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‘Silence is the crime’: Patrice Evra on surviving abuse and his work with the WHO | Global development

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His autobiography had been written and was at the printers when international football star Patrice Evra decided he had something important to add about his life. But first he had to tell his mum. “That was the hardest challenge,” he says. “And I was a 40-year-old man.”

Until that point last year, the former Manchester United and French national team captain had never spoken about being sexually abused by a teacher when he was 13.

Last week the Senegal-born Evra stepped on what he called “the most famous podium in the world” – the stage of the UN general assembly in New York – to speak about the abuse and his decision to take up a new role campaigning for the protection of children, especially in Africa. That moment, he says, and the standing ovation for his impassioned call for action, meant more to him than any of the trophies he accumulated in his world-class football career.

“People were in shock when I wrote this in my book. So I wanted to share,” Evra says. This year the former player visited several African countries with the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking in schools and meeting survivors of abuse.

“I’d started to be on social media and, OK, I’m a bad singer, but every time I did a video I was singing and people were starting to say to me that this helped them. So I thought, ‘OK, I can do more than that,’ and I started working with the WHO, to go to Africa.

Patrice Evra speaks at the UN general assembly.
Patrice Evra speaks at the UN general assembly. Photograph: Loey Felipe/UN Photo

“I met a lot of survivors. I’m just in a learning process. Just because I experienced sexual violence at the age of 13 doesn’t mean I know everything. So it was pretty simple, to start to talk.

“Abuse is taboo, but I love everything taboo, bring it on. In African culture, for a black person it can be even difficult to talk about love. I never saw my mum kissing my dad. I never saw that. So for an African person to have succeeded in his life and then talk about things like this, they were in shock.

“I went to a school, the teacher asked the kids, ‘Do you think it’s possible for a black person to be abused?’ They all said no. Then I shared my story. They couldn’t believe it. For them it was impossible for a man.”

Evra says his retirement from professional football in July 2019 was a catalyst. For starters he learned to cry.

“I grew up thinking that crying was a weakness but actually now I understand that you actually should cry. You should share your emotion. Women are 10 years in advance, maybe more … but men should cry.

“It would have been too difficult to show emotion when I was still playing. I remember once with a team, we were on a plane and there was a player and he was watching a movie and he was crying and I was like, ‘Why are you crying?’ He said, ‘This movie, I’ve watched it five times and it always makes me cry.’

“My first reaction was to turn to my teammates and say, ‘This guy cannot play a game of football. This is weak.’ But now I am a different man, I would watch this movie with him and I would cry with him. But back then, for me it was impossible.”

Evra playing for Manchester United against Arsenal in the English Premier League, 2011.
Evra playing for Manchester United against Arsenal in the English Premier League, 2011. Photograph: Eddie Keogh / Reuters/REUTERS

Evra did not speak out even when the police officers investigating his abuser contacted him. “I remember at 24 I was playing for Monaco and the police called me and said, ‘We have had some complaints about this man, do you know anything?’, and I said no. So I lied. You don’t want to deal with it.”

It was when he was watching a documentary on paedophilia with his partner, the Danish model Margaux Alexandra, that the realisation came. “She saw my face and I just let my emotions out and I said, ‘You know what, I think I have to put it in the book.’

“For my mum, she was devastated. To that 13-year-old kid, now a grown man and facing her, she kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, but I said, ‘No mum, I’m OK, I’m fine.’ And that is why I don’t call myself a victim, I’m a survivor.

“You feel shame, you feel guilty. I just blocked it. I said: ‘Mum, I don’t even remember his face … I don’t want any pity for myself.’

“When I was captain of Manchester United or the French national team, people always saw me as someone who never showed their emotion and [they] say that’s because I am from the street and tough, but actually it’s because of this trauma that I was this way.”

Evra’s father was a diplomat and moved the family from Senegal to Brussels when Evra was one, before settling in the Paris suburb of Les Ulis two years later.

“School is normally a place where I should have been safe. I should have had someone protect me … I didn’t have it. It was instead a place that took all my emotion away. It was difficult for me to trust people after that,” he says.

On top of growing up in a difficult neighbourhood – with 23 siblings and half-siblings – Evra also had the deep-seated racism prevalent in Europe’s football clubs to contend with.

Racism was really tough,” he says. “I played in Italy when I was 17 and I was the only black player in the league. I had the whole thing of monkey noises and people throwing bananas. For me, it made me think, ‘I’m going to hurt you in a different way, on the pitch.’ The racism was not bad at Manchester United but of course it is there. Even when England had the three black players who missed the penalties, on social media it was just crazy. It’s not only England [but] in France too: when you play well you are a French player, when you play badly you are a Senegalese player.

Evra answers questions at a UN side event about child protection.
Evra answers questions at a UN side event about child protection. Photograph: Joe Short

“Silence is the crime. For racism, for abuse. When they tried to do the Super League, I see everyone talking about this with such energy and I’m thinking, ‘Why don’t we have this energy to tackle racism?’”

Globally, WHO estimates that up to 1 billion children aged two to 17 will have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year.

Evra, a father himself, says something must be done. “We have to end the violence. We are talking about many things but I don’t hear about ending the violence against children. Why is it so taboo?

“The support is important to end the violence, everyone experiences violence in their childhood. We need to support the family. We need to hear the stories of survivors. This is the start.”

In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support for rape and sexual abuse on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, or 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html

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‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

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Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

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VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



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Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

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“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

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