[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Karl E. H. Seigfried

The Troth held its 30th annual Trothmoot at Crowder State Park in Missouri from Thursday, June 1 through Sunday, June 4. To provide members in different regions equal opportunity to attend, the international Ásatrú and Heathen organization rotates the location of the gathering between western, midwestern, and eastern regions. This year, attendees arrived from 13 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, with Illinois and Washington making the strongest showings.

On Thursday afternoon, attendees performed a blót to the god Tyr. The central ritual of Heathenry, blót is focused on the making of offerings to gods, goddesses, land spirits, and other figures. To open Trothmoot, participants honored the god described as presiding over community gatherings in the organization’s monumental text Our Troth, Volume One: History and Lore:

Tyr simply established a framework for managing the struggles and conflicts inherent in any community such that the community, rather than being torn apart, emerged stronger. To call Tyr, therefore, a god of right, after the German Recht, would come nearer to the truth, although perhaps the most accurate term would be Þing-god, after the institution with which Tyr was most closely identified in later Heathen times.

The Troth flag flies over Trothmoot [Lisa Cowley Morgenstern].

Robert L. Schreiwer, beginning his second year as Troth steer (roughly equivalent to chairperson of board of directors), led both the blót and a ceremonial “land-taking.” He explains the significance of the rituals:

We followed the Troth’s traditions of honoring Tyr in blót and asking for his aid in maintaining the fellowship and frith [“peace”] of our community. Traditionally, we use a spear and a glove both as his hallowing tools and to represent the establishment of the frithstead and of a vé [“shrine”] to Tyr. We located the shrine by a flagpole and raised the Troth banner as an announcement of the taking of the land by the Troth.

We then walk the entire premises that we will utilize for our business meetings, rituals, workshops, and fellowship and honor the land wights in each of the cardinal directions, moving in a clockwise circle. This year we also stopped and hailed other deities along the route, particularly when we came across plants that bear an association with one in particular. For example, we hailed Thor at an oak tree and Holle at an elderberry bush.

On Sunday, we walked the same route counterclockwise, honored Tyr and other deities in a closing rite, disassembled the shrine, and took down the banner.

In one of the buildings of the campsite, members also set up individual shrines to Odin, Frigg, Holle, the Matronae, and several others.

Thursday night featured a presentation on “Speakers to the Dead” by Allvildr in fägra, author of Sheathenry, Volume I: Ritual Practices of Modern Heathen Women. When I asked her to explain her work, she said,

Whether they study their genealogy, construct ancestor shrines where they give offerings, follow a predecessor’s career path, or visit the graves of their forebears to commune with the dead, Heathen women endeavor to create or continue relationships with their relatives who have gone to the afterlife.

This presentation utilized the voice recordings of many of the women I interviewed for my book in order for the audience to hear how various Heathen women honor their ancestors in their own voices.

Ben Waggoner, the organization’s shope (publications director), discussed the “Germanic Night Sky” late Thursday night. He explained names of specific stars and constellations in various Northern European societies and stated that “the shope will someday publish [his research] as a book, once he gets everything else out of the way, which is not likely to happen soon, so don’t hold your breath.” A lot of people — Heathen and not — are interested in learning more about Germanic star lore, so hopefully he will be able to publish some form of his work sooner rather than later.

Waggoner also presented an introduction to Old Norse language on Friday morning, preceded by Schreiwer’s introduction to Urglaawe, which the Troth steer defines — in his Dictionary of Urglaawe Terminology, written with Ammerili Eckhart — as “a Heathen path that is derived from the living, pre-Christian traditions of the Deitsch [Pennsylvania German] nation.”

During the rede (board) meeting on Thursday night and during the general business meeting on Saturday morning, several officers swore new or renewed oaths regarding their official roles. Last fall, the Troth amended the oath taken by all titled representatives so that it would to be more closely “aligned with the Troth’s mission and stated positions.” Reaffirming the organization’s commitment to inclusive Heathenry, the new passage in the relatively length oath reads:

With the Troth I stand against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, ableism, or any other form of prejudice.

Rede members renew oaths: Amanda T. Leigh-Hawkins, Lagaria Farmer, John T. Mainer, Robert L. Schreiwer [Lisa Cowley Morgenstern].

Lonnie Scott — the Troth’s Illinois steward, a member of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago, and now a member of the Rede — was one of those who publicly made the oath. He explains the personal significance of the act:

I didn’t know if I won a seat on the High Rede until the first evening of Trothmoot. I felt the weight of history associated with those who’ve held this office and the organization itself. It was a welcome feeling. I knew I would take my oath of office, and since I had only made a written oath as Steward, I knew I would speak my oath for that as well.

I stood in the Hall surrounded by members of the Troth as I grabbed the Troth oath ring. The High Steward and the Steer held the Ring as well. Each took a turn repeating the Troth’s officer oath that I spoke in return. That moment is one of the proudest achievements of my life that I shall never forget.

On Friday night, Winifred Hodge-Rose led a walk through a large maze that was constructed to represent the journey to Mimir’s Well of Wisdom at its center. Jamie Juliansdatter describes the experience of walking the maze:

Intentionally moving into the maze was an unexpected gift. It was both a shared experience in community and an individual journey that was perfectly orchestrated by Winfred Hodge-Rose and kindred members.

Participating in the maze (and Trothmoot) gave me permission I rarely give myself in the midst of so many mundane commitments – the permission to slow way down, enter into sacred space according to my own rhythm, and listen deeply for much needed wisdom.

The maze was an opportunity to connect and reflect, as well as a reminder that I need these experiences much more often than I get.

Late the same night, Diana L. Paxson led a ritual of “Spae (Oracular Seiðr),” which she calls “Germanic oracular practice” on her website, Seeing for the People: High Seat Seið and the Core Oracular Method. Trothmoot programmer Lorrie Wood describes Friday’s rite:

Every year on Friday night of Trothmoot, Diana reaches out to the local and regional Heathen community, and asks them to help her put on her oracular ritual. Here, attendees of the moot are encouraged to bring their most important questions, and the seers answer them.

Without tools, but as the result of talent, skill, and training, answers are direct and immediate, although there’s often Heathen imagery involved in an answer. Sometimes a question is asked directly of an ancestor or a god, and the seer will get their point of view of the answer, if possible.

Throughout the day on Saturday, Rosten (Dean Michael Rose) led a forge demonstration and helped interested people make Thor’s hammers and other objects of pewter. He reflects on his work:

So far as I can remember, I have nearly always showed up to Trothmoot with a forge. It is an activity that many find interesting, and some are even eager to give it a try! Usually there are a few that leave the gathering with a new skill.

In this line of work, one learns quite a bit as creations “whoosh up” in a communal setting. I brought a variety of tools and a few ideas but left it to the folk to actualize their ideas. I had not done much with the white metal before, but we all had fun, and a number of interesting works resulted. I left with more ideas than I came with.

This moot was different in that I did very little forging. However, a couple of members were busy at the fire, so the opportunity was theirs for the taking! It was a friendly crowd, so I was able to be a bit more relaxed leaving tools lying around.

Paxson led a blót to the goddess Idunn on Saturday afternoon. Attendees had been asked to bring water from their home regions to add to a bowl of “the waters of the world.” When each person or group’s turn came, they walked forward, explained where they had collected the water – stream, lake, well – and added it to the bowl. Schreiwer added water preserved from the Idunna blót of last year’s Trothmoot, and Paxson poured the water on the roots of the oak tree that stood over the main meeting area.

Diana L. Paxson prepares to pour the waters of the world on the roots of the oak tree [Karl E. H. Seigfried].

When the blót had been completed, Rede member and Communications Officer John T. Mainer officiated at the wedding of Kentucky steward Amy Kincheloe and Ethan Dunbar in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by trees in the campground’s amphitheater. The married couple has decided to combine their last names into a new family surname of Dunloe.

After the final feast prepared by Tanya Peterson and her staff of volunteers, the entire group met for the grand sumbel. In A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru, former Troth steer Patricia M. Lafayllve defines sumbel as “a ritualized drinking ceremony which is meant to strengthen bonds within a community.” Two large drinking horns — providing a choice of mead or apple juice — were passed around the assembled participants. In the first round, each member hailed a god or goddess by giving a short or long speech and drinking from the horn. In the second round, ancestors or other departed individuals were hailed. The third round was open to whatever the participants chose to address.

Robert L. Schreiwer (center) opens the grand sumbel, with Lisa Cowley Morgenstern (left) and Lagaria Farmer (right) [Karl E. H. Seigfried].

Trothmoots have notoriously had defining conflicts. This year was no exception. During the sumbel, one longtime member gave a passionate and heartfelt speech in strong opposition to current organization rules on oaths made during the rite, insisting that oaths should be allowed in front of the assembly without being first discussed with the Rede. He was opposed by the fiercely determined guest of another Troth member, who asserted that witnessing oaths made by those outside of one’s own worship group would necessarily have a negative effect on the individual, and who insisted on walking out of the building to avoid hearing any oaths made. Schreiwer, possessed of an impressive ability to lower tempers while hearing all sides, was roundly applauded for his quick-witted resolution of the conflict. In relation to past blowups at Trothmoot, this was relatively painless.

Several attendees told me that attendance was noticeably down from previous years. In 2016, there were nearly two dozen more participants, and some earlier Trothmoots have had nearly three times as many attendees. Given that there has been a steady increase of new memberships in the organization, Wood suggests that the lower numbers this year may be due to a lack of current members in the midwestern region. She says that this year’s location was deliberately chosen to build a stronger presence in the area: “Trothmoot hasn’t been held in the Midwest since 2010, but as a committee we felt it imperative to hold the moot there to help grow our membership in that part of the country.”

Members of the Trothmoot planning committee are already looking at locations near Baltimore, Nashville, and Philadelphia as possible sites for next year’s event. There was a feeling among some members that, after many years of Trothmoots held at campgrounds, it might be nice to finally meet somewhere with a swimming pool and air conditioning.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

It’s Title IX’s 45th Birthday!

Jun. 24th, 2017 06:25 pm
[syndicated profile] feministing_feed

Posted by Dana Bolger

The days of forcing girls to take home economics, while boys take shop, are long gone.

But, in 2017, sexism is alive and well in classrooms all across the country. Today in America, girls are kept from walking at graduation because they’re pregnant, punished for wearing tank-tops, harassed for using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, raped by classmates at alarmingly high rates, and subjected to physical violence by school resource officers for alleged “attitude” violations.

This continuing reality of gender inequality in schools in 2017 is what makes Title IX so important to all of us over here at Feministing. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. It’s the law that’s allowed lots of us to grow up playing sports. It’s kept others of us from dropping out of school after being raped or abused. And, in a country without a formal federal constitutional right to education, it’s about the closest thing we’ve got to a federal guarantee of educational access and equality.

This week, Title IX turns 45. We need it now more than ever.

Plenty of us know that Title IX requires parity in girls’ and boys’ athletics, but it does so much more. One of the single biggest barriers to fulfilling Title IX’s promise of equality in education is that girls and other students don’t realize it protects them. So today, in honor of Title IX’s big birthday, do the young people you love a solid and send them this post about their rights in school.

Who Title IX Protects

Title IX protects students at any educational level, from kindergarten to graduate school, who attend schools that receive federal funding. That means any public school, plus nearly every private college and university, as well as plenty of private K-12 schools that receive federal moneys through the federal lunch program and others like it. It protects girls, as well as students who don’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes. And it protects faculty and staff, too.

What Title IX Does

Title IX does a lot. Here are five examples.

1. Forbids schools from discriminating against pregnant and parenting students. It’s illegal for schools that receive federal dollars to kick a student who becomes pregnant out of the honors society, or to force her into a “special” (read: less rigorous) high school. But it happens all. the. time. Learn more about pregnant and parenting students’ rights from the National Women’s Law Center.

2. Prohibits discriminatory dress codes. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear about another school punishing a girl for shorts that fail to meet the “fingertips” test, outfits considered “distracting” to the boys, or a hairstyle that’s deemed “too messy.” Black and gender non-conforming girls often bear the brunt of these sexist — and racist — dress codes. And the sanctions that accompany them leave girls feeling humiliated and stigmatized, and forced to miss out on school. It’s all probably illegal — and on the cutting edge of Title IX (and Title VI) litigation today. Learn more from the ACLU here.

3. Requires schools to take action to stop anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Under Title IX, schools must take action to protect students from harassment based on gender stereotyping. And, no matter what the Trump Administration says to the contrary, Title IX protects transgender and gender non-conforming students.

4. Protects student survivors of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence. Schools must take steps to prevent and respond to gender violence and harassment. Student survivors are entitled to the academic, housing, and other accommodations they need in order to stay in school and learn. Learn more from Know Your IX — and remember, Title IX protects K-12 sexual violence victims, too.

5. Requires parity in boys’ and girls’ athletics. Research shows that girls who play sports in high school are more likely than non-athletes to graduate and earn 7% higher wages as adults. Learn more from our friends at Legal Aid at Work.

What You Can Do

Spread the word! Students can’t stand up for their rights if they don’t know they have them to begin with. And if you think your school is violating girls’ rights, speak up. Write about it in your local newspaper. Organize your peers. Launch an activist campaign. Persist.

Header image via Know Your IX. I am not a lawyer and this post does not constitute legal advice. Contact the National Women’s Law Center if you seek legal assistance.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_human_feed

Posted by Open Caucasus Media

Map of Chechnya, surrounding federations and countries. Author: Peter Fitzgerald. Creative commons.

The following is a version of a partner post written by Aida Mirmaksumova that first appeared on the website OC Media.

Queer people in the Caucasus face a number of challenges; discrimination, physical and sexual abuse, and blackmail. In recent times, activists have observed in horror evidence of the persecution of gay men in Chechnya. But the threat to the LGBTQ community in the country did not emerge overnight. OC Media spoke to a transgender woman from Grozny, who shared some of her experiences and talked with us about what is happening in the republic.

Queer rights in Chechnya were thrust into the global spotlight several months ago, after reports emerged of the abduction, torture, and murder of queer men in the republic. The story was broken by Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina, who revealed how the Chechen authorities were rounding up suspected queer men, and sending them to the secret prisons of Argun.

‘You gave birth to a freak’

Sabrina (not her real name) a transgender woman, was born and raised in Grozny. She has felt that she was a woman since childhood. Once she reached adulthood, she realised that it wasn’t safe for her in Chechnya and moved to Moscow. After a group of Chechens learned of their compatriot's sex change, a hunt began for Sabrina. In the end, in fear for her life, Sabrina moved to the US.

Sabrina: I worked as a volunteer at a human rights organisation. Once I was told that that someone needed my help. It was an acquaintance from Daghestan, a transgender woman. She had problems; she was in danger. I immediately took her in, because she didn’t have any money. While I was trying to help her, someone I considered a friend made copies of my documents and posted them all over the internet along with my phone number and photo, sending them to his Chechen affiliates with a following note: ‘So there are no men left in Chechnya that can remove this shame?’ After that, photos of my documents were widely spread across WhatsApp.

On October 10, 2015 I was attacked. I was taking shopping bags from the backseat of my car. I heard a man’s voice: ‘This is a gift to you from your uncle’.

When I looked around I felt something in my body, but there was no pain. Then I heard another sentence, but in Chechen: ‘How long are you going to disgrace the family, scum?’ I didn’t know this person. I remember that it was a young man, under 30. Then I lost consciousness. I woke up in the hospital. Apparently some women saw everything and began yelling. The man ran away. The women called an ambulance. I learned at the hospital that I had two stab wounds in my right lung.

OC Media: Which room were you put in, the men’s room or the women’s room?

Sabrina: I have old documents with my male name, but the doctor understood everything and put me in the women’s room. I am very thankful to him for this. When I first saw his name on the door, I was crazily afraid — a Muslim name, Caucasian. But he turned out to be a decent man. I am grateful for his attitude towards me.

I spent more than a month in hospital. Last February I received threats. They called me, relatives wrote to me, strangers, some unknown people. A nightmare began. Neighbours and some distant relatives were coming to my family. They were demanding that I move back to Chechnya to prove that this [the sex change] was all a lie. There were crazy demands. Some people said that I had to prove it by walking through the streets topless. Some people said that I had to speak on the official Grozny TV and say that I hadn’t changed my sex, that it was all slander and photoshop. How could I speak on TV with C-cup breasts?

OC Media: How did your family cope with this pressure?

Sabrina: They still cope with it. Some elderly people from the street approached my mum once. They told her: ‘You gave birth to a freak who disgraced not only your family, but the entire republic. We cannot touch you, because you are a pious woman, but you must leave’. Mum couldn’t take any more and put a noose around her neck. Luckily, neighbours came and saved her.

During that time I had to switch flats several times a day. I would move into one flat and in a few hours a car would park under the flat's windows with the number 95 numberplate, [from Chechnya], and tinted windows. After the third time I understood that something was wrong. My friends, human rights activists, checked the number plates; it turned out that they were looking for me.

OC Media: How did you leave the country?

Sabrina: Activists helped me. I don't want to say their names, for safety reasons, but I want to say that I remember everyone, they really helped me.

With their help I left the country, but something unbelievable happened. I still cannot understand how it was possible.

Right before my departure from Moscow, I purchased a new sim card in order to call my mother once I arrived. I bought it without registration, without documents, without anything. I broke my previous sim card and put it in the bin. I arrived and checked into my hotel. The number was registered to a stranger.

I put the sim card in my phone. I tried to call my mother through WhatsApp and at the same moment I received a message: ‘Do you think you are safe because you left the country? We have our people there who have already been notified which hotel you are in, and even about your room number. To assure you that we know, your room number is 115’. Can you imagine?! This was indeed my room number.

OC Media: Do you keep in touch with your relatives?

Sabrina: Only with my mother and sisters. However we don’t discuss the sex change — this is a taboo. Traditional Caucasian moments are still inside me. No matter how strongly I want to, I cannot ignore this psychological barrier. I always say that while my mum is alive, I will do my best to do everything not to upset her. If we have a video chat, I do try to look like the person she remembers I was in the past, I mean in the male form. However it is very hard to do. 

OC Media: Do you know what the situation is like in Chechnya now? Do you know what friends are doing, those who are left there?

Sabrina: I introduced a report in Washington last week. I needed fresh information about the situation in Chechnya for the report. I spoke with someone who spent a month and a half in Argun Prison. He said that now, during the month of Ramadan, they are not abducting and torturing people, but that everyone looks forward for the end of Ramadan, and he didn’t rule out that there will be a new wave [of persecutions]. Most likely, they will now bet on people’s relatives. I mean, they will probably summon their relatives [those of suspected queer people]; they will deal with the person, and then [the authorities] will demand proof that so-called ‘honor’ has been satisfied with blood.

OC Media: Are there gays left in these secret prisons?

Sabrina: According to an acquaintance of mine, there are not so many now. Mainly those who do not have rich relatives, or whose relatives have abandoned them to face Kadyrov’s trials. From what I understand they are being kept there in order to show them off later as terrorists. I mean, if they murder them, they will show their bodies on TV alleging that they attacked some village or military target. Do you understand? As if they were not just people who disappeared but went underground to become militants.

OC Media: Is this an assumption or do you have a source for this information?

Sabrina: I am quoting a person, who spent a month and half at Agrun Prison. He says that several people who were kept in this prison disappeared after their beards had grown. There has been no news of them. They just took them. And this so-called Lord [Magomed Daudov, the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament, and close ally of Ramzan Kadyrov], this person, personally saw them at the moment they took these people. However, until now they have not been presented as bandits, there were no reports of this, but we suspect that such actions are possible. Otherwise why did they not allow these people to shave?

Do you know if there were previously such persecutions, abductions of people with a so-called ‘nontraditional’ orientation in the republic?

Sabrina: I always wore long hair. I had a bob cut when I lived in Chechnya. I think the whole of Grozny knew about me even before 2003 [when the Kadyrov regime came into being], when I lived in Grozny and I didn’t have any problems. Seriously! I never had problems even in 1998–1999, when Shariah Law was in force. On the contrary, it was much safer then than now. I mean Russia, which wanted to bring ‘civilisation’ to us, brought us a stone age in the end.

OC Media: How is this possible with Sharia Law?

Sabrina: My eyebrows were plucked, I had coloured eyelashes, tube-jeans, I wore short tops. The Ministry of Sharia Security never touched me. There was a spot in front of the Russian theatre in Grozny where every evening, especially on weekends, a whole bunch of people like me gathered. This was a small square with several benches, and the entire city knew about it, why men would come, young people, to meet up. We were never insulted. There is such an expression in Chechen language — Kharda ma Kharda — which means ‘do not laugh at someone else's misfortune’. They often tell this to children if they make fun of sick people.

OC Media: So they would just close their eyes to you, as they thought you were sick?

Sabrina: Yes. They would never insult me, never chase me or beat me.

OC Media: How long did this grace period last?

Sabrina: Before [Ramzan] Kadyrov came in. In 2005, when he was appointed Prime Minister [of Chechnya], he began to speak on television, talking about morality. He didn’t speak specifically about us, but mainly about the behaviour of women. However, you could feel in the city that people began to change. Those who used to smile and laugh, began looking at you questioningly. I left Chechnya in those years. But every time I went back home I would feel how the situation was worsening in the republic.

OC Media: What do you do now?

Sabrina: I earn money as a waitress. I am not paid much — $700–800 a month — which is not much in the US. Apart from that I continue being an activist. Now I am responsible for 15 Muslim women. I communicate with them as kind of a psychologist. We organise tea drinking meetings, rallies, I go to the hospital with them, I help them to get food cards. I do all this absolutely free. I found these people myself. I was going through shelters. I am Muslim and I want to help those who need help.

OC Media: Do you wear a hijab?

Sabrina: Yes.

OC Media: Many people say that there cannot be gays, lesbians or transgender people as Muslim worshipers…  

Sabrina: This is silly. This is nature — religion has nothing to do with it. It’s the same thing as Chechens foaming at the mouth to prove that they do not have any gays. Daghestanis have them, Kabardians have them, and Russians have them too, the entire planet has them, but ‘Chechens — they don’t’. I came from there, it is unpleasant for me to hear this.

I meet so many men from the Caucasus here. Many of them — Muslim worshipers, who visit the mosque and fast during Ramadan — live with men.

You know, many people mix transgenderism with men who like men, and they think that people change sex so that they have more intimate opportunities, but this is wrong. This is a different thing, different psychology in fact, different attitudes to things. For me it is important that now I feel in my own shoes and I am not ashamed of my body. It is not important if you have a partner or not. I am sorry for the details, but it’s been more than a year since I had intimate relations with anyone. And I'm absolutely not upset about this — I just know that now I am myself.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_gender_feed

Posted by Open Caucasus Media

Map of Chechnya, surrounding federations and countries. Author: Peter Fitzgerald. Creative commons.

The following is a version of a partner post written by Aida Mirmaksumova that first appeared on the website OC Media.

Queer people in the Caucasus face a number of challenges; discrimination, physical and sexual abuse, and blackmail. In recent times, activists have observed in horror evidence of the persecution of gay men in Chechnya. But the threat to the LGBTQ community in the country did not emerge overnight. OC Media spoke to a transgender woman from Grozny, who shared some of her experiences and talked with us about what is happening in the republic.

Queer rights in Chechnya were thrust into the global spotlight several months ago, after reports emerged of the abduction, torture, and murder of queer men in the republic. The story was broken by Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina, who revealed how the Chechen authorities were rounding up suspected queer men, and sending them to the secret prisons of Argun.

‘You gave birth to a freak’

Sabrina (not her real name) a transgender woman, was born and raised in Grozny. She has felt that she was a woman since childhood. Once she reached adulthood, she realised that it wasn’t safe for her in Chechnya and moved to Moscow. After a group of Chechens learned of their compatriot's sex change, a hunt began for Sabrina. In the end, in fear for her life, Sabrina moved to the US.

Sabrina: I worked as a volunteer at a human rights organisation. Once I was told that that someone needed my help. It was an acquaintance from Daghestan, a transgender woman. She had problems; she was in danger. I immediately took her in, because she didn’t have any money. While I was trying to help her, someone I considered a friend made copies of my documents and posted them all over the internet along with my phone number and photo, sending them to his Chechen affiliates with a following note: ‘So there are no men left in Chechnya that can remove this shame?’ After that, photos of my documents were widely spread across WhatsApp.

On October 10, 2015 I was attacked. I was taking shopping bags from the backseat of my car. I heard a man’s voice: ‘This is a gift to you from your uncle’.

When I looked around I felt something in my body, but there was no pain. Then I heard another sentence, but in Chechen: ‘How long are you going to disgrace the family, scum?’ I didn’t know this person. I remember that it was a young man, under 30. Then I lost consciousness. I woke up in the hospital. Apparently some women saw everything and began yelling. The man ran away. The women called an ambulance. I learned at the hospital that I had two stab wounds in my right lung.

OC Media: Which room were you put in, the men’s room or the women’s room?

Sabrina: I have old documents with my male name, but the doctor understood everything and put me in the women’s room. I am very thankful to him for this. When I first saw his name on the door, I was crazily afraid — a Muslim name, Caucasian. But he turned out to be a decent man. I am grateful for his attitude towards me.

I spent more than a month in hospital. Last February I received threats. They called me, relatives wrote to me, strangers, some unknown people. A nightmare began. Neighbours and some distant relatives were coming to my family. They were demanding that I move back to Chechnya to prove that this [the sex change] was all a lie. There were crazy demands. Some people said that I had to prove it by walking through the streets topless. Some people said that I had to speak on the official Grozny TV and say that I hadn’t changed my sex, that it was all slander and photoshop. How could I speak on TV with C-cup breasts?

OC Media: How did your family cope with this pressure?

Sabrina: They still cope with it. Some elderly people from the street approached my mum once. They told her: ‘You gave birth to a freak who disgraced not only your family, but the entire republic. We cannot touch you, because you are a pious woman, but you must leave’. Mum couldn’t take any more and put a noose around her neck. Luckily, neighbours came and saved her.

During that time I had to switch flats several times a day. I would move into one flat and in a few hours a car would park under the flat's windows with the number 95 numberplate, [from Chechnya], and tinted windows. After the third time I understood that something was wrong. My friends, human rights activists, checked the number plates; it turned out that they were looking for me.

OC Media: How did you leave the country?

Sabrina: Activists helped me. I don't want to say their names, for safety reasons, but I want to say that I remember everyone, they really helped me.

With their help I left the country, but something unbelievable happened. I still cannot understand how it was possible.

Right before my departure from Moscow, I purchased a new sim card in order to call my mother once I arrived. I bought it without registration, without documents, without anything. I broke my previous sim card and put it in the bin. I arrived and checked into my hotel. The number was registered to a stranger.

I put the sim card in my phone. I tried to call my mother through WhatsApp and at the same moment I received a message: ‘Do you think you are safe because you left the country? We have our people there who have already been notified which hotel you are in, and even about your room number. To assure you that we know, your room number is 115’. Can you imagine?! This was indeed my room number.

OC Media: Do you keep in touch with your relatives?

Sabrina: Only with my mother and sisters. However we don’t discuss the sex change — this is a taboo. Traditional Caucasian moments are still inside me. No matter how strongly I want to, I cannot ignore this psychological barrier. I always say that while my mum is alive, I will do my best to do everything not to upset her. If we have a video chat, I do try to look like the person she remembers I was in the past, I mean in the male form. However it is very hard to do. 

OC Media: Do you know what the situation is like in Chechnya now? Do you know what friends are doing, those who are left there?

Sabrina: I introduced a report in Washington last week. I needed fresh information about the situation in Chechnya for the report. I spoke with someone who spent a month and a half in Argun Prison. He said that now, during the month of Ramadan, they are not abducting and torturing people, but that everyone looks forward for the end of Ramadan, and he didn’t rule out that there will be a new wave [of persecutions]. Most likely, they will now bet on people’s relatives. I mean, they will probably summon their relatives [those of suspected queer people]; they will deal with the person, and then [the authorities] will demand proof that so-called ‘honor’ has been satisfied with blood.

OC Media: Are there gays left in these secret prisons?

Sabrina: According to an acquaintance of mine, there are not so many now. Mainly those who do not have rich relatives, or whose relatives have abandoned them to face Kadyrov’s trials. From what I understand they are being kept there in order to show them off later as terrorists. I mean, if they murder them, they will show their bodies on TV alleging that they attacked some village or military target. Do you understand? As if they were not just people who disappeared but went underground to become militants.

OC Media: Is this an assumption or do you have a source for this information?

Sabrina: I am quoting a person, who spent a month and half at Agrun Prison. He says that several people who were kept in this prison disappeared after their beards had grown. There has been no news of them. They just took them. And this so-called Lord [Magomed Daudov, the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament, and close ally of Ramzan Kadyrov], this person, personally saw them at the moment they took these people. However, until now they have not been presented as bandits, there were no reports of this, but we suspect that such actions are possible. Otherwise why did they not allow these people to shave?

Do you know if there were previously such persecutions, abductions of people with a so-called ‘nontraditional’ orientation in the republic?

Sabrina: I always wore long hair. I had a bob cut when I lived in Chechnya. I think the whole of Grozny knew about me even before 2003 [when the Kadyrov regime came into being], when I lived in Grozny and I didn’t have any problems. Seriously! I never had problems even in 1998–1999, when Shariah Law was in force. On the contrary, it was much safer then than now. I mean Russia, which wanted to bring ‘civilisation’ to us, brought us a stone age in the end.

OC Media: How is this possible with Sharia Law?

Sabrina: My eyebrows were plucked, I had coloured eyelashes, tube-jeans, I wore short tops. The Ministry of Sharia Security never touched me. There was a spot in front of the Russian theatre in Grozny where every evening, especially on weekends, a whole bunch of people like me gathered. This was a small square with several benches, and the entire city knew about it, why men would come, young people, to meet up. We were never insulted. There is such an expression in Chechen language — Kharda ma Kharda — which means ‘do not laugh at someone else's misfortune’. They often tell this to children if they make fun of sick people.

OC Media: So they would just close their eyes to you, as they thought you were sick?

Sabrina: Yes. They would never insult me, never chase me or beat me.

OC Media: How long did this grace period last?

Sabrina: Before [Ramzan] Kadyrov came in. In 2005, when he was appointed Prime Minister [of Chechnya], he began to speak on television, talking about morality. He didn’t speak specifically about us, but mainly about the behaviour of women. However, you could feel in the city that people began to change. Those who used to smile and laugh, began looking at you questioningly. I left Chechnya in those years. But every time I went back home I would feel how the situation was worsening in the republic.

OC Media: What do you do now?

Sabrina: I earn money as a waitress. I am not paid much — $700–800 a month — which is not much in the US. Apart from that I continue being an activist. Now I am responsible for 15 Muslim women. I communicate with them as kind of a psychologist. We organise tea drinking meetings, rallies, I go to the hospital with them, I help them to get food cards. I do all this absolutely free. I found these people myself. I was going through shelters. I am Muslim and I want to help those who need help.

OC Media: Do you wear a hijab?

Sabrina: Yes.

OC Media: Many people say that there cannot be gays, lesbians or transgender people as Muslim worshipers…  

Sabrina: This is silly. This is nature — religion has nothing to do with it. It’s the same thing as Chechens foaming at the mouth to prove that they do not have any gays. Daghestanis have them, Kabardians have them, and Russians have them too, the entire planet has them, but ‘Chechens — they don’t’. I came from there, it is unpleasant for me to hear this.

I meet so many men from the Caucasus here. Many of them — Muslim worshipers, who visit the mosque and fast during Ramadan — live with men.

You know, many people mix transgenderism with men who like men, and they think that people change sex so that they have more intimate opportunities, but this is wrong. This is a different thing, different psychology in fact, different attitudes to things. For me it is important that now I feel in my own shoes and I am not ashamed of my body. It is not important if you have a partner or not. I am sorry for the details, but it’s been more than a year since I had intimate relations with anyone. And I'm absolutely not upset about this — I just know that now I am myself.

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_gender_feed

Posted by Public Radio International

Author Manal al-Sharif. Credit: Courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

This story by Joyce Hackel was originally appeared on PRI.org on June 14, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

When Manal al-Sharif posted a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia in 2011, she angered many in the deeply conservative kingdom.

“The worst backlash was from the religious establishment,” she says. “They took the Friday sermons, and they called me things like a prostitute for just driving a car.”

Al-Sharif landed in jail. She received threats on her life. Her father had to appeal to the Saudi king for her release. But the video of her definance behind the wheel had already gone viral, receiving more than 700,000 views in just a day, energizing the global moment to drop Saudi Arabia's prohibitions on women driving.

Today, the 38-year-old activist is still one of the loudest voices calling for the kingdom to drop the driving ban. In her new memoir, “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening,” al-Sharif describes growing up in Mecca as a firm believer in conservative Islam. When she turned 18, she enrolled in King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. She met liberal women who didn't cover their faces in public, and her world view began to change. The notion of male guardianship began to grate on her.

“A woman is considered a minor from the time she's born until the time she dies,” she says. “When women drive in my country, they will have the voice and the power and the belief that they can do anything and they will act on ending the guardianship system.”

Al-Sharif says her campaign #women2drive continues to push the limits of what's socially acceptable in Saudi Arabia. In the coming months, her memoir “Daring to Drive” will also be published in Arabic.

“There are a lot of brave actions happening, more and more girls posting videos of themselves driving and more and more men are joining us,” she says. “We'll continue campaigning, using all the tools that we can.”

Read the first chapter of “Daring to Drivehere:

[syndicated profile] globalvoices_human_feed

Posted by Public Radio International

Author Manal al-Sharif. Credit: Courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

This story by Joyce Hackel was originally appeared on PRI.org on June 14, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

When Manal al-Sharif posted a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia in 2011, she angered many in the deeply conservative kingdom.

“The worst backlash was from the religious establishment,” she says. “They took the Friday sermons, and they called me things like a prostitute for just driving a car.”

Al-Sharif landed in jail. She received threats on her life. Her father had to appeal to the Saudi king for her release. But the video of her definance behind the wheel had already gone viral, receiving more than 700,000 views in just a day, energizing the global moment to drop Saudi Arabia's prohibitions on women driving.

Today, the 38-year-old activist is still one of the loudest voices calling for the kingdom to drop the driving ban. In her new memoir, “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening,” al-Sharif describes growing up in Mecca as a firm believer in conservative Islam. When she turned 18, she enrolled in King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. She met liberal women who didn't cover their faces in public, and her world view began to change. The notion of male guardianship began to grate on her.

“A woman is considered a minor from the time she's born until the time she dies,” she says. “When women drive in my country, they will have the voice and the power and the belief that they can do anything and they will act on ending the guardianship system.”

Al-Sharif says her campaign #women2drive continues to push the limits of what's socially acceptable in Saudi Arabia. In the coming months, her memoir “Daring to Drive” will also be published in Arabic.

“There are a lot of brave actions happening, more and more girls posting videos of themselves driving and more and more men are joining us,” she says. “We'll continue campaigning, using all the tools that we can.”

Read the first chapter of “Daring to Drivehere:

sparowe: (Jesus Didn't Tap)
[personal profile] sparowe
 

God is Doing What’s Best for Us

 
Today's MP3

God is at work in each of us whether we know it or not, whether we want it or not. Lamentations 3:33 says, “He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.” He doesn’t delight in our sufferings, but He delights in our development. It’s what Paul pointed out in Philippians 1:6 when he wrote,  “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.”

Don’t see your struggle as an interruption to life but as preparation for life. No one said the road would be easy or painless. But God will use this mess for something good. This trouble you are in isn’t punishment, it’s training. It is the normal experience of children. God is doing what’s best for us, training us to live God’s holy best!

From You’ll Get Through This

The Blood is the Life for 24-06-2017

Jun. 24th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
[syndicated profile] whedonesque_feed

http://www.cantstoptheserenity.com/2017/06/13/philadelphia-take-to-the-skies-again/

Also today, Burbank, CA CSTS event is having a craft fair with Serenity.

"At the Fair you will be able to pick yourself up The Slayer's Scythe, some Premium Alliance Cargo, Tesseract Crystals or even some Freezeray Wonderflonium!"

Here is the find another event page.

About the blockade of Qatar

Jun. 24th, 2017 07:20 am
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by soleiltropiques

Qatar given 10 days to meet 13 sweeping demands by Saudi Arabia

Gulf dispute deepens as allies issue ultimatum for ending blockade that includes closing al-Jazeera and cutting back ties with Iran

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The Saudi-led alliance considers al-Jazeera to be a propaganda tool for Islamists. Photograph: Osama Faisal/AP
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a3
(Qatar is in orange-brown above)

a4

(Maps are from this source.)
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Saudi Arabia and its allies have issued a threatening 13-point ultimatum to Qatar as the price for lifting a two-week trade and diplomatic embargo of the country, in a marked escalation of the Gulf’s worst diplomatic dispute in decades.

The onerous list of demands includes stipulations that Doha close the broadcaster al-Jazeera, drastically scale back cooperation with Iran, remove Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, end contact with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and submit to monthly external compliance checks. Qatar has been given 10 days to comply with the demands or face unspecified consequences.

Saudi Arabia and the other nations leading the blockade – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – launched an economic and diplomatic blockade on the energy-rich country a fortnight ago, initially claiming the Qatari royal family had licensed the funding of terrorism across the Middle East for decades. Since then, the allies appear to be pushing for the isolation of Iran and the suppression of dissenting media in the region.

What is Qatar’s position in the Middle-East?
Qatar occupies a tiny headland on the Arabian peninsula, with a single land border with Saudi Arabia and across the sea from Iran. The former British protectorate gained its independence in 1971 and has since been ruled by the al-Thani family. With the highest per capita income in the world, the tiny monarchy has grown fabulously wealthy on the back of massive oil and natural gas reserves. Tensions with its Gulf Arab neighbours have grown in recent years over support for Islamist movements that emerged from the Arab Spring. It now finds itself isolated and backed into a corner.


The list of demands, relayed to Qatar via mediators from Kuwait, represents the first time Saudi Arabia has been prepared to put the bloc’s previously amorphous grievances in writing. Their sweeping nature would, if accepted, represent an effective end to Qatar’s independent foreign policy. According to one of the points, Qatar would have to “align itself with other Arabs and the Gulf, militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as in financial matters”.
The UAE’s foreign secretary, Anwar Gargash, insisted the anti-Qatar alliance is not seeking to impose regime change. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Qatar will see the demands as the basis for serious negotiations.

Qatar has become reliant on Turkey and Iran for food imports since the embargo was imposed on 5 June and insists with its huge wealth it can survive the embargo for an indefinite period.

Gargash blamed Qatar for the “childish” leak of its 13 demands and called it either an “attempt to undermine serious mediation or yet another sign of callous policy.

“It would be wiser that [Qatar] deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbours or a divorce will take place,” he said.

Qatar faces a choice of either stability and prosperity or isolation, he said, adding: “Perhaps the solution is in parting ways.”

In a sign that the UK does not regard the demands as reasonable, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday: “Gulf unity can only be restored when all countries involved are willing to discuss terms that are measured and realistic.
“The UK calls upon the Gulf states to find a way of de-escalating the situation and lifting the current embargo and restrictions which are having an impact on the everyday lives of people in the region.”

US policy towards Qatar so far has been marked by confusion. President Donald Trump has appeared to take credit for the Saudi embargo and described Qatar as a haven for terrorism. By contrast, the State Department under Rex Tillerson has twice upbraided Saudi Arabia’s approach to Qatar and questioned its true motives in sparking the diplomatic crisis.

In recent days the State Department has been pressing Saudi to specify the actions Qatar must take to see the embargo lifted, but warned that those demands need to be “reasonable and actionable”.

On Friday a White House spokesman told the Guardian: “The United States is still accessing the list and we are in communication with all parties. As we have said, we want to see the parties resolve this dispute and restore unity among our partners in the region, while ensuring all countries are stopping funding for terrorist groups.”

The State Department spokesperson also declined to take a position on the specific Saudi demands, focusing instead on the need for the involved parties to resolve the dispute themselves through dialogue.

“We understand the Kuwaitis, in their mediation capacity, have delivered a list of demands to the Qataris,” a spokesperson said. “We encourage all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive, diplomatic discussions.”
The US has a major military base in Qatar and risks seeing Qatar forced into an alliance with Iran if its enforced isolation continues, an outcome that would be a major strategic blow to Washington as well as a further threat to the security of the region.

Qatar’s UN ambassador, Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani, said the allegations that her country supports terrorism are “sabotaging our relationship with the world, with the west, tarnishing our reputation in a way by using the terrorism card”.

She said: “The blockade they have imposed is illegal. They used the terrorism card as a way of attracting attention. But the main objectives are more about criticising our media, al-Jazeera, and our openness.”

Al-Thani added: “We are small, but we have integrity.” She said on US broadcaster CBS that she believed the Saudi positioning was softening, but not that of the UAE. She hopes for a resolution but fears a prolonged chill: “They continue to escalate even though both Kuwait and the United States are playing an important role. We are confident of the US position toward the blockade.”

Al-Jazeera has condemned the call for its closure as “nothing but an attempt to end freedom of expression in the region, and suppress the right to information”.

Rachael Jolley, the editor of Index on Censorship, said: “From its treatment of blogger Raif Badawi to its tightly controlled media environment, the Saudi authorities must not be able to dictate access to information for the public in other countries. Al-Jazeera must not be used as a bargaining chip.”

But the Saudi-led alliance regards the Arabic wing of al-Jazeera, the most widely watched broadcaster in the Arab world, as a propaganda tool for Islamists that also undermines support for their governments. The list of demands also called for other Doha-supported news outlets to be shut, including the New Arab and Middle East Eye.

Other key demands mapped out by Saudi include Qatar severing all ties with terrorist groups, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The ultimatum calls for the handing over of designated terrorists and other individuals by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. All contacts with the political opposition inside Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain would have to be halted with all files handed over that detail Qatar’s prior contacts with, and support for, opposition groups.

Qatar’s links with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main adversary, would have to be confined only to trade allowed under the international sanctions regime and approved by the Gulf Co-operation Council.

Cutting ties to Iran would prove incredibly difficult – Qatar shares with Iran a massive offshore natural gas field, which supplies the small nation that will host the 2022 Fifa World Cup with much of its wealth.

Qatar insists it does not fund terrorists, and has previously said that the embargo is a punishment for following an independent foreign policy more sympathetic to the principles of the Arab spring than that of its neighbours.
Qatar would also be required to accept monthly external audits after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. It would also have to agree to be monitored annually for compliance for 10 years.

Turkey’s defence minister rejected suggestions that Doha should review its military base in Qatar and said demands for its closure represent interference in Ankara’s relations with the Gulf state.

Speaking on Thursday, before the 13 demands were tabled, Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, said his country had always abided by international laws and played a key role in the international coalition fighting Isis.

The 13 demands in full

1.     Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
2.    Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
3.    Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
4.    Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
5.    Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
6.    Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
7.    Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
8.    End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
9.    Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
11.  Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
12. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
13. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

SOURCE.
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(OP: The second article provides some useful background to this complex situation.)
How the Saudi-Qatar Rivalry, Now Combusting, Reshaped the Middle East

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Doha, the capital of Qatar. Five Arab nations have accused the country of supporting Sunni Islamist terrorism and Iranian designs on the region.
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The crisis convulsing the Persian Gulf, entangling the United States and now threatening to pull in Turkey and Iran, can be traced to a dilemma facing a man who had just deposed his own father.

When Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the crown prince of Qatar, took power in a bloodless coup in 1995, he seized a barely independent nation about the size of Connecticut, with one-seventh its population. It had been dominated since independence in 1971 by its far larger and more powerful neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

He believed Qatar could find security only by transforming itself from Saudi appendage to rival. But how?

The audacious plan he put in motion set off something of a regional cold war, in time remaking not just the politics of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, but also those of the entire Middle East, culminating in last week’s crisis.

It would be as if Cuba sought to break from American influence by becoming a global superpower overnight, competing with the United States across Asia and Europe.

Qatar’s strategy seemed to finally collapse this past week, with Saudi Arabia and its allies imposing a blockade. But Qatar has its own allies. The consequences of this rivalry may still be unfolding.

Solving a Problem

In the years before Sheikh Hamad took power, a few incidents deepened his desire to break from Saudi domination.
In 1988, his father had established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, a Saudi adversary, giving Qatar a taste of an independent foreign policy.

In 1992, a clash with Saudi Arabia along their short but disputed border left two Qatari soldiers dead. Two years later, when Yemen fell into a brief civil war, Qatar and Saudi Arabia backed opposing sides.

Autonomy, Sheikh Hamad learned, could be both feasible and desirable.

Marc Lynch, a political scientist at George Washington University, put Sheikh Hamad’s view as: “Why be under the thumb of the Saudis if you don’t have to be?”

The Qatari emir also had ambitions to prove himself more than a Saudi vassal.

“A lot of it does come down to personality,” Mr. Lynch said. “When the new emir comes in, he really does have a chip on his shoulder.”

A Rise to Rivalry

Few countries have ever grown from client state to regional power. Qatar managed it in just a few years.

“From the late 1990s on, Qatari foreign policy is a combination of: ‘What can we do to get ourselves on the map?’ and ‘What can we do to annoy the Saudis?’” Mr. Lynch said.

Qatar cultivated ties with Iran and established trade relations with Israel. It became host to a large American air base, in part to guard against Saudi bullying.

It established the satellite news channel Al Jazeera, using it to project soft power, promote allies and needle the Saudi royal family.

It also made use of its history as a once-remote haven for Islamist exiles. If foreign governments had to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian group Hamas, Chechen separatists or even the Taliban, they often went through Qatar.

Then, in the 1990s, technological and economic developments created a global market for liquefied natural gas, which can be loaded onto ships, bypassing pipelines that would run through Saudi territory. Qatar controls some of the world’s largest gas reserves, so its economy expanded from $8.1 billion in 1995 to an astonishing $210 billion in 2014.

Sheikh Hamad and his foreign minister jetted from one Arab capital to another, offering their services as mediators and generous donors.

The United States found Qatar’s diplomacy useful, if sometimes annoying, using it as a base for Afghan peace talks. It relied on its Qatari air base for the war in Iraq and, later, strikes in Syria.

In 2002, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Qatar, nominally over Al Jazeera’s criticism of the Saudi government.
“It takes until 2008 for Saudi Arabia to really digest the notion that Qatar is a fully independent state,” said David B. Roberts, a professor at King’s College London.

The Saudi ambassador returned to Qatar in 2008, and the two neighbors might have found equilibrium if not for what came next.

‘Open Proxy Warfare’

The Arab Spring, which saw uprisings across the region in 2011, provided Qatar with an opening.

For all its rising influence, Qatar had never been able to crack Saudi regional dominance. Now, with Saudi-aligned autocrats under threat, it saw opportunity.

It backed antigovernment movements, both secular and Islamist, with Al Jazeera airtime, diplomatic support and, later, money and sometimes weapons, hoping to install friendly new governments. When Islamists showed the most promise, Qatar threw its support behind them.

To Saudi Arabia, the uprisings imperiled both the regional order and, potentially, its own rule; populist Islamist movements had long challenged it at home.

Every time a vacuum opened, both gulf rivals would rush to fill it first. “From 2011 to 2013, they’re in open proxy warfare across the region,” Mr. Lynch said.

In Tunisia, for instance, each supported opposing political parties.

Elsewhere, their rivalry fueled violence. In Libya, each backed armed groups that would later fight a civil war. In Syria, they sought to outbid each other in financing rebels, including extremists.

In Egypt, Qatar backed the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate won the country’s first real presidential vote in 2012. The next year, when the Egyptian military took power in a coup, Saudi Arabia and its allies awarded the new rulers a $12 billion aid package.

These interventions, in addition to shaping the Arab Spring, helped realign the region’s geopolitics.

Turkey, for its own reasons, joined Qatar in backing the uprisings, forming the basis of Qatar’s first real alliance.

Sunni monarchies like the United Arab Emirates, fearing uprisings at home, consolidated behind Saudi leadership and against Qatar.

The rivalry even extended to Washington, where Qatar spent lavishly on lobbying and think tank donations. The United Arab Emirates did the same, seeking to keep pace with Qatar’s influence in the United States.

An Uneasy New Order

“In 2013, you have more or less a rout of the Qatari position,” Mr. Lynch said.

Qatar’s Arab Spring allies suffered devastating setbacks. Sheikh Hamad, in poor health, abdicated the throne and was succeeded by a 33-year-old son with less experience. The country’s brief tenure as a regional power ended.

Still, Qatar retained the autonomy and network of connections that had been its original goal.

Saudi Arabia tolerated Qatar’s autonomy, to focus on another regional proxy war, against Iran. This also served the interests of the United States, which relied on both Saudi Arabia and Qatar in fighting the Islamic State and wanted their rivalry stabilized.

The 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, which Saudi Arabia opposed, further complicated the issue. It left Saudi Arabia more concerned by Qatar’s links to Iran, however limited, but less willing to pressure Qatar, which the Saudis knew would inflame tensions with Washington over the Iran deal.

The rivals were left in a tenuous, uneasy balance.

A Saudi Gamble

Though Qatar had stepped back, its campaign taught Saudi Arabia a lesson: An uncontrolled Qatar posed a grave threat.

Saudi Arabia, joined by other gulf states and Egypt, finally found its opportunity to reimpose dominance with last week’s blockade.

This would also force fence-sitters to choose sides, at a moment when Saudi Arabia is stronger. Riyadh is still working to re-establish regional dominance, under growing pressure from Iran.

But Saudi Arabia appeared to quickly win the greatest prize of all: American backing.

President Trump, who received a rapturous welcome in Riyadh last month, welcomed the blockade of an American ally, a stunning policy reversal that seemingly happened overnight. On Twitter, he seemed to imply that the blockade had been his idea.

But forcing hands can be risky.

Iran has offered food aid to Qatar, betting that it can expand its influence there and perhaps with two other gulf states, Kuwait and Oman, that seek a balance between it and Saudi Arabia.

Morocco, initially neutral, announced on Monday that it would send food aid to Qatar, according to Moroccan reports.
The most significant move could come from Turkey, which has sided vocally with Qatar. Its Parliament approved a measure allowing Turkey to deploy up to 3,000 troops to its base in Qatar, where 100 are currently stationed.

Aaron Stein, an analyst at the Atlantic Council, a think tank based in Washington, said Turkey had recently patched up relations with Saudi Arabia, seeking a middle ground, “but there are limits to that.”

Turkey’s state-dominated media, which has few pro-Saudi voices, has championed the defense of Qatar, an ally, as a nationalist cause.

Though Turkey is a NATO member, over the past year it has joined Iran in aligning its regional strategy with Russia’s. Moscow’s position could gain in the crisis as American allies quarrel.

Though few expect the standoff to escalate to violence, it remains far from clear how it will be resolved. This may be the end of the two-decade Saudi-Qatar rivalry, or it could bring just another layer of instability and crosscutting alliances to a region that already has plenty.

SOURCE 2.

OP: So to summarize, Saudi Arabia is trying to stifle any form of dissent in the region. And this huge and growing problem was literally sparked by the imbecility of one Donald Trump. And now Rex Tillerson is urging an easing of the blockade against Qatar, trying to undo some of the damage, apparently.

Black Appalachia

Jun. 24th, 2017 07:15 am
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by prehnite

One photographer wants to show that the face of coal country might not be as white as you think.


The conventional portrayal of people who live in Appalachian coal country, a part of the United States that has ballooned in the national consciousness after its support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, has generally focused on a few key characteristics: Rural, mostly poor and mostly white. Lynch, Kentucky, might fit the bill for the first two—but its racial diversity stands in stark contrast to the popular perception of Appalachia.


In the early 20th century, when the coal industry was booming across Appalachia, coal companies used labor agents to recruit a racially and ethnically diverse labor supply for the mines. Those efforts weren’t exactly progressive: For the companies, a demographically diverse workforce and the racism that likely followed hindered the formation of strong unions. So labor agents looked abroad to southern Europe and southward to Alabama, where they made arrangements to sneak poor black sharecroppers off their land and ferry them to the heart of coal country. Now, after a decades-long decline in the coal industry, many of those black families have left for urban centers on the coasts, leaving behind shells of former coal towns. Lynch, Kentucky, with its mere 800 residents left behind from the collapse of coal and the resulting out-migration, is one such community.


A scholar who focuses on Lynch, Kentucky, and other communities like it invited Sarah Hoskins, a photographer with experience documenting black communities in Kentucky, to visit the town of Lynch last year, and Hoskins came away with a picture of Appalachia that was much more complicated than what she had heard and read about the region. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there were black people in Appalachia,’” she says.


All photos by Sarah Hoskins.

Landscape.jpg

Lynch is located in far southeastern Kentucky on the border with Virginia and was founded in 1917 by the U.S. Coal and Steel company. The company bought 19,000 acres for the town and built everything from houses and stores to a hospital and baseball field. At its peak, Lynch had about 10,000 residents, but is down to below 1,000 today. Above is a side road in Lynch.


InMemory.jpg

Ever since Trump put on a hard hat and pretended to mine coal at one West Virginia rally, his promises to coal miners became a proxy for his promises to the newly scrutinized white working class. But coal miners have never been a racially homogeneous group. The Eastern Kentucky Social Club has long been at the center of African-American life in Lynch, and since 1970, it has hosted meetings for former and current black residents of the town to reunite and honor the contributions of black coal miners. As many as 1,500 people come to the annual meetings, held in Lexington. Above, a sign hangs outside of the club in Lynch.


ThroughWindow.jpg

Lynch's schools and entertainment venues were segregated until the late 1960s. Black and white miners worked together, but until a 1970 lawsuit, only white miners could be promoted to managerial positions.


WomaninDoor.jpg

Morning in Lynch, Kentucky.


LynchSchool.jpg

Karida Brown, a sociologist at UCLA and descendant of black coal miners from Lynch, Kentucky, has spent years conducting oral history interviews with black residents and former residents of Lynch and the surrounding area. Her father Richard Brown attended the Lynch Colored Public School, pictured above, up until 10th grade, when the Lynch schools integrated. Two years later, in 1966, he graduated from Lynch High School.


ATchurch_canvas.jpg

When Hoskins was there, the church was celebrating the anniversary of the pastor at the Greater Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, and she shot the celebrations that took place.


MirrorPhotos.jpg

"There’s been so much talk about—oh is everyone jumping in here and showing all these disparaging places and people," Hoskins says about national press coverage of Appalachia. "The people I met—the former miners—they were pumped up with pride when they talked about their work."


Masey.jpg

Above, Deacon Benny Massey and others pray for Rev. Hampton before the reverend's knee surgery. Hoskins was struck by the pride of the former coal miners like Massey she met while she was visiting for her project. "The first thing he said was he'd worked in the mine for 28 years and only two people had died in the mines," she says.


Mountains.jpg

Lynch is located near Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky. The view from that mountain is pictured above.


Road.jpg

Between 1950 and 1970, the population of Lynch dropped by about half as the biggest coal companies left town and jobs declined. Today, there are no working coal mines; the only mines still there are used as exhibitions. Like many coal towns across the region, Lynch and the two former coal towns nearby, Cumberland and Benham, is trying to chart a path forward that might include tourism.


Trump has made repeated promises to bring coal mining communities like Lynch back to their former glory. After signing legislation earlier this year that repealed regulations that protected waterways from coal mine waste, Trump promised the miners assembled around him that it would save thousands of jobs, "especially in the mines." While she was there, Hoskins got the impression that no one in Lynch actually believes coal mining jobs are coming back, despite those promises. "I mean, has Trump ever visited Lynch, Kentucky?" she asks.


Sarah Hoskins is an independent photographer based in Chicago and Lexington.



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He'd gone to the arena with his slave Bran.

He'd found a lead in his investigations, a gladiator's memento.

He watched the gladiator in question, Achillia, win another of her matches.

He went down to confront her. )

Pasadena Folk

Jun. 23rd, 2017 08:17 pm
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The Pasadena Folk Music Society is very pleased to present the US debut of a fine new Celtic group, The Recollective, who are beginning their first American tour here at Caltech on Saturday, July 8 in Beckman Institute Auditorium (Little Beckman) at 8:00 PM.  The band consists of Calum Morrison, (Glascow, Scotland) on vocals, guitar, banjo, tenor guitar, bodhran and Highland bagpipes, Karen Hickey, (County Mayo, Ireland) on fiddle, Michael Coult, (originally from Glossop, close to Manchester, England) on traditional Irish flute and whistles, and Kieran Leonard, (now living in London, originally from County Fermanagh) on drums, percussion, & bodhran.  All of them have previously performed in the United States in other configurations, but they formed The Recollective in the past year after playing together in the Celtic Legends traveling show that has appeared for a million people worldwide over the years.  As Kieran explains, their name, The Recollective, is meant as a double entendre, firstly that they are a group that sings and plays music inspired by the past and secondly, that they are as a 'collective' play in a contemporary and edgy style.  They wanted a name that reflects both the traditional roots and the modern aspects of their music.  Their brand new debut recording is about to be released, and should be available for purchase at this show.  Hear Karen's beautiful fiddle interplay with Michael's flute, along with the perfect understated percusion of Kieran on the medley, Vals Til Mor Og Far/The Midge and Calum's vocal and guitar on Gin I Were a Baron's Heir. Help us welcome this fine band to our side of the pond!    

Tickets for the show are $20 for adults and $5 for Caltech students and children.  You can order them on the phone by calling the Caltech Ticket Office at (626) 395-4652.  Online tickets are available here.  You can avoid the service charge by purchasing tickets at the door on the night of the show or by visiting the Ticket Office in person at the Caltech Ticket Office in their new location at 1200 E. California Boulevard in Pasadena (Southeast corner of Wilson Avenue.)  Their usual hours are 9AM - 4PM, Monday through Friday.

James Bond 007: Service

Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:14 pm
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It’s explicitly a book about fading Empire. M16’s roots are in World War 2, and the core of the plot reaches back to there. What is Britain’s place in the world now? What does being British even mean? In a real way, it is a post-Brexit Bond. -- Kieron Gillen

Read more... )

The Hood #1

Jun. 23rd, 2017 05:50 pm
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Since Foolkiller ended with the implication Frank Castle was about to shoot The Hood, and the general consensus was "good riddance", I thought I'd take us all back to a time before Parker Robbins was a lame magic Kingpin wannabe, with the MAX series that first introduced him, written by a pre-Runaways and Y: The Last Man Brian K. Vaughn and drawn by Kyle Hotz.

Trigger warning for racism and sexist language.Read more... )

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