Saturday, September 7, 2013
The entire world is counting the minutes until September 9th when the US Congress is expected to reconvene in order to decide the fate of Syria, either banning or approving a US strike against Syrian government targets, following an alleged chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people. Israel Today spoke to Yelena Gromova, a Russian journalist residing in Damascus, who presents another angle to the complicated Syrian saga. US claims about an alleged chemical attack seem suspicious. At the same time, even the supporters of Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad (like Iran) acknowledge the fact. Who should people believe? The attack did take place. But it wasn’t carried out by the party that the US and its allies are trying to accuse. On the first day of the attack, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksander Lukashevich, announced that according to the information possessed by the Russian authorities “in the early morning of August 21st a makeshift rocket was launched from the areas occupied by the militant [rebel] forces.” Anyone who doesn’t want to speculate on the subject knows that the chemical attack was carried out by the rebels. Other claims are no more than deceitful accusations aimed at discrediting the Syrian authorities. Those countries who are now blaming Syria have always actively supported those [Islamist] militants. This makes them partners in crime and therefore they should be held responsible for the blood of all those victims, including children. It looks as if Russia is not going to interfere in the US-Syria conflict. This is despite the fact that Russia is one of Syria’s main allies. What’s going on? Did Russia get scared understanding that it's incapable of facing the US military? Of course, it could have acted more vigorously like the Soviet Union did at the time of the Cuban missile crisis [of 1962]. But Russia provides Syria with serious diplomatic assistance. The mere fact that no American bombs have landed on Syrian soil so far is primarily Russia’s doing. Russian diplomats might be thinking that it’s better not to provoke Washington right now [in order not to trigger an escalation of tensions], but if the war does eventually erupt, I am convinced that Russia will be able to find the necessary leverage to stop it. Knowing the psychology of the Syrian people, what do you think the West can expect from them in the event of an attack? Is Syrian going to turn into another Afghanistan? The majority of the Syrian people are not scared. You can hear many Syrians saying: “We’ve been living in war conditions for the past two years, what else can scare us?” Furthermore, if before there were some people who believed in the righteous cause of the so-called opposition, the situation has now changed. No longer do people believe in the good intentions of the US government or the "opposition," which calls for foreign attacks on its own country. Syrians don't want the same outcome for their country as what happened in Iraq, and they loathe those who support western aggression against the Syrian government. Some experts claim that Russia and the US are attempting to split Syria into smaller states (Alawite, Christian, etc.). How realistic are these claims? Syrians do not want the split. Even the Kurds, who generally supported the idea of separation, are now speaking against it. Of course, Western powers are interested in splitting Syria as they remain loyal to the old Roman tactics of "divide and conquer." But the Syrians say: “We have been living together for our entire lives. We are one people”. It’s worth mentioning that during Syria’s struggle against French colonialism, France offered to divide Syria into states based on sectarian differences, creating Alawite, Druze and Sunni federations, while giving Lebanon to the Christians. Yet, the leaders of anti-colonial struggle opposed the idea and called on the people to join forces to fight for a united and free Syria. The representative of Syria in the League of Nations – who was a Christian – rejected claims that the presence of French forces on Syrian territory would protect Christians and announced that Christians and Muslims were one people. Syrians are brought up on these values and they will do their best to prevent a split from happening. How many people actually support President Assad and who are these rebels? When I first came to Syria in 2011 I saw tremendous rallies in support of Assad and his government. In 2014, Syria is expected to hold presidential elections. If the opposition was so sure of the people's backing, it would have proposed its candidacy and would have used political methods to obtain power, especially given the fact that the new reforms allow that. But the point is that they are afraid of elections. Their only way to assume power is with the help of American military might. The rebels neglect basic ethical principles, and call on Obama to stage a war against the Syrian people. You can imagine what they will do if they assume power. Look at Libya, where everyone fights everyone. Syrians have to do anything it takes to prevent the Libyan scenario evolving in their country.
While Israel has long lead the world in knowledge of Islamist jihadist ideology and its many complexities, it is taking Muslims everywhere, far longer to come to terms with what is a lethal, consuming threat emerging from among us.Though I watched 9/11 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I was then a physician in the King Fahd National Hospital, I wouldn’t comprehend the true gravity of the Islamist threat until I witnessed them as they portrayed themselves, until I listened to them in their own words. Accepting the strangest of invitations, late one Sunday afternoon in New York City, I found myself at the offices of attorney and former IDF officer Richard Horowitz, viewing films he suggested I see. Concealing my fears, I said little. We watched in silence as the grainy videotapes revealed a small Muslim boy, no more than 10 or 11, clumsily wielding a kitchen knife and decapitating a Muslim man – to the rousing approval of his handlers in front of an audience of several thousands. The surroundings evoked the Af-Pak, or Afghanistan and Pakistan region. The language of Islam permeated the gruesome narrative. That afternoon, Richard had opened the door into a new world for me, one that as a Muslim woman, I found compelled to walk through. Three years later, I found myself in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Region, meeting child jihadists myself. Returning to the country of my parents’ heritage (where I have traveled for over forty years), I joined neuropsychologist Dr. Feriha Peracha for the long drive north to Malakand. With her devoted driver in an appropriately innocuous sedan, we left my family home in Lahore and raced the 320 miles north. Crossing the Punjab boundary into the North West Frontier Province, a security detail of Pakistani Army Rangers escorted us at high speed in convoy to Malakand Fort where we would stay during our visit. Dr. Peracha was taking me to see a school, “Sabaoon,” a joint civilianmilitary initiative to de-radicalize child jihadists. Sabaoon has enrolled 191 militants since its inception in 2009, though Dr. Peracha believes more than 5,000 boys remain at risk in the surrounding Swat valley. On a freezing March afternoon, I listened to one boy’s account of his transformation from schoolboy to jihadist. Dressed in a cricket shirt in Pakistan’s national colors, he reminded me of my own brothers at his age. At 18, his Urdu was equally halting, our common language rendered the story all the more terrifying in our shared intimacy. He was 15 when it began, the eldest of five, the son of a father who barely supported the family with his minor government job. The family lived in a mudwalled house. On his long walks to school far from his home, an older Pakistani boy beguiled him with tales of a purer, “more noble” Islam. There were no videos, no internet forums, no cellphones involved in his radicalization, only the compulsion of a dazzling narrative in which the school boy saw grander vistas, and the chance to see himself a heroic protagonist in new adventures. Within weeks, he relented to the seductive narrator, running away to join the Taliban. Theirs were dreams of divine mission, purpose and glory. Immediately he was relocated from concealed site to concealed site, sometimes spending nights in the open air in Pakistan’s harsh but beautiful Swat valley, which is icily cold after sundown. Hidden in grubby hostels and other “markaz“ (centers) as he referred to them, the boy never stayed more than one night in each locale. Disconnection was imperative in his induction. Because of the constant movement, not only was it impossible for his family – who continued to search for him for weeks – to find him, but it also guaranteed he was isolated from new friends who might dissuade him from the brotherhood of the Taliban. His first missions were minor. Later, they would be far more significant. Even so, he remained a boy at heart. It wasn’t until he missed his mother on Eid, the closing feast of Ramadan, and asked to see her on a short visit, that his handlers redirected the young boy with so much potential to become a disposable suicide operative. He was shackled immediately. This lethal decision averted his risk of breaking away and becoming an informer. That’s when he began telling me of his “tarbiyyat” (religious training). As he spoke, I imagined my own – painstakingly learning my Arabic letters and then, studying slowly and with difficulty, the Koran, verse by verse, always at the side of my parents, always in our home. Instead, his tarbiyyat was the mastery of a handgun, the proper unpinning of a hand-grenade and the correct detonation of a suicide jacket. He even had training in rocket launchers, AK-47s and LMGs (light machine guns) the acronyms tripping off his tongue despite his illiteracy in English. Recognizing my naiveté in combat operations, the boy helpfully explained. Miming gestures, I began to understand. Approaching his final target, expecting to be apprehended, the boy would shoot a police officer with his pistol, at which moment he knew to throw the grenade (kept in his “shalwar” [trouser] pocket) into a packed crowd. He would then run into the panicked masses fleeing from the explosion and, inserting himself within them, detonate his jacket. In these three easy steps, he would achieve both maximum carnage and, through it, jihadist nirvana. But fate held other plans for the boy. Arriving at the target for his suicide operation, his last act as a Taliban foot soldier, he entered a local Shi’ite mosque (all Shi’ite being “kaffir,” [infidels] as he had been indoctrinated). Studying the surroundings as he entered the mosque, he watched Muslim men at prayer with a growing sense of recognition. He suddenly saw with clarity these targets, like him, “were Muslim too.” Acutely fearing for his own salvation, he hesitated – enough time for the lone police officer nearby to apprehend him. It wasn’t until I was back in the United States that I opened his de-identified clinical file. Remembering the engaging, vulnerable boy who reminded me so much of my younger brother, I was stunned to read of his killing capabilities. Seduced by the Islamist narrative at the age of 15, he had first collaborated in an attack that killed five Pakistani Frontier corpsmen. Later, he had kidnapped eleven soldiers in a raid on a military camp, delivering the hostages into the hands of the Taliban. Prior to the Shi’ite mosque where he was apprehended, he had been part of a separate raid killing more than 100 people assembled at the local Jirga (tribal court). The boy had become as deadly and compelling as the narrative that seduced him. These boy jihadists, whether in the videos I first saw with Richard Horowitz at his office, or the ones I met in Malakand, Pakistan, compel my involvement to understand the war that wages within Islam, between us as Muslims. As the counter terrorism community gathers in Israel to attend the Institute of Counter Terrorism’s 13th International World Summit convening in Herzliya during the first week in September, these boys will be in my thoughts. In this globally recognized conference, leading minds will gather to formulate new approaches as the Islamist threat escalates in multiple directions. While Israel has long lead the world in knowledge of Islamist jihadist ideology and its many complexities, it is taking Muslims everywhere, far longer to come to terms with what is a lethal, consuming threat emerging from among us. But our first step to understanding them is understanding their narrative, as best told: in their own, deadly words. The writer is the author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom. She's also a Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion. Follow her on Twitter on @Miss- Diagnosis.
Police sealed off Istanbul's Gezi Park for a second day in a row on Sept. 7, after calls for protests in support of students at Ankara's Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ). The ODTÜ students are opposing a road project on campus that will lead to the destruction of nearly 3,000 trees. Water cannon trucks (TOMAs) were dispatched to the Gezi Park's Taksim Square entrance, Doğan News Agency reported. Police chased a group of protesters that had gathered in front of Galatasaray High School on İstiklal Avenue amid reports that many were detained. The park was also closed by police on Sept. 6 to prevent a similar demonstration from taking place. Small groups of protesters had gathered on İstiklal Avenue, with police reportedly firing water cannons to disperse the crowd. The demonstrations on the ODTÜ campus had lasted until beyond midnight, with police resorting once again to tear gas and water cannons against a group protesting against the destruction of part of the university's forested area.
India is the largest democracy in the world. During the more than a century of British rule, India learned how parliamentary democracy works and built their own system after independence. They are proud of this political achievement and of the recent economic boom. But while India's social development has made steps forward since 1947, it still lags far behind other developing countries and fellow BRICS members. How can a country whose economic advances have been so striking, especially of late, have done such a poor job in living standards, public facilities, and education? An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, written by Belgian economist and activist Jean Drèze and Nobel-prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen, raises concerns over India's overly unbalanced development model. A few statistics might help people understand the extent of Indian underdevelopment. No less than 43 percent of Indian children under five are underweight, compared with only 4 percent in China and 2 percent in Brazil. In 2011, 50 percent of Indian households still lacked lavatories, and practiced "open defecation," compared with just 1 percent of Chinese. According to the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings for 2012, none of the country's universities is in the world's top 200. Half of India's schools had no education activity at all seven years ago. Spending on education is a quarter of the subsidies provided for fuel and fertilizer. The authors write bitterly that "the history of world development offers few other examples, if any, of an economy growing so fast for so long with such limited results in terms of reducing human deprivations." Unfortunately, the nationalist right in India has no guts to face its shortcomings. The book has stirred disapproval and censure. Chandan Mitra, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP and proprietor-editor-in-chief of The Pioneer newspaper, demanded that Sen be stripped of his Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian reward. Attempts to rebut the book from the right have been limited to hysterical nationalism and crude attacks. Drèze and Sen based this book on elaborate statistical analysis. It is incisive, straightforward, and organized in an intelligent and passionate way. They are trying to find out what is holding India back, and are eager to find ways forward for a country they both love. Development, the authors conclude, is not limited to GDP or greater industrialization. For them "the progress of human freedom and capability to lead the kind of lives that people have reason to value" is what really matters. This thought-provoking book will show you the other side of India, one too often neglected by the Indian elite themselves.
Bahraini opposition parties have refused to accept the recent bans on meetings with foreign diplomats without Al Khalifa regime’s permission. The coalition of National Democratic Opposition Parties has announced that the move contradicts the constitution and international law. The parties noted that the move will only add to political tensions in the Persian Gulf Arab country. The restrictions, issued by Bahrain's justice minister, require political groups to get prior permit for their meetings and once a permit is granted, a representative of the Al Khalifah regime will attend the discussions. The order also bans contact with international organizations without authorization. The move is aimed at limiting the activities of opposition groups which have played a leading role in the anti-regime movement that has gripped the country for over two years. The Manama regime’s human rights record has come under scrutiny over its handling of anti-regime protests that erupted across the Arab country in early 2011. Bahrainis demanded political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests. However, the Manama regime launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring states. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others arrested in the clampdown.
Militants in Pakistan's most populous province are said to be training for what they expect will be an ethnic-based civil war in neighboring Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw in 16 months, according to analysts and a senior militant. In the past two years the number of Punjab-based militants deploying to regions bordering on Afghanistan has tripled and is now in the thousands, says analyst Mansur Mehsud. He runs the FATA Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank studying the mix of militant groups that operate in Pakistan's tribal belt running along much of the 2,600-kilometer (1,600-mile) Afghan-Pakistan border. Mehsud, himself from South Waziristan where militants also hide out, says more than 150 militant groups operate in the tribal regions, mostly in mountainous, heavily forested North Waziristan. Dotted with hideouts, it is there that Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri is thought by the U.S. to be hiding, and where Afghanistan says many of its enemies have found sanctuary. While militants from Punjab province have long sought refuge and training in the tribal regions, they were fewer in number and confined their hostility to Pakistan's neighbor and foe, India. All that is changing, say analysts. "Before, they were keeping a low profile. But just in the last two or three years hundreds have been coming from Punjab," said Mehsud. "Everyone knows that when NATO and the American troops leave Afghanistan there will be fighting between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns." And the Punjabi militants will side with the Afghan Taliban, who are mostly Pashtun, Afghanistan's dominant ethnic group and the majority ethnic group in Pakistan's northwest region that borders Afghanistan. Like many in the Taliban, the Punjabi militants share a radical and regressive interpretation of Islam. "We will go to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban as we have done in the past," said a senior member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant Sunni Muslim group, who goes by a nom de guerre, Ahmed Zia Siddiqui. In an interview with The Associated Press in Pakistan, he said the Taliban haven't yet requested help, but when asked whether Punjab-based militants were preparing for war in Afghanistan after the foreign withdrawal, he replied: "Absolutely." Despite being outlawed in Pakistan, Siddiqui's group is among the most active and violent, providing a cadre of suicide bombers for attacks both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. It has taken responsibility for dozens of attacks that have killed hundreds of minority Shiites in Pakistan. It has also been implicated in some of the most spectacular attacks in Pakistan, including the 2008 bombing of a five-star hotel in the capital and an assassination attempt on former dictator and U.S. ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Zahid Hussain, whose books plot the rise of militancy in Pakistan, said at least two dozen militant groups are headquartered in Punjab province, while in Waziristan their numbers are growing as mainstream religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami recruit young men to the militant cause. "Even if a settlement occurs in Afghanistan there are still a lot who will continue to fight and those who are most likely to resist a settlement are Pakistani militants," Hussain said. He said that during a recent trip he made to North Waziristan, local tribesmen spoke of the influx of Punjab-based militants into their area. Foreign journalists are not allowed in the tribal regions. Pakistan's new elected civilian government has promised a strategy to tackle the militants whose actions, says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are a scourge that has killed upward of 40,000 Pakistanis in recent years. In a televised speech last month, he lamented Pakistan's inability "to restrict the culprits or even identify them, to spot their hideouts and take them to task." "Pakistan cannot tolerate this anymore," he said. While Sharif suggested that "incompetence or insensitiveness" were to blame, analysts accuse the government of lacking the political will to go after the militants. They say Sharif's conservative Pakistan Muslim League rules Punjab province, where militant headquarters are easy to spot and are left undisturbed. In the south Punjab city of Bahawalpur, the al-Qaida linked Jaish-e-Mohammed is expanding its headquarters and building bigger religious schools for its adherents, said Ayesha Saddiqa, a defense analyst from Bahawalpur. The militant group has radicalized locals, and its leader, Azhar Masood, freed from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for a hijacked Indian Airlines plane, moves about freely, she said. Punjab "is infested with numerous jihadi outfits that support the Taliban based in the tribal areas from time to time," said Saddiqa. "The Punjabi jihadis are critical of the war in Afghanistan and Western presence in the region. This is not just an objection to foreign presence in a Muslim country but is part of a larger war they hope to fight in establishing supremacy of Islam according to their interpretation and imagination." Omar Hamid Khan, the Interior Ministry spokesman, says violence has escalated since the Sharif government took office in June, with 68 attacks in 60 days. In a recent interview he acknowledged the difficulties the new government faces in meeting its stated goals of creating a counter-terrorism authority and competent police force, and finding experts to translate its national security blueprint into action. Dr. Simbal Khan, a regional security expert with the Islamabad Policy Research Institute in Islamabad, said Pakistan doesn't want to see Afghanistan return to the 1990s, when civil war destroyed the country and gave rise to the repressive Taliban regime which in turn strengthened Pakistan's militants. Yet Pakistan's options are few, and according to Dr. Khan exclude an all-out assault on militant hideouts in Punjab that would turn the full force of militancy against Pakistan. "We know where they are. We could bomb the whole area, flatten it. That would solve Afghanistan's problem but what would that leave for us?" she asked. "We might solve the Afghan problem but our problem would be far worse. We would suffer for the next 40 years."
Afghanistan has become a key source for victims of sex-trafficking. It remains a hidden crime, flourishing despite laws meant to protect women. A vicious cycle of poverty and cultural practices keep women trapped. Pimps and customers call her Diljan. "I serve the rich and the executive class," said the round-faced blonde with green eyes. "If the guys have money, they can have me for a night." Depending on the nature of the service, her rates range from 20,000 to 90,000 Indian rupees (230 to 1,030 euros) for a night. Though women of other nationalities, including Russians and Ukrainians, still dominate the flourishing sex trade in India, Diljan said Afghans like her have pushed many of them out of business. After the war in 2001, she and her family fled from Kandahar to Kabul. Her nightmare began when a man raped her, she said, while returning home from the market. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone about it. She would be raped again that month by another man, who made the same threat. In 2011, a woman approached her with a waitress's job in a posh Delhi hotel. She jumped at the chance. The woman got her a passport and visa, and put her on a plane. In Delhi, she was told that the job had fallen through. She ended up being an escort. "There were six other Afghan women already at work," recalled Diljan. Afghanistan has become a source, transit point and destination for victims of sex-trafficking. Nobody knows exactly how many Afghan women have been sold into sexual slavery. Like the drug trade, trafficking takes place in a shadowy world. Some girls like Diljan are cheated by pimps and sold to traffickers. Others are abducted, raped and psychologically pummelled into submission. The rampant trafficking has put Afghanistan on the United States "Tier 2 watch list" of countries that are failing to fight human trafficking. Conditions ripe Human trafficking in Afghanistan grew as the many decades of war caused displacement of millions. Chronic poverty and growing crime increased the vulnerability of women. Geography is another crucial factor; Afghanistan has six direct neighbours including Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Many of these borders are nearly impossible to guard, thanks to inaccessible terrain and tribal fiefdoms. Palwasha Saboori, director of the Afghan Women Training and Development Organization, said hundreds of women are trafficked every year. Still, it remains a hidden crime, one that the government is not combating, said Saboori. In the last two years alone, her organization has rescued 319 women and girls. "Almost all of them were sexually abused," said Saboori. Last year, an survey by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on trafficking confirmed that majority of trafficked women had lost their parents in the war and had no family support and protection. Others became caught in the vicious cycle because of extreme poverty and early, forced marriages. "Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. There are hardly any jobs for the young. Then there is a growing uncertainty about the future," said Sima Samar, a chairperson for the AIHRC. "All these conditions make Afghanistan ideal for human trafficking."At present, 727 victims of rape and trafficking are being rehabilitated at eight shelters run by the Afghan government and often managed by local and international NGOs. Victims who cannot find a place in the shelters often end up in prison. Zakia Baryalti, who is director of the Afghan ministry of women's affairs, said: "We have an army of victims in Afghanistan. But we do not have enough shelters to rehabilitate them." Unspeakable abuse Marzah, a young girl from Logar province, is staying at a shelter in Kabul. After months of therapy, she was able to speak about her ordeal. She said she was raped when she was nine, and then sold into sexual slavery. All she wants now is oblivion. "I do not want to return to my village. My family will kill me. I have brought such shame to them," said Marzah. In another Kabul shelter, Perveen Jan told the story of how she had survived bombs, only to be trapped in a brothel. The US bombing of 2001 had destroyed countless villages like hers. Amidst the raging war she fled to the nearest town, Jalalabad, where the situation was a little better. Then, her mother called her and told her about a prospective groom. But instead of getting married, she realized a few weeks later that she had been sold to a pimp for 20,000 Afghani (265 euros). She would be traded to 10 men over the next three years. In 2011, a pimp drove her across the Turkhan border checkpoint into Pakistan. Here, she had to dance semi-naked, entertain rich men, and have sex with customers who paid her owner a few thousand Pakistani rupees. Last year, when her Pakistani owner was away, she escaped and fled to Jalalabad. Now, she is traumatized and unable to speak. "She has been destroyed," said Zaibesh, 21, her friend at the shelter and a victim herself. "When I met her and heard her story, I forgot all my pain and misery." Zaibesh's parents were killed by her brother-in-law for trying to protect her from sexual abuse. The killer has threatened to kill her too for running away. As she spoke about how she was repeatedly raped and abused, she suddenly paused and cried out loud, "People have done such bad things to me. I just hate myself for what I have gone through." In her brimming green eyes you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. Gap between law and reality The Afghan constitution, written after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, enshrines equal rights for men and women. And a new landmark law, passed in 2009, has for the first time criminalized forced marriages. Yet women remain victims. In contrast to the overwhelming presence of foreign troops on Afghanistan's streets, there is the overwhelming absence of women in public. Every day, from different parts of the country, complaints pour in to the office of the AIHRC. "Trafficking of women is going largely unreported due to tribal and societal acceptance of the practice," said AIHRC chairperson Samar. Traffickers exploit vulnerabilities and lack of opportunities. They make promises of marriage, employment, education, or a better life. Not merely a women's issue "This is not merely a women's issue," said Shukria Barakzai, a parliamentarian and leading Afghan politician. "It is an economic problem, a societal problem, a migration problem - and most of all, a question of the future of this country." As music blared from the loudspeakers in the dimly-lit cafe in South Delhi, Diljan's cell phone rang. Her response was brief: "Yes, yes, I'm coming." She hurriedly finished her cigarette and got up to meet the car waiting downstairs. Her response to the question of if she wanted to leave her profession, wrapped in loud laughter: "It is my business. It was the will of God." Names of victims have been changed to protect their identity. This report is a shortened version of Syed Nazakat's entry for the German Development Media Awards. Nazakat's story on trafficking of women in the region was one of four finalists for the Asia category. Nazakat is a special correspondent at India's leading news magazine, "The Week."
If a society is judged by the way it treats its children, we would come off very poorly. Not a day goes by without horrific stories about the abuse and murder of children on front pages of newspapers and on prime time on television channels. Orphans are sexually assaulted and murdered at government homes, a group of children playing outside their homes in Hisar in Haryana vanishes only to turn up dead, the body of a child is found stuffed in a desert cooler. We still have not forgotten the grisly Nithari case in which cannibalism was said to have been involved. These are the ones that are reported, the ones where the police have managed to uncover what exactly happened. It turns out more than half of those children who are reported as missing are never heard of again. An examination of the data available from 24 states, excluding West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, which have a high rate of children who have vanished shows that 15,130 children have gone missing this year. Only 6,269 of those children have been found so far. What about the rest? Few of the children who go missing are as lucky as Saroo Brierley who, 25 years after mistakenly getting on a train out of Khandwa, found his mother and natal family again with the help of Google maps. In 2012, 65,038 children were reported missing; 41.35% of them have not been traced so far. It’s quite likely too that the actual number of missing children in India is under-reported. Many parents are too poor or socially disempowered to even muster up the courage to approach the police to report a missing child. What happens to all those children who are never found? The ones who aren’t recovered by a stroke of luck, the ones whose bodies aren’t found, the ones who vanish without a trace? Clearly, many find themselves coerced — like the 14-year-old child who accidentally caused the death of Baby Falak — into the sex trade. Others are in all likelihood trafficked into working at roadside eateries and the begging mafia. Then there is the flourishing market for domestic labour. Indeed, it isn’t unusual to see well-to-do families in urban India employing very young children — probably procured from unscrupulous agents — to look after their own toddlers and do household chores. Needless to add, cases of these children being physically, mentally and sexually abused are par for the course. It might be naïve to imagine a world where children are absolutely safe, away from lurking predators; the figures who like Aqualung sit on a park bench eyeing little girls (and boys) with evil intent. But it isn’t unrealistic to expect the government to set up a centralised national database of habitual offenders and as well as missing children. This would go at least some way towards helping distraught families who are searching for their children.
A female Afghan parliamentarian held captive by Taliban for three weeks has been released in a prisoner exchange, Taliban and government officials said on Saturday. Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a member of the Afghan lower house, was kidnapped on August 13 when travelling by car through the restive eastern province of Ghazni. She was the second female parliamentarian to be attacked in Ghazni in less than a week, and her abduction highlighted concerns about a recent spate of often deadly assaults on women working in state institutions. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Kakar had been exchanged for four female and two child relatives of Taliban officials held by the government. "Today, the Islamic Emirate handed (Kakar) back over to her relatives via a prisoner exchange," Mujahid said, referring to the name the Taliban used during their 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan. A Kakar family member, who declined to be named, also confirmed that the MP had been released. Restoring women's right has been a cornerstone of the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, but the recent spate of attacks is fuelling concern that such rights are eroding as international forces prepare to withdraw next year.
EDITORIAL Daily Times
The US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard G. Olson Saturday called on President Asif Ali Zardari at Aiwan-e-Sadr. The President also hosted lunch for the ambassador.
Asif Ali Zardai retires as President of Pakistan on September 08, 2013 after completing his five-year tenure- the first-ever civilian president to have this honour in the history of Pakistan. No political figure has faced the quantum of negative propaganda as he did during these five years.
President Asif Ali Zardari says he doesn’t intend to become prime minister of Pakistan because he thinks presidential slot should be an optimum position for any politician. In an interview with veteran journalist and Geo News anchor Sohail Waraich, Mr Zardari said that strengthening the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was the most important task than anything else. When asked whether he learnt some lessons during his imprisonment, the outgoing President said; “I learnt patience during my 11-year solitary confinement as jail starts to test your nerves after two initial years in detention, Answering a question, Asif Ali Zardari said that he used to watch foreign TV channels during his imprisonment to keep him up to date as well as writing his thoughts. He said that the letters and poetry he had written to his wife Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed were now in possession of his children.