BURMA: In my very first post on 1st January 2011 I wrote about women’s rights and how by depriving women of the opportunity to play their full role in society, we waste 50% of the earth’s human resources.
Two of the women in oppressive situations that I highlighted then were Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who was held under house arrest, on and off, for almost 24 years until her release on 13th November 2010, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, despite the fact that her husband was already dead at the time of the supposed “offence”.
It is with some pleasure then to note that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to travel, that she and her followers have won some seats in the Burmese parliament, that Burmese leaders after years of isolation are now communicating with the world (though probably through self interest), and that Aung San Suu Kyi has today arrived for a visit to the UK.
This is her first visit to Europe since 1988, although she was married to an Englishman, Michael Aris, a Tibetan scholar, who died of cancer in 1999. Fearful that the Burmese authorities would not allow her to return if she went to her husband’s bedside, she made the painful decision to stick by her people and remain in Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi also has 2 sons based and born in the UK and during her UK visit she will make a visit to Oxford where they all lived for a number of years. Today, Tuesday, is her 67th birthday.
She is expected to receive an honorary degree from the university while in Oxford, meet Prince Charles and his wife Camilla on Thursday and address both houses of the British Parliament, as well as meeting David Cameron the Prime Minister. She spoke in Ireland at the weekend, HERE:
Last Saturday Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the Nobel Committee in Norway and received the Nobel Peace Prize which they awarded her 20 years ago. She said she heard about it on the radio at the time, while under house arrest, and it helped reconnect her with the wider world. You can read more about her life, HERE:
So sometimes the world does get a little better it seems, despite all the pain, persecution, killing and torture.
IRAN: Of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian lady sentenced to death by stoning, there is no word as far as I can trace.
In January 2012 the Iranian parliament changed the law on “adultery” to death by hanging, but that is effectively no improvement on a punishment that seems to be reserved for women and remains cruel, inhuman and unjust.
Sakineh Ashtiani, may still be alive in prison, but it would not surprise me to learn that she has been quietly and secretly executed.
EGYPT: The 2011 “revolution” in Egypt that brought down it’s long time president and dictator, Hosni Mubarak, looks as though it may have stalled.
Despite reaching the point of parliamentary elections, a “Supreme Constitutional Court” (odd when the country still does not have a constitution) declared last week that the legislative polls last year were unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.
This has led the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf), which had controlled the country since Mubarak fell, still in complete power.
So everyone is wondering if anything has changed.
The question gains more stringency when you discover that of the 2 remaining candidates in last week’s presidential election run-off, one is a former army officer and prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, and the other is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group of whom the army are terrified.
Following the ruling by the constitutional court on the parliamentary elections, Scarf, dissolved parliament and prevented MPs from entering, and yesterday gave itself sweeping powers over legislation, the national budget and over who writes a new constitution, effectively removing power from any new president.
The Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi is believed to be slightly ahead in the polling but the results will not be declared until Thursday.
The former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who was 3rd in the first round of voting, said the declaration was a “seizure of the future of Egypt”.
So far the street revolutionaries, many of whom supported Sabahi, have been restrained.
However, if Thursday’s result is suspected of being gerrymandered in favour of the ruling army council, who seem to have guaranteed themselves jobs for life and have huge and lucrative business interests all over Egypt, then the revolution in Egypt may just have to take place all over again.
Whether the people have enough energy or stomach for that remains to be seen.
BAHRAIN’S AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE DENIES “GROPE ALLEGATIONS” AND “SKIPS WORK” TO RECOVER:
ACCUSED AMBASSADOR’S SISTER SUDDENLY NO LONGER “HUMAN RIGHTS” MINISTER – I WONDER WHY?:
3 REASONS WHY THERE ARE NO HUMAN RIGHTS IN BAHRAIN:
TIMELINE – 7th JUNE 2012 12.55 GMT:
Bahrain’s Ambassador to France, Dr Nasser Mohammed Al Balooshi (EDITOR: English spelling of the surname confirmed by the Gulf Daily News today) yesterday denied “unfounded allegations” that he had groped a domestic worker at his up-market residence in the Paris suburb of Neuilly.
On Tuesday the French police had announced that they had opened an initial investigation into claims by a 44 year old domestic worker that the Ambassador had groped her and attempted rape on a number of occasions between July 2010 and October 2011.
The woman, whose husband has also lodged a complaint, was fired shortly afterwards.
The alleged victim also says that the Ambassador’s son threatened her with a gun in September 2010.
A statement released by the Bahrain embassy in Paris yesterday said, “His Excellency Nasser Al Balooshi, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to France, forcefully refutes the inaccurate and unfounded allegations of assault that former domestic workers have made against him and his son,” and added that the ambassador was available to French investigators “to shed light on these false accusations.”
The initial inquiry is to determine the veracity of the allegations. It could lead to charges, the appointment of an investigating judge, or no further action.
Back in Bahrain, unable to completely ignore the international media reporting of the incident, both the official Bahrain Government News Agency (BNA) and the leading English language paper, Gulf Daily News (GDN), played down the report.
In 7 short lines the BNA reported that his “Excellency … forcefully refutes the inaccurate and unfounded allegations” and without any investigation has already decided that these were “false allegations”.
The GDN rather naively headlined the report “Harassment Case Envoy Skips Work”, as though he had rather naughtily just decided to take a day off without permission.
Again in a short 8 line report it repeated the outline of the alleged allegation and then said, “An embassy official told the GDN that Dr Balooshi did not show up for work yesterday, without commenting further” and , “Officials at Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment”.
(EDITOR: They had all obviously “skipped work” for the day as well suffering from an acute outbreak of “dire embarrassment”.)
The GDN also pointed out that Dr. Balooshi is Bahrain’s permanent delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
ACCUSED AMBASSADOR’S SISTER SUDDENLY NO LONGER “HUMAN RIGHTS” MINISTER – I WONDER WHY?:
What the state news agency or the GDN have not mentioned (neither being part of a free press) is that Dr. Nasser Ballooshi is the brother of Dr. Fatima Balooshi, who until Tuesday was Bahrain’s Minister of Human Rights and Social Development.
Since Tuesday, when the reports from Paris first surfaced, Dr. Fatima Balooshi is now only the “Minister of Social Development”, “Human Rights” having “gone out the window” and hastily dropped by royal degree from both her official title and the name of the Ministry.
Co-incidence? Or has a family “human rights abuse” “accident” caused the Minister and the Bahrain Government acute embarrassment?
Any bets on how long before the “ambassador” is recalled to Manama?
Another Tweet received this morning comments on Dr Naser Balooshi’s former post as Director of Administration at the Bahrain Central Bank, where he is reported to have been reluctant to recruit Shia employees and to have “used the bank drivers to serve him and his family”. “He treated them bad”, says the Tweeter.
Nasser Al-Balooshi was also formally Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States. Apparently, the Balooshi family originates from Iranian Balochistan, a Sunni area in conflict with the Shia Government of Iran.
(EDITOR: And which is why the Al Khalifa Government employs Shia-hating mercenaries from the Balochistan area in Pakistan to work for them as policemen.)
3 REASONS WHY THERE ARE NO HUMAN RIGHTS IN BAHRAIN:
Talking of HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE (1), here is a picture of 11 year old Ali Hassan, now detained in Bahrain police custody for more than 3 weeks for “participating in an illegal gathering”.
(EDITOR: Perhaps he and “Ambassdor Balooshi could swop places? I am sure Ali would be much better behaved.)
Yesterday, Ali is reported to have told his lawyer, “I just want to go home!”.
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE (2): According to reports, Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested in court again yesterday for Tweeting messages allegedly “insulting” the residents of the Sunni dominated neighbourhood of Muharraq.
In a complaint registered with the Public Prosecutor’s office, 24 retired police officers who live in Muharraq accused Nabeel Rajab of casting doubt on their patriotism and allegedly suggesting the people of Muharraq were “government stooges”.
(EDITOR: The retired policemen obviously have too much time on their hands!)
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE (3): It is reported from the Dry Docks Prison that 50 detainees have gone on hunger strike in protest at the continued refusal of the authorities to allow imprisoned demonstrator Ahmed Oun to have scheduled medical treatment for the removal of a shotgun pellet in his eye.
Ahmed Oun, a 17 year old student, was injured after being fired at with a police shotgun whilst taking part in a pro-democracy demonstration and was arrested shortly afterwards after seeking medical help at a private hospital.
Surgery was arranged for the 29th May but Ahmed has been prevented by the authorities from having that treatment. Every second counts. If the pellet is not removed shortly, doctors say he could well lose his sight permanently.
Ahmed is in severe pain, has bleeding from the eye and is reported to have fainted on several occasions.
Since the Formula 1 event in Bahrain in April the use of birdshot directly fired at protesters has increased significantly, causing loss of sight in a number of demonstrators and at least one death. You can read further details, HERE:
There is an #EYE4FREEDOM demonstration in Bahrain today, in support of all those who have lost an eye in the struggle for freedom in Bahrain and specifically to demand treatment for Ahmed Oun.
31/3/11 Peter Clifford –
Democracy and Human Rights l Update
Over the last 3 months I have highlighted Democracy and Human Rights issues in the Ivory Coast, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, so I thought it was time for an update. (See my previous post Democracy on the March)
LIBYA: At the time of writing the Libya story struggles on as battles continue between the forces loyal to Gaddafi and the armed revolutionaries ranged against him. Clearly much of the world wants Gaddafi to go and many stories of human rights abuse by his troops have emerged and will continue to come out in the future.
One disturbing story this week was told by a young woman lawyer, Iman al-Obeidi, who got through into the hotel where all the foreign journalists in Tripoli are based. She told the journalists that she had been gang – raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s troops but was quickly bundled away by officials and hotel staff before getting to tell her story in full.
At first called a “prostitute” by Libyan officials it later emerged that the Libyan Government had offered her family a house and money to keep her quiet. She has not been seen since.
UPDATE 18th May 2011: Iman al-Obeidi apparently crossed into Tunisia earlier this month in the company of some defecting Libyan army officers and has since flown to Qatar and is safe.
To give you an idea of Gaddafi’s profound understanding of the human condition, here are a couple of extracts from his famed Green Book, the philosophical basis of the “revolution” that brought him to power:
“Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity”
“Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth… Women are different from men in form because they are females, just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species… According to gynaecologists women, unlike men, menstruate each month… Since men cannot be impregnated they do not experience the ailments that women do”
Yes….er…..well .!!. I think the sooner Gaddafi gives up the day job the better for all concerned in Libya, especially women!
Meanwhile, do we know exactly who the opposition forces are and what are their future intentions? “A Vision of a Democratic Libya”, just published by the Libyan Interim Transitional Council in Benghazi looks promising and there is also a useful map (though not always up to date in this fast moving situation!) on the progress of the revolution on their website too.
Moussa Koussa’s (Gaddafi’s Foreign Minister) “defection” to London is also interesting – just whose side is he on?
IVORY COAST: 11/04/11 Breaking News Update: Following overnight attacks on the heavy weapons around his compound, Laurent Gbagbo this afternoon surrendered to Ouattara’s forces and has been taken to the Golf Hotel, Ouattara’s UN defended HQ, under arrest.
If you read my previous post Prevent War With Chocolate, you will know that the conflict in the Ivory Coast has been caused by the former president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to stand down after losing the election to his democratically elected opponent Alassane Ouattara.
AVAAZ, the pressure group, organised a campaign to get the world’s major chocolate manufacturers to, temporarily at least, boycott purchases of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, so that Gbagbo could not fund his army.
Clearly this has not worked as hostilities have now broken out between the two parties and their supporting groups and armed professionals are involved.
Ouattara’s New Forces have swept down from the North and taken over several towns, while Gbagbo, supported by the army has imported mercenaries from Liberia and shelled Ouattara supporters in Abidjan, the capital. Atrocities are being reported on both sides.
The people of the Ivory Coast have been here before, having suffered years of civil war prior to a ceasefire in 2007. UNHCR estimates that a million people have already fled their homes this time and a UN peacekeeping force of 9,000 stands by helplessly, under equipped and with no proper mandate to intervene.
Neighbouring countries such as Mali, Liberia and Ghana are being swamped with refugees and at least 800 people have already been killed since December. In the latest developments Ouattara’s New Forces have taken Yamoussoukro, a regional centre, and the key cocoa exporting port of San Pedro. Gbagbo is left only with parts of Abidjan.
The United Nations has just past a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Gbagbo and his family until his sources of revenue dry up and he is forced to stand down.
Unfortunately this conflict does not have the high profile of Gaddafi and Libya, despite the fact that just as many civilians will suffer in the long run and another, once very prosperous country, will be wrecked.
TUNISIA: Mohamed Bouazizi – Remember that name. Mohamed was a Tunisian street seller of fruit and vegetables who, sick to the teeth of corruption, harassment and humiliation by local officials and the police, set himself on fire on December 17th 2010 and sparked the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years.
From that one act everything in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and right across the Middle East has followed and still continues.
While the interim President Fouad Mebazaa has announced the date of an election in July for representatives who will rewrite the constitution, unrest still continues and arrest warrants have been issued for the former president and his family who are believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia.
BAHRAIN: Democracy and Human Rights have been a hotly debated issue in this tiny Gulf State (100 times smaller than the Irish Republic!) since the events in Tunisia and Egypt. Every revolution has its own particular flavour and ingredients and Bahrain is no exception.
Here there is an enormous division between the minority, ruling Sunni elite and the majority Shia population who feel dispossessed and under represented. Median age in Bahrain is 30, while youth unemployment is almost 20%. At the same time literacy rates run at 91% – all part of the potent mix for revolution in the modern age.
The root of the problems here is that almost 70% of the population is Shia Muslim, while the nearly 30% Sunni Muslim self appointed ruling class have 90% of the power and most of the wealth and virtually all of the most valuable land.
Gerrymandered electoral districts have always ensured that the Shia electorate ended up with a minority of seats in the legislative body. Women do have the vote but very few get elected.
The ruling Al – Khalifa family has been in power since 1820 and its members still hold most of the most important government positions. Indeed, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the Crown Prince, has been Prime Minister of Bahrain for 40 years! (Thank God that could never happen in the UK!).
The ruling family also contains such leading lights as Sheikh Abdulrahman Mubarak Hamad Al Khalifa who, according to the London Telegraph has been taken to court in both London and Bahrain for the repayment of gambling debts owed to the betting firm Spreadex for the princely sum of £270,000. No doubt he worked really hard to be able to gamble away such wealth.
On February 14th 2011 the pot finally boiled over when protesters marched through the capital Manama and a month of unrest followed with more than 20 killed and 100’s wounded, many of whom declined to seek treatment as many doctors and staff at the world renowned Salmaniya Hospital, according to media reports, were threatened, arrested or prevented from treating protesters.
The protests are also embarassing for the US Navy as the island is also the home of its Fifth Fleet.
The Bahrain government’s answer to all this was to import 1,000 soldiers from its neighbour Saudi Arabia, suppress all further demonstration and to demolish the monument at the Pearl Roundabout which had been the focus of rebellion.
I doubt if any of that will solve the underlying problem, which is a pity as Bahrain has a reputation as one of the more “open minded” Gulf States.
YEMEN: What started as a protest by students has now escalated into a full scale insurrection. It has also, significantly, the support of a large number of women, in what has been until now a very conservative society.
On March 13th snipers killed 52 people and their families have since been offered money by the government to keep quiet.
The protesters are demanding that President Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, stands down, along with 25 members of his family – the usual cosy family arrangement exploiting the people they control. Another more sinister factor is that Al -Quaeda certainly have a presence in the country as well.
After six weeks of protest, many people want the President put on trial, especially after the fatal sniper incident. At the moment there is stalemate – but there is certainly more to come.
EGYPT: Egypt, though coming after the revolution in Tunisia, has undoubtedly set the standard for protesters to maintain their peaceful stance and use the sheer force of numbers to promote change.
Nevertheless and estimated 685 people were killed in the revolution here and an uneasy truce remains between the protesters and what remains of the security services and police.
Police officers are slowly returning to the streets but many are unwelcome and a number of former ministers and security officials are to stand trial for killing protesters during the unrest.
It remains to be seen whether the controlling Army Council will carry through its promises or whether it is just going through the motions in order to protect its own interests. They can expect an angry backlash if they don’t give the people what they want.
Parliamentary elections will take place in September and the presidential election within two months after. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose more extreme elements many fear, has said it will not field a presidential candidate.
In my previous post, I commented on democracy and human rights in relation to Egyptian Women. I see this as the “heart” of the Arab revolution.
Unless the rights of women change, then in reality nothing changes, the Muslim world will still be locked in the past and wasting 50% of their human resource.
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL
If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.
Lastly, don’t forget to sign up (Top Right) for my mailing list for future information, advice, tips and reviews – for a limited time only there is a FREE copy of my 40 page ebook on “Love Relationships – The 10 Step Guide” which I have written especially for this website.