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Amidst the riotous celebrations as President Hosni Muburak stepped down from Egyptian rule last Friday, Lara Logan, CBS News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent, reporting from Cairo’s Tahrir Square was attacked by a group of as many as 200 male protesters.  She suffered, according to the network, “a brutal and sustained sexual assault” that lasted 20 to 30 minutes. Her own network, CBS, took several days to even report the story, and when it did, it left out important information. Even after news of the attack broke, much of the mainstream media buried the story.

It is reasonable to wonder why the media downplayed the brutal attack. Was because it did not fit the predominant media narrative about the Egyptian revolution? The Western media have been unanimous in their sympathetic coverage of the demonstrators in Egypt. Then why would the demonstrators want to brutalize them? And why have Western media outlets been so reluctant in discussing the significance of their own reporters’ brutalization at the hands of the Egyptian demonstrators? The protesters were using the latest social networking technology such as Twitter and Facebook but it seems that they did not hold modern views on religious pluralism or women’s rights. 

Many commentators, it appeared, was largely in agreement: what happened to Logan was terrible, but hardly surprised – what else could possibly be the result when a girl with “model good looks” is “sent” to a public place full of unrestrained Muslims? Like countless victims of sexual assault before her, the blame was heaped on Logan herself – for being attractive, and for putting herself in that environment.

What makes one roar with frustration are the outrageously sexist comments that were launched about how idealistic and dumb it was for CBS to send Logan to report on the story, because she was chosen largely for her model good looks, and that made her more of a “target”. To say that Lara Logan was in Tahrir Square largely because of her “model good looks” is typically misogynistic. Her looks do not cancel out her four years of reporting from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq; her job title, which, was “Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News;” or that she had bravely returned to report on the story despite being arrested earlier in the month, and expelled from the country. To discard all of her hard work, and deny her accomplishments, merely because she is an attractive woman isn’t fair.

And, the idea that Lara Logan was “more at risk” of sexual assault because she was attractive is laughable. Could Logan have been less vulnerable if she looked any different? Then would she be safe from the mob of 200 people who apparently decided to subject her to a prolonged beating and repeated sexual assaults because her delicate beauty stirred their longings?

The most remarkable thing about the incident is that this was not the making of an infuriated and frustrated crowd, but of liberated, relieved and jubilant men who had just gotten rid of their dictator. Is this how did they chose to usher their newly born democracy? Sexually assault a woman, preferably blonde. As Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted the thugs yelled “Jew! Jew!” Logan, who is not Jewish and is also far from being pro-Israel in her coverage. But the frantic crowd in Tahrir was not able to put aside their deeply engrained anti-Semitism even during what is possibly the happiest moment in their lives. So burning was their hatred for the Jews that they grabbed the closest Jew looking bystander and unleashed their wrath on her. It’s tempting to point that middle finger at Islam. But Muslim women, even those who wear the shrouding niqab, are often victims too. If this is how a woman is treated what does this say about the role of women in new Egypt?

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Another side of Pakistan

Kaushani Banerjee

The worst of times can become the best of times for the writer and the poet. When Pakistan descended into violence and anarchy, the world’s eyes are trained not just on the country but on the tales emerging from those. A new wave of Pakistani writers in English is now winning literary acclaim as they seamlessly flit between London, Karachi, New York and Lahore. Dealing with a heady mix of social and political themes, the writers are presented stories of war, loss, love and, of course, conflict.

Conflict is an overriding theme; Nadeem Aslam’s novel The Wasted Vigil explores the complexities of war. Set in modern Afghanistan, Aslam creates a portrait of the conflicts that shape our world.
Turn the page to Mohsin Hamid’s first novel, Moth Smoke (2000), which was set against the backdrop of the Indian-Pakistani arms race. His second and highly acclaimed novel-The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) explored the aftermath of 9/11 and the international turmoil it had unleashed. Hamid chose the narrative for his story and his Pakistani protagonist tells his tale to a nameless American who sits across from him in a Lahore cafe. Mohsin Hamid was short listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2008.
And then came the first real English language political satire in Pakistan. Mohammad Hanif’s first novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, is a brutal satire that spoke of Islamic fundamentalism and the plots and counter-plots taking place during General Zia ul Haq’s rule in the 1980s. Shortlisted for the Guardian’s first book award last year, it starting point is the plane crash in which Pakistan’s military dictator Haq passed away on 17 August 1988, offering increasingly bizarre explanations for the event, from mechanical failure to a blind woman’s curse.
Moni Mohsin’s The Diary of a Social Butterfly, is a light-hearted comedy and one that satirizes a privileged strata of Pakistani society. The Diary of a Social Butterfly began as a column in Pakistan’s Friday Times and its central character is Butterfly, a silly socialite. The columns — now compiled into a book — employ a brand of Lahori English.But Pakistani literature is not all about war and political double-dealing. That’s clear from Kamila Shamsie’s fifth finest novel, Burnt Shadows, and a collection of short stories by Daniyal Mueenuddin. Harvard-educated Ali Sethi’s debut novel The Wish Maker, which is a family saga and Fatima Bhutto’s book on the history of the Bhutto family have also created quite a buzz.

Kamila Shamsie’s story is a saga that goes beyond politics and interconnects the lives of two families over almost half a century. Her narrative touches the devastation of Nagasaki in WW II through the conflict-ridden formation of Pakistan in the late 1940s to post-9/11 Manhattan and war-torn Afghanistan. The book has been long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is a collection of linked short stories about an extended Pakistani landowning family in Lahore. Daniyal Mueenuddin, who practised law in New York before returning to Pakistan to manage the family farm, has created a revealing glimpse into the complexities of Pakistani class and culture.Compared to Indian writing, Pakistani writing is still in its infancy. While Indian writers have been around for some 20 or 25 years, Pakistani authors are only just beginning to create a buzz. Today if eyes have turned towards Pakistani authors it is because they have had a few really interesting books out during the last couple of years and are expecting more. Most of the Pakistani writers enjoying acclaim are from the Diaspora, just a few among them have chosen to move back to Pakistan.Many factors have come together to create the right conditions for the emergence of Pakistani literary fiction. Moni Mohsin says, “When one writer emerges and finds success, others follow.’’ Growing numbers of young Pakistanis are receiving degrees in creative writing from well regarded Western universities and there’s an explosion in home grown newspapers, magazines and periodicals creating a new generation of writers and readers.

Only days ago, Iran began loading uranium fuel rods into the core of its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr. While many in the international community played down the significance of Bushehr, it is possible that the beginning of an illegal nuclear policy could be the end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—perhaps the most important pillar of global security.

The nuclear facility at Bushehr is the focus of a considerable amount of controversy, especially in the United States

 

“Building nuclear bombs would be a strategic mistake for Iran,” Tehran’s envoy to the United Nations IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh said on November 2. Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested the Islamic Republic could never compete in terms of the numbers of warheads possessed by the nuclear-armed super powers. He was speaking a few days after Iran said it was ready to resume negotiations with the six powers involved in efforts to defuse a long-running dispute over its nuclear program. The United Nations has already imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran in the last four years in an effort to curb a nuclear program, that the West thinks is secretly developing.

Though Iran says, it will not loosen its obligations under the NPT and it will not use the technology to make a bomb; several countries do not accept Tehran’s insistence that it has no ambitions to build a nuclear weapon. Iran has stressed in the past that it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that it has the right to enrich uranium for civil use. Construction of the Bushehr plant on the Persian Gulf was begun by German builders before Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. Russian contractors undertook to complete the project several years ago. Under that arrangement, Russia is providing the enriched uranium fuel for the reactor. Iran is to return the spent fuel rods for reprocessing in Russia under international safeguards. The Organization of the Islamic Conference strongly supports Iran’s nuclear program.

Many believe that the Islamic Republic “doesn’t have the tools or material” to make a nuclear device. But if Iran decides to proceed, it must accumulate a sufficient quantity of the indispensable component for the core of the bomb — highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium. Iran is pursuing production paths for both; though its uranium enrichment capabilities are years ahead of its plutonium reprocessing plans.
Iran currently is producing enriched uranium of about 20 percent, purposefully as fuel for its research reactor. However to produce a nuclear bomb it would require to produce 90 percent of the isotope U-235 HEU. Thus to produce a bomb Iran could continue its current path of increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which it claims is for peaceful purposes. Then at some point, Iran could then leave the NPT. The technical path to a bomb does not end with HEU. To produce a crude nuclear device, Iran would need to have a design and the components to build it. The leap to a sophisticated nuclear device — one that could be used as a weapon – is a long drawn process. During this period, Iran would need to manufacture the non-nuclear components, test and refine them, and ultimately, conduct nuclear explosive tests. Gathering all these components might go undetected, but nuclear test explosion will surely not go unnoticed.

Kaushani Banerjee

 

In a significant development, Iranian engineers began loading fuel into Iran’s first nuclear power plant. After years of delays, the Bushehr plant in southern Iran marked the start up facility for energy production, which the US once tried to block with a view of pressurizing Iran to stop separate activities. There have not been strong objections to the Bushehr plant itself as there has been with Iran’s other efforts to accelerate uranium enrichment- a process that makes nuclear fuel for power plants, but which can also be used in weapons production. U.S and other nations do not oppose Iran’s stated aim of producing nuclear energy, but are concerned that if Iran masters the enrichment cycle, it would have a pathway to weapons production under the convenient cover of a peaceful energy programme.

Iran set for it's nuclear plant launch at Bushehr after a delay of several years

 

Iranian officials had held an official ceremony for fuel loading in August. However a leak in the Russia-built reactor delayed the process. The start of the week’s long process was delayed due to do a computer virus –Stuxnet. Analysts claim it was designed to sabotage the nuclear program.Russia will be supplying uranium to the plant, at a level well below what is needed for a nuclear weapon. Russia helped finish building Bushehr, and has pledged to prevent nuclear fuel at the site from being shifted to a possible nuclear programme. After years of delaying its completion, Russia believes that the Bushehr nuclear plant is essential for persuading Iran to cooperate with international efforts to ensure that Iran does not develop a bomb.

The fuel is being loaded into the plant's first generating unit's reactor.Following a number of technical procedures, the facility should be capable of producing electricity in November.

After the Iranian revolution in 1979, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plans to restart its nuclear program using nuclear fuel, and the IAEA agreed to provide assistance in uranium enrichment. However the program was terminated under US pressure. In 1995 Iran announced its plans of building a uranium hexafluoride plant at the Nuclear Technical Centre in Esfahan with Chinese assistance, but that too was abandoned by China under pressure from the United States. Iran then signed a deal with Russia in 1995, under which the plant was originally scheduled to be completed in 1999, but completion of the project was repeatedly delayed. The nuclear power plant was finally finished with the help of Russia following a three-decade delay.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in June 2010, imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. It renewed its call on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, something Tehran has explicitly refused to do, saying such activity is its right under international law. Iranians seem to believe that concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation are unnecessary and any suspension of the nuclear process is simply intended to deprive Iran of its right to have independent nuclear technology.

 

Nuclear map of Iran

The fueling of the Bushehr plant showed Iran’s nuclear plans were on track despite the various sanctions aimed at forcing it to curb uranium enrichment that many countries fear is aimed at developing atomic bombs. The nuclear plant is expected to generate electricity within three months, after 35 years of the start of its construction, when 163 of its fuel rods are moved into the reactor core and have undergone tests.

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