Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reflections on Tajikistan

I am writing to you from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where I am on a very interesting factfinding trip in cooperation with the OSCE to explore the potential of women to stand up against the threat of extremism, including along the Afghan  border, which is only 100 miles away from the capital.

It is a country where men are sparse; the majority of the males migrate to Russia for most of the year and often find new loves and lives there, leaving behind their wives who have to fend for themselves in a country where 40% are below the poverty line. Forced marriages and trafficking are also prevalent.

Tajikistan is a country in transition. There is a huge youth bulge without hope and without a promising future, which provides fertile ground for radicalization amidst few efforts to create counter-narratives.

With the withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan  in 2014, the situation will be even more volatile.

This is a SAVE moment here!
The SAVE Team visits Tajiki students

Edit Schlaffer

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mona Eltahawy Arrested in Tahrir Square

Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested in Tahrir Square yesterday night, shortly after her interview with the BBC in which she boldly stated: “People are determined to get their defiance across to the Supreme Military Council, and tell them we want nothing short of a civilian leadership for Egypt”. (Scroll down for link to interview)
Mona Eltahawy

Soon after news of Eltahawy’s arrest came out, her Twitter account sent a tweet that said “Beaten arrested in Interior Ministry”. The tweet was reportedly sent from the journalist’s blackberry device while in prison.

Activists and supporters of Eltahawy have started an online campaign on Twitter entitled #FreeMona. According to the New York Times, the US Department of State was informed of the journalist’s arrest.

Eltahawy was released this afternoon following 12 long hours in detention. Soon after her release, she tweeted "I AM FREE" and "12 hours with Interior Ministry security forces and military intelligence combined. Can barely type - must go xray arms after CSF beat me." The journalist also claimed that she was sexually harassed while in prison.

Eltahawy is an award-winning journalist and public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues based in New York. She is a columnist for Canada's Toronto Star, Israel's Jerusalem Report and Denmark's Politiken. Her opinion pieces have also been published in The Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune.

Over the years she has tackled critical issues such as media censorship and women’s rights in Egypt and the Middle East.

Recent developments in Cairo strongly demonstrate the Egyptian people's determination to continue protesting until they receive the civilian leadership they have been demanding for the past 8 months.

Egyptian women demanding an end to military rule and the establishment of a long-awaited civilian government (By Al Jazeera)

Mona’s interview with the BBC prior to her arrest can be viewed here:

Monday, November 21, 2011

SAVE visits the graduates of the competence and confidence building income-generating workshop in Mumbai

On November 20, SAVE Global visited the graduates of the SAVE competence and confidence building income-generating workshop in Mumbai, India. The participants, all wives of constables in the Mumbai police force, recently finished the second session of this 8-week training course. Vinita Kamte, the wife of Ashok Kamte (who lost his life on 26/11 after shooting the only surviving terrorist), and the person who organized the training on the ground, was also present for this final session.

Over the course of the SAVE training, the women gained computer literacy, learned basic accounting, and took English courses. Once a week, the women also participated in hour-long SAVE confidence and competence-building workshops to encourage them to gain a voice within their families, to recognize their own self-worth, and to create a support network among the women, many of whom are neighbors, but who had never even spoken to one another before.

Recognizing one's own agency within the family, and being able to draw in a support network of others within the commit who might be in a similar position, are cornerstones of positioning these women to become active players in the security arena and in empowering them to combat violent extremist ideologies. All of these women have first-hand experience with the devastating consequences of terrorism, as their husbands were on duty during the deadly three-day siege of Mumbai that began on November 26, 2008. After participating in the training, the women clearly said that they felt much more confident to speak up within their families and to guide their children and husbands in the right direction.

The feedback was overwhelming:
"You have given Indian women the space to stand up."

"This training was so helpful-for the first time we were able to openly discuss our concerns, because at home I felt like I had to be strong and no One listened. Now, however, I can help my children and speak up."

SAVE Global's training of the wives of police involved in the Mumbai bombings was widely covered in the press:

Times Of India:

Indian Express – Mumbai Newsline

Free Press Journal:



The Tribune:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

India and Pakistan Side by Side at the UN Security Council, By Mehru Jaffer

The United Nations Security Council

The announcement of India and Pakistan’s admission into the UN Security Council is very good news for the people of South Asia.

The recent win of a two year term on the UN Security Council by Pakistan shows that when they are truly willing to make the effort, India and Pakistan can stand by each other. India defied international expectations when it recently voted for regional rival Pakistan in the elections for a non permanent seat on the 15-member UN Security Council.

A visibly happy Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN Security Council, addressed journalists after his win, and received a congratulatory call from his Indian counterpart. This was a moment that did not go unnoticed by the media of a region in which the majority of the one billion inhabitants crave nothing more than peace between the South Asian rivals, and the end of a war that has lasted for over half a century.

Manjeev Singh Puri, India's deputy permanent representative to the UN, embraced Haroon after the vote, and stated that he welcomed the election of Pakistan into the Security Council. "Pakistan and India share a common perception on so many global issues, and we look forward to working with them," Puri said.

Last year Pakistan had also voted in favor of India for the same position at the UN Security Council. Now the two countries will work together on this international forum as a shining example of multilateralism, without allowing regional rivalry to come in the way.

The question is, why not practice similar camaraderie at home?

When it comes to international issues, India and Pakistan have always been thick as thieves. However the two neighbors continue to be boorish, belligerent and threatening when it comes to regional matters.

The question is why?

Haroon promised to avoid the usual tendencies adopted in the past as he praised dialogue between arch rivals India and Pakistan.

Let us hope that all the problems of the past will not prevent India and Pakistan from practicing at home, what both keep promising abroad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Women urged to put their stamp on Arab Spring

(Reuters) - Women should voice demands about their rights during the popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world to avoid being short-changed by post-revolutionary governments, Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi said.

Ebadi, a practicing Muslim, also expressed hope that Arab men and women would learn from Iran's 1979 revolution, when the overthrow of the shah led to the establishment of an Islamic republic which imposed sharia-inspired laws many women regard as restrictive of their rights.
Egyptian women chant slogans as they attend a demonstration 
in Tahrir Square, Cairo-Reutors

"I think it is too early to talk of an Arab Spring, which should be used when democracy has been established and people can determine their own destiny and are equal and free. And we cannot forget half of society -- the women," Ebadi, a human and women's rights activist, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"If women cannot gain equality and the right to set their own destiny then that is not a real revolution and won't lead to democracy.

"Our experience in Iran's 1979 revolution proves this. We saw that people got rid of a dictator but instead of democracy he was replaced by religious despotism and many of the laws on polygamy, men's power of divorce ... and stoning were passed."

Since long-time leaders were toppled in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, many -- not least in the West -- have fretted that their departure will leave the door open for Islamist groups to take power.

In Tunisia, some women have expressed concern over the victory of the Islamist party Ennahda in elections last month, though its leaders have said they will not alter laws that guarantee women equal rights to men in divorce, marriage and inheritance.


Unless Arab women speak up soon, they risk being sidelined by the region's new governments, Ebadi said.

"Women should raise their egalitarian demands and the people should put forth their civic demands early on and oblige groups that are seeking power to answer," said Ebadi, a defense lawyer for Iranian dissidents who has lived outside Iran since 2009.

"These issues should be raised early, otherwise after a party reaches power it may be too late."

Egyptian feminist Nawal al-Saadawi has called for women to move fast to secure their rights as the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood targets large support in a parliamentary election later this month, following Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

"In Iran, the error committed by feminists and political groups was to put off the egalitarian demands of women until after the overthrow of the shah... But the women's problems were not resolved and things even got worse after the regime changed," Ebadi said.

"Pushing for transparency is the best way for this. Feminist groups should directly ask parties 'Do you support polygamy, yes or no?' ... Or ask "Do you support equal inheritance for men and women?' So that people would know a party's stand on rights issues before they take power," Ebadi said.

The leader of Libya's National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil caused consternation last month when he took to the podium at a celebration of the country's "liberation" and said polygamy would no longer be outlawed.

Ebadi rejected charges by some Islamists that demanding women's rights and more modern laws was part of a Western-inspired attack on Islam. Equally she said Islam was compatible with women's rights.

"I believe that if Islam is interpreted and applied correctly we can have totally egalitarian laws for women and strike punishments such as stoning and cutting hands from out of

law books," she said.

Ebadi was Iran's first woman judge but lost that job following the Islamic revolution because the country's new leaders said women were too emotional to be judges.

She became a human rights lawyer but, after suffering harassment, she left the country in 2009.

"It's no good if a dictator goes and he is replaced by another. I hope Arabs who have risen up in revolutions learn from Iran's experience."

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Robert Woodward - REUTERS)

Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS