Monday, 5 September 2016

China’s Brutal war on Islam and Uighur Muslims

 As it happened to Palestine and Kashmir, the world has ignored the plight of persecuted Uighur Muslims in China’s Xingjian region where the people started their struggle to win back their political, economic, religious and cultural rights ever since Red Army occupied the area in 1949.
China’s vast and strategically important Western Xingjian region, once called Eastern Turkistan, has been the homes for predominantly Uighur Muslims who once ruled the Silk Road cities and are ethnically Turkic speak a language akin to Turkish.   They have lived in the region for more than four millennia and played an important role in the cultural and mercantile exchanges between the East and West.
Located beyond the natural boundary of China on the ancient caravan route Uighur has been an integral part of the history of Central Asia.  Xingjian Uighur Autonomous Region is the name given to Eastern Turkistan by the Chinese government and this has been the cause of much resentment – a legacy of their former Manchu rulers, who invaded Eastern Turkistan in 1759 and incorporated it into China. 
Xingjian, containing a large portion of the nation’s mineral resources, including 38 percent of the coal reserves and 25 percent of the petroleum and natural gas reserves, is China’s largest province, accounting for sixteen percent of the landmass.
Though home to only 1.6 percent of the population, Xingjian has tremendous strategic significance for China, which conducts nuclear tests at the Lop Nor range. (As a policy, both former Soviet Union and China always used Muslim populated areas for their nuclear tests despite the fallout, resulting in the wide-scale contamination of water sources and land, in turn, causing a disproportionately large number of cancer cases, congenital birth defects, and various other related diseases among the Uighur population).
Despite the mineral wealth of Xingjian, more than ninety percent of local Muslims live below the poverty line. Late Chairman Mao Tse-tung designed an aggressive population transfer policy that has seen the rapid growth of the Han community in Xingjian – from an original six percent in 1949 to forty percent in 1978 – and has effectively made the Uighurs second-class citizens in their own country.
Today ratio between the Uighur and Han populations has gone from being 9:1 to 1:9. China gives preference in employment and the best jobs to ethnic Han Chinese migrants who were mostly benefited by the money China pours into the province for investment.
Inevitably, animosity is rife between the two communities.
This growing rift between the government and the Uighur Muslims took on new impetus with the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the emergence of independent Central Asian Republics across the border. Encouraged by this trend in Central Asia, Uighur Muslims too started their freedom struggle demanding their political and religious rights for which they have vowed to fight to the finish in a do-or-die struggle.
In response the Chinese authorities subjected Uighur Muslims to unbelievable oppression and torture besides executing a number of people linked to Muslim resistance. Even occasional bombings or shootings have been met with terrible fury. There were frequent   reports of arrest, trial and execution of Uighur Muslims.
China signed agreements with several Central Asian countries to gain their cooperation to crush the separatist struggle in Xingjian.
 All recent human rights reports point to a drastic escalation of persecution and repression against the Uighur minority.
Exploiting the US-led global war against terrorism, since 9/11 tragedy in New York, Beijing arrests Uighur Muslims in large numbers, concludes trials within days, often resulting in the death sentence, which is often meted out on the same day that it is handed down. The Uighurs are now “afraid to talk, not just to foreigners, but even to each other”.
Religious Restrictions

Islam, inextricably linked to their culture and identity, came to the region in 934 AD   and Kashgar became one of the major centres of Islam. According to statistics, there are over 23,700 mosques in the region. But in Beijing’s resolve to destroy this very identity, the Chinese government has placed strict restrictions on the practice of Islam.
This repressive policy, which began during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, continues to date. A Human Rights Watch report tells of how the Uighurs were forced to breed pigs and mosques were shut down and occasionally used as pork ware houses.
The Islamic clergy has been subjected to heavy scrutiny and “political education”. According to official sources, around 8,000 Imams were “trained” to give them “a clearer understanding of the communist party’s ethnic and religious policies”. Some Muslim clerics have been detained for teaching the Quran.
Under this campaign, religious schools are banned, many mosques closed and the building of new mosques restricted. Imams, indoctrinated in communism, deliver Friday sermons. Private religious services cannot be held without the permission of the Communist Party. The police raid peaceful religious gatherings and those found to be leading the gatherings have been sentenced to long-term imprisonment. Government employees risk being fired if they go to mosques.
Reiterating this in its report, the London-based human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI) said “fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was banned.
These draconian measures to stamp out any manifestations of religious sentiment include night time patrols of student dormitories to ensure that there were no prayers taking place, outlawing of Quran study meetings and religious schools, the identification and surveillance of religious leaders and the banning of history books that do not conform to the “accepted” version of history.
 Preaching or teaching Islam outside government control is considered subversive and several hundred Uighurs accused of such activities have been executed while thousands more have been detained, imprisoned and tortured.
 Cultural Crusade

Chinese authorities have stepped up their control of Muslim religious and folk customs.   Accordingly stepped up surveillance on weddings and funerals as well as circumcision ceremonies, house-moving rituals and the wearing of earrings. Uighur government and party officials have been told to seek permission before attending any such festivals or ceremonies and report back to the government upon the completion of their activities.
Explaining their plight, a prominent Uighur leader said, “The Chinese have likened the Uighurs to pandas – a species on the edge of extinction”.

Amnesty has recorded hundreds of executions and extra-judicial killings of Uighurs. China applies incredible torture methods to stop them from fighting for their freedom, and commonly use painful and brutal torture methods never used before.
 The former United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, once warned   during a visit to Beijing that they should not use the war on terror as an excuse for widespread repression in Xingjian.

The Amnesty Report also spoke about recent amendments to the Criminal Law which   was interpreted to suit the government.
But this is a conflict China is anxious to hide from its people and from foreign governments, overseas investors and tourists. Beijing has effectively pre-empted often weak Muslim countries, which rely on China for political, economic and military assistance, from speaking out against its repression of their fellow Muslims in Xingjian. Diplomats are kept under close watch and foreign journalists are allowed to visit only in the company of escorts.
Under the circumstances, China’s notoriously repressive birth control policies, including, but not limited, to forced abortions, would seem to suggest that Xingjian is one of the worst places in the world to be a Muslim right now. This is especially so in the context of the ongoing global war on Islam and the fast growing relations between China and Israel.
With US led Britain, Europe, Russia and Israel virtually destroying Muslim countries Uighur is likely to join the list of forgotten Muslim freedom struggles like Palestine and Kashmir. (by Latheef Farook)

Home            Sri Lanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Thursday, 4 August 2016

British government to escalate its Middle East intervention


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) press release on the UK’s intervention in the war in Iraq and Syria was taken up in several British media outlets including the BBC, Guardian and Daily Mail.
The headline-grabbing story told of an air-strike on a palace of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Mosul, the Iraqi “capital” of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh), by Reaper drones and Tornado fighters using the Royal Air Force’s 2,000-pound bunker busting Paveway bombs. ISIS has been in control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, since June 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an offensive by the Islamist force.

The press release also revealed that there have been RAF strikes over several days around Manbij in northern Syria, which lies on the main supply route from Turkey to Raqqa, Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria.

The British air force has conducted close to 950 airstrikes from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus since the UK restarted military action in Iraq in September 2014, as part of the US’s Operation Inherent Resolve to recapture territory held by ISIS. Some 1,150 military personnel are stationed in the region and more have been promised by Conservative Defence Minister Michael Fallon.

Speaking at the Royal United Service Institute’s annual airpower conference last month, Fallon declared, “The RAF has not operated at this sustained operational tempo in a single theatre of conflict for a quarter of a century.

“Our tempo and commitment to the operation—our precision targeting, our Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and our overall support to the coalition—shows no sign of abating.”
An indication of the severity of the conflict can be gleaned from the monthly reports published on the MoD website, which catalogue the almost daily bombing raids by the RAF.

Typical is the entry for July 28 which reads, “RAF aircraft continued to provide close air support to the Syrian democratic forces on Thursday 28 July, when a Reaper patrolled the Manbij area. The Reaper’s crew conducted 4 attacks with Hellfire missiles against several groups of Daesh fighters, and assisted in 4 further attacks by coalition fast jets. In Iraq, Brimstone armed Tornados destroyed a mortar near Qayyarah, while a pair of Typhoons used a Paveway IV to strike a Daesh bunker on the shores of Lake Qadisiyah.”

A demonstration of the terrible power of the missiles can be seen here.

The ramping up of UK military intervention is part of US plans to recapture Mosul from ISIS. According to some press reports, pressure is increasing to begin the offensive in October--before the US presidential election--and that it may be combined with one on Raqqa.

Speaking at a meeting of 30 defence and foreign ministers in Washington last month, Brett McGurk--Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL, Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL--declared, “The liberation of Mosul is now in sight and an achievable goal” and means the end of the “IS phony caliphate.”

In March, ISIS was ousted from the Syrian city of Palmyra and in June from the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The Pentagon claims ISIS has lost some 45 percent of the territory it held in Iraq and up to 20 percent in Syria.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has given permission for US advisers to be deployed with Iraqi battalions i.e., in the firing line, and hundreds of advisers are pouring into the Qayyarah air base, about 40 miles south of Mosul, which was recaptured from ISIS last month.

Additionally, support for the Peshmerga militia of the Kurdistan Regional Government has rapidly escalated with an agreement signed last month to provide $415 million to buy ammunition and medical supplies.

The battle for Mosul will be waged by three main military forces: Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces. So far, the fight against ISIS has provided the glue for an uneasy truce among these political factions—but US officials concede the informal alliance on the battlefield could be shattered by political disagreements. A powder-keg has been created, which will lead to another bloody sectarian conflict in the vacuum left should ISIS be defeated.

The Popular Mobilization Forces is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40, almost entirely Shia Muslim militia groups. It was created in 2014 as the Iraqi Army collapsed. Nominally headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, under the control of the Iraqi security services and paid by the Iraqi state, most militias operate with their own chain of command, and receive direct support from Iran. According to Amnesty International, Shiite militias have abducted, tortured and killed numerous Sunni civilians.

The US alliance with the Peshmerga, which it sees as the mainstay of the Mosul operation, has antagonised both the Iraqi central government and Turkey, which fears growing Kurdish influence with the US—especially since the failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Erdogan earlier in July. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and its local offshoots now control a swathe of territory from northern Iraq into northern Syria.

A recently negotiated US-Kurdish understanding includes Peshmerga militia standing aside when the Iraqi Security Forces pass through their units during the initial assault on Mosul. The move is part of a US effort to make sure that the units involved in the Mosul operation do not end up killing each other.

The US has also dropped its opposition to arming Sunni militias in Iraq’s Anbar province and helped create a new Tribal Mobilization Force.

The announcement Wednesday by President Barack Obama that he has authorised a month-long bombing campaign against Islamic State in Libya, prompted Middle East Eye (MEE) to raise questions regarding UK military involvement on that front.

Noting evidence of ongoing covert UK operations in Libya, including the use of the elite Special Air Service regiment, MEE writes: “On Wednesday, sources at the Ministry of Defence in London refused to be drawn on ‘potential UK flights and Libya’ when asked to clarify the UK's position by MEE. This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May promised to work toward preventing Libya ‘becoming a base for Daesh.’ She made the comments alongside her Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi in Rome last week.”

MEE also states that the British government has “refused to comment on whether RAF drones are currently operating over Libya.”

The UK’s role in the bloodbath being carried out across the Middle East and North Africa lies firmly with the Labour Party which allied itself with the Conservative government, voting for war in Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, in Iraq again in 2014 and in Syria in December 2015.

Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn cleared the path for the bombing of Syria when he capitulated to his right wing and agreed to a “free vote” on military action, enabling 66 Labour MPs to vote with the Tories without fear of censure.

In a survey of the party membership, 75 percent registered their opposition to the bombing of Syria. Only the day before, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee voted four to three in favour of a motion that Cameron “had not adequately addressed concerns” about military action.

Corbyn continues to state his personal opposition to military action in Syria and Libya, but his new Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Clive Lewis, pointedly refused to rule out support for military operations in Libya. “We will look at the detail of any request from the Libyan authorities, if and when such a request for military assistance is made,” Lewis reported. (WSWS)

Home             Sri Lanka Think Tanl-UK (Main Link)

Sunday, 10 July 2016

What the Chilcot Inquiry doesn’t address



For beleaguered people in Iraq facing bombings on a daily basis, a 2.6m word report produced by a retired British Civil Servant, delivered late, possibly allowing the key criminals to be let off the hook, might appear more of an insult than an explanation. It certainly doesn’t approach truth or justice.
Especially, as ‘Iraq Body Count’ correctly states, the amount of attention paid by the Inquiry to Iraqi casualties, whether killed or injured, civilian or combatant, has been derisory. The number of words roughly equates to the number of lives lost, injured and humiliated by an invasion that was fuelled by lies, deceit and systematic barbarity.
Since 2003 (excluding the murderous sanctions regime of the years before), the people of Iraq have been subjected to a brutal occupation. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and many Iraqis have witnessed first hand the West’s empty promises of freedom when detained and tortured at Basra, Camp Nama and Abu Ghraib. The Iraqi regime – discredited by sectarianism, corruption and deals with brutal militias -continues to be propped up by their allies in London and Washington. There is no economic development. Despite aid pledges of billions, there is little evidence of the promised rebuilding of Iraq.
None of this is addressed in the Chilcot inquiry, which largely focuses on the cheap politics of Westminster and Washington. This may provide some entertainment for the political classes, but the following is a reminder of the real legacy of the Iraq war, which has been largely ignored by the Inquiry:
  1. Foreign policy disaster: The war in Iraq was the biggest failure in western foreign policy since the Second World War. Despite overwhelming superiority in arms, equipment and strategy formulation, the might of the US and British army could not bring stability, progress or real transformation to a country previously run by a despot.
  1. Systemic deceit: The lies told by western politicians to justify a war have rightly caused significant ruptures and a massive trust deficit in western society. Bogus dossiers, tainted informers and mythical weapons of mass destruction are just the tips of a western iceberg that is on the verge of melting under the weight of its own ideological contradictions. Nor should George Bush and Tony Blair be singled out for their mendacity. The western political class as a whole need to examine the corrupting influence of their ideology and the impact it has on the quality of its discourse. The case for democracy over dictatorship is that it is unshackled by fear, should improve the quality of discourse in a society and so lead to better decision-making. However the fraudulent selling of the Iraq war is not the only example where democrats have resorted to the political gutter to get the outcome they want. The recent EU referendum debate was similarly characterised by chronic lies, deceit and fear mongering on both sides. The 2016 US Presidential campaign has thus far seen quality debate replaced by Reality TV – where the more outrageous the statements, the greater the press coverage and more importantly the greater the votes.
  1. Nobody is safer: The war in Iraq did not make western streets safer (as predicted by senior members of the British security establishment at the time). British forces in Northern Ireland, Indian occupation of Kashmir, Israel’s annexation of Palestine does not provide an iota of extra security for citizens of the occupying country because occupation breeds greater hatred, despair and resentment.
  1. Economic mismanagement: Much of the Iraqi aid was wasted, ending up in the pockets of private consultants, government officials and military personnel. Today, Iraq is one of the poorest countries in the world despite its abundance of oil reserves. With this kind of lamentable record, the west shouldn’t be allowed in the future to run a market stall, never mind oversee a country with millions of people.
  1. Violence and sectarianism: Rather than improve Iraqi governance, Iraqi systems and Iraqi capabilities, the west presided over a maelstrom of militias, bloodletting and sectarianism. In addition to that, the torture and abuse carried out by American soldiers at places like Abu Ghraib and by British soldiers in Basra are an indictment of the western invasion.
It is only a true Caliphate (not to be conflated with the phoney and barbaric ISIS) with its tried and trusted political system that can end the cycle of violence and provide the much needed stability that the region deserves. Those who believe an Islamic system would be a backwards step to a medieval era can no longer credibly make such claims especially when we witness medieval barbarity on a daily basis. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the only system which takes account of all the ingredients needed for the Muslim world’s success – an accountable government, a system consistent with peoples’ values and which prioritises people’s basic needs over the elites – can only be secured by an Islamic system.

Furthermore, images of television beheadings, denial of women’s education, random justice are the hallmarks of a violent militia, not an enlightened Islamic state. The Caliphate has a rich history of embracing learning and scientific innovation, granting rights to women, overcoming sectarianism and being held to account by an independent judiciary with considerable powers.

The history of this troubled region has demonstrated that there are no easy options or guarantees of success. We believe the establishment of a true Caliphate as an alternative to dictatorship or continued western occupation will be a transformative step in breaking the deadlock and bringing new hope to the region. However what is abundantly clear is that “staying with the current course” won’t work. Unless the scourge of despotic rule allied with foreign occupation ends, the region will continue to remain in the dysfunctional state it currently is. Once dictatorship and foreign occupation is ended, the region can then independently tackle the innumerable other challenges it faces head on whether they be poverty, education or political corruption.

The analysis of the Iraq war is not overly complicated and didn’t need a seven-year study that cost more than £10m. The Chilcot report is four times as long as Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – a sad irony considering Iraq has had plenty of war and no peace since 2003. (HTB)

The Chilcot report was all about the processes, not the ideology or values which justified the Iraq war, writes Dr Abdul Wahid.

In 2003, Britain’s political class believed that Saddam Hussein, uniquely amongst Middle East despots, was an enemy who deserved removal. “Regime change” for a government with whom they had once trade in oil and arms, and over whose mass murder they had remained silent.
Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and others were to remain allies – deserving of a hug and even a holiday with Tony Blair – until British interests changed to support one section of Gaddafi’s opponents at the time of the Arab Spring. In Egypt, however, Sisi was supported over Morsi – despite the latter being democratically elected.  

Confused by the inconsistency? We shouldn’t be. Lord Palmerston, Britain’s Foreign Secretary in the 1840s, once famously said that, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow” – the doctrine Britain has practiced for at least 200 years.

The aim isn’t about establishing decent values in the world. Occasionally it might be to make Britain safer e.g. against Nazi Germany – but mostly, it’s to make a section of Britain’s elite richer.

Chilcot Report

Sir John Chilcot’s remit was not to explore the fundamentals of British foreign policy. It was confined to exploring the processes surrounding the Iraq war, and concluded in devastating detail the failure to question the intelligence that falsely alleged Saddam had WMD’s; the failure of cabinet discussion; the failure to exhaust diplomatic options prior to going to war; the failure for the military high command to raise concerns when the war policy was going wrong; the failure to plan for the aftermath, despite adequate warnings about the possible consequences etc.

Britain’s political class is shamed by these failures of process. But there is very little disagreement about the Britain’s foreign policies, particularly towards the Muslim world.
Alliances with the House of Saud and other Gulf regimes, the Assad family, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Karimov in Uzbekistan – have all been about maintaining British influence, so as to make “the few” richer.

Similarly, war against Saddam followed Palmerstone’s doctrine in that it was never about his crimes against his people, nor to make Britain safer, but part of a wider strategy to maintain Britain’ influence in a changing world.

Some say Blair looked “haunted” in his response to Chilcot. Others say he looked deluded. But to me it was neither. It was an explanation that the underlying policy of which this failed war was but one part – to use diplomatic and military force to secure British interests thousands of miles away – was fundamentally sound.

He argued, as he has done consistently, that 9/11 showed that “Islamist extremism” was a regional and global threat. Saddam’s Iraq – like most of the other regimes – was unsustainable in the long run and the risk of an overthrow by those “Islamist extremists” was real. The Arab Spring, he said, showed that Western intervention was necessary before events ran their own course.

Preventing real change

I do not think Blair, Bush, Cameron, Gove and others believe their own lies – that a real Islamic change in the Muslim world would be any immediate security threat to Britain or Europe.
But what they do know is that an independently minded government anywhere in the Muslim world, which decided not to play by the rules of capitalism and its current world order, would fundamentally threaten British influence and corporate interests – and that their aforementioned support for wars and odious regimes, and the lies about Islam, are all justified because of this.

Far from being a threat to peoples’ lives across the world, an Islamic government on the principles of the Prophetic model would voice a different set of values on the world stage, putting human dignity above material benefits for colonial powers.

It would question a world that is dominated by values that produce today’s global policies – where making peoples’ lives are more secure or more dignified are never the aim, just an occasionally be a “welcome” side effect.

It would not simply question wars, but the policies that keep millions enslaved in poverty.
It would not allow virtual slave labour (as in Qatar) or global health hazards (such as Zika) to justify entertainment spectacles like the World Cup or Olympics, whose primary aim is to make their sponsors richer.

Chilcot may have fulfilled his remit. But that shouldn’t stop people looking at the dark values that do not just underpin the Iraq war. Whether “Blairite” warmongering or the use of “soft power” (i.e. diplomacy, trade, overseas aid, education programs etc), the long term aim of Britain foreign policy is rarely questioned or challenged.

Its role to interfere in other countries – sometimes destabilising elected politicians, sometimes stabilising unelected dictators – is all too often either unknown, ignored or accepted.

Dr Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy, and the Prospect Magazine. (HTB)

Home                    SriLanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Iraq Inquiry Report

The Report of the Iraq Inquiry was published today.
To read Sir John Chilcot’s public statement and the full report click here>>>

Home                    SriLanka Think Tank-UK (Main Link)