Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Commonwealth Secretary-General Backs Gay Rights.

This just in from our buddy Peter Tatchell:

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma made history when he voiced his support for gay rights in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth People‟s Forum (CPF) in Perth, Australia, today, reports Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Mr Sharma was addressing the NGO delegates prior to the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Mr. Sharma said: “We recall the 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, which includes a clear commitment to tolerance, respect and understanding. This means we embrace difference, and that includes sexual identity. Discrimination and criminalisation on grounds of sexual orientation is at odds with our values and I have had occasion to refer to this in the context of our law-related conferences,” Mr Sharma told the CPF delegates.

Said our Peter: “We welcome Kamalesh Sharma‟s defence of gay human rights. He has shown strong leadership by making it clear that homophobic persecution is incompatible with the Commonwealth‟s values of equality, human rights and non-discrimination. His speech is a tacit rebuke to the more than 40 Commonwealth member states that continue to criminalise homosexuality, with penalties ranging up to life imprisonment. They comprise more than half the countries in the world that treat same-sex relations as a serious criminal offence.

“This is the first time that any Commonwealth Secretary General has ever condemned discrimination and criminalisation on the grounds of sexual identity at the CPF. It is only the second time in history that a Secretary General has criticised homophobic persecution at a Commonwealth event. The first time was at the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Sydney in July, when Mr Sharma stated that 'vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation is at odds with the fundamental values of the Commonwealth.'

“We hope Mr Sharma will again make history by repeating his commitment to gay human rights in his keynote address on Friday to the Commonwealth Presidents and Prime Ministers at CHOGM. No Secretary General has ever said at CHOGM that Commonwealth member states should end homophobic persecution,” Tatchell added.

Here's what Tatchell and other lesbian and gay rights campaigners want to see on the official CHOGM agenda, and they want all Commonwealth member states to adopt: 1. Decriminalisation of homosexuality 2. Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity 3. The enforcement of legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people from hate crimes 4. Consultation and dialogue with LGBT organisations.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle. . .

. . . like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

Eric Blair, the artist more commonly known as George Orwell, was dead right about that. But once the book's published a harder kind of work begins, and this can be happy work, too, renewing old friendships and roving about. Which is what I'm doing now with Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan. Speaking of which. . .

On Sunday (October 23) I'll be with friends to present the book and have a discussion at the Tommy Douglas Library in Burnaby, 7311 Kingsway, 2- 4 p.m., and my good friend Abdulrahim Parwani, the Afghan writer and pro-democracy partisan, will be there. Abdulrahim is figures quite prominently in the book. Sanjar Sohail, chief editor of the Kabul daily Hasht-e Sobh will also be on hand. So do drop by.

Anyway. Once the book is in print and making its first rounds, sometimes, people will actually thank you for making the effort. Sometimes, a reviewer will effortlessly take in exactly the story you're trying to tell, and will appreciate it, and say so. Michael Petrou of Macleans certainly got it: "It is fitting that Terry Glavin begins his book Come from the Shadows: the Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan with a quote from George Orwell — who once said it is not enough to oppose fascism; one must stand against totalitarianism in all its forms." Thanks, Mike. Coming from you, that meant a lot.

Today in the Vancouver Sun, somebody else gets it perfectly. Eva Sajoo, research associate with the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures at Simon Fraser University, gets right to the point. Plus the review is accompanied by a certain photograph that induces whimpering among the members of the West Point Grey Malalai Joya Appreciation Society and Aromatherapy Men's Group. The next time you've got a few minutes to spare and you want a proper explanation of Afghan history and why the heck so much of the world has been so busy in that country lately, you would do very well to put up your feet and take in Eva's own engaging presentation in this video. Eva will be with us on Sunday in Burnaby, too.

And it was a perfectly pleasant experience Wednesday night as well when I delivered my Travels in Absurdistan lecture at the University of Victoria. I spun some yarns about Afghanistan and about the imaginary country of the same name that floats around the western consciousness, and I tried to give an account of how a sweetheart like me ended up there in the first place. The hall was packed and everyone was perfectly sweet and attentive and all was swell except when some guy screamed at me and told me I was some kind of CIA agent and two stoppist bitties who took a shouty tone for reasons they themselves couldn't explain.

Taking the same tone, Charlie Smith, the editor of the Georgia Straight (where I once laboured as a columnist) was up to his old tricks in a passive-aggressive jumble taking the form of a book review under the headline Terry Glavin is up to his old tricks in Come From the Shadows. The tricks Charlie says I'm up to are things he seems to more or less makes up as he meanders along, and I don't mean only the hilarious errors and wowsers throughout the piece.

I mean the same kind of tricks he was up to, for instance, in the story he wrote under the headline U.S. antifascist to warn Vancouverites about dangerous global elites, when he somehow managed to pen a lengthy hagiography of U.S. Lieutenant.-Colonel Bob Bowman (Charlie got his name right, granted) without letting his readers in on the fact that Bowman is a far-right crackpot who claims to be the real pope and enjoys his own Holy See from some hicktown in Florida, and is also famous for having counseled the American military class to mount a putsch beginning with the "detention of executive branch officials."

What Charlie also found unmentionable for some strange reason in just that one story was that Bowman is perhaps the highest profile member of the "They Let It Happen" sect among 911 conspiracy theorists, and that he was presented to Charlie by the Vancouver 911 Truth Society, which was presenting Bowman to Vancouverites as part of a the far-right 911 / Patriot Tour, and that Charlie's "an antifascist group" is in fact a far-right 911 Conspiracy outfit.

Those kinds of tricks. Don't believe me? Buy my book. I probably shouldn't suggest this but it might be more efficient to just read an excerpt that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen that should tell you exactly what it is about the book that would cause a certain class of journalist to get so pissy.

I was well aware that this book would upset a whole lot of people in Canada. I fully understood as well that for a lot of very decent people, the book was going to sting. And some people would appreciate my attempt to make some use of myself, and some people would not appreciate it one bit. But I'll tell you what I didn't see coming.

I've tried to show that there is a country called Afghanistan in the real world, and there is also a place called "Afghanistan" that has been invented to make us feel better about ourselves - a country that does not exist in the real world, whose people do not exist on this planet, where things are said to have happened that never happened. . . you get the idea. What I didn't see coming was that there would be a review in the Winnipeg Free Press about a book called Come From the Shadows which I did not write, which alludes to contents the book does not contain, attributes wild claims to me that I do not make, refers to passages in my book that do not exist, has Afghans telling me things they never said and recounts events in my book that did not occur.

So I wrote a letter to the editor. It ran. Competent and principled newspaper toilers have delicately hinted to me that I am being a chump for settling for that, and that I should have brought in the lawyers. A better way: buy the dang book and you'll see what I mean. You don't even have to like it. For all I care it will make you want to throw it at a wall.

But if you want an unfiltered, unspun, no-tricks, no Ziocon-hegemony-false-flag-gatekeeper version, and a wholly first-hand account of why I chose to subject myself to such "a horrible, exhausting struggle" in the first place, it's all here in this interview. If you'd prefer to sit back and listen to me explain (after one too many espressos, possibly) what the book is about, here's my conversation with Dave Dickson at CFAX (mp3, starts around 7:38).

And on a not unrelated subject, here's my essay in today's Ottawa Citizen: We in the West become implicated whenever we behave as though democracy might coexist with despotism.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


At UVic, "a special public lecture from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19, in room A240, Human & Social Development building."

Journalist and author Terry Glavin—the University of Victoria’s fifth Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction—is sharing his personal experiences with Afghanistan and a shifting media landscape with UVic students this year.

Glavin’s lecture and discussion course, “Orwell and Everything After,” explores what he deems “a disorienting time of social, geopolitical and economic upheaval”—but far from describing the era of George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm), he’s actually referring to the world today.

“Today’s revolutionary transition from analog to digital media is as epochal to the way we communicate ideas, stories and report ‘news’ as yesterday’s transition from an oral to a written-word culture,” explains Glavin. “But what has endured is our continuing evolution as a species that comprehends and explains the world through narrative . . . what also appears likely to endure is the value most people place on true stories.”

His latest book, Come From The Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan (Douglas & McIntyre), reflects his disturbing observations in that war-torn country. “In my own working life, I have never encountered such a deep and dark gulf between the real world and the way that country—and the war there—appears in the media.” Glavin will launch Come From The Shadows at a special public lecture from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19, in room A240 of UVic’s Human & Social Development building.

Terry Glavin has been hailed as “one of the finest journalists writing anywhere in the English language.” The author of six books and co-author of four others, he has been a reporter, editor and columnist for the Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail; his cultural criticism, science and travel writing have appeared in magazines across the country, and he has won more than a dozen literary and journalism awards, including the 2009 Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in BC. Glavin is also a co-founder of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee and the National Post called him “one of Canada’s leading voices in support of our Afghanistan campaign.”

The annual Harvey Stevenson Southam lectureship is made possible by a $250,000 gift from one of the country’s leading publishing families. Harvey Southam, a UVic alumnus and journalist, was heir to his family’s publishing empire when he died suddenly in 1991.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Message To Wallstreeters From A Young Massoudist: "My Tent Is My AK47."

"Dear Americans: Afghanistan is one of the richest countries in minerals and natural resources. Yet the people are known for being some of the poorest in the world because our military, financial and political leaders have been serving their masters instead of their people.

The Afghanistan people are grateful to the nations and their soldiers that have sacrificed their lives for over 10 years to free Afghanistan from the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist organizations. We will always be thankful to those who did not hesitate lending a hand in rebuilding Afghanistan. We appreciate every penny that Americans spent on Afghanistan.

"The world is changing, and we are hopeful that the power of people and peaceful rebellion will be victorious around the world. It is time for westerners, especially Americans, to stop providing us with fish. Now its time to teach us how to fish. Teach us how to spread a peaceful and non-violent culture. Please support us in our efforts to Occupy Kabul! We were cheated and played by our own leaders. The democracy system was fake. We realized that a year later. This corrupted and misogynistic regime of drug lords, neo-modern thugs and thieves must be removed. Please click the link to join us."

Saturday, October 08, 2011

From Today's Trafalgar Square 'Anti-War' Rally: A Report From A True Radical Activist.

The brave human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, whose radical politics, tireless international solidarity work and campaigns for gender equality and gay rights have set the gold standard for principled and militant left-wing activism in Britain, struck a boldly dissenting note at today's stoppist jamboree in London.

In recent days, Peter and I have engaged in an exchange of our differences on the crucial matter of Afghanistan. I'd like to think I helped him disabuse himself of several widely-held misconceptions about the Afghan struggle for peace and freedom. But what I know for certain is that to the extent that Peter changed his mind - and indeed he did quite substantially revise his position - he did so on the basis of hard evidence. Another thing I know is that he changed my mind: I'd argued that he'd be making a grave error to play any role in the Trafalgar Square event. I was wrong.

Here's Peter's report:

"The turn-out at today’s anti-war protest in London was surprisingly low. Only 3,000 people [Peter followed up with a note saying this estimate was probably "on the generous side" and that perhaps as few as 2,000 came to the rally]. The organisers had expected 10,000 to 20,000 or more.

"The names of a selection of the war dead were read out: but only the names of British soldiers and Afghans killed by NATO forces. The names of Afghan civilians murdered by the Taliban were not read out. The suggestion was that all the Afghan civilian deaths over the last 10 years were the result of NATO attacks, which is not true. Indeed, from the stage there was hardly any mention of the murderous crimes of the Taliban. I only heard one out of about 20 speakers criticise - or even mention - the Taliban.

"The placards carried by myself and my Peter Tatchell Foundation colleague Ashley McAlister were the only ones in the entire 3,000-strong protest to condemn the Taliban. Our placards read: 'Troops out, but not yet. Defend Afghan women against Taliban” and “No NATO. No Taliban. Peace, Democracy & Freedom for Afghans.' We got a handful of sneers from fellow protesters but mostly support, which was heartening. Many people at the protest did not share most Stop The War speakers apparent lack of concern about the threat posed by the Taliban.

"It was claimed by some speakers that Afghan women had made 'no progress' since the NATO invasion and the overthrow of the Taliban. This failure to acknowledge the hard won gains of Afghan women (imperfect but improved) is profoundly shameful and dishonest.

"I’m against the war. The current war-fighting strategy is flawed. There are too many civilian casualties. Western troops should focus on peace-keeping and training the Afghan security forces. Funding should concentrate on economic reconstruction and empowering civil society. Afghan’s who have jobs, income, houses, health and education are less likely to be attracted to the Taliban or to tolerate them. If they see their lives getting better under an attempted (albeit flawed) democracy, support for the Taliban will wane even more. Instead of destroying the poppy crops, which is driving some farmers into the arms of Taliban, the West should give them an equivalent price for growing food. Or buy up the poppy crop and use it for medicinal purposes.

"I don’t believe the West can impose solutions. What we do in Afghanistan should be determined solely by the interests of the Afghan people, not by western geo-political interests. The days of neo-imperialism are over – or should be."

In his follow-up email, Peter reports:

"I was gratified that most of the grassroots protesters who indicated an opinion seemed to agree that the Taliban are a problem and cannot be ignored. They apparently don't share the moral and political blind spot of virtually all the speakers in Trafalgar Square.

"Most the anti-war protesters who came up to me and Ashley to thank us for our placards were women and nearly all expressed fear for the fate of women if the Taliban returned to power."

All to the good. People need to properly inform themselves, and should stop allowing pseudo-leftish celebrities tothink and speak for them.

Nevermind that there are still misunderstandings that obviously bedevil Peter's analysis. Nevermind that. Peter Tatchell went to an "anti-war" rally in London today, and I am perfectly content that he did.

Meanwhile, my friend Sam Westrop was also there. Sam's brief report in the Jerusalem Post is here.

Friday, October 07, 2011

There there, dear. Go and have yourself a good lie-down.

Well, it seems the book I've just written is doing at least part of the job I'd hoped it would do. Reading Come From the Shadows so upset the delicate sensibilities of the Toronto Star's Jennifer Hunter - long-time journalist, member of the Star's editorial board and wife of Star publisher John Cruikshank - that she told me she wanted to throw the book at the wall.

She says she felt I was being condescending to her, the delicate thing: Do you really mean to say these Afghans are not all bloodthirsty and grubby opium-growing fanatics who hate us for our precious western values ? Whatever can you mean, dear boy?

And she says I'm the one who's condescending. Too bad she didn't include the part of the interview that unfolded when I asked her what she meant by "western" values.

But good for Jennifer, fair's fair, and I should thank her not just for the attention but also for giving me the perfect dust-jacket blurb for when the softcover edition comes out, in 18-point type and boldface, taken from her first sentence: ". . readers might be tempted to throw the book against the wall."

And what sort of readers, exactly, will want to have their smelling salts close to hand when they read the book? The headline on the excerpt that appears in today's Ottawa Citizen should give you a hint: 'Getting Lost in Absurdistan: After 9/11 the North American left lost its mind, at great cost to the people of Afghanistan.' And what is this phenomenon to which the headline refers, exactly?

In Canada, it was playing out on the same tectonic scale as the emergence of a distinct democratic socialism in the 1930s, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s and the rise of libertarian Prairie populism in the 1990s. As is fairly common at the advent of such upheavals, journalists can be among the last to notice. Nonetheless, something new was emerging in the New Democratic Party, the trade unions, the university faculties, the student movement and the national activist organizations of “the Left.” In all these places, the response to the events of September 11 involved the deliberate construction of an imaginary “war” in Afghanistan that required the most progressive and intelligent Afghan voices to be ignored. You could pick up the liberal-establishment Globe and Mail and read prominent “anti-war” and purportedly left-wing academic James Laxer arguing that NATO countries should pull their troops from Afghanistan, even though the likely result would be a civil war that ended with a “fascistic theocracy.”

This would indeed be preferable, Laxer argued, owing to the Afghans’ “ornery tendency to throw out invaders.” The Canadian journalist that “anti-war” polemicists cited perhaps most frequently as an authority on Afghanistan was Eric Margolis. It didn’t seem to matter that Margolis was a millionaire “alternative medicine” magnate with a regular column in Canada’s conservative-populist Sun Media newspaper chain. A co-founder of Pat Buchanan’s far-right American Conservative magazine, Margolis consistently cast the opposing forces in Afghanistan as Hamid Karzai’s communist-dominated government and secret police on one side, with the Taliban, “a religious anti-communist movement drawn from the Pashtun tribe” on the other. But Margolis was, of course, “anti-war,” and was therefore regarded as being on the side of “progressive” clarity and virtue.

I do very much hope that among the legions of good and decent progressives who have been taken in by the pseuo-left swindle there will be many who will find their way to actually read the book. But I should warn them beforehand: it's probably going to sting.

Go, find Peter, and stand with him. He will need friends.

When it came to my attention three weeks ago that the brave British human rights activist Peter Tatchell had agreed to lend his good name to the Saturday October 8 "Anti-War Mass Assembly" in Trafalgar Square, with its inane demands for a withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, my heart sank.

An entire galaxy of retread counterculture celebrities and "anti-imperialist" zombies had pledged to be there. George Galloway, Lauren Booth, Julian Assange, Seumas Milne, Moazzam Begg, Yvonne Ridley, Salma Yaqoob - you'd have thought Londoners were engaged in some mass mobilization in public hygiene that involved carting off the most rancid political detritus of the past decade to pile it all up in a single stinking heap, and in Trafalgar Square of all places.

And right in the middle of all those names: Peter Tatchell. This can't be right, I thought.

Peter Tatchell, who only a few days before had shown up at an East London mosque to stare down the thugs from the English Defence League as well as the Islamist crackpots who have been visiting so much misery upon British Muslims? The same Peter Tatchell who has been almost alone on the British Left in drawing attention to the persecution of the Hazaras of Balochistan and their routine slaughter by the death squads of Lashkar-e-Janghvi?

I'd long known Tatchell to be one of the few leading British activists who could be counted on to actually take the trouble to discern principled and consistent positions in the matter of international solidarity. His aim was true. He'd stood up to former London mayor Ken Livingstone. In Brussels, when he attempted to make a citizen's arrest of the Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe, he'd been beaten unconscious by Mugabe's bodyguards. He'd been arrested and roughed up by the cops in Moscow for standing shoulder to shoulder with gay rights activists there.

And yet there was Peter Tatchell's name and photograph, appended with the names and photographs of pretty well every self-congratulating bourgeois stoppist windbag from Torbay to Tyneside, to a demand for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan - every progressive Afghan's worst nightmare - all tarted up in the usual ludicrous and self-flattering lexicon: "I pledge that if British Troops are still in Afghanistan on the tenth anniversary of the invasion I will join the mass assembly in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 8 October to make it clear to the government that they must not continue this brutal and pointless war in defiance of the will of the people."

It would have been too much for me to expect Tatchell to know anything of what I have witnessed during my visits to Afghanistan, or that he would have any first-hand experience of what it's like when that brokenhearted and black mood befalls Afghanistan's feminists, secularists, democrats and reformers every time they tune in Tolo TV or pick up the brave liberal Sanjar Sohail's Hasht-e-Sobh daily newspaper to read about yet another "anti-war" demonstration in Toronto, or Washington, or London.

But of all people, how could Peter Tatchell not know that in Afghanistan, "troops out" is the tiny preserve of crazy people, crypto-fascists, and the Islamist far-right? How could Peter Tatchell not know that nothing brings a smile to Mullah Omar's face faster than a BBC report of yet another swarm of rich hipsters chanting "troops out" in one of the NATO capitals? What on earth was Tatchell thinking when he pledged to take the Quetta Shura's own demand to Trafalgar Square on Saturday?

I sent him an email: Please don't go.

Tatchell responded. We began an exchange. The nub of Peter's side of the conversation was, Well, wait, hold on, not quite, there's some nuance you're missing, the October 8 pledge doesn't explicitly call for immediate withdrawal. This was dodging and hairsplitting, but it wouldn't be very chivalrous of me to divulge our back-and-forth here. And besides, straight away I thought, Well, fair play to the guy, he gets hundreds of emails a day, he's involved in several important campaigns, he's asking for hard evidence, and after all, he's actually trying to settle on a properly radical and principled position on the crucial question of Afghanistan.

Long story short: Peter Tatchell has managed to find the only properly radical and principled position on the crucial question of Afghanistan. Today, an email from Tatchell arrived in my inbox. It contained a kind note and the press release he intends to issue prior to the Trafalgar Square shindig. Here's its substance:

“The left and anti-war movement is gambling with the lives of Afghan women, democrats and leftists when it calls for the immediate withdrawal of all UK and NATO troops. This demand is rejected by most Afghans and could result in mass slaughter by the Taliban. It risks capitulation to a clerical fascist movement that threatens the human rights of the Afghan people,” warns human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Tatchell accompanied his press release with a minor but important manifesto of sorts he'd just written for The Guardian under the headline 'I'm anti-war, but the Taliban must not triumph in Afghanistan.'

Never mind the slight residue of drivel that clutters up its opening bits (" The Nato-led occupation is wrong. Democracy and human rights cannot be imposed by western diktat. . ."), which betrays a persistent belief in the fairytale of "occupation" and a submission to the canard that it is only "western dikat" that causes millions of Afghans to risk their lives on a daily basis in the assertion of their rights and their struggle for a sovereign and democratic republic. This, too, will pass.

I would even go so far as to defend those he calls to account for failing to be "equally critical" of the Taliban as of NATO, as if there were any equivalence to be drawn between the outrageously ignorant and imprecise bomb-site targeting for which the Americans are sometimes notorious and the deliberate lynching of schoolteachers and the conversion of 11-year-old mentally handicapped boys into walking suicide bombs. Besides, since when did the Taliban ever respond to "criticism"?

"Nearly 90% of Afghans oppose the Taliban – a clerical fascist movement that seeks to impose a religious dictatorship. A Taliban regime would ban all political parties, trade unions, and women's organisations," Tatchell observes. "Women and girls would be forced out of schools and jobs, back into the home. They'd be subjected to compulsory shrouding and gender apartheid. Any woman who refused to conform would risk lashing and stoning."

That's more like it.

"Why has the anti-war movement never protested against the Taliban's crimes against female humanity?"

Answer: Because that's not what the so-called "anti-war" movement is for, and because if Taliban crimes against female humanity are what we're sincerely interested in actually stopping, I'm afraid that eruptions of bourgeois umbrage-giving in Trafalgar Square won't do. Life's not fair. Sometimes, you actually have to shoot fascists.

But the rest of it is splendid and spot on. I can't remember the last time I actually read something in the Guardian that was quite as cogent, as demonstrably progressive and principled, and as clearly and proudly left-wing.

"There needs to be a more sophisticated anti-war alternative to the Nato strategy. I haven't got the answers but I know we should not abandon the Afghan people to a Taliban bloodfest. Anti-imperialism cannot be allowed to trump human rights."

Aye and aye, and Tatchell actually did strike upon the answer he says he doesn't have, and he didn't even notice: Don't abandon the Afghan people. Mean it when you say it. Make your government mean it. Make Afghans know it. Do that, and the Afghan people will take care of the rest themselves.

If there is any transmission of the mass vulgarity in Trafalgar Square that makes it back to Afghanistan, it would be a great thing if through the dark cloud that will inevitably fall over that poor and broken country's brave people as a result, there might also be just the tiniest sliver of light that makes it through, by even a moment's passing media attention to Peter Tatchell's presence there, with his small troupe, and their minor banners.

When this started, I'd asked Peter: Please don't go. I was wrong. He should go.

To anyone and everyone who actually means it when they give out of themselves about women's rights, international solidarity, the rights of oppressed peoples to their own democratic sovereignty, the rights of six-year-old girls to know how to spell their own names - don't stay away from Trafalgar Square. Go, find Peter, and stand with him. He will need friends. He will be all but alone among the thousands.

And wear a green scarf:

Thursday, October 06, 2011

"Bringing Afghanistan's Democrats Out Of The Shadows."

It is fitting that Terry Glavin begins his book Come from the Shadows: the Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan with a quote from George Orwell — who once said it is not enough to oppose fascism; one must stand against totalitarianism in all its forms.

Orwell, a far-left anti-fascist who took a bullet in the throat while fighting Franco’s brutes during the Spanish Civil War, was angered by the inability of too many of his fellow leftists to counter dictatorial thuggery in those with whom they shared a common enemy. Stalinists got a free pass because, ostensibly, they opposed fascism; they didn’t deserve it.

Glavin, also of the left, is frustrated by the limits of his supposed comrades’ solidarity and internationalism. Afghanistan’s democrats — its students, human rights activists, women, socialists and secularists — should, by rights, be championed and supported by the western left. They are, after all, fighting for the same things liberals in Canada struggled for and earned over the last century. What’s more, they’re fighting for these rights against an explicitly fascistic strain of religious and ethnic extremism embodied in the Taliban.

Instead, much of the left over the last decade has preferred to rally against make-believe fascism and imperialism in the United States or Britain, rather than recognizing its real mutations in places like Baghdad, Tehran, and Kandahar. The NDP, for one, has distinguished itself only by the degree to which it has counseled abandoning those Afghans most deserving of our friendship. “Support our troops; bring ‘em home,” the party declared, aping an isolationism that Glavin rightly derides as “paleoconservative.”

That's from the indispensable Michael Petrou, writing in Macleans.

"Writing From The Shadows Of Afghanistan"

Journalist and author Terry Glavin—the University of Victoria’s fifth Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction—is sharing his personal experiences with Afghanistan and a shifting media landscape with UVic students this year.

Glavin’s lecture and discussion course, “Orwell and Everything After,” explores what he deems “a disorienting time of social, geopolitical and economic upheaval”—but far from describing the era of George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm), he’s actually referring to the world today.

“Today’s revolutionary transition from analog to digital media is as epochal to the way we communicate ideas, stories and report ‘news’ as yesterday’s transition from an oral to a written-word culture,” explains Glavin. “But what has endured is our continuing evolution as a species that comprehends and explains the world through narrative . . . what also appears likely to endure is the value most people place on true stories.”

More here.The book is now available here. Or here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

First, We Take The Danforth. Then We Take Burnaby.

Further to these gigs in Toronto, Ottawa and Victoria, this:

"An award-winning journalist overturns western stereotypes as he takes readers into the Afghanistan that exists “outside the wire” and introduces the people whose defiant courage offers hope for the future. On Sunday, October 23 at 2:00 p.m., Terry Glavin will be presenting Come from the Shadows at Tommy Douglas Library (7311 Kingsway Ave, Burnaby). Burnaby's Abdulrahim Parwani, a prominent Afghan writer and activist who is featured prominently in the book, will also be in attendance.

Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan. These are very much open and hotly contested questions at the moment. It is Glavin's view that the war hasn't really begun yet, and history's trajectory could take one of two main directions, towards a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic, or a descent into barbarism.

Afghanistan has been on a knife edge for the past couple of years, but now that "the west" appears to be waking up from the delusion of "peace talks" with the Taliban, Afghan democrats are again seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, October 03, 2011


This is just how it starts:

Solidarity: Calling all friends of Afghanistan in the GTA. COME FROM THE SHADOWS. "Join Terry Glavin and friends to celebrate the publication of his new book, Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan," at Dora Keogh's Trad Irish Pub, 141 Danforth Ave, Toronto, Tuesday, October 11 · 7:00pm - 8:30pm, plus whatever happens afterwards (free admission).

Official Launch: Army Ottawa Officer's Mess, 149 Somerset Street W., Ottawa, Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 7:00 PM, Admission: $15.00 (students $10.00). Tickets for Terry's book launch are now available at Compact Music (190 Bank, 785 Bank), and Collected Works (1242 Wellington).

"Come from the Shadows mounts a passionately, marvellously readable challenge to the usual depiction of the war in Afghanistan. What, Glavin asks, has made the West incapable of hearing the voices of Afghans at the forefront of the global struggle against slavery, misogyny and tyranny? His answers are often unexpected and always illuminating."

Public lecture: TRAVELS IN ABSURDISTAN. Oct. 19, 7 p.m., Room A240 of the Human & Social Development Building, free public lecture. "The winner of more than a dozen literary and journalism awards, Glavin has been hailed as 'one of the finest journalists writing anywhere in the English language.' As UVic’s fifth annual Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction, Glavin will explore our need to understand the world through narratives, discuss the enduring value of true stories and launch his seventh book, Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan.

Haven't yet set a date but we'll be gathering some Afghan-Canadian friends (and many others) in the Vancouver area for a reading and discussion at the Tommy Douglas Library, on Kingsway, in Burnaby, before the end of October. Stay tuned.