Friday, March 30, 2012

Palate Cleanser #168: His Dark Materials Version

Photographer unknown. I found it through Urban Field Guide (thanks Kristen!) but Tineye says it's Wallpaper.

Lyra, I'm coming! Wait for me!

Visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Racism, Lies and Videotape







  video platform

  video management

  video solutions

  video player

I have been searching for the past week to strike the right tone on another post about Trayvon Martin. I have rewritten the post at least four times, dissatisfied, because I am so angry. I was first focused on Trayvon, the kid who wanted to do something in the aeronautical industry, the kid who transferred in to arguably the best public school in northern Miami-Dade County, Dr. Michael M. Krop SHS and who was spending his afternoon classes at the George T. Baker Aviation School. Yes, this is the same kid who was suspended for possession of a trace amount marijuana and a pipe, the same kid who might have written graffiti (WTF) on a school door with a paint pen. But the last I heard, suspension was the penalty for those behavioral problems, not death.

I have struggled with the fact that while Trayvon Martin was wrapped in a body bag and taken to the morgue that no one even bothered to ask around in the neighborhood that he was visiting to see if anyone knew him. No one thought this black teenager could possibly have been there for reasons other than criminal or mischief ones. And no one did any testing of George Zimmerman to see if he was under the influence of anything other than his own bias.

I have read moving posts on the I Could Be Trayvon website. 

I am newly worried about one of my African-American GAL youths, who is a talented but sometimes angry 17 year old male and who is often out late, and reliant on public transportation that leaves him walking through neighborhoods to get home.

I've heard Rush Limbaugh saying that George Zimmerman just "got a little overzealous" and Geraldo Rivera say that it was a hoodie that was as much at fault in Travyon Martin's death as it was a gun and a gunman.

We have all heard that Trayvon Martin assaulted George Zimmerman, left him bloody and in fear for his life, leaving poor, poor George with no other option than to kill the young man he may have called a coon on a 911 call. (Which hey, I'm so surprised, isn't a racial slur, Joe Oliver! Thanks for educating me. Not.)

But all I need to do is watch that silent video above. It answers so many questions for me that all I'm left with is wondering when we'll hear about an arrest. And not just of George Zimmerman.

Hoodie Salutes

The Miami Heat via LeBron James' Twitter account.

U.S. Representative Bobby Rush, D-IL, who was pulled from the House Floor.

NY Senators Kevin Parker, Bill Perkins and Eric Adams, wearing hoodies in the NY Senate Chamber.

Everyday Americans Plan Support
Image credit: Seth Wenig, AP

And finally, there's this guy, who sure thing, was pretty dangerous in his prime. ;)

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Palate Cleanser #167

Sidewalk Hellebore

Visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Article 475: Morocco's Shame

Article 475 Killed Me

By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.

~ Albert Camus

Morocco casts itself as one of the more modernized countries in the Muslim world. They proudly rewrote portions of their Constitution in 2011, reflecting a more modern governance and improved rights for women. According to Al Jazeera, a government study published last year found that about 25% of all women in Morocco had been sexually assaulted at least once in their lives. Look around you. Imagine that one out of every four women you see or meet has been raped... at least once. I find the statistic, gathered by a government, in an Islamic country in which rape is tantamount to ruination and therefore likely to be significantly underreported, to be stunning.

My introduction to Morocco came at age 16, when I traveled there with friends of my father, for a high school graduation present. "See the world," my father said, putting his money behind that idea. My introduction to Moroccan men came on the Royal Maroc flight to Casablanca, when, in the dark of night, as I padded my way past mostly sleeping passengers toward the lavatory, an older man, older even than my father, pinched my butt so hard that it left me bruised. I was a blonde-haired American girl. Likely already a slut and clearly available for touching. But, at the time, at the tender age of 16, I was so stunned (and it hurt!) that I didn't lash out and tell him off, making a ruckus that might awaken the sleeping passengers around us. Instead, I silently turned, in shock, to look at the amused brown eyes and white hair and salt-and-pepper beard, unrepentant, confident to the point of even looking as if I ought to be flattered. I scurried away and, after using the lavatory, walked back to my seat on the other side, walking though the flight attendant's area to cross back to my aisle. 

I was puzzled by Morocco because it was beautiful but by turns sheltering of women and dismissive of them. Yet, back then in the late 1970's, I was treated kindly by men on more than one occasion, once in particular where I really had a scare and a kindly shop owner in Marrakech had his wife sit with me, while I drank a mint tea, and then escorted me back to my hotel, speaking in a mixture of French and broken English, telling me about his daughters who were close in age to me. I came away from my weeks there with a sense of the mysticism of Arabic culture and an appreciation for the culture of their culture, that overrode that ugly start of my trip on my flight there. In grad school, I had a friend who was Moroccan. She was delighted that I knew and liked her country, including the high Atlas region that was then less traveled in comparison to glitzy destinations like Marrakech, that I loved the food, culture and architecture. She  encouraged me to go back to visit the 'new' Morocco. When I returned, it was literally decades after my first trip. The country felt different, more modern, in some ways more open, in others less sheltering. But I loved it. No commercial cities like Casablanca and Tanger on this trip! No, this time I travelled with my stepmother and her cousin, riding camels, sleeping under the stars in Merzouga, exploring the wondrous Fès El-Bali, traveling to Ifrane, Midelt, Erfound, hiking to Rissani, craving rock climbing gear at the Todra Gorge, on the way to Ouarzazate, reveling in the gardens at La Roserie in Ouirgane and finally traveling back to Marrakech, where I warmly remembered that kind shop owner from long ago. The city, even in its oldest areas, had changed so much (all the traffic lights!!!) that I couldn't find that shop even if I tried. Our guide on all our hikes was... astonishingly... a woman. One of, at that time, the only female licensed guides in Morocco. She did a lot of guide work for the Western diplomatic services in Morocco and was very modern. Fluent in Arabic, English and French, she had a degree in English Literature, was married, had a daughter, and not long after our trip gave birth to a second child. She personified modern Morocco for me, ironically, since she was from Fès, one of Morocco's oldest and most beautiful cities. She was a lovely person, who I'm not naming here only because I refuse to even enter her name in the same post as Article 475. My plans to return to Morocco were derailed by 9/11 and my not wishing to cause difficulty to her, her family, etc. since she'd offered that I could visit their home, and by my later health problems and then adoption of my youngest, who was a handful. In any case, Morocco the second time left an indelible impression on me. The food, the colors, the marvelous people... 

I tell you all of these things because I want to stress the fact that I really love Morocco, and have thought often of going back there, if the world settles down just a bit. There is so much beauty and goodness there and it's not like I went in thinking that it was an easy country for women. Literally from the start, at age 16, I could see it wasn't. But I love the country. And that's why it is so utterly depressing to me that Article 475, in Morocco's penal code not just exists but was defended last week by the Moroccan Minister of Justice, Mustapha Ramid.  Ramid even went so far as to say that Amina had willingly had sex with her rapist and that she had not refused to be married to him, so all this furor was basically about nothing other than a consensual sexual relationship that ended in marriage and suicide. No. Really? Outrage filled the internet in Morocco. Twitter and Facebook burst forth with it, spilling out into the world in the form of justifiable ire and reprehensible accusations. About the justifiable ire: women and men wrote harsh objections to the idea that Amina had consented to any aspect of her fate, especially since it was almost universally acknowledged, by her parents who saw her afterwards and most of all, including by rapist Mustafa  Fallaq (aka Mustapha Kellaq), who had admitted that he had sex illegally with a minor of 15 after he was informed of his rights under Article 475. In fact, to me, the very fact that Article 475 was invoked at all indicates this was rape, does it not? 

Poster from SlutWalk Morocco

What does it mean when any man interested in any girl who is not interested in him, can simply rape her and then claim her? How can any modern society function that way? The answer? It can't. I find myself being shocked to agree with a number of points in an article on Patriot Post (yes, you are reading that right, people!) by Arnold Ahlert. I've asked myself again and again: How can this be law in the Morocco I know? The Morocco in which I personally know splendid, well-educated, independent women who live under this law with their daughters? (Almost as upsetting was what's been going on the Amina Facebook page Nous Sommes Tous Amina Filali, but I'll get to that later.) 

With demonstrations in the streets of Tanger, and on the steps of the Parliament in Rabat, the government seemed split in their reaction. The sole woman in the Islamist government is Bassima Hakkaoui and not surprisingly, Ms. Hakkaoui has very vocally called for a debate about the penal code as relates to rape and underage marriage, which continues, even as Minister Ramid acknowledges, to be a serious problem in rural areas. (The official minimum age for marriage in Morocco is 18 and a recent survey shows that 1 in 8 rural Moroccans between the ages of 15 and 18 are married.) In an apparent case of hindsight is 20/20, Amina's father Lahcen Filali now claims that Amina was forced to marry by the court against his wishes, and furthermore, that he now believes that his daughter was murdered by the Fallaq family.

Whether Amina was murdered or committed suicide is, in the long run, simply irrelevant at this point. She's dead and the degree to which Mustafa Fallaq has gotten away with being the causative factor in her death may never be determined. Here's what matters: A 16 year old girl is dead after paying a price for being the rape victim of a man ten years older than she (he raped her, he married her to escape prosecution, then he beat her, he dragged her by her hair, through the streets as she was dying) and for being the victim of a government that has no conscience (Women and Family Minister Bassima Hakkaoui, aside), in continuing to allow the penal code's utterly barbaric Article 475 to be followed. 

Women should not live in fear of being raped but even less should they live in fear of being forced to spend the rest of their lives with their rapist. Men should not feel that the easy way to get a woman you want but who might be beyond your reach in terms of class, economic standing or whatever, is to just rape her to get her. That is certainly the message that Article 475 sends to men, and to the families of women and girls who fall victim to rape. It is simply no way to live in a modern Arab world. And yet, according to an article I read over the weekend in Le Monde, there is not a lot of impetus or clarity on the issue of eliminating Article 475 from Morocco's penal code. 

If the Moroccan Parliament doesn't grow a conscience on this issue, then women, and not just Moroccan women, are going to have to speak loudly to help them find one. 

Don't let the issue of Article 475, and Amina's horrible fate, fall by the wayside and off your radar, readers. You can sign an international petition with Avaaz here, follow updates on the RIPAmina tumblr pages here, and although there has been a rather nasty debate on Facebook about rape, blame, honor, surgical reparation of hymens and all manner of Islamist ludicrousness/outrageousness that was deflecting attention from the real issue here, you can still follow some of the action on the ground in Morocco at Nous Sommes Tous Amina Filali here. To fight the blaming of rape victims, please join your nearest SlutWalk movement (Facebook Group). You can support the courageous (and fed up!) women of SlutWalk Morocco on Facebook, here. And keep track of video footage of the demonstrations before the parliament buildings in Rabat. Check out GlobalGirl Media's channel on Vimeo:

Finally, I direct readers to a moving and courageous post (not a blog but a testimony), Ce n'est pas de votre faute/ It's not your fault... by Houda Lamqaddam. (If you read it from within Chrome browser, you can easily translate it from the French if you need to...) As Houda says, 

"Vous n’êtes pas une exception, vous n’êtes pas seule au monde. Et dans le monde que j’aurais inventé, vous n’auriez plus jamais eu à l’être. Ce n'est pas de votre faute."
"You are not an exception, you are not alone in the world. And in the world I would have invented, you never would have been. It's not your fault."
That is the message that Amina Filali should have gotten from her family, her police, her neighbors, her community and from the judge handling her case.

She didn't.

16 year old Amina Filali

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Palate Cleanser #166

Forsythia in the City

Visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trayvon Martin Update

Since I posted about Trayvon yesterday in the early afternoon, there have been several new developments. First, and hopefully most promising, the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights division has become involved in investigating the case, as announced yesterday in the late afternoon.  This followed the Congressional Black Caucus joining the calling for further investigation, on top of all the hew and furor, saying they were concerned that Trayvon's death was the result of a hate crime. Federal interest in the goings on in Sanford are also signified by the FBI's involvement in investigating. And, since the case was going all federal, our own goodly Governor Rick Scott decided that, yeah, maybe the Florida Department of Law Enforcement should look into this, because you know, it's looking kinda shady and problematic down there in Sanford. 

Much discussion has ensued about the NRA backed "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law in Florida, which may possibly allow George Zimmerman get away with what many feel is at a minimum manslaughter, or 2nd degree murder. "Stand Your Ground," a controversial variant of the Castle Doctorine, permits self-defense, irrespective of location, with no obligation to retreat. State Senator Oscar Braynon, who serves the Miami Gardens district in which Trayvon Martin lived, is calling for hearings on "Stand Your Ground". But those *cough* special interests that got it passed in the first place are likely to find quiet means of diffusing that unless this issue remains at the fore in the media.

Also, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office has released more 911 calls made by George Zimmerman in the past. Interestingly, four of six calls referred to concerns about black people loitering or in his neighborhood (which, was, mind you, an integrated neighborhood). Zimmerman's calls were often formulaic, following the same script that initiated his call to 911 the fateful night of Trayvon's death: "there have been a lot of break-ins in my neighborhood...."

I have not found a web link for the full audio of these other 911 calls, but you can watch this video, and in particular start listening around 2:00 minutes, although the whole video is a good summary of the current investigation.

All I continue to think about is a 17 year old boy who wanted to go out for candy and ended up dead that Sunday night...

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Walking (and Running Away) While Black

This is Trayvon Martin. A 17 year old African American youth from Miami Gardens,  Florida, Trayvon was visiting a family friend, along with his father, in Sanford, Florida on February 26. Sanford, which is in the Orlando metropolitan area, is a small city with a population of about 38,000, about 30% of whom are black or African-American. In a fatal mistake that night, Trayvon decided at the half-time of NBA game that they were watching on TV, to go get some candy at the nearby 7/11 store. Trayvon, a skinny 140 lb, 6' 3" tall young man, promptly disappeared, so far as his father could see. The high school junior never returned to his father's girlfriend's home to see the end of the game. Instead, he was reported missing the following morning by his father, who had begun frantically calling the Sanford Police Missing Persons Unit, then finally, 911, in hopes of finding out if his son had been reported injured. 

Every parent's worst fears awaited Trayvon's father, Tracy.

On the way home from the 7/11, armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona ice tea, Trayvon had the grave misfortune to encounter one George Zimmerman, an overzealous neighborhood watch captain who had placed 46 calls to the police in the past 14 months from the gated community in which he resided. What happened from the moment that encounter started is of much dispute but one thing is clear: Trayvon Martin ended up dead, body-bagged and catalogued at the Sanford Morgue until his father identified his body from a photograph shown him by police, on February 27.

Zimmerman,  a white Hispanic whose call to 911 is proudly provided by the Sanford City Police on their city website, along with a number of other calls from that night, is certainly thorough in his characterization of Trayvon.  In his call, Zimmerman describes Trayvon as "real suspicious", "up to no good", "probably on drugs", "walking slowly and looking around". (He, of course, had no way of knowing that Trayvon was visiting from out of town. I'm sure glad I wasn't there visiting and looking around that night!) These words from Zimmerman's call kind of stick out to me:

"Something's wrong with him... I don't know what his deal is... These assholes, they always get away."

(Edited to add: Zimmerman points out twice, after prompting for information as to the young man's race, that Trayvon is black. Please see the transcript of the complete 911 call below.)

After following Trayvon from his car, Zimmerman got out and followed him on foot. Trayvon, meanwhile, ran, as reported by Zimmerman in his 911 call. Only, Trayvon didn't get away. Whatever went down, neighbors nearby reported hearing cries, or wailing, almost like that of a child and then a gunshot. One witness said that Zimmerman had a bloody nose and was flat on his back with what was reported to be blood on his head. No detail of his medical treatment for any injuries is available nor was any drug or alcohol testing conducted. However, he was bleeding and had grass stains on his clothing. (Anybody wonder if he slipped and fell while chasing the big, skinny teenage boy who was running? Hmmm?) But another witness came forward and said that she emerged from her house after hearing the shot to see Zimmerman on top of Trayvon, first pinning him to the ground then putting his hands to his head in the universal "Oh man, I messed up" gesture. Trayvon, still holding his candy and iced tea, lay dead with a gunshot wound to the chest from Zimmerman's 9 mm Kel-Tec handgun. Mind you Zimmerman, who had a valid carry permit, had been advised by the police not to follow the 'suspicious' Trayvon that night, as is clearly audible on the 911 tape. And yet he pursued him, fought with him (purportedly) and killed him. Now, I don't know about you, but when weird people follow me in their car and then chase after me on foot, I'm scared. And just I'm a middle-aged white woman.

As many of you may know, George Zimmerman has not been arrested for Trayvon Martin's death. The police in Sanford initially passed around this story about how they had no reason to distrust his claim of self-defense because he was kind of injured and hey, he had a squeaky clean record. (And of course, Trayvon was guilty of being black, but hey, we can't say that in polite conversation...) But, as the Orange County Clerk's office public records shows us, George Michael Zimmerman was arrested for felony battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting with violence on July 18, 2005. These charges were administratively transfered to the county court, where they were reduced to misdemeanor resisting without violence, permitting him to enter a pre-trial deferment program for first time offenders. The charges were finally dropped after one year of community supervision, in July 2006. But I guess his interactions with police back then weren't relevant to the Sanford police. Besides, those charges were in Orange County, next door to Sanford's Seminole County. Yep. Squeaky clean. Those Sanford police are so heartwarmingly generous, aren't they?

This story is one of the many, many scary stories about sad and bad things that happen to young African-American men. But some articles are failing to mention the quite dismal history of Sanford's police department, especially when race is involved. As one current piece mentions, Trayvon Martin's death salts (not so) old wounds in Sanford. The Sanford community still smarts from a number of apparent *cough* injustices and now this one...

As Charles Blow aptly put it in his NY Times column on the matter, 

"This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss."

Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, has been firm in her belief and statements that her son was murdered by George Zimmerman. The HuffPost's article cites a slew of reasons to believe that justice may be hard to come by, as does Blow, who cites that the same officer who was at the scene for Trayvon's death was the one who investigated and initially declined to arrest the son of a fellow police officer who had been videotaped beating an unarmed homeless black man in 2010. (The teenage son finally was arrested and prosecuted and the officer's family paid for the homeless man's medical bills.) 

As more than one person has pointed out, had the situation been reversed and Trayvon Martin been left holding a gun and George Zimmerman dead on the grass lawn with his candies and iced tea, there is no question as to whether Trayvon would have been arrested. We all know how that would have gone down, don't we?

I don't know that there is any way to salve Trayvon Martin's family's loss or to restore the damaged faith of the African-American population in Sanford. But I do know that we are a country weary of seeing these horrific injustices witnessed on young black men. In a current poll running on the Miami Herald website, 89% of all respondents think that the US Justice Department should investigate Trayvon's death and the Sanford Police Department's handling of this case. 

Let's hope that the Justice Department does take up the investigation. Justice, thus far, seems to have been elusive here.

Two readers asked for more detail about that 911 call. (One is at work and can't listen to it.) Here is a transcription of the 911 call placed to the Sanford PD by George Zimmerman on the night of February 26:

PD: Sanford Police Department – (inaudible)
GZ: Hey, we’ve had some break ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy – ah – (inaudible) circle.  Um, the best I can address I can give you (address edit) – This guy
looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.  It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about.
PD: Ok, and this guy is he white, black or Hispanic?
GZ:  He looks black.
PD: Did you see what he was wearing?
GZ: Yeah… a dark hoodie like a grey hoodie – and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes.  He’s here now he was just staring…
PD: So, he’s just walking around the area?
GZ: …looking at all the houses.
PD: Ok.
GZ: Now he’s just staring at me.
PD: Ok, (address edit)…
GZ: That’s the clubhouse.  He’s at the (inaudible)
PD: That’s the clubhouse. Do you know what the… He’s near the clubhouse right now?
GZ: Yeah, now he’s coming towards me.
PD: Ok.
GZ: He’s got his hand in his waistband.  And he’s a black male…
PD: Ok, how old would you say he is…
GZ: …he’s got a button on his shirt.  Late teens.
PD: Late teens, ok.
GZ: Um hum, something’s wrong with him.  Yep, he’s coming to check me out.  He’s got something in his hands.  I don’t know what his deal is.
PD: Ok now just let me know if he does anything ok?
GZ: Can you get an officer over here?
PD: Yeah we got ‘em on the way – just let me know if they guy does anything else.
GZ: Ok. (inaudible) These assholes …they always get away. (inaudible) …Yep, when you come to the Clubhouse you come straight in and make a left, actually, you would go past the Clubhouse, 
PD: So this is the lefthand side of the clubhouse?
GZ: (inaudible or wind) No you go in straight through the entrance, don't turn. Shit, he's running, he’s down towards the, ah, other entrance of the neighborhood.
PD: Ok.  Which entrance is that he is heading towards?
GZ: The back entrance.
PD: Are you following him?
GZ: Yeah.
PD: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.
GZ: Ok.
(wind noise)
PD: Alright sir, what is your name?
GZ: George… He ran.
PD: Alright, George – what is your last name?
GZ: Zimmerman.
PD: And George what’s the phone number you calling from?
GZ: (phone edit)
PD: Alright George, we do have them on the way.  Do you want to meet with the officers when they get out there?
GZ: Yeah.
PD: Alright, where are you going to meet with them at?
GZ: (inaudible edit) If they come in through the gate, tell them to go straight past, ah, the clubhouse and ah, make a left, and then they go past the mailboxes. They'll see my truck.
PD: What address are you parked in front of?
GZ: Um, I don't know. It's a cut-through so I don't know the address.
PD: Okay, do you live in the area?
GZ: Yeah, yeah…
PD: What is your apartment number?
GZ: It's a home, it's (address edit).
PD: Okay, do you want to just meet them right near the mailboxes then?
GZ: Yeah, that’s fine.
PD: I’ll let them know – we will be out there – alright
GZ: Actually, actually could you – could you have them call me and I’ll tell them where I at?
PD: Ok, yeah that’s no problem. 
GZ: You need my number or you got I'll?
PD: Yeah, I've got (phone number edit)
GZ: Yeah, you've got it.
PD: Okay, I'll let them know to call you when they're in the area.

You can read transcribed excerpts from some of the other calls here.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slavery in Mauritania

Let's try this again, shall we Blogger? (also known as @#%$!@)

I have this up on Bright Nepenthe's Facebook page but realize many of my readers are seldom, if ever, on Facebook. So I wanted to share it, and Sunday is a great day to do so because you will have time to read this excellent interactive presentation.

Although it's the seeming antithesis of a Sunday Happy, your awareness of this issue makes for another knowledgeable voice, another light, in the dark world of slavery vs. human rights.

Mauritania (from Wikipedia) 

Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1981 (yes, you're reading that right... 1981), didn't criminalize it until 2007, but it still thrives there, right now, today, in 2012. Many slaves do not even know that their situation is illegal according to their own country's laws, or have a concept of their own basic human rights. The slave population is kept, by design, largely isolated and illiterate, in the dark about their situation. Some slaves have literally been brainwashed, in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, believing the families that "own" them are really their own family, in spite of their being beaten, raped, exploited at the hands of this 'family'. Contact between freed slaves and present slaves is extremely risky for both and so the flow of information, and therefore of liberation, is slow. 

“No one ever told me I was free. I don't know what that would be like.”  
— Yebawa Ould Keihel, a slave freed by his master

This moving presentation brings to the reader and listener the stories and voices of former slaves and slave owners, now united in seeking true abolition of slavery in their country. It paints an inspirational picture of the formerly repressed fighting to help those who still suffer.

SOS Slaves, a group of Mauritanian abolitionists formed by a slave and a former slave owner, want Americans to be more aware of their enslaved countrymen's plight and hope that this awareness will eventually translate into international pressure on the Mauritanian government and social structure. Mauritania has been long been decried by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for human rights violations. Racism in Mauritania comprises a complex interplay between white Moors, black Moors, black African tribespeople like the Soninke, Fula and Woloof, and the so-called Haratine, which translates ironically as "freed slave" when in actuality they are present, or 'freed' slaves, still caught up in the cycle of abuse, discrimination and racism.

Reading their stories, and about Mauritania's present social reality, fulfills part of their hopes: even your awareness increases their chance for change.

As Boubacar Messouad says:

"Slavery does not belong only to the slave or former slave. It is a struggle that belongs to every man having will, courage and strength."

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Palate Cleanser #165

Myosotis palustris (syn. Myosotis scorpiodes)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I'm addicted to the Annie's Annuals website, people. Tell me something I don't know...

Be still and get a two for one.

Myosotis palustris (syn. Myosotis scorpiodes)

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

475 Reasons Not to Marry Your Rapist

Women protesting in Morocco (Reuters)

In 2011, Amina Filali, a then 15 year old, was raped by Mustafa Fallaq, a man a decade older than she was. Here's his photo, from Al Arabiya:

Mustafa Fallaq, rapist.
(Still photo taken from Morocco's 2MTV video coverage)

Amina's family initially tried to do right by her. They went to the police in Larache, a village near Tangiers, and reported the crime. Mustafa, that charmer, could have done 10-20 years if convicted because Amina was a minor. (The age of consent, even to marry, in Morocco is 18.) But hey, you know, raping a girl is like raping her family. Rather than ruining the family's honor, the prosecutor in this case invoked Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, which allows a man to marry his victim rather than being convicted and going to jail. Because, after all, justice for rape victims is to live with the tender, loving soul that raped them... for the rest of their lives.

Amina's family gave her in marriage to Mustafa, who, since Amina had brought him all this negative attention, proceeded to beat her, starve her, no doubt rape her some more. She went back to her family to report her mistreatment at the hands of her husband and this time her father reportedly disowned her.  Finally, this past Saturday, Amina had had enough. After a particularly bad beating day, she drank rat poison, and while she was dying, her husband dragged her by her hair through the streets, beating her some more for her temerity in saying she'd had enough.

As the Washington Post notes, the women of Morocco are not standing silent. You can join the Facebook group Nous Sommes Tous Amina Filali (We Are All Amina Filali) in support of putting an end to this barbaric practice being an option in the Moroccan penal system. You can sign a petition, RIP Amina, here

Lest we think only Morocco is bad in their treatment of rape victims, let's not forget Gulnaz, the Afghani woman who was imprisoned after a brutal rape by her cousin's husband, for "forced adultery". Sentenced to twelve years in prison, Gulnaz was finally pardoned, after much international pressure, by Afghan president Hamid Karzai after two years, but has felt continued pressure to marry her rapist. She may in fact have done so, as her family reportedly wanted to kill her for their "loss of honor."

I know I said that there would be 475 reasons, but really I could come up with only one reason not to marry your rapist. He raped you.

And I have to go on record saying that I like Morocco and have had wonderful experiences traveling, hiking and exploring in the country. The idea that the same country I know and love, a country that has so many modern aspects when it comes to women's rights, has a medieval law like Article 475 on the books is just appalling to me. I hope it is to you, too. 

WomanShouFouch, a women's rights group, is trying to organize a protest at the parliament building on Saturday. Or they were.

“Saturday, noon at Parliament. Do not keep silent. Be numerous and be many,”

the group wrote according to the Post, on a now deleted Facebook posting.

Perhaps, as in the case of Gulnaz, international pressure will help the women of Morocco get rid of this terrible threat to their mental health and safety after the trauma of rape. Perhaps Amina Filali's short, tragic life will not have been completely in vain.

And Mustafa, I hope women all over the globe spread your photo.... I'm doing my part.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

No. Really.

Broken Heart by Ezsuzs.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Palate Cleanser #164

Cape Sweet Pea
(Dipogon ligonosus)
Image by Annie's Annuals

I'm growing these. They appear to be thriving so far, in spite of all our weird hot then cool, dry then wet, super windy weather.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Morality and Sexual Equity: A Simple Solution

Since we live in time in which we have (Praise the Lord!) come to see that the women (Republicans or Democrats) who use birth control (regardless of the advice of their know-nothing physicians) are sluts, that prenatal testing for things like fatal genetic disorders for babies (that God wants you to have even if you can't afford them and they would be a burden on a society that doesn't want to pay for the disabled, or if it would diminish your ability to care for your other children) is just a new way to make it okay to kill precious babies in the sacred womb, I think that we need to address some other hard facts here. I hope you are sitting down while you read this, because what I'm about to say is harsh.

Fact: Too many people in this country are forgetting that sex is not for pleasure and that God gave us sex only for procreation, not for recreation.

Look at the travesty of Georgetown students who want to testify before congress about lies like stories of a friend who lost an ovary because she couldn't afford the Pill? (When we all know that Sandra Fluke [Fame Hungry Activist] isn't really talking about health issues... we know what she means, because Rush Limbaugh explained it to us and it had nothing to do with this lame excuse that hormonal birth control, that scourge of feminine decency that is like walking around without your hijab on for God's sake! might have uses even in celibate or lesbian women. Come on! Who. Do. They. Think. They. Are. Kidding?)

Well, I think it's time we call a spade a spade. The only real reason for a woman to be using birth control is because she's having sex with a man and not wanting to get pregnant. All this stuff about polycystic ovary syndrome, painful periods that result in loss of work or school time, endometriosis that damages other organs, and such, is just crap. And if the women do have those conditions it was God's will that they suffered and no doubt they will be made better from it. God let doctors and pharmacologists develop contraceptive pills in order to tempt women to emulate Eve's fall from grace. No lie. 

But while we believe fervently in small government and government not getting involved in private lives and a separation of church and state, I think we need to have our US Government do God's work here. 

Proposed Simple Solution (Women's Version): 

Just ban it. Yeah, contraception. Make it illegal! Then nobody's employer or insurer has to pay for it and almost everybody will be happy! Sure the pharma companies are gonna have a fit, but you know, it's the right thing, the moral thing, to do.

I know you're saying "But what am I going to do? How will I explain this to my husband?" (because you're only having sex with your husband, of course, you present slut, but soon to be virtuous and pregnant or virtuous and celibate wife!) So here's the plan. Ladies, if you don't want anymore babies, or if now isn't the right time, just keep your legs closed and tell your husbands that that whole conjugal thing ain't happening because God only made sex available for people to procreate. The only reason to do 'it' is to make more little Christians (or possibly Muslims or Jews or Hindus or...) and future taxpayers who will follow in your virtuous footsteps. (By the way, if you were infertile, sadly you will no longer be allowed to be having slutty sex when you can't make babies, but that's in a little subclause of this law, I'm proposing and I'm not getting into that fine print here.)

But wait a minute. I am not done, am I? I have covered only 50% of the population of adults.

What about you guys out there?

God let doctors and pharmacologists develop Viagra in order to tempt men to emulate Adam's fall from grace. Yeah, that's right. If you're having trouble getting it up to make babies then, of course, that's a different story. But... Hmmm. How to be sure? Got it!

Proposed Simple Solution (Men's Version!):

The only man getting a prescription for Viagra should be a married man. And not just married, but having been shown to have motile sperm of adequate numbers. That's right. Because what the heck are you doing having sex if you're not able to get your wife pregnant? (*Snort* That sounds a lot like slipping on Satan's little pleasure temptation to me there, guys...) So you're going to have to have regular sperm checks in order to get that prescription from now on, okay? Oh, and you're wife has to be gravid, meaning we have to be sure she's still producing eggs so she can get pregnant. It's going to make your prescription a bit pricier in the long run, but let's face it, before the sanctity of God and your medical and pharmacy practitioners, you will be filling the prescription for the right reasons. I bet you're feeling more virtuous just contemplating this!

Oh, and I'm not done.

Since men will only be having that baby-making sex with their wives, just to be sure there is no temptation to use those cute little blue pills out of wedlock, only the wife (with proper ID, of course) will be allowed to pick up and have possession of that prescription. She'll make sure that you're using it for the right reason, at the right time, because she'll be checking her cycle to make sure she can get pregnant when you're having sex. Because otherwise, it might be slipping up and doing it for pleasure. Tsk, tsk.

It's for your own good, sirs. 

Really it is.

And now I'm off to write Marco with my wonderful idea for a new bill before the US Senate!!!

© Bright Nepenthe, 2012