Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is accused of turning a blind eye to the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. By Jesselyn Cook   Three Nobel Peace Prize winners sent a stark message to fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday: Bring an immediate end to the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, or face prosecution. Iran’s Shirin Ebadi, Yemen’s Tawakkol Karman and Northern Ireland’s Mairead Maguire are on a week-long humanitarian trip to Bangladesh, which now hosts some 700,000 Rohingya refugees. They say they’re planning to “take Myanmar’s government to the International Court of Justice.” Security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have waged a gruesome crackdown against the minority group over the past six months, causing mass displacement. Human rights groups have documented widespread, state-sanctioned violence against Rohingyas in western Myanmar, including rape, torture, shootings, arson and other forms of abuse and crimes against humanity. Human rights activists have accused Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civil leader and a former political prisoner and activist during the country’s decades-long military dictatorship, of turning a blind eye to the crisis, increasingly described as a genocide. She has neglected to condemn the atrocities committed against Rohingyas, and has even rejected critical reports as “misinformation.”  As Myanmar’s government has tightened restrictions on desperately needed aid supplies and services in Rakhine state, Suu Kyi’s inaction has drawn rebukes from world leaders and sparked protests around the globe. Some activists have discussed revoking the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 for “her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” At a press conference in Dhaka, Karman said Suu Kyi must “stop turning a deaf ear to the persecution of the Rohingya or risk being complicit in the crimes,” and “wake up or face prosecution.” “If she fails to do so, her choice is clear: Resign or be held accountable, along with the army commanders, for the crimes committed,” Karman added. In its recent State of the World’s Human Rights report, Amnesty International described the current abuse of Rohingyas as “a targeted campaign of ethnic cleansing.” “Throughout 2017, millions across the world experienced the bitter fruits of a rising politics of demonization. Its ultimate consequences were laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar,” the report noted. “The atrocities –- an unlawful and disproportionate response to attacks on security posts by an armed Rohingya group in August –- created the worst refugee crisis in decades in Southeast Asia.” Myanmar has repeatedly denied access to international authorities and investigators, making it difficult to accurately grasp the scope of the situation. Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe, who both covered the crisis extensively from within the country, have been detained since December for allegedly intending “to send important security documents regarding security forces in Rakhine State to foreign agencies abroad,” according to Myanrmar’s information ministry. The Rohingya have long been victims of state-sponsored discrimination in Myanmar, where they have limited rights and are classified as illegal immigrants rather than citizens. Their plight rapidly and drastically worsened after Aug. 25, when Rohingya militants attacked government security posts ― triggering the extreme retaliation by state security and military forces. “This is genocide ... the torture, rape and killing of any one member of our human family must be challenged,” said Maguire. “We can’t remain silent. Silence is complicity.”

By Pearl Lee, CNN   Dr Mahathir was interviewed by CNN at his office in Putrajaya on Tuesday, Jan 2, 2018   Story highlights Mahathir had retired after 22 years as Malaysia's leader He's partnered with former nemesis Anwar Ibrahim to oust current PM Najib Razak   Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been named the prime ministerial candidate for the country's opposition in the next elections, completing a stunning return to politics at the age of 92. The doctor, who served 22 years as the country's leader before retiring in 2003, is determined to topple the party he once led -- and in his quest to do so, has joined forces with his arch nemesis, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, whom he once jailed for corruption and sodomy. The former leader told CNN in an exclusive interview that his return to the political spotlight is down to his determination to oust the current prime minister, Najib Razak. "I think it's a job I have to do. I cannot accept this country being destroyed by selfish people who only think about themselves... who steal money," Mahathir told CNN last week. Malaysia's next elections will be held before August 2018, with many people widely expecting it to occur sometime in March. "They [the political opposition parties] have not been able to get rural Malay votes," Mahathir said, explaining the rationale behind the opposition's decision to welcome him into their pact. "They had a majority of popular votes in 2013, but they were not able to get [the] constituencies with Malay voters. They think I can."   Mahathir has made a bad habit of sniping at those who stepped into his shoes as prime minister. Post-retirement, Mahathir criticized his anointed successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi incessantly from the sidelines. But that is nothing compared to the energy and viciousness with which he has torn into Najib. Mahathir, who said he attacked his successors because 'they were doing wrong things,' told CNN he doesn't mind "being used by the opposition" to oust Najib, who for years has been embroiled in accusations that hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen from state investments. The US Justice Department filed lawsuits in 2016, amended earlier this year, to recover more than $1.7 billion that prosecutors said were laundered through a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund headed by Najib.   Malaysian prime minister    Besides the United States, several other countries are investigating state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which Najib founded. US justice officials said that between 2009 and 2015, more than $3.5 billion from 1MDB was misappropriated by high-level officials of the board and associates. Najib has been accused of siphoning money from the investment fund after $681 million was transferred into his accounts. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said the money was donated by a member of the Saudi royal family. The 1MDB scandal, rising costs of living and a growing rift among the country's multiracial, multi-religious populace have been often blamed on Najib's party, and the question now is, can Mahathir, the former leader, help the opposition boot the ruling government from power? Mahathir and Anwar: From friends to foes and now, friends again The opposition in Malaysia is weaker now compared with the last election in 2013, when the Barisan Nasional coalition led by Najib limped to the finish line, losing the popular vote and failing to snag a two-thirds majority in parliament. Embroiled in internal squabbles and sullied by scandals of their own, the opposition for the longest time could not even agree on who would lead the country should they win the elections. Cue the strange alliance between Mahathir and Anwar, who is back behind bars after being found guilty of sodomy a second time in 2015. The opposition convention on Sunday declared that while Mahathir would be their candidate for prime minister at the next elections, Anwar would assume the position if they manage to upset Barisan Nasional at the polls and Anwar is able to obtain a royal pardon for his sodomy conviction, which disqualifies him from contesting the elections or holding office.   Dr Mahathir was interviewed by CNN at his office in Putrajaya on Tuesday, Jan 2, 2018   Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is the candidate for the deputy prime minister role. In his interview with CNN, Mahathir praised Anwar, a man he'd once mentored and then maligned, fired and incarcerated. Mahathir said they are putting aside a bitter rivalry to focus on defeating Najib and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the Najib-helmed party that forms the largest constituent in the Barisan Nasional coalition. "It is to get rid of this government. He [Anwar] wants to get rid of Najib and I want to get rid of Najib," Mahathir told CNN. "If you want to get rid of Najib we have to work together. We have to forget the past." "I am 92 going on 93," Mahathir pointed out. "I won't last long and I am prepared for that. But for as long as I can contribute, I will continue, and I will back Anwar if that is the wish of the party." Can Mahathir bring in the votes? Analysts are split over whether Mahathir has the x-factor needed to oust Barisan Nasional, which has ruled uninterrupted since the country's independence in 1957. Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur, said Mahathir clearly has influence, judging by how quickly the opposition accepted him. Mahathir "has the capabilities to bring in and influence people ... just like Anwar," Wan Saiful said. "He is very attractive among the rural voters who feel Pakatan Harapan (the opposition pact) has not been defending the rights of the Malays," he said, referring to the country's majority race, which forms the bulk of the electorate. Wan Saiful added that support for the opposition is growing, especially in states where Barisan Nasional rules. "Regardless what you think of the opposition, people want democracy to flourish. There are those who may disagree with Mahathir returning to active politics, but for the sake of democracy they feel UMNO must lose," he says. However, Jayum Jawan, a professor of government and politics from Universiti Putra Malaysia, feels differently and said Mahathir's shelf life as a politician has ended. "He will have no impact on the election. The opposition has not been able to penetrate rural areas as the people there seem comfortable with what the government has done for them. Rural voters want stability," he says. 'He has done a lot of damage' While opposition leaders have welcomed Mahathir, some rank and file politicians remain skeptical. S. Manikumar, an opposition politician, said many party members are reluctant to back Mahathir openly because policies drafted during his reign favor the Malay majority at the expense of ethnic Chinese and Indian nationals. "He has done a lot of damage in the past 30 years. He has no doubt developed the nation but many still view him as a racist," Manikumar said. "The Indians, for one, were marginalized during his tenure as policies were not in their favor. As far as the lower and middle-class Indians are concerned, their votes may sway to Najib."   Trump meets Malaysian PM under investigation    Other opposition politicians, such as Othman Karim, said while those in the party may have their differences with Mahathir, "an enemy of an enemy is a friend." Yet others believe that Mahathir's alliance with the opposition and his willingness to admit to past mistakes means he will atone for previous political blunders. Charles Santiago, an opposition Member of Parliament, said the opposition needs a strong personality like Mahathir to lead its mission. "Many say the country is headed in the wrong direction and we need someone strong from the Malay community to counter Najib," he said. "Dr Mahathir is our top dog right now. Politics is a very strange thing. One minute you are enemies, the next minute you are friends."   Source: CNN

By Pierre-Henry DESHAYES  Agence France-Presse        Praised to the skies and bearing great hopes, they went on to disappoint the world: as the case of Aung San Suu Kyi shows, Nobel Peace Prize winners have not always lived up to expectations.   The Norwegian Nobel committee’s announcement every October is usually followed by some protest and occasionally a heated debate. Rare are the laureates who are unanimously embraced.  Aung San Suu Kyi was one of those. Honoured in 1991 for her pro-democracy resistance to Myanmar’s junta, the wispy “Lady of Rangoon” was long hailed as a saint.  But now, as Myanmar’s figurehead leader, she has been broadly criticised for failing to protect the Muslim Rohingya minority from what some world leaders are calling ethnic cleansing. “I’m disappointed,” said Geir Lundestad, the influential Nobel committee secretary from 1990 to 2014.   “Aung San Suu Kyi was an extremely popular and deserving laureate, heroic under the circumstances, but I can’t condone her behaviour toward the Rohingyas,” he added. Suu Kyi’s supporters and many observers say she lacks the authority to rein in the military, which ran the country for 50 years and only recently ceded limited powers to her civilian government. Nevertheless, almost 430,000 people have signed an online petition calling for her Nobel to be withdrawn, and several other well-respected Peace Prize laureates – Desmond Tutu, Malala and the Dalai Lama – have urged her to take action to end the violence. “It’s dramatic,” admitted Nobel historian Asle Sveen.  “For a person who fought so hard for democracy and was so popular for so long to find herself in such a situation, it’s unusual.” Unusual, but not completely unprecedented. While Suu Kyi may be in a league of her own, other Nobel stars have also seen their lustre fade over time. Flagrant faux pas  For starters, there’s former US president Barack Obama – “the most similar case”, according to Sveen.  His 2009 Peace Prize, awarded just nine months after he took office, was met by many with incredulity but at the time, he was still at the peak of his popularity. Eight years later, there are still calls for his prize to be withdrawn, especially on social media, because of his failure to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his intensive use of drone strikes. “It was impossible for anyone to meet those expectations. They were totally unrealistic,” Lundestad said recently.  “I don’t think the committee expected Obama to totally revolutionise international politics: it’s not about transforming everything, it’s about making steps in the right direction.” Other laureates have been accused of committing flagrant faux pas. Lech Walesa – the founder of the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union Solidarity and who won the 1983 Peace Prize – has repeatedly been accused of collaborating with Communist secret services. Rejecting the allegations in 2009, he threatened to leave Poland and return his awards. Long before him, Italian pacifist Ernesto Moneta was criticised for having supported his country’s decision to go to war against the Ottoman Empire in 1911, four years after receiving his Nobel. Austria’s Bertha von Suttner, the 1905 laureate and a close friend of Alfred Nobel’s “proposed that Moneta lose his Nobel Peace Prize and his titles in the peace movement”, recalls historian Ivar Libaek in the collective work “The Nobel Peace Prize: One Hundred Years for Peace”. Twice during the post-war period, the choice of Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been so explosive that some committee members have resigned. One quit in 1994 to protest against the choice of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat alongside Israelis Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, a year after the signing of the Oslo Accords.  Two others stepped down in 1973 when US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Vietnamese peace negotiator Le Duc Tho were honoured for reaching a ceasefire – albeit short-lived – in Vietnam. Each time, the debate has smouldered for years. “He won the Nobel but he dishonoured it. Whether he returns it or not doesn’t matter, it must burn his hand when he touches it,” fumed former Nobel committee member Berge Furre in 2009 about Peres.  The career politician, who was Israel’s president at the time, had defended an Israeli attack on a Gaza school that left more than 40 people dead. While Le Duc Tho immediately declined his prize, Kissinger accepted his but chose not to go to Oslo to pick it up for fear of massive protests. In 1975, he even offered to hand it back. The committee refused. The Nobel Foundation’s statutes do not allow for it. Neither do they allow for a prize to be withdrawn. “None of the Nobel laureates is perfect,” Lundestad said. “Many of them probably feel an extra responsibility to act in an exemplary fashion, but once the prize has been awarded, the committee can’t do anything anyway.”

Claire Provost Claire Provost is editor of openDemocracy 50.50 covering gender, sexuality and social justice. Previously she worked at The Guardian and was a fellow at the Centre for Investigative Journalism at the University of London, Goldsmiths.  Founding member of the Demosistō political party talked to World Forum for Democracy youth delegates about the importance of social movements and direct action. Agnes Chow. Photo: Okstartnow/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC0 1.0).   Agnes Chow was still a teenager in September 2014, when she joined thousands of other young people on the streets of Hong Kong, in a historic pro-democracy protest lasting 79 days that became known as the “umbrella movement.” Last week Chow travelled to Strasbourg, France, to attend the Council of Europe’s 2017 World Forum for Democracy (WFD). This year’s event focused on populism and the crises of traditional political party and media institutions. “It’s never easy,” she said, to take on “an authoritarian regime, and to fight for things we believe in.” Chow spoke to WFD youth delegates Karla Ng and Skye Riggs on the sidelines of the conference. Protest is important “even though it might fail, even though it might not be a success every time,” she said. “It’s not easy to fight for democracy, but the most important thing is we should not give up.” Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates. Photo: Claire Provost.   Now 21, Chow is a student at Hong Kong Baptist University – and one of the founding members of Demosistō, a new political party formed last year by some of the organisers of the 2014 umbrella movement protests. Those demonstrations saw tens of thousands take to the streets, to demand ‘universal suffrage’ and the right to directly elect Hong Kong’s chief executive, its top political leader, currently chosen by an elite selection committee. Police responded with tear gas and pepper spray, and eventually evicted occupiers from city spaces. Since then, activists have been arrested, prosecuted, and jailed. Others are awaiting trials. Amnesty International warns the state “is toughening its stance” against pro-democracy organisers, with freedom of expression and assembly under attack. Umbrella movement protests, September 2014. Photo: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).   Joshua Wong, the skinny bespectacled student who became an icon of the movement, was imprisoned with two other activists in August. They were recently released on bail while courts consider their appeals. The umbrella movement captured attention internationally, with media coverage and solidarity rallies around the world. Wong is the subject of a recent Netflix documentary, Joshua: Teenager Vs Superpower, in which Chow also appears. A generation’s “political awakening” 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the handover of the former British colony Hong Kong to Beijing. The city has its own separate political and legal systems but it is not independent and Beijing’s influence over it has provoked numerous protests. The umbrella movement was called a defining “political awakening” for an entire generation, including young women who appeared on “the front lines” and organised “everything from food and water distribution to communications.” Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, October 2014. Photo: Stowers Chris/ABACA/PA Images.   The movement’s name came from the umbrellas protesters used as shields against tear gas and pepper spray. Yellow ribbons – long an emblem of women’s suffrage movements – also became symbols of the protests. Pop singer Denise Ho was an outspoken supporter of the movement. A 14-year old girl, arrested for drawing a chalk flower on a wall, was another icon. But there were also reports of discrimination and abuse against women protesters. Last year, activist Yau Wai-ching said she had been trailed by a local tabloid reporter looking to uncover details about her sex life. In 2014, Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wong said that many young women and girls faced “hostility” over their participation in the protests. She blamed a “gender expectation that for women their role belongs at home. If they stand up in public, they should stand back.” A “gender expectation that for women their role belongs at home. If they stand up in public, they should stand back.” At the WFD, Chow told youth delegates Ng (also from Hong Kong) and Riggs (from Australia) that she hopes “more and more females can have the bravery to participate in politics in the future.” This summer, following arrests at a sit-in protest, she and other activists filed a formal complaint with the city over male officers patrolling female holding cells, and a lack of privacy using the toilet while detained. Some Hong Kong campaigners have also warned that women’s rights progress is being held back by a lack of funding, with money going first to pro-government groups. From protest to political party “In Hong Kong it is more and more common for women to be involved in politics,” said Chow, though this doesn’t necessarily mean she agrees with their policies. In March, Hong Kong appointed its first female chief executive, Carrie Lam, described by the Guardian as “China’s preferred candidate... in a contest that pitted popular appeal against lobbying by Beijing.” Chow says Demosistō’s priorities are “advocating universal values such as democracy, freedom, human rights and equality,” along with “self-determination for Hong Kong,” with residents given “the right to decide their own future.” She says the party must be clear and uncompromising on core values, whilst “careful not to start any kind of politics of hatred or fear or discrimination” in their opposition to the Chinese government. Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and other Demosisto members, August 2016. Photo: Jason940728/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).   “We are different from other traditional or conservative political parties in Hong Kong, because we actually came from social movements and direct participation of people,” said Chow, who says Demosistō members still believe in direct democracy. “People should have some direct channels to participate in politics, not only for voting for be in some role, but also to directly be involved, and respected and heard by the government.” “We are different from other traditional or conservative political parties in Hong Kong, because we actually came from social movements and direct participation of people” As student activists, Chow said they focused primarily on “big issues” like ‘universal suffrage’. As a party, they’re also going to “different communities, different districts... to understand what social issues are more relevant for people’s lives,” such as housing policy, rent, and the distribution of resources including land. Public education is also needed “to help people understand the meaning of democracy... [and] how to get involved,” she said. “We are partly advocating social movements, we’re partly advocating civil disobedience... and we also advocate direct action.” Youth participants at the European Youth Centre. Photo: Claire Provost.   The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, has a stated mission to uphold human rights, democracy and rule of law in its now-47 member states. It has a committee of ministers, parliamentary assembly, and court of human rights. The WFD is held each November, bringing civil society, political, and academic representatives together to discuss challenges facing contemporary democracies. Youth political participation has been a main theme over the years. Ahead of the 2017 forum, dozens of youth delegates also gathered at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg for workshops and a special youth programme. During the WFD, a group of youth delegates worked with 50.50, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy, to explore issues related to populism and women’s rights. Forum sessions focused on topics from fake news and storytelling to women’s political empowerment and the increasingly ‘female face of the far right.’  

Marriage rates for children in the South Asian country are among the highest in the world, and for many girls in the plains region, schooling – often seen as a solution – is a double-edged sword BY ABBY SEIFFPRAGATI SHAHI   Arti, six, gets ready for school. Her mother, Babita Kumari Yadav, of Potohr village, was married as a young teen and received no education. She hopes that Arti will not marry until after she has finished her studies. Pictures: Abby Seiff         Inside the house of her husband’s parents, Apsara Devi Sah sits on a mat in a small, windowless storage room with a mud floor. Three days after her wedding she is still dressed in bridal finery – an ornately embroidered yellow veil and dress dipped in red, elaborate mehndi snaking down her arms and legs. Dozens of green, gold and red bangles trill when her hands dip to pull at the edge of her clothes. Against the grey walls, she glows. Apsara is strikingly beautiful. She is extremely eloquent. She is 16. “I didn’t want to get married but I was the only daughter and my father had to go abroad,” she says. “Society might think negative thoughts about having a grown daughter alone at home. “Most girls in my village are married at around 15 or 16. I think I’m too young to get married; it should be 18.” Despite the legal minimum age for marriage in Nepal being 20, in remote villages such as Potohr, in the Dhanusha district of the plains region, marry­ing off children has long been the norm. The country has one of the highest rates of child brides in the world. Fifty-two per cent of women between the ages 20 and 49 were married before they reached 18, according to the United Nations’ children’s programme. Fifteen per cent were married before the age of 15. By the age of 24, more than a third of them will have three or more children. The problem is particularly protracted in the plains, or Terai, region, where the most recent census, in 2011, found that 79 per cent of women were married before the age of 19. Veiled women shop at a market near Sabaila village, in Nepal.   Traditionally, underage marriage is a phenomenon asso­ciated with the uneducated. Studies have shown that girls with little or no education are six times more likely to be married early than those who attended secondary school. The corollary can be seen across the globe, with education initiatives pushing the rate down percentage point by percentage point, year by year. And yet, Apsara is an academic star by the standards of this remote, Maithil village. She speaks Nepali, her second language, more flawlessly and formally than many native speakers. She is third in her class, having passed her school-leaving certificate (SLC; a qualification exam that students take in Nepal at the end of 10th grade) and started grade 11. Thanks to remittances from her father’s job in Qatar, both she and her brother have been able to attend school. Her parents are both illiterate. Parents worry [the girls] will do something wrong when they get mature and study. It’s a very conservative society. Honour is the biggest thing for a girl Apsara, 16 When they married her off, her family did so because they felt mounting pressure within their community, Apsara says. But they did so too with an eye toward her academic promise. “I wanted to keep studying. My father-in-law had assured my father that he will support me to be educated up to grade 12,” she says. “But I can’t say what will happen.” Rina Yadav, 18, from Sabaila, has had no education, but, she says, her husband’s work abroad means that her two-year-old daughter will have more opportunities.   While education has long been touted by everyone from the World Bank to the United Nations to governments as a key to eliminating child marriages, situations such as Apsara’s are far from unusual. In fact, a trend appears to be emerging in some of Nepal’s migration hot spots. As millions of Nepalis seek better jobs abroad, remittances are used to educate their daughters back home, in hopes of attracting more educated grooms. Better marriage prospectscan, in turn, mean more stability and opportunities for the girls. But whether that is leading to delayed marriage is far from clear. “I think there’s a close relationship between the education level and child marriage. If the level of education is higher among the girls, it lowers the cases of child marriage,” says Madhuwanti Tuladhar, a child protection coordi­nator at Plan International in Nepal. “But child marriage is still taking place – even if the girls are going to school.” And once married, “almost 100 per cent drop out of school”. Though their mothers are uneducated, among Apsara’s classmates, she says, “most girls study up to class nine or 10. In almost every house, the father is abroad”. But by the time the girls are 15 or 16, the pressures are beginning to mount. “Parents worry [the girls] will do something wrong when they get mature and study,” Apsara explains. “It’s a very conservative society. Honour is the biggest thing for a girl. Everyone gets their daughter married. There is societal pressure. Parents worry they won’t get a good [marriage] proposal once she’s too old.” “Parents feel that girls are a liability,” Tuladhar says. “Once they get married, their responsibility is over.” In nearby Sabaila village, a group of children hang over the fence of Keheru Yadav’s home, eyeing his visitors. Yadav squats in a courtyard lined with bags of threshed wheat. As he speaks, the burly mustachioed 56-year-old cuddles a toddler grandson close. Keheru Yadav with his grandson in Sabaila.   When he was younger, Yadav worked for four years in Malaysia. “When I returned, my eldest son said: ‘You are old, I will go now,’” he says. Today, all three of his sons work in Qatar, sending home scant sums to support their families and parents. Yadav’s youngest child, a 15-year-old daughter, is soon to be married. Of his four children, the boys all dropped out of school by class four; only his daughter stayed on for lower secondary. “We put a lot of pressure on her to study [further] but she didn’t want to,” Yadav says. “I took a loan to pay the fees, my son sends money and we use it to pay back the loan.” Yadav is in no doubt that with more education his daughter could have secured a better marriage. “The family [of the groom-to-be] isn’t bad,” he says. “They have one bigha [6,773 square metres] of land and the boy is studying. But if she had more education she would have done better.” Keheru Yadav’s wife, Ram Pyari. The couple’s youngest child, a 15-year-old daughter, is about to get married.   Once their daughter made it clear she was done with school, the family had little choice but to have her married. Ram Pyari, Yadav’s wife, says, “The boy’s family had just one look and wanted [their son] to marry her.” She is beautiful and looks grown up, adds Ram Pyari, with a note of pride. Keeping such a mature-looking girl at home would have caused problems in the community. The fear is never precisely expressed, but families of an unmarried maturing woman worry she will engage in a sexual relationship or be a magnet for rape. At a neighbouring home, Usha Kumari Yadav (no relation to Keheru Yadav; Nepali family names refer to their caste) is making clothes on a sewing machine while her aged father-in-law sits nearby. Her children – a daughter and two sons – run under foot. In the household, Usha takes care of the cooking and cleaning. Her parents-in-law handle finances and “outside stuff”. Her husband of a decade has been in Malaysia for the whole of their marriage. Usha is so shy she has trouble speaking. She laughs nervously and pulls her veil across her face when asked a question. She is either 25 or 29, and is vague on her children’s ages. But what is clear is that Usha is a believer in education. “If they want to study to class 10, I will support it,” she says. “To 12, that’s fine.” Usha Kumari Yadav got married when she was in grade 10, but continued her studies through to grade 12.   Usha married when she was in 10th grade but continued her studies through to grade 12. She applied for a job in a public school, and when she didn’t get it, she took up seam­stress classes offered by a non-government organisation. She says she’s “thinking about starting a tailoring business”. Every week on Sunday, her husband calls. “He asks how the kids are doing, how we’re doing – just updates,” she says. The nearest sealed road is more than an hour away, but Potohr and Sabaila villages are at the epicentre of Nepal’s migration boom. Between 2009 and 2015, migration from Dhanusha district more than doubled to 22,000 permit issuances a year. Today, the district sends more migrants abroad than anywhere else in the country. In some areas of Nepal, migration has afforded women rare positions of power. Without husbands on the scene, many have become de facto heads of the household – making decisions on finances, child rearing and farm operations. But in the most remote and traditional Terai communities, which place extreme constraints on women, an absent husband can prove to be a stigmatising force. In this part of Nepal, Maithil women practise ghunghat. The word refers to the veil with which they cover their face when they leave their home, but it also refers to the strict regulationof movement and interactions with those outside the family. When young women whose husbands are abroad stay with their parents-in-law, they tend to remain inside – like Usha. But sometimes remittances allow for their own home. It is these matriarchal households that can face trouble. Three years ago, Babita Kumari Yadav got her own house. Her husband has been working in Qatar for a decade, sending money back to educate their children and build a home. Although she is married with three children, neighbours now view Babita as “alone and a single women”. Babita Kumari Yadav, of Potohr village, with her daughter, Arti.   “The community doesn’t see me in a good way. They don’t talk with me and I don’t go to anyone’s house,” she says. “I have a lot of fights with these villagers. They’re not supporting me and alienate me from everything going on in the village. If [my husband] were here, he would be the guardian of the house. If someone fought me, he’d protect me – now he’s not here so I have to go through all the fighting.” This is the prospect that worries the next generation of wives and mothers here. Life without their young, educated and more modern husbands is likely to prove difficult – particularly, and ironically, for those educated to know better. [My parents] won’t be happy when she goes out and talks to people, but I don’t mind. If I go abroad, she will not be allowed to go outside Ranjit Kumar Sah, Apsara’s husband Just three days into her marriage, Apsara has already begun urging her husband to stay and open a shop rather than return to Qatar. “In my village I used to know everyone. After getting married to a guy here, I can’t break any rules in our society. If I have someone who knows me, who is close, I can discuss things,” she says, explaining that if she makes a mistake she would expect to be able to talk it through with her husband. “It will be difficult if he’s not here – I can’t do so with my in-laws.” We have been allowed to enter her home and meet with the bride only because both of us are women and outsiders to the community, but we are likely to be the last strangers Apsara talks to for a long time. “In Maithil tradition, the wife has to stay in the household for two years,” says Ram Dayal Sah, 45, Apsara’s father-in-law and a boisterous father of five who is still giddy over the auspicious match. Apsara’s groom, Ranjit Kumar Sah, interrupts his father. “There’s a gradual change in tradition, it’s not as strict as before. I think in two or three months she’ll be able to come out and talk,” he tells us, shyly. At 23, Ranjit looks far younger than his years, and far too thin to be a labourer. He is drowning in his dress shirt and trousers and, when he speaks, he looks at his hands and feet. “[My parents] won’t be happy when she goes out and talks to people, but I don’t mind,” he says. That modernity, however, has its limits, and, Ranjit admits, “If I go abroad, she will not be allowed to go outside.” Ranjit stopped going to school in 10th grade and has made a living as a construction worker in Qatar for two years, but he has some hopes for his wife. “I would like to support her to continue her education,” he says. Experience says this is unlikely to happen. “Now we’re poor and I need grandchildren,” his father interjects, “so let’s see how it goes.”   This article was supported by the International Reporting Project.

by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali is the former Bishop of Rochester and now president of Oxtrad, which works with persecuted Christians. posted Friday, 10 Nov 2017   A young Rohingya refugee carries a child at a camp in Bangladesh (CNS)   The international community's failure to prevent ethnic cleansing may fuel radical Islamism The tragedy that has unfolded on the border between Burma and Bangladesh over the past two months is one that was predicted, should never have happened and should have been stopped before it reached this point. More than 600,000 people – more than half the entire Rohingya population – have now fled across the border from Burma to Bangladesh. Thousands have been killed. Thousands more face starvation. International experts are warning of genocide. We should not have got to this point. A year ago, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta and human rights activist Benedict Rogers wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “A human tragedy approaching ethnic cleansing is unfolding in Burma, and the world is chillingly silent.” They concluded: “It’s also time for the international community to speak out. If we fail to act, Rohingyas may starve to death if they aren’t killed by bullets first. We could end up as passive observers once again wringing our hands belatedly, saying ‘never again’. Let us act now before it’s too late.” A year later, it is almost too late. Yet the stark simplicity of the ethnic cleansing and religious persecution unfolding before our eyes is matched by a more complex context. For while the desperate plight of the Rohingyas is without doubt the most grave, acute illustration of religious and racial hatred in Burma, it is not the only one. Over the past years, it seems that a warped understanding of Buddhism has arisen in Burma, mixed with extremist nationalism and populism, a lethal cocktail that has led to an outpouring of hatred against the “other”. This is in keeping with the horrific trends around the world, and is in part fuelled by fear of the global rise of Islamist intolerance and terror. While until recently Burma had few problems with radical Islamism, by tugging the tail of the tiger it may well have provoked one. The failure of the international community to respond adequately to the latest potential genocide may well fuel more radicalisation of Muslims, both in Burma and elsewhere, further compounding the problem. In the 1990s, I saw for myself how the West’s failure to prevent genocide in the former Yugoslavia gave radical Islamists a new card to further their agenda. In 2017, the West’s failure to prevent genocide in Rakhine State might well be a new recruiting sergeant. Muslims throughout Burma who do not identify as Rohingya have also suffered persecution. There are villages now closed off as “Muslim-free” zones. Muslims struggle to obtain identity cards. In the past five years there have been sporadic outbursts of violence against them in other parts of the country, most notably in Meikthila, Oakkan, Lashio and Mandalay. And it is not only Muslims who suffer. For decades, Christians in Burma, especially in the ethnic states such as Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni, have been attacked. The military has targeted churches, crosses and pastors. A combination of the Burma army and politicised Buddhist monks have lured Christian children to monasteries with a promise of education, only to forcibly convert them into novice Buddhist monks. The response from the international community? Pathetic minimalism at best, apathetic inaction more often. Indeed, the few people who have spoken boldly have mostly been religious and civil society leaders. Pope Francis, who will become the first pontiff ever to visit Burma later this month, has spoken out repeatedly. Burma’s Cardinal Charles Bo has been one of the most courageous defenders of the Rohingyas and other Muslims in the country. Their voices, as leaders of one religious community defending the rights and dignity of another, are vital. But they deserve support from governments and political leaders around the world, not least Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma, within Burma itself. Britain has led the way, and should be applauded for bringing the crisis to the UN Security Council agenda three times. But with what resulting action? Zilch. Britain has suspended military training – good. The EU has suspended visits by Burmese generals to Europe – good. But is that all? What about a global arms embargo? What about carefully targeted sanctions to ban investment in military-owned enterprises? What about a United Nations General Assembly resolution – one not led by the Islamic world, fuelled by an “us” versus “them” mentality, but a united resolution, led by the West and others not in the name of any one religion or race but in the name of humanity? The apathy, the slowness, the stupidity and the inhumanity are obvious. And the counter-productiveness of the slow response has to be seen to be believed. As Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Good men and women, of every race and religion, must now do something to stop yet another ethnic cleansing culminating in genocide, with severe collateral damage for the values of freedom of religion or belief for all. The time for action is now. Today, not tomorrow. Before it is too late.  

Tribune Editorial Published at 06:27 PM November 13, 2017 Photo: REUTERS There was no mention of the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar’s role in it in a draft statement of this year’s ASEAN summit The whole world is now aware of Myanmar’s overt ethnic cleansing operations against the Rohingya — the ethnic Muslim minority that have inhabited the Rakhine state in Myanmar for centuries — which began in earnest after August 25 this year. But the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional political and economic organisation with 10 member states including Myanmar, is choosing to turn a blind eye. As an organisation that has Myanmar as its member, ASEAN must also take some responsibility for it — at the very least have a dialogue about it. Yet, there was no mention of the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar’s role in it in a draft statement of this year’s ASEAN summit, which ends today, in Manila, Philippines. As the maxim goes: “Silence gives consent.” And ASEAN’s silence is making them look quite suspect. Malaysia was the only member country that voiced any concern, perhaps from some sort of Muslim solidarity, but this is a humanitarian crisis and all of humanity should be equally outraged, regardless of race or religion. Moreover, the crisis can easily turn into a regional crisis unless corrective steps are taken, and ASEAN is in an ideal position to take the lead here. Suu Kyi’s complicity in the cleansing operations has become clear over the months as she repeatedly lied, denied, and made excuses for the violence. But, according to a former foreign minister of the Philippines, she is still enjoying sycophantic treatment at the ASEAN summit. As a regional organisation, ASEAN should be playing a much more active role to find a solution to this potential regional crisis.

More than half a million Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh to flee an offensive by Myanmar’s military which the United Nations has called ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. Photographer Kevin Frayer is in Bangladesh to document the crisis Kevin Frayer/Getty Images Refugees are helped from a boat as they arrive exhausted on the Bangladesh side of the Naf river at Shah Porir Dwip A woman sits on the beach, exhausted from her ordeal. Survivors arrive with horrifying accounts of villages burned, women raped, and scores killed in the ‘clearance operations’ by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist mobs   The refugee population is expected to swell further, with thousands more Rohingya Muslims said to be making the perilous journey on foot toward the border, or paying smugglers to take them across by water Refugees bring with them the few belongings they have A family after crossing the Naf river at Shah Porir Dwip An exhausted family after crossing the Naf river Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are said to be making the perilous journey on foot. Here they arrive at the Palongkali refugee camp A queue for food aid from a local NGO after arriving from Myanmar at the Balukali refugee camp Two Rohingya refugee boys who had their legs broken by the Myanmar army share a bed in the Rohingya ward at Sader hospital in Cox’s Bazar A crowd at the Balukali refugee camp await NGO aid Dangerous crushes can occur as the desperate crowd receive aid Aid organisations are struggling to keep pace with the scale of need. A staggering number of refugees - an estimated 60% - are children arriving alone   A desperate child cries as he climbs on a truck distributing aid for a local NGO at the Balukali refugee camp The crisis has coincided with the monsoon rains A Rohingya woman and child outside their shelter at the sprawling Balukali refugee camp A cleric touches the head of a Rohingya refugee woman as she asks for food as they rest in a madrasa Malnourished and suffering from diarrhoea, two Rohingya refugee children cry on the floor of a makeshift shelter at the Balukali refugee camp Rohingya refugees rest in a madrasa after arriving by boat at Shah Porir Dwip Building a mosque at the Balukali refugee camp The sprawling Balukali camp at Cox’s Bazar A woman uses a candle to light her tent at the Palongkali refugee camp  

Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Madhur Jaffrey, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, Freida Pinto and others   We cannot allow people to be slaughtered and burnt out of their homes, while the world watches, write Salman Rushdie and dozens of others in this open letter  ‘After every atrocity, we say ‘never again’. We must mean it.’ Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters Over the past two months, more than 600,000 Rohingya people have been driven from their homes, had their land destroyed, and endured torture and rape while searching for safety. Remember what happened in Rwanda? Now, pay attention to Myanmar. The Rohingya are often described as among the most persecuted people on earth. They are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, and despite having lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for centuries, they’re refused citizenship. For years, their movement has been restricted, and they have been denied access to education, health care, and other basic services. Under the guise of fighting insurgency, or terrorism, the Rohingya have suffered what the UN has called a “textbook case” of ethnic cleansing. Since 25 August, almost half the Rohingya population in Myanmar has been driven out – one of the fastest movements of people in recent decades. Bangladesh has opened its borders and is doing what it can, which is a lot for the most densely populated country on earth, already fighting poverty and the consequences of climate change. The international response to the Rohingya crisis has fallen far short of what’s needed. The UN appeal is still underfunded, and world leaders have not put sufficient political pressure on the government. Myanmar is no longer a pariah state; it has a democratically elected government and has been flooded with foreign direct investment over the past few years. The corporations who have invested in this region must speak up and divest, unless human rights are respected, or they too will be complicit in these horrendous acts. This Friday, world leaders will gather at the Asean summit but the Rohingya crisis is nowhere on the agenda. We call on leaders to pressure the Myanmar government to stop these atrocities, grant the Rohingya citizenship, and allow them to return to a place they call home. Countries must fully fund the UN appeal and close the funding gap that is leaving traumatized children without basic food, water, and shelter. Finally, member states of the United Nations must assess what diplomatic efforts can enable them to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Rohingya. We must not be bystanders to this genocide. We cannot allow people to be slaughtered and burnt out of their homes, while the world watches. After every atrocity, we say: “Never again.” We must mean it. Full list of signatories here: Waris Ahluwalia, Babi Ahluwalia, Sachin Ahluwalia, Riz Ahmed, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Aziz Ansari, Dev Benegal, Gotham Chopra, Nandita Das, Rana Dasgupta, Anil Dash, Kiran Desai, Noureen DeWulf, Geeta Gandbhir, Vikram Gandhi, Shruti Ganguly, Janina Gavankar, Neelam Gill, Maneesh Goyal, Arjun Gupta, Mohsin Hamed, Hitha Prabhakar-Herzog, Anadil Hossain, Vijay Iyer, Sakina Jaffrey, Madhur Jaffrey, Poorna Jagannathan, Riddhika Jesrani, Rega Jha, Mindy KalingRaghu Karnad, Siddhartha Khosla, Hari Kondabolu, Shruti Kumar, Anjali Kumar, Hari Kunzru, Ajay Madiwale, Karan Mahajan, Rekha Malhotra, Aasif Mandvi, Sunita Mani, Nimitt Mankad, Suketu Mehta, Hasan Minhaj, Smriti Mundhra, Ajay Naidu, Aparna Nancherla, Kumail Nanjiani, Karuna Nundy, Maulik Pancholy, Joseph Patel, Shomi Patwary, Freida Pinto, Shaifali Puri, Aniq Rahman, Saira Rao, Zuleikha Robinson, Salman Rushdie, Reema Sampat, Reshma Saujani, Nikil Saval, Sumana Setty, Shiza ShahidKamila Shamsie, Anoushka Shankar, Sheetal Sheth, Sonejuhi Sinha, Madhureeta Goel, Southworth Lakshmi, Sundaram Himanshu Suri, Sonali Thimmaya, Pej Vahdat

  Myanmar's State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi (C), gestures while talking to Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha and Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit in metro Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. YANGON, Myanmar -- When Aung San Suu Kyi led the fight for democracy against Myanmar's despotic military rulers two decades ago, she bristled at the collective reluctance of Southeast Asian governments to intervene in her nation's plight. In a newspaper editorial published in 1999, the former opposition leader slammed the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, saying its "policy of non-interference is just an excuse for not helping." "In this day and age," she wrote in an editorial in Thailand's The Nation newspaper on July 13 of that year, "you cannot avoid interference in the matters of other countries." Today, Suu Kyi leads Myanmar. And at the ASEAN summit in Manila on Monday, she was likely counting on the bloc to keep silent while her government engages in a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims using tactics the U.N. has described as ethnic cleansing to force them to leave the Buddhist-majority country. It's unclear whether the crisis was on ASEAN's official agenda, although two countries -- likely Malaysia and Indonesia -- did bring it up in talks on the meeting's sidelines. Bangladesh, where more than 600,000 Rohingya have arrived since late August, is not part of ASEAN. Harry Roque, spokesman for the summit's host, Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, said "the Rohingya people's plight was discussed in the plenary. It was specifically brought up by two member states, and Myanmar specifically addressed the Rohingya issue." According to Roque, the delegation from Myanmar said Suu Kyi's government was "in the process of attending to" a report compiled by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, laying out a series of steps to end the violence and repatriate the Rohingya.     Roque said the officials from Myanmar had assured their neighbors that "the process of repatriation for IDPs (displaced people) will conclude within three weeks after signing of a memorandum agreement, we're understanding, with Bangladesh." But there was never much hope that anything would actually be done about the crisis at the gathering in Manila. "ASEAN summits are not designed to actually construct policy responses to major human rights issues that affect the whole region," said David Mathieson, a former human rights researcher who is now an independent analyst based in Myanmar. "Right now, Suu Kyi's government is benefiting from ASEAN's culture of inac-tion." The refugee crisis began Aug. 25 after Rohingya insurgents attacked several Myanmar police posts in northern Rakhine state. Security forces responded with brutal "clearance operations" that human rights groups say killed hundreds of people and left hundreds of Rohingya villages burned to the ground. Survivors have described arson, rape and shootings by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs for the purpose of forcing Rohinya to leave. Myanmar has long denied them citizenship and most people insist the Rohingya are illegal immigrants though they've lived in Myanmar for generations. Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her "non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights," in the words of the Nobel committee, but has been reluctant to defend the Rohingya. In a September speech, Suu Kyi asked for patience from the international community and suggested the refugees were partly responsible for the crisis. She also tried to play down the gravity of the exodus, saying more than half of the Rohingya villages in Myanmar had not been destroyed. Though Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar's civilian government since her party swept elections in 2015, she is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written by the military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades. The military is in charge of the operations in northern Rakhine, and ending them is not up to Suu Kyi. Still, her government has staunchly defended the army's actions. When the U.N. Security Council last week called for Myanmar to "end the excessive military force and intercommunal violence that had devastated the Rohingya community," Suu Kyi's office responded that it regretted the council's statement. In an apparent reference to China, which has backed Myanmar, the government praised Security Council members who "upheld the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries." Non-interference has long been a bedrock of ASEAN, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Myanmar presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said he did not know what would be discussed at the summit this week, so "we can't say how we are going to respond to it." Chandra Widya Yudha, director of the ASEAN Political and Security Cooperation at Indonesia's Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press that his government would address the Rohingya crisis at the meeting. "We cannot keep silent because we have to help them," Yudha said. Malaysia in particular has been critical of Myanmar's disproportionate use of force. Earlier this month, the predominantly Muslim country dissociated itself from an ASEAN statement expressing concern over the crisis because it said the statement misrepresented the reality of the situation, omitted reference to Rohingya Muslims as one of the affected communities and was not based on consensus. Khin Zaw Win, a Yangon-based political analyst, said that both Myanmar's previous military junta and Suu Kyi's government have benefited from ASEAN's reticence, but that the bloc should "take a firmer position" on the Rohingya issue. "It has to be taken up if ASEAN is to remain credible," he said. Writing in The Nation in 1999, Suu Kyi said that when ASEAN invokes the principle of non-interference, it does so "not with a clear conscience." "They are afraid that there may be some aspects of their countries that might invite criticism," she said. "Our position is that if they have problems that invite legitimate criticism, let there be criticism. If not, they have nothing to fear."   Source: CBS  

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