Anniversary of Martial Law in Philippines

by Nadia Babar and Minahil Rafay

On September 21st, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos placed the entirety of the Philippines under martial law. Twenty-nine years later, we reflect on that period, especially within the context of the election season in the country occurring now. 

Marcos, a known kleptocrat, became president of the Philippines in 1965. The self-proclaimed “most decorated war hero in the Philippines” (a claim that was not only disproved multiple times, but thought to be a gross mischaracterization) initially oversaw a growing economy, but his 20-year tenure ended in poverty rife throughout the country, along with an extreme debt crisis. 

Seven years after his election, Marcos implemented martial law across the country. The declaration, entitled “Proclamation No. 1081”, lasted until January of 1981. The drastic action was supposedly in response to “various leftist and rightist plots against the Marcos administration”, as well as an existential “communist threat.” During this period, under the guise of martial law, Marcos hid money, embezzled from his government, and ultimately stole from the country and its citizens. 

The period was peppered with human rights abuses and the silencing of the media. Anyone who dared speak against Marcos was targeted and made quiet in some fashion. This included anyone from high-profile journalists to student activists. On the eve of Marcos’ declaration, he sent out armed forces to arrest 400 individuals who were deemed ‘priority targets.’ By the next morning, 100 of those 400 had been arrested. 

This was the beginning of Marcos’ 14-year long dictatorship. Even when the law was lifted in 1981, Marcos stayed in power for another five years until he was exiled. Remembered by some as the leader of the Golden Age, by most, he is remembered as a corrupt, violent, and unethical dictator. 

But his influence remained. In 1991, when the Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines, they were received with riotous welcomes. Within the next year, Imelda Marcos, Ferdinand’s wife, was running for the office of the Presidency. Several other members of the Marcos dynasty held positions of power in the Filipino government throughout the 90s, with two of his children becoming senators in the past several elections. Despite the atrocities committed during the period of martial law, their presence remains. The current Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has come out in support of Marcos’ antics, a blatant display of anti-democracy. There is also an ongoing problem of historical revisionism regarding the period of martial law and the abuses committed during it. As we approach the anniversary of the period’s beginning, it’s even more pertinent to stay acutely aware of the country’s history and dark past under the Marcos regime. 

South Africa Reels From LGBTQ Murders

South Africa is reeling from two murders within the last two months directed at members of the LGBTQ community. Andile “Lulu” Nthuthela and Siphamandla Khoza’s deaths are evidence of the prejudice and hate that South Africa’s LGBTQ community continues to face.

The body of 40-year-old Andile “Lulu” Nthuthela was found in a shallow grave in the backyard of a friend, who is now a suspect.

The suspect was originally arrested on March 31st on a different charge and was soon hospitalized for a mental condition.

Soon after, the police decided to check his house and Ntuthela’s body was found.

This comes less than 2 weeks after Siphmandla Khoza’s body was found, the victim of a similar hate crime.

The accused murderer of Lulu will remain in custody until June 2021.

Siphamandla Khoza, 34, was found in a ditch with multiple stab wounds and his throat slit less than 2 weeks ago. While out drinking with his friends in Ntuzuma, he was attacked and humiliated for his sexuality.

Both these murders, which are believed to be motivated through homophobia, have been devastating for South Africa’s LGBTQIA+ community, which continues to face unwarranted prejudice and hate.

The Vaccine Will Not Fix the World Without Our Help

by Hayaa Tabba

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic and people everywhere are eagerly anticipating the day it ends. However, some people’s dismissal of the virus is a major reason it has persisted for so long. While the virus continues to spread, many improvements have been made since the day the world initially locked down. A majority of the population understands the virus, how to protect themselves from it and how to treat themselves if they were to get it. Because of this, the number of people contracting the virus and dying as a result has severely dropped due to a better understanding of how to fight it. Doctors and scientists have also started producing and distributing vaccines for the virus. But will the pandemic become a global crisis again because of the population’s misinterpretation of the vaccine as a cure?

Over the last three months, 345 million COVID vaccines have been administered around the world in numerous countries. Yet some who have gotten the vaccine are confused about how they still can test positive, despite being vaccinated. This is because the vaccines are not an outright cure, but rather lower the chances of a person being able to contract it. If people are still eager to jump back into their pre-pandemic lives, they will still have to respect the SOPs put out by their respective governments as that is the only way to permanently subdue the virus, or at least contain it. If this is followed, the vaccine will act as a tool to speed up the process of controlling the spread of the disease and allow individuals to live more flexibly around others without being a major threat to anyone’s health.

The release of several vaccines has brought hope to people around the world. It has led to a drop in the graph of death and destruction caused by COVID-19. Yet, like all the drops in cases we have faced in the past year, this drop also does not mean that anything is resolved. Whenever a country’s cases start to go down, life quickly resumes as it did before, which only leads to cases rising again, possibly even higher than the initial peak. 

Of course, it is not required for people to continuously lock themselves in their homes and isolate themselves from the world indefinitely. However, when cases start to decrease, the best way to keep them from rising again is to keep following the SOPs until there are little to no cases up to the point where it isn’t a threat anymore. Countries like New Zealand have managed to follow this procedure and are now one of the few countries where life is “normal” again.

Similarly, the vaccine will allow people to go out more comfortably and meet smaller groups normally. But the second SOPs are discarded because of the belief that we are now protected through the vaccine and big gatherings restart without people wearing masks or social distancing, then despite the vaccine, the cases will begin to rise again.

I believe that if one does get the vaccine, one can travel or go out, but always with precautions. The second people start acting irresponsibly, attending big events where SOPs are not followed, it will only help push the world further away from the normality everyone longs for. When things start to go in the right direction and the numbers start going down, why stop doing those actions that are working until it’s completely better? We should keep helping our world until the cases are completely gone and we can go back to the life we crave.

The Joe Biden Series: Deb Haaland

  • Party: Democratic
  • Education: University of New Mexico (BA, JD)
  • Chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party (2015-2017)
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Mexico’s 1st District (2019-2021)

On Monday, the 15th of March, Debra Haaland was confirmed as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Interior. Haaland brings a solid history of political service into the administration, along with an impressive record of bipartisanship.

Haaland is the former chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party and a former U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district. As a political progress, Haaland supports The Green New Deal and the Medicare For All programme. She is the second Native American and first Native American woman ever to serve in a Presidential U.S. Cabinet.

Haaland’s career in New Mexico politics was extremely successful. She was credited with rebuilding the state party after large defeats for Democrats in New Mexico in 2014. During her two years as chair, Haaland raised enough capital to pay off seven years’ worth of debt which was built up under previous chairs.

As Secretary of the Interior, Haaland will be responsible for overseeing the lands, seas, and natural resources of the United States, as well as its tribal affairs. Haaland is a Native American and a member of the Laguna Pueblo Indigenous American tribe, which makes her the most senior Indigenous American in the U.S. government in nearly a century. The only other Indigenous person to hold an office higher than Interior Secretary was Charles Curtis, Republican vice president to Herbert Hoover and a Kaw nation citizen.

Reportedly, Haaland has an extremely good record of bipartisanship in Congress, though only four Republicans voted to confirm her as Interior Secretary. She said: “I’ve gotten more Republicans to sign on to my bills than any other Democrat. It’s important for all of us – county commissioners, governors and mayors, not just Congress – to make sure we’re working together for the greater good. We want to pass laws that will help people across the country, and we need to make sure these messages are getting out … I’m going to continue to reach across the aisle, to protect our environment and make sure that vulnerable communities have a say in what our country is doing moving forward.” This sentiment is proving to be vital in the post-Trump era, with Republicans and Democrats just as vitriolic towards each other than ever before.

Haaland intends to uphold and respect tribal communities more so than her predecessors, who attempted to develop projects on tribal land with little regard for the ecological and cultural significance of such land. Her predecessor, David Bernhardt, was not a politician, but an oil and energy lobbyist.

We think this is a good choice. Deb Haaland has a good track record of navigating difficult economic situations and a desire to help combat climate change extensively. Earlier in 2021, she proposed a bill that set out a national goal of protecting 30% of of US lands and oceans by the year 2030 – this bill has since been adopted by the Biden Administration for its environmental agenda.

“This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ [Native Americans]. I’m a living testimate to the failure of that horrific ideology.” – Deb Haaland

Women’s History Month 21.3.21

On this day in 1986, Debi Thomas became the first African American to win the World Figure Skating Championships. She continued to establish herself as an important personality in the world of figure skating, becoming the first black athlete to win any medal at the Winter Olympics, in 1988. Despite competing in U.S. National titles, Thomas was completing a pre-med degree from Stanford University at the same time.

Aurat March 2021: Slogans

The momentum of the Aurat March has generated creativity like no other. Slogans are at the forefront of the March; they’re witty, they’re thought-provoking, and they perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the event. Every year, we see hundreds of new phrases painted on signs across the country, demanding justice for women in some form. But these aren’t just quips; slogans from the Aurat March manage to be incredibly powerful in so few words. “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” isn’t a complicated statement, but it rings so heavily and true that it is almost synonymous with the entire movement.

  • #JaggaDein
    • “Jagga Dein” translates to “Give Me Space.” Not only does this refer to the literal phrase that women must utter in physical spaces dominated by men, but it also refers to the need for more safe, public spaces for women to simply exist.
  • Paratha Rolls, Not Gender Roles
  • Mera Jism, Meri Marzi
    • “Mera Jism, Meri Marzi” translate to “My Body, My Choice.” This is the most controversial and recognisable slogans of the movement and has drawn the most attention.
  • Ghar Ka Kaam, Sab Ka Kaam
    • “Ghar Ka Kaam, Sab Ka Kaam” translates to “Housework is everybody’s work.” This is in reference to how in Pakistan, women are generally expected to be the sole caretakers of the home, which includes cooking and childcare.
  • Patriarchy’s Janaza
    • “Janaza” is the Urdu word for “funeral.”
  • Women Are Humans, Not Honour
    • This is in reference to the honour killings that still take place all over Pakistan.

The History of the Aurat March

The Aurat March is undoubtedly a monumental event for Pakistanis. It has started conversations, opened doors, and created a space where women can finally express themselves. Women in Pakistan face a plethora of institutional discrimination and physical violence – this movement is the face of the pushback.

What exactly is the Aurat March? Aurat is the Urdu word for ‘woman.’ The Aurat March is an annual social and political demonstration organized in various cities of Pakistan coinciding with International Women’s Day – March 8th.

The first Aurat March in Pakistan was held in 2018 in Karachi. The year later, it was held in cities all over the country. It was organized by different organizations in each city, but the goals were always similar.

The March in Pakistan wants more accountability for violence against women and support for women who experience violence and harassment at the hands of security forces, in public spaces, at home, and in the workplace.

International Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8th, is about voicing and eliminating discrimination against women, granting them economic, political, social, and cultural equality, and laws to protect women in their respected countries.

Against the backdrop of deep-rooted socio-religio-political patriarchal structures of Pakistan, women in the state face many social ills and systemic discrimination.

What does this mean? It means that women in Pakistan face things such as:

  • Forced and early childhood marriage
  • Lack of formal public education opportunities
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual harassment / sexual violence at home and in public spaces
  • Significant wage gap
  • Appropriation of rights and abuse for purposes of revenge, including acid attacks and honor killings

In 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo movement across the world, a new generation of women began challenging the status quo, in an effort to take the movement for gender equality to women in South Asia.

Hence the Aurat March was born, with the first one taking place on March 8th, 2018 in Karachi.

Why has it taken so long for the Aurat March to become a regular occurrence? Something similar did almost happen before, back in 1983. This was during the peak of General Zia-ul-Haq’s military dictatorship. 400 female activists staged a public demonstration in Lahore.

Police descended upon the crowd, and pictures like those above still haunt the consciousnesses and memories of Pakistani women today.

The Women’s Action Forum (WAF), which organized that first protest back in 1983, remains an institution for women’s rights in Pakistan.

The Aurat March has seen some immense success. Previously restricted topics such as women’s rights to their own bodies and sexuality are being discussed openly for the first time.

This year, themes for the March include:

  • The Women’s Health Crisis (Lahore)
  • Anti-Patriarchal Violence (Karachi)
  • Economic Justice for Women (Islamabad)

This Day in Women’s History

Let’s learn about women’s history! On this day in 1903, the Martha Washington Hotel opened in New York City, the first hotel in the city exclusively for women. It was almost fully occupied immediately! The hotel was a choice of residence for a number of notable women, and was typically frequented by “teachers, bookkeepers, musicians, artists, burses, and physicians.” It also served s the headquarters of the Interurban Women’s Suffrage Council from 1907. The hotel continued to cater solely to women until 1998.