Try to Imagine Spending 1 Hour in Solitary Confinement. Albert Woodfox Spent 43 Years

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LOUISIANA, United States - What comes to mind when people think about solitary confinement? Society depicts prisoners in locked cells with little or no contact with the outside world. This is the reality of thousands of prisoners throughout the penal system in America, but what makes this subject topical and visceral is the recent release of Albert Woodfox. He was charged along with Robert King and Herman Wallace, for allegedly killing a guard during the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana riots in 1972.

Much can be debated about the guilt of these three black men, especially about the cruel and unusual punishment of having to serve their entire sentences in solitary confinement. Thus, the "Angola Three," as they have come to be known, are a prime example of the abuse of the incarcerated in solitary confinement also known as administrative segregation which condemns prisoners to a veritable living death.

Until his release, Woodfox was the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the history of United States, having served 43 years in solitary confinement. The next most famous personage to survive a long prison sentence in solitary confinement was Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison. He had received a life sentence in 1964 for conspiring against the apartheid regime, and spent the first 18 of those years on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town. (Source: Solitary Watch).

We, the public, can conceptualize solitary confinement, but everyone who has visited decommissioned cells in the administrative segregation section of prisons remarks on the fact that they couldn't imagine spending more than a few minutes in such an environment. Even this brief amount of time adversely impacted them, so one can extrapolate, though not really comprehend the magnitude of spending almost half-a-century in a small cell locked up for 23 hours a day.

The practice of administrative segregation needs to be reviewed much like the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) some states across the nation are choosing to legislate the discontinuation of capital punishment, and many states and even the federal government need to also reexamine the potential human rights abuses of prolonged isolation of prisoners.

Solitary confinement is often used to separate dangerous prisoners, protect inmates from other inmates, or put a stop to illegal activities outside of the prison, according to the National Institute of Corrections (NICIC). The problem with this method of punishment is that confined inmates are at risk for mental health problems. Inmates in solitary confinement are not engaged in stimulating activities such as work, friendship, volunteering, religious worship, and more. In fact they are isolated for 23 hours a day, which is proven to have a deleterious affect on mental health. Studies show that living alone is positively linked to mental health problems, and while this is not typical for everyone, isolation and seclusion can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm, hatred or other psychological and physiological concerns.

These health effects are especially greater in solitary confinement because prisoners spend everything but 1 hour of each day locked up and alone.

“In 2014, 13 years after being set free, Robert King told CNN that he still suffers from confusion, saying that he often gets "confused as to where I am, where I should be." He also said he started experiencing problems with his vision soon after entering solitary confinement. In addition, King told CNN that depression was a constant (though expected) symptom.”

The effects of solitary confinement on a prisoner’s well-being have been debated since the first half of the 20th century, according to Peter Scharff Smith, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights in Copenhagen. For reasons earlier noted, solitary confinement is a necessary component of the penal system, but its efficacy is in doubt outside of isolating violent inmates who pose an immediate danger to other incarcerates and even the guards. Prolonged and forced isolation of prisoners who have no recourse nor outside representation is one of theissues that needs to be debated as part the overall reformation of prison system.

To that end, small things can be changed to immediately improve the lives of those inmates who are locked up for long periods of time. This may include granting them the privilege of engaging in daily tasks as well as maintain meaningful social contacts that can be monitored and reviewed by the Prisoner Review Board. These contacts may involve writing letters and making phone calls to family members, friends, and mental health professionals, all of which are afforded to mainstreamed prisoners, but denied to those confined in solitary.

Additionally, attention to the mental health of prisoners being held in solitary confinement needs to be a top priority. They should have frequent access to social workers, clinical licensed psychologist, or even psychiatrist so that they can share their feelings, find an outlet for their depression through therapy, and if necessary receive proper medicine to manage any preexisting or confinement induced mental illnesses. No human being can exists successfully in isolation, as our ability to remain human and hold onto our humanity is through our relationships with other people and participation with the community, even if that community is an incarcerated population.

This does not negate the necessity of the penal system, nor the necessity of incarcerating violent felons such as murders, rapists, pedophiles, or robbers from time-to-time in solitary confinement; however, to keep inmates locked up continuously for decades at a time is a clear human rights violation. For the families of victims of violent crimes, no punishment could be too harsh and since we have not walked a 'mile' in their proverbial shoes we don't know exactly how we would react. But, the empirical evidence is clear that when and if solitary confined prisoners are released back into society without proper mental health treatment, they pose a greater danger than when they went into the system.

While incarceration is intended to strip inmates of certain rights, not addressing mental health problems which are the result of solitary confinement will ultimately result in extra costs and impose a greater burden upon a system that is currently stretched to its limits. But, these costs are minimal when compared to the expense of having to hire extra guards to manage volatile situations which may arise because of having mentally ill inmates in general population.

The case for or against solitary confinement is a complex one; however, it is clear that the system of isolation and administrative segregation poses a greater risk to society by creating a class of individuals who are mentally unstable, either because of genetic disposition or prolonged isolation, and therefore are incapable of successfully reintegrating into a society into which they are thrust without support, medication, or life and job skills upon completion of their sentences.

Contributing Journalist:  @SophieSokolo

Savita Halappanavar | Denied Abortion Dies from Septicemia

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The ‘War on Women” became a seminal issue of the 2012 United States presidential election. Never before had women’s issues been at the forefront of a political contest in which many men openly revealed their utter ignorance of how women’s bodies functioned, while waging an all-out campaign to eliminate the legal statutes that guaranteed the right for women to seek and secure safe abortions.

While Americans were discussing abortion rights in the abstract, last month an Indian woman living in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar, 31, died because she was not allowed to receive an abortion.

Her tragic story began when she presented to University Hospital Galway because at 17 weeks pregnant she was experiencing unusual back pain.

By all accounts Mr. and Mrs. Halappanavar were happy with the upcoming addition of a child to their family, so this sudden development was worrisome. Savita, a dentist, and her husband, an engineer, waited for the results of her internal examination, but when the doctor returned with the prognosis it was devastating. She was fully dilated, her amniotic fluid was leaking, and the child would not survive.

Doctors told her that she would miscarry in a few hours, but instead according to a report in the Irish Times today, she “died of septicemia a week later because, even after doctors confirmed that her baby would certainly die, they refused to perform a life-saving termination of the pregnancy citing the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country.

This is a clear case of when the religious beliefs of attending physicians outweighed their Hippocratic Oath. Though, the Halappanavar repeatedly begged the doctors to induce labor since it was clear that the fetus would not survive, but each time doctors refused to perform the life-saving measures required to save Savita’s life, asserting that as long as there was a fetal heartbeat they would not terminate the pregnancy.

Over the next few days medical personnel seemed to take inordinate care of the fetus, checking every few hours to see determine if its heart was still beating. Meanwhile, Mr. Halapannavar had to watch Savita deteriorate as poisonous blood course through her body. Once it was clear that they could not save her baby, Mrs. Halappanavar once again begged for the doctors to induce labor to end the pregnancy, as before, these requests by all accounts were assiduously ignored.

Mr. and Mrs. Halappanavar are Hindu and thus believed that they were not subject to the prohibition against abortions which governs the religious lives of Irish Catholics. Even when Mr. Halappanavar explained that they were neither Catholic nor Irish and that under the Irish law, a woman has a “legal right to an abortion where there is a ‘real and substantial’ risk to her life,” the doctors still refused to save her life.

Two months prior to Savita’s death, on 13 September 2012, more than 140 Irish medical professionals from the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, mental health, and molecular epidemiology attended a symposium to discuss abortion as a tool to save a mother who has a problematic pregnancy that is life-threatening.

At the conclusion of the conference the symposium issued ‘the Dublin Declaration.’ Drafted by leading medical experts in maternal healthcare the document asserts that “abortions are not medically necessary, and thus abortion has no place in treating women and their unborn children." (Source: Zenit)

Thus, Savita perished after a week of suffering and with the knowledge that she had already lost her child and that she would most certainly die.

Meanwhile, across the pond, America pro-choice supporters mounted a vigorous defense of Roe vs. Wade while combating ignorant beliefs about pregnancy espoused by many far-right conservatives like former Representative Joe Walsh.

The Illinois Rep. proclaimed that because of "advances in medicine and technology, you can't find one instance" in which an abortion would be necessary to save a mother's life. It was also his belief that the health of the mother has become a tool for abortions any time for any reason ... there's no such exception as the 'life of the mother.'

When women’s freedom and the right to self-determination is held hostage by religious beliefs, cultural bias, or patriarchal dominance, death is sure to follow. Whether by stoning or honor killings or medical neglect, the net result is women everywhere remain at risk as long as a few people can impose their will and belief system about women’s bodies on society at large.

Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias
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Mother Kills Daughter with Acid

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Acid attacks, are a heinous crime in which the perpetrator seeks to deliberately maim or kill their victim with acid so that they suffer horrendously in the short-term, and if they survive, must suffer the further indignity of being horribly disfigured.

These attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. Globally, at least 1500 people in 20 countries are attacked in this way yearly, 80% of whom are female and somewhere between 40% and 70% under 18 years of age. (Source: Wikipedia)

The recent assassination attempt of the Pakistani heroine, Malalai Yousafzi, galvanized Pakistanis who took to the streets in an unprecedented demonstration of support for Malalai. The nation and the world was swift and vociferous in the condemnation of the perpetrators, and this watershed moment seemed to mark a desire by the citizens of the country to stand up for the rights of Pakistani women and girls.

It was therefore disconcerting to learn of the murder of a young Pakistani girl who was targeted simply because she was speaking to a boy. Unlike Malalai, who was targeted by the Taliban for advocating for access to education for Pakistani girls, the young 16-year old girl who lost her life today, was victimized for no other reason than she happened to speak to a boy in front of her home.

She was the victim of an 'honor killing,' which is the murder of a girl or woman by relatives, because they perceive her actions as having brought dishonor to the family.

According to Reuters, the girl’s parents poured acid on her face and body. In this case, as in others, the mother was the main perpetrator, though usually it is a male relative who initiates and carries out honor killings.

Unlike the acid attack victim pictured above, the young 16-year old did not survive the ‘third-degree burns on her scalp, face, eyes, nostrils, arms, chest foot and lower part of legs.  According to the doctors who tried to save her life, even her scalp bone was exposed.’ (Source: Reuters)

The parents in this case have been arrested, which is unlike many cases in Asia in which the perpetrators often escape justice. In many cases the murder is viewed as a private family matter and in some conservative communities the practice is tacitly condoned.

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KKK Burns Black Woman Alive

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SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – The Western media often portrays terrorists and extremists as a unique manifestation of Islam and the cultural clash between modernity and religion that is occurring throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

However, less vigorously reported, but no less prevalent, is the increase of hate crimes in the United States.

Most recently, a group which was thought to have perished in ignominy has once again exhibited its extreme hatred of African-Americans, perhaps as a result of the United States’ 2012 Presidential election.

There are some in America who are virulently opposed to President Barack Obama not as a consequence of political, economic, or social differences, but simply because he is a man of color who had the ‘temerity’ to think that he could be President of the United States.

This type of xenophobia and hatred was regularly displayed post-9/11 when many Sikh men, who are not Muslim and wear turbans, were targeted and in some instances killed because their assailants thought they were Arab.

On Sunday, 21 October 2012, a young black woman by the name of Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, alleged that members of an American hate group called the Ku Klux Klan attacked her while taking a walk in a park in Winnsboro, Louisiana. According to her statement, she was attacked by three men wearing hoods who then doused her with a flammable liquid and ignited it. She is listed in critical condition.

Thanks to one of our readers, we have been informed that Ms. Moffitt now admits that she made up the story in an apparent attempt to obfuscate the circumstances surrounding her burning which was the result of a failed suicide attempt.

However, the reason this story resonated with so many people, including me, is the fact that the 2012 U.S. election cycle has provided ample opportunity for members of the 'far right' and 'white supremacist' like the man wearing the tee-shirt above, to espouse their views openly in various media outlets without fear of sanction or reprisal.

These bad deeds in no way justify Ms. Moffitt's actions, but the fact remains that racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and homophobia are on the rise in this country. Thus, even the spectre of the Ku Klux Klan evokes an immediate deep-seated visceral response in even the most reasonable people.

For Americans, the KKK is a dirty secret, a racist group that terrorized and killed thousands of African-Americans because members of this organization espoused white supremacy. In 2008, Americans hoped that this painful era of our history was successfully banished with the election of the first African-American President, in 2012 sentiment has proven otherwise.

"The Ku Klux Klan is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. Since the mid-20th century, the KKK has also been anti-communist.

The current manifestation is splintered into several chapters with no connections between each other; it is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is estimated to have between 3,000 and 5,000 members as of 2012." (Source: Wikipedia)

Ms. Moffitt has become the unfortunate symbol of the ascendance of racism in America. At a time when America hoped to present itself and view itself as a nation of equality and 'post-racialism,' the rancor and hatred exhibited in the 2012 election serves as a stark reminder that racism and other areas of discrimination are resurgent.

American terrorist groups like the KKK should be added to the list of international extremist groups like Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and as such, should be vigorously pursued, targeted, and eliminated for the good of all.

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Taliban Shoot 14-Year-Old Pakistani Activist, Malalai Yousafzai

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Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility. ~ Robin Morgan

MINGORA, Pakistan – On Tuesday, a 14-year-old Malalai Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist, was shot while boarding a school bus for home. The girl has garnered international attention and praise for her bravery in advocating for the education of girls as well as publicizing the atrocities committed by the Taliban who oppose her efforts. She was nominated last year for the International Children's Peace Prize.

Yousafzai, who lives in the Swat Valley was shot twice, once in the head and once in the neck, but miraculously has survived. The second girl shot was in stable condition, the doctor said. Pakistani television showed pictures of Malalai being taken by helicopter to a military hospital in the frontier city of Peshawar.

The attack began when a bearded Taliban man walked up to the school buses where lines of children stood waiting to board. He asked one of the girls to point out Malalai, and then he walked toward Malalai and another girl she was standing with.

After demanding which of the two girls was his intended victim, the other girl pointed to Malalai who subsequently denied her identity, whereupon the Taliban gunman shot both girls. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, calling Malalai's work "obscenity."

"This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter," said Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan by telephone. "We have carried out this attack." (Source: AP)

Malalai role as an international children’s rights activist began when she was only 11 years old. She initially began by authoring a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC's Urdu service about life under Taliban occupation.

Taliban militants began asserting their influence in Swat in 2007 — part of a wave of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters expanding their reach from safe havens near the Afghan border. By 2008 they controlled much of the valley and began terrorizing the residents with the aberrant interpretation of religion.

They forced men to grow beards, restricted women from going to the bazaar, whipped women they considered immoral and beheaded opponents.

During the roughly two years of their rule, Taliban in the region destroyed around 200 schools. Most were girls' institutions, though some prominent boys' schools were struck as well.

Then in the summer of 2009 after the Taliban was successfully rooted out and driven by from the Swat Valley by Pakistani militia, Malalai began speaking out publicly about the tyranny of militant groups and the need for girls' education.

In 2010, Malalai, then 13, chaired a children’s assembly in Swat Valley which was supported by UNICEF, during which she championed the continued progress and increased role of girls in Pakistani society.

"Girl members play an active role," she said, according to an article on the U.N. organization's website. "We have highlighted important issues concerning children, especially promoting girls' education in Swat."

Kamila Hayat, a senior official of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, praised Malalai for standing up to the militants. "This is an attack to silence courage through a bullet," Hayat said. "These are the forces who want to take us to the dark ages." (Source: AP)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5THfRXtOBrc] 

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Tunisian Police Rape Woman then Charge Her with Indecent Exposure

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:30 AM EDT, 5 October 2012

Tunisian Protesters Hands, Photo by America Abroad MediaTUNIS, Tunisia - Earlier this year, the world was appalled to learn that under Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, a rapist can escape prosecution by marrying his victim.

In an unconscionable twist of fate, a young girl who had been raped and reported the assault to the authorities, was subsequently ordered to marry her rapist. Facing such an untenable situation the girl took her own life.

On Tuesday, 02 October 2012, in the neighboring North African country Tunisia, hundreds of women gathered in the capital city, Tunis, to protest the trial of a young woman who had been charged with indecent exposure after she was raped by two Tunisian policeman.

Her ordeal began last month when she and her fiancé were driving in the city and were approached by three police officers. According to her complaint, one officer took her fiancé to the bank to extort money, while the remaining two took turns raping the her inside the car.

When the couple reported the sexual assault and extortion to the authorities, instead of launching an investigation into her complaint and possible misconduct of the policemen; the police department charged the couple with "intentional indecent behavior," a charge that carries a term of up to six months in prison.

The audacity of the attack and the charges levied against the victim demonstrate a total lack of regard for women's rights or fear of reprisal for any abuses. The fact that the courts upheld the police's complaint against the woman, connotes an environment in which men can violate women with relative impunity.

According to reports, ‘it was only after the woman filed a complaint against the officers -- and they were charged with rape and extortion -- that the officers said they found the couple in an "immoral position" in the car.’ (Source: CNN)

The combined impact of this high-profile case is the tacit acknowledgement that female victims of physical or sexual abuse will not receive justice and in fact may themselves face prosecution.

Despite Tunisians leading the Arab Spring movement which paved the way for a renaissance of personal freedom of expression, it appears that these hard fought rights were never intended to benefit Tunisian women. In fact, last month, in another blow to women's rights in the country, 'the government rejected a U.N. Human Rights Council's recommendation to abolish discrimination against women in areas such as inheritance and child custody.’

The sensational aspect of this rape case highlights a systemic environment of anti-women's rights policies within post-Arab Spring Tunisia. From regressive family laws to charging rape victims with a crime if they have the temerity to report the assault, one has to wonder what the Tunisian fruit seller who self-immolated would feel about the outcome of his actions that sparked a freedom movement.

He and other Tunisians’ made the supreme sacrifice to achieve the dream of living in a post-President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime. It is disheartening to witness that the newly installed government has chosen to adopt the failed policies of the last regime to control the Tunisian citizenry and journalist through arbitrarily applied "public immorality" and "public disorder" statutes, clearly designed to silence the voices of those seeking justice.

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The Rabbit Hole of 'Legitimate' Rape

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:22 p.m. EDT, 20 August 2012

Rape Victims in American MediaGlobally women are under assault and their rights are constantly under attack by religious extremists, misogynist, and cultures in which they are viewed as chattel.

Americans by and large think of the challenges these women face as daunting, yet far removed from the realities of most women living in the U.S. for whom protections of women’s reproductive rights has been legislated into law.

That was until Saturday, 19 August 2012, when Republican Congressman Todd Akin stated a position that is widely held by conservative Americans but rarely voiced. The belief that a woman cannot get pregnant through rape, with a subtext that is much more revealing because it implies that if a woman is raped and gets pregnant then she must have wanted it and is only afterwards crying foul.

This is straight out of the text book of religious extremists of any faith who believe that if a woman is raped she caused it by dressing provocatively, by engaging in risky behavior such as walking to her car after work, going out to have a drink with her girlfriends, coming home late, or being sexually active.

When the Afghanistan Taliban executed a woman last month because of accusations of adultery, the world was outraged, but it was expected as par for the course for those ‘crazy Muslims who treat their women like animals and make them completely cover up.’

But, there is no difference between the Taliban and the Republican conservatives who are running for election during this 2012 American election cycle who hold extreme views on women's reproductive rights and in particular the rights of rape victims. The definition of rape has been continuously narrowed and defined by them as ‘legitimate or forcible,’ which can be extrapolated to exclude statutory rape, date rape, and incest.

Thus, by this definition any woman who cannot prove that she has been raped by a preponderance of evidence of being physically and violently assaulted is deemed to be lying and therefore not deserving of the assistance. In fact, according to Akin, if a woman is raped and conceives then she can’t possibly have been raped.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” ~ Republican Congress Todd Akin

Under this premise, not only should the woman suffer further indignity by carrying to term the child of the man who raped her, the child must come into the world baring the stigma of being the product of rape, and thus the woman and the child are given a lifetime sentence simply because they were the unfortunate victim of a sexual assault.

According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), “In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.”

1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and is “a cause of many unwanted pregnancies” — an estimated “32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”  (Source: The New York Times)

The only thing that makes this case more alarming is that it revealed the extent to which women’s rights in this country have been under quiet but aggressive attack by a group of men who desire to control women’s reproductive rights. There is no difference between these American politicians and members of the Taliban and other extremists who believe that a woman does not have the inalienable right to self-determination and reproductive choice.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw6j-weI5FE]

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Video Captures Taliban Executing Woman

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:31 a.m. EDT, 9 July 2012

Iconic Photo Taliban Executing Woman, Photo Courtesy Jonathan NarveyKABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban has reasserted its hold on the Afghan people and is exacting horrific punishment against those whom they have accused of moral turpitude. As in prior years when the Taliban's power was at its height, the predominant victims of their extrajudicial sentencing continues to be women.

Recently, Afghans officials have confirmed the veracity of a video circulating the internet which depicts a woman being executed by a Taliban who shot her in the back of her head then continued firing into her dead body several more time. Even more disturbing, the video captured both Taliban and villages watching and cheering.

The execution occurred on 23 June 2012 in the Shinwari district of Parwan Province which is located in central Afghanistan. The province is roughly an hour from Kabul, and the video is reminiscent of the public executions that occurred in packed stadiums during the Taliban's bloody five-year reign from 1996 – 2001.

The video below was apparently taken by one of the witnesses of the execution. It is believed that one of the Taliban captured the bloody incident with his cell phone hence the poor quality.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlAmF7CAfJ8&feature=related]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   There has been speculation that the woman was in a relationship with some of the Taliban. Given the utter lack of freedom Afghan women possess in every area of their lives, it is ludicrous to think that this woman could have willingly engaged in a consensual relationship with not one but two men in addition to her husband.

Reuters news agency reported that the “Taliban members can be heard saying that the executioner is the woman’s husband, though Afghan officials offered conflicting accounts of what transpired in the village, Qol-i-Heer.

Colonel Masjidi said the woman’s real husband was a member of a village militia that had slain a local Taliban leader. The 20 year old woman, named Najiba was executed in revenge on trumped up charges of adultery, he said.”

Adultery is a common accusation leveled against women by extreme Islamists. It is particularly effective because it is a charge against which the woman is powerless to defend herself and confers upon her an automatic death sentence. She can expect little to no sympathy for her plight because everyone in the community, men and women alike, either tacitly or openly support her execution.

In the video, “One of the Taliban says the Koran prohibits adultery. Killing the woman is ‘God’s order and decree,’ he says. ‘If the issue was avenging deaths, we would beg for her amnesty. But in this case, God says, ‘You should finish her. It’s the order of God, and now it is her husband’s work to punish her.” (Source: Reuters)

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Waris Dirie | FGM vs Circumcision

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 16:00 PM EDT, 3 May 2012

Waris Dirie

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is currently one of the most egregious women's rights abuses occurring globally. It is a subject that is hard to discuss because of its intimate, sexual and graphic nature.

However, it is exactly because of the life-long psychological and physical effects this barbaric practice has on its innocent and unwilling victims, that it is incumbent upon us to publicize this abuse until it is eradicated.

This issue was first brought to the public's attention by Waris Dirie, Somalian author, activist, and victim of FGM, when she published her memoir titled 'Desert Flower.' The book was subsequently made into a movie in 2009, and Liya Kebede, an Ethiopian supermodel, played Waris Dirie in the heart wrenching but ultimately victorious story of survival.

Initially, when we featured a post about this topic, a number of readers commented about male circumcision and how this is just as barbaric as FGM and should also be classified as a human rights abuse.

Though it is true that any type of unwanted genital mutilation is a crime, the major differences between male circumcision and FGM are as follows:

    1. Most boys are circumcised at birth, or in the case of Jews and some Muslims, on the 8th day of life;
    2. Men who are circumcised later in life often elect to have this procedure for personal, religious, or health reasons;
    3. The surgery is performed in a sterile environment, usually under anesthesia;
    4. Male circumcision is usually performed in a non-invasive manner that ultimately results in few, if any adverse psychological effects.

By comparison, FGM has more in common and correlates best to physical castration in men.

    1. Girls who undergo FGM (aka female circumcision) are forcibly mutilated anywhere between 13 and 15 years of age;
    2. The 'procedure' occurs without anesthesia in unsanitary environments;
    3. Rusty razor blades, old knives, or shards of glass are used to cut the flesh;
    4. The clitoris and the inner and outer labia are torn away;
    5. Finally, the wound is crudely stitched together and must be cut open for sex and childbirth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are benefits to men and boys becoming circumcised particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Strong evidence from Africa indicates that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual men by 38-66%, and studies have concluded it is cost effective in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends circumcision be recognized as an intervention as part of a comprehensive program for prevention of HIV transmission in areas with high endemic rates of HIV." (Source: WHO)

The effects of FGM are profoundly debilitating and deleterious to women's reproductive health and serves no useful purpose. It is a practice deeply rooted in misogyny, tyranny and the concept of women as chattel.

Men who have been circumcised can still enjoy a robust sex life filled with numerous encounters, whereas women who have undergone FGM must suffer immense pain to remove the sutures, and as one can imagine, sexual intercourse thereafter would be excruciating.

In the Europe between the 16th and 17th centuries the 'Chastity Belt' was developed to prohibit women from having sexual intercourse. This device was also a contrivance of men desiring to control the sexuality of the women in their societies.  In comparison to FGM, a 'Chastity Belt' was infinitely less egregious, but definitely a women's rights violation.

Surprisingly, FGM procedures are on the rise in Western nations such as the United Kingdom.  It is easy for most people to acquiesce in the face of such a daunting problem that is occurring half-way across the world. It is also more comfortable to believe that this is an Islamic problem though FGM is no prescribed in the Quran.

It is easiest to effect change in one's backyard, and thus, in Western societies where there are no health reasons to recommend FGM it is up to the medical establishment and authorities to intervene and halt these procedures.

Misogyny like rape, is less about the object of abuse, in this case, women, and more about control. The net result of FGM is that it diminishes all women everywhere even if it hasn't personally impacted your life or those of your friends and family.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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The Sexual Hyprocrisy of the Taliban | Bacha Bazi

young-afghanistan-boy-sex-slave-force-kissed-by-taliban-photo-by-lorraine-venberg1.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:11 PM EDT, 6 April 2012

Young Afghanistan Boy Sex Slave (Bacha Bazi) Seated, Photo by Martin Von Krogh - Expressen

AFGHANISTAN - When the book "The Kite Runner” was made into a movie many people, including me, were shocked at the scene where a Taliban leader rapes a boy in the story. I thought that this must be aberrant behavior peculiar to the individual portrayed in the film because I know that the Qur'an strictly forbids homosexual relations.

To be clear, we are not accusing homosexuals of being predatory pedophiles; as the two are not the same, the former being consensual, the latter a sick and aberrant abuse of children, which is also practiced by straight people with this predilection. Pedophilia is an incurable proclivity which even chemical castration does not correct.

In fact, many pedophiles justify their behavior with the delusional assertion that the children they sexually abuse and rape enticed them and are willing participants.The men and women who seek out children to abuse can mentally cripple their victims for the rest of their lives.

Such is the case of with the Bacha Bazi of Afghanistan. A little known scourge, it involves older men seeking out and enslaving young boys to gratify their own sexual desires. This practice has been on the increase since the Taliban no longer controls the populace’s behavior through fear and threat of death. Instead, the moral excesses the Taliban accused and executed others for, is now openly engaged in as these once 'moral arbiters' select young boys to forcefully sodomize and enslave.

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Prior to this, when the Taliban was in control of certain regions of Afghanistan, women were stoned to death for what they perceived as the slightest infractions against the moral code of conduct and men were at risk of punishment or death for homosexual relations or disrespecting the religious edicts of the Taliban's version of Qur'an.

However, in many cases the Taliban's codes of conduct were not found in the Qur'an, and the men who foisted unduly restrictive guidelines upon women were egregious human rights offenders at least, and misogynist at worse.

Currently, the Taliban is either engaged in the war against America, or trying to survive in a leaderless world now that Osama bin Laden and many of his closest military advisors have been killed in targeted drone attacks and ISIS has filled the void.

Since the unraveling of Al-Qaeda's strict religious hierarchy, many Taliban are now engaged in a gross human rights violations because the energy that was previously directed at the West has dissipated. Now, this hatred and religious fervor has found expression in the abuse of the weakest members of their society.

Child sexual slavery in Afghanistan is on the rise as men groom young boys, many who are in their preteens, to be their sexual slaves until they tire of them. Many of these men are married but in fact are pedophiles. Now they can openly flaunt their preference for young boys because this type of behavior can be practiced without fear of reprisal.

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Published: 6 April 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

In this Eurasian country young boys are often sold by their impoverished families to abusers because of the handsome fees they can garner. If the boy is an ‘unsoiled’ virgin and very beautiful, meaning they are androgynous and can easily pass as a woman, they can be quite expensive. However, these sunk costs are easily recouped by their masters by hiring the boys out as entertainers at men only parties or as prostitutes.

The Bacha Bazi, which means 'boy for pleasure' are sometimes kidnapped, but just as many are homeless and hungry and will do anything to get off the streets. Normally, when one thinks of sexual abuse, in particular rape, the focus is on women and girls.

Because of my personal experiences, I am passionate about informing readers of human rights abuses, with the hope that others can feel that their stories are worth telling and that they are not alone in their suffering. It is also a core mission of The Report to reach exploited and abused people world-wide to provide them with topical and relevant knowledge which will hopefully encourage them to put their experiences behind them to live fulfilling and productive lives.

One of the most powerful statements about moving past old hurts and wounds is by Aldous Huxley. “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”

However, these Bacha Bazis who are sexually abused by the Taliban had little to work with in the beginning and once discarded because they are too physically mature, have nothing to turn to other than dancing and prostitution.

The most heinous thing about this epidemic of pedophilia, rape, and child abuse is that it is under reported. Perhaps it is easier to think of women as victims because we have been powerless for so long and continue to be abused in certain societies. But, these boys’ stories needs to be told; and America, a country that is raging war in Afghanistan should be on the front line, vociferously condemning this practice.

The U.S. should at least try to fund NGOs so that they can build shelters, educate, provide health care, and facilitate the punishment of the men who engage in this practice. Because Taliban members flaunt this behavior by regularly parading their Bacha Bazi in public, the U.S. has no excuse for not addressing this visible and obviously pressing human rights issue.

America is already at war with Afghanistan and is trying to root out Al-Qaeda and other radicals in the country. It would be but a short step to at least intervene to make it difficult for these men to engage in this type of aberrant and religiously prohibited behavior.

So much aid money is wasted on military effort, weaponry and outright larceny, a small portion of these funds would go a long way toward saving thousands of children.

If India can implement such a program, SCRP (Street Child Rehabilitation Project) as well as Pakistan to which the U.S. gives $1bn annually and where various NGOs like ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) operate; it is reasonable that the U.S. could fund an NGO to implement a similar program in Afghanistan to help these boys who are suffering.

Please share this post because even though you may think that it may touch only a few people, one never knows the positive impact your actions may have on someone you don't know. The movie “Pay It Forward” proved that. Though it was not a true story, the ideas inspired by the book and film are easily implemented and incredibly rewarding. Think about what you could do to help all abused children throughout the world, and tell everyone you meet about the continuous rape and abuse of the Bacha Bazi.

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This post was inspired by award winning photos of the Bacha Bazi taken by Martin Von Krogh. He is the 2012 1st Prize Winner of the Photographers Giving Back (PGB) contest. PGB is the only contest in the world that gives monetary charity to the depicted people in the awarded pictures.
 
Photos reprinted for this article with permission. If you are interested in publishing any of the photos included in this post you will need written permission. Per the photographer, photos can only be used for stories written specifically about 'Photographers Giving Back' and for no other purposes.
 
For permission send email requests to: jonas@thepgbphotoaward.com

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