Worldlog Week 14 – 2009

3 April 2009

Last week was a particularly busy week. Just as the tension surrounding the credit crisis mounts, political pressure is also mounting on other portfolios. It's these moments that show just how important our contribution to Dutch politics is. We are the 'balancing vote' between the political parties on either side of the political spectrum. Both the far left and the far right hold each other in balance, we often provide the breakthrough and it's a fascinating position to hold.
For example, parliament had reached a stalemate over the purchase of a Joint Strike Fighter, a new American jet fighter meant for the Dutch army. We believe it to be completely useless and 6 billion euro we could invest in something more deserving.
Yet the parties in office wanted to push through the purchase of this equipment at any cost, and the vote threatened to result in a standoff – as many for as against. D66, the social liberal party in Dutch parliament called on us as the Party for the Animals to vote with them against the jet fighters – we won and the file was dropped.
Dutch parliament also had some hard-nosed discussions about the Iraq invasion and the investigation into the role of both Dutch and foreign intelligence services – we made sure they heard our opinion too.

We touched on a sore point after the Dutch government had organised a conference on the war in Afghanistan and to discuss freedom and democracy. Present were President Karzai, Ban ki-Moon and Hillary Clinton. They had not one word to say over the rape act that President Karzai is preparing to introduce in Afghanistan. The law will make it impossible for women to follow an education, to look for a job or to go to the doctor without their husband’s permission, even rape within marriage would no longer be punishable by law!
I asked the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs the following question over this issue:
1. Have you seen the article ‘Hamid Karzai signs law legalising rape in marriage’ published 31 March 2009?

2. Is it true that president Karzai is preparing a law that no longer punishes rape within marriage, that severely restricts women's freedom of movement and denies women the right to look for work without their husband’s permission, to gain an education or to see a doctor without their husband’s permission?

3. Were you aware of this development before 31 March? If not, how can the Netherlands play a role in a “construction mission” without such essential information? If yes, have you spoken to President Karzai about this development?

4. Is it true that Hillary Clinton spoke to President Karzai about this subject? If yes, was she better informed than Dutch parliament on this point, or does she merely attach more importance to this issue than the Dutch government?

5. Are you prepared to attach consequences to the introduction of this law, in terms of the construction mission or in terms of our development cooperation? If not, why not? If yes, on which terms and how?

6. In which way is support for the Karzai government being legitimised when his government does not differentiate itself in any positive way from the Taleban?

7. Are you prepared to let the Afghan government know that violating the rights of women is unacceptable to the Dutch government and will not pass without consequences? If not, why not? If yes, how will you tell them?
Didn't we do anything for animals that week? Of course we did, we denounced artists who abuse animals, we spoke with a delegation from Abkhazia about possibly setting up a Party for the Animals there, we objected to CO2 intoxication of pigs, or to make a long story short, it was one crazy week.
See you next week!