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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Rebellions... (for the planet, for human rights and for the right to govern over your own body)

Let’s recap this week.

In this Sunday Summary, we will mainly focus on protests. We will talk about the recent protests in Utrecht and also the controversy surrounding the gesture of the German football team at the world cup, which is another form of protest. In the second part, we will look at the recent vote in France to enter abortion rights into the constitution.

On Saturday, around noon, a total of 150 demonstrators were arrested after they had blocked the A12 freeway in the direction of Utrecht. The demonstrators were from Extinction Rebellion, who had been blocking the road to protest against subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. According to Extinction Rebellion, there were several hundred protesters at the location, and the protest was streamed live on the organization’s website. The group refused to move the protests to the Malieveld, as urged by the police. “We will not let ourselves be sent away to the Malieveld until our wish has been granted. Arrests will be made," were the words of the group. It ended with protesters being forced onto a bus to carry them away from the scene. This extreme form of protest is no exception and there has been an increase in these forms of protesting over the last few months. The question that is now being raised is whether these protests are effective or are a useless cry for attention.

On the other side of the world, in a chilly stadium that is bringing climate activists nightmares, another protest this week was done by the German football team before their match against Japan. As everyone knows, the World Cup is taking place in Qatar, which has been heavily criticized, due to assumptions of corruption against FIFA and human rights violations that occurred while the stadiums were built. It has also been severely criticized for the environmental impact of the whole event. The protest of the German football team, however, centered around the theme of diversity. The “One Love” armband is a symbolic representation of Germany's support regarding diversity, openness, and tolerance and a statement against homophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism had been banned by FIFA. The organization had declared that they would not allow the players to wear the brassard and that there would be in-game penalties if any player decided to wear it anyway. Instead, the football team decided to hold their hand in front of their mouth and said in a statement that “Not allowing us to wear the armband is like force shutting our mouths. Our stance stands." Furthermore, the German Football Union (DFB) is now trying to take legal measures against FIFAs ban, which demonstrates that this protest isn’t merely performative but is being put to action.

This gesture was heavily criticized by the media in the Middle East, as they perceived this as an act of disrespect against their values. Germany is considered a guest in Qatar and the host country is unwilling to adopt “western beliefs” because of a football tournament. This conflict has once again demonstrated the clash of ideologies between nations

To finish off on a positive note, France's National Assembly has moved closer to constitutionally protecting the right to abortion. This implies “the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy”. The move was prompted by other countries restricting access to this fundamental right. For example, the US Supreme Court recently overruled the landmark case Roe v Wade, which enshrined the right to abortion in jurisprudence. French lawmakers voted by a large majority to include a clause guaranteeing "the effectiveness and equal access to the right to end pregnancy voluntarily". Left-wing MP Mathilde Pinot, who is behind this movement, said it was to protect against the "backsliding" on access to abortion as seen in the US and Poland. Unfortunately, the implementation of this bill is far from being written into law, and there are already fears that the Senate, the second chamber that needs to pass it, will shut it down, given that they have rejected a similar bill entering the “voluntary end to a pregnancy” into the constitution in October.

To conclude, this week has shown the rising rebellions against the abuse of the planet, human rights and the right to govern over one's own body. It remains to be seen whether any of these protests will be effective. Either way, it is clear how multiple fundamentally different perceptions clash and I believe we must be open to understanding other countries traditions, values and beliefs. In the case of the world cup, Germany's gesture is provocative and fosters the prejudices the western world has over the middle east, which is exactly what we should be trying to avoid.


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