It’s an event that many have been far too well acquainted with, and if you haven’t, there’s even a Wikipedia page for it now, “Will Smith — Chris Rock slapping incident”. Academy award winning actor, Will Smith stunned millions last week as he walked up on stage during the live Oscars proceedings and went on to hit host, Chris Rock across the face. This came after Rock, an award winning comedian, mocked the appearance of Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith’s wife) during his presentation of one of the Oscar awards.
Immediately after the incident, the public’s takes began piling in, with practically two sides to the conflict emerging, Team Will Smith and Team Chris Rock. The former argue that Smith’s actions were understandable and appropriate, given that Rock had mocked a medical condition (alopecia areata) that Jada Pinkett Smith had been publicly suffering from for years. On the other hand, Rock’s supporters argue that given freedom of speech, the comedian should have the right to say whatever he pleases without any fears of reprisal, be it physical or verbal. And in the middle, there’s a subsection of people who find both parties to be in the wrong, that’s the group I’d most accurately describe myself as a part of.
Now although this incident only took place last week, the ensuing debate has been ongoing for years prior to it. Does the freedom of speech also include the right to offend? While the nuances behind the matter can be discussed for ages, the answer largely depends on how you wish to see society develop. A society based in harmony would require a persisting element of mutual respect, and that is increasingly difficult to sustain in an environment where each individual is hellbent on maintaining their right to offend the next person, purely for the sake of offending.
We’ve seen this debate take action in the past and will more than likely see it again in the future, and although the severity behind these different instances can vary, the potential for harm remains significantly high every time. Take the Charlie Hebdo incident, for example. In 2012, French magazine Charlie Hebdo published absurdly offensive caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and continued to mock the Prophet in the years to come. A few years later, in retaliation, two gunmen stormed the infamous magazine’s offices killing 12 and wounding 11 more.
Like last week’s Oscars moment, this incident too began with comedic intent, but ended with the unimaginable. In both instances, an erroneous understanding behind freedom of expression led to damaging and serious physical retaliation by aggrieved parties. However, when I say that freedom of expression should ideally be limited at times for the benefit of societal rapport, by no means does it condone the retaliatory, harmful measures that some take against these verbal attacks. Rather the opposite, if our goal is to construct a society based in harmony, then these violent acts of reprisal do nothing but fuel the conflict further. This explains why Will Smith’s slap and the Charlie Hebdo shooting both did nothing but empower hatred and animosity towards the causes they were seemingly defending. Instead, while we should ideally be practicing watchfulness over how our expressions impact others, our response to these expressions should also be of equivalent caliber, in that rather than using physical force and violence, we stick to argumentation and reasoning to express our concerns.
While this debate on freedom of expression and its limitations will rage on, it’s important for us to remember to keep people’s feelings in mind, so as to not purposefully inflict undue harm on others. This is just one of many ways in which we can work towards a society based in harmony and good will.
Like the famous phrase goes, “Your freedom to swing your arm, ends where my nose begins”. Let’s consider this both literally and metaphorically when remembering the memorable Oscars incident of 2022.
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
How fair is the criticism of Qatar’s LGBT laws?
Qatar has come under a barrage of criticism for its anti-LGBT laws, but it’s not as bad as you might think.
This year’s world cup is the first to be held in the Middle East. Instead of excitement for the upcoming event, which is starting this weekend, there have been many discussions and controversies regarding human rights in Qatar. The gulf nation has been receiving a lot of criticism regarding the country’s morals, due to its treatment of migrant workers and its LGBT laws.
England captain Harry Kane is adamant he will wear the LGBT armband but French captain Hugo Lloris says there “there is too much pressure” on players to protest, and instead, they should focus on the football. Similarly, Australia’s squad called on Qatar to decriminalize same-sex relationships.
It seems no one is happy with the tournament taking place in Qatar. But how fair are the criticisms of its LGBT laws?
LGBT laws in Qatar
Homosexuality is punishable for up to seven years in the gulf state and sexual activity between the same gender is punishable by the death penalty. These punishments are rarely carried out, however, and sex outside of marriage, whatever the gender, is illegal.
Even though records of imprisonment or the death penalty due to same-sex relationships, are scarce, 11 cases in three years were reported by Human Rights Watch.
These cases included searching of phones, beatings and sexual harassment by officials. HRW reported that the convicted transgendered women had to take part in mandatory conversion therapy to be released.
Public displays of affection are prohibited in Qatar, but that goes for both homosexual and heterosexual couples, which is the same in other Arab states.
LGBT and morally controversial laws around the world
Qatar’s fellow gulf country, the United Arab Emirates, has similar policies. Being in a same-sex relationship in the UAE can get you 14 years imprisonment, whereas a ‘male disguising as a female’, can get a year-long penalty as well as a fine. However, compared to Qatar, the UAE has barely received any criticism for their policies.
On the contrary, Dubai, the UAE’s largest city, is even called ‘The City of the Future’, indicating that the country’s policies are either unknown or ignored. Saudi Arabia, a long-standing ally of the west, has the exact same laws, yet it remains a major trading partner of the United States. Trade between the UK and Saudi Arabia was worth £13 billion in 2022.
There is a different attitude towards other morally ‘incorrect’ policies from other countries. For example, the Netherlands, Belgium and France allow incest, and marriage between cousins, which for some is seen to be morally wrong. Regardless of this policy, which has not been changed in recent years, the Netherlands and Belgium still hosted the FIFA Euro Cup in 2000, whereas France has hosted both the world cup and the Euros five times in total.
Thailand, whose capital was named the ‘second most gay-friendly city’ in Asia in 2018, is another country that allows incest and has barely ever faced any controversy over this policy either. Same-sex marriage was only decriminalised in June 2022. Rather, Thai society has been complimented as one of the LGBT friendliest countries in the world, especially because of their 2020 elections candidate, Pauline Ngarmpring, who is Thailand’s first trans politician.
Who then, becomes the arbiter of what is morally right and wrong?
Reactions to the criticism
The CEO of the Qatar World Cup, Nasser al-Khater vociferously defended the country’s policies, saying that Qatar was a “hospitable and tolerant society”.
“Any fan of any gender, orientation, religion, race should rest assured that Qatar is one of the most safe countries in the world — and they’ll all be welcome here.”
He emphasised that Qatar is a conservative and modest country, just like other countries in the region, and fans should respect its culture.
“Public display of affection is frowned upon, that’s simply it.”
French captain Hugo Lloris said: “When we are in France, when we welcome foreigners, we often want them to follow our rules, to respect our culture, and I will do the same when I go to Qatar, quite simply. I can agree or disagree with their ideas, but I have to show respect.
He added that “there’s too much pressure on the players” to get involved in political protests just days before the biggest tournament of their lives.
“If you have to apply pressure, first of all it had to be 10 years ago. Now it’s too late. You have to understand that for players this opportunity happens every four years and you want every chance to succeed. The focus has to be on the field. The rest is for politicians. We are athletes.”
Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp also made similar remarks: “I don’t like that we expect [players] now to do something. They go there to play football.
“The decision [to hold the World Cup in Qatar] was made by other people, and if you want to criticise anybody, criticise the people who made the decision.”
James Cleverly, Britain’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said in an interview: “One of the things I would say for football fans is, please do be respectful of the host nation. They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football.
“They [Qatari authorities] want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves. And they know that that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a different set of cultural norms to our own,” he added.
Cleverly’s statement was met with great criticism by many people. “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay. Is that the message?” Gary Lineker, former England footballer said.
They urged the participating countries to ‘not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists’ and to ‘now focus on the football.’
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
Does hate speech have a place in a tolerant society?
Danish Lawyer, Jacob Mchangama’s views on whether a ban on hate speech can ever be sustainable.
Free speech. To limit or not to limit; that is the question.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has raised concerns over his plans for the social media platform. A “free speech absolutist” as he describes himself, he says he is “against censorship that goes far beyond the law”. Reducing moderation could pave the way for hate speech and extremist ideas to spread, some fear, but Musk has pledged to form a ‘moderation council’ as the EU warns him that the platform must abide by its moderation rules. Hate speech did indeed increase in the hours and days after Musk acquired Twitter.
Sir Salman Rushdie, the Indian-British author who was stabbed at a public lecture in New York in August, was also at the centre of a debate on how far free speech can go before it becomes unacceptable.
He was stabbed ten times by twenty-four-year-old Hadi Matar, who claims he read “two pages” of Rushdie’s book: ‘Satanic Verses.’ The book, published in 1988, brought him a blasphemy charge by the then-Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, who promised a $3 million bounty for his death. Thirty-four years on, the alleged motive of his attacker was Rushdie’s historical blasphemy towards the Prophet Muhammad.
But these events raise a key question: What is the right way to deal with hate speech? It certainly isn’t with violence. But where is the line between free speech and the protection of people’s sentiments and beliefs? There are already laws against hate speech but who determines what is hate, and what isn’t?
We spoke to Jacob Mchangama, a Danish lawyer and global free speech expert.
“As a society, we’d have to develop tolerance around speech that we feel goes against our own beliefs”Jacob Mchangama
Jacob is the founder and director of Justitia, a think tank based in Copenhagen focusing on human rights and freedom of speech. He believes primarily in the importance of unfettered free speech. At one point, he writes in his book: ‘Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media’, “Lost in the incessant focus on the darker sides of free speech—real, perceived, and exaggerated—are the profound benefits of free and open discourse… we jeopardize those benefits if we are unwilling to accept any of the harms or costs that inevitably accompany free expression.”
Jacob’s view is that part of free speech is allowing mockery and criticism. And as a society, we’d have to develop tolerance around speech that we feel goes against our own beliefs.
“What does ensure social peace is a culture of free speech,” Jacob tells us.
“A culture of tolerance and of acceptance, that in a diverse society everyone has the right to speak out their mind, even if that offends you.”
In terms of the violence that Rushdie was met with as a result of his book, Jacob says that the sole responsibility is always on the person “who responds to pens with swords or AK47s.”
Instead, he advocates for the use of unfettered free speech as a way to mitigate violent responses. “The more people are accustomed to different ideas, the more likely they are to react to ideas they find offensive or loathsome with a shrug of the shoulders, or to use criticism rather than using violence.”
One of the greatest arguments against unfettered free speech is that it is usually to the detriment of minority groups, who have to hear harmful rhetoric spewed about them that continues to isolate them from society. To this point, Jacob believes that since limitations of free speech are often decided by the powerful majority, no matter how well-intentioned they are, they backfire on minorities. He believes minorities especially rely on free speech.
“Historically, minorities have always been subject to persecution and censorship and have had to rely on free speech on their ability to speak out, to organize protests and to convince their co-citizens that they deserve equal protection.”
Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine that went viral after publishing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad of Islam, considered offensive by the Muslim community worldwide. They republished the cartoons in 2020.
In relation to that, Jacob explains: “In the West, in Denmark for instance, we have adopted some laws that attack the religious speech of Muslims and that shows maybe it wasn’t wise for Muslims to call for limits on free speech during the cartoon affair because when you are a minority and call for limits on free speech, then the majority can adopt their own standards.”
In essence, free speech is a double-edged sword, he proclaims.
So where do we draw the line? How do we strike the balance between protecting people and speech at the same time?
There is no universal definition of hate speech in international law, and perhaps that is one of the reasons it is so hard to impose a ban on. However, the United Nations describes it as, “offensive discourse targeting a group or an individual based on inherent characteristics and that may threaten social peace.”
Jacob implies that hate speech is subjective: “When you get into hate speech ban, it becomes very difficult to define because different people have different ideas. Some Muslim states argue that criticism of Islam is akin to hate speech, and some Jewish organisations say that if you criticise Israel that is akin to anti-Semitism, and I don’t agree with either of those interpretations.”
“I think you should have the right to criticise Israel’s behaviour to Palestinians the same way you should have the right to criticise Islam. In general, at least in mature democracies, there seems to be a correlation at the very least between free speech and social peace, rather than the other way round. The more people who are accustomed to different ideas, the more likely they are to react to ideas they find offensive or loathsome with a shrug of the shoulders or to use criticism rather than using violence and in that sense I think free speech is the antithesis of violence and absolutely necessary to establish social peace in diverse societies.”
He adds later on: “I don’t think you can say that criticism of free speech is fine as long as you don’t offend because offence is subjective. And the more zealously you believe yourself and your doctrines to be the truth, the more likely you are to find offence everywhere. And also I think criticism and mockery of institutions that are powerful is a healthy thing; it’s a non-violent way to shine a critical light on authority and hypocrisy and very often, power leads to corruption and supposedly pious people who hold high office use that for their own gains.”
Whether it aligns with a person’s morals or not, all speech is fair speech, he says. There is no curtailing of hate speech, instead, Jacob says, “Once there’s clear incitement to violence, that’s where you overstep the line of free speech. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide when incitement is true incitement and when it is mere ‘hate speech.’ It’s not always easy, but that would be my guiding principle.”
He adds: “Civil society can create strong antidotes against hatred and intolerance exactly by exercising free speech, so this is one of the main reasons I think free is such a powerful principle and is empowering.”
But is it really possible for us to create antidotes against hatred, by giving free speech the reign to go so far as hate speech? Certainly, there are more effective ways — such as respect, understanding and empathy — to create a society in which we are tolerant of one another.
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, while upholding the right to free speech, recognises that freedom of expression comes with some risks, and so it has this provision:
“The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”Article 10, European Convention on human rights
Poking fun at another person’s belief in the name of ‘free speech’ and ‘open dialogue’ cannot be acceptable. There are other, more appropriate ways to raise criticisms and questions about another person’s way of living that can still lead to candid dialogue.
Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad of Islam has been in the spotlight of the free speech discussion since 2005, when the cartoons were first published. The depiction made a mockery of a figure that Muslims deeply respect and love. The illustrations published by the magazine exercised their right to free speech and a free press, but it became the root of widespread violence and bloodshed both by Muslims and against them.
The National Observatory noted that in 2020, there was a 53% increase in anti-Muslim-related attacks in France. Figures of hate crimes against Muslims rose by roughly 150% from 2019 to 2020.
Jacob says that in the face of such hatred, it is important to remember, “The mirror image of free speech is that you have that right as well.”
Some Muslims condemned the cartoons and explained why their sentiments were hurt. However, when the images were republished in 2020, it only cemented the notion that unfettered free speech cannot create dialogue. France continued to see a rise in hate crimes against Muslims. In response, it only provoked further extremism, namely the stabbing of French teacher Samuel Patty, who was attacked for displaying a similar image in a class about freedom of expression. Hate always begets hate.
“There was a protest by Muslims after Charlie Hebdo and there had been some previous demonstrations where radicals stood with placards and said ‘behead those who insult Islam’ and instead they had those laugh at those who insult Islam. They are very silly people,” he says.
Although Jacob advocates for no limits on what you can say about religion or things people hold sacred, however distasteful the rhetoric, he admits that highly protected free speech is no excuse for hatred towards religious minorities.
“I would draw the limits at making threats or inciting violence against Muslims. I would morally condemn hate speech against Muslims even if it doesn’t reach the threshold of incitement to violence.”
When we scale the situation down, one could argue: who would want a dialogue with someone who’s offended them? Or who mocks, ridicules and denigrates things they hold dear or sacred? Instead, we’ve created a society in which we accept animosity to flourish. A peaceful society requires peaceful and healthy dialogue and respect towards all people. And with unfettered, unregulated free speech, we always get abuse of free speech.
And yet if we are not curtailing hate speech, do we ultimately end up embracing it?
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.
OPINION: Rishi Sunak is a win for diversity but not for minorities
Is Rishi Sunak’s rapid rise to power really a reflection of how far we’ve come as a diverse and inclusive nation?
Rishi Sunak has become the first person of Asian heritage to become the British prime minister, and while this milestone was rightly celebrated by many across the political spectrum around the world, is his rapid rise to power really a reflection of how far we’ve come as a diverse and inclusive nation?
Sunak was only brought in because the Conservatives had exhausted all other options following the implosion of Liz Truss’ government. Data suggests that only 20% of ‘BAME’ Britons voted for the Conservatives at the last general election, whilst 64% voted for Labour. So purely on a political level, Sunak cannot effectively represent the majority of ethnic minority voters as a Conservative. After all, the Prime Minister’s voting record on issues which deeply affect minorities has hardly been in favour of things they deeply care about. Mr Sunak voted against investigations into the Iraq War and for more foreign military interventions. Likewise, he has previously voted for stricter immigration controls and asylum rules.
These policy positions demonstrate that the new Prime Minister does not have the answers to the problems facing Britain’s ethnic minority communities. One of the most significant problems facing these groups is a lack of economic opportunity which enhances the inequality between minority groups and the rest of society. For instance, one report by the IFS suggests that despite outperforming academically, many minority groups are still not finding ‘equivalent labour market success’. Similarly, a parliamentary report in 2020 argued that ‘People from Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic groups are around twice as likely to be in the bottom fifth of incomes than average, and have the lowest median household incomes, closely followed by people from a Black ethnic group.’ It also highlighted severe employment gaps, within some of the South Asian community, such as Pakistanis and Bengalis.
In terms of such economic problems, what is the extent to which the Prime Minister will effectively improve economic outcomes for ethnic minorities? Mr Sunak’s economic background isn’t one which would normally resonate with the average joe. For instance, one MP pointed out that his wealth was double that of King Charles III. Indeed, having come from a privileged background, some suggest that Mr Sunak cannot effectively understand, and therefore tackle the aforementioned economic injustices. However, even more importantly, Mr Sunak’s policies are insufficient in tackling the economic and social problems faced by ethnic minorities. In his first speech outside Number 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister hinted that ‘difficult decisions’ were to come. Some have interpreted such signals as a return to a more austerity-based economic policy. This would undoubtedly hurt the chances of redressing economic and social inequalities facing minorities in the UK, especially first-generation immigrants in relatively low paid jobs. Moreover, there are no particular policies Mr Sunak has pointed to which could help boost employment among minority communities which have been left behind.
Another even more important issue is the social discourse which Mr Sunak’s Conservative Party represents. Having reappointed Suella Braverman as Home Secretary who recently indicated that it would be her ‘dream’ to see refugees sent to Rwanda – in a plan that was blocked through legal action – the government seems to continue to follow previous governments in promoting discourse which sees refugees and immigrants – who are primarily of minority communities – as unwanted. Indeed, it is ironic that two BAME Home secretaries – Priti Patel and Braverman – have been primarily responsible for a policy that is so hostile to the most helpless category of migrants. Such discourses do have material effects. In fact, data suggests that hate crimes are at an all-time high in the UK. If this underlying reality doesn’t change, then the person at the top is irrelevant, regardless of the colour of their skin.
Although seeing the UK’s first Asian Prime Minister is a milestone that ought to be celebrated, the underlying reality is that life for British minorities will not substantially change unless there is a concerted effort to change government policy. In many respects, Mr Sunak represents a continuation of Mr Johnson and Mrs Truss, and has not signalled any deviations from the 2019 Conservative manifesto. This extends both to economic policy, in making sure that economic inequalities in terms of employment and income are reduced, as well as social policy, through preventing discourses which have been harmful to British minorities and people of colour.
Is Andrew Tate misunderstood?
Talk TV’s Piers Morgan recently interviewed Andrew Tate but was he able to defend his views?
Over the summer, Andrew Tate’s online presence and subsequent removal became the internet’s topic of discussion because of the controversial things he had said about women, rape, masculinity and achieving success, to name a few.
Since being banned from platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook, there has been an outcry from Tate and his supporters, arguing against ‘cancel culture’, on the basis that many of his viral clips were in fact taken out of context to misrepresent his messages.
Tate recently sat down for an interview with Piers Morgan to discuss internet climate, virality, and how ‘soundbites’ of his videos and podcasts have been circulated and used without context to present him and his views as far more extreme than they perhaps are.
Introducing him as the “most famous man you’ve probably never heard of”, Morgan highlights that Tate’s audience is primarily young men, and given that the internet is so accessible, the risk of misinformation is incredibly high, especially to younger and vulnerable audiences who digest information without much thought to its validity or legitimacy. Thus, the two debate and eventually agree on the fact that it is perhaps Tate’s poor choice, or as Morgan argues, misunderstanding of words, that conveys far harsher messages than Tate perhaps means. Tate also admits if he had the opportunity to say things again, with the knowledge of the fame he would experience, he’d ‘say them differently perhaps.’
For example, Tate elaborates that his clip saying that women are handed by father to husband as “property” during a marriage ceremony, should actually be understood as simply relaying traditional male roles from Christianity or Islam, which is nothing new. Additionally, addressing his understanding of “authority” Tate posits that in a marriage contract, a man is expected to protect his wife, giving him the “authority” to do have a say in her choices. Morgan argued that this suggests that a woman would therefore have no autonomy, to which Tate disagrees, saying that this does not mean a woman is not able to still make her own choices.
Morgan then questions Tate’s views that clinical depression is not a real mental illness, with Tate confirming he still believes that with a positive mindset, going to the gym and getting a ‘six-pack’, any feelings of lowness can be combatted. Tate then points out the injustice of his views being criticised when there is worse, suggestive and more dangerous content on the internet, citing the negative influence of Lil Nas X’s music video ‘Call me by Your Name’ in which he sexually dances on a Satan figure, or rap music that promotes knife crime.
The crux of this interview is about taking accountability. And, Tate’s opinions on women, mental health and success do not change. He understands that it is very easy for his words to be misconstrued and interpreted incorrectly by audiences who don’t always get the full context, but only to an extent. It still stands that Tate’s view on many topics is misguided and dangerous. Because even if his opinions are elaborated on, the small clips of his volatile speeches and opinions still reach vulnerable minds, and therefore, the satisfaction in simply acknowledging that fact, is not enough.
Can the UK be trusted to support women’s rights in Saudi Arabia?
The UK has been found to be providing aid with ambiguous motives. The term “women’s rights” was cast aside when describing the purpose of the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF), suggesting that the UK has either opted for silence on the matter or is supporting the discrimination of women.
The UK is a nation that traditionally champions women’s rights, but sometimes money and politics seem to get in the way. This time, the UK has been found to be providing aid with ambiguous motives. The term “women’s rights” was cast aside when describing the purpose of the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF), suggesting that the UK has either opted for silence on the matter or is supporting the discrimination of women.
The GSF addresses various concerns in the gulf region including security, cyber, innovation and leadership and seeks to alleviate problems in the area by encouraging developments in tech and education. The role of women in these endeavours has been obscured, except for events on a small scale like the International Women’s Day Celebrations, Leadership Expos and Exhibitions for artists. The GSF has refused to be transparent regarding organisations to which funding is directly provided and the outcomes achieved through it. It is highly likely that the funding has been allocated to government organisations which are responsible for human rights abuses and oppression in their strict measures against dissent in Saudi Arabia.
Recently, two female Saudi activists were sentenced to prison over their undaunted tweets and social media presence. Broadly perceived as a tool inciting rebellion in Saudi society, Twitter users have often been subjected to severe consequences as a stern warning to the population. Nourah bint Saeed Al-Qahtani was sentenced to 45 years in prison for tweeting in favour of women’s rights, a risky attempt to break through the social structure of the country. And Salma al-Shehab, another activist was given a 34-year sentence for her bold statements, including a demand to release other journalists and activists. The nature of trials for these activists, which normally take place away from the limelight, remains a concern for many human rights institutions Over the years however, the Saudi Kingdom has revised its constitution and allowed women to adopt greater roles in society. This includes the ability to drive, relaxed dress code and more roles in the workforce. Whether or not these changes have made a significant difference to the lives of women in Saudi is debatable.
But Britain’s participation in the GSF is problematic precisely because of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s suspicious lack of transparency around why women’s rights is no longer a featured purpose of the fund. In its endeavour to what appears to be not wanting to rock the boat with Saudi Arabia, is the UK compromising and selling out its own long-held principles? How can the UK be expected to be taken seriously when it calls out other regimes on their human rights abuses? It seems that maybe Britain can look the other way when the price is right.
7 Key points from Putin’s annexation speech
At a ceremony in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St George Hall, Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed the treaties to annex the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, claiming that millions of people have, “made their unequivocal choice” to join Russia and “have become our citizens, forever.”
His subsequent speech revealed deep distrust of the west, its culture and hegemony. Invading Ukraine wasn’t about territory alone, it was about a clash of cultures and civilisations, and standing up to a West which was bent upon “enslaving” the world. Here are 7 key points from the speech which will give you an insight into the mind of the Russian premier.
1. Regret over the collapse of the Soviet Union
When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, those in power didn’t ask, “ordinary citizens what they wanted, and people suddenly found themselves cut off from their homeland”, Putin complained. “This tore apart and dismembered our national community and triggered a national catastrophe.”
He said that decision, “destroyed our great country” and while recreating it isn’t his ambition he claims, there is a determination by millions linked by “culture, religion, tradition, and language”, who consider themselves part of Russia and want to “return to their true historical homeland.”
Russian is widely spoken in Eastern parts of Ukraine including the newly annexed areas and is the most common language. People there tend to view Russia and its past in a more positive light. But in 2018 the Ukrainian government made it compulsory to use Ukrainian in all media, schools and public spaces, whilst previously – since 2012 Russianwas permitted to be a regional language in regions where at least 10% of the population spoke it. However, while Putin claimed the majority of people in Eastern Ukraine voted to join Russia, in the referendum which the West described as a “sham”, polls from previous years show that a very low number of people wanted to join Russia. International observers were present at the referendum but there are concerns that they were biased towards Russia. As with anything during such conflicts, nothing is clear.
2. Anger over Western policies
President Putin blamed the West for their continuing hostility towards Russia. He said, “the West continued and continues looking for another chance to strike a blow at us, to weaken and break up Russia, which they have always dreamed about, to divide our state and set our peoples against each other, and to condemn them to poverty and extinction. They cannot rest easy knowing that there is such a great country with this huge territory in the world, with its natural wealth, resources and people who cannot and will not do someone else’s bidding.”
President Putin emphasised that the West wants to control every other country. He said, “in certain countries, the ruling elites voluntarily agree to do this, voluntarily agree to become vassals; others are bribed or intimidated. And if this does not work, they destroy entire states, leaving behind humanitarian disasters, devastation, ruins, millions of wrecked and mangled human lives, terrorist enclaves, social disaster zones, protectorates, colonies and semi-colonies. They don’t care. All they care about is their own benefit.”
3. Russian nationalism
President Putin considers the four regions annexed as part of Russia, taken by force, by Ukraine in 2014. People of these regions were Russian and have decided to remain with Russia and their choice must be respected.
President Putin made it clear that this is not just a plea to uphold justice and respect the choice of people of the regions, rather, “we will defend our land with all the forces and resources we have, and we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people. This is the great liberating mission of our nation.” Not only defence, Russia will rebuild infrastructure of new regions.
A question that must be in every Russian mind is that there has been a significant loss of lives of Russian soldiers, was it worth it? President Putin acknowledged the sacrifice of soldiers and paid respect with a minute of silence. He, also explained the reason for who he considers the enemy of Russia.
4. Western hegemony seen as a threat
President Putin presented the West as the real enemy of Russia. Expansion of NATO is seen as a threat which the West has been deceitfully dealing with Russia and the world.
“The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity, the rent paid to the hegemon.”
President Putin said that the domination of the United States is unjustly enforced on the world for currency or technology. Like if any country wants to trade in currency other than US dollars or develop a technology like China developed 5G communication equipment before the US, then unjust sanctions on trade or technology are placed.
There is no free competition of trade and technology in the world, according to President Putin, he said that the West shows aggression towards independent states. “It is critically important for them to force all countries to surrender their sovereignty to the United States.”
5. Crimes of the West
President Putin mentioned the crimes of the West and said that the Western elites are blaming Russia whereas the West is responsible for many crimes like, “the worldwide slave trade, the genocide of Indian tribes in America, the plunder of India and Africa, the wars of England and France against China, as a result of which it was forced to open its ports to the opium trade. What they did was get entire nations hooked on drugs and purposefully exterminated entire ethnic groups for the sake of grabbing land and resources, hunting people like animals”. He added “this is contrary to human nature, truth, freedom and justice”.
Crimes of the US include using nuclear weapons twice on Japanese cities. Being the only country that used nuclear weapons, they created a precedent. President Putin also mentioned the destruction during WWII as crimes of the West.
6. “Satanism”, morality & traditional values
President Putin called the attitude of the West towards the world against standard human morality and traditional values, rather it is “religion in reverse, pure Satanism”.
He quoted Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And said that the poisonous fruits of actions of the West can be observed in Russia and other countries including the countries in the West.
Addressing all citizens of Russia, Putin asked, “do we want to have here, in our country, in Russia, “parent number one, parent number two and parent number three (they have completely lost it!) instead of mother and father? Do we want our schools to impose on our children, from their earliest days in school, perversions that lead to degradation and extinction? Do we want to drum into their heads the ideas that certain other genders exist along with women and men and to offer them gender reassignment surgery? Is that what we want for our country and our children? This is all unacceptable to us. We have a different future of our own.”
7. Fighting for Russian survival
Putin quoted the words of Ivan Ilyin calling him a true patriot “If I consider Russia my Motherland, that means that I love as a Russian, contemplate and think, sing and speak as a Russian; that I believe in the spiritual strength of the Russian people. Its spirit is my spirit; its destiny is my destiny; its suffering is my grief; and its prosperity is my joy.”
Mentioning the thousand years of Russian statehood, he said “today, we are making this choice; the citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and the residents of the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions have made this choice. They made the choice to be with their people, to be with their Motherland, to share in its destiny, and to be victorious together with it. The truth is with us, and behind us is Russia!”
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