What Events Took Place at the Texas School Shooting?
Salvador Ramos, an 18-year-old gunman, killed 19 children and two adults in the deadliest school shooting in almost a decade. The school shooting has called for gun law reform in the US. The massacre occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24th 2022. The gunman reportedly shot his grandmother, who survived, before driving to the school to carry out the attack. The gun massacre in East Buffalo occurred just three days prior, where ten people were killed.
This marked the 30th school shooting at a K-12 school in the US. Since 1999, nearly 200 children and others have been killed in shootings on K-12 campuses in the US. Furthermore, the Washington Post held that 311,000 children have witnessed gun violence in places meant to be considered safe. However, these statistics do not begin to capture the true scope of this epidemic in the US.
The teenager had legally purchased two rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition days before the shooting. He killed 19 fourth-graders aged eight to 10 and two teachers with a semi-automatic rifle. Additionally, he injured seven others. The Texas Department of Public Safety held that the gunman was killed 78 minutes after entering the school. As a result of this, the Texas Police Department face criticism, and a full investigation is underway to revise the events that day.
Texas School Shooting Raises Debates Over Gun Law Reform
In 2020, guns became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers, overriding car accidents. Despite this, Congress allows teenagers easy access to guns without proper vetting. The Texas school shooting is another tragedy to add to the significant mass shootings in the last ten years. After so many mass shootings in the US, why are people still asking the same questions?
In December 2012, 20 children and six staff members died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This was the worst school shooting at an elementary school in US history. After this shooting, anti-gun activists proposed widening and reinforcing background checks for gun law reform. Consequently, with overwhelming support from the American public, these proposals for background checks passed in March 2021. However, the proposals have drained in the Senate, where they would need 10 Republican votes to overcome the filibuster. A filibuster is a political procedure in which one or more members of a legislative body prolong debate on proposed legislation to delay or entirely prevent decisions.
National Rifle Association
The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is a US gun rights advocacy group. Founded in 1871 to advance rifle marksmanship, the NRA has become a prominent gun-rights lobbying organization. The Texas school shooting has put significant financial pressure on the NRA and created internal turmoil. The NRA still has significant cash reserves for lobbying and influencing the US gun policy debate.
The NRA still went ahead with its annual pro-gun lobby Convention in Heuston, Texas, on May 27th 2022. Despite the Texas school shooting occurring 280 miles away from where the gunman shot 21 people three days prior, the Convention went ahead. Former President Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz were some of the high-profile Republicans participating in the event. The Republicans call for more significant investments in school security instead of focusing on gun reform. Gun reform activists criticized the Convention for going ahead with the event, calling for its cancellation out of respect for the victims and their families.
In addition to this, the NRA has donated an estimated $442,000 to Senator Ted Cruz’s political campaigns. The gun group has spent more than $2 million lobbying Texas state legislators as they have significantly loosened gun restrictions in Texas in the last five years. This has had considerable consequences for Texas, making it the epicentre of gun violence in the US. The US pro-gun advocates claim their rights under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.
US President Biden is Powerless in Demanding Gun Reform
US President Biden asked some agonizing questions in the hours following the Texas school shooting.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?
Why do we keep letting this happen?
Where in God’s name is our backbone?”.
These comments by Biden underscore just how powerless the US President is in contributing to significant lobbying for gun law reform. Republicans have been stonewalling for years on any significant federal gun safety legislation. Some US states are demanding gun reform following the recent large-scale shootings in New York and Texas. Democrats in some blue states are making new efforts to reinvigorate proposals toward what gun control advocates call “evidence-based policy interventions”.
Gun Violence Have A Long-term Negative Impact on Children For the Rest of Their Lives
Children who witness gun violence and see their classmates die are profoundly traumatized. Research by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health shows how children directly or indirectly involved in school shootings are still profoundly affected by them and often experience anxiety and depression. One 11-year-old student survivor from Robb Elementary School, Miah Cerrillo, recalls how she smeared her classmate’s blood on her face and played dead to avoid being targeted by the shooter.
A 2021 review published in Current Psychiatry Reports shows the effects of mass shootings on mental health of children and adolescents. The review found that children aged 2 to 9 who are directly or indirectly exposed to gun violence have increased rates of PTSD. However, older children aged 10-19 need several exposures to violence for it to lead to PTSD. The research concluded that “younger children are more sensitive to violence and develop psychological symptoms post-exposure to violence at higher rates”.
Moreover, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, described the Texas school shooting as “heart-wrenching”.
Disproportionate Impact of School Shootings Affect Children of Color
The Washington Post conducted a study that found a disproportionate impact of school shootings affect children of colour.
Caption: Statistics obtained from the Washington Post. The image shows how black students make up 16.6% of the school population but still experience school shootings disproportionately at twice that rate (33%).
Is This the Moment to Reform US Gun Laws?
In November 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association jointly declared a national children’s mental health emergency. Gun violence and mass shootings are ubiquitous in the US, contributing to a worsening mental health crisis.
The Democrats and Republicans must find a middle ground in improving gun regulations to prevent future mass shootings. The next few days will demonstrate whether both parties can reach a bipartisan deal. Will the Texas school shooting serve as another reminder that Congress will be unable to create meaningful change? Or will they be able to compromise and stop future attacks?
Pakistan’s Climate Crisis: A Peek Into The Apocalyptic Future That Awaits
One-third of Pakistan Submerged By “Monsoon On Steroids”
The world has faced much climate crisis devastation over the decades. However, in August 2022, the climate carnage in Pakistan brought this crisis into a whole new ball game. The image above is from the New Humanitarian, showing people attempting to flee the floods. The climate-induced flooding has affected over 50 million people. This disaster has left one-third of Pakistan underwater, with some parts resembling “a small ocean”.
The Pakistan flooding indicates the consequences of the universal and rapacious climate crisis unravelling at unprecedented speed. However, it seems that most of the world hasn’t considered Pakistan’s epic humanitarian crisis for what it represents.
Pakistan has a famine looming, $30 billion in economic loss, 50 million people internally displaced, and a high threat of a malaria epidemic present as floodwater lies stagnant. Furthermore, an entire generation in Pakistan is deprived access to essential services in health and education. Deaths will rise with colder winter months approaching and millions left without homes.
Climate Crisis in Pakistan is Beyond Bleak
For decades, Pakistan has seen record-breaking temperatures, torrential rains, glacial melt, droughts, and floods. This current weather disaster is the most extreme torrential rainfall and devastating flash floods Pakistan has seen in 73 years. Millions have fled their homes with little more than rags to protect them from scorching high temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius. Pakistan is one of the world’s top ten most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index but only contributes to less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority updated the death toll from the crisis since mid-June to 1,545 people and 552 children. This disaster spurred the United Nations to issue its largest-ever disaster appeal, at over $2 billion.
The Plight of Pakistani Children During A Climate Crisis
The flooding has adversely affected millions of children since the crisis started. Due to the extreme flooding, children in Pakistan are battling diarrhoea, malaria, dengue fever, and painful skin conditions. According to UNICEF, 3.4 million children urgently need immediate life-saving support and humanitarian assistance.
Approximately 16 million children are without homes, lack access to safe drinking water, and live in unsanitary conditions. Millions of children are at increased risk of water-borne diseases, drowning, and malnutrition. In addition, the flooding exacerbates the threat of snakes, scorpions and mosquitoes, all of which carry life-threatening diseases.
The International Communities Response to The Climate Crisis
There has been silence from prominent international figures and western media outlets concerning Pakistan. In the first week of the floods, more newspaper articles covered the Finnish prime minister’s social life than the unfolding weather event. This questions the global outlook and prioritization concerning climate change.
The flooding has sparked an ongoing debate regarding broader issues of responsibility for loss and damage endured by nations affected by climate change. Global warming is primarily caused by the Global North’s disregard for the environment and excessive release of greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite the Global North’s overwhelming contribution to the crisis, there is still a complete disregard for the pain suffered by Pakistanis in its international response.
Double Standards and Racism in response to Various Humanitarian Crisis‘
The international response to Pakistan is minuscule compared to Ukraine, where around 12 million people were displaced. Comparatively, this figure represents a third of the displaced people in Pakistan, reaching over 50 million. World leaders criticize the international community’s focus on the war in Ukraine. The same attention is not given to crises in other parts of the world. The mass media apply double standards to reporting depending on the race and nationality of those affected by the humanitarian crisis.
The international communities’ weak response is either a form of racism and ideology that terrible things happen in places like Pakistan or an utter failure of compassion.
Climate Change Discriminates Against Women and Girls
Women and children are facing a dangerous downwards spiral of hunger and malnutrition. In Pakistan, there are 650,000 pregnant women and girls. Moreover, 73,000 mothers are expected to deliver in the coming weeks. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says many women lack access to health-care facilities and support to deliver their children safely.
Climate change continues to exacerbate maternal and newborn health inequities. Aid groups report that many mothers are anaemic and malnourished and deliver very low-weight babies. In addition, mothers are too ill to breastfeed their children.
Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in South Asia. The majority of Pakistani women give birth at home. However, with millions of homes destroyed, many women do not know where they will deliver their babies in the coming months or years.
The Pakistani crisis highlights how climate change disproportionately impacts women and girls. In Sindh province, more than 1,000 health facilities have been fully or partially destroyed. In Balochistan province, flooding damaged 198 health facilities.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential for a second disaster in Pakistan: a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change, that has severely impacted vital health systems leaving millions vulnerable”World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Political Instability in Pakistan
In August 2022, Pakistan had a 27% inflation rate. The Pakistani rupee crashed, and net foreign reserves fell to $8 billion. Pakistan continues to face political instability due to a showdown involving the government, the military, and ex-prime minister Imran Khan. This makes it difficult to carry out an effective flood response and begin rebuilding people’s lives.
Furthermore, political instability has resulted in food insecurity and electricity and fuel shortages.
Government Inaction and Lack of Disaster Preparedness
The government should have done more in the past few decades to flood-proof communities within Pakistan and prepare.
Climate scientists warned that this situation would arrive. Moreover, it will take years to rebuild infrastructure and homes in Pakistan. The damage is worse than the 2010 flooding, which killed 1700 people. The death toll is expected to be higher, indicating that the Pakistani government did not learn anything from the 2010 flooding.
While climate change is the critical driver behind Pakistan’s extreme weather, policy experts held that the flooding was exacerbated by government inaction and mismanagement, structural inequalities in marginalized areas, and poor policy-based decisions.
Thousands of villages saw broken drainage systems and swamped roads. Although raising climate awareness is essential, we must shift the discourse to climate preparedness. Pakistani officials place much blame on climate change but use this as a scapegoat for their incompetence. Developed countries should be helping poorer nations to prepare for climate change disasters. This is the responsibility of more prosperous nations in the Global North, who are responsible for the level of greenhouse gas emissions currently in the atmosphere.
This humanitarian crisis has shown us that we must develop an impactful, inclusive, and holistic climate preparation plan to address future flooding. International assistance is essential to help Pakistan’s fragile political and economic environment.
This climate crisis should also serve as a wake-up call for world leaders in the Global North to reduce emissions drastically.
UN secretary-general António Guterres held that the world should stop “sleepwalking” through this climate crisis. We must start thinking more seriously about how to prevent such disasters in the future.
Today it is Pakistan, but tomorrow it could be your country.
Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians Reveals West’s Double Standards
Ceasefire Following Three-day Israeli Bombardment in Gaza
A ceasefire on Sunday, 7th August 2022, ended another unjustified three-day Israeli bombardment in the besieged apartheid Gaza strip. Devastating figures reveal the civilian cost of the escalation and the impact of crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced operation “Breaking Dawn” on Friday, 5th August 2022. Israel fired shots at targets it claimed were linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), killing a senior commander in the PIJ. The operation caused inconceivable damage to local civilians and infrastructure with a complete disregard for human life.
The UN Human Rights Office held that 49 Palestinians were killed, including 17 children, with more than 360 people injured. Nearly two-thirds of those injured were civilians, including 151 children, 58 women and 19 older people. Furthermore, 19 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied Palestinian territory in the past week. There were no serious injuries to report from Israel.
Most Severe Flare-up Since May 2021
Last week’s hostilities were the most severe flare-up on the Gaza strip since May 2021, when Israel attacked Gaza killing 256 Palestinians, including 66 children. In Israel, 13 people were killed, including two children. Israel has imposed tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza since 2007. The 15-year blockade has left the occupied territory of Palestine teetering on the edge of a humanitarian disaster. Following the ceasefire, the aftershock of trauma sets in for Palestinians, leaving millions of lives shattered.
15-year Land, Air and Sea Blockade in Gaza
The Gaza Strip, home to 2.1 million people, has been under an Israeli-imposed land, sea and air blockade for the past 15 years. The map below shows where the Gaza strip lies in relation to Israel and the main refugee camps.
Israel continues to launch airstrikes into densely packed cities and neighbourhoods filled predominantly with civilians. Shockingly, since 2008, Israel has initiated four conflicts in Gaza, killing approximately 4000 people, including 600 children.
Israel’s Systematic Apartheid Against the Palestinians
Israel’s apartheid of the Palestinian people is a cruel system of domination and crimes against humanity. Moreover, Israel commits unlawful killings, forcible transfers and drastic movement restrictions on Palestinians. Additionally, due to the blockade, Gaza lacks access to food, water, essential medicines, and commodities. Palestinians must smuggle food and medicines through illegal tunnels, which the IDF regularly bomb. Israel continues to carry out massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, defying international law.
Furthermore, Israel denies nationality and citizenship to Palestinians. These listed elements of the brutal Israeli system amount to apartheid under international law.
Amnesty International published a report titled “Israel’s apartheid Against Palestinians” in February 2022. The report calls out Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians as ‘apartheid’. The report concludes that Israeli laws and policies of segregation, exclusion, and dispossession constitute “the crime against humanity of apartheid” as defined in the Rome Statute and the Apartheid convention.
In addition to this, there have been calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate apartheid in Palestine.
The West and the United Nations Impose “Double Standards” of Crimes Against Humanity
The west reveals “double standards” of crimes against humanity compared to the reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the context of Ukraine, world leaders used solid and robust language to describe Putin’s crimes against humanity. However, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people is not met with the same strength of language.
In the video below, Richard Boyd Barrett captures the utter hypocrisy of the west’s “double standards” when it comes to imposing sanctions on Israel the same way they have sanctioned Russia.
Moreover, Israel’s position of an apartheid system weakens any prospect of establishing an independent Palestinian State. Moreover, despite the UN’s willingness to act decisively on other issues, the Council’s inability to act against Israel illustrates the persistent double standards through its selectivity on which principles apply to certain states.
Putin is Holding Up a Mirror to Israelis
Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist and author, compared Israel and Russia as essentially interchangeable. Levy writes how Israel has behaved precisely like Russia more than just once. Israel and Russia use the same demonization strategy. The Ukrainians are depicted as Nazis, and the Palestinians are labelled as terrorists who wish to destroy Israel. With the assistance of Egypt, Israel has essentially turned the Gaza strip into an open-air prison.
International Finacial Aid Focused on Ukraine
The world will soon be on the edge of a global recession due to the financial constraints arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Skyrocketing inflation rates in the United States and other major European economies make obtaining international financial support for Palestinians very difficult at these times.
How Much Blood Must Be Shed Before We Take Collective Action?
Israel treats Palestinians living in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, as an inferior racial group and systematically deprives them of their fundamental human rights.
There is a persistent lack of accountability for Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel commits recurring violations of international human rights law and the law of occupation of the West Bank while persistently using unnecessary and disproportionate use of force.
We must hold Israel accountable by urging the ICC to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation of Palestine. Furthermore, the UN Security Council has the ability to impose an arms embargo on Israel to cover all weapons and munitions. The UN Council can impose targeted sanctions such as freezing the assets of Israeli officials heavily involved in perpetrating the apartheid.
The war and persecution of the Palestinian people will continue while the climate of impunity prevails.
The real question now is whether the world will apply economic sanctions to Israel just as it did to end apartheid in South Africa and restrict Russia’s power in its invasion of Ukraine. Or will we continue to impose double standards on crimes against humanity?
Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia Reflects Deep-Rooted Gender Inequality
Background: Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Somalia reflects a deep-rooted gender inequality. Somalia has a 99% prevalence rate among women aged 15-49 years. Most girls are subject to FGM between five and nine years old. Thus, Somalia has the highest rate of FGM in the world. These were the latest statistics from the Somali Health and Demographic Survey 2022.
There is an international consensus that FGM is a violation of human rights. The prevalence of FGM in Somalia represents one of the most extreme forms of discrimination against girls and women. Consequently, this traditional practice has a catastrophic impact on women’s health. FGM results in high health care costs for countries where it is practised. Additionally, women and girls subjected to this practice are vulnerable to mental health problems, reduced opportunities for growth, early marriages and early school dropouts.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or another injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Additionally, FGM can be divided into four subcategories. The most severe form is the total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the intersection of the labia majora. Additionally, the sides of the labia majora are typically sewn together, leaving only a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass through.
Moreover, Somalia is not the only country carrying out this harmful cultural tradition. Hence, the map below illustrates where FGM occurs worldwide based on four different severity categories. These categories are based on FGM media reporting, research and surveys conducted in different countries.
FGM Has No Health Benefits & Poses Many Serious Risks
FGM poses many short and long-term harmful complications for those subjected to the practice. Moreover, FGM does not have any health benefits for girls or women. Some short-term complications include bleeding, pain, fever, infection and urinary problems. However, some of the long term-complications include:
- chronic pain,
- urinary problems,
- extreme bleeding,
- menstrual problems,
- sexual problems,
- increased risk of complications in childbirth,
- permanent disability,
- psychological problems,
- and possible death.
Eradicating This Harmful Cultural Tradition Through Self-Empowerment
The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is marked every year on the 6th of February. The UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA) continues to lead the UN in eradicating FGM worldwide.
The Ministry for Women and Human Rights Development, the UNFPA and Ifrah Foundation’s “Dear Daughter Campaign” have taken a radically different approach to end FGM in Somalia. Thus, this campaign aims to change the FGM narrative in Somalia through education and dialogue. Furthermore, Dear Daughter targets rural and urban individuals and communities. Therefore, the principle of self-empowerment is central to their unique approach.
The campaign aims to encourage mothers to pledge not to cut their daughters. Accordingly, through letter-writing, Somali mothers pledge to protect and support their right to govern their bodies. When other families witness these pledges, it inspires them to follow in the same footsteps.
“Dear Daughter” engages in advocacy, media and grassroots campaigning nationally in Somalia. The campaign empowers women to promise their daughters a future free from FGM in Somalia.
Real-life Insights Into the Life of Halima
Halima, aged 50, is a mother of five daughters and five sons, living in an internally displaced camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Hamlia works as a camp gatekeeper and is an influential community member. Therefore, she is an ideal person of interest for the Dear Daughter campaign to help advocate against FGM’s dangers. Furthermore, Halima has not disclosed her real name while being interviewed for safety reasons.
FGM put her life and millions of other women in Somalia’s lives at severe risk. When Halima reached adolescence, passing menstrual blood was difficult, and as a newlywed, sex with her husband was a painful experience. When Halima became pregnant, childbirth was excruciatingly painful, with her labour lasting for several days.
“The procedure was painful, with no anesthesia. I bled for days. I was in bed for more than three months and urinating was a problem”Hamila (victim of FGM).
Halima subjected her first daughter to be cut despite her suffering, just like her mother had done.
FGM Reflects A Deeply Rooted Gender Inequality
Female Genital Mutilation represents a need for men to have sexual control over girls and women. FGM occurs across different religions, ethnicities, races and social classes.
Evidently, FGM represents a manifestation of deeply entrenched gender inequality within society. Consequently, girls and women who decide not to follow the social norm are likely to face condemnation from friends, family and potential husbands. Men often ridicule and reject girls and women who have not undergone the procedure.
Many girls and women continue to be subject to FGM despite its harmful impacts. Consequently, many perceive the social benefits of FGM outweigh the disadvantages. It is difficult for families to abandon the practice without support from the wider community.
Changing the Future of FGM for Women in Somalia and Worldwide
According to the WHO, an estimated 200 million girls and women living today have been subjected to FGM across 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Furthermore, UNICEF stated that an additional 68 million are at risk of being subjected to FGM by 2030.
Somalia has widespread conflict, political instability and resource scarcity. In addition to this, Somalia has a fragile government and is currently suffering from one of the most severe droughts the country has witnessed in 40 years.
Ultimately, despite the obstacles, we must take action to help women and eradicate FGM in Somalia and worldwide. This requires a holistic and multi-sectoral collaboration in addressing structural drivers of FGM and the social norms surrounding its practice.
FGM is a violation of girl’s and women’s fundamental human rights.
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