Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Chechnya’

LGBT History Month

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 2nd February, 2019

Alan TuringFebruary is LGBT History Month in the UK, providing an opportunity to showcase the contribution made to society by LGBT people, ranging from one of the fathers of modern computer technology and artificial intelligence (AI), Alan Turing, to the playwright and wit, Noel Coward. Given my own professional and personal interests I inevitably hold especially dear those who made a big contribution to politics and the Arts, several of whom I shall be celebrating during the course of the month. A great tribute is deserved for Peter Tatchell, who for decades has campaigned tirelessly for human rights and equality, and those who were instrumental in getting Equal Marriage put on the UK statute books by the 2010-2015 Coalition Government, not least Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone. History Month events are already occupying a significant place in my diary. Last night I was at a dinner for the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship and today I’ll be attending a lunch put on by the Oscar Wilde Society.

Noel CowardOscar Wilde has posthumously played an important role in my own writing life, as I have produced three books about the Irish playwright and his circle. I am currently working my way through Matthew Sturgis’s monumental new biography, Oscar, which is full of previously unknown details, including a very detailed account of Wilde’s American lecture tours. It is often overlooked just how important Oscar Wilde was as a social reformer, the grey clouds of his trials and imprisonment obscuring his progressive agenda, expressed directly in a number of essays and indirectly through his plays. For me, he represents the clearest example of living out the life philosophy of discovering who you are and then proudly being that person. That was a very brave position to take in the late Victorian period.

9326E15F-E174-4CA8-A6F2-71AACBE68C7CDuring LGBT History Month we can mark new milestones in the campaign for equality, such as Angola’s recent decriminalisation of same-sex relationships, while also noting with concern backward steps, such as the election of the homophobic Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. LGBT people are still the subject of discrimination and abuse in several parts of the world, one of the most egregious examples being in Chechnya. But the heroes and heroines of the past and the present can perhaps serve as an inspiration and even a consolation to those who still have to attain the full human rights that should be the norm for all people, irrespective of their sexuality.

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Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th March, 2011

UN Security Council resolution 1973 regarding Libya is a milestone in the development not only of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect but also the realisation of its practical implications. Muammar Gaddafi had shown such flagrant disregard for the well-being of his people, in his brutal attempts to suppress the popular uprising against him, that the international community could not just sit back and watch a massacre take place. This of course goes counter to a longstanding principle in force really since the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648: the concept of the sovereignty of the nation state — in other words, that other countries should not interefere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. That is a principle that both Russia and China are keen to see maintained (because of their fears over restless regions such as Chechnya and Tibet) and explains why they both abstained on Resolution 1973. At least they did not veto it, thus giving a green light to international action, with UN backing. Britain, France and Lebanon took the lead on this, with the United States coming on board soon after. At least two other Arab states — the UAE and Qatar — have also indicated their willingness to be involved in the operation to protect the Libyan people. But inevitably the main thrust will come from NATO, with France and Britain again taking the lead. Like many who opposed the Iraq War, I feel that UN action on Libya was essential. But the challenge will be to bring a swift end to Gaddafi’s attacks on the rebels without things escalating or becoming too protracted. And then ideally Gaddafi must go — perferably pushed out by his own people.

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In Memoriam Anna Politkovskaya

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 7th October, 2009

Anna PolitkovskayaShe was deeply committed to Truth. Following in the fine tradition of Quakers and other Christian radicals, she believed in Speaking Truth to Power.  Anna Politkovskaya was indeed a Christian, as Lord (Frank) Judd emphasised in his tribute today at the thanksgiving service at St. Bride’s, Fleet Street, for the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but above all else she was a campaigning reporter. What more fitting place  in London to celebrate her life, on the third anniversary of her assassination by persons unknown, than the journalists’ church? There was sublime music for violin and piano byRachmaninoff and Prokofiev, as well as Anglican  hymns and renderings of both English and Russian choral music by St Bride’s exquisite singers (surely one of the best choirs in London). Elena Cook, who often acted as Politkovskaya’s interpreter, and Christopher MacLehose, her original English-language publisher, both gave addresses. I never met Anna, but like many people working in Bush House for the BBC World Service in the 1990s, I felt I knew her intimately, as she filed her press reports about extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuse in Chechnya. During the last few months of her life, I sometimes felt physically sick, as she stuck her neck out, probing into places the Kremlin and others wanted left dark, and I thought, ‘They will kill her!’ As indeed, they did.

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