While Obama Blows Off Women’s Freedom as He Celebrates His First 100 Days, the Saudis He Bows to Clamp Down on Women Even More (UPDATE 1X – Souter Leaving Supreme Court)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

What, with Sharia Law creeping into our Treasury Department, Pakistani women trying to fend off the encroaching Taliban, etc. etc., it’s so good to hear that The One is so clear on the status of women when it comes to  freedom.  Go on over to Not Your Sweetie’s great post for some choice comments about  Obama’s little lecture about morality and ethics ad how the Freedom of Choice Act isn’t a big priority for the Ego-in- Chief:

Freedom of Choice Act – not a priority, and not “freedom” either

While women here in the U.S. bask in our knowledge The One thinks our reproductive decisions should be run past “our clergy”,  let’s see how that works in places like Saudi Arabia.

Here’s the latest indignity to consider:

Saudis clamp down on women’s gyms

(SNIP_

Women’s gyms have become popular in the ultra-conservative Muslim country where the sexes are heavily segregated.

But only clubs linked to medical groups can get licenses and others will be closed, the Arab News newspaper said.

Saudi women were reported to have launched an online campaign in protest called Let Her Get Fat.

Government departments are not allowed to issue licenses for commercial gyms and sports clubs for women, unlike facilities for men, the newspaper reported.

No more hiding gyms behind the doors of beauty salons…

Amazingly, some very courageous woman fighting back:

A group of women launched an internet campaign in protest against the move, saying facilities linked to medical clinics were too expensive, and their health would suffer as a result of the closures.

Woman are so precious in Saudi Arabia that they really MUST go to gyms linked to medical clinics.  The reasoning behind this must be surveillance, right?

As the article concludes:

Women in Saudi Arabia are banned from driving, must wear a head-to-toe cloak when out in public and must obtain permission from a male relative to work, travel, study or marry.

And the Guardian reports that the clergy, of course, consider gyms for women “shameless.”

As a trade-off there’s been talk of letting women vote, but with the half-brother of King Abdullah looking strong as a possible successor, this sop doesn’t offer much solace.  After all, Prince Nayef, who acts as interior minister, said “the kingdom had no need of either women MPs or elections” just last month.

So now, many Saudi women won’t be able to the gym.

Meanwhile, the “President” who bows to the Saudi leader tells us that FOCA isn’t a priority.

I would like to use a string of profanity at this point, but it’s not good for my blood pressure.

By the way, thank goodness I can still go to the gym and work off the stresses of putting up with the insufferable Obama crowd…

UPDATE

With the news that David Souter is retiring from the Supeme Court, do you trust an Obama appointment?? This is the guy who wanted to vote to confirm John Roberts, but didn’t because of political expediency…

Obama could halt a lot of this “interpretation of the Constitution” stuff by pushing for FOCA and getting the court out of the “privacy” issue…but he continues to dance around. His “one hand giveth and the other taketh away” approach to women seems to leave women on the short end as we’re used for bargaining chips.  Well, he’s a misogynist, so why is that surprising?

While Pakistan Has Our Attention, Look What’s Brewing in Somalia…

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

A few mornings ago I was listening to the BBC World Service as usual and heard a very brief mention about an Islamist leader returning to Somalia and how this might affect the Somali government. The story on the web, however, didn’t hit until yesterday.

Yes, Somalia DOES have a government.  Back in 2006, Ethiopian troops went into Somalia and shattered the Union of  Islamic Courts, a prime force in Somalia’s instablility, which hadn’t had a central goverment since 1991.  However, one of its leaders came back to become the new Somalian president in January– Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. (BBC profile here.)

Between 2007-2008 Mr Ahmed was an exiled leader of a faction within the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).

(SNIP)

He says he wants to make peace with Ethiopia, recruit Islamist militia fighters into a national security force and rebuild the country’s social services.

But a new group of insurgents has formed out of what was left of the Islamic Courts.  Al-Shabab (The Lads) are text-messaging Islamic insurgents believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda and they are controlling large areas of the country and posing a threat to the capitol, Mogadishu.

In an earlier story from March 16, 2009 the BBC published this report:

The Somali transitional federal government implemented Sharia law in the country in March in an effort to drain support for the radical Islamist guerrillas.

But a senior police officer in Mogadishu – who also asked the BBC to withhold his name – said the government’s move would not stop the killing because al-Shabab had a “hidden agenda… to make the world unsafe”.

map of areas under al-shabaab control

The police officer said al-Shabab was led by foreigners, while some younger members of the organisation were Somalis who had spent time abroad.

They had often been dropouts or addicts and were the most vulnerable to be used as suicide bombers, he added.

So now, the other Islamic Courts leader has returned.  He’s on the U.S.’s most-wanted list of terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Islamist leader back in Somalia.

Mr [Sheikh Hassan Dahir] Aweys and Mr Ahmed both headed the UIC, which ruled most of the country for the second half of 2006.

They fled to the Eritrean capital Asmara, where they formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS).

The two men split after Mr Ahmed – considered the more moderate of the two – agreed to UN-led talks with the government that brought him to power in January 2009 and saw Ethiopia withdraw its troops.

Mr Aweys accused Mr Ahmed of siding with the enemy, and last July declared he had taken control of the ARS.

Mr Aweys is an influential leader of one of Mogadishu’s most powerful clans, so his arrival in the capital suggests that relations between the two men has improved and some kind of agreement is one the table, our correspondent says.

If that is the case, it could significantly improve security in the capital, and give the government a badly needed boost of authority, he adds.

Radical Islamist guerrillas such as al-Shabab, which control parts of Mogadishu and much of central and southern Somalia, have sworn to topple the fragile government.

And, guess what?  International donors are going to spend $250 million to build up a police force (10,000) and national security force (6,000).  This is supposed to help combat piracy and bolster the new government which, according to BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Woolridge, “enjoys little practical authority at present.”

On a parallel track, we’re now hearing how Pakistan’s deal to allow the Taliban to impose Islamic law in a part of the country has opened a Pandora’s box.  We’ve got Sharia Law in the UK, and U.S. Treasury Department meetings about Sharia investing.

What comes next?

After “Aunt Benazir’s” Assassination, Fatima Bhutto Still Fighting to Reveal the Truth

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

One year ago today on December 27, 2007 I woke up to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio and heard the news that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated. It didn’t suprise me at all, given the political situation in Pakistan at the time, her family’s political history, her own political past (holding the office of  Prime Minister twice) and her return to Pakistan from exile.

I wasn’t exactly sure I would write about Benazir Bhutto until I came across an March 2008 interview with Bhutto’s niece, poet and author, Fatima Bhutto.

Fatima Bhutto

Fatima Bhutto

During the interview which was taped for CNN  “Talk Asia” program (hosted by Anjali Rao), Fatima Bhutto discussed her aunt, as a politician and as a relative, as well as her own activism.  Along the way, she had some very interesting comments that ring very true for me today in our current political environment.

In Part 1, a brief history of the Bhutto family recounts how Ms. Bhutto’s grandfather, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party and first democratically-elected leader of the country, was executed by the military and how Ms. Bhutto’s father, Mir Mataza Bhutto  (Benazir’s younger brother and a member of Parliament), was gunned down in 1996 after he split from his sister and became critical of her government’s corruption (more later on this topic).

Here is Part I of the interview:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Bhuto 2“, posted with vodpod

Key observations from Ms. Bhutto about her aunt include how:

“…in power, she caused a lot suffering…unrecognizable.”

“People placed hope with her…(she) spoke to hope and change…in power, she was no different than what had been before” (cited large-scale corruption, human rights issues and her dealings with the Taliban).

The “lack of accountability as she returned…deal with a dictator erased 20 years of corruption and a provision…makes it impossible to file charges against future parliamentarians” (National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

During Part 1 Ms. Bhutto was asked if she had any political aspirations of her own (at the time of the interview some in Pakistan saw her as the person to take over her aunt’s party), but explained that wanted to remain an activist on the local level, without any association with any party. She said there were other ways to be active outside of politics and that shes was not interested in “power politics.”

Asked about fears for her own safety because of her being so outspoken, she said all Pakistanis lived in fear and added:

“Once you begin to self-censor, you’ve done the state’s job…and they can rest quite easily.”

In Part 2 of the interview Ms. Bhutto describes how her father and six others were gunned down in 1996 by the police outside the family home (Fatima was 14 and in the house at the time and heard the shots), just a few of the thousands killed in what was called “state terrorism” in some quarters.  Her father was from the PPP’s left-wing and he broke with his sister who was Prime Minister at the time and accused her government as being corrupt.  Benazir Bhutto was accused of trying to cover-up the role of her husband in the murders.  Among the findings of an investigation by a tribunal was the conclusion that the murders could never have taken place without the “approval from the highest levels of government.”

(See” “Living on the Edge,” The Times (UK), 05/08/2008  (“Six months after her aunt Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Fatima Bhutto is fighting to reveal the truth surrounding the murder of her father in 1996 — and making some very dangerous enemies.”)

According to Ms. Bhutto, this was a turning point in her life as she became the issues of  justice and violence became central to her life, as did the need for accountability so that political violence in Pakistan could come to an end.

When asked if there would be real change if the PPP took power again, Ms. Bhutto had these words:

“In Pakistan, it seems, that power doesn’t really change hands, it’s the faces that change.  But ultimately, their goal is the same.”

Part 2:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Fatima Bhutto CNN Talk Asia Part2“, posted with vodpod

Who was she talking about in March 2008?  The United States’ “democracy” as it really is today?

If you have time, do watch Parts 1 and 2 of this interview with this brilliant, courageous young woman. You’ll admire her…I know I do!

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(Part 3 of the interview deals with Bhutto’s book about the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.)

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For more on Fatima Bhutto and her books and newspaper columns, see her website.

“Aunt Benazir’s false promises,” by Fatima Bhutto,  Los Angeles Times, 11/14/2007