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Dictatorship covered in oil

As we read about the modern day dictators especially in the Middle East, Azerbaijan’s dictator President hasn’t been spoken about as much as the others. It is one of the worst countries with a suppressing brutality, undemocratic but with huge oil resources. Azerbaijan is characterized by low levels of freedom of expression and listed among the bottom 20 in Reporters Without Borders, recently released Press Freedom Index 2010. The entire list consists of 178 states.

Azerbaijan has a short history as it was created in 1920 as the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. They got Zaratustras teaching from the Persians before they were Christianized around 400 BC. A couple of hundred years after, the Arabs brought Islam but the tension remained between Russia, Turkey and the Persians. In 1812, the Russian Tsar won a military campaign against the Shah and the Russians gained control over most of Azerbaijan but the northern part declared its independence in 1918 but was quickly occupied by the Red Army. The communists now took of the silk gloves and eliminated the nationalists, religious and others who might pose a threat towards them.

1988 marked a bloody year as the armed conflict for Nagorno-Karabakh from February 1988 to May 1994 between the majority ethnic Armenians and was backed by the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan which resulted in an ethnic cleansing on both sides. Azerbaijan lost a large part of its territory and the situation is still tense until today.

Aliyev junior, known as a playboy and his affection for luxury life and the roulette table is trying to be more and more like his strong and iron willed father who was a former KGB chief and ruled the country for more than 30 years. Once Aliyev senior ordered shut down for all casinos in the country after his son had got into a huge debt to a Turkish man. But he has done surprisingly well after being vice President of the states oil company since 1994. Aliyev is sharp, well dressed, speaks fluent English and has a charming smile ready for any occasion. He has developed a very good knowledge of the modern world’s politics and economics but the intelligence company Stratfor.com who has links to the CIA described him; “Ilham Aliyev lacks his father’s charisma, political skills, contacts, experience, stature, intelligence and authority. Aside from that he will make a wonderful president.” Ilham Aliyev turned to rule his people with a brutal hand and doesn’t allow democracy and freedom of speech. He even wanted to change the constitution in 2009 enabling him to stand as long as he wants as a ruler.

When Anita Utseth then-Secretary of State for Petroleum and Energy, visited the Oil and Gas Conference in June 2007, she got the chance to join a meeting with Aliyev but it showed to be a disaster when she started talking about free speech and human rights. Utseth was insulted and yelled at and as the U.S. embassy memos that were leaked out to Wikileaks, Aliyev had told her that she had no right to speak about the human right issues and a serious of meetings was cancelled. Later on in a meeting with two managers of the oil company BP, an extremely upset Aliyev said that it was “unacceptable” for Norway to “teach” him about human rights. “It’s only the U.S. that can treat me like this, because the U.S. is the world’s only superpower,” he said, according to embassy note.

4 years later, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Espen Barth Eide called on the Aliyev government to respect the human rights followed by the visit of Norways Crown Prince Haakon’s visit to Baku where he expressed his protest against the suppression of human rights and freedom in Azerbaijan explaining that Norway is not only interested in oil but in democracy and human rights as well.

Suppressing journalism

Aliyev has planned to build pipelines that would take Azaerbaijans Caspian Sea gas reserves through Turkey and to the rest of the continent and this diplomatic and global improvement has allowed the western world to ignore the human rights violations. That’s why the government has continued to imprison Eynulla Fatullayev, a 2009 CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient. The editor of two now-closed newspapers, Fatullayev was imprisoned in April 2007 on a series of fabricated charges, including terrorism and defamation, in retaliation for his investigation into the 2005 murder of his boss and mentor, Elmar Huseynov. He was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison as Fatullayev alleged that Huseynov’s murder was ordered by high-ranking officials in Baku and that authorities had engaged in a cover-up in the aftermath. Fatullayev’s supporters did also face an aggressive campaign of harassment after his arrest and an anonymous male caller telephoned Emin Fatullayev, the editor’s father, at his Baku home and said he and his son must “shut up once and for all” or “the entire family will be destroyed,” the elder Fatullayev told CPJ.

 

In 2007, the Norwegian reporter and documentary producer Erling Borgen and his cameraman Dag Inge Dahl were leaving Azerbaijan after a weeklong reporting trip focusing on freedom of expression and Fatullayev’s case when they were approached by 7 men. The men seized the journalist’s bags claiming they were overweight and checked the luggage. When the journalists arrived in Oslo, Borgen said, the reporting material, video footage, documents and papers were gone from the bags. The journalists had backed up the files, however, and completed the documentary in late year.

The government has also put restrictions about independent online news and many websites with critical journalism have been periodically blocked domestically. For example, the Azeri language website RFE/RL was blocked for two days after it posted a translation of a Washington Post story about nine luxurious homes in Dubai, worth around US$75 million, that had been purchased in the names of the president’s three young children those who documented the problems faced pressure.

President Ilham Aliyev has denied there is a problem with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan but the evidence speaks for its self as journalists and bloggers gets arrested and face restrictions. It is an assault on independent journalism and freedom of speech and I hope that the international world will see through the oil and protest on these human rights abuses.

 

Harmful practices to the female body; part 1 Female Genital Mutilation

“Mama tied a blindfold over my eyes. The next thing I felt my flesh was being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The pain between my legs was so intense I wished I would die.” –Waris Dirie, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador and spokesperson on FGM

1. What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Most of the victims live in African countries, some in the Middle East and Asian countries and it is increasing in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

FGM is usually performed by an older experienced woman with no medical training. In primitive areas, anaesthetics and antiseptic treatment is not used and the tools consist of knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass and razor blades. A mixture of herbs is placed on the wound to tighten the vagina and stop the bleeding. The age of the girls varies from infants to girls to the age of 10 depending on the community and family.

It is extreme form of discrimination against women and performed on innocent children that are not able to defend themselves. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

2. 4 types of FGM

According to WHO;

a)     Excision (removal) of the clitoral hood with or without removal of part or all of the clitoris. Occurs in 85% of the FGM.

b)     Removal of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora. Occurs in 85% of the FGM.

c)      Removal of part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora) and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow. Occurs in Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, parts of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

d)     All other operations of the female genitalia.

3. History of Female Circumcision

Female circumcision, also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not a recent phenomenon as it has been dated back as far as to 2nd century BC when a geographer, Agatharchides of Cridus wrote about the subject that occurred among tribes residing on the western coast of the Red Sea (today’s Egypt). Based on the current areas practicing FGM, it seems as the tradition has originated from Egypt and spread. Others believe that the custom was rooted in the kingdom of the Pharaohs.

As Islam rose throughout the region, Egyptians raided territories in the south and exported Sudanic slaves. Female slaves were sold at a higher price if they were “sewn up” as they became unable to give birth. After many converting to Islam, this practice was abolished as Islam prohibits Muslims from harming their body and enslaving others.

Today this primitive tradition has reached the coasts of America, Europe, Australia and Canada. Numbers from Amnesty International estimates that 135 million women have experienced FGM and that between 2-3 million girls and infants undergoes this practice every year.  In Africa alone it is about 92 million girls who has undergone FGM.

4. Medical consequence of FGM

FGM have absolutely no health benefits for the girls except doing harm and causing extreme pain. As the healthy genital tissue is being removed, the body cannot function in a natural way. Since this procedure is being practiced by people who have no medical training and without using any necessary anesthetic or sterilization, the FGM can lead to death by shock from bleeding or infections by the unsterilized tools. The first sexual intercourse will be extremely painful who will be needed to be opened and this is being performed by the partner with a knife. Besides bleeding there are several short and long term complications that these girls have to deal with and I have listed them shortly.

Depending on the degree of mutilation, short term health problems caused by FGM;

  1. Severe pain and shock
  2. Bacterial infection
  3. Urine retention
  4. Open sores injury to adjacent tissues
  5. Immediate fatal haemorrhaging (bleeding)
  6. Extreme pain as girls are cut without being numbed and the worst pain occurs the next day when the girls have to urinate
  7. Trauma as girls are forced and held down by several women

Long-term implications;

  1. Extensive damage of the external reproductive system
  2. Uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
  3. Cysts and neuromas
  4. Increased risk of Vesico Vaginal Fistula
  5. Complications in pregnancy and child birth
  6. Psychological damage
  7. Sexual dysfunction
  8. Difficulties in menstruation
  9. Recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections
  10. Infertility
  11. The need for later surgeries such as to be cut open to allow childbirth and sexual intercourse after marriage. Sometimes it is also stitched again several times after childbirth.
  12. Problems urinating as girls are left with a small opening. This can slow or strain the normal flow of urine and lead to infections
  13. Gynecological health problems as they are not able to pass all of their menstrual blood out and have infections over and over again.
  14. Increased risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STD/STI) including HIV as the procedure is being performed in unclean conditions
  15. Psychological and emotional stress. A study by Pharos, a Dutch group that gathered health care information of refugees and migrants revealed in February 2010 that majority of these women suffered from stress, anxiety and was aggressive. They were also most likely to have relational problems or fear for relations. According to the study, it is believed that an estimate of 50 girls is being genitally mutilated every year in the Netherlands.

5. Where is FGM practiced?

Southeast Asia; Indonesia, Malaysia,

Central Asia; Tajikistan

Eastern Europe; Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia

Middle East; Yemen, UAE, turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Oman, Jordan, Iraq and Kurdistan, Iran,

Africa; Zimbabwe, Zaire, Uganda, Togo, Tanzania, South Africa, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, republic of Congo, Nigeria, Niger, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mali, Malawi, Libya, Liberia, Kenya, guinea-Bissau, guinea, Ghana, Gambia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Djibouti, democratic republic of the Congo, cote d’ivoire, Comoros, Chad, central African republic, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Benin, Algeria

The majority of cases of FGM are carried out in 28 African countries. In some countries, (e.g. Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), prevalence rates can be as high as 98 per cent. In other countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Senegal, the prevalence rates vary between 20 and 50 per cent. It is more accurate however, to view FGM as being practised by specific ethnic groups, rather than by a whole country, as communities practising FGM straddle national boundaries. FGM takes place in parts of the Middle East, i.e. in Yemen, Oman, Iraqi Kurdistan, amongst some Bedouin women in Israel, and was also practised by the Ethiopian Jews, and it is unclear whether they continue with the practice now that they are settled in Israel. FGM is also practised among Bohra Muslim populations in parts of India and Pakistan, and amongst Muslim populations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

6. Religion or culture?

Although FGM happens in countries with Muslim majority, and people think that it is associated with Islam, FGM is not supported by any religion and condemned by many religious leaders.

In fact FGM is a pre-Islamic tradition and since Islam prohibits humans from harming and mutilating their body, therefore FGM is forbidden in Islam. In Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Benin, and Ghana, Muslim population groups are more likely to practice FGC than Christian groups but in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Niger, the prevalence is greater among Christian groups.

Today FGM is a mixture of cultural, religious and social factors. For instance, the social pressure to perform FGM because others in the same community do it keeps the practice strong. As from the religious view, the parents thinks that FGM is necessary to raise the daughter properly and make sure that she is a virgin until she is married even though no religious scripture supports this. It is motivated by the thought of proper sexual behavior.

7. Reasons and justification

  1. custom and tradition
  2. religion; in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement
  3. preservation of virginity/chastity
  4. social acceptance, especially for marriage
  5. hygiene and cleanliness
  6. increasing sexual pleasure for the male
  7. family honour
  8. a sense of belonging to the group and conversely the fear of social exclusion
  9. enhancing fertility

8. What can be done to prevent and abolish FGM?

Each community should arrange meetings where they discuss, talk and consider opinions about FGM. Here it would be important to allow the elder generation to speak with the young. It is important to spread out and explain about the harsh health problems FGM causes.

Next important thing is education. Education is the key to everything. As we can see, this is happening in areas where most people is illiterate or doesn’t have the possibility to go to school. The generations repeat themselves and the circle is hard to break. Another important thing would be that Islamic scholars and other religious leaders should change the perception about FGM as people listen to them.

Every country and community should work towards changing the attitude as women feels they are being disloyal to their culture for not choosing FGM. This pressure can change if doctors and other health care workers would talk with women about the dangers of FGC and offer other options that don’t involve cutting. Some human rights advocates also suggest that men could help reduce the practice of FGC by openly marrying uncut women. Many human rights organizations are also calling on religious leaders to openly confirm that their religions do not require women to have FGC.

Last, if the countries establish strict laws and investigate cases regarding FGM, then it will have some effect but it will not be enough to abolish it as 18 African countries has laws or decrees against FGM. Even countries with the highest rates of FGM have recently openly noted the need for banning this practice. Fines and jail sentences are typically minor, but most view any sanctions against FGC as a good start.

It is important that everyone is aware of this heinous practice that mutilates the female body. It is hard to understand how parents can perform this on their infant babies who are not able to defend themselves. Every country should implement various strategies to eliminate FGM and it starts with education and communication.

Inbreeding – Cousin marriages and health disorders

It is estimated that at least 55% of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins and the tradition is also common among some other South Asian communities and in some Middle Eastern countries. But there is a problem: marrying someone who is themselves a close family member carries a risk for children, a risk that lies within the code of life, inside our genes. Communities that practice cousin marriage experience higher levels of some very rare but very serious illnesses known as recessive genetic disorders.

Such unions are seen as strong because they build on tight family networks and family events gets better because the in-laws are already related to each other and have the same family history. But the statistics for recessive genetic illness in cousin marriages is serious as British Pakistanis are 13 times more likely to have children with genetic disorders than the general population.

Cousin marriages

Cousin marriage is marriage between two cousins. This kind of marriage is highly stigmatized today in the West, but it does account for over 10% of marriages worldwide as it is common in the Middle East, where in some nations they account for over half of all marriages.

According to Professor Robin Fox of Rutgers University, it is likely that 80% of all marriages in history have been between second cousins or closer. It is generally accepted that the founding population of Homo sapiens was small, anywhere from 700 to 10,000 individuals. Rates of first-cousin marriage in the United States, Europe, and other Western countries like Brazil have declined since the 19th century, though even during that period they were not more than 3.63% of all unions in Europe. But in many other world regions cousin marriage is still strongly favoured: in the Middle East some countries have seen the rate rise over previous generations, and one study finds quite stable rates among Indian Muslims over the past four decades.

Cousin marriage has often been chosen to keep cultural values and ensure the compatibility of spouses, preserve familial wealth, sometimes via advantages relating to dowry or bride price. Other reasons may include geographic proximity, tradition, strengthening of family ties, maintenance of family structure, a closer relationship between the wife and her in-laws, greater marital stability and durability, ease of prenuptial negotiations, enhanced female autonomy, the desire to avoid hidden health problems and other undesirable traits in a lesser-known spouse, and romantic love.

United States

The United States has the only bans on cousin marriage in the Western world. As of February 2010[update], 30 U.S. states prohibit most or all marriage between first cousins together with other 6 states.

Cousin marriage was legal in all US states in the Union prior to the Civil War. However, according to Kansas sociology professor Martin Ottenheimer, after the Civil War the main purpose of marriage prohibitions was increasingly seen as less maintaining the social order and upholding religious morality and more as safeguarding the creation of fit offspring. By the 1870s, Lewis Henry Morgan was writing about “the advantages of marriages between unrelated persons” and the necessity of avoiding “the evils of consanguine marriage.” Cousin marriage to Morgan, and more specifically parallel-cousin marriage, was a remnant of a more primitive stage of human social organization. Morgan himself had married his mother’s brother’s daughter in 1851.

In 1846 the Governor of Massachusetts appointed a commission to study “idiots” in the state which implicated cousin marriage as being responsible for idiocy. Within the next two decades numerous reports appeared coming to similar conclusions, including for example by the Kentucky Deaf and Dumb Asylum, which concluded that cousin marriage resulted in deafness, blindness, and idiocy. Perhaps most important was the report of physician S.M. Bemiss for the American Medical Association, which concluded “that multiplication of the same blood by in-and-in marrying does incontestably lead in the aggregate to the physical and mental depravation of the offspring.”

These developments led to thirteen states and territories passing cousin marriage prohibitions by the 1880s. Though contemporaneous, the eugenics movement did not play much direct role in the bans, and indeed George Louis Arner in 1908 considered them a clumsy and ineffective method of eugenics, which he thought would eventually be replaced by more refined techniques. Ottenheimer considers both the bans and eugenics to be “one of several reactions to the fear that American society might degenerate.” In any case, by the period up until the mid-1920s the number of bans had more than doubled. Since that time, the only three states to successfully add this prohibition are Kentucky in 1943, Maine in 1985, and Texas in 2005. The NCCUSL unanimously recommended in 1970 that all such laws should be repealed, but no state has dropped its prohibition since the mid-1920s.

Europe

Only Austria, Hungary, and Spain banned cousin marriage throughout the 19th century, with dispensations being available from the government in the last two countries. Protestant, the Church of Sweden didn’t ban first-cousin marriage until 1680 and required dispensation until 1844. England maintained a small but stable proportion of cousin marriages for centuries, with proportions in 1875 estimated by George Darwin at 3.5% for the middle classes and 4.5 % for the nobility, though this has declined to under 1 % in the 20th century. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were a preeminent example.

The 19th century academic debate on cousin marriage evolved differently in Europe than it did in America. The first-cousin marriage was legal in ancient Rome from at least the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) to its ban by the Christian emperor Theodosius I in 381 AD in the west and until after Justinian (d. 565 AD) in the east.

Early Catholic marriage rules forced a sharp change from earlier norms in order to deny heirs to the wealthy and therefore increase the chance they would will their property to the Church.

Middle East

The Middle East has uniquely high rates of cousin marriage among the world’s regions. Saudi Arabia, have rates of marriage to first or second cousins that may exceed 50%, Iraq was estimated in one study to have a rate of 33%, and figures for Iran and Afghanistan have been estimated in the range of 30–40%. Though on the lower end, Egypt and Turkey nevertheless have rates above 20%.

All states in the Persian Gulf currently require advance genetic screening for all prospective married couples. Qatar was the last Gulf nation to institute mandatory screening in 2009, mainly to warn related couples who are planning marriage about any genetic risks they may face. The current rate of cousin marriage there is 54%, an increase of 12–18% over the previous generation. A report by the Dubai-based Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) in September 2009 found that Arabs have one of the world’s highest rates of genetic disorders, nearly two-thirds of which are linked to consanguinity. Research from CAGS and others suggests consanguinity is declining in Lebanon and Egypt and among Palestinians, but is increasing in Morocco, Mauritania and Sudan.

Dr. Ahmad Teebi, a genetics and pediatrics professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, links the increase in cousin marriage in Qatar and other Gulf states to tribal tradition and the region’s expanding economies. “Rich families tend to marry rich families, and from their own – and the rich like to protect their wealth,” he said. “So it’s partly economic, and it’s also partly cultural.” In regard to the higher rates of genetic disease in these societies, he says: “It’s certainly a problem,” but also that “The issue here is not the cousin marriage, the issue here is to avoid the disease.”

Africa

Cousin marriage rates from most African nations outside the Middle East are unknown. It is however estimated that 35–50% of all sub-Saharan African populations either prefers or accept cousin marriages. In Nigeria, the most populous country of Africa, the three largest tribes in order of size are the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. Muslim Hausa practice cousin marriage preferentially, and polygamy is allowed if the husband can support multiple wives. Divorce can be accomplished easily by either the male or the female, but females must then remarry. Even for a man, lacking a spouse is looked down upon. Baba of Karo’s first of four marriages was to her second cousin. She recounts in the book that her good friend married the friend’s first cross cousin.

The Yoruba people are split between Islam and Christianity. A 1974 study analyzed Yoruba marriages in the town Oka Akoko, finding that among a sample of marriages having an average of about three wives. These included not only cousin marriages but also uncle-niece unions. Reportedly it is a custom that in such marriages at least one spouse must be a relative, and generally such spouses were the preferred or favourite wives in the marriage and gave birth to more children. Finally, the Igbo people of southern Nigeria specifically prohibit both parallel- and cross-cousin marriage, though polygamy is common. Men are forbidden to marry within their own patrilineage or those of their mother or father’s mother and must marry outside their own village. Igbo are almost entirely Christian, having converted heavily under colonialism

In Ethiopia the ruling Christian Amhara people were historically rigidly opposed to cousin marriage, and could consider up to third cousins the equivalent of brother and sister, with marriage at least ostensibly prohibited out to sixth cousins. A man marrying a former wife’s “sister” was seen as incest, and conversely for a woman and her former husband’s “brother.” Though Muslims make up over a third of the Ethiopian population, and Islam has been present in the country since the time of Muhammad, cross-cousin marriage is very rare among most Ethiopian Muslims.

South Asia

Attitudes in India on cousin marriage vary by region and culture. For Muslims it is acceptable and legal to marry a first cousin but for Hindus it may be illegal under the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act, though the specific situation is more complex. The Hindu Marriage Act makes cousin marriage illegal for Hindus with the exception of marriages permitted by regional custom. Cousin marriage is proscribed and seen as incest for Hindus in north India. In fact it may even be unacceptable to marry within one’s village or for two siblings to marry partners from the same village but in south India it is common for Hindu’s to marry cross cousins, with matrilateral cross-cousin (mother’s brother’s daughter) marriages being especially favoured. In Mumbai, studies done in 1956 showed 7.7% of Hindus married to a second cousin or closer in contrast to the northern city of New Delhi where only 0.1% of Hindus were married to a first cousin during the 1980s.

India’s Muslim minority represents about 12% of its population (excluding Jammu and Kashmir) and has an overall rate of cousin marriage of 22% according to a 2000 report. Most Muslim cousin marriages were between first cousins with a rate of 20%.

United Kingdom

There has been a great deal of debate in the past few years in the United Kingdom about whether to discourage cousin marriages through government public relations campaigns or ban them entirely. The debate has been prompted by a Pakistani immigrant population making up 1.5% of the British population, of whom about 55% marry a first cousin. There is evidence that the rate of cousin marriage has increased among British Pakistanis from rates in their parents’ generation. Most British Pakistani marriages are arranged, but these can be of two types: conventionally arranged marriages where the bride and groom have little or no say, and what some British Pakistanis describe as “arranged love marriages” where the bride and groom play an important role.

Other regions

In the East, South Korea is especially restrictive with bans on marriage out to third cousins, with all couples having the same surname and region of origin having been prohibited from marrying until 1997. Taiwan, North Korea, and the Philippines also prohibit first-cousin marriage. It is allowed in Japan, though the incidence has declined in recent years. China has banned it since passing its 1981 Marriage Law, yet there is a conspicuous lack of data on actual cousin marriage rates there.

Recent 2001 data for Brazil indicates a rate of cousin marriage of 1.1%, down from 4.8% in 1957. For example, in São Paulo in the mid-19th century the rate of cousin marriage apparently was 16%, but a century later it was merely 1.9%.

Social aspects of cousin marriages

People may think that cousin marriages are more common among those of low socioeconomic status, among the illiterate and uneducated, and in rural areas due to the dowries and bridewealths that exist, but some societies also report a high prevalence among land-owning families and the ruling elite: here the relevant consideration is thought to be keeping the family estate intact over generations.

In South Asia, rising demands for dowry payments have caused economic hardship and have been linked to “dowry deaths” in a number of North Indian states. The increasing number of cousin marriages in the West may also occur as a result of immigration from Asia and Africa and some observers have concluded that the only new forces that could discourage such unions are government bans like the one China enacted in 1981.

Genetics

In April 2002, the Journal of Genetic Counseling released a report which estimated the average risk of birth defects in a child born of first cousins at 1.7–2.8% over an average base risk for non-cousin couples of 3%, or about the same as that of any woman over age 40. In terms of mortality, a 1994 study found a mean excess pre-reproductive mortality rate of 4.4%, while another study published in 2009 suggests the rate may be closer to 3.5%. Put differently, first-cousin marriage entails a similar increased risk of birth defects and mortality as a woman faces when she gives birth at age 41 rather than at 30. Critics argue that banning first-cousin marriages would make as much sense as trying to ban childbearing by older women.

In Pakistan, where there has been cousin marriage for generations and the current rate may exceed 50%, one study estimated infant mortality at 12.7 % for married double first cousins, 7.9 % for first cousins, 9.2 % for first cousins once removed/double second cousins, 6.9 % for second cousins, and 5.1 percent among nonconsanguineous progeny. Among double first cousin progeny, 41.2 % of prereproductive deaths were associated with the expression of detrimental recessive genes, with equivalent values of 26.0, 14.9, and 8.1 % for first cousins, first cousins once removed/double second cousins, and second cousins respectively.

For example because the entire Amish population is descended from only a few hundred 18th century German-Swiss settlers, the average coefficient of inbreeding between two random Amish is higher than between two non-Amish second cousins. First-cousin marriage is taboo among Amish but they still suffer from several rare genetic disorders. In Ohio’s Geagua County, Amish make up only about 10 % of the population but represent half the special needs cases. Similar disorders have been found in the highly polygamous FLDS, who do allow first-cousin marriage and of whom 75 to 80 % are related to two 1930s founders.

A BBC report reported about Pakistanis in Britain where 55% of whom had married a first cousin and many children come from repeat generations of first-cousin marriages. The report stated that these children were 13 times more likely than the general population to produce children with genetic disorders, and one in ten children of first-cousin marriages in Birmingham either died in infancy or would develop a serious disability. The BBC story contained an interview with Myra Ali, whose parents and grandparents were all first cousins. She has a very rare recessive genetic condition, known as Epidermolysis bullosa which will cause her to lead a life of extreme physical suffering, limited human contact and probably an early death from skin cancer. Knowing that cousin marriages increase the probability of recessive genetic conditions, she is against the practice. Finally, in 2010 the Telegraph reported that cousin marriage among the British Pakistani community resulted in 700 children being born every year with genetic disabilities.

The increased mortality and birth defects observed among British Pakistanis may, however, have another source besides current consanguinity. Genetic effects from cousin marriage in Britain are more obvious than in a developing country like Pakistan because the number of confounding environmental diseases is lower. Increased focus on genetic disease in developing countries may eventually result from progress in eliminating environmental diseases there as well.

Public Health in Norway published in March 2007 a research on intermarriage in Norway. The report identifies both the prevalence of intermarriage and the medical consequences for the children. The analysis was done on the basis of data from the Medical Birth Registry, Statistics Norway, Population Register and the Cause of Death Register of data for all persons born in Norway from 1967 to 2005 because Norway is the only country in the world that keeps the statistic numbers between the parents of all born babies. These were the key findings:

Prevalence of intermarriage:

  • In Norway, the most widespread intermarriage can be found among people of Pakistani origin. In first-generation immigrants from Pakistan intermarriage is 43.9% of all children born of parents who are cousins, and the total intermarriage ratio is 54.4%.
  • Among the descendants of first generation immigrants from Pakistan, the proportion of cousin pairs 35.1%, and the total intermarriage ratio 46.5%. Interbreeding units are therefore somewhat lower than in the parental generation.
  • Intermarriage-shares seem to be heading down in the Norwegian-Pakistani population, both first generation immigrants and descendants.
  • Intermarriage is relatively common also among people with origins from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, Morocco and Somalia.
  • For people of Norwegian origin, intermarriage is very rare, but it used to be more common a few decades back. This particularly applies to second cousin marriages. In those of Norwegian origin is 0.1% of parental pairs cousins ​​and second cousins ​​0.4% (in the period from 1967 to 2005).

Medical risks of intermarriage
Intermarriage leads to increased risk of stillbirth, infant death and congenital malformations. In addition, there is an increased risk of death right up to adulthood among children of intermarried parents.
For children of cousin marriage is the increase of risk in the following order:

  • Stillbirth: 60%
  • Deaths during the first year: 150%
  • Congenital malformations: 100%
  • Deaths from the age of one year and up to adulthood: 75%

These findings are statistically reliable, and not the result of random variation.

The significance of intermarriage for public health
Since intermarriage is rare in the population as a whole, intermarriage does little for public health in Norway, however, it is a major cause of illness and death among children in the country groups where intermarriage is common.
One must always bear in mind that most children of intermarriage, marriage is healthy and completely normal. Illness and death affects only a small minority of them.

Jewish communities affected by Tay-Sachs

Tay–Sachs disease (TSD, also known as GM2 gangliosidosis or Hexosaminidase A deficiency) is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. In its most common variant, known as infantile Tay–Sachs disease, it causes a relentless deterioration of mental and physical abilities that commences around 6 months of age and usually results in death by the age of 4. Tay-Sachs is caused by a genetic defect in a single gene with one defective copy of that gene inherited from each parent. The disease occurs when harmful quantities of gangliosides accumulate in the nerve cells of the brain, eventually leading to the premature death of those cells. There is currently no cure or treatment but the Tay–Sachs disease is rare.

Tay-Sachs disease was named after British ophthalmologist Warren Tay, who first described the red spot on the retina of the eye in 1881, and the American neurologist Bernard Sachs of Mount Sinai Hospital, New York who described the cellular changes of Tay-Sachs and noted an increased prevalence in the Eastern European Jewish (Ashkenazi) population in 1887. Research in the late 20th century demonstrated that Tay–Sachs disease is caused by a genetic mutation on the HEXA gene on chromosome 15. These mutations reach significant frequencies in several populations. French Canadians of southeastern Quebec have a carrier frequency similar to Ashkenazi Jews, but they carry a different mutation. Many Cajuns of southern Louisiana carry the same mutation that is most common in Ashkenazi Jews. Most HEXA mutations are rare, and do not occur in genetically isolated populations. The disease can potentially occur from the inheritance of two unrelated mutations in the HEXA gene.

Millions of Ashkenazi Jews have been screened as Tay-Sachs carriers since carrier testing began in 1971. Jewish communities, both in and outside of Israel, embraced the cause of genetic screening from the 1970s on and the increasing number of Tay–Sachs disease led Israel to become the first country to offer free genetic screening and counseling for all couples making Israel a leading center for research on genetic disease. Both the Jewish and Arab/Palestinian populations in Israel contain many ethnic and religious minority groups, and Israel’s initial success with Tay–Sachs disease has led to the development of screening programs for other diseases.

Tay-Sachs has sometimes created an impression that Jews are more susceptible to genetic disease than other populations. Sheila Rothman and Sherry Brandt-Rauf, of Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Society and Medicine, have criticized this emphasis on ethnic identity in the study of disease. When several breast cancer mutations were discovered in the 1990s, the TSD model was applied, both consciously and inadvertently. Researchers had initially focused on breast cancer cluster families, not on ethnic groups. But because thousands of stored DNA samples were available from Tay-Sachs screening, researchers were quickly able to estimate the frequency of newly discovered mutations in Ashkenazi Jewish populations.

Inbreeding in the Royal and Nobel families

The family relationships of royalty are usually well known to be highly inbreeded. Royal intermarriage was mostly practised to protect property, wealth, and position.

  • In ancient Egypt, royal women carried the bloodlines and so it was advantageous for a pharaoh to marry his sister or half-sister. Normally the old ruler’s eldest son and daughter (who could be either siblings or half-siblings) became the new rulers. All rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty from Ptolemy II were married to their brothers and sisters, to keep the Ptolemaic blood “pure” and to strengthen the line of succession. Cleopatra VII (also called Cleopatra VI) and Ptolemy XIII, who married and became co-rulers of ancient Egypt following their father’s death, are the most widely known example of brother and sister marriage.

The family-tree of Charles II of Spain shows an extraordinary number of uncle-niece and cousin unions of varying degrees that can be seen on the picture.

Click at the picture for a larger image

  • Among European monarchies Jean V of Armagnac formed a rare brother-sister relationship. Also other royal houses, such as the Wittelsbachs had marriages among aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. The British royal family had several marriages as close as the first cousin, but none closer.
  • The most famous example of a genetic disorder aggravated by royal family intermarriage was the House of Habsburg, which inmarried particularly often. Famous in this case is the Habsburg jaw/Habsburg lip/Austrian lip typical for many Habsburg relatives over a period of 6 centuries. The condition progressed through the generations to the point that the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, Charles II of Spain, could not properly chew his food.
  • Besides the jaw deformity, Charles II also had a huge number of other genetic physical, intellectual, sexual, and emotional problems. It is speculated that the simultaneous occurrence in Charles II of two different genetic disorders: combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis could explain most of the complex clinical profile of this king, including his impotence/infertility which in the last instance led to the extinction of the dynasty.
  • The most famous genetic disease that circulated among European royalty was haemophilia. Because the progenitor, Queen Victoria, was in a first cousin marriage, it is often mistakenly believed that the cause was consanguinity, however, this disease is generally not aggravated by cousin marriages, although rare cases of haemophilia in girls (though not including Victoria) are thought to result from the union of haemophilic men and their cousins.
  • Intermarriage within European royal families has declined in relation to the past. Inter-nobility marriage was used as a method of forming political alliances among elite power-brokers and these ties were often sealed only upon the birth of progeny within the arranged marriage. Marriage was seen as a union of lines of nobility, not of a contract between individuals as it is seen today.
  • Some Peruvian Sapa Incas married their sisters. The Inca had an unwritten rule that the new ruler must be a son of the Inca and his wife and sister. He then had to marry his sister (not half-sister), which ultimately led to the catastrophic Huáscar’s reign, culminating in a civil war and then fall of the empire.

Queen Victoria

Royal dyslexia
When we look at the Norwegian history, marriage between cousins was rare and attempted to be prohibited in 1687 but the exception was the royals. They married relatives to build alliances, and ensure values ​​and positions. It is not different from the today’s cousin marriages except the only difference was that the royal house had a stronger fundamental superstructure that was at the family’s superiority. Monarchical thinking assumes that your place in society is God-given and that your family is predetermined.

King Olav V and Queen Maud of Norway
To keep the heritage in their own hands, the Spanish Habsburgs started to marry more and more within the family. The result was that the lethal inbreeding within a few generations brought the male succession to destruction with 11 royal marriages in 200 years. 9 of these were intermarriages including two marriages between uncles and nieces and four between cousins. As a consequence of this, the Habsburgs suffered stillbirths and deaths of babies. Between 1527 and 1661 there was born 34 children and of these, 10 died before the age of 1 year. Another 17 died before the age of 10.

The Habsburgs last king, Carlos II, was born in 1661 and the Spaniards called him El hechizado, the enchanted. He had a large head and was relatively weak as a baby. He did not learn to speak before he turned four, and learned to walk when he was eight years old and stayed weak and very thin. His first and second wife claimed he was impotent and he would vomit and suffer from diarrhea. As a 30-year-old, King Carlos looked like he was an old man. He also couldn’t manage to bring an heir so the Halsburg Dynasty died with him in 1700.
Scientists have calculated that 25.4% of his gene variants were inherited in double dose and they believe he was hit by two genetic diseases that today are known as CPHD and distal renal tubular acidos (dRTA).

The Danish royal house was struggling with similar problems. Early in the 1800s did not King. Several diseases spread in the European royal houses of the 1800s and the British Queen Victoria’s descendants were affected by haemophilia resulting in her son Leopold death of the disease as 30-year-old. Her daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Alice brought the disease to the European royal houses.

Porphyria is another “royal disease” and the British king George III (1760 to 1820) was known as “Mad George” for his madness. Two professors of molecular genetics, Martin Warren and David Hunt of the University of London, examined in the book Purple Secret (1998) a thesis that George III’s illness was porphyria. They followed “Mad George” s genes down to today’s royals, and estimated that the Queen’s cousin William, who died in 1972, suffered from the disease. Also porphyria was brought further into the European royal families.
Norwegian Princess Astrid has been open to and told how she has experienced it to be dyslexic, like King Olaf was and the Princess’ five children also struggling with this problem.
In contrast, Swedish King Carl Gustaf, the Crown Princess Victoria and her brother Prince Carl Philip has been open with the disorder.

Swedish royal family

Camilla Stoltenberg of Public Health in Norway explains:
“If you inherit the gene from one parent, you may get a slight degree of the condition. Inherit it from both mother and father, the stronger the disposition, and then you can get a more serious disorder.” What then is the relationship between intermarriage and dyslexia?
“The chance that you get two identical copies of a gene is higher. This is also true for genes that predispose to dyslexia. And since dyslexia is probably conditioned by many genes, it is also a greater chance that you may have received two copies of several of the dysleksidisponerende genes,” she says.

Human trafficking and modern day slavery

Trafficking has become a lucrative industry and is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Globally, it is tied with the illegal trade, as the second largest criminal activity, followed by the drug trade. Human trafficking usually affects women and children more than it affects men. Sex trafficking is nothing less than slavery because when an offender takes a woman or girl against her will and forces her to engage in prostitution, he not only sells her body but also her freedom and dignity. Much sex trafficking is international, with victims being taken from places such as South and Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Central and South America, and other less-developed areas to more developed places including Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America. Those who profit from victimizing children and adults in the sex trade are only one half of the problem. The other half is those who patronize this industry.

The total annual revenue for trafficking in persons is estimated to be between USD$5 billion and $9 billion. The Council of Europe states, “People trafficking have reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion,” and The United Nations estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world.

Human trafficking differs from people smuggling. As for smuggling, people voluntarily request or hire an individual, known as a smuggler, to transport them from one country to another, where legal entry would be denied upon arrival at the international border. After entry into the country and arrival at their destination, the smuggled person is free to find their own way, while smuggling requires travel, trafficking does not. Victims of human trafficking are not permitted to leave upon arrival at their destination, they are held against their will through acts of coercion and forced to work or provide services to the trafficker or others. The work includes anything from bonded or forced labor to commercialized sexual exploitation.

1. How Does Human Trafficking Take Place?

Traffickers find their victims from developing countries where poverty is widespread, commonly through force or deception. The victims are typically very young, from 8 to 18 years old and some as young as 4 or 5 years old. A common scenario involves a poor Asian or Eastern European girl who is offered a “better life” as a housemaid, restaurant server or dancer in a wealthy country such as the United States, Great Britain, or Italy. As she arrives, her passport is taken away, she is physically and sexually abused and forced into prostitution in a country where she neither speaks the language nor have any friends nor relatives. She is forced to service 8-15 clients a day and does not receive any pay as she is told that the money is used to pay off her “debt” to the trafficker and brothel owners for transportation, food, lodging and so on. After some period of time, she will be resold to another brothel owner, often in another country, and the cycle will continue all over again. She is likely to acquire HIV/AIDS, and to pass it on to her clients and their wives, all around the world. She has a greater chance than most of dying early, and is certain to live a horrible existence in whatever short years she has. Even if she is eventually rescued and repatriated to her country and community, she is likely to be ostracized as a result of her involvement in prostitution.

Government and police corruption, primarily in under-developed countries, play a large role in the perpetuation of the sex slave industry, with blind-eyes being turned toward openly active brothels and payoffs being accepted by those officials charged with the enforcement of national and international laws prohibiting trafficking, prostitution and child sexual exploitation.

Click at the pictures for a larger image.

2. Types of labor work

Bonded labor, or debt bondage, is probably the least known form of labor trafficking today, and yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or service in which its terms and conditions have not been defined or in which the value of the victims’ services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money “borrowed.”

Forced labor is when victims are forced to work against their own will, under the threat of violence or some other form of punishment, their freedom is restricted and a degree of ownership is exerted. Men are at risk of being trafficked for unskilled work, which globally generates $31bn according to the International Labor Organization. Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor; janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and begging.

Sex trafficking victims are generally found in poor circumstances and easily targeted by traffickers. These circumstances include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts. While it may seem like trafficked people are the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region, victims are consistently exploited from any ethnic and social background. Traffickers are known as pimps or madams, offers promises of marriage, employment, education, and/or an overall better life. However, in the end, traffickers force the victims to become prostitutes or work in the sex industry. Various works in the sex industry includes prostitution, dancing in strip clubs, performing in pornographic films and pornography, and other forms of involuntary servitude. Women are lured to accompany traffickers based on promises of lucrative opportunities unachievable in their native country. Most have been told lies regarding the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 1,229 human trafficking incidents in the United States from January 2007- September 2008. Of these, 83 % were sex trafficking cases.

Child labor is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade, and other illicit activities around the world.

3. Trafficking in children

Trafficking of children is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms and include forcing a child into prostitution or other forms of sexual activity or child pornography. Child exploitation can also include forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, illicit international adoption, trafficking for early marriage, recruitment as child soldiers, for use in begging or as athletes (such as child camel jockeys or football players), or for recruitment for cults.

Thailand and Brazil are considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records. One of the major reasons is the parent’s extreme poverty where they sell their children in order to pay debts or gain income. Some is deceived that the traffickers will give a better life and education for their children. The adoption process, legal or illegal, can sometimes result in cases of trafficking of babies and pregnant women between the West and the developing world. Thousands of children from Asia, Africa, and South America are sold into the global sex trade every year. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are actually sold by their own families.

Trafficking victims are also exposed to different psychological problems. They suffer social alienation in the host and home countries. Stigmatization, social exclusion and intolerance make reintegration into local communities difficult. The governments offer little assistance and social services to trafficked victims upon their return.

4. Global nature of the problem

Sex trafficking is global in nature and the victims come from all developing countries and are trafficked into or through virtually all developing and developed countries. It is estimated, for example, that 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year, most of who are sold into prostitution. This is not dependent on nationality, race or religion and not on economic or social standing. The one substantial difference is that it is the wealthy countries – through their military, businessmen, tourists, and Internet pornography subscribers, all of whom pay significantly more for the use of a sex slave that keeps this criminal industry extremely profitable for traffickers.

Trafficking does not only occur in poor countries, but in fact in every country. A source country is a country where people are trafficked and these countries are often weakened by poverty, war, corruption, natural disasters or climate. Some examples of source countries are Nepal, Guatemala, and the former Soviet Union, Nigeria, Thailand, China, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and many more. Then there is transit country where the victims are enslaved and the destination country is where the victim ends up. Japan, India, much of Western Europe, and the United States are all destination countries and the most common destinations for victims of human trafficking are Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US, according to a report by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

Almost every human trafficking prevention organization works to spread public awareness of trafficking. Several methods have been used to achieve public awareness, and while some produce little results, others have succeeded in persuading governments to pass laws and regulations on human trafficking. By pushing the issue of human trafficking into the public eye through the media, organizations work to educate the general public about the dangers of being trafficked and practices of preventing individuals from being trafficked. Television, magazines, newspapers, and radio are all used to warn and educate the public by providing statistics, scenarios, and general information on the subject.

Regardless of the type of human trafficking, nearly 1 in 5 of its victims was children, according to various reports. Their innocence is abused for begging, or exploited for sex as prostitutes, pedophilia or child pornography. Others are sold as child brides or camel jockeys.”

In a 2008 report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department listed Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as destination countries with widespread trafficking abuses, particularly forced laborers trafficked from Asia and Africa who are subject to restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats and physical and sexual abuse. The report found those countries made feeble efforts to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers. The department’s report also says slave labor in developing countries such as Brazil, China and India was fueling part of their huge economic growth. Other countries on the blacklist were Algeria, Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Myanmar, Moldova, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan and Syria.

According to the Report, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. In Central Asia and Eastern Europe, women make up more than 60 percent of those convicted of trafficking. The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor, or slavery, making up 18 percent of the total, although the writers of the report say it may be underreported. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour counting 18 %. Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority, up to 100% in parts of West Africa.

Click at the picture for a larger image

5. War and abuse

Women and girls in war zones are especially touched by the ugly side of war. They are not able to defend themselves and after being abused or sold they are stigmatized in their communities besides ending up pregnant or with HIV/AIDS.

In August 2001, soldiers with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Eritrea were purchasing 10 year old girls for sex in local hotels.

Before the arrival of 15,000 UN troops in Cambodia in 1991, there were an estimated 1,000 prostitutes in the capital. Currently, Cambodia’s illegal sex trade generates $500 million a year. No less than 55,000 women and children are sex slaves in Cambodia, 35 percent of which are younger than 18 years of age.

Over 5,000 women and children have been trafficked from the Philippines, Russia and Eastern Europe and are forced into prostitution in bars servicing the U.S. Military in South Korea.

6. Children – lost innocence

  • Children from Pakistan and Bangladesh are kidnapped or sold by their parents to traffickers who take them to Persian Gulf States including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, to work as camel jockeys. These children are 3 to 7 years of age and kept malnourished to keep their weight below 35 pounds. They suffer physical abuse from the traffickers and work all day training camels. Many of these children do also suffer extreme injuries or death from falling off camels during the races.
  • Child victims of trafficking are very vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Misconceptions that having sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS have fueled an increased demand for child prostitutes.
  • Girls from 15 to 17 years of age are trafficked from Thailand and Taiwan to South Africa. Traffickers recruited these girls to work as waitresses or domestic workers and once they arrive to South Africa they are forced into prostitution.
  • Filipino children are trafficked to countries in Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe and Southeast Asia, where they are sexually exploited. Traffickers loan parents a sum of money, which the girl must repay to the trafficker through forced prostitution. In one case, a Filipino woman rented her 9-year-old niece to foreign men for sex, and eventually sold her to a German pedophile.
  • 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States from no less than 49 countries every year. As many as 750,000 women and children have been trafficked into the United States over the last decade.
  • Women and children as young as 14 have been trafficked from Mexico to Florida and forced to have sex with as many as 130 clients per week in a trailer park. These women were kept hostage through threats and physical abuse, and were beaten and forced to have abortions. One woman was locked in a closet for 15 days after trying to escape.
  • In Fresno, California Hmong gang members have kidnapped girls between the ages of 11 and 14 and forced into prostitution. The gang members would beat and rape them into submission. These girls were trafficked within the United States and traded between other Hmong communities.
  • The Cadena smuggling ring brings women and some are as young as 14, from Mexico to Florida. The victims were forced to prostitute themselves with as many as 130 men per week in a trailer park. Of the $25 charged, the women received only $3. The Cadena members keep the women hostage through threats and physical abuse and the women must work until they paid off their debts of $2,000 to $3,000.
  • Domestic servants in some countries of the Middle East are forced to work 12 to 16 hours a day with little or no pay, and subject to sexual abuse such as rape, forced abortions, and physical abuse that has resulted in death.
  • Traffickers in many countries in West Africa take girls through voodoo rituals in which girls take oaths of silence and are often raped and beaten, prior to their leaving the country. They are also forced to sign agreements stating that, once they arrive in another country, they owe the traffickers a set amount of money. They are sworn to secrecy and given detailed accounts of how they will be tortured if they break their promise. Traffickers have taken women and young girls to shrines and places of cultural or religious significance; they remove pubic and other hair and then perform a ceremony of intimidation.

7. Human trafficking and the facts

  • An estimated number of 700.000 to 4 million people are forced in forced labor (including the sex industry) as a result of trafficking. Of these are:
  • 1.4 million – 56% are in Asia and the Pacific
  • 250.000 – 10% are in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • 230.000 – 9.2% are in the Middle East and Northern Africa
  • 130.000 – 5.2% are in sub-Saharan countries
  • 270.000 – 10.8% are in industrialized countries
  • 200.000 – 8% are in countries in transitions
  • 161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking by being a source, transit or destination count. People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every type of economy.
  • The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age and 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.
  • 95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence.
  • 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation of which 98% are women and girls.
  • 32% of victims are used for forced economical exploitation of which 56% are women and girls.
  • 52% of those recruiting females are men, 42% are women and 6% are both men and women.
  • In 54% of the cases, the recruiter was a stranger to the victim, 46% of the cases, the recruiter knew the victim.
  • Estimated global annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labor are US$ 31.6 billion. Of this:
  • US$ 15.5 billion – 49% – is generated in industrialized economies
  • US$ 9.7 billion – 30.6% is generated in Asia and the Pacific
  • US$ 1.3 billion – 4.1% is generated in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • US$ 1.6 billion – 5% is generated in sub-Saharan Africa
  • US$ 1.5 billion – 4.7% is generated in the Middle east and North Africa

Click at the picture for a larger image (statistics from 2008-2009)

8. Slavery and sex-trade in the Arab world


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a destination for men and women, mostly from South and Southeast Asia, trafficked for the purposes of labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Migrant workers, who stand for more than 90% of the UAE’s private sector workforce, are recruited from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, China, and the Philippines. Women from some of these countries travel willingly to work as domestic servants or administrative staff, but some are victims of forced labor, including unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, or physical or sexual abuse. Men from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are drawn to the UAE for work in the construction sector, but are often subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude and debt bondage.

For the foreign female domestic workers, it is a life of isolation both physically, psychologically, socially and culturally. Some of these women live in abusive environments but others are able to live a little bit more socially. Under the law, once a foreign female worker enters a employers house, she is under his/her control since the employer is the visa sponsor. The employer bears total responsibility for his/her domestic workers and has total control over them. But during the first 3 months of the contract, both the employer and the employee have the right to contact the recruiting agency in order to report problems or to seek change in the status or employment of the foreign female domestic worker. Most recruiting agencies, however, do not encourage this practice, and often hide information from the foreign female domestic worker about their rights. The immigration regulations governing the status of domestic workers and the social practices towards foreign female domestic worker in the United Arab Emirates enslave them to their employers until the duration of their contract ends. Whether one is placed with a desirable or an undesirable employer is a matter of luck.

Saudi Arabia is a place for men and women from South East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation and forced begging for children from Yemen and Africa. Hundreds of thousands low skilled workers from India, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia to work. Many of these workers meet conditions of physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, withholding of travel documents and restrictions on their freedom of movement.

Unfortunately, the government of Saudi Arabia has done little or almost nothing to eliminate trafficking and has lack of efforts to protect victims and prosecute those who are guilty of abuse. Some victims of abuse, chooses to leave the country rather than to confront their abusers in court and according to the law, they are required to file a complaint first before they can be allowed in any shelter. If a victim chooses to file a complaint, he/she is not allowed to work and the Saudi Government does in fat provide food and shelter for female workers who file report.

9. Iran – High profitable sex-trade


Iran has for 25 years, has enforced humiliating and punishments on women and girls, enslaved them in a system of segregation, forced veiling, second-class status, lashing, and stoning to death. Joining a global trend, in Tehran there has been a 635% increase in the number of teenage girls in prostitution. In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the streets, others are in the 250 brothels that exist in the city. The trade is also international as thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad. The head of Iran’s Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today and government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls.

Many of the girls come from poor families living in rural areas. Drug addiction has become epidemic throughout Iran, and some addicted parents sell their children to support their habits. There is also a problem with high unemployment, 28% for youth between 15-29 years of age and 43% for women between 15-20 years of age.

Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf because of the booming tourism and the good economy. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17 years old, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8. The victims are often physically punished and imprisoned besides being examined if they have engaged in “immoral activity.” Based on the findings, officials can ban them from leaving the country again.

Police have uncovered a number of prostitution and slavery rings operating from Tehran that have sold girls to France, Britain, Turkey, as well. One network based in Turkey bought smuggled Iranian women and girls, made fake passports, and transported them to European and Persian Gulf countries. In one case, a 16-year-old girl was smuggled to Turkey, and then sold to a 58-year-old European national for $20,000.

One factor contributing to the increase in prostitution and the sex slave trade is the number of teen girls who are running away from home for different reasons and 90% of girls who run away from home will end up in prostitution. As a result of runaways, in Tehran alone there are an estimated 25,000 street children, most of them girls. The perpetrators look after street children, runaways, and vulnerable high school girls in city parks and manage to convince them. In large cities, shelters have been set up to provide assistance for runaways but these places are often corrupt and run prostitution rings from the shelters. In one case, a woman was discovered selling Iranian girls to men in Persian Gulf countries; for four years, she had hunted down runaway girls and sold them. She even sold her own daughter for US$11,000.

For further information about the slave and sex trade and the work that is done to prevent, you can click into these links.

http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/

http://www.humantrafficking.org/combat_trafficking/international_initiatives

Overview of the violence against women around the world

The situation of women and girls, facts and figures all over the world*


Gender and HIV/AIDS:

  • Nearly a third of all adults living with HIV/AIDS are under the age of 25 and 2/3 of them are women.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, girls are getting infected faster and earlier than boys. In the group from 15 to age 24, two girls are infected for every boy. According to surveys that indicate women who have some post primary schooling compared to women with no education are 5 times more likely to lack basic information about HIV/AIDS.
  • In 2002, an estimated 800,000 children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV as a result of parent-to-infant transmission.

Gender and girls education:

  • Over 110 million of the world’s children, 2/3 of them being girls are not attending school.
  • Of the world’s 875 million illiterate adults, 2/3 is women.
  • Half of the girls who live in developing countries (excluding China) will be married before their 20th birthday. Increasing girl’s time in school is one of the best ways for the girls to get married in an older age.

Gender and violence against women and girls and child protection issues:

  • One in every 3 women is a survivor of some form of gender based violence, most often by someone in her family. Between 15 and 76% of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Girls between 13 and 18 years constitutes the largest group in the sex industry and it is estimated that around 500,000 girls below the age of 18 are victims of trafficking each year.
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) affects around 130 million girls and women globally and places 2 million at risk but the last decades this problem has improved.
  • In some cultures, the preference for boys results in pre-natal sex selection and death of many girls. In India for example; there are 933 Indian women for every 1000 men resulting in 40 million missing women.

Gender and the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and other health issues:

  • 1,400 women die every day from pregnancy-related causes, 99% of them in developing countries.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has 1 in 3 chance of dying in child birth. In industrialized countries the risks are 1 in 4,085.
  • Direct obstetric deaths account for about 75% of all maternal deaths in developing countries.

Emergencies

  • More than 80% of the world’s 35 million refugees and displaced people are women and children.
  • Emergencies put women at risk of extreme sexual violence and abuse. In Rwanda, 2,000 women and many of them are being survivors of rape tested positive for HIV during the 5 years following the 1994 genocide.

Femicide

  • In Guatemala, two women are killed every day.
  • In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related death were reported in 2007 and unknown number of murders of women and young girls were labeled as “suicides” or “accidents”.
  • Between 40 and 70% of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States.
  • In Chihuahua, Mexico, 66% of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.

Violence and young women

  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002.
  • The first sexual experience of some 30% women was forced and the percentage is even higher among those who were under 15 at the time of their sexual initiation.

Harmful practices

  • Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have experienced female genital mutilation leaving more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides and married before the age of 18. The numbers are divided as; South Asia-31, 3 million and Sub-Saharan Africa-14, 1 million. Violence and abuse characterize married life for many of these girls. Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife.
  • Trafficking
  • 80% from the estimated number of 800,000 people being trafficked across the national borders is women and girls.
  • One study in Europe found that 60% of trafficked women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence before being trafficked, pointing to gender-based violence as a push factor in the trafficking of women.

Sexual harassment

  • Between 40 and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work.
  • Across Asia, studies in Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea show that 30 to 40% of women suffer workplace sexual harassment.
  • In Nairobi, 20% of women have been sexually harassed at work or school.
  • In the United States, 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.

Rape in the context of conflict

  • Estimates suggest that 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were targeted in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
  • Between 50,000 and 64,000 women in camps for internally displaced people in Sierra Leone were sexually assaulted by combatants between 1991 and 2001.
  • In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented since 1996: the actual numbers are believed to be far higher.

Conservative

  • The following figures are some of the facts of violence done on women compiled by Amnesty International and Feminist.com from various researches done by individuals and/or organizations all over the world;
  • An estimated 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually for sexual exploitation or labor (US Central Intelligence Agency, 2000).
  • One in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime (WHO 1997).
  • In USA a woman is raped every 90 seconds (US Department of Justice, 2000).
  • Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds (UN Study on the Status of Women, Year 2000).
  • Up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners (WHO 2008).
  • In Kenya more than one woman a week was reportedly killed by her male partner while in Zambia, five women a week were murdered by a male partner or family member (Joni Seager, 2003).
  • In the Russian Federation 36,000 women are beaten on a daily basis by their husband or partner, according to Russian non-governmental organizations (OMTC, 2003).
  • More than 135 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation and an additional 2 million girls and women are at risk each year (6,000 everyday) (UN, 2002).
  • 82 million girls who are now aged 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday (UNFP).
  • In India there are close to 15,000 dowry deaths estimated per year. Mostly they are kitchen knives designed to look like accidents (Injustice Studies, Vol. 1, November 1997).
  • 4 million women and girls are trafficked annually.
  • An estimated one million children, mostly girls, enter the sex trade each year (UNICEF).
  • A study in Zaria, Nigeria found out that 16 per cent of hospital patients treated for sexually transmitted infections were younger than five (UNFPA).

Population and families

  • The world’s population tripled between 1950 and 2010 to reach almost 7 billion.
  • There are approximately 57 million more men than women in the world, but in most countries there are more women than men.
  • There is a “gender spiral” with more boys and men in younger age groups and more women in the older age groups.
  • Fertility is steadily declining in all regions of the world but still remains high in some regions of Africa.
  • Life expectancy is steadily rising as women lives longer than men.
  • International migration is increasing and there are more and more women migrants and in certain areas they outnumber men.

Health

  • Women live longer than men in all regions.
  • 2 out of every 5 deaths of both women and men in Africa are still caused by infectious and parasitic diseases.
  • Women are more likely than men to die from cardiovascular diseases, especially in Europe.
  • Breast cancer among women and lung cancer among men tops the list of new cancer cases globally.
  • Women stand for the majority of HIV positive adults in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • The majority of over half a million maternal deaths in 2005 occurred in developing countries.

Education

  • 2/3 of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women.
  • The global youth literacy rate has increased to 89%.
  • 72 million children of primary school age are not attending school out of which over 39 million (54%) are girls.
  • Women in tertiary education are significantly underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering but remain predominant in education, health and welfare, social sciences, humanities and arts.
  • Worldwide, women account for slightly more than a quarter of all scientific researches that is an increase compared to previous decades.
  • Use of and access to the Internet grew in the past decade as it narrowed the gender digital divide, however, women still don’t have the same level of access as men in most countries whether it is more developed or not.

Work

  • Women are predominantly and increasingly employed in the services sector.
  • Vulnerable employment – own-account work and contributing family work – is prevalent in many countries in Africa and Asia, especially among women.
  • The informal sector is an important source of employment for both women and men in the less developed regions but more so for women.
  • Occupational segregation and gender wage gaps continue to persist in all regions.
  • Part-time employment is common for women in most of the more developed regions and some less developed regions, and it is increasing almost everywhere for both women and men.
  • Women spend at least twice as much time as men on domestic work, and when all work – paid and unpaid – is considered, women work longer hours than men do.
  • Half of the countries worldwide meet the new international standard for minimum duration of maternity leave – and two out of five meet the minimum standard for cash benefits – but there is a gap between law and practice, and many groups of women are not covered by legislation.

Violence against women

  • Women are subjected to different forms of violence – physical, sexual, psychological and economic, both within and outside their homes.
  • Rates of women experiencing physical violence at least once in their lifetime vary from several per cent to over 59% depending on where they live.
  • Current statistical measurements of violence against women provide a limited source of information, and statistical definitions and classifications require more work and harmonization at the international level.
  • Female genital mutilation is the most harmful mass perpetuation of violence against women shows a slight decline.
  • In many regions of the world longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept abuse.

Environment

  • More than half of rural households and about a quarter of urban households in sub-Saharan Africa lack easy access to sources of drinking water, and most of the burden of water collection falls on women.
  • The majority of households in sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia use solid fuels for cooking on open fires or traditional stoves with no chimney or hood, disproportionately affecting the health of women.
  • Fewer women than men participate in high-level decision-making related to the environment.

Poverty

  • Households of single mothers with young children are more likely to be poor than households of single fathers with young children.
  • Women are more likely to be poor than men when living in one-person households in many countries from both the more developed and less developed regions.
  • Women are overrepresented among the older poor in the more developed regions.
  • Existing statutory and customary laws limit women’s access to land and other types of property in most countries in Africa and about half the countries in Asia.
  • Fewer women than men have cash income in the less developed regions, and a significant proportion of married women have no say in how their cash earnings are spent.
  • Married women from the less developed regions do not fully participate in intrahousehold decision-making on spending, particularly in African countries and in poorer households.

Harmful tradition practices include;

  • Forced marriage
  • Child marriage
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Honour killings
  • Dowry related violence
  • Female infanticide
  • Trafficking of women and girls

Afghanistan at a glance*

  • Only about 15% of births are attended by trained health workers while more than 90% of the births take place at home. According to UNICEF, the maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan is the second highest in the world with an estimated 15,000 women dying each year from pregnancy related causes.
  • The infant mortality rate is 165 per 1,000 and less than 5 mortality rate is 257 per 1,000 with 1 in 4 children in Afghanistan dying before the age of 5 from preventable diseases.
  • Only 23% of the population has access to safe water, and only 12% have access to adequate sanitation which increases the incidents of diseases. 15,000 Afghans die of tuberculosis every year and of this 64% are women.
  • Malnutrition of women which affects pregnancies negatively is caused by the food scarcity linked to the war and drought.
  • The poor health situation has been aggravated by the lack of basic health services and resources, especially in rural areas because of the small number of trained female doctors, nurses and midwifes that remained in the country after the rise of Taliban.
  • 23 years of war have destroyed the infrastructure of the educational system and increased the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan. Only 10% of women are able to read and write.
  • 54% of girls under the age of 18 are married. Families of girls and young women were forced to marriage for several reasons and often for the purpose of dowry for the family’s survival.
  • *Source; Report of the Secretary-General on Discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan (E/CN.6/2002/5)

Turkey. A role model for Egypt?

Turkey is regarded as a model for a regime that will strengthen the democracy, but the differences between the two countries are large. There are two large and important non Arab Muslim majority countries in the Middle East; Turkey and Iran. The possibility that the revolution in Egypt would provide the Muslim Brotherhood increased influence has led to fears in the neighboring countries that it would end up with an extremist Islamic regime just like in Iran.

The Origin

Turkey and Egypt was once a part of the Ottoman Empire, but ever after it collapsed at the time of First World War, the development of the two countries has turned different directions.

The Egyptian constitution states that “Islam is the State religion” and that “The most important basis for the legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” The Turkish constitution on the other hand states that the country is a secular, non-religious republic, and the basis for the state’s population. The modern day’s Turkey’s founder; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wanted to create a modern nation. One of the examples is that the traditional headscarf was prohibited in public places and the Arabic alphabet was replaced with the Latin alphabet. The military was tasked by the government in 1961 to protect the Turkish republic’s integrity and secularism as described in the constitution something the army takes very seriously.

Sole ruler

Both under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, Egypt as a modern state has been characterized by sole ruler to a limited extend and haven’t allowed political oppositions. Nasser was a charismatic leader and Mubarak was a leader with not much support but with a determination to rule as long as possible. Despite all the differences, we can speak about Turkey as a model because of its bright developments over the past 10 years.

The road to democratization

After being a candidate in the EU in 1999, the requirement to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria for membership weakened the military’s role in Turkey. The National Security Council, where national security policy issues are discussed, have also been reformed and now consists of more civilian members than before when there was an emphasis on military officers. An attempted military intervention was still made as in 2007 it was revealed that there existed a right-wing military network that was planning a coup.

Since March 2003, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been in power. It is a moderate Islamist party, such as; that wishes to go in for a Turkish EU membership. This kind of moderate form of Islamic rule won’t happen over night in Egypt and if it would happen, then it does need a better functioning multi party system.

Statistic numbers

A survey conducted by the polling institute Pew Research Center before the protest wave began, shows clear differences between Egypt and Turkey. 72% of Turks see democracy as the absolute best form of government. 50% Egyptians do the same. 85% of Egyptians believe it is positive that Islam has an influence in politics and the number in Turkey is only 38%. When it comes to Islamic extremism, 61% of the Egyptians are strongly or partly concerned about it, while in Turkey 40% of Turks feel the same. While 52% of Turks see a conflict between the forces that will modernize the society and the fundamentalists, only 31% of Egyptians think the same. These numbers show that the Egyptians do want religion to play a role, but it gets disturbed by the extremists. In Turkey, the democratic way of thinking is quite strong, and soon 90 years of separation between state and Islam seems to have entrenched themselves. Turkey is an important model not only for Egypt but for the whole Middle East as it appears as a mediator whenever the storm hits its neighbours.

This was proven when President Abdullah Gül was awarded with the 2010 Chatham House Prize in London. Abdullah Gül has been a smooth operator and described as “the first proudly observant Muslim to be head of the secular Turkish state that wants to put an end to mutterings in Western capitals about Turkey’s shift to the East.” He was contributed this prize “for his contribution both to international relations and Turkeys development as a vibrant democratic state.”
While Gül will be remembered for his positive achievements, the Arab leaders will be remembered for their dictatorship, corruption and lack of respect for democracy.

Facts:

  • Turkey;

  • Governance: Republic.
  • Population: 77, 8 million.
  • Capital: Ankara.
  • Important export: Electronics, textile, agriculture products.
  • Economical growth: 4,7 %.
  • Living: Number 83 on UN’s list over 182 countries.
  • Corruption: Number 56 on Transparency s list over 180 countries, where 1 is least corrupt.
  • Surface area: 783.562 sqkms.
  • Egypt

  • Governance: Republic.
  • Population: 80 million.
  • Capital: Cairo.
  • Important export: Oil, cotton, metal products.
  • Economical growth: 4, 6 %.
  • Living: Number 101 on UN’s list over 182 countries.
  • Corruption: Number 98 on Transparency s list over 180 countries, where 1 is least corrupt.
  • Surface: 1 million sqkms.

Crisis of Democracy – Libya

The security forces of the two cities Benghazi and Dern has fled according to eyewitnesses on Friday night even though the information is impossible to verify because the countries strict control of media and communication. The rumors are many and twitter is flowing over with reports that the rebels have taken over control of the border with Egypt and that two of Gaddafi’s sons have fled the country. Also the lack of foreign and independent journalists in the country makes it hard to know what is true and what is not. According to a news agency AFP based on various local sources, a total of 84 people have been killed.

Even though people were protesting peacefully, according to HRW, security forces killed 20 people in Benghazi, 23 in Baida, three in Ajdabiya, and three in Derna in a matter of days. In addition, 35 people were killed in Benghazi on Friday, nearly all with live ammunition.

Demonstrators protesting against the government is also said to have killed two policemen in Al-Bayda by first being captured and then hanged. The situation is escalating and it is also said that Gaddafi released many prisoners from prison as they were paid and armed with knives and machetes to attack the protesters. It is a “lynching situation” going on as the police executes most of the demonstrators with bullets to the head as well according to reports from hospitals.

In many places the electricity has been shut down and many internet sites blocked as well.

The regime of Muammar Gaddafi is said to be behind the massacres, according to The Guardian, which reported that it also imposed a news blackout, similar to Iran’s crackdown on journalists in 2009.

The last few days have represented an unprecedented challenge to the 41-year rule of Gaddafi, the New York Times reported, in part inspired by the Egypt revolution.

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