This comment was posted by ‘rupewawa‘ in another thread and I thought it was spot on, so I’m re-posting it as a fresh blog-post. Hope the author doesn’t mind.
Iâ€™m a fan of WLUML, SBS and WAF however I think their statements are misguided. Gita Sahgal is indeed a respected human rights activist but I think she has got it very wrong here.
To take a quote from their statement above:
Gita Sahgalâ€™s concerns are about Amnesty Internationalâ€™s association with fundamentalist groups that have claimed to support the Taliban and promote ideas of the Islamic Right…
For this statement to be fair one would have to prove:
a) AI has â€œan associationâ€ with a â€œfundamentalist groupâ€. As mentioned above AI are not associated with Cage Prisoners. They have conducted speaker tours with Begg who is not a fundamentalist. The quote Sunny uses above shows he is not a fundamentalist. If you think he is you will have to provide recent quotes that contradict the one above.
b) That Begg supports the Taliban. He has stated his position on this more times than I can count, it is a nuanced position which isnâ€™t particularly liked by those who want them/us type simplicities. He is not a supporter of the Taliban, saying that the UK Govt should talk to the Taliban does not make him a supporter of the Taliban. Saying that they were better than the preceding 25yrs of bloody war does not make him a supporter of the Taliban. Those who advocated talks between IRA and UK were not pro-terrorist they were pro-peace.
c) That Begg promotes the ideas of the Islamic Right. As someone who went to Afghanistan to build a girlsâ€™ school I also do not think this is defensible. When he gives speeches about Gitmo, he talks about Gitmo. Not jihad, not death to Americans. He has even done a speaker tour with an ex-Gitmo US Guard. This is not the action of a jihadist who wants to kill Americans.
I commend WLUML for being the first of these groups (as far as I know) to condemn the right-wing hijacking of this debate. However, on the suspension of Gita Sahgal they only have half the story, hers.
I am not willing to condemn AIâ€™s internal processes for this until we have all the information, at the moment we donâ€™t. They are rightly not slagging her off in the press as she is doing to them. Of course you would suspend an emplyee if they did this. If they find severe failings and that she was right then she should be reinstated. But on the basis of what she has said on Begg and Cage Prisoners, I doubt that will happen.
On the wider issue of principle, I think those who are engaging in an anti-Amnesty campaign are not able to hold a consistent line on this. AI should campaign against Gitmo but not use former inmates to tell their story? They should protect Beggâ€™s rights until he gets out and then ignore his rights to accountability?
Begg talking about his torture and imprisonment IS THE SAME THING as him *alledgedly* promoting radical Islam and support for the Taliban (even though there is not compelling proof of this)? Is a distinction between allowing someone to speak and â€œmaking them a poster boyâ€, if so what?
We immediately get into a grey area in what people keep trying desperately to make a black and white issue. What is most depressing about this is that it will do ABSOLUTELY nothing to promote the rights of women in Afghanistan or wherever. All it will do is damage a huge human rights org doing massive amounts of work on millions of issues all over the world and make it practically impossible for them to work with these womenâ€™s groups again.
I hope that doesnâ€™t happen. But I canâ€™t see a positive, progressive outcome to this that improves anyoneâ€™s human rights.
I believe this is spot on and nuanced. But of course many of the ‘decents’ screaming hysterically for everyone at Amnesty to be fired will keep pretending otherwise.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Islamists