Little East

The Crackdown on Human Rights and Freedoms in Bahrain

By Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK.

Hosted by the Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP at

House of Commons, 1 Parliament Street, Westminster, SW1A 2JR

The recent years in Bahrain have been marked by a particularly harsh crackdown on opponents, human rights defenders, activists, and journalists. The fundamental rights to free speech and association have been under serious threat with widespread arrests, disappearances, torture, and even executions of those who have challenged the Bahraini authorities. A protester at the embassy of Bahrain in London was threatened with being thrown of the roof of the embassy in July, which required the UK police to intervene and storm the embassy. A recent alarming report has highlighted that female activists in detention have been signaled out for sexual and psychological torture. The panelists and experts at the event will highlight the deteriorating state of human rights and freedoms in Bahrain and address the actions that should be taken by governments and the international community to end these abuses and hold the perpetrators to account.

Speakers:  Lucilla Berwick, Research and Advocacy Associate, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). Bahar Saba, Middle east and North Africa Caseworker, Reprieve. Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, BIRD.

Register for the event here


Poetry from Baghdad Under Bullets

By clicking here Poetry from Baghdad Under Bullets you will be led to a Facebook page. I do not associate with it but I like the video of a young man reading a poem which expresses the general mood of the revolt in Baghdad. This is an open link and should be accessible to all, but I do appologise that it is a link Facebook . 

I may add some translation of the content in few days time.

10 October 2019

The Flower of My Muslim Potential, by a known anonymous

Artful Harassment

Last week I was part of a team that worked few hours with an Iraqi family based in North London. At the end of the session I recieved two unexpected presents.

It so happened, unrelated to the work and process involved, that both father and daughter were into drawing and while the team was working with one of them, the other was drawing. Thus at the end of the session I recieved two portraits.

The girls portrait of me is quite a sweet thing: furthermore it represents me at about the girl's age - eleven. Otherwise I am recognisable: the blue dress with the triangle décolleté; the shoulder length hair with the blue hair-clip; the relaxed and easy body posture - I am not sure where I have it from: is it the years dancing? Or is it the Bedu gene - when one doesn't have a home, one is relaxed everywhere; the smiling face - I enjoy working most of the time. And then there is something like Eia written in the paper, which is quite close to what I am called.

We discus the portrait. The team confirms that it is certainly me at the age of eleven. Then few moments later the father hands me over a piece of paper and says "A flower for you".

Effectively there is a blue-pinkish flower drawn on the paper and underneath it another, black and white flower. "It is dedicated" says the man, which makes me look at the back of the paper as on the flower-front as presented to me I see no dedication.

What I see at "the back" of the paper is the portrait of a veiled woman, with an expressionless face and hard eyes. And there is the "dedication". It reads "To sister Iva" in Arabic.

At that point I am perplexed and disorientated: he said he has drawn me a flower, but then he had put the dedication on the other side where drawn is a woman; the woman must be there drawn another time, but why didn't he write the dedication on the front side. Thus runs my stream of thoughts and I don't hurry up to understand as, not being a control freak, in general I like the feeling of slight disorientation. At that time other things are going on around too - the session has finished, people talk and take goodbuys. I leave.

On my way back home I look again and again at the piece of paper and its two sides. The two flowers on the one side: one in my "present life colours" and the second one, the one that I even haven't noticed at first or more precisely the one that I thought was just there on the paper before "the flower for me" was drawn. This black and white "still hidden" flower that "stylistically" connects with the veiled women at the back. This black and white veiled woman that still lacks "the colours of life". The muslim woman in embryo waiting to come to life in me (?!?).

I am appalled. Horrified. Just as much as if the man has given me a nude portrait of moi. I mean it would have been completely unacceptable if the father of the child at the end of the session has given me a naked portrait.

Yet the veiled image of a presumable Muslim me is equally offensive. And also scary. Because I rarelly forget that in a parallel reality many steps away (read Terry Pratchet's The Long Earth) I walk to my neighbours in Mosul, as a veiled woman.

What contributes to my confusion is that the episode with the 'Double Sided Flower Porttait' followed a pleasant chat we had with this man about Leonardo and the man's dream that his son becomes a second Da Vinci.

So ingenuity, drawing, construction, philosophy and all the glory of the palace of François I + 2000 golden coins annual salary for your son, and a veil for me, huh? I think. No, thank you, I would say to such flower. I will leave it perish unwatered and unsunned.

Last but not least: Is it all Muslim men's porn to picture veiled all unveiled women? Just like my friend the Free Range Satanist undresses in his inner eye every woman passing by, but the other way round?

There is a saying Bulgarian women use often "Call him a man and don't insult him any more"...

On the occasion of 500 years from the death of Leonardo Da Vinci the NATIONAL GALLERY reveals images of ‘abandoned’ angel and Christ underneath The Virgin of the Rocks. The new Leonardo experience opens to public: Saturday 9 November 2019 .

Also LEONARDO DA VINCI: A LIFE IN DRAWING  at The Queen's Gallery

25 August 2019

Two Perspectives Me, by known but anonymous painters


اللؤلؤة اللبنانية في التاج البريطاني السيدة لينا كي

مقابلة "الفن و الطعام في لندن" مع إذاعة "هلا لندن " موجودة على صفحة الإذاعة الرئيسية. ولهذه المقابلة الرائعة أود أن اشكر جميع افراد الاذاعة ولاسيما السيدة " لينا كي" التي جعلتني اشعر كأنما عدت الى أصدقاء اعزاء بعد انفصال طويل

طارة الساعتين التي قضيتها مع السيدة لينا كلحضة واحدة ، وانتهت المقابلة وليس بإمكاني ان اصدق اننا قضينا مع بعض ساعتين. وللخبرة السيدة لينا "بروفيشينل" الى درجة

سويا تطرقنا الى المواضيع المهمة بالنسبة لكلا "الفن والطعام في لندن" و إذاعة" هلا لندن" و من اهمها

رسالة الحب والتسامح (بين ابناء الشرق الاوسط من جانب، وبين ابناء الشرق والغرب فيما بينهم)

 رسالة المعاملة الإنسانية نحو بشر  وحيوانات

رسالة السلام قبل كل شيء ولاسيما السلام كطريقة للاحتفاظ بالبيئة

وفتحت السيدة لينا لمؤلفة "الفن والطعام في لندن" السيدة "ايفا سعيد" فرصة توضيح مباديء الصفحة الالكتروني المكرسة للفن والطعام في لندن . فقالت السيدة سعيد ان القطع الفنية هي أول سفراء الجمال والسلام في العالم. فالناس الذين قاموا بالاكتشافات الجغرافية نقلوا معاهم القطاعات الجميلة بين بلد و بلد وبين قارة وقارة و حضارة واخرى بكونها رسائل جميلة ذات لغة عالمية التي لا تحتاج من ترجمة . وأينما وصلت هذه القطع الفنية حباها العالم واحتظة بها - مهما كانت هي مزهرية البُورْسِلِين الصيني ام كيمونو ياباني اومجوهر هندي الخ . وكذلك بالنباتات المختلفة المستعملة للاكل او الشرب. فاصبح مشروب الشاي افخم سفيرا عالمي ودار الكرة الأرضية كلها و فتح كل باب ودخل في كل بيت. وبعده القهوة والككو، و بعدهم الطماطم و البطاطس و الدرة الخ. وطبعا السيد الحمص اللبناني سفير معروف دوليا وترافقه القناصلة الست تبولة و الاستاذ فتوش

لذا الفن والطعام هم في أساس كل تبادل وتفاهم انساني. كما اضافت السيدة سعيد ان الحرب هي العنصر الأكثر أضرارا للبيئة و ان العمل من اجل التفاهم بين الشعوب و من اجل السلام هو أيضا عبارة عن حملة فعالة للاحتفاظ بالبيئة ومكافحة التغير المناخي

ويوجد المزيد عن مبادرة السيدة "لينا " لمنح بدون كويت جنسية و كامل حقوقهم الإنسانية على صفحة "هلا لندن" الرئسية

أما المقابلة الكاملة مع السيدة "ايفا سعيد" من مجلة "الفن والطعام في لندن" الالكترونية فستجدونها على صفحة "هلا لندن" الرئسية وكمادة ثانية تحت فارق "Facebook"

https://halalondon.com/


Ara Güler's Little Big Exhibition

Ara Güler, Saatchi Gallery

A big master's exhibition in pocket size is travelling - London, Paris, Kyoto, New York, Rome and Mogadishu. Compact and intense Ara Güler's black and white photography is an open tunnel in timespace, cultures and imagination.

The exhibition looks modest at first sight. About 50 photographs presented in a single line in an average sized hall. But the impression easily dissolves under the powerful impact of the work. Bearer of strong narrative each picture is a universe. Güler's mastery of small and big, of the relief of texture and the landscape of context in the same frame is unusual and impressive. Furthermore that spontaneity sparkles in each photograph. This is not the carefully arranged mise en scene of say Helmut Newton.

How does the colours of life shine so brightly through the black and white one wonders. Not only beauty, also there is love in the eye of this beholder.

A year after the death of Ara Güler, the curators of the exhibition have done a great job arranging this luxurious treasure box in celebration of the artist's life and work.

The patron of the exhibition, the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey has done a step in the right direction - the world would love to see Turkish artists in exhibition halls rather than in prison cells.

Ara Güler's fantastic pictures of Istanbul in the 50s remind the viewer of the melting pot this city was and continues to be through the centuries. Along with its 80 million population Turkey is also rich with the creativity of all those migrating from the various corners of the ex-Ottoman Empire and beyond.

Wave after wave after migratory wave had brought to Turkey the people from close and distant lands. To mention only couple: the Bulgarian Muslims mid 80s (last century) chased by the hostilities of the communist state. Syrian Arabs and Kurds chased by the hostilities of the national-socialist (because this is what baathism is, let's not forget the ideological background of Bashar's clique) regime in Damascus nowadays. To those and many others, Turkey has been a rather good adoptive mother providing them with shelter in their escape from a BPD or depressed biological country.

Thus this little exhibition provides us with big reminders : There is plenty of art and artists to discover in the culturally super rich Turkey, as one for "the rest of the world". The welfare of artists together with the welfare of minority groups within the frame of a nation are always the best barometer for its democratic status, as one for the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. It always take two to tango, as two for the two of us.

Go on Ara Güler! London, Paris, Kyoto, New York, Rome and Mogadishu awaits thee! What a great itinerary! I wish I could render myself in 2D and travel amidst your exhibits. See the diversity of faces on each of the three continents glowing towards me in fascination.

Ara Gûler was in the Saatchi Gallery until today, 5th May 2019

Where the streets have a say

A day after watching the exhibition and while walking down Rosebery Avenue, I spotted a handful of protesters outside Amnesty International. Asked about the flags they were waving the protesters explained that the photograph on the flags was of Abdullah Öcalan kept in solitary confinement for the last six years and that at present there are 7,000 Kurds on hunger strike in Turkish prisons. Streets, just like galleries, have their own voices and say. Such a shame that I am not half as good a photographer as Ara Güler was. 

Rosebery Avenue, 25 April 2019, 3pm


The Cherry Blossom Plan

Maha and Wafa Alsubaie

To Maha and Wafa Alsubaie

In regards to women's right in Saudi Arabia and reflecting on Suad Abu-Dayyeh's ( Middle East and North Africa expert of Equality Now) statement that "Governments and businesses around the world need to place greater pressure on authorities in Saudi Arabia". (The Independent 17 April) Laaf suggests all progressive governments and businesses that have to do with the Saudi Kingdom to gradually but relentlessly replace all their male staff with female.

Change them one by one, do it step by step, but in a year's time every single representative of a progressive government or business in Saudis Arabia should be a woman.

Every single person Saudi authorities and businesses encounter or communicate with in the progressive world would be a woman.

Do this until the Saudi Kingdom get the impression that they are the only men in the world, a lonely island in a women's ocean.

That would be a positive message and implemented through a positive action. No sanctions, no heavy words, no criticism, no accusations, just soft and tender power.

All governments and businesses that call themselves progressive should have the sufficient goodwill and womenpower to execute the Cherry Blossom Plan.


جائزة الثقافة للمركز العربي البريطاني

The Arab British Centre Award for Culture Call for entries now open and will close at midnight on Sunday 19 May


Beautiful Zehra Dogan

Zehra Dogan, 2019 Freedom of Expression Arts Acceptance Speech"


Free Idel-Ural

BP experimenting with AR

"They carry the heads back to the Assyrian camp to be identified"

January 2019

This chilling inscription, a subtitle to one of the numerous Assyrian artifacts belonging to the British Museum, and shown in its exhibition "I Ashurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria", strangely reminds me of the photo I took the previous evening, Sunday, 20 January 2019, at a solemn event that took place in South Wimbledon. In my photo one can see heads floating among flags.

The solemn event in question was the constituent assembly of the civic movement "Free Idel-Ural". A movement aiming to unite six republics with predominantly Turkic and Finno-Ugric population, currently within the borders of Russia, in a major Idel-Ural State. Needless to say, it is a separatist movement.

Idel-Ural, as it was first thought in the beginning of the 20th century, consists of; Mordovia, Chuvashia, Mari El, Tatarstan, Udmurtia and Bashkortostan, all of which are situated along the basin of the river Volga. The six nations share a common problem - their colonisation by Russia. The indigenous population of these republics are Muslims and have longtime suffered under a Russian boot.

This well established practice in the times of the Tzars (like the destruction of Kazan in 1552) went uninterrupted in Communist and Putin’s times. It's your usual life under a colonial rule - the invaders persecute and kill local nobles, destroy buildings of cultural importance, impose their religion, impose their language, generally treat the indigenous individuals as second class citizens. This means limiting the basic rights of indigenes and the possibility for social progress, or displacing them to hostile lands. At other times this means depriving them of the means of survival, for example, Stalin’s Famine in Ukraine, etc.

Nothing new, nothing unusual, especially not for an English ear (English society is an advanced society, it has had its religious wars centuries ago, it has had its colonial wars decades ago, and is now subcontracting its public sector to private companies, so that they may “privately” introduce modern slavery back, but in a way that the government remains unaccountable for the practice, and all taxpayers share responsibility - how avant-garde! And at this point I feel properly schizophrenic as I am about to complain to the leaders of twisted practices of their principal competitor in the discipline, but here we are) then what is the problem now, after all this time passed under the Russiano-Sovieto-FSB/Oligarchy yoke?

Rafis Kashapov presenting the Free Idel-Ural map

Well, it seems that all the problems are precisely time, and timing-related ones:

a) It's the 21st century. A century in which it is very hard to keep intelligent and educated people in a submissive position

b) The aeons of genocide, displacement, and assimilation didn't make the indigenous peoples lose their identity; on the contrary, it just made the suffering more unbearable

c) Crimea. Obviously Crimea. The wake-up call amidst the fumes of dolour and the mists of misery.

The annexation of Crimea has been a wake-up call for nearly everybody to the East of the ghost-spirit of the fallen Berlin Wall.

Just as it has been a wake-up call for nearly nobody in the West of the ghost of the aforementioned Wall.

My personal bother is that on the subject of the annexation of Crimea, both Western Rightists and Leftists are on the same jellyfishly- meh, lacking human-rights-spine position. Before going on with my personal bothers (especially with the local leftists), I have to mention the brave personalities behind the Free Idel-Ural movement.

The founder of the movement is Rafis Kashapov, Crimea-annexation objector from the Republic of Tatarstan, accused and found guilty of incitement to hatred and sentenced to three years in a correctional colony in the Komi Republic. Has now been granted political asylum in the UK.

At his sides are wo/men originating from the six republic forming the Idel-Ural territory, currently living around the world. They have also supporters from beyond the Idel-Ural borders, for example an Iraqi Turcoman, a Russian journalist, a Turk etc.

The company establishes a skype-conference with activist who will present the Free Idel-Ural movement internationally in Ukraine, Turkey, Poland and Canada. They are Crimean-Tatars, Uzbeks, Chuvashes, Chechens etc.

I am contaminated by their solemnity, by their conviction of the importance of the moment. Their optimism takes me back to my youth, to a better me, to the years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and immediately after. They take me back to the years when I had no knowledge of the world nor cynicism. Because of this, I suddenly feel at home among them, people with unfamiliar features and language.

“Every century witnesses an attempt to establish an Idel-Ural State. We are the ones to succeed in the 21st century”, tells me Melek Maksudodly, a Crimean-Tatar living in the UK. She is a young, beautiful woman with short hair coloured in multiple bright colours. I look at her and suddenly I hear Azar Nafisi in her book “Reading Lolita in Tahran" sying: “In the name of change we (the women of Iran) gave up so easily on our liberties. I can’t forgive our (Iranian) men, who so easily gave up on our liberties” (quoted from memory). I look to the bright colours in Melek’s hair and wonder will she still sport them in a Free Idel-Ural State? Or will they be covered and forever gone from the public’s eyes, like the hairs of so many women in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan etc?

 

Apart of this one, other reality-check questions appear a bit later, at the time of the group photo. People have brought with them the flags of their ethnic or national groups. Thus I see for a first time the flag of Iraqi Turcomans. It is a white crescent and a white star on a light blue background with two white stripes. All but the Turkish flag are unfamiliar to me. The idea is that each participant pose with their flag. But lo, at the picture there are more flags than heads.

While I am taking the picture, I suddenly have a flashback of myself and what I felt, when my beloved cousin fell into coma years back. Near the terrible shadow of the death of the beloved one, fear crashed my soul. Yes, this is what I witness now. The crashing fear of death. Or the crashing fear of the long hand of Moscow. This fear that hounds them as far as the UK and made them hide their heads behind the flags of their identity.

 

And while I will not support a new religion-based state (like Iran or Israel), I am inclined to support the Free Idel-Ural movement as I haven’t heard from its activists that their state will be any other but a secular state. Yet, here hides my initial worry - who would support a new, predominantly Muslim population state in the North Hemisphere? From here, another question follows. Is it possible that the West did nothing to Ukraine on Crimea because its indigenous population is of Crimean-Tatars aka Muslims? I hope not. I hope the West didn’t do anything only out of fear from FSBia (KGBia old fashion).

 

The worst argument regarding Western passivity in the Crimea that I have heard in this country (England), came from a local leftist who said “We didn’t do and we won’t do anything about Crimea because Russia shouldn’t have let it go at the first place.” (!?!)

The second worst argument on the subject, also from a local leftist, a different one is “Are you supporting America then?”(!?!)

Here I should probably finish by saying I don’t support Russia. I don’t support USA. I don’t support Religious States, new, old, or virtual (Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, ISIS/DAESH). I don’t support Secular States with non democratic attitude towards religious and ethnic groups (China, Russia). Funny that! Only FSBia gets into two groups.

So here abides my big personal drama, now with my British Passport in the pipeline, how should I vote at the General Election? I know they are some way away, but still… Don’t support Conservatives. Don’t support Labour, that stupidly supports FSBia…

Hmm hmm…

…Isn’t there an Enlightened Party of Humanists?

Free Idel-Ural civil movement on 20 January 2019, London

More on the subject and especially on how Stalin twisted history in sort that Volga peoples (the six mentioned above) were made forget the historic fact that they are an indigenous population heir to the Volga-Bulgarians (One of the three parts of ancient Great Bulgaria; the other two being Kievan Bulgaria and Danube Bulgaria).

Stalin and the communist apparatus did miracles of wonder to make the peoples inhabiting the Volga valley believe that they are successors of Gengiz Khan and his savage Golden Horde, therefore new-comers who had settled in the region as late as the late Middle Ages and mixed with an "indigenous Rus population".

(Very much like the French taught the children in Kongo that their ancestors were the Gauls!)

The video bellow is of Marat Sayafullin interviewing Rafis Kashapov on why the term Volga Bulgaria hasn't been incorporated in the Free Idel-Ural movement vocabulary and other pertinent questions.

In this interview Mr Kashapov mentions a book written by his brother Nafis Kashapov (currently in political exile in Poland) and himself called "Idel-Ural. The forbidden history of the Tatars" saying that the book has been translated to many languages, including English, but I couldn't find it by web search.


It is not our personal stories that make us human; it's our ability to create excellence and art

Art of unknow origin and description somewhere in the House of Commons

South Asia and the Middle East Forum

October 2018

Last Thursday two memorable events marked my day causing a disturbance that needs to be put in words and frame. It went like this:

In the morning I was at the House of Commons attending the session on Afghanistan of the South Asia and the Middle East Forum, upon the kind invitation of its extraordinary chairman Mr Khalid Nadeem (Thank you, thank you thank you, dear Khalid for the opened door 💕.

For isn't it what great people do? Open doors, let in and go towards others, constructing an inclusive and creative space?).

Many good people spoke there on Afghanistan from different perspectives. Men and women talked about Afghanistan interior security, Daash in Afghanistan, Afghanistan's economy, agriculture, differences, Afghanistan and the world etc etc. As most cordial, simple and humane stroke me Lord Dubs, speaking on the issue of Afghan migrants. Which made me wonder do they call him Lord because he's wise and good, or is he wise and good because they call him Lord? Hmm, yes, yes the egg or the hen... Despite all his wisdom and goodness Lord Dubs couldn't answer my question on the basis of what criteria Afghanistan is considered a safe (!!??!!! Right? I know...) country. Instead of an answer Lord Dubs said "Speak to your MP" (?!?! You are an MP right? Why should I speak to another MP?!? . While Sir Barney White Spunner, Former Lieutenant General on the Defence Strategy in Afghanistan said an even simpler "I don't know" (?!?! Who then consults the government on whether Afghanistan is or isn't a safe country?). I can reassure you: no other question went more unanswered than mine. And I would also like to reassure P: Darling there are windows dirtier than ours! Those of the House of Commons!

Anyhow, there I am at La Bohemme in the afternoon and I am just about to have my well deserved lunch, (in addition to the afternoon music, La Boheme has now an excellent crunchy duck breast with crunchy chips on the menu), when I read the following in one of the newspapers they keep at the bar: "Moscow profited from its refusal to boycott a Saudi Arabian conference yesterday, securing ..the promise of lucrative contracts, including a Hermitage museum franchise. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the St Petersburg Museum ...addressed the conference alone after Tad Smith, chief executive of Sotheby's, withdrew from the conference last week". (The Times, 25 Oct 2018)

Curious. Extremely curious I find this phrase "Moscow profited from its refusal to boycott".

Here is a question for you: who had ever profited from a boycott? What did England profit from the boycott of say artistic exchange with the Middle Eastern countries with dictatorial regimes in the nineties and the new millennium? These regimes - Mubarak's, Gathafi's, Bashar's etc., that were good enough to do arms and gas deals with, but not good enough for artists and cultural institutions to attend their theatre and music festivals? What did the English artistic milieu profit from its absence this year at the 25th edition of Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre for example? Or, apart from increasing alienation from the other culture, what was this country's profit from the absence of its artists at all previous 24 editions of the festival? This huge festival that strives to present the best and newest in the theatre from all Arabic speaking countries and beyond.

I am looking at this year's program and marveling: 13 September, Smell of War (Iraq) Al-Salam Theatre. Is it the same cast that performed in 2010, when I saw the Iraqi post invasion version of Brecht's The Caucasion Chalk Circle? Is it the same company of extraordinary actors all above 60, who's play was so good in their version of this extraordinary text that by the first act I was in tears. By the end of the play the whole huge hall was sobbing. I stare at the festival's page and the painful questions from back then come to me Whom will these excellent actors transmit their art to? They who have started their carriers in a relatively stable and prosperous Iraq, can still not retire as there is nobody to replace them. Further in the festival's 2018 program there is a pleiade of Arabic companies Syria (how interesting to see), Kuwait, UAE, Tunis, Algeria, Egypt; and also others like Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, even China and Russia, of course, why would they miss? For this is how it usually is, the only one missing is the absent one. Did I miss to see the list of British artists cancelling their tours in the States because of the election of Trump? No, right? Because we know that at least half, if not most of the Americans have nothing to do with Trump. So why do we think that all Egyptians had to do with Mubarak; are at present doing with either the Generals or the Muslim Brotherhood; and in a word are aliens that either only obey and pray or flood squares and rape women?

Art is usually militant and engaged. Yet, its means and ways are, different from those of business and politics. No matter how much business and politics influence, penetrate, submit, conquer and corrupt it; art always finds new gaps and ways; always sets itself free.

Therefore, here, I find a radical mistake in the concept. We defeat dictatorial regimes by art. More art. More and more art. The absence of art strengthenes regimes. We defeat dictatorial regimes by communicating with their people, not by ignoring them.

In the context of a dictatorial regime, each album with reproductions of Caravaggio is a window open towards a blue sky; each musical record is a fresh breeze in the stuffy cell.The Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden have contributed more for the fall of the Berlin Wall than any English politician.

Now, what do I understand from Sotheby's chief executive's withdrawal from the conference last week? I understand that Mr Tad Smith doesn't find the conditions in the Saudi Kingdom attractive enough as for Sotheby's to run their business there. Fair enough.

How would I insist to read Mr Mikhail Piotrovsky's presence in the Saudi Kingdom, despite knowing that it doesn't mean this? "Oh, sod the tyrant; we have worse. Art will save us all".

There is a subquestion here: Why Russia delegates the director of their majour museum, while Britain delegates an art dealer; be it the representative of the biggest art dealing institution? Art empowers people. I am happy that the Saudi women, men and children will have a franchise of the Hermitage. I would like them to have a franchise of the National Portrait Gallery too. And of Musee d'Orsay.

Art empowers people. Art makes people better. Maybe if the Saudis have plenty of art they will stop being overweight and suffer from respiratory and heart diseases and will suddenly stop seeing Yemen on a good day as their private brothel; on a bad day as their private boxing bag.

The absence of Mr Tad Smith in the Saudi Kingdom is a business, not an art loss. The systematic absence of interactions of the native English-speaking artist with their colleagues in the Middle East has only one effect: the increase of the "War of civilizations".The last half a century of exclusively arms, drugs and gas deals contacts have only led to an increasing demonisation of the other in the eyes of the general public of both sides.

And while we know exactly where England stands in regards to Freedom of Sprach; we absolutely don't know where it stands in regards to Freedom of Arts. Judging by the events mentioned, there isn't English art where there isn't English Establishment.

In conclusion, I will write to the honourable Mr Khalid Nadeem and politely suggest that hereon at the sittings of the South Asia & Middle East Forum one of the presentations to be on the art activities of the particular country; and the forms of humane (not war and business) exchange between Britain and the country in question. So that we may not forget that people have a bright, human side to which we should appeal and with which we should communicate.

"Sometimes when I translate for an Iraqi... the Swedish social worker will ask: Are you with me or with them" integrated text, The Translator from the series How Iraqi Are You? By Hayv Kahraman, Jameel Prize 5 finalist, V&A