The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: wives

The atrocity that will not be televised

by fpman

Fresh reports in from Nigeria, via allAfrica.com:

Boko Haram Killing ‘Wives’ to Prevent Marraige to ‘Unbelievers’

The reason why this will not be televised — or in other words widely known:

1. This is happening in Africa, not in the Middle East.

2. This is happening to Africans, not Westerners.

3. The Islamic State has just killed Western tourists in Tunisia in the meantime, and that would divert the attention on any day.

4. Wives of Boko Haram’s Islamist combatants are perceived at first sight by unsuspecting readers as part of the enemy, or, psychologically speaking, as part of an “outgroup.”

Two quotes from the article should make clear why this is as terrible a human tragedy as can be.

The Islamist fighters apparently told “their” wives before they killed them:

“We will not spare anyone of you because if unbelievers marry you, when we get to heaven, there is no way we can meet again.”

And the context to all of this shows that in all likelihood most of the women concerned have never really consented to being married to them in the first place.

“The insurgents had decided to flee to the nearby town of Gwoza (after fleeing the town of Bama earlier on, in the course of their retreat) before the troops’ arrival but they first decided to kill their wives so that nobody would remarry them.

Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria’s military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.”

In other words, many or most of the women concerned were just given to their future killers as property, and before they were killed, they were offered the “consolation” that they could be with their killers forever and ever, thanks to being saved from the alternative.

Certain interactions repeat themselves

by fpman

Here is a very interesting piece in the NY Post (“My ISIS boyfriend”), looking at the story of a French woman who delved real deep into some research on radicalisation in France and the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) phenomenon. As the lady reveals through her own fascinating experience:

“This is why girls go there,” said Erelle. “It’s the dream of a good life. They are persuaded that it’s a paradise and that they don’t have any future in Britain or France and they won’t find good husbands and can never be good Muslims surrounded by infidels. Bilel told Melodie she could have a beautiful life, a big apartment and lots of children.”

These considerations are important to understand. It is equally important to understand that this is nothing new.

Take this book as an example: “The Convert,” by Deborah Baker.

It is the story of Margaret Marcus, a Jewish-American girl from New York who suffered from some major vulnerabilities for some time in her life and eventually chose to convert, seeking a solution to all her troubles, and went to Pakistan. She was invited there by Abul A’la Maududi (1903-1979), an Islamist scholar-politician who was the founder there of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. One of the most influential Islamist thinkers in the early development of modern political Islam.

Margaret went to Pakistan in 1961. Maududi, happy that in distant America someone chose Islam (it was more of a big deal at the time), accepted her into his house, and attempted to find a husband for her.

The story is in fact quite complicated from hereon and I would not like to shoot it down with a cheap summary — let me point out that Margaret Marcus went on to live as Maryam Jameelah in her new life. The story of her conversion (a version of it) is widely known in the Islamic world.

Now guess what… one of the arguments that tempted Margaret-Maryam to foreign land was that as a Muslim convert she would not find decent existence (in both a spiritual and a material sense) and a good husband if she stayed in non-Muslim land.

Given that these interactions, which apparently show a durable pattern, nowadays gain strategic significance in the context of the Islamic State, perhaps it is time to pay more attention to the excellent book mentioned above.

Of helpmeets and dirt-throwers

by fpman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu is to some extent at the center of the upcoming Israeli legislative elections these days. She hit the deadlines having recently spoken on the phone with Monique Ben Melekh, wife of the former mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal — in this conversation she made a series of passionate remarks about her husband and to her unpleasant surprise Monique Ben Melekh apparently recorded the conversation. Theirs is a relationship of tension, mostly because Monique’s husband Eli Moyal is a critic of some of Netanyahu’s policies.

Sara Netanyahu’s rant comparative assessment of the two husbands is as follows:

“(….) he (Netanyahu) behaves with rare political wisdom, speaks with leaders all the time! Binyamin Netanyahu’s experience, his wisdom, his education! [He has] extensive education, university degrees. He also reads books, understands the economy, security, policy, he knows how to speak with leaders of the world! Where is your man? He doesn’t even reach the ankles of my husband, what, did Eli Moyal ever speak once with leaders of the world?!”

The good wife’s intention in this case was, in her words, to be a true “helpmeet” to her husband, something she sees as a “great responsibility” in a world where her husband is facing, on behalf of “the free world,” Iran and the Islamic State. In fact she sees her husband effectively as the leader of the free world. She says:

“He is one of the most veteran leaders in the world. In the United States they say that if he had been born in the US, he’d have been elected president there.”

In politics, of course, consequences weigh more than intentions. The leaking of the recorded conversation’s transcript (parts of it, with possibly worse to follow) comes at a time when allegations of the Netanyahu family’s former housekeeper about Sara Netanyahu’s allegedly bad temper are already making some waves around her. Opponents have thus found a way to turn her efforts against her husband on the eve of the upcoming elections.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post (a form of damage limitation) she reflects on the housekeeper’s allegations, too.

“It’s the idea that some people earn their livelihood by throwing dirt on other people, their reputations – and not just anyone, but someone who you worked for, who was by your side. If you’re unhappy at work, why not just leave? Why do you have to spit into the well you drank from? What kind of person does something like that? I can’t help thinking of the BBC drama Downton Abbey, with its upstairs/downstairs intrigue, scheming staff and the bubbling cauldron of endless gossip.”

We shall see if such witty comments help her help husband.

Gaffe

by fpman

The official narrative of what you see below is that VP Joe Biden was “comforting (newly installed Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s wife) Stephanie Carter after she slipped and fell on ice outside the White House earlier in the day” — while her husband was being sworn into office, that is. Just a bit of shawl chivalry, if that rings a bell.

 

There is not too much in the way of scientific commentary to be offered related to this.

What constitutes a gaffe is, to state the obvious, socially constructed — a matter of intersubjective consensus between observers. You be the observer, watch the video.

Quotes of the day, from Zimbabwe

by fpman

Grace Mugabe (Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s wife, 41 years the leader’s junior, formerly his typist, currently head of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s Women’s League, and a target of sanctions by the US and the EU) could easily blame some of the reputation she has on her name. It is just too tempting for critics to call her “Disgrace.” Names like “First Shopper,” however, are not necessarily a result of her otherwise nice first name.

Most recently a series of evictions have been giving her a bad name. She owns farmland in the vicinity of where the latter have been taking place and is thus suspected by some of having something to do with this. A government official’s explanation that the evictions are to make room for a national monument site, for a 19th century anti-colonial hero, sounds not much better from the point of view of those evicted. For now, Zimbabwe’s High Court has ordered a halt to the evictions and so the issue is not “settled” yet.

Our first quote comes from one of the farmers facing eviction:

“The police compared us to ants saying, ‘There’s no way an ant can fight an elephant because Amai (Mrs) Mugabe is a high profile person and you’re ordinary citizens,'”

The police are wrong, of course, and this brings us our second quote of the day. Ants can actually protect trees from elephants who tend to keep away from them. Apparently:

“Whereas giraffes can swipe ants away with their tongues, elephants are more vulnerable because their nostrils are located far from their mouths.”

Beirut rules?

by fpman

The Islamic State is a puzzling phenomenon in many respects. One thing we just can’t make sense of is how an organization that often goes beyond previously imaginable extremes in its political and military tactics, can get seemingly genuinely very upset about stuff being done to them in return.

Such a moment came yesterday when one IS commander by the name of Abu Ali Shishani (his name tells us he has some connection to Chechnya, though he is a.k.a. Anas Sharkas by his kunya or nom de guerre) filled a video message with complaints about Lebanese authorities that seem to have rounded up wives and children of several IS leaders in the last few days. One of those detained may or may not be a former wife of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s, a certain Saja al-Dulaimi, and if she is who she is thought to be, she is held there together with her daughter, plus some other wives, including a wife of Abu Ali Shishani’s. (It seems that Saja al-Dulaimi had been a subject of hostage exchange before, when she was held by Syrian government forces in the past along with two sons and a smaller brother.)

In this situation, Abu Ali Shishani called on Sunni Lebanese yesterday to blow up the house around them and let the roof fall on their head, basically. He said:

“I call on you, Sunnis, to rise up in unity. Our wives and men are in prisons. They took my wife and children and had no right to do so.”

Lebanon is a country where many people understand the basic rules of tit-for-tat kidnappings, and Sunni Islamists operating in and from Syrian territory have kidnapped many Lebanese soldiers up to now, not to mention they have even executed some of them. Lebanon is a country where a reluctance to be pragmatic may be punished fast. We would never discount the IS potential to break down the old order in places where they haven’t done it yet but Lebanon may be tough territory for them in this respect.

Thai “democrarchy”

by fpman

Thai Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is about to have his third wife’s, that is, Princess Srirasmi Akrapongpreecha’s family stripped of royal entitlements, according to reports, and most likely a divorce is brewing along with this.

This comes related to allegations of corruption against an uncle of the princess, a police general, who may have been party to some serious smuggling and gambling crime, and may have been involved in soliciting bribes regularly. The uncle in question is Pongpat Chayaphan, formerly the head of Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau. He has been arrested together with seven colleagues of his.

This source allows a peek into some royal intrigue these days, within the ranks of the royal cabinet, known as the Privy Council:

“The prince has been described in secret cables liberated by Wikileaks from the US Embassy as unstable. Members of the Privy Council have confided that they fear his elevation to the thrown and would prefer his sister, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.  However, the laws of succession specify that the heir to the throne must be a male.”

So the case is an interesting combination of corruption and positioning for power. To me an even more interesting aspect of the story is this tidbit, however, from the previously linked BBC article:

“Until now the severity of the lese majeste law criminalising any critical comment about the monarchy meant that no Thai media had pointed out the family connection.”

“Lèse-majesté laws” (laws on injury to majesty) are supposedly an historical feature of absolute monarchies. That you cannot insult the honour of a royal family is not really compatible with post-monarchic, let alone democratic, political arrangements. Mixing the two results in “democrarchy” which may be as awkward as it sounds. Yet Thailand has a lèse-majesté law and it apparently is a major obstacle in the way of free discourse, according to this study for example. As past application of the law reveals to us, Thai authorities are even ready to incarcerate a US citizen for two years for posting excerpts of a book about the king that has been banned in Thailand related to the law.

ThaiRoyalStandardThe Thai royal standard (from here). What standards apply to the royal family?

But in fact Thailand is not entirely unique in this respect. Most European remnant monarchies have lèse-majesté laws themselves. There the application of the law is different of course and based on recent practice mostly obscene and pointless statements about the royals would get you into trouble. That is less of an anomaly perhaps as it is not entirely out of line with anti-defamation practice. (Although I’m open to the argument that even such a restriction may be viewed as problematic from a democratic standpoint.)

Putin’s gesture

by fpman

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped a shawl around Peng Liyuan, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife at the APEC summit yesterday.

Sigh. Boring.

Yawn.

What…? This counts as big news somewhere, somehow? The Guardian explains how:

“The incident, at a performance linked to this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, was originally shown on state TV and spread online as a forwarded video. But it was soon scrubbed clean from the internet in China, reflecting the intense control authorities exert over any material about the country’s leaders while also pointing to cultural differences over what is considered acceptable behaviour in public.

“China is traditionally conservative on public interaction between unrelated men and women, and the public show of consideration by Putin may provide fodder for jokes, which the big boss probably does not like,” said the Beijing-based historian and independent commentator Zhang Lifan.”

Very interesting. So the censors partly get the blame for this.

Not all the blame though. Some of Western media is in overdrive now to frame what happened either as a “PUTIN GAFFE” or as “CHINESE CENSORSHIP” or both.

Russia’s English-language media in return talks about… hold your breath…

…still hold your breath…

…still hold it…

…SHAWL CHIVALRY!

By the way, from RT’s article linked above you can also learn that Vladimir Putin engaged in similar shawl chivalry at the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg last year, on Angela Merkel in that case.

Alright, back to lazy times. Just chillin’.

Royalties

by fpman

Spain’s internal politics these days are characterised by deep turmoil. Here’s an enumeration of the top ten corruption cases that have recently shaken public life in the country. At the risk of stating the obvious: When you have a top ten of corruption cases you have a problem.

The Monarchy is not spared of the implications of this. The sister of Spanish King Felipe VI, Princess Cristina de Bourbon (of the House of Bourbon; her name is Cristina de Borbón in Spanish) and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, the Duke of Palma de Mallorca both stood accused until recently of tax fraud, influence-peddling, the embezzlement of public money, and money laundering (through a family-owned non-profit linked up with a family-owned company). After a court decision today, the difference is that only tax fraud remains as a charge in Cristina’s case while in her husband’s case that and all the other accusations continue to stand.

In Cristina’s case even the tax fraud charges may be dropped eventually. As the Daily Mail writes:

“It is not guaranteed that she will face trial over the tax fraud claims, as Spanish law says the alleged victim – in this case Spain’s government – must support the charges.”

To other matters now, seemingly unconnected to this…

Given the backdrop of economic difficulties and what seems by now rampant, even systematic corruption in Spain, it was interesting to come across this article about Francísco Nicolás Gómez Iglesias, a business school student turned “conman” who, mingling with pretty much the VIPs of Spanish society, successfully “fooled” everyone into thinking he knows everyone…

Pause.

Ponder the meaning of this. Our friends in the media do not always appreciate the meaning of words, and run into problems of interpretation as a result. It is our scholarly duty to indicate when we encounter an example of that.

So… if somebody communicates with everyone, then by definition that person cannot fool everyone into believing that he/she communicates with everyone. The guy did actually get to know a lot of people in high society. He may have started out as a nobody but he got beyond that stage quite successfully. Photo illustration: young Gómez (on the right) sitting at a table with José María Aznar, a former Prime Minister of Spain (on the left).

GómezWithAznar

In spite of his young age (he is just 20!) Gómez seems to have become Mr. Fix It for some in the Spanish elite. Quoting from this article:

“Cruising around night-time Madrid complete with a bodyguard and a fleet of Audi A-8 cars, he promised businessmen favours, arranging paperwork issues for club owners and the like through his contacts. He also claimed to have access to Spain’s CNI secret service and traded alleged information from this source. He charged up to 50,000 for each deal and moved into a mansion in Madrid’s exclusive El Viso district.”

That’s no longer a colourful and hilarious little story, right? It’s a colourful and at the same time quite significant, and consequently big story…

And here comes a part where apparently it even has a connection to the case of Cristina de Bourbon:

“Claiming to be representing Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Gómez met with Miguel Bernad, who is part of the prosecution against Princess Cristina, and asked him to withdraw his accusations. He even promised Bernad’s companion at the lunch, a Catalan businessman, a nine-million-euro loan from BNP Paribas bank “on fabulous terms”.”

Wowoweewow. Were nine million euros really offered to a businessman with reference to Princess Cristina’s case, in the presence of someone from the prosecution’s side working on her case?

Well, if that’s any indication, that is what the words written there mean, actually.

Amal Alamuddin’s wedding

by fpman

Even though I can very much appreciate George Clooney’s work as an actor, I just can’t help but sympathize with the way The Business Woman’s Amanda Rose accounts of his getting married. Namely that the news for her, unlike for a major part of the world’s media, is not that he married someone but that British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin – the newly-wed wife in the story – married someone.

Here are some pictures of the event, from Venice.

And here you can watch Amal Alamuddin in action earlier this year, as the lawyer who had once represented Yulia Timoshenko of Ukraine in a trial (many would say it was a political trial) that saw Timoshenko jailed – to be freed once former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was swept out of power in Ukraine, in February. In the video, Amal is talking to the BBC discussing Timoshenko’s release.

AmalAlamuddinAmal Alamuddin in action somewhere (pic from Wikipedia)

Rose concludes her piece on Amal’s wedding by saying

“We only hope he doesn’t hold her back from conquering the world.”

Given that both are involved in some ambitious international, or rather global, humanitarian initiatives, our prognosis is that there is likely to be a fair amount of synergy in their efforts.