26 February 2015

English, British or Yuukayeean...

The English language can be confusing... However so can those who speak the language! England, Britain or the United Kingdom? English, British or perhaps Yuukayeean? Here's an easy tool to help you remember!

Disclaimer: Yes, we did make up the word Yuukayeean. Call it attempted humour. Or just silly.  

23 February 2015

Rudy Giuliani speaks out... And he's got my vote!

If you care about what happens in the world, in the United States, in Israel, in the Middle East, in Europe... If you care about the survival of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and free press... Watch this video of (former mayor of New York) Rudy Giuliani speaking out about world issues, the danger of power in the wrong hands and how to make the world a better place. 

I am - shock horror - quite a fan of (American president) Obama and very much appreciate that he is attempting to bring the entire world together or at least that he's trying to talk to the Arab / Muslim world, not just to white / European / western / Christian countries. What I think is ridiculous is that the American president does not seem to want to link terrorists motivated by (their particular version of) Islam to Islam as a global religion

I refuse to blame all of Islam (as a religion) or all Muslims for the horrible and despicable acts of a relatively small group who commit atrocities in the name of Islam. That would make me as bad as those who brutally murder journalists or aid workers for decisions made by the governments of the countries those people happen to have been born in. 

However I also believe that it is important to be clear about what motivates groups such as Daesh (IS / ISIS), the Taliban, al-Nusra front, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Jihad and groups like them - they are motivated by their interpretation of Islam, by their particular Islamic world-view, by their reading of the Qur'an (Koran) and their interpretation of the hadith (words and actions of Islam's prophet Muhammad, written down and collected). 

Blaming an entire religion for the actions of a few is ridiculous, however pretending those few are not motivated by religion is, in my humble opinion, just as ridiculous. Honesty first, diplomacy second.

20 February 2015

Rape is only one of the problems women face...

Earlier this month, a Turkish young woman was brutally murdered after resisting assault and rape by a stranger. A 20-year old university student on her way home to her family, Özgecan Aslan was aware of the dangers all women face in a world in which men live - she carried pepper spray and she knew to fight back to defend herself - yet also determined to get an education and live her life without fear of other human beings.

The burned body of Aslan, who had been missing for two days, was discovered on Feb. 13 in a riverbed in Tarsus in the southern province of Mersin. Ahmet Suphi Altındöken, the 26-year-old bus driver, confessed in a testimony to the prosecutor that he stabbed Aslan to death before cutting off her hands and burning her body. The court arrested Altındöken, while his 50-year-old father, Necmettin Altındöken, and 20-year-old friend, Fatih Gökçe, have also been arrested on charges of being accomplices to the murder.  
Turkish women changing names to escape violence from men | Hurriyet Daily News 

Another article from the same newspaper entitled Women defy imam in murdered woman’s funeral, carry the coffin speaks about Özgecan's funeral and nearly broke my heart. What happened, in a nutshell - Özgecan and a friend got on a minibus to go home, after other passengers got off the bus and Özgecan was the only passenger left, the driver attempted to assault and rape her. When she fought back and showed that she wasn't going to be used and abused by a stranger, he killed her. He then enlisted his father and a friend to help him dispose of Özgecan's body and cover up the evidence. While I am not someone who believes that violence is the answer to any of the world's problems, I cannot help but agree with Özgecan's mother as quoted in the article about her daughter's funeral:

“They should be executed, they should be tortured. Özgecan had a wonderful heart, she would work hard, help everyone. I cannot accept that she was massacred when she took a minibus to come home. Is my daughter’s only mistake is to get on a minibus to come home?”

Özgecan's courage and determination did not help her in her fight against the disgusting animal who so brutally murdered her. However her name will be remembered by many and her story is raising voices around the world. Even though we can't help Özgecan now, perhaps we can act to help others from suffering the same fate. No woman deserves to be raped or assaulted, no woman ever asks for it, no matter what she says or does, no matter what she wears or how she looks.

I wrote about rape in a previous blog post, or rather rape statistics in India and around the world. According to those statistics, 93 rapes happen in India each and every day of the year. Just imagine 93 women you know, imagine their faces, their eyes, their smiles. And now imagine them being raped. Tomorrow, imagine the next 93 women, the next day another 93. That is reality for women in India. As a female who has been attacked, assaulted, harassed, felt up and - yes - raped by someone I once thought of as a friend, I am all too aware of the many dangers women face in a world controlled by men.

Since reading about Özgecan's murder, I have been trying to write an article that expresses what I think and feel. I have come to the conclusion that sharing some of my own stories will be hardest for me to do however is also what needs to be done. The only way to stop violence against women and against ALL people weaker or more easily subdued than (often stronger) men is to help the world's males understand the consequences of their actions - I too need to speak up and explain what being attacked, harassed, assaulted and raped has done to me and what it does to other women.

Writing this article, I started thinking about the girls and women I personally know who have been harassed, assaulted, discriminated against, who have been raped or even gang-raped. Some are victims of domestic violence. Some have been jumped on the street in broad daylight. Some were ambushed while heading home from work. Some were waiting for public transport. Out of the women I know, some wear make-up and jewellery, some don't. Some show cleavage or enjoy wearing short skirts while others cover up for various reasons. Some love wearing high heels, others prefer flats. Some enjoy talking on their cellphone while waiting for public transport, others may read a book or magazine. Some are married and some aren't. Some are stay-at-home mothers while others work long hours or have their own companies. None of them wanted to be hurt. None of them asked to be harassed, assaulted, groped, "eve teased," raped, degraded or discriminated against. None of them ever asked for it or wished it, dreamed about it or hoped for it. None of them. Yet it happened to all of them.

For some women, like for Özgecan, the attacker was a stranger. For others, the attacker was someone we thought of as a friend and someone we could trust. Sadly, strangers are only part of the danger and the problem - men we know and trust such as family members, friends and neighbours are too often the ones hurting women. While researching for the previous blog post / article I wrote about rape, I came across a report from Australia. The Guardian reports that domestic violence in Australia is caused by a culture of hostility to women.
Australia’s police commissioners have identified “vulgar and violent attitudes towards women” as a key cultural cause of unacceptably high rates of family violence and say it will not stop until men’s attitudes change. 
They have urged victims to report assaults to police, who they say have transformed their own attitudes towards family disputes in recent years. Most commissioners say police working closely with other agencies involved with family violence is the only practical way to tackle a crime that kills one woman a week in Australia.
Culture of hostility to women leads to domestic violence, say police chiefs | The Guardian (Australia), 02 November 2014

18 February 2015

We are all "Sons and Daughters of Abraham" - Matisyahu

I firmly believe that all people are equal because we are all human. Whether one believes in a Big Bang and gradual evolution or believes that we were created by a Higher Power and the first of us were Adam and Eve - one cannot deny that we are all equal, all the same, all human, all part of the same family.

We are all individuals - We are all people who think, dream, imagine, smile, laugh, love and cry. We all feel emotions, we all have families and friends we love, we all have hopes and dreams and aspirations. While we are all unique, different and individual, we are also all human. In the end we all want the same for those we love and care about - we all want them to be happy, safe, loved and protected.

I myself want the same for my family and friends - I want them to be happy, to be free, to be able to speak their minds, to choose their own path in life, to know they are safe, to be free from persecution and hatred, to be surrounded by those who love and care about them. The thing is - my family is not restricted to those who look like me, sound like me or are directly related to me. As a member of the human race and of the great family that is humanity, I want the best for all of us, want peace and security and stability for all of us, want love and laughter and safety for all of us.

"My family is humanity. My dreams and hopes and aspirations are for all of humanity."
~ What Makes People Tick Blog

Personally I believe both in God and in evolution - I believe that evolution is simply God's work on a scale so huge that it is hard for humans to fathom and comprehend. God is not bound by human perceptions of time and space and distance - God is above and beyond those limitations and those restrictions. God existed before creation, before galaxies and stars and suns and planets, before humans and animals and birds and fish. As humans we live in a created universe where certain rules apply, however God is above and beyond that universe, beyond the rules and limitations that apply here. God is not bound or limited or restrained by time or space or gravity or distance or matter - I see God as so far above and beyond those limits that it is practically impossible for us to imagine His greatness and goodness and the extent and reach of what God is and does and means.

"I think there is a tendency for people to get rigid and caught up in their beliefs of what is right and wrong, and they lose sight of humanity. Being human has to come first before right or wrong."
~ Matisyahu (Brainyquote)

And yet I also believe that God has a plan for all of us and that God cares about each and every living being, that we can turn to God and be heard and loved and sheltered and cared for. I believe that we are all God's creation, all created in His image as thinking and feeling beings able to use our minds and our imagination, to feel compassion and love and to care about others, to think and reason and know right from wrong and good from bad. I believe that God has a plan for all of us, that God cares about all of us and wants all of us to live together as one people, one family, one human race.

Sons and daughters of Abraham
Lay down to a higher command
Don't be tricked by the acts of man
God's wisdom revealed in a holy plan

A chance to unite the past
With the brothers coming home at last
Fighting together for life

Lyrics to What I'm Fighting For by Matisyahu

13 November 2014

Jewish Press Cartoon "Home Schooling"

The Jewish Press » » Home Schooling

This cartoon got me thinking. I hope it does the same for you.

Source: The Jewish Press

12 November 2014

Saudi Arabia to grant women right to drive

The more things change...
The more I hope they change even more!

I'm one of those people who doesn't drive. Not because I can't or believe I shouldn't, but because I don't want to. I walk, I bike, I take public transport and feel good about doing so, about using environmentally friendlier modes of transport than using a car to get just me from A to B. Driving is not usually necessary where I live as public transport runs on a regular schedule and can get me most places.

Sometimes though, especially after being harassed on the bus or tssssk-ed at while waiting for the train or ogled while on the tram or followed home from the metro,  I wish I did drive. I do not ask to be harassed. I do nothing to suggest I might want strangers to approach me. I wear a ring around a significant finger to show that I am taken, if anyone bothered to check. I am not "asking for" attention, in fact the opposite is true : I do what I can to divert attention away from me.

I am so much more than just the exterior one sees at first glance - I am a human being with a heart, soul and mind, with feelings and ideas and emotions. I love blogging and writing stories, learning about the world's people, cultures, languages and religions. I am a person, a human being with a mind of my own. I am not just a body and I very much resent being treated as nothing more than an object simply because that is what men the world over are accustomed to.

Especially after being harassed by strangers or made to fee unsafe by the actions or unwanted attention of others, I think about buying a car and how that would make me feel. I don't mean that I would see the car as a status symbol and be proud of it. I don't even mean the feeling of immense financial satisfaction buying a car - and paying for it on the spot - would give me. I am talking about the feeling of safety I would have inside a closed-off space others would have to break into to get to me. Being able to lock the doors, being able to drive away fast or honk my horn loudly, being able to simply get from A to B without strangers being able to come near enough to talk to me, make unwanted noises at me, harass me or assault me - that is the feeling I hope for. It sounds like a dream come true, to live in a world where men do not feel that they have the unalienable 'right' to objectify, harass, insult and assault me simply because I am a woman, because I dare to leave the house on my own and have the nerve to go about my own business without a male escort.

Perhaps if I lived in a country where male chaperones were the norm (like Saudi Arabia) and unaccompanied females a glaring exception, I could better understand being harassed by men when leaving the house on my own. Yet I live in The Netherlands, not in Saudi Arabia. Women are equal to men here, by law at least. There are laws against the mistreatment of people, including women and minorities. There are laws meant to protect me, a female, from the actions or inaction of others. Yet I am still harassed, assaulted, objectified.

Following lengthy campaigning on the behalf of Saudi women’s groups, the 150-member Shura Council, which is permitted to propose legislation to the King, proposed that women over the age of 30 should be allowed behind the wheel, but only until 8pm each day, and without the application of make-up, a council member told AP. 
The Gulf State country of some 30 million people has no law on the books forbidding women from driving, only religious edicts supported by leading religious authorities. Muslim clerics in this Gulf State fear "licentiousness" will get out of control if women have the freedom to drive. 
Source: Saudi Arabia mulls women’s right to drive - but only for over-30s ‘without make-up’RT.com | 08 November 2014

When leaving the house to go shopping, go to work, visit friends or family, I am aware that I am leaving the relative safety of my own home. I am also aware that I am traversing a world where women are preyed on, objectified, harassed and assaulted by strangers. A quick look at rape statistics around the world shows that violence against women happens all around the world, it is not contained to one area of the world, one religious group or one ideology. It happens wherever men live, which means it happens everywhere, all around the world. From my own experiences I know that women are not the only target of men's rage, anger, horniness, boredom or whatever excuse they use to harass, objectify, use, abuse, assault or demean others. Violence by men happens against all those weaker than they are - Smaller or less strong men, children and teenagers, the handicapped, the elderly, the mentally unstable, innocent animals.  

Licentiousness, according to the Oxford dictionary:
Promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters 
Licentiousness, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
Lacking legal or moral restraints; especially :  disregarding sexual restraints

Having been harassed, felt up, jumped and even assaulted in the past - all by men, all without my consent or invitation or permission - I am certainly aware of the dangers of braving the world on my own. Yet the simple facts are that in a country that expects men and women both to work full-time, there are no spare male family members who can give up their precious time to accompany and protect me. Without men to shadow my every move and protect me from the unwanted attention of other men, I need to be able to either protect myself or keep predators at a distance. Having the use of a car would mean safety, would mean being able to go to work without being afraid, would mean visiting family without being scared of being jumped, would mean going to the supermarket without having to be afraid I'll be followed home. A car to me would equal being able to protect myself from a lot of potentially dangerous situations.

Honestly, the idea that allowing someone like me to drive - female, over the age of thirty, someone with no interest in wearing make-up or looking 'desirable' to strange men - would lead to licentiousness is ridiculous to me. Unless the licentiousness mentioned refers to how the men of Saudi Arabia would act and behave towards women drivers, in which case I agree 100% that licentiousness needs to be curtailed severely.

As far as I'm concerned, allowing women to drive in The Netherlands means they are safe inside their own closed off cars. It means they do not get sick from standing in the cold, wind or rain while waiting for public transport. It means they do not get harassed, assaulted, insulted or spoken to by strange men. It means women are free to live their lives without having to wait for a male to go with them and protect them FROM OTHER MEN.

Yes, women being able to and allowed to drive means that women are less restricted by men and more free to go where they please, to visit family when they want to, to shop or see friends or go to work or simply take a child to hospital for a check-up. It does not mean that 'suddenly' the country's women have changed or will act differently. It simply means that they are treated as people, as human beings, as citizens, as thinking adults instead of little children. While giving women in Saudi Arabia more freedom and independence is something I very much applaud and can only agree with, I want to send a message to the government of Saudi Arabia:

Covering up your women and forcing them to stay home will not change how men think about women. Keeping women locked up as animals or covered up as if they were radioactive will not change how men think about and act towards women; will not make women safer. The only way to make driving and being in public safe for women in Saudi Arabia is to change how MEN think about women, to change how MEN treat women, is to change how MEN approach women. 

While men and women are different, we are also very much the same in many things. We think, we feel, we dream, we hope, we love, we care, we laugh, we smile. Women are human just like men and wish to be treated as such, not locked up or forced to stay inside because the world is ruled by men who perpetuate the abuse and misuse of women. It is simple: Women will not be safe unless the men in this world understand that it is not 'okay' or right or good or wanted or desired behaviour or 'cool' to abuse women, to objectify women, to ogle women, to grope women, to publicly harass or assault women, to suggest indecent acts to women, to treat them as less.

I'd like to end this article with a quote from the Qur'an (Pickthal translation) to illustrate my point. The Qur'an tells both men and women to lower their gaze and be modest. I believe it is time for men to realise that Allah / God does see everything they do, that men realise that they will be held accountable for their actions, that men understand that they too need to be modest in dress and behaviour and yes, in how they treat and approach women.

024:030: Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do.

024:031: And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to [men close to them by blood or marriage]. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.

06 November 2014


"Surveys suggest that as few as  
one in 10 cases [of rape] are ever  
reported to the police in many countries"
Top 5 Countries with the Highest Rates of Rape The International Business Times (UK), January 2014

The Times of India reports in a July 2014 article that "If one goes by the latest statistics of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every day 93 women are being raped in the country."

The article explains that the total number of reported rape cases in India has gone up. In 2012, a total of 24,923 rapes were reported while in 2013 the total number came to 33,707. This means that more women are coming forward and filing reports; more women are speaking up about what is being done to them. I can only hope the trend continues, and 2014 will see even more reports. 

Wikipedia's article Rape in India puts the above numbers into perspective. Looking at the same data, the article explains that "24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012, while the 5 year average over 2007-2011 was 22,000 rapes a year." The article continues:

Adjusted for population growth over time, the annual rape rate in India has increased from 1.9 to 2.0 per 100,000 people over 2008-2012 period.
This compares to a reported rape rate of:
  • 1.2 per 100,000 in Japan
  • 3.6 per 100,000 in Morocco
  • 4.6 rapes per 100,000 in Bahrain 
  • 12.3 per 100,000 in Mexico
  • 24.1 per 100,000 in United Kingdom 
  • 28.6 per 100,000 in United States 
  • 66.5 per 100,000 in Sweden
  • 114.9 rapes per 100,000 in South Africa

Ninety-three women raped each and every day, just in India. Ninety-three women equals "only" two women per 100,000 on average, yet that is two too many as far as I am concerned. Putting "only two" into perspective: Two women out of 100,000 today could be my mother and my aunt. Two women tomorrow could be my two sisters. Two women the day after could be my two grandmothers. Two women the next day could be my two nieces. Two women the day after that could be two of my colleagues. Two women the day after that one could be myself and my best friend. Even 'only two' is two too many.

Rape is one of the cruellest and most demeaning things one person can do to another. It is a physical, mental and emotional violation, it is someone using you without your consent, it is demeaning and degrading and a horrible experience to go through. Whatever the motive or reason for rape, whether one claims a woman 'was asking for it' or the brothel was closed or whatever - There is nothing at all that makes it okay or acceptable or something women should simply put up with. While yes, men too get raped, I imagine that as a whole, the males of this world would not put up with being raped, with being violated and assaulted and used and abused. If it was men instead of women being raped, perhaps men would finally see the damage they are causing. Women are not made of plastic like blow-up dolls, we are not made of wood or metal, we are not toys to play with or things to use - we are people, human beings who are just as human as men are.

If there is anything to 'like' about the rape statistics above (in a silver lining to a dark black cloud sort of way), it is that the numbers show that rape and violence against women are not restricted to one region of the world or one religion or way of thinking. I chose to highlight India because - I admit - I expected India's statistics to somehow be more shocking than the stats from other countries. In the end, what shocked me most where the statistics from other countries.

Countries from Europe, America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East are in the above list of bullet points, meaning that rape and violence against women happens in countries in all of those regions. Rape is not restricted to any one country, region, religion or way of thinking. Rape happens wherever human beings live. Rape happens wherever some human beings somehow believe that is not morally wrong to violate, mistreat, use and abuse other human beings for their own pleasure. Rape happens wherever some believe that they are better than others, and sadly that means it happens all over the world.

09 October 2014

Turkish soldiers do nothing to help Kurdish anti-IS fighters in Kobani

Seeing this image makes me so sad. The Turkish soldiers are RIGHT THERE yet they are standing by while people just across the border are being slaughtered. That is Kobani behind those soldiers, that is how close they are, that is how close reinforcements could be for the Kurdish fighters. And yet they battle on alone, aided by friends from another continent while their neighbours leave them to die. This doesn't just make me sad, it makes me mad and it disgusts me. 

Minister Timmermans: Zuurstofmasker gevonden bij passagier MH17

Minister Timmermans vertelde op woensdagavond 8 oktober 2014 bij televisieprogramma Pauw dat er bij een passagier van het neergehaalde vliegtuig #MH17 een zuurstofmasker is gevonden. 

Een YouTube video afkomstig van Pauw - Gemist waarin Minister Timmermans vertelt dat er een masker gevonden is:

YouTube: Roeland Roovers

Dat er een zuurstofmasker gevonden is bij een passagier betekent dus dat er voor in ieder geval een persoon genoeg tijd zat tussen de inslag van de raket en de dood om een zuurstofmasker om te doen. Genoeg tijd om te zien en horen wat er gebeurde, genoeg tijd om de armen uit te strekken, een masker uit de lucht te pakken en dat om te doen. Genoeg tijd. 

Oorlog is niet leuk of mooi of heroïsch. Wapens zijn gemaakt om levende wezens te stoppen, om anderen te doden. Mensen voelen en denken na, ook in hun laatste momenten. De treurigheid en de grote leegte die ik voelde toen ik hoorde over het neerschieten van vlucht MH17 komt nu weer terug. Dit is het echte gezicht van terrorisme en oorlog. Dit is de realiteit van een onschuldig iemand die in zijn of haar laatste seconden op aarde een zuurstofmasker omdeed om daarna te sterven. Ik krijg er de rillingen van.

The fight for Kobani

Dutch television news (RTL Nieuws) has just reported that a large part of the Kurdish city Kobani in Syria, right on the Turkish border, is now under the control of the Islamic State terrorist group.

Volgens een andere functionaris hebben de terroristen enkele gebouwen aan de oostkant van de stad veroverd, ondanks de voortdurende luchtaanvallen door de Amerikanen. Er zijn ook berichten dat IS al een groot deel van de stad, zo niet het grootste deel, in handen heeft. Dat vertelt onder meer de vertaler van correspondent Roel Geeraedts. Die vertaler is een Koerd die uit Kobani komt.

Freely translated: One officer says the terrorists have captured several buildings on the east side of town, despite ongoing American air strikes. There are also reports that IS already controls a large part of the town, if not most of the town.

There has been fighting around Kobani for some time now, inside it since the last few days. The fighting has been going on for weeks, however now it seems to be just a matter of time before the city falls entirely, according to several sources, including CNN.

(CNN) -- U.S. airstrikes "are not going to save" the key Syrian city of Kobani from being overtaken by ISIS, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Wednesday.
"I think we all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality," he told reporters in a daily briefing.
Heroic Kurdish men and women have been bravely battling Islamic State terrorists to keep Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) and the surrounding area in Kurdish hands. America carries out bombings, yet Turkey - from where they can SEE Kobani, sits back while IS slaughters the Kurdish people. The Blooomberg Review calls it as it is:

In blocking the resupply of the Kurdish fighters who are trying desperately to hold off a siege by Islamic State in Kobani, Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making a decision that may haunt Turkey for years to come.

Words not to be taken lightly. Turkey is a candidate for EU membership and a NATO member, yet such key humane values as helping your neighbour seem completely lost on them in this conflict. As ABC News reports:

Turkey is ambivalent about the fight across its border, because of its distrust of the Kurdish fighters protecting Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab. It views them as an extension of the Kurdish PKK, the rebel group that has waged a long and bloody insurgency against Ankara. In recent days, Turkish officials have emphasized that they view both the Islamic State group and the PKK as terrorist groups. 
Left unsaid is which group they view as the greater threat. But, Turkey's strict neutrality as the lightly-armed Kurds face annihilation speaks volumes.
Turkey's inaction as the Kurds face annihilation indeed speaks volumes. It disgusts me that a country looking to become a member of the European Union is apparently so far removed from basic values we hold dear in Europe. We care for others, we help them in time of need, we act to protect the weak from the strong and the oppressor, we fight together against totalitarian regimes - to me, those are key values that we hold dear in the countries that make up the European Union as a whole. Or maybe it is just me who holds those values dear, says a pessimistic voice in my mind.

Kurds fighting for their lives in don't need tanks, they need shovels. Hit oil and the sky will fill with jets in a heartbeat.

If this is what's needed for the Kurdish people to get the help and assistance - and yes, the boots on the ground - they so desperately need, what has the world come to?

07 October 2014

Vreedzame Koerden bestormen Tweede Kamer, vragen steun voor Kobani in Koerdisch Syrië

Nederlandse media rapporteert dat een groep van ongeveer honderd Koerden maandagavond het gebouw van de Tweede Kamer bestormd hebben. De Koerdische betogers vragen met hun actie aandacht voor de situatie in Koerdistan. Terroristische organisatie IS (Islamitische Staat / ISIS) voert momenteel aanvallen uit op de Koerdische stad Kobani in Syrië, dichtbij de Turkse grens. De Volkskrant meldt dat veel van de betogers in het gebouw van de Tweede Kamer familie en vrienden hebben in Kobani.

Teletekst meldt dat de betogers het gebouw inmiddels verlaten hebben na een gesprek met Kamervoorzitter Anouschka Van Miltenburg. Ook buiten het gebouw van de Tweede Kamer stonden mensen, volgens verschillende bronnen ongeveer 150 (Volkskrant) of "zo’n drie- à vierhonderd man - een eerste inschatting. Een derde daarvan is politieagent" (NRC.nl).

Den Haag is niet de enige plek waar gedemonstreerd werd. Koerdische betogers verzamelden ook in onder andere Wenen, Bern, Kopenhagen, Stockholm, Berlijn, Brussel en Parijs. Ook op social media is er veel ophef over en aandacht voor de verachtelijke aanvallen op Kobani, zie bijvoorbeeld #twitterkurds of #savekobani op Twitter.

Onder andere Turkije, Irak, het Verenigd Koninkrijk, Frankrijk, de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten, Qatar, Australië, Duitsland, de Verenigde Staten en Nederland zijn onderdeel van de internationale anti-IS coalitie. De coalitie is akkoord over en voert acties uit in Irak, echter is er internationaal veel debat over het in actie komen in Syrië.

De Telegraaf schrijft dat de PVV en het CDA ook Islamitische Staat doelen in Syrië willen gaan aanvallen: "Nederland beperkt de inzet echter tot ISIS-doelen in Irak, omdat er volgens het kabinet voor militair ingrijpen in Syrië geen internationale juridische basis bestaat."

Het bestrijden van IS in Syrië zou ook betekenen dat de coalitie meehelpt de vijand van Syrische president Bashar al-Assad te bestrijden. Het (indirect) helpen van een man die chemische wapens inzet tegen zijn eigen bevolking, iemand die qua acties net zo slecht is als de Islamitische Staat of Saddam Hussein, is zeker niet wat de coalitie zal willen. Echter zal het aanvallen van doelwitten in Syrië mijns inziens nodig zijn om IS compleet uit te kunnen schakelen. De terroristen uit Irak verjagen om ze in Koerdisch Syrië - waar Kobani ligt - hun gang te laten gaan kan geen antwoord zijn waar de anti-IS coalitie mee akkoord gaat. 

Wat mij betreft is het heel simpel: ALLE mensen verdienen leven, vrijheid, vrede en een bestaan zonder angst om uitgemoord te worden om wie je bent, hoe je geboren bent. Zeker de Koerden, mensen die al zo lang verachtelijk behandeld worden door onder andere (groepen uit) Turkije en Irak

06 October 2014

Kurdistan and the plight of the Kurdish people

After television, newspapers and social media reported about many #saveKobani demonstrations around the world yesterday and today, I got thinking about Kurdistan and the plight of the Kurdish people. It got me thinking that I want to do my bit to help, even if all I'm doing is writing a blog post.

Kobani is a city in the Syrian part of Kurdistan, very close to the Turkish border. The Islamic State terrorist group has been trying to capture Kobani for weeks. Kurdish forces have bravely defended the city and their territory, however IS(IS) has been gaining ground. Turkey seems to be very intent on helping the Islamic State terrorist group. As ABC News reports:

Lightly armed Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani have for weeks held off an ISIS onslaught, but the battle has moved to the streets of Kobani as the president of Turkey warned today that the town was about to fall to the Islamic militants.
The fight for the Kurdish city and its surrounding villages has sent more than 160,000 Kurdish refugees streaming to the Turkish border when many have been prevented from crossing. 
Turkish tanks are poised along the border with their guns pointed toward Kobani, but the tanks haven't moved. Instead, Turkish authorities have been battling desperate Kurdish refugees trapped between ISIS and the border.

Let me repeat that: 160,000 Kurdish refugees streaming to the Turkish border, many have been prevented from crossing. Turkish authorities have been battling desperate Kurdish refugees trapped between ISIS and the border. Why is the world not jumping up and down in anger at Turkey? Why are Kurdish refugees, those fighting to save their people from murdering terrorists, people fleeing for their sanity and their lives, why are they denied safety in Turkey?

The world jumped up and down shouting "Save the Yazidi people" only weeks ago to forget about them almost as quickly. The world has also cried out for the Kurdish people in the past yet today refugees are trapped between ISIS and Turkey - one trying to behead you, the other leaving you out in the cold to be taken by those who will certainly behead you. Where is the outrage?

Twitter hashtag #Kobani

Through one of my best friends in high school, a Kurdish girl, I met many other Kurdish people, heard some of their stories. Each and every one of them was kind and friendly, many welcomed me into their homes and lives. Some were from the same area my friend and her family were from, others from all over Kurdistan. It's quite likely I met people who've been to Kobani, who knew people there, who were perhaps from there themselves. I'm glad that I don't have any faces or stories to link to the name of the city now under attack. It would hurt more that way to hear and read about what's happening. I wish the Kurdish fighters all the best, may there soon be many more boots on the ground to support their noble and heroic fight.

04 October 2014

"All Babies Are Cute" - Welcome to the world, Wyatt Isabelle Kutcher

World-famous celebrity couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are the proud new parents of baby girl Wyatt Isabelle Kutcher, as reported by several media outlets. Apart from seeing the parents on television and in movies I don't know much about them, nor do I need to. They're both good at what they do, that's what matters to me. I know I've enjoyed their work on more than one occasion. So, why am I commenting on their happy news?

The proud father posted a birth-notice online with eight baby photos, including one of a dog and one of a llama. I thought his words worth repeating:

Mila and I would like to welcome Wyatt Isabelle Kutcher to the world.  May your life be filled with wonder, love, laughter, health, happiness, curiosity, and privacy. 
Can you guess which one is ours, or does it really matter? All babies are cute. 
Source: One of these is Mila and Ashton's baby....and her name is Wyatt, A +

What struck me about the first paragraph was the last word: privacy. Especially, how different their lives must be from mine (and those of so many) that it is necessary to include that specific word in this happy announcement. I've seen enough celebrities being chased by paparazzi (on television) to know that being followed by people with cameras everywhere you go can be very intrusive and dangerous too. No matter who their parents are or how good they are at their jobs, no child should be followed by strangers with cameras wanting to document their every move. I hope Wyatt Isabelle gets to live the life her father wants for her - including privacy.

"All babies are cute."

How true. It doesn't matter which of the cute babies is theirs because they are all cute and more importantly - they all look like babies. Wyatt Isabelle is (so I assume) healthy, whole, alive, her mother is doing well, her father is over the moon - That is what should matter, more than anything else.

01 October 2014

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks at UN General Assembly

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on 29 September 2014. The Times of Israel published the full text of his speech online. May the world listen, for a change, and see the truth of what Israel's Prime Minister is saying.

"Our hopes and the world’s hope for peace are in danger. Because everywhere we look, militant Islam is on the march. 
It’s not militants.
It’s not Islam.
It’s militant Islam. 
Typically, its first victims are other Muslims, but it spares no one. Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Kurds — no creed, no faith, no ethnic group is beyond its sights. And it’s rapidly spreading in every part of the world."

The past few months have shown very clearly that the 'Islamic State' does not care about Christians, Jews, Yazidis or Kurds. It does not even care about other Muslims who happen to think for themselves and disagree with the terrorist group's extremist views. American and British journalists were beheaded, simply for being who they were, because of the country they were born in. Countless non-Muslims living in Iraq and Syria have been slaughtered, their wives and daughters taken away by the militants, anyone who speaks up killed where they stand. Refugees number in the tens and even hundreds of thousands. And this could be only the beginning.

In the previous months, many people the world over took to the streets in pro-Gaza protests, in support of terrorist groups such as Hamas and IS(IS) and against Israel and the Jewish people. Images of crying women and bleeding children won the hearts and it seems the minds of people worldwide. The world rooted for terrorists who force civilians into becoming human shields, because their Public Relations machine produced images that touched the world.

Tell me - what would YOU do if terrorists attacked your country with rockets on a daily basis? Personally, I'd urge my government to do everything possible to defend its citizens, to stop those trying to kill and terrorise us, to end the attacks against us. I would urge my government to defend our country, to use any means necessary to ensure the safety of all the people.

Worse still, what would you do if those terrorists already lived in your country, were already among you? What would you do if they could strike at any moment? In the past few months, the streets of Europe and the western world were once again witness to those calling for the eradication of the Jewish people, western democracy, Christianity, you name it. Whether those people are ever officially seen as part of any terrorist organisation or not - what matters is that they agree with the likes of Hamas and IS(IS), with people who use inhuman means such as beheading, rape and slavery as tools of warfare. In the west, we like to think that we've moved beyond treating other people as less, using people as slaves, annihilating people simply because of who they are. We like to think that we are living in a democratic world where others see things as we do. Sadly, that is not the case and we need to realise that, before it is too late.

"When it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. 
And what they share in common, all militant Islamists share in common:
  • Boko Haram in Nigeria;
  • Ash-Shabab in Somalia;
  • Hezbollah in Lebanon;
  • An-Nusrah in Syria;
  • The Mahdi Army in Iraq;
  • And the al-Qaeda branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.
Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shi’ites. Some want to restore a pre-Medieval caliphate from the 7th century. Others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the 9th century. They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their quest for supremacy. 
But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever-expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance — where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated, and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice: Convert or die. 
For them, anyone can be an infidel, including fellow Muslims."

How true. And how sad that even after witnessing the atrocities of the past few months and years, so many will hear or read these words and think that Mr. Netanyahu is exaggerating. How many more attacks must there be before the world starts listening to Israel? How many more innocents must be killed by people acting in the name of Islam before all of humanity says: 'Enough, already!' and we all stop trying to subjugate and kill others? 

These days, many prominent Muslims are proclaiming that the "Islamic State" has nothing to do with Islam, something that seems a bit strange, considering the terrorist group's name... I understand the desire to distance oneself from mass-murder, the abduction of girls and women, the beheading of journalists. I hope this extends further, causes Muslims to look at their own religion and decide it is time for a revolution, for a new Islam that chooses moderation over terror, that blends faith and religion with the modern world in a way that allows Muslims to walk both the path of the world and the path of religion without the need for terrorism, murder, rockets or robbing others of their basic human rights. 

"As Israeli children huddled in bomb shelters and Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system knocked Hamas rockets out of the sky, the profound moral difference between Israel and Hamas couldn’t have been clearer: 
Israel was using its missiles to protect its children. 
Hamas was using its children to protect its missiles.
By investigating Israel rather than Hamas for war crimes, the UN Human Rights Council has betrayed its noble mission to protect the innocent. In fact, what it’s doing is to turn the laws of war upside-down. Israel, which took unprecedented steps to minimize civilian casualties, Israel is condemned. Hamas, which both targeted and hid behind civilians – that a double war crime – Hamas is given a pass. 
The Human Rights Council is thus sending a clear message to terrorists everywhere:
Use civilians as human shields. Use them again and again and again. You know why? Because sadly, it works.
By granting international legitimacy to the use of human shields, the UN’s Human Rights Council has thus become a Terrorist Rights Council, and it will have repercussions. It probably already has, about the use of civilians as human shields. 
It’s not just our interest. It’s not just our values that are under attack. It’s your interests and your values."

Perhaps with the so-called 'Islamic State' killing left, right and centre, the world will finally wake up and see that no matter which terrorists kill people, which group claims responsibility for horrors or atrocities, innocents are still hurt, homeless, suffering, scarred for life, dead. Whether it is ISIS or Hamas or al-Qaeda or the Taliban killing people, they are dead nonetheless. Terror is terror, no matter what name-tag it chooses to use, no matter which specific agenda it claims to want to further.


The full text of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the UN General Assembly is available at the website of The Times of Israel.

29 September 2014

Liverpool sends, later deletes "Rosh HaShanah" Tweet

English soccer team Liverpool sends and then deletes a Rosh Hashanah Tweet after protests against the Tweet as the Jerusalem Post reports. Rational people might ask why. The answer is given by the article's title: Liverpool deleted the tweet after 'anti-Semitic posts'. Yes, you did read that right.

Liverpool FC would like to wish all our Jewish supporters around the world a happy new year. #RoshHashanah,” the tweet read. A few hours later, the tweet was removed after the anti-Semitic abuse ensued. The story was originally reported by The Guardian. 
“Due to a number of offensive comments that were attached to a tweet on the official LFC twitter account, the tweet and comments have since been removed from the account,” the club told the Guardian.

Source: English soccer club Liverpool deletes Rosh HaShanah tweet after anti-Semitic posts, The Jerusalem Post 

Source: Jerusalem Post

How judgemental is our society that wishing Jewish people the world over a happy new year is something that attracts so many offensive responses that it must be removed from Twitter? How crazy has our society become that a world-famous club like Liverpool lets a bunch of haters dictate who they can openly and permanently wish a happy new year to? What's next, protests and hate-tweets in response to 'Merry Christmas' Tweets or those wishing Christians and people in the western world a 'Happy New year' at the end of December?

"Folks, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins.* All passengers are reminded that when exiting the time machine, one will be entering Europe as it was in the nineteen-thirties. Period clothing is required,  Please turn off all electronic devices until we are safely parked at the gate. Thank you." 

Is this really where our world is heading? Are we going back to the 1930s, back to hating, attacking and persecuting Jewish people throughout Europe? Can't we see that it won't stop at Jewish people, gays, gypsies and minorities this time? Already, the Yazidi people, the Kurdish people and Iraqi Christians are targets, are being mistreated and even slaughtered because they are not Muslim. Speaking of, even other Muslims are executed when they happen to disagree with the terrorists claiming to be members of the "Islamic State" which only goes to show that no-one is safe from these people and their horrors.

When will we learn that hatred, persecution, murder and mass annihilation are not the answer? When will we learn that the only way forward for the entire world is to stop hating people simply because of who they are, for how they were born?

We can't change who we are and how we were born, however we CAN change how we act and how we treat others. We can change what we accept as normal behaviour and we can change how we respond to threats, extremism and hate. I believe that it is time to do just that: To change. We need to stand up, each and everyone one of us, and work towards making the world a more tolerant, accepting and friendly place. Before we are all blown to bits by a bunch of terrorists, if at all possible. 

* In-flight announcement adapted from Air Odyssey

28 September 2014

Research shows babies can remember people they met only once

What is your earliest memory? Do you remember being five years old, being a toddler, being a baby? Do you remember what it was like in the womb? Chances are you might remember something from when you were around five years old, whereas the earlier years of your life are most likely a blur, if you remember anything at all.

Yet the early years of our lives are when we learn all the basics for the rest of our lives. We learn to crawl, to walk, to talk, to recognise people and situations, to differentiate cats from dogs and other animals, to play with other children and navigate playground politics, to understand that fire is hot, that we need to be cautious around strangers, that we need to look both ways before crossing the street... We learn almost everything we need to know to live and survive the rest of our lives yet when we're older we usually can't remember learning many of these things.

playground slide

Which leads me to wonder, how exactly does a baby's brain develop? How does a child's? A baby is born able to breathe, cry, excrete waste and sleep. It quickly learns to suckle, to recognise familiar smells and sights and sounds and with every passing day and every new experience, that baby learns more. But how does that development happen?

How does your bundle of joy recognise your face and your voice over someone else's? Why does your toddler settle down when you hold him and he smells you? How can your little girl recognise your walk when you come down the hall and know it from all others? Thankfully there are many people who want answers to these questions just as much as I do, people who *have* done the research and are able to answer some of the questions so many of us have.

Popular Science's Kate Gammon looks at an article published in Consciousness and Cognition by Danish researchers entitled "Three-year-olds' memory for a person met only once at the age of 12 months: very long-term memory revealed by a late-manifesting novelty preference". She writes:

"Recently, Danish researchers put together a remarkably simple experiment. They had a list of families who had participated in a study when their babies were one year-olds. That study was run by two men, Osman Skjold Kingo and a colleague, who are roughly the same age. The babies came back when they were three and a half, and saw two screens of the same experiment they saw years prior – one with the experimenter they met, and the other with the other experimenter. 
The researchers tracked the babies’ eye movements as they looked at the two screens. Overwhelming, they ended up staring at the face they hadn’t seen before – something known as novelty preference. (We humans are primed to look longer at a new thing rather than an ol’ everyday thing.) The research results were published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition in February." 
Source : Babies can remember people they only met once, Popular Science (April 2014)

That is indeed a remarkably simple experiment, however one that yields a lot of interesting new information. The article continues by explaining that "Memory doesn't always work in a conscious way. When the experimenters asked the 3.5-year olds which man they had met, their answers were no better than random guessing at the experimenter they had previously met."

To me, this means that the children instinctively looked at the new person more than at the person they had met before, yet when asked to recall which person they had met previously, they weren't able to answer conclusively. Their brain remembered, stored the 'old vs. new' information somewhere resulting in the children looking more at the new person, yet when asked to recall which researcher they had met before, they weren't able to get to or access the information.

This leads me to wonder if this 'visual memory' is something like an unconscious memory, something that somehow shapes how we act instinctively, something that we can't explain as anything more rational than 'a gut feeling'? We've seen someone or something before as babies (been exposed to it for a period as short as 45 minutes in the case of the article's research), yet we remember it without being able to explain that we remember, let alone why.

How much of what our children see and hear and experience will they remember even if they can't recall remembering? How much do they see and hear and experience as babies that shapes how they respond to people, experiences and situations later on in life? How much have we ourselves seen or heard as babies that we still carry with us today, the information stored somewhere in our brains? I'll sign off with that thought because honestly, it gives me a lot to think about. How much do we remember of what we witnessed as babies and young children, how much information do we have stored in our brains, things we picked up when we were young that we can't now consciously recall, yet that may shape who we are and how we respond to people or situations even to this day? It makes one wonder about a lot of things!

25 September 2014

Father bit and punched two-month-old baby to death (Metro News)

This is absolutely shocking. British newspaper Metro News reports that 23-year old Lithuanian Aurimas Medvedevas killed his two-month old baby daughter the day her mother went back to work for the very first time since giving birth.

The man's 22-year old partner Dzesika Urbikaite came home from her first day back at work to find the nine week old baby dead in her cot. Mr. Medvedevas was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison.
Jailing him today, judge Timothy Pontius said the brutality of the attack on a defenceless baby almost defied belief. He said the fact that baby Aukse suffered considerably for hours before her eventual death ‘demonstrated a callousness that is as incredible as it is inhuman’. 
Prosecutor Karim Khalil QC told jurors: ‘For reasons known only to him, he took hold of his own baby, he bit her on the head, he struck her repeatedly and he shook her hard. As a result of all that she died, not immediately, but a few hours later.’ 
The nine-week-old survived for up to six hours after the attack and would have suffered considerably while her father did nothing to help her, the court heard. 
A post-mortem examination uncovered a catalogue of bruises, cuts and abrasions on her body as well as two distinct bite marks on her head. An examination of one of the bite marks showed it matched the defendant’s teeth imprint, the court heard. 
Source: Father bit and punched two-month-old baby to death | Metro News UK
According to the lawyer for the defence, the father was a 'loving and caring  man who showed 'heartfelt' remorse for what he had done to his own daughter after she died in his arms. And the thought to call social services or hand himself in to the police didn't enter this 'loving and caring' man's mind while his baby daughter slowly died from what he'd done to her?

Here I am worrying about fundamentalist death-worshipping 'Islamic State' lunatics when all this time I should have been worrying about rabid Lithuanian immigrants to the UK? I thought IS killing, raping, crucifying and enslaving people was shocking and inhuman, however this man deserves his very own category in the "Who's Who" list of most disturbed people alive. How can any human being do this to a defenceless baby? HOW? Why?

A father who brutally attacks, tortures and murders his OWN child of only two months, that is something that I simply do not understand. What possesses someone to attack their own child in such an inhuman way? What possesses someone to bite and bruise and cut and shake an innocent child of only nine weeks old? What possesses someone to kill the child of the woman he's supposed to love, cherish, take care of and look after, destroying the woman's life in the process?

Months and months of bonding with your baby while she's in your tummy, from finding out you're pregnant to feeling the baby's first kick to going for so-many-week scans and echoes. You buy baby clothes and a cot and a car seat. Then come the hours of labour and finally there she is, the reward for your pain and suffering; your baby girl, alive and well. You've waited so long for this moment, waited so long to be able to hold your beautiful baby girl in your arms. You love her, cherish her, feed and bathe and clothe her. You sit there looking at her sleeping, smiling despite how tired and worn out you are, feeling your heart overflow with love for the tiny human being you put into this world. And then, when your maternity leave is over and you go back to work, you leave home knowing that your partner will be home, that he will look after the precious bundle of joy he loves as much as you do. And then this happens. You come home to find out the man you love killed your child. Your world falls apart. Where do you turn to for support? Who can you trust after this? How do you go on, knowing your precious baby girl was left alone to die, hurting and in pain?

I am not a perfect person by any means. I try to respect everyone and everything, try not to judge others based on what I think is normal and accepted. Try to keep an open mind and work on bettering myself instead of badmouthing others or gossiping. I may not always succeed, however I try. Usually. Today, I am too disgusted and shocked by this young man's actions to want to try. I thank God that this poor baby 'only' suffered a maximum of six hours before she died and ask God to look after little Aukse's mother who should have had a lifetime to spend with her daughter and only got nine weeks.

24 September 2014

The world today

The world today is a mess. By that I mean that humans have made it into a mess. War and disease in Africa, rape and murder in the Middle East, social and economic upheavals in the west. People hate, murder, rape, abuse, lie to, threaten, torture and mistreat others. When it comes to looking at the world as a whole (not on a local or community level), I believe it is fair to say that we don't help each other, we don't think of the whole world as one family of humanity and we often treat other people as if they were less than us or beneath us.

Even though we have thousands of years of history to learn from, it seems we just keep repeating the same mistakes. Even though we can do a quick online search to read works by authors such as Homer and Hippocrates, it seems we can't learn from them. Even though we can read about campaigns of Roman leaders who lived more than 2000 years ago, it seems we can't learn from them.

Events in the past few months have shown me that we are intent on getting into a time machine and taking ourselves back to the dark days of the 1930s, the days when it was almost too late to stop the Holocaust but there was still time, just. The German expression "Ich habe es nicht gewusst" was often used in the aftermath of the Second World War by Germans claiming that they had no clue what was happening in the camps, that they didn't know that people were being exterminated by the hundreds and thousands. It translates as "I didn't know". Perhaps for some of them, that was true. Perhaps.

Today we have television, books and movies to teach us about the horrors of the Holocaust, to show us what people went through, to explain to us that it was a dark, dark time that must never ever be repeated.

The thing is, today WE DO KNOW. We have history to teach us. Ancient history but also very recent history. We can learn through books, documentaries, television, movies, formal education and even the internet. We can learn through diaries and personal stories, learn from survivors, people who saw and experienced the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. We have HD movies for crying out loud, movies with amazing colour and sound and breathtaking special effects to show us the horrors of death and war and hatred and destruction. Yet even with all that knowledge and all those tools at our disposal, there are still so many people in the world today who choose to make war, to fight, to destroy, to murder, to hurt others.

What is wrong with us? Will we ever learn? Why do we continue to treat our fellow human beings as if they are somehow less than us, as if our lives and beliefs and values are worth more than theirs? Why do we continue on a path of "only our way is right" when we have seen, time and time again, that thinking like that will only lead to more hatred, horrors and atrocities?

Some people ask "If there is a God, why are there wars and disease and such in the world?"
My answer: Because of humans. We have the ability to make choices and decisions. We choose to kill, to murder, to hurt, to maim. Humans choose to do those things. That is why war exists, because humans choose war. I believe that God made us, gave us consciousness, gave us the ability to choose and to think and to tell right from wrong. I believe that God gave us the ability to use our imagination to think about how others feel and reason, to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine life as them. I believe He gave us the ability to think about actions and consequences, the ability to see beyond our own lives and see the world through different eyes. Whether one believes that it was God or evolution or alien intervention or the Flying Spaghetti Monster that made us and shaped us, what matters is that we are. We are thinking, feeling, reasoning human beings. Each and every one of us.

“I'm sure that someday children in schools will study the history of the men who made war as you study an absurdity. They'll be shocked, just as today we're shocked with cannibalism.”
― Golda Meir

The only way to truly end war and famine and bloodshed is to choose to end them. We need to choose because if we don't then it might well be too late soon. God gave us the ability to choose, to decide, to think and reason and learn from our actions. God gave us all the tools we need to learn from life on earth, to grow through living, to become better people and work on making the world a better place. It is up to us to choose peace, to choose coexistence, to choose life over death. It is up to us to make the world a better place, no one else is going to do it for us.

Twenty or thirty years from now, when my children or grandchildren ask me why the world is as it is, I want to tell them that it is Because we made it so. I want to say those words to them with a smile on my face, not with tears in my eyes. I want to tell them that we saw that it was wrong and we knew it could no longer go on that way. I want to tell them that we chose to change our ways and work for a better world, that we chose to heal the world and unite the people. I don't ever want to contemplate explaining history to them using the words "We didn't know". Because we do know.

21 September 2014

Israeli Foreign Minister: "Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization"

The website United with Israel reports that Israel's Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, met with US Secretary of State John Kerry last Wednesday to discuss the ongoing threat posed to all humanity by the Islamic State terrorist group. I don't always agree with Liberman's words, however today, I agree with Israel's Foreign Minister one hundred percent.
Liberman noted that the war against terror, in all its forms, is the most important task of the Free World today. Reiterating the Israeli government’s stance regarding the regional terror threat, he said: 
“We cannot differentiate one form of terror from another. The Hamas terrorist activities against Israel and against the people of Gaza are no different from the terror of ISIS. The difference is only semantic, and in the media approach adopted by the organizations. Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas. As long as Hamas rules in Gaza, there will not be peace or security. Anyone who seeks to advance an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must bring an end to the rule of terror within the Palestinian Authority.” 
Islamic State's Goal is the Destruction of Western Civilization, United with Israel

Personally, I'm for peace between Israel and the Arab / Muslim world, the Palestinians included. I'm for a one-state, a two-state, a three-state or even a four-state solution IF that solution brings peace, prosperity and stability for ALL people of the region. I'm also for a just and democratic world where women are safe from rape and attack, where all religious groups are safe from persecution, where innocent journalists are able to do their jobs without being executed, where humans are safe instead of being used as human shields or walking bombs.

Groups like Hamas and ISIS are not interested in justice or peaceful coexistence or safety for women and children or freedom of religion for all people. They are not interested in basic human rights or in making their corner of the world a better place for their people. They are only interested in furthering their own aims, in spreading terror and fear and oh yes, domination for their particular brand of crazy: Radical Islam.  

In an ideal world a "One Land Two States" solution would be my suggestion for peace in the Holy Land. Turning the presence and reality of Israel from a 'bad thing' into a 'good thing' in the eyes of Muslims might help many realise that the Jewish people are NOT the enemy. In an ideal world, Israel would be the perfect teacher and guide for the Palestinians on their own way to becoming a free and democratic state. Yet in an ideal world, one side would not be actively trying to exterminate the other. Which means we are not living in an ideal world, we are living in reality.

In an ideal world, there would be no need for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Hamas and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram and those like them. There would be no need for people to look to their prophets and holy books and use them as justification for their vile actions. In an ideal world, journalists would be able to go home and return to their families after doing a stint overseas. In an ideal world, the weak, the poor and the needy would be protected and kept safe. Yet we do not live in an ideal world, we live in reality.

In an ideal world, people would look to find common ground and work at peaceful coexistence based on the truths, values and beliefs we all share. In an ideal world, humanity would be united and whole, there would be no war or famine. In an ideal world, I'd be writing about an entirely different topic because terrorism would be something wholly unfamiliar to us. Yet we do not live in an ideal world; we live in reality. Plato said that "the price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." Personally, I prefer the free and democratic government I have now to the rule of evil men.

19 September 2014

UK women's clothing store becomes victim of hate mail and harassment

A women's clothing store in the United Kingdom named after an Egyptian mythological figure becomes the target of hate mail and harassment, as the UK's Daily Mail reports.

Source: Isis Boutique Facebook page
Jill Campbell is the owner of women's clothing store Isis Boutique in Malvern   (Worcestershire). Her store is named after the Egyptian goddess Isis. Ms Campbell came up with the name after leaving Oxford in 2007, explaining "The river in Oxford is named locally as ISIS and it is also the Egyptian goddess of magic, mystique, beauty and femininity which is everything the shop is all about." The boutique has been in business for seven years.

The past few months, as the western world has been getting to know the terrorists and murderers in Iraq and Syria known as "ISIS", Ms. Campbell's store has been coming under threat. Not because she supports ISIS or anything like that but because the name of her boutique sounds similar to one of the acronyms used by the "Islamic State" terrorist group. For those who can't keep up with all the name changing, ISIS stands for "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria".

According to the article, staff and customers at the store have been subjected to verbal abuse and threats, hate mail and nasty comments. While I understand that not everyone shares my interests (some of which are history, comparative religion, ancient Egypt and Biblical archaeology), surely people have access to the internet, libraries, encyclopaedias, books - anything which can tell them about the many, many differences between a modern-day terrorist group and a goddess the ancient Egyptians believed in thousands of years ago?
'There was a particularly nasty comment on our Facebook page from someone who said we would get a letter bomb in the shop if we didn't change our name.  
'Another person posted "Terrorism comes to Malvern" alongside a picture of the front of our shop. 
'I overheard another couple talking about the name last weekend when the woman said to her partner "look that shop's called ISIS" and he said "they're the ones who have been beheading everybody".'

As the Isis Boutique has been in business for seven years, giving in to these threats and changing the shop's name seems ridiculous to me. Different plan: Instead of renaming the store, why not re-educate the public? I don't mean that people need to start learning about history and ancient Egypt (as interesting as those subjects are), that's all up to them.  I do mean that the people making these threats need to examine their own thinking and realise that in trying to be anti-terrorist, they are acting a lot like terrorists themselves.

Sending letter bombs and threatening the safety and security of innocent civilians, those are things that terrorists do, not things civilised people say or do (or threaten to do). 

I find it shocking to see that people can (seemingly) be against terrorist group ISIS, against the vile tactics they employ and against all they stand for, yet find no wrong in sinking to their level and employing similar tactics to ISIS in order to achieve their own goals.

According to the Office for National Statistics, "in 2013, 36 million adults (73%) in Great Britain accessed the Internet every day, 20 million more than in 2006, when directly comparable records began." I'm not under the illusion that 36 million adults will read this article. Yet I do hope to reach 36 people, maybe 360 or even 3600. I hope to remind those people - you - that violence is not the answer; that murder, rape, intimidation, threats and (letter) bombs are not the way to defeat an enemy.

Defeating these inhuman and murderous "Islamic State" terrorists means beating them, being stronger and smarter and mightier than they are, being better. Not just when it comes to military might but also - especially  so - when it comes to morality. We refuse to commit the vile acts they seem to commit so casually. That is what makes 'us' different from 'them'. Let's remember that, especially when dealing with our fellow human beings!

09 September 2014

MH 17 update 09 September 2014

The first official report about the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 came out today. Thirty-plus pages of maybes and more questions, thankfully some clarity too however not nearly as much of it as I'd hoped for.

The report seems to only confirm all the speculation going on in the days after the downing of the Malaysian Airlines passenger carrier. The aeroplane didn't suffer any kind of failure, the pilots and crew didn't screw up or do anything wrong. Something external, something outside and slightly in front of the aeroplane, exploded and impacted with MH17, causing it to break apart in mid-air.

The cockpit, as I understand it, pretty much went straight down, the rest of the plane, the part with engines and momentum, disintegrated and came down in pieces spread out over a larger area. Chilling reports from villagers on the ground confirm this, their stories of body parts landing in their gardens and on their streets are as horrifying as the loss of human life on such a massive scale due to something so inhumane as a weapon of mass destruction. The Guardian, in writing about the report released today, may shed some light on events, may possibly explain, partly, why MH17 was downed.

"The report shows how easily a different airliner could have met the fate of the doomed plane instead, had the crew of MH17 been able to comply with a controller's request to fly higher in the minutes before it was shot down. 
Air traffic controllers were attempting to clear traffic as three other commercial flights, unidentified in the report, were in the vicinity – two other Boeing 777s and one Airbus A330. 
At 12.53pm, Ukrainian air traffic controllers at Dnipropetrovsk asked MH17 to climb 2,000 feet to flight level 350 over eastern Ukraine, in accordance with the original flight plan, to clear a "potential separation conflict" with another Boeing 777. 
The crew said they were unable to comply, possibly due to weather. Instead, at least one other plane climbed higher. 
Just after 1pm the crew, running into bad weather, requested to climb to 34,000 feet – although air traffic control said the plane should keep at the same altitude. At 1.20pm, MH17 exploded in mid-air. 
The other plane was not identified by investigators but it is known that a large Singapore Airlines jet, many of which are 777s, was nearby."
Reading this makes me question once again if MH17 was actually the target of this attack. I remember Twitter / social media speculation soon after the crash which said Vladimir Putin may have been in the air at the same time, may have been the actual target instead of MH17. Whether those speculations are based on fact, rumour or fantasy I don't know as I'm not Putin's right hand person nor party to knowledge gathered by Russian intelligence. What I do know is this: There were at least three other aeroplanes flying relatively close to MH17, close enough for (minor?) course changes to be necessary. Was one of these aeroplanes the actual target instead of 298 innocent people?

As long as we're speculating, is there even the remotest chance that it was a meteor or a satellite or anything that came from space or from higher up in the atmosphere (?) that hit MH17? Any chance that it really was just a freak accident, that 298 people weren't shot down in cold blood by fellow human beings? Is it possible that MH17 was shot at by other aeroplanes? The closest were some 30-ish kilometres away from what I understand. Could one of those have shot at or fired a missile at MH17, as unlikely as it sounds?

Are there any other possibilities left, is there any way to make the facts (and the speculations...) fit another conclusion, other than the growing likelihood that it was a surface to air missile shot from rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine? Probably with a BUK system that was brought in across the border from Russia shortly before the downing of MH17 and left again, one missile short, soon after? Is anything else still possible?

While the report itself sticks to facts only and refuses to speculate as to what happened, the media of course are keen to speculate based on this new information. I am too, in all honesty. Because I want answers too. Without assigning blame (I will leave that for the courts and for God) or pointing fingers prematurely, I do want to know what happened. I want to understand what went on, want to understand why MH17 was shot down. I need this senseless tragedy to make some sort of sense, I need to understand the why and the how, if only for my own peace of mind.


Rapport van eerste bevindingen wijst op externe oorzaak crash MH17 (Onderzoeksraad.nl)

Eerste bevindingen MH17 openbaar (NOS.nl)