World News

Leaving Afghan Women In The Lurch

By Kerry Healey   |   Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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Oct. 27, 2010

America and our NATO allies are facing a defining moral issue in the war in Afghanistan -- one by which history will judge us. 

Ironically, the largest moral challenges on the world stage—such as the rise of Nazism or, more recently, the genocide in Rwanda—sometimes escape the clear focus of our contemporary eyes because they are either too politically inconvenient or simply beyond our imagination.  Horrors that would stir public outrage if they were to occur next door pass unnoticed when they happen to people we don’t know in a country few could find on a map. 

The Coalition forces in Afghanistan are at just such a juncture -- one which is testing both our leaders’ and the public’s willingness to sacrifice our own soldiers lives for abstract ideals like human rights and constitutional democracy in a harsh place well beyond our easy view or comprehension.  Reports about rebellious teen brides with their noses and ears cut off by the Taliban, or pregnant widows being flogged and shot in the head, only seem to intensify our sense of alienation.  Many reasonable people say we have no role in such a distant and ungovernable place.

But right now, the lives of Afghan women and girls—and their very right to be treated as humans—is in danger of becoming a bargaining chip to achieve a so-called “political solution” with the Taliban in order to expedite withdrawal.  Alongside the geo-political strategic wisdom of a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, there is an undeniable human cost to that policy that should be discussed and weighed.

By promising a commitment to constitutional democracy and legal equality, we’ve raised the hopes of all Afghan women. Many brave Afghan women have staked their lives on this promise, participating in government, attending school, working as teachers, translators, midwives, police officers, lawyers, judges, entrepreneurs and human rights activists.  These women are willing to risk their lives daily in order to exercise the new rights they have been given. 

These incredible women are the Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges of Afghanistan—quietly asserting their legal rights despite death threats and an uncertain future.  They embraced our dream of democracy and equality, and expected us to be there beside them, supporting their struggle.  Now we have to open our eyes to the modern history that is being written.   Do we, as a nation, want to be remembered as present-day Chamberlains or as Freedom Riders?

In China, Looking For Mr. Right (Or Right Enough)

By Rob Gifford   |   Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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Modern Zapatistas in Mexico Remain Determined

Saturday, October 2, 2010
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Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence today, and this year also marks 100 years since the Mexican Revolution. While a deadly drug war clouds the celebration, a forgotten revolution marches on in Chiapas. The Zapatistas, an army of indigenous campesinos, took Mexico by surprise in 1994. Today, the Zapatistas remain determined as their movement continues its slow course. The World’s Grant Fuller has the story.

>> Read this story and more at The World

Travel Around the World with Sound Tracks

Monday, August 30, 2010
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By Kerry Healey   |   Thursday, August 19, 2010
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by Kerry Healey, 89.7 WGBH
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Here’s a quiz: What are the 5 most censored, secretive, authoritarian governments in the world? North Korea makes everyone’s list. Equatorial Guinea, Burma, Libya and… can you guess? Try Turkmenistan, an obscure, doubly land-locked, oil and gas-rich former Soviet Republic cradled gently between Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.

Turkmen anchormen on the State’s one TV station repeat a pledge on-air daily wishing that their tongues shrivel if ever they slander their homeland. All foreign journalists are banned. So because no journalist can, let me tell you what I saw in Turkmenistan this month.

Thanks to Tukmenistan's legendary beaurocracy it took 4 hours to walk just 500 feet from Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan, across triple moats lined with a razor wire-topped fence. But honestly, the machine gun-toting guards dozing at their posts in the 100 degree heat, evoked more sympathy than fear.

Most Turkmen live in flat-roofed adobe-style houses, farming or herding goats. Turkmen women plow fields, walk to school, or sell camels at the Sunday Market, wearing elegant, colorful, traditional floor-length gowns. Scarves are optional. They say this beautiful dress is not mandatory—except for school girls—simply that it was the will of the first post-Soviet leader Turkmenbashi the Great. While Turkmen women seem more liberated than those in neighboring Iran or Afghanistan, brides are nonetheless forbidden to speak to their husbands or in-laws for forty days after marriage. The in-laws decide when a wife may speak—if ever. Now that’s censorship!

In Turkmenistan, remnants of ancient Zoroastrian culture are as evident as those of Islamic invasions and Soviet domination. The Soviets precipitously withdrew in 1991—leaving a taste for vodka and totalitarianism. It was then that Turkmenbashi the Great began styling himself the “Father of all Turkmen”, declared neutrality and banned all foreign journalists. He decreed that all buildings in the capitol, Ashgabat, be white marble (a stone not available in Turkmenistan) and erected multiple gold-covered statues of himself—the most notorious of which rotates, always facing the Sun. Turkmenbashi’s book, the Ruhnama, is required reading that forms the basic knowledge required of each Turkmen citizen. Ashgabat is a 3-D Potemkin village, part Dubai, part lost Vegas, but eerily quiet—perfect and empty. The people are quiet too, convinced that every room in it is bugged.

For the record, Turkmenbashi died in 2006 and Turkmenistan is now ruled by Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Turmenbashi’s dentist.

I hear Katie Couric uses the mnemonic “I’m a dinner jacket” to pronounce the President of Iran’s tongue-twister name. Good thing for Katie, Turkmenistan’s president wants his name to remain a secret!

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