Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 5 most popular stories of oppression in Egypt

Egypt is on the headlines and people worldwide have turned to the internet to read up about the country, perhaps in search of more information about the culture of repression and endemic impunity not covered by mainstream media. This explains why stories of oppression and police brutality in Egypt make up the list of top 5 most popular articles this week on this blog.

The top 5 most popular stories of oppression in Egypt on this blog as of today include the following (starting with the hottest):
  1. Khaled Mohammed Said: Another Casualty of Egyptian police brutality. It is worth mentioning that "Khaled Mohammed Said" has been the most popular "keyword" and has sent the most traffic (predominantly from Google) to this blog since the story of the the young Egyptian brutalised to death by Egyptian police in Alexandria was posted in June 2010.
  2. The U.S should respect rights and demands of Egyptians: An opinion piece about the role of the U.S. in the on-going Egyptian crisis.
  3. Egypt: Don't forget Khaled Mohammed Said: Shines light on a postponed trial of police officers arrested in relation to the death of Khaled Said.
  4. Ahmed Shaaban: Tortured to death by Egyptian police? This is the story of another young Egyptian allegedly beaten to death by police in Egypt in Alexandria barely 5 months after Khaled Mohammed Said met his end in the hands of plainclothes officers.
  5. Egypt: Two police officers arrested over death of Khaled Mohammed Said.
It is no coincidence that Egypt is the hottest topic online and offline this week, and that all the above articles are about the Arab Republic.

Thousands of people are out in the streets for 7 days now - defying boots, batons, water canons, teargas and a curfew imposed by a 30-year-old autocratic regime. Rights have been violated in full glare of the world, but the message of thousands of repressed Egyptians is still loud and unmistaken - they want an end to 23-years of "emergency rule" under a 30-years old regime.

The people have spoken. Democracy should take its course.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The U.S. should respect rights and demands of Egyptians

Egypt is in chaos as thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to demand political reform and an end to 30 years of repression under the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak. For the past five days, demonstrators have suffered in the hands of President Mubarak's so-called "no-nonsense" security agents who suppress the rights and demands of Egyptians - including the right to association, assembly and expression - with lethal  force powered by live bullets, batons, boots, water canons and teargas reportedly made in the U.S.

The oppressive Mubarak regime is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid (largely military aid). This revelation has amplified calls for the U.S. to stop funding an undemocratic regime and respect the rights and demands of the Egyptian people.

It's interesting to note that according to Reuters, the U.S. has given Egypt an average of 2 billion dollars a year since 1979. In 2010 alone, Egypt received 1.3 billion dollars in military aid.

President Mubarak has been in power since October 1981 without the support of a majority of Egyptians. But he enjoys the support of the U.S. and considered a "key" U.S. ally. This is testament to the fact that the U.S. has religiously supported 30 years of oppression in Egypt. For more than 30 years, successive U.S. administrations have closely worked with a regime that cracks down on basic rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Egyptians have had enough and have taken to the streets to protest and voice concerns over 30 years of [U.S. funded] oppression.

Watching the demonstrations on a program titled "Egypt in Crisis" on CNN International this Sunday morning, an embattled demonstrator held up a slogan that caught my attention. The slogan which read: "USA Stop supporting Mubarak..." was hard to ignore. This is a genuine concern.

The U.S. should respect the rights and demands of oppressed Egyptians and stop supporting a government which is neither "by the people" or "for the people."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Botswana: Court of Appeal grants Bushmen water rights

Bushman man. Photo: Survival.
Botswana's Appeals Court has overturned a 2010 High Court decision that denied the Kalahari Bushmen the right to access water from a well on their ancestral land.

According to a Survival news release, 5 Appeals Court judges unanimously ruled amongst other things that the government's ban on access to water amounted to "degrading treatment" of the Bushmen.

The government of Botswana evicted the Bushmen from their ancestral land in 2002 after diamond deposits were discovered on the land. It was not until 2006 that a High Court ruled the eviction unlawful and unconstitutional. Although some Bushmen gradually returned to their ancestral land following the 2006 court ruling, the government continued to make life on the land difficult for the Bushmen by banning access to water on the land. The Bushmen dragged the government to court again and although a judge dismissed the case, the Bushmen pressed on with an appeal.

The Court of Appeal's decision on 27 January 2011 to uphold the Constitution and reinstate water rights of the Kalahari Bushmen is a victory for basic human rights and the rule of law.

This judgement (in pdf) comes barely a week after the government of Botswana approved the construction of a $3billion diamond mine in the disputed ancestral home of the Bushmen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Iran: Reverse harsh sentence imposed on film director Jafar Panahi

Jafar Pinahi and the Berlin Silver Bear Award, 2006.
On 24 January 2010, I received an email from Amnesty International USA shining light on a harsh sentence imposed on Jafar Panahi, an award-winning Iranian film director. He was arrested and recently imprisoned in Iran and banned from making movies - in violation of his right to freedom of expression through film-making.

According to Amnesty International USA, Jafar Panahi was accused of making an anti-government film without permission and inciting opposition. In December 2010, he was convicted of "Propaganda" against the state and sentenced to 6 years behind bars by Iran's Revolutionary Court. Besides this conviction, Jafar is banned from making movies for 20 years, and forbidden from writing scripts, traveling abroad, speaking with the press and from expressing political descent.

It is worth mentioning that Jafar Panahi is known for writing and directing films that expose the oppression of women in Iran. One of his compelling films titled "OFFSIDE" captures the story of women officially banned from men's sporting events, including football (soccer) in Iran. WATCH the trailer:

As a proponent of fundamental freedoms and human rights - including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights - I view this imprisonment and limitations slammed on Jafar as an attack on freedom of expression and the movie industry, as well as an attempt to silence critics of oppression in Iran. Those who value freedom of expression and film-making are encouraged to take action now to reverse this harsh sentence and outrageous conditions imposed on film director Jafar Panahi.

Jafar Panahi's artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof was also sentenced to 6 years imprisonment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Botswana President invites Ouattara but deny Bushmen rights

President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
The President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, has reportedly invited Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the disputed 2010 presidential election in Ivory Coast to Botswana for a state visit. This was announced barely a day after the government of Botswana approved the opening of a $3 billion diamond mine on the ancestral land of oppressed indigenous Bushmen in Botswana.

Khama's government argues that African leaders (like Laurent Gbagbo) who reject election results and cling to power "deny people the right to have leaders of their choice." This argument, no doubt, holds water but at the same time it is hypocritical - coming from a government that continues to deny indigenous land rights of it's own people.

Why should a government defend rights abroad, and at the same time violate indigenous rights in it's own backyard?

In 2002, the government of Botswana evicted Bushmen from their land and resettled them in camps after the discovery of diamonds in their ancestral land. Although some Bushmen have been allowed to return to their land following a High Court ruling, the government continues to make life difficult for them by denying them access to water and the right to hunt on their land.

Survival International, an organization working for tribal and indigenous rights, maintains that the Bushmen were evicted from their ancestral land to make room for lucrative diamond exploitation. The recent approval of the construction of a diamond mine worth billions of dollars on the disputed ancestral land of the Bushmen backs this assertion.

In December 2010, President Khama whose regime is apparently more interested in respecting voting rights abroad than the rights of Kalahari Bushmen, described Botswana's indigenous Bushmen as "Primitive," "primeval" and living a "life of backwardness."

It is true that Ivorians have the right to have a leader of their choice, and President Khama has recognized Ouattara as that leader. But it is also true that the government of Botswana has an obligation to respect Bushmen's right to live on their ancestral land and maintain their way of life no matter how "primitive" or "primeval" it may seem.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

You've probably noticed that the last article - Ivory Coast: Power Struggle endangers lives - was posted on this blog on December 17, 2010. Hence, it goes without saying that until date, I have not wished all readers of this blog a Happy New Year 2011. It would therefore be unfair and perhaps negligent for me to resume writing on a new year, after a fun-filled break on the coast of West Africa, without wishing you a happy and success-filled new year 2011.

2010 was arguably the most productive year of my life so far simply because I entered into a contract with myself by way of written goals. In other words, I had a written "nonnegotiable obligation" to be productive.

It is in this vein that you are encouraged to write down ALL your goals for 2011, if you've not done so yet. Write them down where you'd see them daily and be reminded of what you expect to achieve by the end of the year. You'd be amazed by the power of written goals.

Happy New Year 2011! Make it bigger than 2010!

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