Laughter a Threat to Chastity? Yes, Declares Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister

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ANKARA, Turkey -- Chastity has long been a source of contention and in fact has often been used as a justification for the domination of women throughout the centuries in various parts of the world. It is another means by which some men seek to control women’s sexuality and reproductive freedom.

Though many people think of the issue of controlling women and forcibly “preserving” their chastity as a phenomenon unique to countries with emerging economies where young girls are routinely subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), these practices have been imported to the U.K. and other E.U. nations with high immigrant populations.

However, the West is not without guilt as similar overt restrictions and unsanitary practices were routinely implemented in Europe during the 16th century when men made their wives wear ‘chastity’ belts to prevent sexual intercourse during their long absences at sea or war.

The history of women being controlled subtly and overtly is a never ending battle; however, this week the war for equality reached ridiculous lows when Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç, stated in a speech that “among other activities that women laughing in public somehow contributed to the moral turpitude of the nation.

During his 28 July 2014 speech which was given on Eid al-Fitr, the official end of the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan, “Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.” (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

This atavistic attitude at once casts sexuality as “unclean,” but also blames women for defiling themselves, a specious argument often used to justify rape, while also claiming that these 'loose' women constantly lure otherwise chaste men into debauchery and sin. In his speech, Arınç outlined his ideas of morality saying:

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

These ideas are not Arınç’s alone, but are an outgrowth of the conservative tenor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is a prominent member. The AKP has been in power since 2002, and in the intervening years has shepherded over a subtle but systematic erosion of women’s rights.

Unbeknownst to many in the West, “Turkey had a thriving women’s rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently experienced a back slide in progress. Violence against women has doubled over the past few years, only one third of women are employed, and the country rates almost dead last in gender equality in education, health, politics, and the economy.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Women’s rights are being eroded on all fronts from wage equality and reproductive rights in the United States, to FMG in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the 'One Child Policy' in China, to chastity requirements in restrictive Middle East nations. Though many in the West and East have greeted Arınç’s comments with derision and mockery, this is no laughing matter.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Reforms Power Growth in Nigerian Energy Markets

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Ty Butler, Senior CorrespondentInternational Development and Conflict Last Modified: 16:32 p.m. DST, 06 September 2013

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigeria’s long trek towards large-scale energy market reforms is witnessing rapid progress as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria finalizes the sale of 15 energy companies.

A total of ten distribution companies and five generation companies have been sold to private stakeholders as part of an eight year reform effort initiated by the country’s Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSR).

The act seeks to increase private investment into Nigeria’s energy infrastructure in an attempt to address lagging electricity capacity. Brownouts are not uncommon in most Sub-Saharan African states, such inadequacies in power generation and transmission capabilities make it difficult for businesses, particularly manufacturing industries, to operate efficiently.

Publicly owned power companies faced large efficiency troubles in an atmosphere where subsidized tariff rates did not generate enough income to prevent power companies from operating at a financial loss. Such realities led to wide scale inefficiencies in energy companies, including poor maintenance which reduced overall energy capacities.

Low energy prices also made the market unattractive to private investment since companies could not expect to witness economic returns on any investments made. To address pricing distortions, Nigeria implemented the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) to gradually increase the cost of electricity, allowing the sector to become profitable for businesses to operate in.

To date, Nigeria has netted $2.73 billion through the sale of its energy assets. This money joins $1.6 billion in international loans which is slated to finance, among other things, new private-public partnerships and investments into new energy and gas infrastructure.

Nigeria’s reform efforts have not only attracted international bidders for public energy assets, but have boosted investor confidence as well, encouraging new energy construction efforts. The U.S. company General Electric has agreed to invest $1 billion over five years into a new manufacturing and assembly facility in the city of Calabar; a vote of confidence in Nigeria’s future economic prospects. General Electric has also partnered with the Nigerian firm Geometric Power Limited to construct a new 450 megawatt thermal power plant in Aba.

With over 162 million citizens, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and one of the few in Sub-Saharan Africa with fairly large domestic consumer markets. This makes the country a prime location for the development of local small and medium scale businesses. Healthy domestic markets allow companies to form and compete with generally larger international companies. It also allows for infrastructure and service grouping known as economies of agglomeration to take place which reduces operational costs.

Power sector limitations and unreliability have traditionally bogged down Nigeria’s desire to promote growth outside of its considerable oil industry. With a more inviting and stable power sector, investor risks should decrease over time along with operational costs despite higher energy prices; allowing Nigeria an opportunity to better diversify its economic growth.

Follow Ty Butler on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @TywButler

United Nations Accused of Cholera Outbreak Coverup

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 23:41 p.m. EDT, 4 March 2013

Zimbabwe, Children Carrying Water, Photo Courtesy of IRIN NewsOn March 1, 2013, Aljazeera reported that the United Nations (UN) was accused of covering up the 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi, Kenya, found that the UN did not inform the Robert Mugabe government of the potential for a cholera outbreak.

Aljazeera further reported that George Tadonki, the then head of the UN humanitarian office in Zimbabwe, warned his superiors of the potential outbreak, but no actions were taken.

Tadonki claims that he was fired in January 2009 in part because he “sounded the alarm about the cholera crisis.” Supposedly, the UN did not want to upset the government of Robert Mugabe, therefore did not warn the government of the upcoming outbreak. Tadonki pursued the issue, and the UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi ruled that he was unjustifiably removed from his job.

The UN dispute tribunal concluded that there should be disciplinary action taken against four senior UN officials, including the former humanitarian chief of the UN, John Holmes. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told Aljazeera that they intend to appeal the judgment.

Upon reading reports of this incident, I embarked on an effort to verify the Aljazeera news report. I was unable to located independent verification of Tadonki's assertions on any news sources. This seemed inconsistent and smacked of a coverup given the magnitude of this story both in terms of the adverse health impact, as well as the political ramifications of an organization as high-profile as the UN failure to live up to one of its core tenets.

I finally found the original report, Tadonki v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Case number NDT/NBI/2009/36, on the United Nations Dispute Tribunal website. Published on February 26, 2013, the report suggested that the failure of the UNCHA to renew Tadonki’s contract was “unlawful,” and that the UNCHA ignored humanitarian values in their dealings with Tadonki. Further, the UN report said on page 304 of their report, the Applicant being Tadonki:

308. Even ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] Bragg had testified that there were problems with the RC/HC and Mr. Mukhtar and that the UNCT was weak so that by January 2009 deaths from cholera had reached the thousands. In spite of this, the Tribunal finds that whenever something went wrong in Zimbabwe at the material time, the blame was laid at the door of the Applicant. It appeared that while he achieved some positive results no credit was given to him. In fact, ASG Bragg told the Tribunal that the achievements made by the Applicant in Zimbabwe were nothing extraordinary because it was his job. Management listened to rumours from all quarters instead of objectively assessing the situation and the performance of the Applicant.

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Published: 4 March 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

309. The matter of the Applicant’s said interpersonal relationships with some of those in the humanitarian community in Zimbabwe at the material time and the criticisms of him by these people or groups constituted the singular issue that informed his removal by OCHA. The critical question is: what was the Applicant doing wrong? Principal among his wrongdoing is that by the time he had spent one month in the country, he had published an early warning ˗ suggesting that the UNCT, which had been operating before he came on the scene was ill prepared for an impending humanitarian crisis. In spite of the fact that no one could successfully counter his prediction, he appeared to have stepped on some big toes by stating the obvious. Thus the Applicant, a new-comer, had attempted to upset the applecart in a situation where, clearly, humanitarian considerations only played second fiddle to political issues.

There are several inconsistencies in the initial two paragraphs alone. First of all, this is unlike any UN report I’ve ever read. As a previous member of Model UN, we read several UN reports, none of which were this informal.

Second, the tribunal in Nairobi claims, “whenever something went wrong in Zimbabwe at the material time, the blame was laid at the door of the Applicant.” Ignoring informalities, the suggestion that “whenever something went wrong” is extremely ambiguous, and the tribunal could hence claim that the UN blamed Tandonki for anything including actions he had no control over.

Third, the report leaves me unclear to why the UN didn’t want to upset the corrupt government of Mugabe. Mugabe is responsible for a multitude of human rights violations during the time that Mr. Tandoki was stationed there. If the UN was attempting to cover up the outbreak, then we have an example of a serious violation of human rights.

This an ultimate lack of transparency for the UN, which was established in part to encourage transparency. Further, this suggests that the UN is in collusion with Mugabe. One can speculate that the UN nations did not want to upset Mugabe because they wanted to remain in Zimbabwe to continue humanitarian operations. Hence, attempting to move Tadonki to the OCHA Regional Office in Johannesburg to take the position of Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer in order to cover up the cholera outbreak. Further, if the UN was ill prepared as this report suggested, then what exactly is our money doing?

This leaves me at another set of problems. Was the government of Kenya involved in the tribunal’s decision to find the UN guilty of covering up a cholera outbreak? Kenya and Zimbabwe have a long history of conflict, and further considering the strangely informal wording of the report, I am left suspicious. Further, I was unable to find any concrete information about the Nairobi dispute tribunal itself.

Perhaps this is just the tale of the disgruntled employee. Angry that the OCHA was not going to renew his contract, Tadonki made up the tale that the UN was covering up the cholera outbreak. When the tribunal in Kenya caught wind of this story, Kenya was eager to find a reason to prosecute their long-term enemy, and thus produced this report.

Ultimately, I am unable to ascertain what really happened in Zimbabwe in 2008. Is the UN caught up in a conspiracy of colluding with a corrupt government to cover up a cholera outbreak warning? Is Tadonki just upset that he got fired, and Kenya wanted to find a chance to stick it to their enemy? These are all questions that should have been asked in advance of publicizing this story, but regardless of the internal machinations of this organization, the internecine intrigue between Kenya and Zimbabwe, the ultimate victims are the Zimbabwean people who continue to suffer from lack of access to basic necessities such as clean water.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki
 
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Sources: Aljazeera; Tadonki v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Case number NDT/NBI/2009/36

Tuareg Rebels Eye Azawad Secession

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:23 PM EDT, 2 April 2012

Tuareg with Sword, Niger, Photo by Swiatoslaw WojkowiakAZAWAD, Mali - The stability of Mali continues to be a grave issue for its citizens and neighboring countries.  West African leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization comprised of 15 countries, have brought to bear the strictest economic sanctions available to them against the Malian military usurpers.

Alassane Ouattara, the President of Ivory Coast and Chairman of ECOWAS, stated on Monday at the summit being held in Dakar, that a complete embargo against diplomatic relations, trade and freezing access to the country's bank accounts, would go into effect immediately.

The desired outcome is the restoration of constitutional order, as was promised in a televised announcement by Lt. Amadou Konare following last month’s coup which ousted former President Amadou Touré. Ironically, the military’s overthrow of Touré was in response to his government’s perceived ineffectiveness in handling the latest Tuareg uprising, but they have yet to subdue the rebels or quell the conflict.

In fact, the Tuareg remain steadfast in their determination to succeed from country. According to Akli Souleymane, a senior official at the Azawad separatist movement, they will not cease this revolution until they have achieved this objective. They do not recognize the current military coup orchestrators, and reject all negotiations with them as they did with the Touré government.

Unlike previous uprisings in which the Tuareg were ill-equipped and untrained, the mercenaries returning from Libya have significant insurgency experience. Fierce warriors, the Tuareg appear unafraid to die, which is an attribute that has kept their culture alive despite high infant mortality rates, and lack of access to potable water or education.

“Estimates of the number of returning Tuareg fighters range between 800 and 4,000. On their return to Mali, many stopped short of Kidal in the mountainous region around Ti-n-Asselak in the Abeibara district where they linked up with the fighters of former rebel leader Ibrahim ag Bahanga's (who died in August 2011) Mouvement Touareg du Nord Mali (MTNM). On October 16, these and various other groups merged to form the Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad (MNLA).” (Source: Aljazeera)

Prior to 2011, the Tuareg have initiated four rebellions to establish the Azawad territory as a separate country. Azawad is the Tuareg name for the region north of Timbuktu that today covers the regions of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. They have launched several attempts to secede from Mali which led to wars which lasted from 1916-1917, 1962-64, 1990-95, and 2007-2009.

It is estimated that there are roughly 5.7MTuareg living in the Sahara Desert region. Also, known as the Sahel, the majority of Tuareg, about 1.4M live in Mali, while the remaining occupy areas of Libya, Mauritania, northern Niger, southern Algeria, Chad, Burkino Faso, and parts of Nigeria.

According to the website North Africa United, the Tuareg culture is nomadic and up until the 20th Century, they lived an existence as traders following ancient caravan routes which they annually traveled from Sub-Saharan Africa to the north and the Mediterranean.

“The Tuareg came to control the Sahara caravan trade routes from the great centres of Sub-Saharan Africa to the north and the Mediterranean. They provided protection and also supervised the slave trade from West Africa. This continued till well into the mid-20th Century.

'Tuareg’ is an arabic term meaning abandoned by God and they call themselves themselves ‘Imohag’ which translates as Free Men. They are an ancient warrior race and their language is Tamashek, their writing script is Tifinagh which is said to have come from ancient Libya. As road and rail infrastructure took over, the Tuareg have largely abandoned their previous nomadic existence and have settled but have never had their own homeland.”

In prior conflicts the Malian government was successful in its efforts to subdue Tuareg rebellions by attacking civilians using some of the most atrocious tactics witnessed in many ethnic cleansing conflicts across the globe. In order to protect their vulnerable populations, the rebels ultimately surrendered and laid down their arms.

However, military gains by the rebels, especially the capture of Kidal and Gao in recent days, and yesterday’s capture of Timbuktu, have embolden the MNLA, giving them the confidence they need to push to the mark and finally achieve their separatist goal.

Since Tessalit fell to the MNLA several weeks ago, the Malian army, already dispirited and ill-equipped, may no longer be in a position to maintain control of the Azawad region. In a territory this vast, it was difficult to police with a democratically elected government. The interim military government has more pressing issues at hand, and may choose to abdicate control of Azawad in the face of increased desertions and MNLA gains.

It shall remain to be seen what the outcome of this confluence of events shall yield, but it certainly looks like Mali, much like Sudan before it, could be headed toward an unwilling succession.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Sub-Saharan Immigrants Suffer in Libya

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:25 PM EDT, 28 March 2012

Libyan Rebel SoldierTRIPOLI, Libya - Illegal immigration is a problem in emerging economies where many migrants seek to make the dangerous journey to Europe in hope of a better life. Libya, as a gateway to Europe, finds itself in a politically sensitive position with regard to immigrants.

Specifically, native-born Libyans now seem to have a serious problem with 'black' Africans. Sub-Saharan Africans are now viewed with suspicion and are often discriminated against through racial profiling. Because of their skin color they are easily identifiable and singled out.

Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader recruited thousands of mercenaries – nearly 30,000 according to the nonprofit group Human Rights Solidarity – largely from Sub-Saharan countries. The men were reportedly hired to take care of the dirty work of repression, and many were ruthless in their violence.

Shortly after the overthrow and death of Gaddafi, rebels hunted down mercenaries from Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, and Mauritania, including some black Libyans who were subsequently detained, beaten and extra-judicially killed. Even immigrants who have legally entered the country suffer immense discrimination.

Because most Libyans view Sub-Saharan Africans with suspicion, illegal immigrants fare much worse, especially those caught at the borders. Just outside of Tripoli there is a camp that houses about 600 detainees who have been caught trying to cross the border illegally.

Most have used all their money and resources to get to Libya which is a gateway to Europe. They don't want to stay in the North African country, but are simply seeking passage to countries where they can work in anonymity.

Once detained men and women are housed separately and subjected to harsh conditions. They are housed in corrugated steel buildings with concrete floors and no heating.  Many of the men complain that they haven't had access to telephones and are therefore unable to contact their families to let them know what has happened. According to a BBC report, they also state that many are sick and lack access to healthcare, and are hungry.

There are just a few wardens to guard over 600 prisoners and they recognize that this is a potential human rights violation, but are powerless to do anything about it.  They are doing their jobs though some sympathize with these immigrants who are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

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Malaria Vaccine | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:08 p.m. EDT, 22 October 2011

I narrowly survived an infection of cerebral malaria when I was 10 years old.  We lived just outside of Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, and because my father did not believe in Western medicine, he forbade my mother from seeking treatment for me when I fell ill.  If treated at the immediate onset of symptoms the chances of recovery are quite high.

However, by the time she took me into Dar to the hospital, I beyond the threshold of medical intervention. The doctors told my mother to take me home and prepare for my death.  My mother did take me home where I lapsed into a coma while she tried everything she knew to break the fever and bring me back.

Through her valiant caring and prayer I awoke from my coma I remained critically ill for many months afterward.  I was one of the lucky few who survive cerebral malaria in which mortality rates for patients is as high as 50%.  This particularly pernicious disease  is the number one killer in the world today with a 90% percent of malaria-related deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) was funded in large part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted trials on 6,000 children at 11 sites across sub-Saharan Africa.  The trials  showed that three doses of the RTS,S vaccine reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56 percent and 47 percent respectively.

Research is continuing, and efficacy and safety results in 6 to 12 week-old babies are expected by the end of 2012. Information about the longer-term protective effects of the vaccine, 30 months after the third dose, should be available by the end of 2014.

"A vaccine is the simplest, most cost-effective way to save lives," says Gates.

"These results demonstrate the power of working with partners to create a malaria vaccine that has the potential to protect millions of children from this devastating disease."

"These results confirm findings from previous Phase II studies and support ongoing efforts to advance the development of this malaria vaccine candidate," says Tsiri Agbenyega, a principal investigator of the trial and Chair of the Clinical Trials Partnership Committee.

"Having worked in malaria research for more than 25 years, I can attest to how difficult making progress against this disease has been. Sadly, many have resigned themselves to malaria being a fact of life in Africa. This need not be the case."

The team is now working towards approval by regulatory authorities. If the Phase III trials go well, the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that it could recommend the RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate as early as 2015, allowing African nations to include the vaccine in their national immunization programs.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Getting High with Infected Blood

Getting High with Infected Blood

Yesterday we posted a piece which lauded a potential life saving break-through in the development of a HIV vaccination which could save millions of lives. Today, this news is tempered by a recent announcement by PlusNews a Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis publication which reports that HIV infection rates are on the increase among the intravenous drug user (IDU) populations of many African countries. Health officials in Tanzania are worried about rising HIV-prevalence levels among IDUs, who often use a dangerous cash-saving technique known as "flash blood", in which a user injects heroin or another illegal drug, and then draws a syringe full of blood for a second user to inject.

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