Home' Greymouth Star : January 11th 2018 Contents Greymouth Star
Beh Lih Yi
olling up the sleeves of her
long black robe to reveal a
scar from a cigarette burn
on her arm, refugee Sara
shows how her husband
pressed a pillow over her
face to shut her up when he attacked her.
The abuse began as soon as they got
married in 2009, just a year after Sara had
fled her home in Myanmar, where her
fellow Rohingya — an ethnic Muslim
minority — are shunned and persecuted
in the Buddhist-majority nation.
She landed in Malaysia and married her
husband, a 42-year-old Rohingya man,
the following year.
“I wanted to be a good wife but he was
always very angry. He would not allow
me to go out, he would expect me to have
all the food ready, and prepare him a hot
towel and a glass of water when he gets
“He would hit me if he was not happy.
If I cried, he covered my mouth with a
pillow so our neighbours could not hear
me,” said Sara, who used a pseudonym for
fear of retaliation from her husband.
The 30-year-old eventually escaped
her home with her six-year-old son and
the pair have been living for five months
in a shelter run by an organisation that
supports migrant workers and refugees.
Stories like Sara’s are not unusual
among the refugee community in
Malaysia, which hosts over 150,000
refugees and asylum seekers, the majority
of them from Myanmar and some of
whom have lived in the country for over
Rights groups say uncertainty over
their future and years of living in a host
country where they are considered illegal
migrants have taken a toll on their mental
health, and driven up cases of domestic
violence among refugee families.
Kuala Lumpur-based Tenaganita,
a campaign group which works with
refugees, said there was “extensive”
gender-based violence against refugee
women in Malaysia.
Since last year, the group has been
working with the University of Colorado
in the United States to conduct a two-
year sur vey among some 500 Rohingya
families in Malaysia on the prevalence of
Tenaganita’s executive director, Glorene
Das, said although the sur vey is still
under way, early indications showed
both male and female respondents
acknowledged physical and emotional
abuse happened within their families.
“Not being able to resettle or taking a
long time adds stress to the family,” Das
“Ultimately husbands or the male
family members tend to take it out on
their female partners.”
She added that the fact refugees are not
recognised by the government also means
that victims of violence have no legal
avenue to turn to when they want to seek
“Their deemed ‘illegality ’ renders the
women silent in fear,” Das said.
While the refugees are recognised
by the United Nation’s refugee agency
UNHCR, Malaysia is not a signatory to
the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which
means all refugees are viewed as illegal
migrants awaiting resettlement in a third
The country also does not extend
protection, job opportunities or education
to them, leaving many refugees end up
finding odd jobs in the informal sectors
as cleaners, waiters or construction
Campaigners say the lack of a formal
status often leaves refugees vulnerable
to abuse, and at risk of arrest as well as
deportation under immigration laws.
Some refugees are resettled by the
United Nations in so-called third
countries, such as the United States,
Canada, the Czech Republic and
Responding to a query, the UNHCR
could not say how long on average it
takes for a refugee in Malaysia to be
resettled because applications are handled
on a case by case basis.
But its data showed number of refugees
who left Malaysia for resettlement fell
from over 12,500 in 2015, to about 8100
in 2016 and plummeted to 2338 to the
end of October 2017.
“Given the limited numbers of
resettlement places, UNHCR must
prioritise those with acute and pressing
vulnerabilities,” UNHCR spokeswoman
Yante Ismail said in an e-mailed reply.
“For those who do not have a pressing
need for resettlement, the process can
take much longer, or may not even be an
available option,” she added.
Although President Donald Trump
lifted a temporary ban on most refugee
admissions in October, the number of
refugees admitted to the United States
has dropped, according to an analysis of
State Department data.
UNHCR’s Yante said the uncertainty
refugees feel about their future brings
a “corrosive effect ” on their mental and
physical health and called on Malaysia to
do more to protect them in the country.
Meanwhile violence — especially
against women — continues.
Noor Arifah Bujang, who provides
counselling to refugee women, said
they often told her stories of how their
husbands were in constant fear of being
arrested and struggled to make ends
“The (husbands) become stressed
and they tend to beat up their wives
or children. Marital rape is the most
common,” she said. — Reuters
4 - Thursday, January 11, 2018
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uLetters to the editor
1569 - First lottery in England is drawn in St
Paul’s Cathedral under the patronage of Queen
1866 - The ship London is wrecked in the
Bay of Biscay en route to Australia,
with the death of some 231 people.
1922 - A 14-year-old Canadian,
Leonard Thompson, becomes the
first person to have his diabetes
successfully treated with insulin.
1928 - Death of English novelist
and poet Thomas Hardy.
1935 - US aviator Amelia Earhart begins a
trip from Honolulu to California, becoming
the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific.
1962 - An avalanche buries a village in the
Andes with 3000 people reported killed.
1964 - US Surgeon General Luther Terry
issues the first government report saying
smoking may be hazardous to health.
1981 - A three-man British team led by Sir
Ranulph Fiennes completes the longest and
fastest crossing of Antarctica, reaching Scott
base after 75 days and 4022km.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Francesco Parmigianino, Italian artist
(1504-1540); William James, US philosopher
(1842-1910); Rod Taylor, Australian actor
(1930-2015); Clarence Clemons, US
saxophonist with the E Street Band
(1942-2011); Daryl Braithwaite,
Australian singer (1949-); Mary J
Blige, US singer (1971-); Amanda
Peet, US actress and writer; Rahul
Dravid, Indian cricketer (1973-);
Holly Brisley, Australian actress
(1978-); Cody Simpson, Australian
pop singer (1997-).
“If you are ruled by mind you are a king; if by
body, a slave. ” — Cato, Roman statesman and
historian (234 BC-149 BC).
“As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to
me; heal me, for I have sinned against You.”
— (Psalms 41:4).
After a two-
hour struggle a
fishing trawler Sunray
was pulled off the shore at Abut Head, just
north of the Whataroa River mouth at 8am
today. Sunray, skippered by Mr Kelvin Fawcett,
was haeding for the crayfishing grounds off
South Westland when she ran aground just
before 5.54am today.
Sunray was being accompanied to the fishing
grounds by another Greymouth boat Cleone,
which is skippered by Mr Fawcett ’s father Ira.
After over two hours of attempts to refloat
Sunray she finally came clear — hauled off the
shore by Cleone.
Two ‘rescue’ craft, Debbie Marie and
Mamairi, dispatched by the Greymouth
harbourmaster captain H J Gordon in
response to the mayday call, were recalled to
The Westland County Council is continuing
work today on the connection of Franz Josef
houses to a new water supply arranged with the
co-operation of the Tourist Hotel Corporation.
Though not a big job, it is looked on favourably
in the tourist settlement as it will bring a one-
inch water supply pipeline to all houses.
Westland county clerk Mr E G Walker said
today that the corporation sells the water to the
county at so much a thousand gallons and the
council in turn supplies it to the residents at a
“It is not a big or costly job but it will put
the people down there on a efficient and
permanent supply,” Mr Walker said.
Squadron Leader E R Reynolds who
has been in command of No 33 Westport
Squadron for 15 years, has retired. He has been
replaced by flight lieutenant J R Wisker DFC.
uFood for thought
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One of the most perplexing political
phenomena of the 21st century is
feminism’s silence in the face of Islamist
oppression. For nearly a quarter of a
century, as the evidence of weaponised
misogyny across the Islamic world has
mounted, the absence of globalised
feminist resistance has become
increasingly difficult to ignore. The
contrast between global feminism’s
muted response to the oppression of
women in the Islamic world, and its
ongoing campaign against the sexist
excesses of western males, is stark. Why
one, and not the other?
To gain some appreciation of the
discrepancy ’s magnitude, it is instructive
to compare the world’s reaction to the
imposition of apartheid on South African
blacks and the imposition of Islamic
fundamentalism on Afghani women.
As news of deliberate and vicious
gender discrimination filtered out of
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, western
women and men recoiled in shocked
disbelief. Girls were being sent home
from school. Women professionals —
doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers
and nurses — were being dismissed
from their jobs and ordered back behind
the doors of enforced domesticity. Any
woman found walking the streets without
a chaperone, or wearing western dress,
ran the risk of being whipped (or worse)
by the Taliban’s religious police. Women
found guilty of adultery were being
publicly executed in soccer stadiums.
There was, of course, some feminist
criticism of the Taliban regime, but it
was sparse and unco-ordinated. Those
who waited for the leaders of second-
wave feminism to place themselves in the
vanguard of an international movement
modelled on the global campaign against
apartheid, waited in vain.
When United States forces and their
Afghani allies finally overthrew the
Taliban regime in the aftermath of 9/11,
most of the women who openly and
Why isn’t an injury to one sister an injury to all?
unashamedly celebrated its demise — and
the liberation of their sisters — came
from the right.
Undoubtedly, left-wing western
feminists were also thrilled to see the back
of the hateful Taliban government and its
religious police, but they were hesitant to
say so too loudly for fear of giving
the impression that they in any way
supported the military adventurism of
President George W Bush. The presence
of US forces in Afghanistan, regardless
of its collateral benefits, was proof that
western imperialism was alive and well.In
the left’s hierarchy of oppression,
white people lording it over brown people
was considered a more egregious sin
than brown men lording it over brown
Correcting the violent sexism of
brown men was not the responsibility of
privileged white women. The only people
who could, legitimately, liberate the
women of the Third World, were Third
World women. If white women were
looking for sexist male dragons to slay,
then they need look no further than their
own workplaces and homes.
Furthermore, the whole notion of there
being a universal definition of right and
wrong, by which the many and diverse
peoples of the world could be judged, had
itself fallen under left-wing suspicion.
Westerners might be entitled to judge
other westerners by how closely they
adhered to the moral precepts of their
common culture. Much less certain,
however, was their entitlement to judge
the behaviour of people from other, non-
Among western leftists, morality had
become culture-specific. If imperialism’s
victims asked for support, then they
would be given it, unquestioningly. If
not, then they would tend to their own
political gardens exclusively.
The problem for western feminists
is that, in spite of these cultural and
political self-denying ordinances, the only
garden currently showing unequivocal
signs of flourishing, is their own. Across
vast regions of the planet, not only are
women’s rights not flourishing, they are
In the patriarchal cultures the western
left consistently refuses to condemn, the
misogynists look on with a combination
of scorn and fear as powerful western men
are forced to account for their past and
present abuse of women. “ There but for
the grace of God, and our own unyielding
adherence to His laws”, they mutter,
goes our own religious and political
Just because western leftists turn a blind
eye to the depredations of their brothers
in the Islamic world does not mean that
Muslim fundamentalists are similarly
blind to the consequences of treating
women as equal human beings.
Prior to the American Civil War, the
southern States argued for continued
tolerance of their “peculiar institution”.
Northern abolitionists rejected utterly
the slave-owners’ self-serving cultural
Western feminists owe their Islamic
sisters nothing less.
Chris Trotter is a left-wing
Rohingyas living in fear
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