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Love Burns; Bride burning

My mother-in-law used to say that my husband was too educated for me, that he didn’t get a fair dowry, said Bhargava, who now lives alone in a New Delhi slum.

It first started with emotional and verbal abuse that escalated into physical when her husband and mother-in-law scalded her with boiling water. Desperate and with no choice, Bhargava dowsed herself in kerosene and set herself on fire. 40% of her body was burned. “I miss my daughter and fear the evil that may befall her. Though I passed these times, somehow, to my children I am dead,” she said.

These men marry their wife’s “until death do us part”, and they make that happen too. After being condemned and banned, bride burning is still alive and well in India. The practice is used because it’s the most effective way to cover the crime. The family members can basically call it an “accident” or “suicide” since the fire destroys all evidence. Most of the burn victims gets infection and rarely survive so that prosecution is not needed.

One reason is that divorce is equal to shame in many societies and stains the family honour. To become a widow is better than having a divorce.

Pay up or else…

Dowry murder has become a lucrative business for greedy in-laws and husbands. The dowry may be paid and the family receiving it may be happy at the time, but they usually change their mind afterwards. If the bride’s parents won’t or can’t pay more, the bride is victimized. After abusing her, the in-laws usually end the problem by deciding to kill her in cold blood so that the son can remarry and get more dowry from another family. Legal attempts have been made to eradicate the dowry system from 1939 but the practice is still continuing. In 1989 an amendment of criminal law was passed stating;

One man’s death is another man’s bread

Dowry first originated in the upper class families as a wedding gift to the bride from the family. Then the dowry was meant as a help with marriage expenses and became insurance in case if the in-laws terrorized her. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, land, furniture or electronics.

In the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh and Pakistan it is reported that “dowry death”, often called “bride burning”, happens once every 100 minutes and there are between 4,000 and 25,000 victims. As bizarre as it may seem, yes, married women are murdered by their husband or their in-laws for the financial opportunities available once the bride is dead.

The theory behind the dowry is that the putative husband is taking over the responsibility of the bride’s family and as she has little value on her own, a dowry must accompany her to make the marriage worthwhile for the groom.

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 makes it a criminal offence to both give and receive a dowry but the custom and traditions are so deeply rooted that it is still ongoing. After the wedding, demands will be made during the marriage that the original dowry was insufficient and additional dowry is required. The wife’s demise means the husband can keep his wife’s dowry and marry a second time with dowry if not get rid of her and then remarry.

While this horrific domestic abuse is against the law, India’s patriarchal society, including its police and Courts of Law, have not taken this inhumane violence as seriously as they need to. An amendment to India’s criminal law was finally enacted in 1986 which reads:

“where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of marriage and it is shown that immediately before her death she was harassed and put to cruelty by her husband or any relative of her husband in connection with demand for dowry, such death shall be called as “dowry death”.

It is estimated that at least one woman dies in related act of violence every hour in India. Some are set on fire, some are hanged, and some are fed poison or sleeping tablets. Most of these cases are not investigated as homicide by the police but are written off as accidents or suicides.

However, Indias National Crime Records showed that there were 8,172 dowry deaths’s including suicides in 2008 and less than 10% had been investigated. In India having a female is such a burden now because of dowry that many people are aborting female fetus’s because of the risk and toile it takes on one’s family safety and financial situation. Link

A 85 year old woman and her elder son were sentenced to life imprisonment including a fine on Rs 12,000 each for burning alive her younger son’s wife for failing to fulfill her dowry demands in India.  Their conviction came on the basis of the bride’s dying declaration where she told that her mother and brother-in-law used to harass and beat her for not fulfilling their demand of bringing a motorcycle and a television dowry.

22 October 2008, one day before the murder, the mother-in-law Husan and her elder son Nasim had beaten Gulnaz for failing to bring dowry. The next day when Gulnaz woke up, Husan picked a fight with her while Nasim doused her with kerosene oil and set her ablaze.  Her husband Nasuriddun and their nephew ran in hearing her cries trying to extinguish the fire. They took her to a nearby hospital where she died 2 months later.  The duo defended them by saying that they were not home and that the victim had caught fire accidently while she was igniting the stove to warm food for her husband.

While in Pakistan, divorce is possible but some families prefer murder rather than to divorce them. It is difficult to imagine how someone can kill their wife, the mother of their child over money or simply because they are no longer wanted. In many of these cases, the police are told that the victim was killed by an exploding stove and there will usually not be any persecution. Doctors however have reported that the injuries of many of the victims are not consistent with stove burns.

 

Saira Liaqat, 26 holds a portrait of herself before being burnt in Lahore, Pakistan. July 9th, 2998 at the age of 15, Saira was married off to a relative who later attacked her insisting her to live with him although the agreement was that she would move to his house after finishing school. After the attack, Saira have undergone 9 plastic surgery to recover from her scars with the help of Depilex Smile again Foundation in Lahore, an organization that helps burn victims to reintegrate into society through medical and psychological support.

The main problem in Pakistan first of all is the lack of investigation, arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. Women are seen as property and not given any respect or value what so ever. This is a great shame, because these women are mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. These men’s mother was once a bride, and would they want the same for them? It’s a selfish act from people that has no respect for human life when they not only destroy a innocent person’s life but take the mother away from their children.

More specialized burn units are needed in hospitals and not least a new law that bans this custom and that does not collide with another law so that the perpetrators go free.

Roopa, a tragic story in India

Roopa was 14 when she fell in love with a boy 3-4 years older than her. Her family did not approve of him and wanted her to finish school, however Roopa decided to run away with him. Her family managed to bring her back home twice, the second time with the help of the police but Roopa wanted to marry the boy. Finally her parents relented but wanted nothing to do with the marriage.

Roopa then married the boy with his family’s consent. They also had a registration, where they showed her age as 18, the legal age of marriage without the parent’s consent. However a year later, when her parents visited her to see how she was doing, the in laws made a dowry demand. Her parents refused saying the marriage did not have their consent. More so, Roopa’s father in law is wealthy — and they saw no reason for them to give him more money. After the parents left, the abuse began. Roopa’s mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and husband took turns beating her. She was made to work like a slave for the whole family — cooking, cleaning, etc. Then they started starving her and forcing her to eat their left over’s. By the time she was 15 Roopa was pregnant and after her son was born, the abuse intensified.

Then the family separated the child from her and made plans to get rid of her. She tried to run away on two occasions but was brought back (by other villagers) and severely beaten. The second time they locked her in a room without food for 7 days. When they found out that the neighbors had been sneaking food to her, the mother-in-law, the sister in law and the husband, all together, held her down and forced acid down her throat. They then left the house assuming that she’d be dead by the time they got back.

Miraculously Roopa managed to get out of the house and the neighbors took her to the hospital where she told the doctors what had happened to her. Unbelievable 2 hospitals didn’t want to report this to the police and turned her down while the third was forced to take her in because she had passed out from pain. The in laws in the meantime found out that she had been taken to a hospital and as they were worried about an investigation they actually came to the hospital and paid her expenses for a month, after which the doctors said they could do nothing more and she was taken back to the village where they live.

The suffering continued but her parents had heard about the news. When they came to see her, the in-laws said that she had tried to commit suicide. The next day, her father came back to the village, this time with some male relatives. He knew they would kill his daughter if he didn’t take her out by force. First he tried to file an official complaint (FIR) with the local police but Roopa’s father-in-law was not only wealthy, he was on the village judiciary so the police refused to take the complaint. Roopa’s father then begged the police to help him get his daughter out, he said all he wanted to do was save her. Finally an armed police van was sent to escort him to the village.
Roopa is back with her parents and is now hospitalized and undergoing treatment. The acid had caused a lot of damage to her internal organs and for 3 months she has not been able to consume any food orally. She has to be ‘fed’ through a tube inserted into her stomach and lost a tremendous amount of weight. Her recovery will be a very slow and painful process with continued tests and surgery.

 

A woman is burned to death almost every 12 hours and the dowry murders are increasing. 90% of cases of women burnt were recorded as accidents, five percent as suicide and only the remaining five percent were shown as murder. Despite of bans and laws against it, convictions are rare and judges who usually are men is easily bought off with a nice sum of money.

What should be done?

  • Women and girls must be educated so that they know about their rights and can become economically independent. Then there must be opened more shelters that can provide help and protection for this women. Something that also would be useful is if the shelters would be given authorization to claim on behalf of the victim even if the family refuses to go to court.
  • Children must be educated in morals and ethics so that the younger generations will learn to respect each other and solve conflicts without the act of violence.
  • The media must increase awareness and publicize tragedies to help change the public perception on dowry violence, and for this, the censorship must be free.

Organizations like Amnesty must publicize this so citizens from around the world can be made aware of the situation’s gravity and help support the ban.

Virgin suicides

“My family attacked my personality, and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world. I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and die.” Derya, 17 years old. Turkey.

The order to kill herself came from her uncle in a text message to her cell phone. “You have blackened our name, kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first,” it said. Derya’s crime was to fall in love with a boy she had met at school. She knew it was dangerous because her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for speaking with a boy.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, her mother warned her that her father would kill her but she refused to listen. Her brothers and uncle sent her text messages every day threatening her. Filled with shame and afraid, Derya decided to commit suicide. First she jumped into the Tigris River, but survived. Then she tried to hang herself but another uncle cut her down. Last she tried to slash her wrists with a kitchen knife.

Elif, another young girl received her death sentence when she declined the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man. Her wish was to continue on her education. The disobedience brought shame on her whole family and the only way out was death. She managed to escape.

These honor suicides in Turkey has reached new heights as they have turned into honor suicides. This phenomenon emerged after the new reforms to Turkey’s penal code in 2005. Before, killers could receive reduced sentences claiming provocation but after the reforms, the government introduced mandatory life sentences for honor killings. Soon after the law was passed, honor suicides increased in numbers. Batman, a city in the south east with a population of 250,000 has got the nickname “suicide city” because of the high number of suicides among girls. The city was also featured in the novel by Turkish writer and Nobel literature winner in 2006 Orhan Pamuk’s “snow”. The story was about a journalist’s investigation of a suicide epidemic among teenage girls. Between 2001 and 2006, there were 1,806 murders in Turkey that fell under the definition of honor killings, according to the State Minister for Women and Family Affairs Nimet Çubukçu. Meanwhile, during the same period, 5,375 women committed suicide.

 A man showing pic of his 14 year old daughter who committed suicide

A majority of the murders happens in the Kurdish regions where people have been segregated from the rest of the society. Education usually ends in an early age and ignorance seems to transfer from generations to generations. These rural communities are ruled under a strict patriarchal system and decisions are usually made by a “family council” when the extended family meets to discuss honor. They discuss everything from how the victim should be killed and if it isn’t a forced suicide, a killer is chosen. The youngest member of the family is often chosen in hope that they will receive a shorter sentence. The families have the choice between sacrificing a son to a life in prison or forcing the daughter to finish the job herself.

23-year-old Yildiz A. from Turkey was stabbed in the stomach six or seven times and her nose and ears and part of her lip cut off, then she was dumped in a field. She managed to crawl to the side of the road where a passing motorist took her to hospital.

13 year old Rojda was raped and as punishment for “allowing” herself to be raped, her nose was cut off

There are many honor killers in the prisons and oddly enough, they are treated with huge respect among the other inmates and even some prison guards. In the recent years, many Kurds have fled their hometowns and settled to other cities across the country because of the fighting’s between Turkey’s government and the rebels PKK. With the migration, the honor killings and suicides are spreading as well.

Turkey has the highest proportion of female professors in Europe, at 27% and the lifestyle has developed into modern and secular. Families who move to bigger cities and face a modern secular lifestyle have a hard time adjusting and the clash of culture makes it hard on the females who are forced to behave conservatively when there are more temptations around.

Almost every week, a young female tries to commit suicide in Batman or in the nearby areas which are commonly poor and rural with deeply rooted tribal traditions. Others have been stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their crime was everything from looking at a boy, wearing a short skirt, declining an arranged marriage, wanting to go out with friends, being raped or engaged in sexual relations out of wedlock. Once the shame has spread to the family, the only way it can be restored is through death. Some women’s group have reported that the girls are being locked up in a room for days with a gun, rat poison, rope etc. they are constantly reminded on that their disgrace is punished by death.

In an effort to help these girls, Ka-Mer, a local women’s group has created a hot line for women who fear that their life might be at risk. They help the girls find shelter and to apply to the courts for restraining orders against their relatives. Ayten Tekar, a caseworker for Ka-Mer in Diyarbakir stated that half of the 104 women, who called the hot line, were uneducated and illiterate. Some had also told that the families hadn’t wanted to kill them but the social pressure and the village gossip had driven them to commit suicide.  “We have to bring these killings out from the shadows and teach women about their rights. The laws have been changed, but the culture here will not change overnight,” she said.

A worldwide epidemic

According to the United Nations, about 5,000 honor killings take place each year, most of them in the Middle East. Iraqi Kurds, Palestinians in Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to be the worst offenders. But honor crimes long ago spread to Britain, Belgium, Russia and Canada and many other nations.These killings have spread throughout Europe and reached to the US during the last 10 years as migrants have settled down. Police authorities across Europe who wasn’t familiar with the problem met in 2006 to discuss the reasons and preventions. Denmark was the first country out in a European court to sentence several family members for honor killing instead of just the triggerman. It can now be found in USA, Germany, Sweden, France, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Ghazala Kahn, a Pakistani 18 year old, had an intimate relationship with her future husband, Emal Khan 3 years before her murder. She kept the relationship secret but eventually revealed her feelings to her mother, who became outraged and beat her, joined by Ghazala’s older brother, Akhtar Abbas, the same man who would later shoot her. After this, Ghazala was locked up inside the house and “frozen out” by the rest of her family, all of whom refused to speak to her or eat with her. Finally, on 5 September 2005 she managed to escape and lived with Emal. In the period up until her murder they lived with various friends in Denmark. They repeatedly contacted the police for protection, but were denied help. On 21 September they married and two days later, the family, pretending to want to come to a peaceful reconciliation, convinced the newlywed couple to arrange a meeting at the railway station where Ghazala’s brother shot both Ghazala and Emal Khan. Ghazala was killed instantly while Emal, shot twice survived.

The family was upset so they persuaded Ghazala’s brother to shoot her. The court however convicted 9 members of the family, including her father who conceived the murder and received a life sentence. Her brother received 16 years in prison and an aunt will spend 14 years in prison for luring Ghazala to what she believed would be a family gathering.

Migrants have lived in Europe for many years, so why haven’t they managed to integrate to the society? The problem goes way longer than a couple of years. After World War 2, Europe, especially Germany was left war stricken and the country needed guest workers to rebuild its cities. A huge amount of immigrants, mostly Turkish and Kurds migrated to West Europe and most of them were poor and uneducated. The mistake Germany commit was to allow separate schools for over 20 years and special housing for the guest workers where only their native language was spoken. This led to closed communities where Western culture and values were disregarded making room for ghettoes. Today, there are still classes at public schools where the native language is spoken and in the afternoon the children go home where the parents doesn’t speak German.

Iraq

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has regularly highlighted “honour” killings of Kurdish women as being among the country’s most severe problems. Most of these crimes are reported as deaths caused by accidental fires in the home. 12,500 women were murdered or had committed suicide between 1991 and 2007 for “honour” reasons in Iraq’s 3 major Kurdish provinces. Authorities have admitted that they feel powerless when it comes to preventing the honor killings and honor suicides following by an increase of 70%. On reason can be that there is almost no conviction. Few years ago, 81 women were reported murdered and the authorities had made only 5 convictions. The police release the killers shortly after the arrest and does little attempt to track them down.

Rand Abdel-Qader was killed after her family discovered that she had formed a friendship with a 22-year-old infantryman whom she knew as Paul. She was suffocated by her father then hacked at with a knife. Abdel-Qader Ali was arrested and shortly after released without charge. Rand’s mother, Leila Hussein, who divorced her husband after the killing, went into hiding but was tracked down weeks later and assassinated by an unknown gunman. Her husband had told The Observer that police had congratulated him for killing his daughter. The father has left Basra. He was held by police in connection with his daughter’s murder for only two hours and a local businessman who described the actions of Rand’s father as ‘courageous’ was believed to have given a huge amount of money to him and his two sons, who disowned their mother after she objected to Rand’s killing.

An Iraqi lawyer said that some fathers had started to hire professional hitmen to carry out ‘honour killings.’ “The life of these women isn’t higher than $100. You can find a killer standing in any coffee shop of Basra, discussing prices of a life as if he was buying a piece of meat,” he said.

Mariam Ayub Sattar, an activist in Basra, said that any woman caught speaking to a man in public who was not her husband or a relative was considered a prostitute and punished. Three women were burned with acid while walking through a market in Basra after stopping to speak to a male friend, Sattar also told. This shows how narrow minded the Iraqi’s are and how much they try to isolate the women while the men have enormous freedom. A blow to the face was when The Women’s Rights Association in Basra was forced to close down after receiving death threats following the murder of Rand’s mother. Two women from a voluntary organization who had been helping her to hide from her husband were also injured.

Besides the murder, hundreds of women commit suicide every year by setting themselves on fire. In the first half of 2010, 80 suicides were reported in the Kurdish city of Suleimania according to a human rights activist named Suaad al-Khazraji. These suicides are actually not suicide but murder since they are forced by family members to restore the family honor. Looking at the numbers in Suleimania that is regarded to be the most open and modern city, the numbers are probably in thousands in the more conservative provinces like Baghdad, Basra, Arbil and Dahouk.

I don’t think that the elder generations will change their opinion about honor killings and suicides. For them, this is the only right thing to do and honor goes before everything. What the government should do is to target the younger generations in the rural areas. Education is number one solution to everything. When they know their rights, know how to read and write, then they also can escape this horrible practice. We cannot afford to lose more daughters, sisters and wife’s.

“In my village and in my father’s tribe, boys are in the sky while girls are treated as if they are under the earth. As long as families do not trust their daughters, bad things will continue to happen.”Derya, 17 years.

The Queen and Abdul: A friendship beyond boundaries

In the summer of 1887 as Queen Victoria approached the Golden Jubilee of her reign, she was overcome with feelings of loneliness. She had never stopped mourning for her beloved husband, Prince Albert, who had died in 1861, and had chosen to wear widow’s black all her life. As she looked ahead to the special occasion and the celebrations that loomed before her, the lonely Queen missed his presence more than ever.

The government was doing everything they could to make a unique show to celebrate the Jubilee and suggested to Queen Victoria that they should invite some Indian princes, who with their colorful clothes and expensive jewelers provide the necessary glamour to the occasion. The Queen liked the idea and at her Jubilee, her Empire would sparkle before the world. She also suggested that it would be good to have some Indian servants around her, to help when the Indian princes as well.

He arrived in England in June 1887, just three days before the start of the Jubilee celebrations. The Queen, then aged 68, had been a widow for 26 years. For a while, the empty space in her life left by the death of her beloved Albert in 1861, had been filled by John Brown who became her trusted companion. Their relationship was so close that there were rumours that they were lovers or had even secretly married and the Queen was dubbed ‘Mrs Brown’. But Brown died in 1883, leaving the Queen devastated and lonely once more. “I sat alone! Oh! Without my beloved husband,” she wrote mournfully of the Jubilee thanksgiving service. On the 3rd day of the celebrations, the Queen was introduced to her present from India-the well dressed young servants, one stout and smiley, the other one tall and handsome. The two immediately began to wait at the Queen’s table and Karim became the favourite as he impressed her with his dignified bearing and assisting her with everything.

The tall 24-year-old Karim was a clerk in Agra Jail and the smiling and portly Buksh was a seasoned table-hand who had worked for the Maharana of Dholpore. They arrived for the Jubilee, not knowing what to expect but from the day they kissed the Queen’s feet and began waiting on her, it was the young Karim who caught the Queen’s eye. In his diary, Karim wrote following on meeting Queen Victoria for the first time; “I was somewhat nervous at the approach of the Great Empress… I presented nazars (gifts) by exposing, in the palms of my hands, a gold mohar (coin) which Her Majesty touched and remitted as is the Indian custom.”
He was to become her closest companion for the last 13 years of her life, filling the void left by the death of her husband and, later, of her close friend, John Brown.

The curry King

One day Abdul Karim walked into the kitchen in Osborne House with the spice box that he had carried from India. He had decided to cook for the Queen. As the cooks stood amazed and watched, Karim was chopping, churning and grinding the masalas. The aroma of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and nutmeg covered the room. Karim had prepared chicken curry, daal and a fragrant pilau. Soon after, Karim was stirring up exotic biryanis and dum pukht, dishes from the Mughal kitchen while Korma’s would simmer in the cast iron pots and ground almonds and cream laced the rich curries. For the first time in her life, Queen Victoria was introduced to the taste and smell of India. She described it as “excellent” and ordered the curries to be made regularly.

The rise of Abdul Karim

11th August 1888, the Queen noted in her journal: “I am making arrangements to appoint Abdul as munshi (teacher) as I think it was a mistake to bring him over as a servant to wait at table, a thing he had never done, having been a clerk or munshi in his own country and being of a rather different class then others. Karim had also told her that he was unhappy with his position as a table hand and that he wanted to return to India since it was a demanding job. The Queen immidiatly decided to raise his rank and make him stay: “He (Abdul) was anxious to return to India, not feeling happy under the existing circumstances. On the other hand, I particularly wish to retain his services, as he helps me studying Hindustani which interests me very much and he is very intelligent and useful.”


Karim from Agra charmed the Queen with his stories of India and even served the Queen her first curry. Always fascinated by India, her “Jewel in the Crown” and the country she ruled from thousands of miles away, the Queen chose Karim to learn about India. Soon he became her Urdu teacher, giving her lessons every evening. He read to her the poetry of Ghalib and she used to walk around with a phrase-book of Hindustani words. While Buksh remained waiting at tables, Karim was promoted and soon became noticeably close to the Queen. She tended to him personally if he fell ill and fussed about his comfort and well-being.Within a year, Karim was promoted as the Queen’s Indian Secretary and given the grand title of Munshi Hafiz Abdul Karim. She commissioned portraits of him to be painted by Rudolph Swoboda and Von Angeli, and all photos of him waiting at table was destroyed. He was also given houses in Balmoral, Windsor and Osborne and allowed to use the billiard’s room with the other gentlemen of the Household. He accompanied her on her European holidays and soon the pair was inseparable.

At every step the Queen honoured him with titles and medals and gave him the CIE and the MVO, one step away from a Knighthood. Even Karim’s father, Haji Wuzeeruddin, was given the title of Khan Bahadur and he became the first person to be allowed to smoke a hukkah (water-pipe) in Windsor Castle.

The Queen as student

The Queen wanted to kearn Hindustani and asked Karim to teach her and he proved to be a serious teacher and a hard task master. He began with teaching her a few words every day. He also made a phrase book for her and soon the Queen would carry this red and golden book with her everywhere. Karim would write a line in Urdu, followed by a line in English and then a line in Urdu in roman script and the Queen would copy these. A few weeks later an exited Queen noted in her journal: “I am learning a few words of Hindustani to speak with my servants. It is great interest to me for both the language and the people. I have naturally never come into real contact with before.”

Karim as clever as he was, helped the Queen with her correspondence and advised her on Indian politics. The Queen would often write to the Viceroy of India and demanding answers of some issues that were raised by Karim but it became more than the Household could bear. Once the Household threatened to resign collectively if the Queen took Karim on her European vacations, but the Queen in an instant rage swept everything she had on her desk on to the floor. Photos, files, ink-pots and boxes, everything fell on to the floor when the Queen heard about the threat. The Queen won the argument and Karim was accompanying the Queen to Europe and the Household did not resign but they didn’t stop plotting against Karim as they involved the Prince of Wales. No matter what the Queen heard about Karim, she would not accept anything and stood by him like a rock defending him to the last.

The Queens death – An end of the fairy tale

The close friendship created much rumours at the castle among the Household who would now gossip. When they continued to maligning Karim, the Queen announced them as racists and sent them message on how to behave. In frustration, the Household declared that the Queen wasn’t sane and threatened that the Prince of Wales would step in as people believed that she was losing her sanity. While the world watched the Jubilee with all its glory in 1897, the Palace was torn apart by intrigue, jealousy and threats to resign because of Karim.

The 81 year old Victoria had died peacefully in her sleep in the year of 1901. She was now dressed according to her wishes for the final journey to Windsor. The procession filed past her son and heir Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexandra together with the Queen’s children, grand children and with a collection of her most trusted servants and Household members. Each stood for a few minutes before the coffin to pay their respects. The King then allowed Karim to enter the Queen’s bedroom making him the last person to see her body alone as he knew about his mothers wishes. Karim entered the room with his head bowed dressed in a dark Indian tunic and turban. As he looked at the Queen’s face that was glowing from the lights of the candles, thoughts raced through his mind. Their first meeting in the summer of 1887, the lazy days they spent together as he taught her his language and described his country, the gossips they shared, her generosity towards him and her loneliness that he understood. He stood silently as he was fighting back the tears; his lips moved saying a silent prayer to Allah to rest her soul. After a final look at her, he left the room silently.

Early one cold, February morning in 1901, the inhabitants of a cottage on the Windsor Castle estate were startled by a loud banging at the door. Tired and dazed, the head of the household, Abdul Karim, opened the front door to find a group of guards standing outside. They were accompanied by Queen Alexandra, wife of the new king, Edward VII, and by Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of the late Queen Victoria. It was on King Edward’s orders that the house was raided only days before, Abdul Karim had been given a prominent place in Queen Victoria’s funeral procession which aroused the disgust of her family.

Now, much to his astonishment, the guards were ordering him to hand over every letter, note and memo that the late Queen had sent him over the 13 years he had served her. She had written him many letters, sometimes several a day and often signing them ‘Your affectionate Mother and Karim had treasured them. Now the new King wanted to destroy them. A bonfire was started outside the cottage and Karim watched in horror as the drawers were turned upside down.

Abdul Karim, the man that the Queen had called her “dearest Munshi” (teacher) stood and watched in silence as every piece of paper bearing the Queens handwriting was thrown into the fire. All the answers lay in the letters that was cracking in the fire telling the story of a young man who had arrived to Britain 13 years ago as a waiter and had risen t become the Queen’s closest companion and was treated like a son rather than a servant. The Munshi and his family were then ordered to pack their bags and leave for India immediately. The fairy-tale had ended and 8 years later, Karim died heart-broken in Agra. He was only 46.

Abdul Karim’s descendants left for Pakistan when the country was partitioned in 1947, leaving behind all the land and exquisite gifts given to Abdul Karim by Queen Victoria and other European royalty. Only a diary and a few memorabilia survived. A lonely grave in Agra, some portraits in Osborne House, the Hindustani journals they wrote for 13 years, and a house that bears his name in Balmoral, are all that remain today of the Queen’s closes confidant. Yet the story would not manage to be erased from the history books.

The lost prince

It’s in the middle of the night and I couldn’t sleep, so I thought for myself, why not write? Sitting in front of my window and looking out on the clear sky with the moon illuminating the snow outside. Sitting alone made me think about loneliness. Then I remembered the story about a little boy who was hidden away from public eyes because of his illness. How difficult it must have been for a child in this age to be isolated to prison life when his father was King of England. What did he think? Did he at all understand why he was placed at the farm with only the staff as friends?

When Prince John died in 1919 only 13 years old, many British people didn’t remember that he had ever existed even if he was the son of the royal couple, King John and Queen Mary. He lived such a mysterious life that, after his death, very few people could tell his story. The reason was that the royal couple’s son suffered from epilepsy which in those days was considered as shameful. When King John was crowned as King George V in 1911, John was about 6 years old and did not participate in the ceremony.

Prince John was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, England. His father was then Prince George, Prince of Wales (later King George V), the eldest living son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. His mother was The Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary), the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Teck. At the time of his birth, he was sixth in the line of succession.

As the years past, the little Prince got more and more ill. He was so ill at one point that his mother, Queen Mary considered to send him to a mental institution, but was persuaded by the Prince’s old nanny, Charlotte “Lalla” Bill to let her take care of him.

The illness

Prince John had his first epileptic seizure at age four and at age 12, his condition was deteriorated. He was looked after by his nanny, Charlotte Bill, known in the family as “Lalla”, Thomas Haverly, a coachman from Windsor Castle, chosen to drive John because he was known to be reliable and would take the Prince on outings in the country or to the sea and to the “big house” at Sandringham when any members of the family were in residence. Wood Farm also had its own cook and a live-in maid. John had a tutor, Henry Peter Hansell (1863–1935), as well. An area of the garden was set aside for him with a plaque, “Prince John’s garden”, and gardeners who helped him tend it. Indoors, he had his books, a pedal car and a ride-on train. Family photos show him riding a bicycle and a horse without assistance.

In 1916 he was moved to Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate. Some say he lived a lonely and isolated life there, and that Queen Mary kept a cool distance. Other sources tell of experiences and journeys to the sea, and that he had company in Winifred Thomas, niece of coachman at Sandringham. Winifred was the same age as Prince John, and was sent to live with her uncle and aunt in the country because of her asthma problems. Soon after Winifred’s arrival, the Strattons received a visit from Queen Mary and the nanny (a role Victorians referred to as a nurse), who were looking for a friend for John. Winifred’s delicacy probably recommended her to them and after the visit she played with the Prince almost every day. When he was ill, she sat by his bed while the nanny read to them. They went on nature walks together and worked in the garden. No date is given for Winifred’s arrival but it must have happened long before the move to Wood Farm in 1917.

Winifred Thomas remembered John’s mother, Queen Mary, as a loving and interested parent who spent a lot of time with her son. A passage of the Queen’s diary, written some days after John’s death reads: “Miss the dear child very much indeed.”

The Prince’s death

Neither of John’s parents was present at the Wood Farm when the little Prince passed away suddenly January 18th, 1919 only 13 years old. He got a powerful attack and never woke up again.

Later Queen Mary wrote:

Lalla Bill called from Wood Farm and said that our poor darling Johnnie had died suddenly after one of his seizures. The news came as a shock, but for that poor little boy, death came as a relief.

The Queen wrote that she told the news to George, and that they were then driven by car to Wood Farm. Little Johnnie looked very peaceful out there he lay, Mary writes, adding that she believes it was a relief for her son, who had experienced getting increasingly powerful attacks the older he became. He was spared much suffering.

Prince John was buried in a private ceremony at the church at Sandringham January 21, 1919. Queen Mary wrote; Tuesday, January 21st 1919. Canon Dalton & Dr Brownhill conducted the service, which was awfully sad and touching. Many of our own people and the villagers were present. We thanked all Johnnie’s servants, who have been so good and faithful to him. She was genuinely moved by their loyalty and went further than thanking them. Thomas Haverly’s daughter was given John’s blackboard, which in time passed on through her own family, and Winifred was given a number of his books with Queen Mary’s own hand-written inscription, “In memory of our dear little Prince.” The Queen also treasured photographs of him, her own diary notes of their time together, and letters. One of these, written by John to Winifred’s uncle who had broken his arm in a riding accident, reads: “Dear Mr. Stratton, I hope your arm is better. Are you going to church? With my love from John.”

In 1935 the celebrated King George had spent 25 years on the throne but he was killed by his own doctor later.

Award-winning film
The British filmmaker Stephen Poliakoff made a few years back of interest for Prince John’s story, and completed in 2003 toepisoders television series – “The Lost Prince.” Poliakoff has said that he almost gave up the project. “There really is very little source material, and much of what is written is incorrect. I had to puzzle together the pieces I found,” he said. The film received three Emmy awards, and Poliakoff gained praise from various quarters for his portrayal of the prince, who in addition to epilepsy, suffered from learning disabilities, speech difficulties and possibly autistic traits.

The name John

The name “John” has been considered unlucky by the royal family and its use avoided since the death of the prince. The popularly negative historical view of the only English monarch to bear the name — King John (reigned 1199–1216) — especially his fictionalization as the villainous Prince John in the Robin Hood stories has no doubt compounded concerns about the name. It was reported that Diana, Princess of Wales, wished to name her elder son John after her own father, but was prevented from doing so by royal tradition.

Children of Somalia

Somalia, one of the harshest places on earth has given huge challenges to its people in terms of simple survival. The legacy of a nomadic life way of life and a civil conflict that has shattered social structures and provided poverty giving Somali children of surviving to adulthood are among the lowest of children in the world. The odds of the child’s mother dying during pregnancy or in childbirth are also extremely high.

 

Diarrheas disease-related hydration, respiratory infections and malaria are the main killers of infants and young children. Cholera is endemic in Somalia, with the threat of outbreaks recurring annually during the season from December to May. The major underlying causes of diarrhea are the lack of access to safe water, and poor food and domestic hygiene. Malnutrition is a chronic problem in all areas, and becomes acute when areas are struck by drought or flood, or where localized conflicts flare up. These and other birth-related problems are a further cause of many infant deaths, while measles and its complications result in widespread illness. The reason for this is poor nutrition and transmission is rapid where living conditions is crowded, resulting in a high death rate.

Somalia is among countries with the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the world. Overcrowded conditions in camps where many displaced people are living, general lack of treatment facilitates, poor quality drugs and malnutrition keeps tuberculosis as one of the country’s main killer disease. Lack of access to safe water is a striking feature in almost all parts of Somalia. Probably less than 1 in every 3 households uses an improved drinking water source. A result of erratic rainfall patterns which are responsible for both droughts and floods, and destruction of water supply installations during civil war.

Only 37% of the population of Somalia has access to adequate sanitation. Poor hygiene and environmental sanitation are major causes of diseases such as cholera among children and women. The impact of poor environmental sanitation is felt in the cities, towns, large villages and other places where people are living in close proximity to each other with waste disposal adjacent to dwellings. Lack of garbage collection facilities is another factor affecting the urban environment and polluting water sources.

Primary school years Somalia is a country where schooling is available to very few children. A child of primary school age has only about a 1 in 5 chance of attending school. As a result of the collapse of the centrally government in 1991 and the ensuing long years of conflict, schools where destroyed and abandoned. Only now is rehabilitation of the damaged building beginning to take place. Most schools are financed from fees or other forms support from parents and communities, with some input from external agencies. For a girl child in Somalia, the prospects of attending school are even poorer. Result of previous school surveys reflects the same pattern. The high dropout rates of girls in most areas are due to a combination of traditional attitudes.

Adolescence Among the youth many have known nothing but conflict and hardship for most of their lives. Many children and youth have suffered displacement and have observed, experienced and sometimes participated in violence. A majority have never experienced normal, stabile social relationships and systems of governance. Lack of optimism about the possibilities the future holds for them is common among this group. There are growing categories of vulnerable children who are in need of special care and protection including:

  1. Those that have been displaced within the country, such as people driven from their homes by conflict, drought, floods or other factors.
  2. Children from minority groups, the very poor or orphans.
  3. Children living on the streets, militia children and children on conflict with the law.

Girls are specially disadvantaged in most of these categories. Gender discrimination is deeply rooted in the traditional sociocultural structures of Somali society and is a formidable barrier to women’s participation in decision-making and access to resources.

UNICEF officials are concerned that the current situation in Somalia will have lasting consequences for Somali society. Children continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, and many lack access to even the most basic services. Fighting has killed and injured numerous children. Many are recruited into armed conflict. In additional to the traumas of conflict, children in Somalia faces a myriad of other challenges, from education to health sanitation concern. Safe water is also scarce. Only 29% of the population has access to safe water, and this is being aggravated by droughts. Nutrition continues to be a critical concern, with 1 in 5 children acutely malnourished, and 1 in 20 severely malnourished on the risk of death without proper treatment.

July 22, 2010; According to USAID, flooding and limited access to sanitation facilities and safe drinking water has continued to increase the spread of waterborne diseases in the country. According to health officials, there has also been increased incidence of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) from reports made in Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu about 100 AWD cases from Banadir hospital, including 90 cases in children under five years of age and three related deaths, representing a 24% increase compared to the number of cases reported during the the previous month. Between January and May, health officials reported more than 25,000 AWD cases and 51 deaths countrywide, including approximately 18,000 cases in children under five years of age and 48 related deaths.

2011; The humanitarian community has improved access to sanitation facilities for more than 200,000 conflict-affected individuals and conducted hygiene promotion activities for more than 1 million people in 2010 but it is not enough for the war-stricken country as the ongoing political instability has prevented most of the aid agencies from delivering much of the food and clean water. Almost 6 million people have been hit hard by the drought in the country and 1 in 6 children have become malnourished says UN reports. Juba has the greatest proportion of acutely malnourished children – at 30% probably the highest rate anywhere in the world. This is due mainly to a lack of clean water, leading to diarrhoea, and reduced access to milk, as families move their livestock ever further away in search of pasture. Across southern Somalia, one in four children is acutely malnourished. The shattered political system does also complicate the matter as the terrorist group Al-Shabaab has banned more than 20 international relief agencies even when most of the aid offices are in the capital, they do see it as a big challenge to deliver to those in controlled districts.

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