Rana Husseini was barely four months into her new job as a crime reporter for the country's only English-language daily, The Jordan Times, when she came across a shocking incident involving the death of a 16-year-old girl at the hands of her 31-year-old brother.Here are previous threads on Rana.
"It was May 1994, and I was at the beginning of my career," says Ms. Husseini, speaking of the story that propelled her to take an active interest in the issue. The young woman was killed by one brother because she had been raped by another brother.
Unable to understand the logic behind such an attack, and unwilling to ignore the gravity of the issue, Husseini began a relentless public-awareness campaign, writing about the subject, attending court proceedings, and analyzing the manner in which women were treated by the judicial system.
"I discovered these killers were getting away with very lenient sentences," says Husseini, whose work has earned her several human rights awards.
"And then I also discovered that women who survived these attacks were being put in prison [at the women's correctional facility in Amman] for their own protection. I was outraged."
Husseini sees the abolition of Article 98 of the Jordanian Penal Code as the key to eradicating honor killings, which, according to official figures, claim at least 25 lives each year. That is one of the highest per capita rates in the world, in this country of 4.8 million.
"Article 98, which allows for a reduction in penalty if a man kills in a fit of fury, is used in all honor-crime cases," says Husseini, a native Jordanian who earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States at Oklahoma City University.
"And because of its elasticity, killers are still ... only getting sentences from three months to two years. But we have to be patient, and I'm encouraged by the social awareness that now exists in Jordan, compared to 10 years ago."
Women challenge 'honor' killings
US warplanes relentlessly pound Istanbul and Ankara, killing hundreds, while the rest of the country is in flames: Washington has just launched operation Metal Storm against its former ally, Turkey.
The futuristic novel by two young Turkish writers has sold more than 100,000 copies since it came out in December - a huge run in a country where most books get printings of a few thousand at best.
ONE OF MY favourite cinematic moments is the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when Reg, aka John Cleese, the leader of the People’s Front of Judea, is trying to whip up anti-Roman sentiment among his team of slightly hesitant commandos.
“What have the Romans ever done for us?" he asks.
“Well, there’s the aqueduct," somebody says, thoughtfully. “The sanitation," says another. “Public order," offers a third. Reg reluctantly acknowledges that there may have been a couple of benefits. But then steadily, and with increasing enthusiasm, his men reel off a litany of the good things the Romans have wrought with their occupation of the Holy Land.
By the time they’re finished they’re not so sure about the whole insurgency idea after all and an exasperated Reg tries to rally them: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"
I can’t help but think of that scene as I watch the contortions of the anti-American hordes in Britain, Europe and even in the US itself in response to the remarkable events that are unfolding in the real Middle East today.
Inspired by the example of Morris Dees, the Southern Poverty Law Center activist who used civil litigation to eviscerate the Ku Klux Klan, Darshan-Leitner, along with four Israeli attorneys who donate their time, has sued Iran, Syria, and the European Union for their alleged roles in bankrolling terrorists, and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for their direct roles in attacks.They may not have major donors, but they have major cojones - good for them. Read the whole article here.
"My clients are innocent people who were made to suffer, and this is the only way they have to fight back," says Darshan-Leitner. "There is a basic idea in tort law that the tortfeasor has to pay for the harm he has caused."
Her strategy is global, networked, and multi-pronged. Go after terrorists and their supporters everywhere they operate, working with local lawyers to sue on behalf of their country's victims in their own courts. American lawyers, that is, for American victims in American courts, French for the French, and so on. The American lawyers are working pro bono or on contingency on their own time, and they're all from relatively small firms. Larger firms have lately expressed more interest in participating. Previously, they were concerned about the ability of the clients to pay higher fees, and they worried that taking on terror groups like Hamas would concern large corporate clients who might fear any association that suits could cause them to become targets. Likewise, although lawyers in Britain and Europe have expressed enthusiasm, no one has signed on. Some say they are prohibited from working on contingency and no one has been willing to work pro bono. Darshan-Leitner suspects the real reason is fear for their personal safety.
None of the Law Center's Israeli lawyers, including Darshan-Leitner, accept legal fees, and all maintain private practices to earn a living. Darshan-Leitner, along with her American-born lawyer-husband Avi, travel extensively to raise funds, which tend to come in small amounts. They have no major donors.
As more people lose loved ones to the relentless violence, Iraqis are becoming increasingly angry at insurgents, even staging public demonstrations condemning militants.Actually, as I recall it, they're angry with terrorists and Wahhabis. AP writer Sameer Yaqoub (or his editor) is putting his lies in Iraqis' mouths.
While it is impossible to precisely gauge public opinion, it is clear many Iraqis have grown tired of two years of insecurity, and some are directing their wrath at those behind the bombings and attacks.8 million votes. How many of them were for Al-Zarqawi? This doesn't really sound that hard to guage. I'm so sick of these reporters that are walking clichés spewing nothing but utter mediocrity onto the wire.
"I demand that they be put in the zoo along with the other scavengers, because that is where they belong," said Bassam Yassin, who lost his brother to an insurgent attack in Mosul. He spoke Wednesday after relatives of victims protested outside a police station in that northern city.I'm sure Bassam meant "militants".
Iraq's majority Shiite Arabs and ethnic Kurds have long criticized the largely Sunni Arab insurgency, portraying the militants as terrorists, loyalists of the Saddam Hussein regime and foreign fighters.Surely they meant "No to militancy!"?
But the insurgents are now also being criticized publicly by prominent Sunnis, including opponents of the U.S. presence.
"The real resistance should only target the occupiers, and no normal person should consider dozens of dead people to be some kind of collateral damage while you are trying to kill somebody else," cleric Ahmed Abdul-Ghafur told worshippers Friday at Um al-Qura, the main Sunni mosque in Baghdad. "Everybody should speak out against such inhumane acts."
The growing anger was underlined this week in Hillah, a predominantly Shiite Muslim city south of Baghdad where a suicide car bombing killed 125 people Monday — the deadliest single attack since Saddam's ouster.
It touched a nerve in Hillah. More than 2,000 people chanting "No to terrorism!" demonstrated Tuesday outside the clinic where the bomber drove into a crowd of Iraqi police and army recruits, setting off an explosion that also killed civilians at a nearby market.
On Friday, hostility to the insurgency apparently boiled over into bloodshed in Wihda, 25 miles south of Baghdad. Townsmen attacked militants thought to be planning a raid on the town and killed seven, police Capt. Hamadi al-Zubeidy reported.That's just editorializing. Sameer Yaqoub or his editor put in the "just war" part, because "just war" is a Catholic concept, a relatively recent theological doctrine that's not found in Islam and never mentioned by Iraqis. Just because it's a buzzword of the anti-war left in the US doesn't mean it's a buzzword in Iraq; sheer fabrication on Sameer and/or his editor's part.
Anger against insurgents is being fed, in part, by a government television campaign. Last week, U.S.-financed Al-Iraqiya TV aired a series of reports showing men describing themselves as insurgents calmly talking about how they had beheaded dozens of people, kidnapped others for ransom, and raped women and girls before killing them.
"People are realizing that the captured insurgents are not superheroes. They are timid people who kill for money and they have nothing to do with jihad," said Karim Humadi, head of programming for Al-Iraqiya.
Insurgents have attacked Nineveh TV, Al-Iraqiya's affiliate in Mosul, where most of the purported confessions were taped.
Last week, gunmen kidnapped one of the Mosul station's anchorwomen, shot her four times in the head and dumped her near her home. The victim, Raiedah Mohammed Wageh Wazan, had called the insurgents "terrorists" on air.
The anger over deaths caused by insurgents does not always translate into acceptance of U.S. troops, who are still widely blamed for the chaos in Iraq. And many people support the insurgents, arguing they are fighting a just war to rid the country of U.S.-led troops who invaded in 2003.
"The Iraqi people are brave and won't accept any foreigner on their soil. They will fight the occupation troops until force them to leave Iraq," said Haitham Abdul Razak, who was a captain in Saddam's army, which was disbanded by U.S. authorities.I think the Arab street is speaking. Or at least, the Iraqi and Lebanese streets are.
Although American military deaths in Iraq passed 1,500 this week, they do not approach the toll among Iraqi civilians and their security forces. Bombings and other attacks killed more than 300 Iraqis just in February.
Groups like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq have made no secret that they hope attacks aimed at Iraq's Shiite majority will provoke Shiites into a sectarian war with Sunni Arabs, who make up the core of the insurgency.
They hope such a war will mobilize the Sunni Arab community, thought to comprise 15 percent to 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people but who dominated under Saddam's regime.
Yet the insurgents' tactics are increasingly denounced by prominent Sunnis like Abdul-Ghafur, a cleric with the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, believed to have ties to insurgents.
"This is not the right way to drive the occupation out ... killing Iraqis is not the way to liberation," he told worshippers. "We call upon those who have power over these groups to stop massacring Iraqis."
It is hard to pick up a newspaper these days without reading about Army and Marine Corps recruiting and retention woes. Nonstop deployments and the danger faced by troops in Iraq are making it hard for both services to fill their ranks. The same goes for the National Guard and Reserves. (The Navy and Air Force, which are much less in harm's way, have no such difficulty.)It's an interesting idea.
Just to stay at their present sizes, the Army and Marines are shoveling money into more advertising, extra recruiters and bigger enlistment bonuses. And yet it's clear to everyone (except, that is, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) that the U.S. military is far too small to handle all the missions thrown its way. We need to not only maintain the current ranks but also to expand them in order to recover from a 1990s downsizing in which the Army lost 300,000 soldiers.
Some experts are already starting to wonder whether the war on terrorism might break the all-volunteer military. But because reinstating the draft isn't a serious option (the House defeated a symbolic draft bill last year, 402 to 2), some outside-the-box thinking is needed to fill up the ranks. In this regard, I note that there is a pretty big pool of manpower that's not being tapped: everyone on the planet who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Since 9/11, Bush has expedited the naturalization process for soldiers. But to enlist, the Pentagon requires either proof of citizenship or a green card. Out of an active-duty force of about 1.4 million, only 108,803 are foreign-born (7%) and 30,541 are noncitizens (2%).
This is an anomaly by historical standards: In the 19th century, when the foreign-born population of the United States was much higher, so was the percentage of foreigners serving in the military. During the Civil War, at least 20% of Union soldiers were immigrants, and many of them had just stepped off the boat before donning a blue uniform. There were even entire units, like the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry (the Scandinavian Regiment) and Gen. Louis Blenker's German Division, where English was hardly spoken.
The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come. No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period in return for one of the world's most precious commodities — U.S. citizenship. Open up recruiting stations from Budapest to Bangkok, Cape Town to Cairo, Montreal to Mexico City. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune.
The simplest thing to do would be to sign up foreigners for the regular U.S. military, but it would also make sense to create a unit whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of non-Americans, led by U.S. officers and NCOs.
Call it the Freedom Legion. As its name implies, this unit would be modeled on the French Foreign Legion, except, again, U.S. citizenship would be part of the "pay." And rather than fighting for U.S. security writ small — the way the Foreign Legion fights for the glory of France — it would have as its mission defending and advancing freedom across the world. It would be, in effect, a multinational force under U.S. command — but one that wouldn't require the permission of France, Germany or the United Nations to deploy.
The Freedom Legion would be the perfect unit to employ in places such as Darfur that are not critical security concerns but that cry out for more effective humanitarian intervention than any international organization could muster. U.S. politicians, so wary (and rightly so) of casualties among U.S. citizens, might take a more lenient attitude toward the employment of a force not made up of their constituents. An added benefit is that by recruiting foreigners, the U.S. military could address its most pressing strategic deficit in the war on terrorism — lack of knowledge about other cultures. The most efficient way to expand the government's corps of Pashto or Arabic speakers isn't to send native-born Americans to language schools; it's to recruit native speakers of those languages.
Similar considerations early in the Cold War led Congress to pass the Lodge Act in 1950. This law allowed the Army Special Forces to recruit foreigners not living in the United States with the promise of citizenship after five years of service. More than 200 Eastern Europeans qualified as commandos before the Lodge Act expired in 1959. There's no reason why we couldn't recruit a fresh batch of foreigners today. It would certainly be easier than trying to sweet-talk more troops out of recalcitrant allies or, these days, recruiting at U.S. high schools.
There are two reasons why 11-year-old Chikumbutso Zuze never sees his three sisters, why he seldom has a full belly, why he sleeps packed sardinelike with six cousins on the dirt floor of his aunt's thatched mud hut.
One is AIDS, which claimed his father in 2000 and his mother in 2001. The other is his father's nephew, a tall, light-complexioned man whom Chikumbutso knows only as Mr. Sululu.
It was Mr. Sululu who came to his village five years ago, after his father died, and commandeered all of the family's belongings - mattresses, chairs and, most important, the family's green Toyota pickup, an almost unimaginable luxury in this, one of the poorest nations on earth. And it was Mr. Sululu who rejected the pleas of the boy's mother, herself dying of AIDS, to leave the truck so that her children would have an inheritance to sustain them after her death.
Instead, Chikumbutso said, he left behind a battery-powered transistor radio.
"I feel very bitter about it," he said, plopped on a wooden bench in 12-by-12-foot hut rented by his maternal aunt and uncle on the outskirts of this town in the lush hills of southern Malawi. "We don't really know why they did all this. We couldn't understand."
Actually, the answer is simple: custom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the death of a father automatically entitles his side of the family to claim most, if not all, of the property he leaves behind, even if it leaves his survivors destitute.
In an era when AIDS is claiming about 2.3 million lives a year in sub-Saharan Africa - roughly 80,000 people last year in Malawi alone - disease and stubborn tradition have combined in a terrible synergy, robbing countless mothers and children not only of their loved ones but of everything they own.
"It is the saddest, saddest story," said Seodi White, who heads the Malawi chapter of Women and Law in Southern Africa, a nonprofit research organization. "People are cashing in on AIDS. Women are left with nothing but the disease. Every time you hear it you get shocked, but in fact it is normal. That's the horror of it."
The tradition is rooted in the notion that men are the breadwinners and the property of a married couple represents the fruits of the man's labor. Women may tend the goats and plant the corn, but throughout the region's rural communities they are still regarded as one step up from minors, unable to make an economic contribution to the household.
When the husband dies the widow is left essentially to start over, much like a young girl, presumably to search for another husband. Since the children typically remain with the mother, her losses are also theirs.
"Women are traditionally behind, so they are vulnerable to this kind of exploitation," Phil Ya Nangoloh, executive director of the National Society for Human Rights in Namibia, said in a recent interview. "It is bad because it makes a weak person even weaker and more vulnerable."