Jeremy Corbyn has a persuasive vision for peace and unity across the globe – if only more people would listen.


By Anna Donovan / 7 December 2019


Jeremy Corbyn is the leader I have been waiting for.

Not because I’m a snowflake, but because I’m a student of International Relations and have, throughout my university career, been exposed to the realities that make Corbyn’s global vision the most convincing. I only became aware of the excesses of British colonialism when I arrived at university; my eyes were opened. In history at school we had learned about Britain’s role in two world wars and in fighting fascism, which is a crucial element of 20th-century international politics. But why were we taught so little about the atrocities we, as a nation, committed across the globe? We have left a lasting imprint on so many corners of the world, yet I reached adulthood knowing only one side of the story.

Western intervention in the Middle East, dating back over several centuries, has played a significant role in the region’s conflicts today. In 1916, via the Sykes-Picot agreement, British and French forces drew up arbitrary borders, slicing the region into zones of control - in an attempt to ‘divide and rule.’ They didn’t take into consideration the tribal, religious and ethnic identities the region was built upon, and in turn split up otherwise harmonious groups, laying the ground for future tension and violence.

This continued throughout the 20th century, in which foreign powers exploited the Middle East for their own economic and political gains, pitting groups against each other and fuelling resentment. The Iraq War saw the dismantling of the army and with it civil society, leaving a power vacuum out of which ISIL grew. It resulted in over 400,000 deaths - many of them innocent civilians - and the complete destruction of cities, homes, families and livelihoods. This pushed already marginalized and disenfranchised Iraqi’s towards terrorist organisations that promised to provide food, identity, and security. Studies show that humiliation and social exclusion are key factors in the increased support for violent and extremist groups. Corbyn voted against the invasion of Iraq and warned that it would exacerbate conflict and increase attacks in years to come. Understanding the anger and resentment directed at foreign powers because of years of unwanted intervention does not make you a ‘friend to terrorists’ or ‘anti-British’ – it makes you human.

Studying the roots of terrorism gave me a new lens through which to see the world.

I was angered every time there was an attack in the UK and the Prime Minister would give a speech labelling it an ‘attack on our values’ and insisting that it was in ‘our national interest’ to retaliate using military force. So when Corbyn said the heart of his international approach was to look at the breeding ground for extremism, and to work together to dismantle instead of exacerbating tensions, it would be fair to say that shock and relief came over me. These were the words I had longed to hear from a politician, and had never been presented on TV or in any mainstream political discourse. Today, he is the only political leader to oppose publicly the British government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which they have long known are being used in Yemen to target and kill civilians. This is a breach of international law. Corbyn’s ‘New Internationalism’ signifies a break from the kind of foreign policy that has led to violence and division, and places the emphasis on upholding human rights. Regardless of political affiliation, the protection of human rights is something that binds us all.

The Labour Party’s ‘Race and Faith Manifesto’ highlights the need for a reformed and inclusive education system. They outline a project which will address Britain’s colonial legacy in order to tackle racism in our society today. Furthermore, through putting subjects such as Black History, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism on the curriculum, it aims to use education to bridge existing divides and address the stark rise in hate crimes in the UK which have been driven by xenophobic rhetoric. This involves apologising for Britain’s role in human rights violations overseas, and for injustices marginalised groups here in Britain have faced historically, and still face today. It means recognising the feats of, and compensating for the loss of, the huge number of Black and Asian soldiers who fought for Britain in two world wars, but were nevertheless treated as second-class citizens and paid less than their white counterparts.

Corbyn’s understanding of the need to find diplomatic solutions to current political conflicts, based on compassion, is strikingly clear. For so long we have helped to perpetuate the idea that empathy must be left out of politics and leaders must be detached and ruthless. Corbyn shows us a different path. A line in his foreign policy speech at York College at the weekend resonated with me (and others in the room, judging by the applause it generated). ‘Patriotism is about supporting each other, not attacking somebody else… I think we all want to feel proud of the role Britain plays in the world,’ he said.

Acknowledging Britain’s colonial past is key to transforming its role in the present to one that involves fighting injustice both at home and internationally. Finally, here is a political leader who is fighting the right battles, in the right way. Whatever the outcome of this election, this for me is something to be proud of.

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