More “Led by the Stupid and Loathsome,” I’m afraid. Seems that Gita Sahgal led Amnesty International’s gender-affairs unit until very recently. When she was recruited, she was up front about needing to fix a very troubling connection for Amnesty: Moazzam Begg, a a British citizen who was captured in Pakistan in 2001 and known as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban.”
Begg still believes in the Taliban’s ideals, you see, and he and his organization continue to defend them, and to promote a global Islamic Caliphate. Amnesty International was happy to make him a minor celebrity and endorse him, because he was incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay from 2001-2005. The fact that he also supports treating women like animals, preaching hatred against other religions, etc., and still says that the Taliban’s corpse filled rule was the best thing that happened to Afghanistan…. well, that bothered Ms. Sahgal. Amnesty International? They didn’t really give a —.
So, not realizing that torture, executions, and the denial of people’s rights because they were born female are OK if endorsed by an Amnesty-approved source, longtime Amnesty employee Ms. Saghal told a reporter from the London Times that she thought the link to Begg tainted Amnesty.
Clearly, something had to be done about this, and done right now.
So, of course “Amnesty” International suspended her from her job in the gender-affairs unit. Sahgal writes:
“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when a great organisation must ask: if it lies to itself, can it demand the truth of others?
….I have always opposed the illegal detention and torture of Muslim men at Guantanamo Bay and during the so-called War on Terror. I have been horrified and appalled by the treatment of people like Moazzam Begg and I have personally told him so. I have vocally opposed attempts by governments to justify ‘torture lite’.
The issue is not about Moazzam Begg’s freedom of opinion, nor about his right to propound his views: he already exercises these rights fully as he should. The issue is a fundamental one about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights. I have raised this issue because of my firm belief in human rights for all.
I sent two memos to my management asking a series of questions about what considerations were given to the nature of the relationship with Moazzam Begg and his organisation, Cageprisoners. I have received no answer to my questions. There has been a history of warnings within Amnesty that it is inadvisable to partner with Begg. Amnesty has created the impression that Begg is not only a victim of human rights violations but a defender of human rights…. I have been a human rights campaigner for over three decades, defending the rights of women and ethnic minorities, defending religious freedom and the rights of victims of torture, and campaigning against illegal detention and state repression. I have raised the issue of the association of Amnesty International with groups such as Begg’s consistently within the organisation. I have now been suspended for trying to do my job and staying faithful to Amnesty’s mission to protect and defend human rights universally and impartially.”
Well, of course she has. Amnesty ceased to be a great organization, or to give a damn about human rights, several years ago. Shame you were late to get the memo, Ms. Sahgal. Salman Rushdie gets it, and takes his analysis to the sensible conclusion:
“Amnesty International has done its reputation incalculable damage by allying itself with Moazzam Begg and his group Cageprisoners, and holding them up as human rights advocates. It looks very much as if Amnesty’s leadership is suffering from a kind of moral bankruptcy, and has lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong. It has greatly compounded its error by suspending the redoubtable Gita Sahgal for the crime of going public with her concerns. Gita Sahgal is a woman of immense integrity and distinction and I am personally grateful to her for the courageous stands she made at the time of the Khomeini fatwa against The Satanic Verses, as a leading member of the groups Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. It is people like Gita Sahgal who are the true voices of the human rights movement; Amnesty and Begg have revealed, by their statements and actions, that they deserve our contempt.”
Just remember, next time you hear the words “Amnesty International” – this is the organization that fired its gender affairs staffer for criticizing a member of the Taliban over their human rights record.