Red Reading

March issue of Liberation honours International Women's Day – the 8th of the month, in case you've been living in an all-male religious community for the past century, or otherwise don't get out much – by focussing on women's global struggle for equality of opportunity and esteem. At least that's the prize on which the eyes should ideally be on, though there are still many parts of the world where equality of esteem with next door's dog would be a step forward. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are the two countries which come out worst on the UN Development Programme's index of gender equality, and they are two covered by Nimrod Raphaelli's look at the Arab Human Development Report 2005: Towards the Rise of Women in the Arab World. In addition, a truly weird interview with Princess Adelah of the royal family of what may be the world's most repressive country – which is fine, as it's a staunch US ally – shows what strange things being told simultaneously that you're inferior (because a woman) and superior (because royal) can do to your brain. Lady Di she ain't. The daughter of the King, she professes to have no idea what her father's views are on the role of women in Saudi society. Maybe she could take a look around her. I would say she too ought to get out more, but that would be unfair, as she can't, at least not without some male relative in tow, and then only on foot, ro with someone else driving. I wonder whether Liberation would interview the daughter of any other bloodthirsty dictator – unless she'd skipped and was busy sharing her knowledge of his daily habits – ans if not, why they ran this. Back on planet Earth, Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL, The Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, reports on the fight for women's rights in Indonesia. Go to Liberation's website for more information.

March Labour Left Briefing...
...manages to use the expression 'Women's Lib', which I thought had disappeared in the 1970s, wondering whether it's back on the agenda. Well, that's what it says on the cover, though Ruth Clarke's article is actually entitled 'Forward women!', which has the advantage of being amusing, as well as unassociated with the Daily Mail and the like. 'Women's Lib' was an expression surely only ever used by people hostile to gender equality, and ought to be confined to the dustbin of history, though perhaps I'm missing some in-joke. Maya Evans, author of Naming the Dead looks at women and Islam, and other articles with international significance cover Iraq, Trident and the World Social Forum.Go to LLB's website for sample material and other information.

Anti-terror Policing and Human Rights Abuses
The UK's Institute of Race Relations has produced three briefing papers on the ways in which community organisations in Britain are combating the fall-out - in terms of racial violence, Islamophobia, anti-terror policing and human rights abuses - from the war on terror: Working with the media, In defence of multiculturalism and Community Responses to the War on terror

Reporters Without Scruples
As part of the ongoing media war against Venezuela’s democratically elected government, a number of misrepresentations have been repeated in the British media in its coverage of the temporary powers granted to President Chavez. These are based on allegations made by long-time Cuba-basgers Reporters Without Frontiers. Cuba, however, can at least be criticised for lacking a compeletly free press. Venezuela's press is unfettered, so what anything that goes on there has to do with RWF is hard to see. Perhaps the organisations funders can explain. Recently, a series of articles have appeared claiming that the President is now ‘ruling by decree’. The truth is that Venezuela’s parliament (National Assembly) has voted through a number of “Enabling Laws” to allow the President to directly enact legislation to implement his election promises more quickly. These powers are in line with Venezuela’s constitution and have been used by a number of previous presidents. Additionally, any legislation passed in this way can be withdrawn at any time by the National Assembly or by the electorate through popular referenda. The Venezuela Information Centre in London has produced a briefing explaining these new powers.
To find out what's really going on in Venezuela, rather than what the CIA would like you to think is happening there, read Hugo Chavez's Social Democratic Agenda by Stephen Lendman, on ZNet.

Violence Against Women in Iraq
Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq is a report by MADRE, an international women’s rights organization, which shows how violence against women has risen in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003. Breaking a taboo in the country, two Iraqi women made public allegations of rape against Iraqi security forces. Madre’s Communication Director Yifat Susskind said that “what stands out about that allegation is the fact that those accused rapists have been trained and armed and funded by the United States." The report also blames the US for failing to protect women’s rights in Iraq and for having sparked the wave of violence against women while supporting Shiite militias that are known for such attacks.

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Read all about the EU's twisted dreams in EU: Statewatch analysis: The dream of total data collection - status quo and future plans for EU information systems