Friday, February 23, 2007

Francis Bok

From Publishers Weekly:

"Seven-year-old Francis Piol Bol Buk was living happily on his family's southern Sudan farm. One day in 1986, he was sent on errands to the marketplace. There, a slave raid ripped him from his contented life and threw him into a wretched existence serving under a northern Sudanese Arab.
After he escaped at age 17, Buk made his way to Cairo with a black market passport incorrectly listing his name as Bok and became a U.N. refugee allowed to settle in the U.S. in 1999. Although he found contentment in Iowa among other refugees, the following year Bok decided to work with an American antislavery organization, and testified before Congress about the atrocities in Sudan.
While this is a remarkable story, its power is conveyed most effectively through Bok's simple retelling. His sincerity compels, especially when he describes the decade of mistreatment he endured. After two failed escape attempts, he's told he'll be killed in the morning, and while bound, he thinks of the morning ahead: "I would be dead and finally through with this place and this family. My mind preferred death." Yet when his master changes his mind, Bok immediately starts plotting again. For all his emotional strength, though, Bok remains humble. He thanks God and everyone who helps him escape slavery. This is a powerful, exceptionally well-told story, equally riveting and heartbreaking. Although legal strides have been made, with the help of people like Bok, the persistence of slavery in the world makes this a work that can't be ignored. "
BAGHDAD, Feb 18 (Reuters) - On any given day in Baghdad, Iraqi police can be expected to report finding up to 50 bodies shot, tortured and dumped in the streets of the capital, but on Saturday only five were found, police said on Sunday.
It was the most dramatic sign yet that a stepped-up military offensive by more than 110,000 Iraqi and U.S security forces is, at least for now, curbing the sectarian violence that has turned the city's streets into killing fields. There has been a relative lull in sectarian attacks since Operation Imposing Law, seen as a last-ditch attempt to avert all-out civil war, began a few days ago.

Police normally report finding between 40 and 50 bodies a day in Baghdad, but Saturday's toll was one of the lowest since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra a year ago unleashed a wave of violence that has caused tens of thousands of deaths.
U.S. officials and Sunni Arab leaders say many of the killings are carried out by death squads of the Mehdi Army militia of anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The U.S. military commander for Baghdad, Major-General Joseph Fil, said on Friday he had noted a "substantial reduction" in the number of attacks attributed to the militia.

Other news:
+ A young Egyptian blogger has become the first person in Egypt sentenced to a jail term for opinions expressed on the internet. Human-rights groups condemned what they called the "chilling precedent" set by an Alexandria court when it sentenced Abdel Kareem Suleiman to four years in prison for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak. Some of Suleiman's blog opinions were decidedly outspoken. He described companions of the prophet Mohammed as "terrorists" and he compared President Mubarak to the pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt. More.
+ Taliban suspected in Pakistan bombing
The police say a senior judge and six lawyers were killed in the blast and 24 other people were wounded. The court is near to a police station and an office that issues driving licences. It was not clear who was behind the blast. Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province which has seen ongoing unrest. Residents of the province have been demanding a greater share of wealth from their natural resources. There has been a spate of suicide attacks in Pakistan that intelligence officials have linked to groups operating from tribal areas, seen as supporting the Taliban and its battle against Nato forces in Afghanistan...

+ 25% of Saudi marriages end in divorce: Saudi Arabia, which follows an austere form of Sunni Islam, allows men to repudiate their wives. "It is impossible to have healthy relationships in Saudi Arabia. The laws have given men full authority while women are deprived of their rights and freedom," rights activist Wajiha al-Howeidar told Reuters.

He looked at me and said, "You want to know why no one loves you and why you must sleep with the animals?... I make you sleep with the animals... because you ARE an animal..."

-- from Escape from Slavery by Francis Bok


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