Friday, September 23, 2011

Palestine's Rocky Path to the United Nations:Europe Needs to Step in Where the United States Has Failed - Robert Blecher

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed last week, the Palestine Liberation Organization will present an application for UN membership on Friday to be considered by the Security Council. This move appears to close the door on the possibility that Palestinian officials would withdraw their application in favor of a General Assembly resolution if such a vote were to enjoy a critical mass of support from EU member states.

In the eyes of the Palestinian leadership, Europe is the big prize. Abbas hopes to leverage the UN bid to recruit other global heavyweights as a counterbalance to the United States. But not at any cost: when European offers last week proved underwhelming and loaded with conditions that Ramallah could not accept, Abbas confirmed his current course, with all the negative consequences that entails. But all hope might not yet be lost.

It has become catechism among the Palestinian leadership that there will be no return to bilateral negotiations with Israel in the absence of acceptable terms of reference and a settlement freeze. Even before negotiations broke down in September 2010 after two failed rounds of talks (one direct between Israelis and Palestinians, the other indirect, via U.S. mediators), Palestinian leaders had trumpeted the United Nations as a fallback option.

They claimed that full UN membership was indeed a practical option: either the United States could be pressured not to veto the Palestinian application in the Security Council or the U.S. veto could be circumvented in the General Assembly. But these declarations, premised on inadequate knowledge of the UN system, turned out to be plain wrong. Without any other options and with his already weakened credibility on the line, Abbas plowed ahead with the original idea, even as his surrogates explored alternative paths, such as requesting non-member observer state status.

With the credibility of the Palestinian leadership in tatters and the situation on the ground precarious, one decisive actor needs to step forward to broker a reasonable deal.
"You have to understand what the Palestinian mentality is right now," an Egyptian official told me several months ago. "The leadership feels that it's out of options, and the UN is the proverbial last bullet in the gun. They are going to use it." At this point, having backed themselves into a corner, Abbas and his allies have little choice. Were they to step back now, with no suitable compensation, they would only confirm their fecklessness in the eyes of their people.

The view of the UN gambit within even the innermost circle of the Palestinian leadership is not monolithic, however. Loosely speaking, there are two camps. The first, led by Abbas, has looked to the UN to preserve the reigning paradigm of Palestinian diplomacy: good relations with Washington and bilateral negotiations with Israel. The UN offered a means of doing something by demonstrating activism to a jaded Palestinian public, a symbolic protest proving that Ramallah would no longer engage, as a Palestinian negotiator put it to me, in "business as usual." At the same time, the UN could pave a way back to the negotiating table. With Israel unwilling to agree to terms Abbas deemed acceptable and the United States unable to extract them from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, Abbas hoped that the UN would deliver what others could not.

The second camp, associated with a wider but less influential segment of the Palestinian leadership, is more willing to jettison the current paradigm. It recognizes the ultimate necessity of negotiations but prefers, in the meantime, to concentrate on acquiring the institutional and legal tools needed to shift the balance of power. It sees the UN initiative as a means to gain membership in international organizations and justice mechanisms, particularly the International Criminal Court. As this camp sees it, the move would normalize the idea of Palestinian statehood and make full UN membership seem inevitable; it would also afford the Palestinians certain legal tools, although the leadership claims that it would use them more as a deterrent against future Israeli aggression than as a platform for adjudicating the occupation.

But such reassurances are not convincing to officials in Israel, the United States, and some European states, such as the United Kingdom, who fear a wave of ICC cases with negative consequences for both Israel and the court itself. Certain European states have reportedly conditioned their support for a General Assembly resolution upgrading Palestine's status at the UN on a commitment not to bring any cases to the ICC, a demand that has been rejected thus far. (Similarly, Abbas has rejected Europe's related demands for the Palestinians to return to negotiations without preconditions and to forego any move to the Security Council, either before or after a General Assembly vote.)

Europe's unwillingness to support any option acceptable to the Palestinians is serving only to unite these two Palestinian camps as the UN debate looms. Internal divisions matter little if there is no real choice to be made. At this writing, the Palestinian leadership is determined not to give up the leverage it believes it holds at the Security Council until it has a solid alternative in hand --  but, as often tends to happen with brinksmanship, tactics can become strategy.

In support of this agenda, the PLO hopes to rally support in the Palestinian territories behind the UN bid, whatever form it ultimately takes. Substantial turnout at the protests is indeed likely -- although not, it should be said, out of any genuine mass support but because on Wednesday, PA offices and schools will be shut and attendance at demonstrations will be required of employees and students. Although Israel fears violence, most Palestinians are skeptical that mass unrest will break out; they believe that demonstrations will get out of hand only if the Israeli army or settlers provoke them.

Most ordinary Palestinians have been indifferent to the UN initiative, although as the deadline looms, interest is growing and Abbas is scoring some points for standing up to Washington. That said, the need to conscript protesters reflects the lack of popular enthusiasm. Many Palestinians do not see how a vote half a world away will make any difference in their lives. With the population in the West Bank (like in Gaza) alienated from those ostensibly leading their national cause, people are quick to assume the worst about an agenda that they had no role in setting and about which they harbor doubts. In fact, the UN move could end up having the exact opposite effect on the PLO's popular legitimacy than its crafters had hoped: influential voices  -- such as the Palestinian intellectual Ghada Karmi -- have raised questions about the effects of a statehood vote on the PLO's status as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

All this is to say is that if genuine unrest should indeed arise in the West Bank, it will not be led by the current Palestinian leadership but in fact could be directed against it; the protests will come not on account of the UN agenda but in defiance of it. Few think this is imminent, but should Israel and the United States punish the Palestinian Authority for the UN move -- most notably by cutting the transfer of tax revenues, which Israel collects on behalf of the PA, per the Oslo Accords -- the government's already grievous financial situation will grow even more fraught. The payment of salaries is among the PA's most important political assets, without which its staying power would be seriously compromised. 

With the credibility of the Palestinian leadership in tatters and the situation on the ground precarious, one decisive actor needs to step forward to broker a reasonable deal. The United States took itself out of the running by seeking to quash the UN bid and cajoling and pressuring states to vote against it. For many reasons, Washington seems determined to fight to the bitter end: because of the sincere belief that the UN is the wrong way forward for peacemaking and that the United States is the best steward of the diplomatic process, because of the powerful domestic constraints imposed by Congress, and because a veto would cost the United States political capital in the Middle East.

But were Abbas to retreat from New York without a tangible gain, he would suffer a devastating and perhaps fatal blow -- a curious and self-defeating course for Washington to pursue, given that Abbas is a central pillar on which the United States has premised its diplomatic agenda in the region. As a Palestinian official told me last week, "If we pull out now, our tenure will be measured in days or weeks."

This vacuum of U.S. leadership creates an opening for the European Union, of which it has so far failed to take advantage. The EU has long complained that its financial assistance was eagerly welcomed in Ramallah while its political contributions were shunned, but today only Brussels can fulfill the Palestinians' minimum requirements while reassuring Israel about its core concerns. Abbas's announcement of his intent to present an application for full membership might signal the fading of this possibility. But an offer not premised on what Palestinians consider demeaning and unfair conditions may yet find a receptive audience.

In particular, the EU should encourage the Palestinians to drop their application for full membership and offer compensation in the form of a General Assembly resolution composed of two elements. First, the resolution should specify that any future Israeli-Palestinian border would be based on 1967 lines with equal swaps and that Jerusalem would be the capital of both states; at the same time, it should reassure Israel that an eventual final settlement would end all outstanding claims relating to the conflict and provide for "two states for two peoples." (Many Palestinians and Israelis reject this phrase: the former because they interpret it as an endorsement of a Jewish state, and the latter because the endorsement is unclear. For that very reason, it could point in the direction of a workable outcome.)

Second, in an effort to break new ground and to address the statehood question, this General Assembly resolution should give the Palestinians a status upgrade at the UN to that of a non-member observer state. This would not change the situation on the ground in the West Bank or Gaza nor would it provide UN membership as Abbas has demanded, but it would constitute an acceptable second best. The EU would then have to play the important role of encouraging all sides to exercise caution: with the Palestinian side equipped with new tools, but with the Israel and the United States still in possession of their own, even more formidable weapons, it is easy to imagine a bitter escalation that would cost all parties.

Unfortunately, although such an outcome is compelling in theory and is the option most likely to move the conflict out of its current stalemate, forces behind the scenes in both Brussels and Ramallah may actually favor the opposite. The EU and Abbas have reason to prefer that the Security Council simply shoot down a Palestinian application for membership. A Security Council veto -- or even a procedural delay that would forestall consideration of Palestine's application -- would allow Abbas to present himself as a national hero who confronted the world, while avoiding the messy and contentious maneuvering that non-member state status would entail. The EU, for its part, would avoid an embarrassing display of discord and a clash with the United States. In other words, both Ramallah and Brussels could end up with a failure that, in the short run at least, would prove less costly than would success. This would make for "business as usual," after all.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Threats arise at Muslim Students Association event - Henry Rome, The Princetonian

A local man claiming to be part of the Knights Templar was arrested on Saturday night after allegedly interrupting a Muslim Student Association welcome back dinner and telling students that “Muslims are going to hell,” according to multiple witnesses and police reports.

While the incident reflects a nationwide spike in bias crimes in the wake of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, MSA members say they are treating it as an isolated event and do not plan to scale back any of their events in response.

The man, Adam Pyle, 26, of Princeton Township, had apparently been present for part of the actual dinner at Campus Club, said Sohaib Sultan, the University’s Muslim life coordinator. Toward the conclusion of the dinner, Pyle left the dining area and allegedly started going through the backpack of Jihad Al-Jabban ’14, the MSA public relations chair.

When Al-Jabban walked over, Pyle explained that he was a Christian but still a member of the “ummah,” the global Muslim community, according to Al-Jabban. Pyle then proceeded to bow and ask MSA members if they were members of the ummah, said MSA vice president Areej Hassan ’13. He also allegedly asked a member, “Why do you hate Jews?” Hassan is a  staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.

“I immediately became a little bit nervous about what his intentions were,” Sultan said. “I realized this could be a potentially violent situation.”

Sultan then ushered the 60 to 70 students attending the dinner into a closed room away from Pyle, and an attendee called Public Safety. In the meantime, Pyle allegedly said, “Muslims are going to hell” and “Death to Muslims,” and began walking toward the students, according to Sultan.

“I stood right in front of him and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to let [you] go inside,’ ” Sultan recalled. During the night, Pyle also allegedly made references to the anti-Christ, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said in an email.

At 8:57 p.m., Public Safety officers arrested Pyle and charged him with bias intimidation, criminal attempt, disorderly conduct, harassment and defiant trespass, Mbugua said. Pyle will face the criminal charges on Monday in the Borough Municipal Court. Public Safety ordered Pyle to stay away from campus for the next 90 days, and the department intends to ban him permanently.

A message left seeking comment at Pyle’s home phone number was not returned. Pyle is not affiliated with the University.

“You just never know the type of individual [who] might come in and do something,” Sultan said. “The Muslim community in America has seen a real rise in Islamophobia over this past year in particular, and so it shakes us up. We really did feel threatened.”

It is unclear how Pyle learned of the welcome back dinner, since the event was only advertised via email and with limited on-campus advertising, MSA board members said.

“I don’t even think it was premeditated,” said Sheeba Arif ’14, the MSA events chair. “I feel like he just stumbled in on it actually.”

It is also unknown how Pyle gained access to Campus Club, access to which was limited by prox at the time, Mbugua said.

Sultan said the incident has shaken up some Muslim students, and he is concerned that new students may get the wrong impression about the University.

“To the freshmen and first-year graduate students, please don’t worry. This was an isolated incident and you will find this campus as warm and welcoming to Muslims as anywhere in this country,” Sultan said in an email to the MSA listserv.

Sultan has invited officers from Public Safety to speak with students at Friday prayers this week to thank the officers and to discuss revising any safety protocols. Students praised the responding officers, who also offered to escort the members back to their dorm rooms after the event.

Sultan added, however, that he doesn’t anticipate any increased security as a result of the incident.
“We really do hope and anticipate that this was a completely isolated incident,” he said. “We want to continue being the open community that we’ve become at Princeton.”

Other religious organizations on campus, including the Office of Religious Life, have lent their support and have offered to hold discussions and vigils in response to the incident. MSA board members said they may discuss the issue broadly at the next Religious Life Council meeting, but they want to move forward.

“It’s an isolated incident,” Arif said. “We don’t want to make a bigger deal than it is.”

While advocacy groups noticed a rise in bias crimes around the 9/11 anniversary, Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that colleges and universities are often immune.

“Colleges and universities have typically not been a major factor in our annual reporting on bias-related incidents, just because they tend to be more open, more tolerant and more knowledgeable about Islam and Muslims,” he said.

Indeed, Sultan said he couldn’t recall any similar incident occurring on campus, except for the occasional controversial speaker or offensive email. Mbugua also said this is the first incident of its nature to happen on campus.

“I think it’s still on the minds of students, but I think we recognize this was completely an isolated incident,” Sultan said. “Princeton University has been a wonderful and very welcoming home for Muslim students and faculty for many years.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Egypt: Protesters Bring Down Israel Embassy Security Wall and Flag - Amira Al Hussaini

Thousands of protesters took to Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the Egyptian revolution in downtown Cairo, today in protest against Egypt's military rulers. Soon, crowds of young men swarmed to the Israeli Embassy, where they tore down a security wall built to protect the Embassy, and brought down the Israeli flag, as chaos continued into the night. Here's a snippet of how the events played out on Twitter.
This is the second time in a month that protestors scale the 15-storey Embassy building to remove the Israeli flag. Reports say that four protesters climbed the building today.
Five hours ago Al Jazeera's correspondent Sherine Tadros reported:
@SherineT: Heading to israeli embassy where reportedly protesters trying to tear down wall #egypt
Mahmoud Abu Sharkh shares a photograph of protesters at the Israel Embassy breaking the security wall.
Mahmoud Abu Sharkh shares a photograph of protesters at the Israel Embassy breaking the security wall.
An hour later, she noted:
@SherineT: Waving the #palestinian flag on top of demolished wall infront of #israel embassy, #egypt
And about two hours ago, she added:
@SherineT: Hundreds headed towards israeli embassy..people all over the streets shouting and chanting #egypt #tahrir
A few minutes later, Tadros tweeted:
@SherineT: Protesters threw israeli flag off the side of the bldg which houses #israel embassy
Salma Said quipped:
العلم الاسرائيلي اترمى علينا من فوق ‎#Israeliembassy
@SalmaSaid: The Israeli flag was thrown at us from up
Lobna Darwish shares this picture on Twitter of an Egyptian man carrying the Israel Embassy plaque
And Mosa'ab Elshamy added:
@mosaabrizing: It's like a party up there. The flagMEN waving to protesters from balcony under #IsraeliEmbassy, fireworks and all.
Raafat joked [ar]:
السفاره الاسرائليه بعد كده هتحط خيارة على السفاره بتاعتها..عشان مش كل يوم العلم يولع بالطريقه دى..
@Raafatology: The Israeli Embassy should hoist a cucumber next time, so that its flag is not burnt this way everyday.
Others on Twitter as not as ecstatic.
Gigi Ibrahim tweeted:
@Gsquare86: Seriously there is no point to stay at #IsraelEmbassy tonight, we did it all: the flag&wall r down, ppl r almost in emb, csf truck burned
And Dina Salah, from Cairo, added:
@Sonadina: Gotta say I'm not impressed that my tax money will go to the rebuilding of #IsraeliEmbassy wall by el Me2awleen el 3arab (Arab Contractors), tomorrow morning.
The situation continues to unfold.
Gigi reported:
@Gsquare86: The papers r being thrown out of balcony from flat beneath #IsraelEmbassy .. People fightig after papers as they come down #hilarious
Hisham Al Miraat added:
@_Hisham: Al Jazeera correspondent says Israeli embassy not stormed but rather a lower floor used to archive docs from embassy. Police standing still
Omar noted:
@beirutwhat: Re: Israeli embassy in Cairo. SCAF will show the video in every western capital to justify their control over politics.
And Foreign Policy magazine managing editor Blake Hounshell explained:
@blakehounshell: The near storming of the Israeli Embassy tonight will sour a lot of people on the Egyptian Revolution. Fallout unclear.

Sabrina Sultana - Blogging With Her Heart - Bijoy

Sabrina Sultana blogs from Bangladesh and she loves to write. She is one of the millions of bloggers in this world who express themselves using the Internet. But Sabrina is not like many others; she blogs with her heart.
You might wonder, how can that be true! The reality is that her hands are not active as ours, she can only strike the keys with her two functioning fingers. But her heart is always beating to express herself through writing.
If you want to know about Sabrina and her blog, then let us start the Journey from Chittagong, the port city of Bangladesh where Sabrina was born and currently resides.
Blogger Sabrina Sultana
Blogger Sabrina Sultana
From her childhood Sabrina loved to write. An article [bn] in the Daily Azadi, a local Chittagong newspaper reveals:
সাবরিনার লেখালেখি শুরু হয়েছিল ১৯৯৮ সালে দৈনিক আজাদীর জনপ্রিয় ফিচার পাতা আজমিশালীতে। প্রথম প্রকাশিত লেখার শিরোনাম ছিল ‘স্বপ্ন কখনো সত্যি হয় না।’
Sabrina’s first article was published in 1998 in the Daily Azadi’s popular feature page, named Ajmisali. The title of that story was “dream never comes true”.
But disaster held her back:
বেণী ঝুলিয়ে দুরন্তপনায় সারা বাড়ি মাতিয়ে রাখা সাবরিনা সাত বছর বয়সে মাসকুলার ডিসট্রফি নামে এক রোগে আক্রান্ত হয়ে চলৎশক্তি হারান। এই রোগ ধীরে ধীরে ক্ষয় করে দিচ্ছে তার শরীরের প্রতিটি অঙ্গ-প্রত্যঙ্গের শক্তি।
The girl used to swing her long braid and enliven the house with her naughty deeds. But she became disabled from the age of seven years when a disease called muscular dystrophyattacked her. Gradually this disease destroyed the movement power of her muscles.
She started to face new challenges as she eventually lost her mobility. She left school and was forced to confine herself within the four corners of a room. But her mind was still awake. When the Internet arrived Sabrina saw an opportunity to look beyond the walls and she started writing again.
Now nobody can stop Sabrina. She is a prolific writer and contributes in different blogs, newspapers, and via social media such as Facebook etc. Sabrina writes on different Bangla blogging platforms like Amar blogSachalayatanProthom-Alo blogChoturmatrikand Shobdoneer[all bn].
You may ask, when her muscles cannot work properly, how can she write?
Blogger Md. Jakir hosain explains [bn] in a post titled name “Let Sabrina be an example”:
ব্লগিং করতে গেলে ভাবনার সাথে সাথে, শারীরিকভাবে কোমরের জোর যেমন থাকতে হয়। ঠিক তেমনি থাকতে হয় চোখের জোর। সাথে সাথে থাকতে হয় দুটি হাত এবং এর আঙ্গুলগুলোর নাচন, শক্ত এবং নিরেট কিবোর্ড এর সারাটা অংশ জুড়ে। সেখানেই সাবরিনার কষ্ট সবচেয়ে বেশি হয়। জিজ্ঞেস করেছিলাম- কি সমস্যা হয়? উনার উত্তর- তেমন কিছু না। হাতের আঙ্গুলগুলো একটু টাইপ করলেই টনটন করে সাথে প্রচণ্ড ব্যথা হয়। অনেক প্রচণ্ড ব্যথা হয়। থেমে পরি একটু টাইপ করেই।আবারও একটু পর শুরু করি। তখনও অবশ্য ব্যাথাটা যায় নি। তবুও লিখতে হয়। এমনও হয় মাথায় ঘুরছে একটি বিষয় নিয়ে লিখা। তা প্রকাশ করতে করতে হয়ত পনেরদিনও লেগে যায়। নিজের সবল আঙ্গুলগুলোর দিকে তাকিয়ে পালটা প্রশ্ন ছুড়ে দেই বিনীতভাবেই- আপনি মুখে বললেন আর অন্য কাউকে দিয়ে লিখিয়ে নিলেই তো হল। উনার উত্তর- এই কাজটুকুন না হয় আমি নিজেই করি।
A blogger needs sufficient physical fitness along with the inflow of a stream of thoughts. The power of the eyes is also key. Combined with the strength of the hand and the dancing power of the finger, these human tools create words on the keyboard. Sabrina feels pain when she uses her fingers. I asked her: “what problems do you face while writing?” She answered humbly: “Not much. But after typing a while pain engulfs the writing fingers. Sometimes I cannot bear the pain. Then I stop for a while, then start again. I still feel the pain but I get used to it and I don't stop. For example, an idea resides in my head but it may take 15 days to publish the story”.
I look at my healthy fingers and ask her; “Isn't it more convenient that you speak, and someone else writes?” She answers: “it's better for me if I do this simple task myself”.
Bangladesh, a populous country of 150 million people do not have proper infrastructures, accessibility and support for people with disability. Public and private offices, educational institutions, public transportation, utility infrastructures, recreation and tourist spots, market places - almost all are inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Sabrina devotes herself to writing for those people who need support.
Sabrina's blog
She speaks for those who are deprived of their rights to lead a normal life. She expresses concern about the rights for the disabled and raises her voice for those who may not express their pains to the world. Sabrina also writes about her own feelings with simple but magical words.
In her profile [bn] she describes things about herself:
আমার কতো দাবি! কতো চাহিদা! কিছুই পাইনা। যেদিকে হাত বাড়াই সেদিকে অন্ধকার। সব জায়গায় নিয়ন্ত্রণ। সামাজিক নিয়ন্ত্রণ। রাষ্ট্রীয় নিয়ন্ত্রণ। প্রাকৃতিক নিয়ন্ত্রণ। সব নিয়ন্ত্রণে আমি বাঁধা আর গুমরে গুমরে কাঁদে আমার আশা আকাঙ্খা। ভালোবাসা!”
I have many demands! So many needs. But I am deprived of them. Wherever I stroll I see darkness. There are restrictions everywhere; social restrictions, restrictions by the state, restrictions placed by nature. I am unable to move with all these restrictions. My hopes and expectations, and also my love are crying in silence.
Sabrina’s dream for now is to do something for the disabled people in Bangladesh. She wrote to her readers [bn] in Choturmatrik blog:
আপনি কি জানেন, আমি কেমন আছি? জানতে কি চান?
আমি ভালো আছি। বরাবরই আমি ভালো থাকারি চেষ্টা করি, ভালো না থাকার এ পৃথিবীতে! শুধু ভালো থাকতে হয় বলে। এই তো, বেশ হাসি মুখেই পার করে দিচ্ছি আমার দিন-রাত্তিরগুলো। কিন্তু ভালো থাকার এবং ভালো রাখার চেষ্টারত এই “আমি”র ভেতরে যার বসবাস আপনি কি জানেন, সে “আমি”টা দিনে দিনে কেমোন যেনো শুকিয়ে যাচ্ছে!?
Do you know, how I am doing? Do you want to know?
I am well. I try to be positive always, in this cruel world, only because I have to be well to live. Don't worry I am living my days and nights with a smile in my face. But do you know that inside this positive mind of mine the real “me” is dying?
Sabrina discovered that “no” is a very active word in her society:
সমাজের হয়েও যেনো ভিন্ন এক জগতের বাসিন্দা আমি। আমারি কোন লক্ষ্য নেই, সমুজ্জল ভবিষ্যতের স্বপ্ন নেই। এমন কোন জায়গা নেই যাবার, যেখানে অন্তত খানিকটা সময় স্বস্থির শ্বাস ফেলা যায়। আমার অধিকারের জায়গাগুলোতে সিলমোহর এঁটে দিয়েছে ছোট্ট একটি শব্দ ‘না’G স্কুল-কলেজ-বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় ‘না’। সাংস্কৃতিক কিংবা সামাজিক অনুষ্ঠান ‘না’। বিনোদন কেন্দ্র বা খেলার মাঠ ‘না’। যাতায়াত ব্যবস্থা ‘না’। না, না, না-শুধু ‘না’! আপনি কি অনুভব করতে পারছেন, ‘না’ শুনতে শুনতে হাঁপিয়ে উঠেছি আমি, আমরা? এতটুকু ভাবার চেষ্টা করেছেন কি কখনো- আপনিও হতে পারতেন আমাদের মত একজন কিংবা হয়তো আপনারই কোনো আপনজন। প্রতিবন্ধিতা বুঝি অভিশাপ! তাই যদি না হয়, তবে এদেশের নাগরিক হয়েও যা আপনার অধিকার তা থেকে আমি কেন বঞ্চিত হবো?
Although being a member I am an alien in the society. I have no aim in life, no enlightened future. There is no place for me to go and be in peace for a while. All my rights are negated with a strong word ‘no’. In school, collage and university, there is a word ‘no’. In cultural and social functions, there’s the word ‘no’. In an entertainment center or in the playing field, ‘no’ is visible all the time. To be in a public transport, they say ‘no’. Do you not feel that we are tired of hearing about all these “no’s? Have you ever tried to realize, you could be one of us or one of your loved ones could be like us? Being a handicapped in Bangladesh is a curse! If (you say) this is not true then as a citizen of this country why I am deprived of my rights?
She also wrote an open letter [bn] to the prime minister of Bangladesh in one of her blog posts urging:
আমাদের জন্য এমন কিছু করুন যাতে আমার মতো প্রতিবন্ধীরা আবারো স্বপ্ন দেখার সাহস অর্জন করে। কিছু একটা অবলম্বন করে বাঁচার সুযোগ পায়। যে ভয়াবহ যন্ত্রণার মধ্যে দিয়ে এখন আমাকে দিন যাপন করতে হয় আমি চাই না আর কোন প্রতিবন্ধী মানুষ বা তার পরিবার সে যন্ত্রণা ভোগ করুক।
Please do something for us so that the disabled people like us can dream again. They have the courage to live with their limited abilities. I don't want any disabled person to go through the troubles I face everyday.
In 2009, with the help of some friends, Sabrina initiated a campaign for physically disabled people. Bangladesh Systems Change Advocacy Network (B-Scan) started as a Facebook group believing that a little initiative can achieve big things. Now this organization has its own web site and is working for the disabled people in Bangladesh and their rights.
B-scan has also some offline activities - helping poor and disabled people with money, wheel chair, or whatever the needs are and in most cases members from the Bangla blogosphere donate or help raise fund.
With all of these activities Sabrina never stopped her writing. Writing is her true love, Blogging is her passion. Her passion touches her readers and her efforts did not remain unnoticed. This year inDeutsche Welle BOBS competition Sabrina's blog was nominated in the world's best blog category. Members from the Bangla blogosphere rallied behind her with more than 150 posts to encourage readers to vote for her. In the end she did not win in the user vote category (ranked 2nd highest) or the jury award, but this competition helped her get noticed by local media which have published a number of features on her.
Sabrina is grateful [bn] to everyone for their supports and she finds it useful to voice about the rights of the disabled people in Bangladesh to a growing number of people. In her words:
আমাদের বিশ্বাসের ভিত্তি আরো মজবুত হচ্ছে……আমাদের স্বপ্নের বাংলাদেশ একদিন অবশ্যই প্রতিবন্ধি মানুষের বাস যোগ্য দেশ হিসেবে গড়ে উঠবে।
I can strongly believe now…..our dream country Bangladesh will one day be livable for the disabled people.
Image credit Salma Mahbub

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Iran: Female Blogger Receives 50 Lashes - Fred Petrossian

These are the words Iranian blogger Somayeh Tohidloo wrote [fa] in her blog after receiving 50 whip lashes in Evin Prison on September 14, 2011:
Be happy, for if you wanted to humiliate me, I confess that I feel my entire body is suffering with degradation.
Somayeh Tohidloo
Somayeh Tohidloo
Somayeh was active during the 2009 presidential election in the campaign for Mir Hussein Mousavi, and she wasjailed for 70 days in 2009, after a mass protest movement erupted in Iran. She was released after paying bail, but the flogging sentence was eventually upheld.
Green City writes [fa]:
Here is Iran, where Somayeh Tohidloo, a PhD-graduate is lashed while a $3 billion dollar fraud [over a Lake Urmia] happens, and nothing is done to punish the fraudulent acts.
Gomnamian blog writes [fa]:
Somayeh was accused of insulting Ahmadinejad… I was appalled to see a human being lashed for writing a post about a criminal.
Azarmehr writes:
Today, Somayeh's facebook page was inundated with messages of support. Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former advisor to Khatami, wrote: “Everyone who knows Somayeh Tohidlou, regard her as a symbol of reasonableness, moderation and character. Today when I learned she had received 50 lashes for having insulted the ‘very respectable president', I felt it was the Iranian pride which had been flagellated and not Somayeh's body. Somayeh, you are the only one who has not been humiliated as a result of this sentence”
The Islamic Republic has jailed several bloggers in recent years. Omid Reza MirSayafi, an Iranian blogger, died in prison on March 18, 2009, under suspicious circumstances.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If America Knew: We Could Save 400,000 Jobs By Ending the Wars - Just Foreign Policy

President Obama is scheduled to address Congress today to present his proposals for job creation in the face of 9.1% measured unemployment. Judging from press reports, ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq isn't likely to be among the President's proposals, even though this could save more than 400,000 jobs without a dime of additional revenue or deficit spending. [1]

But that's not because it's politically unrealistic to end the wars; in fact, there's more support for ending the wars in Congress than there is for cutting Social Security benefits or raising the Medicare retirement age, two things that the President has previously proposed as means of reducing the nation's debt. There's not much chance that the President will propose ending the wars as a means of job creation because the fact that we could save more than 400,000 jobs by ending the wars hasn't been placed on the table yet. It hasn't entered the mainstream political debate.

Just Foreign Policy has been working to get ending the wars on the table of every budget and job debate. When the headlines are dominated by discussion of efforts to reduce the nation's long-term debt, we point out that 1/6 of the Super Committee's $1.2 trillion debt reduction goal can be achieved simply by withdrawing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan when we promised. [2] When the headlines are dominated by the need for government action to create jobs, we point out that every time you move a billion dollars from the military to domestic spending, you save at least 2,000 jobs. That's why bringing home our troops as scheduled, instead of cutting domestic spending, will save at least 400,000 jobs. [3]
Will you support our efforts to put ending the wars on the table of every budget and job debate by donating to Just Foreign Policy?

Thank you for supporting our work, and for all you do to help bring about a just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Sarah Burns, Chelsea Mozen and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy


1. "Jobs Plan? End the Wars, Save 400,000 Jobs," Robert Naiman, Huffington Post, 9/7/11,
2. "Ending Wars on Time Would Save $200 Billion, One-Sixth of Debt Reduction Goal," Robert Naiman, Truthout, August 2011,
3. "Jobs Plan? End the Wars, Save 400,000 Jobs," Robert Naiman, Huffington Post, 9/7/11,