Episode 49: The Gulf's Dirty Secret

The Kafala or “sponsorship” system is used throughout the Gulf countries (as well as Jordan and Lebanon) to monitor and organize migrant laborers, from recruitment abroad to their management upon arrival, and particularly in the construction and domestic work sectors.

Under the Kafala system a migrant worker’s presence in a host country is linked entirely to their employer, with the effect that it’s not only difficult or impossible to switch jobs, but all elements of their daily lives from access to their passports, their freedom of movement, their living conditions, their ability to leave the country, and their basic dignities are all controlled by their employer. And there is often little to no regulation put in place to protect workers against exploitation and abuse. And abuse has been rampant for decades. From sexual harassment and rape of domestic workers to squalid living conditions and work without pay for construction workers and manual laborers.

This dirty secret is often hidden inside of people’s homes or in isolated camps, so access to covering and exposing it is extremely difficult to obtain, which is why the work of our guest Vani Saraswathi and Migrant-Rights.org is so critical.

 
 
 
 

Episode 48: AfricaTown, Alabama (Part 2 of 2)

In this second of a two-part conversation I talk to Major Joe Womack (USMC-retired) about AfricaTown. Now part of Mobile, Alabama, AfricaTown was founded by survivors of the last slave ship to bring Africans to the US. And the shipwreck was just discovered in 2019. Joe Womack was born and raised there and now he is leading a fight to prevent its ongoing exploitation and pollution by toxic industries. It’s a story that goes to the heart, not only of the Deep South, but of America’s failure to reconcile itself to the darkest chapters of its history. It’s also a story of how those events might be used to breathe new life into a struggling community.

 
C.H.E.S.S. community foundation for AfricaTown, Alabama

C.H.E.S.S. community foundation for AfricaTown, Alabama

 
 
 

Episode 47: Last Slave Ship to the US (1 of 2)

In this first of a two-part conversation I talk to Major Joe Womack (USMC-retired) about AfricaTown. Now part of Mobile, Alabama, AfricaTown was founded by survivors of the last slave ship to bring Africans to the US. And the shipwreck was just discovered in 2019. Joe Womack was born and raised there and now he is leading a fight to prevent its ongoing exploitation and pollution by toxic industries. It’s a story that goes to the heart, not only of the Deep South, but of America’s failure to reconcile itself to the darkest chapters of its history. It’s also a story of how those events might be used to breathe new life into a struggling community.

 
C.H.E.S.S. community foundation, AfricaTown, Alabama

C.H.E.S.S. community foundation, AfricaTown, Alabama

 
 
 

46: Gaza Sky Geeks & Women in Palestine

Dalia Shurrab is the Communication and Social Media Coordinator at Gaza Sky Geeks. We talk about the challenges of running the first tech hub in the Gaza Strip and the status of women's rights in Palestine.

 
 
 
 
 

Episode 45 (2 of 2): Armenia, Armenians, and Armenian-ness

In this second half of our two-part conversation with Nareg Seferian we speak about the Armenian Genocide, the modern state of Armenia, the Armenian diaspora, and Armenian identity.  

Nareg Seferian received his education in India, Armenia, the United States, and Austria. Nareg served on the faculty at the American University of Armenia for three years, and he is currently pursuing his PhD at Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs in the Washington, DC area. His research and writing has focused on diverse aspects of Armenian politics and society, at the national and regional level, as well as across the global Armenian Diaspora.

The first photo is of guest, Nareg Seferian. The second image is of one of the last structures remaining from the Armenian village of Bardizag, in Turkey, the home of Eric’s great grandmother Mary Abelian prior to its ethnic cleansing in 1915. It was an American Christian school and its lower level has since been desecrated and converted into a stable. Photo credit -Eric Maddox

 
 
 

Episode 44 (1 of 2): Armenia, Armenians & Armenian-ness

In this first half of our two-part conversation with Nareg Seferian we speak about the Armenian Genocide, the modern state of Armenia, the Armenian diaspora, and Armenian identity.  

Nareg Seferian received his education in India, Armenia, the United States, and Austria. He served on the faculty at the American University of Armenia for three years, and he is currently pursuing his PhD at Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs in the Washington, DC area. His research and writing has focused on diverse aspects of Armenian politics and society, at the national and regional level, as well as across the global Armenian Diaspora.

 
 
 

Episode 43: Kashmir

Our guest this week is a young Kashmiri woman currently living in Mumbai.

Situated in a mountainous region between India and Pakistan, Kashmir has been a nominal part of India since shortly after India and Pakistan both gained independence from the British in 1947. It’s also India’s only Muslim majority state and was the battleground in two separate wars between India and Pakistan and several armed conflicts between the two nuclear-armed rivals, including one limited engagement earlier this year.

Under article 370 of the Indian constitution Kashmir was guaranteed broad autonomy, including a separate constitution, and freedom to administer its own affairs in all areas except for currency, communications, defense, and foreign policy. Over the past few decades much of this autonomy has been slowly rolled back by the central government in Delhi, but one key feature that remained was Kashmiris exclusive rights to buy and own land in Kashmir. This key remaining feature of Kashmiri autonomy was eliminated when Hindu Nationalist Prime Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s government eliminated article 370 from the Indian constitution earlier this month. Since that time landlines, mobile communication links, and the Internet have been cut, and Kashmiris have been cut off from the rest of the world and their families in India.

Taken in Gaza City, Palestine, April, 2013. Photo credit: Eric Maddox

Taken in Gaza City, Palestine, April, 2013. Photo credit: Eric Maddox

 
 
 

Episode 42: Stateless - Myanmar's Rohingya People

In 1982 the Myanmar (Burmese) military government passed a citizenship law that effectively stripped the Rohingya community of their nationality overnight. They’ve been stateless ever since, and subject to institutionalized discrimination and coordinated persecution that has greatly restricted their movement and their access to jobs and to education.

Although there have been reports of attacks and massacres in the past, in August of 2017 Myanmar’s military began a campaign to drive many Rohingya out of their homes in Rakhine state, with the result that roughly 900,000 refugees have fled the country, with reports of widespread and coordinated attacks utilizing arson, rape, and mass killing that bear signs of genocide. Refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh have long since been filled past overflowing, and many have been reduced to living in squalid and unsafe conditions in and around the camps.

JN Joniad fled his home in Rakhine state 6 years ago, and is currently registered in with UNHCR in Indonesia as a refugee, while he awaits resettlement elsewhere. His story not only illuminates the condition of fellow Rohingya, but also uncovers what appears to be a global trend amongst wealthy nations (the US, EU, and Australia) to outsource their border enforcement policy to developing nations through a strategy of deterrence and obscured accountability.

 
 
J N Joniad’s Blog

J N Joniad’s Blog

 
 
 

Episode 41: The Fulani People, Conflict in Mali (2 of 2)

For this second half of our conversation we discuss the ongoing inter-communal violence in Central Mali, the features of Jihadist movements in the region, the prospects and barriers to peace, and the regional and geopolitical implications of these factors and why you should take notice of what's happening in the Sahel. 

Dougoukolo Ba-Konare is a clinical psychologist and teacher of Fula Language and Societies at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris, and a founding member of Kisal (an organization working on the promotion of human rights in the Sahel. 

 
 
 

Episode 40: The Fulani People, A Culture of the Sahel (1 of 2)

The Fulani are an ethnic group of around 40 million people who inhabit Africa’s Sahel region, the transitional biozone that spans the African continent from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and where the sands of the Sahara gradually give way to the savanna of central Africa. Traditionally a pastoral nomadic culture, they have long experienced tensions in some of the communities they call home, and are often treated as outsiders. Some of these conflicts have made international headlines recently, most notably in central Mali, where Jihadist groups and a lack of governmental authority have left communities vulnerable, and where competition for resources and mistrust have brought them into bloody conflict with other tribal groups.

This first of a two-part conversation about the Fulani people offers some compelling insights into how Jihadist groups are able to gain traction in isolated communities, and a more local perspective on global security issues that are traditionally given from a European or American perspective.


Dougoukolo Ba-Konare is a clinical psychologist and teacher of Fula Language and Societies at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris, and a founding member of Kisal (an organization working on the promotion of human rights in the Sahel. 


 
 
 

Episode 39: Afghanistan - Living With the US Occupation

Basir Bita spent his childhood as a refugee in Iran and moved back to Afghanistan in 2003, which means he has spent his entire adult life living under the US occupation. He currently lives in Kabul where he works as a peace activist and as a consultant monitoring and evaluating risk factors for corruption. We discuss the current peace talks between the US and the Taliban, and what he has learned talking to people from across Afghanistan’s ethnically diverse society.


Also be sure to check out our previous conversation with Abdoul Saboor who fled Afghanistan after threats from the Taliban and attacks on his family. His overland odyssey through Iran, Turkey, Eastern Europe and across the Balkans, to finally claim asylum in France, is one of the more remarkable stories I’ve encountered anywhere, and should put the ordeals of many Afghan refugees into a more human perspective.

 
 
 
 
 

Episode 38: Hong Kong Protests - Local Perspectives

In June more than 2 million Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest a proposed law that could see residents of the global financial center subject to extradition and criminal prosecution in China, undercutting the delicate "one country, two systems" policy that was to remain in place for 50 years after the 1997 handover from the British. Today, on the anniversary of the handover, the protestors stormed and occupied the Hong Kong legislature.

For this show we speak with two guests: a professor of cultural studies in Hong Kong whose research focuses on youth activism, and an anonymous guest from Hong Kong who returned to participate in the protests in June.

Photo credit Nextvoyage on Pexels

Photo credit Nextvoyage on Pexels

 

Episode 37: 95 Years Old & On Hunger Strike

Sally-Alice Thompson is a World War 2 veteran, a peace activist, a New Mexico resident, and at 95 years old she just started her first hunger strike to bring an end to US sanctions and to US support for sieges that are pushing children into starvation and depriving populations of their basic needs.

 
 
Learn More About Sally-Alice’s Hunger Strike, Sign the Petition, and Learn How You Can Join Her

Learn More About Sally-Alice’s Hunger Strike, Sign the Petition, and Learn How You Can Join Her

 

Get informed about some of the topics discussed in this week’s show but checking out our previous interviews with local people…

Episode 36: Sudan- Massacre in Khartoum (Part 2 of 2)

This segment of our two-part interview with Dahlia Al Roubi was recorded on Tuesday, June 4th, the day after the current government crackdown began against protestors in Khartoum. As of this episode roughly 100 people have been killed by government forces, with reports that scores of bodies have been dumped into the Nile. As of June 6th, Sudan’s membership in the African Union has been revoked. Sudan’s military council has suspended talks with protestors and unilaterally called for elections to be held within 9 months.

The forces spearheading this apparent massacre appear to be the RSF or “Rapid Support Forces”, led by Mohamed "Hemeti" Hamdan Dagalo. The RSF are a re-branded iteration of the Janjaweed militias that were charged with carrying out the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. They’ve since been absorbed into the Sudanese military structure and given the stamp of governmental legitimacy, but they are essentially trained for one purpose and it appears that this purpose has now been turned on the protestors and the people of Khartoum. Incidentally the RSF forces are also being used as mercenaries by the Saudis in their war on Yemen.


 
 
 
 

Episode 35: Sudan: Women in Revolution (1 of 2)

For this first part of a two-part conversation, we talk to Sudanese activist Dahlia Al Roubi about what it was like growing up under the regime of recently deposed dictator Omar Al Bashir, how the current revolution swept Sudan, starting in December of last year, the challenges of weighing the purity of revolutionary principles against the practical constraints of time and competing interests, and about the role of women who took a leading role in the street protests but who now appear to be left out of the negotiations.

Dahlia and I recorded this first part of our interview on May 21st, before the current wave of violence was unleashed by the transitional military government on protestors and civilians in Khartoum. However we decided to include this conversation to claim some small space in the historical record, a space for what the Sudanese people were aspiring to as recently as Sunday evening. And we’re including it as a reminder that Syria also had this moment, and Egypt as well, and that while violence and a return to despotism might define the moment it’s important to ask ourselves where Western governments positioned themselves during the grassroots efforts to push these countries towards freedom.

Part two of our discussion provides a short update about the violence that has been unleashed by government forces in recent days, in particularly the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) formerly known as the Janjaweed.


 
 
 
 

Episode 34: Are You Syrious?

Have you ever watched a humanitarian crisis unfolding on the news, witnessed the subsequent failure in leadership, and thought to yourself, "I wish I could get some friends together and just do something to make this better?" 

That's what Milena Zajović and a few Croatian friends did when the largest refugee crisis to hit Europe since World War 2 came to their borders in the Summer of 2015. That initial impulse lead to the creation of Are You Syrious?, a nonprofit that focuses on field work, integration, and advocacy for refugees in the Balkans and Southern Europe. Lately a lot of their work has focussed on reporting on the so-called "push backs" that have seen Croatian authorities playing the role of border enforcers for the European Union. These measures have been accompanied by widespread reports of violence and other human rights abuses and campaigns by various governments to criminalize the work of human rights defenders, a worrying trend that Latitude Adjustment covered in our previous episode about Malta as well. 

Be sure to subscribe to the Are you Syrious Daily Digest, a resource that's become reference material for foreign embassies, aid workers, and journalists, and which provides up to the minute reporting for and about refugees in Europe and across the Middle East. 

photos & logo design credit: Are You Syrious?/ Milena Zajović

 
Are You Syrious? Daily Digest

Are You Syrious? Daily Digest

 
 

Episode 33: Bringing Palestine to the US

Faisel Saleh was born the 11th of 11 children in the West Bank town of El Bireh after his parents fled from their home in Salama (near Tel Aviv) during the 1948 war. Those events created the state of Israel and what 700,000 Palestinians and their millions of descendants refer to as “The Nakba”, or the catastrophe. Faisal came to the US in 1969 to pursue his education, later becoming a successful entrepreneur. Last year he founded the Palestine Museum US, in Woodbridge, Connecticut, the first museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

In addition to providing a space to share and preserve the culture for Palestinian Americans, Palestinians of the global diaspora, and for Palestinians in Palestine, it’s also a space for non-Palestinians who create art or commentary about the community and its history.


But to talk about the art, culture, and history of Palestine and its people opens the door to a much wider conversation about the current conditions of the community, and in particular the circumstances of Palestinian refugees, and of those who have been enduring more than a decade of life under siege in the Gaza Strip and 52 years of Israeli military occupation.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Episode 32: On the Ground in Yemen

We hear very little about the war that is taking place in Yemen, now in its fifth year. And we hear even less about the war from Yemenis themselves, and still less from those who remain Yemen. This episode represents a small effort to address this disparity.

Adel Hashem is the director of Human Needs Development in Sana’a, an organization that is working on the ground to deliver food, medical, and education support to the Yemeni people.

Though the war in Syria, and other regional conflicts have managed to grab headlines in recent years, Yemen has remained conspicuously underreported despite the fact that it has seen the largest cholera outbreak in recorded history, starvation, thousands of civilian casualties, widespread food insecurity amongst the majority of its population, and despite the fact that all of these horrors are completely man-made.

This stems in large part from the fact that the majority of the carnage in Yemen has been unleashed by Saudi Arabia and its coalition of supporters in their fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia is a US ally and it’s brutal air campaign (and less reported mercenary-supported ground campaign) have enjoyed the support of US and Western weapons deals, as well as intelligence and logistical support. Quite simply, the war would not be possible without the direct and ongoing support of Western governments, and principally the US, UK and France.

But we can change this.

 

Support Human Needs Development’s Ramadan campaign:

 
 

Episode 31: Out of Options - Syrian & Yemeni in Malaysia

Hashed had to flee Yemen after his father was killed, and what followed was an odyssey that has taken him from Djibouti, to India, to Malaysia, where his struggle is far from over.

Hassan is from Syria, and he also wound up in Malaysia, after his  work visa in the UAE expired and the Emirati government threatened to deport him back to Syria. Hassan became the subject of international attention when he spent 7 months trapped in the Kuala Lumpur airport. These are their stories, and you can help.

Latitude Adjustment Podcast: Episode 31: Stuck in Malaysia
 
 
Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch

 
Hand to Hand profile & fundraising campaign for Hashed

Hand to Hand profile & fundraising campaign for Hashed

 
 

Episode 30: Fatma Naib - We Need To Talk About FGM

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a non-medical procedure that involves partial or radical removal of young women’s genitalia, and while widely practiced in parts of Africa and the Middle East, is neither limited to these regions nor defined by theology or religion. The practice is typically linked to a right of passage, sexual purity, or as a marker of cultural identity (or all three), and its impact on the lives of tens of millions of women is both cruel and often deadly. The UN is working to eliminate the practice by 2030, and it is the subject of Fatma’s Peabody Award-winning film, “The Cut”, which she and her team completed for Al Jazeera English in 2017. Our conversation also focuses on the broader questions around navigating multiple cultural identities and contexts.

The subject of FGM makes some of us more than a little squeamish, but it’s important to move past our personal sensitivities and make some time to inform ourselves about a practice that is impacting the lives of women around the world, and perhaps closer to where you live than you might realize. And while the practice itself might be fundamentally rooted in ignorance so are a lot of the popular perceptions about the it, so it’s important that we leave our assumptions and pre-judgements at the door and listen so that we can take meaningful action to help eliminate the practice.

 
 
 
 
“Saleema initiative was launched in 2008 by the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) in collaboration with the UNICEF Sudan, with the aim to support the efforts to abandon Female Genital Mutilation“…

“Saleema initiative was launched in 2008 by the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) in collaboration with the UNICEF Sudan, with the aim to support the efforts to abandon Female Genital Mutilation“…