Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Gita Sahgal: defending human rights

Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty International's secretariat, has been suspended for blowing the whistle on the organisation's shameful alliance with Moazzam Begg and his jihad-supporting outfit Cageprisoners. Sahgal is surely correct to see Amnesty's collaboration as motivated by fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic, and (as she said on the Today programme this morning) by a desire to find 'pure victims' , linked to a refusal to concede that the human rights abuses that they rightly condemn when committed by Islamists abroad might have supporters here in Britain.

Sahgal is herself connected with two fine feminist, anti-racist and anti-fundamentalist organisations that deserve your support: Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism.

How long, I wonder, before the likes of John Pilger label Gita Sahgal an Uncle (Auntie?) Tom and Seamus Milne dismisses her as a poster girl for neoconservatism?

You can catch up on the story over at Harry's Place: here, here and here.

There's more coverage and comment from Terry Glavin, Martin Bright, Kellie and Bob.

And there's more background on Begg and Cageprisoners at Harry's Place, plus this from David Aaronovitch.

Update 15.02.10

As usual, Nick Cohen nails it:

Only the atmosphere of phoney war can explain how Amnesty International, once the most principled defenders of human rights, has shown the truth of Robert Conquest's maxim that "the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies". All it had to do in the case of Guantánamo Bay was stick to the idea that suspects should not be held without trial and without the protections of the Geneva Convention. Instead, it collaborated with former Guantánamo inmate Moazzam Begg, whose Cageprisoners organisation promotes the supporters of ultra-reactionary ideals. More disgracefully, when Gita Sahgal, head of Amnesty's gender unit, and one of the most principled feminist writers I have read, complained that her employers were treating "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban" as a "human rights defender", Amnesty suspended the feminist and stuck by the Islamist.

Assuming that the far left has not taken control of Amnesty, and that may be a generous assumption, its managers must believe at some level that messianic religion is not a threat to the liberal values of feminism, anti-racism and freedom from tyranny they think they hold. To put it another way, Amnesty is living in the make-believe world of a phoney war, where it thinks that liberals are free to form alliances with defenders of clerical fascists who want to do everything in their power to suppress liberals, most notably liberal-minded Muslims.

I worry about what will happen when they realise that promoting human rights isn't a one-way bet, and that the Islamists they embrace aren't nice metrosexuals who support women's rights and want an end to bigotry.


Minnie said...

Good post, Martin. Have been following this too. You're right, the usual suspects will be busily spinning anti-Gita from now on (being female, she'll will be an easy target/more easy to fit-up in the tabloids).
As for Amnesty Int'l, this is very serious damage: corporate reputation, once lost, cannot be recovered without huge effort over time (& even then it's permanently scarred). So the formerly admirable AI is now nothing more than just another 'busted brand'... What does the Charity Commission make of all this, I wonder?
Word verif saying 'hangedw' to me. Hm.

TNC said...

The AI "brand" has been busted since one of their spokespeople compared Gitmo to the Gulag.