Thursday, 16 October 2014

Abandonment of "Bring Back our Girls"

Original Source:

Six months after the armed group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Nigerian girls from a boarding school in the northeastern town of Chibok, 219 remain in captivity after 57 escaped.
That may come as a surprise to many because the April 14 mass abduction that drew global shock, condemnation, and media attention has since been largely forgotten - except in Chibok that is.
Every day at Unity Fountain in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, family members of the girls, community members, and citizens in solidarity gather to chant the message that was heard around the world last April: "Bring back our girls."
None of the young women so far have been rescued, despite a global #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign that went viral and garnered support from such high-profile figures as the US president's wife, Michelle Obama, and Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
World leaders from countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Canada and Israel offered assistance to Nigeria to free the schoolgirls, but to date no diplomatic or military action has secured their release.
No end in sight: Boko Haram's bloody legacy
"As far as our girls are concerned, they have been abandoned," said Mkeki Mutah, an uncle of two of the missing - 17-year-old Saratu and 18-year-old Elizabeth.
"There is a saying: 'Actions speak louder than words.' Leaders from around the world came out and said they would assist to bring the girls back, but now we hear nothing. The question I wish to raise is: why?" Mutah told Al Jazeera.
"If they knew they would not do anything, they wouldn't have even made that promise at all. By just coming out to tell the world, I see that as a political game, which it shouldn't be so far as the girls are concerned."
Moving on
Thousands of people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks since the group was established in 2002 in its fight to create an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.
On April 14 - in one of its most brazen assaults to date - Boko Haram fighters stormed a high school in Chibok after dark as hundreds of young women wrote exams. The students were then loaded onto trucks and driven off. Fifty-seven managed to escape as they were being hauled away or soon after.
Boko Haram has demanded a swap for detained fighters in exchange for the girls, but so far President Goodluck Jonathan has refused.
Outrage over the abductions soon spread and the world's media began marking the number of days since the schoolgirls disappeared. But six months later, world leaders and the Western media have since shifted their attention to the international fight against the group calling itself Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq and the threat of Ebola.

Despite decreasing attention, a small but faithful group of supporters is trying to keep pressure on the Nigerian government - and the spotlight on the missing Chibok teenagers. Bring Back Our Girls campaigners in Nigeria still meet daily and they organised a Global Week of Action from October 11-18 to mobilise people around the world to the girls' plight.
On Tuesday in Abuja they will march to President Jonathan's villa to demand the immediate rescue of the missing girls from Chibok, a town 130km from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.
Jonathan has been accused of keeping silent on the mass abduction and failing to bring the girls home. He responded in June saying his government would never abandon the search.
"My government and our security and intelligence services have spared no resources, have not stopped and will not stop until the girls are returned home," the president said in a Washington Post opinion piece.
But months later, that pledge still remains unfulfilled - and for those affected the international media, too, has also failed to follow up on the story that dominated global headlines at the time.
Hadiza Bala Usman said international attention to the girls' plight has not amounted to anything [Ashionye Ogene]
"People need to remember that 219 girls remain in captivity," Hadiza Bala Usman, a protest coordinator, told Al Jazeera. "We appreciate the fact that the media propelled a lot of support around the world, but that support has not translated into any rescue. For us, if whatever is said and done doesn't translate into the rescue of the girls, it hasn't really achieved anything."
'Exercise patience'
While the Nigerian military has made little progress in tracking down the missing teenagers, the government, however, has highlighted its achievements in neutralising core commanders of Boko Haram.
Last month it released a statement announcing the death of Mohammed Bashir, a man it claimed featured in Boko Haram's recent video allegedly posing as the group's leader Abubakar Shekau, who the government said had been killed in a military operation.
The government said it is doing all it can to bring back the students.
"It has been hard to rescue the girls, but rescuing the Chibok girls has remained a focus of the Nigerian government, despite all that is happening on other fronts," Mike Omerri, director general of the National Orientation Agency, told Al Jazeera.
Omerri said releasing information publicly about the pursuit of the students wouldn't be beneficial.
"Because rescue efforts require regular information about troops and their activity, this could lead to disruption of tracing them. Therefore, the Nigerian government is asking all citizens to exercise patience."
'Pleading for more voices'
Peter Joseph's sister Elizabeth was taken [Ashionye Ogene]
But patience has run out in the town, and for some the hope of finding them has disappeared.
"Our Chibok people have given up already. They don't even believe there is a rescue operation going on," said Peter Joseph, brother of Elizabeth, 17. "Each time I speak to my mother about my sister Eli she always cries. They were taken away alive, and we just don't know where she is or what is happening to her. That feels worse than knowing she's dead."
Members of the Chibok community described how their town has been torn apart. Victor Ibrahim Garba, uncle of 18-year-old Naomi Stover, said: "There are a lot of parents in Chibok that are dead today. A lot of parents have died because of heartache … It has affected me and my family psychologically, emotionally and otherwise."
Garba said the international fury that erupted in April is again needed to help free the teenagers.
"Whatever it takes, however long it takes, we are pleading for more voices. We are here every day under the sun and in the rain for others in our community and around the world to see that we are here. We will not stop until the girls are back even if it takes 100 years, even if it is just one person that remains standing.
"We demand the girls are brought home from hell, and we are pleading with people around the world to come to our aid. We are still here."

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Long and Lonely Fight of Soni Sori

Original Source:

In a crowded auditorium at a conference on gender-based violence in Delhi this month, a frail woman sits, silently listening as lawyers and activists take turns to speak. When the discussion shifts to atrocities on adivasi (tribal) women, she takes center stage. When she speaks, the crowd listens in silence. Soni Sori, a schoolteacher, speaks about the fate of women in Chhattisgarh, an Indian state that has been engulfed in violence and conflict, with tribal civilians caught in the crossfire between Maoists and government security forces.
Within this mineral-rich Indian state, the genesis of conflict has been complex. It is a mix of deep neglect of the poor and also, some would say, lopsided development plans. But beyond simplistic explanations of conflict, undeniable is the loss of lives and brutality unleashed in the name of counterinsurgency and fighting for the poor. For years, women and children have born the brunt of this cruelty.
In 2013, at least 1,380 rapes were reported in Chhatisgarh, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau. The controversial and now-disbanded Salwa Judum, a self-protection force formed with local civilians and later declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2011, face at least 99 counts of alleged rape since its inception in 2005.
It was against this backdrop that Soni Sori, all of 35, was arrested in 2011 and accused of being linked to the Naxals, an armed, left-wing extremist group that has waged war against the Indian state for decades. She was sexually tortured in custody. Human rights activists worldwide campaigned for her release. Amnesty International declared her a “prisoner of conscience,” turning the spotlight on atrocities she’d been subjected to. Now out on bail, Sori spoke to me about the inhumane sexual torture she endured, the dismal state of women’s prisons in Chhattisgarh, her fight ahead, and her optimism on women’s rights.
Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori speaks to Amnesty International India about her case and thanks the organization for its support in advocating for her release. (Amnesty International India)
Priyali Sur: It's been almost three years since you were first taken into police custody. Do you remember every detail?
Soni Sori: It was past 10 at night. I was asleep when the cops came and woke me up, saying the superintendent of police wanted to meet me. The superintendent, Ankit Garg, asked me to sign documents that would confirm I was involved with the Maoists. I refused. He then asked the lady constables to leave, warning them that what happened inside the police station that night should not be told to anyone.
The police officials started abusing me, calling me a whore and saying I indulge in sexual acts with Maoists. They stripped me naked, made me stand in an “attention” position and gave me electric shocks on various parts of my body. I still didn't relent. They then shoved red chili powder inside my vagina. By now, I was losing consciousness, but I refused to sign the documents. The cops started inserting stones into my private parts. Many stones—so many that they started falling out. I finally collapsed.
The next morning, I could barely move when I was taken to court. My biggest complaint is that the magistrate didn't even see me once and sent me to prison. In the days that followed, I was admitted to the hospital, where they chained me to the bed. When I asked why, they said it was procedural. Due to the stones, it was difficult and painful for me to even urinate. Only after I wrote to the court was I taken for treatment. 
Sori was ultimately referred to the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, where stones were removed from her vagina and rectum. But her torture and humiliation in the prison continued. In April 2013, a group of human rights organizations wrote to the Chhattisgarh chief minister, demanding the end of ill treatment of Soni Sori and other inmates in Jagdalpur, the central jail. They said Sori was being subjected to a psychiatric evaluation to declare her mentally unsound and create doubts over the veracity of her complaints of sexual torture.
PS: How long were you in prison and what is it like for the women inmates inside jail?
SS: I spent two and a half years in all, and spent time in four jails [Tihar, Raipur, Jagadalpur, and Kolkata]. The plight of girls and women is deplorable inside the Chhattisgarh jail. There is an urgent need for proper health care and sanitation. During their menstruation, women inmates are not given any sanitary pads. They have just one piece of cloth, which they wash and reuse as a pad. At times, due to the unavailability of pads and clean cloth, many even have blood trickling down their knees. It is extremely humiliating. Due to such unhygienic conditions, most women suffer from vaginal discharge, problems like “safed paani” [vaginal discharge] and foul-smelling urine. Women keep waiting to visit a doctor, but they are only taken after a very long wait.
The way women inmates are treated is inhuman. They are themselves made to clean the toilets and if anyone complains, the cops beat her up and put her in an isolated cell. No woman is allowed to keep more than one sari. If families send them more, the cops burn the extra sari. They are made to do hard labor but given a poor diet. If a mother dares to ask for more for her crying child, she is beaten up.
PS: Are the inmates also sexually abused by the police?
SS: The inmates are mentally tortured and harassed. A naked drill is a common thing. I was tired of being asked to strip again and again and again. They would strip me and accuse me of being a Maoist. …  They would then humiliate me by inspecting my breasts with their batons and forcing me to spread my legs. It’s a mental torture. Not just me, but they do this to other women inmates as well. There are many minor girls as well inside, but they are falsely recorded as majors in the files. Many 13- to 14-year-old girls are brought in and accused of being Naxals.
According to Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, an organization working for tribal people in Chhattisgarh, grave human rights violations are taking place in the prisons of Chhattisgarh. Himanshu has been fighting for justice for Sori. He says that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all the prisons across the world to carry out human right audits, but has been denied access to Chhattisgarh prisons. The state has been seen as the epicenter of Maoist conflict for a long time.
In February, after almost two and a half years in jail, Sori was finally granted bail by the Supreme Court of India. She is free to go anywhere but has to report to the nearest police station every Monday, regardless of the location. Sori now wants to work from Chhattisgarh, along with a human rights lawyer, to help other women who have been falsely accused and are languishing in prisons. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2011, Chhattisgarh was one of the states that reported the highest number of female convicts (242) in its central jails. The women’s prisons here are overcrowded, with almost 150 percent occupancy. But along with this, Sori’s priority is also her children—her two daughters and one son.
PS: Now that you are out on bail, do you worry about separation from your family again?
SS: My children refuse to let go of me at all. They say this year they will stay with me since they don’t know when I might be taken to jail again. Every other day, jeeps packed with cops come to my house and question my children at gunpoint, but my children are strong and aren’t scared. My children say, “Let the police come, we can handle them.” Everything that they have been through has made my children strong.
When I was in jail, my husband passed away. I wasn’t even allowed to come for his last rites. I appealed to the court to let me go home to see him for one last time, but they didn’t permit me. One week later, they said I could go and visit home. I refused, saying it was too late.
During India’s recent general elections, Sori ran from her region. She says her decision to join politics is so she can challenge and change the system that treats women mercilessly. She remembers how the jail officials mocked her, saying that once she was out, her spirit would die. She says joining politics is an answer to all those people who challenged her.
Sori lost the election by a huge margin.
PS: You entered politics—are you disappointed that you lost?
SS: Not at all. I believe I have won, and my fight has just started. My fight was not to occupy the chair, but to get the support of my people. Today, there are many who will come and stand by me. The rulers always rule from their chair. I am fortunate that I will get to work at the grassroots level. My politics is not about ruling, but about fighting for the rights of my people.
PS: Is it difficult to stay motivated and focused on your mission?
SS: There are days when my children have nothing to eat. I don’t have a job today while Ankit Garg, who has been accused of brutalizing me, has been awarded with the president's Police Medal of Gallantry. But it’s my children who give me the courage to fight. They are all I have today. My fight is not about caste or religion but about the rights of all women.
I know there are many who are waiting for me to die for this fight to end, but I want to tell them that if Soni Sori dies the fight will not end. There will be a hundred more Soni Soris who will emerge. Can they drown the fight for justice for women? Can they kill each one of us? In the end, victory will be ours.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Don't beat war drums, go for drum diplomacy.

Original Source:

War drums are getting louder since the arrival of the NDA government as far as plans to tackle the Maoist violence in central India are concerned. Chhattisgarh will be given 10,000 extra paramilitary troops. Bastar has been chosen as the next concentrated area of operation. Mobile tower installations for Bastar will be expedited. Helicopters will now be allowed in anti-Maoist operations.
These are some of the news reports we have been reading lately.
The Maoists must be very happy.
Beginning in 2005, the Chhattisgarh government ran a disastrous military campaign called Salwa Judum with the Centre’s help. Though it was shown as a spontaneous people’s movement, it ended up strengthening the Maoists as never before. Top Maoist leaders wrote articles in their internal magazines in Gondi language with headlines like, “Thank you, Salwa Judum”.
One of their leaders told me, “We called our movement People’s War but Salwa Judum made it a real people’s war. Our recruitment is up many times. Now, there is no chance of fence-sitting for Adivasis and obviously a huge majority has chosen us.”
I remember meeting an old Adivasi man during one of my trips to a Maoist-controlled area. He must have been 80.
Feeling that he will tell the truth as he may be uncaring of threats from the Maoists at this ripe age, I asked him, “Who is better — Dadas (as the Maoists are called in Bastar), or the State?”
Dadas, he replied without hesitation. Then he added, “We need water, medicine and schools, and we know Dadas can’t give us that. They have not given us these things in 30 years, but the State only sends the police, who beat us unnecessarily. That’s why I say Dadas are better. They at least don’t beat us without warning.”
During the Salwa Judum years, the State could not kill more than 50 uniformed Maoists. However, it killed more than 1,000 civilians (around 200 of them were non-uniformed Maoist cadres) and created thousands of new Maoists in return. If the recent reports are correct, the State seems to have learnt very little.
“Bastar is not Kashmir,” say CRPF officers who are posted in the remote areas of Bastar and have served in Kashmir and the Northeast before. “The forest is very thick here. There is almost no direct fight here as we faced in Kashmir. It is impossible to encircle the whole area, it is too big. And the most important point is, we get no intelligence. You have given us Co-BRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), but that has no eyes.”
During a recent incident in Bastar in which 15 policemen were killed, newspapers reported the next day that all the parents in the area knew about increased Maoist presence as the attendance that morning in all nearby schools was almost zero. But no one told the police.
No, peace talks with the Maoists will not help. We need to talk to the people.
There is absolutely no communication between the lower-class Adivasis in Bastar and mainstream India. We only talk to the tiny, creamy layer of Adivasis, who have got a little educated and speak Hindi. They have become sarpanches, teachers and rubber-stamp MLAs and MPs. The same people who advised and also formed part of the Salwa Judum. The interests of upper-class Adivasis are often different from those of the majority lower class, which is the backbone of the Maoist movement, especially women.
We need to understand that there are two wars going on in Bastar. One by fanatic communists, and the other by lower-class Adivasis who have lost patience with the system, which has given them nothing so far, has only appropriated their resources and has no respect for them. Both will have to be dealt with differently.
Most Adivasis in Bastar don’t support the Maoists for the cause of creating a communist raj all over the world. Most of them have not seen state capital Raipur, forget about Delhi. Lal Qile pe lal jhanda (red flag on Red Fort) can’t be part of their imagination.
The top-most Adivasi Maoist commander today is called Venkatesh (not his real name). He was educated until Class II. He has never been to Raipur. He saw trains when he went to pluck chillies as a daily-wage labourer in Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana).
These are the people the State should also be talking to. They are our future Laldengas. They are fighting for respect, their forest, their culture, their languages, maybe Sixth Schedule status, maybe a new state of Dandakaranya.
A communist revolution may be a good idea, but that looks a distant reality today. But there are other real revolutions that one can make use of.
Recently, a team from CGNet Swara travelled through Adivasi villages and weeklyhaats in Adivasi districts across six states for a month. We were trying to teach them how they can use their mobile phones to tell the world about what is happening around them. They need not wait for a reporter anymore.
We went to many villages where there is no electricity and no drinking water. They walk kilometres to fetch drinking water, but they have mobile phones.
They also walk kilometres to get their phones charged and even pay for it.
They often also don’t have any mobile signal in their villages.
While walking with Maoist Adivasi young boys and girls when I was writing my book, I had noticed their sixth sense in finding the source of water and their impeccable sense of direction. Wherever you are, how ever deep in the jungle that may be, they will find a source of water for you. And we hardly lost our way ever, though we were walking most of the time in the dark, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Now, one more thing needs to be added to that list. Wherever I visited this time, they took me to a place where you can get a mobile phone signal — sometimes it was up in hills, sometimes next to the river or in their weekly market.
Mobile phones are a one-way tool here. You can’t reach them as they are out of range all the time, but they can reach you.
This mobile phone revolution must be used to create a dialogue as we are doing with the CGNet Swara experiment in a very small way.
Shortwave radio, which is effectively utilised today only by foreign broadcasters and religious fanatics, should be used to access all these remote villages. If we link mobile phones, Internet and shortwave radio, we can create a democratic communication platform for oral communities like the Adivasis.
This will help Adivasis in talking to each other and also to the outside world. Bengalis got Bengal, Gujaratis got Gujarat, but the Gondi-speaking people were divided into six states, maybe not by design.
Recently, at a meeting we organised, we saw that educated Gond Adivasis from four states could not talk to each other because there is no education in their mother tongue and they learnt the language of the state in residential schools and forgot Gondi. This must change.
Adivasi drums, which were used to communicate across long distances, like telegraphy, should be helped with new drums such as mobile phones, Internet and shortwave radio to make it a two-way dialogue model.
This kind of platform will empower scattered Adivasi groups to make a stronger community. There can’t be a community without communication.
But if that strengthened community decides one day in future that they will not give land for mining, as a democracy, we must accept that. As a community, if they decide that they will vote for Maoists, we must accept that too.
They can bring Maoists to electoral politics, collectively. We can’t.
It is time for drum diplomacy, not war drums.
Shubhranshu Choudhary is the author of Let’s Call Him Vasu: With the Maoists in Chhattisgarh

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Naxal Women: the challenges that lie ahead

Original Source:

War has never been a male domain since women also get drawn into it as combatants, survivors and peace makers. India’s Maoist war which seeks to overthrow the state to establish socialist-communist society is no exception with women being impacted on both sides of the spectrum: as perpetrators and survivors. While many of the Naxal leaders have claimed that their support base has been in its waning phase, they have also deployed a different strategy which focuses on increasing the participation of women in the Naxal cadres. Current reports suggest that sixty per cent of lower Naxal cadres now comprise of women with their numbers steadily increasing. This has raised concerns amongst government quarters which see it as a method to elicit social acceptability in the tribal areas.
Mapping the movement shows that women have supported it at various levels since its inception in Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal. In the 60s and 70s women joined the struggle as they were influenced by their male counter parts and were determined to bring about a social change. The class struggle subverted the need for equal participation and rights since most of the women were employed to do courier tasks provide logistical support to robberies, stealing arms and were not entrusted with organisational work. Several women found themselves retreating to their traditional feminine roles and observed that the movement was replete with nuanced gender blind episodes. As it progressed some women found a constricted space to express concerns over their rights since it was subverted by the larger albeit “more important” issue of class equality. In the October 2004 cease fire agreement between the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Naxalite leaders, none of the women were represented.
At present, the movement’s support base largely comprises tribals who, driven by their poverty stricken conditions, see no other alternative but to join the Maoists in their war against the State, mining corporations and the upper caste. Shubhranshu Choudhary in his book “Let’s call Him Vasu”, based on the Maoist war in Chattisgarh, has extensively highlighted the various reasons that drive women to join the war. Many pick up the gun to avenge the sexual exploitation they faced at the hands of security forces. Many find Naxalism as a route to free themselves from the clutches of patriarchy and domination from the upper caste. Rebecca, a Naxalite, says "state repression" drove her to take up arms and join the rebels too." We don't live this hard life for nothing. I had no choice but to join the revolution. Now there is no looking back," she says defiantly
Women’s bodies often become sights of war. The warring sides inflict violence upon women to avenge the treatment meted out to them. It is no different for women caught in the conflict between the State and Maoists. A Naxalite woman could be raped by State forces or suffer torture at the hands of Naxalites if they quit. Rape and sexual abuse is rampant within the Maoist cadres, Shobha Mandi also known as Uma in her latest book,”Ek Maowadi ki diary”, highlights that she was repeatedly raped and assaulted by her fellow commanders”.
"We had women from 16 to 40 years of age in our group. Almost all those I knew had experienced some form of sexual abuse or exploitation when they had stepped outside their homes to work or at the hands of security forces," says Rampati Ganjhu, a former rebel commander from the eastern state of Bihar. "These women joined us to seek revenge but things are very different now." More and more of them are disillusioned and some women in particular are being abused by the male leaders."
The tough forest life as a Maoist guerilla saps strength out of many drop outs who suffer from kidney problem, ulcers, joint pain and reproductive tract infections.  This further adds to their hardships when they want to start life afresh.  The societal fabric that exists in the region rarely offers a way for women to be independent and empowered in the cultural and the financial domain. Many women have also brought to fore the mismanagement that prevails in granting rehabilitation packages for those who have quit the movement
There is also a rapid increase in female headed household since most of the men either lose their lives in the conflict between the State or Naxalite movement or join the Naxalite movement. Women find it tough to cope up in the absence of socio-cultural, governmental and financial support. Kalavati, a Sarpanch leader, from a Gond tribe speaks of her difficulties in implementing construction of roads in her village. The Maoists hinder the project claiming that it would make them more vulnerable to the Indian security forces. This also impacts other developmental and humanitarian initiatives like health sanitation and education due to lack of connectivity. She has devised other alternatives to help alleviate the condition of women in her village like providing them with earning opportunities by cooking and delivering food with the help of government funds. However, largely women have to struggle in the absence of support mechanisms
Partly to blame is media which contributes towards glorifying the image of women Maoists and this pattern has been observed not only in the case of women Maoists in India but worldwide. Media tends to be transfixed on the image of the woman guerilla and rarely encapsulates the desperate conditions which prevail in the rural hinterlands and in turn propel these women to join the movement. In fact there is only recent emergence of interest in studying the impact of Maoist war on Women in the rural hinterlands of India.
In order to check upon the ever increasing number of women Maoists, it is imperative that the Government implements policies and introduces adequate safety measures for the women. A woman goes on to impact her entire community therefore it’ s extremely crucial that positive measures are taken to alleviate them from their poverty stricken conditions and at the same time weaken the Maoist support base.
-Singh Pratibha, “Women’s Role in the Naxalite Movement”, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, April 2013
-BBC News, “Why Women join India’s Maoist Groups”, November 2013
-Singh Vijaita, “Women Maoist Commanders play a big role in encounters”, Indian Express, March 2014
-Haque Saiful, “Wife swapping, Adultery, Rapes. Former Woman Maoist’s shocking revelations on the ultras”, India Today, June 2013
-Paul Stella, “Tribal women leaders seek safety & innovation as Maoist insurgent conflict continues”, Women’ News Network
-Ramanna P.V., “Women in Maoist Ranks”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, August 2013

Monday, 26 May 2014

Saudi women urged to work in security forces

Original Source:

Saudi security experts, lawyers and some Shoura Council members have demanded that Saudi women be employed in the security forces’ investigation departments to handled sensitive cases such as rape and sexual harassment, it was reported.
Thuraya Al Areed, a female member of the Shoura Council said it was important for Saudi women to work in the sector, telling a local newspaper that often females victims could not report the assault in detail as police stations always demand the presence of the father or a male guardian “who can sometimes be the aggressor himself”.
“More often, police stations ignore female reports in such cases regarding it as a family matter where policemen being men, do not feel able to handle the case,” she said.
“However, if a female was in charge of the case, there would be no need for the presence of a male member.”
Ahmad Al Othman, a lawyer, was quoted as saying that employing women in security services would serve the best interests of females at large.
“It is absolutely important for Saudi women who are nominated for the job to be given specialised training and attend courses in the security field,” he was quoted as saying.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

From Taliban to Boko Haram and back again

Original Source :

The female body as battleground for extremists
Whilst the world engages in public breast-beating and vocal rage against the Boko Haram and the plight of the hapless, kidnapped girls, no-one seems to have expressed that feeling of  déjà vu all over again.
The last instance such a public display of international outrage occurred when, in 2012, Pakistani schoolgirl Malalai Yusufzai was viciously attacked by the local variety of Taliban militant Islamists who are responsible for the destruction of hundreds of schools all along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The attack on Afghanistan by US and NATO forces in late 2001 was shrouded in self-righteous indignation against the Taliban at a time when G.W. Bush needed some form of legitimation to invade the country as the links between Kabul and the 9/11 bombings looked at best tenuous. The fact that the Taliban had been in power for six years, all schools closed and girls’ access to education  banned had, until then, not been deemed suitably alarming by the Great Powers.
So why are they reacting now to Boko Haram, founded in 2002 and active since 2009 and for whom kidnapping of girls is a familiar tactic.? That is the real question which I hope someone more qualified than myself  will investigate.
In the meantime it is interesting to see what is shared by  Taliban and Boko Haram and the countries where they operate. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are amongst the most corrupt countries in the world[1] Polio is endemic in the three (nowhere else). The armed Political Fundamentalist groups are equally opposed to any form of female agency, expressed through systematic gender violence.
Each group has instituted active policies that have had disastrous consequences for civilian populations, public health and education generally, reversing any efforts undertaken to improve the standard of living. In North Eastern Nigeria where the Boko Haram rules, as in Northern Pakistan and all of rural Afghanistan, under Taliban and Deobandi control, infant and maternal mortality are catastrophic. The opposition to education has been much publicized, as it is known that there is a direct correlation between literacy and public health. But the consequences of militant Fundamentalism on young mothers and babies never make the headlines. Of course insecurity and armed combat, as in any conflict situation are a major impediment to accessing hospitals and dispensaries (when they exist). But add to that forced marriages of extremely young teenagers (as young as 11)encouraged by Boko Haram and every variety of Deobandi/Taliban (all political allies), plus the prohibition regarding Western health care, the ban on girls’ education (which makes female doctors and nurses unacceptable) and you get theworld’s highest rate of maternal mortality (in the North-East of Nigeria) and the same in the remoter Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan..In all these cases, marriage is regulated by state, religious and customary law which do not afford any protection to the poorest. The infants born to these under-fed girls (because their value is deemed lesser than that of males) have few chances for survival and here as well, statistics are appalling: Afghanistan, despite the billions poured in holds the worst child mortality rates on the planet[2]
These Fundamentalist terror groups set themselves up as the only legitimate opponents to the West and fight the most visible manifestations of the Western idea of progress, that is to say women’s rights to health and education. In all three cases, the protagonists, despite being religious zealots, engage in big business on a transnational scale and high- level smuggling (arms in Nigeria, drugs in Afghanistan and Pakistan) with the more than probable connivance of those powers that supposedly fight them. Be it Karzai or Goodlife Jonathan, these leaders have shown remarkable indifference to the potential (and partly realized) fate of 50% of their population.
On one side, the US finances major aid programmes in Afghanistan that  are frequently inefficient because of inadequate knowledge of local culture. On the other, by negotiating with the Taliban, (since at least 2010) the American government actively supports corrupt politicians who have removed human rights from their agenda. Indeed, by bolstering warlords and government officials active in the opium-producing areas, these cynical real politicians know full well that they arede facto making school and hospitals inaccessible for the girls who live there. There again, the business advantages licit and illicit far outnumber any humanitarian aid committed to these regions. That’s showbusiness, good for press relations and feel-good media.
What of Nigeria? No institution is officially negotiating with Boko Haram who represent nobody but themselves. But their elusive finances indicate that more money is going in their direction than towards stopping the major humanitarian crisis in their benighted provinces. Their funding is a mystery but seems to include protection money from the governors in the region, bank robberies, ransoms from kidnapping, hand-outs from Al-Qaeda, allies such as AQMI and al-Shabab, themselves known to be financed by Qatar as well as money funneled through Islamic charities, via it seems Saudi Arabia[3]. The smuggling of weapons is certainly a major source of income. It is rumoured that Boko Haram might be financed by drug-cartels in South America who have for decades benefited from the not-so-occult help of the CIA, in other words the main allies of the Gulf State potentates. But in the meantime, Michelle Obama’s speech looks ever so moving on television…
So there we have it, from the Taliban to Boko Haram and back again, the female body is the battle ground of extremists, quietly murdered with the help of the  richest and the most powerful on this planet…

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Presence of military does not contribute to insecurity of women and girls in former conflict zone, Sri Lanka says

Original Source:

Sri Lanka rejected the inference made by certain organizations and reports that the presence of military contributed to the insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict-affected areas.
Speaking at the United Nations Security Council debate on Conflict-Related sexual Violence Friday (April 25), the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Shavendra Silva said that certain organizations are involved in propagating false reports of sexual violence against the Sri Lankan military.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his annual report on the issue submitted to the UN Security Council Thursday noted continued vulnerability of women and children in areas formerly affected by conflict, partly due to the continued militarization in those areas.
The UN Chief citing the UN resolution A/HRC/25/33 said during 2013, women and girls, especially in female-headed households, continued to be vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse, including at the hands of military personnel.
Giving details the envoy explained that during the conflict period from January 2007 to May 2009, seven Security Forces personnel had been reported as having been involved in five incidents of sexual violence in the Northern Province and in the post-conflict period up until May 2012, 10 Security Forces personnel had been reported as having been involved in six incidents.
The involvement of those personnel as a percentage of the total population accused stood at 5.6 percent in the conflict period and 3.3 percent in the post-conflict period.
The Secretary General however has noted in his report that the Sri Lankan government has reported that the military has taken strict action in such cases.
In a majority of the cases, the perpetrators had been close relatives or neighbors of the victims, Ambassador Silva noted.
He explained that accusations, often with disturbing details have been made for example, in a recent report by human rights lawyer Yasmin Sooka, without providing sufficient details such as a time and place and the identification of victims, to enable investigations and prosecutions.
He said the accusations are then repeated in other publications of different organizations, thereby contributing to forming an opinion which is propagated without evidence.
According to Ambassador Silva, none of these allegations have been substantiated by verifiable data in any of these documents.
"Significantly, no credible evidence has been directly brought to the attention of Government authorities by any of these parties. The Government has not been provided the evidence which is claimed to be in the possession of the authors of these reports in order to investigate and respond," he added.
Therefore, he rejected the inferences made by certain organizations and reports that the presence of military contributed to the insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict-affected areas.