Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Duka Girls Of Mongolia...


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

End-of-Year Epiphany at the Holiday Inn...

            I know it’s ridiculous
to think countries have souls, that this one
could be feminine. I know I should have faith
in happiness and child wonders,
who will rid plastic from the earth. Oh yes,
I know the possibility of a person coming
to their knees at an airport, crying, Who am I,
is high, and most people will walk by
because time is always calling. We must believe
everything will be all right because people
are still having babies and taking them to the sea.
So what if a man is slaughtered and set alight
for love, for a slab of dead cow, for reasons
sacred? So what if the waters are rising,
and those seas will soon be upon us?
We must live in the moments we’re given..... 

- Tishani Doshi

Sunday, November 12, 2017


expect sadness


you expect rain.
cleanse you.


the ocean 
can calm itself, 
so can you.
are both 
salt water 
mixed with 


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Myanmar's Rohingya Are in Crisis—What You Need to Know...

The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, have been called the "world's most persecuted minority," and recent events have added dramatically to their misery.
At least 500,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August of this year. Although the crisis has intensified in recent months, the targeted, sometimes violent, discrimination of this minority group is anything but new.
National Geographic spoke with three experts on Myanmar to learn more about who the Rohingya are and what's been happening to them. (Read more from National Geographic's coverage of the unfolding Rohingya crisis.)


The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group from Myanmar's Rakhine state, just south of Bangladesh, who have at times numbered 1.1 million.
Officially, Myanmar's government does not recognize the Rohingya as lawful citizens. The government claims they were brought to Rakhine from Bangladesh during the time when Myanmar was a British colony, and the government says they are living in Myanmar illegally. Ask the Rohingya and they’ll tell youthey have been in the region for over a century, and some claim to have been in the region from as early as the eighth century.
“The answer to that question is highly contested, particularly by those who want to politicize the issue,” said John Knaus, the associate director of the Asia division at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Regardless of when the Rohingya arrived in Myanmar, the military junta that controlled Myanmar until recently denied them citizenship in 1982, leaving them stateless and vulnerable.


Attacks on the Rohingya have been systematic and widespread, reportedly at the hands of the Myanmar police and military, leading to what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing." (The term is often used to refer to the forced removal of an ethnic or religious group by intimidation or violence.)
A controversial report by the Myanmar government found no evidence of systematic violence against the Rohingya, but the country has refused to allow the UN or outside organizations or journalists to conduct an independent investigation.
Most of what’s known about the Rohingya crisis is being collected from interviews and information gathered at the Bangladesh border from those fleeing across it. Last February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report in which refugees told stories of gang rape, mass killings, and brutal beatings. More than half of the women interviewed reported having been a victim of sexual violence.
Satellite images have shown Rohingya villages burning. Refugees blame the Myanmar military, while the Burmese military has claimed the Rohingya burned their own homes. The BBC's Jonathan Head was one of the few journalists allowed into the Rakhine state, but under strict government surveillance. During a tour of the region's villages, he was given photos showing Rohingya allegedly burning their homes—photos he later discovered were faked.
There are 40,000 Rohingya refugees settled in India, 16,000 of which have obtained official refugee documentation. The majority of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar have not made it past Bangladesh. Devastating floods in India and Bangladesh over this past summer have worsened conditions in refugee camps and led to a cholera outbreak, water shortages, and malnutrition.


Myanmar has more than 100 different ethnic groups, with the Burmese making up about two thirds of the country. And while the Rohingya have long been persecuted as a minority, the scale of recent violence is unprecedented. It ramped up on August 25 after a small faction of Rohingya militants called the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army attacked police posts, killing 12 members of Myanmar’s security forces. In retribution, Myanmar’s military vowed to root out militant groups, and they’ve responded on a massive scale that has left many innocent civilians dead, injured, or homeless.
Kyaw Hsan Hlaing is executive director of an organization he founded called the Peace and Development Initiative, which documents stories of the violence in Myanmar. Following the August attacks, his organization paused its work in Rakhine in fear of retribution. Though he now attends Columbia University in New York, Hlaing is intimately familiar with the violent discrimination long seen in Rakhine.
He's Burmese and grew up in Rakhine with a Buddhist family, but following student protests against the Myanmar government, Hlaing was held as a political prisoner for five years and subsequently exiled to Thailand.
Hlaing says he believes Myanmar’s security forces are exploiting the late August events to push the Rohingya out of the region.


The daughter of a resistance movement general, Aung San Suu Kyi has been advocating for a democratic Myanmar for nearly her entire life. She became a leading figure for the National League for Democracy, then an opposition party, in the late 1980s, but she was detained in 1989. She spent 15 years under house arrest, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and has been hailed as a leader of democracy around the world.
However, Aung San Suu Kyi has not publicly condemned the military's treatment of the Rohingya, and this has tarnished her international reputation. Human rights activists believe it’s her responsibility to speak out against the military’s violent assault, but she has no functional control over the military.
During Myanmar's most recent election, the NLD won the majority of the country's parliamentary seats. As the leader of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi is Myanmar's de facto leader, officially named its “state counselor."
But that still doesn't mean Aung San Suu Kyi can rein in her country's military, which had established power years before her election and doesn't have to answer to her. The military is guaranteed the right to appoint 25 percent of Myanmar's parliamentary seats, giving it veto power over constitutional amendments. As a result, Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD are barred from moving the military under civilian control.


During the 20th century, activists struggled to establish a democracy and the Burmese were at times under a strict, militaristic regime. For more than a century, Burma was a British colony, until it declared independence in 1948. The country was briefly a democratic republic, but instability created a power vacuum that was exploited by General U Ne Win, who led a military coup in 1962. By 1974, he had established a regime that isolated the country.
Further crackdowns on what remained of the country's democratic institutions came in 1988 when the military responded to student-led protests by killing at least 3,000.
The country's ruling military junta changed the name of the state from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, but this change is not officially recognized by the U.S. and UK. (National Geographic refers to the country as Myanmar.) Use of the name Myanmar remains controversial among some, who say it infers support for military rule.
In the past five years, Myanmar has become less isolated, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory represented a step toward democracy for citizens of Myanmar. But the situation remains complex.
“I don’t think anyone would say Myanmar had become a democracy,” said Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Myanmar’s democracy is a work in progress. This [Rohingya crisis] shows how fragile it is.”


Ethnic minorities in Myanmar describe regular mistreatment from those in the government and surrounding communities.
“[They] feel like second-class citizens,” said Hlaing. Hlaing was struck by the atrocities he witnessed growing up in Rakhine and participated in protests against the government as a teenager. While the military's attacks have been the most devastating, the Rohingya also face violence from Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, Hlaing added.
“There’s a fear, especially among Burma's Buddhist nationalists, of Burma losing its unique Burmese culture,” said Knaus. “Whether that’s from Muslims coming into the country or influences from places like China, and the rest of the outside world, there’s a real fear that Burma is going to be changed by all of these influences. The Rohinyga are the most obvious examples of this. They’re Muslim and perceived to be from Bangladesh so to many they are the prime example of this foreign cultural and social invasion.”
Hlaing says his curriculum from Rakhine state schools emphasized the country’s Buddhist origins as what made Myanmar unique. Even his own family, he said, struggles to understand his work advocating for the rights of minorities.
While the UN and Red Cross have increased aid to the Bangladesh border, where so many Rohingya have fled, experts are hard pressed to see a short-term future in which the Rohingya can live peacefully and with equal rights within Myanmar’s borders. (See photos and read a first-hand account from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Last Of The Tattooed Women Of The Tharu Tribe...

Wonderful and unusual people can be found all over the globe. Many diverse civilizations have already vanished as a result of globalization and many are on the verge of extinction, their culture becoming forever lost.
Acknowledging the sadness of this loss, and recognizing the importance of such cultures–becoming ever rarer–photographers are traveling the globe and documented those they meet. It is thanks to those encounters that we can come to learn more and broaden our perspectives beyond the familiar. One such photographer is Omar Reda, the man who, through his passion, has given the world a number of fascinating images.

One of the last tattooed Tharu tribe women. Photo Credit

Omar Reda is a Lebanese creative director at the Genesis Riyadh consulting agency, where he has worked since 2013, based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He began his career in 2005 working for Y&R/Riyadh, after graduating in graphic design from the Notre Dame University. He has had a fortunate career path, having worked for some of the biggest companies in the world. Omar’s other passion, alongside graphic design, is photography. With his camera in hand, he travels extensively. One of the places he has visited was Nepal, where he documented the tattooed women of the Tharu tribe, practicing a tradition that may be ending.

Tattooed Hand Photo Credit

The Tharu peoples are an indigenous ethnic group that live in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. In 2011, the estimated population of the Tharu was approximately 1.7 million, with the majority living in Nepal. Most of these forest people, as they refer to themselves, are Hindu by religion, and survive on agriculture and hunting. They are a people who’ve thrived in isolation. and many varieties of their endemic language still exist.

The belief is that the tattoos will beautify them once they rise to their heaven. Photo Credit

A lot can be found in the Chitwan District of Nepal, where Omar Reda met them and took his intriguing photos. On his visit to Nepal, Omar discovered that the women of the Tharu tribe would have, in the past, all be covered in tattoos. It is not rare for indigenous nations to practice the art of tattooing, but the reasons behind the tattoos of the Tharu women shocked the adventurous photographer.

The last tattooed women of the Tharu tribe. Photo Credit

There were three different stories that Omar learned about the tattoos. The first, and most shocking one, tells of how the beautiful girls of the Tharu people were taken as sex slaves by the royal family that ruled the Kingdom of Nepal. Chitwan was the area where the members of the royal family once spent their summers. The constant abduction of the Tharu beauties made the women put tattoos on their bodies, so that they would look ugly to the royal men.

The last tattooed women of the Tharu tribe. Photo Credit

The second story explains that the tattooing was mandatory for teenage girls. If the girl did not have these tattoos, then she would be expelled from the community, as well as from her family. Non-tattooed women were not allowed to marry or even talk to other people.

The last tattooed women of the Tharu tribe. Photo Credit

The Tharu went so far as to forbid people from taking anything that a woman without a tattoo had previously touched. So, in order to be accepted by their people, the Tharu girls had to cover their bodies with ink.

Tattooed hand, Photo Credit

The third story is the least shocking one. It says that the tattoos were done in order to enhance the beauty of the women so that when they die, they will go to heaven in the most beautiful form. It is not certain which of the three stories is true. It may be none, or it might be all; however, it is certain that the art of tattooing played a very important role among these people.

It is said that they used to do tattoos in order to avoid becoming chosen as sex slaves by the Royal Nepalese family who would spend their summers in the area. Photo Credit

Nepal is not the only place where Omar Reda has taken photos. Many of his incredible images can be found on his personal website or Instagram account; photos from Turkey, Tanzania, India, and many other beautiful countries where Omar has captured some of the rich and unique cultures still remaining around the world.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Begum Rokeya: The Writer Who Introduced Us To Feminist Sci-Fi | #IndianWomenInHistory

Born in 1880, at the peak of British colonisation of India, Begum Rokeya lived a short, yet meaningful life. A Bengali writer and activist, she has often been touted as the pioneer feminist of Bengal. A fierce advocate of gender equality, Rokeya wrote many short stories, novels, poems, satire and essays, calling for women to be treated equally as men. She held the lack of education to be responsible for women lagging behind men in her writings.

Image Credit:

She has long represented the face of Muslim feminism in Bengal. She pushed for an equal society through her writings and activism, as well as her actions and strategy. She also founded a girls’ school, and an NGO named Anjuman-e-Khawatin-e-Islam (Islamic Women’s Association). Despite facing several obstacles and criticism, Rokeya went door-to-door, encouraging men to send their daughters to school, and continued the campaigning till her death.
Some of her major literary works include Abarodhbasini, in which she attacked the extreme forms of veils and purdah, which she claimed was bad for women, and stopped them from thinking and working independently. Begum Rokeya also wrote a science fiction novella, Sultana’s Dream, in which she lives in a feminist utopian world ruled by women.

Early Life and Work

Rokeya Begum was born in Pairabondh village of Rangpour. Her father, a local landlord, married 4 times, and imposed a strict veiling upon the women of his family. No formal education was allowed for women in his house, and only Arabic was taught informally, so they could recite the Quran and perform Islamic religious rites.
However, defying the rules laid out by her father, Rokeya, along with her sister Karimunesa insisted upon learning Bangla – the local language – much to their father’s disdain. The Bengali Muslims preferred using Arabic or Persian as a language to produce media. However, their brother Ibrahim Saber decided to teach them.
Rokeya married the Deputy Magistrate of Baghalpur, Sakhwat Hussain, who was then a divorced 39-year old. Having studied in England, Hussain was a liberal person, who encouraged his wife to learn both Bengali and English. During the lifetime of her husband, she started her literary career and launched books like Motichur and Sultana’s Dream.
Rokeya led a hard life, full of personal losses and tragedies. She didn’t get her mother’s love and attention, her husband passed away early in their married life and she lost two daughters in their infancy.
She faced severe resistance from the society for her writings and activism to change its attitude towards women. She attempted to inform them of the world outside of their homes, kitchens, of things other than clothes and jewellery. She inspired the Bengali Muslim women to wake up from the patriarchal slumber and accept their individualities and created a slogan, “Jago Go Bhogini” (Wake Up Sisters).

Career as a Writer and Activist

At the peak of her career, Rokeya had learnt Bangla, Urdu, English, Persian and Arabic. However, much of her literary work is in Bangla, excluding a few stories in English. One of her first novellas, Sultana’s Dream was also in English, in which she reversed the gender roles and portrayed women as dominant gender. Although she started writing about reforming the society in as early as 1903, a two-volume compilation of which was published in 1908 and 1921 respectively. She published a novel, Padmaraga in 1924, and another, Oborodhbashini in 1928.

Image Credit: Livemint

Rokeya started off her school, Sakhawat Memorial Girls’ School in the memory of her late husband. In 1911, when the foundation was laid in Kolkata, there were only 8 students. However, the strength increased to 84 by 1915, and it became a high school in 1930. Among the many subjects taught at the school, the most prominent ones were nursing, sewing, home economics, Bangla and English. She believed it was very important for women to be strong physically, so she focused more on physical activity in her school. Through practical training, Rokeya aimed at enabling women to be economically independent, whenever needed.

Image Credit:

Having faced the issues being a woman herself, Rokeya decided to launch Anjuman-e-Khawanteen-e-Islam (Islamic Women’s Association) in 1916. Much of the organisation’s work focused on helping women coming from poorer backgrounds. Along with offering financial help, the organisation also provided shelter to women in need. She also launched a program to help women living in slums learn reading, writing and child care.
Her profile by The Daily Star noted, “Begum Rokeya believed that men and women were created differently, but equally… the subjugated position of women was not due to Allah’s will, but due to men’s immorality.”
It also pointed out her use of logic to resist the idea that women were created inferior to men. “Had God Himself intended women to be inferior, He would have ordained it so that mothers would have given birth to daughters at the end of the fifth month of pregnancy. The supply of mother’s milk would naturally have been half of that in case of a son. But that is not the case. How can it be? Is not God just and most merciful?” it read.
Eliza Binte Elahi of The Asian Age writes, “Rokeya believed that men deliberately refuse women equal opportunities to cultivate their minds with the purpose of sustaining women’s dependence on men and further perpetuating women’s dependence on their own inferior status. Rokeya used examples of women who earn more than their husbands, but still submit to the men folk at home to point out that the framework of women’s subjugation exceeds economic parameters.”
Rokeya died on December 8, 1932, while working on an article titled Narir Odhikar.

Famous Publications

Begum Rokeya’s work has a distinctive style, in which she inculcates logic, creativity and humour. She started her career writing for a magazine called Nabanoor, and throughout her career, she asked women to stand up for their rights and protest the injustice they face and encouraged them to break the barriers holding them back from progress. Some of her famous writings are as follows:
  • Motichur (Two volumes, first published in 1904, second in ’22)
  • Sultana’s Dream
  • Pipasha (Thirst)
  • Padmarag (Essence of the Lotus, published in 1924)
  • God Gives, Man Robs (Published in 1927)
  • Boligarto (story)


Her death anniversary is commemorated as Rokeya Day on December 9 in Bangladesh. A state-run public university named Begum Rokeya University was launched by the government in 2008.

Image Credit: Begum Rokeya University

The Bangladeshi government also launched a national honour titled Begum Rokeya Padak for her contributions towards the literature and betterment of women in Bengal. The Padak has been given to 39 women till now for their exceptional work to promote women rights.

Image Credit: The New Nation