Turkish president attacks women’s rights


This video from Turkey says about itself:

Girls vs Cops: Violent clashes erupt at International Women’s Day march in Turkey

8 March 2014

Some 2,000 people marched peacefully in central Istanbul on International Women’s Day, protesting the Turkish government’s policies and violence against women. A small group of protesters later clashed with officers who blocked them from Taksim Square.

From Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey:

Turkish President Erdoğan says gender equality ‘against nature’

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears set to anger women and rights groups in Turkey once again after voicing his strong objection to the equality of women and men, instead recommending what he called “equivalency.” …

The Turkish president has consistently exhorted women to have at least three children, while also terming abortion “murder” and railing against Caesarian sections.

He also used the occasion to stage a strongly-worded attack on “feminism and feminists,” claiming that they “reject the concept of motherhood.” …

Women rights activists and lawyers constantly criticize the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which was led by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan from 2003 until he was elected to the presidency in August, for the increasingly conservative and authoritarian political culture they say it is fostering.

Turkey ranked 120th of 136 nations in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Gender Gap Index, down 15 places since 2006, while a 2011 U.N. report indicated that Turkey’s domestic violence rates are almost twice those in the United States and 10 times higher than in some European countries.

November/24/2014

English anti-World War I resistance on stage


This video says about itself:

ENGLAND ARISE! – PROMO

A brief promo film of Bent Architect’s research and development project exploring the true story of the Yorkshire Conscientious Objectors of the first world war, at Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield, December, 2013. We are aiming to launch the production in the autumn of 2014 as an alternative commemoration of the centenary.

By Bernadette Horton in Britain:

Theatre review: England, Arise!

Wednesday 19th November 2014

BERNADETTE HORTON highly recommends a powerful dramatisation of working-class resistance to the carnage of WWI

England, Arise!
People’s History Museum, Manchester/Touring
5 stars

FORGET ceramic poppies and sentimentalised dramas about the first world war.

Instead, go and see Bent Architect’s production of England, Arise! about the real lives of political activists Arthur Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Percy Ellis (James Britton) who opposed the war.

Gardiner (Chris Lindon) and Ellis (James Britton) lived in Huddersfield in the early 1900s and were part of a vibrant socialist movement which gave them hope as young people that life was only going to get better.

They portray a strong friendship between the two men — in performances which occasionally veer almost into music hall routine — which shows how these young men were confident about the future, determined in their anti-war stance and inspired by the Suffrage movement which at that time was in its 60th year of campaigning for women’s right to vote.

The Suffragette campaign is forcefully represented in the character of Lillian Lenton (Stephanie Butler) who shows the eccentricity and tenacity of the real-life activist who was imprisoned and force-fed and turns up in Huddersfield on her escape from the police.

Local women Sis Timmins (Laura Bonnah) and Lavena Saltonstall (Stephanie Butler again) are shown as complex characters who are learning about being independent women as well as supporting their men when they refuse to serve in the war.

Gardiner and Ellis were both sentenced to military prison and brutalised in much the same way as the soldiers who volunteered to go to war.

Crucial to the power of the play is the use by playwright Mick Martin in Jude Wright’s production of Gardiner’s verbatim defence of his opposition to the war when facing a military tribunal.

Isolated and victimised by their military jailers, both men are inspirational in their determination to maintain their principled response to militarism, whether in refusing to call their warders “sir” or facing their fears as they are separated and put into isolation for long periods.

Outside the prison the campaign to support the two conscientious objectors carries on, spearheaded by the women, even though they face violence at meetings and are often seen as outcasts by sections of their community.

Though only 20,000 people refused to take part in WWI, this small number was seen as a major and direct threat by the government.

This play is thus a reminder of the importance of that courageous anti-war stance and the high price that working-class people have always paid in the war games of the ruling classes.

Next performances at the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum on November 18 and 19, details: www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.org.

Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s 40 wives


A statue of Joseph Smith and his first wife, Emma, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Photo credit Jim McAuley for The New York Times

From the New York Times in the USA:

It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

NOV. 10, 2014

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief in which the first stage is denial, and the second is anger. Members are saying on blogs and social media, “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love,” Ms. Jensen said.

Smith probably did not have sexual relations with all of his wives, because some were “sealed” to him only for the next life, according to the essays posted by the church. But for his first wife, Emma, polygamy was “an excruciating ordeal.”

The four treatises on polygamy reflect a new resolve by a church long accused of secrecy to respond with openness to the kind of thorny historical and theological issues that are causing some to become disillusioned or even to abandon the faith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is formally known, has quietly posted 12 essays on its website over the last year on contentious topics such as the ban on blacks in the priesthood, which was lifted in 1978, and accounts of how Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the church’s sacred scripture.

Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of its senior leadership, said in an interview, “There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.

“We need to be truthful, and we need to understand our history,” Elder Snow said. “I believe our history is full of stories of faith and devotion and sacrifice, but these people weren’t perfect.”

The essay on “plural marriage” in the early days of the Mormon movement in Ohio and Illinois says polygamy was commanded by God, revealed to Smith and accepted by him and his followers only very reluctantly. Abraham and other Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives, and Smith preached that his church was the “restoration” of the early, true Christian church.

Most of Smith’s wives were between the ages of 20 and 40, the essay says, but he married Helen Mar Kimball, a daughter of two close friends, “several months before her 15th birthday.” A footnote says that according to “careful estimates,” Smith had 30 to 40 wives.

The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.

The essays held nothing back, said Richard L. Bushman, emeritus professor of history at Columbia University and author of the book “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.”

Dr. Bushman said of church leaders: “Somewhere along the line they decided they were just going to tell the whole story, not to be defensive, not to try to hide anything. And there’s no single fact that’s more unsettling than Joseph Smith’s marriage to other men’s wives.

“It’s a recognition of maturity,” said Dr. Bushman, who is a Mormon. “There are lots of church leaders who say: ‘We can take anything, just let us know how it really happened. We’re a church that is secure.’ ”

The younger generation of Mormons will benefit from this step, said Samantha Shelley, co-founder of the website MillennialMormons.com in Provo, Utah.

She said she knew of Smith’s polygamous past, but “it’s so easy for people these days to stumble upon something on the Internet, and it rocks their world and they don’t know where to turn.”

In 1890, under pressure by the American government, the church issued a manifesto formally ending polygamy. The church’s essay on this phase admits that some members and even leaders did not abandon the practice for years.

But the church did renounce polygamy, and Mormons who refused to do the same eventually broke away and formed splinter churches, some that still exist. Warren Jeffs, the leader of one such group, was convicted in Texas in 2011 of child sexual assault.

There remains one way in which polygamy is still a part of Mormon belief: The church teaches that a man who was “sealed” in marriage to his wife in a temple ritual, then loses his wife to death or divorce, can be sealed to a second wife and would be married to both wives in the afterlife. However, women who have been divorced or widowed cannot be sealed to more than one man.

Kristine Haglund, the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, said that while she found the church’s new transparency “really hopeful,” she and other women she had talked with were disturbed that the essays do not address the painful teaching about polygamy in eternity.

“These are real issues for Mormon women,” Ms. Haglund said. “And because the church has never said definitively that polygamy won’t be practiced in heaven, even very devout and quite conservative women are really troubled by it.”

The church historian, Elder Snow, said that the process of writing the essays began in May 2012. Each one was drafted by a scholar, often outside the church history department, then edited by church historians and leaders, and vetted by the church’s top authorities. They may issue one more essay, on women and the priesthood, an issue that has grown increasingly controversial as some Mormon women have mobilized to challenge the male-only priesthood.

The church has not publicly announced the posting of the essays, and many Mormons said in interviews that they were not even aware of them. They are not visible on the church’s home page; finding them requires a search or a link. Elder Snow said he anticipated that the contents would eventually be “woven into future curriculum” for adults and youths.

The church recently released an informational video about the distinctive Mormon underwear called “temple garments” — and it received far more attention among Mormons and in the news media than the essays on polygamy.

Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, and a non-Mormon who has studied the Mormon Church, said it had dealt with transparency about its past before this, addressing Mormon leaders’ complicity in an attack on a wagon train crossing southern Utah in 1857, known as the Mountain Meadows massacre. But she said this recent emphasis on transparency by the church was both unprecedented and smart.

“What you want to do is get out ahead of the problem, and not have someone say, ‘Look at this damaging thing I found that you were trying to keep secret,’ ” she said.

See also here.

British government torture whitewash


This video from Britain says about itself:

The Women of Reprieve

Watch some of Reprieve’s female members of staff talk about their work.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

UK rights groups reject official inquiry into post-September 11 rendition

Government-led inquiry into alleged British involvement in rendition and torture will be a whitewash, say rights groups

Mark Townsend, home affairs editor

Saturday 8 November 2014 20.45 GMT

Britain’s leading human rights groups are to boycott the official investigation into the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition in the years after 9/11, grievously undermining the controversial inquiry.

Nine organisations have announced that they want nothing to do with the parliamentary inquiry by the intelligence and security committee (ISC) into Britain’s alleged role in the ill-treatment of detainees.

A strongly worded letter to the committee team investigating detainee allegations says that, despite raising concerns with the government more than six months ago over whether its decision to allow the ISC to lead the inquiry was “lawful or appropriate”, their concerns of an establishment cover-up remained unanswered.

The letter, obtained by the Observer, says the coalition of groups – including Reprieve, Amnesty International and Liberty – have lost all trust in the committee’s ability to uncover the truth. “Consequently, we as a collective of domestic and international non-governmental organisations do not propose to play a substantive role in the conduct of this inquiry,” the letter states.

Other signatories of the letter include Cage, Rights Watch UK, Freedom From Torture, Redress, Justice and the legal charity the Aire Centre. Their anger follows assurances by David Cameron that the inquiry into whether MI5 and MI6 were actively involved in the secret rendition and torture of UK citizens and residents would be headed by a senior judge.

When the coalition government came to power, Cameron told MPs that no other arrangement would command public confidence, and vehemently rejected suggestions that the ISC should conduct the investigation. He said that only a “judge-led inquiry” could “get to the bottom of the case”.

The boycott follows the debacle of the independent inquiry into child abuse, which has been dogged by whitewash claims and recently lost its second chair, Fiona Woolf, after she accepted that abuse survivors had lost confidence in her ability to conduct the investigation impartially.

The ISC has faced years of criticism as evidence of UK involvement in rendition has emerged, and was also condemned for failing to report on the bulk surveillance being conducted by the UK’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, until after it became public.

After an initial inquiry by retired appeal court judge Sir Peter Gibson was cut short two years ago as further evidence came to light of British complicity in rendition and torture, the government’s decision to hand the inquiry to the ISC was widely condemned.

“We remain unpersuaded that the decision to cut short the work of the flawed Gibson inquiry and to pass the baton on to the ISC is an adequate substitute for the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry,” states the letter.

Clare Algar, executive director of Reprieve, said: “What little credibility the ISC had left is rapidly evaporating. It should now be abundantly clear that it is simply incapable of getting to the truth on the UK’s role in rendition and torture.

“Last time they looked into this issue, they gave the agencies a clean bill of health. We now know that conclusion was spectacularly misguided – so why should we expect anything more than a whitewash this time around? The government must now abandon this farce.”

However, the chair of the ISC, former Conservative defence and foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, dismissed criticism of the committee and said the inquiry would continue regardless of the boycott by the human rights sector.

However, he warned that the inquiry into rendition and torture would not be concluded before the general election next May.

“It’s not going to be remotely possible to complete it before the election. Apart from that, we can’t even start on the Libyan stuff because of the police inquiries,” he added.

Ten days ago police investigating MI6’s involvement in the secret abduction of Libyan suspects in 2004 and their forced return to Tripoli revealed they had passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The rights groups’ letter also raises concern that the membership makeup of the ISC meant that it could not deliver an “impartial and thorough” investigation. It states: “The ISC is not and cannot be, by its very design, adequate to the task of carrying out an independent investigation of these violations. It remains the case that the prime minister holds an absolute veto over its membership, the evidence which it is allowed to examine, and the information which it is allowed to publish.

“We are therefore of the view that the committee has neither the powers nor the independence necessary to get to the truth of Britain’s involvement in the rendition and torture of detainees abroad. Any investigation conducted by the ISC will be inherently flawed.”

Rifkind dismissed criticism of the committee’s makeup as “pathetic”.

See also here.

Australian, Japanese militarists celebrate World War I


This video says about itself:

Australian comfort woman Jan Ruff-O’Herne

Jan Ruff-O’Herne told her shocking story on Australian Story in 2001 – a secret that took her 50 years to come to terms with before finally, she revealed it in a letter to her two daughters.

An idyllic childhood in Java was brought to an abrupt end by the Japanese occupation during Word War Two. Aged 21, she was taken from her family and repeatedly abused, beaten and raped – forced to be a sex slave for the Japanese military.

The term coined for this brutal sex slavery was ‘comfort woman‘.

But since revealing her ‘uncomfortable truth’ Jan Ruff-O’Herne’s suffering has been transformed into something affirmative.

In February this year, this 84-year-old Adelaide grandmother made the long journey to testify before Congress in Washington DC. The Congressional hearing was the pinnacle in her 15-year global campaign to seek justice for ‘comfort women’.

Now six years since Australian Story first aired her story, Jan Ruff-O’Herne feels she is one step closer to finally achieving her ultimate goal.

By Richard Phillips in Australia:

Australia’s WWI Albany commemoration: All about the future, not the past

7 November 2014

The former whaling port of Albany in Western Australia was the setting last weekend for the “Albany Convoy Commemoration.” It was part of the Australian government’s World War I centenary program—a multi-million dollar four-year campaign aimed at preparing the population for new wars.

In October 1914, King George’s Sound, just off Albany, was the assembly point for merchant ships carrying Australian and New Zealand troops, later known as Anzacs, before they set sail for the slaughter houses of WWI.

The first armada of 32 ships, carrying 30,000 troops and 8,000 horses, departed from Albany on November 1 under escort from three Australian navy vessels and HIJMS Ibuki, a navy cruiser from Japan, a British wartime ally. It was the first of two convoys that conveyed 41,000 troops from Albany that year. A third of these soldiers were killed in the attempted allied invasion of Turkey in 1915 or on the European battlefields.

Last weekend’s commemoration was attended by an estimated 40,000 people and senior government representatives from Japan, France and New Zealand. It was an occasion for government and military heads to wave the flag and issue proclamations about the birth of the “Anzac spirit,” while engaging in high-level discussions with military allies for new wars.

The three-day extravaganza, initiated by the former Rudd Labor government in 2008, featured a re-enactment of the convoy’s departure, involving four Australian warships and a submarine, a New Zealand navy vessel and a Japanese destroyer. A military march through the town was accompanied by low-flying Australian air force planes roaring overhead. Then came a commemorative service and the opening of the National Anzac Centre, a so-called interpretative museum.

More than 800 Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in the proceedings, along with soldiers from New Zealand and the French Pacific colony of New Caledonia. On Saturday night, WWI memorabilia were projected onto local buildings, alongside an outdoor “community concert.” Nearby Middleton Beach was covered with 30,000 hand-sewn red poppies.

No doubt many of those in attendance came to honour relatives who served in the war and were genuinely interested in trying to understand what produced the 1914–18 slaughter. That, however, was the last thing on the minds of the official speakers. Those in charge were preoccupied with obscuring the real reasons for WWI as they discussed, in private, preparations for new wars.

Australian Veteran Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson chaired the commemoration ceremony. Japanese officials in attendance included Kazuyuki Nakane, the vice-minister for foreign affairs and Hideshi Tokuchi, the vice-minister of defence. Tokuchi oversees all Japanese negotiations with US and international defence officials.

Disingenuous speeches were delivered by Australian and New Zealand prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Keys, pledging to “never forget” the “selfless sacrifices” of the war dead and the “spirit of Anzac.”

The so-called Anzac spirit—of mateship and unwavering devotion to the nation—is an entirely invented reality and one that denies the imperialist character of the war. The Australian and New Zealand troops on board the ships were mobilised in 1914 as part of the British Empire’s war efforts to retain its global dominance. The soldiers had never even heard the term Anzac.

Abbott called on those present to remember “the soldiers and sailors of the countries of the British Empire, of gallant France and of Japan—first an ally, then a foe, now the very best of friends.”

In 1914, the ruling elites in Australia, New Zealand and Japan were driven by long-held imperial ambitions in the region. The sacrifice of thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops was the human down-payment for the emergence of Australia and New Zealand as imperialist powers. As soon as the war began, all three countries seized German territories in the Asia-Pacific.

Japan had told the British government that it would only enter the war if it could take Germany’s Pacific territories. On 7 August 1914, Britain officially requested Japanese assistance to destroy German navy ships in and around Chinese waters. Japan declared war against Germany on 23 August and attacked the German settlement at China’s Tsingtao a week later.

Australian and New Zealand forces took over Germany’s South Pacific colonies, including German New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru and Samoa, while the Japanese military seized the Mariana, Caroline and Marshall islands, north of the equator.

Japan, which expanded its influence in China at the expense of Germany and other European powers during the war, not only escorted Anzac troop convoys to Egypt and Europe in 1914. It was also involved in the bloody suppression of the Singapore Mutiny, an anti-colonial uprising against the British in Singapore six months after the outbreak of WWI. In February 1915, Japanese marines were mobilised to assist British forces crush the week-long rebellion by 850 Indian members of the British army stationed there.

While speakers last weekend shed crocodile tears over the death of Allied soldiers in WWI at the official ceremonies, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston met with his New Zealand, Japanese and French counterparts to discuss the current war in the Middle East and preparations for future conflicts.

Johnston and New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee held the annual Australia-New Zealand defence ministers’ meeting, which covered “recent developments in Iraq, and shared perspectives on security issues in the South Pacific.” Johnston then met with the French minister for defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to further Australia’s “close cooperation with France in the South Pacific” and “shared interests” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Johnston also held extensive talks with Japanese officials Nakane and Tokuchi on Australian-Japanese involvement in the US-led “pivot to Asia,”—Washington’s diplomatic offensive and military build-up against China.

Over the past 18 months, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rapidly increased military spending, “reinterpreted” the Japanese constitution to end legal restraints on participation in US-led wars and increased Tokyo’s diplomatic and military pressure on Beijing.

As well as collaborating closely in Washington’s war preparations against China, the two countries are strengthening their own military ties. In July this year Abe, while visiting Australia, announced new defence agreements between Canberra and Tokyo which could pave the way for the Australian purchase of Japanese submarines.

This is another clear indication of increasing geo-political tensions, particularly between China and the US and its allies, and the danger of wider conflict in the region.

The author also recommends:

New warnings of war in Asia
[5 November 2014]

‘Sri Lankan women cricketers sexually abused by bigwigs’


This 2014 cricket video is called Highlights: Sri Lanka Women Beating India.

By Kadeem Simmonds:

Sri Lankan women forced into sex acts

Thursday 6th November 2014

Cricketers were dropped from national team if they refused

Sri Lankan cricket was yesterday rocked by sexual misconduct allegations surrounding the women’s cricket team.

Sri Lanka’s sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has ordered an independent inquiry after sickening reports in the local press that some of the national players had to perform sexual favours to officials in order to keep their place or break into the national side.

Reports also claim that players were dropped after refusing to engage in sex acts with sports officials.

“The minister wants to clear the air by getting this report investigated,” spokesman Harsha Abeykoon said. “We want to get to the bottom of it because this is bad for the image of the game and the country.”

The investigation will be run by a three-person panel, headed by a retired female judge and will begin within the next two days.

The findings of the inquiry will be reported at the next meeting held on November 12, at which point a decision will be made whether or not a full-scale investigation will be required.