Saturday, June 17, 2006
For quite some time the Oread Daily has covered increasing fascist and racist violence in Russia. So if you are an OD reader you won't find whats below surprising.
The following is from Searchlight magazine.
RUSSIA The ultimate risk of being an anti-racist
For the past two years Russia has witnessed a wave of nazi violence on a scale unimaginable to most people in Western Europe. This violence, which has accelerated since November 2005, is aimed mainly at foreign students and asylum seekers, citizens of the former Soviet republics especially ethnic minorities and active anti-fascists.
The Russian authorities however classify the nazis, who belong to groups with grandiose names such as “White Patrol” and “Schultz 88”, as hooligans or vandals. This conceals the specific racist motivation and anti-anti-fascist strategy that lies behind the violence.
Nazi violence in Russia is nothing new. Since the collapse of the Communist regime, nationalists of every stripe have had the wind in their sails and openly nazi parties have recruited tens of thousands of people and organised training in military camps for their strong-arm squads. Some non-government organisations estimate that ultra-nationalist, racist, antisemitic and fascist organisations have as many as 50,000 members.
The nazi activity is brazen. In April, for example, police in Bryansk broke up a nazi march on the anniversary of Hitler’s birth when drunken skinheads waving German flags paraded down a main road. Four youths were detained and charged with drunkenness and minor hooliganism.
For 12 years Russia’s bloody war in Chechnya has opened the way for free and open expression of anti-Caucasian racism from street level to the highest echelons of politics and government. Some groups have exploited this atmosphere to launch attacks on the many Caucasian traders at street markets in Moscow and St Petersburg. Shops owned by Caucasians have been torched with fatal results in Moscow and Yekaterinburg.
It can be difficult to walk alone on the streets if one does not have a European face because racist intimidation and aggression are common and frequently lethal. Foreign embassies are now advising their citizens to take care, always go in a group or even stay at home on dates such as 20 April, Hitler’s birthday.
Roma people are often the targets of assaults. On 13 April a group of 20 youths armed with metal bars and spades attacked a Roma family and a visiting ethnic Russian woman in the Volgograd region of Russia while they were sitting round a fire and talking. A Romani man and the ethnic Russian woman were killed; a 14-year-old girl and an 80-year-old woman were seriously injured.
Antisemitic attacks on people and property have also increased. On 11 January a man described as a skinhead stabbed nine people at a Moscow synagogue, seriously injuring four.
In June 2005 antisemitic slogans and swastikas were painted on the walls of a synagogue in Vladimir near Moscow. The following month there was an arson attack on a Jewish centre in Penza and the Jewish centre in Taganrog was vandalised. Vandals had attacked both buildings on previous occasions. In March this year, the Jewish centre in Penza was vandalised again.
The sheer extent of the harassment, violence and murder prompted the human rights organisation Amnesty International UK to issue a 35-page report titled Russian Federation: Violent racism out of control in early May. The report states that at least 28 people were murdered and 366 assaulted on racial grounds in 2005.
Indeed throughout 2005 one racist attack followed another, even if the Russian authorities did not treat the incidents as such. This was despite the conviction in September 2005 of three young men for the racist murder of Amaru Antoniu Lima, a medical student from Guinea-Bissau who was stabbed to death in broad daylight in Voronezh, a university town 600 km south of Moscow, in February 2004.
In contrast, a trial of five people on charges arising from a violent onslaught in 2001 by more than 100 skinheads against mainly ethnic minority market traders in Moscow ended with the acquittal of two of the defendants, while another two received suspended sentences and the fifth was given a mere six months in custody.
The public prosecutor’s office also excluded a racist motive for the killing of a nine-year-old Tajik girl in St Petersburg in February 2004 even though the attackers screamed racist insults before stabbing her 11 times. Khursheda Sultanova had been on her way home with her father and cousin and died in her father’s arms.
The government of Vladimir Putin has used chauvinism and patriotism to ease the transition towards a post-Communist society without worrying about the consequences. Now, in a reaction to rising extreme-right violence, he has established his own “anti-fascist movement” called Nashi, which he hopes will gather young people behind him.
Determining when the wave of targeted nazi violence began is not easy, but the brutal murder on 19 June 2004 of Professor Nikolai Girenko, an eminent defender of human rights and an expert in the struggle against racism and discrimination in Russia, was probably the turning point because of his official role.
The identity of the victim made it difficult for the Russian authorities to drag out the usual explanation of the killing being the result of war between rival gangs of hooligans. Professor Girenko was president of an official commission on the rights of minorities and had several times tried to warn the public of the mounting danger from the bands of nazis and skinheads that he had spent so much time researching.
Professor Girenko was shot through the front door of his flat as he was going to answer the doorbell. So far police have found neither the killers nor the weapon, a shotgun of Second World War vintage.
The killing took place just days after the release of a nazi arrested for wrecking the premises of the human rights and anti-fascist association Memorial and beating and tying up its president. Soon afterwards the head of an NGO based in Memorial’s offices started receiving death threats and nightly threatening phone calls and a swastika was painted on her apartment door. Incredibly, a man purportedly belonging to the FSB (the new name of the KGB secret police) was arrested inside the prison where one of the attackers – a neo-pagan – was being held. The reason for his arrest was that he was trying to give the prisoner a list of names of people who might provide him with a false alibi.
Russian anti-fascists are very divided and isolated and consist of a few grass roots activists, human rights campaigners, activists belonging to parties that are politically and economically liberal, traditional anarchists and a radical alternative social, cultural and music movement which is mistrusted by all the political forces. This radical alternative scene, which has no hesitation about confronting nazis in the street, at least organises a militant anti-fascist response, sometimes successfully, by working together with experienced activists whose focal point is research and analysis.
Violence specifically aimed at anti-racist and anti-fascist activists accelerated towards the end of 2005, concentrated on Moscow, St Petersburg and Voronezh.
It started on 13 November 2005 when Timur Kacharava. a young militant punk musician in St Petersburg, was stabbed through the throat in front of a bookshop by a dozen nazis who knew his face and his name. He died in front of his friend Maxim Zgibay who was seriously injured.
The two musicians, who had just taken part in an event organised by the group Food not Bombs, belonged to the radical anti-fascist scene in St Petersburg and had been threatened by nazis a month previously. Kacharava, 20, was dead before the ambulance arrived, leaving Zgibay as the sole witness. Police invited him to take part in an open identity parade of arrested skinheads, which in the absence of witness protection in Russia, amounts almost to a death sentence. Kacharava’s killers have been arrested, except for the leader of the gang who, although his name is well known to the police, has gone into hiding.
The next calculated murder of an anti-racist was on 7 April this year when Lamsar Samba Sell, a Senegalese student, was shot in the neck by a nazi skinhead. Samba was actively involved in an NGO called African Unity and had helped organise intercultural festivals with Nashi. On his way home after attending an intercultural friendship evening at a discotheque, he and other African students were ambushed by a nazi gunman who had hidden in a doorway. When the nazi ran out into the street and screamed slogans, the students panicked and ran. A shot rang out and a man seen firing it escaped after throwing away a gun engraved with a swastika.
The police are still investigating but the prosecutor has declared the crime a murder of racial character which should be given priority. The reason for this urgency, compared with Kacharava’s case, is that Sell’s murder gained widespread international media coverage.
None of this has deterred the nazis who, on 16 April, added another murder to their grim tally when a group of six skinheads in Moscow stabbed to death a 19-year-old anti-fascist punk musician who was on his way to a concert with a friend. Alexander (Sasha) Ryuhin was stabbed through the heart and in the neck. His nazi attackers wore rubber gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. The police said they found anti-fascist stickers in Ryuhin’s pockets and his friends are convinced that his murder was planned. Information on the police investigation is limited but the fact is that the situation in Russia for anti-fascists is worsening every day.
The targeted murders of Girenko, Kacharava, Sell and Ryuhin taken together with the frequent racist crimes against African students, immigrants, Roma and other minorities show that the nazis have identified anti-fascist and anti-racist activists as enemies to be got rid of by all means including murder.
Faced with this threat, activists who live in St Petersburg, Moscow, Voronezh and anywhere else in Russia have to be able to count on their anti-fascist and anti-racist comrades throughout Europe to support them and to spread information about what is going on in Russia.
Nashi: Putin’s “anti-fascist youth”
Nashi, which was originally called “Those who march together”, is more or less a reincarnation of the Young Communist League established by President Putin to rally young Russians. The organisation’s name, which means “ours”, is intended to evoke a kind of exclusive identity and suggest that involvement in it is very progressive.
Nashi proclaims itself anti-fascist in line with the tasks Putin set out for it. The first was to fight Edouard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party which Putin had declared an enemy of his regime. Nashi has also from time to time taken up the fight against drugs, especially among school students, which it can do because of its official character and its links with Putin’s government. These connections open all doors to Nashi and enable it to obtain funds even in war-torn Chechnya where Nashi has splendid premises in Grozny.
Despite its adoption of an anti-fascist guise, Nashi’s members do not think twice about protesting against human rights activists opposed to the actions of Putin’s government in Chechnya. In February, during the trial of a man who published an appeal against the war in Chechnya, Nashi was mobilised to express the regime’s disapproval of such activities. Incredibly, the anti-war activist was convicted for inciting racial hatred and given a two-year suspended sentence.
After Sell’s murder Nashi called for a gathering in his memory. This provoked a discussion among anti-fascists in St Petersburg about whether to take part in view of Nashi’s support for the anti-war campaigner’s conviction. In the end, about 2,000 members of Nashi, aged 18 to 19, attended but there was little real emotion despite all the candles, flowers, Nashi T-shirts and the black and white anoraks worn for the occasion. Nashi’s slogan was “Putin help us”, a slogan that presents Putin as a kind of long-awaited saviour … a typical characteristic of all cults of the personality.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Despite a protest today demanding the release of a report about torture carried out by Chicago cops, a judge in Cook county delayed that release once again.
Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel today delayed the release for at least two more weeks. He says he wanted to leave time for possible Illinois Supreme Court action on a pending appeal.
Biebel isn't promising to release the results of the four-year investigation in two weeks, but he scheduled a June 30th hearing to discuss it again.
Two special prosecutors were appointed in 2002 to look into claims that 192 black men were tortured in the 1970s and 1980s by a unit led by former Chicago Police Lieutenant Jon Burge.
Burge has denied any misconduct but was fired in 1993 for mistreating a suspect.
(An earlier article on the torture accusations can be found at http://oreaddaily.blogspot.com/2006/05/activists-and-un-calls-for-action-on.html)
The first article below is from WQAD in Moline, Illinois. The second is a press release announcing the protest which took place today.
Protesters push for release of Chicago police torture report
CHICAGO Dozens of protesters have turned out at the Cook County criminal courts building today to push for the release of a report on allegations that Chicago police tortured suspects.
They're gathered outside the courthouse where Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel (BEE'-buhl) is scheduled to hold a hearing on the status of that report. Earlier this month, Biebel delayed the report's release pending Illinois Supreme Court action on an appeal.
Two special prosecutors were appointed in 2002 to look into claims of torture by a unit led by former Chicago Police Lieutenant Jon Burge. He's denied any misconduct but was fired in 1993 for mistreating a suspect.
Protesters outside the courthouse today chanted "Police torture is a crime. Why isn't Burge doing time?"
Activists to Hold Protest Demanding Criminal Indictments Against Officers Under Former Commander Jon Burge
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty and family members of victims of police torture will rally to demand full disclosure of torture under former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge, criminal indictments against the officers responsible and new trials for torture victims. The event is to take place Friday, June 16, 2006 at 9 a.m. at Cook County Courthouse, 2600 S. California.
(PRWEB) June 15, 2006 -- Activists will hold a protest demanding criminal indictments against officers under former commander Jon Burge June 16.
Who: The Campaign to End the Death Penalty and family members of victims of police torture.
What: Activists will rally to demand full disclosure of torture under former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge, criminal indictments against the officers responsible and new trials for torture victims.
When: Friday, June 16, 2006, 9 a.m.
Where: Cook County Courthouse, 2600 S. California
Activists and family members of inmates who say they were coerced into false confessions will rally Friday to demand justice for victims of police torture under former Commander Jon Burge. The rally outside the courthouse will take place just prior to a hearing on efforts by special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle to release the findings of their four-year, $7 million investigation into the torture. Judge Paul Biebel already has ruled that Egan and Boyle could release their report, but an appeal by a former Assistant States Attorney who served under current Mayor Richard M. Daley has delayed its release. In an article last week in the Chicago Reader, reporter John Conroy revealed the likely identity of the former prosecutor as Larry Hyman, who took a statement from Andrew Wilson in an Area 2 police station but failed to ask him whether his confession was given voluntarily. Burge was fired for Wilson’s torture in 1993 but still collects a pension.
“The same cops and prosecutors who have been covering up torture for 30 years want to cover it up today,“ said Julien Ball, an organizer with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) in Chicago. “We say enough is enough. We need the report to come out, we need the names of torturers released and we need criminal prosecutions.”
"Torture is happening in our very own back yard. For years, Jon Burge systematically tortured African American men in police stations on the South Side of Chicago. You don’t have to believe me. The Office of Professional Standards (OPS) the Chicago police’s own investigatory agency found that physical abuse did occur and that it was systematic. Yet many of Burge’s victims remain behind bars. Without a doubt, they deserve new trials. My question is, why isn’t Jon Burge doing time?" said Alice Kim, National Organizer of the CEDP.
Burge and his detectives have been dogged by over 190 allegations of torture using techniques such as electroshock, Russian roulette and suffocation to extract false confessions from African American men on the South Side of Chicago while in police custody. Some of the torture victims, known as the Death Row 10, were sentenced to death, while many others still are serving long prison terms. Madison Hobley, one of the Death Row 10, was pardoned based on innocence by former Governor Ryan in 2003. “I can’t understand why these prosecutors want to keep the truth from the public,” he said. “They are supposed to serve the public, and we have a right to know what happened under their watch.”
Family members of police torture victims are available for interview.
Protesting school teachers in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca put up their camps again on Thursday at the city's central square one day after police expelled them, Mexican news agency Notimex said.
On Wednesday, some 2,000 police tried to evict the teachers from the city center, where they have been camping for 24 days demanding higher salaries and better working conditions.
During the eviction, at least 30 people were injured and one student was beaten to death by police. The union leader, however, claimed that at least three people died during the police operation.
The following is from Narco News.
Oaxaca Teachers Retake the Center of the State Capital, Waiting for Negotiations
The Day After a Failed Police Invasion, Strikers Seek Removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
By Nancy Davies
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca
June 15, 2006
A raucous and exuberant crowd of teachers, some armed with metal poles or machetes, reoccupied the Zócalo today at noon. They were joined by students from the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, the Technological Institute, and several high schools.
New plastic canopies were strung up while the students held forth in the center gazebo. Despite another helicopter circling overhead, nobody ran for cover. Instead, they all hollered “Ulises ya cayó, Ulises ya cayó,” — that is to say, Ulises is out. No new sleeping tents were available yet, but a teacher assured me they would be purchased and distributed if today’s negotiations fail.
The negotiator is coming down from Mexico City this afternoon. The teachers fear that he is not a top-rank official and will be unequal to Ulises Ruiz Ortega (URO), whom he does not know.
According to National Education Workers’ Union (SNTE in its Spanish initials) Section 22 member Nicandro Ruiz Silva, 70 to 80 percent of Oaxaca’s teachers are against URO, while others are supporters of Ruiz’ Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Many teachers come from cities where supporting the PRI is part of the common heritage and means receiving aid in advance of every election. On the coast and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, however, the towns are largely governed by the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and teachers feel less pressure to support the government. In solidarity with the SNTE Section 22, teachers have taken over several towns’ municipal offices in that southern tier. Those towns include Salinas Cruz, Juchitán, Tuxtetepec and Pinotepa.
The teachers who oppose URO say that since PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo said he would “give the keys to Los Pinos (the Mexican presidential residence) to Ruiz” when he is elected president, they have feared a PRI return to national power. It is believed that Madrazo would appoint Ruiz to the position of Secretary of the Interior. Hence, if negotiations do not come to a successful conclusion, SNTE members Ruiz Silva believes that a boycott of voting will be another form of pressure on URO.
Nevertheless, he is cautiously optimistic that the third mega-march, which takes place on Friday, June 16, will bring the whole strike to a conclusion. One teacher’s wife, Gloria Rosales Castro, was less sanguine. She said she had just come from comforting a woman who was seeing off for burial the coffin of her friend killed Wednesday morning by the police.
Both Nicandro Ruiz Silva and Gloria Rosales Castro are completely sure that deaths occurred among the teachers, although Ruiz denies it. Ruiz controls the mainstream media, and also the government hospital where the injured were taken. The hospital refuses to give out information.
The teachers spent last night housed in various schools close to the Zócalo. They emerged this morning refreshed and ready to reoccupy. Meanwhile, the general public is assisting the teachers with food and beverages brought to nearby buildings. No shops or restaurants in the center area have reopened.
UDA and other extremist unionist bands go marching through Rasharkin in Northern Ireland every summer in an obvious provocation to the Catholic residents of the area. Every year there is trouble.
The following comes from a contact in Northern Ireland.
Rasharkin Residents meet with Irish Government
I have been asked to forward on the following press release to my press contacts on behalf of the Rasharkin Residents Association.
For Immediate Release: 15/06/2006
Representatives of the Irish Government met with Residents in Rasharkin today in regard to contentious parades in the mainly Nationalist village.
Kerry-Anne Kelly, a member of the Rasharkin Residents Association said:
“At today’s meeting with the Irish Government we outlined some of the serious concerns local residents have in regard to contentious parades that are due to take place over the summer.
“We remain open and willing to engage in dialogue with parade organisers so that this issue can be resolved in an amicable way. This week’s agreement regarding a parade in North Belfast is proof that such an approach can be resolved peacefully.
“Our biggest concern remains the Ballymaconnelly Parade in August. The presence of loyalist paramilitaries and loyalist paramilitary flags and banners is not going to do anything to improve community relations in the area. The burning of tri-colours in the street as well as the sectarian attacks on Catholic homes on the eve of the parade last year is something that we do not want to see a repeat of this year.
“We remain committed to resolving this issue through dialogue with parade organisers and on the basis of mutual respect. We have asked the Irish Government to use its influence to ensure that we have a peaceful and trouble-free summer in Rasharkin.” ENDS
The Rasharkin Residents Association can be contacted at: 07949227181
Thursday, June 15, 2006
After state assurances last summer that they didn't have anything to worry about, opponents of a proposal to pave the Little Shepherd Trail on Pine Mountain in Kentucky in Eastern Kentucky were stunned yesterday to learn the dirt and gravel path is being blacktopped anyway. They accused the state of duplicity. Nearby residents say pouring asphalt will hurt native wildlife.
Some, associated with the group Kentuckians for the Commenweatlh, are taking direct action to stop it.
The controversy began in April last year after Gov. Ernie Fletcher came to Letcher County to announce $500,000 had been appropriated to pave the trail. Instead of approval, however, the news ignited a firestorm of protests.
Little Shepherd Trail is a 38-mile narrow road on top of Pine Mountain. The Trail, or Kentucky Highway 1679, clings to the southern edge of Pine Mountain's crest from the intersection of US 421 at this location to US 119 south of Whitesburg. This serpetine route twists though numerous refreshing overlooks and massive, spine-like rock out-croppings, termed "Hogbacks." Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel bloom profusely in craggy exposures.
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth believes in the power of citizens, working together, to challenge injustices, right wrongs and improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians. The group states their vision this way,
"We are working for a day when Kentuckians — and all people — enjoy a better quality of life. When the lives of people and communities matter before profits. When our communities have good jobs that support our families without doing damage to the water, air and land. When companies and the wealthy pay their share of taxes and can’t buy elections. When all people have health care, shelter, food, education, clean water and other basic needs. When children are listened to and valued. When discrimination is wiped out of our laws, habits and hearts. And when the voices of ordinary people are heard and respected in our democracy."
The following is from WKYT (Kentucky).
Protesters try to prevent state from paving primitive trail
KINGDOM COME STATE PARK, Ky. A dozen people are protesting today in southeastern Kentucky on a primitive trail that state officials plan to pave.
The protesters walked up Little Shepherd Trail that state workers decided to have paved despite opposition from some local residents.
The protesters organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth carried signs that read "Don't pave our paradise" and "Respect local concerns."
The protesters initially tried to drive their cars up the trail to block pavement trucks, but were stopped by a state transportation employee. They were allowed to walk along the trail.
State transportation officials say paving the road will provide better access to Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland.
Remember how the US of A was liberating the people of Iraq and Afghanistan? Remember how concerned Mr. and Mrs. Bush were with the women of Afghanistan (well, at least after September of 2001)? Remember how you thought that was a crock?
You were right, of course.
The first article is from IRIN. The second is from OnLine News (Pakistan)
IRAQ: Local NGO warns of rising cases of sexual abuse
BAGHDAD, 14 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - There has been a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein's regime, according to the Women's Rights Association (WRA), a
The WRA recently conducted an in-depth study into the sexual abuse of women after receiving continued allegations of such maltreatment since December 2005. While fewer than five cases were reported per year in the Hussein's era, nearly 60 women have been raped in Baghdad since February, while another 80 were abused in other ways, according to the NGO.
"We've observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital," said Mayada Zuhair, spokeswoman for the WRA, adding that this is causing panic among women who have to walk alone.
Activists say the main reasons for the increase is the marginalisation of the population, lack of security and the negative psychological effects associated with war. According to Zuhair, women of all ages face abuse, while there are also cases of men and boys being raped by unidentified gangs. "Given the current insecurity, these incidents could increase if the government doesn't take urgent measures to stop these gangs," she said.
The Ministry of Interior has issued notices warning women not to go out alone. "This is a Muslim county and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said senior ministry official Salah Ali. "These gangs will pay for the pain they've caused." Ali added that several rape cases were currently being investigated and urged women to report any abuse.
In mosques, both Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have used their weekly sermons to spread awareness of this issue and have advised their largely male congregations to keep women safe at home rather than allowing them go out to work.
“These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an imam at a central mosque in Baghdad. "That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work – especially with the current lack of security in the country.”
Bush fails women in Afghanistan
Kabul: The Taliban are back. Less than five years after British and U.S. troops drove them out of Afghanistan, they are launching increasingly audacious attacks, including an ambush of British troops in Helmand province last weekend.
British soldiers were jumping from helicopters when they came under fire, beginning a battle in which 21 Taliban fighters were killed. One observer warned that British troops must regain control of Helmand or "the whole of southern Afghanistan will be lost to the Taliban insurgents." I could make a sarcastic remark about another great success in President Bush’s war on terror, but the situation in Afghanistan is too horrifying.
At the same time, I can’t help recalling the lunatic optimism of the president’s wife a few weeks into the Afghan campaign in 2001. "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes," Laura Bush declared. "The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."
Well, we’ve seen what nonsense that is in Iraq, where women dare not venture outdoors unless they are covered and the government is turning out to have a worse record than Saddam Hussein in some respects, repealing legislation giving inheritance rights to women. In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s status as public enemy number one persuaded many foreigners that their defeat was all that was needed to free women from tyranny, an assumption that doesn’t stand up to five minutes’ scrutiny.
The return of the Taliban is undoubtedly bad news, but more than three decades of war have left Afghan women vulnerable to a dire combination of warlords, jihadists and patriarchal attitudes. To this day, most continue to wear the burqa, fearing reprisals from extremists whose leaders sit in President Hamid Karzai’s government. It isn’t just the Taliban who want to enforce sharia; in April last year, a 29-year-old woman was stoned to death for adultery following the decision of a court in the northern province of Badakhshan.
Rape, forced marriage and domestic violence are at horrific levels, leading to the almost unimaginable practice of self-immolation: 154 cases were reported in the western zone last year, according to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, and 34 in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Five years ago, an underground women’s rights group estimated that 25,000 women were working as prostitutes in Afghanistan, but extreme poverty is forcing many more into the sex trade, putting them at grave risk.
The resurgent Taliban have resorted to their old tactic of targeting schools, trying to put an end to girls’ education; in December, a suspected Taliban fighter dragged a headmaster from his classroom in Helmand province and shot him in the head when he ignored warnings to stop teaching mixed classes. This time, though, they seem to be trying to destroy education for all Afghan children. The United Nations has recorded 30 serious attacks on schools in recent months.
With impeccable timing, the Bush administration has chosen this moment to wind down its operations in Afghanistan, leaving NATO troops to struggle with the Taliban. If the president and his advisers ever stop to wonder why so many people hate them, they need look no further: They talk about exporting democracy and freedom but what does any of it mean to women in Helmand province? Much as I dislike the Bush administration, this is one occasion when I wish it kept its promises.
Following are statements from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They speak for themselves.
Iran: Women’s rights demonstrators beaten and arrested
Amnesty International condemns the Iranian security forces' violent disruption of a peaceful demonstration on 12 June by women and men advocating an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran. The demonstrators had gathered in the Seventh of Tir Square in Tehran to call, among other things, for changes in the law to give a woman's testimony in court equal value to that of a man and for married women to be allowed to choose their employment and to travel freely without obtaining the prior permission of their husband.
Police, including a large unit of policewomen, reportedly moved in as soon as the demonstration began and immediately started beating the protestors with batons in order to force them to disperse. They detained scores of demonstrators; on 13 June 2006, Minister of Justice and Spokesman for the Judiciary Jamal Karimi-Rad stated that 70 people had been arrested, 42 were women and 28 men, for participating in what he alleged was an illegal demonstration. When questioned about the beatings by police, he said, "if there was any beating, it will be reviewed". Some of those detained are reported to have been released.
Amnesty International has received the names of over 40 women and men reported to be among those arrested. Unconfirmed reports suggest that some are now being held at the Eshrat Abad detention centre in Tehran. Pictures of the demonstration, including some of police wielding batons, can be seen on a number of websites such as: www.kosoof.com, www.advarnews.org?Gallery/1965.aspx and www.nasiriphotos.com/blog/?id=1003639.
Amnesty International believes that those detained may be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their internationally recognized right to freedom of expression and association. If so, they should be released immediately and unconditionally. Amnesty International is also calling for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the excessive force used against the demonstrators. Anyone found responsible for abuse should be brought to justice promptly and fairly.
The organization once again reminds the Iranian authorities of Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This states that "Everyone has the right to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms." The Declaration requires states to "take all necessary measures to ensure the protection… against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration."
On 9 June 2006 Amnesty International issued a statement calling for an end to discrimination against women in Iran and urging the Iranian authorities to ensure that the policing of the peaceful demonstration planned to be held on 12 June was consistent with international human rights standards (see Iran: Amnesty International calls for action to end discrimination against women, AI Index MDE 13/064/2006). Earlier this year, the organization condemned the use of violence by Iranian security forces against women who had gathered to celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March 2006 (see Iran: Amnesty International condemns violence against women demonstrators in Iran, AI Index MDE 13/024/2006).
Iran: Police Assault Women's Rights Demonstrators
Source: Human Rights Watch
(New York, June 15, 2006) ? Iran must investigate the police beating of hundreds of women's rights activists during a peaceful demonstration in Tehran on Monday, Human Rights Watch said today. The organization called on the government to release those detained after the police attack on protestors.
Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that police and intelligence agents lined Haft Tir Square in downtown Tehran hours before the start of the planned demonstration on June 12. As the demonstrators assembled, the security forces immediately started to beat them with batons, sprayed them with pepper gas, marked the demonstrators with color spray, and took scores into custody.
"The Iranian government has again shown its utter contempt for basic freedoms like the right to peaceful assembly," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities should free those arrested at once and find out who's behind the police violence."
On Tuesday, Jamal Karimirad, a spokesman for the Judiciary, confirmed that security forces arrested 70 people, 42 women and 28 men, to prevent the demonstration from taking place. He said the Judiciary is charging the detainees with "participation in an illegal assembly."
An eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that, for what is thought to be the first time, the government transported policewomen to the demonstration to arrest female demonstrators while policemen dealt with male protestors.
"Female police officers ruthlessly beat demonstrators with their batons and took many into police vans for detention," this witness said. "Bystanders were shocked at how harshly the police reacted to demonstrators."
The demonstration followed a call last week by hundreds of women's rights activists and human rights defenders to demand reforms in Iran's legal code and remove discriminatory clauses against women.
Prior to the demonstration, the Judiciary summoned and interrogated numerous women's rights activists. On Saturday night, agents of the Judiciary went to the homes of prominent activists to issue summons. Those summoned include Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sussan Tahmasebi, Zohreh Arzani, and Fariba Davoodi Mohajer. Davoodi Mohajer was the only one who received the summons in person. On Monday, Judiciary agents at the Branch 14 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran interrogated her for 10 hours.
Also on Monday morning, security forces arrested another activist, Shahla Entessari, at her workplace in Tehran. Among those arrested at the demonstration are Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoiniha, a former member of the parliament, Jila Baniyaghoub, Delaram Ali, Samira Sadri, Bahareh Hedayat, Leila Mohseni, Bahman Ahmadi Amooi, Siamak Taheri, and Farahnaz Sharifi.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to release all detainees without delay, end its harassment and intimidation of activists, and abide by its international obligations to respect freedom of assembly, and to prevent and punish police brutality.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Environmental activists demonstrated in from of the Maine State House yesterday after police requested DNA samples from them for some sort of on going investigation.
Most of those asked did not comply.
According to the Boston Globe in April, members of Earth First! planned to camp on Sears Island, in defiance of a ban on camping on the state-owned property. But after police searched the island and confiscated equipment found there, the activists decided to camp on private land off the island.
There was some interaction between police and activists on a causeway that links the island to the mainland, but there were no arrests or citations, and police returned the camping equipment.
But a month later, state police officers knocked on the doors of about a dozen people they identified as linked to the Sears Island events. They had an unusual request: a DNA sample.
A lawyer representing some of the activists, Philip Worden, said police were casting an over-wide net.
"This does have all the hallmarks of a classic fishing expedition," Worden said. "And obviously the courts do not approve of that if there's any kind of interference with Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights."
"My own main concern isn't just with the people that were asked," Worden said. "It's the chilling effect on everybody else. If you get the idea that just because somebody attended a legal environmental meeting, that by doing that the state police might show up at your doorstep, ask for a DNA sample as though you might be suspected of some sort of terrorist activity ... that's going to scare people."
The following is from WLBZ in Maine.
DNA "Dragnet" Angers Activists, Prompts Protest
Environmental activists and civil libertarians who are upset over a state police request for DNA samples as part of an investigation held a news conference outside the Maine State House Wednesday to denounce the request as unacceptable.
The protest by about two dozen people was prompted by a request by state police. Investigators asked about a dozen environmental activists in Maine for DNA samples as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Police did not disclose the nature of the investigation, but say say the request was totally voluntary.
A Maine Civil Liberties Union lawyer said that if investigators don't have a warrant, they should leave the activists alone.
The MCLU's Zachary Heiden also said that "harassment, intimidation and DNA dragnets have no place in our democratic society."
The protesters also oppose a newly enacted state law that increases penalties for so-called environmental terrorism.
Here is the latest on those medicos being held in a Libyan jail accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV.
The Libyan Supreme Court postponed for the second time the re-trial of the fiveBulgarian nurses charged with deliberate infection of over 400 children with HIV, Reuters news agency reported.
The lawyers of the Bulgarians complained about the new delay and requested the released of the medics on bail. Lawyers said that 'seven and a half years of detention was enough'. The presiding judge Mahmoud Haouissa promised to speed up the trial 'to avoid tiring the defendants further'.
Before the latest postpnement a CD proving the innocence of Bulgaria's Libya-tried nurses was presented in court, Bulgarian press said Wednesday.
The disc contains part of a Libyan lawyer's interview on HIV infections that occurred before the Bulgarians arrived in Benghazi.
There was a trial over the 17 HIV cases, in the early 90s, the recording says. But Libya decided that the incidents were a matter of national security, and the case was secreted.
Those proceedings prove that there was HIV outbreak at the Benghazi hospital before the Bulgarians took on medical jobs there, the Bulgarian press says.
It was not revealed how did the defence get hold of the CD.
Bulgarian solicitor Plamen Yalnazov handed the material to a judge, even before prosecutors knew about the evidence, correspondents said.
Luc Montagnier, who discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was asked recently if the Libyan children were not infected by the nurses, then how did it happen. He replied:
“I will refer back to the so-called “scientific proof” of the prosecution. In fact the infections, at least as far as we found out because we did not have access to all the information on the case, started even before the Bulgarian nurses came to work in the hospital in Benghazi. And this was a known fact as early as 1998, before the nurses were arrested. Therefore there is no coincidence that the nurses were there. Of course, then the question would be: if the Bulgarian nurses are not guilty then who is? I want to say here that as early as in 1999 we visited Libyan hospitals and found out serious hygiene problems. We made a report and sent it to the Libyan Health Ministry but it was neglected. There is information that there are children who have been born infected but this is too difficult to prove.
We forget something else – that there are also adults infected with the virus. 4 Libyan nurses were infected with the virus in the same period as the children. And we can hardly assume that someone injected them without them understanding. 4 nurses out of the 50 that work in the hospital is a big percent not to pay attention to it."
The five Bulgarian nurses themselves this week refused to talk to the Bulgarian journalists covering the trial. The nurses said that they will talk to the journalists upon their return to Bulgaria.
"We've been in jail for 8 years. There are many things we want to tell you, but in Sofia, we are tired and we want to go home," said Kristiana Vulcheva one of the nurses accused of deliberately infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV. She also commented that they feel abandoned.
The following is from Arab News.
Libya Reopens Bulgaria Nurses’ AIDS Trial
TRIPOLI, 14 June 2006 — The retrial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of contaminating hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS reopened yesterday with the judge calling for the process to be speeded up. Judge Mahmoud Al-Huweissa adjourned the trial to June 20 after a brief session and said that in future any petitions would need to be filed in writing. “From now on we will have a weekly hearing because this case has dragged on too long,” he said.
Bulgaria welcomed the decision to pick up the pace. “The Libyan court’s declared intention to meet weekly on the case offers hopes that (the case) will be decided with the shortest possible delay,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev said. “We hope that the testimony of all the witnesses called by the defense and the arguments it will present will be reviewed with the maximum objectivity and taken into account in the court’s ruling,” he added.
While the nurses’ Libyan lawyer has been seeking their release on bail, a previous hearing on May 11 was adjourned for procedural reasons and the accused continue to be held in custody. The team of Bulgarian defense lawyers for the five nurses called for a new expert opinion on what caused the hospital AIDS outbreak, which infected the children as the two existing assessments were incompatible. Libyan experts said the outbreak was knowingly sparked by the nurses.
But at their first trial, a co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, Luc Montagnier, and Italian professor Vitorio Colizzi said the disease had spread before the nurses’ arrival in Libya and was due to poor hygiene in the Benghazi hospital.
One of the defense lawyers, Plamen Yalnazov, also asked the court to accept written testimony from Bulgarian engineer Smilian Tachev who was arrested together with the nurses but freed six months later. Tachev has told Trud newspaper in Bulgaria that the nurses were tortured in detention.
The Palestinian doctor on trial, Ashraf Hajjuj, for his part, has complained about the conditions in which he was being held, and also charged he was being discriminated against.
The nurses, meanwhile, were quoted as refusing to meet Bulgarian journalists in the Judeida prison. “We have been here for eight years now and we have no more to say. We have a lot to talk to you about in Sofia but we have nothing to say here,” said Kristiana Valcheva.
Jailed since 1999, the nurses and the doctor were condemned to death in May 2004 at an initial trial in the eastern city of Benghazi. They were convicted of infecting 426 Libyan children with AIDS while working at the local hospital. The six, who proclaim their innocence, appealed to the Libyan Supreme Court which ordered a new trial last Dec. 25.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
A protest staged by a group, including President Ehud Olmert’s daughter, Dana, outside the home of IDF Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz calling him a “murderer” for his role in the Gaza shelling last week has outraged hard-line right-wingers.
Meanwhile, the Israeli press also questioned the attack and Yediot Aharonot newspaper ran the head line “Tragedy on Gaza Beach.” David Grossman, an Israeli novelist, wrote in Maariv: "The image of the girl on the Gaza beach, whose life was torn to shreds before our very eyes, should pull us out of the hypnotic coma we have been in for years" and he asked how long they will accept being subjected to fatal attacks and retaliation.
The articles below are both from YNet News.
PM's daughter protests Gaza killings
Some 200 left-wing activists marched outside the house of IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz at the Tzahala neighborhood in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, to protest the killing of civilians in Gaza on Friday.
The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Tzahala residents, there's a murderer in your neighborhood," and raised signs calling on the government to "put a stop to the murder of civilians" and stating, "Halutz is a killer, the intifada shall prevail." Activists also shouted, "neighbors, ask Halutz why he's killing children and how many."
Dana Olmert, the daughter of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, also took part in the demonstration.
About 30 policemen arrived at the place to maintain order, but allowed the rally to proceed uninterrupted. Some of the neighborhood's residents, however, were less pleased with the disturbance and squirted water on the protesters from inside their houses.
Letter to Olmert: Stop war crimes
Five human rights organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and defense Minister Amir Peretz, calling on them to act immediately in order to put an end to the killing of Palestinian civilians in the territories, and to "uproot the elements that contribute to this killing."
According to the letter, while it is Israel's duty to take all necessary measures in order to protect its citizens, it is however unacceptable for a sovereign state to employ illegal methods, which in some occasions constitute war crimes.
The groups stressed in the letter that one of Israel's obligations, according to humanitarian international law, is to minimize the ramifications of military operation on the civilian population, and to secure the wellbeing and safety of the Palestinian civilians even during battle.
Rightist files complaint against PM's daughter
Extreme rightist Itamar Ben-Gvir filed a complaint with the Hebron police Sunday against the prime minister's daughter Dana Olmert and the rest of the participants in a left-wing demonstration outside the house of Army Chief Dan Halutz Saturday evening to protest the killing of seven civilians in Gaza.
Dana Olmert takes part in left-wing demonstration outside army chief's house; protesters call Halutz 'murderer,' declare 'intifada shall prevail.' Meanwhile, human rights groups send letter to PM, defense minister, calling on them to stop war crimes in territories
Ben-Gvir presented the police with pictures from the rally depicting signs carried by the protesters that include the slogans, "Neighbors, ask Halutz why he murders children," and "Halutz is a murderer, the intifada shall prevail."
"Dana Olmert and her lefty friends should stand trial for calling the chief of staff a murderer," Ben-Gvir told Ynet. "I was tried and convicted for the same offense and received a suspended sentence. She should be convicted as well," he stated.
In 1997, Ben-Gvir faced trial after taking part in a demonstration against Knesset Member Ran Cohen (Meretz), during which he called the MK "a murderer." In addition to receiving a suspended sentence, Ben-Gvir was also ordered to pay a steep fine.
"If this was the ruling then, then it is only just and fair that Ms. Olmert and her friends stand trial for the same offense," Ben-Gvir.
The right-wing activists also claimed that about a year ago, the police barred him, his wife, and fellow rightist Baruch Marzel, from protesting outside the house of the chief military rabbi in Jerusalem, citing a regulation prohibiting demonstrations opposite the houses of army personnel.
"What is the reason for this discrimination? Why are left-wing activists allowed to do what right-wing activists are banned from doing?" he asked.
And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, just minutes before boarding a plane to London, told reporters he had spoken with his daughter Dana about her participation in a left-wing demonstration outside the army chief's house on Saturday.
"We talk daily. Each of us is entitled to his own opinion, and to express them as well," he said.
Nepal retains its centuries-old caste system despite laws to the contrary. Dalits, the discriminated people under this system, suffer from restriction on the use public amenities, deprivation of economic opportunities, and general neglect by the state and society.
There are human rights abuses against Dalits in virtually every sphere of life in Nepal, including marriage, religious practice, access to land, and access to education.
While oppression of Dalits has occurred in Nepal for centuries, the ongoing internal armed conflict between the government and Maoist rebels led to increased attacks on Dalits by government forces. The government increasingly saw Dalit activism and Dalits themselves as tied to the insurgency, and Dalits have come under attack from government security forces because they are suspected of supporting the rebels
Within the Dalit community of Nepal, there are eight major caste groups and twenty-five identified sub-castes. Some NGOs estimate the Dalit population at 4.5 million, or 21 percent of Nepal's population.
The following comes from Inter Press Service News Agency
Untouchability Persists Despite Ban
KATHMANDU, Jun 11 (IPS) - In 1955 Nepal's revised civil code outlawed untouchability; in 2002 the government created the National Dalit Commission; and three years ago a new leadership pledged to lay charges against anyone accused of discriminating against untouchables, also known as dalits (the broken).
Since then police have opened just two cases for the crime and neither has reached the courts. "Incidents are happening day-to-day in every corner of the country and are reported in the media butàno one has spent one hour in jail," says Ratna Bahadur Bagchand, executive director of Nepal's Lawyers National Campaign Against Untouchability (LANCAU).
Untouchability is the practice of discriminating against those who Hindu tradition has assigned to the lowest ranks of the social hierarchy -- often by shunning physical contact with the person and objects they touch.
More than a year ago, Nepal's Supreme Court ordered the government to strengthen its law against untouchability. "We watched and waited for the government to do something, but it did nothing, so we thought 'we have to do something ourselves'," Bagchand told IPS in an interview in his office in the maze of alleys just behind Nepal's newly-revived parliament.
After six months of work, LANCAU submitted a draft bill to the house of representatives May 28, just a week before MPs declared "an end to untouchability" on Jun. 4.
"The practice of untouchability will now onwards be considered as a social crime and the government will enact laws in such a way that the inhuman and discriminatory practice is more punishable," said Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Narendra Bikram Nembang.
The declaration does not impress Bagchand, whose group in 2004 declared the years 2005-2015 'Untouchability Elimination Decade'. "They support it only for show, for cheap popularity...If they want to make the country free from untouchability, they must pass a law...the whole nation is in favour of this, including the Maoists."
Neighbouring India, which is socially and culturally similar to Nepal, made untouchability a punishable offence more than half-a- century ago and also reserved seats in legislatures and in government jobs for dalits. But the practice persists in large pockets and is rarely punished.
Maoist rebels launched their violent revolt against the state a decade ago aiming to end the monarchy and forge a new society that guaranteed justice for dalits and other 'disadvantaged' groups, including women and indigenous people (also known as ethnic groups or 'janajatis').
Labelled terrorists in 2002, the Maoists forged an uneasy alliance with the opposition alliance of political parties (SPA) in 2005. Together they spearheaded the popular revolt that ended the autocratic reign of King Gyanendra in the final week of April.
The revived house of representatives has reversed the Maoists' 'terrorist' designation and today rebel leaders are openly campaigning across this small, impoverished state wedged between China and India, while their party workers open offices in towns and villages.
In just over one month the house of representatives has issued numerous proclamations. First, it declared Nepal a secular state. Formerly the country was the world's only official Hindu kingdom, despite almost half of its population of 25 million people belonging to more than 50 ethnic groups, many of which did not traditionally practise Hinduism.
Next, the parliament declared it would permit children to be granted citizenship based on their mothers' citizenship status, not only their father's. After its pledge to abolish untouchability, on Saturday the house endorsed new rules that completely sideline the monarch from the business of parliament. From today, the prime minister, all ministers and high-ranking officials will be sworn in at the house, instead of the palace.
Since the Maoists tossed their first homemade 'pressure-cooker' bombs from the dirt-poor midwestern hills in 1996, Nepal's official poverty level has dropped from 42 percent to 31 percent in 2004. But "growth has not been pro-poor -- inequality has increased," says Lynn Bennett of the World Bank.
On Friday, Bennett unveiled some results of her team's four-year, 700-page report: 'Unequal Citizens: Nepal Gender and Social Exclusion Assessment', in the capital Kathmandu.
The country's "feudal governance systems backed by the culture of the caste system have been very resistant to change," the researcher told an audience of more than 100 people at a local hotel. Even after the first 'people's movement' in 1990, "the government had gotten used to discussing gender discrimination...but they were still very hesitant to discuss caste and ethnic discrimination".
The team's survey of one man and one woman in 1,000 households in 60 villages found, "In every group men have higher levels of empowerment and social inclusion than women".
(Empowerment was gauged by such things as respondents' knowledge of their human rights, how much they used local services and if they belonged to social networks. Inclusion was based on their own perceptions of their caste/ethnic status and how effectively they could access services and economic opportunities.)
But women in the 'highest' castes and ethnic groups had progressed in the past decade. The study concluded that having 10 years of education raised women's empowerment-inclusion ranking by 19 percent while group membership boosted it by 5 percent.
"A dalit with three years of schooling who belongs to a group has the same level of empowerment and inclusion as an uneducated (member of those higher groups) who does not belong to a group," added Bennett.
Among the conclusions of her study, financed by the Bank and the UK Department for International Development in collaboration with Nepal's National Planning Commission:
- Give up targeted programmes in place of structural change. "Diagnose the barriers that girls, women and Janajatis face in getting access," said Bennett; - The government should create inclusion units in key ministries (health, education, finance and general administration) led by powerful chiefs and fuelled by adequate budgets. They should review all programs to ensure they are inclusive; and - "Better monitoring of inclusion outcomes is critical," said Bennett.
Ironically, the new government announced Friday it had agreed to a 10 million US dollar loan from the Asian Development Bank to finance a project that targets lower caste and ethnic women in the 15 poorest western districts.
The deal was concluded after three years of negotiations and despite the government failing to meet conditions that include: scrapping all discriminatory legal provisions against women; and reviving the National Women's Commission and National Dalit Commission, reported 'The Kathmandu Post'.
Almost 30 years ago a group of political activists got together with a group of musicians in Britain to form Rock Against Racism. It was a movement formed in reaction to rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations like the National Front.
Bands like The Clash, Steel Pulse and the Tom Robinson Band helped create a political movement among music fans. The most memorable event was the April 1978 “Carnival against the Nazis”. A huge rally of 100,000 people marched the six miles from Trafalgar Square through London’s East End – the heart of National Front (NF) territory – to a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park. The concert and march spelled the beginning of the end for the NF in the face of a young and diverse mass movement.
The Rock Against Racism gigs of the 1970s demonstrated that a mass movement of music fans and musicians could help beat back rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations like the National Front.
A new movement, Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), was launched in the summer of 2002 in response to rising levels of racism and British National Party electoral success, particularly in the north west in former mill towns like Burnley. Since that time there have been over 200 LMHR events, from large outdoor festivals to local gigs and club nights.
The goal of LMHR is to create a national movement against racism and fascism through music.
The following article comes from London Student and reports on a LMHR event held in April.
Love Music, Hate Racism
On the day that London got its first timid glimpse of the sun, 50,000 young people gathered on Trafalgar Square for a demonstration of unity against racism. Love Music, Hate Racism, taking place just a few days before local council elections in which the fascist BNP were standing, featured a multiracial array of bands, from rock giants like Belle and Sebastian to rapper Lethal Bizzle and up and coming bands like the Mentalists and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. The aim was to unite people through their love of music, which, argues the organisers, can beat the false divisions created by racism.
The show began at noon, and the line up was impressive: Apart from the musicians, there were many political speakers such as representatives of the family of racially motivated murder victim Anthony Walker. Some artists like Little Bizzle performed songs and skits that directly related to the issue of racist abuse, and even the bands whose songs did not made very critical statements: “Racism is a big issue in Hull, which is where we’re from, and we really hope to do something against it by playing here,” said Lloyd Dobbs from The Paddingtons.
By 2pm it was clear that the eagerly anticipated Pete Doherty wouldn’t show up for the Babyshambles gig (he’d been arrested earlier in the day). Bassist Drew McConnell played an acoustic version of Down In Albion, but thousands of fans could not hide their disappointment at Doherty’s absence. Martin Smith, one of the organisers, knew how to raise their spirits: “Shouldn’t the police be going after Anthony Walker’s murderers rather than arresting Pete?” to which the crowd cheered and the police officers scattered around Trafalgar Square looked vaguely embarrassed.
By this time, the square was brim full with a multicultural crowd, some of which were, much to the dislike of the police, happily bathing in the fountains and awaiting the last performance of the day - Belle & Sebastian.
Trumpet player Mick expressed his approval for the event: “We don’t have anything of this scale in Glasgow and music is a fantastic way of sending a message against racism.”
Martin Smith, who has been organising Rock Against Racism since his activist time in the 70s, wanted students to know about the importance of fighting racism: “When I was in school, kids would get beaten up because of their skin colour, and I wanted to see the situation change. Students, there is something you can do against racism. If you don’t like the world you live in, then go and change it. Don’t just sit on your sofa - go out and demonstrate.”
Hundreds of Taiwanese took to the streets of the capital on Sunday to protest against the demolition of a leper sanitarium that is due to be torn down to make way for a subway extension. Hundreds of aging leprosy patients have refused to be relocated from the sanitarium in Taipei county where the Japanese isolated them during their colonial rule of the island more than half a century ago.
The following article is taken from Taipei Times.
Rights activists angered by plight of Happy Life lepers
NOT HAPPY: Hundreds of activists protested against authorities' failure to conduct a proper review of the historical value of a leprosarium slated for demolition
Outraged that the Taipei County Government had failed to conduct a review about whether or not to designate the Happy Life Leprosy Sanatorium a historical site by a required deadline, about 50 rights groups yesterday petitioned the authority and the public for the facility to be preserved.
"[We] want human rights! [We are] against forced removal!" yelled more than 500 activists from the Youth Leseng League and other groups in front of the Council for Cultural Affairs, the headquarters of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Presidential Office one day before the council's deadline for the heritage evaluation of Happy Life.
The groups demanded that the government and the Taipei Rapid Transit Coporation (TRTC) respect the rights of Happy Life's lepers to remain in a facility in which they have lived for several decades.
The Youth Leseng League said the Taipei County Government had not held any review committee meetings to determine the historical and cultural value of Happy Life, as it was required to do after the council identified the home as a "temporary historical site" six months ago.
Guan Wu-yuan (管婺媛), a spokesperson for the demonstrating groups, said the TRTC had proposed demolishing 60 percent to 70 percent of Happy Life's buildings last month.
Guan added that the Executive Yuan had ruled in the TRTC's favor on May 15, despite the fact that the official review process had not been completed.
Youth Leseng League chief Chang Hsin-wen (張馨文) said that the most outrageous thing was the government's "perfunctory attitude" in the face of the league's petition.
A 57-year-old patient said that the fight for the preservation of the sanatorium was part of the battle for local culture, and he would continue to drag himself to mass demonstrations for the sake of his home.
Built during the Japanese colonial era, Happy Life is the only public leprosarium in Taiwan.
Located in Sinjhuang Township (新莊) in Taipei County, the leprosarium has housed more than 300 lepers over the years, most of whom were forced to leave their families in their teens and are now in their 60s or 70s.
Patients in the leprosarium used to live a secluded life as a result of the segregation policy put in place by first the Japanese and then the Taiwanese government during the martial law period.
Lepers were denied the rights to move, marry or have offspring. Some of them were even forced into hard labor and to have sterilizations and abortions.
It was not until the 1950s that new medical treatments for the disease became available in Taiwan and leprosy was found to be a curable chronic illness with a low likelihood of transmission.
In 1994, the Taipei County government sold the land on which the sanatorium was built to the TRTC for the construction of part of the Sinjhuang Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line. The lepers were not consulted, and did not learn of the sale until 2003, when the demolition of the sanatorium began.
Although sanatorium officials have denied implementing a forced relocation plan last month and said that patients can choose to stay where they are, more than 300 patients may yet be forced to move to the newly built Huilung Community Hospital.
Patients and human-rights groups have campaigned to save the leprosarium since 2004, petitioning official agencies such as the Taipei County Government, the Executive Yuan and the Council for Cultural Affairs.
The council had agreed to review the historical and cultural value of Happy Life, and the demolition of its buildings was halted in accordance with the revised Cultural Heritage Preservation Law (文化資產保存法). The review was scheduled to begin on Dec. 12 last year and was supposed to last six months.
Back in December 2004, the Executive Yuan had invited experts to seek a solution to the conflict between the TRTC and the leprosarium's patients.
Some experts suggested the MRT's power plant and water treatment plant be moved underground, which might allow the co-existence of the sanatorium and the MRT line.
Liu Ke-chiang (劉可強), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at National Taiwan University, said: "The cost [involved in preserving the Happy Life Leprosy Sanatorium] may sound high, but [the leprosarium] is historically worthwhile and ecologically friendly."
Hsia Chu-chiu (夏鑄九), also a professor at the institute, said it should be possible for the location on which Happy Life is built to be "a shared space for modern technology and historical heritage."
However, Taipei City's Department of Rapid Transit Systems estimated that altering the MRT route could cost more than NT$2 billion (US$63 million) and delay the completion of the project by more than three years.
When Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) visited the newly completed Huilung Community Hospital in January last year, she called the MRT construction project a "nationally significant project."
"If such an important project is delayed, the nation will lose a considerable amount of money. Who is going to pay for this?" she added.
As today's deadline for Happy Life's heritage review approached, demonstrators continued to challenge the authorities yesterday, calling for the leprosarium to be recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO, together with similar facilities in Japan and Korea.
The council promised the petitioning groups that it would conduct an investigation into Happy Life's heritage status if the local government failed to do anything about the matter.
The council added that both sides of the argument needed to be considered.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Canadian police were seeking arrest warrants today for seven aboriginal protesters they say were involved in a string of violent clashes at the scene of a long-standing native blockade in southern Ontario.
On Friday and into early yesterday, townspeople and Six Nations members clashed in explosive confrontations over the natives' occupation of a housing development still under construction.
The seven face a battery of serious charges, including attempted murder, assault and forcible confinement, after angry protesters surrounded a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle on Friday and dragged out its three occupants.
Officers from the U.S. Border Patrol were in the area to observe how provincial police were handling the standoff according to Canadian police.
The incidents were the latest flashpoint in the standoff, which is now more than 100 days old.
A blockade was erected more than three months ago as protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve took over a housing development which was being built on aboriginal land.
At the blog site Sketchy Thoughts a non native sympathizer had this to say which expressed of more than one supporter of the occupation, I would suppose.
A note of commentary, not in any way reflecting the views of the Confederacy or even of anyone else but myself - a white guy who happens to be sympathetic.
The bottom line for me is that this is an internal matter for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to deal with. Whether the individuals alleged to have beaten up US and Canadian cops and reporters did so or no, and whether they are sanctioned or not, should not be up to the colonial government to decide.
(My own two cents worth: sounds like regrettable though nevertheless justified actions taken to protect the Reclamation Site)
The Canadian State has no legal jurisdiction here, but equally importantly for me anybody acting to defend a legitimate liberation struggle (including of course, but not limited to anti-colonial national liberation struggles) gets my vote of support.
For background information, I'd suggest http://oreaddaily.blogspot.com/2006/04/six-nations-arent-going-to-back-down.html
Below a statement issued by the Six Nations Confederacy. This is followed by a more in depth report from the scene taken off of Hamilton IndyMedia.
Six Nations Confederacy disheartened by incidents at Caledonia
CALEDONIA, ON, June 10 /CNW/ - The actions which occurred at the Six
Nations Reclamation site and within the town of Caledonia today are very
disheartening. The Haudenosaunee are a people of peace and do not condone
violence of any form. Our prayers and concern are with those who were injured
during the outbreaks today. A peaceful co-existence with our neighbours and
the safety of all remain at the paramount of our concerns.
The Haudenosaunee/Six Nations have been working with the Provincial and
Federal government to find a peaceful resolution to this tense situation. The
negotiations have been promising as a way to work towards a peaceful
resolution. The land rights of all our people are of great concern and are at
the heart of this situation.
Our people follow the Great Law of Peace and are not a people of
violence. An investigation has been launched and the Six Nations police have
been asked to assist in this process. The individuals who were involved in
these incidents have been removed from the Reclamation Site until our
investigation is complete. The findings from this situation will be raised
before our Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council tomorrow.
The Haudenosaunee are committed to ensure that Great Law of Peace is
respected and followed at the Reclamation Site. Today's incidents are
reflective of the misjudgment and reactions of a limited few. Those
individuals will be dealt with in a manner harmonious with the Great Law of
Peace. We are committed to working with the Ontario Provincial Police to de-
escalate this situation.
Update from Six NationsAuthor
10 Jun 2006
10 Jun 2006 01:36:40 PM
Copyright by the author. All rights reserved.
Hazel Hill spokesperson for the Six Nations in Caledonia.
First of all I have to tell you that I am experiencing a great deal of
interference with getting this e-mail out. I am sending it directly to MNN
first, and I will try to send out individually because every time I attempt
to send it out to all, it comes back undeliverable. Sorry for the delay.
Update from Grand River
Today has been a day of unrest at the land reclamation site. While I won't
go into great detail on what has happened today as a press release is being
prepared, it is suffice to say that the intimidation tactics and pressure
from the outside has worked to the point that 1000 Ontario Provincial Police (opp) officers are being dispatched to the area surrounding the reclamation site, and the Caledonia residents are up in arms, demanding the removal of our people from the site, and even going so far as to setting up a barricade on the recently opened
plank road (argyle street) leading into Caledonia. It is important for all
of you to understand that the intimidation tactics leading up to day were
constant..... including army helicopters and others flying overhead all
hours of the day and night; including hovering overhead between 2 and 4 in
the morning with their lights off , and then on occasion, shining high
powered lights down onto the people on the site. This has been going on
constantly. Our people are being faced daily with people driving by,
hollering racial remarks including "go home you f'n Indians", "get a job",
"your gonna die" etc. Garbage is constantly being thrown at us, and besides
the "flipping of the bird" there have been times where firecrackers are
being thrown out the window toward us. These incidents however, are not
followed up on by the opp because they are not breaking any laws.
today a united states border patrol vehicle was retrieved with high powered
surveillance equipment in it. The first story from the opp was that the "
A.T.F. Officer" was just visiting friends in the neighbourhood and was
taking pictures "kinda like a tourist", when spotted just down from the the
front line barricade and then followed to the back door of the reclamation
site. then later when we questioned further what the United States ATF was
doing snooping around taking pictures of our people with the opp riding in
the back with them, they changed the story saying that they had been invited
in by the opp. Our question as to what they were doing there, what is their
mandate, and the fact that obviously these people have gotten high
government official clearance to be so far out of their jurisdiction was
unanswered by the opp representatives. an opp officer was hospitalized as a
result of this incident, and a ch tv. Newsperson/cameraman had to get
stitches as a result of a previous run in with our people. This situation
is not good.
What needs to be understood is that the incidents of today, are a direct
result of the constant intimidation tactics of the opp and others of the
military, the continued racial discrimination being shown, not by us, but by
the Caledonia people, including the recent blocking of our children from
using the arena for lacrosse games; the back tracking by the provincial
government at the negotiating table; all of which lead up to the ultimate
goal of the government. To justify stopping the talks at the negotiating
table. From what we have been told at the fire tonight, this is the
position of the government at this point. Canada does not want to deal with
the Onkwehonweh people because they know we are absolutely right in our
position with respect to the land, our sovereignty and upholding our Law.
The violence that occurred is not something that we are proud of, but it is
something that we completely understand knowing and understanding the
underhanded and direct attempts at inciting the action required to justify
another attack against our people, and to make it look like we are
uncontrollable. Why else have they been playing the "terrorists in Canada
in court in Brampton" back to back with the "six nations land reclamation in
Caledonia" on all of the news stations Canada with the help of corporate
media, is making sure the mental brainwashing of its citizens against the
Onkwehonweh people continues. How convenient that CHTV 11 was there even
before this all started. How coincidently that the couple who sparked the
violence with their racial attacks drove straight to the Canadian Tire
parking lot, and how convenient that a "by-stander" happened to have a video
camera across the road at tim hortons video taping the whole scene and
directly reporting to CHML radio who happens to be co-owned by chtv 11. Was
it a co-incidence! or were these people already on standby knowing that a
story was about to break. It is unfortunate that our people fell for it,
and in hindsight we can all wish it didn't happen, but the reality is,
unless you are in the situation, dealing with the constant mental emotional
and physical intimidation of the corrupt bureaucRATS; and the racial
violence that has been directed at our people on a constant basis, none of
us can truly say how we would have responded if in the situation ourselves.
The potential for violence occurring on the site in the next little while is
tremendous. The Caledonia people are wanting to come in to take us out.
The opp are maintaining a line between the Caledonia residents and the
reclamation site. It is unknown how long this is going to continue. Our
people need to be on alert. Again, we are on the site unarmed, we are
trying to maintain the peace, and we are keeping the people toward the inner
perimeter of the site. I will forward further updates as soon as I get
them. Please forward to others. Stay Strong and keep the Peace. Hazel