Archive for the ‘Rights’ Category

Nigerian Cat-woman

The fear surrounding this event is not only palpable, but downright disturbing.

I feel as if I should write something more about this, but I think it speaks for itself. From the Nigerian Tribune:

Cat-woman in Port Harcourt, NigeriaThis woman was reported to have earlier been seen as a cat before she reportedly turned into a woman in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Thursday. Photo: Bolaji Ogundele.WHAT could be described as a fairy tale turned real on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as a cat allegedly turned into a middle-aged woman after being hit by a commercial motorcycle (Okada) on Aba/Port Harcourt Expressway.

…Nigerian Tribune learnt that three cats were crossing the busy road when the okada ran over one of them which immediately turned into a woman. This strange occurrence quickly attracted people around who descended on the animals. One of them, it was learnt, was able to escape while the third one was beaten to death, still as a cat though.

…Another witness…said the woman started faking when she saw that many people were gathering around her. “I have never seen anything like this in my life. I saw a woman lying on the road instead of a cat. Blood did not come out of her body at that time. When people gathered and started asking her questions, she pretended that she did not know what had happened,” he said.

…[The woman] was later taken to a hospital for medical attention. It took the intervention of policemen to prevent the mob from killing her. [Bolaji Ogundele, Nigerian Tribune, Cat turns into Woman in P/Harcourt, Port Harcourt, 22nd May 2008].


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We’ve all heard about the death toll in Iraq (~4,100 dead at the time of this writing), seen the footage of memorial services, the news reports about hidden casualties and the perceived unreality of what’s happening in the Middle East. But there’s a subset of war casualties we don’t hear much about—those returned soldiers who commit suicide, who attempt suicide, who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, who suffer from any number of other mental illnesses exacerbated by the war.

Kevin and Joyce Lucey, a couple who lost their son to suicide in 2004, marked this Memorial Day differently, attending a new kind of rally.

Organizers of the waterfront rally, including Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, said they wanted an alternative way to mark Memorial Day from traditional “militaristic” parades and speeches that glorify war. For instance, President Bush yesterday talked about soldiers in Iraq who died “doing what they loved most: defending the United States of America.” The reality, said Memorial Day for Peace organizers, is that troops and civilians alike are dying for Bush’s foreign policy mistakes.

Yet, despite opinion polls over the last two years that consistently show the majority of Americans oppose the five-year-old war, many protests draw small crowds. Only about 100 people, mostly veterans and veteran activists, turned up at the waterfront, drawing a few barbs from the speakers about all the people who view Memorial Day as little more than a day off from work. [Boston Globe, Rally’s veterans, activists seek to avoid glorifying war, Scott Allen, May 27th, 2008.]

But what about those who are still with us, struggling with depression, PTSD, and urges to commit suicide? Well, there’s some hope in a new private practice programme. As this article from the AP tells us,

WASHINGTON—Thousands of private counselors are offering free services to troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health problems, jumping in to help because the military is short on therapists.

On this Memorial Day, America’s armed forces and its veterans are coping with depression, suicide, family, marital and job problems on a scale not seen since Vietnam. The government has been in beg-borrow-and-steal mode, trying to hire psychiatrists and other professionals, recruit them with incentives or borrow them from other agencies.

Among those volunteering an hour a week to help is Brenna Chirby, a psychologist with a private practice in McLean, Va.

“It’s only an hour of your time,” said Chirby, who counsels a family member of a man deployed multiple times. “How can you not give that to these men and women that … are going oversees and fighting for us?”

There are only 1,431 mental health professionals among the nation’s 1.4 million active-duty military personnel, said Terry Jones, a Pentagon spokesman on health issues.

About 20,000 more full- and part-time professionals provide health care services for the Veterans Administration and the Pentagon. They include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers and substance abuse counselors. [Pauline Jelinek, AP, May 25th, 2008.]

Until a chance encounter over coffee the other day, this new death toll had not occurred to me—sure, I knew troops had issues with PTSD and the like, I even know a couple. But the idea of suicide as a result of war, although immediately understandable, was not on my personal radar. And how true is that for the public in general? Mental illness carries a stigma—a lesser stigma in the US than some other parts of the world, but a stigma all the same. Which is why it’s important, imperative even, that we talk about it, today.

For more information, help, and non-judgemental discussion about suicide and depression, contact The Samaritans at http://www.samaritanshope.org and 877-870-HOPE (4673).

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Forced Marriage

In early March, the UK news site, The Asian News, posted an article about the release of Belonging, by Manchester City Councillor Sameem Ali. Heart-rending, Belonging is a story of “of appalling domestic cruelty. But it is also a story about the cultural conflicts of a Pakistani family new to Britain[1].” The crucial issue in the story is forced marriage—when she was thirteen, Ms. Ali was sent to Pakistan, where she was forced to marry a man in his late twenties.

Child marriage has a long history. In the modern day Western World, children have a childhood. At twelve, they climb trees, they play video games, and they go to school. But the idea of childhood is a relatively new one—during Great Britian’s Industrial revolution (nineteenth century) children as young as five were working in the factories. In fact, child labour laws weren’t introduced until 1833, when legislation preventing children under nine working was first introduced (several well-known authors, including Charles Dickens and more effectively, Charles Kingsley, chronicled the issues of the child in their works, with Kinglsey’s The Water Babies ultimately effecting change in the Upper House). Considering this, it’s not surprising that children in the developing world go to work rather than school and have children rather than dances. But, in contemporary society, we are so far removed from the realities of the 19th and early 20th centuries that we are quick to judge. (more…)

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Baha’i Rights

Every morning, my husband makes a pot of coffee or tea and we sit down to check our email, messages, and catch up on the news. This morning, I stumbled upon The Muslim Network for Bahá’í Rights.

Bahá’í s represent a religious minority in many parts of the world; believers are as far-flung as Iran, Egypt, Germany, and Australia (to name just a small section of their geographic reach). Moreover, the Bahá’í faith is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, with more than five million followers to date. And yet, as The Muslim Network for Bahá’í Rights so aptly points out, Bahá’í s are persecuted in many places, most notably Egypt and Iran.


According to the founder of , a young woman from Bahrain,

“When I talk to my friends about the Bahá’í faith, they tell me that it is a satanic religion. I ask them to provide me with one of the principles of this religion, but they have no answer. Some think that the Bahá’í s are a sect of Shi’i Islam which is also a mistake. They don’t know anything about it, but they are nonetheless suspicious of its followers.” [1]

Is this true?

According to Bahai.com, the principles of the Bahá’í faith as laid out by Bahá’u’lláh in the mid-late nineteenth century are belief in:

— the oneness of mankind

— universal peace upheld by a world government

— independent investigation of truth

— the common foundation of all religions

— the essential harmony of science and religion

— equality of men and women

— elimination of prejudice of all kinds

— universal compulsory education

— a spiritual solution to the economic problem

— a universal auxiliary language [2]. (more…)

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