Articles: Some interesting articles from today's paper

 Work is quiet so I just spent the last hour reading through today's paper, looking for something to write about... I started off with one article and ended up with 5, so instead of writing multiple posts about each one, I thought it would make more sense to make one post and provide my own comments/opinions. Most articles come from the New York Times, but I've added other similar articles from other sources in some places. It's quite Middle East-heavy, but, then again, why wouldn't it be?

Afghan rape case is brought before the authorities (NYT article can be found HERE)
I've followed the plight of women in Afghanistan for many years now, long before 9/11 and the US invasion of the country. In the late 90's (I think) Marie Claire published an article about the treatment of women by the ruling Taliban power, something that most news outlets never bothered with, forcing the world to acknowledge there was a real problem in the country. Remember the recording of public execution that was released to world, taken via stealth, the camera concealed beneath a burqa by RAWA in 1999? That was some amazing investigative journalism - because if the reporter had been captured, he/she would probably have been executed in the same fashion. The video was sent to different press outlets at the time, none of which wanted to publish it because of it's ability to shock the world. However, when foreign forces invaded Afghanistan, all of a sudden it was all over the news. Yes, we went in to save these women that a year before we were turning a blind eye to. Nothing more than the usual hypocrisy of the world, another country's plight only becomes important to us when we actually have something to gain in said country. Anyway, this article is interesting because it portrays a few different points; one being that in certain places the laws haven't really changed, even if the Taliban has lost most of its stronghold. Another being that instead of following the unwritten law of the ages, the victim's family have decided to bring it to the public and gain their daughter's honour back by seeking justice via trial.
What we all tend to forget is that Afghanistan is a very unique country, where different ethnic groups/tribes live together, all with different rules of living, many unwritten. In many places, especially remote, rural areas, the honour of the family remains of most utter importance. To destroy or tarnish that honour means certain death, as death is the only way to rectify the balance, and restore the lost honour. To us this may sound backwards and horrific, but this is the way it works, and has worked for generations. I find it admirable that Lal Bibi is looking for her kidnappers and rapists to be brought to justice WITH the support of her family. I hope that they succeed, because if they don't, she will die, either at the hands of her family, or by her own hands (as seen in the article). What a brave, brave woman.

Mubarak is sentenced to life in prison (NYT article can be found HERE)
Life in prison for the deaths of the unarmed protesters last year, however, all charges of corruption were dropped. I'm honestly not really surprised at either ruling, although I think that it is interesting that the police commanders who gave the orders to shoot at the crowds were acquitted. Surely there were more than two people who were responsible for all of the deaths? In any case, I suppose at least some sort of justice has been done, even if the country is still without a democratically elected government (when will those promised elections ever take place?!), although how real this justice is will be seen if the ruling doesn't fall down on appeal. With all other charges having been revoked, if Mubarak wins on appeal he could walk away a free man.
What I found the most interesting about this article is the comment section. They go from right to left, zig-zagging through different opinions, some highly well thought-out and others just plain stupid and actually laughable. Yes, Mubarak was a US ally, but that doesn't make him a saint, does it? Let's all think back to the lovely Shah of Iran people and look at what the good that did to the world. Mubarak wasn't all evil, but he outstayed his welcome for more than a few presidential terms, and stole way too much money from the people he was supposed to be protecting to not be punished for it.
For those commenting on how the world is letting fundamentalists take the power in Egypt by the removal of Mubarak: if this happens, then it is what happens. The Egyptian people fought for change, and will probably stand up and fight again if they feel the government they elect is not acting in their best interest. In the end, we don't have a say what should happen in Egypt - it's up to the Egyptian people to decide what to do. The median age in Egypt is 24 years old, meaning that the population is young and will not stand for any further domination. I'm interested to see how it all plays out in this country. Read all those comments - it's highly entertaining to say the least.
BBC News articles on the same subject HERE.

Russia refuses intervention in Syria (NYT article can be found HERE)
Quelle surprise! Although I am completely against any type of outside military intervention in Syria, I do feel that more pressure should be put on Assad to stop the massacres that seem to be happening on a regular basis in Syria these days. Then again, I understand the plight: if he listens to the UN and withdraws his troops from the areas of uprising it will most definitely lead to civil war. I mean, he could stand down, and be replaced by a democratically elected president, haha, but we all know that is not going to happen. If he continues to let his troops massacre men, women and children in villages it will just create a louder uproar around the world. It appears that the bloodshed is not going to end too soon, and we may just have to sit back and watch it happen. Although, I have no doubt that the West is already smuggling weapons and agents into Syria, and helping the rebels.
Another article on the subject, BBC this time, can be found HERE.

Oh, by the way, there is renewed fighting in the North Kivu area of the DRC, strongly reminiscent of what happened in 2008, see the Al Jazeera article HERE. As always, no one really cares about what is happening in this country, even after years and years of civil war and millions of deaths. It breaks my heart that it is still happening.

Last, but not least, American nuns fight back against the Vatican criticism they face (NYT article can be found HERE).
Interesting how the Vatican plays down all of the child abuse allegations and insists on covering them up, while at the same time accuses a large group of American nuns of challenging "church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” So it's OK for priests to sexually abuse children, but it's not OK to promote free healthcare for all?! Because, oh no, this may promote the usage of birth control, and even worse, abortion! In essence this criticism goes completely against all of the real teachings of Christianity. My own thoughts on religion aside (having had a mix of Anglican, Catholic and free spirit education in my youth I decided to go with the latter, without scorning any of the former), I think this is highly despicable. Nuns dedicate their lives to educating and helping others, while giving up everything to live with their faith. The Vatican condemning them for promoting homosexuality and feminism is just plain old gender bigotry. It's time for the Vatican to get with the times and stop acting like they have the right to twist religion in a way that suits them best. Religious freedom means that we have the right to choose our religion and to live by it in the way we see fit. There is no place in this world anymore, or at least in the world I imagine, for men to dictate how women should live their lives. If these nuns are promoting radical feminism, then I really wonder what my views would be called! More radical than radical? I'm SO happy these nuns are taking a stand and continuing to promote what they believe in.

Photography: Jean Depara

I ran across Jean Depara a few months ago while reading a post about him on a blog I read every day, Africa Is A Country. Black and white, gritty prints always catch my eye, and most intriguingly for me: he documented the nightlife and the social life of nightbirds in Kinshasa in the Congo in the 50's and the 60's.

He would frequent the clubs and bars of the city and capture people on film, dancing, embracing, smoking, drinking, crying, basically he became somewhat of a storyteller in pictures of social life in Kinshasa at the time. Such a vibrant and soulful scene - no boundaries, all held together by a love for music and dancing. For some reason I feel like I can hear the music coming directly through the photos, the smiles, the faces. Wonderful captures of moments in time that I hope will never be lost in history. Maybe one day this vibrant social scene can find it's way back into the soul of the Congo. In the meantime I wish I had been able to see the retrospective of his work that was on exhibition in Paris this year.

Jean Depara was known for following the music scene in Kinshasa at the time, he was the Zairian singer Franco's official photographer and he also documented the Miziki associations, and the music that would come out of these associations of women. Jean died in 1997, but he left hundreds of negatives that I would love to take my time scrolling through and admiring.

More information:
Jean Degara - Pigozzi artist
Retrospective at the Maison Revue Noire

Richard Mosse - The Congo in infra-red film

Whenever I read a press release my usual first thought is "I wish I had written that!" immediately followed by "but why are they trying to sell me something I already own/know?". You can read the exhibition press release from the Jack Shainman Gallery HERE, it's well written and explains what Richard Mosse does to obtain all of the purple and pink hues. I will just talk about what I thought of the exhibition.

I had already seen a couple of Richard Mosse's prints and was intrigued to see more. They are nothing less than striking with the juxtaposition of violence (militia, guns and army) on top of a landscape that is coloured in warm pink, purple and red. Knowing what I know about the Congo, meaning the years and years of civil war, unrest, millions of deaths, poverty, systematic sexual violence and the guerrilla warfare tactics performed on civilians by multiple militias, makes these photos even more powerful. The Congo is DANGEROUS. For everyone. It's no wonder people don't care to talk about it, let alone go there on vacation. You only really venture into the Congo if you are a journalist intent on telling the truth about what happens inside the country, you work for a non-profit, or you have a sense of adventure which borders on the edge of self-destruction (see Joseph Conrad or, more recently, Tim Butcher). But without people like Richard Mosse, who actually go to this country and document what they see, no one would really see what the country actually looks like.

Tell me... How many of you reading this know that during this last week general elections were held in the Congo? That the Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a large producer of copper and diamonds? That with a strategic set up of public transportation and hydro-electric power the Congo could become a wealthy and powerful nation in Africa? But that since the late 80's, war and violence have created one of the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world (the numbers of deaths associated with these wars are around the 5 million mark).

The Congo is beautiful, extreme, huge and very daunting. More than luscious rain forests, waterways, mountains, always hot and humid, and raw. There are places where nobody lives, and places where you wouldn't think anybody could survive, but they do. You just have to look at Richard Mosse's landscape photos of the mountains that go on forever, with the grazing cows - seemingly peaceful images in a land of never-ending conflict.

I think my main question revolves around whether this is art or photo-journalism? In a sense isn't photo-journalism art too? Mosse uses a specific type of infrared-sensitive, false color reversal film called Kodak Aerochrome, that used to be used by the military to detect camouflage in green landscape (hence the fact that it turns the landscape into all these different hues). I don't know if he does any further editing on the photos once they are developed (I would like to know more about that part), but the end result is deeply striking. I just hope that these photographs can be considered as both art and photo-journalism, the former because they are so GOOD, and the latter because they depict a country where violence is the main form of communication and that the rest of the world doesn't really care about. Just look at his photo of the bombed out and abandoned UN building and think about it.

Richard Mosse's exhibition, Infra, is being displayed at the Jack Shainman Gallery until December 22nd. More information here: Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse Official Website

Kodak Aerochrome (discontinued)

Field of Hope - Witness (Al Jazeera)

I'm not asking you to imagine this, because I am sure you can't. Just think about it: your mum was raped at 15 and gave birth to you. At 15 you yourself are raped, and give birth to a child. This isn't a one-off situation, but most women around you have been raped at least once, and have also become pregnant through rape. What do you do?! In the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo around 48 women are raped every hour. Do the maths - it's horrific.
In Field of Hope, Al Jazeera's Witness focuses on Masika, a multiple rape survivor who has made it her job to help, support, counsel and even show other women rape survivors how to make an independent living through farming.

Go the Al Jazeera website (see hyperlinks above) for the screening times. Watch it - and TALK about it.


Conflicting opinions on conflict minerals: Dodd-Frank Act

I've been reading a lot about this debate in the news lately, and there are many conflicting opinions that have been coming out. As I am getting more and more entrenched on finding out what the real truth is, and what is actually going to make life BETTER for the main population of the DRC, I have tried to gather up as many articles and opinions as I can to wade through. Hopefully this will be of some interest to others too.

The section relating to conflict materials and the DRC can be found here: Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: page 838, section 1502.
Here's a quick summary of the main points (copied from the Wikipedia page - thanks to the person who did this work so I didn't have to!):

Disclosures on Conflict Materials in or Near the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

So, what does this actually mean for the people of the DRC? This can only be good, right? The point is to put an end to human right abuses during the mining and selling of minerals in the DRC, the profits of which continue to fund warlords, civil war, rape and death. In regulating this won't this ultimately allow for an open path towards regulating the mines and the miners rights?
But is this regulation also going to prevent people from earning the little money that they earned before to feed their families and survive? By technically boycotting the many mines in the DRC, are we not putting thousands of people out of work? How is this going to stop the warlords selling the minerals to countries who don't really care about how many people died to obtain them (yes China, I am referring to you)?

In theory I completely agree with the Act, and see it as a huge step in the right direction, and will continue to believe in this. However, it is only a STEP in my opinion, and we need to continue working on this, making sure that this does what it is supposed to: positively affect the individuals who up until now have been working under slave labour conditions so that we over here in the Western world can enjoy our laptops and cell phones.

It's NEVER OK for a child to be working in a mine, for any reason whatsoever, right? Just like it is NEVER OK for a child to carry a gun and to rape and kill people under command. We all agree on that - so why not all agree n doing something to help (see links below on what you can do).

Please read the following articles to gain more insight (and conflicting opinions and views) on the whole subject. Make sure to scroll down and read the comments too, as these are, in my opinion, the most important part in Sasha Lezhnev's article.

Insightful article on how the Act negatively affects the Congo:
David Aronson (new York Times): How Congress Devastated Congo

Enough Project's response in favour of the Act (read the comments too!):
Sasha Lezhnev (Huffington Post): What Conflict Materials Legislation Is Actually Accomplishing in Congo

Enough Project have been doing some amazing work in the DRC. Check out the website to see what you can do to help.
Raise Hope For Congo is Enough Project's campaign for Congo. Visit the site for more information.
And go HERE to contact your member of Congress and ask them to speak up about conflict mineral regulations.

Run for Congo Women in September

I read Lisa Shannon's book about how she came about founding the the Run For Congo races, A Thousand Sisters, earlier this year and have been waiting for an opportunity to do one of the races myself. The plight of Congolese women is very dear to my heart, and this is a great way of raising funds to help them. I already sponsor a Congolese woman through Women For Women International (an amazing organisation developed to help women survivors of war to rebuild their lives), with whom Lisa worked to create a worldwide network of races, so I'm excited to say that I will be running my first sponsored race in a little over a month!

I will be running a 5k on Sept 24th, around Roosevelt Island. More information HERE.
If you would like to sponsor me and donate towards the cause, please visit my personal event page here: Jade Hughes' Fundraising Page

If anyone would like to join me in this run, or even just come watch I would be so happy. Just let me know :)