Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Re-Colonization of Africa. Berlin, 1884 and Paris, 2011

Written by Stef Terblanche 

Last week the world was treated to the spectacle of the Paris Conference where one Western leader after the other – together with a few token Arab dictators – patted themselves on the back for "liberating" Libya from the rule of Muammar Gaddafi. It quickly brought to mind the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 at which Africa was sliced up among its European colonisers.

Quite rightly so, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma let it be known - as any self-respecting African should have done - that he would have nothing to do with this cynical circus initiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, ostensibly to decide Libya's if Libyans and Africans themselves should not be doing that.

In the end there was a conspicuous absence of influential African leaders, with a number of African countries and the African Union (AU) having refused to recognise the Nato-installed National Transitional Council (NTC) as the new government of Libya. Libya's neighbour, Algeria, was there, but only as an observer and perhaps only because its shared border with Libya gave it a pressing reason.

Russia and China – both of which opposed the Nato-led military campaign to oust Gaddafi - attended as observers, with Russia having recognised the NTC only days earlier. However, both these countries have major vested interests in Libya, with China having enormous interests further afield in Africa, such as Angola now being its biggest supplier of oil.

For many Sarkozy and Cameron's 2011-style "scramble for Africa" conference also brought to mind erstwhile ANC leader Chief Albert Luthuli's acceptance speech in Norway in 1960 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and said: "Our continent has been carved up by the great powers. Alien governments have been forced upon the African people by military conquest and by economic domination".

As Vusi Gumede of the University of Johannesburg so eloquently reminded us in an opinion piece in the Sunday Independent this weekend: "A case in point 50 years later is the painful issue of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. There are other cases such as Côte d'Ivoire, which is a ticking time-bomb."

To these Gumede could have added the growing "economic domination" of many African countries by China, or the mess the United States left behind after its attempted "military conquest" of Somalia.

The latter country first became a geopolitical pawn in the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union in their quest to control the Horn of Africa. The US maintained good relations with the murderous regime of Siad Barre until he was ousted, the country disintegrated into lawless anarchy and the US fled tail-between-its-legs after its "Black Hawk down" tragedy at the hands of marauding war lords.

Today the US has indirectly returned to Somalia, supporting one faction in the conflict there against the Islamist movement al-Shabaab, which is blamed for the deepening crisis. But this time the US military is not openly involved.

Instead, according to a number of respected media sources, Washington has sent Richard Rouget, a French-born mercenary to Magadishu to head a 40-man team of "mentors" who are training a "peace-keeping" force in Somalia. Rouget works for a private Washington-based security company and has a criminal record and suspected ties to several African coups and a murder. He also once was the right-hand man of erstwhile mercenary supremo Bob Denard.

Former British, French and, sadly yes, South African soldiers are among those working with him. The US State Department is funding Rouget's company, yet everybody knows to what destructive levels these types of clandestine US operations usually develop.

African countries also refused to allow the US to base its military Africa Command – one of 10 US Armed Forces regional commands around the world – on African soil. Instead, it was forced to base the command in Germany "until 2012" when it will review the situation.

General William E. Ward, [former] commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) , has recently paid several visits to Botswana as part of sharply increased military cooperation between the two countries. It was that and the rumour that the US was to set up a base in Botswana which led South Africa's ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema to make his infamous statement regarding his organisation's support for regime change in Botswana, a statement that now has him in trouble with South Africa's ruling party.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself Concerned Africans, of which Vusi Gumede is a member, has authored an open letter to all the peoples of Africa and the world, drafting it within the context of the United Nations having failed the world, and particularly Africa, through taking inappropriate decisions.

"As concerned Africans we have no choice but to stand up and reassert our right and duty to determine our destiny in Libya and everywhere else on our continent," writes Gumede. He points out the ingenuous manner in which Nato interpreted and implemented the UN Security Council resolution to impose a "no-fly zone" over Libya, a decision into which South Africa had also naively been suckered into supporting.

Along with South Africa, many African countries and the other BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] countries all condemned France and Britain's arrogant move to use only military means instead of the proclaimed "use of all means" to protect Libyan civilians, and their further move to shift the campaign from protecting civilians to implementing regime change at all costs in Libya. In the end many, many civilians were killed – not protected – by Nato's relentless bombing campaign, with Libya's vast oil resources of course being the ultimate prize.

Ironically it started at the United Nations in which South Africa's greatest living leader, Nelson Mandela, had such faith when international deliberations were under way as to whether or not the US and Britain should invade Iraq to rid it of its alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction...weapons it never had.

At the time Mandela said: "There is one compromise and one only, and that is the United Nations. If the United States and Britain go to the United Nations and the United Nations says we have concrete evidence of the existence of these weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we feel that we must do something about it, we would all support it."

Britain and the US eventually did as they pleased anyhow – they invaded on the basis of their lie and the pretext that they would save millions of lives by doing so. On a similar pretext of humanitarian aid and saving lives, Britain and France abused the UN Security Council resolution to invade Libya and effect regime change.

Several commendable initiatives by the African Union in which South Africa played a leading role and which sought a negotiated settlement in Libya that would avoid a bloodbath, were simply ignored by Britain, France and their Nato allies. Africa was not allowed the space to bring about an African solution to an African problem.

"Therefore Africa and the developing world are right to be appalled, as Libyans are Africans and are part of the developing world that has suffered a lot under imperialism and colonialism. Libyans have paid, and will continue to pay, with their lives for the Western agenda of regime change," writes Gumede.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Ireland closure of Vatican embassy angers Catholic church leaders

The leader of Ireland's Catholics has criticised the republic's government for closing its embassy to Vatican City.

Cardinal Sean Brady expressed his "profound disappointment" over the move, which comes after diplomatic clashes this year between the Fine Gael-Labour coalition and the Holy See over the Vatican's handling of the clerical child sex abuse scandals in Ireland.

"This decision seems to show little regard for the important role played by the Holy See in international relations and of the historic ties between the Irish people and the Holy See over many centuries," the cardinal said on Friday.

The Irish foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, said the decision followed a review of overseas missions which gave "particular attention to the economic return from bilateral missions".

Gilmore said the government had also decided to close Ireland's embassies to Iran as well as its representative office in Timor-Leste He said the coalition was obliged to implement cuts to meet targets set out in the EU/IMF rescue programme for the Irish economy.

The foreign minister pointed out that the closure of the three embassies would save about €1.25m (£1.1m) a year. He said that while the embassy to the Holy See was one of Ireland's oldest missions, it yielded no economic return, and that Ireland's interests could be sufficiently represented by a non-resident ambassador. The administration will be seeking the agreement of the Holy See to the appointment of a senior diplomat to this position, he added.

Gilmore stressed that the closure of the embassy in the Holy See was not related to the recalling of the Papal Nuncio from Ireland this year. He added that the government would not be selling Villa Spada, the Irish embassy in the Vatican. Instead, staff working in the embassy to Italy in Rome, which is a rented premises, will be transferred to Villa Spada.

The Vatican also said every state was "free to decide, on the basis of its possibilities and its interests, whether to have an ambassador to the Holy See resident in Rome or in another country. What is important is diplomatic relations between the Holy See and states, and these are not in question with regard to Ireland."

The prestigious Villa Spada is the most valuable property owned by the diplomatic service. The Vatican was among the first states with which the newly independent Irish Free State established full diplomatic relations in the 1920s.

The Story of the Indian Diaspora in Malaysia and Singapore

Life as a non-muslim woman in Islamic countries



Christian Girls Kidnapped & Forcibly Married in the Punjab

The forced marriages of religious minority women must be annulled and the victims returned to their families and communities
The forced conversion to Islam of women from religious minority groups through rape and abduction has reached an alarming stage which challenges interfaith harmony due to the total collapse of the rule of law and biased attitude of the judicial officers. It appears today that no one, from the judiciary to the police and even the government has the courage to stand up to the threats from Muslim fundamentalist groups. The situation is worse with the police who always side with the Islamic groups and treat minority groups as lowly life forms.
The dark side of the forced conversion to Islam is not restricted only to the religious Muslim groups but also involves the criminal elements who are engage in rape and abduction and then justify their heinous crimes by forcing the victims to convert to Islam. The Muslim fundamentalists are happy to offer these criminals shelter and use the excuse that they are providing a great service to their sacred cause of increasing the population of Muslims.
In a recent case of rape and forced conversion to Islam which occurred in the month of August, the owner of a kiln factory, Muhammad Amin alias Sony, forcibly entered the house of one of his employees, a 13-year-old Christian girl and raped her at gunpoint. Sony then forced the victim to place her fingerprints on a set of marriage papers to provide himself with legal protection if he was to be accused of rape.  Anwar Masih, the father of the victim and a resident of Harbans Pura, Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, was working in Sony’s factory for daily wages with his wife and daughter. During August, because of heavy rains the kiln was closed and the victim’s parents went out in search of work leaving their daughter alone in the house.
Immediately following the incident the parents filed a case with the Police. However, to date, the police have not taken action against the accused person as he is a powerful man. Also, he sought the help of a Muslim religious group who has threatened the police that if any case is filed against the rapist the houses of the Christian community will be burned.
On October 22, after many delayed proceedings, the Session Court of Lahore ordered the Harbans Pura police to file the case which should have been done immediately. However, once again the police no action has been taken and the police are avoiding their sworn responsibilities.
In Sony’s factory there are around 70 employees most of whom are Christians. One lady worker who was widowed two years ago has become pregnant and Sony has been forcing her to convert to Islam but the Christian community is trying to prevent it. They have accused Sony of being responsible for the pregnancy and have reported the matter to the police who once again refuse to file a case against him. Instead the police have threatened the Christians with dire consequences should they proceed. This lack of action by the police is due to threats by a Muslim group that the police themselves will suffer dire consequences should they side with the Christians.
There have been many cases reported by the Christian rights groups concerning rape and forced conversion. The following cases which all involve Christian women are but a few:
Sidra Bibi, (14) in the district of Sheikhupura in Punjab, is the daughter of a worker in the cotton industry. A Muslim from the village had his eye on her and began to molest her, and eventually abducted and raped her before threatening her with death. Physically and psychologically abused, the girl became pregnant. She managed to escape from her tormentor and is now back, in a state of exhaustion, with her family. The police have refused to accept her complaint because of the involvement of a Muslim religious group and now the CLAAS lawyers are handling the case.
Tina Barkat, (28), was approached by a Muslim friend who, after being friends with her for several months, asked her to convert to Islam. His family began to read her verses from the Quran, kidnapped and threatened her, and then gave her in marriage to a Muslim family member. Her lawyers have a current action to dissolve the marriage.
The same fate has befallen Samina Ayub, (17), who lives with her family near Lahore. Kidnapped by a Muslim, she was forcibly converted to Islam, and renamed Fatima Bibi and was forced to marry in the Muslim rite. Her family reported the abduction but the police have not prosecuted those responsible. The case remains unsolved and the family calls for the mobilisation of civil society to save Samina.
Shazia Bibi, (19) from Gujranwala, worked as a maid in the house of a Muslim woman, the owner of a grocery store. A Muslim boy from the shop fell in love with Shazia and in agreement with the owner, held a conversion and forced her into marriage. The plan was successful but now, thanks to Shazia’s family the case has ended up in court.
Uzma Bibi, (15), from Gulberg, and Saira Bibi, (20), a nurse from Lahore, were taken by force by Muslim neighbours, converted to Islam and then forced to marry in the Islamic rite. The families of the girls have reclaimed their daughters and the cases are currently before the High Court of Lahore, represented by lawyers provided by CLAAS. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/4/2011)
Two Christian sisters Rubecca Masih and Saima Masih from Jhung, were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. Both sisters were on their way home when by Muhammad Waseem and his five friends abducted them in and sped off in a vehicle. Muhammad Waseem married Saima Masih the day after her kidnapping.
Jhang is an area where the majority of Muslims are radical. They believe that if a woman marries a Muslim, she automatically embraces the faith of her husband as a direct consequence.
Farah Hatim (24), of Rahim Yar Khan inSouthern Punjab was abducted on May 8, 2011 by Zeeshan Ilyas and his brothers Imran and Gulfam. After this, she was forced to convert to Islam and marry Zeeshan. Human rights organizations and the Catholic Church have condemned the act and demanded action against the violation of her human rights.
The Justice and Peace Commission are leading the case which they took to the Session Court under the FIR, Case No. 150/11US/ 365-B CR.PC. The police have since been threatening the family because of the religious angle. The Session Judge, Khawaja Mir, realised the seriousness of the case and had it transferred to the High Court (the High Court being a higher authority), for hearing due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Once the appeal was taken to the High Court it was presented by the Justice and Peace Commission and APMA (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance). Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman from the High Court Bahawalpur bench instructed the District Police Officer based in Rahim Yar Khan, and the families involved in the case, to appear.
The Judge questioned Farah Hatim as to whether she was kidnapped or went with Zeeshan by her own free will. After a few moments of silence, she replied, “I went with my own will”. After a few more questions, the judge announced that Farah would be living with her new family. The young woman broke into tears as the court announced the decision.
It is unclear if the High Court took note of other cases involving women who have been kidnapped or if the High Court took into account the consideration of fear.
Farah Hatim was allowed a few moments to meet with her family. Her brother said, “I am shocked at what Farah said in the court, she was under threat, now all hopes are gone for her return. Why us? Why did we have to face this? Only because we are Christians (that we are treated like this).”
According to the Justice and Peace Commission, “Farah became a victim of the racket that is involved in prostitution. Zeehan IIyas had tried to force her into prostitution while she was a student at the Sheikh Zaid Medical College in Rahim Yar Khan, but she refused. Then Zeehan IIyas took his revenge. The current decision by Farah is possibly because she is pregnant and fears that her family will be killed if she tries to go back. Therefore, even if she had taken a brave stance of returning, she wouldn’t have been accepted by society as she was kidnapped and raped. The fear of rejection is also a possible reason?”
The Justice and Peace Commission commented that ”thousands of girls from minorities are kidnapped and forced into marriages (against their will)”. The Justice and Peace Commission also stated that ”we are fighting against the cancer of kidnapping and forced marriages”.
Therefore, it is more than evident that the legal system and other important institutions are failing the religious minorities in Pakistanand women can become victims at any time.
Ironically these realities are a continuous issue for Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities and generally it is thought that the purpose behind this action by Islamic fundamentalists is to make Pakistan pure.  The religious minorities reside in fear because legal institutions and other institutions are either biased or live in fear of the militant religious groups themselves.
Approximately 90 percent of the Christians and Hindus are the poorest of the poor and live in slum areas. They are forced to do the jobs of scavengers, sweepers, garbage collectors and other types of the lowest menial work. Their access to education is limited.
This is a basic issue of the rule of law in that the police take it upon themselves to act as judge and jury when it comes to a conflict between Islam and the religious minorities. They decide which FIRs to accept and even then when they deign to record the complaints they seldom make any investigations into the cases unless ordered to do so by a court. And even then, they delay the issue for as long as possible. An FIR is the first step in the registration of a complaint and every police station has the non-transferable duty to record them. It is very simply not their choice to decide which FIR to file. No action can be taken into a complaint until the FIR has been registered and therefore this alone is ample evidence that the police collude with the perpetrators.
Similarly, the lower judiciary fails in their responsibilities. In the vast majority of cases the judicial officers, including magistrates and judges question the traumatised victim in open court in full view of her family members, the alleged perpetrators and complete strangers. They do not considered the sensitivity of the feelings of the victim and pay no attention to the sanctity of the women, regardless of their religion.
All of this is a direct result of the government’s appeasement policy towards the Muslim fundamentalist groups. Whether out of fear of a religious uprising that might dethrone the existing government or genuine feelings of the righteousness of what they are doing, is not known. What is known is that if the government does not take a firm stand against religious extremism they can hardly expect the judiciary and the police to do so. Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan clear states that protection must be provided to all citizens regardless of their religion.

Young Girls end up as sex slaves for Saudis

Girl Children between five and 12 years old are sold to wealthy men in Saudi Arabia, where they are held as sex slaves. When they reach puberty, many are thrown into the street and they end quickly as prostitute.

Published: 09.mai. 2011
Aftenposten Norway

Save the Children asks Norwegian and Swedish ministers take up the matter with their Saudi counterparts, and ask private companies to take up the exploitation of children when they hit their business.

- I am not surprised by the information about the existence of such traffic to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, particularly in light of that marriage with children is widespread and accepted, said Sannah Johnson, Regional Director Middle East for the Swedish Save the Children.

A well-organized network of traffickers supplying the Arab market with child brides from the North African country of Mauritania, says U.S. diplomats. Sex slaves taken in their thousands from Yemen, in addition to that there is an extensive sex industry in Yemen offering sex with minors to rich men from the Gulf States, the WikiLeaks documents that Aftenposten and Bergens Tidende has access to.
7. April 2009

An engaged woman meets an American diplomat in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott. The day after writing a diplomat report back to Washington. To start it:

"There is an increase in reports of trafficking in child brides to Saudi Arabia. The girls, usually between five and 12 years old, married off to wealthy Saudi men in exchange for the hefty price tags on the brides. Once they arrive in Saudi Arabia, they are their husbands sex slaves. "

The engaged woman named Aminetou Mint El Moctar. Completely on his own, she has started a campaign to get the authorities in Mauritania to take the problem seriously. She will not even reply to their letter and ask why the United States take up the issue internationally. The U.S. embassy is she finally someone who listens.
Large sums

Aminetou Mint El Moctar says that traffickers seek out poor families to get them to marry off their daughters to wealthy Saudis. The younger girls are, the higher the price. A child bride may be paid with 5 - 6 million in the local currency ouguiya, equivalent to around 120 000. Local travel agencies, which in reality is a network of human traffickers, organized traffic. The local agents receive a bonus paid by the girls' future husbands. The exact amount depends on the girls' age and beauty.

The embassy memo states that "barnebrudene, as soon as they arrive in Saudi Arabia, are their husbands sex slaves." Aminetou explained that the girls, as they reach puberty or become pregnant, no longer of interest to their husbands. "They rolled on the street, and since they do not have a network, they have no choice but to become prostitute."
Locked up

Officials from the U.S. embassy tells of a girl for three years was locked in a room where she met someone else than her Saudi husband and his maid. They also refer to an article in the Radio France International with a diploma from seven-year-old Mulheri who were exposed to the traffickers and sold to Saudi Arabia.

At the same time victims of trafficking in danger of being prosecuted in Saudi Arabia. Mint El Moctar told diplomats that around 30 Mauritanian women are sentenced to imprisonment in Saudi Arabia for the prostitute, even if they are victims of trafficking.

Mauritania has long refused to recognize the problem. Faced with U.S. diplomats have a representative of the Mauritanian Ministry of Justice claimed that "the trafficking of Mauritanian women do not exist, and that trafficking to Saudi Arabia is not possible because the laws require that a woman can only travel accompanied by male family members."
Death threats

According to the embassy note has Aminetou Mint El Moctar told that she has "received death threats and she is called" liar, a mad woman and a traitor that destroys Mauritanian reputation. "

Aminetou Mint El Moctar was last year honored by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently for his work against human trafficking and to address the problem of child brides on the agenda of the African country.

U.S. publishes reports on human trafficking in all countries of the world. In Saudi Arabia it says in the latest report from 2010:

"Many Saudis, including some representatives of the government continues to deny that some types of human trafficking takes place, particularly in cases involving sexual exploitation."
Closed Country

Sanna Johnson, Swedish Save the Children leads the organization's activities in the Middle East from his office in Beirut. She says that independent organizations do not release to Saudi Arabia and that the country is very closed.

- We know the effect of child laborers and domestic workers are virtually no rights in the country. They have no rights. The kingdom has given support to the professionals employed in hospitals where women who have been abused, be received. This means that the government acknowledges that the problem exists, says Johnson.

- There are things that are not acceptable, as the marriage of minors. It must be highlighted. I think the governments of Norway and Sweden should take it up with their Saudi counterparts, when the opportunity presents itself. I also think private companies should take it up with their business partners in the country, says Johnson.

- The large companies, such as in the arms industry, may have a very big impact, she says.
Married for a while

Johnson also points to the widespread practice of so-called temporary marriage in the Arab countries. In order to circumvent the prohibition against sex outside of marriage, included men in these countries, temporary marriages with girls and young women from many countries.

There is also some evidence that the practice of child brides is about to become a controversial issue in Saudi Arabia's semi-public spaces. Many of the population is opposed to the practice. A few examples are discussed in the national media:

    A local judge in the town of Nejd refused in 2008 to overturn a marriage between an eight-year-old girl and her man in his fifties. The girl's father sold her to settle its debt to the man. A higher court granted a divorce in April 2009.

    The government-affiliated Commission on Human Rights in Saudi Arabia managed to get annulled a marriage between a 10 year old girl and a 60-year-old man.

    A court in Bisha issued in October 2008, the divorce document to end a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 70 year old man.

    In January 2009, won an 11-year-old girl presented with a case to be annulled a marriage with a 75-year-old man held the girl's 70 year old father.

Sex tourism

In Saudi Arabia's neighbors Yemen is the problem of sex tourism, human interest and child brides formidable. It attracted international attention when 12 year old Fawzia Abdullah Yousef died in childbirth 11 September, 2009. She was married to a 24-year-old, only 11 years old.
According to a note from the Embassy of Yemen's capital Sanaa, about 25 percent of all girls in the country are married before they reach age 15. Yemeni authorities have, to the United States, expressed frustration over how little Saudi Arabia is doing to combat human trafficking from Yemen to Saudi Arabia.

According to an embassy note, thousands of children each year in Saudi Arabia, "where they face abuse and brutal living conditions."

Local human rights groups said it was long common for Saudi Arabia detained minors, and minors must also have been beheaded. Since 2008, Saudi Arabia, however, returned several minors to Yemen, instead of taking them into custody.

That the rich tourists from the Gulf states travel to Yemen to buy sex, is a public secret in Yemen. Minors prostitute working out of many of the hotels in the country.

The embassy memo states that "Saudi men travel to Yemen to recruit underage prostitute, sometimes in the form of temporary marriage." One source says he knows of "at least three cases where Saudi men married Yemeni girls, only to force them into prostitution in Saudi Arabia."

Saudi arabia and the international sex slave trade