Thursday, December 27, 2007

Not Just Pakistan's Problem
By Bashir Goth
Benazir Bhutto was Pakistan’s strongest voice against terrorism and military dictatorship in Pakistan. After her assassination, the country’s fate has been thrown into the unknown.

A look at Benazir’s latest statements gave us a glimpse of just how much of a threat she was to the extremists. She didn’t mince words in stating loudly and clearly her intention of cleansing Pakistan of Islamic extremists and terrorists.

Ann Curry of The Today Show wondered aloud why Bhutto was risking her life by returning to Pakistan. She told the former Prime Minister, “You're a mother of three. You could be living in London fine. You don't have to do this.”

Benazir replied, “Look into the eyes of the people who came to receive me at the airport, the joy, the happiness, the singing, the dancing, before the terrorists struck. They were celebrating my return because they want hope. If I don't come back, the 160 million people of Pakistan won't have hope of a future free from terrorism, a future in which there will be democracy.”


She didn’t hide behind euphemism in her objection to Pakistan falling into the hands of Islamists:

“The militants want an Islamist takeover of Pakistan,” she said in the same interview. “They have to be stopped. I have a choice to keep silent and to allow the extremists to do what they're doing, or have a choice to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong. And I'm going to try to save my country.’ And I have taken the second choice.”

With the national election coming closer and Benazir’s supporters gaining momentum, it is obvious that the extremists and al-Qaeda decided to act. The assassination of Benazir is therefore only a hint of what is at stake for Pakistan and the whole region. The escalation of terrorist activities in other parties of the Muslim world such as Algeria, and the arrest of terrorists preparing to strike Saudi Arabia during the Hajj, are indicative of the audacity and coordinated efforts of Islamic extremist groups.

Read More in Washington Post.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spare A Moment
By Bashir Goth
Dear Somalis
In the diaspora
Dear sisters
Dear brothers

When celebrating Eid
When sauntering in Christmas
Spare a moment

When showering gifts
On your lucky children
Spare a moment

When you heap them
In new clothes
In Nike shoes
Spare a moment

When admiring their smiles
In peaceful lands
In beautiful parks
Spare a moment

When you spoil them
With happiness
With electronic games
With garnished foods
Spare a moment

When you drive your families
In lush boulevards
Dinning with them
In glamorous eateries
Aimlessly strolling
Aimlessly buying
In designer stores
Spare a moment

For the hungry
For the homeless
For the hopeless mothers
Hugging dead children
Back in Mogadishu
Spare a moment

When your children
Splash ice cream
On the kitchen floor
Spare a moment

When they fret and frown
Over food at home
Crying for deliveries
From fast food outlets
Craving for French fries
For hamburgers
For hefty MacDonalds
When you relent
And render the order
Spare a moment

For mothers in Mogadishu
Hugging and holding
Hungry children
Hollow-eyed babies
Hanging to life
Spare a moment

When you stroll to hotels
To Sunday evening parties
Prim and piffy
Spare a moment

When you toast a drink
And toss down a draft
When you mumble
In mesmerizing music
Spare a moment

For children in Mogadishu
In feeding zones
Spare a moment

For mothers shivering in cold
For elders cursing their age
For the ruins of Mogadishu
Spare a moment

When you ensconce
In comfy sofas
In heated homes
Spare a moment

When you turn on
Your television sets
And swap channels
On sleek screens
Admiring your children
Excited and starry-eyed
Over latest gadgets
Escaping the luxury
The comfort at home
To virtual violence
To horror movies
Spare a moment

For children in Mogadishu
Roasting in real hell
With limbs maimed
Wading through the blood
Of dead parents
Stumbling on decomposing bodies
Of dead siblings
Seeking shelter in squalid cellars
In bullet-riddled, pockmarked caves
In the lap of agonized mothers
Spare a moment

For an orphan nation
Spare a moment
For a country scorched
Spare a moment
Spare a moment
Spare a moment.

December 19,2007
Copyright© 2007 Bashir Goth


READ MORE in Awdalnews, Wardheernews
My Choice: None of the Above
By Bashir Goth
In the face of the resounding chorus for action against global warming, it may be tantamount to self-immolation to say anything negative against the campaign to fight climage change. One may not even dare to raise his voice for fear of becoming a victim to inquisiton by the brigades of climate change cheerleaders.

Despite that, I must risk refusing to follow the herd on the motives and long-term objectives of the global warming campaign. I am not a scientist to disprove the findings of eminent scholars in the field, and indeed that is not my point at all. Instead, my concern is the timing and fervor with which developed nations, particularly European countries, push the agenda of climate change. (Please refer to my previous piece)


Drawing lessons from history and the nuances of international politics, one cannot but question the honesty of the whole issue. Questions that need answers include: Why has fighting climate change and global warming gained momentum while conventional players in the energy sector find themselves in fierce competition with powerful competitors from Russia, China and India? Why was the science community silent when Europe was spewing the greatest amount of CO2 over decades? Why did the conscience of the academia, politicians and drum-beating lobby groups suddenly awaken when oil gushed from every hitherto unsuspected region in Africa, Central Asia and elsewhere? How can one allay the fears and suspicions of oil-producing countries that the motive behind the climate change issue and the robust search for alternative energy is really about a tacit strategy to liberate the developed economies from the stranglehold of the oil-producing countries? Isn’t it reasonable for oil producing countries such OPEC, Russia and others and even emerging commercial powerhouses like China and India to suspect that all that the giant industrial countries want is to regain their traditional lead in technology and world trade?

READ MORE in Washington Post. or Opiniononline

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Immigration Reform Means Rethinking Africa
By Bashir Goth
Earlier this week, news reports carried the tragic story of 64 Somali-Ethiopian would-be immigrants who drowned off the coast of Yemen. A UAE paper also reported the story of two teenage Ethiopian boys who were found near starvation in a shipping container in Dubai. The 14- and 15-year-old boys had each paid US$1000, which they saved over five years, to make the trip to Germany; some of their friends had made the journey earlier in a similar condition and are now making a good living there. The boys ran out of food and water in the first day of the trip and had to resort to drinking each other’s urine to survive.

Under normal circumstances, this could be seen as a human tragedy of immense proportions. But since such stories and other even gloomier ones have become daily occurrences, they fail to make headlines – let alone invoke shock and invite empathy.

As one report put it, the seas separating Europe from Africa are being turned into a mass grave of the “unidentified immigrant”: hundreds and thousands of men, women and children perish in an attempt to find a better life abroad.

But instead of looking into the roots of the problem and forging out a common strategy to find a solution, European leaders are panicking and inclining more and more to turning Europe into a fortress. One might remind the Europeans of their scramble for Africa and their 1884 Berlin Conference, during which they divided Africa among various European powers. When Europe today complains about illegal African immigration, they should remember that they robbed a whole continent of everything of value for more than eighty years before they handed over the empty bowl to Africa’s native citizens.

READ MORE In Washington Post/Newsweek
The Internet is proving to be mightier than dictators and terrorists in Somalia
By Bashir Goth
The old adage of the pen being mightier than sword is haunting the regime of Somalia’s Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG). With more than eight radio journalists killed in 2007 and President Abdillahi Yusuf’s regime resorting to draconian rules to silence the free press, it seems that Yusuf and his mentor Meles Zenawi are forgetting that in the 21st century it is the Internet that is mightier than dictators.

Yusuf must know that all his swords, all his guns and all his dictatorial rules will not be able to blunt let alone silence the pen. It is simply against the grain of true journalists to submit to power. With every pressure, with every draconian rule aimed at silencing them, their sense of smell for news will sharpen, and with every drop of blood of a journalist split, their antennas will heighten for seeking the truth.

It is the responsibility of journalists to report the truth on the ground, to tell the world about the innocent Somali women, children and elderly killed by Ethiopian soldiers or by the insurgency. To them a dead person is a life lost. Their duty is not to judge or explain but to show and expose the ugly aftermath of a battle. They count the dead, they seek the human story behind each one; the orphaned children, the bereaving mothers, the plight of the feeble elderly rummaging through the rubble of their destroyed houses to rescue a family picture or a thing of value that could remind them that they once had a family, a property, a life and a dream of a better future for their children.

On the contrary, Yusuf’s regime wants to hide the truth, to bury the dead under the darkness of the night, to portray the destruction and the mayhem in Mogadishu as stories of fiction created by terrorist-friendly media. Yusuf deceives himself by having the power to shut down radio stations and newspapers and descending heavy-handedly on all freedom of speech.

Fortunately, however, Yusuf and his toady advisors forget that we live in the 21st century – the age of the Internet. The era of this level playing and liberating media channel that is mightier than all tyrants. Whenever Yusuf and his lackeys try to silence one newspaper or one radio station in Mogadishu, they have to deal with dozens of their clones surfacing the second day on the Internet, carrying the truth to an even larger audience.

Yusuf has to remember that Somali journalists will continue exposing the truth; they will continue focusing searchlights on what he hides in dark corners. There is no place to hide for you Mr. President. If you close the papers and radio stations in Mogadishu, we have a more powerful tool in the Internet that can convey the truth about your dirty war to the whole world. You can hide from the insurgents behind Ethiopian tanks, but there is no world that can shield you from the long reach of the journalist’s pen. Neither can the so-called insurgents, hide their murderous and barbaric actions behind patriotic names and Islamic cloaks. The Pen will not dodge to expose the atrocities committed by all the perpetrators of heinous crimes against the Somali people, be it Yusuf’s regime, the Ethiopian army or the insurgency militias. Awdalnews Network
Pakistan to America: Keep Out
Bashir Goth
I agree with David Ignatius’ conclusion in his latest column that “…changing Pakistan is a job for Pakistanis, and history suggests that the more we meddle, the more likely we are to get things wrong.” In the Muslim world, it is history that shapes people’s perceptions of political situations. Unlike people in the West, who view emerging political scenarios through prisms of economics and of self-interest, Muslims and Arabs turn to history for explanations of western conspiracy in every situation they face.

The West thinks many of these events lie in the dust of history: the crusades, the loss of Andalusia, European colonial rule, the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate, the debacle of Palestine, and the willy-nilly interference and changing of Muslim leaders. But these wounds are very much open and hurting in the Muslim world.

This is why when America goes east, Muslims go west. Recent U.S. military ventures into Afghanistan, Iraq, and indirectly into Somalia, and the larger war against terror, are all seen by the majority of the Muslim populace as the continuation of a war to dominate and subjugate the Muslim world.

It is therefore not incidental that President Musharraf of Pakistan, Hamid Karazi of Afghanistan, Al Maliki of Iraq and Abdillahi Yusuf of Somalia all remind their people of the disasters of Western-supported regimes of the past: Iraqi King Faisal and Nuri Said, American-groomed Baathist regimes, and the Shah of Iran.

READ MORE in Washington Post/Newsweek

Monday, October 15, 2007

Kulmiye Manifesto (Maanafiistada Kulmiye)
By Bashir Goth
The following lyric is a satirical piece that mirrors the political strategy of Kulmiye Party. It is a parody of the famous folklore lyric “Eddooy Waa Ayo” sung by Awdal women during weddings and festivals. We apologize to the folklore connoisseurs and to women artistes.

Heestan soo socotaa waxay muraayad u tahay hab siyaasadeedka ishaafalatada ah ee xisbiga Kulmiye rabo in uu tartanka doorashayooyinka ku galo dadkana taageero kaga galabsado. Tixdan dhicitaankeeda waxan ka soo jeemanay heesta la yidhaahdo “Eddooy Waa Ayo” ee caanka ku ah Gobolka Awdal ee haweenku ciyaarta kaga boodaan. Waan ka raali gelinaynaa haweenka iyo dadka dhaqanka daneeyaba

ASAL IYO ALOOLA MARYOOD

Aabbaha ummadiyo
Ninkii arrinshaa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Hadduu iishana
Midkaan ulanaa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Aboodiga weyn
Odayga guurtidu
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Udbaha aqalkiyo
Afayeenadu
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Election komishanka
Amiirka wataa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddoy waa inaga

Ulaha Koodhkiyo
Abuukaatuhu
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Taliska askartiyo
Abbaanduuluhu
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Taliska askartiyo
Abbaanduuluhu
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Sarkaalka Alyee
Bilayska amraa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Gudida la irkaday
Abwaanka wataa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Mujaahid ifiyo
Shahiid aaakhiro
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Ninkii aqlilee
Wanaag arkayaa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Estii dirirtiyo
Afmiinshaaradu
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Nabadda uudkiyo
Dalkeena abyoon
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Kuwii alkumee
Aasaaska u dhigay
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Haddana oloshee
Dadkii eersaday
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Kuwaa ordayee
Ishaafalatada
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Adduun oo idil
Ka soo oriyee
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Abtirsiimada
Awood ku rabaa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Anshaxa kulmiyiyo
Isaaqiyadii
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Raggii asalkii
Meeshay ordayaan
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa inaga

Ninkaan oggolayn
Irdhoonaayaa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa iyaga

Dhankaa UCID iyo
Aaka aakaha
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa iyaga

Amaa UDUB iyo
Allaale wataa
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa iyaga

Ha u iishoo
il ha moodee
Eddooy waa ayo?

Eddooy waa iyaga

Aloola maryood
Allow u gargaar
Eddooy waa ayo?
Eddooy Aamiin.
© 2007 Bashir Goth

Friday, August 03, 2007

Turk Leaders Religious, but Economy Strong
By Bashir Goth
The minute the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was declared, Turkey's stock market jumped to a record high. The local business community welcomed the AKP victory as a choice of stability and continued economic prosperity over instability and chaos, while foreign investors hailed the AKP government's handling of the economy even before the elections were held.

With 7% average economic growth over the last five years, the Turkish people voted with their pockets and for the continuity of the economic and social stability of the country. Who cares whether the prime minister's wife wears a headscarf, when you know you can get a good job, send your children to a good school, and have the government assurance that it will not interfere in your personal life regarding such issues as what your daughter or son wears at the beach or on the street, or whether you desire to spend your night in the mosque or the bar.

I was watching the AKP rallies during the elections and I saw women wearing the latest Western fashion trends and hairstyles and youths of all walks of life all supporting the Islamist-rooted AKP. After living almost five years under the AKP rule, these people would have kicked out Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party if they had failed on the economic front, infringed in any way upon people's personal rights or stifled freedom of speech. But the fact voters returned them to power with an overwhelming majority speaks louder and clearer than whatever humbug uninformed political pundits breathe into the unassuming media.

Secularism is enshrined in the Turkish constitution and the AKP government has proven its respect for it day after day over the last four and half years they were in power. Even amid the euphoria of his victory, Erdogan was quick to reassure the Turkish people that his government would safeguard and respect the country's principles and the rich diversity of its people.

With his previous record right before our eyes, there is no reason to assume that Mr. Erdogan will not live up to his promise. To suspect the AKP of having a hidden Islamic agenda because its leaders observe Islamic rituals or their wives wear headscarves is like inviting Muslims to look with suspicion at Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union because it carries the word Christian in its name. In fact one may argue that the AKP are ostensibly less rigid in their religiosity than George W. Bush. I don’t recall anytime they claimed God to be on their side.

The election victory of AKP is a gain for secularism because liberal views and personal freedoms cannot thrive without economic prosperity, and the AKP brought economic boom to Turkey and promises more. It is again that economic growth that will stem the primary sources of social ills and deprive extremism of one of its favorite breeding grounds.

Embracing the AKP, therefore, and allowing Turkey to join the EU will not only be a visionary step forward and an initiative for reconciliation with the Muslim world, but it will also deal a fatal blow to the fallacy of the clash of civilizations and expose the Islamists' hollow argument that the West is against Islam as a religion. To shun Turkey's AKP will not only be to repeat the bitter experiment of Algeria, but it will make the West-Islam gulf irreparable.Read more in Washington Post
Faisal Waraabe got it right
By Bashir Goth
As Somaliland slides towards tribal fragmentation in the run up to the presidential elections to be held early 2008, there is only one politician who has been correctly reading the signs of the impending doom and warning people against falling into the abyss.

Contrary to his brand rhetorical gaffes, Faisal Ali Waraabe has lately been using his words with caution and precision. At a time when the ruling UDUB and the major opposition Kulmiye parties have descended to their lowest by soliciting support through clan loyalties, Faisal decided to campaign on a national platform and rightly warned against the tribalization of Somaliland politics.

He is the only opposition politician who rejected to capitalize on the current political imbroglio resulting from the arrest of the leaders of “Qaran party”. While most of the opposition leaders in Kulmiye and even MPs from Faisal’s UCID party, including the Speaker of the Lower House, decided to put the cart before the horse, Faisal has again rightly behaved like a responsible and law abiding politician. He pointed out that it was the government’s duty to safeguard the country’s constitution and ensure that all citizens abide by its provisions. He also demanded that the arrested politicians be brought to court without any delay.

Measuring his moves wisely and carefully, he refused to go with the herd mentality of blanket condemnation of every action the government takes.

No one denies that the government has been committing blunder after blunder lately, particularly in its repeated and unwarranted detention of journalists. We all demand that the government should not infringe on citizens’ personal rights and stifle people’s freedom of expression, but it should also be known that as Faisal has rightly pointed out that the government is responsible for the country’s peace and stability. And with that comes obligations to make unpopular decisions and take tough actions on certain occasions.

The arrest of the “Qaran Party” leaders, as unpopular as it may seem to be, comes within the government’s legitimate jurisdiction to deal with situations it deems harmful to the stability, peace and security of the nation.

Regardless of the constitutional debate on the legitimacy of founding a political party other than the existing ones, it is the ABC of democratic systems that any person or group of persons who want to form a political grouping should go through legal registration and licensing procedures. Any attempt to create any form of political organization without going through the proper channels is not only an upfront to the constitution but reeks of sheer arrogance and selfish political opportunism.

It is also obvious from the government’s statements that the leaders of the “Qaran party” were not arrested for expressing their opinions as ordinary citizens per se, but they have been arrested for founding an illegal political party without going through the proper procedures. All that we should demand from the government now is to prove its accusation in a court of law and as soon as possible. It is there and then where the legality of the government’s action should be decided and not through tribal sentiments and emotional outbursts.

Faisal Ali Waraabe is therefore one politician who took the moral high ground by campaigning on national agenda rather than on tribal arrogance, while other big names have fallen flat by invoking old clichés, opening old wounds and trying to bask in retired slogans.

Well, we may argue that we don’t have the best government on earth, but we have to also admit that no government will be good enough for us unless we become law-abiding citizens. For as long as clan loyalties stay above the law, as long as we view the man in the presidency as a tribal chief rather than an elected leader, as long as we support politicians on the color of their tribal flags and not on their national agenda, then we have to know that we cannot escape ending up as another Somalia. The choice is ours and at least we have one political leader who can say: “I told ya so.” Faisal Waraabe has got it right and it is worth listening to him before it is too late. Read more in Awdalnews

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Don't Treat Russia like a Third World Country
By Bashir Goth
Answering this question led me to consider several other questions: "Why does the West treat Russia like a Third World country? Why, whenever Russia cooperates in one area, does the West demand an arm and a leg in others?" Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has tried to ingratiate itself with the West, sometimes at the expense of its own pride, sovereignty and national interests. It went along with the West in dismantling former Yugoslavia and allowed the U.S. to deploy forces to its borders to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, although the real objective was to gain access to the Central Asian countries' oil. It was not easy for Russia to lose its traditional friends and arms markets in North Korea, Iran and Iraq, but with a bit of pragmatism and statesmanship, it let the West have its way. It has only used its UN Security Council veto power two times since 1997, against 12 times by the U.S.

Russia also didn't show more than a whimper when the West began converting countries like Ukraine, Georgia and others against Russia under the pretext of spreading democracy, without giving much thought to the long-term impact that the instability in these countries could have on the security of Russia and the whole region. Not amused by Russia's patience and cool diplomacy, the America went for the jugular by announcing their much-hyped missile defense system, with the intelligence-insulting justification of protecting the U.S. and Europe from missiles coming from the technologically handicapped countries of the Middle East. As if all these provocations were not enough, the UK now presents its outrageous request for Russia to change its constitution so that a Russian suspect can be extradited to Britain.

In the light of these developments and looking at the issue from a Third World perspective, it is not difficult to agree with Putin's accusation of Britain behaving with a colonial mentality.

"It's their mindset, not our constitution, which needs to be changed. What they are offering to us is a clear remnant of colonial thinking," Putin said.

A more precise and more convincing statement also came from Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said: "The West was celebrating its victory after the exhausting Cold War. While observing the 15-year-long anarchy under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and surrendering of all positions abroad, the West quickly got accustomed to the idea that Russia had become almost a Third World country and would remain that forever. When Russia began to strengthen its economy and statehood, the West perceived that, perhaps on a subconscious level, with panic."

Common sense says that Britain could have received more cooperation from Russia on the Alexander Litvinenko case if they had opted for soft diplomacy, friendly persuasion and mutual respect instead of resorting to media hype, diplomatic spectacles and unnecessary provocation.

It is time for the West to realize that the Russia of today is not the Russia of Boris Yeltsin's scarecrow, but a real military power with a vast economic wealth at its behest. Treating Russia, therefore, with a bit of respect and equality will not only be good for West-Russia relations but for the security and prosperity of the whole world. Read more in Washington Post.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Progress by Whose Standards?
By Bashir Goth
Any claim of progress in Iraq may prompt the unavoidable question “progress by whose standards?” The White House’s claim is clear: by the standards of an administration that sold the invasion of Iraq as a war of liberation; that claimed that Saddam was a breath away from producing weapons of mass destruction and was part of a notorious Axis of Evil; that the U.S. army would be welcomed with roses in the streets of Baghad; that democracy and freedom would ring in the Arab and Islamic world; that Al Qaeda would be defeated and America would be safer.

Now, four years after Baghdad’s fall, one can sum up the progress achieved since then in the toppling of Saddam’s famous bronze statue, the capture of Saddam Hussein in a foxhole immortalized by Paul Bremer’s famous bravado “We got him,” his trial in a kangaroo court and gruesome hanging. Saddam Hussein dominated Iraq’s post-invasion history just like his personality and name had dominated Iraq in the prewar era. His unflinching disposition at the guillotine amid the vengeful behavior of his executors even allowed some to portray him as a latter day Uthmān ibn ‘Affān, the third Caliph of Islam who was killed by a vengeful mob.

Apart from the saga of Saddam, internecine killing and mayhem are on the rise in Iraq. The entire country has fallen to the hands of Al Qaeda and other mafia gangs. The Iraqi people have become divided into sects, tribes, ruthless assassin groups and innocent, helpless and hopeless civilians who fall like flies in daily suicide bombings. The post-Saddam American-installed juntas have all failed to come out from under the cloaks of the Iranian mullahs. The Maliki government gets protection and funds from Washington but lends its ear to Tehran. Iran has become more influential and feels more comfortable in the region than America. Tehran’s power is felt in Lebanon, Palestine, even as far as Yemen. It is in this context that the Iranian Supreme Leader’s media advisor recently claimed Bahrain was an Iranian territory. Call it a ruse or bait to keep America on the hook if you wish, but it sounds a bell in the Gulf region, particularly as Iran occupies three islands belonging to the United Arab Emirates.

Against this backdrop, one finds the rejection of the U.S. troop withdrawal proposal by the U.S. Congress as a bitter but inevitable pill to swallow. Hard as one may find it to associate himself with the policies of the White House, it seems this is the only right thing to do at present.

As the saying goes, two wrongs do not make a right. Iraq’s invasion was wrong but it is also wrong that America turn its back on the Frankenstein it has created. The U.S. Congress and the American people may want to punish the Bush administration for committing such a historical and strategic blunder -- but not at the expense of Iraq whose whole existence is under threat, and surely not at the expense of the peace and security of the whole region from which America gets its oil. Read More in Newsweek/Washington Post

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Djibouti: plying smoothly in troubled waters
By Bashir Goth, Khaleej Times, 17 July 2007=
THE Horn of African Republic of Djibouti has celebrated its 30th independence anniversary bearing the hallmarks of becoming the Dubai of East Africa. But this former French colony, perched on the Gulf of Aden at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, did not show any potential for future development when it gained its independence from France on 27 June 1977.


Not only did it sit on a harsh terrain of stony desert, with scattered plateaus and languished under torrid and dry climate, but it was also the bone of contention between two neighbouring, socialist, and belligerent regimes. On the southeast border Somalia under General Mohammed Siyad Barre was poised to bring Djibouti back to the Somali fold to fulfill its historical dream of uniting all Somali ethnic people in the Horn of Africa under one national flag, while Ethiopia on the west and south under Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was ready to go to war over Djibouti to prevent its historical rival from grabbing its marine gateway.

Coming under France’s suzerainty in 1884 when European colonial powers divided the Somali peninsula among British, Italian and French domination areas, the people of Djitouti had shared the dream of unity with their fellow Somalis in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti’s economy, however, heavily relied on its populous neighbour Ethiopia since the Ethio-Djibouti railway became operational in 1901. Faced with the dilemma of either ditching his people’s nationalistic sentiment of uniting with Somalia or risking his country becoming a battleground, Djibouti’s Independence leader and first President Hassan Gouled Aptidon wisely steered his tiny new republic away from danger by declaring it as a sovereign state and allowing the French garrison to continue its presence in the territory for protection.

The new nation, however, didn’t have enough respite as the old demons came haunting her when Somalia and Ethiopia clashed over their old territorial dispute on the Somali region of Ethiopia, popularly known as the Ogaden. The railway was blown up and thousands of refugees sought resort in Djibouti, thus putting the country’s meager resources under intolerable strain. With the port, Djibouti’s sole revenue provider, suffering heavily from the war, the country had to survive by French and international aid. And with the Eritrean liberation struggle against Ethiopia at its height, Djibouti’s borders were all in flames at one time. It needed more than a miracle to survive. Read More in Khaleej Times.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Men Die for Other Men, Not for God
By Bashir Goth
Hard as it may seem, I can understand people rejecting change and determined to continue to live as the Prophet lived in the 14th century. But what I cannot understand is how they are able to twist the words and actions of the Prophet, in whom they so vehemently believe, and commit such inhuman crimes in his name.

There are in fact a number of Prophet Mohammad’s sayings and Quranic verses that glorify martyrdom. But as the commander-in-chief of the Muslim army, the Prophet may have encouraged martyrdom in the battlefield to raise the morale of his soldiers. With the absence of military rank, medals and all modern methods of honoring soldiers, and with his role as spiritual leader of his followers, Mohammad could only promise mystical rewards. Martyrdom was, therefore, limited to the battleground; the Prophet promised heavenly paradise to those who fell during battle. The holy Quran, meanwhile, admonishes Muslims not to count those killed fighting for Allah: “And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision,” says a verse 169 of Aal-Imraan chapter.

Despite this, it is indeed neither Prophet Mohammad nor the holy Quran that is to blame for today’s mayhem, simply because any rational human being would place these canonical texts in their historical perspective and realize that they applied to a different time, different world and different circumstances.

I am unaware of any occasion or record in which the Prophet or even the holy Quran sanctioned people to kill innocent children, women, elderly and non-combatant civilians in their homes, work places, mosques and schools. It is unfortunate that Islam -- which opened the minds of people to science and research, liberated man from the worship of rocks and sculptures, challenged human beings to think and reflect, which started its message with a veneration of the written word -- has been ossified into a dogma of death and ignorance. Read More in Washington Post.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Muslims Also Feel Unsafe, But Go AWOL
By Bashir Goth
Anger, frustration and helplessness; this is the feeling of the majority of sound-minded Muslims and Arabs I spoke to over the last few days. With people in the Middle East starting their summer vacations, many of them dread the harassment, humiliation and abuse waiting for them in Western airports. If it is difficult for the West to answer the recurring question of “Why do they hate us?” it is even more difficult for the majority of Muslims to find an answer as to why these terrorists decide to act in their name. There is indeed something rotten in the Muslim world, but the tragedy is that no one wants to point a finger at the source of the evil. They rather bury their heads in the sand and let the West do the dirty work and live with the consequences.

It looks as if the Arabs are used to the West fighting on their behalf all the time. One has to remember that it was the West that liberated the Arabs from the Ottoman Empire when Hitler was dinning with their leaders, the West that defended their oil fields and their kingdoms against communism when most of the Arab and Muslim countries were sleeping with the Soviet Union, the West that created and installed most of the Arab states, the West that stopped Israel and its allies from taking the Suez Canal when Nasser of Egypt nationalized it, the West that found and struck Arab oil, the West that defeated the Red Army in Afghanistan, the West that liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, the West that rescued Bosnian Muslims from annihilation, the West that removed Saddam Hussein, a tyrant who killed thousands of his people and was a perpetual source of threat to the peaceful oil producing Arab countries, the West that gave education, a respectful source of income, citizenship and dignity to millions of Arabs and Muslims who would have otherwise lived in poverty and ignorance or languished in the jails of Arab dictators.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the Arabs see the current war as a war between the West and Al Qaeda. Why should they bother to resist Al Qaeda when the West can fight on their behalf? It is not that they see bombings taking place in far away places such as New York, London, Madrid and elsewhere; nor it is a matter of parasitism. The terrorists also hit Arab and Islamic capitals everyday. I can see the breaking news as I write this piece that a suicide bomber killed foreign tourists and Yemenis in the ancient Yemeni city of Mareb. Yes, these people do not discriminate between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. They kill their fellow Muslims everyday in mosques. Their sole mission is to spread as much fear as they can. But it is easy to blame their actions on the West. It was the West that always defended the Arabs, so why should they worry now?

But imagine what will happen if the West withdraws all its troops and aircraft carriers from the Arab and Muslim world, if the U.S. troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, if America closes its bases in the oil rich Gulf countries? It will be Al Qaeda that will take over, and guess what? The new Al Qaeda-installed regimes would still need to sell oil to the West because they cannot survive without Western money, Western technology, Western arms, Western medicine, Western goods and Western education. So who will be the loser? The answer is anyone’s guess.

So the answer to the question is yes, Arabs and Muslims everywhere feel unsafe when Islamists bomb Western capitals, but they just go AWOL and pass the buck to the West. It may be time, therefore, that the West rethinks its strategy of fighting on behalf of the Muslim world and let the Muslims face their demons by themselves.Read more at Newsweek/Washington Post.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Marshall Plan for Palestine
By Bashir Goth

In a previous piece I wondered what deal Tony Blair made with George Bush to be so subservient to him despite his seemingly superior intelligence. With his new position, I think the answer has come more quickly than I expected. Other than lucrative retirement benefits and keeping him in the limelight alongside his master, I don’t see what Blair can achieve as minutes-taker when he wasn’t able to make any impact on Middle East issues as an elected leader of a sovereign state with a UN Security Council veto power.

But as trusted secretaries are known to wield enough influence over their bosses, one may hope that Blair will at least give some hard advice to Bush. One important idea could be to push for a Marshall Plan for the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen). Given the grinding poverty and harsh economic realities in which the Palestinian people live, the Quartet’s initiatives will not find receptive ears unless the Palestinian people see a real change in their livelihood. Massive economic assistance can start projects, generate employment, win the trust of people and turn them into stakeholders in peace initiatives.

The fact of the matter is that the ongoing struggle between Hamas and Fatah groups is basically a conflict over resources. It is through improving the people’s lives with funds reaching them from Iran and Islamic charities that Hamas, Hezbollah and many other radical groups in the Islamic world have gained the hearts and minds of the downtrodden masses. It is therefore only by using massive, transparent and well-planned economic assistance that the Western-supported government of Abu Mazen can erode Hamas’s grassroots support in Gaza and elsewhere.

Blair should also do his utmost to convince Israel to exercise the maximum degree of self-restraint against any provocation by Hamas and other radical groups. As Hamas is now politically isolated and its influence confined to the Gaza Strip without any hope of foreign funds reaching it from its conventional allies, the last thing that Israel’s and Abu Mazen’s governments need is to see more Palestinian people killed in Gaza by Israeli bombs. This will galvanize the Palestinian people behind Hamas and will make Abu Mazen’s government appear to act as Israeli stooges.

In order to give the Quartet more teeth and credibility, it may also be wise to enlarge its membership by bring in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and one or two of the most influential Jewish lobbies in the U.S. This would not only secure much needed financial backing for any future peace initiative, but would also strengthen the group’s influence over Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Read more in Newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not the First Accused of Blasphemy
By Bashir Goth
Britain knighted Salman Rushdie like many British citizens before him, honored for their service to Britain. To honor Rushdie as a writer for his contribution to literature is a commendable initiative. This is purely a British affair and has nothing to do with any other people or creed.

To protest against what the UK does or doesn’t do for its own citizens is a flagrant interference in its internal affairs. It is like protesting against granting British citizenship to Rushdie, or to any other individual for that matter. Salman Rushdie is considered to be one of the most illustrious and creative writers of the late 20th century. The fact that some people loathe him for insulting their sentiments or faith is beside the point. Rushdie is not the first and will definitely not be the last writer with a Muslim name to be accused of blasphemy.

The blasphemy sword of Islam has been hanging over Muslim writers, thinkers and poets since the dawn of Islam when the first fatwa was issued against the poet Ka’b bin Zuhair who was accused of insulting the Prophet of Islam in some of his poems. Zuhair had to convert to Islam and beg the Prophet for forgiveness in his famous poem titled “The Cloak” -- as the narrative says, Mohammad removed his own cloak and placed it over the shoulders of Ka’b as a sign of pardon. Ka’b’s poem starts with the following telling lines: “I have been informed that the messenger of Allah has warned me, yet pardon from the messenger of Allah is hoped.”

Mansur bin Hussein Al Hallaj, the 8th century mystic and thinker, was executed for proclaiming “Ana Al Haq” (“I am the truth”). The Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfuz ran afoul of Islamic close-mindedness with his novel Awlad Haratina (Children of Gebelawi). He survived an assassination attempt in 1994 by an angry extremist assassin. His Nobel Prize was also seen as a reward for his betrayal of Islam. Even Egypt’s man of letters par excellence Taha Hussein was blasted for his critical work on pre-Islamic poetry at the turn of the 20th century. Others who came under the hammer included Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasrin, Egyptian Nasr Abu Zaid among others.

The tragedy that all these writers share is that almost none of the Muslim mobs protesting against their works and burning their effigies read their works. Angry demonstrations pour out of mosques after hearing sermons by equally ignorant preachers who act on hearsay.

It is baffling to see Muslims making a fuss about books and cartoons or even company logos -- one Saudi scholar once accused the 7 Up soft drink company of blasphemy simply because in his strange thinking the 7 UP logo closely resembled the word “Allah” when seen from the rear. yet none of them flinches a muscle when some of Islam’s holiest mosques are blown up in Iraq by fellow Muslims, when Muslim worshippers are mowed down in a hail of bullets in mosques in Pakistan and Palestine by their Muslim brethren and when innocent Muslim women and children are slaughtered by suicide bombers of their kith and kin in the streets of Baghdad, Gaza, Karachi, Kabul, Mogadishu and elsewhere.

It is beyond my comprehension indeed to see how anyone can compare Bin Laden, a murderer who brought misery and shame to the whole nation of Islam, to Rushdie, a man of letters who uses his God-given talent of thinking to entertain and educate his fellow humankind. Isn’t it the holy Quran that always addresses its message to those “who think… who contemplate… who ponder… who use their intellect and reason”? Didn’t the revelation of the holy Quran start with the word “Read” and told us that it was God who had taught man writing by the pen and taught him that which he knew not. So why is Rushdie ostracized for using that creative faculty which the majority of Muslims fear to exercise?

By honoring Rushdie, Britain has demonstrated the great value it places on human intellect in line with the true teachings of Islam, while by honoring Bin Laden, the Pakistani “scholars” have not only declared beyond a doubt their denial of the sole message of Islam, which means peace, but also their rejection of all human decency and rationale. Read more in Newsweek/Washington Post

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Self-Righteous Obsession Dehumanizes
By Bashir Goth
The tragedy of Alan Johnston and many other Western journalists before him who were either kidnapped or slaughtered in cold blood is not about neutrality or journalistic objectivity; it is about a people living in religious obsession losing their minds. The Muslim world is tangled in benighted hatred of the West. Even the dividing line between extremism and moderateness is blurring by the day.

It is a world consumed by extreme egoism and self-righteousness. People who see themselves as speaking on behalf of God are difficult to deal with. These are people who assume that their religion is the right one, their causes the only just causes, their dead the only martyrs and that no matter how much they kill, maim and slaughter each other, it is only when a Western bullet hits one of their own that all the world’s injustice is revealed. It is a world where children see suicide bombers as their best role models, where mothers celebrate when their sons and daughters take their own lives and the lives of other innocent civilians enjoying quality time with their loved ones in coffee shops and nightclubs.

It is also absurd to blame these actions on occupation or Western intervention because occupation and Western intervention in other parts of the world have not bred such hatred for humanity. The world didn’t witness suicide bombings in South Africa during the apartheid era, nor were Western journalists kidnapped or slaughtered in the former Yugoslavia during the American and NATO intervention in early 1990s.

It is humanly impossible to talk about neutrality and objective reporting in a world wallowing in self-pity and living with an obsessive feeling of victimization, where the only objective report they can relate to is to bloat their grievances and glorify their violence. I can’t see self-respecting Western journalists debasing themselves to describe suicide bombers as martyrs and repeating it ad nauseam in their news bulletins like Al Jazeera. And as long as the Muslim people view every Westerner as a Jew and every Jew as a legitimate target for hatred and bigotry, Western journalists have no option but to carry on the “white man’s burden” in the positive sense of the statement and continue with their noble mission, preparing to sacrifice the lives of more fearless journalists such as Daniel Pearl and Martin Adler and the freedom of more devoted reporters like Alan Johnston. Read More in Newsweek/WashingtonPost

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Will the Awdal Convention 2007 match Haji Nur’s feat ?
By Bashir Goth
A Somali proverb says: “Meel hoo u baahan hadal wax kama taro”, roughly meaning (Talking will not satisfy where giving is needed.) Somalis are experts in talking; they can talk from here to eternity with beautiful rhetoric, marshalling long-winded rhapsodies from the fathomless wisdom of the poetic Somali language. They try to outdo each other, speaker after speaker. The speakers’ list gets longer and longer and topics on the agenda inflate into a mighty balloon. But just like balloons are popped at the end of a rapturous party, decisions made in Somali gatherings fly into thin air as soon as the participants leave the hall. No follow up mechanism is ever put in place, no commitments survive and no pledges materialize into tangible reality.

If history can be any a guide, one may have a reason to ask why the Awdal Convention 2007 being held in Minneapolis will be any different? Our hope is that it should be, but experience dampens our wishes. The overloaded Agenda of the convention of the North American communities hailing from the Awdal region of Somaliland already raises doubts. It builds expectations that are hard to meet. Topics from education, community development, social services, capacity building, natural resources, public health, trade, unemployment etc. This is an ambitious and unrealistic plan that far exceeds both the capacity and the circumstances of the delegates. The topics are just carbon copied from similar conventions held by well established, and experienced organizations and institutionalized communities that have a history of organizational and developmental achievements.

This doesn’t mean that the Awdal region doesn’t need development and assistance in all these areas. No, it does, but people need to measure their ambition against their capacity. As another Somali adage says: “Faras aanad fuulmadiisa aqoon, daba dillaac baa laga qaada”(if you don’t know how to ride a horse, you end up with a bruised butt.) Read More in Awdalnews Network.
Better Feral Beasts than Ignoble Lackeys
By Bashir Goth
Look who’s talking about sensationalism. Someone should remind Tony Blair that it was not the media but his government that “sexed up” intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- famously known as the September Dossier -- amplifying lie after lie to stir up support for a war against the non-existent danger of Saddam Hussein’s fatal weapons.

It was your government, Mr. Blair, not the media, who dropped the fraud investigation into the infamous arms deal between UK and Saudi Arabia, giving the media raw material for speculation about your share of the hefty kickbacks. Call it sensationalism if you like.

It was you Mr. Blair who quivered and appeared spineless and at a loss for words when standing beside George Bush on the White House lawn, trying to defend the indefensible.

As P.J. O'Rourke once said, “We journalists don't have to step on roaches. All we have to do is turn on the kitchen light and watch the critters scurry.” It was therefore your duty, Mr. Blair, to keep your kitchen clean instead of blaming the media for turning on the light.

The duty of the media is to speak up when the emperor is naked, when politicians decide to act like invisible creatures and insult people’s intelligence. And if exposing the truth makes the journalists “feral beasts” so be it sir. I am sure they would rather be “feral beasts” than ignoble lackeys.

May I pester you with more “sensational” questions, question that you may like to stay as invisible as the emperor’s new clothes: How much have you been paid, what kind of reward have you been promised, what kind of secret deal have you made with Bush and the American oil barons to ridicule yourself and the mighty history of Great Britain in reducing yourself to become Bush's poodle? Oops! Too sensational? Read More in Newsweek/Washington Post/PostGlobal.
Only Human to Believe Good Intentions
By Bashir Goth

We live in a world where celebrities are placed on a high pedestal; where glamour replaces saintliness; a world where the mass media projects Hollywood stars as the icons of perfection; where children around the world dream of becoming tomorrow’s Oprahs and Barrymores more than Nobel prize winners advancing human knowledge, even more than becoming humble, compassionate human beings like Mother Teresa.

We live in a world where renowned environmental experts shy away from expressing their opinions before the empty rhetoric of glitzy names, where seasoned book reviewers leave the field for talk show stardom to recommend their taste in books to a starry-eyed populace. In a world where artificial beauty can evoke more compassion than the hollow temples of famished children, where the plight of the poor can satiate the celebrity’s greed for more media glitz, where the tiptoeing sound of stiletto shoes gains more attention than the cries of mothers over the emancipated bodies of their malnourished babies, where an actress’s hairdo speaks louder than the hard scientific facts and figures of suffering compiled by humanitarian workers on the ground -- one can understand the need of UN organizations to use the services of Hollywood stars.

Therefore, if efforts of stars like Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt can feed the hungry, provide medicine to the sick and send children to schools, why not take advantage of their names and voices. If the dedication of George Clooney can highlight the cause of the Darfur people, why not grab it? If rock stars such as Bob Geldof and Bono can put the issues of Africa on the agenda of the G-8 leaders, why not thank them?

When Barrymore admits that the stories she has heard from Kenyan children who yearned for one meal a day, pencils and paper, have altered her life and humbled her to the core, it is only human to believe her. And if her efforts and those of other celebrities can give promise to poor African and Asian mothers, why deny them? In my opinion, considering the world we live in today, any action carried out with good intention and for good cause should be embraced and praised. Read More in Newsweek/Washington Post/PostGlobal.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Somailand's Hedgehog Attitude Will Prevail
By Bashir Goth
Yes, it has been 16 long, arduous and lonely years since we reclaimed our sovereignty on May 18, 1991. Yes, the recognition that we have aspired to achieve may seem as distant as ever. Yes, detractors have called us and still call us all kinds of names. Yes, enemies who are hell bent on breaking our will and sowing discord among our people have used all kinds of deceptive tactics and hired spin-doctors to discredit our cause. Yes, the world refuses to look at our achievements, our democracy and the oasis of peace we have created. Yes, weasel-hearted African leaders have been warned that recognizing Somaliland would open the gates of hell and monsters would emerge in scores from their scandal ridden closets. Yes, our people suffer due to the absence of diplomatic relations, international credit lines and regular trade agreements. Yes, some of our politicians, some of our opportunists, some of the greedy among us, some of our weaklings and some of the wishy-washy individuals have been trying to weaken our morale.

But, against all these odds, as people of Somaliland, we have only one thing in mind; that all roads lead to recognition. From day one, we have decided that there is no rollback, no reverse gears and most importantly no free ride to our coveted goal of gaining our sovereignty, building our country and gaining recognition. We have been watching other countries with less democracy, less peace and less ethnic cohesion gaining sovereignty and recognition. We have seen Bosnia, Montenegro, East Timor; all former Soviet Republics embraced and accepted by the international community. We now watch Kosovo and Western Sahara inching towards independence. Somalilanders know that we neither have the political clout nor the alliance of the willing to support our cause. We neither have oil to satiate Western hunger for fuel nor the correct creed to claim evangelical brotherhood.

However, like the hedgehog we know one big thing; that our determination, our strong will, our resilience and our enormous belief in the righteousness of our cause will bear fruit no matter how long we wait for it and no matter how much we suffer on the way. We have proven it in the past and we can continue to prove that we have the resolve and the persistence it needs to stay the course. No one can detract us, no one can pigeonhole us, and no one can sway us from our goal.

Despite the world’s indifference, our people have worked hard over the last 16 years. We held democratic local, parliamentary and presidential elections, we created a fabulous free press, we held terrorism at bay, we built our ruined homes, we established universities and erected some factories with our meager resources and remittances from our sons and daughters scattered all over the world. And with or without recognition we intend to continue our march. Our future plan is to develop our roads, our ports and airports, and our health and education systems. Let the Africans whine and whimper over opening Pandora boxes, let the Americans and Europeans indulge in their double standard business of lobbying independence for places like Kosovo and denying the same to Somaliland, let the Arabs wallow in their monkey business and Orwellian newspeak of confusion and self pity, Somaliland has no time to waste. Yes, we may be traveling alone but “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, And we have promises to keep, And miles to go before we reap” with full apology to Robert Frost.

And reaping we did. As have gained friends along the way. We owe ample gratitude to a few courageous countries that judged us by our achievements and extended a hand of friendship to us. They shook our hands when all have deserted us; they opened representative offices for us when all have avoided us. We owe enormous gratitude to South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Belgium and the UK. Their legacy will be written in gold in the annals of our history.

PostGlobal panelist Bashir Goth is editor of Awdal News Network. This article appears on the Awdal News website. Washington Post.Newsweek/Postglobal
Gulf: Iran's the Enemy, America's OK
By Bashir Goth
It is human nature for disadvantaged people to hate anybody with absolute power or unlimited wealth. America has both absolute power and unlimited wealth. It may, however, be the U.S.’s foreign policy and muscle flexing which attract the wrath, rather than its wealth or power per se.

In the Arab world, Palestine is the predominant issue that has shaped the Arab view of the outside world. America was therefore always painted as the enemy due to its enduring support for the state of Israel. Arab nationalists supported by the religious establishment never failed to use every opportunity to accuse America of being the source of everything wrong with the Arab world, from Israel’s occupation of Palestine to Hollywood’s invasion of Arab culture, even the pathetic state of education in Arab schools.

Traditionally it is from the mosque’s pulpit that most of the public agitation against America originates. Earlier it was the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and later the ayatollahs of Iran who painted America as the Great Satan. The latest developments in Afghanistan and Iraq have just added fuel to fire.

Despite this negative image, America always maintained good friends in the Arab world with the petrodollar Gulf countries, as well as Egypt and Jordan acting as custodians of the Arab-American friendship. This is why Islamic extremists led by Al Qaeda view the leaders of these countries as traitors of the Arab and Islamic cause.

Regardless of the rhetoric in the media, the Arab political landscape has taken a seismic shift since 9/11 and the emergence of Al Qaeda. A new Arab powerhouse led by the house of Saud and the other wealthy Gulf countries, traditional friends of America, have taken the reins of regional leadership. The new, young and educated leaders of these countries, which rely on America for their prosperity and protection, have learned to masterfully play the global political game. It is through them and the thousands of youth graduating from American affiliated universities, plus the overwhelming Hollywood influence and the power of the Internet in the Gulf countries that have watered down the impulsive traditional animosity. The ugly fratricide taking place in Iraq and the senseless factional fighting in Palestine have also shown the bankruptcy of the nationalist-Islamist philosophy that claims America as the cause of all evil in the region. It is indeed Iran, with its growing influence and ambitious nuclear programs, rather than America that is viewed as the enemy by Arab Gulf countries.

It is therefore safe to say that with a little more foresight, more sensitive and humanistic foreign policy and less saber rattling, America is guaranteed a long-lasting friendship in the Arab world. Newsweek.Washington Post/Postglobal

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In on a Stallion, Out with Tail between Legs
BY BASHIR GOTH
Tony Blair came into power like a hero on a galloping stallion, young and zealous to change the Labour Party and the world. He was a man shedding his youthful socialist ideals and coming to grips with Thatcherite economic realities. He clicked with his equally media savvy and more politically suave counterpart in the White House, Bill Clinton.

Riding on the wave of New Labour, Blair transformed the UK into one of the most robust economies in Europe, and struck a partnership with Clinton in following the Third Way philosophy. He embraced globalization with full faith and ushered in the 21st century with grand dreams, and has through his charisma won the 2012 Olympic Games to be hosted in London.

In foreign policy, Tony Blair showed a statesman’s leadership in the Kosovo crisis. He also showed his political mettle and tenacity in Africa by committing British troops to end the civil war in Sierra Leone and by his relentless campaign to end Africa’s poverty.Read more in Newsweek.washingtonpost/Postglobal.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Elected Islamists Can Be Tamed
BY BASHIR GOTH

For most of the Arab and Islamic world, the Bush administration’s boycott of the Palestinian Hamas-led government stands as the epitome of hypocrisy. America pushed for democracy in the Middle East, and in Palestine that’s what it got. But contrary to what it envisioned, elections across the region have brought Islamists to power.

It’s no secret that democratic elections sometimes bring out odd bedfellows, and the Islamists are undesirable bedfellows to many. It is, however, in the best interest of America and the West -- and indeed for the good of the peace in the Islamic world -- to accept Islamists when they come to power through the ballot box. The secret should be to tame them, not to shun them.

The West committed the original sin in Algeria when the Algerian military denied election victory to the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which had won an overwhelming majority of 231 seats out of the 430. Instead of condemning the military’s obstruction of the democratic process, the West applauded it. It was this miscalculated step that reinforced the Islamists’ claim that the West is against Islam. It was here that the clash of civilizations started long before Samuel P. Huntington wrote his ominous article of the same title in Foreign Affairs in 1993.
Read More in Newsweek.WashingtonPost/PostGlobal.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Nostalgia for Swords and Heroes
BY Bashir Goth

I am not a fan of hereditary rule. I would rather live in a place where every child can dream of being able to reach the highest position of power. A place where even immigrants and children of immigrant parents such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy can find an open field to compete and achieve their goals through ambition, merit and hard work and not through the mere chance of being born into it.

Having said that, I can understand why the British people should hold on to their queen. I once asked a British friend whether the British would ever get rid of the royalty. “I can’t imagine Britain without the queen,” was his reply. Later, I realized that he was not alone in his nostalgic attachment to the British crown. Even citizens of former British colonies felt the same way about the British royalty. I saw elderly men of my own country, Somaliland, a former British colony, proudly adorning swords, medals and other royal mementoes awarded to them during British rule. Even today the surviving elders still hold dearly their royal memorabilia and flash them around with pride on special occasions. Despite the agony of colonialism, people who lived under the British crown saw the queen as being beyond reproach. They attributed the evils of colonialism to anyone but the queen.

The British people also have more reason to have faith in the queen. Apart from being apolitical, the queen stands out as a noble and divine person; a mother to all people at all times. She has been a rallying point, a unifying force and an emotional anchor at times of national disasters for more than 50 years.

It is also quite palatable why the queen should be revered now more than ever. The world at large is bereft of national leaders with the status of tall historical figures such as Roosevelt, Kennedy, Churchill and De Gaulle. Political dwarfs who do not meet people’s basic expectations of national leaders dominate our modern era. It is no wonder, therefore, that the queen is set on a pedestal by people in search of heroes. She symbolizes the last badge of Britishness for a nation in identity crisis due to globalization and mass migration. She also stands as the last memory of good times for millions of Africans living in Commonwealth countries that haven’t reaped but misery from their independence. They recall their old days under the British crown with sweet memories.

It is unbecoming, however, to compare the situation of the British queen to the unconstitutional despotic dynasties emerging in the Arab world where, for example, former military dictators anoint their sons as heirs under the guise of bogus democracies. The British monarchy is in a class of its own; it draws its strength and glory from the long and checkered history of the British Empire -- although one might question its survival beyond Queen Elizabeth II.
MORE

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Somali untouchables
By Bashir Goth, 24 April 2007


IF YOU think that Dalits (untouchables) exist only in India think again. We have them in Somalia. But what makes the situation of ours even worse is that unlike India where people belong to different races, languages and colours; Somalia is the most homogenous country in Africa with people belonging to a single race and sharing a common language, a common religion and a common skin complexion.


To find a dehumanised group of people in a third world country may look normal, despite its gravity, but the real tragedy is when international human rights organisations ignore the plight of such people.

One such blunder that went unnoticed appeared in the March 2007 report of the Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which placed Somalia above Iraq as the world’s most dangerous country for minority groups. For anyone familiar with Somalia, this assessment will conjure up images of clans who suffered for centuries from sub-human treatment. We Somalis know them; UN organisations on the ground know them and anyone with Internet access will have no difficulty to find them.

Amazingly, however, the MRG, which brags in its website of listening to minorities and indigenous peoples to avoid prescriptive and patronising approaches, and having some 130 partners in some 60 countries, has not only failed to find them but has shockingly confiscated their only right of being a minority and adorned it to their tormentors.

The MRG described the Somali clans of Darood, Hawiye and Issaq as minorities who were under threat. These three clans are the most numerous, most dominant and most powerful clans of the Somali race, but by an absurd twist of fate they have become the most threatened minorities in the books of the imminent MRG, thus negating the true minorities such as the Gabooye, Midgaan, the Bantus, the Xamar Cad and others.

Coming across this enormous gaffe, I found myself obliged to take the awesome responsibility of teaching this imminent organisation a lesson or two about the Dalits of the Somali race.

Ladies and gentlemen of the MRG, we have a clan that we Somalis do not even allow them to share the name Somali with us. We call them Sab and we call ourselves Somali; we call them Midgaan and we call ourselves Aji (blue blood). It is ironic that the word Sab has the same pronunciation as the English word Sub which among other things means below; under; beneath, subordinate; inferior, less than completely or normal. And by a strange coincidence the Somali word Sab has the same meaning and even worse. Read more in Khaleej Times

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why Ethiopia is welcome in Hargeisa, not in Mogadishu?
By Bashir Goth, April 12, 2007=


Somaliland opposition leaders seem to have lost their political campus since the Ethiopian-backed Federal Transitional Government (TFG) routed the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu.

Forgetting that Somaliland depends on Ethiopia for its bread and butter, they started criticizing it albeit indirectly for what they call the Ethiopian invasion of Mogadishu.

Kulmiye leader Ahmed Mohammed Silanyo has compared the onslaught of the Ethiopian-backed Somalia Federal Transitional Government (TFG) forces against insurgents in Mogadishu to Siyad Barre’s bombardment of Hargeisa and other Somaliland towns. Faisal Ali Waraabe, Leader of the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID), also branded Ethiopia’s military actions in Mogadishu as Xaraan (illegitimate).

Hearing these statements coming from leaders of a country that was founded on Ethiopian support and owes its geopolitical existence on Addis Ababa makes us wonder whether these men have been hit by amnesia.

One may therefore be obliged to refresh their memory by reminding them that Somaliland’s recognition goes through Addis Ababa; that it was Ethiopia which had sheltered Somaliland refugees for years and provided them arms and ammunition to fight and eventually defeat the tyrannical regime of Siyad Barre. One may remind these gentlemen that it was Ethiopian military officers and political representatives who were present and blessed the rebirth of Somaliland at the conference of Buroa on 18th May 1991 and indeed it was the first day that the Ethiopian flag was raised with reverence on Somali soil. One may remind them that it is Addis Ababa that embraces Somaliland politicians and gives them the opportunity to sell their story to African officials and foreign diplomats. It is indeed Ethiopia that trains Somaliland’s military and extends to it arms and uniforms.

One may be perplexed as to why these men are acting so emotionally about what is happening in Mogadishu as if Somaliland is still part and parcel of Somalia. Why can’t they understand that Somaliland, like Djibouti, like Kenya and indeed like the rest of the African countries should subscribe to the position of the African Union that supports the TFG and understands the reasons that led to the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia. One may find it hard to comprehend the motives of Somaliland opposition leaders who seem to just have woken up to the suffering of the residents of Mogadishu. Why we didn’t hear their loud voices, their lamentations and their condemnations of crimes against humanity over the last 16 years when ruthless warlords were committing all kinds of atrocities against the people of Mogadishu. Weren’t they singing lullabies with the warlords and deriving pleasure from the mayhem and bloodshed in Mogadishu. If this is not true then why the notorious warlords such as Muse Suudi Yalahow, Osman Atto and Bashir Rage were welcomed with red carpets in Hargeisa, while Somaliland-born figures who committed no crimes against the nation such as Jama Yare were detained and deported from their homeland.

Why this sudden feeling of brotherhood towards the Hawiye one may ask? Did Faisal Waraabe forget his famous words when he said: “ A man who is born in Addis Ababa has closer cultural ties to Somaliland than a man born in Mogadishu…” Do the sympathizers of Mogadishu insurgents really believe that the Hawiye would support Somaliland’s independence? Don’t they remember the unambiguous rejection of Ali Mahdi, Abdiqasim Salad, Mohammed Ghedi of Somaliland secession? Don’t they recall the repeated threats of the Islamic Courts of invading Hargeisa?

If we assume that these men are honestly against the Ethiopian occupation of brotherly Somali people why don’t they feel the same about the Somali people under Ethiopian occupation in the Ogaden region? Why didn’t they condemn the Somaliland authorities when they arrested members of the Ogaden people and deported them? How come the blood of the Somalis in Mogadishu is dearer to Somalilanders than the blood of Somalis in Qabridaharre, Foolxeex, Farmadow, Gurdumi, Madax-Maroodi and Karin-Bilcille?

How come they lament about the departure of Islamic Courts when they know that had the Somali Taliban clerics had their way they would have been in Hargeisa today and that Silanyo and Waraabe wouldn’t have postured themselves as presidential hopefuls in a democratic Somaliland.

It is awfully wrong and indeed regrettable to see Somaliland opposition leaders criticizing Ethiopia albeit indirectly for giving support to the TFG government when Somaliland itself thrives on the political and military support of Ethiopia. It is time that Somaliland people have to realize that they cannot have it both ways. We cannot enjoy peace and stability and deny our brothers in the south to enjoy the same because if the TFG collapses Somalia would descend into a dark age. We cannot refuse others to interfere our internal affairs and allow ourselves to meddle with the affairs of others. We cannot claim to be an independent and sovereign state and act as if we are still a region in Somalia whose fate hangs on the fate of Mogadishu. Why can’t we take cue from Djibouti, an independent Somali state that has fully exercised its sovereignty to stay neutral of what is happening in Somalia? Why can’t Somaliland people do the same and let their country’s national policies be dictated by their national interest and not by emotional outbursts. Also read in Awdalnews Network.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Even First World Pardons Their Kings
By Bashir Goth

In my opinion there is no judicial system in the entire world that is independent of political influence. Yes, hypothetically, the expression judicial independence is beautifully written into almost every constitution of the UN member states. But experience has taught us that it is politics that rules in the provision of justice.

If anything, Third World governments – including Arab states – don’t brag about the independence of their judicial systems. Everyone knows that judges may be appointed or dismissed at will by the political leadership and that “justice for all” is nothing more than an empty slogan. The good thing, at least, is that people have learned to live with it. They know that political power, not the judicial system, determines justice.

It is a well-known fact that the judicial system exists to protect the politically powerful and the rich. Members of ruling elites and their families never face trial; they are simply above the law. A political figure only faces justice when he crosses over to the wrong side of the political fence. Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai and Egyptian Ayman Nour, leader of the Al-Ghad party, are good examples. Read More in Newsweek.Washingtonpost/PostGlobal.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 22, 2007=
Editorial - Somalia is dead thanks to Hawiye savagery
By Bashir Goth

They did it again, the Hawiye clans. But this time even the gruesome loving Al Jazeera TV shied away from showing the grisly pictures of barbaric mobs dragging, beating and burning dead bodies of Somali and Ethiopian soldiers in the streets of Mogadishu. This is a horrific action that is beyond belief. We were disgusted and condemned it with the strongest words when the Hawiye did this abominable action to the American soldiers for the first time in 1993 and we abhor it and condemn it now with the strongest of words.

The Hawiye clans were fighting among themselves over the last 16 years; gangs against gangs, warlord against warlord, Islamists against warlords. The streets of Mogadishu were littered with dead bodies, but never were these bodies maimed, dragged or burned for the simple reason that they belonged to Hawiye. But anytime the Hawiye clashed with members of other Somali clans let alone foreign forces, they never failed to show their savagery and barbarism. They did it when General Aideed’s militia first entered Mogadishu at the collapse of Siyad Barre government. The Hawiye mobs killed indiscriminately every Darood person they found in Mogadishu. They raped even elderly women and they showed no mercy to the innocent, the poor and the weak. They did it again when they occupied Baidoa and turned it into the city of death. This doesn’t mean that other clans didn’t commit atrocities; they did but the Hawiye’s disrespect for the dead is unprecedented and goes against the values of the Somali people. They even had gone beyond the immediate when they exhumed the skeletons of Italian colonial era cemetery and scattered the remains around.

This latest episode, however, will give the Hawiye what they deserve. Mogadishu will no longer be the capital of Somalia because after this gruesome crime there will be Somalia at all. It does not only justify Somaliland’s cause for independence beyond doubt, but it also dashes the last hope of resuscitating former Italian Somalia as a unified country. Who can stop the Darood clans in the state of Puntland and the Digil and Mirifle in the fertile central regions to declare their secession as well? There is no reason why anyone should risk the dead bodies of their sons being desecrated in the streets of Mogadishu.

It was in the conference of Buroa in May 1991 when Somaliland decided to walk away from the Somali unity that Sheikh Abdillahi Sheikh Ali Jowar from the Awdal delegation, said his famous words:

“We have struggled many years for the reunification of the Somali people in the Horn of Africa and the result has been disaster and misery. As we reclaim our sovereignty today we have one thing to say to the Somali nation: May God Almighty bless everyone in wherever they reside; May those in Ethiopia prosper in their homeland, those in Kenya prosper in their homeland, those in Djibouti prosper in their homeland, those in Southern Somalia prosper in their homeland and we in Somaliland prosper in our homeland.”

And as the truth of this wisdom is clearer today than anytime before, we may extend Sheikh Abdillahi’s magnanimous words a little further and tell the Hawiye, “annihilate each other and rot in Mogadishu and in your Hawiyeland” for the Somali people have had enough and can no longer tolerate to let you denigrate the name Somali by your horrendous savagery. As Somalia splits into separate, independent states, you would be left with no choice but to commit your crimes in the name of Hawiye only. Awdalnews Network

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Let us privatise UN operations for better results
By Bashir Goth

THE new UN Secretary General is fortunate enough to have come at a time when the US failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have mellowed American unilateralist tendencies and pushed the world agenda back to the UN corridors.

The increasing US reliance on international consensus on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear issues as well as its turnaround on its intransigent position on Iraq provides an unprecedented opportunity to Ban Ki-Moon to be more of a General than a Secretary. But true to his low-key profile and being America’s man, the new Secretary General has already chosen to be a loyal, docile secretary than a commanding general. By making his first mission to Africa, he underlined his intention of skirting thorny issues such as Iraq , Afghanistan, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian issue and Lebanon.

Raised on the South Korean diplomacy that sees the US as a strategic partner and defender of his country’s sovereignty, Ban Ki-Moon is not a man cut out for standing up to American hegemonic policies. Kofi Annan’s occasional defiant streak such as branding the American invasion of Iraq as "illegal" was due to his African anti-colonial upbringing and his long schooling in the UN system. Annan was also lucky to have an almost unified African block, which sometimes lobbied for his support through its historical, sensitive and diversified cultural ties with the West.

The top UN job will, however, always remain a frustrating seat for any occupant due to the organisation’s intractable bureaucratic system. The Security Council with its sacrosanct veto power holding members is long over due for change. As the world has changed beyond recognition since WWII, it makes no sense that the 21st century’s economic giants such Japan, Germany and emerging India need to continue to bow down to the dictates of small countries like the UK and France. While I view the demand of allocating a veto power to each continent as ridiculous, knowing that in today’s world its economic interests and having common values that unite countries rather than sharing geographical location, I can envision the need to eliminate the veto system and replace it with a system that allocates power according to each country’s contribution to UN operations. Read More in Khaleej Times.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Editorial - Somaliland people will tolerate no more -
March 07, 2007 - 15:18
By Bashir Goth

Somaliland is often marketed as the darling of Africa; an oasis of peace and stability in a volatile region; a unique example of a homegrown democracy; and a country of resilient people crying for international justice. As true and uncontestable as this may be, it represents only one side of the coin.

The other side of the coin, often hidden from the outside world and often denied by Somalilanders themselves is an ugly one; a bitter reality that any visitor will notice at the first glance. The government is a lifeless scarecrow. Only the structure exists, but nothing functions.

Many of the ministers, parliament members and senior officials are alien scavengers who carry foreign passports. Having lived many years in Canada and Europe as jobless refugees, they found the Somaliland project as manna from heaven. They left their families in secure environments living off western taxpayers charity and flocked to Somaliland with only one objective in mind to rob and run. Riding on the wave of the people’s yearning and wish for change and equipped with few political sound bites borrowed from western political rhetoric, they portrayed themselves as apostles of democracy and good governance and won the names they coveted for by ingratiating themselves to the President and unassuming clan elders.

Teaming up with equally power hungry former rebel fighters going by their popular name of Mujahideen, they created one of the most corrupt systems in Africa. They live off the meager revenues collected from the country’s limited income sources and international assistance. They roam in the streets of Hargeisa, Borama and Buroa with brand new SUVs among hungry populace. Each of the three bodies of government, the judiciary, legislative and the executive, smoothly fall into the greased grooves of this slimy jigsaw. Members of the elected lower house of parliament are opportunistic liars who took advantage of the people’s trust to grab their stinky share of the rotten and meager national cake and the elected President sits on top of the stenchy system that stands on collapsing pillars of corruption, nepotism and favoritism. The opposition figures are also scavengers waiting for their turn and share of the national booty. Read More in Awdalnews
Climate change concern: Too little, too late
By Bashir Goth.

BODY of 2500 scientists had recently gathered in Paris and made a clarion call about an impending climate disaster, noting the likelihood of human activities led by burning fossil fuels causing most of the warming over the past 50 years.

Among other things, the report warns of a new ice age engulfing the earth, while hurricanes, droughts and other apocalyptic disasters may play havoc with our planet.

Good talk. We have nothing but praise for the eminent men and women of science and conscience who want to save our planet for future generations. One thing, however, that bothers us is why these scientists failed to invite their sceptic counterparts. We know there are other respected scholars who doubt the conclusion of the climate doomsayers and believe that the climate change we experience is nothing new. It was always happening from day one of the earth and will continue to happen. Read More in Khaleej Times.
Islam Also to Blame for Prizing White Skin
By Bashir Goth

Just like everything else, perceptions of sexiness have globalized. Hollywood movies, the fashion industry, MTV and Miss World beauty contests have set universal standards for female sexual appeal. It is in this context that Arab and African men have come to measure the beauty of their women. But the pressure on women to meet men’s expectations of beauty isn’t a recent invention, and standards have changed over the years.

Over sexualizing girls is as dangerous as global warming. In the Arab world, the features of an ideal woman changed between being opulent, plump, slim or obese, according to Abdelwahab Bouhdiba in the book Sexuality in Islam. Sometimes large breasts were preferable, sometimes firm round ones. At other times, pink flesh, chubby and curved (samina, maluma), a wasp-like waist, or a bamboo-like figure (ghusn al ban, gudib khizuran) were fashionable.
Read More in Washington Post

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Questioning Bashir Goth, Editor of Awdal News

What has been the cost of conflict in Somalia?
The cost of conflict in Somalia can be summed up in one word; the death of a country. Somalia doesn’t exist as a nation state. Its name is found in the ledgers of the United Nations, it is mentioned in UN resolutions once in a while, but the country literally does not exist. It is like a fairy tale that everybody knows that happened sometime, somewhere but does not have a physical existence. Somalia is the story of a nation at war with itself for at least the past 15 years, a nation that has committed suicide. But there is that part of former Somalia which has spared itself of the lawlessness and mayhem taking place in Somalia. It is Somaliland, the former British Protectorate, which united with the Italian South after independence in 1960. Somaliland has restored its sovereignty after the collapse of the central government and has since then enjoyed peace and stability and established a democratic state to the admiration of the international community. It only lacks world recognition for its hard won achievements.. READ MORE in Strategicforesight

Monday, February 12, 2007

America Is Colonizing Us Quietly
By Bashir Goth
China is doing what the West failed to do. The West colonized Africa, robbed its natural wealth and left a spoiled continent behind. Africa traded its original lifestyle for a European one but didn’t have the means to sustain it. It was a textbook recipe for parasitism, corruption and banana republics. European colonial powers also planted the seeds of today’s civil wars in Africa by arbitrarily dividing tribes across borders.
The West viewed post-independence Africa as the white man’s burden, and as a staging ground for its Cold War wrangle with the Soviet Union. Economically speaking, the West also dismissed Africa as a bottomless charity basket. The resources of the continent were pawned for backbreaking debt. The West lined the pockets of stooge dictator regimes and used the continent to dump obsolete weapons. America initiated the Marshall Plan to revive Europe’s ruined economy after WWII at any cost. For Africa, the West thought a bowl of porridge was more than enough. MORE in Washington Post/Newsweek

Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't Judge; We All Prostitute Ourselves
By Bashir Goth
When “prostitution” is mentioned, the first thing that comes to most peoples’ minds is sexual prostitution, selling one’s body for money. Next, we moralize, turning into preachers and issuing fatwas. We forget, however, that we all engage in prostitution of one form or another.

Sexual prostitutes who trade their bodies for money to survive, feed their children, or use it as a bridge to a higher career are not different from anyone of us who genuflects before his or her boss, toils under humiliating circumstances, and undertakes sometimes outrageous, dehumanizing and underpaid jobs to put bread on the table or get some favor to advance a career. Only we pride ourselves on not bearing a stigma because our prostitution is legal.

Politics, I say, is the highest paid job of prostitution. The two are synonymous, even replaceable professions. Politicians try every trick in the book to achieve their goal. They flirt with their voters using bodily gestures, sweet talk, and the charms of their personality. They offer grand promises and undercover deals. The only difference is while sexual prostitutes deliver their promised services in exchange for meager payments, politicians are rewarded with heftily, with unlimited power and high moral accolades, for services not rendered.

It is unfortunate that sexual prostitutes have to be ridiculed for selling their bodies, while everyone else is showered with praise for doing the same: selling their pride, their labor, their identity and their integrity. And at the end of the day, each and every one of us is trying to achieve the same thing: to survive in a
world without mercy.

I sometimes wonder how a woman tolerating domestic violence and forced sex for the sake of small kids who have no other source of income -- bound to a brute husband with legal marriage -- could call herself luckier than a woman who leads a comparatively comfortable life by choice but with the stigma of being a prostitute.

It is a fundamental economic rule that where there is a demand there should be a supply. Therefore, sexual prostitution has existed and will exist as long as the natural desire for mating exists. Well, opponents of legalizing prostitution may moralize as much as they please but we all know that morality itself is relative. In the West, polygamy may be scoffed at as immoral or even tantamount to prostitution while in the Muslim world cohabitation may deserve an equal disdain. But as Bertrand Russell once said, we have two kinds of morality side by side in every society, "...one which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach."

With all of us being prostitutes, each in his own capacity and profession, it is imperative that all should have equal rights in legal recognition, insurance coverage, trade unions, political representation, and, of course, retirement benefits.

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First published in Washington Post on January 26, 2007 2:30 PM

Friday, January 19, 2007

Somalia Update
By Bashir Goth

After the ouster of the Union of Islamic Courts by Ethiopian forces, the Somali Transitional Government, TFG, seems to be in control of the situation. It acted quickly to impose martial law, started collecting weapons and formed a governing body to supervise the capital's return to normalcy. The most significant victory, however, was the arrival of the TFG President Abdillahi Yusuf in Mogadishu for the first time since his election two years ago and his successful meetings with his predecessors Abdilqasim Salat Hassan, Ali Mahdi Mohammed and other prominent leaders.

Even the TFG Parliament has for the first time exercised its legislative powers by passing martial laws and sacking its lone wolf Speaker Sharif Hassan who kowtowed with the Union of Islamic Courts and opposed the Ethiopian intervention.

With the exception of some isolated incidents, no major hostile acts or insurgency activities against the Ethiopian forces have taken place. The situation, however, may take a different turn if the Ethiopians remain longer than necessary. Only a quick deployment of the African peace keeping forces and the withdrawal of the Ethiopian army will guarantee the consolidation of the TFG gains.

The TFG also needs to refrain from making any inflammatory statements against the people of Somaliland who thronged to the streets on Tuesday, January 16 th, in one of the largest demonstration in the country, protesting against the TFG President's statement in which he rebuffed the independence of Somaliland. It also seems the international community is more determined this time not to let Somalia slip back into lawlessness.READ MORE in Washington Post