Riot of Opportunity
The most outlandish international reactions to Britain's violence.
After five days of riots in London that have spread across the country, everyone seems to be pontificating on — or pointing the finger at — who’s to blame for the wave of violent social unrest. And some of the comments are just plain wacky: Since when does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad approve of mass protest in the streets? Here’s a look at some governments around the world — especially those past recipients of British condemnations and military campaigns — who just can’t resist the temptation to give Britain a taste of its own medicine.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has urged the British government to stop its violent confrontation with rioters and start a dialogue. Hossein Ebrahimi, a member of the Iranian parliament, also told the Fars News Agency that Britain should permit human rights monitors to investigate the troubles in its restive cities. And on Wednesday, Aug. 10, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran:
What kind of country treats its own people like this? The ugliest treatment is the police’s unacceptable attack on the people, who have no weapons in hand.… What kind of a treatment is this for the people who run out of patience because of poverty and discrimination?… I advise them to correct their savage behavior because this kind of savage treatment of people is absolutely not acceptable.
Ahmadinejad later rhetorically asked during a radio interview, “What else should happen for the [United Nations] Security Council to react and condemn one of its own members?” After praising and referring to British protesters as “opposition,” he told reporters that the true opposition in Britain is the people who are pushed to the ground and beaten on the streets of London and slain and yet “no one hears their voice.” One wonders what the Green movement protesters think of this change of heart.
In Libya, the Qaddafi regime’s deputy foreign minister, Khalid Kaim, told the official Jamahiriya News Agency that Prime Minister David Cameron should step down:
Cameron has lost his legitimacy and must go … after the massive popular protests that reject him and his government, especially after the violent police repression unleashed by his government against peaceful protesters … to force the British people to accept a government it rejects.
“The international community [should] not stand with arms folded in the face of this gross aggression against the rights of the British people, who are demanding their right to rule their country,” Kaim added.
Of course, Muammar al-Qaddafi has yet to recognize the London rioters as the legitimate representative of the British people.
Courtney Kealy/Getty Images
In Bahrain, an editorial in the independent Gulf Daily News argues that the British government had it coming, thanks to its adventures abroad:
The irony is that if the UK hadn’t been so occupied fraternising with the political opposition in Bahrain, co-managing a coup in Libya, retreating from its misadventures in Iraq and playing hide and seek with the Taliban in Afghanistan — all at a time when the country’s national debt is higher than ever — then it might have realised all was not well in its own backyard. The fact is that people in the UK have legitimate reasons to be angry.
One quote in particular jabs at certain Western memes in covering the Arab Spring:
Rioters are using modern technology such as Blackberry and Twitter to mobilise, just as they did in Bahrain, and video footage is being posted on YouTube. The only thing missing is Nick Kristof getting his hair coiffured in “Trafalgar Roundabout” and Robert Fisk telling fibs about trucks being loaded with dead bodies and secretly hauled away to the Isle of Man.
Take that, you inquisitive Western reporters!
Scott Olson/Getty Images
In Syria, currently embroiled in its own revolutionary fervor, Reuters reports that Syrian state-run television repeatedly showed footage of a policeman chasing and knocking a man down. A breaking news caption read:
Cameron: ‘We face a problem confronting the gangs in Britain.’
Is it a coincidence that Syria has repeatedly referred to its protestors as “armed gangs”? Perhaps President Bashar al-Assad is reaching out to Cameron in a gesture of solidarity against thuggery in general — or maybe he’s still upset about the disinvitation of his British envoy to the nuptials of Will and Kate.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe took the opportunity to admonish the United States and Britain for meddling in his country. Mugabe, more accustomed to being the subject of international condemnation over his controversial rule, seemingly enjoyed getting one back against his country’s former colonial master. During a speech to the armed forces, Mugabe acknowledged the British riots:
Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problem and to that fire which is now blazing all over and leave us alone.
Mugabe chuckled and then deviated from his speech, “We do not have any fire here and we do not want them to create unnecessary problems in our country.”
China seems particularly keen to take swipes at the West lately. The British riots provide fodder on two fronts. First, after months of Western lectures about China’s fierce crackdown on its own dissenters in the wake of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, a commentator in the state-run People’s Daily noted:
The West have been talking about supporting internet freedom, and oppose other countries’ government to control this kind of websites, now we can say they are tasting the bitter fruit [of their complacency] and they can’t complain about it.
And, as Britain’s Telegraph reports, China, the home nation to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, is apparently concerned as to whether London was still a safe bet to hold the games (via Xinhua News Agency):
The three consecutive days of rioting has spread to east London area where the main sports stadium of London Olympic is located.… After the riots, the image of London has been severely damaged, leaving the people sceptical and worried about the public security situation during the London Olympics.
It’s not just the mouthpieces for authoritarian governments that have crazy things to say about the rioters. In Britain itself, the commentariat has rushed to condemn not just the government, but the protesters as well. But in the Daily Mail, writer Max Hastings takes the old “kids these days” rant to a spectacular new level:
They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.
They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.
Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.