Maryam of My Marrakesh Travels to Rwanda

Almost a year ago now Maryam, a human rights and democracy specialist and blogger at My Marrakesh travelled to Rwanda.  In a series of searching and poignant blog posts, she told the stories of the people she encountered and the things she learned.  This is an amazing set of posts that is colourful and easy to read; not an objective newspaper article or staid historical text but the experiences of one woman reaching out to others.

My Marrakesh
Click on the thumbnail to visit the first of the Rwanda posts

You can navigate the posts by clicking the links above the post title to go to the next one.  If you only read one or two of them, read these two:
Ethnic cleansing Rwanda-style: a story of genocide, while the world looked on
Rwanda's genocide: and Vestine's story

The Horror of 21st Century Sexual Slavery

Whilst there are legitimate forms of human trafficking, in recent years the term has come to represent the practice of recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of human beings.  These people can be willing participants (for example, refugees wanting passage to another land) but they are often abducted or taken by force.  Once in the hands of the person receiving them, they are often forced into prostitution or slavery (sexual or otherwise), debt bondage or other kinds of forced labour and involuntary servitude.

"Human trafficking is the second largest organized crime in the world, it has become a larger business than drug trafficking and has generated over US$9.5 Billion/year" - United States Department of State

In his column, New York Times journalist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a piece called The Evil Behind the Smiles. In it, he discussed the experience of Sina Vann, a girl who was kidnapped at age 13, drugged, used for sexual slavery and beaten and tortured repeatedly.

“I had heard about torture chambers under the brothels but had never seen one, so a few days ago Sina took me to the red-light district here where she once was imprisoned. A brothel had been torn down, revealing a warren of dungeons underneath.

“I was in a room just like those,” she said, pointing. “There must be many girls who died in those rooms.” She grew distressed and added: “I’m cold and afraid. Tonight I won’t sleep.”” - The Evil behind the Smiles [New York Times]

Following this piece, Kristof heard from several readers doubting that conditions were so abusive and saying that many women go into prostitution willingly. There is a huge difference between prostitution and sexual slavery.  Prostitutes are paid, slaves are not.

I must admit though, I was also quite naive about sexual slavery and human trafficking at one stage. I was naive about a lot of things until I read Gangs: A Journey into the Heart of the British Underworld by Tony Thompson.  My review of the book can be found here.  The biggest thing I learned from his book is that crime is not fun or exciting or entertaining.  It is destructive and horrible and things like sexual slavery do happen and they destroy the lives of thousands of people.

So I would never pass judgement on people for their naivety, for not being about to comprehend such evil. The video below is by Kristof too.  It is mildly upsetting and may offend sensitive viewers but it is not too graphic.


“Barack Obama’s presidency will symbolise a victory over the long legacy of 19th century slavery.  I hope that his administration will do more to tackle 21st century slavery” - Nicholas D. Kristof in The Face of Slavery

Next week I will feature some of the great organisations that are working to overcome sexual slavery and help victims to recover.

An award

One of my favourite blogs on the Blogosphere is The Modern Historian so imagine how nice it is to receive an award from him!


This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD means that this blog is...
B: Beautiful
I: Informative
N: Neighborly
G: Gorgeous
O: Outstanding


Stepterix from The Modern Historian voted me as Informative.

I really appreciate this award and I love that people are reading this blog and finding it informational and informative.  I am, however, notoriously shy to pass such awards on so I am going to leave it here with a big thank you!

Get involved

Following on from my post on child soldiers last week, I have decided to feature a post on how you can get involved and help in various areas of the world. You can comment here or email missus.emm [at] gmail [dot] com if you would like your cause featured here and I will put a permanent link to this post in my side bar.


Future Guardians of Peace

Help former child soldiers from Liberia in their education and development. This fantastic programme helps former child soldiers reintegrate into their community, continue their education and become meaningful and contributing members of society. They desperately need your help!

South Africa

Children of the Dawn

This is a South African community based programme where you can sponsor an Aids/HIV orphan to be schooled, homed and supported in their own community. At present, Children of the Dawn cares for hundreds of children over six rural communities but they need your help!  It costs less than 50p or $1 a day to sponsor a child.


Smith Family's Learning for Life program

I discovered this over at Jayne's excellent blog Gleeful.  This is an Australian programme where you can sponsor a disadvantaged child.  They are currently helping 27,000 children and you can sponsor a child for about AU$1 a day.

Uganda: The Unknown Soldier

I found this fascinating link in the New York TimesVertigo (an imprint of DC Comics) has released a comic book series called Unknown Soldier.  Due for release as a collected edition on 26 August 2009, the series is set in Uganda and is about Dr Lwanga Moses, a Ugandan whose family fled the country when he was 7.  He returns as an adult in 2002 and along with his wife Sera, hopes to put his medical skills to use in helping his country overcome 15 years of civil war.

According to the New York Times article, the series is so authentic and factually based that it comes with a glossary and explains the background of the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army and various players in the conflict.


The first collected volume is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released next week on 26 August 2009.

The 2,996 Project

Ground Zero, Manhattan, New York

On September 11th this year, it will mark 8 years since the 9/11 attacks on the US.  It has been a long time since I blogged about 9/11 but when I was in New York, I visited Ground Zero and the Tribute WTC Visitor Center.  I don’t think I will ever be able to grasp what happened that day but I will never forget it.

Project 2,996 is a project whereby bloggers remember the lives of the victims of 9/11 and not their deaths.  I think it is a wonderful and touching initiative and I certainly hope to take place this year.  If you are a blogger, please consider going through to the site and volunteering to write a memorial.  They really need the support as only 366 bloggers have volunteered so far this year.  You can also take part if you don’t have a blog so visit the site for more details (I’d also be willing to host your post if you don’t have a blog).

Dispatches – Terror in Mumbai

Between 26 and 28 November 2008, the city of Mumbai as subjected to a coordinated and vicious campaign of terror attacks by ten armed members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic organisation from Pakistan.

Ajmal Amir Kasab, the surviving gunman

Dispatches: Terror in Mumbai is a graphic and explosive piece of journalism that tells the story of the Mumbai terror attacks in the words of the victims, families, law enforcement personnel and surviving gunman.  Watching this piece, I went through so many emotions including shock, horror and a deep sadness.  On the Channel 4 site, they describe the attacks as an atrocity and they were indeed a cowardly and disgusting series of attacks. 

The gunmen arrived by boat from Karachi and split up into pairs.  They attacked a busy bar, a crowded railway platform, two hotels, two taxis and a Jewish spiritual centre.  They fired indiscriminately into crowds and Kasab stated that their aim was to kill people.  Simply to kill as many people as they could.  At least 173 people died in the attacks and 308 were counted as wounded.

The worst thing about the attacks was that they went into one of the poorest countries on Earth and victimised people who would find it especially difficult to bounce back from the attacks.  These were normal people; men women and children of all religions and walks of life, including Muslims.  For an organisation that preached the unity of Islam, they sure did a good job at tearing families and communities apart.

Dispatches: Terror in Mumbai is chilling as it shows that the terrorists were basically brainwashed boys who were used and manipulated by their operators in Pakistan for whatever grandiose intentions they had.  I abhor terrorism but this film helped me to understand the people behind the attacks, both the pawns and the power seekers.

I’ve embedded the videos below and I would really recommend viewing them.  They are extremely graphic and disturbing though and may upset certain viewers.

Liberia: Guardians of the Future

Link: Loving Child Soldiers Back Into Society [Ode]

One of the most horrific effects of war in Africa in the past decade or so has been the use of child soldiers.  Despite the criticism that the book has received, I still absolutely recommend that you read Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah if you would like to read an autobiographical account of a child soldier from Sierra Leone.

Today’s post is about former child soldiers from Liberia and the changes they have made since the end of the war in 2003.

Child soldier fighting for Charles Taylor's government [source]

I came across this brilliant website today:  According to their front page, Future Generation Guardianship refers to the notion that:

“People who live today have the sacred right and obligation to protect the commonwealth of the Earth and the common health of people and all our relations for many generations to come.

Future Generation Guardianship is one way to do that. It is a new twist on an ancient idea” -

The Future Generation Guardians are a handful of former child soldiers that have worked hard over the past six years to rebuild their lives, resume their education and move away from the life of violence, drugs and alcohol that they experienced as child soldiers. They want to talk about what happened to them, build and heal meaningful relationships, help rebuild Liberian society and be of service to their community.

Do visit the touching section featuring stories and photos taken by the children themselves.  More photos can be found at the site which also features a section on how you can get involved and help these young people to reform and grow into contributing members of a developing society.

This Day in History: 6 – 9 August 1945

Clothing remains of victim of Hiroshima atomic bomb

Please excuse my tardiness but it has been a hectic week!  This anniversary was too important to ignore though especially considering I had recently taken the photograph above which depicts the clothing remains of of a victim of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

On 6 August 1945, the Enola Gay (a US military B-29 bomber) dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and up to 140,000 people were killed.  Three days later on 9 August 1945, the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and 80,000 people were killed.  The bombings resulted in the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces and is attributed with bringing World War II to an end.

But at what cost?  The predominantly civilian victims of the atomic bombs experienced their skin literally melting off their bodies.  Those closest to the bombs died within seconds but about 15-20% of the victims died from the effects of flash burns, radiations burns and injuries sustained in the fall out.  In later weeks and months, they succumbed to radiation sickness, illness and malnutrition.  There have also been several linked cases of leukaemia and other cancers in the area since the event due to remaining radiation.

The horrific but acclaimed Japanese manga series Barefoot Gen illustrates the effects of the bomb.  Take a look at this short video.  You can watch the full feature length film on YouTube.  That link takes you to the playlist and consists of nine 10-minute clips.

My grandfather fought in World War II and I am not taking sides.  I just think it is important to realise that we can never do this again.  That we must trust in organisations such as the United Nations and that atomic war can never, ever be allowed to happen again.

This excellent article presents a United Press news story that appeared at the time.

Darfur: “Genocide label no longer accurate”

Link: Is Darfur still a genocide? White House isn't sure [ISRIA]
Link: US envoy says US sanctions hurt Sudan [AP]

Back in March Obama selected retired Air Force major general J. Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan.

Then-Senator Barack Obama at a foreign policy forum with retired Air Force General Scott Gration, right, in Des Moines, Iowa, in December 2007. [Associated Press]

On Thursday 30 July, Gration reported back to senators that the “genocide” label is no longer helpful or accurate. He noted that there is a significant difference between what happened in 2003/2004 and what is happening today and that he can see no evidence of state sponsored terrorism in Sudan. He has said that sanctions are hindering efforts to rebuild the war-torn country and help people in camps.

He recently angered Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, when he said the situation in Darfur was no longer a “genocide” but reflected the “remnants of genocide”. Rice also gave testimony last Wednesday and did not engage in the controversy surrounding the definition. She said that the US have two tasks to complete in Darfur: the implementation of a north / south peace agreement and saving lives and ending suffering in Darfur.

Whatever the approach taken towards achieving peace in the region, Darfur advocacy groups remain skeptical of President al-Bashirs intentions:

"We are encouraged to hear unequivocally from General Gration that he and the Obama administration are pursuing a balanced approach which includes both carrots and sticks as levers to change Khartoum's behavior," said Save Darfur coalition President Jerry Fowler in a statement. "We are, however, seriously doubtful of Khartoum's true intention and ability to make good on their promises." - ISRIA

I tried for a long time to remain objective and to withhold judgement on whether the conflict in Darfur was a civil war or a genocide. I explain in this post that there is no longer doubt in my mind. Watch the videos and then perhaps you too will be convinced.