Dutch politics


Today, I’m making a rare exception and will post a little opinion piece on politics. Basically, something outrageous is happening currently in my home country, the Netherlands.

The last time when my home country made the international headlines, as it is no doubt about to do again now, was in 2004 when Theo van Gogh, a movie director and columnist, was murdered by a muslim extremist. Pinned to his body with a knife was a letter threatening Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken member of parliament. The brutal murder and political aftermath became world news with headlines on CNN, articles in leading news papers etc. In the aftermath of that murder and amidst significant unrest in muslim and right wing extremist communities, the Somali born politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali received serious dead threats and has since been living a not very enviable life of continuous police protection, frequently moving, etc. Her life of the past three years is not unlike that of Salman Rushdy. Nevertheless she continued to be outspoken and did not bow to the terrorist threats. For that she has been recognized last year as one of Time’s 100 most influential people. Basically, she’s a highly respected politician and intellectual (nationally and internationally). Though I don’t agree with everything she says I have a lot of respect for what she says, her rights to express her views and how she makes use of those rights. Now something is happening that is outrageous. Essentially, it boils down to that her Dutch nationality (she’s a member of parliament!) is being revoked by a minister from her own party.

Eh, let me explain that again: Ayaan Hirsi Ali immigrated in the early nineties and managed to get a residence permit and later the Dutch nationality based on the fact that she was a political refugee. To provide some historical context, this was around the time things got really ugly for the US peace keepers in her home country. As she later admitted, she did lie about a number of facts (including her name) during that legal process. This was well known when she made her switch from the left wing PVDA party to the conservative VVD party and apparently communicated explicitly to VVD seniors during that transition. Subsequently, she became a member of parliament for that party (and got a lot of people to vote specifically for her). Ambitious, outspoken and sometimes controversial is a good characterization of her career since.

Fast forward three years. A tv documentary again highlights the fact that Ali has lied during the immigration procedure. She’s never denied that and has in fact been very candid about it in interviews over the years. In other words nothing new was presented. I suspect that the intention of the makers of the program was to merely highlight the harshness of recent immigration politics by contrasting it with the background in this respect of a popular and respected politician. Enter Rita Verdonk, a former immigration service civil servant and now the first minister of immigration, ever. Arguably, this is a very controversial job and personality. She is very outspoken on immigration issues, generally favoring the hard line (I’m phrasing it politely). Interestingly, like Ali, she has a left wing history (communist symphaties in her youth). However she now is a member of the conservative right wing VVD (also Ali’s party) and competing for leadership of that party in the upcoming election (next year, or maybe a bit earlier now). She decided over the course of 24 hours first that she sees no reason to act on the documentary, then an investigation was launched anyway, and now Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s is being denied her Dutch citizenship (by Verdonk, with approval from prime minister Balkende) and will be forced to give up her seat in parliament and has a mere 6 weeks to fight this in court. I related news, she is being forced out of her house because neighbours complained about the devaluation of their property due to the continuous police protection. WTF! This redefines the notion of backstabbing.

Anyway things are happening fast now. Apparently Ali has already decided to emigrate to the US where she will work for a conservative think tank in Washington. This latest incident is merely causing her to speed up her plans. Essentially she’s giving the finger to the people currently stabbing knives in her back. I can’t blame her but regret that this is even possible in my home country. This is the ultimate failure of this government to provide adequate protection to her. I would not be surprised if this is going to be the final excuse needed to pull the plug on this impopular cabinet. I don’t see how decent politicians can continue to involve themselves with Verdonk. But then she managed to survive earlier incidents involving e.g. the expellation of a kosovo girl (17) who speaks fluent dutch and was about to enter her highschool exams; the expellation of gay/christian refugees from Iran (with the explicit message that they should cover up their views to protect themselves back in Iran); and the expellation of people to such stable democracies as Sierra Leone. These incidents and many others have made her popular with anti immigration right wing people and extremely impopular with other people (including me). It’s just one of the reasons I don’t mind living in Finland right now. Finland is nice country with stable & boring politics. My home country can learn a lot from this sparsely populated country.