Recent Resources for Feminists
India: Women undergoing sterilisation in Bihar suffer from unsanitary conditions & shoddy equipment Print E-mail
Monday April 27, 2015

Filthy facilities imperil Bihar's sterilised women

Most facilities even lack the very basic, minimum necessary equipment, drugs and supplies for sterilisation, a study found

By Saumya Tewari | IndiaSpend
 

  • Women recovering from surgery lay on cotton mats on the floor.
  • Many were discharged without being medically checked or told about post-surgery care.
  • The floors of healthcare facilities were strewn with used syringes and bandages; walls were smeared with blood and windows­including those of operating rooms­were broken.
  • With conditions ripe for infection, that is, in fact, what happened to more than half of all women in district hospitals.

These were the results of an audit of public healthcare facilities offering surgical sterilisation procedures in the eastern state of Bihar, which boasts India’s highest fertility rate of 3.5 children per mother ­against the all-India average of 2.4­ and struggles to contain its population.

The audit is part of a five-district study conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), based in Washington D.C. Apart from the “unsanitary environment”, the study said: “Most facilities even lack the very basic, minimum necessary equipment, drugs and supplies for sterilisation, with some lacking simple essentials, such as scissors and narrow forceps.”

The fallout: Fever, bleeding, pus and other problems

The state of healthcare facilities was worst in the largest hospitals at the main district towns. More than half of women suffered sepsis, or infections, from their sterilisation wounds. The problems included fever, bleeding, pus and problems with sutures.

Source: ICRW

The objective of the ICRW study was to provide evidence on the gaps in family planning services for women as well as efforts needed to improve the quality of such services in Bihar.

These are some of the conclusions of the ICRW study:

  • Health facilities lack private spaces to deliver family planning services, compromising the dignity of clients and the quality of services.
  • Few facilities had enough drugs and equipment to effectively provide sterilisation and intrauterine contraceptive device services.
  • Many health service providers and counsellors have limited interpersonal skills and professional training to deliver quality family planning services to women.
  • Unsanitary conditions at most facilities demonstrate disregard for infection prevention
  • Women want cleaner facilities with better interaction with and care from providers.


Source: National Family Health Survey

High risk of simple sterilisation
In an incident that led to much soul-searching in India last year, 16 women lost their lives in Chhattisgarh to failed sterilisation procedures.
 
This was not an aberration, asreported.

Our analysis of national health data revealed 200 deaths ever year between 2009 and 2011.

A preliminary inquiry into the Chattisgarh deaths revealed that the first camp held on November 8, 2014, carried out 137 operations, ignoring government orders restricting sterilisation operations per day to 30, India’s Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Jagat Prakash Nadda said in a statement to the Lok Sabha.

Nadda also said the operation theatre was not working, and adulterated medicine was given to the women who died.

However, larger questions emerged after the incidents regarding better practices at health centres. The ICRW report from Bihar indicates that while there have been some improvements over the years in physical infrastructure, such as electricity and water, other problems were widespread and severe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit

China-India: Masculinised sex ratios predicted to leave 21% & 15% of men aged 50 unmarried by 1970 Print E-mail
 UK ~ Saturday April 18th 2015

The marriage squeeze in India and China

Bare branches, redundant males

Distorted sex ratios at birth a generation ago are changing marriage and damaging societies in Asia’s twin giants

KHAPs are informal local councils in north-western India. They meet to lay down the law on questions of marriage and caste, and are among India’s most unflinchingly conservative institutions. They have banned marriage between people of different castes, restricted it between people from the same village and stand accused of ordering honour killings to enforce their rulings, which have no legal force. India’s Supreme Court once called for khaps to be “ruthlessly stamped out”. In April 2014, however, the Satrol khap, the largest in Haryana, one of India’s richest states, relaxed its ban on inter-caste marriage and made it easier for villagers to marry among their neighbours. “This will bring revolutionary change to Haryana,” said Inder Singh, president of the khap.

The cause of the decision, he admitted, was “the declining male-female sex ratio in the state”. After years of sex-selective abortions in favour of boys, Haryana has India’s most distorted sex ratio: 114 males of all ages for every 100 females. In their search for brides, young men are increasingly looking out of caste, out of district and out of state. “This is the only way out to keep our old traditions alive,” said Mr Singh. “Instead of getting a bride from outside the state who takes time to adjust, we preferred to prune the jurisdiction of prohibited areas.”

The revision of 500 years of custom by its conservative guardians symbolises a profound change not just in India. Usually dubbed the “marriage squeeze”, the change refers both to the fact of having too many men chasing too few brides and the consequence of it in countries where marriage has always been nearly universal. Sex selection at birth is common in China and India. The flight from marriage­with women marrying later, or not at all­is long established in Japan and South Korea. But until recently, Asia’s twin giants have not felt the effects of sexual imbalance in marriage. Now they are.

The marriage squeeze is likely to last for decades, getting worse before it gets better. It will take the two countries with their combined population of 2.6 billion­a third of humanity­into uncharted territory. Marriage has always been a necessary part of belonging to society in India and China. No one really knows how these countries will react if marriage is no longer universal. But there may be damaging consequences. In every society, large numbers of young men, unmarried and away from their families, are associated with abnormal levels of crime and violence.

Missing girls, missing brides
The roots of the current squeeze go back a generation. Sex-selective abortions became common in China in the 1990s as a result of the country’s strict (now somewhat laxer) one-child-per-couple policy and a traditional preference for sons. A few years later they became increasingly common in India, also because of a preference for sons and helped by the growing availability of prenatal tests to determine sex. In 2010-15, according to the UN Population Division, China’s sex ratio at birth was 116 boys to 100 girls; in India the figure was 111. Though these ratios have fallen a little since their peaks, they are still far above the natural rate, which is 105 to 100.

As a result, enormous numbers of girls and women are “missing”­absent, that is, compared with what would have happened if there had not been sex selection. If China had had a normal sex ratio at birth, according to a report in 2012 by the UN Population Fund it would have had 721m girls and women in 2010. In fact it had only 655m­a difference of 66m, or 10% of the female population. India’s ratio is not quite so bad. Had it been normal, the country would have had 43m more women, or 7% more, than it actually did. Other countries practise sex selection at birth, but Asia’s giants overshadow all others. Together they account for 109m of the 117m “missing” girls and women globally in 2010. Calculations by Christophe Guilmoto of the Institute of Development Research, a think-tank in Paris, show that marriage patterns in India and China were still normal in 2010. But they will become badly distorted by 2020 (see chart).
 


“Missing women” are only part of the explanation. Countries with normal sex ratios can experience a marriage squeeze if their fertility rates are falling fast. Fertility is important, because men tend to marry women a few years younger than themselves. In India the average age of marriage for men is 26; for women, it is 22. This means that when a country’s fertility is falling, the cohort of women in their early 20s will be slightly smaller (or will be rising more slowly) than the cohort of men they are most likely to marry­those in their late 20s (this is because a few years will have gone by and the falling fertility rate will have reduced the numbers of those born later). This may not sound like a big deal. But in fact between 2000 and 2010 the number of Indian men aged 25-29 rose by 9.2m. The number of Indian women aged 20-24 (their most likely partners) rose by only 7.6m.

Even if India’s sex ratio at birth were to return to normal and stay there, by 2050 the country would still have 30% more single men hoping to marry than single women. This is explained by a rapid decline in India’s fertility rate. But in China, where fertility has been low for years, the more gradual decline in fertility still means there will be 30% more single men than women in 2055, though the distortion declines after that. A decline in fertility usually benefits developing countries by providing a “demographic dividend” (a bulge of working-age adults compared with the numbers of dependent children or grandparents). But it does have the drawback of amplifying the marriage squeeze.

The problem is further accentuated by a so-called “queuing effect”. The length of a queue is determined by how many people join it, how many leave, and how long queuers are prepared to wait. In the same way, marriage numbers are a result of how many people reach marriageable age (the joiners); how many get married (the leavers) and how long people are willing to wait. In India and China, marriage remains the norm, so men keep trying to tie the knot for years.

Hence, a marriage queue in India and China builds up. At stage one, a cohort of women reaches marriageable age (say, 20-24); they marry among the cohort of men aged 25-29. But there are slightly more men than women, so some members of the male cohort remain on the shelf. Later, two new cohorts reach marriageable age. This time, the men left over from the previous round (who are now in their early thirties) are still looking for wives and compete with the cohort of younger men. The women choose husbands from among this larger group. So after the second round even more men are left on the shelf. And so on. A backlog of unmarried men starts to pile up. Just as you need only a small imbalance between the number of people joining a queue and the number leaving it to produce a long, slow-moving line, so in marriage, a small difference in the adult sex ratio can produce huge numbers of bachelors. They are called guanggun (bare branches) in China, malang (aloof and loopy)in Haryana and chhara (a derogatory term for unmarried men) in Punjab.

To make matters worse (for men, anyway), in rich Asian countries women are turning their backs on marriage altogether. Women with university degrees are more likely to marry late, or not at all, than those with primary education. Women who live in cities and have jobs are marrying later, or less, than rural women or those who work at home. Everywhere, female marriage rates are declining and the age of marriage is rising. In China, as women get richer and better educated, they are starting to repeat the behaviour of their Japanese and Korean sisters, pushing up the number of unmarried men.
 
Lucky man

The combination of these factors in India and China will make their marriage squeeze especially acute and persistent­much more severe than it would have been in the case of distorted sex ratios alone. Mr Guilmoto calculates that, in China, for every 100 single women expected to marry in 2050-54 there could be as many as 186 single men (see chart); in India in 2060-64 the peak could be higher: 191 men for each 100 women. This assumes the sex ratio at birth does not change. But even if the ratio were to return to normal in 2020 (which is unlikely), the marriage squeeze would still be severe, peaking at 160 in China in 2030, and at 164 in India 20 years later.

A marriage squeeze of this intensity would be unknown in China and India and extraordinarily rare anywhere in history. America’s Wild West (or the fracking fields of present-day North Dakota) are rare examples of a society with huge numbers of excess men.

There may be positive side effects: a shortage of brides in India is causing dowry prices to fall in some areas, for instance. Overall, though, the impact is likely to be negative. A study by Lena Edlund of Columbia University and others found that in 1988-2004, a one-point rise in the sex ratio in China raised rates of violent crime and theft by six to seven points. The abduction of women for sale as brides is becoming more common. The imbalance is fuelling demand for prostitution.

There are few obvious remedies. If girls married earlier, it would increase marriage rates but would impede the progress being made by women in employment and education. Brides can be found in nearby countries. There are villages in China’s south-western provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou where many of the young women are Vietnamese or Burmese because local girls have gone to work in cities. A state-run newspaper, Beijing News, recently offered advice about the ten best places for Chinese men to find brides abroad (Ukraine, apparently, is promising). But this merely transfers the problem from one place to another. China and India are so vast that no marriage migration could ever be big enough to satisfy demand.

Bare branches on the family tree
If­a big if­marriage pairing were to become more symmetrical (ie, college graduates marry one another, and so on), then at least the burden of non-marriage would be spread more evenly. In India and China, women tend to “marry up”­illiterate women marry men with primary education; primary-school women marry men with secondary education; and so on. As a result, men at the bottom of the pyramid, and women at the apex, find it especially hard to find spouses. So the marriage squeeze does not affect everyone equally. It disproportionately hits illiterate men and does not do much to help graduate women (shengnu, or leftovers, as they are called in China).

But overall, changing the patterns of marriage would merely moderate a squeeze which is likely to continue for decades. China has eased its one-child policy, and the sex ratio at birth has fallen. But because the marriage squeeze is the product of other factors, too, it will continue even were the sex ratio at birth to return to normal. If that happened, Mr Guilmoto reckons, over 21% of Chinese men would still be unmarried at 50 in 2070, while in India the figure would be almost 15%. Three generations after sex-selective abortions began, their impact will still be felt.

India and China will change hugely as they become wealthier and better educated in coming decades. But few changes will be as momentous and persistent as the one now beginning: universal marriage will become a thing of the past.

Sources cited in this article:
 
"Skewed sex ratios at birth and future marriage squeeze in China and India, 2005-2100" by Christophe Guilmoto. Demography magazine, 2012

 
UNFPA report: "Sex imbalances at Birth"
 
Research on impact of marriage asymmetry: "Potential (Mis)match? Marriage markets amidst sociodemographic change in India", by Albert Esteve, Ridhi Kashyap and Joan Garcia-Roman, Demography magazine 2015
 
Research on khaps: “Sex ratio, Khaps and Marriage reform” by Ravinder Kaur, Economic and Political Weekly, August 2nd 2014
 
See also "Mapping the adverse consequences of sex selection and gender imbalance in India and China" by Ravinder Kaur, Economic and Political Weekly, August 3, 2013
 
"More Men, More Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy" by Lena Edlund, Hongbin L,i Junjian Y,i Junsen Zhang. In Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit Institute for the Study of Labor, Discussion Paper Series, 2314, December 2007
 
Sex ratios at birth and other demographic numbers from the UN population division website

Iraq: Flourishing under the US Occupation, the systematic brutalisation of women continues into 2015 Print E-mail
 (English) ~ 11 April, 2015

Iraqi voices: women brutalised by sanctions and war

By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff

Scroll down to read also "And how is Baghdad today? " and "The continuing deterioration of women's rights in Iraq" both items by Haifa Zangana

There are approximately 1.6 million widows in Iraq today, as suffering continues [AFP]

Feature: Long years of sanctions and wars have brutalised generations of women and girls in Iraq, and set back the struggle for equal rights by decades.

In Iraq, women and girls have been subjected to gross human rights abuses such as abductions, killings, trafficking, torture, forced marriage, and sexual violence.

Years of protracted conflict have continued to affect family structures, with approximately 1.6 million widows in Iraq
Since 2003 The BRussells Tribunal has been focusing on Iraq, detailing information and analysis on the sanctions in the 1990s and the illegal invasion and occupation thereafter.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed highlights some of this evidence to bring to light how little has changed or progressed in the country.

Hana Ibrahim, the director of the Women's Cultural Centre in Baghdad, spoke to the 2005 World Tribunal on Iraq about gender based violence:

"From the day that the occupation started in Iraq, there was a systematic violation of women and their rights.

Women in Iraq today
Sexual violence: Reports of sexual violence against women and children have increased in Nineveh, Najaf and Kerbala. Additionally, there are reports of an increase in abductions, trafficking and forced recruitment. Due to stigmatisation of rape and sexual abuse, many survivors are reluctant to seek assistance, or openly discuss their trauma.

Human trafficking: Accurate numbers are impossible to obtain. IS has reportedly opened an office in Mosul where they have been selling Yazidi women and girls to local men.

Health: Essential services have sharply deteriorated and are inaccessible in many areas. Many living spaces for refugee women lack segregated living areas and security. (Source: United Nations in Iraq, March 2015)

"They were kidnapped, raped and even taken to other countries in order to have them work in networks.

"I spoke to one person involved in a gang that picked up these women.

"He told me that if a woman is not a virgin she would not cost more than $2,000 or $3,000 but if the woman was a virgin then she would cost much more.

"If that woman can be used for her organs because she is a healthy subject then her price could go up to $10,000.

"This kind of crime is being committed on a daily basis in a systematic manner by an organised mafia. That kind of thing did not exist in Iraq before the occupation.

"We were like normal people. We would go to restaurants and cafes with our children but now all the women and children rush to their home before the sun sets because they are afraid.

"Before, women used to drive cars themselves and some were also taxi drivers.

"Religion is a sort of a place of escape for women because women feel protected by religion when they find no other way to escape the harsh reality that they are enduring; and if they are wearing the headscarf it is because they are afraid.

Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project
"I can tell you of many instances of young women at universities who feel threatened and this is why they are wearing the headscarf.

"Families are also under threat. Fathers are taking their young girls and young children to schools themselves because they are afraid of them being abducted or raped, and because of fear for their family members many university students have been withdrawn from schools.

"Women's contribution to social life has diminished. Women are only working in domestic services such as housekeeping, cleaning and chores and they are paid very poorly for this.

"Prostitution is on the rise and we see more women and children among the beggars.

"One of the saddest situations facing women is when the person responsible for maintaining the livelihood of the family disappears.

"What is a woman to do? She may be afraid of going to official institutions because she may be the wife of a soldier killed or a soldier detained so she may be at risk.

"The first day Haifa Zangana said that we will continue resisting in Iraq for you as well as for ourselves because America is not the fate of humanity.

"They are not the power to rule over the world in future and we can create another world.

"We can create a more enlightened world for women and we would ask you to look at the world from women's eyes because women's eyes see through their hearts."

Iraqi authorities have arrested thousands of Iraqi women illegally over the years, with many subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse.

Many women are imprisoned for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.

Human Rights Watch met a woman in 2014 in Iraq’s death row facility in Baghdad's Kadhimiyya district.

Human Rights Watch

She was on crutches. Nine days of beatings, electric shocks, and falaqa in March 2012 had left her permanently disabled. The split nose, back scars, and burns on her breast were consistent with the abuse she alleged.

She was executed in September 2013, seven months after Human Rights Watch interviewed her, despite lower court rulings that dismissed charges against her following a medical report that supported her alleged torture.

Hana Ibrahim added: "I would like to ask a question that most of you have already asked: why are detained women left naked? Why are they made to walk naked before other detained male prisoners?

"And why are naked men made to go into cages where naked women are kept under detention? We have documented all this. The Union of Phycisians documented the Americans carrying out this torture through their own photos."

Today, women in Iraq continue to suffer. Already paying the price for a decade worth of war, they are now facing ongoing brutality by Islamic State militants. In March 2015, the extremist group captured hundreds of Yazidi women, and boasted they had enslaved them as spoils of war.

Iraqi writer and political activist Haifa Zangana said Baghdad has survived invasions, destruction and tyranny through the ages. This it has. But how much longer are the women of Baghdad, and the rest of Iraq, expected to survive the invasions, destruction and tyranny for?
~~~~~~~~~~~
 (English) ~ 8 April, 2015

And how is Baghdad today?

A Baghdad security wall - and the natural response to such ugliness [AFP]

By  Haifa Zangana

Comment: A multicultural city of peace for millennia has been conquered, divided and transformed in the 12 years since US invasion. But Baghdadis are resisting’

Two scenes from the fall of Baghdad in 2003 are burned into historical memory. The first is the choreographed toppling of Saddam Hussain's statue in Firdos square by US marines, who covered it first with their flag. The second is the chaos of the looting of museums and state property.

The first was a declaration of military victory and "mission accomplished". The second was a declaration of the start of the erasing of Iraqi culture, history and identity.

Baghdad was a microcosm of what befell Iraq as a whole, violated time and again by US troops, mercenaries, special forces, proxies and militias, scarred over and over by human and physical destruction.

It is a bitter irony for a city known historically as Madinet al Salam, the city of peace. Baghdad is seen by Iraqis as the ultimate symbol of their unity, their modernity and their multicultural identity.

Baghdad's past glories - a diverse capital of science, arts and music at a time when Europe was crawling in the semi-darkness of Middle Ages - were in revival for much of the 20th century, despite the coups and the dictatorships. Then came the occupation.

Baghdad today is physically scarred by multiple checkpoints, concrete segregation walls and open sewers.

The checkpoints take two forms: those set up by the military, where men are subjected to sectarian harassment and women to sexual abuse, and those set up ad hoc by militias to kidnap, ransom and kill those they stop.

The post-invasion governments of Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi have declared time and again that they are removing walls and checkpoints, but they remain to disfigure this city and torment its people.

Then there are the walls, usually concrete blocks at least three metres high. They exist, we have been told over time, to protect us from whatever threat fits the prevaling narrative: Saddamists, foreign fighters, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group.

The US built many of these "security walls" as part of a "new strategy ... to break the cycle of sectarian violence" and enable reconciliation between the capital's Sunni and Shia, who had lived for centuries together in peace until after the invasion.

The US military chose not to mention that the walls have turned mixed communities into ghettos and gated areas populated almost exclusively along sectarian lines.

Divide and conquer
It is no wonder the policy has been compared to Israel's apartheid wall, and why Baghdadis came to see the structures as a method of control rather than protection.

This reality - checkpoints, walled ghettos, segregation and fear - is now ingrained and shreds the social fabric of the city. And despite this, the car bombs and attacks continue.

Corrupt politicians compound this manufactured reality - a reality that was never Baghdad and never should have been - with policies that promote segregation.

What of Baghdadis themselves? They continue to resist. Most of Baghdad's residents are of mixed religion and ethnic background and cross-faith marriages persist only slightly less prevalent than before.

A long tradition of inter-communal cooperation between Sunni and Shia, Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, has survived.

Baghdadis are as resilient as ever in finding ways to defend their city, their way of life and to resist any policy that fragments identities in an attempt to control them. Baghdad has survived invasions, destruction and tyranny through the ages. It will do so again.
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 February 2 2014

The continuing deterioration of women's rights in Iraq

by Haifa Zangana

(Haifa Zangana's presentation given in the European Parliament in Brussels on 29 January 2014).

Haifa Zangana: "The regression in women’s situation is so devastating that she has reached the bottom of human needs. Just to survive."

National Iraqi News Agency reported on Fri 24th January that the Iraqi military's mortar shelling the night before left 4 people dead and 32 more injured "including women and children" and Saturday’s military shelling of Falluja left 5 people dead and 14 more injured -- "most of them women and children." Falluja General Hospital was shelled as well.

Iraqi’s government assault on Anbar continues. Maliki’s Collective punishment is called “Revenge for the martyr Mohamed” which was preceded by a campaign with the title: “Revenge for martyrs”.

And the attacks have been indiscriminate leading many civilians to flee. – The UN refugee agency on Friday reported[1] that more than 65,000 people had over the past week fled the conflict in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq's Anbar province. Since fighting broke out at the end of last year, more than 140,000 people have been made homeless by fighting according to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

This number comes on top of the 1.13 million people already internally displaced in Iraq and who are mostly residing in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa provinces.

"Many of the displaced, nonetheless, are still in desperate need of food, medical care, and other aid. As the insecurity has spread, many families who fled several weeks ago have been displaced again," according to UN.

The UN in Iraq has asked the government to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor to reach displaced and stranded families in Anbar province. Currently, it is impossible to reach the area from Baghdad and relief agencies are using roads coming from northern Iraq.

Why am I talking about this and not about workshops for women’s empowerment and gender equality and political participation? Because In order to fully address women’s issues and come with helpful policy suggestions we need to address women not as separate from the rest of society, but as a part of it together with men.

.. and allow me to read the rest of the report :

“Other areas of Iraq including Baghdad, Erbil, Kerbala, Salah-al-Din and Ninewa have witnessed the arrival of thousands of displaced people. People are reportedly without money for food and lack suitable clothing for the rainy conditions. Children are not in school and sanitary conditions, particularly for women, are inadequate.”

The suffering of the displaced is far beyond the sheer loss of a house, it is the loss of neighborhood, community; schools and health service, the feeling of safety associated with familiarities and on the long run the submission to the newly manufactured identity . The lack of one of these or the combination of all leads to extreme levels of trauma, fear, depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder[2].

The regression in women’s situation is so devastating that she has reached the bottom of human needs. Just to survive.

I will focus on violence in the public sphere and how it became so prominent that women have been forced to give up hard earned rights, such as employment, freedom of movement, abolition of polygamy, and the right for education and health service, seeking instead, protection for themselves and their families.

The occupation of Iraq in 2003 left Iraqi women in a terrible state of regression on two interrelated levels. The first level is relevant to women as citizens in an environment that lacks guarantees and protection by a credible national criminal justice system embodying international standards. This subjects women as well as men to violations of their human rights.

The second level is to do with gender-related violence in public which is particularly relevant during occupation, war and armed conflict, often provide the context for sexual abuse, rape, and trafficking of women and girls.

Iraq "remains in a state of low-level war" with nearly 9500 civilians were killed in 2013.[3] The right to life and physical security are the first casualties of the current “ low level war” affecting women as citizens whether the violence targets them directly (physically) or indirectly (the killing of their children or male relatives leaving them as heads of households). War and occupation have claimed over a million Iraqi lives,[4] thus leaving behind an approx million widows and 5 millions orphans.

Widows
Widows often queue at doors of social welfare offices for months on end for their application forms to be processed or to retrieve insufficient payments which themselves are often late. Women wander the streets “to sell cheap goods, or stand at the gates of mosques and other religious institutions with the hope of receiving some distributed items­whether blankets, clothing or food products. The phenomenon of women begging in the streets has become commonplace in Iraq. Often, the government’s only response is to arrest them and throw them in prison, Instead of finding permanent solutions to lift them from this suffering.”[5] Only 120,000 are estimated to receive State aid. A widow’s monthly aid is $85, while the average monthly rent is $210.

Employment
In the private sector only 2% of all employees are women. 10% of households are headed by females who are widowed, divorced, separated, or caring for sick spouses. They represent one of the most vulnerable segments of the population and are more exposed to poverty and food insecurity as a result of lower overall income levels. ( UNAMI fact sheet 2012)[6].

According to the IKN survey, only 14 percent of women are working or actively seeking work, compared to 73 percent of men. Those who are employed are mostly working in the agricultural sector, and women with a diploma have a harder time finding jobs: 68 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed. [7]

This is happening while every week, an estimated $800 million is unlawfully transferred out of the country[8], while Iraqis are left deprived of basic needs.

Death Penalty
Iraq is currently host to one of the highest execution rates in the world

1,300 prisoners are said to be on death row, women are among them[9], Some executions are carried out secretly. Under current Iraqi law, 48 offenses are subject to the death penalty. Just in 2013, 169 people were executed, the highest such figure since the 2003 US-led invasion, placing it third in the world, behind China and Iran. On 21 January the Ministry of Justice issued a statement confirming that the authorities had executed 26 men on Sunday, making the total 38 hanged within four days. “AI also learnt that on the same day, the presidency’s office ratified around 200 cases of people sentenced to death, paving the way for their executions to be carried out.

Most of those executed on Sunday, all of them Iraqi men, were convicted on charges of terrorism, under the draconian 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law.”[10]

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay likened Iraq’s justice system to “processing animals in a slaughterhouse.” She also mentioned that Iraq's justice system is "too deeply flawed to warrant even a limited use of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time," warning that the death penalty undermines efforts to reduce violence and achieve a more stable society. Torture, sexual abuse and the threat of rape and actual rape are frequently inflicted on detainees, regardless of their gender.

This is especially concerning in view of the lack of trials conforming to the minimum of standards of fairness and “well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”[11]

The effect of execution and holding male detainees without charge or trial for prolonged periods and often in faraway camps or prisons is disastrous on their women relatives, no matter how resilient they are, as the entire burden of running the household has been thrust upon them.

Education
According to a 2007 Oxfam report, some 92 per cent of Iraq’s children suffer from learning impediments.[12] Most of school buildings are in a fragile state as a result of neglect, corruption,

This results in considerable damage including lack of portable water and toilets - the lack of access to sanitary facilities places a particular burden on girls.[13]Some primary schools are left without any desks or chairs for pupils and teachers alike.

Parents are reluctant to send their children to school for fear of violence as a result of both military attacks and gangs ‘crimes such as kidnapping and rape. in addition to family poverty, the distance from home to school with lack of transportation, and the need to help at home.

In the case of higher education, kidnapping and targeted assassination of over 400 male and female academics[14] have forced thousands of other academics and teachers to flee the country. Their positions are replaced by mostly unqualified teachers and academics with forged certificates and degrees.[15] Their appointment, rather than being based on qualification and merit, is based mainly on sectarian favouritism and political loyalty to the regime. The lack of professionalism and standards in education inevitably result in poor teaching and by extension academic achievement by the students.

Women’s political participation
Article 47 of the Iraqi constitution, guarantees women 25% of the members of the Council of Representatives. This quota system has been applauded by women organisations and international community as one of the great achievements of the “New Iraq”. This appraise is made regardless of how little actual difference it makes to Iraqi women in general and how it has been used as a sheer token to cover up the volume of crimes committed against women under occupation. The irony is that even this nominal step was neglected by the present government formed in late 2010. In fact, among the 44 Ministers, there is only one woman appointed as Minister of State for Women's Affairs. Furthermore, The Minister, Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi does not believe in equality between women and men in Iraq. ”I am against the equality between men and woman”, she told a local news agency. “If women are equal to men they are going to lose a lot. Up to now I am with the power of the man in society” she explained.[16]

Most female MPs have shown little interest in women’s rights but rather focus on representing their sectarian party’s policies towards women. In essence, they duplicate whatever their fellow male MPs already advocate. Concerns ought to be raised about the significance of having a female MP. [17] DR Jenan Al-Ubaedey, a female MP, for example, has been more committed than any other male MP to justify the beating of women and polygamy. ”[18]

The right to demonstrate
In June 2011, government-backed thugs armed with wooden planks, knives, and iron pipes, beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators at Tahrir square in Baghdad as security forces stood by and watched, sometimes laughing at the victims.[19]

“The government responded to largely peaceful demonstrations with violence and to worsening security with draconian counterterrorism measures.... The government responded to increasing unrest with mass arrest campaigns in Sunni regions, targeting ordinary civilians and prominent activists and politicians under the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law. Security forces and government supporters harassed journalists and media organizations critical of the authorities.”[20]

Gender based Violence in public space
the lack of basic security in the streets, road blocks, collapsed health system, water contamination and the feeling of fear, anxiety and despair, affects mothers to a greater extent than the rest of the population and being able to give birth safely, is becoming a privilege rather than a human rights entitlement. Roughly 38 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic. Furthermore, in 2010, lack of donor funding has forced the United Nations to cut back on its humanitarian efforts in Iraq which means its food aid agency halting distributions will affect some 800,000 pregnant and nursing women and malnourished children, as well as up to 960,000 schoolchildren.[21]

The maternal mortality rate for Iraq remains the highest in the region. Of all maternal deaths, 80% can be potentially avoided by interventions during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum. 47.7% of women reported difficulties in receiving health care from governmental health institutions due to lack of money to pay for services while for 40.6% it was difficult to reach the service.

Birth defects
Young married women in Falluja, West of Iraq, are increasingly reluctant to become pregnant for the fear of giving birth to monstrously deformed babies. In November 2004, US troops used white phosphorus bombs in their major offensives against the city of Fallujah. Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the An epidemiological study on Fallujah says: "The people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukaemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by U.S. atomic bomb strikes in 1945"[22] Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health and author of the book Pollution and Reproductive Damage, notes that increasing numbers of birth defects have also been seen in Mosul, Najaf, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh and Baghdad. In some provinces, adds Dr Savabieasfahani, the rate of cancers is also increasing. She says:

'Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects - some never described in any medical books - are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.'[23]

Temporary marriage
On the issue of personal status law (family law), attempts of superseding the advanced 1959 law with the introduction of a sectarian version of Shari’a Islamic law were thwarted in 2004. However, in the realities of a country where laws are neither adhered to nor are respected, Iraqi civil law is also not enforced. Subsequently, a pre-Islamic cultural practice known as Muta’a (Pleasure) permitting temporary marriages, has been revived within the Shi’a community following the footsteps of Iran where this practice is widely practiced. Iran has been actively promoting Muta’a since the "Islamic Revolution" of 1979, as essential for a society's sexual health. Muta’a allows a man who wishes to have sex with a woman to “marry” her in the presence of a religious figure, who acts as a Muta'a broker. The man will specify how long the marriage will last, ranging from few hours to many years. A small mehr (dowry) will then be paid to the woman. Such marriages have no protection or guarantees for women and their offspring in Iraq. Only a man has the right to renew the marriage upon expiration­for another mehr­or to terminate it early. Temporary marriage and unregistered marriages in civil courts are now rife especially amongst poor women in Najaf and Karbala cities, the most revered places in Shi’a Islam. The marriages are conducted mostly under the protection and encouragement of religious institutions where seminars are hosted to promote temporary marriage to women. These seminars intend to convince women that such practice is acceptable and will, in fact, benefit the women.[24] Muta’a is seen by many Iraqis as a form of prostitution despite the religious legality.

Polygamy
The other phenomenon which had been rare in Iraq and has since witnessed a comeback is polygamy; a by-product of poverty, unemployment and women’s need for economy assistance and social “protection”. Polygamy is promoted by some officials and politicians with support from some religious groups as a way to address the issue of ever increasing number of widowed and unmarried women. This is despite the fact that polygamy is illegal unless there are exceptional circumstances which requires a judicial authorization.

In the West of Iraq, in the province of Anbar[25]for example, the Islamic party and some officials offer money to men willing to take more than one wife. The grant ranges between 750 American dollars to take a second wife, and up to 2,000 American dollars to wed women who had been married before[26]. Charities are sponsoring second marriages as well with the support of some women organisations which see polygamy as a pragmatic step to reduce the dangers of prostitution.

However, other women and human rights organisations see polygamy as a political manoeuvre to cover up the plight of Iraq’s most vulnerable women. They argue that widows and poverty stricken women need employment and monthly social welfare (as it used to be under the Baath regime), and micro-finance projects that would help women become self-sufficient, a near impossibility even in a resource rich country like Iraq.[27] The effects of wide spread polygamy, no matter how it is marketed, will damage what Iraqi women have been struggling to get rid of for over a century. Combined with temporary marriage, it is a huge degrading step backward.

Trafficking in persons
Although Iraq is a signatory of several UN protocols and pacts that protect human and labour rights, according to the 2011 Trafficking in persons (TiP) Report, Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to trafficking for begging, prostitution and organ trafficking.

For less than 16 years old girls, prices range from 30,000 US dollars; older girls attract the price of 2,000 US dollars. The traffickers are aided by sophisticated criminal networks that are able to forge documents and pay corrupt officials to remove impediments.[28] Girls as young as 10 or 12 have been trafficked from Iraq into countries including Jordan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for sexual exploitation. Other victims trafficked within Iraq end up in nightclubs or brothels, often in Baghdad. The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked. In 2013, the US State Department released a report on human trafficking in the world, According to the US report, Iraq was categorized as a hotbed of human trafficking and smuggling from all over the world[29]

Torture and sexual violence
Torture, sexual abuses and rape in Abu Ghraib and dozens of other Anglo-American camps and detention centres has continued at the hands of Iraqi forces under the control of the interior and defence ministries. These forces have been trained by US and British forces. Detainees, in some cases, in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib scandal, were handed over to Iraqis to be tortured while occupation troops claimed no responsibility. This gave Iraqi security forces the green light to continue the torture tradition to coerce confessions that would lead eventually to the detainee’s executions under Article 4 of anti terrorism law.

the sexual nature of torture, sexual abuses, and the threat of rape have become one of the terrifying “familiar” tools, practised with impunity, against detainees regardless of their gender. They are used to humiliate, break the will, control, and soil deeply rooted cultural values such as honour; a value which is equally important for both men and women.

Numerous human rights reports document that women are subjected routinely to sexual abuse, torture and rape since 2003.

Women are detained for various reasons. there are women who have been arrested for “security reasons” accused of being terrorists, terrorist’s facilitators, potential suicide bombers, and ex-Baathists. Some are taken as hostages to intimidate or force their male relatives to admit crimes that they had not committed.

On 25th January 2009, the Minister of Women Affairs Nawal al-Samarrai said women prisoners were routinely beaten, abused and in some cases raped in both US and Iraqi prisons. Many women detainees have disappeared after being arrested by US and Iraqi forces and since their families do not report the cases it is difficult to give the exact figure of women detainees. Minister Al -Samarrai added that political parties and militias hold sway over the courts and judges. The result of both is that prisoners often remain in prison indefinitely.

Classified government documents obtained by Human Rights Watch reveal that torture is systematic. Detainees endure wide ranging abuses during interrogation sessions usually to extract false confessions. If the detainees still refused to confess, interrogators would threaten to rape the women and girls in their families”[30].

Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old man with dual Iraqi-UK citizenship, was held incommunicado, tortured and raped with a stick after he travelled to Iraq to secure the release of his son Omar. Both men were beaten, suffocated, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suspended by the ankles. Torturers also threatened to rape Ramze’s first wife, who lives in Mosul, in front of him, and threatened Omar that he would be forced to rape his father if he did not confess to killings. Both men signed “confessions”.[31]

Role change
Women, have had to step out to protect their families, and to carry out the necessary daily tasks, some of which have traditionally been associated with men, such as burying the dead and searching for their missing male relatives in morgues. Queues of women waiting for news about their detained or missing husbands, sons, fathers or brothers have become almost a fixed feature in front of prisons, detention camps, and ministries of human rights, interior or justice. Some have been without news of their loved ones for many years. Officers often demand hefty bribes to let women visit their relatives. According to a report by the Guardian “Iraqi state security officers are systematically arresting people on trumped-up charges, torturing them and extorting bribes from their families for their release. Endemic corruption in Iraq has created a new industry in which senior security service officers buy their authority over particular neighbourhoods by bribing politicians, junior officers pay their seniors monthly stipends and everyone gets a return on their investment by extorting money from the families of detainees.”[32]

Why Anbar
On 25 December 2012, demonstrators took to the streets in Anbar province, followed by others in several cities. Demanding the release of women detainees Some of the women have been tortured, raped or threatened with rape according to reports by the committee of human rights in the parliament . The regime’s various spokesmen gave out contradictory responses: from denying the existence of women detainees arrested as hostages to force the surrender of their male relatives, admitting that some “terrorist” women were arrested, promising swift release, denying rape, to finally setting up a panel of religious personalities and officials to investigate.

The regime conducted a campaign of assassination of leaders of the peaceful demonstration, and where they could they disbanded them by force. In Huweija, in the north of the country, 50 people were massacred. The regime has ended the peaceful protest in all but in Anbar. In the end they resorted to link the protest to terrorism, and this is what is being carried out.

Conclusions
What Europe can and should do to help Iraqi women? This would be straightforward, but also multilayered policy.

First – actions to stop the atrocities
The priority of international pressure is to ensure the current bloodshed stops, before it multiplies to the degree seen in Syria. Public stance by the EU against abuses is the best policy to fight terrorism which thrives when the international community is silent under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

When Iraqi women asked about the most important issue their reply is security followed by health and education and employment. Running workshops on political participation and democracy are great, but at time of conflict and war they come down the list of priorities.

a Special Rapporteur on should be appointed. This is a first step to monitor the crimes committed by the sectarian corrupt regime. These must be addressed to bring an end to the scandalous present impunity.

Second, and related point – Looking at the root causes of terrorism in government policy rather than playing to Islamophobia and myths about foreign forces.
Ban Ki-moon in his visit to Iraq on January 14 has singled out what the protests has been demanding all along: looking at the root causes of the problems. They are sectarianism, corruption, lack of basic services, violations of human rights, increasing unemployment and organised gangs and militias flourishing under a kleptocratic government.

Third - To stop supplying arms to a regime using it against its people.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows in its annual book massive disregard by many states in this respect. You cannot expect Iraqi people to believe the West’ good intentions if they see them arm their oppressors.

Fourth: Expose corruption and demand transparency in where Iraqi wealth is stashed.
The Maliki government has been harvesting over $100bn a year for some time now, from the nation's oil wealth. That amounts to about $20,000 a year per average Iraqi household of 7 people, except that Iraqis are left deprived of basic commodities. The wealth is squandered or stolen, a situation illustrated byTransparency International as: "Massive embezzlement, procurement scams, money laundering, oil smuggling and widespread bureaucratic bribery have led the country to the bottom of international corruption rankings, fuelled political violence and hampered effective state building and service delivery."

Implementing justice is the only way to put an end to terrorism, and to allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their country and social cohesion.
~~~~~~~~~~
[1] The United Nations Refugee Agency issued the following today: January 24 (UNHCR)

[2] UNHCR , January 22, 2008

[3] http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/beyond/2013/

[4] “A study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then. The death counter provides a rough daily update of this number based on a rate of increase derived from the Iraq Body Count. The estimate that over a million Iraqis have died received independent confirmation from a prestigious British polling agency in January 2008. Opinion Research Business estimated that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 was 1,033,000.”

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq , see also ; Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey, Prof Gilbert Burnham MD a , Prof Riyadh Lafta MD b, Shannon Doocy PhD a, Les Roberts PhD , The Lancet, Volume 368, Issue 9545, Pages 1421 - 1428, 21 October 2006

[5] Iraqi Widows and Orphans Face Government Corruption, NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq, 30-11-2010

[6] http://unami.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=xqx9gxy7Isk%3D&tabid=2790&language=en-US

[7] http://www.irinnews.org/report/97976/women-yet-to-regain-their-place

[8] IRAQ’S CORRUPTION LEGACY, Farid Farid, 3 April 2013, transparency International,

[9] Amnesty International Annual Report – Iraq – 2011.

[10] AI: Iraq: Another spike in executions with 38 hanged in last four days, AI Jan 2014

[11] Ibid

[12] Hans von Sponeck in: IRAQ:A CASE OF EDUCIDE, March 2011, Ghent http://www.brussellstribunal.org/Seminar/texts/en/2.pdf

[13] UNAMI HR 2010 http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/UNAMIHRReports.aspx

[14] For List of killed, threatened or kidnapped Iraqi Academics , see; http://www.brussellstribunal.org/academicsList.htm

[15] Iraqi Newspaper Azzaman reported on 8 October 2011: “More than 30,000 Iraqi civil servants, among them high-level officials, have obtained their jobs on fake certificates and degrees, according to the parliamentary commission on integrity and transparency.”

[16] Outrage as Iraqi women’s affairs minister opposes equality for women, Kurdistantribune, February 14, 2012

[17] Iraq's women of power who tolerate wife-beating and promote polygamy, Catherine Philp , 18 April 2005

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1548015,00.html

[18] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1548015,00.html

[19] Iraq: Intensifying Crackdown on Free Speech, Protests, HRW, JANUARY 22, 2012

[20] http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/iraq

[21] According to Edward Kallon, the U.N. World Food Program's representative for Iraq. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/07/19/un-forced-to-cut-food-aid-to-iraqi-women-children/

[22] Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah 'worse than Hiroshima', The independent, 24 July 2010.

[23] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/08/20138111224621617.html

[24] Abuse Of Temporary Marriages Flourishes In Iraq, KELLY MCEVERS, NPR, October 19, 2010

[25] Population of Anbar 1.7 million with around 130,000 widows and unmarried women .

[26] Polygamy Promoted to Tackle Plight of Anbar's Women, Uthman al-Mukhtar ,ICR Issue 353,

23 Sep2010

[27] Iraq toys with polygamy as solution for war widows, Roula Ayoubi, BBC, 26 January 2011

[28] http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/iraq0211W.pdf

[29] Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/iraq-human-trafficking-absence-law.html##ixzz2r8nEZRgG

[30] Iraqis Torturing Iraqis, NY times, SAMER MUSCATI, May 4, 2010

[31] Ibid

[32] Corruption in Iraq: 'Your son is being tortured. He will die if you don't pay', Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, 16 January 2012


Australia: Shine Bright Candle Light Vigil for Women & Children slain in Domestic Violence Print E-mail



EVENTS

Throughout the year, there will be many safe steps activities and events that you can support. Make sure you check this page regularly so that you do not miss out on an opportunity to support us.



Join safe steps, Minister Fiona Richardson, VIP’s, Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and survivors of family violence and light a candle to Shine Bright in memory of the women and children who have lost their lives to family violence.

This inaugural event will occur the first Wednesday in May every year and will support other annual vigils held simultaneously in each state and territory to remember those who have died and to show support for their families, friends and colleagues.

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Put the date in you diary!

Wednesday 25 November 2015



Wednesday 25 November 2015, at Federation Square Melbourne for the annual Walk against Family Violence (WAFV).The United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The premise of the day is to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to domestic violence, rape and other forms of violence. A key aim of the day is to highlight that the scale and true nature of the issue is often hidden.

This year’s event is expected to be bigger and stronger so please join us, and encourage your friends, family and friends to do the same. Look forward to seeing you there!


Carol Mann: Farkhunda’s lynching illustrates Afghanistan's continuum of human rights abuses Print E-mail
 Sunday March 22nd, 2015

The lynching of a woman in broad daylight in present-day Kabul

By Carol Mann

On March 19th 2015, Farkhunda, a 27-year old woman completing her studies, was lynched by a mob in a Kabul street for being suspected of setting alight a copy of the Q’uran or a Tawiz (an amulet, it’s not clear). The family ‘s first reaction (that is to say, before demanding justice), seems to have been explanatory, nearly apologetic, claiming she was suffering severe mental problems and depression­a condition which according to research affects a significant proportion of the female population in Afghanistan. One hardly needs to wonder why.

Farkhunda’s fate reminds me of the execution of Zarmina in a public stadium in Kabul by the Taliban, in the closing years of the XXth century. This was the time that I came into contact with a then very active, but still unknown, militant group in Afghanistan, RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. This secular, egalitarian group was the only one fighting the Soviet intervention not from a religious point of view but from a socialist alternative standpoint.

Documenting Taliban abuses was one of its aims. Thus, one brave woman smuggled in a camera to the stadium and hid it in the folds of her blue burqa to film Zarmina’s execution. Had she been spotted, she would have been killed along with her comrades. I was sent this film in Paris with the hope of showing it on TV. This being pre-9/11, it did not interest anyone at the time, one company telling me that the quality was too poor to be aired on public media! Naturally when Afghanistan became the flavour of the new millennium, these images were immediately appropriated by prominent spokespeople in the name of self-righteous, if tardy, indignation. It took me several years to get the real hero over to Paris to tell her tale on TV. Just to remind you: the images show a female figure in a burqa being dragged to the centre of the stadium by other similarly clad women (presumably policewomen) , made to sit and then shot by an executioner in a turban behind her, firing with a Kalashnikov. Apparently thousands were forced to look on, including the hapless victim’s seven children. Zarmina’s fate became a cause célèbre after 9/11, it was shown as a true example of Taliban evil, complete with sinister beards and head-dresses. The film went global and served to legitimate the US and Allied intervention on the promise, as G.W. Bush repeatedly mouthed, of liberating Afghan women from such outrages and bringing them Western-style democracy and human rights, etc.

Fast forward to now, Now Ruz 2015. Zarmina’s twins (whom she was allowed to wean before being executed) are now adults. The US intervention has come and practically gone, purportedly having created the basis for democracy. Admittedly schools, hospitals have been built, a class of urbanized educated women has been somewhat empowered, the foundations for a possible state have been laid­at least on paper. The only overriding achievement is that henceforth Afghanistan is the world capital for the cultivation of the opium poppy and cannabis and provides over 75% of the planet’s consumption of these drugs, despite the billions spent in attempted eradication.

Compared to the modest statistics in Taliban times, this, in terms of cynical numbers, is the single greatest Afghan success story of recent times, far more considerable than the reduction of maternal and child mortality which continue to be catastrophic.

Look (if you can stomach it) at the horrific images of Farkhunda’s lynching. Again a totally veiled woman, no face showing, like Zarmina, savagely beaten with sticks, and stoned until she is but a bleeding rag-doll. But scrutinise the henchmen shouting Allah-u-Akhbar. No bearded Taliban here or shalwar-kamiz, but young men, some teenagers, slick short hair, leather jackets, jeans, wielding sticks and cell phones to film the scene. One executioner proudly posted the scene on his Facebook page. Looking just like their contemporaries anywhere on the planet, these kids do not appear to be older than 25, which means that they all benefited, however diminutively, from the possibilities afforded to them by the nascent institutions of Post-Taliban Afghanistan. Something comparable could be said for all the thousands leaving Europe and parts of North Africa (especially Tunisia) to join the ranks of ISIS. They are not all illiterate and starving, nor victims of some imperialist plot. Nor were the uniformed and armed Kabuli policemen, however poorly paid, who were calmly watching the lynching.

Are we asking the right questions? For a start, there is no real ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Taliban but a continuum of abuse against human rights in Afghanistan, which started to escalate more dramatically as from the Civil War, (after the collapse of the pro-Communist regime) between warlords, some of whom are still in power. Should one be surprised that officials in the government and clerics came out in support for the lynching? As far as I am aware, the public murder did not make the immediate headlines in Afghanistan or Pakistan. From Thursday when it happened until Saturday evening, I hardly saw it posted on any Afghan Facebook pages that I subscribe to either, except from a couple of outraged individuals not representing anyone. I am willing to be proven wrong. There were more details to be had from the Western press, suitably and predictably horrified..

My permanently angry friend FS suggested that one should think the situation out in the light of the Charlie Hebdo issue. Hapless Farkhunda, it seems, was not burning anything at all but the suspicion of sacrilege seems to have been enough to warrant and justify her public lynching with the tacit blessing of the authorities. Three interlocked features have been normalized here: first the undefined notion of blasphemy overriding constitutional law which in turn removes citizenship and human dignity from anyone suspected of committing what any other (male) individual may consider a felony. This in turn allows any (male) person the right to represent divine justice and turn himself into an executioner. For what it was worth, Zarmina went through some semblance of a Taliban-style trial but Farkhunda was murdered point-blank in broad daylight, in a crowded neighbourhood.

The notion of state, already moribund with Karzai, seems to have entirely disappeared in Ashraf Ghani’s Afghanistan. Like everywhere else, the condition of women’s rights constitutes the only valid indicator for the maintenance or absence of true democracy and human rights. In Afghanistan once again, this tragedy with a woman’s death at its epicentre is a symptom of the potential collapse of the state if real justice is not carried out and human rights not enforced by law. The women clad in black carrying Farkhunda’s coffin today may well be burying their hopes and futures for a better world.




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