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

Rape

"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.