CPGB-ML » Posts for tag 'Middle East'

Feudal Saudi monarchy makes one small concession to women’s rights

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October

At long last Saudi women are to have the right to vote and to run in municipal elections. It is a start, as the medieval regime struggles to maintain its authority against the tide of the Arab spring.

However, as well as continuing to be barred from state elections and office, women have to have their male relatives’ permission not only to stand but even to vote. And this reform is not due to be implemented until 2015. Fathers or husbands still control whether women can travel, work, receive health care, attend school or start a business.

The ban on driving or going out in public without male chaperones remains. Women lawyers are not allowed to appear in court, and a reform proposed recently to permit female shop assistants to be employed for the sale of women’s undergarments was abandoned as a step too far.

Inquiry finally admits Britain’s guilt in the murder of Baha Mousa

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October

A three-year inquiry into the death of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa at the hands of the British army in Iraq has finally admitted a degree of serious culpability, while endeavouring to confine the blame to the first battalion of a regiment (the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment) that has since been disbanded.

The inquiry found that the regiment was using the ‘five techniques’ (for torturing prisoners): ie, hooding, white noise, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and painful stress positions. This is contrary to the Geneva Convention and has been expressly banned for use by British soldiers since Edward Heath’s time, when army guidelines were revised to outlaw inhuman practices that had been in regular use in northern Ireland and were instrumental in exacerbating the resentment of the local population at the British occupation.

Essentially, the enquiry found that Mr Mousa, a widower and father of two young sons, had been beaten to death. However, the inquiry concluded that while the beating was the “trigger” for his death, his overall “vulnerable state” of exhaustion, dehydration, renal failure and exertion brought on by his treatment at the hands of the army contributed at least as much.

Orders banning the ‘five techniques’ were observed only in the breach. Mr Mousa and nine others picked up at the hotel where he worked were all subjected to this torture as well as to vicious beatings in an open building with no doors, where senior officers could have come in at any time to see what was going on.

The inquiry took the view that even if they did not know, they should have done. And in fact, the very fact that the ill treatment was taking place so openly provides irrefutable evidence that the soldiers administering the torture were confident of their superior officers’ approval.

It remains to be seen whether anybody will face criminal prosecution for these crimes, or for any of the hundreds of other cases of prisoner abuse that have taken place not only in Iraq, but everywhere that the British army has been present as an occupying force.

The inquiry was at pains to say that this behaviour is exceptional, and that the army as a whole is really very gentlemanly. Very many thousands of oppressed people all over the world have personal experience of the reality, which is very different.