Fulbright Program: US academic arrogance at work.

Sometime ago I wrote an email to the US Fulbright Program (funded by the US government) about a scholarship they gave to a scholar to study the conceot of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. Paid by them and thus paid by the US tax payers. As people reading my publications are probably well aware the concept of Gross National Happiness is a hoax. A cover up of te reality that Bhutan is in fact the country with the terrible history of being the percentagewise largent ethnic cleansing nation of the last 50 years if not longer.

This, dear readers, is the response of the Fulbright program to the questions asked:

This of course means that they simply do not want to answer the questions raised and hide their responsibility behind their acclaimed history as an academic organization of importance. Fulbright is with this answer the hallmark of US academic arrogance and certainly does not enter into discussions about theit granting policies in regard to human rights breaching nations. My answer to them is this:

My conclusions based on the response from Fulbright are obvious. These ‘academics‘ are disgusting and more interested in supporting human rights violating regimes than entering discussions about their policies. Interesting enough it is the same government of the US that is funding most of the third country resettlement effort of UNHCR to resettle the Bhutanese exiles who were exiled by the government that Fulbright is actively supporting.

That attitude reminds me of the books of Karl May in which the North American indians frequently state about their American counterparts that they are speaking with split tongues. Deceitful and manipulative. It is sad to see that Fulbright is still having that General Custer attitude.

Alice © 2012

Advertenties

New flyer for Headwind available for immediate distribution.

In a last CALL FOR ACTION the Headwind production team is working together with the new eu1.tv pan European tv channel (available on cable and internet) by Ziggo and UPC. In the coming week both the new trailer as a new way of crowdfunding will be published on the eu1.tv website. To support that effort we will distribute flyers on the Movies That Matter film festival starting off in The Hague on March 22 at the Filmhuis.

Alice
director and producer of Headwind 

This is the flyer:

Short trailer of Headwind released today.

Today the short trailer of Headwind is released with a call for support and funding.
More information about the film can be found at http://www.headwindfilm.com.
The trailer will be published on http://www.eu1.tv too later today.

We still need substantial funding for the completion of this film.

Alice
director of Headwind

A letter to the Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program.

Today I have send the following email to the Fulbright Program. In astounishment after reading an article of some time ago that was published in an American newspaper about a scholar who was granted a scholarship to go studying Gross National Happiness in Bhutan.

This is the link to the article in the Portland Herald and before that published in the Sentinel.
This is of course the link to the article written by Kai Bird in The Nation.

Dear Fulbright people,

today I’ve read this article in The Portland Press Herald concerning a scholarship for a study by Mrs. Gretchen Lechler who plans to travel to Bhutan to study Gross National Happiness:
I am amazed and quite honestly astounded by this.
Because yesterday I read this article by Pulitzer Price winner Kai Bird about the Bhutanese diaspora and the cost of that for the US, the international community, Bhutan and the Bhutanese refugees:
I have personally spend six months in 2011 in Nepal to work on the first feature length documentary about the Bhutanese exile and the third country resettlement project of the UNHCR and it’s effects. So I know very well the reality of Bhutan. By experience.
It is totally flabagasting to see a US government funded organization to spend a load of money on a scholarship for studying the myth of Gross National Happiness in a country that is in reality percentagewise the largest ethnic cleansing country in recent history. Especially since it is the same US government that has started the resettlement effort on request of the UNHCR and is actually welcoming over 60,000 Bhutanese refugees to become US citizens.
This scholarship is a disgrace, as is this study that Mrs. Lechler is undertaking. There is no way that Gross National Happiness can be objectively studied without extensive visiting of the Bhutanese refugee camps and realizing that a large portion of the Bhutanese people is all but happy.
I sincerely request your organization to think again because by this scholarship Fulbright is actually passively supporting human rights violations. And preferably, to request Mrs. Lechler to study GNH in the Bhutanese community in exile. To do that she doesn’t even have to leave the US. If needed I can provide all relevent contacts for that and am more than willing to assist in any possible way.
With kind regards,
Alice Verheij
writer, film maker, journalist
The Hague, Netherlands / Kathmandu, Nepal
Alice © 2012

Pulitzer Price winner’s article republished on Headwind website.

Today The Nation granted me the rights to republishing an article written by Pulitzer Price winner Kai Bird on the Headwind website. Kai Bird’s article is an excellent account of recent history concerning the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing and exile in the early ninetees of last century, the ongoing resettlement of Bhutanese refugees and the long term to be expected effects of this on the position of Bhutan, it’s king and government.

Kai Bird won the Pulitzer Prize with his excellent co-authoring on a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘invertor’ of the atomic bomb. Mr. Bird has work for many years in the Middle East and has recently published his autobiographic ‘Crossing Mandelbaum Gate‘ about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and how he has lived, grown and endured in the region. Mr. Bird has lived for some time in Kathmandu, Nepal and recently traveled to Bhutan and was a guest of the royals.

‘The Enigma of Bhutan’ is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing and exile, the ongoing largest UNHCR third country resettlement project and the effects of this all on Bhutan.

The article is published in The Nation’s March 26, 2012 issue and can be read on the website of the Nation and on the Headwind website.

Alice

Call for Action: the importance of free Bhutanese journalism in Nepal.

A couple of days ago I wrote an article on this website to advocate the role of journalism for the Bhutanese community in exile. I did that after a fire incident hit the Beldangi 2 refugee camp near Damak in the Jhapa district of Nepal. The whole situation concerning information flow of the events proved the importance of adequate and independent journalism in the region.

Yesterday I received further information on the challenging situation the free journalists focussing on the Bhutanese refugees / exiles are. For many years now they have been covering the situation and major events for this large group of people with almost no financial means. On their own pockets and with little support from abroad. And because these journalists are refugees themselves they have to be careful as they are not issued formal journalists status in Nepal. Refugees are not allowed to do paid work outside the refugee camps.

Journalists and community workers from Bhutan Media Society bringing relief to fire victims in Sanischare camp,
Morang District, Nepal, summer 2011. (Photo © 2011 Alice Verheij)

Their challenges are not only financial. Due to the nature of long term refuge in camps (more than 20 years now) it is only logical that tensions rise frequently inside the refugee community inside the camps and the Nepalese communities around these camps and in nearby villages. Working as a journalist coming from the refugee community means that one has to toe the line quite often. Some of these men (unfortunately only men are doing this work) are threatened or even abused. The work can easily become from relaxed to difficult to dangerous. Only their perseverance and conviction that free journalism is the essence of a free peoples has been and still is keeping them active.

Bhutan is not a free country and threats are often coming from Bhutan to the more active refugees in the community who inevitable critisize the government of their country that has exiled them. Nepal is not a completely democratic and liberal country although much progress has been made in the past six years after the revolution that abolished the monarchy. In present day Nepal there still is an instable government and freedom of press is not something that can be taken for granted. The number of attacked journalists is unfortunately impressive. This poses an extra danger to the work of the Bhutanese journalists in exile.

Lastly there is the massive UN guided resettlement going on. This means that some of the group of active young journalists are leaving the area to be resettled in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmakr, the UK or the Netherlands. So continuous refreshment of resources is essential to keep proper journalistic work alive and news regarding the situation in the refugee camps flowing. It is therefore that a lot of things are needed. Equipment, training and good connections with the journalistic community in Nepal and abroad.

Much of what is needed is still there but to be honest journalism is endangered strongly. These journalists need support. Urgently. Their running cost mounts to some 535 dollars per month to keep the websites online and the journalists at work. That amount of money is needed for transport and media access and normal running costs. Thankfully there is a free news agency setup some years ago. The Bhutan News Service. They as a group are connected with a community aid group the Bhutan Media Society and they keep the websites www.bhutannewsservice.comwww.apfanews.com and www.radiobhutanonline.com alive and kicking.

And now they are about to go down. The funds are exhausted, there are no reserves available and support is low. The exiled community globally is not economically alive to the level that it can be expected that they on their own will be able to cater for the cost.

I myself have been working with these journalists extensively in the past one and a half year. I know their qualities and their sacrifices. I know what they can do and I know that if they can no longer work that the effect will destroy one of the last remains of freedom for the Bhutanese living in the camps in Nepal.

CALL FOR ACTION

If you want to help them, please contact me through email at alice.verheij@xs4all.nl. I would like to work with anyone who understands the importance of free journalism in refugees communities and am able to channel support to the right people and organizations. Any media organization, Journalistic educational facility or individual journalist is kindly requisted to contact me and step in to build a proper financial backing for these young and strong journalists and to facilitate training facilities for the upcoming generation of free Bhutanese journalists.

Alice Verheij © 2012
director Headwind (www.headwindfilm.com)
friend of Bhutan Media Society

Headwind and bad times.

Within a couple of weeks my world has turned for the worse. I experience a shitload of headwind.

For whatever reason my love left me, the exact reasons are still a bit unclear although some hints are there. No one to blame. After that came creative crisis. Poetry is far away, theatre performance went well but the videorecording failed tragically (can’t do camera and perform at the same time) and a few days ago my allowance was decreased with more than 30% leaving me with not enough money to live. Rent, health care and normal dayli things leave me without enough money for food. Hard times ahead. And to top it all the effort of finishing Headwind is for whatever reason anyone has until now still more than 90% depending on me. Too little support, to little progress, too little co-operation. It is so clear that if I would stop working on this film it will never hit the screens. That alone makes that this is essence a film made by with. With some support but not enough by any length. Financially this film project has made gone all the way into post production with a reasonable balance sheet but also with ruining my personal economic life. Productionwise it still is mainly me effort, no matter what has been tried so far to expand that effort and have others become co-creators. Currently I am doing camera, audio recording, soundtrack building, audio and video editing, directing and 90% of the producing, writing and financing myself. That is not a good feeling at all.

So I have to get back in fighting mode but somehow I really can’t. Too damned tired of it all. Because doing this all on my own is just too much. But ok, I’ll put up another fight, like I’ve always done but there is little pleasure left in my life especially as I feel so very much displaced with my heart and emotions left in Nepal and my body in this cold, grey and cynical country. From whatever perspective my personal life is a total shambles. Single, desolated, technically bankrupt and creatively worn out. This time the fight is extra tough and I have no idea how long it will take to get on my feet again.

A few things are clear however.

I will finish my film no matter what happens and my finished novel will be published. No idea where or how to get thefunds for it, but it will certainly be finalized in the coming two months. After that all I do will be connected with making my personal life manageable, because at this stage it certainly isn’t. And when that point is reached I will be gone. Leaving this country for as long as possible beause I do not want to spend the rest of my life in this land. I cannot survive here and I feel out of place an useless. I hope that some time soon I will be able to go and place my life in the hands of whatever God / Gods and dedicate what’s left of it to writing, filming and showing the western world the gravity of life in South Asia. Because it is high time that that region with all it’s challenges becomes more known to the west.

I feel I am finished here and as always before in my life I know that this means I have to go elsewhere. And no matter what, I will be able to finish what I started and what I love to do when I feel a bit better: finishing Headwind and bringing my work to the screen. And that is not easy, not easy at all. But it certainly is worth all the crap that is happening to me. Because there are people waiting for that film to come to their screens. Unfortunately in the west most people don’t give a damn about knowing the reality of forgotten exiles let alone support the making of a film. In the end it is like with most guerilla filmers: you make it because there is no way not to do that, wether anyone is interested or not.

Alice © 2012

About the need for free journalism for the Bhutanese in exile.

A couple of days ago a fire ravished a part of the Beldangi 2 Bhutanese refugee camp in the southeast of Nepal near the little town of Damak. I know that camp well as I have spend there a lot of time filming my upcoming documentary ‘Headwind’. There were no fatalities or severe injuries and that of course is both a good thing and a miracle. Knowing the situation in the camp and knowing where in the camp that fire was I can safely state that swift action of the inhabitants of Beldangi 2 who demolished some 35 huts to prevent the fire spreading has saved them from a disaster like the one that took place on March 22 2011 in the Goldhap camp which was almost completely incinerated. This time ‘only’ some 250 people have lost their huts, their homes.

During the hours of the fire incident and in the wee hours of yesterdays morning I reported on the incident on my website mirroring and analyzing the information given to me through different channels I have with people in Nepal and outside of Nepal and who had direct access to witnesses at the scene. That has made it possible to be clear on the status of the incident and be clear on the fact that no casualties were to be counted, a thing that is of great importance to all Bhutanese who have family and friends living in that camp. I tried to be as objective as possible and continued checking facts and figures by referencing the information coming at me. Hopefully I did that well enough to serve the community. Looking at the statistics of my website it is obvious that the news regarding the fire was well read by many people in a very short span of time. I am pretty sure that a lot of Bhutanese have read the information I gave.

One thing that has become very clear is the fact that it is totally impossible to have any news concerning incidents like this spread to the global community (and international media if needed) without the presence of journalists in the area. Most of the people I connect with are young journalists who are taking their voluntary task as a non profit journalist very serious and they have once again proven to be the backbone of news and information gathering and publishing for the Bhutanese community.

But their work is under grave threats. Let me explain.

First of all none of them are regarded as professional journalists because they are refugees themselves and therefore not allowed to work as a journalist. This means they have no press cards and no legal protection like other journalists do have.

Secondly, a lot of them are themselves being resettled and the more experienced in that group of very motivated young people are quite indispensable for free journalism in and around the refugee camps.

Thirdly, they are lacking professional equipment and good connections for swift response even though some equipment was brought to them recently.

And besides all that they have only limited support for their work.

Still, there are some media initiatives that have proven to be of great value and some of them have been working in this area for years. Websites like Bhutan News Service , Media Network Bhutan and the newly instated e-paper The Refugee Herald are well managed regarding the circumstances they have to work under. These guys need support, continuously. Support from international media and support from the global Bhutanese community. Their work is of increasing importance now that the resettlement of the refugees is going fast. Within a couple of years most of the refugees will have been resettled, but not all of them will leave. Many (some think maybe up to 15,000) will stay in the camps after resettlement closes in 2015 as the UNHCR has hinted. Who will tell their stories if local journalism has gone? Who will keep relatives and friends informed of their situation from a journalistic angle.

This observation should lead to a call for action. A call fo action to the international journalistic community for support and a call for action to the global Bhutanese community to not let these guys down and support them in supporting the Bhutanese living in the camps and living in diaspora.
For me this means that I will continue reporting and traveling to the region in the coming years and do whatever is in my ability to help out.

Alice © 2012

Aftermath of Bhutanese refugee camp Beldangi 2 fire.

UPDATE :
According to Bhutan News Service the Government of Nepal provided a cash aid of Rs 1000 (less than €10) each for 54 huts razed by fire on Friday morning. However, no donations have been made available to households whose huts were destroyed while preventing the mishap. Around three dozen of huts fall in this category, according to Camp Secretary of Beldangi camp. The current price for a hut is around Rs 2400 at least.
This means that some 30 families will not be rehoused if they are not financially supported and all other victims will not be able to rebuild their huts completely without financial support.
It is only natural that UNHCR is pressed to add funds from the refugee budget for this needed support. Unless anyone else brings in these needed funds!

The fire is under control and extinguished. The number of destroyed huts is according to one source 85 huts with 250 displaced refugees who are now housed in the English language school for the time being. More info will become available after some time. The location of the start of the fire is known and the cause is being researched.

Tragically the fire started in the hut of the former camp secretary of Goldhap camp, his family now been struck by massive fire for the third time in 4 years.

Luckily enough there seem to be no casualties and international aid organizations have arrived at the scene to scale up relief work. There were problems with late arrival of fire squads. No human casualties have been reported according to the Bhutan News Service sources. More information is available on www.bhutannewsservice.com.


video courtesy of Kumar Mishra / Bhutan News Service 

This information came to me while events were still happening:

The fire inferno in bel 2, nearly more then 300 huts burnt.
 Police say investigation is under proces.
 3 water tankers still r trying to control fire bt not progres.
 Fire begain at 1.09 am acording 2 eye witnesses n stil going on....

Beldangi 2 is struck by fire again. Every year there are fires in this time of year. Last year in March an enormous fire destroyed the Goldhap camp that was dismantled last summer with it’s inhabitants moving to the Beldangi camps. And now that camp caught fire in the night. The fire started in sector B/2 after 1 am local time this Friday. Because this was a nightly fire it was very difficult to get under control but by preventively dismantling around 35 huts the camps inhabitants have been able to prevent further spread of the fire.

Affected area is on the left of the central crossing in the camp. (Map by Google Maps)

photo courtesy of Kumar Mishra / Bhutan News Service 

Beldangi 2 is currently the most densely populated Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal with refugees recently arriving from the Timay camp. Fires are one of the main hazards of camp life and are the immediate result of a combination of factors. Huts are constructed of materials that catch fire easily, in the period February to May there is little rain, rising temperature and sometimes strong winds making small fires spread quickly, the huts are build very close together increasing the risk of fires jumping to other huts and to top it all there is no fire squad stationed at the camps. Fire squads will have to come from Damak (4 km’s) and places like Itihari and Kakarbitta making swift response impossible. The effect of the latter being important time loss when fires do break out and therefore increasing the risk of massive camp fires. The Beldangi camp has this time been very lucky that the didn’t spread and destroy a much larger portion of the camp as happened last year at the Goldhap camp. Especially now that the Beldangi camp has recently been repopulated with refugees from the now dismantled Goldhap and Timay camps. Fires are next to increasing social problems the main worry of everyone who knows the scene.

This report was made possible thanks to swift communication with sources from Bhutan News Service and others in the area.

Alice Verheij © 2012

The Party for Happiness / Partij voor Geluk

UPDATE: The ‘Partij voor Geluk‘ has removed their link to Bhutan as a guiding country for Gross National Happiness in response to the comments made by me. Which is a good thing and I welcome that! I wish this new party all the best in their endeavors. Obviously it is important that the myth of Bhutan as a hallmark for happiness is dismantled and the human rights violations by Bhutan are recognized and acknowledged.

A new political party is coming to the Dutch politcal arena. As a counter movement to the current development of Dutch (or even western) society. The Party for Happiness, in Dutch ‘Partij voor Geluk’ (www.partijvoorgeluk.nl). How nice.

A Party for Happiness, what a great initiative don’t you think? Because, to be honest, everything in this world is judged in financial economical terms like Gross National Product (GNP) meaning money, the filth of the earth. And there is another option like the one that this PvG suggest. Just look at Bhutan they say. Bhutan the buddhist Himalayan kingdom where Gross National Happiness is the measure for government success, Bhutan where the people are happy and Bhutan where according to it’s prime minister Mr. Thinley ‘even the dogs smile’…

But is that true? How are things concerning Gross National Happiness in Bhutan really? Is Bhutan really that happy conutry and does the United Nations indeed push them forward as an example, as a guiding nation for the world?

The answer my friend, is blowing in the Himalayan wind. And it simply says: no. Not at all. Bhutan is not an overly happy country and although the dogs might smile, many of it’s people certainly don’t. Bhutan is the only 100% Bhuddist ruled country in the world. A country that in the years 1990 – 1992 exiled some 120,000 of it’s citizens to India and in the end to refugee camps in Nepal where they have lived ever since. Almost 20% of the Bhutanese population now live outside the country in global diaspora since the United Nations started mass third country resettlement in 2007 shifting almost all of these refugees to countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the UK and the Netherlands. Bhutan as a nation is responsible for the percentagewise largest ethnic and cultural cleansing since world war two. Hardly a nation to set an example to the world.

Gross National Happiness in Bhutan is according to the latest results certainly not all over. Things like health care and education are experienced as factors making the mostly rural population less than happy. According to Bhutan’s own annual GNH report that was recently published. Bhutan does not have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of travel, freedom to speak Nepali, freedom to dress to your own desire, freedom to smoke a cigarette… Bhutan does however have over 400 political prisoners (according to sources like Human Rights Watch), it throws monks in jail for carrying 30 grams of tobacco on them and has been denying international requests to repatriate it’s own people to the south and east of the country. Bhutan sabotaged 19 years of talks with the Nepalese government for repatriation, lies structurally to the refugees, the international community and the press about their willingness to take their people back and Bhutan remains a country as closed to the outside world as North Korea. If you live in Bhutan and oppose the government you can be thrown into jail, be tortured (Bhutan has the doubtful reputation of a great inventor of torture methods), thrown into exile or even get killed.

Over the past decades the Human Rights Evaluations by the United Nations on Bhutan have repeatedly shown many comments from countries like the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands and others on the situation concerning the exiled population now living in the refugee camps in Nepal with already half of them resettled in the largest third country resettlement project of the UNHCR ever. Continuous reporting by organizations like Human Rights Watch and Global Human Rights Defence have made clear that Bhutan is not a country of Gross National Happiness but a country of Gross Human Rights Violations.

It’s sad to see that western society has a very biased and uninformed view of the Bhutanese reality. Bhutan has been able (and has been given ample space to do so) to build an effective reality distortion field around it’s atrocities. That reality distortion field has a name: Gross National Happiness. As a concept welcomed by Buddhists and politicians globally. It is because of that western urge to be inspired by something nice as ‘happiness’ that helps Bhutan in covering up the reality and trying to change history. Using that concept is very much like taking king Herod’s approach to an unwelcome reality: washing hands in innocence while allowing human rights violations to continue.

Not quite a good start for a political party I suppose.

If you want to know more about the reality of Bhutan and the situation of the Bhutanese exiles surf to http://www.headwindfilm.com, watch the trailer of the upcoming documentary and read my essay about the topic.

© 2012 Alice Verheij
writer, film maker, journalist
director of Headwind
Friend of Bhutan Media Society

Is resettlement a solution and a success?

As you all know I am pretty much involved with the fate of the Bhutanese exiles and especially with ones who have been resettled to my country and the ones who are left behind in the refugee camps in Nepal.

Today I read the following on Bhutan News Service, the webzine that is the only viable news source from the global Bhutanese community with good access to the refugee camps and the communities in the resettlement countries. They have become a trusted and all important news agency for te Bhutanese people focussing on Bhutanese in exile. No matter what the Bhutanese government is saying by the way. Anyway, this is what was written:

If everything goes as projected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and resettling countries, at least 10.37 percent of exiled Bhutanese are likely to remain in the camps when the ongoing resettlement program ceases by 2015.

The initial camp population of 113, 486 has come down to 54,652 as 58,834 individuals have left for various western countries by January 19 this year, according to the UNHCR.

In total, 49,396 exiled refugees have left for the US, 4,213 for Canada, 3,217 for Australia, 589 for New Zealand, 612 for Denmark, 372 for Norway, 324 for the Netherlands, and 111 for the United Kingdom.

Of the remaining residents, at least 42,873 individuals have declared an interest in resettlement. Once this figure leaves for resettlement, the camp population will come down to 11,779.

The information is – as always – pretty reliable. But honestly, it’s also incomplete. Because the figures do not take into account the reality completely. Thing is, in the refugee camps live another over 3,500 refugees who have for various reasons not been registered as refugee by the Nepal government and therefore do not show up in the UN based statistics. So, if policy doesn’t change and there poor people are not counted and their situation managed properly the real figure of the population in the camps (by 2014 probably only the Beldangi camp will be left) will be closer to 15.000.

Giving a Journalism Training in Beldangi 2 camp, Summer 2011

And that is not all. Not all refugees live in the camps. Some (and their number really is unknown) live outside the camps in Nepal. Often in dire straits as they have no civil rights. And many live in India in Sikkim, Assam and elsewhere. Still they too are refugees, the ones in India obviously not acknowledged as such because there is the 1948 treaty between Bhutan and India stating that Bhutanese are allowed to travel, live and work in India. But these are the ones that can not return to Bhutan. They are just as well refugees and their figure is unknown. Only estimates exist that run upto 20.000.

So the worst case scenario of the number of remaining Bhutanese refugees in the Himalayan region really should be close to 35.000 and not less than 12.000 in 2014.
It is the way figures like these 11,779 in 2014 are communicated by the UN and the international community that assist in the cover up of reality. So the UNHCR statement that the resettlement is a success is based on the reality of the statistics simply not true. Of course it’s also not a failure, but a success is really sometinhg else.

The other thing that’s against the PR from the international community is the thoughts that resettlement is a good solution to the problem. Well, honestly is many cases of young people it certainly is for them. But many resettlers are older than 35. Which means that it is not certain they will be able to adjust to western society and for the elderly it is pretty clear that they never will. The social issues in the resettled communities are diverse and form a heavy burden. Issues like lack of possibilities to exercise religion, home sickness, loss of culture, conflicts in families because age differences and adjustment problems to western society, broken friendships and continuing long distance family ties that are increasingly difficult to handle are but a few of the issues burdening resettled refugees. Life is often a struggle that is not always lessened by resettlement. Because:

Imagine being in 40 years old.
Imagine that in the past you were driven into exile and ended up without any hope for a decent future in a refugee camp.
Imagine living under bamboo roofs and simple soil for most of your life. Next to the river where the dead are being cremated.
Imagine loosing sight of friends and family who have been resettled from your daily existence.
Imagine that one day you might very well resettle to a far away country with a culture that is completely different from your own.
Imagine you have children whom you want to have a better life.
Imagine that in reality you long to return to the country you were born.
Imagine there is no mandir to go to.
Imagine not to be able to eat the food you are used too… because it’s nowhere to be found.
Imagine living a town or village and being the only one from your people, being the alien in the minds of your neighbours and anyone else.
Imagine having to learn another very complicated language in a few years to be able to have some sort of life, and if you don’t succeed you’ll get a penalty or will not ever get a passport meaning you will never really be free.
Imagine all that…

Would that be seen as a success? Western society does a lot for refugees who have been resettled but still it starts of as a completely alien place to live. Surviving there is not easy at all and while in the end most will find their way through perseverence it is never an easy path to go. And western society is not becoming nicer to immigrants. So, where UNHCR speaks of a success it should also push the governments of the resettlement countries to really take their responsibilities and support the immigrants and their communities to find some sort of new life that is acceptable. These responsibilities are certainly not always met because much support is being broken down as an effect of the global financial crisis leaving imigrants more on their own and with less support than is reasonable. And don’t forget, once resettled there is no way back. Ever.

It is for all this that I will have to continue writing, filming an photographing the reality of the Bhutanese resettlement. Because in my country, in the west, most people simply have no idea.

If you feel that you might be able to support me, the Headwind team and the Empowerment Foundation, please make that decision and do so. It’s easy. Buy a Headwind production share or become donor. Help us finishing the documentary that will dive into the issue of the Bhutanese in exile and resettlement. The first feature length film that covers it all and will be screened globally. We need your support and we need it now! Send an email to alice@empowermentfoundation.nl or goto to the Headwind website and check the crowdfunding page!

Alice © 2012

The Headwind Poject: an overview.

In the past year the Headwind Project has broadened from making a documentary to much, much more. At this stage the project is in fact a more than full time job for the Headwind Production team. The following graph shows what is done and what is coming in the (near) future:

Alice © 2012

Headwind production team brought donations to Beldangi hunger strikers.

Dear readers and visitors,

Attached here is a newsitem as published on the Bhutan News Service, the information regarding the handover of donation funds for food and first needs support from the Dutch Nepal Foundation (Vereniging Nederland Nepal) by the Empowerment Foundation’s Headwind Nepal Production Team in co-operation with BRAIN (Bhutanese Refugees Association of Intellectual Novas) on Janury 3, 2012 in the Beldangi 2 refugee camp in Nepal to the ex hunger strikers.

Please read and support the Bhutanese refugees, the making of the Headwind documentary and the Empowerment Foundation for making this charity work possible.

Alice © 2012
director of Headwind
communications Empowerment Foundation
www.headwindfilm.com
www.empowermentfoundation.nl 

‘The Storm’ (2) or ‘Back Home?’

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Namaste my dear readers and friends. I wish you all a great New Year.

I Know, I know, I’m a bit late in doing that but as you know I’ve been away for a month to a region where modern technology is something that is not available constantly. And (I only dare to whisper that) I actually haven’t written much in that month. except for some love letters and the occasional FaceBook status update. But I’m back home. That is to say, my Dutch home for I have during my travel found a new home to live. A Nepalese heart where I feel loved and safe. I won’t reveal nor bother you with the details so let’s just say I’m hooked up with a wonderful nice woman who I love dearly. So I now have another ‘home away from home’ in the south of Nepal, the eastern Terai region to be exact.

The storm I wrote about last month has eased. The questions I had while leaving the Netherlands have been answered and many decision has been taken. The most important one being that I desire to lead a splint life. Half of it (or more) in Nepal, half (or less) of in in the Netherlands. The rest is just the execution of that desire. On the flight back the most vivid sign that such it a good decision is that we faced heave storms over de middle east making the flight slow and the flight time long. We faced ‘headwind’ while returning from the last shooting trip for my film ‘Headwind’. Actually, OUR film ‘Headwind’ as the positions in the production team have changed. Making ‘Headwind’ is no longer my personal task and responsibility, it has become a group thing now with a co0directing producer and a co-pruducing director.

Our trip to Sikkim to shoot mountain footage and travel through the earthquake struck area of the south central Himalayan state of Sikkim has been successful. We’ve also seen the teagardens of Darjeeling and the mists over Pokhara. We visited the now familiar places in Kathmandu, Patan, Pashupatinath and Boudha and travelled by bus, mini taxi, tourist taxi, airplanes, four wheel drives, local busses and riksha’s. We revisited the refugee camps near Damak, the now abaondoned and somewhat spooky Goldhap camp and we talked to and interviewed many. We visited the ex hunger strikers in Beldangi who have risked their lives for the unregistered people in the camps. We stayed at the farm of my love just outside Damak village in between the now still empty rice fields in between fields of amber colored mustard.

And we never had any disagreement or quarrel. Everything happened just like it should. We delivered financial aid to vulnerable non registered, brought media equipment to motivated and eager journalists in the exiled community and brought the photo’s from our exhibition (the one in the Netherlands) back to where they originated. And it all went well.

So here I am in my European home. Feeling happy with what we did living in anticipation of the next few months in which the film will finally become reality. Feeling sad about the love that I had to leave behind (but will see again soon). Making plans for the next journey, the publication of a number of books within three months and feeling dislocated as my heart is still out there.

In the coming months the following results will finally come from the project I started almost one and a half year ago:

  1. the English language novel ‘Headwind, Laxmi’s Story’
  2. a photobook about elderly people in the Himalaya‘s
  3. a photobook about the Bhutanese exiles living in diaspora
  4. the documentary ‘Headwind’
  5. a photo exhibition about resettling in the Dutch community
  6. a cd with music from the film
    and many, other things…

It’s going to be a busy time. After that time I will travel back to Nepal and God willing stay there for five months to live with my love and to promote and sell the results of our work. To show the film to the people who have become my inspiration and are part of it.

For now I’ll just focus on the work. Writing here will be less intense as it has been last month simply because of all the things I have to do for the project that not only produces these wonderful things and art but that has also changed my life and the life of some others working on it.

For the record: we’ve produced almost twelve thousand photos this journey, seven hours of footage and millions bits of memories. So much happens when filming and so memory memories build upon each other. In the end it feels like an epic journey and maybe that’s what it was.

So, namaste my dear western friends, I’m back. For a while. And for my eastern friends I can only say ‘pheri bethaula’.

Alice © 2012

December 10, Human Rights Day.

Within a few days it will be Saturday December the tenth. Traditionally that’s Human Rights Day. Promoted by the United Nations Human Rights Day is intended to let people think – if not more often than at least for that single day – about human rights issues. About how their governments work for human rights. Or how they do not.

This year the kickoff was given by Hillary Clinton at the United Nations in Geneva yesterday. A magnificent speech about LGBT (gay, bisexual and transgender) rights across the globe. It was a memorable and forceful speech in which she underlined the US devotion to human rights.

Of course she didn’t talk about the prisoners as Guantanamo Bay.

Tomorrow the European Committee in Brussels organizes a special day on human rights in South Asia. And I will participate although it’s only one day before my departure to Nepal, India and the Bhutanese refugee camps. Tomorrow I will listen to a speech by Miss Anuradha Koirala, an amazing women from Nepal who started the Maiti Nepal organization battling the trafficking of children and women from Nepal to India. She is very special, CNN hero of the year and an inspiration for me.

But I will not travel alone. There’s a whole group leaving from The Hague to Brussels. Including a committee from the Bhutanese community with the purpose of advocating the case of the Bhutanese exiles. I will join in, film the day and hopefully get the opportunity to advocate for setting up an international monitoring team in Nepal to report on problems, issues and progress of both the registration and resettlement processes of the Bhutanese refuges. I hope that this will prove to be another step to true advocacy for these people.

Alice © 2011

Uitgave nieuwe roman.

In de zomer van dit jaar schreef ik mijn eerste Engelstalige roman in de bergen vijfentwintig kilometer noordelijk van Kathmandu. Daar, in het kleine plaatsje Kakani van waaruit je over als slagroom soesjes op een zee van laveldel blauwe lucht drijvende witte toppen van de Himalaya uitkijkt. Na enkele weken was het boek dat zich in mijn hoofd gevormd had als manuscript klaar.

Het is maanden verder. De laatste loodjes van mijn laatste eigen redactie op het manuscript zijn zwaar. Zoals loodjes horen te zijn. Over enkele dagen vlieg ik weer naar Nepal en zal ik vanuit het vliegtuig Kakani kunnen zien liggen. Ik ga er vrienden zien en in de verloren momenten zal ik er de laatste hand leggen aan mijn eigen redactie van dit boek. Ik weet nu al dat er een paar passages ernstig veranderen. Zo moet het ook zijn. Je maakt iets tot op het punt dat je aanvankelijk denkt dat het klaar is maar dan laat je het rusten en rijpen. Na een tijdje buiten zicht gerezen te zijn blijkt het laagje deeg een luchtige volle cake geworden. En dan gaat die uit de vorm, wordt aangekleed en opgesierd. Klaar voor consumptie.

Dat aankleden en opsieren gebeurt in december. De laatste correctie door een Engelstalige redacteur ook. En wanneer dat allemaal is gebeurt wordt mijn nieuweling opgediend. In Nederland en in Nepal. Een synopsis:

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story, want zo heet ze, is een verhaal over een jonge vrouw die in haar vroege adolescentie vanuit een vluchtelingenkamp met haar familie migreert naar Nederland. In het kader van een third country resettlement programma van de Verenigde Naties. Eenmaal in Nederland begint de integratie in de Nederlandse samenleving. Een samenleving die wonderlijk is maar die met de openheid van een kind benaderd wordt. Maar ook een samenleving waarbinnen haar familie als een soort cocon in stand probeert te blijven. Laxmi verwijderd door haar jeugd en de contacten met leeftijdsgenoten zich van haar familie. Meer dan haar jongere broer met wie ze optrekt. Haar oudere broers werken vooral hard, haar ouders worstelen met hun identiteit in dit land dat niet biedt wat zij zo nodig hebben.
Voor Laxmi het Beldangi kamp in het Jhapa district in Nepal verliet had ze een vriendje: Jigme. Een mooie jongen van haar eigen leeftijd maar uit een lage kaste waar haar eigen familie in een hoge kaste leeft. Jigme werd getolereerd door haar ouders en broers en zusje. Eenmaal in Nederland echter blijkt dat Jigme naar Amerika gaat. Hij en Laxmi proberen contact te houden want de liefde is niet verdwenen. Laxmi’s ouders, vooral haar vader, willen dat er een einde komt aan de vriendschap tussen Laxmi en Jigme en vind een ander voor haar. Maar een gearrangeerd huwelijk is voor Laxmi vooral een gedwongen huwelijk en na een ruzie verlaat ze het huis en haar familie.
Enkele jaren later, Laxmi heeft dan een bloemenstalletje samen met een vriendin die ze van de inburgeringscursus kent, staat ineens Laxmi’s oom Suraj voor haar. Suraj leeft in Amerika en vraagt Laxmi haar vakantie bij zijn gezin door te brengen.
En al die tijd dat Laxmi in Nederland is denkt ze terug aan haar oude leven. Aan wat er in het kamp gebeurde, aan de mooie dingen maar ook aan de moeilijke en soms gruwelijke ervaringen uit de tijd dat ze een vluchteling was. Tot ze beseft dat de vlucht nog niet voorbij is.

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story komt in januari 2012 uit. De Nederlandse druk zal uitgegeven worden door WoordenStorm in samenwerking met de Empowerment Foundation in een beperkte oplage. De Nepalese druk wordt in Kathmandu uitgegeven later in 2012 en zal niet beschikbaar komen voor de Nederlandse markt. Het boek zal uitsluitend via internet te bestellen zijn. De opbrengsten van de verkoop van de roman komt geheel ten goede aan het werk van de Empowerment Foundation en meer speciaal aan het Headwind project dat bestaat uit de uitgifte van de roman, de productie van de documentaire film Headwind en de fototentoonstellingen. Headwind is een Empowerment Foundation project met als doel het vergroten van de bekendheid van het vluchtelingenvraagstuk van de Bhutaanse bevolking die in het begin van de negentiger jaren uit het zuiden van Bhutan is verdreven door hun koning en zijn leger.

~

Uitgave: 310 pagina’s middenformaat paperback met full color cover
Prijs: €18,95 inclusief BTW maar exclusief verzending
Distributie: via de auteur en de Empowerment Foundation (www.empowermentfoundation.nl)
Voorintekening: kan vanaf heden plaatsvinden door een email te sturen naar alice@empowermentfoundation.nl 

A Bhutanese story from the past. History re-told.

To my Bhutanese friends,

the (unedited) story below was penned down and published on an independent news website. It’s an untold story like many stories from the southern Bhutanese. It tells about the gross human rights violations that happened in the early nineties of the last century in Bhutan. The problem with stories like these is the absence of physical evidence so people can only base opinions on oral reporting of the events.
In Europe over the years projects were started to re-tell the stories of the people who have been oppressed and dislocated during the second world war. These project collected these stories and the basis was always recording first hand experiences told by the people themselves. It’s project like those that are continuously raising awareness of what happened and the threat of such situations in society.

Until now, the stories from the southern (and eastern) Bhutanese, have not been captured and saved for history.

But I am sure that just like the story below they have a function in society. They remind everyone of what has happened and might in the end even proof to be of great importance to find justice for the people who became victims of a derailed regime.
It is therefore that I republish this, and it is therefore that I seek confirmation of this story.
So, can anyone confirm this specific story. First hand? And has anyone stories like these? If so, please let me know because I would like to collect them, list them and republish them on a dedicated website so that history will not be forgotten and not be deformed by propaganda.

This idea for document unwritten history came to me because of the problems concerning registration of refugees in the camps and the hunger strike of the past few weeks by a brave group of women in the Beldangi camp. It occurred to me that if stories untold become stories unwritten history will become blurred and truth fades away.

Namaste,
Alice 

— from APFA Bhutan —

Reviewing Eviction Options – Historical Human Disaster

Previously published on 23 November 2011 at http://www.apfanews.com

By Santi Ram Poudel

Dorona is the most remote and backward ‘Gewog’ (block) of all the inhabited area of Dagapela that can be logically argued through the availability of goods and services both in terms of forward and backward linkages. It had a dispensary in a two roomed single floor house at Nimtoladara with the staffing of a compounder and local peon and other was the Extended Classroom (ECR) of Powgang Primary School at Tharphu with the provision of one full time teaching staff and a local temporary teacher. The ECR was three roomed shed with wild bamboo messed walls and the double-pitched roof freely standing at the mud floor.

None of the houses were ever served with the public utilities and other infrastructure services for public goods. Furthermore, the most embarrassing situation was that due to the lack of any public built spaces; the ‘Gup’(Mandal –popularly elected block representative) had to run the office from their respective private houses. And till 1992, none of the Gups had the formal education, and this was not the qualifying criterion for that representation. The central had looked this area with least priority both in terms of capacity building and infrastructure development. May be with this reason, people used an idiomatic way of rating the civil officers as ‘am not afraid of such a high profile chaprasis (forest guards) and why should I fear of Dzongda’(Chief District Officer). Such was the exposure of the people from this block who couldn’t distinguish the comparative level of a Dzongda to a forester.

Some Phenomenal Incidences
Firstly, the officiating Gup left the country to join the antinational movements on September 1990 thereby creating a type of void between the grassroots people and the administrative authority for the proper and accurate communication. Taking the advantage of vulnerability of people, the remoteness and guardian-less condition, some 4 unidentified men took control of then on duty compounder at the midnight of September 29th, 1990. The staff didn’t surrender them but was helpless. The outfits then set the dispensary on fire where the inferno destroyed everything, the facility and the structure to ashes. On the same night they abducted the health staff leaving his wife and children there at miserable condition hardly anyone there to take care of them. This was all the movement of Dorona block.

Later when the country’s situation was normalize after a month or so the authority accused the local inhabitants not only of Nimtola village but for every household of the gewog for their involvement and not acting as a true citizen of Pelden Drukpa. People tried their best to convince their innocence, the authority turned their deaf ears and ultimately compelled everyone to leave the country.

Nimtoladara Meeting
The then Dzongda Hisey Dorji of Dagana District called a meeting for the people of Dorona block on April 4th, 1991 to convey the message of HM to the people of the block and also to review some of the occurrences that took place during the southern uprisings. The meet was conducted to find out the peoples’ involvement in the uprising that was against the prevailing regulations and give the clean sheets to the people. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9.00 am but due to commuting problems it actually began at 10.00am.

The general public were asked to sit at the ground like an amphitheatre stage, the performers at the front and the audiences facing towards the authorities that comprised of the Dzongda, the security chief Maj. Chachu with his armed military team and other local government staff. Dzongda was the all in all speaker to address the meeting. He began using really harsh language to scold the people and at times using bad mouthing. He took out a typed letter from his gho pouch and showed to the people mentioning that the very letter has been sent by the king. He didn’t read the letter but referring the document began saying that king isn’t happy with the people of south and got really infuriated with the type of situation prevailing in this region. He told that the king was caring the southern people more and had undertaken many physical development to facelift this area in spite of many developmental challenges. But he began losing faith and trust towards you all. You all used a plate to eat the food and used that same tool to pass the excreta. He questioned to the people whether or not the royal family would ever use the facilities of the local area.

There was a pin drop silence; no one had the courage to break such timing due to two reasons, first- all the participants were 100% illiterate comprising of shepherds, cattle herders and mere farmers to understand and explain the authority and second the people from the gewog never committed such act and lacked the background knowledge and factual information. Then it was dzongda himself to break the ice and said that you people pretend. Again he asked the mass to provide with the names of people who were involved at torching the dispensary building. Again no one uttered a word.

He took out another hand written paper that contained the names of all the people of the Gewog and began to read the names and segregate the people into two groups; one group was the clean sheet category and other the black list, people who had hands for the physical destruction a type of indirect challenge to the king and country. There were just two people on the clean sheet category namely the man who provided the list and second was his father in law family where as rest of the people were totally grouped under black list. The list was secretly prepared by the ‘Gup’ through the help from the local clandestine individual, a kind of espionage and was based on the personal relation of such providers.

Again referring to the letter send by HM, he began briefing that king has opened three options to the black listed people and told that it was mandatory to choose the best options for each family and told that early the better. The options opened were:-

Eviction Options

  1. Leave the country immediately with no conditions.
  2. Serve the compulsory detention term of 13.5 years.
  3. Face the extermination of public shooting at Capital’s national stadium.

Each family from my ‘Geog’ (block) had to choose the best among the above three alternatives provided by the state administration through the local bodies. Each option were detailed and explained to make it clear so that the ordinary layman can understand and reach at decision.

For the 2nd options, it was mandatory for each and every individual who were black listed by the government and were over 18 years to serve the prescribed period. Had the people been interrogated and had chance to express their involvement or prove their innocence, it would have been fair to enlist but how rationale was it to rubberstamp the list provided by such miscreants.

Extermination threat was made more convincing through the justification of numbers of bullets per individual southern population and public announcement was made that RGOB had bought 10 bullets equivalent to each southern person very recently from India’s goodwill. And some examples relevant to such practice were highlighted naming Chabda, Mahasur and others and there could be similar fate for everyone and the people were threatened to take the matter seriously and give the prompt response.

For the first option, if people were interested to opt then government would immediately make the sufficient arrangement at the earliest possible. What people have to do was just submit in writing that the person would be leaving the country at own will. People also had to mention that they were not forced by any law enforcing authorities and need to sign it that would automatically convert into the legal documents.

People watched the government’s move for about one complete year with a hope that government will be little flexible and considerate enough on these options but the situation further ruined. There were no any indications of improvements and at each and every step there came a barrier at every mode of activity. Within the extremism there reached a critical stage where people began saying that it is worth to be sanity than to end the life. People can tolerate to certain degree and when the level crosses the bearing limit then it’s obvious to shift the position in regards to uncertainty. Sadly, at the end people were compelled to sign the eviction form preferring madness than facing unnatural human disaster. When the autocrats think in an ethnic superiority conditions with total dominating and hate feelings towards minority population then there could be chances that such exterminations would prevail in the broad daylight where history has shown many such lessons.

During the process of eviction, people need to submit and surrender all the testimonies in regards to Bhutanese identity, be it citizenship card, tax receipt or property registration certificate. It’s those documents that show the proof as Bhutanese and once such documents are seized then it is obvious to brand the people into different categories, call it by illegal immigrants, economic emigrants, homeless dwellers or people of nowhere.

Now can we term this entire phenomenal move to be at people own will or some externality compelled to leave from the place of birth and citizenry?

A letter from a friend about dying women.

Last night in the wee hours of the morning I received this letter from a dear friend. It explains why for some reason the hunger striking women in the Beldangi 2 camp are left on their own to die. It was send to a close friend of mine, me and one of the Bhutanese support foundations. I can only republish it so the world knows.

Dear Ram Daju and Others,

I am extremely sorry to inform you that condition of hunger strikers is getting pathetic day by day. Today is the 8th day ! They are struggling at the end of their lives, for which every Bhutanese needs to be sympathetic. Still, I am sad to read some emails from the seniors stating that it is baseless to express solidarity to them since most of them are Nepalese !!. I think, our objective should be to save their souls, and this is not the time to question if they are Bhutanese. The refugee community in camp expects a lot from the resettled folks, and such emails will create a different kind of scenario, and this must be seriously considered. The Government of Nepal and the UNHCR will decide who they are.

When we are taking about vulnerable children and their mothers, we need to have different kind of consideration. In my observation, if there are any Nepalis, they are women married to refugees. And, those who missed their registration are mostly the victims of Khosi disaster, which obstructed them to attend their given date of registration when the East-West Highway remained blocked for over four months. So, I feel we are not the authority to judge who they are. Personally, I have my brother, his Nepalese wife and two children, who have been living in camp since 1992. So, when we question of Bhutanese identity of remaining asylum seekers, we need to be careful. The resettlement has not end everything, the community should not be divided. When I am a genuine Bhutanese, so is my brother. And, marrying a Nepali wife at no ground should curtail my brother from getting his refugee status. I am sure, you will also support this explanation.

I have attached the details of the women in fast-unto-death and I am sure this document will explain to a greater extend if they are real Bhutanese or not. These people fulfill enough criteria to qualify them to stay in camps, managed and monitored by the GoN/UNHCR, and this is why they regard they must be given their refugee status, which a must to qualify for resettlement or repatriation. Otherwise, non-Bhutanese are never allowed to make their living inside the camps.

Ram daju, I received an email from the Punya Foundation that it has already initiated a signature campaign to press the authority to bring the hunger strike to an end logically, and basically to save the lives of agitating women. There are questions that the Foundation has taken the step beyond its capacity and reach. However, I feel every Bhutanese and his organization is morally bound to speak on behalf of fellow-citizens. Thus, the initiative should be considered positively. Or, can we bring any other organization in the front to speak on behalf of these people, who have decided to sacrifice their lives unless their demands are met? 

Dear seniors and friends, there are many things that we can do to save the lives of these women. We can jointly write a petition to Nepali Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai. We can also write to all members of the core-group and resettling countries so that they can press, through their respective embassies, the Nepali Ministry of Home Affairs to address the issue on time. We can lobby with the UNHCR’s Geneva-based HQ to grant ration and medical facilities to all asylum seekers on temporary basis (We should not forget that the UNHCR was distributing ration to everyone prior to the official census conducted between 2006-2008). Thus, there are many options that we can opt at this time, instead of blaming these helpless people. If we have supporting documents that majority of asylum seekers are Nepalese or Indians, I am sure we can ask the GoN/UNHCR to remove these people from the camp. I am sure that you must be aware that there are even new arrivals from Bhutan’s prison. Their wives and families have already been resettled. These people are alone in the camp, now. So, are they Bhutanese or Nepali?

And, the last option could also to start an initiative to fill the hungry stomachs. It is said, the number of pending asylum seekers are 3,700. Of this figure, some 1,600 have obtained their refugee ID cards. Thus, if we can feed remaining 2100 individuals for a month or two, the GoN/UNHCR will find ample time to exercise on their demands. This will be a small support and for short period but will definitely break the ongoing hunger strike.

Namaskar and regards,

Vidhyapati Mishra                             
Beldangi-II
Cell : 985-111-6975
Skype : vidhyapati
At this moment, the world shows no interest! Politicians and human rights advocates in the west do not respond to direct emails with only very few exceptions. Even the communities of refugees living in the western countries are to this day silent and do not take a public effort in building pressure to their governments or to Nepal and the UNHCR to end it all. At this moment the world is standing by and fifteen women are dying. In the following table details about these women is made available including reasons for not giving them refugee status:

I am sick of it all. Sick because of the way people are treated in this world and sick of the way the world just looks and stays silent and simply doesn’t seem to care.

Alice

Health situation of Bhutanese hunger strikers worsens.

UPDATE:
Today, November 21 I received information that 4 woman are currently being treated in the Damak AMDA hospital for low blood sugar. This is an indication of the rapidly deteriorating medical condition of them.

Also information was released that yesterday officials from human rights organizations and Nepal government visited the hunger strikers to persuade an end of the hunger strike. The women refused and told that they are still determined to continue their now over 150 hours long hunger strike, if necessary until death when their demands for granting them refugee status by the Nepalese government are not met.

Also today detailed information became available proving the unclear reasons for not granting a formal refugee status underlining the just cause the hunger strikers are fighting for. This information will be released if needed and is available at the Bhutan News Service and me.

Currently attempts are being made to gain further interest from the global Bhutanese community, human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, politicians, NGO’s, press and others through internet communication on Facebook and direct email.

When not familiar with the situation of the Bhutanese women who are on a hunger strike till death in the Beldangi 2 camp in Nepal, please read this.

The situation of the hunger strikers is worsening. Currently most of them are in bad physical condition, five of them have been hospitalized in the Beldangi 2 Health Care Center for observation. In the meanwhile there is no progress known concerning their legal status from the side of the Nepal government.

photos: courtesy of http://www.bhutannewsservice.com

When the situation does not change we have to fear that this hunger strike is going to end in a tragedy.

If you want to support the hunger strikers in their effort to get refugee status (and thereby the rights of the other refugees from Bhutan like health care, education, food and the possibility for third country resettlement), please write and email or letter to your member of parliament, the Nepal ambassador or consul or the Nepal government. Addresses are to be found through Google.

If you want to follow the developments in the Beldangi 2 camp hunger strike, visit www.bhutannewsservice.com. The following is a republication of their latest newsitem:

The Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB) has expressed worry over the deteriorating heath conditions of exiled Bhutanese women, who have been undergoing fast-unto-death since Tuesday. Issuing a press statement on Saturday, HUROB Chairperson S.B.Subba requested the Government of Nepal and UNHCR to consider the case and meet their demands at least on humanitarian ground once for all.

“It may be over stepping of the policy, the kind humanitarian gesture would be highly appreciated and the refugees will remain ever grateful,” said he.

According to the HUROB, such kindness from the concerned authority would relieve the non-registered Bhutanese refugees forever from their daily trepidation and psychological fear of insecurity of the future of their children and means of survival. Subba has warmed that if the problem is left unaddressed, there is fear of 3,749 refugees becoming stateless, and that will become a concern for the international community.

Meanwhile, the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee (BRRRC) has asked the Government of Nepal to end the ongoing hunger strike by fulfilling their demands on moral grounds. Issuing a press statement on Sunday, BRRRC Chair Dr Bhampa Rai said, demands put forwarded by hunger strikers must be immediately addressed considering the worsening health conditions.

Meanwhile, a group of rights defenders on Saturday requested protesting women to bring their hunger strike to an end. However, protestors said, they have decided to sacrifice their lives unless their demands are met.

For anyone who doubts the seriousness of the issue that these women and many local human rights workers raise, just look at this table from the UNHCR Nepal website. The table lists all Bhutanese refugees as being taken care for. Which is in reality something that is and should be challenged.

table: sourced by the UNHCR Nepal website

Alice