A Hate Letter to the Taliban

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Oh, horrid people, I hope your Taliban houses lose their roofs
May the bloody nights of your city be always without magic.
Your ignorant generation has taken our lives
Our dearest ones with a light in their eyes have become orphaned.
Oh, thoughtless people who make our mothers taste the death of their loved ones.
Must the youth always have crying eyes to the death?
Can you think of nothing to do besides egging on atrocities?
Your generation is as unproductive as a fruitless tree.
You, who bomb our schools, our cities, our bazaars,
All you do is destroy our country.

By Fariba H.

Photo by RichardBH

Reza Gul, an Innocent Bird in a Violent Marriage

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Editor’s note: Reza Gul was expected to be taken to Turkey for reconstructive surgery after her husband attacked her with a knife on January 19, 2016 in the remote northern province of Faryab, which borders Turkmenistan. 

Once again, in our land of horror, a young Afghan woman was beaten many times by her husband until she finally lost her nose when he attacked her with a knife.

Reza Gul is like an innocent bird, married for six years and now, at twenty, she is a mother in the Shar Shar village in the Ghormach district of Faryab province. Her husband attacked her and sliced off her nose. She was taken to hospital, while he fled to a nearby Taliban-dominated village.

Reza Gul endured violence so many times. At an age when another girl would still be studying at school, she suffered terrible abuse while raising a child without the help of a husband.

There are many female victims of violence in a similar situation in my country. The Human Rights Commission reported that violence against women in Afghanistan increased seven percent in a six-month period from late March to September 2015 compared with the same months a year earlier. Human Rights Commissioner Qadria Haq Parast said that in that period 2,579 cases of violence against women were documented. This included 190 murdered women.

Why are so many women facing violence in their homes? Why does the violence increase day by day despite all of the organizations and a women’s ministry who work against violence? Does the government pay attention? Is it a lack of security? Are the organizations not doing the work they should? These are questions for the authorities to answer.

I ask all men who commit these acts against women: Would you be able to tolerate the same pain you inflict on your wife or daughter? Can you live without your nose, ear, lips, or fingers? How dare you commit this violence against women? Do you think they are not humans? Even animals do not hurt their co-gender.

If you love your wife and daughter, you will feel the real happiness of life. If you respect them, they will worship you. Being a human being is not so difficult. You lose nothing by acting humane.

My innocent sister Reza Gul, you are not alone. I feel your pain with my body and soul. I wish I could have saved you from your husband but I promise to support your power if you raise your voice. Do not be quiet. Fight for your rights. We are with you. You deserve all the beautiful things in the world. I love you, my innocent bird!

By Afsana

Photo by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission

Birzeit University ranked top Palestinian and 31st across the Arab World

Based on the volume of scientific material posted on the internet; the excellence of its content and the number of external links referencing the material, Birzeit University has climbed up the Webometrics Ranking and is now ranked 1st in Palestine and 31st in the Arab world, as of January 2016.

Globally, Birzeit ranked 2,140 amongst 24,000 universities worldwide. Based on this data, Birzeit now ranks in the top 3 percent in the Arab world and top 10 percent globally.

The survey used a composite ranking formula to evaluate universities, combining numerous criteria that include the number of links to the university’s website; the number of web pages published by the university; the number of academic publications on the internet; and the citation record of the University’s academic publications.

“This evaluation is live evidence of the University’s hard work in investing in research, innovation and scientific advancement. These are our core activities, enabling us to develop differentiated and effective academic systems, and making it possible for our country – Palestine – to join the global knowledge society and compete in sophisticated knowledge economies,” said Professor Abu Hijleh, University President.

According to Dr. Talal Shahwan, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Webometrics can reveal useful information about a university’s scientific exposure to local and international communities through the web, and its accomplishments and research excellence. He added that an effective presence on the web is vital for the dissemination of academic knowledge and scientific material.

Similarly, Birzeit University has also been classified as the top Palestinian university by the QS Ranking, which also placed Birzeit in the 61-70 cohort amongst Arab universities.

The Webometric Ranking was initiated by a research group affiliated to the Spanish National Research Council, the largest public research body in Spain. This ranking is based on the quantitative analysis of internet and web contents specifically related to the process of generating and communicating scientific knowledge. The purpose of Webometric Ranking is to promote global access to academic knowledge produced by universities and institutions worldwide.  

TPP: Not a done deal

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has just been signed by all twelve participating countries. But the massive and highly controversial trade agreement still has a long and rocky road ahead before it can go into effect.

The deal must be ratified by Congress, whose leadership is increasingly opposed to letting the TPP become law. Meanwhile, the growing movement against the TPP even has presidential frontrunners in both parties criticizing aspects of the agreement, if not opposing the whole thing.

Bad for farming

President Obama continues to tout the agreement as one of his top legislative priorities for his remaining time in office, despite widespread and persistent opposition from labor unions, environmental groups, and even industry groups like automakers and tobacco companies. We’ve written before about how and why TPP will be bad for our food system; farmer groups like the National Farmers Union (NFU) continue to strongly oppose the deal. After the release of the full text in November, NFU President Roger Johnson said:

After years of negotiating in secret for an enormous agreement guarded from the public under lock and key, the text of the TPP has at last been made public. Unfortunately, it appears to be as bad for America’s family farmers and ranchers as we had feared.

The full text of the TPP also revealed how the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) chapter would negatively effect farmers and bolster the Big 6. According to Ben Lilliston from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy,

The TPP’s IPR chapter provides a glimpse into what this new mega free trade deal is all about. The chapter’s requirement that countries grant patent protection for multinational biotech seed companies has little to do with trade and nothing to do with respecting farmers’ innovations, their livelihoods or countries’ food security. It is about asserting, in a very raw way, corporate power over sovereign nations and the farmers who live there.

Opposition is growing

So who will win this trade battle? Only time will tell, but recent signs from Congress have made me more optimistic than ever that we can stop this thing.

First off, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has not wavered in his opposition to the TPP — so to achieve ratification, Obama will need Republican leadership on board. However, in a recent meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, Obama failed to get the Republicans to commit to push the TPP forward. McConnell announced in a statement after the meeting that he has problems with the agreement and wants to wait until after November’s election to call for a vote.

Why would there be more support in Congress after the election? Because TPP is so unpopular with the public that our elected officials are afraid to vote “yes” right before they face re-election. Presidential candidates are taking this cue as well: Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both publicly oppose the TPP, as does Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio previously showed support for the treaty, but throughout their presidential campaigns have expressed criticisms.

Tell Congress to say no

Now that the TPP is signed, it will be sent to Congress for review and approval. So don’t wait — tell Congress to oppose the TPP now — and share our action alert with others. Obama will do his best to get a vote on TPP soon; we need to do all we can to make it an uphill battle.

And don’t forget about that other massive trade deal in the works — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The agreement between the United States and the European Union is nearing the finish line, now entering its twelfth round of negotiations. While the TTIP is flying relatively under the radar, most trade deal opposition groups are betting that if we can stop TPP, it will be easier to stop TTIP as well.

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