Thatcher

thatcher funeral

I have never been a supporter of Margaret Thatcher. I fact I opposed her policies on the de-industrialisation of the UK, trade, economics and also her foreign policies. I am a pacifist, she most certainly was not. I did not like her dealings with the Falklands although I do think that those islands should stay British.

But there is no doubt Britain would be like it is today without her reign as prime minister. And there certainly is no doubt about the quality of British tradition and the British sense of dignity and decorum as shown today.

Today I watched the funeral of Thatcher with growing admiration for what the British can do and how they adhere to their traditions. The whole day has been a proof of how a state funeral, albeit not a formal state funeral, should be organized and executed. Every little detail had been taken care of, no flaws in concentration of anyone involved in this very special occasion. The funeral was a hallmark example of British pride and military strength.

The whole funeral showed how (most of) the British honoured a leader who without any doubt was responsible for the resurrection of Britain.

When I visited the UK in the 1980’s on a very frequent basis it was a nation in decline. Unemployment, lack of interest for the historical value of it’s culture, the constant threat of terrorism and an overall feeling of nationwide depression were omnipresent. But when I returned to London this year after decades of absence I was surprised to find a clean and proud city, people who were open and welcoming and monuments, buildings and a city that looked better and more impressive than ever. The contrast between London in the eighties and today were remarkable and impressive.

Today’s funeral underlined this new quality of that country.

I still do not approve of many aspects of Thatcher’s politics. But I do feel that today’s funeral was appropriate and fitting for a woman of her stature and strenght. Because no matter what anyone might think or say, she certainly was a remarkable and impressive prime minister. A woman of great strength. The only disturbance of the occasion was the lack of control of those who protested against her even after her death. They shouldn’t have done so.

© 2013 Alice Anna

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Why does Jack own a gun?

About a week ago kids were shot in a school in the US. The after effect is a discussion about gun laws. The main argument used by gun owners and the NRA (National Rifle Association) being that everyone has the right to protect him- or herself and their property. It’s the second amendment of the US constitution. Written when cowboys rode the plains of America to steal land from the native Americans, made when guns where needed for the creation of a nation.

Jack lives on Davenport Avenue in Westchester County, New Rochelle, New York City. It’s a quiet neighborhood. The crime rate is low, the apartments look nice and the cars in the streets are average from cheap to middle class. Jack might very be your run of the mill Mr. Average living in the block next to you. Your friendly neighbor. I really don’t know Jack, no idea how he looks like, no idea how he makes a living. However, I do know where he lives. I even know the exact address, according to his gun permit.

Jack

The Journal News published that information together with names and addresses of another 44,000 gun owners in the Westchester County and adjacent Rockland and Putnam Counties. One in every 23 adults, carrying a gun. Most of them are male. They did so by claiming the right to that information on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act, another basic citizens right in the US. Gun owners of course are angry as a result. This column is not about wether they should or should not have published the map. Obviously there’s a risk in that piblication as it drills down to names and addressess, something I find hard to support. But, it’s out there now and no one can deny it’s reality. Gun owners of course went bazurk over the publication and en masse condemned The Journal News for doing so. On the other hand, it only proves that there are so many guns in that area. And as it is an average community out there, one can be sure things are in fact much, much worse on a national scale. Mind, these are the registered gun owners, not the unregistered and it doesn’t even tell  how many guns are owned by a specific person. The number of guns will abviously be way more than 44,000.

As the map shows the area is absolutely overcrowded with gun owners. Most of them are according to the NRA and a lot of (mostly Republican) politicians ‘decent and responsible citizens’. Who shoot guns. Most of them. The map only shows the pistol owners. Not the ones owning Bushmaster semi automatics or rifles. The map would become unreadable if it did.

gunmap

Anyhow, Jack owns a gun. No idea also what gun and what for. But as Jack is Mr. Average, it might very well be for the purpose of self protection and protection of his property. He might think he needs a gun to do so. But does he? Thing is, he would probably, if it was true that he or his relatives, friends or property are under threat. According to US laws that is. But are they? Is it that dangerous to live in the part of New York where Jack lives? Is the crime rate so alarming there? By the way, this is how Jack’s street looks like. Just an ordinary street in an ordinary neighborhood. Doesn’t seem that there is much happening out there.

Davenport

There’s more information available on the area he lives in. Like on Spotcrime.com, a website showing details of crimes committed anywhere in the US. It also shows the crimes committed in Jack’s neighborhood. In the last three months one crime was registered. An assault resulting from a dispute. Two blocks away. Apart from that nothing happened in the area where Jack lives. No burglaries, no muggins, rapes or killings, nothing. But Jack still owns a gun. Like at least 5 others in his street and over a dozen in the adjacent blocks. Probably all for their safety because there is no way that all of them are sports shooters or hunters or anything like that. They are just Misters Average and Mistresses Average.

ruzie

So why, if for the past three months the only scary thing that happened in Jack’s street was a dispute, does Jack have a gun, a pistol to be exact? Maybe in a drawer in his bedroom, or a cabinet. Maybe in his pocket when you’re having a coffee at the nearby diner.

Or in the café a little bit more further away.

When he gets drunk for no reason.

And gets into a fight with you.

Pulls his gun.

And shoots.

Kills you.

Why does Jack own a gun?

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Note: Jack exists, he really lives there and if you would search for it you would find out exactly where. Not that it matters because Jack is just one of these tens of thousands of gun owners I picked from the map published by the Journal News. Jack could just as well have been Jill or Bill or one of his neighbors Rodney, James, Robert, Salvatore or Thomas. Sorry Jack, it had to be you. I’m sure you’re a decent guy. With a gun.

Is UNHCR creating malnutrition in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal?

A few days ago a letter was written by important members of the Bhutanese refugee community in Nepal to the UNHCR in that country. The letter is a request to discuss maltreatment by the UNHCR regarding the refugees they are supposed to take care of.

What is happening?

Since the early 1990’s the UNHCR has managed and maintained a number of refugee camps in the southeast of Nepal (more exact, in the Jhapa and Morang districts). At its height there were over 107.000 refugees listed in those camps. Since 2008 the UNHCR has started the by far largest third country resettlement program ever aiming at completely solving the decades long refugee crisis of the Bhutanese who exiled from their Shangri-La like country in the Himalayas.

unhcr

The UNHCR has done a tremendous job in guarding peace in those camps while at the same time bringing essential humanitarian aid the the inhabitants. Nepal (just like India and Bhutan) never signed the UN refugee treaty so the UNHCR has been working there on a UN mandate. They have been partnering with AMDA (Asian Medical Doctors Association) for health care, Caritas for education, Lutheran World Federation for camp management and monitoring and the WFP World Food Program for food distribution to the camp communities that have no other means of existence.

But things have changed. The aim of the UNHCR in Nepal seems to have shifted in the past few years from caring for the refugees who livin in limbo in the camps to bringing a durable solution to their situation by third country resettlement. According to the international morale of refugees the people should repatriate but that has obviously proven to be an impossible dream as Bhutan, the country of Gross National Happiness, has been frustrating talks and efforts for that ever since the crisis started in 1991. Assimilation in the Nepalese and Indian society is also a no go as Nepal and India do not accept that (the lack the resources to do that on a humanitarian responsible manner), hence the durable solution of the UNHCR: resettling to the west.

This resettlement project is well underway with almost two thirds of the refugees already resettled to mainly the US and countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway Denmark, Netherlands and the UK. But there are fears that not all refugees will resettle. After all it is an opt-in project and not all refugees desire a life in a completely alien western society ultimately losing their history, religion and way of life in due time. Some 10,000 refugees have not opterd for resettlement. Let alone the other more than 4,000* refugees that have not been registered as refugees for a variety of reasons. They do however live in those camps without food, healthcare and proper housing. (* The number is based on a headcount by camp management in 2011 and has decreased to a yet unknown figure.)

So something needs to happen. Recently the UNHCR has announced that they can no longer provide vegetables to the refugees, taking out an important element in their diet which is by no means extensive. The effects of not supplying vegetables as of January 2013 will no doubt be deteriorating health of the camps population in the coming years. The reason the UNHCR has given is that they lack a proper budget for this essential food. Which is very strange as the European Union has provided for a over 3 Million Euro budget for the UNHCR for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, continuing the financing of the UNHCR’s operation in regard to those camps. So what is happening?

According to the Beldangi camp secretary, Dhan Bir Subba, (Beldangi is the largest of the two remaining camps) the UN has informed them that the budget is redistributed by the UNHCR to other refugee crisis areas in the world. Basically stating that they simply do no longer see a priority in maintaining proper support to the Bhutanese refugees still living in the camps in Nepal. Which of course is an extra push to get the refugees to the point that they will opt for resettlement. So is this argument used by the UNHCR just a trick to reach a ‘durable solution’ by increasing pressure on the refugee community to resettle completely? And if so, is that ethical?

According to Subba the UNHCR has declared that they have no other option than to decrease the available budget for the Bhutanese exiles in the camps, a ‘Hopson’s choice’ so to speak. The UNHCR has also declared that they will distribute vegetable seeds as an alternative, but as the remaining camps are heavily populated, the availability of enough land to grow crops is a question that remains. The UNHCR seems to have suggested to use the empty huts of resettlers for that purpose.

The chairman of the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee, Dr Bhampa Rai, who I have het the privilige to interview a number of times concerning the situation of the refugees, has condemned the UNHCR decision. And by all means, the timeline between announcing and stopping vegetable distribution is just over a month, making it impossible for the refugees to grow enough crops for a healthy nutrition, seems irresponsible.

“The decision has created doubts on UNHCR’s intention towards refugees. How can those who themselves survive on delicious vegetables on daily basis decide to stop the supply of the same items for us,” Dr Rai said according to the Bhutan News Service.

The question that this raises is wether the UNHCR is now going to a stage in promoting resettlement to the refugees by disregarding basic human rights like proper nutrition. And that is not all. The Bhutanese refugees feel that they are pressurized by the UNHCR to resettle, which means that they doubt wether they really have a free choince NOT to resettle but continue hoping for repatriation to their motherland.

Apart from the other issues mentioned in the request written by major community leaders to the UNHCR (see the attached letter), the nutrition issue is a very serious decline in the basic care for the refugees and frustrates the mandate of the UNHCR itself. The monthly supply of (only) 500 grams of season vegetables is ending this month. The diet of refugees in the camps will lack one of its important components and is for health reasons undesireable.

It is worrying that the UNHCR is also forbidding the refugee leaders to bring their complaints to the VIP’s who visit the camps. From personal experience working as a journalist in the camps I do know that some issues (like the large numner of unregistered refugees, the deteriorating education in the camps and the mounting crime like identity fraud and even institutionalized fraud) are being kept under the radar. Freedom of press and freedom of speech are just as much at stake as the basic human rights of the camp population. ‘Thou shalt not report negative’ is an adagium in this unmonitored situation.

LETTER-TO-UNHCR

It seems that the UNHCR is building pressure to end the Bhutanese refugee crisis and is not stepping away from methods that should be doubted and discussed on an international level and especially at the European Union, being the main financier of the UNHCR in Nepal.

In the meanwhile malnutrition is something that the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal should fear. The reality of life in the UNHCR managed refugee camps in Nepal is that things are not at all nice and dandy and in fact seem to become worse. But will the international community respond to that?

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The Floriade exhibition and Bhutan part 2.

An update.

Today we had a conversation with one of the people responsible for bringing Bhutan to the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo, the Netherlands this year. Next Sunday that expo will come to an end to return in ten years or so. As some (but not enough) people know is Bhutan the country with the largest number of refugees through ethnic cleansing per capita worldwide. On September 22nd the Floriade held a Bhutan Day focussing on the contribution of Bhutan to the world with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness and the countries rigid but nature friendly eco policies.

Bhutan House of Happiness:
“Happiness often sneaks in through a door, you didn’t know you left open.”
And so do human rights violators.

Main guest of that day was Mr. Dago Tshering, special envoy for the Bhutanese prime minister Jigme Thinley and the one responsible for the ukaze that started off the ethnic cleansing and many of the repressive policies behind that. A man with blood on his hands.

Our conversation was meant to get an answer to some questions concerning the organizers for Bhutan’s Floriade precence comments on the fact that they hosted one of the worst ethnic cleansers who is because of that in the eyes of many a de facto criminal.

We got our answer.

The organizers state that they are not in any way making any statement that they label as ‘political’. This means that they do not have any comments regarding the above and will not distance themselves from the presence of Bhutan and Bhutan’s special envoy of the prime minister, Mr. Dago Tshering. They acknowledged that they were in aware of the Bhutanese refugee crisis from the start but did not check the background of their honored guests.

The answer was not a surprise but is a trigger for further research on the financing of the Floriade event and the use of government and other susidies for presence and events on the Floriade for specific countries that are known for their human rights violations and by doing so passively supporting the governments of these countries to present themselves in a positive manner to the world without any discussion about these governments human rights violations. While the Floriade is partly subsidised by the Dutch government who in another capacity is taking the financial consequenses of keeping the UNHCR refugee camps and UNHCR third country resettlement project operational. Countries like China, North Korea and Bhutan have been present on the Floriade expo without any discussion on their human rights situation so far.

In the coming week extra research and the responses (or lack of that) from involved people like Mrs. Erica Terpstra (ambassador for the Bhutan presence on the Floriade) and long time VVD politica and the Floriade direction will result in an article concerning these matters and challenging the organization of the event about the human rights violations of their participants. Some information is already available including the answers to parliamentary questions regarding the €5,000,000 subsidy by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture for the Floriade and the skyhigh salaries of the Floriade board. More information will follow in the coming days regarding the flow of money.

Sometime next week such an article will be written and published in the media.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Dutch Floriade exhibition embraces human rights violator.

Note: today we received an invitation from the organizing committee of the Floriade to discuss our findings with them. Of course we accept that invitation.

On September 22nd this year a Bhutan day was held at the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo in the Netherlands. The day was centered around making the world a better place and the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness‘. Amongst the people present that day was Mrs. Erica Terpstra, a well known Dutch liberal ex politician who made a television program about beautiful Bhutan, its nature and culture. Next to Mrs. Terpstra, Mr. Dago Tshering was present. He holds a minister seat in the government of the small Himalayan kingdom.

Erica Terpstra returned home with the honor of having a tulip named after the queen of Bhutan presented, presumably unaware of the fact that she had been shaking hands with a notorious human rights violator. Because, who is Dago Tshering for real?

In the early ninetees, after demonstrations against the at that time already longtime ongoing civil rights violations, a process of ethnic/religious/cultural cleansing was started by the Bhutan government. In just a few years the civil rights and citizenship were taken away from over 20% of Bhutan’s population. Changes in marital and citizenship laws were cooked up to do that. Wearing other clothes than the traditional dress from the powerful ruling elite minority was forbidden and the Nepalese language was banned from schools and government organizations.

Through a policy of state terror in which political murder, random arrests, torture and years long incarceration of intellectuals and leaders from the south and east of the country, the population in those regions was oppressed. After violent attacks by the Royal Bhutan Army and the police against village leaders, their families and other local leaders, a total of over 100,000 and possibly 150,000 people fled the country. Many of them at gunpoint after being forced to sign papers stating they were voluntary leaving and abandoning their homes, land and possessions. The by far percentagewise largest exodus in 100 years really started off in the first months of 1991 after an edict written by that same Dago Tshering who came to Venlo in the Netherlands to welcome the visitors to the Bhutan pavillion on the Floriade exhibition.

Because, on August 17, 1990, Dago Tshering, then Deputy Home Minister of Bhutan wrote a ‘NOTIFICATION’. It states literally, and I quote:

You are hereby instructed to immediately inform alls the gups, DYT members and the general public in your dzongkhag that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people’s family members living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.

With this order to the Dzongkhas’s, Dago Tshering personally kicked off the ethnic cleansing that would in the end lead to the exile of over 1/6th of Bhutan population.

The Netherlands is, together with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament, financing the UNHCR refugee camps in Nepal and the resettlement of the larger part of the population of these camps to these fore mentioned countries. By doing so the West is taking the rap for the effects of the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing that was initiated and excuted since 1990 by Dago Tshering and the current prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigme Thinley. The international community has until now spend tens of millions of dollars on this issue and will continue to do so on request by the United Nations. The European Union itself has sourced the UNHCR at the end of 2011 with over 3 million euros for upholding the refugee camps in Nepal and taking care of the after effects after these camps will be emptied by the ‘durable solution’ as the mass resettlement is euphemistically named by the UNHCR.

Bhutan has since 1991 systematically refused to take a serious effort in repatriation of its own people to their villages and homes. The victims live in diaspora without expectations for return to their motherland.

In 2012 however, Dago Tshering is received and honored by the Floriade. There were no Bhutanese refugees present in Venlo. They were not invited by the organization and Mrs. Terpstra probably again had no idea what she was dealing with.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Still no news from Jeetan

I think I have a friend in prison.

At least, he was imprisoned a couple of months ago and until today I’ve not been able to get new information regarding his safety and well being.

My friend Jeetan training refugee kids in a Journalism Training, summer 2011

I am convinced of his innocence to the charges against him. I worked with him for a while and I’ve seen his passion for his people and the youth that he supported and trained. He is a special guy.

I suspect that his arrest has a lot to do with his continuous efforts for the youth in the camps and his work as a writer / poet involved in community work and refugee journalism.

Currently most contacts in Nepal seem more or less frozen or have at least weakened. Partly because some of my friends were resettled to other places on the globe and mostly to the United States. Partly because some of them have been threatened. The effect is that the story of Jeetan (an alias for his real name Jit) is still unclear.

And I find that worrying.

Therefore I repeat the appeal made by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Council) on his behalf. Here is the story. If you want to support and apeal his case, and I urge you to do so, go to the AHRC website and sign the petition. This is the link.

This is the story of a desperate guy who was arrested unjustly only days before he was supposed to resettle and get a better life elsewhere:

14 May 2012

———————————————————————
NEPAL: Bhutanese refugee tortured and threatened with false charges in Kathmandu

ISSUES: Torture, Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers, Police violence, Arbitrary arrest and detention
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a 29-year-old Bhutanese refugee, Jit Bahadur Subba, having applied for third country resettlement was arrested from the office of the International organization for Migrant on 27 April 2012. After his arrest, he was kept in illegal detention for two days without receiving any arrest warrant or detention letter in the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was severely tortured under interrogation and threatened that false charges of drug smuggling would be filed against him. He is now detained at Hanumandhoka Police Station and needs immediate medical treatment. He was not allowed to meet with his lawyer without the presence of the police. 

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received, 29-year-old Jit Bahadur Subba lives in the Bhutanese refugee camp, Beldangi II. He belongs to one of the thousands Nepali-speaking families who, after having lived for several generations in Bhutan, were expelled from the country to refugee camps in Nepal twenty years ago. Mr. Subba had applied for resettlement to the USA and was kept in the transit office of the International organization for Migrant (IOM) in Baluwatar, Kathmandu for investigation of his identification documents from 12th to 27th April 2012.

On 27 April 2012 at around 2.30 pm he was arrested from the IOM office by 4 to 5 police officers in civilian clothes. He was not given any reason for his arrest nor was any arrest warrant produced by the police. He was then brought to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was kept there for two days, without being provided with a detention letter or an arrest warrant. He was brought before a judicial authority on 29 April 2012, exceeding the 24-hour delay set up by the constitution for every person who is arrested to be produced before a judicial authority. This amounts to illegal detention.

He was kept in the CIB for two days, reportedly without being provided with any food or water. His family was not informed of his arrest. There he was interrogated regarding his alleged involvement in the forging of a fake passport and of having purchased Nepali citizenship. The first day he was tortured under interrogation by two policemen, wearing civilian clothes. He was slapped across the face a dozen times, the soles of his feet were beaten and the policemen beat him all over his body. Due to the pain he almost lost consciousness. The policemen then interrogated him on other the involvement of other persons in the same charges and, as he could not provide information, the policemen put a packet of drugs in his pocket and threatened to charge him with drug smuggling. As the policemen were wearing civilian clothes, he could not identify their ranks.

On 29th April, he was sent to Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu, and was provided with warrant papers. He was produced before Kathmandu District Court on the same day. The court remanded him into custody for five days the first time, and for six days a second time. According to the police his case is under investigation under charges of forgery of citizenship documents and passports.

At no point during his detention was Mr. Subba informed of his legal rights. His lawyer visited him twice: once on 3 May in the office of the District Attorney, Kathmandu, and the second time on 8 May at the MPR Hanumandhoka. In both cases the police refused to allow the lawyer to meet with his client without the police presence. This is in spite of the Interim Constitution of Nepal guaranteeing the right of every person who was arrested to consult a legal practitioner and that the consultation should remain confidential.

The police was also present during the medical check-up of the victim when they sent him to Bir hospital on 7 May. Due to the presence of the police, the victim did not dare mentioning the torture to the doctor and the doctor did not ask about it either. Therefore the presence of the police during the medical examination prevented the victim from getting proper treatment and he was just provided with some anti-allergic medicines.

The victim’s health condition has deteriorated due to lack of proper treatment and the poor conditions in Hanumandhoka detention center. His body is covered with scars of worms and insects and he suffers from sleeplessness.

The victim is very afraid that he may receive further torture and measures must be taken for his protection immediately.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in writing to the authorities listed below to express concern upon learning of the torture inflicted to Mr. Subba and urge the authorities to guarantee his physical and psychological safety. Please demand that an investigation should be launched into the allegations of torture and that the perpetrators should be held accountable. Please further urge the authorities to ensure that no confession extracted under torture could be used in court proceedings against the accused.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment calling for his intervention into this matter.

Alice Anna Verheij
writer, filmmaker, journalist, human rights worker

The Darkening.

A few centuries ago Europe transitioned from the ‘dark ages’, the middle ages, into the ‘enlightment’. It was the time that religion took another course. The almighty powers of the curch, of Rome, was slowly but gradually pushed back in favour of science and knowledge. A few decades after the end of that period Europa was at war, triggerred by the revoluion of the commoners: the French Revolution.

Between 1780 and 1945 Europe was the home of many a battleground. The Enlightment brought not only science and the benefits of that but also instability in government. Europe began to know more but became less human in the past although many historians will defend the contrary. My measure is the number of victims of war and conflict and unfortunately it cannot be disputed that the aftermath of the Enlightment resulted in Napoleon’s endeavors to ‘conquer’ the world and after him the Prussians and Russians, the British and many others all knew a long time of conflicts. They raped the Balkan by intervention and it all came to two big orgasms of violence: the great war and the Second World War. Many millions lost their lives in an enlightened world.

And then it was finally all clear to everyone: we couldn’t go on like that.

After WW2 a tensed peace was ours and after that a less tensed peace. In the 1980’s the world changed. The Soviet block dissiminated and there was a lot op hope. Western Europa became a healthy, wealthy and safe place. But not in Eastern Europe. The aftermath of the fall of the Sovjets raged war in the Balkan. Western Europe was ineffective in it’s foreign policy. Then there was 9/11. We all know wat happened afterwards.

Europe now is on the retreat. Economically it is allmost dead and it has no single international policy. Europe is vague. Just like its governments. And vague brings fear. So Europeans have become less free and more scared. Scared for their assets being taken away due to the international monetary crisis. Scared for foreigners from outside Europe because they might take away what’s left of their wealth. Scared for Europenas from the south of Europe who’s economies are crippled the most. Poverty grows and is or seems to be contageous. Europe above all is scared to raise its voice. Against the crimes of their neighbors (Syria) and against groups within the European society that are not accepted in some parts of the less modern half of Europe.

So Europe becomes crazy about a soccer shampionship and the Olympic Games because as Nero said: “The plebs need bread and games”. And Europe does not take a stand when at those games anti semitism, neo fascism and homophobic behavior is openly practiced in all its disgusting apperances. The attitude of many eastern Europeans in regard to minorities, black, jews, gays and trans people is downright hostile and against everything that the Enlightment in Europe once brought. It is those outings of hatred that are the biggest threat to Europe, to peace and to prosperity. The amount of hatred brought over Europe by eastern Europeans and their governments (including Russia) is of an astounishing magnitude.   And it is spreading. The western European apathy of the people who prefer to concentrate on their beer and their national soccer team in stead of protesting against what’s happening just a few hundred kilometers away is the enabler for a wave of hate that’s spreading fast.

Western European governments (Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom) are or have been held hostage by xenophobic political parties exploiting the fears and the greed that’s all around. The Dutch prime ministers political party defends the cuts on development aid to the benefit of the car drivers in the country as if it was the most normal thing to do. after all we rather have more asphat to drive on than spending our cash on keeping starving people from starvinf. Morality is gone and protests are week. The left – traditionally the ones focussing on solidarity – is too much involved with their own inability to get support from the citizens. No one throws stones to people cutting down on the support of others in societies that have so much less. No one is really raged by statements of church leaders in western Europe about homosexuality and child abuse or of their eastern colleagues about stoning homosexuals at the Pride (Bulgaria). Europeans rather stays silent and focussed on their own wallets. Not understanding that they enterde the New Dark Ages, not seeing that live in the equivalent of the ‘Darkening’. Not grasping the reality of their societies moral backruptcy.

Europe, it was a nice dream. But we al better wake up quickly now.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Sports and human rights: give me back my orange!

The color of orange is hijacked by criminals supporting morons. This is why I state this:

All over the world we have nations. Nations with laws. Laws to protect the rights of the citizens of these nations. And where there are no laws we see chaos. Some nations, in fact many, have terrible laws. Nations that abuse human rights of some of their citizens. Nations like Russia, Poland and the Ukraine.

And then we have sports. International sports. With it’s own laws setting itself apart from society. Organized around large amounts of money and exercising their financial powers to push governments to their desire. That goes for the International Olympic Committee and that goes for international soccer. International sports knows a lot of corruption simply because when there’s a lot of money flowing, corruption is always around. The FIFA knows that and so does the UEFA. So often they organize major sports events in countries that are well known for their lawlessness, human rights abuse and corruption. One of the main events in Europe this year is obviously the European Soccer Championships. The location is Poland together with the Ukraine. The argument that the international sports federations use to defend themselves when organizing events in human rights violation countries are always the same: it is for the good of the people living in those countries. Therebye underlining the position of sports as not being bound by international law. The FIFA is the worst as they actually demand countries to change their laws, but UEFA is not much better.

So this year the soccer players have shifted to Poland and Ukraine. The Ukraine where a list of governments has an equally long list of human rights violations and political oppression. Where political opponents are abused and thrown into jail, tortured and sometimes killed. Where free speech is absent and free press is hindered when it addresses government initiated crime. The Ukraine being a country that – just like Poland – is increasingly homophobic and transphobic. Where violence against homosexuals, lesbians and transgenders is not being addressed by the government but silently supported. And sometimes not even silently but explicitly with police force. The Ukraine is working on draconic laws against any public display or discussion of gay and trans rights. Even supported by the political party of Mrs. Timosjenko who is herself in jail being the victim of her own government (after having been responsible of victimizing others when she was ruling). This is what the Ukrainian parliament will be discussing any time soon:

Bill # 8711 proposes:

1. To ban any production or publication of products promoting homosexuality;
2. To ban the use of media, TV or radio broadcasting for homosexuality promotion;
3. To ban printing or distribution publications promoting pornography, cult of violence and cruelty or homosexuality;
4. To ban import, production or distribution of creative writings, cinematography or video materials promoting homosexuality.

Bill # 10290 determines the forms of homosexuality promotion as follows:
1. holding meetings, parades, actions, pickets, demonstrations and other mass gatherings, which are directed to and/or are expressed in intentional dissemination of any positive information about homosexuality, which may negatively influence physical and mental health, moral and spiritual growth of children;
2. holding educational lessons, thematic conversations, interactive games, optional classes, other educational events on homosexuality;
3. messages, articles or appeals spreading in any form the call for homosexual lifestyle in mass media, which may negatively influence physical and mental health, moral and spiritual growth of children;
4. spreading information in any form about homosexuality or of the call for homosexual lifestyle in institution of general education, which may negatively influence physical and mental health, moral and spiritual growth of children.

If adopted, the laws will introduce steep fines (up to 100 net minimum incomes or 300 net minimum incomes) or imprisonment up to five years for “homosexual propaganda”.

Now obviously these proposed laws are directly violating the basic rights of homosexuals and transgenders in the Ukraine. The international sports associations like UEFA don’t care about that. The soccer players, their team managers and trainers, there staff and their supporters do not speak up. They just celebrate their freedom based on the financial and corrupted power invested by UEFA. They vandalize society, they incriminate their countries in supporting a government that is abusing it’s own people and they are in fact – by staying silent and being in the Ukraine – passively supporting the government of that country. It makes them co-conspiracers of a government that incriminates gays and transgenders.

Which is why I don’t give a shit about international sports events and why I do not want to be associated with the European Soccer Championships at all. It is why I do not support the Dutch soccer team that is in my views composed of a bunch of rich hippocrites. Which is also why I hope they are ousted asap and the color orange is given back to the rest of the people after being hijacked by a bunch of criminal supporting idiots.

I want my orange back, without the filth attached to it caused by soccer supporters.

Alice Anna © 2012

PS Support this if you agree that we should pressurize the Ukraine parliament!

Ernie and Bert suspected of fraud.

Nothing seems sacred anymore these days.

According to reliable sources in Pakistan a huge fraud at Sesamestreet was recently uncovered by the Pakistani police. In spite of Obama’s recent drone attacks this acknowledges the fact that there still is police in Pakistan working on very important cases. Of course the United States have retalliated in the strongest possible manner for the Pakistan Sesamestreet Fraud. It seems that the Pakistani Ernie and Bert, who are as everyone knows the producers of the childrens television show, have been arrested as they seem to have used the american dollars to pay of their debts.

And as the US is a bit sensitive on the dollar the Obama administration immediately increased diplomatic and military pressure on Pakistan once it became clear the dollars were leaking at the Sesamestreet headoffice. After a massive fluffy hunt the Pakistani police have been able to arrest the perpetrators who seemed to be employed by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Although Pakistan Today claims that it is the little and übercute Elmo who has been caught with his hand in the USAID cookie jar (he is perceived to be quicker noadays than Cookie Monster on that) it is obvious that it were in fact Ernie and Bert who have become the real suspects now.

The Pakistan Children’s TV channel claims not to be involved but according to Kermit the current ceo of PCTV, miss Piggy, has been playing a doubtful role in the past concerning commercial deals with Ernie and Bert. The connection with Super Grover and Cookie Monster is also currently being investigated just like the activities of Elmo althoug he now is no longer the focus of the ongoing investigation.

The Pakistani Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop

Currently it is impossible to assertain the damage done by the two Sesamestreet villains. What is clear however is that the 20 million dollar of USAID allotted US tax payers money is not completely used to create the agreed 78 episodes of Sesamestreet Pakistan. How much of that 20 million has been used by the whole Sesamestreet family remains to be found out. The Peerzada’s (the real names of the Sesamestreet family in Pakistan) as a close family of course appointed their own relatives in all relevant places in the production company thereby shifting funds into the family members NIB Bank Pakistan bank accounts.

Ernie and Bert are now in Lahore prison being questioned by the Pakistan police with support of Obama’s Secret Service who have abandoned the Colombian brothel research program recently. According to Lahore police they still deny all accusations and state that they are only puppets in a larger scheme. But according to sources they will soon be transfered to Guantanamo Bay for further interrogation by the US military as suspects of economic terrorism.

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

No new constitution in Nepal but elections instead.

A couple of days ago the Constituent Assembly of Nepal dissolved after another extended term went without the outcome of an agreed concept constitution. Wether that is bad news or good news remains to be seen.

Seat of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, Kathmandu

After the overturning of the monarchy almost a decade ago and the ending in 2006 of the ten year long civil war that devastated the countries economy and homogenity there have been elections only once. The outcome of those events was the installation of a Constituent Assembly and the dawn of the provisional Federal Republic of Nepal. Elections were held and a government was formed. And that government fell. A new one was formed. Which fell also. And another one and another one. Nepal became politically unstable with none of the major parties (including the Maoists who started the revolt against the former king) being large enough to stay in power for long. The core problem of Nepal turned out to be the many divisions in politics.

The country became paralized but because of the intentions of becoming a democratic nation it also became one of the countries with the largest support from international organizations, NGO’s and governments. The country became dependent on aid as the successive governments proved unable to bring the country from revolt to stability, to improve the economy and to improve the many infrastructural and social challenges that were present. In the meanwhile many Nepalese had hopes of the effects of a new constitution that was in the making. But that constitution never materialized. Terms for the 2008 elected Constituent Assembly (with its ludicrous large number of 575 seats) were extended several times. The 60% ballot turnout proved the high hopes of the people of Nepal. But these hopes deteriorated quickly due to the continuous inability of the assembly to come up with a draft constitution on time and agreed by a majority.

Still, that draft that didn’t materialize did have some very specific topics handled in a revolutionary manner in the last Hindu ex Kingdom and the results have been brought to a provisionary implementation by the government recently. The caste system became politically undesired which potentially freed millions of people from hardship and lack of opportunities and there was even a third or other gender introduced as a concept in gender identification releasing the gay and transgender communities from social pressure based on discriminatory laws.

But it all ended on May 27 of this year at midnight.

The Constituent Assembly outlived its term and its mandate and the government decided to dissolve the non working body. At the same time announcing general elections on November 22nd this year. The second general elections and the first one after four years of disappointment since the fall of King Gyanendra. At this moment in time the conditions for Nepal to come back to a stabile political solution are far from ideal. The political spectrum dominated by the Maoists, Marxist-Leninists and the conservative Congress Party is more divided than ever. No one is big enough, politicians are not trusted by the people any more because of the many broken promises and the country is in economically dire straits. The infrastructure of the country in areas like energy, transportation, education and health care are all in a very bad state. The international monetary crisis is devaluating the Nepali Rupee at an alarming rate and impovering the country faster and faster. The political squeeze from India and China is becoming more vivd in daily life because of the dependencies on those neighbours for basic resources like food and energy. There is an energy crisis in the country that is lasting for years now and becoming worse. India pretty much owns Nepal’s oil consumption which effects the economy.

The Nepalese are demotivated by the politics in the country. Young peoples main desire is to leave the country and indeed there’s a brain drain going on of enormous proportions. The number of refugees and stateless people in the country push an extra burden on the economy and mental stretch of the people. As the politicians are unable to bring salvation many groups in the country (political, ethnic and otherwise) are increasingly grabbing the only instrument they have to force the government to give them what they want: they strike. The destabilizing bandhas (strikes) have become a daily routine in many parts of the country and especially in the Terai, the southern part of the country which is of key importance for food production and the little industry the country has. These strikes slowly kill what’s left of the economy and by their nature prove the worst possible ‘solution’ to the many problems.

It remains to be seen wether the failure of the Constituent Assembly is a bad thing for Nepal. If on November 22nd elections turn out to be clear on which political parties should rule the country then a faster solution to the constitutional crisis is in sight. But that would be a miracle to be honest. Looking at the current political situation, the bad economy, the institutionalized fraud and corruption, the instability of the armed forces (the integration of Maoists in the Nepal Army is still very shaky) and the hunger for individual power of the politicians, it is impossible to be optimistic on the outcome. If it doesn’t work out later this year it will only mean that the largest of the former Himalayan Kingdoms will remain without a formalized constitution and with less hope of overcoming the many crisises the country is facing.

Hopefully the international community will be fully aware of Nepal’s problems and not turn it’s back on the country with it’s almost thirty million inhabitants. Nepal needs solid international backing and attention now more than ever.

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

Another step on Nepal’s long march to peace.

In between 1996 and 2006 Nepal was caught in a civil war. The Maoists euphemistically named it the Peoples War. It was a medium scale civil war which started with the aim to overthrow the Nepal monarchy. It was started and led by Maoist insurgents and forces within Nepal. When unexpectedly the royal family assassination took place in 2001 (many blame the former crown prince but the cause of the event was never completely unveiled) the country was brought into further turmoil. It ended with a peace accord on November 21, 2006. The then king abdicated and Nepal became a federal republic. A democratic republic also as a parliament was instated and efforts started to draft a new constitution. In 2012 the country still doesn’t have a completed draft for the new constitution let alone an installed one. It still lives under parliamentary supported government guided regime and is still in the process of becoming a peaceful democratic country. The good thing is that Nepal has been able to rebuild society into a more open and democratic one and many Nepalis are actively involved in constructing their nation.

Maoist forces in training (photo courtesy of Khairul Today)

Still, a lot of problems, challenges if you will, exist. Crime rate is high especially concerning trafficking of women and children, drugs trafficking and domestic and gender based violence. The Maoist forces have still not completely integrated in the Nepal society and the level op corruption although being the glue in society is very high. Nepal is for all intents and purposes a very complicated country. Poverty is all around but at the same time Nepal has become one of the most attractive tourist countries in South Asia. After all, Chomolungma (‘mother of the universe’ as the Tibetan’s call her) is overlooking the country and with the name Mount Everest it attracts large number of western tourists to the country. And because of that attention and the mystification of the former Hindu kingdom many westerners are confronted with the vast amount of problems that Nepali society faces. Resulting in an extreme large number of NGO’s working in the country with volunters from all over the globe.

What’s lacking is a strong connection on political level with the international community. Reasons for that being that the international community is pre occupied with Africa and the Middle East and everything in the Himalayas seem to be under control. But is everything under control?

Nepal is walking the tightrope. Just today the Nepali army finally took over the maoist army camps which is a major step towards lasting peace. The Maoist are a force to reckon with. They have a formal position in Nepal’s parliament, just as the other communist parties have. The current governent after all is a Marxist/Leninist led government. The Congress Party with it’s traditional India link is currently not in the government seat but has been there for long. None of the parties have a majority. New elections are still not there because there is no new constitution as the drafting process is continuously sabotaged by some of the political parties involved and because of that it is unclear how the democratization and constitutional processes in the country will evolve in the coming years. Which is a pitty as they started off so well in 2006. The drafting process of the new constitution involves a couple of revolutionary novelties in South Asian politics and rule, like the formal dismissal of the caste system that has held the whole population captive for hundreds of years, the introduction of third gender as a legal and equal foundation for lesbians, gays and transgenders and the rights to education and health care for all citizens. Those are few of the amazing changes that this newly drafted constitution will bring to beautiful Nepal. When it gets there and if it gets there.

In the meanwhile the world economic crisis has hit the country hard. Energy is problematic as 100% of the oil reserves are managed by India and the production of electricity is way below the needs of the country. These two resulting in a hampering of economic activitities to an unacceptable level and gross unrest under the Nepali population. This, in combination with strong corruption and a weak and instabel government is continuously leading to bandhas (strikes) in the country. Especially in the densily populated and economic all important south of Nepal. The number of undisturbed working days available to build the economy is terrifying low. And then there still is that silent force of Maoist forces that has its position and power in the country and still has the risk of resurrecting itself if the political situation becomes undesirable for them. They have laid heir weapons down and are being integrated in the Nepal armed forces, their camps are now being taken over and at Thribuvan Airport there now is one checkpoint and not two (one of which was a seperate Maoist checkpoint). Their visible role in everyday life is decreasing fast and the Maoist veterans are slowly becoming part of the greater Nepal society. At least, that’s how it seems. But there are still political killings in the country and press freedom is threatened by continuous attacks on journalist. The government, being not very strong, is unable to dismantle the Maoist forces as they are in fact part of the current political system. And maybe they shouldn’t even try.

The good news is that today the Maoist army camps are no longer Maoist army camp but army camps from the Nepal army. That at least reduces the number of different armed forces in the country. The bad thing is that it didn’t happen voluntary but because of unrest in the camps making the handover of the camps two days earlier than planned to prevent outbreaks of violence.

Still, it’s a small but important step on Nepal’s log march to peace.

Alice Verheij © 2012

How CNN does not do it’s work on Bhutan’s behaviour.

I am appalled by CNN’s lack of journalistic fact finding and truth seeking considering Bhutan. This is my response to the article on their website on the UN Happiness Summit:http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/01/the-u-n-happiness-summit
CNN published this blog from Stewart Patrick without any comment and without any hint of the Bhutanese reality. They are not doing what they should do on this topic as a free press organization.

The U.N. Happiness Summit

globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com

Editor’s Note: Stewart Patrick is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. By Stewart Patrick, CFR.

My response:

Dear all at CNN, dear Stewart, dear readers,

I am flabagasted and to be quite honest disgusted by the onesided views presented in this article on this website. I am amazed that CNN without any criticism lends itself for the propaganda of the Bhutanese government. Let me explain.

It is a well known an proven fact that in recent history (early ninetees) the King and government of Bhutan have been orchestrating the percentage wise largest ethnic cleansing of it’s own population resulting in about 1/6th of the population being forcefully thrown out of the country. They have done so after a decade of discrimination, human rights violations, oppression including army killings, imprisoning innocent citizens, torture of political prisoners, stealing land, houses, cattle and goods. Of their own people living in the south and east of Bhutan for the simple fact that they are ethnically and religiously different from the Druk minority that holds power in Thimpu.

Over the past twenty years way over 120000 refugees have lived in and around refugee camps instated and maintained by the UNHCR without Bhutan giving any sign of allowing repatriation. Mr. Thinley, the prime minister, has been and still is the mastermind of both that ethnic cleansing as the cover up operation of the export of the concept of Gross National Happiness that te west has been all to eager to accept as a great way to look at what really counts in life.

Bhutan is constantly stating that Gross National Happiness is what it all should be about and is supported in that by the governments of the very countries that are now taking in 1/6th of Bhutan’s population through the largest massive third country resettlement project. Triggered by the US and executed by the UNHCR and IOM this resettlement program is in fact throwing the exiles from Bhutan in diaspora in a timeframe 6 or 7 years. It therebye passively supports the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing policy.

It is horrific to have to conclude that the free press is silent on this but is noise on the concept of Gross National Happiness as advocated by the government of Bhutan. It is downright disgusting that the UN is hosting an event to give this dictatorial government the opportunity to spread it’s lies and deceit while at the same time it is the UN that is shifting around 100.000 Bhutanese the globe unjustly.

It is also crazy to know that Bhutan is a memeber of the United Nations based on false data on the number of inhabitants in it’s country (when they joined they grossly overstated the number of Bhutanese to be over 1 Million whereas at the time any reasonable guess would have given a figure of around 700000 inhabitants which is under the minimal required inhabitants for a country to be a UN member). Bhutan has been living a lie since the 1980’s and has abused it’s population. It is in fact one of the biggest human rights violators when taken it’s size as a country into account.

When will the international community and when will the international press stop supporting the geopolitical framing of the Himalayan reality which is in fact one of poverty, unhappiness, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. As a writer, film maker and journalist I am apalled by the lack of journalistic fact finding and thruth seeking in this article and many other media considering Bhutan.

Yours truly,
Alice Verheij
director of the upcoming documentary ‘Headwind, the forgotten exiles from Bhutan’
the Netherlands
www.headwindfilm.com

Is democracy half the votes + 1?

Yesterday two former prime ministers from the Dutch Christian Democrat party (CDA) sent a message to the current prime minister and his team who are negotiating further budget cuts and reforms to manage the economical crisis. The current government is a minority government since it was elected but because it was tolerated a right wing xenophobic though in parliament powerful third party the coalition was abe to form the government. And ruin arts, public transport and the lives of mainly the weak in society and on top of it all enforce a policy of xenophobia and post colonial selfishness.

Last week the support from that right wing party, the PVV, was crushed because a member left with the effect that even with their support the current coalition has lost it’s virtual majority of 50% of the parliament seats +1. That happened when the negotiations for a draconic budget cut that will cost thousands of jobs and ruin the economics of the increasing number of poor people in this country. As the current coalition exists of the Liberals (VVD) and Christian Democrats (CDA) it’s obvious that further budget cuts in this direction will touch upon the core values of especially the Christian Democrats.

When this coalition was formed two years ago the Christian Democratic party was torn apart because many in that party did not want to support a government which would work together with the xenophobic and post fascist PVV party as it’s main supporter. But the opposition in the Christian Democratic party lost. On the other hand, democratic principles were never in good keeping with this cabinet of ministers I’m afraid.

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Piet de Jong and Ruud Lubbers. CDA ex prime ministers 

And now, two years later in the middle of the negotiations two former prime ministers from the Christian Democrats, Piet de Jong and Ruud Lubbers publicly opposed further cuts on development aid which in these negotiations seem to be one of the main areas touched upon by budget cuts. They finally have had enough. Mr. de Jong stated that if further cuts on the 0.7% GNP for development aid would be the new policy he would leave his party and battle with the government to his last breath if needed. Mr. de Jong was a submarine commander and knows what battle is. Mr. Ruud Lubbers, todays speaker at a conference on immigration policy, was equally clear on his statements to the current Liberal prime minister Mark Rutte and the Christian Democratic negotiator Maxime Verhagen.

In all honesty. The current government is a minority government. Only held on their seats because the Christian Democratic party has continuously shoved it’s principles aside and neglected it’s core values. So the message of these two old style politicians does count. And they are not the only ones. They follow Dries van Agt, another ex prime minister from the same party who uttered his disgust of the current government long time ago. This government has no backing anymore from the majority of the voters and of the majority of the well experienced politicians from one of it’s two coalition partners. So the only democratic move this government can do is to let the prime minister go to the palace and hand in his resignation to the queen. Instantly.

Alice © 2012

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.

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

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

Democracy hypocrisy.

I live in a hypocrisy. I used to live in a democracy but to all realistic standards my country of birth cannot be declared a democracy in the true sense of the word. The reason being that in a true democracy (the old Greek model and not the all to common US model) a democracy is a state form where the majority of the representatives of the people in some sort of parliament decide on the countries policy with keeping the interest of and respect for the minorities alive. And that is what is not the case in my country. Unfortunately.

Over the past week the minority government in the Netherlands has been negotiating amongst themselves and with their supporting partner about the ways to fight the economical crisis in the country. And although little or none is leaked from the negotiating table the negotitations seem to be the most selfish negotiations any Dutch government has done for deciding on future policies in decennia. And everyone is playing smart. The now right wing governed media is focussing extensively on who is to become the next ‘opposition leader’, that opposition is focussing on their own party politics of course and as a result of that the media is not covering the government negotiations to an acceptable level. The press is silenced by their own morale of preventing to be leftish as leftish is out of fashion in the increasing inward looking society.

So negotiations at the table are going in an undisturbed manner. Of course there are protests in the country. Public transport, teachers, students, social workers, health workers, artists and many other groups that are touched by the strict financial policy of the current government have protested and some of them still do. But after the protest day is over, the issue is passed too. Society simply is not interested. When asked on the streets and elsewhere people are most willing to make immigration laws even stricter and limiting development aid funds even further. In the meanwhile the government is sending homosexuals back to countries where they are harrased and killed because they are not allowed asylum in the Netherlands. In the meanwhile the spending on international development aid is at its lowest in decennia and at the minimum internationally agreed level of 0.7% of the GNP. According to ‘the man in the street’ the immigration rules are still not strict enough and the first area of budget cuts people name is development aid.

This country has become selfish. While globally hunger and economic challenges are pushed on third world countries in an extreme manner because the simple fact that the west still has much of the global wealth in its hands and the rich always win, the people in my country are focussed on their own wallets, their old age pension security, their ability to buy that big flat screen so they can watch increasingly idiotic tv programs and their fear for immigrants.

Thanks to right wing politicians with distorted minds the country has become xenophobic. The Bush administration some time ago was successful in convincing most of the western governments of the threats from the middle east and countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result my country of non US criticizing governments followed the US in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even the ‘left wing’ politicians supported that. It is obvious to any human being that those decisions were wrong. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are now destroyed countries, the number of civilians victimized by western wars is enormous and the human rights violations from US, UK and no doubt Dutch troups will only be uncovered more and more in the coming years. All for the good of fear for Islam. That same islamophobic attitude translates in attacks on Muslims. Mostly verbally but like in Belgium yesterday attacks on mosques are to be expected. Because society has turned xenophobic and that always leads to violence in the end. As history has proven. The Netherlands have been unable to escape from the US sourced fatalistic xenophobia.

The combination of economic selfishness and xenophobia is poisoness. It is also the very basis of the negotiations that the goverment leaders are having in a closed setting just a few kilometers from my home. The measures and decisions from those meeting are feared by me and people like me. Because slowly I see my own country becoming unattractive, scared and threatening to the weak in it’s society. My country is turning from a democracy to a hypocrisy. A travesty of western civilization that is ruled by a government that does not care about it’s people, a government that is harsh, selfish and xenophobic. A government that is slowly killing what is left of our own civilization and what is left of what our parents have worked and fought for: a social state.

The anti socials and the anti democrats seem to have won in this country and the people don’t care about it. We suffer under a minority government that is only able to govern because it is allowed to do so by a flat out xenophobic political party giving them a majority of exactly 1 seat in parliament. And with that majority vote they disregard the interest of the real majority in the country in a manner that is by all means undemocratic. The political opposition is fighting amongst themselves for the political centric position, the place where traditionally the most votes are held and abondoning progressive politics although their words are quite different. The media is recoded to right wing supporting media with a populistic voice. And many of my fellow countrymen love that. Because populism always is greeted with pleasure, no matter if that populism is in fact pushing down others. The prime minister of my country did not set himself at a political distance from a website that is flatout discriminating and was created by his right wing populistic government partner. Because he need that partner to stay in the governing seat. That is how true hypocracy looks like.

So, my country is not a democratic country anymore, it’s a hypocrisy. A country on a moral downward slope heading for the new dark ages of selfishness, xenophobia and in the end violence. I can only hope that the people will recognize the manipulation before it is too late. The Christian Democrats in the government cabinet have already proven to have lost all sense of their own values and the liberals in that cabinet have proven to be more interested in limiting liberalism than in expanding it. I am unfortunately not hopeful for a turn for the better. I am no longer regarding myself as Dutch because that stands for unlimited hypocrisy, I do no longer want to be part of this, I do no longer want to live in a country like this.

Alice © 2012

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