16 December 2012

This House Believes That: the EU should intervene in the Syrian conflict

Lola ROY (FOR):

Syria has not had a democratic election since the advent of the Ba'athist dictatorship in 1963. Hafez Al Assad, Bashar's father, obtained power after a coup in 1970. He was President until his death in 2000. Then Bashar al-Assad was elected. The regime liberalized timidly, it was the "Damascus Spring", and then this new president definitively put an end to the liberal movement. As a result, from March 2011, a wave of unprecedented popular social and political protest started taking place against the Ba’athist regime.
Since Friday 18th March 2011, demonstrations of thousands of people have taken place in Damascus, Homs, Banias and especially in Deraa, several buildings (the headquarters of the Ba’ath Party, the courts, etc.) having been burned down. Bashar al-Assad and his collaborators ordered the repression of the demonstrations, leaving hundreds dead and thousands wounded, both military and civilian (rebels or not). The protest movement has evolved into an armed revolution…


Indeed, the syrian conflict has already killed more than 40,000 people in only 20 months. The organization Human Rights Watch reports many cases of torture; it has the testimonies of more than two hundred people…
Hossam is 13. He has been captured by the Syrian forces and emprisoned. He has said to HRW : ''They put electric pliers on my belly. I fainted. When they questioned me a second time, they beat me and electrocuted me again. The third time, they had pliers with which they snatched off my toenails. They told me ''remember, we arrest adults and children and we kill them all.'' This is the situation that many children have already endured. It's our role to do everything  to stop  these genocides and atrocities. The UN denounces the torture of children and points in particular to the Syrian army which uses children as human shields. The torture is becoming a usual thing in this war, even the rebels use it. Many governments, including the Qatari government, denounce the genocide by the Syrian government. Bachar al-Assad doesn't even respect his own ceasefire commitments. We can't let these men, women and children be murdered by Bachar al-Assad who doesn't care about his people. It's our duty to stop these slaughters . It's true that it's very risky, but we can help the rebels through technical and logistical support, maritime blockades and air attacks... We can also bring humanitarian support creating safe zones, no-fly zones or humanitarian corridors.

Alexia DE RECHAPT (against):

The main problem of an intervention in Syria would be consequences... It could bring a regional and international escalation. Russia and China do not agree and have put their veto on any intervention at the United Nations Security Council.
Also, Europe cannot afford a military intervention: France's military budget, for example, has decreased from 3% to 1,5% of GDP. There is also a lack of strategy and of training! To win a battle against Assad, we would need the help of America
Also, it is up to the people get rid of their tyrant, not us!
The instability of the country is due to the religious situation of Syria, not just the political situation, in other words, this civil war is due to ethnic and religious divisions that cannot be “solved” by a military intervention.
The differences between all the religions and minorities but also the different armed forces involved make the situation hard to understand. The population is divided into two principal religions:  Islam and Christianity. Muslims are subdivided in two principal branches: the Sunnites (73%) and the Alawites Shiites (14%) who are running the country (Assad is Alawite). The Christians represent 12% of the population. All these communities have an important role in the conflict. Moreover the different armed forces are the Government army, the Free Syrian Army and the radical Islamists who are divided into two groups: the first one allied with the Muslim Brothers and the other one with the Jihadists. It is easy to imagine that such a diversity is a factor of instability in Syria…

Benédicte DE LA GRAVIERE (for):

The government is violent but there are also radical Islamists who make the situation complex. If we don’t intervene, these pitiless groups will take power, they may get the chemical weapons and the conflict will spread over the neighbouring countries. Due to powerful weapons and the Sharia they can change the lives of millions. We need to avoid what happened in Mali in March this year: Jihadist groups representing less than one percent of the population very rapidly succeeded in taking over control of the whole country. Our role is to oppose the bloodshed in Syria ! We, the EU, have to avoid the situation getting worse. Since the beginning of the conflict we have said that “it is up to the people of Syria to work it out for themselves”, but after one year and eight months of this conflict, we have to admit that the situation has not improved. Moreover, with the rise of the Jihadists, minorities like the Christians or the Kurds are threatened. 90% of Christians who live in Homs have been expelled. Feeling sorry for these people is not enough. We have to intervene militarily to bring back peace. May I remind you that if the Islamists came from Lybia or Tunisia it was, at the beginning, to help the opposition who had not received any help from the EU, or the USA or the UN. Now, they are taking advantage of the chaotic situation our non-intervention has caused. Last year, they were about 2000 Islamist soldiers, today there are at least 10,000 ! All of them have refused to recognize the Syrian National Coalition (which is made up of the different opposition groups) and want Syria to become an Islamist country. We must react before they take control of all the territory! Our role is to encourage the SNC which is, in case of an intervention, ready to take the power with a provisional government, in order to avoid an even more unstable situation or things will become like in Lybia.

Loic GEELHAND (against):

But the problem is, if we want to intervene in the Syrian conflict, are we talking about the Government or Jihadist forces? Because if the UE intervenes against the Government, it’s going to favour the Islamists and if, on the contrary, the UE intervenes against the Jihadist forces, it’s going to benefit the Syrian government… So finally it’s the same result. You also said that they are powerful, so logically that means that they are powerful enough to fight against European forces, we could lose soldiers… It isn’t the responsibility of the European Union! The problem is if we help the rebels with weapons, there is also a risk of arming members of the Jihadist movement, and therefore it’s just going to give them more power.
Moreover, the danger to minorities is also a very important point. One of the keys to solving Syria’s conflict is to understand its ethnic and religious complexity. In fact, the conflict is based on ethnic and religious considerations, which will continue with or without Assad…
Syria is made up of many ethnic and religious groups. The vast majority of the Alawites are now convinced that if they lose power there will be reprisals, and they will suffer as a community, after decades of abuse and despotic power. This feeling is also shared by other communities; there is already hostility between some communities. Even if Bashar al-Assad were to leave, will the Syrian National Coalition be strong enough to keep the communities from fighting each other? If we intervene, the situation is not going to change.
Some Armed Islamist groups came to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad, but it’s also for religious reasons. They are also there to impose the Sharia on the country just like in Mali. In fact, these groups announced their rejection of the Syrian National Coalition and voted for an Islamic state. The armed groups are going to be a real problem. I agree that the UE should intervene, but only for two reasons: if al-Assad leaves power, and if the coalition stays strong and the different communities and religions stay united (and I don’t think it’s possible because there are too many differences between the communities, and a thirst for revenge…). Moreover, Assad is still in power, and so by the time he leaves power, the Jihadist forces are going to be too powerful because more and more are going every day to Syria to fight. It seems too late…

Lola ROY (for):

But how can we really say that it is too late when a dictator introduce fear and an intolerable regime in his country and sparked off a civil war ? Furthermore, the European Union has its own foreign policy and security, which enables it to speak and act with one voice on the world stage. It has already sent peacekeeping missions to several regions of the world affected by conflict.  In the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), it uses military forces provided by the Member States to take the following actions: joint disarmament operations, humanitarian missions and evacuation, consultancy and assistance in military matters, missions for prevention of conflicts and peacekeeping, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including missions to restore peace and stability, and operations at the end of the conflict. Over the last decade, the EU has launched 23 civilian missions and military operations on three continents.
In addition, the EU and Syria are both part of the Euromed partnership. The objectives of this partnership are to build together a space of peace, security and shared prosperity in the Mediterranean basin.
Finally, the vetoes are not legitimate since Russia and China obviously have put their own interests above those of the Syrian people. Russia and China are virtual dictatorships and do not want the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring to spread to their territories. Besides, Europe could put pressure on these two powers so they think more about the situation. In fact, the EU could try to negotiate with these countries in an efficient way so that the UN could be united and stop the war in Syria. Legally, the EU could also try to have an impact on Syrian politics by sending, for example, diplomats for negotiations to reach an agreement on peacekeeping. The EU could also collect donations from the European populations to financially help the wounded civilians and families without homes. Also, it should find a way to protect at least the children from being hurt by creating more refugee camps. To conclude, despite all the difficulties that the European Union may face, it is now a real duty to act.

Amandine GOTER (against):

Syria is situated next to Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. An intensification of the fights because of a European intervention and the fact that Syria is a central player in the Arab world would provoke a regional escalation of the conflict, particularly in Lebanon or even Turkey because of the long common border.
China and Russia have veto rights, like it or not. Russia refuses an intervention because it provides Assad’s army with weapons and it brings a lot of money to the Russian government, and the only Russian military base in the Mediterranean is in Syria. China wants to preserve its relationship with Russia and refuses any intervention.
Finally, the European Union has been affected by the crisis of the sovereign debts since 2008. So, it must help its countries and reduce its debt. That’s why it can invest a lot of money in this conflict. Besides, Europeans are not the world’s policeman!

Conclusion by Loic and Lola :

Due to the complexity of this conflict, it is really difficult to know what to do because there are implications both positive than negative, and opinion is very divided. For the moment, no one has decided to intervene militarily, but there are ways for you to express your opinion at the European level with petitions and support for various organizations.

Vote: the motion that the EU should intervene was carried by a small majority.

15 December 2012

UN International Human Solidarity Day is on 18th December

“In a world of common challenges, no nation can succeed on its own; but by working together in common cause, we can build a safer, more prosperous future for all. Solidarity must be the foundation for global solutions.”

8 December 2012

Shoot your town!

Genetically Modified Organisms, useful or dangerous?

A few questions you need to ask yourselves about GMOs:

In September 2012, Professor Séralini presented his study on GMOs. He tested in secret during two years the effects of GMOs on rats. The result was unbelievable; many of these rats contracted diseases as a result of feeding on GMO maze… What do you think of this study ? Should we worry about GMOs ?

What are the risks for the environment of GMOs ? Is there any possibility of cross-pollination with non-GMO crops ?

What are the effects for the health of humans and animals ?

Monsanto has the monopoly on GMOs. Every year farmers have to buy new seeds from this TNC. What are the consequences on farmers' lives ?

Arguments for the use of GMOs:

Better resistance to stress
If crops can be made more resistant to pest outbreaks, it would reduce the danger of crop failure. Similar benefits could result from better resistance to severe weather, such as frost, extreme heat or drought.

More nutritious staple foods
By inserting genes into crops such as rice and wheat, we can increase their food value. For example, genes responsible for producing the precursor of vitamin A have been inserted into rice plants, which have higher levels of vitamin A in their grain.

More productive farm animals
Genes can be inserted into cattle to raise their milk yield.

More food from less land
Improved productivity using GMOs might mean that farmers in the next century won't have to bring so much marginal land into cultivation.

GMOs might reduce the environmental impact of food production and industrial processes
Genetically engineered resistance to pests and diseases could greatly reduce the chemicals needed for crop protection, and it is already happening. Scientists are developing trees that have a lower content of lignin, a structuring constituent of woody plant cells. This could reduce the need for noxious chemicals in pulp and paper production.

Rehabilitation of damaged or less fertile land
Large areas of cropland in the developing world have become saline by unsustainable irrigation practices. Genetic modification could produce salt-tolerant varieties. While there is some advanced research in this area, salt and drought tolerance are the result of quite complex gene combinations, and positive results will take longer than those providing insecticide and herbicide resistance.

Rehabilitation of damaged land may also become possible through organisms bred to restore nutrients and soil structure.

Longer shelf lives
The genetic modification of fruit and vegetables can make them less likely to spoil in storage or on the way to market.

Plant material fuel, or biomass, has enormous energy potential. It may be possible to breed plants specifically for this purpose.

Investigation of diseases with genetic fingerprinting
"Fingerprinting" of animal and plant diseases is already possible. This technique allows researchers to know exactly what an organism is by looking at its genetic blueprint.

Identification of allergenic genes
Although some are worried about the transfer of allergenic genes molecular biology could also be used to characterize allergens and remove them.

Arguments against the use of GMOs:

The taste of GMOs is not as good or as "natural" as real food

Harm to other organisms
Genes included in a crop may turn out to be poisonous to insects (for example, the monarch butterfly poisoned by GMO maze).

Cross-pollination with ordinary (crop) plants
Cross pollination can occur at quite large distances. New genes may also be included in the offspring of the traditional, organic crops miles away. This makes it difficult to distinguish which crop field is organic, and which is not, creating a problem to the proper labelling of non-GMO food products. Super weeds which are more resistant can be spread everywhere. It can be the same for super pests.

Health problems
Cancers may be caused by GMOs but also allergies.

Only major trading countries obtain most of the benefit from the production and trade of genetically modified crops
This might cause more geopolitical conflicts.

Monopolies by TNCs
Fewer competitors might increase food prices. Large companies can influence health and safety standards.

Here is a summary of the personal views in favour of GMOs expressed by Mr Villemont, an agro engineer:

  • The world population is increasing; it will soon reach nine billion. So if everyone is to have enough to eat, it is necessary to produce more meat and crops.
  • You cannot deny people in developing countries wanting to eat more meat!
  • We have to increase yield to keep the peace in the world and transgenic plants are the solution.
  • Farmers and the GMO industry have to comply with regulations to increase biodiversity!
  • So-called alternative agricultural techniques will not solve the problem of possible wide-scale famine.
  • GMOs help reduce the use of chemicals.
  • The Séralini research on rats is simply not reliable.

Here is a summary of the views against the use of GMOs expressed by Mr Birson, a member of an environmental protection association:

  • Transgenic plants are not the solution to feeding the world. There are alternatives. Terra Preta
  • (http://www.terrapretaprogram.org/our_program.aspx) is one solution. With this method, yield is very high and it does not pollute the environment.
  • The film by Coline Serrault (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsbXnTlCwHc) shows the disastrous effects of GMOs very well, and it also shows initiatives by farmers in India to find alternatives that increase biodiversity.
  • Eating so much meat is not necessary (it is bad for health and the environment as more land is needed to produce meat than to produce cereals).
  • Monsanto has the monopoly on genetically modified seed and this is not good. The urgency of feeding a growing population means that GMO products are being used though proper long-term research has not been carried out.
  • Globalisation is a big mistake. There is competition between countries which leads to absurdities like Spanish tomatoes being sold in Holland and Dutch tomatoes being sold in Spain.
  • If a farmer has less than 10 hectares of land, he can’t get any subsidies in Europe, so States are encouraging large-scale producers (who choose to use GMOs).

Article by Anastasie Paradis, Zélie Pironin, Alexandre Tabone & Lauriane Chadrin

10th December: UN Human Rights Day

29 November 2012

Syria silenced...

Message from Evan: Many more people are about to die in Syria! The country just silenced its people's last defence; all of Syria’s internet has been blacked out… Anything can happen in the next few days. There is now no way for them to speak up about the atrocities which will be committed there! Click on the following link to find out more:

24 November 2012

This House Believes That: the EU should intervene in the Syrian conflict...

If you hear the word “Syria”, you probably think of Bachar al-Assad or of the opposition, maybe about the rise of the Jihad fighters too. And you remember those awful TV news reports of kids suffering in the terrible civil war that is raging over there…

What happened in Syria?

What is going on right now?

Why is this conflict going on?

How should the international community react to what is going on there?

Is there anything WE can do about it?

For some answers to all of these questions, come and listen to and even take part in the DEBATE on Monday 26th November (12:30 to 13:30) at the Foyer des Lycéens in Massillon!

25 October 2012

Should homosexual marriage be allowed in France? Should adoption by same-sex couples be allowed?

Marianne is for...

Our debate is about homosexual marriage, but it is also about what allowing same-sex marriage is related to, which is allowing adoption and parenting by same-sex couples.
As regards the question of allowing gay couples to get married, it is virtually decided in France, as 65% of the population is for. Homosexuals are already allowed civil unions, and the polls show that French people don’t have anything against a real marriage for gays, especially as marriage is losing importance anyway... Same-sex couples are simply asking to have the same rights as heterosexual couples (civil unions already impose the same duties).
I think the controversy is more about adoption and parenting by same-sex couples; the main reason why people are against same-sex marriage is because they do not want gay couples to be allowed to become parents.
I am going to explain why gay couple should be allowed to adopt kids.
First of all, studies have been made on children raised by same-sex parents and the results show that those kids appear to have no more mental or development problems than kids adopted by heterosexual couples or by single parents.
Secondly, there is the issue of the lack of a male or a female presence for a child adopted by a gay couple; according to some people, this could cause a problem of identification. Surely, it is important to keep in mind that the kid won’t spend all his childhood only with his adopted parents. He or she will see his grandparents, uncles, aunts, the teachers at school or even the baby-sitter who could be chosen from the other gender on purpose. Moreover, in same-sex couples, one parent will always tend to adopt the traditional role of the “mother” and the other the role of the “father”. In this way, kids won’t have any particular problems identifying with one or other of the genders.
Thirdly, what about possible discrimination at school against kids adopted by gay couples? Mentalities are changing for the better thanks to the efforts of the media and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) community itself. There is less homophobia today, so children should not suffer from being mocked at school too much, not in the long term at least.
My fourth point is: adoption by same-sex couples is allowed in many countries including the UK, Spain and some States of the USA. Do you really think they took the decision to allow adoption by same-sex couples without thinking thoroughly about it first? Of course not!
If you think about it, people used to have the same prejudices about divorce, there was a lot of debate about that too, and now we don’t see anyone having problems about it anymore. I am convinced that we are going in the same direction as regards same-sex marriage and adoption.

Thibaud is against...

Gay marriage is totally absurd!
Marianne thinks people are against gay marriage because of the adoption issue. It is an argument (just imagine Mother's Day or Father's Day celebrations!) but it is not the only argument against gay marriage... Look at the definition of marriage. Marriage has always described the union of a man and a woman, the aim of which is to procreate and raise children. Same-sex marriage does not comply with this definition. An M6 survey shows that 57% of the French are against it. Marriage is a tradition which can’t be transformed.
Homosexuals already have the "pacs" civil union and thus the same rights as heterosexuals. So why do they need to get married?! They are already accepted in society and allowing them marriage status can only upset society... Why not also allow polygamy whilst we are about it?!
I do not think children adopted by homosexual couples will learn about the opposite gender through the presence of family or friends. Do we live with our uncles our grandmothers or our babysitter?! They will spend most of their time with people of only one gender and, study or no study, it will obviously have an impact on their minds...
Love between two people of the same sex and their desire to start a family, even if sincere, is not sufficient to allow them to get married and certainly not to have the right to adopt.  From a legal point of view, marriage is not about feelings or a desire for social recognition. It is exclusively a legal framework to guarantee a stable environment for the child. This is why marriage bans incest for example. We are not talking about the right to have a child, which is about what the adults want, but about the rights of the child. The fundamental right of the child to have a father and mother must be guaranteed. This right is, in the end, in everyone's interest.

Laurie is for...

You stated that the main aim of marriage is to procreate and bring up children, but should we forbid sterile people or couples that just don't want to have children from getting married? I think marriage is not just about having kids, it is essentially a private matter between two people, regardless of their gender, who love each other and want their union to be recognized and legal.
The M6 poll is just numbers thrown about without any details; what kind of people answered it? Was it young or old people? You can't say that the majority of French people are against homosexual marriage based on this, especially when there has been a recent poll, carried out by the French Institute of Public Opinion, which stated that 65% where in fact in favor. It shows that mentalities are changing. Homosexuals are now seen as a legitimate part of the population, with laws to defend their rights (like the anti-homophobia law adopted in France in 2004). Homosexual couples are depicted in popular TV shows like Plus Belle La Vie. Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family even show gay couples raising children.
Unlike what you said, the “PACS” civil union is not the same as marriage. For example, in the PACS, if one of the partners dies, the other can't inherit. But, it's not just for the legal advantages that homosexuals want to get married; it is mostly because they want to be given the same consideration as straight couples.
The polygamist argument is not valid, because polygamy is totally different from same-sex marriage claims; there is no equality in a marriage involving three or more people. Equality is necessary in a union like marriage, so it would be impossible for polygamists to get married.
I agree with Marianne when she says that adopted children will not spend most of their time with people of the same gender. Thibault says that they will spend most of their time with their same-sex parents, which can be true during the first years, but then there is school, friends, other members of the family. I don't spend my entire time with my parents, I see other people. Children will, at a certain age, discover new things, new religions and ideas, make friends from different backgrounds and learn from this experience probably as much if not more than from his or her parents.
There are a lot of orphans and abandoned children in the world. Don't you think that it is also their right to have a loving family? And don't you think that they would not care if this family happened to be two men or two women?

Lucas is against…

First, I'd like to thank our friend for sharing her point of view. Does she know that, in the Netherlands, same-sex marriage has been allowed since April 2001 but that only one in five Dutch gay couples actually do get married? Gay couples just don't want to get married apparently!
Nobody doubts the capacity of homosexual couples to raise children. And nobody pretends that so-called traditional families are necessarily more competent to raise children. But adoption should be by a couple as close as possible to the biological parents of the child to be adopted. Legalizing adoption by same-sex couples would mean that gender differences do not matter. We have to study all this from the children’s point of view. But they seem to be rather absent from this debate… Gender difference is an essential element of a child’s psychological construction allowing him to build his identity. Gender difference is one of the first limits the child encounters: “if I'm a boy, I can't be a girl, and if I'm a girl, I can't be a boy”. Putting into questioning gender difference would make children live in a world where everything goes: women can be “dads” and men can be “moms”…
I particularly want to insist on the necessity for a child to have a mom and a dad. A study carried out by researchers from Oxford University on 192 families from two maternity hospitals in Great-Britain has shown that interactions between the baby and the father in his very first years reduces behavior problems afterwards. Other studies have already shown that these interactions are very beneficial for the child, because he will be more confident and enterprising in the presence of a stranger. Moreover, it's obvious that parents’ behavior towards their children is gendered: a mom doesn't raise her child the same way as a dad would. A woman has a more sensitive approach based more on learning, while a man acts as the driving force and he shows the child how to take risks.
The love between two people of the same sex and their desire to start a family are not sufficient reasons to legalize their union and the right to adoption. I agree with Thibaud when he says that marriage isn't intended to promote the right to have a child, but the rights of the child.

Amandine is for…

My dear Lucas, you don’t seem to be aware that people get married because they are in love! Not all gay couples want to get married (not all heterosexual couples either) but a lot of them are in love and will probably want to make their relationship official sooner or later. So why shouldn’t they be allowed to formalize things, just like heterosexual couples?

And, as you admitted, a gay couple could raise a child just as well as a heterosexual couple. What more can I say?!
Among young gays the suicide rate is particularly high, and one of the main reasons is the guilt they feel at not being able to feel part of a family. I think this is one more argument to allow same-sex parenting!

Concerning same-sex parenting and adoption, I agree with Laurie: we all know that a lot of children are orphans in different countries and they are just asking for love and affection. Do you think they prefer to stay alone, raised in terrifying conditions or wouldn’t they prefer to be loved by parents, even if they are of the same sex? I think the answer is clear for all of us, isn’t it? Moreover, a recent poll realized in August by the French Institute of Public Opinion (Ifop), has shown that 53% of the population support adoption by gay parents. So what are we waiting for?
Some people claim that an adopted child has a “right” to be welcomed into a “natural” family with a mom and a dad. However, it’s not a duty anymore. Parents, homosexual or heterosexual, have to be able to meet the needs of the child and to ensure his happiness. A child needs love and love has no gender! It is not because a child has been raised by a heterosexual couple that he will necessarily be happier than a child raised by a gay couple.
I also think that children living with a gay couple will be more open-minded about homosexuality than other children.
At last, I disagree with you, Lucas, when you say that a child needs a father and a mother to build his personality. Indeed, studies have shown that children raised by same-sex couples have no particular deficit and they do not show differences in development or psychological adjustment. And more importantly, they are not trying to imitate their parents as regards their sexuality.
Homosexuality is not transmitted by identification with the father or the mother. Otherwise, there would never be gays in heteronormative families…
People do not become homosexual; they simply are homosexual, which is sometimes as unsettling for them as for many of us. Depriving them of marriage and the possibility of adopting is a punishment they don’t deserve.

Victor is against...

You said that people get married because they are in love, and I agree, I don’t contest the fact that two homosexuals can be in love. But civil marriage concerns first and foremost the legal field and not just matters of the heart. Marriage is a legal framework providing as stable an environment as possible for the growth of the child. Moreover, if it were a simple question of love, marriage would be redundant; couples can be in love without having to be married.
Gay couples cannot raise a child as well as heterosexual couples because the adopted children of same-sex couples will lack self-confidence and the understanding of gender differences.

I find that anyone who is against giving homosexuals equal rights is denounced as a homophobic, which is wrong.
You said that children living with a gay couple will be more open-minded about homosexuality; it’s possible in some cases. But in many other cases children will be more close-minded because they will feel like the victims of their parents’ choice. Children will suffer from discrimination.


15 October 2012

Malala Yousufzai now fights for her own life... By Ilana Abergel

Read the CNN article!

Malala Yousafzai is a 15 year old girl from Pakistan from an area called the Swat Valley. On October 9th 2012, she was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by a group of men. These men belong to a group called the Taliban.

The Taliban are a group of men who ruled Afghanistan for five years until 2001. They imposed very strict rules especially for women who weren’t allowed to work outside their homes, had to be covered from head to toe in a veil when they were in public. Girls weren’t allowed to be educated. People had to respect these strict rules otherwise they were punished harshly.

In 2001, the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan and ended up in the Swat Valley, an area near the border of Pakistan. Since then, in Pakistan, hundreds of schools have been destroyed and school banned for girls.

Malala’s father is a teacher so she really wanted to study and therefore had to go to school secretly because of the Taliban. Unfortunately she had to stop. She wrote a diary and in 2009 she wrote a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym explaining her life under the Taliban.

A BBC reporter from Pakistan asked if any woman from Malala’s father’s school would write about life under the Taliban. First a girl called Aisha accepted but then her parents stopped her from doing it because they feared the Taliban too much. The only solution was Malala (she was only 11). Fortunately around May 2009, the Taliban were driven out of Swat Valley and life became more normal for Malala but also for everyone else. Girls were able to go back to school. Afterwards she became a big supporter of girls’ education and in August 2009 she appeared more often on television and mentioned her wish to become a politician. In 2011 she was given a peace award by the Pakistani government, which upset the Taliban. She started receiving threatening messages and in the summer 2012 the Taliban threatened to kill her…

Because of the attack on her last October she was sent to the United Kingdom for treatment. Malala received support from the public and celebrities like Madonna who dedicated a song to her.

I think Malala is very courageous and I hope she will continue to defend women’s rights. One day women will be given their rights in Pakistan because of people like her.

26 July 2012

Hungarian complacency? By Emma

Laszlo Csatary was the most wanted Nazi war crimal in the world. He was arrested by the Hungarian authorities on Wednesday 18th July 2012 in Budapest, 68 years after the end of the war...

In 1944, Mr. Csatary served as a senior Hungarian police officer in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice and is accused of the deportation of 15,700 Jews from Kosice to the Auschwitz death camp. He was condemned to death in absentia on June the 8th 1948.
On January the 19th 1945, he escaped to Canada where he worked as an art dealer in Montreal and Toronto under a false identity. In 1995, the Canadian authorities discovered his real identity and he then escaped back to Hungary. He lived there under his real identity for 17 years before being finally arrested...

Why did Hungary, a member State of the European Union, wait so long to arrest this Nazi? Perhaps it is because he is old. But, surely, once a Nazi, always a Nazi? I think he should have been punished for the crimes he committed, especially as he has not apparently shown any remorse...

Dark satanic?

23 July 2012

Is Iran provoking Israel? By Sophie

There has been an explosion on a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. The result is eight deaths and about thirty people injured. According to a Bulgarian Minister, the attack was committed by a suicide bomber whose identity has not yet been established.

Benyamin Netanyahou (Prime Minister of Israel) has accused Iran of being responsible for this attack but also for many other attacks in places like India, Thailand, Georgia, Cyprus and Kenya.

Israel promises a strong counter attack against the Iranian terrorist offensives. But this kind of reaction may cause a war... Israel will probably react in rather a more discreet fashion.

Podentially dangerous! By Baptiste

The Belgian theatre group Time Circus offers hotel customers the exciting experience of spending the night up in the air... This weird news was broadcast by the BBC on the 30th May 2012.
Customers take part in a theatrical ritual organized by the hotel staff in sci-fi clothes. Then they are taken to their rooms: pods hung from trees in a Norfolk forest (UK). They are given the bare essentials. However, the room is very comfortable.

I think that this is fun and crazy! I couldn’t imagine sleeping up in a tree, it must be very cool. But, security measures are not mentioned in the video and the pods are very high up... I hope it is safe!

Should kids do holiday homework? By Lydwine

Some people think it is a good thing for children to work a little during the holidays because that way pupils will not forget what they have learnt. Teachers often favour holiday homework because that way they will be more able to complete their teaching programmes...

Others think holidays are holidays and that children should forget all about school during them! There must be a real break between two school years. Most pupils of course are in favour of this option!

But, what is best? Send me your comments please!

12 July 2012

Iconoclasts in Timbuktu... By Hugo

Jihadist militants, linked to Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have destroyed a holy tomb (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the holy city of Timbuktu in northern Mali. This sacrilege has led to unprecedented terror within the local population.

We must strive to understand how, despite such acts, Al Qaeda continues to impress Muslims and to pursue its strategic objectives.

Al Qaeda's diatribe against "infidels" is in fact violent intolerance of all the forms of Islam which are not to their liking, such as that practiced in Mali and elsewhere. Jihadists seek to sweep away a glorious past to impose a totalitarian creed.

Also, nothing would make the Jihadist more pleased than to provoke foreign intervention; this would worsen the chaos in Mali and allow AQIM and its allies to portray themselves as defenders of Islamic lands...

I find it very unfortunate that such important monuments become stakes in this religious and political conflict.