“Inteha pasandi ab nahin” (no more extremism) was the refrain heard as Pakistanis marched from Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.Comments closed
LAHORE, Pakistan — When 12-year-old Ali Abbas Nizamani boarded the 18-hour train from Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province to the capital of the Punjabi heartland, Lahore,…Comments closed
“KFC is no good,” says a wiry Burmese teenager inside a shared taxi from a Aung Mingalar bus station to downtown Yangon.
“What about McDonald’s?” I ask as the taxi shuttles past roadside noodle shops.
The young man shakes his head silently, admitting that he’s never heard of McDonald’s.
This is no surprise, as Burma is one of the few countries where McDonald’s has yet to enter.Comments closed
BOGOR, Indonesia — Here in Indonesia’s hillside community of Bogor, back-dropped by Mount Salak and an hour’s drive from the capital Jakarta, a small group of Indonesia’s 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers are stranded in a transit limbo. Most hail from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq.Comments closed
HLEGU, Myanmar — Young Myant Min Myint was bent on the ground, watching electrical wires shake with incandescent sparks. Next to him, his father worked deliberately, twisting electrical wires from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. While other children in rural Myanmar attended school, Myant would assist his electrician father around the district. At 12 years of age, Myant was performing menial tasks in exchange for 5,000 kyat (almost $4) per day.
One day, Myant’s father had an accident that required major surgery. Afterward, he was unable to lift heavy objects. Myant’s household had lost its primary breadwinner. So without informing anyone in his family, Myant joined a tea shop as a child laborer.
Approximately 4.4 million children in Myanmar like Myant are currently out of school. Fully 20 percent of Myanmar’s youth ages 10-18 participate in the labor force, according to Kelly Stevenson, country director for Save the Children. Child labor prevails as an accepted social practice in Myanmar, often featuring hazardous, low-wage working conditions in the country’s railroads, tea shops, and other industries.Comments closed
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The National League for Democracy (NLD), an opposition party helmed by famed Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is the clear frontrunner in historic elections in Myanmar. Sunday’s election was the country’s freest and fairest in a quarter century, and an estimated 80 percent of the country’s 30 million voters took to the polls.
“NLD is representative of the people,” Than Win, 57, said in a tea-shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The country is home to more than 92,000 refugees from Myanmar, many of whom are looking to the election results for a sign that the country has changed.
“If NLD wins,” he said, “I will return to Myanmar.”Comments closed
BOGOR, Indonesia — With damp clothing pressed against his skin, 16-year-old Elyas Chit watched his younger sister Yasmine, 15, empty her stomach into the murky waters. As one of the only children on the boat, Elyas’ head felt dizzy gazing where the sky’s inky darkness met the sea ahead.
“I didn’t think I’d ever make it out of the boat,” Elyas told NBC News.
In August 2013, without their parents, Elyas and Yasmine–accompanied by 14 other members of their extended family and crammed next to a hundred people–took the perilous boat journey from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). With hopes of landing in Australia, nearly 3,000 miles away, many on the boat wound up in Indonesia, a country that is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention upholding the rights of refugees.Comments closed
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — The 253-square kilometer peripheral stretch of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is known as Bình Chánh. Streetside banh mi and pho stands ply quick meals to the young, and herds of skinny men gather around these stalls, unstrapping helmets and jumping off Suzuki GS motorbikes. Pulling their hollow-cheeked faces closer to the warm bowls or soft bread, most of the residents of this placid district eat at a relaxed pace, at a remove from the frenetic rush, roaring traffic, or dusty pollution of pulsating Ho Chi Minh City, the southeast Asian country’s largest city. Here, Tru Thi Nguyen, also called Nguyen Thi Tru according to Vietnamese naming conventions, lives in a canvas-roofed hut behind her family’s home. By nightfall, only excited yelps from street dogs and the faint din of vehicles from National Road Number 50 are audible. But even the occasional rev of a Honda motorbike does not rouse Nguyen from her evening slumber, which she routinely slips into by 5 pm.
At the end of a narrow road accessible only by foot or motorbike, I meet Nguyen’s caretaker and daughter-in-law, 76-year-old Ba Thi Nguyen. When she takes me inside the family home, instead of family pictures, plaques announcing Nguyen’s age adorn the green walls. Nguyen is a woman of petite stature, normally draped in a ba ba—the traditional clothing of choice for women from central and southern Vietnam. A slight and silent woman, Nguyen extends her palms in greeting. With silver hair pulled back into a tight bun, Nguyen beams at the rare visitor with a youthful mirth belying her long years. Her short, wiry legs are bent underneath her body, and she watches visitors wordlessly.
According to the World Record Association, 122-year-old Nguyen is the oldest person in the world. Her age, verified by the association this past April, places her among the globe’s supercentenarians, a small group which lives beyond the age of 110. Although the Guinness World Records recognizes 116-year-old Susannah Mushatt Jones of Brooklyn, New York as the oldest living person on Earth, Nguyen’s family in southeastern Vietnam is waiting for the organization to validate Nguyen’s identity documents, which state she was born in 1893.Comments closed
In the late 1980s, eleven members of the newly-established South Asian LGBT group, Trikone, marched during San Francisco’s Pride Parade in multicolored lungis and kurtis, wearing masks to conceal their identities. Their presence roiled California’s burgeoning South Asian community. “People didn’t think there was such a thing as Indian homosexuals. To many people, if you’re homosexual, you must be a hijra,” recalled parade attendee Rann Shinar, 73, one of Trikone’s earliest members.
For LGBT South Asians in America, the road to visibility has been an arduous one. Despite inroads from June’s historic Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, equal rights activists in the minority community of more than three million nationwide say they’re struggling to find their place within the larger, American struggle for equal rights, while battling cultural hurdles at the same time.
Dr. Riddhi Sandil, a board member for the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association (SALGA), says the ruling did not change the unique barriers faced by LGBT South Asians in the U.S., who often find themselves negotiating their identity and lifestyle between the challenges of American and South Asian heteronormativity.
“While South Asian LGBTQ individuals can now get married in the U.S., how many families will attend this wedding?” asked Dr. Sandil.Comments closed
After last Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Nepal, the fear of aftershocks prompted Hassan Hassan to sleep on the street. The temblor sliced off his door, shattered his windows, and cracked the walls of the ramshackle dwelling he shared with almost 30 other refugees on Kathmandu’s outskirts.
Hassan is an ethnic Rohingya Muslim from western Burma, a country now officially known as Myanmar. Along with tens of thousands of Rohingyas, the 22-year-old fled recent pogroms initiated by his homeland’s Buddhist majority in search of a better life elsewhere.Comments closed