May 28, 2015
Five Women Who Matter Most
Posted on Oct 4, 2011
The Arab Spring was Clinton’s biggest test. She was flabbergasted and flummoxed. She flunked. In 2009, the secretary said, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” For decades her “friends” reigned over a vicious and corrupt police state that used torture and violence to thwart democracy. As for women’s rights, not so much. Clinton’s sisterhood didn’t extend to the millions of oppressed Egyptian women who lived under the misogynistic and murderous Mubarak regime or to the women who endured humiliating “virginity” tests at the hands of the military during the revolution. Not an indignant word from the secretary about that. Clinton visited Tahrir Square post-revolution and remarked, “It’s just a great reminder of the power of the human spirit and universal desire for freedom and human rights and democracy.”
FORUS: Malalai Joya, Afghan activist and author.
Joya’s speech in the loya jirga (national assembly) in 2003 rocked the world. For two minutes she ripped into the warlords responsible for murdering and raping thousands of civilians. Two minutes changed Joya’s life irrevocably. The 23-year-old was physically and verbally attacked after she left the microphone and has been living underground with bodyguards ever since. She survived five attempts on her life. But Joya won’t stop. She relentlessly condemns the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai and the U.S. military occupation.
The State Department denied Joya a visa to enter the United States to promote her book, “A Woman Among Warlords.” Hillary Clinton’s State Department doesn’t feel very sisterly toward Joya, because she argues publicly that 10 years of U.S. bombs and night raids haven’t liberated Afghan women.
Square, Site wide
A national campaign eventually got Joya into the country. Her speeches at packed meetings were emotional and electrifying. She excoriated Clinton and President Obama for broken promises and lies. Recently, a senior Obama administration official, when asked about the plight of Afghan women, answered, “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities. ... There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.” Afghan women’s lives are just “pet rocks” to be pitched out like so much garbage. Joya knows how these things go, but her political activism to free her country from war and oppression will continue no matter what.
FORBES: Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security.
Forbes reminds us that Napolitano is “the first female head of the Department of Homeland Security, a position she took after serving as the first female governor of Arizona from 2003-2009.” As governor, Napolitano’s priorities were sealing the border between Arizona and Mexico, scapegoating and exploiting Mexican immigrants and deporting as many as possible. During her governorship, the number of men, women and children who died in the Sonoran Desert skyrocketed—more than 200 in 2007 alone. Napolitano wants to keep everyone out, including those fleeing natural disasters. She warned Haitians caught trying to enter the United States after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that they would be detained and deported right back to Haiti.
Napolitano’s job is domestic counterterrorism. In other words: spying on, investigating, arresting, incarcerating and deporting Mexicans and Muslims. In 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents deported a record 400,000 people.
Napolitano’s mantra is “if you see something, say something.” But if you see that the Department of Homeland Security is a threat to your privacy and civil rights and say something, watch out. “Big Sis,” as she is nicknamed, is coming for you.
FORUS: Carla Navoa, a 21-year-old undocumented student, stood up to Napolitano, the caza-inmigrante (immigrant hunter).
In Chicago, Navoa, along with five other students, sat down in the street surrounded by hundreds of supporters and got arrested. She was protesting Secure Communities, a federal program to deport immigrants with criminal records. Navoa said, “I decided to do the action to get other youth and immigrant families to face their fears and stand up to the tyranny of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I’ve had enough of hearing stories about friends and community members losing family who have committed no serious crime. I’m not going to be bullied or accept anyone being terrorized by ICE. ... I was and am enraged.”
Navoa and hundreds of activists around the country forced the Obama administration to back down. They won a victory when the government announced that undocumented students will no longer be deportation targets. That is power that matters. The slogan of the movement to stop deportations is “undocumented and unafraid.” The students’ civil disobedience, their courage is sí se puede (yes we can) in action and an example to the undocumented who are still afraid that change is possible.
FORBES: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services.
Sebelius championed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the 2,000-page incomprehensible piece of legislation better known as Obamacare. The legislation mandates everyone buy insurance (except the undocumented—they’re left out entirely), discriminates against women by restricting abortion coverage, and still leaves 23 million people uninsured. Advocates of single-payer were shut out of the health care debate, and Sebelius worked overtime to assure Republicans that single-payer wasn’t on the table. She told a reporter, “This is not a trick. This is not single-payer. That’s not what anyone is talking about—mostly because the president feels strongly, as I do, that dismantling private health coverage for the 180 million Americans that have it, discouraging more employers from coming into the marketplace, is really bad ... is a bad direction to go in.”
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