Author Archives: Peter Daou
I just switched my lights off – here’s why:
From an Antarctic research base to the Great Pyramids of Egypt and beyond, the world switched off the lights on Saturday for Earth Hour, dimming skyscrapers, city streets and some of the world’s most recognizable monuments for 60 minutes to highlight the threat of climate change.
Time zone by time zone, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries joined the event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund to dim nonessential lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Reports of sexual assault by US military personnel against both fellow troops and civilians rose by 8% last year to 2,923, the Pentagon says.
The number of incidents reported in Iraq and Afghanistan rose by about a quarter on the previous year to 163.
Pentagon officials say the jump in reports suggests the department’s policy of encouraging victims to come forward is bearing results.
But they estimate that no more than 20% of attacks are actually reported.
“Given the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains one of our nation’s most under-reported crimes in both the military and civilian community,” said Dr Kaye Whitley, the director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office.
The World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health estimates that over a million people lose their lives to violence and millions more are injured and maimed every year. The report states that violence is “among the leading causes of death among people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females.” What’s so disturbing is the myriad forms this violence takes and how deeply pervasive and borderless it is. Across the globe and across the centuries, humans have committed the most barbaric acts, limited only by their imaginations, and the march of civilization has done little to change the grim reality that on any given day, in every corner of our planet, gruesome and ungodly things are done to women, children and men. In Beirut during the 70s and early 80s, I witnessed terrible acts of violence, car bombs at supermarkets and missile strikes on residential neighborhoods, bloody bodies and corpses in the street, the carnage of urban warfare. It has made me keenly attuned to the darker aspects of human nature, the willingness to brutalize one another. Four decades on this planet and I still cannot fathom how a man can rape a baby, how people can gas, hack, strangle, shoot, smother, burn, and torture their fellow humans. Rather than become dulled and inured from violence overload, I am ever more appalled and horrified by it. Take this CNN report on gang-raping little girls in Darfur:
Can we even imagine the anguish felt by these young victims and their families? Can words and images conjure their REAL suffering and fear?
At only 12 years old, Fathiya Hassan has distinguished herself in Hargeisa, capital of Somalia’s self-declared republic of Somaliland, by being the first girl to join the thriving car-wash business. A local human rights NGO says 30 percent of children in Somaliland engage in some form of work, making Hassan one of hundreds of children working to feed themselves and their families, despite the fact that child labour is outlawed. She spoke to IRIN on 24 February.
“I usually operate along Togdheer Street and I earn 10,000 Somaliland shillings [US$1.60] daily, but there are some days when I don’t make anything.
“Although I have been a car-washer for the past two years, I would give it up in an instant if I got some support to go to school. I have also worked as a cleaner in one of the restaurants here in Hargeisa.
“Sometimes I don’t get paid the same amount that a male car-washer would receive; some even tell me they have nothing to pay me; if I insist on being paid, they threaten [to beat] me.
“Moreover, the male children who also wash cars look down on me, telling me: ‘You are a girl, you don’t deserve to wash cars’.”
Here’s a 2008 UNICEF video on child labor (UNICEF estimates that there are “158 million children under the age of 15 who are trapped in child labor around the world.”)
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.