Kyrgyzstan appeals to
retired officers to help quell unrest
Kyrgyzstan’s interim government on Saturday appealed to
retired police and army officers to travel to the southern
city of Osh, to prevent ethnic clashes there escalating into
“The provisional Kyrgyz government calls on retired police
and military officers to contribute to the stabilisation of
the situation in Osh,” said government spokesman Azimbek
Beknazarov, the 24.kg news agency reported.
“The authorities will be grateful for any volunteers who
are ready to help prevent civil war in the south of
Kyrgyzstan,” he added.
Beknazarov was speaking from the region where clashes
between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks broke out late
The appeal came as the health ministry issued an updated
death toll from the violence, saying at least 49 people had
been killed and 650 injured in the clashes. The previous
death toll had stood at 45.
Beknazarov said the situation there remained “very
difficult”, despite the state of emergency declared by the
government and the 8:00 pm to 6:00 am (1400 GMT to 0000 GMT)
curfew on Osh and neighbouring districts.
“Exchanges of fire are continuing and you can hear them
everywhere, several buildings are in flames, people are
frightened,” he said.
Police officers and soldiers deployed to the troubled zone
were exhausted, falling asleep on the roads they were meant
to be watching, he added.
“We won’t have enough people on the ground to ensure
security over the next two days, if we don’t get more help,”
The violence, thought to have been set off by a brawl
between youths from the different ethnic groups late
Thursday, quickly escalated into street battles, in which
people fought using improvised weapons, but also firearms.
It comes some two weeks before a referendum on the
constitution, scheduled for June 27.
Since last April’s uprising, which ousted Bakiyev and left
87 people dead, foreign leaders have warned of the danger of
civil war in this strategically important country.
|Ahmadinejad: Israel is doomed
UN Sanctions against Iran, with Chinese
and Russian backing
(Al-Jazeera)– Iran’s president has said Israel is
“doomed”, during a speech, in which he accused Western
powers of monopolising nuclear technology.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments on Friday came two days after
the UN Security Council hit Tehran with fresh sanctions over
its nuclear programme.
Speaking during a news conference in the Chinese city of
Shanghai, where he was visiting the World Expo, he denounced
the sanctions adopted on Wednesday, with Chinese and Russian
backing, as “worthless paper”.
He accused global nuclear powers of “monopolising” atomic
technology, and said the new sanctions would “have no
The Iranian leader also described the US as being
disingenuous, saying: “It is clear the United States is not
against nuclear bombs, because they have a Zionist regime
with nuclear bombs in the region.”
But he added: “They are trying to save the Zionist regime,
but the Zionist regime will not survive. It is doomed.”
Meanwhile, Russia has signalled that it is moving to halt
its sale of air defence missiles to Iran, following fresh UN
sanctions over Iran’s atomic programme.
“S-300 supplies to Iran fall under UN sanctions,” a Kremlin
source said, referring to the defence system Russia has long
planned to deliver to the Islamic republic.
“Thus this type of weapon cannot be delivered to Iran,” the
However, a final decree on the issue would need to come
directly from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the foreign
minister has said.
The UN Security Council resolution passed Wednesday, bans
Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of
delivering nuclear weapons, investing in nuclear-related
activities and buying certain types of heavy weapons.
Ahmadinejad’s visit to China comes at a delicate time in
Tehran’s relations with its ally, after Beijing backed the
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China
could have exercised its veto power to block the sanctions.
Iran says its programme is purely for civilian energy
purposes, but critics suspect it of developing atomic
Marking Iran Day at his country’s pavilion at the expo,
Ahmadinejad did not directly criticise his host.
But he skipped Friday’s summit in Uzbekistan of the Shanghai
Co-operation Organisation, which was attended by presidents
Hu Jintao of China and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.
|Oil disaster may spill
over to transatlantic dispute
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has started to strain
the “special relationship” between Britain and the United
States. Oil has been leaking into the Gulf since the
Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April and sank off the
coast of the US state of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.
Owners of the rig British Petroleum, or BP as it is better
known is seen by many responsible for the disaster. Unlike
many other oil producing countries the United States had not
made certain equipment mandatory which would have reduced
the chances of a similar disaster. A stop valve costing
approximately half a million dollars is considered an
essential item in nations drilling for offshore oil. However
in the US, the big oil companies which hold much sway over
public policy due to their massive contributions have been
preventing legislature to ensure that these costly safety
mechanisms were made mandatory in oil rigs.
The handling of the immediate aftermath of the oil spill
by BP and the delays in plugging of the leak has infuriated
the US public and compelled its government to take a tougher
stand against the oil giant. This “tougher” stand against BP
is now being perceived in across the Atlantic as unjustified
Britain bashing. The company is now being targeted on the
basis of its origins, with politicians and senior
administration officials repeatedly referring to it as
“British Petroleum” even though this has not been its name
since 1998. The public has also been fuelling this anger in
many forums repeatedly asking why a foreign company has been
allowed to “come in and take our oil” and urge the
government to stop non-American companies operating there.
Obama under pressure
Last week President Barack Obama, himself under public
pressure over the spill, ratcheted up his rhetoric against
BP, making his anger known by saying he was looking for
“whose ass to kick”. The BP Chairman will be meeting
President Obama next Wednesday, and the BP board will meet
tomorrow to decide whether to suspend or reduce a planned
£10 billion dividend payout to shareholders.
The most alarmist remarks emanated from London’s city
hall, where Mayor Boris Johnson cited as a “matter of
national concern” the “anti-British rhetoric that seems to
be permeating from America.”
“When you consider the huge exposure of British pension
funds to BP it starts to become a matter of national concern
if a great British company is being continually beaten up,”
said Mr. Johnson, a member of Cameron’s Conservative party.
Falling share price
In Washington, lawmakers stepped up attempts to punish BP,
with 40 members of the House of Representatives saying BP
should not pay a dividend until the full costs of the
accident were known. Since the Deepwater Horizon rig
exploded BP’s share price has fallen 39 percent, wiping
£47bn ($68bn, €56bn) off its market capitalisation. The
British business sector fears the BP crisis might cause
trade relations with the United States to worsen.
The fall in the value of the BP stock has also alarming
consequences. Financial experts estimate that BP dividends
account for as much as 16 percent of all stock payouts that
UK pensioners receive. Whether justifiably or not if the BP
shares continue to slump it would be impossible for British
politicians to ignore considering the vast number of
pensioners who will be affected.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor
George Osborne have already spoken to BP’s chairman,
Carl-Henric Svanberg, about the crisis. Cameron is reported
to have told BP’s chairman he was “frustrated and concerned”
at the environmental impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill,
and stressed the company must remain “financially strong and
stable”. The Prime Minister’s phone conversation with
Carl-Henric Svanberg came after scientists with the US
Geological Survey doubled the estimate of the amount of oil
gushing out of the ruptured well to 40,000 barrels a day.
With the British press and even some officials in London
increasingly seeing some of the reaction in by the US
President and his administration as attacks against Britain
itself at least in the diplomatic realm the two countries
have sought to calm the waters. During a visit to
Afghanistan Thursday, Prime Minister Cameron said the oil
spill would no doubt be part of what his office says is a
“routine” phone conversation with President Obama, but he
ducked pointed questions about an anti-British side to
criticisms of BP. “I completely understand the US
government’s frustration because it’s an environmental
catastrophe,” he said. “The most important thing is to
mitigate the effects of the leak and get to the root of the
The State Department also down played the damaged caused
to the relations with Britain over the oil disaster. Though
the US-UK relations may have been strained for the moment,
the two countries have too many areas which needs
cooperation for them to allow this disaster spilling over to
the diplomatic realm. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Britain
remains the US’s closest ally and on international issues
such as sanctions against Iran, North Korea and trade
disputes with China etc. Britain is the most reliable
partner the US has to a point of it being a proxy.
Blaming a British company may be convenient for the angry
US politicians and the public but in this globalise age it’s
not that simple. BP in spite of its name is truly a global
enterprise. Forty percent of the shares are owned in the
U.K. but the second largest chunk of ownership, 39 percent,
is in the United States, making it almost a US company as
much as a British one and making the anger directed at
Britain somewhat misguided.
However, what is perceived as Britain-bashing by its closest
global ally may actually hit British public and its leaders
at the core of their national consciousness. Having been the
largest empire in the world’s history, since the middle of
the last century Britain has been a mere ghost of its former
glory only thanks to it being under the shadow of the United
States. This notion of Britain being an irrelevant power in
the current global environment was cemented at the
commencement of the Iraq war when Britain slavishly followed
the US into battle while the rest of Europe shunned what was
considered an illegal occupation. The British reaction to
the criticism of BP is just not about one of its companies
being held responsible for one of the biggest man-made
disasters of this decade; it is also an eye opener for
Britain to see that its closest ally treats it with disdain
and disregard at best.
|Rescue teams to reach stranded teen
(CNN) - Rescue teams are expected to reach a remote area in
the Indian Ocean on Saturday, to fetch a stranded California
teen who lost contact as she tried to circumnavigate the
globe in her yacht.
Abby Sunderland, who is trying to be the world’s youngest
to sail around the world, lost satellite contact on Thursday
and issued a distress call, after what appeared to be a
rogue wave hit the boat, damaging its communications
The first boat expected to rendezvous with Sunderland’s
yacht, Wild Eyes, is a French fishing vessel that is
expected to reach her said her father, Laurence Sunderland,
in an iReport interview with Julie Ellerton of Thousand
“We don’t know where she is going to be taken,”
Sunderland said, adding that it could be Australia or the
Reunion Islands, a French territory. “Once the authorities
have informed us, we will make our necessary plans to
rendezvous with her.”
Abby’s pregnant mother is expected to go into labour soon,
so her parents will not fly out to meet her, Sunderland
said. It will either be her brother, Zack, or one of her
“We are absolutely over the moon. We are very, very happy
and excited that the Australian search and rescue jumped on
this right away, got a plane after her,” Sunderland said in
a separate interview.
Abby’s journey began in January from the Marina del Rey in
California. According to her blog, Abby faced rough winds,
as she crossed a turbulent area. It was then that she set
off the emergency beacon. Laurence Sunderland addressed
critics who said her daughter was too young to sail solo
around the globe, and also questioned the cost involved in
“With regards to a 16-year-old going on this trip, if you
take the age factor out of it, you’re either good enough to
go on that trip or you’re not,” he said. “Abigail’s proved
herself and her ability over and beyond most people that are
out there on the ocean doing similar things.”
As for the cost, Sunderland said, “my daughter’s life is
Cameron, Obama to discuss BP oil spill
(BBC News) The prime minister has said he is “frustrated and
concerned” about the environmental damage caused by the
leaking well owned by BP.
But Downing Street says the telephone conversation with the
US president will be “statesmanlike and workmanlike”.
BP is under pressure from the US government to fix the leak
and suspend dividends to shareholders.
The oil giant’s directors will meet on Monday to discuss a
Oil has been leaking into the Gulf since the Deepwater
Horizon rig exploded on April 20 and sank off the coast of
the US state of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.
As much as 40,000 barrels (1.7m gallons) of oil a day may
have been gushing from a blown-out well, before it was
capped on June 3. BP employs 10,105 people in the UK, and it
is estimated that about 18 million people in the UK either
own BP shares or pay into a pension fund that holds BP
Mandela misses World Cup opening
(BBC News) The World Cup opened amid jubilant scenes in
South Africa, but Nelson Mandela missed the event after a
car crash killed his great-granddaughter.
Zenani Mandela, 13, died when the car taking her home from a
pre-competition concert in Soweto, overturned.
The car’s driver was arrested and charged with
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said the tragedy made it
inappropriate for the former president, who is 91, to attend
the opening ceremony in Johannesburg.
Burma denies nuclear weapons programme
(BBC News) The Burmese government has denied recent reports
that it is developing a nuclear weapons programme.
A statement from the foreign ministry said foreign media
reports alleging such a programme were “politically
The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) broadcaster
had run a documentary based on a defector’s information
about a nuclear plan.
US Senator Jim Webb cancelled a planned trip to Burma due to
The Burmese government labelled the allegations “baseless
accusations” based on the information from army deserters,
fugitives and dissidents.
It said Burma was a peace loving country with “no intention
to possess nuclear weapons as military power.”
Analysts have raised concerns in recent months that Burma
was cooperating with North Korea in developing nuclear
Shooting hits Mexico drug clinic
(Al-Jazeera) At least 19 people have been killed and four
others injured in the Mexican city of Chihuahua, after a
group of armed men raided a clinic for treating drug
addicts, according to police.
The chief of police intelligence of Chihuahua state said at
least 20 assailants entered the Faith & Life Drug
Rehabilitation Centre late on Thursday.
Chihuahua city, located near the border the US state of
Texas, is a hotbed for drugs-related violence, where
rehabilitation clinics have been attacked before.
Shootings at such clinics have become more common as
Mexico’s drug cartels and street gangs find themselves at
Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Mexico City,
said: “It’s still unknown who is behind the killings, but
it’s highly likely that some cartel members were trying to
take revenge. But we still have to see what the
investigations will find.
ICC pushes UN for arrests of Sudanese suspects
(BBC News) The International Criminal Court’s (ICC)
chief prosecutor has urged the UN Security Council to push
for the arrest of two Sudanese men indicted for war crimes
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Khartoum had failed to apprehend
former minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed militia leader
The two men were indicted by the ICC in 2007 for war
crimes and crimes against humanity.
Khartoum has rejected the indictments.
Sudan, whose President Omar al-Bashir is also wanted by the
ICC, is refusing to cooperate with the court.
The government has always denied reports that it had backed
the Janjaweed militias accused of widespread atrocities
against civilians in Darfur.
|Iran- What next?
Beyond Sanctions that probably
won’t work, Plans B, C, D
No one in the Obama White House believes that, by
themselves, the newest rounds of sanctions against Iran’s
military-run businesses, its shipping lines and its
financial institutions will force Tehran to halt its
20-year-long drive for a nuclear capability.
So what, exactly, does President Obama plan to do if, as
everyone expects, these sanctions fail, just as the previous
There is a Plan B — actually, a Plan B, C, and D — parts of
which are already unfolding across the Persian Gulf. The
administration does not talk about them much, at least
publicly, but they include old-style military containment
and an operation known informally at the CIA as the
Brain-drain Project, to lure away Iran’s nuclear talent. By
all accounts, Mr. Obama has ramped up a Bush-era covert
programme to undermine Iran’s nuclear weapons
infrastructure, and he has made quiet diplomatic use of
Israel’s lurking threat to take military action if diplomacy
and pressure fail.
But ask the designers and executors of these programmes what
they all add up to, and the answer inevitably boils down to
“not enough.” Taken together, officials say, they may slow
Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, which has already
run into far greater technical slowdowns than anyone
expected. If the pressure builds, Iran might be driven to
the negotiating table, which it has avoided, since Mr. Obama
came to office offering “engagement.”
But even Mr. Obama, in his more-in-sadness-than-anger
description on Wednesday of why diplomacy has so far yielded
nothing, conceded, “We know that the Iranian government will
not change its behaviour overnight” and went on to describe
how, instead, the sanctions would create “growing costs.”
That assessment sounds like the now-familiar combination of
pragmatism and patience that Mr. Obama has tried to make the
hallmark of his approach to foreign policy. But in the case
of Iran, he is running up against ticking clocks. As Mr.
Obama noted in April, once Iran passes a certain point, it
may be impossible to know when it has taken the last steps
to manufacture a weapon.
On Thursday, Iran responded to the new sanctions by
threatening to further cloak its nuclear programme from
international oversight, by revising its relationship with
the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. State-run Press TV
quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of national security and
foreign policy in the Iranian Parliament, as saying that,
legislators would meet Sunday to “push for legislation to
reduce” Iran’s relations with the International Atomic
Some top officials in the Pentagon and the intelligence
agencies say, they wonder whether the White House has truly
grappled with the question of how far Iran can be permitted
to go, and what kind of risks Mr. Obama is willing to take
“It’s not the kind of question you win many points
asking,” said one senior official who participated in many
of the debates over Mr. Obama’s options, “because once you
draw a line in the sand, you have to decide how you are
going to act when the Iranians step over it.”
The need to confront those decisions appeared to be the
underlying message of a secret memorandum Defence Secretary
Robert M. Gates sent to the White House in January, in which
he posed questions about tactics and strategy, presupposing
that the fourth round of sanctions would be insufficient.
Though Mr. Gates said later, that the memorandum was a
routine effort to look ahead, some officials interpreted it
as an effort to force a debate on the hardest questions.
Sanctions are a tempting tool for any president. They impose
more pain than doing nothing or issuing ritual diplomatic
condemnations, and they stop well short of military
confrontation. Unfortunately, when it comes to stopping
countries from getting the bomb, history suggests they are
Washington swore for years it would stop India and
Pakistan from joining the nuclear club and briefly turned
off aid to them. Today, it works secretly with Pakistan to
secure its arsenal, and has signed a treaty with India,
permitting it to buy nuclear material.
North Korea has been under sanctions for years and is
broke to boot; that did not stop it from conducting two
crude nuclear tests. While some countries have been
persuaded to give up their weapons or weapons dreams — South
Africa, Libya, South Korea among them — the conditions were
radically different than they are in the case of Iran.
“The sanctions, as configured now, are not going to have any
appreciable impact on Iran,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who
tracked nuclear programmes around the world for the CIA and
the Energy Department, before moving to Harvard two years
ago. “It’s not going to do it. And the reality is that there
isn’t a more viable military option.”
Mr. Obama’s aides say they know sanctions are a limited tool
and that military options are the last and the riskiest
choices, so they have reached for others.
American-controlled antimissile systems have been quietly
placed in Arab states around the Persian Gulf. This is
classic containment, but it is of little use against the
nuclear programme. While Iran has a growing conventional
missile arsenal, intelligence experts believe it will be
years before it could make a nuclear weapon that could fit
atop a missile. Their fear, instead, is a weapon that could
be handed off to Hamas or Hezbollah, in a truck, a threat
against which the antimissile systems are of no use.
The administration has continued to support Iran’s
opposition groups, but treading carefully for fear of
appearing to meddle in internal Iranian politics. On
Thursday, Senator John McCain argued anew for regime change,
but he was careful to say it had to be “peaceful change,
chosen by and led by the people of Iran.” That is the kind
of change, whose timing, no White House can control.
The Brain-drain programme has lured defectors out of the
country, sometimes with laptops full of data about Iran’s
progress. One of the most recent defectors showed up on
YouTube in recent days, first claiming that he had been
kidnapped, then that he was simply a student studying in the
United States. There is little doubt, he was part of the
programme, but many questions remain about how much he knew
and how it could help the United States. “The big effect is
psychological,” one former intelligence official said. “It
tells the Iranians we are inside their programme.”
So, does the covert effort to make equipment fail, which
is believed to have had some successes. But, like sanctions,
this effort is unlikely to do more than delay the day of
reckoning, unless Mr. Obama gets lucky. – (NYTimes)
|Obama, Oil Spill
and the Chaos Perception
President Obama is
that rare politician who is also a gifted writer, and he
understands the power of a good metaphor. So you had to
believe, on some level at least, that the president could
appreciate the poetic significance of that cloud of oil,
ubiquitous on cable television all last week, spewing
endlessly from a 5,000-foot-deep puncture in the Gulf of
Mexico. Mr. Obama’s administration, too, had been breached,
and the accumulating cloud threatened to obscure its
considerable achievements — particularly the comprehensive
reforms of healthcare and federal education spending — as
the president heads towards the halfway point in his term.
The manmade catastrophe in the Gulf does not yet
constitute an existential threat to Mr. Obama’s presidency.
(There’s not much Mr. Obama can do about it at this point,
anyway, short of slapping on a scuba suit and sticking his
hand in the pipe, until the relief well is completed.) But
then, it is never really one crisis that diminishes a
president, as much as a succession of crises, avoidable or
not. And this may be the real danger for Mr. Obama’s
administration — not that the spill itself remains
unmanageable, but that it comes to represent a pattern in
the public mind, a sense that too many dangers at once
(mines and foreign economies collapsing, possible war on the
Korean peninsula) seem to be gushing beyond his reach.
As much as we talk about ideology and competence, our
judgment of presidents doesn’t hinge on either of these
things in isolation. What matters is the perception — or
perhaps the illusion — that one is shaping events, rather
than being shaped by them. The modern presidency, like the
old “Get Smart” series, is about chaos versus control.
Take, for instance, the cautionary tale of Jimmy Carter,
whose presidency, it is often said, was felled by inflation,
or maybe Iranian hostage-takers or gas shortages, depending
on who is doing the eulogizing. In fact, inflation was
probably at the core of Carter’s troubles. Those other
misfortunes contributed, too.
But, as the historian Kevin Mattson made clear in his
recent book about the Carter presidency, “What the Heck Are
You Up To, Mr. President?” you also have to factor in the
meltdown at Three Mile Island, Soviet tanks in Afghanistan
and the vivid spectre of Skylab hurtling day after day
toward a stationary and helpless Earth — in other words, an
air of general chaos and a belief that a president lauded
for his humility, had too little control over larger forces
in the universe. This explains, too, the appeal of Ronald
Reagan, whose cinematic persona suggested that he would have
lassoed the Skylab satellite and hurled it back into space.
Similarly, George W. Bush was undone, during his second
term, not only by a sluggish economy or the failure to find
biological weapons in Iraq, but also by the devastation of
Hurricane Katrina and the cascade of unsettling headlines
about bird flu and failing banks, suicide bombers and Korean
missiles. This stood in contrast to his predecessor, Bill
Clinton, who could not have done more to sink his own
presidency, had he tried, but who left office with strong
approval ratings nonetheless — in part because of a surging
economy, but also because he seemed at his most commanding
when unpredictable crises (the Columbine High School
shooting and the Oklahoma City bombing come to mind)
threatened to undermine our collective sense of order.
Political chaos theory, if you want to call it that, has
always been integral to the American presidency. It’s what
Abraham Lincoln understood, when, days after taking office,
he sought to take charge of events at Fort Sumter, rather
than heed the advice of those who thought he should simply
let them play out. Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated the same
essential insight in confronting the Great Depression — that
people needed to know you would impose order, even if not
every attempt at doing so worked. (Roosevelt and his
intrepid New Dealers would probably be thinking about ways
to drain the Gulf of Mexico right about now.)
And yet, a president’s ability to confront chaos seems
more central to the office now than it was, say, a
half-century ago, when almost no one blamed Dwight
Eisenhower for allowing quiz show scandals or Mississippi
tornadoes to go unchecked. In part, this is probably a
function of our having lost so much faith in the ability of
government generally. There is, after all, a short distance
between believing that government doesn’t solve our
problems, to believing that government actually causes them,
and a lot of Americans in the last few decades have made the
leap. If tar balls are turning up along the Gulf Coast, then
some bureaucrat somewhere must be to blame — and why not the
On a deeper level, though, we may be reacting to our own
lack of control as workers, providers and parents. For about
40 years, since the onset of industrial decline, Americans
have been trying to negotiate an increasingly unstable
economic and cultural landscape, the effects of which are
clear in any community where factories or farms (or often
both) have withered away — substance abuse, failing schools,
higher rates of crime and divorce. The chaos is all around
us, and what we ask of a president, increasingly, is to
somehow use the instruments of government to rein it in.
Mr. Obama seems to find it particularly hard to adjust to
this role, perhaps because he has always defined himself as
an outsider to Washington and its governing apparatus —
someone who would reform government, but not necessarily
master its inner workings. This, after all, was the subtext
of his entire debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton during the
Democratic primaries in 2008; she was the insider who could
competently work all the pulleys and levers of government,
and he was the outsider looking to cast aside what he later
called the “childish things” that dominated debate in
The problem here for Mr. Obama is that, almost 18 months
after assuming office, he still seems to regard himself as
something of an intellectual critic of government, when, in
fact, what Americans expect from him now is markedly
different. The transition is long behind us, which means the
president embodies the government he once assailed and is
held accountable, fairly or not, for its failures.
The disconnect was on vivid display during Mr. Obama’s
news conference late last month, when, despite professing
full responsibility for his administration’s response to the
leak, he referred several times to what the “federal
government” was doing, as if he himself were merely a
disappointed spectator like the rest of us. He railed coolly
against the “cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship”
between oil companies and the government, despite the fact
that his administration had been governing for more than a
year. And he seemed unbothered admitting to reporters that
he didn’t know whether his own director of the Minerals
Management Service had been fired or resigned.
By the time the president spoke again at the White Hous,
and then revisited the Gulf on Friday, he seemed genuinely
enraged at BP. The writer in him, perhaps, sensed that the
oil from a snapped-off pipe on the ocean floor may yet come
to signify something deeper about his administration. But
chaos-weary Americans no longer needed him to share their
outrage at the leak. They needed him to finally shut it off.
Teasing’ takes a terrible toll
Today has been
designated ‘Eve Teasing Protection Day’ by the Bangladesh
The announcement reflects increasing concern over the
worrying number of girls and women who have committed
suicide in the country, to escape sexual harassment known as
Eve Teasing is a catch-all term which usually involves young
men irritating or upsetting girls or women by making sexual
innuendos against them in public or in workplaces.
Figures released by the Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK) human
rights organisation reveal that 14 girls and women have
taken their own lives over the past four months across the
country, as a direct result of the practice.
In addition, a father and a daughter also committed suicide
jointly - in an incident blamed by the authorities on Eve
Teasing - while police say three males, who publicly
protested against the practice, have been killed by stalkers
over the past 12 weeks.
Critics argue that laws, which should prohibit Eve Teasing,
are so poorly drafted, that victims get virtually no help
from the law enforcement agencies. Families of the victims
are left feeling hopeless and helpless.
“Some victims find suicide is the only avenue that enables
them to escape this social pandemic,” said Executive
Director- ASK, Sultana Kamal.
“The situation is very frightening. The suicides of 14 girls
are an alarming sign of the times. If it is not controlled,
we women can no longer live in society with any dignity.”
The tragic story of 13-year-old Nashfia Akhand Pinky - known
as Pinky - shows just how damaging Eve Teasing can be.
Pinky was a ninth-grade student of a school only half a
kilometre away from where she lived with her uncle in
On her way to school, she was stalked by her 22-year-old
male neighbour and some of his friends, who, according to
her family, persisted with “ribald comments, smutty jokes,
coarse laughter, sly whistles and even indecent exposure”.
The neighbour had been stalking her for several months.
On January 19, she went out of her house to buy some
medicine for a niggling hand injury.
The neighbour and his friends blocked her way and made
suggestive remarks. She became angry and protested.
After that, he became more aggressive and bombarded her with
crude language, pulling off her scarf and slapping her face.
Pinky fell down on the street under a barrage of blows. She
says that some neighbours saw the incident, yet did not try
to stop it or protest against it.
Ali Ashraf Akhand, Pinky’s uncle, said that she suffered
“serious mental torment from this indecent assault”.
“She could not tolerate the insult of it,” he said, “so she
hanged herself with a Sari scarf tied to a ceiling fan in
her drawing room.
“Pinky informed me about 15 days before her suicide of the
stalking by the neighbour. I tried to warn him off, but he
became more predatory,” Akhand said.
His version of events seems to be borne out by a note Pinky
wrote just before the suicide.
“When [my tormentor] pulled my scarf and harassed me
physically in front of the house, onlookers at the scene
laughed. Nobody protested. None of my family members are
responsible for my suicide.”
Bangladesh police chief Nur Mohammad said that Pinky’s case
- and others like them- were a cause for “grave concern”. He
said that Eve Teasing was a problem that urgently needed to
be sorted out.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said that female
students and female teachers are at present not safe on
streets or in schools.
“That is no exaggeration. In some places, schools have been
shut and exams delayed because of problems caused by Eve
“Those who are teased do not like to go to school, and
sometimes, guardians do not allow them to go to school for
their safety and honour. So the dropout rate of female
students in many schools is increasing,” Nahid said.
“Another negative manifestation of the problem is the
tendency of parents to push underage daughters into early
marriages, so that they can escape Eve Teasing. Parents
think that, if their daughter has a husband, they will be
saved from the dangers.
“It has become a vicious cycle.” (BBC News)