Cameron: British fighters in Iraq pose threat to UK

Prime Minister tells Parliament that militant Britons are a threat to the UK.

LONDON 

The militants currently advancing on Baghdad are planning terrorist attacks in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament on Wednesday.

He said: “I would also disagree with those people who think that this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq that won’t affect us. It will. The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.”

Calling for robust action from the Iraqi government, he said the right approach was to “be long term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make and the most important intervention of all is to make sure that these governments are fully representative of the people who live in their countries, that they close down the ungoverned space and that they remove the support for the extremists.”

During a long exchange about Iraq during Prime Minister’s questions, Cameron said that he had had meetings to discuss the threat posed by Britons people travelling abroad to fight in Iraq and Syria. The government, he told MPs, has already stopped people from travelling and has taken away individuals’ passports. He also said the government intended to make illegal to plan overseas terrorist attacks from the UK.

Cameron said: “The estimates are now that this is a greater threat to the UK than the return of foreign jihadis and fighters from the Afghanistan or Pakistan region and we need to be doing everything we can to keep our country safe.”

He added: “We will continue to do everything we can to keep our country safe.”

The UK has ruled out military intervention in Iraq, Cameron said aid for Iraqi refugees would be increased from £3 million to £5 million.

ISIL, which already controls parts of Syria, has extended its reach into Iraq since June 10, when it seized Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul and several other towns amid allegations of atrocities against prisoners. Iraq has seen a marked increase in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in recent months, which the Iraqi government blames on ISIL.

Read the original article published in Andalou Agency on 18 June 2014

No proof of Islamist plot at UK schools: leaked report

Investigations into 21 schools in Birmingham do not provide evidence of an Islamist plot, according to the leaked ‘Trojan Horse’ report

LONDON

There is no evidence of an alleged Islamist plot to take over schools in Birmingham, the U.K.’s second-largest city, according to reports to be published by the country’s main educational authority Monday.

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) said, however, six of the 21 schools investigated are not doing enough to protect children from extremism.

“The academy’s work to keep students safe is inadequate. Key safeguarding procedures are not followed. Too little is done to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views,” said a leaked copy of a report obtained by the Anadolu Agency. The findings were rejected by the Park View Educational Trust, which operates three schools.

The Ofsted investigation into 21 schools was prompted by an anonymous letter sent to Birmingham city council — made public in March — claiming there was a secret “Trojan Horse” plot by “Islamists” to take over Muslim-majority schools.

It claimed that Muslims were taking control of school governing bodies and replacing head teachers with ones who adhered to a specific Muslim ideology. The leaked copy report made no indication of such a plot.

Vice-chair of the Park View Trust, David Hughes, confirmed that three of the trust’s schools had been placed under special measures by Ofsted.

“Our Ofsted inspections were ordered in a climate of suspicion created by the hoax Trojan letter and by the anonymous, unproven allegations about our schools in the media,” he told the media outside Park View School.

“Ofsted inspectors came to our schools looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot. The Ofsted reports find absolutely no evidence of this because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools.”

Hughes said that the “knee-jerk reactions” of politicians had damaged community relations in Birmingham and could lead to discrimination against Muslim children.

British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier said that the government would look into changes that would allow inspector to carry out snap inspections.

“Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,” said Cameron. “The education secretary will now ask (Ofsted’s chairman) Sir Michael Wilshaw to look into allowing any school to be inspected at no notice, stopping schools having the opportunity to cover up activities which have no place in our society.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove also mentioned the possibility of unannounced school inspections. “Evidence uncovered in Birmingham clearly indicates that schools have used the notice they have been given of inspections to evade proper scrutiny,” he said in a statement.

Gove has previously been criticized for having links to right-wing conservative think-tanks and some critics accused him of Islamophobia following the publication of his own book on Islamism, “Celsius 7/7.”

Park View School is a 98 percent Muslim school situated in a deprived majority Muslim area. In defence of the school, Assistant Principal Lee Donaghy said, “Park View is part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

The debate over extremism in schools has caused a public row within the government — between Home Secretary Theresa May and Education Secretary Michael Gove — which forced the prime minister to order an internal investigation.

Gove had accused the Home Office of not doing enough to stop extremism but May in return questioned the Department of Education over reports that there had been concerns raised about Birmingham schools in 2010.

The Ofsted reports will be officially released later today.

Read the original article published in Andalou Agency on 9 June 2014

UK ‘anti-terror’ law indiscriminate, says rights groups

Only about one percent of 46,000 people were stopped under Schedule 7 powers were arrested, according to UK government statistics

LONDON 

Government figures reveal that only about one percent of people questioned under powers that allow police to stop individuals at ports were detained in 2013.

More than 46,000 people were stopped at Britain’s ports under Schedule 7 powers, which deem a refusal to answer police officers’ questions a criminal offence, according to figures published by the Home Office on Thursday.

The same power was used to stop and detain journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow airport.

The figures reveal that the stops only resulted in 1.19 percent of people being detained, and out of those only two people were convicted – or 0.0043 percent of those stopped.

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission expressed “grave concern about the ethnic makeup of those examined and detained,” adding: “It is clear that non-whites are disproportionately and unnecessarily targeted by officers with the power to stop and search under Schedule 7.”

According to the figures, 55 percent of those stopped under schedule 7 were non-white, while they make up 14 percent of the population.

However, out of those detained under the power, 82 percent were non-white.

However, the number of individuals stopped under the power has dropped by 23 percent.

‘Indiscriminate power’

Their religious background is not currently recorded, but rights organizations have argued that Muslims are disproportionally targeted.

Overall, there were 222 arrests for terrorism-related offences, which were down on the previous year.

A total of 22 people, or 10 percent, were convicted of a terrorism offence.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission said that the figures demonstrated “that the vast majority of those subject to arrest are not guilty of any charge. This figure has remained consistent over the years, and thus should be a clear indicator to the government that this is an indiscriminate power”.

In April this year, British counter-terrorism officials appealed to Muslim women to persuade their relatives not to travel to Syria.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron urged people to contact authorities if they knew of someone planning to travel to the war-torn state.

The government has said that it fears people travelling to Syria may become “radicalized” and pose a risk to the UK.

There have been several arrests this year relating to individuals travelling to or returning from Syria.

Read the original article published in Andalou Agency on 5 June 2013

Indian Kashmir: A mother’s fight for missing son

‘My son was picked up by security forces in 1990, I have not seen him since,’ said Parveena Ahanger, the head of ‘the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons’ in Indian-held Kashmir.

LONDON

It’s been 24 years since she last saw her son. An arduous 24 years during which Parveena has struggled to find out what happened to 16-year-old Javid Ahmad Ahanger after Indian security forces picked him up in Kashmir.

“My son was picked up by security forces in 1990, I have not seen him since, she said. I looked for him at the police station, hospitals and detention centers but I did not find him.”

Parveena Ahanger, the head of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Indian-held Kashmir that she started in 1994, pled Monday for the British people to lobby their government to put pressure on India over human rights abuses in Kashmir.

“I request you approach the British Parliament and ask them to put pressure on the Indian government,” she urged participants at a conference in London called ‘Kashmiris: Contested present, possible futures’.

She burst into tears as she conveyed her 24-year struggle and the similar stories of other families of conflict-riddled Kashmir to the London audience.

“[My son] committed no crime, they just took him,” she continued. “Many others have also been taken and the families have no idea what happened to their loved ones.”

“I went to the courts that are supposed to give justice, but I found no justice there,” she added.

Parveena has traveled across Kashmir and gained support from other families whose loved ones have also been taken by Indian security forces, never to be seen again. In 2005, she was nominated for a Nobel Prize.

Her association organizes protests every month in Srinagar, located in the Kashmir valley, over the issue of enforced disappearances.

“I will only call myself a mother on the day I find out what happened to my son,” she lamented as she wondered aloud who would campaign for the children that have disappeared, once their mothers died.

Independent human rights groups have estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 such disappearances have occurred in Indian-administered Kashmir over the last 24 years.

She said: “There have been people who have been killed in Kashmir, but they have graves for them.

“We don’t have any graves because we do not know what happened to our loved ones.”

Since independence from the British colonial rule in 1947, both Pakistan and India have been engaged in a bitter conflict over Kashmir, which is split between the two countries. The two nuclear powers have already fought two wars over the region, of which two thirds are now controlled by India.

India estimates the death toll of the Kashmir conflict over the past two decades to be around 48,000. However, the region’s main separatist group, the All Parties Hurriyat [freedom] Conference speaks of 100,000 casualties. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for forensic experts, in line with UN protocol to investigate mass grave sites, which the human rights organization numbers in the hundreds.

One of the conference organizers, Goldie Osuri, assistant professor in sociology at the University of Warwick, whose latest book published in 2013 is called “Religious Freedom in India,” described the current situation in Kashmir as “not just colonization and occupation, […] we can use the term genocide.”

Parveena told the Anadolu Agency that she did not expect much from newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“He did not do enough in Gujarat” she told the AA, referring to his alleged role in the three-day Gujarat riots of 2002 in western India, where more than a thousand people were killed, most of them Muslims. Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister at the time.

Read the original article published in Andalou Agency on 2 June 2014