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First published: http://blog.tehelka.com/justice-delayed-and-denied-as-well/
Date: July 15, 2013

The entire nation of Bangladesh had almost come to a halt since dawn on 15 July, the day when the verdict of Ghulam Azam had been scheduled. Anticipation, pondering, debate, tension, pandemonium, everything focused on only this issue. Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami had called for a nationwide strike demanding the release of Ghulam Azam. If you have carefully followed the history of Bangladesh, you would be familiar with his name. To those unaware, Ghulam Azam was the ring leader of the war criminals during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami and its allies Al Badr and Al Shams, have been followers of Ghulam Azam and worked against independence. During the liberation war, which lasted for about nine months, three million people were killed and about two lakh women were raped, by some estimates. Almost ten million people took refuge in India and the leading academicians and intellectuals were abducted and murdered just before independence – all of which were initiated, led and managed by Ghulam Azam.

Even after independence, he continued to work against Bangladesh. This time he rooted for terrorism in the country, in the name of Islam. He allegedly gathered funds from the Middle East and Pakistan. Many say he was a language movement veteran too. Later, he went on to say that taking part in the language movement was a great mistake and that he wanted to work for a united Pakistan.

When the war crimes tribunal began its activities, all of us had assumed Ghulam Azam would be hung. Every child in Bangladesh has grown up with a sense of hatred against Azam, so much so that since 1971, not one child has been named Ghulam Azam. Acclaimed writer Humayan Ahmed once wrote “Tui Razakar” in a television drama, which translates to “you are a war criminal”, and since then this notion has become very famous and has been used for every war criminal, especially Ghulam Azam.

The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh has now finally announced their verdict and five allegations were proved against him, most of which were of the highest degree. He was sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment- a very disturbing and frustrating judgment, I would say.

As soon as the verdict was out, almost all the social networking websites were flooded with reactions. Pro-Shahbag and liberation forces expressed their anger and frustration against the ruling party and the judiciary. On the other hand, Jamaat-e-Islami and its allies seemed quite relaxed and calm. Yet, they’ve placed demands to free Ghulam Azam unconditionally. Shahbag activists have resumed their protest. Apparently, the driving force behind the lenient judgment was his age. He is 91 years old. But this cannot be reason enough. His mass killings didn’t spare infants or pregnant ladies. He didn’t spare old men either. He never showed mercy for the citizens of Bangladesh, he still doesn’t. I wonder why the judiciary has shown mercy based on his age.

Apparently, 90 years of imprisonment is sufficient for a 91-year-old prisoner. Being politically correct, that is the highest punishment, every human rights activist will justify too. Frankly, I think even 900 years of imprisonment would seem less, so 90 years is almost like no punishment given at all. According to the constitution of Bangladesh, death penalty is the highest form of punishment, and he deserves nothing less.

Six million Jews were killed over six years during the Holocaust. If Bangladesh had required a similar timeframe for independence, the rate at which Azam and his allies committed acts of mass murder in the nine months, the entire nation would have been dead by 16 December, 1971.

We had expected God to show some mercy, that we’d be able to see Ghulam Azam be hanged. If this had been the case, three million martyrs and two hundred thousand rape victims would finally get justice. But, after the verdict, I know each and every soul feels disgusted. We’ve failed to honour our heroes. The blood soaked birth of Bangladesh has been reduced to a joke. Justice, has been delayed and denied.

First Published: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/630-morning-shows-the-day/
Date: Sunday, July 14, 2013

6:30|MORNING SHOWS THE DAY

After many days, today I woke up without the chronic migraine. Life seemed instantly great, like one of those Nescafe commercials. I felt just the way the girls in those commercials do. I hugged myself, hugged the sunshine too.
I usually wake up at 6:30am on weekdays to the most annoying noise in the world — my alarm. The noise turns me off instantly. Then war begins with waking up my Peter Pan, getting him ready for school, shouting at him for attempting to throw up his breakfast, saying no to certain T-shirts and his nagging to put his favourite Hot Wheels in his school bag. Finally I lean against the door to wave him goodbye, as he goes to school.
Then begins my world war II; deciding whether or not I should wake up Peter Pan’s dad. My husband begs for 20 minutes more, after each round of 20 minutes, for more than 2 hours. Finally he wakes up with a grumpy face, blaming me for not letting him sleep at all. The usual, casual fight ensues: who is to be blamed for the lack of routine, going to bed at 3 in the morning, not making it to the park for morning walk etc. There are days when we wrap it up with a ceasefire. And then there are days when it turns into a fierce battle — banging doors, skipping breakfast and such. By 11am I leave home for more hard time — making it to work through Dhaka traffic.
However, today when I woke up with a brilliant feeling, I promised myself to wake up every day with an image of a perfect day, and to stick to it. Last night I changed my alarm. I set one of my favorite songs as the alarm. I promised myself that I will not shout; there seems to be a connection between shouting and the day turning worse.
The everyday stress at home and work keeps our minds occupied so much that we tend to lose temper on petty issues. All the small issues then snowball into an epic problem, causing more stress and paranoia. Let’s try to keep calm and see how things play out. Wish me luck.

First Published: http://blogs.dw.de/womentalkonline/2013/07/04/the-fair-factor/
Date: 04.07.2013 | 14:44

In newspapers there is a section called “personal ads.” When I was younger, I remember reading these personal ads, hiding from my mother since the content was explicit. Now, 25 years later, the language is the same: “Groom needed for a fair, pretty Muslim/Hindu girl,” or “A pretty fair bride needed for a businessman.” I wonder, even after so many years, why do women still have to be fair and pretty to be eligible for marriage?

I understand that to attract eligible bachelors you need to highlight certain qualities, but why are education and other acquired skills so low on the list of priorities? The media has played a big role in creating the demand for fair-skinned girls in the Indian subcontinent.

Skin whitening creams are one of the most consumed products available in the stores. There is an advertisement for the fairness cream “Fair and Lovely.” The groom’s family comes to meet the girl but they leave since the girl is not fair enough for their standards. A family relation advises her to use “Fair and Lovely” and within 4-6 weeks she becomes fair and pretty. She bumps into the suitor who rejected her, only this time he insists on marrying her and surprisingly, she agrees. I find this not only hilarious but also very dumb. Television ads have a huge influence on people’s choices and their decisions.

Dark-skinned girls are probably the most vulnerable as far as social prejudice is concerned. Being fair-skinned seems to automatically imply that a girl is beautiful whereas being dark-skinned is usually equated with being ugly and evil.

Dark-skinned girls constantly get bullied by people around them for the complexion they were born with. In rural areas of Bangladesh, if a girl is born with darker skin, the parents start worrying from day one about how difficult it would be to get her married off.

Her parents think about the dowry, which will be set on a high range as no man would willingly marry a dark girl. There was a girl who used work for us as a house help, as my son’s nanny for three years. Her name is Reshma. She was young, cheerful and hardworking. One day her mother came and told us that she wanted to take Reshma home for her wedding with a boy from the same village as hers.

I was very happy for her, but Reshma had tension written all over her face. She inquired immediately- how much have they settled the wedding for? Her mother said they’d settled it for 50,000 Taka, around 500 euros.

They both looked worried because this was a big amount to them. My big question to the mother was, “Why must you pay dowry, why can’t it be done without this? And if you can pay this much for her wedding, then what stopped you to spend that for her education?”

Maybe they thought I was some kind of a Marie Antoinette. The answer was very simple, “Have you seen her face,” the mother went on, “She is dark as coal. Who will marry her without the money?” The problem here is that the daughter too has accepted the fact that they have to pay for her dowry, that too pretty high amount as she is dark.

I tried to make them realize, men who will marry her for money, can’t be a good catch and she needs to look for an alternative where her qualities will be appreciated.

I know, whatever I say won’t work as this problem has entrenched itself deeply. Rich people directly don’t pay dowry but indirectly they shower the groom with gifts. Every bride-seeking ad says “Looking for a fair girl.” Do you ever wonder what happens to the girls who don’t have enough money to give dowry? They rarely have any luck where marriage is concerned.

It is very demeaning and insulting. When two people start living together, looks are perhaps the last things on one’s mind. Compatibility, educational background and other skills are the things that should carry value in setting the criteria for bride or groom. Every human in the world is fond of pretty or beautiful partners. Mass level of awareness is required to make the people realize that in this time or era, complexion shouldn’t be the only criteria for choosing partners.

Author: Aziza Ahmed

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

Today I have to pull back my mind
for it is going faster than light
seems like a flash of a moment..
There are thousands of words I want to say,
a million things I want to do.
I want to do it now, who knows tomorrow.

My mind is playing constant sprints
one issue to the other
as if i will live my entire life today
climb mountains, swim oceans fly in the sky
white flowers to bloom in my garden
with beautiful butterfly.

I want to hold your hand
on a sunny beach walk in the sand
our footprints will last less than an hour
as nothing lasts forever
I am restless today like the bee
making temporary life on the tree….

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