Diana Meyers on Yazidi Women, human rights, and individual experience

A sample:

It might seem counterintuitive that commitment to human rights rests on imagining distinctive individual experiences of abuse. Yet, we don’t really get what’s so bad about abrogating human rights if we haven’t registered that it prompts derring-do in one person, hopelessness in another, and countless nuanced alternatives. The variations in human suffering constitute the poignancy of human rights abuse because they are the shadow side of the dazzling individuality that respect for human rights promotes and protects. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2016/05/human-rights-isis-yazidi-women/#sthash.sQnlhHIi.dpuf

For the whole post, go here.


Guest post: Turkish academic in solitary confinement

An anonymous Turkish academic has sent the following:

Three academics were detained after they signed a petition to ask the government to  to stop the war in the South East of Turkey and start a process for peace. One of the three, Esra Mungan, is a professorrom the Psychology Department at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul.  A few days ago, she was put in solitary confinement for reasons unknown. One of her students translated the message she gave to a visitor.

Esra Mungan (Boğaziçi University): “(…) I am under solitary confinement in the same conditions as those who are sentenced to aggravated imprisonment. In the interrogation, they asked me about the 14 items that were published in the newspaper Akşam. They say that I received instructions from KCK (Group of Communities in Kurdistan). A real scholar does not receive orders from anyone. And that’s the reason why we are against YÖK (Council of Higher Education, the institution that is responsible for the supervision of universities and was founded after the coup d’état of 1980). We don’t take orders from anyone; we have been fighting against this for years. We don’t want the Council of Higher Education to control our institutions, we want to manage our own universities (…) For the first time in my life, I haven’t read for 50 hours. Being without books was a psychological torture for me. (…) I think about the classes of my students the most, I have 54 students. I teach memory. I miss my class a lot. (…) I am physically rested, yet broken down psychologically. I used to go to the university at 8 AM and I was the one who used to turn the lights off. What is important here is that my students are deprived of their right to education. I cannot teach my thesis students, their right to education is taken away. I teach 13 students at MA level. It was very pleasant but my students are left in the lurch. (…) I was educated in Germany from age 2.5 until 15. They constantly taught us about the Nazi period and how bad it was. As a result of my education, I learnt to say no to the things that I believe to be wrong in spite of the public opinion. In Hitler’s Germany everybody said ‘yes’ but it turned out to be wrong. This period reminds me of Hitler era in Germany. Freedom of thought is important; I don’t do anything that I don’t believe in. I have dealt with the issues of everyone, I have been sensitive, I tried to improve the conditions of subcontracted workers at the university.”

Other academics who signed the peace petition have already lost their jobs, some have been attacked by students or members of the public, and some are awaiting  investigation or trial. All are highly vulnerable and should not be named or contacted about this publicly by international supporters (unless they say so themselves).

In January four students were arrested for signing a petition in support of academics who were being investigated for signing the first petition.

For another story on the topic, go here.

How to get better pain treatment in the ER?

I have a problem with pain management. Ordinary otc pain medication doesn’t work well, and often regular doses of pain shots don’t have enough effect. But I formed a helpful hypothesis this fall in an ER and then subsequently in the hospital. I hope it works for others not getting enough pain relief. What I learned is that the magic number is 7 (SEVEN). It is very standard practice to ask one to rank one’s pain from 0 to 10. A few quick tests indicated that at 7 and above one gets codeine; below that you are in the tylenol region.

I’m white, so it may not help with the following shocking problem reported in the NYT, but the authors of the relevant studies say that communication may be a central problem:

White patients receive more pain treatment in emergency rooms than African-Americans and other minorities, a new study reports.

Researchers studied four years of data collected nationwide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They used a sample of 6,710 visits to 350 emergency rooms by patients 18 and older with acute abdominal pain.

White and black patients reported severe pain with the same frequency — about 59 percent. But after controlling for age, insurance status, income, degree of pain and other variables, the researchers found that compared with non-Hispanic white people, non-Hispanic blacks and other minorities were 22 percent to 30 percent less likely to receive pain medication. Patients were also less likely to receive pain medicine if they were over 75 or male, lacked private insurance or were treated at a hospital with numerous minority patients. The study is in the journal http://journals.lww.com/lww-medicalcare/Abstract/2015/12000/Analgesic_Access_for_Acute_Abdominal_Pain_in_the.3.aspx. …

The journal linked to gives one only the abstract, but that makes available a good sense of the studies and their scope. And the urgency of the problem.

Are boys sexist?

[ I’m more short on time than I had realized; readers are invited to give a more nuanced account.  Tim King in particular seems to open the way for more layered views]

The New York Times has a discussion on whether boys are today raised with sexist attitudes.. It is unfortunately largely conducted in terms as general as the title of this quote.

Leonard Sax and Christine Hoff Summers show up as gender essentialists, to put it perhaps unkindly, and in general the discussion of all five participants seems bereft of positive examples of parents or schools getting it right.

Two other essayists tend to converge on the following

Girls knocking against traditional male doors are aspirational, while boys gravitating toward anything traditionally feminine are devalued. And suspect. True gender equality can’t exist until both boys and girls can embrace the full range of their humanity.

It isn’t clear that we have solved the problem of raising at least most girls to insist on equal treatment. Nor is it clear that it is in their interests always to do so. No one seems to consider that various senses of privilege are adding to the problems.

CHE: Why getting rid of predatory faculty can be so hard: addition

Tenure and the reactions of faculty peers can be a significant part of the problem, according to the CHE (in an artcle unfortunately behind a firewall):

Even a professor who is the subject of regular misconduct complaints often cannot be easily removed from a campus. Tenure protects many professors from quick dismissal. Their faculty peers, who are often charged with assessing whether an accused colleague bears responsibility, may view the cases as attacks on tenure. College leaders, who often don’t have the power to terminate a professor without consulting the faculty, may fear damage to their institution’s reputation. Students who experience harassment may not file complaints if they feel they have little chance of being taken seriously.


Nor, as the last sentence suggests, is the victim usually keen to file charges. As Mr Isicoff, the lawyer defending the University in the McGinn case, is quoted as saying, “you’re walking in with the odds largely stacked against you,” as a student.

Part of the solution may consist in steps taken before hiring, as the philosopher Heidi Lockwood said.

…Ms. Lockwood sees it. She said colleges can take clear steps to improve how they handle claims of misbehavior by professors. She recommended, among other changes, that colleges conduct harassment-specific background checks before hiring professors.

Added: I’ve just noticed that the article is utterly silent about the role – or lack of roles – for bystanders. I’m unhappy that I didn’t notice this right away and think we might put some effort into reminding ourselves we should be thinking of taking action. In the Macy case, for example, the situation was well known to a lot of people before formal complaints were made.

What should we say now about moral progress?

In her wonderful recent talk at Rice University, Kate Norlock expressed pessimism at the idea we have – or can – achieved genuine moral progress of any general kind. Her words were vividly in my mind when I had read Eve Ensler’s piece in a recent Nation.

This part below seemed less distressing to me than ISIS’s pricelist for female infants/girls/women.  Or the manual for how to treat sex slaves

I am thinking about the inertia, silence, paralysis that has stalled and prevented investigation and prosecution into sexual crimes against Muslim, Croat, and Serb women raped in camps in the former Yugoslavia; African-American women and girls raped on plantations in the South; Jewish women and girls raped in German concentration camps; Native American women and girls raped on reservations in the United States. I am hearing the cries of the permanently unsettled ghosts of violated women and girls in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sudan, Chechnya, Nigeria, Colombia, Nepal, the list goes on. I am thinking of the last eight years I spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a similar conflagration of predatory capitalism, centuries of colonialism, endless war and violence in the name of mineral theft has left thousands of women and girls without organs, sanity, families or a future. And how terms like re-raped have now become re-re-re-re-raped.I am thinking that I have been writing this same piece for 20 years. I have tried it with data and detachment, passion and pleading, and existential despair. Even now as I write, I wonder if we have evolved a language to meet this century that would trump a piercing wail.

I am thinking about the failure of every patriarchal institution to intervene in any meaningful way and how structures like the UN amplify the problem as peacekeepers, meant to protect the women and girls, are rapists themselves.

What happens when the UK police do NOTHING to protect hundreds of girls?

NOTHING. Or rather, one person was allowed to retire early and the others got a lecture.

We wrote about the 300 girls in Oxford. There are a number of other cities where young girls and women were repeatedly trafficked and raped. A report on the first of these cases has been released. From the NYTimes:

LONDON — The recent revelations that teenage girls were systematically raped and trafficked by gangs of older men over long periods of time in several British cities prompted a host of inquiries into why the authorities had seemingly turned a blind eye for so long.

This week, a police report into the first such case to be successfully prosecuted concluded that there had been a forcewide failure to address sexual abuse in the northern city of Rochdale, but that no police officer would face serious discipline.

Chinese Feminists: don’t let them disappear!

From the NYTimes

BEIJING — China detained at least 10 women’s rights activists over the weekend to forestall a nationwide campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation that was to overlap with International Women’s Day, according to human rights advocates and associates of those detained.

At least five of the detained were still being held on Sunday evening, while the others had been released after being interrogated. All were women.

There is a sign-up link below for feminists all over the world to use to support them and urge the government to release them as soon as possible.


Please sign up and circulate the link as much as you can. Our goal is to collect support from 1000 feminists’ support from 50 countries within a week.

File Mar 11, 2 07 35 PM

300 young girls in Oxfordshire groomed and raped

The Guardian reports on yet another gang of men getting away with victimizing very young British women and girls. The number of girls is this relatively small compared to the 1400 estimated in other areas, but there is the same enabling circumstances: authorities are alerted and do nothing for years and years.

Serious case review slams police failure in serial abuse of Oxford girls
Some of the 300 victims were exploited for more than eight years despite repeated calls for help to authorities

Some of the report focuses on six young girls, so in fact it becomes difficult to tell sometimes whether they are talking about 6 or 300. I think all the passages below are about 6 young girls who were under the responsibility of the Oxfordshire social services.

Police and social services in Oxfordshire will be heavily criticised for not doing enough to stop years of violent abuse and enslavement of six young girls, aged 11-15, by a gang of men. Such was the nature of the abuse, suffered for more than eight years by the girls, it was likened to torture. All of the victims had a background in care.

A serious case review by the Oxfordshire safeguarding children’s board, to be published on Tuesday, will condemn Thames Valley police for not believing the young girls, for treating them as if they had chosen to adopt the lifestyle, and for failing to act on repeated calls for help.

Oxfordshire social services – which had responsibility for the girls’ safety – will be equally damned for knowing they were being groomed and for failing to protect them despite compelling evidence they were in danger. One social worker told a trial that nine out of 10 of those responsible for the girls was aware of what was going on.

All of the men were Asian, which seems to be the case in other abuse circles. In Rotherham, where 1,400 girls were abused, the reason why it seemed better and simple to the authorities to do nothing included concerns about race relations, according to earlier reports in the Guardian. Such concern does not, of course, go anywhere toward excusing the failure to protect.

Asylum – New Home Office Rules Make Appeals Harder

New Home Office rules mean that from Monday 26th January, asylum seekers whose cases have been turned down will need to travel to Liverpool to submit fresh evidence in support of their claim – no matter where they are in the country. As asylum seekers are some of the poorest people in the UK – many are destitute – this will, in many cases, put justice out of their reach. It’s worth noting that a sizeable number of cases that are initially turned down go through on appeal. (I will try to find figures later.)

An Early Day Motion has been tabled Julian Huppert. If you feel so inclined, you could write and ask your MP to sign it.