Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa.

About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.

Australia is not shocked by the torture of refugee children; Australia is shocked by their survival.

Sajeenthana

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Sydney, Australia, for one night only: “COMMUNE presents LIMBOLAND, an exhibition by Sydney artist Lachie Hinton and photojournalist Mridula Amin exposing the stories of refugees and asylum seekers who were detained indefinitely on Nauru.” At the heart of this exhibition, and project, is a Tamil girl from Sri Lanka, named Sajeenthana. At the age of three years old, Sajeenthana “arrived”, was dumped, on the island of Nauru, thanks to Australia. When anyone tried to engage with Sajeenthana, she had a simple, straightforward response: “I want to kill myself”. That’s what Sajeenthana said, and that’s what the other child refugees on Nauru said. Australis is not shocked by the pain, suffering, torture it has inflicted on these children. Australia is only shocked that they survived. Sajeenthana is now eight years old.

In February 2019, Australia emptied Nauru of its child refugee population. Many were sent to the United States. Sajeenthana and her father were rejected. In October 2018, Sajeenthana stopped eating. She spent 10 days in hospital on Nauru. Then she and her father were moved to a Brisbane hospital. From there they were moved to “community detention” in Brisbane. No one knows what will happen next.

What is known is this: Australia forced Sajeenthana to endure a childhood composed of suicide and self-harm. Leaving Nauru is a first step, but Nauru has not left Sajeenthana, nor all the other children who lived there, the ones who witnessed “successful” suicides as well as suicide attempts, who watched so many others cut themselves that it became a “natural” part of life. 

Australia has engaged in a decade and more of unrestrained, indefinite detention of migrant, immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker children. Why do the adjectives matter? Australia’s national policy has been to torture children. The tortureof children has become ordinaryroutine, and while claim to be shocked, in fact the State has been proud of its routine torture of childrenand proud its people, the true Australians, who are NOT shockedNOT SHOCKED, by the routine torture of children. That’s why, even if it looks like the camp on Nauru is closed,there are no plans to close the camps.

So, here is a poem for the children, the ones who were never meant to survive:

Detention Deficit Disorder
by Jane Downing

How do you write a poem about Manus and Nauru
We’ve seen the razor wire footage/ listened to the reports succumbed to Attention Deficit Disorder – look a celebrity died Will a well chosen image connect
Move someone to action (not me)
like poetry in the old days recited in the heat of revolution Does this need a personal anecdote
to give it a punch above lecture/harangue
a poignant quote*
A crisis point to bring into focus the human face
that reveals the inhumanity of our country of the Fair Go turning a willfully blind eye
and blaming the hypocrisy of smiling politicians
Will a reference to Hitler help any (no) 

How could the Germans not have known? It’s not as if we don’t 

History will not be kind
An Apology will be too late
Having written a poem will not have been enough 

* ‘Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance’. Robert Frost 

(Photo Credit: SBS News / Lachie Hinton)

Restraint and seclusion in Maine schools is an atrocity

Yesterday, May 13, 2019, Disability Rights Maine, DRM, released a report on the use of restraints and seclusion rooms in schools in Maine, an update on its 2017 report. Conditions in Maine have worsened: “DRM found: 1) the use of restraint and seclusion has increased every year since 2014 – from 12,000 to more than 20,000 in 2018; 2) data remains incomplete because multiple covered entities fail to report every year; and 3) students with disabilities continue to be disproportionately subjected to restraint and seclusion, as a majority of the restraints and seclusions in Maine take place in special purpose private schools for children with disabilities.” The report concludes, “Restraint and seclusion are dangerous and ineffective practices. They are supposed to be reserved for emergency situations, but as the data shows, they are being used at alarming rates and it continues to rise every year. Just last school year, there were an estimated 20,000 restraints and seclusions in Maine schools and likely more. This translates to a restraint or seclusion every 5 minutes that school is in session. Something has to change … Maine students are restrained and secluded at rates over four to eleven times the national average, and students with disabilities are subjected to these practices at significantly disproportionate rates.” Every 5 minutes, a child in Maine is tortured and they call it education.

In 2017, New Zealand banned seclusion rooms, calling them unreasonable and oppressive. Last year, Alberta, Canada, was forced acknowledge and begin to address its use of seclusion and restraint as a form of torture of children living with disabilities. Last year, England was forced to begin to acknowledge its use of seclusion and restraint of schoolchildren as a form of torture. In the United States, Georgia has `struggled’ with its seclusion rooms for the last decade. In 2004, Jonathan King, 13, hanged himself in a Georgia seclusion room, an 8-foot-by-8-foot cell called a “timeout room.” In 2009, the National Disability Rights Network published School is not supposed to hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools. It’s 2019, and schools across the United States today hurt more children more intensely.

Why have we declared war on children living with disabilities? Why have we chosen to do something worse than criminalizing children living with disabilities? In the name of education, we have chosen to torture children until they seek their own death. What terrible sinhave these children committed? Why do we continue to send children into solitary confinement? Why do we continue to torture those who are most vulnerable? When will we stop this practice? What are we teaching children, all children in all schools, when we torture their classmates and then call it “seclusion” and “restraint”? Why does it take so much time and energy to stop torturing children? Solitary confinement in prisons is torture. Seclusion rooms in schools is torture. This is us: children dying in seclusion rooms across the country

Now it’s Maine’s turn to suffer the children. Maine legislators will sit through heartrending testimony of parents of children who have been `secluded’: “She was a different kid when she came back. It was months before she genuinely smiled or laughed again. And this happened in Maine, to my daughter, to my girl. And it’s not OK.” It’s not OK. It never was.

(Infographic Credit: Kennebec Journal)

Why does the English government hate Black Jamaican woman, Pauline Taylor-French?

Graham French and Pauline Taylor-French

Why does the English government hate Pauline Taylor-French? Pauline Taylor-French is now 45 years old. At the age of 28, Pauline Taylor-French found herself in an abusive relationship, took her two daughters and fled Jamaica. She went to England, where she has lived, and thrived, for 17 years. For 17 years, Pauline Taylor-French lived `legally’ in England on a series of student visas. A few years ago, she met Graham French. Soon after, they established a home together. They became engaged. In 2017, Pauline Taylor and Graham French were engaged and making their wedding plans. Then, in September 2017, Pauline Taylor was taken to Yarl’s Wood, where she was detained for 24 days. Pauline Taylor and Graham French have since married. Pauline Taylor-French is married to a citizen of the United Kingdom. Both of Pauline Taylor-French’s grandmothers were British citizens. Pauline Taylor’s grandfather fought with the Royal Navy in World War II. None of that seems to matter. Why does none of that matter? Why does the English government go out of its way to demonstrate its hatred for Pauline Taylor-French?

While in Yarl’s Wood for 24 days, Pauline Taylor-French lost 14 pounds. She engaged in self harm. She was put on suicide watch. Reflecting on their situation, Graham French says, “Why are they treating us like this? All her family are here, they have settled status, she has British grandparents, she’s married to me I’m a British citizen, we meet all the criteria for a spouse visa. She almost died when she was detained, being sent to Jamaica could kill her.”

Being sent to Jamaica could kill her. As far as the English government is concerned, that’s fine. Pauline Taylor-French was never meant to survive: “Where an application has been refused and a person has no legal basis to remain in the UK, they should make arrangements to leave.” If being in Jamaica kills her, that’s Pauline Taylor-French’s fault. The Home Office is only following orders.

Why does the English government hate Pauline Taylor-French? A year ago, we asked why the English government hates 59-year-old Yvonne Williams and 64-year-old Yvonne Smith, both originally Jamaican and both with no ties left in Jamaica? Two years ago, we asked why the English government hates 61-year old Paulette Wilson, born in Jamaica and with no ties left in Jamaica? Nine years ago, we asked why the English government hates Jamaican born asylum seekers Denise McNeill, 35 years old, and Shellyann Stupart, at that time both involved in a hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood.

In 2014, we asked why the English government hates 40-year-old Jamaican born Christine Case. Officially Christine Case died of a massive pulmonary thromboembolism, but fellow prisoners said Christine Case was denied medical assistance. Christine Case called for help, as she was feeling severe chest pains, and the `care’ she received was paracetamol, a mild analgesic for minor aches and pains.  Serco runs Yarl’s Wood. Serco claimed they have “24-hour, seven-day urgent medical cover on site at Yarl’s Wood.” Ask Christine Case.

That was 2014. In 1993, immigration officers killed 40-year-old Jamaican Joy Gardner, 40, as her five-year-old son and her mother watched. Joy Gardner had applied for compassionate leave to remain in England. She had no idea that her appeal had been denied. The police showed up and opened fire. Twenty years later, Joy Gardner’s mother, Myrna Simpson, says, simply, “We need justice for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.” Who remembers Joy Gardner? Who remembers Christine Case?

These Jamaican born women are surrounded and embraced by Black and Brown sisters from across the Global South and East: Evenia Mawongera, from Zimbabwe; Opelo Kgari and Florence Kgari, from Botswana; Lazia NabbanjaErioth MwesigwaBetty Tibikawa, from Uganda; Kelechi ChiobaAderonke Apata, from Nigeria; Lydia Besong, from Cameroon; Dianne Ngoza, from the DRC; Mabel Gawanas, from Namibia; Mariam Ibrahim Yusuf, from Somalia; Chennan Fei, from China; Shiromini Satkunarajah, from Sri Lanka; Irene Clennell, from Singapore; Bita Ghaedi, from Iran; Azbaa Dar, from Pakistan. So many named, so many unnamed. This is but a sliver of the empire of hatred being constructed by immigration regimes, in England, the United States, Australia, and beyond. Why does England hate Pauline Taylor-French?

This week the Home Office gave Pauline Taylor-French a 30-month stay… and then what? Two years of intense struggle, fear, anxiety, terror do not just go away, nor are they meant to. Too often have we asked why this State or that State hates this Black woman or that Brown woman. The time for questions is over. It’s time, way past time, to turn down the walls, to end the terror, to reckon with the hatred of women of color, to confront the policies that are today’s iteration of empire as genocide. “They should make arrangements to leave.”

Christine Case

(Photo Credit 1: Shropshire Star) (Photo Credit 2: BBC)

Utah, Georgia and Arkansas stop shackling women (prisoners) in childbirth!

In 2014, Maryland and Massachusettsstopped shackling women prisoners in childbirth. Last year, at this time, North Carolina ended shackling women prisoners in childbirth. Sometimes, a state legislature decides; sometimes a prisons director. or a governor decides. Advocates for banning the shackling of pregnant women insist that legislation is preferable to executive orders. This year, Utah, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina legislatures considered banning shackling pregnant women prisoners and, in some instances, the use of solitary for pregnant and post-partum women prisoners. Utah, Georgia. and Arkansas passed legislation ending shackling. Tennessee failed to pass. Missouri, which already bans the use of shackles on women in childbirth, extended limitations on the practice to jails in Missouri … with “extraordinary circumstances” exceptions. 

In Utah, both houses of the legislature unanimously passed a bill banning the use of shackles in childbirth. Jake Anderegg, a Senate sponsor of the legislation, called the bill “one of the most no-brainer bills I’ve ever run.” In Georgia, both houses passed, although the Senate vote was 52 – 1. The one opponent was “a former law enforcement officer”. In both Utah and Georgia, legislators were moved to action by testimony of formerly incarcerated women who had suffered childbirth while in shackles, Michelle Aldana; in Utah; Pamela Winn, in Georgia.

In 2001, Michelle Aldana was in Utah State Prison for seven months. She was also pregnant. When Michelle Aldana gave birth, she was shackled to her hospital bed for somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. Throughout, her legs and one arm were chained to the bed. Throughout, her ankles bled. As Michelle Aldana remembers, “I felt like a farm animal … I just don’t think any woman, when they’re that vulnerable, should ever be treated that way. It’s just wrong.” Michelle Aldana’s child was born with meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) and emerged from the womb unconscious: “They hurt my baby….and he didn’t do anything to anybody. I felt like it was my fault because I had a drug charge…but he didn’t do anything – ever – to anybody. He’s just a tiny little baby and they hurt him really bad…and I still feel really bad.” According to Michelle Aldana, because of her body type, she was told a vaginal birth would be dangerous. Utah refused a Caesarean section, and so she had to endure a vaginal birth, during which her pelvis was broken: “I felt like an animal in a cage. I felt like I wasn’t human … Nobody in this world deserves to be treated like an animal.”

In 2008, Pamela Winn. entered Robert A Deyton Detention Facility, a facility in Clayton County, Georgia, that was designed for men. At intake, she discovered she was six weeks pregnant. At that point, Pamela Winn was a healthy single mother of two children, a college graduate, a registered nurse, and a home owner. Whenever Pamela Winn was transported anywhere, she was shackled, wrists to belly chain. At one point, entering a van, she fell and, being shackled, couldn’t catch herself. According to Pamela Winn, “From that point is when I started bleeding.” She asked for medical attention. No one came for days. It took twelve weeks to actually get any medical attention. Then, one night, Pamela Winn started bleeding and cramping. Shackled to her bed, Pamela Winn suffered a miscarriage. Then, she was taken to the hospital, where she was informed that she had already miscarried. When she asked where her baby was, the guards told her they had thrown out the sheets, and with them the baby. Soon after, Pamela Winn was transferred to another facility, where she was immediately placed in solitary. Pamela Winn is now Executive Director of RestoreHer, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of incarcerated pregnant women and ending the mass incarceration directly impacted women of color: “I think that’s what’s really driven me to do this work and to fight for these laws to be passed. The fact that they tell you there’s nothing you can do. That just didn’t sit well with my soul to know that someone can treat a person like this.”

We keep reading this sentence: “Women are America’s fast-growing segment of prisoners.” So what? Last week a first of a kind study considering pregnancy outcomes in US prisons was published. That studynotes, “Being in prison or jail during pregnancy can be a difficult time for many women, fraught with uncertainty about the kind of health care they might receive, about whether they will be shackled in labor, and about what will happen to their infants when they are born. Some pregnant women in custody may experience isolation and degradation from staff and insufficient pre-natal care.” The study ends with a call to recognize “the need to address the numerous complexities of birth in custody, such as the medically unsafe practices of placing pregnant women in solitary confinement and shackling women in labor, ensuring proper pregnancy and postpartum care, and determining who will care for the infants born to mothers in custody.” Who doesn’t know that?

Michelle Aldana and Pamela Winn refused to be treated like animals, refused to give up or give in. They have gone on to become inspiring advocates for common moral decency. Who are we when we have to struggle to prohibit forcing women to give birth in shackles? It’s time to stop `discovering’ that women are the fastest growing prison population; that women in prison are pregnant and are giving birth; that prison is bad for pregnant women. Stop shackling pregnant women and stop sending pregnant women and post-partum women into solitary. Stop sending pregnant women to prison. Tear down the prison walls and build a better world. 

(Image Credit 1: Radical Doula) (Image Credit 2: Colorlines / Stokely Baksh)

Where are the women? In jail. In prison. On probation. There is nothing to celebrate here.

Yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics released two reports, Prisoners in 2017 and Jail Inmates in 2017. Headlines would suggest that the United States is beginning its exit from decades of mass incarceration: “Prison populations decline again, Justice Department report shows”; “Crime Is Down, Yet U.S. Incarceration Rates Are Still Among the Highest in the World”. The picture is not that simple. First, six states account for much of the decline: Alaska, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, Vermont. Even there, the picture is muddy. In California, for example, much of the prison population decline has resulted from moving people from prisons to jails. Predictably, that move has resulted in rising death rates in jails across California. Meanwhile, according to the Vera Institute, 19 states saw increases of prison population: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Where are the women in all of this mixed picturing? Everywhere, and for women, the picture continues to be clear and grim.

At the end of 2017, women comprised 7% of the total prison population. From 2016 to 2017, the number of women in prison fell by 0.4%, while the number of men in prison fell by 1.3%. From 2007 to 2017, the number of women in prison fell by 2.6%, while the number of men in prison fell by 7.1%. From 2009 to 2017, the number of men in prison has fallen every single year from the year before. For women, that is not at all the case. The numbers have fluctuated up and down from year to year, and for the last three years have remained more or less constant. States with the highest prison rates for women are, in descending order: Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Dakota, Idaho. The prison rates for Black women is almost double that for White women; 18- and 19-year old Black women are 4.4 times more likely than White women of the same age to be in prison. Finally, 25% of women in state prisons had been convicted of a drug offense. 14% of men in state prisons were in for drug offenses. 

The picture in jails is worse.  From 2005 to 2017, the incarceration rate of women in jails grew by 10%; for men it dropped by 12%. The male population in jails went from 649,300 in 2010 to 628,2000 in 2017. The female population in jails went from 91,900 in 2010 to 113,4000 in 2017: “From 2005 to 2017, the female jail population grew by 20%, while the male population experienced a small decline (3%). As a result, the percentage of the jail population that was female increased from 12.6% to 15.2%.” 

As the Prison Policy Initiative, PPI, noted last year, women are disproportionately dumped into local jails. 60% of women “under local control” are remand prisoners. They have not been convicted of anything and are awaiting trial. State and federal agencies contract with local jails, and so around 13,000 state and federal women prisoners are housed in jails. Finally, again according to the Prison Policy Initiative, taking into account the impact of disproportionate use of jails for women leaves the picture largely undone, because 74% of women “under control of any U.S. correctional system” are actually on probation, which is another way of saying are ever more precariously positioned to return to jail or prison.

There is nothing to celebrate in this week’s reports from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Until the same attention and resources are directed towards decarcerating women, until reports of “prison populations” actually report on women prisoners, the struggle continues. Last year, it was reported that of 714,000 women and girls held in penal institutions across the world, close to 212,000 were women and girls held in institutions in the United States. Close to 30% of all imprisoned women and girls anywhere in the world are located in the United States. The United States has the highest rate of female imprisonment of any country in the world. There is nothing to celebrate here. 

(Infographic Credit: Prison Policy Initiative)

What happened to Cherdeena Wynne? Nothing. An Aboriginal woman died in police custody

Cherdeena Wynne

In Western Australia, yet another Aboriginal woman died in police custody. Cherdeena Wynne was 26 years old, mother of three children, living with mental illness. According to Shirley Wynne, Cherdeena Wynne’s mother, at 3:30 on April 4, eight police officers entered Shirley Wynne’s home and, in the dark, wrestled Cherdeena Wynne to the floor, where they handcuffed her. According to Shirley Wynn, the officers kept calling Cherdeena Wynne by another name. Finally, after 20 minutes, the officers left the house and Cherdeena Wynne understandably terribly upset. Cherdeena Wynne ran from the house. Police encountered her blocks away from her mother’s house. Police handcuffed Cherdeena Wynne, for her “protection.” Cherdeena Wynne passed out. Officers uncuffed her, administered CPR. She revived and was taken to hospital, where she was placed in an induced coma and died, on Tuesday, April 9. Police are not investigating her death because, basically, nothing happened. It gets worse.

Cherdeena Wynne was the daughter of Shirley Wynne and Warren Cooper. Cherdeena Wynne was Noongar and Yamatji. In 1999, Warren Cooper was arrested. Warren Cooper died in police custody. Both Cherdeena Wynne and her father Warren Cooper were 26 years old when they died in police custody. Jennifer Clayton, Cherdeena Wynne’s grandmother and Warren Cooper’s mother, said, “It’s time for this to stop. I have lost my son and now I have lost a granddaughter.” Carol Roe, Jennifer Clayton’s cousin, agreed: “If kids die from natural causes you can go on, but the way our kids die we can’t go on. We are lost in the system and they don’t care two stuffs.” Carol Roe is Ms. Dhu’s grandmother, the same 22-year-old Ms. Dhu who died in custody in 2014, also in Western Australia. Ms. Dhu was arrested for unpaid parking fines. Ms. Dhu and Cherdeena Wynne were executed for the crime of being-Aborigina-women.

Monday, April 8, marked the 28thanniversary of the publication of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. That Commission studied 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody between 1980 and 1989. Of 99 deaths, 33 occurred in Western Australia, one of six states. The Commission issued 399 recommendations. At this point, a third of the commission’s recommendations lay untouched and without implementation. In 2016, at a commemoration of the 25thanniversary of the Commission, Carol Roe said, “They do the talk, but they need to do the walk and take action and help us and support us. Set the people free for petty crimes, instead of locking them up. Eighteen years ago my nephew died in custody. Two years ago it was my granddaughter. When is it going to stop, our heart still bleeds … I think Australia and the world need to see how my granddaughter was treated. Dragged around like a kangaroo. They need to look at it, let the world see. Shame, shame on Australia.”

We have described the deaths of the following Aboriginal men and women in Western Australia before: Mr. Ward, 2008Maureen Mandijarra, 2012;  Ms. Dhu, 2014. Two years ago, we described, after three years, there was still no justice for Ms. Dhu, her family, or Aboriginal women generally. Repeatedly we have seen Western Australia as the epicenter for the rising incarceration of Aboriginal women and the expanding and intensifying abuse of Aboriginal women in the various forms of detention in Western Australia. None of this is new.

Currently, there is no accountability and no justice for the deaths of Aboriginal and Indigenous women and men in Australia’s prison. Cherdeena Wynne was handcuffed in police custody when she fell unconscious. The police decided not to investigate. Nothing happened, less than nothing. It’s time for this to stop. Stop sending Aboriginal women and men to jail for drunken behavior, sleeping rough, unpaid fines, mental illness, being Aboriginal. It’s time, it’s way past time, for this to stop. 

Ms, Dhu

(Photo Credit 1: The Guardian) (Photo Credit 2: ABC)

Baby Jane Allas, Moe Moe Than, Milagros Tecson Comilang, Desiree Rante Luis: Today’s faces of abuse of domestic workers

Mary Ann Allas and Baby Jane Allas

In 2014, former domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih stood before a gathering of women and gave witness to the horrors she had endured: “My name is Erwiana Sulistyaningsih. I am 23 years old, and come from a poor peasant family of Indonesia and am a former domestic worker from Hong Kong … I chose Hong Kong because it is said to be a safe country and I had heard no news about migrant workers being abused there.” Hong Kong was not, is not, safe. Over the last month a number of women domestic workers’ stories have emerged that demonstrate both the spectacular brutality of households and the structural brutality of nation-State. These are the stories of Baby Jane Allas, Moe Moe Than, Milagros Tecson Comilang, Desiree Rante Luis.

Baby Jane Allas arrived in Hong Kong in late 2017. She left behind five children. In early 2019, Baby Jane Allas was diagnosed with third-stage cervical cancer. She took medical leave, as is her right under Hong Kong law. On February 17, while on leave, she received a letter from her employers terminating her contract. Along with the loss of job, this also meant loss of access to public medical care. That letter was a slow death sentence. Baby Jane Allas, and her sister Mary Ann Allas, also a domestic worker in Hong Kong, organized. They raised money for medical care. They sued, under both labor law and disability laws. The case is still ongoing, but supporters already note that there were many `irregularities’ in the hearing. Baby Jane Allas reported that her stay of employment was one abuse and violation of law and rights after another, but she needed the job. She’s a single mother of five children. 

Moe Moe Than’s story is one of spectacular cruelty, the “worst of its kind”, according to a judge. 32-year-old Moe Moe Than arrived in Singapore from Myanmar in 2012. She worked for a couple that refused her food, access to the toilet, time off and worse. At one point, when complained about the quality and quantity of food, the couple forced fed Moe Moe Than, and when she vomited, the forced her to eat her vomit. Her employers beat her regularly and forced her to clean in her underwear. All of that occurred in 2012. In March, seven years later, the couple was sentenced to time in prison and to compensation. This same couple was convicted of abusing an Indonesian maid, in 2017, and never served any time in prison.

Finally, there are the cases of Milagros Tecson Comilang and Desiree Rante Luis, both former domestic workers from the Philippines. Milagros Tecson Comilang arrived in Hong Kong in 1997. In 2005, she married a permanent Hong Kong resident. In 2007, she gave birth to a daughter. Comilang and her husband have since divorced, and he refused to support her application to stay. Desiree Rante Luis arrived in Hong Kong in 1991. She has three sons, all permanent Hong Kong residents, but Desiree Rante Luis had to leave, and has only seen her family while on a tourist visa. She also applied for permanent residence status. In the case of Milagros Tecson Comilang the child’s father doesn’t want to care for his child. In the case of Desiree Rante Luis, the father is a live-in domestic worker, and so can’t care for his children. This week, the court decided that both women have to leave Hong Kong and leave their children behind. Desiree Rante Luis said, “We have been waiting for a long time. I don’t know why the Hong Kong government has no heart.”

Why do the Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and so many other, governments have no heart for transnational women? It’s a good question. Here’s another good question: “Each page a victory/At whose expense the victory ball?” Bertolt Brecht asked that in 1936. It’s now 2019, 83 years later. Baby Jane Allas, Moe Moe Than, Milagros Tecson Comilang, and Desiree Rante Luis join Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, Adelina LisaoTuti Tursilawati, and so many others whose names we wait to learn. We need more than an archaeology of contemporary household atrocities. We need justice. We need justice which begins at home.  We have been waiting for a long time. 

Desiree Rante Luis and her sons

(Photo Credit 1: South China Morning Post / Xiaomei Chen) (Photo Credit 2: South China Morning Post / Edmond So)

In Algeria, once again women shouting “Barakat! Ça suffit!” demand freedom!

Friday, March 29, tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Algiers and across Algeria, rejecting the Army’s version of “compromise” and insisting on popular democracy. This is the sixth mass demonstration in six Fridays, and there have been other, smaller ones during the weeks. Already, the people have removed the forever-and-a-day President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. What happens next is unclear, as it always is, but what is clear, both from reports and from the histories of Algerian people, is that once again women are key leaders and constituents of this uprising, insurgent demand for real democracy, real equality, and real freedom. Report after report after report after report has noted the presence of women “on the front lines”, the ways in which women have retaken and reshaped the public space. These women are part of a longstanding Algerian women’s movement. Like their sisters in Tunisia, in Algeria, women have always been in the forefront of the democratic struggle, have always been the revolutionary guards.

On March 16, Algerian Women for Movement Towards Equality released a statement-petition: “We are currently experiencing a magnificent, peaceful popular uprising against the political system in place. The massive presence of women in the processions testifies to the profound transformations of our society and demands recognition of women’s rights in an egalitarian Algeria.

“This system has reigned supreme since independence using coercive and autocratic means to defeat any desire for change and democratization. In addition to the destruction of the institutions of the Republic (health, education, justice, culture, etc.), the beggaring of political life, corruption, authoritarianism and social injustices, this system has also implemented a Machiavellian strategy sustaining and reinforcing inegalitarian thinking and practices. Algerian women have paid a high price, both symbolically, formally and realistically.

“The history of the Algerian struggles testifies to the massive commitment of women to all the just and decisive struggles that the country has carried out: the War of National Liberation, the building of the independent Algerian State, the revolt of October 1988, trade union, student and democratic struggles before and after October 1988, the struggle against armed fundamentalist groups during the 1990s, etc. Alongside men, women conceptualized, developed and conducted struggles in the hope of building an egalitarian society and seeing this concrete equality lived during these difficult moments become an indisputable achievement once the goals have been achieved.

“Unfortunately, this promised equality is not yet realized. The massive schooling of girls and its procession of competent graduates, our presence in the world of work as well as the legislative and regulatory changes wrenched by decades of struggle, have not yet taken women out of their minority status in society, which remains patriarchal, and in institutions.

“The active and unconditional participation of Algerian women in the February 22nd Movement encourages us to reaffirm our determination to change the system in place with all its components, including its sexist, patriarchal and misogynistic aspects.

“On March 16, 2019, a women’s meeting was held in Algiers. After a debate and a wide consultation, it is retained as follows:

• We, the women who signed this declaration, are convinced that the construction of our common future is nothing without full equality between citizens, regardless of gender, class, region or belief.

• We must continue to be present everywhere with our colleagues, our neighbors to maintain this beautiful diversity in all processions but also to make more visible our demand for equality.

• We decided to create a feminist space that will be positioned every Friday at the portal of the Central Faculty of Algiers.

• We support and encourage similar initiatives throughout the Algerian territory and fully subscribe to all statements that consider equality between women and men as one of the priorities for the change of the current system.

• We call on all women who recognize themselves in this call to join their signatures to ours, to integrate feminist spaces where they exist or to initiate them when conditions permit, and to participate in our next meetings.

• We call to take into account the equal representation of women in any citizen initiative for the exit of this crisis.

• We condemn any act of harassment during demonstrations.

Algiers, March 16, 2019” (You can read the original and sign the petition here.)

On February 22, 2014, just before Bouteflika was to formally announce his candidacy, Amira Bouraoui– a gynecologist, mother of two, “ordinary woman” – showed up at the gates of her local university, stood there alone with a placard, and said, STOP. She said, Barakat! Ça suffit! It’s enough! Around the world, people heard a woman saying, yet again, “¡Ya basta!” Within two days, that singular action sparked a movement. For the past ten years, the Collectif Féministe d’Alger(the feminist association of Algiers) has been organizing for women’s dignity, rights and power. 

Five years later Amira Bouraoui is joined by 83-year-old Djamila Bouhired, a guerrilla combatant in Algeria’s war of independence; 17-year-old ballet dancer Melissa Ziad;  Zoubida Assoul, president of the Network of Arab Women Lawyers; Louisa Hanoune, Secretary General of the Workers Party; and hundreds of thousands of women of all ages and from all sectors of the country. They carry their decades and centuries of resistance into the spaces they seize and create. The future is now. 

(Photo Credit: NPA2009 / DR)

What happened to Annabella Landsberg? Just another agonizing death in HMP Peterborough

Annabella Landsberg

Annabella Landsberg died, or was executed, September 6, 2017, at HMP Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire, England. Two years later, an inquest is taking place. Annabella Landsberg fled Zimbabwe, following a gang rape. She was HIV+; she was also diabetic. At the time of her death, Annabella Landsberg was 45 years old and the mother of three children. The story of her death `begins’ September 2, 2017. On September 2, Annabella Landsberg lay on the floor, saying she couldn’t get up. She grabbed at the sink, trying to stand. When an officer walked in, she grabbed at the officer’s leg. A second officer pressed the alarm. The staff decided that Annabella Landsberg wasn’t having difficulties standing but rather was being “obstructive”. They left her on the floor. That was 6 pm, September 2. The staff left Annabella Landsberg on the floor, without food or medication, until 3 pm the next day. Throughout that time, staff report that Annabella Landsberg was “moaning and mumbling incoherently.” No one did anything. Finally, a nurse came in, told Annabella Landsberg to stand up, called her “pathetic”, threw water on her, and left. A second nurse came in, decided that perhaps Annabella Landsberg wasn’t malingering, called the ambulance and off she went. On September 6, she died … or was executed. Just another day in the hellhole that is HMP Peterborough.

Since its opening in March 2005, HMP Peterborough has been touted as a model private prison. Sodexo Justice Services `manages’ HMP Peterborough, which houses, or contains, both men and women. The women are mostly remand prisoners, awaiting trial. Everyone is supposed to be short-term, low level, and generally available to `rehabilitation.’ Peterborough brought to the United Kingdom, and in large degree to the world, “payment by results,” in which the prison corporation would be paid based on prisoner re-entry results. Some in England wondered if Peterborough might be the way forward, the path out of the neoliberal prison forest. Some in the United States did as well. It wasn’t. In 2017, payment by result was dropped and replaced with something even worse.

From September 11 – 27, 2017, days after Annabella Landsberg died, the Chief Inspector of Prisons conducted an unannounced inspection of Peterborough: “Most women only stayed at Peterborough for a few weeks and in our survey 89% said they arrived at the prison with problems; 65% of women said they felt depressed and over a quarter said they felt suicidal. Worryingly, 66% said they had mental health problems … We were particularly concerned about safety, and this is the first women’s prison in several years to have been assessed as ‘not sufficiently good’ in this area … Since our last inspection … outcomes had deteriorated in Safety and Respect.” The Inspector described the deteriorating conditions: “Use of force was far too high at more than double what we usually see in women’s prisons; we saw examples where not every opportunity to de-escalate the situation had been used. Use of strip- searching was also too high, which was particularly disappointing given the heavy investment in training staff about how past trauma can be reignited in the prison setting.” 

In 2013, Nadine Wright, a woman living with mental health illnesses, heroin addiction, and isolation, did not receive her benefits, and so was left barely living, desperately poor, somewhere below hand-to-mouth. Nadine Wright stole some food, was arrested and sent to Peterborough. Nadine Wright was pregnant when she was arrested. While in her cell, with a nurse in attendance, Nadine Wright went into labor and suffered a miscarriage. The nurse then left the cell. She left the fetus in the cell. No one came to clean up the cell. Nadine Wright had to clean up her own blood: “There was blood everywhere and she was made to clean it up. The baby was not removed from the cell. It was quite appalling. It was very traumatic. She only received health care three days later, after the governor intervened.”

The line from Nadine Wright to Annabella Landsberg is direct. What crime did Nadine Wright commit that she should have been tortured so? Attempted survival. What crime did Annabella Landsberg commit that she should have suffered the contemporary version of being drawn and quartered? Attempted survival. The staff carried out the crimes committed in HMP Peterborough but they were designed and committed by the State. How long, and how many more iterations of Nadine Wright and Annabella Landsberg, must we `discover’ before something is finally done?

(Photo Credit: The Guardian)

Japan joins the list of nation-States `apologizing’ for forced sterilization

When she was 16 years old, Junko Iizuka was forcibly sterilized.

On Thursday, March 14, all major parties in Japan agreed to pass a measure, probably in April, that would “deeply apologize” and offer compensation to victim-survivors of forced sterilization. The compensation would be a one-off payment of around $28,700. Now we know the value of life in Japan … and elsewhere. Survivors and their supporters and advocates argue that the compensation is way too little and way too late. Japan suspended its 48-year program of sterilizing those who might produce children described as “inferior”, under a law called the Eugenics Protection Law. The youngest known victim was 9 or 10 years old; 70% of those sterilized were women and girls. Since 1996, women and supporters have organized and demanded recognition, compensation, apology, dignity and justice. It only took 23 years to arrive at something approximating any of their demands, and that was largely due to a barrage of civil suits initiated last year. Forced sterilization is a formative element in contemporary nation-building, and Japan is not an outlier in this matter.

From 1935 to 1976, Sweden sterilized womenit deemed socially or racially inferior. `No one’ know about this program until it was revealed in 1997. In 1999, Sweden agreed to pay victim-survivors a one-off payment of $22,6000. Then, in 2012, it was `revealed’ that Sweden required transgender people to undergo sterilization. The law requiring sterilization was passed in 1972, but “no one” knew. In February 2012, thirty years after its passage, the law was repealed

Japan now joins the list of nation-States dealing, and not dealing, with their histories of forced sterilization: PeruSouth AfricaNamibiaIndia, to name a few that have addressed the issue in the last few years. Sometimes the ostensible reason is health care, particularly HIV; or population control; and the list goes on. No matter the immediate explanation, the reason is always “protection.” In the past few years, in the United States, CaliforniaVirginiaNorth Carolinahave addressed their histories of forced sterilization. The United States has not addressed its history of forced sterilization of Native women. Nor has Canada.

The Japanese government will not say if forced sterilization operations under the now-defunct eugenic protection law were unconstitutional”. 

Every program of forced sterilization had a justification. Every later discovery offered an alibi, most of which argued `the times were different’. That was then. The problem is that now is then, as then was now. Forced sterilization of women and girls is baked into the formation of citizenship in the modern nation-State, every single one without exception. It is the signature of nation-State modernity. As long as the State produces and reproduces hierarchies of citizenship, that’s how long the nation-State will find ways to accommodate forced sterilization of women and girls. For `our’ protection and security. There is no apology deep enough to address that constitutive and absolutely ordinary atrocity.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Hurst /The Guardian) (Image Credit: PBS / Truman State University)