Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rape as Cost of Entry for Female Immigrants

Women's debate show exposes rape
as cost of entry for female immigrants
by Jennifer L Pozner
May 13th, 2006
Posted by Mahmood Ketabchi

As I write this, I'm watching an important segment on "To The Contrary," PBS's weekly women's political and current affairs debateshow, on the underreported issue of sexual assault as an exceptionallyregular aspect of border crossing for women immigrants.

According to T.O.C. host Bonnie Erbe:

"New studies by the United Nations Development Fund for Women showsexual abuse on the rise among women illegally crossing the U.S.border from Mexico. Rape is so common it's viewed as the price ofadmission to America. Some even take birth control before crossing toavoid pregnancy… So-called 'border bandits' prey on those crossing theU.S. Mexican border illegally. Women are more vulnerable because theirpercentages have risen among illegal immigrants. They're also leavingbehind more children in Mexico and Central American countries. If caught and returned, they're often physically abused again in the Mexican border towns where U.S. agents leave them."

To give viewers a deeper understanding of the impact of immigration on undocumented women, Erbe interviewed Marijke Velzeboer-Salcedo, chief, Latin America and the Caribbean section of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, who explained that:

"Between 60 % 70% of women do experience some abuse, of the womenwho cross the border alone (because some of the women do cross the border with their husbands or their families). But many of the women do go alone and we know that among the Mexican non documented
immigrants, 45% are women. And in Guatemala it's 35% and it's rising."

With some exceptions, much immigration coverage in recent months hasfocused on male activists leading protests, undocumented men workingas day laborers, male DJs at Spanish-language radio stations informinglisteners about the importance of attending immigration
demonstrations, and the like. But as this To The Contrary segment illustrates, there are serious reasons why women's perspectives are needed in immigration coverage–and serious ways to frame immigration as specifically relevant to women.

Erbe's opening question to her panelists was a simple query that should be — but hasn't been — a staple in most media coverage of immigration:

"So, what are their [women's] lives like at home that they're willing to try to cross illegally, so many of them die, and now we find 60 to 70% of them are sexually abused and they're taking birth control before they cross the border knowing that they're likely to be raped?"

It's an important question, one posed far too rarely in the recent spate of corporate media coverage of immigration. Unfortunately, the panelists (a Democratic pundit, a Democratic Congresswoman, aRepublican pundit and a spokeswoman from the right-wing anti-feminist Independent Women's Forum) didn't answer it as fully as they should have, steering the debate away from the motivations of women immigrants and toward border patrol and enforcement issues.

Let's hope more mainstream and independent news coverage further explores the stark realities faced by female immigrants in their home countries, in the transition process, and in the United States. When you see stories like this that frame immigration as the women's issue it is, send a thank-you to the station or publication responsible for broadening the debate (you can reach To The Contrary at We'd love you to CC WIMN on your letters:

Likewise, when immigration coverage leaves women out of the picture,WIMN encourages you to send a letter to the editor asking the newsoutlet to delve deeper. Let media know that women's perspectives canonly expand and strengthen reporting and commentary on immigrationissues–and that no reporting that leaves women out of this story can be complete or wholly accurate. Again, feel free to copy WIMN on your letters.

(Postscript: The T.O.C. segment is not yet archived on the show's website, but I'll check in a day or two and post an update when theydo update their site with information on today's roundtable.)

Iranian Auto Workers Sacked for Strike Action

Tens of Workers Sacked for Participating in a Strike
Statement by a group of Iran Khodro (Auto) Workers
Translated by Workers Left Unity Iran

Tens of workers who staged a short strike in March 2006, have been sacked by Iran Khodro factory in Iran . Following this a number of protests took place in many sections of the plant with workers shouting : “stop the sackings”, “workers should be allowed to return to their work”, “strike is the absolute right of the workers” . A group of workers in this plant published the following statement:

Fellow workers, friends,

The management of Iran Khodro proved once more that it only knows the language of aggression and sackings in defence of capital and capitalism. They proved yet again that they recognise no law but the law of the jungle and that they have no respect for human rights and international Legislation.
Friends, fellow workers,

We became aware that over the last few weeks, tens of our colleagues were sacked by the management and the deputy human resource manager for supporting the strike of 8th of March 2006 (in support of better payments for record annual production). We workers of Iran Khodro while condemning this announce:The right to strike is an absolute right of workers, a right recognised throughout the world, today no one is sacked or arrested for going on strike. The right to strike is the only weapon of the workforce in confronting the management’s injustices.

When management chooses such methods to respond to workers who have worked non stop for four months, at times in consecutive night shifts , often working 11 hours without a break, with no weekends and no days off , to increase the factory production to record level and then they are not even paid the right wage for it, one can say this management doesn’t want to engage in any dialogue, it accepts no workers organisations and recognises no worker representative. Under such circumstance, do workers have any option but to strike?

The management was responsible for this strike and it must respond to workers demands.Now that a strike has taken place instead of responding to the demands, managers have sacked groups of workers who went on strike. We demand an immediate end to the sackings and an end to the police atmosphere created in the factory.We call for the immediate, unconditional reinstatement of fellow workers sacked in recent weeks and we call on international workers organisation to support our call for the release of arrested workers.

Long live workers solidarity

A group of workers from Iran Khodro - 24 Ordibehesht 1385 ( May 2006)

Iran Khodro is the largest vehicle manufacturer in the Middle East, producing over 110,000 units a year. It produces passenger cars, minibuses and buses, vans and trucks. It was formed in 1962 and currently employs around 30,000 workers.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Calls for Jihad against The Da Vinci Code

The Catholic Church Calls for Jihad
The Da Vinci Code
By Mahmood Ketabchi
May 10, 2006

Following their Islamist brethren who launched a world wide reactionary campaign against the cartoons of Muhammad, the Catholic Church has declared their own “Holy War” against the film The Da Vinci Code. Cardinal Francis Arinze, a leading cleric in the Vatican establishment stated, "Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you.”

The Da Vinci Code, a book written by Dan Brown, suggests that Jesus after all was not “pure,” “saintly,” and “holy” as the Catholic Church and the entire Christian establishment believes. The main theme of the book is that Jesus happened to have a sex life, that is, he married Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, who bore him a child. It charges that for centuries the Church has conspired to conceal Jesus's marital relation with Mary Magdalene. The book has sold more than 40 million copies world wide in 44 languages. The movie version of the book is to premiere in Cannes Festival in France and will hit the theater for pubic viewing on May 19.

Cardinal Arinze urged Christians not to sit aside, but to do something to defend their beliefs against the “lies” and “Blasphemies” disseminated by The Da Vinci Code. He also declared, "This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected.” But why should anyone respect Cardinal Arinze's religious beliefs or admire Jesus if the person is critical of religion, religious establishments, and religious laws and regulations ?

The Christian establishment, and for that matter any other religion, has the right to believe in whatever they want. They have the right to disseminate their beliefs. That is their human right, and no one should prevent them from exercising those rights. However, at the same time, no one should be required or obligated to respect those ideas. Freedom from religion, freethinking, blasphemy, heresy, mockery of religion and religious figures, and atheism are human rights too. In my opinion, the latter rights are even more important than the religious rights. They must be particularly observed and protected because first, we live in a time when religious sectarianism and bloodshed is on the rise, and second, secularism and freethinking is increasingly under attack by the religious establishments and/or governments.

Equating religious freedom with respect for religion and religious figures is an attempt to silence the critiques of religions It is a reactionary campaign to outlaw blasphemy, heresy, and atheism. Those behind the campaign want to suppress freedom of expression and the press. In fact, the Islamist movement and governments in Islamic dominated countries are currently working hard to change the United Nation's human rights charter to prohibit anti-religious propaganda and consider it a human rights violation. If such a proposal is approved, for example, women and women's groups who challenge the Islamic tradition of polygamy could easily be considered heretics for refusing the words of god, or The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown could be put on trail for suggesting that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child.

Last month, another top Vatican cleric, Archbishop Angelo Amato attacked The Da Vinci Code and called for a boycott of the film. He directed Christians to launch organized protests similar to the ones that opposed the screening of The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. He called the book "stridently anti-Christian ... full of calumnies, offenses and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church." Urging Christians to protest, he referred to the Islamists reactions to the cartoons of Muhammad and said the “lies” and “errors” directed at the founder of Christianity, Jesus, should not go “unpunished.” Emulating political Islam and invoking the Islamists' brutal assault against freedom as an example for Christians to defend their faith is a shameful attempt by Vatican to intimidate people. In addition, it can only serve to get Christian fanatics in a race with Islamists to prove their thuggery, and it shows the common thread of intolerance and authoritarianism shared by all religious industries despite their differences.

As the Vatican steps up its campaign against The Da Vinci Code, in the US , Christian zealots are getting ready to launch a protest campaign. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP), a name that says much about the reactionary character of the group, has promised more than 1000 vigils at the theaters which show the movie. Robert Ritchie, a top leader of the group, said, "Wrapped in Gnostic heresy, The Da Vinci Code is a broadside attack against the Divinity of Christ, the Papacy, and the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church. Together with the so-called gospel of Judas, The Da Vinci Code is outright blasphemy. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the highest ideal of moral perfection; any detraction from this moral perfection takes on a defamatory character, since it lowers and denies His unique and most excellent position as God-man."

American TFP is among the right wing and reactionary Christian groups known for their rabidly homophobic and misogynist crusades. They are among the same groups of people who are pushing for defense of marriage amendments and anti abortion bills. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that these same religious thugs get fired up and initiate a campaign of intimidation against a movie that challenges their superstitions and taboos.

As for the self-proclaimed moral righteousness of the Church, one can only contrast this with decades of child molesting by priests and active collusion by the Catholic hierarchy to cover up the rape and brutality committed against children. They get outraged at the mere suggestion that their founder Jesus entered into a “holy matrimony” and had children, yet no outrage was expressed when their priests raped children and their Church allowed it happen. What shameful hypocrites!!!

Pictures: Afghan Woman MP In New Haven,CT

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Afghani Woman MP, Malalai Joya, Attacked in the Parliament

The following news story is a reprint from Timesonline. Malalai Joya had a speaking tour across the US in March 2006. On March 23, she spoke in New Haven at Yale University. I went to the meeting. More than 200 people participated in the event. She spoke very strongly against the Islamist warlords and the US government that put them in place. She also exposed former Taliban spokesman and foreign ministry official Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi who is now a special non-degree student at Yale.

Malalai Joya told the audience that the US and Afghani government have stopped funding for her security. She said she carries a gun in self-defense and sometimes has a private bodyguard. Considering that she has lots of enemies who are continuously threatening her life and have made several attempts to kill her, Malalai Joya's life is in serious danger. However, she said no matter what happens to her, she would continue to fight for her people and women's rights in Afghanistan. She is an extremely fearless and brave women.

To learn more about Malalai Joya, please visit the following websites:

* Defend Malalai Joya
* The Afghan Women's Mission

To see pictures from the event in New Heaven please click here.

Woman MP is attacked in a blow for democracy
By Tim Albone in Kabul
From Timeonline

BOTTLES were thrown, insults traded and chairs knocked over in the bedlam. This was no bar-room brawl, however. It was the scene in the Afghan parliament on Sunday when a woman MP dared to stand up to a male colleague. Malalai Joya, 28, interrupted a former warlord as he praised the holy warriors — or Mujahidin — of Afghanistan during a debate to mark the anniversary of their defeat of communism.

She declared that there were “two types of Mujahidin — one who were really Mujahidin, the second who killed tens of thousands of innocent people and who are criminals”.

This was a step too far for the parliament’s Islamic extremists and former warlords, who are still getting the hang of democracy. They leapt from their seats and rushed towards her. They hurled abuse and water bottles. Punches were thrown. Even women MPs joined in.

Moderate MPs had to form a protective ring around Mrs Joya as she was hurried from the chamber. “My supporters heard one MP tell someone to wait by the door and knife me as I walked out,” she said.

Omid Yakmanish, a television cameraman, was hit as he filmed the uproar, and dropped his camera. He said: “The MP (Al-haj Khyal Mohammad Husaini, from Ghazni) said in an interview, ‘I have the right to beat people up if I want to’.”

The session was adjourned.

Mrs Joya told The Times yesterday: “There are two problems for these people: firstly, that I am a woman and, secondly, that I believe in democracy. They don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in women’s rights.”

She went on: “I have lots of threats. I have had people call me to threaten me, and in Kabul have to stay in a different house every night. I don’t feel safe. I’m never scared because I tell the truth and I believe in the truth and in democracy. They can kill me but they cannot kill my voice.”

The episode was another embarrassment for the Western nations who invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taleban regime and install democracy.

It comes shortly after a man named Abdul Rahman was arrested for converting to Christianity and threatened with the death penalty. Mr Rahman was spared only because of international outrage, but he had to be given asylum in Italy.

Qasim Ackajhar, a spokesman for the Kabul-based Freedom of Speech Association, lamented that the violence had “damaged the dignity of Afghanistan and the dignity of the parliament”.

But Mrs Joya’s opponents showed little remorse yesterday. Parwin Durranai, a woman MP for the nomadic Kuchi people, who charged at her, said: “I am not regretful. She spoke against 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s people. She is rude in the way she speaks.”

Haji Niyaz Mohammad Amiri, one of the male MPs accused of trying to attack Mrs Joya, told The Times: “I didn’t hit her or try to hit her. That was some of the brave female MPs.”

Mrs Joya caused a similiar outburst at a Loya Jirga — a traditional gathering — in 2003 by insisting that former warlords guilty of atrocities deserved punishment.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Uplifting May Day Rally in NYC

Out of the Kitchens and into the Streets: an Uplifting May Day Rally in NYC
by Jennifer Fasulo
May 1, 2006

The May Day Immigrant and Workers’ Rights Demonstration in NYC was a beautiful sight to behold. Thousands of protesters were jam packed into every inch of Union Square, happily jostling about under the brilliant May Day sun. There was a palpable feeling of pride and excitement in the air that I haven’t felt at a protest in a long time. Perhaps this was due to the fact that this was not your usual protest crowd.

Unlike the anti-war demos, which are usually predominantly white and more reflective of the liberal wing of middle-class America, this demonstration was mostly people of color, and decidedly working-class. And while traditional labor events are often male-dominated, this march was full of women, as well as many youth and children. The large presence of young people also contributed to the high energy and radical spirit of the crowd, with young women and men leading spirited chants in Spanish, “Buuuush, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!” (Bush listen! We are in the struggle!)

Some of the most profound sentiments were expressed by children who embody the dire situation of undocumented immigrants. One young girl held her hand made sign high above her head, “I born here. I’m US Citizen. I need my Parents here. They work so hard to have be Born here.” You knew that people were out in the streets because their lives depended on it. As I marched alongside immigrant workers, I had the sense that these are precisely the people you do not see during most political events because they are the ones slaving away in the kitchens of restaurants across NYC, in construction sites, or in private homes as domestics. This feeling was reinforced by one banner carried by two men in chef clothes which read, “ We Break Our Back For You… And We Get Paid A Kick In The Butt!”

It was thrilling to see so many workers in the streets, and the inescapable radicalism which comes from such a gathering, despite efforts to dilute it. For example, the Catholic church, many politicians, even some in the labor establishment, discouraged people from boycotting work and school in order to attend mass protests. But people ignored the admonitions and did it anyway. Sympathetic politicians talk in muted terms about “a path toward citizenship” while march placards loudly proclaimed, “Amnesty for all Immigrants” “Equal Rights for All Workers!” and “Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal!” (No Human Being is Illegal!)

Latinos made up a clear majority of the protesters, although there were also Filipinos, Korean, Haitian, and African immigrants present. The fact that it was mostly Latinos indicates that there is still much work to be done in bridging immigrant communities as well as the divide between Blacks and Latinos in NYC. Nonetheless, the spirited march went a long way toward reviving the radical tradition of May Day, the true Labor Day, long celebrated by workers around the world, yet neglected here in the US.

With parallel demonstrations in cities throughout the country, and millions staying out of work and school to attend, it was the closest thing we’ve had to a general strike in the US. This begs the question: where were the unions? By my estimation, there were hardly any official union banners or representatives to be counted among the crowd. This is a sad statement about the labor establishment in this country, but it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Rather it should make perfectly clear that if we are going to have a upsurge of labor it will come the from workers themselves, and new forms of labor organizations, not the status quo bureaucratic unions and their establishment leaders.

View the pictures here.

May Day Celebration in NYC: No Human Being Is Illegal

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More May Day Celebration in Iran

Aggressors, keep your hands off workers' rights and the rights of other toiling masses

We workers demand the immediate release of Osanloo, representative of the bus workers unionWe workers demand that our right to strike to be recognized
Pictures from May Day celebration by auto, steel, and bus workers near Tehran

Workers take control of the government sponsored May Day rally In Tehran, Iran

Textile workers from of Kashan:
We have not received our salaries for the last 14 months
Temporary contract must be abrogated

No to firing workers

Students, workers, and retirees from Mashhad

Students and workers from Mashhad: Job security is our right

Labor minister, shame, shame

Freedom and Equality is Our Human Right!
A report on May Day celebration in Tehran, Iran
by Mahmood Ketanchi

May 04, 2006

As many Iranian workers prepared to celebrate May 1st, International Labor Day, House of Labor, a pro Islamic government organization, called for a labor rally in front of the former US Embassy in Tehran. According to different sources, 8,000 to 10,000 workers participated in the rally. In addition to workers from Tehran, many came with buses from from various cities and provinces, such as, Ghazvin, Qom, Ghilan, Kashan, Hamadan, Karaj, Damghan, Mashhad, etc.

The organizers of the rally attempted in vain to turn the May Day gathering into a show of support for the Islamic regime and Iran's nuclear program. Even though the rally was carefully orchestrated to benefit the Islamic regime and provide it with some propaganda , participating workers from the very start took control of the event.

Alireza Mahjoob and Ali Rabii, the leaders of the House of Labor, praised Iran's nuclear achievements and policies of the government. In their speech, they also condemned the cartoons of Muhammad as a western conspiracy against Islam. However, many participants became very angry at the speeches. They said they came to the rally to speak about their conditions and plights, but instead they were being lectured about Iran's nuclear achievements.

The protesting workers called the speakers “traitors” and “government men.” They chanted “workers representative must come from amid the workers.” The noise and the chanting was so loud that no one could hear the speakers.

Some workers complained that they were forced to come to the rally and others said that the organizers of the rally made workers promise that they would not violate the plans for the rally. They also complained that the House of Labor tried to hand pick workers for the rally.

As tension grew among the participants, several thousand workers broke away from the rally and began to march towards Tehran University. But security forces intervened; they surrounded workers and threatened them with violence and arrest. Under police pressure, protesting workers were forced disperse.

The chants of the workers included:

Bread, housing, and freedom are our rights!
Salary increase above inflation!
Freedom and Equality are our rights!
Capitalist government, shame, shame!
Look at France, think about our lives!
Let go of nuclear power, think of our lives!
worker, student, and teachers, unity, unity!
Strike and organization are our rights!
Political prisoners must be freed!
Labor minster, resign, resign!

When some workers were arrested by the security forces, other workers booed them and chanted “security forces, shame, shame.” As a result everyone was released.

It is important to point out that last year, the House of Labor tried to turn May Day celebration into a presidential campaign for Hashami Rafsanjani, one the top mullahs in Iran. But workers disrupted the rally and prevented Rafsanjani from coming to the event.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

May 1st in Iran: No War, No Bomb, but Jobs!

"Student Movement Stands in Solidairy with Worker's Movement"

May Day rallies in Tehran and Sanandaj attacked; at least 17 arrested
Monday, May 01, 2006
From WPI Briefing

The May Day rallies in Tehran and Sanandaj have come under attack by the Iranian security forces. At least 17 demonstrators, among them members of the executive board of Tehran bus workers’ union, have been arrested.

In the rally in Tehran, called by the bus workers’ union and held outside the bus company’s headquarters, 13 people were detained. They include the following eight union activists and five as yet unnamed students: Ebrahim Madadi, Mahomoud Houzhabri, Yaghoub Salimi, Abbas Najand Koudaki, Gholamreza Gholamhosseini, Gholamreza Mirzaee, Hassan Dehghan and Gholamreza Khani.

In the rally in the city of Sanandaj four people were arrested, one of whom was later released: Hossein Ghaderi (later released), Farshid Beheshti Zad, Hiresh Naghshbandi and Aram Zamani. Also, two of those arrested in raids in Sanandaj ahead of the May Day rally, namely, Mohammad Javid and Zahed Javid, are still in detention.

Around two hundred demonstrators defied some 2,000 members of the security forces in the rally in Tehran, which began from around 11 in the morning, local time. According to eye witness accounts, at around 1 o’clock, the security forces, which included members of the Special Guard, as well as plain clothes vigilantes on motor bikes, started attacking the demonstrators. They used batons to beat people up, dragging them on the tarmac. One bus driver had his fingers broken, and a woman demonstrator was severely beaten. The demonstrators booed the security forces, shouting ‘shame, shame’! The slogans shouted at the demo, and written on placards, included:

Our hero Ossanlou must be released!
Union is our certain right!
Strike, demonstration is our certain right!
No war, no bomb, but jobs!
Greetings on international workers’ day!
Workers’ House must be disbanded! (reference to the government-sponsored institution)
Students support workers’ right to independent labour organisations!
Workers, students, unite, unite!

In Sanandaj, despite the home raids and arrests from several days before May Day, a large rally was held, before it was attacked by the security forces.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran calls on all international labour and human rights organisations and individuals to condemn these outrageous attacks on workers exercising their basic right of protest and assembly, demanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran immediately and unconditionally release Mansoor Ossanlou, the imprisoned head of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, and all those detained in the May Day rallies.

For more information, contact the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist party of Iran. Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar ( Public Relations: Bahram Soroush (