Thursday, 20 August 2009

Undercover journalist arrested

BBC journalist Arifa Farooq, who went undercover as a carer to expose flaws in the system in the care of elderly in their own homes, has been arrested earlier this month and is facing criminal prosecution.

The Panorama documentary, Britain's Homecare Scandal, which was aired in April, revealed malpractice in companies caring for older people at home.

Arifa Farooq, 30, who works with the BBC Scotland investigations unit, was one of several reporters who went undercover for two months to research the story.

She was arrested and questioned earlier this month in relation to allegations of making a false disclosure in the course of her investigation.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called on the prosecuting authorities in Scotland to use common sense and to rule out the prosecution of a Glasgow-based journalist.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We are strongly urging the authorities to use their common sense and rule out prosecution. The work undertaken by Arifa Farooq was clearly in the public interest and it is now in the public interest for the case to be dropped.

“The only people who would benefit from legal action in these circumstances are those who want to stop the kind of vital journalism that has been undertaken by Arifa."

The Local Government Committee at the Scottish Parliament has been investigating issues around elderly care provision that were raised by the Panorama programme.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Rape and violence against women as weapon of war: one DRC woman speaks out

One gorilla vs 500,000 women
"We ask: 'Why the silence of the developed countries? When a gorilla is killed in the mountains, there is an outcry, and people mobilize great resources to protect the animals. Yet more than five hundred thousand women have been raped, and there is silence."
This is what Democratic Republic of Congo's journalist Chouchou Namegabe testified at a hearing on sexual violence in the DRC before the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations in May.

“The women ask WHY? Why such atrocities? Why do they fight their war on women’s bodies? It is because there is a plan to put fear into the community through the woman, because she is the heart of the community. When she is pushed down, the whole community follows. The rapes are targeted and intentional, and are meant to remove the people from their mineral-rich land through fear, shame, violence, and the intentional spread of HIV throughout entire families and villages.

After all of this you will make memorials and say 'Never Again.' But we don't need commemorations; we want you to act now,” continued Namegabe, visibly anguished and angry.
She is founder of the South Kivu Women’s Media Association, known as Association des Femmes des Medias du Sud Kivu (AFEM-SK). The organization gives a voice to thousands of voiceless women. They use radio to give women the space to express what has happened to them, begin their healing and seek justice.
We don't need memorials, but actions
"We have interviewed over 400 women in South Kivu, and their stories are terrifying. In fact, the word rape fails to truly describe what is happening, because it is not only rape that occurs, but atrocities also accompany the rapes. That is what makes the situation in the eastern Congo so different, and horrible. Of all the testimonies we recorded there are two that stay in my mind that I will share with you.

I met a woman who had 5 children. They took her into the forest with her 5 children, and kept them there for several days. As each day passed the rebels killed one of her children and forced her to eat her child's flesh. She begged to be killed but they refused and said, “No, we can't give you a good death.

Last month, after the joint operation between the Congolese army and the Rwandese army to break down the FDLR1, in their running away the FDLR raped more women. Our journalists were told that after they raped the women, they put fuel in their vaginas and set them on fire, and then extinguished the fire. This was done not to kill them, but to let them suffer. There were many other horrible atrocities."

Why our silence and inaction? What are we waiting for? Namegabe is right to say that the international community would have never let so many gorillas suffer in this way.

To read about the six actions Namegabe is requesting, go to the full transcript of the hearing.

And to watch her testimony on YouTube:

Monday, 3 August 2009

Iran - a poem

I've met Majid through a poem. I had written an article a few months ago for on Tehran authorities destroying the site of mass graves the district of Khavaran in southeast Tehran. In these unmarked graves lie thousands of political prisoners killed by the Islamic regime in the 1980s - most of them during a secret mass massacre in the summer of 1988. In response, Majid sent me a poem.

Since then, he has sent me more poems, punctuating the events in his native country, creating something beautiful out of pain and violence. I love them. Here is his latest offering:

A Poem: Three Gifts
by Majid Naficy

Published on July 29 in Foreign Policy in Focus in response to the repression and violence in Iran

In Memory of Saeed

One day my father called us and said:
I have three gifts for you —
A red heart, an hourglass, and...
O God, I don't remember the other one.

Mehdy took the heart
Opened its two halves
And strummed the strings of its chambers.

I took the hourglass
And along its white sands
I fell from one half to the other
Asking myself:
What can be done in three minutes?

And Saeed
At age ten went to Paris
For heart surgery
And at age twenty-nine

He was executed in Tehran.
I remember him.
He had red cheeks
And strong hands.

March 1994

Majid Naficy, who is the author of more than 20 books written in Persian, fled Iran in 1983, a year and a half after the execution of his wife Ezzat in Tehran. He has published two collections of poetry "Muddy Shoes" (Beyond Baroque Books 1999) and "Father and Son" (Red Hen Press 2003) as well as his doctoral dissertation "Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature" (University Press of America 1997) in English. He lives in Los Angeles.

Iran - Show Trials and database of detainees

Show Trials
Today, Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and the former reformist president Mohammad Khatami are denouncing "show trials" of politicians and activists charged with fomenting unrest after the disputed presidential election on 12 June . Both men accused the Tehran regime of using forced confessions to charge senior opposition figures of "acting against national security" and "conspiring with foreign powers to stage a velvet revolution".

Database of dead and detained
Hundreds, probably thousands, have been arrested in Iran since the election. Human rights and campaign groups such as Human Rights Watch, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Reporters Without Borders have been collecting and publishing the names of those dead or detained.

The Guardian newspaper have brought those lists, and reports from trusted media sources, into a database. They are asking readers and those elsewhere on the internet to contribute too.
Since they launched this exercise, they have had hundreds of emails, photographs and names sent to us. Keep them coming. Please post your visualisations and mash-ups on their Flickr group or mail them at