Why Is The World Not Standing By Somalia?

Feature Image Credit: npr.org

2017 has brought about a spur of refugees finding shelter, a series of natural disasters, gun attacks and terrorist attacks. However, one thing remains stagnant, that media bias will always be present which further attributes to the mass majority’s double standards.

The scale of news coverage is undoubtedly massive when it comes to reporting an incident in the West. On Saturday, 14 October 2017, Somalia faced its deadliest terrorist attack. The attack in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, killed at more than 300 people and injured hundreds.

Somalia’s capital suffered tremendously this year through all the terrorist attacks. Most of which were suicide attacks and car bombs. And just when Somalia was still recovering from one of the worst terrorist attacks,  a double car bombing in Mogadishu killed at least 23 people over the last weekend.

Mogadishu Attacks 2017: Al Jazeera News

Somalia’s health workers are facing a tough time in identifying and treating the burnt and injured victims. Death toll was expected to rise, as some were feared to be buried under the rubble of destroyed and damaged buildings. The Guardian revealed the 14 October attack has been blamed on Somalia’s local Islamist group, al-Shabab.

Moreover, the attack on Saturday was also claimed by al-Shabab ” an armed group fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government”.

This deadliest terrorist attack has been marked as one of the most fatal terrorist operations anywhere in the world in past few years. Somalia’s capital has been the target for many terrorists attacks but a deadly attack as such was the first to take place.

Mogadishu Attack On October 14: nytimes

Somalia’s government declared three days of mourning nationwide. However, on Wednesday 18 October, thousands of men and women protested through the streets of Somalia’s capital, claiming that the government did not do enough to protect them.

Abdiaziz Omar Ibrahim, told Al Jazeera his older brother has been missing since the attack and they have done all they could to find him but have left everything on Allah now.

“I went to all the hospitals in Mogadishu. I looked through all the wards, but we haven’t found him,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera, his voice cracking over the phone as he struggled to hold back emotions.

“He has seven children. The youngest is four years old. He is the family’s only breadwinner. We don’t know if he is dead or alive,” Ibrahim said.

“I spoke to him one hour before the explosion. Now there is no trace of him.”

This is just one of the hundreds of families who have no idea where their loved ones could be at, whether are they still alive or not.

“Imagine if 250+ ppl in the US or UK or France were killed in a truck bomb. That’s what just happened in Somalia. They deserve to be mourned,” said Clint Smith, a PhD candidate at Harvard.

Image Credit: Clint Smith’s Twitter

Pakistani actor Hamza Ali Abbasi also took to twitter to share his sentiments on the world’s double standards.

Image Credit: Hamza Ali Abbasi’s Twitter

Some tweets also suggested that the world cares more when attack victims are white.

The media in the West has in many ways impacted people’s way of thinking. While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed on the day of the terrorist attack in Somalia, I recall seeing less than 5 status updates about the attack.

Only a month back when the Las Vegas shooting occurred, people were sharing their sentiments through their status updates almost every other day.

Why the double standards, when we know it is awfully shameful and not to say wrong to have them, especially where lives are lost and destruction is caused. The Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and African countries have been suffering media bias since decades. They have been done wrong, and when will we own up to that?

Unfortunately, changing media practices or people’s thinking is something that cannot happen overnight. It is a difficult task to raise awareness of media bias practices but perhaps one day, the world will wake up through the fair and right use of social media and their voices will be heard.

One day.

 

Maria Khan Safi

‘Guru’ Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Found Guilty For Rape

Image Credit: standard.co.uk

The Indian Sect Leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentences to 20 years of imprisonment on Monday 28 August 2017, for raping two of his followers. Due to his popularity and immense public support, mobile internet services were suspended in seven Haryana states till 30 August 2017.

The Judge read the order which stated, “the victims put the convict on the pedestal of ‘god’ and revered him. However, the convict committed breach of the gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers”.

Singh, had tens of thousands of supporters gathered outside the court to hear the verdict. However, when Singh was proven guilty, his supporters began rioting which resulted in the death of 34 people and left many wounded.

Panchkula Violence: NDTV

Many might wonder what prompted the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), to investigate Singh. According to Al Jazeera, “in 2002, one of his female followers wrote an anonymous letter to the country’s then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, alleging that she had been raped by Singh and many of his female devotees were sexually exploited”.

CBI is also looking into Singh’s supposedly involvement in the 2002 murder of  journalist who exposed rape allegations against him.

The irony of it all is that Singh, a self proclaimed saint encourages modesty and self-sacrifice to his followers but he himself lived a lavish life. “Guru” Ram Rahim acted in his own movies and always bragged ‘he was a spiritual saint, a writer, a musician, a sportsman, an agriculturalist, a singer, a director, a scientist, a feminist, a youth icon and the holder of a number of Guinness World Records’.

Image Credit: DNA India

Singh claims he has 60 million followers worldwide but, not many have spoken in his favour other than those who thought rioting was equivalent to talking.

A few of his devotees have spoken up on how Singh, saved them from troubles and they treat him more than just a family member. According to BBC, “many of his followers, including the Yadav family, believe he possesses magical powers”.

The investigation had been going on for more than a decade, which only tells us how influential political and media figures are in India. It is a milestone for the Indian Judiciary to give such a sentencing as it gives hope to rape victims and their families in India.

The hope for justice still seems alive in India. However, until every common man in India feels justice will be served to them despite their race, religion or caste, the fight for their rights ought to never stop.

Maria Khan Safi

Intense Floods In South Asia Kill More Than 1,000 People

Floodwaters in Bangladesh: http://www.npr.org

This year’s Monsoon in South Asia killed more than 1,000 people and displaced millions. There is a fear of rising death toll due to the constant rain penetrating the entire region.

Around 41 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are deeply affected by the flooding and landslides. United Nations (UN) humanitarian agencies are working with the Government and partners in Nepal to supply clean water, food, shelter and medical aid to those affected in this region.

While flooding in Houston undoubtedly grasped more attention, a disaster is unraveling in the South Asia region. Bangladesh, India and Nepal are all developing nations and neighbours who unfortunately are facing the same circumstances.

Women with children make their way through the flood: TRT World

More than tens of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals have been destroyed. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, “there is the possibility that the situation could deteriorate further as rains continue in some flood-affected areas and flood waters move south”.

Animals such as elephants were used as means of transport to rescue flood victims and rafts were built from bamboos and banana leaves.

Image Credit: recordnepal

Nepal faced intense flooding and landslides in the least developed parts of the country, where people lived in bare mud houses and generally relied on farming for their incomes. Now with the farms gone underwater, more than thousands of families have been displaced and are facing water borne diseases.

India has faced tremendous flooding across the states of Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and other areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over the devastation caused by the flooding and landslides in Bihar, to which “he pledged millions of dollars in assistance and urged insurance companies to send in assessors as soon as possible to help farmers cope with their losses”.

Image Credit: Dhaka Tribune

The heavy rains have caused a series of devastation in Bangladesh as well. A low-lying and densely populated country of 165 million, Bangladesh is chronically ravaged by flooding.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent mentioned that despite the dangerous floods have started to move further off, a large number of  people are still in immediate need of food, clean water, sanitation facilities and support to rebuild or repair their homes.

Any form of help provided to the people in these affected areas will be an ounce of hope for them to restart their lives. It could be monetary help or sending items in bulk through charity organisations. Reach out to organisations who provide legitimate aid if you can, and keep praying for their circumstances to get better.

Maria Khan Safi

The Bitter Truth Behind Immigrant Smuggling

Day in and day out, we hear stories of immigrants willingly agreeing to be smuggled to nearby countries in the hopes for a better life. Illegal immigrants take immense risk when migrating over to a new country.

On Sunday, 23 July 2017, a United States lorry driver was arrested for the smuggling of migrants. A total of eight immigrants were found dead in the lorry, while another died in the hospital. Almost 20 other immigrants were immediately brought to the hospital due to their fatal health conditions.

Lorry found filled with migrants in Texas: Citynews.ca

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus mentioned to ABC that it was an immigrant-smuggling which went south.

“We’re looking at a human-trafficking crime,” William McManus said.

“A horrific tragedy.”

According to the San Antonio Police Department, victims were being smuggled in inhumane conditions with no water and air conditioning in the harsh summer heat. The victims suffered from dehydration and heatstroke.

“Even though they have the driver in custody, I can guarantee you there’s going to be many more people we’re looking for to prosecute,” ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said to the ABC News.

Image Credit: universalmediahd

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, who researches immigration and border security at UT Rio Grande Valley mentioned to NPR that “trucks provide anonymity on busy Texas highways, and packing people together means the risk is concentrated and profits are greater for smugglers”.

All the unrest caused by the so called ‘Islamic State’ in Middle East, have displaced thousands of people who are now seeking any means to escape the war. Smugglers use such circumstances as an opportunity to make quick money. They usually smuggle them through the sea to nearby countries and many of these migrant boats end up sinking.

The question here is why do such group of individuals take life threatening risks despite being aware of the dangers? Why even in the 21st century, incidents like these never seem to cease? The smuggling of immigrants is not only a human rights issue but a social issue too as it concerns one on an international level.

Image Credit: i.telegraph.co.uk

Lawbreakers smuggling immigrants are always looking for means to make money and do not have any empathy or sympathy for those being smuggled in terrible conditions. Smugglers often smuggle group of migrants/immigrants either across borders or within the country where they have illegal contacts.

It is nearly impossible to know the exact amount of immigrants being smuggled due to their change of circumstances. These immigrants do not have the option to seek legal channels of migration as they usually belong to low-income families.

According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), smuggled immigrants are in peril to physical abuse and being taken advantage of. Furthermore, their safety and their lives are at a high level of risk as: they may suffocate in containers, perish in deserts or drown at sea while being smuggled by profit-seeking criminals who treat them as goods.

Image Credit: asylumaccess

UNDOC also states that “unemployment, war and persecution” are among many of the reasons as to why these immigrants leave their home countries. Getting to the root cause of their migration will not provide international entities a solution to end this crisis until there is international cooperation and national coordination. This is what will eventually cause a drop in the immigrant-smuggling statistics.

No one can deny that social media is a super power in today’s time. There are various self-funded and non-profit organisations, giving immigrants who were smuggled abroad a platform to tell their stories and why they took such risks. Perhaps this will one day cause an international outcry to help these individuals seeking a better life.

Most of us often take our way of life for granted, when people out there who are are just like us; end up risking their lives to seek a better one. One, which holds no promises for them.

 

Maria Khan Safi

Victory For Palestinians – Worshipers Return To Al-Aqsa Mosque

Image Credit: ibtimes

On the morning of July 27, 2017 the Israeli Government withdrew the last of the security measures in al-Aqsa mosque. Waqf, the Islamic authority that manages the mosque, gave a green light for prayers to be conducted as usual and for worshipers to be able to return to al-Aqsa.

However, upon returning to al-Aqsa mosque Israeli forces not only fired tear gas, but used stun grenades and sound bombs at Palestinians returning to the mosque. Approximately, more than 100 Palestinians were injured.

Bab Hutta, which is one of the gates to al-Aqsa mosque was still shut despite lifting ‘all’ security measures. Palestinians wanted all Israeli enforced measures to be removed before they entered the compound. According to Al Jazeera, “Israeli security forces followed the worshipers in from the Bab Hutta gate and fired stun grenades, sound bombs and tear gas”.

Image Credit; america.aljazeera

It had been almost two weeks since Israel closed the al-Aqsa mosque for the very first time since 1969. Prior to the close down, a violent gun battle occurred on July 14 between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Israeli forces. The gun battle caused the death of two Israeli police forces and three Palestinian attackers. Hence, the shut down of al-Aqsa mosque by the Israeli Government.

In the aftermath, Israel sealed the site for Friday prayers and only opened the premises on the following Sunday. Metal detectors and a number of cameras were installed at the entrance of the site. However, Palestinians were not pleased with all the new security measures and abstained from entering al-Aqsa until the measure were removed.

Thousands of Palestinians had been praying outside of the Lion’s Gate – one of the entrances to the Old City, in a form of protests against the Israeli Government. Unfortunately, their peaceful protests were brutally disrupted by the Israeli forces in which hundreds were left injured.

Image Credit: middleeastmonitor

Furthermore, President Mahmoud Abbas “announced that the Palestinian leadership had frozen all contact with Israel sue to the growing tensions at al-Aqsa compound” and will resume as per normal once Israel gets rid of all security measures.

The international law states that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies. There is no country in the world which recognises Israel’s ‘ownership’ of Jerusalem.

Why is it not surprising to see the Israeli Government trying to take any rights the Palestinians are left with taken away? The site is of equal importance to all three Abrahamic religions, Muslims, Jews and Christians. In fact al-Aqsa is recognised as a World Heritage site by the United Nations.

Moreover, it belongs to the International community under the UN. Therefore technically, Israel is violating the international law by illegally controlling East Jerusalem which is inclusive of the Old City.

Image Credit: Lost Islamic History

A clear sign of Human Rights violation can be seen by the mere fact that the Palestinians in Jerusalem only hold a Permanent Residence status in spite of being born there. Whereas, Jews in Jerusalem hold a Citizenship status. Palestinians have repeatedly been rejected of permits to build homes in East Jerusalem where Israel has built illegal settlements for its people.

Over the years, the Israeli Government have taken drastic and inhumane steps in order to control the Old City and East Jerusalem entirely.

It is indeed a victory for Palestinians since Israel decided to lift all security measures from al-Aqsa mosque. However, their welcome back to the al-Aqsa compound was a rather unpleasant and violent one.

Let’s not forget that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from lack of food, water and healthcare. There are a number of Gaza relief funds whereby people donate to help them rebuild their homes and get medical treatments.

Raising awareness of Palestinians sufferings in Jerusalem and Gaza will provide one a better understanding of their plight. But what is most important, is to help them rebuild and improve their lives through relief funds; as it could have been anyone of us.

 

Maria Khan Safi

The Escalating Crisis In Qatar

Qatar was once the poorest country in the Gulf region, whereas for now; they are one of the richest in the region today. Also, today Qatar shares the world’s largest gas field with Iran.

Image Credit: http://www.zerohedge.com

However during the past one month, Qatar has been facing some major problems from its neighbours. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have severed all forms of diplomatic ties with Qatar. The above nations except Egypt, gave Qatari Citizens a total of 14 days to exit from their territories. Furthermore Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and The UAE denied their citizens the right to either travel or reside in Qatar.

All the four Gulf nations accused Qatar for allegedly supporting terrorism and warned Qatar that restrictions will remain as the same until Qatar “changes its policies for the better”. Qatar did however admit providing assistance to some Islamist groups such as the Muslim-Brotherhood, but “denied supporting militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State”.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, The United Arab Emirates had hacked into Qatari government social media and news sites. They further posted raging but untrue quotes linked to Qatar’s emir which resulted in a diplomatic crisis.

Qatar’s Emir: http://www.express.co.uk

Qatar responded in late May stating that hackers had posted false comments by the emir, an explanation which the Gulf states refused to acknowledge.

Qatar’s neighbours presented a 13-point list of demands to Qatar on 22 June 2017, to which Qatar refused all demands. While reading the pointers, it felt like Qatar’s neighbours not only want to boycott Qatar but further take its sovereignty away. Had it been any other nation, they would have also refused the “considerable” demands.

Saudi Arabia alongside other Arab nations also demanded Qatar to permanently close the Al Jazeera network. Al Jazeera is known for its credibility throughout the world. It has always spoken from an unbiased point of view about all the happenings in the Middle East and the unnecessary intervention of Israel and the Western nations.

Image Credit: aljazeera.com

Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have always been under scrutiny by Al Jazeera. Thus, the need for them to get Qatar to shut the Al Jazeera network down.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, The UAE and Egypt discontinued their airspace to Qatari aircraft and foreign airlines would have to request special permission for overnight flights to and from Qatar. This shut down of airspace caused Qatar Airways a tremendous amount of loss, but unfortunately they had no say in it.

Turkey and Iran have proved themselves to be of great help to Qatar during this crisis.  As 40% of Qatar’s food supply came through its land border with Saudi Arabia, they were at a lost until Turkey and Iran began sending food supply by air and sea.

The intentions behind the demands made by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are clear in a way that not only do the Arab nations want to weaken Qatar, but also cause a rift between Qatar and Iran. The 13-point list also demanded Qatar to lessen its ties to Shia-majority Iran and to close a Turkish military base in the emirate. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni dominated nation, therefore knowing that Qatar has good ties with Iran; it feels threatened.

The United States is still providing weapons to Qatar despite the crisis. Furthermore, during a press conference with the Romanian President at the White House, Trump said Qatar is funding terror “on very high level”. It does not come off as a surprise for the United States government to play a  hypocritical role during international conflicts. They have always been first to take the popcorn out and try to “solve” the issue while supporting both opposing parties.

This crisis is not only affecting the Qatari government, but its nationals both in and outside of Qatar. From a third party’s point of view, it is hard to decide who is right or wrong as all parties have different stands on the crisis.

However, it is pretty clear that Qatar is being sidelined and Saudi Arabia has a vital role in causing the crisis. Saudi Arabia’s insecurities are becoming more and more obvious now. Time shall determine how and when will this crisis end.

 

Maria Khan Safi

The Stigma Against Rape In India

I often ask myself whether am I feminist? Simply because human rights have no gender bias. It’s Your Fault was a 2013 short video that dealt with India’s rape culture and it went viral within a few days. Seeing the state of certain nations and the lack of women rights, feminism is the absolute right movement.

According to Wonderlist, India ranks fourth in the world with the highest number of rape cases. The latest estimates suggest that a new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes in India. 

The act of rape has always been present in India, but was brought into focus after one of the most horrific rape cases occurred in India. In 2012, Nirbhaya a 23 years old female physiotherapy intern was not only raped but brutally beaten up by six men in a moving bus in Delhi.

Image Credit: BBC

BBC revealed that the men beat her male friend and “each raped the woman in turn, before assaulting her viciously with an iron instrument”. Unfortunately, Nirbhaya died of internal injuries and excessive bleeding.

Nirbhaya’s assault brought about an international outrage over the rape ‘culture’ in India and tighter laws were implemented. Moreover, the outrage shown over Nirbhaya’s case gave women in India the courage to report rape and harassment incidents.

BBC had produced a documentary, India’s Daughter in 2015, regarding Nirbhaya’s rape and had further interviewed one of the rapist in the video itself. The rapist had clearly shown no remorse or regret during the video, but instead justified his actions.

“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good,” Singh said.

People “had a right to teach them a lesson” and should not complain and bear through it all.

Of course men like him do not represent the entire male population in India, but knowing there are men out there who think in such a sick manner, gives me goosebumps.

Image Credit: CBC

“It’s heartening to see that now more women are reporting these crimes and speaking up. As Indian women, we are a paradox of strength and silence. I am glad the silence is being broken by many now,” Shreya Jani, who runs a peace education NGO in New Delhi  said.

Despite the rise in number of women reporting to the police increased, the number of rape cases only increased over time. The Indian Express revealed “the number of rapes in Delhi registered a rise in 2015, with data suggesting an average of six cases every day”. This just proves how majority of rape cases still go unreported. But why is that so?

The stigma surrounding rape is still very much present in India. There is a famous saying in India that “bringing up a daughter is like watering a neighbor’s plant”. This is one of the many reasons as to why it is illegal in India to find out the gender of your baby during pregnancy. A high majority of Women in the past, would end up aborting their baby; had she been a female.

Image Credit: Young Feminist Wire

Furthermore, the never ending caste system in India plays a large role in many rape cases going unreported. Women of the lower caste are often threatened and the authorities also refuse to give them importance. It often leads to them fearing for their lives, and some have been raped more than once but had no hope for justice.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association told Al Jazeera how the culture in India restricts a female independence.

“The heart of the issue is structures in India that continue to restrict women’s autonomy, and especially sexual autonomy, often justified in the name of culture,” she said.

Women are as progressive or even more progressive than men in today’s world. Having personally heard that Bollywood is one of the reasons as to why rape occurs in India, proves how people refuse to see that the ability to hurt an individual physically and emotionally is a sickness inside the human mind.

Bollywood is not only known for its colorful song sequences and romantic scenes but for thought provoking movies as well. Pink, a Hindi movie released in 2016 was “a form of education for those who don’t know anything about respecting a woman’s choice”.

Image Credit – Pink : MensXP

Pink had one of the best dialogues which made its viewers aware of the word ‘No’. When a woman says ‘No’, it’s time for a man to stop. One of them was how “we should save our boys, not our girls … because if we save our boys then our girls will be safe”.

Women are no longer weak as what they have been portrayed to be in India for decades. Moreover, if women all over the world stood hand in hand against such injustice, there will be no longer be any voiceless woman in India.

It is crucial to end the stigma against rape in India and worldwide. How exactly does one go about ending it? Promote free speech for women, encourage individuals to speak about such issues and make extensive use of all social media platforms.

Let’s work together to give them a voice or better, be their voice.


Maria Khan Safi