Nur Miyati lies on a Saudi hospital bed, her hands bandaged, her toes black from gangrene and her body still marked with bruises.
Whispering hoarsely, the 22-year-old Indonesian housemaid tells of the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her employer, who beat her when she asked for her salary and locked her up when he left the house.
She became so ill that when he finally brought her to a Riyadh hospital -- nurses say he warned her to say she hurt herself falling over -- doctors feared they might have to amputate part of her foot.
"Assault. Gangrene both hands and legs," says a medical report hanging above her bed. Another lists bruising around Miyati's eyes, lips, shoulders, ears and the sole of one foot.
Miyati is one of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians who leave home to work in Saudi Arabia, part of a 6-million strong foreign labor force in the oil-rich Gulf state which includes workers from India, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Saudi officials say instances of alleged abuse like hers are isolated cases which are fully investigated. Indonesian diplomats say they receive between 10 and 15 complaints a day of mistreatment, withholding salaries and sexual harassment.
Four days after being admitted to the hospital, Miyati was too weak to explain exactly what happened to her. But medical staff and diplomats have pieced together parts of her story.
The attention given to any event that shows the U.S. in a bad light, and the inattention paid to news that makes U.S. mistakes pale by comparison, never ceases to amaze.
Case in point: word last Thursday that a Canadian photojournalist was beaten, tortured and raped before dying two years ago while in custody in Iran.
This got all of 2 1/2 inches inside both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and we doubt another word will be heard.
But then, this wasn't a case of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib being forced by U.S. soldiers to wear dog collars or women's underwear. We'll probably never hear the end of that.
Nor was it a case of a woman journalist — like Giuliana Sgrena of the communist newspaper Il Manifesto — being fired on as her limousine ran an American checkpoint in Baghdad. That prompted an Italian outpouring eclipsed only by the death of the pope.
Still, the Canadian death in Iran involved both a prisoner and a female journalist, and you tell us which was most "horrific."
The journalist was Zahra Kazemi, 54, a freelancer of Iranian origin who had the guts — or just the professionalism — to take photos outside a Tehran prison during student-led protest against the ruling theocracy. For this, she was arrested.
Just days later, Kazemi was taken — unconscious, with bruises all over her body — to a military hospital. Prison officials said she was suffering digestive problems and had vomited blood.
The hospital doctor who examined her, and who has since won asylum, told reporters last week in Canada that the blood Kazemi vomited had poured down her throat from a smashed nose.
That wasn't all. The doctor, Shahram Azam, noticed injuries to her entire body that could only have been caused by torture and rape. They included a skull fracture, two broken fingers, missing fingernails and a crushed big toe. There were also deep scratches on the neck and evidence of flogging on the legs and back.
Azam said that as a male doctor in a military hospital, he was barred from examining a woman's genitals. But he said the nurse who did so told him of "brutal damage."
Iranian officials have said Kazemi died after she went on a hunger strike, fainted and struck her head as she fell. Other authorities at various times have acknowledged that she was killed by state security officials. But the official explanation remains unchanged.
Case — and, no doubt, news coverage — closed.
It's hard not to be intoxicated by the breeze of democracy wafting across the Middle East. An Arabian Spring, analysts call it, heralded by round-the-clock demonstrations in Lebanon, suffragists out on the streets in Kuwait, rare protests in Egypt, voting in Iraq and reform even here in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where limited municipal elections are being held this year. But just as I'm about to get carried away by the spirit of hope, my mind stops, does a U-turn and returns to three men -- two academics and a poet -- who've been behind bars in Saudi Arabia for a year. Their case, and not the ballot box, has become my barometer for real change in the kingdom.Read the whole thing and marvel at their braveness.
Along with their lawyer, these men have forced a groundbreaking case onto the Saudi legal system, the power of which lies in its simplicity. They want the implementation of the rule of law in practice and not just in theory. Their tenacity could cost them their lives. But they take the risk because they know that without the rule of law this so-called Arabian Spring will prove to be as illusory as a desert mirage.
With their insistence on an open trial and legal counsel -- rights granted but not exercised in this kingdom -- these veteran activists have laid bare the Saudi legal system. Last August, the three made history after insisting on and receiving an open arraignment in Riyadh on charges that included holding a public gathering and claiming that the judiciary was not independent. But since then the hearings have been closed, and the defendants have refused to cooperate. Their case now stands as a symbol of how far Saudi Arabia still has to go.
On March 14, the 10th National People's Congress of China passed the Anti-Secession Law, which gained the attention of international society. An anonymous source high inside the CCP government disclosed to the Epoch Times reporter details of a meeting between Jiang Zemin and the new preeminent leader Hu Jintao. Jiang advised Hu that attacking Taiwan is a good way to relieve all kinds of issues inside China and maintain the CCP’s power. The decision to attack does not depend on whether Taiwan claims it is independent. Prior to his stepping down from the Military Committee, Jiang also set a detailed plan of attacking Taiwan. It is not clear at this point whether Hu Jintao will execute such a strategy.
Hong Kong Sing Pao Daily News quoted insiders on March 13 that Jiang Zemin’s advice to Hu Jintao before his resignation as China Military Committee Chairman was that “if we have to attack Taiwan, the earlier the better." It is also reported that the book “Biography of Jiang Zemin," written by American author Robert Kuhn, disclosed that when Chen Shuibian won the Taiwan election in 2000, Jiang Zemin instructed Cao Gangchuang to draft military strategies for attacking Taiwan. Jiang is reported to have said “if we have to take military action, the earlier the better."
Recently a source high in the Communist Party disclosed to the Epoch Times reporter that “Jiang Zemin called a meeting around the 2004 New Year to set up the timeline for attacking Taiwan, the purpose was to resolve conflicts inside China, no matter whether Taiwan announce independence or not. Currently the four biggest issues China faces are the financial crisis, corruption, economic crisis and unemployment. Since former Premier Zhu Rongji stepped down, tariff income on imports into China dropped 30%."
One of the issues that had beleaguered Lebanon for the past ninety years of its modern experimentation with statehood was the question of identity.Read it all: Why am I not an Arab? Of course, as this Daily Star editorial points out, the new pan-Arabism thrives on negativity. I would omit the "new" part; pan-Arabist nationalist ideology has long thrived on oppositionalism and negativity.
Was Lebanon Arab? Was it something else entirely? Was it a democracy? Was it a Muslim state? Was it homeland for Middle Eastern Christians? Was it refuge for minorities? Or was it an exercise – albeit a failed one– in coexistence between different cultures, religions, ethnicities, and national tendencies?
Over the past century many answers were attempted to pigeonhole Lebanon and fit it to a satisfying label. But true to its mercantilist Phoenician bent, Lebanon defied constricted definitions and opted for ambiguity and vagueness. This amorphous non-committal identity – this “I am everything to everybody all the time" kind of nonesense, designed to conciliate Lebanonists and Phoenicianists with Arabists, Syrianists, Thrid-Worldists, and every other exponent of Arab-generated failed ideologies– caused Lebanon's fragile compromise to crack. And beginning in the early 1970s, this irresolute identity sent the country on a trajectory to self-immolation –with the all too willing stoking of Arabism, Baathism, Syrianism, Palestinianism, and every other Middle Eastern "ism" intent on fitting Lebanon into its blinkered Arabist world-view!
The French-language Lebanese poet, Andrée Chedid, was deeply troubled by the heterogeneity of Lebanon and by the multiplicity of “faces" – and personae– that stubbornly vied to tailor the nation into a monolithic conforming label. That is why, in 1976, in the midst of Lebanon’s delirious descent into war, Chédid attempted to decode the enigmatic nature of her country’s cultural personality with her famed Ceremonial de la Violence.
In this ritual to the savageries of war Andrée Chédid lamented the intriguing attributes of Lebanon with timeless anguished questions that often tormented other Lebanese as well, who like her, were eager but unable to define Lebanon in its present configuration. Therefore, her question
What should you be called, Lebanon?
What should you not be called!
Consumed by each one of your faces,
With which eyes should you be gazed at?
With which ear should you be heard?
And which persona should you use?
[Comment te nommer Liban?
Comment ne pas te nommer!
Dévoré par chacun de tes visages,
De quel regard te contempler?
De quelle oreille t'entendre?
De quelle voix te servir...]
This drawn out question became a kind of a collective national cry of the heart, at once deploring Lebanon’s irresolute identity, but also dreading the dissolution of its enigmatic cultural personality into a narrow definition conforming to some acceptable neighborhood – i.e., Arabist– norm.
Being one not especially enamored by rhetorical gymnastics, I will spare you the sloganeering and poetics of Arabism, and submit to you that, just as France is French and Switzerland is Swiss, so is Lebanon Lebanese, and so is Iraq Iraqi! How complicated is that?
“But why are you not an Arab?" might you ask!
My answer is simply “because I am Lebanese!" Period! End of story! Bye bye now!
But here's my lame attempt at "intellectualizing" the answer – though it is evidently simple and needn't be tinkered with and cluttered with tedious idiotarianisms...
But I can appreciate the fact that some of you still go to university, and might need some half-academic-sounding evidence to placate your half-witted senile obsolete third-worldist professors. So here goes.
Even as anti-Semitic attitudes become rarer in the United States, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased to the highest level in nine years.
“Americans have come a long way in their attitudes toward Jews, but America is not immune to anti-Semitism," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which commissioned the poll.
Released Monday, the poll showed that 14 percent of Americans were deemed “anti-Semitic," a three percent decrease from a 2002 poll. The poll also found that one in three Americans believe American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States, and 30 percent believe Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
The ADL’s annual round-up of anti-Semitic incidents found a 17 percent increase in the number of cases in the United States in 2004. The audit found 1,821 incidents last year, compared to 1,557 incidents in 2003.
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) announced today that rather than arrest terrorists wanted by Israel, he is calling on them to accept jobs with the Palestinian Authority.
According to the official PA website, Abu Mazen announced Sunday that two committees have been appointed to be in charge of solving the issue of those wanted by Israel for involvement in terror attacks through recruiting them to join PA institutions.
According to the statement, which is rife with spelling and grammatical errors, the committees of PA officials in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were given two weeks to resolve the issue. “The statement by presidnet [sic] office siad [sic] that the wenated [sic] people will be no more liable to amy [sic] attack or chase up [sic] by the israelis."
According to the Road Map plan, accepted with reservations by Israel and the PA, the PA is obligated to “declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere."
Israel is currently holding talks with the PA over the release of an additional 400 Arab security prisoners, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today. He also said Israel is talking with Jordan about releasing 21 Jordanian Arabs jailed in Israel as well – though four of them “with blood on their hands" will not be released, Sharon said.
It is unclear why Israel is going ahead with goodwill gestures despite Abass’ refusal to arrest wanted terrorists.
Knesset Member Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party) said today that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is set to release Arab prisoners as a gesture for US President George Bush ahead of the two leaders' upcoming meeting. "Again it is happening that about a week ahead of the prime minister's meeting with President Bush, Sharon makes a gesture to the president and releases prisoners," MK Finkelstein said.