Paying The Ultimate Price

Have you heard of Sabeen Mahmud? If you read a decent broadsheet newspaper, watch an informative news channel or regularly read articles about Pakistan chances are you will know her name. Remember it, please.

This intelligent, caring, outstanding woman activist was shot dead in Karachi yesterday evening. Murdered. Assassinated. Killed.

Why?

Sabeen was a founder member and director of ‘The Second Floor’ – affectionately known as ‘T2F’ in her liberal circle of friends, under the umbrella of an NGO called ‘PeaceNiche’. How tragically ironic. The venue serves as a place to meet for coffee, to debate and as an arts venue. It does not sound threatening to me, far from it.

On Friday evening, an event was publicised to be held at T2F, entitled ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2’. A number of high-profile activists, who had made a march from Quetta to Karachi in October 2013 to pressure the authorities into revisiting their policies and actions over missing political Baloch activists, were invited to attend. This included Mama Abdul Qadeer, who together with Sabeen organised the event.

His son had disappeared in the region in 2009. His dead and mutilated body was found in 2011. As a parent would you walk 1200 miles to protest against missing people, one of whom is your child? Qadeer, 73 years old did just that. I admire and respect his brave protest.

The event had been scheduled to take place at a university in Lahore. On advice from the Inter Service Intelligence Directorate, it was cancelled. Hence ‘Take 2’. Surely Sabeen knew the risks? Yet she was prepared to go ahead with the event. It cost her her life.

Shortly after the event an unknown gunmen fired a number of shots into Sabeen’s car, killing her and critically injuring her mother. A number of journalists have been killed in Balochistan too, not to mention a list of 12,000 (yes 12,000) missing people that was handed to the UN three years back.

What are these faceless murderers scared of? That the truth will out? Or that liberal Pakistanis want to debate the disappearance and murder of people in Balochistan, and the political reasons behind them?

It is a cowardly way to silence an opponent. I am thankful that I am able to voice my opinion. Free speech is a privilege. Journalists worldwide endanger themselves to present the human stories to you and I. On occasion they pay the ultimate price for doing so.

Surely the debate must continue. Surely these murders must stop.

Please read something Sabeen Mahmud wrote on the PeaceNiche website : http://www.t2f.biz/some-thoughts-and-thank-yous-on-t2fs-6th-birthday/

R.I.P. Sabeen Mahmud…

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Human. Right?

I cannot post this week having agonised over reports I have read from ‘Human Rights Watch’ and not express my indignation at what is happening to women and girls in Syria, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What is the definition of ‘human rights’, I ask myself? I needed to remind myself of the United Nations ‘Universal Charter of Human Rights’.
Here is the link: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ – if you are interested.

Women are discriminated against and abused especially in times of conflict. Rape used as a ‘weapon of war’. I hate the acceptance and use of that term. It has become a sickening cliché. I had one of those light bulb moments. My journey with words surely has to illuminate not only my own conscience, but also yours.
How can I raise the awareness of what is happening? I believe you have to be fully informed and read widely; to check the validity of the information and if the source of said information is credible. I urge you to subscribe to the newsletter of Human Rights Watch Organisation, and if you read anything this week then read this article about the systematic rape of Yezidi women in northern Iraq. It will bring tears to your eyes.

Here is the link: http://www.hrw.org/node/134203 – HRW have a very large audience. Join it.

I am totally impressed by the research methodology the organisation adheres to, which is set out on their website. I am not easily impressed. More than 80 researchers in countries across the world are conducting research, interviewing the victims, corroborating with witnesses to bring their stories into the wider domain. I have the utmost respect for these researchers and reporters. It is often dangerous, demanding, but oh such essential work.

Yet that is only half of the story. Their mission is to actively focus on impacting society at both a national and international level, to effect positive and sustainable change. That really challenges me. I want it to challenge you too. Are you?

It could be your wife, your sister, your eight year old daughter or mother being raped and sexually abused. But for the grace of God, it could be you, or me. Can you even begin to imagine the trauma of these women and girls? Raped not once, but repeatedly over the course of days, weeks and even longer. Not only do they have to live with the fallout of unwanted pregnancies, contracting STD’s, including HIV/AID’s, but also the psychological trauma. Some attempt suicide, by cutting their wrists, by hanging or by electrocution in the bath. It sickens me. I am not going to give the perpetrators blog time.

Forget your ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ fantasy and fictional world. Something far more sinister and real is happening today, in Iraq, in Syria and beyond. These women and girls must never be forgotten, nor society accept the ridiculous notion that they are ‘spoils of war’.

E.L James, do me a favour and donate some of your millions to Human Rights Watch. Now there’s a challenge! I might just have a little respect for you, should you choose to do so…

Bits and bobs.

My mind has been jumping from one idea to the next this week. I have not written anything extraordinary. Just a few bits and bobs…I am struggling to even produce something for my blog!

This is the week when the short story competition results will be announced. I have a 1 in 12 chance of being selected to feature on shortfictionbreak.com which is quite high. Whatever the outcome I have grown as a writer and as an editor as a direct result.

I managed to complete the next assignment, finally, after reading an article in ‘The Guardian’ (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/10/australian-based-doctor-added-to-ugandas-most-wanted-list) that left me with more questions than answers. I did a little digging, sought some answers and wrote a letter to them, (as in ‘The Guardian’). REALLY! Subsequently I sent said letter off for my tutor’s perusal. Hmmm, I think I did that in the wrong order, but felt the letters editor needed to hear my point of view.

Hark at me! Job done. It matters not whether the letter is published (although it would be a little notch on the bed-post) — only that I was motivated enough to write and submit it. Oh – and someone at the publication must have read it. Yay! A month ago I would never have contemplated either. I wonder where the bravado, (or naivety) comes from. Quite a step forwards, no?

The support from fellow contestants at ‘The Write Practice’ was incredible. I imagine that all writers and artists go through periods of self-doubt, together with the difficultly of being really objective about their own work. I can be over critical of mine. Yet the adrenalin rush I experienced after hitting the ‘send’ button is something I had not experienced for a long time.

I want to encourage you, if like me you are new to this game. If you write, fairly regularly, then you are a writer. Be brave, take it to the next stage. Let someone, just one person read what you have written. Find a group in your local town, or join an online group to read, critique, encourage thoughts and ideas. Your confidence will grow. Your writing will improve.

I want to motivate you to sign-up for that writing course. Just do it! I promise a roller-coaster of a ride. You may even end up being paid for your writing. Really!

Don’t compare yourself with anyone. Just write. To begin with, write what you are passionate about, what moves you or what you have to say. The fine-tuning comes with practice and perseverance.

I am fine-tuning. I am practising. I am learning a new skill-set, and loving the experience.

I cannot tell you what a blessing it is to have a twelve year old resource. Before I go, I want to thank my twelve year old resource daughter, for editing the colour palette on the text widget…

You don’t know about widgets? Me neither, a month ago…

Anyway it is the ‘My Tags’ list on the side bar

Just goes to show…not tell. Is that funny? It was meant to be.

P.S. Has anyone noticed the odd deliberate mistake within my posts? Tell me in the comments box if you have read this far….

Upping the ante, et al., revisiting the past…

After a slow start, I am upping the ante, (whatever that means…) I am writing fairly regularly; I am reading a phenomenal amount. I am procrastinating marginally less. I have loathed and wrestled with a short story, soon to be submitted to a contest. How did that happen? I think I touched on it in my last post, so won’t reiterate, except to say that I am way out of my comfort zone. Even the names of the protagonist and antagonist have changed.

I received the feedback from my first assignment. Yay! There was a lot of positive ‘stuff’ there. Double yay! Very few red pen marks. Time to dance on the ceiling? Not quite yet.  A snippet from it:

The faint distinctive smell of smoke from invisible charcoal fires, drifts in with the cool morning air. The sun in her ascendancy, radiates amber, peach and pink hues across the pale blue sky. Exotic trees dominate the periphery in a semblance of solidarity; delicate lavender jacarandas, rosy pink tebebuia, and hibiscus abundant with clusters of poppy red blooms, all vie for my attention.
Lake Victoria is rippling, sparkling like a sapphire with white topped waves that crash onto the invisible shore. The horizon is barely discernible, endless. Spider island, sparse but for a few young acacia, and rocky ridges, breaks the perspective. A low, rhythmic humming announces the departure of a fishing boat, which is almost drowned out by the urgent, buzzing of lake flies. The decibel level is in crescendo; the invasion nigh. The living cloud, dances lightly across the lake, pushed and pulled by the breeze. There is still time to savour the view, ahead of battening down doors and windows in a futile attempt to stop the flies penetrating the house. That, or pray they come ashore elsewhere.

I see and hear too many exotic birds, trees, and animal species, living in East Africa, (not that I’m complaining) and naturally want be able to write it all down. So while may know what a fish eagle sounds like, or what a vervet monkey is, my audience may not. The forum with my fellow writers is my sanctuary; only there will I be given such advice as

“…if it’s an unfamiliar or exotic bird then describing its call in an onomatopoeic way may be the way to go.”

I adore language, words and relish the opportunity to go look a word I think I know the meaning of up, in the Oxford English.  Credit to Jamie Godsafe, (http://godsafe.net/) for my dose of relish this week.

Onwards and upwards to assignment 2…letters and fillers.

My second draft of a letter to my deceased father, has been an emotional journey into the past.

Funny how when you really focus your mind, and give it permission to go back, reluctantly even, that you can recall particular impressionable moments from childhood days, that define part of the fabric of who you later become.

I wrote that sentence a few years ago when I began gathering my thoughts and ideas for a family memoir, that I have yet to finish. It is one of my better sentences, and I challenged myself as to why. It captures my emotion; me, myself, I, on the page.

Yet when I initially sat here to compose this letter, I felt very detached. It took a couple of attempts, and reading through those old notes, to prepare myself mentally and to allow myself to go back, and relive the day he died. It was forty years ago, and I remember so much detail about that day. Maybe I’ll share the letter in the weeks to come, once I have perfected, or I should say, polished it…

What have I learnt from my journey (hint — this blog is called ‘Journey of a Writer’)?

  • The journey has deviations
  • The journey can be agonising
  • The journey is dependent on memory
  • The journey offers rewards
  • The journey is still in its infancy
  • I prefer the true story

I am eager to continue this odyssey, sitting in my Mastermind Chair…come along for the ride.