Are Femen Activists Undermining Their Own Cause?



PARIS –Eight members of the feminist Ukrainian group FEMEN celebrated Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement this week by disrobing inside Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The bare-breasted activists rang the cathedral's new bells -- currently exposed in the middle of the nave -- with sticks, before getting carried out by the cathedral’s security and visitors (see video below). The bodies of the protestors were painted with slogans hailing Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and the recent passage in Parliament of a law allowing gay marriage in France.

By now, such images, um... barely ... make news, after months of similarly provocative demonstrations around the world to promote the rights of women and gays have often led to clashes both with police and their political opponents.

But this time, may have been different. The loudest criticism seemed to come from the French left, as Paris’ openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, slammed FEMEN’s happening: “I disapprove of an act that turns the beautiful fight for sexual equality into a caricature, needlessly shocking many believers,” Delanoë was quoted as saying by France's Le Nouvel Observateur.

Eloïse Bouton, a French representative of FEMEN, justified the action: “We chose this place because it symbolizes the oppression on women. We’re not here to please everyone we want to be visible in the news. Men are everywhere in the media landscape, they have an opinion on everything. Women need to speak up for what they stand for,” Bouton told daily 20 Minutes.

A picture from the FemenFrance official feed:

— FemenFrance Officiel (@Femen_France) 12 février 2013
A fiery tweet in reaction to the event:

— Olivia13 (@Prav13Olivia) 12 février 2013
Translation: "I won't shed a tear if Notre-Dame's bells fall and squish those harpies"

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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