Iraqi Refugees Forced into Prostitution

I guess oil is soooo important that women and girls lives don’t really matter to GWB & Co…

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2701324.ece
The Independent on Sunday ~~ June 24, 2007
‘50,000 Iraqi refugees’ forced into prostitution
Women and girls, many alarmingly young, who fled the chaos at home are
being further betrayed after reaching ‘safety’ in Syria
By Nihal Hassan in Damascus

It’s Monday night in a dingy club on the outskirts of the Syrian
capital. Two dozen girls are moving half-heartedly on the dance floor,
lit up by flashing disco lights.

They are dessed in tight jeans, low-cut tops and knee-high boots, but
the girls’ make-up can’t disguise the fact that most are in their
mid-teens. It’s a strange sight in a conservative Muslim country, but
this is the sex business, and it’s booming as a result of the war in Iraq.

Backstage, the manager sits in his leather chair, doing business. A
Saudi client is quoted $500 for one of the girls. Eventually he beats
it down to $300. Next door, in a dimly lit room, the next shift of
girls arrives, taking off the black all-covering abayasthey wear
outside and putting on lipstick and mascara.

To judge from the cars parked outside, the clients come from all over
the Gulf region – many are young Saudi men escaping from an even more
conservative moral climate. But the Syrian friend who has brought me
here tells me that 95 per cent of the girls are Iraqi.

Most are unwilling to talk, but Zahra, an attractive girl with a bare
midriff and tattoos, tells me she’s 16. She has been working in this
club since fleeing to Syria from Baghdad after the war. She doesn’t
like it, she says, “but what can we do? I hope things get better in
Iraq, because I miss it. I want to go back, but I have to look after
my sister”. Zahra points to a thin, pubescent girl with long black
hair, who seems to be dancing quite happily. Aged 13, Nadia started in
the club two months ago.

As the girls dance suggestively, allowing their breasts to brush
against each other, one winks at a customer. But these girls are not
just providing the floor show – they have paid to be here, and they
need to pick up a client, or they’ll lose money. If successful,
they’ll earn about $60, equivalent to a month’s wages in a factory.

There are more than a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, many are women
whose husbands or fathers have been killed. Banned from working
legally, they have few options outside the sex trade. No one knows how
many end up as prostitutes, but Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi
women’s group Women’s Will, puts the figure at 50,000.

I met Fatima in a block of flats operating informally as a brothel in
Saida Zainab, a run-down area with a large Iraqi population. Millions
of Shias go there every year, because of the shrine of the prophet
Mohamed’s granddaughter. “I came to Syria after my husband was killed,
leaving me with two children,” Fatima tells me. “My aunt asked me to
join her here, and my brothers pressured me to go.” She didn’t realise
the work her aunt did, and she would be forced to take up, until she arrived.

Fatima is in her mid-20s, but campaigners say the number of Iraqi
children working as prostitutes is high. Bassam al-Kadi of Syrian
Women Observatory says: “Some have been sexually abused in Iraq, but
others are being prostituted by fathers and uncles who bring them here
under the pretext of protecting them. They are virgins, and they are
brought here like an investment and exploited in a very ugly way.”

Further viewing: Nihal Hassan and Nima Elbagir’s report will appear on
‘More 4 News’ at 8pm tomorrow

Male Military Vets Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

This is US data, but it makes one wonder how Canadian veterans fare in this regard.  Surely we are better placed to prevent such horrific statistics, by simply being a less militaristic culture than our southern neighbours. Mind you, with Harper and Hillier at the helm, we may be doomed to echo the patterns of the USians.  From AlterNet: War on Iraq:

Why Male Military Veterans Are Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

By Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet. Posted May 25, 2007.

A recent DOJ report found that vets are twice as likely to be jailed for sexual assault than non-veterans.

A recent study by the Department of Justice found that military veterans are twice as likely to be incarcerated for sexual assault than nonveterans. When asked about the finding, Margaret E. Noonan, one of the authors of the study, told the Associated Press, “We couldn’t come to any definite conclusion as to why.” The intrinsic and systemic connection between militarism and violence against women, however, makes this finding far from surprising.

Sexual violence has been a de facto weapon of war since the beginning of the patriarchal age. Raping and assaulting women is seen as a way to attack the honor of the enemy, and women have always been the spoils of war. The result is that many types of violence against women are exacerbated by militarism, including the indirect effects on civilian populations both during hostilities and after the conflict ends and soldiers go home. These include:

  • Rape/sexual assault and harassment both within the military and perpetrated on civilian populations
  • Domestic violence
  • Prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • Honor killing

Read the rest of the article

Canadian-led campaign unites women’s organizations on six continents

On the first anniversary of P’n’P entering the Blogosphere comes a call to sign on to the Nairobi Declaration:

Drafted by representatives of women’s rights organizations from six continents and endorsed by leading international human rights advocates including Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, the Nairobi Declaration is founded on the experiences of women and girl survivors of sexual violence and the expertise of activists and jurists who are helping them rebuild their lives. At the Declaration’s core is the belief that justice for women and girl survivors of sexual violence will never be achieved if reparations programs are not informed and directed by those they are meant to serve. The Nairobi Declaration aims to correct the systemic flaws of national Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and existing reparation schemes and to inform those being developed by the International Criminal Court.The Nairobi Declaration asserts that reparation programs must go beyond mere compensation and restitution. According to the Declaration, adequate reparation and remedy must:

  • Empower women and girls, support their efforts to rebuild trust and relations and foster their participation in social reconstruction. Decision-making about reparations must include victims as full participants.
  • Address social inequalities and discrimination in existence prior to conflict, which lie at the root of violence against women and girls in times of conflict.
  • Promote social justice and encourage the transformation toward a fair and equal society.
  • Emphasize the importance of truth-telling in order to allow women and girls to move ahead and become true citizens. Abuses against women must be named and recognized in order to raise awareness about these crimes and violations, to positively influence a more holistic strategy for reparation and measures that support reparation, and to help build a shared memory and history.

Reparations should provide women and girls with the tools to rebuild their lives not as they were prior to war or conflict, but in ways that address and transform sociocultural injustices and structural inequalities that predate the conflict,” says Ariane Brunet, coordinator of the Coalition for Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations. “Women and girls’ right to reparation is not only about restitution, compensation and access to judicial redress, it is about women playing an active role in repairing the social fabric and building afresh a just and equal society.”

The Nairobi Declaration is the first stage in a long-term international campaign on gender reparation. It is intended as a tool to be implemented by States, multilateral agencies, regional agencies and national entities, such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.

Read the Nairobi Declaration

Sign the Nairobi Declaration

Vagina Warriors

For those who are not aware of the great work that’s been done and continues to be done with the Vagina Monologues, here is a post, in its entirety from the V-Day website.  V-Day is a global movement to create bigger attention on the struggle to end violence against women and girls, worldwide.

Vagina Warriors: An Emerging Paradigm, An Emerging Species

I have sat with women in crowded factories in Juarez, in crumbling shelters in the back streets of Cairo, in makeshift centers for teenage girls and women in Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Pine Ridge and Watts, in mansions in Hollywood, in burnt-out backyards in Kosova and Kabul, in a moving van after midnight with sex trafficked girls in Paris. Sometimes these meetings went on for hours; in the case of the 17-year-old Bulgarian sex slave, we had 35 minutes before her pimp came looking for her. I have heard the staggering stories of violence – war rapes, gang rapes, date rapes, licensed rapes, family rapes. I have seen first-hand the scars of brutality – black eyes, cigarette-hole burns in arms and legs, a melted face, bruises, slices and broken bones. I have witnessed women living without what is fundamental – sky, sun, a roof, food, parents, a clitoris, freedom. I have been there when skulls washed up on riverbanks and naked mutilated female bodies were discovered in ditches. I have seen the worst. The worst lives in my body. But in each and every case I was escorted, transformed, and transported by a guide, a visionary, an activist, an outrageous fighter and dreamer. I have come to know these women (and sometimes men) as Vagina Warriors.

It was Zoya who first took me to the muddy Afghan camps in Pakistan; Rada who translated the stories of women refugees as we traveled through war-torn Bosnia; Megan who led pro-vagina cheers on a freezing cold campus in Michigan; Igo who made jokes about land mines as we sped in her jeep through the post-war roads outside Pristina, Kosova; Esther who took me to the graves marked with pink crosses in Juarez, Mexico; Agnes who walked me up the path with dancing and singing Masai girls dressed in red, celebrating the opening of the first V-Day Safe House for girls fleeing female genital mutilation (FGM).

At first I thought this was just a rare group of individuals, specific women who had been violated or witnessed so much suffering they had no choice but to act. But after five years of traveling, forty countries later a pattern has emerged, an evolving species. Vagina Warriors are everywhere. In a time of escalating and explosive violence on the planet, these Warriors are fostering a new paradigm.

Although Vagina Warriors are highly original, they possess some general defining characteristics:
They are fierce, obsessed, can’t be stopped, driven.
They are no longer beholden to social customs or inhibited by taboos. They are not afraid to be alone, not afraid to be ridiculed or attacked. They are often willing to face anything for the safety and freedom of others.
They love to dance.
They are directed by vision, not ruled by ideology.
They are citizens of the world. They cherish humanity over nationhood.
They have a wicked sense of humor. A Palestinian activist told jokes to an Israeli soldier who pointed a machine gun at her as she tried to pass the checkpoints. She literally disarmed him with her humor.
Vagina Warriors know that compassion is the deepest form of memory.
They know that punishment does not make abusive people behave better. They know that it is more important to provide a space where the best can emerge rather than “teaching people a lesson.” I met an extraordinary activist in San Francisco, a former prostitute who had been abused as a child. Working with the correctional system, she devised a therapeutic workshop where convicted pimps and johns could confront their loneliness, insecurity and sorrow.
Vagina Warriors are done being victims. They know no one is coming to rescue them. They would not want to be rescued.
They have experienced their rage, depression, desire for revenge and they have transformed them through grieving and service. They have confronted the depth of their darkness. They live in their bodies.
They are community makers. They bring everyone in.
Vagina Warriors have a keen ability to live with ambiguity. They can hold two existing, opposite thoughts at the same time. I first recognized this quality during the Bosnian war. I was interviewing a Muslim woman activist in a refugee camp whose husband had been decapitated by a Serb. I asked her if she hated Serbs. She looked at me as if I were crazy. “No, no, I do not hate Serbs,” she said, “If I were to hate Serbs, then the Serbs would have won.”
Vagina Warriors know that the process of healing from violence is long and happens in stages. They give what they need the most, and by giving this they heal and activate the wounded part inside.
Many Vagina Warriors work primarily on a grassroots level. Because what is done to women is often done in isolation and remains unreported, Vagina Warriors work to make the invisible seen. Mary in Chicago fights for the rights of Women of Color so that they are not disregarded or abused; Nighat risked stoning and public shaming in Pakistan by producing “The Vagina Monologues” in Islamabad so that the stories and passions of women would not go unheard; Esther insists that the hundreds of disappeared girls in Juarez are honored and not forgotten.

For native people, a warrior is one whose basic responsibility is to protect and preserve life. The struggle to end violence on this planet is a battle. Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical. It requires every bit of our strength, our courage, our fierceness. It means speaking out when everyone says to be quiet. It means going the distance to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means honoring the truth even if it means losing family, country, and friends. It means developing the spiritual muscle to enter and survive the grief that violence brings and, in that dangerous space of stunned unknowing, inviting the deeper wisdom.

Like Vaginas, Warriors are central to human existence, but they still remain largely unvalued and unseen. This year V-Day celebrates Vagina Warriors around the world, and by doing so we acknowledge these women and men and their work. In every community there are humble activists working every day, beat by beat to undo suffering. They sit by hospital beds, pass new laws, chant taboo words, write boring proposals, beg for money, demonstrate and hold vigils in the streets. They are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts, our grandmothers, and our best friends. Every woman has a warrior inside waiting to be born. In order to guarantee a world without violence, in a time of danger and escalating madness, we urge them to come out.

CELEBRATE VAGINA WARRIORS. LET MORE BE HONORED AND SEEN. LET MORE BE BORN.

– Eve Ensler, Founder/Artistic Director, V-Day; playwright, “The Vagina Monologues”

Slaughtering Human Rights in Afghanistan

Read this, by RAWA at ZNet.  Maybe this is why Gilles has changed his tune

Bring our soldiers home!

Afghanistan

The Bloodiest Field for Slaughtering Human Rights

by RAWAFive years ago, America and their allies attacked Afghanistan in the name of bringing “Human Rights”, “Democracy”, and “Freedom” to our war-torn country. The Taliban regime fell and Hamid Karzai’s puppet regime, which included the well-known Northern Alliance criminals or as UN envoy Mahmoud Mestri said, “the bandit gangs”, took over in the name of a fake democracy. However, today, the deceitful policies of Mr. Karzai and his Western guardians have brought Afghanistan to a very critical situation where disaster is a ticking time bomb that can explode any minute. Treason and mockery have efficiently been used in the name of “democracy” and “freedom” in the past five years. The human rights situation in Afghanistan is a product of the painful deception of the warlord led government.

Northern Alliance criminals, backed by the US have their own local and barbaric governments. Just the increasing number of women who commit suicide by burning themselves is the best example of a human rights violation in Afghanistan. According to UNICEF, 65% of 50000 widows in Kabul think that committing suicide is the only option they have. Northern Alliance crooks raped an 11 year old girl, Sanuber, and traded her for a dog. In Badakhshan, a young woman was gang-raped by 13 Jehadis in front of her children, and one of the rapists urinated in the mouth of her children who were continuously crying. In Paghman, a suburb of Kabul, a criminal leader Rasol Sayyaf, who was the mentor and godfather of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, plunders our peoples’ territory and tortures his opposition in his private prison. Despite many protest rallies by the unfortunate people of Paghman in front of the Parliament House, no one hears their painful voice. Instead the so-called police forces headed by infamous criminal warlords like Zahir Aghbar and Amanullah Guzar, attacked the protesters and killed 2 of them. These are all just some examples of thousands of crimes that are being carried out by the fundamentalists of the Northern Alliance. These evil men have high positions in the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the US-imposed government with some unprincipled intellectuals dancing to their tune.

The full article is here.

SK women speak on SWC changes

Following is PATHS’ submission to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The lines that stand out for me: To state, however, that we can stop our advocacy, our education, our lobbying and our research now is not defensible. There continues to be inequity in our society between women and men. As long as power imbalances are a part of the dynamics of our societies, we will have inequities.

The full statement:

PATHS, The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, is an organization which serves to link shelters, and other organizations which provide services to abused women, in our province. The changes to the mandate of the Status of Women Canada are not consistent with the work we have done over the years. We conduct research, educate the public and professionals, and develop policies which support women who have experienced violence. We have been funded to do this work by the Status of Women Canada since our inception in 1984.

To say that in 22 years of funding nothing has changed would not be an argument in favour of maintaining or increasing financial support to women’s organizations. It is important to acknowledge our successes. Attitudes, opinions and understandings of domestic violence have changed. To state, however, that we can stop our advocacy, our education, our lobbying and our research now is not defensible. There continues to be inequity in our society between women and men. As long as power imbalances are a part of the dynamics of our societies, we will have inequities. Although we have made advances, these inequalities are still a part of women’s circumstances. Women earn 71% of what men earn. Women continue to experience severe violence at the hands of men. In Saskatchewan, Aboriginal women are particularly disadvantaged, being more likely to live in poverty and comprising 74% of our shelter population. Women occupy only 20.8% of the seats in the House of Commons.

A society that strives for fairness will continually criticize these imbalances and find ways to redress them. A socially responsible government will facilitate these struggles by creating spaces for discourse among all groups. It falls upon government to ensure that everyone can participate in these discussions, and in proposing solutions. Civil society relies on the financial support of government to do this. When governments do not provide the resources for civil society to speak out, then only the business class and government will be heard. These sectors have access to funds which will ensure that their views alone dominate the formulation of policy.

It is now more important than ever for people with diverse opinions to find places to come together. We must engage in creative dialogue that results in solutions which are grounded not only in the principles of equity, but in environmental sustainability. The changes to the mandate of the Status of Women Canada take us in the opposite direction of where we need to go. Government should do more than merely continue to fund advocacy, lobbying and research. It should set agendas which frame the discussion around issues for the 21st century. The environment and social and economic equality must be discussed in tandem. In this time of extreme global disparities and environmental destruction, this type of policy direction and leadership is not only required morally, it is essential for our survival.

————
Diane Delaney
Coordinator
Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan
1940 McIntyre Street
Regina, SK S4P 2R3
(306) 522-3515 Tel

(306) 522-0830 Fax

paths@sasktel.netVisit our website at www.abusehelplines.org

End Darfur Rapes

The war on women goes on worldwide. Darfur is especially horrific.

From the BBC:

Women demand end to Darfur rapes
International stateswomen have made a joint call for an end to rape and
sexual violence in Sudan’s conflict-torn region of Darfur.

Peacekeepers must be sent to protect women there, the group said in a letter published by newspapers worldwide.

Signatories include former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and theIrish former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.

The call comes as protests on the issue are planned in 40 countries.

The letter says rape is being used “on a daily basis” as a weapon of war in
Darfur.

The main signatories were joined by other prominent women including:

* veteran Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi
* Graca Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela
* Edith Cresson, former French prime minister
* Glenys Kinnock, a UK member of the European Parliament
* Carol Bellamy, former head of the UN children’s fund.

‘Constant fear’

Published on the eve of the Global Day for Darfur, the letter says that”women and young girls live in constant fear of attack”.

Sudan’s government is accused of being “unwilling or unable to protect its own civilians”.

The international community is called upon to “deliver on its responsibility to protect these civilians”.

Events to mark Darfur Day are due to take place in more than 40 countries and will include women-led protests outside Sudanese embassies.

The BBC’s Jonah Fisher, in Khartoum, says the three-year war in Darfur has been characterised by rape and violence against women, mostly by the pro-government Arab Janjaweed militia.

The protests around the world will have no direct impact on the Sudanese government, he adds.

The government views the three-year crisis in Darfur as a Western invention, insisting that just 9,000 people have died.

It also denies reports of widespread rape, pointing out that the people of Darfur are Muslim and, therefore, incapable of rape.

In reality, though, at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur’s and an estimated two million people, mostly black Africans whose villages have been attacked by the Janjaweed, have fled their homes.

Khartoum denies accusations it is backing the militias to put down an uprising by Darfur’s rebel groups in 2003.

A force of 7,000 African Union peacekeepers has struggled to protect civilians in the absence of a strong, UN contingent.