The Pentagon papers


News Desk
The Untold Story of the Pentagon Papers Co-Conspirators
Speaking publicly for the first time, a historian reveals the crucial role that he and a small band of others played in helping Daniel Ellsberg leak the documents to journalists.
By Eric Lichtblau9:34 A.M.

In 1971, Gar Alperovitz played a vital, clandestine role in making the Pentagon Papers public.Photograph by Sharon Alperovitz
In June of 1971, Gar Alperovitz, a thirty-five-year-old historian, sped through suburban Boston, looking for an out-of-the-way pay phone to use to call a reporter. Alperovitz had never considered himself much of a risk-taker. The father of two ran a small economic think tank focussed on community-building. He had participated in demonstrations against the Vietnam War and rung doorbells with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Boston, as part of an antiwar campaign. But what he was doing on this day, propelled by his desire to end the conflict, could lead to federal prison.
He pulled his old Saab up to a phone booth on the outskirts of Harvard Square, and rang a hotel room nearby. When the reporter picked up, Alperovitz identified himself with the alias he had adopted: “It’s Mr. Boston.” Alperovitz told the journalist to open the door. Waiting in the hallway was a cardboard box, left minutes before by a runner working with Alperovitz. Inside were several hundred pages of the most sought-after documents in the United States—the top-secret Vietnam history known as the Pentagon Papers.
The handoff was one of about a dozen clandestine encounters with journalists that Alperovitz orchestrated over the course of a three-week period, when he and a small group of fellow antiwar activists helped Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst at the rand Corporation, elude an F.B.I. manhunt and distribute the Pentagon Papers to nineteen newspapers. Ellsberg, who had smuggled the documents out of rand’s Santa Monica office two years earlier and copied them with the help of a colleague, has long been the public face of the leak. But Ellsberg was aided by about a half-dozen volunteers whose identities have stayed secret for forty-six years, despite the intense interest of the Nixon Administration, thousands of articles, books, documentaries, plays, and now a major film, “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, about the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg told me that the hidden role of this group was so critical to the operation that he gave them a code name—The Lavender Hill Mob, the name of a 1951 film about a ragtag group of amateur bank robbers. He has referred obliquely to his co-conspirators over the years. But he held back from identifying them because some in the group still feared repercussions.
Now, Alperovitz, who is eighty-one, has agreed to be revealed for the first time. “I’m getting old,” Alperovitz told me, with a laugh. Several other members of the group told me that they still wished to remain anonymous, or declined interview requests. One former Harvard graduate student who also played a major role—she hid the papers in her apartment and organized hideouts for Ellsberg—considered coming forward in this piece, but she ultimately decided not to, after conferring with lawyers. As a green-card holder, she worried that her involvement could lead to her deportation by the Trump Administration. Still, she remains proud of her role. “Those were extraordinary days,” she told me. “It was about questioning the government and being against the government. I was very, very angry about what was happening in Vietnam.”

Alperovitz said that the renewed interest in the Pentagon Papers, brought on by “The Post,” pushed him to finally acknowledge his role, but he also alluded to the “very dangerous” climate under President Trump. A historian and political economist, whose writings have focussed on the dangers of nuclear war and economic inequality, Alperovitz said that Trump’s “outrageous and destabilizing” rhetoric on North Korea compelled him to tell his story and “to suggest to people that it’s time to take action.”
“We were trying to stop the war,” Alperovitz told me, in an interview in his home near Washington. “I’m not heroic in this, but I just felt it important to act,” he said. “There were lots of people dying unnecessarily. There were lots of people who were taking risks to try to end the war, and I was one of them.”
Ellsberg told me that Alperovitz, in particular, was “critical to the way this thing worked out,” organizing the broader distribution of the papers. Ellsberg had initially turned over the documents only to Neil Sheehan, a reporter at the Times, which published the first front-page article on the Pentagon Papers, on June 13, 1971. (The Nixon Administration quickly secured an injunction to halt the Times from continuing to publish the documents.) But it was Alperovitz who devised the strategy of distributing the papers to as many news organizations as possible, including the Washington Post, an approach that later proved to be crucial from both a legal and public-relations standpoint. And it was Alperovitz who came up with the elaborate techniques for slipping the documents to reporters while evading the authorities. “Gar took care of all the cloak-and-dagger stuff,” Ellsberg said.

The danger to the Lavender Hill Mob could hardly be underestimated. Alperovitz “would’ve been indicted in a heartbeat” if he had been identified, Ellsberg said. Senior officials in the Nixon White House had become obsessed with arresting and discrediting Ellsberg and any of his accomplices. They created a group of Nixon campaign operatives, who became known as “the plumbers,” to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, in what would be a precursor to the Watergate scandal. In a 2010 documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” Egil Krogh, one of the operatives, says that the Administration was obsessed with identifying who else was involved in the leak. “Did Daniel Ellsberg work alone? Was he working with some other people? Was he part of a conspiracy?” Krogh, who was imprisoned for his role in the Watergate break-in, says in the film. F.B.I. agents—and Nixon’s plumbers—tracked leads from Los Angeles to Paris. The perpetrators, it turned out, met less than a mile from Harvard Square, the epicenter of the liberal, Ivy League élitism that Nixon so detested.

Shortly after surrendering to federal authorities, in June, 1971, for his role in leaking the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to reporters.Photograph by Bettmann / Getty

In early June of 1971, Ellsberg, who had left rand and was working as a senior research fellow at M.I.T., hosted a small dinner party at his home in Cambridge. Ellsberg, who was then forty, had never met Alperovitz but invited him after a colleague said that they shared an intense opposition to the war. The Harvard graduate student was there as well.
Alperovitz had worked in the U.S. government on foreign affairs from 1961 to 1966—first in Congress, then at the State Department—and it was there, as an insider, that his opposition to the war hardened. As a Senate aide, in 1964, Alperovitz worked unsuccessfully to stop what he still calls the “phony” Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which allowed President Lyndon B. Johnson to escalate America’s military involvement in Vietnam. More than anything, the congressional vote confirmed his view that the war was a fraud perpetrated on the American public.
At the dinner, Alperovitz and Ellsberg, a former Marine and Pentagon analyst, talked about Nixon, liberal activism, nuclear weapons, and, of course, Vietnam. The top-secret papers never came up. But, as the party wrapped up and Alperovitz walked to his car, the Harvard graduate student pulled him aside and made a cryptic comment about some sensitive material on Vietnam and “boxes and boxes of papers,” Alperovitz recalled.
A day or two later, the graduate student arranged to meet Alperovitz at a park, she told me in an interview. She explained to Alperovitz that Ellsberg had entrusted her with thousands of pages of the documents, and that she had stashed them in cupboards in the pantry of her small apartment. Ellsberg had given copies of the papers to a Times reporter several months earlier, but had not heard from him since. She and Ellsberg didn’t know when the newspaper might run the story, or if it even intended to do so, and were eager to distribute more of the papers to other news outlets. “I needed help to do this work,” the woman told me, and Alperovitz seemed like “exactly the right person.”
When she asked Alperovitz if he would help, he immediately agreed. Decades later, Alperovitz said that his eagerness, despite the obvious risks, still puzzles him. “I’m a very cautious person, but I didn’t blink—which I don’t understand,” he told me. “I’m surprised I didn’t just say, ‘Whoops, I’m busy tomorrow.’ It was out of character.”
In a subsequent meeting with Ellsberg, Alperovitz mapped out a strategy. Ellsberg, who had tried to leak the secret papers to members of Congress but had been rebuffed, wanted to get all seven thousand pages of the papers out at once, if not in the Times then in the Washington Post or somewhere else. “My nightmare was that the F.B.I. would catch me and capture all the papers first,” Ellsberg recalled. He even considered using the Harvard Crimson’s presses to print the documents himself. Alperovitz talked him out of it. “I said to Dan, ‘Look, this is seven thousand pages of material, you’ll get one story, maybe two,’ ” Alperovitz said. “If you really want to get this out to the public, you’ve got to break it up and keep the story going.”

To Ellsberg’s surprise, the Times ran its first story on the papers several days later. The Nixon Administration quickly secured an injunction to halt publication. By then, Alperovitz was already working the pay phones around Cambridge and Somerville to contact a reporter from the Post and get more coverage. Days later, with Alperovitz acting as an intermediary, Ellsberg met with a Post reporter in a local motel room and gave him the entire secret report. After the reporter left, Ellsberg and his wife, who were hiding out in the motel, saw on television that F.B.I. agents had descended on their home to question him. For the next two weeks, the Ellsbergs remained holed up, with the Harvard graduate student taking the lead in finding new places to stash them. “I moved them every few days,” she recalled. “I’d call friends and say, ‘I need your apartment for two days, and I just want you to go somewhere else. Just don’t ask me any questions.’ ” Each time the couple moved, she crammed boxes of the secret history into her small Volkswagen and moved them along with the Ellsbergs.
The one time that Ellsberg knew whose apartment he was using, he said, was during weekend that he spent in Cambridge with a friend, Jeffrey Race, a fellow Vietnam veteran. Race recalled watching a television news report with his fiancée about the F.B.I. searching for Ellsberg. “They can’t find him,” Race told me, “and we joked that, ‘Hey, he’s lying right here in his underwear on the floor taking a nap in front of the TV.’ ”
It was at Race’s apartment that Ellsberg had his closest brush with arrest. At Ellsberg’s request, from a pay phone outside of Race’s apartment, Alperovitz called a friend of Ellsberg’s in Los Angeles to arrange a way for him to speak with his children and let them know that he was all right. As Ellsberg watched from the window, Alperovitz hung up and walked away. Minutes later, police cars converged around the phone booth. Ellsberg guessed that the F.B.I. must have been tapping his Los Angeles friend’s phone, or perhaps the pay phone, in their effort to find him. “We ducked behind the window,” Ellsberg recalled. “I’m thinking, Oh my God!” He and his wife left that same night for a different hiding place.
Alperovitz asked the administrator of the Cambridge Institute, the think tank he ran, to vacate her apartment for the Ellsbergs for several days. “It was a very matter-of-fact thing,” the administrator, Nancy Lyons, who is now retired and living in Concord, Massachusetts, said in an interview. She immediately agreed—she saw it as an opportunity to be involved in something larger than herself. “I might have just been naïve, but I didn’t have any hesitation.” The one concern she had, she told me, was that she had waited a long time to get the rent-controlled apartment, and she didn’t want to lose it if someone found out. (No one did.)
Alperovitz’s primary task was devising how to distribute the papers to as many news organizations as possible. Ellsberg usually told Alperovitz which newspapers to contact—the Boston Globe, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Detroit Free Press, among them—but he left it to Alperovitz to figure out the logistics.
Alperovitz told me that he improvised the elaborate handoffs. “I invented this stuff as I went along,” he said. “I don’t know how.” Getting journalists interested in the papers, then the most sought after documents in the United States, was easy. He would call a newspaper’s city desk from a pay phone, identify himself as Mr. Boston­—a code name that got a few references in “The Post”—and then offer to share some of the papers. “They were very happy to take them. Everyone wanted to be in on it,” he said.
The trickier part was handing off hundreds of pages of documents without being detected. Alperovitz and the Harvard graduate student recruited a handful of college students—all ardently opposed to the war—to help not only with mundane tasks, like getting the Ellsbergs’ groceries, but also to act as runners who delivered the papers.

During the frantic three weeks it took to distribute the documents, Alperovitz typically didn’t have time to even read all the papers before parcelling them out to reporters. He simply grabbed a few hundred pages, boxed them up, and sent the runners on their way. Alperovitz usually found out what was in each stack only when he read the news stories. The pace was so hectic that he and other participants have trouble remembering the exact sequence today. Alperovitz can’t remember, for instance, which reporter he called at the Cambridge hotel with instructions for finding the papers in the hallway. The former Harvard graduate student recalls a nighttime handoff of papers at an acquaintance’s home, but the details are hazy.
There were also furtive meetings at Boston’s Logan Airport, chosen by Alperovitz because it was a convenient place for out-of-town reporters to blend in. One student helping with the operation was dispatched to Logan to meet a Newsday reporter whom Alperovitz had summoned from Washington. Posing this time as Sam Adams, Alperovitz had the airport page the reporter over the public-address system; the student then handed the reporter a note with directions to find a green plastic shopping bag on a seat in the terminal. Inside


Sugar. 2017

UKRAINE: Largest sugar producer buys ag insurance company: Astarta-Kyiv, Ukraine’s largest agricultural holding, has purchased the Ukrainian agrarian insurance company worth UAH10.5 million (US$394,181), the National Association of Sugar Producers of Ukraine reports, according to Interfax-Ukraine. The holding said in its financial statements over January-September 2017 posted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange: “The acquisition of 100% of the shares of the insurer has been completed this year”. The Ukrainian Agro-Insurance has been operating on the market since 1995. This is one of the four insurance companies in Ukraine that acted as the founders of the Agrarian Insurance Pool. The insurance company completed 2016 with a net profit amounting to UAH10.2 million, while in 2015 – its net loss reached UAH33.4 million. The company’s assets over the year increased by 24% to UAH58 million, equity capital grew by 25% to UAH 51 million. The company’s authorized capital totals UAH12 million. Astarta-Kyiv is one of Ukraine’s largest vertically integrated agricultural holding specializing in sugar and agricultural production. Its production share totals about 25%, the land bank is 245,000 hectares. The company also produces milk and processing soybeans. The company operates in Poltava, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytsky, Ternopil, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv, Cherkasy and Kharkiv regions.

BRAZIL: RenovaBio should prompt new wave of M&A in sugarcane sector: Brazil’s sugarcane industry is expected to go through an intense wave of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) once RenovaBio, a governmental program to encourage use of biofuels in the country, is launched, says Alexandre Figliolino, partner at MB Agro consultancy firm, according to Brazil’s Infomoney news website. “If RenovaBio comes through, I have no doubt that we will have a consolidation movement in the sugar and ethanol sector as we have never seen before,” said Figliolino, during this week’s XP Datagro’s Agrifinance Brazil conference. RenovaBio aims to expand biofuel production in Brazil by adopting predictable rules for development of the sector, in line with economic, social and environmental sustainability. The program also aims to contribute to Brazil’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to Figliolino, the sugarcane industry is experiencing five years of stagnation, and has a “huge disparity” in terms of operational efficiency of mills, opening up a scenario in which the most efficient tend to acquire others. Currently, there is a process of “silent consolidation” in the sector, according to Figliolino, in which small acquisitions are occurring with mills taking over cane fields of neighboring producers. Guilherme Nastari, director at Datagro consultancy firm, says RenovaBio’s approval may be the trigger for the next big wave of production in the industry. Felipe Vicchiato, financial director of São Martinho mill, said RenovaBio’s launch may also encourage more companies in the industry to seek initial public offerings (IPO).

BRAZIL: INTL FCStone sees centre-south cane crush at 587.5 million tonnes: Consultancy firm INTL FCStone estimates that mills in Brazil’s centre-south will crush 587.5 million tonnes of sugarcane in the 2018/19 harvest, up 0.6% from the the 2016/17 season forecast (583.8 million tonnes), according to Brazil’s Estadão Conteúdo. An improvement in weather conditions and a higher rate of sugarcane field renewal in 2015 and 2016 should contribute to the slight increase in cane crush next season. The 2018/19 harvest officially begins in April 2018. “As for the harvested area, as opposed to the 1.5% decline projected for 2017/18, we expect it to advance 0.3% in the next harvest. This slight increase comes as a result of less reserved areas for sugarcane reforestation,” said analyst João Paulo Botelho. About 8.03 million hectares of sugarcane are expected to be harvested in the region in 2018/19. “It should be noted that greater humidity resulting from a less dry climate tends to reduce the average ATR (Total Recoverable Sugar) of the crops,” he said. INTL FCStone expects ATR at 135.4 kg/tonne, down 0.5% from the projection for the current season. The consultancy firm also estimates that 56% of the sugarcane will be destined to ethanol production in 2018/19, up from 53.4% this year. This should contribute to an increase of 5.1% in ethanol production, to 26.3 billion litres. Hydrous ethanol output should total 15.4 billion litres in 2018/19, up 8.9% from the current year, while anhydrous ethanol production would remain stable. The group’s estimate for sugar production is at 33.3 million tonnes, down 5.5% from 2017/18.

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Gardening selecting a an allotment plot

07/02/2018 ~ KATRINA
Late winter going into early spring is one of the best times of the year to choose your allotment plot. Annual plants have died back and deciduous trees bare their naked form, giving you an overall blank canvas view of the plot’s potential future as a productive edible garden. You might even glance a few signs of existing spring, like the striking green flash of bulbs poking up through the soil, the swelling buds of an apple tree or some primula in bloom.

I was lucky to only wait six months for my plot, but you could have your name on the waiting list for many months, or maybe even years! One day though, you’ll reach the top of that list and receive an invitation to go on an allotment tour, to choose yourself a garden. I remember the day so vividly! I was bursting with eagerness to think that I could return home with a set of keys to my very own piece of land.Going back three and a half years to that day, I remember it being mid September just after my birthday, when I saw about six different plots with a small group of people. I pinned all my hopes on a cosy, over grown and very green plot. I fell in love with it’s quirky character and the ivy ‘shed’ and hedges that concealed what I wanted to be, my own Secret Garden. I wouldn’t change my plot for anything and I have no regrets in my decision to get 152a at St.Ann’s Allotments, but how DO you decide on what is a ‘good plot’ and is there such a thing as a ‘bad plot’? I’ve listed a few tips and things to consider.


In the first few year of getting your allotment you will be carting an awful lot of stuff to and from your allotment and not just seed trays and tools. You might buy a shed, concrete slabs, you will most definitely have a lot of junk to remove and then theres all the bags of compost and manure too. Taking on an allotment garden comes with a lot of heavy lifting so easy access is very important!

Carpark – is it far away?
Pathways – is you plot easy to get to? Are the pathways muddy or on a steep incline?
How long does it take you to get to your plot?
If it’s a long time you might be put off going all together!
Taps – if you site has them, you might want one close to your gate. Otherwise you could be relying on rainwater during hot summers which isn’t ideal.
Existing Plants, Trees & Structures

If you find a plot with established fruit trees already growing on it then you might have struck gold! Proving they are in good condition, established fruit trees are heavy cropping and require little effort to maintain. Just remember that fruit trees will shade parts of your garden and require a lot of water from the ground which will prevent you from planting and growing certain things directly below it.


Sadly, allotment breaking and thefts are quite common, especially in city and suburban areas. It isn’t something you should fear, but if you plan on storing expensive garden machinery or electric tools in an unlocked shed, that’s close to the entrance of the site, then you might re-consider where you’re plot is located.


Does it have big trees or hedges? They could restrict light to your plot, and take away a lot of water from the ground. They will also required regular pruning to prevent them from becoming overgrown. My plot has a lot of trees and although they don’t restrict too much light, I do have to cut back the vigorous ivy hedges each year and either burn it or take to a recycling centre. On the plus side, they provide habitats for nesting birds, natural walkways for hedgehogs and I also have a lot of privacy!


Plots available in a range of sizes and most of them tend to be overgrown, so if you find one in a good condition then you’re lucky! I took on my small plot knowing it would be a huge challenge to makeover by myself but I was prepared to take it on. Sadly, it is all too common for new allotment holders to give up on their plots because they don’t have the time or energy to overhall a big, overgrown plot. I did mine bit-by-bit and didn’t let it defeat me! So think about what you can realistically manage.


If you get the chance, take a look at the position of the sun and see which direction your plot faces. This will help you get an idea of how the light and shadows fall on your plot and will dictate where and what you can plant in certain areas. A plot that faces N-S will get the maximum hours of daylight on the plot.


Soil quality can vary drastically between plots. Now I’m not saying your should whip out a pH measuring kit during your tour, but take a look at the colour and consistency of the soil. Generally speaking the darker and more crumbly, the better quality it is! This hints that the soil has been heavily manured and looked after for many years. If you see huge puddles or rivers of rainwater and mud at the end of the plot, it might not have very good drainage, which will cause you issues. Also bare in mind the flatness of the plot. Mine in on a slight downward slope but you might prefer, like many allotment gardeners, to have a completely levelled plot.

Panoramic view of Katrina’s allotment, taken in January 2018

With all that said, you might just get a gut feeling and know that ‘THIS IS THE ONE’ (like I did), so don’t take my advice too seriously. Enjoy the tour, take in as much as you can and don’t feel rushed to make a decision if you aren’t completely happy.

If you’re reading this thinking you want to get an allotment of your own, just get your name on the waiting list! You can always turn it down if you aren’t ready when the time comes. Waiting lists are only going to get longer in years to come as we grow tired of pre-washed, pre-chopped carrots, perfectly shaped parsnips and the ridiculous amount of plastic packaging that comes with it. As a nation, I think we’re slowly become more aware of the food we’re eating, the processes involved in making it, and are more interested in growing our own foods to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

If you have an allotment already, I would love to know what made you decide on choosing your plot?!

Katrina xxx

Allotment gardener Katrina, sat outside her shed.

The saga of Gulf diaspora

Wikimedia Commons
Jul 17, 2016 · 02:30 pm
Veena Muthuraman
Najeeb and Hameed wait patiently in front of Batha police station in Riyadh hoping to grab the attention of the cops. At first glance, Najeeb reminds one of Soapy from O Henry’s The Cop and the Anthem – a young man out to commit a minor offence so that he can spend the three harsh winter months in the comfort of prison. Unlike the (un)fortunate Soapy however, Najeeb and Hameed are arrested and sent to Sumesi, the largest prison in the country.

Hundreds of prisoners alighting from police vehicles and filling the prison yard reminds Najeeb of marriage halls in his native Kerala where the relatives worriedly mill about. For the reader, the first sign of darkening mood is when a number is tattooed on Najeeb’s forearm, but it does not seem to bother him; his references are different.

He simply says that he recognises the Arabic number as 13858, the only ever use of his childhood madrassa education. He soon settles down to prison life, and seems to savour it to an extent, while he waits for consulate officials to process his repatriation, hoping that his arbab will not come for him.

What is Najeeb’s story?

Migration is a given in Kerala, especially if it is across the Arabian Sea. Anyone who is rightly proud of the state’s oft-quoted achievements in human development indices and relatively lower levels of income inequality, a notable feature of developed social democracies, cannot shy away from the fact that this success is underwritten in part by more than 2.4 million migrants living and working in the oil-rich kingdoms of the Persian Gulf, which count among the most undemocratic places in our world.

They send home an astounding Rs 1 lakh crore every year, more than the state’s revenue collections revenue. Kochi’s Nedumbassery airport is the fourth busiest airport in the country for reasons that have nothing to do with domestic travel. Every Gulf airline is featured here transporting doctors, nurses, technicians, IT professionals, drivers, and retail workers back and forth every day.

Twenty-five years ago, this airport did not exist but the migration did, and many more Malayalis travelled to the Gulf to take up menial jobs than they do now. Najeeb, the protagonist of Benyamin’s best-selling Goat Days, translated from Malayalam to English by Joseph Koyippally, is one such young man. Newly married and expecting a baby, this sand miner from a small town is lured by the prospect of “TV, VCR, AC and gold watch”, which in those days still counted as an aspiration and not a basic need as it is today. He mortgages his home, borrows money, and travels to Bombay from where he boards a flight to Riyadh.

Hard landing

“For me, Bombay was worry, Riyadh, wonder”, says Najeeb just after landing in the country of his dreams, and he looks for his arbab (boss, landlord) in anticipation. His arbab, unfortunately for him, turns out to be a man with a masara deep in the desert looking for a shepherd slave. I am certain that young Najeeb was more than capable of quoting chapter and verse of the workers’ charter, but what does he do with it when he is not recognised as a worker?

Completely at the mercy of his master who thrashes him at regular intervals and threatens to kill him, not knowing the language, no one to talk to except the goats he tends to, locked up in the masara and not allowed even water to wash his bum, Najeeb leads a slave-like existence as he loses count of days and weeks and months. After an ill-fated escape, he says:

The arbab left me locked me in the masara that day and the next. He didn’t let me out at all, didn’t even give me a drop of water or a piece of khubus. For two days, I lay there without complaint. By the second night, I was very hungry. When I was sure the arbab was asleep, I slowly untied my legs and, creeping out through the goats, I reached the water container and drank till my thirst was quenched. In the next container, there were some wheat grains, left uneaten by the goats. I gathered them up and ate greedily. Raw wheat. Unhusked. There was some salt in the small pail nearby. I ate the wheat with the salt. It was on that day I realised that uncooked wheat could be tasty! I guzzled water again from the container. My belly full, I was finally at ease. I slept in the masara with the goats. By then I had indeed become a goat.

After three and a half years of a goat’s life, another opportunity for escape arises. He and his friend in the nearby masara attempt to escape with the help of a Somalian fugitive but alas, not all of them make it back to Riyadh. The desert, with its unforgiving sand storms, snakes and the scorching sun, takes its toll first.

Najeeb finally reaches the city, and faints in front of Malabar Restaurant (“a banyan tree in this Arabian city”), and is nursed back to health by fellow Malayalis. Taking their advice, he gets himself arrested and goes to prison, from where he is finally repatriated to Kerala, but not before a final encounter with his arbab.

Not that I would have minded, but if that sounded like you would spend days and weeks with Najeeb in his desert masara, think again. Goat Days is a literary page-turner; it is a suspenseful and gripping read till the last page. Every page and every chapter leaves the reader wanting for more. Will he finally escape, will he lose his unshakeable faith, or will his favourite goats escape the slaughter-house?

There is also an economy about the book which ties in well with the hero; there is not a word beyond what is absolutely essential. (Aside: There is something strange about reading a translation when you know the original language rather well. There were so many turns of phrase that left me asking for more, not because the translation did not do it justice but because I kept thinking about the many ways it might have appeared in the source language.)

Laughing for sanity

The subject of Gulf migration has been dealt successfully in a handful of popular Malayalam films over the decades, perhaps making up for a relative lack of it in fiction. Nadodikattu and Varavelpu from the late 1980s played on the aspirations of young men desperate to go the Gulf and the travails of returnees respectively. In the 2000s, Arabikatha lets loose an idealistic comrade (with the name of Cuba Mukunthan!) in the capitalist world of oil-driven dreams.

Running through these films is a brand of humour peculiar to the state – sometimes slapstick but mostly wry, with a fierce grounding in everyday reality. Benyamin takes this to a new level in Goat Days. His Najeeb, even when living through unbelievable hardships, always gives us lines to snigger and to smile at; th

Talism-e- Hoshruba


from the December 2009 issue


Fiction by Muhammad Husain Jah

One of the earliest accounts of the magical arts practiced in the Islamic world is found in the fourteenth-century work the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, acknowledged as the first work on the philosophy of history and the social sciences. Ibn Khaldun devoted several pages to the definition of magic, from which we learn that its practice is viewed in the Islamic tradition as a science—not based in pagan rituals of sacrifice to gods and goddesses but requiring instead a command of a number of physical and occult sciences.

These sciences were used in different combinations to create magic. In the Urdu oral narrative tradition from South Asia, the special combination of occult sciences used to create a magical world, or tilism, is called himia. Different sources offer different definitions of himia. It is generally described as the science of conquering planetary forces and enslaving jinns, and is a combination of at least four occult sciences: simia, kimia, limia, and rimia. Simia is the science of creating illusions and transferring spirits between bodies. It manipulates the imagination and presents non-existent and imaginary things to the human eye. Kimia is the science of the transmutation of physical properties of elements, of bringing them to the highest pinnacle of their essence. Limia is the science of runes—letters or words that cause super-natural effects through interaction with the function of heavenly bodies. Rimia is the science of configuring and exploiting the inherent physical forces of the Earth to create extraordinary marvels.

The following are three excerpts from the translation of Tilism-e-Hoshruba, the world’s first magical fantasy epic. When we consider that the word “magic” is interchangeable with “science,” we realize that the magic fairy and magic slave are both automatons except that the magic slave is an intelligent robot. The magic claw is a flying machine that also acts as a drone and a conveyance, etc. The first section offers a brief history of the land and the tilism of Hoshruba where the story is set. The second is an episode that describes the imprisonment of Amir Hamza’s followers by the sorceress Princess Bahar of Spring Quarter, who enchants her opponents with a magical science that creates the spring. It would be difficult to find such a mixture of baroque sensuousness, nature, and science in the literature broadly classified as science fiction. The final section describes a scene in which the Emperor of Sorcerers Afrasiyab visits the mausoleum of a powerful sorcerer to acquire a magical gift to use against his adversaries. In this scene, the flesh sacrifice to the god of sorcerers takes place within the scientific construct of the tilism of Hoshruba. —Musharraf Ali Farooqui

Section 1. Of the Tilism called Hoshruba and the Master of the Tilism, Emperor Afrasiyab

We are told that in the bottom of the untold past a group of sorcerers met to create a magical world or tilism by using occult sciences to infuse inanimate matter with the spirits of planetary and cosmic forces.

In the tilism the sorcerers exercised powers that defied the laws of God and the physical world. They created illusions, transferred spirits between bodies, transmuted matter, made talismans, and configured and exploited the Earth’s inherent physical forces to create extraordinary marvels.

Once the tilism was created the sorcerers named it Hoshruba.

A sorcerer named Lachin ruled Hoshruba in its early years. Then one of his deputies—the cunning sorcerer Afrasiyab—deposed his master and usurped the throne. Afrasiyab became the Emperor of Hoshruba and the Master of the Tilism.

Afrasiyab and his sorceress wife Empress Heyrat now ruled over Hoshruba’s three regions, named Zahir the Manifest, Batin the Hidden, and Zulmat the Dark. These regions were also tilisms and each contained countless dominions and smaller tilisms—filled with thousands of buildings, enclosures, gardens and palaces—governed by sorcerer princes and sorceress princesses.

The ordinary citizens of Hoshruba lived in the region of Zahir the Manifest. Empress Heyrat and the emperor’s ministers, peers and confidants made their abode in Batin the Hidden. Zulmat the Dark was a secluded region of Hoshruba that few could access. It was inhabited by two of Hoshruba’s most powerful sorceresses.

An enchanted river called the River of Flowing Blood divided the regions of Zahir and Batin. A bridge stretched over it that was made of smoke and guarded by two smoke lions. It was called the Bridge of the Magic Fairies and from it a three-tiered tower rose to the skies. On the lowest tier of this tower, magic fairies stood alert holding trumpets and clarions to their lips. From the second tier another group constantly tossed pearls in the river to fish that swam carrying them in their mouths. On the topmost tier gigantic Abyssinians arrayed in double rows skirmished together with swords. The blood that flowed from their wounds poured into the water below and gave the River of Flowing Blood its name.

Emperor Afrasiyab moved freely between the three regions of Hoshruba. Whenever anyone called out his name in the tilism, Afrasiyab’s magic alerted him to the call. The emperor’s fortune revealed itself in the palms of his hands. His left hand warned him of inauspicious moments and the right hand revealed auspicious ones. He possessed the Book of Sameri, which contained an account of every event inside and outside the tilism. He had a magic mirror which projected his body into his court during his absence, and many magic doubles who replaced him when he was in imminent danger. Besides sorcerers and sorceresses, Afrasiyab also commanded magic slaves and magic slave girls who fought at his command and performed any and all tasks assigned them.

Emperor Afrasiyab was among the seven immortal sorcerers of Hoshruba who could not be killed while their doppelgangers lived.

But every tilism had a fixed life-span and a tilism key that contained the directions for its unravelling. The conqueror of the tilism was the one who would use that key to unravel the tilism at the appointed time. In time the whereabouts of of Hoshruba’s tilism key were forgotten. As the life of Hoshruba neared its end, Emperor Afrasiyab resolved to defend his empire and tilism, and foil the conqueror when he appeared.

Unbeknownst to Emperor Afrasiyab, the Master of the Tilism, events were already unfolding outside Hoshruba that would soon test his resolve.

The false god Laqa—an eighty-five-foot-tall, pitch-black giant—was in flight after suffering fresh defeats at the hands of the Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction Amir Hamza, whose armies and spies hotly pursued him.

Each day brought Laqa and Amir Hamza a little nearer to Hoshruba.

Section 2. The Sorceress Bahar of Spring Quarter Casts Her Spell

As Mahrukh busied herself with plans to ward off Bahar’s magic, a cold breeze like the breath of the Messiah wafted in. Mahrukh’s entire camp broke into shouts of “Spring is here! Spring has come!” Mahrukh and the commanders of her army involuntarily came out of their pavilions. They saw Bahar’s magic peacock with emerald feathers preening outside the camp and the sorceress princess in the saddle.

All the soldiers and commanders of Mahrukh’s camp came out of their tents and pavilions and gathered in one place to gaze on Princess Bahar’s resplendent face and her world-adorning beauty. Bahar recited a spell and clapped, causing clouds to rise from every direction. Mahrukh and her sorcerers recited counter spells and clapped to ward off the magic but to no avail. The next moment a yellow dust blew up from the ground and everyone in Mahrukh’s camp closed their eyes. When they opened them, they saw expansive, luxurious orchards wherever they looked, orchards in which the breeze wafted intoxicatingly. They beheld a yard-high crystal wall that stretched for miles on end.

After Mahrukh’s army had closed its eyes Princess Bahar took out a paper, pen, and ink-well from her sorcerer’s sack and wrote a tilism on the paper to create a garden with properties that would enchant anyone who stepped into its bounds. Since the garden was a tilism, tricksters could not enter it to rescue their companions once they entered it and became its prisoners.

When Mahrukh’s camp saw Princess Bahar fly on her peacock into the garden, all of them followed her inside. They beheld a luminous crystal platform that seemed to be made of light. A canopy of strung pearl rose over the platform. An ermine carpet was spread on the floor. Beautiful, moonlike cupbearers were gathered with goblets and ewers. They regarded Princess Bahar seated on a jewel-encrusted throne with lamps and bouquets placed before her. She wore a luxurious dress covered with jewels and held a jewel-enchased stick in her hand. If the rosy-cheeked beauties of the Garden of Life had beheld Bahar’s beauty they would have sacrificed their lives a thousand times for her. Even the beautiful Zulaikha had never seen such grace in her dreams. Bahar’s beauty was so astonishing that even charming fairies were fit only to be her slavegirls. Her hair was a net for the birds of lovers’ souls; it entrapped the hearts of her admirers helplessly in its locks.

Her tongue was the keeper of celestial secrets
Her mouth the custodian of mysteries divine
The bright lobe of her ear made the morn of doomsday shy away
Its dark mole the dark mark on the heart
The swelling of her double-chin was luminous like the sun
And the crease under her chin an image of the crescent
The jasmine bushes bearing their bouquets
Expressed the fervor felt by the flower garden
Her soft jasmine bosom and her dainty walk
Disclosed a bold shyness, a timid audacity
Such were her shoulders, arms, wrists and hands that
The worshippers of beloveds would swear to them their life’s allegiance
Had the connoisseurs of beauty regarded the fine sheen,
Of her breasts, and the dark knobs of her nipples
‘Because her bosom is clear as the mirror
It reflects the pupils of her eyes’ they’d have exclaimed
When she dewed it smelled of rose essence
Before the refulgence of her stomach the moon hid its face
The shining navel of that inestimable pearl
Was like the face of Venus on the face of Earth
Like the line of sight is hidden in the eyes
Her waist existed and yet it did not
So remarkably cast were her thighs
Even the glance of imagination could find on them no purchase
Why her shank should not rival the Light of Tur
The soles of her feet rivalled the cheeks of houris

Witnessing the garden’s bloom and Bahar’s lovely aspect, everyone including Mahrukh Magic-Eye and all the companions and commanders of her army cried out, “O Princess Bahar, we are your admirers and followers; we are ready to sacrifice ourselves like moths on the burning taper of your resplendent aspect. Show us favor in our miserable condition. Admit us into your servitude, O princess! Augment our honor by allowing us to wait upon you.”

Princess Bahar showed them not the least favor and picked a bouquet and flung it toward them. Again all of them closed their eyes. The bouquet dispersed and every single flower petal was transformed into a garland. When Mahrukh’s companions opened their eyes they found these garlands around their wrists.

Under Bahar’s spell they all importuned her, and cried, “Forgive us, O Princess for we were led astray by Amar Ayyar the sly thief and trickster. Now pardon our trespasses and lead us before Emperor Afrasiyab.” Bahar said, “Very well! Follow me! I will take you to the emperor.” With a leap she mounted her magic peacock and headed out of the garden. Her prisoners followed her like a frenzied crowd, passionately reciting love couplets. The tilism garden disappeared after Bahar stepped out of its bounds.

Section 3. Emperor of Sorcerers Afrasiyab Makes a Pilgrimage to Jamshed’s Grave

Afrasiyab crossed the Desert of Being, and forded the River of Fire to arrive near the mausoleum of Jamshed. Hundreds of thousands of sorcerers were stationed there in gruesome and dreadful magical guises. A palace made entirely of jewels was suspended in the air. Thousands of bells hung from as many domes. The palace was appointed with seven swings where Jamshed’s seven handmaidens sat.

As Emperor Afrasiyab approached flying, the bells of the palace began to ring, creating a din. The handmaidens of Jamshed jumped off the swings and came toward him. Afrasiyab stood on one leg while he prayed to Jamshed and then cut a piece of flesh from his leg to place as an offering on the palace dome.

Upon receiving admittance, as Afrasiyab stepped inside the palace, the seven handmaidens saluted him, and asked, “O Emperor of Hoshruba, what brings you here this day?”

He answered, “I am headed for the mausoleum of Lord Jamshed.” The handmaidens answered, “The mausoleum of Lord Jamshed still lies a long distance away, but its boundaries start here. You can receive the gifts of the tilism even at this place. Tell us the purpose of your visit.”

Afrasiyab answered, “I seek Lord Jamshed’s mantle in my fight against a plague of opponents. Amar Ayyar who is denounced by the gods in the Book of Sameri has entered the tilism. Thousands of sorcerer disciples of Lord Jamshed have been killed and mutinies brew in Hoshruba.”

Jamshed’s handmaidens replied, “Lord Jamshed’s mantle is yours for the taking since you are the Emperor of Hoshruba and may do as you please. But you will not find here his ring, necklace, and other souvenirs for they lie in the neighboring Tilism Nur-Afshan of Dazzling Light. Alas, you caused the destruction of your lands and now you are eyeing the souvenirs of the tilism. Lord Jamshed foretold that the last Emperor of Hoshruba would be an incompetent bungler; he would lose his writ over the tilism, and cause the destruction of all its souvenirs and marvels. It appears, indeed, that you are the one described. It seems our end is near too, for you would one day also order us to fight at your side. The chest in which you will find Lord Jamshed’s mantle lies before you. You may take it for all we care!”

With these words one of the handmaidens flung the key to the chest towards Afrasiyab.

Tears welled up in Afrasiyab’s eyes at this speech and he said to them, “I will not take Lord Jamshed’s mantle if it displeases you. I have made every possible effort not to battle Mahrukh. That was the reason I indulged her even when she committed unforgivable offences. It is still my desire that the rebels should return to my allegiance. I seek the mantle only to overpower and arrest them, and restore them to honor after a quick reprimand.”

The handmaidens answered, “When you made all these preparations why did you not send the trickster-girl Sarsar the Swordfighter and her companions against Amar Ayyar? She would have guarded the sorcerers you sent, and Amar and his tricksters would not have had the field to themselves.” Afrasiyab answered, “You speak true. Upon my return I will dispatch the trickster-girls against those of the enemy.”

Afrasiyab then picked up the key to the chest in which Jamshed’s mantle lay. When he opened its lid, a flame leaped out of it and scorched Afrasiyab. He cut open a vein and made an offering of his blood, which extinguished the flame.

Afrasiyab saw Jamshed’s jewel-embroidered silken mantle lying inside, filled with the soil from his grave. The mantle was proof against all magic, and rendered useless even the powerful magic of mighty sorcerers like Afrasiyab. When it was snapped into the wind against a rival army they fell unconscious, no matter how powerful the sorcerers or how numerous their horde.

Best attractive places in Eastern Europe

20 of the Most Exotic Places In Eastern Europe!
Western Europe is a region of the world that’s hugely popular with travelers, but not nearly as many people choose to travel to Eastern Europe. Sadly for them, they’re missing out. From natural wonders to architectural treasures and cultures that are as diverse as you can imagine, here are 20 exotic destinations for you to visit when traveling in Eastern Europe:

20. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is widely known for being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if not the world. The Hungarian capital boasts geothermal springs, botanical gardens, parks, and numerous architectural gems such as its iconic parliament building.
19. Uvac Valley, Serbia

The Uvac River flows from southwestern Serbia into eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. It features remarkable meanders that can be viewed from the surrounding hills. Wildlife also abounds in the region, so it’s popular with nature lovers.
18. Kotor, Montenegro

This beautiful little town of just 13,500 people is situated on the Montenegrin coast. Kotor is straddled by enormous limestone cliffs, and its old port is surrounded by Venetian fortifications that were built during the 18th Century.
17. Bratislava, Slovakia

Home to many renowned universities, museums, theaters, and art galleries, Bratislava is the political, cultural, and economic capital of Slovakia. Its skyline is dominated by Bratislava Castle, which overlooks the River Danube.
16. Sofia, Bulgaria

Due to its location in the center of the Balkan Peninsula, the Bulgarian capital is within each reach of the Aegean, Black, and Adriatic Seas. Sofia is full of interesting architecture, coupled with beautiful green areas.
15. Moravian Karst, Czech Republic

The Moravian Karst is one of the Czech Republic’s foremost natural landmarks. Located near the town of Blansko, this protected nature reserve includes over 1,100 caverns and gorges for you to explore.
14. Minsk, Belarus

The Belarussian capital is home to over 2 million people, making it by far the country’s largest city. Despite its many attractions and rich history, Minsk doesn’t attract the amount of international visitors that other European capitals tend to. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful place that’s definitely worth seeing.
13. Brac Island, Croatia

The Dalmatian Isles off the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic Sea are known around the world for their beauty. Brac Island is one of the largest in the archipelago, and is home to one of the best beaches in Europe – the Zlatni Rat.
12. Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

The Hill of Crosses is a site of religious pilgrimage for Roman Catholics. Over the years, pilgrims have placed many crucifixes, statues of the Virgin Mary, and rosaries on the site. Although its exact origins are unknown, there are believed to be over a 250,000 crosses on the hill.
11. Saint Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia between 1713 and 1728, and 1732 until 1918. There are no less than 36 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city, together with 4,000 outstanding individual monuments. Cultural establishments number in the hundreds.
10. Crooked Forest, Poland

This forest is part man-made, consisting of hundreds of pine trees that were planted circa 1930. There’s nothing unusual in that, but the way the trees are shaped is highly unusual. They are thought to have been bent into a curved shape using an unknown technique.
9. Skopje, Macedonia

An eclectic blend of Christian and Islamic culture, the territory where the Macedonian capital lies has been inhabited since at least 4,000 BC. Throughout its long history, it was destroyed many times, however it’s still replete with historical landmarks that attract people from all over the world.
8. Tatev Monastery, Armenia

Sitting high atop a basalt plateau near the village of Tatev, this monastery was constructed in the 9th Century. Some 200 years after its construction, more than 1,000 monks and artisans called the Tatev Monastery home.
7. Ljubljana, Slovenia

The culturally-rich capital of Slovenia has been inhabited since Roman times, but its downtown area can trace its architectural roots back to the Middle Ages. Its outskirts have given rise to numerous modern buildings, further diversifying its unique mix of architectural styles.
6. Chisinau, Moldova

Formerly known as Kishinev, Chisinau is the capital city of Moldova. Located in the center of the country, the city is a hub for industry, culture, politics, and commerce, not to mention 23 universities, various museums, theaters, and a wide range of cultural events.
5. Maly Semyachik, Russia

On the Kamchatka Peninsula lies a sparkling blue lake that sits in the crater of a dormant stratovolcano, which last erupted in 1952. Its color contrasts beautifully with the rugged surrounding landscape, but you wouldn’t want to swim in it, because it’s highly acidic.
4. Brasov, Romania

Located in central Romania, this city is a great starting point for exploring the country and beyond – it’s within reach of Black Sea resorts, Modovan monasteries and other tourist attractions. It’s also a popular ski resort due to its proximity to the Southern Carpathian Mountains.
3. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Slovenia’s only national park was established in 1981, and is home to some truly spectacular scenery, from imposing mountains, to tranquil lakes, and plenty of wildlife. If you happen to enjoy a good walk or hike, the park has many hiking trails.
2. Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia

Perched on top of a mountain in the Caucasus mountain range, this church was built in the 14th Century. It sits in an isolated and unspoiled area of Georgia that overlooks the Chkheri River, and is a popular resting spot for trekkers. You’d better be fit if you want to see it – it’s a three-hour climb to get there.
1. Belgrade, Serbia

The name Belgrade translates into English as “White City”. The Serbian capital is home to over 1.3 million people, with architectural treasures galore to be discovered. What’s more, the city is steadily building a reputation around the world for its vibrant, riverfront nightlife.


Surah Al Baqarah

English Translation of Al-Quran

[02] Surah Al-Baqarah [The Cow]

Ayat 228. And divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses, etc.) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect, etc.) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

Tafseer of Surah Al-Baqarah Ayat 228. Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. Islam tries to maintain the married state as far as possible, especially where children are concerned, but it is against the restriction of the liberty of men and women in such vitally important matters as love and family life. It will check hasty action as far as possible, and leave the door to reconciliation open at many stages. Even after divorce a suggestion of reconciliation is made, subject to certain precautions (mentioned in the following verses) against thoughtless action. A period of waiting (‘iddah) for three monthly courses is prescribed, in order to see if the marriage conditionally dissolved is likely to result in issue. But this is not necessary where the divorced woman is a virgin: 33:49. It is definitely declared that men and women shall have similar rights against each other. The difference in economic position between the sexes makes the man’s rights and liabilities a little greater than the woman’s. Q. 4:34 refers to the duty of the man to maintain the woman, and to a certain difference in nature between the sexes. Subject to this, the sexes are on terms of equality in law, and in certain matters the weaker sex is entitled to special protection.



English Translation of Hadith

Hazrat Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah image001.jpg [SAWW](PBUH) said, “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked, “Messenger of Allah cid:image004.gif@01D3D74F.53EF0D40 (SAWW)(PBUH) ! How can we know her permission?” Messenger of Allah cid:image004.gif@01D3D74F.53EF0D40 (SAWW)(PBUH) replied and said, “Her silence (indicates her permission).”


Lesson: as mentioned above in Surah Al-Baqarah Ayat 228. And divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created” This Hadith is truly explain teaching of Islam that it’s the right of women not be forced into marriage against their will and without her consultation and liking, further example of Some rights of women in Islamic Law are, women are spiritually equal to men, and both genders are obligated to uphold the Five Pillars, or acts of worship, women have the right to legal personhood, meaning that they can represent themselves in a court of law, in a contract or financial agreement, without a co-signer or legal guardian when they reach adulthood, women have the right to own property, and the right to buy, sell, loan or otherwise dispose of it as they wish, women have the right to speak and participate in public life, and to be equal partners in calling for social justice, women have the right to an education within the means of their family and society. This may be seen as a personal obligation upon a girl’s guardians, or upon her husband, or as a collective responsibility to provide for the education of girls on Muslim society as a whole, husbands have no claims on their wife’s property, and the dowry belongs to the woman to spend as she wishes, women have the right to inherit from male and female relations; in some circumstances, the female’s share of inheritance is half that of the male, because in contrast to men, women have no obligation to support male or female relatives under any conditions, women have the right to initiate divorce, and have the right to protection and support from their husbands and male relatives in case of divorce.

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