For decades, the government of Myanmar has pursued discriminatory policies against the population of Rohingya Muslims located in the western portions of the country. The country is predominantly Buddhist, meaning that the general population seemingly has no empathy with those suffering from the military’s actions.
Once heralded as a great humanitarian by some, Aung San Suu Kyi, the president of Myanmar, is now unanimously condemned as being apathetic to the plight of her citizens. Since 2015, the villages of the Rohingya have been burned and a great many of them have fled to Bangladesh to escape the persecution. While she is getting much of the flak for her country’s actions, much of the blame should be assigned to her generals who act with near impunity. It is possible that she feels some allegiance to them (other than the fact that there are from the same country) as their 2011 coup is what removed the post of prime minister. This means that as president, Kyi is both the head of state as well as the head of government. This grants her enormous power. It is akin to a U.S. president being both head of the executive branch as well as speaker of the house. The only political force more powerful than she is perhaps the military.
Regardless, Kyi has a moral obligation to do her part to stop the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims. It is not as if she is powerless to stop the crisis from happening. She can either be called weak or complicit and honestly, perhaps both.
Very recently Teresa May, Great Britain’s current prime minister, was going to propose her Brexit deal that would be the result of years of negotiations with the EU. Unfortunately for her, it became very obvious that the deal would not have the required votes to pass with some demanding a hard Brexit while others desiring as soft a Brexit as humanly possible. Since May’s deal would please no one, she canceled the vote. This triggered a no-confidence vote over her leadership of the Conservative Party which she subsequently won 200 to 117. This is a decent margin but it is still concerning that so many of her own party were willing to throw her out of the leadership position.
The question now facing Britain’s parliament is where to go from here. They could decide to try the vote on May’s Brexit deal but again, it is unlikely that such a deal would pass successfully. An alternative approach would be to reenter negotiations with the EU but it is clear that they are unwilling to make things easier for the nation trying to leave it. Of course, this situation is good for those few who demand a complete break from the European Union with few continuing ties. A hard Brexit coming from a no-deal scenario would be beneficial to those on the far-right who are willing to do anything to ensure that Brexit goes through.
This is an uncertain time for the country as Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, is considering bringing forth a no-confidence vote for May’s entire administration before Brexit is set to occur. This would likely send the government into chaos as a new prime minister would only have a few short months to bring forth an entirely new Brexit deal. Scary times.
About 3 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Persian Poetry being held in Farzaneh Hall with Ms. Alavi. It was held on Friday from 6-8pm in the David Boren Lounge and it was a time for the students in Persian language classes to share some poems they found interesting and then translate them for us and explain their deeper meaning. I sadly arrived a bit later than most people so I only really caught the back half of the event. One of the poems I remember (which I later found)was by the poet Gibran Kahlil. It goes “Between what is said and not meant/ And what is meant and not said/ Most of love is lost.” I remembered this poem for twp very important reasons: because it was quite short but it also packed a lot of meaning into just the few words it had. It helps demonstrate how people in the Middle East view love and it is entertaining to western audiences as well.Since we can relate to it and discuss it, we are more inclined to read it which can make us want to delve deeper into the world of Arabian poetry. Something I did not get the chance to ask the presenter of the poem was how she had come across it? Had it been recommended to her or did she go looking for something like it? I don’t suppose it really matters as it is clear that she enjoyed reciting it to us in Persian and it helps expand her love of that culture.
I have just realized that despite my book group ending some weeks ago, I have not been able to properly write a blog post about it yet. The book we read was Palestine Walks by Raja Shehadeh. I chose to be a part of this reading group as it was a book that covered an international topic that was interesting to me. Since I live in the U.S., I often hear about the conflict between Israel and Palestine from the Israeli standpoint. The U.S. (especially under the Trump administration) backs Israel over Palestine most of the time so justification for that policy is what is often debated. In his book, Shehadeh guides the reader through his time living in the West Bank and what it is like to ave so much Israeli influence over him. The biggest idea I personally got from the book is that Israel is not facing enough international push-back for its settlement policies and that it should be condemned more often for its actions than it currently is. The reasoning for this is that Israel is effectively trying to integrate the entirety of the West Bank into its territory. This is sneaky behavior and not something that should be ignored.
Part of the reason as to why the U.S. does not condemn the Israeli government is because Evangelical Christians are huge backers of the country. They believe that the Jewish people must have complete dominance over the biblical land of Israel in order for the second coming to happen. This leads them to support the expulsion or assimilation of the Palestinian citizens in the West Bank. Personally, I think this is somewhat shortsighted, perhaps because I am not an Evangelical Christian.
While I was at the WHO conference in Oklahoma City, we listened to a panel on the nature of public health in Oklahoma and across the world as a whole. This was after the initial committee meetings but before we convened for lunch so we had already had had some experience with how important it was to debate things in a public setting in order to get everyone on the same page. I had personally spent much of the past several hours being very belligerent as I attempted to properly portray Malaysia as a country with a religious bent that didn’t want anything “obscene” to show up in the resolution they would be signing on to.
The panel started out with how important health was around the world as it effects everyone and everything they do. It affects countries, people, and businesses all in ways we never seem to truly consider. From there, it spread to education and how it is important to have a well-educated population who can make correct decisions on their own. Naturally, all the panelists agreed that it was a bad idea for the state of Oklahoma to underfund education like they had as it will lead to bad things in the future. This is a point I agree with. It did get a bit political at the end as it was suggested that the rise in political polarization (stemming from certain figures in the federal government) was contributing to our unwillingness to debate health possibilities in a way that was free on falsehoods. Overall, I thought it was a fascinating panel as everyone on it was able to bring a unique take on what may be the best way forward to deal with these issues.
This past weekend, I was a delegate at the Mock WHO conference held in Oklahoma City. Beforehand, we were presented with the countries that we would represent. I ended up getting Malaysia. I was quite happy to have a chance to represent them as I did not know much about them before I was to represent them. Through my research, I was able to learn that they are a Muslim majority country with Islam as the official religion and they actually have pretty good doctors for the region but they do not have them evenly distributed throughout urban and rural areas. I knew these would be the angles I’d be coming from so I was very excited to get started.
First, we had our resolutions in which we discussed the impact education had on health in our individual regions. I was a real stick in the mud as I insisted that there be no reference to contraceptives or sexual activity as I considered such dialogue “immoral”. Unfortunately for the delegate of Malaysia, the resolution passed the small committee talks with the language still in there. We then went to the final delegation with all the committee members present to vote and make amendments to each other’s resolutions. I formed a powerful voting bloc with members of the AFRO region and we managed to get several phrases struck out of the resolutions. Something I particularly enjoyed was there were a few times when an amendment would only be supported by the country asking for it, myself, and the Philippines (who I was sitting next to). At the end I won best delegate for my region! Overall, it was a great experience and one I wish to repeat in the future.
I chose to go to the country of Malta with a few good friends of mine as my first international trip since arriving in Italy. We took the late night train into Rome and then waited around for our flight that was leaving early the next day. The flight itself wasn’t too long as Malta is a quick hop from the island of Sicily anyway. When we arrived we were picked up by our British Air BNB host and he drove us to our apartment we would be staying in for the weekend. It was a nice apartment, close to a little breakfast place where we went to the next day.
Highlights of the trip include seeing the capitol, going on a cruise to a hidden bay, and exploring the beach side. My favorite thing would have to be the cruise as it was such a sunny day. It took us to a smaller island and we swam in incredibly blue water. It was awesome!
Another city I had the pleasure of visiting was Rome with the full class. It was about a 3 hours commute from Arezzo so naturally when I got there I was very hungry. I went with some friends of mine to get a sandwich and then we caught back up with the main group. We got to walk by some incredible fountains on the way to our first of a few destinations.
The coliseum was of course a stop for us while we were in the city. The only thing is that we were not able to get into it! It was a very busy day that day and the staff would not be able to handle a group as large as ours and so we decided to leave as opposed to leaving some of our members out.
We then went to the old forum which used to be considered the true center of the empire. Every city in the empire was measured from that central point using a soldier’s stride as a unit of measurement. It was impressive to behold to say the least as it was a wide expanse in a crowded city.
Finally, the last thing we say as a full group was the famed pantheon. It was the largest semi dome structure at the time of antiquity and still has the open ceiling today. We had to leave shortly after because they a pray service was starting but we still got a good look at the inside.
I went with a friend of mine to the Trevi fountain and it was gorgeous. We threw some coins in and then went back to the station to get back to Arezzo!
The first thing I need to say about Naples is that it is a crazy town. The reason I say this is because the Napoli residents do not have a tendency to obey the traffic laws. So when I leave the central train station and start crossing the streets, I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands. My Air BNB wasn’t too far away so I was able to get off the streets pretty quickly.
While I was in Naples, I knew I wanted to do two things: have pizza and visit the close-by city of Pompeii. Through some online research I’d learned that a lot of the artifacts from the city had been moved to museums in Naples. So I went to the biggest one.
The museum was having a music festival of sorts at the time so the lower floors were quite crowded while the upper floors were not. There were beautiful mosaics and sculptures from the Roman times and I really got a kick out of them.
The next day I went to the city of Pompeii. It took about 40 minutes by train but the time flew right by. The local station was quite a walk from the actual historical area but I managed to find it okay. I must say I was very impressed with the city. After paying admission, I was allowed to walk through it and go into most of the shells of the buildings. I heard a nearby tour guide tell his group that the most dangerous part of the city was at the intersection of the two main roads because of the rain. Apparently, since the old city had no drainage system, all the water went into the roads and down the hills. Any unsuspecting tourist might get sucked away (which would be scary).
At the end of the day I came back and had pizza at a restaurant near my Air BNB. It was very thin with a lot of seafood. It was unusual but I really enjoyed it!
I enjoyed Verona very much. The first day was a slow day for when I got in and as a result I did not leave the hotel very much. I bought some snacks for dinner and I watched The Social Network starring Jesse Eisenberg as the then college student, Mark Zuckerberg. It was a good movie and I fell asleep shortly afterward.
The next day I got up and enjoyed the hotel breakfast. I had some cereal and toast. When I left it was a beautiful day with a light breeze. I decided that I wanted to see Juliet’s tomb which was only a few miles away so I began walking there. On the way I saw what I took to be the Coliseum, but then I remembered that the Coliseum couldn’t possibly be here as it was in Rome! I remembered what my parents had said about Verona having an arena worth visiting so I paid the 10 euro admission and went inside. I found it to be truly gorgeous! I got to walk all the way around the sides and even in the very center on the floor. It was awesome when I saw that someone had previously written “OUA” in the dirt of the arena floor. To my knowledge, no one else had visited Verona this semester so it may have been around last semester. Crazy.
I then went to Juliet’s tomb. I got lost initially but I found it just the same. It was organized as a Shakespeare/fresco museum and it had some nice qualities to it. The fresco’s were nice but I got chills when I saw Juliet’s supposed tomb. There was so much history in that room room and it was just astounding. Truly incredible.
I then woke up early the next day to catch the outbound train. Off to my next city.