Monday, 20 February 2017

Living Separate Lives

In today’s world, people are beginning to live separate lives in family union without knowing.  A situation of a lonely world; where people only co-habit and not really co-exist.  A situation where foundation is faulty, walls can’t stand. This could be manifestation of rising violence and crimes emanating from family setting into the society. Youths are getting derailed and radicalized into hate. Killing another for personal belief and conviction as cheap scored goals?  And I wonder what the world is turning into. Where is the love?
 Similarly, as nations are made of families, and are beginning to live separate lives too. I find it most disturbing. In a world where love is replaced by hate? Where religion is becoming epic to diplomatic relations, where war and crisis are ravaging lives of little ones; making many to become refugees without anyone to show compassion, love and solace. This world has lost it all in love.  Why do we live separately together? I just don’t know.  

What brought the world together?   
Modern transportation and communication brought people around the world closer together. As a result, countries today are more dependent upon one another. Each nation of the world has unique history, its own cultural values, and political interests, economic needs etc. For instance, USA plants that are exported increases employment faster than plants they do not export, likewise any other country. In summary, what I am saying is simple; that everybody needs somebody in this world for global peace.
Through trade, we can eat fruits grown in central/south America during winter, USA computers are sold in Africa and Asia. We import goods/products we might not otherwise be able to enjoy from others. No nation has enough resources to meet all their wants or needs. Therefore, trade seems to be one way that nations solve this problem of scarcity. But my issue is central, why does Africa imports all products it consumes? Well, that’ for another day, so I rest my case.  

Drawing lines for walls and breakaways
European Union is an organization of independent EU nations that have no trade barriers among members. Goods, services and workers can move freely within member nations. But with recent development on Brexit, of the UK from the Union, can thing really be the same again? I ask.  Sometimes I am tempted to ask Morocco’ experience after walking out of African Union for years, just to return early this year to reapply renewed membership of African Union.  What was your lesson?   
Additionally I learnt Italy is threatening a walk out of the EU Union, a situation where it seems everybody   tends to be on individual tent.  Simply living separate lives. But be that as it may be I recall that in 1990s, USA, Canada and Mexico signed a pact called – North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to eliminate all barriers to trade among the three. But with the recent development of US President to build walls against Mexico, one couldn’t imagine than wonder.    
Furthermore, US president has banned 7 Muslim countries from entering US temporarily for 90 days, and the countries include – Iran, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen.  But my concern shall be Somalia, Libya, and Sudan and not limited to indefinite ban on Syria refugees, suspension of border refugees program. Claiming that, the ban is to keep out- “radical Islamic terrorists from the US”. Come to think of it, if this makes it so? To me, I don’t think so.  My thinking is that this could rather wipe sentiment for new recruitment of young people into radical groups and birth new intensified radicalization process and violent extremism such that it could lead to cold war between Muslim dominated countries   versus the US and with attendant spill over effect.     

Listen to sound of Phil Collins 

Image result for pictures of phil collins
I have listened to a song by Phil Collins titled – “Separate Lives” as a child. I love it but never understood the lyrics and meaning until now. In 1985, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin recorded this track and the track went on to reached N0: 1 in November 1985 on billboard charts, and was certified silver by the British Phonographic industry.  I urge if you can listen to the song once again with open mind, you may see how and why we live separate lives as individuals or nations. Let me leave you with the lyric of song as you play the music. Follow the lyrics…..

            “SEPARATE LIVES”- by Phil Collins
You called me from the room in your hotel
All full of romance for someone that you met
And telling me how sorry you were, leaving so soon
And that you miss me sometimes when you’re alone in your room
Do I fell lonely too?
You have no right to ask me how I feel
You have no right to speak to me so kind
We can’t go on just holding on to time
Now that we’re living separate lives.

Well I held to let you go
And if you lost your love for me
Well you never let it show
There was no way to compromise
So now we’re living (living)
Separate lives.

Ooh, it’s so typical, love leads to isolation.  
So you build that will (build that wall)
Yes, you build that wall (build that wall)
And you make it stronger
Well you have no right to ask me how I feel
You have no right to speak to me so kind
Someday I might (I might)
Find myself looking in your eyes
But for now, we’ll go on living separate lives
Yes for now, we’ll go on living separate lives.
Separate lives.  


Monday, 6 February 2017

Bending the Curve Toward Justice

I met Stacey Cram at Lagos, Nigeria at paralegal training by JEI/IWEI and I learnt one thing from her. And that is the secret to service. Stacey Cram is policy Director, Namati. She first wrote about it on Namati website. 

It was in a small kitchen in Transylvania when I first felt the sting of injustice. I was sixteen, sitting across the table from Eta, a retired doctor in her 80s whose twinkly eyes and cheeky laugh reminded me so much of my grandmother. We sat chatting and she told me how much she loved talking with young people and how she would have loved to have had children of her own, “sadly, not possible because of the sterilizations”. She noted the shocked look on my face and met it with a smile, a squeeze of my hand, and the push of a second slice of plum cake onto my plate.
Eta was a survivor of Auschwitz and I was there to document her story. She continued to tell me how “that so-called doctor” Joseph Mengele had chosen her for his sterilization program and ordered 10 members of her family to the gas chambers. I listened, growing angry at the now-familiar story of the few neighbors who turned against her, the many more who turned a blind eye, and at the system which made this injustice legal. She had no anger left but she was worried the world would forget her family’s story. I promised her I would not.

Eta, 2001
I have carried Eta with me since that day, but in the last 12 months she has been all the more present as every day I feel that sting of injustice. With politicians scapegoating complex issues on minority groups, increases in vigilante justice, the birth of “alternative facts” and too many silently watching these events unfold, it is hard not to make comparisons between today and Europe in the 1930s.
Injustice is not new, but rather than making progress towards solving the issues, we are seriously at risk of sliding backward. In 2011, the United Nations estimated that 4 billion people lived outside of the protection of the law. Around the world, millions of people were unable to secure citizenship, healthcare or an education, others had their land stolen or destroyed by corporations or man-made environmental issues. What united them was a routine denial of their rights and an inability to access legal support.
In the years since, the world made significant strides towards increasing justice, culminating with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, which guaranteed “equal access to justice for all”. This was the first time that the global community acknowledged that justice was central for sustainable development and economic growth.
Then 2016 happened.
With the refugee crisis growing in Europe we have seen many aid budgets reduced or reallocated to domestic refugees and vital new funding needed for justice has not materialized. With ‘America First’ policies we seem to have lost a strong and powerful ally for extending access to justice globally. In post-Brexit Britain, the government has recommitted to a 0.7% aid budget but it is unclear if the UK will prioritize fighting injustice abroad over negotiating new trade deals. And with elections in France, the Netherlands, and Germany this year, populist movements may gain even greater ground. 2017 looks set to be another difficult year.
Populist leaders often run on the promise of addressing injustice and reducing inequality, but we know this to be a false promise. Instead, populist leaders reduce civil liberties and empower a small, elitist class who pass laws that codify injustice. A functioning democracy which serves the needs of the people requires accessible and effective justice systems at every level of society. No one leader can deliver justice; we need millions of activists, community paralegals, lawyers, civil servants and government officials offering a spread of legal remedies. Around the world today, these are the people protecting and empowering their neighbors to understand, use and shape the law to reduce corruption and reform systems. Justice needs these people as much as people need justice.
Community paralegal in Myanmar
A paralegal consults with clients in Myanmar
Paralegals in South Africa
Human right activists from orange farm South Africa
Justice needs Hassan a 78-year-old man from Tawarka Bay, a small island off the coast of Lagos, who in his retirement years has trained as a community paralegal to fight against eviction notices illegally issued to his community.
Justice needs Marita, a dedicated US civil servant safeguarding funds in legislation to ensure immigrants do not lose access to legal aid with the new administration. Justice needs Ken and Elizabeth, respectively first and last term politicians in Kenya and the US, neither one need make a fuss or fight for the poor and the marginalized, but they do. They listen to slum dwellers and water protectors instead of their party, corporations, or lobbyists.
Justice needs the nameless Polish lady who passed a piece of soap through a barbed wire fence to Eta with a note saying “we are here for you”.
Justice needs the millions of people who marched to stand up and say that what is happening today is not normal.
Justice needs you.
It can feel overwhelming to know where to make an impact. But now is not the time to look away. The fight for justice has never been an easy one – “the arc of the moral universe does not just naturally curve toward justice; we must bend it”.
We have a long road ahead but some key priorities I see are:
  1. we must build a vibrant global justice movement which brings together new activists with those already doing this work to learn from and support each other;
  2. we need legal providers to protect people when their rights are violated and fight back against discriminatory legislation;
  3. we must support and recruit more individuals in office who will put conscience ahead of protocol or re-election;
  4. we need government, old allies, and new leaders, to prevent any slide backs on justice – the Dutch reaction to the global gag order is a wonderful example of a country taking a stance to protect women’s health;
  5. we need investment from governments, philanthropists, and the private sector to support this movement which is already chronically underfunded; and
  6. we need fresh and innovative ideas and leadership to drive forward this movement.
That is why Namati is launching this new blog series, “Resisting Injustice”. Over the coming year, we will discuss why now, more than ever, we need to prioritize giving all individuals access to justice and how best we can do this. We will bring together a collection of voices, from comedians to civil servants to discuss how we can bend that curve together. We will provide ideas and inspiration and be a place for you to discuss, learn, support, debate, cry and laugh.
I know the years ahead remain unknown, but with Hassan, Marita, Ken, and Elizabeth and the many millions more out there, I feel confident we will move in the right direction.
And on days when it seems too much, find an ally, meet their eye and smile. If that ally is me, I promise I will offer you some plum cake. The next day, we will continue the fight together.

#justice #poorestpoor #paralegal

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Religion is not a Legitimate Target for Countering Violent Extremism

Among his first acts, our new President is taking steps to limit refugees from predominantly Muslim, conflict-torn countries. He has also instructed his government to start referring to violent extremism as radical Islam. If his actions are meant to protect the homeland, they will have the exact opposite effect. Such policies are shortsighted and miss the real dynamics underpinning violent extremism.

It’s worth repeating that terrorists are less likely to harm an American living on American soil than lightning or a drunk driver. But presuming that argument doesn’t fly for many Americans who genuinely fear “radical Islam”, let’s add that most homegrown violent extremists are not Muslim. They are part of the far right and they target Muslims—and other people they don’t consider to be like themselves—gay, African American, Latino, immigrants and so on.

That said, ISIS is indeed busy 24/7, trying to recruit and equip Americans to attack inside the homeland. Plenty of evidence shows that militant jihadi terrorist recruitment occurs over the Internet. ISIS puts out a blanket of slick propaganda videos and makes powerful promises of justice and prosperity, promising a utopian “Caliphate”. Some disgruntled, mixed up and mentally unhealthy Americans have fallen for it and when they retweet, “like” or endorse this promise of utopia, ISIS recruiters swoop in via the Internet. A lonely teenage Christian Sunday school teacher living in a rural area on the West coast was among the radicalized, as was a mixed up Catholic named Shannon Conley, to whom offered romance and purpose. Both young women converted and started moving toward ISIS until their parents and grandparents found out and put a stop to it. These were not refugees; they were the nice girls next door.

White Christian converts and Muslims already living in the United States are the targets of ISIS’ Internet seduction in the U.S. Refugees have, for the most part, not responded to ISIS seduction recruitment inside the U.S. Or if they have it’s due to a multitude of problems unrelated to their religion. Examples quoted often include Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber, whose parents divorced and moved back to the Russian Republic of Dagestan, leaving him here with his younger siblings. Tamerlan failed in his education, failed as a boxer, and got caught up in criminal enterprise and seduced into terrorism well after entering the country on asylum—not as a refugee. Or the black Somali Americans who came as young kids but failed to integrate and fell prey to calls to come return to Somalia to join al Shabaab and defend Somali women from claims of rape by invading forces. 

ISIS is a user and will use anybody. But refugees who have fled their country have done so to escape from ISIS, other terrorists and their oppressive governments. They are fleeing, not to attack anyone, but to not be attacked.
Our refugee vetting procedures and our internal national security works. There has never been a terrorist attack by a refugee seeking entry to our country. Only once have we let in Iraqis who were plotting to attack here, and they were caught in short order and prosecuted. There are also far simpler ways for a terrorist determined to attack Americans to enter the country than to pretend to be a refugee or asylum seeker—visa waiver from Europe for instance.

Concerning Europe, anger festers where second and third generations have found themselves doomed to poverty in Muslim ghettos. It is there where terrorist groups have been able to gain a foothold. The same is not true here. Muslim immigrants in the U.S. have for the most part done extremely well integrating and succeeding in their lives—better here than in parts of Europe—capturing and making the American dream into their own personal parachute from war torn Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to name a few. America is still a land of opportunities and our people are still kind and welcoming. And let’s remember, we are a country of immigrants. Europe does not come from the same tradition.

Muslims the world over these days find themselves caught between two narratives—one about the greatness of America and the American dream—but they also see drones killing women and children. They watch the invasion and occupation of oil rich countries and they fall prey to rumors that America props up dictators and tyrants in Muslim populated lands to grab the spoils. ISIS and al-Qaeda eagerly fan the flames of such beliefs and recent remarks by President Trump about taking oil doesn’t just violate international law, it fans these flames of hate and endangers our troops overseas.

Terrorists can hijack the few verses in Christian or Islamic scriptures that they believe allow them to attack innocent civilians. It’s not the scriptures that are the problem—it’s the terrorists who hijack and twist and hate enough to convert religious beliefs into acts of violence. Those are who we need to oppose—not anyone’s religion.

But I fear we have a new President who is playing directly into ISIS’s game book—dividing our country along lines of religion and reinforcing prejudices. We must not allow U.S. policy to become an asset to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Of course we all fear radicalization, including and perhaps especially Muslims who’ve suffered the most under terrorism. But here, America remains a land of opportunity where immigrants, the foundation of our nation, continue to do well. Like the video editor and his parents who fled Assad’s atrocities and now live near me—trying hard to work, integrate and build a new life. The mother is a psychologist and regularly gets on Skype to counsel others still in Syria who are not so lucky to escape. The son who fits perfectly the profile of Syrians we seem to fear most—young, unmarried male, of fighting age—is so grateful to be in the United States and they are a threat to no one.  On the contrary, they are already model citizens, maybe giving back more to their new homeland than most of us ever do.

Reference: Anne Speckhard (January 31, 2016) Religion is not a Legitimate Target for Countering Violent Extremism, ICSVE Brief Reports,

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and a nonresident Fellow of Trends. She is also the author of Talking to Terrorists and Bride of ISIS and coauthor of Undercover Jihadi. Her newly released book, coauthored with Dr Ahmet S. Yayla, is ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate based on 32 interviews with actual ISIS defectors. Dr. Speckhard has interviewed nearly five hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank, Chechnya, Turkey Iraq, Jordan and many countries in Europe. She was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to twenty thousand detainees and eight hundred juveniles. She has consulted to the U.S. Senate, House, NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Justice Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and is also a sought after counter-terrorism expert appearing on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times,The Washington Post, London Times and in many other publications. ICSVE website:


For Interviews/Television & Radio Bookings: Susan Barnett at 917) 841-0221

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#ICSVE #AnneSpeckhard #CVE