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Mental health: schools struggling to help support children

Depression and anxiety were once thought of as illnesses which only affected adults but mental health problems affect around one in ten children and young people.

But schools are struggling to help them, according to a new survey. The charity Place to Be said more than half of head teachers said it was “difficult” to find the right services for their pupils, with the worst provision in the west midlands and south west England.

The research also shows that pupils are under far more stress than they were five years ago – and they’re bringing their worries into the classroom, as Assed Baig reports.

The Taliban: Islam, opium and the current conflict in Afghanistan. Understanding why the Taliban fight

By Moneeb Hafeez

This research is an attempt to understand the cause of the current insurgency in Afghanistan. The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement, are fighting a foreign occupation on what is perceived as a war on religious grounds. However when analysing the Taliban’s beliefs and actions such a notion does not hold.

Firstly the Islam versus the West paradigm that forged the theoretical underpinning of the War on terror is not as applicable to the Taliban. The idea the Taliban is an anarchistic movement that is a threat to Western civilisation is short-sighted. Understanding the group’s beliefs and ideology reveals their true objective.

Secondly the Taliban are involved with the Opium economy of Afghanistan this given the Islamic ideology of the Taliban seems rather contradictory. Many theories support the idea that the cause of conflict is often motivated by economic benefit and not ideology. As well as being motivated by economic benefit, the other aspects of war given the breakdown of legitimate sources of funds is the need to fund the war. Hence insurgents resort to criminality to fund their activities.

After analysing the Taliban to find the Taliban are a hybrid unique group motivated by a combination of beliefs and self interests these cannot be categorised amongst broader Islamic movements.

The Taliban: Islam, opium and the current conflict in Afghanistan – Understanding why the Taliban fight

We were defending British values, say Syria Britons

Exclusive: two British men who have returned from the Syria conflict say they went to the Middle East on a humanitarian mission “against a brutal regime” – and insist they are not terrorists.

Think about the conflict in Syria today and the headlines dominated by

Think about the conflict in Syria today and the headlines dominated by the savage acts of so-called Islamic State or Isis,writes Assed Baig.

Now rewind to 2013. Back then all anyone could talk about were the thousands of civilians being slaughtered by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. As Syrians demanded their right to freedom and democracy, the government there was using chemical weapons to kill its people.

Meanwhile the government here was considering military action to stop the massacres. Parliament decided not to intervene, but it’s within this context that the two British men I’ve spoken to took it upon themselves to do, they say, what the government couldn’t, to defend the people of Syria. Now they’re back in the UK and living in fear of arrest.

‘British values’

Their mission was a “humanitarian” one, say Ibrahim and Musa, whose names have been changed due to their fear of the security services. They claim they were inspired by images of dying civilians being broadcast on their television screens. Ibrahim explains that he sees it as part of “British values, to stick up for the weak, against the oppressor”.

Channel 4 News could not independently verify the men’s stories. But their separate accounts seem to touch on common themes. Their experience of the conflict was very different to what they saw in movies and YouTube videos.

The men talk of ill-equipped and untrained fighters, very little action, and the dynamics of the conflict changing drastically with the rise of so-called Islamic State. Both men say they don’t approve of the group’s notorious practices, including mass executions and beheadings.

‘Mad men’

“These are mad men who have found a political ideology to cling on to to somehow justify their madness,” says Ibrahim. “The [Syrian] people have had enough.”

They returned to the UK disillusioned. Not with Britain, but with the revolution itself. Ibrahim fought with the Islamist group Ahrar Al-Sham. Musa did not wish to reveal which group he fought alongside, but says he is opposed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

[insert video]

In fact both claim they are deeply suspicious of Isis’ motives. Despairing that Islamic State had split the opposition into warring factions, Ibrahim tells me: “These would be the last guys I’d ever give allegiance to”.

But the presence of Isis appears to have triggered a change in government policy toward Syria. Ministers no longer talk about providing “non-lethal” military support to opposition fighters. The focus is now stopping fighters returning and committing terrorist atrocities here.

Both men spoke to me before the attacks in Paris. However, in the wake of those events which left 17 people murdered, fighters returning from Syria are more than ever seen as a threat to the UK.

Security

Both men say they have no ill intentions toward the UK, and Musa is pragmatic about the government’s proposed measures aimed at halting the return of dangerous extremists. “The security of the UK is very important,” he tells me. “I think it would be very difficult to have them back in the UK after explicitly saying that they oppose UK citizens, and that they will commit violent actions in the UK.”

But he says anyone who returns should be assessed individually and perhaps be put through a rehabilitation period.

When I asked Ibrahim if he was a threat to the UK, he scoffed: “Absolutely not, this is my country.” But he warns that the government’s plan to introduce temporary exclusion orders was flawed.

He told me: “If this government keeps saying, ‘You’re an enemy, you’re an enemy, you’re an enemy’, then there’s going to become a point when one of these guys says, ‘Fine, I’ll be your enemy.’ You’re forcing them into a corner.”

Assange appeal rejected by Swedish court

WikiLeaks founder Assange to appeal against decision by Swedish court not to drop an arrest warrant against him. 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to take his battle against an arrest warrant to Sweden’s Supreme Court, his lawyer has disclosed.

Per Samuelson’s comments came on Thursday after a Swedish court rejected an attempt by Assange, who remains in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to overturn a four-year-old detention order brought against him in connection with allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

Samuelson told Anadolu Agency: “I just talked to my client Julian Assange and he is very disappointed but still optimistic.

“He rests assured that it is only a matter of time before we shall win, and he has instructed me to appeal the ruling of the Swedish appeals court to the Supreme Court.”

“Assange needs to remain in the embassy as long as there’s a realistic threat of him being extradited to the U.S., in the end facing maybe 35 years in prison,” he said, referring to the U.S. criminal inquiry against Assange in his capacity as front man of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

– Appeal rejected

The 43-year-old Australian continues to shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy in order to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces claims of sexual molestation, lesser-degree rape and unlawful coercion allegedly committed against two women in Sweden in August, 2010.

The Svea Court of Appeal in Sweden earlier rejected his appeal against his detention order.

The court said in a statement: “In the view of the Court of Appeal there is no reason to set aside the detention solely because Julian Assange is in an embassy and the detention order cannot be enforced at present for that reason.”

Assange has yet to be charged with any crime in connection with the allegations which are subject to a “preliminary investigation” in Sweden.

– Controversial communications

Police have encircled the Ecuadoran embassy where Assange has been granted asylum after British authorities threatened him with arrest if he leaves.

The U.K. police operation has cost more than $10 million to date.

Assange claims that, if he is extradited to Sweden, he could be extradited to the United States, where authorities are pursuing a “national security” case against him after WikiLeaks published high-level and controversial U.S. military and diplomatic communications regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the U.S. State Department.

By Tommy Hansen and Assed Baig

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 20 November 2014

UK collaborated with Assad, says ex-Guantanamo inmate

Moazzam Begg tells Anadolu Agency that UK security services handed over intelligence to Syrian regime.

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg says he believes that “vindictive” terror charges levelled against him in the U.K. – which have now been dropped – were brought because of his efforts to expose links between the British and U.S. governments and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Begg, who was charged in Britain in February with seven Syria-related terror offences, said the court case against him collapsed after it emerged MI5 had spoken to him about his trip to Syria trip and assured him he could go about it unhindered.

Begg said: “The reason I think they went for me is because somebody, and I think it is someone high up in the government, said, ‘This Mr Begg character is causing us too much embarrassment. He keeps pointing out how we’ve been involved in secret rendition, in kidnapping, torture, and abuse of people’s basic human rights’.

“The reason why I went to Syria in the first place was because I found a link between British intelligence services working with Bashar al-Assad.”

The 46-year-old walked free from Belmarsh prison in London at the start of October after the case against him at the Old Bailey, which had been due to start within days, was dropped after Crown prosecutors told the judge that they had “recently become aware of relevant material”.

Begg, who had entered a not guilty plea, had spoken to the U.K. intelligence services in the presence of lawyers and informed them why he was travelling to Syria, but the information was not passed onto police or the Crown Prosecution Service until Begg had already been in custody for seven months.

– ‘Evidence of collaboration’

Speaking to AA from the offices of Cage, a charity which works on behalf of the victims of the so-called “war on terror” and of which he had been a director at the time of his arrest, said he had told MI5 that he was travelling to Syria to investigate rendition and how intelligence was passed onto the Syrian regime by U.K. security forces.

Speaking calmly, Begg who was incarcerated on three separate continents; Bagram in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, and Belmarsh in the U.K – all without ever being taken to court – said he found evidence of collaboration of the British intelligence services and Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

He said: “I found evidence of this from one of the Libyans who I know had been rendered by the Syrians who had found him in Syria, before any of the revolutions took place, and was handed over to the Libyans.

“We know this because the headquarters of the intelligence (services) of the Libyan government was stormed by the rebels and they discovered documents that showed this man had made a telephone call to Britain and his call had been intercepted by MI5, who handed that information to the Assad regime.”

He said he had uncovered numerous cases which showed the American intelligence agencies had been working with the Assad regime.

However, he says that the British involvement was indicative of a wider policy.

– ‘Lies and manipulation’

“The British involvement shows very clearly that when it comes to intelligence cooperations, there’s no such thing as ethics, there’s no such thing as morals, there’s no such thing as values, it’s all to do with interests, and those interests can be against human rights and against democracy,” he told AA.

“Lies and manipulation are what’s on the menu,” he added.

Begg, who was arrested at his home in Birmingham, was kept as a Category A prisoner – a regime used for the most dangerous prisoners.

However, he said he was “disappointed” when the case against him was dropped, saying he had been waiting for the fight and was confident he had done nothing wrong.

Once Begg was released he revealed he had offered to help work towards the release of British hostage Alan Henning, whose beheading by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in early October was shown on an ISIL video, but he said the offer was rejected by the U.K. government.

Begg, who spent several months in Syria, also dismissed claims that Turkey was supporting ISIL.

He said that if it was not for Turkey, rather than 200,000 Syrian deaths that there would have been half-a-million.

– Turkey ‘a lifeline’

He said Turkey was the only lifeline for the Syrian people.

“I don’t think there is a link between ISIL and the Turkish government,” said Begg, adding: “There may be a reality in that they both oppose the Assad regime, but that doesn’t necessary make them work together.”

Begg also praised Turkey’s humanitarian efforts in trying to help and accommodate Syrian refugees.

“If you see the numbers of people in the refugee camps, which the Turks by their graces have built and helped the Syrians with, despite all of their problems, and then you come to the realizations, what the Turks have done for the Syrians has been a brotherly stance and act … and I don’t think the Syrians will forget that,” said Begg.

“Turkey has its own interests, and its interest is maintaining the support of the civilians,” he added.

Moazzam Begg was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and initially kept at Bagram airbase I in Afghanistan before being taken to Guantanamo Bay where he was released without charge in 2005.

Begg told AA that he would continue his work with Cage and also argue that those that have traveled to Syria to fight should be allowed back into the U.K. and not be treated like terrorists.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 17 November 2014

Legal challenge mounted against UK anti-terror law

Anti-terror powers allowing police to stop individuals at UK ports for up to nine hours are challenged in Supreme Court.

Human rights organizations have launched a legal challenge in the U.K. against a controversial anti-terror power which allows police to question people for up to nine hours on whether they have been involved in acts of terrorism.

The challenge to the Schedule 7 powers, which allow police to hold people at U.K. ports, was brought to the Supreme Court on Wednesday by the Muslim Council of Britain, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission and CAGE, which campaign on behalf of the victims of the so-called “war on terror”.

CAGE spokesman Asif Bhayat said: “Recent statistics show a 100 percent rise in Islamophobia-related incidents in the U.K., and Muslims are feeling targeted by state institutions in the same way.

“It is about time the Muslim community stopped being scared of being branded ‘extremist’ for challenging the status quo.”

Bhayat said that he hoped that the Schedule 7 power would be scrapped.

The rights organisations are claiming the powers are being widely used to harass and gather intelligence on Muslims travelling to and from the UK and say anyone detained under the powers must “give the examining officer any information in his possession which the officer requests” or face arrest.

‘Religious profiling’

Police need have no reasonable suspicion to stop, interrogate or detain anybody under the power, they point out.

The groups will present evidence of what they say is the “discriminatory and disproportionate impact of Schedule 7 on Muslims and minority ethnic communities”.

The organizations say that since Schedule 7 came into force, its powers have been “systematically misused to implement ethnic and religious profiling”.

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

IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh, who was a member of the now disbanded National Accountability Board set up by the government to oversee Schedule 7, said: “The overwhelming extent of the Schedule 7 power has resulted in highly discriminatory racial and religious profiling.”

He said that the powers were being misused and had left Muslims “feeling like second-class citizens” and called for a reform of the law and greater accountability to be established.

‘Unjustifiable interference’

More than 46,000 people were stopped at Britain’s ports under Schedule 7 powers in 2013.

Anadolu Agency’s analysis of the figures released in June this year showed that Schedule 7 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.

Wednesday’s hearing relates to the case of Sylvie Beghal, a French national of Algerian descent, who was stopped after arriving with her children at East Midlands Airport on a flight from Paris in January 2011.

The mother of three refused to answer the questions put to her – which included requests for information about the French-Algerian community in the UK – without the presence of a lawyer and was subsequently convicted for willfully failing to comply with her duty under Schedule 7 to answer questions.

She unsuccessfully brought a challenge against her conviction before the High Court last year, claiming that the detention had violated her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Beghal argued the prosecution was an unjustifiable interference with her “right to free movement” within an EU country as an EU national.

Power ‘abused’

Her Algerian husband had been convicted and jailed in France on terrorism charges, but claims that he was tortured and the conviction was unjust.

U.K. government statistics show that proportionately many more people from ethnic minorities are stopped than whites.

In 2012-13 ethnic minorities accounted for 79 percent of all those who were stopped.

A recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report found that people who identified themselves as being Pakistani were 154 times more likely to be held for more than an hour than those identifying themselves as white.

All three organisations claim they have received scores of complaints of the powers being abused.

They claim that security officials ask Muslims they have stopped if they pray or if they would be willing to spy on their communities or even which political party they voted for.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 12 November 2014

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