Syrian Nun Plays Key Role in Medical Underground


By Adel Mansur

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An activist doctor in Syria has a hero he calls “Sister Nanique.” The Catholic nun stockpiles medical supplies to help treat those wounded in the resistance. Here he tells the story of her recent dangerous mission to Homs.

DAMASCUS, Syria (WOMENSENEWS) — Dr. Fadi has a hero.

He calls her “Sister Nanique” and her name, like his, is changed to protect their safety.

Fadi, an activist doctor, says Sister Nanique has a stash of clean syringes, tetanus injections, surgical tools, serums, bags for collecting blood donations and lots of other medical supplies that have become almost impossible to obtain since the eruption of the Syrian revolution.

She stores them in a small room next to her monastery cell, a place that some in the nation’s underground network of doctors call the “sister’s pharmacy.” These doctors consider that room a key supply source for their work in such devastated places as the city of Homs. A United Nations committee arrived Monday in Syria to monitor a U.N.-brokered ceasefire that some opposition activists said had broken down.

Sister Nanique is a Catholic nun who realized, early on, the vital importance of medication to people wounded since the outbreak of anti-regime protests last March.
She would be in big trouble if caught by her church; in even greater trouble if caught by security forces that have waged a violent campaign to crush dissent and punish anyone helping the opposition.

The government has shelled and raided protest hubs for months, sparking a humanitarian crisis and the flight of thousands of refugees across borders laced with land mines.

More than 12,000 lives have been lost in the bloodshed, according to the watchdog Syrian Network for Human Rights.

There are no hard and fast figures but an estimated 2,000 people have died due to inadequate medical care. Many have died on the perilous road to hospitals in bordering Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

The leaderships of Christian sects in Syria–from the Catholics, to the Orthodox, to the Syriac Orthodox–have all shied away from endorsing the popular uprising or have shown signs of sympathizing with the regime.

But many individual Christians in Syria, such as Sister Nanique, oppose their church’s stance and support the revolution.

Dying for a Bag of Blood

Fadi says that when the central city of Homs was being shelled by the army last month, civilians were dying for a bag of blood, and volunteer doctors were unable to remove the bullets from victims’ bodies because they did not have enough medical tools.

Supplies quickly ran out due to the blockade. Some activists managed to enter the city to help supply ad-hoc clinics in the basements of residential buildings. Many died under sniper fire, according to reports by the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

“Sister Nanique decided to go to Baba Amr when it was under fire, which meant practical suicide,” Fadi says, referring to one of the most devastated parts of Homs. “Getting to Homs was dangerous, let alone Baba Amr. It was the most violently bombarded region in Homs and was surrounded by the army.”

Fadi says he tried to discourage Sister Nanique from going to Baba Amr.

“I could not get her to change her mind, although she was fully aware of the hazard of her mission. There was only one thing she could think of: the fact that more and more people will die if she did not get there and give them the right medication.”

Dodging Suspicion

The nun’s religious attire, or habit, helped her dodge suspicion, Fadi says. “She filled her purse with hundreds of necessary injection needles and empty blood bags which allow people to donate blood to the wounded victims. She then called a fellow nun at a church in Homs, and she headed out to Baba Amr in a church car.”

Fadi says that for two days he lost touch with Sister Nanique because mobile and land lines to Homs had been severed by authorities.

“And then out of nowhere, the phone rang. It was Sister Nanique returning to Damascus after delivering her supplies to Baba Amr. When I saw her, I could read in her face all the suffering and devastation that she saw there. But she made no comment about what she had done, and she did not consider it a heroic act. She just kept on saying that God was the one to protect her.”

Fadi says that Sister Nanique and many other nuns also are providing food and material aid to families who were forced out of their homes or whose houses were destroyed by the shelling.

Many in the opposition believe that the church would like to give open medical assistance to the wounded, but would rather avoid any confrontation with the security authorities. But churches are providing help in the form of nutrition, clothing and shelter.

Sister Nanique feels that is not enough, Fadi says. Hundreds of lives are at stake for lack of medicine or blood transfusion, and hundreds risk losing their limbs for lack of tetanus injections or infection syringes.

That’s why Sister Nanique is doing what she does; because she believes medical assistance is more important than food right now for survival.

http://womensenews.org/story/war/120416/syrian-nun-plays-key-role-in-medical-underground

The writer is a Syrian who is adopting a pseudonym for personal-safety reasons.

Afghan schoolgirls poisoned in anti-education attack


A young Pashtun girl looks out from the window of a classroom during recess at a government funded coeducational school in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar September 20, 2005. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/Files

April 17,2012 (Reuters) – About 150 Afghan schoolgirls were poisoned on Tuesday after drinking contaminated water at a high school in the country’s north, officials said, blaming it on conservative radicals opposed to female education.

Since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, especially in Kabul.

But periodic attacks still occur against girls, teachers and their school buildings, usually in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most support.

“We are 100 percent sure that the water they drunk inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls’ education or irresponsible armed individuals,” said Jan Mohammad Nabizada, a spokesman for education department in northern Takhar province.

Some of the 150 girls, who suffered from headaches and vomiting, were in critical condition, while others were able to go home after treatment in hospital, the officials said.

They said they knew the water had been poisoned because a larger tank used to fill the affected water jugs was not contaminated.

“This is not a natural illness. It’s an intentional act to poison schoolgirls,” said Haffizullah Safi, head of Takhar’s public health department.

None of the officials blamed any particular group for the attack, fearing retribution from anyone named.

The Afghan government said last year that the Taliban, which has been trying to adopt a more moderate face to advance exploratory peace talks, had dropped its opposition to female education.

But the insurgency has never stated that explicitly and in the past acid has been thrown in the faces of women and girls by hardline Islamists while walking to school.

Education for women was outlawed by the Taliban government from 1996-2001 as un-Islamic.

(Reporting by Mohammad Hamid; Writing by Jack Kimball, Editing by Rob Taylor and Sanjeev Miglani)

Kolkata scientist Partho Sarathi Ray gets bail


NDTV Correspondent | Updated: April 17, 2012

Kolkata:  Moleculor biologist Partha Sarathi Ray, who has been in jail since April 8 got bail this evening. He was arrested for his alleged role in protests against recent evictions from a slum.

Dr Ray was charged with assaulting policemen during a lathicharge on protestors in Kolkata on April 4.

He says he wasn’t even present during the protests and  was taking classes at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Mohanpur in Nadia district, a two-hour drive from Kolkata.

Leading scientists from India and abroad as well as other public personalities wrote letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, condemning the police action against the West Bengal-based scientist.

Joint Statement–Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with call for action against Israeli prison contractor G4S


The postage stamp of United Nations, Inalienab...

The postage stamp of United Nations, Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (1981) Русский: Почтовая марка Организации Объединённых Наций, неотъемлемые права палестинского народа (1981) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

17 April 2012–“Joint Statement: Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with call for action against Israeli prison contractor G4S

17 April 2012—Today, on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, we the undersigned Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations salute all Palestinian political prisoners, especially those engaging in brave civil disobedience through ongoing hunger strikes in protest to the ongoing violations of human rights and international law. Emphasizing imprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, we call for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeli prison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system [1] , for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.

Imprisonment of Palestinians is a form of Israeli institutionalized violence encompassing all stages of the incarceration process. Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatment during their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli military and are frequently and unjustifiably denied family and lawyer visits. Wide-ranging and collective punishments, including prolonged periods of isolation, attacks on prisoners by special military forces and denying access to education are used against Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to suppress any form of civil disobedience within the prisons. As of April 2012, there were 4,610 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including 203 child prisoners, 6 female prisoners and 27 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. 322 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention, without charge or trial.[2]

The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian political prisoners has been the drive for many prisoners to begin hunger strikes at different intervals in protest against harsh prison conditions, torture and ill treatment and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention. While the recent hunger strikes of Khader Adnan, who ended his hunger strike after 66 days, and Hana Shalabi, who ended her hunger strike after 43 days, resulted in individual agreements, Israel and the Israeli Prison Service’s policies therein remain unchanged and are now aimed at containing the hungers strikers through punitive measures as well as cutting off their contact with lawyers and family. Today, an estimate of over 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners are reported to have joined in an open hunger strike in addition to at least 8 others already engaged in an open hunger strike, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, on hunger strike since 29 February 2012.

In light of this increasing campaign of civil disobedience from within the prisons, we demand accountability for all corporations that both enable and directly profit from Israel’s continued violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights being committed with impunity. Specifically, we call for action to hold to account G4S, the British-Danish security company whose Israeli subsidiary signed a contract in 2007 with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems for major Israeli prisons.[3] G4S provided systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel in contravention of international law.[4] The company also provided equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners.[5] G4S continues to provide equipment to Israeli prisons.[6]

Moreover, G4S is involved in other aspects of the Israeli apartheid and occupation regime: it has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory of Gaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements.[7] A panel of legal experts concluded that G4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’s illegal Wall and other violations of international law.[8]

We welcome the news that the European Union has announced that it has not renewed its contract for security services with G4S [9] following pressure from groups campaigning for Palestinian rights, and salute the previous decision of the Edinburgh University Student Association to block its contract with G4S.[10] We call upon other public and civil society institutions and also on private companies to follow suit and end their relationships with this company that acts in service of Israeli apartheid and other violations of international law. We demand that the Palestinian leadership bans G4S from private and public tenders, and ask for the strict application of the boycott legislation in the Arab world against companies cooperating with the Israeli prison system.

We also note that G4S is being actively opposed by other civil society groups elsewhere in the world for its role in controversial deportation and imprisonment regimes, abuse of workers rights, violations of universal human rights standards and its involvement in the privatisation of public services. Let us work together to expose not only G4S, but also the roles of imprisonment and private security companies as political tools to silence and intimidate communities all over the world.

Amid hunger strikes and the highly publicized prisoner exchange deal in October, Palestinian prisoners’ issues have gained recent attention in international spheres. However, despite this increased focus and the criticisms of these practices by United Nations bodies, there has been no institutional changes made by Israel in regard to the human rights violations being committed against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees.[11] In an attempt to counter Israel’s unwillingness to change its policies and the lack of accountability for its countless human rights violations, alternative measures such as preventing participation by companies such as the G4S proves to be one of the few remaining effective steps towards pressuring Israel to comply with international law. It is time overdue to break this chain of international complicity.

[1] http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefiles/WhoProfits-PrivateSecurity-G4S.pdf

[2] http://www.addameer.org/files/Brochures/addameer-palestinian-political-prisoners-brochure-2010.pdf

[3] http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefiles/WhoProfits-PrivateSecurity-G4S.pdf, p.7

[4] Article 77 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory to the occupying country.

[5] http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefiles/WhoProfits-PrivateSecurity-G4S.pdf, p14-15

[6] http://corporateoccupation.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/targeting-israeli-apartheid-jan-2012.pdf, p.135

[7] Ibid.

[8] http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/RTOP-London-Session-Findings.pdf, p.18

[9] http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:118611-2012:TEXT:EN:HTML&tabId=1 (registration required)

[10] http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/edinburgh-university-students-vote-to-ban-g4s-8279

[11] Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Israel, CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16, 9 March 2012; Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, Israel CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3; Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture, Israel, CAT/C/ISR/CO/4,14 May 2009; See “Statement by Robert Serry UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on Palestinian Prisoners, 10 February 2012; “Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights.

issued by-  Al Mezan center for human rights  

download orginal statement here