Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Video: John and Yoko's creative use of the "N" word

Unfortunately, it's still all too true - and will likely remain true in 2008.
Even so, have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pardoning the victim

This is, presumably (and hopefully), the final chapter in an appalling case that took "blaming the victim" to a new extreme:

Saudi women
Saudi women are subject to strict sex segregation laws
The Saudi king has pardoned a female rape victim sentenced to jail and 200 lashes for being alone with a man raped in the same attack, reports say.

The "Qatif girl" case caused an international outcry with widespread criticism of the Saudi justice system.

Read the rest of the BBC article here

The Loomba Trust

Celebrate the true spirit of the holiday season by giving a donation to the Loomba Trust, an organisation that is "caring for widows around the world". I just did.

"The Mourning After"

I'm very glad to see that Cherie Blair is continuing to keep the plight of widows in the public eye. Here's an excerpt from her op-ed piece, published today, December 18, 2007, in the New York Times:

When I reflect on the plight of millions of widows across the world, I realize just how fortunate we were. Although we were surrounded by love, widows and their children in many societies are shunned, abused and exploited.

The centuries-old practice of suttee — a widow burning herself alive on her husband’s funeral pyre — has all but vanished. But the few cases of self-immolation that do occur are a reminder of how bleak the future is for many widows. After a shocking case just five years ago in rural India, a sociologist in Delhi, Susan Visvanathan, explained that the widow who set herself on fire “would have assumed her life would be one of isolation and despair and shame and suffering.”

Read the rest of her article here

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Enduring courage and camaraderie

By the time I finished reading this article, my eyes were blurred with tears.

By Emma-Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris and London

She told tales of camaraderie, of women from all walks of life thrown together in an alien country, tales of lonely Christmases singing French carols and desperately trying not to think of home.

There were apocalyptic accounts too of watching London burn, of courage in the Blitz and proud memories of moments on the number nine bus when a Londoner would notice her French uniform and lean over to say: "Vive La France!"

Read the entire article here

Sunday, December 09, 2007

BBC News: Vancouver's vanished women

The victims of serial killer/pig farmer Robert Pickton were also victimised by the system because many were drug addicts, drifters and prostitutes. Here's an excerpt:

'Invisible women'

Many were drug addicts, working in the sex trade to fund their habits - part of a transient and disenfranchised community.

Images of one of the women who disappeared at a Vancouver memorial
There were 27 on the missing list, going back to 1995. That was a cluster. That was way too many missing people
Kim Rossmo
Professor of Criminology

According to Mr Rossmo, now a criminology professor at Texas university, the low social status of these women, many of whom were of aboriginal origin, contributed to the police's lack of concern.

"If these women had been from the affluent Westside of Vancouver, you can count on the fact that it would have been a very different response," he said.

Read the entire article here

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Heroic words

'Freedom of expression for some is not enough.
We must work for freedom of expression for all.
Human rights for some is not enough.
We must work for the human rights for all.
Peace for some is not enough.
We must work for peace for all.
I, come what may, will not be silenced.
Come what may, I will continue my fight for equality and justice without any compromise until my death.
Come what may, I will never be silenced.'


Taslima Nasrin

Thanks to the op-ed piece mentioned in the previous entry, I found out about Taslima Nasrin:
Then there’s Taslima Nasreen, the 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer who bravely defends women’s rights in the Muslim world. Forced to flee Bangladesh, she has been living in India. But Muslim groups there want her expelled, and one has offered 500,000 rupees for her head. In August she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Calcutta and then Rajasthan. Taslima Nasreen’s visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.

Here's the link to Taslima Nasrin's official website:

Keeping the 'Girl from Qatif' in the public eye - and keeping it real

Published: December 7, 2007
When a “moderate” Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion.

Here's an excerpt:

A 20-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called “mingling”: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia, that is illegal. Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes with a bamboo cane.

Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than 30 lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the “girl from Qatif,” as she’s usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her “crime” has tarnished her family’s honor.

Read the entire article here (registration required)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Vanishing headlines

Whatever happened to the Saudi rape case? It disappeared from the headlines shortly after the Saudis announced they had arrested over 200 terror suspects. Was it a trade-off? Two hundred-odd suspects for 200 lashes?

Interesting take on the 'teddy row'

Red faces in Sudan over teddy row
By Jonah Fisher
Former BBC Khartoum correspondent

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir speaks in Khartoum after pardoning Gillian Gibbons
President al-Bashir had been under huge pressure to intervene

Just over a week ago it was hard to imagine how the international reputation of the Sudanese government could sink any lower.

Accused of sponsoring the killing and rape of hundreds of thousands of its own people in Darfur and then of blocking the peacekeepers who might protect them - barely a week passed without a threat of sanctions or a new UN resolution.

But thanks to the Gillian Gibbons saga, Sudan has managed to transform its public image from pariah state to something approaching a laughing stock.

read the rest (and watch a statement by Ms Gibbons) here

BBC: Britons go to India to abort unborn daughters

Just when I was rejoicing about Gillian Gibbons's pardon (and hoping she gets safely out of Sudan), I found this on the BBC News website. It was like a slap in the face - and a wake-up call:

By Sanjiv Buttoo

Cultural pressure to have a boy is leading some British women of Asian origin to travel to India for abortions to avoid having a girl.

Among them is Meena, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

She describes what led her to do such a thing.

Reconstruction: 'Meena' is an actress
Reconstruction: 'Meena' went to India to abort her daughter

"As soon as you're pregnant everyone sits there and looks at you and constantly says: 'you're going to have a boy. We'll do this and we'll do that and we'll have celebrations'," she said.

But when the child is actually born and it's a girl, everyone around you feels disappointed - they say: 'well, never mind'."

read the rest here

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Good news from Nigeria

NY Times:

Nigeria Turns From Harsher Side of Islamic Law
Published: December 1, 2007
An Islamic revolution in northern Nigeria appears to have come and gone — or gone in an unexpected direction.

Here's an excerpt:

"[D]espite several internationally known adultery sentences of death by stoning in a public square — including that of Amina Lawal, a woman from Katsina State who gave birth to a child out of wedlock that a Shariah court in 2002 took as evidence of the crime — not one stoning sentence has been carried out. Ms. Lawal’s conviction was overturned the following year, and she is now active in local politics, living freely with her daughter Wasila in her hometown.

"The change has little to do with religious attitudes — northern Nigeria remains one of the most pious Muslim regions in Africa, as it has been since the camel caravans across the Sahara first brought Islam here centuries ago. In Kano, the main city of Kano State, thousands of men spill out in neat rows onto the city’s main boulevards on Friday afternoon, an overflow of devotion for the week’s most important prayer, and virtually all Muslim women are veiled.

"The shift reflects the fact that religious law did not transform society. Indeed, some of the most ardent Shariah-promoting politicians now find themselves under investigation for embezzling millions of dollars. Many early proponents of Shariah feel duped by politicians who rode its popular wave but failed to live by its tenets, enriching themselves and neglecting to improve the lives of ordinary people."

Another Heroine: Gillian Gibbons

As the mob calls for her head, her son tells the press:

"She doesn't want people using her and her case as something to stoke up resentment towards anyone, towards Sudanese people, towards Muslim people or whatever.
You know, that's not the type of person she is, that's not what she wants."

Protesters in Khartoum, Sudan
Crowds have marched in Khartoum demanding a tougher sentence

Read the BBC article "UK Peers visit teacher in Sudan" here