Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ask the Goat Herders

It's important to stay up-to-date on security matters in your area of high risk in cross-cultural service to our King.

I love what I learned from my Kenyan brothers and sisters last week in the Kenyan RAM Training.

When we asked about how to get more security information they said:

"Ask the goat herders if they have seen people in the forest and who those people are." 

Now that is reliable intel...Better than any highly paid expert. Seriously. On-the-ground information is way more helpful than any highly trained security information person analyzing security intelligence reports from 1000km away.

Most of the links below are simply not as good as the goat herders, simply because Risk is Situational and the websites below are more regional.  However, using twitter is quite possibly the closest tool to real time localized information (the goat herders).

Next you just have to know how to use and apply it to your own risk situation. This is where local analyses comes in (asking the locals, not the foreigners) to help you understand and interpret the information.

So now that I've gone to Kenya, and because I've learned that Boko Haram has now exceeded ISIS in danger and killings, I'm interested to see what kind of security information can be found by anyone searching the internet for global security intelligence (without the expensive Stratfor, Concilium, and other excellent security analysis information companies).

The lists below "lean" towards Africa, but many of the same websites have info on other dangerous areas.  For a broad picture, click on the printable download PDF of Africa's Islamist groups. Also see the full web page here. 


Here's what I found this morning in my armchair security intelligence research: 


1. Go to the European Union Computer Emergency Response Team website.  In the upper right hand corner type in the search function what you want to read more about:  i.e. "Boko Haram" or "Kenya" and you will get articles related to security issues on that search word.

2.  Go to Reddit and sign up for a free account. Then sign up for sub-accounts for the topics you are interested to read about. These are the movements within your geographic area.

3. Global Terrorism Database - this is updated through 2016, so not helpful for real time (i.e not as good as the local goat herders).  However, search for the recent history of the region/city you are living in to understand past movements.  It will help you understand and be more subjectively accurate in your predictions of future movements of terrorists.

4. Global Terrorism Index - gives useful data on past.

5. Social Media Counterparts to Goat Herders: 
  • Google Alerts is not a real news provider; rather, it gives you alerts when specific keywords are used on the Web. The power of the alerts comes from using correct keywords. Using “security” as a keyword will give you a lot of results, but not all of them will be useful. You can choose to have the alerts emailed to you, or you can have them show up in a RSS feed.
  • Twitter - Twitter is a great source for knowing what is going on in the security landscape. Depending on who you follow, you can get a wealth of information. Twitter lists make it easier for you to categorize the massive amount of content available. For example, you can build lists that contain only certain security vendors, researchers or vulnerability alerts. Tweets are read via the normal Twitter feed and via Twitter lists based on the type of tweeter, whether vendor, product or news. Interesting tweets are sent to operational use or intelligence sharing via Evernote. 
The tweets are also stored in Elasticsearch via Tweetsniff and processed similarly as with the normal Twitter feed. The data stored in Elasticsearch allows a graphical representation of topics (with Kibana) that were the most tweeted. You can also sort tweets by language, country and by which links have been tweeted most, which might be a good indication of an interesting article. (Above Twitter info from this source.)
    If you are a security officer for your organization, you MUST have twitter feeds and google alerts coming in to maintain current information on your folks in high risk places.

    6.  Get on the list of blogs giving information for your area:

    7. Africa Center for Strategic Studies - gives information on ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab (Somalia) - there is a lot of information here that gives fairly current info on what is happening and what the motivations are.  There are strategic ideological differences between the Arab world and the African scene.

    8. This website seems to give a 2017 report on the various groups in Africa. Watch the trends and the changing information to get a better idea.

    9. RAND - analysis of security issues globally. The link will take you to an article on Africa, but hit the home button or use the search function to go elsewhere.  The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest.  You can use the search function to look for articles on your area, and also sign up for the newsletter.

    10. ACCORD - African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes - obviously geared towards Africa, a top South African think tank on trends and conflicts.

    11. Report on Global Terrorism Index by Visions of Humanity

    12. Max Security -  a security intelligence analysis company, seems to require a paid subscription, it has a search function and headlines that point to some of the threats and terrorists events happening.  Had interesting analysis about Tanzania.


    We saw some news reports done by foreign journalists staying in local hotels in Kabul and interviewing the waitstaff, and that was their "secret" news source. In general, finding bloggers who regularly post on the trends, shifts, terrorism events for your area is a more helpful way to find accurate news.

    While BBC, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and other news sites are helpful and can be set to send you alerts, Bloggers "on the ground" are often more helpful to give a better perspective than journalists holed up in the local 5-star hotel.

    Do you have suggested websites I can add here for your region?   Let me know.

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