Duped by Pak husband, Indian woman yearns to return home #VAW


Karachi: An Indian woman, who left her country and religion to marry a Pakistani man, claims that her husband has locked her up in a small room on the roof of their house here for the past 13 years.

Shirley Ann Hodges married Gul Muhammad Khan, a Pakistani money lender, after meeting him in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, in the summer of 1997. She changed her name to Shabnam Gul Khan and came to Pakistan in 2000 with her new-born daughter. At the time, Khan said they were going to Pakistan to meet his family and that they would return to India within six months.

However, as soon as Shabnam landed in Karachi, she was abruptly introduced to Khan’s first wife and their six children, she told The Express Tribune.

 

Shabnam’s Indian passport was seized and she was given a burqa and locked away on the top floor of her in-laws’ home.

Shabnam has been confined in the top floor of the house for the past 13 years and is not allowed any visitors.

Her only contact with the outside world is through the internet and her mobile phone, the Tribune reported.

“I am a prisoner and this is a hell. For years, I have not gone out from my room. I want to go back to my family in India,” she said.

Shabnam’s sister-in-law, who lives in the same five-storey house in Landhi area of Karachi, said, “Shabnam observes purdah. She cannot meet anyone.” The woman, however, said she was being forced to remain indoors.

“I don’t know why my husband did this to me, why he fooled me. What was my fault? My daughters are not allowed to go to school. We are beaten with sticks and hurled abuses. Our life is very suffocating,” she said.

For years, Shabnam was forced to hide her husband’s cruelty from her family as she could only speak to them in front of him.

A few months ago, Shabnam managed to get through to her family independently by using Skype.

Speaking from Ahmedabad, Shabnam’s brother Noel Hodges said he was shocked when he saw her after all these years. “She weighs

100 kg now. She keeps crying all the time. We are very worried for her,” he said. Shabnam’s family has made frantic efforts for her release.

Letters have been written to the Indian Home Secretary, the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad and Pakistani human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir.

In Karachi, Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said his organisation had received letters about Shabnam and was seeking legal help.

After police questioned Khan about his wife, he filed a petition in Sindh High Court last month and accused police of harassing him.

“We observe strict purdah in our family, which is why Shabnam is not allowed to go out,” said Khan, who owns an electronics shop.

He claimed that he had done a “great deed” by converting a non-Muslim to Islam.

“I am a heart patient. When I become alright, I will take her to India but for now she has to take care of me,” he said. Shabnam claimed her husband’s promises of taking her back to India will be broken again.

“I regret marrying him, and the day I come out, I will file a case against him and make him suffer the same way,” she said.

Calcutta High Court proposes equal facilities for all prisoners #goodnews #prisoner


HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, August 28, 2012

Image
There is good news for the thousands of prisoners, under trials or convicts, in Bengal. In its landmark verdict the Calcutta High Court on August 8 held that every prisoner, irrespective of class, colour, creed and race, was also entitled to special amenities provided for the political prisoners under the West Bengal Correction Services Act 1992. In his 30-page verdict, justice KS Ahluwalia held that what the Act proposes to give to the political prisoners are basic amenities, which are necessary for dignified human living, to which all prisoners ought to be entitled.

“Therefore, all these amenities except a separate kitchen should be provided to all prisoners. A common kitchen having proper hygiene and infrastructure run by the prisoners should be available to all the prisoners, irrespective of any class to which a prisoner belongs. For distribution of food, the State cannot create classes. However, it may provide food considering the health of an inmate.

A weak or sick may require healthier or special diet. Common reading room having newspapers, magazines and other books at fixed hours should be available to all prisoners,” the judge suggested.

“A slight improvement in the living conditions in prisons will erode the classification. Therefore, in changing times, the state is called upon to look into the provisions of the Act with a new humanistic approach and explore the feasibility that the prisons guided by reformative and restorative policy provide basic amenities to all and there remains no need to assign nomenclature to the prisoners for providing better facilities to one class ousting the other,” the judge said.

Holding the classification of prisoners and providing different amenities, prima facie, unconstitutional, the judge said: “To grade prisoners according to their status is alien to the constitution. There can be no distinction of a rich or poor prisoner and political prisoner or other prisoner while distributing basic amenities, which are necessary for a dignified human life.

The state, if it so desires, may consider to dispense with the classification of the prisoners and strive to make prisons the model jails as an example for other states to follow,” the judge said.

The judge ended his verdict by quoting the words of Nelson Mandela, who fought relentlessly against apartheid and remained confined for 27 years, for guiding the vision of everyone for betterment of jails: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones”.

Purulia armsdrop convict and British national, Peter Bleach, who spent eight years in a city jail, welcomed the verdict. “This ruling will have far reaching effects. It will assist in the extradition of wanted foreigners to India because it will reassure foreign courts that Indian courts will indeed intervene and ensure justice and fair treatment in jail,” Bleach told HT from London.

The ruling came on a batch of petitions filed by advocate Subhasish Roy on behalf of seven alleged Maoists, including Chhatradhar Mahato, who have also been charged with waging of war against the state, seeking the status of political prisoner.

Taliban behead 17 caught dancing to music at party #intolerance


 

Taliban militants beheaded 15 men and two women for holding a late night party with music and dancing, according to Afghan officials.

Taliban militants pictured in Musa Qala in 2007.  Photo: AFP/GETTY
Ben Farmer

By , Kabul

3:20PM BST 27 Aug 2012

The insurgents executed the guests, who included two women, after attacking the party in northern Helmand late on Sunday because they considered it immoral.

Hamid Karzai ordered a full investigation into the “mass killing”. “This attack shows that there are irresponsible members among the Taliban,” the Afghan president said in a statement.

The attack occurred in an area of Musa Qala district which is almost totally under Taliban control and Afghan officials said an investigation into the deaths was being hampered because they could not reach the area.

Nematullah Khan, governor of Musa Qala, said the Taliban had tried to stop the party. “They were having a music party and the Taliban came and killed them and cut off their heads,” he said.

Shooting was heard at the scene, he said, and it was unclear if they had been shot dead first.

Parties and social occasions in Afghanistan are usually strictly segregated and there is no mixing of men and women unless they are related.

An elder from the area confirmed a group of young men had held an “immoral” party at a house and had been attacked and killed.

Juma Khan said: “Unfortunately the young men do this sometimes. They had a party with music and dancing and they were behaving badly with the women.”

However he said the killing may have been driven by a local feud, with enemies of the guests either tipping off the Taliban, or pretending to act with their authority.

A statement from the provincial governor’s office later claimed the massacre was caused by two Taliban commanders fighting over the women, but did not explain how so many civilians came to be beheaded.

Hours after the massacre, an Afghan army checkpoint was stormed elsewhere in the province and 10 soldiers killed.

A spokesman for the governor said the post in Washer district was believed to have been betrayed by insiders and five soldiers who were missing after the attack were being investigated.

Meanwhile two American soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan comrade after an argument during a joint patrol.

Monday’s shooting in the eastern province of Laghman brought the Nato coalition death toll from so-called green on blue killings to 42 this year, and 12 in August alone.

American soldiers returned fire and shot dead the Afghan soldier.

Risk of water wars rises with scarcity #mustread


 
 
Almost half of humanity will face water scarcity by 2030 and strategists from Israel to Central Asia prepare for strife.
Chris Arsenault Last Modified: 26 Aug 2012 09:47
 
 

Click on the water conflict map to see some of Al Jazeera’s coverage of an issue which could define 21st century strife

The author Mark Twain once remarked that “whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over” and a series of reports from intelligence agencies and research groups indicate the prospect of a water war is becoming increasingly likely. 

In March, a report from the office of the US Director of National Intelligence said the risk of conflict would grow as water demand is set to outstrip sustainable current supplies by 40 per cent by 2030.

“These threats are real and they do raise serious national security concerns,” Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said after the report’s release.

Internationally, 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.

Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources. 

Dangerous warnings

Governments and military planners around the world are aware of the impending problem; with the US senate issuing reports with names like Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Depth

Environmental conflicts

  Crowded planet
  Climate SOS
  Anatomy of a Drought
  Deep trouble
  Food riots predicted over US crop failure

With rapid population growth, and increased industrial demand, water withdrawls have tripled over the last 50 years, according to UN figures.

“Water scarcity is an issue exacerbated by demographic pressures, climate change and pollution,” said Ignacio Saiz, director of Centre for Economic and Social Rights, a social justice group. “The world’s water supplies should guarantee every member of the population to cover their personal and domestic needs.”

“Fundamentally, these are issues of poverty and inequality, man-made problems,” he told Al Jazeera.

Of all the water on earth, 97 per cent is salt water and the remaining three per cent is fresh, with less than one per cent of the planet’s drinkable water readily accessible for direct human uses. Scarcity is defined as each person in an area having access to less than 1,000 cubic meters of water a year.

The areas where water scarcity is the biggest problem are some of the same places where political conflicts are rife, leading to potentially explosive situations.

Some experts believe the only documented case of a “water war” happened about 4,500 years ago, when the city-states of Lagash and Umma went to war in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.

But Adel Darwish, a journalist and co-author of Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East, says modern history has already seen at least two water wars.

“I have [former Israeli prime minister] Ariel Sharon speaking on record saying the reason for going to war [against Arab armies] in 1967 was for water,” Darwish told Al Jazeera.

Some analysts believe Israel continues to occupy the Golan heights, seized from Syria in 1967, due to issues of water control, while others think the occupation is about maintaining high ground in case of future conflicts.

Senegal and Mauritania also fought a war starting in 1989 over grazing rights on the River Senegal. And Syria and Iraq have fought minor skirmishes over the Euphrates River.

Middle East hit hard

UN studies project that 30 nations will be water scarce in 2025, up from 20 in 1990. Eighteen of them are in the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Israel, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. 

“Water too often is treated as a commodity, as an instrument with which one population group can suppress another”

-Ignacio Saiz, Centre for Economic and Social Rights 

Darwish bets that a battle between south and north Yemen will probably be the scene of the next water conflict, with other countries in the region following suit if the situation is not improved.

Water shortages could cost the unstable country 750,000 jobs, slashing incomes in the poorest Arab country by as much as 25 per cent over the next decade, according to a report from the consulting firm McKinsey and Company produced for the Yemeni government in 2010.

Commentators frequently blame Yemen’s problems on tribal differences, but environmental scarcity may be underpinning secessionist struggles in the country’s south and some general communal violence.

“My experience in the first gulf war [when Iraq invaded Kuwait] is that natural resources are always at the heart of tribal conflicts,” Darwish told Al Jazeera. 

The Nile is another potential flash point. In 1989, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak threatened to send demolition squads to a dam project in Ethiopia.

“The Egyptian army still has jungle warfare brigades, even though they have no jungle,” Darwish said. 

On the Nile, cooperation would benefit all countries involved, as they could jointly construct dams and lower the amount of water lost to evaporation, says Anton Earle, director of the Stockholm International Water Institute think-tank.

“If you had an agreement between the parties, there would be more water in the system,” he told Al Jazeera. The likelihood of outright war is low, he says,  but there is still “a lot of conflict” which “prevents joint infrastructure projects from going ahead”.

Differing views

Water scarcity, and potential conflicts arising from it, is linked to larger issues of population growthincreasing food prices and global warming.

There are two general views about how these problems could unfold. The first dates back to the work of Thomas Malthus, an eighteenth century British clergyman and author who believed that: “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.”

In other words, more people and scant resources will invariably lead to discord and violence.

View our special coverage of the population milestone

Recent scholars, including Thomas Homer-Dixon, have analysed various case studies on environmental degradation to conclude that there is not a direct link between scarcity and violence. Instead, he believes inequality, social inclusion and other factors determine the nature and ferocity of strife.

“Unequal power relations within states and conflicts between ethnic groups and social classes will be the greatest source of social tensions rising from deprivation,” said Ignacio Saiz from the social justice group. “Water too often is treated as a commodity, as an instrument with which one population group can suppress another.”

Bolivia, South Africa, India, Botswana, Mexico and even parts of the US have seen vigorous water related protests, says Maude Barlow, author of 16 books and a former senior adviser to the UN on water issues.

“The fight over water privatisation in Cochobamba, Bolivia did turn into a bit of a water war and the army was called in,” Barlow told Al Jazeera. “In Botswana, the government smashed bore holes as part of a terrible move to remove [indigenous bushmen] from the Kalahari desert. Mexico City has been forcibly taking water from the countryside, confiscating water sources from other areas and building fotresses around it, like it’s a gold mine. In India, Coke will get contracts and then build fortresses around the water sources,” taking drinking and irrigation water away from local people. “In Detroit 45,000, officially, have already had their water cut off.”

Human rights

Strife over water, like conflicts more generally, will increasingly happen within states, rather than between them, Barlow says, with large scale agribusiness, mining and energy production taking control over resources at the expense of other users.

The IPPC, the UN panel which analyses climate science, concluded that: “Water and its availability and quality will be the main pressures on and issues for, societies and the environment under climate change.”

Dealing with these pressures will require improved technologies, political will and new ideas about how humans view their relationship with the substance that sustains life.

“People have the right to expect access to a basic life resource like water by virtue of being human, regardless of the social situation they are born into,” Saiz said. “Alongside the worrying development of water scarcity, I am hopeful that we will see increasing struggles to see access to water as a right, and not a priviledge.”

You can follow Chris Arsenault on twitter @AJEchris

Togo women call sex strike against President Gnassingbe #protest


 

Opposition leader Isabelle Ameganvi (25 August 2012)Isabelle Ameganvi said holding the strike would ensure women’s voices would be heard
 

Women in Togo have been urged to abstain from sex for a week from Monday to push their demand for reform.

The ban has been called by opposition coalition Let’s Save Togo, made up of nine civil society groups and seven opposition parties and movements.

Opposition leader Isabelle Ameganvi said that sex could be a “weapon of the battle” to achieve political change.

The coalition wants President Faure Gnassingbe, whose family has held power for decades, to stand down.

“We have many means to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo,” Ms Ameganvi, leader of the women’s wing of the coalition, told the BBC.

She said she had been inspired by a similar strike by Liberian women in 2003, who used a sex strike to campaign for peace.

“If men refuse to hear our cries we will hold another demonstration that will be more powerful than a sex strike,” she added.

‘Like fasting’

Togo has been run by the same family for more than four decades.

President Faure Gnassingbe took power in 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years. The president was re-elected in 2010.

The strike was announced at a rally on Saturday in Lome, attended by thousands of people.

Map

The rally was held to protest against recent electoral reforms, which demonstrators say will make it easier for Mr Gnassingbe’s party to win re-election in the parliamentary polls set for October.

Activists say that the strike will motivate men who are not involved in the political movement to pursue its goals, which include an end to the system allowing unlimited presidential terms.

Earlier this month, two anti-Gnassingbe protests were dispersed by police using tear gas and more than 100 people were arrested.

The sex strike was welcomed as a political tool by some women in Lome.

“It’s a good thing for us women to observe this sex strike as long as our children are in jail now. I believe that by observing this, we will get them released,” Abla Tamekloe told the Associated Press.