Rape as an initiation rite in Afghanistan? (updated)


Stewart Jackson, Conservative shadow communities and local government minister and the party’s regeneration spokesman, was reported by audience members and rival parliamentary candidates to have told a public meeting organised by Peterborough Senior Citizens Forum last month that, in Afghanistan, “fifteen year old Muslim boys’ initiation rites are to rape a woman and shoot a foreigner”.

Jackson, who is the sitting MP in Peterborough, confirmed to this magazine that he had made the comments. But he said that the comments were made in reference to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. He said they were “100 per cent” not his personal opinion but rather a view expressed in a briefing he had received on Afghanistan from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

He said: “During a public discussion I referred to claims made at an MoD briefing on the situation in Afghanistan, this was part of a serious debate about complex issues and I hope no one is using it to try and score political points.”

But a MoD spokeswoman said that such a description of the situation in Afghanistan would be a complete departure from normal MoD practice. She said: “I can’t say that nobody from the MoD has ever said that but that is not the sort of thing we would ever say in an average MoD briefing”.

Update: This plays into an obsession on the fringes of the right with Muslim ‘rape gangs’. Our old friend, Mark Steyn, is a key promoter of this idea…

Update II: Stewart Jackson appears to have related concerns about the UK’s ‘broken society’:

The heart of Middle England is destined for asylum meltdown… News that the results of New Labour’s failed immigration policy are rising levels of violence and lawlessness on the streets of Peterborough come as no surprise to me – or anyone else who lives in the city…

Anyone walking through the city centre can see increasing numbers of young unemployed Kurdish men hanging around and residents are increasingly fearful as their area is used as a dumping ground for such ethnically mismatched groups like Afghans, Kurds and Pakistanis who riot and fight…

Tensions are growing not just between different ethnic minority groups – but also across the whole city – Pensioners, young families, professionals, Pakistanis. People are angry and feel impotent. When I knock on doors, people tell me that they’re fed up with seeing young men on street corners – mainly asylum seekers – intimidating old people and young women.

They’re fed up with homes being bought up in their neighbourhood by unscrupulous landlords milking the Housing Benefits system to let out to illegal immigrants used as cheap labour. And they’re angry that police resources are being diverted to keep warring factions in the city centre apart, whilst their streets suffer increased burglaries, robbery and car crime.

Update III: The UN has called rape a ‘profound’ crisis in Afghanistan.

Our field research also found that rape is under-reported and concealed and is a huge problem in Afghanistan. It affects all parts of the country, all communities, and all social groups. It is a human rights problem of profound proportion.

Women and girls are at risk of rape in their homes, in their villages, and in detention facilities. Rape is not unique to Afghanistan, but the socio-political context does have particular characteristics that exacerbate the problem. Shame is attached to rape victims rather than to the perpetrator. Victims often find themselves being prosecuted for the offence of zina, otherwise known as adultery.

For the vast majority of victims, there is very little possibility of finding justice. There is no explicit provision in the 1976 Afghan Penal Code that criminalizes rape. Thus, the UN recommended that the legislation on the Elimination of Violence Against Women make explicit reference to rape, contain a clear definition of rape in line with international law, and hold the government responsible for tackling this ugly crime.

The question remains, though, whether there is any evidence of it being used as an ‘initiation rite’. I think Stewart Jackson is going to have to give more details about who from the MOD briefed him and exactly what they said.

On the web: Afghan anniversary, modern terrorism, and the Nobel race…

– With the eighth anniversary of war in Afghanistan, debate about the strategic direction of the conflict continues apace. Foreign Policy has an extract from Gordon M. Goldstein’s Lessons in Disaster – chronicling the key turning points of the Vietnam war and reportedly forming required reading in the current White House. Over at the New Republic, William Galston argues that General McChrystal was right to air his concerns about Afghan strategy in public and ratchet up pressure on President Obama.

– RUSI, meanwhile, assesses the issue of troop numbers on British shores, viewing the commitment to hard power through the lens of the country’s world role. In related news, the Conservatives are set to confirm that General Sir Richard Dannatt, recently retired as Chief of the General Staff, is to advise them on defence policy.

– Elsewhere, Professor John Merriman asks if the bombing of a Paris café at the end of the 19th Century spawned terrorism in its modern form. Current policy, he suggests, would do well to take better account of historical experience.

– Finally, with the slew of annual awards from the Nobel committee well under way, attention turns to possible winners of the economics prize – to be announced on Monday.  Thompson Reuters offers its annual, citation-based, predications here. Brad DeLong, meanwhile, suggests that this year’s gong should go to Mark Gertler and current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke.

Ask Me Anything!

Have a question for a heroin addict, acne sufferer, or bank robber? Then head over to Reddit’s IaMa (“I am a…”) community, where this past week has seen some excellent Ask Me Anything threads.

Of course, these being the Internets, there’s no knowing whether felonius monk really spent five years in prison (mostly uneventful “if you carried yourself correctly”) for being a getaway driver (much less like being a rally driver than he’d hoped/expected), or whether bumpygirl truly has spots and scars covering 80% of her body. But that’s part of the fun.

And if he is a troll, smackjunkie12 has clearly done his research…

Of course I know about rectal administration, and it is my favourite way to take codeine, and also an enjoyable way to take oxycodone + acetaminophen formulations (such as Percocet) after a cold water extraction. I don’t think I’d use this route with heroin, though. It’s simply much too enjoyable to take it intravenously.

On topic for Global Dashboard is Hoo-rah’s kind offer: “I just got back from my 3rd deployment in Afghanistan. I lost count after I killed 15 human beings. AMA.” Hoo-rah’s mission was to stop Afghan farmers producing the heroin on which smackjunkie12 and his brethren are hooked – a job that is a far cry from traditional war fighting:

Nearly everyone I have killed has been someone who was trying to kill me during combat. I say nearly, because I do believe I may be responsible for a few civilian deaths, though it was never confirmed. We did a lot of raids and a lot of times shit got crazy really fast. The poppy farmers had a habit of keeping their family in the same place as their drugs, which sometimes lead to civilian deaths.

And would we be better off if we sent an army of doctors, engineers, etc? No. The main problem is the poppy farms. We were doing what needed to be done. However, Obama has recently changes tactics. He’s setting up programs to persuade farmers to grow other crops, which we should have been doing all along. As opposed to going in and burning them.

After the jump, Hoo-rah’s response to being asked for the funniest story from his deployment. Be warned, though, some of you may think it’s NSFW: (more…)

On the web: Libyan relations, FEMA’s new head, the power of communication, and Afghanistan past and present…

– With the fortieth anniversary of Muammar Qaddafi’s rule fast approaching, Chatham House’s Molly Tarhuni takes a look (pdf) at Libya’s gradual reemergence onto the international stage. Four decades on, she suggests, and the basis of Anglo-Libyan relations remains much the same however.

– Over at Atlantic Monthly, Amanda Ripley profiles Craig Fugate, the new head of FEMA and a man with “a reputation for telling it like it is”. “Already”, she suggests, “Fugate is factoring citizens into the agency’s models for catastrophic planning, thinking of them as rescuers and responders, not just victims”. Moreover, Ripley continues,

he has changed FEMA’s mission statement from the old, paternalistic (and fantastical) vow to ‘protect the Nation from all hazards’ to a more modest, collaborative pledge to ‘support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together’.

A far cry, it would seem, from Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown.

– Harvard academic Joseph Nye, meanwhile, explores the importance of good communication for effective leadership. Obama’s ability to convey a resonant narrative has succeeded in rebuilding some of the US’s soft power, he argues, though the jury is still out on whether actions can match the towering oratory.

– Elsewhere, Victor Sebestyen reflects on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan during the 1980s – “Defeat in the hills around Kabul”, he suggests, “led directly – and swiftly, within months – to the fall of the Berlin Wall”.

– Finally, fast-forward to next week’s Afghan elections and the NYT takes a look at the campaign of presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani. Reuters has some of the key election details here. Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, jests with the “Ragin’ Cajun”, James Carville, former political consultant to Bill Clinton and who regular readers will know has been advising Ghani. Don’t miss the video.