Monday, December 18, 2006

Tsunami survivors given the lash

Sunday Times reported When people around the world sent millions of pounds to help the stricken Indonesian province of Aceh after the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, few could have imagined that their money would end up subsidising the lashing of women in public. But militant Islamists have since imposed sharia law in Aceh and have cornered Indonesian government funds to organise a moral vigilante force that harasses women and stages frequent displays of humiliation and state-sanctioned violence.

It reminds me when the taliban were using internationally built soccer stadiums for public executions, and when the international community objected, they said they would be happy to have the international community pay to build them other facilities to be used for public executions. There may be plenty of good Muslims out there, who want to live in the 21st century in peace with everyone, but they need to stand up to those that want to take everything back to 7th century standards.
International aid workers and Indonesian women’s organisations are now expressing dismay that the flow of foreign cash for reconstruction has allowed the government to spend scarce money on a new bureaucracy and religious police to enforce puritan laws, such as the compulsory wearing of headscarves.

CQ blogged The entire spectacle has more than a whiff of repressed sexuality about it. Women accused of moral crimes get hauled in front of a crowd of jeering men, who work themselves into a state of hysteria while the charges are read. Then the women get caned as many as ten times to the exultation of the men watching the punishment. It sounds like a strange outlet for a severely repressed society, especially as the morality squad has conducted more than 140 times now.

The problem with foreign aid for disaster sites is the prevailing political structure of the country or area. When the government is corrupt, the aid will not go to its intended recipients but instead to support the corrupt government. Massive amounts of cash only serve to allow these regimes to keep and extend their grip on power. In this case, some could be forgiven for forgetting the lesson, given the random and acute nature of the disaster, but it shows that even in these circumstances aid will get diverted to purposes other than those intended.

Western nations need to develop new methods of aid delivery. We cannot simply refuse to help when people starve to death or when tsunamis strike, but we also cannot fund the imposition of shari'a and other kinds of oppression. We need to insist on controlling the delivery channels for aid to ensure that it reaches the real victims. When we have successfully done so, we have seen the benefits of our generosity reflected in the improved lives of the downtrodden. When we do not, we become accessories to the violence and abuse that the powerless receive.

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