ZEVA'S eyes filled with tears as the 10-year-old's father took her by the arm and handed her to the moneylender. 'I cannot pay you in any other way. Take my daughter,' said Gul Miran, a farmer in Nangarhar province. Like many other farmers in Afghanistan, Gul Miran had planned to pay back his loan of 50,000 Afghanis (around $1,000) with the proceeds from his crop of opium poppies, which would eventually be turned into heroin. But as part of its stepped-up effort to combat the drug trade in the country, the Government has ploughed under his fields, leaving Gul Miran with nothing.
The moneylender, Haji Naqibullah, accepted the offer. 'We had an agreement. He would [pay me back] regardless of whether his crops were wiped out by the weather or by the Government. In a year or 18 months I will marry [the girl] off to my youngest son. He is 19 years old and has been married to his first wife for two years but has not had a child yet.'
Despite the enormous amount of international aid being pumped into Afghanistan - an estimated $14 billion over the last three years - the money is not reaching many who need it. As a consequence, the people are turning back to the cultivation of opium poppies. A recent UN Office on Drugs and Crime report estimates that 356,000 Afghan families were involved in opium poppy cultivation in 2004: a 35 per cent increase on the previous year. Their poppy fields produced a staggering 87 per cent of the world's opium last year.
Last December, two days after being sworn in as Afghanistan's first popularly elected president, Hamid Karzai called on his country to wage holy war against the opium trade. But poppy grower Payenda Gul, who gave his 17-year-old daughter to a 38-year-old divorced man in order to pay off his debt, sets out the conundrum facing the Government: 'They cannot do anything about the big drug dealers [so] they come and plough up the small farmers' poppies.'
An official with the International Committee on Human Rights says: 'Unfortunately many of these women who are used as payment for opium debts either end up addicted to the drug or commit suicide. It's a very sad situation. However, there is little that the organization can do unless official complaints are lodged.'
And that is unlikely. As Syed Jafer Muram, deputy director of the Nangarhar narcotics-control section, explains: 'Cases like this don't come to the notice of officials. If a father tried to get help for his daughter he would be arrested for opium trading.’
Stats from the race for cyberspace
• 3.5 million: The number of visitors during the week of the US Democratic Convention to the website of Japanese soccer star, Hidetoshi Nakata.
• 23-60 million: The number of unique visitors to pornography websites per day.
• 2-3 million: The number of unique visitors to the five largest news sites. (Unique visitors are individuals who may visit once or more, but are only counted on their first visit)
• 8: The number of the 20 most visited websites (other than porn) that are based in the US.
• 11: The number of the 20 most visited sites that are based in Asia.
Matters of Scale, Worldwatch (www.worldwatch.org)
Death threat to global justice activists
Bello is executive director of Focus on the Global South and a long-standing campaigner for social justice and against US intervention. He won the 2003 Right Livelihood Award (or Alternative Nobel Prize) for 'outstanding efforts in educating civil society about the effects of corporate globalization, and how alternatives to it can be implemented'. The CPP now charges him with being an agent of US imperialism, while the global justice movement worldwide is described as a front for capitalism.
The CPP charges are ludicrous, emerging from narrow sectarianism, but the death threats are very real. The NI joins its voice to other civil-society groups the world over in deploring not only this specific threat but the use of assassination in any circumstances, whether deployed by rebel groups or by governments.
WHEN a delegation of over a dozen Solomon Island chiefs boarded the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior late last year they were seeking global support to save the Marovo Lagoon - dubbed 'the eighth wonder of the world'. They pointed to the forested hills around Marovo. They recounted stories from the 1990s when transnational logging interests came to their island with grand promises, but instead extracted the natural wealth of the land and left the local people with their forests destroyed. They remember how the fish stocks halved in Marovo Lagoon because of the run-off and pollution from logging operations. And they warn that it is happening once more.
Lobi (pronounced Lombi) is one of the few villages on Marovo Lagoon that practises sustainable forestry. Its portable sawmill returns good income to the community without destroying the forest. But just across the way a Malaysian company has set up shop and signed a large-scale logging agreement with 'landowners': people whose rights to the area the Lobi villagers dispute.
As a consequence the hills around Lobi - like those on many islands surrounding Marovo - are being rapidly denuded. In fact the Solomons are being logged at a rate faster than anywhere on earth: a rate driven by the demand for timber products from China and other booming Asian economies.
Investors who fled the country during the four years of civil unrest between 1999 and 2003 are now back in force. Now that a multinational police force led by Australia has rebuilt the local constabulary and taken guns off the streets in the capital, Honiara, logging companies feel safe to return for the plunder. The irony is that the last round of discontent and civil unrest was fuelled by the environmental destruction and the loss of sustainable livelihoods caused by large-scale logging and other resource extraction, like gold mining on Guadalcanal. Unchecked, logging activity can destabilize this country again.
Many new industrial logging concessions have recently been allocated in the
Zimbabwe targets international NGOs
The Bill is the latest addition to a number of laws that have chipped away citizen rights as the Government steps up political control ahead of this month's parliamentary polls. Zimbabwe has more than 3,000 NGOs whose economic, development, political and social programmes touch the daily lives of Zimbabweans by providing much-needed humanitarian and food aid. More than three million Zimbabweans are currently in need of food: a political reality that the Government stands accused of using by withholding food aid from supporters and sympathizers of the opposition Movement for Democracy.
Already the Bill is crippling developmental programmes as some operations are currently stalled. In addition, NGOs such as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the vocal National Constitutional Assembly, Amani Trust, and the Justice for Agriculture are seen as targeted for closure once the Bill becomes law.
Indonesia's enterprising army
Dimas Adityo/Tempo (Translated by James Balowski)
WHEN they came for Hadi Saleh, they found him at home in Baghdad with his family. First they bound his hands and feet with wire. Then they tortured him, cutting him with a knife. He finally died of strangulation, but apparently that wasn't enough. Before fleeing, his assailants pumped bullets into his dead body.
No group claimed credit for his assassination on 4 January this year. Nobody knows for sure who carried it out. But for many Iraqis, the manner of his death was a signature.
Iraq has never been a very safe place for trade unionists, socialists or democraticminded people. In one of the few times when Iraqi progressives seemed to be on top (in 1958) they finally threw out the king. For a few years, organizing unions and breaking up the big estates were not just dreams but government policy. Oil was nationalized and the revenue used to build universities, factories and hospitals. That vision of Iraq shaped the political activists of Saleh's generation and still holds their loyalty today.
Some 35 years ago, Saleh's vision led to his being arrested, accused of being a trade unionist and a 'red' by the Ba'athist Government that Saddam Hussein would one day lead. Narrowly escaping execution, he spent five years in prison. On his release he joined many of his compatriots who'd already fled into exile, where he lived for over 30 years.
When Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists finally fell, Saleh and his friends returned to reorganize the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. He became its international secretary. And even under a brutal US military occupation, they began seeking ways to turn into reality that old dream of a progressive Iraq.
In two years the IFTU has organized 12 national unions for different industries and successfully challenged the US occupation's low-wage regime. But success has had its cost. Saleh's murder is the latest in a series of attacks on workers and unions: a response to their increasing activity. Attacks come from US troops and the Iraqi Government as well.
By making him a bloody example, Saleh's murderers had two objectives. For the Ba'athists among the insurgents, the growth of unions and organizations of civil society - from women's groups to political parties - are dangerous deviations. Their hopes of returning to power rest on a military defeat for the US without a corresponding development of popular progressive organizations that can govern a postoccupation Iraq.
Trying to stop those organizations from using the elections to organize a support base is a second objective. None of Iraq's new unions support the armed resistance and they all call for an end to the occupation. But even progressive Iraqis disagree about the elections.
Some, like the Union of the Unemployed, boycott the process as a charade organized by the occupation. But others on the Iraqi Left think a mass-based political party with a radical program could win the actual power to implement it once the occupation is gone. Organizations from the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), to which Saleh belonged, to the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq of Shi'a Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani see elections as a vehicle for winning power. That is why in exile the ICP condemned the war and US invasion but when the occupation started it joined the Governing Council. Indeed, two of its members were ministers in the Allawi interim government.
The armed resistance doesn't want them around. And, despite talk of democracy, another dependable dictator would be more palatable to the Bush Administration than popular resistance to the free market plan. Saleh's assassination makes plain the extreme lack of security of Iraqi leftists caught between the two.
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