Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Pawn

A teacher from Liverpool is facing a court in Sudan, after being charged with blasphemy for letting schoolchildren name a teddy bear Muhammad. Lurid reports in the British press, many with a thinly-veiled racist tone ('look at these savages - they're black and Muslim!' seems to be the context) suggest she could end up being given 40 lashes.

That won't happen though. This luckless lady now finds herself as a pawn in the latest round of the diplomatic chess match between Sudan and the western world over Darfur. The Sudanese continue to resist letting any kind of meaningful international peacekeeping force into its lawless western province, where government-backed militia have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians in recent years, making millions more homeless, on the pretext of fighting assorted groups of rebels.

The case of Gillian Gibbons has everything to do with this. As British officials try to get her out of jail, you can bet the price of her freedom will be some kind of concession over Darfur - something that will ease the international pressure on Sudan. The British government must act to soothe the screaming newspaper headlines back home. It's certain we won't, once the Gibbons case is fish-and-chip paper, see similar headlines about Darfur, as Sudan is allowed to continue terrorising its people.

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