Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 2nd, 2015

 

Empowered woman?

How Khadija Gbla explains her mother’s definition of empowerment

Today I’m going to share my personal journey with female genital mutilation, FGM.

Feel free to cry, laugh, cross your legs, or do anything your body feels like doing. I’m not going to name the things your body does.

0:30 I was born in Sierra Leone. Did anybody watch “Blood Diamond”? If you have any thoughts — I don’t have any diamonds on me. If you have heard of Ebola that’s in Sierra Leone as well. I don’t have Ebola. You’re all safe. Don’t rush to the door. Be seated. You’re fine. I was checked before I got here.

0:52 My grandfather had 3 wives. Don’t ask me why a man needs more than one wife.

Men, do you need more than one wife? I don’t think so. There you go. He was looking for a heart attack, that’s what I say. Oh yeah, he was.

(A woman needs 3 husbands to save men from heart attacks)

1:07 When I was three, war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991. I remember literally going to bed one night, everything was good. The next day, I woke up, bombs were dropping everywhere, and people were trying to kill me and my family.

We escaped the war and ended up in Gambia, in West Africa. Ebola is there as well. Stay away from it.

While we were in Gambia as refugees, we didn’t know what was going to become of us. My mom applied for refugee status. She’s a wonderful, smart woman, that one, and we were lucky. Australia said, we will take you in. Good job, Aussies.

1:47 Before we were meant to travel, my mom came home one day, and said, “We’re going on a little holiday, a little trip.”

She put us in a car, and we drove for hours and ended up in a bush in a remote area in Gambia. In this bush, we found two huts. An old lady came towards us. She was ethnic-looking, very old. She had a chat with my mom, and went back. Then she came back and walked away from us into a second hut. I’m standing there thinking, “This is very confusing. I don’t know what’s going on.”

The next thing I knew, my mom took me into this hut. She took my clothes off, and then she pinned me down on the floor. I struggled and tried to get her off me, but I couldn’t.

Then the old lady came towards me with a rusty-looking knife, one of the sharp knives, orange-looking, has never seen water or sunlight before. I thought she was going to slaughter me, but she didn’t. She slowly slid down my body and ended up where my vagina is. She took hold of what I now know to be my clitoris, she took that rusty knife, and started cutting away, inch by inch.

I screamed, I cried, and asked my mom to get off me so this pain will stop, but all she did was say, “Be quiet.” This old lady sawed away at my flesh for what felt like forever, and then when she was done, she threw that piece of flesh across the floor as if it was the most disgusting thing she’s ever touched. They both got off me, and left me there bleeding, crying, and confused as to what just happened.

3:52 We never talked about this again.

Very soon, we found that we were coming to Australia, and this is when you had the Sydney Olympics at the time, and people said we were going to the end of the world, there was nowhere else to go after Australia. Yeah, that comforted us a bit.

It took us 3 days to get to Australia. We went to Senegal, then France, and then Singapore. We went to the bathroom to wash our hands. We spent 15 minutes opening the tap like this. Then somebody came in, slid their hand under and water came out, and we thought, is this what we’re in for? Like, seriously.

4:31 We got to Adelaide, small place, where literally they dumped us in Adelaide, that’s what I would say. They dumped us there.

We were very grateful. We settled and we liked it. We were like, “We’re home, we’re here.” Then somebody took us to Rundle Mall. Adelaide has only one mall. It’s this small place. And we saw a lot of Asian people. My mom said all of a sudden, panicking, “You brought us to the wrong place. You must take us back to Australia.”

Yeah. It had to explain to her that there were a lot of Asians in Australia and we were in the right place. So fine, it’s all good.

5:12 My mom then had this brilliant idea that I should go to a girls school because they were less racist. I don’t know where she read that publication. 

Never found evidence of it to this day. Six hundred white kids, and I was the only black child there.

No, I was the only person with a bit of a color on me. Let me say that. Chocolate color. There were no Asians, no indigenous.

All we had was some tan girls, girls who felt the need to be under the sun. It wasn’t the same as my chocolate, though. Not the same.

Settling in Australia was quite hard, but it became harder when I started volunteering for an organization called Women’s Health Statewide, and I joined their female genital mutilation program without any awareness of what this program was actually about, or that it related to me in any way.

I spent months educating nurses and doctors about what female genital mutilation was and where it was practiced: Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and now, Australia and London and America, because, as we all know, we live in a multicultural society, and people who come from those backgrounds come with their culture, and sometimes they have cultural practices that we may not agree with, but they continue to practice them.

6:32 One day, I was looking at the chart of the different types of female genital mutilation, FGM, I will just say FGM for short.

Type I is when they cut off the hood.

Type II is when they cut off the whole clitoris and some of your labia majora, or your outer lips, and

Type III is when they cut off the whole clitoris and then they sew you up so you only have a little hole to pee and have your period.

My eyes went onto Type II. Before all of this, I pretty much had amnesia. I was in so much shock and traumatized by what had happened, I didn’t remember any of it.

Yes, I was aware something bad happened to me, but I had no recollection of what had happened. I knew I had a scar down there, but I thought everybody had a scar down there.

This had happened to everybody else. But when I looked at Type II, it all came back to me. I remembered what was done to me. I remembered being in that hut with that old lady and my mom holding me down.

7:33 Words cannot express the pain I felt, the confusion that I felt, because now I realized that what was done to me was a terrible thing that in this society was called barbaric, it was called mutilation. My mother had said it was called circumcision, but here it was mutilation. I was thinking, I’m mutilated? I’m a mutilated person. Oh my God.

8:00 And then the anger came. I was a black angry woman.

Oh yeah. A little one, but angry nevertheless. I went home and said to my mom, “You did something.”

This is not the African thing to do, pointing at your mother, but hey, I was ready for any consequences. “You did something to me.” She’s like, “What are you talking about, Khadija?” She’s used to me mouthing off. I’m like, “Those years ago, You circumcised me. You cut away something that belonged to me.” She said, “Yes, I did. I did it for your own good. It was in your best interest. Your grandmother did it to me, and I did it to you. It’s made you a woman.” I’m like, “How?” She said, “You’re empowered, Khadija. Do you get itchy down there?” I’m like, “No, why would I get itchy down there?” She said, “Well, if you were not circumcised, you would get itchy down there. Women who are not circumcised get itchy all the time. Then they sleep around with everybody. You are not going to sleep around with anybody.”

And I thought, her definition of empowerment was very strange. (Laughter) That was the end of our first conversation. I went back to school. These were the days when we had Dolly and Girlfriend magazines. There was always the sealed section. Anybody remember those sealed sections? The naughty bits, you know? Oh yeah, I love those. 

Anyway, there was always an article about pleasure and relationships and, of course, sex. But it always assumed that you had a clitoris, though, and I thought, this doesn’t fit me. This doesn’t talk about people like me. I don’t have a clitoris.

I watched TV and those women would moan like, “Oh! Oh!” I was like, these people and their damned clitoris. (Laughter) What is a woman without a clitoris supposed to do with her life? That’s what I want to know. I want to do that too — “Oh! Oh!” and all of that. Didn’t happen.

10:15 So I came home once again and said to my mom, “Dolly and Girlfriend said I deserve pleasure, that I should be having orgasms, and that white men should figure out how to find the clitoris.”

Apparently, white men have a problem finding the clitoris. (Laughter) Just saying, it wasn’t me. It was Dolly that said that.

And I thought to myself, I had an inner joke in my head that said, “I will marry a white man. He won’t have that problem with me.”  So I said to my mom, “Dolly and Girlfriend said I deserve pleasure, and do you know what you have taken away from me, what you have denied me? You have invaded me in the most sacred way. I want pleasure. I want to get horny, dammit, as well.” And she said to me, “Who is Dolly and Girlfriend? Are they your new friends, Khadija?” I was like, “No, they’re not. That’s a magazine, mom, a magazine.”

11:18 She didn’t get it. We came from two different worlds. When she was growing up, not having a clitoris was the norm. It was celebrated.

I was an African Australian girl. I lived in a society that was very clitoris-centric. It was all about the damn clitoris! And I didn’t have one! That pissed me off.

11:44 So once I went through this strange phase of anger and pain and confusion, I remember booking an appointment with my therapist.

Yes, I’m an African who has a therapist. There you go. And I said to her, “I was 13. I was a child. I was settling in a new country, I was dealing with racism and discrimination, English is my third language, and then there it was.” I said to her, “I feel like I’m not a woman because of what was done to me. I feel incomplete. Am I going to be asexual?”

Because from what I knew about FGM, the whole aim of it was to control the sexuality of women. It’s so that we don’t have any sexual desire. And I said, “Am I asexual now? Will I just live the rest of my life not feeling like having sex, not enjoying sex?” She couldn’t answer my questions, so they went unanswered.

12:42 When I started having my period around the age of 14, I realized I didn’t have normal periods because of FGM. My periods were heavy, they were long, and they were very painful. Then they told me I had fibroids. They’re like these little balls sitting there. One was covering one of my ovaries.

13:02 And there came then the big news. “We don’t think you can have children, Khadija.” And once again, I was an angry black woman.

13:13 I went home and I said to my mom, “Your act, your action, no matter what your may defense may be” — because she thought she did it out love — “what you did out of love is harming me, and it’s hurting me. What do you have to say for that?” She said, “I did what I had to do as a mother.” I’m still waiting for an apology, by the way.

13:39 Then I got married. And once again — FGM is like the gift that keeps giving.

You figure that out very soon. Sex was very painful. It hurt all the time. And of course I realized, they said, “You can’t have kids.” I thought, “Wow, is this my existence? Is this what life is all about?” I’m proud to tell you, five months ago, I was told I was pregnant. (Applause)

14:23 I am the lucky girl. There are so many women out there who have gone through FGM who have infertility.

I know a 9-year-old girl who has incontinence, constant infections, pain. It’s that gift. It doesn’t stop giving. It affects every area of your life, and this happened to me because I was born a girl in the wrong place. That’s why it happened to me.

14:49 I channel all that anger, all that pain, into advocacy because I needed my pain to be worth something.

So I’m the director of an organization called No FGM Australia. You heard me right. Why No FGM Australia? FGM is in Australia.

Two days ago, I had to call Child Protective Services, because somewhere in Australia, there’s a four-year old  whose mom is planning on performing FGM on her. That child is in kindy. I’ll let that sink in: four years old.

A couple of months ago, I met a lady who is married to a Malaysian man. Her husband came home one day and said he was going to take their daughters back to Malaysia to cut off their clitoris. And she said, “Why?” He said they were dirty. And she said, “Well, you married me.” He said, “Oh, this is my cultural belief.” They then went into a whole discussion where she said to him, “Over my dead body will you do that to my daughters.”

But imagine if this woman wasn’t aware of what FGM was, if they never had that conversation? Her children would have been flown over to Malaysia and they would have come back changed for the rest of their lives.

Do you know the millions of dollars it would take us to deal with an issue like that? [Three children per day] in Australia are at risk of having FGM performed on them. This is an Australian problem, people. It’s not an African problem. It’s not a Middle Eastern problem. It’s not white, it’s not black, it has no color, it’s everybody’s problem.

FGM is child abuse. It’s violence against women. It’s saying that women don’t have a right to sexual pleasure. It says we don’t have a right to our bodies. Well, I say no to that, and you know what? Bullshit. That’s what I have to say to that. (Applause)

16:53 I am proud to say that I’m doing my part in ending FGM. What are you going to do?

There may be a child in your classroom who is at risk of FGM. There may be a patient who comes to your hospital who is at risk of FGM.

But this is the reality, that even in our beloved Australia, the most wonderful place in the world, children are being abused because of a culture.

Culture should not be a defense for child abuse. I want ever single one of you to see FGM as an issue for you. Make it personal. It could be your daughter, your sister, your cousin.

17:34 I can’t fight FGM alone. I could try, but I can’t. So my appeal to you is, please join me. Sign my petition on Change.org and type in Khadija, my name, and it’ll come up, and sign it.

The aim of that is to get support for FGM victims in Australia and to protect little girls growing up here to not have this evil done to them, because every child has a right to pleasure.

Every child has a right to their bodies being left intact, and dammit, ever child has a right to a clitoris. So please join me in ending this act.

18:13 My favorite quote is, All it takes for evil to prevail is for a few good men and women to do nothing.”

Are you going to let this evil of female genital mutilation to prevail in Australia? I don’t think so, so please join me in ensuring that it ends in my generation.

Noor Khalil shared this link on FB.
Khadija Gbla grew up caught between two definitions of what it means to be an “empowered woman.”
ted.com|By Khadija Gbla

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resisting Israeli Politics

by Brenda Heard

Six months prior to the upcoming UK general election, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published its “2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto.”

This 40-page document urges both existing and prospective members of the UK Parliament to support various “policy asks” and to “champion these causes.”

The Manifesto was styled after a very similar one created for the 2014 EU elections.  Indeed their goals appear the same: to ensure a pro-Israeli agenda in the House of Commons and beyond.

The 2015 Manifesto does include some discussion of faith-based issues, such as underscoring the need of the Jewish community in the UK to be able to provide Kosher meat and to observe the Sabbath.  This discussion is a just and valid participation of citizens in their government.

The problem arises when the Manifesto equates Jewish and Israeli. 

With 58 mentions of Israel, the Manifesto, cloaked in blue and white imagery throughout, even boasts a full-page illustration of the British and Israeli flags flying together.

This self-proclaimed “voice of British Jewry” avows a “very strong attachment to the State of Israel.”

Yet it is difficult to reconcile this support with such statements as “The UK Jewish community is committed to peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Middle East” when this statement was penned less than two months after a vicious Israeli onslaught against Gaza, an indiscriminate rampage that in just 50 days killed at least 2,100 Palestinians, some 70% of whom were civilians, including 519 children.

A recent report by the American National Lawyers Guild concluded that “both facts and law refute the Israeli self-defense claims” and that Israel had “collectively punished the entire civilian population.”  Indeed, Israeli forces intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving them dead and wounded, homeless and devastated.

There has been no peace, no security, no prosperity and no equality for the PalestiniansNot ever.

Yet the Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel.

Any resistance to Israeli policy, the Manifesto maintains, should be denounced by the world.

The Manifesto offers scant attention to Palestinian resistance group Hamas, however, noting that the EU had already classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation, one with whom the UK should “refuse to engage.”

Two months after the publication of the Manifesto, the EU General Court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations, stating:

“the General Court finds that the contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly condemned this “unacceptable” ruling, and called it “an affront to the values of Europe.”

The Board statement also used the opportunity to reiterate various accusations against Hamas—characterisations that have for years engendered the very hearsay that was finally rejected by the EU General Court.

The Council of the EU soon appealed the court’s decision.

The Board cheered the appeal and the efforts taken to ensure the appeal, stating “we commend the European Jewish Congress on all its work in ensuring that this issue remains on top of the agenda in Brussels.”  The power of lobbying for Israel.

As for Lebanon, the Manifesto proudly points out that the UK led the EU designation of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013.

But that action was not enough to appease the Board, which urges the UK to lead the campaign to expand that designation to the “entirety” of Hezbollah.

The key here is that Israel and its allies have always wanted to destroy all semblance of Hezbollah, as every aspect of the group builds the pride and strength of a Lebanese populace.  It is the will to resist Israeli encroachment—the entire culture of resistance in both Palestine and Lebanon—that Israel wants to break.

And this is a sentiment of political Israel, not of “British Jewry.”  This has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

Rather similar to the hearsay problem cited by the EU General Court, the accusations hurled at Hezbollah are based on decades of presumptions that Hezbollah is a ruthless entity to be feared and crushed.

The fervour to destroy Hezbollah has long been evident in the policies of Israel, the US and the UK.  Together, these three bodies have tremendous abilities to create and to seemingly substantiate and certainly to sell the narrative that suits their own agenda.  Perhaps it is time to question these fervent accusations.

The Manifesto asserts that Hezbollah has “launched attacks against European and Jewish civilians worldwide” and offers 3 examples to illustrate this sweeping and unsubstantiated accusation: Buenos Aires (1994), Bulgaria (2012), Cyprus (2013).  The responsibility in each of these incidents is far from conclusive.

The Buenos Aires investigation was at once tainted by the immediate involvement of US and Israeli intelligence services.  The case was indelibly ruined by layers of corruption within Argentinian services.

Even The Guardian acknowledged the investigation to be a “complex saga of mind-boggling intrigue.”  Surely the extensive research published in 2008 by historian Gareth Porter should at the very least create reasonable doubt about Hezbollah’s involvement.

Like Buenos Aires, the Bulgarian case investigation was aided by US and Israeli intelligence services.  Several reports raise doubts as to the legitimacy of the judgement process, examples of which: Gareth Porter, here and here; Times of Israel; Haaretz; Bulgarian FM Vigenin.

Despite Israel’s initial finger-pointing at Hezbollah, the investigation revealed compelling forensic evidence of an Al Qaeda-linked suspect, which was mysteriously dropped only to reveal three Lebanese dual-nationals as suspects.  The investigation that struggled for answers somehow, with the help of the US and Israel, was able to link those suspects to Hezbollah.  How politically convenient.

In an attempt to offer conclusive evidence of an attack-plotting Hezbollah, the Manifesto offers a fear-inspiring quotation from an allegedly self-confessed Hezbollah member who had seemingly bungled surveillance work in Cyprus and was caught out by Mossad.

The man’s “handler,” who was “always wearing a mask,” wanted him to pinpoint Kosher restaurants and to track the arrival times of flights from Israel.  But why risk doing such surveillance in person?  This information is readily available online, even if it required some creative computing skills.

The culprit’s narrative reads more like the stuff of a cheap spy novel than it does the operational expertise of a group with more than thirty-years successful experience.  Even if the confessor thought he was, in his nervously ever-changing narrative, revealing some truth, who is to say that he was not led by an imposter to believe he was acting under the direction of Hezbollah, when in fact he was not? Mission not so very impossible.

Still, we are meant to believe that in planning such globally significant missions, Hezbollah was careless enough to leave a paper-trail and to choose men who were inept in their tasks and men who would break under police questioning and tell all.  And we are meant to believe that the consistent aid of US and Israeli intelligence has always been strictly objective.

This article is not intended to be a full rebuttal to these specific accusations.

The point remains that there is at least reasonable doubt.  These accusations are on many levels fuelled by a hatred that has burned for decades, a hatred that would stop at nothing to eradicate the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon.

But even if you remain unconvinced of their problematic nature, even if you cannot bring yourself to offer Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt, there remains a double standard in this “Policy Ask” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

How in the name of civilised democracy can the British Government continue to vehemently denounce Hezbollah, yet eagerly champion an Israeli government that routinely practices that which it condemns?

The Manifesto complains, for instance, that Hezbollah arranged surveillance of Jewish people.  Yet we find the following boast in the Board’s EU Manifesto:

“As part of the widespread intelligence cooperation between Israel and the EU, Israel is providing essential information to EU officials enabling them to enforce the proscription [against Hezbollah].”

So it is acceptable for Israel to spy on Lebanese, but not vice versa?

The Manifesto also complains Hezbollah allegedly exploited dual-nationals and used false identity papers.  Yet this technique is an integral component of Mossad, from false identities and false flags in the 1950s, to political military espionage in the 1960s, to international vigilante justice in the 1970s, to fake passports and double agent killing squads in the 1980s, to assassination attempts in the 1990s, to falsified passports and passport fraud, and assassination after assassination in the 2000s.

These activities tend to be forgotten in the wake of repeated wars on the Lebanese and Palestinians.

These activities are often subjectively shrugged off as necessary handling of “legitimate” targets, perhaps with a few unfortunate mistakes.

Nonetheless, they exhibit a perpetual defiance of the rule of law, a defiance that is made glaringly clear in Israel’s custom of not only indiscriminate, but also deliberate attacks on the civilian population of the Palestinian territories.

After Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, the UN Commission of Inquiry emphasised that one third of the Lebanese casualties were children and stated:

“The Commission highlights a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects. . . The Commission has formed a clear view that, cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks by the IDF on civilians and civilian objects amounted to collective punishment.”

Likewise, after Israel’s 2009 onslaught on Gaza, the UN Fact Finding Mission concluded that:

“what occurred in just over 3 weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Following Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza, an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission described in detail the reckless, often deliberate targeting of civilians, including the use of the “double tap”: multiple consecutive strikes on a single location that would lead to additional casualties amongst civilian onlookers and rescuers.

Perhaps as much as casualty statistics, this calculated strategy reveals not merely what the Manifesto describes euphemistically as “challenges about integration between different sectors of the population that need to be addressed,” but what one IDF Staff Sergeant described as “contempt for human life.”  He was relating a similar tactic ordered by his battalion commander in the West Bank:

“You leave bodies in the field—they told me they did it a lot in Lebanon— and you wait until they come to recover it so you can shoot at them.  It’s like you’re setting up an ambush around the body.  But those are things I heard about Lebanon.  So it happened here [in Nablus], too.”

Contempt for human life happened.  Contempt for rule of law happened.

Again and again, at the hands of the “democratic state” promoted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who in the same instance would like to coax British and Europeans to condemn the very victims of that state’s crimes.  While their Manifesto offers a few pages pushing Israeli politics, I offer my recently published book, Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View.

Based on 8 years of getting to know the people who are Hezbollah, this inside view of the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon offers the opportunity to explore for yourself the militants at the horizon.

May common sense, not lobbying efforts, shape the concerns of the British people.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily posted this link on FB
March 27, 2015

The Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel, holding that any resistance to Israeli policy should be denounced by the world.
FRIENDSOFLEBANON.ORG

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