Bahamas Blog International
The turning of the tide in Haiti
Related to country: Haiti
By Jean H Charles:
I have often mentioned in this column that life is so wretched in Haiti for the majority of the population that the very fact of survival of this segment of the population is a case study worthy of a scientific sociological inquiry.
According to Leannec Hurbon (God in the Haitian Voodoo), Haitian society keeps reproducing the ubiquitous colonial model with 11% of the population controlling 50% of the national revenue. Indeed, in 1789, a decade before the Haitian revolution, the social structure was represented as such: 7% large plantation white owners, 13% small plantations owner represented by the mulattoes and 80% black slaves condemned to perpetual servitude.
The picture today in 2012 in Haiti is not much different from the colonial era, with the peasants living in endemic and abject poverty comprising 87% of the population, the middle class 11% and the bourgeoisie at 2%. Through dictatorial, military and illiberal democratic regimes, it has been plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose: the more things change, the more they remain the same.
It seems with the government of Michel Joseph Martelly, Haiti is turning the tide to reverse the slide.
This week on Monday, President Martelly introduced the program: Give me light, give me life -- or Bam lumiere, bam la vie. Shepherded by his Secretary of Energy Dr Rene Jean Jumeau, the project plans to provide electricity to 200,000 homes in two years, in particular to those in the rural areas that have never seen electricity before.
By contrast, EDH (Electricity of Haiti), which holds a monopoly in supplying electricity to the country, has only 200,000 paying customers after 40 years of existence.
On Tuesday, in a project Aba Grangou – Down with Hungriness -- Mrs Michel Martelly, deputized by her husband, has introduced a program that will eradicate famine in Haiti through healthy nutrition, school meals for one million children, revaluation of national produce, better warehousing and distribution of crops and, last but not least, a movement of solidarity of one for the other in the nation.
I met at the National Palace with the director of the project, Mr Klaus Eberwein, on the day of the inauguration of the program to inquire what will happen on Wednesday!
He smiled and told me the president is heading to Davos to defend the cause of the Haitian people with the illustrious gathering of kings, princesses and celebrities. The event happens every year in the mountains of Switzerland, as a way of telling the downtrodden of the world that they are not forgotten.
He added with additional smile if you want a real scoop, next year President Martelly will introduce universal medical coverage for all Haitian people.
Indeed the tide is turning.
Even when the government was not yet functional, the president had already proposed a project of schooling for all, through a tax from the international calls and the money transfers from the Diaspora. He is still getting bad rap from that segment of the population that has infused one billion dollars into the national economy with no apparent result to the nation as a whole.
Turning the tide to bring a nation from squalor to splendor is not an easy proposition.
Lesly Pean, one of the most analytical minds in the Haitian intelligentsia, in an article published on January 24, 2012, titled Social Capital and Investment, opened the eyes on the Chinese leap forward.
During the last 35 years, the Chinese government has succeeded in bringing from squalor to a relative splendor some 800 million people. This is a feat that has never been recorded anywhere and anytime, in the history of humanity.
It is not a canvass that all the social problems have been resolved. Li Minqui in The Rise of the Middle Class and the Future of the Chinese Revolution has catalogued during the year 2011 some 180,000 demonstrations for better worker conditions, more freedom of movement and an equitable process of privatization.
Concurrently, President Barack Obama, in the State of the Union address, placed emphasis on the same issue: “We can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair share. We can either settle for a nation where a small number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by.”
It was forty five years ago that President Lyndon Johnson, in collusion with Dr Martin Luther King, chose the road of hospitality for all in the United States. It is a work in progress, invigorated by the determination of President Obama to reclaim American values in redistributing the peace dividend by giving a fair share to each American, black or white.
The social initiatives launched by President Martelly can be seen in the same light, as a work in progress because the headline in the Nouvelliste, the oldest newspaper in the country, is: “A budget without a plan of development”.
Eddie Labossiere, the president of the Haitian Association of Economists, decided to cry foul concerning the national budget. “Nothing has changed; there is no transition towards rationality and growth. It is a 3 billion dollars budget without a global vision of development. It is a budget of salaries; it is not a budget leading to results.”
The key sectors such as agriculture and environment have received respectively only 6.4% and 1.4% of the national budget. The goal of the government to reach 7.8% is not sustainable according to Mr Labissiere. In addition the target of 1 billion dollars in tax revenue out of a budget of 3 billion dollars is too dependent on foreign support.
Are these notes of sour grapes from an economist who is not seated at the decision making table or genuine concern of a citizen who wishes Haiti well?
Only time will tell!
President Martelly has already demonstrated tangible results in the last four months of his government, more than previous governments have realized in the last forty years of governance in Haiti.
- $16 million collected through the National Funds for Education to send all children in school age to school. Nine hundred thousand new students are already attending.
- Relocation of 3,500 people from sordid camps into sustainable homes.
- Fabrication of 3,400 homes soon to be delivered to former camp refugees from the earthquake.
- Facilitation of the construction of the industrial park in the northern part of Haiti leading to 60,000 new jobs.
- Initiation of the Aba Grangou project to eliminate malnutrition and famine in the country.
- Launching of the project Give Me Light and Give Me Life to electrify 200,000 homes in two years, mostly in the rural areas.
President Martelly, in spite of large outcry by legislators from the old regime who keep distracting his government from turning the tide, is steadfastly moving the ship of the nation towards safe and pleasant water. He is not confined into the capitalism or the socialism box. The interest of the nation constitutes his only guiding post.
May Michael (his name sake) the Archangel protect his front and his back so he shall continue as a vigilant captain, leading the nation into a spot where milk and honey will be the lot of everyone!
January 28, 2012
Caribbean Blog International
|January 29, 2012 | 7:12 AM
The fruit which did not fall
Related to country: Cuba
REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL
(Taken from CubaDebate)
CUBA was forced to fight for its existence facing an expansionist power, located a few miles from its coast, and which was proclaiming the annexation of our island, which was destined to fall into its lap like a ripe fruit. We were condemned not to exist as a nation.
Within the glorious legions of patriots who, during the second half of the 19th century, fought against the abhorrent colonial status imposed by Spain over 300 years, José Martí was the man who most clearly perceived such a dramatic destiny. He confirmed it in the last lines that he wrote, the night before the anticipated difficult combat against a battle-hardened and well equipped Spanish column, when he declared that the fundamental objective of his struggle was, “…to prevent the United States from spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from overpowering with that additional strength our lands of America. Everything that I have done up until now, and everything that I will do, is to this end.”
Without understanding this profound truth one cannot today be either a patriot or a revolutionary.
Without any doubt, the mass media, the monopoly of many technical resources and the substantial funds directed at dehumanizing the masses constitute considerable but not invincible obstacles.
Cuba demonstrated – starting from its position as a colonial yankee trading post, together with the illiteracy and generalized poverty of its people – that it was possible to confront the country which was threatening the definitive absorption of the Cuban nation. Nobody can even affirm that there was a national bourgeoisie opposed to the empire; the bourgeoisie developed in such close proximity to it that, shortly after the triumph, it sent 14,000 totally unprotected children to the United States, although that act was associated with the perfidious lie that parental custody was to be suppressed. This is what history recorded as Operation Peter Pan, described as the largest maneuver of child manipulation for political ends recalled in the Western Hemisphere.
National territory was invaded, barely two years after the revolutionary triumph, by mercenary forces – comprising former Batista soldiers and the sons of landowners and the bourgeoisie – armed and escorted by the United States with warships from its naval fleet, including aircraft carriers with equipment ready to enter into action, and which accompanied the invaders to our island. The defeat and capture of virtually all the mercenaries in less than 72 hours and the destruction of their aircraft operating from bases in Nicaragua and their naval transportation, constituted a humiliating defeat for the empire and its Latin America allies, which had underestimated the Cuban people’s fighting capacity.
In the face of the termination of oil supplies on the part of the United States, the subsequent total suspension of the historic sugar quota in that country’s market, and the prohibition of trade established over more than 100 years, the USSR responded to each one of these measures by supplying fuel, buying our sugar, trading with our country and finally, supplying the weapons that Cuba could not acquire in other markets.
The idea of a systematic campaign of CIA-organized pirate attacks, sabotage and military actions by armed bands created and supplied by the United States before and after the mercenary attack, and which would culminate in a military invasion of Cuba by this country, gave rise to events which placed the world on the brink of a total nuclear war, which neither of the parties involved nor humanity itself could have survived.
Without any doubt, those events resulted in the removal from the presidency of Nikita Khrushchev, who underestimated his adversary, disregarded opinions presented to him and did not consult with those of us in the front line concerning his final decision. What could have been an important moral victory thus turned into a costly political setback for the USSR. For many years the worst of crimes against Cuba continued and more than a few of them, like the U.S. criminal blockade, are still being committed.
Khrushchev made exceptional gestures to our country. On that occasion, I unhesitatingly criticized the non-consulted agreement with the United States, but it would be ungrateful and unjust not to acknowledge his exceptional solidarity at difficult and decisive moments for our people in their historic battle for independence and revolution in the face of the powerful empire of the United States. I understand that the situation was extremely tense and he did not wish to lose any time when he made the decision to withdraw the missiles and the yankees, very secretly, agreed to give up the invasion.
Despite the decades gone by, already half a century, the Cuban fruit has not fallen into yankee hands.
News reports currently coming in from Spain, France, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, the United Kingdom, the Malvinas and countless other points on the planet are serious, and all of them augur a political and economic disaster as a result of the stupidity of the United States and its allies.
I will confine myself to a few subjects. I must note that, going by what everyone is saying, that the selection of a Republican candidate to aspire to the presidency of this globalized and far-reaching empire is, in its turn – I am serious – the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that I have ever heard. As I have things to do, I cannot devote any time to the subject. I already knew it would be like that.
Some news agency cables better illustrate what I wish to analyze, because they demonstrate the incredible cynicism generated by the decadence of the West. One of them, with amazing tranquility, talks of a Cuban political prisoner who, it states, died after a hunger strike lasting 50 days. A journalist with Granma, Juventud Rebelde, radio news or any other revolutionary organ might be mistaken in any interpretation of any subject, but would never fabricate an item of news or invent a lie.
A Granma informative note affirms that there was no hunger strike; the man was an ordinary prisoner sentenced to four years for attacking and injuring his wife in the face; that his own mother in law asked authorities to intervene; family members were kept fully abreast of all procedures used in his medical treatment and were grateful for the effort made by medical specialists who treated him. He received medical attention, as the note states, in the best hospital in the eastern region, as is the case with all citizens. He died from secondary multi-organic failure related to a severe respiratory infection.
The patient had received all the medical attention administered in a country which has one of the finest medical services in the world, provided free of charge in spite of the blockade imposed on our homeland by imperialism. It is simply a duty that is fulfilled in a country where the Revolution is proud of always having respected, for more than 50 years, the principles which give it its invincible strength.
It would be more worthwhile for the Spanish government, given its excellent relations with Washington, to travel to the United States and inform itself as to what is taking place in yankee jails, the ruthless conduct meted out to millions of prisoners, the policy of the electric chair and the horrors perpetrated on detainees in the country’s jails and those who are protesting in its streets.
Yesterday, January 23, a strong Granma editorial titled “Cuba’s truths,” which occupied an entire page of the newspaper, explained in detail the unprecedented shame of the campaign of lies unleashed against our Revolution by certain governments “traditionally committed to anti-Cuba subversion.”
Our people are well aware of the norms which have governed the impeccable conduct of our Revolution since the first battle and which has never been stained over more than half a century. They also know that it can never be pressured or coerced by enemies. Our laws and norms will be respected unfailingly.
It is worth noting this with clarity and frankness. The Spanish government and the shaky European Union, plunged into a profound economic crisis, must know what should guide them. It is pitiful to read news agency reports of the statements of both utilizing their barefaced lies to attack Cuba. First concern yourselves with saving the euro if you can, resolve the chronic unemployment from which young people are increasingly suffering, and respond to theindignados, constantly attacked and beaten by the police.
We are not ignorant of the fact that Spain is now being governed by admirers of Franco, who dispatched members of the Blue Division, together with the Nazi SS and SA, to kill Soviets. Close to 50,000 of them participated in the cruel aggression. In the most cruel and painful operation of that war: the siege of Leningrad, where one million Russian citizens died, the Blue Division was among the forces attempting to strangle the heroic city. The Russian people will never pardon that horrific crime.
The fascist right of Aznar, Rajoy and other servants of the empire, must know something about the 16,000 casualties of their predecessors in the Blue Division and the Iron Crosses which Hitler awarded to officers and soldiers from that division. There is nothing unusual about what the Gestapo police are doing now to the men and women demanding the right to work and bread in the country with the highest unemployment in Europe.
Why are the mass media of the empire lying so barefacedly?
Those who manipulate the media are striving to deceive and dehumanize the world with their crude lies, possibly thinking that it constitutes the principal resource for maintaining the global system of domination and plunder imposed, particularly upon victims in close proximity to the headquarters of the metropolis, the close to 600 million Latin American and Caribbean people living in this hemisphere.
The sister republic of Venezuela has become the fundamental objective of this policy. The reason is obvious. Without Venezuela, the empire would have imposed its Free Trade Treaty on all the peoples of the continent who inhabit it from the south of the United States, a region where the greatest reserves of land, fresh water and minerals of the planet are to be found, as well as large energy resources which, administered in a spirit of solidarity toward other peoples of the world, constitute resources which cannot and must not fall into the hands of transnationals imposing a suicidal and infamous system on them.
For example, it is enough to look at the map to comprehend the criminal dispossession signified by stripping Argentina of a little piece of its territory in the extreme south of the continent. There, the British deployed their decadent military apparatus to murder rookie Argentine recruits wearing summer clothing in the middle of winter. The United States, and its ally Augusto Pinochet, shamelessly supported them. Now, just before the London Olympics, its Prime Minister David Cameron is also proclaiming, as did Margaret Thatcher, his right to use nuclear submarines to kill Argentines. The government of this country is unaware of the fact that the world is changing, and the scorn of our hemisphere and that of the majority of the peoples for the oppressors is increasing every day.
The case of the Malvinas is not the only one. Does anyone know how the conflict in Afghanistan is going to end? Just a few days ago U.S. soldiers desecrated the corpses of Afghani combatants, killed by NATO drone bombings.
Three days ago a European agency reported, “Afghani President Hamid Karzai has given his backing to a negotiated peace with the Taliban, emphasizing that this issue must be resolved by the citizens of his country.” It went on to add, “…the process of peace and reconciliation belongs to the Afghani nation and no country or foreign organization can take away this right from the Afghanis.
For its part, a cable published by our press communicated from Paris, “France today suspended all its training and aid operations in Afghanistan and threatened to expedite the withdrawal of its troops, after an Afghani soldier shot four French soldiers in the Taghab valley, in Kapisa province… Sarkozy instructed Defense Minister Gérard Longuet to travel immediately to Kabul, and indicated the possibility of an early withdrawal of the contingent.”
After the disappearance of the USSR and the socialist bloc, the U.S. government imagined that Cuba would be unable to sustain itself. George W. Bush had already prepared a counterrevolutionary government to govern our country. On the very same day that Bush initiated his criminal war on Iraq, I asked our country’s authorities to end the tolerance afforded the counterrevolutionary capos who, in those days, were hysterically demanding the invasion of Cuba. In real terms, their attitude constituted an act of treason against the homeland.
Bush and his stupidities prevailed for eight years and the Cuban Revolution has already lasted for more than half a century. The ripe fruit has not fallen into the empire’s lap. Cuba will not be one more possession with which the empire spreads through the lands of America. Martí’s blood will not have been spilled in vain.
Tomorrow I will publish another Reflection to complement this one.
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 24, 2012
Translated by Granma International
Caribbean Blog International
|January 26, 2012 | 2:00 PM
Related to country: Cuba
OVER the last few days, the media and representatives of certain governments traditionally committed to anti-Cuba subversion have unleashed a new campaign of accusations, unscrupulously taking advantage of a lamentable event: the death of an ordinary prisoner, which possibly only in the case of Cuba, is converted into news of international repercussion.
The method utilized is the same one as always: fruitlessly attempting, through repetition, to demonize Cuba, in this case through the deliberate manipulation of an incident which is absolutely exceptional in this country.
This so-called political prisoner was serving a four-year sentence after a fair legal process during which he was at liberty and a trial in accordance with the law, for a brutal physical attack on his wife in public and violent resistance to arrest by police agents.
This man died from multi-organ failure due to an acute respiratory infection, despite having received appropriate medical attention, including specialized medication and treatment in the intensive care room of Santiago de Cuba’s principal hospital.
Why did Spanish authorities and certain members of the European Union hasten to condemn Cuba without any investigation into the incident? Why do they always utilize pre-fabricated lies in the context of Cuba? Why, in addition to lying, do they censor the truth? Why is the voice and truth about Cuba openly denied the smallest space in the international media?
They are acting both cynically and hypocritically. How would they describe the recent manifestations of police brutality in Spain and a large part of "educated and civilized" Europe against the indignadosmovement?
Why is there no concern over the dramatic situation of overcrowding in Spanish jails with a high immigrant population – in excess of 35% of total prisoners in the country – according to the most recent report by the ACAIP prison union, dated April 3, 2010?
Who has made any effort to investigate the death in July of 2011 in the Spanish penitentiary of Teruel, of Tohuami Hamdaoui, an ordinary prisoner of Moroccan origin after a hunger strike of several months? Who has reflected the fact that he has insisted he is innocent?
Has the Chilean spokesperson slandering us by asserting that the dead man was a political dissident on his 50th day of hunger strike lost his memory and sense of reality? He must remember his days as a student leader linked to Pinochet’s troops, who massacred Chileans and instituted disappearances and torture throughout the Southern Cone via Plan Condor, while there have been no statements about the harsh repression of students peacefully demonstrating in defense of the human right to universal and free education. Is he one of those who supported re-labeling the Pinochet dictatorship a military regime in school textbooks? Has he made any statement about the repressive and arbitrary Anti-Terrorist Law implemented against Mapuche prisoners on hunger strike?
The United States government, the principal instigator of any effort to discredit Cuba in order to justify its policy of hostility, subversion and the economic, political and media blockade of Cuba, could not be missing from this campaign.
The hypocrisy of spokespersons for the United States, a country with a poor human rights record at home and abroad, is staggering. The UN Human Rights Council has acknowledged frequent serious violations in this country of women’s rights, in the treatment of persons, racial and ethnic discrimination, inhuman conditions in prisons, neglect of inmates, a differentiated racial standard and frequent judicial errors in imposing capital punishment, and the execution of minors and the mentally ill. This is compounded by abuses of the migratory detention system, deaths along the militarized southern border, atrocious acts against human dignity and the killing of innocent civilians by U.S. army troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries, not to mention arbitrary detentions and acts of torture perpetrated in the illegally occupied Guantánamo Naval Base.
It is barely known that three people died in the United States last November 2011 during a mass hunger strike of prisoners in California. According to testimonies from prisoners in adjoining cells, prison guards offered no assistance whatsoever and ignored their cries for help, as opposed to the abusive practice of force feeding hunger strikers.
A few weeks previously, African American Troy Davis was executed despite a large body of evidence demonstrating legal errors in his case. The White House and the Department of State did nothing about this case.
A total of 90 prisoners have been executed since January 2010 to date in the United States, while a further 3,220 remain on death row. The government frequently brutally represses those who dare to expose injustices within the system.
This new attack on Cuba is clearly politically motivated and has nothing to do with legitimate concerns for the lives of Cuban men and women. It is fuelled by the complicity of the financial-media corporations such as the Prisa Group and the corporation running CNN en Español, in the finest style of the Miami Mafia. It is irrationally accusing the Cuban government without having made any investigation into the facts. Condemnation and judgment are made a priori.
It is apparent from the immediate and crude response of authorities and the apparatus in the service of media aggression against Cuba that they did not even take the trouble to confirm the information. The truth is unimportant if the intention is to fabricate and sell a false image of alleged flagrant and systematic violations of civil liberties in Cuba which could one day justify an intervention in order to "protect defenseless Cuban civilians."
The attempt to impose a distorted image of Cuba meant to indicate a notable deterioration in human rights, to construct an allegedly victimized opposition dying in prison, where health services are denied, is evident.
The humanist vocation of Cuban doctors and health personnel, who spare no effort or the country’s scant resources – to a large extent the result of the criminal 50-year blockade imposed on the Cuban people – to save lives and improve the health standards of their own people and in many other nations is well known.
Cuba is respected and admired by many peoples and governments who recognize its social undertakings at home and abroad.
Deeds speak louder than words. Anti-Cuban campaigns will not inflict any damage on the Cuban Revolution or the people, who will continue improving their socialism.
The truth of Cuba is that of a country in which human beings are most valued: a life expectancy rate at birth of 77.9 years; free health coverage for the entire population; an infant mortality rate of 4.9 per 1,000 live births, a figure exceeding that of the United States and the lowest on the continent along with Canada; a literate population with full and free access to all levels of education; 96% participation in the 2008 general elections; and a democratic process of discussion of the new economic and social guidelines prior to the 6th Congress of the Communist Party.
The truth of Cuba is that of a country which has taken its universities and schools to penitentiaries holding inmates who had fair and impartial trials, who receive the same wages for work undertaken, and enjoy high levels of medical attention without any distinction in terms of ethnicity, gender, creed or social origin.
It will be demonstrated yet again that lies, however much they are repeated, do not necessarily become truths, because, as José Martí stated, "A just principle, from the depths of a cave, can do more than an army."
Translated by Granma International
January 23, 2012
Caribbean Blog International
|January 25, 2012 | 1:12 PM
Why women are at the heart of Egypt’s political trials and tribulations
Related to country: Egypt
By Hania Sholkamy:
The Egyptian elections delivered a parliament that has one of the lowest rates of female representation in the world. Yet this is the parliament that expresses the political will of the people of Egypt. It may also be one that ignores the social realities of gender and of women’s political participation, says Hania Sholkamy
The mostly free and somewhat fair elections held in Egypt over the past two months have given the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood an overwhelming majority in parliament (approximately 40 %). The runners up are the Salafis who did very well at the ballot box and hold up to twenty percent of seats. Trailing behind, but with heads held high are the liberals, the revolutionaries and a number of highly respected individuals who profess a secular creed. Almost all of these newly minted representatives of the people are men. In this protracted battle of multiple voting days, legal challenges, re-runs and complicated allocations of seats across proportionate party lists and individual seats only 8 of the 480 + seats went to women. (There are still ten seats to be allocated by presidential fiat )
But if we bracket yet unallocated seats the final result would give women less than 2% of parliamentary seats and make their representation in Egypt one of the lowest in the world. According to the UN the world average for women’s parliamentary representation is 19%. Even more revealing is the average for the Arab World, which stands at 13%. So what explains this dismal outcome of an election for which Egyptians have waited for decades? No other Arab country has failed to deliver a modicum of gender balance to its elected institutions to the same extent. Morocco for example has just had an election in which 16.7 % of successful candidates are women and in which the overwhelming majority of seats went to the Islamic opposition.
What truly provides food for thought is the complacency with which these election results have been received. Few politicians, officials or commentators have voiced any concerns or found these outcomes remarkable, despite the importance placed on these elections as one of the first real gains and achievements of the revolution.
For example Dr. Manal Abu el Hassan (FJP member and spokesperson for women’s affairs) sees no problem in the low number of successful female candidates from her own party, She indicated that the new parliament, even if made up of only men, will do the right thing and deliver social justice in line with the Party’s programme so there is no need to be concerned by the absence of women. Indeed she further confirmed this trust in her male colleagues in a television interview on the 14 January 2012 when she condemned the women’s protests against the brutality of attacks by the military police against the very brave young women who were challenging the armed forces across a barricade in downtown Cairo. She said that women should not march in the streets to protest and protect their honour, since "it is incumbent on their ‘fathers, brothers and husbands to march and protest on their behalf!” So as far as her party is concerned the concept of welaya or guardianship is a robust one that negates the need for gendered representation. It makes one wonder if the FJP would have bothered to put any women on their lists if they had not been forced to do so by the new constitutional declaration, which imposed a quota for women on party lists, mandating that each list has one woman but without specifying the position of the woman on the list (the higher up the more likely a candidate will win a seat). Unlike the quotas for workers and peasants, where the candidates are given slots on the lists that give them a fair chance of success, women candidates’ placement suggests their inclusion is merely a gesture and their chances of success minimal.
It also explains why one of the Salafi parties in one constituency placed the picture of a candidate’s husband on their posters instead of the fully face veiled candidate herself.
One of the FJP’s successful female candidates speaking at a meeting recently said “One woman is enough in Parliament!” She meant that a freely elected woman was better than tens appointed or foisted onto the people via quotas or corruption. The point is well taken, and does express mass resentment at the imposition of female quotas that were introduced in the discredited elections of 2010. When the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) cancelled these quotas for women people were happy that a wrong had been put to right. The result was that all parties, with very few exceptions, kept their women where they thought they belong; well below the men, thus guaranteeing unequal opportunities for women!
On the other hand the youth of the revolution, the radicals and the left also see no problem with this outcome as they reject the whole narrative of gender equality as a figment of a Western imagination. The denigration of legal reforms that have benefited women in the past decade, and have guaranteed their free mobility, right to unilateral divorce, and political representation through a quota system, are collectively known as Suzanne’s laws in reference to Mrs Mubarak and as such rejected and even deplored. These formal indicators are meaningless since policies matter, but individuals do not.
Young activists and socialist parties are not sympathetic to gender as a political category, or as basis for rights and entitlements. The hundreds of frontline fighters in their midst who also happen to be women have attained their credentials as political leaders and foot soldiers without having to make claims based on their gender. They are keen to distance themselves from the language of gender equality and the recipes and prescriptions of old political and developmental paradigms. Interestingly, the world famous bloggers of the revolution are mostly women – like Israa Abdel Fatah, Nawara Negm and Asmaa Abdel Rahman. The most striking images from the new confrontations between people and the state portray women, and the marches and protests that forced the military to back-down and apologize were by women. Moreover the elections were decided by the overwhelming participation of women, millions of whom were mobilized onto the streets and towards the ballot box.
Elections aside, there are growing fears and worries about the future of pluralism in Egypt, and many of these fears focus on questions of women’s rights and liberties. A petition organised by independent women on facebook is currently going around demanding the prosecution of one of the potential presidential candidates who has made statements about women that are in contravention of our constitution - or rather what is left of it. Hazem Salah Abu Ismail has asked for the expulsion of non-veiled women from Islam- thus making them apostates, which is a crime. He has also said that women’s work leads to crime as a woman’s place is within the home. The press has reported recently that other Salafi groups have started a morality police that allegedly pays young men five hundred Egyptian pounds a month to impose morality on the public, including forcing un-veiled or rather improperly veiled women off the streets . Happily these attempts were foiled thanks to media and public outrage. One group of women even attacked this morality police in Sharqiyah. These zealots are a minority and may not be the worst enemies of women.
At stake, and in a serious fashion, are the possible changes to be made to the constitution that will limit women’s rights as individuals – the rights to public office, to guardianship of children, to all work, to some forms of mobility - and impose a state of dependency whereby women are considered parts of families and are therefore the responsibility of patriarchs. It is as yet not clear what the agenda of the religious majority is vis-à-vis legal reforms that pertain to women and families. One stated reform is the changes in custody law which will once again give custody to fathers in the case of divorce of children from the age of 8 years. The law now lets mothers retain custody for boys till the age of 15 years, and for girls until they marry or choose to live with the father. Yet despite the astounding importance of women as political leaders, activists, communicators, voters and as the focus of anticipated political, constitutional and social changes, they remain absent from parliament - although present, vocal and important outside it.
Egypt would be better off if it could continue to shed the oppressions of the past, including the hegemony of state sponsored spokespersons for women’s rights. The attempts to whitewash the failure of equitable social policies by imposing gender justice as a fig leaf not only failed, but created public antipathy towards women’s rights to social justice. But these sceptres from the past need not haunt the present and future of Egypt, and must definitely not provide an excuse for our current state of denial in which women are actually at the heart of the political process, but are formally hidden behind all -male structures and institutions. Shame on the religious, secular and all other parties for their complicity in this affair!
24 January 2012
Caribbean Blog International
|January 24, 2012 | 11:33 PM
French Senate Outlaws Genocide Denial
Related to country: France
PARIS, January 24 (RIA Novosti):
France’s upper house of parliament, the Senate, passed a bill late on Monday making the denial of genocide a crime punishable by a 45,000-euro fine and a year in jail.
The bill that sets the country on a collision course with Turkey was approved 127 to 86 after a seven-hour discussion. It is yet be ratified by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The bill, initially criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century, had been amended to outlaw the denial of any officially recognized genocide, partly in the hope of appeasing Ankara. So far, French laws classify only two mass killings as “genocide” - the Holocaust (the 1990 law) and the deaths of more than 1 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917, recognized by France as genocide in 2001.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandyan welcomed the move as an important contribution “to the record of worldwide human rights protection” and a worthy addition to the existing mechanism of preventing crimes against humanity.
Ankara, in its turn, threatened “grave consequences,” including diplomatic and economic sanctions.
“Turkey’s response to the adoption of the bill had long been decided. These measures will stay in place as long as the law stays in force,” Hurriyet Daily News quoted Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying shortly before the bill was voted on.
Omer Celik, deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), threatened “permanent sanctions” if the bill is approved.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he would abstain from visiting France in future, accusing French President Nicholas Sarkozy of attempts to distort history for gaining political capital. Turkey has earlier suggested that the law is an attempt to play up to France’s 500,000 ethnic Armenians and secure their votes in the upcoming presidential election.
The Turkish genocide in Armenia was first recognized by Uruguay in 1965 and many countries, including Russia have since followed suit. Although it has been recognized by 42 U.S. states, the U.S. government has yet to pass a bill on the issue.
Ankara dismisses the genocide allegations, saying that many Muslim Turks and Kurds were also put to death as Russian troops invaded, often aided by Armenian militias.
Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic relations since the latter became independent following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in a show of support for Azerbaijan following a bloody conflict over Nagorny Karabakh, in which some 35,000 died on both sides.
Caribbean Blog International
|January 23, 2012 | 10:16 PM
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