…and a fresh start! Revamping this blog, and kicking it off with a few images shot for The New York Times in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. More to come soon; for now, Happy New Year, all!
Fauzilla Tunnesa Bulu, known to many as Bulu Khala, was born in 1919 in then-India. Fifty-two-years old when the Liberation War broke out, she is the oldest woman included in “A Woman’s War” from any country thus far. Bulu Khala was a key driving force throughout the Liberation War, working to maintain the Kuchbihar refugee camp, as well as recruit and prepare mukti bahini (Bangladeshi guerrilla fighters) for battle. Last week, at the age of 93, living in rural Rangpur with her children and their families, Bulu Khala passed away.
When I met Bulu Khala in June 2011 at her home in Rangpur, in far northwest Bangladesh, she could barely speak – her family and friends provided much of this information on her behalf. Though she found it difficult to move without assistance, just before we were leaving, she took my hand, kissed it, and quietly said I love you. She then took my face and kissed it three times. Right, left, forehead. I love you.
She had barely known me for an hour. I’ll never forget it.
“Writing’s Egypt’s history, with revolution in her DNA,” a profile on Bothaina Kamel, Egypt’s first female presidential hopeful, out in GlobalPost today. I shadowed Ms. Kamel on a recent trip to Tanta to speak at a TEDx event there.
On the precipice of these presidential elections, Kamel recognizes how definitive this time is in Egypt. No matter who wins, she says, “we’re writing our own history.”
Click here to view the full article.
Image at top: Bothaina Kamel greets supporters after her TEDx Tanta talk, May 2012.
A Woman’s War
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the birth of Bangladesh, a nation that emerged from a bloody fight for independence from Pakistan. The story of Bangladesh’s liberation struggle is one that is well told and well remembered by the nation; the official narratives are retold and exchanged often – and often by heart. Stories of the origins of the movement, of its key players and events, of its Freedom Fighters, or mukti juddha, who came together to fight for Bangladeshi independence and emerged victorious in December 1971 after nine months of intense guerrilla warfare, are recounted in schoolbooks and events across the country, month after month, year after year. Continue reading
On March 9, 25-year-old Samira Ibrahim was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square while participating in a protest. Along with 172 other demonstrators, including 17 women, she was forcefully removed from the protests and brought to the Egyptian Museum on the edge of the square, where she and the others were bound and tortured for seven hours before being loaded onto buses and eventually brought to Heikstep, a military detention center.
There, she and the other women were forced to break themselves into two groups: virgins and non-virgins. Continue reading
Tarfia Faizullah, a fellow Fulbrighter and beautiful poet who was based in Bangladesh for the past year, is working on a long-term project on women who were raped during the Liberation War. Out of her project has emerged a series of poems, which she has so wonderfully agreed to share here today.
Following the end of Bangladesh’s Liberation War on 16 December 1971, forty years ago today, all women who were raped were given the honorific term birangona by the first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The term, which is often translated to war heroine, was meant to pay respect to the women for their sacrifices during wartime. Yet it soon became a mark of shame, with many of the women rejected by their families and ostracized by their communities upon their learning of the assault; rape was, and largely still is, seen as an enormous source of shame in Bangladesh for the assaulted woman. Continue reading
Back on the blogging train, and this time with a recent piece I did for GlobalPost. The photographs were published here, the words are up only on this site. This continues an exploration that I’ve been working on for the past few years, on the role and experience of women in conflict, previously done in Vietnam and Bangladesh, and now here in the United States. This is the chapter from Egypt, centering on what Cairene women had to say on being female and immersed in the recent political uprisings in Egypt. They spoke both to the events themselves, and to the representation of women in the revolution by the media; their responses were impassioned and highly varied – read on to learn more.
Women of the Revolution
The events of Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 have been hailed as everything from a boon to a bust for the women of Egypt, with countless reports covering and recovering retrospectives on women’s role in the continuing Egyptian revolution. But what do the women themselves have to say, about their own stories? Continue reading
There has been a deluge of stories on 9/11 and its aftermath in the past week, ranging from the personal to political to polemic, some looking back on the past 10 years, some looking forward to what could come. I’ve been trying to keep a close eye on who’s been writing what on the issue, and have generated a small list on some of the standouts. See below for a few recommendations, and feel free to comment with your own – I’d like to keep this list growing with suggestions.
“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”
Orwell 1949: 37
Think back to your high school history textbook. How many hours did you spend bent over its pages, copying “key terms” onto flashcards the night before an exam? How often did you complain of the weight it added to your backpack?
How often did you question what was written on its pages?
“The Politics of 9/11 Narratives in History Textbooks Worldwide” is an in-depth analysis of how political forces have shaped the narratives on 9/11 in high school textbooks worldwide. It provides a never-before seen look into history textbooks from across the globe, illustrating how purportedly objective accounts are refashioned for political ends. While history textbooks are often seen as an authority on their subject, authored by teachers and historians, those who can be counted on to write objectively on events of the past, to distill the “important stuff,” this study reveals that it is press teams more than educators and politicians more than academics who are dictating the narratives currently found in textbooks around the world.
In United States history textbooks, the events of September 11 are most often described as an attack – specifically a terrorist attack. The timeline of day’s events is described in great detail, with a large emphasis in the response questions placed on memorization of the order and nature of the attacks. For texts that are generally characterized by fairly straight forward, bland sentences throughout other chapters on other subjects, the 9/11 narrative is dominated by action verbs and passionate retellings.
For the vast amount of space devoted to discussion of the destruction and death caused by 9/11, the reader is provided surprisingly few pictures. There are rarely pictures of the burning or fallen towers. This is especially interesting, as such an image (see above) is often the sole or main image that accompanies the discussion of 9/11 in foreign textbooks.