January 29th, 2013

Sentenced to life

In my country, up until yesterday, there were 32 prisoners serving a life sentence. Counter to popular believe, life means life as in “until death do us part”. Until a few years ago, 20 years was the maximum sentence under “life”, which, in accordance to popular belief, means 13.4 years when the prisoner behaves. This was regarded as too big a gap (I agree), and 30 years (being 20 for real) was introduced by new legislation.

Today, 3 from 6 suspects in a huge inter-criminal liquidation trial were sentenced to life, upping our “sentenced to life” population with 10% in one single trial.

The 30 years could not be sentences, as the murders were committed before the change in legislation.

Note that in a life sentence, the prisoner will try all means to change the verdict. After all there is nothing to loose. So it’s not over.

March 16th, 2012

The horrific shooting and the fallout

It is reported here that the US will not co-operate with the investigation on that awful shooting by the soldier, killing three families. It might be reporting bias, I don’t know. It seems to me that the “let us handle this, we know better” attitude, amplified by the man being flown out of the country, is simply making the US image abroad worse?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying “toss the guy over to the Afghans”. I am not so ignorant. He’d probably be quartered or something. Somehow I do not believe (a supposed) metal disorder would be regarded whatsoever. But not co-operating in the investigation?

Jesse Helms in a micro cosmos. Sigh.

 

January 2nd, 2012

The casualties

I have no idea how “hot” Iraq is in the US after the withdrawal of the troops. Notwithstanding, IraqBodyCount published the latest data, all in interactive, informative graphs. Some data:

  • Total body count: 162.000
  • Civilian percentage: 79% those 162.000
  • Under age 18: 8.5% of deaths with obtained age record (45.779)

The number of civilian deaths in Iraq in 2011 was almost at the same level as in 2010 – there has now been no noticeable downward trend since mid-2009. As observed in IBC’s previous annual report, recent trends indicate a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come.1 While these data indicate no improvement, time will tell whether the withdrawal of US forces will have an effect on casualty levels.

February 24th, 2011

The not-so revolution, let alone an Islamic revolution

In one of the new sources I follow, there was a review of “This is not an Islamic Revolution“. Allow me to be slightly lazy and copy here the fragments they choose too.

Our (read: Western) fear that any uprising in the middle east must resemble the devastating Iranian example is false.

Look at those involved in the uprisings, and it is clear that we are dealing with a post-Islamist generation. For them, the great revolutionary movements of the 1970s and 1980s are ancient history, their parents’ affair. The members of this young generation aren’t interested in ideology: their slogans are pragmatic and concrete – “Erhal!” or “Go now!”. Unlike their predecessors in Algeria in the 1980s, they make no appeal to Islam; rather, they are rejecting corrupt dictatorships and calling for democracy. This is not to say that the demonstrators are secular; but they are operating in a secular political space, and they do not see in Islam an ideology capable of creating a better world.

There is no link with terrorist groups. This is all about fighting repression and corrupt regimes.

Indeed, global jihad is completely detached from social movements and national struggles. Al-Qaeda tries to present itself as the vanguard of the global Muslim “umma” in its battle against western oppression, but without success. Al-Qaeda recruits deracinated young jihadists who have cut themselves off entirely from their families and communities. It remains stuck in the logic of the “propaganda of the deed” and has never bothered to try to build political structures inside Muslim societies.

Even more, thinking that  repressive, secular regime will somehow protect “us” against Islamic fundamentalism is flawed.

It is also a mistake to see the dictatorships as defending secularism against religious fanaticism. With the exception of Tunisia, authoritarian regimes in the Arab world have not made their societies secular; on the contrary, they have reached an accommodation with a neofundamentalist form of re-Islamisation in which the imposition of sharia law is called for without any discussion of the nature of political power.

It is a VERY compelling read. Recommended.

January 29th, 2011

Murdered by ones government, again

In December 2009, Zahra Bahrami, a born Iranian woman, but naturalized to be Dutch, traveled back to her home country for a family visit. What exactly happened there is not clear, but she was arrested for treason and drugs possession. The storyline here is she was arrested shortly after attending a demonstration against the regime. Iran not accepting her Dutch citizenship sentenced her to death.

Today, it was confirmed she was executed by hanging. In Iran, this used to be being hoisted by a crane, not breaking the neck, but dying a slow, painful, barbarian death. Diplomatic contacts have been put on the back-burner and there are voices stating there is no use in having an embassy at all. Picture posted to show we are talking real people, not some abstract concept of life and death.

Zahra Bahrami

Note: the Iranian government states she was convicted of drugs trafficking, which, if true, is not the smartest thing to do (see footnote in this post). And she was caught here for that crime earlier. The major issue though is the death sentence in itself, and the complete opaqueness of the trial. No assistance, no lawyers, no nothing.

Note: The “security forces” informed her daughter last week Zahra Bahrami was being buried at the same moment in a village a couple of hundred kilometers from Teheran, making the process of dealing with all this unnecessary harder for the family. The Dutch ambassador in Teheran is being withdrawn. The minister of foreign affairs was being seriously questioned about the diplomatic actions and non actions of the administration. He lied flat out saying “everything posssible had been done”, while, in fact he personally had done literally nothing at all. But of course this had no consequences. What is the expression again? The chicken is involved in the bacon-and-egg; the pig is committed?

January 27th, 2010

To not forget

Today, after 112 hours, the reading of 102.000 names of people who were transported through the Nazi deportation camp Westerbork in my country and then onwards by cattle train to the extermination camps in Poland came to an end with the last name on the memorial, Heinrich Zysmanowicz.

The youngest reader was 11, the oldest 80. A few by telephone from the US and Israël.

Let us not ever forget the evil that can be created and nourished by hatred. Let us not forget what administrations can do if they know too much (is that why they are called “administrations”?); the round up of Jews in WWII was ultra efficient in my country because of the wonderfully complete and precise record keeping.

January 25th, 2010

The execution

Hassan al-Majeed, alias Ali Chemicali, has been hanged today. The was the guy ordering poison gas attacks on the kurds, killing mostly women and children (not that that last fact matters). I will confess this is a tough one to have an opinion. Lets just say I cannot condemn the ones who cheer his execution. I can’t believe I wrote that.

December 18th, 2009

The bullfighting

While in Spain it is always claimed that bullfighting is an form of culture and art, I am sure most sane people would dare to argue otherwise and see it as totally unneeded cruelty against animals. Is there light at the end of this long tunnel? Maybe. Spanish region Catalonia voted with a small majority to pick up a citizens initiative to create a law that would forbid bullfighting. Mind you, 180.000 signatures were collected! So no law, but a process started to make a law. In 1991 bullfighting was already banned on the Canary Islands, another Spanish region.

ps: added a new category: Good news.

September 20th, 2009

The little error

I have blogged about my country being the most wiretapped in the world before. Now often when I discuss privacy issues, the response is: “I don’t care, I have no secrets, and I rather have a government keep an eye on the bad boys”. Erm, right. History will tell a different story, as well as actuality.

There was a fatal stabbing. The police could not crack the case, but was pretty convinced Mrs X was a witness to the crime. Therefor a wiretap was requested and granted. Later on she decides, on her own account, to cough up what she saw and heard to a recently introduced governmental agency called M, that guarantees anonymity. You can call their number, report crime and through a series of rather well publicized measures they ensure it is forwarded anonymously to the crime fighting authorities. And here, oopsie, things went wrong. As she was wiretapped, the conversation was transcribed and put in the file of the prosecutors against the suspect. And that file is now public, including her identity. Nice, really nice.

The prosecutors office is hardly sorry and even stated Mrs X should have been more careful than to call M (WTF?!?!?!?). The director of M is furious, but the damage is done. Nothing to hide eh?

Next in line: other than all other countries in the EU, my country decided to not only put fingerprints in the new passport (required by European legislation), but also store those fingerprints in a centralized database. Court filings by a Dutch privacy organisation were dismissed by the European courts, as that is only an appeal court. Big brother isn’t coming. It’s already here. TBC.

July 29th, 2009

The hero

From the Huffington Post (and they seem to have it from Associated press, oh my, we might have to pay for this).

A Sudanese female journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public in violation of the country’s strict Islamic laws told a packed Khartoum courtroom Wednesday she is resigning from a U.N. job that grants her immunity so she can challenge the law on women’s public dress code.

Lubna Hussein was among 13 women arrested July 3 in a raid by members of the public order police force on a popular Khartoum cafe for wearing trousers, considered indecent by the strict interpretation of Islamic law adopted by Sudan’s Islamic regime. All but three of the women were flogged at a police station two days later.

This is the sort of thing that makes my blood boil. Lubna is my hero (but at what price?)