Sunday, 10 January 2016

'The threat is already on the inside'

Well Done Rosa Brooks - writing in Foreign Policy about that and 'nine other truths nobody wants to hear about terrorism' at

I hope someone has pointed out to Donald Trump that closing borders to his chosen categories of undesirables won't solve the problem.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

... then there's the Middle East, too

If you've lived and worked somewhere that's in the headlines, in my case the Middle East, it's difficult not to be distressed by events and what's said and not said about them.

So all the US can say about the execution of a Nimr al-Nimr is that it risks exacerbating sectarian tensions?    I would have thought the execution of a respected cleric for speaking out against a repressive regime might have deserved outright condemnation.  It's not as though al-Nimr advocated violence - indeed Wikileaks reports him as saying he would not support the use of it. Nor did he call for foreign intervention or speak in support of terrorist organisations.

He did speak out against the repression of Bahraini Shia demonstrators - represssion supported by Saudi Arabia.

And what about the the other 46 - by any standards mass executions are abhorrent, but did these include al-Nimr's nephew, or was he amongst an earlier 'batch' of executions?  If so, he was arrested at the age of 17, but still sentenced to beheading followed by the crucifixion of his corpse.

By any standards except, it would seem, Saudi Arabia's and Isis's, this is abhorrent.  As of course are the numerous public executions in Iran.

Sadly,the lack of outright condemnation is just another example of how the US has compromised itself as a leader.  Continuing to allow public executions and having to find markets for the armaments industry even if this is among repressive regimes, means that what should be said, isn't. 

Maybe I'm clutching at straws, but I am pleased at what I read of British hesitation over arms sales to Saudi Arabia and training prison staff.  And at least our Foreign Secretary was able to use the UK's abolition of capital punishment in his comments - but secret trials, detention without charge, withholding prosecution evidence from the accused and other basics of 'justice alas do not stand up to comparison.

How to address the source of extremism and violence is not of course exactly straight-forward for any government, no matter what its complexion.  But Saudi Arabia may be digging a very large hole for itself.  Holding the rest of the world to ransom with high oil prices enabled it to offer 'bread and circuses' to domestic dissidents but now the price has plummeted, the coffers are no longer full to overflowing enabling such largesse.

Maybe a Plan B - in addition to allowing women to stand for local elections - would be a good idea.  Maybe also worth considering that in Iran under Mossadegh, the country teetered on the brink of a constitutional monarchy. But learn from the mistakes of its detested arch-rival?  I think not.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Getting started

'Officer ignored report of sex abuse ...' - The Guardian, 19 December 2015

How many more times do we have to read such an account - 'She said he had ignored her report and that the abuse had continued.'  

There is an established system that may help prevent this kind of failure - the 'Independent Visitor Scheme'.  An IV is a volunteer ordinary member of the public, not the 'Independent Reviewing Officer' (often quoted) who is a local authority staff member, but rather, 'someone who can be a consistent figure in [the lives of young people in care], when there is no one in their family who is able to take this role.  An Independent visitor is there to befriend a young person, offering them consistency, support, advice and encouragement throughout the time they are in care and often beyond this time.'

Of course this doesn't guarantee whistle blowing, but surely to goodness given the long-term nature of the commitment to the young person, it would increase the chances of their being heard and, better, a problem being properly addressed.

And yet - although under the 1989 Children Act local authorities have a duty to provide IVs for all young people in care who have little or no contact with their family, in my considerable experience over nearly 30 years in a wide range of roles and contact with several voluntary organisations specialising in child protection, I have only once found professionals actively aware of the value of this, but even then I doubted how enthusiastically they were promoting it to the young people in their care.

Perhaps the reason is obvious, but I like to think and hope not