JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

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JAN Trust opinion on Brexit

It’s been five days since the result of the EU Referendum that took place last week, yet the effects are still being felt. The country is in disarray. The results were close with 51.9% voting to leave the EU and 48.1% voting to remain, showing that the country is heavily polarised. Following the results, on Friday morning, the Prime Minister announced that he would be resigning stating in his resignation speech that “The country requires fresh leadership …” This was followed by the intensification of in-party fighting within the Labour Party. Meanwhile, on Facebook, articles were popping up about the rise in the number of hate crimes being reported and video footage of racist incidents since Brexit.

Over the weekend, we at JAN Trust felt it necessary to tell our users that should they or someone they know experience hate crimes or hate incidents to call the Police in an emergency or report it using the online form on our website http://www.saynotohatecrime.org. It would appear that the result of the referendum has legitimised such overt expressions of hatred. As someone wrote on Facebook, referring to this increased racism “… let’s face it, things were already like this before Brexit, but we have had our heads in the sand about it far too often.” JAN Trust is only too aware of this, having worked to tackle deep-rooted racism, both overt and covert, directed at women from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) backgrounds since it was established in 1989. We have done a lot of work to challenge discrimination but also to build community cohesion.

It is important to note that not all those who voted to leave the EU hold racist and xenophobic views but immigration was a key concern for a number of those who voted to leave. The Leave campaign played on peoples fear of immigration arguing that whilst it was a member of the EU, Britain would be unable to control its own borders and in turn who came into the country. However, there were other reasons too which led the majority to vote to leave the EU and these must be carefully analysed and responded to in the right way.

An article by Matthew Goodwin, Associate Fellow, Europe Programme at Chatham House, in Politico magazine, titled ‘Inequality not personalities drove Britain to Brexit’ explores the factors that led to Brexit by taking a look at voting patterns which according to Goodwin show a country deeply divided along three lines: social class, generation, and geography. Immediately after the results were announced, the generational divide was highlighted with older voters choosing leave and younger voters choosing overwhelmingly to remain. However, since then discussion has moved on to inequality in Britain and millions who were deeply affected by austerity who mostly voted to leave, with Goodwin writing that “Brexit owed less to personal charisma than to a deep sense of angst, alienation and resentment amongst the financially disadvantaged” who have been hit hard by austerity. He gives the example of Boston in the East Midlands where 76% of those who voted wanted Britain to leave the EU. Boston is known for its high economic deprivation.

Again, JAN Trust is very familiar with the underlying causes and effects of poverty, deprivation and inequality. Since our creation, our work has focused on tackling these issues within the BAMER community at grassroots level.

In the same article, Goodwin also acknowledges the support for Brexit from those living in more leafy, affluent Conservative areas but there was also support from left-wingers who voted to leave the EU project in a stand against its imposition of neoliberal austerity.

What is clear to us at JAN Trust is that it is now more important than ever for all these issues to be taken seriously by politicians. They must break down the barriers which have led to this deep polarisation of British society and develop policies which aim to create a fairer and more inclusive democracy.

The rise of the trolls!

Trolls

 “One person said I should get cancer, I had somebody threatening to find me and tie me up”.

Last week, best-selling feminist author, Jessica Valenti, decided to take a break from social media following death and rape threats directed at her 5 year-old daughter. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in online hate and abuse directed towards women. A fortnight ago, JAN Trust participated in a conference held in London organised by Reclaim the Internet, to address the issue of online abuse. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign which brings together media platforms, tech companies, campaign groups, think tanks, employers, trades unions, politicians, the police, teachers, students, journalists, public figures, youth organisations and young people to take a stand against online abuse.

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, has been the target of online hate speech a number of times. Recently, she was subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter following a tweet she posted about the Fireman Sam Quran incident which sparked an Islamophobic row. This week, Nottingham Women’s Centre manager, Melanie Jeffs, who successfully campaigned for misogyny to be considered a hate-crime spoke out about the abuse she’s received since Nottinghamshire Police started recording misogyny as a hate crime. The most recent high profile case of online abuse was that of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones who received a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. This led her to quit the social media platform but before doing so she spoke out against racist Twitter trolls and urged Twitter to do more to fight racist abuse saying we need to “stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones.”

A study has revealed that in the space of 3 weeks from the end of April, 6500 Twitter users received 10,000 misogynistic tweets in the UK. Internationally, the figures were 200,000 misogynistic tweets sent to 80,000 people – surprisingly, over 50% of offenders were women! A report was released by the United Nations in January 2015 which “suggests 73% of women worldwide have been exposed to or are the target of some form of cyber violence. In the 18 months since then, online abuse – particularly of women, and, in the wake of the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, female politicians – has come under greater scrutiny”.

Women aren’t the only ones being attacked online. There are countless news stories about children being afraid to go to school or college or committing suicide because of cyber-bullying. There are also stories about young people with health issues such as anorexia who face a barrage of abuse online.

Although some perpetrators have been prosecuted, civil society organisations have said that there isn’t enough being done to tackle online hate. Social media companies have been told by the government that they need to do more. Currently, Twitter’s website provides it users with instructions on how to stop abuse received via its platform. This can be done by either blocking the Twitter account, or reporting it. However, if Twitter deletes the account, the same person can create a new account. People won’t stop abusing others online until there are stricter community guidelines and they realise the consequences of violating these guidelines.

At JAN Trust, we are standing up against the hate; through our Web Guardians© programme, we educate women and mothers on how to they can protect themselves and their children when online.

Vulnerable Minds: How Daesh is Recruiting Iraqi Children and Targeting British Teenagers

As Iraqi forces’ liberation of Mosul continues, attention is increasingly focusing on what Daesh will do next.
 
It’s feared their leaders, members and sympathisers will ramp up their sinister efforts to target our young people here in Europe, calling for so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil, prompting calls for us all to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our children online.
 
One of Daesh’s most horrifying future strategies is the indoctrination and training of a new generation of fighters. As Daesh’s failed ‘caliphate’ collapses, hoards of fighters have been deserting the ranks – if they haven’t already been killed in combat or suicide attacks. Now, Daesh is preying on the most vulnerable and malleable minds: those of Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
The Independent recently published letters from young radicalised recruits to their parents, discovered at abandoned Daesh hideouts in eastern Mosul. They make for heart-wrenching reading.
 
One, written by Iraqi schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi, says: “My dear family, please forgive me. Don't be sad and don't wear the black clothes [of mourning]. I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise.” He was killed by his suicide vest shortly after. It’s thought he was just 16 years old.
 
The news agency Reuters has managed to gain access to relatives of the teenagers who left the notes.
 
Family members tell a story of innocence; of vulnerable, fragile minds being targeted and then indoctrinated. A man reveals that his teenage relative, who was recruited by Daesh and killed in a suicide attack, had been overweight and insecure and joined the jihadists after his father's death. He told Reuters: “His mind was fragile and they took advantage of that, promising him virgins and lecturing him about being a good Muslim. If someone had tempted him with drugs and alcohol, he probably would have done that instead.”
 
It is this last statement that hits home. As parents, we all understand the worry that our children will hang out in the ‘wrong crowd’ and get into drugs. Young minds are open to influence and eager to try new things – to ‘grow up’. It can be as easy as that.
 
In Iraq and Syria, young people may not be exposed to violence in the same format that our children are in the UK. Despite our efforts to shelter or protect them, our kids consume film, TV, online and video game violence to a point of such desensitisation that it is normalised. They witness the violence occurring in places like Syria and Iraq through their screens.
 
Syrian and Iraqi children on the other hand are directly witnessing violence on the streets in the most gruesome and horrific ways. Some have even been exposed to it under the regime of Daesh as the terrorist group took control of their neighbourhoods, yet even they are vulnerable to radicalisation.
 
Violence is glamourised in action films and video games in the virtual world British children often live in. The brutal realities of extreme violence are all too real for many Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
Some may be more susceptible to radicalisation than others. But all are vulnerable.
 
Phone apps and the Internet make it simple for a direct line to be formed between a Daesh militant in Iraq and our children here in the UK. Daesh knows that our young people are excited by video game violence, by the idea of handling a rifle and fighting an enemy.
 
Considering all of this, we must educate ourselves about the dangers and threats are children face and ensure lines of communication are open between us as parents and our children to protect them and prevent radicalisation.
 
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project.
 
Many families have been destroyed by Daesh. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against home-grown radicalisation so that more families do not have to suffer this same fate.
 
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://jantrust.org/projects/web-guardians
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