Daily Archives: January 21, 2014

Gideon Rachman

This is not the dog in question

I am happy to be here in Davos. The only cloud on the horizon is that the room next door to me at the Hotel Cresta appears to be occupied by a dog. I could hear it barking agitatedly through the walls. The prospects for a good night’s sleep – so vital when you are planning to rub shoulders with world leaders – seem dim. Read more

David Gardner

Anyone who thought references to the Assads’ “killing machine” in Syria’s civil war was hyperbolic metaphor should read a horrendously literal report that has just surfaced, detailing the “industrial scale” killing of about 11,000 detainees in the regime’s dungeons. It provides harrowing confirmation of what organisations from the UN to Human Rights Watch had partially documented: the systematic liquidation, usually by or after torture, of those who question or combat the Assad tyranny.

The report is based largely on evidence assembled and smuggled out on a memory stick by a Syrian military policeman, codenamed Caesar to protect him and his family from reprisals, whose job it was to photograph the dead bodies, often up to 50 a day. The evidence has been examined by lead prosecutors for the war crimes tribunals of Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia and top international forensics experts, commissioned by a London law firm on behalf of Qatar, which has been a leading supporter of Syria’s rebels. They found it to be credible evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes that would stand up in a court of law. Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina describes coming to terms with his homosexuality after the death of his mother.
  • Attitudes towards single motherhood in China are finally shifting.
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a citizens arrest from barman Twiggy Garcia for “a crime against peace” while dining in a Shoreditch restaurant.
  • Evidence of “systematic killing” perpetrated by the Syrian government leads to calls for war crimes charges against the regime.
  • Fethullah Gulen tells the Wall Street Journal that “democratic progress is now being reversed” in Turkey at the hands of prime minister Erdogan.
  • Charles Lane in the Washington Post calls for an end to the “corrupt quadrennial exercise” that is the Olympics.
  • There is little optimism about the Syrian peace talks after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s volte-face on Iranian participation in negotiations.

 Read more

David Pilling

Demonstrators march in support of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih in Hong Kong (Getty)

Behind the shiny skyscrapers and business friendly reputation of Hong Kong lies a darker side. One of the attractions of the city for expatriate bankers and middle-class Chinese residents alike is the plentiful supply of domestic help at a very “reasonable” cost. A live-in maid, working six days a week, often for very long hours, is paid a minimum monthly wage of around $515.

The arrest this week of a woman accused of torturing her Indonesian maid over a six-month period highlights the extreme vulnerability of overseas domestic workers to exploitation. Many are virtually locked away in the ranks of tower blocks that crowd in on Hong Kong Harbour and beyond, away from scrutiny. Maids tend to leave the house only when they run errands or walk the dog – or on Sundays, the statutory day off, when the concrete walkways and tiny parks of Hong Kong are taken over by encampments of domestic workers with nowhere else to go. Read more

In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip. Katrina Manson, the FT’s east Africa correspondent, tells us about her visit to Khartoum, Sudan.

Why now?

Things take time with Sudan’s bureaucracy. I put in for a journalist visa during the late-September protests. They were triggered when the cash-strapped 24-year-old regime run by president Omar al-Bashir reduced subsidies and increased customs duties at the same time, doubling the cost of some staples overnight. Activists say at least 212 were shot dead on the streets (the state admits to fewer than 70) in the worst state violence against Khartoum under the present regime. The visa arrived in time to visit in December and I was keen to see how people in Khartoum assessed the fragility and future of both the economy and the regime.

What impression did you take away about the situation on the ground? Read more

Tony Barber

Protest in Istanbul, Jan 2014 (Getty Images)

According to the Turkish proverb, if you spit down it gets in your beard and if you spit up it gets in your moustache. In other words, it’s a mess either way – and that pretty much sums up the state of EU-Turkish relations as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, prepares to visit Brussels on Tuesday for the first time since June 2009. Read more