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Do They Still Call For ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’?: France Bans the Public Use of Full-Face Veils

11 Apr

As if revolutions, revolts, and natural disasters weren’t enough, France has put into effect the ban on Full-Face Veils in public. The new law, which was approved last year, has been controversial since the onset. Two fully veiled women, who were involved in protests, have already been detained even though the law was put into effect today. The law was approved on Thursday, October 7, 2010 by France’s top legal authority, The Constitutional Council. It was deemed constitutional but could not be applied in places of worship as a result of freedom of religion.

The law sets fines of up to $215 for women who cover their faces   and criminal penalties and fines of up to $42,000 for those who force women to wear the full-face veils. The fines increase if the person forced to wear the veil is a minor. It has not yet been made clear how the law will be enforced seeing as police officers are not allowed to remove the veils from women’s faces. The law also does not apply in private vehicles. As stated in a guide to the Police, officers are able to take anyone who refuses to lift the veil to the police station where they will then be threatened with fines.

Some have claimed that the law is the government’s way of stigmatizing France’s of 5 million Muslims.  Claims have been made that President Sarkozy is attempting to win back votes ahead of next year’s Presidential elections by deliberating placing a stigma on  Muslim women and targeting an already vulnerable minority group. The French government ardently denies these claims, saying instead that the full-face veil is a sign of male oppression.

France is the first European nation to pass the law, while Belgium has proposed but has not yet enforced the law. In the Netherlands, a similar law has been proposed by far-right leaders.

Kissing In Tahrir Square

21 Feb

Protesters hold signs depicting their outrage with Mubarak

Anti-Mubarak Protesters and Their Reasoning: Protesters in Egypt, comprised of disgruntled working class members, have denounced Mr. Hosni Mubarak. They are tired of his 30 year rule of oppressive policies and false elections. Although he has made concessions, dismissing his cabinet members and for the first time in 30 years naming a Vice President, many say they will not be satisfied until he is gone. He has also conceded a 15% pay raise for six million public sector workers. Yet, Egyptians are protesting. They are ready for a true democracy, not a government in which they are limited in their say and practical rights are not equivalent to stated rights.

Mubarak supporters kiss the Egyptian President's face

Mubarak Supporters and Their Reasoning: It is relatively easy to determine why some people oppose Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but why do some still support him? For one, he is putting money into their pockets. Many supporters are government workers who happen to be on his payroll. His “relatively-open, free-market policies” have increased trade with the West and with Israel. There are also entrepreneurs who support him because of his ability to “[extract] foreign aid from the United States and distributing it to domestic businesses.” Not only do businessmen and officials support him, there are also some working class people who are Mubarak activists. They believe that his leadership can keep Egypt from plunging into chaos as Yemen did or from becoming a theocracy as Iran is. Overall, Mubarak’s hold over the working class is very tenuous, which signifies the shift in the previously Socialist styled Egyptian government.

Egypt's President of thirty years: Hosni Mubarak

A Brief Commentary on Mr. Mubarak: Hosni Mubarak became the President of Egypt in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat. He is said to be a proud leader who is resistant to change. During his speech on February 1, 2001, Mr. Mubarak said that he would not run for reelection in September but would rather mediate a peaceful transfer of power. The New York Times states that the focus of the protests is rooted in  “that deep-seated aversion to change, along with Mr. Mubarak’s fierce pride and absolute certainty that he is the only person who can provide his country with the stability he so prizes…”. He has been called Egypt’s modern Pharaoh, surviving six assassination attempts and many outburst of public anger. He has served a term longer than any other and although he has maintained ties with the U.S. and Israel, the economy has suffered and many have been jailed for speaking against him.

A Tunisian protester proudly waves a flag

What led to the Protests: Inspired by the recent protests that took place in Tunisia, Egyptians have begun to protest the autocratic state of their government, the high levels of poverty throughout the country, and the corruption within. These rounds of protests have been linked to the protests in Tunisia, but the June 2010 beating death of Khaled Said, allegedly by the police, has also been cited as fuel for Egyptians’ anger.

How the Unrest Affects the U.S.: Egypt, despite her authoritarian government, is an ally of the United States and as such, aid is provided to the nation. Protests can affect the aid that the country receives from the United States. Currently, the United States provides $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, $1.3 billion of which is fueled into the Army. The United States government is said to be closely monitoring the Egyptian protests and how they may possibly affect the aid.

An Egyptian woman kisses the cheek of a soldier after the Army decides to support the protesters.

Role of the Army: The Egyptian Army has played a crucial role in coups to overthrow the government, while still holding an important political function. Many are saying that the fate of the protests rests in with the Army: they must either choose their country or Mubarak. Burhan Ghalioun, Director for the Center of Contemporary Oriental Studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris states, “There is a general feeling that the army is the only institution capable of offering any security after the failure of the police. No other institution can hold the country together because of the lack of any clear, coherent opposition.” With the shift within the Army itself, many soldiers are joining the Anti-Mubarak protesters.

A 30-year-old regime has been ousted in 18 days

The Results: Eighteen days after the protests began, Egypt is finally free.  As of Friday, February 11, 2011, Hosni Mubarak has stepped down from his position as Egypt’s President. He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the country.  The President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, has stated that through the difficult days of change to come America will remain an ally and friend to Egypt and the vice President, Joe Biden calls this “a historic day for the people of Egypt.”

Kissing in Tahrir Square: Egyptian Woman Kisses Soldiers who Join Supporters.

8 Feb

  1. Anti-Mubarak Protesters and Their Reasoning: Protesters in Egypt, comprised of disgruntled working class members, have denounced Mr. Hosni Mubarak. They are tired of his 30 year rule of oppressive policies and false elections. Although he has made concessions, dismissing his cabinet members and for the first time in 30 years naming a Vice President, many say they will not be satisfied until he is gone. He has also conceded a 15% pay raise for six million public sector workers. Yet, Egyptians are protesting. They are ready for a true democracy, not a government in which they are limited in their say and practical rights are not equivalent to stated rights.
  2. Mubarak Supporters and Their Reasoning: It is relatively easy to determine why some people oppose Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but why do some still support him? For one, he is putting money into their pockets. Many supporters are government workers who happen to be on his payroll. His “relatively-open, free-market policies” have increased trade with the West and with Israel. There are also entrepreneurs who support him because of his ability to “[extract] foreign aid from the United States and distributing it to domestic businesses.” Not only do businessmen and officials support him, there are also some working class people who are Mubarak activists. They believe that his leadership can keep Egypt from plunging into chaos as Yemen did or from becoming a theocracy as Iran is. Overall, Mubarak’s hold over the working class is very tenuous, which signifies the shift in the previously Socialist styled Egyptian government.
  3. A Brief Commentary on Mr. Mubarak: Hosni Mubarak became the President of Egypt in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat. He is said to be a proud leader who is resistant to change. During his speech on February 1, Mr. Mubarak said that he would not run for reelection in September but would rather mediate a peaceful transfer of power. The New York Times states that the focus of the protests is rooted in  “that deep-seated aversion to change, along with Mr. Mubarak’s fierce pride and absolute certainty that he is the only person who can provide his country with the stability he so prizes…”. He has been called Egypt’s modern Pharaoh, surviving six assassination attempts and many outburst of public anger. He has served a term longer than any other and although he has maintained ties with the U.S. and Israel, the economy has suffered and many have been jailed for speaking against him.
  4. What led to the Protests: Inspired by the recent protests that took place in Tunisia, Egyptians have begun to protest the autocratic state of their government, the high levels of poverty throughout the country, and the corruption within. These rounds of protests have been linked to the protests in Tunisia, but the June 2010 beating death of Khaled Said, allegedly by the police, has also been cited as fuel for Egyptians’ anger.
  5. How the Unrest Affects the U.S.: Egypt is an ally of the United States and therefore, aid is provided to the nation. Protests can affect the aid that the country receives from the United States. Currently, the United States provides $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, $1.3 billion of which is fueled into the Army. The United States government is said to be closely monitoring the Egyptian protests and how they may possibly affect the aid.
  6. Role of the Army: The Egyptian Army has played a crucial role in coups to overthrow the government, while still holding an important political function. Many are saying that the fate of the protests rests in with the Army: they must either choose their country or Mubarak. Burhan Ghalioun, Director for the Center of Contemporary Oriental Studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris states, “There is a general feeling that the army is the only institution capable of offering any security after the failure of the police. No other institution can hold the country together because of the lack of any clear, coherent opposition.” With the shift within the Army itself, many soldiers are joining the Anti-Mubarak protesters.

Photos from the Protests can be found here.

Child Soldiers

31 Jan

I was unsure of what to write about, so I’m just going to tell you guys a little about an organization that I support called Falling Whistles, a human rights group for the rehabilitation of child soldiers.

What do you think of when you hear the term “child soldiers”? Do you think of the Invisible Children in nations such as Uganda who walk for miles in order to escape the armies who raid their towns by night? Do you think of the children, too young to carry a gun, who are given whistles as their only weapons? These children are forced to take the bullets of the enemy without as much as a weapon to defend themselves with. Their falling bodies form piles by which the armies of the Democratic Republic of Congo may hide behind.

This is the bloodiest, most brutal, most terrible war of our age and yet the majority of the global population is completely ignorant of it. Since its onset, the war has claimed 6.9 million lives. Approximately 15,000 people are killed daily. The minerals that support our technology, that keep our cell phones and laptops running are stolen from the Congo. The Congolese people have suffered in order to fuel the developed world’s greed. The country, whose natural resources total more than the GDP of the U.S. and Western Europe combined, is raided daily. Her people are raped and her village pillaged so that we may live comfortable lives.

What can you do to help these children?

Buy a whistle. Their weapon can be our voice. Tell their story. All proceeds go into rehabilitating child soldiers and helping them to re-enter society. These children did not have the choice to become monsters. That choice was made for them. They were forced to kill or be killed. They have committed atrocities that we can only imagine but underneath it all they are still children who deserve a childhood, who deserve the right to live their lives honestly and proudly.

www.fallingwhistles.com