On Friday 10th September 2021, The Jewish Chronicle published an ‘exclusive’ article seeking to undermine efforts for accountability of the Afghanistan war, as part of an artistic theatre production, because it upset pro-war politicians and think tanks. Here is why Justice and accountability alarms them so much:

It is a sad indictment of the low levels to which the office of a minister of state has sunk that the State deems it necessary to target the small Arts Council funded Camden Theatre which is hosting Bezna Theatre’s ‘People’s Tribunal on Crimes of Aggression: Afghanistan Sessions’. All because the group is putting on a production which seeks to explore in an artistic setting the tragic war waged in Afghanistan. It is even more astonishing but perhaps not surprising that a senior source from the department should be dispatched, like a hired servant, by the Culture Minister to put pressure on the Arts Council to withdraw funding.

Brown University, USA, estimates that nearly 157,000 individuals died directly in the Afghanistan invasion and occupation. This is in addition to the total death toll of 800,000 from the War on Terror.  More have died due to the ripple effects in the form of malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation. 37 million people have been displaced in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines.

There is no memorial to these victims , and no roll call of their names. Their humanity and suffering has no meaning at the altar of vengeance erected by America and its allies.

The minister and his supporters at the Henry Jackson Society and Policy Exchange are part of the cabal of evil which has gorged on an estimated cost of $8 trillion footed by the ordinary taxpayers.  

If anyone speaks against these warmongers they are condemned and vilified – labelled “terror apologists”. It is no surprise therefore that Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is part of the vitriol of hate which has spewed out relentlessly since 9/11, from complicit media like the Jewish Chronicle and populist politicians. They cannot even countenance a discussion which does not adhere religiously to their warped narrative, and this is precisely the tactics they used when deceiving the public that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. A lie which their arrogance prevents them from admitting, and led to the death of 300,000 more innocent lives.

They continue to push for counter-terrorism policies that have shredded basic principles of the rule of law, eroded basic civil liberties and facilitated a surveillance architecture that criminalises dissent and invades the privacy of every individual.

The purpose of CAGE’s participation with the Bezna Theatre production is to underline the need for dialogue and debate to silence the war-mongers. The Culture Secretary’s aim is more of the same – discrimination and policies that have caused harm to millions and bolstered oppressive states. The production is about learning lessons from past mistakes.

To commemorate two decades of the War on Terror, we have launched the International Witness Campaign with over 50 partners in action, to repeat the call upon which CAGE was founded in 2002:  that dialogue, understanding and an ethical foreign policy are the bedrock upon which we must build a better world.

It is time that Oliver Dowden learnt that justice in this world is not simply reserved for people like him and his mentors but for all of humanity. We too are people.


(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)