“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for June 2008

Meryem Özsögüt

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Trade unionists in Turkey face many problems, not least the state apparatus willing and capable of repressing and incarcerating activists, Labourstart highlights the case of Meryem Özsögüt:

“Ms. Meryem Özsögüt, trade union leader and management board member of PSI’s affiliate SES in Turkey (the trade union of public employees in health and social services) was arrested on the morning of 8 January following her participation in a press conference on 14 December 2007 to denounce the killing by the police of activist Kevser Mizrak. Ms Özsögüt’s attendance at the press conference was the result of a fax message received by her trade union, requesting that the union participate in the press conference.

PSI understands that at no time before or during this press conference did the police or other authorities issue a warning that such a gathering or activity was viewed as ‘illegal. Several other people who were arrested at or around the same time as Ms Özsögüt, ostensibly for the same reasons, have since been released.

However, Ms Özsögüt remains in custody and her trial has now been postponed several times. PSI remains convinced that the arrest of Ms Özsögüt was motivated solely by her activities as a trade union leader. Her continued detention in one of Turkey’s notorious “F-Type”, or small group isolation prisons, is further evidence of the Turkish Government’s hostility to trade unionists and its determination to use whatever means at its disposal to repress the legitimate activities of trade unions in Turkey.

A response by the Turkish government to PSI’s letters of protest claims that Ms Özsögüt was arrested in connection with “being a member of a terrorist organisation” and “for making propaganda in favour of the terrorist organisation”. PSI calls on the Turkish government to secure the immediate release of Ms Özsögüt, to take any necessary steps to guarantee her safety and to abide by the international norms ratified by Turkey. “

Written by modernityblog

30/06/2008 at 15:06

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A Gay Middle East?

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OK, not exactly, but Mystical Politics covers Gay Pride in Jerusalem 2008:

“The parade this year seemed to me to have more younger people, and fewer of the liberal Jerusalemite pro-human rights crowd than last year. There was a hearty representation of Hadash, the Israel communist party, as well as of Meretz (a left-wing Zionist party). The communists in particular chanted very loudly for the whole length of the march. There were also representatives of Bat-Kol, an organization for religious lesbians which I hadn’t heard of before. People also came from other cities – Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva – in organized groups to support their Jerusalemite kin.”

Written by modernityblog

29/06/2008 at 21:56

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Bigot Generator.

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Not that you’d want one, but on the Web you will occasionally see the embodiment of bigotry and stupidity, it happens on all web sites including HP.

So instead of reading those web sites just take a look at this particular piece of code, which generates some really nauseating comments, one after another.

I thought this was fairly typical of that kind of mindless rubbish:

“Added: Friday, 27 June, 2008, 19:59 GMT

Lets see now! I’m not being racist but Frenc hfrmers are creating muslim no-go areas. True patriots must elect Boris Johnson as prime minister. FACT!!!!


Recommended by 241 people

Sign in to recommend comments Alert a Moderator”

Just press the New button to see more 😦

Written by modernityblog

27/06/2008 at 21:49

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A Greener Haltemprice and Howden?

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David Davis’s ploy to call a by-election on the issue of 42 days detention was a spectacular political move, it outflanked new Labour and mystified his Tory colleagues, but his actions probably have more to do with internal Tory party politics than any sudden conversion to the politics of libertarianism.

After all Davis is happy for people to be locked up for 28 days, but suddenly balks at 42? Not exactly highly principled.

This by-elections is a prime opportunity for opponents of incarceration without charge to bring up Davis’s less than spectacular record. He faces some 25 candidates, including the Green, Shan Oakes.

I can’t say I am particularly enthused by the Greens but it seems that Ms. Oakes has a fair record as a teacher and campaigner, and I wish anyone well that opposes the Tories.

Update via Liberal Conspiracy: David Icke is running!

The Beeb has the full list (so far):

“Grace Christine Astley – Independent
David Laurence Bishop – Church of the Militant Elvis Party
Ronnie Carroll – Make Politicians History
Mad Cow-Girl – The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
David Craig – Independent
Herbert Winford Crossman – Independent
Tess Culnane – National Front Britain for the British
Thomas Faithful Darwood – Independent
David Michael Davis – Conservative
Tony Farnon – Independent
Eamonn “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick – Independent
Christopher Mark Foren – Independent
Gemma Dawn Garrett – Miss Great Britain Party
George Hargreaves – Christian Party
Hamish Howitt – Freedom 4 Choice
David Icke – No party listed
John Nicholson – Independent
Shan Oakes – Green Party
David Pinder – The New Party
Joanne Robinson – English Democrats: Putting England First
Jill Saward – Independent
Norman Scarth – Independent
Walter Edward Sweeney – Independent
Christopher John Talbot – Socialist Equality Party
John Randle Upex – Independent
Greg Wood – Independent”

Written by modernityblog

26/06/2008 at 22:30

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Saluting Israel.

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For anyone in London at the weekend, this is a must see event and guaranteed to get up the noses of fascists and their ilk:

Salute to Israel and for more information.

Written by modernityblog

26/06/2008 at 19:19

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Cleaning Up Puke.

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The cleaners on London’s Tube have a lot to content with, the detritus of humanity as puke, vomit and excrement, for all of that they are paid a pittance with poor service conditions.

They are going on strike on the 26th June 2008 and the 1st to 2nd July, justifiably so in my book, as their demands are very moderate:

At least £7.20 per hour, the minimum London living wage set by the GLA last year;
Full sick pay;
Final Salary Pensions;
28 days annual leave plus bank holidays (at the moment some cleaners only two weeks);
Free travel;
An end to third party sackings – this is the practice of cleaners being dismissed with no disciplinary hearing or right of appeal at the order of parties other than the employer.

For more information, see the Tubeworker blog

There is even a Facebook group.

I hope they post on YouTube too.

(Hat Tip: Stroppy)

Written by modernityblog

26/06/2008 at 02:12

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United Campaign.

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This campaign deserves our fullest support:

An Introduction to the United Campaign

The United Campaign believes the current anti-trade union laws introduced by the Conservatives between 1979 and 1995 must be repealed. These laws are repressive and illegal and should be replaced with a framework of positive rights.

Tony Blair wrote on 31st March 1997, the changes his Government introduced, “would leave British law the most restrictive on trade unions in the western world.” Believe him in this.

Labour laws now are worse than they were over 100 years ago. And changes in the world of work – with the fragmentation of organisations and the growth of non-standard work contracts – mean that the situation has continued to deteriorate for working people over the last quarter of a century.

Positive legislation in the field of industrial relations is required – laws which will protect trade unions from legal attacks, allow them to operate democratically and protect their members; laws which restore and extend collective bargaining, give each worker the right to strike and be represented by a union, protect workers against exploitation and provide the basis for a fairer and more just society.

Aims of the United Campaign

The United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws was founded on the 28th March 1998 at a Conference of 700 trade unionists, from General Secretaries to shop stewards. It was established to be a united non-sectarian trade union based campaign. Presently we have 24 national Unions affiliated to the Campaign and hundreds of trade union branches and regional bodies as well as individual members.

The objectives of the Campaign are set out below.

i. To secure the repeal of all anti-trade union laws.
ii. To secure the introduction of new laws which enshrine instead:
a. the rights of workers, without penalisation, to take industrial action (including solidarity action and action to secure recognition) and to be represented by their unions; and
b. the rights of unions to draw up their own constitution free from state and employer interference and to be recognised by employers for collective bargaining where workers so wish it; so fulfilling the Uk’s international law obligations under UN Covenants, the ILO Conventions, and the Social Charter of the Council of Europe.
iii. To support workers and unions penalised or threatened by the anti-union laws or which adopt a policy of non-compliance with those laws.
iv. To do anything lawful intended to further these objects or ancillary to the furtherance of them.

The latest edition of the United Campaign’s newsletter is now available [PDF}

Written by modernityblog

25/06/2008 at 18:09

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Open Thread On How To Defeat The Fascists.

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There’s a fair amount of discussion on how best to stop the fascists in Britain and Jim makes some very good suggestions in the comments box at Stroppy’s. Over at Liam’s there is a sectarian fit going on (interspersed with some rather lucid and intelligent points).

Martin Ohr points to the AWL’s Where now for anti-fascism? A response to Searchlight

Stroppy hits the nail on the head:

“Over at Liam’s, in what was a good post on the demo and ways forward, the SWP and Respect lot snarl at each other like a couple after a nasty divorce and the left are a bit like the kids, caught in the cross fire and suffering from the bitterness all around.

If the BNP wanders over to some of the left blogs and read this they will be laughing. They have got their act together whilst we snipe.

This shouldn’t be about building the Party, paper selling or fighting each other. Its the BNP we should be fighting and we owe it to those who will suffer the most as they gain seats and credibility while we lose ours.”

It seems to me that the political landscape has moved on in 30 years and tactics which were successful before can no longer be guaranteed to succeed, my concern is that the BNP will somehow transform themselves into a Le Pen type broad based right wing party, with all of its ramifications.

I don’t know how best to stop the Extreme Right nowadays, given the weakness amongst BNP opponents. I’m open to constructive suggestions and any ideas that people might have?

Written by modernityblog

24/06/2008 at 18:31

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Contrasting News From Tibet.

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If we were to believe the Chinese State propaganda then the torch procession through Tibet was greeted with excitement and peace, according to the online news service of Xinhua News Agency:

“LHASA, June 19 (Xinhua) — Tibet is to greet the Olympic torch with flowers and distinctive folk dances, when it arrives in the regional capital of Lhasa on Saturday.

The images of five Fuwas, mascots of the Beijing Olympics, are displayed in flowers in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

The city’s main streets are decorated with signboards carrying slogans, such as “Light the Passion, Share the Dream,” “Bless the Motherland, Joyfully Greet the Olympics,” “Great Ethnic Unity” and “Welcome to Lhasa.”


Which is hardly surprising, given the vast number of Chinese state security operatives and military which have been moved into Tibet in the last few months, possibly those Tibetans don’t wish to suffer the fate of other Tibetans locked up by the Chinese ruler’s of Tibet without charge, as the BBC reports:

“More than 1,000 Tibetans detained during protests against the Chinese government in March remain unaccounted for, Amnesty International says.

In a report, the human rights group said there were reports that detainees had been beaten and deprived of food.

Announcing the update report, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi said the information coming out of Tibet painted “a dire picture of arbitrary detentions and abuse of detainees”.

Official reports only provide information on a small number of those who have been sentenced after questionable trials, Amnesty said.

It said that , with foreign journalists still not allowed into Tibet, reports coming through friends and family members to the media and Tibetan organisations suggested that police had carried out hundreds of raids on monasteries, nunneries and private homes.

“Those who dare to find ways of sending information to foreign media or human rights organisations regarding protests and arrests, risk arrest and imprisonment,” Amnesty said.”

Written by modernityblog

23/06/2008 at 01:38

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Harry On The Other David.

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Written by modernityblog

20/06/2008 at 17:49

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Blogging A Political Crime?

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The BBC highlights a report by World Information Access on the growing number of bloggers who have been arrested in the past year:

“More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

WIA comments:

“By analyzing the reasoning for and timing of these incidents, we have found that blogger arrests tend to increase and become more concentrated during sensitive times of political uncertainty. In Egypt, for example, of 14 total incidents, nine occurred in 2007, the year of the country’s political elections. The majority of these nine arrests occurred during the six months leading up to the June elections; the incidents were usually related to political protest or commentary. We also partially attribute the significant increase in incidents occurring in 2007 overall to this large amount of Egyptian blogger arrests during that year.”

Written by modernityblog

18/06/2008 at 01:56

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Holding Khartoum Accountable

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Eric Reeves argues a strong case:

“The international community fails to heed the warning signs or hold Khartoum accountable

Eric Reeves
June 15, 2008

Despite five years of genocidal counter-insurgency warfare in Darfur, millions among its ravaged civilian population will soon enter a third month receiving only half the necessary food rations from the UN’s World Food Program (WFP). Despite the presence of the world’s largest humanitarian relief operation, the people of Darfur begin the current rainy season with only half the minimum kilocalorie diet necessary to sustain human life. Since the rainy season coincides with the traditional “hunger gap”—the period between spring planting and fall harvest—we may expect to see significant human starvation in the coming months, relentlessly adding to the hundreds of thousands who have already died from ethnically-targeted violence, displacement, and consequent malnutrition and disease. A grim genocide by attrition is set to enter its deadliest phase.

How can this be? And why don’t the alarms sounded by humanitarian organizations compel greater international response? Answers tell us too much about why Darfur’s agony shows no signs of abating.

Since the beginning of May, WFP has delivered to Darfur only half the required food tonnage. The reason is insecurity, as food convoys face the constant threat of violent hijacking. Drivers are beaten, robbed, and too often killed; as a result, they increasingly refuse to make the dangerous trip through the western part of Kordofan Province and especially inside Darfur. The Khartoum regime should of course provide military escorts for these critical, though highly vulnerable, convoys. But the National Islamic Front comprises the very men responsible for orchestrating the Darfur catastrophe. Although they have made soothing noises about protecting food convoys, they have in fact done nothing of significance. Indeed, an ill-advised Darfuri rebel attack on Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman in May has occasioned redeployment of military force away from the convoy routes. Those waiting for Khartoum to protect the vital corridors for urgently needed increases in foodstocks will wait in vain.

Indeed, Khartoum is much more interested in militarily supporting its proxy force of Chadian rebel groups, reportedly massing for a new assault on N’Djamena and the regime of Idriss Déby. Khartoum holds Déby responsible for supporting the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attack on Omdurman, and this would appear to be the moment in which the regime means to settle the score.

Just as scandalously, the protection force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1769 (July 2007) has failed to improve security in Darfur, or to protect WFP convoys. Despite almost a year of opportunity, and two years of planning by the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the UN/African Union “Hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is failing badly—and rapidly losing the confidence of Darfuris. Humanitarian groups repeatedly say in private conversations that they are fearful of being too closely associated with UNAMID because its growing failure is perceived by Darfuri civilians and rebels as a sign that it has implicitly sided with Khartoum. This perception haunted the previous weak, ineffective, and vastly under-manned African Union mission in Darfur, AMIS. In fact, AMIS has simply been “re-hatted” with UN blue helmets (sometimes painted by the soldiers themselves) and slightly augmented to make up what is called “UNAMID.” Last November UN head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno asked all too presciently:

“Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?”

The question answered itself at the time, and now we are seeing the consequences of this “tragic failure.”

Moreover, the fact that Khartoum has engaged in a widespread and largely successful campaign of obstruction of UNAMID deployment only fuels the deep anger and resentment among the people of Darfur who feel, with justice, that they have been abandoned. Khartoum refuses to allow key battalions of troops, engineers, and special forces to deploy, has deliberately attacked UNAMID forces, and has looked on with indifference as its Janjaweed militia allies recently humiliated a UNAMID patrol in West Darfur, taking the soldiers’ weapons and communications gear. For their part, the militarily capable nations of the world have done painfully little to augment UNAMID, or to confront Khartoum over its obstructionist tactics. As a consequence, UNAMID currently operates without required logistics, without critical transport capacity (especially helicopters and trucks), and without other essential military equipment. Of a planned 26,000 civilian police and troops, only about 9,000 are presently deployed, most AMIS holdovers.

Written by modernityblog

15/06/2008 at 21:44

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Too Much Wine for Microsoft?

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I should have commented earlier, but it has been a good month on the technology front, at least as long as you are not Microsoft:

Wine is closer to full 1.0 status and will allow the execution of Windows programs from directly within Linux.

Two small and nippy distributions are out: AntiX 7.2 and TinyMe

Firefox 3.0 is getting closer. I have been using the Release Candidates for a couple of months and its improved functionality is very welcome.

However, it is not without problems and the developers are working hard to reduce the memory leakages and crashes in Firefox, let’s hope they make it, take care when using.

The OLPC spectacle caused the production of the EEE PC and now that has many imitators, which in turn has reduced the price of laptop computers, this article discusses many of the issues. Ones to look out for are the EEE 901, Acer’s Aspire One and MSI’s Wind.

Build quality might be an issue with some of the machines, we’ll have to see how many corners were cut, but eventually they’ll probably lead to a perfectly functional laptop for under £200 and allow the wider proliferation of technical expertise, which can’t be bad.

Taken together, cheap and accessible access to computing with small Linux distributions and Wine’s ability to run many (although not all) Windows programs these factors could well lead to the slow death of Microsoft and a new age of increasing technical diversity, which is to be welcomed.

Written by modernityblog

15/06/2008 at 01:54

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Other Side of Story?

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Far too often when considering the Middle East do we see the big headlines and forget those smaller, but no less significant, unnecessary wanton streaks of violence, as Haaretz reports:

“A Palestinian woman, 57, was badly injured and her husband and another relative were battered, in an assault by masked Israelis in the southern Hebron Hills yesterday. The police are investigating whether the Israeli attackers hailed from the West Bank settlement of Susia, as the injured Palestinians claim.

The three, Thamem al-Nawaja, 57, her husband Khalil al-Nawaja, 70, and another relative, identified only as Imran, live in an encampment about three kilometers from Susia. They were herding sheep in midday when three settlers residing in the area, as they told an investigaro from the B’Tselem human-rights group, two of them with their faces masked, approached and demanded they leave the area. They refused and the settlers left, they said.

But not for long, claimed the Palestinians: This time four masked men armed with sticks arrived and began beating them. “I was in the field with my sheep, and masked settlers came and attacked us,” Thamem al-Nawaja related yesterday. “They hit me in the face and arm. My husband wanted to protect me and they hit him too. They don’t want our sheep grazing there. It’s our land they’re trying to take.” The victims claim to have identified an attacker, by his clothing, as one of the persons who had come earlier.

Thamem was badly injured, Khalil and Imran bruised all over. A nearby relative ran to the road to summon help. A passing Israeli army vehicle provided first aid, after which an ambulance evacuated Thamem to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva and the other two to a hospital in Hebron. The three have pressed charges with the Be’er Sheva police. No suspects have been arrested.

B’Tselem commented that attacks by settlers on Palestinians in the area are not rare. “Incidents like this happen almost every weekend,” the organization said, adding that sometimes the attackers are masked. “Usually the law enforcement authorities are ineffective in deterring the criminals,” the organization said.

The Judea and Samaria Civil Administration said it would coordinate entry of Thamem’s family members into Israel to visit her in hospital.

The Yesh Din human rights organization commented that Palestinians have filed six complaints about assault in the last three months, including attacks by settlers and soldiers, an assault on a shepherd boy, stones thrown at another shepherd and children, and gunfire at a herd of sheep. Two of the cases have been closed on the grounds that the perpetrator was unknown.

Yesh Din added that the al-Nawaja family was attacked twice before, in 2007, and that the police closed both cases without charges. “The police are not investing their best effort in locating suspects in cases of attacks on Palestinians,” Yesh Din stated. The police stated that the Palestinians claim they were attacked by settlers, but given that the attackers had veiled their faces, their identities cannot be elucidated with surety. “

The Beeb covers this despicable violence:

“An elderly shepherd, his wife and a nephew said they were attacked by four masked men for allowing their animals to graze near the settlement of Susia.

The rights group, B’Tselem, said the cameras were provided to enable Palestinians to get proof of attacks.

A spokesman for the Israeli police said that an investigation was under way.

So far, no-one has been arrested.

The attack near Susia was filmed with one of 100 video cameras that B’Tselem has handed out to Palestinians in the region.

The thinking behind the project is that when trouble flares, rather than just giving a statement to the Israeli police or army, video carries much more weight.

“The difference is amazing,” says Oren Yakobovich, who leads the Shooting Back project.

We asked a spokesman from the Susia settlement for a comment on Sunday’s incident. He declined.

Inside one of the tents belonging to the Palestinians living near Susia, we watched the footage of the aftermath of the attack – the victims slumped by the roadside, bloodied, waiting for an ambulance.

The bright, wide eyes of the children shone with the light of the small television screen.

Violence against Jews as well as Palestinians has long scarred this place. Video may now may be giving us a new and raw view. “

Written by modernityblog

12/06/2008 at 21:47

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Iraqi Trade Unions.

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I can’t even begin to imagine how hostile the internal regime in Iraq is for trade unionists, Harry Barnes has pointed out a recent TUC statement on the Iraqi governments use of anti-union laws from Saddam Hussein’s era:

“TUC slams Iraqi government at ILO

The TUC has launched a five point attack on the Iraqi government for its harassment of trade unions at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) committee on standards today (Wednesday).

Addressing the committee in support of complaints from Iraqi trade unionists, ILO Governing Body member Simon Steyne of the TUC condemned the Iraqi government for:

using Saddam Hussein’s laws to ban public sector trade unionism;

introducing a new law to freeze union bank accounts and allow the government to interfere in union internal affairs;

repeatedly failing to adopt an ILO-compliant labour law for several years to replace the anti-union Decrees;

demanding elections inside Iraqi unions this summer on the government’s terms, including disenfranchising public sector workers, prohibiting non-Iraqi citizens from standing for elections, and requiring candidates to secure the support of their employers; and

relocating leaders of an Iraqi oil union specifically to disrupt the union which has consistently opposed oil privatisation.

Simon Steyne said:

‘These actions are being taken by a Government that says it is too busy fighting terrorism to implement the ILO-compliant labour law, which would stop these labour rights violations. We empathise with the struggle for peace in Iraq. But it is strange that a Government too busy fighting violence should spend so much time and effort harassing one of the few institutions which unites workers regardless of tribal, ethnic or religious boundaries and is committed to women’s emancipation and the creation of a peaceful and prosperous Iraq. It is certainly too busy with its Oil Law – no doubt a reason for its unwillingness to allow free trade unions in the sector.’ “

Written by modernityblog

05/06/2008 at 20:12

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