SACW - 11 Oct. 2011 /Pakistan: Sectarian Violence / India: War on terror out of control ; Poverty Lines / Bangladesh: The forty-year indictment / UK: Call to ban creationism in schools / Filipino maids for export / Fascists in Tunisia
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Mon Oct 10 17:59:30 EDT 2011
South Asia Citizens Wire - 11 October 2011 - No. 2727
[Visit A lokpal for India: Dissenting views & news for anti corruption activists
1. Sri Lankan housemaids in Saudi appeal for help (Saroj Pathirana)
2. Pakistan: Guns Aimed Increasingly at Women (Ashfaq Yusufzai)
3. Pakistan: Sectarian violence (Anwar Syed)
4. Bangladesh: The forty-year indictment (Syed Badrul Ahsan)
5. India: Deep-etched poverty lines (jeremy Seabrook and Mukul Sharma)
6. India: The fast as politics (Shiv Vishvanathan)
7. India: Fake terrorists industry - Imran Kirmani - Acquited after 5 years in Prison (Baba Umar)
8. India - Assam: Upending ULFA (Sanjib Baruah)
Selected content updates from sacw.net
9. India: CNDP statement regarding developments pertaining to anti nuclear struggle in Koodankulam
10. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report on sectarian political violence Karachi: Findings + Select Media Reports
11. India: ’Amongst factors creating communal hatred is doctored history’ - Interview with Asghar Ali Engineer
12. Text of Pakistan Supreme Court order taking Suo Motu action regarding law and order situation in Karachi
13. India: Human Rights Abuses Involving Corporations - A report by ICJ
14. How not to fight Maoism (Praful Bidwai)
15. Spooked into austerity, we dig our own economic grave (Jayati Ghosh)
16. The Story of the Mexican Suitcase
17. Anders Breivik's manifesto mapped
18. UK: Teach evolution, not creationism! - A call to ban creationism in British schools
19. Who Are the Pirates from Berlin? (Charles Hawley)
20. Filipino maids for export (Julien Brygo)
21. Arab Spring & Rising Fundamentalists - Tunisian Police Stop Hardline Attack On TV Station
1. Sri Lankan housemaids in Saudi appeal for help
By Saroj Pathirana
BBC News 30 September 2011
BBC Sinhala service
2. Pakistan: Guns Aimed Increasingly at Women
by Ashfaq Yusufzai
Inter Press Service
PESHAWAR, Sep 30, 2011 (IPS) - Guns available in new abundance in the troubled north of Pakistan are increasingly being used on women in ‘honour’ killings and domestic disputes, according to local reports.
"About 65 percent of the women killed fall prey to gunfire in honour-related cases and issues relating to domestic violence," local security analyst Brigadier (retired) Muhammad Saad told IPS.
Citing a study by the local Awaz Foundation, he said the problem has been caused by easy availability of small arms. Male members of families too often just pick up guns up over petty issues against women, and kill them, he said.
This is a problem across Pakistan but women in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the north are particularly vulnerable due to the proliferation of arms manufactured locally in Darra Adamkhel, he said. "Most of the arms used against women are locally manufactured and illegal."
According to Shabina Ayaz from the Aurat Foundation, figures reported in media show that 719 women were killed in 2010, including 381 in Punjab, 161 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 160 in Sindh. But in FATA the majority of cases are not reported in the press or by police, or by hospitals. Cases of ‘honour’ killing are seldom reported. Those involved in the killing of women in such cases usually get away with the crimes.
"We have been campaigning aggressively to frame strict laws to stop proliferation of arms and save women," Ayaz told IPS. The elimination of illegal small arms holds the key to ending armed violence against women, she said. A report from the Foundation last year, ‘Situation of Violence Against Women in Pakistan’ underlined the threat to women from these arms. The group has been campaigning for the rights of women in Pakistan since 1986.
Murtaza Khan from the group Action Against Small Arms told IPS that the Taliban insurgency in FATA and the north had put the lives of women on razor’s edge. "Cheap availability of small arms has led to excessive usage and multiplied the problems of women who are already marginalised in the male- dominated tribal society," Khan said.
There have been cases where women were killed over petty matters like serving a meal late, or getting late ironing the men’s clothes, Khan said.
The proliferation of arms is spreading, and the use of these weapons with that, Khan said. "Children as young as10 years old are trained to operate AK-47 rifles in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In some areas, the exhibition of arms is regarded as a status symbol."
"It is a big problem," acknowledges police officer Kareem Khan in Peshawar. In one recent case, he said, a man killed his wife because she failed to polish his shoes on time. "The inexpensiveness of arms has enabled even poor people to keep them," he told IPS.
Three decades of intense warfare have left the region awash with anything from compact, James Bond- style pen pistols to Kalashnikovs and anti-aircraft guns.
Brig Saad told IPS that such large quantities of small arms floating around directly influence internal security and hinder development. "We need to disarm society and to make it more secure."
Calls for disarming the civilian population were heard after hundreds of people were killed in ethnic warfare that raged between trigger-happy Pashtuns and equally well-armed Urdu-speaking Mohajirs (settlers from India) in the southern port city of Karachi in July and August.
"The Pashtuns’ traditional fascination for guns has been fed by the Mujahideen war that ended the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan in 1988, the bloody civil war that saw the rise of the Taliban, followed by the United States-led invasion of the country in 2001," said Saad.
Pashtuns comprise roughly 17 percent of Pakistan's 175 million population, and are the largest single ethnic group after the Punjabis. In Afghanistan, they form 42 percent of the 29 million people.
Where the Pashtuns once depended on a local gun-making industry that goes back to the 18th century, the advent of sophisticated weapons can be traced to the United States arming Mujahideen fighters with small arms, rocket launchers and the shoulder-fired, heat-seeking ‘stinger’ missiles that picked Soviet aircraft out of the skies. (END)
3. Pakistan: Sectarian violence (Anwar Syed)
Daily Times, October 04, 2011
by Anwar Syed
During the first several decades after independence, folks did not carry their religious belief on their sleeves. They took it in stride. A change in the thinking and feelings of many Muslims surfaced during General Ziaul Haq’s 11-year rule
A bus carrying 22 pilgrims destined for holy places in Iran was waylaid some 25 miles down the road from Quetta. The attackers pulled the passengers out, made them stand in a line, and shot them dead. Those killed belonged to the Hazara tribe whose members profess the Shia persuasion. Reports have it that more than 500 of them have been murdered in recent weeks, once again because they were Shia. No sense of outrage at this despicable event has been voiced in this country. It may be that the ordinary citizen has been so preoccupied with the turmoil in Karachi that he has had no emotional energy left to lament the fate of the Hazaras in Balochistan. There is probably more to the public reaction to these events than meets the eye.
Sectarian conflict is not foreign to our historical experience. There was rioting between the more passionate members of the Sunni and Shia communities occasionally even during British rule in India. But for the most part the two communities lived together peacefully in the same neighbourhoods one generation after another. The fact that one person was a Sunni and another a Shia did not stop them from building friendly and cooperative relationships. During the first several decades after independence, folks did not carry their religious belief on their sleeves. They took it in stride.
A change in the thinking and feelings of many Muslims surfaced during General Ziaul Haq’s 11-year rule (1977-88). He may have thought of himself as a pious Muslim and believed that as a ruler it was his duty to Islamise this country’s polity and society. But instead of implementing celebrated Islamic values and principles, he focused on its ritualistic aspects. His Wahabi piety notwithstanding, he went out of his way to use the name of Islam for prolonging and firming up his hold on power. He recruited the ulema (Islamic scholars) and “mashaikh” to support his rule, gave them stipends, invited them to conferences, paid their travel expenses, and placed them in expensive hotels in Islamabad. Under his influence the appearance of piety came to be expedient.
In this process he cultivated absolutism and extremism among those who stood with him. He told them, for instance, that secularists in Pakistan were snakes in the grass who must be located and crushed. This attitude of mind travelled beyond theological interpretations. It endorsed intolerance of the dissident in all areas of social interaction. Ziaul Haq went away to meet his Maker and earn what he deserved 23 years ago. In retrospect he is considered to have been the worst ruler that Pakistan has ever had. His encouragement of extremism and Islamic militancy may be one of the reasons for the poor rating that history allows him. But his legacy does not appear to have been entirely discarded. There are still quite a few people who are ready and willing to honour his creed. The damage that he did to the psyche of these people may have been enduring. When Zulfiqar Mirza says that Altaf Hussain wants to break up Pakistan and the latter’s spokesmen say that Mirza is a drinker of alcoholic beverages and is not to be trusted, when Nawaz Sharif calls Zardari a swindler, and Zardari calls PML-Q a bunch of murderers, they are all being extremists. Regretfully, one must say that absolutism and extremism have made a place for themselves in our political culture.
Sectarian conflict is not unique to our experience in Pakistan. The Catholic Church during the medieval age claimed absolute validity for Papal interpretations of doctrine and permissible practice and regarded any deviation from them as heresy. Certain reformers — notably Thomas of Aquinas, John of Salisbury, William of Ockham and Nicholas of Cusa — challenged the traditional view and asserted that Christian doctrine was open to reinterpretation. In the same vein, Martin Luther’s innovation gave birth to Protestantism, which in time gained many millions of adherents. But the Catholics maintained their original position. In Spain the agents of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand killed every Protestant they could lay their hands on. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland remained engaged in bloody conflict that went on for more than a hundred years. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans (WASPs) discriminated against Irish and Italian immigrants and their progeny until almost the middle of the 20th century. The fact that folks in Europe and the US have acted from religious prejudice does not mean that it is all right for us to do the same. Sectarian violence has diminished or disappeared in Europe with the spread of education and the coming of modernisation. All of this raises an intriguing question. Is there anything wrong with being certain that one’s own beliefs, to the exclusion of all others, are correct? It depends partly on the faith in question. Take the case of Hinduism. Some observers maintain that it is not a religion in the strict sense of that term. There is no dogma in which a person must believe in order to be a Hindu. A person is a Hindu if he says he is one and has found his place in the caste system. In a Hindu temple there may be many idols. It makes little difference to others if a man salutes this idol instead of the others. All is well so long as it is within the fold of Hinduism. A problem arises when a Hindu has to interact with some one who says he is a Muslim or a Christian. Tolerance and open-mindedness may then depart.
It seems to be the case that certitude is likely to inhibit togetherness among persons of different persuasions. It may give a man peace of mind, but having made peace with himself, he is ready to make war against those who will not agree with him. This inclination diminishes in the case of those whose thinking admits doubt and scepticism.
The writer, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, is a visiting professor at the Lahore School of Economics.
4. Bangladesh: The forty-year indictment
by Syed Badrul Ahsan
Indian Express, 5 October 2011
The move to try individuals accused of committing war crimes in the course of Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971 has suddenly gathered, as it were, a certain sense of urgency. On Tuesday, the International Crimes Tribunal set up earlier by the government formally indicted Delawar Hossain Sayedee on charges of abetting the Pakistan army in kidnapping, raping and murdering Bengalis considered to be in favour of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The action against Sayedee is the first instance of an individual suspected of war crimes being formally charged over his actions. The move comes months after the formation of the tribunal, whose modalities of operation have often been questioned — both abroad and at home. The United States and Western countries in general have persistently called for the trials to be based on internationally accepted legal norms. The Bangladesh authorities, for their part, have repeatedly sought to reassure sceptics that the war trials are being conducted in a transparent, legally proper manner. Obviously, lawyers and families of the accused have sought to portray the projected trials as an attempt by the Bangladesh government to settle scores with its political rivals.
That last bit is not quite justified, seeing that those accused of war crimes were indeed participants in large-scale atrocities perpetrated in Bangladesh by the Pakistan army and its local collaborators throughout the nine months of the country’s war of liberation in 1971. As to the question of why the trials are being proceeded with 40 years after Bangladesh became a free country, the fact remains that the Collaborators Act, which came into force in 1972 — only months after the surrender of the Pakistan army to a joint India-Bangladesh military command in December 1971 — was done away with by the military regime of General Ziaur Rahman in late 1975. Earlier, in August of that year, Bangladesh’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family were assassinated by soldiers in what would be the first military coup in the new country. The killings were followed by the murder of four prominent politicians, all leaders of Bangladesh’s government-in-exile during the war and subsequently members of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s cabinet, in prison.
The 1975 coup turned out to be an opportunity for jailed collaborators of the Pakistan army for a fresh new beginning in politics. The repeal of the Collaborators Act thus brought into Bangladesh’s politics all those elements that had openly collaborated with the Pakistan army during the war.
The case against Sayedee may certainly be regarded as the first step toward bringing the ageing loyalists of the Pakistani military to account. Another prominent rightwing politician, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, now under detention on charges of committing crimes against humanity, could soon be indicted. Media reports, quoting investigators attached to the International Crimes Tribunal, have already let it be known that evidence of at least 32 criminal acts committed by him in 1971 have been unearthed.
Some other leaders, especially of the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders and workers actively helped the Pakistani authorities to organise such murder squads as al-Badr and al-Shams in 1971, are also lined up for war crimes-related trials.
The difficulty for the Bangladesh government in seeing the trials through, though, is two-fold. On the one hand, it needs to keep its public pledge to bring them to a quick conclusion. On the other, it must convince the international community that the trials are being conducted under standard international rules, and are therefore a clean, transparent process. In recent weeks, however, the government’s decision not to let foreign lawyers willing to defend the accused into the country has led to muted questions. That only increases the pressure on the authorities for the trials to be seen to have been a proper, legal and moral exercise of the system of justice.
It may be noted that soon after the end of the war in December 1971, the Bangladesh government went on record with its intention to put on trial Pakistani military officers and general soldiers on charges of war crimes. The intention was never put into implementation mode, as a tripartite deal reached by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the early 1970s saw Pakistani military personnel, then in India as prisoners of war, go back to their country while tens of thousands of Bengalis trapped in Pakistan as a result of the war were repatriated to their new country.
Over the years, many of the local Bengali collaborators of the Pakistan army were systematically rehabilitated by successive military regimes and rightwing governments in Bangladesh. Three of them — Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, Matiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mujaheed — now in prison, even rose to being ministers in Bangladesh’s governments.
The writer is executive editor, ‘The Daily Star’, Dhaka
5. India: Deep-etched poverty lines
by Jeremy Seabrook and Mukul Sharma
The Hindu, October 4, 2011
Immigrant labourers pay a high price for their own poverty.
You see them everywhere on the Outer Ring Road of Delhi, on the traffic islands, under the flyovers, at the intersections; not just in twos and threes, but thirty or forty men waiting in the dusty orange sunlight for the middleman, tout or contractor who will hire them for a day's labour. Some carry a paint brush, a hammer or a trowel — the tools of their trade. Young, old, some in their early teens, others who should have retired; all are neatly dressed, although shabbily. These are workmen who believe they are worthy of their hire.
Here is labour at its most abstract, yet in all its touching and tangible humanity; migrants from an elsewhere that can no longer provide them with livelihood. From Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar; ready to offer themselves, as though they were streetwalkers, for whatever pitiful income may be on offer.
A motorcycle stops. A man whose face is concealed by the tinted glass of a helmet visor is immediately surrounded by a jostling throng, waiting to be chosen by money-power. A few go off in an SUV, to make up the complement of workers at a building site — beldar, mistri or whoever has not shown up in the morning.
These men pay a high price for their own poverty, and it is that which makes the calculus of experts and highly-paid professionals of poverty so mean and contemptible — these are the judgments of those who have everything. Poverty lines are etched deeply into the prematurely ageing faces of young men.
To them the cost of poverty lies not only in the unemployment or the under-employment which grants them only 15 days of work in a month, but also in the humiliation of standing in this human cattle-market each morning, while their strength and fitness for a day's work is someone else's decision. They also pay for the expensive separations from those they love: the isolation and indignity in sharing ill-equipped rooms with strangers, a bitter absence from children who sometimes do not see them for months at a time. Whose accounting system is going to acknowledge the high cost of survival? It cannot be counted in monetary terms, so it remains invisible.
The stories they tell — and each one has a tale of hardship, misfortune or loss — are sometimes contradictory and not always coherent. Some had land which provided them self-sufficiency in food, but were forced to the city by sickness or the desire to get for their children a better education than one in which teachers “knit, gossip and eat peanuts” rather than attend to the children nominally in their care. Few of the men have been educated beyond the 7th or 8th standard. Some are landless, others driven out by drought or flood or by the looting and cheating of the more powerful.
And once they reach Delhi, the find they have an appointment with the very elements they thought they had escaped, even though these take on the trappings of modernity — the unpaid wages, the delayed payment, the disappearing employer, the punitive policeman. At the same time, prices rise and even daily necessities recede from the grasp of their meagre and declining purchasing power. Self-deprivation and self-exploitation are the only honest means whereby something will be left over to send to the impoverished homestead. And to maintain contact with loved ones, who would have imagined that a cheap mobile phone would be an absolutely indispensable instrument? Who in the Planning Commission would regard such a luxury as part and parcel of a half-decent life for labour exiled in its own country? Even hunger is a constant companion — doing hard physical work requires more than just calories, it also needs nourishment.
It should not be thought that these unacknowledged builders and makers of Delhi are passive onlookers of their own misery. They express anger at those who designate such ungenerous poverty lines, and are well aware that this is part of a vast public relations exercise to diminish the visible numbers in poverty in the new India. Those who have it in their power to determine the fate of others should be made to live on Rs.32 a day.
As the morning wears on, the numbers waiting for work decrease. Some are hired, others have stood too long and see nothing to be gained as noon nears, and go away wondering if the Rs.250 they earned the day before will see them through another couple of days. All complain of under-employment, work that does not use their skills, and arbitrary and uncertain labour. They are unanimous in their belief that the only escape from poverty lies in the security of guaranteed work. Many have been through the rural employment scheme: in some places it malfunctions; funds are diverted or fail to reach those for whom they are intended. “NREGA is grabbed by the powerful.” “It works for a few days, then the payments are delayed or stop coming. The contractors take their share and we are left at the level of bare survival.”
Poverty is slippery and elusive; it slides through the dexterous fingers of all the manipulators of figures and wielders of statistics. Poverty is not a sum below which people “fall” into it, as though it were an unguarded village well. Poverty is shifting and cunning. It lies in wait, lurking around corners, where sickness or an accident can abruptly terminate earning power. It waits on ignorance and incapacity, it thrives on prejudice and fear.
The government, no doubt, has its reasons for a fictional poverty line. But in a world in which increasing numbers of people regard foreign travel, education in the USA or Europe for their children, and a constant stream of luxury goods as fundamental necessities, there is something deeply offensive in assessing the poverty of others in a miserly withholding of subsistence. Perhaps the greatest poverty of all in the current display of “concern” about who is poor, is the poverty of imagination and of humanity of those in power, for that is a poverty beyond both avarice and greed.
(Jeremy Seabrook is an independent researcher and writer. His recent book is People without History: India's Muslim Ghettos. Mukul Sharma is an independent scholar and journalist. His forthcoming book is Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics.)
[also available at: http://www.sacw.net/article2314.html]
6. India: The fast as politics
by Shiv Vishvanathan
IBN LIve: Shiv Vishvanathan's Blog
September 19, 2011
Narendra Modi's fast is the most misunderstood event of the year. This essay would like to argue that the fast has little connection with the closure of the riots but is an attempt to inaugurate a new era in politics. There is an old saying that when the vulture is tired of old food, it goes on a fast. A fast here is not a statement of contrition, it is an interlude to a new era. Modi is not signalling turnover or a turn around. He is virtually claiming that he is ready for a new kind of politics.
His fast has to be read twice, first, as a ritual of renouncing food, second as a signal of a new transition. The second has to be developed first because we often get caught in the idiosyncrasies of the person rather than the changing nature of the social systems.
Modi is inventing a new kind of tyranny. He has become the interlocking nexus between Party, State and the corporations. He is creating a new regime which is far more abstract and far more frightening. Modi showed that we can live with genocide and treat it as a temporary hiccup on the way to development. We have to look beyond the riots to Modi Phase II.
This is the new history of urbanization where land is awarded cheaply to the corporations. It began with Tatas who were literally seduced to entering Gujrarat. Corporations are becoming economically powerful whether as Tata or Adani. Second we are adding to it a state which is becoming insanely powerful in the name of development. Thirdly the party in Gujarat votes by acclamation. It is a populist tyranny where a monarch like figure, lets call him Modi, becomes the common site between these three interlocking forces.
At first appearance this sounds and looks efficient. We have an antiseptic, abstract word for it. It is called Governance. It plays down the state to create an interlocking web of power of state, party and corporation. The political economy of this is becoming clearer. If this is the base, such a structure has to create the culture of a middle class which is ready for such power, a middle class which has to see its own self interests, its mobility, its morality as running in tandem with this new power system.
What Gujarat has created at the cultural level is the religious - educational-entertainment complex to match the political bureaucratic corporate complex. What marks Gujarat is the power of the religious sects. They are the new fourth estate and they have followers which rival any politician. They also have the sense of the pragmatic, the organizational skill which matches any corporation.
The nature of stereotypes is such that people do not associate the Gujarati society with education but today education is big business and politicians like Chiman Bhai Patel controlled about 50 colleges. Gujarat is home to some of the biggest intellectual corridors. Gandhinagar is not just the capital but is home to NIFT, NID, IIT, DAIICT, PDPU and the new central university. It is an investement in a professional system by an elite which sees education as power, knowledge as investment but is equally clear that humanities and social science are entropic forces. The third part of this complex is entertainment as food, as parties, as tourism, as film.
This second frame creates a mix of tradition and modernity where a certain kind of religious idiom helps legitimize power. The Rath yatra, the term Yatra (pilgrimage) the Upvas and Arakshan (as fast) create an idiom for cultural politics. Politics has to speak the idom and Modi is master of it. Here is a master fascist switching gears between two languages.
The first is the language of an Governance. But that is an idiom that is too modern. The idiom of the fast gives it an indigeneity. You fast traditionally when you wish to purify your self, when you want to signal a rite of passage. The media's pun of "fast forwarding" is truer that it thinks.
Here is a shrewd man using traditional idioms shrewdly to signal phase II of his politics. It is not Delhi that is the target. It is Delhization of India., the heralding of new state which will demand from democracy inventions it has not yet dreamed of. The Modi fast is a signal for a new era. Its semaphore is not for minorities and marginals. This has only a superficial connection with riots. Modi is least bothered about them. His fast is signalling to power structures beyond them. Our idiocy lies in associating this discourse with Gandhi, Tagore and other ethical forces. To be deaf to what he says would be criminal and stupid.
(Shiv Visvanathan is a Social Science Nomad)
7. India: Imran Kirmani - Acquited after 5 years in Prison
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 26, Dated 02 July 2011
FAKE TERRORISTS 1, A series on Kashmiri youth
Imran Ahmad Kirmani, 29
Nelipora hamlet, Handwara Jammu & Kashmir
Grounded for 5 years, will he ever fly again?
by BABA UMAR
WHY: Arrested on the purported charges of being a Lashkar-e- Toiba operative planning to carry out 9/11-style terror attacks in the country. He was sent to Tihar Jail.
WHEN: 15 November 2006.
WHERE: Dwarka, New Delhi.
Imran Ahmad Kirmani
ANYBODY ACCUSED of crime is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. But Kashmiri youth Imran Ahmad Kirmani didn’t enjoy that luxury. For nearly five years, the aeronautical engineer was left to cool his heels inside the notorious Tihar jail on the cooked-up charges of being a terrorist who was planning a 9/11-style attack in the country.
On 15 November 2006, national media outlets screamed that the Delhi Police had foiled a major terror plot by nabbing a terrorist. The police alleged that Imran was a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative and 4 lakh was found on him, which they claimed was to be used to carry out terror attacks.
“Those were the dark days of my life,” recalls Imran, 29, who was acquitted by the Tis Hazari Court on 12 May of all the charges slapped by the police. “I am a free man, but who will return my five years and a promising career? No one answered that in the courtroom.”
Hailing from Nelipora hamlet of Handwara, almost 70 km from Srinagar, Imran’s is a story of Kashmiri youth who had a modest background and doting.parents. He joined the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial College of Aeronautical Engineering in Jaipur for which his father Ghulam Rasool Kirmani, a retired government teacher, spent most of his life savings. Imran also worked part time at a Gurgaon-based aviation academy to supplement his fees.
However, the terror charges stalled his career before it could take off. “I was about to get a job at Air Deccan when the Delhi Police’s special cell picked me up from my flat in Dwarka,” he says.
Soon Imran became another member of a growing list of Kashmiris detained on false charges. He was paraded before the media as a terrorist arrested from a shopping mall ready to launch spectacular attacks. The charges included waging war against the nation and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under 121, 122, 123 IPC and 120B (criminal conspiracies).
“I wasn’t arrested from a mall. The police seized me from my flat along with Rs 4 lakh my father had given me for buying a flat. I was present
THE MEDIUM-BUILT man with a long face and a little beard claims he was tortured during the initial days while the media showed no interest in his side of the story. His father and mother Sara Begum had protested his innocence constantly. They even appealed to the then President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam. The case went on for five years because of Delhi Police’s inability to produce any evidence to back its accusations.
Despite what the family members believe was “overwhelming evidence” pointing to Imran’s innocence, the wheels of justice rotated so slowly that it destroyed his much-cherished goal of working for a top airline. Along with the psychological torture, the Kirmanis had to liquidate all resources, including their house and two kanal (approximately 10,880 sq ft) of prime agricultural land to secure Imran’s release.
“During this long period, seven judges heard the case. But Justice SS Rathi was the only one who understood the case,” says the elder Kirmani, who is happy that his son is finally a free man. He says he won’t seek damages from any agency but the government should work on his son’s rehabilitation and job.
While Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is reportedly following Imran’s case to provide rehabilitation, the National Conference’s Handwara legislator Chowdhary Muhammad Ramzan told TEHELKA that he too will help the family “if any assistance is sought”. “Imran is as good as any other citizen and deserves rehabilitation,” says the MLA.
Baba Umar is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
8. India - Assam: Upending ULFA
by Sanjib Baruah
Himal South Asian, October 2011
Surprise negotiations with ULFA aside, the Indian government’s effort to contain and control insurgency in Assam is unlikely to meet the hopes and expectations that have energised the peace process.
Selected content updates from sacw.net
9. India: CNDP statement regarding developments pertaining to anti nuclear struggle in Koodankulam
We congratulate the activists and people of Tamilnadu for waging a sustained protest against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. A delegation of activists from Koodankulam met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the 7th September [read 7th October]. . . .After the Prime Minister’s volt face, 7000 people observed a token fast on 9th September and are going to intensify the struggle.
10. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report on sectarian political violence Karachi: Findings + Select Media Reports
All of the main political parties in Karachi shoulder considerable blame for their consistent and prolonged failure to prevent the loss of human life and of property.
11. India: ’Amongst factors creating communal hatred is doctored history’ - Interview with Asghar Ali Engineer
I first investigated the 1961 Jabalpur riotsa¦as an engineering student at Indore. I just couldn’t understand why communities who lived cheek-by-jowl would kill each other. My investigations into many subsequent riots confirmed my belief that it is politics, not religion, which causes communal carnage. Amongst many factors that help in creating communal hatred is the doctored history we teach in our schools.
12. Text of Pakistan Supreme Court order taking Suo Motu action regarding law and order situation in Karachi
. . .to avoid political polarization and to break the cycle of ethnic strife and turf war, boundaries of administrative units like police stations, revenue estates, etc., ought to be altered so that the members of different communities may live together in peace and harmony, instead of allowing various groups to claim that particular areas belong to them and declaring certain areas as NO GO Areas under their fearful influence.
13. India: Human Rights Abuses Involving Corporations - A report by ICJ
14. How not to fight Maoism
by Praful Bidwai
The Chhattisgarh police seem to have lost all sense of decency, legality, and even sanity. The Supreme Court’s recent judgment ordering the disbanding of the state-sponsored anti-Maoist (Naxalite) Salwa Judum militia has had no effect on their obsession with crushing the Maoist movement by force.
15. Spooked into austerity, we dig our own economic grave
by Jayati Ghosh
Fear of the markets has blinded leaders to the alternatives. Economies can grow out of debt or plunge deeper into crisis
16. The Story of the Mexican Suitcase
17. Anders Breivik's manifesto mapped
The man behind the Norway bombings and shootings wrote a link-filled manifesto. To show the vast spread of websites he cites, and how they linked to each other, we turned to French visualisers Linkfluence.
This map shows those relationships between sites. To appear on it does not make anyone responsible for Breivik's actions. Rather it shows how a conspiracist mind can twist perfectly normal stories into a threatening and dangerous pattern.
For each site on the map, you click the dot to go there directly - and it then illuminates all links to other sites. The sites have been divided by category - click on the icon with three circles in the right-hand corner to see the sites grouped. Yellow links show who the site has linked to; red links show who has linked to it
18. UK: A call to ban creationism in British schools
Teach evolution, not creationism!
Joint statement on creationism and evolution in schools
Creationism and ‘intelligent design’
Creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as scientific theories by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly-funded schools. There should be enforceable statutory guidance that they may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly-funded school of whatever type.
Organisations like ‘Truth in Science’ are encouraging teachers to incorporate ‘intelligent design’ into their science teaching. ‘Truth in Science’ has sent free resources to all Secondary Heads of Science and to school librarians around the country that seek to undermine the theory of evolution and have ‘intelligent design’ ideas portrayed as credible scientific viewpoints. Speakers from Creation Ministries International are touring the UK, presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science at a number of schools.
The current government guidance that creationism and ‘intelligent design’ should not be taught in school science should be made statutory and enforceable. It also needs to be made comprehensive so that it is clear that any portrayal of creationism and ‘intelligent design’ as science (whether it takes place in science lessons or not) is unacceptable.
An understanding of evolution is central to understanding all aspects of biology. The teaching of evolution should be included at both primary and secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools.
Currently, the study of evolution does not feature explicitly in the National Curriculum until year 10 (ages 14-15), but the government is overseeing a review of the whole curriculum with the revised National Curriculum for science being introduced in September 2012 to be made compulsory from 2013. Free Schools and Academies are not obliged to teach the National Curriculum and so are under no obligation to teach about evolution at all.
Association for Science Education
The Association for Science Education is a dynamic community of teachers, technicians, and other professionals supporting science education and is the largest subject association in the UK. The ASE is an independent and open forum for debate and a powerful force to promote excellence in science teaching and learning, with unique benefits for members.
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.
British Science Association
The British Science Association is the UK’s nationwide, open membership organisation that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. Established in 1831, the British Science Association organises major initiatives across the UK, including National Science and Engineering Week and the annual British Science Festival.
Campaign for Science & Engineering
The Campaign for Science & Engineering is a leading independent advocate for science and engineering in the UK. CaSE’s objective is to communicate to Parliament and the nation as a whole the economic and cultural importance of scientific and technological education and development, and the vital need for the funding of this research by Government and industry.
Ekklesia is an independent, not-for-profit think tank which examines the role of religion in public life and advocates transformative ideas and solutions rooted in theological thinking and dialogue with others. It also looks at the operation of beliefs and values in society and politics more widely.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE is an author, broadcaster, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. His most recent programme is Everything and Nothing, about the Big Bang and quantum physics.
Sir David Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FSA is a naturalist and television presenter best known for his contribution to BBC natural history programmes, including the Life series of programmes and Planet Earth.
Sir Patrick Bateson FRS is the President of the Zoological Society of London and Professor Emeritus of Ethology at the University of Cambridge. Sir Patrick is the author of a number of popular science books, most recently Plasticity, Robustness, Development and Evolution.
Professor Colin Blakemore FRS, FMedSci, HonFSB, HonFRCP is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and is a former Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council.
Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS, FMedSci is President of the UK Science Council, President of the Biochemical Society, Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and a former Sir William Dunn Professor of Biochemistry and head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.
Sir Roy Calne FRS is a pioneering transplant surgeon who performed several first transplant operations, including the first liver transplant in Europe in 1968 and the world’s first liver, heart, and lung transplant in 1987. He is a former Professor of Surgery at the University of Cambridge.
Dr Helena Cronin is Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at LSE. Dr Cronin also runs Darwin at LSE, is the co-editor of Darwinism Today and the author of The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today.
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS, FRSL is the former Professor for Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, an evolutionary biologist and a prominent scientific broadcaster. His books include The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth and The Ancestor’s Tale.
Professor Robin Dunbar FBA, FRAI is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.
Professor R. John Ellis FRS is Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at the University of Warwick, 2006 winner of the Gairdner International Award and 2008 winner of the Cell Stress Society International Medal.
Professor Sir Anthony Epstein CBE, FRS is Professor Emeritus and former Head of the Department of Pathology at the University of Bristol. He is one of the discoverers of the Epstein-Barr virus, and in 1992 won the Royal Society’s Royal Medal.
Dr Dylan Evans is the author of several popular science books, most recently Emotion, Evolution and Rationality. Until July 2011, he was a Lecturer in Behavioural Science in the School of Medicine at University College Cork.
Sir James Gowans CBE, FRCP, FRS
Professor Sir James Gowans CBE, FRCP, FRS was Henry Dale Research Professor of the Royal Society at the University of Oxford and is a former Secretary of the Medical Research Council.
Professor Robert Hinde CBE, FRS, (hon) FBA, FRCPsych is Royal Society Research Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a former master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Hinde worked on the biology of behaviour, development and social psychology, and the nature of religion.
Dr Julian Huppert MP is a scientist and the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Cambridge, first elected in 2010. Prior to his election he was at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, working on the physics of living systems.
Professor Hugh Huxley FRS, MBE worked at the MRC Molecular Biology Laboratory in Cambridge, where he was joint head of the Structural Studies Division, Deputy Director of the Laboratory and was the central figure in developing the detailed structural basis of muscle contraction. In 1977 he won the Royal Society’s Royal Medal and in 1997 the Copley Medal, its highest honour.
Professor Steve Jones is former Head of the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, a television presenter and popular science author. His most recent book is Darwin’s Island.
Professor Sir Hans Kornberg FRS is a biochemist, Professor of Biology at Boston University and a former Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge.
John Krebs, Baron Krebs FRS, FMedSci is Principal of Jesus College, University of Oxford and a former Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Zoology, Oxford. He was Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council from 1994 to 1999 and is Chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee.
Professor Sir Harold Kroto KCB, FRS was joint 1996 Nobel laureate in Chemistry, which he won for discovering Buckminsterfullerene. Harry is Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University and Royal Society Research Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Sussex.
Professor John Lee MBBS, PhD, FRCPath is Consultant Histopathologist at Rotherham General Hospital, Professor of Pathology at Hull York Medical School, and a broadcaster, presenting a number of programmes on Channel 4 such as the award winning Anatomy for Beginners.
Sir Paul Nurse PRS was joint 1991 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine. He is President of the Royal Society, Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute and President of Rockefeller University. In 1995 he won the Royal Society’s Royal Medal and in 2005 the Copley Medal.
Revd Professor Michael Reiss FSB, FRSA, AcSS is Professor of Science Education and Associate Director, Research, Consultancy, and Knowledge Transfer at the Institute of Education, University of London.
Professor Steven Rose is Emeritus Professor of Life Sciences at the Open University and Visiting Professor of Anatomy & Developmental Biology at University College London. He is the author of several popular science books, and for five years was a regular panellist on The Moral Maze.
Sir David Smith FRS, FRSE is a botanist, was Principal of Edinburgh University from 1987-1994, President of Wolfson College, University of Oxford from 1994-2000 and President of the Linnean Society from 2000-2003. He won the Linnean Medal in 1989.
Sir Fraser Stoddart FRS, FRSE is Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Chemistry of Integrated Systems at Northwestern University.
Sir John Sulston FRS was joint 2002 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine and is Chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation (iSEI) at the University of Manchester.
Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci, FRCP, FRSA is a doctor, philosopher, author and poet. He is Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester.
James Williams FSB CSciTeach is Lecturer in Science Education at the University of Sussex. James has worked extensively in support of evolution and in opposition to the teaching of creationism.
Professor Lewis Wolpert CBE, FRS, FRSL is Emeritus Professor of Biology as applied to Medicine, University College London and author of a number of books, most recently You’re Looking Very Well: The Surprising Nature of Getting Old.
19. Who Are the Pirates from Berlin?
by Charles Hawley
Spiegel (Germany) September 20, 2011
They are handy with computers and are interested in issues relating to the Internet. Is that all? Many Berliners have been scratching their heads about the true identity of Germany's youngest political party. But the answer is simple: They're the new Greens.
A protest party. A group of computer nerd misfits. Perhaps even a joke? Such were the portrayals of the Pirate Party in Berlin prior to Sunday's city-state election. After all, how could a single-issue party made up largely of 20-something men really be serious about politics?
That was then. Now, with 15 Pirates set to enter Berlin's regional parliament after receiving an astonishing 8.9 percent of the vote, capital city residents are taking a closer look at one of the most surprising political success stories Germany has seen in recent years. And what they have found is a group which has tapped into a political vein that Germany's more established political parties didn't even know existed.
"They have very clearly struck a nerve in this city," admitted the Green Party's lead candidate Renate Künast after the votes were counted.
Lothar Probst, a political scientist at the University of Bremen, went further. "For many young voters and first-time voters, this party embodies something fresh and adventuresome," he told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
More than Open
And, of course, largely unknown. Whereas the party was eager to open itself as much as possible during the campaign -- to the point that voters knew which candidates wore Adidas, which chose Nikes and which preferred New Balance -- there was a pronounced aversion at a Monday evening party meeting to making all of its growing pains public. "I am not going to walk around the next five years with a recorder on," said newly-minted Berlin parliamentarian Christopher Lauer.
Still, the party has been more than open about its shortcomings. Its party platform no longer focuses exclusively on issues associated with Internet freedoms and digital privacy. The party also campaigned on demands for free urban transportation, a guaranteed minimum income for all and a student-teacher ratio in public schools of 15:1.
But lead candidate Andreas Baum was quick to point out that there was plenty of work left to be done. "It is clear that there are several areas where we have gaps and that we have to develop ourselves further," Baum said on Monday. "That's hardly a surprise for a party that so far has never had a single employee."
So far, the party has most frequently been compared with the Green Party. Indeed, the Greens have long had the reputation for being the slightly rebellious newcomers on the German political scene, even if that reputation was no longer entirely deserved. Now, that mantle has been passed to the Pirates. "The Pirates gained support in milieus that had long belonged to the Greens," said political scientist Probst.
Attractive to New Voters
Voter analysis from Sunday would seem to back up that assessment. The survey group Infratest established that 17,000 former Green Party supporters switched their votes to the Pirate Party on Sunday, more than came from any other party. The SPD lost 14,000 voters to the Pirates and the far-left Left Party 13,000.
The party's largest coup, however, came from its ability to attract fully 23,000 people to the polls who had never voted before. More votes came from former East Berlin, where the party secured 10.1 percent of the vote, than from former West Berlin. Most of the party's supporters are young, well-educated men -- as are 14 of the 15 Pirates who will now take their seats in the Berlin city-state parliament.
Sunday's vote was not the first time the Pirate Party had made its appearance on ballots. Christian Engström of Sweden won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 as a Pirate Party candidate. And in 2009 general elections in Germany, the party managed 2 percent of the votes in Berlin.
The country's established parties, though, have yet to take the Pirates seriously. The center-left Social Democrats blasted the party for lacking substance. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats said the Pirates' result was a "classic protest" vote.
'You Are Old!'
It is the Greens, however, which have the most to fear from the Pirates. Despite the fact that many Green Party leaders have long since gone gray and many of them are approaching the age of retirement, the party has still not lost the image of rebellion it has cloaked itself with ever since Joshka Fischer took his oath of office in the state of Hesse wearing ragged, white tennis shoes.
Now, though, the Pirate Party seems poised to take over that counter-culture image. Even as political analysts say that the phenomenon of the Pirate Party likely won't travel well outside Berlin, the success of a party younger and more rebellious than itself is a bitter pill for the Greens to swallow.
"They have a young, new feel to them while us Greens have become established," said Gesine Agena, head of the Green youth wing.
"Established" is one way of putting it. The Pirates themselves have another. On Sunday night, when Künast looked into the cameras and praised her party's affinity for and understanding of the Internet, Pirate Party members erupted in loud laughter at their election night celebration in Kreuzberg.
Immediately a chant filled the room. "You are old! You are old!"
After Sunday, it would be difficult to argue.
Correction: An earlier version of this article suggested that Christian Engström had left the Pirate Party and joined the Greens. While Engström works closely with the Greens in the European Parliament, he is still a member of the Pirate Party. We apologize for the imprecision.
20 ‘Always be punctual and don’t count the work you are doing’
Filipino maids for export
by Julien Brygo
Le Monde diplomatique ~ October 2011
Twelve percent of the Philippines’ GDP comes as remittances from nationals abroad. Many of those are maids, sent all over the world into domestic service to support their children back home. The Philippines government is even training them in servitude
Béatrice, a Franco-Belgian expatriate, lives in the gated community of Stanley Knoll, named after the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, in a house that overlooks Hong Kong Bay. She, her French husband Paul, a senior executive with a French bank, and their four children have lived here, half an hour from the heart of “the most free economy in the world” (1), since 2005. She does not have a job, but does humanitarian work for a French NGO, swims in Stanley Bay and plays tennis. They need a maid to help with their house and children. “Lennie is so devoted,” says Béatrice. Leonora Santos Torres looks after the children, cooks and cleans. She is one of the 290,600 foreign maids currently working in Hong Kong. Like most of them, she lives in a room measuring less than five square metres, on call day and night.
Béatrice has not set foot in a supermarket for four years, and says she feels “liberated” by not having to do domestic tasks. She is still surprised when the maid dries her swimsuit as soon as she returns from the beach. Béatrice and Paul pay Leonora $650 a month to be available 24 hours a day, six days a week, a quarter of the cost of such help in France. “It’s $144 more than the minimum wage for maids in Hong Kong, based on at least 10 hours’ work a day,” said Béatrice. They add $80 a month for food, because Paul does not want Leonora helping herself from the fridge. “That’s the law in Hong Kong,” said Béatrice (2). “$650 is a good salary. Some expat families pay $860-$1,000 a month. They’re spoiling the market for the rest of us.”
Leonora, 47, is from the northern Philippines province of Luzon, and has a diploma in telegram transcription. She left three of her five children in the village of Calatagan in 1999 to work in Hong Kong to support her family. “Every month I send four-fifths of my salary, minus the Western Union transfer charge [$3.5 per transaction], to pay my three children’s university fees. Education in the Philippines is so expensive we have to make sacrifices.” “Sacrifice” is a word you hear again and again when talking to Filipino maids. “We are usually not free to come and go in our employers’ homes, the food is rarely enough and we have to be completely dedicated to the family. Many of my compatriots live in terrible conditions,” said Leonora. They may be verbally or physically abused, subjected to their employers’ whims, underpaid and exploited. According to the Hong Kong Labour Department, 10% of domestic workers lodge complaints against their employers every year for non-payment of wages, infringement of contract, ill treatment or sexual harassment (25,000 complaints a year). Leonora was badly treated by a Hong Kong family (“They wanted me to give up my day off”) before she walked out after six months, then by a Chinese family she was with for six years, where the grandmother used to beat and insult her. Her current employers are good to her, she said. Many domestic workers don’t dare complain because they only get 14 days to find a new placement, or leave Hong Kong once a contract has terminated.
’Give thanks to the Lord’
“ It’s in their genes,” said Béatrice, explaining her employee’s devotion. “Filipino women are very good with people. It’s in their culture to be devoted. And they love children. That’s what they enjoy doing, because their lives are not much fun. What keeps Lennie going is her involvement in the parish.” Like many Filipinos, Leonora is a devoted Christian, who “draws strength from her relationship with the Lord”. Her moral code fits in well with her employers’ rules: “I listen to the Lord, who does not distinguish between rich and poor.” In her little room she has a computer connected to Skype, Facebook and Yahoo!, a baby monitor, and photographs of her own children. A large picture has pride of place above the computer, with the words: “Give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.”
Every year more than 100,000 Filipinos go abroad to work in the service industry. President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-86) started exporting manpower in 1974, when the economy was derelict, and he saw an opportunity in the rapid development of the Gulf states after the 1973 oil crisis. In 1974 35,000 Filipinos found jobs abroad. It was meant to be temporary, but 35 years later this trickle has turned into a flood, involving more than 8.5 million Filipinos, mostly women — just under 10% of the population and 22% of the working age population. According to the World Bank, foreign workers contributed 12% of the Philippines’ GDP in 2010 with $21.3bn in remittances (3). This is the fourth highest number of foreign remittances after China, India and Mexico.
Most of the permanent and temporary diaspora (of whom a quarter are illegal) are in the US, Canada and the Middle East. A million are in Saudi Arabia, even though it announced a ban on Filipino and Indonesian maids last July. Gloria Arroyo, the former Philippines president (2001-10), described them as “modern heroes”. In 2006 (after Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, where 30,000 Filipino workers lived) she launched the “supermaid” programme (4). She wanted to train domestic servants “in the language of their employers” and educate them, through a national diploma, in the use of household appliances and first aid. The aim was to do away with agency fees, ensure that every maid earned at least $400, and reduce the structural violence (economic as well as physical) affecting women. Five years later there are training colleges all over the country, but the promise of basic rights for Filipino overseas workers has proven empty.
Welcome to Little Hong Kong
“"Welcome to Little Hong Kong,” said Michelle Ventenilla, one of four teachers at Abest, one of the Philippines’s 364 registered private training centres for domestic servants, in Manila. The small brick villa resembles a typical upper middle class home in Hong Kong, with a saloon car, an aquarium with rare fish, western-style bathrooms and bedrooms with pink curtains and bright green walls. Since 2007 Abest has “exported” 1,500 domestic workers to Hong Kong, which is only two hours away by plane. The school’s fees are $212, and it is linked to a recruitment agency.
It was the day of the final exam, and candidate number five, a frail-looking woman, sweated as she carried a porcelain tureen in both hands to the table, and then mimed serving a bowl of soup. Lea Talabis, 41, was one of around 100,000 candidates per year to take the National Certificate II exam, after 216 hours of training. The inspector from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Rommel Ventenilla (5), watched the candidate as she performed the table service test. Talabis, a former primary school teacher who became a maid to support her family, approached her fictitious boss and asked: “Would you like some soup, sir?” Ventenilla nodded his head and grunted. Talabis hesitated — after serving him from the left, should she take the tureen back to the kitchen, or leave it for him to help himself? Confused, she lowered her eyes and put the tureen down on the sideboard.
The examiner gave her a second chance with the question and answer part of the test. Indicating the table, laid out for a typical middle class Hong Kong family with three placemats, fish and meat knives, and glasses, he asked: “How much water do you pour into the glass?” Talabis moved to his right hand side carrying a carafe, and filled his glass three-quarters full. Ventenilla validated the test and Talabis went back to the kitchen. The final part of the exam could include making the bed, washing the floor, cleaning the aquarium, ironing clothes or washing the car.
“The final mark is made up of 20% skill, 20% theory and 60% behaviour,” said Ventenilla, indicating that future maids are tested less on their medical, housekeeping or cooking abilities than on their capacity to obey the rules. “We don’t use the term maid any more,” said Susan de la Rama, head of the programme. “We now say ‘domestic helper’. We don’t want the Philippines to be labelled a country that exports maids, as it was a few years ago.” The second definition of a Filipino woman in the 2005 Merriam-Webster dictionary is “maid”. This angered the Filipino government, prompting it to professionalise the industry.
“Many employers are looking for domestic workers who are polite, respectful, patient and quiet. Here we try to get them used to the excitable temperament of Hong Kong employers. You have to be patient, and work from the heart,” said Michelle Ventenilla, delivering a key point of the super maid programme. Above the aquarium (symbol of social success within Asian families) is written the college slogan: “Cleanliness is next to godliness”. On the classroom wall, a poster distinguishes winners (those who “look for solutions” and say to their bosses “let me do it for you”) from losers (those who “look for someone to blame” and “always have an excuse” for not doing what they are asked). The Code of Discipline stipulates: “DO NOT ARGUE with your employer”; “Do not talk to other maids”; “Do not show a temper or long face when scolded by your employer”; “Contact your agency whenever you have problems and don’t rely on your friends”.
A factory for workers
There is no chance of socialism here: no union, no strikes, no political meetings, no questioning the basis of servitude. “Always be punctual”, says chapter six of the manual, while the “Things Not To Do” section lists “Don’t count the work you are doing”.
“These schools are a disgrace to our country,” said Garry Martinez, chair of the NGO Migrante International in Manila. “Every day the bodies of six to ten Filipinos who have died working overseas are repatriated. The Philippines has become a factory producing workers.”
Ten years ago Talabis worked as a maid with a middle-class family in Hong Kong, but she came back “to bring [her] skills up to standard”, and to get National Certificate II, which allows her to work overseas legally. She had resolved to go abroad again, leaving her fisherman husband and two children. “I’m doing it for them. In Hong Kong I would earn twice what I earn here as a teacher.” She acknowledged that the college taught her to obey and submit to the boss’s rules, but it didn’t surprise her: “It’s to make sure we complete our contracts, because we get into debt to become maids.”
She had to use her savings to pay the agency fee of $1,839, the equivalent of six months of her salary as a teacher. “I paid cash and got no receipt. The agency is approved by the department for Filipinos working abroad, but they were clear — take it or leave it. I had to pay the fee if I wanted to work in Hong Kong.” She hoped her husband and children would join her later. Her eventual aim was to go to Europe, like 10% of her fellow expatriates (6). “I don’t want to be a maid all my life,” she said. Three weeks later, after she had arrived in Hong Kong, she said she was delighted because her employers told her to think of them as her second family. But the best thing was that the house had Wifi: “Every evening I can use the web cam to talk to my children and husband. For the moment I’m very happy.”
Joseph Law, 65, opened the door to his 13th floor apartment on Elegant Terrace, a building with caretakers and a swimming pool in Mid-Levels, a fashionable part of Hong Kong. “Elena!” he shouted to the maid. “Julien is a French journalist. He’s writing an article about the daily life of Filipino maids in Hong Kong. Go and make us some tea with milk.” Joseph showed me his shirt: “I like them well ironed, with a crease down the middle.” He flopped on to his leather sofa: “Do I like being waited on? That’s a good question. I admit I have always preferred being waited on than doing things myself. I’ve been hiring foreign maids for the last 35 years, and my favourite by far are the Filipinos. They speak better English, are less risky than the others and are generally much more devoted to their job.” His apartment and his appearance are impeccable, thanks to Elena’s hard graft. “I pay her the legal minimum: HK$3,580 [US$459]” (7), said Law, former assistant manager of the Hong Kong fire brigade, now chairman of the official Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, the enemy of the six maids’ unions in Hong Kong.
Elena Meredores is 51, has an 18-year old daughter in the Philippines, and has been a maid for more than 16 years. She entered the room wearing cropped trousers and a t-shirt wet from doing the washing up, and put a tray with two cups and a teapot on the table in front of her boss. After acknowledging a complaint from Law (“Next time I have guests, bring a bigger tray”), she perched on the edge of the sofa. “Why are salaries so low?” Law continued. “It’s because Filipinos like Elena have no qualifications and low skills. Isn’t that right Elena? No qualifications.” She lowered her eyes and agreed: “That’s right, sir.”
Doctors, teachers, graduates
Sensing that she felt obliged to agree with him, Law told Meredores to speak “freely”. She laughed, then said: “No sir, you can’t explain our low salaries by saying we are under-qualified or have few skills. Many of my fellow maids are doctors, teachers, university graduates, but they are obliged to become maids to support their families. And the government has created training centres to train them.” Law dismissed these schools (“They are the biggest joke, and the biggest source of dispute between employers and employees”) and asked: “Elena, I think 50% of foreign maids in Hong Kong enjoy a peaceful and harmonious relationship with their employers, like you and myself do. Don’t you agree?” “I would say 15% sir,” she replied. “No, come on, 15%?” said Law, irritated; “Be fair, Elena.” “Many employers claim to have a good relationship, but it’s a lie. They say that just to show off. Not like you, Mr Law.” He interrupted her: “Hong Kong is paradise for foreign maids. Paradise!”
When I drew a comparison between his monthly income of more than $14,000, and his maid’s salary, he got angry. “Hong Kong is their dream location. They get an employment contract, a minimum wage, and on top of that they get room and board, plane tickets, health insurance and long-service payment after five years. The whole package costs employers an average HK$5,500 [$705] a month. That’s a lot of money.” He conceded that most employers were upper class, but he said giving small gifts helped to even things out: “Every year I give her presents. At New Year, Chinese New Year...isn’t that right, Elena?” Meredores recalled getting a brown envelope at New Year, containing almost $60.
At the end of 2010 the Philippines’ government announced that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) would have to pay HK$200 ($25) insurance, and it intends to introduce a minimum wage of $400 for its 10 million overseas workers. It’s a proposal that angers Law: “I warn the Philippines and Indonesia: if they carry on adopting such stupid policies, and demanding higher salaries, I will call for the embargo on Chinese maids to be lifted” (8). He has cause to be nervous: both the Philippines and Indonesia — who are the most aggressive defenders of overseas domestic workers — announced in June 2011 they intended to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s convention on decent working conditions for maids. “We employers are strongly opposed to this convention, because it is impossible to count hours in this kind of work,” said Law.
Early next Sunday morning, Meredores went to the Catholic church. “I’m going to pray for my family, and also for Law’s family. You mustn’t be selfish in your faith.” Afterwards she went to the big weekly gathering of Filipino maids in the financial district, where Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has its headquarters, between the Bank of China and Van Cleef and Arpels jewellery. Tens of thousands of maids like Meredores meet at the foot of this steel and glass skyscraper every Sunday. “We meet here because we have nowhere else to go on our day off. All week we are alone, cleaning their apartments, then once a week, we can free ourselves of our employers. That gives us our dignity,” she said.
That week a fashion parade had been organised by the federation of Filipinos from Benguet province in the northern Philippines to celebrate Mothers Day. The theme was “women as daughters, wives and mothers”. This promotion of women in stereotyped gender roles has led millions to become domestic servants. Filipino women in their 40s and 50s — nurses, housemaids — paraded across the podium, opposite Bank of America, hoping to win titles such as “most beautiful secretary”. Fifty metres away, thousands of maids waved their Western Union flags: the company that handled most of the $21bn sent in remittances in 2010 had organised a concert of Filipino singing stars for the Fiesta at Saya festival.
Two bronze lions flank the HSBC tower, representing the bank’s founders AG Stephen and GH Stitt. The lion on the right, Stitt, has a serious expression, while the other one, Stephen, seems to be roaring with pleasure. Over the years it has become a favourite meeting place for expatriate Filipinos. “I like having my photo taken in front of the laughing lion, because it represents our hard work,” said Gorgogna, who is a maid on a low salary, after 22 years in the country. The lion, symbol of employers and their wealth, has eaten well, and looks up towards the top of the HSBC tower, while at the bottom, thousands of domestic servants savour their day off. “To the Chinese, the lion symbolises money,” said Gorgogna. “If it weren’t for us, it wouldn’t be so well fed.”
Translated by Stephanie Irvine
Julien Brygo is a journalist
(1) The Index of Economic Freedom measures 10 criteria (business, trade and fiscal freedom, government spending, monetary, investment and financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption, labour freedom) in 183 countries. In 2011 Hong Kong was rated number one.
(2) In fact, employers who do not feed their maids are required to pay them a food allowance of $96.
(3) “Remittances to PH ranked 4th biggest in world”, OFM Ngayon, 11 November 2010.
(4) “Housemaids to Supermaids soon!”, OFMGuide, 24 August 2006.
(5) No relation to Michelle Ventenilla.
(6) In 2009, 41.7% of the 8,579,378 Filipinos abroad worked in America (33.5% in the US, 7.4% in Canada), 28.2% in the Middle East (13.5% in Saudi Arabia, 7.1% in United Arab Emirates), 12.5% in Asia and 8.4% in Europe. Source: Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
(7) The minimum wage was frozen at HK$3,580 ($459) between 2009 and 2011, but was raised in June 2011 to $3,740 ($480); it is still below the 1999 figure of HK$3,860 ($495) (pre-financial crash value).
(8) The British authorities in Hong Kong declared an embargo on Chinese domestic workers in the 1970s.
21. Tunisian Police Stop Hardline Attack On TV Station
by The Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia October 9, 2011, 04:57 pm ET
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian police on Sunday arrested dozens of Islamist demonstrators set on attacking the offices of a television channel that had shown the award-winning film "Persepolis," officials said.
The assault is the latest in a rise in attacks against perceived symbols of secularism by hardcore Muslims in Tunisia ahead of this month's election. Once suppressed by the former regime, conservative Muslims are increasingly making themselves heard in the country's politics.
Interior Ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb said police blocked the attackers before they could reach the offices of the Nessma private television channel in the center of Tunis and arrested around 50 of them.
Meddeb said there were also casualties, without specifying how many, and emphasized "authorities' determination to oppose troublemakers."
The head of Nessma, Nabil Karoui, said that the attackers were angered by the channel's recent showing of "Persepolis," Marjane Satrapi's moving and humorous adaptation of her graphic novels about growing up during and after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. He said they consider it hostile to their religious convictions.
The film won the jury prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
"These extremists want to impose a new dictatorship," Karoui told The Associated Press. "We are channel for liberty, modernism and democracy. We will not back down and will continue to follow our independent editorial line."
Later in the afternoon there were new clashes between police and conservative Islamists in the capital's lower income neighborhood of Jebel Lahmar near the campus of Tunis University, according to eyewitnesses.
Hundreds of demonstrators left the mosque following afternoon prayers and threw rocks at police who responded with tear gas, according to local resident Mokhtar Ouertani.
He said the protest was over the broadcast of Persepolis as well as a state policy banning the conservative Islamic face veil for university students.
Tunisians are set to hold landmark elections for a constitutional assembly in just two weeks after overthrowing their long-serving dictator in a popular uprising in January.
The ensuing nine months have been filled with unrest and demonstrations as well as the rise of a new ultraconservative group of Muslims that had kept a low profile under the largely secular regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Salafists, as the conservatives are known, attacked a movie theater showing film they deemed insulting to Islam on June and just last Thursday a university dean said his campus was also attacked.
Moncef Ben Abdeljelil, head of Sousse University's school of humanities, said four people armed with knives threatened university staff because they would not enroll students wearing the conservative Muslim face veil.
On Saturday, another 200 students invaded the college waving signs demanding students wearing the face veil be allowed to enroll.
Under Ben Ali, outward manifestations of piety were strongly discouraged and since his ouster, conservative Islam has seen a resurgence.
The front-runner in the polls is expected to be the Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist movement that had been severely repressed under the previous regime.
On Saturday, 200 women demonstrated in the capital Tunis to denounce the "forces of backwardness and the fanatics."
South Asia Citizens Wire
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