It is a greasy and sleazily maintained narrative, fed by scoundrels in internal and external corporate news agencies. What they should be doing is owning up to producing the current conditions of oppression, confusion and fear, and seeking to make amends, not visa applications.
The London Mayor is responsible for a £150 million annual budget, and has fingers in a great many pies which shape our movement, living, breathing and working. Check out the London Elects site for the full regional democracy propaganda. There will be a new mayor and 25 assembly members, 14 chosen on a constituency basis, and the others by a proportional-representation-based second vote system. Assembly membership is a great opportunity for up-and-coming politicians to get known, get stuff done and prove themselves.
[May 5th is also a sad day, the third anniversary of the 2013 Dhaka Massacre, ordered by the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn's aunt, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. ]
Sadiq Goldaway and the Politics of Life
I remember spending a few afternoons of my misspent youth plastering Tooting High Street with pro-Sadiq posters. He does have a good chance of making it to City Hall, London is 'naturally' a Labour kinda space and he has the keys to their machine. However, his opportunistic behaviour and the conditions around him do not permit many principles to survive for long, and the Islamophobia industry is likely to skewer him, and prompt him to skewer himself more and more as polling day draws nearer. It is going to be cringesome.
Conservative candidate Zak Goldsmith used to edit the Ecologist magazine, and is the ex brother-in-law of Imran Khan. These two facts have an uncomfortably magnetic effect on my political affections, but there isn't much social justice about him, at least that is apparent. He'd block a third runway at Heathrow, and thats about it. He might just get in on big money, whiteness and Islamophobia alone.
Fresh from losing his Bradford constituency to the Quilliam-busting Naz Shah, political entrepreneur George Galloway is also running. Watching him arrive at a Stop The War Coalition meeting last year, I felt that he had aged a lot since I first encountered him a decade and a half ago, and didn't seem as fearless as he used to. The savage beating he received from former BBC manager Neil Masterton in 2014 probably had a lot to do with that. Remembering Ken Livingstone's narrow misses in 2008 and 2012, it is hard to be pro Palestine in Britain these days, it does your career and your sanity no real favours. But I guess in the scheme of things, Galloway's strategic mistake was pissing off a lot of white feminists with his defence of Julian Assange against rape claims.
GG is not the only figure in public life for whom a principled stand against the demolition of Iraq and Afghanistan has born some political fruit. What is educative however, is how Jeremy Corbyn is able to combine an anti-imperialist standpoint with being great constituency MP, the butt of establishment derision and yet carry himself with impeccably middle-class manners. As Corbyn's star has risen, it would be easy to conclude that the Labour position in London would naturally get stronger, with Momentum and everything. However, Sadiq Khan has spend most of his time alienating this movement, and it would probably be fair to say that the Labour list reflected the pre-Corbyn era of vanilla careerists.
Post Labour politics has a number of threads in the UK today, none of which are doing particularly well, but they could use a shot in the arm that is your vote and support. I think that the Green Party, for all the stupidity and blinkeredness of the Tower Hamlets Branch during last years coup, has the closest offering to Octarine, and the Politics of Life.
Drink The Green Potion
Their Mayoral Candidate, Sian Berry along with Party leader Caroline Lucas, was a consistent supporter of the Free Talha Ahsan campaign, and has been building her campaign's profile in recent months. See articles by Dave Hill in the Guardian and Rosamun Urwin, Evening Standard.
As mayor, she would support the London Renter's Union, which would voice, support and represent 2.3 million people living in that tenure. Housing in general is a strong point of policy platform, from enabling community building and supporting community defence from estate demolition. Transport ideas are pretty visionary too, from a fairer system of Tube fares, turning TfL into a renewable energy producer and the plan to replace London City Airport with homes and businesses.
This last idea will irk a few people, but I am sure they will survive a longer taxi journey home or to work. I think it will go down well in the one party state of Newham. Dusting of my Dhaka hat for a moment, I have always dreamed of replacing the elite golf courses of Dhaka with beautiful social housing landscaping for the urban poor, because that is what smiles are made of, and thats what Bhashani would do.
Here's Ma Berry talking to The Artist Taxi Driver a few months ago, from this interview you can tell she has solidarity with the most marginalised and is a fair person with a hunger for justice and a sense of humour.
The ugly table above, pinched off an LSE blog, shows the state of play in 2012. Note the Greens slipping into third place just ahead of the Lib Dems. You only really need 1 million votes to win it, I don't see what the fuss is all about, you just need a turning-on and turning-out machine.
It is worth reflecting on how the situation differs from 2012. It seems like another world, but its probably much the same.
The Olympic Bread and Circuses are over, nobody really knows much about any of the main vanilla contenders, Russell Brand made some videos and now everybody is at it, the Lib-dems were routed last year, there has been 4 more years of social cleansing, the far right are on the rise, Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership campaign and survives, and this government's malevolence is being understood even better now that those nice junior doctors are protesting.
Historical London voting data can be found here. With linear growth goggles on there are a few boroughs where the Greens should pass 10% vote share, unless they've been Corbynated, and if campaigns are targeted, systematic and Labour beating they will do much better.
Who are these people that I've never even heard of?
The Londonwide ad constituency candidates are is as follows.
Last time around they got 2 London-wide assembly members, this time hopefully more.
1. Sian Berry
2. Caroline Russell
3. Shahrar Ali
4. Jonathan Bartley
5. Noel Lynch
6. Rashid Nix
7. Dee Searle
8. Benali Hamdache
9. Andrea Carey Fuller
10. RoseMary Warrington
11. Peter Underwood
|Barnet and Camden||Stephen Taylor|
|Bexley and Bromley||Roisin Robertson|
|Brent and Harrow||Jafar Hassan|
|City and East||Rachel Collinson|
|Croydon and Sutton||Tracey Hague|
|Ealing and Hillingdon||Meena Hans|
|Enfield and Haringey||Ronald Stewart|
|Greenwich and Lewisham||Imogen Solly|
|Havering and Redbridge||Lee Burkwood|
|Lambeth and Southwark||Rashid Nix|
|Merton and Wandsworth||Esther Obiri-Darko|
|North East||Samir Jeraj|
|South West||Andree Frieze|
|West Central||Jennifer Nadel|
Both father and daughter are influential media gatekeepers in the international sphere on Bangladesh, the former has edited Dhaka's English Daily Star for a number of years, and the latter written novels on Bangladesh. In my opinion, they have blood on their fingers regarding the Dhaka Massacre of 2013 and bear some responsibility for the conditions of oppression afflicting the people of the country.
For example, Mahfuz Anam published critical disinformation for the government just days after it committed the worst massacre in Bangladesh's peacetime history, a massacre that people are still too cared to speak about in public in Bangladesh. Continuing the family business Tahmima Anam's stoking of ultra nationalism and her defence of this Awami League government's rigged 2014 general elections are a matter of record, and UK establishment supported.
The hunter becoming the hunted
The one party state of Bangladesh has kicked up a fuss, and a truck load of cases, concerning a comment Mahfuz Anam made on a chat show admitting to printing a dubious secret service planted story about the present prime minister's corruption.
As my chosen example of the Dhaka Massacre shows, it is standard practice for the Daily Star news organisation. This is something which I say as someone who knows people who have worked there and admired the founding editor, S M Ali. As a powerful voice tuned to the outside ear, disinformation from the Daily Star hurts far more than others.
For calibration's sake, we can observe that Mir Quasem Ali and Mahmudur Rahman too are prominent media figures in Bangladesh, with important audiences in the non-secular liberal political space. They are under death-sentence-upon-kangaroo-court-trial and torture-upon-indefinite-detention-without-trial respectively. J
Just two examples of the inequality of violence and silence in Bangladesh
MPs in the British Labour Party voting for government proposals to bomb Syria.
I advocate reverse doorstepping to give them the respect they deserve.
Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East), Ian Austin (Dudley North), Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Ben Bradshaw (Exeter), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Jenny Chapman (Darlington), Vernon Coaker (Gedling), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford), Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Gloria De Piero (Ashfield), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Michael Dugher (Barnsley East), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Margaret Hodge (Barking), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle), Graham Jones (Hyndburn), Helen Jones (Warrington North), Kevan Jones (Durham North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Liz Kendall (Leicester West), Dr Peter Kyle (Hove), Chris Leslie (Nottingham East), Holly Lynch (Halifax), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Jamie Reed (Copeland), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Joan Ryan (Enfield North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North), Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge), John Spellar (Warley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Anna Turley (Redcar), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Tom Watson (West Bromwich East), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) and John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).
Of course a post industrial white party in the opposition of a fading imperial power was always going to have a problem stopping western revenge attacks after the pre climate conference violence in France.
Turkey and Iran, and your respective social constellations are the keys.
May your elites interbreed, interests align, hearts bond strongly and skills grow masterfully together.
There aren't enough cards in a pack,
Or violence with which to attack,
Blair's line of defence to Assad,
Through Tony Benn's son's revenge bombing charade.
For what it's worth I wish Momentum good LUCK,
This tradition's destroying the earth,
Boiling grannies alive on sustainable jive,
Pouring bombs on the darker nation's hurt.
What to do, what to do, what to do,
From all we have learnt since 2002,
Assemblage & rhizome, let's transform this biome,
Not (further) poison those dear Syrian's stew.
45 years and 5 days ago the south of what is now Bangladesh was struck by a Cyclone which devastated communities and killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Allahumma grant them high station and us the collective wisdom and resources to fortify our communities with justice.
The 24 minute UK documentary below centres a team of British Army Engineers as they arrive without much of a clue of what is going on around them.
The film does feature a moving prayer, a rescue story, the long wait for a Pakistani Officer to arrive and some telling banter with East and West Pakistani officials.
The following 13 months is, as they say, history, though that period could have unfolded in any number of ways.
Maulana Bhashani was an elderly and unwell man at the time of the cyclone, receiving treatment in Dhaka. Awaking miraculously the next day he propelled himself to the disaster zone to greet, console and understand what had happened. Returning to Dhaka he delivered a galvanising call and a tremendous bollocking to central government.
His cry of Long Live Independent East Pakistan came from these gatherings and many say this speech act was critical to what happened afterwards even though Bhashani spent most of the Bangladesh War being sat upon by the Indian Government. There will be prayers and conferences in Tangail, provided the ruling party doesn't ban them like they have in the past, the 'secular' left will celebrate him as their totem, unreconstructed Muslim nationalists and (m)islamists will generally dismiss him.
Alternatively, many of believers will smile, sit and marvel at the oath Bhashani's spiritual-political disciples would utter upon and how understanding him unwinds the deceptive secular-religious elite politics of these unpleasant times.
“I give an undertaking that in Allah the Supreme I profess firm belief.
I will believe with certainty that Rasulullah is the sent messenger.
I will abide by all the regulations pertaining to the permitted and disallowed, as propagated by the Messenger.
I will not bow my head to anyone besides Allah.
I will endeavour tirelessly to establish socialism, the only way to relieve all forms of human extortion and embezzlement.
I will join the volunteers corps of the peasantry to eradicate from society all forms of imperialism, capitalism, feudalism, usury and corruption.
I will perform litanies, contemplation, meditation, prayers and fasting… according to the tariqah of Qadria, Naqshbandiya, Chistiyyah.
Every year on the 19/20th January 5 Magh I will attend the large seminar at Santos, Tangail and assist in the advancement and progression of the Islamic University.”There is a university named after Maulana, primarily dedicated to Science and Technology, but like all institutions in Bangladesh, hardly free to flourish. Still, it is really important to imagine the possibilities for learning, research and training at such an outfit, unwashed by flags for counter-tyranical, spiritual, social, physical and ecological learning.
This week the Bolivian city of Tiquipaya hosted the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Protection of Life.
A much needed counterpoint to the UN framework, this was the second meeting of its kind, five years after the first in 2010. If the attendance of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and a French Foreign Minister (Chair of the forthcoming Paris talks) is anything to go by, the global power establishment is making greater efforts to ignore/coopt/defang it.
Here are a few videos about it, one from Telesur, a Pan Latin American news channel, and another by a pretty dismissive White American journalist.
An English translation of the declaration coming out of this gathering can be found here, and will act as an important reference point, just like The Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth. It elaborates on issues that the previous Declaration mentioned and develops some new threads; from the social values (not) built into Climate Science, spirituality in Socio-Ecological relations, the commercialisation of nature and the formation of some kind of International Earth Rights Legislature.
Its a great read and learning resource, like the current Pope's Laudato Si. Critique is centred on capitalism, though colonialism does feature to some extent, racism gets a single passing reference but unfortunately white supremacy is unmentioned, yet without it is Climate Change even possible?
Back in London, OpenDemocracy, a political blog site, is beginning to host voices articulating the colonial continuities that express themselves through climate change, and a Climate Change-themed Friday prayer service
One minute you are trying to settle a family land dispute...then
25 year old London cab operator Samiun Rahman's ordeal began last year in late Septamber, when he was arrested in Bangladesh under dubious circumstances and accused of recruiting Bangladeshi fighters for Jabal al Nusrat and ISIS (who were at war with each other at the time). Samiun had been visiting Sylhet to address some kind of family land dispute. Roughly half the cases in the Bangladeshi courts concern land disputes, and its doubley tricky to get what you want done if you aren't there at the best of times.
"Let's Skin the Cat" says Hasina
The arrest was in time to accent the Prime Minister of Bangladesh's "Partners in the War on Terror" song at the 2014 United Nations General Assembly. Unfortunately, until we arrange otherwise, Hasina Wajed and her Awami League rule over Bangladeshis. An excerpt of her speech to the UNGA on the 27th September 2014 are quoted below. For her, the global agenda against terrorism and extremism is a useful fig leaf to justify annihilating her political opposition.
"Terrorism and extremism remain major impediments to global peace and development. My Government maintains a 'zero-tolerance' policy to all forms of terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization and religion-based politics. We remain firm in our resolve not to allow any terrorist individual or entity to use our territory against any state.
The anti-liberation forces continue to remain active in destroying the progressive and secular fabric of our nation. They resort to religious militancy and violent extremism in every opportunity. Under the direct patronage of the BNP-Jamaat Alliance Government from 2001 to 2006, they coalesced to form terrorist outfits, that perpetrated bomb and grenade attacks killing secular political leaders and activists."
Samiun has been detained without trial in Bangladesh for a year now, his family forced to pay safety bribes, and prevented from seeing him. He is under mental distress as reported in a recent Observer article,
“We’ve no idea what he’s facing,” said Mrs Rahman, “which makes it doubly hard. Nobody has seen any evidence against him, even at his bail hearings, where bail has been refused.” She only hears news of him after consulate visits. “Physically he is fine, but mentally he is not doing so good. If someone is held like that in prison for over a year, of course it takes its toll on you; anxiety and depression creep in. He was such a laid-back, easygoing man before this. Fun to be around."
“I don’t believe for a minute he will get any kind of fair trial, and I don’t think it is working in his favour that he is a British citizen, as it suits the Bangladesh government to say that terror is coming in from overseas, that it’s foreigners coming in to commit crimes in the country. These people are simply politically motivated. Samiun doesn’t agree with violence or violent people and it’s very strange to hear his name used in connection with these terror groups.”Analysing the press coverage
Incidentally the Guardian ( the Observer's anti-Corbyn sister paper) is one of the papers that helped to stitch him up and has institutionalised Islamophobia regarding all matters Bangladesh. Quite an accusation, but it is evidenced by the Guardian's cover-up of the 2013 Dhaka Massacre,and its reliance on likeminded misleading gatekeepers.
It was the motley crew of Shiv Malik, Saad Hammadi and company that wrote a stinker of a piece on Samiun last year, which took the official account at face value. They did not even feel responsible enough to correct their churn when informed.
The Telegraph, whose Dhaka correspondent David Bergman happened to be in the Dhaka court when Samiun was there, was slightly better, reporting words of the accused and his family.
A BBC video report interviewed a member his family in Sylhet and reported there was a police raid on his home in Holborn on the 29th September. Yo its credit they included a contribution from a CAGE spokesman about taking regime pronouncements with a pinch of salt.
Bergman, blogged about Samiun twice in the following days, first with Samiun's full account to his question in court, and then a few days later focussing on the political benefit to the government of the detention and discrepancies between Samiun's and the official account. Samiun reports that the police detained him on the 24th September from his ancestral village home in Habiganj, while police say they arrested him coming off a train from Sylhet terminating in Dhaka late in the evening on the 28th.
News of how Samiun's jailer in Habiganj extorted money from his family, and the stage management of the arrest were reported by the Independent later in November. It seems that other than occasional visits to check he's not dead, that the UK government is doing sod all. I wonder how they would behave if the victim was white?
Forced disappearances, and (if you are very lucky) reappearances are very common in Bangladesh today, from opposition politicians like late Ilyas Ali, garments activists like late Aminul Islam, and witnesses in the War Crimes Tribunals, to random Londonis, they tell us about the level impunity with which the state and its enforcers behave.
Samiun's case is not even the craziest involving a UK national. Over the summer following the high profile murder of a blogger, the police pinned it 58 year old Tawhidul Rahman from London who has bad mental health, and who they had
What is to be done?
Samiun is basically a young man who had straightened his life out, who has become a pawn in a cruel game between venal elites. He could be anybody. For what its worth, his case needs a strong, ever widening community campaign behind it. A few threads come to mind that might matter.
Ensure that people and networks are more widely informed about the case. Awareness remains low, both amongst relevant campaign communities and the wider Bangladeshi and Muslim communities. There is a kinda cute Justice for Samiun webpage, and the London-based campaign group CAGE pushed out a bilingual press release with good context in August but there is precious little else out there. I have hyperlinked to most of it in this post but do feel free to post more stuff in the comments.
Reach out to support the families affected by this. The mother of a friend affected by an unjust long and cruel detention and extradition told me with great sadness that 'Our friends are afraid to see even our shadows'. Fear of institutional/social recrimination is a powerful barrier to dignity and mobilisation.
Enrol the concern and support of justice-orientated politicians. By politicians I don't just mean the elected parliamentary sort, but those people you expect leadership, courage and determination from. Does the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn actually mean anything here, or is the party hobbled by the current autocrat's niece being one of his MPs? UKcentrism aside there are many able people who can eat in Bangladesh who chafe under its injustice system, and yearn for a transformation.
Stress the need for justice for all detainees in Bangladesh, especially those victimised by the Global War on Terror and the Awami League's battle to stay in power. The injustice system and political prisoner situation in Bangladesh cannot be ignored and shouldn't.