Wake-up Call: “I never want to go to school again” Shanno Khan (1998-2009)

Posted in Asia, Children, Europe, India, United Kingdom with tags , , , , on June 30, 2009 by mariayzk

cutest-baby-ever“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

Mohandas Ghandi, political and spiritual leader in India

Violence; the 21st century first aid kit. Whether we are examining the reasoning behind the war waged on Afghanistan and Iraq, September 11th bombing or an aggressive domestic marital feud between a couple, like the recent beheading of a New York based women; 37 year old Aasiya Hassan who was allegedly murdered by her husband, one no longer stands shocked at these fanatical acts of violent behavior. The subject of this article is yet another act of brutality; the culprit is none other than a school teacher; an honorable profession, which has now become synonymous with pedophiles, killers and kidnappers.

The current state of schools is fear-provoking; Sunday school teacher in California charged with the murder and rape of an 8 year old girl who was her daughter’s playmate, killers and pedophiles in UK applying to become teachers and most recently the 11 year old asthmatic girl in New Delhi who died after being punished by her teacher to stand in the scorching sun for two hours. It leaves you wondering; is it even worth procreating in such a stigmatized environment? Continue reading

Walking Marriages 走婚 in the Land of Mosuo; a Woman’s Kingdom

Posted in Asia, China, History with tags , , on June 30, 2009 by mariayzk

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There are so many knowledgeable people, but none can equal with my mother.

There are so many people skilled in song and dance, but none can compete with my mother.

There are so many skillful people, but none can compare with my mother.


This beautiful folk song is intrinsic to the Nari culture; an ethnic group based in southwestern China more formally known as the Mosuo, which is quite often referred to as a ‘Girl’s Kingdom’.

American writer, Joseph Rock has described the land as:

“The last peaceful place on the planet, the last place where war has never existed, where people live in harmony, is Lugu Lake. The lake is home to the Mosuo minority, one of China’s 56 ethnic groups, hidden in the shadows of the Xiaoliang Mountains.”

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In the Mosou tradition; a man and a woman never leave their mother’s home. When a woman reaches puberty, she is given a coming-of-age ceremony at which time she can begin engaging in ‘Axia’; a walking marriage. It starts of with both men and women interacting with each other through group songs and other activities and if there happens to be a love connection between a pair, the woman invites the man through some form of gesture, i.e. gift. The man returns to this woman after dusk, when night falls and leaves before dawn to return to his mother’s home. If the woman desires, he returns; otherwise they end the relationship and move onto someone new. A relationship goes public to the families once a man and a woman decide to have children, until then the lovers will pretend not to know each other in public. Continue reading

Post Mortem Report; The Migration-Displacement Nexus in Pakistan

Posted in Afghanistan, Asia, Children, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Refugees & IDPs, War with tags , , , , on June 29, 2009 by mariayzk

swat_refugees_081A looming threat from Al Qaeda & the Taliban militia and an in-flux of Afghan refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) has left Pakistan in a worst refugee crisis since the partition in 1947. US led drone strikes and Pakistan military’s onslaught against the Talibans has crippled a great mass of Afghan and Pakistani civilians. Why do states always carry out post-mortem reports on innocent war causalities, instead of ensuring civilians’ security prior to the attacks?

afghn-101351In view of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s corrupt governments and the rising number of people uprooted by the growing conflict in north-west Pakistan, can we trust these governments enough to tackle the fragile situation or is it a case of another humanitarian disaster? Perhaps another Kashmir, another Palestine. The victims in the end are always the civilians, who end up losing their only prized possession; their identity.

May 5, 2009: Afghan officials say up to 120 non-combatants were killed when US warplanes dropped bombs on two villages in Bala Baluk, a Taliban-controlled district in the western province of Farah.

May 11, 2009: UN estimates, over 360,000 people have escaped from the three worst affected areas of Dir, Swat and Buner.

May 12, 2009:­­­ A total of 501,496 displaced people from the new influx had been formally registered by authorities, with UNHCR’s help, since May 2.

May 13, 2009: The number of people who have fled the fighting in northwest Pakistan this month and been registered or recorded by authorities reached 670,906 on Wednesday, up from just over half a million the day before.

May 15, 2009: Almost 1 million displaced people so far registered this month by authorities and UNHCR are in addition to another 550,000 uprooted people who fled fighting since last August. According to the latest figures, 987,140 people have been registered from the current influx, including 907,298 outside camps and 79,842 in camps.­­

swat_refugees_05What will be the outcome of Pakistan’s face-off with the Talibans? Will success be measured on the battlefield in the Swat Valley and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border or will it be measured by the number of civilian casualties? Continue reading

Alcohol or a Corporate Prostitute?

Posted in Africa, Europe, Prostitution with tags , , , , on June 28, 2009 by mariayzk

gab1The prostitution that was once confined exclusively to brothels has now permeated into every sphere of our life. The act; modern day prostitution is broadcasted at the workplace, educational institutes and every other place, where power imbalance has engendered social class distinctions within society. Do sex appeal and bottom power get the job done these days, brain cells notwithstanding?

The answer surrounds us like a haunting reality; a stigma that has been canvassed into a positive veil. It’s common observance to hear of young girls being trafficked from Eastern Europe and South Asian countries to work as sex slaves in brothels led by ravenous Madams. However, the spotlight in this article is on corporate prostitutes and scholarly pimps; prostitution where both genders are at play with equal will.

Sexual bargaining for material success has become a common means of achieving social promotion; at the workplace and in universities for academic advancement. Double Yoke; an African novel, depicts these sexual dynamics inside a Nigerian university. The story revolves around Nko, an undergraduate student who is caught between her desire for academic success to provide for her family and her love for her boyfriend, Ete Kamba. Eventually, she gives in to the deceitful professor. However, the story ends tragically, when Ete refuses to accept her and blames her for not being a virgin and the professor; Ikot abuses his authority to restrain her. This story is a reality for many; yet women continue to use bottom power over brain power to cash in short-lived success.

One might say; ‘who cares? It doesn’t affect me’, but it does affect every member of the society, gender notwithstanding. Women entangled within these sexual games often legitimize their acts as a means to achieving sexual liberation. Their attitudes have led to a breakdown and transformation of the social and moral norms of the society and paved the way towards corrupt administrations and flawed educational institutions. Continue reading

I am Alive – Restoring Family Links

Posted in Children, Disasters with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2009 by mariayzk

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Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. Jane Howard

You wake up in the morning, get up to brush your teeth and there in the mirror pops up a familiar face. Beneath your exterior exists another you, a part of you that carries a million memories with your loved ones spread across borders. What if one day due to  a  natural disaster or armed conflict you lose all ties with your loved ones? What would you do to reunite with them? In this article; I’ll be highlighting one such case; an Aunt’s search for her lost blood ties, her twin nieces who are fighting their lost identities in a small camp based in Tanzania.

In a day and age when domestic violence has become an open day policy in every other household; it is highly motivating to see people who are still keen on restoring family links. I dedicate this article to all those people who have sacrificed their lives in hopes of sustaining a peaceful family life.

Bound under confidentiality, I will be unable to disclose names here. The case revolves around twin sisters, born in early 1990s in Nyanza Lac, Burundi. Having lost their mother at an early age; the girls were being raised by their mother’s employee who passed away a few years ago, leaving them all alone in a world they had yet to understand. To escape the conflict zone, they fled to seek refuge in a camp based in Tanzania; where the girls are presently living. About a week ago, they were led by camp officials to the Burundi embassy, where they were notified that they will soon be sent back to Burundi.  The girls didn’t take this too well considering they have no family ties in Burundi; it seemed like a whole new world to them. In fear of being deported back to Burundi they managed to escape from the embassy and spent the next few days on the streets. However, they couldn’t get too far and were brought back to the camp. Continue reading

Celebrating the Legends – From Michael Jackson to Benazir Bhutto

Posted in History, Media with tags , , , on June 26, 2009 by mariayzk

PicturesThe month of June marks the birth of several honorable beings, notably Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1953), Tehran’s first female judge, human rights’ activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi (21 June 1947) and Environmental activist, Erin Brockovich (June 22, 1960). Yesterday onwards; this month’s 25th day will mark the loss of the music legend and King of Pop, Michael Joseph Jackson and Charlie’s Angels’ fan favorite; Farrah Fawcett.

Not only had these icons reached the skies of infinite success, but they had also stolen the hearts of fans worldwide with their determination, passion and love for life. From Michael Jackson’s moonwalk to Farrah’s famous hairdo, we have followed through these legends success as they’ve become an essential part of our lives. Continue reading

The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq -Subjection & the workings of Power

Posted in Middle East, Politics, War with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by mariayzk

cgr_eng_iraq_afghanistanWe often construct images of aliens to define ourselves in contrast as normal, and in doing so set standards of right and wrong; punishing those considered others by engaging in wars and violent activities. It is a tactic; a thought out strategy to prevent the other from rising to power. The war on Iraq was initiated on similar grounds; to protect and discipline this other.

As the respected Shri Shri Ravi Shankar quoted; war to him denotes worse action for reason. Even though the war on Iraq, like any other war was fought on the grounds of being a disciplinary practice, in reality it demonstrated clear power politics between states; played to control the bodies within the states and threatening their ultimate human security.

When I first heard about the incident, a number of questions sprung to my mind. What was the extent of these abuses and what exactly caused the American soldiers to perform such heinous acts? Yet, the more answers I tried to find, the more conflicting my judgments became due to differing media projections. However, I was anxious to determine where the accountability of these abuses truly lies; in black and white, the American soldiers were the culprits, but what if there is a grey in between? What if the American soldiers were socially disciplined and trained to act in ways that they did.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib might have occurred in a physical prison built out of steel and concrete, but what about the psychological prisons that the American soldiers, along with the Iraqi detainees subjectified into? Here, it would be noteworthy to mention that such mental prisons are not isolated to the Abu Ghraib incident solely; they are social constructs of society, brought into form when we construct divisions; like us and them, sane and insane. Hence, even though the American soldiers were the explicit agents in these abuses, other implicit factors, like racism, religion and sexism were all at play together. When the soldiers were abusing the Iraqis, they were in reality abusing the enemy, the evil, the other. Continue reading