EDITOR’S NOTE: This week’s News You Might Have Missed is the final edition researched and written by Julia Scott.
Julia started with NYMHM in early 2003, and went on to set a standard for “important but overlooked news” that remains unmatched for its breadth, depth and journalistic rigor. Her tireless efforts defined NYMHM through four years of growth and change. Her work has been insightful, determined, humane and always revelatory.
We wish her the best as she continues her successful career as a full-time, daily newspaper reporter here in the Bay Area. THANK YOU, JULIA! You have our gratitude and admiration.
Important but overlooked news from around the world.
“Let the government prevent us from [celebrating] holidays, persecute us and put pressure on us. They only help us by doing that.”
— A member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a populist Islamist party on the rise in Central Asia and beyond (see “Religion & Politics,” below).
$40 million stolen from Nigerian aid plan, ex-official probed
Rendition inquiry looks to Ukraine
Canadian officials knew of Afghan torture, records show
*Religion & Politics*
Hizb-ut-Tahrir: Winning hearts and minds
* $40 Million Stolen from Nigerian Aid Plan, Ex-Official Probed
British and Nigerian officials are investigating possibly illict payments from Shell and Chevron into the bank account of former Nigerian Governor James Ibori, reports the Sunday Times.
Ibori allegedly laundered $40 million meant for education and engineering projects through British banks, using part of the money instead to buy luxury cars. The investigation is also scrutinizing direct payments from Shell and Chevron that went directly to Ibori’s businesses in Nigeria to pay for houseboats for oil employees.
Though he has not yet been charged with anything, Ibori is “desperate” to prove his innocence.
“Governor ‘hid stolen 20m’ in UK banks”
Times (U.K.), November 18, 2007
* Rendition Inquiry Looks to Ukraine
An Italian European Union minister wants human rights officials to investigate “strong and specific” evidence that the Ukrainian government was complicit in building a prison on its military base to hold and torture CIA detainees, reports the EU Observer.
The minister cites a document suggesting that a Gulfstream jet known to be used by the CIA landed in the country five times in August 2005, with Ukrainian approval.
The Ukrainian government calls the charges “nonsense.” A previous report, adopted by the EU legislature, concluded there were “over 1,000” secret stopover flights in the EU since 2001, and that detention facilities were known to exists, “particularly in Poland and Romania.”
“EU investigator targets Ukraine in fresh CIA allegations”
EU Observer, November 14, 2007
* Canadian Officials Knew of Afghan Torture, Records Show
Secret documents obtained by court order show Canadian ministers were well aware of torture, rape and other abuse occurring at Afghan prisons filled with detainees that Canadian soldiers had turned over to the Afghan secret police, according to the Globe and Mail.
Canadian prison inspectors, for instance, noted the prison floors were covered in “blood and feces” and that some prisoners were shackled at all times, according to the government report.
They also knew a juvenile detention facility had been overseen by a warden accused of rape, and that the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission was barred by police from investigating abuse of detainees in the prisons.
Yet Gordon O’Connor, the defense minister at the time, told the House of Commons that the Commission “has assured us … it is able to monitor all the prisoners,” despite being told otherwise by Canadian diplomats the day before.
“Afghan prisons: What Ottawa knew”
Globe and Mail (Canada), November 16, 2007
* Outsourcing Motherhood
Scores of impoverished Indian women are selling their services as childbearers to foreign couples who either cannot, or don’t want to, bear their own children, reports the Daily Mail.
Using an Indian surrogate mother is less expensive and less complicated than paying a Western mother for the same services — and in some cases, the surrogate offers her own eggs as well.
The number of surrogate mothers in India has nearly doubled in the past three years, while surrogacy agencies are springing up to handle the caseload.
Indian doctors are helping make the arrangements, even setting up a bungalow for surrogate mothers with a cook, a cleaner and English classes, according to India’s Daily News and Analysis.
They say becoming a surrogate for childless couples is a “noble deed.” But other doctors disagree, fearing the women are being forced to bear children for the sake of money.
They also warn that the social stigma of carrying another man’s child could damage their relationships with their husbands and in society.
The practice, unregulated up till now in India, brings with it a host of legal and medical concerns.
Soon Indian legislators will vote on whether to streamline the surrogate process while dealing with post-natal health care for the surrogate mother and the baby, as well as the legal and financial obligation of a “client” in case of a miscarriage or a surrogate mother’s death during childbirth, reports IBN-CNN.
Surrogate mothers aren’t limited to India.
Parents living in South Australia will be permitted to use a surrogate mother in the region under new legislation.
According to Adelaide Now, the practice has been legalized after reports that couples were traveling to the Australian Capital Territory to have it done.
Flaws in the British system governing surrogate arrangements were never clearer than in a recent controversy over a surrogate mother who deliberately misled two client families to believe she had miscarried, only to keep the babies for herself.
According to the Guardian, the couples took the woman to court, where the judge ruled in their favor.
The judge also faulted the agencies that made the arrangements, urging them to make better background checks on the emotional and psychological states of surrogate mothers.
Under British law, surrogacy agreements are not legally binding.
The mother may change her mind and keep the baby, forcing the client couple to meet her in court.
“India takes outsourcing to a new level as women rent out wombs to foreigners”
Daily Mail (U.K.), November 10, 2007
“Judge warns agencies after surrogate mother dupes couples to keep babies” Guardian (U.K.), October 31, 2007
“Proposal to legalise surrogacy”
Adelaide Now (Australia), November 14, 2007
“Now, a hostel for surrogate mothers!”
Daily News & Analysis (India), November 5, 2007
“Govt plans new laws to curb rent-a-womb rackets”
CNN-IBN (India), November 5, 2007
* Hizb-ut-Tahrir: Winning Hearts and Minds
The Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir is gaining a foothold across Central Asia and is making its presence felt in Britain and elsewhere.
Governments have banned the group, with its alleged bent towards violence, and the appeal of its charismatic leaders and Islamic ideology.
Founded in the Middle East, Hizb-ut-Tahrir spread to Muslim communities in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan in the 1990s.
The group, which calls itself a political party even though it has no elected members, aims to replace all secular governments with a united front of Islamic governments.
The group professes nonviolence, but is banned in many places and its members are arrested on a regular basis, according to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.
In Kyrgyzstan, where it is not explicitly banned, Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s growing appeal is attributed to its ability to speak to the social concerns affecting the Muslim population rather than to its own agenda.
Members organize street parties around religious festivals and travel the state making speeches in a “radical, dynamic language” that local clerics seem powerless to counter.
Careful not to say or do anything that will get members thrown in jail, the party’s greatest recruiting tool is the government’s intimidation tactics.
The more the government cracks down on them, the more backlash they create.
Party officials say that in southern Kazakhstan alone, the group’s membership has grown from 2,000 to 30,000 supporters in the last 10 years.
In Uzbekistan, in late October, a court jailed eight men for up to 10 years just for being members of the group. Human rights advocates have since accused officials of torturing them men, and claims that the trial was conducted in a manner contrary to Uzbek law, reports Reuters.
Demonstrators allied with Hizb ut-Tahrir took to the streets of a London suburb last week to protest the state of affairs in Pakistan — not the declaration of martial law, but the continued political dominance of General Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, both of whom the party decries as agents of the United States.
“For us, the biggest problem that Pakistan faces is the influence of the United States of America,” said a spokesman, as quoted by the Slough & Windsor Observer.
“Our vision of an open, Islamic state is described by the Western media and Musharraf as extremism, but it is not,” he added.
Hizb ut-Tahrir once held sway over Briton Ed Husain, whose new book, “The Islamist,” describes his attraction to the party and subsequent membership at the age of 16.
A Bangladeshi growing up in London’s East End, Husain and his Asian friends were regular victims of racist abuse by local skinheads.
Hizb ut-Tahrir “gave me that social network and sense of belonging that Britain didn’t,” he told London’s TES Magazine.
“Islamic group quietly builds support in Kyrgyzstan”
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, November 16, 2007
“Uzbek court jails 8 suspected Islamists”
Reuters, October 29, 2007
“Extremism and back”
TES Magazine (U.K.), November 16, 2007
“Protesters take to the streets”
Slough & Windsor Observer (U.K.), November 17, 2007
Editors: Julia Scott, Will Crain, Josh Wilson
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