The Saudi paralysis case: do two wrongs make a right?

The reported sentencing of paralysis for a Saudi man as punishment for paralysing another man is grotesque. What we do not need is a person with a needless disability.

 

As a person with a disability, I have been known to exclaim in frustration or anger “I wish they could be disabled for a while to see what it’s like” or “I bet they wouldn’t want to swap places with me” when I see someone using a disabled toilet or using a derogatory slur like “spastic” or “retard”.

That is true. They probably wouldn’t want to change places with me. Of course I’m not really wishing disability on anyone, merely advocating a higher standard of education, awareness and empathy around the subject.

When I was younger people used to jump in and out of my wheelchair with impunity, treating it like a toy while I did physiotherapy. Conversely, I knew that, despite the novelty factor, this toy would be with me for a lifetime.

Having lived in a hostel for physically disabled adults prior to moving some years ago into the bungalow where I now live, I have also seen the pain that acquired disability can cause, whether that be through brain injuries, strokes, or degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

I have seen disability destroy confidence, body, and identity. For some, even the basic dignity of vocal communication is stolen from them.

Mercifully though, we can view disability through the prism of UK democracy. There are systems in place and dedicated forms of therapy and intervention to help people regain control and some measure of normalcy and dignity in their lives.

Given all that, imagine my shock, disdain and outrage when I saw the hash tag “Saudi paralysis” on Twitter. When I clicked on it, my anger morphed into fury.

I read that a man who had committed the crime of paralysing someone when he was 14 was now due to be paralysed too at the behest of the Saudi Arabian Government.

You see, in my dreams, I often walk. To imagine that it is somebody’s intent to wilfully paralyse an individual, or if that if I was able bodied, somebody would paralyse me intentionally is a really challenging and emotive notion.

Someone who shares my outrage and frustration at this development is the former MP turned Unfashionista and Sun columnist Louise Mensch.

She gave an interview to Nicky Campbell on BBC Radio 5 Live which you can listen to here. In it, she reserves her ire for the human rights record of the Saudi Arabian Government, as well as excoriating William Hague for “saying nothing about this [while] posing with Angelina Jolie in the Democratic Republic of Congo for Twitter.”

Saudi Arabia is a country with an already appalling human rights record. It is country where women are denied the right to vote and drive. Women are routinely flogged.

The Hippocratic oath includes the phrase “First, do no harm”. Where does the practice of wilful paralysis interweave with medical ethics, I ask any sane human being?

I fear too, that all it would achieve is the creation of another victim, a martyr, giving rise to a macabre fascination with “the world’s first artificially paralysed man”. We do not need another victim.

What we need though are humane Muslims, who believe in the compassion of Allah to speak out. What we need is a better human rights record in Saudi Arabia, and an end to the vile misogyny meted out to the women of Saudi Arabia. We need our Government to speak out against this atrocious behaviour in Saudi Arabia.

What we do not need is a person with a needless disability.

And yes, let it not be forgotten that at the age of 14 the original perpetrator committed a heinous crime in maliciously paralysing another.

But how is the state legitimated cutting off of someone’s spinal cord any better? As someone who was born with cerebral palsy in all four limbs, I know what I think.

Two wrongs do not make a right, do they?

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrives at the Saudi Arabian Parliament during a recent official visit to the country. Photograph: Getty Images

Hannah Buchanan is a blogger with a specific interest in LGBT, disability, and feminist issues and the potential crossover between them. Follow her @HannahBoo3131

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French presidential election: Macron and Le Pen projected to reach run-off

The centrist former economy minister and the far-right leader are set to contest the run-off on May 7.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will contest the run-off of the French presidential election, according to the first official projection of the first round result.

Macron, the maverick former economy minister running under the banner of his centrist En Marche! movement, is projected to finish first with an estimated 23.7 per cent of the vote, putting him marginally ahead of Le Pen. The leader of the far-right Front National is estimated to have won 21.7 per cent, with the scandal-hit Republican Francois Fillon and leftwing Jean-Luc Melenchon tied for third on an estimated 19.5 per cent each. Benoit Hamon, of the governing socialist party, is set to finish a distant fourth on just 6.2 per cent. Pollsters Ifop project a turnout of around 81 per cent, slightly up on 2012.

Macron and Le Pen will now likely advance to the run-off on May 7. Recent polling has consistently indicated that Macron, who at 39 would be the youngest candidate ever to win the French presidency, would likely beat Le Pen with around 60 per cent of the vote to her 40. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement he told AFP that his En Marche! were "turning a page in French political history", and went on to say his candidacy has fundamentally realigned French politics. "To all those who have accompanied me since April 2016, in founding and bringing En Marche! to life, I would like to say this," he told supporters. "In the space of a year, we have changed the face of French political life."

Le Pen similarly hailed a "historic" result. In a speech peppered with anti-establishment rhetoric, she said: "The first step that should lead the French people to the l’Elysée has been taken. This is a historic result.

"It is also an act of French pride, the act of a people lifting their heads. It will have escaped no one that the system tried by every means possible to stifle the great political debate that must now take place. The French people now have a very simple choice: either we continue on the path to complete deregulation, or you choose France.

"You now have the chance to choose real change. This is what I propose: real change. It is time to liberate the French nation from arrogant elites who want to dictate how it must behave. Because yes, I am the candidate of the people."

The projected result means the run-off will be contested by two candidates outside of the France's establishment left and right parties for the first time in French political history. Should Le Pen advance to the second round as projected it will mark only the second time a candidate from her party will have reached the run-off. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reached the second round in 2002, but was decisively beaten by Jacques Chirac after left-wingers and other mainstream voters coalesced in a so-called front républicain to defeat the far-right.

Fillon has conceded defeat and backed Macron, as have Hamon and French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve. "We have to choose what is best for our country," Fillon said. "Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power. The Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.

"Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children."

Though Hamon acknowledged the favourite - a former investment banker - was no left-winger, he said: "I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

Melenchon, however, has refused to endorse Macron, and urged voters to consult their own consciences ahead of next month's run-off.

The announcement sparked ugly scenes in Paris' Place de la Bastille, where riot police have deployed tear gas on crowds gathered to protest Le Pen's second-place finish. Reaction from the markets was decidedly warmer: the Euro hit a five-month high after the projection was announced.

Now read Pauline Bock on the candidate most likely to win, and the NS' profiles of Macron and Le Pen.

 

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

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