`I am a crow, a rabid dog and a nobody'

If its response to evidence of human rights violations is simply abuse, what does that tell us of the Arab world, asks Robert Fisk?

OVER 20 years in the Middle East, I have been shot at, bombed, shelled and threatened with pistols by unpleasant gunmen of both the Arab and Israeli variety. But never before have I been portrayed by Arab journalists and censors as a "black crow", a rabid dog and a nobody, all in the space of 10 weeks. Crows are elegant creatures and, despite owning a friendly moggie cat in Beirut, I have nothing against dogs. But it all seems quite a price to pay for writing in the Independent on Sunday.

It started with Dr Abdul Aziz Ramadan, who took exception to a long profile of President Mubarak which I wrote a few days after the Egyptian leader won a vote of Saddam-like proportions in flawed parliamentary elections - elections which followed the arrest and imprisonment of several opposition candidates. I bemoaned the increased use of torture and rape of prisoners by the Egyptian State Security Police, and quoted a non-violent Islamist newspaper editor - since sentenced to several years of hard labour for accusing the government of corruption - to the effect that Mr Mubarak was becoming egocentric. I suggested that the abuse of human rights in Egypt was now a cause for international concern, not least because 17 Islamists had died in custody in the previous seven months.

Dr Ramadan's response in the Cairo daily Al Ahram - once the fiefdom of that fine Egyptian editor, Mohamed Heikal - was very revealing. Robert Fisk, he told his readers, was guilty of "spreading lies and deceit", a "black crow" that pecked at Egypt's body, a "discredited" and "spiteful" liar, a "fake", an ignorant "slanderer", "a stupid British writer . . . only interested in vilification, defamation and offensiveness." Fisk - later in the article I mysteriously became "Peter Fisk" - was "a journalist for hire" who lacked "an ideological vision" (sic).

Leaving aside the abuse, the most extraordinary element in his diatribe was a total failure to discuss the lack of human rights in Egypt. Merely to raise the issue, he wrote, was to repeat the lies of "the blackened ... dregs of the opposition", to relay "the language and logic of terrorists". Without the largely secret military trials of armed Islamists and opposition politicians, Dr Ramadan went on, "all the executed terrorists would have set up states while in jail, and would have ruled Egypt from their prisons". My ignorance of Egypt was shown when I "cast doubt on the results of the 1987 and 1993 referenda in which Mubarak gained 97.1 per cent and 96 per cent of the votes". The trouble with opposition parties in Egypt, he concluded - in a disturbing paragraph that deserves to be put in the archives - was that "they are untried and unknown to the people, who therefore cannot give them their vote".

Enough, I cried. And so I thought it was until the cartoonist of Bahrain's daily Akhbar Al-Khaleej took issue with a series of articles I wrote last month on the imprisonment of 2,000 Bahraini Shia Muslims who oppose the Emir's undemocratic regime and, in particular, the role of a former British policeman, Ian Henderson, who controls the torturers of the island's state security police.

Last week the Bahraini paper hit back, not with any defence of human rights abuses in the emirate, but with a drawing that depicted me - along with Christopher Walker of The Times and Simon Ingram of the BBC - as rabid dogs, straining at a "Murdoch-Maxwell" (sic) leash in our effort to get our teeth into bags of cash.

Just who was supposed to be throwing us all this money was not explained; nor was it clear why Mr Murdoch and the late Mr Maxwell - himself very keen on other people's cash - should allow us to get our teeth into it. The cartoon was not intended to be humorous. In the Arab world, to call a person a dog is to say that he is filthy, unclean, unworthy of being regarded as a human being.

And so to Jordan, whose human rights record was called into question in the Independent on Sunday two weeks ago. I interviewed Laith Shubailat, an Islamist opposition politician on trial for slandering King Hussein and Queen Noor, and quoted him in a dispatch from Amman. He had criticised the queen for weeping at Yitzhak Rabin's funeral but expressing no sorrow to the widow of the assassinated leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement a few days earlier.Mr Shubailat's real crime, in the eyes of many Jordanians, is his opposition to the collapsing Middle East "peace process". But Jordan knew how to deal with my article. They banned the Independent on Sunday from the kingdom's news-stands. No doubt the same government officials - if they keep their eyes open and spot this article - will censor this issue too.

Now, if the above were the worst that could happen to a reporter in the Arab world, we Middle East scribes would be happy enough. The real question is why my articles received these reactions. All three nations are supposedly friends of the West, counted as "peacemakers" at last week's "anti-terrorism" summit; two of them, Egypt and Jordan, have peace treaties with Israel and receive massive subsidies from the United States. Yet rather than address evidence of gross human rights violations, the response from them was abuse, slander and censorship. What, I wonder, does this tell us about the Arab world?

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam