Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been accused of a sex crime. After a week of free gossip about sordid secrets concealed by superinjunctions, and in the wake of the Assange controversy, the combination of a high profile financier-cum-left-winger with the whiff of sexualised domination has proved sufficient to displace attention from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had earned a spike in coverage from a new report on the extent of sexual violence there.
The numbers are appropriately horrifying. Although I can’t access the full American Journal of Public Health paper from my usual entry points (itself frustrating: why lock up your vital statistical research behind a paywall while the media is reporting on it far and wide?), the abstract suggests the following: based on a representative household survey of 3,345 female informants from a 2007 survey added to some population estimates, it is suggested that some 1.7-1.8 million women in Congo have been raped during their lifetimes, and that between 407,000-434,000 (to the nearest thousand) of those have been raped in the last 12 months. A total of 3.1-3.4 million women are estimated to have been victims/survivors of ‘intimate partner sexual violence’, which I assume means not raped by strangers or officially ‘enemy’ soldiers.
Jason Stearns provides some useful context to argue that these numbers are not surprising given previous surveys, if somewhat more solid in methodological terms. The UN has been calling the DRC ‘the rape capital of the world’ for some time now, and there are a significant number of organisations working on these issues in situ. Indeed, the sheer scale of attention to rape in the DRC is spoken of as a logistical problem among those working there. While conducting fieldwork in Goma last year, I spoke to a UNOCHA representative who put their figures (which were not comprehensive) for agencies working on sexual violence in Eastern DRC at 80 international NGOs and over 200 local NGOs, as well as multiple elements of the UN system itself. Properly coordinating work between such a mass of groups (with wildly varying levels of skill and funding) in situations of violence and funding uncertainty is as difficult as you might expect.
This gestures towards one of a number of complexities and problems in the analysis and politics of wartime sexual violence.
In case you missed the news, an IR scholar was last week suspended from the University of Nottingham for the paper he delivered at the BISA Conference in April. Dr Rod Thornton works and teaches on terrorism, war and counter-insurgency and had apparently written up an analysis of the 2008 ‘extremism’ false alarm at Nottingham for the purposes of exploring how universities and the state go about dealing with students and their research interests.
Following complaints from others at Nottingham, BISA yanked the paper from the online system, so comment on Dr Thornton’s claims is moot. The academic freedom issues at stake are, however, very much alive. Particularly of interest are the grounds on which Nottingham have sought to defend their decisions, both in the initial case and in dealing with Thornton’s internal dissension:
[Academic] freedom is the freedom to question, to criticise, to put forward unpopular ideas and views – it is not the freedom to defame your co-workers and attempt to destroy their reputations as honest, fair and reasonable individuals.
It is important to remember that the original incident, almost three years ago, was triggered by the discovery of an al-Qaida training manual on the computer of an individual who was neither an academic member of staff, nor a student, and in a school where one would not expect to find such material being used for research purposes.
This is disingenuous at several levels. Continue reading
A common purpose
Gains value as a common goal
Let’s flail together
If we must flail at all.
Deep in the heart of the battle
Caught in the switch of the flow
Freedom from notes, she sells freedom from songs
She sells freedom and arms Eritrea.
I could have made these excuses in my sleep
As if anyone had doubted them at all
But if we arm Eritrea we won’t have to pay her
And everyone can go home.
Future Of The Left, ‘Arming Eritrea’ (2009)
This now fairly-widely disseminated video of Saif Gaddafi brandishing his militarised manhood and promising death can only fuel the paroxysms of guilt and denial afflicting those previously enamoured of him. Not a topic to be neglected, fersure, and one that will be returned here at The Disorder Of Things soon (I promise). But there is another element at play, and one rather more materially linked to massacre and repression. Where are the guns coming from?
Last month, The Guardian engaged in one of its periodic moments of data-explication, borrowing somewhat from Dan O’Huiginn to set out which regimes get UK arms exports, and how much. Since David Cameron is unashamed in his claims that we’re merely helping democracies protect themselves (barring minor hiccups), the numbers and relations make interesting reading. The conventional (if perhaps flawed) metric for such political goods as freedom and democracy is that provided by Freedom House. The top five Middle East and North African beneficiaries of UK military export licences in 2009-2010 were Algeria (£270 million), Saudi Arabia (£64 million), Libya (almost £34 million), the United Arab Emirates (almost £16 million) and Jordan (£12 million).
Every single one is listed as ‘Not Free’ in the Freedom House Index for 2010.