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4161In the years after Britain withdrew from Iraq, allegations of misconduct by British troops were coming thick and fast. In 2010, the government established the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat). This was an investigative body that was supposed to bring together all the allegations and deal with them quickly. Perhaps predictably, that was not what happened. The investigation spiralled out of control and closed in disgrace in 2017. In the process, the entire field of human rights law had been called into disrepute, while stories abounded of soldiers whose lives had been put on hold during protracted investigations.

For my latest report for the Guardian’s Long Read section, I spent months interviewing people involved at all stages of the process to piece together how it went so wrong. As Britain faces the possibility of investigation by the International Criminal Court, this could have far-reaching consequences.

The collapse of Ihat seems likely to mark the end of serious attempts to investigate alleged crimes by British soldiers in Iraq, leaving questions about the scale of abuses and accountability unanswered. After such a public failure, what politician would want to reopen the issue? Yet, behind the headlines of corrupt lawyers and incompetent investigators, the true story of Ihat is more complicated. Both military advocates and human rights defenders agree that the scandal around Ihat was at the very least, politically convenient for the Ministry of Defence. With human rights lawyers cast as the villains, the MoD could avoid uncomfortable questions about its own role in training soldiers in procedures that breached the Geneva conventions. “At times, the MoD has been tempted to throw the uniform under the bus,” says Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP who was instrumental in Ihat’s closure.

You can read the full article over at the Guardian’s website and the clipping is below.

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website ukEver since the Brexit referendum result last year, Britain has been in a prolonged period of political crisis and upheaval – which, with the shock election result, shows no signs of abating.

I’ve been reporting on British politics for various outlets. I still cover the UK for Deutsche Welle online, and reported throughout the election cycle, including this on Theresa May’s motivation for calling an election, this on the local level campaigning in marginal seats, this on May’s attempt to conjure a cult of personality (before her popularity ratings plunged dramatically), and this on how it all backfired.

I also wrote a long feature for Al Jazeera looking at the history of the Labour party, its equally long history of internal division, and comparisons between the 2017 and 1983 manifestos:

For its first 100 years, Labour’s spells in national government were sporadic. But its dominance of the British left was near total. Since the 1920s, there hasn’t been any serious threat to Labour as the dominant progressive political organisation. From the outset, it incorporated many views. “Labour has to be a broad church if people on the far left want to have any chance of electoral success and if people in the centre want to be able to vote for an alternative to the Conservatives,” says Charlotte Riley, a history lecturer at the University of Southampton.

Just a couple of weeks after the election marked a year anniversary since the referendum. I wrote this for Deutsche Welle on how British people feel a year on, and this for Al Jazeera gathering expert comment on what has already changed.

The last month has also been marked by tragedy. I wrote this for Deutsche Welle about the Grenfell Tower disaster, and this about Britain’s poor infrastructure. In the aftermath of the Finsbury Park attack, I also wrote a piece for The Pool about Islamophobia in the UK.

Finsbury Park is a multicultural area, bustling and busy. Ethiopian cafes sit next to tapas bars and Arsenal-supporters’ pubs. Narges Ali, a 31-year-old doctor, grew up in the area. “I was so shocked to see the news about the attack. It was so close to home – literally and metaphorically, because Finsbury Park signifies what I love about London,” she says.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 15.36.12I don’t usually write about (or even watch!) sports, so it was quite a departure for me to write a long feature about the history and current status of women’s football in the UK. It’s a fascinating story; during the First World War, women’s football was actually more popular than men’s, with tens of thousands of spectators turning out to watch big games. A Football Association ban on women using professional stadiums in the 1920s set the game back, and it is only now starting to professionalise. I spoke to players past and present, as well as other experts, to build up a picture of the women’s game.

While it is certainly true that women’s football lags far behind men’s in terms of prestige, funding, and commercialism, however, it is inaccurate to think – as many do – that it is a new sport. Women’s football first made a splash in England in 1895, when the Ladies’ Football Association was founded by women with links to the burgeoning suffragist movement. “There is no reason why football should not be played by women, and played well too, provided they dress rationally and relegate to limbo the straitjacket attire in which fashion delights to attire them,” Lady Florence Dixie, the head of the association, wrote in a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette in 1895. It was controversial to see women playing football, which meant that matches (there were two teams, “north” and “south”) were attended by several thousand people. But it wasn’t to last; the Ladies’ Football Association soon fell apart because of organisational issues.

You can read the full piece over at the New Statesman.

101282586The Ahmadiyya are one of Pakistan’s most persecuted communities. Legally classed as non-Muslims, this sect is subject to a whole range of persecutions. As such, many have left Pakistan in search of peace abroad. But sometimes, this discrimination continues. For the April issue of the New Internationalist, I spoke to members of the Ahmadi community in the UK and the US about global persecution.

In December 2013, two men visited a homeopathic clinic in Lahore, an eastern city in Pakistan. It was run by Masood Ahmad, a 72 year old British-Pakistani dual national. He had returned to his home country in 1982, and lived quietly, keeping to himself. The two men, posing as patients, questioned him about his faith. They used their mobile phones to secretly record him reading a verse from the Qur’an.

 

Soon afterwards, Ahmad was arrested on blasphemy charges. He is a member of the Ahmadiyya, a minority sect of Islam considered heretics in Pakistan. Declared non-Muslims in 1974 by the Pakistani government, they can be jailed for up to three years for “impersonating Muslims”. They are prohibited from publically quoting the Qur’an.

It’s not online yet, but I’ll post a link when it is. Meanwhile, the clipping is below, and my article on the Ahmadi community in Pakistan (written in the run up to last year’s election) is here.

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bbc2On 14 January, I appeared on the BBC News Channel’s paper review, with Oliver Wright from the Independent. A short write up is here.

I’ve also written various shorter pieces recently:

“Benefits tourism”: myth or reality? (New Humanist)

Iain Duncan Smith claims that new restrictions on EU migrants claiming benefits will stop benefits tourism – but do people really cross borders to get better pay-outs?

Future looks fraught in polarised Bangladesh (Index on Censorship)

This year’s elections were the most violent in the country’s short history. What next?

The case of Masood Ahmad reveals how blasphemy laws in Pakistan are used to persecute minorities (New Humanist)

The Ahmadi sect in Pakistan have been persecuted for generations, and now a British citizen has been imprisoned.

Acid attacks: showing my face, raising my voice (Open Democracy)

Earlier this year, I met victims of acid attacks in Islamabad. This piece looks at the phenomenon across South Asia.

Nigeria’s gay community needs our help (New Humanist)

This blog asked how effective western threats of withdrawing aid are in preventing repressive legislation abroad.

BNP graffiti near the central mosque in Luton.

BNP graffiti near the central mosque in Luton.

I’ve written a long feature for the New Statesman exploring anti-Muslim prejudice in modern Britain. What do we mean when we use the term “Islamophobia”? Has there really been a rise in anti-Muslim hate crime after the Woolwich attack? And why, two years after Sayeeda Warsi warned that this prejudice had “passed the dinner table test” and become socially acceptable, are we still debating whether it exists at all?

For the piece, I spoke to representatives from several mosques that have been attacked in recent weeks, to victims of hate crimes, and to experts. You can read the full piece over at the New Statesman website, and here is a short excerpt.

While arson attacks and petrol bombs at mosques are at the most extreme end of the spectrum, smaller incidents still create an atmosphere of fear and distress. “When I speak to people up north, they say that if there is something negative in their local press about Muslims, in the next few weeks there’ll be an attack or something happening in the street,” says Akeela Ahmed, a member of the government’s working group on Islamophobia. “Sometimes these things are at a low level – flour thrown at the mosque, or graffiti. I don’t think it was until Woolwich that people at a national level took notice.”

I also appeared on the Nick Ferrari Show on LBC on 26 September, talking about similar issues; namely, this BBC survey which found that “a quarter of young people don’t trust Muslims”.