Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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QARXIS

Al-Qaida man challenges conviction over 'Britain's role in his torture'

Rangzieb Ahmed was unlawfully interrogated and tortured in Pakistan with complicity of UK authorities, claims his lawyer
  • guardian.co.ukArticle history

  • Rangzieb Ahmed at Heathrow airport 2007
     
    Rangzieb Ahmed arrives at Heathrow airport from Islamabad, Pakistan, in September 2007. Photograph: Dennis Stone / Rex Features A British man found guilty of being a senior member of al-Qaida launched his appeal against conviction today on the grounds that the British government was complicit in the torture he suffered before he went on trial. Rangzieb Ahmed, 35, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, is serving a life sentence at a Yorkshire jail after being convicted of membership of al-Qaida and of directing a terrorist organisation. His lawyers told the court of appeal today that his trial should not have been allowed to go ahead because of the role the UK played in his unlawful detention in Pakistan before he was deported to the UK, and because the courts had a responsibility to take a stand against torture. "He was unlawfully detained, he was interrogated, and he was tortured," Joel Bennathan QC, for Ahmed, told the court. "We say the United Kingdom was complicit in these acts. While being interrogated, it is our case that he was asked many, many, questions about events in Manchester which were, a year and a bit later, to form the basis for his arrest in Manchester, and prosecution in Manchester." Bennathan said the courts had made clear in the past that the law had a responsibility to prevent the executive branch of government from resorting to torture in times of emergency. Quoting the late Lord Bingham, a former lord chief justice, he said: "Torture is repugnant to the fundamental principles of English law, and it is repugnant to reason, justice and humanity." Ahmed was convicted largely on the basis of evidence collected while he was under surveillance in Dubai and the UK in 2005. He was not arrested at that time and instead was permitted to go to Pakistan. There he was detained by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, an agency notorious for its use of torture. A previous court hearing was told that Manchester police and MI5 officers drew up a list of questions to be put to Ahmed by the Pakistani agents. He was deported to the UK 13 months later with three fingernails missing from his left hand. He was deported to the UK 13 months later with three fingernails missing from his left hand, pulled out with pliers. Bennathan told the court that after being detained by the ISI, Ahmed was deprived of sleep for about six days. "He was asked lots of questions and he was told 'you must speak, everybody who comes here speaks'." Ahmed was then shown a piece of wood with a rubber strip on one end. "He was told initially just to touch it." Then he was stripped naked and whipped. Throughout this period, Bennathan said, Ahmed was "asked many, many, questions about people and events in Manchester". Pliers were then produced and Ahmed was held down. "One of his fingernails was first twisted and pulled back, and then pulled out altogether." Two other fingernails were removed on subsequent days, Bennathan said. Bennathan said: "Others came tovisit and question him. He was visited, he said, by officers of the UK security services on one occasion. Officers from the security services of the United States questioned him from time to time over a six-month period." Bennathan told the court that it would need to consider a definition of complicity. The UK had an obligation, as a signatory to the UN convention against torture, to consider complicity in torture to be a crime. Any argument about legal definitions of complicity, and about any extent to which complicity in torture could be said to taint subsequent prosecution, appear likely to be heard behind closed doors, however. The Guardian, Daily Mail, Times, Independent, BBC and BSkyB have all asked the court to distinguish between evidence that is damaging to the national interest, and that which is simply embarrassing, and to hear as much of the appeal in open court as possible. After today's opening of the hearing, the court began to sit in camera, with the media and the public excluded. It remains unclear how much of the hearing will be open to the public. Before Ahmed went on trial at Manchester crown court in September 2008 an attempt was made by his lawyers to have the prosecution halted on the grounds that to proceed would amount to an abuse of the process of the court. Details of the MI5, MI6 and police operation that led to Ahmed's detention and interrogation in Pakistan, were heard largely in camera, before that trial. The Crown Prosecution Service has denied that the courtroom secrecy concealed from the public evidence of official wrongdoing, but has repeatedly failed to explain why it did apply for the use of in camera procedure. The trial judge then produced two judgments: one to be made public, and one stored in a safe that was brought to court by an unidentified government official. In his public judgment, the judge said: "I hope I choose my words carefully: I am not satisfied that the British authorities assisted or encouraged the Pakistanis to detain and/or ill-treat Rangzieb Ahmed in such a way as to amount to an abuse of the process of the court and, accordingly, I dismiss the application for a stay." He did not, however, rule that there had been no British complicity in Ahmed's unlawful detention and alleged torture. In a sign of the UK authorities' sensitivity about the case, Greater Manchester police officers threatened to arrest a Guardian reporter for contempt of court after the newspaper reported that police and MI5 handed lists of questions to the Pakistanis after Ahmed was detained. They were unaware that this fact had been disclosed in open court during the legal argument, and apparently believed it should have been heard only in secret. Under protection of parliamentary privilege, the Tory MP David Davis revealed to the Commons last year some of what he said he knew of the secret police, MI5 and MI6 operation that led to Ahmed's detention and torture. Davis said that after Ahmed left the UK for Pakistan, the British government alerted the Pakistani authorities to his arrival. He said that a British intelligence officer then suggested to the Pakistani authorities that Ahmed be detained, knowing that this amounted to suggesting he be tortured. "The authorities know full well that this story is an evidential showcase for the policy of complicity in torture, should that evidence ever come out," Davis said. During the part of Ahmed's appeal that was heard in open court, Bennathan said that parliament's joint committee on human rights had concluded that the government would be complicit in torture if it asked an overseas intelligence group, notorious for its use of torture, to detain an individual, and handed over questions to that agency, and sent its own agents to question the detainee. The hearing continues and the court is expected to reserve its judgment until the new year.

Ministers pledge £4bn to tackle smoking, drinking and obesity

Guardian careers

Health white paper hands responsibility to councils as health experts question 'nudge' tactics and lack of detail
  • guardian.co.uk,
  • A man drinking a pint of beer
     
    A man drinking a pint of beer. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian 
    The government today promised ringfenced funding of £4bn to improve the nation's health by tackling issues such as smoking, obesity and excessive drinking. But the much-heralded white paper on public health, which hands money and responsibility to local authorities, received a cool welcome from some experts, who warned that the government's preferred option of "nudging" people into good habits may not work. "We agree that 'nudging' people to be healthy may be more effective than only telling them how to live their lives," said Dr Vivienne Nathanson, of the British Medical Association. "However, if people live in an environment where they are surrounded by fast-food advertising and glamorous alcohol marketing, nudging will have a limited effect. We need an environment that helps us make healthy choices and sometimes tougher action is needed to achieve this." She urged decisive action immediately to ban cigarette displays in shops. Today's document centred on structural change, handing responsibility and power to local authorities, together with the ringfencing of the budget. Under the previous government, public health funds were raided in a frantic attempt to pull cash-strapped hospitals out of deficit. The money promised, although it is said to be only a baseline, is just a fraction of total NHS spending, which is more than £100bn and expected to rise to £114bn over the next four years. Part will go to local authorities, while the rest will be spent by a new central body, Public Health England, which will organise national programmes such as immunisation and screening. The money will also fund research into ways of persuading people to take better care of their health. "People's health and wellbeing will be at the heart of everything local councils do," said the health secretary, Andrew Lansley. "It's nonsense to think that health can be tackled on its own. "Directors of public health will be able to champion local co-operation so that health issues are considered alongside housing, transport and education." Detail on specific interventions will not be available until next year. Plain packaging for cigarettes and minimum pricing for alcohol are subject to consultation, although the Treasury announced a hike in the duty on high-strength beer. Beer stronger than 7.5% alcohol by volume will be subject to the higher duty from next autumn, while tax on low-alcohol beers with a strength of 2.8% or less will be reduced. Prof Ian Gilmore, chairman of the alcohol committee of the Royal College of Physicians, pointed out on Radio 4's World at One that only 1% of beers had 7.5% alcohol. He called the government's measures "window-dressing", adding that it "looks less like the 'big society' and more like big business". Five networks, on food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behaviour change, where industry is sitting down with health department officials and the voluntary sector to discuss changes in practice, have yet to report. A "public health responsibility deal" will be launched early next year. The white paper says there will be moves on reducing salt in food, better food labelling, and the "promotion of more socially responsible retailing and consumption of alcohol". The president of the Royal College of Physicians welcomed ringfencing and the attempt "to bring to the field a much-needed strategic focus and coherence". But, said Sir Richard Thompson, the RCP was disappointed by a lack of detail, especially on how to deal with alcohol misuse, obesity and smoking. "We wait keenly to see if the promised subsequent strategies will fill in the gaps." He warned that voluntary agreements with industry would not necessarily deliver. "On a whole raft of issues it has been clearly demonstrated that a laissez- faire attitude does not work, either in terms of promoting responsible behaviour among the manufacturers and retailers of potentially harmful products or in creating an environment that would allow individuals to make healthier choices."

Aim High & Don't Belittle Yourself - Sh. Saed Rageah

Serial rape case postponed

Sunday, November 28, 2010

GABAR LAGUBAY

Mariyam Mursal Somali udiida ceeb

Waayaha Cusub - Yaabka al shabaab

Kawaankii Dadka - Kooxda qeylo dhaan.

Hees Wadani ah - Qeylodhaan

Sh. Abdirahman Shariif oo ka hadlaya Dhalinta Somalia u taga Dagaalka - ...

Al Shabaab kahor baan Muslim ahayn, Quraanka naqaaney, Ee aan diinteena ...

Rally Against Suicide Bombings of Shabaab - Part 1

Rally Against Suicide Bombings of Shabaab - part 2

Rally Against Suicide Bombings of Shabaab - part 3

Rally Against Suicide Bombings of Shabaab - Part 4

UniversalTV Report: Somaliland President at London Party by UK Somalilan...

Children for Sale - 04 Jun 07 - Part 1

Friday, November 26, 2010

Somalia



Somalia: Shabaab losing grip of backers

Public support for the militant group al-Shabab appears to be fading amid reports of a schism within the leadership, with many sympathizers and backers now expressing doubt about the organization.  Abdirahman Masud Fara, whose name is an alias, was a stern supporter of al-Shabab but now says he no longer trusts the group.

“I have been blindly supporting al-Shabab thinking they are a nationalist movement who are fighting an enemy that has invaded our country,” Fara said.  “Little did I know they had hidden agendas and that they are actually not who they claim to be. They are using the religion for their own selfish gains.”

According to media reports, there is a power struggle within al-Shabab between Sheikh Mukhtar Robow and Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubeir, also known as Ahmed Godane.  The rift within al-Shabab appears to have opened during the militant group’s recent Ramadan offensive, which left hundreds of al-Shabab fighters dead in clashes with AMISOM troops and forced al-Shabab fighters to pull back from several areas of Mogadishu.

“Al-Shabab fighters no longer roam at night,” said a resident who lives in an al-Shabab stronghold who did not wish to be named.  “I don’t know why, but they are seriously worried. It seems like the recent infighting has affected the group. They are much weaker and are fast loosing public support. No one likes them anymore. They have become an outcast.”

The discord within the al-Shabab has become a blessing to the Transitional Federal Government, which now enjoys some respect and leverage within Mogadishu thanks largely to the African Union peacekeepers.

 “The people of Somalia know the conduct of interim government officials,” the resident added.  “Al-Shabab wants to force us to support their foreign ideas and culture. Somalia is a homogenous community that will never change. It’s just a matter of time before al-Shabab disappears.”

GAROWEONLINE

Somali double amputee recognized by UN as refugee

thestar.com

Published On Fri Nov 26 2010

Ismael Khalif Abdulle, 17, puts a Canadian flag sticker on his head after saying he wants to come to Canada. Ismael is a double amputee after Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked insurgency, cut off his right hand and left foot as punishment for not joining his group.
Ismael Khalif Abdulle, 17, puts a Canadian flag sticker on his head after saying he wants to come to Canada. Ismael is a double amputee after Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked insurgency, cut off his right hand and left foot as punishment for not joining his group.
MICHELLE SHEPHARD/TORONTO STAR
Image
By Michelle Shephard National Security Reporter

A teenaged victim of Somalia’s war is another step closer to safety this week and holding out hope that he’ll find it in Canada.
Ismael Khalif Abdulle, the 18-year-old double amputee whose story inspired one Canadian man to rescue him from Mogadishu and started a movement here known as “Project Ismael,” has been recognized by the United Nations as a refugee in need of protection.
Ismael had escaped from Mogadishu to Nairobi last month with the help of an underground network of supporters.
But until he received status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as someone in need of protection, and was given what’s known as a “mandate refugee certificate,” Ismael was at risk of being deported back to Somalia from Kenya.
UNHCR resettlement officials are now meeting with Ismael and trying to decide his future home. His case has been given high priority since he is still at risk in Nairobi due to the infiltration of Al Shabaab — the Somali-based movement that has been designated a terrorist group in both the U.S. and Canada.
Al Shabaab controls most of central and southern Somalia, including the neighbourhood where Ismael once lived. When he refused to join them in the summer of 2009, they kidnapped him with three other boys and publicly amputated their right hands and left feet as a warning to others.
The other three young men are still hiding and their whereabouts are unknown.
Reached in Nairobi on Friday, Ismael said he was adjusting to life outside of Somalia and trying to learn English — before he tries to tackle Swahili.
He said he told the UNHCR resettlement officer that he had hoped Canada would accept him as a refugee.
“She asked me where I wanted to go and I said, ‘Canada.’ But she told me Canada is going to be quite tough and would you go anywhere else? I said, my preference is Canada but anywhere I could be safe would be fine,” he said.
Applications processed through Nairobi’s Canadian High Commission are among the slowest in the world, partly due to the volume of applications. And while there has been an outpouring of support for Ismael within Toronto’s Somali community and among the city’s social agencies, he does not have a close relative here.
Ismael’s father has died and his mother and siblings still live in Somalia.
Three of his siblings from his father’s first marriage, however, have offered to support him in Norway and Finland where they had lived for the last two decades since leaving Somalia.
“We’ve been trying to do what we can,” said Saido, his 42-year-old half-sister in a telephone interview from Finland.
The mother of four said she has been so touched by the outpouring of support by Canadians for her little brother.

Somaliland Pushes for International Recognition

VOA NEWS Africa 

Somaliland's President Ahmed Mohamed "Silyano" Mohamoud was sworn in as Somaliland's 4th president on 27 Jul 2010 Hargeisa, Somaliland
Photo: AP
Somaliland's President Ahmed Mohamed "Silyano" Mohamoud was sworn in as Somaliland's 4th president on 27 Jul 2010 Hargeisa, Somaliland

Somaliland has been fighting for its independence for three decades. Its newly elected president, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, is in London to strengthen economic ties and lobby for support to have his country recognized as a sovereign nation.
Somaliland president Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo launched a new economic cooperation center here in London, the Anglo-Somaliland Chamber of Commerce. The president is in Britain looking for economic as well as political support.

"We would like recognition for our country of course, but we would also want to see the international community and Britain our friends engage with us to mobilize development to give us development, recognition and cooperating with us in many areas," said the president.

He says the June elections that brought him to power were widely regarded as free and fair, and the peaceful transition of leadership marked another step in Somaliland's development.

"We have made tremendous progress, Somaliland has been operating on its own, Somaliland has been relatively peaceful in a region which is not stable enough, known for instability activities of al-Shabab and other extremist groups," he said. "Somaliland has been fighting against these people and Somaliland has been working on stability, not only that but on its democracy and development of its people."

Silanyo says his government has worked hard to crack down on piracy and Islamic militancy, and is concerned about the instability of Somalia.

"We would like to see peace restored to Somalia itself because lack of stability in the region is bound to affect us, it's affecting the whole world, it's affecting our region more than anyone else," he said.
<
Map of Somaliland
Somaliland's new president says international recognition of Somaliland would help with stability, its banks and other institutions would be able to interact freely with the rest of the world.

"Not being recognized by the international community is a huge setback, naturally that goes without saying and that's why we are moving around and asking the international community and sending an appeal to them to recognize Somaliland," he said.

Silanyo says Kosovo's recent recognition as an independent country and the January referendum on independence for Southern Sudan are both positive developments for Somaliland.

"We are heartened by Kosovo and what's happened to Southern Sudan that means it opens the door for us. The principle that countries should remain as they were at the time of independence has changed so why should it not work for us as well," Silanyo said

The United States says it will "engage" with Silanyo's government. Britain, Denmark and Sweden are all increasing their bi-lateral ties with Somaliland. The president said Ethiopia is also deepening its relationship with Somaliland, and, he hopes a new railway will link the two countries.

Related Articles

UN Envoy Deplores Rising Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Somalia

http://allafrica.com/stories/201011090009

Somalia: 


8 November 2010


The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict today deplored the rapid rise in the recruitment of children by armed groups in Somalia, as well as an emerging trend of girls being forced into marriage and other forms of gender-based violence.
"Some parties are using the radio, schools and putting pressure on parents" to recruit children, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told reporters in New York after her visits to Kenya and Somalia last week.

She said two armed groups - Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam - openly recruited children into their ranks. Militias allied to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which has itself said it has a policy of not recruiting children into the national army, did the same.

Ms. Coomaraswamy said Somalia's Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, agreed during their meeting in Mogadishu, the capital, "to do everything to prevent the recruitment of children" starting with the setting up of a focal point on the issue in his office. The focal point would then work with the UN to develop an action plan on ensuring that there were no children in Somalia's armed forces.
At a meeting with the commander of the Africa Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Special Representative said that she was told that the force - which has been accused of responding with indiscriminate shelling of residential areas when attacked - was developing child protection capacity and reviewing its rules of engagement.

Ms. Coomaraswamy said that killing and maiming of children was widespread in Somalia, adding that she had met some children with bullets still lodged in their bodies after being shot during clashes. Schools were often attacked as rival groups sought to impose their own curricula, she said.
She spoke of a "terrible situation" in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the city of Bossasso in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia, where the IDPs had to pay rent for the land they are squatting on. Half of the children from displaced families were not receiving any form of education and women and children were often subjected to violence.
On maritime piracy, which is rampant off the coast of Somalia, Ms. Coomaraswamy said a jailed pirate in Puntland had told her that former pirates who had become wealthy increasingly relied on child recruits to seize ships for ransom.

Pirates and the law

Constructive Re-Engagement Required, Not Disengagement

Somalia: 

Witney Schneidman
13 September 2010

guest column
Washington, DC — Somalia increasingly represents a direct threat to U.S. national security.
On July 25, the U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 individuals, including American citizens, accused of providing "money, personnel and services" to al-Shabaab, the Somali militant organization that is seeking to overthrow the internationally-recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

It is estimated that two dozen men, many of whom were born and lived in the United States, have gone to Somalia to join the organization. This group includes an al-Shabab commander killed last week in a battle in Mogadishu, according to ABC News, and the first known U.S. citizens to carry out suicide bombings. A Somali-American suicide bomber attacked African Union forces in Puntland, northern Somalia, in 2008, and last September another Somali-American suicide bomber attacked the African Union headquarters in Mogadishu, according to the July indictment.
Two weeks before the indictment, al-Shabab carried out suicide bombings at two locations in Kampala, Uganda, killing more than 70 people watching the World Cup final. This devastating attack is the latest indication of al-Shabab's determination and growing capability to wreak havoc outside Somalia.
How to Respond?
There is little consensus on how to respond to the crisis in Somalia.
A recent publication from the Council on Foreign Relations advocates a policy of "constructive disengagement." This would have the U.S. and the international community cut ties to the beleaguered TFG and the 6,300 African Union troops (AMISOM) in Mogadishu while continuing humanitarian relief and the "occasional" raid against terrorists.

More recently, at the African Union Summit in Kampala, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni vowed to "sweep them (al-Shabab) out of Africa." He endorsed calls from other leaders to increase the African Union force to 20,000 and to change its mandate to an offensive "peace-enforcing" strategy.
In a speech to the summit, Attorney General Eric Holder promised to "maintain," but not increase, U.S. training support for the AU forces in Somalia.
While there is a need for a new strategy for Somalia, the answer is not to be found in disengagement, a massive African Union military force, or maintaining the status quo.
If the U.S. and its European and African allies were to disengage, this would effectively cede Mogadishu to al-Shabab and threaten the 50 percent of the country that is relatively stable.
An outright victory over the TFG would embolden al-Shahab to carry out more suicide bombings in East Africa and elsewhere, and would also enhance the operational presence of its primary patron, Al-Qaeda, in the Horn of Africa.
Inevitably, an escalating cycle of violence will attract more disaffected Somali-American youth to support the jihadist cause in Somalia and, given their American passports, possibly in the U.S.
Similarly, force alone will not solve the country's problems.
Constructive Re-Engagement

If there is to be stability in Somalia it will be the result of the United States and its partners pursuing a strategy of "constructive re-engagement," predicated on political reconciliation, more effective governance and the development of a viable security force.
American policy, therefore, should seek to empower various local actors opposed to al-Shabab, such as the semi-autonomous governments in Somaliland and Puntland, as well as the local authorities and clans in south-central Somalia, who reject the jihadists' draconian fundamentalism.
Continued engagement with the TFG is also essential, despite its poor track record and the exceedingly fragile and dangerous security environment in Mogadishu.
For all of its shortcomings, the TFG provides the only political framework for dialogue, coalition-building and advancing the Djibouti process of multi-party negotiations.
At the same time, too little attention is paid to accentuating divisions within al-Shabab, which has become an externally-dominated military force allied with Al-Qaeda and in opposition to the moderate form of Islam embraced by most Somalis.

The suicide bombings at the Shamo Hotel in December 2009 and the Hotel Muna on August 23, which together killed government ministers, parliamentarians and civilians, are the most recent examples of al-Shabab's determination to create as much destruction as possible in Mogadishu.
In Somalia, clan and sub-clan interests are paramount. Most clans, as noted by Andre Le Sage of the National Defense University, are hedging their bets for survival, waiting to see whether the TFG or al-Shabab prevails.
Undermining al-Shabab

The key element of a constructive re-engagement strategy is building a coalition of clan elders, moderate clerics and opinion makers, inside and outside the country, to counter al-Shabab's extremist ideology and its determination to destroy any semblance of stability or progress.
A counter-insurgency strategy is also vital to exploit al-Shabab's vulnerabilities. UN-backed financial and travel sanctions against key al-Shabab supporters and financiers are as important as targeted military operations.
While ensuring the TFG's survival, AMISOM has been notable for its failure to train a new security force.

If the U.S. and AMISOM's partners cannot foster a coherent security organization with a sense of mission that transcends parochial clan concerns, a large number of new troops will have little value.
Al-Shabab does not have a broad base of support in Somalia. Its influence is derived from intimidation and fear and its relative ability to provide services and security in the areas it controls.
To defeat the jihadist organization, there is a need for a new calculus of incentives based on political and economic actions as opposed to an over-reliance on military campaigns or selectively disengaging.
Witney Schneidman was U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs and co-chaired the Africa Experts Group on the campaign of President Barack Obama. He is president of Schneidman & Associates International.  

Female genital mutilation is also an issue in Europe, say activists

DW-WORLD. DE 

Human Rights | 25.11.2010

The European Commission and NGOs are calling on EU member states to support victims living within their borders and protect girls who are at risk of undergoing a practice that violates numerous human rights.


Practiced in Africa as well as in certain countries in the Middle East and communities in Asia and Latin America, female genital mutilation is the internationally-acknowledged name for the practice of cutting women's genitalia. Girls are subjected to FGM for a variety of reasons, explained Christine Loudes, director of the EndFGM campaign at Amnesty International.
"FGM is performed for non-therapeutic reasons," Loudes said. "It's done in the name of tradition, in the name of aesthetics and sometimes in the name of religion."
FGM involves partially or completely removing the external female genitalia, and the practice is usually performed under unhygienic conditions and without anaesthesia on girls from their birth to 15 years of age. FGM represents a severe violation of human rights.
"It constitutes torture and degrading treatment; it violates women's rights, and it violates rights to physical integrity as well as to children's rights, to name a few," Loudes added.
FGM crosses borders
Africa is the most notable perpetrator regarding FGM, with some 30 countries subjecting girls to the practice. But girls are threatened by the practice on other continents as well. According to the European Parliament, roughly 500,000 girls and women in Europe have already been subjected to FGM or are in danger of becoming victims. That number includes 75,000 girls and women in the UK, 65,000 in France and 30,000 in Germany. As Loudes explains, it's difficult to prove that FGM is actually being carried out on the ground in Europe, but Amnesty International does not want to rule out the possibility.
"I cannot say that it's hard evidence. There's anecdotal evidence that this is done in Europe and that actually there is a cross-border dimension to it," Loudes said. "But mostly we know that it's happening when girls are going with their parents on holiday to their parents' country of origin, and that's where they are most at risk."
A former circumciser displays the tools of her trade, a knife handed down to her by her mother and herbs to heal the woundsBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  FGM is usually carried out under unhygienic conditions and without anaesthesiaOne FGM victim living in Europe is Aissatou Diallo, a native of Guinea who was mutilated in her home country at the age of 14. Fearing that her own daughters might meet the same fate, the family came to Belgium in 2007 as refugees. Diallo says she now lives with a sense of security.
"I've noticed that since coming to Belgium I've had peace of mind, because my children go to school and they are safe here," Diallo said. "I don't come home and ask, ‘Where are my girls? Did someone take them away to cut them?', which is what often happens in my country. So here I've been able to enjoy life again, and I've learned to rebuild myself psychologically."
Diallo may have found her footing in Belgium, but Christine Loudes says that the recovery process is long and demanding for FGM victims who arrive in Europe.
"They need a lot of healthcare support," she stressed. "In particular, some form of reparation is required for women whose vagina has been stitched together. These women will need to be unstitched and they will need psychological support because it's a practice that brings a lot of psychological and physical trauma."
Support for victims and health professionals
Run by Amnesty International in coordination with non-government organizations in 11 different European countries, the EndFGM campaign has set accessible healthcare for FGM victims living in Europe as a priority. In Germany, for example, there is still work to be done in achieving this goal.
"The treatment and the operations needed for FGM victims are not covered by health insurance here," explained Shewa Sium, director of the Cologne-based refugee support organization agisra. "The women have to pay for it themselves. Right now, we're collecting signatures for a petition so that medical treatment for victims of FGM can also be covered by insurance companies."
But it's not just the FGM victims who need support. Organizations like Amnesty International and agisra are calling on EU member states to give government workers the resources and training they need to tackle an issue they are unlikely to have encountered before.
"We hear a lot of health professionals, teachers and social workers are confronted with the practice, and they don't know how to deal with the situation," said Christine Loudes. "The most difficult moment is at the time of giving birth, during which there is a lot of risk for the mother and the baby. The fact that health professionals are not used to dealing with women who have undergone FGM means that there is often an emergency caesarean section. This leads to increased costs in the health system as well as a higher risk for the women."
Because FGM has a lifelong physical and psychological impact on its victims, organizations like Amnesty International also emphasize the need to protect girls and women at risk, often via asylum in Europe. The European Union, however, lacks unified procedures and legislation when it comes to FGM.
"What is problematic is that each member state has a very different approach in relation to FGM," explains Loudes. "In some cases it is recognized as persecution, and in other cases you get another status that is less protective and is only temporary. In some countries, the level of awareness is very low, in particular in the new countries that have joined the EU. We are trying to change this by providing some education to asylum officers."
Fay Mohammed lays with her legs bound so that the wound can heal, Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday, 08 March 2004Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Girls are usually subjected to FGM between infancy and 15 years of ageEU countries must act, says Commisssion
In an effort to achieve a streamlined, forceful approach against FGM from EU member states, the European Commission is also taking steps. Viviane Reding, the justice and fundamental rights commissioner, has flagged FGM as an issue in a five-year strategy for equality between women and men, and the Commission may further target FGM in a new policy paper due out in February 2011.
"The Commission is going to come out with a strategy policy paper on violence in general and victims. FGM is one of the priorities for the commission," said Mathew Newman, spokesperson for Commissioner Reding.
"It's possible that we will include it in the victims' strategy. It's a horrible practice, and people need to know that. They also need to know that the European Union is working with member states to raise awareness and doing everything we can to stop it."
While the EU's efforts are welcome news for women like Aissatou Diallo, she cautions that European countries and their citizens must also treat the issue of FGM with sensitivity to avoid stigmatizing its victims.
"When we talk about terrible things that others don't understand, we simply need to tell them: it's as if you would take a child in Europe and cut off an ear, an arm, or an eye. The child has been mutilated; it's as simple as that," she explained.
"It's true that we're not seen as complete women. We're seen as handicapped, almost. But we are people like you, and as Africans, we are fighting for change. Our hope is to be the last women in the world who have suffered from this practice."
Author : Laura Schweiger
Editor: Greg Wiser


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The World most dangerous place: Somalia

Somalia: The worlds worst failed state?

Maternal Health in Somalia - Interview with Roberta Russo, UNHCR Somalia

Struggling With Xenophobia in South Africa

Surviving in the City: Pretoria, South Africa

Refugee series: Ebrahim Mohamed Ali

Refugee series: Sowda Hussen Mohamud

M&G Refugee Series: Sulega Dahir Husein

Witness - Witness - Shukri: A New Life

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

BEFORE IT'S NEWS

Woman Finds Cancer Cure In Dairy-Free Diet Based On Anti-Cancer Plants
(NaturalNews) Eminent geologist Jane Plant is now promoting a dietary program for the treatment of cancer, saying that going dairy-free and eating cancer-protective foods helped cure her breast cancer where conventional Western medicine had failed. Plant was first diagnosed with cancer at age 42. Over the next five years, the cancer recurred four times "despite a radical mastectomy, three further operations, 35 radiotherapy treatments, several chemotherapy treatments and irradiation of my ovaries to induce the menopause," she writes in her book Your Life in Your Hands. After the discovery of a cancerous lump in her neck, Plant came across statistics detailing the low rates of breast and prostate cancer in China. Since dairy is almost never consumed in China, she cut it out of her diet entirely and limited her intake of foods containing high levels of chemicals and hormones. She built her diet around foods that have been shown to protect against cancer...

How pressure on Somali pirates freed Chandlers



Armed Somali pirate along the Hobyo coastline in north-eastern Somalia [File photo: 7 January 2010]  
Kidnapping the Chandlers caused the pirates many headaches
The couple from Tunbridge Wells in Kent are on their way home and will no doubt be celebrating, as will be their family and friends.
So, too, is the large Somali expatriate community, especially those in the UK.
But who is to thank for the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler after 338 days in captivity?
Many people played a part but none so more than the UK's Somali community, keen to avoid more negative headlines.
People who were involved in securing the couple's freedom have told the BBC that the ransom demand was met by a few Somali Good Samaritans along with the Somali government.
Warlords and pirates
When their kidnap was first confirmed on 23 October 2009, Somalis living around the UK were worried - for the Chandlers but also about what the rest of the British population would think of them if anything happened to the elderly couple - Paul is 60, while Rachel is 56.

“Start Quote

Stop the pressure, you're annoying us. All we want is the money”
End Quote Ali Gedow Pirate spokesman
"If the poor old couple were killed, can you imagine how bad it would be?" asked Ridwaan Haji Abdiwali, a presenter for the London-based satellite Somali channel, Universal TV.
He was one of those who organised the Somali diaspora to show its support for the Chandlers.
The Somali community is no stranger to bad press.
Mention the name Somalia and for many a fearful and suspicious vision of warlords, pirates, terrorists, gangs and police-killers is conjured up.
And the diaspora knows it only too well.
A calling
The total Somali population in the UK was estimated at 101,000 in 2008, although many believe the true figure is closer to 250,000.
The majority were welcomed to Britain as refugees in the 1990s.
A photo made available on 28 January 2010 shows Briton Paul Chandler (left) being examined by Somali Doctor Abdi Mohamed Elmi Hangul (right) at a location in central Somalia British Somalis worried for the couple's wellbeing, knowing the harsh conditions
Although most still dream of returning home, until peace comes to their war-ravaged and lawless homeland they remain stuck in places such as Wembley, Bristol and Birmingham.
For now though, the UK is home, and because of that, the community felt a calling to help out.
"It began as a sort of a feeling that we have among the community in Britain because we are British but because we come from Somalia," Mr Abdiwali told the BBC.
And also because "it is in our culture of the Somalis to look after the elderly people."
Beneath their negative image is a humble and closely-intertwined - some may say insular - community where trust is king.
'The poor old couple'
Many joke that as a Somali you are automatically an activist and entrepreneur.
It is these qualities that drove the community elders and leaders to spring into action, organising meetings and rallies.
Armed pirates keeping vigil along the coastline at Hobyo town, north-eastern Somalia  
The pirates were paid by a few 'Good Samaritans' and the Somali government
The campaign to free "the poor old couple" was born.
Mr Abdiwali dedicated his Have Your Say TV programme to the issue and it became an arena for the community to vent their anger and drum up support.
"People were phoning into the studios demanding their release. There was big pressure. People were very angry.
"I also interviewed Ali Gedow [the spokesman for the pirates who were holding the Chandlers]," he recalled.
"I gave him a very hard talk, asking: 'Why are you holding this old British couple? Do you believe that you will be paid if you kill or humiliate the life of old people? What food do you give them?' I asked him all these things. And every week we called him up."
The UK-based Somalis used their strong ties to their families back home and the clan structure which lies at the heart of Somali society to exert pressure on the pirates to free the Chandlers.
This led Mr Gedow to phone up Mr Abdiwali and complain: "Stop the pressure, you're annoying us. All we want is the money."
Authority in arguing
One man who played an enormous role from within Somalia was Dr Abdi Mohamed Elmi Hangul.
A photo made available on 28 January 2010 shows Briton Rachel Chandler (left) being examined by Somali doctor Abdi Mohamed Elmi Hangul (right) at a location in central Somalia  
Dr Hangul was instrumental in arguing for the couple's release
He is based at Mogadishu's Medina Hospital but over the last eight months of the couple's 13-month ordeal, he travelled back and forth to where they were being held captive in Adado, central Somalia, near the Ethiopian border.
"I was contacted by the gang leader and advised to go to that place and sometimes I was organised to take things from Nairobi to Adado," Dr Hangul explained, adding, "during the situation, I was there for five days every two weeks."
And because of his medical standing, he was an authority in arguing for their release.
"Mentally, they were not well," Dr Hangul said.
BBC Somalia analyst Mohamed Mohamed said that as well as coping with being held hostage, the couple would have had to deal with the extreme heat of the Somali scrubland, where "trees are few" and "crawling things are plenty".
He said water must have been scarce and never clean - they would not have been able to wash regularly and so must have also itched terribly.
'The amount was not high'
Dr Hangul agreed that the couple's freedom was down to the efforts of Somalis around the world:

“Start Quote

You know what those guys [pirates] are like. They are just after the money. They are not respecting human life”
End Quote Dr Abdi Mohamed Elmi Hangul
 
"We have done a lot of work. We mobilised all the elders and finally we reach our target. I know because we are always talking to the guys [pirates], agreeing everything."
So when did the doctor know the couple were going to be freed?
"I prepared to go last week."
He also confirmed that a ransom had been paid; adding that he had contributed a sum to the final figure.
And when asked if the amount paid to the pirates was around $300,000 (less than £200,000), Doctor Hangul agreed, saying, "the amount was not high."
Normally, the ransoms paid to Somali pirates run into the millions.
'Just after the money'
The pirates' initial demand was $7m (£4.4m).
However this sum gradually decreased as a result of the pressure which was being applied to the pirates by Somalis at home and abroad.
Another reason for the substantial decrease in the ransom demand was that there was no foreign involvement - the negotiators, lawyers, shipping companies, security and insurance firms which normally take part in the whole process, each taking their cut.
The doctor also confirmed rumours that a payment of about $300,000 had been made to the pirates in June.
He said the money had come from a relative of Rachel Chandler but the pirates had not honoured the couple's release. "You know what those guys are like. They are just after the money. They are not respecting human life," Dr Hangul said.
Ashamed
Someone else who played a lead role in winning back the Chandlers' freedom was British Somali businessman Dahir Abdullahi Kadiye - the man the British media are fondly calling the London cabbie, because he used to own a taxi firm.
The convoy carrying released British hostages Paul and Rachel Chandler travelling to the airport in Adado, central Somalia [14 November 2010]
Many people played a part in winning back the couple's freedom
Mr Kadiye held a lot of sway in the negotiations because he comes from the same sub-clan - Sulieman - as the pirates [who were holding the couple].
When asked why he had been motivated to help, he told the BBC's Somali Service reporter in Mogadishu, Mohamed Moalimuu, that he "had felt ashamed that young men in my country were holding innocent old people from my second country, Britain, as hostages".
But asked about reports of a ransom, Mr Kadiye replied: "I can confirm you that no penny was paid."
Instead, he said, "this endeavour came after a joint effort of many Somali communities and I would thank those who took an active role including Somali government officials, administration of Adado and local elders".
Al-Shabab threat
Africa Research analyst Omaru Sisay said he was not surprised that the Somali government had contributed to the process.
"Any threat of an al-Shabab attack on the area the Chandlers were being held in would certainly have been a motivating factor in pushing negotiators to agree a ransom.
"In April, their captors were forced to move them at short notice amid reports al-Shabab had sent a team to take them," Mr Sisay said.
"Pirates are driven by ransom and have an interest in making sure captives are kept alive. Al-Shabab however is an ideological organisation; money may not be enough to get any Western hostages they have freed."
Released British couple Rachel and Paul Chandler stand outside the British Embassy residence in Nairobi after they arrived from Mogadishu following their release by Somali pirates [14 November  2010]
The Chandlers said they will return home "very soon"
Although stories of what really happened during the Chandlers' 13-month ordeal will continue to emerge for some time, for the moment it seems as though all sides have emerged from this case with something.
Most importantly, the Chandlers once again have their freedom.
The British government has stuck to its policy of not paying ransoms, while bloodshed has been avoided.
And the UK-based Somali community has managed to avoid a new wave of hostile headlines.
And the pirates?
They may well be reflecting that kidnapping an elderly couple from Kent and keeping them hostage for 13 months was not worth whatever ransom they received - after it was divided between them and costs deducted.

Related stories


Related stories

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

joy online.com

Ghana listed under three stages of human trafficking

Trafficking Desk in the town at the weekend.

He said 39 human trafficking cases, with victims mainly teenage girls from West Africa, were recorded by his sector within a year.

Mr Antom said there is a case pending before court, involving some Chinese and their Ghanaian collaborator, suspected to have trafficked six Chinese girls into Ghana through Aflao.

The capacity building workshop, mainly for GIS staff on the desk, attracted participants from the Ghana Police Service, Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) and the Bureau of National Investigations. It was on the theme: "Getting Tough on Human Trafficking."

Topics treated at the workshop, which was organized by the Migrations Management Unit of the GIS with sponsorship from UNICEF include, Overview of Human Trafficking in Ghana,

Interviewing Profiling and Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance and Legislations on Human Trafficking.

Mr Eric Appiah Okrah, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF, observed that human trafficking is a hydra-headed problem demanding the collaborative efforts of stakeholders to fight it.

He said the willingness of UNICEF to help establish the desk was one component to the fight the menace and urged the security agencies to join hands against the danger.

Mr Okrah said GIS desks would be established at three other borders by next year, to combat human trafficking.

He said the fledgling petroleum business in Ghana could lead to the upsurge of human trafficking from the poor areas of the country to oil producing communities.

Ms Judith Djokoto, Assistant Director of Immigration, responsible for Migration Management said the workshop would enhance the skills of immigration officials to co-ordinate with other stakeholders.

Mr Evans Klutse, Aflao Sector CEPS Commander said information on human trafficking should be disseminated in every language for the understanding of the average Ghanaian.



Source:GNA

Monday, November 15, 2010

Government to compensate ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees

BBC NEWS

Binyam Mohamed  
UK resident Binyam Mohamed had sought compensation following his release

Around a dozen men, who accused British security forces of colluding in their torture overseas, are to get millions in compensation from the UK government.
Some of the men, who are all British citizens or residents, were detained at the Guantamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.
At least six of them alleged UK forces were complicit in their torture before they arrived at Guantanamo.
A ministerial statement on the out-of-court settlement is due to be made in the House of Commons later on Tuesday.
It is believed the government wanted to avoid a lengthy and costly court case which would also have put the British secret intelligence services under the spotlight.
Avoiding costs Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed and Martin Mubanga were among those who had begun High Court cases against the government.
They had claimed that UK intelligence agencies and three government departments were complicit in their torture and should have prevented it.
In May, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government was unable to rely on "secret evidence" to defend itself against the six cases.
Then, in July, the High Court ordered the release of some of the 500,000 documents relating to the case.
BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said that around 100 intelligence officers had been working around the clock preparing legal cases.
He said the government wanted to avoid the cost of the court case, and that the terms of the settlement would remain confidential - something wanted by both the men and ministers.
Guantanamo Bay prisoners File pic: 2002 The controversial Guantanamo Bay camp was run by US forces
He added that the Intelligence and Security Committee and the National Audit Office would be briefed about the payments.
He said the government would now be able to move forward with plans for an inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, into claims that UK security services were complicit in the torture of terror suspects.
The settlement was believed to have been agreed after lengthy negotiations.
The Cabinet Office said: "The prime minister set out clearly in his statement to the House (of Commons) on July 6 that we need to deal with the totally unsatisfactory situation where for 'the past few years, the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries'."
Tuesday's statement is expected to be made by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.
The UK security services have always denied any claims that they have used or condoned the use of torture.
Last month, the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers described torture as "illegal and abhorrent" and defended the service's need for secrecy.
Mr Mohamed, from west London, was held in Pakistan in 2002 before US agencies moved him to Morocco, where he was severely tortured, before he was sent on to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
It later emerged that a British intelligence officer visited him in detention in Pakistan and that the CIA had told London what mistreatment he had suffered.
Mr Mohamed, 32, had alleged that his torturers in Morocco had asked questions supplied by MI5.
He was released in 2009, when allegations of British involvement in torture returned to prominence.

2-year-old toddler in coma after step-father’s parenting

RT
Published: 08 April, 2009, 21:23
Edited: 01 August, 2010, 15:17
Image from www.1tv.ru
The unbearable cruelty of Nikita Chemezov’s parents has placed the boy on the edge, struggling between life and death. The methods used in ‘disciplining’ the child have even shocked old-salt policemen.

For almost a month, two-year old Nikita, from Russia’s Siberia, has been continuously and atrociously beaten by 32- year-old Vladimir, his mother’s boyfriend. Vladimir explains he was teaching the boy to become a real man. The last time Nikita was severely “taught” was on Sunday. At night an ambulance was called in – the boy lost consciousness and wasn’t regaining consciousness. The first 24 hours Nikita spent in intensive care in a local hospital in a village where the family lives. But then the boy was transferred to the nearest city, Irkutsk, for further treatment.

Nikita is now hanging between life and death, doctors say. He was taken to the intensive care department where he remains in an extreme coma. The boy suffers from soft tissue traumas, internal bleeding, necrosis of brain cells and a disorder of the central nervous system. Nikita cannot breath and is connected to an artificial lung ventilation device. There are traces from cigarette burns on the toddler’s body. The doctors have conducted a craniotomy and say the chances for the boy to survive are extremely poor. If he does, Nikita will be handicapped for the rest of his life.

“The documents from the case show that for several days they were torturing and beating the boy. Documents even prove that they were putting out cigarettes on his body”, Vladimir Salnikov from the local police department told Russia’s Vesti news channel.


2-year-old Nikita Chemezov at the hospital. Image from www.vesti.ru
Nikita’s mother, 22-year-old Olesya, doesn’t feel guilty and blames it all on her boyfriend, the former inmate Vladimir. They were pen pals while Vladimir was serving his term and, after being released, he moved in with Olesya. None of the neighbors share their memories of how the family was living. And none of them heard the little boy screaming from inhuman tortures.

Olesya Chemezova and her boyfriend have already confessed to their crimes. While the boy is alive they could face up to 12 years in prison for serious bodily assault. But if the boys doesn’t survive, they will be charged with murder.

2-year-old Nikita Chemezov at the hospital. Image from www.vesti.ru

Parental cruelty has become no surprise. Just a few weeks ago the public was shocked by the story of Gleb Ageyev, who was brought to the hospital with numerous burns and injuries.

Mumia Abu-Jamal: World’s most famous death row prisoner

RT

Published: 10 November, 2010, 01:35
Edited: 10 November, 2010, 19:28

An honorary citizen of over 20 cities around the world but a prisoner in the United States of America. He is called the ‘voice of the voiceless’ yet he has been on death row for half his life.
The event that changed the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal occurred almost three decades ago in 1981, when a police officer was shot and killed. Abu-Jamal himself was injured and taken to the hospital. The next day he was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Since then, he became one of the most well-known alleged political prisoners in the world and continues to maintain his innocence to this day.
Revolution means change. It means total change,” Abu-Jamal has said.
He has continued to fight the American judicial system from behind bars.
This was a police frame-up against a revolutionary journalist and activist, very well known organizer in Philadelphia, outspoken against police abuse,” said Sarah Flounders, from the International Action Center.
Abu-Jamal’s case is one of the most debated in modern legal history, with many high profile politicians, academics and celebrities among his supporters.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is a civil rights issue that spins several spectrums; race, class and definitely the politician power structure of America,” said Immortal Technique, a rapper and political activist.
“Kicked into” the Black Panther Movement after being beaten by the police in his teen, Abu-Jamal claims his work has been monitored by the FBI since he was 14 years old.
His analysis is a revolutionary analysis. That this system is rotten to its core, that it’s racist, classist, sexist, evil and that it is the head, the leader of an imperialist domination of the world,” said Suzanne Rose, of FreeMumia.org
Supporters believe convicting him was an attempt by the government to silence him.
He was somebody who was very effective in reaching people,” said rose.
Sadiq Sundiata, a Mumia supporter in New York said, “This is a program of intelligence and assassination, run by the United States government.”
However, Abu-Jamal’s imprisonment simply amplified his voice and spread his reach across the world.
He is the holder of numerous honorary memberships and awards. His writings are distributed across the planet and there is even a street named after him in France, actions condemned by the US Congress.
The defense claimed Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial. Issues ranging from witnesses being police informants to the prosecution knowingly withholding evidence have lead to that argument.
Among the unanswered questions – ballistics.
They claim that Mumia shot Officer Faulkner and missed him at least three times, into the cement, but there are no holes in the pavement,” said Mumia supporter Hans Bennett. “The crime scene photos show that those types of marks simply are not there.”
In addition, new evidence from the defense that shows Abu-Jamal’s innocence has been consistently dismissed.
The courts haven’t investigated many leads,” Rose said.
Calls for a new investigation and countless appeals to the US President and Justice Department have gone unanswered.
I am fighting my conviction, fighting the sentence, fighting for my life, and fighting to create a revolution in America,” Abu-Jamal said.
The media has chosen to largely stay away from the case.
It’s a deliberate action on their part to keep the story suppressed, because it so vivid exposes the nature of the system,” said one Mumia supporter.
The hearing in Philadelphia will decide whether Abu-Jamal will be executed or receive life in prison without parole.
Abu-Jamal’s former lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan is convinced the case can still be won and that Abu-Jamal can be set free.
This case can be won, by won I mean A. his life being saved and B. I feel that we can free him,” Bryan said.
A number of Nobel Prize winners, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, and many others across the world have spoke out in support of Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal’s case has become a representation and symbol for the anti-death penalty movement internationally.
This case and the US stance on the death penalty undermines America’s ability to speak out against human rights abuses by other nations, explained Bryan.
We ourselves are big offenders,” he added.
There is an international effort to free Abu-Jamal, but very little media coverage.
Bryan said the world cares about abolishing the death penalty in their own nations and elsewhere, including in the US, Iran, and China.
Mumia has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with capital punishment, people executing other people in the name of the government,” he explained.

­
Dr. Malik Zulu Shabazz, the chairman of the New Black Panther Party, explained he and his group want to help free Abu-Jamal.
We are there at the courthouse today, in Philadelphia, we are in the streets and we are a part of that movement that is around the world right now and through America that are rallying behind the cause of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” said Shabazz.
Abu-Jamal was previously hopeful about his situation following the election of President Obama.
However, the climate in the US has changed, Obama does not have as much influence to take a stand against the death penalty as he once did, argued Shabazz.
The people need to keep the momentum and pressure on the US government.
We have to fight inside the court room,” said Shabazz. “And the pressure must be on in the streets.”
Activists need to raise awareness about the Abu-Jamal case and others cases of political prisoners.
Shabazz argued that all cases of those targeted as political prisoners must be heard. It is up to the people to raise the voice of those behind bars. The people must rally and demonstrate to be heard.
We must use pen. We must use paper. We must rally. We must demonstrate,” he said. “It should be a multifaceted approach.”

­
Former Congresswoman and past US presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2009 called for a civil rights investigation into the case, but she has received no response from the US government.
Unfortunately that’s why we have to do everything that we can now to impress upon the Department of Justice, President Obama that for once, please, speak up and speak out and save the life of this man who is innocent, who is clearly innocent,” said McKinney. “Mumia did not get a fair trial.”
She argued that there is a consistent thread that runs through the justice system that has created a lesser standard for African Americans.
Now we’ve got a different set of oral arguments that will determine whether or not Mumia has the opportunity to live,” said McKinney. “We need intervention from the White House.”
The world is watching what is going on in the United States, she argued. The US is under the scrutiny of the world, especially the criminal justice system.
I have to continue to believe in the capacity for change, but nothing is going to change unless the will of the people want, directs that change,” McKinney said. But, “US democracy does not reflect the will of the people.”

Mass weddings grow in Yemen

Al Jazeera Features

In the Arab world's poorest state, a new breed of wedding ceremony has emerged out of financial hardship.
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2010 13:54 GMT
In Yemen's largest mass wedding to date, 1,600 grooms filled a sports hall in the capital [Credit: Oliver Holmes]
As is customary in Yemen's highly conservative culture, Muhammed al-Khouja has never met his fiancée. The couple have been engaged for almost two years and set multiple wedding dates, but every time the day draws near, the wedding is delayed. Yemen is full of single young men like Muhammed who cannot afford to marry.
Weddings are pricey in Yemen - bachelors have to pay their fiancée's family to marry their daughter. The groom and his father split the cost of a dowry to the bride's father, normally around $5,000, and the family of the groom is also expected to pay for the wedding expenses.
In the capital Sana'a, this means renting a giant beige tent, filling it with cushions, hiring a local band, covering the surrounding alleyways in light bulbs and blaring music out of colossal speakers fixed to street lamps for three days.
Until recently, the groom's side also paid for sizeable lamb lunches and the guests' qat, a mildly narcotic leaf chewed during afternoons and especially at weddings, but it is now generally acknowledged that these are unreasonable additional expenses.
In March, Muhammed's father told him that to cut costs, Muhammed would get married jointly with his three brothers, a growing trend in Yemen, the poorest of all the Arab states. Now the idea has been taken a step further and a new breed of ceremony has emerged out of hardship - mass weddings ranging from 10 to more than 1,500 couples.
1,600 grooms
Last month, in Yemen's largest mass wedding to date, 1,600 couples tied the knot. The grooms filled a sports hall in the capital, each dressed in traditional flowing robes, with black and green scarves wrapped around their heads and holding long, curved golden swords.
In Yemen, weddings are a single-sex affair and the brides had their own separate parties at home. The couples were to meet later that night, many for the first time.
The event was organised by the Orphans Charitable Organisation and sponsored by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, a brother of the Saudi sovereign.
"All the grooms are orphans," organiser Abdul Rajeh explained. "Orphans have a really hard time getting married as they don't have the financial support of a father to help them with the dowry."
The festivities included a morning of dancing, poetry and short comedic plays and the front few rows of seats were filled with Saudi dignitaries with a sea of the grooms' black and green headscarves behind them. Even leading Yemeni Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani attended, a man the US has labelled a "specifically designated global terrorist".
Spirits were high and the grooms unsheathed their swords and danced with them above their heads for some of the more popular songs. Verses of the Quran were read and VIP guests delivered long speeches filled with accolades to Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is also Yemen's biggest funder of Islamic institutions and analysts say Saudi Arabia's philanthropic work here is part of a wider scheme to exert influence in the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition to funding the event, Prince Aziz donated a generous sum of 200,000 Yemeni Rials ($900) to each groom as a contribution to his dowry.
"By funding our wedding and helping us with the dowry, Prince Aziz is showing us that he is the father of Yemen's orphans," said 25-year-old groom Abdul Ghani at the wedding feast. After the morning's entertainment, the grooms were bused over to a hall on the other side of the capital to enjoy a lunch of tender lamb, soft Yemeni bread drenched in spicy yogurt and sweet pomegranates.
The donation will only cover a fifth of the cost of the dowry Abdul Ghani will have to pay, but he says the money helps. "I've been dreaming of marriage since I was a boy. This is the happiest day of my life, we are all so happy," he said.
Growing trend
Mass weddings are not only a Yemeni phenomenon. Iran has hosted mass weddings since the mid-1990s, in part to aid the poor and in part to prevent young people from marrying late, fearing premarital sex.
In South Korea, controversial Unification Church founder and self-proclaimed "Messiah" Reverend Sun Myung Moon has married tens of thousands of young couples from around the globe.
But mass weddings in Yemen are a cultural craze. As in Iran, there is a fear among Yemenis that if a man cannot afford to marry he will look for sex elsewhere. In much of the country, friendship with a woman before marriage is considered shameful and worried parents endeavour to marry off their sons and daughters as fast as possible.
There is no stigma attached to marrying en-mass and local charities, the government, tribal sheikhs and the military have started organising weddings.
Even private companies have jumped on the bandwagon in a bizarre gesture of corporate social responsibility.
A corporate wedding
MTN, a South Africa-based telecommunications company that operates mobile phone networks in Yemen, has organised an annual mass wedding for its local Yemeni staff for the past few years. At the most recent ceremony, 30 colleagues were married simultaneously.
A senior development manager at MTN Yemen said that the aim of the wedding was to "make employees loyal to the company and to raise morale".
Yellow posters baring the MTN logo covered the walls of the hall and an MTN jingle from a TV advertisement would occasionally blast out of the speakers. At one point during the ceremony, the CEO of MTN in Yemen appeared on televisions positioned around the room and talked at length about how MTN is "allowing its employees to settle down".
But at this corporate wedding, the grooms make relatively decent salaries and are not trapped into single life like many of those at Yemen's charity-organised weddings.

"This is not my real wedding day," whispered one of the grooms, adding with a smile: "I'll be married in a couple months, this is just a good party."
Source:
Al Jazeera