New Internationalist

Updates

Issue 182

new internationalist
issue 182 - April 1988

Update

HUMAN RIGHTS

Keeping the peace
Israeli tactics

Palestinian teenagers await trial in an Israeli military court.
Photo: Richard Butchins

Khalil Said Khahil, aged 14 was buying food in a shop when someone threw a stone at an Israeli patrol in Jabaliaya, Gaza.

Moments later he was being dragged unconscious along the street with blood flowing from his head, being kicked and beaten by Israeli soldiers. His crime: having come out of the shop at the wrong moment.

Khalil's case is typical of the treatment many youngsters receive at the hands of the occupation forces. Most are arrested for suspected 'Hostile Terrorist Acts'. Current laws empower the security forces to arrest anyone of any age for writing slogans on walls, singing nationalist songs, possessing literature with a nationalist content, making a 'V' for victory sign, displaying the colours of the Palestinian flag, throwing stones, burning tyres, building a barricade - or even wearing a piece of Palestinian jewellery.

Children may be arrested anywhere - in the classroom or in the home, without warrant - and tried in an Israeli military court. These courts take the view that anyone aged 14 or over must be treated as an adult. The average sentence for throwing stones is between four and six months.

After arrests the suspect is held incommunicado for 18 days and prohibited from contacting parents or an attorney. After 14 days they may contact the Red Cross. Children as young as nine or 10 have been detained during sweeps and held for days during which time they are threatened, intimidated and abused into giving information about others.

The use of torture to extract confessions from persons suspected of Hostile Terrorist Acts is routine, the Landua Commission investigating Israel's Shin Bet secret police recently established. Methods used include electric shocks, burning of flesh with cigarettes and tying sacks soaked in water, urine or excrement over their heads.

The arrest, imprisonment and torture of juveniles in the occupied territories is clearly apolitical, not a security, measure. And up till now, the unarmed children of the Occupied Territories have not been a match for Israel's well-equipped combat squads.

Richard Butchins

WOMEN

Widow burning
Sati revival in India

Sati films are a box-office hit.

Her parents looked on proudly as 18-year-old Roop Kanwar was burned to death on her husband's funeral pyre in front of several thousand people. No this was not in the last century - but six months ago. And Roop did not come from a poor illiterate family in some rural backwater. She was the city-educated wife of a science graduate.

Incredibly, the outlawed custom of sati is making a come-back in India. Postcards glorifying the gruesome practice are widely available. Popular movies about widow-burning are all the rage. Although clothed in the language and symbols of Hinduism, this revival has little to do with religion - but much to do with the political power of a modern, prosperous male-dominated elite.

Roop Kanwar was burned alive in the village of Deorala - prosperous modern village two hours drive away from the city of Jaipur. Roop's father-in-law is a school teacher, her brothers-in-law well-heeled business people in the city. And the incident inspired a vigorous celebration of the serf cult led not by religious figures but by politicians.

Faced with the revival of this horror, leaders of women's movements in India are desperate to show sati in its true political colours and reveal the subtle connivance of politicians in its continuation. In Deorala, for example, the police did nothing to prevent the burning of Roop and their massive presence in the village since has served only to protect the supporters of sati.

But women campaigners are demanding that the Deroala police be indicted for not intervening; that the case against the in-laws be properly investigated and the individuals responsible be brought to trial; and that the religious community challenge politicians claiming to be representatives of a Hindu tradition.

In the long run, as Indian women activists acknowledge, only a change in the view that a woman has no worth beyond her services to her husband can obliterate this savagery.

Manushi, No.42-43

FINANCE

Backdoor deals
Capital flight

Hard currency leaves the bankrupt countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America in false-bottomed suitcases or in electronic transfers from banks.

The methods used can be elaborate, involving such tricks as under-invoicing exports or setting up corporations in the Bahamas. Destinations range from banks in Zurich to real estate in Manhattan.

Such capital flight is sapping local economies and draining central bank reserves throughout the developing world. In Zaire, for example, President Sese Seko Mobutu and his clan are reported to have $5,000 million invested in Swiss bank accounts and foreign real estate. Yet his Government has seldom been able to service its foreign debt, which was $4,200 million in 1983.

More than half the money borrowed by Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina during the past 10 years has effectively flowed out again through the back door, often in the same year or month it flowed in. According to the World Bank, Argentina's capital flight was 60 per cent of inflow between 1979 and 1984. In total, wealthy Latin Americans salted away at least $180 million abroad.

Sometimes the same bank that has been making the public loan to the government also stores the overseas deposits from private nationals. At least half of Citibank's International Private banking assets of $26 billion, it is estimated, belong to Latin Americans. This compares with Citibank's total loans to Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela of $10.3 billion. Such figures mean that the bank comes close to owing more money to Latin Americans than it is owed.

In practice all these shenanigans boil down to the governments being saddled with the bulk of the foreign hard-currency debts, while it is private individuals in those same countries who hold most of the hard-currency assets.

Multinational Monitor, Vol. 8 No. 5

REFUGEES

Art in exile
Tibet's doll-making monks

[image, unknown]
Jessica Barry / Panos

The recent riots in Lhasa, the ancient capital of Tibet, have urged more and more young Tibetans to leave to find their own culture among the exiled Tibetan community in India.

This is putting a strain on the Buddhist colleges which support and instruct the new arrivals. But the monks have struck upon a way of financing this which is cultural and traditional - by making dolls.

These are no ordinary dolls. They are works of art, drawing upon traditional skills used in the making of robes for sculpted deities. For among thousands of monks who escaped to India when China annexed Tibet in 1959 was a handful of 'artist' monks.

Together they helped to re-establish Tibet's three leading monastic colleges - Ganden, Sera and Drepung - in exile.

Working under the auspices of the Losel Crafts Development Project at Dharamsala, in northern India, and with the help of the exiled Tibetan Government's Council for Religious and Cultural Affairs, the monks are now drawing on their knowledge of tailoring, embroidery and appliqué-work to fashion around 100 unique dolls a year. Wherever possible, they use original fabrics, buying elaborate, flower-pattern brocades from weavers in Benares. And to ensure complete accuracy of style the monks study old photographs or consult elderly people who remember how a dress was worn.

The dolls sell at $150 or more with collectors and museums as the principle buyers. But isn't this commercial work degrading or irreligious? Not at all, it seems. In the past 'tailor' monks frequently combined their religious studies with commercial trade.

Jessica Barry / Panos

FOOD

Plump for junk
Pacific roots

Pacific islanders should get back to their roots if they want to stay healthy, according to food experts. Islanders are eating more imported foods and fewer home-grown root crops. And this is causing a disturbing rise in the health problems normally associated with Western industrial societies: stress, obesity and heart disease.

'You don't see people starving in the Pacific but their diet is worse than it was 30 years ago, claims Phil Jones of the UK's Voluntary Service Overseas.

Consumption of locally-grown root crops have fallen by 23 per cent, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Association. Traditional roots, such as the 'taro' tuber, are low in sugar and high in fibre and few nutrients are lost in their preparation. They are also high in calcium and vitamin C. And they grow easily in the tropics, even in dry and infertile conditions. But Pacific supermarkets - especially in urban areas - are now filled with imported Australian white rice, sugary tinned foods, beer and Coca Cola Free with every tin and packet is a bumper-sized shot of Western-style ill-health.

John Tanner

COLOMBIA

Slaying dragons
Red-tape attack

[image, unknown] Declaring war on red tape is rather like trying to kill Hydra - the many-headed monster of Greek mythology. Each time one head is cut off another two sprout in its place: laws created to remove red-tape often succeed in doing little more than adding to it.

But nevertheless Colombian President Virgilio Barco is trying. He has launched an assault on the unnecessary bureaucracy that he says is costing the country millions in lost tax revenue and stunting economic growth.

Construction firms, for example, have to comply with up to 500 government regulations before they can legally sell the dwellings they have built. This adds an estimated 20 per cent to the cost of the building. Not surprisingly most people choose to sidestep the legalities and work 'informally'.

So slowly do the cogs of the bureaucratic machinery turn that a new trade has emerged: that of the professional queuer. For a small fee, she or he will wait in line, all day if necessary, to hand clients' documents over the counter to bureaucrats.

The Barco Administration has already made a start in trying to cut through the red tape. Tax declaration forms, so complex that they were unintelligible to all but accountants, have been simplified.

Though such measures are welcomed by the public, most Colombians continue to regard their President's crusade as well intentioned but doomed to failure.

Colombia inherited its antiquated administrative system from the Spanish colonialists who enmeshed South America in a web of impenetrable regulations. The civil service has a vested interest in keeping as many regulations on the statute book as possible to generate work, however unnecessary, for its ever-increasing ranks.

Peter Nares / Gemini

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