“Should My People Need Me”

My profile of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi runs on the cover of Ms. Magazine’s Winter 2012 issue. The woman who has long personified the fight for democracy and human rights in Burma has finally decided to engage with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is running for a seat in a parliament created by the military junta that put her under house arrest for almost two decades, after stealing an election from her. Read about the challenges facing her as she attempts a shift from moral icon to politician. As she told Congressman Bill Richardson in 1994, “I look upon myself as a politician, and that isn’t a dirty word, is it, Congressman?”

The whites-only BNP, founded in 1982 as a breakaway from the neo-Nazi National Front, has been trying to shed its nutter image as part of a bid for respectability in mainstream politics. It was recently given a platform far more prominent than Speakers’ Corner, when its chairman, Nick Griffin, appeared on the BBC flagship program “Question Time” alongside members of the political establishment. Griffin was elected to the European Parliament in June.

This weekend, at its annual convention at an undisclosed location, 300 core BNP members will debate changing its constitution, which currently restricts membership to “indigenous Caucasians.” The move resulted from a lawsuit against the BNP by the country’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission, but Griffin is spinning it as further proof of a changed party.

Read my piece about the far-right for GlobalPost. Part One: A Far-Right Party Makes a Bid for the Mainstream and Part Two: How Britain’s All-White Party Gained Its Following.

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Survival Sex

Sajida can’t talk openly about what war and displacement have forced her to do. She banters with male customers at the cafe where she works in Damascus, Syria. But the men want more from this 43-year old divorced mother of two, a refugee from Iraq. And she can’t refuse; her boss has seized her passport. “I am a slave in his hands,” Sajida says.

Continue reading my piece about Sajida and other Iraqi refugees forced into prostitution in Syria in Ms. Magazine’s Summer 2008 issue.

You can also listen to an interview about the article at 9 minutes past the hour on Doug Clifford’s Hour of Hope.