The Psychology of Fear: Syrian Refugees in the UK and U.S.

 

sr 1The thirty-second president of the United States boldly addressed a nation of distressed citizens in his inauguration address in 1933, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat in advance.” Roosevelt’s words could not ring truer now as the UK and the U.S. face the threat of Isis and must welcome global neighbors fleeing war-torn countries. Through discovering what is the psychology of fear, this will explore the screening process for refugees in the U.S. and the UK and seek to understand the reasoning behind Islamophobia, xenophobia, and nativism with solutions to overcome those fears.

It wasn’t a particularly uncommon argument between my friend and me two weeks ago; rather it was quite common that we disagreed on decisions of the U.S. government. Except this fight felt unjustly wrong as my friend tried to defend Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to not let Syrian refugees into the Texas under suspicion that “terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders” (Gov. Greg Abbott). While this has the potential to be true, the U.S. vetting process is one of the intensive vetting processes in the world, and there are added layers of security when checking Syrians, beginning with referrals from the U.N.’s refugee agency registration, then the U.S. consultation screening assessing economic and social factors of each individual refugee which can take anywhere from twelve to twenty-four months.

In the case for Syrian refugees, the U.S. takes extra precaution by involving the State Department, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, interviewing applicants, using biometric information and checking and rechecking historical information on the applicants. According to Time, just over 50% of applicants pass the screening process and it takes anywhere from eighteen to twenty-four months to be processed and approved and, about half of those accepted are children and 25% are adults over age sixty (Altman). With this security one would believe that the U.S. is prepared to allow 10,000 refugees into the U.S. without severe repercussions.

Compared to U.S., Britain is taking twice as many refugees as the U.S. but, the process takes longer. Prime Minister David Cameron said in his September 7th speech that the UK would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees but that process would be spread out over five years. After background checks enacted by the U.N. and the British government, the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, enacted in 2014, will expand to include 20,000 more immigrants from refugee camps in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. Although both the U.S. and the UK are doing their part, one could say, in an effort to help relocate disadvantaged and vulnerable refugees, many critics from both sides of the spectrum are calling for more or less action from their governments.

In the U.S., there is an overwhelming call across Republican governors to claim that they will not let Syrian refugees into their states: Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted: “Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees & I demand the U.S. act similarly. Security comes first” (Gov. Greg Abbott), and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Hugh Hewitt “The fact is that we need appropriate vetting and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point” (Krieg). According to Bloomberg Politics Poll, 53% of Americans think that the best approach for the U.S. to take with refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria is to not accept any refugees in and only 28% agree with President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 refugees without religious screening and 11% want to resettle only Christian refugees. The fact is that many Americans are afraid of allowing Syrian refugees into their country while there has been some British criticism to allow the refugees into the UK. In fact, Britain has been criticized for not doing more to allow refugees in. Compared with Germany, France and other EU countries, the UK is right above the U.S. in the amount of Syrian refugees being let in. Many political leaders from the Labour Party commend Cameron on his decision to welcome 20,000 refugees but believe they could take in up to 4,000 by the end of 2015.

Statistics aside, the fact is that an overwhelmingly amount of Americans do not want refugees coming into the U.S. despite the support shown in many E.U. countries. In my opinion, which agrees with the majority U.S. Democrats, is to let the refugees in and it is baffling to me that the majority U.S. is not welcoming refugees, when in fact we have let in over 750,000 refugees since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. If xenophobia and nativism fears were sparked then and we continued to let refugees in, then what is the problem with letting them in now? If our security is the best in the world, if we are taking excruciating measures to ensure the safety of Americans now more than ever before, if we are limiting our intake of refugees than that of competitive countries like the United Kingdom, then why is there such a strong fear of refugees?

Fear can do amazing things to people and it is overtaking the minds of many Americans and some British citizens. With this issue there are three major fears exaggerated in American and British citizens psychology: Islamophobia, xenophobia, and nativism. Now, fear can be used as a good thing, it’s human and normal, and in a response to terrorism, can be helpful. But, fear of an idea is spreading much more rapidly than people believe it is, that idea, that religion, is Islam. People are becoming more and more afraid of Islam and Muslims and this fear is helping to feed into radical extremist Islamic group Isis, increasing their authority and power over Syria and the surrounding countries. Comments like that of republican candidates’ Ben Carson comparing refugees to rabid dogs (Ben Carson) or Donald Trump’s abrasive statement, “If I win they’re going back” (Donald Trump) help feed into this fear and mistrust of refugees, many of whom are Muslim. Islamophobia is very basically, the hatred and prejudice against Islam and Islamic people, but in my opinion, extends beyond Muslims to include Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Indian peoples whose ethnic origin interconnect with Islam. In both the UK and the U.S., Islamophobia contributes to the oppression of Muslims by misinterpreting the Koran, giving way to negative stereotypes claiming Islam is “anti-women, cruel, and intolerant” (Achmad).

Living in London has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, understand the differences that create community, and enjoy the welcoming environment that constructs London’s multi-cultural atmosphere. But, despite it being one of the most diverse cities in the world, it has one of the highest rates of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK (Allegretti). Remona Aly says it best in The Guardian, “There is a strong sense… that difference is seen not as positive diversity, but as negatively alien: so alien that the basic humanity of others is not even acknowledged.” This fear stems from the psychological response of feeling threatened, creating the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ boundaries to be used on a person-to-person basis (Resnick). The recent events of one Isis member posing as a Syrian refugee in France who contributed to the Paris massacre would naturally magnify that boundary line so; logically people’s fears are heightened. Among other examples, the world is now feeling the same way that Syrians have been feeling and living with for the past fifteen plus years since Assad became president of Syria. From my own personal experience in London I can recount times I’ve seen others treating women wearing hijabs or niqabs differently, giving them double takes and even staring at them fervently. The best possible solution to Islamophobia in democratic societies such as the U.S. and Britain is education. If my generation had grown up reading the Koran and understood from a young age the empowerment and peacefulness of Islam we would not exhibit Islamophobic behaviors today. There needs to be a comprehensive curriculum surrounding Islam beginning in elementary school giving children the chance to attend mosques and museums to look at traditional and modern views on Islam. By starting discussions on social media like the trending video I’m Muslim, But I’m Not… (I’m Muslim) by Buzzfeed that has over 1 million views or Is London Islamophobic? (IS LONDON) discovering peoples word associations with the world Muslim, we can help rid the negative connotations surrounding Islam.

Another common fear of ‘the other’ is xenophobia, which involves an ingroup (the U.S. and Britain separately) fearing the outgroup’s (Syrian refugees) motives, and potential to devalue and deconstruct the ingroup’s societal norms. But instead of fearing the other’s identity, the ingroup focuses on the possibility of losing their own identity. Xenophobia is commonly used to refer to foreigners and immigrants in the context of discrimination and prejudice. The U.S. and UK were keen on helping migrants gain admission into the country, especially the UK, until the Paris massacre shook us up and reclaimed the best of our fears. With the news of a Syrian Muslim working with Isis being able to cross from Greece to France without suspicion raised our concerns, further increasing the potential to display xenophobic attitudes. But, it was the collective patriotism of U.S. representatives that exploited nationalistic attitudes. In a study conducted by New York University researchers tested and measured threats to an ingroup’s social identity finding that when an ingroup feels threatened by an outgroup’s potential to be closer to them (moving into their country) the ingroup’s value is undermined, and that the concept of social identity form from traditional cultural values. The psychological protective mechanisms are only triggered when the ‘enemy’ has the potential to ‘invade’ for lack of a better word, the ingroup’s territory (Xiao). Surprisingly, their research concluded that in order to “mediate the effects of identity threat” we should keep the outgroup closer by changing our physical representation of the world. In an attempt to change our physical representation of the world, we, as a global community, need to be voicing our grievances over this discrimination and empowering minorities to speak out against prejudice they experience. The media easily picks up on stories but, the media needs to use it’s influence to change the discussion on xenophobia. One of these voices is the first Muslim U.S. Congress member Keith Ellison in his Democracy Now! Interview, “They (Republican lawmakers) operate under a philosophical underpinning that the West is at war with Islam and Islam is at war with the West in a defensive posture.” Ellison goes on to say that Republicans are using their own fears to defend their position on refugee asylum but what they are not realizing is their stance will have dire consequences in future economic relations with the EU and the Middle East.

Finally, the final and most illogical fear of Americans and the British is nativism; usually a political notion but, psychological as well, that certain cultural traits are native to one’s country and is used to discriminate immigrants from migrating to that country. Nativism is displayed all over the U.S. and UK from small comments like Jimmy Kimmel asking Emily Blunt if she feels like one of us now that she recently became a U.S. citizen to massive political parties devoted to the opposition of immigration like UKIP. The U.S. and the UK have been highly advocating nativism over the past century, the U.S. with their ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act and then again in the 90’s and continuing into the 2000’s dealing with illegal immigration of Mexicans. The U.K. is infamously known for the 1980’s riots and formation of the British National Party, threatening and eventually killing British Muslims and African-Americans due to racist and nativist fears. These fears are being sparked once again, encouraging U.S. and British citizens to exploit patriotic values of inclusion and pride. Being patriotic creates community but when it excludes immigration, it does more harm than good (Goodman).

The best solution to this hysteria is not to create more fear but to open up discussion over media platforms, educate others about what Islam is and who Muslims are, to not only sympathize with the plight of Syrian refugees but, empathize with them by stepping into their shoes, understanding the prejudice they feel, the hatred they receive for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They devote themselves to a religion, as many Americans and British do, that has brought them peace and love, but now, is being misunderstood and discriminated against, resulting in hate, mistrust, and devastation. Fear has a history of raping culture from diversity and trust and encourages behaviors associated with Islamophobia, xenophobia and nativism and needs to end in order for humanity to thrive, giving rise to love and respect.

 

Works Cited

Achmad. “Islamophobia and Overcoming Stereotypes.” Voices of Youth. Unicef, 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Allegretti, Aubrey. “Cameron’s Crackdown On Islamophobia Comes A Little Too Late.” The Huffington Post UK. AOL (UK) Limited, 13 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Altman, Alex. “This Is How the Syrian Refugee Screening Process Works.” Time. Time, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

“Ben Carson: Screen Syrian Refugees like They’re Rabid Dogs – Video.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Donald Trump on Syrian Refugees: ‘If I Win They’re Going Back'” Business Insider. Ed. Lamar Salter. Business Insider UK, 1 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Goodman, Amy. “”Nativist Hysteria” Against Syrian Refugees Echoes U.S. Rejection of Jewish Refugees in 1930s.” Democracy Now! Democracy Now!, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

“Gov. Greg Abbott Says Texas Will Not Accept Any Syrian Refugees.” ABC13 Houston. ABC Inc, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

I’m Muslim, But I’m Not… Dir. Buzzfeed. YouTube. YouTube, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

IS LONDON ISLAMOPHOBIC? (SHOCKING ENDING!). Dir. Khaled Siddique. YouTube. YouTube, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Krauthhammer, Charles. “Charles Krauthammer: In the Face of Obama’s Failed Middle East Policy, GOP Candidates Slide into Xenophobia.” The Kansas City Star. Kansas City Star, 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Krieg, Gregory. “Christie on Refugees: Not Even 5-year-old Orphans – CNNPolitics.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Resnick, Brian. “The Science behind Why People Fear Refugees.” Vox. Vox Media, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Xiao, Jenny Y., and Jay J. Van Bavel. “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.” See   Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer: Social Identity and Identity Threat Shape Representation of Physical Distance 24.10 (2006): 969-70. New York University, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

 

A Father-Daughter Dance

 

I hate thinking about this, as I always tend to cry and get angry with myself. I have finally come to face the fact that I always secretly knew, yet never wanted to recognize as truth.

April 1995. At this point I was barely six months old. Not old enough to comprehend words but still receiving verbal signals that would eventually help me understand right and wrong. Mom and Dad sat in the living room and watched the television. It’s evening and Mom picked me up from daycare, preceded by a long day at work as a banker. Dad is angry again, he had been so angry lately that mom had lost count of the days in which she had last seen him happy. Although I don’t remember this, my mom easily recounts the day when she decided to divorce my father. She has told me this story many times, each time giving me more information to finally piece the story together, like a puzzle. Dad was drinking and started calling Mom a bitch because she asked him to help her with dishes. Mom, never one to back down from an argument, told him to shut up because his yelling made me cry.

Dad didn’t back down. He continued to use every curse word in the book, belittling my mom, showing his authority over her. Dad started throwing pillows and Mom said she was reaching her limit with him. She told him she was going to take me away from him and started reaching for her coat and began to pack a bag for herself and me. Dad told her she couldn’t go and threw a ceramic lamp next to the couch on the floor. Mom picked me up and ran to their room. Dad ran after her. Mom locked the door before Dad could get in and dialed 9-1-1. Even though he kept banging on the door, even though I kept screaming while being propped on the bed, even though Mom was crying profusely on the phone, she made the decision then and there to divorce my dad.

The older I get, the more I understand the why behind people’s actions. Why my mom married four different men, why I was bullied in middle school, why I love writing. Still, I can’t figure out why my dad doesn’t want me in his life. As I get older and my friends think of future plans to get married and someday have kids, I comprehend why they want those things. Kids are a gift, something you are blessed with. They can come as a surprise or they can be planned, and I haven’t met one person who doesn’t love their child. Even if it’s a stepparent, a grandparent, a parent who adopts or someone who didn’t plan to have a kid, they love their child with all their heart. So why, why, can’t my dad love me?

December 2006: Christmas vacation would be one I never forget. Dad invited me to go to Disneyworld with his “new” family which consisted of my stepmom Carrie, whom he married in 2004, her newborn son and my half-brother, Seth, my stepbrother, Andrew, who was a year older than me, Carrie’s sister, her husband, and their two kids. All of us kids were around the same age so we all had each other to hang around with while at Disneyworld. I didn’t know it then but Carrie had told my father that if he didn’t invite me, Andrew would eventually tell me later and I would be crushed emotionally.

So I went, blinded from reality by the fantasy world known as Disneyworld where all your dreams come true. We did everything together, all the rides, theme parks and we even stayed in a luxurious condo in Orange County. The last day of the trip my mom called my dad asking to talk to me. I could hear my dad screaming and cursing at my mom from my bedroom. This wasn’t new to me. At only 10-years-old I was used to my dad’s anger and mean attitude. I only hoped that when I saw him every other weekend during the year that he was in a good mood. Dad stomped into my room, his face red from either embarrassment or pure anger. Either way. he said, “Your mom wants to talk to you.” I took the phone from him and said hello while I could hear mom’s exasperated voice in the background. She just wanted to make sure everything was okay and that I was having fun. She asked about all the fun stuff I did and wanted me to know that she had Christmas presents waiting for me when I got home. She hung up and I gave the phone to Dad. I remember getting really angry with Dad after I handed him the phone.

“Why do you have to be so mean to Mom?” I demanded.

“Why do you care?” Dad replied bitterly.

I raised my voice and said, “Because I love her, and she’s my mom. You can’t always be mean to her!”

The only thing I remember is immediately putting my cold hands on the stinging pain that was my cheek. I looked up at Dad and saw him crouching towards me saying he was sorry. I immediately cringed and stepped back from him. Disneyworld wasn’t fun anymore. I just wanted to go home.

I don’t know what I did wrong. Throughout elementary and middle school my mom helped me to become the best I could be. I can look back now and count the ways and things that have made me into the person I am today. But no matter how hard I tried, I never impressed him. Although I have always been a very driven and determined person, winning ensemble competitions for playing the clarinet, becoming pitcher in high school softball, graduating a year early as valedictorian, attending one of the best colleges in the U.S., he never cared.

January 2013. I still don’t know what compelled me to call him. I couldn’t believe I still had his number on my phone. I looked at the vast forest in front of me, trying to find a bird or a branch that looked interesting, something that could fill me with happiness as the phone rang. Mom was currently living in Longview, TX. She moved here to be closer to me as I attended Baylor University. Her apartment was located on a hill where about 20 feet of grass divided the modern chic apartments from a huge brown forest. I stood in the middle of this grass while the phone rang and rang and rang and then –

“Hello?”

“Hi … Dad.”

At this time in my life I was a freshman at Baylor, just turned 18 in November. Dad knew nothing about me and I don’t know why I felt I owed it to him to tell him what had happened to me since we last talked in April 2010. I decided to tell him everything, graduating early, being valedictorian, deciding on Baylor, moving here and my excitement to begin writing for the Baylor Lariat in the spring. But then the conversation took a turn. I started yelling at him demanding to know why he wasn’t present in my life. Why he never bothered to make the trip from Moline, IL to Waterloo, Iowa to see me. He responded by saying that I never came to see him either. But that didn’t make sense to me. He is the father, he is the one who should want to see his child. I cried and cried while accusing him of never seeing me, never knowing who I was. I asked him if he even wanted to know me. He responded by saying that I need to start calling him if I want him to know about me. And I realized something then. You can’t force someone to love you. All of my yelling, my accusations and demands were just me trying to force him to show me he loved me. But I realized then that he didn’t love me. He doesn’t want me as his daughter, he never will.

I ended the phone call by asking him to at least help pay for college. I knew mom couldn’t afford to pay anymore to Baylor after this next semester and I could use his money to start saving for future expenses. He told me he would write me a check every month for $300 that would go into my savings account. I gave him all of my information and asked him, “You promise you will help pay for Baylor?”

“Yes Kate, I promise.”

I never received anything.

I don’t think the worst part of this relationship is knowing he doesn’t want me, but just the mere fact that there is no relationship. Friends and coworkers have asked me who my family is and I describe my mom and brother to them and sometimes they just look at me and nod with a fake smile, knowing that I didn’t mention a father. Whenever my friends start talking about having a wedding someday and talk about all the details, especially their father walking them down the aisle or having a father-daughter dance, I just smile and know that won’t happen for me.

My dad will never be in my life, never see me graduate from Baylor or see me get married. He will never know of my accomplishments, my career, my dreams or my goals, and that’s okay. I haven’t spoken to him since that last phone call in January and I haven’t seen him since I was 10, and that’s okay.

Racism: Not Addressed on College Campuses

What happened Sunday March 8th and followed throughout the week over the Racist OU videos marks another act of racism and prejudice in America, following major events like Trayvon Martin’s death and the fatal Michael Brown shooting. Such events have sparked nationwide protests and movements such as The Million Hoodie March and Black Lives Matter.

Although Trayvon Martin’s death and the Michael Brown shooting deal with police and racism, the OU fraternity videos bring national attention to college campuses and racism.

Here at Baylor, I surround myself with others who would never participate in that type of behavior, or so I thought. After posting an article from USA Today on my Facebook page about the video, the unruly Facebook comments debate started.

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This first comment claims that the problems arise from people’s ‘feewings’ or feelings getting hurt. The second comment with brief lewd language suggests that one cannot dismiss the fraternity’s actions to just being drunk.

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From the comments above, it is clearly understandable that there are students who do not seem to grasp the power that words, spoken or not spoken, can generate. In Jon Stewart’s The Brotherhood of the Traveling Chants, he explores (in his usual comical manner) some of the points brought up in the comments above. The most prominent example of the power of words comes from American history where great speeches were made that sparked millions to fight for their own rights. Books, movies, the media, you name it, all use spoken and unspoken dialogue to promote their own ideas and beliefs.

If students are still thinking this way today in 2015, more than 50 years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was enacted in the U.S., then there are obvious problems with college student’s education.

Although that is a whole different debate in itself, there needs to be a call to action for college campuses to educate students on the power and influence of racism on campus.

Why do the students in the above comments believe that acting in a racist manner is ‘ok’? Why do some students believe that condoning this type of behavior or dismissing their actions due to being drunk is ‘ok’? How can students deny that the actions on that bus are not racist? If students believe this behavior is ‘ok’, then how can we come to respect one another as equals?

When I came to Baylor during Welcome Week, there were two major topics that we had lectures on: 1) Academic Integrity and the Honor Code and 2) sexual assault prevention and resources. While both topics are important, campuses need to address consequential actions if racism occurs on campus.

Baylor actually has a history of racism on campus. On Nov. 4th 2008, the night Obama was elected president, a noose was hung from a tree on Baylor’s campus.

The Baylor Lariat said, “At 9 a.m. Tuesday, a rope was discovered tied like a noose hanging from a tree outside of Morrison Hall, prompting the Baylor NAACP and Baylor’s Association of Black Students to hold a joint meeting to discuss racially charged events on Election Day. The groups feel the acts were indicative of a racist culture at Baylor.”

Students were also found burning pictures and signs of Obama on and off campus.

As the Waco-Tribune Herald reported, “Baylor students have criticized the school for simply reacting to racially motivated incidents and not encouraging racial tolerance from the first day students step on campus by holding seminars and discussions for freshmen during welcome week.”

In 1998 and in 2012, two Baylor sororities came under fire for wearing offensive Mexican apparel. In 1998, the Pi Beta Phi sorority wore shirts for an annual run they hosted depicting Mexicans running across the border while other sisters dressed up as Mexican gangsters or ‘Taco Cabana’ workers, according to The Baylor Lariat.

In 2012, Baylor student Hannah Ray posted photos on Facebook and Instagram of her and her sorority sisters wearing ponchos, sombreros and mustaches with brown face paint to resemble dirt and hanging signs that said, “GREEN CARD.” These photos sparked national attention from major news sources such as CNN, USA Today and Latino Rebels.

Lori Fogleman, Director of Media Communications at Baylor said in a statement, “Without hesitation, Baylor is an academic community that does not and would not tolerate racism on our campus. If there is an offensive act on our campus and it’s brought to our attention, we have established numerous processes for people to report anonymously issues of any kind. So if brought to our attention, then those alleged incidents are thoroughly investigated by the university.”

Although little information is found as to whether or not Baylor filed an investigation, the persistent offensive and disrespectful racist behavior some students exhibit across all college campuses needs to stop.

Campuses across America need to enact official consequences when racist behavior is displayed from their students.

Jump the Fence

Today was very surreal for both me and my friend Rebecca, here’s the amazing and terrifying story of jumping the fence.

I had been wanting to go to Cameron Park for the past couple weeks because 1) I love hiking, being in the trees, sun on my face (I could go and on about trails and forests) and 2) because it would be a beautiful spot to take some gorgeous photos for my media photography class. I could just picture me taking some shots on top of a cliff looking over the Brazos River during the day with the sun seeping through the trees and a slight chill February Texas breeze coming from the river below. It was the perfect day. A good friend of mine, Becca, gave up a few hours of her day to join me as she also enjoys hiking and having lunch on the cliffs of Cameron Park. As she drives up to Circle Point (a designated area given to Cameron Park on top of a tall cliff) I start to imagine the awesome photos I am about to take. We park on the side of the road as all of the parking spots (which are few) were occupied and jump out.

Becca says, “I have a tent. Do you want to go camping?”

I laugh knowing she is joking. “Not today,” I reply.

She makes some more remarks on perhaps just living in the woods because we like it so much. I think as to how that might be a nice idea. But I forget to remember the scary things that happen in Cameron Park at night.

Becca is leading me to the corner of a fence and when she puts her bag on top of the stone that creates the corner for the fence I get confused. We have gone around or between fences before to get on undesignated trails before that have been blocked off but, I’ve never been to this part of Cameron Park. “What are you doing?” I asked nervously.

“We’re going on this trail,” she says pointing to the danger sign to the right of us.

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I’ve always been one to try new things, but not the dangerous-adrenaline-seeking-type of new things. She hops over easily. I laugh at how easy it was for her and put my Peace Tea and drawstring bag on the stone and attempt to climb over the fence. She hopped over the part closet to the cliff and I hopped over the fence to the side of the trees. I think this indicates our personal levels of comfort. She is more risk-taking and I am willing to take risks but get nervous at some things. I struggle to get over the fence so she suggests putting one leg on the fence and propelling my body upward. I finally get over the fence and look behind me. “We’re already over, might as well continue on,” I think to myself.

Our journey begins below, taking pictures of each other standing on the cliff nearest us and acting all mighty starting our hiking adventure.

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A little ironic I think…

 

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Trying to take a silhouette shot for my photography class, didn’t work too well.

From there we went downhill still on the edge of the cliff to our left. We first met a couple in a hammock right on the edge of the cliff. They were so cute and let me take their photo which is not on here because it was out of focus and overexposed.

Then we kept going down and I took these amazing photos.

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After this we headed back up left towards the edge of the cliff with the river on our left. Again, we met another couple (whose picture I didn’t take) who were sharing a romantic lunch seeing as how this was Valentine’s Day.

We said hi and then attempted to climb our way down a steep path to get on a regular designated walking path. I’m pretty sure they we’re annoyed with us as we were attempting our dissent right below them.

After that I started taking pictures of the sun and the trees and then we headed to a cleared edge to have our own lunch. Here are the photos from our picnic spot:

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After lunch we went on various trails going up and down, hiking small little cliffs, testing our muscles to make sure we still had some. Everyday I am lethargic because I sit and do homework, sit in class, sit at work and only get up to walk to class. Going to Cameron Park is a breath of fresh air, literally.

Next goal: bamboo forest. Cameron Park has the most amazing area of bamboo growing wildly. I don’t know the history behind it but it’s amazing to attempt to climb the bamboo and get lost in there for a while. Up ahead of us there was a cute Baylor couple walking the trail. They saw me taking pictures earlier with my camera so they asked if I would take a picture of them in front of the bamboo. The guy had dark black shaggy hair with a tank top and shorts on, the girl had dark blonde long hair in a headband with blue jeans. Noting they looked sweet together, Becca and I wished them a happy Valentine’s Day and then we turned to head into the bamboo. Right before we headed into the bamboo forest there was a family behind us with young kids. The kids saw me and Becca walking off the trail on our left to enter the bamboo forest. The kids started complaining to their parents about not going in there too, but the parents were right to not let them enter. We were off the path but, sometimes it feels good to get off the path. Becca was ahead of me staring upwards into the bamboo and said, “Listen.”

As the family passed by and we walked more and more into the bamboo there was a beautiful silent breeze that sounded like whistling. The bamboos started gently hitting each other from the wind and the whistling turned into chimes. Becca said, “Isn’t that sound the best thing you’ve heard?”

I had to agree. This is why I loved nature. I just stood there closing my eyes and listening to the bamboo. After the wind ended we went to explore the bamboo. Baylor kids write their names on the bamboo just like you would etch your name into a tree. Here are the pictures of that exploration:

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These photos were amazing and I will use them for my next photo assignment. As the I took the last photo on here I heard a loud crunching noise. It was extremely annoying and Becca and I looked towards the disturbing sound. There was a man dressed in all non-hiking clothes, wearing black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. I became immediately suspicious as to why someone was out in the middle of bamboo where there is no path and, he was alone. He noticed me and came towards us. No saying hi, no calling for our attention, just coming towards us as fast as he could without stopping.

Here is where my adrenaline rush sparked from. My heart started beating fast and I became panicked. When something scares me I show my fear. I don’t why it is hard for me to hide. I started shaking and grabbed my bag and made sure my camera was around my neck. I told Becca to start walking towards the path. She didn’t know why I was so panicked as she tried looking for the man. She finally saw him and the unidentified man came closer and closer to us, trying to catch up, faster and faster to us.

“Hurry!” I told Becca who was behind me then. I looked behind and saw him closer to us than before. I reached the trail and look behind again for Becca this time. She was stumbling over fallen bamboo trees, but seemed relatively calm.

“Come on!” I yelled at her. I took off running on the trail which veered left and up a rocky path. My camera was hitting my chest hard but I didn’t care. “Why was he following us?” “Why is he alone?” “Is he trying to hurt us?” are thoughts that ran fast in my head. I focused on getting away from him. “Go faster” I told myself. Faster, faster. I looked back at Becca who was now at my heels. She got in front of me as I turned my attention back to the man behind us. Once we were on top of the rocky path we stopped for a second thinking we had lost him. We didn’t see anyone so we sighed a breath of relief. But then we heard a cracking noise below us. There he was, running up the hill we just ran coming towards us.

Becca told me to pull out my phone and I did. We started running again on flat ground filled with leaves and few trees. We could run better here and eventually lost him again after a minute. We stopped in a clearing and I asked, “Why is he following us?”

Becca said, “I don’t know.” I could tell she was panicked and I definitely was too but, her demeanor was collected as if she was in control of her inner emotions. I wasn’t, it was pretty obvious. But I unlocked my phone password and tapped the green phone icon. From there I typed in 911 but didn’t call them. It was my immediate thought. Becca looked behind us and didn’t see him. Then Becca said, “Come on.”

I looked behind and there he was, he seemed out of breath from running, as far as I could see, and was behind us by at least 200 yards. We picked up our pace still on a flat path as more trees surrounded us. I decided to finally call 911 while jogging and talked to woman on the phone. She asked, “What is your emergency?”

“There is a man following us,” I said extremely exasperated at this point. The man was still following us so we started jogging up the trail. More thoughts raced through my head as I was talking to the woman, “Why the hell is he following us?” “What does he want?” “I am not getting raped, not today!”

I told the woman we were up in the cliffs of Cameron Park and didn’t know what trail we’re on. The woman said she couldn’t hear me anymore because I was out of breath. She said I needed to calm down. How the hell am I supposed to calm down when there is a man chasing me and I am jogging up a cliff? Then all of a sudden we saw pavement. There was a street about 20 yards ahead of us where the trees ended and leaves fell all around. I told the woman I was sorry I called (I just needed someone to know we were in a state of panic) and hung up before she could finish her next sentence.

Right before we reached the road we looked behind us once more and saw the man about 300 yards behind us.

Becca said, “Calm down, don’t show him you are afraid.” Since we were on a road now she felt more confident that we could walk normally without panicking.

Once we stepped on the pavement on the side of the street I was overcome with relief. We were safe. I never knew how wonderful being stranded going forwards on the right side of a road could be. Becca and I assumed we were safe heading towards the direction of Circle Point, but we didn’t know how far we were from her car. We didn’t see the man behind us so we looked at each other uneasily and smiled.

“We could have almost been raped!” she exclaimed, not knowing his motive for following us.

“I am hyped on adrenaline right now,” I said trying to relax my nerves by verbally reassuring myself. I honestly didn’t know how to feel. Relieved because we lost him, or relieved because nothing happened to us? Or, was I still scared altogether?

The road winded up and to the right. We kept looking behind us or into the woods on our right to see if he was there, still following us. Becca then spotted the couple I had taken a picture of earlier, noting his black hair and her blue jeans. I felt safer knowing there are others nearby, but at the same time, why would a guy follow us (under the impression he was dangerous) when there could possibly be people around?

None of what just happened made sense. All of the sudden Becca spotted her red car parked on the side of the road ahead of us and a calm-like happiness came over me. Becca smiled again at me knowing we would be fine. As I turned around one last time to be sure the creeper wasn’t lurking, there he was, walking behind us on the road! Honestly all I could think was “What the f**k? Who is this person, thinking he can keep following us?”

We ran up to her car, got in quickly, locked the doors and watched the man walk past the car. He had sunglasses on and we couldn’t tell whether or not he was looking at us. He headed up the hill and headed toward the right, by the forest.

Breathing normal and our hearts beating evenly, Becca and I just looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thought: “What just happened?”

Throughout the ride back to Baylor and later that evening at a party we were going to, we kept questioning the events that occurred during that time. What was his motive? Was he crazy? Why didn’t he identify himself?

After constant questioning something sparked my mind: when we were in the bamboo forest, we could gently hear cars driving down the road ahead of us. That meant that the guy (who was even closer to the road than we were) must have heard the road next to him. If his motive was to find his way because he was lost, why not go on the road next to you? Why come after us?

Overall, the whole experience shook me up but, it definitely didn’t ruin the day. We all will experience a time in our lives, probably a lot of times in our lives, where we will get so scared and shaken up, not knowing where to turn to, as if something is chasing us. Literally, it could be someone, or metaphorically it could be tough situations you refuse to stand up to. But I decided to jump the fence today and to take the chances that that path provided me. It was fun, adventurous, surprising, sweet, inspiring, happy, scary, and great. It was a great day filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. But I rather jump the fence everyday to experience what life is really about, living.

Tips when going hiking: 1) go with a friend/friends 2) bring pepper spray, attackers can be stopped/slowed down with pepper spray. Buy some here: https://www.sabrered.com/on-the-go 3) make sure to bring your phone with you and something that I forgot earlier in the woods: if you have an iPhone, when you go to type in your password there is an emergency text on the bottom left, press it and you can dial for emergency 4) don’t bring a lot of things, this can slow you down 5) if you can think of anything else comment below

Here are some articles on rape in Cameron Park in Waco, TX

http://www.kwtx.com/ourtown/home/headlines/Waco–Man-Indicted-For-Cameron-Park-Sexual-Assault-199252941.html

http://www.baylor.edu/lariatarchives/news.php?action=story&story=44398

http://www.wacotrib.com/news/police/city-officials-looking-at-ways-to-ensure-safety-in-cameron/article_13a06ba3-39b8-57d3-907b-bba4a77259b1.html

 

 

 

 

Major Problems and Proposed Solutions for Women’s Education in Afghanistan

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A major social problem in many developing countries is the educational system. For women and girls in Afghanistan, attending schools has not been possible due to the forceful laws and control of the Taliban, which is a militant Islamic fundamentalist political group in Afghanistan. Since the defeat of the Taliban group in 2001, women are slowly coming to recognize their full potential both within the educational system and other aspects of their daily lives. The U.S. and Afghani governments have funded projects to help the educational system but lack in policing them has led to shaky stability in these projects that takes time and constant monitoring. The work of NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and non-profit organizations have provided international engagement by all humans but their efforts are not fully recognized. The power of social media is untapped and bursting with opportunity for global campaigns that have harnessed its power and used it to benefit women’s right to an education among other priorities. Many obstacles hold back the education of women in Afghanistan, primarily the interpretation of Shari’a law, but the work of governments, NGO’s, and social and mass media can provide immediate and long-term benefits to women’s basic right to an education in Afghanistan.

To know how to best move forward, one must understand the past. Since the late 1970’s, Afghanistan has been a country of conflict, with wars waged between Afghanistan’s mujahideen troops (jihad guerilla fighters) and the Soviet regime. The United States military supported mujahideen in their opposition against the Soviets until the early 1990’s when Soviet forces retreated (Afghanistan 2). During this time period many oppressive laws were enacted which restricted women’s rights. In Culture and Customs of Afghanistan, Hafizullah Emadi states, “Women are subordinated to men and are obligated to obey them… Women are regarded as creatures who have no other social function but to please their husbands” (168-169). These kind of thoughts were norms that turned into tradition in the Afghan culture and way of life. Once the Taliban militia started gaining control of Kabul, (Afghanistan’s capital) legal rights of women declined immensely. Women were deprived of their right to an education or to hold a job as Taliban law forbids any form of public schooling or any type of employment outside of the home and is considered a crime. One out of every twenty girls received an education starting in the early 1990’s (Afghanistan 2). Once Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan which ended the Taliban regime. The U.S. had its own agenda in establishing a unified government as it encouraged elders and leaders to create a democratic government. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was elected interim president by the loya jirga in 2002 and was later voted in as president in 2004.

Under the new democratic government women were finally released from the oppression they had received for decades. At this point only 13% of female adults were literate (Benard 38). With so few literate females in Afghanistan, any chance for the rise of women-empowerment groups was slim to none. As the U.S. government helped to establish the new Afghanistan constitution, women leaders from the U.S. worked with any literate  women leaders in Afghanistan to secure the their rights. After a few established women groups in Afghanistan grew stronger, a notion to state and secure their rights was formulated. Under Article Forty-Four of The Constitution of Afghanistan, verbiage reads that “The state shall devise and implement effective programs to create and foster balanced education for women, improve education of nomads as well as eliminate illiteracy in the country” (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 12). Women groups finally had something in writing to encourage their basic right to education and begin reconstruction of the ruined educational system.

After separately examining the human rights’ violations conducted under Shari’a law and the Taliban one can conclude that education is the most important goal in the nation-building of this country. A report of citizen’s concerns reveals that education is the number one priority (Ayubi, Table 1). In 2005 the female adult literacy rate was measured at approximately 21 percent (Education 95). And in 2011, it was measured at 13% (Afghanistan Country Office Education Factsheet UNICEF, Table 1). For more statistics on women’s education in Afghanistan please refer to Afghan Statistics Part I.

While violence against women remains an extreme problem and limits some young women from attending school, violence against women has always been an issue in Afghanistan and is not considered a new cause that limits women’s education. There are four major limits on women’s education that include underage marriage, attacks at newly built schools, the lack of female teachers in the school system and the interpretation of Shari’a law. The interpretation of Shari’a law will be the major focus in this evaluation of the educational system currently in place in Afghanistan. While child marriage is against the law, many families residing in rural and remote parts of Afghanistan practice baad, which allows parents to sell their daughters to either settle disputes, or more commonly, receive necessities like refrigerators or cars. Surprising statistics reveal that “60 to 80 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced marriages and that 57 percent of girls are married before the age of sixteen” (Afghanistan 7).  While child marriage is a common practice which inhibits female access to education, a more disruptive occurrence happens within the educational system when schools are attacked by small groups associated with the Taliban.

“The Taliban have increasingly attacked soft targets such as schools, teachers, and girls attending schools, as well as NGOs working in schools, to instill terror in the population. Attacks on educational facilities and personnel, throughout the country, increased by 24 percent from 236 incidents in 2007 to 293 in 2008… According to UNICEF, in 2008, 92 people were killed and 169 injured as a result of such attacks” (Afghanistan 8).

These attacks influence females to not desire attending school as they are afraid of being harmed or even killed. Additionally, parents do not want their children attending school in fear for their safety and security (Education 99). Finally, the lack of female teachers in the school system has led to more male teachers who tend to prefer to teach boys only. A generation gap occurred when Afghan women who should have been receiving high school and college education were deprived of that right in the 1990’s and 2000’s. “Women are under-represented as teachers at all levels, and this is compounded by a lack of educated and employable women to fill positions in various sectors” (Education 98). Those women could be fulfilling the female teaching roles that are so desperately needed, but are receiving that education now instead of then. As twenty-seven percent of all teachers in Afghanistan are currently women, it is a goal for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is a government office that deals with women’s rights and programs in Afghanistan, to have at least half of all teachers to be women as well as other roles and to train at least 150,000 women in different skills according to their talents in the coming years (Education 97).

The Shari’a law, also known as the authoritative word of God in Islamic religion, has played the most important role and is the leading cause of oppression of women in Afghanistan. The Koran (religious text of Islam) generally states that women are lesser than men though many would argue that it protects the rights of women although it does state that men are the dominant sex. Shari’a is the law of the land that has been interpreted by councils of tribal members since the early 600’s when the rise of Islam began. Since then, Shari’a has always stated that while men are the dominant sex, it does not claim men to be abusive to women, whether that be in the household, in public areas, in schooling, or any other ways. In fact, women are almost as equal to men in all regards except some disputes among property rights and household claims. The interpretation of Shari’a law primarily led to the oppression among women in the mid 1900’s and gained immense support in the 1990’s when the Taliban regime rose to power. Imams are authoritative figures of the Shari’a law who, generally in rural areas, dictate Shari’a law as determined by their own judgment along with the opinions of the elders of the area. Beliefs that derive from these interpretations turn into sociological norms that are rooted deep into the culture and tradition of Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, historical tribal organizations has created a set of practices built on two main principles regarding women. The first is that they are subordinate to men in society; the second is that they are responsible for the honor of the family and the extended family. These long-standing cultural traditions often usurp any legal code that exists, even where people are aware of its existence. A number of the practices related to these tribal traditions are strongly detrimental to the rights and well-being of women” (Benard 73).

While laws made under the constitution are in writing and spoken to crowds of people proclaiming democracy, many rural areas like those in rocky terrains with no roads, groups of Muslims still live under the practices of tradition and Taliban-like culture. In Culture and Customs of Afghanistan, “Hanafi jurisprudence recognizes consensus, analogy, and private opinion in administering laws and does not stress a literal interpretation of the Quran” (Emadi 57). Families discourage women who seek an education and dismiss them from the family, tribe, or even village for having such radical ideas of wanting to seek such an education. Some families’ beliefs hold on to the idea that that female roles are solely in the home. They make a case that their children might not have a mother and there will be no one to do the work at home. If girls leave to seek primary or secondary education, they will not be able to help their mothers with the chores or learn proper training to be a wife. But if women and girls are to even begin taking the first steps of gaining an education, the families must be supportive of their rights. This cultural stigma is a leading deterrent which may hold women back.

The major road in countering the influence traditions of Islamic culture have on society is to begin a new way of thinking. Beginning to implement the idea that both males and females are equal to one another in the early stages of children’s development will pave the way for women’s rights to be accepted as cultural norms. As stated in article Twenty-Two in the Afghan Constitution, “The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law” (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 9). Once these ideas are introduced and accepted into one generation, they will be accepted as a norm in society in the following generations. From this a new tradition will begin and light the path in the reformation of education and the rebuilding of Afghanistan as a nation. Major developing organizations are following the pursuit of change by bringing up documents to the new government that include programs and steps to manage the process of change.

One of these documents has been brought up by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) called the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA); which is thoroughly researched and provides the major problems Afghan women face and clearly defined solutions to these problems. In Chapter Nine in the NAPWA titled Education, it states “A vigorous campaign in the value of female education and training will be pursued. Parents and communities… will be encouraged to form support groups to ensure their involvement in girls’ education” (Education 101). MoWA understands that there is an unspoken cultural norm where mostly men in rural and remote areas believe that women and girls should not receive any education. MoWA is working on setting up these new cultural norms that reflect how American families practice education. The plan calls for surveys to be performed so the MoWA may have a better idea of the need for education in the years to come. Other groups have come in to change traditional mindset as well.

While Afghanistan’s government has their own way of providing a solution to the education problem, the U.S. has placed different departments in the government in charge of providing support and help to women’s groups. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) came out with a Special Report in December 2012 that addresses lessons learned within the past ten years and includes specific goals that the U.S. government is committed to further advance. Some goals of the USIP will be to work within the religious sectors in communities to ensure women’s rights (United States 3). Seeing as how the Shari’a law is based on their religious beliefs, it seems understandable to work within the religious system to begin the push for equality of women’s rights. This goal is used as a solution to the interpretation of the Shari’a law problem and will help men understand the equality of sexes, also solving the problem of the lack of women teachers because men will be more receptive of equality in the school system. The enforcement of the EVAW law that constitutes child marriages, baad, and other matters of illegal marriage practices as criminal acts and will also be used as a solution to one of the major problems that limit women’s education, child marriage. Other government support comes from SIGAR, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that provided $627 million from 2003 to 2010 for women and girls in Afghanistan (2 United States i). Congress directed these funds to provide NGOs (non-governmental groups), MoWA, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission the necessary support to begin training and reconstruction of the education system in Afghanistan among other priorities.

Although the government support programs benefit Afghanistan immensely due to the amount of funding they include, the help of groups like The Asia Foundation and UNICEF tend to attract more people because of their dedicated missions and constant monitoring of the educational systems in Afghanistan. Citizens around the world can contribute financially or volunteer with these organizations to secure women’s rights immediately. One of the programs of UNICEF was a back-to-school campaign which resulted in 400 schools reopening. Children can be educated in schools sponsored by UNICEF’s training programs and curriculum but most recently UNICEF has built Cost Effective Schools giving more than 148,000 children schools to attend as well as learning and teaching materials to instructors and students (Afghanistan Country Office Education Factsheet UNICEF 1). The Asia Foundation has been working in Kabul to provide projects and reports about the conditions of different aspects of Afghanistan’s culture. Overall, the work of these NGO’s shows a  devoted commitment to the empowerment of women in Afghanistan but the work of these organizations could be advertised in a more efficient way to show the true potential of their programs and the help they are providing in women’s education.

Mass media seems to be an untried solution towards gaining support for women’s education in general, projects introduced by NGOs, and providing visual and written truth of their school system. While the effect of media is great, its potential has been untapped.  The magnitude of media’s effect spans across the globe rather than just affecting those who work in governmental matters, or are limited to just the country of Afghanistan. One of the best examples of the journalists working the power of media comes from a documentary, Girl Rising which has been shown at Baylor and has been reviewed under numerous newspapers and stations in written and televised forms. Girl Rising comes from the works of a global campaign, 10X10, for girls’ education. Pulling journalists from all over the world, Girl Rising tells the personal stories of nine girls from countries that have experienced some type of problem in their educational system and how those girls are pursuing their education despite obstacles. 10×10 believes that the use of filmmaking, a powerful social-media device, draws an audience by the use of compelling storytelling and hard-hitting statistics coming from credible sources that 10X10 works with (Girl Rising). The point of the message is simple, to share. In this news-hungry society humans live in today, people want to know what is happening now, not yesterday, but currently, and the more people know about something, the more people are informed with what is happening. Change begins with the involvement of many people, “The more people who share that message – through social networks, at the dinner table, in boardrooms, in rural villages – the more support we build” (Girl Rising).  While statistics are still being surveyed, one can see the effect Kony 2012 had in its global campaign. In 2012, a campaign was launched to make Joseph Kony, a war criminal and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army ‘famous’ by the release of a YouTube video that became viral within a few months. According to the Invisible Children website, “The experiment yielded the fastest growing viral video of all time. 3.7 million people pledged their support for efforts to arrest Joseph Kony” (Invisible Children). Although support grew rapidly, it faded just as fast. No new videos were released to encourage or support the efforts made by humans all around the world to make him famous and Kony has yet to be captured. As well, Jason Russell has lost most of his credibility as the co-founder of Kony 2012 because of his naked mental breakdown in San Diego. Lesson learned: as media can make you, it can also break you. But a final example of media comes from the film, The Stoning of Soraya M., which tells the true story of Soraya whose husband wanted to marry a young girl but rather not support his wife and their two daughters. He calls the imam of the village and other elders to form a mob ruling in where she is accused of a crime she never committed and eventually have her stoned to death. The original story was documented by a French journalist, Friedoune Sahabjam who happened upon this village in 1986 and published the story which, although has taken many years to become globally acknowledged, has reached international attention as they received runner-up against Slumdog Millionare for an award at the Toronto International Film Festival (The Stoning of Soraya M.).

These examples show media at its best and worst, but the impact it has on society is unforgettable. These stories from films, articles, and reports make headlines and call for action to be done. If women’s education in Afghanistan wants to receive the most support so that people can know they are treated and expend proof that there is a problem, media has to be the best answer. It starts with journalists becoming involved in an idea to provoke society’s norms and dive into the lives of these women to show what is really going on and how others can help. The Asia Foundation has released numerous reports on girls’ education from journalists working in Kabul and UNICEF releases documents annually about the progress reported in their work and what the work includes. These are all forms of social media as these documents are shared on the web but are not marketed to more websites or news sources. As for the U.S. government, reports come out usually under the radar because Congress is working on current U.S. issues and in Afghanistan’s government, not all proclamations or laws are recognized by its people due to limited web access and little care for these declarations. But the use of journalists conveying information and stories comes as the best way to provide support both financially and physically by creating a call to action internationally.

In conclusion, media is an outlet where anyone can express and share ideas, but why not use a daily part of humans’ social life to make a change in the world? More journalists need to recognize the acceptance of media in all forms from worldwide usage. While the major problems that limit women’s education in Afghanistan remain child marriage, lack of female school teachers, the terror attacks at schools, and the traditional interpretation of Shari’a law hinder the goals of governmental sectors, non-governmental and non-profit women and international groups, a solution that has yet to be released in the form of social media from films, articles, and concerned journalists.

 Works Cited

“Afghanistan.” Def. A. Encyclopedia of Human Rights. 2012. 2009. Oxford Reference. Oxford

University Press, 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. <

<http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195334029.001.0001/acref-9780195334029-e-1?rskey=6Foyk1&result=3&q>.

“Afghanistan Country Office Education Factsheet UNICEF.” Ministry of Education, Education

Interim Plan (2011): n. pag. UNICEF. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.  <http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/files/ACO_Education_Factsheet_-_November_2011_.pdf>.

Ayubi, Najla. “Women’s Biggest Problems in Afghanistan.” In Asia Weekly Insight and

Analysis from The Asia Foundation (2007): n. pag. The Asia Foundation. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

<http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2010/01/27/womens-biggest-problems-in-afghanistan/>.

Benard, Cheryl, et al. Women and Nation-Building. Santa Monica: RAND, 2008. Print.

“Education.” National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) 2008-2018. N.p.:

Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 2008. 95-105. Ministry of Women’s Affairs Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <http://mowa.gov.af/en/page/6686>.

Emadi, Hafizullah. Culture and Customs of Afghanistan. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2005.

Print.

Girl Rising. Dir. Richard Robbins. 2013. Ten Times Ten and Vulcan Productions, 2013. Film.

<http://girlrising.com/>.

Invisible Children. Fifty and Fifty, n.d. Web. 2 May 2013.

<http://invisiblechildren.com/>.

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The Constitution of Afghanistan. Kabul: GPO, 26 Jan. 2004.

Web. <http://www.afghanembassy.com.pl/cms/uploads/images/Constitution/The%20Constitution.pdf>.

The Stoning of Soraya M. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2013.

<http://www.thestoning.com/flash.php#/home/>.

United States. Institute of Peace. Center for Gender and Peacebuilding. United States Institute of

Peace Special Report: Peacebuilding Efforts from Women in Afghanistan and Iraq Lessons in Transition. 319. Washington: GPO, 2012. Ed. Kathleen Kuehnast, Steven Steiner, and Hodei Sultan. Dec. 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo31547/SR319.pdf>.

2 United States. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Office

of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Greater Coordination Needed in Meeting Congressional Directives to Address and Report on the Needs of Afghan Women and Girls. SIGAR Audit-10-13. Arlington: GPO, 2010. Ed. John Brummet. 30 July 2010. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo4867/SIGAR%20Audit-10-13.pdf>.

Joan of Arc: Feminist Leader, Prophet, Influence to all

 

Joan of Arc: Feminist Leader, Prophet, Influence to all

Joan of Arc

This picture of Joan of Arc (Barrett), beautified Saint of the Catholic Church, has come to resemble all the aspects of a female heroine and celebrated strategist who fought for French territory over England under King Charles VII’s rule. This picture comes to depict some of the major feats Joan believed in or fought for between October 1428 to May 30th, 1431 when she was burned at the stake. Joan was born in Doremy, France Jan. 6th, 1412 and lived a simple life, sewing and painting in courtly order to become a well-educated housewife. But Joan was described as being ‘too religious’ by her friends as she would kneel down and pray in the middle of the day while others would mock her. She started hearing voices at age thirteen from Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and Saint Michael (Murray). These voices told her that she must be the one to take back France from Anglo-Burgundian rule in God’s name. All of her missions were in the name of God. To Charles VII, in line to take the throne for the King of France, Joan declared “In the name of God! The soldiers will fight and God will give the victory! In the name of God! I have not come to Poitiers to give signs but take me to Orleans and I shall show you signs for which I have been sent!” (Frohlick).

Joan of Arc’s visions, mission, conquests, successes, and defeat originally stemmed from hearing voices. Saints would not necessarily hear voices from God rather, followed God’s vocation for their lives and lived by his word. Joan of Arc herself was highly influenced by the saints of this time period (Murray), when most Europeans were Christian and devotedly followed their church’s doctrines, such as Joan did growing up. The idea of doing something in the name of God was practiced in different aspects through this period. The Inquisition was held in the name of God’s favor, the Crusades were led in God’s holy name, and devout worshippers of the gospel led to the rise of monasteries and nunneries. A dedicated, driven, and passionate Christian, Joan of Arc (also known from her family name, Jeanne la Pucelle) has risen as a leader of the Catholic Church since her execution in Rouen’s Old Market Square. Joan comes as a symbol of not only peace and a glorified martyr, but as one of the first recognized feminists of the time. She never took off her armor in trials, she led the French military in battles across France to take back its land, she followed God’s voice to eventually gain back most of France, and died for her faith all before age nineteen (Warner 189).

One could say that the Inquisition highly influenced the rise of suspected witchcraft leading up to the horrific Salem witch trials beginning in 1692, but Joan’s condemnation and nullification trials influenced the idea that women were to be suspected and accused of witchcraft. Her trials were met with new assessors daily from church officials who travelled across the country to examine her. If Joan had a regular audience to act as a jury and an official inquisitor who questioned her voices and actions, her argument would have remained consistent. Had she had an appointed inquisitor, her argument’s consistency would prove strong enough to where she may have faced a punishment or be imprisoned rather than be condemned as heretical. But Joan was questioned by multiple inquisitors who asked the same questions in different forms and she would refuse to answer or respond by asking them to refer to her earlier answers, which made the assessor’s job difficult, and overall, did not favor Joan (Warner 120-121).

Just like Joan was questioned by many accusers in her trials, so were the women charged within the Salem witch trials. In a typical trial, an accuser would make a claim stating that a person or a group of people were witches to the Magistrate. From there, those accused were persecuted by a number of trials where they were deemed witches or usually received some other type of punishment. Pertaining to Salem, Massachusetts, “witches” were hanged after being convicted for witchcraft.

All accusers of Joan found her guilty of one common theme, her voices (Warner 88-89), stating the voices she heard were not those of saints, but of illusions and that these voices were not consistent with each other. One account of Joan’s fist message from her “voices” states: “Joan, you must lead another life and perform wondrous deeds; for you are she whom the King of Heaven has chosen to bring reparation to the kingdom of France and protection to King Charles” (Frohlick). Assessors, after hearing claims like these from Joan about her so-called voices brought about the suspicion of heresy, and from thereon Joan was considered a heretic.

There came a point in Joan’s trials where they questioned whether these proclamations came from her own goals to save France or those of actual saints she was hearing, and from there her argument deteriorated. A cross-examiner, Beaupere, began asking detailed questions about things that most Christians might consider unexplainable, and Joan would then start refusing to answer questions or say things that didn’t necessarily coincide with what she said to any other examiner (Warner 89). Accusers found a way to break down her argument. In order to make Joan look unknowledgeable about her visions, assessors asked detailed questions that may have or may have not pertained to the whether she was heretical. By not answering correctly to these questions, Joan was proclaimed as a heretic and was ordered to be burned alive at the stake.

Salem officials looked to the trials of the Inquisition, especially the famous trials of Joan of Arc to begin witchcraft examinations within their community. Joan’s assessors looked past her sharp, witty rhetoric to ask meaningless questions that pursued recollections of her saints and voices, but, since she couldn’t answer as intellectually as she thought she could, her argument broke down. As for the Salem witch trials, the officials found the most radical accusations from townspeople to question the women without hesitation. Once heresy was found to be the most common practice of witches among these women, the community of Salem joined into the trials as if they were some type of entertainment; such as it was in Joan’s case, where people would come to hear her trials and wait patiently for her punishment, as if it were a show the community was waiting to attend on opening night.

Now Joan wasn’t necessarily guided by a blind faith because, as she pointed out in her trials, she could see the faces of her saints but not their bodies (Keko), and that there was a light that came from the voices. Joan said she spoke with these saints daily and that they were not to be named. Joan never gave the name of these saints except to King Charles until she was forced to in her trials when she was trying to save her own life. Her trials were conducted in such a way that she was to know every aspect of her faith in the saints, down to details of clothing that they wore (Lucie-Smith 267). Paying attention to the color of the clothes a saint is wearing would matter very little in comparison to what the saint is saying. Instead of focusing on her intent, her successes in battle, or her faith in God as well, the assessors chose to focus on Joan’s voices and condemn her for listening to them.

Joan of Arc became recognized not only as a famous heroine and saint in the Catholic Church but was received as a leader and founder of the feminist movement. The women’s suffrage was a great example of Joan’s influence on women as Joan came to represent more than just a simple-minded girl lost in history books, she symbolized individual and independent thinking. In her trials, Joan was not afraid to ask questions in a rhetorical manner back to her inquisitors. She would give short answers because she believed the questions being asked had a simple answer. As seen in Joan’s public examination trials she would say that she had already answered that question and would often refer to what she had previously said, like when she would refuse to swear on the Bible because she had already performed the oath in the first trial (Murray). In a time when a woman was required to stay in the house and do work like take care of children and clean, the idea to even fight for a cause as a female was ridiculous and pathetic as women did not engage in political arguments with men or superiors.

Just as the women in the suffrage movement were fighting for their rights within their sex and the rights for all females as a nation, Joan too would make the claim that she was fighting not based on her own agenda and mindset but rather she fought based off her voices in a mission for God. “Everything that I have done that was good I did by command of my voices,” Joan said in response to the inquisitors about how she governed her conduct (Lucie-Smith 15).  Joan influenced the coming of the women’s suffrage movement in the 1920’s by fighting for the greater good of her country rather than fight based on her own interests. While the suffrage movement was based out of individual females pursuing their own rights separately, the greater good for all women of the U.S was being fought for. Not only were these women of the suffrage movement fighting for their own right, or the nation’s rights, they were fighting for women of the future (Lewis). In our society today, would the typical woman be able to educate her mind and shape herself as an equal intellectual among men if the suffrage movement did not occur and her rights were not recognized? Joan of Arc influenced the idea that men and women could be equal in both an intellectual aspect as well as a physical aspect.

Joan represents the fact that females could fight and had the strength of men. In Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism by Marina Warner, Joan is portrayed as a girl on a mission to gain the Anglo-Burgundian land back for the future French king, Charles VII, as she fought like a man when she laid assaults on Orleans, Rheims, Paris, St. Pierre, La Charite-sur-Loire, and Lagny (Warner xxi-xxvi). She is described as fighting with honor under God’s will. This led to the beginning of women stepping out of a traditional role to fulfill the physical characteristics of men. From her example, women were allowed to fight in wars, play in dominantly-male sports, be educated in traditionally male schools and universities, be employed as equals alongside men in the workforce, and become more than just the stereotypical housewife position.

Recently, on May 16th, 1920, Joan of Arc was made a saint in the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XV. Her visions, unyielding drive in and out of her faith in God, and determination to die for her God made her a saint. Coincidently, three months later on August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment was added to the constitution. The 19th Amendment allowed women to vote, all in response towards the women’s suffrage movement. Joan’s representation in the women’s suffrage movement is best seen when Inez Milholland rode on top of a white horse with a white cape leading a suffrage march in Washington. Milholland wanted to symbolize Joan as an example for all women to follow; to not be afraid to step into a man’s role, as women will succeed (Library of Congress). As this just appears to be an act of fate, the two recognizable acts, Joan’s canonization and the 19th amendment, go hand in hand as she symbolized women’s’ power to overcome the boundaries set before them.

In accordance to Joan’s saints, Christians are still guided by a somewhat blind faith. We neither see nor feel God, but Christians do talk to him and follow His word. We try to understand where he comes from, where humans come from, how we are formed and what we were made to do on this Earth etc., and Christianity provides an answer to these questions, the Bible, but the Bible does not answer everything. Christians follow a faith in God because they believe that is the way to eternal life in Heaven, among other things. Looking at Christians who compare themselves to Joan of Arc, one can see that Christians are trying to pursue the same type of enlightenment that she received from her voices. If Joan was pursued as harshly as she was then, because of her devotion to God, should Christians not also receive the same type of punishment? Since these are modernized times, the idea to be burned at the stake and become a martyred saint would most likely not happen, but it comes to show that although times have changes, voices from God are still heard today. Joan should not have received any type of punishment by the church if Christians today listen to the same voices from God.

Joan of Arc was a celebrated woman nearly twenty years after her death but received hate and spite from her comrades and enemies. While her trials, conducted by corrupt church officials, led to history repeating itself during the Salem witchcraft trails, she became a feminist heroine by setting the stage for acts of women power where anyone can step into a male-dominated role and succeed where her voices are not a thing of the past but are present in Christianity today. From Warner’s Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism,

“Joan of Arc is a preeminent heroine because she belongs to the sphere of action, while so many feminine figures or models are assigned and confined to the sphere of doing something on her own, not by birthright. She has extended the taxonomy of female types; she makes evident the dimension of women’s dynamism” (Warner 9).

From this research one can see that Joan of Arc came to represent a lot more than a folk-tale heroine from history books; instead her influence has spread across multiple genres of topics and is still discussed thoroughly in Christianity, law, and women today. She is the ultimate role model for young girls to aspire to be something more than what they think they can be.

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Frohlick, Virginia. “Saint Joan of Arc Center.” The Saint Joan of Arc Center. n.d. Web. 28

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Keko, Don. “Joan of Arc: The Visions.” The Examiner. 29 May 2011. Newspaper Article. 28

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. “August 26, 1920 The Day the Suffrage Battle Was Won.” About.com.

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