A Lesson From London

August 22, 2011

As we watched the riots and looting in London on TV, our first thought was: What’s with the police? How can they be respected or feared if they’re watching the capital being looted and burnt and doing nothing about it?
One Kurd in London said, “They should learn from us.”
Another commented that the British prime minister should ask the Kurds for help because the Kurdish forces would send in a unit and straighten everything out within a few hours.
But now the story is different. The impression is that the British police are teaching everyone a lesson. The lesson is that when you have a system, you can never go wrong.
When the riots occurred, many questions were raised over whether the authorities and police were using harsh or extreme measures to stop the riots and the looting.
Some were calling for water cannons to be used, for curfews to be imposed and for troops to be brought in to control the disorder.
But the British minister of interior said that unlike other countries, British policing traditionally does not rely on such methods. The authorities were afraid it would send the message they were losing control in a country that has never been comfortable with the idea of militarization. They said such a strategy could indicate a state of emergency, and spark fears that the police were over-reacting.
Now, with the arrests and trials of alleged looters and other measures to find rioters such as publishing their names and photos, the situation has gotten calmer and appears under control.
The message was clear: The process is more important than emergency measures or over-reacting to situations during times of crisis. The British police are an institution that is a product of many years of professional work and investment in human capital.
When the British police was faced with a challenge, it was up to it. The discussion at times questioned whether politicians calmed the disorder or whether it was the police. The general consensus was that the police and the justice system were responsible for the return to law and order.
Looking at the differences between public unrest and in the UK, and Iraqi Kurdistan, it’s clear that ours were much more orderly and calmer than those in Britain. We can see that our authorities’ response to our turmoil was far more militarized than those in London.
With every new arrest in the UK, and with every day that passes, the people’s faith in their system is increasing.
As for us, there are many questions that the authorities still need to answer regarding our demonstrations. What happened? Were they riots? Were they demonstrations? What happened to the investigations into the killings? What happened to the property that was destroyed and burnt?
The longer these questions remain unanswered, the less faith there is in the ability of our authorities to institute a system capable of dealing with crises.

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