Maya Angelou once said, “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.’’ She is absolutely right.
of equal rights for the women of my nation
I dream of a peaceful land
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
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!
Photo by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
and that was just the beginning.
Members of civil society protesting in Karachi, Pakistan, against the attack on Bacha Khan University of Charsadda. Image by ppiimages. Copyright Demotix (21/1/2016)
Heavily armed militants stormed Bacha Khan University in Charsadda on 20 January, 2016, and opened fire on students and staff members, killing 21 people and many more injured. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, in which the four attackers were killed by security forces.
Charsadda, is about 50 kilometres from Peshawar, where in December 2014 Taliban gunmen killed 141 people, including 132 schoolchildren, at a branch of the Army Public School (APS).
The sheer scale and brutal violence in that attack spun the government to close all schools across Pakistan for a month, and the provincial government made it mandatory for all educational institutions to go through a security audit, train and arm their watchmen, install metal detectors, and increase their boundary walls to eight-feet, topping them with two-feet high razor wire. Bacha Khan University fell under this audit too and had 54 security guards on campus when the attack took place. More than 3,000 students are enrolled at Bacha Khan University.
Even though there hasn’t been a fatal attack targeting an educational institute in Pakistan since the 2014 violence at APS, the wounds of that bloodshed are still raw.
Element of surprise is what would have resulted in maximum casualties & fatalities. No Institute can respond to such an attack w/out losses
— norbalm (@norbalm) January 20, 2016
— Abdul Majeed Khan (@koolkopper) January 21, 2016
The teachers and students at Bacha Khan University were attending a poetic symposium in the school to commemorate the 28th death anniversary of renowned Pakhtoon leader and proponent of non-violence Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as ‘Bacha Khan’. Khan opposed the partition of India and Pakistan after independence in 1947, and he toured India in an effort to quell inter-communal violence. Bacha Khan University was built by his own party, Awami National Party, in 2012 at Charsadda, his birth place.
— Pirah Mangi (@pirahmangi) January 20, 2016
The Bacha Khan University has come under attack by terrorists on the day when his death anniversary is being observed. Such is the irony.
— Iftikhar Firdous (@IftikharFirdous) January 20, 2016
Pakistanis were not only outraged at the perpetrators of the attack, but also directed their displeasure at authorities. A year ago, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a comprehensive roadmap to counter the threat of these armed groups in his National Action Plan, the effectiveness of which has been much criticised.
This is going to be a test.. a harsh one.. comparisons will be drawn.. you can’t have winners when children have been snatched from parents
— norbalm (@norbalm) January 20, 2016
Under the plan, the government quickly passed a constitutional amendment relinquishing justice to “speedy military courts” to sentence “hardcore terrorists”, and arrested dozens of suspected “hate preachers”, launched more than 28,000 “terrorist” sweep operations across the country, arresting more than 100,000 people and lifted a seven-year-old moratorium of the death penalty executing more than 300 people, who were on death row, in 2015.
In a biting editorial, Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest English-language daily says:
The death penalty does not deter terrorism. In fact, it can act as a propaganda tool for the militants as a contested claim of the responsibility for the Charsadda attack attests. Finally, the Bacha Khan University and the day of the attack do not appear to have been selected randomly.
The tolerant, compassionate, inclusive politics of Abdul Ghaffar Khan is what Pakistan ought to embody, and what the militant extremists are seeking to destroy. They must not win. Essential as it is to physically eliminate militancy, the very idea of the Taliban needs to be defeated too by making Pakistan a peaceful, democratic and constitutional land.
Writer Umer Ali also doubted the efficacy of the National Action Plan in an oped at The Nation:
Whatever the military demanded, civilian government gave – from military courts to foreign policy, everything has been under control of Army. But what are the results beyond photo-ops and extensive PR gains?
Members of Civil Society are protesting against the attack on Bacha Khan University of Charsadda. Image by piiimages. Copyright Demotix (21/01/2016)
According to a report released in 2014 by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), about 30 schoolchildren and 20 teachers lost their lives, in attacks on education institutions in Pakistan between 2009 and 2012. Perhaps one of the most famous victims of this violence targeting education is Nobel prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the face and neck on her school bus for “promoting secular and anti-Taliban values” by campaigning for girls’ schooling.
According to one timeline, 229 people were killed in attacks of all kinds in 2015 in Pakistan. In 2014, 280 died, and 429 lost their lives in 2013. A day before the horror at Bacha Khan University, 10 people were killed in suicide attack targeting security forces vehicle in the Khyber region of Peshawar, for which Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility.
And rumors of security threats to educational institutions forced closure of several educational institutions in the same region earlier in the week. A recent video message the Taliban faction behind the Bacha Khan University massacre in Charsadda vowed to target schools throughout the country, calling them “nurseries” for people who challenge the group’s interpretation of holy law.
Columnist and activist Ali Salman Alvi argued in an oped in NDTV.com that even though the National Action Plan “looked good on paper, the situation on the ground remains disturbingly awful and unchanged”:
While it is obvious that it’ll take significant amount of time to eliminate terror from Pakistan, the more worrying part is that the state of Pakistan has shown no clear intent or political will to counter the mindset that has been a major hurdle in developing a counter-terrorism narrative in the country.
The question is whether Pakistan will be able to stem the flow of expanding militancy in the country. An editorial in The News asks “How many children are we to sacrifice before history and politics teach us which way salvation lies?”
Lebanese “Warlords Collage”. Geagea (with mustache) and Aoun (in uniform) appear in the photo at the upper right. Source: moulahazat.wordpress.com
Lebanon is special, we know, because our ancestors are Phoenician and because we can swim and ski in the same day. But Lebanon is also special because key figures of the Lebanese civil war are still in power, waltzing on the corpses of thousands of dead civilians and the living bodies of 4.5 million Lebanese citizens.
On January 18th, 2016, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea publicly endorsed his wartime rival Michel Aoun’s candidacy for president. This agreement means that Lebanon might finally have a new president, after 20 months in which the country’s top post has been vacant.
Here’s some context. Geagea, the executive chairman of the Lebanese Forces, the second largest Christian political party in Lebanon, and Aoun, a former Lebanese Army Commander and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, are former enemies who fought against each other during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). On January 31, 1990, the Lebanese Army, with Aoun as its commander-in-chief, clashed with the Lebanese Forces (then a militia). The latter objected to Aoun’s assertion that it was in the national interest for the government to “unify weapons”, meaning that the Lebanese Forces should submit to his authority as acting head of state. The clash resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
I felt the need to add my two cents’—or two liras—on this state of affairs because of what General Aoun said during what blogger Joey Ayoub compared to an acceptance speech at the Oscars—that he wanted to leave the past behind in order to build the future.
“I would like to thank the academy for giving me this opportunity to shine” http://bitly.com/1JjfMA7
— Joey Ayoub جووي أيوب (@joeyayoub) January 18, 2016
People are sharing stories online of the times Aoun and Geagea bombed their neighborhoods. I can’t testify to that, as I was too young at the time and had the “luxury” of being born in a remote village in the north of Lebanon. I can’t testify first-hand to the pain of the war, to the loss, to the fear, to the experience of living surrounded by death. But I can testify to the hatred I saw, and continue to witness, between people my age or younger who also did not live through the war. No matter what anyone says, Lebanon’s regions, cities and neighborhoods, already riven by sectarian divisions, are still divided between the Aoun and Geagea camps.
I am not dismissing these experiences of these young partisans, nor the experiences of their loved ones. But I do wonder how they, with no direct experience of the war, manage to muster such hatred, why they listen to songs about an ugly war that ended 25 years ago that describe one leader as the alpha and omega and the other as god sent. I’m puzzled as to why they learn how to signal their support by honking their car horns—a “taratatata” or a “tata tatata tata tata tata” in the wrong place or time can get you into trouble—display party stickers on their cars, and wage their own second-hand war. A bloodless one, it’s true, but a cold war nevertheless.
“I’m puzzled as to why they learn how to signal their support by honking their car horns—a “taratatata” or a “tata tatata tata tata tata” in the wrong place or time can get you into trouble…”
Where is the urge to question those they blindly follow, and ask questions like “what happened”? “Who won”? “How many people died”? “What happened to those who were kidnapped”? “How many women and girls were raped”? “How many corpses were tied and dragged behind cars like war trophies”? “How many loaves of bread were stolen at checkpoints”?
During his “acceptance speech” Aoun basically said that what happened happened, and we should put it behind us, and maybe remember it so that we don’t repeat it. Geagea was smiling beside him.
Well, even though it is our fault (we elected them, after all, over again over again, those times we were actually allowed to have elections), I don’t want to stop believing that we deserve better. This endorsement, this deal between two war criminals, represents yet another nail in the coffin of our collective memory. Those of us who didn’t experience the war are now stripped of our ability to hold these men accountable for the deaths of thousands. And now they tell us to forget and move on. Because it is convenient for them? Because after years of wanting to eliminate each other, this is the only way to survive? We shouldn’t question their pasts or demand justice, yet these men want us to trust them with our future?
It’s about peacemaking, they say. But can peace really exist in a vacuum? How can we achieve peace without a reconciliation process? Without healing the wounds of the past? How can peace exist when a silent, brutal, cold, war is being waged every day?
Where, indeed, is there room for peace when all we see is corruption, unaccountability, nepotism, theft, and the dismissal of an entire people?
AWWP Poet Marzia will make a guest appearance via Skype at the Clarkston High School Voices for Change poetry slam on Friday, January 22nd at 7 p.m. This is the second year Marzia has participated as a guest reader. The slam, co-produced by sisters Madeline and Olivia Maday, will feature twenty Clarkston High School students selected to perform their work. Proceeds will go to the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.
“I am very excited about Voices for Change,” says Marzia, 25. “I believe my voice is not only for me, it is for millions of women and girls who have been fighting the violence and discrimination.”
Olivia Maday, 17, speaks to the importance of the poetry slam: “In a world where so many people are shouting to have their voices heard, important words can get lost in the noise. Slam poetry has the purpose of conveying personal messages as well as universal demands for change.”
The Maday sisters chose to include the Afghan Women’s Writing Project after a suggestion from a Clarkston High School teacher. “The AWWP saying ‘to tell one’s story is a human right’ inspired us because it was exactly the message which we wanted to convey throughout the Clarkston community as well as one that should be promoted globally,” says Olivia. “We were very moved by the courage that the women had in sharing their stories and messages with the world, and we greatly wanted to encourage a similar sense of empowerment for all students through the creative outlet of poetry.”
Voices for Change debuted last year to acclaim. “We were so surprised by how fantastic the response was,” says Maday. “My sister and I sat together after the show, reading aloud the incredible messages and tweets that people were sending to us, letting us know how inspired they were from hearing the voices of others. It definitely united our community on a whole new level.”
Admission is $1 and can be paid at the door. Follow the slam via Twitter at @_Voices4Change and hashtag #Voices4Change. Clarkston High School, 6093 Flemings Lake Rd. Clarkston, MI 48346
Photo: Olivia (left) and Madeline Maday at 2015 Voices for Change Poetry Slam in Clarkston, MI. Photograph by Nathan Brown.
Refugees are Human Beings. Photograph from Commons Wikimedia CC-BY-SA-3.0
Nowadays, most sad stories come from the Middle East. Although every story counts among the thousands discussing the region every day, we need to look at some of those stories with a pinch of salt. Sadly, this year is shaping up to be the year of Syrian refugees. Unfortunately, in some cases, the world continues to be misinformed by recurring photographs from the tragedy on the Internet where social media is being used to spread rumors and circulate fake stories.
The reasons vary from clicktivism to politics. For instance, some European political right-wing parties are using the recent refugees crisis to further push their agenda and close the doors on Syrian refugees taking refuge in Europe. In fact, a photograph claiming to show Syrian refugees waving the ISIS flag in Germany, which is widely being shared on Facebook, is three years old and is not related to the current crisis.
Following are four stories of Syrian refugees stories, you may have come across on your social media accounts, which are far from what they appear to be.
Story 1: The Italian fashion model and the Syrian Immigrants boat
Shared on the Syrians in Belgium group on Facebook, this video above is shared with the following caption:
عارضة ازياء ايطالية تصور فيديو على الشاطئ وفجأة بطريقة عفوية وقع المحظور تصل دفعة لاجئين غير متوقعة الى شاطئ الامان في ايطاليا سوف تشتهر هده العارضة لهدا الموقف الظريف والعفوي الدي لايتكرر
معظمهم سوريين وفلسطينيين الحمد الله على السلامة
An Italian model is filming a video on the beach and suddenly the unexpected happened and a group of unexpected refugees arrives on the beach safely in Italy. This model will become famous for this funny and spontaneous incident which will not repeat itself. Most of them are Syrians and Palestinians. Thank God for their safety.
However, the model is the video being shared far and wide is not Italian and the video itself is not even shot in Italy. And the refugees are neither Syrian nor Palestinian. The original video published on July 10, 2015, by the same model Ekaterina Juskowski reads:
Ms. Juskowski, a Miami-based artist and a founder of the Miami Girls Foundation (www.miamigirls.org) “who migrated from Russia at age 18 as a university student – had a more compassionate take. She said, “Witnessing people starting their life anew by jumping off the boat and running into the city made my personal struggle seem rather small. As controversial as the problem of illegal immigration can be for many of us, it is important to remember that people come here in search of the better life, and it comes at a very high price of great courage, hard work, and loneliness. I got to know America as a country with a big heart. While I trust it to the U.S. government to work out the policies on improving the immigration laws, it feels natural to stay compassionate and understanding on a personal level.”
Story 2: A Syrian Boy Sleeping between his Parents’ Graves
There’s a big chance you have seen this dramatic picture of a Syrian boy covered by a blanket sleeping between the two graves of his dead parents. It went viral after some big accounts published it [in January 2014] on Twitter.
There is only one problem: The picture is not from Syria, but from Saudi Arabia. Photo credit haralddoornbos blog
The Harld Doornbos Blog maybe was the first who investigate the case by contacting the photographer, Abdul Aziz al Otaibi, a Saudi national, from Yanbu al Bahr city, who is behind this story.
“Look, it’s not true at all that my picture has anything to do with Syria,” Al-Otaibi says, “I am really shocked how people have twisted my picture.”
“I love photography,” he continues over the phone, “Every artist has ideas in his head. So I had the idea to make a project whereby I show in pictures how the love of a child for his parents is irreplaceable. This love cannot be substituted by anything or anybody else, even if the parents are dead.”
On Twitter, Abdulaziz shares another photograph of his nephew, hoping to clear the misconception the photograph, along with the wrong information shared with it, had caused:
— عبدالعزيز العتيبي (@abdulaziz_Photo) January 17, 2014
This is also photograph from behind the scenes for my nephew Ibrahim
Story 3: Immigrants Refuse non-Halal Food
YouTube user komehtap K stated that Muslim refugees, on the border between Macedonia and Greece, refused the food parcels distributed on them because they carried the Red Cross symbol, which is, according to the author, not halal. While the video is true, this information is totally false.
According to Red Cross spokesman John Aangendal Nielsen to French newspaper Liberation, the refusal of refugees was not related to the content of which was Halal but was a kind of protest against the police who blocked their way and kept them stranded throughout the night under the rain.
On YouTube, komehtap K explains:
Muslim migrants in Macedonia refuse Red Cross parcels because of… the red cross
The headless chicken reaction by the leaders of the European Union regarding mass migration by hundreds of thousands of people has resulted in these so called refugees not only demanding to be allowed to go where they want to go, but insisting on subscribing to the religious bigotry they claim they are running away from.
Here on the Macedonian/Greek border Red Cross aid parcels are being refused due to them having a red cross on the box. And the left call me a bigot for questioning the veracity of these so called refugees
And on Twitter, many reacted with anger at the “ingratitude” of the refugees:
I saw a video of a load of Syrian men throwing food offered to them away because it ain’t halal. They should be sent back IMO
— Niall (@SpiritBlade_) September 10, 2015
— Mike (@1961mike) September 11, 2015
Story 4: The Photoshopped Photograph of a Syrian Mother at Sea
A Syrian mother trying to swim to safety carrying her toddler child. Photo gone viral (source unknown), but it isn’t what it seems to be
This photograph of a Syrian mother struggling at sea has been making the rounds online. But something is amiss. Netizens were quick to notice that the photograph was Photoshopped, covering the woman’s hair. Omneya Talaat tweets:
— Omneya Talaat (@OmneyaTalaat) August 29, 2015
When society is only concerned with covering a woman’s hair and not providing her with a dignified life, then it is a society on its way to oblivion. There is nothing to argue about here
Phogotraphy asks why a doctored photograph is being used to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees:
This terrifying photograph shows Syrian refugee Rukhsan Muhammed who was rescued off the coast of Turkey in 2013 after the boat she and her son were on capsized. Without the need for an expert’s inspection it is clear that a white headscarf has been crudely applied to the photograph using digital tools.
The moment captured is one of utter despair, indeed since the photograph was taken we learned that Rukhsan had been in the water with her one year old son who was washed away and drowned by the strong currents. So why trivialise this awful situation by drawing on a headscarf to protect this poor woman’s modesty?
Does her dress matter? Phogotraphy explains:
Of course underneath any clothing is a human being, a mother who has lost her child and nearly her own life. We want to care about this person and if she lived to tell of her ordeal. Within the series of images from the Anadolu Agency we can see that Rukhsan was thankfully rescued and what is striking to us now is not a story of survival, but further insight to her clothing. We can see now, clearly that she dresses like us, The West. During rising xenophobia in Europe being prevalent surely a more effective way of realising our compassion is by showing the world we are all the same.
Refugees arriving in Europe are escaping the fate of 320,000 Syrians who have been killed back home in Syria since the start of the war in their country four years ago. They have risked all, to ensure their future and that of their children. Should they be judged for aspiring to live?
Aerial shot of Cizre, Turkey. Wiki image.
In the last two weeks Turkish authorities have imposed, lifted, reimposed and lifted once more a curfew on the Kurdish-populated town of Cizre on the Syrian border, close to where the brutal ISIS group has conquered swathes of Middle Eastern territory.
The curfews were introduced to combat the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), that Ankara once declared a tenuous truce with, but which has re-emerged as an enemy in recent months.
During the imposed curfew on Cizre town, at least 21 civilians were killed according to the Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) September 10, 2015
The government says all the dead were militants fighting for the PKK.
In a General Election in June, HDP passed the parliamentary threshold, taking over 13% of the vote and stripping the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of its precious parliamentary majority.
The parties remaining in the parliament could not secure a coalition agreement and, as a result, snap elections were scheduled for November 1.
Shortly after the June elections, a suicide-bomb attack on July 20 killed 32 people in the town of Suruc, most of them young Kurdish activists coordinating efforts to deliver aid to the people of the Kurdish-populated Syrian town of Kobane, who have been battered by fighting between local militias and ISIS.
This caused outrage and strengthened accusations that AKP was at best a passive force in the struggle against ISIS, who are believed to have been behind the Suruc attack.
Collage of Suruc victims, tweeted by @SarkawtShams on July 22nd.
Following the bombing, the PKK reacted by killing two Turkish soldiers.
In response, the Turkish government bombed both ISIS and PKK strongholds in Iraq. The attacks on the PKK were the first since late 2012, when a peace-process was in place.
Inside Turkey, political tensions have continued to escalate, with reports of widespread attacks on the offices of HDP.
The party’s headquarters in Ankara were set ablaze, as were several other offices throughout the country.
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) September 9, 2015
Despite this, a delegation from HDP headed towards Cizre, attempting to bring an end to the curfew.
Here are some photos from the march: http://pic.twitter.com/CXMEL4MYcw
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) September 9, 2015
During this period of instability and conflict, several journalists have been deported, including the Dutch freelance journalist Frederike Geerdink, for reporting on Kurdish issues.