Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm amazed

I'm amazed at the bravery of people who speak out against injustice even though they've known family members to be hurt or killed. I feel humbled when I see people on TV in far off countries who will risk all for democracy or human rights, but when I meet such a person face to face words often fail me. This week I met such a woman - Iraqi, formerly a university lecturer in Baghdad, she lost her husband when he was kidnapped and murdered. She lived in fear of losing her own life and eventually fled here to relative safety. But did she just hide away and live a quiet life in safety? No - she chose to improve her English, develop her knowledge of the law and her IT skills and to start a campaign for safety for a group of Iraqi women who are, she says, worse off than she is. These women are in jail and are subject to rape by prison guards, often in extremely brutal ways and shaming circumstances. Their fate is made worse by the fact that rape is still seen as something that only happens if the woman lets it or encourages the man. In those circumstances it's very hard to report the crime to the police or to family. Very few people will support a raped woman. The extent of the use of rape is difficult to prove of course, when women are too frightened to report it. But there is evidence around on blogs and other internet sites, if one is prepared to listen.
So this lady is doing what she can over here in England - organising a petition and talking to groups of people who'll listen to her about what is happening. She is hoping that her local MP will take it up through Parliamentary channels and bring pressure to bear on the authorities in Iraq to protect women, some of whom are in prison on what to us would seem fairly minor charges. If you agree that women should not be raped just because they're in prison then writing to your MP asking him or her to add their pressure would be a real help.
Our son-in-law also amazed me this week, being incredibly brave in a different way, by joining in The World's Greatest Shave for the Leukaemia Foundation. So the Foundation is over 2000AUSD better off and Pete has to grow his hair back to a decent state in time for 2 weddings in the next few months!
This morning was the Mayoress' coffee morning, another fund raising event for the Mayor's charity fund. The number of people coming through the door was very encouraging. Apart from enjoying a cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee they spent money on raffle tickets, tombolas, cakes, books, bric-a-brac and naming soft toys. The teddy bear was very popular but a some people needed a little more encouragement to try for the giant gorilla! The photos show some of the activities. The cake stall was briefly manned by the "top team" of the Council Leader and Chief Executive, thus proving that they can do more lowly tasks when called upon! The leader of the Labour group did sterling work in the kitchen and clearing away dirty cups. All in all, it was hard work for a morning but I'm sure that a good amount of money was raised so Daisy Chain and Justice First will benefit.

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