Monday, 30 January 2012

This Day in History: 30 January 1972

I doubt that there are many people unfamiliar with the massive U2 hit “Sunday Bloody Sunday” but few people know what the song is about and the tragedy that inspired it. 

It was forty years ago today that soldiers of the British First Parachute Regiment (1 Para) opened fire on unarmed protestors, killing thirteen immediately and wounding fourteen others, with one man dying several months later of his wounds.

Banner and Crosses carried by the families of the Bloody Sunday victims on he annual commemoration march.
Photo credit: Sean Mack [

As a South African, I find the similarities between this event and those of the 16 June 1976 to be particularly chilling.  Both events featured young people marching against civil rights abuses, both involved armed forces opening fire on unarmed protestors and both resulted in the deaths of innocent people.

So what happened on the day that would forever be known as Bloody Sunday or the Bogside Massacre?

The Bogside Area, Derry, Northern Ireland, 30 January 1972

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) organised a march to protest against the practice of internment without trial which was introduced in August 1971.  Authorities decided to let the peaceful march go ahead but there was a heavy army presence.  The march was intended to culminate at the Guildhall but barricades were erected and the protestors were redirected to Free Derry Corner.

Bottom of William Street one minute before the British First Parachute Regiment opened fire, killing thirteen civilians – an event now known as Bloody Sunday, Derry, Ireland, 1972
Photo credit: Gilles Peress [

Eye witness accounts at the Museum of Free Derry speak of some altercations at the barricade, with protestors throwing stones, but nothing unusual by Derry standards.  The mood was upbeat when the march began just before 3pm but it was shortly before 4pm that the first shot rang out.

Five more shots were reported at 3.55 pm but it was reported that at 4.10pm soldiers of the Support Company opened fire on the crowd and did not stop firing until 30 minutes later.

Seven of the fourteen victims were teenagers and many were shot from behind as they were fleeing the scene or attempting to assist others.

Fr Daly waving a bloody handkerchief as he and several others carry the fatally wounded Jackie Duddy, 17, past British soldiers on January 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday.
Photo credit: Stanley Matchett [

The first victim was seventeen-year-old Jackie Duddy. 

Four witnesses, Edward Daly, then a Catholic priest, Mrs Bonner, Mrs Duffy and Mr Tucker, all stated that Duddy was unarmed at the time he was shot and that he was running away from soldiers when he was shot. Three of these witness stated that they saw a soldier take deliberate aim at Duddy as he fled across the courtyard of Rossville Flats – CAIN Web Service

The Roots of the Protest

It is not sufficient to only look back to 1971 to understand the situation in Derry on the day of the march.  The Museum of Free Derry gives a comprehensive background to the rise of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, dating back to when the country was formed in 1920.

Politics and location had worked in favour of the mainly Protestant Unionists (those in favour of remaining part of Britain) while the mainly Catholic Nationalists saw increasing infringements on their civil rights.

Significantly, NICRA was formed in 1967 to campaign against inequalities in the allocation of public housing, discrimination in jobs and workplaces, and an unfair voting system.  It seems bizarre that in the late 1960s in Northern Ireland, property plural voting still existed and citizens had to campaign for "one man, one vote". 

It is believed that the blossoming civil rights movement became a mass movement on the 5 October 1968 when police attacked protestors at a NICRA rally in full view of the world’s media.

In the two years that followed, conflict escalated between between Unionists and Nationalists and tensions increased when Terrence O'Neill’s November 1968 Reform Package angered and disappointed both parties.  Riots began to break out with increasing frequency throughout 1969 and 1970, with increasing activity by the once-dormant IRA. 

The government felt justified then in introducing internment without trial on 9 August 1971.  Known as Operation Demetrius, this involved dawn raids by the British Army over two days, involving the mass arrest and internment without trial of 342 people suspected of being involved Irish republican paramilitaries.

The operation resulted in the displacement of 7,000 people as families fed to Ireland and other locations.  Those arrested were housed in internment camps, scarily reminiscent of the Nazi-era concentration camps and perhaps a precursor for the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. 

The Denial

If the facts above make you deeply suspicious of Britain’s track record in human rights, wait until you hear about the aftermath of the events of Bloody Sunday.  On 19 April 1972, a report by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, largely exonerated the British Army of any blame for Bloody Sunday.

The report by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, stated that if the illegal march - protesting against internment without trial - had not taken place there would not have been any deaths - BBC News

The most severe criticism that Widgery offered was that the shooting "bordered on the reckless" but his ridiculous account was accepted not only by the British government and Northern Irish Unionists, but much of the British and international media too.

It was not until 30 January 1998 that British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a new enquiry into Bloody Sunday.  Known as the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the inquiry lasted for 12 long years before the Saville Report was published on 15 June 2010.  The report was so damning of the actions of British soldiers and the aftermath that Prime Minister David Cameron immediately apologised on behalf of the United Kingdom for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” events of Bloody Sunday.

"The report leaves me in no doubt that serious mistakes and failings by officers and soldiers on that terrible day led to the deaths of 13 civilians who did nothing that could have justified their shooting," he said - BBC News

Such is the extent of the cover up and distortion of the events of Bloody Sunday that members of the public, jaded from years of IRA attacks, were incensed by Cameron’s words.  They have been so terrorised over the years, and lied to on so many occasions by the media and their own government, that they forget that fourteen innocent people were murdered that day.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Interview With Dr Ajaz Khan of

It is one of the great paradoxes of the developing world. Those individuals in most need of banking services and credit are the most likely to lack sufficient collateral to support it.  In the past decade, there has been increasing focus on microfinance as a tool to alleviate poverty and sustain business models.

Microfinance is not charity.  There is an increasing perception that charity perpetuates poverty whereas it is believed that microfinance can enable an individual to build on their skills and provide a sustainable method of improvement.

AAKhan recently launched in the United Kingdom.  It is an initiative from Care International UK in association with The Co-operative.  We speak to Dr. Ajaz Khan, CARE’s Microfinance Advisor, about microfinance, and what you can do to get involved.

You lived and worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 2000 and 2006. Could you please tell us about the work that you did there? What motivated you to make the move to BiH?

Although I spent most of my time in Bosnia & Herzegovina, I was also working in Kosovo from 2002 onwards. Initially, much of the work involved the physical reconstruction of homes, schools, health facilities and water supply systems, that is the infrastructure that had been damaged or destroyed during the conflicts. However, after the reconstruction phase most of my work revolved around creating employment and income earning opportunities. My particular area of expertise is microfinance and I helped to create two microfinance institutions, one in each country that provided thousands of loans to microentrepreneurs, mainly women, to develop their businesses.

Prior to working in the Balkans I had spent around nine years working in Latin America, largely with small scale farmers, and was looking for a new challenge. I had during the 1990s followed the Balkans conflicts very closely. There was a particular resonance for Muslims such as myself who had been born and brought up in Europe – at the back of our minds there was always a feeling that if this could happen in Eastern Europe could it happen in Western Europe as well? I was grateful when the opportunity arose for me to work in the Balkans and make a small difference to improving the lives of those affected by the conflicts. I left the Balkans to go on to work in Pakistan following the Kashmir Earthquake and then Sudan.

SrebrenicaPhoto credit: CARE/Jon Spaull

Microfinance is a relatively new concept but one that uniquely puts members of the public in a position where they can achieve a great social good. It is different from and more sustainable than giving charity. Could you please describe microfinance in simple terms?

Microfinance is the provision of financial services to those who traditionally have been socially or economically excluded from the formal financial sector. Microfinance includes a number of different financial services such as savings, remittances and insurance but has become synonymous with the provision of small loans or microcredit. The concept of microfinance has in fact been around for a long time but it is really only in the last 30-40 years that it has started to be seen by the international community as an effective tool in alleviating poverty amongst the working poor.

Improving access to financial services allows poor and low-income people to finance income-generating activities, build assets, stabilise consumption and protect against risks. It is in this regard that microfinance can be seen as a dignified and sustainable approach to the fight against poverty.

Lend With Care logo

Can you tell us a bit about is a micro-lending initiative from CARE International UK and in association with The co-operative. Lendwithcare allows people in the UK to lend from as little as £15 to an entrepreneur in the developing world. We work with local MFIs (microfinance institutions) from a number of developing countries to provide small loans to entrepreneurs working to lift themselves, and their families, out of poverty. By providing a platform through which entrepreneurs seeking microloans can be linked to people in the developed world who can provide capital, Lendwithcare not only enables low-income and poor families from around the world to work their way out of poverty but also gives lenders the satisfaction of seeing the direct impact their money can have on the lives of those they are helping. The money that is lent through goes directly, and interest free, to the MFIs who administer the loans locally and once the entrepreneur starts repaying their loan this money goes back to the lenders who supported the loan request, where they can decide to re-lend their money to another entrepreneur or withdraw it.

Which countries does currently operate in? Why were those countries chosen?

Lendwithcare currently works in five countries. It began in Togo and Benin in West Africa and then expanded to the Philippines, Cambodia and since late 2011 Bosnia & Herzegovina. There are several reasons why we selected these particular countries. Firstly, they are all countries where CARE has worked in the past in the field of microfinance - indeed some of the MFIs we now work with were established and developed by CARE in the past, although all are now independent entities so they are somewhat of a known quantity to us. Secondly, we feel we have identified the ‘right’ MFI partners, that is organisations that have a strong social development mission. There are also other factors which we need to consider such as the ease of transferring funds back and forth and whether we can develop links with the fair trade supply chains of our sponsor The co-operative.

Yawa Dotse, 49, grains food stall,  ApaktamE, Togo. Care International trip 13/02/11 to 16/02/11
Photo credit: CARE/Emilie Bailey

Is there a plan to expand into further countries this year?

Yes, from February 2012 we hope to include Ecuador and we are also currently exploring the feasibility of working with MFIs in South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Do you have any statistics on the numbers of individuals that has assisted in the past?

Since Lendwithcare’s launch in September 2010, 1,249 entrepreneurs have been fully funded and just under half a million pounds lent. December 2011 has been our most successful month with over £109,000 being lent and 229 entrepreneurs fully funded.

Is there a single case or success story that stands out for you amongst the people that has assisted?

Yes, a recent one actually from Bosnia & Herzegovina. Mrs Djerdji Merdjanovic and her husband both lost their jobs as the company where they were working ceased to operate after the Bosnian War. They decided to start raising livestock, growing vegetables and raising and selling earthworms to specialist fishing shops in the capital Sarajevo. Djerdji applied for a loan to buy a second hand van and was featured on Lendwithcare. One of our lenders who incidentally manages a business called Worms Direct UK and is a major supplier of worms for fishing bait saw her story. Because the particular type of worm she raises is quite rare he contacted us to see whether it is possible for Djerdji or indeed other suppliers in Bosnia and Herzegovina to export and sell the worms through his company in the UK.

What are the biggest hurdles that entrepreneurs face and what can be learned from mistakes made in the past?

Lack of affordable, accessible and timely capital is certainly one of the major hurdles that small businessmen and women the world over face. We feel that Lendwithcare, in a very small way, is helping microentrepreneurs overcome this hurdle. However, lack of markets, physical infrastructure such as roads and crop storage facilities, information, technical assistance and support and women’s mobility are all hurdles and their importance varies from one context to the next.

If you could give a message to prospective lenders out there, ones that might be hesitant or apprehensive about lending money through your organisation, what would that message be?

Not only can you help someone but you can also see where your money goes, we do not take anything from your loan to cover our costs, and you invariably get your money back!

I believe that borrowers are in fact charged interest on their loans. Is this consistent with Islamic finance or are special arrangements made for those borrowers (for example, those within BiH)?

Although Lendwithcare provides interest free capital to our MFI partners, the MFIs do charge interest (or other fees in the case of Shari’ah compliant institutions) to entrepreneurs. However, we do check to ensure that their interest rates are ‘reasonable and fair’ according to the local context.

If they are to survive then MFIs must of course cover their operational costs. And the costs associated with providing very small loans, on occasions supported with training and other services, to often geographically isolated borrowers, especially when they visit them at their homes to disburse loans and also collect repayments, can be considerable. Indeed if they wish to grow and develop MFIs will need to make a profit.

However, while there is an obvious need to ensure financial security for themselves so that they can continue operations, they are rarely under pressure from shareholders so do not need nor desire to make ‘excessive’ profits. What the interest free capital allows the MFIs to do is extend their operations and lend to poorer clients than they might otherwise, or to move into more remote areas - this has been the case with our MFI partner in Togo for example which is now lending in more isolated rural areas.  In other cases, such as the Philippines and Bosnia & Herzegovina the MFIs have actually passed on the benefits of receiving interest free capital from Lendwithcare to their clients through much lower interest rates. At present we do not have any Shari’ah compliant MFI partners, but this is likely to change during 2012 with potential partners in both Indonesia and Pakistan.

Care International trip to Cambodia with Deborah Meaden 14/03/11 to 20/03/11
Photo credit: CARE/Emilie Bailey

There are other microfinance organisations out there. What differentiates from those others and who is your target market?

There are a number of government bodies, NGOs and development agencies working in the field of microfinance. However, is the first person-to-person platform to be backed by a leading international aid and development organisation. Moreover, Lendwithcare is able to combine CARE International’s decades of expertise and innovation in the field of microfinance with this revolutionary initiative to provide the highest quality products and services to the working poor.

Do you have advice on what young people can study if they would like to become involved in international agencies such as yourselves?

I think more important than what they study is that they must have a passion to work in international development. It is useful though to have formal qualifications in technical subjects such as agriculture, health, and engineering as the first job is often at the grassroots level working directly in the field. Also, foreign languages are always useful.

Apart from becoming a lender, what can people do to support your organisation?

Since 100% of the loans made through Lendwithcare go to the entrepreneurs we have very little marketing budget and therefore need to find a way of telling people about through word of mouth. We encourage all of our lenders to talk about Lendwithcare with friends and family and if they use Facebook or Twitter to visit and like our Facebook page or tweet using our @lendwithcare address.

As an organisation, CARE International UK has a number of ‘How you can help’ options, which can be found on our website and regular Challenge activities that raise funds and awareness through enjoyable and often exhilarating events. In March this year for example, the CARE team are challenging people to walk 10,000 steps a day for one week as part of their Walk in her Shoes campaign for more information.

Thank you very much to Dr Khan for taking the time to speak to me and to answer my questions. I feel like I have a much wider appreciation and understanding of microfinance and feel confident in becoming involved in this great initiative..

Article first published as Interview With Dr Ajaz Khan of on Blogcritics.


Friday, 20 January 2012

Petition: End Forced Sterilisation in Sweden

All_Out_logo_square If you are a transgender person in Sweden and want to legally change your gender, the government forces you to undergo surgery that will render you permanently infertile and forever unable to have children. That's right: in 2012 Swedish law still mandates forced sterilization in order to do something as simple as changing your gender on a driver's license.

Right now a reform of the law is being debated in Sweden. We need a massive show of support across Sweden and Europe against forced sterilization that will finally convince Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfledt to speak out and break the deadlock.

Whether you are straight, gay, lesbian, bi or trans, Swedish or European, will you take a moment to raise your voice and ask Prime Minister Reinfeldt to take a stand for human rights?

Take action now :

"Hi, my name is Love, I'm from Sweden and I'm trans. That means I'm born in a female body but my heart says I'm a man. I'm speaking out today because the Swedish government is forcing thousands of people like me to make an impossible choice.

If I need to change the gender on my identity card to reflect my true self, just a small change from an "F" to an "M", my country will force me to be sterilized. I can either be represented correctly or have my basic human rights violated. That is not a fair choice. I'm at a protest today in front of the Parliament to ask for the law to be changed and this barbaric practice to end.

Your support is making a difference, please join us by signing the petition and telling your friends to do the same. Thank you!"


Sweden: Transgender actress mourns her "forcible sterilization" - Many countries typically seen as progressive on LGBT rights continue to mandate the practice.

Sweden keeps sex-change sterilization law

Human Rights Watch's Letter to the Swedish Prime Minister


Thursday, 19 January 2012

3 Failed Assassinations That Would Have Changed the World

This is a Guest Post by Colin Draper
Throughout history some of the world's most famous figures have been targets of assassination. Some are tragically successful (Martin Luther-King, John Lennon and JFK), while others live to fight another day, (Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Mr Burns). But what if some of these had been successful? Here we look at three attempted assassinations that could have changed the world as we know it.
Of course we can never get a definitive answer to questions of 'What if?', but sometimes you can't help but speculate.

King James I (1605)

Portrait of James VI and 1, c. 1606, by John de Critz
Image Source:

The Attempt:
The Gunpowder Plot is arguably the most famous assassination attempt in history, certainly in Britain. It involved a group of Catholics (including the now infamous Guy Fawkes) rolling barrels and barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords, blowing up James I and Parliament in the process. Simple really.
The Gunpowder Plotters (detail) by Crispijn van de Passe
Image Source:

If he had been killed:
Of course the plot failed, and the men were brutally executed. But historians love to speculate, and it is thought that if successful America might not exist as we know it today.
Consider this. Charles I is filled with vengeance and hatred after the Catholics brutally murder his protestant father. This causes a brutal backlash against Catholicism in England, which becomes so Protestant and 'pure' as a nation that the Pilgrim Fathers have no reason to set sail for America on-board the Mayflower. No Mayflower, means no Mayflower Compact which means America never develops into the unified state system we know today. It seems unlikely, but who knows!

Benito Mussolini (1926)

Hitler and Mussolini June 1940 (part of Eva Braun's collection)
Image Source:

The Attempt:
1926 was an eventful year for Benito Mussolini, as he endured four separate assassination attempts over a seven month period. On the seventh of April his nose was “wounded slightly” when he was shot by a clinically insane 50 year old Irish woman. Later in the year he survived two more shootings from Italian anarchists, while a third (Michelle Schirru) was caught while planning an attack.
If he had been killed:
Mussolini was a cult figure, and the symbol of the Italian fascist movement. The Fascists hold on power in 1926 was far from secure and if they'd lost their charismatic leader and the driving force behind the movement then their power could have easily gone with him. Would this have prevented an Italian-German alliance in the Second World War? Could it have prevented war altogether?

Adolf Hitler (1944)

Image Source: Wikipedia

The Attempt:
Hitler had to endure 42 assassination attempts during his lifetime, but here we're going to focus on the most famous - the '20th July Plot' in 1944. This saw the German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg assemble a bomb in his briefcase, and placed it under a table at a military conference held by Hitler. He was protected from the blast by the leg of the table and survived to execute Von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators.
If he had been killed:
It's true that by July 1944 Germany had essentially already lost the Second World War. British and American forces had entered occupied Europe, and the Red Army were advancing on the eastern front. But it's not inconceivable that the death of Hitler could have brought an immediate end to the war in Europe, shortening the war by ten months and saving millions of lives. It also would have changed the shape of the Cold War, probably in America's favour.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Improvement slow in South Africa as ANC Turns 100

This is a balanced but shocking report by Al Jazeera English into the continuing poverty and inequality in South Africa.  The ANC is turning 100 tomorrow amidst allegations of corruption and the misuse of public funds.

The ANC swept to power in 1994 on a platform promising jobs, education, housing and healthcare for all.  There were great successes –2 million houses were built in 18 years, for example.

The political analyst in this piece, David Monyae, notes the growth of the black middle class and the perception that the ANC are pandering to that middle class.  The gap might be closing between the black and white middle classes but the unemployment, poverty and homelessness is growing too.

I don’t know who the best party for South Africa is but I wouldn’t mind an honest party who rides again on the platform of jobs, education, housing and healthcare for all.

© A Passion to Understand

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