Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

It is with tears in my eyes, shocked, that I discovered the crimes against humanity perpetuated by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. The Uyghurs, one of the largest ethnic groups present in the northwestern region, have undergone continuous and increasingly violent repression from the ruling Communist Party since the end of the Cold war. In one of the rare videos capturing the current horrific situation, you can see hundreds of lined Uyghurs men with their shaved heads down, black blindfolds on their eyes, handcuffed while wearing detention clothes. They then walk up to a train that will bring them to the internment camps.

 

It is an unknown number of Uyghurs (for obvious reasons), who are being imprisoned in “re-education camps” but, according to a Reuters report, it ranges from a million up to 3 million. Patrick Poon, a former researcher for Amnesty International, explains that the existence of these overpopulated camps in which Uyghurs face numerous acts of psychological and physical violence makes it difficult to manage the impact of Covid-19 in the region. As we know, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends maintaining physical distance due to the easy transmission of Covid-19 through close physical contact and in low hygiene environments. However, these internment camps are far from places where Uyghurs would be treated in accordance with the WHO guidelines.

 

Uyghurs are persecuted by the Chinese regime because of  the language they speak, which is comparable to a mix of Uzbek and Turkish, as well as for their Muslim religion – both of which are important markers of their identity. It is their very existence that the regime aims to erase in these “re-education” camps. Within the high-security enclosure of the camps, internees are forced to study Mandarin Chinese and the regime ideology, hence depriving them of their own culture. But the camps are not only the scene of generalised  brainwashing and indoctrination. According to survivors, internees also undergo torture and are almost completely alienated from their basic needs by being refused sufficient nutrition or basic health care. 

 

In a recent interview conducted by the Irish Times,  the Chinese ambassador He Xiangdong states that he “personally” does “not accept the word ‘camps’, because it will remind people of the camps at the time of Nazi Germany.” However, the removal of Uyghurs from society and the construction of internment camps that increased in size by around 400% between 2016 and 2018, demonstrates definite similarity with the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes. Professor Jörg Friedrichs, from St. Cross College, Oxford notes the similarities with the Stalinist model in “systematically erasing the history, culture and identity” of Uyghurs.

 

In response, the Uyghurs have been conducting rebellious political actions since their forceful inclusion to the Chinese territory under Mao. From their fight for independence by the East Turkestan People’s Party  to protests during 1995 in Yining or murderous riots such as in 2009 in Urumqi, Xinjiang has been the scene of growing resistance. This has led China to characterize Uyghurs as a “terrorist threat”, prioritised in the regime that launched the “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” in 2014. Moving away from trying to manage the region through economic development, the systematic repression of the Uyghurs is unprecedented. Such measures include the generalized use of advanced surveillance technology with face recognition that tracks individuals and the people they are in contact with in order to predict their future activities. The regime also collects DNA samples, fingerprints and voice recordings of Uyghurs, according to Professor Chung. Calling out the regime for its violent repression and disregard of basic human rights, as formerly done by Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, puts whistle-blowers at risk of “disappearing” or facing life sentences in internment camps. 

 

It is for its mountainous geographics, working as a natural barrier to invasion, and for its resources – namely Xinjiang’s qualification as the “national energy strategy base” – that the region is of strategic importance. Additionally, Uyghurs have been “used” as additional labour force through their transfer from internment camps to what can be considered forced labour factories. According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, around 80,000 Uyghurs were moved to such factories between 2017 and 2019. Should the production of goods for tech companies such as Apple and Samsung, car constructors like BMW or other well-known brands such as Nike be revealed, we, as consumers, are testifying that economic interests prevail over the protection of basic human rights. 

 

China’s economic liberalisation was not followed by political democratisation. Instead, the regime is committing a form of genocide as shown by the reduction in the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, diminishing from  82% in 1949 to only 46% in 2010. As shown by Professor Fallon, multiple articles of the  Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide are violated by the Chinese government. They have colonized the region, implemented  measures to forcefully separate families and have taken other physically and psychologically traumatic measures aiming at making Uyghurs a minority in their own homeland.

 

How can we claim to have learned the lessons from the past when we choose  to look away from this reality in order to carry on economic activities? While Turkey is regularly blamed for not recognising the Armenian genocide, we ourselves are not taking action to prevent the Chinese regime from conducting one. Although in December 2019 the European Parliament condemned the Chinese “anti-terrorist” actions, this is not enough. Awarding the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ilham Tohti, who undertook a life sentence in one of the many Uyghur camps, did not lead yet to any concrete actions against the Chinese dictatorship. 

 

While US lawmakers try to respond to the forced labour factories by imposing a trade ban on Xinjiang, European democracies must take the responsibility of protecting the Uyghurs in and out of China. Even beyond the Chinese borders, the Uyghur diaspora is not protected, as shown by several dozens of students in Egypt who were deported back to China, as well as Uyghurs living in France and Australia who received  anonymous calls asking them to pick up a package in the Chinese embassy. Leaders must prevent the massacre of ethnic groups from happening again. They must prioritise human lives and human rights protection over economic interests with China.  

 

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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What Coronavirus Reveals about the Economic Stories We Tell

The coronavirus is showing up holes in our economic system and narratives that many have talked about for a long time. If we don’t learn these lessons now, what will it take to learn them?

COVID-19: How to Escape!

As people, many for the first time in their life, become tired of staring at a phone screen, they begin to look for other ways of entertaining themselves. This is where escapism comes in.

A Day in the Life of an Irish Nurse

During these trifling times, we find ourselves isolated from society, worried for our loved ones, terrified of our invisible enemy. Our frontline heroes: the medical staff are working what seem to be endless hours to bring us the best care we could ask for, easing our minds in the midst of worldwide panic. It was never a secret that medical staff have tough jobs. This article will be featuring one of our heroes, a dedicated and hardworking Irish nurse who decided to open the doors of her life working and dealing with COVID-19 in Ireland.

This battle must be halted: Why the war-based rhetoric of Covid-19 should be defeated

For nearly two months now, we have watched as Covid-19 has rampaged through the world at an alarming rate.Throughout its incessant reporting, we have experienced our fair share of war imagery permeating through the media. Words like defeat, enemy, frontlines, field hospitals, battle, fighting, conflict, risk, attack; and, eventually (hopefully), victory, are seemingly constants in its coverage. Ministers meet in “war cabinets” and the ordinary people are encouraged to “do their bit”. Doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, cleaners, public transport workers, post office workers and all other essential workers are going into battle on our behalf. One BBC presenter even communicated his entire segment in terms of the “frontline in a war”.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?

7 Things to do While we’re Stuck in Isolation

7 Things to do While we’re Stuck in Isolation

With a week and a half of quarantine already under our belts, it would be fair to say that most of you reading this have had your lives flipped over in a very short period of time. Universities and schools were cancelled, your working life has changed, you haven’t seen your grandparents or immuno-compromised friends in two weeks, and perhaps you aren’t even in Ireland anymore. It has been a tough time for all of us, be it through health scares, money worries or even just an impending sense of cabin fever right about now. However, it’s important to remember that what we are doing is having a tangible effect on the overall health of the country, and we are currently protecting  the health and the lives of people we don’t even know right now. At the same time, it is entirely understandable and, frankly, normal to be feeling a little cooped-up, a little down and a little and bit in limbo. This is why we have put together a list of things for you to occupy yourself with during this ever so strange time in our lives.

 

1. Schoolwork

If you’re anything like me, studying is the last thing you feel like doing right now. However, most of us still have online lectures and tutorials, as well as essays due and exam deadlines. Of course, this work is important – for a sense of normality more than anything else at this stage – but it is so vital to take this work with a grain of salt. A tip I once heard from Cambridge University, the “8-8-8” rule,  comes to mind – 8 hours of study (including classes), 8 hours of sleep (the best way to stay healthy!) and 8 hours of doing something else, anything else, that you enjoy. Even having this sense of balance will introduce structure into your routine, and you will find it much easier to section off your days.

 

2. Binge-watching 

With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now even Disney+, there are a wealth of streaming sites and apps to get you so addicted to a new series or movie genre that time will pass before you even know it. However, if, like me, you tend to ( sometimes) feel the tiniest bit guilty whiling away those hours on Love is Blind, try a feature-length documentary instead. Or, if you like something shorter and snappier, the Netflix series Explained has 20-minute documentaries on a variety of topics to keep you entertained.

 

3. Exercise

If you’re sitting inside all day and similarly not really moving from the sofa, the importance of exercise is magnified. And I don’t necessarily mean home workouts – half an hour outdoors either running, walking or cycling around your immediate area will do wonders for both your body and mind… especially with the weather so unnaturally lovely over the past few days!

 

4. Bake or cook

Although many people are rationing their food right now and are being careful of what ingredients they use on a daily basis, there is no harm in trying out some simple healthy (or unhealthy – we deserve it these days) recipes that you’ve always wanted. Try using the common, easy-to-get ingredients, or whipping up that dry-mix cake that has been sitting in the cupboard for the past two years. Being in the kitchen and creating something delicious is more therapeutic than you’d think, and at the end, you have something lovely to indulge in!

 

5. Read a book

Like the majority of us, you probably have thousands of unread books sitting on your shelf at home, neglected because of lack of time spent cosying up at home. Well, now that is no longer an option! Reading is a wonderful way to both expand your mind and obtain knowledge or simply entertain yourself. Reading for pleasure is a luxury few of us actually revel in these days, for a variety of reasons, but it is such a good habit to get back into.

 

6. Try your hand at something new – or old!

Trying different things is a great way to occupy your time at this stage – whether it’s something you lost touch with or something you’ve always wanted to go for . It doesn’t need to be extravagant, just mind-consuming and calming. For example, I know countless people who have picked back up their abandoned instruments; and others who have gotten back into their old sports, like practising online yoga or cycling. Others have taken up new, simple hobbies, like painting, journalling, or calligraphy. You could even make it your resolution to check our STAND News every day to read about current affairs and human rights! 

 

7. Keep healthy!

The primary aim right now is for all of us to keep as healthy as possible. This means getting enough sleep as well as sticking to a proper sleep schedule (this is difficult right now, I know, but it makes a huge difference in the long run!). Again, like we’ve heard a thousand times before, frequently washing hands is a must. Drinking plenty of water is also vital, as, apart from the usual health benefits, it washes out any viral particles living in your mouth. Take care of your skin and maintain your personal hygiene. Overall, keeping to some sort of routine, in general, is pivotal in ensuring we all stay as healthy as possible. 

 

 

Photo by Yuri Efremov on Unsplash

 

 

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What Coronavirus Reveals about the Economic Stories We Tell

The coronavirus is showing up holes in our economic system and narratives that many have talked about for a long time. If we don’t learn these lessons now, what will it take to learn them?

COVID-19: How to Escape!

As people, many for the first time in their life, become tired of staring at a phone screen, they begin to look for other ways of entertaining themselves. This is where escapism comes in.

A Day in the Life of an Irish Nurse

During these trifling times, we find ourselves isolated from society, worried for our loved ones, terrified of our invisible enemy. Our frontline heroes: the medical staff are working what seem to be endless hours to bring us the best care we could ask for, easing our minds in the midst of worldwide panic. It was never a secret that medical staff have tough jobs. This article will be featuring one of our heroes, a dedicated and hardworking Irish nurse who decided to open the doors of her life working and dealing with COVID-19 in Ireland.

This battle must be halted: Why the war-based rhetoric of Covid-19 should be defeated

For nearly two months now, we have watched as Covid-19 has rampaged through the world at an alarming rate.Throughout its incessant reporting, we have experienced our fair share of war imagery permeating through the media. Words like defeat, enemy, frontlines, field hospitals, battle, fighting, conflict, risk, attack; and, eventually (hopefully), victory, are seemingly constants in its coverage. Ministers meet in “war cabinets” and the ordinary people are encouraged to “do their bit”. Doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, cleaners, public transport workers, post office workers and all other essential workers are going into battle on our behalf. One BBC presenter even communicated his entire segment in terms of the “frontline in a war”.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?

A Student’s Perspective: Sweden is Playing With Fire

A Student’s Perspective: Sweden is Playing With Fire

I write from Sweden, a country which has chosen not to take strict measures as other European countries to fight COVID-19. I am an Irish masters student at Lund University and find the lack of movement worrying. Sweden at present has over 2000 confirmed cases and, sadly, 41 confirmed deaths at the time of writing. However, it is possible that the actual figure of people infected is much higher as efforts to test for the virus is currently focused on those that are considered vulnerable. 

 

If the virus is not contained here, we will encounter a health emergency as we have seen in Italy. Indeed, no health system is equipped to deal with so many cases at the same time. Some measures have been taken. My university courses are online, and public gatherings of over 500 people have been banned. Vulnerable groups have been asked to quarantine themselves. However, these measures are minor in comparison to Ireland’s response and have not changed people’s nonchalant attitude towards the virus.

 

Being Irish, I have heard from my friends and family back home over and over the importance of social distancing. However, social distancing is not a common term here, and absolutely nobody that I have seen in the supermarkets practices it. In some ways, I feel like I am living in a parallel world compared to the news which comes from Ireland.

 

Sweden’s response has been explained by its decentralized government system. The government set the remit for the public agencies but the Public health agency has independence in decisions and is the lead authority in the crisis. Thus the government states that they are following the expert agencies advice. The Agencies lack of movement in enforcing stricter measures has been critiqued in Swedish media outlets. 

 

The Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven delivered a speech to the nation on the 22nd March.  In this, he urged people to take individual responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus. This approach blatantly ignores the fact that individual responsibility has not worked in other countries. There is thus a feeling that Swedes will act in the public interest more so than people in other countries. The Prime Minister also stated that you should not continue to go to work if you present with symptoms. This is ignoring the fact that the virus is one which has the capability of presenting itself as asymptomatic. 

 

The newest measure which has been introduced is allowing table service only in restaurants and bars. This is not an effective measure. People can still gather in both restaurants and bars and continue to spread the virus to one another. 

 

I genuinely hope there is some reason behind the government’s logic, but if there is, they are not sharing it very clearly with the public. Rather it seems that the economy is what is taking precedence over the people. 

 

The Prime Minister did state that measures may come in the future with short notice. I wonder how many people will have to suffer and die before such action is taken. 

 

 

Photo by Christian Beiwinkel on Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

What Coronavirus Reveals about the Economic Stories We Tell

The coronavirus is showing up holes in our economic system and narratives that many have talked about for a long time. If we don’t learn these lessons now, what will it take to learn them?

COVID-19: How to Escape!

As people, many for the first time in their life, become tired of staring at a phone screen, they begin to look for other ways of entertaining themselves. This is where escapism comes in.

A Day in the Life of an Irish Nurse

During these trifling times, we find ourselves isolated from society, worried for our loved ones, terrified of our invisible enemy. Our frontline heroes: the medical staff are working what seem to be endless hours to bring us the best care we could ask for, easing our minds in the midst of worldwide panic. It was never a secret that medical staff have tough jobs. This article will be featuring one of our heroes, a dedicated and hardworking Irish nurse who decided to open the doors of her life working and dealing with COVID-19 in Ireland.

This battle must be halted: Why the war-based rhetoric of Covid-19 should be defeated

For nearly two months now, we have watched as Covid-19 has rampaged through the world at an alarming rate.Throughout its incessant reporting, we have experienced our fair share of war imagery permeating through the media. Words like defeat, enemy, frontlines, field hospitals, battle, fighting, conflict, risk, attack; and, eventually (hopefully), victory, are seemingly constants in its coverage. Ministers meet in “war cabinets” and the ordinary people are encouraged to “do their bit”. Doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, cleaners, public transport workers, post office workers and all other essential workers are going into battle on our behalf. One BBC presenter even communicated his entire segment in terms of the “frontline in a war”.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?

FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM is the perfect example of the inequality many women and girls still have to suffer in today’s world. It stands for Female Genital Mutilation. The procedure entails the cutting and damaging of the female genitals and is also known as female circumcision.  

 

There are four different types of FGM, from Type 1 being the least extreme to Type 4 being the most harmful. Within these types, there are many different variations: 

Type 1 – Partial or total removal of clitoral glans. 

Type 2 – Partial removal or total removal of clitoral glans and labia minora with or without labia majora. 

Type 3 – Narrowing of the vaginal opening with a covering seal. The covering is made by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or the labia majora. 

Type 4 – All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia e.g. piercing, pricking or incising. 

 

FGM is usually carried out between infancy and the age of 15. Many undergo this harmful practice before puberty or before they get married. It has no health benefits at all, is extremely painful and harms the physical and mental health of women and girls who undergo it. It has both short-term and long-term complications e.g. injury or trauma to adjoining areas, difficulties with menstruation and birthing, infection, or even death. There are many different reasons as to why FGM is carried out. In some communities, it’s an initiation into womanhood, whereas in others, the female genitalia is considered dirty and impure so the procedure is performed to “cleanse” the body. Some believe that the man’s sexual pleasure will be enhanced and will also reduce the woman’s sexual appetite at the same time. However, this does far more than just reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure and appetite, as it causes great discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse. 

 

The procedure has been documented in 30 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and is a well-established tradition in many communities. Girls who don’t undergo the practice are at risk of being ostracized and “dishonouring” their family. 

 

The latent purpose of this immoral practice is to teach women and young girls that they are inferior to men. In this day and age, where women are still fighting to be seen as equals by their male peers, why isn’t an old tradition that is not only dangerous but extremely misogynistic abolished? Why should women have to give up their control over their body, give up their right to make their own decisions to please a man? FGM, even if done without malicious intentions, is a form of torture and a violation of basic human rights. It’s not just a harmful practice, it’s a connotation for inequality and conveys the message that a woman’s purpose is to serve a man’s needs.

 

Although there haven’t been many cases of FGM in Ireland, it is still an issue. Organisations like AkiDwA, a national network of migrant women living in Ireland, are aware of women who have undergone the practice. According to AkiDwA, there is estimated to be 5,790 women and girls who have undergone FGM living in Ireland, as well as 1,632 women and girls at risk of it. In 2012, a Criminal Justice Act was passed that prohibited the practice of FGM in Ireland and also made it illegal to take someone to another country to perform FGM on them. However, it is still being done and many cases are never discovered. Multiple organisations are therefore trying to spread awareness about the practice and hope to combat the obstacle that it represents for many migrant women.

 

AkiDwA have trained “Community Health Ambassadors” that go around the country and bring attention to the procedure, the laws opposing it and the effect it has on women and children physically and psychologically. They have also held events on zero tolerance to FGM day for two consecutive years. In a partnership with ActionAid, they founded the “AFTER” project to raise awareness about how harmful FGM can be to migrant communities. During phase 1 of the “AFTER” project, 36 workshops were operated in Cork and 100 participants were reached. These workshops were held for men, women and girls. ActionAid composed a documentary called “Girls from Earth”.The testimonies of religious leaders, women and African activists against FGM are included in the documentary. Phase 2 of the “AFTER” began in May 2019. They hope to reach 400 people nationwide, facilitate 12 more workshops in direct provision centres and work with major organisations like An Garda Siochana, Tusla, HSE etc. Another goal is to provide members with the skills required to address FGM cases and engage “30 Champions for Change” to advocate for better services for survivors and against FGM.

 

Pembridge Pictures is releasing the film ‘A Girl from Mogadishu’ in April. The movie is based on  Ifrah Ahmed’s story and shows her own experience with FGM and how she got into advocacy. Ifrah Ahmed is also the founder and program director of Ifrah Foundation. Their goal is to eradicate FGM in Somalia, the country with the highest prevalence of FGM in the world, and spread awareness in Ireland. 

 

In my opinion, it’s simply unjust that women or girls have to endure this horrific procedure just to get married and then live with the long-term and short-term agony of it. And let’s not forget the psychological trauma that an event so cruel can do to someone. Whenever I read about the topic I feel upset that there are women and girls who are forced to damage their bodies to please a man and if disobeyed, are being ostracized by their community and family. It’s even more heartbreaking to hear that people are still practising this tradition when they move abroad. Ireland is a country that embraces other cultures and traditions but this is just plain abuse. I believe it’s a system put in place to bring down women, strip their fundamental rights and dignity away and show that men still have power over them.

 

Please sign this petition below to eradicate FGM in Ireland by 2030.

https://actionaid.ie/join-the-fight-against-fgm/

 

 

Photo by Gynelle Leon (This Little Light of Mine, 2015)

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

What Coronavirus Reveals about the Economic Stories We Tell

The coronavirus is showing up holes in our economic system and narratives that many have talked about for a long time. If we don’t learn these lessons now, what will it take to learn them?

COVID-19: How to Escape!

As people, many for the first time in their life, become tired of staring at a phone screen, they begin to look for other ways of entertaining themselves. This is where escapism comes in.

A Day in the Life of an Irish Nurse

During these trifling times, we find ourselves isolated from society, worried for our loved ones, terrified of our invisible enemy. Our frontline heroes: the medical staff are working what seem to be endless hours to bring us the best care we could ask for, easing our minds in the midst of worldwide panic. It was never a secret that medical staff have tough jobs. This article will be featuring one of our heroes, a dedicated and hardworking Irish nurse who decided to open the doors of her life working and dealing with COVID-19 in Ireland.

This battle must be halted: Why the war-based rhetoric of Covid-19 should be defeated

For nearly two months now, we have watched as Covid-19 has rampaged through the world at an alarming rate.Throughout its incessant reporting, we have experienced our fair share of war imagery permeating through the media. Words like defeat, enemy, frontlines, field hospitals, battle, fighting, conflict, risk, attack; and, eventually (hopefully), victory, are seemingly constants in its coverage. Ministers meet in “war cabinets” and the ordinary people are encouraged to “do their bit”. Doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, cleaners, public transport workers, post office workers and all other essential workers are going into battle on our behalf. One BBC presenter even communicated his entire segment in terms of the “frontline in a war”.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?

A Student’s Call to Action on Climate Change

A Student’s Call to Action on Climate Change

Climate change and environment issues, in general, are the most talked about topics these days, and for good reason. It seems it’s every other week that a new environmental disaster is being reported on and at this stage we are becoming desensitised to it. For over a month we were reading gut-wrenching reports about the fires in Australia, before that it was the rainforest and there’s always huge pieces of ice breaking off from the North Pole endangering species every day with the mass melting of the Antarctic Ice sheet. With all this news of despair and disaster regarding climate change it is easy to think that no matter what we do, nothing is enough. That no amount of carbon tax or environmentally friendly products can save our climate now, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

 

 We have made some strides as of late, especially with the global effort we have seen so far, and people seem ready to act fast. The everyday citizen that is, along with many celebrities and public figures. Huge achievements have been made, no doubt. This global effort is clear when we look at the number of trees that can be planted just with a strong driving voice behind the campaign. It is this mass effort that is needed, and the next step truly is to target large companies. It may sound neo-communistic, but hear me out. It is large, economically unfriendly factories that produce nearly three-quarters of global carbon emissions, 71%, according to a new report from climate change non-profit CDP in conjunction with the Climate Accountability Institute. In fact, it is 100 specific companies that produce the largest contributions to global carbon emissions. 

 

The solution is clear. Change has to happen and it has to happen soon. Urgent times call for urgent responses and a whole, people have really made great strides in the right direction to help climate change prevention. However, currently, it’s not enough to save us, but all is not lost. If the power of driven people can plant 1.6 billion trees in a year, a feat which we saw in 2019, then that same power can get 100 companies, and more, to change their ways, or get them shut down. it’s not time to give up the fight. We just need a bigger, worldwide and possibly extreme effort from those earning millions and putting them to good use. Is it time for a revolution? Possibly. Is it possible to prevent climate change? To a certain extent, yes. Can we do it? I think so, we just have to act now. 

 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

What Coronavirus Reveals about the Economic Stories We Tell

The coronavirus is showing up holes in our economic system and narratives that many have talked about for a long time. If we don’t learn these lessons now, what will it take to learn them?

COVID-19: How to Escape!

As people, many for the first time in their life, become tired of staring at a phone screen, they begin to look for other ways of entertaining themselves. This is where escapism comes in.

A Day in the Life of an Irish Nurse

During these trifling times, we find ourselves isolated from society, worried for our loved ones, terrified of our invisible enemy. Our frontline heroes: the medical staff are working what seem to be endless hours to bring us the best care we could ask for, easing our minds in the midst of worldwide panic. It was never a secret that medical staff have tough jobs. This article will be featuring one of our heroes, a dedicated and hardworking Irish nurse who decided to open the doors of her life working and dealing with COVID-19 in Ireland.

This battle must be halted: Why the war-based rhetoric of Covid-19 should be defeated

For nearly two months now, we have watched as Covid-19 has rampaged through the world at an alarming rate.Throughout its incessant reporting, we have experienced our fair share of war imagery permeating through the media. Words like defeat, enemy, frontlines, field hospitals, battle, fighting, conflict, risk, attack; and, eventually (hopefully), victory, are seemingly constants in its coverage. Ministers meet in “war cabinets” and the ordinary people are encouraged to “do their bit”. Doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, cleaners, public transport workers, post office workers and all other essential workers are going into battle on our behalf. One BBC presenter even communicated his entire segment in terms of the “frontline in a war”.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?

Xenophobic Ideas Spread Along with the Novel Coronavirus

Xenophobic Ideas Spread Along with the Novel Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, which came to doctors’ attention in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, now has 75,000 reported cases and has claimed over 2,000 lives in China. The virus has spread outside of China, with cases reported in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany and the UK. There have been six reported deaths as a result of the illness outside of China – in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, France and the Philippines.

 

Understandably, fear is prevalent at the moment. We cannot help but recall previous outbreaks such as bird flu in 2003 and swine flu in 2009. In the midst of this recent outbreak, we might find ourselves more germaphobic than usual: flinching when a stranger in the street sneezes or keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer on your person at all times. While paying extra attention to hygiene is normal and even healthy, there is an insidious side to this newfound germaphobia. Xenophobia has often been a symptom of global outbreaks of infectious disease, and the coronavirus is no exception. 

 

There have been a plethora of reports of racism against people of Chinese origin since the coronavirus has entered the public radar. Even those who haven’t been to China for many years or are of a different Asian ethnicity entirely, have been targeted by the public and press alike. In France, a local newspaper came under fire after it published incredibly racist headlines such as “Alerte Jaune” (“Yellow Alert”) and “Le Peril Jaune?” (“Yellow Peril?”). French Asians took to Twitter using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus in response to these headlines, as well as sharing racist interactions they had experienced in public. 

 

In the UK, many people of Asian backgrounds have spoken out about their experiences. A food writer from Burma posted photos on the Tube of people standing rather than sitting next to her, and Chinese-born Dr. Zhou recounted an experience he had in an elevator in Gatwick airport where a woman muttered to her husband, “they should wear their masks.” Dr. Zhou claimed that the woman clearly thought he was “fresh off the boat” in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been to China in two years, and therefore posed just as much of a risk as any white British person. As well as this, four separate racist incidents relating to the coronavirus have been reported to police in Yorkshire, where there have been two reported cases of the virus. Both the Chinese ambassador to the UK and the Health Secretary Matt Hannock have spoken out against such reactionary and hateful attitudes, Hannock saying, “this is not about one part of the world.”

 

Hostility towards Asian communities across the pond is just as, if not even more, harsh. Even usually reputable sources have been guilty of propagating an anti-Asian sentiment. In an Instagram post which was intended to inform students about common reactions to the threat of outbreak, the University of California Berkeley listed ‘xenophobia’ as one possible reaction. The post was quickly deleted and an apology was issued, but this did not subdue those who felt outrage at the university’s normalisation of the showing of animosity towards people based purely on their ethnic background. 

 

A doctor by the name of Eric Ding added fuel to the fire when he shared an unpublished paper about the coronavirus and its R0 which is supposed to measure the virus’s level of contagiousness. Although he deleted this particular tweet and the subsequent tweets pertaining to it, it managed to drum up a significant amount of hysteria surrounding the virus. A thread remains on his Twitter, however, and although he prefaced this series of tweets by saying, “First, I don’t like unsupported conspiracy theories, but [the origin of the coronavirus] is a lingering question…seafood market isn’t whole story”, the discussion in the following tweets belongs more in the camp of inflammation than information, at one point saying, “…I am absolutely not saying it’s bioengineering … I’m simply saying scientists need to do more research.” 

 

We have seen recently that xenophobia spurred on by the virus is not the only factor rendering the lives of Asian people in the States difficult; you will recall Trump’s restriction on Chinese immigrants and allegations of Chinese spies in the US. The circulation of xenophobic ideas masked as “information” about the virus only serves to reinforce already existing rhetoric villifying Chinese people. It’s important to note that this is not an isolated occurrence of this type of rhetoric; associations between Chinese people and uncleanliness have long been part of Western discourse, specifically in the US, and most often centred around Chinese food and eating habits. 

 

This is particularly relevant considering Wuhan’s food markets have been cited as the source of the virus. The food sold at these markets don’t always fit into Western norms, so there is often a tendency to view it as strange or disgusting. A perfect example of this is the ordeal experienced by Wang Mengyun, a Chinese vlogger who posted a video of herself enjoying fruit bat soup. This video was posted three years ago, but amidst coronavirus madness it resurfaced and was falsely claimed to have been shot in a “Wuhan restaurant”. In spite of the fact that the video was filmed in Palau long before the outbreak of the virus, the video caused fury and disgust online. It was described as “gruesome” and “revolting” by media outlets and Wang even received death threats. The backlash was so severe that she was forced to issue an apology for the video. Although China is thought to have issues around food regulation, this is a governmental concern and hardly the fault of individuals who choose to enjoy traditional menus – it does not justify the demonisation of Chinese people as a result of cultural ignorance. 

 

This attitude fits into a much larger discourse which associates foreigners with disease, a typical case of cultural “othering”. Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, discusses the connection between immigrants and illness: “People with a different national, ethnic or religious background have historically been accused of spreading germs regardless of what the science may say.” This can be seen in public discourse for as long as immigrants have been in the US. The New York Daily Tribunal was circulating similar ideas in 1854, writing that Chinese people were “uncivilised, unclean, filthy beyond all conception.” We like to think we have come a long way in accepting and embracing different cultures, but when xenophobia is perpetuated by popular media outlets and reputable sources, it is important to scratch beneath the surface – usually what seems like a simple tasteless comment is in fact contributing to a larger narrative that stigmatises people of certain cultural backgrounds. 

 

This was seen even more recently during the large-scale migration into New York in the 1920s, during which racial segregation in the city was justified by links that were falsely made between certain ethnic groups and germs. It was also evident during the HIV epidemic in the 80s, when Haitian people were discriminated against;and during the SARS outbreak of 2003, which saw the persecution of people of Asian ethnicity. 

 

In times of public emergency, it is far easier to assign blame than to think rationally. However, it is important not to let a scaremongering narrative surround an outbreak. Priscilla Wald warns against this in her book Culture, Carriers and the Outbreak Narrative. She explains that a sensationalist narrative can “influence how scientists and the lay public understand the nature and consequences of infection, how they imagine the threat.” 

 

During outbreaks, it is in everyone’s best interest to remain calm and compassionate. Not only does this facilitate the spread of helpful information, but ensures that we do not create another layer of xenophobic rhetoric which further marginalises certain groups in society during a period when, of all times, we must stand together. 

 

 

 

Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

 

 

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No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?