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My First Blog Post

Political events are part of everyday life.

— Doris Salcedo.

Politics…

For most people, politics is a dull and tedious subject. In fact, when I told some people what I wanted to study at university, I got asked if I was just a boring person who wanted to become the next member of parliament. This is because when people think of politics, they think of the politicians on television who say that they are ‘different’ and are going to change things and make the country a better place. The lies and deceit of politicians gives a bad reputation to politics as a subject. However, what people fail to realise is that politics is more than the government and politicians. It is a vast subject that affects everyone, no matter who you are. Politics shapes our morals and how we go about our daily life. It stretches from crime to the economy. Still think it is boring?

Within this blog, I want to share my enjoyment for politics. Whilst it is a very complicated and opinion based subject, I hope to make it as simple as possible so that anyone can read and understand it. Perhaps, I may teach some people a thing or two so that they can feel confident in political discussion. I hope to do this by discussing current affairs, social issues and political books. By no means am I an expert at politics, I learn new things all the time through my degree, discussions and books. In fact, a few years ago, before I studied politics for my International Baccalaureate, I can honestly say that politics was not a passion or even strong interest of mine. However, I didn’t realise how vast the subject is. In particular, I found myself to be fascinated by security politics. I believe that, with knowledge, everyone will find their interest within the subject which is my reason for doing this blog.

The Cycle of Slavery in Libya

“Does anyone need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig”

When asked about slavery, the majority of people’s minds drift back to their history lessons on the slave trade, whereby around 12 million Africans were shipped to various parts of the world in order to become slaves. However, the dissolution of the trade in the 19th century was not the end of slavery. When Walk Free, the International Labour Organisation, and dozens of other state and non state actors came together in 2016 to form Alliance 8.7, there was an estimation of 40 million people enslaved. 16 million of these were said to be enslaved through forced labour in the private sector, whilst a further 15 million were said to be enslaved through forced marriage. Yet, the world is silent.

When footage appeared from CNN in 2017, the world became outraged. The video appeared to show several African migrants being sold at an auction at a property outside Tripoli, Libya. The UN Security Council condemned the video as “heinous human rights abuses which may also amount to crimes against humanity.” In addition to this, they encouraged cooperation between the European Union and African Union so that they could protect the lives of migrants and refugees along migration routes. Whilst the EU demanded swift action to occur, they didn’t take it much further. In fact, it is the EU who adds to the problem. After the migration crisis in 2015, the EU, particularly Italy, implemented a series of measures aimed at closing off the migration route through the Mediterranean. Instead of thinking about the consequences this may have on the migrants, they only cared about restricting migration into Europe. 

Primarily, the EU committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration. By doing this, they are supporting the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held. Within these camps, individuals are exposed to a poor standard of life, with cramped rooms and poor sanitation. To add to this, they are routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture. One migrant told his story about being in a detention centre. He said that the rooms were cramped and he was sometimes given as little as one piece of bread a day. In order to get out of the camps, individuals would have to pay extreme amounts of money. If they were unable to pay, they would get routinely tortured. Not only this, but within the camps, women and men would be kept separate. This made it easier for guards to sexually abuse the women. 

Secondly, through training and equipment, the EU has enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea. By giving them the assistance they need, and turning migrants away, they have facilitated their exposure to abuse. Those who get intercepted at sea are then taken back to Libya to be put into centres like the ones described above. This creates a cycle of abuse which is facilitated by the EU.

Finally, the EU has created deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups. These deals encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls. However, these deals do not mean that these groups stop giving hope to migrants. They continue to sell the dream of a better life in Europe to these vulnerable individuals, in exchange for money. However, instead of helping them get to Europe, these groups take these vulnerable people and exploit them. They keep them trapped in detention centres unless they are able to pay their way out. For the majority of migrants, they do not have enough money to be able to do this which leaves them trapped, in the hands of these corrupt groups. Many of whom go on to sell them as slaves.

Whilst the EU may condemn slavery in Libya, they are not actually doing anything to stop it. Instead of spending millions to prevent migrants coming to Europe, which leaves them in the hands of corrupt groups in Libya, they could be utilising their money to improve the standard of living within Africa. The reason that so many migrants flee to Europe each year is because they are looking for a better life, a life where they can provide for their family. They want to escape countries filled with poverty, war and corruption. Libya happens to be the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. By travelling to Libya, a country that has been in a state of civil war since the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, individuals are driven into the hands of these corrupt groups who can go on to sell them as commodities. Even if they make it into the Mediterranean, the majority of migrants either die during the journey or are caught by the Libyan coast guard. 

This cycle will not stop until powerful organisations like the UN or the EU do something to address the problem. Whilst they may condemn the act of slavery, this is not enough. They need to be actively doing things to stop it. Whether this be, addressing the problem of migration and funding projects in Africa, or communicating better with Libya and holding these groups accountable. These organisations are the only ones who have the power to do so yet when the trend dies, they no longer address the problem as they themselves, are not being held accountable.

The Story of Yemen

The UN says that Yemen is on the brink of the world’s worst famine in 100 years if the war is to continue. The civil unrest has been going on for a long time with Yemen partaking in the Arab Spring uprisings. However, it escalated into a war in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened. This has had devastating effects on the Yemen population. To this day, the World Health Organisation estimates that 80% of Yemen’s population need humanitarian assistance and protection. Whilst 14.3 million are said to require an acute need of assistance, a further 10 million are considered to be one step away from famine. An estimated 2 million of that figure are said to be children, with 360,000 children under the age of 5 struggling to survive. To make matters worse, an estimated 18 million people do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation. With 20 million people lacking access to adequate healthcare, this has led to a rise in deaths from disease, with 2.2 million suspected cholera cases. However, the effects have not only been in Yemen. An estimated 3.65 million people have been displaced from their homes, with refugees seeking refuge in Oman, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and more. But, how did Yemen get here and what is the world doing to help?

After a wave of pro-democracy uprisings occurred across the Arab world, Yemen’s longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdulah Saleh, stepped down, handing his power over to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. However, Hadi struggled to revive the country which led it to persist through high unemployment and food insecurities. Not only this, but Hadi struggled to achieve the loyalty of his security personnel, who continued to support Saleh. This made it harder for Hadi to prevent attacks by Jihadists and a separatist movement in the south.

With chaos persisting in the country, the Houthi movement decided to take advantage. The movement, which champions Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, repaired their relationship with former president Saleh in order to take control of the capital and much of the north. With the capital, Saana, and neighbouring areas being seized, the group looked towards taking control of the entire country. This forced Mr Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia saw the Houthis, who were said to be backed by Iran, as a threat to their own security. A rise in the Houthis could be an opportunity for Iran to gain a foothold on their border. As a result of this, Saudi Arabia and 8 other mostly Sunni Arab states, began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, ending Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Mr Hadi’s government. 

Whilst it was predicted that the war would only last a few weeks, it continued for years after. In August 2015, coalition ground troops landed in the southern port city of Aden. This helped drive the Houthis and their allies out of the south. Hadi’s government was then able to re-establish a temporary home in Aden. However, the Houthis remained in Sanaa and the north-west of Yemen.

After a deadly clash in 2017, over Sanaa’s biggest mosque, the alliance between the Houthis and Saleh collapsed, with Saleh being killed during the attacks.

In June of 2018, the coalition launched a major offensive to capture the Red Sea city of Hudaydah from the Houthis. This port was a principal lifeline for almost two-thirds of Yemen’s population. The UN said that the port’s destruction would constitute a tipping point beyond which it was going to be impossible to avert massive loss of life due to famine. This led to 6 months of fighting which ended in a ceasefire under the Stockholm Agreement. Under this agreement, both sides had to redeploy forces from Hudaydah, establish a prison exchange mechanism and address the situation in Taiz. Whilst many prisoners went on to be released, forces were not redeployed.

In September 2019, Saudi Arabia’s eastern oil fields of Abqaiq and Khurais were attacked by air. This disrupted nearly half of the country’s oil production- representing 5% of global oil output. Whilst the Houthis claimed responsibility for it, Saudi Arabia and the US accused Iran of carrying out the attacks. 

In August of 2019, fighting erupted between the Saudi-backed government forces and the southern separatist movement (Southern Transitional Council, STC). The fighting stopped in November after an agreement was signed. The Riyadh Agreement sought to end a power struggle in the south of Yemen which risked opening a new front in the multifaceted conflict. However, in April 2020, the STC declared self-rule in Aden which broke the agreement.

Fighting between the Houthis and coalition-led forces persisted through the beginning of 2020. However, in April, Saudi Arabia announced a unilateral ceasefire due to the coronavirus. The Houthis went on to reject this, demanding that air and sea blockades needed to be lifted in Sanaa and Hudaydah. 

Whilst fighting persists, Yemenis suffer. Since March 2015, the coalition has conducted numerous indiscriminate airstrikes, using munitions sold by the US, UK and others. This has led to the destruction of civilians and civilian structures. Human Rights Watch (HRW) have documented at least 5 unlawful attacks on Yemen fishing boats, by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. In addition to this, HRW have calculated that there has been an average of 12 attacks a day. Many of these attacks have destroyed hospitals, schools, buses, markets, mosques, farms, bridges, factories and detention centres. Whilst in June 2019, the UK government agreed to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the US have continued. In fact, Donald Trump has vetoed any congressional efforts to end US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. This has led to Saudi Arabia being America’s largest weapon buyer. 

In addition to this, the Saudi-led coalition has consistently restricted imports into Yemen. This has made the humanitarian situation worse as fuel tankers have been delayed and diverted, critical ports have been closed and goods have been stopped from entering Houthi-controlled seaports. Similarly, Houthis have continued to impose severe movement restrictions, including the flow of aid into Yemen’s third largest city, Taizz. This has had a devastating impact on the local residents. 

According to ACLED, over 100,000 people have been killed in Yemen, including 12,000 civilians, as well as an estimated 85,000 who have died as a result of the ongoing famine. However, as coronavirus has escalated, the issue of Yemen has been ignored. Countries have had to prioritise themselves so that they can tackle and recover from the pandemic. The economic impact of the virus has meant that aid has not been delivered to Yemen. In fact, the UN has said that 30 out of 41 programmes in Yemen will be closed due to not receiving enough funding.

Whilst several charities continue to prioritise Yemen, through delivering aid and creating awareness, the country is far from being saved. Until countries come back together, through the UN, Yemen will continue to be a war-torn country seeping towards the worst famine in 100 years.

Stonewall Riots

In the early hours of the 28th June, 1969, police raided Stonewall Inn, a popular place among young gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. Immediately, they arrested 13 people. These individuals consisted of employees, who had been selling alcohol without a license, and people violating the state’s gender appropriate clothing statute, which disallowed cross dressing. When the officers left the bar, crowds outside became enraged. The police were jeered and many went on to throw coins and debris at them. It got so bad that the police had to barricade themselves inside the bar to await backup. The riots continued for a further 5 days…

During the 1960s, society was not very welcoming to the LGBT community which is why many individuals flocked to gay bars and clubs, as they were able to express themselves and socialise with others, without worrying. During this period, the New York State Liquor Authority, the place to go to for a license to sell alcohol, was very corrupt. Many places were penalised and shut down if they served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals. They perceived homosexual gatherings to be “disorderly.” In 1966, this changed, allowing LGBT bars to start selling alcohol. However, it was still wrong to engage in ‘gay’ behaviour in public. This allowed police to continue to harass gay clubs and bars operating without licenses.

In 1966, the Genovese crime family, one of the five families that dominated crime activities in New York city and New Jersey, purchased the Stonewall Inn. They cheaply renovated it and reopened it the next year, as a gay bar. The bar was said to be a private bottle bar. This meant that it would not need a liquor license as individuals would bring their own liquor. In going to the club, individuals had to sign their names upon entry in order to maintain the club’s false exclusivity. The family, who had connections to dangerous people, would bribe the club’s wealthier guests who wanted to keep their sexuality a secret. In addition to this, the family had connections to people within the police. Many officers had been bribed by the family to ignore activities that were going on within the club. These officers would tip off the mafia bars in advance, which would allow them to stash alcohol that was sold without a license fee.

However, on the night of the raid, the bar had not been tipped off. The invasion of the club led to an uproar among the community. Particularly, among the LGBT community who had little spaces where they were accepted within society. Although this wasn’t the start of the LGBT movement, it was a catalytic force. Many gay rights organisations began as a result of this night and the days which followed it. On the year anniversary of the raid, a march began. The Christopher Street Liberation Day march, named after the epicenter of New York city’s gay community, had an outcome of between 1,000-20,000 people (the number is not known). It started small but as the march walked 51 blocks north, the numbers increased majorly, with people shouting “say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.” 

On the 2nd of June, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in order to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall riots in Lower Manhattan. On the 1st of June, 2009, President Barack Obama expanded the commemoration further by declaring June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.” The month, to this day, is a reflection of the years of struggle for the civil rights and pursuit of equal justice under the law for the LGBTQ community, as well as a celebration of how far the movement has come. Each year, Pride parades take place across the world in order to celebrate and support the community. Unfortunately, the parade in London has been cancelled this year because of the coronavirus. However, the organisers have pushed people to take digital actions in order to show their support for the movement. 

Society is steadily becoming more accepting. Older generations, and the views of their time, are slowly dying out, which leaves the younger generations to learn from their mistakes and be more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. Whilst it is good to learn from the past, we cannot become fixated on it. Instead of thinking who is to blame, which will cause further divide in society, we need to think ‘what next?’ That way, society will continue to evolve.