Support the women of Iran

On 16 September 2022, 22 year old Jina Mahsa Amini was killed by the morality police in Tehran, Iran leading to widespread protests and fights in Iran. Among the people protesting and fighting are the women, and the minorities, like the Kurds – a minority which Jina Mahsa Amini belonged to – but the protests/fights are widespread, and international organizations say there is protests in at least 16 of Iran’s 31 provinces, and that at least 50 people has been killed during the protests. Iranian media say that at least 35 people have been killed.

This is hardly the first time that there have been widespread protests in Iran, but this is larger than anything we have seen since 2009. As NY Times writes:

The largest anti-government protests in Iran since 2009 gathered strength on Saturday, spreading to as many as 80 cities, even as the authorities escalated a crackdown that has reportedly killed dozens of people and brought the arrests of prominent activists and journalists, according to rights groups and news media reports.

What is noteworthy about these protests, is that they are not limited to one group or location, but that they are widespread, and have even spread to religious and conservative cities like Mashhad and Qom. This means that the protests are taking a much wider hold than most of the former protests.

In other words, there is currently something major happening in Iran, and it is important that those of us living outside Iran, keep our eyes on the developments, and support the protesters. We need to keep a spotlight on the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime, and put as much pressure on them as we can. If you can, ask your politicians to speak out, participate in demonstrations, and support the protesters on social media.

A note about the name of the young woman, Jina Mahsa Amini. She is often referred to as just “Mahsa Amini”, but that is hiding her Kurdish heritage. Jina is her Kurdish name, which the Iranian government wouldn’t let her use. Thank you to Jino Victoria Doabi for explaining this. Jino is a friend of mine, who is a powerhouse in keeping Danes informed about what is happening in Iran, and explaining the background. Jino is a Kurd from Iran who came to Denmark when she was five, and who grew up in the same places as Jina Mahsa Amini. If you understand Danish, I highly recommend following Jino on Twitter and Instagram.

RIP Uffe Ellemann-Jensen (1941-2022)

Former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen has died, 80 years old. He was an often controversial foreign minister for Denmark in the period 1982-1993, serving during some of the most important years of post-war European history. Back when he was a minister, he changed the Danish foreign policy from being nationalistic, or at most Nordic, to be European and international, and by doing that, he helped shape not only Danish foreign policy ever since, but even the path of Europe.

As a foreign minister he often split the nation – a lot of people, especially on the political left, found him arrogant and even undemocratic, while for many other people, he was the very picture of a statesman, making such that Denmark punched way above its weight in international matters. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin wall, Ellemann-Jensen led the Nordic countries in playing a key role in recognizing the emerging Eastern countries, and he ensured that Denmark was among first countries in the world to re-start diplomatic relationships with the Baltic countries in 1991, helping speeding up the process of the world recognizing them as independent countries. To read more about the role of Denmark regarding the freedom of the Baltic countries, I recommend reading The Role of Denmark in the Renewal of Latvian Independence (pdf), which is on the website of the Latvian embassy in Denmark, or Danish Support for the Baltic Struggle for Independence 1988-1991: A Hawk-Dove Domestic Confrontation (pdf), which also explains the pressure Ellemann-Jensen faced in Danish politics.

I think it is fairly safe to say that history has shown Ellemann-Jensen to be right, and that very few politicians would today try to roll back the changes he brought to Danish foreign policy. Denmark still punches above its weight, and Denmark is still explicitly pro-EU and pro-NATO.

After the Social Democratic government took over in 1993, he became leader of the opposition, and continued to be so, until 1998, which his side lost by one mandate – he needed just 85 more votes. Thus he is often referred to as the best Danish Prime Minister we never had. After that he retired from politics, but not from the occasional political opinion. In his post-politics years, he became a strong voice against the increasingly xenophobic Danish refugee and immigration policy, and until the end, he was as strong voice in support of Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

Goodbye Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, thank you for everything you have done, not only for Denmark, but also for Europe and globally

When will the world speak out against Kagame?

The Economist has an article (behind a paywall) about how the humanitarian hero who inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda has been arrested and accused for terrorism and genocide denial in Rwanda, due to him speaking out against Paul Kagame who rules Rwanda.

Mr Rusesabagina’s courage inspired a film, “Hotel Rwanda”. America awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, commending his “remarkable courage and compassion in the face of genocidal terror”. Some compared Mr Rusesabagina to Oskar Schindler, who risked his life saving Jews during the Holocaust. Yet in Mr Kagame’s Rwanda, Mr Rusesabagina is now portrayed as the equivalent of a Nazi fugitive, who must be abducted and brought home to justice (see article).

Although Mr Rusesabagina initially won official plaudits in Rwanda, too, this changed after he criticised Mr Kagame for rigging elections and spoke of entering politics. Government officials swiftly (and absurdly) accused him of genocide denial, a crime in Rwanda. Mr Rusesabagina disappeared after flying to Dubai. He reappeared a few days later in manacles in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. His family says he was kidnapped. Rwanda says he was arrested “through international co-operation”.

Getting thrown into jail or even killed is a common fate of people who criticize Paul Kagame and his rule.

As the Economist says:

Western governments occasionally tut at Mr Kagame’s abuses, but they also sell arms and provide aid to his government. They see Rwanda as an island of stability in a volatile region and him as a leader who gets things done. Yet 26 years after he first shot his way to power, he seems ever less constrained. His authoritarianism, once deemed by many a necessary evil to hold the country together, now risks pushing it back towards conflict. And that, in Rwanda, is a terrifying thought

Thinking back, it is hard for me to thinking of the last time I have heard the rest of the world criticize the totalitarian and undemocratic behavior of Paul Kagame and his regime.