Does Iraq execute gays?

So far, the only original source to report this is UK Gay News (Andrew Sullivan, my source, can’t find independent confirmation). God damn:

More than 100 prisoners in Iraq are facing execution – and many of them are believed to have been convicted of the ‘crime’ of being gay, the UK-based Iraqi-LGBT group revealed this afternoon.

According to Ali Hili of Iraqi-LGBT, the Iraqi authorities plan to start executing them in batches of 20 from this week. There is, said Mr. Hili, at least one member of Iraqi-LGBT who are among those to be put to death.

And the London-based group, which believes that a total of 128 executions are imminent, is calling on the UK Government, international human rights groups and the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva to intervene “with due speed” to prevent “this tragic miscarriage of justice” from going ahead.

“We have information and reports on members of our community whom been arrested and waiting for execution for the crimes of homosexuality,” Mr Hili told UK Gay News.

“Iraqi-LGBT has been a banned from running activities on Iraqi soil,” he revealed.

“Raids by the Iraqi police and Ministry of Interior forces cost our group [to the extent of] disappearing and killing of 17 members working for Iraqi-LGBT since 2005.

“The death penalty has been increasing at an alarming rate in Iraq since the new Iraqi regime reintroduced it in August 2004.

“In 2008, at least 285 people were sentenced to death, and at least 34 executed.  In 2007 at least 199 people were sentenced to death and 33 were executed, while in 2006 at least 65 people were put to death.

“The actual figures,” Mr. Hili suggested, “could be much higher as there are no official statistics for the number of prisoners facing execution.”

Nothing I can say can respect the gravity of the situation. If this is happening, it’s happening on the US’ watch. I’m terrified what this country might become if we ever leave. On on our watch, they’ve ratified a theocratic constitution  (Article II, A)and let their most promising province to languish in tribal brutality.

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Overhearing conversations in the Union…

I am currently overhearing a conversation on feminism and how feminists are all queer. Sweet. 

Also of concern in this conversation: what about the menzz??

In other news, what do ya’ll think of a WordWarrior twitter? Too much? Not enough? 

I think I’d blog more if only 140 characters at a time were expected of me, evidenced by the above. ^

“Worse than during the Taliban”

A bill was apparently signed into law by Afghani President Hamid Karzai that legalizes rape in marriage and forbids women to leave the house without permission. Thanks to reader Storm for the link from the Telegraph (entire contents of news story reproduced below):  

The law, which has not been publicly released, is believed to state women can only seek work, education or doctor’s appointments with their husband’s permission.

Only fathers and grandfathers are granted custody of children under the law, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

Opponents of the legislation governing the personal lives of Afghanistan’s Shia minority have said it is “worse than during the Taliban”.

Mr Karzaihas been accused of electioneering at the expense of women’s rights by signing the law to appealto crucial Shia swing voters in this year’s presidential poll.

While the Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights for women, it also allows the Shia community, thought to represent 10 per cent of the population, the right to settle family law cases according to Shia law.

The Shiite Personal Status Law contains provisions on marriage, divorce, inheritance, rights of movement and bankruptcy.

The bill passed both houses of the Afghan parliament, but was so contentious that the United Nations and women’s rights campaigners have so far been unable to see a copy of the approved bill.

Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, a female MP, said the law had been rushed through with little debate.

She told the Guardian newspaper: “They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation, “There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they didn’t want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the election.”

The Afghan justice ministry confirmed the law had been signed, but said it would not be published until technical difficulties had been overcome.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai would not comment.

Huffington Post, which I really don’t trust much further than other gossip sites or the Drudge Report, also speaks about “tactic” legalization of child marriage, elaborates:

Details of the law emerged after Mr Karzai was endorsed by Afghanistan’s Supreme Court to stay in power until elections scheduled in August. Some MPs claimed President Karzai was under pressure from Iran, which maintains a close relationship with Afghanistan’s Shias. The most controversial parts of the law deal explicitly with sexual relations. Article 132 requires women to obey their husband’s sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least “once every four nights” when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.

A report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Unifem, warned: “Article 132 legalises the rape of a wife by her husband”.

Most of Afghanistan’s Shias are ethnic Hazaras, descended from Genghis Khan’s Mongol army which swept through the entire region around 700 years ago. They are Afghanistan’s third largest ethnic group, and potential kingmakers, because their leaders will likely back a mainstream candidate.

Even the law’s sponsors admit Mr Karzai rushed it through to win their votes. Ustad Mohammad Akbari, a prominent Shia political leader, said: “It’s electioneering. Most of the Hazara people are unhappy with Mr Karzai.”

A British Embassy spokesman said diplomats had raised concerns “at a senior level”.

Now, the contents of the law are only rumored, and might not be as extreme as reported. One hopes not. But I wouldn’t be suprised. Horrified, but not suprised.

Equally disturbing as the alleged contents of the legislation, in a different way, is the fact that the text of a piece of federal legislation signed into law has not been made public. Afghani citizens can’t necessarily know what laws are on the books.

The US, NATO et.al. are only involved in Afghanistan to dismantle Taliban and al Qaeda; but one really has to wonder if all appropriate political pressures are being put on the government we’re propping up to afford basic civil rights to its citizens.

Probably not; but maybe. After living under a liberal democracy all their lives, most American citizens couldn’t argue with any degree of persuasion for the utility of guarantees to habeas corpus,  sunshine provisions and robust guarantees of free speech. Now, we’re expecting a populace conditioned into what amounts to a Medieval worldview to bypass the arduous, centuries long contemplations on autonomy and liberty that the West collectively hashed out during the Reformation and Early Modernity, and skip right to the Enlightenment.

Quick hit: event today!

At Marquette:

Mon. March 30, Living in the Hyphen-Nation. This highly acclaimed one-woman monologue portrays life as an Arab/Muslim American after 9/11. 7pm at MU’s Helfaer Theatre, 12th & Clybourn, Milw. Free performance. Actress Laila Farah is a Lebanese American professor of women’s studies at DePaul University.

More on Farah:

Dr. Laila Farah is a Lebanese-American feminist performer-scholar. She received her Doctorate in Performance Studies at Southern Illinois University. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Women’s Studies at DePaul University and working on future performance pieces in Chicago, as well as touring with her production of “Living in the Hyphen-Nation.”

This performance piece critically examines institutional racism, specifically acts pertaining to Muslims, Arabs and Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans, and chronicles two separate accounts of Farah’s journeys to and from the Middle East. The show is linked through poetry by Haas Mroue, Suheir Hammad, and Laila Hallaby.

Reflections on Ensler, 1st day

First of all, I would like to give a belated congratulations to the extraordinary women who made happen last week’s just-barely-off-campus production of The Vagina Monologues. All audience members I have spoken with where amply impressed by your performances, and you all did good work putting on an event that enabled us to raise several hundred dollars towards a fistula operation.

Yet, considering the play’s contents independent of any given person’s performance, I’ve been tumbling some ideas—many of them questioning and critical—about the monologues , but haven’t made the time to put them all to print. I really don’t want to take the time to organize all my thoughts into a cohesive essay, and anyway, most of you wouldn’t want to read it online anyway. So, I’ve decided I will present my ideas piecemeal, over the course of the week or longer, depending on how I have to respond to any given criticism. When taken altogether, the effect of all my critiques could be rather more harsh than I intended. I remain supportive of Empowerment’s efforts to bring the play to the MU community. Even if it is flawed as both a play and a vehicle for activism, I am supportive of what its author hopes to accomplish, vis. a reduction of sexual violence and more adequate treatment for it, and a franker discussion of sexuality. (Ensler’s struggles to make the two goals mesh will be the topic of later discussion.)

Moreover, the play is undeniably a staple of the college experience, like alcohol, undercooked food, cramped living and caffeine induced insomnia, and to stifle its performance is a refusal to acknowledge the state of current academic cultures.

Disclaimers: At all times, I realize I cannot speak for the experience of women, let alone women who have struggled for months on end to achieve a production of this play. I do not deny the possibility that my evaluation of the play might be informed by my own tempramental conservatism in tension with my theorizing in quasi-sex-positive directions.

I ask that readers not try to extrapolate a wider thesis on my opinions in this discussion, but address the arguments I make as they accumulate.

Please click through for the First Critique, on Ensler’s mystification of her subject matter.

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WAM, Session 3: Women in political media

This is just going to be random. 

So.

Lisa Stone and Rebecca Traister are on this panel talking about women in political media and the effect of the recent election on women journalists.

Lisa Stone: founder of blogher mentions: 300-400 political blogs out of 20,000 in the blogher network.–number rose to 2, 600 by the end of the election. good stuff.

Traister: number of male by-lines vs. female by-lines still drastically different. Salon.com, one of the most progressive mainstream media sites still has more by-lines by men.

–How we talk about and define feminism: especially important after the Sarah Palin brand of feminism has been introduced to the mainstream.

Q: Rhetorical question being put forth: Can you be a pro-life Republican and be a feminist? Heard from an audience member: No. HAH! agreed. Of course there’s a lot more at stake in this question, though…

Q to audience: how many of you were first time voters in this past election? 

Up go the hands. I love young women activists all converging in one space. 🙂

These women are BRILLIANT! Eeiiiiieee!

While the numbers are increasing (but hardly) of women in political media, we did an exercise on quantifying the influence of women in political media (Donna Brazile, Rachel Maddow, Dee Dee Myers, Arianna Huffington, Laura Ingraham, Peggy Noonan, etc.) as compared to men political pundits (Keith Olberman, John Stuart, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews). Overwhelmingly, it was agreed that the aggregate of men on the board , as compared to women, had much more general influence than the women.–this is all roughly quanti/quali-tative and personal opinion-y, but it’s interesting to think about.

…So much conversation, I really can’t keep up…

…But I think I’m in love . *swoons at the crazy smart dialogue happening all around her*

“We need to get over the concept that women have to agree on everything within feminism. We wouldn’t ask this of men!”–paraphrased Lisa Stone.

Word.

WAM, Session 2: How do we measure social media’s impact on cultural change?

On to the second session of WAM presentations…

We were running a little late to the start of these panels, went to our first choice, couldn’t really hear (they didn’t have a mic), left that one, went to a random one nearby, it was interesting, but wasn’t entirely applicable, and now here I am at “Catalyzing Cultural Change with Social Media: Fad or Feminist-Fix?” This one’s very discussion and audience participation orientated. The focus of this presentation is asking the questions of: how do you measure social change? What are the indicators of socio-cultural change? What makes cultural change feminist? all in regards to media works. The presenters are offering examples of social media pieces and applying these questions to the media.

The example I walked in on was this interesting website called Ushahidi and I thought I’d share information about it with people here:

Ushahidi, which means ”testimony” in Swahili, is a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Ushahidi’s roots are in the collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis.

The new Ushahidi Engine is being created to use the lessons learned from Kenya to create a platform that allows anyone around the world to set up their own way to gather reports by mobile phone, email and the web – and map them. It is being built so that it can grow with the changing environment of the web, and to work with other websites and online tools.

Our goal is to create a platform that any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information. The core platform will allow for plug-in and extensions so that it can be customized for different locales and needs. This tool will be tested and made available as an open source application that others can download, implement and use to bring awareness to crises in their own region. Organizations can also use the tool for internal monitoring purposes.

The question that lies at the basis of this example is: But is the mapping actually creating cultural change? Or “just” citizen participation? How would we measure this?

These are all very interesting questions. I wonder about how both the qualitative and quantitative means of measuring social change are impacted by technology and specifically social activism on the net.