Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pakistan: Where terrorism reigns and ruins

An integral part of moderate Pakistan was silenced with the murder of the 42-year old minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti Thursday morning.
Bhatti's niece Mariam had just closed the gate to the house and Bhatti’s driver was about to drive to the Minister’s office when a small white car blocked the way. According to Bhatti’s, nephew, Robinson George, three gunmen emerged, ran to Bhatti's car and started shooting into the rear passenger seat from different sides. The gunmen then fled and Mariam ran to the car to find her uncle severely injured. The rear windscreen and side panes of the vehicle were smashed. The driver rushed Bhatti to a nearby hospital, but he was declared dead on arrival.
The Punjabi Taliban
The attackers left pamphlets behind signed as ‘Tanzim Al Qaida Tehrik Taliban Punjab’, known to be an al Qaida supported Punjabi Taliban movement. The pamphlets stated that Bhatti had been punished for being a blasphemer – probably because of Bhatti’s long-time efforts to change Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law. Critics of the blasphemy law say that instead of protecting religious feelings, the law is being used to settle personal scores.
Bhatti, the only Christian in the Pakistani government, became an activist for the rights of minorities when he was still a college student according to family members. After assuming the first federal ministerial post for minorities in Pakistan in 2008 he had set himself a few goals he said. One of them was changing the blasphemy law: “We are reviewing all the laws which create anarchy, an inferiority complex and a sense of discrimination”, he said in his typically soft-spoken voice.

Silence through terror
His ideals and belief were severely put to the test in recent years. In 2010 a Christian woman, Asia Noreen, was sentenced to death for blasphemy – though evidence points to the charges arising from nothing more than a small argument her village. Then in January of this year, Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, was killed by his own security guard for taking. The guard, Malik Mumtaz Qadri claimed that he’d killed a blasphemer because Taseer was championing Asia Bibi’s case and speaking out for the abolition of the blasphemy law. Qadri was hailed as a hero, and showered with flower petals when he went to court to face murder charges. Pakistan’s extremist right had so cowered the government that no high ranking figure attended Taseer’s funeral. The few parliamentarians, like Bhatti and his colleague ex information minister Sherry Rehman, who had proposed reforms were left in the cold. And any public or political debate about the bill have halted.
Many religious leaders, tribal elders and others have also been killed for their moderate believes – and the subsequent silence has blatantly eaten away the public space of Pakistan’s moderates and given it to the extremists.
There are consequences at every level. Two men outside the home of Bhatti’s mother say they saw the attackers and the car speeding away, but remain silent witnesses. “I saw them speeding away, I saw everything, but when the police asks us we say that we haven’t seen anything. The Taliban can kill me too.”
One small spark of hope may be the dozens and sometimes hundreds of people who publicly give voice to their moderate ideals. A vigil in front of a bookshop in Islamabad hardly drew just 20 demonstrators, but they were standing there. They demanded exemplary punishments for the killers of Taseer and Bhatti and measures that discourage extremists to commit more murders. One banner said it all: ‘Stop this madness’.
-Hans A.H.C De Wit

Day Opening March 5

Friday, March 4, 2011

Blogger becomes latest victim of Turkish Internet bans

A spat over rights to broadcast Turkish football matches has led a local court to issue a blanket ban on the popular blogging platform Blogger, angering Turkish Internet users with what experts said was a disproportionate response.

The court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır banned the website, a property of Google Inc., in response to a complaint by the satellite television provider Digiturk, which owns the broadcast rights to Turkish Super League games. Matches broadcast on Digiturk’s Lig TV channel had been illegally posted by several Blogger users on their blogs.

“This is a disproportionate response by the court and undoubtedly has a huge impact on all law-abiding citizens,” cyber-rights activist Yaman Akdeniz told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday, adding that millions of Turkish bloggers and blog readers would be affected by the Diyarbakır court decision.

“[I understand] there is a legitimate concern [regarding Digiturk’s commercial rights] but banning all these websites will not solve the issue. The decision opens the way to collateral damage,” said Akdeniz, who is also a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University.

There are more than 600,000 Turkish bloggers actively using Blogger and some 18 million users from Turkey visited pages hosted by the site last month, Akdeniz said. The ban is expected to fully go into effect within a few days unless it is successfully challenged in court.

“If two people plan a criminal activity on the phone, should we ban the use of telephones all over the country?” asked Deniz Ergürel, the secretary-general of the Media Association.

“We believe this is a wrong approach to the issue and deprives millions of bloggers and Internet users from writing and sharing ideas online,” Ergürel, who is also a regular blogger, told the Daily News on Wednesday. He added that while the violation of Digiturk’s commercial rights should not be ignored, other solutions had to be found. “Even cursing, threatening or cheating over the phone is considered a crime, but this does not imply access to phones all over the country would be banned if there is a case against them,” he said.

In a press release Wednesday, Digiturk said illegal broadcasts of the league games had not stopped despite many warnings about the issue.

“Digiturk has spent $321 million in order to get the right to broadcast Spor Toto Super League matches. However, matches [whose broadcasting rights] belong to Digiturk and Lig TV are broadcasted by certain websites, disregarding all relevant laws,” the company said in its statement. “Thus, we applied to court to ban these websites, and the court decided to ban access to them, after it was proved that although all legal procedures were conducted, the violations were not stopped.”

Bloggers and their readers reacted angrily and quickly to the court decision, with nearly 9,000 users of the social-networking website Facebook joining a group called “Do not touch my blog” in less than two days after the decision was announced. Similar campaigns have also been created on other websites, such as Twitter.

“I can understand that a company tries to protect its rights when they are violated. But I cannot make sense of the banning of all blogs for content illegally used on only a few blogs,” regular blogger Gülşen Çetin, 24, told the Daily News on Wednesday. “The company that is involved says it couldn’t handle the issue with Google. Of course, everybody is responsible for their own claims, but this is not an excuse for them to cause such a big censorship event.”

Read the complete article by ERISA DAUTAJ ŞENERDEM here

Day Opening March 4

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day Opening - March 2



Today is the day that the Dutch vote for the Provincial representatives. Indirectly the members of the Dutch Senate will be elected. Long queues are to be expected...

Monday, February 28, 2011

What can the ICC do regarding Libya/Gaddafi?

While Muammar Gaddafi’s mercenaries and militias wreak havoc in Libya, legal experts look on from the sidelines. The bloodshed has been condemned in the strongest terms: there is talk of “crimes against humanity” and even “genocide”. But if the dictatorship crumbles, will justice be done? And will the case come before the International Criminal Court?
Muammar Gaddafi is doing everything in his power to stop the Libyan revolution in its tracks. He has rejected dialogue in favour of brute force. The international community has condemned the violence in no uncertain terms. On Wednesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of serious violations of international law and human rights in Libya. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on Tuesday for an independent international investigation, condemning the "callousness with which Libyan authorities and their hired guns are reportedly shooting live rounds of ammunition at peaceful protesters".
Dr Pillay, a former judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, says such actions could constitute crimes against humanity. But the ICC’s current chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo says his hands are tied. This week he announced that the solution lies first and foremost in the hands of Libya; the ICC can only serve as a legal last resort.

New regime

The ICC can only intervene if Libya refuses or is unable to carry out its own investigation into the crimes. Until such times, Mr Ocampo can only wait on the sidelines. If Gaddafi is toppled, a new regime may want to bring him to justice before a Libyan court. Ocampo will only be able to act if Libya’s new leaders are unwilling or unable to take such steps.
But that scenario is still a long way off. This week Gaddafi declared that he would fight on until the last bullet. Mr Ocampo is bound by the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty that led to the founding of the ICC. Gaddafi’s regime is not a signatory to the treaty and has therefore banished the prosecutor to the sidelines for the time being.
Yet there is still a chance that the ICC may come into action. First of all, the UN Security Council might instruct Mr Ocampo to carry out investigations in Libya. However, the Security Council is very much divided on the ICC. So far the UN has only asked Mr Ocampo to conduct investigations in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.
The other option lies in Tripoli itself. It is extremely unlikely that Gaddafi would ever accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, but a new Libyan regime might. The ball remains in Libya’s court: Ocampo will have to wait and see whether a new Libyan leadership will invite him to investigate the current political violence.
If the ICC takes on the case, it will focus on investigating whether crimes against humanity have been committed. Any crimes committed by Gaddafi before July 2002 will be beyond the court’s jurisdiction.


The International Criminal Court


•The International Criminal Court has been based in the Dutch city of The Hague since July 2002.
•The prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, can only prosecute people suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after 1 July 2002.
•There are 114 signatories to the Rome Statute.

•Five suspects are currently being held at the UN detention facility in Scheveningen. Trials are ongoing against:
•Lubanga (DR Congo)
-Katanga & Ngudjolo Chui (DR Congo)
•Bemba (Central African Republic)

•The court' s most wanted suspects are:
•Omar al Bashir (Sudan) for war crimes and genocide
•Joseph Kony (Uganda) for war crimes committed by the LRA rebel group

Day Opening - February 28

thinking about lunch

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unmarried and living together still a taboo in India


From Love Matters:

Living with your boyfriend or girlfriend without being married? It’s still a taboo for most Indians. But a growing number of couples are daring to make the move.
“It’s a constant battle”, says Amrita about her parents insistence that she get married. She and her boyfriend Avinash, both 27, want to wait. They live together in Delhi and have full-time jobs in the fashion industry.
“It came as a shock when I told them we live together,” she says. “I try to explain it with practical arguments. We save money and I tell them honestly we would spend most of our time together anyways. They are not completely okay with it, but I did not leave them much choice.”
It’s because both of their families live far from Delhi that the couple can share a house. “If my parents lived in Delhi, I wouldn’t have a choice but to stay with them,” says Amrita.
“My older brother has been a huge help. He’s met Avinash and convinced my parents that he’s a trustworthy guy, and that it’s safer for me to live with him now I’m in Delhi.”

Pressure

Amrita told her parents about her relationship with Avinash a year before she moved in with him. At first they found even that hard to accept. Avinash’s family feels the same.
The couple has been together now for five years. As time passes, the pressure to get married builds. “Sure we want to marry eventually,” Amrita says. “But right now we want to focus on other things. We’ve both set certain personal targets, things we want to accomplish career-wise. Our parents don’t understand – they tell us we can do all of that after marriage.”

Disguise the truth

Because of the disagreements, Amrita and Avinash haven’t been able to visit each other’s parental homes. “My aunts and uncles all live there as well and they don’t know about our relationship yet. So my parents wouldn’t be comfortable with me bringing Avinash home,” Amrita explains.
Even in Delhi, the couple sometimes disguise the truth about their living situation. “Our maid, for example, probably assumes we’re married. So does our landlord. Just after we had agreed to take this place, an older lady in the family asked how long we’d been married. We told her we weren’t, and the expression on her face changed. But I think she liked us and luckily she didn’t make an issue out of it.”

Sexuality

Between the couple and their parents, one area remains in Amrita’s words, “grey”. “We don’t discuss sexuality with them. And when they come and stay with us in Delhi, Avinash and I sleep in separate rooms.” She smiles: “Whether, they are in a state of denial, or blissfully ignorant, I don’t know.”

Day Opening - February 27

The wrong 'egg'..?

Friday, February 25, 2011

tango en la boca

Castro, Cuba and the Internet

Cuba without political prisoners. It sounds like Castro without his beard. Still, it's almost upon us. Moreover, Cuba has lifted its blockade of dissident internet blogs. So, have the Castros seen the light of democracy?

 

Flock of doves

Welcome to Cuba! Take a seat in the slightly rundown but astonishing theatre of optical illusions and be baffled by the Masters of Mirage, the Castro Brothers. You may think you see something but you can never be sure. The old illusionists are certainly not going to tell you what's really happening. The tricks are concocted behind closed doors by the inner circle and there's no press conference afterwards.
Here we go. The dissidents appear from the hat in rapid tempo one after another and flap around in the spotlights like a flock of doves. In jail since 2003, 75 of them in total, serving decade-long prison sentences for expressing their opinions. But now they're set free. And soon the last dove will rise into the air. Bravo! No democracy without freedom!

Orlando lives

Thanks are due to the Catholic Church, which insisted on this performance. And to Orlando Zapata, who died in a hunger strike a year ago trying to get himself and his fellow prisoners released. And to the dissident Guillermo Fariñas who took over Zapata's hunger strike and to whom the Castros capitulated, rather than be internationally embarrassed once again.
Behind the scenes, out of sight of the audience, Fariñas was arrested and released, arrested and released. Zapata's mother was arrested because she wouldn't keep quiet about her dead son. "Orlando lives!" she shouted at a police officer. For a year now the police have been making her life a living hell. While ordinary Cubans neither know nor care about dissidents.

Last rabbit

Even so, change does seem to be in the air: the bloggers trick! For years dissident bloggers and journalists like Yoani Sánchez were blocked by Cuba and could only be read abroad. Now, with the snap of a finger, they're back! Give Raúl Castro a hand! Say what you like, surf where you like. No freedom without information! We've seen it in Egypt - social media chase away dictators. Soon Cuba will be Twittering and Facebooking too. Just a pity there are no Cubans in the audience, they couldn't afford the tickets. No one has internet at home and in the hotels it costs six dollars an hour, a week's wages for a Cuban.
Never mind, time for the finale. The Castros are conjuring their last rabbit out of their top hat: the super information highway. Thanks to Venezuela, Cuba will be getting broadband internet. Say goodbye to delays, goodbye to the US embargo! Long live democracy? Read about it in Granma, the Castro Brothers daily magic programme, where it warns that the new cable service "will not result in an explosion of information". Broadband does not means "broader" communication. Still no internet for the ordinary Cuban.

Illusions

The new capacity is intended for the Cuban government and state-owned companies, where one and a half million people will lose their jobs in the next few months. It's the main event in the Mirage Brothers new show: freedom to earn your own money. The former civil servants are expected to set up their own companies. So that is bound to result in more political leeway, isn't it?
Roll up, roll up, it's the Theatre of Illusions, take a seat and sit back and wait for the arrival of... democracy. Now you see it, now you don't!
 

Day Opening - February 25

three amigos

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Gaddafi's and the Netherlands

Gaddafi senior and junior in trouble with the Dutch. Gaddafi sounds like Hitler, according to Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal. He described the Libyan leader’s TV speech on Tuesday as “a verbal outburst reminiscent of the 1930s”
Colonel Gaddafi is losing his grip on the country as the violent chaos in Libya continues. The Dutch government is doing its bit by freezing the regime’s assets in the Netherland. Not that Duthch news papers are under any illusion that the colonel will be losing any sleep over it. But the Dutch press has plenty of suggestions for more action. Enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, a no-fly zone, and a humanitarian air bridge, and a sea blockade. An oil boycott? Armed intervention is the only thing worth bothering with, says historian Gerbert van der Aa. Not feasible, says the other – stick to the no-fly zone.
Meanwhile, Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, has also been naughty. He’s in trouble with Dutch philosopher Alex Voorhoeve – his old teacher at the London School of Economics – for plagiarism. It’s emerged that he played fast and loose with the quotation marks in his thesis. The worthy thesis is apparently about “the role of civil society in democratisation” and attacks “authoritarian, corrupt regimes that don’t listen to the real needs of the people”. On Monday the author had a slightly different take on authoritarian regimes. He threatened his fellow Libyans they’d be mourning hundreds of thousands of deaths if they didn’t knuckle under and do as his dad told them.