Politics made easy: Whats happening in South Sudan?

South Sudanese refugee girl

About South Sudan 

South Sudan is the worlds newest nation, bordered by six countries, it is located in central Africa. Previously, it had formed part of the country of Sudan however a vote of independence in 2011 saw it become a country in its own right. South Sudan is extremely rich in oil but decades of Civil war have left the country ravaged and underdeveloped and most recently, in the grip of a massive humanitarian crisis.

Why is there a famine? 

South Sudan has long suffered from droughts, poor economic conditions and widespread starvation but it wasn’t until  February of this year that a famine was officially confirmed. With mass violence prevalent throughout the entire country, farmers are unable to plant crops and an estimated 50% of all harvests have been lost. The United Nations believe that there are currently around 5 million people facing the prospects of starvation within South Sudan whilst in the northern part of, 100,00 are facing imminent starvation. This is the first time a famine has been declared anywhere in the world for six years. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the political party that originally led the way for the country’s independence has long since been divided in its fight over power and this has had severe consequences across the whole of South Sudan. With widespread violence, robbing and killing of civilians, many people can no longer afford to buy or harvest food.   

Why did the conflict start?

The civil war in South Sudan was sparked by disagreements between its current president, Salva Kiir Mayardit who is head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its ex-vice-president, Riek Machar after the latter was sacked from his role in 2013 along with other high profile members of cabinet. Mayardit accused Machar on several occasions of attempting to remove him from power (also referred to as a coup). What began as an argument between two political figureheads quickly escalated into a civil war encompassing the entire country. Different ethnic groups began fighting one another to display their support to either President Salva Kiir or Mr Machar and in an attempt to gain power and resources. In 2015 both Mayardit and Machar signed a deal with one another after the UN held an intervention. The deal aimed to end the countries 20-month civil war, bring peace to the nation and prevent mass famine from spreading. A ceasefire was called and a transitional government had to be formed within 90 days. Machar fled South Sudan but retuned to its capital city, Juba in April 2016 in an attempt to become vice-president of the new unity government. Two months after his return and violence and unrest had again spread throughout the country leaving hundreds of people dead and  100,000 more fleeing across the border. Machar was sacked again just months later and returned to exile. On top of this on-going internal conflict, South Sudan still holds many unresolved issues surrounding the north of the country and where its borders lie as well as the status of Abyei, a small town which is extremely rich in oil. Years later the country has been completely torn apart by the civil war, leaving thousands dead and more than 2 million fleeing their homes. 

 

How has the conflict affected the people of South Sudan?

Years of conflict, climate shock and a collapsing economy in South Sudan have left more than 8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, over half of which are children. People have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. Violence throughout the country is widespread and prevalent, with many stories emerging of targeted attacks, gender-based violence, kidnappings and murders. Since the conflict began, almost 1 in 3 people South Sudanese people have been displaced and an estimated 3.4 million citizens have fled to neighbouring countries such as Sudan. It is now the third most-fled country in the world behind Syria and Afghanistan  More than 2.1 million citizens remain trapped in South Sudan, many of which are young children who receive no education and are being forced to become soldiers themselves. Life in South Sudan is unsafe and highly dangerous, this has only been made worse by the increase in prices for basic foods, leaving families unable to eat.

Despite Aid agencies such as UNICEF and OXFAM trying to help the people of South Sudan, it has proven extremely difficult to reach them due to the violence. In the past few months alone there have been numerous assaults on aid conveys, many of which have had their supplies looted by robbers. 

Women and children

What does the future hold for South Sudan?

Sadly the country is still locked in a violent civil war as President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar refuse to back down in their fight for power. Many new new anti-governments groups are forming every day and the fighting is spreading wider throughout the country. Unless malnutrition treatment is scaled up immediately, thousands of people are likely to die. 

This weeks headline news 5/3/2017

UK 

  • Thousands of protestors marched through London this week against austerity in the National health service. The protestors included NHS workers, campaigners and union representatives who hope to draw attention to plans which could see services in nearly two-thirds of England cut back.
  • Burglars raided the Surrey home of former England captain John Terry while he was on a family skiing holiday last weekend, police have revealed. The burglars are believed to have taken a large amount of valuables from the players seven-bedroom property,which features a half-acre of land. 
  • German automobile company, Daimler is set to recall about 75,000 Mercedez-Benz cars in the UK after 51 fires were reported, the firm have revealed. Whilst no deaths have been recorded as a result of the fault, many consumers have reported overheating in the vehicles. The faulty fuse affects some of its A, B, C, and E-class cars as well as its CLA, GLA and GLC vehicles. 
  • Tougher punishments have been introduced in the UK this week for drivers caught using their phones. Under the new rules, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their licence revoked. Penalties for using a phone at the wheel are now raised to 6 points and a £200 points, whilst new drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory.

 Foreign 

  • US President Donald Trump has this week accused former president, Barack Obama of wire-tapping his phone a month before he was elected. Taking to twitter this weekend, Trump wrote, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”. Despite a court denying a wiretap request, he is calling for a congressional investigation into the claims. 
  • Kang Chol, the ambassador to North Korea has been expelled from Malaysia after criticising its investigation into the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong-un. Chol was told by Malaysia’s foreign ministry that he must leave the country within 48 hours and apologise for his remarks. 
  • China has said it will increase military spending by about 7% this year, just days after Donald Trump outlined a boost to the US defence budget.
  • 15 prisoners have been executed in Jordan this week after they were found guilty of terrorism offences, rape and sexual assault. The prisoners, who were all from Jordan, were hung on Saturday in a jail south of the capital city of Amman. The country had imposed a moratorium on capital punishment between 2006 and 2014 but revoked it after sharp rise in crime  as well as the growing threat from  Islamic State ISIS, which controls areas of neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

Politics made easy: Whats happening in Syria?

The civil war in Syria began in 2011 and in the 5 years or so since it erupted, it is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people. The war is being fought between two groups; the soldiers who support the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad and a group of fighters known as rebels, who do not want him to be in power.

 

Why and How did it start?

The conflict began in the Syrian city of Deraa, after local citizens decided to stage a peaceful protest when 15 schoolchildren were arrested and reportedly tortured for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. The protestors asked the government to release the children and give greater freedom and democracy to the Syrian people. Sadly, the government responded very aggressively to this request and on the 18 March 2011, its army opened fire on protesters, killing four of them.

The following day, the army again opened fire on mourners at the victim’s funerals, killing one more person. This event is thought to have initiated wide-spread unrest throughout the entire country, as people demanded President Bashar al-Assad resign from his position, which he refused to do. Levels of violence became so heightened within the country that in 2012, the International Red Cross declared it to be in a state of civil war.

 

Who are the rebel fighters?

Establishing who are and who are not rebel fighters can often be tricky, as they are not just one group of people but are in fact made up of several groups who are all opposed to president Assad’s regime. The rebels include normal every day citizens of Syria, political party members and people who have been exiled from the country. It is estimated that there are currently around 100,000 rebel fighters in Syria, however this number is growing bigger every day. 

 

Who else is involved?

In recent years, the problems within Syria have escalated to its neighbouring countries. In early 2014, a radical militant and extremist group known as ISIS began taking over large parts of the country. Maintaining a violent and aggressive approach against anyone who did not share their religious views, they quickly moved into the Eastern part of Syria. Once there they began taking over large areas of land. This began a rather strange scenario, leaving both Assad’s forces and rebels fighting against each other and ISIS.

In September 2014, the United states, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates began using airstrikes to attack ISIS fighters who were on the ground in Syria. One year later, in December 2015, the United Kingdom also began to intervene, carrying out airstrikes in an attempt to remove ISIS from the country.

 

What impact has the war had on the Syrian people?

The conflict in Syria has had a devastating impact on its people, forcing millions to flee their homes and find safety in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Those who have had to leave have largely become known as ‘asylum seekers’, ‘immigrants’ or ‘refugees’. Since 2011, many European countries, such as Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Greece and Spain have also welcomed asylum seekers into their country. However, the journey for Syrians escaping to these countries can be very unsafe, with many risking their lives to travel across the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe. Sadly, a huge number of Syrian refugees have died whilst attempting to complete this journey and increasingly, more and more European natives are voting against allowing Syrian refugees to settle within their country. 

It has resulted in one of the largest mass refugee movements in recent history but there are still many Syrian people who have voluntarily stayed behind or are trapped within the country. Whilst various agencies and charities want to help the Syrian people-who are quickly running out of fresh food and water-getting aid to them is extremely dangerous. 

Chemical Weapons 

After initially denying the use of chemical weapons, which are banned in international war, the Syrian government later confirmed it had in fact utilised them. In September 2013, Russia, who are strong allies with Syria, suggested that the government give up these weapons and agree to destroy them. The process of destroying the weapons began in October 2013 and the people who worked on this project were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

What does the future hold for Syria?

Sadly, whilst the US, Russia, Britain and France continue to discuss ways of achieving a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Syria, within the country, much remains the same. Syria as we know it, with its rich culture and history has been brutally reduced to a fraction of its former self. Homes, schools and mosques have been demolished and thousands of lives has been lost. For the foreseeable future, the conflict is likely to continue until both the rebels and the regime can forge a peace treaty. If and when this is done, Syria will then have to strive to rebuild and re-mould itself into a normal and functioning society. 

This weeks headline news 12/02/2017

UK

  • A 10-year-old boy has died after an accident at clothing retailer Topshop’s Reading store this Tuesday. Karen Reddick is believed to have passed away after injuring himself on a display within the store. Despite three three ambulances and a rapid response vehicle arriving at the scene, the South Central Ambulance service were unable to save him. 
  • Around 360kg (793lbs) of cocaine was found washed up on beaches in Norfolk this week. The drugs, which have a street value of an estimated £50m, were found on Hopton beach, near Great Yarmouth and also on a beach near Caister according to the National Crime Agency (NCA). The NCA border investigations team are now working with Border Force, the Coastguard Agency and Norfolk Police to establish how the bags ended up there. 
  • An undercover reporter who spent two months at the HMP Northumberland prison has revealed how he witnessed wide spread drug use and a complete lack of control. The reporter, who worked as a custody officer in the prison, revealed he found inmates incapacitated by drugs, threatening towards staff members and often left to their own devices, whilst some prison guards revealed that they were afraid to confront prisoners incase back up took too long to arrive. The report was shown on BBC Panorama on Monday. 
  • RAF jets scrambled to intercept two nuclear-capable Russian bombers who flew into Britain’s “area of interest” this Friday. The planes were believed to have flown through the coast of Norway before passing the west coast of Ireland, although they did not enter British “airspace”.

Foreign 

  • Toshiba chairman Shigenori Shiga has resigned just hours after details were released showing the company has being running at a loss of $3.4bn, (390 billion yen). 
  • The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-nam, has been killed in an attack at an international airport in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Police say the late Kim Jong-il’s eldest son was waiting at a terminal for a 10.00 flight to Macau when he was attacked by an unknown woman who covered his with a cloth laced with liquid, resulting in his death.
  • North Korea  launched its first ballistic missile since Donald Trump became US president on Sunday. Pyongyang fired the medium-range rocket which flew 500km before crashing into the Sea of Japan, according to the US and South Korean military. 
  • Up to 188,000 people were evacuated from their homes in California this week after an emergency spillway in the US’s tallest dam, the Oroville Dam, began eroding, prompting fears it could release floodwaters. Although the dam itself currently remains structurally sound, weeks of heavy rain caused the Lake Oroville reservoir to rise above its capacity and lap over the spillway, which is designed to alleviate pressure on the dam.

 

This week headline news 5/2/2017

UK

  • An 18-year-old man has been found dead in a pub car park in Llanbedrog, near Pwllheli, Gwynedd after being shot this weekend. The victim, who police are yet to name, is said to have been shot by a group of ‘up to four men’ whilst he sat in his vehicle outside of the Ship Inn pub on Sunday night.
  • Cabin crew at British Airways are set to participate in six days of industrial action over low pay this week, in what staff are describing as a ‘dispute over poverty pay’. The airline has said that the strikes should not affect passengers and added that they have increased sanctions on employees who participate by threatening to dock two years of bonuses and remove all staff travel discounts for the next year.
  • An undergraduate student from the University of Bristol has been found dead beneath Clifton Suspension Bridge this Monday, in what police believe to be a suicide. The body of Lara Nosiru, 23, from Thurrock, in Essex, was discovered after friends notified the local authority of her disappearance. Nosiru was in the final year of her neuroscience course and a keen dancer. Her death follows that of three other students over the past few months: Miranda Williams, 19, Daniel Green, 18, and 18-year-old Kim Long. A spokesperson for the university said it has been carrying out a review of its mental health services.
  • Thousands of people took to the streets of London this Saturday in protest over Donald Trumps’ upcoming state visit. Demonstrators urged Prime minister Theresa May to withdraw her controversial invitation after the president caused outrage over his recent “racist” travel ban. Protestors walked from the US embassy to Downing street, brandishing placards with “No to scapegoating Muslims” and “No to Trump, No to War”, written on them. 

Foreign 

  • Heavy snow and avalanches in Afghanistan and Pakistan have claimed the lives of nearly 100 people this week, as officials warn of more snow storms to come. The worst-hit areas are the mountainous north-eastern province of Badakhshan, Nangahar in the east and Parwan near Kabul, which has seen several homes destroyed and major roads closed down.
  • Turkish police have detained 445 people suspected of having links to ISIS this week after carrying out early morning raids in 18 provinces. The co-ordinated raids saw the arrest of suspects in southeastern Sanliurfa, Gaziantep and Istanbul- where an ISIS attack at New Year left 39 people dead. 
  • The US federal appeals court has rejected Donald Trump’s request to reinstate a travel ban blocked by a federal judge on Friday. The ruling means the travel ban will remain suspended until the full case has been heard on Monday. The controversial ban has been named ‘unconstitutional’ by several lawyers as protestors say it ‘violates freedom of religion rights by appearing to target Muslims’. 
  • The French interior ministry has confirmed that a man was shot outside the Louvre museum in Paris this Friday, after attacking a soldier with a machete. French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that the incident clearly represented “an attack of a terrorist nature” after 29-year-old Abdullah attacked a soldier, leaving him with scalp wounds. Despite being shot 4 times by a second soldier, Abdullah is said to be in a stable condition in hospital. 

Why is the western media ignoring north korea?

Last week’s nuclear antics in North Korea sent the worlds media into a panicked frenzy as news reached of it’s successful detonation of a hydrogen bomb. Despite the KCNA’s best efforts to reassure us all that the latest test was just a little ‘trial-run’ for ‘self-defence’ and ‘absolutely nothing to worry about’, I can’t say that we were entirely convinced. Whilst Korea dropped the H-bomb and I watched everyone else simultaneously open-mouthed dropping the F-bomb, I was left wondering why and how the story had managed to squeeze its way into headline news in the first place.

You see, the democratic peoples republic of Korea, despite having a burgeoning population of almost 25 million inhabitants, seems to have been doing an excellent job of ‘laying low’ in recent years when it comes to press coverage. This isn’t however, as you may have been lead to believe, due to a lack of news-worthy antics.

To the contrary, North Korea and its leader have had quite the busy schedule over the past 5 years, since it’s dictator rose to power. There was the attempted satellite into orbit failure, then a second more successful run. A fall-out with BFF’s china over exportation of biological and chemical items. The execution of Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek over fears he may have attempted to overthrow the state, despite being the ripe old age of 67 and walking with what looked like a dodgy hip-replacement. Then there was lots of handshaking and smiling for photos with Political figures from around the world, followed by numerous violations of UN resolutions regarding the firing of missiles. All of this and no wonder Kim’s looking a bit rough around the edges these days, he’s probably only getting about 2 hours worth of kip.

Yet, despite it’s leaders’ constant sabotaging of international relations, creating nuclear weapons for ‘experimental purposes’ and secretly killing off anyone who threatens to stand in his way, there is another reason why North Korea resonates so much with me.

Due to Kim’s totalitarian leadership, hundreds and thousands of North Koreans face constant violations of human rights on a daily basis. Not only are they repressed from freedom of expression or attempting to assert their basic rights as human beings but they are systematically forced to show approbation for the very system that oppresses them. Political opposition, religious freedom and Independent media are all banned from within the country. Those who chose not to abide by these onerous laws and speak out against Kim and his strict regime face imprisonment or death.

Both children and adults have been forcefully enslaved in the countries political prison camps without any attempt at a fair trial, generally owing to the fact that the majority of them have not committed any real crime. Conditions within these prisons and detention facilities are reported to be similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps throughout world war two. Malnourishment is rife, prisoners are systematically overworked and torture is routinely used as a method of fear mongering and control. And it’s not just prisoners who suffer, the country as a whole has seen a steady decline of food, medicine and healthcare over recent years.

So why is the media brushing over the severe humanitarian crisis going on within the confides of North Korea’s borders?

If you turn on your TV today you’ll see story after story highlighting the continuous plight of Syrian refugees caught up in the on-going conflict between the Middle-east. You’ll see video footage of thousands upon thousands of asylum seekers making the long, treacherous journey to safer lands, seamlessly accompanied by emotional slow-paced music. As if listening to a string quartet whilst you absorb those sad images will somehow emphasise the calamity of the situation ten times more.

Every now and then you’ll see a photo of a young child washed-up on the beach and you’ll feel so overcome with emotion that you’ll start lobbying your local MP to invade Syria and obliterate ISIS so that you don’t have to see any more images like that again. In the past month, several videos have re-appeared in which we’re shown starving children in Madaya, telling us that they haven’t eaten in weeks and again we’re sub-consciously made to form an emotional attachment to the issue. In turn this throws into a vicious cycle of regret and guilt followed by support to the Western government and its regime which tells us it wants to help those innocent people when in actual fact its half the reason they’re in this terrible position in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t empathise with or care about those innocent Syrian refugees. To the contrary, I do everything in my power to help them in any way I can and of course, I’ll still sit and watch these videos and cry about how cruel the world is, before declaring we should blow ISIS up. But the fact of it is, we’re being shown that footage for a reason. That reason being that the more we are exposed to those heartbreaking and inhumane images the more likely we are to believe we’re doing the right thing by carrying out air strikes in Syria and thus eliminating ISIS.

But why don’t we see those same images of starving, dying children from North Korea?

Well, for starters, unlike our numerous wars in the middle east, a large scale war in North Korea wouldn’t reap any financial rewards for the West, in fact it would likely leave us in a huge(r) financial deficit. Not only would we be paying the price of sending hundreds and thousands of our heavily armed military personal over to invade the country, but we’d be sending them over with some rather ‘heavy duty’ weaponry too and, unsurprisingly, that stuff doesn’t come cheap. The average cost of equipping a U.S soldier is $17,500 whilst a B-2 stealth bomber costs around $1.01 billion. Not to mention the fact that we’d be responsible for handling the clean up operation after, further adding to an expense we just cannot afford.

Then there’s the whole trade situation. China manufactures a large percentage of American and UK goods and, despite growing tensions between themselves and North Korea, they remain allies. Put simply, to fall out with North Korea is to fall out with China and for the sake of Western trade economy, thats something we really do not want to do if we still want to be able to buy our £1 socks from Primark.

Did I mention theres no oil in North Korea? Why on earth would the west want to invade a country under the pretence of saving it’s hundreds and thousands of enslaved, malnourished victims when we can’t infiltrate its economy or steal its oil at the end of it?

Or could it be that the West is scared of North Korea?

With it’s disenfranchised populous, growing stock of powerful nuclear weaponry and a 1 million strong army, could it be that the West are so utterly terrified of North Korea that it choses instead to play-down the current humanitarian disaster within the media? The saying ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ springs to mind here.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

All in all, to go to war with North Korea would be a lose-lose situation for the West and it’s allies and so the media does it’s best to cover up the on-going humanitarian crisis so that we, as a general public, don’t feel the need to intervene in any way. Because, believe it or not, we’re quite a soppy bunch really.

To me, it seems as if the West is treating North Korea like a child, lying face-down in the middle of a sweet shop, screaming at the top of it’s lungs in the hope that someone will pick it up and give it the attention it deserves. But instead, we’re all choosing to ignore it in the hope that the screaming will eventually stop. As much as the media may feel it’s doing us a favour by downplaying the atrocities that are taking place in North Korea on a day to day basis, it is in fact co-ercing us into turning a blind eye to the situation which in part, makes us as cruel as it’s leader ourselves.

As a final thought, I want you to ask yourself something. Can we, as a nation really afford not to question a Western government and it’s media that systematically lies to it’s people. A government and it’s media which spoon-fed us false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, leading us blindly into a bloody and unecessary war in which we lost not just the lives of our own people but in which we took the lives of thousands of innocent others. North Korea are producing weapons of mass destruction and they’re not afraid to show us. If the western government cares so much for the safety of it’s people, then it needs to start addressing the biggest threat now.

Politics made easy: What’s happening in Aleppo?


About Aleppo

Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria, with a population of around 2.3 million, it served as the center of the country’s finance and industry, making it a critical part of the countries economy. The old city of Aleppo was also named as a world heritage site but sadly, much of the city’s historical architecture has been devastated during the recent conflict.

What conflict?

In July 2012, the civil war in Syria spread through to Aleppo and the city quickly became one of the main battlegrounds for government forces and the rebels. During this period, the city was roughly divided into two sections, with government forces controlling the western part of the city and rebel forces controlling the eastern part.

Aleppo was left in this state of division for more than four years until 22nd December 2016, when Syria’s government, helped by Russian forces, defeated the rebels and took back control of the city. They did this through a series of airstrikes and ground attacks.

Why did Russia help the Syrian government forces? 

Russia announced in 2015 that it would be supporting the Syrian government with the conflict in Syria. Historically, both Russia and Syria have maintained a strong relationship since 1971, when the Soviet Union built a naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus. Syria has also been a consistent buyer of Russian firearms, in fact from 2007-2011, 78% of Syria’s military imports were bought from Russia. As tensions grow between Russia and the west (UK and US), this intervention also gave Russia the chance to showcase its military capabilities.

What happened to the people of Aleppo?

In the run-up to this defeat and in the time shortly after, a large-scale evacuation of the people of Aleppo began. This evacuation was halted though, because the Syrian government said that the rebels were not sticking to the agreed terms of how the evacuation should happen. After some negotiating, the evacuation began again. However, stories then emerged of more attacks and fighting during this time, putting the safety of innocent civilians trying to flee the city, at risk. The large-scale fighting within the city left people without food, medical supplies and in many cases, clean water. Buildings, hospitals and schools were bombed and more than 100 were killed during this time, although exact figures are yet to be released.

Lots of people who were stuck in Aleppo at the time began tweeting about what was happening, with many saying they feared for their safety as bombs were dropped over the city. You can see some of their stories and tweets here.

On the 22nd December, government forces announced that the evacuation was complete and they had defeated rebel forces, re-gaining control over the city. This was a turning point in the countries long-drawn civil war as it means that president Assad now had control over four of the biggest cities in Syria.

What will happen now?

Although the Syrian government have managed to take back the city of Aleppo, the rebel fighters still control large parts of the country and the war is far from over. The U.N. estimates about 400,000 people have been killed in Aleppo since the battle first started back in March 2011.

Trump isn’t sexist, society is.

Ahhh 2016, the year that North Korea showcased its rather intimidating collection of nuclear weaponry, Britain bid farewell to the EU and a perma-tanned property tycoon miraculously succeeded in becoming president of the United states. Stranger things have happened. At least I think they have….

In the weeks leading up to Trumps winning victory, we were all graciously blessed with the endless ins and outs of both his and his fellow rival Clinton’s campaign. There were tales of troubling emails, blackmailing in the FBI and backhanded comments about the mental and physical health of both candidates. Intertwined with the above were Chinese whispers of bribery, questionable relationships between the candidates and their help and above all, we seemed to be hearing the word `tremendous’ way too much.

But perhaps the most publicized story to come out of this entire campaign was that of Trump and his apparently sexually derogative/derogatory remarks about numerous women.

It only seemed to take one women to come forward with her story of our newly elected and so-called misogynistic (check) president, before all hell broke loose. Suddenly, every woman who had ever spent more than 5 minutes in his presence began to speak out about the `tremendously’ sexist Trump too.

In case you missed it, here are just a handful of Trumps sexist quotes:

1991, speaking to Esquire magazine about the media, Trump said, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

1997, After Trump bought the Miss USA beauty pageant, he said, “They said, ‘How are you going to change the pageant?’ I said ‘I’m going to get the bathing suits to be smaller and the heels to be higher’.” Before later adding, “If you’re looking for a rocket scientist, don’t tune in tonight, but if you’re looking for a really beautiful woman, you should watch.”

2000, Trump was speaking to Howard Stern about a list of women he would like to sleep with, which included the late Princess Diana. He was quoted as saying to Stern, “She had the height, she had the beauty, she had the skin — the whole thing…. She was crazy, but these are minor details.”

2008, During another conversation with Howard Stern, Trump reveals that he has had sex with women who had `extraordinarily bad breast jobs which looked like pancake tits’ before adding that any woman who has a breast reduction is `insane’.

2015, In an interview with New York Times, Trump made a swipe at an international supermodel, saying, “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.”

2016, Trump caused outrage after advocating punishment for women who have abortions and just months later a video emerged of him talking about grabbing women by the p****, saying that “when you’re famous, ` they let you do it”.

And this was just the icing on the cake, as more and more of his previous sexual references began making headline news, right up until the end of his rather glitzy campaign.

As a female myself, I was one of many to both sympathize with these poor women and berate Trumps behavior. I proclaimed him to be a narcissistic pig and began quite openly vocalizing my anguish to practically everyone I spoke to.

A few days had passed after my initial outbreak of Tourette’s, and suddenly I started to ask myself a different question: why were Trumps remarks getting so much negative media attention?

Granted, Trump definitely has a no holds barred’ approach when it comes to publicly voicing his opinions on everything from Muslim `immigrants’ to Mexican `criminals’. For obvious reasons, he’s not naturally the first person that springs to mind when you’re thinking of suitable candidates to run a democracy. And of course, given the position he was rallying for- president of the U S of A, comments such as his are not exactly the kind of thing to win over an entire populous of people.

But of all the things to critique or pick out from his entire campaign, I can’t get my head around why the media seemed to hone in on sexist comments about young women.

Let me take you back to the start of November. It was a lovely sunny day here in London because, despite it being smack-bang in the middle of winter, global-warming likes to wave its magic wand every now and again and throw in a bit of a sunshine to really fuck with your body. Deciding to make the most of this rare and rather odd beautiful weather, I thought id take a leisurely stroll in our local park. So, throwing on a summers dress and a pair of flat shoes, off I trotted down the road, blissfully unaware as to what lay before me. As I turned the corner, I got the fright of my life as a van-full of middle-aged builders began honking their horn at me so loudly, I almost fell over. Realizing they’d got my attention (and also scared the absolute shit out of me) they then proceeded to crane their necks out of the window and give my arse a rating of 8 out of 10, almost crashing into an oncoming vehicle as they did so. After getting over the initial shock of only being given an 8 out of 10, when I would say I’m a solid 9 (honestly, the CHEEK of it!) I became so infuriated at how much they had embarrassed me that I sacked off the park completely and limped home, defeated.

Understandably you may think I’m overreacting, however when you experience something like this at least 3 times a month (and I am honestly being generous here), it really begins to mess your head.

I just couldn’t understand how these men, these grown-ass men, most likely with wives and children, found it in any way acceptable to look at and talk to me, a complete stranger, like I was a sexual object. What’s more, they found it perfectly within their rights to

 cast their opinion on me, to `rate’ me according to how sexually attractive a single part of my anatomy was.

The chances are that after this event, these `men’ simply had a laugh and joke and carried on about their usual day. Meanwhile, I spent the rest of the day sat at home wondering if I was giving off the wrong impression to men, simply by HAVING an arse.

What a world we live in.

If you were to ask any female in her 20’s who’s ever been out clubbing on a Friday night, there’s a 99.9% chance that shell tell you she’s had to bear the brunt of sexual comments. It doesn’t matter if said woman was dressed in a tight-fitting dress or, had instead partied it out in an outfit inspired by an Amish house wife.

At least a handful of times in her 20-something years, there’s a high chance that she has experienced sexism in some way, shape or form.

Did it affect her? Probably, yes. Did it knock her self-esteem? Again, the answer is likely a resounding `yes’. Did she do anything about it? Report it? Question this man on why he felt it was at all appropriate to talk to her like that? Most likely not…

And why exactly is it, that more and more women increasingly do nothing about it?

Well in many ways, its quite simple. Sexualizing women has now become a normalized characteristic of societies around the world. 

Men judging women based on their sexual appeal or attractiveness has become so `mainstream’ that it practically forms part of our daily conversations. “Lovely weather today isn’t it Tom?”, “Yes Bill, it is and have you seen the t*** on that girl?”.

In fact, sexualisation of women has become so far ingrained within our society that we now even promote it, we market it. Billboard campaigns full of scantily-clad women trying to flog us perfume, TV commercials featuring provocatively dressed models telling us to buy lipsticks that are `kiss and smudge proof’, presumably because the only reason women wear lipstick is to satisfy the lustrous cravings of men. Then there’s burger commercials with large-breasted women seductively chowing down on meat-filled buns in a bid to get us all to start splashing the cash on processed foods.

Its not by accident any of this, in case you thought it was. Those large, well-established companies are smart, they know what they’re doing, they know that sex sells.

And yet we consume it, without question. We no longer look at these billboards and these TV campaigns or the front covers of these magazines and think “that’s a bit too much, isn’t it?” or” someone should probably put some clothes on that poor woman”. No. We accept it. We consume it, worse still, we actually buy it.

But the reality is, we can’t escape it. Try as we might, its everywhere we look. Its everywhere we go and what’s more, its slowly become everything we want to be. The majority of us women, we WANT to be sexy. We WANT to feel attractive and if that means we have to be viewed as `sexy’ then so be it. We WANT to have that perfect `sexy’ body and to dress in those `sexy’ clothes and smoother our faces in crappy overprices make-up, just so we can look `sexier’.

And then, when some poor fella reacts to our `sexiness’, having subconsciously matched us up to those standards of sexiness that he has blindly consumed through society, and starts yelling out at us from the side of a white van, we get p***** off!

Swings and roundabouts and all that, eh?

Thinking back to the `outrageous’ and `incriminating’ sexist remarks made by Trump, can you honestly say you’ve not heard something similar in your day to day life? Or better yet, experienced it first hand? Or perhaps you’re even a victim of it yourself, whether you’re a woman who aims to be seen as sexy or you’re a man who’s consciously or subconsciously placed judgment upon a woman based on her sexual appeal. 

When you think about it like this, its plain to see that Trump himself is not sexist. At least, I don’t think he is. I don’t believe he was born with these sexist tendencies, nor is it likely that he was raised by his parents to have sexist views. No, Trump is not sexist, he’s simply a product of our inherently sexist society.

The only difference between Trump and the rest of us is that the powerful platform on which he stands demands that he not be outspoken about his sexual views.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I am myself, a Trump supporter. I am not, in fact I am far from it. But I am acutely aware of the many ways in which the media can twist and turn on its subjects in order to create a certain way of thinking amongst us `ordinary’ people. And yet, those very people who, just like me, are angered at the comments made by Trump, have probably made similar comments on the female population themselves.

As for our newly elected president, I can only hope that he does some good in the world and brings about those changes that America so badly needs. And his sexual views towards women? Perhaps he’ll learn to keep ….

Like I said before, sex sells…..

Politics made easy: What is the Chilcot report?

What is the Chilcot report?

The Chilcot report is a huge document over two million words long which looks into the UKs involvement in the Iraq war. The report, also known as the ‘Chilcot enquiry’, was initiated by the former UK prime minister, Gordon Brown and later deferred to Sir John Chilcot, a British privy counselor and president of the UK’s independent policing think tank, the police foundation.

The report considers the UK’s involvement in Iraq from 2001 to 2009, covering the run-up to the conflict, the subsequent military action taken and the aftermath of the war. Its aim is to establish how and why decisions were made and to ensure that if a similar situation were to occur in the future, the British government is well equipped to respond in a manner that holds the countries best interests at heart. The report took more than seven years to complete before it was published online after various attempts were made by the Foreign office and the government to block several documents from being made public. Some conversations between former UK prime minister Tony Blair and former US president, George Bush were said to be “detrimental” to British-American relationships and thus they were removed from the report.

So what happened?

As I discussed in my previous post: politics made easy: what is the war in Iraq? in 2003, the US led an invasion of Iraq which was supported by British troops. The sole aim of this invasion was to remove Saddam Hussein from power, as both the U.S and UK believed him to be harboring weapons of mass destruction. Despite not everyone agreeing with this invasion and many raising the issues of a high chance of loss of life and the huge financial costs that would be involved, it was given the go ahead.

Where any weapons found?

Whilst Iraq’s army was defeated and Saddam Hussein was captured and later executed, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

What does the report say?

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

  • The UK had NOT utilized all of the peaceful solutions to solve the conflict in Iraq, before it invaded. In other words, the UK had not acted appropriately or correctly in going to war with Iraq.
  • Former US president George bush and his administration (his team) repeatedly ignored advice from the UK on how to oversee Iraq after the invasion, including what to do with the country’s money and oil supply.
  • The report found that there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein, in fact, in terms of nuclear and chemical weapons, Iran, North Korea and Libya were considered greater threats at the time.
  • British intelligence gave false information to the government when they said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction- he did NOT.
  • The UK military was ill-equipped and unorganized in their planning of the Iraq invasion, subsequently adding to the increased death toll of British soldiers.

The report did not however, come to a conclusion as to whether not not the invasion of Iraq could be deemed legal or illegal.

The invasion of Iraq lasted more than 8 years, during which time it is estimated that more than 461,000 people were killed.

Should we be taking the law into our own hands?

The recent lynching of a suspected rapist in India has been making the headlines this month and consequently sparked off a huge debate questioning wether or not we, the general public should be taking the law into our own hands.

Theguardian.com published an article explaining that the suspect, Syed Sharif Khan, was stripped naked, beaten and dragged through Nagaland state’s main city, before he was hung by his neck in front of thousands of people. It is thought that initially he was targeted by a small group of men who, after going to the prison where he was being held, were denied access to his cell by police. However, hours later a crown of several thousand people had gathered outside of the prison, demanding to see the alleged rapist, prompting police to hand him over to the public for torture.

To most of us this may seem like an extreme case of the public joining together and overthrowing the law and is most likely something we wouldn’t expect to happen here in the UK, where the legal system is a profound and respected part of our society. However, more and more cases are rapidly emerging of UK citizens doing just that albeit in a less extreme manner. 

Ever heard of the self-named group ‘dark justice’? I hadn’t either until the Dailymail.co.uk explained how they recently persuaded a known peadophile to travel from Wiltshire to Newcastle to meet them, after the group managed to convince him they were a 14 year old school girl. When the known peadophile arrived in Newcastle, he was immediately confronted by the group who had gathered up quite the collection of evidence and handed it over to the police, resulting in his swift arrest, trial and prison sentence.

Explaining their decision to form the group, they told the daily mail:

‘We want to prevent this sort of thing from happening, we don’t consider ourselves as vigilantes but ‘concerned citizens of society.’

Now, whilst it is both brave and admirable that groups such as these are single-handedly striving to protect vulnerable citizens across the UK, they are also placing themselves and others at risk. Not to mention the fact that they are overriding the legal system and inadvertently encouraging like-minded people to do the same.

Currently there may only be a small minority of the UK who are choosing to act on behalf of the law and the outcome seems to be, so far, beneficial to society. However, as a nation we all seem to have a habit of ‘following the trend’ and ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ if we deem it as a good enough cause. What may have started off as a small collection of people seeking to protect and strengthen society can quickly escalate into a state of anarchy. If people chose to disregard the law according to their own beliefs and desires then what’s to stop us all from regularly forming thousand-strong mobs to publicly shame criminals, some of who have not yet been convicted?

Although I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and anger that the family and friends of victims must go through, taking it upon ourselves to seek out revenge or justice is simply not part of the modern, civil society we currently live in, nor is it humane. The law is in place for specific reasons: to protect us, regulate us, and provide us with our human rights. Yes, it may sometimes feel oppressive but it also stops us from stabbing each other over the last hot cross bun at Tesco’s. 

Instead of sinking down to the same level as the criminal we should be taking a more educated approach to the problem by putting pressure on the government to hand out harsher and longer prison sentences. We need to question why our taxes are being spent on luxurious prisons with 5* meals and a TV in every cell and we need to fight for this to be reduced- using only our voices. We need to see some kind of rehabilitation programme where the criminals can give back to the community from which they have taken something so precious and it needs to be an on-going process.

We have progressed a lot since the wild west gun-toting days and I for one would like to keep it that way, so in the interest of real justice, our laws must be preserved and adhered to.