Tuesday, January 29, 2013


"Free Syrian Army fighters say they are still recovering bodies at the river, where several people were found dead." (EPA)
Aleppo Executions: 65 Bodies Pulled from Syria River
The Telegraph, January 29, 2013
"The bodies of at least 65 young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were found on Tuesday in a river in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a watchdog and rebels said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 65 bodies were found in the Quweiq River, which separates the Bustan al-Qasr district from Ansari in the southwest of the city, but that the toll could rise significantly. A Free Syrian Army officer at the scene said at least 68 bodies had been recovered and that many more were still being dragged from the water, in a rebel-held area. 'Until now we have recovered 68 bodies, some of them just teens,' said Captain Abu Sada, adding that all of them had been 'executed by the regime.' 'But there must be more than 100. There are still many in the water, and we are trying to recover them.' A senior government security source said many of the victims were from Bustan al-Qasr and had been reported kidnapped earlier. He accused 'terrorists,' the standard regime term for people fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, of carrying out the executions and spreading propaganda to deflect responsibility. 'They were kidnapped by terrorist groups, who some are accusing of being pro-regime, and executed last night in a park in Bustan al-Qasr under their control,' the source told news agency Agence France-Presse by telephone. ... A volunteer said as he helped load one of the bodies on a truck: 'We don't know who they are because there was no ID on them.' At least 15 bodies could already be seen on the truck, an AFP correspondent said, with other continuing to arrive.

Monday, January 21, 2013

WORK (D.R. Congo)

"A man in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, transports a diesel generator on his chikudu, a primitive wooden bicycle capable of carrying heavy loads." (Jerome Delay/Associated Press)
Congo's Chairmen of the Boards
By Robyn Dixon
The Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2013
"It's an ungainly beast of a machine: a wooden bicycle with handlebars like great bull's horns, two runtish wooden wheels, a chunky frame like a squashed triangle and no pedals. There's no seat either, just a kneepad fixed to the frame, made from a spongy Chinese flip-flop. The Congolese chikudu looks like it rolled right off the pages of a child's drawing book and onto the rutted roads of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Uzima Bahati, 18, was a child himself when he became a chikudu operator. He left school when he was about 12, and has spent the last six years pushing astonishing loads on the surprisingly sturdy contraption, his whole body bent to the task. 'It really helped me in life because it's like a free job,' he says. 'When I get enough money each day, I can go home and buy food.' He's so proud of his chikudu that he spent $5 -- more than twice the average daily wage here -- for brown and white paint and brushes, to make it look smart. In careful but wobbly script, he painted his cellphone number on the vehicle along with maxims such as 'A job's a job' and 'Stop talking so much.' The latter, he says, shows he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him, even if they're laughing. Other chikudu riders (or rather pushers, since it's rare that the owners actually get to ride the lumbering machines) taunt Bahati for his painted version, which by Congolese standards is almost gaudy. Most of them are battered and stained grayish. 'My friends laugh at me, saying: "You have money to spend on nothing. You could use the money you spent on paint to buy something useful,"' says Bahati, a layer of thick grime coating his body. 'When they laugh, I don't feel bad.' His eyes dart about with curious amusement, a semi-smile fixed on his lips. When he's working, which is every day, he wears a shirt worn to a web of holes. But before meeting his sweetheart or hosting visitors, he dons a crisp white jacket and pristine trousers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


"Indian men in the village of Innamrediyarpatti, from left: pipe fitter Ponnusamy, 67; retiree Dhanushkoti, 63; farmer Kalimuthu, 60; and textile mill worker Michael, 62. Even as India debates the morality and legality of euthanasia, three districts in the southern state of Tamil Nadu have been quietly carrying out their own version of it." (Mark Magnier / Los Angeles Times)
In Southern India, Relatives Sometimes Quietly Kill Their Elders
By Mark Magnier
The Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2013
""[...] Even as India debates the morality and legality of euthanasia, three districts in the southern state of Tamil Nadu have been quietly carrying out a homegrown version for decades, or centuries, depending on whom you ask. The practice in one small corner of India has declined under the spotlight after a high-profile 2010 case and growing opposition from elderly rights groups, but dozens, even hundreds, of cases of thalaikoothal, or 'head pouring,' occur quietly each year, people say. 'Some call it euthanasia,' said Rajeshwar Devarakonda, social protection head at HelpAge India, a civic group focused on elderly care. 'Others call it homicide.' Although it can take various forms, a common approach is that once an elderly relative becomes seriously ill and the family can't afford to care for the person, a date is set. Often relatives are called to say goodbye or even participate. The victim is given an oil bath, a head massage perhaps involving cold water and an exceedingly large amount of green coconut milk, leading to death. Reducing a sick or frail person's body temperature can bring on heart failure, said Dr. Raja Natrajan, a geriatrician, while drinking excessive liquids can induce renal failure. In a variation, victims are force-fed cow's milk and their noses pinched shut -- an act called 'milk therapy' -- resulting in 'breathing problems,' said S. Gurusamy, a sociology professor at the Gandhigram Rural Institute. [...] Despite community claims that it's used only in terminal cases, social acceptability has resulted in abuses, care experts said, as impatient family members 'hurry things along' to gain control of the estate, sometimes with the help of compliant doctors or quacks who substitute poison-laced alcohol or pills for coconut milk. 'Nowadays, because of their assets, young people sometimes want thalaikoothal done even if it's just a cold or minor sickness,' said Elango Rajarathinam, Virudhunagar-based director of Elders for Elders Foundation. 'Old people are definitely scared of this practice. You can see the stress on their faces.' Occasionally, those targeted get wind of it and flee. Others just accept their fate, experts said, even requesting thalaikoothal, less because they're ready to die than because society makes them feel worthless. [...]  Although women's status in India is often low, men are more frequently the victims of thalaikoothal, experts said, in part because assets are generally in their names, providing an incentive. Also, daughters-in-law who provide most elder care are reluctant to assist men, given social taboos. In addition, some perceive men's housekeeping skills as limited in male-dominated India, leaving them seemingly dependent.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

RITUAL & BELIEF (South Africa)

Ndiyindoda: I Am a Man
People and Power - Al Jazeera.com, January 3, 2013
"A week before Christmas, amid increasing anxiety about the state of Nelson Mandela's health, the international media assembled in Pretoria, South Africa and began asking questions about the iconic former leader's future wellbeing. Would he ever leave hospital? Would he live to see another year? For domestic South African journalists, however, the story had another angle. In Mandela's Eastern Cape homeland, the breaking story was that his illness meant he would almost certainly miss his grandson's initiation ceremony back home in Qunu. Mandela, like many powerful political figures in South Africa, is a Xhosa. For Xhosa boys, their ceremonial transition to manhood -- a process known as Ukwaluka -- includes traditional circumcision. It is a time honoured ritual woven deep into the fabric of their society. Mandela recalled his own three months at initiation school in 1934 in his memoir A Long Walk To Freedom. 'An uncircumcised Xhosa man is a contradiction in terms,' he wrote, 'for he is not considered a man at all, but a boy. A boy will cry, but a man conceals his pain.' [n.b. Mandela's account is included in my Men of the Global South anthology.] Today's rites of passage ceremonials tend to last for three weeks rather than three months, but the core elements remain the same -- and so do the risks.