Negotiating with the Wrong People

by Kahar Zalmay

Clip_18The collusion between the Pakistan military and the Taliban is so strong that the military does not want to hold an operation in North Waziristan

If anything flagrant is to be noticed in North Waziristan, it is the lack of seriousness and the obvious collusion of the state with the terrorists organisations based in that beautiful but lawless land of the Wazir and Dawar tribes of Khyber Pakhtoon Kha province.

What I witnessed during my recent trip to the North Waziristan agency is nothing new for me as I had seen the same approach of the military in my visits to other tribal agencies. And I remember what a woman told me in the Bajaur agency a year ago when I was on a reporting trip on why it was possible for intelligent people living in the urban centres to fail to grasp the situation when ordinary women of far flung areas understood the double games of our intelligence agencies. Now I understand the game as I have witnessed it on several occasions, how the military turns a blind eye to the activities of the terrorists in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Swat. But the self-censorship of the Pakistani media is shameful as it has failed to rise to the occasion and report on other than what it has been directed to reveal by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on FATA and Baluchistan. The corporate media in Pakistan is no more than a public relations venture, not only to please the security establishment by not reporting the truth but rather to play a front role in order to further its propaganda campaigns.

As I mentioned earlier, it is impossible to miss the collusion when you get a chance to visit the restive tribal areas of Pakistan. You would see how the military men manning the check points stop the passenger vehicles, get the poor local passengers off the vans, make them walk for a kilometre while at the same time letting the vehicles of terrorists pass by without even bothering to stop them. These vehicles belong to the Afghan army; Afghan police and NATO forces, snatched by the Taliban who now openly drive them in Miranshah and the Mir Ali areas of Waziristan agency. I had seen such spectacles a few years ago in Mahmond area of Bajaur when Maulvi Faqir Mohammad’s commanders would openly travel in their vans with a garish display of weapons, unnoticed by the security forces while common people were searched and abused in different ways.

I visited North Waziristan and interacted with the locals who helped me understand the demographics of the area, the dynamics of the terror campaign and the strengths and weaknesses of the different terrorists groups operating within the agency. To make it easy for the readers to understand, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has members from Aurakzai, Mahmond, Bajaur, Kurram, Khyber Agencies and Swat but the majority are from Mehsud tribe. It is hard to find a Wazir tribesman in the TTP. The Mehsud tribe is based in South Waziristan and for the last five years, almost the entire tribe has been displaced and most of them have migrated to Karachi. The majority of Pashtuns in Karachi are either Mehsud or Swatis. The Mehsud belt in South Waziristan is less strategic and does not share a border with Afghanistan. However, the Wazir tribe areas do and this makes them more important.

North Waziristan is very small as compared to South Waziristan. This agency is predominantly Wazir but the Dawar tribe live there as well. Dawar are mostly concentrated in Miranshah and Mir Ali tehsils. All the terrorist outfits are based in the Dawar area like the TTP, Uzbeks, Turkemen, Punjabi Taliban, Uighurs and Chechens. Arabs reside both in Dawar and Wazir areas because they are revered as true Mujahideen who left the luxuries of life behind and came to fight in the path of God. Locals also quote a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that loving Arabs is part of the faith for Muslims.

When I was in North Waziristan, the Dawar tribe had already received warning letters from the political administration and army that they must expel the TTP and Uzbek militants from its areas to which the Dawar tribesmen expressed their powerlessness and many opted to leave the area themselves and move to the settled district of Bannu.

After talking with the locals in Mir Ali, Miranshah and other suburban towns, I came to know that the real power in North Waziristan is Hafiz Gul Bahadur of the Wazir tribe. Since the Wazir tribe is strategically located on the Pakistan-Afghan border in both agencies of Waziristan, the Haqqani group also operates from the Gul Bahadur domain. The Pakistan military has entered into a truce with Mr. Bahadur since 2009 that gives him and the Haqqanis the liberty to wage their Jihad in Afghanistan against the American and Afghan forces. Locals told me that when the fighting season is in full swing, sometimes on a daily basis the dead bodies of the fighters are brought to Waziristan from Afghanistan but not reported in the media at all.

I believe there are three reasons why the military does not carry out operations in North Waziristan. Firstly, it does not have the will to fight; secondly, off and on aerial bombardment helps both the army and the TTP to remain in the ring and stay relevant, and thirdly, the Wazir tribe is strategically placed on the Afghan border and on one occasion, a prominent Malik of the Wazir tribe, Malik Noor Ali had threatened the authorities that in case of any military operation, the Wazir tribe would prefer to cross into Afghanistan instead of becoming Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Pakistani camps. Since the military tackles militancy as a law and order problem and a mass exodus of Wazir tribe into Afghanistan would make it a conflict that means that international organizations and forces like the United Nations would get involved.

The conclusion is that if the government really wants to talk with the militants, it is not the TTP but the Pakistan army and Hafiz Gul Bahadur it should be holding negotiations with. If today, Hafiz Gul Bahadur decides that the TTP and Uzbeks will be expelled from North Waziristan within a week, we will see a repetition of what we saw in Wanna; the headquarters of South Waziristan when it was forced out on a day’s notice as it was in 2012, in retaliation of a suicide attack against him by the TTP. The military can provide support to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, as it did to Maulvi Nazir, to finish it off for good instead of driving them out to another tribal agency and then waiting for another five years to launch another operation.

Instead of wasting time on making toothless committees and surrendering to the demands of the TTP, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should show some leadership and direct the military generals to stop entertaining militant groups and carry out a military operation, not just in North Waziristan but in the Punjab too, where the terrorists get their ideological inspiration as well as support on the front of public relations and propaganda. The terrorists that pull the trigger or push the buttons of a suicide jacket and the godfathers sitting in places like Mureedkay, Punjab province, should be treated equally. The military cannot win this war when it still believes in the compartmentalization of terror groups and treat militancy as a business venture that helps keep it relevant (in the absence of any conflict with India), and gets more funds to expand its empire in the name of operations from the Pakistani taxpayers and international donors.

The top priority of the military chief should be to ensure the security of Pakistani people from both external and internal threats rather than safeguarding the honour of its forces. The military is not an 18-year-old girl whose honour gets hurt so easily. Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Hamid Gul, Fazl-ur-Rehman Khalil, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, Malik Ishaq and a dozen others like them who are patronising terrorism in the country are no friends of Pakistan but rather enemies and they should be treated as such.

The writer is Human Rights Defender and free lance journalist. He can be reached at; zalmayk@gmail.com

 

Rape & Sexual Violence By th Burmese Army: An Ongoing Story of Abuse

Clip_40Although Burma has seen some limited reforms since Thein Sein became President, the use of rape and sexual violence by Burma’s armed forces against ethnic women and girls continues across the country.

Over the past decades, several reports have been produced by women’s organisations highlighting the use of rape and sexual violence by the Burmese army as part of the government’s warfare against ethnic minority groups.

UN reports have drawn upon this data to describe rape and sexual violence as “widespread and systematic”and as a prevalent pattern of human rights violations in the country.

Recent cases of women and girls being raped by soldiers from the government’s forces include the rape of a 12 year old girl in front of her mother, and of a disabled woman. Many of the victims were gang-raped, and many killed afterwards. This is in breach of international law, and constitutes a war crime.

The government of Burma has constantly denied the overwhelming evidence of sexual violence being perpetrated by the Burmese army. However, a report published by the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Same Impunity, Same Patterns, in January 2014, suggests that the use of sexual violence against ethnic minority women by the military has continued on a similar scale since Thein Sein became President in 2011.

The report highlights more than 100 rape cases where the Burmese army’s soldiers have sexually abused ethnic women and girls. They suffer horrific sexual abuses while military perpetrators enjoy guaranteed impunity.

The widespread nature and scale of rape and sexual violence incidents meets the legal definition of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Rape As a Weapon of War

Rape has been used as a weapon of war by successive dictatorships in Burma for many decades.

This tactic is used against ethnic women and girls both in conflict and non-conflict areas. Rape cases have increased dramatically in Shan and Kachin states since the Burmese army broke ceasefire agreements in March and June 2011 respectively.

Between March and October 2011 alone, WLB has reported 81 cases of rape in Shan and Kachin states. Due to the difficulties in documenting these violations, the actual number of cases is believed to be much higher.

As one villager from the ethnic Palaung has put it:

“It is very difficult for the victims to speak out about rape. They were threatened by the soldiers not to tell anyone, so the rest of the community is scared. It is very dangerous for us to speak out.”

Furthermore, the rapes have taken place in different parts of the country, involve many different battalions, are often gang-rapes, and are connected to conflict areas, suggesting that the practice is widespread and part of military tactics.

In conflict areas, victims of rape are more often subjected to further torture, mutilations and killings.

According to the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), among the 34 cases of rape during military offensives in Kachin state between June and August 2011, 44% of rape victims were killed by their rapists.

In one case reported by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), two young girls who were collecting firewood near a forced relocation site were reportedly abducted by a Sergeant and his patrol, gang-raped and killed. One of them was stabbed to death while the other was beheaded.

In September 2011, during a military operation in Shan State, Burmese army troops abducted, gang-raped to death and afterwards mutilated a 12-year old girl. Her dead body was found on the altar of a local shrine.

Fear of sexual violence against the women and girls of their communities often leads entire villages to flee on arrival of military troops and hide in the jungle as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Sexual violence is also used by the Burmese army against ethnic women as retaliation for ethnic resistance groups’ actions or as punishment for allegedly supporting them. In many cases reported by the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), the accusation of being “rebel soldiers’ wives” is often the pretext given to abduct women for so-called interrogations that turn to torture and rape.

It is clear that the cases highlighted above match the criteria of rape and sexual violence as a tactic of war as described by the UN Security Council Resolution 1820. However, the UNSC has so far taken no action to establish an international investigation into these crimes.

A Military Occupation Policy

For many ethnic women and girls, rape and sexual violence are a permanent threat to their security. Despite some ceasefire agreements, the Burmese army is increasing troops in ethnic areas. For instance, in Mon state, despite the 1995 ceasefire, 20 more battalions have been deployed permanently since 1998.

Most rape incidents by military personnel occur near military bases, on roads, at military check-points or during patrols.

The government’s policy of self-reliance for military troops leads to looting of villagers’ resources and exploitation of local populations.15 In some areas, troops are in daily contact with villagers and the exploitation of local populations.

In some areas, troops are in daily contact with villagers and the identity of rape perpetrators, or at least of their battalion, are often known by communities.

In May 2012, Ngwa Mi, a 48-year old grandmother with 12 children, was sheltering alone in a church near the Kachin-China border town of Pang Wa. Burmese army soldiers found her and about 10 troops beat her with rifle butts, stabbed her with knives, stripped her naked and gang-raped her over a period of three days in the church.

Another villager, a man who had stayed behind to care for his paralyzed wife, had been captured and brought to the church, and was tortured and forced to watch. After being taken to hospital, Ngwa Mi has been reunited with her family, but has become mentally unstable.

The highest number of rapes occurs in victims’ familiar environments or their everyday life environment.

Data gathered in ‘License to Rape’, the first major report on sexual violence released in 2002 by the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), show that 75% of victims were raped either in their own houses, in their fields, while gathering food or firewood in the forest or on their way to the temple or to school.

Sexual violence is used as a means of terror and control by the Burmese army. Not only do the women and girls themselves live in constant fear of being raped – the threat is also used to instil fear in all villagers that their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters can be abducted and raped anywhere at any time.

Apart from being a horrible crime in itself against all the women and girls targeted, it has wider implications for the community as a whole. It threatens food security by preventing women and girls from farming their fields safely and gathering necessary resources. It also shatters communities and destroys their sense of identity and pride. Some testimonies show that rape victims are sometimes stigmatised within their communities and flee from their villages, becoming even more vulnerable to further abuses. For instance, according to a report by the Women’s League of Chinland, 47% of victims were either rejected by their community, did not dare to tell their families about their ordeal or moved away alone.

The terrorising, controlling and shattering of communities resulting from sexual violence creates a long-term societal damage that fosters ethnic nationality populations’ hatred for the Burman majority, the army and the government and threatens hopes of future national reconciliation.

Impunity & Encouragement To Rape

Clip_32Rapes against ethnic nationality women and girls are committed with impunity and openly, not to say encouraged and condoned by troop commanders and army personnel with “command responsibility”. In a high number of cases, rapes are perpetrated by officers. Overall, officer perpetrators represent 42% of military rapists, 70% in Mon state20 and 71% in Shan state.

There are many cases where commanders or low-ranking officers either encourage or sometimes order their soldiers to rape, or initiate gang-rapes themselves. For instance, according to SHRF, in July 2008 a sergeant reportedly sent his troops to abduct a 16-year old girl from her village, raped her first, and then brought her to his troops who gang-raped her.

The number of gang-rapes is also a clear sign of the continuing impunity enjoyed by the Burmese army soldiers who rape women in front of each other or in front of villagers and victims’ families and sometimes boast about it afterwards with no concern for hiding their acts.23 Of the 104 rape cases documented in the latest report from WLB, almost 40% were brutal gang-rapes.

Moreover, a number of reports have documented forced conscriptions of women and girls for sexual slavery, organised ‘entertainment parties’ involving rapes and sexual molestation and abductions of ‘comfort women’ by the military.

In Mon state in December 2003-January 2004, as part of celebrations for the anniversary of Burma’s independence, 15 village chiefs were reportedly required to provide beautiful young women for a fashion and beauty contest that took place at the military base in Ye township.

Before the contest, at least 30 women were forced to spend days and nights at the base to practise in front of officers and troops and a high number of these women were reportedly raped or gang-raped by officers and troops.

Similar occurrences of women openly required from village chiefs or abducted by daylight from their village, kept overnight at military bases and returned the next day, a few days later or even months later, have been reported.26 In November 2011, four Kachin women were detained as sex slaves by the Burmese army for four months. Thein Sein’s government refused to investigate the case and went as far as to deny that it was even possible.

Military perpetrators of sexual violence are confident that they will enjoy impunity. As a result of the lack of rule of law in ethnic areas and total impunity for perpetrators, only a few cases are reported to the military authorities by victims, families or village headmen for fear of further retaliation. Reporting to the military authorities often puts at risk not only the victim but the entire community. In several occurrences complainants and village leaders were imprisoned, beaten and released after a substantial fine.

In Putao, four girls between 14 and 16 years of age were gang-raped at the military base and the incident was reported to the battalion commander and passed on to international media. The girls were arrested, charged with defamation and prostitution and jailed.29 In another case, a 26-year old woman was gang-raped by seven Burmese soldiers who then threatened to kill her husband if he reported the incident, saying: “Even if you tell other people, there is no one who will take action. We have the authority to rape women.” When reporting the incident anyway to the head of their village, he failed to take any action.

Clip_19Testimonies have stated that during visits by the UN Special Rapporteur Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the ICRC and Amnesty International in 2002, a number of victims and village headmen were forced to sign retraction statements or were silenced by threats to have their tongues cut and their throats slit.


Recommendations

  • An international investigation into rape and sexual violence by the Burmese military against ethnic nationality women and girls should be established.
  • There must be an end to impunity for rape.
  • The 2008 Constitution that guarantees impunity for military perpetrators must be amended so further sexual violence can be prevented.
  • Women should be included in the peace negotiations between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed groups, and the issues of sexual violence in conflict should be addressed in these negotiations.
  • There should be women’s participation at every political level in Burma.
  • The Burmese government should allow the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office in Burma.
  • Burma’s Rape Law should be revised and should be in line with international human rights standards and outlaw rape in marriage.
  • Governments should provide adequate funding for WLB and its members to support

 

Published by Burma Campaign UK, 28 Charles Square, London N1 6HT 

www.burmacampaign.org.uk

info@burmacampaign.org.uk

tel: 020 7324 4710

 

To Western women

womenWhen you look at me all you can see

Is the scarf that covers my hair

My word you can’t hear
Because you’re too full of fear,
Mouth gaping, all you do is stare.
You think it’s not my own choice,
In your own “liberation” you rejoice.
You’re so thankful that you’re not me.
think I’m uneducated,
Trapped, oppressed and subjugated.
You’re so thankful that you are free.
But Western women you’ve got it wrong-
You’re the weak and i’m the strong,
For I’ve rejected the trap of man.
Fancy clothes- low neck, short skirt,
These are devices for pain and hurt,
Always jumping to the male agenda,
Competing on his terms.
No job share, no baby-sitting facilities,
No feeding and diaper-changing amenities.
No equal pay for equal skill-
Your job they can always fill.
Is this liberation?

a person with ideas and thought,
I’m not for sale, I can’t be bought.
I won’t decorate anyone’s arm,
Nor be promoted for my charm.
There’s more to me than playing toy.
Living life as a balancing game- mother,
Daughter, wife, nurse, cleaner, cook, lover-
And still bring home a wage.
Who thought up this modern
“freedom”
Where man can love’em and man can leave ‘em.
This is not free but life in a cage.

Western women you can have your life.
Mine- it has less strife.
cover and i get respected
Surely that’s to be expected-
For I won’t demean the feminine
I won’t live to a male criterion.
I dance to my own tune,
And I hope you see this very soon,
For your own sake- wake up and use your sight!
Are you so sure that you are right?

Kamalaris Rescued

The welfare of 117 young Tharu girls at the government’s Lawajuni Girls’ Hostel in the remote Narti village of Dang District, nearly 600km southwest of Kathmandu, is the responsibility of hostel warden Brija Chaudhary, 25. They are all former ‘Kamalaris’, rescued from the system of bonded labour still applied in many middle- and high-class households.

“They have a history of traumatic experience due to their exploitation from an early age,” said Chaudhary, of the Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF), an NGO working to support such girls.

Clip_54The ex-Kamalaris are usually girls and teenagers from the Tharu community, one of Nepal’s most marginalized indigenous groups. The majority come from five districts – Dang, Bardiya, Banke, Kanchanpur and Kailali – in Nepal’s Midwest and Far west regions.

Officially abolished by the government in July 2013, the Kamalari system was an extreme form of child labour, abuse and exploitation by the owners, who promised to put them in good schools in exchange for their free labour, according to the Freed Kamaiya Development Forum (FKDF), a local NGO in Dang.

“We all ended up being exploited, abused and unable to complete school… because of working 17 hours a day,” said Manjita Chaudhary, FKDF’s president and a former Kamalari. Many people in the Tharu ethnic group have the surname of Chaudhary.

Empowerment, Not Penance 

Over the last decade, 12,000 Tharu girls and women – ranging in age from 12 to 25 years – have been rescued by various activist groups.

According to NYF and FKDF there are still 500 in servitude and it is hoped that they will be rescued soon, once their whereabouts are confirmed.

Man Bahadur Chettri, head of NYF’s Indentured Daughters Programme, believes over 80 percent of ex-Kamalaris have faced various forms of abuse, including molestation, rape, physical violence and mental torture. 

But rescuing girls and reuniting them with their families is not the solution, and they should rather be empowered through free education and technical training. “They are determined to overcome their trauma by working hard to stand on their own feet today,” Chettri said in the southern city of Nepalganj, nearly 600km southwest of the capital.

According to FKDF, some 8,000 girls are studying in 1,100 secondary and high schools, 36 are attending bachelor degree courses, and about 2,000 who dropped out earlier are now taking vocational training in agricultural farming technology, nursing, engineering and garment manufacturing.

Self-reliance 

Clip_102The government has been criticized by activists and ex-Kamalari girls for not adequately providing support for their welfare. FKDF says the government provides little money for scholarships – barely $100 for postgraduate studies, $60 for higher secondary school (grades 11 to 12) and $20 per year for secondary education (grades 7 to 10).

A spokesperson for Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said, “We have allocated 3 million rupees (approximately US$30,000) this year.” But activists and ex-Kamalaris said the amount is barely enough to help the empowerment efforts.

In all five districts, ex-Kamalaris have started cooperatives to help provide low-interest loans for income generation. Today there are 32 cooperatives with 1,200 members. “Many [borrowers] have started mobile phone shops, groceries… garment shops and other small businesses,” said president of the largest cooperative group, Lawajuni.

“We have to take our own initiative to build our own future,” said a 24 year old farmer in remote Sisinaya village. Two years ago, she took out a loan of $600 from Lawajuni Cooperative to grow rice and vegetables, and start going to school. She generated $5,000 this year and has already cleared her loan.

Another ex-Kamalari 22 year old took a loan of $1,000 to open a motorcycle repair business and today earns around $4,000 per year. “I have repaired over 1,000 motorcycles in one year and sold a lot of stuff. The business is good,” she said. She is one of only a handful of female motor mechanics in the country.

“They are in a hurry to be successful and prove their worth,” said garment skills trainer at the Lawajuni Training Centre in Nepalgunj. “This is their way of getting back at the society that exploited them.” Over 50 ex-Kamalari girls will be trained in garment making this year and have already secured positions in factories in Kathmandu, where they can earn good salaries and benefits.

“We can even start our own business,” said 23-year-old, a trainee at the Lawajuni Training Centre. “I have not forgotten my past, but that will not stop me from moving forward.”

FIR in India for Referring to UN Resolutions on Kashmir

36731_401421853557_112849003557_4509245_6570249_nArundhati Roy, threatened with the charge of treason in October 2009 for making a similar call, said in New Delhi on November 27, 2010, “My reaction to today’s court order directing the Delhi Police to file an FIR (First Information Report) against me for waging war against the state: Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (first Prime Minister of India) too.

Ms. Roy mentioned that here’s what Pandit Nehru said about Kashmir: In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1947, Pundit Nehru said:

“In order to establish our bonafide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organization. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.” And “…In his telegram to the Prime Minister Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru said…’Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view.”

Backpage.com Peddles Teenage Girls

Clip_460Emily, a 15-year-old ninth-grader, ran away from home in early November, and her parents are sitting at their dining table, frightened and inconsolable.

The parents, Maria and Benjamin, both school-bus drivers, have been searching for their daughter all along and pushing the police to investigate. They gingerly confess their fears that Emily, a Latina, is being controlled by a pimp.

I’m here to try to understand the vast national problem of runaways, and I ask if they have checked Backpage.com, the leading website for prostitution and sex trafficking in America. They say they haven’t heard of it. Since I’ve written about Backpage before and am familiar with how runaways often end up in its advertisements, I pull out my laptop — and, in two minutes, we find an ad for a “mixed Latina catering to your needs” with photos of a semi-nude girl.

Maria staggers and shrieks. It’s Emily.

A 2002 Justice Department study suggested that more than 1.6 million American juveniles run away or are kicked out of their home each year. Ernie Allen, a former president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has estimated that at least 100,000 kids are sexually trafficked each year in the United States.

Perhaps they aren’t a priority because they’re seen as asking for it, not as victims. This was Emily’s fourth time running away, and she seems to have voluntarily connected with a pimp. Based on text messages that her family intercepted, Emily was apparently used by a pimp to recruit one of her girlfriends — a common practice.

“Made about 15 or 16 hundred,” Emily boasted to her friend in one text. “Come make money with me I promise u gonna be good.”

So it’s true that no one was holding a gun to Emily’s head. Then again, she was 15, in a perilous business. And, in this case it turned out, having sex with a half-dozen men a day and handing over every penny to an armed pimp.

A bit more searching on the Web, and we find that Emily has been advertised for sex in four states: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The ads say that Emily (the name used in the ads, which is not her real name) is “fetish-friendly,” and that’s scary. Pimps use “fetish-friendly” as a dog whistle to attract deviants who will pay more for the right to be extra violent or abusive.

“We don’t care what she did,” says Benjamin, in a shattered tone. “We just want her back.”

The ads for Emily include a cellphone number to set up “dates,” and we pass the information to the authorities. The pimp’s phone number should make it easy to find the girl, so we wait to see what will happen.

Maria is bitter that the police haven’t done more. She has been pleading for months for help, hounding the police — and now she finds that her daughter has been advertised in four states on multiple prostitution websites and no one seems to have checked or noticed.

“I feel very strongly that it was racism,” Maria says. In fact, the Boston police force is admired nationally for its three-detective unit that fights human trafficking. This is the gold standard, yet, even here, a missing 15-year-old girl seemed to slip through the cracks.

Every day, more than 4,000 children run away or are kicked out of their home — and there’s negligible interest. We feel outrage when Penn State or the Roman Catholic Church ignore child sexual abuse, but we, as a society, avert our eyes as well.

Partly the problem is that many see sex trafficking as serious only when the victim is dragged off in chains; we don’t appreciate Stockholm syndrome or understand that often the handcuffs are psychological. Attitudes are changing, just as they have toward domestic violence, but too slowly.

There are failings here beyond law enforcement. You wonder about the men paying to have sex with a girl who looks so young. About the hotel clerks. And about why we tolerate websites like Backpage.com that peddle teenage girls.

Clip_17A few hours after I sent police the link, officers located Emily in New Hampshire. Police raided a hotel, rescuing her and arresting a man, Andy Pena, 19, who, they said, was her pimp and took all the money she made. Police said that Pena was armed.

Pena is in jail in New Hampshire; his public defender declined to comment.

Emily is ambivalent about her rescue. She’s in a group home, getting support from other survivors of human trafficking through a group called My Life My Choice. She’s still rebellious, but it’s a good sign that she hugged her mom. Maria wept.

Today Emily is safe, but there are hundreds of thousands of other runaways out on the streets. These are our kids, in danger. Shouldn’t they be a national priority?

 

Indo-Pak Fishermen: Drawing a Line in the Water

Clip_2It is not possible to draw a line in the water, and the maritime borders between India and Pakistan are no more defined than are maritime borders anywhere in the world.

Today, satellite navigation systems allow pinpoint precision — but not all vessels have them and poor fishermen, often illiterate never mind computer-savvy, accidentally fall foul of the international border. Few — if any — from either country, violate the borders with espionage in mind — they are just trying to make a living. Currently, according to reports, there are 226 of our fishermen in Indian jails, some of them since 1993, and many of them have completed their sentences but have yet to be released.

On April 11, 2014 the Supreme Court urged the Indian authorities to act in a humanitarian way and release, at least, those that had completed their sentences. For its part, the Indian Supreme Court issued a judgment in March 2010 seeking the release of fisherfolk that Pakistan has detained. Pakistan has already released 471 Indian fisherfolk but the Indian response was less than generous — they released just 66. This source of tension is largely artificial, and both sides need to acknowledge that the poor fisherfolk of both countries do not and never have, presented a security threat. The fisherfolk are unlikely to be embracing the wonders of modern technology anytime soon, but are always going to need to ply their trade and feed their families. They are not seeking to provoke an international incident and it is usually obvious to the coastguard ships of both sides that they are not discovering a boatload of spies or seaborne terrorists — just simple fisherfolk. Of all the problems faced by India and Pakistan this is, perhaps, the one most susceptible to an early solution.

The two countries should ensure future plan of action with deciding about clear demarcation of the sea territories to avoid arresting fishermen or seizing their boats.

Majority of the detained fishermen belong to the poor families and their children have been facing hardships to run their family affairs.

It is not only the border force hunting fishermen and their vessels the government agencies here also target fishermen in the name of security concerns during their way to the open sea, disrupting their livelihood activities.

Temple View from BeachThe fishermen are living in horrible situation without basic facilities. They need help to raise the voice and convey their message to the parliamentarians in the provincial and national assemblies.

For the poor families the arrest of their bread earners is not less than disaster. They are vulnerable to face hardships. In fact at this time these families need relief goods, and the humanitarian institutions should extend helping hand to support these families so that they may feel safe and secured.

They are in dire need to run their family affairs. They are worried about their children who do not go to schools in the absence of their fathers and guardians. They are waiting to receive their loved ones. They need ration and health cover.

There are 14 island villages, which do not have access to basic facilities, including water, health and education. It seems these island communities have been discarded by the state authorities despite the fact that their votes are valuable. They have voted to elect some representatives but irony is that to whom these people should ask that whose people they are?

Why they are being treated like this. They are law-abiding citizens and they deserve to be protected in terms of providing livelihood.

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