martes, 6 de noviembre de 2012

Clara and Malala´s world

Weeks ago, on the International Day of the Girl, the International Plan Organisation made alarming numbers public. Approximately 75 million girls around the world do not have access to education because of economical, religious and social reasons. Futhermore, according to the World Health Organization, at least 140 million women were victims of genital mutilation in the past decades, and it is estimated that 3 million girls will be sexually severed next year. A great number of them, for not having “the right to enjoy” sex, according to muslims.

Clara Ma is a 15-year-old Kansas student and attends high school. Three years ago the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had launched an essay contest addressed to all USA students in order to name the next Mars mission. Clara participated suggesting the name “Curiosity” for the rover that would explore the red planet. According to her, curiosity represents the flame that lies in every human being. She believes that everybody asks themselves about their own existence, nature, and everything that exists in the Universe.

Ma wrote that our ability to ask questions and have doubts, approach us to knowledge. Her suggestion was taken into account and Curiosity, which costed around USD 2.5 billion to NASA, is today in the red planet studying the martian geology and trying to find out whether Mars could one day host a human colony.

Unlike Clara, Malala Yousafzai who is also 15 years old, has to fight for education in a country contaminated by male chauvinism and religious intolerance. This teenager is a militant for women´s rights and consequently for individuals ones at such a young age, in Pakistan. For a couple of years she´s been writing a blog to inform against Taliban aggression in the valley of the Swat river in northern Pakistan. Because of her opposition to the religious totalitarism, despite being muslim but westernized, radicals threatened her to death, since as a woman she has “no right to study” and should stay at home to take care of men, as ordered by Allah.

Unfortunately, fundamentalists achieved their goal and a couple of days ago they shot Malala after getting her off the scholar bus where she was traveling along with her classmates. The bullet impacted near the young blogger´s spine, but physicians could take the bullet out of her body. Today, Malala is slowly recovering in a hospital in England.
It was Malala´s father who three years ago, despite taliban´s threats, opened a school for girls. During the first months students didn´t wear a uniform and had to hide their books and notebooks in order to go unseen by religious radicals.
The problem of male chauvinism is still present in monotheisms, in some of them stronger than in others, and this is evident both in Muslim countries and in the West, who are mostly Christians. Women, in many cases, are still relegated or denied certain rights such as equal pay, sexual education and abortion.

We live in a contradictory world. In the one hand we have huge techno-scientific advances which help us not only to improve our knowledge of the Cosmos, but also to broaden our daily wellbeing with new inventions and greater confort; while in the other hand religion reminds us that many haven´t left the caverns yet and intend to live in the Middle Ages when the woman was subdued by divine command.

Clara as well as Malala are evident examples of changes experimented in the last years. Our world could go on and keep itself by the side of scientific advances or get stuck with arbitrariness and agressions made by soldiers of ignorance who show hatred for matter and wait for extraterrestrial rewards. Clara and Malala are girls who have the absolute right to explore the world with their own eyes and nobody can keep them away from the privilege of thinking by themselves. To censure them is characteristic of religious people, not of the civilized world.

martes, 3 de julio de 2012

A gift from the stars

“We are stardust,” used to say the astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan, attempting to show us how every single chemical compound found on the human being upon Earth, is also found in other parts of the universe.

Last Friday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, reported that the spacecraft Voyager 1 has recently reached the edge of our solar system, breaking the record of being the most distant menmade object ever. “Scientists observing this fast increment are approaching to an unavoidable historical conclusion, that the first mankind messenger is reaching the outskirts of our solar system,” pointed out NASA in a special release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, in Pasadena, California.

Days ago, another sophisticated and powerful X-rays telescope named NuSTAR, was launched into orbit. NuSTAR will study black holes and the cosmos in general with unprecedented resolution. Meanwhile, China, foresees to speed up its spatial station program by sending their first female astronaut into space.

Any outsider to the scientific field or astronautics development would go against these missions or goals because in real terms they demand the investment of high amounts of money from any government or private company inside the industry. However, it should be recognized that there are many mission achievements that benefit not only to the scientific community, but to the entire humankind. The first achievement, that could be considered even philosophical or abstract, is having overcome great challenges. Constraints such as the lack of knowledge or archaic technology were overcome by research and also by making mistakes.

To be more specific, we could mention some products of applied science after the astronautical development, which go from grinded food for babies to portable computers, not forgetting the Global Positioning System, GPS, and the electric chairs or robotic arms for people with different skills.

Even then, the most surprising fact is that we are reaching the borders of our neighborhood! And even though our solar system frontier is not well defined yet, Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977 and holds basic information about our species and home in the universe, is now about 18 billion kilometers from the Sun. “It is traveling at a speed of aproximately 17 kilometers per second and it takes data 16 hours 38 minutes to arrive to NASA´s network down on Earth,” reported NASA.

As a species, we are breaking barriers that were never thought before. We live in a world that left behind the dark ages and decided to look up at the stars and study them, in order to understand each other. Real knowledge cannot be conceived if scientific research is limited. No society or country makes progress if mathematical speculations are shorten or creativity and experimental skills are curtailed from most brilliant citizens. The amount of unknown facts and data about nature in our own Earth is still huge. Therefore, mysteries of our cosmos are even greater.

However, the possibility of getting closer to the knowledge of how and why things work the way they do, is raising.

Going back to Sagan thoughts, and the hostile world we live in, where we face scientific and technological revolution day by day, we could assert that today more than ever, we are giving huge steps into the unraveling of stardust mysteries.

Someday, our sun will die leaving us the challenge of colonizing other regions of our spatial neighborhood. We do not know when this will happen, but we should be ready for when it does. Meanwhile, remembering that in old ages it was a luxury to speculate about what lied beyond the clouds, we could devote ourselves to the task of enjoying a planet more sociopolitically stable, sustainable and worth living in.

To respect the place we live in is the best way to honor the “gift from the stars,” life through millions of years.

lunes, 4 de junio de 2012

The chaos of the dictator and not of the anarchism

Finally, after months of trial, the ex dictator Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life imprisonment for the massacre of more than 850 people in Egypt, and after having strictly ruled the country for more than three decades. 

Mubarak led the nation by sinking its population into ignorance, chaos, repression, exile, and death, besides rising the state corruption index. He is the first mandatary of the Arab Spring in being sentenced to life imprisonment. Muamar el Gadafi ended up dead, while Zine Ben Alí could escape to Saudi Arabia and find refuge in this theocratic kingdom.

Curiously, days ago, another ex dictator, Charles Taylor, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for crimes against humanity, committed during his despotic rule in Liberia, in the denominated case of “the blood diamonds.”

The damaged perpetrated by both totalitarian rulers will never be repaired, but their crimes should not remain unpunished. The chaos imposed to control the population should neither be forgiven nor forgotten. 

The Arab Spring aroused the interest of millions of inhabitants from North Africa and Middle East towards individual liberties and secular justice. The riots started on December 2012 in Tunicia keep inspiring further riots against the active authoritarism in the world. Unfortunately, in Lybia or Egypt itself, the revolution serves as a bridge for other extremist groups, reluctant to install the “occidental” democracy, to set their dangerous religious or statist goals.

The Arab Spring especially serves to remind us that individual rights are still being violated in several regions of the planet. Amnesty International, on the report of this year, recalled that in the last months 101 states kept practicing torture and dictatorships kept repressing their opponents, besides sending them to jail or directly executing them. 

Sentences to Mubarak and Taylor support the evidence that the arbitrary power of the state keeps violating human rights in the 21st century, and that authoritarian political leaders benefit from external support, which is why their departures from their respective governments take so long to happen, and cost hundreds of innocent lives.

Egypt has to go through a long path if its real goal is to change the course left by Mubarak´s dictatorship. It has to clear the policy of the former regime´s collaborators and islamic extremists. However, the awful truth is that Egyptians will have either a muslim or an ex Mubarak´s minister in the government. One of them will become the first “democratic president” of Egypt.  

Many dictatorships to be abolished remain in different countries, but the Arab Spring gave a key step by displacing some tyrants, now it has to give several similar steps, and get in the track of long fights to defend and keep freedom. A search that has cost humiliations, retirements and deads in many of its countries.

jueves, 26 de abril de 2012

The oppressive China

In the past years, the Republic of China has turned into a sort of international attraction, not only for being the country with the highest number of inhabitants on Earth or because of its great walls and pandas, but for representing a gigantic market whose entrance window is narrowing for not developed countries. This millenary nation of the far East probably hosts “the biggest
dictatorship," with a hybrid political system, hold by a communism different from the couple of remaining Marxist states in the planet.

In 2011 by the influence of the Arab Spring, tens of chinese citizens stepped out of their places asking for a change in the political regime. However, manifestations were shortly finished due to the sistematic repression imposed by Beijing to public manifestations and to the ferreous control over means of communication, either conventional or digital ones.

China is a country where free press does not exist. Religions are persecuted by the regime, which even owns a catholic church “parallel” to the official institution set by the Vatican. The tibetan population as well as the uighur are brutally repressed and persecuted in order to avoid any type of critique against the government. Internet is limited and mightily controlled by authorities who constantly remove comments against the dictatorship.

For the chinese communism, press notes are still “crimes” related to the “divisiveness of the nation” or the “political subversion." Any person who dares to commit crime against the state is severely sentenced to prison, torture and even death. The death penalty is still in force and applied to various “crimes."

It might seem ridiculous but the threat to the communist regime does not come from the opposition, but from its own lines.

Weeks ago the Chinese Communist Party, the only one legal since several decades ago, had performed a depuration of its members suspending and consequently substituting some of its main leaders that could have played an important role in needed reforms inside the political party.

The drastic changes executed are drawing attention in a period of time when strong internal pressures demand the renewal, although maintaining the comunist tradition, of not only authorities of the party, but also of some political outlines.

China is still growing economically and nowadays plays a protagonic role inside the international community. It holds multimillion-dollar contracts in investments in several countries of the world and pursues to implement a long term politics for the nation to sustain itself successfully in the next decades. It also has the largest and most powerful army on planet Earth.

The fact that the free market could not eradicate yet the prevailing authoritarism and the static politics regarding human rights, turns out to be a paradox. The economic system should at least, give a break to the millions of chinese people who could never enjoy freedom entirely inside their own country.

Political reforms in China will come by the hand of “comunists themselves," because it is very unlikely that some public manifestation would bring any positive result for the validation of individuals rights. In the past months the number of tibetan monks who immolated themselves in order to draw attention over the invasion they are going through since more than half a century ago, has raised.

The process of the chinese economic progress will demand more freedom earlier than later, and will allow repressed ones to perform a handful of minimum but revolutionary changes. The power that Beijing will keep exercising in the world will also constitute a determining reason for the international community to demand reforms. Necessary and urgent reforms that cannot be kept away any longer.

lunes, 16 de abril de 2012

Syria and its Spring Dream

By mid march 2011, through social networks, specially Facebook, a meeting in Damascus was convened which would later become a revolution. “A Syria without tyranny, emergency laws or exception courts,” was the name of the group in different websites trying to follow Egyptians, Tunisians and Libyans steps, who got involved in riots in their corresponding countries. Days later, tens of thousand of Syrians from the entire national territory, manifested themselves against the dictatorship of Bachar al Asad.

The authoritarian government accused opponents of creating an “armed rebellion of Salafist groups” with only religious or terrorist purposes. With great rising revolutions also started the different massacres executed by the regime and massive arrests, besides torture cases.

The international community, concerned about the situation in Libya or Egypt, asked the Syrian dictatorship to give an end to repressions, besides setting certain sanctions to the presidential circle. Last year in August, the president Barack Obama and some of his European colleagues, demanded al Asad´s resignation in order to solve the problem. The petition was not taken into consideration and repression sharpened terribly.

Despite efforts for ending riots pacifically, neither the Arab League nor the United Nations could set down a possible solution, given the constant obstacles imposed by Syria allies, China and Russia, which hold million dollar contracts with Syria.

Only one year after riots took place, a deadline for the cessation of violence could be established. Even though the deadline was met on April 12, the Syrian dictatorship kept attacking rebels and defenseless opponents. Al Asad broke the agreement and bombarded Homs again, an emblematic city for the resistance.

The consequences of more than a year of internal fight are alarming. According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, the riots caused at least 10,000 deaths in 13 months of fighting; the arrest of 80,000 opponents, thousands of them tortured; 200,000 refugees were displaced from the national territory and 55,000 found refuge in Turkey, Irak, Lebanon and Jordan.

Meanwhile, the Syrian dictatorship keeps oppressing and repressing its own citizens, rising the number of deads caused by the army. The conflict is growing older because multilateral organizations do not wish something similar to what happened in Libya by the intervention of the NATO, to happen again. Specially because of the strong opposition of Beijing and Moscow.

Everything that started by inspiration from the Arab riots in Syria is in risk because of the sanguinary action of the dictatorial government and the international bureaucracy of organizations supposedly in charge of ensuring the fulfillment of human rights. Syrians deserve a better future, without the restrictions of another dictatorship or the sick slavery of Islamism, another possible threat at the door.

The Arab Spring is not over yet, and consequences resulting from the postponement of fundamental freedom rights warn about what happens when individuals are subjected to a horror regime for a long time.

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2012

Auschwitz in the 21st century

A huge regional and global concern exists because of the launch of a North Korean satellite
which, according to the communist regime of Pyongyang, has scientific purposes. However, for
Tokio, Seoul and Washington, in reality it represents a cover proof of a ballistic missile that could
threaten countries of the region. The launch will take place this week and Japan, together with
the USA, pretend to intercept the satellite if it shows any sign of threat.

Unfortunately, besides the international danger that causes the North Korean dictatorship,
there are also quite severe internal problems imparing thousands of citizens. Days ago, human
rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, Open North Korea, The Simon Wiesenthal
Center and Conectas, among others, demanded the United Nations to open an investigation
and subsequently close the concentration camps in North Korea, where around 200,000 people,
including tens of children, live under subhuman conditions.

According to denunciators, prisioners work a minimum of 12 hours a day under unhealthy
conditions, and are paid with a ration of 20 grains of rice, daily. The majority of enslaved
North Koreans are also tortured and violated sexually. There are even cases of extrajudicial

For the International Federation of Human Rights, “the extreme conditions in concentration
camps are aggravated by diseases such as tuberculosis or pneumonia, which together,
constitute the cause of death of approximately 20 to 25% of prisoners.”

It is estimated that at least 400,000 people died in the past years in different concentration
camps from the asiatic country.

“It is such a small number that prisoners are obligued to look for not digested grains in cow feces in order to survive,” mentioned the organizations press release based on a prisoner testimony who managed to escape from one of the prisons.

North Korea is the most airtight country of the world, where any attempt of dissidence is
harshly managed with detentions and executions. Thousands of oppositors are paying penalties in concentration camps.Even though North Korea has received tens of accusations from several world organizations, the dictatorial communist goverment of this republic, is still member of multilateral associations without existing a true, harsh pression over this country to give an end to the totalitarian regime.

The UN has failed in its attempt of influencing North Korea towards a democratic politics, or in
pursuing any type of political improvement.
It becomes absurd to suppose that in 2012, when life is extremely science-and-technology
dependant, there are still nazi-like concentration camps. Even now, differences among
Auschwitz, easily forgotten sovietic gulags and great detention centers in North Korea, are not
that big. The totalitarian regimes, despite diverging ideologically, work in the same way in order
to abolish different opinions, options or philosophies.

Until now, there is no short term solution available for North Koreans given the constant
imposition of the dictatorship in every single corner of the country, which intimidates not only
to its inhabitants but also to the international community. The UN, which can intervene saving
millions of lives, has not decided yet which could be the best way of decreasing poverty and
opression imposed in North Korea.

Meanwhile, 200,000 people remind us that concentration camps are still active despite existing
human rights and populist speeches of world leaders.