Brazil Thoughts: The Girl From Ipanema

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One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of Brazil is the melody of one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard – the now well known Brazilian bossa nova song : La garota de Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema), first written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. I think the most popular version of the song and the most classic and iconic is that which was first performed by Astrud Gilberto and Joao Gilberto. The song has then gone on to be performed by Frank Sinatra and even Amy Winehouse. If you haven’t already, I suggest you listen to this lovely song!

Above is a picture of Hêlo Pinheiro, the young girl who had inspired the song to be written because of her beauty. The girl from Ipanema.

The Importance of A Grandmother

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In response to The Daily Post on whether there should be another day in order of a special relative, my answer is yes, a day dedicated to grandparents, or in my case, my lovely grandmother. I call mine “annane” (Turkish for grandma). It literally means mother’s mother.

Now I can only speak from my own experience with my grandma. I understand that there aren’t many people who are that close to their grandparents, and truthfully I find that a little sad. I don’t know if it’s down to culture and different ideas on what family is. In my culture family is very important, especially family elders. Grandparents are seen as wise and special, and people you should always be respectful towards. I’ve always had a very close relationship with my “annane”, and so have my siblings. She practically brought us up – of course my mum did too, but my mum’s always been hard at work providing for the family as long as I can remember…and my dad…well not so much. In my opinion grandmothers are like second mothers, and my grandmother certainly is. No one’s love feels as warm and gentle as a grandma’s love. There’s just something special about them. Something kinda magical. My “annane” is the sweetest woman ever, but that isn’t to say she isn’t tough. I love that about her, and I love that combination of sweetness and “I don’t give a damn” confidence that comes with age. I’d love to be a grandmother one day. I’m not really scared of aging.

For me grandmothers deserve a day of their own, because they are such strong people. My grandmother came to London when she was in her early 20’s with FIVE kids! Yes five…two more soon to be on the way. She also had an abusive husband who she had never wanted to marry in the first place. At a young age she was basically kidnapped and made to marry him. She came from a remote village in Dersim, north-east Turkey. Eventually she left her husband. Today she’s almost always coming to visit us, and still as passionate and full of energy as ever, with a total of 7 kids, 12 grandchildren plus one on the way, and two great grandchildren at the ripe old age of 62. A phenomenal woman she is!

Turkey: A History of Sexual Violence

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This is an article I wrote a while ago for The Guardian’s International Development Journalism Competition. I was very proud that it was successful in being shortlisted for the competition as it’s an issue very close to my heart. I’m also glad that in some way the issue gained some public attention, even if only a little. Horrendous issues such as this go unheard of for too long in Turkey, and many other countries in the world. The article contains some graphic imagery. As Angelina Jolie has been urging more action to be carried out against sexual violence in war torn countries, I felt the need to post my article as it relates to the issue.

 

The rape and torture of Kurdish prisoners in Turkey are disturbingly commonplace.

“I was blindfolded, stripped naked, beaten…and they tried to put sticks up my anus. I fainted,” stated 37-year-old mother of three, Hamdiye Aslan.

Hamdiye Aslan’s alleged perpetrators were five police officers. According to a report from Amnesty International in 2003, she had been detained in Mardin Prison, south-east Turkey, for almost three months in which she was reportedly blindfolded, anally raped with a truncheon, threatened and mocked by officers.

Horrific and shocking as it may sound, activists state that Hamdiye’s case is one of many.

They say that such methods of abuse are regular practice in Turkish prisons, and have reportedly been used on many Kurdish and Alevi women to enforce fear and to humiliate. Hamdiye was told she was being arrested for sheltering the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK; a charge she denied.

Reporting on cases of sexual abuse in Turkey is often difficult; the issue is still taboo in Turkish culture, as well as the fact that much of Turkish media don’t report on such cases as they tarnish the country’s modern and secular image. The result of this is that many injustices within Turkey, including systematic rapes carried out in prisons to maintain power over communities, go unheard by the rest of the world.

In the early hours of June 28, 1993, Şükran Esen, then aged 21, was accused of assisting the PKK by a group of gendarmes who had arrived at her house. She too denied the charges. A trial observation report by the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) states that, in an aggravated felony court in the province of Mardin, a prosecutor indicted 405 members of the Derik District Gendarmerie Command, 65 of whom were senior officers, for raping Şükran Esen.

The victim stated that on the three occasions that she was detained she was: raped vaginally by the gendarmes and their officer; given electric shocks; put inside a vehicle tyre and rolled over; subjected to high pressure jet sprays of cold water; and threatened with death. On one occasion, as a result of the sadistic sexual violence, she was finally taken to hospital whilst haemorrhaging. Esen was blindfolded throughout the ordeal and was never able to recognise her perpetrators. Although nine witnesses testified to the arrest of the victim by the gendarme, the accused not only denied committing the alleged offences, but failed to acknowledge that Şükran Esen had ever been detained. A medical report from the International Berlin Torture and Rehabilitation Centre, where Esen had undergone treatment, certified that her injuries were the result of torture.

Both the women’s cases offer examples as to why Turkey has been denied entry into the EU by the European Commission due to the country’s human rights issues. The Turkish State classifies the activities of many pro-Kurdish organisations as ‘terrorism’ because they’re viewed as damaging the state. As a result of this, there have been many cases of Kurdish women allegedly sexually abused while in custody on accusations of being associated with such organisations.

There have been reports of women and children raped with serrated objects, beaten, and forced into so-called ‘virginity tests’ by government officials.

In April this year, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hailed the withdrawal of PKK rebels from Turkey as the end of “a dark era” and stated: “Turkey is changing its ill fortune and is entering a new phase.” However as sexual violence against women, men and children by state agents remains both common and unmitigated, this promise of a change comes with a dark cloud of doubt looming over it. It’s poignant to question whether Turkey’s idea of fighting terrorism is being used, as it has previously around the world, to undermine human rights in more concealed ways.

The Turkish State doesn’t appear to openly accept its bloody history; the most recent incident being the Uludere massacre in 2011 where Turkish warplanes bombed teenage Kurds crossing into Turkey from Iraq. As time unravels, reports of rape during the systematic ethnic cleansing of Kurdish and Alevi people in the 1937 Dersim massacre have also come to light, though remain unpublicised.

Amnesty International’s 2003 campaign, ‘End Sexual Violence against Women in Custody’ highlighted the “state’s inability to implement its own new legal code and its failure to act with due diligence when complaints are made.” Furthermore, stating that there is “a general climate of impunity for those suspected of torture in Turkey.”

Recent years have revealed that children too are subject to sexual violence in Turkish prisons. In 2012, Turkish newspaper Dicle News reported on the alleged sexual abuse and torture inflicted on Kurdish children whilst imprisoned in Pozantı Juvenile Prison in southern Turkey. The children, all between the ages of 13-17, weren’t only sexually abused by prison officers, guards and soldiers, but denied medical attention and hung from basketball hoops until close to choking as a means of torture.

“Some of our friends were raped by the ordinary prisoners dozens of times. They sometimes tried to force our trousers down. Our experiences cannot be described,” claimed 15-year-old H.K.

With the use of social networking sites, the Pozantı case was exposed. The children were moved to another prison. Their crimes: throwing stones, or as some would point out, they were Kurdish children throwing stones. The Pozantı case is not an “isolated” case, as Turkey’s ruling right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP) was quick to trumpet to its people. The same government was also very quick to detain the journalists first to report on the Pozantı children, on accusations of being linked to the KCK; a Kurdish organisation linked to the PKK.

Human rights abuses continue to be reported with a rise in complaints by Kurdish women who’ve found the courage to speak out. However, there remain many obstacles in the way of these women getting justice. Many women don’t have much faith in either the Turkish penal system or the police, and so don’t feel that fighting against the history of sexual violence carried out by those with power in patriarchal Turkey is a war which they can prevail.

This feature was written before May 12 2013 as part of the Guardian International Development Journalism competition.

 

Getting around in London – A Guide For International Students

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Pic by Jonna Michelle

Being a university student in London myself, I know my city very well (especially central and North London). However I’m also aware of the great influx of international students who come to study in London…and at times may feel a little arghh. It is quite a crazy but great place to be. I write freelance for the website Student World Online – a great site for all students, and here’a an article I wrote recently which may be of help to some. 

LONDON is one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic cities. From the bustling streets of central London to the trendy nightclubs in East London or the quieter suburbs in north London, there is much to be explored and many different ways of getting around.
 

The idea of travel in London may seem daunting to some newcomers at first. But with so many alternative ways of traveling –  the renowned London underground, the big red buses, Boris bikes, overground trains, slightly pricey black cabs and even the Emirates cable air line – you’re bound to find a favourite which will help to serve your traveling needs.

Read our handy guide to avoid the traffic gridlock without spending a fortune.

Student Oyster Card
This card is an absolute must for London students. It is one of the most important things you will carry at all times during your stay in the capital. The Oyster Card is a plastic card that you can use instead of cash or credit cards to pay for journeys by train, tube (underground train) and any bus run by Transport for London (TFL).

Although you can still use cash and credit or debit cards to buy paper tickets in London, the Oyster Card is much cheaper – more than half the price per journey in some cases.
And a Student Oyster Card will give you an even bigger discount. The 18+ Student Oyster Photocard will save you up to 30% against the price of adult rate Travelcards and bus and tram passes.

From summer 2014, cash will no longer be accepted on London buses. So it will be even more important to have an Oyster Card, unless you plan to buy a season or concessionary ticket in advance or use a contactless payment card

How to add credit to your Student Oyster Card
You can “top up” (add credit to) your 18+ Student Oyster card at all tube stations and National Rail stations in London by using the Oyster card machine. Most newsagents also top up Oyster Cards. You can add a 7 Day, monthly or annual season ticket to your card, or add money to pay as you go. However, the extra student discount does not apply to the pay-as-you-go method.

As an example, if you want to travel between Zones 1 and 3, a daily top-up will cost you £10.60 during peak times or £7.70 during off-peak times. A 7-day top-up will cost you £25.70, a monthly top-up £98.70, and an annual top-up £1,028.

You will be able to use your card on buses and trains as well as the London underground.
To apply you will need to visit www.tfl.gov.uk and pay a £10 fee. You must be a registered, full time student for at least 14 weeks in order to apply for a Transport for London 18+ Student Oyster Photocard.

 

The London Underground (the tube)
The tube is often the quickest route from one part of London to another. It can be confusing at first; however you will quickly find it is very simple, fast and usually reliable apart from occasional delays. 
The London Underground has 13 different ‘lines’ represented by different colours. All lines run from one part of the city to another and stop at different stations. At many stations you can switch from one line to another. Kings Cross St Pancras is the city’s biggest interchange station, serving six underground lines as well as two above-ground train stations.
If you get yourself a copy of the tube map you will find that the city is split up into nine different zones labelled 1-9. Ticket prices vary according to which zones you travel to and from and at what time of day. For example, a single journey in Zone 1 at peak times will cost £2.20 with an Oyster Card or £4.70 with cash.

 

Bus
Traveling by bus is quite simple and great for short-medium distance travel. It would be advised that if you are getting from one end of London to another, the bus may not be the best route, as although it may be cheeper in some cases, long bus journey’s can be frustrating and some buses can get very busy. As well as that the traffic in London can sometimes be quite bad.

There are many different bus routes in London and each bus is represented by a number such as the ‘41’. Sometimes buses consist of letters too such as the ‘C11’. The most popular form of pay again is the Oyster card. Every bus has an Oyster card scanner which you scan your card against when boarding the bus. Some buses allow you the option of paying with cash and the single fare bus ride is £2.40 for everyone without an Oyster Card. You can find details of which buses stop at which bus stops if you visit the Transport for London web page.

Bus drivers will no longer accept cash on London buses from summer 2014. Passengers will have to pay by Oyster Card,contactless payment card, pre-paid or concessionary ticket. 

 

Minicabs and Black cabs
You may find that if you’ve spent the night in town and it’s pretty late, not all buses and trains will be running. In this case some people may choose to take a cab or taxi. It will probably cost you a bit more then using public transport however in some cases it is a lot more convenient.

Before getting into a taxi, make sure you are certain that it is a genuine certified and registered vehicle you are getting into. Only licensed taxis (black cabs with an orange light displaying the word ‘TAXI’), can pick up passengers on the street. You can also find taxis at designated taxi ranks. If you’re using a minicab, make sure it has been booked through a licensed minicab firm. Minicab drivers who pick up customers without a booking (ie on the street or outside pubs and clubs), are acting illegally and dangerously, even if they have a licence disc displayed in their vehicle or have a private hire driver badge. 

You can also phone different minicab offices to get quotes on journeys and compare the prices to ensure you are being asked for the correct amount of money for your journey.
It is useful to download the free cab-booking mobile phone app ‘Cabwise’ by TFL. The app allows you to find a cab from a list of minicabs or black cabs suggested. Other useful phone apps include Dial-a-cab and Hailo.

 

Bike and Walking
Getting around London by bike or on foot are both great ways of getting to see more of the city. There are some things which wouldn’t offer the same experience if you were to only ever use public transport. Most of London’s streets have designated areas for bicycles ensuring safety.

One big phenomenon that arose after the election of London’s mayor Boris Johnson was the introduction of the ‘Boris’ bikes. They work as part of the Transport for London scheme and are available in central London and some boroughs. The bikes have proved very popular and many people use them to cycle to work and school, or even just to ride around London. Bike hire is just £2 for 24 hours and £10 for 7 days, which is great value for money.

 

Car
Few students in London have cars because of the high price of insurance, road tax, petrol and parking as well as the difficulty in finding a parking space in London. If you do intend to drive, be aware that there is a £10 daily charge for driving a vehicle within the Congestion Chargezone in the very centre of London between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday. 
Remember to drive on the left-hand side of the road. 

 

My Tips

  • Absolutely get yourself an 18+ Student Oyster Photocard!
  • Get familiar with your surroundings. Free tube, train and bus maps are available at underground stations as well as on the TFL website.
  • Always make sure you only use licensed minicabs or taxis (black cabs) for safety.
  • If traveling alone at night and using a bus, it may be wise to sit close to the bus driver.
  • Use the Journey Planner on the TFL website to plan your journeys the night before. It’s almost always very accurate and very useful.
  • Remember to drive / cycle on the left hand side of the road.

Read more of my articles @ Student World Online 

The Best Ever Face Wash: L’Oreal Skin Perfection Soothing Gel-Cream Wash

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It take’s a very good product for me to label as my most favourite. And the L’Oreal Skin Perfection range’s gel-cream wash is definitely currently my favourite face wash. I say currently but I’ve actually been using this particular product for a few months now, and I am very happy with it. I’ve tried out quite a few face washes’ and scrubs, and I’ve found that the L’Oreal skin perfection face wash works best for me because I have rather sensitive skin.

My skin like many young women is at times a little prone to spots and blackheads. I’m guessing that most probably the reason for this is that I have quite oily skin. However at times it can have some dry patches on my face, particularly nose and around the mouth area. So I’d say I have combination skin. The L’Oreal skin perfection gel-wash claims to be for dry and sensitive skin. I use this face wash every morning and before I go to bed, unlike some other face washes, this product isn’t harsh on my sensitive skin. Instead it’s very gentle, and I always find that any spots or imperfections I have tend to vanish after using the L’Oreal skin perfection gel-wash. I’d say this takes around two washes. And this is great! I find that some face washes and particularly face scrubs, cause me to have a negative reaction. This often leads to more spots then I’d usually have, as well as even more sensitive skin.

I think that the L’Oreal Skin Perfection range is great for young women. Their product’s are also very diverse, in that there’s literally something for almost anyone. There are actually quite a vast amount of different product available in the Skin Perfection range. I myself haven’t tried and tested out all of them. I’m a little tempted to trying out the Skin Perfection Purifying Gel Wash for normal to combination skin, as well as the Radiance Revealing Exfoliator. I’m expecting that unlike other exfoliators I have tried, it won’t have the same harsh effect. However what I’ve currently discovered is that by adding around a tea spoon of bicarbonate soda to my face wash, it transforms into a great DIY exfoliator, which isn’t harsh on my skin. I would do this around 1- 2 times a week. And I have noticed great results (spot redness goes down or disappears significantly!).

I find that the L’Oreal skin perfection gel-wash is great value for money – another positive. I tend to purchase the product from Superdrug where they usually have a  two for £5 offer. Great for students, and those looking to save money, as beauty products seem to be getting even more expensive lately. You can also purchase the wash from many high street stores and supermarkets.

As a final note, this is my personal opinion on the product, and I hope it has helped.

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Happy Father’s day…To all the Mothers who’ve played both roles.

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( Image from http://www.muntsavicente.com/supersinglemum.html)

Today is Father’s day, and I congratulate and respect all the men who have been great fathers to their children.

And at the same time, I show the same, if even more respect for all the mothers who have had to play the role of not only mum, but dad too. Because there are a lot of amazing women who do find themselves put in that situation, and it’s damn hard. Not everyone will be able to relate to this feeling, however there are certainly a lot of people who will. You may not be a child of a “single mum”, you may in fact be someone who’s parents are married, but who’s father has never played a significant role in their lives. I have many friends who feel this way, and I know that it’s difficult, as it can leave you feeling upset and confused, with so many unanswered questions in your head. Some of my friends, or people I have had similar conversations with have discussed how although they have lived with both parents, their “family” has always felt like a false portrait of how they really are. A common issue being that many people have felt that their father’s have not ever attempted to bond with them or form a relationship. This leaves children and teenagers, or even grown adults feeling that they have done something wrong, but that is most certainly NOT the case. It’s never a child’s fault if you’ve just basically got a dead beat dad. Let’s just put it out there bluntly and truthfully. All parents owe it to their children to be the best parents they can be. 

Feel free to leave comments on your own experiences and thoughts.

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