allegedly spreading rumours through SMS, to political dissidents and alleged “terrorists.” In 2007, the government continued its tactic of creating a climate of fear through the use of the ISA, threatening to invoke it upon bloggers who allegedly wrote inflammatory statements and upon those who participated in street demonstrations. This was stepped up in the run-up to the 2008 general election, and has continued to this date to prop up the ruling party’s weakened hold to the power.
Based on GMI’s monitoring, as of 30th June 2008, there were 64 detainees in the Kamunting Detention Camp. Most of them are alleged members of “religious extremist groups” including the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), while another significant number comprises those allegedly involved in counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents, and also THE 5 Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) activists. To date, none of the detainees has been charged with any offence in an open court. More than half of them are into their second detention order and out of that number, 24 are serving their sixth years detention and seven of them namely Yazid bin Suffat, Suhaimi bin Mokhtar, Shahrial @ Syahrial bin Sirin , Abdullah bin Daud , Abdullah Minyak bin Silam , Mat Sah bin Mohd Satray and Shamsuddin bin Sulaiman are serving their seven year of detention.
We have a vast array of laws which provide an adequate legal frame-work to deal with threats against national security, counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents which do not by contravene universally accepted principles of justice and human rights. Why, therefore, is the ISA still needed?
GMI, in existence for more than seven years, has succeeded, through its many programmes, in raising public awareness about the injustice and cruelty of the ISA. It has also been able to put continuous pressure on the government by campaigning at home and abroad. As part of an intensive programme to campaign against the seventh year of detention of a number of current detainees, GMI has produced several publications and pamphlets which have been distributed throughout the country. A candle-light vigil was held outside the Kamunting detention camp on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the longest-standing detentions, and more recently a large public gathering was held in a stadium in Shah Alam.
Since the March 8 general election, with 82 Members Parliament and five states under its controls, the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) representatives have shown commitment to free the detainees and repeal the ISA. Several of State Governments concerned have also provided the much needed aid to the detainees’ families. GMI welcomes these commitment and measures taken by the Pakatan Rakyat governments.
GMI is encouraged by the growing public and international support for its campaign and resolves to continue with its work until its aims are achieved. In the following months, GMI will continue to focus on raising public awareness through exhibitions, petition on-line and signature campaigns. Specifically as one of the campaign against 48 years of the draconian ISA, a program open to public, called “Malam Seni ‘Tanpa Bicara'” will be held on the 2nd August 2008 in Bazar Melawati, Taman Melawati, Hulu Kelang, Selangor.
Finally, GMI once more urges the Government of Malaysia:
- To immediately and unconditionally release all persons presently detained without trial, or prosecute them in a public and fair trial.
- To immediately repeal all laws which allow for detention without trial, such as the ISA, Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA).
- To immediately close all detention camps where detainees are held without trial.
- To apologize to all detainees – past and present – held without trial, and provide compensation for their suffering, anguish and the injustice perpetrated upon them.
- To investigate all complaints and cases of victimization, torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, tyranny and abuse of power in relation to past and present ISA detentions, and to prosecute the perpetrators by establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry for the said purpose.
● To immediately debate SUHAKAM’s reports in Parliament and implement its recommendations to repeal ISA and other restricted laws.
- To commit to a monthly dialogue session on human rights issues with representatives of SUHAKAM, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, non-governmental organizations, human rights groups and the Bar Council.
- To recognize, respect and restore the inherent powers of the Judiciary as an independent check on the powers of the Executive and police, including repealing laws which have ousted the judicial review of Executive actions or decisions.
Release all ISA Detainees!
Close down KEMTA!
I like the fact that Trever Paglen and A.C.Thompson write in such a clear forthright style in their book “Torture Taxi: On the trail of the CIA’s rendition flights” (2006 Melville House New Jersey). Classified as ‘current affairs/military history’, I think this is compulsory reading for so many reasons. Not least of all the way a much maligned nerdy pastime – planespotting, noting registration numbers of aircraft at airports – is itself rendered a powerful research strategy and builds a dossier (another loaded word, as indeed is ‘loaded’) on CIA flights, crimes and deceit. The tone throughout is carefully modulated, and all the more effective for that. It is the best book I have read in a while, and not only for gems like this, where our authors talk of:
“dozens of cases in which the CIA had kidnapped the ‘wrong’ person, or had kidnapped someone under distressingly low standards of evidence: One of those ‘erroneous renditions’ turned out to be a college professor who had given an Al-Qaeda member a bad grade (the professor’s name was presumably given to the CIA by the disgruntled former student [fn ref to Chicago Tribune of July 31, 2006]). About a dozen of these men have ended up in Guantanamo Bay” (Paglen/Thompson 2006:169)
Though the standards of evidence for the above are equally thin – how do we check if this student was an Al-Qaeda ‘member’ (as opposed to say, a member of Facebook or some other dodgy spectral org?), how do we know the grading was not indeed biased, what happened to both student and Prof? – the anecdote is nonetheless not unbelievable given our own local security errors(!) in regard of cases like the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’, Forest Gate and Stockwell tube.
There is much good info in the book: on Air America, other covert CIA ops worldwide, and the banality of evil that are front companies, homeland security and international surveillance/kidnapping/assassination. As an example of people’s inquiry, the book is impressive, and all the more necessary in the face of approved fascism. To not engage such investigation and intervention is complicity. Who’d have thought this could be a revolutionary slogan: ‘Planespotters of the world Unite!”
Up up and away… and now a word from our sponsors:
“According to The Washington Post, ‘extraordinary rendition’, or the US’s practice of kidnapping suspects, flying them to an undisclosed location in a third-world country, and torturing them to force a confession about their role in terrorism, is ‘the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War.’ In a daring first-person investigation, AC Thompson and Trevor Paglen expose the torture apparatus of the CIA, revealing both the workings of its top-secret-and officially-denied extraordinary rendition transport system and the clandestine ‘black sites’ where terror suspects are held. It is a story that takes them around the country and around the world: by following CIA planes from the Nevada desert to Ireland, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and by using FAA data, corporate records, and Army aircraft documents, they uncover an international program involving corrupt domestic politicos, civilian aircraft operators, and the highest levels of government. Torture Taxi is the first in-depth look into a startling and disturbing new truth about the role of torture in the ‘war on terror’.”
Migrating University, at Goldsmiths,
September 14-15th 2007;
From Goldsmiths to Gatwick.
General enthusiasm for this event is very high. A feeling of frustration, and therefore energy for exploring activist options, is strong on campus. This is the joint result of the ongoing managerialism that afflicts the ‘teaching factory’ at all levels, alongside the wider malaise of neo-liberal war-mongering imperialism/Border-ism evident in the current conjuncture, everywhere. The role of the university in relation to borders between people and knowledge, between different knowledges, between peoples, between students, between students who pay ‘overseas’ fees and those who pay too much (‘training’ for industrial gain, paid for by the student??) and the ever extended morale crush that afflicts staff… linked to the obsolescence of older ideas of ‘education’ in favour of opportunism and productivity… Exclusions and …racism, murder-death-kill… there is much good reason to explore these concerns in our workshop.
At the last meeting we had taken decisions on the date, timetable and format, five panels plus Battle of Lewisham Walk (met with them and agreed mutual co-ordination); prepared a preliminary blurb (now on CCS website [currently goldsmiths sites are down]), arranged to make a banner, booked a room, still in discussion with College over the marquee; organised with Joan Kelly to visit; linked with No Borders London and No Borders general.
Confirmed speakers so far include: Ken Fero (Injustice), David Graeber (activist anthrop), Ava Caradonna (sex worker education group), Susan Cueva (union), Sanjay Sharma (author of Multicultural Encounters), Hari Kunzru (novelist), Mao Mollona (anthropologist), Harmit Athwal (Inst Race Relations), Katherine Mann (musician), Paul Hendrich (Pirate dad) and Joan Kelly (artist).
Panels and format as it stands now [this draft is not yet confirmed]:
Migrating University – Goldsmiths 14-15 September 2007
Friday 14th September – venue room 150 and 137a Richard Hoggart Building
Room 150 RHB From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – stalls for No Borders Camp etc
Room 137a RHB
John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths) Introduction to the day
Camille Barbagallo (Goldsmiths) this meeting is to encourage attendance at No Borders Camp at Gatwick.
10.50 -12.55 – Panel #1 – The Teaching Factory (Chair: Leila)
Does a university education offer a passport to a world of opportunity?
Are the old exclusions of race, class, gender and ability fully redeemed by our policy initiatives and “inclusive” programs? Or is the new hierarchy a filtering mechanism promising precarious labour for some, security and success for others? While some may never question their right to access, do some have to fight to move at all and others struggle daily simply to pass or fail?
This panel asks if education is really a social good, a pass to freedom; or if it is rather a ticket to a new set of subjugations?
Ash Sharma (University of East London)
Massimo de Angelis (university of East london)
Paul Hendrich (Goldsmiths)
12.55-2.30pm – Picnic on Back Field/in tent or inside if rain. With Bolivian group (Emma)
2.30-4.00 – Panel #2 – Critical Pedagogy (Chair: Francisco)
Critical pedagogy (CP) questions the relationship between education and politics, between socio-political relations and pedagogical practices, in short: the correspondence between power hierarchies in the social world and the hierarchies that mark and define educational institutions at large. Moreover it challenges the ubiquitous desire of policy makers for a non-politicized, neutral educational context, free of all social and cultural conflict.
Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University) – author of (2007) “Multicultural Encounters”.
Glenn Rikowski (University of Northampton) – author of “The Battle in Seattle” (2001)
Tom Woodin (Institute of Education, University of London)
Patrick Ainley (University of Greenwich)
4.15-6.00 – Panel #3 – Organising in the Margins (Chair: Olivia)
Migration means traversing boundaries: between nations, between legality and illegality. This panel is about organising those in the seams and the struggles for justice for those who suffer or die in such gaps.
Ava Caradonna (Sex Workers’ Union)
What does it mean to organise the unorganisable? What does union organising mean to people who are not considered workers, or who don’t necessarily consider what they do ‘work’, ‘illegal’ or worthy of stigma? How do unions take seriously the need to organise migrants workers? How can unionism be done differently in this context? Ava Caradonna will discuss such questions and campaigns relating to them.
Susan Cueva (UNISON)
Is a life-long union activist in the Philippines and UK with experience of organising the invisible, from seafarers to street cleaners. Today’s talk includes information about UNISON campaigns seeking fair terms for migrant workers affected by swings in Home Office policy on work permits.
Ken Fero (Injustice)
A short, Youtube, version of Injustice – a film about the struggles for justice by the families of people who have died in police custody – and accompanying talk by the film’s maker.
6.15 – meeting upstairs in Goldsmiths Tavern about collective attendance at Gatwick.
7.00-9.00 Joan Marie Kelly (Singapore) for workshop upstairs in Tavern (drinks).
Topic: Foreign workers in Singapore and the use of art as contact and transformation
Saturday 15th September – Venue: Cinema Richard Hoggart Building.
From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – point to stalls for No Borders Camp etc
10.30-12.30. Panel #4 – Critical Practice Inside and Out (Chair: John)
It is believed there was once a time when the University was a place where there thrived a rampant intelligence that was preoccupied with something more than just cramming.
Hari Kunzru (Novelist – author of “My Revolutions” (2007)
David Graeber (Goldsmiths)
Mao Mollona (Goldsmiths)
Sukant Chandan (freelance journalist and political analyst)
1.00-2.30 Panel #5 – Local Checkpoints (Chair: Camille)
Harmit Athwal (Institute of Race Relations)
Katherine Mann (Musician)
Almir Koldzic (Refugee Week)
2.30 Quick lunch
3pm-6pm: “Battle of Lewisham commemorative walk”
– a walk along the route of the march/counter-protest against the NF in 1977, including people involved at the time. At present this will start from Clifton Rise, New Cross at 3. (info/liaison with Paul).
19-24 September O7 – No Borders Camp at Gatwick
From 19th to 24th September 07 we will gather at Gatwick Airport for the first
No Border Camp in the UK. This camp will be a chance to work together to try
and stop the building of a new detention centre, and to gather ideas for how to
build up the fight against the system of migration controls.
Arriving at Camp Site.
Workshops, Welcome-Event in Crawley.
Workshops, Gathering at Lunar House, Croydon
Workshops, Demonstration from Crawley town centre to Tinsley House Detention
Centre, next to the building site of Brook House (Background Info).
International day of Action.
Afternoon: International Forum.
Workshops and Forum.
End of the No Border Camp.
In order to feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders Camp at Gatwick (19-24 Sept), we want to organise a workshop at Goldsmiths the weekend before, called Migrating University (14-15th Sept). It will include a session which will be a walk along the route of the Battle of Lewisham 1977 30th anniversary of the NF march in our area (see pic), but also other topics, debates, themes of relevance… (watch this space).
But in the meantime, I am somewhat stuck on this task of writing a general blurb for the workshops. Stuck I guess until we have sentences on each of the proposed panels. Lazy of mind, I’ve been haphazardly thinking about a statement on what this could be all about. To what degree can we feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders camp at Gatwick anyway? And to what degree might Migrating University become a wider educational project in itself – something that happens in other locations later…?
Themes for Goldsmiths: Problems and issues to be addressed include asylum support, campaigns against detention, civil rights and surveillance, knowledge and the state; anti-racism, media racisms, xenophobia; militarism, patriotism; technology and activism; economic migration and coercion, immaterial and precarious labour; institutional support, the teaching factory; questions of Access (fees, credentialism, openness); idea of multicultural education (really multicultural education would imply students write in their own languages, or that ‘home’ students write in other languages [idealist]); open source and digital commons; transformation of the university from old collegiate model, through mass ed to corporate agenda; radicalism and dissent, public/community engagement with citadels of knowledge; critical curriculum, pedagogy; trades union, organisations, non-academic staff, local governance, NGOs, community involvement, outreach[?]; idea of critique (Kant) versus radical criticism of everything that exists (Marx)…
Since this is based in a university, even if we are looking towards the No Borders Camp proper, can we nevertheless bring the internationalism of left movements into the disciplinary formations of the academy? – in order to wake up to relevance and engagement rather than the old ivory indulgence of credentialism or the new commercial opportunism of the teaching factory?
Murder-death-kill on the TV news every night, detentions and the eclipse of civil liberty here, and bombing campaigns for democracy abroad. Quietism is not an option.
Updated plans HERE
Join the discussion:
Click to join migrating_uni
A new figure of fun in British media has an ominous underside, and yet on reflection I think does more politically than the mischief of the usual court jesters. The television comedy of ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and the efforts of Sanjeev Bhaskar on ‘The Kumars at Number 42’ were welcome insofar as they promoted manifestations of ‘multicultural comedy’ as part of a tolerant and inclusive tradition. But this is not the whole story, and I think the popularity of such shows now reveal some disturbing new anxieties. The question of who comes to visit the Kumars at Number 42 is a matter of mirth on television, as various celebrities sat with an ‘average’ – actually quite wacky – family to talk about their latest cultural product: a film, a play, their new book and so on. As a light entertainment early evening format it was a great success. But such questioning of the neighbours and the to-ings and fro-ings of their associates is a much sharper confrontation elsewhere in Britain, especially in the years after the London bombs of 2005. The figure of the terrorist in Asian garb is the new manifestation of the scapegoat; the Asian next door becomes a stereotype and scare-mongering figure. Alongside the Kumars we now also witness special squad investigations and high profile closures of streets; the police cordoning off areas of middle English suburbia; the nightly news interviewing people living on the same streets insisting that ‘he kept to himself’ or ‘they seemed like normal people’; and scenes of the suspects being driven off to interrogation and detention under the anti-terror legislation. I see this as a sinister kind of theatre in Britain today, and I think it can be linked to other seemingly innocent comic aspects of British performance culture. This paper attempts to unpack the scripts…
So, I will try to link this back to music and politics (as usual) as it follows upon my interest in alternative modes of story-telling. Reconnecting with my earlier playing round with Pantomime terror, (at recent talks in Melbourne and Auckland) and delving further into the stories of the Thousand and One Nights. Where our narrator is no longer subject to singular despotic terror, for which her tales achieve an improbable reprieve, but rather I have:
“A speculative dream version of the story of Scheherazade herself; whom I imagine has this time been detained, rendered and interned in Guantanamo. Kept on her own in a cell except for a daily interrogation when she is brought before her captors who demand a story. She obliges them with the production of a narrative that provokes ever more draconian civil liberties crackdowns and higher and higher terror alert ratings in the metropolises, but the production of this narrative can never set her free and she will never become queen (the despotic kings are otherwise engaged: Tony Blair and G.W. Bush are already hitched to each other and a legacy in Iraq, and perhaps hitched to history in the same way Nixon was to Watergate and defeat in Vietnam). Of course it’s the case that my dreaming of Sheherezade is only a conceit – even as I cannot imagine what so many years in detention can do to anyone. A thousand and one terrors assail us all”.
The task now is to find stories for the Kumars. Or find ways to stop laughing at the welcome departure of Tony Blair to the land of television chat shows… the blood dripping onto the sofa… I’m glad he’s not moving in next door to me (though his old next door neighbour is moving to Number 10)… cue that Grundy theme music…
I imagine that cats are aphorists, composing dialectical koans and licking their whiskers at the elegance of their arabesques. Though I recognise that Adorno himself noted that aphorisms were not admissible in dialectical thought, which should always abhor isolation and separateness (1951/1974:16), I concede that cats are separate and aloof. Since they are never owned by their humans, they stand apart, domesticated only by choice, self-grooming, dreaming of mice (rather than hubcaps – go figure), ignoring us in ways that transcend normal social, political and geophysical categories. We know these routines already, and recognise their outsider status with a mix of awe and disregard.
Projection. The anthropomorphic charge is more difficult to lay upon our conception of cats, yet it does apply. To think of them as yoga-masters, or as independent outsider spirits, is still to malign them as merely human. I am sometimes paranoid in thinking that my cat is mechanical. A twisted automaton designed especially to distort my brain. Uncle Bill Burroughs said that paranoia was being in possession of all of the facts. So let us consider the evidence: cats purr – this could be very cute, or is it rather the calculated industrial production if cuteness?; cats wash themselves with their tongues – and if they were electric they would short-circuit (though consider how coffing up a hairball might just be that); cats growl and hiss when interrogated – clearly they could be detained as non-combatants if only we had the will, and a strong leader. Cats have whiskers… More examples would only trap us in a dialectical game of catch and release, and so cats will have once again won. They always do, toying with us; ask the mice.
So I think we need to learn to learn from these philosophers of composure. First of all I imagine Uncle Bill, stoned in the Bunker, communing in some feline comprehension with his cat Fletch: ‘wouldn’t you?’. But why is it that Lévi-Strauss exchanges a look of understanding with that cat at the very end of his book Tristes Tropiques? Why a look; a visual metaphor for knowledge? Well, not so much a look of knowing, but a ‘brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness’ (1955/1973: 544). Do cats forgive? Are they theorists of hospitality? That look bothers me some. If I were to elaborate on the metaphors of vision for knowledge I would ramble on about the way our disciplines are divided up into fields; how one strives to see the point of an argument; how instead of seeing your point, I hold a different view – so many ways in which the assertions of knowledge are visual. But with cats you do not know – the enigmatic Cheshire smile prevails.
Kurt Vonnegut died recently, having once written a great book called Cats Cradle (1963) which was later accepted by the University of Chicago anthropology department as a Masters thesis. In that book, the narrator, Jonah (referencing Moby Dick) investigates the life of the now deceased Felix Hoenikker, developer of the atomic bomb. Of course we all know Felix is a quintessential cat’s name (my first cat), and this Felix is appropriately enigmatic also, concerned only with higher science, the pursuit of knowledge as calculation, and absent-minded outsider. Though I suspect a certain identification on Vonnegut’s part, only this narrator, as Jonah, could hunt him down, tempt him with the fish perhaps… It’s not just the bomb, Felix invents a substance that threatens the planet – Ice-9, and his children take it and… To tell more would ruin the story for those who have yet to read it – as far as thesis goes, its anyone’s guess how Chicago Anthropology managed to assess this as a scholarly work. Credit due.
Burroughs also pursued anthropology. This at Harvard as part of the G.I. Bill, where returned WW2 service personnel were offered places in university. Uncle Bill reports that he found the department grim: ‘I had done some graduate work in anthropology. I got a glimpse of academic life and I didn’t like it at all. It looked like there was too much faculty intrigue, faculty lies, cultivating the head of department, so on and so forth’ (Burroughs 2001: 76). It makes me wonder how any of those cats ever get their act together and sit for their degrees. Concentration seems awry; consistency suspended. And a mischievous outsider’s critical countenance continues to leave them disturbingly set apart.
Burroughs in London in 1970 was strangely prophetic when he described America as vulnerable: ‘extremely vulnerable to chaos, to breakdown in communications, particularly to a breakdown in the food supply [a typical cat concern]. Bombs concentrated on communications, random bombs on trains, boats, planes, buses could lead to paralysis. But you must consider the available counters. We spoke about the ultimate repression that would be used. Once large-scale bombings started you could expect the most violent reactions. They’d declare a national emergency and arrest anyone. They don’t have to know who did it. They’ll just arrest everyone who might have done it’ (Burroughs 2001:156).
There are suggestions that all cats be detained in Guantanamo. We are close to such a repression. Just presenting the look of being an outsider is a dangerous thing. Cats threaten the western way of life in this time of ‘war on terror’, and do so because we cannot ever tell if they are with us or against us. And they are not afraid of sacrifice – they believe they have nine lives! They adhere to ancient cult traditions (from Egypt no less, training camps in the desert we suspect). They are long past masters of undercover operations (consider CatWoman’s wily ways of entrapping the hero of Gotham). Just read the old eastern book of war tactics, I am a Cat by Soseki Natsume (1905/2002) to see how internecine and dialectical warfare offers tactical advantage to these furry miscreants. Danger, hiss, pttfft, grrrr.
The thing about cats, aberrant and inscrutable, is that they are the antithesis of the rat-race, and for this reason alone it is worth changing their kitty-litter. Meow!
John Hutnyk (for Daisy Cumberland)
Refs: Theodor Adorno 1951/1974 Minima Moralia New York: NLB. William Burroughs 1971 Burroughs Live: Interviews New York: Semiotext(e). Claude Lévi-Strauss 1955/1976 Tristes Tropiques, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Soseki Natsume 1905/2002 I am a Cat Berkeley: Tuttle Publishing. Kurt Vonnegut 1963 Cats Cradle New York: Dell Publishing.
cats stretch [& cat pic from Dr Who]
this was published in the excellent Stimulus Respond
Some people noticed my radio silence at least! Thankx. The explanation is a mix of essay marking, dissertation chapters to read, preparation for a `conversation´in Manchester with Marie Louise Pratt (on 20th Feb), and a week in Germany – in particular a joint PhD colloquium between CCS Goldsmiths and Ethnology Frankfurt students. All praise Alexander Schwinghammer and Susan Schuppli for organising it, and a visit to ZKM in Karlsruhe to check out endless new media installations (by the end of it I was happy to find my pacman skills still adequate – and to thrill to the BSG game).
The old code of conduct for the horror that is war is not much mentioned in these days of the terror-spectacle, but the spirit of the Geneva Convention, whatever its shortcomings (ie., that wars of greed go on at all), is what Bush flouts every day in Bhagram and Guantanamo – and which is transgressed each day in every US prison, (i.e against Mumia, and where all those prisoners of other ‘social wars’ languish); in UK prisons and police stations (see the film “Injustice“); under the ISA in Malaysia; and with Afzal Guru in India (the protest outside the Indian Consulate in London against hanging, and which was held on Republic Day of India – almost in snow! – was joined by some Khalistani brothers who brought hot very sweet tea – see my post on Guru here)…
Anyway, the full title of the convention is the “Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War”,
What I want to draw attention to is a quite different initiative: a “Guevara Convention”. This is not just to acknowledge the 40th death anniversary of a great revolutionary leader, and it is also noting that Guerilla Warfare must proceed differently today. But a Guevara Convention would certainly be relevant to the treatment of the prisoners of the War of Terror – beside the ‘enemy combatants’ in direct incarceration, Bush and Blair are making prisoners of us all, wherever we are – border controls, surveillance, terror threat codes, detentions without trial, bio-metrics etc – Our response must be to organise the people…
The text of the Geneva Convention is here:
Clause three – the one that mentions detention and says such persons “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria” also talks about the following, which are ALL clearly being contravened as we speak…
“(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples”
I can’t even begin to think about this without wanting to tell EVERYONE to march on Geneva carrying pictures of the man with the cigar.
(And of course to Dave Watts, who provoked this – and comments below)
On friday we have a protest meeting about the Afzal Guru lynching planned in India. Many are disturbed by the trial in which a Kashmiri man, picked up after an attack by some ‘miscreants’ on parliament, was allegedly tortured into confession, which was then telecast, and the courts decided Guru was to be hung.
Afzal Guru was not actually a part of the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Parliament in Delhi by five men – who were all killed in the action – but he was picked up with three others the next day under the ‘Prevention of Terrorism’ act.
A stay on execution was gained by campaign groups when the hanging had been scheduled for October 30th 2006, but the television station NDTV screened the confession, and questioned whether it was extracted under torture (as the court itself had been forced to admit). The bizarre thing is that the television station then held a text message vote on whether he should be hung. Did that really happen – a television SMS text-in vote to promote a hanging? Alongside the Shilpa Shetty – Jade Goody et al racism row on Celebrity Big Brother here in London (with international diplomatic impact and commentary by Prime Ministers and more), we can only conclude that today, increasingly, television is terror-vision, as entertainment and as news. Both are worse, as Lenin would say. The televised hanging of Saddam of course also comes to mind, such that I now think a Hanging Channel on satellite cannot be that far away. Especially as it is also reported today that Britain’s prisons are ‘full’. I can imagine Rupert Murdoch will happily fund such a channel for SKY, with OJ Simpson as guest compere perhaps.
I’ve written on the displacement that the racism row on Big Brother achieves elsewhere (Jade was racist, but bombing Afghanistan and Iraq and sending still more troops is more … here) and I’ve written on Saddam’s Swing (here), but I am afraid that writing, and even filming – remember Injustice – seems somehow inadequate in these terror-vision days. Last night I went to a benefit screening of the Peter O’Toole vehicle “Venus” organised by English Pen for the Writers in Prison programme. O’Toole being nominated for an Oscar the day before, seems like something. But writing against death, torture, detention, war… all I can do I guess is turn up and, like PEN, however meagre my rants in comparison to their campaigning, to keep on saying such stuff to whoever few may listen, if they have open ears, to whisper, to suggest, to promote the rumour of another potential…
Writing as a way to open ears,
a pen as a spike to the brain…
The details for the friday protest and case background are:
“TORTURE, LIES AND A FABRICATED CONFESSION:
NO DEATH PENALTY FOR AFZAL GURU!
PICKET OF THE INDIAN HIGH COMMISSION,
Friday, 26 January 1.30pm-4.30pm
India House, The Aldwych, London WC2
(nearest tube: Holborn)
On December 13, 2001 the Indian parliament was attacked by five men. They were killed by the security forces but even today their identity remains a mystery. Three other men, who according to the police masterminded the attack, have also not been found.
However, on 14 and 15 December, 2001 the investigating agencies together with the Special Cell of the Delhi Police picked up four persons, all Kashmiris, and charged them with the offence of conspiring to attack the parliament under India’s notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
After a nationwide campaign for a fair trial, two of them, Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani and Navjot Sandhu who was jailed along with her newborn baby, have been acquitted of all charges, a third, the husband of Navjot Sandhu, has had his death sentence converted to ten years in prison. But the fourth Afzal Guru was due to be hanged on October 20, 2006. A stay on his execution has been obtained by the Save Afzal Campaign through a Mercy Petition, and he is now being held in Tihar jail inDelhi. But he is still facing a death sentence.
Who is Afzal Guru?
AfzalGuru was involved with the JKLF for only three months in 1990 when large numbers of Kashmiri youth were attracted to the movement. During these three months he neither received any training nor took part in any activities. For details see his wife Tabassum’s letter:http://justiceforafzalguru.org/background/tabassum.html
After he surrendered he was constantly picked up by security forces, asked to spy on people and also routinely tortured. He eventually decided to move toDelhihoping to be left alone but even here the notorious Special Task Force caught up with him and continued to harass him.
His trial was a mockery of justice since he was denied an opportunity to defend himself – he did not even have a lawyer.Afzal was not involved in the actual attack on the Indian parliament and he did not kill or injure anybody and the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that there was no direct evidence against him, only circumstantial. However the court has sentenced him to death because in their words the“the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender… The appellant, who is a surrendered militant …is a menace to society and should become extinct.”
Abu Ghraib style torture and media collusion
In the Special Cell of the Delhi police Afzal was kept naked for two days and beaten mercilessly – once by a man who later appeared as a prosecution witness; police officers urinated in his mouth saying ‘This is the way you can break your Roza(fast)’. After he was tortured he was handcuffed and made to sit on a chair and forced to ‘confess’ at a media conference. But television broadcasts did not show the handcuffs and did not show the men who tortured and humiliated him. On the 15 and 16 of December 2006, New Delhi Television (NDTV) re-ran the ‘confession’ several times although they had been informed that by now that the Supreme Court of India had rejected it and the High Court had reprimanded the police for it. The programme was accompanied by remarks such as‘See how natural, how truthful, how fluent his statement appears’ and ‘Who can believe that such a statement can be given under torture’. They then invited viewers to act as a virtual lynch mob by soliciting SMS messages from them asking whether Afzal should be hanged in light of the tape telecast by them.
Right-wing Hindu chauvinist forces of the Sangh Parivar have continually harassed members of Afzal’s campaign while calling for Afzal to be hanged.
Afzal Gurufaces a death penalty although:
- There is no direct evidence against him and he is known not to have injured or harmed anyone
- The Courts have found that the investigating agencies deliberately fabricated evidence and forged documents against him and others accused.
Currently Afzal is waiting for the results of a Mercy Petition but the decision of the courts is extremely uncertain. Even after enormous efforts by his campaign he is being denied basic rights in prison – he is not allowed to go out of doors for even half an hour of sunlight and the Red Cross who have access to Kashmiri prisoners have not been allowed to visit him.
SAVE AFZAL GURU!“
See you there.
I have been watching harrowing reports from Guantanamo detention camp on the late night news. They shine lights in the eyes of those unjustly interned there – the camp has been open for five years – they play loud music at all hours (see Eroica), they interrogate and interrogate, forcing narrative (this is not just storytelling, though I glossed it as such for effect) and force-feeding those who protest their rights; and we now hear more and more and cannot avoid recognizing that the guards do much worse, much worse… beatings, broken ribs, degrading and sadistic tortures, deaths…and we have known this for too long…
While the inmates in their cages in the camp might be in danger of slipping from our memory, yet they are the brutal truth of our world today. Television has to do more than this to wake us up – I see it as the real Big Brother house, this is the Palace of Dreams, this is the Home of the Brave. This is where we really live, but do not see.
The way in which we manage to accept and excuse continued detention without charge or trial, deaths in custody, atrocity and crime, makes me think we need to rewrite our books and change our thinking. How to do this? Perhaps a shot of philosophy – what if we were to think of the scene on screen as a possible contemporary parable which is displacing or radicalizing the old cave scenario in Plato. Guantanamo might be our new founding myth – an indictment of the way we think, and a guide to how we might rework our ways so that it is not truth and the sun we seek, but justice and redress.
I hope then that it is not too strange to take up the metaphor of the fire-screen in Plato’s cave and rework it as a spark for Guantanamo. There could be many associations with the screen and the flame and this seems as good as any a place to start. In an overdetermined and well known passage, Plato presents us with a primordial cave in which we are offered the image of shadows flickering on a wall. Those watching the shadows – which flicker because they are caused by a fire in the cave – are incredulous when an early release tells them of a greater light, of the sun shining outside the cave, which reveals greater truths. As the story goes, the proto-television shadow wall retains its viewers, who after all are chained to the scene and cannot look away.
That this Plato-routine is mere storytelling is well known – and so it is with a great number of other scenes of media screen and fire. Television hardly moves us. Yet fire, as we know, is both creative and destructive. It is endlessly fascinating (more than television) – ‘hard to light, it is difficult to put out’ – a malevolent spirit (Bachelard 1938/1987:64). A symptomatic examination of flames on the screen might remind us that this is a political place – think of grainy images of the Reichstag fire, of the Hindenburg zeppelin crash, of the burning monk during the Vietnam war, and of late night reruns of Cinema Paradiso. Nevertheless, Plato’s cave establishes the precedent with those shadows on the wall – television, fire and political narrative are inexorably linked from the start – and so I also want to invoke a mythic register as perhaps more than as metaphor, or as heuristic device. I have in mind myth as it might have been narrated in a ‘reverie’ of those gathered around a camp-fire not unlike the one in the cave or as told to the interrogators. There are any number of televisual and cinematic moments that might provide a kind of archive to enable this – I invite readers to come up with their own greatest moments in flames, but let us always remember the storytellers of Guantanamo that we barely hear. The long questionings, the beatings, the torture, the loss of life – though not yet all dead, the dying…
To cite television news reportage as a burning issue under a register of fire is a kind of contrivance no doubt, but a necessary one, and it allows us to rethink storytelling as politics, and so television as ideological social origin myth. The only trouble is that this extravagant metaphorics could lead almost anywhere, and if we free associate television with fire, light, luminosity and insight we might merely meditate upon knowledge and vision, the daylight (let there be light…), the lantern (Zarathustra…) and the lamp (Aladdin…). Stories are not enough here. As if enlightenment were an unproblematic advance (as an alternative to detention camps and god-bothering leaderships on crusade, it surely is… but), fire is also a weapon (literally as fire-power, and also as firewater). So burn your TV. And burn down the camps. Though it destroys, fire may also cleanse. It is divine avenging spirit and productive furnace of hell, with Lucifer it is both the fall and purgatory. May Day though is the celebration of both Beltane and workers’ power; fire produces both steam and ash; energy and residue. It is made by friction or a spark; a smouldering beginning or a sudden crash of lightning; the image of god, spirit, cherubim; yet also hocus pocus, and obscurantist smoke and fug; fiery, inflamed, incandescent, excited; related both to flagrant and flamboyant. Why then is it that so often television does not at all encourage that ‘reverie’ that Bachelard identified in fire (this is also discussed in Moore 2000:130 Savage Theory). Late night TV is especially evocative of the narcoleptic camp-fire – flickering shadows the only light lulling us towards unconsciousness. The embers of the late late show shine with a soporific glow and contemplation need not be profound. We need that torture light smack in the eyes.
I hope old Plato will turn in his cave (and perhaps see the sun). The inmates of Guantanamo do not have sets in their cages, but they are the screen on which our social conscience is shown, and it is found wanting.
For all those in detention everywhere, and for Kadhr, Bisher, Hicks, El Hadj Boudella, the Bosnian Six, Abbasi, Sharif, Shah and all the others.
Cadavers, lifeless bodies, the return of the dead. Over the holiday period the quiet streets of London have been bothering me a little. Alarmed as I am with Christmas carols and hangings on the news – a veritable hauntology has me walking about as if in a dream. Yet people keep on bringing me ghosts. Three times this week, and all through the first term course on Capital, and with two PhD students working the theme (if slowly) into new areas… frightening me to reach for my familiar references – Ghost of Chance by William Burroughs was my first suggestion: it’s a pirate story about Captain Mission (drug fiend, utopianist) and his pet lemur called ‘Ghost’, battling the Christ-Sickness and other plagues destined for the Museum of Lost Species. The Captain himself becomes a ghost on death – stranger than anything Johnny Depp saw Keith Richards do… Of course much more worthy reading on this theme would pursue spirits in Hegel, Marx, the spectral…
So scholars may be worried by spooky stories. But what, I wonder, is all this anxiety about really? Haunting and ghosts are interesting as metaphor or trope certainly. But incorporeality and disembodied form just doesn’t do much – it seems intangible, somewhat vacuous. These ghosts on their own are a bit whispy, shady and faint. I need to find bodies that matter – and I want to know just what point of connection all the current death-talk might have to the socio-political world. It seems a bit abstract at present. So I have two sets of questions:
A. Should not all this talk of ghosts first of all be connected to the forgotten inmates of Guantanamo? To the spectral dead of the twin towers? To the thousands killed by imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia? These ghastly scenes should surely scare us. Somebody needs to organise more than a séance to set the creaking of the system into context – this entire planet is haunted, the walking dead are legion. Vampires suck our flesh.
B. The theme of ghosts might also be questioned as a focus for social theory – I mean, why have these apparitions returned with a vengeance just now? Perhaps the abundance of ghost writings that have appeared since Derrida wrote Spectres of Marx indicates the powerful return of Christianity and/or Christmas pasts: Scrooge and/or the Holy Ghost struts the world stage in a way not seen since temperance. Is this secularism in retreat before the new manifestations of fundamentalism(s)? Or was secularism always underpinned with a faulty reading of Marx’s opiate routine? The first cry of the oppressed masses is a commune with the dead…
Is this the fetish character of capital turned into demons and ghouls? The residue of the dead body. In many stories ghosts can travel through walls and now they seem to have infiltrated everything everywhere. I have been disturbed the past few days by a story Mick Taussig tells in his great new book Walter Benjamin’s Grave, where our intrepid anthropologist-hero is asked by a Putumayo farmer if he knows how to smuggle cocaine past the police and army guards. He did not. “Well, you get a dead baby and open up the abdomen, remove the intestines, pack cocaine paste in, sew up the abdomen and, with the baby at the breast the good mother cuddles her precious cargo through the roadblocks and, who knows, perhaps to Miami and New York as well” (in Taussig 2006:86).
The residue is now also in the body. We certainly welcomed the New Year in high spirits. I find all this as shocking as the grainy images of Saddam on his string. No longer pantomime.
After friday’s absolutely great Dis-Orient X event which went off so well – thanks to ALL concerned… now I’m on the way to Magdeburg to talk about the new Fun-Da-Mental video, so, a few more notes (actually these were nutted out on the way to Stockholm last week – added to the ever growing file)…
A discussion of new work by diasporic world music stalwarts Fun-da-mental and the drum and bass outfit Asian Dub Foundation, relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK. The presentation will argue for an engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace. Examples from the music industry reception of ‘difficult’ music and creative engagement are evaluated in the context of the global terror wars.
I increasingly find it problematic to write analytically about “diaspora and music” at a time of war. It seems inconsequential; the culture industry is not much more than a distraction; a fairy tale diversion to make us forget a more sinister amnesia behind the stories we tell. This paper nonetheless takes up debates about cultural expression in the field of diasporic musics in Britain. It examines instances of creative engagement with, and destabilisation of, music genres by Fun^da^mental and Asian Dub Foundation, and it takes a broadly culture critique perspective on diasporic creativity as a guide to thinking about the politics of hip-hop in a time of war.
Thinking about pantomime terror deserves a little historical play. The popular christmas and summer holiday entertainment form has roots in vaudville and melodrama and might also be traced back through French mime, Italian Commedia dell’arte, or even to Roman mythology and the flutes of the god Pan. A more detailed history of course would have to contend with the relation of the Pied Piper of Hammelin to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, with issues of role reversal, double entendre, drag, slapstick, superstitions (left side of the stage for demons, right side for fairy princesses), and theatre ghosts if not more. The trajectory within the pantomime archive that I find most relevant here would start with Scheherezade and the stories of A Thousand And One Nights, the first ‘proper book’ I owned as a child – illustrated with lavish pictures of Sinbad the Sailor, various alluring princesses on flying horses or magic carpets, Alladin and his lamp, and of course Ali Baba and the forty thieves. That Sherezade had to tell devious stories to evade death at the handsof the despotic King Shahrya is only the first of the points at which Edward Said-style critiques of Orientalism would need to be deployed. Wicked and conniving traders outfoxed by fantastically beautiful maidens told as fairy tales to children but barely disguising the violence at the heart of the stories themeselves did certain ideological duty. My problem with Said however has always been that these effects are not just literary and historical, even as a wealth of historical research was released in the wake of Said’s texts. Today however pantomime seems to play an even more sinister role.
The ghost that is ‘behind you’ in today’s panto is the sleeper cell living and working amongst us, travelling on the tube, preparing to wreak havoc and destruction unannounced. Ali Baba is the despot holding the west ransom to the price of a barrel of oil; Sinbad is Osama, with a secret cave to which only he knows the secret opening code words: ‘open sesame’. The fears that are promulgated here are of course childish terrors and stereotype, but the problem with sterotype is their maddening ability to transcend reason and keep on poping back up to scare us. This is not a place for thinking, its theatre. We might consider the repetition of the historical as seen in Marx’s study of Louis Bonepart in the Eighteenth Brumaire: the second time history repeats it returns as high farce. The need for someone to write the brumaire of Blair is pressing. It suggests to me a speculative dream version of sheherezade; who has been detained, rendered and interned in Guantanamo. Kept on her own in a cell except for a daily interrogation when she is brought before her captors who demand a story. She obliges them with the production of a narrative that provokes ever more draconian civil liberties crackdowns and higher and higher terror alert ratings in the metropolises, but the production of this narrative can never set her free and she will never become queen (Blair and Bush are already hitched to each other, and perhaps to history in the same way Nixon was to Watergate and defeat in Vietnam). Although, my dreaming of Sheherezade is only a conceit – yet a thousand and one terrors assail us all.
In the video for DIY Cookbook, pantomime characters make the argument. There are three verses. The first entails a cross-of-St-George-wearing youth constructing a strap-on bomb from a recipe downloaded from the internet. He is dressed as a rabbit and as a lizard in parts of the verse, playing on childlike toys and fears; the second verse references the Muslim scholar and the figure of the armed guerrilla as the character relates a more cynical employment as a mercenary making a ‘dirty bomb’ with fission materials bought on the black market in Chechnya or some such; the third pantomime figure is the respectable scientist discussed in RamParts by Dave, here the scientist in a lab coat morphs into a member of the Klu Klux Klan and then a suited business man, building a neutron bomb that destroys people ‘but leaves the buildings intact’. Pantomime allows Aki to point out the hypocrisy of an Empire with no clothes. The terrors we are offered every night on the news are pantomime terrors as well, a performance melodrama, operatically grandiose. The scale they require – weapons of mass destruction; Saddam’s show trial – is exaggerated in a way that welcomes oblique internalization. These figures are patently absurd, yet all the more effective as incitements.
 James L. Miller 1978 ‘Review of Roman Pantomime: Practice and Politics by Frank W. D. Reis in Dance Research Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1/2 (1978-1979), pp. 52-54
 Marx’s Eigtheenth Brumaire is by far the most eloquent articulation of class and ideological politics available – the classic phrases are well known ‘they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented’, ‘potatoes in a sack’, let the dead bury the dead’ and so on. See the translation by James Martin for Pluto Press 2002.
This image that I take to be a plastic diarama efigy of a Malaya Communist Party cadre from the 1940s is from a film I have been reading about with interest as a controversy rages over its banning in Malaysia. The film is Lelaki Komunis Terakhir aka The Last Communist.
It deals with Chin Peng, who’s autobiography a few years ago (My Side of History 2003 Media Masters) was pretty informative, and now this film could add more to a tale that is strangely present but not present in Malaysia. I have long been interested in the reds, whom the director of TLC recalls as those that were considerd ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ during his youth. This routine of demonisation is prevalent, as documented in earlier offerings such as Malaya: the Undeclared War, which examines anti-communist ’emergency’ of the 1940s-early 50s, back to the early writings of Anthony Burgess (see below), who was a colonial era teacher…
What I mean by the comment that the communist struggle is present but not present in Malaysia is illustrated in the ongoing fools attempt to censor and silence on the part of the UMNO government, but also in curious public presence-absences. For example, I’ve always been amused by one of the exhibits at the Museum in Georgetown.
[This from a piece written in 2002]: Outside the Penang Museum in Malaysia today you can still see an old bullet ridden Rolls Royce that once was used to ferry Viceroys about the Malayan Peninsula. The explanation offered for this exhibit, however, is somewhat vague. The bullet holes were earned at the assassination of the High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney in October 1951. What is not noted is that this was the highest level kill achieved by Communist insurgents during the so-called Malayan Emergency – curiously enough, a dramatised version of this event can be found in the 1956 novel of a certain Anthony Burgess of Clockwork Orange fame, see his Time for a Tiger, part of his Malaya Trilogy, The Long Day Wanes (Burgess 1964). Burgess was appointed to a post as colonial teacher at the Malay College in Perak, quite near to the reputed Communist headquarters in the village of Sungai Siput (Lewis 2002:203). It is what happened to villages during the ‘Emergency’ that should be of concern – wholesale detentions that set the model for strategic Hamlets in Vietnam…
Malaya was the most profitable part of the Empire in the years between the first and second Imperialist World Wars. According to the Commonwealth historian Anthony Stockwell, British colonial administrators distinguished between Malays and Chinese in terms of how they ran the colony, with the Malays entrusted with ‘junior partner’ status and the bulk of positions in the police and Civil Service while the Chinese were infiltrated by the ‘menace’ of communist and Kuomingtang elements and were thought to be in need of strict discipline (Stockwell 1992:105-7).
It was this need for discipline that led to a Police force numbering 10,000 before 1940, mostly Malays and Sikhs, only 250 British Officers learnt to speak Malay, but only a handful knew any Chinese. Postwar, with grave shortages of rice and cloth, malaria epidemic, collapsed plantation and mining infrastructure, the once most lucrative colony became the most difficult to rule – the Chinese led communists joined with the Malay community in a mass non-cooperation movement. The straggling and war weary British (with disgruntled soldiers who wanted demobalisation rather than a new colonial adventure) considered putting down this movement with the use of Indian soldiers but found this difficult because of the legacy of Nataji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (see Bose 1982, for discussion of the formation, and subsequent defeat, of Bose’s army in Malaya and Burma – largely due to a miscalculated and unsupportive alliance with Imperial Japan).
Out of the mass non-cooperation movement developed support for the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP) and in reaction, according to Stockwell, to the British declaration of a state of emergency in June of 1948, an insurrection began, under Chin Peng known as a revolutionary war but on the government side characterised as ‘the emergency’ which is clearly a calculated reference (non-War, non Geneva Convention, cf Guantamo Bay and the US failure to extend any rights to captured combatants) and alibis the declaration of special Police powers above and beyond conventional law.
Under Colonel W.N. Gray, direct from Palestine and appointed as Commissioner of the Malay Police, the force expanded to 73,000, plus 17,000 ‘Auxiliaries and Kampong guards’ by 1952 (Stockwell 1992:110). Gray oversaw the introduction of resettlement and gave the Malay Police the major role in defence of ‘New Villages’ in order to separate the people from the communists, and food and information.
‘the Emergency regulations gave the police extraordinary powers of search and arrest, control of the movement of persons and traffic, and the authority to impose curfews … in late 1951 it was estimated that some 6,000 persons were being held in detention without trial’ (Stockwell 1992:113, citing Oliver Lyttelton’s memoirs of 1962:372).
The insurgency was a war of attrition which effectively drained the colony’s profitability. The combination of communist insurgency and the international climate of anti-colonial pro-Independence negotiations meant the British played their old divide and rule routine even in the run up to an inevitable independence.
In July 1955 the Malay leader Tunku Abdul Rahman headed a coalition of Umno, Mca and MIC to victory in the first ‘federal’ election of the Malay colony. As the British debated handing over internal security and policing to the new Chief Minister, Tunku Rahman suggested an amnesty for the communists and with Chin Peng opened talks (Stockwell 1992:120). Chin Peng wisely offered peace as soon as independence, and control over security, was achieved. The British moved to forestall such alliance making by granting Tunku immediate control of internal security through a ‘guided’ Police Service Commission….
[That lot above is extracted from: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/489/detention.html ]
…its a matter of record that Malaysia did not adopt its promising Red Domino option. Instead, years of neo-colonial plunder, and the continued repression of dissidents and opposition under the detention law called the Internal Security Act, now universally applied across the world, with Chin Peng exiled (still) in Thailand. The Rolls outside the museum – count the bullet holes – is testiment to an unspoken but quite visible presence. The banning just maintains this transparent puppetry-ventriloquy and since the story should be told out loud, let’s see the film. Red Salute.