Heal The Women Salone

On Saturday 26th August, I supported the director of Heal the Women Salone based in Makeni, to deliver a workshop to her women’s group on Black Feminism and international resistance against patriarchy. This support group was founded by Fatima Turay to allow women in Makeni to unite and openly discuss issues affecting their everyday lives in a society dominated by men. Women in Sierra Leone undergo crisis based around the economic downfall of their resources being exploited, whilst recovering from the scars of the civil war. The women offer each other possible solutions to the problems they face during volatile situations related to domestic stress, as well as the Sierra Leonean police offering a Family Support Unit (FSU) service for women to be able to report severe domestic abuse.

20 inspiring women attended the workshop, aged 17-60. It was positive to witness young women comfortably discussing issues affecting them in the presence of elder women, without any fear of judgement being made. The recognition of the struggle commonly affecting women was inspiring considering the women felt disheartened and let down by their government and the men who had deserted them during difficult circumstances. When reading any of the shared stories below, one must not base a judgement on African communities but understand the result of poverty and lack of economic power whilst understanding resistance against patriarchy works hand in hand with Sierra Leonean women who are directly affected by Capitalist exploitation, being able to resist neo-colonialism.

Many women who were traders felt when they were pregnant their husbands avoided them as though they had a disease. They complained the men in their community wanted to marry rich women to pay their bills and were not interested in women who are poor with daughters. The women concluded this pressure on their value being based on economic status pressured the women in the community living in poverty to turn to prostitution as a way of making ends meet to be economically self-sufficient, especially if the woman already had children.

The women expressed micro-credit, a microfinance investment facility set up in 2004 to support women financially after the war, as biased and unreliable as the women are landed in debt with an interest rate of 500%. Sierra Leonean women are thrown into prison if they do not pay off their debt without any of their personal circumstances being taken into consideration. The women also exclaimed the claim of education being free for Sierra Leonean women as false.

The women of Sierra Leonean families who struggle financially are forced into sex work. If the woman falls pregnant, she adds a burden onto the family already in financial difficulty unable to feed an extra mouth where she is left to bring the child up alone. A student asked for support for young women who want to pursue an education but are forced into prostitution as poverty fails them from having an independent right to an education. Unfortunately, since the rise in tuition fees in England, many female students have resorted to prostitution to pay towards their fees also.

A Sierra Leonean woman spoke of the attitude of men towards Sierra Leonean women due to prostitution being rife within society. The women complained assumptions were made of their lifestyle if they took pride in their appearance, admired Western dress and enjoyed partying. She retold a man in Flamenco bar grabbed her by her hair and asked her how much she costs. The women were concerned that White British African mineral ex-pat workers were responsible for injecting Sierra Leonean sex workers with life-threatening doses of class A drugs, after promising the women a large sum of dollars.

The 50/50 government representation for women was dissected where the women felt only career women involved in politics had the pleasure of enjoying the 50/50 government strategy. The women felt wealthier privileged women in positions in society never came to support or interact with the working class women affected by poverty. The women struggled to raise their voices as some of the men hold restrictions on their voice and level of action but the women were adamant to get the voices of victims heard and not just the voices of wealthy Sierra Leonean women. The women intend on making a documentary to lobby their government to take societal issues affecting them seriously.

Shareefa Panchbhaya

Community Issues Affecting Women Shall Not be Silenced

Female community and political activists are often silenced when raising community issues which affect women, with their concerns not being treated equally or brought to the priority list in the resistance battle. The energy women put into enforcing tangible change into communities is often undermined from the grassroots and on a broader spectrum by men who are considered to be activists, progressive or revolutionary, with women unfortunately feeling failed by their supposed male allies in the struggle. Women  were the ones responsible for the uprising and mobilising of thousands onto the streets of Tahrir Square to revolt against an oppressive system which became hijacked by patriarchy attempting to demoralise and discourage Egypt’s women from taking to the streets by the military, police and local men sexually assaulting female activists and carrying out ‘virgin tests’. This backfired when women grew more determined and protested against sexual harassment.

If men resisting capitalism, racism, xenophobia, zionism, empire, white supremacy and every other inequality are unprepared to listen to the points women raise on sexism in a world where we co-exist, it evidently hasn’t been fully digested as to how damaging and regressive this issue actually is. Not only has history evidenced the importance of the role of women in any revolution that has sped for change, but if brothers women are meant to work alongside defensively hold up barriers, refusing to understand or empathise with the struggle women face on a daily basis, then we have a major problem. Women shouldn’t have to be placed with the burden of resisting sexism by brothers in the struggle, alongside standing against various injustices when women should feel inclusive rather than marginalised. Men should equally be prepared to challenge this and neither should women be suppressed or silenced. Racism is not the figment of a humans imagination, neither is sexism.

After witnessing the insensitive way women are approached when addressing the struggles effect on women, the attitude of some men reinforces patriarchy in an ignorant, normalised judgemental manner, whilst subconsciously dividing and ruling women by teaching misogyny to both genders. This often results in women learning to detach themselves from fellow women instead of encouraging women to unite by struggle, where some females are considered superior and other women are stereotyped unworthy, whilst the male is oblivious to the challenges, injustices and oppression each individual female has faced during her lifetime. Does stereotyping women support any form of community change? How would anyone be able to encourage a heroin addict to kick their drug habit by shouting ‘junkie’ then telling him or her they are respected? The two are incompatible and contradict any illusion of empathy.

A project worker working alongside sex workers would never get away with approaching their client with “Why are you stuck in this lifestyle, you whore? You’re better than that.”This approach I have witnessed on several occasions by men and I’m disgusted fellow women, regardless of lifestyle are being spoken to in a dehumanised derogatory manner. This is similar to White Europeans telling African people they use to be slaves and are doing them a favour or Black communities being scapegoated for crimes but told they are better than the crime they are ‘responsible’ for, without issues around poverty and the disadvantages and inequalities faced by victims of a racist society at the bottom of the social hierarchy being highlighted. The intention is to be educational rather than counterproductive as everyone is a product of this capitalist patriarchal system. The duty of a woman is to support fellow women whilst educating brothers who normalise alienating women and to work alongside young men to challenge their views on women before sexism is at risk of becoming indoctrinated.

Before criticising women or portraying oneself to be concerned, can one ask them self whether they would be prepared to work with young sexually active women to understand the breakdown in society which influences them? Would critics be prepared to volunteer their time to work with sex workers to understand their struggle before speaking down their penises at them? Do men give sisters any justice before objectifying them and assuming reasons behind her attachment to him? It’s an unfortunate situation when women do not feel they will receive support from the men they are around to inform them if they have undergone child abuse, rape or sexual violence assuming the brother will blame the incident on her or find the situation too alien or uncomfortable to comprehend, unless he himself has faced a similar injustice. Protecting and defending women who are the first victims of any deteriorated society should be a priority rather than a normalised prejudice. It is unfair when men empathise with the struggle of female sex workers in Asia but are humoured by the struggle of women in England below the poverty line, attempting to put food on the table for her family. Men who are unwilling to listen to the points women raise, have no right to address women or speak on behalf of a 50% population one is not ready to see eye-to-eye with. This self-righteous attitude of enforcing change is reinforcing a system rather than challenging the deep rooted causes of prevalent issues within our society.

Women complaining about street harassment should be taken very seriously. It is not men who get objectified on route to the corner shop or face sexist comments on a daily basis from strangers who scan their assets and jeer whether displayed or attempted to camouflage. Why are there so few men standing against the sexual objectification of women? Why are so many men reluctant to face their internal sexism and prejudice, unwilling to learn about their male privilege and the oppressive nature of patriarchy this system we’re trying to resist needs to survive? It is refreshing to hear the men in Ramallah have mobilised to patrol the streets of their community to monitor sexual harassment but unfortunately, many communities blame the victim. As ineffective as racist jokes being made behind closed doors is, it is not okay to stigmatise and stereotype women, putting them into boxes whilst claiming to be for the people and against an unjust system. Any form of reinforcing gender division, supporting patriarchy or not uttering a genuine word against sexism has every right to be challenged. It cannot be expected for an ethnic minority to receive racist comments lightly. Neither can it be expected for half of the world’s population to remain silent whilst patriarchy has only ever proved to be oppressive.

If a person witnesses the Israeli occupation and the anger from the oppressed, the person has no right to silence or comment on the Palestinians being too angry or negative about the oppression they have faced continuously for over 64 years or stereotype them as anti-Semitic. Why is it when women speak of the oppression they have faced for thousands of years, of 48 women being raped every hour in Congo, it is considered to be negative, too furious or stereotyped as being anti-men whilst hands are held over ears? If empathy is non-existent, the oppressor has no right to tell women how they should evaluate their oppression. Surely humans interacting with each other on a daily basis should treat each other justly and humanely. Men have no right to speak about the human rights of women living on land overseas whilst having no respect or empathy for the struggle women face who live on the same land as them. Any supremacist needs to challenge their own internal superiority complex and ego which allows them to hold such controversial values, similar to that of a racist who defensively refuses to make sense of their nonsense opinions.

It is important for us to work as a collective rather than as individual saviours of an unjust world, which liberalism seeks to encourage. Women are equally capable of leadership and should not be dismissed when critiquing hiccups to the resistance movement, which prove offensive. Men cannot afford to deny their male privilege or assume women are merely playing victims in society and continue to patronise women who are knowledgeable around the flaws of patriarchy and the discrepancies around male privilege.  

When working with young people from ethnic minority communities and addressing issues around territorial gangs, substance misuse etc. a clear framework is looked into to understand the struggle of those affected by colonialism and the system they live under which has let them down. When addressing women, the internal reasons should be scrutinised rather than being dismissive or assuming one is permitted to throw flippant sexist comments and dismiss criticism. One would hope anyone who witnesses racist comments flying around would challenge fascist opinions, so why isn’t sexism equally challenged or attempts made to understand why sexism is so ridiculously offensive to those born in a female body. Men who understand the reasoning of white-supremacy creating self-hating ethnic minorities for being told they are inferior which results in the usage of skin bleaching creams, should equally recognise the effect on women who detach themselves from their bodies whilst conforming to be a slave to the sexual desires of men, normalising mistreatment with low expectations due to never experiencing any better. There should be more sensitivity before Black women are attacked whom internalise oppression and wear weave and blonde wigs, when this criticism of women is a direct result of white supremacy.

I refuse to allow my sisters to be afraid of standing up for themselves whilst some men huddle and jeer at the expense of women in a manner of hooliganism. I refuse to allow my sisters to loathe each other and assume we’re in competition when a man attempts to dominate and create division by treating women unequally. I refuse to allow my sisters to refer to each other as ‘sluts’ and ‘hoes’ for a man has placed these words into their vocabulary and normalised misogyny so intensely, they do not realise they have been indoctrinated. I refuse to permit my brothers to continue dehumanising women like we’ve landed from another planet for having different genitals. I stand against normalising any male ‘role model’ teaching our young men and women that it’s okay to disrespect women and from teaching only women who dress ‘modestly’ preserving their image is deserving of respect. This is also contradictory considering women who wear hijab and fully cover in Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia are not invincible of being victims of sexual harassment and rape. Men who support the slavery of women through sex trafficking, men who sexually abuse women (and men), men who happen to dominate the majority of domestic violence cases considering patriarchy dictates in a capitalist system where working class men are made to feel inferior and powerless when placed at the bottom of the social hierarchy, should always be challenged without women having to feel isolated or encouraged to maintain issues as taboo by brushing them under the carpet out of fear of ruining the reputation of an individual male or generalising men.

Men only have to feel intimidated by women who understand the patriarchal structure and resist patriarchy if they are in denial of their male privilege. Women addressing taboo subjects are not attempting to divide both genders but highlighting areas which shouldn’t be tolerated but tackled. The oppressor is always on edge, the paranoia of the illegal state of Israel’s ‘security’ will demonstrate that. It is heart-warming when working alongside heterosexual men, who are equally as passionate about the treatment of women and their rights.  Liberia’s women shouldn’t have had to stand alone when marching against rape and genocide, but should have been accompanied by men within the community. We cannot deny or discredit the efforts of resistance from the likes of Hermila Galindo, Vilma Espin, Harriet Tubman, Arundhati Roy, Assata Shakur, Sylvia Pankhurst, Winnie Mandela and Sampat Pal Devi. Brothers are you ready to unlearn and recognise your male privilege, recognise the oppressor within you whilst attempting to understand the struggle women face alongside every other injustice we are resisting? Are you ready to support our struggle we’ve been resisting the majority of the journey alone, for over a millennium?

 ‘No march, movement or agenda that defines manhood in the narrowest of terms and seeks to make women lesser partners in this quest for equality can be considered a positive step.’ Angela Davies

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INDIA(Bundelkhand): Gulabis “Gang For Justice” founder, Sampat Pal Devi, commander-in-chief against domestic violence. The gang pays visits to abusive husbands, demanding an end to the violence

Shareefa Panchbhaya

Poetry by Palestinian Students from An-Najah University

During June 2011, I was working with Palestinian undergraduate students in Nablus in the West Bank, running public speaking workshops as part of the international youth exchange program called Zajel. I ran a few poetry workshops for students to feel comfortable with finding an artistic method of expressing themselves to present to their peers and community, considering many of the students shared their admiration for various Arab poets and Shakespeare. The majority of the students said they had never been given an opportunity to express themselves by creating their own poetry and said they would continue to write to discover their own talent and enjoy the therapeutic healing process of dealing with the daily injustices of living under Israeli occupation and to be able to own their own narrative. We always see artwork, rap or poetry written and performed by the international community in regards to their feelings against oppression. I feel it is more important to give a platform and raise the voices of those oppressed by the Zionist entity, whom gather the courage to share their personal stories, their supressed emotion for being the victims of dehumanisation whilst living a life being given no rights but forced to sit and wait at checkpoints impatiently waiting for Israeli soldiers to no longer be amused by themselves, to no longer be used as human shields and add to a history of losing loved ones to Israeli bullets.

Many of the students aged 18 to 24, showed symptoms of psychological trauma, which can only be blamed on the reality of living a life where freedom and the outside world is unimaginable whilst living under occupation. I recall a young woman attending one of my classes to share how she had walked to school with her best friend, aged 17, how Israeli soldiers had shot and killed her and the fact she had a bullet in her leg.

Below are a few pieces of work I collected and would like to share with the international community and people from colonized lands, in order to gain empathy for Palestinians living their lives in an open prison under the harsh claws of 64 years of oppression inflicted by Israel, with the psychological scars only seizing to continue to expand from burnt bark to tangled branches.

We Will Not Go Down
“We are Palestinian, 
We are the free people, 
We are not terrorist people,
But if somebody hurts us and kills our children and women and old people, 
How do you want us to be quiet?
We will not go down.
And some day we will restore our stolen right and we will go back to Jerusalem to her happiness”
Ameed Souf

                                                                                          

   “I love the sea, though i never see
    It’s mysterious, warm and shy as I want to be.
    I hope one day to go, embrace and cry,
    I really need to play, run and laugh as the water reaches my knee,
    Stand on sand as the sun goes down
     Feeling or not thinking, dreaming, just me and the sea.”
      Haneen Mallah

“Al Israel, don’t feel jealous,
The clock if stopped, it will run again.
Feathers fall from hawks wings
Raping the country, don’t fear us
And long third, don’t kill us, because the water stays inside the stones.
Yes we are Palestinians, if we screamed then fate will listen.”

 

“When I look at you 
My heart beats
You you you
Don’t cry our capital
We will liberate you
When I look at you
My eyes cry
Jerusalem I miss thy
We will visit you
We will liberate you.”
Alaa Hajji

“Every day we tell each other that this day will be the last
And tomorrow we can all go home free
And all this will finally end
Palestine tomorrow will be free
I will caress with my bare hands
Every precious grain of sand
Every stone and every tree
Cause no matter what they do
They can never hurt you
Cause your soul will always live.”

Hamza retells a story of a visit from an Israeli soldier which frightened him as a child.

“When I was sat alone one day under a tree
In my house suddenly a man was coming
He said to me up up,
And you down down
If you want I will replace the safety with air and water
I said no no, I said no no”
Hamza Al- Johari

 

“Never give up
You shall try
Whatever the condition was
Never give up
You shall try
Whenever you loose
Look at the sky and never give up
You shall try
How bad you seem like
God exists and never give up
You shall believe
You need to try
Wherever you’re lost and alone
There is a friend who hopes that you will never give up
You need to try
Because without you he will die.”
Mohammad Sawalha 

“In the oceans waves I saw you
In the sound of music I saw you
That’s because you surround me
You grab me
Please cure me
Make me alive again
So release me
But the problem is
You were living a long time in my hurt
Until you became my heart
So leaving you is hard
And forgetting you is harder
So you will stay in my heart forever
Wherever, whenever
My home land Palestine.”
 
Home
“Home is in my mother’s sweet kisses
Home is in my grandmother’s lovely prayers for me when I leave the house
Home is in my father’s proud eyes   
Home is in my sister’s right advice
Home is even in my brother’s teasing
Home is in between the two mountains Eibal and Jarzim
Home is in Nablus
Home is in the valley
Home is where my family is.”
Yasmeen Amer

“Don’t cry
Don’t shed tears, make it dry
Because the sadness has no care
Unless we’re going far
Love is a poisonous arrow
And death better than love.”
Islam Z Shadid
 
“I hope I can go back to the past and back as a child
An innocent young child playing with her toys
Not knowing about life except crying, playing, having fun
A girl living in her parents arms
A child called ‘princess’
She’s a princess by her personality, her existence and by her smile
Oh for these days, which doesn’t make any princess like her in his days.”
Amira Touqan

“Another day passed away
Waiting, my smiles to come back
Waiting, my dreams to wake up again
Waiting, my tears to stop
All I have are some memories with an endless hope.”
Reem Salameh

“The universe is dark
For me you are the sun
The dark has gone
The world is bad
You are the moon
You light the world every afternoon
I cant hear
Except my heart speaks
You’re the best friend of mine
My life with you
Is a fairy tale
It can’t be described
You are the water
You are my breath
You are my life
I’ll give you my blood if I can
I cant cry when you’re far
Because you’re in my heart
So there’s no need to cry.”
Mohammad Sawalha

“Don’t make me sad
Wipe my tears and enter the happiness in my heart
Don’t make me sad
And let me see the bright light of the sun
The weavy colours of the sky
Because I miss the colours of the world
To take the pain away and release me from these heavy lands
Take me by the hand
To a better life, to a better people
To a world without envy or anger
So I can feel free again and happy again
So don’t make me sad
It’s not my fault
You’re sad and I can’t help
To be hopeless is hard
I told you from the start, but you didn’t listen
I told you I can’t, but you refused!
It’s hard to me…”
Enas Lubbadeh

“I don’t know if there is someone like me or not
I have many ambitious things in my life and to understand them you cant
Every day I sit and ask myself why this happens to me and the strongest is what?
To find an answer you can’t!
 Some days I wake up in a good mood but other days I wake up in a miserable state
To know the reasons I don’t
In my opinion, maybe dreams have an effect
Maybe everything
Maybe nothing
Exactly I don’t know
Finally I hope to find the jewel
And to visit you in every June.”

I use to wake up every morning seeing my mother’s face
What a beautiful face
Feeling safe, forget all my sadness
Mom I went away.. Far away
Remember how many times we use to fight together
To stay with you but I was so crazy leaving you
I found that you are my ghost
I think I’ve lost the love I love the most
I miss my mums coffee and bread.”
Majd Khalil 

“Keep out from the flowers cause it hurts
Don’t think that when the flower becomes happy
Watch it from far away how he can enjoy being picked
And wish the good for it and look for who appreciates himself.”
Belal Al-Johari

 

“I’m the Palestinian, my pain shouted in my mind, the sun rises from my head 
My bread doesn’t fill my hunger
I’m the son of the fire mountain
I’m the son of Hetein
I’m the Palestinian
My revolution filled my cells since I was a child
So who are you Arab to delete me?!
Be silent Arabs, cause your silence now is drinking me
My win is here and my lost before my win will not avoid me from writing
Cause my pen is Palestinian and my pain also Palestinian.
I’m the Palestinian.”
Deya’ Mosleh 

A Child (Short story by Amira Sarawan)

Nothing was found, just the sky above my head. Everything was broken, everything was changed. My toys, where are they? I searched everywhere with a horrible feeling to have lost them. I search and search. I felt I was searching for hours and hours.

“Hey! Where are you my toy? Here is your head, but, what! Where is your body, where is your hands, where is the rest of you? Oh no, my toy, you were with me since I was four years old. Why?! Why did you do that? It didn’t do anything! It’s just a toy. Why did you do that Israel, we lived in peace for hundreds of years, you stole our land, you stole our house, you stole our happiness. We didn’t do anything, it’s just our life. Why don’t you leave and let us live in peace?”

Mmm I found that I was talking and talking and nobody hears me. It’s just me sitting on the crash of our house. Nobody hears me. Nobody can find me. I’m just alone. Why should a small child torture like that? What have we done to you? We just play with our toys or is it wrong to do that?

I search again but now for my family. “Mom, Dad, where are you? Don’t leave me alone. Mom wake up, dad I love you wake up.” There was blood everywhere, no breathing. It’s just me alone in this world, bad world with no feelings. Nobody cares. Where are you?

Zajel

Challenging the Dalai Lama on his Views on the Israeli Occupation

On Tuesday 19th June 2012, the 14th Dalai Lama visited the University of Westminster to deliver a lecture on Tibetan Values and Democracy. Having been a naïve supporter of the Dalai Lama in the past, easily impressed by his quotes on compassion and not really having analysed his viewpoints on freedom and democracy, today’s lecture was an eye-opener to the reality of the Dalai Lama’s perspective.

A comment I had come across previously in the Morning Star by the Dalai Lama was “Among Tibetan refugees we are always saying to ourselves that we must learn the Jewish secret to keep up our traditions, in some cases under hostile circumstances,” followed by ‘Tibetans and Israeli’s want to live in peace.’ I wanted confirmation whether this suggested the Dalai Lama to be an Israeli sympathiser. Israel is a blatant poison to humanity whilst it is allowed to exercise its fascist Zionist ideology and breach Palestinians human rights. Given the opportunity by my lecturer Dr Dibyesh Anand, I questioned the Dalai Lama on his views on the Palestinian struggle; grateful for not being silenced in a room filled with a few hundred people including diplomats and media, on an issue mainstream media intentionally fails to cover.

His Holiness, around the time Tibetans lost their rights when they were occupied by China, another nation faced a similar tragedy, the Palestinians. The Israeli occupation of Palestine continues with full support from the United States and the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Millions of indigenous Palestinians have been made refugees on their own land and have lost the right to return to their homeland. We sometimes read your statements sympathetic to Israel but not on the suffering of the Palestinians. Could you please enlighten us with your view on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under illegal Israeli occupation?”

The Dalai Lama responded along the lines of “I’ve been to Israel a few times. On hearing the Jewish viewpoint, it still looks sort of sub-reasons from  thousands of years old they have certain rights in their place. They themselves in ancient times they became refugees thousands of years ago in different countries. Then on the same occasion, I met some groups of Palestinians and I heard their sort of complaint and they also want rights that the place belongs to them, so it is difficult to judge. The best way is, no matter who they are they should live together and help each other. I’m very much impressed that in Jerusalem where the Jewish community there, their land is much greener and they use every technique, water, trees and grass is much greener. Whereas on the Palestinian side it still remains dry like the desert. It is better to live together and use the Jewish communities skills and in the mean time live together. On my second visit to Tel Aviv, I met a small group of Palestinians and Jewish together, a small group trying to make a bridge and harmony so that is the only way. I think among Israeli’s a number of them are against the government hard line and policy. I know nobel prize Shimon Peres, I think he is very much committed about genuine peace. Sometimes the government is difficult but then the people there show more interaction. In India also, my friends who have some close connections with some Pakistani’s , that is very important. I think after all if both sides stand firm, sooner or later there will be some clash and that will not solve the problem. More clash, sooner or later a clash will not sort the problem but will further any reconciliation. Palestine is an older issue than the Tibetan issue but violence is still involved. It is very sad.”

Dalai Lama showed some encouragement towards a one state solution but the latter comments were very disappointing and disheartening coming from a man who is respected for being ‘compassionate.’ The Dalai Lama holds a neutral view with no real political stance and dismissed the question around the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians but commented on violence, from whom? To be a friend of Israel and not criticize Zionism and what it stands for, to legitimize an illegal occupier and to encourage Palestinians with Israeli identity to normalise and not resist against the crimes against humanity by ignoring the fact Palestinians on the other side of the apartheid wall have no human rights, no freedom of movement, their land being colonised and being dehumanised daily whilst facing Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, to not oppose Israel and demonstrate oneself to be a leader of compassion whilst championing the injustices against Tibetans, is as hypocritical as the Western states the Dalai Lama seeks to sugar coat and gain support from whilst exposing the state crimes of China alone. To defend Shimon Peres who is a warmonger and persecutor of an entire nation and responsible for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, responsible for children killed by white phosphorous dropping on their homes in Gaza, responsible for thousands of Palestinians being held in Israeli prison inhumanely in administrative detention without trial, is abominable.

Anyone who is genuinely compassionate can recognise injustice without being obliged to smile and play the violin to it but to have the courage to stand against it, regardless of the lack of support one may receive. Which compassionate individual would join hands with an oppressor spilling the blood of a nation in order to free their people whose blood is also being spilt by a different oppressor? Is the Dalai Lama placing more value on the rights of Tibetans over other oppressed occupied nations? Dalai Lama plays into the hands of Western powers, supportive of states and leaders who are warmongers in different countries which champion imperialism and colonialism. He encouraged 1.3 million Chinese people to know the reality of their state and regarded censorship as being immoral. He praised the Indian government which was contradictory considering they are responsible for the occupation in Kashmir. He admired India for their ‘religious tolerance’, failing to recall the massacre of thousands in Gujarat less than ten years ago. Compassion should allow every occupied nation to unite and confront their oppressors, recognising which nations are the oppressors and which nation is the oppressed which Dalai Lama failed to do so. To stand side by side with the oppressor who slaughters nations but to only comment negatively on the oppressor of your people, does not define compassion but obligation and responsibility. It was already difficult to stomach Barack Obama issuing the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres, but the Dalai Lama praising him metres away from me was even more painful.  Anyone who is legitimately chauffeured around the world to champion the rights of their occupied nation, the agenda and interests of those who support these individuals needs to be scrutinised.

I do not believe the Dalai Lama represents the will or determination of Tibetans who are notorious for carrying out self-immolation in desperation for their rights. Any oppressed nation or representative would be inspired by the non-violent resistance for rights to self-determination and dignity carried out by the Palestinians against the illegal occupation. Dalai Lama himself said the Tibetans want him as a leader but whether they want to listen to him is a different story.

Article by Shareefa Panchbhaya

Zionists at the London Boycott Habima Israeli Theatre Company Demo

On Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th May 2012, protests were being held in the evening outside the Shakespeare Globe Theatre organised by London BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, opposing the Israeli National Theatre Group Habima performing in London and against the Globe for associating with a theatre group which endorses racist values. The community in London were offended that companies supporting racist ideologies and discrimination against Palestinians were allowed to put a show on within our cosmopolitan city.

Habima Theatre Group receives 30% of its funding from the Israeli government and performs in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law. Habima performs to Jewish settler only audiences where not one Palestinian is allowed to attend, which clearly demonstrates the companies support for apartheid and racism. The Israeli government condemned any Theatre Group which refused to perform in illegal Israeli settlements, threatening to stop their funding. Instead of doing the right thing by opposing racism and injustice and rejecting the funding offer, Habima placed value on apartheid by supporting this ideology, whereas many Israeli theatre professionals have refused to perform in the settlements in the past.

I attended the demonstration being held yesterday and received harassment from a Zionist woman whilst holding a placard demonstrating ‘Peace and Justice for Palestine’ with a sticker over my mouth stating ‘Silenced by Globe.’ She jeered and attempted intimidation whilst waving an Israeli flag in my face and speaking of “You Arabs have all the land, we have nothing, you want us all to be thrown into the sea” alongside other common irrational statements and false facts speaking of rights from 2,000 years ago, whilst receiving support for her behaviour by fellow middle aged supporters of Israel who clearly never got over the school playground but leaned out the window, childishly raising their middle fingers and congratulating her clapping for ‘telling’ me, whilst she continued to follow me then ran over to a policeman to accuse me of verbally attacking her. Of course I did, with a sticker over my mouth.

A supporter of Israeli apartheid from ‘Culture Unites, Boycott Divides’, his argument and opposition was discussing internal Palestinian community issues such as domestic violence which is prevalent in every single community on this planet. To ask whether Israel is responsible is an understatement. As long as a nation has its basic rights removed from them on a socio, economic and political basis, internal community issues will only expand. One only has to walk into a community organisation in a working class area in London to witness issues which exist due to the structure of society and frustration amongst those oppressed by the capitalist system. With all the cuts in the public sector in England, every community issue will only become magnified as citizens are made to struggle based on the decisions of their government. There are many community organisations scattered all over Palestine where Palestinians work alongside the women and children in their community to support and iron out the taboo issues, faced by those who are psychologically affected by the hardships endured whilst living under the Israeli occupation. To argue against a military occupation not being responsible for issues within a community is naïve, especially being highlighted by a supporter of Israel who spoke of opposing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the latter was emphasised and justified by Britain for intervening to liberate Afghanistan’s women. Some points in one’s opinion do not add up.

When the performance had finished and protesters chanted, ‘Shakespeare Globe, shame on you! Hosting racist theatre groups,’ a man stood there with his young children jeering and smirking with pure malice shrugging his shoulders and cheering at any mention of injustice and land confiscation. I fail to understand how a parent can brainwash their children into consuming racist ideologies. I was brought up on the basis of respecting my fellow human beings where humanity was enforced, but to witness a whole family in London mock justice for Palestinians is a sad situation. I witnessed this attitude in 2011 by settlers in the West Bank who are products of colonization and paid to live on land by buying this racist ideology, but witnessing Zionists living amongst us in London, encouraging hatred, division, abuse and lack of basic human rights for a nation of people to their children, is always difficult to watch.

Britain is historically responsible for the ethnic cleansing and state Palestine is in today since the Balfour Declaration in 1917. It is our duty as British people and believers in humanity to oppose and condemn any racist ideologies from immersing within our society and to inform and demonstrate outside venues which support companies which are offensive, racist and responsible for dehumanising and rejecting treating Palestinians as equals and giving Palestinians their lawful rights.

Shareefa

Action after International Women’s Day

I supported the Restless Beings organisation today to stand in solidarity with women across the world facing injustices in conflict regions and with every woman fighting for equality. Women for Women had invited Bianca Jagger, Cherie Blair, Andrew Mitchell and a few other speakers to speak after the march. Myself and a few friends had an informal meeting after this which inspired me to call for action where international women’s day shouldn’t be the only day where women feel they have a voice or have any importance but women should meet more regularly to discuss and raise their voice with anything they feel concerned and passionately about.

A real issue witnessed with the comments made from Cherie Blair, was her constant analysis and sympathy for women living in regions such as Afghanistan, almost making out women only struggle or suffer from economic disadvantages in the ‘uncivilised’ parts of the world where our ever so caring British government love to occupy. Listening to Mrs Blair speak about her organisation in the Middle East for women was like listening to the Pope address child abuse.

Andrew Mitchell discussed international development and his supposed empathy towards the plight for women in regions such as Uganda and Rwanda, which was slightly entertaining seeing as a heap of government propaganda has recently been placed in regards to Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, where Western government is portrayed the saviour and heroic figure to ‘save’ Africa when re-colonizing Africa is on the agenda, but let’s just erase the memory of America carrying out war crimes and murdering a mass population of innocent civilians consisting of women and children. Mitchell completely ignored anything related to the issues women face in this country where domestic violence is on the forefront and neither did he say anything in relation to the system enforcing patriarchy, which is diabolical in 21st Century Britain.

Conversations I have had with several women where some are part of the revolutionary movement and feel strongly about injustices occurring in different parts of the world, felt they were not receiving the support needed to highlight their struggle as many politically conscious men against a system support patriarchy, regurgitate  misogynist ideologies or objectify women. Women have felt isolated from the ‘movement’, unable to push anything forward on the agenda that was important to them whilst witnessing the internal gender battle amongst colleagues, peers or ‘brothers’ in the struggle.

One thing on my agenda to start for a long time was to start a forum open to women from all walks of life, to feel comfortable and build their confidence by discussing the everyday issues affecting them within society they feel aren’t being addressed. It is our responsibility as women to take matters into our own hands as I don’t trust this system to change anytime soon but I do know change comes when ideologies are challenged. Whilst highlighting issues women feel men need to learn to respect and try to understand without insensitively assuming they have the right to speak on behalf of women if they do not hold the belief they claim to have, the intention for this movement is to empower more women who will go on to be a voice and have the confidence to do great things and develop the strength to be involved or take on inspiring projects of their own during their lifetime. I believe more women should learn to work together, to empower and inspire each other without feeling as though we are competing with one and other but to feed off each other’s energy, spirit and passion to allow topics to be addressed, tackled and move forward.

International Women’s Day isn’t the only day where women should feel important. Women are a sacred part of any movement and putting women in admin roles, to employ them as kitchen staff and to pay them less than a man is not liberation. How dare our country speak of liberating women in Afghanistan and invade when women in England are facing numerous issues which are kept taboo behind closed doors where nobody is willing to listen, seeing as women aren’t oppressed and everything is picture perfect on this island, right?

If you are interested in being a part of this movement which will operate mainly as an open forum which will be video blogged but everyone will have an equal opportunity to implement ideas. Events will also be organised where men will be given the opportunity to listen to women’s stories which will also be expressed through arts and poetry. If you would like to share your voice, what you feel needs to be addressed and want to be involved in planting stubborn seeds against what society expects from us and want to be proactive in defending the rights of the current and upcoming generation of women both locally and globally, please email me on shareefa_p@hotmail.com  to allow us to work together to create something tangible and challenging.

“Thou shall not be a perpetrator, Thou shall not be a victim and thou shall never, never be a bystander.”

Restless Beings Street Child Village Fundraiser

I am a fundraiser and supporter for the Restless Beings village for 100 ‘street children’ in Dhaka, Bangladesh. the Restless Beings ‘One hundred kids’ project was launched on the 1st of February 2012 to raise funds for Restless Beings to build a village for street kids in Bangladesh who are vulnerable to sexual/physical abuse, human trafficking, organised crime, drug abuse, malnutrition and isolation. Restless Beings intended on raising 100k through a large capacity of volunteers who took on the challenge to raise a minimum of £100 each over 100 days, which totalled 50k in 100 days. Restless Beings are 100% voluntary and still have another 50k to raise so continue to collect donations and welcome more people to join the campaign to fund-raise http://onehundredkids.com/  Your donations, support and for you to embrace your creativity and take on the challenge yourself shall provide a home, education, food, counseling, a family unit and much more for young people who have been neglected and suffered from human rights abuses. Below is my fundraising campaign to raise money for the village.

I cut my hair short to show solidarity with the young female street children who struggle with their gender identity and are not given the opportunity to enjoy their childhood as girls out of fear of being violated. I believe strongly in Every Child Matters and children all over the world should be safeguarded and their human rights protected from any form of violation and abuse. No child should be subject to violation or open to substance misuse where glue isn’t the only substance that young children are getting hold of, to numb their circumstances and harsh lifestyle. Neither should we deny neocolonialism’s role in Bangladesh and European control contributing to the underdevelopment and poverty arising in Bangladesh which leads to these numerous societal issues, which will not change until the Bangladeshi community are given the right to self-determination and not just have to pick up the pieces leftover after British colonialism and divide and rule in South East Asia.

Please support my campaign by donating whatever amount you are able to part with, for us to work as a collective to support the young children and Restless Beings to build this village. Here’s the donation link http://onehundredkids.com/52-shareefa-panchbhaya

To participate yourself and volunteer to raise money to build a Restless Beings village for the street children of Dhaka, please sign up http://onehundredkids.com/

To donate your hair in the future or to support the charity for young cancer patients, please see http://www.littleprincesses.org.uk/

Please do check out the other Restless Beings projects and causes you can get involved in and support also. http://www.restlessbeings.org/

Thank you for your donations and support.

Fatima, Street Child