Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Violent countries for women

By Kelly Wakefield

A month ago, the UK media reported on findings from the Trust Law Danger Poll (213 gender experts from five continents were asked to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks. The risks were health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking) highlighting the world’s five most dangerous countries for women.  Afghanistan topped the poll, emerging worst in three of the six risk catgories, followed by Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia.  Threats to women in these countries range from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide, genital mutilation and acid attacks.  The Telegraph reported Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world as saying that “ongoing conflict, Nato airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women.”

Chatterjee (2011) discusses how local conflict may be influenced by processes of globalisation and argues that in order to understand how globalisation may be implicated in local violent events, it is essential to develop a nuanced understanding of the complexities of global–local interaction in places.  The case study used was of a Hindu-Muslim conflict which happened in 2002 in Ahmedabad city, India.  Although Chatterjee’s article does not directly discuss gender explicitly, it is a useful article to read to grasp a better understanding of how dangers to women can manifest within particular countries and cultures.

The Telegraph highlighted how ‘the poll showed that subtle dangers such as discrimination that don’t grab headlines are sometimes just as significant risks for women as bombs, bullets, stonings and systematic rape in conflict zones’. These subtle dangers are seemingly less headline grabbing than violent outbursts but very much underpin the everyday lives of women in these countries.  For example 87% of Aghan women are illiterate, in Congo 57% of pregnant women are anaemic, in Pakistan women earn 82% less than men,  in India 44.5% of women are married before they are 18 years of age and in Somalia only 9% of women give birth in a health facility.  These statistics truly make the countries in the Danger Poll dangerous to women because of their ingrained nature.

Chatterjee, I (2011) How are they othered?  Globalisation, identity and violence in an Indian city. The Geographical Journal, Online.

Trust Law, The World’s Most Five Dangerous Countries for Women

The Telegraph, 15th June 2011, Afghanistan named most dangerous country for women

Libya and geographies of insecurity

by Fiona Ferbrache

As some foreign governments have been organising the evacuation of their citizens from Libya, other migrants in the country have been left to fend for themselves.  Many people in Libya are thus stranded and left to face various insecurities as unrest continues to unfold.  It is estimated that 1.5 million Egyptians live and work in Libya, many of whom are now fleeing the country and the threat of maltreatment.  For Egyptians, the insecurities against them have risen, following the accusation that Egyptians are partly responsible for recent uprising in the country.

BBC News, reporting on events in the Middle East (2011), provides an indication of the number of foreign citizens in Libya, and how their various governments are responding to the crisis.

Events in Libya strike a chord with a forthcoming article in TIBG: Fluri (in press) explores geographies of security in contemporary conflict zones.  Her analysis examines the everyday (gendered) sites and situations of civilian security in relation to civilian movements and mobility, and is informed by feminist discourses of political geography.  Fluri’s work presents examples of civilian (in)security in Afghanistan, but she is eager to emphasise that this place-specific analysis is not intended to limit spatial understanding of security to one place.  Fluri urges for additional research of conflict zones, not only to broaden epistemologies of civilian (in)securities, but also to respond and manage civilian lives in places and moments of instability and threat – places such as Libya.

Fluri, J.L. (in press) Bodies, bombs and barricades: geographies of conflict and civilian (in)security. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

BBC News (2011) Libya protests: Evacuation of foreigners continues.  Online 25 February, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12552374 Accessed 26 February, 2011

Geographical Location: Iran’s Trump Card

Iran and Iraq, 2010.

Benjamin Sacks

ALREADY INVOLVED in an ongoing entanglement with the United States, Western Europe, and the Russian Federation concerning its nuclear weapons programme, the Islamic Republic of Iran  recently stepped up its political influence in neighbouring Iraq. The 17 October 2010 edition of The Guardian reported that ‘Iran has brokered  a critical deal with its regional neighbours that could see a pro-Tehran government installed in Iraq, a move that would shift the fragile country sharply away from a sphere of western influence’. In negotiations denounced by opposition leader Ayad Allawi as an Iranian attempt at ‘interfering and trying to impose its will on Iraq’, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki requested that Iran as well as Iraq’s other neighbours more actively assist in the economic and cultural reconstruction of a country still struggling to rebuild after the 2003 American- and British-led invasion.

Iran’s desire to establish itself as the regional hegemonic power is deeply rooted in its geographical location. The country connects the great trading routes of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf; to the west lie Iraq and Turkey. The former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan hug Iran’s northern frontier and, along Iran’s eastern edge is Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran’s location is well-suited for geopolitics; for centuries the Persian Empire held enormous influence over the Middle East, Asia Minor, West Africa, and further east, in the tribal Himalaya, Koh-i-Bābā, and Hindu Kush ranges. The southern silk roads traversed Iran’s northern expanse, connecting culturally-rich Persia to the Mediterranean city-states, India and China.

In a 1987 paper marking the centennial of the establishment of the first chair in geography at the University of Oxford, then-Secretary of Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Baroness J Young reminded her audience that, ‘Politics and geography are inevitably and irrevocably inter-twined’. Iran is an archetypal example. Between 1980 and 1988 Iran and Iraq fought a horrifically violent war, fueled by long-standing tension over bilateral borders, mineral and oil claims and ethnic rights. Although the conflict ultimately ended with the borders unchanged, The Iran-Iraq conflict highlighted Tehran’s geographical vulnerability – at the crossroads of so many civilisations, nation-states, and historical feuds. Indeed, Iran’s historical and contemporary trading links complicate its perceived global position vis-à-vis the international community; in a 2000 article published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Jessie P H Poon, Edmund R Thompson and Philip F Kelly suggested that, within a twenty-year period (1975-1995), Iran’s principal trading bloc shifted from Latin and South America to Europe.

Iran’s current dilemma, then, is to increase its soft-power impact across the Middle East and enhance its geographical fortifications. Through close cooperation with Syria, Lebanon, and political and ethnic factions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tehran can achieve both aims. A political alliance with Baghdad, in particular, would increase Iran’s physical buffer with Israel (and by default, the United States and NATO), while also affirming Iran’s geopolitically-dominant position in the region.

Iran’s behaviour may have consequences far beyond the immediate threat of its nuclear technology ambitions. Hussein A Amery suggested in 2002 that tensions over the so-called ‘Fertile Crescent’ of the western Middle East could erupt into armed conflict. Iran, with its pervasive reach in Israel’s northern borders, as well as plentiful water access, could play a decisive role in determining the resolution of such a conflict, in turn strengthening Hizbullah  and other extremist organizations (320).

Martin Chulov, ‘Iran brokers behind-the-scenes deal for pro-Tehran government in Iraq‘, The Guardian, 17 October 2010, accessed 18 October 2010.

Iraqi PM Maliki seeks Iran’s help in reconstruction‘, BBC News, 18 October 2010, accessed 18 October 2010.

Baroness J Young, ‘Geography and Politics‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 12 no. 4 (1987): pp. 391-397.

Jessie P H Poon, Edmund R Thompson and Philip F Kelly, ‘Myth of the Triad? The Geography of Trade and Investment “Blocs‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 25 no. 4 (2000): pp. 427-444.

Hussein A Amery, ‘Water Wars in the Middle East: A Looming Threat‘, The Geographical Journal 168 no. 4 Water Wars? Geographical Perspectives (Dec., 2002): pp. 313-323.

A Special Relationship?

By Alexander Leo Phillips

Originally coined by Winston Churchill in 1946, the ‘Special Relationship’ between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America has been tested in recent months. With splits in Middle East policy, the BP oil spill and anti-UK rhetoric by the US administration; it appears to some that maintaining the closest of ties to the US is no longer in the UK’s national interest.  So much so that a committee of MPs have even suggested that the term be officially dropped in all UK documentation.  They concluded that “the overuse of the phrase by some politicians and many in the media serves simultaneously to de-value its meaning and to raise unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the UK.”

It’s been clear for many years now that the balance of global power has shifted away from the once dominate United States to the emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, who look set to dictate the course of the 21st Century.  The UK has embraced this transition with unrivaled vigor and sort closer links with these nations. India in particular has been the target of Britain’s new coalition government; exemplified by Prime Minister Cameron’s visit there last week where he stated his intent to “take the relationship between India and Britain to the next level. [He] want[s] to make it stronger, wider and deeper.”

Britain’s ever evolving relationship with the USA has long been of interest to Human Geographers, focusing in particular on how the UK has situated itself as a bridge between America and European states such as France and Germany.  This relationship has been charted by Simon Tate in Area, who suggests that the diplomatic failures of the former Labour government where the result of an outdated geopolitical strategy.

Tate, S. 2009. ‘The high wire act: a comparison of British transatlantic foreign policies in the Second World War and the war in Iraq, 2001-2003’, Area, 41 (2). pp. 207 – 218.

The Geography of Elections

Casting a vote in AfghanistanBy Jenny Lunn

This year there have been elections on every continent. From the world’s largest democracy (India) to one of Europe’s smallest principalities (Liechtenstein), people have gone to the polls.

Apparently 99.98 per cent of all registered voters in North Korea took part in the parliamentary elections in March and – unsurprisingly – every single vote was cast for the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Meanwhile in Japan’s general election in August, a landslide victory by the Democratic Party of Japan ousted the party which has been in power almost continuously since 1955.

Afghanistan held a presidential election in August, which was characterised by widespread electoral fraud, a media blackout and violence on polling day; since neither of the front-runners achieved the 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off is scheduled for November. On the other hand, the campaign for the German federal election in September was widely acclaimed as being exceptionally boring and returned Angela Merkel as Chancellor with the lowest turnout since the war.

But whether elections are predictable, disputed, dull or monumental, they are “a geographer’s delight” according to Johnston and Pattie in Geography Compass. Almost every aspect of elections can be the subject of geographical analysis. The political system of representation is a spatial arrangement. Campaigning strategies require knowledge of territoriality. The organisation and conduct of an election is a logistical exercise conducted simultaneously in many different places. The behaviour of voters is often connected to regional, cultural or religious identities. The data generated from votes cast can be cartographically represented.

Johnston and Pattie’s article reviews empirical work by geographers on British general elections over the last 60 years and conclude that “in the conduct and outcome of elections, geography matters”.

60% world

Read the article by Johnston and Pattie in Geography Compass (2009)

60% world

Link to a directory of election resources on the internet