02 February 2009

Violence, Racism, Empire, Misogyny: Reading the News

Fourteen people were murdered in anti-migrant attacks in Russia during January 2009, according to the monthly summary just published by human rights monitors at SOVA. Ten of these murders occurred in Moscow. In other words, every three days a migrant was killed by racists in Russia's capital alone.


In Italy, a 35-year-old Punjabi immigrant was beaten, doused with gasoline and lit on fire.

Italian politicians, including opposition leader Walter Veltroni and former Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, have faulted the xenophobic climate created by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Civil rights activists and Indian immigrants staged an anti-racism protest immediately after news of the attack broke. (Via.)

Recently, it was asked on this blog, “What can one do in the face of racist violence in Russia?” See above.

(Though as Lyndon pointed out, some in Russia already knew the answer.)


Still got some bounce left in your step? Check out the Guardian review of Nadje Al-Ali’s work on the war on women in Iraq, What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq:

… as a result of consecutive wars, the Iraqi population is now disproportionately female - with some estimates putting the ratio of women to men at 65/35. There are 300,000 impoverished widows in Baghdad alone, forced to run their households on two hours of electricity a day. As early as July 2003 a Human Rights Watch report highlighted "the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence and abduction", and kidnaps that target women (often related to sex trafficking) have increased since the start of the war, as have female suicide rates and honour killings.

According to Al-Ali's interviewees, women are being bullied back into the home. The fact that George W Bush depicted the invasion of Iraq as a path to women's empowerment makes the situation even more outrageous. In her book, Al-Ali meticulously explains how Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush were deployed to reassure the world that the US was concerned with women's liberation - Laura Bush being wheeled out for photo-opportunities with US organisations such as Women for Free Iraq.

Al-Ali feels that the cynical use of the women's rights discourse by the US has also led to a backlash against feminist activists in Iraq, who can be easily undermined, or even vilified, by being accused of supporting an American agenda.

Does she see the establishment of a 25% quota for women in the Iraqi parliament as a sign of progress? "Yes, but who are the 25% in practice? They are the sisters, daughters and wives of the male conservative leaders.”



nadia said...

Nadje Ali's Iraqi Women is highly recommended and way more interesting than the title makes it sound.

nadia said...

Also, I didn't know till I read said book that the gender quota in parliament was the work of women activists, Bremer was actually against it for the sake of "cultural sensitivity."
"Iraqi Women" is an overview of the change in women's status and activism from the 40s through to the post-war era, anyone who's interested in the subject should read this book along with the new one for a more longterm perspective on the roots of the current situation.

Buster said...

Nadia, Thanks for the tip. I was aware of the book and it was somewhere in my vague "to-read" list, but you've just bumped it up into the top 20. (Gotta be realistic and keep the top ten for dissertation-related stuff.)

nadia said...

Yeah I keep meaning to review it since usually-and also understandably- she just gets asked about recent events in interviews but time really hasn't been on my side.