Thursday, April 17, 2014

Voting in India Continues

Voters queue to cast their votes in Shahbazpur Dor village 
in Amroha, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. 
(Credits: Altaf Qadri, AP)

See also "India holds biggest day of voting" (Aljazeera: April 17).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

India recognises transgender people as third gender

The Guardian (UK)
Associated Press
April 15, 2014.

Activists say landmark ruling by supreme court will help millions of people who face discrimination in India's conservative society

Indian transgender dancers put on makeup before a performance in Kolkata. 
(Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)

India's top court has issued a landmark verdict creating a third gender category that allows transgendered people to identify themselves as such on official documents.

Activists say it will give relief to millions of people who face discrimination in India's deeply conservative society.

The supreme court directed the federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programmes for the poor, including education, healthcare and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges.

Before Tuesday's judgment, transgendered Indians had to identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.

The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

"All documents will now have a third category marked transgender. This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian," said Laxmi Tripathi, a transgender activist who had petitioned the court.

The court's decision will apply to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

"The spirit of the [Indian] constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender," the court said in its order.

Recently, India's election commission for the first time allowed a third gender choice – "other" – on voter registration forms. The change was made in time for the national elections currently taking place.

Some 28,000 voters registered themselves in that category. Overall, there are an estimated 3 million transgender people in India.

Many transgendered people in India earn a living by singing and dancing at weddings and births, but others must resort to begging or prostitution.

Read the original article here.
Comment: This is absolutely a step in the right direction.  Other legislation will have to be added to help transgendered people in areas of everyday life where they continue to suffer discrimination despite.

The Supreme Court should be applauded for its bold vision and commitment to human rights with this decision.

And yet, it is very relevant to remember that this is the same court that re-imposed a ban on homosexual sex last year.  It is - like under the time of the British - a crime to have sex with someone of the same sex in India.

The Supreme Court did say that homosexual sex is something that must be decided upon in parliament but with the rise of conservatives in India this statement may be more of a cop out than a commitment to universal human rights.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Meet the Lakota Tribe Grandmother Teaching Thousands How to Get Arrested to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Evelyn Nieves
April 11, 2014.

Debra White Plume has galvanized an international coalition of grassroots activists.

Debra White Plume
(Photo Credit: Kent Lebsock)
On March 29, a caravan of more than 100 cars plodded along the wide open roads of the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, stopped at a forlorn former corn field and prepared for battle.

Leaders from eight tribes in South Dakota and Minnesota pitched their flags. Participants erected nine tipis, a prayer lodge and a cook shack, surrounding their camp with a wall of 1,500-pound hay bales. Elders said they would camp out indefinitely. Speakers said they were willing to die for their cause.

This spirit camp at the Sicangu Lakota Rosebud reservation was the most visible recent action in Indian Country over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But it was hardly the first ... or the last.

On the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Debra White Plume, an activist and community organizer involved in Oglala Lakota cultural preservation for more than 40 years, has been leading marches, civil disobedience training camps and educational forums on the Keystone XL since the pipeline was proposed in 2008.

White Plume, founder of the activists groups Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the International Justice Project and Moccasins on the Ground, has crisscrossed the country, marched on Washington and testified at the United Nations against the environmental devastation of tar sands oil mining and transport. Now, perhaps only weeks before President Obama is set to announce whether to allow a private oil company, TransCanada, to plow through the heartland to transport tar sand crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries for export, White Plume is busier than ever.

White Plume is leading a galvanized, international coalition of grassroots environmental activists, the largest and most diverse in decades, in the last fight against the Keystone XL. The coalition is planning massive actions against the Keystone XL in Washington, D.C. and in local communities from April 22 (Earth Day) through April 27. In what is a first in decades, indigenous tribes from the heartland will be joined with farmers and ranchers along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in the actions. The "Cowboy and Indian Alliance" is inviting everyone in the country to their tipi camp on the National Mall in the hopes that a show of strength will steel President Obama's resolve to be the "environmental President."

Since the State Department implicitly signed off on the Keystone XL pipeline in February by announcing that its environmental impact statement had found no "significant" impacts to worry about, White Plume and other environmental leaders concerned about the Keystone XL's impact on climate change have also stepped up their plans for direct, non-violence civil disobedience. Those plans are under wraps, but blockades will surely be a major weapon in their arsenal. White Plume talked about why the Keystone XL pipeline has become such a firestorm.
Read the rest here.
Comment: An amazing activist by any measure.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Narendra Modi: The colours of a potential Indian prime minister

Nikita Sud
April 9, 2014.

Transparency and accountability are hardly Mr Modi’s forte. Modi’s record in decentralised governance also fails to impress. Voters have no idea who will be in his ministerial team, and what their views are likely to be.

Narendra Modi gestures toward crowds of supporters 
gathered in Satna. (Demotix: Akshat Mongia)
India’s Hindu Right is associated with the colour saffron. The saffron flag, or bhagwa dhwaj adorns the offices of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or Sangh for short), which is at the core of the Hindu nationalist movement. The Sangh stands for an India of ‘one nation, one culture, one people’. Under this philosophy, the Muslims and Christians of multi-religious, multi-cultural India must either depart the country’s shores, or live as second-class citizens under Hindu supremacy.

Now, India is a large country. Its billion-plus citizens harbour all manner of beliefs. Under normal circumstances, the extreme positions of the RSS would be as unremarkable as those of fringe Muslim or Christian organisations that vociferously oppose homosexuality, or women working outside the home. However, today, the RSS finds itself in the spotlight. Narendra Modi, the man projected as India’s future Prime Minister by opinion polls and analysts, learnt the political ropes as an RSS pracharak or preacher-organiser.

As campaigning for the national elections, to be held this summer, reaches fever pitch, everyone in politics-mad India has an opinion on Modi. As they say, you can love him, you can hate him, but you cannot ignore him. For critics, Modi, the current Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat, presided over one of India’s worst massacres of Muslims in 2002. But according to his supporters, 2002 is well in the past. The Modi of today stands for governance and development.

So are Modi Version 2002 and Modi Version 2014 any different? In 2002, few had heard of Narendrabhai, as he is popularly known. On the directives of the RSS, he had been deputed to Hindu nationalism’s political arm: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, or Indian People’s Party). In 2001, when that party suffered a crisis of leadership in Gujarat, the RSS catapulted Modi to the post of Chief Minister. Being a hierarchical, authoritarian organisation, it did not see the irony of democratically elected BJP legislators and councillors being led by a man who had never fought a democratic election in his life.

One of Mr Modi’s early tasks as Chief Minister was to condemn the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims, who he alleges were torched by a mob of Muslims at Godhra train station in February 2002. He then went on to condone the massacre of up to 2000 Muslims that followed the Godhra incident. Cadres of the Hindu Right led from the front in this violence. Ironically, Modi’s Minister of Women and Child Welfare, Maya Kodnani was convicted by the courts, and jailed, for leading the mob in one such attack. As for the Chief Minister, in an interview, he controversially cited Newton’s Third Law, indicating that every action has an equal and opposite reaction (kriya pratikriya ki chain chal rahi hai). By this logic, Muslims deserved to die, whether or not they had been involved in the train burning.

Undoubtedly, the period around 2002 is Modi’s saffron phase. A saffron outfit had put him in power and he needed to show his commitment to their pet causes. Sartorially, he was regularly seen wearing kurtas (a long shirt worn by Indian men) and turbans of that colour, and was often photographed with Hindu preachers, godmen and Hindu nationalist leaders, who wear saffron as a form of identity.

But people do move on. By the time of his second term as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2007, Modi was keen to be known as a vikas purush, a man of development. His reputation was sealed in 2008 when Tata Motors, India’s largest automobile manufacturer, moved its Nano car factory from West Bengal to Gujarat, rejecting the bids of several other competing States in the process. Under Modi, the Government of Gujarat provided the Tatas land and other infrastructure almost overnight, making the Company’s chairman declare publicly: ‘It is stupid if you are not in Gujarat.’

Today, on the gleaming highways of Gujarat, billboards claiming that Modi’s State is the ‘Number One’ in India are common. Modi touts himself as the Number One Chief Minister, the leader of a State where investors can, in quotes, ‘sow a rupee and reap a dollar’. This then is green Gujarat, not in its friendliness towards the environment, but in its welcoming of private investment, Indian and foreign.
Read the rest here.

(Please note that the original headline for this article reads "The colours of a potential Indian prime minister".)

 Nikita Sud is Associate Professor of Development Studies at University of Oxford.
Comment: Tomorrow Delhi votes and I will check in with friends and colleagues on their experiences at the various polling stations.

Like many folks outside of India I am fascinated by this election and its frenzied pace as more than 800 million voters make their way to the polls over five weeks.

Somewhere in Udaipur two weeks ago I asked an Indian professor of African Studies what he thought about Narendra Modi.

He said very forthrightly:
"Some people describe him as a Hitler character.  He has a very good chance of winning and the West knows this, especially the US.  They don't worry about his human rights record or his extreme right wing Hinduism.  They like Modi because he talks the business of neo-liberalism.  And they don't care about the 2000 Muslims who died because of him."
I think he is spot-on in his analysis.

Modi used to be the villain in the West until folks like Obama figured out that he was too lucrative a figure to despise.  So they warmed up and now he is their new best friend.

Under Modi India will open its doors to increased Western investment and trade.  Who among the West's human rights advocates will ignore a market of 1.2 billion people?

Like with China the US will turn a blind eye to the excesses of Modi and company.  Instead Obama will push a concern for human rights where he has little interests in matters of money and trade. Ukraine and Crimea being the recent exception but not for genuine concern for human rights, of course.

I am thinking of Cuba, for example, where the decades long US embargo is supposedly a matter of concern for human rights.   If Cuba had tons of oil human rights would be of little concern.

Nonetheless, I am struck how neo-liberalism and fascism often seam together in political interests.

Modi the fascist likes investment and the role of the neo-liberal West and its focus on all things money.  A brutal match-up made in hell some might say.


Policing academia: exporting 'expertise', importing marketisation

Allison White
April 8, 2014.
Manchester Metropolitan University are (sic) working with the Qatari government to train Qatari police officers. What does the export of policing 'expertise', such as within this lucrative business deal, reveal about the transformation of academia in the UK?
A recent development at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) presents an incisive illustration of the problems and dangers that too much pragmatism and 'playing the game' can visit upon higher education. For a university and a faculty (Humanities, Languages and Social Science) that prides itself on research into social justice, human rights, and on creative expression, the potential and actual hypocrisies are particularly clear.

I refer to the signing of a lucrative contract with the Qatari Ministry of Interior, worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, over the next 3 years. Working in partnership with the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the UK College of Policing, academics will provide English language tuition to Qatari police cadets and officers, while GMP and the Police College will train them in effective methods of policing. Staff from MMU's Sociology department, who were instrumental in putting together the bid, will also be involved. The faculty have so far released very little official information on the deal, other than to state there are "clearly more opportunities for us in Qatar which is also a priority market for the UK Government" and that it "takes our international aspirations to a new level" (email sent by the Dean, 16 January 2014).

Without being able to comment on the specifics of this latest agreement, it is worthwhile learning something about the university's new business partner. MMU already has deals in place with the Qatar Skills Academy, providing Masters programmes such as MSc Educational Leadership and Management, MA Educational Business and Management, and a BA (Hons) Degree in School Business Management.

The public image of Qatar leads with its architectural motifs, including skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and new universities, signalling its status as an extremely well off Arab Gulf State. Qatar's revenue comes mainly from natural gas, facilitating close ties to the United States. They are hosting the 2022 World Cup, so the UK's current government has been particularly welcoming.

Whilst this superficial skyline may suggest high standards of living, the reality for many is in marked contrast. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published multiple reports on the effective enslavement of the foreign workers who make up around 80 percent of the Qatari population (and 99 percent of the private sector workforce). These migrants come mainly from East Asia, South-east Asia and Africa, paying middle-men huge fees to gain entry.

Because of the World Cup, their treatment has recently become prominent in the Western press. Many of the male workers hired to construct new stadia are dying of heart attacks brought on by exhaustion, or in building site accidents. Those who survive reside in unsanitary and cramped conditions, which they can't escape because their passports and other documents have been taken from them. As non-citizens, they are not allowed to unionise or seek representation. Female domestic workers are also badly treated, working some of the longest hours in the world and often living in fear. Proposed legal reforms do not bring standards into line with those afforded to citizen workers. Benefits like cradle-to-grave social care are offered only to the small number of entitled citizens who make up 250,000 of a 2 million plus population. When we consider those who reside there thanks to work permits, it is harder to go along with the state's official narrative – a narrative which for project partners is somewhat convenient.
Read the rest here.
Comment: In an ideal world universities are supposed to be places where ideas are debated and research is conducted for the purposes of publication and the dissemination of information.

All of this is supposed to function against the unfettered expectation that universities cannot be co-opted to seek favor with this or that commercial interest because they are supposed to be dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge at all costs - including reaching despair and even poverty.

Unfortunately this ruse is mythological or more accurately, a damn lie of fancy. 

Like all capitalized institutions universities are - or fast becoming where they are not - just like any other corporation seeking favor and benefit and often at the cost of impartiality and human progress.

Universities can be bought, sold and traded.  Academics are not exempt and often join their administrative counterparts to sell off the delusion that they walk inside the walls of supposed learning because they love the world of purported ideas.

Advanced capitalism has dealt this imagery of an unfettered university a death blow.

Like healthcare or daycare or any other capitalized organ of institutionalized society, the university is nothing more than an interest of the few elite seeking favor with those who hold power and mostly, lots of money.

It is a sad state of affairs that is even more insidious than my critique here suggests.

Just one further line of insidious deviance is the manner in which the university determines what is worth teaching, researching and publicizing.  Wonder why the humanities and social sciences are shrinking except where they function to prop up elite interests and concerns?

Well you probably know why if you have read this far.  Universities are in the business of selling and self-preservation.  Alternative discourses may be fun when argued over but what sells is what capitalism demands.

And so universities narrow their focus and seek out opportunities that align with their interests.  Often these interests are about making dominant thinking and its power hierarchy the prevailing reality.

So who should care that Manchester Metropolitan University is willing to deal with the metaphorical devil and undo the supposed assumption that universities are about progress across the ignorance of oppression and superstition?

Well obviously the folks at Manchester Metropolitan University could care less that Qatar is a cesspool of human rights violations.

Hey there is a buck to be made in this the era of educational entrepreneurs.  Who is to blame in this time of not hating the player?

A sad reality this selling out of ideals - but definitely not an uncommon one even here in the land of make-belief rainbows.


Monday, April 07, 2014

The artists who are giving a human face to the US's 'bug splat' drone strikes

Leo Benedictus
April 7, 2014.

An artists' collective in Pakistan is challenging impersonal and indiscriminate death from above with a giant image of one victim of a drone attack

The giant image of a child drone victim placed 
in a field by the art project NotABugSplat.
We hear a great deal about the ruthless ingenuity of military hardware, but this is something else altogether. It is a new device currently on deployment in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It has the power to startle an enemy for a moment and perhaps even render him incapable of using his weapon afterwards. In the medium-to-long term, the enemy may suffer from impaired judgment and, in some cases, be neutralised. The device is a picture of his victim.

This is not the work of the US military or the Taliban, of course, but comes instead from a group of artist-activists. Inspired by the French photographer JR, who installs hugely magnified portraits of local people in the landscape, they travelled to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the scene of many US drone attacks. With them they brought a giant poster of an unnamed child who is said to have lost both her parents and two younger siblings in one of the attacks. Having secured the agreement of local people, they unrolled the picture and fixed it flat on the ground in a field beside a group of houses. 
Villagers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with the 
NotABugSplat image on the ground behind them.
The number of civilians so far killed by drones remains a matter of intense debate, but the worry among campaigners is that this kind of warfare makes killing unpleasantly easy. Operators have compared the experience with playing a computer game, and a Rolling Stone article in 2012 recorded their use of the term "bug splat" to describe the mess on the ground that killing someone leaves behind. The artists have chosen #NotABugSplat as the project's name.

The intenion now is that any drone operator who looks down through their camera and sees this village will have reason to think twice. In their own words, the artists hope the image "will create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators, and will create dialogue amongst policy makers, eventually leading to decisions that will save innocent lives".
Read the original article here.
Comment: A very bold and admirable way to protest the inhumanity of Drone murders by the US in Pakistan.


Lok Sabha Election: India starts voting in first of nine-phase polling

April 7, 2014.

People casting their vote in Jorhat in Assam

New DelhiThe world's biggest election, to elect 543 members to the Lok Sabha (parliament), begins today with voting being held in six constituencies in two northeastern states - Assam and Tripura. (India Votes 2014: full coverage)

Voting is being held in one of Tripura's two seats and five of the 14 seats in Assam. (Track LIVE updates)

Polling will be held in nine phases over the next 36 days and votes will be counted on May 16. A staggering 81.4 crore voters are eligible to vote at 930,000 polling stations across the country.

This general election has focused more on individual leaders and is distinguished by its wide use of social media and the huge number of first-time voters.

Relatively young leaders are now leading the two main parties - Congress and BJP. Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate is 63; Rahul Gandhi leading the Congress charge is 43.

There is also in the fray the unconventional Aam Aadmi Party, an entity just over a year old, led by taxman turned activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal, who has fielded more than 400 candidates across the country. Mr Kejriwal is 45.

A number of powerful regional leaders like J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal also expect to perform well in these elections. These leaders are said to see a chance at getting the top post if the general elections throw up no clear mandate and post-poll alliances are called for. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalithaa is 66; her Bengal counterpart Ms Banerjee is 59.

This election thus raises the prospect of a leader born after Independence becoming the Prime Minister.

Analysts see the real battle for control of Parliament being fought in two states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which account for 120 seats - UP sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, Bihar sends 40. Also expected to play a crucial role are other big states like Maharashtra, Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

National capital Delhi votes on April 10.

The BJP has hinged its campaign completely on what it calls a "Modi wave." Mr Modi has sought to tap into the apparent discontentment over the ruling Congress' performance by promising a better governance and a resurgent economy.

The Congress, battling a stagnant economy and allegations of corruption, has rubbished the notion of a "Modi wave" and has accused the BJP leader of "divisive politics".

Read original article here.
Comment: The scale of this election is massive and and then some.  Voters will elect 543 members to the lower house of parliament.  Those voted in will decide who the next prime minister will be.

It is unlikely that there will be an outright winner in terms of party dominance so it is more likely that the next prime minister will be elected by means of a coalition vote.

But even before we get to who the next prime minister will be consider the prospect that 814 million voters will decide to gets into the Lok Sabha (parliament).  This is mind boggling you will agree.

The number of voters this year is up from the last election in 2009 by 100 million eligible voters.

First-time voters will make up 10 percent of the electorate and it is said that this election is remarkable for its extensive use of social media.

The shear scale of the election means that voting will continue for the next 5 weeks and conclude on May 16.

South Africa by contrast will vote on May 6 and we should know in days (if not hours) who the winner is and by what margin.

Last week and Monday in Delhi I asked several political scientists and other social scientists who the next prime minister will be.

The one person (a leading political scientist at a major university in Delhi) whose opinion I respect the most had this to say:
"It will be Modi of the BJP party not because he is the best candidate.  But because he is the best among the poor choices we have.  He will not be a good thing for India especially in light of his record of sowing trouble among Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat."
May this election be peaceful.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

Desmond Tutu: US Lawmakers Must End Efforts to Curb Free Speech on Palestine

Oryx Media
March 4, 2014.

 South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu
(Reuters/Yves Herman)
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, a legendary figure in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, issued this statement on 2 April 2014 condemning escalating legislative efforts in the United States to curb freedom of speech and ostracize those who support justice in Palestine.

I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international nonviolent movement that seeks to force the Israeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.

I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli occupation.

The legislations being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.

I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.

Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
 This statement was issued by Oryx Media.

See original post here.
Comment: Preach on Arch.


Drone killings case thrown out in US

April 5, 2014.

Judge dismisses lawsuit over death of Anwar al-Awlaki and two others in Yemen, saying it is a matter for Congress

Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen.
Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in an 
American drone strike in Yemen. (Photograph: AP)
A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government by the families of three American citizens killed by drones in Yemen, saying senior officials cannot be held personally responsible for money damages for the act of conducting war.

The families of the three – including Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born militant Muslim cleric who had joined al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate, as well as his teenage son – sued over their 2011 deaths in US drone strikes, arguing that the killings were illegal.

Judge Rosemary Collyer of the US district court in Washington threw out the case, which had named as defendants the former defence secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, the former senior military commander and CIA chief David Petraeus and two other top military commanders.

"The question presented is whether federal officials can be held personally liable for their roles in drone strikes abroad that target and kill U.S. citizens," Collyer said in her opinion. "The question raises fundamental issues regarding constitutional principles and it is not easy to answer."

But the judge said she would grant the government's motion to dismiss the case.

Collyer said the officials named as defendants "must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the US constitution when they intentionally target a US citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress. They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war."

Awlaki's US-born son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 16 years old when he was killed. Also killed was Samir Khan, a naturalised US citizen who had moved to Yemen in 2009 and worked on Inspire, an English-language al-Qaida magazine.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, both based in New York, represented the families. They had argued that in killing American citizens the government violated fundamental rights under the US constitution to due process and to be free from unreasonable seizure.

"This is a deeply troubling decision that treats the government's allegations as proof while refusing to allow those allegations to be tested in court," said ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi. "The court's view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution."

Centre for Constitutional Rights lawyer Maria LaHood said the judge "effectively convicted" Anwar al-Awlaki "posthumously based solely on the government's say-so". LaHood said the judge also found that the constitutional rights of the son and of Khan "weren't violated because the government didn't target them".

"It seems there's no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn't. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy and for all victims of the US government's unlawful killings," LaHood said.
Read the rest here.
Comment: So much then for the often touted nonsense of checks and balances in American style democracy.

What this judgement represents is the troubling reality that if you are a Muslim - or any other deemed undesirable - the US government can kill you and it matters little if you are a citizen or not.

It also matters very little if the US 'accidentally' eliminates any other undesirables while killing those on its Tuesday assassination list.

What a blatant disregard for even the most basic tenants of human rights based democracy.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

New Edited Book by Ridwan Laher and Korir Sing’Oei: Indigenous People in Africa

Book Overview:
Decolonisation in Africa did not lead to an era of extensive restitution of land to indigenous peoples whose ancestral homelands were forcefully seized by European colonialists. Since independence most African nation-states have failed to remedy the ongoing dislocation of indigenous communities. Instead the view adopted - either through express policy or benign neglect - is that the imperatives of a modern developmental state is incompatible with the recognition of indigenous property systems. Consequently, most post-colonial African states actively block or stifle claims of past appropriations while asserting contemporary land grabs. This undemocratic injustice is manipulated by 'new' political and economic elites in much the same manner - and often with the same violent outcomes - as it was during the era of European colonisation.

This is the troubling context of indigenous life in post-colonial Africa. It was against this backdrop that the decade-long struggle for recovery of Endorois land in Kenya ensued. Though that struggle continues, what is significant for indigenous rights in Africa and elsewhere is that the Endorois case led to a groundbreaking decision by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The decision provides a critical and provocative space to evaluate the place and meaning of customary based property rights systems in Africa.

The Endorois case establishes a new and vibrant continental narrative on the relationship between the post-colonial African nation-state and indigenous peoples. This space will no doubt prompt reflective discussions about the character and content of the post-colonial nation-state: its developmental aspirations, the context and substance of indigeneity and indigenous rights, the role of ancestral land and natural resources, the purpose of culture and language preservation, gender equity imperatives, environmental conservation, democratic representation and citizenship, among others.

This volume is an attempt to provide this intersectional and reflexive space.  The thinking behind the book began in Lamu in mid-2010. It was a time when growing community resistance emerged towards the Kenyan government’s plan to build a second seaport under a trans-frontier infrastructural project known as the Lamu Port- South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET). The editors agreed that a book that draws community activists, academics, researchers and policy makers into a discussion of the predicament of indigenous rights and development against the backdrop of the Endorois case was timely and needed. 
Assembled here are the original contributions of some of the leading contemporary thinkers in the area of indigenous and human rights in Africa. The book is an interdisciplinary effort with the single purpose of thinking through indigenous rights after the Endorois case but it is not a singular laudatory remark on indigenous life in Africa. The discussion begins by framing indigenous rights and claims to indigeneity as found in the Endorois decision and its related socio-political history. Subsequent chapters provide deeper contextual analysis by evaluating the tense relationship between indigenous peoples and the post-colonial nation-state. Overall, the book makes a peering and provocative contribution to the relational interests between state policies and the developmental intersections of indigeneity, indigenous rights, gender advocacy, environmental conservation, chronic trauma and transitional justice.
Table of Contents:
Professor Michelo Hansungule, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.
About the Editors:
Ridwan Laher, PhD, is an independent political consultant and research associate at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa. He is the 2006/07 Nelson Mandela Chair and Professor for African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in India and former chief research specialist at AISA.
Abraham Korir Sing’Oei studied law and international public policy at Nairobi, Pretoria, Minnesota and Tilburg law schools, and is a human rights attorney in Kenya focusing on land and resource rights issues. He is co-founder of CEMIRIDE and co-litigated the Endorois case at the ACHPR.

Ridwan Laher and Korir Sing’Oei

Indigenous peoples as equals under the African Charter: The Endorois Community versus Kenya
Cynthia Morel

Historical development of indigenous identification and rights in Africa
Felix Ndahinda

The Impact of Dominant Environment Policies on Indigenous Peoples in Africa
Melakou Tegegn

Gender and indigenous peoples’ rights
Soyata Maiga

Constitutional reform and minority exclusion: The case of the Bajuni and Lamu county
Paul Goldsmith

Advocacy for indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa: Dynamics, methods and mechanisms
George Mukundi Wachira and Tuuli Karjala

A challenging nexus: Transitional justice and indigenous peoples in Africa
Laura A. Young

The past is never just in the past: Indigenous peoples and a framework for confrontation and redress
Ridwan Laher

Ridwan Laher and Korir Sing’Oei
To Order Contact
Africa Institute of South Africa
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Orders worldwide
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Comment: It took us much longer than we anticipated and planned but there it is ready for orders and reviews. 


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tash Aw: Malaysia’s Crisis of Confidence

March 19, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — At a coffee shop in Bangsar, an affluent Kuala Lumpur suburb, the lunchtime crowd gossips and checks the news on their smartphones. Making the rounds is a YouTube video in which a bomoh — a local shaman — and two acolytes, sitting on a “magic carpet” in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, perform a ritual to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing since March 8.

At any other time the video, a perfect example of Malaysian self-mockery, would be a good-natured affirmation of our eccentric shortcomings. But these aren’t ordinary times. The search for Flight 370 has spotlighted the tensions beneath one of Asia’s success stories, and the video is an uncomfortable reminder of Malaysia’s troubled reality.

A British colony until 1957, Malaysia now has a G.D.P. per capita of over $10,000, roughly twice that of Thailand and three times that of Indonesia. Cesar Pelli’s glorious Petronas Twin Towers, briefly the tallest buildings in the world, illuminate the Kuala Lumpur skyline. In the adjoining mall, Western luxury brands are peddled to a booming middle class. Malaysia Airlines, whose fleet boasts the gigantic Airbus A380 and is one of a handful of 5-star-rated airlines, is central to the branding of this “New Malaysia.”

Yet confidence in our leadership is brittle, and it takes little for frustrations to boil over. A coalition known as Barisan Nasional, or BN, led by the United Malays National Organization (the country’s ethnic-Malay governing party), has held power since independence, presiding over both economic growth and controversial policies that confer significant advantages in education, business and government on ethnic Malays, who make up some 60 percent of the population. The BN’s dominance has prompted allegations of corruption, cronyism and complacency, particularly regarding government-owned companies, such as Malaysia Airlines, which posted losses of over $350 million in 2013. Kuala Lumpur and Penang have seen dramatic rises in crime over the past decade. Some critics fault the BN’s policies for alienating minority groups and point to its seeming inability to manage a police force widely viewed as corrupt and ineffectual.

Support for the government is eroding, but critics say that attempts to effect change are frequently stifled. A day before Flight 370 disappeared, Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s opposition leader, was convicted on the rarely used charge of sodomy and sentenced to five years in prison. Many see the decision, which overturns a previous acquittal, as politically motivated. It leaves him ineligible to run in an approaching election in Selangor, the country’s richest and most populous state, where victory would have afforded him considerable national influence.

Most people I speak to here acknowledge that an incident like the disappearance of Flight 370 is unprecedented and say they appreciate the monumental task facing the government. For many, however, the authorities’ ponderous response and mishandling of information mirror the way Malaysia is run. The offhand, sometimes defensive nature of the early press conferences, coupled with occasional attacks on the foreign media, are widely perceived as the arrogance of a government unaccustomed to global attention and accountability.
Read the entire article here.
Comment: I read this article in the print edition of the International New York Times (March 20) while willing time away between flights in India.

Around me was the new Delhi Airport which is a symbol of India's too-often self-proclaimed rising.  

The article reminded me how shallow nation-building can be especially where it is constructed around edifices that primarily speak to elite ruling interests in terms that nonetheless espouse a distinctive developmental nationalism.

In my time in Malaysia I stood in front of the Petronas Towers wondering why it would be necessary for any nation-state to construct such a monstrosity.  For a few brief historical moments the Towers were the tallest structures in the world until the United Emirates claimed the 'honor'.

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur
Tallest in the world from 1998 to 2004 (Wikepedia)

This business of developmental nationalism in the post-colonial era is a fragile projection and an even more fragile reality.

In Delhi, not too far away from the glossy new and impressive airport there lives millions of people in abject poverty.

The same is true in Malaysia as Tash Aw points out above and South Africa can't escape the same condemnation especially in light of the multimillion dollar soccer stadiums we built to host the FIFA World Cup.

What is this business of erecting this and that project to look just like the developed West?  And what do developing nations have to prove and to whom? 

It won't of course just go away now will it?  I mean even as I write here there is some entrepreneur funded by post-colonial pretenses and money readying him or herself to prove a point of existential arrival in the terminology of Western dominated development discourse.

I guess if you really think beyond these artificial markers the same condemnation can be true in developed Western states too.

I am reminded that in and around the glamor of development in the US there are significant pockets of poverty that are sometimes hidden by the pretenses of modernization and its development markers.

At a very pressing level poor and underclass people just about everywhere live under the weight of bourgeoisie pretensions no matter how artificial the container (the nation, the state, the city, etc).

The consequences are, however, not just a matter of pretense gone wild.  The consequences are real as these edifices imprint even further how the current and predominant discourse on development is not focused on meeting humanitarian needs.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

India Calling

 Udaipur (Credit)

It has been about 7 years since my last trip to India.  I cannot believe the amount of time that has passed.  This time around I will be in Delhi and Udaipur only.

This weekend I hope to lose myself in the mayhem of Chandi Chowk in Delhi.  Can't wait.

Chandi Chowk (Credit)

I think I'm ready for India again. 


The Very Real Politics of Postmodern White Nationalism: The White Victim Charade on Parade

Mike King
March 17, 2014.
“We are struggling against the deliberate extermination of our race by an alien elite that has hijacked almost all of our institutions. This criminal cabal is using everything at their disposal, including Third World immigrants and other non-Whites, to eradicate White people from the face of the Earth. We are faced with a daunting task, but we must prevail, so as to secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”
White Man March’s Call to Action 
From this country’s origins, race has been the fundamental political contradiction of our society. From the conception of the American racial system in the U.S. South in the early 1600s to the current moment of mass incarceration, unequal education, and vigilante violence, white supremacy has been challenged, but also re-fashioned, re-packaged, reproduced. “The White Man March” took place this past Saturday, March 15th, in a number of U.S. cities, as well as several more internationally. The website for the march is filled with neo-Nazi imagery, anti-Black, anti-Jewish, and anti-immigrant sentiment. These marches, and the associated propaganda, are basically the same as they were 20 years ago. These marches, like the many that have come before, are designed to (like any march) illustrate and amplify the demonstrators’ politics and ‘grievances,’ to mobilize and express their strength, and to recruit new members. Not unlike the ever-present Liberal “tone and tactic police,” the website instructed marchers on how to seem more palatable to potential supporters:

“The media would like our people to believe that pro-Whites are all Klansmen, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, and the like, which discourages many White people from becoming advocates for their own interests. We will be showing that many pro-Whites are well-educated, attractive, and respectable people who are concerned about the future they and their families are facing. We encourage people to carry themselves with dignity, pride, and a sense of professionalism when demonstrating for their race.”

What should be more disturbing than skinheads’ and the KKK’s attempting a 21st Century makeover, to bring them closer to mainstream whites, is the empirical evidence that suggests, quite clearly, that mainstream white political culture has come to reflect the foundational assumptions of the neo-Nazi political platform.

White Nationalism on Main Street
“The history of white people has led them to a fearful baffling place where they have begun to lose touch with reality – to lose touch, that is, with themselves… They do not know how this came about; they do not dare examine how this came about.”

- James Baldwin

“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

- W.I. Thomas
60% of working–class white Americans feel that racial discrimination against whites is at least as great as discrimination faced by racial minorities, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute report. 49% felt that the government had done too much in recent decades to benefit the conditions of racial minorities, while 57% “agree that illegal immigrants taking jobs that would otherwise be filled by American citizens are responsible for our current economic problems.” (This belief in “reverse discrimination” is not borne out by social indicators, which illustrate economic stagnation or loss for the bottom 80% of earners, but a concomitant expansion of racial inequality – with the average white family now having 20 times the average wealth of Blacks and Latinos.) The use of racialized scapegoats to explain American decline, and its effects on white Americans, has clearly been successful. Reading reports and studies of white public opinion, alongside the White Man March’s call to unity – a clear and thick overlap is present. It is a story of white victimhood, a baseless but widespread belief that there is systematic societal and governmental discrimination against whites – a growing belief steeped in anger, fear and ignorance.
Read the rest here.
Comment: White identity is predicated on stoking the fear of the other.  This buffoonery is just the most blatant exhibition of the phenomenon.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Anti-Muslim bigots freak out when Texas TV station warns of oncoming haboob

Raw News
Travis Getty
March 14, 2014.

Texas television station KCBD kicked up a cloud of anti-Muslim bigotry Tuesday night by sharing an alert from the National Weather Service on its Facebook page.

“Haboob northwest of Lubbock as seen from the Science Spectrum,” the NWS warned. “If you must drive west of Lubbock, plan for near-zero visibility in blowing dust and strong winds of 50+ mph.”

Although haboobs are more commonly known as “dust storms,” a NWS meteorologist said the Arabic word refers to a particular weather phenomenon.

A haboob refers specifically to a wall of dust created by cool, dense air blowing away from a thunderstorm or along a cold front, said meteorologist Jerome James.

But it signaled something even more threatening to some of the station’s Facebook fans.

“Never had a haboob until we got that muslim boob for potus,” said viewer Jeff Bertrand, referring to President Barack Obama, who is believed by some of this critics to secretly be a Muslim.

Meteorologists have used the word “haboob” since at least the 1950s, James said.

He said dry conditions in Texas had made the phenomenon, with its distinctive brown skies, more common in recent years.

The English language uses many words with Arabic origins, including cotton, algebra, candy, lemon, alcohol, and sofa.

Read the original article here.
Comment: Dumbass bigots.  The US seems to have more than its fair share of these anti-Muslim/Arab racists.


Shanti Aboobaker: Zille's Race Fix

March 16, 2014.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille.
Johannesburg - The DA is punting itself as the new rainbow party of South African politics, but just five black African candidates made it to the top 27 of its Western Cape candidates list – and that, only after senior party officials stepped in and ordered the promotion of black candidates to ensure greater diversity.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, Nomafrench Mbombo, Nceba Hinana, Masizole Mnqasela and Letta Maseko are the only black African candidates out of the top 27 names put forward for the Western Cape legislature.

Provincial leader Ivan Meyer this weekend admitted that the list of candidates in the province, the DA’s heartland, was even “less diverse” before the party adjusted it and “promoted” black leaders and women.

“We made an intervention when we saw not enough people in terms of diversity were on the list,” Meyer told Weekend Argus on Saturday. “So they (black candidates) have been promoted. It is a much more representative picture. It was worse before.”

He said the final candidates’ list which was released last week had seen an adjustment by 10 percent for “diversity”.

DA leaders familiar with the party’s processes said it was likely that DA premier candidate Helen Zille would form her provincial cabinet from the top 25 people on the list, leading to concerns about a repeat of the “2009-debacle” when Zille came in for severe criticism when she appointed an all-male cabinet, most of them white.

It is understood that Meyer and senior party leaders were asked to explain the lack of diversity at a federal executive meeting of the party in January.

It was the same FedEx meeting where the AgangSA merger was mooted, and the decision taken to make its leader, Mamphela Ramphele, the DA’s presidential candidate. Both the Agang decisions were later rescinded.

As the DA tries to shrug off its reputation as a party of entrenched white and middle class interests, the black African vote is central to its repositioning as a national party, as opposed to one that is only strong in the Western Cape.

Under the direction of Zille, the DA, which garnered 16.6 percent of the national vote in 2009, has pinned the party’s future prospects on up-and-coming young black leaders like parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and Gauteng leader Mmusi Maimane, and set its sights on a 30 percent share of the national vote.

Zille and her DA “brains trust” also launched the controversial “Know your DA” campaign last year to reflect the party’s contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle.
Read the rest here.
Comment: In two decades of post-apartheid rule the DA has been unable to shake off its white party character and reputation.

How in heavens name can they "deliver for all" in a situation where the vast majority of people are not represented?

It always amuses me to see DA folks shouting "viva DA viva".  I'm even more amused when I see many of the same folks toy-toying.

Is this the most that black South Africans can expect from the DA?  Is this borrowed - even stolen - symbolism not merely white prank politics?

Still, the DA will survive in the Western Cape and maybe even grow to challenge the ANC majority in Gauteng and the Northern Cape.

Deluded folks of color - the same ones who would not have raised their voices for justice during apartheid - will conveniently add their votes to the DA's coffers as if to motion a fed-up politics of protest.

The ANC won't lose too much sleep.  Those so deluded are not their home base.

Come election day the chips will fall mostly in the favor of the ANC.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vladimir Golstein: On uses and abuses of historical memory

March 14, 2014.

Comparing Russia to Nazi Germany is not only a historical mistake but also immoral abuse of the memory of millions.

Russia considers World War II a key moment
 of unity in its recent history [EPA]
My grandfather moved to Moscow in the 1920s and that saved his life. His brothers and cousins, who stayed in Kiev, were killed by the Nazis at the notorious Babi Yar massacre of 1941. My father was drafted into the Red Army to fight the Nazis. He was wounded, and this wound, as well as the hard life in the Soviet Union, took his life at the early age of 55.

I just visited his grave two days ago. I wonder what the World War II veterans would think of the indiscriminate use of the term Nazi nowadays. How do they feel, when this word gets applied to Russians who lost 20 million people in their war against them, or Serbians who were one of the few nations which heroically resisted the German occupation? I certainly feel outrage. Thousands of sacred memories worldwide, Russian, Serbian, Polish, Ukrainian and others are violated when the word Nazi is misapplied.

I understand that all is fair in love and war; that a propaganda war has started; that the first victim of the war is truth. But there are degrees of use and abuse, and the Western propaganda machine has steeped very low indeed, with blatant impunity, one might add. There are objections here and there, including the one from the great film director, Emir Kusturica, but where is the outrage?

Where is the Jewish Lobby when one needs it? Who will stop this linguistic pollution, this attack on the sacred memory of the victims and fighters against the Nazis. How does this Lobby feel about some former Nazis (I am sure some of them are still alive) feeling shadenfreude over the fact that their bitter opponents who dared to stand up to them are not getting the thrashing?One wants to believe that the Holocaust is not just an industry, with its advertisement or promotion campaigns: Call this product historic and sell it, call this group of people "Nazi" and bomb them. Or maybe we are already so confused in our moral sense, that we can't tell things apart?

And this campaign is gaining strength. Now Hillary Clinton compares Putin to Hitler. It seems that for some US politicians any NATO enemy can now be called Nazi and then bombed. Now various posters have flooded the internet depicting Russians in Nazi uniforms, while Russian demagogues compare the potential Russian annexation of Crimea to Hitler's Anschluss.

Russia gives plenty of ammunition to its critics: Its leader is authoritarian; its economic and political system is corrupt; it harasses its political opponents; it neglects and abuses its own population. There are plenty of arguments to be made for anyone who wants to criticise Russia.

However, do we really need this verbal nuclear option here, the invocation of the N(azi) word, the blatant abuse of truth? And why? Just to score a talking point and utilise the world's simplest and most abused metaphor? Is it a sign of intellectual laziness of the West, that doesn't want to waste time on arguments, when simple naming will do? Or maybe it is an attempt to hide something and to acknowledge that without the N-word, we cannot win the ideological war?
Read the rest here.
Comment: It is amazing to me how someone like Hillary Clinton can invoke the word Nazi in relation to President Putin yet remain blissfully ignorant (seemingly) of her real role as a mass murderer alongside President Obama in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya - to name a prominent few.

This article by Professor Golstein is a thoughtful and provocative argument.  Of course, if we are to know how memory is being abused in this case then we would also have to know how the American propaganda machine has disfigured its role in World War II.

Few observers should be surprised that a sizable majority of Americans and their leaders believe that the US saved Europe and the world from Nazism in WWII.

And of course the self bloating continues with the war on communism and now, of course, the war on terrorism (which should read the war on Muslims and Islam).

The point being that it is not the word that is being evoked (Nazism) but rather the political mechanics/framework that has been put in place to make the US and its allies the purveyor of all political interests.

For this reason, what lies at the crux of the attack on President Putin and the crisis in the Ukraine has everything to do with oil interests in the Crimea and very little to do with the ideological and terror abuses that comes with invoking the history of Nazism.

The US and its allies are seeking to secure oil interests in this latest geopolitical dance; they couldn't care any less about the historical correctness and immorality of the slander and propaganda they are slinging at Putin.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Oil uprising: Two decades after Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death, the Ogoni struggle is reigniting

Patrick Kane and Sarah Shoraka
March 2014.

Patrick Kane of War on Want and Sarah Shoraka of Platform report from the Niger Delta on the Ogoni people’s struggle against Shell and the wider mobilisation in Nigeria towards 2015 as a ‘year of change’

 A Shell gas flare in the Niger Delta
(Photo: Elaine Gilligan/Friends of the Earth)
"The Ogoni struggle is of vital importance not only because it is a struggle for the very survival of the Ogoni people. It is also a catalyst, a source of inspiration and a standard bearer for many struggles in the Niger Delta and across Nigeria. Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey has spoken of how the Ogoni bill of rights ‘inspired other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta to produce similar charters as a peaceful way of prodding the government into dialogue and action’. According to Bassey, real change will come in Africa when ‘struggles erupt to fundamentally and basically reclaim the people’s sovereignty and break the grip of the neocolonial elites on our natural resources’. The impact of the Ogoni struggle could reach far beyond the Niger Delta.

Powerful political and economic interests will seek to maintain the status quo, potentially with violence. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s persecution and execution ignited a movement of international solidarity. There is a need for this international movement to be resurrected, particularly in the power centres where oil is consumed and corporations are based."
Read the rest of the article here.
Comment:  Next year will be 20 years since the Nigerian government murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Do you remember where you were when news of his execution covered the globe?

President Mandela was at a Commonwealth meeting in Australia under the delusion that he had intervened enough to stop Nigeria from killing Saro-Wiwa.

And we are not free.


A letter from Guantanamo: 'Nobody can truly understand how we suffer'

Al Jazeera
Moath al-Alwi
Moath al-Alwi
March 13, 2014.

Al-Alwi describes the humiliating and brutal treatment he suffers at Guantanamo.

March 10, 2014 - I write this letter, as I wrote my last, between bouts of violent vomiting and sharp pains in my stomach caused by this morning's force-feeding session. Reading news articles, you would think that we have stopped striking. Perhaps you might think that our protests had even been sated by government concessions. We may be trapped behind the walls of Guantanamo, but we will not be silenced.

I write this letter to tell you that we are still striking. We will not stop until we get our dignity back in this place and are allowed to return home to our families.

With President Barack Obama's blessing, Colonel Bogdan, the warden at Guantanamo, has instituted humiliating groin searches, especially when we are taken for phone calls with our lawyers or families. He has withheld our medical treatment and confiscated our legal papers and Qurans.

The Colonel has been quoted as saying that he knows how to discipline us because he has children at home. We are not his children and this is certainly not our home. We are grown men with families who no longer know what we look like.

Here, a peaceful hunger strike automatically places the prisoner on "disciplinary status", which involves being subjected to various forms of punishment. To discourage striking, the prisoner is moved from communal living to solitary confinement and is force-fed.

Because I decided to peacefully protest my imprisonment here, the special mattress and medical pillows prescribed for my chronic back pain, all of my underwear, my electric razor, and even my bar of soap and toothbrush have been confiscated.

I, too, am strapped down and force-fed for over an hour every single day. During the session, I am constantly vomiting the feeding solution into my lap. As I am carried back to my cell, I cannot help but vomit on the guards carrying me.

They put a Plexiglas face mask on my head to protect their clothes from my vomit. They tighten the facemask and press down on it, pushing it into my face. I almost suffocate because I am vomiting inside the facemask and am unable to breathe.

As I struggle for air, the guards make fun of me, laughing loudly. Frequently, they lie me down on my stomach in my cell and press my back forcefully, squeezing out any remaining feeding solution from the previous force-feeding session. The lightest of the guards weighs at least 190 lbs, while I weigh only 98 lbs; it is a wonder they do not break me entirely.

Aside from those imprisoned with me, nobody can truly understand how we suffer. The Colonel will not allow media into Guantanamo Bay, claiming he is protecting our privacy. No man here wants privacy from the media. The Colonel fears that if the media comes in and meets with the prisoners, all of this daily brutality will be exposed. Hopefully this letter serves that end.

There are currently 21 prisoners on hunger strike. I am one of the 16 who are being force-fed. The government does not want the American people to know that we are still striking. They try to discourage us with solitary confinement and brutal treatment but we will not abandon our protest.

We will not be silent. They cannot hide us by refusing to report the number of protesters to the public. Refusing sustenance is the only peaceful voice of protest that we have; it is the only way to demand the attention of the US government and the American people to whom it is beholden.

Colonel Bogdan has explained our treatment by saying we are at war. But it has been 12 years and this is not a war. We are unarmed captives. I ask the American people, where is the freedom the US touts? Do you condone what your government is doing to us? I know that governments do not always represent the voices of their people, and I pray that the American people do not want this, and more, that they will do something to stop it.

Read the original article here.
Comment: Just a week or so ago President Obama was pointing fingers at President Putin for breaking international law.

This he did and continues to do under the deluded guise that the US is above the conventions of international law.

What Obama is doing in Guantanamo is more than just a contravention of international law - it is an absolute violation of what it means to be human.

In these terms Obama and company are committing crimes against humanity in Guantanamo and must be consistently called out and prosecuted.

But then again you know all of this already.