Thursday, October 27, 2011


(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Foreign Policy, October 26, 2011
"Before, I was not even daring to look at girls as wife material, because I knew I could not afford" to get married, say Faqiar now. These days, though, Faqiar wears the mismatched camouflage of Libya's rebels and a dashing bandana on his head, pirate-style. He carries a gun. He is a veteran of battles for Libyans' freedom from Qaddafi's regime -- and it's the women who are talking to him. 'Girls around the area come up to you and say, "Thank you! You made us proud, you made us happy,"' Faqiar told me one night recently. He spoke on the sidelines of a camel and couscous feast that the people in this Tripoli suburb threw for several thousand young rebels, after slaughtering 10 camels. From a specially raised dais, speakers praised the young rebel fighters late into the evening.  Hundreds of excited young women and girls in head scarves mingled near rifle-toting young men, a novelty in this conservative country that was overwhelming to members of both genders in the crowd that night. 'It's like a wedding!' Faqiar exclaimed, shaking his head in surprise. Relations between Libyan men and women -- deeply distorted by the eccentric Libyan leader's refusal to provide normal opportunities for Libya's young people -- have changed '100 percent' in the days since Qaddafi fell, the young rebel said. His comrades listening around him voiced agreement. 'Thank God,' 'Faqiar added. Nearby, young women -- a group of cousins and neighbors, clustered together, in long skirts and shirts and head coverings -- said the same, and laughed about taking their pick of a husband from among the rebels when the war was done. Before the revolution, young men her age 'were just lazing around in the streets, no future. I didn't care about them at all,' said Esra'a el-Gadi, 20. 'Now I look at them in a totally new light -- they stood up against Qaddafi. It's something.' 'We saw them as lost youth, unemployed," Rahana el-Gadi, 19, said of men of her generation. "Now we were surprised, so surprised to see what they're capable of,' she added. 'We dream of the day they come back, and we welcome them.' Jokes passed by cell phone text messages across Libya confirm the newfound eligibility of the young civilians turned fighters.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Drug Wars: Men in Central America Face One in 50 Chance of Murder before 31
The Telegraph, October 6, 2011
"The spread of drug wars means young men in Central America face a 1 in 50 chance of being murdered before reaching their 31st birthday, a UN report has claimed. Worldwide, 468,000 people were victims of homicide in 2010, with around a third of cases in Africa and a further third in the Americas, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its first global report on homicide on Thursday. 'In countries with high murder rates especially involving firearms, such as in Central America, 1 in 50 males aged 20 will be killed before they reach the age of 31 -- several hundred times higher than in some parts of Asia,' it said. Increased competition between drug trafficking groups has helped to push up homicide rates in most Central American countries during the past five years. The murder rate in Central America has increased sharply since 2007 after a steady decline between 1995 to 2005, the report said. In some countries in the region, the financial crisis may have played a role in the sudden rise.

Friday, September 30, 2011


"Karen National Army guerrillas who are fighting the Burmese army for greater autonomy and an end to what they describe as ethnic cleansing." (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Burma's Convicts Become Unwilling Pawns in a Long and Bitter Civil War
By Esmer Golluoglu
The Guardian, September 30, 2011
"The scars on their shoulders and backs give it away. Its leaders may suggest otherwise, but Burma is a country riven by the world's longest running civil war. And the pawns are the Burmese convicts forced to work as porters on the frontlines. Made to carry heavy supplies, they are regularly beaten and used as human shields against landmines. Those who have escaped form a growing underclass of refugees on the Thai border, where they eke out a meagre living and face deportation at any time. 'I work for a day, eat for a day but I am now free,' said Thay Utoo Ong at the secret location where he and three others met the Guardian. 'With the army, I had to carry 35kg of water on my back for 13 hours every day, without food or water. I knew I was going to die if I stayed ... I would either starve to death or be shot dead. In January, the 32-year-old was one of 1,200 convicts taken to bolster a military offensive against ethnic insurgents. Many were subjected to torture or summary executions, or placed directly in the line of fire, recounted Maung Nyunt. 'One porter stepped on a mine and lost his leg; he was screaming but the soldiers left him there,' he added. 'When we came back down the mountain he was dead. I looked up and saw bits of his leg in a tree.' Since 1948 the Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, has been fighting a civil war against armed groups including the Karen, whose members want greater autonomy and an end to what they describe as ethnic cleansing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

WORK (Iraq)

Mass Grave in Iraqi Town Held Bodies of 40 Cabbies
By Michael S. Schmidt
The New York Times, September 11, 2011
"Iraq has been so inured by years of war, terrorism and sectarian strife that what would be a horrific crime of shocking proportions in most countries has gone barely noticed here. Several days ago, a mass grave was unearthed in Dujail, a town about 35 miles north of Baghdad. That was not unusual. Iraq is littered with such graves, some from the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, others from the sectarian bloodletting that erupted after the American invasion. Dujail, in fact, is best known for a mass killing, that of 148 of its men and boys by Mr. Hussein’s forces after a failed attempt to assassinate him there in 1982. That was the case Mr. Hussein was hanged for in 2006. But this mass grave, security officials said, was the work of a gang of killers who had kidnapped and killed 40 Baghdad taxi drivers over the last two years in order to steal their cars. The police said the crime was unprecedented as far as they knew. But one would be hard pressed to find a mention of the killings in the Iraqi news media or on the street. Asked about the killings, a member of Parliament from Salahuddin Province, which includes Dujail, offered the standard critique of lax Iraqi security. 'Those areas are not being controlled by the security forces,' said the lawmaker, Suhad Fahil Hamid al-Obedi. 'Unfortunately, we are suffering from a weakness of our security forces.' The police said that the gang had stolen dozens of taxis over the last two years, killing the drivers and burying them in Dujail.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


"Duan Biansheng, one of many unmarried men in the 'bachelor village' of Banzhushan in Hunan province." (Tania Branigan)
China's Village of the Bachelors: No Wives in Sight in Remote Settlement
By Tania Branigan
The Guardian, September 2, 2011
"He wants a wife, of course. But ask what kind of woman he seeks and Duan Biansheng looks perplexed. 'I don't have any requirements at all,' said the 35-year-old farmer. 'I would be satisfied with just a wife.' His prospects of finding one, he added, are 'almost zero'. There are dozens of single men in Banzhushan village, perched high on a remote mountain peak in central Hunan province -- and not one unattached woman of marriageable age. Tens of millions of men across China face a future as bachelors. They are a source of pity, not envy, in a country where having children is central to life. Duan worries about growing old with no one to care for him. He chafes at the unhelpful pressure to wed from his parents and neighbours. The worst thing of all is the loneliness. This is the perverse outcome of the country's longstanding preference for sons, and its sudden modernisation. Traditionally, the family line is passed via men. When a woman marries, she joins her husband's family. Having a boy is a cultural and a pragmatic choice: you expect him to continue your lineage and support you in old age. The result has long been a surplus of men, because of female infanticide or excess female deaths through neglect. But in the last 20 years, the problem has exploded thanks to the spread of prenatal scans.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

GOVERNANCE & CONFLICT (Palestine-Israel)

"Boys throw stones at Israeli soldiers." (AFP)
How Israel Takes Its Revenge on Boys Who Throw Stones
By Catrina Stewart
The Independent, 26 August 2011
"The boy, small and frail, is struggling to stay awake. His head lolls to the side, at one point slumping on to his chest. 'Lift up your head! Lift it up!' shouts one of his interrogators, slapping him. But the boy by now is past caring, for he has been awake for at least 12 hours since he was separated at gunpoint from his parents at two that morning. 'I wish you'd let me go,' the boy whimpers, 'just so I can get some sleep.' During the nearly six-hour video, 14-year-old Palestinian Islam Tamimi, exhausted and scared, is steadily broken to the point where he starts to incriminate men from his village and weave fantastic tales that he believes his tormentors want to hear. This rarely seen footage seen by The Independent offers a glimpse into an Israeli interrogation, almost a rite of passage that hundreds of Palestinian children accused of throwing stones undergo every year. Israel has robustly defended its record, arguing that the treatment of minors has vastly improved with the creation of a military juvenile court two years ago. But the children who have faced the rough justice of the occupation tell a very different story. 'The problems start long before the child is brought to court, it starts with their arrest,' says Naomi Lalo, an activist with No Legal Frontiers, an Israeli group that monitors the military courts. It is during their interrogation where their 'fate is doomed', she says. Sameer Shilu, 12, was asleep when the soldiers smashed in the front door of his house one night. He and his older brother emerged bleary-eyed from their bedroom to find six masked soldiers in their living room. Checking the boy's name on his father's identity card, the officer looked 'shocked' when he saw he had to arrest a boy, says Sameer's father, Saher. 'I said, "He's too young; why do you want him?" "I don't know," he said'. Blindfolded, and his hands tied painfully behind his back with plastic cords, Sameer was bundled into a Jeep, his father calling out to him not to be 'We cried, all of us,' his father says. 'I know my sons; they don't throw stones.'

Friday, August 26, 2011


"Dying of shame: a Congolese rape victim, currently resident in Uganda. This man’s wife has left him, as she was unable to accept what happened. He attempted suicide at the end of last year." (Will Storr/Observer)
The Rape of Men
By Will Storr
The Observer, July 17, 2011
"Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour. It is usually denied by the perpetrator and his victim. Governments, aid agencies and human rights defenders at the UN barely acknowledge its possibility. Yet every now and then someone gathers the courage to tell of it. This is just what happened on an ordinary afternoon in the office of a kind and careful counsellor in Kampala, Uganda. For four years Eunice Owiny had been employed by Makerere University's Refugee Law Project (RLP) to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. This particular case, though, was a puzzle. A female client was having marital difficulties. 'My husband can't have sex,' she complained. 'He feels very bad about this. I'm sure there's something he's keeping from me.' Owiny invited the husband in. For a while they got nowhere. Then Owiny asked the wife to leave. The man then murmured cryptically: 'It happened to me.' Owiny frowned. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old sanitary pad. 'Mama Eunice,' he said. 'I am in pain. I have to use this.' Laying the pus-covered pad on the desk in front of him, he gave up his secret. During his escape from the civil war in neighbouring Congo, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. His captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years. And he wasn't the only one. He watched as man after man was taken and raped. The wounds of one were so grievous that he died in the cell in front of him. 'That was hard for me to take,' Owiny tells me today. 'There are certain things you just don't believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women's stories. But nobody has heard the men's.'


The Short Life and Cruel Death of Libyan Freedom Fighter Izz al-Arab Matar
By Hisham Matar
The Guardian, August 26, 2011
"My cousin Izz al-Arab Matar, a 22-year-old final-year student in engineering, was shot in Bab al-Aziziya, Muammar Gaddafi's fortified compound in Tripoli, at 4.30pm on Tuesday 23 August 2011. 'Izzo', as his friends and family liked to call him, had joined the rebel front immediately after the revolution started on 17 February. He fought in the liberation of his hometown of Ajdabiya, helped liberate Brega and then went on to join the rebels in Misrata. He would return home to his family in Ajdabiya occasionally to rest, get a change of clothes and eat a proper meal before setting off again. Every time his mother would ask him not to leave. He would reply by jokingly quoting from Gaddafi's defiant, savage speech, made a few days after the rebellion began: 'Forward, forward.' She once asked him: 'Forward until when? When will you stop fighting?' 'When we reach Bab al-Aziziya,' he told her.

Monday, March 21, 2011


"A wall outside the Benghazi courthouse bears images of men who have been imprisoned or killed by Moammar Kadafi." (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

1996 Prison Massacre a Spark in Libyan Revolution
By Raja Abdulrahim
The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2011
"Every month for nearly 10 years, Ezzedin abu Azza's family traveled to the gates of Abu Salim prison in Tripoli to deliver a package of clothes, food and medicine, not knowing whether it ever reached him. They hadn't seen him since the day in 1993 when the 23-year-old was taken away for questioning by state security agents. But still they made their journey from Benghazi every month. Then, in 2002, the family was told he had died, six years earlier. Here in this eastern city that has long simmered with resentment over the brutal rule of Moammar Kadafi, the Abu Azzas were among the lucky ones. Other families would wait another six years, or longer, to hear that their loved ones were among a reported 1,200 political prisoners at Abu Salim who were killed, in a matter of hours, in June 1996 as they fought for better living conditions and the right to see their families. Other families have never been officially informed and only assume that their loved ones are among the dead. When the government in 2008 began notifying many of the families of the deaths, they set up mourning tents and posted obituaries. 'We were notified 12 years after his death,' many obituaries read, brashly pointing an accusatory finger at the government. Now, a decade and a half after the massacre, the prisoners' stories and an unprecedented call for justice by their families helped spark a revolution.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Video of the Month

(Discovery Channel, 2006, 93 mins.)

This heart-stopping account of the attempt to prevent Europe being engulfed in nuclear disaster is one of the greatest documentaries of recent years. Though Ukraine is not formally part of the Global South, it could be considered as such, and in any case this documentary speaks to the wider phenomenon of males conscripted, or volunteering, for the most dangerous tasks in the public sphere. Five hundred thousand men battled the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. Thousands died, and as the documentary makes clear, they are still dying, long before their time. It is additionally powerful to view "The Battle of Chernobyl" in March 2011, as Japan undergoes its own nuclear crisis, with men again at the forefront of the disaster response.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


"Hundreds of African migrant workers, many from Ghana and Nigeria, live next to the airport in Tripoli, Libya, hoping to fly home." (Moises Saman/The New York Times)
Libya War Traps Poor Immigrants at Tripoli's Edge
By David D. Kirkpatrick and Scott Sayare
The New York Times, March 7, 2011
"As wealthier nations send boats and planes to rescue their citizens from the violence in Libya, a new refugee crisis is taking shape on the outskirts of Tripoli, where thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa have been trapped with scant food and water, no international aid and little hope of escape. The migrants -- many of them illegal immigrants from Ghana and Nigeria who have long constituted an impoverished underclass in Libya -- live amid piles of garbage, sleep in makeshift tents of blankets strung from fences and trees, and breathe fumes from a trench of excrement dividing their camp from the parking lot of Tripoli's airport. For dinner on Monday night two men killed a scrawny, half-plucked chicken by dunking it in water boiled on a garbage fire, then hacked it apart with a dull knife and cooked it over an open fire. Some residents of the camp are as young as Essem Ighalo, 9 days old, who arrived on his second day of life and has yet to see a doctor. Many refugees said they had seen deaths from hunger and disease every night. The airport refugees, along with tens of thousands of other African migrants lucky enough to make it across the border to Tunisia, are the most desperate contingent of a vast exodus that has already sent almost 200,000 foreigners fleeing the country since the outbreak of the popular revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi nearly three weeks ago. Dark-skinned Africans say the Libyan war has caught them in a vise. The heavily armed police and militia forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi who guard checkpoints along the roads around the capital rob them of their money, possessions and cellphone chips, the migrants say. And the Libyans who oppose Colonel Qaddafi lash out at the African migrants because they look like the dark-skinned mercenaries many here say the Libyan leader has recruited to crush the uprising. 'Qaddafi has brought African soldiers to kill some of them, so if they see black people they beat them,' said Samson Adda, 31, who said residents of Zawiyah, a rebellious city, had beaten him so badly that he could no longer walk.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Libyan Rebels Come from All Walks of Life
By Graeme Smith
The Globe and Mail, March 2011
"They sit crammed together in trucks headed to war in the desert, thousands of rebels throwing themselves into battle against Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. They stand united in their hatred of his regime. Three weeks ago, however, these men lived different lives. They wore hard hats, not military berets; they carried hammers, not assault rifles. Their bands of fighters consist mostly of amateurs, facing off against professional forces. In its first public appearance this weekend, the newly formed rebel council in Benghazi promised it would send more seasoned reinforcements from the ranks of defecting troops.
In the meantime, however, the ragtag warriors on the front lines say their passion keeps them going. For many, the wellspring of emotion is their bitter personal history.
'The Businessman' Saif-al-din Sa'd, 33.
Saif-al-din Sa’d, 33, was born in Zwetina, a port town where his father worked for an oil company as a ship's captain. He graduated from a nearby university with a degree in business administration and joined a local construction company. He is now executive director of the firm, with responsibility for 150 employees. He chuckles when informed that his status as a wealthy businessman breaks the stereotype of poor youth rising up: 'Rich or not,' he said, 'it's been like living in prison in this country.' Before the revolution, his proudest accomplishment had been building a water reservoir in the desert. Now, it's the assault on the sandy hill of Ras Al-Nasr, a bluff outside the town of Ras Lanuf. Government forces held the high ground with artillery and heavy guns, but the businessman and his comrades forced them to retreat during a battle waged in a dust storm on March 3. He's more accustomed to wearing hard hats and steel-toed boots during the workday, but Mr. Sa'd seems to take naturally to his rebel uniform. He does not flinch when young fighters bang out practice shots on their anti-aircraft guns nearby and seems unfazed when others panic at the sound of jets overhead. His quiet resolve comes from witnessing the government forces' attacks on civilians, he says. 'I saw with my own eyes, one of them shooting their recoilless rifle at a carload of civilians, all of them killed immediately,' he said. 'We have Libyan blood, this is our blood. This is our country. We will fight with every weapon. We don’t mind dying.' [...]"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Photo of the Month

"Pictures of protesters killed in Benghazi adorn the walls outside the courthouse." (Getty Images)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


"Migrants arriving on Sunday on the island of Lampedusa. More than 3,000 Tunisians have landed there in recent days. One Italian official called it an 'unprecedented biblical exodus.'" (Francesca Ferretti/New York Times)
Upheaval Opens the Exits in Tunisia
By Thomas Fuller
The New York Times, February 14, 2011
"A dozen young men left this village of olive groves and whitewashed houses near the Mediterranean coast last week, bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa aboard an overcrowded fishing boat. They were part of a flotilla of would-be migrants that has created a humanitarian crisis and stirred a political furor in Italy. But unlike the more than 5,000 Tunisians who have successfully reached Italy’s shores, this group’s trip ended in failure and death. On Monday, villagers buried one of the men, Walid Bayahia, who was killed when the fishing boat collided in the frigid waters with a Tunisian National Guard patrol vessel and sank, according to four of the villagers who survived. 'Four buried and two missing -- it's a disaster,' said Tarak Bahyoun, a house painter who attended the funeral. 'Nothing like this has ever happened here.' The fall of Tunisia’s autocratic president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, on Jan. 14 brought euphoria and hope to this country of 10 million people. But the revolution, as Tunisians call it, also created a power vacuum. After battling protesters for weeks, the police, fearing retribution, fled their barracks. It suddenly dawned on the young and underemployed that there was no one standing in their way if they wanted to leave for Italy -- and the prospect of a good-paying job in a European Union country. ... Tunisia's caretaker government said Monday that it had set up military checkpoints at several ports to try to halt the flow of migrants amid growing tensions with Italy. Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, was expected to meet with Tunisia's interim prime minister on Monday evening after the Tunisian authorities turned down an Italian request to send its own police officers to help patrol the coast. More than 3,000 Tunisians have landed in Lampedusa, which is just off Sicily, in recent days, leading the Italian government to declare a state of humanitarian emergency. One Italian official called it an 'unprecedented biblical exodus.' Italy has also called on the European Union for help in dealing with the migrants. In Zarzis, a small group of soldiers patrolled the port on Monday. 'We are being very, very strict now,' said a security official who stood guard at the entrance and declined to give his name. 'We want to be sure that this phenomenon stops.'

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Pictures of the Dead Rise in Egypt's Tahrir Square
By Ned Parker and Doha Al Zohairy
The Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2011
"They carry posters with photos of young men killed in the last two weeks in demonstrations around their country. Appearing daily in Tahrir Square, those commemorating the deaths blame President Hosni Mubarak's government, and they demand justice. Although it is unclear how many people have died, a United Nations official estimated that as many as 300 people had been killed in clashes with police and Mubarak supporters before Wednesday, and, according to Human Rights Watch, about a dozen more since. Those who walk the crowded downtown square do not want to forget their lost friends and loved ones. They want them remembered amid the cheers and songs demanding that Mubarak leave office immediately. To them, it is an unhealable wound, a reason they believe a compromise will not suffice in their uprising against Mubarak. Nasser Shabaan, 37, comes to the square almost every day, carrying a portrait of his nephew, Mohammed Sayed Abdul Latif, who was shot in the neck late last month during a demonstration in his neighborhood of Imbaba. Details of the killing could not be verified independently. Shabaan, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said he received a call about the shooting while in Tahrir Square, and when he reached the nearby neighborhood, his nephew was lying on the street bleeding. Police threatened to shoot anyone who tended to Latif, he said, but they finally let him drive his nephew to a hospital. Latif died soon afterward. The poster of Latif, 24, shows a smiling young man with moussed hair and black eyes. Fellow protesters stopped to look at the image, in a jarring reminder of what has been lost since the demonstrations began. [...]"


"The stronger sex ... girls on their way to school in Shillong, which has a strong matrilineal tradition." (EPA/Corbis)
Where Women of India Rule the Roost and Men Demand Gender Equality
By Julien Bouissou
The Guardian Weekly, January 18, 2011
"Kaith Pariat is sick of housekeeping and even more so of being bossed around by his mother-in-law. He has put up with this situation since he was married. 'Can you imagine the shock of leaving your family home and suddenly becoming a dogsbody in your mother-in-law's house?' he asks. 'She gives the orders and you become a good-for-nothing servant.' The Khasi, who number about 1 million in India's north-eastern state of Meghalaya, carry on the matrilineal tradition. The youngest daughter inherits, children take their mother's surname, and once married, men live in their mother-in-law's home. 'Only mothers or mother-in-laws look after the children. Men are not even entitled to take part in family gatherings. The husband is up against a whole clan of people: his wife, his mother-in-law and his children. So all he can do is play the guitar, sing, take to drink and die young,' Pariat concludes gloomily. Men are the weak sex in Meghalaya, but Pariat hopes the Syngkhong Rympei Thymai (SRT) campaign [roughly 'a wedge to shore up a shaky table'] will promote reform of family structures. Indeed he wants to achieve more than mere equality. 'Men are endowed with natural leadership. They should protect women, who in return should support them,' he says. According to Valentina Pakyntein, an anthropologist at Shillong University, the matrilineal system goes back to a time when Khasis had several partners and it was hard to determine the paternity of children. But SRT members have another explanation, claiming that their ancestors were away from home for too long fighting wars to be able to look after their families. As members of an official ethnic minority, Khasis have many privileges: the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council protects their laws, taxation is lower than elsewhere in India, land is set aside for their use in tribal zones, and a quota system operates for higher education and civil service jobs.


"An activist carries a picture of slain businessman Khaled Said with Arabic words that read 'Why was Khaled killed?' in Cairo on June 19." (Nasser Nasser/Associated Press)
Facebook Page Helped Catalyze Egypt Unrest
By Jennifer Preston
The New York Times on, February 5, 2011
If there is a face to the revolt that has sprouted in Egypt, it may be the face of Khaled Said. That 28-year-old Egyptian businessman was pulled from an Internet cafe in Alexandria last June by two plainclothes police officers who beat him to death in the lobby of a residential building after they learned that he had posted a video on his personal blog showing them with illegal drugs. The Egyptian police and security services have a well-earned reputation for brutality and snuffing out political opposition. But in Mr. Said, they unwittingly chose the wrong target. Within five days of his death, an anonymous human rights activist created a Facebook page -- We Are All Khaled Said -- that posted cellphone photos from the morgue of his battered and bloodied face, the video of the corrupt police officers and other YouTube videos contrasting his corpse with pictures of his bright and smiling face from happier days. By mid-June, 130,000 people joined the page to get and share updates about the case. It became and remains the biggest dissident Facebook page in Egypt, even as protests continue to sweep the country, with more than 473,000 users, and it has helped spread the word about the demonstrations in Egypt, which were ignited after a revolt in neighboring Tunisia toppled the government there. 'There were many catalysts of the uprising,' said Ahmed Zidan, an online political activist marching toward Tahrir Square for a protest last week. 'The first was the brutal murder of Khalid Said.'

Friday, February 4, 2011


"Tunisian riot police stop protestors along Avenue Bourghiba on January 20, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia."
(Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)
A Tunisian State Police Officer Shares Harrowing Inside View
By Borzou Daragahi
The Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2011
"He glances over his shoulder. Not here, he says. In the shopping center across the street, there's a cafe downstairs. He picks out a table in the far corner, behind a pillar, to shield his face from security cameras, as jumpy as a fugitive. Except that Najib, 32, is a member of Tunisia's state security forces. During the protests that toppled President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, he was ordered to put on a helmet, hold up a shield and baton, and stand against his own people. He went through the motions, but in the end he didn't have the heart to raise his baton against them. Even with Ben Ali gone, he is reluctant to talk about life as a policeman in a police state. His commanders at the Interior Ministry don't know that he failed in his duty, and they have ordered officers not to talk to reporters. Still, Najib decides to risk it, on the condition that only his first name will be published. With gentle encouragement from his wife, a 30-year-old schoolteacher named Dhekra, he tells his story, the words pouring out. 'The dictator is gone,' he says, speaking quickly and in hushed tones. 'But the dictatorship is still here.' ... Najib says he joined the ministry's forces seeking financial security. His father, a bus driver, was always short of money, and Najib wanted to do better. He went through a year of police training that he describes as abusive and humiliating. After 12 years on the job, his salary is $67 a week, less deductions for his uniform and other expenses.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"In a poor section of the city of Suez, young Egyptians take up arms to protect their neighborhood." (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
Fear and Desperation Grip Egypt Port City of Suez
By Jeffrey Fleishman
The Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2011
"Abdel Ibrahim waited in the alley with an ax. Boys gathered around him with clubs and knives. His brother held a gun made of lead pipe and a trigger. Building fires smoldered and the dead had been buried, but Ibrahim's small, ragged army suggested new graves may soon be dug. There were no police officers in sight. Their headquarters had been burned. So had the fire department. In this port city of salt air and factory smoke, where resentment over President Hosni Mubarak has been ingrained over decades, the government is the enemy. 'This cleaver's not enough to protect us from the police,' said Ibrahim's brother, Yusef. 'That's why I invented this gun.' The protests sweeping Egypt have been particularly bloody in Suez. At least 30 people have been killed here. Years of repressed hatred over police corruption, beatings and intimidation have turned the city into a storm, gusting, turning strangely quiet and gusting again. Many of the rich have fled, the workers have taken to the streets, the poor hurry to market before curfew. 'Mubarak is a murderer,' reads a wall of graffiti. 'We will not forget the martyrs of the revolution.' Like much of the country, Suez has become a place of eerie twilights and tense mornings. Small fires burn at vigilante roadblocks guarded by men with sticks and swords and cutlery pulled from kitchen drawers. Boys stand watch too, their slender bodies tilted by the weight of their lead pipes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


"Burned wreckage in the main square of the town Sidi Bouzid where Mohammad Bouazizi set himself on fire and sparked the Tunisian revolution." (Reuters)
Bouazizi: The Man Who Set Himself and Tunisia on Fire
By Rania Abouzeid and Sidi Bouzid, January 20, 2011
"He is now famous throughout Tunisia and the Arab world, a legend in fact. But Mohammad Bouazizi never set out to be a byword. His aunt Radia Bouazizi says his dream was to save enough money to be able to rent or buy a pick-up truck. 'Not to cruise around in,' she says, 'but for his work.' Her nephew was a vegetable seller. 'He would come home tired after pushing the cart around all day. All he wanted was a pick-up.' Instead, he started a revolution. Mohammad Bouazizi was like the hundreds of desperate, downtrodden young men in hardscrabble Sidi Bouzid. Many of them have university degrees but spend their days loitering in the cafes lining the dusty streets of this impoverished town, 300 kilometers south of the capital Tunis. Bouazizi, 26, didn't have a college degree, having only reached what his mother says was the 'baccalaureate' level, which is roughly equivalent to high school. He was, however, was luckier than most in that he at least earned an income from selling vegetables, work that he'd had for seven years. But on December 17 his livelihood was threatened when a policewoman confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart and its goods. It wasn't the first time it had happened, but it would be the last. Not satisfied with accepting the 10 Tunisian dinar fine that he tried to pay ($7, the equivalent of a good day's earnings), the policewoman allegedly slapped the scrawny young man, spat in his face and insulted his dead father. Humiliated and dejected, Bouazizi, the breadwinner for his family of eight, went to the provincial headquarters, hoping to complain to local municipality officials, but they refused to see him. At 11:30 a.m., less than an hour after the confrontation with the policewoman and without telling his family, Bouazizi returned to the elegant double-storey white building with arched azure shutters, poured fuel over himself and set himself on fire.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

GOVERNANCE & CONFLICT (Somalia / Germany)

"Accused Somali pirates and their lawyers in the Hamburg court at the start of the trial on Nov. 22, 2010." (Getty Images)
"I Am Deeply Sad and Don't Know How to Go On"
By Beate Lakotta
Spiegel Online, January 11, 2011
"Two out of the 10 Somali pirates on trial in Hamburg for hijacking a German container ship testified for the first time this week. Their stories provided a glimpse of the hardships of life in their lawless homeland. The accused, Hussein Carab M. politely thanked the court and those present for their attention before describing the hardships that led him to join up with pirates. He claimed that he was six years old when his parents were killed by a grenade in the chaos of Somalia's civil war, and then spent his childhood traumatized, and on his own. Now a father himself, M. said he fears most for the safety of his son, given the mortal danger in which they have constantly lived. He claimed his son was kidnapped by a man to whom he owed about $1,100 (€848). He said he wanted to pay the man off using his cut from the ransoms he and fellow pirates planned to demand for the hijacked ship and crew. Instead, M. and nine others were arrested by a Royal Dutch Navy special-forces unit after a failed raid on the German container ship, Taipan, and brought to Hamburg for trial. That was nine months ago. On Monday, M. and one of his fellow accused pirates had their day in court. Since his arrest, M. said he has been living with the uncertainty about his son's fate, making him depressed and unable to eat. He said he could even give the court the name of the man who is holding the child. When prison officials noticed his condition, he said, they asked him if he was thinking about taking his own life, but they could not understand his reply. M. asked the court on Monday to give him the chance to make a phone call so he could inquire about his son. 'I am deeply sad and don't know how to go on,' he said, beginning to cry. [...]"

Friday, January 14, 2011

FAMILY & SEXUALITY (Afghanistan)

"British officers requested the study to help them understand the sexual behaviour of locals and Afghan comrades." (AFP/Getty)
Paedophilia "Culturally Accepted in South Afghanistan"
By Ben Farmer
The Telegraph, January 14, 2011
British forces were advised by a military study that paedophilia is widespread and culturally accepted in southern Afghanistan. Older, powerful men boosted their social status by keeping boys as sexual playthings and the practice was celebrated in song and dance, a military study claimed. British officers in Helmand requested the study to help them understand the sexual behaviour of locals and Afghan comrades after young soldiers became uneasy they were being propositioned. American social scientists employed to help troops understand the local culture reported that homosexual sex was widespread among the Pashtun ethnic group in southern Afghanistan. Strict separation of men and women, coupled with poverty and the significant expense of getting married, contributed to young men turning to each other for sexual companionship. 'To dismiss the existence of this dynamic out of desire to avoid western discomfort is to risk failing to comprehend an essential social force underlying Pashtun' the report said. The study, called 'Pashtun Sexuality', said that as well as willing sex between young men, 'boys are appreciated for physical beauty and apprenticed to older men for their sexual initiation'. The practice of 'bache bazi' or boy play, is known throughout Afghanistan, but is particularly renowned in the city of Kandahar next to Helmand, where prepubescent boys are widely admired.