Nigar Ahmad – A Great Punjabi Woman

nigar-ahmad1Nigar Ahmad (1945 – 2017)

Nigar Ahmad, an educationist and a woman’s rights activist, was one of the founding members of Women Action Forum (WAF) established in the 1980s to fight General Ziaul Haq’s Islamicization policies that attacked women’s status in Pakistan. Later, Nigar founded Aurat Foundation and served as its Executive Director for many years.

Her contributions to the enhancement of the status of women include mobilizing women candidates to run for local government during the 1993 and 1997 general elections, organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women; organizing national conferences and radio programs to inform peasant women on health and agricultural issues. ‘She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Women’s Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.’ (wikipeacewomen.org)

Nigar was awarded the Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Life Time Achievement Award in 2010 for her work for the empowerment of women. She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network.

Nigar was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was admitted to a hospital in Lahore for chest pain where she passed away on February 24, 2017. She was the daughter of Mian Riaz Uddin Ahmad, a prominent civil servant in the Punjab.

nigar-ahmad-2

This is what Nigar had to say for George Bush, i wonder what she would have said for Donald Trump.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
frafique@gmail.com

Uddari Weblog
Facebook
facebook.com/UddariWeblog
Twitter
twitter.com/UddariWeblog
..

Memory Wall on the Strip: a Mirror for the Officials of the City of Surrey

memorywall-daveFriends We Remember, Lives We Celebrate

There is a place in Surrey where a ‘Celebration Of Life’ event begins and ends with memorializing the ongoing presence of death.

In the icy evening of Saturday 17 December, a few people were gathered on 135A, Surrey’s homeless Strip, to honor and remember those who had died here. The Strip is one of the few streets in Surrey that has no trees. Sparse one-level structures of a couple of auto parts shops, Front Room (drop in center, shelter and a food outlet serving the homeless), a couple more commercial units, and a small church across the street. In front of the closed auto shops, a group of 8-10 wonderful people, who said they were individuals ‘unalligned with any church or other group’, had laid out food on two long tables with boxes of pizza, cookies, juice and pop. On the sidewalk across the street, between a tent and a food table, a white board with some color markers and candles was propped up against the fence of the church.

Already, it had a few names.

I came to know of the Celebration of Life event in early December from a Surrey activist of Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), an organization helping the Residents of the Strip against homelessness. Scheduled for December 10, the event was moved to December 17th to avoid the snow storm; and, during that storm nine homeless people died on the streets of Vancouver, 13 in BC, in one single night.

The almost empty white board began to fill with names as people walked by, stopped to read, some came up and added names of their friends and relatives, some asked for other names to be added. A woman wanted ‘Jessy’ to be written as ‘Jessie’ because she said Jessie would turn in his grave if he saw it written like that; and, more than one person wanted to make sure that ‘Old Man Dave’ was indeed there along with ‘Dave’. A young woman touched a name on the board, cried and said, ‘My one best friend’.

The above photo and the two below were taken the next day, December 18, when a woman named CeeCee, who had the previous night added the name of her late partner to the Memory Wall, herself died in her tent.

memorywall-dave1Native / CeeCee / Dec 18, 2016

Tears are irrelevant in this place. The question is how many more people have to die before the prosperous City of Surrey yields a solution to the increased poverty and homelessness on its streets?

It is obvious to everyone except perhaps the high officials of the City of Surrey and its mouthpiece publications and organizations that these deaths are not ‘fentanyl’ ‘ODed’ deaths but deaths caused by homelessness and poverty. I say it because the ‘famed’ plan that the City was working on without consulting the Residents of the Strip, came out to be a plan totally off the mark- it’s as if people were dying because of hunger, and the City assigned more ambulances for a solution. The irony is, it’s not ‘as if’, this is exactly what has happened and is happening. The City’s new ‘plan’ for the Strip is to scare away it’s residents with increased surveillance and intimidation, but the problem is that there’s no place else to go from here.

There is a letter that a group of academics put together with regards to homelessness in Victoria, I find, it’s relevant here too. And so, Surrey! THIS WINTER – HOUSING FIRST!

The City of Surrey must provide the following to the residents of the Strip:
– Comfortable housing to the homeless people living on the Strip.
– Full assurance that until their housing needs are met, the people living on the Strip will not be required to unpitch their tents and leave each morning.
– A Memorial where the Memory Wall now stands.

memorywall-dave2Behind the Memory Wall

Uddari is grateful to Alliance Against Displacement (AAD) for supporting the Residents of the Strip in their demand for safety and housing, for organizing the Celebration of Life event, and for providing the photos for this post.

Contact Uddari Weblog
uddariweb@gmail.com
Facebook
UddariWeblog
Twitter
twitter.com/UddariWeblog
..

Surrey Steals from the Homeless! RALLY AND MARCH – Oct 3/16

homeless-march-poster

..
When: 3:00 pm, Monday Oct 3
Where: 135A Street (near 106th Ave), Surrey

Every day the RCMP, Surrey bylaw officers and city workers come to “The Strip” (135A Street) in order to force homeless residents to take down their tents, pack up their belongings and make everything moveable. And every day they confiscate somebody’s possessions because they consider them unattended or just garbage.

But homeless residents of “The Strip” are fighting back. We will be marching to Surrey City Hall to protest the city’s orchestrated and relentless theft of our belongings. We demand that the City of Surrey stop stealing our stuff.

FOOD
Food will be provided at the end of the event, around 5pm on the 135A strip

TRANSPORTATION
We will be organizing transportation to this march so other displaced and evicted communities can support the Surrey homeless in their struggle. To get a ride from Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, or elsewhere, and to travel together by transit from Vancouver, contact AAD: organize@stopdisplacement.ca or (778) 708-5006

Organized by
Residents of The Strip
&
Alliance Against Displacement

From: https://www.facebook.com/events/1937640533130081/
..

Contact Uddari Weblog
uddariweb@gmail.com
Facebook
UddariWeblog
Twitter
twitter.com/UddariWeblog
..

‘Bits and Pieces: Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ by Fauzia Rafique

Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium
Sponsored by Geist magazine and Surrey Libraries
Presented by Surrey Art Gallery, SFU English, South of Fraser Inter-Arts Collective (SOFIA/c)

Most of ‘Bits and Pieces’ was presented on the second day of Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium ‘Voicing the City In/verse: Reading Surrey and the Super Suburb’. The event was organized by a team of amazing volunteers and staff, and it was beautifully convened by Phinder Dulai (SOFIA/c) and Jordan Strom (Surrey Art Gallery). The first panel ‘Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ had myself, Cecily Nicholson, Joseph A. Dandurand and Heidi Greco. The second panel ‘Kinetic City /City in Motion’ had Sadhu Binning, Taryn Hubbard, Kevin Spenst and Tom Konyves.

The second day began with the Traditional Kwantlen Welcome and Drum Song offered by Kwantlen Nation Elder Kevin Kelly with Michael Gabriel and Joseph A. Dundrand. After, M.G. Vassanji gave an insightful keynote on the marginalization of spaces, artists and art. It was great to have Vassanji and Noorjehan visit from Toronto where the two have been working for the last thirty or so years to develop literary communities through organizing, writing, editing (Toronto South Asian Review) and publishing (TSAR Publications). At the symposium, Vassanji provided us with a larger framework for the subject, and with the depth that had been created, it was easy for me to bring it right back to Surrey.

Bits and Pieces

Writing and reading Surrey is challenging because Surrey in Vancouver Lower Mainland is somewhat like Muslims in North America, we have to begin by saying what we aren’t and what it isn’t. So, yes, Surrey is not boonies, not rife with violent Punjabi gangs, not a hotbed of crime, no, it’s not in the third world. It’s right here on the south bank of Fraser River, the city of parks, of future, of the desis; the city of prosperity and abundance, of poverty and violence; it’s an edge city of exile and refuge. Sounds like any of all cities to me, and yet so unique. In the next twelve minutes, i’ll present a few bits and pieces that i have carefully collected to contribute to this discussion.

The first item is a paragraph from the fourth and the last section of my novel Skeena that takes place in Surrey where Skeena, a 37-year old Pakistani Punjabi Canadian woman, arrives after having lived the last thirty years in Toronto, Lahore, and a Punjabi village.

‘This building is sitting on a ravine on one side, and Scott Road on the other. Brenda came for a visit last year, and she asked me why I bought a condo here when better residential areas were also available in Surrey. I could not find an answer for her then. Now, as I look at the ravine, it appears to be a cluster of trees in my village, and away from my view, there also is the continuous hum of a busy Ferozepur Road in Lahore.’

Skeena, Libros Libertad 2011
novelskeens.wordpress.com

Next we have excerpts from a blog post on hijab, titled ‘Purdah Manifestations’, a contemplation on different forms of purdah and how it’s implemented in different places by different social segments of Pakistani Muslims, it touches my experiences in about six different cities in Pakistan before getting to Surrey.

‘In 2004, i saw a bearded male lead a burqa-clad and hijab-thrown woman at 72nd and 124th in Surrey British Columbia. For some reason, i got transfixed on the couple, and stood watching them till they walked out of my sight. First i tried to be the man to figure out why he would want his wife to be in hijab in a country where most women were showing their faces. What does he think is unique about the face and body of his wife that they must be so hidden. Then i tried to be the woman to see why i would accept an existence where when walking i can barely see the two-and-a-half-feet long road that culminates at the heels of my husband. My imagination was injured by imagining both roles…’

‘In 2009, burqa/hijab/purdah hit the Western news stands with intensity because of the controversy generated by the legislated ‘ab-use’ of it by the French government.’

‘Most recently, and as late as this last winter, i was confronted by a black member of the Muslim brotherhood at Scott Road Station in line for a bus to Newton Exchange. In love with his own voice, the Preacher went on and on about the absolute necessity for women to observe purdah and the unforgiveability of not observing it. As an illustration of his preferences, and of an exemplary state of a Muslim woman, he pointed out to me a burqa-wearing woman who was also in the same line. The ‘discussion’ became an argument; the woman in burqa did not participate…’

‘Last month, i spotted a woman in burqa at Broadway skytrain station who later chose to sit beside me while coming to Surrey. She caught my eye because though in burqa, she was standing straight without covering her face. From the fair color of her skin, i assumed she was Iranian or Lebanese. On the skytrain, she made patronizing attempts to converse with me that made me feel suspicious of her intentions. It seemed, she was hoping to convert a chadar-wearing brown woman to stricter disciplines. And then, it came out that she was an Anglo Saxon convert to Islam. I offered her my poetry chapbook that had just come out. She skimmed through it, stopping at ‘My Shariah-Compliant Bra’ and ‘My Drone-Dead Lover’, and then she shut it close producing a sharp noise; ‘I don’t read poetry’, she thrust it back at me. This is one of the rare instances when i was happy to be rejected as a poet. I consider it a compliment to be rejected by an Anglo-Saxon-woman-convert-to-Islam who was using the burqa to gain high moral ground so that she can preach purdah to wayward and ignorant brown Muslim women.’

A blog post on purdah:
Purdah Manifestations

The next item is a song by Mariam Zohra, a founding member and the Creative Director of Surrey Muse. The song is about East Vancouver’s Tent City that came up a few years back as a protest against urban poverty and homelessness. Tent City had activists camp out in a park during the summer. This is an excerpt, and the link to the song is at the end of it.

get your ensemble
oh teacher
wanna talk about
tent city
so,
what are people
doin in Oppenheimer Park?
Teacher
what are people doing
parking tents, tents at the park,

teacher
get up get up
oh
I don’t know you gotta find out for yourself
we can talk about
tent city

Lyrics/Vocals: Mariam Zohra D. Music: Michael Louw. Song Composition: Michael Louw & Mariam Zohra D. 
Tent-City Song

Next is a spoken word item that has become written text now, so i’ll just read it to you.

‘It was a beautiful, warm and golden summer day. I was visiting a home in East Vancouver, and while the host made tea, I stood by the window and enjoyed being part of a quite residential street lined with thick old trees. Narrower than most streets in Surrey, it had a small park on one side and prosperous and old single family homes on the other. As I took in the view, a man appeared from one end of my vision of the road, in the way he walked he seemed to be a part of the street, the trees, of leaves, and the breeze rustling through them. It was as if he was gliding, smiling for sure. Then he passed right in front of me, dancing on tiptoes, twirling something in his other hand. Just watching him was a privilege. Seeing his back, I noticed that he was wearing a white sleeveless tank top, arms full of black, blue and red tattoos, with white cotton shorts over tattooed legs. It was a tall white guy with brown hair. And just then, I heard sirens, shattering the peace on the street with shocking accuracy. A police car came out of nowhere, zoomed past me, and hit hard breaks inches from the guy. By the time, the police car stopped and a cop jumped out, two other police cars were already there blocking the road on the other side, and a couple of cops were making their way toward him from the park.
The next moment, the guy was pinned to the road, and cops were holding him down while another stood ready with a tazer aimed at him. They mauled him, searched him, and then came away. They had ‘recovered’ a long white feather.
‘Sorry, Sir, we received a call from a property owner on the street who thought you were wielding a dangerous weapon, like a long knife ‘with glittering white blade’, they said.’
And then after deliberating among each other, they returned the feather to the guy, and left while the guy stood bewildered amidst shattered shards of a peaceful sunny afternoon.
The white guy was on a rare summer vacation from Newfoundland.’

Unpublished item.
It was presented in readings at Surrey and New Westminster.

Now, we have Jamie Reid’s poem PRAYER that I first heard from Vancouver’s wonderful slam poet RC Weslowski at the September gathering of Surrey Muse, just after Reid moved on. Last night, Heidi Greco was kind enough to lend me the anthology with the poem in it. I’ll just present what occurs most often in the poem, the refrain. As well, not just the refrain but the whole poem is in capitals- a form of protest, shouting or both, i guess.

PRAYER
By Jamie Reid

LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE
LET THE SKY ESCAPE AT LEAST
AT LEAST LET THE SKY ESCAPE PLEASE AT LEAST
LET THE SKY ESCAPE

Pages 74-76.
‘Revolving City’, eds. Compton & Saklikar, Anvil Press 2015

So far:
In the first item, the migrant character Skeena sees the new place as a continuity instead of a break, an important distinction. Purdah Manifestations shows how specific issues are faced by each of us in all our different social locations, ‘us’ includes everyone, colored/white migrants and indigenous peoples. The Tent City song points to poverty as integral to the cityscape, an issue that seeks resolutions. In the so-called spoken word item, the white man with a white feather brings out class as an entrenched form of othering, and Jamie Reid’s poem touches the heartache where the city destroys the land and the landscape. And this brings us to our last two items: an image and a slogan.

The image is of a new city park in Seattle.

fromthehungsrsiteFrom the Hungersite.

Seattle’s new city park reminds us of Havana where in the decade after the sanctions were placed on Cuba the average Cuban adult lost 20 lbs. But by the end of that same decade…

The average Cuban was getting ‘2600 calories and more than 68 grams of protein, an amount considered “sufficient” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2006 average caloric intake was up to 3356 calories. A lot of this food was produced not in the countryside (requiring transport to the cities) but in urban gardens, where food was grown and consumed in the same neighborhood. By 2002, 35,000 acres of urban gardens produced 3.4 million tons of food. In Havana, 90% of the city’s fresh produce came from local urban farms and gardens, all organic. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans were employed in urban agriculture. In 2003, Cuba had reduced its use of Diesel fuel by more than 50%, synthetic fertilizers by 90%, and chemical insecticides by 83%.’

Surrey, the City of Parks and of Future, is best-placed to turn some of its manicured parkland to nutritious food forests in anticipation of a delightful urban future.
the-worlds-most-sustainable-country-what-cuba

And now, the slogan. We have about three renditions of it, and i think we’ll be able to choose one easily.
The first:
A Tree For A Tree
The second:
A Tree For Every Tree
And the third:
A Tree For Every Profit-Damned Earth-Loving Brown Ass Tree

All in favor of the third one, raise hands.
On second thoughts, in the interest of brevity and simplicity, we better choose the first.

To view the context of slogans, check this poem presented the previous night at the Literary Cabaret.
‘Good news…’

Thank you, it was a great pleasure to be with you today and to participate in this 2-day event.
Fauzia
frafique@gmail.com
gandholi.wordpress.com
.
.

An Evening with Arundhati

arundhati

Written by Randeep Singh

She came. She spoke. She conquered. Arundhati Roy filled the pews of St. Andrew’s Wesley Church on April 1 as part of the Indian Summer Festival 2014.

Roy began by criticizing “representative democracy” as too much representation, not enough democracy. Democracy has plenty of institutions, Roy remarked, but those institutions have turned into conduits for a short-term, extractive, economic philosophy. “Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans,” she reads, “precisely because it mirrors our greatest folly – our nearsightedness?”

Capitalism controls culture too. Roy spoke of how corporations engage in “perception management,” deliberately not funding artistic projects which question the system. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy says, drew a connection between capitalism, imperialism and the Vietnam War; but American multinationals did not highlight this aspect of his legacy when they sponsored the Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, an organization which works with the US Department of Defence. The Indian mining group, Vedanta, Roy points out, recently sponsored the “Creating Happiness” film competition for film students to make films on sustainable development (in communities affected by the mining) with the tagline “Mining Happiness.”

Roy also questioned Gandhi as the mahatma or “great soul.” Roy recounted how the anti-imperialist, anti-racist Gandhi fought alongside Great Britain in the Boer Wars, refused to ride in the same railway carriages as Africans and wrote in prison that Indians deserved separate prisons from vile and immoral blacks and Chinese.

When asked whether she was an activist, Roy replied she was a writer telling the world’s stories. Her readings and discussion with The Tyee’s David Beers, brought to life the politics of development, resistance movements and the management of culture by corporations just as the arts have reenacted the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement or the experience of Canadian aboriginals in Residential Schools. As Roy puts it, “why wouldn’t we write about the critical issues our society is facing?”

‘“Brand Malala”: Western exploitation of a schoolgirl’ by Carol Anne Grayson

‘I think she is a very convenient person for us to really like. She’s the kind of Muslim girl that we want to show we like because we want to see them go to school. But in Pakistan, most girls do go to school.’ Says Birmingham poet Benjamin Zephaniah who was voted third in a BBC poll of the nation’s favourite poets, behind TS Eliot and John Donne (birminghampost.co.uk).  
As well, Malala helps US-NATO soldiers to believe that they are fighting for a ‘noble cause’ as opposed to Afghanistan’s riches and world colonization; and, it helps Pakistan’s ‘civil society’, whose salaries come from US/NATO-supported funding agencies, to justify their inaction both against US drone attacks and Taliban. Uddari.

.

As Malala Yousafzai has told the media, that second when she was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan changed her life, (it is also changing the lives of others too), Malala has become a very marketable western commodity. My issue is not with Malala, I support and respect her wish of education for all, however (and it shames me to say this being British) I doubt she fully realizes the extent to which she is being exploited by her new “mentors” in the UK.

There is an element of risk to all now living in Pakistan since the US led War on Terror brought internal conflict to the region but there is only special treatment for some of those affected. Why not fly out every child harmed by US drones to the west for the most up to date medical care, there are plenty for wellwishers to assist.

Despite some victims trying to speak out on drones, for the most part we don’t even know their names, let alone details of injuries inflicted upon them. There are double standards on how terrorism is reported. Taliban terrorism is used to propel the “good west versus bad east” narrative in the media whilst US state terrorism is served up as “collateral damage” and is more likely to get buried along with its victims. All violence must be condemned.

Since the shooting of Malala, western politicians and media alike have seized upon a very profitable “alliance” with the young Pakistani schoolgirl. She fits comfortably into the well- worn narrative of “rescuing” women from the east. Let’s face it an entire war was waged according to some to “save” Afghanistan’s females from the Taliban. (Let’s hope Malala’s story will not be used to keep occupation going a little longer). What press usually fail to mention however is how Britain and its allies are failing miserably on “gender justice” back home.

Exploitation of women whether emotionally, physically, financially is so ingrained in our society and institutions that I am not even sure whether some men realize their actions. The old saying comes to mind… “in the valley of the blind, the one eyed ‘man’ is king”! Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Malala’s avid supporter, fits that description. He is known as a misogynist by his former work colleagues and to human rights campaigners for his refusal to address the plight of widows whose husbands were unlawfully killed by the state see my earlier story http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/malala-becomes-poster-girl-of-western-government-double-standards-on-gender-justice/

How many men do you see studying gender to work with women for greater equality though it would benefit society for more males to do so. Division of labour need not be problematic if given the same value for both sexes. The one man on my gender course at university was a young Pashtun man who was determined in his aim to improve the situation of women in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan whilst at the same time respecting the culture.

The special treatment of Malala is highlighting divisions in many ways. Week in week out, when I peruse the British press, we are subjected to articles about asylum seekers “ripping off” the UK. These stories show scant regard for torture victims coming to Britain that often end up being held in detention centres or virtually penniless in the community living on vouchers with limited access to health care. Yet one young lady is flown in to the UK and provided with the best possible care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham appearing to bypass the hurdles faced by many. It would seem that there is something of a two tier system of care going on here and it is understandable that this will raise questions as to how we define a “deserving” case. I have met many juvenile survivors of torture, outspoken activists on human rights so what makes one person more deserving than another?

The commodification of Malala appears to have started at the time her father volunteered his daughter to the BBC to document life at school under the Taliban (this was before she was shot on a bus). She is seen on film at a younger age going to school and participating in lessons with her peers.

Media stories report that her father Ziauddin owns “for profit” schools which just happen to be high on the agenda of Gordon Brown, global envoy for education at the UN (again documented in my earlier article. One wonders why then, given that both Ziauddin and the BBC are so quick to warn of the dangers of the Taliban, they would put a child in the line of fire (albeit her identity thinly disguised) to write her diary for public consumption.

With regard to the question of another agenda, artist Jonathan Rao who painted the portrait of Malala that hangs in the National Gallery admits to his concerns in the Independent newspaper and states:-

 “I guess I was worried that she was probably a pawn in a bigger game and was being unduly influenced by the people around her.”

The Independent points out that:-

Those people include Edelman, the global PR firm that manages Malala alongside its work for clients that include Microsoft and Starbucks. Jamie Lundie, an impeccably connected senior executive for the firm and former speechwriter for Paddy Ashdown when he was the Lib Dem leader, leads a team of five who work with Malala on a pro bono basis.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/the-making-of-malala-yousafzai-shot-by-the-taliban-for-going-to-school-and-now-in-the-frame-for-nobel-peace-prize-8862588.html

During a BBC documentary this week, Malala’s former friends are shown in Swat valley, Pakistan continuing their education. However there is fear among children in the region. Fox news reports the following words from school principle Selma Naz:-

“We have had threats, there are so many problems. It is much more dangerous for us after Malala’s shooting and all the attention that she is getting,” said Naz. “The Taliban are very dangerous. They have gone from Swat, but still they have a presence here. It is hidden, but it is here. We all have fear in our hearts.”

What is disturbing also is that we are told in the film which area of Birmingham Malala now goes to school, careless words given threats to target her once again repeated from Taliban. Can we assume she will not be targeted in UK?

Safety is pushed aside for “brand Malala”. There is Malala the book, Malala the film, Malala the award nominee, Malala the portrait, with the schoolgirl being skilfully marketed by Edelman, the world’s biggest PR company. Wavering a fee will no doubt be compensated by the value of the publicity she will bring to the company. I wonder, how many people can name the other girls injured when Malala was shot? What quality of care and support did they receive? Are they represented by PR companies?

All this stage management behind the scenes strikes me as far removed from the image portrayed on our screens of a simple, very bright girl, with a love for school standing up for her rights. We are now into the dangerous cult of celebrity. To ease the entry into western homes via multimedia, we are told Malala likes pop star Justin Bieber, is championed by actor and UN ambassador Angelina Jolie and what transition would be complete without the obligatory photo with a smiling David Beckham. With the “A” listers behind her, Malala’s future looks rosy. How different to the many women that have been harmed in Britain and received no such support.

It is fascinating to see the establishment prizes Malala is collecting including “Pride of Britain”. Will we see her projected from Quilliam next, sat beside former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson. Even to Tommy, she must surely be the acceptable face of Islam. Then of course we are gearing up for the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala a firm favourite to take the award. Putin’s heart must be sinking with Malala predicted to follow in the footsteps of champion of drones, supporter of targeted killings, President Barack Obama.

I can’t help but think of another Nobel nominee two decades ago, one Rigoberta Menchu. Like Malala she was thrust into the limelight, pressurised by others. She also wrote a book and appears to have been so eager to fit the expected narrative that she is alleged to have altered facts to project her cause, that of Quiche people in Guatemala. Ten years after the Nobel she was mired in controversy, though allowed to keep her prize. I quote a newspaper story in the New York Times  December 15th 1998:-

In the autobiography ”I, Rigoberta Menchu,” first published in Spanish in 1983 at the height of Guatemala’s brutal civil war, Ms. Menchu, now 39, tells a wrenching tale of violence, destruction, misery and exploitation as moving and disturbing as a Victor Hugo novel. So powerful was the book’s impact that it immediately transformed her into a celebrated and much-sought-after human rights campaigner and paved the way for her being awarded the Nobel Prize.

Key details of that story, though, are untrue, according to a new book written by an American anthropologist, ”Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans.” Based on nearly a decade of interviews with more than 120 people and archival research, the anthropologist, David Stoll, concludes that Ms. Menchu’s book ”cannot be the eyewitness account it purports to be” because the Nobel laureate repeatedly describes ”experiences she never had herself.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/12/15/world/tarnished-laureate-a-special-report-nobel-winner-finds-her-story-challenged.html?scp=7&sq=rigoberta%20menchu&st=cse&pagewanted=1

Malala is a bright, articulate young woman. She comes across as caring and committed and has great potential to make a difference in this world finding her own route. She is not in the UK to boost careers or further the bank balance of those in the media. Those who claim to support gender justice should ask themselves why it is that some cases are projected into the media whilst thousands of other cases are suppressed by government including by one of the same politicians so supportive to Malala.

I recall one campaigner harmed by the state writing to Gordon Brown on his deathbed requesting a meeting in a last ditch attempt to obtain gender justice for widows left behind. The BBC spoke highly of this activist, noted how he “died a disappointed man” ignored by Gordon Brown. Such requests were repeated by others many times.

The support people receive after trauma makes a significant difference to how they recover and move forward in life. Malala has been surrounded by care, offered opportunities and her story given immense media coverage. That does not happen for most women. Many go unheard no matter how vocal they may be or what risks they take, they simply don’t fit in to a popular narrative, especially if victims of the state.

Malala should not be used as a diversion to distract away from other women that have been fighting in British courts for years to highlight injustice and the wrongdoing of government. This does not help the cause of any woman while one is exploited and others are being suppressed!

As an intelligent young role model, I don’t imagine Malala would want this. I would think all she wants to do is knuckle down and get on with her education and hopefully will be allowed to do so in peace.

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

Original with images: http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/brand-malala-western-exploitation-of-a-schoolgirl/

Related content on Uddari
‘The Jolly Trinity’ by Fauzia Rafique
.
.

Matter of Survival: The Crisis at Fukushima’s Unit 4

In the past couple of months, i have posted some materials on the now happening or about to happen disasters and their possible impacts on our lives. There has been very little response. But all this is actually real, and since we are not our governments and their sponsored media, we are free to take note. — Fauzia

..

Published on Friday, September 20, 2013 by Common Dreams

The Crisis at Fukushima’s Unit 4 Demands a Global Take-Over

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focused on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Why is this so serious?

We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.

Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool. Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.

Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific. (Note: A relatively small earthquake struck Fukushima prefecture on Thursday, an indication of the inevitable occurrence of larger future ones in the area.)

The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.

The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.

Just prior to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.

Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.

According to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with forty years in an industry for which he once manufactured fuel rods, the ones in the Unit 4 core are bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling. Cameras have shown troubling quantities of debris in the fuel pool, which itself is damaged.

The engineering and scientific barriers to emptying the Unit Four fuel pool are unique and daunting, says Gundersen. But it must be done to 100% perfection.

Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers.

We have two months or less to act.

For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.

If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now.

The clock is ticking. The hand of global nuclear disaster is painfully close to midnight.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Harvey Wasserman‘s Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at progressiveradionetwork.com, and he edits nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US and Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth are at harveywasserman.com along with Passions of the PotSmoking Patriots by “Thomas Paine.”  He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election, at freepress.org.

From
commondreams.org/view/2013/09/20-1
..

Sign the Petition
..

uddariblog@gmail.com
facebook.com/UddariWeblog
.
.