Tag Archives: Students

Taiwanese Students Take to the Streets: ‘Everything Is A Black Box’

Taiwan protest, 2006

Taiwan protest, 2006

TAIWANESE students have flocked to the streets to protest a recently passed trade agreement. 

While Chinese President, Xi Jinping, faced little resistance at home or abroad over a trade agreement with Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou found himself unable to ignore the Taiwanese students. For the first time in a long time, they are voicing their anger and dissatisfaction with the government through massive demonstrations. On a weekend afternoon that would normally see Taipei residents stare at assorted cute paper pandas on Liberty Square (as some still did), the real action was happening just a block away. In the centre of the city, a large group of students continued an unprecedented occupation of the national parliament which had been going on for more than two weeks.

Friday evening, when young people usually fill neon-lit shopping streets, the stores appeared empty as young people flooded the streets surrounding the parliament for the eleventh day in a row, that prolonged a sit-in that has effectively deterred police from entering and clearing the parliament. As various professors from Taipei universities were lecturing in the streets, flood lights illuminated streamers and banners suspended from the broken windows and doors through which protesters entered parliament and supplied the protesters. No end to the siege was in sight. Sunday marked a milestone in the protest when at least a hundred thousand Taiwanese, more according to other sources, filled the avenues around the presidential office in a mass demonstration nothing short of spectacular.

“Revoke the treaty! Safeguard democracy! Scrutinise legislation! Oppose the black box!” the protesters chanted as they carried the symbol of the Sunflower Movement. Outside of Taiwan, there is still considerable confusion as to what this movement is about.

Proximity of China and Taiwan

Proximity of China and Taiwan

A special situation

Many foreign publications have dryly remarked that China quite openly aspires to appropriate the island state that itself and until very recently claimed to ‘own’ China. This fact alone should make any agreement with China problematic. The first significant trade deal in 2010 famously sparked a physical fight in parliament in which at least one legislator was hit with a clock and transported to a local hospital.

Some people in Taiwan, as well as some abroad, see any rapprochement between the countries leading to unification, such as Xunyu, 25, who has been helping out as staff at the protest for almost two weeks now: “We are Taiwanese, not Chinese. I would always oppose an agreement.”

However, Xunyu represents only a minority. The focus on China and Taiwan’s relations hides the fact that, in reality (predominantly for domestic reasons) these protests have spun out of control, and authorities have been very hesitant to react and use force. A poll by Taiwanese magazine Business Weekly shows more than 50 per cent of respondents are against the treaty. In fact, most people are not simply opposed to trade agreements with China, they are opposed to what they call the ‘black box’, or the opaqueness of Taiwanese politics and the undemocratic way the Nationalist Party (KMT) decided to ratify the treaty in “less than 30 seconds”, as the protesters claim.

Taiwan Parliament 2 ‘Everything is a black box’

  For Xiaoyun, 19, this is her first protest. She is camping in the open air against the barbed wire of the barricades with her    boyfriend  Youwei, also 19, who is doing homework as required by the protests’ leaders so students do not get behind on their  education. Like  many, Xiaoyun still lives with her parents, who now discuss politics at home and support her. “Everything is a  black box,” she says.  “Yes, I fear China, but I am actually really worried about the way this has been pushed through.”

At the beginning of the process, ruling party KMT promised to review every clause of the agreement in cooperation with the  opposition Democratic People’s Party (DPP). When instead the KMT decided to promptly withdraw from the talks and pass the  agreement in a hurried vote, many people felt betrayed. “The government never explained anything well to the people and has  only insisted on the good points,” says Ziyan, 25, who works at the smartphone producer HTC. Her colleague Cheying, 25, thinks  that she would “surely benefit from the treaty,” but that this not the point. “What we want is procedural democracy,” she says. “I want them to protect small business and vulnerable people better,” adds Ziyan.

The protesters demands include: special regulations for the ratification of future treaties, that the treaty will be revoked and modified to better protect vulnerable people and industries, and lastly constitutional reform.

This last complaint is especially sensitive in Taiwanese society, as President Ma Ying-jeou appears to be acting on China’s behalf, which is perceived as a service to  the enemy power. His approval rating has been extremely low for a long time, and ‘Ma 9%’, as the nickname goes, is speculated to be targeting history books rather than news reports in desperate search of accomplishment. The president is an important political force in Taiwan, and many blame him personally for not explaining the treaty, showing instead a defensive attitude that leaves little hope for a compromise.

More than a student movement

Originally a radical student movement for Taiwanese measures has evolved into protesters breaking into the parliament and turning it upside down. They have garnered support from diverse sections of society, in a country still heavily influenced by Confucian deference and not accustomed to violence. Most of them admit that at least one parent actively supports their cause. Tsang-chiang, DPP councillor on Kinmen Island, less than two kilometres off the Chinese coast, has flown in with his two children just to join the protest. Many appear to understand that the issues at hand matter especially to the young, who are concerned about becoming part of China one day.

Taiwan protests 2Currently, Taiwanese students graduate into the labour market of an ageing society where low economic growth has meant stagnating wages, while prices have increased and housing property is increasingly hard to obtain for newcomers. While promising much-needed economic growth, the current agreement threatens to make property values jump, as mainland Chinese would be able to buy apartments in Taiwan. According to many observers this would help investment banks and real estate sectors, while exposing vulnerable industries to Chinese competition and influence. Many Taiwanese fear that their country, which has excellent, though hard to finance collective health insurance and other social policies, will become a more unequal society.

Politics at play

The case of the Taiwanese trade agreement is a classic example of far reaching policies that are negotiated in the twilight zone of international diplomacy rather than in the arena of national politics. Taiwanese citizens feel vulnerable in negotiating an agreement with an economic giant like China without any backup of a larger trade block, such as the EU or ASEAN.

The Taiwanese black box may not be opened any time soon, but protesters like Alice are not easily discouraged in their newly found political engagement: “I don’t think our government is afraid of anything any more. They know this is just a very temporary outburst of people. But even though I know things might not change, I still want to stand up.”

By Shir Bashi, Sofia Lotto Persio

Pictures: Paul Chang (Anti-Chen protest), Planet Observer (China and Taiwan satellite image), Jimmy Tseng (Protesters scaling parliament), Y.J. Wang (Female protesters with banners).

It’s not a question of immigration – it’s a question of integration

Multiculturalism, cultural exchanges and shared  knowledge can be argued as key factors to an ever developing society. With that in mind, argues Niklas Jakobsson, Sweden should not only be one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world – they should be blowing the other nations out of the water. What’s gone wrong? 

According to official immigration statistics and a national census, 1.5 million of Sweden’s 9.5 million inhabitants were born outside of Sweden. This makes up for 15 per cent of the country’s population – numbers which are nearly unmatched and unrivaled in comparison to the other 205 sovereign states in the world.

Yet the country is following a worrying European trend with far-right parties gaining momentum, creating animosity and displeasure against immigrants and immigration. Unemployment, a rise in violence, an over-representation of immigrants in crime and ‘benefit fraud’ are some of the catch-phrases and slogans used to shove blame and responsibility on immigrants in Sweden.

A key concept in journalism is to have balance, to respect and cover both sides of a story – and in the case of Swedish immigration there are two very clear sides. In Sweden, you are for immigration, or you are against it. Wholeheartedly. There is little – to no – room for a middle-ground, a sensible debate that not only brings out the positive aspects of a liberal immigration policy, but discusses its flaws and where it needs work.

But ponder the possibility that these problems that have arisen in Sweden over the last decade might not have to do with where the immigrants are from, who they bring with them or how easily they are allowed to enter? What if it has to do with the fact that a large portion of immigrants are dropped in to a society that is closed, cold and requires a lot more effort to be integrated in? What if, integrating immigrants from day one will give them a lot more in the long run than just allowing them to enter the country without prerequisites and demands?

A question of figures
According to Swedish Member of Parliament, Hanif Bali, almost 14 per cent of immigrants are unemployed, compared to four percent for ‘native’ Swedes. This is a relatively staggering figure – and a figure that on its own could lead one to believe that it is unwillingness among immigrants to work that is the main issue. The Swedish Criminal Service does not distinguish between Swedish nationals with immigrant decent and Swedish nationals born in the country. However, they do claim that 32 per cent of prisoners in Swedish jails are foreign nationals with 160 nationalities represented. With all the overwhelming statistics put on the table – what should the debate regarding immigration then be?

The debate in Sweden should not revolve around how many immigrants are in prison, how many are unemployed or what benefits they are getting without fulfilling the right requirements. The debate should be about why immigrants are in prison, why immigrants are unemployed and why immigrants feel the need to claim benefits that could be distributed to other people – immigrants or natives – that are in greater need of them.

Because until the underlying issues behind the socioeconomic problems surrounding the Swedish society and its immigration policy are thoroughly investigated, the current downward spiral will only keep going down. The further down the spiral Sweden falls, the closer it will get to a point where there is no turning back – where the built up anger and animosity against immigrants and immigration will cause terrible events like the ones on Utøya, Norway, in 2011.

Lack of cooperation, respect and willingness to improve
Politicians, journalists and the common man should stop talking around each other and start talking to each other. Realizing that both parties have a common ground – the well-being of Sweden – would be the first step towards working together on an extremely complicated issue. But the way that the immigration debate is going only shows a lack of cooperation, respect and willingness to improve.

Unfortunately, the media plays a large role in creating this clear-cut split between pro-or-2265691662_3bae969475_danti-immigration. A predominately left-oriented and humanistic media landscape shapes a narrative that allows for very little debate and alternative opinions. This has led to a surge in ‘free’ online news outlets which ‘highlight’ the ‘problems’ with immigration. In essence, by excluding and taking away the possibility of a healthy debate, the media fuels these websites, giving people on the fence that extra push towards a ‘news outlet’ which only caters to views that highlight negativity with immigration.

In a world where journalism should bring people together, nourish free speech and the right to an opinion, the Swedish media landscape is shooting itself in the foot. It is not only driving people away from reading traditional news, it is a major factor in the downward spiral that the Swedish society is in when it comes to debate surrounding immigration.

In order for Sweden to fully develop and take advantage of all the knowledge and benefits that comes from a cultural exchange and a multicultural society the country must start with embracing that it is not perfect. With every positive comes a negative. The positive will never be fully appreciated until the negative is dealt with. In the case of immigration, the negative is the lack of integration. If every Swede claims to have the country’s best interest at heart, then start by taking a step towards people with a different opinion rather than further distancing yourself. This applies to every politician, journalist and every other person in Sweden that has a single care about the future and prosperity of the country.

Burning flames in the hearts and streets of Santiago

Linn (2)Photo: Linn Helene Løken


Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile has left a highly privatised education system. Recently students have taken to protest in the streets to put an end the legacy of the dictator. Pandeia’s Ida Nordland translates a report directly from Santiago.

A blanket of polluted air covers Santiago. On the ground thousands of people have gathered. Drums are pounding the pace of the march they have started. The whistles join in, along with the loud shouts from the protestors: ”La education no se vende, se defende!” Chile’s educations are not for sale, they are to be defended.

“It is only during the last couple of years that people have realised that education is a right, not a privilege for the wealthy,” says Roberto Reveco, a film student at the University of Chile.

Today, most of Chile’s public schools and universities are private. While less and less public funds are spent on the public educational system, many choose to pay for a private education of better quality. The price for a bachelor’s degree in Chile varies, but may cost around 2000 euros. In comparison, the average income in Chile is 4.000 euros a year.

Pinochet’s Legacy

The privatisation process began 40 years ago. In 1973 Augusto Pinochet took the power from socialist president Salvador Allende in a military coup. Pinochet ruled Chile for 17 years and more than 40.000 people were victims of torture, random arrests, killings or abductions.

Pinochet left behind a strong market-oriented policy. Only between 1980 and 1981 were 87% of all schools transferred from public to private control. The current education system is a result of this total privatisation.

Today, there are private institutions everywhere, but lately the students have begun to speak up, especially against the profit-seeking principals. The former Chilean minister of education Harald Beyer was fired in April because of a new scandal: The boards at several universities had created companies that rented out premises to their own universities. In this peculiar way, the rent was sent to the principal’s own bank accounts.

The Penguin Revolution

”We are fighting for our education, our country and against the fraud that is being carried out by the authorities,” explains a teenager at Estacion Mapocho, the end station of the march. He is holding an anarchist flag.

“Last night the police changed the route of the demonstration which made people go to the wrong meeting point. They do this to prevent us from gathering in a peaceful manner. In the morning the police continued to stop traffic and block streets so we couldn’t attend the protest. That is the kind of system we are fighting against,” the teenager expresses.

The first wave of student demonstrations began in 2006 when high school students started the  ”Penguin Revolution”, named after the pupils’ penguin-like uniforms. The penguins protested against fees to enter higher education and for free public transport for pupils and students. The movement began with relatively small demands, but is now fighting for a restructuring of the entire educational system. The message on the banners are clear: ”Educación publica, gratuita y de calidad” – public, free and good education.

Camouflaged Challenges

It’s burning, not just in the hearts of young students. It’s literally burning. A bus stop is in flames. Around it a group of youngsters have gathered, covering their faces in headscarves. They are called ”los encapuhados” – the hooded.

They fight against the system with rocks and homemade molotov cocktails. They represent the Chilean student organisation’s perhaps biggest challenge to be taken seriously, although they represent only a small group. The police respond with tear gas, tanks and arrests. The clashes were expected. They occur after every protest.

The violent game is legacy of the dictatorship, which has left deep traces in Chile. The fight for a public education continues nevertheless, – slowly but surely. As the young teenager with the anarchist flag puts it: ”There is always something to fight for.”


Originally by Linn Helene Løken for Momentum

Drugs, Fashion Week and The Recession: Danish Fast News

A torn Danish government, fashion hype in Copenhagen, the closure of the Capital’s drug haven and debate about the quality of the education are hot topics explored by Ida Nordland this week in Danish media.

 “SOCIALISTISK FOLKEPARTI”, one of the main Danish parties,  has left the government at the same time as their  leader, Anette Vilhelmsen, decided to stand back. The exit of SF is a consequence of the government’s decision to sell 19% of the stocks in the Danish state owned energy company “Dong” to American investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The American investment bank is well-known for a business structure that creates tax havens and the company supposedly had a central role in the financial crisis. This Thursday it was finally decided by the government to go through with the deal, in spite of over 200.000 signatures in protest; a move which also turned out to be so intolerable for SF that they had to take the drastic step to leave.

This forces the government, now only consisting of Socialdemokratiet and Det Radikale Venstre, to find 6 new ministers.The current government has a record of cabinet reshuffling, as it has happened 4 times during the past 6 months.

IN THE DANISH STUDENT MEDIA, the hot topic at the moment concerns the quality of the education on humanities as a consequence of the Danish funding system in higher education. Universities receive an amount of money per graduating student, which results in a disproportional incentive to pass students in exams. A student from Copenhagen University came forward this week and admitted that to have cheated at an exam. He is not proud of what he did, but according to him, it is way too easy to get a degree in humanities. He went on to allege that he shouldn’t have passed one of every two exams he has ever been to during his study. model

COPENHAGEN IS SIZZLING this week with fashionistas as Copenhagen Fashion week takes place. In a refreshing contrast to the usual debate about anorexic models, this year one of the shows deals with the issue by presenting their clothes on models in all sizes, from 34-48, with the help of volunteers. The volunteers argue for a more nuanced beauty ideal and the unusual show is made in collaboration with The National Association Against Eating Disorders And Self Damage.

CHRISTIANIA, which is know to be Copenhagen’s “free-city” and cannabis market, is closed this week. The shut-down is due to a much needed internal debate about the future of the community. All restaurants, shops and “hashbooths” are closed and  neither Copenhageners or tourists are welcome. The break to think is due to the controversy regarding the suggested legalization of marijuana, that has been going on for the last two years.

Photos: Flickr Creative Commons – Grozz and Luigi Anzivino 

Dieudonne, Hollande and Anelka: French Fast News

This week in France has seen developments in several news stories which shine a light on some of the complexities of French society today. The Bottom Line series continues, as Jennifer Campbell explores two very different stories, alongside their international reception and wider implications.

THE PRIVATE LIFE of French President Francois Hollande has, unavoidably, been the focus of intense scrutiny in the past week. After rumours circulated about his alleged affair with French actress Julie Gayet, the President’s partner, Valerie Trierweiler, was admitted to hospital; and on Saturday 25th January, Hollande confirmed their separation in a press conference. The British media, in predictable ‘Franglish’ fashion, have christened this “Le Split”.

Traditionally, the private lives of politicians in France was seen as ‘off-limits’ and somewhat of an Anglo-Saxon obsession; but some journalists argue that the so-called ‘peopolisation’ of French politics did not occur only with the advent of 24-hour news and Closer magazine. Le Figaro, in light of recent events, provides a run-down of Presidential scandals from De Gaulle to Hollande, suggesting that this apparent ‘French exception’ may have never really existed at all. 6689847163_59c3012a12_o-1

French Closer magazine printed the original reports of an affair, once again courting controversy as it did in 2012 by publishing topless photographs of Kate Middleton.   The Independent examines France’s growing taste for gossip (willing supplied by “la presse people”) – despite strict privacy laws which mean that magazines like Closer are pursued in the courts on a regular basis.

Le Monde, on the other hand, analyses international press coverage of the scandal, noting that it “continues to make the headlines” in British newspapers, which “express their surprise at French people’s lack of desire to know the secrets of their President’s bedroom”. The authors note the prominence of this story in newspapers across Europe, something that may well surprise many French readers.

Overall, it seems that “L’affaire Hollande-Gayet” has provided an insight into the changing notions of privacy, celebrity, and what constitutes news in France. With Britain currently experiencing a backlash against years of tabloid-led privacy intrusions, it is particularly interesting to see France, a country with very different press and political cultures, beginning to face up to similar issues.

ANOTHER PROMINENT STORY which has been making headlines both in France and elsewhere in the past week is the controversy surrounding French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (known by his stage name of Dieudonné) and the long-running allegations against him of anti-semitism. This was brought to international attention when Nicholas Anelka, a French footballer playing for English team West Bromwich Albion, celebrated a goal by performing a “quenelle”. This gesture, which some believe looks like an inverted Nazi salute, was created by Dieudonné and is often imitated by his fans, who argue it is an anti-establishment (and not anti-semitic) symbol. The comedian, however, has several convictions for ‘hate speech’: The Guardian reports that he has accumulated fines totalling €65,000 for this.

Dieudonné’s controversial show has been banned by the French authorities, provoking debate over freedom of speech and, as The Guardian reports, leading to a “spike” in his popularity.

Nicolas_Anelka_1In Le Monde, journalist and documentary-maker Michaël Prazan reacts to this debate and discusses the issue from the point of view of French history and society; arguing that Dieudonné is following a tradition of “specifically French anti-Semitism”, which always features some form of “mockery, derision or outrageousness”. While some might defend the freedom of comedians to shock, this writer argues that “the damage inflicted on French society is considerable”, noting the influence on young people as a particular concern.

However, Britain’s Financial Times reports the opinions of some of Dieudonné’s fans, with one student arguing that “Dieudonné’s references to Jews are no worse than the abuse long suffered by his own Muslim community”.

Le Monde also analyses the comedian’s fan base, remarking that it is broad and heterogeneous, including people of various ethnic origins and political persuasions, who come together “to share in the thrilling pleasure of transgressing the ultimate taboo: the Holocaust”. Some of the young fans quoted in the article express their feeling of being taught about the Holocaust too much in school, at the expense of other tragedies of history such as the Rwandan genocide and slavery.  One claims that through this, they are “subjected to a mentality of guilt from an early age”.

The recent reappearance of Dieudonné in the headlines brings these complex issues in French society to the fore, and draws attention to France’s laws on holocaust denial (known as the ‘loi Gayssot’) and on hate speech – both of which have given rise to controversial cases in recent years. With several British newspapers claiming that Dieudonné is to visit London, both to lend his support to Nicholas Anelka and to perform a show, the UK may too see similar debates being reignited.

Boris Johnson, Lord Rennard and Scandal: UK Fast News

The most surprising nomination for a university Rector in history, increased measures against protesters, drops in violent crime, and a debate on the merits and pitfalls of a private education are hot topics in recent UK mainstream and student news, as Jamie Timson and Rachel Barr contextualise in this week’s ‘The Bottom Line’. 

WATER CANNONS have been at the forefront of the political debate this week as both the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) called for discussion on their use in riots.  This news came on the back of the Mayor’s earlier plea for the Home Secretary to fund the purchase of cannons for the Metropolitan Police service (MPS). Boris cited the riots of 2011 that started in London as the catalyst for his decision claiming “I am broadly convinced of the value of having water cannon available to the MPS for those circumstances where its absence would lead to greater disorder or the use of more extreme force.” 8952451409_9469307ff8_b

The prospect of water cannons, however, has brought uproar in some quarters with Joanne McCartney — Labour’s police and crime spokesperson — describing Mayor Johnson’s actions as “deeply worrying” and going on to question the necessity and speed of the implementation. “This is being rushed through, and Londoners are being given virtually no chance to express their views. Such a monumental shift in policing needs a proper public debate”. Others have questioned the supposed implicit meaning behind Acpo’s briefing and the danger to public protest it could result in:


DESPITE INCREASED MEASURES against “great disorder”, crime figures in England and Wales have actually fallen by 10% – the lowest estimate made since 1981, when the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) began. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his congratulations to the police, posting:

However, while crimes such as violent crime have decreased, there have been ‘worrying’ increases in other areas of deviance. Fraud offences recorded by police have increased by 34% , and sexual offences have increased by 17%. This increase has been attributed in BBC reports “Yewtree Effect“, where a greater number of victims have come forward to the police to report historical sex crimes, as seen in cases against Rolf Harris and other ‘household’ names.

HIGH PROFILE SEX ALLEGATIONS have featured heavily again in the news this week as Disgraced Lib Dem Peer  Lord Rennard’s lack of apology has resulted in opprobrium from all sides. Rennard had been the subject of a criminal investigation and a Liberal Democrat disciplinary process after at least 10 women came forward alleging that he had behaved inappropriately towards them during his time as chief executive. The 53-year-old campaign mastermind was cleared by both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Lib Dem’s own investigation as the “burden of proof would be too high” but these findings have seen the party come under fire. 5983388671_50ed5e75c0_b

Alison Goldsworthy one of the alleged victims spoke out against her former party claiming  “Faced with the opportunity to take strong action, the Liberal Democrats have once more opted for cowardice.They have failed to say Lord Rennard’s behaviour is unacceptable, they have failed to discipline him and therefore failed to give victims the justice they deserve.”

Lord Rennard was not the only Lib Dem to be embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal as Mike Hancock MP was also suspended this week following reports of “prima facie evidence” that Hancock had made inappropriate sexual advances on a constituent.

THE BIG STUDENT NEWS of the week in the UK was the nomination of US fugitive and whistleblower Edward Snowden for the position of Rector of Glasgow University. The decision had come late on in the nomination process and as such took many at the University by surprise. Snowden — who currently resides in Moscow in temporary Asylum — was contacted by an “informal group of Glasgow University students” via interlocutors, however it is claimed he accepted the nomination personally. The position of Rector is currently held by Charles Kennedy the former Lib Dem leader and his duties include meeting with students and sitting in on disciplinary hearings in the University Court. It remains to be seen how Mr Snowden intends to carry out these responsibilities should he be elected, considering his appearance on the Obama administration’s most wanted list and the UK’s extradition policy with the US.


Chris Cassells, PHD Student at the University and one of the leaders of the ‘Edward Snowden for Rector’ campaign claimed “Edward Snowden’s candidacy is a unique opportunity to show our gratitude to a brace whistleblower and thus to all other whistleblowers who take risks to reveal criminality and corruption of powerful groups in society.” While some have claimed the campaign is nothing more than a publicity stunt, most students and former students have welcomed the opportunity for protest. One former student added “The role of Rector is above all often a ceremonial one, and as such it makes sense to nominate a figure who represents the sentiments of many within the student body.”

HEAD TO HEAD: Student Newspapers on Private Education 

“Some things only money can buy – and a good education is one of them”, claims Becca Atkinson, who goes on to equate “posh prejudice” as being ‘just as bad’ as racism or homophobia. Writing for the Bristol branch of The Tab, she argues that while some parents ‘choose’ to spend on “flashy holidays and expensive cars”, others invest their money on school fees and their child’s education.

8270736498_93c3c0881a_bThough admitting that paying over £12,000 or upwards per year in fees may be unfair, she claims that “that’s life – you don’t get something for nothing.”

“From my perspective”, Atkinson continues, “my parents paid two sets of school fees; mine at a price I won’t disclose, and yours, through their taxes”. Quoting the superior resources available to private school students and the better life prospects awaiting them in future as advantages, Atkinson concludes that – all in all – private schools get better results.

“This may be because the students who go there are more clever: you have to pass stringent tests to get in…Regardless, better results mean better prospects, and that is worth paying for”.

On the contrary, retorts fellow Bristol University journalist Jessica McKay, encouraging your children to work hard and be proud of what they have achieved displays far more love and commitment to their future than splashing a few thousand pounds a term. Yes, she agrees, private schools do have better resources – a ‘valid point’. 5168061145_3bc4cbd7fb_b

However, McKay continues, the ‘splendour’ of which state school children are deprived is instead replaced with something which money cannot buy: an ‘enriching school community’:

“Non fee-paying schools mean that children of all economic backgrounds and academic abilities interact and learn together. Some private school advocates argue that they do not want another child to ‘hold’ their own back. Yet, what of the ways children ‘spur‘ each other forward?”

McKay asks a central question of private school advocates: “Why do we segregate our children by monetary worth through ages four to eighteen when, one would hope, they certainly won’t be penned into such divisions in later life?”.

She concludes that, “in trying to ‘protect’ a child from others you, arguably, preclude entire worlds of experience.”




Sharon’s Legacy: A Conflict of Opinions

The death of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon this week has polarized opinion across the globe concerning his lifetime. Divisive even today, Pandeia explores through two unique viewpoints how 
Sharon’s legacy lives on most fiercely through the young people in both Israeli and Palestinian communities.

To many Israelis, Ariel Sharon was ‘The Bulldozer’ – a heroic warrior, leading decisive military campaigns in the 1967 and 1973 wars.

But to many Palestinians he was The Butcher, who laid siege to Beirut and was responsible for the deaths of at least 800 civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982.

It was this stark dichotomy that was repeated throughout the day of his death on Twitter.

While the views of political leaders from around the world were heard:


The journalist at the forefront of the NSA controversy Glenn Greenwald quickly set the tone for much of the anti-Sharon Twitter discourse.


While some focused on the role on the media in enhancing what they saw as a tarnished legacy.


However, regardless of the world’s reaction to his death, it is the next generation of Israeli and Palestinians that will feel the effects of Sharon’s actions most fiercely.

It is with this thought that we start our first theme for 2014: Conflict. In a two part series, Lisanne Oldekamp and Sofie Ejdrup Larsen examine the lives of the young people on both sides of the Gaza conflict with very divergent conclusions.

In Lisanne’s article, The Singing Rocket, the problems Palestinian children face on a day to day basis is juxtaposed with the arrival and hope shown by a new star, Mohammed Assaf winner of the 2013 edition of Arab Idol.

Last year Palestinian children got the chance to see that demonstrating, hunger striking, and stone throwing are not the only ways to get their message across. Next to the many posters of martyrs in the village, the poster of a new hero, alive and kicking, has become a common feature in the streets of Palestine.

From the other side of the Gaza Strip, Sofie’s article An Army of Kids looks at the militarisation of Israeli youth and the potentially damaging effect this is having on their upbringing and overall world view.

Since everybody has to do it, doing one’s military service is generally perceived as a ‘collective duty’ by the Israelis and has become a more or less integrated part of most people’s lives. Like one of our sources, a soldier in the Marine Corps, stated: “I feel like it’s my turn to watch over the others back. They did it for me then, now it’s my turn. I can defend myself with my gun, but how are the old people gonna defend themselves?”

As our first two ‘Conflict’ articles depict, however Ariel Sharon’s past is remembered, it is the future of both communities that means the most to the young people of the Middle East.

The Seven Year Itch: Athens’ First Mosque

greek mosque 1

A long-delayed project to build Athens’ first official mosque is back on track after the government announced that a consortium of four companies had won the tender to build it. Myrto Iztaigov translates the full story for Pandeia from the heart of one of the few EU capitals without a mosque. 

On November 7, 2006, the Greek parliament passes a bill on the construction of a mosque in Athens. In 2010, Papandreou’s government announces the immediate construction of the state-funded mosque. In November 2011 all procedures are frozen by the (then) Minister of Transport, Makis Voridis, and a year later, the Minister for Education, K. Arvanitopoulos, sends all budget and auction documents to the Ministry of Infrastructure.

It seems seven years of grandiloquent announcements needed to pass by before finally choosing a consortium of four construction companies to build the 600 square meter mosque. Four previous tenders had failed due to a lack of interest amid mounting opposition by the public and the Orthodox Church.

There are more than 200.000 Muslim residents in Athens that need places of worship and everyone knows it. The fact that Athens is the only European capital with no official mosque has triggered reactions and criticism from political parties, immigrant rights organizations and news agencies all over the world.

No Interest

At a time of recession for the construction industry, finding a bidder willing to build the mosque was extremely difficult, as many enterprises fear threats and intimidations by far-right groups or the district’s residents. Only after four failed attempts, the contract for the mosque’s construction was awarded to the firms J&P Avax, Terna, Aktor and Intrakat. The project has a budget of 946.000 euros and is slated for construction on a plot of land that formerly belonged to the Hellenic Navy.

greek mosque 2

As explained Eleni Portaliou, Councilor of Athens, “the conservative and fascist reactions aim clearly to prevent the construction of any mosque. Delaying the solution is inacceptable, since it reinforced racist and intolerant speeches given by Golden Dawn and other reactive movements. The lack of political will is obvious”. Indeed, many voices havereacted against the construction of the mosque. One of them is MetropolitanSerapheim of Piraeus, who appealed to the Council of State to withdraw the bill, describing the decision as ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘un-greek’.

“We are not a multicultural country. We are one Greek nation and everything else is an invention of the ‘new order’ and of Zionism. They are trying to corrupt our character”, he said.

Zoubair, an immigrant from Pakistan, recognizes that “there are many people who don’t wantthe mosque to be built. Priests are amongst them […] As Pakistan provides places of worship for other religions, so should Greece, which is part of the European Union”.

No money, no mosque?

The mosque’s critics say the near 1 million euro cost is too high for a country struggling through six years of recession that has left more than one in four of the workforce jobless.However, let’s not forget that the state has received many offers from foreign governments willing to cover all construction costs, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran or the United States of America.

Tayyip Erdogan has also tried making the same offer, but got rejected not only by the government but by Muslim communities as well, which see strategic intentions in Turkey’s proposal.

There are currently more than 100 illegal mosques in the metropolitan area of Athens, forcing thousands of Muslims to pray in garages and underground rooms.

Every country’s constitution, apart from totalitarian regimes, guarantees freedom of religion. But guaranteeing it on paper is not enough. True freedom of religion involves allowing religious rituals and celebrations, thus providing places of worship.


The article was published on www.3pointmagazine.gr. It was written by Sofianna Bonovolia, a student of Media and Communication in the University of Athens. Some paragraphs were altered by the translator because of changing events since its original publication.


Sexually liberated or slut shamed?

‘The fear of being called a slut influences the way you act’, says one of the makers of a new Dutch documentary on female sexuality. Half a decade after the sexual revolution, Lotte Kamphuis questions  if women feel sexually liberated or restricted by society’s judgments.

From the 1960s to the 1980s a sexual revolution took place throughout the Western world. This was a turning point for female sexuality. With the introduction of the birth-control pill in 1964, it seemed that sexuality became separated from procreation and women were allowed to experience pleasure in sex. There was more emphasis on the individual experience, sex with more than one partner flourished, and sex and marriage could be viewed separately from each other. This all contributed to the sexual emancipation of women. Though  in general since the sexual revolution the emancipation of women has increased, women today have to contend with judgments of immorality when they behave  in a way that is ‘sexually free’.

The recently released Dutch documentary ‘sletvrees’, translated as ‘whorophobia’, touches upon this subject. Dutch student paper Folia interviewed one of the makers of the film. The documentary focuses on the status of  sexual liberation, and in particular female sexuality. The title is based upon the fear of being called a slut, which is still held by a lot of women. Find the courage to assert that your number of bed partners cannot be counted on the fingers of two hands, or that you are fairly well between the sheets and you derive sexual pleasure.

It might sound clichéd, but men with similar behaviour are considered differently. People from all over the world were interviewed for the documentary: from scientists to porn stars and from sexologists to people on the streets. The outcome shows that female sexuality is often confused with being beautiful and willing, that female lust is still not considered of importance and that women that act loosely around men are viewed as ‘looking for sex’. Finally, the film shows that it is not only men judging women, but that women themselves that hold double standards by constantly putting themselves in a certain position in comparison with one another.

Twerk your way

An interesting example is the performance of ‘Blurred Lines’ by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thick at the MTV VMA’s 2013, which has been discussed worldwide. In Univers a student gives her frank opinion about Miley’s acting:  the twerk dancing is compared to ‘releasing the hooker in yourself’, ‘use your hips suggestively’, ‘shameless’ and ‘depicting sex’. In addition, she judges that you need a great lack of self-respect when you want to be good at twerking and that men will ‘not respect you when you dance like that’.

That taken aside, her controversial performance can also bring up interesting themes on femininity and sexuality. Is it the case that whenever a girl behaves and dresses sexy, she is a slut? Is it that a woman cannot dance provocatively and still be empowered by her femininity?

It can be also questioned that Miley was negatively judged and directly accused of immodest behavior, whereas Robin Thick played along in the performance and the lyrics of his song are equivocal. Recently, The Guardian reported that different students unions in the United Kingdom banned ‘Blurred Lines’, as the song ‘promoted a worrying attitude towards sex and consent.’ This refers to the ‘I know you want to’, stripping women from their sexual agency.

Kinky style

It is not even so much the judgment of women by men, but also by women to women. Another hot topic is the hype around the Fifity Shades of Grey trilogy. There is a range of different opinions on these erotic romance novels. Where some find it not that shocking in the current era’, others have a more firm opinion on the story. This is not to refer to the writing skills of the author, but more on the explicit BDSM scenes of a male business magnet and a female collage graduate. In a reaction to the book, a student writes in ANS that the illusion seems to exist that successful and intelligent women actually share a deep desire to nevertheless be dominant by the superior man. ‘Preferably by a young and good looking man, who is ridiculously rich and will turn into a completely different person just for you.’ Where this at first sight seems like a man’s fantasy, sales of the book show that women enjoy the though of being dominated by a man in the bedroom and the ability to change a man. ‘This is throwing away 40 years of emancipation’, is the harsh judgment in ANS.

Looking for a solution, the makers of the Dutch documentary argue that we do not have to get rid of the different thinking about male and female sexuality. Just as long as we loose the double standards in which the sexual needs of men are assessed differently than those of women. We should change the way we think about female sexuality and therefore continue the liberation of women. We have to ponder how women can strike a balance between being sexual and sexualized, and prevent whorophobia from intruding our sex lives.

Image by Eric.Parker 

Closing the Gender gap in Iceland

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2013, Iceland came in first place in the gender gap index, meaning that Iceland is the country with the smallest gap between men and women. Pandeia’s Svanlaug Arnadottir speaks to an Icelandic student about being a woman in the world’s most gender-equal country.

Recent research has shown that Iceland is a role-model in terms of gender equality. In research for the Global Gender Gap Report of 2013, 136 nations were investigated, and measured on gender equality in economics, education, health and politics.

Despite the financial crisis with heavy cut-backs in Iceland’s healthcare and educational system, the results show that Iceland is doing well on gender issues. It is the fifth year in a row that Iceland has come in first place. But how is it to live in a country ranked with the highest equality in the world?  How does it affect students?

Pandeia had a talk with Hrefna Jónsdóttir, a second year student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iceland, with a Bachelor in Physical Geography.

Do you experience inequality in your education?

No, not at all, I didn’t in my geography education and neither in engineering. Right now we are the first year in a long time in Environmental Engineering with more girls than boys, it’s great!

Do you think you have the same opportunities as your fellow male students after graduation?

Yes, if not even better because many engineering firms want as much gender equality as possible and at this point, there are more men working in engineering firms than women.

Were you surprised to find out that Iceland has the greatest gender equality in the world?

No, not at all. Gender equality is a very important discussion topic here, and therefore we are very aware of it.

More male media coverage

Jónsdóttir says she does not notice much difference in media coverage on men and women but has noticed that media coverage in general is more about men than women.

Despite being a leading nation in gender equality, media coverage about women is only 28 per cent according to the Global Media Monitoring Project, which is lower than in other Nordic countries where the ratio is between 30-33 per cent.

40 per cent of Icelandic news is considered to strengthen gender stereotypes and only 13 per cent is considered to challenge stereotypes. In Internet coverage women rank a little higher; producing 36 per cent of the news while they are the topic of 23 per cent. Only four per cent of the online news seems to challenge gender stereotypes and 42 per cent strengthens them.

Despite Iceland’s leading position, gender gaps have not been erased in the media. After the financial crisis different voices are being heard throughout society on the effect on gender issues. Some say women are worse off in society facing unemployment as cut-backs seem to affect professions that have more female workers than men  – such as teachers and nurses. Other voices say that the crisis finally gave women a way ‘in’ – especially within the business sector where female voices are finally being heard.  Values such as caution became more appreciated than risk-taking behavior and many women have gained higher positions and more responsibility through those changes.