Ex hunger strikers demand real action on registration in Bhutanese refugee camps.

Note: this is a republication of a news item on bhutannewsservice.com from March 28th, 2012
Text by the  of Bhutan News Service.

A delegation led by a women group, which has been fighting for registration of all pending cases in the camps, met Chief District Officer (CDO) of Jhapa on Monday and pressed the district administration to resume registration at the earliest.

Durga Devi Bista, photo Eveline vd Putte, Headwind Production Team, december 2012

The group led by Durga Devi Bista called on the CDO as the deadline committed by the government in last November, assuring to resume the installed registration process within the next five month, would end by April.

“We were finally granted an audience after several attempts. We have requested the government through the chief of the district administration to address our demands at the earliest,” Bista told Bhutan News Service, after the meeting.

However, she expressed blues over not having any progress to address at their sufferings.

“We came to know that nothing has been done so far. It looks that the registration process might not begin within April,” added she.

Meanwhile, Bista also mentioned that the CDO even warned them not to operate agitation programs like fasting-to-death even if the government fails to address the issue within the deadline committed.

“It is too early to announce our programs if the government fails to meet the deadline. However, we will not sit idle simply waiting for another fake assurance.”

On a personal note: Durga wass interviewed for the Headwind documentary in December 2012 and we’ve met again last January. Currently an article is written supporting the demands of the women group and listing some of the current human rights issues in the Bhutanese refugeecamps. That article will be distributed to UNHCR, European Parliament and a number of human rights organizations.
When we talked extensively in December and January it became clear to us that the story of the unregistered is complex and that the women in this group are very, very brave and strong. We hope to be able to continue the advocacy of their just cases. These women have been lied to in the coarse of a number of year. The string of broken promises by the authorities is still getting longer. So please, spread this information. For more info please read he articles on this website concerning the hungerstrike last November.

Alice.

Advertenties

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

About media responsibility.

In January 2009, over two years ago now, I wrote a column about a television program in the Netherlands that disgusted me. The title ‘Family Matters’ (not the US comedy) hinted about the topic of the program. It was a reality tv show with an aid worker (experienced because he himself has been a drug addict for many years) who ‘helps’ families in their relationships and family ties. The method for that was cold turkey confrontation and tough. Which in every single show showed people brought to the limits of what they could take before improvement started. I doubted the program, the presenter and the results.

In December 2010 that same presenter got accused by some of his pupils for sexual harrassment and rape. The broadcasting company involved immediately cancelled the show and made the shortest press statement ever. After that they never talked about it. The program makers, director and producer and the production company, went dead silent on the issue at hand.

Some time ago Keith Bakker, the presenter confessed the sexual harrassment and the fact that he had sex with minors at the time the program was filmed in the Netherlands and Spain. He now states he was a sex addict at the time of recording. Which raises eyebrows and questions regarding the involvement of both the broadcasting company (NCRV, a protestant government subsidised broadcasting company) and the production company. Mind you, the shows are still online and can be watched at the public broadcasting viewing website ‘Uitzending Gemist’. Though Keith Bakker is not yet convicted it is clear that he is guilty of what he is accused of. He admitted to the accusations. So now we can all watch a criminal at work by surfing to this website: http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/640656

This is interesting from a media ethical perspective.

First of all I do not understand why the NCRV as a broadcasting company still has the old shows online. Knowing what is been admitted by Bakker it is now known that at least one of the girls in the shows recorded in Spain is in fact a victim of Keith Bakker who was – as he said so himself – acting as a sex addicted predator at the time of recording.

Secondly I do wonder how it is possible that the production team and production company were not aware of the abuse that was taking place under their very eyes. Some people in that team must have seen or heard things. Simply because in a reality tv show that is about very personal problems it is impossible to have sexual harrassment to go unnoticed. So where are these people now? Where is that production company? Well, the production company Strix Television, a Swedish company, is staying under the radar and keeping quiet about the ‘incidents’. They still, just like the NCRV, list the show on their websites. Where the NCRV made a press statement in December 2010, Strix has kept silent.

My conclusion of the behaviour of both the broadcasting company and production company is that when media organizations are being confronted with a disaster concerning their program, even if that disaster has social relevance, they simply try to back off as fast as possible and duck for any responsibility by bringing that show to the screen. Only recently the unlawful filming of hopital patients by another production company in the Netherlands resulted in the withdrawal of that program from the screen but is also resulting in a big financial claim by those companies to the hospital. How blunt can people be? But in the Family Matters case the program actually gave Keith Bakker the opportunity to act as predator on vulnerable young girls while the show was made. As he stated himself it was in that timeframe (2009 / 2010) that he had completely lost track and was in fact a sex addict. Obviously the screening and guidance by both the boradcasting company as the production company in regard to Keith Bakker have failed dramatically. With the side effect of young girls that were in a difficult position being harmed. No they will not face a judge but it would be a good thing if they at least would acknowledge responsibility for giving a platform to Keith Bakker to commit his crimes. Unknowingly at first and probably naive. But nevertheless, moral responsibiliy comes when starting the making of this kind of programs and does not end when the presenter goes to jail.

Because looking back at any of the shows it is impossible to hear Keith Bakker making statements that he is proud of his pupils and giving advice to youngsters, also on their sexuality, without being utterly disgusted.

Today, the district attorneys office will make public what punishment they require for Keith Bakker. The NCRV and Strix are not accused and are not requested to give statements on their facilitating role and poor judgement. That is for the public to decide.

Alice © 2012

Welcome visitor number 300.000!

Well well, today this site will see it’s 300.000 visit since I started it all. Thanks dear friends. And as I am at a Nepal conference today I have no time to post this at the exact right moment, but who cares. Anyway, this writer / director and professional human being is grateful for the support and continuous flow of readers over here. I love you guys and girls and please keep coming back.

Alice

For my fans, if any, just a little picture of me at my best and happiest in beautiful Sikkim not so long ago.

Movies That Matter.

If you haven’t been there, go there!

Movies That Matter is on in The Hague until next Wednesday when the party hit’s the theatre. And you better don’t miss it if you care for great filming, documentaries and human rights. All in an amazing mix. And next year there will be another Dutch film there as far as I am concerned.

That is also where my only criticism is to this wonderful cinematographic event. Too few Dutch films and too many films focussing on the Arabian Spring, the Middle East, North Africa and Iran / Iraq. As if there isn’t really happening much concerning human rights elsewhere on this beautifully godforsaken planet. Sure, there are films from other areas like China and elsewhere but it seems that the programming this year is a little too much influenced by the usual suspects. It is how it works, when there’s a hot spot on the globe you only have to wait for a year or so and all the film festivals get filled with documentaries about these regions. It would have been nice to see just a little more diversity.

Still, it’s a great little festival. One cinema and one theatre, being next door neighbours, showing great films from great film makers on topics that are important. In this time of Voice of Whateverland, X-Factor and all that crap it’s good, no essential, that festivals like these are there. Quite simply to keep the minds of the people in focus concerning the state of the world. Now that even my country, formerly a decent and social country, has become xenophobic and selfish (who the heel do they think they are that they have the right to even talk about cutting development aid funding) it is so clear to me that we need to grab the attention on what really matters in life. And that is not ecnomical crisis but that’s life itself. And where that is made impossible I can assure you people will loose dignity and decency. And when that happens it not religion but the arts that are the last straw for human values and human rights. Actually, looking at many films in the programma it is ever so clear that it is most of the time religion that is the cause of the problems.

So, do yourself a favor and go there. Watch some movies, talk to people. Get involved and when you’re at the flyer stand near the entry of the Filmhuis cinema, get yourself a Headwind flyer! If not this year, I hope to see you next year. In a seat watching my film.

Alice © 2012

Freedom of speech in a country in distress.

The Netherlands is a country in distress. A land with a population and a government and parliament who in general do not longer understand the basics of democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of demontration. Liberties that are the very foundation of the international acknowledged human rights and the part of the root of a free democracy.

Why do I make such a judgement?

Well, let’s bring forward two incidents involving Dutch members of parliament to illustrate why I write this.

Geert Wilders
(PVV member of parliament – allowed to initiate a discriminating website and backed by the prime minister)

A couple of weeks ago the right wing political party, Freedom Party or PVV, started an initiative by bringing a website online were anyone is requested to file complaints about specific groups in Dutch society. Focussing on Polish and Eastern Europeans as being the cause of raising criminality figures, stealing jobs from the Dutch and things like that. At least according to the opinion of that party. Of course a large number of decent Dutch and almost the whole European Union reponded in anger. Justly so. But the prime minister (from the Liberal party) simply refused to denounce that PVV initiative. Even when urged to do so by almost all non PVV politicians in the Netherlands and many others in Europe. The effect of that of course is the démasqué of the Netherlands as a tolerant and non discriminating country. Simply because a political party that is supporting the minority Liberal-Christian Democrat government is allowed to discriminate and the prime minister backs that.

Somehow in this case some people lost focus on the value of freedom of speech as they seem to interpret that as the freedom to insult and discriminate. And some other politicians do not even want to stay away from that. Making this incident the ultimate devaluation of the universal right to freedom of speech. Thank you Mr. Wilders for helping to make this disgusting political attitude clear by initiating that flatout discriminating website that is still active to the disgrace of the Netherlands.

Sharon Gesthuizen
(Socialist Party member of parliament – arrested for protesting peaceful while carrying a coffin)

Today there was another incident. A Dutch member of parliament and Socialist Party was arrested during a public protest against the bad ecnomic policy of the Dutch postal service. The arrest was made by the police because she did not adhere to previously ‘agreed’ rules for that protest. Thing is that the police makes rules and simply does not accept that these rules are broken, even non violently. What did happen during that protest? Well, the deal was that it was to be held in a specific location in front of the parliament building and that the protestors were not allowed to bring a coffin with them during that protest. Reason for that being that the police finds carrying a coffin in a protest on the same day as the funeral of the children victims of a terrible bus accident is being held in Belgium, our neighbouring country, indecent.

This is interesting as in this case the police seems to be judging the way protesters (non violently) protest. Not based on the law but on the police’s opinion on what is decent. Something that is most certainly not in the capacity of the police to do. There is no legal basis for that and only in ‘police states‘ where democracy is not the basis the police force does things like that. The arrest was explicitly made for that reason according to the police spokes person. Now, of course it is not very sensitive of the protestors and this member of parliament in regard to the feelings of the victims of that bus accident and their relatives. But on the other hand this protest had absolutely nothing to do with that. The reaon for protesting was something completely different and the location of the protest in our country. So the police doesn’t allow a protest because of a memorial service in another country.
By all means this is a crazy thing. The police actually is limiting the freedom of speech and arresting a member of parliament without a legal basis. Therefore the police is breaching the democratic foundation and rules of this country.

So the simple conclusion is that right wing politicians have the liberty to openly insult and discriminate against groups in the Dutch society and even make an openly call for action to the population to do the same. Left wing politicians on the other hand who protest against an anti-social policy of a large company are arrested because of carrying harmles (though possibly shocking) objects in a peaceful protest are arrested by the police and held in custody for five hours.
Connecting these two incidents is a good example of the current state of democracy and freedom in the Netherlands. That state can be comprised into one four words long sentence:

Gone  – down – the – drain.

The Netherlands is a country in distress. Democracy is translated in the freedom to insult and dicriminate, vulnerable people, the arts, education, health care, public transport and many other important areas of society are being abolished and opposition is being silenced by the police on vague and unlawful grounds. But does anyone in parliament see this reality? Do the people see this? Does anyone get worried? Does anyone do anything against this moral downfall?

Alice © 2012

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

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

Ying, yang and gender recognition in the Netherlands.

It’s another day like that… life swinging from sad to happy to sad to happy…

Today I learned that my income has decreased to an unmanageable level. Ruining many of the plans I have or at least making my life much more difficult. That, of course makes me sad. The good thing being that it also makes me angry about the dire situation I have been driven into. Well, I have a roof over my head and food to eat for most of the days. But that’s it. Still, it’s good enough for now.

The good news of today came from the government. The government? Yes! The government.

After many years of hardship the government decided to finalize the draft of the gender recognition act and have it send to the State Council for evaluation. When they agree, and let’s hope and pray they do so, a new law will finally replace the current law that is breaching a number of articles of the international Human Rights. The new law brings these changes once agreed by the parliament (let’s hope this time the government doesn’t fall before the law is brought to parliament):

  • a person can change legal gender without surgery (not applicable for me)
  • a person does not have to be sterilized as an effect of fore mentioned surgery (an old inhumane demand)
  • a person does not need to go to court to get that done. And experts statement suffices (I have that of course)
  • a person can just go to the municipality to have the changes made (which is a lot more affordable)

These four changes take away the barrier for me to get my legal status changed. I have been refusing that change because of the existence of that law and the effect of that on people like me. That law has ruined lives and part of my life. It is still an inhumane law that should never have existed and although it seems that it is being abolished at last it is a bloody disgrace that it has existed and politics has allowed it to exist for so long.

Anyway, in spite of the personal hardship I have to go through these days, this is great news. I have no idea how long the procedure at the State Council will take and how long it will take to push this law through parliament but I welcome the progress, I do not however expect that this will come in effect before 2013 due to normal legislative procedures in the Netherlands. Especially as the government seems to have listened to the arguments of organizations and people like me who responded to their call for feedback some time ago. The greatest disadvantages of the proposal that was at hand at that time have been jotted out. A good thing and worth a compliment.

So, and this is quite a unique thing for me to do, I call for a big hand of well meant applause for Minister Teeven and his people who are changing the world for transgenders in the Netherlands and for me personally for the better!

Alice © 2012

Here’s the Dutch language press statement from the government:

Kabinet wil meer erkenning voor transgenders

Persbericht | 02-03-2012

Mensen die transgender zijn, kunnen gemakkelijker de vermelding van het geslacht op hun geboorteakte laten wijzigen.

Zij hoeven niet langer eerst een operatie of een behandeling met hormonen te ondergaan om hun lichaam aan te passen aan het geslacht dat zij wensen. Ook vervalt de zogenoemde sterilisatie-eis. Die bepaalt dat transgenders onvruchtbaar moeten zijn, voordat de geboorteakte kan veranderen. Dit staat in een wetsvoorstel van staatssecretaris Teeven van Veiligheid en Justitie waarmee de ministerraad heeft ingestemd.

In de toekomst is het voldoende als een deskundige vaststelt dat de overtuiging van een transgender persoon blijvend van aard is. Met die verklaring kan de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand de vermelding van het geslacht in de akte van de geboorte wijzigen. Voor mensen die lichamelijk man of vrouw zijn, maar die er diep naar verlangen een persoon van het andere geslacht te zijn, betekent het schrappen van de vereisten van onvruchtbaarheid en van fysieke aanpassing aan het verlangde geslacht een ruimere erkenning van hun genderidentiteit. Verandering van het  geslacht in de geboorteakte werkt door in allerlei overheidsadministraties, zoals het GBA. Dat heeft gevolgen voor het paspoort,  andere reisdocumenten en school- en universiteitsdiploma’s.

Het kabinet verwacht dat transgender mensen beter in de samenleving zullen functioneren omdat belemmeringen worden weggenomen. Daarnaast hebben verschillende instanties als Human Rights Watch, het Comité van Ministers van de Raad van Europa en de Mensenrechtencommissaris van de Raad van Europa voor de aanpassing geijverd. Internationaal is steeds meer het inzicht gegroeid dat wettelijke erkenning van de genderidentiteit van een persoon niet afhankelijk moet zijn van eisen als geslachtsoperaties of hormonale behandeling. Nederland sluit zich daarbij aan.

De ministerraad heeft ermee ingestemd het wetsvoorstel voor advies aan de Raad van State te zenden. De tekst van het wetsvoorstel en van het advies van de Raad van State worden openbaar bij indiening bij de Tweede Kamer.

Big spending ministers in the Dutch cabinet.

So this is what the declarations of some of the Dutch cabinet ministers sum up to in the first year of their government.
The year in which they started on one of the harshest economic policies pushing on minimal earners in my country.

And these are only the declarations of their bills for food, lodging, apartments, furniture and such excluding their wages!
These governmanet officials are party members of the Christian Hypocrits and Liberal Robbers. Now, who was saying that the Netherlands is on of the least corrupt nations on the globe?

1. Minister of Defence Uri Rosenthal (Liberals) €325,000

2. Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs Ben Knapen (Christian Democrats) €210,000

3. Minister de Jager (Christian Democrats) €181,000

4. Minister Verhagen (Christian Democrats) €139,000

5. Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Liberals) €102,000

6. Minister of Agriculture Henk Bleker (Christian Democrats) €97,000

Total of the top 6 in their first year of robbing the nation: €1,054,000 on declarations only!

* Information from RTL News.

Alice © 2012

 

 

The Artist… what a movie!

Rightfully the Oscars this year went to a film about the magic of movie, the amazing personal lives of actors from a past movie-era. In black and white and without speech. A black and white silent movie in 2012. What a great thing! I totally love it ‘The Artist‘.

This is the very definition of what ‘Less is More’ really can be artistically.

Go watch it when it’s where it belongs: in the cinema. Not on a tv screen or a computer, but on the big screen!

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

Badlands Netherlands.

It might be so that in western Europe we have trouble with the economy, but that’s not so special when seen on a global scale. And it might be so that we in western Europe have problems with people from outside our countries who come here to get a better deal than in their own country because there’s it’s worse. And it might very well be so that in my country, the Netherlands, there are thousands of Polish, Rumanian, Bulgarian and other eastern Europeans pushing on employment and by doing so make life more difficult for many Dutch born citizens. And it can also be that in politics people think they should protect their country and society.

But that doesn’t mean that it is anyway halfway humane or decent to set aside groups of people in our society as criminals and outlaws whose only goal is to be a pain in the ass of the ‘better part’ of society. It certainly doesn’t mean that a political party should be allowed to setup a hatred driven website where people can complain anonymously about Polish people and other easter Europeans who live and work in our country. And above all it is a travesty of decency that thesame politcal party does so while hiding behind freedom of speech and opinion. Because when that freedom means limiting the freedom of others it is not about freedom anymore but about discrimination.

In my country there’s a rights wing xenophobic and islamophobic political party led by Geert Wilders, a parlementarian from the south of the country, that does all of the above. The Freedom Party (PVV) set aside foreigners by habit. After continuously attacking Islamists they have now found another group to target: eastern Europeans working and living in the Netherlands. The PVV threw a website online where one can anonymously complain about foreigners from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Specifically targeting these groups as the groups that they feel are bringing all kinds of social problems, criminality and upheavel in our society. It’s an openly hostile act against many people in our society who are part of ethnic groups that have migrated to our country out of economic motives.

No matter how much truth there is in the complaints about for instance Moroccan youth or Polish workers and Bulgarian and Rumanians, it is simply unaccetable that such a hostile website is online.

Of course the judicial system has decided that the front man of that PVV party is free to state what he wants to state about specific groups in society. And of course there are problems with specific groups in society, but setting these groups aside and labelling them as troublemakers and criminals is short sighted and an unbelievable act of political indecency. Actually: it’s barbaric. The fact that this PVV party is allowed to play such an important role in Dutch politics is a shame on the Netherlands. It’s disgraceful to see that in my country people are treated the way they are by this PVV party. It’s shameful that politics and laws have no answer to this party of hatred. It’ disgusting to realize that thesame political parties that seem to oppose too much control on the internet doe not act firmly against that one political party that has lost all sense of decency. It’s degrading for the Dutch society as a whole that this party of xenophobic lunatics are even being listened to. It’s absolutely terrible to realize that because of this idiotic politics the Dutch society has transfomed itself in a selfish and xenophobic hostile society that rather allows crazy people to discriminate others than to defend the ones who are being set aside unjustly.

But that’s how it is today. The Netherlands has lost it’s innocence. It is not anymore a country that puts freedom for all at the top and that defendes the rights of any human being equally. Over the past few years this country has changed into a country where many don’t want to part of anymore. Including myself. I am disgusted of the politics and general mood in this society, I am sick of the selfishness and xenophobia and I am tired of the media who jump on every statements or action from crazy politicians. This country makes me somber and sick and has become for me a country to be ashamed of and not a country to be proud to be a citizin of. The Netherlands has become a sad country with a dark shadow hanging over it. A shadow of selfishnes, fear and xenophobia. A country where somehow many voters seem to want that, a country that has lost it’s status as a guiding nation, a safe haven for the vulnarable and a tolerant country and has turned into a place where decent people shouldn’t want to live. I for one do not. I do not see this country as my homeland, because it isn’t anymore. I have not changed but the country around me has changed into a filthy place poisened by hate. Hate brought by crazy politicians and strengthened by media who are only interested in the number of viewers everyday.

My biggest desire has become to leave this country that has become so mindless and short sightened as soon as possible. And if needed for good. I have lost hope that the Netherlands will ever become the beautiful country it once was. Because the people simply do not see nor understand what has become of their country. I for one am deeply ashamed of my country for it has changed into something that I can and will not relate to anymore. A xenophobic country ruled by populistic disturbed people and a prime minister who doesn’t have the decency to stop the nonsense and just says that he is not going to give any comments. How degrading!

Alice © 2012

How ‘Green Left’ sold it’s soul.

Green Left‘ is in the Netherlands the name for a political party that focusses on environmental issues, human rights and honest and social politics. It’s a traditional merger party of leftish political parties who on their own were too small to be significant in Dutch politics.

I like the ideas of that party.

But sometime ago, after years of growth and with a strong and relatively popular political leader (Femke Halsema), things changed. It all started when after the fall of the previous cabinet the party seemed unable to join into a coalition government to at last take government responsibility. Not much later the poitical leader retreated and a new leader was chosen. Jolanda Sap, trained by her predecessor, stepped into the politcal arena. And fell flat on her face quickly.

Three topics made her break down: the continuous upheavel of that strange right wing fascist like party PVV that somehow became stronger and stronger and even got government responsibility as a cabinet ‘supporting’ party, thereby making a minority central/right wing coalition possible. Sap and her party still haven’t found a good answer to that disaster. And the second thing is that it is impossible to buy popularity by using populistic approaches if you’re not build for it. An overacted scene in the parliament made Sap look like a juvenile fool playing out a misplaced and bad acted plug pulling metaphore.

But mayde the most difficult topic was the half hearted support of an armed mission to train police forces in the province of Kunduz in Afghanistan. After all, the Green Left is by all means and purposes an anti militaristic party. If not in policy than at least in it’s membership demography. But political forwardness forced the party in an uneasy support of that policing mission that the Dutch government wanted to see (in support of the US effort on getting control of the Afghan and Iraq crises). The Green Left in 2011 supported a militaristic armed mission in Afghanistan although a lot of their followers are appaled by that.

Today the party committed political suicide.

At the party’s congress today that same Kunduz mission was scrutinized and in the end a vote was taken on prelonging that mission. And although many party members were against it, the elected parliamentarians were in favor of it. For political reasons. And they won, after debates the party members at the congress meeting supported their parliamentarians in their choice not to demand the government to bail out of that supposed to be non violent, non fighting policing mission. Because doing otherwise mide split the party. But in reality that split is already there and some important party members have already left for better grounds.

And the party’s credibility flew right out of the window. It sold it’s soul to the devil (last year), but the devil came back for more so it just did it again. And so, Green Left in the Netherlands is in reality nothing else than a government supporting week opposition party without a backbone. Sometimes straight forward politics is more difficult in the Dutch parliament than in the European Parliament or so it seems.

Alice © 2012

Public Transport in the Netherlands or how something good turns evil…

I live in the Netherlands and in the city of The Hague. That’s where the government seats. A beautiful centuries old city with wonderful sights and a generally peaceful atmosphere. The City of International Justice too as the United Nations has vested their International Court in it. The Hague is a proud if not sometimes pedant city. A typical western European government city. Not the capitol of my country as that is reserved for Amsterdam but still quite important.

And like any of these type of cities, The Hague has public transport. Buses and trams. Actually it has a fairly modern public transport system albeit somewhat expensive for the travelers. But it does operate quite well and most people seem satisfied with the performance of the HTM, the Haguean Tram Company or whatever name it would have in English. An old company too. Since a couple of years The Hague is like other cities in the Netherlands, actually like most of the country, blessed with the ‘OV chipcard‘ system, the Public Transport Chip Card that facilitates travelers in fast and easy payment of their journeys. Like a pre paid phone card it works on a balance that can be placed on the card’s account, which basically is some sort of dedicated credit card. And the system works. Most of the time that is.

Now, introducing the ‘OV’ system has taken years and years and many political discussions on government and city levels. But it’s there now and there is no escape from it. Or is there?

Some years ago the HTM, the local public transport company, acquired new railcars for the newly made metropolitan lines 3 and 4 that run in The Hague and between The Hague and Zoetermeer, a phorensic town just outside of The Hague. Nice modern railcars with much more comfort thant the old ones that are running in the streets for some decades. Although the first few years of this new model railcar were not exactly easy it now is a quite reliabel tramway. But not for the chipcard system that has been implemented in the railcars in the past few years.

First of all it took a couple of years fo dual ticketing systems on the line 3 and 4 because on government level the chipcard system was not agreed resulting in tramcars running with chipcard readers installed that were switched off. Only after some three years and numorous political discussions and technical drawbacks like hackable chipcards the system finally was switched on sometime ago.

The Dutch Way.

Meaning that the old system was abandoned after some months and the travelers are since then expected to use the chipcards exclusively. No card sales in the railcars except from a ticketing machine. A ticketing machine that – although German built – continuously malfunctioned. Until this day. Actually in the first year the chances of a working ticketing machine against a non working were about 50:50 according to emperical research by the author. It saved me quite a lot of money because when the machines don’t work and tickets can not be bought otherwise, whow would be so stupid to have a chipcard on him er her. Well, not me, that’s for sure.

So I had a lot of free travels thanks to the crappy system.

Until I went to Nepal for sometime and after the first journey noticed a major change. The coint slots of the ticketing machines were barred by an aluminium strip rendering them inoperable. Only paying by Chipknip (a digital wallet in the form of yet another chipcard) was allowed since then. The good news ofcourse being that most of the machines didn’t work anyway so I continued to happily travel for free. And when checked and the conductors noticed a broken ticketing machine everybody simply had a lucky day.

Then I went to Nepal again.

When I returned for the second time another thing was changed. Now there was another aluminium plate glued to the front of the machine. With words on it. In English translation it read the following:

‘When this machine is not working or you don’t have a Chipknip with you, a valid transport ticket remains obligatory.’

Wow. I almost immediately realized that this message means that when you don’t have public transport chipcard with enough balance with but do have cash and a chipknip for digital payment while one of these damned machines broke down you are liable for a heavy fine. The logic in that completely went beyond me.

A public transport company that doesn’t facilitate buying transport tickets because they blocked cash payment and there’s no conductor on a tram and that has inoperative icketing machines actually thinks that they can fine travelers who in such a case continue traveling?
First of all one can only discover this situation after entering the railcar which by the time you find out that it’s imposible to obtain a ticket has already start moving will automatically make your journey illegal and there is no way you can get out of a moving railcar.
Second it also means that if you succeed in escaping your illegal journey at the next stop it means that you have to wait until the next railcar hoping that it has a working ticketing machine on board, which it in about 50% of the cases won’t and therefore bring you in thesame situation as before.
Thirdly it means that some travelers can by no means pay for a ticket even if they wanted too.

Obviously this situation is hilarious to say the least but the real problem started when the transport company actually ordered their staff to fine the purpetrators who they might catch in such a situation. The transport and chipcard system obviously had some trouble with mental derailment. It took a while and some quarrels in the trams between travelers with good intentions but without valid tickets and conductors with weird instructions, before local politics stepped in. So just recently the mayor of the city together with the responsbible city council members asked the transport company what the fuck they were doing? Not in those words I expect, but the answer did come in the end.

In the letter of which a relevant part is shown here the public transport company first of all downplays the problem by stating that the machine are most of the times working albeit that they have no figures on the number of malfunctions. Then they come with this great alternative. When a situation as described occurs the traveler is supposed to attack – in a friendly manner – any conductor entering the tramcar and force these to accept cash payment for their journay against th eminimum rate of €2.50.

Brilliant. So in essence nothing changed because that was how it always has been before exceot that these conductors no longer need to fine anyone willing to pay a normal minimum fare.

And so, the transport system and it’s latest innovation once again showed a typical Dutch approach: don’t fic the problem but just organize yourself around it…

Alice © 2012