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Insurgency Turns Malay-Muslim Women into Leaders

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

SONGKHLA, Thailand, Sep 23, 2010 (IPS) - When her husband was arrested for links to an insurgency raging in this southern region, Pattama Heemmima joined the ranks of Malay-Muslim women forced into the unfamiliar routine of visiting police stations, military camps and courts to secure the freedom of their imprisoned kin.

At the same time, there was no local organisation she could turn to for help regarding her husband, Nawawee Daohumso, who was taken in by the Thai police in March 2008 for his alleged role in a killing a civilian.

But by the time a court acquitted Nawawee in March 2010 -- enabling him and 34-year-old Pattama to rebuild a marriage that was only two months old when police made the wrongful arrest -- Pattama had found an answer to her search for a local helping hand.

She and her elder sister, Anchana Semmina, had resolved to take on new roles as activists for justice. In mid-2009, the two sisters had set up the Hearty Support Group in the southern Thai province of Songkhla to help families struggling to secure the release of their jailed fathers, husbands and sons.

"I wanted to help these women who were desperate after their husbands or sons were arrested by the police, the military," says Pattama. "I had learnt so much after my husband’s arrest that I wanted to share it with the others in my community."

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Through Women's Eyes: Report on the Gender-Specific Impact and Consequences of Operation Cast Lead

(From AIC)

The recent Israeli offensive—codenamed Operation ‘Cast Lead’ by the Israeli authorities—claimed the lives of 118 women, and injured 825 more. In total 1,414 Palestinians lost their lives, 1,177 (83%) of whom were civilians. A further 5,303 were injured. The infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was decimated, for example, 2,114 homes were completely destroyed and a further 3,242 rendered uninhabitable, affecting 51,842 people.

The true impact of the offensive, however, cannot be measured in terms of statistics and figures alone. Although the numbers of victims and casualties illustrate the appalling human toll of this conflict, the true extent of the suffering lies in the day-to-day reality of life in the Gaza Strip following Operation Cast Lead, as civilians struggle to rebuild their lives, come to terms with their loss, and restore some semblance of human dignity.

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Sudan: Darfuri Woman Refugees 'Live in Fear of Rape'

From allAfrica.com

Darfuri women who have fled as refugees to Chad live in fear of being raped and as a result ostracized by their families, says a new study.

The study, based on interviews with 88 women in Farchana Camp in eastern Chad, found that 17 of the women had been raped, some more than once. Researchers said they believed another 12 women had probably suffered rape, although they were often reluctant to speak about it or were unconscious when it had happened.

The study was carried out by Physicians for Human Rights in partnership with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The results were published on Sunday.

“War crimes of killings, destruction of livelihoods and forced expulsion from Darfur have… left [women] in a state of perpetual vulnerability and need for the most basic elements of human survival,” the study added. Although what had happened in Darfur “persists as a terrible memory,” the women had not found safety in Chad.

Compelled to leave the camp to collect fuel so they could cook, they ran the risk of rape in doing do. “What most concerns the women interviewed… is the oppressive environment of insecurity they must endure on a daily basis,” the study said.

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