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.