India Feature | Bengali Muslims

The Poetics of Protest for Bengali Muslims in India

Named for the pejorative term used to describe Muslims presumed to be undocumented immigrants, Miyah poetry has emerged as a cultural protest against the marginalization and scapegoating faced by the Bengali Muslim community in the northeastern state of Assam. Its dissemination through social media channels has made it distinctly public and communal as opposed to more academic forms of cultural protest, bringing together the voices of the trained and untrained alike. Al Jazeera highlights the origins of the form and the social and political conditions that have shaped its evolution.

Read:
Protest poetry: Assam’s Bengali Muslims take a stand” (Al Jazeera | December 2016)

Related reads:
For better or verse: Miyah poetry is now a symbol of empowerment for Muslims in Assam” (Firstpost | September 2016)
A state on edge” (India Today | October 2016)

Additional:
Itamugur (Facebook)
#MiyahPoetry (The Sunflower Collective)

(Image Credit: Kazi Neel/Al Jazeera)

U.S. News | Intersex

U.S. issues first birth certificate acknowledging intersex status
  • Sara Kelly Keenan was issued a revised birth certificate by New York City acknowledging her intersex identity, which follows a California ruling earlier in the year that allowed Keenan to change her legal status to non-binary.
  • The reality of 55-year-old Keenan’s biological identity was long hidden from her by her parents and doctors, who made a series of decisions regarding gender assignment and hormonal therapy without her consent.
  • The movement for non-binary gender options on birth certificates has gained momentum in recent years in parallel with the increased visibility of the trans, queer, and nonbinary communities.

Read:
Nation’s First Known Intersex Birth Certificate Issued in NYC” (NBC News | December 2016)
First intersex birth certificate issued in the US” (The Independent | December 2016)
‘The protocol of the day was to lie’: NYC issues first US ‘intersex’ birth certificate” (CNN | December 2016)

Resource:
LGBTQ Community: Glossary of Key Terms (The Trevor Project)

(Image Credit: via The Independent)

U.S. News | Native American

Designation of two new national monuments works to protect integrity of Native American lands
  • President Obama designated two new national monuments, placing more than 1.6 million acres of land under federal stewardship and protecting the areas from development and looting.
  • The Bears Ears National Monument comprises 1.35 million acres in southeast Utah, which includes more than 100,000 Native American cultural and archaeological sites and will be jointly managed by federal and indigenous leaders.
  • The Gold Butte National Monument, located in southern Nevada, encompasses 300,000 acres that include sites of Native petroglyphs and critical habitats.

Read:
Two New National Monuments Created in Utah and Nevada” (Scientific American | December 2016)
Obama Designates Two New National Monuments, Protecting 1.65 Million Acres” (The New York Times | December 2016)
Obama Designates Two New National Monuments, Protecting 1.65 Million Acres” (EcoWatch | December 2016)

(Image Credit: UIG/Getty Images, via Scientific American)

U.S. Feature | Autism

The Growing Workforce Inclusion of the U.S. Autism Community

Companies like EY, Microsoft, and HP Enterprises have begun launching new neurodiversity initiatives at their firms, with a particular focus on recruiting people on the autism spectrum. The new outreach is welcome by advocates for the autism community, which faces a 58% unemployment rate despite having skills in high demand by employers in the knowledge economy. The Atlantic features an overview of industry efforts at inclusion, including innovation in recruiting, training, and management processes to ensure the successful identification and integration of people on the spectrum into organizations.

Read:
Why Some Companies Are Trying to Hire More People on the Autism Spectrum” (The Atlantic | December 2016)

Related reads:
Work in progress: An inside look at autism’s job boom” (Spectrum | July 2016)
Changing Employers’ Perceptions, One Autistic Worker at a Time” (Inc. | May 2015)

Resources:
Specialisterne USA

(Image Credit: via The Atlantic)

U.S. Feature | Prisoners with Disabilities

Seeking Justice for Prisoners with Disabilities in the U.S.


Source: Disability Rights Washington YouTube

The failure of prisons to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, ruled applicable to prisons in 1998, has created a quagmire within the criminal justice system: although people with disabilities are incarcerated at rates far higher than their demographic proportion and comprise nearly a third of the total prison population, they are funneled into systems that refuse to follow the law when it comes to adapting their protocols and facilities to those disabilities. Beyond the mass incarceration of people with disabilities, once incarcerated, disabled people face longer sentencing, solitary confinement, inaccessible vocational training, poor education administration, and limited medical access, exacerbating the negative effects of physical and mental illnesses and creating cycles of re-marginalization and inadequate preparation for release.

VICE News examines the impact of incarceration on people with disabilities and attempts to advocate on their behalf given the numerous conflicts of interest present in the reporting and petitioning process.

Read:
Punished Twice” (VICE News)

Related reads:
Making Hard Time Harder” (The AVID Prison Project, June 2016)
Disabled Behind Bars: The Mass Incarceration of People With Disabilities in America’s Jails and Prisons” (The Center for American Progress)
Know Your Rights: Legal Rights of Disabled Prisoners (The American Civil Liberties Union)

Global Event | Christmas

Christmas for the Vulnerable Christians of the World

Source: Al Jazeera YouTube

One of the most important days in the Christian holiday canon, Christmas is celebrated by the devout, the lapsed, and the unbelieving alike as a time of gift-giving, decorating, and shared cheer. However, many of the worlds Christians, minorities in their communities, continue to face persecution as religious-extremist, nationalist, and other reactionary forces gain footholds around the world. From Indonesia to Egypt, religiously diverse societies have experienced increased sectarian tensions as parallel forces—anti-Christian sentiment and Islamophobia—have disrupted what was once stable co-existence. This roundup takes a look at recent developments in the plight faced by some of the most vulnerable Christians around the world. Continue reading Global Event | Christmas

Pakistan Feature | Women & Girls

The Endless Labors of Pakistan’s Debt-Bound Women

A form of indentured servitude persists in the vast fields of Pakistan’s poorest regions, where families labor on lands to pay off debts whose balance never seems to decrease. But while men may find their “payments” limited to hard labor, women and girls find themselves vulnerable not only to physical labor, but to domestic, sexual, and even marital labor forced under conditions of extreme duress.  Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, with an estimated 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls trafficked as a result of these debts, sold off to predatory landowners and forced to convert to Islam. The Associated Press examines the conditions faced by the more than 2 million Pakistanis living in what human rights organizations have called modern-day slavery and the particular indignities to which women and girls are subjected.

Read:
A Pakistani girl is snatched away, payment for a family debt” (The Associated Press)

(Image Credit: B.K. Bangash/AP)

Interregional News | Asylum-Seekers

Number of asylum-seekers drowned in Mediterranean reaches 5,000 for 2016
  • The U.N. refugee agency announced the figure—amounting to an average of 14 deaths per day—following the recent deaths of 100 asylum-seekers after two dinghies sank off the coast of Italy.
  • The number is highest annual total yet, with contributing factors including poor weather, decreased boat construction quality, increasingly crowded seas, and increasingly desperate attempts to avoid detection and deportation.
  • According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 360,000 reached Europe’s shores by sea in 2016, a significant decrease from the more than 1 million in 2015.

Read more:
Migrant crisis: UN says 5,000 drown trying to reach Europe this year” (BBC)
Mediterranean death toll is record 5,000 migrants this year: agencies” (Reuters)
‘Worst Annual Death Toll Ever’: Mediterranean Claims 5,000 Migrants” (The New York Times)

(Image Credit: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

China News | Christians

Christians see restrictions on Christmas celebrations as crackdown by Chinese government continues
  • A hotel in Zhejiang province canceled plans to host two services by local churches after a warning from the government.
  • Zhejiang authorities have also moved to prevent informal “house churches” from operating and have banned all forms of religious activity in hospitals.
  • Officials have condemned many forms of religious expression in the name of national security, considering Christianity an example of the “infiltration of hostile Western forces.”

Read more:
China Cracks Down on Christmas Celebrations, Bans Protestant Services” (Radio Free Asia)

Additional reads:
China’s Zhejiang Bans Religious Activities in Hospitals as Crackdown Widens” (Radio Free Asia, August 2016)
Decapitated Churches in China’s Christian Heartland” (The New York Times, May 2016)

(Image Credit: Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press, via The New York Times)

Global News | Palestinians

U.N. Security Council passes resolution condemning Israeli settlements in West Bank following U.S. abstention
  • The 15-member council passed the resolution 14-0-1 after it was taken up by members from four countries following its withdrawal by Egypt under pressure from U.S. President-elect Trump and Israel.
  • Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, on the increase in recent years under the conservative government of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, have involved the expropriation of land from Palestinians and the demolition of Palestinian villages.
  • Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., defied pressure from Trump, U.S. legislators, and conservative Israeli lobbyists in abstaining, paving the way for a united international declaration of the settlements as in violation of international law.

Read more:
U.N. Security Council demands end to Israeli settlements, U.S. abstains” (Reuters)
Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end” (BBC)
U.S. Abstains as U.N. Security Council Votes to Condemn Israeli Settlements” (The New York Times)

(Image Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Africa Feature | Women

The Resilience of Africa’s Top Female Football Players

Facing nonexistent funding, social suspicion, and expectations of continued domestic obligations, many female football players across the African continent have endured challenges far greater than their male counterparts for the love of the game. Where men’s teams have been able to rely on state support and a long history of social sanctioning, women’s teams have had to resort to informal networks and social media to drum up the support necessary to enable them to compete, all while facing sanctioning of the opposite sort: underinvestment, disparagement, and insults about their gender and sexuality. The Guardian profiled a number of the competitors in this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, revealing the divide in opportunity for women and men and burgeoning signs of progress in the continent’s most popular sport.

Read:
Skilled, determined and broke: Africa’s female football pioneers” (The Guardian)

(Image Credit: Andy Clark/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian)

Brazil News | Indigenous

Budget cuts and proposed land rights and environmental rollbacks threaten indigenous communities in Brazil
  • Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), the government agency responsible for the protection of indigenous communities, faces large budget cuts under President Michel Temer’s government that advocates say could increase the insecurity of indigenous groups, particularly of the more than 100 uncontacted groups in the country.
  • A draft decree seeks to increase the level of scrutiny applied in the demarcation of indigenous land reservations, annulling certain previously secured land rights and making the recognition of new claims considerably more difficult.
  • A proposed bill seeks to overhaul environmental licensing protocol, shifting from federally managed licensing procedures to flexible, state-based determinations of licensing necessity for agricultural and land-use projects.

Read more:
Temer government set to overthrow Brazil’s environmental agenda” (Mongabay)
Brazil’s plan to roll back environment laws draws fire: ‘The danger is real’” (The Guardian)
Brazil budget cuts put uncontacted Amazon tribe at risk, say activists” (The Guardian)

(Image Credit: Ricardo Stuckert/The Guardian)

Lebanon News | Women

Appointment of man as Lebanon’s first women’s affairs minister sparks outrage
  • The appointment of Jean Ogasapian to the new post in Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri’s newly formed government drew widespread condemnation from women’s rights leaders and organizations, a further injury on top of the appointment of only one woman to the 30-member government.
  • The stakes are high as advocates work to combat high levels of domestic violence and discriminatory citizenship laws that deny women the power to pass citizenship on to their children upon marrying non-citizens.
  • Social media derision has given way to calls for protests against an appointment viewed as illegitimate and in line with the establishment of a cabinet built through nepotism and loyalism rather than competence.

Read more:
Lebanon protests urged after man picked as first women’s affairs minister” (The Guardian)
Lebanon appoints man as first ever women’s affairs minister” (The Independent)
Lebanon’s first minister for women is a man” (The Washington Post)

(Image Credit: Handout/Reuters, via The Guardian)

Cameroon News | Anglophones

Violent police response to protests by Anglophone Cameroonians leaves at least four dead
  • The killings took place when security forces fired live rounds in the air at a local market in Bamenda, the country’s second-largest Anglophone city.
  • Anglophone Cameroonians have demonstrated in recent weeks over perceptions of second-class status across issues including the dominant use of French in schools, police brutality, and unequal distribution and application of resources.
  • Cameroon’s bilingual administrative structure—a result of the colonial period when the country was split between Britain and France—has marginalized Anglophone Cameroonians, largely clustered in only two of the country’s ten administrative regions.

Read more:
Cameroon urged to investigate deaths amid anglophone protests” (The Guardian)
Bamenda protests: Mass arrests in Cameroon” (BBC)
Mass protests in Cameroon are exposing the fragility of its dual French-English system” (Quartz)

(Image Credit: Reuters, via The Guardian)

Madagascar Feature | Chinese & Malagasy

The Ambivalent Xenophobia in Chinese-Malagasy Relations


Source: AFP YouTube

The history of Chinese immigration in Madagascar is a complex tale that begins during the era of 19th-century French colonialism and continues into the contemporary era of globalization. Now entrepreneurs and investors rather than imported labor, the new generation of Chinese immigrants has concerned itself less with integration than with taking advantage of trade and investment opportunities in the island nation, at times to the detriment of the environment and local economic practices. Currently, more than 800 businesses have expanded the Chinese-national population to nearly 100,000, alarming many Malagasy and prompting accusations of politicians “selling off” the country. Over the last few years, international media have begun to examine the complicated relationship between xenophobia, economic exploitation, and fears of imperialism fueled by colonialism anxieties in a politically precarious country still wracked by poverty.

Read:
A Madagascar, la forte présence chinoise passe de plus en plus mal” (AFP, in French)

Additional:
Madagascar protests halt activity at Chinese gold mine” (News24, October 2016)
Madagascar’s Chinese Vanilla” (Al Jazeera, April 2015)
Who Knew? Madagascar Has Africa’s Third Largest Chinese Population” (ChinaFile, March 2015)
China’s rosewood craving cuts deep into Madagascar rainforests” (The Guardian, February 2015)
Influx of Chinese transforms the landscape of Madagascar” (The South China Morning Post, August 2013)
Chinese people in Madagascar (Wikipedia)