Saturday, April 28, 2012
Where else will you find President Obama, Lindsay Lohan and Wolf Blitzer under the same roof? Welcome to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.
By DAN BILEFSKY and SEBNEM ARSUGokce, a soft-spoken 37-year-old mother of two, has lived on the run for 15 years, ever since her abusive husband tracked her down, broke down her door and shot her in the leg six times after she refused to return to him. Stoic and prematurely graying, she said her husband had since kidnapped her mother and stabbed her brother, trying to force them to reveal her whereabouts. She repeatedly turned to the police. But, she said, they chided her to return to her husband. Once, after her husband came to pick her up at the police station, she said she heard an officer advise him to break her legs so she could not escape. “Our state is the No. 1 enemy of women,” Gokce said recently at a women’s shelter here in Istanbul, declining to use her last name for fear of her husband. “I was 14 when my husband started to abuse me, and now I’m 37, and I am still living in fear for my life despite all my cries for help.” While reliable statistics are hard to come by, given what Turkish experts say is the serious underreporting of domestic violence here, rights groups point to a recent spate of high-profile attacks against women to raise the alarm that Turkey is backsliding on women’s rights. They say women’s progress is being undermined by Turkey’s flagging prospects for European Union membership and a Muslim-inspired government that is increasingly embracing the conservative values of the Arab world it seeks to lead. So bleak is the situation that this year one outreach group suggested that the state should simply arm women and provide shooting lessons. Fears that the governing party is diminishing women were fanned this month when President Abdullah Gul approved a controversial bill that extended compulsory education to 12 years but allowed home-schooling after the first eight, which critics said could encourage the practice of taking child brides. The government rejected such criticism, saying the changes brought Turkey in line with international education standards. The culture wars over women’s role in Turkish society also reflect tensions in a majority Muslim country where the state’s official secularism is clashing with an ascendant class of religious conservatives. With their rise, rights groups say, men appear to be increasingly acting with impunity against women. Last year there were 207,253 cases of deliberate injuries to women across the country, compared with 189,377 in 2010, according to official data collected by the National Police Headquarters in the capital, Ankara, and provided to Vildan Yirmibesoglu, the general secretary of Kader, a leading rights group. A United Nations report published last July indicated that the incidence of domestic violence against women in Turkey topped the percentages in the United States and Europe. The report — based on data from a 2009 Turkish government study in which 12,785 women were interviewed across 12 regions — said 39 percent of women in Turkey had suffered physical violence at some time in their lives, compared with 22 percent in the United States and between 3 and 35 percent in 20 European countries. In February 2011, Turkey’s justice minister shocked the country when, in response to a parliamentary question, he said that there had been a staggering increase in the murders of women, from 66 in 2002, to 953 in the first seven months of 2009. But while the change is large, the numbers are still relatively low for a country of 80 million, possibly skewed by underreporting. After the governing Justice and Development Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2002, determined for Turkey to join the European Union, women’s rights were a priority. Laws that discriminated against women were removed. Others were added: rape within marriage was criminalized, and life sentences became possible for perpetrators of so-called honor killings. But analysts say women are now losing ground. While the governing party insists that it is simply socially conservative and pro-family, Nigar Goksel, a senior analyst at the European Stability Initiative who wrote a major study on women in Turkey, argued that rising domestic violence and women’s low participation in the work force (at 28 percent, less than half the European Union average) reflected that family integrity was valued over a woman’s individual rights. “The government started off as an unlikely feminist but has dropped the ball,” Ms. Goksel said. “Equally, the Arab Spring is pulling Turkey in a more conservative direction.” Mr. Erdogan, a pious Muslim, attracted the ire of many feminists here when during last year’s election campaign he called on women to have at least three children and argued that birth control advocates sought to weaken Turkey. With subsidized child care rare, many women protested that he was pushing them back into the kitchen. Ayse Bohurler, a founding and leading member of Justice and Development, said that the education of women had improved under the government, which she said was also taking a strong stand against domestic violence. Others argued that claims of a sexist society smacked of hyperbole, given that women in Turkey hold prominent positions in business and politics, and that the country has even had a female prime minister. In March the Turkish Parliament passed a variety of legislation friendly to women, including a law forcing husbands deemed abusive by the courts to wear electronic monitoring devices and allowing the police to issue protection orders if a family court or prosecutor is unavailable. The police are also to receive training on women’s rights. But legislation, however well intentioned, may not be enough to change mentalities in an abidingly patriarchal nation, or to ensure that new laws will be fully implemented. For instance, every municipality here with more than 50,000 people is required by law to have at least one women’s shelter. But the current count nationwide is just 79, a number that is woefully low for a nation that size, rights groups say. One local official in Ankara recently told a conservative women’s group that opening more was ill advised since they enabled women to leave home, according to a member of the group. But finding protection is proving elusive. In one murder case last year, a woman named Arzu Yildirim was shot eight times by her partner in the middle of a busy Istanbul street, even though, women’s rights groups said, she had filed for legal protection more than 10 times. A copy of her most recent letter of complaint was found in her blood-stained purse.
Harriet Sherwood in JerusalemPM and defence chief not fit to lead Israel and are misleading the public over Iran, warns former Shin Bet boss Yuval Diskin Israel's former security chief has censured the country's "messianic" political leadership for talking up the prospects of a military stike on Iran's nuclear programme. In unusually candid comments set to ratchet up tensions over Iran at the top of Israel's political establishment, Yuval Diskin, who retired as head of the internal intelligence agency Shin Bet last year, said he had "no faith" in the abilities of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak, to conduct a war. The pair, who are the foremost advocates of military action against Iran's nuclear programme, were "not fit to hold the steering wheel of power", Diskin told a meeting on Friday night. "My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war," he said. "I don't believe in either the prime minister or the defence minister. I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings. Believe me, I have observed them from up close ... They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off. "They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race." Government aides described Diskin's comments as irresponsible and motivated from personal frustration. Diskin's remarks followed a furore over comments made on Wednesday by Israel's serving military chief, Benny Gantz, which starkly contrasted with Netanyahu's rhetoric on Iran. Gantz said he did not believe the Iranian leadership was prepared to "go the extra mile" to acquire nuclear weapons because it was "composed of very rational people" who understood the consequences. In what was seen as a veiled rebuke to the prime minister, Gantz added: "Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria." The chief of staff later attempted to gloss over suggestions of a breach between the military and political leaderships, telling reporters there was "really no distance" between his view and the prime minister's. Neither Netanyahu nor Barak have moderated their rhetoric. The prime minister recently said that those who downplayed the threat from a nuclear Iran "have learned nothing from the Holocaust". He added: "The Iranian regime is openly calling for our destruction and working frantically for the development of nuclear weapons as a means to that end." On Thursday, Barak said the chances of Iran halting its nuclear programme in response to international sanctions appeared low. Iran, he said, was not "rational in the western sense of the word". Diskin's comments also put him in agreement with the former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, who has said that attacking Iran was "the stupidest thing I have ever heard" and that the Iranian regime was rational.
by:Dur-e-AdenIt is almost a sin to mention the word secularism in Pakistan. Suddenly you are bombarded with labels of being pro-western, anti-Islam, ashamed of your values, threat to identity of the nation, as a result of which you are not a true Pakistani or a good Muslim. People associate secularism with the images of clubbing, partying, drinking, promiscuity, prostitution, broken family structure, mental diseases and all other ills that are associated with western culture. The idea being that when these societies moved away from religion, they became materialistic and lost their sense of morality, as a result of which they are suffering from these social disasters today. It is very true that religion is an important source of morality. Some of our basic senses of right and wrong come from religious teachings whether it’s respect for human life, caring for the poor, modesty and respect in personal relationships or refraining from materialistic pursuits of the world; these are very important and valuable concepts that help to build up the character of a person. The misguided idea however, is that to build such a character among people, religion has to be a part of the state structure and imposed on people forcefully. Muslims who demand a religious state forget to notice that it is actually Muslims who prove this idea wrong that secularism is a threat to your religious values. For example, there is a large number of Muslims who live in secular western societies where Islam is not part of the state, yet they don’t do any of the things that are common place in those countries and which we think are not “our values.” Even though Islam is not a part of western governmental structure, this doesn’t mean that it is a threat to the beliefs of Muslims living in those countries. This is a very important point that people need to understand. Secularism merely means separation of church/mosque and the state. In other words, your state and its institutions don’t adhere to a religion. It certainly doesn’t mean that you yourself have to leave your religion. In fact, in a secular society, you will have more freedom to practice your particular interpretation of a religion which is very much limited in a state where anyone ideological religion interpretation is part of the state apparatus. Let’s talk about Pakistan. Here we have Brelvies, Deobandis, Imamis, Ismaelis, Zikris, mystic Sufis, Wahabis and Ahmadis. Now if we want to make Pakistan an “Islamic” country, this means that Islam has to be a part of the state and all its functions, from education, to laws, to foreign policy, to treatment of minorities etc. Now which version are we going to adopt? (Especially when even within one version, there are disagreements. Not all Hanafis agree on everything, neither all Shafi’s). Moreover, what gives one particular version the right to impose itself on others? (I am not even talking about non-Muslim minorities here, just talking about divisions within Muslims). May be if we agreed on what “Islam” is, the argument to make Pakistan an “Islamic” country would be stronger, but considering the diversity that we have within Islam, incorporation of religion with the state is only going to increase resentment among the groups who would be left out, and sectarian violence by those who would consider their version right and others’ wrong. We have already experimented with this bloody business during Zia years when one ideological interpretation of religion became part of the state and now that cancer has engulfed our society. Secondly, the moral degradation of western societies is not a result of secularism. It’s a result of abandonment of religion or other sources of moral ethics in their personal sphere as well, something that we don’t have to worry about. It is because in our society, along with all the modernity, religion is still and will continue to be a very important part of our everyday lives. That is why I think that secularism would be perfect for our society as even though we may differ on complex matters regarding interpretations, there are a lot of commonalities that we take pride in by calling them “our values.” Moreover, if you look at Pakistan today, it’s not an “Islamic” country in the full sense of the word (whatever that means in the first place?). Despite the inclusion of certain religious clauses, our laws are largely secular and so is our society in their everyday lives. We have people wearing niqabs and people wearing jeans, we have women running for Parliament and stay at home mothers, we have people with beards and those who are clean-shaven, we have people listening and performing music and those who tend to refrain from such activities. Now I am pretty sure none of these classes of society would want their way of life to be banned, and that can only happen in a secular society. Otherwise, if you have one religious interpretation guiding the lives of people who come from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds, result will be chaotic. People don’t really like much interference in their personal lives and state should be concerned with matters that affect the society as a whole. Now getting back to “our values” which are always so threatened, I just want to give one example, let’s take drinking. Majority of the Muslims don’t like the idea of legalizing alcohol as it is clearly prohibited by Islam. However, if you want to make a law regarding its prohibition in the country, you can and should make other logical/valid arguments as to why it is harmful, because it causes addiction, drunk driving accidents, can be a cause of increase in domestic violence/abusive families etc. Moreover, other countries ban drugs too depending on how much harm they will cause to a society so there is no clear cut line as to what drugs should and shouldn’t be legalised. As far as minorities are concerned, if they are not discriminated on other more important basic rights, they probably won’t mind as they also understand that sometimes majority considerations are important in order to avoid conflicts. For example, when Muslims live in other countries that do sell alcohol, they might not fully agree with it they have to accept the decision of what the majority wants. My point here is certainly not to say that minority voices are not important or that they should be ignored at the expense of majority. I just want to point out a political reality. Even the most liberal/modern/secular societies haven’t been able to completely remove the influence of religion on their political decisions. It is a thing that people take seriously and you cannot completely erase its influence in the public sphere especially when adherents of one particular faith have such a vast majority (97% Muslims in case of Pakistan). The point that I want to emphasize is that when majority won’t see their values being compromised, they won’t see minorities as a threat and this will stop strong anti-minority feelings to be developed. As a result, more important issues of minorities can be brought to forefront and resolved. Moreover, generally I have observed that minorities in Pakistan don’t have a huge list of demands and I think that they do understand that being in a Muslim majority country, certain practices of Muslims will affect their public life. Still, all minorities want is to be treated equally with regards to other citizens and not discriminated in their day to day affairs on the basis of their identity. This thing can be seen in the West as well that when certain Muslim practices are suddenly seen as a threat to modern, liberal values, it only ends up increasing discrimination against them; whereas Muslims normally just want to have the freedom to go about their everyday lives without being hunted on the basis of their identity. There are certain policies in the west that clearly run against Islamic principles/values, but even if those Muslims disagree with them, changing them at the state level is not a part of their agenda. Politics is a business of compromises as you can never make everyone happy. Using this analogy, I think that minorities in Pakistan would prefer that we give them complete freedom in their private sphere and treat them as equal citizens with regards to fundamental rights that everybody should be entitled to including the right to vote and run for office and have a voice in making of policies. As a result they would also accept and realize that sometimes national policies might be more influenced by majority demands than that of minorities, even when minority voices are listened to and accounted for. A secular, democratic state is what our founders thought Pakistan would grow up to be when this country was born. When our grandparents migrated from across the border leaving everything behind, they came to be a part of the country where in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Hindus, not in a religious sense, because that’s everyone’s private matter, but in the political sense, as citizens of the state. A country where everything is being blown into pieces and whose countrymen are always so ready to be at each other’s throat is not the land of pure that was formed after years of struggles. Just as people were united for the formation of this country despite many different ethnic and religious identities, that unity is now needed more than ever to sustain it which belongs to us, all of us, irrespective of our religion, caste or creed. That was the Pakistan that Jinnah gifted us, and that is the Pakistan that we have to get back. It’s ours and God willing, it will remain ours.
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/The authorities in Saudi Arabia are yet to provide details over the arrest of a Sri Lankan woman on charges that she had dabbled in witch craft, a senior official with the External Affairs Ministry (EAM) said today. Director Publicity at the EAM Mr. Sarath Dissanayake said the Lankan Mission in Riyadh had been instructed to follow up the matter at the earliest because if the woman is convicted she faces the death penalty. "For their part the Saudi authorities have so far failed to bring the matter to the notice of the Sri Lankan Mission and this is a cause to worry", Mr. Dissanayake said. The woman was arrested earlier this month after a Saudi couple complained to the authorities that her daughter acted in an abnormal manner when ever the Lankan woman was nearby and she was subsequently arrested. Apart from that which appeared in the media there are no other details of the arrest and the follow-up action taken by the Saudi authorities, he added. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, with no known written criminal code and judges’ make their decisions from interpretations of the Islamic Shariah Law.
The launching ceremony of Bahria Town’s 3D cinema was inaugurated by CEO Bahria Town, Ahmed Ali Riaz, along with VCE Bahria Town Cdr (r) Ilyas and senior management of Bahria Town, says a press release issued here on Friday. People from all walks of life attended the ceremony. The guests, including celebrities, socialites and other high profile figures of society, opined that ‘The Arena’ is the best 3D movie theater in the country and truly a Gold Class Cinema up to international standards. On the occasion the CEO expressed: “The Arena has been built on the vision of Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz Hussain, which is that Bahria Town not only aims to provide quality housing with complete lifestyle amenities and facilities to the general public, besides its residents. Based on this very vision Bahria Town has set up an array of both indoor & outdoor recreational facilities, including fitness clubs, spas, movie theaters salons, golf courses, horse riding clubs, mini golf courses and even a mini Formula-1 Track.” The Arena is a state-of-the-art movie theatre equipped with digital 3-D technology, which is the first of its kind in Pakistan. Its unique combination of the latest high-tech equipment and extreme luxury, set up in a very tasteful and classy manner, is what distinguishes its likes amongst others. The theatre has the capacity to contain 250 heads, and similar to certain European opera theatres, it also has an addition of 2 VIP lounges; consisting of 6 Lay-z-Boy recliners each and an in-theater snack bar. Besides the movie related aspects of the facility, there are certain other salient features of the “Arena” which, more than supplement and compliment the box office pleasure. Furthermore, there is an exhibition hall with world class decor meant to cater to all kinds of exhibitor requirements including art displays. There are quite a few restaurants for fine dining and outlets for High-Street-Brands. A separate space has been set apart for a “kids play area” along with a gaming arcade.
The Express TribunePunjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa and Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, talking on separate occasions, spoke in favour of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and criticised Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif. Khosa, while talking to the media at the governor house, said that no one except the speaker of the parliament had the right to declare the prime minister ineligible, may they be a party or the Supreme Court itself. “Parliament is supreme and all courts are subjected to it,” he said, adding that the parliament can reject the contempt of court decision. “Who gave Nawaz Sharif the right to interpret the contempt of case verdict,” said the governor. “Is the detailed verdict being written by him or is it being written on his directive?” He said that if the judiciary wanted to do justice, it should do so in a fair manner. “Stay orders on the Sharifs’ cases and seven judges on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) cases? This joke with the nation should be stopped.” Khosa said that judiciary to date had not opened any case against a military dictator which was why Amna Janjua had withdrawn her case. “Is this the Supreme Court of Pakistan or Sharif brothers,” he asked. Speaking on Babar Awan and Masood Chishti, he likened them to Mir Jaffar and Mir Sadiq, saying, “On whose directive did they refuse to testify and make the file disappear? Contempt cases against them will be postponed date after date and no verdict will ever be given.” ‘PM has right to appeal’ While talking to the media, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said that the prime minister had every right to an appeal and Nawaz Sharif’s acceptance or rejection of this fact would not make any difference. While giving a tour to the 15-member Korean delegation which was invited by the Gandhara Association to visit Lahore Museum, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain asked the media, “Where in the Supreme Court’s decision was it written that he is not the prime minister anymore?” “Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif can also be held in contempt for attacking the Supreme Court,” he said.