Friday, January 5, 2007

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Sydney Morning Herald

Post-tsunami changes

SYDNEY — Two years after the Asian tsunami disaster, the political legacies in two of the worst-hit countries, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, could hardly be more different. In Indonesia’s Aceh province, the waters swept away obstacles to a settlement of a 30-year-long separatist war. Its huge nonlocal military garrison was withdrawn, provincial autonomy was made institutional, and elections for an autonomous government have just been held, returning a former rebel commander as governor — to the chagrin of Jakarta and the exiled secessionists in Sweden who launched the uprising.

In Sri Lanka, where the tsunami devastated coastal villages and killed 35,000 people, togetherness between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamils of the north and east was short-lived. Aid distribution became corrupted throughout the Sinhalese regions of the center and southwest, while the separatist Tamil Tigers insisted on tight control of aid coming into their territory. This year a cease-fire agreed with government forces in 2002 has frayed to shreds of paper, only notionally obeyed to keep foreign aid flowing. Violations by both sides have killed more than 2,500 people since January [2006] and displaced about 200,000 from their homes. This fertile, picturesque country, well located to take advantage of the Asia-wide industrial revolution, is sliding back into a vicious war that will further impoverish many of its 20 million people.

Bahrain Tribune

Women in Afghanistan

BAHRAIN — Five years ago, after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s new government pledged swift action to improve the lives of women.

But a recent report by the international women’s organization Womankind Worldwide said millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face discrimination and violence in their day-to-day lives.

Afghan women’s rights groups acknowledge that women now have a variety of rights which they didn’t have under Taliban rule. But in practice, they say, many of those rights are ignored. And activists face intimidation, or worse….

All Afghans are affected by worsening security. But for women, widespread domestic violence is an additional problem.

Daily Nation

Violence in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya — All-out war is about to erupt in the Horn of Africa following Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia early this week.

Thousands of people are reported to have fled their homes to escape the fighting.

The [Islamic Courts Union], who emerged in June to capture huge swathes of southern Somalia, are an assemblage of former warlords led by Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys — a radical on both U.N. and U.S. terrorism lists.

But support for the ICU (also known as the Council of Islamic Courts) is not in short supply, which is why a majority of Somali youths have joined it.

While it would be silly to reduce the conflict to a mere contest between the “Islamist” Somalia and “Christian” Ethiopia, this religious appendage is appealing to both sides.


West Bank checkpoints

TEL AVIV — Reducing the number of checkpoints in the West Bank so that Palestinians can live normal lives, go to work, do their shopping, visit relatives, go to school and even (as in Hebron) cross the road without having to make a kilometers-long detour, should not have to be considered a “gesture” to Mahmoud Abbas, but rather something that should have been done a long time ago. The Defense Ministry, focused on security issues, has had plans for removing checkpoints, but apparently the leadership capable of implementing them was not to be found.

The world of the West Bank checkpoints has been documented in Israeli and foreign-made documentaries, and sometimes it looks like a laboratory experiment designed to test the limits of the human capacity to adapt to impossible conditions.

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