Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:43:19 -0400 en-gb Inequality and Climate Change: Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern in Conversation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31707-inequality-and-climate-change-joseph-stiglitz-and-nicholas-stern-in-conversation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31707-inequality-and-climate-change-joseph-stiglitz-and-nicholas-stern-in-conversation

On Earth Day 2015, Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern, two of the world's leading experts on economics and the environment, joined in conversation about the intersection of climate change and inequality.

Presented on April 22, 2015, by Graduate Center Public Programs. Cosponsored by the Luxembourg Income Study Center, the Advanced Research Collaborative and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

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News Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
As Black Churches Burn Across the South, Are White Supremacist Attacks Continuing? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31706-as-black-churches-burn-across-the-south-are-white-supremacist-attacks-continuing http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31706-as-black-churches-burn-across-the-south-are-white-supremacist-attacks-continuing

The FBI is launching an investigation into fires set at seven different African-American churches in seven days. So far none of the blazes have been labeled as hate crimes, but investigators say at least three fires were caused by arson. The fires began on June 21, just days after the Charleston massacre, and have occurred in six different states: Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Ohio. We are joined by Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking these most recent fires.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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News Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
After Half a Century, US and Cuba Reopen Embassies and Restore Ties http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31705-after-half-a-century-us-and-cuba-reopen-embassies-and-restore-ties http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31705-after-half-a-century-us-and-cuba-reopen-embassies-and-restore-ties

After half a century, the United States and Cuba have announced they will reopen embassies in each other's capitals and formally re-establish diplomatic relations. Secretary of State John Kerry said he will travel to Havana to open the US Embassy there. In a statement, the Cuban government said relations with the United States cannot be considered normalized until trade sanctions are lifted, the naval base at Guantánamo Bay is returned, and US-backed programs aimed at "subversion and internal destabilization" are halted. But in a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro acknowledged much progress has already been made, and confirmed the openings of permanent diplomatic missions later this month. We are joined by Peter Kornbluh, author of "Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana."

Please check back later for full transcript.

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News Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Superpower Conundrum: The Rise and Fall of Just About Everything http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31701-superpower-conundrum-the-rise-and-fall-of-just-about-everything http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31701-superpower-conundrum-the-rise-and-fall-of-just-about-everything

The rise and fall of great powers and their imperial domains has been a central fact of history for centuries. It's been a sensible, repeatedly validated framework for thinking about the fate of the planet. So it's hardly surprising, when faced with a country once regularly labeled the "sole superpower," "the last superpower," or even the global "hyperpower" and now, curiously, called nothing whatsoever, that the "decline" question should come up. Is the U.S. or isn't it? Might it or might it not now be on the downhill side of imperial greatness?

Take a slow train -- that is, any train -- anywhere in America, as I did recently in the northeast, and then take a high-speed train anywhere else on Earth, as I also did recently, and it's not hard to imagine the U.S. in decline. The greatest power in history, the "unipolar power," can't build a single mile of high-speed rail? Really? And its Congress is now mired in an argument about whether funds can even be raised to keep America's highways more or less pothole-free.

Sometimes, I imagine myself talking to my long-dead parents because I know how such things would have astonished two people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and a can-do post-war era in which the staggering wealth and power of this country were indisputable. What if I could tell them how the crucial infrastructure of such a still-wealthy nation -- bridges, pipelines, roads, and the like -- is now grossly underfunded, in an increasing state of disrepair, and beginning to crumble? That would definitely shock them.

And what would they think upon learning that, with the Soviet Union a quarter-century in the trash bin of history, the U.S., alone in triumph, has been incapable of applying its overwhelming military and economic power effectively? I'm sure they would be dumbstruck to discover that, since the moment the Soviet Union imploded, the U.S. has been at war continuously with another country (three conflicts and endless strife); that I was talking about, of all places, Iraq; and that the mission there was never faintly accomplished. How improbable is that? And what would they think if I mentioned that the other great conflicts of the post-Cold-War era were with Afghanistan (two wars with a decade off in-between) and the relatively small groups of non-state actors we now call terrorists? And how would they react on discovering that the results were: failure in Iraq, failure in Afghanistan, and the proliferation of terror groups across much of the Greater Middle East (including the establishment of an actual terror caliphate) and increasing parts of Africa?

They would, I think, conclude that the U.S. was over the hill and set on the sort of decline that, sooner or later, has been the fate of every great power. And what if I told them that, in this new century, not a single action of the military that U.S. presidents now call "the finest fighting force the world has ever known" has, in the end, been anything but a dismal failure? Or that presidents, presidential candidates, and politicians in Washington are required to insist on something no one would have had to say in their day: that the United States is both an "exceptional" and an "indispensible" nation? Or that they would also have to endlessly thank our troops (as would the citizenry) for... well... never success, but just being there and getting maimed, physically or mentally, or dying while we went about our lives? Or that those soldiers must always be referred to as "heroes."

In their day, when the obligation to serve in a citizens' army was a given, none of this would have made much sense, while the endless defensive insistence on American greatness would have stood out like a sore thumb. Today, its repetitive presence marks the moment of doubt. Are we really so "exceptional"? Is this country truly "indispensible" to the rest of the planet and if so, in what way exactly? Are those troops genuinely our heroes and if so, just what was it they did that we're so darn proud of?

Return my amazed parents to their graves, put all of this together, and you have the beginnings of a description of a uniquely great power in decline. It's a classic vision, but one with a problem.

A God-Like Power to Destroy

Who today recalls the ads from my 1950s childhood for, if I remember correctly, drawing lessons, which always had a tagline that went something like: What's wrong with this picture? (You were supposed to notice the five-legged cows floating through the clouds.) So what's wrong with this picture of the obvious signs of decline: the greatest power in history, with hundreds of garrisons scattered across the planet, can't seem to apply its power effectively no matter where it sends its military or bring countries like Iran or a weakened post-Soviet Russia to heel by a full range of threats, sanctions, and the like, or suppress a modestly armed terror-movement-cum-state in the Middle East?

For one thing, look around and tell me that the United States doesn't still seem like a unipolar power. I mean, where exactly are its rivals? Since the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, when the first wooden ships mounted with cannons broke out of their European backwater and began to gobble up the globe, there have always been rival great powers -- three, four, five, or more. And what of today? The other three candidates of the moment would assumedly be the European Union (EU), Russia, and China.

Economically, the EU is indeed a powerhouse, but in any other way it's a second-rate conglomeration of states that still slavishly follow the U.S. and an entity threatening to come apart at the seams. Russia looms ever larger in Washington these days, but remains a rickety power in search of greatness in its former imperial borderlands. It's a country almost as dependent on its energy industry as Saudi Arabia and nothing like a potential future superpower. As for China, it's obviously the rising power of the moment and now officially has the number one economy on Planet Earth. Still, it remains in many ways a poor country whose leaders fear any kind of future economic implosion (which could happen). Like the Russians, like any aspiring great power, it wants to make its weight felt in its neighborhood -- at the moment the East and South China Seas. And like Vladimir Putin's Russia, the Chinese leadership is indeed upgrading its military. But the urge in both cases is to emerge as a regional power to contend with, not a superpower or a genuine rival of the U.S.

Whatever may be happening to American power, there really are no potential rivals to shoulder the blame. Yet, uniquely unrivaled, the U.S. has proven curiously incapable of translating its unipolar power and a military that, on paper, trumps every other one on the planet into its desires. This was not the normal experience of past reigning great powers. Or put another way, whether or not the U.S. is in decline, the rise-and-fall narrative seems, half-a-millennium later, to have reached some kind of largely uncommented upon and unexamined dead end.

In looking for an explanation, consider a related narrative involving military power. Why, in this new century, does the U.S. seem so incapable of achieving victory or transforming crucial regions into places that can at least be controlled? Military power is by definition destructive, but in the past such force often cleared the ground for the building of local, regional, or even global structures, however grim or oppressive they might have been. If force always was meant to break things, it sometimes achieved other ends as well. Now, it seems as if breaking is all it can do, or how to explain the fact that, in this century, the planet's sole superpower has specialized -- see Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere -- in fracturing, not building nations.

Empires may have risen and fallen in those 500 years, but weaponry only rose. Over those centuries in which so many rivals engaged each other, carved out their imperial domains, fought their wars, and sooner or later fell, the destructive power of the weaponry they were wielding only ratcheted up exponentially: from the crossbow to the musket, the cannon, the Colt revolver, the repeating rifle, the Gatling gun, the machine gun, the dreadnaught, modern artillery, the tank, poison gas, the zeppelin, the plane, the bomb, the aircraft carrier, the missile, and at the end of the line, the "victory weapon" of World War II, the nuclear bomb that would turn the rulers of the greatest powers, and later even lesser powers, into the equivalent of gods.

For the first time, representatives of humanity had in their hands the power to destroy anything on the planet in a fashion once imagined possible only by some deity or set of deities. It was now possible to create our own end times. And yet here was the odd thing: the weaponry that brought the power of the gods down to Earth somehow offered no practical power at all to national leaders. In the post-Hiroshima-Nagasaki world, those nuclear weapons would prove unusable. Once they were loosed on the planet, there would be no more rises, no more falls. (Today, we know that even a limited nuclear exchange among lesser powers could, thanks to the nuclear-winter effect, devastate the planet.)

Weapons Development in an Era of Limited War

In a sense, World War II could be considered the ultimate moment for both the narratives of empire and the weapon. It would be the last "great" war in which major powers could bring all the weaponry available to them to bear in search of ultimate victory and the ultimate shaping of the globe. It resulted in unprecedented destruction across vast swathes of the planet, the killing of tens of millions, the turning of great cities into rubble and of countless people into refugees, the creation of an industrial structure for genocide, and finally the building of those weapons of ultimate destruction and of the first missiles that would someday be their crucial delivery systems. And out of that war came the final rivals of the modern age -- and then there were two -- the "superpowers."

That very word, superpower, had much of the end of the story embedded in it. Think of it as a marker for a new age, for the fact that the world of the "great powers" had been left for something almost inexpressible. Everyone sensed it. We were now in the realm of "great" squared or force raised in some exponential fashion, of "super" (as in, say, "superhuman") power. What made those powers truly super was obvious enough: the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union -- their potential ability, that is, to destroy in a fashion that had no precedent and from which there might be no coming back. It wasn't a happenstance that the scientists creating the H-bomb sometimes referred to it in awestruck terms as a "super bomb," or simply "the super."

The unimaginable had happened. It turned out that there was such a thing as too much power. What in World War II came to be called "total war," the full application of the power of a great state to the destruction of others, was no longer conceivable. The Cold War gained its name for a reason. A hot war between the U.S. and the USSR could not be fought, nor could another global war, a reality driven home by the Cuban missile crisis. Their power could only be expressed "in the shadows" or in localized conflicts on the "peripheries." Power now found itself unexpectedly bound hand and foot.

This would soon be reflected in the terminology of American warfare. In the wake of the frustrating stalemate that was Korea (1950-1953), a war in which the U.S. found itself unable to use its greatest weapon, Washington took a new language into Vietnam. The conflict there was to be a "limited war." And that meant one thing: nuclear power would be taken off the table.

For the first time, it seemed, the world was facing some kind of power glut. It's at least reasonable to assume that, in the years after the Cold War standoff ended, that reality somehow seeped from the nuclear arena into the rest of warfare. In the process, great power war would be limited in new ways, while somehow being reduced only to its destructive aspect and nothing more. It suddenly seemed to hold no other possibilities within it -- or so the evidence of the sole superpower in these years suggests.

War and conflict are hardly at an end in the twenty-first century, but something has removed war's normal efficacy. Weapons development has hardly ceased either, but the newest highest-tech weapons of our age are proving strangely ineffective as well. In this context, the urge in our time to produce "precision weaponry" -- no longer the carpet-bombing of the B-52, but the "surgical" strike capacity of a joint direct attack munition, or JDAM -- should be thought of as the arrival of "limited war" in the world of weapons development.

The drone, one of those precision weapons, is a striking example. Despite its penchant for producing "collateral damage," it is not a World War II-style weapon of indiscriminate slaughter. It has, in fact, been used relatively effectively to play whack-a-mole with the leadership of terrorist groups, killing off one leader or lieutenant after another. And yet all of the movements it has been directed against have only proliferated, gaining strength (and brutality) in these same years. It has, in other words, proven an effective weapon of bloodlust and revenge, but not of policy. If war is, in fact, politics by other means (as Carl von Clausewitz claimed), revenge is not. No one should then be surprised that the drone has produced not an effective war on terror, but a war that seems to promote terror.

One other factor should be added in here: that global power glut has grown exponentially in another fashion as well. In these years, the destructive power of the gods has descended on humanity a second time as well -- via the seemingly most peaceable of activities, the burning of fossil fuels. Climate change now promises a slow-motion version of nuclear Armageddon, increasing both the pressure on and the fragmentation of societies, while introducing a new form of destruction to our lives.

Can I make sense of all this? Hardly. I'm just doing my best to report on the obvious: that military power no longer seems to act as it once did on Planet Earth. Under distinctly apocalyptic pressures, something seems to be breaking down, something seems to be fragmenting, and with that the familiar stories, familiar frameworks, for thinking about how our world works are losing their efficacy.

Decline may be in the American future, but on a planet pushed to extremes, don't count on it taking place within the usual tale of the rise and fall of great powers or even superpowers. Something else is happening on Planet Earth. Be prepared.

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Opinion Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Obama's Amazing Grace http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31700-obama-s-amazing-grace http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31700-obama-s-amazing-grace

If Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech is the 20th century equivalent of Abraham Lincoln's magnificent Second Inaugural — and I think it is — then what President Barack Obama gave us in Charleston, South Carolina is our century's Gettysburg Address.

He gave a marvelous eulogy that was powerful and eloquent. He was moving without resorting to sentimentality.

Obama embraced the life of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, slain in his historically black church by a white racist only days before. Rather than merely eulogizing the man, Obama traced the black experience in America, all through its history of slavery, war, segregation, discrimination, mass imprisonment, and murder.

And despite the bleakness of that history, Obama found redemption in Pinckney's life. He talked about the reverend's gift of grace, and how grace has buoyed African Americans through their darkest times and armed them with a kind of invulnerability.

Was Obama trying to say that black people are truly invulnerable? Of course not. But through the deeds of people like Pinckney and the notion of grace they embody, black Americans have survived.

The message was all the more effective because Obama delivered it in the cadences of the black church. As he wrapped it up, he broke into the hymn "Amazing Grace" and invited the audience to join in.

(Photo: Lawrence Jackson/Official White House Photo)(Photo: Lawrence Jackson/Official White House Photo)

I don't know how much good it will do. Maybe some. It looks like the Confederate battle flag will be taken down from its perch at the South Carolina State House and other public buildings across the South. In terms of symbolism, that's no small thing.He went into that funeral at the College of Charleston as a president who happened to be black. He left it as a black man who happened to be president.

"Removing the flag from this state's Capitol would not be an act of political correctness," Obama said. "It would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong. The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people, was wrong."

When have you heard an American president cut through the mythology with which the South has wrapped the Civil War — the "War Between the States," they call it, or even the "War of Northern Aggression" — with so simple and direct a statement? The cause for which they fought was wrong. Period. End of argument.

The greatness of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address wasn't universally accepted when it was delivered. Lincoln's partisan enemies said it was inappropriate to the occasion, and some of them even attacked it as "silly."

I don't watch Fox News (doctor's orders). But I imagine its crew of political harpies and trolls gave the Charleston eulogy a similar welcome.

I feel sorry for them. I forgive them. I'm in that kind of mood. I'm as close to a state of grace as you can get without actually believing in God.

But I believe in something: a power that's larger than oneself that arises from masses of people struggling for justice and listening to — as Lincoln said in his first inaugural address — "the better angels of their nature."

Some people will call Obama's speech political. Of course it was. He is, after all, the president of the United States. Every word out of his mouth is political in some way or another.

How, he asked, can we permit so many of our children to live in poverty, and for tens of thousands of our young people to be caught up in our criminal justice system? How can we make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote?

He indicted our relative indifference to the carnage of gun violence that takes 30 lives every day in our nation.

"Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race," Obama said. "We don't need more talk."

It's time to do something.

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Opinion Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Confederate Lifestyle http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/31699-confederate-lifestyle http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/31699-confederate-lifestyle

©Universal Uclick

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Art Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Working-Class Movement Fights for Local Authority http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31698-working-class-movement-fights-for-local-authority http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31698-working-class-movement-fights-for-local-authority

Editor's Note: Make the Road New York is a membership-based grassroots immigrant organization that leads and supports local lawmaking efforts, including recent initiatives to end collaboration between US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local police, establish paid sick leave, introduce municipal ID and protect human rights. Simon Davis-Cohen sat down with their co-executive director, Deborah Axt, to talk about the rising tide of local law making in the United States.

Simon Davis-Cohen: Implicit in Make the Road New York's (MRNY) work is a belief that local governments should have power to improve state and federal discrimination protections. You have clearly found ways to do this. Have you encountered legal obstacles or doctrines that limit MRNY's work? What are obstacles to increasing such protections, locally?

Deborah Axt: We believe it is critical for local governments to adopt and implement affirmative policies to ensure that working-class immigrant communities can live a life of respect and dignity, with protections against discrimination in the workplace, at home, and throughout their lives. In New York, a key obstacle has been policy areas where the state has authority over New York City and other localities, and state lawmakers are able to block local action—for example, on the minimum wage and the rent laws. We approach this problem in two ways: first, by identifying policy-making opportunities at the local level where the city or locality can make a difference. And second, by organizing with allies across the state to pressure Albany to respond to the needs of localities like New York City and Long Island and allow local governments to adopt the affirmative policies they have blocked.

Many "Liberals" are weary of local lawmaking. For example, they may agree with the LGBTQ movement's ideals, but they don't agree with its tactics—local lawmaking. What do you have to say to these people?

We believe strongly that we must work at all levels of government that are relevant to the issues our members identify as their priorities. Federally, we continue to work with partners across the country on issues like the minimum wage and education policy. But while Washington stalls, we cannot wait to take action at the state and local level to ensure that our members' needs and rights are heard and protected. Our members are very savvy about identifying local campaign targets as well as federal priorities like immigration reform, and they feel it's critical to engage at multiple levels to achieve the just society towards which they are working every day. Besides, local lawmaking is the arena that is most accessible to everyday folks; it is the arena where we train and test and cultivate the candidates and leaders that will step onto the state and national arenas in the future. We either organize and push the conversation on the local level or concede the future to our opposition.

There are arguments to be made that if you give one locality power to pass laws about immigration, you open the door to discriminatory laws like those we see in Arizona and beyond. Legally, what is the difference between a law that offers immigrants sanctuary, and one that criminalizes their existence?

In general, Federal policy preempts states and localities that wish to adopt misguided policies to make immigrants' lives miserable. The same preemption does not apply to affirmative policies geared at making a particular locality welcoming to immigrants and taking measures to break the link between immigration enforcement and local law enforcement.

With movements like those to raise the minimum wage or win paid sick leave, the national narrative has moved away from Washington DC toward local lawmaking. Work like MRNY's that utilizes local lawmaking is on the rise. However, there are significant efforts by state legislatures to preempt these movements. How can these movements work together to counter preemption?

We have to keep fighting and winning on all levels. When we have enough people in the streets demanding that their cities protect and respect them, then there will be a real backlash against the state governments that squash those city-level efforts. We have to build that kind of momentum and back-and-forth conversation between cities and states.

The Fight for $15 nationally, and coalitions across states like New York, are working together in lock-step to ensure that state legislatures respond to working people's demands and raise the minimum wage. In New York, members of grassroots organizations around the state are mobilizing together to pressure Albany to raise the statewide minimum wage and allow localities to raise their wages even higher. Ultimately, we are fighting for a speedy path to $15 per hour, indexation, and the ability to join a union. As Governor Cuomo's May 6th announcement to convene a fast food worker wage board showed, the momentum is on our side. We are winning concrete victories, and we are going to keep working to achieve our broader goal.

New York City does not have the power to increase the minimum wage because the state has long-defined the state minimum wage as a "ceiling" (a maximum minimum wage) that localities cannot raise. To what extent can the various movements we have discussed work together to redefine state law as a "floor" localities can improve upon?

We know that the same structural obstacles stand in the way of meaningful progress on many of the fronts that matter to working people—housing, minimum wage, fair elections. And organizations are working together on each of these, and we ARE talking across "movements" and campaigns. But the opposition knows when to fight back hard, and they will continue to strongly oppose our efforts to free up municipalities to deliver more for working class and low income folks. We simply have to continue building enough power to break through.

Though private corporations have constitutionally protected rights in this country, local governments enjoy no such protection. What are your thoughts on a movement for a constitutionally protected right to local self-government?

There are moments in history and areas in the country today where progressives would be wise to side with the federal government over the locality. Let's focus on winning an enforceable right for every person to live with dignity, and on ending the current reality where the wealthy drown out the voices of others by forming corporations with their own "rights." Whether municipal, county, state or federal, we need to stop the wealthy from rigging both the political and the economic game in their favor.

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Opinion Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Next Steps in the Normalization of US-Cuban Relations: Thoughts From the Cuban Five http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31697-next-steps-in-the-normalization-of-us-cuban-relations-thoughts-from-the-cuban-five http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31697-next-steps-in-the-normalization-of-us-cuban-relations-thoughts-from-the-cuban-five

Now that US and Cuba are opening embassies in each other's countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries? Marjorie Cohn posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, members of the "Cuban Five," whose release from US prison was critical to the historic détente. Their reply? End the embargo and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

Marjorie Cohn with Rene Gonzalez and Olga. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)Marjorie Cohn with René González and his wife, Olga. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)Now that United States and Cuba are preparing to open embassies in each other's countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries?

During a recent visit to Cuba I posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, two of the "Cuban Five" - five Cuban men who traveled to the United States in the 1990s to gather information about terrorist plots against Cuba and then became celebrated Cuban heroes during their subsequent incarceration by the United States.

Their reply? End the embargo and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

"We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal," González said, arguing that the normalization of relations won't happen overnight. He added:

We were occupied by US troops in 1898. From then on, we were a subject of the US government and especially the US corporations. Then came the Revolution, which tried to correct that imbalance. Then came a different stage - of aggressions, blockade and policies against Cuba, which has lasted for more than 56 years. You cannot expect that establishing normal relations … [for] the first time in history is going to be an easy process.

Guerrero noted that the US had taken one major step toward normalization already by removing Cuba from its list of countries alleged to support terrorism but noted that the next step toward normalization will require a much larger step - ending the US embargo, which in Cuba is more commonly referred to as the "blockade." Normalization, González said, will require "the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade. Everybody knows how damaging it has been for the Cuban people. It's a small island. For 50 years, it has been asphyxiated by the biggest power in the world. It had a cost on the Cuban people, on their economy."

The Illegal Occupation of Guantánamo Bay

González also listed the return of Guantánamo to Cuba as necessary for normalization. After the blockade is lifted and Guantánamo is returned to Cuba, he told me, "I believe the process will take speed."

The Cuban Five ... turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working to combat terrorist plots in the United States against Cuba, the US government arrested them.

González rightly pointed out that the US occupation of Guantánamo is illegal. The United States gained control of Guantánamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the US Army after its intervention in Cuba's war of independence against Spain. Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its Constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of US troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantánamo Bay.

The 1903 Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay "exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose." A 1934 treaty maintained US control over Guantánamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to "coaling and naval stations."

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment - which has been documented at the prison. The United States thus stands in violation of the 1934 treaty.

Moreover, the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a norm of customary international law, allows one party to a treaty to abrogate its obligations when there is a fundamental change in circumstances. Using Guantánamo Bay as a prison and torturing detainees is a fundamental change in circumstance, which constitutes grounds for Cuba to terminate the treaty.

The Diplomatic Importance of Freeing the Cuban Five

The United States and Cuba would not likely have announced this week their plans to reopen embassies in each other's countries if President Barack Obama had not successfully negotiated the full release of the Cuban Five in the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17, 2014. That deal, to work toward normalization of relations between the two countries, had eluded Obama's 10 predecessors over a 55-year period. It will likely be Obama's signature foreign policy achievement.

Marjorie Cohn with Antonio Guerrero. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)Marjorie Cohn with Antonio Guerrero. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)A part of the deal that had enormous symbolic significance to many Cubans was the freeing of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino - the three members of the Cuban Five who were still imprisoned at the time of the agreement. On December 17, 2014, the three men were granted clemency and returned to Cuba. The other two members of the Cuban Five - René González and Fernando González - had previously been released in 2011 and 2014, respectively, after serving their full sentences.

The case of the Cuban Five garnered international condemnation in particular because the five men had traveled to the United States to gather intelligence on Cuban exile groups for a very legitimate reason. Since Cuba's 1959 Revolution, terrorist organizations based in Miami, including Alpha 66, Commandos F4, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro government. The most notorious was the in-air bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 persons aboard, including the entire Cuban fencing team. These groups have acted with impunity in the United States.

The Cuban Five peacefully infiltrated these organizations. They then turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working to combat terrorist plots in the United States against Cuba, the US government arrested them and charged them with crimes including conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. Although none of the Five had any classified information or engaged in any acts to injure the United States, they were convicted in a Miami court in 2000 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years collectively.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals unanimously overturned their convictions in 2005, ruling that the Five could not get a fair trial in Miami due to the pervasive anti-Cuba sentiment there. Nevertheless, the 11thCircuit, sitting en banc, upheld the convictions, and Hernandez's life term was affirmed on appeal.

Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

The Cuban Five endured years of harsh conditions and wrongful imprisonment before their release. After being arrested, they were immediately put into solitary confinement and held in "The Hole" for 17 months. Solitary confinement amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, according to United Nations special rapporteur Juan E. Méndez.

"I believe they expected to break us down," González added. The US government "used the CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] and randomly classified everything," which "allowed them to prevent us from looking at the evidence," González said. "So they put us in "The Hole" and then put the evidence in another hole."

Yet, González noted, "Sometimes you have to react as a human with your dignity. And they went after our dignity. And we had to defend it. We were more committed. We were more encouraged to go to trial, and that's what we did."

"For us," González said, "going to trial was great. We wanted to go to trial every day because we wanted to face them and expose the truth of terrorism against Cuba and how the government of the United States supported those terrorists."

"We don't blame the American people for the faults of the their government ... I hope sincerely that this new relationship with the US will allow Americans to come here and share with us this beautiful island."

"They decided to behave like thugs." he told me. "And then you have to resort to your moral values, again to your human dignity and defend that." González said, "We always knew what we were doing there. We knew that we never intended to make any harm to the United States at all, to the US people. We were very clear on that. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in the whole evidence that would show hatred toward the United States or the US people or an intent to damage anybody. We knew that we were defending human life. And going to prison for defending the most precious thing which is the human life - it makes you strong."

Surviving Prison Through Poetry and Art

I asked González and Guerrero how they survived prison for all those years. "Our humor never went down," González said. "We played chess from one cell to another by yelling. We did poetry. Sometimes we had fun just reading the poetry through the doors."

Guerrero also began writing poetry in prison.

"I started writing poems without even having paper," he said. "A poem came to my head after they arrested me … And I cannot explain how because I wasn't a poet. And then I started writing poems." Guerrero never imagined that his poems would be published, but he shared them with the other prisoners and shared them with people in court. He couldn't believe it when his first book of poems, Desde Mi Altura ("From My Altitude"), was published.

Guerrero also became a painter in prison. "The penitentiary is very tough," he said. "So one day I went to the art room … that was another way to free my mind."

I was thrilled when Guerrero gave me a copy of his newly published book, Absolved by Solidarity, a collection of his paintings depicting the different stages of the trial.

The Five Return to Cuba

When I asked what it was like when all the members of the Cuban Five were back in Cuba together, Guerrero said: "It's a sense of joy. It's a sense of victory. It's a sense of returning to the place where you belong to. And it feels great."

González added: "My little daughter was four months when I was arrested. I came to Cuba two days before her 15th birthday. I have a grandson now which is a beautiful boy."

Both González and Guerrero said they had thought they would never see Hernandez in Cuba again because he was serving a term of life imprisonment. "My biggest fear was he would die there," González said. "And let's not fool ourselves. The US wanted him to die in prison. And the prosecutor wanted him to die in prison."

"We know how hard it is to take him from those appetites," he added, "and we managed to do that. It speaks a lot about Cuba, a lot about the Cuban people, because the Cuban people together as one did everything possible for the Five and it's just pure joy."

The Way Ahead

In the days ahead, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will rely most of all on the United States' willingness to act out of respect for Cuban self-determination. "The only thing we want is respect," Guerrero said. "Let's try to build something now - good for you, good for us - with respect in the middle. … The point is, we don't know if the interest of the American government is really to be respectful and friendly to the Cuban government."

Guerrero said that even if millions of American tourists come flooding in to visit Cuba, he cannot conceive of Cuba becoming a capitalist country and forgetting about the Revolution. "Somebody may bring drugs, or somebody may bring a lot of money and try to buy things," Guerrero said. "We are not accustomed to that. But we are ready to deal with that and create our security and our understanding. They will be received with peace, with love."

González added that the Cuban people don't have hatred or resentment toward the American people specifically. "We don't blame the American people for the faults of the their government," he said. "We know they are people like people anywhere. I believe that all of us have more in common than things that divide us. … And I hope sincerely that this new relationship with the US will allow Americans to come here and share with us this beautiful island."

In June, the Cuban Five visited Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years by the apartheid regime. Hernandez wrote in the guest book, "It has been a great honor to visit this place together with some of the brave compañeros of Nelson Mandela," who were "a source of inspiration and strength for the Five Cubans to withstand the more than 16 years in US jails." Hernandez added that Mandela's legacy is one "the Five will honor for the rest of our lives."

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News Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
What Chris Christie Didn't Say at His Campaign Kickoff http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31696-what-chris-christie-didn-t-say-at-his-campaign-kickoff http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31696-what-chris-christie-didn-t-say-at-his-campaign-kickoff

Now that Chris Christie is officially running for president, his record as governor of New Jersey will be getting a lot more scrutiny. As we reported with The Washington Post in April, there's plenty to look at.

Our reporting focused on Republican Christie's fiscal record, an area where he's claimed some of his biggest achievements – and committed some of the "Budget Sins" he attacked his predecessors for. 

Kicking off his campaign today, Christie used familiar rhetoric to champion his record in New Jersey. "We rolled up our sleeves and we went to work and we balanced six budgets in a row," he said. "We've refused to raise taxes on the people of this state for six years."

But as our earlier reporting showed, Christie's fiscal record doesn't always line up with his campaign's "Telling It Like It Is" tagline. Take public employee pensions, a chronic problem in New Jersey.

When Christie signed his sixth budget on Friday, he reiterated his claim that his contributions to the state's pensions have far outpaced those of his predecessors. As we pointed out in April, that's only true if you exclude a $2.75 billion pension contribution by former Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

Christie doesn't count Whitman's payment because it was made with borrowed money, allowing him to assert that pension contributions under his administration are "more than twice as much as any other governor in New Jersey history."

More recently, Christie has also claimed a pension victory from a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that came out in his favor. But again, the circumstances are more complicated than he describes.

"We just won a major court decision supporting the pension reforms that we put into place in 2011," Christie told ABC's George Stephanopoulos during a recent interview on "This Week."

The details: The court ruling actually allowed Christie to avoid making a full $2.25 billion payment to the pension funds due by today, as dictated by the reforms. To allow for a smaller contribution – $893 million – Christie's lawyers had argued that a key provision of the reforms was unconstitutional.

In the past, Christie has claimed the pension reforms as one of his biggest political wins.

Entangled in the recent pension wrangling was another issue we reported on in April – a reduction in the state's Earned Income Tax Credit under Christie. The cut effectively raised taxes on the working poor.

New Jersey Democrats, who control the legislature, had pushed a "millionaires' tax" to help make the full pension contribution in the state's 2016 fiscal year. Christie vetoed the tax – and then sent a surprise proposal back to lawmakers to restore the prior cut in the tax credit and raise it even higher.

But the proposal came with a catch – it required concurrence with the millionaires' tax veto. Democrats groused that it would give Christie a campaign sound bite, but they went along anyway. The tax credit increase now awaits Christie's signature.

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Opinion Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
What a Trial in Pakistan Reveals About Women Who Choose Fundamentalist Islam http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31695-what-a-trial-in-pakistan-reveals-about-women-who-choose-fundamentalist-islam http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31695-what-a-trial-in-pakistan-reveals-about-women-who-choose-fundamentalist-islam

Uzma Qayyum's controversial case set her against the men who would rescue her. Qayyum's case reveals the heady mixture of empowerment, escape, and militant purpose offered to girls around the world by the all-female cadres of extremist groups. The ironies of the case are worth examining. This story is based on my conversations with the attorneys, Muhammad Haider Imtiaz and Owais Awan, and Sheikh Abdul Qayyum.

Covered in a black burqa, Hameeda Sarfraz, 19, leads a class on the Koran for local children at her home in a village about 50 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan, on July 21, 2007. Sarfraz is an alumna of the now bullet-ridden Jamia Hafsa Islamic school for girls in the capital. (Photo: Tomas Munita/The New York Times) Covered in a black burqa, Hameeda Sarfraz, 19, leads a class on the Koran for local children at her home in a village about 50 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan, on July 21, 2007. Sarfraz is an alumna of the now bullet-ridden Jamia Hafsa Islamic school for girls in the capital. (Photo: Tomas Munita/The New York Times)

"I have settled the matters with my parents and intend to go with them. I [can] be sent with my father, Sheikh Abdul Qayyum, petitioner. I am making this statement with my free consent and will." This statement was uttered by 26-year-old Uzma Qayyum to the judge in an Islamabad Sessions Court earlier this year. The court proceeding, whose end was marked by these words, had centered on the right of Uzma Qayyum to remain at Jamia Hafsa, a women's religious seminary affiliated with Islamabad's Red Mosque. In his petition before the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court, Sheikh Abdul Qayyum had alleged that his daughter had been "indoctrinated with extremist ideologies by Maulana Abdul Aziz and his wife Umme-Hassaan," the leaders of the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa, who together command the support of thousands of students, male and female. The pair also have a history of standoffs with the Pakistani military, which conducted a bloody raid on their compound in 2007. A few months before the court announced its judgment in Uzma's case, Jamia Hafsa had also declared its allegiance to the extremist Islamic State (ISIS).

Uzma Qayyum's case reveals the heady mixture of empowerment, escape, and militant purpose offered to girls around the world by the all-female cadres of extremist groups. The ironies of the case are worth examining. On one side was Uzma Qayyum, an unmarried Muslim girl, and Jamia Hafsa, a militant religious seminary, together arguing for the right of young women to choose their occupation. On the other stood Uzma's father and his young attorneys, arguing that, based on Pakistani law and precedent, a court must compel an unmarried woman to return to her father's custody, since he is, under Islamic law, her legal guardian.

This story is based on my conversations with the attorneys, Muhammad Haider Imtiaz and Owais Awan, and Sheikh Abdul Qayyum.

The Red Mosque

In the final days of 2014, the murder of almost 150 schoolchildren in Peshawar sat heavily on a grieving Pakistan. On December 16, a Tuesday, seven gunmen cut through a wire fence that enclosed the grounds of the Army Public School and Degree College and began killing students and teachers. The siege of the school lasted for hours, and Pakistan, courtesy of its many 24-hour news channels, watched in horror as events unfolded live. In the days that followed, the small coffins of schoolchildren would be an admonition against apathy, and an accusation against ordinary Pakistanis who had looked away for far too long, allowing their children to become the targets of terrorists. Within hours, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan took credit for the attack, while the rest of the country, its politicians and public figures, issued condemnations.

One cleric, however, refused to join that chorus: Maulana Abdul Aziz, the leader of the Red Mosque, which was established in Islamabad in 1965 and has a fraught history. Founded by Qari Abdullah, Maulana Abdul Aziz's father, the mosque was a transit point for foreign jihadists on their way to Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1998, Qari Abdullah was assassinated just after he'd established Jamia Hafsa, with separate facilities for boys and girls. The mosque is a kilometer from the headquarters of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the diplomatic enclave. In the summer of 2007, it became the site of a military operation, after the maulana's followers barricaded themselves inside and refused to let state authorities in. That standoff, and the ensuing massacre led by the Pakistani military, called Operation Silence, contributed to the fall of Gen. Pervez Musharraf's administration. At least 58 people died, both soldiers and madrassa students, and Maulana Abdul Aziz became a household name.

Interviewed on television last year, hours after the attack in Peshawar, Aziz refused to condemn the massacre. Smug and belligerent, he insisted that both the military and the militants had to be condemned; the carnage at the school was the fault of both. State action - in this case, the Pakistani military's ongoing Zarb-e-Azb operation to root out militants in the country's northwest - had provoked the attack, he said. Aziz's refusal to shed a tear for the dead schoolchildren struck many Pakistanis as brazen and cruel.

Muhammad Haider Imtiaz was one such angry witness to the carnage and then to the maulana's statement, which quickly made the headlines on every Pakistani TV talk show. A young lawyer who had just begun his own practice, Imtiaz had recently filed a petition in the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, urging the court to take action on the lack of investigation into the 2013 murder of Parveen Rehman. Rehman, a renowned community activist in a Karachi slum where land-grabbers and extremists vied for control, had been gunned down in Karachi. No one had been brought to justice, and Imtiaz was involved in changing that. In a country where few have faith in the law or justice, Imtiaz was one of the believers. A few days later, he attended a protest organized outside the Red Mosque to mourn the schoolchildren and call attention to the callousness of the maulana. It was high time that peaceful Pakistanis, men like himself who favored the rule of law, raised their voices above the cacophony of hate-filled extremism that rang out from the loudspeakers of hard-liner mosques. Imtiaz had always loved his country; now it was time to defend its freedoms.

The way Imtiaz tells it, there were many speakers at the protest, most of them people who worked with the NGOs and human-rights organizations, all frustrated by what they saw as government inaction against the extremists, Aziz among them. One of the people who spoke that day was Sheikh Abdul Qayyum, a short, bearded man dressed in a plain shalwar kameez. To the small crowd of activists gathered outside the Red Mosque, he told his story. His daughter Uzma had for several years been a student at the Jamia Binaat-e-Ayesha madrassa in Rawalpindi. Before she started there, Uzma had told her family that she wanted to learn more about her faith, instead of simply spending all her time at home waiting for marriage.

Theirs was a middle-class neighborhood in Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad, which is not far from the Pakistani capital. As a simple man with few means, Sheikh Abdul led a pious life and had not hesitated when Uzma asked his permission to become a student at the madrassa in 2010. Two of his sons were Hafiz al Quran - that is, they had memorized the entirety of the holy Koran - and now his daughter would also have a religious education. But he was totally unprepared when, after several years of studying there, Uzma failed to return home one evening. He contacted some of her friends and was told that she had been seen leaving the madrassa earlier that day with Umme-Hassaan, the principal of Jamia Hafsa. With Uzma's family frantically awaiting news, the phone finally rang late that evening; it was Umme-Hassaan herself. "Your daughter is with me in Jamia Hafsa," she told Sheikh Abdul. "She has come of her own will, and you do not need to worry about her."

This had happened on the evening of June 16, 2014, and since then, Sheikh Abdul declared tearfully to the crowd outside the Red Mosque, he had never once been able to speak to his daughter alone. There had been meetings, but all of them on the premises of Jamia Hafsa, and all of them in the presence of women whose faces were entirely covered. The identities of these women - save for Umme-Hassaan, who always proclaimed herself - were unknown to him. Uzma had refused to come home, at one point sobbing that when she left home, she carefully laid out her burial shroud on her bed. This meant that she was now dead to them.

Sheikh Abdul and his family believed that Uzma had been brainwashed, indoctrinated into Jamia Hafsa's militant ideology and forced to leave her home. In the months since she'd disappeared, he had pleaded with Abdul Aziz and Umme-Hassaan, but they would not give her up. He had written letters to religious clerics, to the president of Pakistan, the prime minister, the interior minister, to every important official he could think of; he had waited in their reception rooms, stood in their queues, beseeched lesser officials for an audience, for any assistance at all in recovering his daughter, who was imprisoned inside Jamia Hafsa, he said. But nothing had come of it. That Friday, at the protest outside the Red Mosque, he begged the NGO workers and human-rights activists gathered there for help.

That's how Muhammad Haider Imtiaz got drawn into the case - at a protest denouncing terrorism, listening to a man who said that his daughter had been brainwashed by the militants inside Jamia Hafsa. No longer satisfied with preying on Pakistan's young men, Imtiaz thought, these extremists were now targeting young women.

A few days after the protest, Imtiaz and Owais Awan, another young lawyer enlisted to help, met with Sheikh Abdul, who showed them the letters he had written to various officials; gave them a detailed accounting of the handful of meetings he'd been permitted to have with his daughter; and even showed them photographs of his son and nephew after they had been beaten up by armed guards at the Red Mosque. At the end of the meeting, Imtiaz and Awan agreed to file a petition on behalf of Sheikh Abdul with the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Both lawyers were optimistic.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan rewarded their efforts by remanding the case to the Islamabad Sessions Court, with specific instructions that the court "entertain [it] as a Petition of Habeas Corpus." The order was a victory for the lawyers, since it ensured that the case wouldn't disappear amid Pakistan's huge judicial backlog. On January 14, 2015, Sheikh Abdul and his lawyers appeared before Nazir Ahmad Gajana, a judge in the sessions court. At the end of a short hearing, Gajana ordered the station-house officer of the Aabpara Police Station (under whose jurisdiction Jamia Hafsa fell) to produce Uzma the next day.

Uzma's Story

When Uzma Qayyum appeared in court on January 15, it was the first time that she had been seen publicly outside the premises of Jamia Hafsa since June 2014. She was in the company of Umme-Hassaan and two other women, all of them in black and in full-face veils, representing their belief that no unrelated male should be permitted to see a Muslim woman's face. Owais, Haider's assistant counsel, noted that Umme-Hassaan wore neon-pink socks. The respondents from the Red Mosque insisted that Uzma had not been kept against her will. Before proceedings ended that first day, the judge ordered everyone except Uzma Qayyum to leave the courtroom so that he could have an ex parte conversation with her. No official records exist of that meeting.

Subsequent hearings and proceedings did reveal new facts and new truths. From statements made by Uzma, Imtiaz learned that Sheikh Abdul had arranged her marriage to a cousin, and that Uzma had not been in favor of the match. Time and again before the court, Uzma insisted that she hadn't been kept at Jamia Hafsa against her will, that there was no coercion - only devotion to a life of faith. Her arguments were repeated by Umme-Hassaan, who told the court that she taught all the girls in her seminary "to defend themselves and to be strong against the bullying of a corrupt state." She accepted all sorts of girls, she said, and kept them safely under the umbrella of the faith to which she and they were committed. Uzma was free to stay and free to leave. After learning more about Islam at the madrassa, Uzma had decided to run away to Jamia Hafsa because "she did not have a correct Sharia environment at home, and her family members wanted her to enter into a nikah [marriage] against her will."

As the case progressed, both Haider and Owais were beginning to have some doubts. They had taken the case pro bono because they believed they were rescuing a young girl from the grasp of a militant seminary. Now that they could listen to the actual Uzma, whom they described as assertive and determined and completely unafraid to make her point, they were beginning to have their doubts. The law was on their side. Imtiaz's argument was built on cases in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, stretching as far back as 1972, affirming the rights of fathers over their daughters. In Zafar Iqbal v. Malik Godha (1996), the court had written that it "could not ignore the social values, traditions, Pakistani culture and code of morality," and that "arranged marriages are seen with respect in the society and the marriages contracted as a result of love bring hatred and shame to the parents." If a father didn't consent to the marriage, the court could reject its legitimacy altogether.

Even so, Uzma insisted that she was not being kept at Jamia Hafsa against her will, and at one point she even interrupted the proceedings to assert that she was not the gullible girl depicted by Haider in his arguments. ("You are presenting an incorrect version of my situation," Imtiaz recalls her interjecting as he made his argument before the judge.) She knew full well the decision she had made, Uzma argued, and her desire to remain at Jamia Hafsa was a rational and considered one, not the consequence of any brainwashing.

The law did not support her. As Imtiaz argued, in case after case Pakistani courts had ruled that the proper place for an unmarried woman was in her father's home. It didn't matter that she had run off to a religious seminary, not the home of a lover. The judge tried to explain this to Uzma; he did not want to be seen as "forcing" her to return. To facilitate a more collaborative solution, he ordered Uzma to move out of Jamia Hafsa to a "neutral" location, a government-run shelter for women (the first of two she would live in temporarily). Her parents and their lawyers - and perhaps also the judge - hoped that this change of location would lessen the ideological hold under which they believed Uzma to be suffering. It may also have signaled to Umme-Hassaan that Jamia Hafsa was not likely to win this battle for choice.

The Final Order

The period during which uzma was ordered to move out of Jamia Hafsa and into interim locations also provided some time for Imtiaz and Awan to mull things over. The last thing they'd expected to be arguing was that a 26-year-old woman did not have the right to decide, without her father's permission, where she would live. Yet this is where they had ended up. "I felt that I could not trust any side in this," Imtiaz recalled. "Who is telling the truth, and could there be a real possibility that she was coerced?… There are many ways of coercion, sanction, or incentive to maintain the honor of Jamia Hafsa," he added. Based on his doubts, Imtiaz insisted that Uzma be permitted to speak to her parents, without the presence of anyone from Jamia Hafsa. However, during this conversation, Uzma still refused to return, insisting that she had left home of her own accord. Feeling conflicted, Imtiaz and Awan realized that she needed to be provided with a different neutral place so that she could decide what to do. Thus, before the final hearing, Uzma was moved to the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Shelter and Home.

On February 9, 2015, Judge Gajana ordered Uzma Qayyum to return to her father's house. Umme-Hassaan had stated at the earlier hearing that she didn't have any objection to Uzma doing so of her own free will. A document titled "Undertaking" was attached to the judge's order. Its stipulations, signed by both Sheikh Abdul and Uzma, included this promise by her father: "Any decision with respect to the marriage of my daughter Mst. Uzma Qayyum will be taken in line with her wishes and consent."

For her part, Uzma asked that she be granted permission to visit Jamia Hafsa whenever she wished. Sheikh Abdul had agreed to this - but only with the added stipulation that a family member would accompany her. Uzma's requests to be permitted to pursue "higher education" and teach in "educational institutions" were also included. In conversations after entering the agreement, Uzma told Owais Awan that, ideally, instead of returning home, she would have preferred to continue her education at the International Islamic University in Islamabad and live at the women's hostel there.

Two months after the decision, Sheikh Abdul said that Uzma had left Rawalpindi with her mother, owing to the death of her maternal grandmother, to whom she was quite close. The maternal grandmother's village is in a remote portion of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. At this point in time, then, there seem to be no plans for Uzma either to continue her education or to marry the man her father had chosen for her. In interviews, Sheikh Abdul has also said that he and his wife are still wary of Uzma's involvement with Jamia Hafsa, and that it's going to take time to reconstruct their relationship with their daughter. Since Uzma herself can no longer be contacted, it is unclear whether her exile to her maternal grandmother's village - a place far from the seminary - is her choice or simply a circumstance imposed on her. I've tried repeatedly to call the number Sheikh Abdul gave me (after much cajoling). There was no phone service in the remote village in Azad Kashmir, where they were, he had insisted earlier. I tried anyway; each time, the phone rang and rang, but there was no answer. Uzma Qayyum seemed lost, gone forever into another impenetrable realm of family and seclusion.

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News Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:09:58 -0400