30 May 2011

In defence of the human rights defender: FMA Razzak’s story told

States and state agents have historically used violence to stifle public debate, and silence their critics. In many countries around the world today, states no longer rely heavily upon overtly coercive methods and instead acknowledge the need for authentic debate. But in many others, states and state agents continue to resort primarily to coercive methods.

In such countries, some persons try to break the silence on matters of importance that threaten repressive systems for social control. These persons we honour with the title, “human rights defender”. Oftentimes, the efforts of these persons seem small, especially to people in countries where authentic debate is taken for granted. Yet, such efforts necessarily begin small, and build up only with years of hard work.

Despite their appearance of smallness, such efforts challenge fundamental principles on which the state’s power is based. For this reason, human rights defenders in these countries inevitably become targets for violence. Sometimes the violence seems arbitrary. Sometimes it seems grossly disproportionate to the small efforts of the person.

People unfamiliar with the milieu in which the human rights defender has been working naturally have trouble seeing how apparently small efforts to change society can provoke savagery. At such moments, those people who work with the human rights defender have a special responsibility to delineate the person sharply from his social and political environment, and in so doing, to set out some features of that environment, so that others can also understand why the person has been made the subject of violence.

For this reason, the Asian Human Rights Commission is issuing this short narrative on the work of a Bangladeshi human rights defender, FMA Razzak.

The story of how members of an army officer’s family barbarically attacked and almost killed Razzak, gouging at his eyes and breaking his limbs, is now internationally known. The AHRC has set up a campaign webpage, which it is updating constantly, providing the latest details on the case and on subsequent events.

The purpose of this narrative is not to iterate all the contents of statements and appeals on the attack against Razzak, but to explain what motivated the attack, and to show how the police, judiciary and National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh are working not to defend this human rights defender but to enable the continuance of violence and impunity in their country. To do this, we must begin with the story of Razzak, the human rights defender. That story, although specifically the story of Razzak, is more generally the story of the human rights defender as Bangladeshi; the story of anyone who sincerely believes and fights for human rights in such a country.
Read the entire narrative here.

25 May 2011

india's missing gender

there have been several media reports within the past week or so regarding the rise of aborting girl foetuses and the resultant shortage of girls in indian society. this is an old, old story, but here are some new (for me at any rate) arguments/facts mentioned:

-the increasing abortion of second girl children amongst india's rich and educated does not mean their higher preference for boy children, but rather indicates their greater access to sex selection, abortion and their ability to evade the law.
[or both perhaps?]

-caste continues to perpetuate dowry because the system restricts the supply of marriage partners, as a result of which, efficient matching of individuals doesn’t occur. caste thus acts as "a barrier in the free market of marriage. Then dowry becomes a method to bid for mates, signal social status and perpetuate an arms race to reach the top of the pecking order. Free enterprise has unshackled the economy, but the beneficiaries are operating in a restricted marriage market, limited by caste. They just demand higher dowries now."

-to counteract all this, laws can be used more creatively: tax breaks for mixed-caste marriages, grants for having girl children, government benefits for gender neutral employers

23 May 2011

monday grace

1. maaraz al burhani. what an awesome exhibition has been created on the life of syedna mohammed burhanuddin (tus). which is no surprise really: moula's life has been so awe-some, that an exhibition tabulating it cannot be any less so. i am blessed to witness both. mashallah.

2. 'comments are the new hug'. i have been increasingly finding refuge and inspiration online, and i like very much the idea of an online community to be part of, to feel connected with. (yes, perhaps i would not be so enamoured if i had an actual group of friends to rely on here, but in their absence, i will happily make do with this!) people commenting on my blog, me commenting on theirs, having a 'conversation' in this way feels good. international comment leaving week is the icing on the cake!

3. more inspiration: http://www.project-syndicate.org/

4. ck's birthday! many many happy returns of the day ya helwa. i am so glad to have known you, shared milestones (and much else) with you. here's to many more memories :)

16 May 2011

buddha's teachings

while working, i came across the following teachings of buddha, which i thought i'd share:

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do if you do not act upon them?”

“We are what we think… What we think, we become.”

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”

“Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.”

“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others… No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

“Each morning we are born again, what we do today is what matters most.”

10 May 2011

friendship and gratitude

When I am insecure or self-critical, my friends are both mirrors and crystal balls. They reflect all the good things about me I cannot see, and they assure me that my future is as bright as I want it to be. (192)

I don’t think this means that your friends verbally reassure you. At least, that’s not what I take it to mean. It’s more like… Your friends say (figuratively) a lot about you. They show what kind of person you are, and what kind of person you want to be. That’s why it’s important to seek out people who challenge and motivate you. Who are doing things you respect, who have qualities you admire.
[yes! exactly!]

For the record, my friends constantly amaze me.

Success surely means surrounding myself with loving people who bring me joy. (194)
i read the above here this morning, and it reminded me of the proverb, "tell me who you're with, and i'll tell you who you are". as i wrote in an earlier post, i am so lucky to have made some amazing friends, each of whom inspires me in different ways, each of whom has different qualities for me to admire and attempt to emulate. and most importantly, they inspire me to be the best i can be. i actually LIKE myself when i'm with them.

their absence on this new journey of mine has left me adrift and lost. and then, this afternoon, one of these wonderful friends sends me the following:

..along with your gratitude list, make an i'm great too list, where you pen down all the wonderful things about you. start with i'm so modest i don't see how great i am.

i can help you with that list - i can tell you what a loyal friend you are, or that you have wonderful eyes, or that you are witty and make me laugh. i can tell you stuff and much more, but it's not important that i believe. it's important that it comes from you, that you see your own value. and that you know that even though you have your flaws, that you have some wonderful qualities - not in comparison to anyone, but just good things that you have. i'm sure you can come up with five everyday. you can find a format that works best for you.. i suggest the 'today i feel + i'm great word'.

for example, here is mine right now. today i feel wise - i can dispense great advise to my friend.. just let it be at that moment where you are nice to yourself, and stay there. you don't need the negativity. slowly you'll fend it off. and slowly you'll emerge, not dust-free or coal-free, but a diamond nonetheless.

h is lucky to have found you. i am lucky to have found you. i hope you find yourself too, you're luckily the closest to you.

THIS is what friends are for. they hear the song in your heart and sing it to you when your memory fails!

today i feel blessed and lucky and loved. thank you ck, and all my wonderful friends :)

waiting for closure

where did you go, why did you leave?
now only emptiness remains
and so many unanswered questions

all the hopes and dreams you encompassed,
lie shattered,
i cannot even begin to pick up the pieces
everywhere i look, the glass shards reflect your image
or perhaps my tears blur everything but your face,
your small body, your fingers grasping mine

from where sabr will come, i cannot imagine
i will wait for it though; what else can I do
you are gone
and my arms are empty

you must be in a better place
where the sun is always shining,
where there is no room for pain and destruction,
where love and light make flowers bloom eternally

but here, where i sit,
there is no sun, no light
only your face illuminates the clouds around my heart

i hold your toys and rock myself to numbness
i wait for sabr, for closure

i wait

04 May 2011

lessons learnt? nil.

i read this post at zen habits the other day, about life lessons learnt. and i got to thinking, what have i learnt in my three decades in this world? i mean, really learnt, through experience, not just principles or platitudes that i've read and agreed with. the sad answer, is very little. what does that tell me about my life, my experiences?

in fact, at this particular point of my life journey, i am constantly faced with how little i know about anything, how ill equipped i am for so many things, how few useful skills i have (i am a terrible cook, i cannot speak or read the languages dominant here, i know nothing about the dynamics of life within large, extroverted families, my innate shyness and respect for rules is an obstacle to pretty much everything here, and i am clueless as to how to get rid of so much dust. i could go on, but i will desist).

where once i was a well read, well informed working professional, with various multicultural experiences under her rida, able to converse in more than two languages, friends and family in several continents, i am now a susceptible foreigner, clueless and friendless . oh, how the mighty have fallen.