Global Voices

Monday, September 30, 2013

Saudi Clergyman Delivers Ground-breaking Science on Why Women Shouldn't Drive

"God did not say I can't drive," reads this sign posted on the We The Woman N7nu flickr account

“God did not say I can't drive,” reads this sign posted on the We The Woman N7nu flickr account

In Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving. While more than 11,000 women challenge the ban through a petition, a man of wisdom has finally come up with a scientific explanation on why it is actually better for women not drive. In an interview with online Saudi newspaper Sabq, Sheikh Saleh al-Lehaydan, a judicial and psychological consultant to the Gulf Psychological Association, revealed novel reproductive science facts [ar]:

وتابع: “إلى جانب أن المرأة إذا قادت السيارة لغير الضرورة – كما تقدم – قد يؤثر ذلك عكسياً على الناحية الفسيولوجية؛ فإن علم الطب الوظيفي الفسيولوجي قد درس هذه الناحية بأنه يؤثر تلقائياً على المبايض، ويؤثر على دفع الحوض إلى أعلى؛ لذلك نجد غالب اللاتي يقدن السيارات بشكل مستمر يأتي أطفالهن مصابين بنوع من الخلل الإكلينيكي المتفاوت لدرجات عدة”.

He added “In addition, if the woman drove without a necessity this may affect her physiology negatively; in the science of functional physiology this issue has been studied and it affects the ovaries spontaneously, affects thrusting the pelvis upwards, thus we find that most of those who drive cars continuously deliver children with varying degrees of clinical dysfunction.”

Sheikh Lehaydan's announcement is incredibly timely: Saudi women activists are campaigning for 26 October to be a day when women go out driving. His warning urging women to “wait and consider the negatives” of such a damageable activity adds to concerns voiced by other conscious Saudi citizens [ar]:

Those who are calling for a women driving protest Oct 26th are a tribe who have been breastfed by the West and they grew big and fat drinking that milk. Now they are following the West and trying to Americanize our society.

‘Foreign hands,’ a favourite tune in the Middle East when it boils down to reconsidering institutionalized human rights violations, are not the only ones guilty of fomenting dangerous opposition to long-lived prohibition:

God be great, the secularists and the Shia are in one trench to call for women driving. This proves that the issue is planned and supported by nations.

Eman al-Nafjan tweets a picture of the apocalypse to come:

(The slogan reads: “They want her to drive so that she’ll be driven.”)

Sheikh al-Lehaydan's ground-breaking scientific discovery could not go unnoticed. A Twitter hashtag, #قيادة_المرأة_تؤثر_على_المبايض_والحوض, that translates into “women driving affects ovaries and pelvis” kicked off and went viral as many reacted to al-Lehaydan's scientific knowledge:

Such declarations do not spark sharp criticism and acute sarcasm solely from women:

What is this? I talked to my doctor, and she said “What kind of ignorance is this? These words have nothing to do with Medicine, from wherever you look at it!”

Renowned (male) scientist and sound religious critic, Richard Dawkins, observed:

To whom tweep @Seeektrooof commented:

Sarcasm aside, challenging the driving ban in Saudi Arabia is a long-lived battle. Indeed, the first protest opposing the ban happened back in November 1990 (En) when 47 women drove through the country's capital city of Riyadh. They were not only arrested, but many were further punished by being banned from travel and suspended from their work. May 2011, marked a tipping point of the protest movement against driving prohibition for women in the Kingdom after Saudi women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif was arrested after uploading a video to YouTube that showed her driving. She was jailed for more than a week, becoming a hero for many women both in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. Back in June 2011, numerous Saudi women across the Kingdom followed the example Manal al-Sharif has set and participated in the “Women2Drive” campaign by defying the ban and driving throughout the streets.

As a matter of fact, banning women from driving is not inscribed anywhere in the Kingdom's official legislation. Additionally, the head of Saudi Arabia’s religious police also said that the “Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving,” stressing that, since appointed as head of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, religious police have not pursued or stopped a woman driving. The prohibition is thus entirely based on the country's conservative customs.

Mobilization to revert oppressive prohibition has been growing ever since and bold acts of civil disobedience have multiplied. Along with bold positions in Saudi Arabia's mainstream media, the 26 October campaign has seen an incredible support from many of the country's prominent public figures. Remarkable Madeha Al-Ajroush who drove both in 1990 and in June 2011, says:

Using the Twitter hashtag #أنا_رجل_مؤيد (“I´m a male supporter”), men have also started to publicly show their support:

As Manal al-Sharif put it when rewarded for “creative dissent” at the Oslo Freedom Forum: “The rain begins with a single drop.” Seems like the sky above Saudi Arabia is covered with clouds.

Leila Nachawati contributed to this piece.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Protests in Sudan: Dozens Feared Dead

On Twitter, Yasir Yaha shares this photograph of a child watching the mayhem unfold in Sudan. Photo credit: @yasirya7ia

On Twitter, Yasir Yaha shares this photograph of a child watching the mayhem unfold in Sudan. Photo credit: @yasirya7ia

Sudan's answer against fuel subsidy protests, raging for the fourth day in a row, was cutting off the Internet and killing dozens of protestors. Activists say Sudan pulled the Internet plug to stop activists from sharing its crackdown on protestors on the one hand, and screening the rest of the world from seeing the carnage unfolding on the ground.

Girifna, the Sudanese Non-Violent Resistance Movement, posts a round up on developments in Sudan over the previous four days. They say, over the last 24 hours, the Sudanese government cut off the Internet – to stop videos and images of the crackdown on protesters from spreading.

Popular Protests

According to Girifna:

Sudan is experiencing a new wave of popular protests that are increasing in popularity and scope. They have so far included Wad Madani, Khartoum, Kassala, Port Sudan, Gadarif, Sinaar and Nyala. In all of these towns except Nyala, the protests were triggered by the critical economic situation that saw in the last weeks a sharp depreciation of the Sudanese pound vis a vis the dollar and, and an increase in prices of basic food items and the cost of fuel. This was compounded by the government’s announcement, last Tuesday (September 17) that it was lifting State subsidies from fuel and essential food products, such as sugar. Starting Tuesday, September 24, the price of gasoline almost doubled.

The report adds:

What separates this new wave of protests from previous ones is that the protests are not led, coordinated or mobilized by known political factions or youth movements. These protests are more grassroots in their nature and not geographically localized in specific neighbourhoods. In Khartoum, the protests included most areas, with the participation of school students and young adults.

100 Killed in Khartoum

Girifna's estimate of the human toll is as follows:

Reports of deaths of peaceful protesters, mainly by live bullets, indicate that in Khartoum alone about 100 civilians were killed– by the end of the third day of protests. While in Madani the death toll reached 12 civilians by Tuesday. The number of those injured is much higher, but could not be confirmed.

Gas Stations Closed:

Girifna adds:

In Khartoum all gas stations are closed, creating a severe shortage in gasoline and implying that mobility of residents of the capital will be limited if the situation remains the same. Market places and smaller neighbourhood shops have also closed down creating shortages in basic foodstuff. This has implications on the future ability of Khartoum’s residents to communicate as many depend on pre-paid credit for their mobile phones, and may not be able to buy phone credit in the immediate future.

Schools Closed:

And schools were closed:

On Wednesday the Sudanese government announced the closure of all schools until September 30. At the time of writing this report there was unconfirmed news that a curfew may be imposed from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., most probably in an effort to limit the continuation of protests which went on until after midnight in some areas of the capital on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Shutting Down the Internet:

According to Girifna, the Internet was shut down to stop activists and protesters from sharing news on the ground. Also, the government did not want the world to see what was happening in Sudan.

On Wednesday at about 1.30 p.m. Sudan time, news spread about the possibility of the internet being disconnected as information from mobile phones including video footage and photos that were being shared by protesters on the ground; as well as communication via smart phone applications such as, WhatsApp stopped suddenly. Soon after, wi-fi connections were also impacted. This created panic, because in the current information black-out a lot of citizens are using their phones and applications on smart-phones to share videos, pictures and updates. The only source of information for Sudanese inside Sudan and outside was social media platforms where most information was being exchanged, in addition to telephones and transfer of information via word-of-mouth.

The shutting down of the internet comes at a time when very disturbing images and videos of dead students and injured protesters are starting to circulate on social media. It is proof that the Government of Sudan has something to hide that it does not want its citizens to share with the rest of the world.

Activist's Family Harassed:

Sudanese activist Khalid Ewais complains that his family, back in Khartoum, is being harassed by the authorities [ar]:

The Sudanese Security Service is harassing my family in Sudan, Khartoum. Your issue is with me, not my family. I hold you responsible for their safety.

In another tweet, he shares a tally of the number of injured treated at Khartoum Hospital:

According to medical sources: 185 victims have been taken to Khartoum Hospital Bahari since yesterday, all of them with gun shots. Another 135 victims taken to Omdurman … and tens of deaths

Meanwhile, the Sudanese are calling on people not to turn a blind eye to their strife:

@rrakia tweets:

And blogger Usamah Mohamed expects more Internet cuts:

via Global Voices » Feature

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blogging for Freedom on Saudi Arabia's National Day

Saudi Arabia marks its National Day on September 23. While this is usually a day people celebrate the monarchy more than the country itself, the previous two national days were different. Saudis, with the use of social networks and blogs, had the chance to express themselves freely – blogging their hopes for a nation which respects and embraces its people and their aspirations.

Writer and Doctor, Bader Al-Ibrahim wrote:

The carnival celebration is not enough to reinforce the national sense of belonging in the absence of a popular memory, a joint identity and institutions sponsoring citizenship.

Jordanian Human Rights Defender, Fadi Al-Qadi, tweeted:

Abdullah Al-Hamed and his fellows in ACPRA are spending the Saudi national day in prisons. One of their charges is “impeding development” while the ruler's charge is “impeding humanity”.

Writer Abdullah Al-Malki tweeted:

On our national day, we remember ACPRA, Al-Hamed, Al-Qahtani, Al-Bjadi, Tawfeeq Al-Amer, Al-Mnasif and Jeddah reformists and everyone who struggled for this country to reform and prosper. Peace be upon you.

While Eman Al-Qaffas noted:

Whoever thinks loving your country necessitates loving your government is a person who does not love the country.

And Rehab Al-Hamdan added:

People are more aware now. Empty words don't fool them anymore.

Many bloggers shared their thoughts on the national day from different perspectives.

Sultan Al-Amer, writer and blogger, wrote from an Arab nationalist point of view:

إن تاريخنا “القومي” كعرب ليس محصورا بحدود الدولة السعودية وتاريخها.

إن تاريخنا القومي هو تاريخ الشعوب الممتدة من الخليج إلى المحيط وليس تاريخ الأنظمة فقط.

وإن معنى “الوطن” لا يمكن الاحتفال به قبل تجسيده كحقوق سياسية وحريات.

وإن الأنظمة الحاكمة تستطيع بسهولة أن تبني شرعية متينة إذا تحولت إلى أنظمة مدافعة ومنحازة لقضايا أمتها ومستجيبة لآمالها وتطلعاتها.

Our national history as Arabs is not restricted by the borders and history of Saudi Arabia. Our national history is that of the people living between the Gulf and the [Atlantic] ocean not the history of regimes only. The meaning of “a country” cannot be celebrated until it is embodied by political rights and freedoms. The ruling regimes can easily build a strong legitimacy if they start defending and siding with their people's causes and responding to their hopes and aspirations.

While another nationalist journalist and writer, Abdullah Al-Duhailan, blogged criticizing two types of people. One is the intellectual elites who refuse to celebrate such a day until all political and civil demands are met. The other is the majority of the people who respond to media's propaganda and celebrate certain people instead of the country itself.

The families of detainees saw this day as a chance to raise awareness about their cause. Anonymous advocacy groups @e3teqal [arrest] and @almonaseron [the supporters] called for several small protests that took place mainly in Buraiydah.

From the women's protest in Buraydah

From the women's protest in Buraiydah

Tires were burnt in non-residential areas with posters next to them demanding the release of the detainees. And a meeting was held in Buraiydah where relatives of detainees met and discussed the possible ways to support the detainees. The family of Abdulkarim Al-Khuder, imprisoned ACPRA member, were among a few families who had their houses surrounded by police cars for hanging pictures of their detained loved ones.

Mahdi Al-Zahir, an activist from Qatif, tweeted:

I would like to celebrate the national day. But my brother is detained, my cousin is detained, my friend is detained, even my neighbor is detained.

And The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) published a statement [ar] calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience and for a national dialogue between the government and elected representatives of the people as equals.

وإن هذا الشعب كباقي الشعوب فيه من هو مستعد للنضال السلمي للوصول للحقوق المشروعة والسجون لن تكفي فكلما سجن فوج جاء فوج آخر … فأما الحكومات وأحيانا الدول تتغير وتبقى الشعوب.

There are persons in this nation, like any other, who are willing to continue the peaceful struggle until their legitimate demands are met. Prisons will not be enough. Every time a group is imprisoned, another group will come out… Governments, and sometimes countries, change, but the people remain.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

PHOTOS: Violent Dispersal of Election Protest in Cambodia

Water cannons were used by police to disperse crowd. Image from @PonniahKevin

Water cannons were used by police to disperse crowd. Image from @PonniahKevin

The three-day protest organized by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was marred by violence when police and protesters clashed last Sunday.

The camp-in protest is a continuation of the series of assemblies by the CNRP aimed at pressuring the government to form an independent committee to probe the recent National Assembly elections.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) which has been in power in the past three decades won the elections but the results were rejected by the Opposition.

Despite the clashes during the first day of protest, more than 20,000 people were still able to attend the CNRP assembly at the Phnom Penh Freedom Park yesterday.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy also held a dialogue and agreed to renounce violence and reform the voter list. But they still disagreed on the fundamental demands of the opposition which included the formation of an independent committee. The opposition has earlier warned to boycott the opening of the Parliament session.

Road blockades were blamed by some groups for igniting the violence during the Sunday protest. Even non-protesters were prevented from crossing some parts of the city. Photo from urban Voice

Road blockades were blamed by some groups for igniting the violence during the Sunday protest. Even non-protesters were prevented from crossing some parts of the city. Photo from Urban Voice

Freedom Park protest. Image from ‏@PanhaTheng

Freedom Park protest. Image from ‏@PanhaTheng

A barricade separating the police and protesters. Image from @illied

A barricade separating the police and protesters. Image from @illied

Monks also joined the protest. Image from @illied

Monks also joined the protest. Image from @illied

Videos of the protest at the Freedom Park and the Sunday night clash between police and protesters were also uploaded on YouTube:

Cambodians are using the hashtag #electionsKH to monitor the election-related protests:

Opposition leader Mu Sochua wrote about the original plan for the three-day protest:

The camp-in will have a more of a Occupy Freedom Park atmosphere with the space shared with civil society combined with music and the Gandhi film in the evening.

The challenge will be toilets for 5,000 people for 3 days and nights.

Leaders of the opposition are expected to spend most of their time at the park

OU Ritthy described the set-up in the park:

Many people are bringing their family members to visit; they are roaming around and visiting demonstrators who are eating, sleeping, smoking and talking in manner of rural areas or grassroots people.

Translated into Khmer language, documentaries of Mahamta Gandhi and Martin Luther King are being displayed on four big screens placed at different corners of Freedom Park for demonstrators to watch.

Casey Nelson observed a significant deployment of police in the city:

In my estimation there were at least 25,000 people in the Freedom Park area midday today, perhaps significantly more, and more protestors were on the riverfront and in other areas.

Police presence around the city was much heavier today than it was for the last demonstration. Roads were blocked with concertina wire blockades across town making travel difficult, and PMs (gendarmes) and riot police in full gear were visibly out in significant force

Naomi Collett Ritz wrote what she saw at the scene of the clash:

As we got closer to the bridge we saw shrapnel, gas canisters, and chunks of pavement littering the bridge, and hundreds of armed police were lining the road and filing into a huge warehouse just. They let us run around and take photos, but no one would tell us what was going on. Then we heard gunshots, so we booked it down the street until we could find someone to give us a ride towards the source. Maybe fifty men were lining the street just down the road from the police under the bridge, and were feeding a handful of fires in the middle of the road.

Sovachana Pou believes many young Cambodians are in favor of change:

We will see in the next massive demonstrations how much the leaders of the opposition party leaders and our people are willing to sacrifice for this change. I have noticed that a good number of the nation’s youth rejected the values of their parents (status quo). They want fundamental change.

Sopheap Chak thinks the two major parties need to clarify their objectives:

I rather view the current political deadlock as the excuse by both sides of parties. The one who claimed to win the votes of people but dare not to address the problem properly and has failed to show enough effort toward resolution. The other side, opposition party, has also played an excuse around this political deadlock.

Local and international human rights groups have condemned the excessive use of violence by the police in dispersing the protesters which led to the death of one person. The police also reportedly used tear gas and live ammunition during the clash. Meanwhile, many people noted the failure of Cambodian TV networks to report the violent dispersal of the protest last Sunday.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Indians Push Back on Racist Taunts to Miss America 2014

New York's Nina Davuluri, 24, has won the Miss America 2014 title. Photo from Miss New York Organization's Facebook Page

New York's 24-year old Nina Davuluri made history last night by becoming the first American of Indian descent to win the coveted Miss America title. But now she has found herself at the receiving end of a slew of racist comments online, proving that beauty, for many, remains merely skin-deep. Ironically, because many did not know her actual heritage, comments and tweets vented ire against Arabs, Africans and Muslims, in addition to Indians. There were also references to terrorism and 9/11.

Davuluri has brushed off the stream of online racism, saying she prefers to “rise above that” and that she has always considered herself “first and foremost American”. In this YouTube video by the Miss America Organization in the run up to the Miss America 2014 pageant, Davuluri speaks of her upbringing and the fact that New York, which she represented in the pageant, is essentially a multicultural hotpot.

While Davuluri may not have been provoked by the racist comments, others have pushed back. In India too, there is a lot of discussion about Davaluri's win, making it a trending topic of the day.

Curiously, netizens in India have been divided in their opinion of the new Miss America.

On the one hand, there was a lot of support for Nina Davuluri and anger at the racist comments that have been dogging her victory. On the other hand, a section of netizens debated whether Davuluri would have ever have won a beauty pageant in India, given the country's fetish with fair skin.

Mumbai-based author and journalist Deepanjana Pal (@dpanjana) tweeted:

Food blogger and nutritionist Nandita Iyer (@saffrontrail) pointed out how many of the people making racist comments were not even aware of the differences between Arabs and Indians. She tweeted:

Engineering student Siddhartha R Thota's anger at the onslaught of racist verbal attacks on the newly crowned Miss America was evident in this tweet:

His anger found resonance with Ankita Singh (@VaanarMukhi) who commented via tweet

Gyanonymous pointed out the hypocrisy embedded in the racist comments through this tweet:

Too dark-skinned for India?

Davuluri's dark skin was the focus of many. In one tweet, journalist and author Samar Halarnkar (@samar11) wondered:

Kushan Mitra echoed the sentiment in his tweet:

Writer and columnist Salil Tripathi (@saliltripathi) wondered along the same lines, reminded by this article in FirstPost that ‘dusky’ skinned models and actresses in India often underwent “colour adjustments” before they got accepted.

There were still others who used humour to underline the fact that Ms. Davuluri was indeed dark complexioned and not the quintessential (white-skinned) American. For example, stand-up comedian Atul Khatri (@one_by_two) tweeted:

Challenging notions of beauty

However, a section of netizens celebrated the winner and saw this as another milestone to champion “Dark is Beautiful”.

From Mysore, author and blogger Ratna Rajaiah (@alphabetiya) tweeted:

Kaveri Jain (@Mehitabel) from Delhi proclaimed via this tweet

via Global Voices » Feature

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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Egypt's #SpyDuck is Served for Dinner

A White Stork - similar to Menes. Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A White Stork – similar to Menes. Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A stork accused of being a duck and framed for espionage and arrested in Egypt has ended up as a meal for an Egyptian family.

On August 31, news broke that Egypt had arrested a spy duck, with a suspicious gadget attached to its feathers. Later, it emerged that the duck was a stork, which was named Menes, and that the tracking device on it was for a study.

On September 4, Mostafa Hussein announced that the “wrongly accused stork is free”:

The euphoria was short-lived.

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia now reports:

I do not know if it is fate or what, but it seems that the story of Menes in the land of the Nile is extremely sad story.

After it was accused of espionage and spent a day in Egyptian detention , he was released in to a protectorate to fly free only to meet its end !! He was hunted down and eaten by an Egyptian Nubian family in the south !!!

On Facebook, the Nature Conservation Society of Egypt added:

Sad news: Menes the White Stork has been killed.

After being safely released into the Salugah & Ghazal protected area several days ago, Menes flew off to a nearby Nile Island, where he was captured and killed, to be eaten by local villagers.

The post explains:

Storks have been part of the Nubian diet for thousands of years, so the actual act of eating storks is not in itself a unique practice. However, the short-lived success story of getting Menes released, was not enough to keep him safe till he exited Egypt.

And the issue is bigger – and more complicated:

Egypt has long suffered from issues of uncontrolled hunting. However, it is important to always balance the needs of local communities with the needs of nature and biodiversity conversation.

The post concludes:

The entire region has a very long way to go, specially in the field of raising awareness on hunting and migratory birds.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Live Blog: Russia's Regional and Local Elections

Russian election protest in St. Petersburg, 18 December 2011, photo by Yury Goldenshtein, (c) Demotix.

Russian election protest in St. Petersburg, 18 December 2011, photo by Yury Goldenshtein, (c) Demotix.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Homeless Foreigners on the Rise in Thailand

A homeless person in Bangkok. Image from Flickr user mikecogh (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A homeless person in Bangkok. Image from Flickr user mikecogh (CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to the charity group Issarachon Foundation, homeless foreigners are on the rise in Thailand. The group estimated that there could be 200 homeless foreigners in the country. Natee Saravari of the Issarachon Foundation observed that

In Pattaya we see them sorting through the trash in front of McDonald's for something to eat, and hanging out in front of restaurants asking customers for money

Paul Garrigan, a foreign resident in Thailand, surmised the possible reasons why some foreigners end up being homeless in Thailand:

Like lots of others before me, I mistakenly believed that my problems were due to my surroundings so living in an exotic place like Thailand would fix me. It didn’t. My life went into free-fall, and I’d almost certainly be dead now if it wasn’t for the help from Thai people and Thamrkabok Temple in 2006. I could easily have been one of the homeless foreigners in Thailand.

When we step off the plane it can feel like the normal standards do not apply. The fact that we don’t understand the rules of Thai culture gives us the false impression that there are no rules.

He urged foreign embassies to extend assistance to their nationals:

Homeless foreigners are human beings who are struggling in life. They should be treated with compassion and offered help. Foreign embassies and consulates should step in to provide safe accommodation and food until these people can be helped back on their feet or repatriated to their home country– they should definitely not end up in jail waiting for deportation.

But the head of the tourist police in Pattaya, Pol Lt Col Aroon Promphan, reported that foreign embassies are often reluctant to help the homeless foreigners:

I sometimes tell [embassy staff] that their citizen has some mental problem and they have no money left. I ask them what do they want us to do with the citizen. The answer I hear back is, ‘You don't have to do anything. We are not responsible for this kind of person.”

Many homeless foreigners reported by the charity group were either abandoned by their Thai partners or encountered visa and passport problems. But Casey Hynes reminded foreign residents that they could have taken decisive steps to avoid losing their resources:

Though the plight of homeless foreigners is unfortunate, one wonders why they didn’t take steps to mitigate these circumstances in the first place. It is possible for foreigners to buy condos themselves in Thailand, or lease land long-term, which would allow them to avoid relying on a wife or girlfriend for the proper documentation. And while visa applications and runs can be a hassle, it’s far less of a hassle than to let both visa and passport expire, leaving them with few options in their home and adopted countries.

Bangkok Blogger hoped that authorities would review local laws to provide more protection to foreigners:

No doubt these homeless foreigners were driven to drink by their circumstances, all of which were totally avoidable.

The article went on to say that foreigners receive little protection from the law in Thailand and a Professor at a University in the North East of the country is saying that laws need updating with respect to protecting foreigners rights.

Hopefully, the powers to be will also agree.

The Bangkok Post report generated interesting comments about the issue. For example, juggernaut mentioned that there is a “legal apartheid against foreign spouses” in Thailand:

Foreign residents (not tourists/ diplomats/ business visitors) are not well protected. Unlike US, etc, married spouses of Thai nationals have little freedom & rights. The few rights are unfairly conditional; cannot re-enter Thailand without prior, expensive pass-stamps. Stay is illegal if balance is below 40,000 THB per year. Permission must be requested each year, which is revokable any time for no good reason. Not the environment to start family as married couple. There's legal apartheid against foreign spouses. Permanent residence cards are highly elusive, expensive, conditional & easily revoked for no good reasons. Good luck all.

Banmebkk asserted that the Thai government has been kind and fair in dealing with homeless foreigners:

Thais are actually pretty kind with these homeless people, most police just ignore them. In most first world countries, the police would have detained and arrested the homeless with expired passports and start the process of sending them home.

onlyasking noted the various circumstances of homeless foreigners:

To view the problem in one dimension is wrong. There are people staying in Thailand from Europe that fled here to survive and which don't have any incomes. You have people that came to Thailand with money and have lost it or sqaundered it. You have people here that have very small incomes and can't survive back home but can survive here. You have people that have overstayed their visa with 15 years. All of them are however the responsibility of their home countries, not Thailand's.

upena believes the Thai government has no obligation to help all homeless foreigners:

Sorry folks, as an expat living in Thailand for the past three years, and visiting Thailand and working here since 1973, I have absolutely no sympathy for those that cannot support themselves. They knew the rules before they got here and it is not up to the Thai Government to support/help them. They need to contact family of seek assistance from their embassy/consulate.

Chem-Zam urged everyone not to wait for the government or a charity group in providing assistance when they encounter a homeless foreigner:

As a foreigner in Thailand, I understand how difficult to survive without resources and close relative in times of trouble financially. I think anyone can help any homeless foreigners without waiting for any charity works or government to assist them.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Drums of War on Syria Getting Louder

"The Revolutionaries of Manbij" - Aleppo. Photo by dona bozzi. Copyright Demotix, July 23, 2013.

“The Revolutionaries of Manbij” in Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Dona Bozzi. Copyright Demotix, July 23, 2013.

The drums of war are getting louder as the US prepares for a “punitive” bombing campaign on Syria. Online, everyone has become an overnight expert on Syria.

Palestinian Iyad El-Baghdadi notes:

Syrian Mohja Khaf says she is against the war. She reasons:

And she adds:

Kahf reminds us:

And Syrian Amal Hanano adds:

Syrian Maysaloon is surprised with the double standards applied by different countries:

And Dima Khatib adds [ar]:

Just because someone doesn't trust the Americans doesn't mean he is siding with the Assad regime. Stop exercising intellectual terrorism and obliterating others in the name of fighting for freedom

According to Michael Hanna, a war on Syria could last for years:

From Bahrain, writer Ali Al Saeed tweets:

In an earlier tweet, he wonders:

In Amman, the capital of Jordan, Ali Dahmash, witnessed an anti-war demonstration outside the US Embassy:

Commentator Marc Lynch adds:

While UAE commentator Sultan Al Qassemi asks:

And it's fine to be confused, says Ms. Entropy, from Egypt:

via Global Voices » Feature

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Monday, September 02, 2013

PHOTOS: Thousands of Fishermen Devastated by Oil Spill in Cebu, Philippines

Two weeks ago, more than 90 people died when a passenger ship sank off the coast of Philippine province Cebu after it collided with a cargo ship. But the impact of the collision is still being felt today after 120,000 liters of oil from the sunken ship spilled into the shorelines of the coastal towns of Talisay, Cordova, and Lapu-Lapu.

Aside from affecting more than 300 hectares of mangroves, the oil spill also displaced more than 3,000 fisherfolk and threatened to undermine the tourism business in the area.

Lizzy Oi visited a fishing village in Cordova and shared what she witnessed:

This is the face of Cordova today after the oil spill killed the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in the Municipality. 80% of its population depends mainly on fishing for their daily needs and now when everything was vanished by the devastating man-made tragedy, they seem to lose hope knowing that this problem will last for many months and even years.

Cordova, Cebu. Photo from Facebook of Lizzy Oi

Cordova, Cebu. Photo from Facebook of Lizzy Oi

Coconut husks used to remove oil. Photo from Facebook of Lizzy Oi

Coconut husks used to remove oil. Photo from Facebook of Lizzy Oi

Oil spill also reached Mactan beaches. Photo by @shai_ong

Oil spill also reached Mactan beaches. Photo by @shai_ong

meylou also sympathized with the affected residents:

This is truly tragic. My condolences to the families who lost their loved ones. Pity for the barangays who were affected, fishermen who cannot go out to go fishing, dead mangrove critters. It will take years for the mangroves to recover, but clean up will need to be done diligently or the mangroves will perish :-( . Thank you to all the volunteers

The disaster struck during the mangrove ‘fruiting’ season:

Clean-up operations were immediately undertaken by residents. Tishiana Mann noted some ingenious ways of removing oil from the water:

Lots of people invented interesting ways to help contain the oil spill: for example, local salons sent human hair, and business owners of coconut distribution centers sent heaps of coconut husk to act as absorbants. They even thought of using saw dust to absorb the oil, but when you threw it into the water, the wind would just blow it away.

Hair donations and free haircuts were initiated to help in the clean-up drive. Concerned citizens also collected chicken feathers.

But a scientist has warned that using hair could worsen the situation.

Christina Garcia Frasco believes there is a need for stricter maritime regulation:

The loss of life to disasters at sea is staggering. The damage to the marine environment is far-reaching. Even more disturbing is what little has been done to avoid such tragedies. As the seafaring public continues to risk life and limb when they board the ships that navigate our waters, it is clear that the need for stricter maritime regulation and sea traffic management is not only imminent but also absolute.

via Global Voices » Feature

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