Blasphemy, law and violence in Pakistan

Paul Bhatti (R), Pakistan's Minister for National Harmony, speaking at New York Encounter 2013 about his decision to continue the work of his assassinated brother Shahbaz Bhatti for universal religious freedom in Pakistan, despite threats to his life.

I was trained to believe that the law was a tool for social justice and positive change. As a law student, I viewed the law as a weapon to fight against oppression, marginalisation and discrimination. The reality, it seems, is very different. Like any other tool, the law can be manipulated into being used in… Continue Reading ➤

Iraq: A lost cause?

A US Marine in Anbar, conducting a security patrol around combat outpost Viking, Iraq, in 2009

As Hegel famously observed: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” Perhaps anyone involved in Western foreign policy in the Middle East should recite this every morning before they go to work, because right now we are sleepwalking into the mistakes of the past. On 16 March, the… Continue Reading ➤

What next for Nigeria?

The Marina on Lagos Island in Nigeria's capital: the developed façade of a society undergoing profound change

Radios across Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city with a staggering 21 million people, are alive with fiery political debate, catchy political jingles and celebrity endorsements. Election fever has hit the city, and the entire country; albeit over a longer period than first imagined. The election was actually due to take place under the auspices of… Continue Reading ➤

Misunderstanding the lessons from Charlie Hebdo

A pencil left by a Charlie Hebdo supporter in Place de la Bastille, Paris

January 7th, 2015. Chérif and Saïd Kouachi burst into the office of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing nine of its contributors. A few hours later, Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, sends a tweet calling on the French population to “react to this act through a sacred union around the principles of the Republic”. … Twelve dead,… Continue Reading ➤

Days of Dawn and Torment: Iran’s slow revolution

The President of Iran Hassan Rouhani at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2014

“The Ten Days of Dawn” or “Daheh-ye Fajr” is a phrase used throughout Iran to describe and celebrate the brief period between Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran and the official date of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Some Iranians, however, have referred to the period as “Daheh-ye Zajr” or “The Ten Days of Torment”.  Two phrases that… Continue Reading ➤

The Egregious Folly of Western Intervention

A Kurdish march to raise awareness of the situation in Kobane in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 2 October 2014

Only fools rush in: this maxim – beautifully lyricized by Elvis Presley among others – is as relevant to the field of foreign policy as it is to love, of which there is, unfortunately, no better proof than Ingram Davidson’s piece ‘Why We Should Intervene in the Middle East’. Davidson argues that Britain should become… Continue Reading ➤

Why We Must Intervene in the Middle East

The pro-Kobane protest in Trafalgar Square, 1 November. The town has been the focus of much of the recent fighting (Source: Garry Knight)

It was late one August evening and Parliament had voted to declare war on its own integrity. In refusing to come to the aid of the Syrian people, Britain became a nation of apathy, isolationism and cowardice, unwilling to stand for the principles of international law, the cries of Arabic suffering unintelligible to English ears…. Continue Reading ➤

Withdrawal Symptoms: The struggle for Aceh ten years after the tsunami

Women soldiers of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) pose with commander Abdullah Syafei'i in 1999 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The first step in any recovery programme is admitting there is a problem. Aceh, Indonesia’s northern, gas rich, conservative province, however, has struggled to do so.  Ironically, these problems were caused by the very solutions created in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 to address the three decades of separatist conflict and… Continue Reading ➤

Fawning over the Saudis is weak. But a working relationship is necessary

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah in January 2014 [Source: US Department of State]

When King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died of pneumonia last week at a ripe 90, the Western response was ridiculously gushing. Barack Obama cut short a visit to India of enormous geopolitical significance (especially for a President who has made pivoting towards the Asia-Pacific region – and away from the Middle East – the supposed… Continue Reading ➤