Archive for November, 2004

my little daughter graduates :)

November 28, 2004
Saturday was my daughter’s convocation (graduation ceremony). The son got his degree from a different University two and a half years ago.
It seems like yesterday the kids was learning to speak the first words, take the first steps. Then into school.
When we moved into our own home, the two kids would run excitedly and repeatedly in the lounge, exclaiming how big it was. The same lounge and house became too small for them when they grew up a little.
When discussing what color carpet to put in their room, the two came to me and said: “we don’t need a carpet in our room”. When I questioned them in my way, they confided in me, with tears rolling down their eyes: “mama wants to put a dirty carpet in our room!” I laughed quietly. The wife had said to me: “we will put a mellkhora (one on which dirt doesn’t show up so easily) carpet in the children’s bedroom, and the kids thought she meant dirty.
I would come back from office, and the daughter would present her “news” copy to me. Today’s news invariably would be “electricity went from ab:cd am till xx:yy am”.
The two played games with me. I would be their horse, and they would sit on my back while I ran on all fours. Over the years I got tired, and they became heavier, so the game became who could hold on longer while the horse tried to shake them off. The boy always got thrown off within half a minute of climbing on the horse, but the little girl managed to cling on. Then the horse got even more tired, and the children even more heavy, so the horse became an alligator. They could sit on the alligator, but the alligator had his stomach to the floor, and didn’t move at all. They kept telling me they didn’t like the alligator, but the alligator loved it. He refused to become a horse again.
I told them stories. They loved every word of mine, from their youngest age. They would show their happiness at whatever I said to them. Even with the dumbest and most non-sensical words I smithed for them.
One day the two kids came to me and said: “we won’t go to school from tomorrow. There is no need”. I was surprised. Why, I asked. The reply came: “They are increasing the fees. It just isn’t worth it. You teach us well. You can teach us at home”. The wife and I were beginning to have arguments over our loan re-payments. She insisted on paying her father immediately, as per promised schedule, and I said our income doesn’t allow such fast repayment anymore. Let us ask him to give us more time.
I guess the kids overheard us, and wanted to ease our economic condition. Such considerate kids! I dismissed the story of increase in fees as children’s fantasy. Then my neighbour mentioned it. “I am going to take my children out of that school. I can afford the fees several times over, but what will you do? It is unfair to you”, he said.
When the school gave us notice for increase in fees, I took out the children from that school, and put them in government model schools. I put the little girl one clss ahead. When getting her to prepare for it, I asked her to do one more exercise. She said: “Papa, I do get so tired!”. I realised my mistake. What was I doing to my baby girl, I thought. I hugged and kissed her and said: “Take it easy”, but I don’t know if the damage had been done.
The same kids, particularly the son, refused my coaching as they got older. I wanted to teach in a way that would open their minds. They wanted to finish it the way their teachers wanted, so that they could get on with their TV. And the media here did not provide education.
Sent the kids to Karachi for holidays, on their own – the travel that is. They stayed with my mother and siblings. When they came back, they ran excitedly to me: “Papa, see what we have brought for you”. And what was it they had brought? large thin chapatees that are sold by Karachi’s naanbaees (bread makers). For me. They thought their Papa hadn’t seen or tasted this “delicacy”. At Karachi, they had insisted they would be the ones who go buy these chapatees every mealtime.
We went on picnics, and childrens’ parks, and sightseeing. It was fun for them, and for us too. Then gradually it petered out. I don’t remember why. Perhaps the wife had too much work to do. It has been real hard for her, being my wife, I guess. Perhaps the kids lost interest. Maybe I started bringing the troubles of the office into the home. I don’t remember, but I have missed it.
I thought the kids were more attached to me, they were taking sides for me against their mother, so I gradually made them go back to their mother. But they went too far. They stopped seeing me as a friend. They were insufferable in their teens, but now they have outgrown that.
Anyway, the little girl now has her degree in Software Engineering. 🙂
At the convocation, the parents of one of her friends greeted us. I didn’t recognise them, and the wife scolded me for that. She still doesn’t understand my handicap. This is the 7th convocation I have attended. Two of my children’s as the father, five of different Universities as the Rector’s/Vice Chancellor’s representative. I never attended my own – I dislike all occassions official so much, I declined a medal for fear I would be asked to go up the dais and shake hands etc. I was present at two of my convocations though. Outside, not inside to receive the degrees. Didn’t have my parents or siblings there. Didn’t feel anything special, either.
Official occassions bore me. I feel an air of pretentious make-believe in it. I don’t like the robes, the solemnity, the chairs on the dais, the repetitions, the addresses, the protocol, the mutual sctratching of backs, the award of shields to each other by the Rector and the Chief Guest.
I have often wondered, about the pretentions, and the validity of robes, specially when the robes have intricate embroidery on them. Why should faculty wear such robes? I wonder about the robes that ulema wear too. Would that be considered Islamic?
Back to the convocation. The happiness on the young faces washed away all the doubts and questions. And then there was lunch.
The kids have grown up. They have other interests. They don’t want to listen to my words any more. Perhaps my stories aren’t interesting enough. They don’t like going out with me. I have a suspicion they don’t like being seen with me. Perhaps they don’t like the way I dress, or behave in public. Is it me being paid back in kind. I left home at 16/17, and didn’t pay much attention to my mother’s emotions. Now that I am a parent, I understand, and I can only give them duas. But these kids do have love in them. The son keeps it underneath. The daughter shows and seeks the visible signs.

cold-blooded murder of a 13-year old girl

November 24, 2004
Taken from
An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.

The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun’s magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a “security area” on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.
A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army’s account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.
The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked towards an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb.
But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat. Iman was also at least 100 yards from any soldier.
Instead, the tape shows that the soldiers swiftly identified her as a “girl of about 10” who was “scared to death”.
The tape also reveals that the soldiers said Iman was headed eastwards, away from the army post and back into the refugee camp, when she was shot.
At that point, Captain R took the unusual decision to leave the post in pursuit of the girl. He shot her dead and then “confirmed the kill” by emptying his magazine into her body.
The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post’s operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.
The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: “It’s a little girl. She’s running defensively eastward.”
Operations room: “Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?”
Watchtower: “A girl of about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death.”
A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.
The watchtower: “I think that one of the positions took her out.”
The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.
Captain R: “I and another soldier … are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill … Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her … I also confirmed the kill. Over.”
Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah’s hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.
On the tape, the company commander then “clarifies” why he killed Iman: “This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over.”
The army’s original account of the killing said that the soldiers only identified Iman as a child after she was first shot. But the tape shows that they were aware just how young the small, slight girl was before any shots were fired.
The case came to light after soldiers under the command of Captain R went to an Israeli newspaper to accuse the army of covering up the circumstances of the killing.
A subsequent investigation by the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, concluded that the captain had “not acted unethically”.
However, the military police launched an investigation, which resulted in charges against the unit commander.
Iman’s parents have accused the army of whitewashing the affair by filing minor charges against Captain R. They want him prosecuted for murder.
Record of a shooting
Watchtower’It’s a little girl. She’s running defensively eastward’
Operations room’Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?’
Watchtower’A girl of about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death’
Captain R (after killing the girl) ‘Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed’

humanity isn’t dead yet – some blogs/sites

November 17, 2004

Please Blue Fairy!

Please, Blue Fairy, turn the children of Iraq into stone

November 17, 2004

Under The Same Sun: November 2004 Archives: ”

Urgent Request to the Blue Fairy:
Please Turn these Children into Stone

November, 8, 2002
Fairy tales often have a universal appeal and draw children of all nations into their magical world. Pinocchio is no exception where the Blue Fairy rewards moral behavior and grants a puppet flesh-and-blood status.
I do doubt, however, that children in Iraq or Afghanistan could understand why an inanimate, man-made object would ever want to be a child of the flesh and blood kind. In their world, the flesh of children is there for the maiming and the blood for flowing –unlike those beautiful, sacrosanct objects of art which must be preserved and doted on.
As the

British Independent reports, “an international band of curators and historians anxious not to repeat the damage inflicted on Iraqi treasures during the Gulf War 11 years ago are appealing to the American government to take the historic sites into account.”

A similar surge of concern was observed when, about six months before the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan made a brief appearance in the news. The world was outraged then, but not because hundreds of thousands children’s lives were flickering away in refugee camps where lack of education, food, and opportunities stole away their childhood and diseases and lack of medical care made sure many never grow into adults. The world was not outraged because the Taliban regime was denying medical care to women (and children) by not allowing women healthcare workers to work and men to take care of women. The outrage was not that the United States had pushed the U.N. to slap economic sanctions on the country -because of its refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden- that made things worse for the worst off, the poorest, the most vulnerable in the country (according to some estimates, the sanctions increased the price of basic medicines up to 50%) without providing leverage or means to make things better.

It was the 1,400-year-old Buddha statues carved into the mountainside at Bamiyan that triggered the heart-rending cries of concern. The New York Times (03/19/01) reported that Taliban envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi explained that the decision was made after an international NGO offered money to restore the statues but refused to allow the money to be used in refugee camps — where 300 children had just died. Hashimi recounted that the NGO was asked that “instead of spending money on statues, why didn’t they help our children who are dying of malnutrition?” Upon being told that “this money is only for statues”, they decided to destroy them.

Germany, Malaysia and Japan joined Russia, India, United States, Egypt and others to decry the barbarity. Offers poured in: money to restore the statues, money to remove the statues for safekeeping somewhere else, money to change the rulers’ minds. Money that had not been pouring in for the refugee camps, for food, for clean water.

Now the world’s archeologists and curators are afraid a similar outrage will occur to the historical artifacts in Iraq. The Independent quotes Helen McDonald, of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, based at Cambridge University, who explained that last time the Iraqis had tried to move a great deal of their most important objects out into storage in the countryside and that they have already begun to do so again.

“But some things are immovable, such as huge stones. If a bomb hits a museum or something, that would be it,” she said.

Sure enough, she notes, “The British School of Archaeology in Iraq has written [about this]. They wrote to the Foreign Office during the Gulf War to express concern, not just on the humanitarian grounds but the effects that it would have on the culture.”

Bombing of stones isn’t the only potential cause of horrors, according to Charles Tripp, of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He warns that in the wake of the Gulf War, sanctions had inadvertently caused as much damage to the archaeological sites of Iraq as direct attack. Trip notes: “The conditions of poverty had led to much looting of archaeological sites and site museums, which often contained significant finds even after the best items were removed to Baghdad. Numerous finds have turned up on the art market in the West.” Dr Tripp observes that “there is a lot of temptation in a destitute country to rip something out that has a saleable value in the West.”

Yes, especially since UNICEF reports that at least half a million children have died due to those sanctions. I can imagine parents looting and prying loose every single stone, rock, tablet, gem or otherwise inanimate object in that country to try to obtain food or simple medicines.

It has been reported that when a journalist asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought about Western Civilization, he replied, “it would be a good idea.”

Indeed, it would be a good idea; unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to muster that up in short order so we need a more serious, urgent and miraculous intervention.

We need the Blue Fairy who turned Pinocchio into flesh to perform a reverse miracle.

So here goes.

Please, Blue Fairy, turn the children of Iraq into stone. The older the stone better. Stone with cracks and signs of aging and weather damage would be perfect. Hopefully, that will evoke some protective reflexes and caring in their direction.

And, Blue Fairy, while you are at it, please do the same for the children of Afghanistan which is once again facing famine since the investment required and promised has not been delivered, and the children of Southern Africa which is in the midst of a progressing famine due to the drought which might have been triggered partly by global warming, and the children in Central America which is now threatened by famine thanks to the crisis in the coffee industry which never paid farmers more than a pittance of their enormous profit.

If Blue Fairy does not come through, I encourage the Iraqis to start their own make-a-wish foundation, which grants wishes to children with terminal illnesses. Of course, in Iraq, because of the sanctions, easily curable diseases like cholera and treatable childhood problems like leukemia are often terminaland then there are the congenital birth defects in the depleted-uranium-polluted south.

That make-a-wish foundation should take those children, whose childhood we have collectively destroyed, to the precious museums and let them play with all those precious stones and tablets. The children should paint them with indelible ink. They should throw them to the ground from high buildings to see from which floor they pulverize most easily. They should be encouraged to play team games and see which team can hammer a tablet into dust fastest.

Maybe, just maybe, what must surely be the collective wish of all those children and their families will come true. Maybe, amidst the predictable outrage over crushed stone, the world will notice them.
And maybe, just maybe, the biggest miracle of all will happen without the Blue Fairy — our hearts of stone will turn into flesh and blood.