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Political Stability is just an Illusion: For protection against Violence, Children in Yemen collect money for UN

The UN reports said, close to 2000 children were killed in Yemen in 2015 and 750 young boys were recruited as soldiers in the war

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Saudi-led air strike on Sana'a, 12 June 2015: Saudi Arabia is operating without a UN mandate. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons
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  • End of war announced in Yemen is just an illusion, say experts
  • United Nations was forced to remove Saudi-led coalition from list of countries inflicting violence upon children due to financial pressure
  • Many human rights groups as well as mayor of Sanaa have publicly criticized the UN for this move

The ceasefire that was declared in Yemen two months ago is just an illusion of peace, as was construed by the public statements that experts have issued. Therefore, the politically aware Yemeni population is infuriated by the fact that United Nations removed the Saudi-led coalition from the list of countries that inflict violence upon children. Military planes, missiles and bombs continue to plague the country incessantly. By doing so, Political analyst and journalist Nasser Arrabyee said that the UN is officially supporting ‘war crimes’ in Saudi Arabia.

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, through his Twitter account, announced that war in Yemen was “practically” over, though Emirati troops, that support the Saudi-led coalition, may continue to stay in the war-torn country for counter-terrorism purposes. UAE has also helped the coalition drive out Al-Qaida from the southern coastal city of Mukalla.

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Sana’a. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Yemen has been facing a civil war for over two years now. The main participants are Houthi militants, which are supported by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Iran, and the coalition that has been relentlessly fighting to restore the internationally recognized Yemeni government. With powerful allies in the form of Iran, the Shiite Houthi group controls Sana’a, the capital of Yemen and much of the northern part as well. Civilians caught in between are living their worst years in Yemen not to mention child deaths.

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The United Nations reports that close to 2000 children were killed in Yemen in 2015 and 750 young boys were recruited as soldiers in the war. Almost 60% of the damage was inflicted by the coalition, based on which the political body was initially kept on the UN list.

The United Nations received wide scale criticism from many human rights groups including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in the form of open letters to Ban ki-Moon urging it to put up the coalition on the list based on impartial evidence and not politics.

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Ban ki-Moon. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Ban ki-Moon made a public statement stating that United Nations was under “undue pressure” from certain members threatening to cut off financial supplies to various humanitarian programs that the UN offered.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many U.N. programs,” Ban said.  “Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many other places would fall further into despair.”

A group of children have started collecting money outside the UN office in a campaign spearheaded by the mayor of Sanaa, which is apparently a response to Ban’s announcement last week. It also intends to shame the United Nations for caving under financial pressure from the coalition and its ally members.

This development questions the credibility of the United Nations. Even temporarily removing Saudi Arabia from the list due to sudden financial threats sets a poor example, according to experts.

-prepared by Saurabh Bodas(with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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  • AJ Krish

    The plight of children in such war-torn countries is really bad.Politics should never influence the UN from doing the right thing.

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The Attention Shifts To The U.S. As It Strikes Down FGM Law

Looking beyond the Michigan case, Jones said the key to stopping FGM isn’t just legislation but also education.

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.Image source: VOA

When a U.S. district judge last month ruled a federal ban on female genital mutilation unconstitutional, he undercut the federal government and alarmed anti-FGM activists, who hope to eradicate the practice.

The World Health Organization calls FGM, also known as female circumcision, a human rights violation of women and girls, with no health benefits.

Some 200 million women and girls around the world, mainly in Africa, have experienced FGM, the WHO says.

In his opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman called FGM “despicable,” but also “a local criminal activity” that must be addressed at the state level. In enacting a federal law, he said, Congress overstepped.

Now, local lawmakers, advocates and newspapers are calling for state bans that equal or surpass the scope of the federal law that was struck down.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

‘Never again’

The case Friedman ruled on centers around Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room physician accused of performing FGM on at least 100 girls in Michigan for more than a decade.

Prosecutors have focused their case on nine girls, aged 7 to 12, from three states. The girls allegedly were subjected to FGM with the aid of Nagarwala and seven others, including the girls’ mothers.

Defense attorneys say the procedure amounted to only a “nick” on the girls performed as part of a religious ritual — not FGM. But they also argued in July that the federal law banning FGM is unconstitutional.

State Senator Rick Jones, who represents Michigan’s 24th district, told VOA by phone that he was shocked to learn about Nagarwala’s case and strongly disagrees with Friedman’s ruling.

Last year, Jones became the spokesperson for a package of bills outlawing FGM statewide. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Female Circumcision, FGM
The barbaric practice of genitalia mutilation has been banned in developed nations. Wikimedia

Now, Michigan has some of the toughest FGM laws in the country.

Health-care providers convicted of performing FGM face up to 15 years in prison, along with the permanent loss of their medical licenses. Parents who take their daughters to doctors to be cut can lose custody.

The 1996 federal law, meanwhile, stipulated up to five years in prison and fines for medical providers who perform FGM.

“We wanted to send a strong message around the world: Never again bring your girls to Michigan for this horrible procedure,” Jones said.

Across the U.S., 27 states have passed laws banning FGM, many of which have been written in recent years and include penalties that go beyond the federal law, which also criminalizes so-called “vacation cutting,” the practice of taking girls out of the United States to have FGM performed overseas.

News organizations are among those pushing for an expansion of state laws. Last month, the Seattle Times editorial board called for a ban in Washington, one of 23 states yet to outlaw FGM.

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A doctor checks her phone as she poses for a photograph in Mumbai, India, June 8, 2016. The 50-year-old woman defends what is widely considered female genital mutilation within her small, prosperous Dawoodi Bohra community in India. VOA

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times editorial board said all 50 states should ban the “barbaric” practice, in light of Friedman’s ruling.

Religious ritual?

The health-care providers and families involved in the Michigan case belong to Dawoodi Bohra, a Shi’ite Muslim sect based in India with about 2 million followers worldwide.

According to a study published earlier this year, FGM, called khafd in Dawoodi Bohra communities, is widespread in the sect and involves cutting the clitoral hood or part of the clitoris, without an anesthetic, when girls turn seven.

The study, commissioned by WeSpeakOut, an advocacy group focused on eradicating khafd, also found that three-quarters of Dawoodi Bohra women have experienced FGM.

The severity and nature of FGM can vary.

Health-care providers have identified four types of FGM. Khafd involves Type 1 FGM. Other types involve removing all of the external genitalia and narrowing the vaginal opening.

Jones rejects the idea that there’s a religious basis for the procedure, however it’s performed.

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FILE – A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation (FGM). VOA

“Across the world, this has been practiced by Christians, pagans, Muslims, even a small Jewish sect in Ethiopia,” he said.

“This is not about a religion,” he added. “This is about men attempting to control women’s behavior by this horrible procedure.”

The WHO identifies both short-term and permanent harms associated with the practice. Immediate concerns include severe pain, infections and, in some cases, death. Long term, women and girls subjected to FGM face a range of physiological and psychological complications that can affect menstruation, childbirth and sexual health.

The United States has been unequivocal in condemning the practice, saying “the U.S. government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse” on a fact sheet posted to the Citizenship & Immigration Services website.

Education and legislation

Friedman’s November decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for prosecutors.

Nagarwala spent seven months in 2017 in jail before 16 friends posted a $4.5 million unsecured bond, against the pleas of prosecutors, who argued Nagarwala could silence potential witnesses or even flee the country if released.

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KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. Maasai are a pastoral group mostly clustered in the Rift Valley. They practice circumcision on both boys and girls during puberty years as a rite of passage to adulthood. VOA

And in January, the judge dismissed charges that Nagarwala and a second doctor, Fakhruddin Attar, transported minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, an offense that carries a lifetime sentence.<