Women’s Survival In Baladiyat Prison, Iraq

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Iraq, the world’s second largest provider of oil, after Saudi Arabia has a rich and diverse past. Iraqis voted in the country’s first democratic elections in over 50 years in January 2005. Even when women’s status had advanced in many countries, significant gender disparities continued to exist in many Middle Eastern countries.  Amongst  these countries Iraq was portrayed as a deeply troubled country with a rich and complex history.

Let me take you all to the era of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, the era where Baghdad the capital of Iraq and the largest city witnessed large number of cruelty. Jean Sasson, New York Times bestselling author who is known for her writings on the torture and sufferings faced by women in Middle Eastern countries inspired me to look into and research the problems faced by the women in Iraq.

Survival of women during the troubled dictatorship was a dream. Iraq’s prison abuse allegations was a daily session which a woman could not even think about. One of the torture routine in Baladiyat Prison, Saddam Hussein’s torture jail included jolts of electricity that was passed through the body of women and left them with breathing out puffs of smoke.

In Sasson’s book, the shocking true story was told by Mayada, a prominent Baghdad journalist who survived in the torture jail to tell the world what was it to be an Iraqi woman or the importance of women in most Middle Eastern countries then. It is hard to believe 20 women were crammed together in the cell under terrifying and primitive conditions.

Iraq’s weak judiciary plagued by corruption only led to worse conditions of women. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.

Today, much scrutiny is given to the impact of Islam on women, often as evidence of a deep cultural rift between the West and conservative Muslim societies. But the real cultural rift may be within the Muslim world: between highly traditional rural populations and their more modernized urban ones or between religious fundamentalists and more moderate interpreters of Islam. Such pressures can be felt in nations going from Nigeria to Indonesia, yet no place are they starker than in the Middle East.

Iraq’s political and social turmoil, affected the hazy destinies of Iraqi women is an agonizing indication of what number of innocent lives were taken during and by the Hussein’s administration.

The more I read about the cruelty faced by them the more I get traumatized. Each true incident narrated by the Iraqi women brings an upheaval to the minds of woman like me because the rest, my friends, is a history.

The Stereotypic South Indian

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Credits: ScoopWhoop

She : Acha aap Madrasi ho? (Oh! Are you a Madrasi?)

Me : Hey you ! I am not a Madrasi, I am from Kerala NOT Madras for a millionth time!
She : Yeah whatever, South Indian right?
Me : *FACEPALM*
I have probably spent half my life proving to everyone that I am not from Madras which is now recognized as Chennai, but from Kerala. Oh Yes, Madras is the biggest city in South India (some may argue Bangalore, but let me go by the sources I found) but definitely not the ONLY city in South. It covers Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana adding to the list.
Another reason for people being referred as ‘Madrasis’ is because the entire area came under the Madras Presidency during the pre-Independence era and its inhabitants were THEN referred to as ‘Madrasis’
According to every Non-South Indian there exists only one language that is spoken across South, ‘Madrasi’. As a proud South Indian let me clear the doubts of millions with this misconception. First and foremost, ‘Madrasi’ is NOT language! To specify, citizens of Kerala speak Malayalam, people of Tamil Nadu, Tamil and Karnataka, Kannada.
Secondly, these are NOT the same and does not sound the same too! I could prove this by giving the example that it sounds equally different as Bihari and Punjabi or Marathi and Bengali. To give you all a very good idea about how different languages are in every part of South India.
Not to forget the most talked about fact every South Indian could not probably hear anymore is that, it seems Idli and Sambhar becomes the national food for South Indians and it becomes necessary to have it for breakfast, sorry to say but we relish our taste buds with a variety of other delicacies from across the globe. Then comes a whole lot of friends who gather around you every time you open your lunch box hoping that it is the only food cooked in our home an entire lifetime.
Over the years people have formed a definite image of the South Indians which is ridiculously aggravating, to say the least. Bollywood has a big part in exaggerating the stereotypes against South Indians.
So, the next time you attempt to call your South Indian friend a ‘Madrasi’ remember that all 220 million of us Dravidians are collectively laughing at your ignorance – in a language you can never understand.
Let me be clear : Yes I am South Indian. No, I am not a Madrasi.

Broken Pieces

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Fourteen years had passed since that incident. Since then there is no looking back. She understood that years flew by and now sitting in the balcony of a 15 storey high tower sipping her hot cappuccino and watching the beauty of nature as the sun bid goodbye to the land of San Diego, California, she realized that Friendships are not a responsibility or commitment but merely a feeling of togetherness and a promise to stay by each other in your worst times.
Yes, back in 2008 she had one of the worst fights with her friend. She was her companion, her close friend, and apart from everything she believed in Lisa. Lisa, yes that was her name. She was always by her side to encourage, to motivate and was beside her when she needed a shoulder to cry on during her worst days.
What had happened to them? What spoiled the beautiful bond that made everyone look up to them and say “they are still friends for so long!? “, What made their strong sense of staying by each other and making plans to roam the world with each other ruin? “She was the best one I could ever have in my life”, she believed.
They never stayed in touch with each other since that incident. She was shattered, tired, fed up and frustrated. She kept saying herself that it was okay, not all friendships last long, not all people who come and go in your life stay as they promise, and not all people would believe and understand as you do. It was absolutely okay. She said to herself that as someone quoted once, time could heal everything, give it time. She kept herself saying that. But no, deep inside her it was not okay! Time could not heal everything! At least not betrayals. It was hard, she had a bond with her best friend. Lisa was not her best friend she was her everything. A friend. A sister. A savior, who could not be replaced.
That last she heard about Lisa was when after a hectic day driving through the busy streets of California reaching her apartment, exhausted and weary she sat down with her usual favorite cappuccino to check her mails, that she found a mail from Anna, her college mate who usually sorted petty fights with Lisa. The first line of the mail said “I am sorry to say this when I am not with you there.” this put her into a trauma, because Anna did not mail her usually and contacts her only to say some news as it has been years since she have been in contact with any on her college mates and it was only Anna who she had contact with now.
Then next 15 minutes of her life was the worst she had ever faced. The mail left her in the biggest trap of upheaval, depression and misery.
Lisa was no more. She was going through the third stage of Leukemia-Acute Lymphocyte (ALL) or Blood Cancer. From past 3 years she was under vigorous treatment but no medical science could save Lisa.
“Oh God! Only if I called her once in the past 14 years just to say a hello, just to ask how she was, just to ask how was life.” She said sitting down on the floor with her heads in her palm crying out loud, wishing Lisa is listen to her, but realized that only her apartment walls could hear her cries, knowing how much she loved her Lisa, no ‘loves’ her Lisa.
From that day she used to come up to her balcony, look up to the sky and talk to Lisa every day. Told her how much she meant to her, told her that not even death can bring them apart. They WERE best friends, they WILL remain best friends. Even if she was not physically in the world anymore, she will always and always remain in the heart of her only loving friend.

To every friend out there who captures the hearts of many loved ones,
Cheers !

Social Media For A Social Change

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“Are you sure you need to do Mass Media? You still have time to think, admissions didn’t close yet” was the first thing I was asked when I decided take up my Bachelors in Mass Media.

More specifically the perceptions of people in India is yet to understand the importance of Mass Media in our lives. I took up this major step when most of my mates said me “ Take up the safe option, better go with Engineering or Medical”.

What made me think after one year past my high school was the immense effects media had on society. Leave alone society, me myself was much influenced that it brought about different changes in my lifestyle due to the impact of media, where I started to learn better interaction with people and improvement in communication skills and also I later started to analyze both sides of a story whether political or social issues which shows that media influences public opinion.

Therefore I wanted to know what works behind the system. Technically speaking content editing, advertising and branding are all a part of it. Also what makes media so convincing to us.
It is primarily impossible to grow up and develop in a world devoid of any media. Be it radio, television, digital or print media. Practically a day without technology is a nightmare. Besides it is interesting to learn media, understanding every element of the same.

To all those who thought media was only about Journalism, here’s the catch! Media offers a wide range of courses and my primary reason to take up the course was to explore various aspects in media. However analyzing every field is practically not possible. Unlike Journalism, media opens up exposure to Advertising, Event Management, Content Editing, Anchoring, Public Relations, and Film Making etc.

All those who thought that media is something that you can take up as a last resort, sorry you are mistaken. Media is the most influencing sector in the world today. As a media person, what you say is what people believe. This is the reason why whatever facts media puts up goes through intense research which requires time, dedication and hard work.
So whoever is thinking of taking up Mass Media just because it was easier to learn the same academically compared to Engineering or Medical or any other course for that matter,
Don’t take that step ahead!
There’s a whole nation that is dependent on you as a media person and you have a responsibility to maintain that and keep up the standards of the nation.

Because according to the renowned singer Jim Morrison “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”