Letters: We dither as Syrians suffer

These letters appear in the Saturday 24th August edition of the Independent

Share

Irrespective of one’s position on military intervention, the passionate words of Khaled Erksoussi, head of operations for the Syrian Red Crescent, speaking on BBC radio on Thursday, remind us whose interests should be paramount:

“You see all those pictures and you see all the suffering in those areas, then you hear people talking about decisions in the Security Council and investigation committees, and you scratch your head: did they see the same picture I saw? Because what I saw in those pictures is people need help.”

It should not be controversial to say that the needs and interests of innocent civilians should in extreme cases such as this take precedence over the principle of non-interference in the sovereignty of states even when they are illegitimate and criminal.

John Slinger, Rugby

Although many have assumed that the Syrian Government has been behind the latest atrocity in Damascus, it is not as unrealistic as your editorial (23 August) suggests to suppose it might have been perpetrated by a faction on the other side.

Jihadist elements of the opposition have shown many times over the past two years the extent to which they are prepared to go and the carnage they are prepared to inflict to further their cause. As we have seen in the past they are also very adept at posting the gory results of their efforts on YouTube.

Despite their unhelpful stance the Assad Government has nothing to gain and everything to lose by launching any kind of chemical weapons attack but to the twisted mind of the fanatic there is everything to gain if such an outrage, irrespective of the numbers of “martyrs” it creates, entices external intervention.

Peter Coghlan. Broadstone, Dorset

The massive influx of  Syrian refugees to northern Iraq shows just how vulnerable the entire region is to the fallout of the spiralling crisis inside Syria.

 The number of Syrian refugees in Iraq has nearly tripled since the beginning of the year and is expected to double again by the end of December. With summer temperatures reaching 45 degrees, UNICEF staff at the border say new refugees are arriving exhausted and in desperate need of clean water and shelter. Most are children and women who have lost everything in Syria and are now facing a gruelling life as refugees. 

We are working with the government and partner organisations to get tens of thousands of litres of safe drinking water to the border point and to help children who have been separated from their families. With the fresh surge of arrivals expected to continue over the coming days, and our existing emergency response work in Iraq seriously under-funded, our resources are being driven to breaking point. 

Global leaders must sharpen their focus on the humanitarian impact of this conflict. 

David Bull, Executive Director, UNICEF UK, London EC1

 

Women paid less, even in a new industry

The Chartered Management Institute research revealing that the gender gap in salaries is widening comes as a great concern (report, 20 August). Working in the search marketing industry, which is a fairly new concept for UK businesses-owners, it is hard to ignore that the salary patterns we find are exactly the same as mentioned in this report.

The search marketing industry is progressive. However, our own recent survey conducted among attendees at the last Brighton SEO Conference – which welcomed over 1,000 delegates – discovered that the overall average salary for men was in excess of £39,000 while women earned more than £10,000 less, with an average of £28,000.

One thing is for sure: there are some exceptional female digital agency leaders out there. The good news is that these sorts of inequalities are becoming more publicised, so I hope it means my female colleagues are able to get the pay they deserve for the great work they deliver.

Kelvin Newman, Director of Strategy, SiteVisibility , Brighton

Ben Chu writes (21 August) that “thoughtful people” will not suppose an “unequal distribution of talent between the genders”. But that is not quite the right question.

The issue, particularly in the financial sector, is whether there are as many women as men with a specific skill, proved in practice to be valuable in a fiercely competitive international market. 

You report women’s leaders as commenting that men are better than women at selling themselves within their organisations. It is surely not impossible that the same skill also results in better sales to customers and clients. These are intriguing and important issues, but the debate is not advanced by the knee-jerk reaction reported to date.

Richard Harvey, Frating, Essex

 

Why Brunel’s air railway failed

David Walsh is correct in identifying I K Brunel with “atmospheric” railway propulsion in the 1840s (letter, 21 August), but he is mistaken in his reference to the use of a “leather pipe” on the track Brunel laid on the South Devon Railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

The tube was made up of cast-iron sections, with a slit along the top through which passed the rod connecting the piston in the tube to the carriages on the railway. Leather was used only in the flap which closed the slit before and after the passage of a train.

It was this flap which proved to be very vulnerable to Devonian rain and rats, and caused the project to fail after a few months in use.   

Brunel, who was an outstanding structural engineer but a poor steam engineer, had observed small-scale railways operating on the atmospheric principle and was convinced of its theoretical elegance. But it was a disaster in practice for the South Devon Railway.

Angus Buchanan, Emeritus Professor of the History of Technology at the University of Bath.

 

Don’t rely on  the expat vote

About 18 months before every general election, parties announce they are going to get out the vote from the 5.5 million voting-age citizens known to be living abroad (report, 23 August). Labour sent Glenda Jackson to patrol the beaches of Spain ahead of the 1997 election and the Electoral Commission always announces a drive to encourage expat votes.

But over the past 20 years there have never been more than 30,000 voters at any time still on electoral registers with the right to vote – fewer than 200 voters per constituency.

Britain strips its citizens of voting rights after 15 years’ residence abroad. Other countries, notably the US but also most EU member states, make major efforts to keep their citizens connected to democracy back home. We treat any Brit who lives outside the UK as a second-class citizen who, like prisoners or peers, should not be allowed to vote.

Good luck to those trying to get more expats to vote, but the idea it has an impact on an election is silly.

Denis MacShane, London SW1

 

BBC fights bullying

Further to your article “BBC facing ‘140 allegations of bullying’ by staff” (21 August), I can confirm that the actual number of cases currently being investigated is fewer than 30.

Since publishing the Respect at Work Review in May we have implemented, or will soon  be implementing, all of the recommendations made by Dinah Rose QC.

The Director General has made clear that bullying will not be tolerated at the BBC and we continue to work closely with the National Union of Journalists and the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union on this. We are regularly collating the numbers of formal complaints on bullying and harassment, so we can closely monitor how long it takes to resolve disputes, and have committed to publishing this information and will be doing so in due course.

Huw Jones, Employee Relations Manager, BBC, London W12

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: immigration past and present, in Europe and in America

John Rentoul
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones