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.
1/1/11 Peter Clifford – www.petercliffordonline.com : NEW BEGINNINGS : WOMEN’S RIGHTS – Wasting 50% of human capacity… I thought this was a pretty good date to start a new blog – So Welcome to this new site, a new start and to a New Year!
One of the things that has concerned me over the years is the appalling treatment of women – I suppose from my perspective as a therapist I have heard their stories first hand and it leaves an impact.
Two women who have come to the fore recently, Aung San Suu Kyi the Burmese Democracy leader who was held under house arrest for 15 years until her release on 13th November 2010, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani sentenced to death by stoning for “adultery” in Iran despite the fact that her husband was already dead, illustrate my point.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party legitimately won 81% of the seats in the Burmese Parliament in 1990 and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, yet she has never been allowed to take her place as the country’s leader.
She has also had to stand by completely helpless as her English husband died of cancer in Cambridge in the U.K. for she knew that if she left the country she would never be allowed to return.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani apart from being committed to a barbaric death by stoning was reportedly sexually abused and mistreated for years by her husband. A male friend who – again reportedly -murdered the husband, has not been imprisoned. Both her son and her lawyer have however been put in prison and another lawyer has fled into exile.
In some countries women are still not allowed to drive a car, go out alone or even to have an education. Frankly, in the 21st Century this is completely unacceptable and to me smacks of blatant and brutal male domination and control. There is no justification for any of this.
Even worse, in some countries female foetuses are routinely aborted in favour of the “supremacy” of the preferred choice of male children.
Woman make up roughly 50% of the human population. They therefore make up 50% of its talent, skills, intelligence, inventiveness and human potential. As a human race we are fools if we suppress it and waste that resource.
Women cannot contribute fully to human development without education, support, encouragement and the freedom to express themselves, and in my view the planet needs all the help it can get right now.
Fulfilled mothers will also produce and raise fulfilled and contented children who are more likely to turn into effective adults.
The Women’s Liberation movement in the 60’s addressed some of the issues in the West and redressed the male/female balance to some degree.
Now it needs good and true men wherever they are in the world, living under whichever religion or political and social system, to support the right of women to be equal and to lead full and active lives in any area or activity that they choose.
And more than this, it needs women to stand up for themselves both individually and collectively for the right to equality and freedom of opportunity.
I realise that many women are brutalised and cowed into submission, but it seems to me that too many women acquiesce to the status quo and allow their fellow women (and their daughters) to be overruled, suppressed and controlled unnecessarily.
Women deciding to change themselves and what they are prepared to put up with can make the biggest difference to entrenched attitudes and bring about the quickest changes.
So that is my first thought for 2011 – the beginning of a new decade. I hope it is a decade of immense change for women’s freedom, rights and equality –and it if is we will all benefit, the whole human race.
Until the next time,
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
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