Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Video New Film Lays Bare 'Pakistan's Hidden Shame'

Naeem, 13, says he first sold himself to a man in a Peshawar park when he was 8 years old. He subsequently relied on prostitution to feed his heroin habit.

The United Kingdom's sizable Pakistani community has been under fire recently as a result of shocking revelations of widespread child sex exploitation in the city of Rotherham by men with links to that South Asian country.

Now, a new documentary screened by Britain's Channel 4 last week has been shifting attention to the problem of child abuse in Pakistan itself, particularly the northwestern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border.

"Pakistan's Hidden Shame" charts the plight of Peshawar's street children, most of whom are believed to have experienced sexual abuse at some stage in their lives.  

One of the film's central characters is a 13-year-old boy called Naeem, who says he first had sex with a man when he was 8 years old in order to buy some food after running away from an abusive older brother at home.

Living on the street, he subsequently succumbed to heroin addiction and regularly prostituted himself to feed his habit.

Naeem's situation is tragically common in a country racked by deprivation and all its concomitant dangers.

According to some estimates, there are 1.5 million street children living in Pakistan, whose poverty makes them particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. A staggering 90 percent of them are thought to have been molested at some stage.

Many of the perpetrators of these crimes are bus and truck drivers whose long hours and low wages often give them the opportunity and incentive to pay these children a pittance for sex in stations and terminals around the city.

Most of the victims of this trade are young boys, a fact that director Mohammed Naqvi suggests has a lot to do with the "fierce patriarchal mindset that is pervasive in Peshawar, one in which women are viewed as receptacles of family honor to be safeguarded at home."

It's a view echoed in the film by Ejaz, a bus conductor who admits to having sex with around a dozen boys.

"A woman is a thing you keep at home," he says. "You can't take women out because people stare at them -- they're useless things; you have to show propriety and chasteness with them. You can take boys around anywhere with you and it isn't a big deal."

The topic is a familiar one to the film's producer, Jamie Doran, whose award-winning "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan" laid bare a shocking sexual exploitation ring run by Afghan warlords.

"In Pakistan, you're having the abuse of young boys, largely because young girls aren't available..." he told CNN. "If you really delve into the reasons behind this, you will find in such societies the role of women is so meager their power is almost nonexistent and every survey in recent times has linked the lack of female power to pedophilia."

Somewhat surprisingly, Ejaz appears to view his behavior as quite normal in such a sexually repressed society, despite being aware that his actions are wrong.

"What can we do?" he says at one point. "We know it's totally against Islam. God doesn't like it. But we're helpless against our desire."

Sadly, it appears that homeless kids are also helpless against Ejaz's desire, because little is being done for the underage sex workers of Peshawar, where the local police force is more preoccupied with a Taliban insurgency than the safety of street children.

In fact, hot on the heels of the Rotherham sex scandal, Naqvi's film has been making bigger waves in Britain and other Western countries than it has in Pakistan, where there seems to be little appetite for a public debate on such a taboo subject.

Even though leading Pakistani politician Imran Khan has said the movie's revelations are "sad and shameful," no local TV network has broadcast the documentary yet, despite the fact that the screening rights were offered to them by the filmmakers free of charge.

WATCH: Trailer for 'Pakistan's Hidden Shame'


-- Coilin O'Connor

Gulnara Karimova's Spectacular Fall From Grace

Gulnara Karimova attends a party marking the birthday of De Grisogono jewellery house founder and president Fawaz Gruosi at the Billionaire Club in Sardinia, Italy, in August 2012.

Gulnara Karimova once had it all. High-flying pop singer. Globe-trotting fashionista. A diplomat whose postings put her on the fast track to succeed her all-powerful presidential father, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov.

But Karimova's star began to dim in recent years amid criticism of her lavish lifestyle abroad, her failure as a UN ambassador to speak out on human rights abuses at home, and persistent allegations of corruption.

Her star appeared to officially fall on September 8 when a woman identified as "Karimova G." was named by the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office as a suspect in a graft case. The assumption is that it can be no other than the 42-year-old Karimova, who is believed to be under house arrest in Tashkent.

Here is a look at some of her lowlights in recent years:

September 2011: Out Of Fashion

Karimova's fashion line, Guli, has its New York's Fashion Week show cancelled after the organizer said it was "horrified by the "human rights abuses in Uzbekistan." The runway show is then moved to a chic downtown restaurant, Cipriani, where about two dozen people assemble to protest the use of child labor during Uzbek cotton harvests. About 200 people show up for the show, but Karimova reportedly stays away.

June 2012: Singing Falls Flat

Karimova releases a pop album to a worldwide audience. Her website (now offline) touts a "stellar review" of the album from "Billboard" magazine and a "great interview with CNN," but neither link works and there is no record of either the review or the interview. In January 2013, she records a single in Russian with French actor-turned-Russian citizen Gerard Depardieu. 

April 2013: Diplomatic Disappearance

Her name suddenly disappears from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry's official list of ambassadors, indicating that she has been removed from her post as Uzbekistan's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, a post she had held since September 2008. She is officially out of her position in July. 

May 2013: Bribery Allegations

Documents leaked to Swedish investigative journalists and reviewed by RFE/RL appear to offer fresh evidence of a link between Karimova and Swedish telecom giant TeliaSonera.

October 2013: Off-Air

Several Karimova-controlled television and radio channels abruptly stop broadcasting. Officials say that the reason is basic maintenance.

October 2013: Frozen Accounts

Terra Group, a media holding company associated with Karimova, has its bank accounts frozen because of allegations of financial wrongdoing.

November 2013: Tweets Silenced

Karimova, an avid user of Twitter, for the first time addresses alleged rights abuses in Uzbekistan. She posts a series of tweets that suggest one of her bodyguards had been arrested and subsequently beaten by members of the country's security services. Her Twitter account is disabled later that month, but appears again in December when she uses it to attack her sister. Her once-prolific social-media presence goes fully dark in February.

February 2014: Criminal Ties?

Karimova's apartment in Tashkent is searched, and her boyfriend, Rustam Madumarov, and two other associates are detained. The three are accused by investigators of being part of a criminal case linked to tax evasion and illegal possession of hard currency.

March 2014: House Arrest

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and the BBC obtain copies of a handwritten letter believed to be from Karimova saying that she was under house arrest and had been beaten and subjected to "severe psychological pressure." The same month, Karimova is named as a suspect in a bribery case involving the Swedish telecoms company TeliaSonera.

August 2014: House Arrest Audio

The BBC obtains recordings of Karimova complaining about her treatment under house arrest. She says that she and her daughter are being treated "worse than dogs" and that they have no contact with the outside world.

-- Luke Johnson

The Week Ahead: September 8-14

September 9: The European Union is expected to formally adopt a fourth wave of sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

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MONDAY, September 8:
EU/Ukraine: European Parliament hosts a press conference with Ukrainian pop singer Ruslana in Brussels.
MacedoniaIndependence Day.
TUESDAY, September 9:
EU: The European Union is expected to formally adopt a fourth wave of sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
Tajikistan: Independence Day.
WEDNESDAY, September 10:
OSCE: Prague hosts a meeting of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum (to September 12).
U.S./UkraineJohns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hosts a discussion titled "The Ukrainian Crisis in Historical Perspective."
THURSDAY, September 11:
EU/Ukraine: European Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defense hosts a discussion on the security situation in Ukraine.
Iran/Kazakhstan: Iranian President Hassan Rohani is scheduled to visit Astana.
MoldovaNext round of 5+2 talks on the Transdniester conflict settlement, involving representatives of Moldova, Transdniester, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, plus the United States and the European Union, is scheduled to begin in Vienna (to September 12).

Ukraine: The 11th Yalta Annual Meeting titled "New Ukraine, New Europe, New World Building And Defending," organized by the Yalta European Strategy (YES), opens. (to September 13).
UkraineEU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fuele, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso visit Kyiv (to September 12).
FRIDAY, September 12:
EU: Representatives of Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine meet in Brussels for a ministerial meeting to discuss the implementation of Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the European Union.

Tajikistan: Dushanbe hosts the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit (to September 13).

Iran/TajikistanIranian President Hassan Rohani visits Dushanbe, attends the SCO summit. (to September 13).

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

Sex, Torture, And Chechnya: New Depardieu Movie Hits Russian Theaters

Gerard Depardieu

Gerard Depardieu, the famous French actor-turned-Russian-citizen, hit Russian theaters on September 4 with a new movie whose producer says highlights the "extraordinary redevelopment" of Chechnya in Russia’s restive North Caucasus.

"Viktor," starring Depardieu and British actress Elizabeth Hurley, was shot in Moscow and Chechnya last year. It purports to be a revenge film with Depardieu, speaking English as a Frenchman, taking on the criminal underworld that killed his son.

The film has secured an apparent endorsement from Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who posted pictures on his widely followed Instagram last year with Hurley, Depardieu, and a kitten.

With the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin and government largesse from Moscow, Kadyrov has presided over the redevelopment of Chechnya following two devastating wars in the republic between Chechen separatists and Russian federal forces.

Kadyrov’s reign, however, has also been marked by numerous reports of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and extrajudicial killings and torture.

The trailer for "Viktor" features a lingerie-clad woman wielding a pistol, as well as multiple scenes of torture:


Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented 82 cases of torture in a 2006 mission by Kadyrov’s forces. A former bodyguard, Umar Israilov, has accused Kadyrov of personally torturing him and others by giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.

Kadyrov, who has repeatedly denied such accusations, gave Depardieu the title of honorary citizen in May 2013 and keys to a five-room apartment on the 27th floor of an elite apartment building in Grozny.

Putin hand-delivered a Russian passport to Depardieu in January 2013 after the actor got into a public spat with French President Francois Hollande over a surtax on millionaires.

The French actor has registered to live in Saransk, Mordovia, about 650 kilometers east of Moscow.

-- Luke Johnson

Russian Photographer In Ukraine's Fate Still Unclear, Despite Cryptic 'RIP' Tweet

Russian photographer Andrei Stenin, who reportedly went missing in eastern Ukraine in early August

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 03.09.2014 05:19

UPDATE: The Russian media conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya has confirmed that photographer Andrei Stenin is dead, saying in a statement that medical experts had concluded a body found in a burned vehicle outside Donestk was that of Stenin.

The fate of a Russian photographer who disappeared nearly a month ago in eastern Ukraine remains a mystery despite scattered claims that DNA testing confirmed Andrei Stenin was dead.

A fellow Russian photojournalist claimed on September 2 that Stenin's remains have been identified, after he disappeared while covering fighting between pro-Kyiv and pro-Russian forces.

Another report, on the Russian FlashNord website, quoted the separatist "Donetsk People's Republic" as saying genetic tests had confirmed that remains found more than a week ago were Stenin's.

But Stenin's employers at news agency Rossiya Segodnya (also known as RIA Novosti) said they had no confirmation of Stenin's death. "We are awaiting the final results of genetic testing in the near future," Rossiya Segodnya Director-General Dmitry Kiselyov was quoted as saying.

The case has particularly alarmed Russians and international observers due to suggestions -- including by a Ukrainian official -- that Stenin, who was on assignment at the time, had been taken into custody by Ukrainian security forces.

Russian colleague and self-described "good friend" Vasily Maksimov (@vasilymaximov) announced Stenin's purported death via Twitter.

"Andrei Stenin's remains identified, it seems," Maksimov said. "RIA will soon let you know. Unfortunately, I no longer doubted this outcome. RIP."

The pro-Kremlin @Novorussia_ru feed also claimed Stenin's death had been confirmed, although it offered no attribution for the information.

The reports set off a wave of expressions of mourning for Stenin on social media.

Rossiya Segodnya had launched an online campaign in August featuring the #FreeAndrew Twitter hashtag.

Reports more than a week ago suggested Stenin's remains had been found along with the bodies of two other people, in some cases with accompanying photographs of a burned-out car said to have been found on the road between Snezhnye and Dmitrivka.

The leadership of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic reportedly claimed at the time that equipment and other evidence at the scene indicated one of the bodies was that of Stenin.

Speculation over who might be responsible for Stenin's disappearance fueled ongoing debate in a conflict in which all sides have been criticized for their treatment of journalists.

Stenin had been working in areas of eastern Ukraine where some of the most intense fighting was taking place between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Many of his photographs showed the brutal realities of war and were shot while he was traveling with pro-Russian fighters. They included images of a captured Ukrainian soldier digging a grave for comrades, locals affected by the fighting, and pro-Russian fighters in combat or on leave

In the bitter media environment of war-torn Ukraine, some had accused Stenin of working for Russian security forces. But no evidence of such ties has been produced publicly.

Reporters Without Borders had said it was "very concerned" over Stenin's whereabouts in the days after his disappearance:

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about Andrei Stenin, an experienced war photographer working for the past few months in eastern Ukraine for Rossiya Segodnya, a Russian news agency formed in 2013 from the merger of several state-owned news outlets. Stenin has been missing since 5 August, when Rossiya Segodnya reported his disappearance. Reporters Without Borders urges anyone holding him to make it known, and to release him at once.

A RIA Novosti source said on 8 August that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was holding him near the southwestern city of Zaporozhye but a local SBU spokesman denied this and the Ukrainian government has yet to respond to requests by Rossiya Segodnya and local NGOs such as IMI for information. Representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk said Stenin may have gone to Shakhtarsk, in the Donetsk region, where all communications are cut.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said four days after the disappearance that efforts were under way to find Stenin. "The relevant agencies are taking measures to bring the journalist back home because the life of any of our citizens, including journalists, is the top priority in such situations, of course," Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

On August 12, a RIA Novosti report quoted an aide to Ukraine's interior minister as saying Stenin had been "arrested."

"He [Stenin] was arrested by our security services," Anton Herashchenko, an aide to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs, said in an interview with Baltkom radio. "We think that Andrei Stenin may be guilty of aiding terrorists."

But Herashchenko subsequently complained he'd been quoted out of context and said he had no information about Stenin's whereabouts.

On August 20, he added that the Ukrainian National Security Service (SBU) "is not holding this man either."

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, called for Stenin's "immediate release."

"This dangerous practice of detaining and abducting media workers is unacceptable and must end," Mijatovic said. "I call on those responsible to stop targeting journalists for carrying out their work."

Journalists from both the pro-Russian and pro-Kyiv sides have gone missing or turned up dead since separatist-fueled violence escalated in early April. 

At least six other journalists have been killed this year in Ukraine.

-- Andy Heil

The Week Ahead: September 1-7

September 1: The North Ossetian town of Beslan marks the 10th anniversary of a school hostage taking that left 334 people people -- including 186 children -- dead.

The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.
Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

Follow Me on Pinterest

MONDAY, September 1:
Armenia:  The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Academy is scheduled to begin its work in Yerevan.
EU/Iran:  EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton meets Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels to discuss a framework for renewed nuclear talks.
Russia: The North Ossetian town of Beslan marks the 10th anniversary of a school hostage taking that left 334 people people -- including 186 children -- dead. 
Russia/France: Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin visits Paris, meets with Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Anne Brasseur (to September 2).
UzbekistanIndependence Day.
Vatican: Rome hosts an interfaith soccer match aimed at promoting peace.
TUESDAY, September 2:
NATO: The Czech Republic hosts NATO military air exercise (to September 15). 
Turkey/Azerbaijan: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Baku.
U.S./Baltic StatesU.S. President Barack Obama visits Estonia, meets with Estonian President Hendrik Ilves, Latvian President Andris Berzins, and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Tallinn.
THURSDAY, September 4:
Kazakhstan/SCO: Astana hosts a meeting of the chairmen of the Supreme Courts of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states.
Kyrgyzstan/CIS: A meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) interior ministers begins in Cholpon-Ata on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
NATO: The United Kingdom hosts a NATO summit in Wales (to September 5).
FRIDAY, September 5:
EU/Russia: EU agricultural ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the consequences of Russia's import ban.
Russia: The 10th Kazan International Muslim Film Festival opens in Tatarstan (to September 11).
SATURDAY, September 6:
Georgia: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to visit Tbilisi
SUNDAY, September 7:

Tags:calendar of events, radio free europe, radio liberty

A Few Brave Russians Protest Invasion Of Southeast Ukraine

Pictures such as this one of a lone man protesting against Russia's invasion of southeast Ukraine in Moscow on August 28 have been doing the rounds on social media

At 12:41 a.m. Moscow time on August 28, Solidarity Movement activist Dmitry Monakhov tweeted: "I am Russian. Not cattle. Not a killer. And I am not an occupier. I am ashamed that Putin is my president. At 9:00 I will go to Manezh against the war."  

Less than 24 hours later, his message had been retweeted some 3,000 times.  

He went to Moscow's Manezh Square on August 28, and said that Putin's actions were illegal under Section 353 of the Russian Criminal Code, which bans the planning of "aggressive war," according to the LiveJournal of Philipp Kireev, who witnessed the scene and uploaded photos of it to his blog. Monakhov called for the opening of a criminal investigation into Putin.  

The police came and detained him. An onlooker shouted, "Don't like this -- go away, this is our home and we're going to live here," according to Kireev. 

"I have been detained, I don't know what the charges will be," Monakhov tweeted at 9:35 a.m. Moscow time. As of the time of publication, he had not tweeted since.  

The protest was one of a few scattered on Manezh Square of lone people protesting Putin's actions. The Interfax news agency quoted human rights activists as saying that six people were detained on the square. 

Some of these sporadic protests were photographed and subsequently shared on social media:

'No War With Ukraine'

На Манежной площади в Москве проходят пикеты против войны России с Украиной

 'I Am A Citizen Of Russia Against The War With Ukraine" 

"No War"

Еще пикет

— Philipp Kireev (@mynameisphilipp) August 28, 2014

'War With Ukraine Is Suicide For Russia' 

Other top opposition leaders took to Twitter to protest Moscow's actions. 

The Twitter account of anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny, who is under house arrest and barred from using social media, tweeted out a blog post with a March poll from his organization showing a majority of Russians looking on a war with Ukraine negatively. 

Popular Russian opposition blogger Oleg Kozyrev tweeted a series of sarcastic observations. "The Kremlin destroying the Russian economy began with the economy of Ukraine," he said.

"Yes, in Russia we don't know how to build roads. Instead, we learned to bomb the roads of other governments."  He went on, "Why build a hospital in Russia, to be better than neighboring states, if you can just destroy the hospital of your neighbors."  

State media downplayed the new Russian front in Ukraine.

State-controlled NTV played NATO's statement that more than 1,000 Russian troops were on Ukrainian soil as an accusation without proof, and included a denial from Russia's representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Channel One called it an "alleged 'Russian invasion'" and said that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's August 28 statement that Moscow had brought forces into Ukraine caused "a new spike in anti-Russian rhetoric in the Western media."  

-- Luke Johnson

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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