Open letter in the Guardian about Lydia & Bernard and justice for asylum seekers in the UK, signed by writers, actors and broadcasters
Asylum seekers left stranded by IAS closure will present concerns to the Legal Services Commission today, on the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention on Refugees
See press release here
See campaign page here
'Unequal Before The Law?' - report from Commission of Inquiry into the proposed legal aid cuts, co-led by RAPAR patron Nicholas Sagovsky
Unequal Before The Law? - The future of legal aid is a new report on legal aid and the consequences of the proposed cuts, which can be read here. It compiles the findings of the independent Commission of Inquiry led by Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of the trade union Unite, Evan Harris, former Liberal Democrat MP and the Reverend Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, until recently the canon of Westminster Abbey and (still) a RAPAR patron. The commission was organised by Young Legal Aid Lawyers and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.
The report includes a consideration of the current and historical legal aid system, accounts of a number of individual case examples that the panel heard from people who had crucially benefited from legal aid, and an interrogation of arguments for cutting the legal aid budget found in the Government's 'green paper' on the issue and from a number of other organisations. In a highly insightful analysis in Appendix 2, the report considers whether any of the people who gave accounts to the panel would have lost out had the proposed cuts already been in place, and finds that a large number of them would have.
The findings of this impartial panel are highly relevant for all members and supporters of RAPAR, and include, among other things, that:
See press release below, and Lualua TV site here: https://www.lulu-tv.com/
Bahrain Opposition Launch TV Channel Amid Interference
A new TV channel run by Bahraini opposition activists in the UK has faced broadcast difficulties due to outside interference.
Lualua TV launched yesterday and after just five hours on air was the victim of jamming from an unknown source. The current affairs channel derives its name from the Pearl roundabout in Manama, the focal point of the recent wave of democracy protests.
The station broadcasts in Arabic and is aimed at members of the opposition inside the gulf state, via the satellite service Hotbird. On going live the channel featured an interview with a prominent Bahraini politician, engaged in the current reconciliation talks with the government.
The source of the attack on the station is not yet known and an investigation is on going. The Bahrain Government has frequently attacked the freedom of the media inside Bahrain, forcing those who wish to criticise the government to do so abroad. However, even those broadcasting their criticisms from outside of Bahrain are facing complications, as exemplified by Lualua TV.
Reporters Without Borders, a free speech campaign group has described widely the harassment of journalists in Bahrain. Last month, the group reported that the Facebook and Twitter pages of Rasad News, a source of news about human rights violations, had been taken over by regime officials.
Yasser Al Sayegh, Director of Lualua TV, said:
“We are very pleased that the channel has launched but are deeply concerned at this outside interference. We have repeatedly tried to set up this station inside Bahrain but were always denied by the authorities. This is why we were forced to move abroad to gain our right to free speech. We are carrying out an investigation to discover the source of this jamming and will announce our results.”
Dominic Kavakeb – 00447545965302 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Yasser Al Sayegh – 00447909 981873
Oldham Unitarian Chapel has launched a campaign in support of Abdoulaye Diabate, from the Ivory Coast, and Taha Ghasemi, from Iran, both of whom are currently facing deportation, and are extremely afraid of being returned to the situations that they fled. See articles in the Oldham Chronicle, here, and the Manchester Evening News, here.
To support this campaign, and for more information, please contact Rev. Bob Pounder at
See slideshow below for photos from the sponsored walk on Sunday. RAPAR members formed a very visible presence around Manchester city centre in fetching red t-shirts. Walk leader Steve Roman and several RAPAR speakers gave illuminating talks at stops along the way, drawing out commonalities between progressive struggles from Manchester's history and RAPAR's current work.
Our thanks to Steve Roman for doing an excellent job of leading the walk and sharing his extensive knowledge, and to all our sponsors for helping RAPAR raise some much-needed funds.
Many thanks also to Barbara Cook for the group photo below (first photo of slideshow). http://bacphotography.photoshelter.com/
On 25 June 2010, the discovery of 11 decapitated corpses in the Oruzgan of Afghanistan province brought to shocking light the continued and brutal persecution inflicted upon the Hazaras minority in Afghanistan. On discovery of the corpses, a local police official Mohammad Gulab Wardak claimed ‘This was the work of the Taliban. They beheaded these men because they were ethnic Hazara and Shi’ite muslims’ (Maley, 2010).
The History of the Hazara people in Afghanistan
The position of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority has a deep historical context. After the ruling Pastuns and the Tajiks, Hazaras exist as the third largest ethnic community in Afghanistan, and, unlike the majority of the region that is considered Sunni Islam, Hazaras are overwhelmingly Shiite, which has resulted in their habitual condemnation as ‘infidels’. Long before the ‘The Kite Runner’ made it famous (to western audiences), discrimination and persecution has been a reality for Hazara minority since at least the ‘Hazaras Wars’ of 1891-3. The formation of centralised control at this time, under Amir Abdur Rahid Rahman (1800-1901), resulted in the Hazara being viewed as a key strategic threat to Pashtun dominance. The violence that ensued claimed the lives of thousands of Hazara people, and laid the foundations for their continued persecution throughout the 20th century; the victorious Amir claiming they were ‘enemies of their country and religion’ (Phillips, 2010).
The pattern of marginalisation and persecution of the Hazara has been supported by successive ethnocentric central governments. Lasting tensions between Shiite Hazaras and the Sunni population violently erupted during the civil war in 1989. In 1993, soldiers under the command of the Rabbani government (1992-96) targeted a stronghold for the Hazaras’ political party, the Hizb-e Wahdat (‘Unity Party’), in West Kabul. The attacks culminated in the massacre of approximately 750 Hazaras.
The rise to prominence of the Taliban further intensified this oppression. Made up mainly of Pashtun origin, the Taliban saw Hazara lineage and religion as intolerable. In 1995, they killed and threw from helipcopter Abdul Ali Mazari, a Hazara liberator and leader of Hezb-e Wahdat. In 1998, the Taliban slaughtered nearly 2000 Hazara in Mazar-e Sharif as retaliation for previous crimes against Taliban soldiers. The incumbent Taliban governor at the time, Mullah Manon Niazi, publicly incited the massacre, preaching ‘Hazaras are not Muslim. You can kill them. It is not a sin’ (Phillips, 2010). By relating the attacks to the ethnic origins of the Hazara, the Taliban raised the level of discourse and action against the Hazaras, and the 1998 massacre can be seen through no other guise but the intended ethnic cleansing of a minority population within Afghanistan. There is very little to suggest that such attitudes within the re-emerging Taliban have changed substantially today.
The Position of the Hazara in Afghanistan today
Following September 11th 2001, Allied forces disbanded and overthrew the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, a move met with relative joy from the Hazara. As a result there were attempts to institute levels of democratisation, including further protection of minority rights. The inclusion of Hazara representation within the government would seemingly support this claim.
However, analysis carried out by Professor William Maley rejects the government position. The election that established the Karzai government was ‘marked by some of the worst fraud ever seen in an internationally-supported vote’ (Maley, 2010). As a result, the limited capacity and scope of the government means that the constitutional and legal reforms are meaningless for the majority of Afghans, and the limited representation given to minorities such as Hazaras - an act of tokenism by the incumbent government, which is still Pashtun dominated.
The Kochi land disputes with settled Hazaras communities have a precedent that stretches back to the 19th century. The Kochi, a Pashtun nomadic tribe, have legal entitlement to the grazing rights of the Hazaras farmland, as a result of consecutive support from governments since the Hazaras wars. Such disputes are prevalent today, and have the support of the Taliban, as well as a central government seemingly acquiescent to habitual assaults by the Kochi’s. In 2008, land disputes resulted in 60,000 Hazaras being displaced. In May 2010, 1800 families were displaced, 68 homes burnt and 28 schools closed (Phillips, 2010).
The majority of discussion on the Kochi-Hazara issue shows a tendency to see the violence and displacement of the Hazara as a consequence of land disputes, and does not constitute claims of ethnic persecution. However, the historical precedent of Hazara-specific discrimination would challenge this. Further, Maley has argued that such disputes are tailor made for oppositional groups that seek to build support amongst the disgruntled factions, and therefore there is every reason to suspect a Taliban influence and support of the Kochi (Maley, 2010). Such a view is shared by the Hazara-American community, whose letter to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon on March 21 2011 begins;
‘We, the Hazara-American community, call upon you and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to help in permanently stopping the Massacre of Hazara civilians at the hands of the nomadic Pashtun Kochi and the Taliban in Afghanistan.’ (Hazaras-American Community, 2011)
Since 2001, the Taliban have regrouped, and have been categorised by the US Department of Defence as ‘resilient and evolving’. Having established safe havens in Pakistan, Taliban insurgents have maintained influence in the south-east of Afghanistan and have been successfully expanding to the west and north. The United Nations Security Council reported more civilian deaths in 2009 than at any time since 2001. Further, in January 2010, 40 percent more security breaches were recorded than in the previous January (New York: United Nations, 10 March 2010, paras.23, 24). Such figures show a quantifiable failure by central government to control Taliban insurgency, and its failures are having a direct affect on the Hazara populated regions of Ghazni, Oruzgan and Maidan Wardak.
General security within Ghazni, for example, has been worsening, with the assassination of a former governor in 2006, and the kidnapping by the Taliban of 23 Koreans in 2007, prompting Borhan Younus to proclaim Ghazni ‘among the most volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan’ (Younus, 2006). A June 2010 study by the Afghanistan Analysts Network report that the Taliban have distributed ‘night letters’, warning that the main road from Ghazni to Kabul is now closed and not to prevent the Taliban’s entry into this area. Such ‘night letters’ are used as a method of intimidation, in this instance used against the Hazara to warn of a potential invasion of the area, or to prepare for a road blockade of essential goods, as seen in the 1990s (Ruttig, 2010).
Furthermore, the attitudes of the Karzai government towards the Taliban since the election have disturbed the International Community and Afghan minorities alike. Recent reconciliation discussion between the government and the Taliban (where President Karzai made reference to his Taliban ‘brothers’), has led to calls of a ‘spheres of influence’ agreement that would see local power in certain provinces conceded to the Taliban. Such development s have led Maley to claim that ‘there is little reason to be confident that the general situation in Afghanistan will take a turn for the better in the foreseeable future’ (Maley, 2010) .
Political upheaval, still prevalent in Afghanistan, is a common and requisite state for countries that have experienced major disruption. . The extreme suffering felt across Afghanistan, both before and during the occupation of US and NATO forces, has added to and galvanised the opposition factions within the country. In 2004, an Asia Foundation poll cited that 64% of Afghani’s believed that the country was going in the right direction. In 2009, that figure had shrunk to just 42%, a marked decline in a relatively short period, and a figure collected prior to election of the corrupt Karzai government (The Asia Foundation, 2009).
The policy of the UKBA to continue the deportation of Afghani refugees (regardless of their ethnic origin) during such upheaval is abhorrent. This is an accepted point in the UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusion Number 69 of the 1992 Cessation of Status, which refers to the ‘fundamental, stable and durable character of the changes’ as an ‘essential element’ in state assessment (Maley, 2010). Yet to return those of Hazara ethnic descent contradicts several expert reports of an ongoing crisis of status and ethnic persecution still prevalent in Hazara populated regions. The constant pillage of Hazara land (as documented by the Hazara-American community) has exposed a corrupt and ethnocentric government that appears more concerned with the appeasement of an ever expanding Taliban, than it is with the development of democracy and equality within Afghanistan. Under these current conditions, Maley has asserted that ‘no part of Ghazni can realistically be considered safe for Hazaras’ (Maley, 2010). We at RAPAR echo this assertion, and implore the Home Office to consider more thoroughly the crises in Afghanistan in deportation cases.
· Phillips, Denise (PhD Candidate , University of New England (UNE)); Hazaras’ Persecution Worsens: Will the New Government show Leadership by lifting the Suspension on Afghani Asylum Claims?; August, 2010; http://www.aph.org.au/files/pdfs/hazarasPersecution.pdf
· Younus, Borhan, ‘Taleban call the shots in Ghazni’; Institute of War and Peace; Reporting , ARR, No. 213, 15 May 2006
· Maley, William/ANU – Australian National University; On the Position of the Hazara Minority in Afghanistan, June 2010; http://ataullahnaseri.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/on-the-position-of-the-hazara-minority-in-afghanistan/
· (The Situation in Afghanistan and its Implications for International Peace and Security: Report of the Secretary-General (New York: United Nations, A/64/705 – S/2010/127, 10 March 2010) paras.23, 24)
· Ruttig, Thomas; A New Taliban Front; Kabul: Afghanistan Analysts Network, 18 June, 2010
· Afghanistan in 2009: A Survey of the Afghan People (Kabul: The Asia Foundation, 2009).