Toward the end of last year, 150 asylum seekers drowned in a boat accident off the coast of Indonesia. It served as a stark reminder of the extreme risks vulnerable people often take in seeking a safer life and the often fatal consequences.
Twelve months later, the Australian Government has outsourced its obligation to protect such vulnerable people - re-establishing the Pacific Solution in the name of ending these dangerous boat journeys and saving lives. Under this policy, some of the world’s most vulnerable people are now languishing, on Nauru, in leaking tents, in repressive heat - with no end in sight.
What we are left with is a severe lack of accountability and a the clear threat that the human rights abuses which occurred on Nauru and Manus Island, only a matter of years ago, are set to repeat themselves.
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As the Arab Spring continues its momentum throughout the Middle East engulfing Syria, and with it the hope of greater democracy, it’s also worth reflecting on the consequences such as the ancient Christian communities which are becoming a disappearing minority.
Syria’s Christians, represent no more than ten per cent of the country’s 22 million people, tracing their origins two millennia to the beginnings of the faith. Apostle Paul is said to have converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus, from which he went on to spread the religion across the Roman Empire.
Christianity has its origin in the Middle East from the fourth century. Covering communities speaking Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, and Arabic.
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If badminton was the World Game there would probably be just as many riots as there are now with soccer. The graceful swoop of the goose-feathered shuttlecock would not calm the madding crowds.
If only badminton had the power to invoke the passion, it could rival the semi-religious fervour that soccer induces. If only. Then we could blame badminton for all violence in sport and stop making soccer out to be evil.
Soccer is, globally, inextricably linked to violence in people’s minds. But it’s not soccer’s fault. Soccer just happens to be the medium for the message. It is the excuse, the scapegoat.
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In the last few days we’ve seen that the rumours of the demise of the green movement in Iran have been greatly exaggerated.
With thousands taking to the streets with chants of ‘Mubarak, Bin Ali – It’s your turn Sayed Ali’, many are asking the question whether Iran be the next Egypt. The simple answer is no.
Iran isn’t the next Egypt. In fact, in a few months it’ll be more likely that Egypt will be the next Iran. To understand what I mean we have to go back a little more than three decades.
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Remember the sound of a telephone ringing through a hallway?
The kind that attached to the wall and had a long, curly, plastic cord that could wrap around your arm but never quite stretch as far as the couch.
It was bulky too; heavy enough to need its own table or a hall-stand that doubled as a storage cabinet for the inevitable pile of White and Yellow Pages crammed underneath it.
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The Egyptian protests that have led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak have produced some incredible media images, by photographers who often put their own lives in danger to bring us scenes from the streets of Egypt.
Here are some photos from the last two weeks, which culminated in celebrations on Friday night as Mubarak announced he would end his 30 year term.
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One of the terrific luxuries of life in the democratic west is that we are free to write and say pretty much anything we like about our elected representatives.
In the space of one day this week, we saw a powerful demonstration of how blasé and indulgent some of us can be in exercising that freedom.
In Egypt, thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand the removal of a politician who for 18 years has resisted any shift towards democracy, and is still refusing to stand aside.
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Many people assume that the events in Egypt over the last 18 days are a simple case of ‘people power’ seeking to remove a drained, corrupt, unpopular president, who is desperately clinging to power. Certainly the renewed vigour and importance of the Arab ‘street’, and the power of the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, have been important.
But what is really happening is a three-way tussle over the future political and economic structure of Egypt.
The protesters in Tahrir Square – and now across many cities and large towns in Egypt – and Mubarak, are indeed two protagonists, and the most visible ones. In one sense, the protesters have already defeated Mubarak: he has agreed to step aside in September after elections for a successor, and to the extent that the protesters were trying to get rid of the president, they have (almost certainly) succeeded.
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After weeks of protests against his reign, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was expected set to step down this morning. But while celebrations erupted in Tahrir Square, the people were quickly disappointed to learn through a pre-recorded speech that he intends to stay in power until the next election.
While he did announce some changes in how Egypt will be ruled, he is clearly intending to cling to power. The world’s jubilation that he was cowing to pressure was shortlived indeed.
For all the latest, including links to live feeds from Tahrir Square, Twitter feeds, picture galleries and background, head to news.com.au.
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The ABC’s London bureau was effectively in mourning when I arrived as a correspondent at the beginning of 1980.
Tony Joyce, a witty, talented and energetic reporter from the bureau, had been shot in the head in Zambia six weeks before.
The pistol bullet ricocheted inside his skull, and the unforgivable behaviour of the Zambian authorities meant that by the time he was medevacced to London, it was too late.
From November 1979 to early February 1980, he was in a coma. On February 3 - exactly 31 years ago - he died.
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So, rad times in the Middle East? In the bright light of this historic moment can we assert that the Bush Administration’s neo-cons were partially right: the Middle East was ripe for a series of popular revolutions?
If only they didn’t have to destroy a country, countless people, and potentially the prospect for better relationships between the West and the region in attempting to prove it.
The farcical aspect of popular demonstrations in the Middle East is that although Western Governments and observers have for years mused about the notional benefits of individual will being translated into national policy through some nice democratic practices, the instant any such thing becomes a remote possibility, westerners start getting anxious.
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“Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”
These infamous words of Patrick Henry resonated throughout the Western world and described in a nutshell man’s yearning for freedom.
This is also true in Tunisia, where Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year old university graduate who could not find work nor feed his family, sparked ‘The Jasmine Revolution’ by setting himself alight in protest to the now former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime. This protest sparked action in Egypt, which is now facing its largest uprising in three decades. There are reports of dozens of deaths.
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Clad in his spectacular Bishop’s regalia, Greek Orthodox Bishop Ezekiel throws a cross in the water at the annual “Thefeonia” at Station Pier. This Greek “Festival of the Waters” is held at Port Melbourne in early January every year, where I’ve represented Federal Labor to the sometimes 5 to 6 thousand members of the Greek Australian community.
Usually I’m there with an array of local State and Federal Greek Australian politicians, but, in my own mind, my presence is emblematic of the natural tolerance and pluralism of modern Australia. All the politicians release doves and make brief speeches.
At the “Thefeonia” this year it seemed appropriate that I briefly expressed the nation’s solidarity with another ancient Christian community, Australia’s Copts, who are approximately 80,000 strong across Australia four of whose churches, in Australia were amongst the sixty four listed worldwide as targets by an Al Qaeda website.
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One of the best jobs I’ve had was at the British Museum in London.
Trapped behind the counter of the downstairs gift shop it wasn’t selling over-priced plaster replicas that I enjoyed the most but the two hours a week spent roaming the museum as part of my training.
The Elgin Marbles, Egyptian mummy tombs and the glittering Cartier jewellery collection were among my favourites.
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