International

How Did Student Politics Become So Boring?

There’s an old joke, that’s been floating around for years now, that goes something like this “How many (Glasgow Uni) students does it take to change a light bulb? 76; one to change the bulb, fifty to protest the bulb’s right not to be forced to change, and twenty five to organise a counter-protest.” There is, in fact, one of these for just about every university in the country. However, the joke regarding Glasgow raises a very interesting issue; you see, ten or twenty years ago, perhaps even less than that, this joke would have rung very true indeed, however, at present it appears that it’s getting further and further from the truth. To put it simply: students don’t seem to care any more.

Now, that might seem like a rather harsh statement, but it does appear to have some substance behind it if we begin to look at some of the numbers. Let’s firstly jump into the most basic bit of student politics, i.e., the Students’ Representative Council elections. Every year, the Glasgow University student body elects members to the SRC: the SRC deals with everything from individual school representation, to various equality positions, to clubs and societies, etc. To put it simply, for the vast majority of things that affect the students on a day to day basis, the SRC runs the show. It therefore seems reasonable that such an election should garner a lot of attention from the students and that turnout should be quite high. Unfortunately this was not the case.

Excluding the individual school representatives and college conveners and the president, the average number of votes cast for the Welfare and Equal Opportunities positions sat at around 1600, with three of the positions (Gender Equality Officer, Race Equality Officer and Environment Officer) being uncontested. The sabbatical positions (VP Education, VP Student Activities and VP Student Support) averaged about 1800 votes cast for each position. The position of SRC President, the highest student position in the university, had only 2935 votes cast. It should be noted that Glasgow University has a student body of roughly 25’000 students, all of whom are eligible to vote in these elections. Hardly a resounding turnout.

Why not cast our minds back to the Glasgow University Independence Referendum which took place in February last year. It gained a huge amount of media attention, being hailed as the first real test of the straight yes/no question “should Scotland be an independent country?”. However, on campus, it received very little real attention with near enough no campaigning actually going on about the university. Once again a student population of roughly 25’000 were called to the polls to debate what is, arguably, the most important question of our generation’s lives. The turnout was a measly 2281 votes cast, less than 10% turnout.

And if my point still needs proving, have a look at the recent election for University Rector, the highest elected position in the entire university. The rector is responsible for liaising with the student body and listening to their comments and concerns in order to voice them in sessions of the University Court (the administrative body of the university) which he is also responsible for chairing. It’s a pretty big role and it attracts a lot of attention, this time even from the students. Come election day, though, the turnout sat at 6’560 ballots submitted, a turnout of roughly a quarter of those eligible to vote.

So why is this? Our election turnout is horrifically poor (this isn’t even counting the two unions’ elections or the GUSA elections), the political societies’ attendances are tiny, the sheer lack of politics of any kind on campus is, frankly, quite upsetting. Political stalls, when they do sprout up, are simply walked by with no conversation struck up at all, political campaigners stand very lonely outside the unions as people try desperately to avoid them. Even simple political discussion is nowhere to be heard: start talking politics over lunch in the QM and you’ll quickly be told by others to stop talking because “oh, it only ever causes arguments.” “Save that stuff for the silly societies.” Those societies which are, due to such attitudes, now almost impossible to find, now have such low attendance that discussions just have no atmosphere either.

And of course those discussions are meant to cause arguments, because arguments make us think; they make us defend our points of view, they force us to listen to the pros of the other side, the force us to make decisions and actually get stuff done! The idea that you shouldn’t talk politics and avoid arguing, whilst all nice and cuddly-cosy warm, is, in the long run, going to get us nowhere, it’s going to cause people to simply stop thinking and stop caring.

Now the reason I’ve centred this around a university (apart from the fact that I’m a student at that university) is that universities are places to think; they are places where we expect the next generation of our best and brightest, our scientists, doctors, teachers, philosophers and leaders to come from. But how can a university bring such people into society if, during their years there, students are being conditioned not to partake in politics, not to think, not to debate and not to speak out on the issues important to them? Very simply, it can’t. The result of the decline in student politics will result in a decline in the number of educated people taking an active interest and role in politics, it will result in a decline in the number of people willing to speak out on radical issues, it will result in a very small number of people going into politics with a very inoffensive middle ground view. It will, in short, result in a society that drives to middle of the road to sit there in neutral.

There are likely to be a large number of reasons for all of this; the increase in political apathy an general over the last decade or so, the increasingly international population of students who don’t see politics over here (even in their university) as any of their concern, etc. But if one thing does remain certain, it’s that we need to increase political interest in our universities once more, because if we don’t we may quickly find ourselves sliding down a very slippery slope to complete political apathy – the point at which democracy fails. I don’t think any of us want to see that too soon.

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Time for Obama to Hand Back His Peace Prize

Hello once again, everyone. So as it turns out, the United States is above the United Nations, or at least that’s what they appear to think anyway. Yes, in a show that will not surprise a single person, President Obama has decided that his intelligence is better and more legal than anything the UN Weapons Inspectors can come up with. The entire world is now calling for the UN inspectors to be allowed to finish their work before any kind of intervention is considered, even the UK Government has postponed a vote in the House of Commons regarding military action pending the findings of the UN inspectors.

Obama Knows Better than the UN – Image Credit NY Daily News

Since the chemical attack first happened, there has been no real evidence for the case that the government forces used them, yet the US seems certain that Assad did. In fact, it makes no sense for Assad to use them. The weapon was detonated while UN inspectors were in the country, while the Assad Government was attempting to prove it had no WMDs and while it was trying to appeal for international support.

It in fact makes perfect sense for the rebels to detonate a chemical device; it derails peace talks, makes their allies think Assad has WMDs and lures the West into intervening on their behalf, which, as it turns out, we are stupid enough to fall for. Now plenty of people say that it makes no sense for the rebels to detonate a chemical device on their own people, but don’t forget that these are the same people who have massacred civilians, disemboweled government soldiers on camera and have eaten the body parts of dead soldiers and civilians. They will do anything to further their cause.

To be fair, this has all been idle speculation until now, however, the UN inspectors, now two days from completing their inspection tour are telling us that the evidence points to the rebels’ use of chemical weapons with no evidence of Assad’s regime using the weapons. The UN’s Carla Del Ponte said regarding the use of Sarin gas; “This was used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”  She added that there was no evidence of the Government having used the gas.

However, the US administration has decided that it knows better. Never mind the motives, never mind the fact that rebel snipers opened fire on UN Inspectors, never mind the actual evidence being presented by the UN Inspectors, the US Government obviously knows better than everyone else.

President Obama’s Government have “concluded” that Syrian government forces were behind the chemical attack. He doesn’t need to provide his evidence, he just needs to tell us that’s what the facts are. He went on to say that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad Regime were in conflict with “US National Interests.”

The affairs of a sovereign country, in its own civil war, with its own politics, and this constitutes national interests of the United States? Never mind the millions of innocent people that could have their lives put in danger by any conflict stemming from a US lead intervention in Syria, as long as US national interests are satisfied – yeah, that’s fine.

At this point, I really don’t know what to say; I mean, is it so the US can retain its position as a “super power” and remain unchallenged? Or is Obama just fueling his ego and building some kind of sick legacy? Or perhaps there are other monetary assets to be had in Syria? But what ever they are, they are clearly more important than the lives of human beings.

If Obama thinks that he knows better than the United Nations and decides to launch a strike against Syria, he’s going to have to do some serious thinking about the consequences of such action.

And, Mr. Obama, I seriously think it’s about time you consider handing back that lump of metal that once represented a Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Other Articles –

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23875121#FBM278736

Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/uns-carla-del-ponte-says-there-is-evidence-rebels-may-have-used-sarin-in-syria-8604920.html

Syrian Issue Goes Full Potato

Hello again readers, I come to you today from the land of regret, as nice as Guinness is, in large quantities it is not a good idea. As I was out last night, it meant that I didn’t have the time to put much up, but I’m sporadic enough as it is that I am sure you’re all used to it. As you may have discerned from the title of this post, I am wanting to talk a little bit about Syria today, more specifically the prospect of Western involvement in Syria.

“International Involvement in Syria is Becoming Ridiculous”. Image Credit – Presseurope.eu

Yesterday morning, the UK Parliament was recalled from its summer recess to debate the UK’s involvement in the Syrian civil war following the suspected use of chemical weapons by government forces. Talking to the media, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that the world “could not stand idly by” and that the government was considering military options to intervene in the situation. Mr. Cameron also added that any force used must be “proportionate and legal”. The US government has also been looking into the possibility of military operations in Syria, but are “not considering regime change”.

To me, this all sounds stunningly familiar, the US having talks with the UK about intervening in a country thousands of miles from their shores, the insisting that everything will be “legal”, even the recalling of parliament from its summer recess, this is exactly what started Iraq off. Never mind the fact that the size of Britain’s army has dropped from 140’000 to 85’000 in the past five years. Never mind the fact that we have more horses than tanks. Never mind that the people of this country do not want another excuse to send their sons to die thousands of miles from home. Britain clearly has interests greater than its people over there.

Many people I have spoken too remain optimistic; “Ach well, they’ll never pass it through parliament.” “After Iraq, the people won’t let them do it.” Sadly however, the people don’t get a say in this, Labour leader, Ed Milliband has said that his party will support the government on this one. One can only hope that it is a free vote and enough MPs have a spine to say “no” to intervention. And of course the people don’t matter either, before the invasion of Iraq, one million people marched down Whitehall to protest the war, it was the largest single demonstration in British history, and it was ignored. So, it looks like the UK and the US are going to end up in Syria, despite anything their people say, but what about the rest of the world?

Well lets start with the middle east itself and with one of the more influential middle eastern states, shall we? Iran has warned the US of a “conflict that would engulf the region.” The grim warning came from Tehran following the US saying that it could not ignore the “undeniable evidence” of the use of chemical weapons. A spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the Iranian government was resolved to defending Assad’s regime. He added; “We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” … “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

With the political collapse of Egypt over the past number of weeks, Iran is now one of the middle east’s most powerful and influential states, and where it goes, many of the other nations are likely to follow. Except, however, Saudi Arabia, a nation still firmly cemented to Islamism and in support of the Islamic fundamentalist Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia, who claim to have control over the Chechen terrorist sects in Russia said that if Russia pulled away from Syria and withdrew support for Assad, they could “guarantee the safety of the Winter Olympics”. With tensions between Russia and the West already stretched precariously tight, the threats from Saudi Arabia are hardly likely to help – Russia has never been very good with threats.

This, of course, brings us hurtling into the realms of Russia, a country whose government has backed Assad’s regime with considerable weight for some time now. The Russian government, whilst not going so far as to openly say that they would attack the US, have been making their voice heard on the issue too, calling for the UN weapons inspectors to be given more time and claiming that it makes more sense that the Rebels would make use of the chemical weapons in order to derail peace talks.

The Russian government have also said that any involvement without the consent of the security council would be “a grave violation of international law”, and that the way the west were playing with the middle east is akin to “a monkey with a grenade.” Whilst there has always been some sabre rattling on both sides, things do seem to be getting slightly hotter with China and Russia stepping up their warning levels considerably.

In fact, the European Union Times ran with the headline “Putin Orders Massive Strike Against Saudi Arabia if West Attacks Syria”. Now whilst the EUTimes is hardly the most reliable of sources and this story sounds insane, it does stand up. Saudi Arabia have threatened Russia, as mentioned above, but the Saudis do a lot of oil business with the west too, an attack on Saudi Arabia would make strategic sense to shake the west.

The thing here that shakes me the most of the sheer scale of this issue and what it has turned into. We have a civil war in a country thousands miles away that really is none of our business, and yet we are getting involved, and because we are getting involved other countries are piling in too. I hate to sound so cynical about the whole thing, but it really isn’t our problem; civil wars are wars between two opposing groups in one country, not an international affair, they are essentially internal politics.

With our biased coverage from the BBC, no one really understands the Syrian conflict, the government have likely found some shiny things in there that they want, but they probably don’t understand fully the situation either. It simply is not our place to get involved, and it is quite simply wrong for our government to ask our soldiers to go and fight a war that is none of our business.

The West has already fucked up the middle east enough, the US and the UK have funded terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to further their own interests in the region, then when things got a bit too messy, they went in again and fucked the places up further, disposing of the groups they funded beforehand to put a new government of their choosing in place. The US says it’s against regime change, but so far the west has instigated regime change in Iraq, Afghanistan and, most recently, Libya.

I know, I’m ranting here, but I cannot convey to you how angry I am at this whole affair in the words I have at my disposal. It seems utterly stupid, it seems wrong on so many levels, and yet it seems that we are going through with it. The world has turned the molehill of Syria into a mountain that now dominates the political skyline, but the more we add to this mountain, the more unstable it’s going to get until it collapses and buries us all under a massive pile of shite.

I sincerely hope that when the commons goes to vote on this issue tomorrow, that enough of the MPs have a spine to stand up and say “no” to this ludicrous affair being taken any further.

So yes, rant over, I suppose. As usual do feel free to leave your comments below, thanks for reading.

Russian Olympics, To Be or Not To Be?

Hello once again, it’s been a busy week and the next week is scheduled to be just as hectic, but I’m sure I’ll manage to get by. Looking at the title of this article, you’ll probably be thinking, ‘Christ on a bendy bus, Russia again?’ And yes, I’m sorry, but Russia again. Last night’s post was a bit of an uncoordinated rant that sort of spewed out amid other things I was going, I know, check my crazy forward planning skills. However the situation in Russia has been attracting more and more media attention, and rightfully so, given the sharp increase in violent attacks against members of the LGBT community in Russia. One notable development is the increase in people petitioning to either have the Olympics boycotted or to have them pulled altogether.

Yes, you read that correctly, pull the Olympic Winter Games for 2014. Cancel the Olympics. It’s an idea that I, being quite a fan of the Winter Olympics, originally tried to find my way around, but there is no justification for trying to weasel one’s way around it; Russia’s systematic abuse of civil rights and persecution of people based on their sexual identities directly contravenes with the message of the Olympics. The Olympic games are about uniting people in sport, regardless of political, religious or even sexual orientations. It is a movement about peace, diversity and simple competition based on athletic ability. As Rule Number Six in the IOC’s Mission statement quite neatly puts it:

“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,
religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic
Movement.”

In an open letter to Mr. Cameron, Lord Coe and M. Rogge, to which I shall include a link post script, Stephen Fry, pointed out that if the games in Russia went ahead, given the current state of Russian politics, “The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.” Mr. Fry points out that in 1936, Adolf Hitler’s regime was given an unimaginable boost internationally by the Olympic Games in Berlin, at a time when Hitler’s regime were persecuting the Jewish people.

Hitler’s persecution of the Jews was a way of pinning all of Germany’s problems on a minority group of people who could easily be persecuted and destroyed to distract from the real political issues of the time. Nowadays we see these acts as villainous and horrific, but at the time of the Berlin Olympics, these acts of persecution were ignored by the IOC and Hitler’s regime elevated on the international stage.

What we see now in Russia is no different; the ruling powers, the Orthodox church being well embedded in there too, are using the LGBT community as a scapegoat for Russia’s political problems without having to address the real issues. The results are the mass persecution and abuse of an entire group of people, simply due to the fate of the way they were born. To allow the Winter Olympic games to go ahead in Russia in this climate would be giving Putin and his Russia the same mandate that the world gave Hitler and his Germany in 1936.

Now I love the Olympic games, the Summer games in London last year were one of the few occasions on which I have felt a twinge of “British Pride”, not to worry, a sharp blow to the head sorted that out quickly, and I truly enjoy, being a curler, the Winter Olympics, I was glued to the screen for most of the Vancouver games, even in the dead of night. Having the Olympics pulled is one of the last things I want to see, however one thing I would hate to see more, would be the name of the Olympic games being tarnished by the blatant abuse of civil liberties in Russia, abuses which so directly contradict everything the Olympics are about.

Russia, in what seems a desperate bid to retain the games, has said that it’s new laws will not apply to spectators or athletes at the games. To me, there seem to be a couple of problems there, not in the least being, how would one enforce that? Given the massive spate of attacks by neo-nazi gangs of thugs acting outwith the law, you cannot possibly expect to maintain the safety of any LGBT athletes or spectators. In fact fear arises for LGBT Russians who may use the games as a respite and flock to Sochi, only to be trapped by these thugs.

But quite simply put, these measures aren’t good enough. To simply have a bubble in Russia that for two weeks will allow a small number of people to exercise, what are essentially, their basic rights as human beings to express love and compassion, fitting neatly around the games and then disappearing once more to allow for the gangs to move in once more, is simply ludicrous. How can one possibly think that is enough?

It smacks of an insult to the LGBT community in Russia and across the world, not to mention the Olympic Movement. “Yes, we will bend our socially backwards laws to fit your games and then continue our mass persecutions once you leave.” Frankly at this point, I see no fair enough reason for the games to not be pulled, Russia’s abuse of civil rights would tarnish the Olympics to the same kind of degree as in 1936, one could even say more as we should have learnt our lesson by now.

In his letter, Mr. Fry suggests holding the games in some place like Utah, Lillyhammer, Oslo, etc. Which could work, given the facilities of past Olympic games still exist there, but to do that may be more trouble at this point, given that it is less than a year to the games, it sadly seems that the only reasonable option is to pull the games entirely. That is unless of course Russia pulls a massive u-turn on this policy in the next seven months or so, which given the amount of pressure from the international community already ignored by Russia, seems unlikely.

The IOC has a reasonable amount of clout here, the Olympic games are a massive international event and boost the international profile of which ever country hosts them, kind of like Eurovision, but with less bickering about points twenty years down the line. If the IOC agreed to pull the games in 2014, it would strike a monumental blow to Russia’s international credibility, and perhaps make them think twice about what they are actually doing. I therefore sincerely hope that the IOC takes such a proposal into serious consideration.

So, as usual feel free to comment and keep the debate going, until my next post, thanks for reading.

Post Script: Stephen Fry’s Open Letter to The Rt. Hon. David Cameron, Lord Coe and M. Rogge of the IOC:
http://stephen-fry-me.tumblr.com/post/57612770175/open-letter-to-david-cameron-and-the-ioc

Louisiana Police Arresting People for Being Gay?

Hello once again readers, it’s hot, it’s humid, there is no wind, no rain and it’s dashed unpleasant, but fortunately Wagner is currently taking my mind off of the uncomfortable meteorological conditions – it’s not quite the right music for writing, I do feel like I should be invading somewhere, but no matter. I was recently browsing my facebook newsfeed, as everyone knows that there is no better place to acquire information regarding current events than facebook, how else would I know that a friend I haven’t spoken to in years has just baked a cake? However, among the extraneous gumff, I stumbled upon a rather interesting, and equally alarming, article on the “Think Progress” website shared by one of my friends. For those interested, I shall include a link to the article at the end of the post.

New York Police Arresting a Gay Man c.1960 Image credit – Think Progress blog

Essentially the State of Louisiana never repealed its laws against sodomy, and has been able to arrest people who are looking for consensual gay sex. It should be noted that this is not a new case, and according to the article, there have been at least a dozen arrests since the beginning of 2011, despite the law being, in the words of Casey Rayborn Hicks, the Baton Rouge Sheriff Office’s Spokesperson, the law is “unenforceable”. In fact it’s more than that, the law’s across the U.S.A. regarding the illegality of sodomy were ruled unconstitutional in 2003 by the United States Supreme Court, following the Lawrence vs. Texas case.

Nonetheless, the law remains in place in Louisiana and is used to arrest men who consent to sex. Whilst none of the men arrested have been prosecuted, they have been held in police custody and fined for nothing more than agreeing to private, consensual sex. It should also be noted that in none of these cases has there been any transfer of money and all sexual activity was to take place in private accommodation.

However, the law has been defended by the Sheriff’s office on the grounds that invitations for sex took place in a public park, despite the activity taking place elsewhere and no laws being in place to prohibit the discussion of sexual activity in public places. Spokesperson Hicks said in a statement, “This is a law that is on our books and the Sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws passed by our Louisiana legislature.”

In the aftermath of the Lawrence vs. Texas case, former Attorney General for Louisiana Richard Ieyoub stated that the anti-sodomy laws could not be enforced except for cases of prostitution and bestiality. However the law remains in place and is continually attempted to be enforced by Louisiana sheriffs. A similar law is also still in place in Michigan and is just as unenforceable, yet it has still not been repealed.

It strikes me as quite unbelievable that a law, deemed both unconstitutional and unenforceable by the Supreme Court and by State Attorneys General respectively can still be kept in force and defended so fervently by state authorities. The U.S.A., the supposed land of the free, is once again demonstrating that it is anything but that. A nation so proud of its freedoms and democracy being so ready to deny people their basic civil liberties seems absurd, but some how, I am not surprised in the slightest.

The U.S.A. does have a bit of a track record on cases regarding the civil liberties of its people, but let’s not go into that, I’d be here all night, but the invasion of people’s sexual privacy in what is a constitutionally secular country just stinks. It sadly appears that the US is stepping backwards, and unless the Federal Legislature can step in, I fear that will become an invitation to strengthen such laws.

To have this following the downward spiral of the Russian Federation’s take on LGBT individuals’ rights really is a crippling knock to the international LGBT community and to civil rights as a whole. With Russia’s laws becoming even more crazy and homophobic, “Gay Immigration” has seen a huge increase, with individuals moving in their thousands to countries like the United States, yet how can they rest easy there knowing that some states will still arrest, humiliate and fine you, using archaic laws, for the exercising of the very civil liberties you moved there to retain?

It is a sad day, when the state, especially in this day and age, feels it has the right to peer into people’s private lives, their love lives and their bedrooms. It may sound sentimental, but a bedroom is a symbol of privacy and security; when one is upset or just wants to be alone, or even wants to be intimate with someone, they go to their room, because it is private. If our governments are snooping around our bedrooms, where else can we go?

The entire thing stinks, and there are likely a lot of reasons for it, however, I cannot help feeling that the overriding issue here is that of religion and its prevalence in the process of government, but that is a topic for another post I fear, so that will likely be coming soon. However, as usual please feel free to continue the debate in the comments, ask questions, etcetera, and I shall see you all again soon.

Thanks for reading.

 

Post Script- Link as promised http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/07/28/2366811/louisiana-sodomy-law-arrests/

 

Egypt Reaching the Boil?

Hello once again,

So as you know I just got back from my holiday yesterday and I have been working furiously to get myself back into the loop, with access to a television for the first time in days too. One situation that has been ongoing is the situation in Egypt, regarding the pro-Morsi supporters’ continued protests in Cairo. In case you missed it, on July the 5th, President Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president was ousted by the military after mass demonstrations against his rule, namely his constitutional reforms.

Mr. Morsi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood party, present in many other middle eastern states, which advocates Islamic laws and the use of the Muslim religion as a basis for the running of the state. His constitutional reforms that he proposed upon gaining his position threw a new spark into an already unstable cauldron of troubles. The constitution that he proposed gave more power to religious bodies and made Islamic law a fundamental part of the country’s legal framework.

The country split in two over the matter, the large number of muslims in Egypt supported the measures, however an equally sized camp of secularists believed that it was a step backwards and would infringe upon basic rights of non-muslim people in Egypt. Much of the international community seemed to support the idea of maintaining a secular Egypt, even if they kept their mouths firmly shut about the matter.

However, mass demonstrations against the new measures shook Egypt, only weeks after its historical revolution against the dictatorship government. Morsi’s supporters came out in response and once again clashes in the streets between pro-government and anti-government groups raged. In response to the mass unrest and the president’s seeming inability to control it, the Army once again took power, deposing and arresting Morsi, along with several senior officials within the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, as you can imagine that didn’t really help things much out on the street. Pro-Morsi groups have been staging a sit in at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. In response the interim government called on its supporters to give a mandate by themselves taking to the streets, with thousands once more pouring into Tahrir square. Clashes between the two groups, as well as between the army and the pro-Morsi group have left large numbers of people killed.

The interim government has called for an end to the protests and have pledged to give the army the power to arrest civilians. Interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim also warned that protesters’ camps would be dispersed “soon”.

For me, it’s quite hard to see where to go with this; on the one hand we have a president who was going to throw any ideas of a free, equal and secular society out of the window; on the other hand he was democratically elected and removed by the armed forces. The armed forces now seem to be trying to quell Islamic fundamentalism within Egypt’s borders, but have also opened fire on what is, largely, a peaceful demonstration. The demonstrators have assembled peacefully, but call for change that would be of detriment to living conditions of much of Egypt’s population.

In these cases I would generally say, go with the people, but they seem to be split half and half just now, and Morsi was, after all, elected democratically. However, I cannot bring myself to support Morsi for two reasons, firstly, he seems content to ignore the wants of roughly half of his people, and secondly he seems intent on putting religion into government. For that second reason mostly, I am sort of with the army, but I cannot condone the shooting of civilians. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, remarked that the new government needed to “respect the right to peaceful assembly…” Get out your cameras, I am quoting and agreeing with a US politician. (It also brings up the interesting point about religion and secularism which I think I may also ramble on about at some point in time too.)

If the Interim Government can lay in place the foundations for a democratic and secular government of Egypt, I will applaud them, but given the circumstances, I can’t see that happening any time soon. For now, I suppose all we can do is watch and see what the Egyptian people choose to do, for me, it’s almost too early to formulate an extensive opinion of the situation or of whom, if anyone, to support. All I really hope for is an end to the violence and for a speedy and peaceful resolution, but that may be wishful thinking, nothing ever seems to go so smoothly. For now then, I wait.

As usual, if you have any comments or perhaps something you want to add to what I’ve said or even disagree, please do continue the debate in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

Russian Duma Deals Another Crippling Blow to the Gay Community

This week saw the Russian Duma vote overwhelmingly in favour of new measures that would be brought into force to prevent the spreading of ‘Gay Propaganda’ to those under 18 years of age, the banning of any activities promoting ‘non-traditional relationships’ and any activity promoting the idea of equality between ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ relationships. The act, if passed by the upper house of the Russian Government would see individuals face fines of £100 for breaking this law with organisations being liable to fines of up to £20’000 for breaking the law. President Vladimir Putin has already voiced his support for the bill.

During a protest outside the Russian government buildings, members of the LGBT community were harassed by members of the Russian Orthodox Christian community, who threw eggs, nettles and urine at them as they attempted to stage a ‘kissing protest’. Russian law has been becoming recently more vehemently anti-gay as laws aimed at tackling ‘Gay Propaganda’ have been coming into effect. Gay Pride parades and gay rallies have also been banned by Moscow as policy, with Russian ministers quoted as saying; “Gay rallies are a place for Satanists.”

The recent legislation has been responsible for a growth in anti-gay activity in Russia and neighbouring states, with many members of the gay communities being subjected to violent attacks. This desperate set of affairs has seen many Russians leaving their home country already for fear of persecution, this number can only be expected to increase when this new legislation is brought into place. However, much of this legislation has also been in place in regions of Russia for some time, this national legislation is not necessarily a new idea.#

Being openly gay in Russia has become harder and harder over the recent years, with many Russians, in a recent survey, feeling that gay people should be “treated for their illness”, recently a Russian TV presenter was fired for publicly announcing his homosexuality and there are increasingly few openly gay people holding public offices. President Putin has affirmed that Russian laws do not discriminate homosexuals in anyway, however with this new law coming in, it will be illegal to even suggest that a same sex relationship is equal to that of a heterosexual relationship.

As new laws like this are brought in, complying with the religious guidelines of the Orthodox Church, it becomes increasingly difficult for any kind of group advocating social equality in Russia to operate. There are many things that can be said about the Soviet Union, but at least in the USSR, religion played no part in law, the state was completely secularised, there was no discrimination on base of sexuality written into law, in short, all human beings were equal in the eyes of the law. As the Orthodox church begins to play a bigger and bigger role in the Russian state, so many decades of hard work for social and religious equality and freedom are being eroded by a select few at the top, who dictate what can be believed, what constitutes correct behaviour and what constitutes an ‘acceptable’ relationship.

The new law, dubbed as ‘wrong’ by many Russians is a sign of the truly corrupt and authoritarian rule of the Putin government over the Russian people. The Russian people are beginning to feel ever more detached from the government in Moscow, seemingly controlled by the wills of a very select few people, in the hands of Putin and the Church. The growing presence of the church is another concern, as the Church plays a larger and larger role in policy making, it is likely that more and more policies discriminating against more groups are on the horizon.

As Russia’s policy becomes more Church and ‘traditionalist’ orientated, it is likely we will see Russia being alienated further from the Western states in Europe. Russia, once a European power, will begin to see itself further sidelined on the European stage, amid the secularised Western democracies, becoming another corrupted religious dictatorship to be viewed with suspicion by the rest of Europe. Russia, the state with the second largest party being the Communist Party, is throwing away decades of work for social justice.

I cannot say what more is to come, but the future for Russia does look bleak. It almost seems as though they are going backwards; while European states are passing laws legalising the  marriage of same sex couples, Russia is outlawing its so-called ‘gay propaganda’ and demeaning the relationships of gay couples as ‘not normal’. It’s a truly sad event, but just one more blow in a long line of attacks against the gay community by the Russian government.

 

I’m sorry, this was somewhat rushed and not a full post, I just saw the article on facebook and thought it deserved some attention.

Thanks for reading, and, as usual, if you have any questions or points, please carry on the discussion in the comments section.