British Muslim women against ISIS


This music video is about a song by a young Syrian Kurdish singer.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

The British Muslim women making a stand against Isis

Tuesday 30th September 2014

As the US-led coalition launches air strikes, LOUISE RAW talks to Muslim women who reject ‘Islamist’ extremism and misogyny

LOOKING at a huge, rather beautiful poster of a young Muslim woman wearing a vivid Union Jack hijab, I know I’m not in standard leftie territory — and that’s before Theresa May pops in to press the flesh.

Not many media launches are both timed to coincide with the school run and surrounded by heavy security either. But Sara Khan is used to doing things differently.

Khan is the driving force behind new anti-extremism group Making a Stand, launched last week in Whitehall.

She is also the Director of Inspire, a group which I note is described by the Guardian as a “women’s human rights organisation.”

I don’t particularly want to give Alan Rusbridger a heart attack, but women technically are human beings. There, I’ve said it.

And while an increasing number of men accept that “women’s issues” are everyone’s issues, there’s still a tendency to see anything particularly affecting the female population as niche.

If it affects Muslim women, it’s usually even more a case of Nothing to Do With Us.

Khan is not letting Britain off the hook that easily, however, and is trenchant on the wrong-headedness of using supposed “cultural sensitivities” as an excuse not to oppose extremism and gender inequality wherever they’re found.

On this basis I’d asked her to speak at this July’s Matchwomen’s Festival, and she did so passionately, happily answering some “Everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-Islam-but-were-afraid-to-ask” questions from guests afterwards.

However, she was criticised for Islamophobia by two delegates over her condemnation of the murder of Lee Rigby.

The line on such atrocities from some on the British left is that the West has only itself to blame for “retaliations” to its foreign policy.

She replied that she was a practising Muslim who rejected such violence as outside her faith. The same went for the radical preachers who encouraged it.

As for the Islamic “women question,” Khan says that those in favour of gender inequality “don’t know [their] own faith. The prophet’s wives weren’t submissive women.”

She is adamant that we will see more and more young British women joining Isis, and about where part of the blame lies.

“We need to educate women better to improve this marginalisation problem in Muslim communities. For far too long mosques have marginalised Muslim women and their participation.”

However she’s also keenly aware that the perception of Islam as the ultimate oppressor of women is manipulated by the far-right, which publicly condemns the religion on this pretext even as supporters attack Muslim women on the street.

Some women won’t speak out against gender-based discrimination even though they loathe it, precisely because to do so may fuel anti-Muslim attacks, of which they could end up the victims.

So they can be caught between a rock and a hard place, suffering both fascist violence and gender discrimination from within their own communities. The resultant trauma and alienation is a risk in itself.

Khan says: “We know Muslim women who wear the headscarf are more likely to experience attacks. Will that make them feel they don’t belong? Are they [joining Isis] because all they’ve come across in this country in Muslim communities is a narrow view of women?”

This is the sort of difficult, and potentially dangerous, political terrain Khan has to constantly navigate.

It goes without saying then that “making a stand” will have required considerable courage for at least some of the women present at the launch last Wednesday. This was underlined by a total advance publicity embargo launch for security reasons.

But Khan made it clear on the day that silence was no longer an option when young British Muslims were being drawn to Isis — and there have been reports of British female recruits joining the al-Khanssaa brigade, an all-women militia set up by Isis which punishes women for “unislamic” behaviour.

“They have bought into a pack of lies,” says Khan.

“They think they’re following Islam, but actually it’s a patriarchal ideology that seeks to treat women as second-class citizens.”

Making A Stand has practical proposals for British Muslim communities — they ask mosques to start treating women more equally, communities to take more responsibility for women and women and young people to speak out on social media using the hashtag #MakingAStand, to directly challenge Isis sympathisers.

Later, over lunch, I spoke to some of the women present about the causes of radicalisation.

Sufiya Ahmed, Tamina Mir and immigration lawyer Piya Mayenim identified multiple factors that they saw as contributing.

High unemployment and institutionalised racism which limited Muslim young people’s futures made them feel they didn’t belong in Britain.

The three women saw Isis as something of a trend, though no less dangerous for that.

A generation with generally more liberal parents could only rebel by becoming more extreme, and Mayenim was aware of instances of teenagers criticising their parents for being “too Western.”

The black-clad, macabre chic of Isis could seem an appealing alternative to Western decadence and consumerism.

We talked about the government’s response to date. The Prevent initiative was launched in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11 2001 to counter radicalisation at community level, and continues to do so, but with significantly less funding under the coalition.

It hit another major roadblock in 2010 when it emerged that CCTV cameras placed in Muslim areas of Birmingham, 72 of them covertly, were partly funded by Prevent cash.

The resultant loss of confidence and trust was enormously damaging.

The women had also seen secular youth clubs close due to cutbacks, to be replaced with self-organised single-race or religious groups, decreasing cultural cross-pollenation.

Although May had come to praise the launch, there were no new commitments that day either — while promising the government would support Making A Stand “if you can do this” (ie counter and monitor extremism) we were left not knowing if this would mean an occasional fist-bump or anything more concrete.

I spoke also to Mehmoo Dah, an older Muslim woman living in sheltered accommodation who had travelled from Leicester for the launch.

She was visibly distressed as she spoke about the racism she says she personally experiences after every Isis incident, with locals saying: “You’re all terrorists.”

Khan has her work cut out for her, but is deeply committed to her mission.

“Extremist views from both sides blight the lives of British women and weaken our country,” she says.

“As a country that stands for equality, justice and women’s rights, we cannot allow extremists of any kind to deny British women their rights.”

Louise Raw is author of Striking A Light: The History of the Bryant and May Matchwomen’s Strike (Continuum). She will be chairing and speaking at the Freedom For Sussex 2014 Conference: Children and Young People on Thursday October 16 at the Pavilion Theatre, Marine Parade, Worthing, West Sussex, BN11 3PX, 10.15am-4.30pm (registration opens at 9.45am). For more information visit http://www.safeinsussex.org.

Turkish government, NATO allies and ISIS allies


This is a Syrian Kurdish music video by GULEN EFRIN.

By I. Zekeriya Ayman:

Turkey’s war on Rojava

Saturday, September 27, 2014

With the US and allied nations, including Arab countries, carrying out air strikes in Syria, the Turkish government is trying to convince the West it does not support the Islamic State (IS) forces the US is targetting.

Newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the former prime minster) linked the adjective “terrorist” with “IS” for the very first time on September 23 during a US TV interview while attending the United Nations climate summit.

“Turkey will do whatever needs to be done to stop this terrorist organisation, militarily, and politically,” he said.

But the truth is that IS has received vital support from the Turkish government. It is known that IS has received crucial support from Turkey, which includes:

* Turkey positioning itself as an easy bridge for IS foreign militants to reach Syria, and Iraq;
* Trapped IS militants in Syria and Iraq escaping to Turkey to regroup and train;
* IS casualties being treated in Turkish hospitals and even having an hospital exclusively for their use;
* Turkey providing basic needs to IS under the guise of “humanitarian aid”;
* The Turkish government providing weapons and ammunitions directly to IS and providing safe passage for arms deliveries from elsewhere; and
*Turkey opening and closing its borders to suit IS.

The main reason the Turkish regime has supported IS, besides its interest in the toppling the Syrian regime, is the growing Kurdish resistance in Syria and the creation of a revolutionary “liberated zone” in the Kurdish territory of Rojava.

The “Rojava Revolution” is the first revolutionary project in the Middle East not supported by any major political power since the 2011 Arab Spring. This is a real people’s revolution, led by the Kurdish liberation movement, that is generating hope in the Middle East. It suggests that revolution may be possible without the backing of the super powers.

The Turkish government had a secret policy of maintaining a “buffer zone” on its border with Syria to stifle the Rojava revolution.

So what has changed? The US has declared its intention to “destroy IS” and the Turkish government believes this may revive its failed attempts to demolish the Rojava uprising.

Turkey has been the most enthusiastic government in the world about the demise of the Assad regime. At the start of the Syrian uprising the then-Turkish foreign minister, now Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, boldly predicted that “Assad’s days were numbered.”

The Turkish government believed it. But it was the prediction that collapsed, not the Assad regime. These recent US air strikes have renewed hopes that Assad may go.

The Turkish government also seems to have calculated that it cannot rely on the IS to crush Kurdish resistance. Its best bet is actually the US.

If a ground operation follows air strikes in Syria, Turkey will be more than happy to occupy Syria from the north ― providing an excellent opportunity to deal with the Kurds.

The US attacks on IS in Iraq and Syria send a clear message to all that the US is not finished in the region, yet. The US pushed hard for Sunni Arab countries and Turkey to come on board with the air strikes.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Turkey had no choice but to support the US-led anti-IS “coalition”.

Turkey won’t change its policy to kill the Rojava revolution but will try to kill it from within this coalition.

The Turkish government will pay a hefty price, domestically, for its support of the US led coalition against IS. Its religious base will ask questions. But it is a lower price than it would pay if it went against US interests.

The Turkish left is well aware of US plans in Iraq and Syria. The People’s Democracy Party (HDP), which gained significant support at the recent presidential elections, is leading a huge campaign in solidarity with defence of the Rojava city of Kobane against IS attack.

Thousands of Turkish-Kurdish youth trying to enter Syria to join the war against IS have clashed with Turkish police at the border ― but many have managed to join the fight. HDP MPs have visited the Syrian border to show their solidarity with Kobane resistance and now many other groups are visiting in solidarity.

I. Zekeriya Ayman is a Kurdish–Turkish leftist living in Melbourne [Australia].

Special caterpillar, video


This video is about a special caterpillar on a mat.

It is a caterpillar of a pale tussock moth.

The Dutch name for this species is meriansborstel, Merian’s brush; named after famous seventeenth century naturalist and painter of insects Maria Sibylla Merian.

Jos van Zijl in the Netherlands made the video.

Gorilla film wins award


This video says about itself:

“Hope”, a film by Craghoppers featuring Sir David Attenborough

8 April 2014

Hope is a powerful film, which revisits the plight of the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda and the team of people who are responsible for their survival.

Produced by Craghoppers and voiced by Sir David Attenborough, Hope was filmed in the Volcanoes National Park 47 years after Dian Fossey began her life’s work in mountain gorilla conservation. Only ruins of Fossey’s original Karisoke Research Centre remain — but we meet the research team in their new home, where 120 people continue Dian’s work.

Never before seen footage goes behind the scenes of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International as they intensely monitor the gorillas, with the help of a dedicated team of trackers and anti poaching patrols — whose job it is to follow the great apes every day, 365 days per year, through difficult and sometimes dangerous terrain.

The documentary also shows the very human side to the Fossey Fund’s approach to conservation as we follow the local people who live next to the gorilla’s habitat and the work that is being done to change attitudes. The children growing up in these communities today have grown to love and the respect the gorillas that their people once killed for their own survival.

More than 40 years of extreme conservation, which was pioneered by Dian Fossey, has resulted in the Virunga mountain gorilla population nearly doubling in size. However, the mountain gorillas remain critically endangered. Providing much hope for the future, yet highlighting the need for continued support, the film has one very clear message: we must support the people protecting the mountain gorillas — they are their only hope of survival.

From Wildlife Extra:

Mountain gorilla film wins award

A film highlighting the plight of mountain gorillas in Rwanda has won the Best Short Film award at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, which runs from 13-19 October in New York.

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough and produced by Craghoppers, Hope revisits the mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, nearly 47 years after Dian Fossey began her work in the region.

“Our motivation behind making Hope was to highlight the extreme efforts adopted by the Dian Fossey Fund to protect the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and the sometimes dangerous challenges the team face every day,” said Managing Director for Craghoppers, Jim McNamara.

“It’s therefore a great feeling to know that a film that was designed to inspire and remind people about the plight of the gorillas has done just that in wider industry.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved with this documentary. Winning this award is a not only a great achievement for Craghoppers and the team who produced ‘Hope’, but also for the Dian Fossey Fund, as the film will get in front of an even greater audience and will hopefully urge people to support the charity and donate to a very worthy cause.”

Read a field guide to mountain gorillas HERE.

Galapagos islands, new film


This video says about itself:

Galapagos 3D Narrated by Jeff Corwin – Official | Digital 3D Version

In the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, there is a paradise unlike any other: the Galapagos. Amongst these remote volcanic islands, life has played out over millions of years in relative isolation. The result is a wonderland of nature, with a remarkable collection of plants and charismatic animals that have all adapted to this unique environment. Meet giant half-ton tortoises and marine iguanas that spit sea-salt. Dance with the tropical albatrosses and hunt fishes with the colorful blue-footed boobies. Swim with tiny penguins thousands of miles away from their natural habitats. This is a story of discovery, of survival against the odds, and of nature’s ingenuity, all brought to life in stunning 3D.

From the California Science Center in the USA:

Explore the Wonders of the Galapagos Islands in a Stunning New 3D Film

Wildlife Conservationist Jeff Corwin featured in “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” Opening on October 5, 2014 at the California Science Center

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23, 2014 — The California Science Center invites audiences to an exploration of a paradise unlike any other, with the breathtaking IMAX film, “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” narrated by Jeff Corwin, premiering this October 5th.

“Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” brings to the giant screen these remarkable volcanic islands, home to some of nature’s most incredible living creatures. Located close to the equator in the Pacific Ocean, at the confluence of several nutrient-rich currents, the Galapagos archipelago has developed over millions of years in relative isolation. The result is a living museum of nature, with an abundance of species of plants and unique animals that have adapted to thrive in this challenging environment. Giant half-ton long-necked tortoises lumber among dancing blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants. Small penguins living thousands of miles from their natural habitats share the seas with unique marine iguanas that spit sea-salt. This is an incredible story of discovery, of survival against the odds, and of nature’s ingenuity.

“I was thrilled to provide the narration for this amazing project,” said Corwin, wildlife conservationist and Emmy award-winning TV host. “When I saw the film for the first time, it literally took my breath away. Despite traveling the world for 20 years hosting and creating documentaries, I was thoroughly impressed with this incredible journey.”

After viewing the film, Science Center visitors are encouraged to visit the “Ecosystems” exhibition, where concepts from the film like adaptation are illustrated through a blend of live plants, animals, and hands-on exhibits in 11 immersive environments, or zones. “Ecosystems” occupies 45,000 square feet and contains more than 250 species of plants and animals. Guests will find out why isolation breeds change and visit a simulated tropical island research station in the “Island Zone,” where they will learn about evolution by studying some of the unique animals that make these isolated habitats their homes. In the “Extreme Zone,” guests explore the desert, rocky shores, and more to discover how environmental factors test the limits of plants and animals—and how they have adapted to flourish, just like the animals featured in “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland.”

“There are not too many places more powerful than the Galapagos Islands when it comes to understanding our planet,” said Corwin. “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” perfectly captures what makes the creatures living there such unique characters.”

Produced by Anthony Geffen, written by David Attenborough and narrated by Jeff Corwin, “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” is directed by Martin Williams and features original music composed by Joel Douek. The film is a Colossus Productions presentation in association with SKY 3D, distributed by nWave Pictures Distribution.

“Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” was filmed on location over a ten- month period in 2012 and 2013, followed by five months of post-production. Using breakthrough digital 3D filmmaking technologies and featuring 4K ultra-high resolution imagery, the producers have brought to life the extraordinary world of the Galapagos archipelago in a way that has not been possible before. The Galapagos Islands are governed by Ecuador and lie some 600 miles from the coast of South America.

The film’s official website is here.