In my regular weekly news posts about Syria and Iraq, I write often about the many obscenities committed by the Islamic State.
One of these is its twisted Koranic justification for enslaving more than 3,500 captured Yezidi women and children and trading them as “sex-slaves” among their Jihadists.
What those women and children must be going through, physically, emotionally and psychologically, particularly as many will be under-age, beggars belief.
As a psychotherapist I known that the consequences of these experiences, even if they ended today, will be with them for the rest of their lives.
Having worked with many victims of sexual abuse over the years, I can assure you that they do not just “get over it” as many people will exhort them to do.
Sexual abuse deeply damages a victim’s sense of self-esteem and leaves psychological and emotional scars that only prolonged therapy over many years will heal.
Typically, sexual (and physical) abuse victims will be afraid of close or intimate contact with others, particularly with those who look or behave like their abusers, will exhibit hypervigilance and anxiety which monitors everything (but everything) in their environment and be so stressed that normal functioning is almost impossible without the use of anti-depressants or stimulants of some kind.
On top of that, most victims of sexual abuse, male and female, feel so worthless, powerless and inadequate that they will be unable to seek, sustain or afford therapeutic help, even if it is available.
Those very, very brave souls that do undertake the journey of recovery and who are helped to feel and expiate the emotional pain from terror to anger, will do well. But they will never forget.
All the more alarming then that in the 21st century, slavery, and the sexual abuse that often accompanies it, is more prevalent than ever.
Across the world there are currently an estimated 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking. Add to that the estimated 20.9 million trapped in forced labour plus those in bonded labour where they endless work to repay a debt, child labourers working in clothing factories and other places for cents and the estimated 51 million girls that have been forced to marry against their will.
Getting out of poverty, of course, is often the driving force for those that end up in some form of slavery or extreme exploitation, plus the promise of a “better life” that never comes but only gets worse.
If you think this is not happening in your “backyard” – think again.
I guarantee that in your everyday activity you have passed someone who is trapped into servitude or exploitation in some way or you have purchased an article of clothing, a carpet, electronic products, cocoa and many other products that were made or harvested by someone on the poverty line and with no future prospects, for a few cents pay a day if they are lucky.
According to End Slavery Now.org, “The standard price for sex at a brothel in the U.S. is $30.
Typically, trafficked children see 25-48 customers a day.
They work up to 12 hours a day, every day of the week; every year, a pimp earns between $150,000 and $200,000 per child”.
Between 1995 and 2012, judges in the US allowed 178 children between the ages of 10 and 15 to marry in New Jersey, often to older adults and the Tahirih Justice Center reported a suspected 3,000 forced marriage cases across the US between 2009 and 2011.
In the UK, where forced marriage is now outlawed (though most assuredly still takes place in exploitative and closed domestic settings) there have been a number of cases of young Asian girls, who were born and educated in Britain, being taken to Pakistan or India for a “family holiday”, only to discover that they are actually there to be married off to much older relatives they have never met and with whom they have little in common. That is both sexual abuse and slavery.
Other cases in the UK have involved road and driveway laying gangs who have picked up off the streets men with mental health and addiction problems, imprisoned them and forced them to work for little or no wages and minimal amounts of food or illegal immigrants collecting cockles (seafood) in dangerous tidal waters for less than minimum wages while paying back “accommodation and signing on fees” all the time living in appalling, overcrowded and filthy conditions.
Slavery, in one form or another, is still common across the Middle East and especially in the Gulf States.
Although King Faisal abolished slavery in Saudi Arabia in 1962, the “employment” of domestic servants from the Philippines, Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Africa often results in conditions of enforced slavery and sexual exploitation.
Karl Anderson, a former Californian accountant, who became an accidental anti-slavery activist when a Facebook friend from the Philippines asked for help, now aids about 10 women a month escape abuse to go to one of the little-discussed shelters in Saudi Arabia established for “household maids.”
“It is slavery,” Anderson says. “Every day, I see the face of slavery.”
“There is a woman who was forced to eat a child’s faeces out of a diaper because she didn’t clean the diaper soon enough,” he says.
“Women are raped, tortured, denied food, denied water, made to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week. One woman was only allowed to eat the food that her sponsor family left on their plates. They are treated like dogs.”
In Qatar, an estimated 600 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh are dying every year in appalling conditions and extreme temperatures in the construction industry, including the building of the 2022 World Cup Stadium.
All of this has a long history of course. Slaves almost certainly built the Pyramids in Egypt and most other ancient buildings that survive throughout the world.
Slavery was abolished in the British Empire, which had been instrumental in shipping Africans to its sugar producing colonies in the West Indies for years, in 1833. The USA made slavery unconstitutional in 1865. The French abolished slavery in its colonies in 1848.
In my travels I have stood several times below a monument in Mozambique in southern Africa where “unruly” African slaves captured by British and Arab traders were hurled off the cliffs onto the rocks below, not unreminiscent of the behaviour of the Islamic State.
The sea there, where whales can be often seen migrating offshore, is wild and the noise, the blasting spray and the jagged rocks make you think; wondering what it must have been like for those young men and women to be ripped away from their families and tribes and set down in a completely alien environment after a very long and appalling sea journey shackled in the most terrible conditions.
Slavery is now illegal in all countries of the world, but in practice it continues in many places in many forms.
The fact is that there are now more slaves in the world today than ever there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade to the West indies and the southern United States.
President Obama declared January 2016 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
That’s a start, but let’s bring some more consciousness into our own lives.
First, let’s be more aware of how we treat others, particularly those who are weaker or less powerful than ourselves – and especially when we are angry or upset.
Secondly, let’s be more aware of others who may be the victims of exploitation. If you suspect something is going on, there are help or tip-off telephone lines in most developed countries.
And thirdly, if you want to discourage slave-worker exploitation you can find a list of slave-labour free companies by putting in your email address, (scroll down) HERE: and/or follow @EndSlaveryNow on Twitter.
PETER CLIFFORD 20th January 2016
Writing in recent days about the siege of Madaya in Syria, where 28 people were deliberately allowed to starve to death, made me ponder on the dark shadow of human cruelty that always hangs over our daily lives.
What is it that makes a presumably intelligent, well educated couple like President Assad and London-born wife Asma, who have 2 healthy children of their own, stand back and let other people’s children 30 miles away die from malnutrition and lack of food?
The Assads had the power to change that in an instant.
They could have supplied medical assistance that would have kept the starving alive, but chose not to do that either, because of politics and religion – the victims all belonged to wrong (Sunni) sect.
By contrast Alawite/Shia, supporters of the regime, trapped by an opposition siege in Kefraya and Al Fuah have received fairly regular airdrops of food and other supplies.
Similarly, what makes members of the Islamic State in sickening acts of cruelty, behead people, burn them alive or suicide bomb innocent tourists to death?
The acts of cruelty in war are endless. It’s as though the state of war “gives permission” for common humanity to be completely and illegally suspended – though the boundary between war combatants and non-combatants is becoming increasingly blurred.
And it is not just in war that cruelty manifests, we see it around us almost every day.
Take the cases of acid attack victims. More than 200 in the UK over the last 2 years and an estimated 1,000 a year in India, many of them there never officially reported or treated.
They also occur in the USA and South America and across Europa and Asia. In Bangladesh there have been 3,512 people attacked with acid between 1999 and 2013 alone, though annual numbers are at last reducing.
Acid attacks melt distinctive facial features like noses and ears that most of us take for granted, disfigures bodies, take away sight, cause deafness and ruin lives. The emotional and psychological damage is immeasurable.
Iqbal in Pakistan, a very handsome young man, was just 15 years old when he was attacked with acid.
He was a passionate dancer and danced professionally with his parents in wedding processions.
One night, Iqbal was approached by another man who sexually propositioned him but Iqbal said he wasn’t interested.
While sleeping at home along with his family, Iqbal had acid poured over his head.
He was left blind in both eyes by the attack and his lips and neck burned so badly that eating and drinking are extremely painful.
Iqbal is from a family of poor wood cutters, who dance to earn extra income.
Now aged 20 he is at last receiving treatment for the first time in 5 years.
It is not just our fellow humans that human beings are cruel to. It is also animals.
The reports of animals starved and beaten to death are endless on the Internet, including many animals that were supposedly “pets” or destined for our dinner plates.
And then you have the bizarre phenomena of people who lovingly care for their pets but starve or are cruel to their children.
All of which goes contrary to our natural instincts.
From a biological point of view, newly born and young children and animals are “cute”, innocent and appealing precisely to trigger an affectionate and protective bonding response from those around them, particularly their parents.
We have all probably done cruel things to people, animals or insects at some time in our lives, however “good” we try to be.
I have to confess that I once worked in a zoo where we had to feed the owls and other birds of prey with day-old-chicks.
If we had put live chicks into the cages for the birds to kill there would have rightly been a public outcry, so every week a box of freshly hatched little miracles would arrive at the zoo – and one by one we killed them by breaking their necks and storing them in the fridge.
After a short while, a friend and I could no longer do it – every death felt like an emotional knife wound and eventually such cruel actions became impossible.
Human cruelty and lack of care, which in regard to the young or the elderly can also be cruel, is a result of a disconnect with our feelings to one degree or another. The less we truly feel, the more we can separate ourselves from and ignore what goes on around us.
And we stop feeling of course when we are so full of pain and distress ourselves that feeling it threatens our functioning. Depression, is precisely that, pressing down our painful feelings, but those suffering depression are more likely to harm themselves than be cruel to others.
The dangerous ones are those that are so disconnected from their feelings that they act them out without taking responsibility for those actions. Rage, jealousy, rejection, fear, feelings of inadequacy or other strong emotions can trigger acts of cruelty, often on the weaker and most vulnerable.
Facing up to cruelty of many kinds in our world is not an easy thing to do. It is noticeable with my blog that when I write about people “starving to death” for example, the views of the site immediately go down and when I write about “battles and victories”, the number of views goes up! (It will be interesting to see how this article fares)
Extraordinarily, at the other side of the human coin, sometimes out of cruelty, pain and suffering some good things come.
Laxmi Saa, one of the acid victims mentioned above, was attacked when she was 15 years old merely because she rejected an offer of marriage. Her attacker got just 3 years for disfiguring her for life.
Despite her injuries, Laxmi is well known in India for her campaign to get the sale of acid regulated, because it is far too easy to buy and misuse it.
Now a designer clothes company in India, Viva N Diva, is employing and empowering her as a model for its latest range. Kudos and respect to the company and to Laxmi for her bravery and determination. (You can read more at the BBC)
Finally, what can we do in our own lives to lift the dark shadow of human cruelty hanging over the world?
We can certainly challenge, report and remove cruelty from our own life in whichever form it appears.
As I always say, if you can’t be right, be kind. No-one, animal or human, deserves cruelty.
Firstly, I wish all my readers a Happy New Year plus good health, prosperity and lots of love and kindness throughout 2016. Many thanks to all of you who visited my blog throughout 2015 – 719,764 times to be precise! Which is a phenomenal increase on the previous year (244,133).
I started this blog on January 1st 2011, so today is my 5th anniversary. In those 5 years the blog has had in excess of 1.29 million visitors and was read by an average of 1,972 people a day from 198 countries in 2015.
For many though, will it be a happier new year in 2016?
Across the world there are now thousands affected by extreme climate change phenomena. In the US hurricanes and tornadoes have destroyed homes and killed householders, in the UK some people had their homes flooded for the 3rd time in a month and it will be months before they can get back in, and in South America tens of thousands are displaced after rivers 6 metres above their normal levels burst their banks. And that was only December.
There will, unfortunately, be a lot worse to come unless we get to grips with what we are collectively doing to the planet.
For Syria and Iraq, about which I have written extensively, things still look grim. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and more than 10 million have been displaced from their homes. Tens of thousands more have fled to Europe or eke out a desperate existence in a refugee camp. Thousands have died, including many children, trying to make it across the Mediterranean “to a better life” in the EU.
And it does not look to get better any day soon. While politicians and diplomats endlessly talk, on the ground the fighting continues all day, every day and thousands more needlessly die or are seriously maimed or injured. Add to that the appalling, unfeeling and devilish actions of the Islamic State, and there does not seem a great deal to be optimistic about.
But optimistic I am. Every bad and hateful action leaves a residue of energy which eventually builds to a good reaction against it. The worse things get, the greater the demand for a positive response.
Too often we feel helpless and that there is little we can do. But there is. If you have spare cash donate to those groups that are making a difference. If you don’t, give some time or energy to those groups. If you do not have those either, support the petitions of human rights groups across the world who fight against the false imprisonment of individuals and for suppressed and threatened communities irrespective of their race, sex or religion. There is no shortage of causes.
For my part, I will continue to highlight events which mainstream media often ignore once the ratings start to sag and do my best to angle everything towards human rights and an appreciation that we are all equally human ( unless, of course, like the Islamic State and other barbarians, people descend into inhumanity and madness). Plus, in the darkness, the odd spark of humour and stories to uplift and inspire.
I also hope to produce some other work to personally help and grow the confidence of everyone not functioning to their full capacity. Watch this space.
In the mean time, if you can’t be right – be kind. Stand up and be counted when its appropriate and right, and stand back and observe when it is not. And we will see if the world is a better place in 2017. But until then I wish you all ….
Peter Clifford 1st January 2016
Frankly, the world has little choice but to fight the Islamic State. So as 2015 ends I offer 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016.
It is a movement that is violent, cruel, irreligious and without compassion and it cannot be left to dominate and destroy social structures in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Modern society in either the West or the East is not perfect. It is riven with failed attempts at equality, plurality, democracy and inclusivity – but it has progressed and most of us benefit to one degree or another from this stuttering progress.
I can write this blog because I live in a society which protects my right, by and large, to express my views.
Still not so in many countries in the world where some significant powers have poor human rights and lock up bloggers because they dare to expose an attitude that is contrary to that of the ruling elite.
But unless all of us stand up against the Islamic State (IS), then any rights we currently enjoy, however tentative, will be swept away.
IS administers by rules of its own creation, fear and demonstrations of violence to subdue opposition. It is not interested in negotiating compromise.
Personally, I am against war and violence and I hate bombs and guns. But when your family is threatened do you hold to those feelings as “inviolate principles” or do you defend your family?
Although it clearly may take more than a year, I therefore put forward (in no particular order) these 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016.
1. Moslems – Stand Up For the Society in Which You Live:
All those Moslems who oppose the actions of the Islamic State need to stand up for the countries and society’s in which they live.
It is not enough just to condemn the dreadful actions of IS and their misguided adherents in Paris, Tunisia, the US and across the world. It is necessary for Moslems to shun fear of persecution and stand up and say, “We oppose this obscenity. We support and are part of this community and will defend its right to exist and its values”.
And be willing to question Islamic attitudes to violence and religious beliefs.
In the Tennessee town of Chattanooga in the US they have set an example by doing just that.
Last July four Marines and a Sailor were killed in Chattanooga, recently described as America’s “most bible-minded city”, by a young Moslem who grew up there and who went on a mindless rampage.
Mindful of President Obama’s call for Moslems to both condemn violence and build stronger ties to their non-Moslem neighbours, Bassam Issa, the president of the “Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga”, has been giving talks in local schools and colleges.
In them Mr Issa tells students that “What’s happening right now is not religious, even though IS and Al Qaeda are covered as a religious thing. In reality, it’s political.”
And he is right. It’s the politics of domination through control, violence and murder rather than the ballot box.
Dr. Mohsin Ali, a child psychiatrist and another member of the Chattanooga Islamic Society, said “We can’t ignore the fact that violent extremists use an interpretation of the very same books and texts that we use. I feel like the Muslim community does need to do more”.
The day after the killings in Chattanooga at a memorial service for the killed servicemen, Dr Ali told the congregation that he and other Moslems in the city were grieving alongside everyone else.
He then asked the Moslems in the Baptist Church to stand as a sign of the allegiance to Chattanooga and to peace. When dozens of Moslems stood, the rest of the congregation applauded loudly.
That’s the way forward. Coming together rather than tearing apart.
We are all in this – our religious or non-religious beliefs are irrelevant.
2. THE REST OF US – STAND UP FOR MOSLEMS:
Using the events of IS and its followers to justify anti-Moslem beliefs, actions and opinions is just ignorance and blind stupidity.
It’s a sign of the immature using their inadequacy and personal anger (whatever the origins) to dump on others. If you feel that way, look deep inside yourself – not at scapegoats.
Apart from which Moslems are not hereditarily more violent than the rest of us.
The whole history of Christianity is full of violence against “non-believers” and non-conforming sects. Buddhists (the supposedly “peaceful religion”) are accused of dreadful atrocities against the Rohingya in northern Myanmar (Burma). “Spreading atheist thought” is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Saudi Arabia.
At the end of the day we are all fellow human beings put on this planet presumably to exercise our individuality and creativity. Therefore, our diversity should be celebrated and respected as our community’s strength – not undermined or attacked and made into its weakness.
3. OPPOSE SECTARIANISM:
Sectarianism, the belief that my sect (of the same religion) is better than your sect, is about as bright as the stupidity of anti-Moslem feelings described above.
And it is probably the biggest problem affecting the Middle East today, polarising the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, on one side and the Shiites (Shia), led by Iran, on the other.
In fact, the rise of the Islamic State can be traced back to Sunni suppression and sectarianism in Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussain, a Sunni who had persecuted the Shia (and Kurds) for years, Shiite politicians gained power in Iraq and excluded the Sunni.
Some of the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq were taken over by former Sunni military officers in Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, who fanned the flames of Sunni dissent, and hey presto the Islamic State emerges with an extreme Sunni orientated philosophy.
Considering the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is based on who they revere as the family leaders of Prophet Mohammad’s legacy and all the clashes, deaths and abuses that have followed, it’s up there with the Inquisition which the Roman Catholic Church imposed on others in various forms in Europe between the 12th and 19th Centuries, killing and torturing tens of thousands.
Pointless abuse which seeks to impose thought control on others.
4. KEEP ATTACKING ISLAMIC STATE FINANCE:
According to research at the beginning of December, the Islamic State rakes in about $80 million a month, $1.1 million a day coming from oil sales alone. The rest of their income comes from emptying banks, selling antiquities, ransoms and local taxation (“zakat”).
According to the report an IS “Emir” known as Abu Fatima Al-Tunisi ran off with $25,000 worth of “zakat”, leaving a note on Twitter for his “comrades” saying, “What state? What caliphate? You idiots.”
Then there is the problem of “50,000 ghost soldiers”, with commanders drawing salaries for say 250 men a month, when in fact they only have 150 in their brigade.
To deal with the problem IS sent round administrators who paid the salaries in person, but then they made deals with the commanders to get a cut, with the same result.
In other words, corruption within the Islamic State is rife, again saying much about the spiritual nature of the organisation – or lack of spirituality in general.
At the same time, the Coalition and Russia should continue dismantling IS oil processing plants, tankers and well heads, making them unusable, and the world’s financial markets should block any attempts to do business with them or seize any transferred funds where they are identified.
Turkey, Israel and Assad have all been accused of buying IS oil and it is probably true as it comes through middle-men who ship it around the Middle East for a profit until its origins are obscure.
Easy to say that people should stop paying ransom bribes – but more difficult to adhere to when members of your family and community are imprisoned and brutalised by members of this loathsome organisation.
5. CONTINUE PRECISION BOMBING ON THE ISLAMIC STATE:
As I said at the beginning, I am no lover of military solutions – but sometimes there is no choice because IS and their followers are bloodily killing anyone they can.
Precision bombing by Coalition aircraft has done a remarkably good job with few collateral civilian deaths, hitting IS military targets time after time and empowering groups like the Kurds to advance and take territory away from the Jihadists.
Preferably there should be no civilian deaths at all but clearly IS hangers-on do know by now what they are in for if they stay.
By contrast, random and indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime and now the Russian Air force too, has killed thousands of innocent civilians in the last 4 years and Assad’s Air Force are by far and away the biggest killers of civilians in Syria, far more than IS.
6. BATTLE THE ISLAMIC STATE ON MANY FRONTS:
In 2015 the Kurds in northern Syria have nearly tripled the territory they control, while at the same time they have helped to reduce the size of the IS caliphate by 14%.
One of the reasons that the Kurds (YPG/YPJ) in Syria have been so successful, apart from their innate determination and passion to survive, is that IS have found themselves stretched on too many fronts fighting too many battles and the Kurds have taken advantage of that.
According to analysis by the security company IHS Jane’s, IS activity in areas it controls has recently been most intense around Baghdad in Iraq and Damascus in Syria and much less near Kurdish controlled areas, suggesting they were overstretched.
When the Kurdish YPG for instance launched a campaign to retake Tal Abyad in northern Syria near the Turkish border, the forces of the Islamic State were widely spread elsewhere fighting battles in central and western Syria and in Iraq.
“The remaining forces in Tal Abyad were so depleted that they had to be re-enforced with… religious police units from Raqqa,” says IHS Jane’s.
While IS will continue no doubt to use the strategy of surprise, popping up unexpectedly in the most unlikely places, all other sides battling them on multiple fronts will put their fighters and their command and control structures under severe strain. That tension can’t be maintained indefinitely.
Along with this, arm, train and equip those who are most effective against IS and send in special forces not only to guide and help forces like the Kurds with air support but to conduct raids to take out the IS leadership.
7. GIVE IT TIME TO SELF DESTRUCT:
As long as everyone keeps up the pressure, time itself will see the Islamic State degrade and self-destruct.
Firstly, disillusion will set in, with the foreigners in particular discovering the caliphate is not the “earthly paradise” it was cracked-up to be. Living in dirty, and uncomfortable, dangerous conditions with bombs raining down and expensive food and electricity in short supply is probably not what they signed up for.
Escaping is not so easy either. A 17 year old Austrian girl who travelled to Syria to join IS last year, Sabra Kesinovic, is thought to have been beaten to death as she tried to escape in November. Many other potential escapees have been caught near the Turkish border and shot.
Secondly, a number of Sunni tribes who originally gave their allegiance to IS have also changed their mind and some have paid a terrible price for their “disloyalty” – around 900 members of the Al-Shaitat tribe in eastern Syria are believed to have been executed, crucified and beheaded.
The Islamic State’s aim with this is to spread terror and prevent further physical desertions, but it won’t prevent the loss of hearts and minds, it will only accelerate it.
Thirdly, the Islamic State is also riddled with corruption, as mentioned earlier. That will only increase as those in a position to take advantage of it will recognise a “sinking ship” when the see it and get out with their booty while they can.
Fourthly, IS was very successful in winning hearts and minds initially in areas it went into by providing food handouts and community services including financial support. With time that will become more and more difficult to sustain and be outweighed by its cruel and unjust treatment of those it believes have transgressed their rules.
And with time, those who were attracted to IS for “spiritual” reasons will eventually see that the whole organisation was cynically built around a religious philosophy to justify its actions, when in fact almost everything it does is against all modern definitions of decency and humanity and decidely “unspiritual”.
Can the Islamic State be eliminated completely? Probably not. Like Al Qaeda it will linger on in the warped minds and heads of those with vengeful personal agendas looking for an excuse to justify themselves.
But like Al Qaeda, it can be contained.
There is no shortage of problems in the world that need solutions, but this is the most pressing and like the Nazi threat of World War ll it must be met head on. Implementing the above 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016 will go a long way to make that happen.
Congratulations to Saudi Arabia as Saudi women take one small step into the 21st century by both voting and standing for council posts in last weekend’s municipal elections.
Right across Saudi Arabia from small villages to the largest cities, 20 women were elected to municipal council seats.
Of the 7,000 candidates who stood for election, 979 were women and 2,100 seats were up for the taking in 249 local councils, so 20 female winners represent only 1% of those appointed – but it’s a start when before you have had no representation at all.
The Saudi King also has a quota of 1,050 seats to fill with his appointees, so hopefully he will he will take the opportunity to let in a few more of the women candidates.
4 women were elected in Riyadh, the conservative capital and 2 in the predominately Shia Islam Eastern Province.
Another woman was elected in Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia, perhaps the country’s most cosmopolitan city, while one more gained a seat in the holy city of Medina, the site of Prophet Mohammed’s first mosque.
Another woman was elected in the village of Madrakah, 150 kilometres north of Mecca which over bad roads has the nearest hospital, pointing out that many women in her village ended up giving birth in cars.
Other issues raised by the women candidates were more nurseries to look after children while mothers worked, more community centres for sports and cultural activities, the aforementioned better roads, improved garbage collection and greener cities.
I suspect there might be some more directly feminist issues waiting to surface in the background, but with this tentative level of suppression release it is probably wise to save those for another day. Saudi Arabia’s extreme clerics will be enraged at the changes as it is.
Credit for the policies all go to the new Saudi leader, King Salman, the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef and the Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, plus a coterie of relatively young, well-educated Cabinet members who frequently travel to the West and other countries worldwide.
While I am no great believer in the inalienable rights or abilities of hereditary royals, when it’s all you’ve got and they hold all the power and the purse strings, that’s what you have to work with.
In an attempt to make the elections a more level playing field for women forced to wear the full face-veil the General Election Committee, presumably on orders from the Government, banned all candidates, male and female from showing their faces in promotional posters, advertising boards or online. They were also not allowed to appear on television.
In Jeddah, 3 generations of women from the same family voted for the very first time, the oldest being 94.
Her daughter reflected on how important it was to vote, saying, “I walked in and said I’ve have never seen this before. Only in the movies. It was a thrilling experience.”
That response, while understood, would probably be seen as “sad” in the West.
Especially as Saudi women are still not allowed to drive a car, go out on their own unless accompanied by a male chaperone (usually a close family member), go to a mixed swimming pool, compete in sports, or wear clothes or make-up that “may show up their beauty”.
Interestingly, in a show of support, Uber drivers in some of the major cities drove women to the polling stations in last weekend’s elections, for free (though I can’t help wondering how many men refused to accompany their wives or even let them out of the house?)
There is still a long way to go.
Saudi women who competed in the last Olympic Games were described as “prostitutes” by hardline clerics back home and the Saudi consultant to the Olympic Committee has even proposed this year, 2015, that Saudi Arabia be allowed to host the Games – but with no women at all taking part!
At a recent book fair in Jeddah, where books by female Saudi writers were displayed and women took part in Q and A panels (and even Donald Trumps’ books were on display), 2 men got up and protested when a female poet started quoting poetry from her new book.
One of the men, addressing the audience, asked, “Do you accept that a woman recites poetry?” Fortunately, the audience responded with an unequivocal ‘yes’ and the two men were escorted out.
In Saudi Arabia the roots of all this, on the surface at least, lie in Wahaabism the official religion of the State founded on the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, an 18th century cleric from the remote eastern interior of Arabia.
The main tenets of this religious philosophy is that there is only one God, Allah, and any that do not believe in him are unbelievers or apostates. The sectarian philosophy also does not believe in the worship and revering of clerics or saints and that there should be no shrines or places of worship other than those purely devoted to the “one God” (as defined by them).
This therefore excludes the Shiite Moslems who have numerous shrines and places of pilgrimage. In fact, in the original Wahaabi doctrines, jihad, or holy war against all “unbelievers”, including all other Moslems, was fully permissible.
In its extreme form Wahaabism forbids the “performing or listening to music, dancing, fortune telling, amulets, television programs (unless religious), smoking, playing backgammon, chess, or cards, drawing human or animal figures, acting in a play or writing fiction” and even the keeping or petting of dogs.
As far as women are concerned, they are forbidden to travel or work outside the home without their husband’s permission on the grounds that their “different physiological and biological structure” means they have a different family role to play, and if the husband does give permission to his wife to work outside the home, it can be withdrawn at any time.
As mentioned before, Wahhabism also forbids the driving of motor vehicles by women and sexual intercourse out of wedlock may be punished with beheading – although sex outside marriage is permissible with a “slave woman” (though probably not a woman with a “slave man” of course?).
(Just as well as Prince Bandar bin Sultan [former ambassador to the US and director of Saudi Intelligence] was the result of a “brief union” between his father, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and a 16 year old “black serving women” – though slavery has since been “formerly banned” in the kingdom.)
In all of this it is easy to see the where the Islamic State gets its basic tenets and “vindication” from, offering a “pure” form of Islam which is “justified” in taking over the world (See last week’s post on The Anatomy of an Islamic State Jihadist).
Wahaabism has been so successful because it formed an alliance with the militarily aggressive House of Saud back in the 18th century, eventually taking over the whole of the Arabian peninsular, and more recently because of the billions of dollars of oil revenue monies used to promote it.
The result however is a bloody and deadly sectarian schism in Islam between the Sunni (of which Wahaabism is a part) and Shia branch descendants of Prophet Mohammad. Until this is sorted the Middle East and many other parts of the Islamic world will remain a mess.
However, the apparent misogynist aspects of Islam, Wahaabi or otherwise, are not restricted to males of the Moslem religion, they are still too common in the rest of the world.
Here in the UK, British boxer, Tyson Fury, who became WBA World Heavyweight Champion in November 2015, recently caused controversy by declaring that “a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back – that’s my personal belief.”
Undoubtedly, he should keep his “personal beliefs” to himself, but I suspect that covertly a lot of men, wherever they are in the world, think the same way.
Such beliefs, in my view, are based on fear, pure and simple.
Again, as I have often written, our values are formed in childhood and if we grow up with bullying mothers, for whatever reason, and/or are encouraged by other males in the absurd notion that somehow men are “superior”, then we are more likely to gravitate to a male ethos that tries to suppress women in adulthood.
In fact it may be that suppression of women in the Islamic world and elsewhere which contributes to the disdain and disrespect that males show as adults towards women, is sometimes started by frustrated women taking out there anger at exclusion from full participation in the world, on their male (and female) children. And so the circle of deprivation and loss continues into the future.
The key to accelerating change is female education, as Malala Yousafzai, the 18 year old Pakistani, Noble Peace Prize winner has championed and to which, unsurprisingly, the Taliban and the Islamic State remain fiercely opposed.
At the Jeddah book fair mentioned earlier, the Saudi Minister of Education and Information, Adel al-Toraifi, said that an Arab reads six minutes a day, compared to the world average of 36 minutes.
He also said that the Arab world prints 27,809 books a year, which translates into 12,000 Arabs getting one book.
Compare that with China which publishes 440,000 books a year and the United States and the UK which publish just under 500,000 books a year between them.
Hopefully, the spread of and access to the Internet (when its male viewers are not accessing pornography) can help to change all that.
Peter Clifford – 16th December 2015
LIBYA HOLDS FIRST FULLY FREE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SINCE 1952 WITH HUGE FEMALE PARTICIPATION:
TUNISIA’S NEW “DEMOCRATIC” GOVERNMENT ALREADY SEEKING TO CONTROL STATE OWNED MEDIA OUTLETS:
EGYPT’S ARMY, WITH VAST BUSINESS INTERESTS, IN NO HURRY TO HAND POWER TO DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRESIDENT:
YEMEN, FOLLOWING ONE–CANDIDATE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, FACING HUGE PROBLEMS OF POVERTY, INSURGENCY AND STARVATION:
BAHRAIN AND GULF STATES STILL CONTROLLED BY BACKWARD FACING FAMILY AUTOCRACIES AND NO REAL DEMOCRACY YET IN SIGHT:
TIMELINE – 8th JULY 2012 14.08 GMT:
Congratulations to Libya on holding yesterday its first fully free parliamentary election since 1952.
Turnout was thought to be around 60% and notable for the large number of women who were voting for the first time.
At some polling stations women easily out-numbered men.
The election will select a 200 member General National Congress (GNC) from the 2,600 individual candidates and 400 political organisations who stood in the poll.
The most significant party to emerge so far is the Justice and Construction Party, consisting mainly of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The GNC when elected will pick a prime minister and cabinet. The GNC was also meant to choose 60 members to make up a committee to write a new Libyan constitution which will be voted on in a referendum next year, but the National Transitional Council (NTC), which will stand down as soon as a new government has been formed, has said the the constitutional committee will now be the subject of a separate national vote.
However, as elsewhere in the “Arab Spring” revolutions, the transition to the democratic process continues to be very rocky.
In Libya, especially in the east around Benghazi, some polling stations were burnt to the ground or election material and voting papers destroyed and a helicopter carrying elections workers was shot at with heavy calibre bullets on Friday killing one of the occupants and forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing.
Armed groups opposed to the election and wanting autonomy for oil-rich eastern Libya, also surrounded and closed the oil refineries at Ras Lanouf, Brega and Ajdabiya. In a separate incident another person was killed near a polling station in Ajdabiya.
In the current election of the 200 available seats, in a system devised by the NTC, the west of Libya will have 100, 40 will come from the south and 60 from the east. Many from the east think that the parliament will therefore be too “Tripoli orientated”, a sentiment which many in Benghazi province shared under Gaddafi as well. The BBC has a video report of the election, HERE:
Hopes for an effective and solid democracy in Libya also remain on shaky ground with the recent detention for 26 days of International Criminal Court (ICC) defence lawyers for Saif Gaddafi and their leading counsel, Melinda Taylor’s assertion since her release that it will be impossible for Saif to get a fair trial in Libya. You can see a video of her statement, HERE:
Further worries for Libya’s progress are the huge tribal divisions and rivalries that still exist throughout the country, in some cases relating to disputes over killings or land that go back generations.
Two weeks ago, more than 100 people were killed following a clash between the Zintani and Mishasha tribes around the desert town of Misdah, both sides using weapons obtained from the former Gaddafi military. (Further background, HERE:)
TUNISIA’S NEW “DEMOCRATIC” GOVERNMENT ALREADY SEEKING TO CONTROL STATE OWNED MEDIA OUTLETS:
In Tunisia, the first of the “successful” Arab Spring revolutions, the entire membership of a commission set up to reform the country’s media, resigned this week, citing interference and censorship from the newly elected government.
Kamel Labidi, the head of the The National Authority for the Reform of Information and Communication, said that the commission did “not see the point of continuing to work”.
The democratically elected majority Islamist government recently dismissed the senior executives of state-owned radio and TV channels and in another case fined the owner of a privately-run TV station for showing an animated film that the Government deemed blasphemous.
In reaction to these moves, Reporters Without Borders, the international media watchdog, said, “In the absence of clear legislation respecting international standards, senior public broadcasting personnel are being appointed in a way reminiscent of the old regime’s methods.”
The Tunisian Government has also failed to implement decrees protecting the rights of journalists and regulating new audio-visual media.
EGYPT’S ARMY, WITH VAST BUSINESS INTERESTS, IN NO HURRY TO HAND POWER TO DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRESIDENT:
In Egypt, newly elected President Mohammed Mursi, from the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned organisation for years under Mubarak), promised massive crowds in Tahrir Square, the centre of the revolution, that he would represent all Egyptians of all faiths, but whether the Army Council that effectively still controls the country will actually allow him any real power remains to be seen. The BBC has a video report of the event, HERE:
The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf) that has been running Egypt since the fall of Mubarak, delayed the announcement of the winning candidate in the election and gave itself sweeping new powers just a few days before the presidential vote.
Scarf not only dissolved the newly elected parliamentary assembly but gave itself new authority to enact legislation, control the state budget and appoint a panel that will draft the new constitution.
The army, which controls vast sections of the Egyptian economy, including manufacturing of consumer goods, food, mineral water, construction, mining, land reclamation and even tourism (while its accounts are held secretly), is clearly not going to let go of its controlling reins without another fight.
YEMEN, FOLLOWING ONE-CANDIDATE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, FACING HUGE PROBLEMS OF POVERTY, INSURGENCY AND STARVATION:
In Yemen, where another Arab Spring revolution of sorts, saw the departure of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in February after ruling for 33 years and the unopposed election of his deputy President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, chaos still reigns, especially in the south where Al Qaeda insurgents have tried to take control.
Government forces have made gains during recent months, recapturing the insurgent held towns of Shuqra, Zinjibar and Jaar, but things came to a halt in the middle of June when a suicide bomber killed General Salem Ali Qatan who was both leading the battle in the south and moves to reform the army.
Another suicide bomber killed 100 soldiers in May while they were rehearsing for a parade for “National Unity Day” in the capital Sannaa.
Apart from that Yemen has massive problems with unemployment, malnutrition, poverty, lack of water and electricity and starvation on a huge scale.
And additionally many of Saleh’s family members have yet to relinquish power over key positions in the air force, Republican Guard, Presidential Guard and security services. (Further background on Yemen, HERE:)
A new democracy? That remains to be seen.
But at least all the above have made some sort of move forward.
BAHRAIN AND GULF STATES STILL CONTROLLED BY BACKWARD FACING FAMILY AUTOCRACIES AND NO REAL DEMOCRACY YET IN SIGHT:
In Syria the “jury is still out” on the likely result in the bloody battle between President Assad and the pro-democracy Opposition, that has so far claimed more than 16,500 lives, but recent signs seem to indicate that the rebel fighters are making progress.
In Bahrain however, where the pro-democracy movement has been demonstrating almost daily against the Government for 17 months now, things at times seem to be going backwards.
A sly, Al Khalifa family-controlled and King Hamad led autocracy, constantly bleats about how “liberal and open” it is and trumpets its “march towards democracy”.
Yet behind closed doors, for example, people who criticise the Government get arrested without warrant and despite the installation of recording equipment in police interview rooms, detainees are routinely beaten in unfinished building lots before being taken to police stations.
Fahed Al-Sumait wrote on EA Worldview recently:
“For now, it is clear that the current political system is neither monarchical nor democratic enough to exploit the benefits of either. The lesson appears to be that a country cannot balance power effectively between an appointed cabinet and an elected parliament.
In an absolute monarchy, the king calls the shots and appoints who he wants to help him govern. By contrast, in a fully democratic system, competing ideologies vie for political dominance through various electoral systems, and the government branches function as a system of checks and balances. But …. where the systems are mixed, the executive and legislative branches are inherently locked in a power struggle.
This almost guarantees perpetual confrontation rather than some degree of symbiosis. The hybrid approach does not appear to be a formula for effective governance, but may instead be a structural defect that will continue to foster the kind of political chaos for which ……. is increasingly known.
It could be argued that the real question going forward is not how ……. will navigate through the current storm, but rather when (or if) it will be able to effectively repair its sinking ship.”
Filling in the gaps in the passage above you would see that Fahed was actually writing about Kuwait, where the elected parliament is in conflict with the upper chamber appointed by the Emir and has been suspended, but he could have just as well been writing about Bahrain.
Much the same system exists in Bahrain and throughout the Gulf area where family monarchies and sheikhdoms control their oil and gas producing fiefdoms. (Further background on Bahrain, HERE:
In my view, the “Arab Spring” revolutions will eventually reach these countries too – modern media, communications and “an idea whose time has come” will ensure that – but when and how nobody knows.
To those fighters for democracy, human rights and freedom across the Gulf – “Sumood” (Remain Steadfast) – your time will come, history is on your side.
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.
FATHER AND 4 YEAR OLD SON BLASTED BY POLICE BIRDSHOT WHILE SITTING IN THE STREET:
BAHRAIN’S PATHETIC LEGAL SYSTEM TOO AFRAID OF LOSING FACE TO ACQUIT ALL MEDICS ON ALL CHARGES:
BIASED JUDICIARY CONTINUES TO PLAY GAMES WITH VICTIMS OF LAWS PREVENTING SELF-EXPRESSION:
FURTHER RESTRICTIONS ON THE UNIVERSAL RIGHT OF SELF EXPRESSION VIA SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE WAY:
In a week that has seen a 11 year old released after more than 1 month in detention, more children arrested, some in the middle of the night, and now yesterday a small child serously injured with birdshot, Bahrain’s Opposition Tweeters can be forgiven for asking on Twitter whether the Al Khalifa Government has “run out of grown-ups to arrest and shoot?”.
Ali Hassan, the 11 year old (sometimes reported as 12) was released on bail on Monday this week after being initially imprisoned and then held in a juvenile detention centre.
While in detention the six grade student was forced to take his exams while behind bars, not the most conducive environment for clear thinking and exam preparation. All Ali wanted to do was to go home and be with his Mum.
Ali is still charged with “illegal gathering” and “rioting” and accused of trying to block the street against entry by police into his village, and will have to return to court on 20th June.
The youngster says he was just playing in the street with 2 friends when they were chased by plaincloths police. When Ali fell over while trying to escape, he was taken away and unecessarily incarcerated. You can hear his own testimony in this Al Jazeera interview, HERE:
As Ahlam Oun points out an “illegal gathering” is a meeting together of 5 people or more, which would of course make many family meetings “against the law”.
In her blog post Ahlam suggests that this has become the authorities “quick-fix” to neutralise anyone they don’t like, but conversely they fail to prosecute anyone who supports them when the Al Fateh movement for example hold an unlicensed rally.
There have also been numerous reports of villages being raided this week by police in the middle of the night, especially between the hours of 1.30 and 4.30 am.
The raids seem systematic and deliberate, one by one targeting in the last 7 days the villages of Salmabad, Daih, Jidhafs, Al Musala, Aali, Sanabis, Sitra, Buri, Muharraq, Duraz, Bilad Al Qadeem and many more and arresting people while they are still half asleep.
The raids are often noisy, aggressive and violent and almost always without a warrant to arrest.
Ali Ashoor, shown here, is 16 years old and has been detained since January 5th. He is currently the youngest prisoner in Jaw prison.
Yesterday Hassan AlSamea, 12 years old, was dragged away from his mother and arrested despite her attempts to prevent it.
The despondent face of Hassan’s Mother and those of the smirking female police officers having succeeded in their task, say it all.
FATHER AND 4 YEAR OLD SON BLASTED BY POLICE BIRDSHOT WHILE SITTING IN THE STREET
Worst of all this week is the shooting of a 4 year old child (earlier reported as 5 years old.
EDITOR: Can someone tell me why there are always problems in Bahrain getting ages right?)
Ahmed Naham was sitting in the street with his Father who was selling fish, as photographic evidence confirms.
Mr. Naham says the police coming down the street told them to “go away” but as he prepared to pick up his child, a policeman opened fire. The 4 year old now has 2 pellets in his left eye and more in other parts of his body. The father has pellets in his thigh, stomach and arms. Video on the Internet shows police carrying the boy away, closely followed by his father.
After arriving at the Salmaniya Medical complex, police and security service personnel prevented people and some members of the family from speaking to the father or seeing the little boy.
He is now undergoing treatment.
EDITOR: It seems very evident to me that this is a new tactic – target children and indirectly intimidate their parents in the hope that they will keep their offspring away from protests. Fat chance – far too late for that! Sumood.
BAHRAIN’S PATHETIC LEGAL SYSTEM TOO AFRAID OF LOSING FACE TO ACQUIT ALL MEDICS ON ALL CHARGES:
But of course, the persecution of adults in the Shia community in Bahrain does not stop either. This morning,Thursday, while nine of the medics who have been on trial for over a year in military and civil courts, were acquitted of all charges, nine others were convicted.
Those acquitted following a series of internationally condemned and farcical trials were Zahra AlSammak, Hassan AlTublani,
Fatima Haji, Nada Dhaif, Ahmed Omran, Rola AlSaffar, Najah Khalil, Mohammed AlShehab and Sayed Marhoon.
However, the following were found guilty, albeit with reduced sentences, Ali AlEkri (5 years), Ghassan Dhaif (1 year), Mahmood Asghar (6 months), Bassem Dhaif (1 month), Ebrahim AlDemistani (3 years), (Nader Diwani and Abdulkhaliq AlOraibi (both 1 month), Dhiaa AbuIdrees (2 months) and Saeed AlSamaheeji (1 year).
Two other medics did not appear in court to appeal their 15 year sentences, having either gone abroad or underground in Bahrain.
The court threw out some of the most serious charges such as “occupying the Salmaniya hospital” and “possessing weapons”, piles of which, including chains, a sword and an AK 47, were brought into court at a previous hearing.
“This is an unjust ruling,” Twefik Dhaif, the uncle of two of the convicted medics said.
“These are the elite doctors in this country. We have 15 doctors in my family, and most of the people they have treated were Al Khalifas,” referring to Bahrain’s controlling family. You can read Al Jazeera’s report, HERE:
Clearly this has nothing to do with justice. Everyone knows that all the medics did was help treat the injuries of protesters in very difficult circumstances.
Reducing sentences and freeing some is the best the Bahrain Government and judicial system can come up with in the face of continued international criticism and in an a pathetic attempt to save face. And it is not enough.
Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, said after the verdict, “It is a travesty of justice that the trials continued and that the medics are now sentenced to jail time”.
Dr. Nada Dhaif, the only one of the doctors on trial allowed to travel, spoke at a demonstration in Dublin on 12rh June, HERE: supported by other speakers such Jamila Hanan (aka Frankie Dolan), HERE: Respect to you both for your clear statements.
INCOMPETENT JUDICIARY CONTINUES TO PLAY GAMES WITH VICTIMS OF LAWS PREVENTING SELF-EXPRESSION:
And the injustice continues. Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was due in court again this week but was remanded in prison again, without a court visit, until 18th June. He is also due in court on 19th May on another charge, but no-one will be surprised if that hearing is delayed also.
All part of the not-so-sophisticated sadistic mental torture practiced by the Al Khalifa Government.
Ahmed Aoun, an imprisoned 17 year old student, who had a police shotgun pellet embedded in his right eye, was denied an operation at the end of May, but now 2 weeks later the surgery has been carried out. The delay may have cost him his sight.
He was originally arrested while receiving treatment at a private hospital for his injuries which were sustained while supporting a peaceful demonstration.
Now comes news that Sayed Hadi Al Musawi, a former Opposition MP who recently gave testimony at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights, has been called for questioning today at the Public Prosecutor’s office following a complaint by the Ministry of Interior.
At the time of the UPR hearing local loyalist media in Bahrain referred to the participants as “traitors” and they were threatened with prosectuion by the Minister of Interior himself.
The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement, who also attended the UPR session, said “Regardless of whether this relates to Sayed Hadi’s involvement in the UPR there is no justification for the call for investigation. Sayed Hadi is an opposition activist and human rights defender who has always worked within the framework of the law.
This is is another attempt to try to silence the opposition and does not constitute a serious attempt by the authorities to take the country out of the current crisis.”
FURTHER RESTRICTIONS ON THE UNIVERSAL RIGHT OF SELF EXPRESSION VIA SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE WAY:
In addition to all that the likely direction of further arrests and prosecutions is indicated by a statement reported in the press by the recently appointed Minister of State for Information Affairs, Samira Rajab.
Samira Rajab, a past supporter of dictator Sadam Hussein apparently, said that Bahrain is set to introduce tough new laws to combat the “misuse” of social media.
Claiming that action was necessary to “guarantee the security of the state”, the minister said, “We have a right to punish those who indulge in seditious behaviour and create disunity among the people.
We have to think of how to protect our national security. We have these new threats and we have to see how we can tackle those threats”.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Bahrain Centre for Strategic and International Studies and Energy, she asserted that “social media had been and continues to be abused by the so-called human rights activists”, citing claims “that drowning victims had been killed by torture” and that “sickel cell victims” had been killed by security forces.
(EDITOR: Though independent examination of victims in both those cases has indicated that the victims had been severely tortured before death.)
Compounding the Al Khalifa Government’s inane and immature ability to understand the rights of individuals to self-expression in the modern world, the King, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa held a meeting at the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Command Headquarters.
Also present at the family gathering were Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, State Minister for Defence Affairs Lieutenant General Dr. Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa and BDF Chief of Staff Major General Shaikh Daij bin Salman Al Khalifa.
In his speech to the officers present, the King said yesterday, “Our armed forces are the protectors of the nation’s achievements and everybody must know that whoever disrespects the forces or its leaders is in fact abusing us”.
We cannot tolerate,” the King continued, “Any irreverence of our beliefs, social values and armed forces in the name of freedom of expression. All competent executive agencies have to take the necessary measures to address these violations in accordance with the law”.
TRANSLATION: “Criticise the armed forces, police or security forces and we will take that personnally and make up new laws to prosecute you for defamation”. For the oppressed in Bahrain it does not get any easier.
AFTER 2 DAYS UN OBSERVERS REACH SITE OF 4th MASSACRE TO STILL FIND BODY PARTS AND THE STENCH OF BURNT FLESH:
HOURS OF FIGHTING AS FSA STRIKES BACK IN DEFENCE OF ATTACKED PROTESTERS IN DAMASCUS:
TIMELINE – 9th JUNE 2012 23.02 GMT:
UN observers finally made it yesterday into the deserted farming village of Mazraat Al-Qubeir, 2 days after a reported massacre of more than 80 people, at least half of them women and children.
Despite the claims by the Syrian Government that it was “nothing to do with them” there was clear evidence of armored-vehicle tracks in the vicinity and some homes were damaged by rockets from armored vehicles, grenades and weapons ranging in calibre.
Only the Syrian army has armored vehicles and heavy weapons.
In some houses there was still evidence of human flesh, blood and body parts and the air was filled with the stench of burnt bodies. The UN are still trying to establish exactly what happened.
Neighbours of the community blame miltia gangs from nearby Alawite villages. The BBC’s Paul Danahar accompanied the UN team and was witness to what they found in this video report, HERE:
HOURS OF FIGHTING AS FSA STRIKES BACK IN DEFENCE OF ATTACKED PROTESTERS IN DAMASCUS:
Early this morning, Saturday, Deraa in the south of the country came under heavy shelling and 17 people were reported killed, 10 of them women.
Yesterday also saw some of the heaviest fighting in Damascus since the conflict began with Syrian Army troops opening fire on anti-government protesters and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) retaliating in their defence.
FSA fighters openly appeared at a rally in Kfar Souseh and attacked an Army checkpoint in the same area.
Clashes additionally occurred in the Damascus suburbs of Qaboun and Barzeh with tank fire until 1.30 am on Saturday morning. The FSA attacked a power plant in Qaboun with rocket-propelled grenades, setting fire to a generator and causing blackouts. The attack left buses charred and a smashed car.
Maath al-Shami, an opposition activist said, “Yesterday was a turning point in the conflict. There were clashes in Damascus that lasted hours. The battle is in Damascus now.” Associated Press has a fuller report, HERE:
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 Gulf Daily News 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.
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.