Hello, friends! Welcome to another edition of news from Asia. I don’t know about you, but I’m eating the last of my discount Halloween candy and writing this on a coffee and sugar rush. Should be interesting.
One of the most overlooked stories this week involves the testimony of a Pakistani girl on the effects of drone strikes on her life and the lives of those around her. Nine-year-old Nabila Rehman and her brother Zubair testified before Congress about the drone strike that killed her grandmother, 67-year-old Momina Bibi, the day before the Islamic holy day of Eid. The testimony was by all accounts heartbreaking— and only attended by five members of Congress out of 430.
It’s a sharp contrast with the reception Malala Yousafzai received when she came to the States, though she too confronted President Obama about the use of drones in her country. There have been several opinion pieces about how our collective white-savior complex plays into our veneration of Malala while we conveniently ignore Nabila because in that narrative; we are the bad guys. That’s not to say that Yousafzai should be discredited for the work she does; however, the difference in the response by our leaders to these two different girls is startling.
On the subject of drones (because it’s really such a cheery topic), the documentary Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, is available online. Full disclosure: I haven’t had a chance to view the entire film, but I’m going to put a general trigger warning for violence, death and blood.
In related news, Pakistan drastically lowered its estimate of the number of civilians killed by drone strikes since 2008. The Ministry of Defense reported that 67 civilians were among 2,227 killed by some 317 strikes. Given that it was revealed earlier that Pakistan cooperated with the CIA in the strikes, many view the new estimates with suspicion.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) is launching a campaign to stop the sexual abuse and slavery of young boys in the country; a practice referred to as “bacha bazi.” AIHRC chief Seema Samar said that male prostitution has dramatically increased and the practice of powerful leaders using young boys in such ways has become more widespread.
In good news from the region, over 1,200 women participated in Rural Women Day at Lok Virsa in Islamabad. The bad news is that women do an estimated 79 percent of the agricultural work in the country, but only share 20.8 percent of the profits. However, women in attendance recommended that an increase of women in government, up to 33 percent at all levels, would greatly help the women of Pakistan.
Other News Around Asia
Things are returning to normal after a SUV ran into crowds near the entrance to the Forbidden City last Monday. The Chinese government has officially declared the incident a terror attack.
Malaysia’s leaders have called for the ambassadors of the U.S. and Australia to explain themselves after leaked documents revealing NSA’s surveillance program of world leaders. Australia has been accused of aiding the U.S. in its pursuits.
In Thailand, the opposition party rallies against a proposed amnesty that could allow fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return.
Finally, in the tradition of ending this column on sports news, the Asia Pacific Dragons have won the Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens’ Ablitt Cup.