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Interview with Izzy Kamikaze: Protesting Right Wing Radicals in Ireland, an LGBTQ+ Activist Perspective.
Dr. Sheryl Lynch (Future Analytics Consulting)
Hate speech against LGBTQ+ people and other communities is a characteristic of the radical right. In this interview the PERICLES team in Ireland spoke with one activist who is mobilizing against this radical violence.
The politics of Ireland has always been a politics of the oppressed and consequently a politics of uprising. Since 1916, news of Ireland’s refutation of and eventual emancipation from colonialism spread across the globe as a symbol of freedom and anti-imperialism, emblematic of the power of activism. As a direct consequence of Ireland’s post-colonial status, its population has, for the most part, steered clear of staunch right-wing candidates and ideology. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in populism and some fringe, fascist organisations have gained a small but worrying amount of traction. Their rhetoric constitutes hate speech against immigrants and LGBTQ+ people and is especially Islamophobic and white supremacist in character. Many of the phrases they use are copy and pasted from larger, dangerous factions of fascist organisations in North America and Europe, permitting the same racial supremacist ideology that was once used against our ancestors, back into Irish political and civil discourse. To gain a deeper understanding of Ireland’s Right-Wing Radicalism and the LGBTQ+ Activist response to it, I interviewed human rights activist Izzy Kamikaze (https://gcn.ie/prime-time-solidarit-time/), one of the founders of Dublin Pride.
It is not surprising nor insignificant that populations most directly affected by social and political issues are the ones on the frontline of protests. LGBTQ+ populations have historically been more socially conscious, politically aware and active because they had to be, their very right to exist depended on meaningful debate against the status quo, protest, and judicial petitioning. Whilst you might expect queer activists to be out on the street for their own civil rights, Stonewall style, as for Ireland’s Marriage Referendum of 2015, it is important to highlight that they have been at the forefront of historic social justice movements from workers’ rights in 1980s Wales, to the women’s movement, right through to last year’s Abortion Referendum and this year’s Housing Crisis rallies.
Izzy comments on the strength of LGBTQ+ heritage as a resource against fascism:
I mean, in Ireland, for example, decriminalisation was only 25 years ago (1993); the HIV epidemic was very shamefully neglected for years and the impetus came from activists on the ground. So, there is a pool of people who have many years of activism experience. And of course, the marriage referendum got a lot of the younger activists up and running and into contact with those older activists and working with them. So, they saw that the LGBT activist community is relatively well networked, and the local details would vary in other countries. But there is an activist core in the LGBT community with people who are experienced in activism, which isn't necessarily the case in some of the other communities that are targeted by fascists. So that helps and there’s an advantage there. And there's probably a different type of activism as well that comes from the LGBT community that is more creative and light-hearted. You know, there's cultural stuff about how the LGBT community has adapted to its invariably challenging circumstances throughout history. That means that people try to do things in an entertaining way and a relatively light kind of way.
A current example of the creative and light-hearted expression of LGBTQ+ activism is the Speakers Unicorner, which Izzy, Ireland’s Queer rights ActiQueen, Panti Bliss, and politicians like Hazel Chu (all regularly subjected to online racist, misogynist or homophobic abuse by Ireland’s radicals), are all a part of. The name Speakers Unicorner is a response to one Irish radical’s self-labelled Speaker’s Corner – taken from an area in London which promotes debate and discussion. This stemmed from a ‘free speech’ protest arranged by a small number of right wingers outside Google’s office on Barrow Street after their radical content was removed by Google’s subsidiary YouTube for violating community rules. The Speakers Unicorner was founded as a counter-protest by Fiona Pettit. The original statement from Speakers Unicorner states, “We… call on our government to take effective action and immediately address the wilful fuelling of racism and hate by groups like ACI, The National Party and IREXIT. Their rhetoric is already having a dangerous impact in communities around the country…The time to stop the far-right from gaining any more traction in our society and communities is NOW.”
Throughout my conversation with Izzy, online radicalisation and the funding of right-wing groups by larger, more powerful international entities came up:
There's a hell of a lot of money. We don't know all the mechanisms, but there's a hell of a lot of money and resources being put behind what appears to be the almost spontaneous rise of fascism that a lot of different places have recently experienced. It's not accidental. Those people are highly networked and highly organized and well-funded. And, you know, for anybody who's been involved in struggling, underfunded activism for years, it's very clear when you look at them that they are in a different position than us.
In a recent investigation by Open-Democracy, it was found that so-called ‘dark money’ totalling $50m had been spent by ultra-conservative groups trying to sway European politics to the far right. Madrid-based campaign group CitizenGo, which is supported by American and Russian ultra-conservatives, has worked across Europe to drive voters towards far-right parties in the recent European Parliament elections. CitizenGo petitions against same-sex marriage and supports ‘conversion therapy’, funding a faction in Ireland. It was also involved in campaigning against the repeal of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment in Ireland last year, amassing 55,561 signatures in an attempt to influence Irish voters’ decision in this abortion referendum. They also ran a social media campaign with three-minute long videos calling for a No vote. The active funding from these groups is worrying, especially when their aim is to dictate what it is to be European, namely, white, straight and Christian. These traits are not problematic in themselves but when they are used as supremacist metrics, we are in trouble. Projects like PERICLES aim to detect vulnerable groups that may be susceptible to radicalisation like fascism and intervene with counter-narratives in the hope that we can learn from a dark history of ethno-centrism and white supremacy and move towards embracing a diverse, stronger Europe.
Izzy has worked in social care for decades and is knowledgeable about the vulnerabilities of certain sectors of Irish society and how these perceived weaknesses are being manipulated by the far right.
The appeal of fascism is relatively small. I think there's about 10 percent of the population who are quite attracted to fascist ideology globally or nationally. If you read the anthropology from different cultures, there is probably a similar number of people who are there, basically often people who are vulnerable themselves and kind of scared. There are people whose own position in the society is a little bit tenuous and they see it as a way to thrash new immigrants, trans people or gay people, the people that they've traditionally been able to look down on to get validated. They need to feel somebody below themselves. And I think when the wind is in the right direction, they can get another 10 or 15 percent. As soon as those [fascist] ideas become a bit more respectable, there are people who will adopt them. It's lack of critical thinking. And if you have a generally alienated population, young men, rural communities, people struggling economically or feel their flavour of masculinity is at threat, they are susceptible to certain rhetoric.
Our PERICLES project can confirm that alienation and lack of cohesion in European society makes vulnerable individuals more susceptible to civil apathy and consequently radicalisation. Our tools, such as the Family Information Portal and the Vulnerability Assessment tool are being created in the hope that they can be a resource for those close to someone who may be susceptible to radicalisation or perhaps has been fully radicalised already. Izzy also warned of the dangers of political apathy, low voter turnouts etc. as an early warning sign for a population that are possibly open to stronger ideologies and bigger, often empty promises of nationalist grandeur. She points out that:
Lack of engagement with politics can be for very, very good reasons. You know, labour has been casualised. People are forced to live further and further away from where they work. People are more and more exhausted. They spend more of their time on the road just getting to and from where they have to go. A lot of the social safety net has disappeared. The health services are ready for collapse and the education services are under a lot of stress. Social safety generally just isn't there. So, there's all those kind of pressures on people. And consequently, you have widespread alienation. This is one half of the recipe. And the other half of the recipe is that the people who are insecure and susceptible to the kind of thinking that demonises minorities. The fascists talk about corruption and they talk about the global elites. And that's often the other bottom in their actions. They only ever target minorities here. And it is classic, classic kind of fascist discourse. It is exactly the same stuff that was said in the 1930s that the minorities, the LGBT people, the immigrants from other countries, etc., are supposed to be somehow more favoured by the elites than the populist notion of the common man. The defining theme about fascism is that the only thing that matters is ‘ordinariness’. The worth of people is measured by how close to the average they are, by how close to the medium they are. So, if you’re different, it is something to be threatened by, something to resist.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has called on the government to do more to stop the disturbing trend of racial prejudice in Ireland, evidenced by their recent report which investigated legislation, Direct Provision for refugees, hate speech, violence and efforts at integrating minorities in Ireland. In June 2019, one of the report's authors, Volodymyr Kulyk, criticised the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act (1989) as particularly ineffectual in combating online hate speech. The Act was again called for reform after an interracial Irish family featured in a Lidl advertisement became targets of death threats and online racist abuse by far-right radicals. There are no provisions in Irish law, the ECRI authors point out, that define common offences of a racist, homophobic or transphobic nature, nor recognise hatred as an aggravating circumstance. Minister of State for Justice and Equality, David Stanton, said the Department of Justice and Equality was reviewing the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act to ensure it is “fit for purpose in a modern democracy”. He also announced that a new anti-racism committee would be established shortly. Additionally, An Garda Síochána launched a new diversity strategy aimed at tackling rising incidences of hate crime across the State. The three-year programme will see enhanced reporting, recording, investigating and prosecuting mechanisms being put in place in respect of hate crime.
Whilst legal reform to improve our judicial ‘safety nets’ is an important and pressing concern, a cultural and educational shift must simultaneously occur. A multi-faceted, committed effort to provide alternative narratives to ideological propaganda and action plans for social integration and civic responsibility is urgently needed, from schools to parliament. Throughout our discussion, Izzy emphasises the power of teaching critical thinking, a key skill in the age of fake news:
You have to be taught critical thinking and we all have to be put in situations where we exercise it throughout our lives, because just learning something in school and then forgetting about it isn't the way. Put it into practice. So, we need those kinds of processes much more. Our whole political system needs an overhaul and we need to get people much more engaged and engaged in that kind of positive way, in a sort of critical way. A lot of different inputs and fact checking is needed.
If diversity acceptance, self-awareness and resilience are taught, supported and invested in, citizens will have the skills they need to defend themselves against indoctrination into discriminatory, hateful groups. Law Enforcement Agencies are trained and are continuously upskilling on detection, prevention and treatment of radicalisation. Our project, PERICLES will deliver a suite of tools which will better enable public authorities and public actors across the world to fight against all types of radicalisation, which will support the ECRI recommendations right through to grass-roots activism such as Speaker’s Unicorner. To find out more about the PERICLEStools, click here: http://project-pericles.eu/
We are grateful to activists like Izzy Kamikaze and all the LGBTQ+ activists that contest hate speech in Europe. Here’s to a future Ireland and a future Europe where citizen dissatisfaction is taken to action via healthy political and social engagement and not used as a vehicle to target our minority communities. We must learn from Irish history and resist importing imperialist rhetoric of current and former colonisers. We have unique strength, resources and wisdom on this island, let’s not get caught up in global amnesia and instead seek to build a more diverse, resilient Ireland and Europe. We are stronger together.
- See Ignatiev, Noel, 1995, How the Irish Became White, New York and London: Routledge; Judith Judd ‘Irish butt of English racism for more than eight centuries’ in the Independent (March 20 1996), available here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/irish-butt-of-english-racism-for-more-than-eight-centuries-1342976.html; Seameas O’Reilly, ‘Apes, psychos, alcos: How British cartoonists depict the Irish’ in The Irish Times (July 17 2017), available here: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/apes-psychos-alcos-how-british-cartoonists-depict-the-irish-1.3149409; and Klein, Christopher ‘When America Despised the Irish: 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis’ (March 14 2019), available here: https://www.history.com/news/when-america-despised-the-irish-the-19th-centurys-refugee-crisis
- Portrait created by GCN for Izzy Kamikaze’s accolade as a Queer Icon:
- June 10 2019: Special Report - Far right in Ireland: ‘Dark money’ and the price of democracy in the Irish Examiner: https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/specialreports/special-report--far-right-in-ireland-dark-money-and-the-price-of-democracy-929727.html (accessed October 2019).
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, June 2019, ECRI REPORT ON IRELAND (fifth monitoring cycle). Available here: https://rm.coe.int/fifth-report-on-ireland/168094c575 (accessed October 2019).
- Garda Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019-2021 https://www.garda.ie/en/about-us/our-departments/office-of-corporate-communications/news-media/an-garda-siochana-diversity-and-integration-strategy-2019-2021.html accessed October 2019.
- https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/garda%C3%AD-identifying-individuals-behind-abuse-of-lidl-advert-couple-1.4045369 accessed October 2019
"We" the Balladeers of Dawn: The Role of Women in Kashmiri Conflict
The valley of Kashmir enumerates ceaseless stories of pain, torment and human misery. The people of Kashmir are living in the relentless, naked horrors of conflict for the last two decades. On one side, India considers Kashmir as its integral state and on the other, Kashmir also claims it to be a part of their territory. The place has been a target for unrest and a stage to play out this ownership politics. Where some want an independent nation; others want to join Pakistan, and there are also those who still want to remain within the Indian territory. I have chosen Figure 1. to represent the hapless plight of Kashmiri people who are torn between the two brutal worlds of militants and military and finally end up in imagining their existence behind the bars of curfew. Women in this scenario are subjected to greater sufferings as the surge of violence affect them at the intersection of their various identities. Women have always been placed in the centre of a heavily militarized environment of Kashmiri life. Their life is caught between the vulnerable lives of their children, who are forced to become militants, and the brutal tactics of the military used to counter the insurrection in the region. Everyday there are instances of rapes, harassments, and constant attacks on their houses and men.
Even amongst the environment of radical violence and religious jingoism, Kashmiri women have been at the forefront in envisioning change and peace. Figure 2. eloquently narrates the daily lives of these brave women who remain active agents in the course of the unresolved conflict. Rather than being docile and submissive, they are out on the streets to shout, scream and fight. They have trespassed the social norms of remaining within the inner boundaries of private spaces and have mobilized the public domain in order to voice their contestation of the constant brutal use of violence and illegitimate force.
To gain a deeper understanding of women's activism against the radicalized use of violence and power, I conducted an ethnographic interview with Salima Baig (name has been changed for security reasons), whose insights were an eye opening revelation for me as a non-native of Kashmir. As a victim of radical violence herself, Salima's narratives offered a first hand insight into the complexities of the situation. At the age of 18, she was beaten by an Indian Soldier on her baby bump by a relentless chant of "get rid of the terrorist you will birth". This incident has been etched in her mind and illustrates the fascist ideology of right wing politics operating in the valley. When asked about the sexual violence in Kashmir, she explicated the women are regularly raped both by militants and military and is now a normal routine for the women in Kashmir. She also mentioned the horrors of Kunan and Poshpora where 150 women were raped by the military and how, to this day, justice has been denied to various women. She also astoundingly informed that male sexual violence has even outnumbered women but it remains significantly under reported. Rape is still used in a patriarchal terminology where the voices of victimized men are supressed and neglected.
The two most shocking features during our conversation was her constant denial of her victimhood and perseverance in contextualizing her agency through her counter-memory. Using personal narratives, archival pictures and songs, she explicated that Women of Kashmir are out to challenge the dominant narratives of "hapless women" in the interest of the necessity of security. She further stated that the resistance waged by them is structured and leads to creation of alliances which collectively "channelize the energies to create new paradigms of revolution".
We also discussed the much-heated debate on the nature of correct "revolution", given the diverse approaches that Kashmiri women have adopted to wage their resistance. Salima’s response posed a mind boggling question at me:" In a world taken over by bullets and violence, how can one draw a line between what is violent and what is non- violent"? People are grappling with the multi-faceted nature of trauma and their suffering has dispersed at different intersectional levels. Therefore, the axis of their resistance cannot be unilateral. Homogenising their right to resist is equally problematic as inflicting violence upon them because in both cases the conditions of their agency to act is being compromised. The dichotomized vocabulary is itself problematic because there is no "correct way to resist". In my own case, even the act of witnessing these numerous years of "naked horrors" is not an "everyday act but something that drives out of my political consciousness". She ended the interview with a thought provoking statement: "We, the Women of Kashmir are witnesses of history who participate in the resistance movement in all its shades including armed struggle as well".
- Manchanda, R. (2001). Women, war and peace in South Asia: Beyond victimhood to agency. New Delhi. London. Sage Publications
- Parashar, S. (2011). "Gender Jihad and Jingoism: Women as Perpetrators, Planners and Patrons of Militancy in Kashmir", Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 34-4.
- Rashid, A. (2011). Widows and Half widows: Saga of extra-judicial arrests and killings in Kashmir. New Delhi. Pharos media.
- Zia, A. (2013). "The Spectacle of a Good-Half Widow: Performing Agency in the Human Rights Movement in Kashmir". Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 39(2), p. 164-175.
- Zia, A. (2014). "Postcolonial Nation-Making: Warfare, Jihad, Subjectivity, and Compassion in the Region of Kashmir". India Review, 13(3), p. 300-311.
Radical Family Values: Extremist Violence and Anti-LGBT Sentiment in Poland
On 28 September 2019, Arkadiusz and Karolina packed up a small bag for the day. In it, they placed the makeshift device they had built and a balaclava. Then they set off.
Their destination? Lublin’s LGBT pride march.
The pride march (parada równości) in Lublin is still very young. The event in 2019 was the second ever. The first pride march in 2018 was cancelled due to security concerns and then given the go-ahead at the last minute following an appeal process by the organisers.
While roughly 1,500 people left home that warm September day to support the pride march in Lublin, Arkadiusz and Karolina were on their way to join the 200-person counter-protest.
Karolina, who was just 21 years old at the time, carried the makeshift device in her backpack.
During the course of the march, far-right counter-protesters heckled members of the pride march and attempted to block the route, chanting “bóg, honor, ojczyzna” (god, honour, fatherland) and “chłopak, dziewczyna: normalna rodzina” (a man and a woman makes a normal family). They threw stones and bottles. Police had to disperse them using tear gas and water cannons.
Before the couple had a chance to detonate their device, Police managed to intercept them. Together, they had built a makeshift bomb from fireworks and gas canisters.
Experts who analysed the device stated that “they could have injured or even killed people within an eight-metre radius” and that the contents of the bomb were life-threatening.
The young married couple, Arkadiusz (27) and Karolina (21), were charged with posession of a home-made explosive device that “if used, could have posed danger to the life and health of many people”.
Later, Arkadiusz later told prosecutors that they didn’t want to hurt anyone. They just wanted to make a ‘big bang’.
A different kind of radicalisation
When someone asks you to picture violent extremist, the first image that comes to your head probably isn’t a young married couple from Eastern Poland. That’s because most violent extremist acts are committed by single young men. We even have an established language for those extremists. We call them ‘lone wolf’ attackers.
But this was very different from a ‘lone wolf’ attempt. This was a form of radicalisation underpinned by conservative catholic values and a specific ideology concerning what a family should be and should consist of. And it was planned by a married couple.
Another unusual thing about this attempted terror attack is the role of Karolina. Women are very rarely the prime instigators of extremist violence, although they often appear to be accessories to the crime or supporters of terrorist activities.
In Poland, there are increasing numbers of women joining radical right groups and actively participating in them. Some of them are emboldened to join by their partners. Others join of their own initiative.
Emboldened by state and church
How does a young couple become radicalised to the extent that they would put others’ lives at risk? To work towards an answer, it’s important to understand the social and political climate in Poland.
Not long after the pride event in Lublin, another city in Eastern Poland decided to organise its first ever pride march. Białystok, which is located close to the border with Belarus, 200km east of Warsaw, is one of the most conservative cities in Poland. After the events in Lublin, there were significant concerns about the security of the people involved in the march.
A few months before the Białystok and Lublin pride marches, Gazeta Polska, a right-wing tabloid that openly supports Poland’s ruling PiS party gave away stickers to its readers saying “STREFA WOLNA OD LGBT” (LGBT free-zone), encouraging people to tag their local areas.
The march in Białystok, like in Lublin, was marked by considerable violence among counter-protesters. Twenty-five men were arrested for homophobic attacks during the march.
But anti-LGBT ideology isn’t something that’s only disseminated by a few radical journalists in Poland. It has become part of the country’s political agenda.
At least 80 local governments last summer passed legal acts to make their regions ‘LGBT-free zones’, in a move that was criticised by the European Commission among others. Paweł Rabiej, the deputy mayor of Warsaw raised a formal complaint and noted that “German fascists created jew-free zones”.
These developments prompted one activist to create real-life LGBT-free signs. He then photographed members of the LGBT community standing next to them to send a stark message. In Warsaw, graffiti began popping up around the city, warping the populist phrase “STREFA WOLNA OD LGBT” and transforming it into “STREFA WOLNA OD NIENAWIŚCI’ (hate-free area).
Back in Lublin, medals were presented to local governments for their work in promoting anti-LGBT ideology. They claim that LGBT ideology is the main cause of paedophilia in the Polish church. Later, a Polish court in Wrocław ruled that a campaign linking LGBT and paedophilia was “informative” and “educational”.
Katarzyna, a young Polish woman who identifies as lesbian told PERICLES that: “the government media is deliberately normalising hate against the LGBTQ+ community. I got used to how LGBT people are portrayed [in the media] and I don’t watch the public television because of that. However, there are many people who believe every word the television says, for example my grandma.”
She added: “I do not feel safe in Poland expressing my sexuality. Even though there are many places in big cities like Warsaw that are LGBT friendly, when I go out on the street I am afraid to hold my girlfriend’s hand. Even if I am in a gay bar, there is still the matter of going there and coming back. It may not be safe as some hate groups may be waiting to attack”.
Setting an example?
Arkadiusz and Karolina were sentenced in February 2020.
Prosecutors chose not to pursue them for terrorist activity, but with the lesser charge of possessing an explosive device that could endanger the lives of others. The maximum sentence for such a crime is eight years in prison.
The couple pled guilty and were sentenced to just one year in prison.
The manager of the Lublin pride march criticised the sentence saying that “We’re dealing with a couple who planned to kill or hurt participants of a peaceful assembly. It is terrifying that such short sentences were handed down. Homophobic crimes should be a priority for the state, but they are not.”
Currently, crimes against people because of their gender or sexual orientation cannot be classified as hate crimes because Poland’s hate crime laws do not cover sexual identity or gender orientation. Attempts to get those crimes included in legislation were rejected in 2016.
When the state, church and media normalises radical anti-LGBT views, members of the public can easily become radicalised themselves. We have a situation in Poland where ideologies that may have once seemed radical to regular people can become the norm through repetition. It is a dangerous trend that leaves many in fear and could beget more radical behaviour in the future.
For many in the LGBT community, the short sentence of the couple in Lublin further normalises radical violence against members of their community.
Has the sentencing of the couple sent a strong message to other radicalised actors who might be inspired to follow them? Only time will tell.
"A dangerous man… Masculine. Very. Has to be." Understanding the connection between manhood and violent extremism
Research undertaken by the PERICLES team at TCD, reveals that Ireland is an unusual context in relation to the form contemporary violent extremism takes. With no strong evidence of violent radicalisation to the political right or extremist Islamism, radicalised violence in our context is more often manifested in connection to the ‘national question’. Dissident Republicanism amongst those who have not bought into the Irish peace process, is one site where violent political beliefs and action remain present. We have seen this most recently in the appalling murder of journalist Lyra McKee, shot by a man who fired randomly towards police carrying out raids in the Creggan area of Derry in April. Even as I write this blog on the morning of the European election three boys have been arrested in Derry for petrol bomb attacks against the police near a polling station. The reasons for this on-going violent dissidence are much discussed. They lie in factors like unwavering political ideology, economic deprivation and a ‘lost generation’ who are suffering from the failings of political institutions and the non-materialisation of the expected ‘peace dividend’.
But given that those publicly associated with dissident politics or arrested for such violent acts are (in the majority) men and boys, we also need to consider the role that gendered power and ideas of masculinity play in creating such violence. Although I would never subscribe to any claim that men and boys are naturally more violent than women and girls, or that all men are the same, it is the case that gendered norms around manhood in many contexts tie masculinity to aggression, power and violence. American sociologist of masculinity, Michael Kimmel, draws on examples of homicide rates and school shootings to suggest that the link between violence and masculinity needs to be recognised as a pressing problem for our times.
It’s a link for the Northern Ireland conflict context which is captured just perfectly in Anna Burn’s stunning Booker Prize winning novel Milkman. The story spins out through the thoughts of an eighteen-year-old girl (‘middle sister’), living in the constrained and conflicted environment of a city in 1970s Northern Ireland. It’s a Republican community, hemmed in and harassed by the army and police of the State ‘from over the water’ but also policing itself internally by rigid expectations of social and political behaviour and pernicious gossip about community members considered ‘beyond the pale’. When middle sister attracts the unwanted desire of a major paramilitary figure in the community, his sexual harassment of her produces difficult consequences for her and her relationships to family, ‘maybe-boyfriend’ and community. The power of the paramilitary man in this community is such that even as middle sister doggedly refuses Milkman’s attentions, the gossip mill assumes she must be his. Patriarchal power is stamped all over the community. Women – though acknowledged as essential to keeping things going – are hedged in by the ‘official male and female territory’ rules about what women can and can’t say. The nascent feminist group in the community is treated by all as deranged and even dangerous because their concerns go beyond ‘our border issue’ or ‘our political problems’.
In this patriarchal context, the paramilitary ‘renouncers of the state’ embody ‘the combative male code of the district’. They are idealised as ‘men of honour, dauntless, legendary-warriors, guerrilla fashion’ but they are also feared because the idealized renouncer too often becomes the gangster and enforcer of suffering through dealing out punishment beatings to the community. For the women who are these men’s ‘groupies’, what attracts them is quite simply the allure of ‘A dangerous man…Masculine. Very. Has to be. Love that sort of thing’.
Burn’s book is set at a different time from the one we are researching in PERICLES. Yet in many ways she captures the dynamics of gendered power and performances of masculinity that are prevalent in many communities in conflict. We see gender inequality and the allure of dangerous, powerful manhood in many expressions of violent extremism. Importantly in the novel though, there are other expressions of what it is to be a man in such contexts. ‘Maybe boyfriend’ with an interest in sunsets and political avoidance; his wayward father, a glamorous ballroom dancer; and ‘real milkman’ the man who rejected the violence of many of his contemporaries. Despite the predominance of the link between masculinity and violence, multiple masculinities do exist – even in situations of violent conflict. Finding ways to disentangle idealised manhood from violence and enable other ways of doing gender to emerge are central to countering violent extremism.