FREEDOM OF TRIPWIRES EXPRESSION
THE RIG EXPRESS Freedom of speech should be protected as much as is humanly possible. The alternative is state control over what individual human beings of flesh and blood are allowed to say. That is an abomination. This doesn’t mean that anyone should say anything without thought of the consequences, but it does mean that the state shouldn’t be prosecuting anyone just for speaking.
I think vulnerable groups such as children need explicit protection from hate speech and all forms of verbal violence. Adults however should not be protected from inflammatory views, debate is better than censorship. The line between what incites violence and what does not is blurry, but I would rather censorship was kept at an absolute minimum and people were educated to make decisions based on the dignity and respect of humanity, rather than bubble wrapping the public - as the latter has dangers of its own too. With better education, people ideally would be able to independently put the Satanic Verses in the bin, and it is better this is done independently than at the bidding of a judge. A distinction needs to be drawn between direct calls to violence, which are illegal, and offensive opinions which should be combated by debate not sentencing.
I personally feel that a subject just because its sensitive, doesn’t mean it can’t be argued about or against - if nobody chose to speak up then wouldn’t that allow that idea or thing divine rule? However its still tricky because how far until freedom of speech becomes hurtful and discriminating? I think something that is a person’s situation, which they have no power over, e.g. the colour of their skin should never be allowed to be hated on. But the choices people make can be debated, and people can have opinions about them.
GHT TO Now and again, a comment is made in the media that deeply offends a large group or community. Should people be allowed to publicly express their opinions or should freedom of expression be limited when it could cause offense? We asked a group of students...
There are topics that can be hot and get people worked up when they don’t agree with an opinion at hand. I believe this is fine to an extent. What needs to be understood is that there is a fine line between expressing your opinion and insulting someone on purpose. Most recently there was an issue with the tram woman where she sat there with her fascist views picking on people. That was unjust and criminal. I could say ‘I don’t like Americans’ however that would also be insulting and wrong. Whereas if I said ‘I don’t like the American foreign policy’ that’s different. I think we should morally know how to express our views to not insult people - it’s something well mannered and which would eliminate this view of ‘controlling’ people not to offend.
I think freedom of expression depends on the position you hold. If you’re a teacher, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to say that a member of the class is an idiot in a public forum; but another member of the class should be allowed to say it. I think the limitation on expression should be more about the intent to cause hurt than throwaway comments - too many people just don’t choose their language appropriately.
Rights have to be balanced - the right to free expression should be weighed against other people’s personal rights. The media in particular need to be careful about this because they are putting their point into the public domain but not necessarily allowing debate if the group of people who have been offended do not have a way to reply.
CONTENTS 2 Right to Express or Offend? 5 Tripwires Editorial 6 Free?! by Loretta Addo 8 Londonâ€™s Burning by Refugee Youth 11 Life After Hosni by Kaamil Ahmed 12 Long Live Palestine by Loretta Addo 14 Crossing Borders by Hussina Raja 16 Lance Kirby on Israeli secrurity 18 Lina Ejeilat on Jordan 20 You Wait for Me With Dust by Liu Xiaobo 22 Omarska Camp by Laila Sumpton Cover image and image opposite created by Zia Ahmed 4
Tripwires Editorial W
e all like to think of ourselves as free: free to think, free to feel, free to speak our mind. But how much do we take that right for granted and what would happen if it was suddenly taken away? We know freedom of speech is important to a healthy democracy, but what happens when one person’s freedom of speech offends another? TRIPWIRES youth programme explores what free speech means for young people through performance media. Earlier this year in a new collaboration between Index on Censorship and Phakama UK a group of artists, young people, researchers and campaigners came together in a series of workshops to experiment with how different arts can unlock the complex debates around freedom of expression, censorship, self-censorship and offence. We then made a site specific performance about it that communicated some of our discoveries and
ideas. You can have a taste of what happened in this film clip Read more here. Following the performance project 6 TRIPWIRES participants created a project called FREE2B. Read about what happened when FREE2B went to Palestine to work on these same themes with young people working in theatre there. Kaamil Ahmed a young journalist who designed this magazine and produced a podcast with TRIPWIRES which you can hear on the website see below, travelled to Egypt following the revolution there – his article ‘After Hosni’ tells of his encounters there. There are poems by TRIPWIRES’ participants and other inspirational poets and a new video by our friends Refugee Youth about the riots in the summer. VISIT www.tripwires.org for more information about the project. THANKS TO Kaamil Ahmed, Hussina Raja, Zia Ahmed and Lance Kirby - the TRIPWIRES editorial team. 5
By Loretta Addo - Tripwires Participant So good to be living in London. In great, great, really, really Great Britain. I’m free right? Free to breathe, free to live, free to love. But am I free to think? I sometimes feel as if I’m meant to think and stay inside the box, think like others, believe what I’m told But I’ll do as I say. I won’t believe everything I read in the newspaper or everything I see on the TV, I’ll make my own mind up. And I try to do that, but then there’s this thick piece of tape that’s covering my mouth, Stifling my words, wrapped around my head, messing with my thoughts. And sometimes it gets tighter, and tighter and the suffocation starts to set in. ‘Why are you trying to silence me?’ I shout. I turn around to confront these people, my fists clenched, defenses up. But no one’s there. And then I quickly realise that it was me that bound myself up in tape Secured it properly so that nothing or no one, not even me could take it off. And I’ scared. I said I’m scared, that if this tape were to come off, unwrap from my head, peel from my mouth and snap from my chest, What would happen then? The uniformed self that unknowingly I had become would really be free. And then this dark fear sets in of truly being me. So, it actually makes no difference where I am. In a place surrounded by free thinkers, some of them maybe even liberal, I come to realise that I’m tired. I’m tired of my self-imposed censorship. It’s the light in me that causes the most dread. So, here’s to the first piece of tape I unwind from my head, And my thoughts run wild and frantic, desperate to be released. Don’t get happy though, the rest of me is still bound up. But in time, in time, I’ll be free. February 2011
A view of the London skyline Image by Kol Tregaskes (via Flickr)
You’re rioting for who? I’m writing for you You brothers that went out and took bare shoes You pricks be tripping like you laced up loose Tottenham had their excuse but theirs was valid The system’ fucked but your neighbourhood’s damaged Gandhi was peaceful Yeah that was apparent See through the dark Eat a carrot The system’s fucked We know they chat shit Free all my ackee??? brothers sitting in the bing Revolutions coming Watch what we bring Give Cameron’s wife back shots??? Watch what she sings Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Marley Think you do them proud? Hardly... At the start it was cool brought a smile to my face Then I felt like fool watching brothers catch case??? But most man are comfy The homeless are hungry Isn’t it funny how you man move cruddy? The homeless so cold, gone stiff like a dummy Its funny This system brought pain no honey-bunny Look at London now Its still a mess Leaders living nice Eating our pay cheques
By Salim 8
Police were in full riot gear as violence spread through Tottenham and then the rest of London in August Image by Beacon Radio (via Flickr)
London's Burning By Refugee Youth
Refugee Youth has made a video featuring a song about the riots. Here are the lyrics. Find out more about them here See their video here
Riots riots riots Everybody talking bout the riots The topic of today, tomorrow’s headlines Front page, ‘Youth gone wild!’ Looting, polluting, stealing Its all outrageous, Funny that is While the politicians are on vacations Dear politician, Pop out of corrupt land Visit reality Come to the other side Where people are locked up in cans Be enlightened Come find me, the future Neglect your well paid ignorance I got confidence
We live in a country where we’re made to believe to have democracy No form of equality When it comes to the minority Many of our rights are just words on a piece of paper When practiced it follows many barriers Where justice only serves for those who are powerful And meaningless criminals
You and I both know Who the real polluter is You’re a polluter Can’t ride no scooter...
When we see our brothers getting hurt - we fight HaYtham Atef - Egyptian Activist
Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square on a Friday, to celebrate the revolution Image by Kaamil Ahmed
Life After Hosni T
ahrir Square. I’d heard so much about it and seen it so often in the news. Now, I was standing there. It was just a roundabout. Okay, so it was quite a busy roundabout and there were a group of people running around celebrating - men selling any type of revolution branded goods were dotted all around the square. But without the thousands of people camped out on it, the square looked very different. Egypt was trying to move on. Fridays were still a day to celebrate the revolution and protest in solidarity with other Arabs but the overwhelming sense I got was that people thought they had the opportunity to move forward in a new Egypt. You could tell that Cairo was in a post-revolutionary state. Cars triple parked on the roads, street traders who had previously been banned set up shop in any space they could find and the tourists sites that many Egyptians depend on were empty. But everyone was positive. The triple parked cars and the manic street selling was a good thing for most people I came across because even though it was pure chaos, it was freedom.
Kaamil Ahmed travelled to Egypt in July 2011, only a few months after the fall of Egypt's dictator, Hosni Mubarak, to see whether Egypt was changing.
“People have been able to get on with their lives and relax, which they haven’t been able to do for years. For example the market traders have always been selling stuff on the streets of Cairo but they’ve always been frightened of the police,” said Ollie Wilkins, a British filmmaker who lives in Cairo. “The police would turn up every two hours and chase them and they’d all run off down the sidestreets carrying all their stuff. Now they police have disappeared from the streets and these markets are kind of creeping out further and further into the streets and now you go anywhere in Egypt and on one level its a nightmare because you can’t get anywhere but on another level its kind of a nice atmosphere of people getting to relax.” Even if the everyday sight of Tahrir Square didn’t bear any obvious signs of revolution for those on their first visit, a conversation with any Egyptian did. “I think if you talk about the main motivators for it, it’s gotta be social justice, justice and dignity - even before thinking about democracy.” said Ahmed Elenany, a Dentistry student in Cairo. “Those three elements are basically the frame of democracy. The main chanting was that we need social security,
we need dignity and we need justice - even before the people demand a step down of the regime.” Ahmed, who was heavily involved in political activism even during the repressive days of Mubarak’s regime, emphasised that a call for democracy wasn’t what most Egyptians were concerned about. They wanted something more simple. Beyond any political issues, the most recurring grievance that people spoke about was that the poor had nothing to hope for in Mubarak’s Egypt. Ashraf Abd El Wahab, who works three jobs so that he can send his children to private school instead of the unsatisfactory public ones, said that what Egypt needs is a middle class. “Rich people, not feeling about poor people but I think the middle class, he feeling about the poor people and help them.” The poor, Ashraf says, don’t know about democracy, they don’t care about it and voting is a new concept for them when they’ve had the same man in charge for 30 years. The poor also make up the majority of Egypt’s population. What did they want from the revolution? A better life. 11
Long Live Palestine The eyes, the face An angel was there and now he’s taken their place. But that angel’s trapped, Buried deep within, their soul’s collapsed, It’s as if perhaps, he has to be a man otherwise the exterior cracks. ‘I have the right as a kid to be happy’ he speaks And then with that line said, it all becomes deep A wave of sadness falls over me, A lump formed in my throat because now I start to see. I’ve just been hit with a cold slap of reality, Because as a young one I never had to think about these things, you see. It was all about being free, playing in my estate happily. And here I have this beautiful young boy, Reading from this paper, Standing strong, but in his eyes, a lost of joy. Telling us that there is a shortage of water. Israelis trampling over their rights, Leaving the Palestinians to the slaughter. And in my mind I’m thinking; ‘This don’t make any sense’ Cos people know what’s going on, So why aren’t they coming to these people’s defense? 12
By Loretta Addo - Member of FREE2B
And then the guilt starts to settle you see, Cos back home everything was all about me, me, me. What should I wear, what do people think, what should I do with my hair? And really deep down I could never find happiness with this, Because every time I searched, I seemed to miss. Because when that beautiful boy finished his presentation and smiled, It was confirmed that this trip was all worth while. He was younger than me, but I had nothing but pure admiration, To stand there and tell his story, knowing the situation. The Palestinians I thought, These are people here I can learn from. Because despite everything that’s been taken away from them, They remain strong. Sometimes back here the focus is too much on us, Too much of a lack of trust. Rather than a greater sense of solidarity. Maybe I should do more of a good deed. Divide and conquer they say?
But I didn’t sense that as everywhere I turned, a Palestinian flag would wave. People so kind that I felt at home. A break away from the rat race, I felt my soul had grown. This is not a lecture, nor telling people what to do. But let me ask you this, when was the last time you looked for the truth? Just because its not being reported does not mean that the events are not real. Just because its not front news does not mean its not the deal. And throughout this, the Palestinians remain kind, And theres only one thing on my mind. The sole purpose of mankind is to help, Its only then you can truly reward yourself. I follow the line of Ghanaian ancestry, But the Palestinian flag remains on my sleeve. Because I was touched, And I aint tying to get on that soppy stuff. But I’ll say this simple and clear; See for yourself, allow yourself to hear. Once you do, you can never turn your back. Echoes of ‘LONG LIVE PALESTINE’ ring in my ear I’m forever dedicated now, and that’s a fact.
Palestinian children wave their flag as the country celeberates its bid for recognition at the UN Image by Lance Kirby
Words by Hussina Raja Photos by Lance Kirby
Barrier at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and Israel
Hussina Raja, TRIPWIRES participant and one of the FREE2B group, reflects on the experience of traveling into and around Israel and Palestine when she visited in September 2011
ordan, Israel and Palestine, a Middle Eastern whirlwind. A journey crossing various borders that left us feeling conscious and at times intimidated. To expand on this, first it’s important to understand current affairs over the last several years in the Middle East have resulted in heightened security, paranoia and draconian regulations, and from my point of view target a particular population. “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement”, article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). My personal experience, and that of many others, says that the ability to move freely is inconsistent within 14
Palestine territory. tions to travel freely not just around the world The conflict between Israel and Palestine is but within the West Bank. Practically imposa very clear example of displacement, an ethsible in the current climate with the number nic cleansing, an abuse of a dominant posiof checkpoints that exist to monitor the West tion, a political hierarchy and Bank. uncivilised practices. Those Feelings of paranoia, First stop, Jordanian responsible are the people border crossing over within the Israeli government. frustration and anxiety ...the into Israel. By far the Through the use of their mass most excessive secumilitary, unfair and inhuman main theme we walked away rity procedure I’ve extreatment against the people perienced. The hostility of Palestine is procedural. with was that of fear. and animosity is prevaIronically, when speaking lent from the moment to the Palestinian people we the coach stops at the met, not one of them had a bad thing to say checkpoint. Suspicious eyes scan the lines about the Israeli people, but more so their proand hold up people who seem to share a simicedures and they highlighted their willingness lar criteria, anyone who is dressed in religious to openly communicate with the Israeli army clothing or of an ‘Arab’ nature. Second stage, without the use of intimidation or violence. luggage scanned, security detectors, and passThey also emphasised their hopes and ambiport checks. Stereotypes confirmed and target
audience awaits questioning. Initially this includes eight to ten members of FREE2B, a mixed group consisting of people from various ethnic backgrounds. Questioning varies and some more than others have their private lives delved into such depths that are most definitely unnecessary.
As an international traveler, I was overwhelmed by the level of security to the point I felt like a total outsider Third stop, airport officers check and stamp passports not before further questioning and, upon realising FREE2B is a mixed group, alarm bells ring and we’re held for further checks and verification of passports. While waiting, conversations with deli staff to keep spirits high are unfortunately short lived as action figure security staff swoop into question members yet again. Finally, after a 5 hour ordeal FREE2B make their way out of the airport, not before having passports checked a final time 5 metres away from the last point. The impression we’re left with is unsettling. Feelings of paranoia, frustration and anxiety are but a few. The main theme we walked away with was that of fear. Understandably throughout the rest of our journey at every security checkpoint the ideology is apparent, fear is
used as a weapon of control. Logically, it is understandable for any country to be vigilant against security threats and to prioritise public concern however, the level of surveillance and its purpose is highly questionable in Israel. This is another evident problem, any sign of rebellion or questioning against procedures immediately strikes suspicion. Checkpoints are totally normal in and around Palestine and Israel. This may be the reason why so many of the Palestinian people comply with the procedures performed at checkpoints, to avoid mistreatment and to make life easier. As an international traveler, I was overwhelmed by the level of security to the point I felt like a total outsider because I couldn’t understand the compliance, but then I didn’t grow up in Palestine, rather in a city that allows me to travel freely from East London to South London without being interrogated as such. How is this possible? Why is this being allowed? This is an infringement of our civil liberties. The checkpoints exist to instill fear and thus control, it’s that clear and simple. The fear prevents people from speaking out, telling the truth, being who they want to be and being able to freely move without the use of force or intimidation. I didn’t realise what freedoms I possessed until they were taken away from me. Limiting my movement reminds me of how grateful I am to have the opportunity to live in London. Although we have arbitrary use of stop/search, it is no comparison to what the Palestinians endure from the ruthless treatment of checkpoint procedures. 15
That is how I remember Israel, just a lot of tension. Fear factors put in you. Obviously, there are guards and people walking around the streets and police with massive guns and stuff like that. Just reinforcing fear and keeping people in their place. 16
Lance Kirby Tripwires Participant. ...on how the security measures that he came across in Israel made him feel.
Graffiti of young Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli troops Image by Lance Kirby
I thought that people don’t practice censorship online, but they would censor themselves if they were sitting in a room face to face with everybody else. but they didn’t! People were challenging what is traditionally percieved as red lines. The level of freedom of expression was very refreshing and encouraging and surprising in a way. 18
Lina Ejeilat Co-Founder of 7iber.com ...on how they set up ‘hash-tag debates’ in Jordan to encourage people to publicly voice their concerns about Jordanian society.
A boy in Amman gets ready to fly his kite at the top of one of the cityâ€™s many hills Image by Kaamil Ahmed
You wait for me with dust
By Liu Xiaobo - Performed at a Tripwires event Translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander
Nothing remains in your name, nothing but to wait for me, together with the dust of our home those layers amassed, overflowing, in every corner youâ€™re unwilling to pull apart the curtains and let the light disturb their stillness over the bookshelf, the handwritten label is covered in dust on the carpet the pattern inhales the dust when you are writing a letter to me and love that the nibâ€™s tipped with dust my eyes are stabbed with painyou sit there all day long not daring to move for fear that your footsteps will trample the dust you try to control your breathing using silence to write a story. At times like this the suffocating dust offers the only loyalty 20
your vision, breath and time permeate the dust in the depth of your soul the tomb inch by inch is piled up from the feet reaching the chest reaching the throat you know that the tomb is your best resting place waiting for me there with no source of fear or alarm this is why you prefer dust in the dark, in calm suffocation waiting, waiting for me you wait for me with dust refusing the sunlight and movement of air just let the dust bury you altogether just let yourself fall asleep in the dust until I return and you come awake wiping the dust from your skin and your soul. What a miracle â€“ back from the dead.
Protesters call for Nobel Peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo to be released from prison in China (December 2010) Image by kartoffelmos (via flickr)
By Laila Sumpton
When the guard hit the switch the short circuit boy surged, flickered about numbered bodies in a riot of early nineties disco moves.
and beats eventually find him, whole cabinets of questions splintering down on his head timed to bits of past strobe lighting the floor.
Till they turned him off with a rifle butt, dragged him to the white shed with his feet still tapping.
“So how many guns do they have in your village, boy?” “So how many spoons do you have in your kitchen, sir? I’d know if I’d sold you the spoons.”
When the general hit the switch the seated boy fought the dance, chattered into a grin, looked about the room for stools, tables, doorstops anything. “You are missing a plank, boy.” “You are missing a sawmill, sir.” He waits for music 22
He waits for music and the general breaths him in through sweat, smoke and stammers, then balances his camouflage on the table edge and the boy stops winking at the ceiling, feels the need to dance again.