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January 29 2013

Spain: Catalonia's “Declaration of Sovereignty” Translated into 36 Languages

On January 23, 2013, amid rising tensions with the Spanish government, the regional parliament of Catalonia approved by majority vote a Declaration of Sovereignty [ca] — seen widely as a prelude to a referendum on independence, expected to be held by 2014. Thanks to a diverse team of collaborators, the online Catalan-language publication Vilaweb [ca] has been able to publish the document in thirty-six languages.
(more…)

January 17 2013

Senegal-Italy: 8 Senegalese hostages released with help from Sant'Egidio Community

Negotiations started in Rome around mid-October between representatives of the Senegalese Government and  Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) [it], and the mediation of the Sant'Egidio Community, have freed 8 Senegalese prisoners, amongst which were 6 solders, a policeman and a civilian, on the 9 December — as specified on the website scoopsdeziguinchor.com. The MFDC, divided into various factions, has led Guerrillas towards independence in Casamance [it], lthe most southern Senegalese region and a strip of land between Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia, since 1982.

Mappa del Senegal, con il Casamance

The blog fattodiritto.it summarises [it] the events:

Nell’ultimo anno, diversi soldati senegalesi sono stati uccisi e altri rapiti nel territorio del Casamance, a seguito di attacchi dei ribelli separatisti. La Comunità cattolica di Sant’Egidio, mediatrice ufficiale tra il governo senegalese e i separatisti, ha iniziato i negoziati a Roma, il 14 Ottobre 2012. Come prima cosa, ha chiesto la liberazione dei soldati senegalesi al leader dell’MFDC, Salif Sadiò, il quale ha aderito positivamente alla richiesta. Ieri, 9 Dicembre 2012, i soldati sono stati liberati alla presenza dei rappresentanti della Croce Rossa Internazionale e la Comunità di Sant’Egidio, composta da don Angelo Romano e Mauro Garofalo. I soldati, sono stati riportati nel territorio della Repubblica del Gambia.

Last year, numerous Senegalese soldiers were killed, and others taken hostage in the region of Casamance, following separatist rebel attacks. Sant’Egidio’s Catholic community, the official middleman between the Senegalese Government and the separatists, opened the negotiations in Rome, on the 14 October 2012. To begin, there were calls for Salif Sadiò, leader of the MFDC, to release the Senegalese soldiers. Salif Sadiò agreed to the request.  Yesterday, 9 December 2012, the soldiers were released in the presence of representatives of the International Red Cross and the Sant’Egidio Community, comprising Don Angelo Romano and Mauro Garofalo. The soldiers have since returned to the Republic of The Gambia.

Massimo A. Alberizzi adds [it], on the website africaexpress.corriere.it:

Grazie alla comunità di Sant’Egidio che ha trattato a oltranza, otto soldati senegalesi nelle mani dei ribelli che lottano per l’indipendenza della Casamance (la regione più meridionale dell’ex colonia francese) sono stati liberati oggi. Alcuni erano prigionieri da poco meno di due anni, altri da un anno. In realtà uno di loro non è un militare ma un pompiere. I guerriglieri del MFDC (Movimento delle Forse Democratiche della Casamance), secondo la comunità di Sant’Egidio, non hanno chiesto nulla in cambio. Probabilmente però un po’ di visibilità gli è più che gradita. La loro lotta dura dal 1982 e solo rarissimamente ha avuto l’onore di apparire sui giornali.

Thanks to the Sant’Egidio Community che ha trattato a oltranza, eight Senegalese soldiers in the hands of the rebels fighting for independence in Casamance(the most southern region of the ex-French colony) were freed today. Some had been held hostage for little under two years, other for a year. In reality, one was not a soldier, but rather a fireman. The guerrillas of the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance), according to Sant’Egidio Community, have asked for nothing in exchange. More than likely they will relish the increased visibility. Their fight, despite having been on-going since 1982, has only occasionally appeared in the press.

The release has sparked great reaction and talk throughout Senegal. The blog ferloo.com, while interviewing Jean Marie Biagui, MFDC general political secretary, writes [fr]:

 Les huit (8) soldats libérés le dimanche grâce à l’intervention de la communauté chrétienne de Sant-Egidio, ont été capturés par le Mfdc d’abord lors de l’attaques du cantonnement de Kabeum (Sédhiou) et ensuite quelques semaines plus tard de Brigade de gendarmerie d’Affiniam (Bignona). Le Président de la République qui a accueilli dimanche les ex-otages à la base militaire de Ouakam (Dakar) a réaffirmé son engagement à tout mettre en œuvre pour le retour de la paix en Casamance où une crise à l’irrédentisme a commencé en 1982.

The eight (8) soldiers who were freed on Sunday, thanks to the intervention of the Sant’Egidio Catholic Community, had been taken prisoner by the MFDC during the course of the first attacks against the Kabeum (Sédhiou) regiments and then, only a few weeks later, against the Gendarmeria in Affiniam (Bignona). The President of the Republic, who on Sunday welcomed the ex-hostages to the military base in (Dakar,) reiterated that they are making every effort to restore peace in Casamance, where problems first started in 1982.

The website senenews.com writes [fr]:

 Depuis la capture de ces soldats plusieurs structures ou personnalités sont entrées en médiation pour leur libération. Il s’agit notamment du Cicr, de la Communauté Sant’Egidio. L’ancien ministre d’Etat, Robert Sagna, a été également très actif. Il a été l’émissaire de Macky Sall sur ce dossier. Sans tambour ni trompette, l’ancien maire de Ziguinchor se rendait très souvent dans le maquis, en passant par la Gambie pour rencontrer Salif Sadio pour libérer ces vaillants soldats.

Ever since the capture of these eight soldiers, various organisations and famous faces have played a part in working towards their release.  Amongst these include the CICR and the Sant’Egidio Community. The Ex- Minister of State, Robert Sagna has also played an active role, as has the affluent Macky Sall in this report. Senza clamore, the ex Ziguinchor syndicate often went to the woods, passing through The Gambia in order to find Salif Sadiò, so that they may negotiate the release of these courageous soldiers.

The Cardinal Theodore Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, has commented on the unfolding of events in an interview with Helene Destombes [it], in a French transcript of Radio Vaticana:

E’ veramente una bella notizia per tutti i senegalesi: ne sono veramente molto, molto contento. E’ davvero un motivo di sollievo e contemporaneamente di speranza. E’ un primo passo: c’erano già stati contatti preliminari, a Roma, tra una delegazione del governo del Senegal e una delegazione del Movimento di Salif Sadiò, alla presenza della Comunità di Sant’Egidio che ha svolto le funzioni di testimone. Si è trattato sostanzialmente di preliminari, eppure questo atto è una grande prima tappa che consentirà il proseguimento dei negoziati e, come noi crediamo fermamente, un loro esito positivo. C’è una seconda ala del Movimento, l’Mfdc, con il quale è necessario prendere contatti e so che questo è un momento favorevole per farlo, so che è ben disposto al dialogo. Quindi, se veramente le due principali ali del Movimento iniziano un dialogo con il governo del Senegal, penso si possa dire di essere sulla buona strada per la pace.

This really is great news for all Senegalese people: they truly are very, very happy. It’s a reason to breathe a sigh of relief, and should inspire us all with great hope. It’s a first step:there has already been preliminary contact, in Rome, between the delegates representing the Senegalese Government and Salif Sadiò’s movement, all of which have taken place in the presence of the Sant’Egidio Community, who is acting as witness. Although still in the early stages, this act is a huge first step that will allow negotiations to continue and, as we firmly believe, a positive outcome. There is a second wing of the MFDC movement, in which it is necessary to make contacts, and this is the most opportune moment in which to do so, as people are still open to talk. For this reason, if the two main bosses from the movement are capable of starting up dialogue with the Senegalese government, then I believe it can be said that this is a step towards peace.

Fattodiritto.it still provides [it] many other stories to better understand the reasons that motivate the Guerrilla movement:

Secondo gli storici, la guerra per l’indipendenza del Casamance è iniziata a causa di una mancata promessa del celebre presidente e poeta senegalese Leopold Senghor. Nel 1960 egli promise ai leader del Casamance, che, se si fossero uniti al Senegal per vent’anni, avrebbero ottenuto successivamente la loro indipendenza. Quando ciò non accadde, nel 1980, il Casamance insorse con manifestazioni violente per le strade della capitale, Ziguinchor. Manifestazioni represse brutalmente con violazioni di diritti umani. Da quell’anno, iniziò una guerra civile fatta di rapimenti, attacchi, rivolte, che ha comunque prodotto nel tempo circa un milione di profughi e migliaia di morti.

According to the stories, the Casamance’s war for indipendance started as a result of a broken promise, made by the President and the Senegalese, Leopold Senghor. In 1960, he promised the leader of Casamance that, if they were to be united in Senegal for 20 years, they would be granted their independence. When this failed to happen, in 1980, violent demonstrations broke out in streets of the Casamance capital, Ziguinchor. The demonstrations demonstrated such brutality that they violated human rights.  Since then, a civil war comprising kidnapping, attacks, uprisings broke out. This war, over time, has led to around one million people becoming refugees as well as leading to thousands of deaths.

The website diasporas.biz [fr] describes the ways in which the Sant’Egidio Community has carried out its work:

 Salif Sadio, qui se présente comme “chef d’état-major général, commandant en chef des forces combattantes du maquis” du MFDC affirme, dans un communiqué transmis mardi à l’AFP à Dakar, qu’il reste “disponible au dialogue” à condition que le dialogue se déroule en terrain neutre, hors d’Afrique. Salif Sadio a ainsi rappelé que l’ancien secrétaire général de Sant‘Egidio, l’abbé Augustin Diamacoune, décédé en 2007, “souhaitait qu’après l’échec de la médiation conjointe de la Gambie et de la Guinée-Bissau, la Communauté mette sa propre médiation à la disposition” des parties. Ce souhait “reste en nous” parce que le MFDC “espère que celle-ci fera preuve de neutralité dans sa médiation”.

Salif Sadio from the MFDC, who is presented as “the head of generally the biggest state and commander for the armed forces currently fighting in Macchia”, stated in a press release issued on Tuesday to the AFP in Dakar, that he is still “open to dialogue” on the condition that the dialogue take place on neutral territory, outside of Africa. Salif Sadio he recalls that the ex-general secretary of Sant’Egidio, Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, who went missing in 2007, “wanted the community to take its own steps,after negotiations failed in The Gambia and Guinea-Bissauche. This want “is ours”, as the MFDC “wants the Community to demonstrate its neutral status”.

However, in reality, it was the ex-President, Abdoulaye Wade who indicated that the Sant’Egidio Community should act as intermediary, during an interview with Radio France internazionale [it] on the 5 January last year, just before the elections, explaining the reason wascioè poco prima delle elezioni, spiegandone così il motivo:

Le 5 janvier dernier, lors d’un entretien à RFI, c’était le président sénégalais Abdoulaye Wade qui avait révélé avoir demandé à la Communauté de Sant’Egidio, proche du Vatican, de servir d’intermédiaire entre le gouvernement et la tendance du MFDC de Salif Sadio, afin de “régler cette question” de la crise en Casamance s’il est réélu.( ..) “je connais les gens de Sant’Egidio, parce que j’ai travaillé avec eux quand j’étais dans l’opposition (…) et je leur ai demandé d’être des facilitateurs entre le gouvernement du Sénégal et la tendance de Salif Sadio”.

On the 5 January, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, revealed himself to having asked the Sant’Egidio Community, near to the Vatican, to mediate between the Government and the MFDC, in order to “resolve the issue” of the Crisis in Casamance, if he were to be re-elected. (…) I know the people of Sant’Egidio, because I worked with them when I was in the opposition (…) and have asked them to faciliators between the Senegalese Government and Sadio’s MFDC.”

The Sant’Egidio Community has worked on various projects on African soil, including mozambique, Algeria, Guinea and the Costa d’Avorio, having also received international recognition for its activities. In addition to managing the DREAM [it] programme in the fight against Aids [it], which covers 10 African countries, 38 treatment centres, 20 laboritories, and 4,500 specialists. Andrea Riccardi, one of the founders of the same community, is Minister without portfolio [it] from the Monti Cabinet (outgoing) [it] for international cooperation and integration activities.

December 25 2012

Journalists, Opposition Thrown Out of Macedonian Parliament Amid Street Protests

On Monday, Dec. 24, the Macedonian capital Skopje was shaken by a violent protest - and a counter-protest - related to the Parliament's approval of the 2013 state budget (en, en).

Youth Radio MOF provided this short summary [mk]

1. The direct motive for the outburst of (institutional and physical) violence was the opposition's blocking of the adoption of the budget in the Parliament, which was conducted through the submission of numerous proposed amendments, a method previously perfected by a junior government partner […]. The opposition proposed a plan of saving EUR 240 million planned for unnecessary expenses and luxury. [The total budget is EUR 2.7 billion.] They also announced the withdrawal of the amendments if the government accepted their saving proposal. The ruling party, however, claimed that by blocking the budget, the opposition was ruining the state and denying funds for the pensioners, social welfare cases, farmers, students, artists… Both sides did not budge, and several protests against the opposition took place in the past few days, demanding its leader to leave politics…

Policeman in Skopje, Macedonia, wipping splashed egg from helmet.

A police officer who received an egg aimed at the opposition protesters. From an extensive hi-res photo gallery by Vanco Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The proposed cutting of expenses mainly referred to the new construction within Skopje 2014 project, which earned the city the title of the “Kitsch capital of the Balkans” in the international media, thanks to a widely circulated AP story (en, ro, also it). One of the counter-protests included “the artists,” organized by the government-appointed directors of Skopje's Macedonian-language theaters, ballet, and national folk ensemble. When asked if it was normal for a theater that was supposed to require EUR 4.5 million to actually receive EUR 27 million, with additional EUR 10 million budgeted for 2013, Jelena Zhugic, director of Theater “Comedy” replied [mk]: “Milk and honey also did not flow in the streets of France when they were building their castles.” Social network users quickly drew comparisons with the the infamous pre-French Revolution quote: “Let them eat cake.”

Radio MOF explanation continued:

2. Last weekend, the Assembly President Trajko Veljanovski returned the budget to the PM's Cabinet, which urgently adopted it with slight modifications, and returned it to the Assembly. It bypassed the Finances and Budget Committee, and was placed directly to a plenary session instead. This set a precedent which the opposition deemed “contrary to Constitution, Rules of Procedure and the laws.”

Bloggers TheRealPsmst and Goran Arsov concurred, quoting [mk] the Rules of Procedure and other relevant legislature [mk]. Radio MOF concluded:

3. Supporters of the government and the opposition announced protests in front of the Parliament at the same time. The tense atmosphere with the police buffer in between, both groups exchanged insults and projectiles (stones, eggs, apples, [potatoes]). Around 20 protesters and 11 policemen were injured.

An opposition protester who received a head injury by an object hurled by the pro-government counter-protesters. Photo by Vancho Dzhambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

One of the government MPs was videotaped [mk] defiantly marching behind the police cordon, making obscene gestures at the protesters and yelling, “Die! Die!”

Amdi Bajram, MP from the government coalition, “addressing” the protesters. Photo by Vancho Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

At one point, in response to missile attacks, opposition protesters broke the first line of the police cordon and were stopped by force. Photo by V. Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA

Meanwhile, inside the Parliament [sq], the security detail threw out the resident journalists, and most of the opposition MPs who tried to physically block the upcoming session. Three of them ended up in hospital [mk]. Then, the new budget was passed with 65 “yes” votes and 4 “against,” out of 123 MPs. The protest dispersed after the news of the adoption of the budget, except for a lone young man who undressed in front of the police and was arrested, unlike a police-approved government supporter.

The unrest in the Parliament included a serious denial of freedom of expression, which some international media covering the events of the day (en, en) have failed to mention.

NGO Civil–Center for Freedom has strongly condemend the violence against citizens, their parliamentarian representatives and journalists [en, mk, sq]:

Chaos and violence took place in Macedonia today. Officers of the security in the Macedonian Parliament acted in an unspeakable manner and physically attacked people’s representatives of the opposition, beating and dragging them through the corridors.

Before the eyes of the Macedonian public and the world, all rules and principles of democracy, the Constitution and the laws have been suspended.

[…]

Government officials and the parliamentary majority, security and police authorities, as well as officers of these structures who acted violently must immediately apologize to the Macedonian citizens and take responsibility for their actions.

The Journalists' Trade Union protested [mk], and the Association of Journalists of Macedonia issued the following statement [en, mk, sq]:

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia strongly condemns today's incident in the Parliament, where journalists were forcefully expelled from the “gallery room” from which they were following the plenary session. With this act, the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of expression and media freedom, was grossly violated.

The authorities who gave the orders for this shameful act have formalized censorship and decided what must and what must not to be reported by the journalists. The forcibly evicted journalists did nothing to cause the reaction of the security, nor was there a legal basis for their removal.

We were removed in order not to witness the removal of the opposition MPs from the sessions. This is a case that should not go unpunished.

For these reasons, the Board of AJM stops all the negotiations with the government until the return of the constitutional order in Macedonia, and until the perpetrators and the authorities of this shameful behavior are not identified and punished according to the law.

AJM will use all the legal mechanisms to protect the freedom of expression and media freedom. Also, we will alert the domestic and foreign public about these events in the Parliament.

Police with dogs. Monuments in background. Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Vachno Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The police in front of the Macedonian Parliament after the protests on Dec. 24, 2012. Photo by Vachno Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The mood on the social networks was grim during the day and in the evening, with people expressing disappointment and disgust. A representative pessimistic blog post is listing reasons “Why I would immediately leave this country” [mk].

November 17 2012

Hurdles in Making Italy's Illegal Workers ‘Legal'

[all links in Italian unless otherwise stated]

On 16 July, 2012 the Monti government approved a legislative decree to conditionally allow, the regularisation of thousands of illegal workers following a declaration by their employer.

Unfortunately, several months later the results of this conditional amnesty have been below par. The video below, published on the website of the voluntary association Naga, explains the conditions and the application process set out by the decree:

Meanwhile, at the heart of a recent “il professionista risolve” [the professional's response] column on Tgcom24.it was the following assessment of the initiative:

Poco più di 134.000 le istanze inviate, meno della metà del potenziale pubblico interessato, che si è ipotizzato oscilli tra i 300.000 e i 500.000 soggetti.

Just over 134,000 requests were submitted, that's less than half of the number of people who are potentially affected, which is estimated to be somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000

The conditions attached prevented the expected results being achieved. The CGIL union in Lecco, Lombardy, outlined some examples of the process and conditions set down by the law:

L’emersione può riguardare un rapporto di lavoro dipendente di qualsiasi settore, a tempo pieno, e per il solo lavoro domestico, anche a tempo parziale. Il rapporto di lavoro deve essere in corso almeno dal 9 maggio 2012.
Il datore di lavoro dovrà pagare la somma di €1.000 alla presentazione della domanda. Alla firma del contratto dovrà quindi dimostrare di avere versato contributi e retribuzione per almeno 6 mesi. Sono esclusi i datori di lavoro condannati per tratta o sfruttamento di prostituzione e minori, per aver dato lavoro a immigrati irregolari, per caporalato, per favoreggiamento dell’immigrazione clandestina.

The regularisation can apply to employment in any sector, if full-time, and, if part time, only in the domestic sector. The employee must be in the position since the 9th of May 2012, at the very latest. The employer must pay the sum of €1,000 when submitting the request. When signing the contract the employer must, therefore, prove that they have paid contributions and wages for at least six months. Employers excluded from the initiative include those who have been convicted of trafficking or exploitation of prostitutes or minors, who have employed illegal immigrants, who participated in the gangmaster system and employers who have encouraged illegal immigration.

Louis Benjamin Ndong, in a post on the blog of the collective “Alzo La Mano Adesso” [I put my hand up now], declares that:

Se da un lato questa regolarizzazione darà la possibilità a molte persone di uscire dalla propria condizione di invisibilità, conseguendo un riconoscimento anche da parte della società istituzionalizzata che finora l’aveva negato, dall’altro costituirà un nuovo ed ennesimo limbo per i tanti immigrati che, privi degli adeguati strumenti, quale un reale contratto di lavoro, si affideranno nelle mani di truffatori e venditori di bugie dell’ultima ora. Purtroppo la legge in questione, concepita in primo luogo per fare cassa, non possiede i vincoli necessari per arginare questo rischio …

Although, on one hand, this regularisation of their legal status will give many people the chance to escape from their seeming invisibility and represents their recognition which has always been denied them by the institutions. On the other hand however, it will be yet another limbo for the very many immigrants who, deprived of adequate resources, such as a genuine work contract, will put their trust in conmen and those who trade in the latest lies. Sadly the law in question, originally conceived to top up the state coffers, cannot prevent this risk…

Demonstration in Brescia, Lombardy, 6th of November 2012. Photo by Zic Photo on Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence.

As Marco Massaroni writes on the citizen journalism website FaiNotizia:

La disposizione transitoria, prevista dal decreto sulla regolarizzazione si è  presentata non priva di criteri restrittivi, controversie e difficoltà.
Da subito si sono espresse preoccupazioni sul fatto che questa regolarizzazione possa aprire spazi a numerose truffe, poichè in un Paese con centinaia di migliaia di irregolari è facile trovarne tanti disposti a pagare, anche a caro prezzo, la promessa di un permesso di soggiorno.

The temporary nature of the arrangement, as set down by the regularisation law, is not without restrictive criteria, controversies and difficulties. Concern was immediately expressed about the fact that this regularisation could leave the door open for fraud because, in a country with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, it's easy to find lots of them who are prepared to pay, even very high prices, for the promise of easily obtaining a residence permit.

A post on the website Meltingpot points out:

I prezzi lievitano e dai 3.500/4.000 euro di media della scorsa procedura, sono passati a 5.000/8.000 euro per accedere a questa emersione.     

Un mercato dei diritti di soggiorno che nessuno vuole fermare e che anzi, proprio grazie alle scelte del Governo, trova sempre più spazio.

Eppure lo sanno tutti. Basta mettere il naso nei luoghi di incontro dei migranti nelle diverse città per scoprire questo o quel commercialista offrire emersioni facili a caro prezzo, questo o quel procacciatore che promette, dietro il pagamento di lauti compensi, di farti avere il tanto sperato permesso di soggiorno.

Prices are increasing and, from the €3,500 - 4,000 it cost before, it has increased to between €5,000 and €8,000 under this initiative. 

It's a market in residency rights that no-one wants to put a stop to and that, thanks to the Government's choices, is becoming ever more widespread.

And they all know it. You only need to go to where migrants gather together in any city to find this or that adviser offering to ensure regularisation, at a high price, or this or that agent promising, on payment of a generous fee, to get you the longed for residence permit.

Pubblicogiornale.it uploaded this video which shows an encounter between an immigrant and an agent who wanted to be paid 5,000 Euros to get his paper work in order. And another video from antefattoblog exposes also their faces.

 The credibility of these amnesty results achieved so far are open to question. Massimiliano Zani, the organiser of CNA World Rimini explains why, in his view, this amnesty should be considered a lost opportunity:

Intanto è da rilevare che non è assolutamente credibile la corrispondenza degli invii, rispetto all'attività svolta.

Basta il dato dei lavoratori provenienti dal Marocco, tradizionalmente assenti dal settore domestico; su un totale di 15.600 domande, ne sono state inviate ben 12.600 per lavori di colf o badante; lo stesso dicasi per il Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egitto, Senegal, Tunisia, ecc. Viene spontanea una domanda: se da questi Paesi non sono mai giunti lavoratori che si impiegavano nel settore domestico, come mai le domande sono concentrate in quell’area di attività? La risposta è evidente: infatti il costo per una richiesta relativa a colf e badante non supera i 2.000 euro (tra una tantum e contributi previdenziali), mentre in settori come l’edilizia, il commercio, o l’ agricoltura il costo può essere tra due a quattro volte maggiore.

To start with, it must be pointed out that the correspondence between the requests submitted and the work carried out stretches credulity.

You only need to look at the data on workers from Morocco, who have not, traditionally, been represented in the domestic sector. Of the 15,000 applications submitted, 12,600 of them have been for jobs as a home help or carer. The same applies to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia and so on, which immediately prompts the question, if domestic workers have never come from these countries before, how can it be that the applications are concentrated in this activity sector? The answer is obvious, the cost of an application for home help or a care-giver is no more than €2,000 (a one off payment plus social security contributions), while, in the construction, trade or agricultural sectors the cost can be between two and four times higher.

And it goes on to explain how certain employers get around the law by declaring on the application that their employee works as domestic help or as a care-giver:

Ecco dunque che molti datori hanno optato di spendere al massimo euro 2.000, come previsto per l’emersione di una colf o badante a tempo parziale, rispetto ai €3/8.000 per l’emersione di un lavoratore a tempo pieno di ogni altro settore; ovviamente appena ottenuto il permesso di soggiorno, si potrà migrare in altro contratto di lavoro con lo stesso o con altro datore. Un altro elemento che ha influito sul modesto risultato è costituito dalla dimostrazione di essere stati presenti sul territorio italiano ininterrottamente, dal 31 dicembre 2011, con attestazione di un “organismo pubblico”.

That is why many employers have opted to spend €2,000 at most, the sum required for a part-time home help or care-giver, compared to the €3,000 - 8,000 for the regularisation of a full-time worker in any other sector. Obviously, once they have received the residence permit, they can change to another work contract with the same or another employer. Another element which has influenced the modest result is the need to prove that you have been in Italy since the 31 December 2011, without having left the country, and to have this certified by a “public body”.

How can that last condition possibly be fulfilled when the illegal immigrant, by nature of that very status, risks imprisonment if discovered? In fact, as Antonio Maria Ricci points out on his blog:

Il reato è previsto nel  DLG 286/98 del 2009 detto pacchetto sicurezza Maroni.

Si articola in due parti: articolo 10 bis che istituisce il reato di clandestinità perseguibile penalmente con ammenda e/o reclusione e articolo 14 che prevede la sanzione amministrativa che comporta l’espulsione.

The crime was established by ordnance 286/98 of 2009, known as the Maroni security package.
It is laid down in two parts: in article 10 bis, which established the crime of being an illegal immigrant, punishable under law with fines and/or imprisonment and in article 14 which sets down the administrative sanction of deportation.

In order to simplify this requirement the following measures were adopted, as outlined on the blog ItAliena:

Saranno accettati, sempre se di data antecedente al 31 dicembre 2011: certificato di iscrizione scolastica del figlio del lavoratore straniero, tessere nominative dei mezzi pubblici, sanzioni stradali o amministrative o multe di ogni genere, titolarità di schede telefoniche di compagnie italiane (Tim, Wind, Vodafone, 3, ecc…), documenti rilasciati dai centri di accoglienza o ricoveri anche se religiosi o del privato sociale, documentazione rilasciata da ambasciate o consolati in Italia.

The following will be accepted, once they date to before the 31 December 2011: the school inscription certificate of the foreign worker's child, public transport pass, traffic or administrative sanctions or any other kind of fine,  phone cards from an Italian operator (Tim, Wind, Vodafone, 3, etc.), documents issued by reception centres  or shelters, including religious or private ones, documents issued by embassies or consulates in Italy.

There's just one problem, as illegal immigrants how can they possibly enter into any contract?

To give an insight into illegal immigrants terror at the prospect of seeing all the sacrifices they have made since leaving their home country to reach the longed for Italy vanish into nothing, Maruan shares the story of Blessed, the young daughter of illegal Nigerian immigrants, on the web page Anolf - Giovani di 2° Generazione [the Youth of the 2nd Generation], in a post entitled: La storia di Blessed, clandestina prodigio promossa con tutti dieci [The story of Blessed, the illegal immigrant at the top of her class]:

La sua pagella è l'unica rimasta a scuola, affissa in bacheca ma non ancora ritirata dai genitori, che la maestra sta provando a contattare da giorni. Se è vero che la legge italiana garantisce il diritto-dovere dei figli di immigrati di essere iscritti alla scuola dell'obbligo, indipendentemente dalla regolarità della propria posizione e da quella dei genitori (articolo 45 del DPR n. 394/1999), non c'è norma che tenga di fronte al terrore dei genitori di essere espulsi.

Her report card is the only one left at the school, still pined to the noticeboard but still not collected by her parents, who the teacher has been trying to contact for days. While it may be true that Italian law sets down the right and obligation for immigrants' children to be enrolled in compulsory education, regardless of their own legal status and that of their parents (article 45 of Presidential Decree n.394/1999), there's no law which stands up in face of the parents' terror of being deported.

Another relevant requirement is the obligation to pay €1,000 per worker and the other costs owed to the Treasury and the INPS [National Institute of Social Insurance] for six months. These should be paid by the employer but, in reality, it has fallen to the worker to pay them. The French site bayediouf.seneweb.com calculates that, just counting the 6,296 Senegalese affected, the total amount is around €12,056,918  and adds [fr]:

Ce montant de quasi 8 Milliards CFa est le chiffre déboursé par nos compatriotes et en attendant la convocation pour le contrat de séjour et successivement le permis de séjour. En cas de rejet les sommes ne seront pas remboursées.

This sum of almost 8 million West African CFA francs is the figure paid out by our countrymen while waiting for the summons for the provisional residence permit and then, eventually, the residence permit. In case of refusal the money will not be returned.

In the last few years, under the influence of the right, Italian governments have accumulated a veritable arsenal of xenophobic judicial measures. Meanwhile, according to a report by the Berlusconi government, between 2010 and 2020 the working population in Italy is predicted to fall between 5.5% and 7.9%; as a result, more immigrants will be needed. Between 2011 and 2015, around 100,000 additional immigrants may be needed while, from 2016 to 2020, this number is predicted to rise to 260,000.

November 15 2012

Strike Across Southern Europe

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

November 14, 2012 witnessed the first strike of its kind, including all of the southern European countries most affected by austerity and financial crisis. Organized labor in Spain and Portugal announced general strikes, while in Greece and Italy there were work stoppages planned during the day.

(In the days prior, visits by top European officials and leaders including Angela Merkel were met with street protests across southern Europe.)

On Twitter, a number of hashtags were in use. Spain, Portugal and Greece used #14N, and Italy has #14Nit and Catalonia #14NBcn #14NCat. English speakers used #N14Riseup #europeanstrike #N14.

Events in solidarity also occurred across Europe - mapped by the European Trade Union Confederation. A “siege” of the European Commission by an estimated 2,500 people left Brussels tense in the afternoon.

Students of Genoa protest against austerity measures, on 14th November 2012. A banner reads “I don't fear austerity, I fear silence!”. Photo by Donna Bozzi, copyright Demotix

Greece

Greek unions, fresh out of recent general strikes of their own, did not officially respond to the call for a general strike, although a work stoppage was called for and middling sized protests were held in Athens and Thessaloniki, besides the sectoral and regional anti-austerity strikes and occupations, ongoing for a third year in a row.

Al Jazeera English reporter Barnaby Phillips mused:

@BarnabyPhillips: Atmosphere at #14N protest in Athens is somewhat weary, ritualistic. But turn-out is healthy. #14ngr #Greece

Several netizens livetweeted photos of the rallies. European solidarity against austerity was expressed through slogans, placards and huge flags paraded in downtown Athens:

Portuguese, Greek and Spanish flags in Athens, on November 14, 2012. Photo by @thesspirit, republished by permission

Elderly protesters were also in attendance, besides youth. Repeated pension cuts have brought many pensioners below the poverty line.

Anti-austerity protest in Athens on November 14, 2012. Pensioner carrying placard that reads “I fear hunger, my God”. Photo by @iptamenos33 on Twitpic, republished by permission

Italy

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Milan, Bologna, Turin, Padua, Genoa, Rome, Naples and around 100 other towns throughout the country [it]. While joining the anti-austerity European Day of Action [it] under such slogan as: “Europe is waking up today — from Rome to Madrid to Athens,” Italians were calling for more safeguards for jobs and pensions and complaining against stringent measures imposed by Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Protesters in downtown Bologna. Photo by Twitter user spyros gkelis.

Protesters in downtown Bologna. Photo by Twitter user spyros gkelis.

Citizens from all walks of life protested in a very peaceful and creative fashion, even if some clashes broke out. Overall at least six police officers were wounded, including one seriously in Turin, along with three people arrested in Brescia and at least a dozen in Rome. Gabriele Drudi [it] compiled an extensive timeline with many tweets and pictures covering the entire day of protests.

Riccardo Laterza writes:

(@riccardolaterza): #14N #14nIT il primo sciopero generale europeo: grande partecipazione, grande repressione. Uno schema già visto ma non ci arrendiamo!

@riccardolaterza: #14N #14nIT the first european general strike: great participation, great repression. A pattern already seen it but we will not give up!

Laura says:

@scarylalla: Nel bene e nel male, oggi gli europei stanno dimostrando che non è la moneta unica ad unirli ma la voglia di un Europa diversa. #14N #14Nit

@scarylalla: For better or for worse, today europeans are showing that it is not a single currency that can keep us together, but our desire for a different Europe. #14N #14Nit

Others provide an opposite viewpoint, including Salvatore Filippelli:

@salvo_82: Credete davvero che gli Eurocrati cambieranno le politiche economiche perchè qualche studente spacca due o tre vetrine? #14N #14nIT

@salvo_82: Do you really believe that the Eurocrats will change their economic policies because some students break two or three shop windows? #14N #14nIT

Analysis and discussion on the protest outcomes are still in progress on a Facebook group and on YouTube events are discussed at an afternoon general assembly at Rome's University.

Spain

In the early morning hours, a blockade of one of the entrances to Barcelona was swiftly taken down by police. Images of Madrid’s empty train and metro stations circulated as proof the general strike was in effect.

Protesters on wheels set up “bici piquetes” (bicycle pickets) in Madrid and Zaragoza, trending in the morning (#bicipiquetes) and shared widely on social media.

Global Voices’ Lali Sandiumenge, whose blog post on a strike against telecom Telefonica was recently deleted by newspaper La Vanguardia, reported from the streets on the strike. She tweeted what many people felt yesterday:

@lalisandi Aventatges d'informar-se per la xarxa: hi ha multitud de punts de vista. És interactiu. Té el do de la ubiqüitat. No té pressions

@lalisandi Benefits of getting informed by the internet: there are many points of view. It's interactive. It has the gift of ubiquity. No pressure

The “Iaioflautas” - Catalonia’s rebel retirees (see our profile) were very visible, performing on the street.

Large protests occurred throughout Spain from Galicia to Valencia, with police charging and arresting protesters, like in Barcelona.

Police violence dominated the afternoon. A photo of a woman allegedly pushed by police down the stairs of the Metro in Madrid was widely shared and commented, as were photos of rubber bullets shot by police at protesters.

But most viral was the image of a school-age (13yo) boy in Tarragona bloodied by police, and the video of police attacking him and women around him.

Lastly there were arguments over the size of the protests, with low government estimates subject to ridicule online

@gobiernoespa: La Delegación del Gobierno habla de 35.000 personas en Madrid. Definitivamente hay una puerta a otra dimensión allí.pic.twitter.com/M5smSf3F

@gobiernoespa: Government delegate talks about 35,000 people in Madrid. Definitely there’s a door to another dimension there.”

Portugal

In the beginning things were more quiet in Portugal, with widespread adherence to the general strike. Tens of thousands took to the city’s main streets, including members of public broadcaster RTP who were on strike earlier this month (see our coverage).

An evening confrontation between police and protesters in front of Portuguese Government parliament in Lisbon transformed a peaceful protest into a scene of uncontrolled violence. Youtube user Beatriz Pedrosa filmed rock throwing by youth in black hoodies and wearing anarchist t-shirts:

Then came a barrage and charge from police which emptied the plaza in less than two minutes

Blog Activismo Geral reacted:

Enquanto os profissionais da pedrada se digladiam com profissionais da cacetada, o esforço feito por centenas de milhares de pessoas neste dia é posto em causa. Longe de desculpabilizar os primeiros (uns arruaceiros), acho de qualquer modo que se exige “um bocadinho” mais dos segundos (uns arruaceiros fardados).

While professional delinquents and professionals head-smashers fought it out, the effort made by hundreds thousands of people this day was called into question. Far from removing blame from the few troublemakers, I do think though that we should demand a “little more” from the uniformed troublemakers.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

This post was co-authored with Asteris Masouras and Bernardo Parrella, with input from Debora Baldelli, Ylenia Gostoli, Chris Moya and Claire Ulrich.

November 05 2012

Unemployed Young Italians: Too “Choosy” to Stay in Italy?

On October 22, 2012 at a meeting in Italy organised by Assolombarda [all links in Italian unless otherwise stated], an association representing industry and service sector businesses in the Milan area, Elsa Fornero [en], the Minister of Labor, Social Policies and Gender Equality, declared: “Young people leave school and need to find an occupation. They also can't afford to be too choosy, as you say in English. They should, and this is something I always tell my students, ‘Accept the first [job] offered, and once inside you can take a look around'”. [Translator's note: Elsa Fornero was previously a professor of Economics at the University of Turin]

Foto dell'utente instagram @elisadospina, dal sito Generazione Choosy

Photo from instagram @elisadospina, from the Generazione Choosy website

Her statement, which was made at a particularly dramatic moment on the unemployment front, especially among young people, immediately provoked controversy, as it was interpreted as an accusation against young people that they struggle to find employment because they are “picky”. According to the latest statistics from ISTAT, youth unemployment in Italy stands at 34.5% among 15 to 24-year-olds and around half of young people only have temporary and often underpaid jobs. Italy has the third highest percentage of NEETs [en, Not in Education, Employment or Training] of all the European states, after Bulgaria and Greece, with ever increasing emigration rates leading to a so-called “brain drain”.

The Minister then further explained her comment, declaring that she “never said” that young Italians were picky and that “they are prepared to take any job, because it's true that young people today are in a precarious position”. Fornero explained that her comment referred to a situation which was widespread in the past, when the refusal to do work they considered beneath their abilities was a commonplace attitude among young Italians, whereas, she said, “today young Italians cannot afford to be picky”.

This clarification did not succeed in halting the controversy provoked by the comment and the term ‘choosy' quickly became an online “craze”, often being used sarcastically to criticise the Minister's declaration.

Twitter provided plenty of plays on words under the hashtag #choosy — including the following:

@jacopopaoletti: Stay hungry, stay #choosy.

@sergioragone: #choosy in the sky with diamonds.

@taniuzzacalabra#choosy è se vi pare.

@taniuzzacalabra: #choosy you are (if you think so). [Translator's note: This is a reference to the play by Luigi Pirandello, “Così è (se vi pare)” (”Right you are (if you think so)”)]

Dalla pagina del gruppo Facebook

From the “Lo Stato Sociale” Facebook page.

On Facebook, many people people have commented on the declaration equally sarcastically. The musical group, Lo Stato Sociale [The Social State], for example, posted a series of parodies of film, book and song titles, adapted to the key of choosy, encouraging their fans to add to the list.

Meanwhile the website Generazione Choosy [Generation Choosy] has created an automatic gallery of all the images connect to this affair uploaded to Instagram.

dal sito Generazione Choosy

Photo by the Instagram user @idacia, from the “Generazione Choosy” website.

Not all the initiatives were as light-hearted however. The tumblr blog Choosy Sarai Tu (You're the Choosy One) gathered more serious criticisms and accusations, reporting on those facing problems with unemployment and underemployment. Many people seized the opportunity to vent their own resentment, sharing their own experiences, often that of highly qualified young people with few professional opportunites. Also among the contributors were many people with qualifications which, up until a few years ago, were highly valued in the labour market. Among the various letters uploaded to the site, was one from a girl who, 4 years after graduating with a degree in construction engineering and a series of internships and fixed term contracts, wrote about finding a job in a technical studio where she is paid only 5 Euros an hour. Meanwhile, there are also those who work for just 3 Euros an hour, despite a first class degree, as reveals the letter reproduced below.

Lettera aperta al ministro dal sito choosysaraitu.tumblr.com

An open letter to the Minister on choosysaraitu.tumblr.com

Several contributors expressed their intention to leave Italy, while those already living overseas expressed their certainty that working conditions are better. This reflects a national reality in which, according to the latest  ISTAT data, a third of young people are planning to emigrate.

On the other hand, others played down the controversy, stressing the importance of adaptability and describing young people who are still reluctant to accept jobs which do not match their expectations. On the blog of the youth organisation RENA, Irene Borin shared her experiences in France, where she started out working as a babysitter only to become, thanks to a fortunate encounter in this job, communications manager for a banking group, the profession for which she was trained in Italy and in France:

Capisco perché sia valsa la pena di non essere schizzinosa e di accettare di fare la babysitter prima e la tuttofare poi. Capisco perché un ministro, o più semplicemente un adulto di buon senso, possa consigliare ai giovani di non essere “choosy” ma di rimboccarsi le maniche e di cominciare da qualche parte. Non è certo rimanendo chiusa in casa a mandare CV che avrei trovato il lavoro che svolgo ora.

I understand why it's worth your while not to be picky and to accept being a babysitter first and then do everything else afterwards. I can understand why a minister, or any adult with some common sense, might advise young people not to be “choosy”, but to roll up their sleeves and to get started somewhere. I certainly wouldn't have gotten the job I have today by staying at home and sending out CVs.

Last but not least, there are those that have reacted positively, looking beyond the controversy, and decided to launch Io Voglio Restare (I Want to Stay), an initiative which aims to get people working together to improve working conditions for young Italians and to prevent Italy becoming a country that people only want to leave.

October 19 2012

Lybia: Bani Walid under violent siege

Almost one year after Muammar Gaddafi's death, his former stronghold and heart of the Warfalla tribe, the town of Bani Walid, seems about to fall under the attacks of the Lybian army. Some sources [it] define its two week bloody siege as a 'small genocide'. The operation is lead by armed militias and Islamist forces of Benghazi and Misratah, long time enemies of the Warfalla. It seems that medical and other essential supplies are now being prevented from entering the city, which is under rocket and mortar fire with some reports of toxic gas use. Twitter updates are under the #BANIWALID hashtag, while the International community seems unaware and/or disregarding this “cleansing” operation, which is clearly causing severe suffering to local population.

August 17 2012

Italy: Uncertain Future for Polluting Ilva Steel Plant - and its 12,000 Employees

[All links point to Italian sources except where otherwise stated].

On July 26, 2012, six operating facilities at Ilva, Europe's biggest steel plant situated in Taranto, Italy, were put under judicial seizure on the grounds of pollution. This is only the latest chapter of an ongoing struggle involving the plant's high pollution and environmental risks (and related occupational issues).

According to Wikipedia [en]:

In 1991 Taranto was declared a high environmental risk area by the Ministry of Environment. As a consequence of the poisons discharged into the air by the factories in the area (most notably the ILVA steel plant), Taranto is the most polluted city in Italy and western Europe. Only 7% of Taranto's pollution is inhabitants-related: 93% is factories-related. The European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER) showed that in 2004, estimated dioxin emissions from the ILVA plant were responsible for 83% of Italy's total reported emissions.

This is how Davide Maria De Luca describes the current situation:

Fondato nel 1961, è un impianto siderurgico a ciclo integrale, dove cioè avvengono tutti i passaggi che dal minerale di ferro portano all’acciaio. Il fulcro della produzione sono i cinque altoforni, dove viene prodotta la ghisa. Ognuno è alto più di 40 metri e ha un diametro tra 10 e i 15 metri: al momento quattro altoforni su cinque sono attivi.

Established in 1961, it is an integral cycle steel plant, where all the stages for the transformation of iron into steel happen. The main area of production are the five blast furnaces, where cast iron is produced, each over 40 metres tall with a diametre of 10 to 15 metres. Right now, four out of five blast furnaces are still active.
The neighborhood of Tamburi, Taranto, opposite from Ilva. © Molnàr, used with permission

The neighborhood of Tamburi, Taranto, opposite from Ilva. © Molnàr, used with permission

Emissions-related issues

The results of two investigations, undertaken in a trial against the owners and directors of Ilva, showed that over a span of seven years more than 11,000 people died and nearly 27,000 were hospitalized in and around Taranto for conditions whose origin could be linked to the emissions generated by the factory.

Due to this, the entire plant may shut down, leaving about 12,000 unemployed in the area of Taranto, a figure which equates to over 30% unemployment; Ilva Taranto is, by itself, responsible for 75% of the area's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and 0.15% of Italy's.

The Italian government eventually decided to withdraw a formal complaint against the tribunal's decision to confirm the seizure, announced on August 7, while close to 1,000  people took the streets to acknowledge worker Cataldo Ranieri as leader of the protest against industrial pollution.

A reader of newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano explains in these terms the choices that the workers, even before the judges and government, have to make:

Morire di lavoro o morire perché non c'è lavoro?

To die because of your job, or to die because you don't have a job?
Taranto, rally on August 2nd, 2012.  © Molnàr, used with permission

Taranto, rally on August 2nd, 2012.  © Molnàr, used with permission.

Physicist and engineer Filippo Zuliani, from the Centre for Research and Development Tata Steel Europe, writes on his blog:

La vicenda dell’ILVA è complessa e dolorosa: da molti anni gli abitanti di Taranto sospettavano (eufemismo) dei problemi causati direttamente o indirettamente dallo stabilimento siderurgico, e le due perizie chimica e medico-epidemiologica disposte dal gip hanno liberato frustrazioni a lungo represse. Il sequestro dell’ILVA ripropone l’annosa dicotomia tra produzione e tutela dell’ambiente.

The situation at ILVA is complex and painful: for many years the citizens of Taranto have had their suspicions (euphemism) about the issues caused directly or indirectly by the steel plant, and the two investigations, chemical and epidemiological, conducted by the magistrate have let free frustrations that had for long been repressed. The seizure of ILVA poses the old dichotomy between production and environmental protection.

Zuliani adds that when national television news on channel TG3 asked a few workers of Ilva, ‘what would be the better choice: closing the factory or not', they replied:

Non siamo noi che dobbiamo indicare la soluzione, noi rivendichiamo il nostro diritto a lavorare in sicurezza, in un ambiente sano per noi e per le nostre famiglie.

We're not the ones who have to indicate a solution, we claim our right to work in a safe (and) healthy environment for ourselves and our families.

For others, worried about the environmental and medical consequences of Ilva's activity, there is no alternative but closing down the plant for good.

On Il Fatto Quotidiano, Fabio Balocco writes:

Se una fabbrica produce veleni deve essere chiusa, perché prima di tutto, e non lo dico io ma la Corte Costituzionale, viene l’ambiente e la salute. Prima di tutto, anche dell’economia e quindi anche del posto di lavoro.

If a factory's production is poisoning, it needs to be closed because the main priorities, and it's not me stating it but the Constitutional Court, are environment and health. They come before everything, even economy and hence even before employment.

On the other hand there are those who, even acknowledging the seriousness of the environmental situation, support the right to work and side with the workers who are opposing the closure of the plant, asking that the owners and directors of Ilva pay for the damage they caused, investing in the conversion of the factory.

Taranto's Ilva, November 2, 2010 @ 22.39. Photo by Ilaria Longo from Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1677819073485&set=a.1075944506997.2013888.1477742688

Taranto's Ilva, November 2, 2010 @ 22.39. Photo by Ilaria Longo from Facebook

Expressing their “solidarity with the fighting workers of Ilva,” La Rete delle Reti writes:

Nessuna azienda deve essere chiusa, nessun lavoratore deve essere licenziato, a ogni adulto deve essere assegnato un lavoro utile e dignitoso. […] È possibile imporre sia la difesa dei posti di lavoro che la tutela della salute e dell’ambiente! Riva deve risarcire un intero territorio dei suoi crimini a scopo di lucro e i soldi dello Stato vanno usati per avviare immediatamente la bonifica del territorio impiegando tutti i lavoratori, i precari e i disoccupati del territorio

No factory has to be closed, no worker fired and every adult has to be offered a dignified and useful job. It's possible to claim both the safeguard of employment and of the environment! Riva [Gruppo Riva (en) - currently the world’s eighteenth and Europe's third largest steel producer; in 1995 Riva Acciaio purchased ILVA, the largest Italian state-owned steel producer] has to pay back to an entire area because of the crime they committed for their own profit, and the state's money has to be used to start reclaim the territory immediately, employing all the permanent and temporary workers and the unemployed of the area!

Online protests

Meanwhile, protests and discussions are firing up online, including several groups on Facebook, such as NO all’Ilva di Taranto and TARANTO dice NO a ILVA, ENI e CEMENTIR !!! the biggest, counting 2,450 members.

Writing on Global Project the founders of a “spontaneous and politically unaffiliated committee” called ‘Free and Thoughtful Citizens and Workers,' accuse the State as well as Riva, for the current situation:

Siamo uomini e donne stanchi di dover scegliere tra lavoro e salute. Imputiamo all'intera classe politica di essere stata complice del disastro ambientale e sociale che da cinquant'anni costringe la città di Taranto a dover svendere diritti in cambio del salario. […] Pretendiamo che chi ha generato questo dramma, lo Stato prima, la famiglia Riva poi, paghi per il disastro prodotto.

We are men and women tired of having to choose between work and health. We accuse the political leadership to be accomplice of an environmental and social disaster that for fifty years has forced the city of Taranto to sell out the rights of workers for a paycheck. […] We demand that whoever is responsible this tragedy, the state first, and then the Riva family, pay for the disaster they created.

Controappuntoblog.org lists the workers' requests, from Operai Contro website, in a more direct fashion:

Noi operai dell’ILVA vogliamo il salario completo anche se l’ILVA deve restare chiusa per dieci anni per la bonifica.

We, the workers of Ilva, demand our full salary even if Ilva has to be closed for ten years for the requalification process.

The committee, together with the main local unions, organised a rally on August 2, explaining:

Tutti coloro che considerano una vergogna il ricatto occupazionale a cui siamo stati costretti fino ad oggi e che vogliono immaginare e costruire insieme un'altra idea di città, a scendere per strada e a sfilare dietro il nostro striscione: “Sì ai diritti, No ai ricatti: Salute, Ambiente, Reddito, Occupazione.

All those who deem shameful the occupational threat we had to accept till today and want to imagine and build another idea of city, take the street and manifest behind the banner “Yes to rights, no to threats: health, environment, income, employment.”

During the rally, however, there have been clashes between two different groups of unions and protesters - Cobas (independent unions) and the representatives of self-managed social centres have blocked the rally, using teargas to stop the other unionists from speaking, with the motto “no to those who poison.”

On August 4, Italy's government allocated, as an emergency measure, 336 million euro to upgrade the factory, and the Minister of Environment declared a decree law to accelerate the renovation of the plant. On August 7, the Tribunal of Taranto confirmed the seizure of the plant, allowing the factory to work only towards conversion.

Taranto rally of August 2, 2012. © Molnàr, used with permission

Taranto rally of August 2, 2012. © Molnàr, used with permission

On Informare Per Resistere (Inform to resist) blog, Maria Ferdinanda Piva writes:

La bonifica promessa dal Ministro dell'Ambiente Clini sa tanto di bluff.

The reconversion promised by Environment Minister Clini sounds like a bluff.

For many, hope is long gone. The son of a worker from Taranto who died of cancer writes in a comment to newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano with the pseudonym of 9Nuer:

Sono andato via da Taranto venticinque anni fa. Mio padre morto per un tumore al cervello, mio suocero per un cancro allo stomaco ( guarda caso due tipi di tumore che hanno provocato un incremento dei decessi, secondo la perizia medica ). […] Un consiglio alle nuove generazioni. Andate via. È doloroso, ma è la soluzione.

I left Taranto twenty-five years ago. My father died of brain cancer, my father-in-law of stomach cancer (two kinds of tumor that have caused an increased number of deaths [in the area of Taranto], according to medical records). […] Advice to the new generations. Go away. It's hard, but it's the only solution left.

What will be the destiny of the workers and whether it will be possible to convert the plant has yet  to be seen. Meanwhile, the damages provoked by Ilva's operations this far won't cease to affect the population, who will pay with its health for many more years for the consequences of decades of pollution.

 

August 13 2012

Russia: “The True Blasphemy” - Slavoj Žižek on Pussy Riot

Russian collective “What to do?” published an essay by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who considers Pussy Riot “conceptual artists in the noblest sense of the word: artists who embody an Idea,” and fight against the cynicism of power-mongers who strive to return Russia to the tsarist level characterized by Leon Trotsky (1905) as “a vicious combination of the Asian knout [whip] and the European stock market.” The text has been translated into various languages [en, ru - middle of page, it, sr, sr, mk, gr] and reprinted by bloggers and progressive portals throughout Europe.

April 25 2012

Italy: Rome Celebrates its 2,765th Anniversary

Rome, the Eternal City, where myth becomes reality. Rome, where there is always something new to discover.

Before becoming site of the Holy See, Rome was first a city, then a republic and eventually an empire. Rome “was the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world” over a period of almost seven hundred years. At the height of its power, the Roman Empire spanned from Britain to the Arabic Peninsula, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

On April 21, 2012, Romans celebrated the 2,765th anniversary of their city. Legend says that the Rome was founded by Romulus, a demigod nurtured by a wolf.

Coliseum on April 21, 2012 (author's photo)

Website, Why Rome?, explained the legend of the so-called Eternal City:

 This Saturday, April 21st, Rome will celebrate its 2,765th birthday. (Can you imagine being around that many years?!) This is based on the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC. In case you're not familiar with the legend, here is a brief overview. Romulus and Remus were twins. Their mother, Rhea, was a Vestal Virgin, and their father was a god (Mars, the god of war). Before they were born, male descendants in the family were killed by their Grandfather's brother. When the twins were born, they were left to die. However, a she-wolf came along and nursed them. The boys grew up to become natural leaders. They decided to found a new city, but couldn't agree on the exact location. The two quarrelled, and Remus was killed in the end. Romulus then founded the new city on the Palatine Hill, and named it after himself … Rome.

Celebrating Rome, senator-style (author's photo)

 

Maria Merola of Satyrnet highlighted [it] the programme of activities:

Punto nodale del compleanno della Capitale saranno i Fori Imperiali che faranno da sfondo a rappresentazioni in grado di cogliere tutti gli aspetti storici, artistici e culturali che hanno reso Roma quello che è oggi. Roma difatti, tocca tutte le forme d'arte da quelle più antiche a quelle più contemporanee.

The focal point of the birthday celebrations will be the Fori Imperiali which will serve as the backdrop to performances that capture all of the historical, artistic and cultural aspects that have made ​​Rome what it is today. In fact, Rome touches all forms of art from the most ancient to the most contemporary.

Soldiers of Ancient Rome (author's photo)

Website Cool Toura gave [it] a more detailed programme of events, inviting readers not to miss the concert:

 Da non perdere, la serata di Sabato 21 Aprile 2012 in via dei Fori Imperiali (altezza Mercati di Traiano), dove alle 20.30 avrà inizio lo spettacolo “Le stelle di Roma” con attori, cantanti e musicisti che si esibiranno dal vivo. … Dalle 23 a mezzanotte, i Mercati di Traiano diventeranno il palcoscenico di uno spettacolo di proiezioni di luci e colori.

Do not miss the evening of Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Via dei Fori Imperiali (Trajan's Market), the show “The stars of Rome” will begin at 8.30pm with actors, singers and musicians who will perform live…. From 11pm to midnight, Trajan's Market will become the stage for a spectacle of color and light projections.

Despite its age, Buzz in Rome found the city to be still in reasonable condition:

Yes, Rome is very old but still in pretty good shape, notwithstanding the damages done by its unruly citizens, politicians and visitors! On April 21 according to the legend/tradition, it turns 2765. But, of course, there is no scientific evidence that it was founded in 753BC, let alone on April 21. Anyway, before the Liberation Day (April 25)/Labour Day(May 1) very long weekend there is one more big occasion to celebrate and have fun in Rome. The City council has organized a lot of events. Let’s see those that might be more enjoyable for non-Italian speakers.

Website 06Blog highlighted [it] the role historical places like the Capitol, Circus Maximus and Fori Imperiali would play in these events:

La Lupa, Romolo e Remo, Giulio Cesare, Nerone, i centurioni, con la storia e le leggende della città antica tornano in pompa magna, con le rivisitazioni storiche al Circo Massimo, il corteo in costume lungo via dei Fori Imperiali, le cerimonie solenni in Campidoglio, il Roma Caput Mundi - The Eternal Musical all’Auditorium Conciliazione, dal 18 al 22 aprile 2012.

There will be the she-wolf, Romulus and Remus, Julius Caesar, Nero, the centurions, with the history and legends of the ancient city. All of them will be back in full regalia from 18 to 22 April 2012 with historical revivals in the Circus Maximus, along Via dei Fori Imperiali and the ceremonies at the Capitol, Roma Caput Mundi - The Eternal Musical Auditorium Conciliazione.

Celebration of Rome's anniversary (author's photo)

These places are a testimony to the glory of Ancient Rome. The Circus Maximus, still accessible despite ongoing restructuring works, was a theatre for all kinds of entertainments over 2,500 years ago, with a capacity of 150 000 spectators. To this day, it is one of the largest stadiums built by mankind.

Architect Tom Rankin of the Sustainable Rome blog linked the anniversary of Rome with Earth Day on April 22. He asked:

 While it’s easy to associate cultural heritage with Rome and environmental sustainability with the Earth, I am interested in building bridges between these two fields both locally and globally since I see the city not as the source of our global environmental problems but as the solution…. Can Rome leverage its richly layered history to sustain itself economically and ecologically? Can it re-use the resources accrued over time to avoid excess consumption? I believe it can and teach a course called Ecological Urbanism which uses Rome as a Laboratory to address themes such as waste, energy, water, transportation and land use.

March 12 2012

Italy Condemned for Violations of African Refugee Rights

On February 23, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has come to a historic judgment, that Italy violated the European Convention on Human Rights by intercepting and sending back Eritrean and Somali migrants to Libya.

African Refugees by Vito Manzari on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

African Refugees by Vito Manzari on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Unione Diritti Umani Blog explains [it] the events:

Il caso Hirsi e altri contro Italia riguarda la prima operazione di respingimento effettuata il 6 maggio 2009, a 35 miglia a sud di Lampedusa, in acque internazionali. Le autorità italiane hanno intercettato una barca con a bordo circa 200 somali ed eritrei, tra cui bambini e donne in stato di gravidanza. Questi migranti sono stati presi a bordo da una imbarcazione italiana, respinti a Tripoli e riconsegnati, contro la loro volontà, alle autorità libiche. Senza essere identificati, ascoltati né preventivamente informati sulla loro reale destinazione. I migranti erano, infatti, convinti di essere diretti verso le coste italiane. 11 cittadini somali e 13 cittadini eritrei, rintracciati e assistiti in Libia dal Consiglio italiano per i rifugiati dopo il loro respingimento, hanno presentato un ricorso contro l’Italia alla Corte Europea, attraverso gli avvocati Anton Giulio Lana e Andrea Saccucci, dell’Unione forense per la tutela dei diritti umani.

The Hirsi case and others versus Italy pertains to the first push back operation carried out on May 6, 2009, in international waters, 35 miles south of Lampedusa. Italian authorities intercepted a boat carrying some 200 Somalis and Eritreans, including children and pregnant women. The migrants were then taken on board an Italian ship, sent back to Tripoli, and handed over against their will to Libyan authorities. They were not identified, no one  listened to them or informed beforehand of their actual destination. In fact, the migrants were convinced that were heading toward the Italian coast. After this operation, 11 Somali citizens and 13 Eritrean citizens, who were found and helped in Libya by the Italian Council for Refugees, brought action against Italy before the European Court of Justice. Assistance was provided by Anton Giulio Lana and Andrea Saccucci, from the Union of Lawyers for Protection of Human Rights.

GiulioL [it] described the operation upon their arrival in Tripoli [it] on the blog ilmalpaese:

Sul molo di Tripoli li aspettava la polizia libica, con i camion container pronti a caricarli, come carri bestiame, per poi smistarli nelle varie prigioni del paese. A bordo di quelle motovedette c’era un fotogiornalista, Enrico Dagnino, che ha raccontato la violenza di quell’operazione. Poi fu censura.

The Libyan police were awaiting them on the dock with container trucks ready to pick them up, like livestock onto cattle cars, and then send them to various prisons around the country. A photojournalist, Enrico Dagnino, who was on board the patrol boat, described in detail the violence in this operation. After that, the proceedings were censored.

This action led to the non-implementation of the principles governing the treatment of people fleeing from danger, Henry Oliver explains on the UK Human Rights blog:

 The return involved a violation of Article 3 (anti-torture and inhumane treatment), Article 4 of Protocol 4 (collective expulsion of aliens), and  Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). The patrols that returned migrants to Libya were in breach of the non-refoulement principle.

An immigrant's t-shirt saying "I am an immigrant using soap and water" to avoid abuse. By Cristiano Corsini on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

An immigrant's t-shirt saying "I am an immigrant using soap and water" to avoid abuse. By Cristiano Corsini on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The old Italian government, formed by Silvio Berlusconi's party, Popolo della libertà (People of Freedom), and Umberto Bossi's extreme right party, the Northern League, created a legal arsenal and took steps against immigration in Italy, which have been denounced on several occasions by civil society and the Catholic Church. Italy has also been condemned on various instances for its anti-immigration [it] policy, which is inconsistent with European treaties.

Gabriele Del Grande's blog fortresseurope.blogspot.com [it] publishes information about Fortess Europe's activities for the defense of immigrant rights. The association has produced a great number of reports, first hand accounts and films on refugee treatment in Italy as well as in other European countries.

Here he describes prison life [it] in Libya during the rule of the old regime:

Siamo a Misratah, 210 km a est di Tripoli, in Libia. E i detenuti sono tutti richiedenti asilo politico eritrei, arrestati al largo di Lampedusa o nei quartieri degli immigrati a Tripoli. Vittime collaterali della cooperazione italo libica contro l’immigrazione. Sono più di 600 persone, tra cui 58 donne e diversi bambini e neonati. Sono in carcere da più di due anni, ma nessuno di loro è stato processato. Dormono in camere senza finestre di 4 metri per 5, fino a 20 persone, buttati per terra su stuoini e materassini di gommapiuma. Di giorno si riuniscono nel cortile di 20 metri per 20 su cui si affacciano le camere, sotto lo sguardo vigile della polizia. Sono ragazzi tra i 20 e i 30 anni. La loro colpa? Aver tentato di raggiungere l’Europa per chiedere asilo.

We are in Misratah, 210 km east of Tripoli, in Libya. All the prisoners here are Eritrean asylum seekers, arrested offshore of Lampedusa or in immigrant neighborhoods in Tripoli. Collateral victims of Italy's and Libya's cooperation against immigration. More than 600 people, of whom 58 are women, there are also several children and babies in the group. They have been in prison for over two years, but none of them has been tried. Up to 20 people sleep laid out on mats or foam mattresses in windowless rooms measuring 4 meters by 5. During the day, they are placed under the police's vigilant eye into a courtyard, measuring 20 meters by 20, onto which the rooms open. They are all between 20 and 30 years old. And what did they do wrong? Attempt to reach Europe in search of asylum.

The blog observatoirecitoyen.over-blog.org discloses [fr] that:

Le principe de non refoulement, inscrit dans la Convention des Nations unies sur le statut des réfugiés de 1951, interdit de renvoyer une personne vers un pays où sa vie ou sa liberté peut être menacée. …

Quelque 602 migrants ont été interceptés en mer et immédiatement refoulés de mai à juillet 2009, principalement vers la Libye, un pays où “toute personne détenue risque d'être soumise à des mauvais traitements sérieux” ou d'être renvoyée vers un pays où existent de tels risques, note le CPT (Comité de prévention de la torture).

Certes, reconnaît-il, “les Etats ont le droit souverain de protéger leurs frontières et de contrôler l'immigration”, mais l'Italie doit revoir ses procédures pour s'assurer que tous les migrants interceptés reçoivent d'abord des soins et puissent déposer une demande d'asile.

The principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in the 1951 in the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, prohibits sending a person back to a country where his life or freedom may be threatened. …

From May to July 2009, some 602 migrants were intercepted at sea and immediately turned away. They were chiefly sent back to Libya, a country where “every person arrested risks being subjected to serious mistreatment,” or of being sent back to a country where such risks do exist, the CPT remarked (Committee for the Prevention of Torture).

Of course, the CPT admits, “States have the sovereign right to protect their borders and control immigration,” but Italy should review its procedures to ensure that all intercepted migrants first receive care and can apply for asylum.

Unfortunately in Europe, Italy is not the only country to carry out forced mass repatriations. This association reports [it] that:

Dal 1988 sono morte lungo le frontiere dell'Europa almeno 18.058 persone. Di cui 2.251 soltanto dall'inizio del 2011. Il dato è aggiornato al 7 dicembre 2011 e si basa sulle notizie censite negli archivi della stampa internazionale degli ultimi 23 anni. Il dato reale potrebbe essere molto più grande. Nessuno sa quanti siano i naufragi di cui non abbiamo mai avuto notizia. Lo sanno soltanto le famiglie dei dispersi, che dal Marocco allo Sri Lanka, si chiedono da anni che fine abbiano fatto i loro figli partiti un bel giorno per l'Europa e mai più tornati.

Since 1988, at least 18,058 [it] people have died along Europe's borders. Of this only 2,251 have died since the beginning of 2011. This data was updated on December 7, 2011, and was based on the census data from the international press archives over the past 23 years. The real figure could be much higher. No one knows how many ships have wrecked since we have never heard. Only the families of the missing persons know. These families, from Morocco to Sri Lanka, have been questioning for years what has happened to their children who left one day for Europe and never came back.

Paolo Lambruschi, for his part, wrote [it] on website of the Italian Episcopal Conference's newspaper:

E, cosa che interessa tutta l’Ue, andranno riviste le operazioni Frontex di pattugliamento del Mediterraneo perché per la prima volta viene equiparato il respingimento di gruppi alla frontiera e in alto mare allé espulsioni collettive. A 22 ricorrenti su 24, 11 somali e 13 eritrei, l’Italia dovrà versare un risarcimento di 15 mila euro più le spese processuali. Gli altri due sono morti.

And, something which concerns all EU countries, the operations of Frontex patrols in the Mediterranean will be revised, because for the first time the pushing back of groups at borders and on the high seas is tantamount to mass deportations. Italy will have to pay 15,000 euros plus legal costs to 22 of 24 plaintiffs, 11 Somalis and 13 Eritreans. The other two are dead.

Gabriele Del Grande's blog fortresseurope.blogspot.com concludes [it]:

Un giorno a Lampedusa e a Zuwarah, a Evros e a Samos, a Las Palmas e a Motril saranno eretti dei sacrari con i nomi delle vittime di questi anni di repressione della libertà di movimento. E ai nostri nipoti non potremo neanche dire che non lo sapevamo. Di seguito la rassegna completa e aggiornata delle notizie, dal 1988 a oggi. Per un'analisi delle statistiche, frontiera per frontiera, leggete la scheda Fortezza Europa.

One day, at Lampedusa and at Zouara, at Samos at Evros, at Las Palmas and at Motril, shrines will be erected with the victims' names from these years of repression of freedom of movement. And we won't be able to tell our grandchildren that we didn't know. Here you can find a comprehensive presentation and updates of information, from 1988 until today. For an analysis of the statistics, border by border, read the map Fortezza Europa (Fortress Europe).

February 20 2012

Egypt: Among Bulaq's Ruins in an Unfinished Revolution

It all started [Ar] around 2007 when “Vision of Cairo 2050″  was first declared, or as it is dubbed “Cairo 2050.” After that, the Egyptian government declared it's intention to demolish Cairo’s main informal neighbourhoods and relocate millions of people to new dwellings in the desert.

Blogger Yahia Shawkat, wrote about the project on his blog Shadow Ministry of Housing [Ar]:

هذا المشروع لاقى الكثير من النقد والمعارضة سواء من المهنيين والخبراء أو من المجتمع حيث يعارضه 61% من مواطنى المجتمعات التى سيؤثر عليها منذ أن كان تابع للجنة سياسات الحزب الوطنى المنحل حيث أنه يهدف إزالة ملايين من المواطنين من مجتمعاتهم بحجة التطوير.
This project faced a lot of criticism and opposition from professionals, specialists and society as 61 per cent of citizens affected by this project oppose it because it was adopted by the dissolved National Democratic Party (former ruling party in Egypt) as it aimed to transfer millions of inhabitants to carry out massive plans of this so-called development.

The blogger continues:

أعتقد الجميع أن الثورة قد أزاحت خطورة هذا المشروع لكن من الواضح أنه يتم تطرحه فى ثوب جديد لتفادى هذه المعارضة
Many thought that the revolution has eliminated the dangers of such a project. In reality, it is obvious that they are trying to relaunch the project in a new set up to try and avoid the opposition it is getting.

A view of Bulaq, taken by the film makers. Used with permission

Bulaq Abu el-Ela is one of those Cairo’s main informal neighbourhoods which could be demolished as the former government had declared. But until now no one knows anything about the fate of the project, especially after the revolution and the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Now, the plight of Egyptians living in those dwellings has been turned into a documentary, thanks to two Italian film makers Davide Morandini and Fabio Lucchini. The idea of “Bulaq: Among the ruins of an unfinished revolution” materialized in 2009, when the two directors traveled to Egypt to carry out research on political organisation in Cairo’s informal neighbourhoods. They both returned to the city after the revolution and started to develop the subject of their documentary film, after being captivated by the story of the demolition of an area inhabited for hundreds of years and the resettlement of its people elsewhere.

Documentary pressbook

Following is the documentary trailer in Arabic with English subtitles, for French version click here, and Italian version here, which is available online, a medium used by the film makers to further spread the message carried in their work and amplify the voices of people inhabiting the districts:

Bulaq Official Trailer from Matteo Keffer on Vimeo.

On January 25, thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, sparking what we now call the Egyptian Revolution. Only a few hundred meters way from the world-famous square, the people from popular neighbourhood Bulaq Abu el-Ela took part in the revolution, finding in demonstrations something more than a glimmer of hope. Through their voices, ‘Bulaq’ portrays their collective struggle against eviction and social marginalisation, whose destiny seems to be strictly intertwined with the hesitant fortunes of the Egyptian Spring..

The documentary also has a Facebook group here, where news about the documentary is shared, as well as links and clippings to articles and posts written about the effected area.

The following short video was produced before shooting the real film as Davide Morandini, the documentary director told me. In the video, we can hear stories from the inhabitants of the district concerning its great location in the middle of Cairo, and also about selling the land to investors from the Gulf Cooperation Council, and about demolition and destruction of buildings and transferring inhabitant to live in flats in the middle of the desert:

The documentary was awarded the first Prize at the first Festival of Short Reportages “Pillole di Attualità” in Rome, in September 2011. [festival program] [It] and will also be screened in Paris International Film Festival for Human Rights, in March 2012.

Further Reading:

Jadaliyya: Struggles that fueled a revolution

January 17 2012

Black Women in European Politics: from Struggle to Success

Nowadays, it is a common occcurence to witness African-born women having successful careers in Europe. Despite the evident challenges, many of them have also distiguished themselves in politics. Still, it was not so long ago that such success would have seemed impossible. To achieve greatness, these women have often come a long way, both literally and figuratively.

In order to better appreciate the progress made, one needs to think back to the 19th century and consider the image of black women in Europe then. For the purpose of this article, we will only address the story of women from the African diaspora who have been elected to positions of leadership in countries other than the colonial powers that previously ruled their home countries.

A history of racism

Postcard depicting Sarah Baartman, Wikipedia (public domain)

The story of the “Hottentot Venus” is symptomatic of the relationship between the West and African women in the last two centuries. Sébastien Hervieu, an Africa correspondent for Le Monde newspaper in France, tells the story of Sarah Baartman from South Africa, better known as the “Hottentot Venus”. In an article published in October 2010 in his blog afriquedusud.blog.lemonde.fr, he reviews [fr] Abdellatif Kechiche's [fr] film about her tragic story, Black Venus:

Au début du XIXème siècle, cette servante est emmenée en Europe et devient un objet de foire en raison de ses attributs physiques proéminents. Certains “scientifiques” utilisent sa présence pour théoriser l'infériorité de la “race noire”. Lorsqu'elle meurt à seulement 25 ans, ses organes génitaux et son cerveau sont placés dans des bocaux de formol, et son squelette et le moulage de son corps sont exposés au musée de l'Homme à Paris. C'est seulement en 2002 que la France accepte de rendre la dépouille de Saartjie Baartman à l'Afrique du Sud, concluant ainsi un long imbroglio juridique et diplomatique

At the beginning of the 19th century, this servant was brought to Europe and became a fairground attraction because of her prominent physical attributes. Some “scientists” used her presence to support the theory that the “black race” was inferior. When she died at only 25, her genitals and her brain were placed in jars of formaldehyde. Her skeleton and a molding of her body were exhibited at the Museum of Man in Paris. It was only in 2002 that France agreed to return Sarah Baartman's remains to South Africa, thereby drawing to a close a long running legal and diplomatic imbroglio [fr].

Sarah Baartman died in Paris on 29th September 1815. More than 100 years later, the Khoïkhoï people in South Africa called on Nelson Mandela to demand the restitution of Sarah's remains. The demand was met with the refusal of the French authorities and the scientific community citing the inalienable heritage of science and the state, but France eventually repatriated the body to South Africa where, in accordance with the rites of her people, it was purified and placed on a bed of dried herbs which were set alight.

Norway

Two centuries later, the position of black women in Europe has drastically changed. Amongst others, many have now been elected to political office.

Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen on Wikipedia (Norway) (CC-BY 3.0)

Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen in Norway is one of these women, and one of the most interesting because she shows the contradictions that still exist within some countries. She had to step down from a ministerial post in the Norwegian government just four months into her job. An article on Grioo.com sets out her career [fr]:

Originaire de l’Ile de la Martinique, à 44 ans, Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen a obtenu son poste de ministre de l’Enfance et de la Parité au sein du gouvernement de centre-gauche norvégien le 18 octobre 2007[…] Elle est mariée avec Terje Osmundsen, un homme politique membre du parti conservateur norvégien. Après son mariage, elle a pris la nationalité norvégienne et renoncé à celle de la France. Le pays n’autorisant pas la double nationalité.

Born in Martinique, 44 year old Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen gained her post as Minster for Children and Equality in the centre-left Norwegian government on 18th October 2007 […] She is married to Terje Osmundsen, a politician and member of the Norwegian conservative party. After their marriage she took Norwegian nationality and renounced her French nationality as the country does not allow dual nationality.

In an interview with Patrick Karam from the website fxgpariscaraibe.com in 2008 she explains [fr] some of the things that played in her favour in being appointed and why she stepped down following a controversy over an alleged conflict of interest in the hiring of a political appointee:

En Norvège, il y a obligation de représentation des deux sexes dans les conseils d’administration, 40 % de femmes au minimum. Nous menons aussi une politique pour inciter les hommes à prendre plus de responsabilité dans le foyer pour laisser les femmes entreprendre professionnellement. J’ai travaillé aussi sur l’enfance en danger, les violences, les maltraitances… J’ai travaillé quatre mois sans être critiquée, c’était une expérience réussie. Les critiques sont venues avec la nomination d’une médiatrice. Avec du recul, tout le monde voit que c’est une bagatelle. J’ai cédé au pouvoir de la presse.

In Norway there must be parity of representation between the two sexes within the administrative councils, with a minimum of 40% women. We are also pursuing a policy which encourages men to take more responsibilty at home, leaving women able to pursue a career. I also worked on child endangerment, violence, abuse… I worked for four months without criticism and it was a real success. The criticism began with the appointment of an ombudsman for children. In hindsight everyone can see it was something being made out of nothing. I gave in to the power of the media.

Sweden

Nyamko sabuni

Nyamko Sabuni, Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA)

Nyamko Sabuni [fr] is a former minister in Sweden, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Born in Burundi in 1969, her father fled the country due to persecution. She was elected to the Riksday as a member of the parliament in 2002, and at 37 years old became a Swedish goverment minister from 2006 to 2010. An article published on congopage.com sets out [fr] her progress.

En 1981, à l’âge de 12 ans, elle est arrivée en Suède avec sa mère et trois de ses cinq frères et sœurs. Là, elle a retrouvé son père, un opposant politique plusieurs fois emprisonné au Congo (actuellement République démocratique du Congo), venu dans le pays nordique grâce à Amnesty International.

In 1981, at the age of 12, she arrived in Sweden with her mother and three of her brothers and sisters. There she was reunited with her father, an opposition politician imprisoned several times in Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), who had come to the Nordic country with the help of Amnesty International.

The Netherlands

Ayaan hirsi ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wikipedia (public domain)

The Hirsiali blog presents a profile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Née en Somalie en 1969, excisée à l’âge de 5 ans, Ayaan Hirsi Ali est scolarisée dans un lycée musulman pour filles. Soumise à ses parents, à son clan et à sa religion jusqu’à l’âge de vingt-trois ans, elle profite d’un passage dans sa famille en Allemagne, pour s’enfuir et échapper à un mariage forcé. Réfugiée aux Pays-Bas, elle adopte les valeurs libérales occidentales au point de devenir une jeune députée à La Haye et de s’affirmer athée. Pour avoir travaillé dans les services sociaux du royaume, elle connaît, de l’intérieur, les horreurs tolérées à l’encontre des femmes au nom du multiculturalisme.

Born in Somalia in 1969 and circumcised at the age of 5, Ayaan Hirsi Ali went to a Muslim girls school. Subjugated by her parents, her clan and her religion up to the age of 23, she took advantage of a trip to visit family in Germany to flee and escape a forced marriage. Taking refuge in Holland, she adopted Western liberal values to the extent that she became a young member of parliament in The Hague and declared herself to be an athiest. After having worked in the country's social services she knows, at first hand, the horrors tolerated against women in the name of multiculturalism.

A fierce apponent of some of the aspects of Islam and African traditions that go against basic human rights, she founded an NGO whose aims are set out, on her website Ayaan Hirsiali in the following terms:

In response to ongoing abuses of women’s rights, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her supporters established the AHA Foundation in 2007 to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

Italy

The first black person to be elected to the Italian parliament is Mercedes Lourdes Frias from the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean. This is how she is described [en] on the blogging site Black Women in Europe:

Mercedes Lourdes Frias was born in the Dominican Republic. She was the first black person elected to the Italian Parliament in 2006 where she served through April 2008. She was a member of the Commission on Constitutional Affairs and the Parliamentary Committee on the Implementation of the Control of Schengen Agreement, and the Control and Surveillance on Immigration. She works on anti-racist activities and welcoming immigrants. From 1994 1997 she was a member of the Council of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy. In the town of Empoli Ms Frias served a councilor for the environment, rights of citizenship, equal opportunities.

The most surprising of the black women to have been elected via universal sufferage or appointed to positions of elevated responsibility in European countries is Sandra Maria (Sandy) Cane, elected in 2009 on a Northern League ticket; the most racist and xenophobic of Italy's political parties. One of the party's objectives is the secessoin of some of the northern part the Italian peninsula (though the boundary is not clearly undefined) because the party leaders do not like Southern Italians.

The blog stranieriinitalia.it (foreigners in Italy) gives a brief outline of her career [it]:

Il primo sindaco di colore in Italia ha la camicia verde. Sandra Maria (Sandy) Cane si è aggiudicata con appena 38 voti di scarto la fascia tricolore a Viggiù, cinquemila anime in Valceresio, tra Varesotto e Canton Ticino. Alle sue spalle, una lunga storia di migrazioni. Di Viggiù era originaria la famiglia materna del neosindaco, scalpellini emigrati in Francia, dove durante la seconda guerra mondiale arrivò il padre, un soldato statunitense afroamericano. Il neo sindaco è nata a Springfield, nel Massachussets, nel 1961, ma a dieci anni, dopo la separazione dei genitori, ha seguito la madre nel paesino d’origine.

Italy's first coloured mayor wears a green shirt [the colour worn by Northern League supporters]. Sandra Maria (Sandy) Cane won the tricolour scarf of the Mayor of Viggiù, a town of five thousand inhabitants in the Valceresio region, between the town of Varèse and the Canton of Tessin, with a margin on only 38 votes.
A past with a long history of migration. The new mayor's family on her mother's side were stone masons, originally from Viggiù, who migrated to France. During the Second World War, her father, an African-American soldier from the United States arrived in France. The new Mayor was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1961, but ten years after the separation of her parents she followed her mother back to her home village.

This, according to the blog associazioneumoja.wordpress.com, is how she found herself [it] in politics, with a rather unlikely ideological platform:

Della Lega sono sempre stata sostenitrice, anche se mai vera militante. Quando ero ragazza morivo dal ridere a vedere i loro manifesti, curiosi e di forte impatto. Poi quindici anni fa, più o meno, mi sono avvicinata di più. […] Vedo come «molto americana» anche la Lega, per la richiesta di rispettare rigorosamente la legge, anche per i clandestini. Anche se a Viggiù, precisa, non ci sono problemi di integrazione, nè tantomeno di sicurezza. Tra le priorità, guarda al rilancio turistico del paese, con manifestazioni e attenzione alla cultura.

I have always supported the Northern League without ever being very active. When I was a little girl their posters used to make me laugh, they were curious and had a big impact. Then, around fifteen years ago I became a little more involved. […] I see it as being “very American”, even the Northern League, because they insist on a rigorous respect for the law, even for illegal immigrants. Even so, she points out that there are no problems of integration and still yet security in Viggiù. One of her priorities is to reignite tourism in the area, with events and a focus on culture.

Despite the marked progress in the inclusion of African women in European politics, they represent isolated cases as, beyond the difficulties they face due to racism or culture and religion, even within their own families and their own societies, they also have to face up to the challenges that all women across the world face [fr]: domestic violence, the challenge of bearing children, marginalisation and under-representation.

January 06 2012

Global Voices Most Read Posts in 2011

This post is part of our special coverage Global Voices in 2011.

Our top 20 list of most read posts on Global Voices for 2011 includes four from Japan, three from Egypt, and two from the Philippines. But only one story is about a giant crocodile!

It's been an incredible year for the reach and recognition of citizen media around the world, and that means Global Voices is no longer as lonely a media voice when it comes to reporting tweets and blog posts. Still, where mainstream media interest wanes, we're the ones who strive to continue documenting what local bloggers everywhere need the world to know.

Self Defence Forces arrive at the scene of the tsunami in Japan. Image by cosmobot, copyright Demotix (13/03/11).

Self Defence Forces arrive at the scene of the tsunami in Japan. Image by cosmobot, copyright Demotix (13/03/11).

Some of our proudest moments of 2011 will never be reflected on a top 20 list like the one below. This year we exceeded 500 active volunteer authors and translators of countless languages and countries, and we've published more than 2,600 long posts and 6,300 short ones in English alone.

Inevitably, many of the stories that don't get as wide a readership as they deserve are from countries that tend to be overlooked in international media. Unique coverage from across Africa, the Caucasus, Macedonia, the Russian language Internet, Latin America and indigenous rights are among some of the highlights. See the 2011 regional reviews by our editors and authors for a glance of what you may have missed.

Our Middle East and North Africa team deserves special mention this year. Throughout protests, blackouts, threats, they have managed to pull though and keep writing. The bloody images still proliferate, but our authors seek out constructive voices and angles for dialogue. So often, they've shared local humor and context that is difficult to appreciate from abroad without a guide.

Perhaps for the first time ever, China doesn't figure on our top 20 list of the year. These are particularly chilling times to blog about controversial subjects - something Global Voices authors in many other countries unfortunately also experience. This makes the stories that do come from anywhere free speech is frowned on even more precious.

Most read posts on Global Voices in 2011

  1. Egypt: Night Falls, After Day of Rage
  2. Japan: We're Losing to Apple, and Here's Why
  3. Mapping the Thailand Flooding Disaster (and also this one)
  4. Syria: ‘Gay Girl in Damascus' Seized (and this one)
  5. Philippines: Debate on Divorce Bill
  6. Japan: Tweeting from Fukushima
  7. Philippines: Lolong, World’s Largest Crocodile
  8. India: Aishwarya Rai's Baby and Media Madness
  9. Egypt: Feminist Publishes Nude Photograph to “Express her Freedom”
  10. Japan: On Catastrophes and Miracles, a Personal Account
  11. Serbia: Reactions to the Story of Serbian Mercenaries in Libya
  12. Largest Earthquake in Recorded History in Japan
  13. Myanmar's New Flag and New Name
  14. Mexico: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt Over Anonymous' #OpCartel
  15. Argentine Songwriter Facundo Cabral Murdered in Guatemala
  16. Africa, France: Who is Nafissatou Diallo? Victim or Conspirator?
  17. Japan: Fear in Fukushima
  18. Libya: Is Khamis Gaddafi Really Dead?
  19. Egypt: The KFC Revolution
  20. Spain: Thousands of People Take the Streets

Our most visited special coverage pages were:

  1. Egypt Revolution 2011
  2. Japan Earthquake 2011
  3. Bahrain Protests 2011
  4. Libya Uprising 2011
  5. Tunisia Revolution 2011

In 2011 the world has learned more about the transformative power of online citizen media. We believe the best way to support these emerging voices on a global scale is to listen. Thanks for reading Global Voices! And please consider supporting our work with a donation.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Voices in 2011.

December 29 2011

Italy: African workers renew their call for open dialogue

Following the murder of two Senegalese men in Florence, Italy, migrant African workers released an open letter on the web [it] to renew their call for dialogue with citizens of Rosarno, where in January 2010 violent riots took place. ‘Those that in the past few days have spread fear when talking about us will be held accountable.’ they write. ‘We’re here to work and contribute to the development of this town and region.’

November 18 2011

Crisis Camp Italy: Using Web 2.0 to manage emergencies

After Paris [fr], Bologna. Crisis Camp [it] is now landing in Italy, as part of a European network which has developed over the last few months, and whose main goal is to “engage with new technologies which can be be of use in the management of emergency situations and crises“. These collaborative technologies are made possible by the emergence and refinement of Web 2.0 applications which are readily accessed and used.

The philosophy (on the level of ideas and in practice) that these applications are based on is crowdsourcing, that is to say, active and direct participation in the community. But what is a Crisis Camp? It designates an informal conference, in this case a  BarCamp specialising in online resources designed to help manage a wide range of crises, from the states of emergencies caused by natural disasters to conflicts and political and social revolutions. Mapping, geolocalization, citizen journalism, data management: these are just some of the topics which will be discussed in Bologna [it] on the 19th of November. The provisional programme can be found here [it]. Everyone is welcome to propose topics for discussion by filling out an online application form [it].

Following the success of collaborative platforms like Ushahidi and of various other Web 2.0 applications, harnessing social media and directly involving citizens have become essential  means of dealing with increasingly unsettling emergencies, as demonstrated by initiatives established in response to the recent floods in Thailand, and which is also evidenced by the International development of the Crisis Commons network.

We asked Elena Rapisardi [it], Web Content Strategist and an active promoter  of the event, a few questions in order to better focus the meeting in Bologna.

Why was Crisis Camp established, what are its aims and what are its plans for the future?

Crisis Camp Italy aims to be a coming together of people who deal with crises, emergencies and risk, and who see in Web 2.0, an approach and tools which are useful in managing and, above all else, in preventing crises. The idea is to establish a network. A network of people with shared objectives and principles, like collaboration and resilience. Crises, emergencies and risks can only be prevented, managed and overcome by the development of a resilient and collaborative community which is capable of proactively involving all relevant parties, from the scientific community to citizens, as well as institutions, the media and experts. For this reason I think that any Crisis Camp held in Italy, as was the case in Paris and elsewhere in the world, must also consider how to begin establishing links with the existing response systems. A difficult challenge as it requires patient work and presupposes a willingness, on both sides, to understand the requirements and find shared tools for collaboration.

Even in Italy, is there a need, as demonstrated by the the recent floods in Liguria, for more efficient and on hand tools, with which to respond to emergencies?And are people really ready to organise themselves over the Internet?

On the technological side, many useful applications exist in Italy as well.  But I think that innovations in the field of emergency and crisis management require a cultural change, above all else, so that technology can play its part but does not become an end in of itself and does not lead to competitiveness.  Free and open technology exists, there are large numbers of open source projects. It is, perhaps, necessary to take into account standards, open data  and everyday Internet usage “practices”, and even education, as Internet access does not automatically imply Internet literacy.  The point is, however, that we need to move from the emotional engagement that makes us send a photo to our friends and “followers”, in order to share an emotional response, to a conscious and proactive participation.   It is not an easy change to make but meetings like the Crisis Camps can unite strengths, experiences and energy and help make the change.  I think that initiatives like the use of crowdmapping to collect visual evidence of the recent floods in Liguria, organised by the Genoa and Livorno offices of “La Reppublica”, in collaboration with the Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Turin and NatRisk,  are a first step towards collaborations between the scientific community and the media. There are new methods of making news and new rules to be learned. I do not believe in instant solutions, the Internet is not a question of “just click this”, the Internet is much more than a simple “click”.

On a more global level, applications like Ushahidi seem to be in wide use, but are these applications really helpful or do they end up creating rumours, unreliability and information overload?

The reliability of information gleaned from social media or from initiatives such as crowdmapping, is a problem which is keenly felt by all VTCs [Volunteers Technical Communities] and there are projects in place to define and establish the trustworthiness of contributors. Personally I think that we have to think in terms of preparedness, of ”entering” the Internet and establishing a reputation and position. There is no ignoring the social and communicative phenomenon that is social media. It is impossible to exclude or control it. People will keep tweeting and posting on Facebook. That's why we have to enter the stream and “collaborate” to create shared spaces, become a trusted and recognised voice. Two interesting examples are INGV and the Consorzio Lamma Toscana [it], both of whom are constantly present on Twitter and use it as their principal means of communication. Events must be followed and contributions made while they are in progress. Certainly it is not an easy task, as communication is a responsibility and the new media demands speed and a “just in time” mentality that the established information management processes of some organisations cannot cope with, not out of malice, or at least I hope not, but because they lack the capabilities to adequately manage ”post-Gutenburg revolution” information, that is to say, information which is quick, on time and pervasive.

For updates on Crisis Camp Italy and related developments, you can visit the official website [it] and follow the hashtag #crisiscampit on Twitter.

November 15 2011

Italy: #end of the road for Berlusconi

At the end of a dramatic week in its recent history, Italy has witnessed what many of its citizens thought they'd never live to see: after seventeen years in power Silvio Berlusconi, the country's embattled Prime Minister, handed in his resignation last Saturday. Last Tuesday, Berlusconi's coalition lost its majority after a crucial budget vote, and the country needed to calm the financial markets in order to keep interest rates on sovereign debt under control. On Monday morning (14th November), the economist Mario Monti has formally begun consultations as head of the new technical government, backed by most of the country's political and financial players.

“Thank you Napolitano” e “Finally”, read the signs held up by the protesters who had surrounded all the main political buildings in Rome: Palazzo Grazioli, Palazzo Chigi, Montecitorio, Quirinale [It]. Outside Berlusconi's private residence, a choir was singing the Halleluja.

After the Senate approved stability measures [it] with a wide majority of 380 to 26 on Saturday afternoon, a crowd gathered in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale, where at 8.30pm Berlusconi was expected to formally hand in his resignation to the President Giorgio Napolitano. On his arrival, the crowd jeered and shouted “Buffoon”, as shown in this video. Italians took to the streets in Milan too, where they sung adaptations of Italian stadium anthems waving national flags, as shown in the video below:

 

 

 

Slogans included “resignations”, “mafioso”, as well as a number of references to the many trials against the former Prime Minister: “in jail”, “are you going to arrest him or not?”, and “we have a dream in our heart: seeing Berlusca at San Vittore” [infamous prison in Milan], as if his resignation could suddenly repeal amnesty laws and resume trials that had been invalidated by the statute of limitations. Someone sings the popular WWII partisan song Bella Ciao and the national anthem. The crowd waits for Berlusconi's return after his meeting with the President, but he leaves from a side exit. On Twitter, the most popular hashtags are #finecorsa (end of the road), #maipiù (never again) and #graziegiorgio (thank you Giorgio):

@ezekiel: Il centro di Roma è in modalità “vittoria ai mondiali”: gente avvolta nel tricolore ecc. #maipiù #finecorsa

@ezekiel: Central Rome is in “world cup victory” mode: people wrapped in the flag and so on. #maipiù #finecorsa

@Neclord: E domattina tricolore appena lavato e stirato alla finestra! #maipiù #finecorsa

@Neclord: And tomorrow, a freshly washed and ironed tricolor outside the window! #maipiù #finecorsa

@fabiux: Questa sera il bungabunga te l'abbiamo fatto noi. #finecorsa

@fabiux: Tonight, we gave you a bunga bunga.

On the square, someone throws coins at Berlusconi, an act reminiscent of the fall from grace of another well-known Italian politician, Bettino Craxi, following the “mani pulite” (clean hands) corruption scandal in early '90s. On Twitter, many allude to this historic episode. @Civati writes:

Stasera non gli tireranno monetine ma Buoni del Tesoro. #maipiù

Tonight they won't throw coins at him, but treasury bonds.

@tomasoledda adds:

Nessuno lancia monetine per via della #crisi. #graziegiorgio #finecorsa

Nobody throws coins tonight. It must be the #crisis. #graziegiorgio #finecorsa

On Facebook, there are several attempts at organising the celebrations in a number of Italian cities. Just before Berlusconi stepped into the Quirinale palace, Luca Cuman wrote on a page titled “Party for Berlusconi's resignation”:

Fra pochi minuti si concretizza la seconda “Liberazione d'Italia” proponiamo il 12/11 come FESTA NAZIONALE!!!!!!

In a few minutes, the second “Italian Liberation Day” will become reality. We propose that the 12/11 become NATIONAL HOLIDAY!!!!!!
Celebrations in front of Congress buiding

Celebrations in front of Congress buiding

On the “liberation day” issue, @tigella draws attention to the fact that the day might be better compared to when Mussolini was arrested in 1943, only to be freed shortly after to form a puppet state in the north of Italy, than to liberation by partisan forces on April 25th two years later:

[ci tengo a ribadire] oggi è il 25 luglio, non il 25 aprile: occhi aperti!

[I'll say this again] today is the 25th July, not the 25th April: open your eyes!

Likewise, @Groucho68 ironically addresses the fact that the Berlusconi era might not be over quite yet:

Se ne va, ma convinto di risorgere il terzo giorno. #finecorsa

He leaves us, certain he will resurrect on the third day.

Despite Saturday's celebrations then, concern about the profound political and economic crisis that engulfs the country is manifest in both the street and the web. In Rome, as well as the Hallelujah and the national anthem, one could hear “kick the banks out of the State”. Last Friday however, the hashtag #rimontiamo (anagram of Mario Monti) was a top trend on Twitter, symptom of a general consensus that the Monti medicine, however bitter, might be necessary.

The journalist @sandroruotolo writes:

#rimontiamo. Oggi si dimette Berlusconi. E' un bel giorno per l'Italia. Adesso tocca a Monti. Speriamo che ce la faccia. God Save Italy!!!

#rimontiamo. Tonight Berlusconi resigns. It's a good day for Italy. Now it's Monti's turn. Let's hope he makes it. God save Italy!

@ggrch writes:

Italiani godiamoci questa notte perché da domani c'è da ricostruire l'Italia #rimontiamo #finecorsa

Italians, let's enjoy tonight because from tomorrow, we will have to re-build the country. #rimontiamo #finecorsa

Others, such as the student network Rete della Conoscenza (The Knowledge Network), are less optimistic. Referring to the expected cuts to the education budget that the government has been planning to implement, @reteconoscenza tweets:

Si annuncia un'infornata di bocconiani al governo. Nelle università pubbliche non c'è niente da festeggiare… #nosaycat #maipiù

A bunch of privately educated “bocconians” in our government. In public universities, we have nothing to celebrate…

Similarly, the anonymous blogger of One Big Onion reflects on the implications of a technocratic government imposed by the markets and the EU:

Dice che Berlusconi oggi se ne va. Non staremo certo qui a rimpiangerlo noi, quelli di Genova, i compagni di Carlo e dei ragazzi che stavano alla Diaz e a Bolzaneto (…)
Facciamo a questo punto una proposta, oltre al pareggio di bilancio nella costituzione ci mettiamo una regola per cui quando lo spread sale di oltre 500 punti da Bruxelles e Berlino ci mandano un commissario della Goldman Sachs come premier. Oppure che la Trilaterale con un decreto di urgenza ci vende anche Palazzo Madama assieme ai beni dello Stato da mettere all’asta.

They say that Berlusconi will walk out today. We certainly won't be the ones to miss him, Carlo's comrades at the protest in Genoa, and of those who were at the Diaz and Bolzaneto (…)
At this point, we would like to put forward a proposition. Besides adjustments to the national budget, we should add an article to our constitution saying that every time the credit spread increases to over 500 points, Brussels and Berlin can delegate a high commissioner from Goldman Sachs to be our Prime Minister. Or that with an urgent decree, the trilateral commission may sell even Palazzo Madama, with the rest of Italian state property to be put up for auction.

Sunday 13 November Italians woke up in the #doposilvio (literally, after-Silvio). Simona Melani's blog grasps the tone of many of the online conversations on such an crucial day in the history of the country:

Stavolta proviamo a metterci a correre, noi che abbiamo 20, 30 anni. Facciamo sì che queste dimissioni siano l’inizio simbolico della nostra Italia e non la fine di un incubo. Perchè se ci rilassiamo, l’incubo continuerà. (…)
Tocca a noi, corriamo, con le borse pesanti sulle spalle perchè c’è un sacco di lavoro da fare. La prima cosa da rimettere in piedi è la Politica. Senza pupazzi di gommapiuma e imitatori da Bagaglino. Stavolta tocca a noi. Alziamo il culo dalla sedia. Twitter lo possiamo aggiornare dallo smartphone, mentre finalmente corriamo per costruire un Paese, con la presunzione gioiosa di essere migliori di quello che abbiamo visto negli ultimi anni.
It’ s the end of the world (as we know it). Abbiamo 5 minuti 5 di felicità. Mettiamoci al lavoro, finalmente.

All of us 20 and 30-somethings, this time should start running. Let's make this resignation the symbolic beginning of our Italy, and not simply the end of a nightmare. Because if we lay back, the nightmare will continue. (…)
It's our time; let's run with the heavy baggage we carry on our shoulders, because there is a lot of work to be done. The first thing to reform is our political system, freeing it from foam rubber puppets and comedians. This time is our turn. Let's get up from that damn chair. Twitter can be updated from our smart phones, as we run to build a country, joyfully presumptuous that we are better than what we've been in the past few years.

November 12 2011

Italy: huge celebrations for Berlusconi's resignation

Millions of Italians (worldwide) are celebrating an historic moment: the official resignation of PM Silvio Berlusconi, now on his way to the Presidential Palace. Huge celebrations are also being planned online, with live video streaming from downtown Rome, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, on-going tweets and so on.

Italy/Tunisia: migrants' opinions of the Arab Spring

Since January 2011, events in North Africa have resulted in a series of dramatic changes to the form (and effects) of global protest and citizen participation. There has been an extensive convergence of traditional protest and web activism, as a confirmation of the crucial Web 2.0 role in confrontations between governments and opposition movements.

The Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region has been (and remains) a fascinating testing ground for the media and politics and has inspired, among numerous other independent productions, a documentary film that features the voices of North African and African immigrants living in Italy. Called #Revolution, this short video was filmed in Padua and Bologna by citizen-reporters belonging to the Voci Globali association [it]. What did the revolutions mean for migrants? What part do they think the Internet played with respect to the results achieved?  Differing opinions  emerge from the interviews. There are those who think that the Internet acted as a springboard to the revolutions' successes, and those who maintain that social networks cannot replace public protest in the street.

Here is the #Revolution video (11+ min) [in Italian, with English subtitles]:

 

 
#Revolution will be shown in Padua on the 14th of November as part of the roundtable “Tunisia, le stagioni dei gelsomini” (Tunisia, the Seasons of Jasmine) [it]. The event is included in Immaginafrica, an International festival dedicated to African filmaking launched by the History Department of the University of Padua. The festival, established in 2005, aims to promote an awareness of the complexity of the African continent in order to:

tarnish an image of Africa which is too often superficial, narrow, stereotypical and essentially negative, and which, owing to a relief-driven logic, finds too many obstacles to improving the interlocator's position. This image determines, to a great extent, the relationship with immigration, whereas recognition of different cultures' heritage, through careful and informed knowledge of their cultural expressions- to which immigrants can contribute - can be of valuable help in constructing a mutually enriching relationship,

Since it began, the  festival's  organisers have promoted a range of activities including the  establishment of an university course in African film-making, especially francophone productions, with a particular focus on productions from Burkino Faso. The course is the first of its kind in Italy. Alongside the lectures the course aims to establish exchanges between Italian and Burkinabé researchers (like  Justin Ouoro [fr], the film critc) as part of a collaboration between the Universities of Padua and of Ouagadougou. “Pégase” [fr], by Moroccan Mohamed Mouftakir, winner of Burkinabé film festival Fespaco 2011 [fr], will be also shown at Immaginafrica

Immaginafrica 2011. Photo taken from the Kenyan short 'Pumzi'

Two other documentaries will be shown in Padua, “Laïcité, inch'Allah!” [fr], filmed in Tunisia during the revolution and “I nostri anni migliori“, filmed in Italian refugee centres in Mineo, Manduria and Palazzo San Gervasio. Participants in the round table discussion which will follow include the young historian and web activist Mehdi Tekaya, the film critic Tahar Chickaoui [fr] and Fethi Ouesleti, a Tunisian immigrant worker and the protagonist of the second documentary mentioned. The discussion will be chaired by the journalist and blogger Gabriele Del Grande.

Given the results of the elections [en] held in Tunisia on the 23rd of October this year, should the young Jasmine revolutionaries be disheartened? The joy created by events at the beginning of this year is clearly audible in this radio interview with Tahar Chikaoui, published on Immaginafrica's website in January [the emotion in his voice conveys the historic nature of events, even to listeners who don't understand Italian]. The results of the elections have shown the Internet's limitations in terms of its ability to innovate and the complexity of social strata. The 27th of October this year, the Algerian writer Tahar Lamri [en] posted the translation of a video [ar] made by the Facebook group 10 Millions de Politiciens [ar,fr] on his Facebook page. The translation reads:

Elections are not won on the Internet/ They are not won by playing the tourist among people's problems/They're not won if, as soon as you take the microphone, you say: populism, elite, ignorant population, secularism is the be all and end all./ They're lost because the intellectual knows Brecht but doesn't know anything about the people/ elections are not won by songs. Aliens thought that Tunisia was Mars, that's the reason why they lost…

The ‘e-book “70 chilometri dall'Italia” (70 km from Italy), edited by Voci Globali (with an introduction by Mehdi Tekaya) will also be launched at the conference. Following the success of the first edition, published this spring by quintadicopertina.com, the book has been extensively revised and updated to reflect the elections on the 23rd of October, including reactions and perspectives following the results. The e-book integrates a broad historical and political account with a selection of the most significant posts on the topic already appeared on Global Voices in Italiano.

We wish to thank the following people for their interviews in the documentary: Fabrice Dapnet, Mariange Sibi, Bacem Bjaoui, Tchouadeu Pouatcha Ulrich, Cheikh Ba, Hakim Jabrani, Zineb Naini, Souad Maddahi, Yassine Baradai, Diop Alioune Badara.

Camilla Corradin contributed to this translation.

October 12 2011

Italy: “Wiretapping Bill” could drastically limit freedom of information

The Italian Parliament is about to vote on a very stringent “wiretapping Bill” aimed at drastically limiting judicial investigations and journalism inquiries, thus blocking free speech about new scandals exposing top-level politicians, as many of such cases keep emerging. After a recent “strike” by Wikipedia Italy [it] and a pouring of protests, a provision requesting all websites and blogs to immediately rectify any content that anybody deems “detrimental to his/her own image”, has been removed.

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