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Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked

from The Nation

by Noura Erakat

Israel has killed almost 800 Palestinians in the past twenty-one days in the Gaza Strip alone; its onslaught continues. The UN estimates that more than 74 percent of those killed are civilians. That is to be expected in a population of 1.8 million where the number of Hamas members is approximately 15,000. Israel does not deny that it killed those Palestinians using modern aerial technology and precise weaponry courtesy of the world’s only superpower. In fact, it does not even deny that they are civilians. Continue reading

نقاش نقدي لتطبيقات النموذج الجنوب إفريقي على فلسطين

أود في هذه المقالة التعرض بالنقاش النقدي لاستخدامات النموذج الجنوب إفريقي لتفسير القضية الفلسطينيةفلسطين قبل العام ١٩٤٨. أما الوجه الاقليمي لتلك السياسيات فهو نشاط لا مثيل له في مضمار

أود في هذه المقالة التعرض بالنقاش النقدي لاستخدامات النموذج الجنوب إفريقي لتفسير القضية الفلسطينية وتخيّل الحلول التطبيقية المناسبة لها. تنطلق معظم التطبيقات الفلسطينية من رفض حلّ الدولتين للنزاع الفلسطيني الإسرائيلي. والحجج الرئيسة متنوعة. ابرزها أن اختبار المفاوضات الفلسطينية الإسرائيلية يفضي إلى نتيجة فاقعة بأن لا رغبة لدى السلطات الإسرائيلية بالانسحاب من الضفة الغربية والقبول بقيام دولة فلسطينية إلى جوار دولة إسرائيل. وعلى افتراض  القبول، فإن إسرائيل تحتل المساحة الاكبر من فلسطين التاريخية، والرقعة المتبقية منها لا توفر الحد الأدنى من متطلبات السيادة والبقاء لقيام الدولة العتيدة. وأن تسوية الدولتين سوف تفرّط بحقين من الحقوق التاريخية غير قابلة للتصرّف من حقوق الشعب الفلسطيني إذ سوف تعترف باحتلال إسرائيل لاراضي الـ٤٨ والتخلي عن حق العودة.

أول ما يستحق الملاحظة هو أن هذه الادبيات تنتمي إلى مناخ الاتفاقيات الثنائية العربية الإسرائيلية التي انتجت فاصلاً بين مسارين، مسار النزاع الفلسطيني-الإسرائيلي من جهة والنزاع العربي الإسرائيلي من جهة ثانية. وقد اتسع التباعد بين المسارين منذ اتفاق أوسلو. احدهما معنى  باستعادة الأراضي المحتلة في حرب ١٩٦٧ والثاني معني بقيام الدولة الفلسطينية إلى جانب دولة إسرائيل. وهكذا يتحول النزاع العربي الإسرائيلي إلى مسار يلعب فيه «العرب» دور الداعم للمطالبة الفلسطينية بالدولة العتيدة، وتتبادل أنظمتهم الادوار بين متهالك على التطبيع الاقتصادي والسياسي والدبلوماسي والثقافي، وبين من يتنطح لادوار الوساطة في المفاوضات الفلسطينية-الإسرائيلية.

ومع أن معظم المساهمات المتعلقة بالنموذج الجنوب افريقي نقدية تجاه اتفاق أوسلو ومشروع الدولتين الا أن المفارقة التي تنطوي عليها تكمن في أنها تستبطن أبرز ما حققته أوسلو، في امتداد الاتفاقات المنفردة في  كامب ديفيد ووادي عربة، اعني القبول بهذا الفصل بين المسارين والانطواء فيما يشبه التمحور الذاتي الفلسطيني من دون النزاع الاعمّ الذي لا يزال قائماً بأشكال مختلفة.

لا شك لدي في أن هذا التمحور الذاتي يشكل رد الفعل المفهوم، وإن يكن غير مبرر، على هزائم ونكسات وخيبات النزاع العربي الإسرائيلي وعلى منطق الاتفاقات المنفردة، ناهيك عن المعاناة الطويلة للشعب الفلسطيني في بلدان اللجوء في ظل التمييز والقمع بل والمجازر. وقد ترافق هذا الإتجاه عشية اندلاع الثورات مع وهن بيّن أصاب التعبئة الشعبية حول فلسطين بلغت أدنى درجاتها لدى الجماهير العربية وقد جرى تسريحها من النزاع مشلّعة بين انتظار نصر الهي حاسم هذه المرة  يقضي على إسرائيل بالضربة العسكرية القاضية وبين التعبير عن الغضب والتفجّع ضد الاعتداءات الإسرئيلية المستمرة في لبنان أو غزة. يكفي دليلاً على عملية التسريح هذه المقارنة بين بضع عشرات أو مئات من المتظاهرين المصريين في ميدان التحرير تأييدا لغزة يطوقهم ألوف من عناصر الأمن المركزي بالقياس إلى مئات الألوف من المصريين الذين اجتاحوا الميدان ذاته، وقد انفجرت ثورتهم لإسقاط النظام القائم ومن أجل العمل والحرية والعدالة الاجتماعية والكرامة الإنسانية.

ومع أنه يجب الاعتراف بأن التعاطف الدولي مع قضيه فلسطين يتنامى بقدر تضاؤل الاحتشاد الشعبي العربي حول فلسطين، الا أن المفارقة الفاغرة في هذا التقاطع بين الانسحاب العربي وبين التمحور الذاتي الفلسطيني، أنه تزامن مع ممارسات اليمين الإسرائيلي الحاكم القائمة على الاستهتار الكامل باية تسويات والتوسعّ الاستيطاني والاحتلال العملي للقسم الأكبر من فلسطين التاريخية والتهويد السكاني والديمغرافي للبؤر العربية المتبقية من فلسطين قبل العام ١٩٤٨. أما الوجه الاقليمي لتلك السياسيات فهو نشاط لا مثيل له في مضمار النزاع العربي الإسرائيلي ذاته من حيث تعزيز مقوّمات التفوّق العسكري النوعية، النظامي منه والنووي، بما ينطوي عليه من مساعي الهيمنة لا على المحيط العربي وحسب، وإنما على منطقة الشرق الأوسط بأكملها، بما يلجم ويقزّم القدرات والادوار العسكرية والاقتصادية والجيوسياسية لإيران وتركيا، القوتين الإقليمييتين المتنافستين على ملء الفراغ في الإقليم، مع التركيز المحموم على منع إي مساس في احتكار إسرائيل للسلاح النووي.

كثيرة هي نقاط التشابه بين الصهيونية وبين نظام التمييز العنصري السابق في جنوب إفريقيا وكثيرة هي الوشائج التي حاكها النظامان بينهما، بما في ذلك محاولة تزويد إسرائيل السلاح النووي لإفريقيا الجنوبية، في عهد شمعون بيريس. ومن أبرز السمات المشتركة بين النظامين انتماؤهما المشرك إلى فصيلة في العالم الكولونيالي هي أنظمة الاستيطان والإجلاء السكاني والتطهير العرقي. وجدير التذكير بأن حكم الأقلية البيضاء أجلى، داخل الحدود العمومية للدولة، نحو ٣،٥ مليون افريقي و”ملوّن“ بين الأعوام ١٩٦١ و١٩٨٣ واعاد توطينهم في عشر معازل (بانتوستان). ومع ذلك، فلا بد، لأغراض الدقة والفاعلية النموذجية من التمييز بين طبيعة الاستعمار الاستيطاني الاجلائي للأقلية البيضاء في الجنوب الافريقي والاستعمار الاستيطاني الصهيوني في فلسطين. فالأول اقتصادي في المقام الاول، منجذب إلى الثروات المعدنية الاستثنائية للبلاد، اشادت شركاته الرأسمالية نظام التمييز العنصري واحتكار الأقلية البيضاء للسلطة، تمكينا للاستئثار والاستغلال الاقتصاديين، وذلك  عن طريق مزيج من حرمان الأكثرية السكانية من الحقوق السياسية والمدنية ومن عزلها الفيى المعازل المذكورة أعلاه. ولم ينطو حلم الاقلية البيضاء، بالنسبة لأكثرية المستوطنين الأوروبيين، على هدف بناء وطن قومي أو فرض هوية أوروبية معينة على الأرض والبلد. في المقابل، ارتبط المشروع الاستعماري الاستيطاني  الصهيوني لفلسطين بتوطين أكثرية ديمغرافية يهودية وافدة بهدف قومي محدد هو تهويد فلسطين، الأرض والبلد، اكثر منه استغلال ثرواتها، بحيث أن هذا الاخير وسيلة لهدف لا بما هو هدف بذاته.

من هنا تبدو لي أن تطبيقات النموذج الجنوب افريقي فلسطينيا تنطوي على سيناريو مشتهى مسرحه كامل فلسطين التاريخية، فيتحول فيها النضال الفلسطيني نضالاً في إتجاه من اتجاهين: بناء دولة ثأنئية القومية بين فلسطينيين ويهود، أو النضال من أجل حقوق الإنسان والمساواة السياسية والقانونية في ظل نظام التمييز العنصري الإسرائيلي.

الغريب في هذا التطبيق أنه يتجاهل المكوّن الاصلي لمشروع بناء دولة يهودية في فلسطين، اي دولة ذات اكثرية سكانية يهودية حاسمة (دولة يهودية مثلما انكلترا هي انكليزية، على ما قيل) ما لا يسمح بتصوّر الكيفية التي سوف يتم بها تكوّن الدولة الواحدة علماً بأن امتناع السلطات الإسرائيلية عن ضم الضفة الغربية وغزة، بعد احتلالها العام ١٩٦٧، وتسميتها «الاراضي»، ورفض الاعتراف بأنها محتلة أصلا، لا ينطوي فقط على التنصّل من تبعات الاحتلال ومسؤولياته – من وجوب التنمية والتعويض عن الخسائر والاضرار واشتراط عدم المساس بالموارد والثروات، حسب اتفاقيات جنيف – وإنما يجهر أيضا وخصوصاً برفض ضم ملايين من الفلسطينيين إلى المتن الإسرائيلي حتى لا تمسّ الطبيعة الديموغرافية والقومية الخالصة للدولة العبرية ولهويتها الصافية.

وإلا ما معنى مطالبة نتنياهو بالاعتراف الفلسطيني والعربي بما يسمّيه «يهودية» دولة إسرائيل؟ وما معنى الحملات الحثيثة التي يخوضها اليمين الإسرائيلي، العلماني والديني،  لتهويد البؤرتين المتبقيتين من أراضي فلسطين الـ ٤٨ اللتين لا تزالان تحويان اكثرية سكانية عربية- النقب والجليل الأعلى؟ وأي معنى للعمل على تغيير الهوية السكانية للقدس ورفض البحث في موقعها من أيه تسوية يحولها عن كونها عاصمة دولة إسرائيل؟ ولا بد من أن نلاحظ هنا الاختلاط الذي تم بين سياسات حزبي الليكود والعمل من هذا الأمر بحيث لم تعد الحدود فاصلة إلى هذا الحد بين تيار انكفائي حريص على ”النقاء اليهودي“ ولو في حدود إسرائيل محجمّة، وتيار توسّعي استيطاني يمارس قضم الاراضي والمساحات المسكونة، حتى لو كلّفه الأمر الاجلاء السكاني.

السؤال الأول الذي تثيره هذه المحاججة يتعلق بمسألة حق العودة. اذا كان التخلي عن مطلب الدولتين مرتبط بالاصرار على حق العودة، فهل يحق لنا الافتراض بأن قيام «الدولة الواحدة» سوف يؤمن تطبيق ذلك الحق؟ فكيف لنا أن نتصوّر والحالة هذه إسرائيل وقد احتلت وضمّت كامل فلسطين التاريخية، ترتضي لا «ثنائية القومية» فحسب وانما أن تكون اكثرية سكان فلسطين التاريخية عربية وقد تجمّع فيها سكان الضفة الغربية والشتات وفلسطينيي أراضي الـ ٤٨؟

الا يجعل «حل الدولة الواحدة» هذا أقرب إلى الهندسة الذهنية من أي هدف نضالي، خصوصاً أنه يتم بمعزل عن أي تصوّر لأنواع الضغوط التي يتوجب على «المجمتع الدولي» ممارستها على إسرائيل، ناهيك عن «الراعي الدولي» أو عن نوع الانقلابات في موازين القوى القادرة على «إقناع» الصهيونية ودولة إسرائيل بممارسة الانتحار. والادهى أن البعض قد يشرح لك أن طرح شعار «الدولة الواحدة » انما يجيء من قبيل التهديد اذا ما فشلت المفاوضات لحل الدولتين. والتهديد هنا يحوّل الأمر إلى ما يشبه المهزلة الحزينة إذا ما قيس موقع المهدِّد ومصادر قدراته التهديدية..

والحال أن نظرة إلى الظروف والعوامل المؤدية إلى تقويض نظام التمييز العنصري في جنوب إفريقيا تفيد أكثر من سواها كتطبيقات فلسطينية.

تضافرت عوامل اضافية لتقويض نظام التمييز العنصري. في المقدمة منها الانتفاضات الشعبية والاضرابات والاعتصامات العمالية والكفاح الشعبي المسلّح الذي قاده «المؤتمر الوطني الافريقي » (بقيادة «الحزب الشيوعي في جنوب إفريقيا») على امتداد أكثر من ثلاثة عقود من الزمن. تحت وطأة هذه الضغوط والنضالات الفعلية، المرتكزة إلى حركة نقابية وعمالية قادرة على شلّ الاقتصاد باكمله، تلاقت المصالح الاقتصادية لكبريات الشركات الرأسمالية المتعدية للقوميات على قرار فكّ الارتباط بين الاستغلال الاقتصادي الرأسمالي المكثّف وبين نظام التمييز العنصري الذي حضن ذلك الاستغلال وحماه زمنا طويلاً. وهكذا تولّد لدى الاقلية البيضاء تيار سياسي إختار التضحية بالاستئثار السياسي على أمل الحفاظ على مواقع السيطرة الاقتصادية بيد البيض. وقد استقبلت اكثرية الأقلية البيضاء مثل هذا الخيار لأن بديله هو الاقتداء بأشباههم من المستوطنين الاوروبيين في الجزائر الذين لجأوا إلى سياسة الأرض المحروقة ضد الاستقلال الجزائري واضطروا إلى مغادرة البلاد بعد أن نالت الجزائر استقلالها.

وما من شك في أن حملات المقاطعة الثقافية والعقوبات الاقتصادية الأوروبية الأميركية قد لعبت دورها في نزع شرعية حكم الاقلية البيضاء وإرغامه على المساومة، بل أن الدول الاسكندينافية ذهبت إلى حد الاعتراف بالمؤتمر الوطني الافريقي وتقديم المساعدات له، في الوقت الذي كانت السيدة ثاتشر رئيسة الوزراء البريطانية السابقة تتهم المؤتمر بالارهاب وقائدَه نلسون مانديلا بأنه ماركسي خطير.

وأخيرا ليس آخرًا لم يكن لنظام التمييز العنصري للأقلية البيضاء أن ينهار لولا التغيّرات الجذرية التي طرأت على «دول الطوق» المجاورة وعلى أنظمتها. وقد كانت دولة الاقلية البيضاء تسيطر عليها اوتؤمن حيادتها من خلال المساعدات المالية أو التهديد العسكري ناهيك بوجود قوات جنوب افريقية على أراضيها. انقلب ميزان القوى في دول الطوق هذه عبر عملية مديدة أبرز ما فيها انتصار حركة التحرر الوطني في ناميبيا وآنغولا والموزمبيق وتحرر تلك البلدان من الاستعمار البرتغالي، ونيل الاستقلال، وانتهاء الحرب الأهلية في آنغولا بانتصار حركة التحرير المناهضة للتمييز العنصري وهو انتصار لم يكن ليتحقق لولا الدعم العسكري الكثيف من كوبا الذي تغلّب على التدخل العسكري لنظام الأقلية البيضاء الجنوب الافريقي.

يتضمن النشاط الفلسطيني الدعاوي والعملي على استلهام عدد من  تطبيقات النموذج الجنوب افريقي في مخاطبة «المجتمع الدولي» والتأثير فيه من حيث ملاحقة مجرمي الحرب الإسرائيليين واعتماد المقاطعة الثقافية والتعليمية للمؤسسات الإسرائيلية وفرض العقوبات الاقتصادية وغيرها. بل أن تصوّر التسوية التاريخية حول فلسطين يستلهم نموذج «لجان الحقيقة والمصالحة» الجنوب افريقية اطاراَ لانتزاع الاعتذار الإسرائيلي الرسمي بالخطأ التاريخي المرتكب بحق الشعب الفلسطيني.

المفارقة في أمر هذا التطبيقات أنها تهمل الشروط والعوامل المطلوب توافرها لدى «دول الطوق » العربية من أجل تفكيك نظام الاستيطان الصهيوني وتقويضه في فلسطين، كل فلسطين.

والغريب أن الدروس الأبلغ من التجربة الجنوب افريقية هي هنا. والاغرب أن مهمة استخلاصها عبر عملية مراجعة نقدية وتخيّل وانتاج معرفي عربية مشتركة لم تقم بعد. فلعل هذه السطور تكون بمثابة الدعوة اليها والتحريض عليها.

Human rights defenders under live fire, one dead

by the ISM

The Israeli military just shot a Gazan man trying to reach his family, during an announced ceasefire. He was with a group of municipality workers and international human rights defenders who were attempting to retrieve injured people in the Shajiya neighbourhood.

Photo by Joe Catron

The international activists and municipality workers are being fired at by the Israeli military. The young man who was killed can be seen in green t-shirt.

“We all just watched a man murdered in front of us. He was trying to reach his family in Shajiya, he had not heard from them and was worried about them. They shot him, and then continued to fire as he was on the ground. We had no choice but to retreat. We couldn’t reach him due to the artillery fire and then he stopped moving.” Stated Joe Catron, U.S. International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist in Gaza. “Shajiya is a smoking wasteland. We just passed two bombed out ambulances.”

Photo by Joe Catron

Photo by Joe Catron

The Israel military has also shelled Red Crescent ambulances as they attempted to retrieve injured people in the Shajiya neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. A ceasefire was announced, during which injured and dead people, could be evacuated from the area, in which at least 60 people have been killed today.

“They said we would be able to evacuate the injured from the disaster zone, but they have been shelling ambulances,” stated Dr Khalil Abu Foul of the Palestinian Red Crescent, speaking from Shajiya.

Now, the international volunteers, including some from the U.S., the UK, and Sweden, are in a rescue centre on the outskirts of Shajiya.

No ceasefire without justice for Gaza

from the Electronic Intifada 

As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to the people for more than seven years.

Our foremost concerns are not only the health and safety of the people in our communities, but also the quality of their lives – their ability to live free of fear of imprisonment without due process, to support their families through gainful employment, and to travel to visit their relatives and further their education.

These are fundamental human aspirations that have been severely limited for the Palestinian people for more than 47 years, but that have been particularly deprived from residents of Gaza since 2007. We have been pushed beyond the limits of what a normal person can be expected to endure.

A living death

Charges in the media and by politicians of various stripes that accuse Hamas of ordering Gaza residents to resist evacuation orders, and thus use them as human shields, are untrue. With temporary shelters full and the indiscriminate Israeli shelling, there is literally no place that is safe in Gaza.

Likewise, Hamas represented the sentiment of the vast majority of residents when it rejected the unilateral ceasefire proposed by Egypt and Israel without consulting anyone in Gaza. We share the broadly held public sentiment that it is unacceptable to merely return to the status quo – in which Israel strictly limits travel in and out of the Gaza Strip, controls the supplies that come in (including a ban on most construction materials), and prohibits virtually all exports, thus crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the Arab world.

To do so would mean a return to a living death.

Unfortunately, past experience has shown that the Israeli government repeatedly reneges on promises for further negotiations, as well as on its commitments to reform.

Likewise, the international community has demonstrated no political will to enforce these pledges. Therefore, we call for a ceasefire only when negotiated conditions result in the following:

  • Freedom of movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip.
  • Unlimited import and export of supplies and goods, including by land, sea and air.
  • Unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport.
  • Monitoring and enforcement of these agreements by a body appointed by the United Nations, with appropriate security measures.

Each of these expectations is taken for granted by most countries, and it is time for the Palestinians of Gaza to be accorded the human rights they deserve.

Signatures:

  • Akram Habeeb, Assistant Professor of American Literature, Islamic University of Gaza (IUG)
  • Mona El-Farra, Vice President and Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society
  • Ramy Abdu PhD, Chairman of the Euro-mid Observer
  • Abdullah Alsaafin, Palestinian Writer/journalist
  • Ali Alnazli, Businessman
  • Adel Awadallah, Head of the Scientific Research Council
  • Hanine Hassan, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Sheren Awad, Journalist
  • Yahia Al-Sarraj, Associate Professor of Transportation, IUG
  • Tawfik Abu Shomar, Writer and political analyst
  • Hasan Owda, Businessman
  • Ibrahim AlYazji, Businessman
  • Walid Al Husari, Chair, Gaza Chamber of Commerce
  • Nael Almasri, Dentist
  • Wael El-Mabhouh, Political researcher
  • Rami Jundi, Political researcher
  • Ashraf Mashharawi, Filmmaker
  • Mohammad Alsawaf, Journalist
  • Hasan Abdo, Writer and political analyst
  • Kamal El Shaer, Political researcher
  • Omar Ferwana, Dean of Medicine Faculty, IUG
  • Iyad I. Al-Qarra, Journalist, Palestine newspaper
  • Musheir El-Farra, Palestinian activist and author
  • Khalil Namrouti, Associate Professor in Economics, IUG
  • Moein Rajab, Professor in Economics, Al-Azhar University – Gaza
  • Basil Nasser, Planning advisor
  • Hani Albasoos, Associate Professor in Political Science, IUG
  • Arafat Hilles, Assistant Professor, Al-Quds Open University
  • Imad Falouji, Head of Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations
  • Moin Naim, Writer and political analyst
  • Yousri Alghoul, Author
  • Mohammad Jayyab, Editor of Gaza Journal of Economics
  • Mousa Lubbad, Lecturer in Finance, Al-Aqsa University
  • Iskandar Nashwan, Assistant Professor in Accounting, Al-Aqsa University
  • Shadi AlBarqouni, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Adnan Abu Amer, Head of Political Department, Al-Umma University
  • Wael Al Sarraj, Assistant Professor in Computer Science, IUG
  • Said Namrouti, Lecturer in Human Resource Management, IUG
  • Khaled Al-Hallaq, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, IUG
  • Asad Asad, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs, IUG
  • Hazem Alhusari, Lecturer in Finance, Al-Aqsa University
  • Shadi AlBarqouni, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Deya’a Kahlout, Journalist, Al-Araby newspaper
  • Raed Salha, Assistant Professor in Geography, IUG
  • Sameeh Alhadad, Businessman
  • Tarek M. Eslim, CEO, Altariq Systems and Projects
  • Sami Almalfouh PhD, Senior engineer
  • Fayed Abushammalah, Journalist
  • Fadel Naeim, Chairman of Palestine Physicians Syndicate
  • Zeyad Al-Sahhar, Associate Professor in Physics , Al-Aqsa University
  • Iyad Abu Hjayer, Director, Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution
  • Wael Al-Daya, Associate Professor in Finance, IUG
  • Younis Eljarou, Head of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Donia ElAmal Ismail, Head of the Creative Women Association
  • Zeinab Alghonemi, Head of Women for Legal Consulting Association
  • Amjad AlShawa, Palestinian Nongovernmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
  • Mohsen Abo Ramadan, Head of Palestinian Nongovernmental Organziations Network (PNGO)
  • Abed Alhameed Mortaja, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, IUG
  • Talal Abo Shawesh , Head of Afaq Jadeeda Association
  • Zohair Barzaq, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Marwan Alsabh, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Ghassan Matar, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Rania Lozon, Writer
  • Ashraf Saqer, IT Specialist
  • Samir AlMishal, Mishal Cultural Centre
  • Jamila Sarhan, Independant Commission for Human Rights
  • Jalal Arafat, Union of Agricultrual Work Committees
  • Khalil Abu Shammala, Addameer for Human Rights
  • Jamila Dalloul, Association Head of Jothor ElZaiton
  • Maha Abo Zour, Psychologist
  • Psychologist Ferdous Alkatari
  • Yousef Awadallah, Health Work Committee
  • Yousef Alswaiti, Al-Awda Hospital Director
  • Taysir Alsoltan, Head of Health Work Committees
  • Taghreed Jomaa, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees
  • Imad Ifranji, Journalist, Alquds TV
  • Jehal Alaklouk, Activist
  • Adel Alborbar, Boycott Committee
  • Hatem AbuShaban, Board of Trustees of Al-Azhar University – Gaza
  • Saleh Zaqout, Secretary of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Mohammed Alsaqqa, Lawyer
  • Nihad Alsheikh Khalil, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, IUG
  • Mohsen Alafranji, Lecturer at Media Department, IUG
  • Nedal Farid, Dean of Business Faculty, Al-Aqsa University
  • Salem Helles, Dean of Commerce Faculty, IUG
  • Ahmad Ali PhD, Economic Analysis
  • Raed M. Zourob PhD, Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health
  • Mosheer Amer, Professor of Lingusitics, IUG
  • Moheeb Abu Alqumboz, Lecturer
  • Fatma Mukhalalati, Supreme Court judge
  • Fahmi Alnajjar, Supreme Court judge

Four Little Boys and the Price of Play in Gaza

from The Nation

When the Palestinian national team secured entry into the 2015 Asia Cup, winning the right to play in an international tournament for the first time in its eighty-six-year history, crowds gathered by the hundreds to dance, play music and watch the triumph of their national team on large movie-sized television screens on the beaches on Gaza. The oceanfront represents the illusion of freedom for a land otherwise encircled by walls and checkpoints. People often gather on the beach to celebrate because it is a refuge from densely populated squalor that defines so much of the land they have been compelled to call home. This is especially the case for children.

That brings us to the four Bakr boys. There was Mohamed Ramez Bakr, eleven years old, Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both ten, and Ismael Mohamed Bakr, nine. They were all killed by an Israeli Defense Forces military strike while playing on the beach in surroundings as familiar to them as a corner playground.
 The first shell sent them running. The second took their lives. Existing in a land where are you are always underfoot, the beach is one of the precious few places a child can freely roam. In Gaza City, which sewage and pollution could make unlivable by 2020, according to a United Nations study, this is one of the only places where the air feels clean in your lungs. In a land where soccer fields are constantly under bombardment—Israel says that parks and stadiums are popular places for Hamas to launch rocket attacks—the beach is where you go to play.

The Bakr boys were killed in an area they believed to be safe. Mohamed’s mother, grieving at the hospital, was quoted by CNN as saying, “Why did he go to the beach and play—for them to take him away from me?” Several reporters on hand were shocked at what happened. Ayman Mohyeldin of NBC, tweeted: “4 Palestinian kids killed in a single Israeli airstrike. Minutes before they were killed by our hotel, I was kicking a ball with them #gaza.” After this, Mohyeldin was taken off the air, and was only allowed to return following an online campaign launched to defend him. The reasons behind NBC’s decision to pull him and then return Mohyeldin to Gaza are still very much in depute. Whatever the cause, Mohyeldin was doing the kind of journalism that forced people to see Palestinians as actual human beings.

* * *

When people write, tweet, and message me with their unquestioned belief that Hamas is using the children of Gaza as human shields, I often wonder whether they make these assertions out of unknowing ignorance or out of a deeper kind of “let them eat cake” cruelty.

Maybe they don’t know that these same “human shield” accusations, made in 2008 and 2009 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead bombing of Gaza, were found to be without evidence by Amnesty International.

Maybe they don’t know that to even speak of “human shields” in Gaza is absurd, because the Strip is fenced-in and residents have little right to come and go as they please. Maybe they don’t know that Gaza City is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, with most of Gaza’s 1.8 million people living in the urban heart of Strip.

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People in the United States may be ignorant about these overcrowded conditions, but the Israeli military commanders are certainly not. Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal quote that if the poor were starving and without bread, we should “let them eat cake,” has become Netanyahu’s “let them find shelter.” He says, “Let them evacuate” when the only truly safe place is on the other side of a checkpoint. Someone fleeing one missile strike may be heading directly into another.

Perhaps these four little boys are examples of the “telegenically dead Palestinians” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told us we should disregard. Or perhaps what Netanyahu fears is people who see nothing “telegenic” about dead children. Perhaps he knows that there are people who cannot imagine anything more human than a group of children playing on the beach, and cannot imagine anything more inhumane than taking their lives from the sky.

Saudi Women: “I Will Drive Myself Starting June 17”

في العربية

Us women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are the ones who will lead this society towards change. While we failed to deliver through our voices, we will not fail to deliver through our actions. We have been silent and under the mercy of our guardian (muhram) or foreign driver for too long. Some of us barely make ends meet and cannot even afford cab fare. Some of us are the heads of households yet have no source of income except for a few hard-earned [Saudi] Riyals that are used to pay drivers. Then there are those of us who do not have a muhram to look after our affairs and are forced to ask strangers for help. We are even deprived of public transportation, our only salvation from being under the mercy of others. We are your daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers. We are half of society and give birth to [the other] half, yet we have been made invisible and our demands have been marginalized. We have been deliberately excluded from your plans! Therefore, the time has come to take the initiative. We will deliver a letter of complaint to our father the King of Humanity and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques calling on him to support the Women of June 17.

We have searched for laws that prohibit women in Saudi Arabia from exercising their right to drive their own vehicle but have not found anything that points to such [a prohibition] in Saudi traffic laws. Therefore, what we will do cannot be considered a violation of the law. We therefore have decided that beginning on Friday the 15th of Rajab, 1432, which corresponds to the 17th of June, 2011:

  • Every women in possession of an international driver’s license or one from another country will begin driving her car herself whether to reach her place of work, drop her children off at school, or attend to her daily needs.
  • We will take photographs and videotapes of ourselves driving our cars and post them to our Facebook page in order to support our cause: I will drive starting June 17
  • We will adhere to the dress code (hijab) while driving.
  • We will obey the traffic laws and will not challenge the authorities if we are stopped for questioning.
  • If we are pulled over we will firmly demand to be informed of which laws have been violated. Until now there is not one traffic law that prohibits a woman from driving her own vehicle herself.
  • We do not have destructive goals and will not congregate or protest, nor will we raise slogans. We have no leaders or foreign conspirators. We are patriots and we love this country and will not accept that which encroaches on its security and safety. All that is involved [in this matter] is that we will begin to exercise our legitimate right.
  • We will not stop exercising this right until you find us a solution. We have spoken out on too many occasions and no one has listened to us. The time for solutions has come. We want women’s driving schools. We want Saudi drivers’ licenses [for women] like all other countries in the world. We want to live a complete form of citizenship without the humiliation and degradation that we are [currently] subjected to everyday because of our dependence on a driver.
  • We will launch volunteer campaigns to offer free driving lessons for women beginning on the date that this announcement is issued and we wish for everyone to support us.

To review the traffic law in Saudi Arabia: http://bit.ly/lj60Od

Section Four: Driving License, page 47
List 1-4 of Driving Violations: pages 117-121

 نحن النساء في المملكة العربية السعودية من سيقود هذا المجتمع نحو التغيير. وحين فشلنا في ايصال صوتنا، لن نفشل في ايصال أفعالنا. كفانا سكوتاً ومذلة لكل رجل من محرم أو أجنبي عنا. منا من لاتملك أجرة تاكسي وتعيش على الكفاف. ومنا من تعول أسرتها وليس لها عائل غير ريالات بسيطة دفعت فيها جهدها وعرقها لتكون لقمة سائغة للسائقين. ومنا من ليس لها من يقوم بأمرها فتلظت بنار السؤال لكل غريب. محرومين حتى من مواصلات عامة تكفينا شرهم. نحن بناتكم ونساؤكم وأخواتكم وأمهاتكم. نحن نصف المجتمع ونلد نصفه. لكن تم تغييبنا وتهميش مطالبنا. سقطنا من خططكم عمداً! لذلك حان وقت أخذ زمام المبادرة. وسنقوم برفع خطاب تظلم لوالدنا ملك الانسانية خادم الحرمين الشريفين لمسانده نساء ١٧ يونيو

تم البحث عن أي قانون يمنع المرأة في السعودية من ممارسة حقها في قيادة مركبتها بنفسها ولم نجد أي شيء يشير لذلك في نظام المرور السعودي*. لذلك لايعتبر ما سنفعله خرقاً للقانون. لذلك قررنا أنه وبدأً من الجمعه 15 رجب 1432 الموافق 17 يونيو 2011 التالي

 كل امرأه تملك رخصة قيادة دولية أو من دولة أخرى ستبدأ بقيادة سيارتها بنفسها لتقضية أي مشوار لها سواء للوصول لمكان عملها، ايصال أطفالها للمدرسة، أو قضاء حوائجها اليومية

  on.fb.me/mbWaHq :سنوثق قيادتنا لسياراتنا بأنفسنا بالصوت والصورة ونشرها على صفحتنا بالفيسبوك لدعم قضيتنا

 سنلتزم بحشمتنا وحجابنا حين قيادة سياراتنا

 سنلتزم بقوانين المرور ولن نتحدى السلطات إذا تم ايقافنا للمساءلة

 إذا تم ايقافنا للمساءلة نتمسك بحق المطالبة أن نعرف أي القوانين تم خرقها. لحد الآن لايوجد اي قانون في نظام المرور يمنع المرأة من قيادة مركبتها بنفسها

 ليس لدينا أهداف تخريبية. ولن نتجمهر أو نتظاهر أو نرفع شعارات وليس لدينا قادة أو جهات أجنبيه نحن وطنيات ونحب هذا الوطن ولن نرض بما يمس أمنه أو سلامته. كل مافي الأمر أننا سنبدأ بممارسة حق مشروع

 لن نتوقف عن ممارسة هذا الحق حتى تجدوا لنا حلاً. تكلمنا كثيراً ولم يسمعنا أحد، جاء وقت الحلول. نريد مدارس نسائيه لتعليم القيادة. نريد رخص قيادة سعودية أسوة بكل دول العالم. نريد أن نعيش مواطنة كاملة بدون الذل والمهانة التي نتعرض لها كل يوم لأننا مربوطين برقبة سائق

 سنبدأ باقامة حملات تطوعية لتعليم النساء القيادة مجاناً بدأ من تاريخ نشر هذا الإعلان ونرجو مساندة الجميع

:لمراجعة نظام المرور في السعودية

http://bit.ly/lj60Od

الباب الرابع: رخص القيادة صفحة 47

جداول المخالفات 1-4 صفحة 117 -121

When I ran out of birth control in Iran

 

I recently had to extend my trip to Iran and ran out of birth control. No biggie, I thought, contraceptive pills are easily found in pharmacies throughout the country and you don’t even need a prescription. I walked into a pharmacy in Tehran two nights ago, showed the pharmacist my own birth control pills from the United States, and asked for something similar. “We don’t have anything like this,” he said, “our choices of birth control have become extremely limited the past few months.“With the same tired look he also responded to questions from other customers, repeatedly forced to say the same thing: “We no longer have that. You have to check on the black market.”

I knew that Western sanctions against Iran had made it difficult if not impossible to procure many vital medicines. Cancer patients, sufferers of multiple sclerosis and those with numerous others serious conditions have turned to buying medicine on the black market for exorbitant prices, and at times not finding them at all. But I never thought there would be shortages of medicines as routine as birth control. Juggling requests and questions from an anxious crowd of other customers, the pharmacist barely looked back at me: “Ma’am, the only thing I can offer you is Yaz or Yasmin. That’s the best we have in Iran right now.”

I was deeply worried, as Yaz was bad news. I had taken it four years ago only to develop blood clots and extreme mood swings, and gained weight. Yaz and Yasmin are the same birth control brands that now face major lawsuits in the United States because they have been established to cause heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and blood clots in women. Distributed by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, there are currently over 9,000 pending lawsuits against these brands of pills.

I could not believe that the best birth control left in Iran – an Iran whose pharmaceutical market has been decimated by sanctions – were the same pills facing court action and considered a serious health threat in the United States. I visited several pharmacies that same day, and received the same answer from one beleaguered pharmacist after another, all of whom had grown tired of telling their customers they no longer had the medicine they needed.

For years, there has been a plethora of birth control pills and other contraceptives easily available and extremely affordable in Iran, a country that boosts one of the most successful family planning programs in the world. It is only in the aftermath of cumulative American-led sanctions against Iran’s banking and financial sectors that most of these options have disappeared from pharmacies. Up until two months ago, pharmacists told me, there were simply no foreign made birth control pills available at all. Many doctors are wary of prescribing the Iranian-made pills because sanctions have made access to the raw materials required to produce them nearly impossible, making many of these drugs unreliable.

“My face completely broke out and I vomited on a daily basis from the birth control pills I took,” said Negin, a 33-year-old architect I spoke with. “I tried every pill on the market this past year, and each was worse than the other. It got so bad that I now have my aunt in Germany send me a packet of birth control pills every month.”

Neda, a 28-year-old engineer, recounted a similar experience. “The month that I took birth control in the winter was the worst month of my life,” she told me. “I have never experienced such extreme highs and lows in my mood. I thought I was going crazy.” She said her gynecologist eventually advised her to stop taking the pills and to find alternative types of contraception.

I went to a gynecologist to see if she could prescribe something for me that was close enough to the pills I take back home. I told Dr. Leyla Eftekhari that I was not willing to take Yaz or Yasmin given my prior experience with them. “I know how horrible they are,” she said, “but you only need to take them until you get back to the U.S. I don’t prescribe anything else to my patients, because they’re simply worse. This is the best we have in Iran now.” And she proceeded to write me three other prescriptions: one in case I had nausea, one in case I experienced spotting, and the other in case I developed extreme headaches. “You’ll have to put up with the potential weight gain and mood swings. But if you get a blood clot, come see me immediately.” I walked out of her office with four prescriptions in hand.

Astonished that good birth control that would not make a woman sick had become so difficult to find, I traveled to pharmacies throughout Tehran and Karaj the next day. In Karaj, a burgeoning city 20 kilometers west of Tehran, a pharmacist told me that when it comes to such medicines specifically for women, most are no longer available. One pharmacist put the situation in perspective like this: “Two months ago, we didn’t even have access to foreign birth control– at least we do now, even if it’s Yaz or Yasmin. But go searching in all of Iran, and you won’t find any vaginal creams or vaginal antibiotics. And for women who are undergoing IVF treatment, they have to search high and low to buy their medicines on the black market. There’s nothing left in the pharmacies.”

What all this means is that women suffering from yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and other vaginal infections have no recourse to modern medical treatment for extremely common, painful maladies. And for a woman undergoing IVF treatment and hoping for a child, well, the black market with it’s back-breaking prices awaits, with no guarantee that the medicine she buys to inject into her body are actually the drugs she thinks she’s paying for.

Some have suggested that Iran’s birth control shortages may also be due to the Ahmadinejad government’s push to reverse the country’s family planning program in a bid to boost the national birth rate and increase family size (today, Iran has a population growth rate of 1.2 per cent and a fertility rate of 1.6). I posed this specific question to pharmacists and manufacturers, who are working at the frontline of shortages.

They agreed that mismanagement and internal conflict over public health policy play a role in medicine shortages, but on the issue of birth control, they didn’t think it was the government’s doing. Foreign brands of birth control went missing for five months at precisely the same time that other foreign medicine became hard to find in the country. Nearly three months ago, Yaz and Yasmin returned to the market, but other foreign brands that used to be widely available did not.

Throughout this, however, Iranian-made birth control pills have remained on the market. Some raised the issue of IVF treatments, arguing that if decreased access to good birth control pills was government policy to increase the birth rate, then where were the necessary injections for IVF treatment? Women who were actively trying to get pregnant could not find the medicine they needed to ensure their pregnancy. And why have vaginal antibiotics and creams disappeared, which have nothing to do with increasing the population? “In short, what is going on is that medicine for women has become increasingly difficult to find–all medicine for women, and no one talks about it,” said a pharmacist in Tehran’s Vanak Square.

Last week the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees all American sanctions, announced that it was adding additional items to its general license for medicine export to Iran. The export of medicine has always been allowed under the current sanctions regime against Iran, yet there is still a severe shortage of medicine in the country. At this point, actions like this from the U.S. have become comical for those of us who travel to Iran frequently. Which bank is willing to make the transactions necessary for the medicine to reach Iran, given that sanctions have choked off Iranian banks from the world? Which company is willing to ship the medicine to Iran, given that almost all shipping routes have been sanctioned? The U.S. Department of Treasury can appear to be making a humanitarian gesture, but without making actual changes to banking and trade sanctions – which have been and will continue to block the sale of medicines to Iran – nothing will change.

And in the meantime, millions of women in Iran will continue to suffer the consequences of compromised U.S.-made birth control pills and the lack of any medications at all to treat the other gynecological problems they may have. American policy makers, who ironically invoked the plight of women in the Middle East to enact their wars in the region after Sept. 11, should know that their policies in Iran are quite literally making women sick.

Narges Bajoghli is a Ph.D student in anthropology at New York University, and director of the documentary film, The Skin That Burns (2012), about survivors of chemical warfare in Iran.

Article origionally published an Iran News Wire

 

The Veils of Democracy: Into the thought-experiment of Steal this Hijab

Dear Steal this Hijab readers:

I launched Steal this Hijab in April 2010 as a way to communicate all that I was learning through my PhD studies on gender rights in an Islamic context. I maintain StH in my spare time, and given I work, research and am politically active – there is not much time to spare!

However, I feel the idea-experiment that StH is the fruit of, continues to be an important aspect of my development as a critical thinker (dare I say scholar?!), and activist. Steal this Hijab demands me to stay quite vigilant about searching for new ideas, movements and ways of calling for and creating a world where equality, freedom, mutual aid, and cooperation serve as the foundations onto which we sketch our lives.

One of the central commitments that I have decided on in terms of the ethos of StH is a dedication to amplifying the voices of those who struggle for justice – allowing them to speak for themselves, yet trying to make those voices heard at all levels. This commitment is ultimately in the service of my own conception of democracy as a praxis that must continuously be struggled for, even as it evolves and changes and appears in different guises over time and space. I seek to understand and promote forms of democracy that utilize a horizontal decision-making process. One that understands that fundamental and sustainable change comes best ‘from below’, from the struggle of ordinary people who take control over their own lives for their benefit, but also for the benefit of their families (in whatever configuration!), communities and larger society.

I think the tension over individual and communal needs will be addressed through a creative process that does not seek to collapse power around one pole or another – but sees that freedom (even individual freedom) as an imperative foundation of a socialist society. I think this means we draw from those models that have been won for us through thought and struggle, whilst searching for novel understandings and new ways to organize ourselves that help us to press the project of liberation forward. This sort of conception of practice in political theory is often referred to as direct democracy and forms of the basis on which many libertarian socialist organizations formulate and practice democracy.

I have felt more and more that the conversations happening in the field(s) of gender studies at its intersectional or axial points are some of the most emancipatory of any I have come across. Mainly because I think the struggle over gender, its implications and formulations of power structures both within and without, ultimately converge into a focus on issues of inclusion and exclusion. In the abstract that notion seems somewhat intangible, but when contextualized it becomes quickly apparent. A classic example from a gender studies perspective is  the debates over abortion – who should ultimately be responsible for the decision of what a person does with their body. How far does autonomy go when it comes to the question of a potential other life? Is the right to life strictly in the hands of the person bearing the fetus, or should society extend rights (even an equality of rights) to the fetus? If the fetus needs to be considered in decision, how should this be done, and to what extent does the life of the fetus have over the right to life, including quality of life, of the person bearing it?

In many countries throughout the world, the issue of abortion and its connection to issues of democracy – especially direct democracy – are fundamental. In the case of abortion the decision to continue with a pregnancy or not often does not lie in the hands of the person who is carrying the fetus. In Ireland where I live, the state is the ultimate decision maker on this question. And the state has, until this day, made the decision to exclude the right of the individual over a dated conception of the will of the whole – coming out of the dominant notions held by the Catholic Church. Catholic conceptions of societal ethics continue to influence what is perceived as the status quo in Ireland, despite a clear change in attitudes towards both ethics and the Catholic Church. But with a political system that perpetuates top down power structures in the favor of maintaining the status quo in order to maintain themselves, means that principles of direct democracy and individual freedom are subordinated to the will of a perceived majority. Rather than allowing for ‘choice’ – the right to choose what one does with their own body, the power over this decision is made by the state not, for instance, an individual woman.

The example of abortion, and the need for a robust democratic process that balances the needs of the individual with that of their community – a process that one can enter into or exit out of voluntarily, whose aim is mutual aid, means asking the question of how to organize ourselves in a horizontal manner that bring to bear the myriad of voices in our societies in a way that people are able to participate freely, with equal powers and equal say?

I am fully aware that we dwell in a world where this must be culled from the wreckage we’ve created, and it can be a painful, insidious process. However, I fully believe that without socialism, without an answer to how we are going to share our stuff, share the resources and potential of our world fairly, environmentally, equitably . . . we will perish. This means the participation of all in our communities, not in a coercive or brutal fashion, like socialist regimes of the past (and some of the present!) but in a way that recognizes and celebrates differences whilst seeking a stronger solidarity of the whole.

I think it will necessitate a great deal or organization, of work that will not always be glamorous and a lot of experimenting. However, if we are to decide that we want our planet to live out the fullness of its life in this galaxy, if we are to survive global warming and climate change, and if we are to decide to think of ourselves not as infinitesimal glimmers of light that burst and die, but rather as connected forces in a perpetually streaming river of life we might have a better understanding of the ferocious power for good that is our potential on this planet.

The question remains about how we do this. How do we birth this world into full being? People have been asking these questions for a long time, and they continue to be important to consider anew. And these are the types of questions, observances and struggles that Steal this Hijab is keenly interested in. We seek to find novel ways people are participating positively in their communities, and have narrowed our focus to the movements that specifically look at gender and rights discourses. We see this as a lens through which we encounter the myriad of equally important issues – like class, race, ability, etc. that effect how our communities are organized, interpreted, understood and lived.

The focus on gender in Islamic contexts comes out of my own personal experience as an activist and the evolution of how I identify myself. Born in the United States to an Iranian father and an American mother, the questions about my own identity began early on, and with the intrepid journey to better understand what, by so many politically motivated accounts, was a clear divide between East and West. It’s a divide that has produced in me, an affection for the questioning of boundaries and borders. An urge engendered in the deepest part of my being to be critical and analyse and ask questions and never accept finalities. This has often landed me in trouble. . .  with my parents, with my teachers and eventually with all those in authority – be it bosses or the machinery of the state. My learning curve as a critical, active participant in my world rose exponentially with the world I inherited as an adult. A world where an autumn morning in the first few days of my university life changed the composition of power structures away from an orientation of openness (for a few), to the suspicion of the many – especially those who came from Muslim majority countries. My white skin, and non-hijab wearing head, provided me with a privilege others from my cultural and ethnic background did not have the safety of. However, my visceral urge to ask questions set me upon a unique path – one that saw me join the work of a tiny, but remarkable solidarity campaign called Voices in the Wilderness (Voices).

Voices was a campaign, whose second floor apartment that doubled as an office, organized delegations of activists opposed to the economic sanctions policy in Iraq, to travel to the country with the specific intention of breaking these sanctions. The act was for Americans, a federal crime, punishable by the potential of 12 years in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars. Because voices was a grassroots campaign of activists, it was not able to break the sanctions in any significant way in terms of providing needed supplies to desperate civilian infrastructure in Iraq. In this way, the small amounts of aid that voices was able to literally carry over in suitcases and handbags, served as more of a symbolic gesture than any practical one. However, the need to call attention to the effects of this policy on ordinary Iraqis – not the political elites – was important in raising the question of the policies’ purpose and more generally helped to bring forth more abstract queries that were important to consider.

The problem of the sanctions policy, however, was not only how it affected the lives on Iraqis – though that was the most crucial aspect. Far more insidious was what the sanctions policy illustrated about the role the U.S. played in the world more generally. The sanctions policy signaled a disregard not only for the lives of Iraqis, but what might generally be acknowledged as an incoherency in how the U.S. viewed and defined itself as a nation, and how it acted and behaved relative to other nations in the world. The sanctions policy itself was not exclusively an invention of the U.S., it was ultimately a policy invented and implemented by the United Nations. But it was one that came into being and perpetuated at the behest of the United States, because it served an important purpose in a larger regional power struggle in the region.

Unfortunately we all know the story from here, a war in Afghanistan, a second in Iraq and an ongoing regional struggle over political power that is increasingly sectarian in nature and composition. Voices has continued their work struggling to demand an end to U.S. economic and military war in the Middle East, and they are joined by many organizations throughout the world that continue to shine a light on U.S. imperialism. What has made the last years in the MENA region peek the interest of activists the world over are the uprisings and revolutions that have turned post-colonial power structures up-side down. Maybe not entirely reversed, but knocking down the notion that the region is fated to be ruled  by dictatorships funded by oil and backed up by the largest capitalist economies on the planet: America, Russia, India, China. People have been in streets (as a handful have always been), but their numbers grow, their demands becomes larger and louder  and include more and more sections of society.

Steal this Hijab has been especially heartened by the ways in which issue-orientated groups have attempted to work in solidarity with each other and with different sections of the population in order to strengthen the demands of the whole. Women’s rights groups have joined with football fans have joined with LGBT activists and folks bridge demands across class and ethnic identities. These spurts of activism are extremely delicate and not without their problems, but they kindle the project of liberation as it sparks or as it roars ahead. In Turkey activists have learned from other movements, especially Egypt, that dialogue at a grassroots level is needed before the move towards electoralism spoils meaningful dialogue on the composition of the society they endeavor to create. These community councils are the living embodiment of the ideals espoused by direct democracy, and help to prove the tangibility of the notion.

Their is much more to this story, but I will have to continue it in the future. For now, I wanted to focus on communicating some of the impulses and purposes that has led to this very spare time project, and let you know some about where Steal this Hijab comes from and where it wants to go. I would love to have the time and resources to expand the website into something more significant. Perhaps someday I will be able to do that, but for now it remains a project that shares the ebbs and flows of my own life.

I encourage commentary and (meaningful) exchanges on this blog. Hopefully some day some of you may send me stuff to publish, and we will have more regular readers and daily posts. Until then, the project continues.

In Solidarity,

Farah

for Steal this Hijab

Despotism or Feminism

Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini is a legal anthropologist specializing in Islamic law, gender, and development. She is currently Professorial Research Associate at the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, University of London. In this lecture, Dr. Mir-Hosseini explores the Islamic feminist movement’s potential for changing the terms of debates over Islam and gender, arguing that the real battle is between patriarchy and despotism on the one hand, and gender equality and democracy on the other.

 

Equal Education, Unequal Pay

It’s 2012 and close to four years after the Lilly ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law. Surely, the gender wage gap has been closed, right? Wrong.

Even with moves toward equalizing pay between men and women, men still make almost 20% more than women in nearly all industries. This is despite the fact that women receive the same education, with the same tuition price tags and levels of debt upon graduation. The only major differences are that there are more ladies in college and they have better average GPAs to boot. The benefits of paying women their fair share include increasing the GDP while reducing the poverty rates for families.

Check out the infographic below to see what else the gender wage gap affects.

For more info graphics, and to visit the page this one was originally posted please visit this link.

equal_education_unequal_pay

Nasrin Sotoudeh Writes From Evin Explaining Reason For Her Hunger Strike

Translated by persianbanoo

My fellow countrymen:

Is penalizing family members (families of the political prisoners) an accidental occurrence?

I was on a hunger strike for 49 days to protest a variety of issues including punishment of my family. During this time much concerns were generated, all of which arose out of grace and love for a common demand, and that was a big “No” to penalizing the families.

It is my duty to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all the people that with their benevolence and kindness paid attention to this matter.

From public and social groups, specifically the Mourning Mothers that have lost their children in the 2009 Movement (I had the honor of representing few of them), to the Mothers for Peace and the women’s rights activists, from the political prisoners that I have the honor of having endured imprisonment with them, to my dear cellmates that endured the hardships associated with my hunger strike, and of course, my husband and my young daughter who endured great sufferings.

From the human rights activists across the world, from the Iranian Diaspora that, after the 2009 Movement, have shown how important their presence is in restoring the human rights and democracy in Iran.

From those who used their individual rights and freedom to stand with us and support the demands that, on the surface, seemed to be limited only to my small family.

Those courageous people that personally decided to participate in my hunger strike, and of course caused me to share the experience of being worried for hunger strikers. They caused me to understand how one person’s hunger strike can create and cause others to worry and be concerned.

Their action brought much heavier responsibility for me, for they had decided to launch a hunger strike in my support.

From the human rights activists across the globe that assisted me in my resistance and standing. And every time I think to myself of what noble human beings are in the other side of the oceans, that support and are sympathetic to my cause and pave the way for me and my family to endure this burden.

I know you were worried about my hunger strike. I would like for all to know that I also was worried for everyone’s worries and concern.

But why I was not willing to halt my hunger strike?

I, along with my clients and tens of political prisoners who are in prison merely because of their noble actions, spend although difficult, but valuable days in prison.

I now proudly endure imprisonment amongst the civil activists, political activists, prisoners of conscience, and our fellow Baha’i countrymen and Christians that I have had the honor to represent few of them. Those who received unfair sentences for simply living based on their beliefs.

After all the injustices, they (the regime) have even resorted to punishment of the families. First they pursued my husband and then they pressed new charges against him.

After the detention of my family and children for hours, even though for only few hours, they pressed new charges on my twelve year old daughter. Then in a rush to judgement, they placed a ban on her foreign travel.

My daughter, like every other child at this age. and not more than other children, has the right to live without the fear of threats and punishment.

Previously, I have had the honor of defending the children of my country. Punishing the children is absolutely prohibited, much less for political charges on account of their parents.

But of course, this sort of punishment has not been only limited to my family. To explain the wide scope of this unjust treatment, it is enough to remember that among the 36 female prisoners incarcerated in the political prisoner’s ward, the immediate family of 13 of them are either imprisoned or are under Judicial pursuit.

This figure represents one third of the female political prisoners. Among this group there are some that have more than one family member either imprisoned or under Judicial pursuit.

To protest the punishment of the families (the punishment of my family was an example of this sort of treatment), I launched a hunger strike.

It is my hope that the punishment of families is removed from the policy of threats and pressure.

Once again, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all those who’s constant support did not leave me in this endeavor and to declare my confidence in the path that certainly will result in justice, rule of law and democracy.

With hopes of liberty and freedom,
Nasrin Sotoudeh
Evin Prison
December 2012

 

Human Rights Watch Letter to Clinton on Strategy for Women’s Rights in Post-2014 Afghanistan

 October 19, 2012

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We write to ask you to take the lead in formulating a clear and public US strategy for promotion and protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan, and to urge other countries to join in this effort.

We recognize the commitment both you and your Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, have demonstrated to women’s rights in Afghanistan. We also recognize the large commitment of resources and energy by many others in the US government to promote and protect the rights of Afghan women and girls.
Continue reading

An Islamic School for Girls

 

by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix

In 1982, when she was just 17 years old, Houda al-Habash opened the doors to her Qur’an

school for women and girls at the Al-Zahra Mosque in Damascus, Syria. Houda is representative of a pioneering generation of women in the Middle East who have begun to study Islam within the mosque like their fathers, uncles and brothers — a trend that is reshaping the region. We made the film because despite the influence of schools like Houda’s, stories about them are still rare.

In the film, inside her organized and lively school, Houda teaches her students about women’s rights within Islam and encourages them to take their secular education seriously. She and her students are engaged in a debate about women’s roles in the modern world, similar to the debates we find in our own culture. In the end, we were more compelled by the similarities than the differences in that debate.

The Syria we left when we finished shooting in November 2010 has drastically changed because of the popular uprising against PresidentBashar al-Assad’s regime. Houda is no longer teaching at her school; like many Syrians with the financial means, she and her family left the country to live in the Arabian Peninsula. Houda’s daughter, Enas, has said, “A light has gone out in our community,” because it is no longer safe to go to the mosque. It is impossible to know what will happen in Syria, but Houda certainly gave her students a foundation of faith and discipline to face the challenges before them.

This Op-Doc is adapted from “The Light in Her Eyes,” a feature-length documentary about Houda al-Habash.

Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix are the directors and producers of “The Light in Her Eyes,” which will be broadcast on the PBS series “POV.” Ms. Meltzer’s work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial and the Sharjah Biennial. Ms. Nix’s work includes directing the feature documentary “Whether You Like It or Not” and producing “The Yes Men Fix the World.”

 

Rich, Islamist and post-feminist

by Rafia Zakaria

Rich, Islamist and post-feminist 

Their headscarves match their outfits perfectly, often held up by jewelled pins sporting emeralds, rubies and other precious stones. Their make-up is impeccable and a cloud of perfume follows them wherever they go. In the past few weeks of Ramazan, many have been chauffeured in their shiny sedans to taraveeh services held in venues usually reserved for weddings. Many afternoons have been spent at women-only sessions of Quranic tafseer. They follow a number of leaders, from the now internationally known Farhat Hashmi to other well-known sheikhs.

These women represent an interesting and relatively new phenomenon in the lives of Pakistan’s well to do. Demographically, they belong to the richest five percent of the country, the last section of the population to be affected by the ravages of a collapsing economy and decrepit civil institutions. Many if not all, come from families where women have been educated for generations and encouraged to pursue any opportunity that may suit their fancy. Their ranks therefore are full of doctors, lawyers, educators and the ubiquitous socialites.

Their children are often educated abroad, their husbands clean-shaven and their houses staffed with armies of servants. Like the coffee parties and social welfare melas of old, these tafseer sessions and taraveeh services have become venues of socialisation and cultural reorganisation. In this newly fashionable zeal for all things religious, these women, often plagued by the boredom that comes with affluence, seem to have found both direction and identity.

To most of these women, talk of the necessity of “liberating” Pakistani women seems redundant. First of all, the reality of those women who do not have the same weight of guilt to expunge from their conscience is remote to them. In other words, having been given the choice to embrace religious zealotry, it is difficult for them to imagine an alternative path to embracing elements of faith that give up female agency.

As clarification, consider this illustrative example: Rashida is a university professor who has taught at the engineering department of a private university for the past twenty years. Her children are grown and settled abroad. Her husband, a high level civil servant, had always given her the freedom to work, have her own friends, visit whomever she wants and even take frequent vacations abroad to visit her sisters in America. A highly educated man, who insisted on sending not just their son but also their daughter to be educated abroad, Rashida’s husband would balk at the idea of placing any sort of restrictions on his wife.

Yet, Rashida, since beginning the course with “madam” (as Farhat Hashmi’s adherents refer to her) has begun asking for his “permission” before leaving the home. She observes strict hijab before any unrelated males, including, somewhat embarrassingly, her own daughter’s husband who is over twenty-five years her junior.

The changes, albeit discomfiting to her family members, have been accepted readily by them, much like a new career or hobby that keeps Rashida satisfied and makes her less likely to pick fights with her husband or complain about the lack of attention from her children. Rashida often forces the household maid to attend tafseer sessions with her and has asked her to wear hijab (even though she is Christian!) before male servants and in front of Rashida’s husband and son. When asked about why she wears the hijab, Rashida will insist, truthfully so, that it is a choice made freely and without any pressure from her husband.

Rashida’s case is illustrative for a variety of reasons. First, it demonstrates the palliative nature of pietist movements like Farhat Hashmi’s, for women who, at crossroads in their lives (in this case, after the children have left home), may find themselves unsure of their identity and their place in society. Faith not only fills a much needed spiritual void but also a social one, providing new avenues of meeting people and a new purpose to life; all deeply admirable components.

What Rashida’s example also illustrates is the curious juxtaposition of post-feminist ideas in a society where women’s liberation never took the form of any coherent movement. In other words, Rashida’s case represents how a very small sliver of Pakistani women in the upper echelons of society, who have been insulated by class privilege from the laws and customs that target and persecute the remainder of Pakistani women, is now at the helm of denying the need for legal and sociological changes.

Women like Rashida are the face of the post-feminist Pakistani woman. Born in affluent homes and provided the same privileges as their brothers, they have often never experienced any form of legal discrimination or sexual harassment. The discriminatory weight of counting as a half-witness under Qanoon-e-Shahadat, or being legally entrusted to a male relative, of having to produce four witnesses in cases of rape, are all far away from their comfortable realities where religion is yet another item on a long menu of possible activities.

The women that are abducted, that are imprisoned under accusations of Zina, that are traded away in land disputes, are mere spectres in news stories. Theirs is a world of free choices garnered by class privileges. They take religion as a particular sheikh sells it to them, don hijabs and ask their husbands for permission to leave the home in an experiment with a new identity that may be adorned or shed at will. Indeed, there is no need for feminism in their world since subjugation, legal or otherwise, when freely chosen, represents no subjugation at all.

Instead, the cost of elite women’s experiment with Islamism is borne instead by those women whose agency and free will is ignored in this equation. Just as Rashida does not give a second thought to the relative fairness of requiring her maids of to attend tafseer sessions or wear hijab, the limits to the ability of religious awakening to question core problems in society is exposed. The ability of elite women to define whether or not Pakistan needs feminism is thus circumscribed by the fact that the battles feminism would have to fight have never been battles for them at all, but rather for those women who remain invisible as much because of their poverty as of their gender.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

‘We live in fear of a massacre.’

Editor’s Note: Marie Colvin was a reporter with the Sunday Times and died of wounds sustained from an IED less than 48 hours after authoring this article. She had defied the Syrian government’s prohibition against international journalists coving the protests in Homs, Syria – and ultimately that protest would cost her life. The following is her final transmission. 

by: Marie Colvin and Paul Conroy 

They call it the widows’ basement. Crammed amid makeshift beds and scattered belongings are frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs, the Syrian city shaken by two weeks of relentless bombardment.

Among the 300 huddling in this wood factory cellar in the besieged district of Baba Amr is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and her home to the shells and rockets.

“Our house was hit by a rocket so 17 of us were staying in one room,” she recalls as Mimi, her three-year-old daughter, and Mohamed, her five-year-old son, cling to her abaya.

“We had had nothing but sugar and water for two days and my husband went to try to find food.” It was the last time she saw Maziad, 30, who had worked in a mobile phone repair shop. “He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.”

For Noor, it was a double tragedy. Adnan, her 27-year-old brother, was killed at Maziad’s side.

Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death. The refuge was chosen because it is one of the few basements in Baba Amr. Foam mattresses are piled against the walls and the children have not seen the light of day since the siege began on February 4. Most families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs.

The city is running perilously short of supplies and the only food here is rice, tea and some tins of tuna delivered by a local sheikh who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket.

A baby born in the basement last week looked as shellshocked as her mother, Fatima, 19, who fled there when her family’s single-storey house was obliterated. “We survived by a miracle,” she whispers. Fatima is so traumatised that she cannot breastfeed, so the baby has been fed only sugar and water; there is no formula milk.

Fatima may or may not be a widow. Her husband, a shepherd, was in the countryside when the siege started with a ferocious barrage and she has heard no word of him since.

The widows’ basement reflects the ordeal of 28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr, a district of low concrete-block homes surrounded on all sides by Syrian forces. The army is launching Katyusha rockets, mortar shells and tank rounds at random

Snipers on the rooftops of al-Ba’ath University and other high buildings surrounding Baba Amr shoot any civilian who comes into their sights. Residents were felled in droves in the first days of the siege but have now learnt where the snipers are and run across junctions where they know they can be seen. Few cars are left on the streets.

Almost every building is pock-marked after tank rounds punched through concrete walls or rockets blasted gaping holes in upper floors. The building I was staying in lost its upper floor to a rocket last Wednesday. On some streets whole buildings have collapsed — all there is to see are shredded clothes, broken pots and the shattered furniture of families destroyed.

It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire. There are no telephones and the electricity has been cut off. Few homes have diesel for the tin stoves they rely on for heat in the coldest winter that anyone can remember. Freezing rain fills potholes and snow drifts in through windows empty of glass. No shops are open, so families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbours. Many of the dead and injured are those who risked foraging for food.

Fearing the snipers’ merciless eyes, families resorted last week to throwing bread across rooftops, or breaking through communal walls to pass unseen.

The Syrians have dug a huge trench around most of the district, and let virtually nobody in or out. The army is pursuing a brutal campaign to quell the resistance of Homs, Hama and other cities that have risen up against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, whose family has been in power for 42 years.

In Baba Amr, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the armed face of opposition to Assad, has virtually unanimous support from civilians who see them as their defenders. It is an unequal battle: the tanks and heavy weaponry of Assad’s troops against the Kalashnikovs of the FSA.

About 5,000 Syrian soldiers are believed to be on the outskirts of Baba Amr, and the FSA received reports yesterday that they were preparing a ground assault. The residents dread the outcome.

“We live in fear the FSA will leave the city,” said Hamida, 43, hiding with her children and her sister’s family in an empty ground-floor apartment after their house was bombed. “There will be a massacre.”

On the lips of everyone was the question: “Why have we been abandoned by the world?”

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said last week: “We see neighbourhoods shelled indiscriminately, hospitals used as torture centres, children as young as 10 years old killed and abused. We see almost certainly crimes against humanity.” Yet the international community has not come to the aid of the innocent caught in this hell.

Abdel Majid, 20, who was helping to rescue the wounded from bombed buildings, made a simple plea. “Please tell the world they must help us,” he said, shaking, with haunted eyes. “Just stop the bombing. Please, just stop the shelling.”

The journey across the countryside from the Lebanese border to Homs would be idyllic in better times. The villages are nondescript clusters of concrete buildings on dirt tracks but the lanes are lined with cypresses and poplar trees and wind through orchards of apricot and apple trees.

These days, however, there is an edge of fear on any journey through this area. Most of this land is essentially what its residents call “Syria hurra”, or free Syria, patrolled by the FSA.

Nevertheless, Assad’s army has checkpoints on the main roads and troops stationed in schools, hospitals and factories. They are heavily armed and backed by tanks and artillery.

So a drive to Homs is a bone-rattling struggle down dirt roads, criss-crossing fields. Men cluster by fires at unofficial FSA checkpoints, eyeing any vehicle suspiciously. As night falls, flashlights waved by unseen figures signal that the way ahead is clear.

Each travelling FSA car has a local shepherd or farmer aboard to help navigate the countryside; the Syrian army may have the power, but the locals know every track of their fields.

I entered Homs on a smugglers’ route, which I promised not to reveal, climbing over walls in the dark and slipping into muddy trenches. Arriving in the darkened city in the early hours, I was met by a welcoming party keen for foreign journalists to reveal the city’s plight to the world. So desperate were they that they bundled me into an open truck and drove at speed with the headlights on, everyone standing in the back shouting “Allahu akbar” — God is the greatest. Inevitably, the Syrian army opened fire.

When everyone had calmed down I was driven in a small car, its lights off, along dark empty streets, the danger palpable. As we passed an open stretch of road, a Syrian army unit fired on the car again with machineguns and launched a rocket-propelled grenade. We sped into a row of abandoned buildings for cover.

The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one.

Khaled Abu Salah, an activist who took part in the first demonstrations against Assad in Homs last March, sat on the floor of an office, his hand broken and bandages covering shrapnel wounds to his leg and shoulder.

A 25-year-old university student, who risked his life filming videos of the slaughter of Baba Amr residents, he narrowly escaped when he tried to get two men wounded by mortar fire to a makeshift clinic.

He and three friends had just taken the wounded to the clinic, which was staffed by a doctor and a dentist, and stepped away from the door when “a shell landed right at the entrance”, he recalled last week.

“My three friends died immediately.” The two men they had helped were also killed.

Abu Ammar, 48, a taxi driver, went out to look for bread at 8am one day last week. He, his wife and their adopted daughter had taken refuge with two elderly sisters after their home was hit by shells.

“When I returned the house was obliterated,” he said, looking at all that remained of the one-storey building. Only a few pieces of wall still stood. In the ruins a woman’s red blouse was visible; bottles of home-made pickled vegetables were somehow unscathed. “Dr Ali”, a dentist working as a doctor, said one of the women from the house had arrived at the clinic alive, but both legs had been amputated and she died.

The clinic is merely a first-floor apartment donated by the kindly owner. It still has out-of-place domestic touches: plasma pouches hang from a wooden coat hanger and above the patients a colourful children’s mobile hangs from the ceiling.

The shelling last Friday was the most intense yet and the wounded were rushed to the clinic in the backs of cars by family members.

Ali the dentist was cutting the clothes off 24-year-old Ahmed al-Irini on one of the clinic’s two operating tables. Shrapnel had gashed huge bloody chunks out of Irini’s thighs. Blood poured out as Ali used tweezers to draw a piece of metal from beneath his left eye.

Irini’s legs spasmed and he died on the table. His brother-in-law, who had brought him in, began weeping. “We were playing cards when a missile hit our house,” he said through his tears. Irini was taken out to the makeshift mortuary in a former back bedroom, naked but for a black plastic bag covering his genitals.

There was no let-up. Khaled Abu Kamali died before the doctor could get his clothes off. He had been hit by shrapnel in the chest while at home.

Salah, 26, was peppered with shrapnel in his chest and the left of his back. There was no anaesthetic, but he talked as Ali inserted a metal pipe into his back to release the pressure of the blood building up in his chest.

Helping tend the wounded was Um Ammar, a 45-year-old mother of seven, who had offered to be a nurse after a neighbour’s house was shelled. She wore filthy plastic gloves and was crying. “I’m obliged to endure this, because all children brought here are my children,” she said. “But it is so hard.”

Akhmed Mohammed, a military doctor who defected from Assad’s army, shouted: “Where are the human rights? Do we have none? Where are the United Nations?”

There were only two beds in the clinic for convalescing. One was taken by Akhmed Khaled, who had been injured, he said, when a shell hit a mosque as he was about to leave prayers. His right testicle had had to be removed with only paracetamol to dull the pain.

He denounced the Assad regime’s claim that the rebels were Islamic extremists and said: “We ask all people who believe in God — Christians, Jews, Muslims to help us!”

If the injured try to flee Baba Amr, they first have to be carried on foot. Then they are transferred to motorbikes and the lucky ones are smuggled to safety. The worst injured do not make it.

Though Syrian officials prohibit anyone from leaving, some escapees manage to bribe their way out. I met refugees in villages around Homs. Newlywed Miriam, 32, said she and her husband had decided to leave when they heard that three families had been killed and the women raped by the Shabiha militia, a brutal force led by Assad’s younger brother, Maher.

“We were practically walking on body parts as we walked under shelling overhead,” she said. Somehow they made it unscathed. She had given an official her wedding ring in order to be smuggled out to safety.

Abdul Majid, a computer science student at university, was still shaking hours after arriving in a village outside Homs. He had stayed behind alone in Baba Amr. “I had to help the old people because only the young can get out,” said Majid, 20, wearing a leather jacket and jeans. He left when his entire street fled after every house was hit.

“I went to an army checkpoint that I was told was not too bad. I gave them a packet of cigarettes, two bags of tea and 500 Syrian pounds. They told me to run.”

Blasts of Kalashnikov fire rang out above his head until he reached the tree line. He said the soldiers were only pretending to try to shoot him to protect themselves, but his haunted eyes showed he was not entirely sure.

If the Syrian military rolls into Baba Amr, the FSA will have little chance against its tanks, superior weaponry and numbers. They will, however, fight ferociously to defend their families because they know a massacre is likely to follow any failure, if the past actions of the Assad regime are anything to go by.

The FSA partly relies on defections from Assad’s army because it does not accept civilians into its ranks, though they perform roles such as monitoring troop movements and transporting supplies. But it has become harder for soldiers to defect in the past month.

Abu Sayeed, 46, a major- general who defected six months ago, said every Syrian military unit was now assigned a member of the Mukhabarat, the feared intelligence service, who have orders to execute any soldier refusing an order to shoot or who tries to defect.

The army, like the country, may well be about to divide along sectarian lines. Most of the officers are members of the Alawite sect, the minority Shi’ite clan to which the Assad family belongs, while foot soldiers are Sunni.

The coming test for the army will be if its ranks hold if ordered to kill increasing numbers of their brethren.

The swathe of the country that stretches east from the Lebanon border and includes Homs is Sunni; in the villages there they say that officers ordering attacks are Alawites fighting for the Assad family, not their country.

The morale of Assad’s army, despite its superiority, is said to be low as it is poorly paid and supplied, although this information comes mostly from defectors. “The first thing we did when we attacked the house was race to the refrigerator,” said a defector.

Thousands of soldiers would be needed to retake the southern countryside. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father and former president, crushed his problems with Islamic fundamentalists in 1982 by shelling the city of Hama into ruins and killing at least 10,000 men, women and children. So far his son appears to have calculated that a similar act would be a step too far for his remaining allies of Russia, China and Iran.

For now it is a violent and deadly standoff. The FSA is not about to win and its supplies of ammunition are dwindling.

The only real hope of success for Assad’s opponents is if the international community comes to their aid, as Nato did against Muammar Gadaffi in Libya. So far this seems unlikely to happen in Syria.

Observers see a negotiated solution as perhaps a long shot, but the best way out of this impasse. Though neither side appears ready to negotiate, there are serious efforts behind the scenes to persuade Russia to pull Assad into talks.

As international diplomats dither, the desperation in Baba Amr grows. The despair was expressed by Hamida, 30, hiding in a downstairs flat with her sister and their 13 children after two missiles hit their home. Three little girls, aged 16 months to six years, sleep on one thin, torn mattress on the floor; three others share a second. Ahmed, 16, her sister’s eldest child, was killed by a missile when he went to try to find bread.

“The kids are screaming all the time,” Hamida said. “I feel so helpless.” She began weeping. “We feel so abandoned. They’ve given Bashar al-Assad the green light to kill us.”

Asma, the British-born wife of President Bashar al-Assad, may well be feeling a sense of divided loyalty as the violence continues in the Syrian city of Homs. Her family are from the area, which has been a focal point for many of the recent protests against her husband’s regime and the Syrian army’s brutal response.

Despite growing up in Acton, west London, Asma visited her family’s home in Homs every year throughout her childhood. She is also a Sunni Muslim, unlike her husband, who comes from the country’s minority Shi’ite community.

Asma, 36, has been criticised for displaying an “ostrich attitude”, keeping a low profile as the conflict has intensified. She has refused to comment on the way her husband’s regime has used tanks and other lethal means to crush protesters. In an email sent earlier this month, her office merely said: “The first lady’s very busy agenda is still focused on supporting the various charities she has long been involved with as well as rural development and supporting the President as needed.”

The daughter of a consultant cardiologist and a retired diplomat, Asma was born in London. She attended a Church of England state school in Acton and gained a BSc in computer science and a diploma in French literature from King’s College London.

She went on to work for Deutsche Bank and married Assad in Syria in 2000. Now a mother of three, she was once described by Vogue as a “rose in the desert”.

In Homs, the beleaguered people may now take a different view.

The Green Wave

A film by Ali Samadi Ahadi

 


SYNOPSIS

Green is the color of hope. Green is the color of Islam. And Green was the symbol of recognition among the supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who became the symbolic figure of the Green Revolution in Iran last year. The presidential elections on June 12th, 2009 were supposed to bring about a change, but contrary to all expectations the ultra-conservative populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was confirmed in office. As clear as was the result, as loud and justified were the accusations of vote-rigging. The on-going Where is my vote? protest demonstrations were again and again worn down and broken up with brutal attacks by government militia. Images taken from private persons with their cell phones or cameras bear witness to this excessive violence: people were beaten, stabbed, shot dead, arrested, kidnapped, some of them disappearing without trace. What remains is the countless number of dead or injured people and victims of torture, and another deep wound in the hearts of the Iranians.

THE GREEN WAVE is a touching documentary-collage illustrating the dramatic events and telling about the feelings of the people behind this revolution. Facebook reports, Twitter messages and videos posted in the internet were included in the film composition, and hundreds of real blog entries served as reference for the experiences and thoughts of two young students, whose story is running through the film as the main thread. The film describes their initial hope and curiosity, their desperate fear, and the courage to yet continue to fight. These fictional ‘storylines’ have been animated as a motion comic – sort of a moving comic – framing the deeply affecting pictures of the revolution and the interviews with prominent human rights campaigners and exiled Iranians. Ali Samadi Ahadi’s documentary is a highly contemporary chronicle of the Green Revolution and a memorial for all of those who believed in more freedom and lost their lives for it.

PRESS RELEASE

Following the award-winning documentary LOST CHILDREN that he did together with Oliver Stoltz (among others the German Film Award) and his affectionate comedy SALAMI ALEIKUM – in his film THE GREEN WAVE Ali Samadi Ahadi reflects the dramatic events before and after the presidential elections 2009 in Iran. Like an eager sigh, like an unstoppable wave, the desire for more freedom began to spread out in Iran last summer. The color Green of the supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi became the ever-present symbol of a potential change. But on election day the peaceful revolution failed and the regime under Ahmadinejad took action against the oppositionists, activists and demonstrators with a brutality almost too difficult to imagine.

Framed by animated ‘scenes’ which from the perspective of two young students convey a sense of the events, the film shows the real pictures of the revolution, taken with cameras or cell phones: election meetings, demonstrations, unrest and finally the attacks of the militia with batons and knives. Ahadi’s film produced by Oliver Stoltz and Jan Krueger (both of Dreamer Joint Venture Filmproduktion) is a courageous and encouraging collage composed of blog quotes, real video recordings, illustrative interviews with prominent exiled Iranians and human rights activists, and of a motion comic narrative thread – resulting in a stirring plea, an appeal for awareness and actions, and a shaking up, shocking and touching chronicle of the Green Revolution in Iran.

STORYLINE

“For a few weeks we had the feeling of being so close to our goal as never before …” – blog entry.

The Green Revolution in Iran owes its name to the color that became the symbol of recognition among the supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Being the color of Islam and the color of hope, and being one of the Iranian national colors this Green unfolded an unforeseen signal effect and symbolic power going far beyond the mere commitment to Mousavi. It was not just about election campaigning, not even about dissatisfaction with the regime under Ahmadinejad, but about a new collective spirit and the confidence that there could be another way for Iran, a way that is not characterized by reprisals, oppressions and despotism. This Green was the signal to set out, the symbol of courage and of the chance for a change that had been considered improbable for a long time.

In the streets of Tehran and other big cities, the euphoria was evident: cloths, bracelets, scarfs, nail polish, almost anything was appropriate as a green greeting, as an attribute of peaceful unity and as a gesture of rebellion.

Though news coverage from Iran was almost impossible, the Green Movement could also be sensed abroad, where usually nothing but Ahmadinejad’s provocations were received. Twitter and Facebook messages, YouTube videos and especially numerous blogs reflected an unforeseen euphoric mood. The Iranian blogger scene, which is considered to be one of the largest in the world, came up in the years 1999 to 2003 at the height of the reform movement of those days. Since 2005 this internet forum has had to struggle with more strict controls by the regime und has been curtailed as much as possible. Any blogger making critical comments has to live with the risk of prosecution by the government. In the months before the presidential elections in 2009 this scene started to flourish again and the internet has become an important vital lifeline for the revolution.

Over a thousand different entries in Iranian blogs have been the inspiration for the two ‘fictional’ students – their thoughts being the emotional thread running through the real events: how they perceive the awakening of the Green Movement, how they wake up from a frustrating hopelessness and feel that there is after all a chance to shape the future, how they become desperate with fear beginning to grow again, and how they despite all that do not give up hope.

The stories of the students Azadeh and Kaveh are animated as a motion comic, and rich in contrast going along with the real video images of the revolt and with the interviews with prominent Iranian personalities and human rights activists like Dr. Shirin Ebadi (Noble Peace Prize winner), the Shiite cleric Dr. Mohsen Kadivar (one of the most important critics of the Islamic Republic), the young journalist Mitra Khalatbari, Dr. Payam Akhavan (former UN war crimes prosecutor and a specialist in human rights), or with Mehdi Mohseni (blogger and election assistant to Mir-Hossein Mousavi).

The hopes of the Green Movement for a victory of Mousavi and for reforms were bitterly dashed on the election day and the accusations of vote-rigging still called people into the streets. But ever since the supreme clerical leader of Iran, Khamenei, declared the election result official and uttered an explicit threat to the protesters, the measures against the peaceful resistance became more and more brutal. The images of Neda killed by a shot in the chest during a demonstration shortly afterwards went around the world. Countless videos taken with cameras or cell phones and put on the internet give evidence for the excessive brutality that the government militia used against the demonstrators: militias driving on motorbikes into the crowd of people, beating them with knives and batons, or treading on casualties lying defenselessly on the ground. The regime systematically took action against the ongoing protests, against oppositionists and – like in a frenzy of violence – also against innocent bystanders. Raids at night, arrests on a large scale, never-ending interrogations, raping, abductions, torture – any desire for freedom, any thought of rebellion should be suppressed with inhuman cruelty. Up to this day the pressure of the regime continues, but although the Green Revolution has been subjugated with every available means, the desire of the people for more freedom and dignity is unbroken – just as is their willingness to fight for it.


DIRECTOR ALI SAMADI AHADI ABOUT HIS FILM

It was June 12th, 2009. After having worked very hard for two years all of us were very much looking forward to the premiere of our comedy SALAMI ALEIKUM. From all over Germany our colleagues gathered together for the International Film Festival in Emden where the film would be shown to the public for the first time. On the very same day my wife and I went to Bonn to submit our voting slip for the presidential elections in Iran. I always felt both, as an Iranian and as a German. So did my wife. We met in the no man’s land of cultures and tried to bring together in our lives the positive aspects of both of the two worlds.


Ali Samadi Ahadi

On the very same evening of June 12th it suddenly became clear that one of those worlds was in flames. Despite SALAMI ALEIKUM being a great success in Emden, our team did not at all feel like celebrating. We felt kind of petrified. Paralyzed. And this feeling of helplessness was to remain for weeks. Iran was in flames and we could not do anything. Day by day we were sitting in front of the television for hours, being on the phone with each other, one in Vienna, the others in Berlin and Cologne. Silent. We were not in the mood for talking, but then again did not want to be alone during these hours. We moved together – if only on the phone.

It really took me weeks to get out of this dizziness and to take the decision to do what I can do best: a film about the events in Iran in the summer of 2009.

But very soon it became clear that we had to find a special narrative style for this, because for the events behind us there existed only fragmentary poor-quality pictures taken with cell phones or images from archives covering the situation only in part. A reenactment was out of question for me, especially since it was clear to me that as long as the regime in Iran was in power I could no longer visit Iran.

Iran is a nation of bloggers. Thousands of young people write down their feelings, write down what is on their minds in their blogs. If it was no longer possible for me to shoot my film in Iran, to interview the people there, these blogs were exactly the right source to reach the inner voices of the people.

For a long time Ali Soozandeh and I have been searching for an adequate visual language, when we came across the so-called motion comic to tell about these blogs. I chose 15 blogs from 1,500 websites which we then translated into images. We attracted a range of actors like Pegah Ferydoni, Navid Akhavan, Jasmin Tabatabai and Caroline Schreiber. With them we re-enacted the scenes and took photos.

Alireza Darvish, a wonderful artist, accepted to do the drawings of the characters, and Sina Mostafawy and his team began with the animation of the scenes. Finally, from the archive material, the recently shot interviews, the pictures from cell phones and the animations, Barbara Toennieshen and Andreas Menn composed this collage.

The whole production took 10 months. Within these 10 months the concept, the financing, 42 minutes of animations, the editing as well as the sound design, the music and the compositing came off.

The time pressure was immense and could only be put up with, because everybody plunged into the project and worked day and night.

And at the same time one thing was clear for the team of Iranian descent: because of their participation in this project they will never be able to visit Iran again. But as has Saadi so nicely said,

“Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul,
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!”

THE PROTAGONISTS

Dr. SHIRIN EBADI – since many years the Noble Peace Prize winner and Iranian lawyer is fighting for more human rights and for freedom in Iran. She is the founder of the Centre for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran. On October 10th, 2003 she was awarded the most important peace prize for her ceaseless and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights – especially women’s, children’s and refugee rights – being the first Iranian, and the first Muslim woman to have received this prize.

PROFESSOR DR. PAYAM AKHAVAN – the former war crimes prosecutor is a professor of international law at McGill University in Montr�al. He teaches and researches in the areas of public international law and international criminal law with a particular interest in human rights and multiculturalism, UN reforms and the prevention of genocide. Akhavan has published numerous articles and books. His article Beyond Impunity about the chances and barriers in international criminal prosecution, published in 2001 in American Journal of International Law, is considered to be one of the most significant published journal essays in contemporary legal studies. Professor Akhavan was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and played a key role in the trial of Slobodan Milo�ević. He also served with the UN in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Guatemala, East Timor and Rwanda, and was appointed as legal advisor in many important cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Professor Akhavan is a prominent human rights advocate for Iranian political prisoners and cofounder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, an organization documenting human rights violations by Iranian leaders to prepare for legal actions.

Dr. MOHSEN KADIVAR – the Shiite cleric and philosopher, university lecturer, author and political dissident is one of the leading cleric critics of the Iranian system of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, established by Khomeini. Kadivar studied theology and got his PhD in Islamic law and Islamic philosophy. For a long time Kadivar has been an advocate for more democracy and also religious reforms in Iran. At the end of the 90ies, for example, he fell into disgrace after having voiced public criticism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

MEHDI MOHSENI – in his publications the blogger and journalist has advocated for reforms in Iran. He also was election assistant to Mousavi prior to the presidential elections. In summer 2009 he came to Germany in the course of a scientific exchange and since then has been living in exile there, because it would be too dangerous for him to return.

MITRA KHALATBARI – the award-winning journalist has experienced the consequences of the controversial presidential elections firsthand. To escape the pressure and the persecution of the regime, in autumn 2009 she fled from Iran to Cologne and has been living in exile since then.
ABOUT ALI SAMADI AHADI (director & author)

Director and author Ali Samadi Ahadi was born in 1972 in the north Iranian city of Tabriz. In 1985, when he was 12 years old, he came to Germany without his family and later took his Abitur in Hannover. In Kassel he studied visual communication with the focus on film and television. At the end of the 90’s he started his career as a filmmaker. He participated in several documentaries and reports as director, film editor or cinematographer. For his documentary CULTURE CLAN he was nominated for the Rose d’Or award, and in Cape Town he won the Channel O Award in the category of “Best Foreign Music Film”. Literally a flood of awards followed soon after for his documentary LOST CHILDREN in co-production with Oliver Stoltz, which won the German Film Award 2006 as well as numerous international awards (among others the UNICEF Award, Al Jazeera Award). Recently, Ahadi made his first feature film SALAMI ALEIKUM, in 2009 reaching a top position in the Arthouse charts with this culture clash comedy.

Interview with Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh

by: Semira N. Nikou

       Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, a women’s rights activist, is a founding member of the Stop Stoning to Death Campaign and the Iranian Women’s Charter. She was director of Entesharat-e Banoo (Banoo Publications) and Entesharat-e Jamee Iranian (Iranian Society Publication). She was the director of the Association of Women Writers and Journalists NGO. She is currently a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.
 
  • What is the status of female political prisoners in Iran?
Human rights organizations have reported around 300 female political prisoners since the Green Movement’s emergence two years ago. The accuracy of this statistic is uncertain since some women have chosen not to publicize their arrests.
We know that around 80 women’s rights activists have been arrested since 2009.  At least 34 are still in prison. Examples include student activist Bahareh Hedayat, journalist Jila Baniyaghoub, and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Others have been temporarily released but are still waiting for their final verdicts.
Extended prison sentences and/or punishments are an issue. Before the 2009 presidential election, prison sentences were usually less than three months—a worst case scenario being two years of house arrest. But since the election, the same crimes have been punished with years of imprisonment and the number of people arrested has increased. Currently, the shortest prison sentence has been six years. Baniyaghoub, for example, has been banned from pursuing journalism for 30 years.
Circumstances in Evin Prison are also dire. All 34 women reside in one room. They have to sleep on the floor. Before the Green Movement, prison standards were far better—higher quality of food, sanitary environment, warm clothes, more living space, etc. Now, that is not the case.
  • On what grounds have female political prisoners been arrested?
They have been accused of being a threat to national security. The regime targets activists from all spheres who can in some way keep social movements alive. The regime does not want the Green Movement to benefit from any other movements. The regime has always targeted women’s rights activists but the rate greatly increased after the emergence of the Green Movement.
  • Women were at the forefront of the 2009 demonstrations that produced the Green Movement.  What is the current status of the women’s movement two years later?
Since Iran’s 2009 presidential election, the women’s movement has focused on the status of female political prisoners and the daily government crackdowns. Women’s rights activists have broadened their human rights efforts. They are pursuing their cases not just in Iranian courts, but also in the international arena in their attempt to confront state violence with non-violence.
These activists simultaneously continue to battle gender inequalities, which are getting worse. Inequalities still exist in family laws favoring men, gender segregation in universities, and the exclusion of women from educational opportunities.
  • Have the women’s rights campaigns changed since two years ago?
The Green Movement and the women’s movement have influenced each other. Before the Green Movement, the latter focused only on gender equality.
The Green Movement broadened the discourse on equal rights—which women’s rights activists had been pursuing for decades—to democracy. Religious and ethnic minorities such as the Turks, Kurds, and Arabs, and other movements, such as the labor and students movements, began to speak about civil rights. The women’s movement, for its part, worked to ensure that the discourse on democracy included issues of gender inequalities.
The women’s movement increased its activities in human rights organizations—both in Iran and internationally. There are many human rights organization in Iran but they often function in secret. They spread information through social media and various other networks.
A number of Iranian women’s rights activists, after leaving the country, now work either in international human rights organizations or have created their own organizations. One example is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and former judge, who still focuses on human rights issues while residing outside Iran.
Interestingly, however, the Green Movement did not push the women’s movement from a social movement into a political movement. The women’s movement has not joined any political movements active inside or outside of Iran.
  • What is the status of the One Million Signatures Campaign, which seeks to collect one million signatures to change discriminatory laws against women in Iran?
The campaign is still functioning but has had to change tactics. It now functions underground because of the heightened government crackdown. Many of the campaign’s members have also become active in the Green Movement, helping to further democratize the opposition.