Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Happy Home(land), pt 2

So I wake up this morning to two news stories that have been playing out over the weekend and my (Scorpio) rage almost boils over. I'm so mad I could spit.

Both stories are interconnected: this country is going down the drain if we don't get a grip on violence against those who don't fit the mold.

The first is that in the weekend of Canal Pride there has been another wave of anti-gay violence which has been spreading over the west of the country for a few months now.

The left-wing Volkskrant summarizes them as follows:

1. A 34-year old Irishman was badly beaten in Amsterdam as he wondered around with his boyfriend. He is in hospital with a broken jaw and nose and had emergency surgery.

2. An American couple was on the receiving end of pepper spray (wtf?) and a beating, also in Amsterdam;

3. A couple was spat at in Amsterdam;

4. The police were able to prevent an "incident" in Amsterdam's Vondelpark;

5. Two men were beaten in a park well-known for gay casual sex in The Hague, one of them a 16-year old;

6. There was another "incident" in Haarlem of which the details have escaped me.

This was just this weekend's goings-on in a country of 16 million people. It's deeply troubling and to me much more worrying than HIV, something you can do a lot to prevent exposure to. Escaping this sort of thing is a matter of chance.

The authorities seem to be baffled too; anyhow, their reactions are pathetic. The Volkskrant mentions some politicians saying Amsterdam's reputation as "Gay Capital" (of what?) is on the line. They are "planning to think of measures quickly". Does not sound too promising.

The second incident was even more worrying. Activist former muslim and Labour Party councilor Ehsan Jami was beaten up as he entered his home in Voorburg after a visit to the supermarket. Apparently, three muslim youths were waiting for him on his doorstep. His address and phone number were already circulating on extremist websites for two weeks. Basically, this guy is under attack for leaving Islam. Being 22, he doesn't mince words, but violence can never be condoned.

His party doesn't seem to want to help him: they're dependent on the muslim vote and as politicians of principle they are IMO lower than rats. There has been a big argument about security and bodyguards, but it's really too late: he could have been killed in that fight. We have had two political assassinations over the past five years as well as the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is quite similar to Jami's. So the authorities should know how to deal with this by now. But they don't.

With the largest left-wing party, Labour, and their Green allies being silent or conciliatory to these stone-age attitudes, it isn't hard to understand why the gay vote is steadily shifting rightwards.

To end on a positive note, I noticed that some immigrants are much less willing to except violence, repression and intimidation than Dutch politicians are. They are educated and take freedom of speech at face value. We Dutch tend to add to that right: at your own risk. Hirsi Ali was Somali, Jami was born to Iranian refugees and his mentor, Professor Afshin Ellian, a hero of mine, is an Iranian refugee himself. These people give me hope: they teach us something about sticking up for the values of a free society.

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