Here is some stuff in the news today...
Today, President Obama will "outline his vision for a new chapter in American foreign policy...with a speech aimed at quelling growing criticism of US isolationism following troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan and recent decisions against military intervention elsewhere. In an address to graduating officers at West Point that White House officials say will map out America's new role in the world, the president is expected to argue there is a middle way between interventionism and isolationism that will not drag the US into unnecessary conflicts in future." A new policy that will last as long as until the next time we've got a Republican president.
[Content Note: Abduction; misogyny; terrorism; abuse] The Nigerian army announced that it now knows the location of (at least some of) the girls being held hostage by Boko Haram, but they "have ruled out the use of force to rescue them and turned down a deal to exchange prisoners who are members of Boko Haram for the girls' release, so it is unclear what their next step will be." This morning, it was reported that Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo is meeting with "people close to Boko Haram in an attempt to broker the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants." The meeting "was focused on how to free the girls through negotiation." Dear Maude I hope these negotiations are productive.
[CN: Food insecurity; death] The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is warning that nearly "200,000 children under the age of five could die from severe malnutrition in Somalia by the end of the year, unless the United Nations receives emergency funds to stave off mass hunger. ...Only $15m has been received against the appeal by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to donor states for $150m to provide vital health services to more than three million women and children in the Horn of Africa nation this year." If you would like to donate to UNICEF, go here.
The Illinois state senate has voted "to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). If it moves forward in the state House, Illinois will become the 36th state to ratify the ERA." Maybe we can get this done in the next 100 years!
[CN: Guns; violence; dehumanization] Joe the Plumber continues to be a despicable shitbird: In an open letter to the families of the victims shot by Elliot Rodger, he writes: "I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds—your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights." Fuck. You.
[CN: Homophobia; racism; misogyny] Speaking of shitbirds: "Phil Robertson, the controversial star of the hit TV show 'Duck Dynasty' will address the upcoming Republican Leadership Conference on Thursday." Ha ha "controversial." Which is a neat way of saying "a man who spews unrepentant homophobia, racism, and misogyny under the guise of being a Christian."
[CN: Privilege; class warfare] Emma Thompson is talking some real shit about working moms who don't have the same privilege that she does. Her comments stand in such stark opposition to what Angelina Jolie said just last week about how her wealth gives her so much parenting privilege.
And finally: Student-Run Business Bringing Joy of Puppies to Those Who Can't Own. And finding forever homes for a lot of puppies in the process. Yay!
Here is some stuff in the news today...
[Content Note: Guns; violence; terrorism.]
Over the weekend, there was a devastating assault on a Nairobi shopping mall, in which at least 70 people have been killed and dozens more injured. There are still people being held hostage, although many of them have now escaped. The siege continues, as Kenya's security forces close in on the shooters, identified as Somali al Shabaab Islamists, who are "demanding Kenya pull out troops from its northern neighbor, where they have put the al Qaeda-affiliated group on the defensive in the past two years."
Here are some good articles with more details: Reuters; BBC; New York Times; Guardian. Please note there may be images of violence at these links.
See also the WaPo's "10 things to know about Somalia's militant group al-Shabab."
There are US-born fighters among al-Shabab's ranks, and there may be US-born assailants at the Westgate Mall.
Which is, of course, not the only way the United States is connected to Somalian terrorism, and the void of stability in which groups like al-Shabab were born, and the weapons in their hands. I won't go into a history lesson, but our (and other nations') foreign policy in the African region is on-topic for this thread.
My sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the victims of this massacre. I hope the survivors will get the support that they need, and justice, and peace.
[Content Note: Sexual violence; victim-blaming.]
Last month, I mentioned that the Somalian government had arrested Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a freelance journalist who wrote a story about a woman who had been raped and alleged that her rapists were government security forces. Ibrahim has now been sentenced to one year in prison for helping the woman "fabricate a false claim."
The woman has also been sentenced to a year in prison, after a midwife conducted "a finger test, an unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited because it is not a credible test."
The grounds for the convictions are unclear, but the court appeared to convict the two under Somalia's penal code and newly added charges under Sharia (Islamic) law. The journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, was sentenced to one year for fabricating a false claim – even though he never published the allegation anywhere – entering the home of another man without permission, and falsely accusing a government body of committing a crime that damages state security. The woman was also sentenced to one year in prison for fabricating a rape case that damages state security.Clearly, the implications for challenging human rights violations when victims and journalists and/or advocates are jailed are dire.
..."These guilty verdicts mean that any Somali who is raped or otherwise abused by Somali security forces will think twice about reporting it to the police, and journalists will be cautious of even interviewing victims of human rights violations," said Netsanet Belay, Africa programme director at Amnesty International. "The government should quash the case and order the immediate release of the journalist from prison."
In an official statement, the US State Department registered its concern about the case and called on "the Somali Government to act quickly to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law." Which is kind of a muddled statement, in that the rule of law is currently what's undermining human rights. Still, this is good:
Respect for women's rights and media freedom are fundamental to ensuring the development of a strong, stable, and vibrant democracy in Somalia. Women should be able to seek justice for rape and other gender-based violence without fear of retribution, and journalists in Somalia must be free to work without being subjected to violence and harassment. These prosecutions run counter to protections contained in Somalia’s provisional constitution, and send the wrong message to perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence. We have raised our concerns directly with the Somali Government and have urged it to uphold its constitution, including with respect to media freedom, women's rights, and due process of law.To contact the US State Department and urge them to continue pressing for justice in this case, go here. For those who would appreciate a sample letter, I'll drop the letter I sent into comments.
[Via FMF News.]
[Content Note: Sexual violence; human rights violations.]
One of the key features of rape culture is, of course, that its defenders attempt to silence and intimidate anyone who challenges the culture, its systems, its narratives, and its gatekeepers.
In Somalia, there is a rape crisis—particularly in camps housing people displaced by the 2011 drought and subsequent famine. Rape is common, and prosecution for rape is vanishingly rare. Many allegations of rape emanating from the camps are directed at the government troops tasked with protection.
So, naturally, the Somalian government has arrested Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a freelance journalist "who wrote a story about a woman who said she was raped by government security forces."
Human Rights Watch is demanding the immediate release of Somali journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a freelance journalist who was arrested by police on Thursday after interviewing the woman. She was also briefly arrested and questioned by police before being released.Human Rights Watch has more here, including how the rape victim was compelled to turn in the journalist who helped her.
"The Somali police are detaining a journalist and harassing a woman who says she was raped, while letting those accused of rape run free," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The new Somali government needs to ensure that the police are part of the solution to rampant abuses by the security forces, not part of the problem."
...Repeated calls [by the AP] to the Somali police for comment on the journalist's arrest were not answered.
This is not an "over there" problem, even if certain features of how rape culture manifests in Somalia differs from how it manifests in the US, or anywhere else. This is a global problem. And until the ruling class of men the world over decide that they no longer want to institutionally defend some or all sexual violence against women, children, and marginalized men, there will never be peace.