India: Future of romance in #MeToo era

Future of romance in #MeToo era


Man-woman interactions have never been easy. But now every exchange seems officiated. Words are closely evaluated, by both men (before) and women (after).

By Hemant Morparia\Mumbi Mirror 

I have to start with a disclaimer here: the concept of romantic love is alien to me. The title of this piece presupposes that romance had a past. A casual peek into history tell us that ‘romantic love’ was, in fact, invented by wandering 12th century troubadours in France (where else?). It was a clever, fiendish ploy that depended on mutual self-deception, in order to, well, get some… um, you know, (unsuitable word alert) ‘action’.

I have, in my life, not seen any couple that continues to be in thrall of romantic love for any significantly meaningful length of time. Any talk of romance brings to my mind a cartoon by Mick Stevens published in the New Yorker (see, only cartoonists quote other cartoonists by name. All others just quote the publication). The cartoon shows a couple on a boat ride in an amusement park’s ‘tunnel of love’. You can see the tunnel’s exit: the boat with the couple is about to land into cesspool of effluents, garbage and other stranded couples. Cartoonists get it right pretty often, I’d say.

Actually, I have to make a correction —I have known just one couple which continues to be madly in love, and with an intensity that increases on a daily basis. Let me introduce Exhibit A. On my way to the gym each evening, for the past few years, I have been seeing a couple, a male and a female. They are rag pickers who live in abject poverty on the footpath, with no roof over their head. When they interact with each other, however, I see their mutual, fixed gaze; the world is dead to them in that moment. When the man is away, I see the woman stand for long, gazing in the direction of his expected arrival. On my way back, at night, they are asleep in each other’s arms. The relationship is not one founded on something transnational or conditional. It couldn’t possibly be. In this primal and feral state, they have nothing, and they have everything. They have love.

Cut to the present. Man-woman interactions have never been easy. They are equally a playground as they are a minefield. All men have had, at some point or other in their lives, some unsavory thoughts about women. Some men, drunk on power or fame, have quite brazenly acted them out. Women are speaking out now and it’s about time too. Women are looking askance in the direction of all men. The regular, non guilty men are the ones who are clueless in this crossfire, and the angry women aren’t helping. Every exchange between the sexes now seems officiated. Words, spoken or written, get carefully evaluated and weighed, by both men (before) and women (after). What is said and what is meant or implied in this climate of distrust are considered exclusive. A minor slip could result in the ‘Gotcha!’ moment. For example, can a man say, ‘Are you the new, hot yoga teacher?’, with zero risk today? Even punctuation marks need careful attention. A comma can break a sentence, but what of a missing one? That could break bones. Try ‘I love cooking my girlfriend and my pets’. Outrage is guaranteed from humorless Twitterati and the Shouting Heads In TV Studios (SHITS) will be shouting for your head on a platter! Out of instincts of self-preservation then, male-female interactions are fast simulating the way porcupines make love (‘very, very carefully’) and without the porcupiny tenderness.
It seems that every woman is angry today (I carefully chose the word ‘angry’ here instead of ‘mad’) and every man a bit confused and unsure. I drew a cartoon recently in which the song line ‘Tumko mujh se pyaar hai? Na na na na na na na’, from the cult film Aradhana, ends with the director yelling “Cut – end of song. NO means NO!”. When I posted it on social media, several women felt hurt and objected to it. Someone even summarised Aradhana as a misogynistic film which devalued womanhood (!) and promoted patriarchy (!!). It would be all very funny if it was not so sad. If both sexes continue the present downward trajectory of interactions, which are now getting to be without nuance, leeway or spontaneity, then I am afraid, there will be little to hold us together. As it is very little does.

I believe that the human male and the human female are two entirely different species. There may be more in common between a male human and a male chimp than a human male and a human female. In due course, men will eventually go their own way. So will women. As they retreat to Hisland and Herland, there will be little meaning to life and its activities. We will cease to do, build, create, compose, communicate, play or laugh, the very basis of all civilization. There will be no motivation to do all that. We shall, each gender separately that is, return to a state of chaos, anomie and primal poverty. From those feral, dystopic lands, one day, a single man and a single woman, both having nothing, will lock gaze. Their eyes will light up as they see a faint but distinct possibility of having everything.

Even love.
Post script: here is an exercise for you: what is the right way to punctuate ‘woman without her man is nothing’? (Both possible answers taken together only are correct.)

Giving Gyan



DREAM JOB: Waiters Slammed Cake into rude Diners Faces and keeps job


I want to work here

By: Mark Morris/UK Mirror

The waiters got their revenge after a woman said to them: “Why the fuck would I eat your cake?”

Waiters at a restaurant in Ukraine who had reportedly grown tired of two diners’ rudeness slammed cake into their faces – and the amusing incident was caught on camera.

Footage, filmed and posted online by an eyewitness, shows the pair of waiters arguing with two woman sitting at a table at Guramma Italiana restaurant in Kiev.

One of the woman can reportedly be heard saying: “Why the fuck would I eat your cake?”

In response, the young waiter shoves the cake into her face, prompting the outraged women to jump to their feet, with the other woman throwing her drink over the waiter.

The waiters were reportedly fed up with the diners’ rudeness (Image: CEN)
The row descended into a food fight very quickly (Image: CEN)

The comical row doesn’t end there.

The waiter’s colleague grabs another cake from the table and throws it at the other woman.

At this point, the two cake-covered diners can be heard shouting: “What the fuck is going on here?”

The waiters will not be punished for their actions(Image: CEN)

The video ends with the waiters moving away as the diners demanding to speak to the manager.

A restaurant spokesman reportedly said: “The clients were very rude.

“The waiters could not stand their tone any longer and did what they did.

“The situation was provoked by the clients, the waiters will not be punished.”




That takes the Cake

I wonder if they are taking applications?



From Mosul to Moria: ‘A US air strike killed all of my family’


An Iraqi refugee remembers the day when 12 of his relatives, including a six-month-old, died in the Battle for Mosul.

Mohamed fled Mosul after a US attack, apparently targeting an ISIL sniper, killed 12 relatives including his mother, father and six siblings [Jawahir Hassan Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
Mohamed fled Mosul after a US attack, apparently targeting an ISIL sniper, killed 12 relatives including his mother, father and six siblings [Jawahir Hassan Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

By: Richard Hardigan/Al Jazerra 

Lesbos, Greece – At 5am on October 1 last year, Mohamed set foot on a boat for the first time in his life, beginning a five-hour voyage in a small dinghy from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Lesbos.

The smugglers had kept their charges – who were huddled together in the cold darkness – in limbo since midnight, waiting for the lights of the patrolling Turkish coastguard vessels to disappear.

“It was one of the hardest days of my life,” said the 22-year-old. “I was crying so much.” 

Mohamed was lucky. The trip was uneventful and he arrived safely. 

By midday, he was waiting to be processed in Moria, Lesbos’ main refugee camp.

“We had to wait nine hours in the cold. I hadn’t slept in days. My clothes were still soaked from the boat trip. I was shivering,” he said. “They didn’t give us anything. Only a small bottle of water and a few olives. I thought to myself, ‘Why did I come to this terrible place?'”

Born and raised in Iraq, Mohamed – who declined to give his last name or allow his face to be depicted to protect his anonymity – was eight years old when the US invasion began.

In 2014, he was a teenager when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) took his hometown of Mosul in 2014.

And he was 20 when the Iraqi army, with the aid of a US-led coalition, violently took it back.

He finally fled the only home he had ever known and made his way to Europe.

The suffering caused by the violence he has witnessed and experienced, both in Iraq and on Lesbos, now shapes his ambition.

“It is my dream to help people,” he said. “I want to be a volunteer my whole life. I want to go wherever there is war, so that I can help people.”

Mohamed spends his days as an Arabic translator in a medical clinic that serves refugees, working for free. In the evenings, he rushes off to a shift at another facility, where he translates until 2am.

Sitting on a wooden bench outside the one-room clinic where he volunteers, he is able to take a break. None of the patients waiting to be seen speaks Arabic; they are all Africans, mainly Congolese and Cameroonians.

US forces made a lot of mistakes and a lot of people died from these mistakes. They would try to bomb an ISIL hideout, but they would miss and hit a house nearby. Sometimes, nine or 10 innocent people would die.


He looks down as he starts to talk about the events leading to December 26, 2016, and his voice trembles. 

“I lost everything on that day,” he says, “my whole life”.

In 2014, Mohamed watched as ISIL fighters captured Mosul, with leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaiming the formation of an Islamic caliphate. The ISIL occupation was brutal. 

On one occasion, he says, ISIL fighters held him in captivity and tortured him for 10 days.

In October 2016, the Iraqi army mounted an offensive, supported by coalition air raids, to take back the city. 

The battles in Mosul were described by Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the top coalition commander, as “some of the most intense urban fighting since World War II”. 

The Associated Press states that between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians were killed, with at least 3,200 lives lost as a result of coalition aerial bombardment, artillery fire or mortar rounds.

Mohamed is not surprised to hear these statistics. 

“They (the US forces) made a lot of mistakes,” he says, “and a lot of people died from these mistakes. They would try to bomb an ISIL hideout, but they would miss and hit a house nearby. Sometimes, nine or 10 innocent people would die.”

On December 26, a Monday, fighting was still raging.

“I was staying with my grandfather, who was sick at the time. “His house was a few metres from my father’s.”

In the morning, Mohamed’s mother told him that ISIL had installed a sniper on his father’s roof. The sniper instructed the family not to leave. 

“[The sniper] knew that the US would target the house if they thought there were no civilians inside,” Mohamed says. “Thirty minutes later, I heard an enormous explosion. I knew it was close.” 

For three days, he was too frightened to check on his family. 

“ISIL was still shooting at our neighborhood. I was so scared. I couldn’t leave my grandfather’s house.” 

After the Iraqi army announced that ISIL had left the area, it was safe for Mohamed to go outside. 

“When I went to my father’s house, I saw that everything was completely destroyed. The building was nothing. When I saw that, my life stopped. My life stopped completely. I lost my whole family. I lost everything.”

All of Mohamed’s immediate family perished in the bombing: his father, 65, his mother, 53, his three brothers, 28, 25 and 19, and his three sisters, 32, 30 and 21. 

He also lost his two sisters-in-law, 22 and 16, a one-year-old nephew, and a niece, six months.

Mohamed had been staying at his sick grandfather’s house when US forces bombed his family’s home [Jawahir Hassan Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

 A US Army spokesman told Al Jazeera he was unaware of the bombing of Mohamed’s house. 

While he expressed sympathy for the innocent victims of the war in Mosul, he placed the blame for their deaths squarely on the shoulders of ISIL. 

“The Coalition applies rigorous standards to our targeting process and takes extraordinary efforts to protect non-combatants. In many instances, we called off strikes if we saw any civilians around. Unfortunately, [ISIL] brutally used Mosul citizens as human shields and snipers against those trying to escape,” the spokesman told Al Jazeera. 

In 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, Lesbos was the main gateway to Europe for close to a million refugees and migrants. 

A 2016 European Union agreement with Turkeyreduced the numbers, but the flow of those seeking refuge and asylum remains steady.

Until now, I ask myself every day, why am I still alive? Why did I not die with my family?


Today there are roughly 10,000 refugees on the island, 8,000 of which have been crammed into Moria, a facility that was originally built to house 3,000.

“The situation here in Moria is so bad,” says Mohamed. “There is no hot water. I’ve been living in the same tent with 13 other people. The food is so bad here. People get sick from it all the time. And you have to wait for hours in line to get it. There is only one toilet for every 70 people. And there is so much fighting.”

Many outside observers agree with Mohamed’s assessment. 

Amnesty International called the camp an “open wound” for Europe and human rights. Luca Fontana, the field manager for Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF), recently told Al Jazeera that Moria was worse than any camp he’d worked at in Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I’ve never seen the level of suffering that we are witnessing here on a daily basis,” he said. “Moria is the worst place I’ve ever seen,” he says.

Mohamed says conditions at Moria, the refugee camp on Lesbos, are impossible [Jawahir Hassan Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

Yonda Poslavsky, a Dutch psychologist who has worked in Moria on several occasions, believes it is no place for those who, like Mohamed, have already experienced trauma in their home countries.

“In Moria, many people have severe psychological problems, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most of the people who have PTSD suffer from re-experiences, panic attacks and nightmares,” she told Al Jazeera. “Because Moria is not safe and there is no psychological help, there is no space to deal with trauma they have experienced previously. There is a lot of re-traumatisation.”

In July, Mohamed got a positive response to his application for asylum. He will receive a three-year permit to remain in Greece. He was also recently accepted onto a degree programme to study psychology at a university in Athens, staring late October.

Although Mohamed has already surmounted numerous obstacles, Poslavsky warns that trauma is hard to overcome.

“It will be very difficult to feel secure,” she said. “There might be issues of attachment with others, and there will be deep and irresolvable feelings of grief and sadness. There will be a high risk for PTSD, depression and anxiety disorders.”

Mohamed speaks excitedly about attending university, but his thoughts often return to his loved ones. 

“Until now, I ask myself every day, why am I still alive?” he says, “Why did I not die with my family?”

Mohamed was just eight years old when the US invaded Iraq [Jawahir Hassan Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]


Zimbabwe: Kentucky Fried Chicken stores out of chicken and cash

Image result for kentucky fried chicken zimbabwe

Leading fast-food chains in Zimbabwe have shut their doors as the cash crunch in the country worsens – just two months after President Emmerson Mnangagwa won elections.

KFC put up notices at its branches in the capital, Harare, and the second city, Bulawayo, saying they would remain closed “during these difficult times” until further notice.

“This is due to the fact that we are unable to source stock from our suppliers as they require US dollars. We are doing everything possible to resume trade as soon as possible,” the notice said.

St Elmos pizza outlet said it had shut its branches for the same reason, adding that it would use the time to do some deep cleaning and repairs .

Chicken Inn ran out of chicken on Tuesday, and it was unclear when they will get supplies again, the state-run Chronicle newspaper reported.

Some phramacies were also shut in Bulawayo, it added.

Last week, Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette newspaper reported that many retail shops were running out of some essential goods because of foreign currency shortages.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009, adopting the use of foreign cash. The government issued its own version of dollars called “bond notes” in 2016 to ease the continuing cash shortage, but they have rapidly lost their value.

Denmark to label food according to effect on climate

Denmark to label food according to effect on climate

New labeling on food packaging will enable consumers in Denmark to see the effect of their shopping on the environment.


Food products will be marked with stickers showing their environmental impact, according to a proposal expected to be included in a new climate package to be presented by the government this week.

“We want to give consumers the means to assess in supermarkets the environmental impact of products,” Minister for the Environment Lars Christian Lilleholt said.

Business interest group the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC) welcomed the proposal, but said a number of considerations must be made.

“It might be necessary to weigh up the environmental impact against the nutritional value of the product. A bottle of soda may have a low environmental impact, but it is not a product you can live on,” DAFC director Morten Høyer said via a press statement.

Lilleholt agreed that the plan to implement environmental labeling on food products carried a number of challenges, but stressed the importance of providing consumers with information.

“My impression is that there is a demand for knowledge about how individual consumers can contribute to improving world climate,” the minister said.

Based on voluntary climate markings on food packaging, the government will launch a campaign to make it easier for consumers to make climate-friendly choices, according to the plan.

The initiative will involve a collaboration with supermarkets.

“I will enter into dialogue with the retail sector, butchers and other food producers to open a discussion about how we can implement this in a way that would enable the climate labeling to work,” Lilleholt said.


The Local

Why are Africans in Morocco Praying to Reach Europe?

Sub-Saharans in Tangier pray to be ‘lucky ones’ who reach Spain

The popular Morocco-Spain route comes with danger, as authorities carry out raids and the navy fires on migrant boats.

Migrants and refugees often ask Father Martinez of the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral for assistance and prayers [Joe Wallen/Al Jazeera]
Migrants and refugees often ask Father Martinez of the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral for assistance and prayers [Joe Wallen/Al Jazeera]

Tangier, Morocco – Nestled in Tangier’s backstreets, Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral rises above the fracas of heated market trading as Archbishop Santiago Agrelo Martinez leads an impassioned service.

Most of his congregation are sub-Saharan Africans planning to reach Europe.

As the service ends, Martinez is surrounded by worshippers pleading for assistance with medical bills or employment.

Others simply ask for a prayer for friends who recently attempted the crossing to Spain but have since disappeared.

“Our desire is that emigrants have a family unit through the church to which they can always go, as if it was their own home,” Martinez tells Al Jazeera.

“The most difficult thing is to see them humiliated every day, begging in the street, suffering in fear and not knowing when that hell will end,” he says. “I cannot help feeling their situation as mine.

“In this house, we somehow take care of everything for them: food, clothing, body hygiene, physical and mental health, housing, the schooling of children, the development of personal skills and assisting them with getting jobs in small companies in Tangier.”

For the first time since the refugee crisis began in 2015, the Morocco to Spain route has become the most popular path for asylum seekers attempting to reach Europe’s shores.T

Up until September 10 this year, a total of 34,994 people made the perilous journey, dwarfing numbers for the Libya-Italy and Turkey-Greece routes with 20,210 and 20,827 respectively. This figure is also already treble that of 2017.

According to some reports, Moroccan authorities believe 50,000 migrants are currently based in Tangier and its surrounding area.

The Morocco route is not without its own specific danger.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International blasted Moroccan authorities for a “shocking” crackdown on sub-Saharans.

Since the end of July, the Moroccan police together with the Royal Gendarmerie and the Auxiliary Forces carried out major raids on the neighbourhoods where refugees and migrants live in several cities, with particular intensity in the northern provinces of Tangier, Nador and Tetuan, which neighbour the Spanish borders, said the rights group.

“This shocking crackdown on migrants and refugees in Morocco is both cruel and unlawful. It represents a worrying backslide for a government that in 2013 introduced new asylum and migration policy commitments to bring Morocco into compliance with international standards,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

An estimated 5,000 people were swept up in the raids since July, piled on to buses and abandoned in remote areas close to the Algerian border or in the south of the country, according to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). The group monitored the number of buses that left from Tangier, Tetuan and Nador and calculated an estimate for the number of people seized.

New arrivals sleep rough on Tangier boulevard [Joe Wallen/Al Jazeera]

And those who end up attempting the journey to Spain are also put at risk at sea.

On Tuesday, a Moroccan woman was killed and three other people were left wounded – one critically – after the country’s navy opened fire at a speedboat carrying migrants.

The Moroccan interior ministry said in a statement that a naval unit operating in the Mediterranean was “forced” to fire on the boat because its Spanish driver “refused to obey” orders.

On Wednesday, Alarmphone, a network of activist and migrant groups providing a 24-hour hotline for refugees in distress at sea, said it had assisted eight boats in distress coming from Morocco, one of which was returned to the north African country.

The majority of Martinez’s congregation live in the adjacent kasbah area of the city.

Alhassane Keita, 42, has called it home since he fled Mali in early 2013 when fighters advanced to within 20km of his city Mopti.

“If I stay in Mali there is no work, no future and no security,” Keita tells Al Jazeera.

“I want to go to Europe to work, I’m happy to do all the jobs that Europeans don’t want to do; I just want to be safe.”

Alhassane Keita says he does not have a future in Mali and is willing to do low-paid work in Europe as long as he is safe [Joe Wallen/Al Jazeera]

Asylum seekers take advantage of lax housing regulations in the kasbah, living cheaply, crammed into decrepit homes.

There are so many sub-Saharan refugees and migrants in the area that Moroccans have begun referring to it as “Petit Dakar”.

Another kasbah resident, 16-year-old Mohammed Jallo, fled Sierra Leone when he was just 13. His parents were murdered in a revenge killing linked to the country’s bloody civil war.

He had worked for three years on a Chinese-run construction site in rural Algeria before coming to Tangier.
“I came through the desert to get to Algeria,” he recalled.

“The journey is not easy and many people die – I saw people die with my own eyes.

“Sometimes we walked for 90 or 100 hours at a time with only a couple of hours break each night.

“The traffickers will just leave you in the desert if you cannot keep walking, with no food and water.

“Libya is too dangerous these days. It is at war so we are coming to Morocco instead.”

Mohammed Jallo, 16, fled Sierra Leone seeking safety at the age of 13 after his parents were killed [Joe Wallen/Al Jazeera]

An Al Jazeera report in January 2018 documented that migrants and refugees were still being sold as slaves in open markets in Libya, despite international condemnation.

Others continued to be held against their will by armed groups until their families paid ransom money.

Further migrants had avoided entering Libya after hearing news reports that NGOs were stopping rescue operations off its coast due to security fears, and as the Libyan coastguard was allegedly leaving asylum seekers to die at sea.

Italy’s recent decision to refuse entry for both rescue boats and merchant ships carrying refugees and migrants leaving Libya also had an effect.

Ahmed, not his real name, is a Tangier local and smuggler and agreed to speak to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.

He said that he sends over two small boats a week each carrying 62 people and charges between $900 and $1,150 per person meaning that he can earn up to $500,000 a month.

Migrants and refugees often meet in the newly set up cafes, such as this one for Senegalese arrivals in Tangier’s old town [Joe Wallen/Al Jazeera]

Using sub-Saharan middlemen, he seeks out refugees and migrants who meet in the recently established Senegalese or Eritrean community cafes.

Once a fee is agreed, the asylum seekers are transported to forests near remote beaches from where they set sail in the middle of the night.

When asked whether he is concerned about the Moroccan police, he laughed and explained that he pays off certain officers to ensure safe passage for his boats.

In 2015, Morocco introduced year-long renewable residency permits, allowing migrants to move to Morocco and work legally while saving up to travel to Europe.

In addition, after the 33 years of exclusion from the African Union ended, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI introduced 90-day visa-free travel on arrival to many sub-Saharan nationals.

For Malick Diallo, 20, these policies enabled him to fly directly to the country from Senegal and save up the money needed to attempt several crossings by working as a labourer in Tangier.

Back at Our Lady Cathedral, as news filters through that 400 asylum seekers, attempting to reach Spain from Morocco, have had to be rescued in just one weekend, a young Liberian man, Daniel, implores Santiago Agrelo Martinez to pray with him.

“The Almighty has told me it is time to make the journey to Europe,” he says.

“Pray with me that I am one of the lucky ones.”



Meet the American trans activist seeking asylum in Sweeden

Meet the American trans activist seeking asylum in Sweden
Danni Askini, the trans activist seeking asylum in Sweden. Photo: John Victory
By:Ruben Dieleman/The Local
MY SWEDISH CAREER: Danni Askini, 36, has been in Sweden since July 9th, but she has visited the country ‘some 20 times’ previously. This time however, Askini hopes to stay: she has had to flee the United States after her work as a human rights defender has become too dangerous there.


Askini’s story is one of great hardships, yet she radiates positivity. Passionate and enthusiastic, the Seattle native talks frankly about her career, her private life, and her hopes for the future.

“I was adopted, and I grew up in foster care. It was a rough time. I went through homelessness, and I transitioned from male to female as a teenager. Since the late ’90s, I have been doing LGBT activism, but more specifically, trans activism. In 2006, I met a Swede and fell in love. From that time, I started moving back and forth to Sweden, until our relationship ended in 2015,” she says.

Getting to Sweden

But now, she intends to stay in the country long-term, explaining: “My work in the US has become too dangerous.”

White supremacists and Nazis have threatened Askini. As her visibility as a campaigner for transgender rights increased, she began receiving death threats and even experiencing violence. “From the federal government, I have not received help to keep doing human rights work in the US,” she says.

Askini’s future in Sweden is uncertain. Upon leaving the US, her passport renewal was rejected, despite providing the necessary documentation. She was granted a temporary emergency passport to leave, but according to the State Department in Washington DC, she still has not “demonstrated a legitimate claim” to US citizenship, refusing her a new passport.

“I had to fill out another form, the so-called N-600 certificate, with over 180 questions on it. Because I am adopted and I was in foster care, I do not know the answers to some of the questions,” says Askini.

Requesting asylum

If she has to return to the US, she says, “there is the real possibility that I would be arrested and detained at the border control on charges of identity fraud”. And if that happens, she is concerned about the risk she might face as a trans woman.

“In US immigration detention facilities, transgender women are often detained with men, and they run a huge risk of getting raped or sexually assaulted there. So I am trying to explore what my legal options are to remain in Sweden. It is rare, coming from the US, to apply for asylum in Sweden. I have a 90-day tourist visa until October 9th, so I have a legal status here, but I am in uncharted territory,” the American says.

“I am really fearful that my application for asylum here will be immediately labelled ‘manifestly unfounded’. At the asylum reception, they can declare your application unfounded and deport you within 14 days to your country of origin. I need to pay for an attorney to be able to have a chance to even have my application be considered. Despite the status of Sweden as an open country, it is quite hard to gain asylum here nowadays.”

One option is to request political asylum: “I have good reasons to think that I have been targeted because of my political work. For example, I am suing the Trump administration over the transgender military ban. I have sued military officials, and I took on the Seattle mayor last year, with him ending up having to resign.”

Awaiting new developments for her asylum request, Askini keeps a low profile online. “My fear is that even talking to The Local may tip off migration authorities to deport me or to deny my application on the grounds that I would not be in enough danger.” However, she also believes it is important to tell her story.

Trans activist and writer Danni Askini. Photo: John Victory

Generosity and opportunity

Askini lauds the Swedes for their generosity. “For all of the difficulties and the heated debate about asylum seekers in this country, the truth is I have been treated with nothing but kindness and respect by friends, friends of friends, officials, by all of the agencies I have encountered here. People here are generous in spirit and in means, and I think you don’t find that in the US any more. Swedish people offered me housing or knew someone who could offer assistance with asylum requests, without expecting anything back,” she says. “I am so grateful for that, and it has really helped me get a sense of safety, of belonging, of being welcome. I miss home, and it has not been easy coming here, but it has been a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

Askini sees opportunities for people like her here. “There is a strategic advantage for Sweden as an economy to be profiling itself with its human rights policy and culture. This is an amazingly open, innovative country, where LGBT people are treated with respect and dignity. Seattle is called Silicon Forest, because of all the tech companies there, and I am trying to convince my trans friends in tech there to come to Stockholm. There are so many tech jobs here, and I would love to bridge a gap between the LGBT community working in tech in the US and Sweden.”

In the meantime

During her time in Sweden, Askini has been working on a book for US audiences with Penguin Books.

“It will be a how-to guide for activism in the age of Trump, walking people through the basics of how to do activism and how to manage the emotional aspects of that work. It’s about conflict, and a lot of people are inherently conflict-averse. So my book discusses the emotions that come up: What are effective advocacy strategies in the US in times of increasing authoritarianism? I hope it will reach Swedish audiences as well. The same truths apply: Europe is experiencing a shift towards the far-far-right, and the traditional approaches on the left have lost their effectiveness.”

There is a vital need for insight into how much the US has changed with regards to its human rights situation, she says.

“I have been working so much with LGBT issues, and topics that overlap it. The information I have gained about this can contribute to building a new human rights framework for Sweden in negotiations with the US. I would love to work on this, as soon as I know more about my own fate. In the meantime, I am learning Swedish and hope to continue moving forward and strengthen people’s understanding of what is happening in the US,” Askini concludes.

Ruben Dieleman is a Dutch freelance journalist and an assistant researcher at the political sciences department of Gothenburg University.

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