Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ode to Azraq Wetlands

Ode to Azraq Wetlands by J

It was a hot murky morning the day we arrived in Azraq
and it was only April ....
'What? No winter? ' we cried ;
as the sight that greeted the eye was one
of parched and dusty lands, and dying palm trees one after the other;
Simple havoc on nature's trail where once our wetlands used to prevail;
It left a tear and saddened heart with fear
for man and nature.

But this was man's undoing;
A dying legacy that leaves a scar of more Roman bricks and mortar
in the oasis of our blessed neighbourhood;
of 'Azraq', the blue,
no more ....

For without the springs of winter,
there's no water for buffalo,
shank, warbler, nor egret;
nor ostrich nor oryx too.

And what of man and his ilk, I hear you ponder
As we wonder at the power of men to milk and plunder.
And so the bounty below our blessed soil
that fostered an ecology for millennia,
is pumped and diverted and squandered
in the name of questionable development;
a change without thought;
a culture sacrificed on the altar of our
greed and discontent ....

For once this oasis and refuge is gone,
what then my beloved Jordan?

Enough said ...

The following article appeared in today's Jordan Times. Well said ... and enough said. Time for action to put right a terrible wrong. J

Right to life is sacrosanct
Walid M. Sadi
Jordan Times, 20 April 2008

Many Jordanians rejoiced, temporarily, when the criminal law on the so-called honour crimes was amended, offering women equal treatment with men by granting them relative impunity if they kill or injure husbands caught in an illicit sexual relation.
Before it was amended, Article 98 of the criminal code granted only men various degrees of impunity, including complete impunity when killing wives or female members of their families caught involved in extramarital relations or even appearing to be doing so.
When the country went up in arms against the legal justification for this, Parliament dropped the full impunity clause and retained the extenuating circumstances element in the commission of such crimes, and extended it to women as well, who could kill or injure in the name of honour as well.
This equal gender treatment is not absolute though, as women can only enjoy the same right “to kill or injure” as long as the illicit act of their husbands is committed in the family home. Otherwise, if the husband has an extramarital relation outside his home, the wife has no right to even touch him.
Men, however, have no such restriction and may kill or injure a female member of the family engaged or suspected of engaging in an illicit sexual act anywhere.
Fortunately so far only a handful of women made use of this “privilege”, of this licence to kill or injure their spouses. The same cannot be said about men who continue to murder in the name of “honour” and receive reduced punishments for their crimes!
This gender differential treatment, however, is not quite the main issue. The issue is rather whether the law should offer any degree of impunity to people who kill others in the name of “honour crime”.
Since men continue to exploit the existing criminal code, Jordanians, especially women, have the right to ask whether there is really any justification for this licence to kill or for commuting male murderers’ sentences.
Islam is quite explicit in this regard, as it requires solid evidence, corroborated by four male witnesses, before a woman can be punished for an illicit sexual act. Since this degree of evidence cannot be attained, no court can lawfully condemn a woman for allegedly committing the sin of all sins! If a court cannot pass a judgement of guilt on a woman accused of illicit sexual relations, how can a husband, a brother or an uncle make this determination on his own and get away with it?
There are many sane options available to both sexes in dealing with sexual infidelity, including divorce or separation.
The “fit of fury” often cited by courts to commute sentences on culprits who commit their crimes allegedly in such a state of mind should not be allowed to serve as an excuse for the kind of light sentences rendered against perpetrators of honour crimes.
The right to life is paramount and should not be violated. Lenient sentences, no doubt, end up encouraging the continued commission of crimes.
True, the independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct, but the right to be critical of court decisions that appear to be flawed should not be sacrificed or given up so easily. The existing law is discriminatory against women because it gives men preferential treatment. The application of the law is also flawed because it does not accord the right to life enough respect and protection.
There is no easy remedy for this legal situation, but a start can be made by removing the obvious gender discrimination against women, deeply embodied in the criminal legislation. The second corrective measure can be achieved by eliminating altogether the existing licence for both sexes to commit crime in the name of honour. The fit of fury argument should be conservatively applied.
Attention to our human rights treaty obligations, especially the right to life, should be given priority over all other considerations.

By Walid Sadi

Friday, April 18, 2008

Infotainment and Manipulation

I came across infotainment in today’s newspaper. The word is new to me and not in any dictionary that I own. Google didn’t recognize it either, but surprisingly, when I typed it just now, my computer did not underline it in red as a misspelled word. Infotainment combines information and entertainment – which is what we seem to get from the major news networks on TV these days. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I seldom watch news channels on TV anymore. They present the news in short segments, as if the viewer is too immature, unintelligent, or restless to concentrate for more than two minutes. They usually give ‘facts’ without background or context. They also present the news with emotional overtones when possible by asking questions such as, “And how did you feel when your house burned down?” or other questions equally mindless. These news channels seem keen to entertain, and they take the results of frequent polls seriously in order to evaluate their success.

On the other hand newspapers present information with manipulation. They present ‘facts’ without background and/or opposing views. A good example is an article the New York Times of yesterday (April 18, 2008) about carnage in Gaza. The title: Palestinians Fight Israelis in Gaza by Isabel Kershner. Palestinian is the subject of the verb to fight in that sentence so grammatically one can assume Palestinians are the ‘doer of the action’ or the aggressor. Not once in the article is it mentioned than Gaza is under Israeli military occupation. At the end of the article it states that: “The Israeli Defense Ministry had announced in advance that it would allow the resumption of essential fuel supplies to Gaza on Wednesday, but the violence delayed the delivery for a few hours. The Palestinians received fuel needed to run the Gaza power plant and cooking gas, but no gas for private cars.” Again, the article makes no mention that Israel has blockaded Gaza preventing fuel from being delivered. No one is pointing a finger at Israel for violating international agreements regarding the rights of civilians under occupation. There is no outrage that Israel is guilty of mass punishment against the population of Gaza.

If I want entertainment, I do not expect to find it in the news. And I resent articles that are manipulative in order to shape my opinion according to another’s vested interest.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Merry-go-round of Stone

I had to go to the Ministry of Interior yesterday to get an official letter officially guaranteeing a form officially stamped by and signed by a head of department at the Ministry of Labour … our official representatives. But that's not the point.

The Ministry of the Interior is located next to the Sports City Park. That's fine. But what struck me was the amount of construction going on in the former car park of the Royal Cultural Centre and the onslaught to the Sports City Park that once housed thousands of trees … the only domain of nature left to us the citizen in a city gone building bonkers. The park is looking more and more like a concrete jungle. And for what … just more fancy buildings with fancy names, such as The House for Youth that looked more like a prison.

And all I could think was …' and how much did that building cost to build?' … as another goes up in expensive stone right next to it to provide chairs for civil servants to sit on.

So what if land is expensive … I thought the people of Jordan were its 'greatest asset', once upon a time? Why do we only measure development in terms of construction?

Surely if we want to work for Youth … they don't need 'buildings' as such, just more consideration for their mothers and a national review of educational policies. They also need more open space, places to walk and play, more football fields, basketball, volley ball, and handball courts, even small community centres, all supported by political will; but most importantly, youth need policies with vision; not more concrete walls that seem to stop vision in its tracks.

We seem to be able to find money to build and build and build in stone instead of investing in the people and where it would count most: providing government run clinics particularly in East Amman with proper facilities and the medicine to support its work and overworked/underpaid staff. That's just for starters.

Well at least the Prime Minister is finally addressing this issue albeit for one institution, namely the Prince Hamzeh Hospital Something the Ministry of Public Sector Reform should have done long ago. Maybe we should reform the government first …?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Knowledge is the Beginning

Yesterday I saw the film, Knowledge is the Beginning/West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. What a marvelous portrayal of the sequence of events that made real the dream of two men, the late Dr. Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim! Edward Said was a Palestinian/American author, literary critic, musician, and professor at Columbia University. He was a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause throughout his life. Daniel Barenboim is a pianist and conductor who holds a number of passports; Argentinean, Israeli, German and most recently he was granted Palestinian citizenship. Because of his humanitarian efforts he was designated as a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations last year.

Their dream was a musical project involving musicians who are from Israel and the Arab countries. They were able to bring these young people together to promote dialogue while pursuing their common purpose of performing music as a first class orchestra. The outstanding achievement of this project was shown in a concert in Ramallah in 2005. Throughout the movie the confusion, feelings, fears, and external constraints that shape the lives of these young people were talked about. Possibly few of them actually changed their minds, but their being together forced them to be open and to hear each other. Several times in the film Daniel Barenboim said that this project will not bring peace. Realistically, no, but it’s obvious that it is one great step in that direction. In the meantime they play beautiful music together!


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I am enraged so I can go out and murder someone

According to the Jordan Times today one can just go out and commit murder and get set free if you are 'in a fit of fury'. I think I will take a machine gun and spray all the drivers who drive me to utter madness, give myself in saying I had done it in a fit of fury and get off under Article 98.

Seriously though this case is just another that reflects badly on the Jordanian legal system. This father was not defending himself he decided to murder his son because of his behaviour. Most countries have degrees of murder and if it is committed whilst 'the balance of mind was disturbed' can be a mitigating factor. But these cases of so-called 'honour' are just murder (even though this one did not have that defence). Please Judges, get your acts together and sentence those who murder other human beings to appropriate jail time. T

Man convicted of killing son walks free
By Rana Husseini
AMMAN - A 55-year-old man convicted of murdering his son walked free from the Criminal Court last week after receiving a reduced sentence.
The court sentenced Mohammad S. to three months in prison after convicting him of murdering his 22-year-old son while he slept on November 23, 2007.
The victim had been a troublemaker for the past 10 years, but the family took no action against him to maintain their familial bond, according to court transcripts.
A few weeks before the incident, the victim had a fight with one of his brothers, the court said.
“The victim’s mother tried to intervene but he pushed her aside, spat on her and uttered bad words in the presence of the defendant,” the court said.
The victim then drew a switchblade and threatened his brothers before leaving the house, it added.
“He returned later that night and slept on the couch. The defendant, still enraged by the incident, brought a machinegun and showered his son with bullets while he slept,” the court said.
The 55-year-old defendant turned himself in to police shortly after the shooting and informed them that he killed his son because he was a troublemaker.
The court amended the manslaughter charges originally pressed against the defendant to a misdemeanor as stipulated in Article 98 because the defendant committed his crime in a fit of fury.
“The victim’s actions caused the defendant to lose his temper and proper thinking and the killed his son without prior planning,” the court said in its ruling.
Mohammad S. was able to walk free as he had already served three months while on trial.
The verdict is subject to appeal by the general attorney at the Court of Cassation within the next 30 days.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Springtime musings

'Oh gawd' …. I sighed, as I read the daily news and my heart sank.
"What" cries hubby from the bedroom, "the world's in a mess again?"
And all I could do was laugh … for he seems to know my thoughts the minute they pop into my head. He glanced over my shoulder at the computer to a picture of a young boy stripped to the waist and held at gun point by several democratically trained Israeli soldiers …. "Israelis, doing what they know best? killing kids again?" ….."what's new, they've been doing it for thousands of years" he says …

For thousands of years and counting, mankind has been defining and refining ever more brutal means to kill … and I can hear Cheney saying "so?" in the background. So ….. "thou shalt not kill" whispers a voice from the past from the holy land …. as another body hits the dust somewhere on our beloved shores and another young able bodied man suits up and ships out with blood and vengeance on his mind.

And so our little story continues with no peace for the prophets after all these years, just nuts like Wilders & Co adding fuel to the fire of our collective insanity. And while our league of gentlemen perpetuate the mess for our kids; it's hardly surprising that our lord has forsaken us.

"Have you looked out the window at the garden lately?" asks hubby as he dashes out of the house …. "it's spring time you know …."

… for I had almost forgotten. J

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

The furor about the Dutch film ‘Fitna” by Geert Wilders seems to have been short lived and, more importantly, non-violent. The lack of sensitivity which provokes anger and the right to exercise free speech and expression of thought are issues that have always been with us. Censorship of information is an ongoing battle in most societies because people differ on the kind of material, and the degree to which that material, is objectionable. One comment that was made in the press about this film concerned me, however, and it was that the UN should pass a resolution that stipulates no prophet or religion can be insulted, like the anti-Semitic law. I have to disagree. In the first place the intention of the anti-Semitic law was to protect the sensitivities of the Jewish people only and not all Semites which would include Arabs. But more importantly, this so called anti-Semitic law has been used to silence criticism and even discussions about Israel because anti-Semitic was immediately and tightly equated with anti-Israeli. The average American cannot easily publish or publicly call into question anything that might be interpreted as derogatory towards Israel. Most US Congressmen and media sources are intimidated into silence by this equation. This is not only a dangerous violation of one’s right to free speech it also keeps the Arab/Israeli conflict shrouded in secrecy and inaccuracies. One should use great caution when it comes to censorship laws because they can be stretched to stifle healthy dialogue and censor facts.


human and financial cost of the war in Iraq

How do we count the cost of war? Both human and financial burdens face a country at war. 'The Three Trillion Dollar War' by Joseph Stiglitz & Linda Bilmes is such an eye opener. I have not quite finished it but my brain is reeling at the numbers of human casualties and the obscene amounts of money this war has cost and will continue to do so even when it is over.

In 2005 the US was paying $34.5 billion in annual disability entitlement to veterans of previous wars of which $4.3 billion is paid annually for those in the first Gulf War. $34.5 billion A YEAR paid out. Can you imagine that? And just think of the human suffering behind these sums.

The 'unprecedented human cost among the veterans who return from Iraq and Afghanistan ........ By December 2007, 224,000 returning soldiers had applied for disability benefits'. And this is just in the US Armed Forces!

As for Iraqis what hope have they got? The book says 'As the US continues to place an emphasis on developing the Iraqi military to replace the American presence, it is worth asking what the cost to that country will be of providing medical care and any kind of long-term benefits to Iraqis who are fighting in this war.' Indeed! T

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

body search part two

WELL! This evening I collected a British guest from the same hotel I mentioned in the previous blog (she is here for SOFEX) and she told me that she found the body searches so intrusive and that the MEN WERE NOT SUBJECTED TO ANY BODY SEARCHES AT ANY TIME. What is this? I think it is absolutely disgusting that we women should be subject to such humiliating treatment and the men just walk on by! I am all for security but this is TOO MUCH. T

body search

Yesterday I went to one of our 5 star hotels and noticed a lot more security around especially Special Forces soldiers in their red berets, presumably there to guard guests to SOFEX. I and four other ladies put our bags on to the xray then walked through the arch as we usually do. Then we were ushered into a small room one by one for the most intrusive body search I have ever had. I found it quite upsetting as the woman pushed and pulled and felt all over my body in a very strong way. Is this really necessary? T