Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ajax or Twente

The most exciting finish in the history of the Dutch premier league is at hand. League leaders FC Twente play their final match of the season against second-place Ajax. With the Dutch league title at stake, and only a single point separating the two teams, we looks ahead to see who’ll be celebrating this Sunday.

Last year it was FC Twente who snatched league glory on the final day of play with a one point lead over Ajax. This year’s head-to-head decider is taking the excitement to fever pitch.
But there are three good reasons why Ajax will finally regain the Dutch league title.

1. Ajax’s successful new coach: Frank de Boer
Frank de Boer took charge at Ajax last December, replacing Martin Jol, who resigned after the Amsterdam club suffered a humiliating Champions League defeat at the hands of Real Madrid. Frank – twin brother of footballer Ronald de Boer – brought about a miraculous change of fortune. His first match as coach resulted in a 2-0 away victory against AC Milan in the Champions League. Since then Ajax have been back on form with their trademark combination of swagger, flair and strikers down the wing. With past mentors like Louis van Gaal and national coach Bert van Marwijk, and the backing of Ajax’s prodigal legend Johan Cruijff, how can De Boer fail?

2. Huge psychological advantage
Ajax has been playing catch-up all season and has been gathering serious momentum in recent weeks. At home, De Boer’s lads have reigned supreme, winning all six competition duels with a goal difference of 14-0. Ajax and FC Twente have clashed 44 times in Amsterdam, with Ajax winning all but ten of these encounters. True, FC Twente defeated Ajax last week to take the Cup, but that victory has only served to make Ajax even hungrier for premier league glory: Amsterdam’s desire to finally grab its 30th national title is stronger than ever.

3. Rock solid defence
Twente may have more talent on the offensive, but this season the Ajax defence has been in a class of its own. At its heart is Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen, a Franz Beckenbauer in the making. Vertonghen is accompanied by his burly compatriot Toby Alderweireld. The Belgians are flanked by Dutch international Gregory van der Wiel and talented young Dane Nicolai Boilesen. With national goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg out of action with a broken thumb, talented second keeper Kenneth van der Meer has the chance to prove himself on Sunday.
With all this going for them, how could the pride of Amsterdam fail? But let’s not forget: FC Twente are in pole position – not to mention being defending champions and Cup winners – and with good reason.

In other words, it’s time to take a look at three reasons why FC Twente will take home the league title once again.

1. FC Twente only need one point
Their one-point lead over Ajax means that FC Twente only need a draw in Amsterdam. And Twente have a coach who knows exactly how to achieve such a result: Belgium’s former top goalkeeper Michel Preud'homme. At the start of the season, many were surprised when this French-speaking Belgian loner took over the Twente reins from successful Englishman Steve McLaren. But last week’s Cup victory is clear proof that Preud'homme is an outstanding coach.

2. FC Twente has stars
A winning team needs a star, and FC Twente has two. One is Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz, a key goal scorer whose mere presence is enough to spur his team on to greater heights. And then there’s the phenomenal Theo Janssen, with his sublime insight and killer long shots. Some say the 29-year-old midfielder could have been snapped up by an English or Italian club long ago, if it hadn’t been for his love of alcohol, tobacco and tattoos.
Ajax is sadly lacking in star quality. They had Uruguay’s Luis Suarez but sold him to Liverpool last winter. Moroccan striker Mounir El Hamdaoui acts like a star, but his perceived arrogance has earned him weeks of derision from his own supporters.

3. The better brother
The Netherlands has a rich tradition of football brothers (Van de Kerkhof, Koeman, De Boer, Witschge). Sunday sees a new twist with striker Luuk de Jong playing for FC Twente and his brother Siem on the Ajax front line. But while Luuk is a force to be reckoned with at Twente, midfielder Siem has been moved up front at Ajax for want of better. So the battle of the strikers looks like a clear victory for Luuk... and for Twente.
Will FC Twente hold on to the title or has Ajax’s time finally come again? One thing is sure: one of them will be holding the championship trophy aloft on Sunday afternoon.

Day Opening - May 14

Manorola, Italy, by night

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dutch-Iranian political prisoners in Iran

Dutch-Iranian activist Abdullah al-Mansouri has been in prison in Iran for five years. It is not known how he is or indeed where he is being held. Tensions between Iran and the Netherlands have most likely resulted in the worsening of his situation and the situations of other Dutch citizens who are political prisoners in Iran.

Dutch-Iranian human rights activist Sadegh Nageshkar also fears that the political struggle between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is bad news for political prisoners.
“The more the power struggle between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad intensifies, the more political prisoners – including al-Mansouri – come under pressure. This is designed to increase the Iranian people’s fears, so that they won’t fight for their rights and freedom.”

Following the execution of Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami last January, the Dutch government came under fire for not having done enough for her. MPs are pushing the government to take Iran to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for not allowing Ms Bahrami Dutch consular support.
Mr al-Mansouri’s situation is looking even worse since the regime in Tehran recently started coming down hard on fellow activists from the predominantly Arabic Khuzestan region. Mr Nageshkar says five Arabs from Khuzestan were publically hanged last week.

Besides Mr al-Mansouri, another three Dutch-Iranians are thought to be political prisoners in Iran. The Tehran regime releases very little information about prisoners and the Dutch authorities also decline to give numbers, in order not to interfere with ongoing ‘quiet diplomacy’.
Mr Nageshkar names one of the Dutch prisoners as Saeed Shah Ghale and says he is serving a long sentence. The last of the few reports about Mr Ghale was from 2009. He is being held in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

Another Dutch-Iranian prisoner is the Christian, Vahik Abrahamian. He was arrested on 4 September with his wife and ten others during a religious meeting in his house in Hamadan, 350 kilometres west of Tehran. He has not officially been charged but, on television, the group was accused of "attempts to destroy the Islamic state". Last week, it surfaced that his wife, Sonia Keshish Avanessian and two others were freed at the end of April. Kiri Kankhwende from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says one of the reasons Mr Abrahamian has not been released could be his Dutch nationality.
The Iranian authorities are reported to have attempted to obtain the equivalent of 135,000 euros each for the release of the three Dutch-Iranians. CSW contacts in Iran report that Mr Abrahamian may be being used in a further attempt to raise money, but this is by no means certain.
Questions about the fate of Mr Abrahamian have been raised in the Dutch parliament, but the government says it can do little for him at the moment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How cruel was the Slavery

While calls for an apology for the slave trade are growing louder in the Netherlands, a Dutch historian has drawn an unpopular conclusion: overseas slavery was less cruel than people think. Dutch Professor Henk den Heijer believes the cruel image of slavery that has developed over the centuries is too moralistic.
Slaves spent weeks at sea, shoulder to shoulder chained up in the ship’s hold without fresh air. They were beaten and fed poorly. Women were sexually abused and there was no medical care.
“This cruel image formed in around 1800,” says Professor Den Heijer, “during the debate to abolish slavery. You mainly see interviews, books and pamphlets written by people who supported the abolition of slavery and emphasised the bad side of the trade. Those sources have become the standard for its history.”
Doctor at hand
Professor Den Heijer has uncovered a different image by looking in the archive of a shipping company, the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC). It was the largest shipping company to transport slaves in the Netherlands in the 18th century with 113 ships. The archive is unique, painting a picture of life on board the ships which took slaves from Africa to America.
The ships’ logs in the archive reveal a different story: on board the ships slaves were treated as well as the crew. A doctor was at hand for both the crew and the slaves and they were fed well. It was logical from a commercial point of view to treat slaves well.
“They were considered to be valuable. A good trader tried to get his slaves to the other side of the ocean in good condition to sell for a good price. Slavery is still morally objectionable, but that does not mean they were abused.”
Slave revolts
Abuse was the exception and officers would be punished by losing pay or being dismissed according to the ships’ logs.
Nevertheless there were slaves who revolted on board. But out of a total of 1500 trips by the MCC, this only happened 53 times. And the situation was probably the same for other counties involved in slavery like Great Britain.
Heated debate
The professor hasn’t had many reactions from his colleagues, but there are heated discussions on internet forums. On a Surinamese site one blogger wrote:
"If people are made into slaves and transported to a foreign continent, if you rob them of their language, culture, family and belief and then you say we have to see it in the light of the time, then there is something wrong with you.”
However, Surinamese sociologist at the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy Aspha Bijnaar says she is open to Professor Den Heijer’ s conclusions.
“It is too easy to say ‘he is trivalising the matter’. I am not able to check his sources myself, but he is a historian and I assume he has good arguments.”
Mr Den Heijer was recently appointed professor at the University of Leiden and is working on a television series on slavery to be broadcast in the Netherlands from September.
(About the slave trade of the Artabs - which went hand-in-hand with Jihad...another article)

Day Opening - May 10

spring...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sex in Pakistan

No sex education at your school in Pakistan? Can’t talk to your parents about it? See a doctor or get a book to learn about sex, says Dr Syed Mubin Akhtar.

But steer clear of quacks, porn sites and prostitutes, he warns.
Sex education can save you from sexual problems and “a life of sin and disease”, according Dr Syed Mubin Akhtar, Pakistani psychiatrist and sex ed author. The problem is that teachers and parents in his country are often too embarrassed to talk about sex.

Books are the best way to fill the information gap, says Dr Akhtar’s. Not surprisingly he’s quick to plug his own book, Sex education for Muslims - one of the few published on the topic in Pakistan.
You can also ask a doctor for advice, says Dr Akhtar. But you’ll need to look for one who’ll respect you’re privacy, he warns – not all doctors in Pakistan will keep your confidential queries to themselves.
Some may also feel too embarrassed to talk about sex. To keep embarrassment to a minimum, girls should go to female doctors and boys to male doctors, he suggests.


Many people in Pakistan think that hakims – traditional herbalists – are a better option for help with sexual problems than doctors, says Dr Akhtar. Even doctors sometimes refer their patients to them, and they’re easy to find.
But hakims have some muddled ideas about sexual matters, according to Dr Akhtar.
“They say that drops of semen coming out is a very serious disease that saps your bones and body strength,” he says. Only when he went to medical school did the doctor find out that such stories were myths.
Some people go to hakims because they think modern medicine is Western and unethical, says Dr Akhtar. “Hakims follow an old type of medicine,” he argues. “What type of houses would we have if we still built them like people did a thousand years ago?”

Friends and parents aren’t usually great sources of information on sex in Pakistan, says Dr Akhtar. “Friends are often not educated themselves, and parents would be shocked if you brought it up with them.”
You won’t learn much about normal sex from porn movies either, he reckons. “They show abnormal sex most of the time.”
You might be tempted to go to a prostitute to experiment with sex and get in some practice, the doctor says, but it’s not something he would recommend. “You may catch diseases and get feelings of guilt and fear. And of course it’s a sin in Islam.”
Porn is the most google word in Pakistan and Day Opening November 21 2009 is the most 'read article' here on Internations...

Day Opening - May 9

An aurora

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day Opening - May 6

View from the Montserrat (church) in Bogota, Columbia. Many pilgrims walk all the way up...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In Columbia

Yesterday, Wednesday we flew to Panama City with Copa Airlines Columbia. Fantastic flight and Panama an interesting city, one skyscraper after the other. We stayed in a nice comfortable 5 star hotel but due the time not able to visit the Panama Canal. Today we flew with Copa Airlines Columbia to Bogota. And again a full service flight. Copa Airlines is not a huge airlines but one of the best I ever flew with, and that are many...
Even with and 1 1/2 flight you get food, drinks and water. Do you want a whiskey sir?.)
Anyway, we are in Bogota Columbia. Safe and well and enjoy a very nice hotel in the centre.
Both the people in Panama and Columbia, so far, are incredible helpful and nice. And Columbia changed with 10 years ago. It's safe!

Day Opening - May 5

Brickell, Miami (here I lived from 2000-2002

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From Miami to Panama and to Bogota, Columbia

Today we will fly to Panama and leave 5 beautiful days in Miami behind us. A short stay (1 night) in Panama City to visit the Panama Canal and tomorrow allready on our way to Bogota, Columbia for the last part of our trip. Next posting is from there.

Day Opening - May 4

44