Nepal, not only mountains…
Country background information
Nepal is known in the West for the snowcapped mountains of the Himalayas, its breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and the interesting mixture of religious beliefs and different cultures which renders it a place full of pulsing spirituality.
But rarely we remember that it is also one among the poorest countries in the world, with an average yearly income of not even 240$, with 42% of the population living in conditions of extreme poverty (less than 0,21$ per day!) and an infant mortality of almost 10%. What is more, since 1996 Nepal was torn by a civil war between government troops and maoist rebels, a conflict that has caused approx. 13000 deaths, of which over 5000 alone from 27th August 2003 onwards !
An armistice was reached in 2006, after several protest demostrations by the popolation. In April the King accepted to reinstate parliament.
On 21st November 2006 a peace treaty between the alliance of the seven government parties and the communist party (maoists) under the supervision of the United Nations was signed, in order to start the process of peace and hold the first political elections in the country. Talks however are very difficult because of the major differences in their views and the elections, at first scheduled for June 2007, have been postponed several times, until a date that still needs to be agreed upon …
This political and social instability is causing great problems in a country which already is on its knees as regards its economy. The situation is causing a feeling of uncertainty about the future and as a consequence there is a constant rise in prices of basic foods. The price of rice, suguar, flour and other basic foods has more than doubled in the course of the last six months, not to mention the cost of gas and petrol.
Tibetans in Nepal
Tibetans refugees are estimated to be approx 14000 in Nepal and more than 60.000 people speak Tibetan; in fact in areas like Mustang and Langtang there are major concentrations of Tibetan Nepalese population.
In Nepal there is a strong mix between Hindu and Buddhist religion; they blend and get on together without any problem. Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, in fact was born in Lumbini, in the Southern part of Nepal. The result of the peaceful coexistence of the two religions is that often one can see Hindus praying in Buddhist religious sites, as for example the Stupa of Boudanath - the biggest in the world - as well as that of Swayambunath.
Human rights in Nepal are rights that are violated. The longlasting armed conflict has caused the constant violation of international law regarding human rights. There have been numerous assassinations and even now the situation has not improved a great deal,with missing persons, sexual violence, torture and forced re-education regarding civilians.
In Nepal the female gender is discriminated, depending on caste or the belonging to certain ethnic groups. Furthermore their are many child workers and children serving in the Maoist army. The basic freedoms for a true democracy like freedom of speech, expression, elction are not yet guaranteed.
Particular attention should be paid to the controversial issue of the Tibetan refugees. Lately Nepal's politics is contrary to International law regarding the rights of refugees, in the sense that it holds up Tibetans fleeing from Tibet - who often come through Nepal to reach India, where the exiled Tibetan Government resides - and takes them back over the border. Thus these refugees are captured by Chinese police and put into prision and into labour camps where often they are tortured or even killed. In fact witnesses frequently report that Chinese guards at the border are killing refugees.