Writing from the Brandeis in The Hague spring semester program
On April 26, 2012 Charles Taylor was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 11 criminal counts.
Charles Taylor was the President of Liberia, 1997 to 2003. He was convicted of aiding and abetting brutal rebel movements that committed mass atrocities in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 90’s. The Trial Court found he had helped plan the capture of diamond mines and the invasion of the capital, Freetown. During the movement, over 50,000 people died, while countless others fled the country or took refuge in camps. Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
When I first laid eyes on Mr. Taylor, I was extremely surprised by his demeanor. He appeared in a blue pinstriped suit with a maroon tie. During the reading, he sat stoically, occasionally taking notes with a yellow ballpoint pen. I expected to see a man capable of great violence, a person who ordered the deaths of thousands for the sake of diamonds and personal gain. Instead, I saw a man looking a little sad, with no evil gleam in his eye as he was convicted of aiding & abetting with the planning of:
- 5 counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape, sexual slavery, other inhumane acts, and enslavement.
- 5 counts of violations of Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions: acts of terrorism, violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder; outrages upon personal dignity; violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment; and pillage.
- 1 count of conscripting or enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15 years.
His sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday May 30, 2012.
The Office of the Prosecutor used great innovation to prove Taylor’s connection to the crimes committed in Sierra Leone while he lived in Liberia. They referenced radio and telephone intercepts and brought in radio operators who had connected Mr. Taylor’s residence in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, to the rebels in Sierra Leone. Taylor’s head of security, bodyguards and other associates testified about arms and ammunition shipments for use by the rebel forces. Bank records proved tax payments entered into Taylor’s personal bank account that were used for the war effort. Continue reading “Front Row Seats at the Trial of Charles Taylor”
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca can be seen for miles in each direction when not blocked by buildings. Built on the coast, jutting into the ocean with views of the beach from each side, the clean lines and intricate designs of the tower starkly contrast with the surrounding dingy buildings of the industrial city. I visited on a gorgeous spring day, warm enough to take off my jacket, with droves of people visiting on their Sunday off from work. Entering from the street, two flanking buildings and fountains block the sheer scope of the mosque, but after passing into the courtyard the area feels like it belongs to a time and city apart.
Finished in 1993, the mosque does not belong to the distant past, but is designed to link the past with the present in aesthetics and function. The architecture is indelibly Islamic, but reminiscent of artistic visions of the future, with sweeping lines, slight curves, and the impeccable juxtaposition of intimate spaces in the covered walkways along the perimeter with the sweeping open space of the courtyard and the monumentality of the main mosque.
Couples, families, friends, and individuals roamed the grounds, and sat along the edges with a view of the rocky coast and beach. The mosque is not only unique due to its incredible architecture, but also is one of the few mosques open in Morocco to non-Muslims, at certain appointed tour times. I was unable to take one of such tours, because I arrived just prior to the noon prayers and so the mosque was open only to practitioners. At about 12:30pm, the call to prayer rang out from the tower. Immediately people began moving from the sidelines to the enormous main gate to pray. Not all went to pray, and many remained outside in the sun, sitting, walking, and talking. Continue reading “Monumentality and the Individual”
Y’en a marre or ‘Enough is enough’ are words written on walls all across the capital city of Dakar, Senegal. But these are notjust words. Y’en a marre is a youth movement led by rappers and journalists. As I took my hour-long walk down a main road to school every day, these words were put in context when I passed beggars and groups of lean-tos built on the side of the road. These images would reappear in my consciousness when there was a power cut again, as there was everyday for several hours. The sight of my neighborhood darkened by a power cut was particularly striking against the backdrop of the African Renaissance Monument in the distance. This 164ft monument was meant to symbolize Africa rising from a history of oppression yet its construction was estimated at $27 million while the majority of the population constantly struggled with poverty. The frustration towards these contradictions and life in Senegal was palpable as well. I could see it when my host mother would sigh, “What kind of country is this?!” or when we would meet a demonstration in the streets and be forced to find a different route.
This movement and these frustrations were also coming at a critical time in Senegalese history: a highly contested election. Then president, Abdoulaye Wade, was running for a third term despite the fact that he had passed a law restricting presidents to serving only two terms earlier in his presidency. Wade also faced widespread criticism and accusations of corruption. In many ways, Y’en a marre and the people of Senegal seemed to be dissatisfied with Wade and his presidency and considered this to be the cause for most problems. The preparations of the coming election were everywhere: walls were also graffitied with names of candidates and expressions of hope for 2012 and there were nightly debates on TV discussing the legality of Wade’s bid for candidacy. Continue reading “Y’en a marre (Enough is Enough)”
Editor’s note: Dr. Beatrice de Gasquet will moderate our discussion of “The Challenges of Global Migration” (this Wednesday, Feb. 15th, at 6:30 pm in the Mandel Center Reading Room).
Next fall Dr. de Gasquet will teach A Democratic Babel? Language Politics in Contemporary Europe. The class that will use language to explore topics in European politics such as European integration, the persistence of nationalisms, regionalism, minority rights and immigration.
What IGS classes have you taught at Brandeis?
In the Fall I was teaching a class called ‘Behind the Veil’ about religion and ethnicity in France. The idea was to start with the law banning the veil in schools (and later banning the full veil in public space) and then talk more broadly about issues of religion, politics, race and immigration in France. So we looked not only at Islam but also Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism in France to understand the history of religion, politics and secularism and how it intersects with the history of immigration in France. The point was to begin with a very specific issue and draw out the links with larger historical and political issues.
How do you think that these themes are relevant and useful for IGS students?
There were several things that came up especially in class discussions that are relevant for IGS students. For instance, depending on the country, the way people view the relationship between religion and politics is very different. Of course, the French view and the US view contrast quite nicely and this comparative aspect was very interesting to many students. I saw this in the presentations they did. Some talked about religion and politics in Morocco and Turkey so we had nice comparisons with other countries looking at race and immigration in different ways. There was another aspect that came up regarding the relationship between French and US politics. French politics, on many issues, is in part a reaction to a perceived threat to national identity or independence from either the US or Europe or immigration from North Africa. So we addressed this particular connection between religion and concerns about national identity in France as opposed to other countries such as the US. Continue reading “Interview with Florence Levy Kay Fellow Beatrice De Gasquet”
As an ex IGS UDR who helped launch this blog, it is with great warmth and pride that I return to this evolved platform to give you my story. After graduating in May 2011, I completed my GMAT, did the whole ‘Europe on a shoestring budget’ and went through the arduous process of finding a job. I must say that Brandeis prepared me well for all three situations by refining my academic skills, teaching me how to survive with very little money and providing me with the personal as well as professional skills and qualifications to get a real job.
Life lesson: no matter how skilled or qualified you may be, it is not easy to get a job in a place you enjoy. I was fortunately helped by The Lady (Luck for those not familiar with Pratchett’s Discworld!) and my resume landed in the hands of Rajesh Kamath; a man who single handed, launched, and took a TV channel from anonymity to number one in its genre in India in two years time. He had just been hired as the Indian CEO of an international venture, and only had a CFO working with him at that point. I was the third to join this team, due to opportune circumstances and relevant internships that I had done. I joined, and currently work in the India office of C.A. Media. Continue reading “The Business of Media in India”
This past spring I traveled outside of the United States for the first time in my life. I was on my way to Freiburg, Germany to spend four months in the IES European Union Program. I chose this program because of my interest in international politics and travel, and this opportunity afforded me a lot of both. I learned more about the EU than many European citizens know and I traveled to 13 different countries. It was an amazing experience in every aspect. I made great friends and had lots of fun traveling and visiting cities like Rome, London, Copenhagen, and Tallinn. I went sledding down an entire mountain in the Swiss Alps and I went hiking on the cliffs of the Mediterranean Ocean in Cinque Terre. I visited the UN in Geneva, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the Reichstag in Berlin, and even interned at the European Parliament in Brussels for a month.
My internship was probably the most exciting and interesting aspect of my study abroad experience. I lived in Brussels for a month and went to work at the European Parliament in the office of Zita Gurmai. Mrs. Gurmai is a socialist member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Hungary whose main interests are women’s rights and gender equality. While compiling information for Mrs. Gurmai’s visit to the U.S., I realized that gender issues are basically nonexistent in American politics right now. I also learned that socialism is a legitimate political ideology in Europe, and although it is a dirty word in American politics, many democratic positions are closer to socialism than democrats would care to admit. Europe as a whole is further left on the political spectrum than the U.S., although many social programs that Europeans take for granted are in danger of being cut by austerity measures. The Socialist & Democrat Party (S&D) that Mrs. Gurmai belongs to is strongly opposed to these cuts.
Continue reading “A European Summer”
Do we have to choose between the economy and the environment? Do emerging countries have to destroy their environments to thrive?
What if you could have “green growth?” What if you could eliminate the carbon emissions of 400,000 cars, cut a developing country’s international debt and, in the same deal, shift the economy toward more efficient agriculture?
It’s not fantasy. It’s forests. Fifteen percent of the world’s carbon emissions come from deforestation – more than all the world’s cars, airplanes and trains combined. Cut deforestation and you cut greenhouses gases – with minimal effect on economic growth.
Last year Greg Fishbein of The Nature Conservancy struck the deal I just described in Indonesia; he has arranged similar packages for Brazil, Costa Rica and is working on similar deals in Mexico and China. On Wednesday, November 16 he’s coming to Brandeis to join our next IGS Conversation: Green Growth: Environmentally Smart Economic Development
Wednesday Nov. 16, 7 PM (6:30 for pizza)
Mandel Center Reading Room (3rd Floor)
Featuring Greg Fishbein
Managing Director—Forest Carbon, The Nature Conservancy
Greg will be joined by Stephanie Karol, ’12 and Ben Rifkin, ’12, IGS seniors who will talk about what they learned about green growth while studying in Argentina and Madagascar respectively.
I hope you can join us!
One-Seventh of Humanity. An Exploding Economy. Key to Every Global Debate on the Environment, Security and Development.
GET TO KNOW THE WORLD’S NEW SUPERPOWER!
IGS 150A: The Rise of India
Spring 2012; Block V: T,Th 5:00 PM–6:20 PM
Taught by Dr. Avinash Singh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This fall IGS will be hosting “IGS Conversations,” a series of panels on the hottest current world issues. Global leaders and IGS seniors will the share the stage as they analyze the pressing issues of our times.
Our first discussion panel is scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 26, 2011 at 7 pm and will focus on government debts and their effect on the faltering world economy.
Are the United States and Europe bankrupt? What can be done about the international debt crisis? What happens if the European Union can’t bail out Greece – or Italy, or Spain? As the world economy teeters, should governments be cutting back or spending much more? And what effect does fear itself have over faltering economies of the West?
We are honored that Mr. Kent Lucken, a managing director with Citigroup, will join us for this conversation. As an international banker Mr. Lucken has extensive experience in global finance but he also knows European politics well. In his past career as a U.S.diplomat Mr. Lucken served in several embassies in Europe and is familiar with the roots of the continent’s economic crisis.
Joining Mr. Lucken will be our own Craig Elman and Adina Weissman, both recently returned from studying abroad in Europe. Craig, a double Economics and IGS major, will speak briefly on the debt crisis in Spain, where he studied for a semester, while Adina, a double major in economics and psychology, will talk about the intersection of public perception and economics in the debt crisis in England.
It all happens next Wednesday, October 26th in the Mandel Humanities Center Reading Room, up on the third floor. Come at 6:30 for pizza and informal conversation, then enjoy the panel and discussion from 7 pm on.
The “IGS Conversations” series is being managed by Joshua Cracraft, a PhD candidate in History who is also IGS’ Assistant Director for Academic Programming. Please do get in touch with Joshua (email@example.com) if you have ideas for future conversations.
I spent the semester of Spring 2010 working for Taylor Hampton Solicitors, a small law firm in London, England. We received a lot of phone calls and emails from concerned people at our office. Most of them were pulling at strings – people looking for attention, crazies with conspiracy theories, tipsters with no backing – but we followed up on every claim we could in case there was a bite on the other end of the line. During my four months, I got to experience some of the big bites but it was just after I left did the whole world realize that my last bite would end up snapping the line.
Taylor Hampton Solicitors specializes in media law and is located in the heart of London’s legal center. The lawyer I worked for at the firm was named Mark Lewis. Since mid-June he has been quoted in hundreds of publications all over the world. Why? He is one of the first, and one of the largest solicitors (a type of lawyer in the UK) working on the News of the World Phone Hacking case. His paramount case is that of the family of Milly Dowler – the 13-year-old girl whose phone was hacked while she was kidnapped and eventually found murdered. It was the case that brought down Rupert Murdoch’s historical tabloid ‘The News of the World’ and set into motion a chain of events that experts allege may eventually bring down Murdoch himself. Continue reading “London Calling, Yes I was There Too”