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Nasrin Parvaz

Thursday, July 14, 2005
Yesterday, I went along to Write to Life's summer party. It was so good to see old friends - lots of people still writing - and new faces.

Among the old friends was Nasrin who has her own site where you can read lots of her beautifully crafted short stories - about her imprisonment in Iran and about her life in London since that time: for example, 'Face to face with my jailer in Tesco's'.

Lots of people I met last night seem very interested in blogging and using the internet to tell their stories. I hope you'll soon be hearing their voices too...

'Fanatacism is not a state of religion but a state of mind...'

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
It's not often I find myself agreeing with Tony Blair these days but I did like this bit of his statement to the Commons yesterday.

'People know full well that the overwhelming majority of Muslims stand four square with every other community in Britain. We were proud of your contribution to Britain before last Thursday. We remain proud of it today. Fanaticism is not a state of religion but a state of mind. We will work with you to make the moderate and true voice of Islam heard as it should be.'

'Unite against extremism of all stripes...'

Friday, July 08, 2005
Via Global Voices.

Voices from the Muslim blogosphere react to the blasts.

London 'terror attacks'

Originally uploaded by lotsofbigideas.

In the words of the BBC's web site, the UK papers this morning are reverberating with shock over the terrorist attacks in London.

But some of us are asking whether we brought this upon ourselves?

Not that I'm suggesting for one minute that such cruel acts can in any way be justified. But today I just feel so utterly depressed, and I can't help thinking that there was a terrible inevitability to it all.

Because you can't declare a 'war on terror' without making yourself a target of that 'terror'.

It's already interesting to note the language being used to report the news. The Daily Star's editorial is already referring to yesterday's events as '7/7' and talking about how Britain's staunch citizens survived the Blitz and must similarly now stand firm. So, we really are at war, then...

I don't know what to think anymore. If these attacks do indeed turn out to be the work of an al-Quaeda related group, then they have played right into Bush and Blair's hands. This is all the justification they need to continue aggressive policies in the Middle East.

I've spoken to a few of my London-based friends from Syria, Iran and Iraq over the last few hours. They are feeling a mixture of grief, shame (unjustified, of course), and fear at what this might now mean for refugees from the Middle East living in the UK.

Is this a scanned scam?

Thursday, July 07, 2005
Excuse the pun. (I've caught the bad poem vibe.)

It's not that I'd want to knock any kind of initiative that encourages people to write poems, express themselves, get their voices heard, but this bit of naughtiness from the people at Wocky Jivvy did make me smile.

The (Inter)National Library of Poetry sponsors poetry 'contests' several times per year. Each 'contest' promises cash prizes and offers all 'semi-finalists' the chance to be included in an anthology... and the chance to purchase this lovely anthology for a not inconsiderable sum.

As Wocky Jivvy and others have now shown, it's 'very possibly impossible to write something dreadful enough that it won't be chosen as a "semi-finalist".' Owch... Proceed with caution.

Deconstructing borders

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Via Media Rights.

Another story-telling opportunity. Pan Left Productions seeks entries on the theme of borders for the Feature This! Video Festival in Tucson:

'Some borders are physical boundaries, such as the walls of a jail or prison. Others are psychological (sexism, racism) or political (gay marriage) or emotional. Many are all four, such as the steel fence that grows ever larger in the desert separating Arizona from Mexico.

Live 8

Black Looks is very angry about the way that Live 8 represented Africa and its problems. She believes that it 'infantilised' Africans and 'reduced the issues to cheap sound bites and meaningless nauseating rhetoric'.

Although I'm never quite sure what to think about initiatives like Live 8, I have a lot of sympathy for what Black Looks is saying. I was watching the concert on TV at the moment when Sir Bob pointed to the big screen which showed a still from the original Live Aid concert footage.

This was the face of a starving child who had been 'just moments from dying' before we, the public, saved her with our donations. The child, now a stunningly beautiful woman, was then brought onto the stage, robed in white, to address the crowds, before Madonna appeared (also dressed in white), took her by the hand and began to serenade her.

I felt very confused about what I was (supposed to) feel at that moment. OK, it was slightly more palatable than seeing Maria Carey diva it up in front of the African Children's Choir before telling them to 'run along' and 'be good'...

But to see someone 'saved' by our help and then paraded around as an example... Am I being naive? Does the means (theatrical 'consciousness-raising' stunts) justify the end (more money, more justice, less death)? But if you're going to raise people's consciousness, shouldn't you do more than show an Africa full of flies and tears and helpless people?

Ten years ago, when I was working for an NGO doing international development projects, we became so concerned about our role in perpetuating negative images of developing countries that we changed our ad in the national press from one showing a photo of sad, hungry-looking children to one showing smiling faces. That month, donations dropped by around 50%. Depressing but true.

There can be no doubt that Geldof's heart's in the right place and he certainly gets things done while others sit on the sidelines debating the finer points. But I think a massive opportunity was lost to really educate people about what it's like to live in Africa. I think we could do better than the rhetoric about saving people.

As for all the white outfits...Geldof, Madonna, et al...well, wasn't that just a little unfortunate? I know the makepovertyhistory bands are white but shouldn't some PR person have thought about the symbolism of a white suit a bit more carefully?