“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Egyptian library steps in to save Tropics Institute collection

DutchNews.nl, Thursday 31 October 2013

The Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam
Some 400,000 books which are part of the library collection of the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam are likely to go to Egypt rather than be dumped, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.

The books were set to be thrown away because nobody wanted them but now the world famous Biblioteca Alexandrina in Alexandria has offered to take them and other documents.

Library director Ismael Serageldin, who is a former vice president of the World Bank and Wageningen university professor, is currently in Amsterdam to finalise the details, the paper says. 'I could not bear the thought that this material would end up in a paper shredder,' Serageldin is quoted as saying in an email.

The Egyptians want to keep the collection accessible to scholars and will also pay the packing and shipping costs, the paper says, quoting Hans van Harteveldt, the institute's chief librarian.

The library collection is being broken up because the government has withdrawn funding for the institute. Some parts are going to the Peace Palace collection, the Rijksmuseum, the maritime museum in Rotterdam and the medical archives in Urk.

Leopardman vs good missionary: Belgium revamps colonial museum

Google – AFP, Claire Rosemberg (AFP), 31 October 2013

An African man sculpture is displayed at the Museum of Central Africa in 
Tervuren in the suburbs of Brussels on October 9, 2013 (AFP, Georges Gobet)

Brussels — The world's "last" colonial gallery, Brussels' dusty Royal Museum of Central Africa, closes this month to re-emerge with a new vision of the continent more than a half-century after the independence of the former Belgium Congo.

Set to reopen in 2017, the venerable institution has often offended African sensibilities for what is seen as a moth-balled presentation of Africa as it was a century ago.

One Belgium-educated black scholar recalled his distress as a father chased his screaming young daughter around the collection's 1913 "leopardman" statue, crying "Aaah, here come the cannibals!"

A Congo tree is displayed at the Museum
 of Central Africa in Tervuren in the suburbs 
of Brussels on October 9, 2013 (AFP, 
Georges Gobet)
The piece, one of the museum's most controversial, represents the sort of fearsome killer cloaked in a leopard skin whose murderous deeds fuelled Europe's fears of darkest Africa.

It inspired films as well as the politically-suspect adventures of Belgium's own comic book hero in "Tintin in the Congo".

"I decisively told the little girl to stop," wrote Congolese-born Florida professor Jean Muteba Rahier, saying the incident highlighted how the museum peddled "an imperial and racist worldview" of Africans as inferior, bestial and savage beings.

"Africans do not come to visit," Yoto Djongakodi, who heads a committee of African diaspora groups involved in the planned refurbishment, told AFP. "The museum's image must change."

The gallery dates back to 1897, when King Leopold II decided to hold a Congo exhibition to raise funds and find investors for his Congo Free State, a personal property 80 times the size of Belgium and notoriously run like a giant labour camp.

The cruelty of life under the brutal colonial rulers was evoked in Joseph Conrad's 1899 "Heart of Darkness", and denounced more recently in a bestseller by American writer Adam Hochschild, "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa."

The king's show featured Congo flora and fauna as well as 300 men, women and children shipped to Europe to portray life in an African village built beside a lake at his Tervuren forest estate outside Brussels.

'World's last great colonial museum'

The Africans cooked, played and rowed around the lake in a wooden pirogue. A few died in Tervuren, others on the way home.

A Palace of the Colonies was also built to house what has become the world's biggest anthropological and scientific collection from central Africa.


These include the archives of Leopold's ally, Henry Morton Stanley, best remembered for his legendary "Dr Livingstone I presume?"

The show was a whopping success, drawing 1.3 million visitors in six months. A few years later, in 1908, Belgium finally agreed to take over the colony in the name of the state and in 1910 the massive neo-classical palace currently housing the museum officially opened.

"People often say our museum is the world's last great colonial museum because it carries so many lasting traces of the colonial past," director Guido Gryseels told AFP.

"The permanent exhibition hasn't changed since the 1950s."

With 10 million zoological specimens, 150,000 ethnological items and three kilometres (nearly two miles) of archives, "we have the world's largest central African collection", he said.
As in a time warp, both the glass display cases and the spears, maps, paddles and bowls inside date from the 19th century.

With Stanley's cap, Leopold's ivory bust and a host of stuffed wild animals, the museum evokes an African exotica of costumes and beating drums.

"The museum just doesn't reflect contemporary Africa," said Djongakodi, the Congolese head of the COMRAF group which is working with Gryseels on the revamp.

Shocking to many are early 19th-century sculptures in the entrance of giant-sized European missionaries looking down paternally on pint-sized Africans in loin-cloths.

"Belgium brings civilisation to Congo," says a plaque.

'It's a headache'

An engraved tribute to those who died in the Congo lists 1,508 Belgians but not a single Congolese.

"Not even those who died fighting for Belgium during the two world wars, though there were more Congolese than Belgian deaths," said Djongakodi.

The museum will close its doors on November 30 for the 75 million-euro ($102 million) refurbishment, and challenges abound.

The glass cases and high-ceilinged halls, classified as national heritage, cannot be touched -- precluding the installation of much-needed air-conditioning -- so authorities plan to erect a new building with modern facilities that will connect to the old palace via an underground passageway.

But the test for director Gryseels is to reinvent the museum's image.

Colonial military uniforms and weapons are
 displayed at the Museum of Central Africa
 in Tervuren in the suburbs of Brussels
on October 9, 2013 (AFP, Georges Gobet)
"It's a headache," he said. "Our museum must continue to evoke Belgium's colonial past while becoming a window on Africa today.... and place the accent on African men and women rather than on objects."

"Fifteen years ago it would've been difficult," he conceded.

"Belgium was the last colonial power to question its past. It's a very emotional issue due to the massive number of Belgians who served in the Congo as teachers, doctors, civil servants or soldiers."

Gryseels said his generation grew up proud of having provided roads and schools, though when Congo seized its independence in 1960 it had only 27 university graduates.

The museum itself helped prompt a re-think with exhibitions and talks in 2001 and 2005 that spurred a national debate on the past on a scale not seen in Britain, France, Spain or Portugal.

Until then "the museum symbolised a time when Belgium was rich, when it played a role on the world scene, when it was still the good old days."

Kenya rape: protests after attackers given grass-cutting punishment

Hundreds march in Nairobi to demand justice for 16-year-old gang rape victim whose attackers were let go after cutting grass

The Guardian, Daniel Howden in Nairobi, Thursday 31 October 2013

Protesters called for an end to sexual violence and stopped traffic by wavingpairs
of knickers. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

The placards waved outside the office of Kenya's chief of police made a point anyone could understand: "Cutting the grass is not punishment for rape," they read.

The protesters had gathered to demand justice for Liz, a 16-year-old who was brutally gang raped in western Kenya in June and whose attackers were let go after being made to cut the grass by local police. Despite the victim identifying three of the men to authorities no arrests have been made four months later.

Meanwhile the teenager, who was dumped into a 15-foot pit latrine, is still in a wheelchair while she recovers from operations to repair damage to her spine, bladder and bowel.

Protest marches are rare in Kenya, outside of party politics, and the hundreds of women, plus a handful of men, stopped the traffic by waving pairs of knickers and calling for an end to sexual violence.

"We are willing to take our demands to the streets, we've gotten to the stage where people are outraged," said Nebila Abdulmelik, a young activist who started an online petition on the campaigning website Avaaz, after learning of Liz's fate. The gang rape in Busia, a county on the shore of Lake Victoria, has crystallised anger at rising levels of sexual violence in East Africa's biggest economy and official unwillingness to enforce the law.

The victim's mother, who cannot be named, had to effectively bankrupt the family, leasing their only plot of land, to get treatment for her daughter: "Why has no one been arrested?" she asked.

A child protection agency in Liz's home area has passed to the police the names and addresses of six suspects, who have been in hiding, since the case was reporting this month in the Kenyan media.

A petition with more than 1.5m signatures from around the world was handed to the Kenyan police on Thursday demanding that her six attackers be arrested and prosecuted and the state compensate the victim. Under Kenya's sexual offences act the minimum sentence for rape is 15 years and "the state bears the burden" of treating the victims.

"We want the police to do their job," said a woman with a loud-hailer, "rape is not normal."

A police official told the protesters: "What took place we're all aware of and we are making efforts to remedy it to the best position that we can."

One of the police officers in the village of Tingolo, where the rape was reported, has been suspended, authorities said, but none of the attackers have been detained.

A recent study conducted by the UN's children's agency, Unicef, found that almost one in three Kenyan girls had faced sexual violence at school. Research by women's groups estimates that a woman or girl is raped every half hour in the country of 43m people.

As the marchers gathered in the capital, Nairobi, news came of another gang rape overnight in Busia, this time of a 12-year-old girl. Sara Longwe, a 66-year-old protestor, said she had decided to march because rape was becoming more common and people were starting to think it was normal.

"They're raping toddlers and babies," she said. "And in most cases nothing happens even though the perpetrators are known."

On massacre anniversary Muslims urge Christians to stay in Iraq

Google – AFP, Nafia Abdul Jabbar (AFP), 31 October 2013

An Iraqi security officer stands guard on the roof of the Syriac Catholic Church
of Our Lady of Deliverance/Salvation (Sayidat al-Nejat), in central Baghdad, on
December 25, 2010 (AFP/File, Sabah Arar)

Baghdad — Dozens of Muslims gathered Thursday outside a Baghdad church where an Islamist assault killed 44 worshippers and two priests three years ago, appealing for Christians to stay in Iraq.

Clergy led low-key prayers inside Our Lady of Salvation church in the capital's main commercial district of Karrada, on the anniversary of the October 31, 2010 attack.

There was a heavy security presence outside, and people were barred from entering unless they could produce documents showing they were Christian.

At the same time, journalists were not allowed to take photographs or film in the vicinity.
"It is a wound that will never heal, and a crime that I will never forget," said Rafid, a Christian man who was walking to the church.

"On this day, with all this pain, all I can think of is leaving the country, because the country is finished," said the 56-year-old carpenter, two of whose cousins were killed on that day.

The attack, the single bloodiest one against Christians since the 2003 US-led invasion, shocked Iraq and the international community and sparked a massive flight of Iraqi Christians from the country.

Another worshipper, a 37-year-old who gave his name as Abu Yaqub, or father of Yaqub, recalled the attack as a "terrifying day."

"Their only sin is that they were praying," the accountant said, referring to the victims.

"What had they done?" he continued. "How can we forget this day? We will never forget it. We will never forget it."

Outside the church, both Sunni and Shiite Iraqi Muslims lit candles and held up banners appealing for their Christian countrymen to resist emigrating, and said they stood by the religious minority.

Abbas Hassan, a retired civil servant, said "the Christians are the people of Iraq, for thousands of years, and Christianity is one of the oldest religions in Iraq."

"We invite them not to leave Iraq, because all Iraqis share their pain."

Another retiree, 65-year-old Faruq Baban, said: "I ask them not to emigrate, to hold their ground, because they are the people of Iraq, the original citizens."

"It was an ugly crime that made me cry," he said of the attack, which was later claimed by an Al-Qaeda front group. "I suffered because they are my brethren, my fellow countrymen."

Estimates of the number of Christians living in Iraq before 2003 vary from more than one million to around 1.5 million. But now they are estimated at fewer than 500,000.

One of the oldest Christian communities in the world is the Chaldean church, which has 700,000 followers worldwide and uses Aramaic, the language that Jesus Christ spoke.

Related Article:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mozambique 'not going back to war' says president

Google – AFP, Johannes Myburgh and Jinty Jackson (AFP), 30 October 2013

Mozambique President Armando Guebuza speaks with an AFP journalist in
Chimoio on October 30, 2013 (AFP, Johannes Myburgh)

Chimoio — Mozambique's president insisted Wednesday that violent clashes with armed rebels did not spell a slide back to brutal civil war, insisting the energy-rich nation remains a safe bet for investors.

"I do not think, and that is a strong 'no'... that we are going back to war," Armando Guebuza told AFP in an exclusive interview, amid the worst political violence the country has seen since its brutal 16-year civil war ended in 1992.

"Mozambique is not in a situation of instability," said Guebuza.

The civil war pitted Guebuza's Frelimo liberation movement against anti-Communist Renamo rebels. It led to the deaths of an estimated one million people and made Mozambique a byword for internecine bloodshed.

President of Mozambique Armando
Guebuza (R)  greets supporters on his
arrival in Chimoio, capital of the Manica
 Province, on October 30, 2013 (AFP,
Ferhat Momade)
Since then the country has boomed, amid a coal and gas bonanza and as the warring factions shifted their battle to the ballot box.

But as Renamo's power has waned its leader Afonso Dhlakama retreated to the bush, vowing reprisals if the country's economic windfall is not shared.

A series of tit-for-tat attacks between his supporters and the government led the military to launch a sustained assault on his bases beginning on October 21.

Since then Renamo has declared a two-decade peace deal null and void and gunmen have launched attacks on the country's main highway.

But Guebuza, 70, said the clashes were restricted to one area and were short-term.

"I don't think there is a problem in the medium and long term and we are doing our best to stop it as soon as possible," he said, speaking in the central-western town Chimoio.

"Things that are happening are localised, and we know where it is happening."

Guebuza personally blamed his old civil war rival Dhlakama for the simmering conflict that has rocked the centre of the country.

"Apparently he sees himself as a loser and uses whatever remains of his forces to try to prove that he can impose on the government his own decisions," Guebuza said.

"That doesn't make sense because there is no problem of legitimacy on the present government. We have a vast majority," said Guebuza.

Dhlakama did not want to battle the ruling party at polls, Guebuza added, after Renamo refused to register for an upcoming local vote on November 20.

"So he is afraid of elections, in fact."

Dhlakama fled when his base in the central Gorongosa mountains fell on October 21. His location is unknown.

"He decided. He attacked. He shot at the soldiers. The soldiers had to respond," said Guebuza.

He insisted that peace talks were the only way out of the crisis.

"The solution is dialogue. It is not a military solution."

"I want to encourage him to be part of the solution of the situation, not the problem, as he looks like being today."

Guebuza said authorities had taken steps to secure a key railway used to export coal through central port Beira.

"The government has taken all steps in order to protect those infrastructures" he said, though he cautioned there was "no government that can defend every spot".

Still "there are many people that are investing even today as the situation continues", he added.
Already a successful businessman before taking office, he denied his family had used their political power for self-enrichment.

All four of his children are involved in lucrative businesses, and his daughter Valentina is an especially influential entrepreneur.

Mozambique President Armando Guebuza 
greets members of his Frelimo party
 during a visit to the central-western
 town of Chimoio, on October 30, 2013
(AFP, Johannes Myburgh)
"It is not correct? that I am using the resources of the state for my own benefit," said Guebuza.

"I am working at this moment for the country. Whatever I had in business? I gave away responsibility of managing them to other persons, in this case to my daughter and my children."

"I don't think that we should legally say that children of presidents are not allowed to have business. That would mean that you are saying that African leadership should not encourage people to develop and create wealth."

After serving two terms over ten years, Guebuza said he would step down before elections next year, but was coy over who his successor might be.

"That's my secret," he said jokingly.

Frelimo had decided to focus on upcoming local elections before next year's national polls, he said.

"After that we will all have somebody and we can all concentrate on that, to support that person."

Israel in settlement drive after freeing 26 prisoners

Google – AFP, 30 October 2013

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) greets freed Palestinian prisoners at
 his headquarters in the West bank city of Ramallah on 30 October, 2013 (AFP,
Ahmad Gharabli)

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) — Israel freed 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners early on Wednesday in line with commitments to the US-backed peace process, but moved in tandem to ramp up settlement in annexed east Jerusalem.

Plans to build another 1,500 settler homes in the city's Arab eastern sector came to light almost immediately after Israel began freeing 21 prisoners to the West Bank and another five to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The sequence of events was almost mirror image of an earlier prisoner release on August 13, when a first tranche of 26 prisoners were freed and Israel announced construction of more than 2,000 new settler homes, most of them in east Jerusalem.

"The prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) and the interior minister (Gideon Saar) agreed on four building plans in Jerusalem," a senior Israeli source told AFP, confirming details initially reported on military radio.

Palestinian released prisoner Omar Massud, 
hugs his mother at his family house in the
 al-Shatee refugee camp in Gaza City, on
 October 30, 2013 (AFP, Mohammed Abed)
The announcement was timed to trump headlines focusing on the celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza after the 21 prisoners walked free into their respective home territories shortly after 1:00 am (2300 GMT).

In the West Bank, thousands of people turned out to welcome home the 21 prisoners at a formal ceremony at Mahmud Abbas's presidential compound in Ramallah, cheering and waving flags, many holding cellphones aloft to capture the moment.

The prisoners had left Ofer prison in two minibuses with blacked-out windows and were driven to Beitunia crossing where fireworks split the night sky as they tasted freedom for the first time in 20 years or more, an AFP correspondent said.

After a tearful reunion with family members, many of the now-freed inmates were carried through the crowds on people's shoulders, their hands held aloft in victory.

"There will be no (peace) agreement if so much as one Palestinian prisoner remains behind bars," Abbas told the excited crowd, referring to the 5,000 or so inmates still being held by Israel.

Israel's move to ramp up settlement in tandem with the prisoner release was mooted last week by a senior Israeli official who said the expected announcement on new construction had been coordinated in advance with the Palestinians and the Americans.

But Abbas, speaking shortly before the Israeli announcement, flatly denied it.

"There are some living among us who say that we have a deal (to release prisoners) in exchange for settlement building, and I say to them, be silent," said the Palestinian president.

In Gaza, the five detainees were met by hundreds of relatives and well-wishers as they emerged through the Erez crossing and entered the strip, sparking energetic celebrations late into the night.

All 26 prisoners were convicted for killing Israelis, with most of the attacks occurring before the 1993 Oslo accords, which granted the Palestinians limited self-rule but failed to usher in an independent state.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu agreed to release 104 prisoners in stages in a move which facilitated a return to direct talks in late July, ending a three-year hiatus.

A released Palestinian prisoner kisses his
 father's head upon his arrival in the West 
Bank City of Ramallah, on October 30, 
2013 (AFP, Abbas Momani)
The first batch of prisoners were freed on August 13, and a third release of another 26 inmates is planned for December, Palestinian officials said. The final group is to be freed in March 2014.

The ongoing talks are being conducted under a US-imposed media blackout but a senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday that Israel had adopted hardline positions and negotiations had so far produced "no tangible progress".

"The current Israeli negotiating position is the worst in more than 20 years," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Although Israel is engaged in direct peace talks with the Palestinians, the prisoners' release has sparked tensions within Netanyahu's coalition, with the premier describing the decision to free them as "one of the most difficult" he had ever made.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.

"In recent months we have been facing sensitive diplomatic circumstances and weighty strategic considerations which require us to take difficult and painful steps," he said on Tuesday in remarks communicated by his office.

"It is not a black and white situation. It is highly complex and obliges us to be prudent and responsible, to see also the long view," he said.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Elephants face extinction, football star Yaya Toure warns

Google – AFP, 29 October 2013

Ivory Coast's football player Yaya Toure speaks during a press conference as
 he was appointed the United Nations Environment Program goodwill ambassador
 at the UNEP headquarters in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on October 29, 2013
(AFP, Tony Karumba)

Nairobi — Reigning African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure, star of Manchester City and Ivory Coast, warned Tuesday that the slaughter of elephants for their ivory was threatening their very existence.

"Poaching threatens the very existence of the African elephant and if we do not act now we could be looking at a future in which this iconic species is wiped out," Toure told reporters, as he was appointed an ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"Ivory Coast's national team is named 'The Elephants? after these magnificent creatures that are so full of power and grace, yet in my country alone there may be as few as 800 individuals left," Toure added.

Toure, speaking at UNEP headquarters in the Kenyan capital, said he wanted to help combat the illegal ivory trade that sees thousands of elephants poached each year.

Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years and the illegal ivory trade has tripled since 1998, according to UNEP.

Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009 and reached an all-time high in 2011, UNEP added.

Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Africa is now home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching as well as population expansion and increasing urbanisation encroaching on natural habitats.

The illegal ivory trade, estimated to be worth up to $10 billion (seven billion euros) a year, is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East.

Elephant tusks are used to make ornaments and rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicine.

Related Article:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saudi 'no woman, no drive' mockery video goes viral

Yahoo – AFP, 28 October 2013

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by Alaa Wardi on
October 26, 2013, shows Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi who introduces himself as
an artist social activist, singing "No woman, no drive", an adaptation of Bob
Marley's famous song (AFP Photo/)

Riyadh (AFP) - A Saudi video mocking the kingdom's unique ban on female driving has gone viral, featuring a male performer singing "no woman, no drive", an adaptation of Bob Marley's famous song.

Nearly 3.5 million people had seen the 4:15-minute video by Monday, two days after the adaptation of the reggae legend's "no woman, no cry" had been posted on YouTube.

"Say I remember when you used to sit, in the family car, but backseat," sings Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi who introduces himself as an artist social activist, dressed in traditional white thawb cloak and checkered red headgear.

The video that sarcastically tells women not to consider getting behind the wheel was posted on the day set by female activists to launch an new campaign to defy the kingdom's ban on women driving.

At least 16 women were stopped by police while at the wheel on Saturday. They were fined and forced along with their male guardians to pledge to obey the conservative-kingdom's laws.

Fageeh goes on to mock a claim by a Saudi cleric that driving would hurt women's ovaries and bring "clinical disorder" upon their children.

"Ovaries are safe and well, so you can make lots and lots of babies," he sings.

"In this bright future, you can't forget your past, so put your car key away," the song continues.

Women who in the past have defied the ban, which is not even enshrined in law, have run into trouble with the authorities.

In 1990, 47 women who got behind the wheel in a demonstration against the driving ban were stopped by the authorities.

In 2011, police arrested a number of women who defied the ban and forced them to sign a pledge not to drive again.

Saudi women are forced to cover from head to toe and need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.

The New York Arab-American Comedy Festival this month introduced Fageeh as an up-and-running stand-up comedian who performs in Arabic and English.

On his YouTube account, "HishamComedy", Saudi-based Fageeh has posted many of his earlier videos, including 16 episodes of "Isboiyat Hisham," or Hisham Weeklies, including some reflecting on the lives of Saudi students in the United States.

"A simple contribution by me and my colleagues on the occasion of the" women driving campaign, Fageeh wrote on his Twitter account, on October 26, referring to his latest release.

Related Articles:

Saudi Arabian women vow to keep up campaign against driving ban

Few Saudi women get behind the wheel after threats

Image taken from a video uploaded by Saudi activists on YouTube
on October 17, 2013 shows a fully veiled woman driving in Riyadh
ahead of a planned nationwide day of defiance of the ban on
women driving (YouTube/AFP/File)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Domestic workers unite behind international convention

Google – AFP, 26 October 2013

A domestic helper from Mindoro island gathers hanging clothes in Manila on
September 6, 2012 (AFP/File, Jay Directo)

Montevideo — Unions representing domestic workers met here Saturday to urge countries to ratify a year-old international convention that sets minimal labor standards for domestic workers.

So far only 10 countries have ratified the International Convention on Domestic Workers, which went into effect a year ago in September.

But Myrtle Witbooi, president of the International Domestic Workers Network, said, "We are entering a new era for domestic workers."

Witbooi's organization, which represents 300,000 domestic workers worldwide, is promoting the convention, which gives domestics the right to a minimum wage, daily and weekly rest hours and freedom to choose where they live and how they spend their leave.

"The International Labor Organization convention is for everyone, but if people don't know about it, it can't be invoked," she told AFP.

"We need to educate (workers) and we need to find those countries that don't even have national laws, so they can pass laws and ratify the convention," she said.

Uruguay, which was the first country to ratify the convention in 2012, is hosting the first international conference on domestic work.

"It's already in force here, and has been approved by more than 10 countries, and there are four or five countries in the process of approving it," said Uruguay's Labor Minister Eduardo Brenta.

He said salaries of domestic workers in Uruguay have risen 400 percent over the past eight years, and about 66 percent have a formal status now.

The ILO estimates that domestic workers -- housekeepers, cooks, gardeners, and babysitters -- account for between four and 10 percent of the workforce in developing countries, and 2.5 percent in industrialized countries, or about 52.6 million people overall.

But the ILO believes the numbers employed as domestics could be as high as 100 million people, because of undercounting by some countries.

Reports presented at the conference said 60 percent of under age domestic workers were found in Asia, including an estimated 1.5 million in Indonesia, one million in the Philippines, 420,000 in Bangladesh and 100,000 in Sri Lanka.

Legal protections for domestic workers are minimal in Asia, according to the ILO, which said 797 cases of torture have been reported by media over the past 10 years in Bangladesh.

In Indonesia, 472 cases of violence against domestics have been reported and in Malaysia 13 domestics were killed in 2011 alone.

Moreover, in 97 percent of Asian countries, domestic workers have no legal right to weekly rest or annual vacations.

In Latin America, ILO estimates that there are more than 14 million domestic workers, and that it is the principal occupation of women in the region.

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West African bloc moves further towards regional economic integration

DeutscheWelle, 26 October 2013

Leaders of the regional African bloc ECOWAS have taken more steps towards a monetary union, agreeing to implement a single customs tariff system from 2015. Mali was also on the agenda of talks in Senegal.

The agreement on the so-called Common External Tariff was reached Friday at a special summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Senegal focused on moving the region towards a common market and monetary union by 2020.

The single-tariff scheme is designed to standardize customs fees charged on goods imported into the 15-nation bloc. Eight ECOWAS nations already have a single-tariff regime and a shared currency - the CFA franc - as members of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA).

Hopes for deal with EU

The president of the ECOWAS commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, said the introduction of the harmonized customs regime would help kick-start negotiations with the European Union on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which have currently stalled. The EU is West Africa's largest trade partner.

The talks broke down because of differing expectations with regard to how fast West African nations were prepared to open their market and get rid of tariff barriers. The EU has also balked at an ECOWAS request for compensation for adjusting to a new trade regime.

The summit in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, also approved the introduction of a 1.5 percent levy to finance the activites of the west African bloc.

This will replace the current 0.5 percent tax, which is now to be phased out over five years.
Crisis in Mali

Leaders at the summit also called for "urgent steps" from the international community to secure peace in the ECOWAS member nation Mali.

The bloc urged that more international troops be sent to the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to counter a recent surge in attacks by Islamist militants. Currently, MINUSMA has some 6,000 uniformed personnel, but is meant to eventually grow to 12,640 troops and police.

Speakers in Dakar also wished member state Guinea-Bissau a "happy ending" as it moves towards democracy following a military coup in 2012. ECOWAS troops are also stationed in the country, which is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 24.

The 15 member states of ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

tj/ipj (Reuters, AFP)