Friday, March 09, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Women's Day, Lenin and a Riot in Copenhagen
By ANIKET ALAM
For the past few days the European press has been carrying reports of riots and firefights between anarchist squatters and police in Copenhagen, Denmark over control of a 19th century building now called the Ungdomshuset or "youth house". It appears that this municipal building was given to young people in the 1970s and since then has been the site for a vibrant "alternative" youth culture in Copenhagen.
The Guardian makes a brief mention of the fact that this building was constructed by the Danish labour movement in the last years of the 19th century and hosted Vladimir Lenin. We'll come to that later, but what is most interesting, ironic even, for me is that two days before International Women's Day the building where this idea was first conceived is being pulled down.
At an international conference of working women organized by the Second International in 1910 in this building the German Communist Clara Zetkin proposed organizing meetings and demonstrations in all countries on one day to highlight the slogan "The vote for women will unite our strength in the struggle for socialism". She later explained the idea of an International Women's Day in Die Gliecheit (Equality):
"In agreement with the class-conscious, political and trade union organizations of the proletariat of their respective countries, the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women's Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women's suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women's question according to Socialist precepts. The Women's Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully."
This proposal was accepted by an overwhelming majority of those present and March 19, 1911 was decided upon as the date for holding the first International Women's Day. Alexandra Kollontai tells us that March 19 was decided as it was on this day in 1848 that the King of Prussia agreed, in principle and in the face of intense working class revolts, to universal suffrage. This was, perhaps, the first time in history that a ruling class had agreed to give equal political rights to women. Kollontai, who was living in exile in Germany at that time, informs us on March 19, 1911:
"Germany and Austria on Working Women's Day was one seething, trembling sea of women. This was certainly the first show of militancy by the working woman. Men stayed at home with their children for a change, and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings"
What many of us forget is that the Russian Revolution too started off with the demonstrations of International Women's Day in 1917 St. Petersburg, where over 10,000 destitute working class women marched the cold, snow-bound streets to demand bread for their hungry children and the return of their men from the War. International Women's Day (March 8) fell on February 23 by the old Julian calendar followed in Russia. Within days Moscow had joined this rebellion and the Tsar had to abdicate.
This unfortunate building in Copenhagen also hosted the Eighth Congress of the Second International (The International Socialist Congress In Copenhagen) from August 28 to September 3, 1910. It was attended by 896 delegates representing countries in Europe, North and South America, South Africa and Australia.
Five committees were set up for preliminary discussion and drafting of resolutions on various questions: co-operatives, trade unions, international solidarity, and unity of the trade union movement in Austria; the struggle against war; labour legislation and unemployment; miscellaneous, including socialist unity, capital punishment, Finland, Argentina, Persia, etc. Lenin was on the co-operative committee, one of the most important ones.
The resolution on the struggle against war--"Arbitration Courts and Disarmament"--confirmed the resolution of the Stuttgart Congress of 1907 on "Militarism and International Conflicts", which included the amendments motioned by Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, calling on the socialists of all countries to make use of the economic and political crisis caused by war to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The resolution of the Copenhagen Congress also bound the socialist parties and their representatives in parliaments to demand that their governments reduce armaments, and settle conflicts between states through arbitration courts, and urged the workers of all countries to stage protests against the threat of war.
Lenin held a conference of Left-wing Social-Democrats attending the Congress to rally the revolutionary Marxists in the international arena.
As the anarchists and police fight it out over control of this historic building, let us take time to remember the real earth shaking history that is associated with its bricks and mortar!
Judi's Work and Warnings Prove True
By Mike Roselle
Today (March 2) is the 10th anniversary of the day Judi Bari died on March 2nd in 1997 from cancer. On May 24, 1990, Judi was severely injured by a motion-triggered pipe bomb which exploded on the floor directly under the driver's seat of her car as she and fellow Earth Firster Darryl Cherney traveled through Oakland, California, on an organizing tour for Redwood Summer, a campaign of nonviolent protests focused on saving old growth redwood forests in northern California. I first met Judi in San Francisco at a rally against Pacific Lumber; now know as Maxxam in 1989. She was a dedicated lefty labor activist, not the usual type of organizer who goes up against the timber industry over logging in a small economically depressed logging town. Yet she worked tirelessly until her death on behalf of both the workers and the forest. At the time of the bombing she was attempting to break the deadlock that had developed in Humboldt County over the fate of California’s last large stand of unprotected Redwood trees. The situation was dire, and local activists had exhausted every avenue to keep Maxxam from liquidating the ancient forests to service the debt Charles Horowitz had acquired during a hostile takeover of the venerable Pacific Lumber Company, which had been locally owned and operated for over a century.
Judi’s idea was an organizing campaign based on Freedom Summer, the Mississippi Civil Rights campaign that brought in activists from across the country to break the deadlock on voting rights for African Americans in the South. After hundreds of arrests, demonstrations and the death of several activists, the civil rights workers of Mississippi were exhausted, and put out a call for outside help. Three of those who chose to answer the call were later found buried in an earthen dam in rural Mississippi. The uproar over these brutal killings helped galvanize support for the eventual passing of the Voting Rights Act in Congress in 1965. As in Mississippi, Judi understood that this campaign would have to be nonviolent, but that did not mean it would not be dangerous.
The night before Judi and Daryl were bombed, I was at a meeting with them at the Seeds of Peace house in Oakland. Seeds had volunteered to help with, among other things, the logistics of the campaign, primarily the care and feeding of the hundreds of expected activists who would arrive that summer. The meeting went late into the night, and I left early for my home in Berkeley. I had a river trip planed on the Wallowa River with Mike Howell the next day, and we had to drive north early in the morning. We stopped in Chico to see Michelle Miller, another organizer on the campaign, who had also been receiving death threats from various anti-environmental groups over the last few months.
When Howler and I pulled my VW bus into Michelle’s driveway, she came running out the front door in her night clothes. I will never forget that moment.
We knew something big was up even before Michelle uttered those words that would change the course of the campaign, and change the lives of everyone who was working on it. “Judi and Daryl have been bombed in Oakland. They are in the hospital. The FBI has arrested both of them and raided the Seeds of Peace House”. I spent the next six hours at Michelle’s house answering phone calls from reporters from around the world. We had a small office in San Francisco with one phone line so it made more sense to stay put and work the phones than to spend the next four hours on the road incommunicado. When we caught up a bit on some of the hundreds of phone calls we would field that day, Howler and I drove back to my house in Berkeley.
The rest, as they say, is history. Daryl escaped serious injury but Judi’s pelvis was fractured in many places. She would be able to walk only with the aid of a cane for the remainder of her life. Whether the injuries she suffered in the blast cause her early death from cancer we may never know. Her attacker has never been identified. But even from her hospital bed in Oakland, Judi’s remained involved in the campaign, working tirelessly to build a bridge between environmentalists and timber workers in her community.
In 2002, after a lengthy campaign by Judi, Daryl and a team of pro-bono lawyers a jury in their federal civil lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department exonerated Bari and Cherney by ordering four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers to pay a total of $4.4 million to Cherney and to Bari's estate for violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and for false arrest and unlawful search and seizure. Unfortunately, Judi died before her exoneration.
Of all of the people who have been involved in the Earth First! Movement, Judi’s story is the most complicated. A divisive and combative figure in life, in death she has achieved a degree of martyrdom seldom seen in the environmental movement. Depending on where you stand, she is either a working class hero or an environmental extremist. An energetic organizer, or the one responsible for the end of the Earth First! movement. Redwood Summer was a tremendous success or it was a total disaster. But it’s not that simple. It never is.
Judi did not fit the mold of the early Earth Firster. A self described eco-feminist red-diaper baby, she clashed often with the Buckaroo faction of the western conservation movement. While she devoted her life to working with labor, labor never came around to her way of seeing things. And at the time of her death, much of her work remained unfinished. Yet today, she has been exonerated by a jury of any involvement in the bombing that maimed her. Later activists such as Julia Butterfly Hill and John Quigley would be inspired by her life to continue the struggle. Maxxam filed for bankruptcy last month and the company’s employees are just now wishing they had paid more attention to the warnings of Judi and the other conservationists that the company planned to cut and run, leaving the workforce high and dry.
I spoke with Daryl Cherney yesterday and he thought that Judi would most want to be remembered as someone who fought the FBI and won. Indeed, she identified strongly with the victims of police repression around the world. But I also remember her as a hippy girl, the mother of two wonderful children, musician and soapbox preacher, a firebrand with a wicked sense of humor, and most importantly, a friend of the trees.
Mike Roselle is the publisher of Lowbagger.org.
From Green Left Weekly:
Afghanistan: No gender equality under occupation
Ramani Desilva, Kabul
The new constitution of Afghanistan formally grants equal rights to women and men. The government has also endorsed the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which, according to development agencies, is significant progress on gender equality "policy advocacy". The first time I arrived in Kabul the women I saw on the streets were wearing scarves on their heads and those wearing full chador were a minority. Maybe, at a superficial glance, the situation had improved for the women of Afghanistan?
The propaganda of the NATO occupation forces made the "liberation" of women synonymous with the "liberation" of the country from the Taliban. The ministry of women's affairs was set up and much publicised for international consumption as the changing face of a "liberated" Afghanistan. The ministry has become the pet project of many development agencies. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush are patrons of the US-Afghan Women's Council, which supports women's "leadership" training and micro-credit projects.
But the situation outside Kabul and the heavily guarded zones of the development agencies, whose staff are penned in day and night due to tight security provisions, is extremely unstable and volatile. There is a constant feeling of uneasiness that the situation could explode at any moment, including in Kabul itself. During my stay there was a mortar attack on Jalalabad Road, one of the main highways and army convoy routes out of Kabul. There are reports of Kabul airport coming under frequent gunfire attack. The plane that was flying me out of Kabul taxied down the runway ready for take off, then suddenly slowed down, U-turned and returned to the terminal. The pilot explained that there were some "technical difficulties", which we found out later was a broken windscreen. "Maybe someone took a shot at us", said a UN security officer, wryly. But no-one was laughing.
The government has no influence or control over the country and President Hamid Karzai is laughingly referred to as the "mayor of Kabul". Almost half the country is deemed high to extreme risk areas, i.e. in UN parlance "volatile" to "hostile environment". This includes almost all of the southern and eastern parts of the country along the borders with Pakistan. These are war zones where there is ongoing fighting between NATO troops and Taliban forces, drug lords and other Afghan-style criminals and gangsters.
Gulsha, suffering mother of 11-year-old Sanuba who accuses Malom Zafar (district chief) and Commander Mehmood, a local warlord, for kidnapping her daughter who later was exchanged for a dog in North of Afghanistan. (RAWA photo)
Movie Clip of Gulsha RAWA report
According to some workers I spoke to, the resistance is widespread and not only limited to the Taliban, due to the inability of the government to deliver any improvements to the lives of the vast majority of the population. Poppy production linked to the drug economy has resurfaced with a vengeance, and many government officials are implicated. Some development agencies are reluctant to set up banks as these could be used for laundering drug money.
Afghanistan ranks 173 out of 178 on the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index (2004). Life expectancy today is approximately 44.5 years. One out of five children dies before the age of five and maternal mortality is among the highest in the world. Some 90% of adult women are illiterate. Some 75% of girls attending primary school drop out before grade five. Newly re-opened girls' schools are closing down due to violence against women and girls. Stories are told of how young women today are less educated than those belonging to their grandmothers' generation. Sexual violence against girls, institutionalised through "traditions" such as child marriage, continues to be rife. Suicide among young women is said to be increasing. A May 2006 United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) survey on violence against women in Afghanistan indicates that it's widespread, extreme, systematic and unreported.
Women development staff working outside Kabul frequently receive death threats. Some have even been killed. In September 2006 Safiye Amajan, the provincial head of the women's ministry in Kandahar and a respected women's rights advocate, was shot repeatedly outside her home as she was leaving for work. It is a well-known fact among development agency circles that Afghan women staff are targets and routinely put their lives on the line as a result of their work.
The Taliban used the "women's question" to enforce its own agenda. The imperialist occupation forces have also used the agenda of gender equality to ultimately pursue their own interests: the occupation of Afghanistan for strategic geo-political reasons. In the eyes of many people, the ministry of women is associated with the occupation. A meeting with the minister, referred to by the title "Her Excellency", who sat behind an enormous, glittering desk accompanied by an entourage of some half-a-dozen minions, was like an audience with royalty — clueless and out of touch. Meanwhile, life for a majority of the women and girls in Afghanistan is one of desperate suffering under extreme forms of oppression.
Gender equality can only be meaningful when the cause is championed by a politically independent movement of women. This is the hard-learned lesson of the international women's movement, the militant sections of which have campaigned for the autonomy and independence of the movement since its inception. The cause of gender equality that aligns itself with the imperialist occupation, whether clothed in development or some other pseudo-democratic rhetoric, is bound to harm the interests of the majority of women in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. And, as the situation in Afghanistan indicates, it's a failing strategy.
Zapatista Women: “We Are What Holds the Community Together”
By Ginna Villarreal
December 31 2006, Oventic, Chiapas: “As a woman and as an indigenous person I have much to learn and much to teach.” These are the words of Zapatista Comandanta Sandra when she opened the session dedicated to speaking about the struggles of women within the struggle for all people. For Zapatista communities, and other indigenous communities already involved in external struggles, their internal struggles can sometimes be overlooked. On this occasion the people of the world were invited to listen to these women’s stories, their resistances and their triumphs.
The table is lined with the ski-mask-covered faces of the women of the Zapatista movement. Their expressive eyes emphasize the words they speak. These women represent a movement to free the indigenous people of Chiapas from discrimination with dignity and respect. They also represent a struggle for the dignity and respect of women in those same communities, and though there are many there are still few who have a voice. Gathered at the table are women civilians and insurgents both. They are members of the five Caracols and work in all areas of government, they are promoters of health and education. They are also insurgents and commanders of the army EZLN. Today they use their voices to speak for the many other women who demand their rights and recognition.
Women’s work and women’s presences are often dismissed and devalued. The work of this gathering was, in part, to acknowledge that much of the production and reproduction of the home, family, and therefore of the community is the work of women. ‘We work at the ranch, we work the cafe, the cornfield, the collectives, and the bakeries,” says one.
A letter from the women of the Caracol (the Zapatista term for autonomous municipal seat) of Roberto Barrios details the daily work-day in the communities: “We rise at three or four in the morning, to start the fires to feed the family, to make the coffee for breakfast for our husbands and sons … Later we work the corn to feed the animals. We wake the children and give them breakfast and prepare them for school.”
Washing, cleaning, preparing food, and feeding are all tasks completed before noon. It is only after all have eaten the afternoon meal that the women have a few free moments for themselves to shower, only to come back home to begin to prepare the evening meal. This is the life of a woman from the country of indigenous communities. In the words of one of the women represented by the letter, “we are what hold the community together.”
Despite the long list of responsibilities that is the work of women, there is still an overwhelming lack of respect for the labor and needs of women in indigenous communities. The assembly expressed the ongoing struggle for the space of women in their communities. One of the barriers to women’s balanced position in their communities mentioned by the representatives was a lack of public visibility and public performances. “We staying in the house because we have to work and we work alone. When we work [in public positions] they laugh at us, but there are those of us that have fought despite all.” Thought there is still lack of representation of women’s voices in public positions and cargos, these women are the strength of a movement that by its own principles calls for the true participation for all, by all and in all parts of the society.
Like most discussions of women’s position in the EZLN and its civil communities, at this table and at other meetings of the New Year gathering in Oventic, the work and leadership of Comandante Ramona was sited as an illustration of what women can achieve within the movement. She has inspired so many other women: Zapatista, non-zapatista, indigenous and non-indigenous. As one of the movement’s most important figures, this small in stature Tzotsil woman was known and respected throughout the nation and the world before and since her death in January 2006. As an insurgent fighter she lead the battle in which, on December 31, 1993, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials) took the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. As a diplomat, Ramona was one of the principle drafters for the EZLN’s Women’s Law. She later lead the 1996 delegation to Mexico City for peace talks and co-founded the Indigenous National Congress. The power of this woman and the legacy of her work is felt at meetings such as these, where the cry rallies “viva Ramona, viva.” As a testament to the international appeal of her work, a representative from Kurdistan spoke of a solidarity bridge being built in her name.
Women like Ramona, and the numerous others that have taken on the struggle for women’s place alongside men in the struggles for their communities and families. They have opened up spaces for women in these communities. Magdalena and Elena from the Caracol II, in Oventic, speak of the gains made through the collective workings of the Zapatistas. “In our zone before the Zapatista struggle things were different. We had no right to decide who we married. And when we married we were mistreated, beaten and humiliated by our husbands, and more when they were drunk. But we can not blame our grandparents, this is the legacy that was left to us by 500 years of conquest.” Instead of normalizing women’s suffering, or against casting blame, these women have taking to searching out where their marginalization comes from and where it gets demonstrated. Importantly, they also celebrate their rightful accomplishments in all sectors of the community.
For women in these communities the opening of cooperatives has been one of the ways that they have taken to reorganizing for themselves. One of the main sources of income for many families is the artistry of women’s weaving. A quick walk through downtown San Cristóbal and other highland Chiapas towns and one is sure to be flooded by the colors and textures of the textiles produced by women’s hands. For many women the work is done among a multitude of other tasks, and comes from hours of dedication to detail. Though the work is as valuable and beautiful as the culture that makes it, there is much exploitation of women’s labor by charging for piecework or work on contract. These women’s cooperatives have reclaimed the right decided for themselves, the way they work, and the wage they earn for it. The organization is by and for the women. As such new programs following the structure and success of the artist cooperatives have been started with animal, horticulture, and bakeries, and collective stores.
On one side these cooperatives are a way for women to reclaim the right to control their own means of production. It is important, however, to realize that the creation of these collectives, though they place the fruits of labor back in the hands that produce, and encourage the public life of indigenous women, is also a reminder of how women are yet again asked to add extra work to their day to maintain the family. Where the family was once able to provide for themselves what they needed, now added income is needed to provide for even the basics. These projects also serve as a reminder that capitalism has struck again at the fabric of a culture. Where once the women wove for themselves now they sell their weaving and commercialize their labor.
Magdalena and Elena, representatives from the highlands of Chiapas of Caracol II, Oventic, where the gathering was hosted, remind us in their own words that “with this participation by women, we demonstrate our value and our anger at the evil government, and against the injustices…”
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The US government should account for all the missing detainees once held by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the Prez.
At the same time, the group released a 50-page report, “Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention,” which contains a detailed description of a secret CIA prison from a Palestinian former detainee who was released from custody last year.
Last year, the president admitted the existence of the secret prisons for the first time when he revealed 14 detainees had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, but said the centres had now all closed and the prisoners were all accounted for.
The following comes from the site Afro American Newspapers.
Groups says dozens missing from CIA prisons
By Leonard Sparks
AFRO Staff Writer
Nearly six months after President Bush announced that the last of detainees held in secret overseas prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, a human rights organization said dozens of people who may have been held in those prisons are still missing.
Human Rights Watch said the whereabouts of 16 people that it believes were imprisoned and 22 others that may have been imprisoned are still unknown.
In a letter to the president, the New York-based organization called for the release of information about the whereabouts of those missing people.
"President Bush told us that the last 14 CIA prisoners were sent to Guantanamo, but there are many other prisoners 'disappeared' by the CIA whose fate is still unknown," said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. "The question is, what happened to these people and where are they now?"
The network of prisons—believed to be spread around Afghanistan and Eastern Europe—was first revealed in a series of Washington Post articles in November 2005. During a televised speech last September, the president acknowledged the existence of the program. Bush said the prisons contained a "small number of terrorist leaders and operatives." The president said interrogation procedures were vetted by the Department of Justice and said the "procedures were tough and they were safe, and lawful and necessary."
Human Rights Watch said it was concerned that some prisoners may have been transferred to foreign facilities—where they continue under CIA control—or transferred to other countries where they face torture.
"The Bush administration needs to provide a full accounting of everyone who was 'disappeared' into CIA prisons, including their names, locations and when they left U.S. custody," Mariner said.
Human Rights Watch also released a 50-page report that includes an interview with Marwan Jabour, a Palestinian held for two years in one of the prisons.
Jabour said he was arrested in May 2004 in Pakistan and held for a month in a secret detention facility in Islamabad, the country's capital.
He said he was then flown to what he believes was Afghanistan, where he endured torture, sleep deprivation, and was shackled naked to a wall.
Jabour said his American interrogators threatened to put him in a "dog box," a 3-foot-by-3-foot wooden box.
"They said that KSM [suspected terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] had spent some time in the dog box and then he talked. They kept threatening me: 'We could do this to you.'"
As another form of punishment, Jabour said, interrogators would often shackle his hands to his ankles and then to the floor, leaving him in that position for a half hour to an hour.
"At times it was difficult to breathe," he said.
Jabour said he was told he was being released on July 30, 2006. Flown to Jordan, he was eventually transferred to Israel and then reunited with his family.
His attorneys Peter Goldberger, James Klimaski, and J.E. McNeil have written:
A medic in the U.S. Army, Aguayo was decorated for his service under combat conditions during his first tour in Iraq. In February 2004 he applied for an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. In early 2006, despite favorable recommendations by the officer who investigated his case and other officers who know him best, Aguayo's conscientious objector application was turned down by the Secretary of the Army.
Agustin, a 34-year-old U.S. citizen who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, himself has explained that he was not anti-war when he enlisted in 2002. But his military experiences changed him.
"I never intended to cause any disruption," Aguayo told the military judge hearing his case. "I always tried to do the best I could. I sincerely believe I am a conscientious objector. My life reflects that and it's what I have become at the very core of myself."
A statement released yesterday in New York by Amnesty International read:
Agustín Aguayo is a legitimate conscientious objector who should not be imprisoned for his beliefs, Amnesty International said today after Aguayo, a U.S. Army medic, was sentenced by U.S. court martial to eight months in prison for his refusal to participate in the war in Iraq. The organization considers Aguayo to be a "prisoner of conscience" and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
"Refusing military service for reasons of conscience isn't a luxury -- it's a right protected under international human rights law," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Agustín Aguayo wasn't just complaining about his assignment -- he clearly made the case that he objects to war itself. He should be released."
It is evident from the statements made by Aguayo and members of his family that he is a legitimate conscientious objector whose opposition to war developed over the course of time and evolved further in response to his experiences in Iraq. Amnesty International believes that he took reasonable steps to secure release from the army through applying for conscientious objector status.
The following story comes from Deutsche Welle.
Soldiers need to prove an absolute objection to war to receive conscientious objector status
As an American is convicted of desertion on Tuesday for his attempts to leave the army, organizations in Germany that counsel soldiers on how they can avoid being sent to war said they've been flooded with inquires.
A US military judge has found an army medic who refused to return to Iraq with his unit guilty of desertion. He was sentenced on Tuesday to eight months in jail.
A US military court also ruled that Mexican-born combat medic Agustin Aguayo, who has already spent 161 days behind bars, should forfeit paid allowances and be given a bad conduct discharge. His rank would also be reduced to the lowest grade.
35-year-old Aguayo had pleaded guilty to going absent without leave and missing his deployment, but denied charges of full desertion. Colonel Peter Masterton, the military judge at the court-marital in Würzburg, Germany, sided with prosecutors, though, in finding him guilty of the more severe charge of desertion.
Aguayo lost an appeal for a military discharge as a conscientious objector after returning from a one-year tour in Iraq in 2004. Aguayo, stationed in the German city of Schweinfurt, proceeded to sneak out a bathroom window in September to avoid being sent back to Iraq for a second deployment.
He was absent without leave for 24 days before he turned himself in at an army training center in California. He was then sent back to Würzburg to await trial.
Increase in conscientious objection inquires
While it was Aguayo in the dock on Tuesday, many more of the 65,000 US soldiers in Germany are also looking for ways to leave the military, especially in the wake of US President George W. Bush's January call for an increase in troop strength in Iraq, according to Tim Huber of the Military Counseling Network, which is based near a concentration of US bases in Germany.
"Usually we average one call with interest in the conscientious objection discharge per month," Huber said. "After Bush's speech in January we experienced a surge of about five times that number."
The calls are also coming from a wider range of troops than usual, he said, adding that while inquires mainly originated from low-ranking soldiers, the organization was beginning to hear from soldiers who tend to have spent between five and seven years in the military.
"The displeasure with the war and how that can affect your look at all war and transform a solider into someone who no longer want to be a part of that is beginning to seep through some higher ranks," said Huber, adding that he had been contacted by sergeants and staff sergeants. "We are obviously pleased with that and we are going to do everything we can to help those people."
Others ways out of military
But because the trials occur on US bases, and thus American territory, there is little actual help the German-based groups can give soldiers once courts-martial begin. Huber added that receiving conscientious objection status by proving opposition to all wars is difficult but not the only way to leave the military.
In addition to finding grounds for a medical discharge -- often because of post-traumatic stress disorder -- troops can also be discharged for being caught taking drugs, driving drunk, committing assault or claiming to be homosexual.
"There is also the AWOL option, going absent without leave," Huber said, adding that while his organization does not encourage this behavior, it does tell soldiers what could happen if they leave without official permission.
Drop in AWOL cases
While it does not keep central statistics on desertion, a US Department of Defense spokesperson told reporters some 8,000 soldiers have been on unauthorized leave since the Iraq war began in March 2003. About 3,500 of the cases occurred in 2005; there were about 8,000 cases of desertion in 2001.
Aguayo enlisted in 2002 -- after the US had begun military action in Afghanistan but before the Iraq war -- to save money for his education. He approached the Military Counseling Network in 2004, just after he applied for conscientious objection status.
Aguayo's appeal rejected
In the months leading up to his first deployment to Iraq, Aguayo came to view himself as a conscientious objector, his wife told Stars and Stripes, an American military newspaper. He applied for conscientious objector status in early 2004 and served with his unit in Iraq -- though he refused to load his weapons -- while waiting for his request to be processed.
Aguayo knew there were other ways to be leave the army, said Huber, adding that Aguayo's objection to war was sincere and that he only decided to go AWOL when his appeal was turned down and he was threatened with being forcibly returned to Iraq for his second tour.
"He had been trying so hard to follow the system, filing all these appeals, filing for conscientious objection discharge -- just always doing everything and just being ignored," Huber said.
Tacoma Protesters Target ICE Prison
Melt ICE! Peaceful Protest and Vigil for Human Rights
1-4pm, Saturday, March 10
Northwest Detention Center
1623 East J Street – Tacoma , WA
Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) continues to terrorize immigrant communities in Washington State and across the country with increasingly militaristic raids, covert detention in for-profit facilities, and expedited deportations.
Immigrants are not terrorists! The recent raids at the UPS plants in Auburn make it clear that enforcement-only policies do not represent our communities’ respect for dignity and human rights. And at our last vigil, the Washington Minutemen showed up to intimidate visiting families and friends during visiting hours. Please join Community to Community and Hate Free Zone of Seattle in honoring the legacy and birthday of Cesar Chavez this month by standing in solidarity with hard-working immigrant families from across the state. Let’s show ICE and the racist Minuteman movement that Washington stands for justice and human rights.
For more information, call 360.752.3344 or send an email to email@example.com.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
NOVARTIS VERSUS INDIA, HEARING POSTPONED
The hearing at the high court of Chennai involving the Swiss Pharmaceutical company Novartis against the Indian government has been postponed to March 26. The trial has drawn attention because of the important consequences the ruling could have on the production of generic drugs, which India supplies in large quantities to developing countries. Novartis has appealed a decision by the Indian patent office to reject the renewal of the patent for Glivec, an anti-Leukemia drug that it claims to have improved. But according to the recent Indian patent law, the renewal would ensure the company’s rights over the drug for a further 20 years and it can only be given in cases where the drug has been fundamentally altered for the better or in case of new therapeutic applications. The patent cannot be given for ‘banal improvements’ as seems to be the case for Glivec. Novartis claims that patents should be renewed for ‘gradual innovations’ also. “What concerns us the most - said Claudia Bannella, spokesperson for Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) – is that Norvatis, is not only challenging the decision over the drug in question, it is challenging the entire side of Indian law that pursues a balance between the rights of companies and those of patients and that it contravenes the international accords on intellectuals property (TRIPS) at the WTO. MSF disagrees. It says Indian Law is in line with clauses and concerning international drug sales and rules from the WTO. “While, other norms, EU ones also, authorize patent renewals for minimal changes, distancing the moment of low cost generic drug production - said Bannella - India was the first country to adopt a substantial filter. Should Novartis win its case, it would prevent the Indian example to repeat itself elsewhere”. Before adopting a patent law as required by the WTO, India freely produced generic drugs certified by the WHO, which were largely used in developing countries, especially in fighting such diseases as AIDS. MSF has appealed to Novartis shareholders, who were meeting in Basel on Tuesday, such that the company drops its lawsuit against the government of India. MSF has issued an international petition signed by 350,000 people.
Many of the demonstrators were from the Blitz organization in Oslo, a counterpart to the youth facility that started being demolished this week.
Scores of leftist activists from Norway, Sweden and Germany have been arrested in the Danish clashes.
The following is from MWC News.
Danish squat protest moves to Oslo
Demolition work began on a youth centre at the heart of violent street clashes between demonstrators and police in Copenhagen last week, sparking protests in Norway.
Around 150 demonstraitors gathered at the Danish embassy in Oslo to protest at the demolition, throwing stones and paint before police fired tear gas to disperse them.
One policeman was hurt in the clashes in Norway but no arrests were made according to public broadcaster NRK.
Around 50 activists briefly occupied the Danish consulate in Bergen, using a computer there to print out a statement, before leaving when police arrived, local media reports said.
Vandals also hit the Danish consulate in Kristiansand on the south coast with graffiti, Norwegian news agency NTB reported.
Copenhagen itself was mainly calm. Police had fought street battles with hundreds of youths last week after squatters were evicted from the youth centre in the working class Norrebro district.
Per Larsen, a Copenhagen police spokesman, said: "We hope they will show their frustration only vocally, but we are out there on the streets, taking no chances"
Workers wore face masks under their helmets to conceal their identities as a wrecking ball slammed into the centre, a graffiti-sprayed brick building in the Noerrebro district of the Danish capital.
The so-called Youth House served as a popular cultural centre for anarchists, punk rockers and left-wing groups for years.
The squatters considered it free public housing, but the courts ordered them out in August 2006 after the city sold the building to a Christian congregation.
During the demolition, youths banged on drums and yelled obscenities at police who had cordoned off the area around the building. Others hugged and cried.
One 21-year-old resident said: "They are breaking my heart. I cannot stand it."
She refused to give her last name, saying that was the norm among the people frequenting the building.
About 30 police officers blocked youths from entering the demolition site, while dozens more watched the situation from police vans.
Those arrested in the street clashes included foreign activists from Sweden, Norway, Germany and the US, police said.
More than 200 were taken into custody, while 15 were released. Others were still awaiting court hearings.
The riots were Denmark's worst since May 18, 1993, when police fired into a crowd of rioters protesting against the outcome of an EU referendum. Ten of the protesters were wounded.
Their “crime” was to stage a gathering “against the country’s security.” Sunday morning, a large number of women gathered in front of the Court house to protest against the trial of five other women's rights campaigners. The police attacked the demonstrators and arrested 36 women.
The names of the arrested Sunday are as follows:
Asyeh Amini, Jilla Bani-Yagoob, Mahboobeh Abasgoli-zade, Mahboobeh Hossein-Zade, Sara Logmani, Zara Amjadian, Maryam Hossein-zade, Jelveh Javaheri, Niloofar Golkar, Parastoo Dokohaki, Zeynab Paygambar-zade, Maryam Mirza, Sagar Legabi, Khadijeh Mogadam, Sagi Legayee, Nahid Keshavarz, Mahnaz Mohamadi, Nasrin Afzali, Talaat Tagi-Nyaz, Fakhri Shadfar, Maryam Shadfar, Elnaz Ansari, Fatemeh Govarayee, Azade Fergani, Samyeh Farid, Minoo Mortazi, Sara Imanian, Nahid Jafari, Susan Tahmasbi, Parvin Ardalan, Nooshin Ahmadi-Khorasani, and Shahla Entesari. Shadi Sadr and the solicitor of Shahla Entesari.
According to ZNet only two days earlier, the women had published an open letter asserting their rights to the freedom of peaceful assembly that are afforded them by the Islamic Republic's constitutional laws:
"International Women's Day is soon upon us as our nation endures a grave period. The internal policies of domination, duress and an ineffectual foreign policy - with an insistence on pursuing a nuclear energy program - when we have lost the confidence and trust of the world; as the confrontational issues and the continuous warmongering policies of the United States and its allies around the world with the pretext of exporting democracy and human right through sanctions and military attack has presented us with a mounting predicament. On one side - with the absence of a democratic structure - we witness decisions being made on our behalf without our presence or the presence of our legitimate leaders. While at the other end we feel the circle of the siege around us increasingly tighten as we are threatened with sanctions and the nightmare of war[…]
[…][W]e announce our protest against all paternalistic policies, whether they be in the name of dishonest interpretations of Islam or with the pretext of human rights and democracy and we believe what the world community should insist upon debates on democracy and human rights and not nuclear energy, and all within peaceful diplomatic dialogue, not war and destruction[…]
[…]Despite all the pressures and obstacles the Iranian women's movement in now within its most enduring and active periods in recent history."
Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General said of Sunday's arrests:
"Rather than arresting peaceful demonstrators, the Iranian authorities should be taking seriously women's demands for equality before the law and addressing discrimination against women wherever it exists in the Iranian legal system. We worry that the women detained yesterday may be kept in detention until after 8 March, a day on which they were planning to campaign for their internationally recognized right to equality."
The following article comes from AKI (Italy)
IRAN: JAILED WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS ON HUNGER STRIKE
Tehran, 6 March (AKI) - All the women arrested on Sunday as they were staging a rally in front of a court house in Tehran are on hunger strike in the Evin jail where they are currently detained. Authorities said Tuesday that the women's rights activists arrested are 33. Unofficial reports had suggested that the younger activists in the group would be released on Tuesday but so far none of them has been allowed to leave Tehran's Evin prison.
The protesters were staging a demonstration in support of five women on trial for organising a rally in June last year against laws they say discriminate against women.
Their attorney Nasrin Sotudeh said the women, whom he says were violently beaten on their arrest, are likely to be charged with subversive activities and taking part in an illegal rally though they have not yet been formally accused of anything.
"In the Islamic Republic, fighting for equal gender rights is considered a subversive act threatening national security," the lawyer told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Monday.
Meanwhile all students' associations in Iran have been notified by university authorities that they will not be allowed to organise any rally or university meeting before 8 March on feminism or women's rights.
The five on trial organised a demonstration on 12 June last year which was violently broken up by the police and led to the arrest of 70 people, many of whom were reportedly innocent bystanders.
The aim of the activists was to protest against Islamic laws on polygamy and child custody they say discriminate against women.
When the five women defendants left the court building on Sunday they were reportedly arrested again, along with their lawyer.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Tomorrow MADRE promises to release the full version of a report on gender based violence in Iraq. Below you can read the executive summary and information concerning the presentation of the full report.
The following is from MADRE.
MADRE to Release Report on Gender-Based Violence in Iraq
On March 6, 2007, MADRE will release Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq, a groundbreaking report on the incidence, causes, and legalization of gender-based violence in Iraq since the US-led invasion. The report documents the use of gender-based violence by Islamists seeking to establish a theocratic state, and by the US in its efforts to appease Islamists and enforce its occupation.
Please join us for the release of the report on March 6th during the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Copies of the report will be available at the event, and thereafter on MADRE's website.
Confronting Gender-Based Violence in Iraq
DATE: Tuesday March 6th, 2007
LOCATION: United Nations Church Center, 10th floor
777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
Yifat Susskind, MADRE
Houzan Mahmoud, Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq
Jennie Green, Center for Constitutional Rights
Frida Berrigan, Arms Trade Resource Center (World Policy Institute)
Sponsored by MADRE, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, and the Arms Trade Resource Center (World Policy Institute)
Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy:
Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq
The term "Islamist" in this report refers to those who pursue a reactionary social and political vision in the name of Islam, as distinct from "Islamic" relating to the religion of Islam.
Amidst the chaos and violence of US-occupied Iraq, the significance of widespread gender-based violence has been largely overlooked. Yet, Iraqi women are enduring unprecedented levels of assault in the public sphere, "honor killings," torture in detention, and other forms of gender-based violence. Women are not only being targeted because they are members of the civilian population. Women—in particular those who are perceived to pose a challenge to the political project of their attackers—have increasingly been targeted because they are women. This report documents the use of gender-based violence by Iraqi Islamists, brought to power by the US overthrow of Iraq's secular Ba'ath regime, and highlights the role of the United States in fomenting the human rights crisis confronting Iraqi women today. Some key points include:
Imposing Theocracy through Gender-Based Violence
Under US occupation, Iraqi women have endured a wave of gender-based violence, including widespread abductions, public beatings, death threats, sexual assaults, "honor killings," domestic abuse, torture in detention, beheadings, shootings, and public hangings. Much of this violence is systematic—directed by the Islamist militias that mushroomed across Iraq after the US toppled the mostly secular Ba'ath regime.
Like religious fundamentalists in the US and elsewhere, Iraq's Islamists see the subordination of women as a top priority—both a microcosm and a precondition of the social order they wish to establish. As in Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan, a campaign of violence against women was the first salvo in the Islamists' war to establish a theocracy in Iraq.
First They Came for the Women
Attacks on women began within weeks of the US invasion in 2003. US authorities did nothing to stop the violence, and soon the attacks spread. Within a year, Islamists were killing Iraqi artists, intellectuals, professionals, ethnic and religious minorities, lesbians and gays—indeed, anyone whom the Islamists perceived as a threat to their agenda. Women, who are seen as the carriers of group identity, have remained in the cross-hairs of Iraq's warring sectarian militias. Iraqi women's organizations report that militias "are taking revenge on each other by raping women," and targeting Christian women with rape and assassination as part of a broader attack on that community.
Iraq's War on Women: Made in the USA
Women have been systematically attacked by theocratic militias on both sides of the sectarian divide, but the most widespread violence has been committed by the Shiite militias affiliated with the US-backed government—the Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army. These groups have waged their campaign of terror against women with weapons, training, and money provided by the US under a policy called the "Salvador Option."
Gender War, Civil War
Neither the mainstream press, the alternative media, nor the anti-war movement has identified the connections between the attack on Iraqi women and the spiraling violence that has culminated in civil war. But violence against women is not incidental to Iraq's mounting civilian death toll and civil war—it is a key to understanding the wider crisis. Indeed, the twin crises plaguing Iraqi civilians—gender based violence and civil war—are deeply intertwined. For example, in the legal arena, the same provisions of the US-brokered constitution that codify gender discrimination (Articles 39 and 41) also lay the groundwork for sectarian violence: these articles establish separate laws on the basis of sex and religious affiliation.
Democracy and Women's Rights: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Although most assaults on women occur in public, violence against Iraqi women continues to be perceived mainly as a "private" or family matter, somehow outside the realm of "politics." Moreover, the characterization of violence against Iraqi women as "cultural" in nature deemphasizes the ways that such violence is used as a means toward political ends and obscures the role of the United States in fomenting gender-based violence.
Contrary to its rhetoric and its legal obligations under the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Bush Administration has refused to protect women's human rights in Iraq. In fact, it has decisively traded women's rights for cooperation from the Islamists whom it boosted to power.
A re-telling of the Iraq War from the perspective of Iraqi women illuminates the strong links between women's human rights and democratic rights in general and the Bush Administration's clear contempt for both.
By Yifat Susskind, Communications Director
Report will be available on MADRE's website as of March 6, 2007
Experience gained in combating the Gypsy nuisance, and knowledge derived from race-biological research, have shown that the proper method of attacking the Gypsy problem seems to be to treat it as a matter of race. Experience shows that part-Gypsies play the greatest role in Gypsy criminality. On the other hand, it has been shown that efforts to make the Gypsies settle have been unsuccessful, especially in -the case of pure Gypsies, on account of their strong compulsion to wander. It has therefore become necessary to distinguish between pure and part-Gypsies in the final solution of the Gypsy question.
---From Himmler's Circular of Dec. 8, 1938: "Combatting The Gypsy Nuisance"
Roma were the only other population besides the Jews who were targeted for extermination on racial grounds in the Final Solution. Determining the percentage or number of Roma who died in the Holocaust is not easy. Much of the Nazi documentation still remains to be analyzed, and many murders were not recorded, since they took place in the fields and forests where Roma were apprehended.
The Sinti and Roma of Germany were systematically placed into municipal camps and subjected to forced labor in 1935. Gypsy camps, or Zigeunerlager, usually located on the outskirts of cities, were guarded by the SS and were centers for sterilization and forced labor. These evolved into assembly centers for the systematic deportation to concentration camps.
Between June 12th and June 18th 1938, Gypsy Clean-Up Week took place throughout Germany which, like Kristallnacht for the Jewish people that same year, marked the beginning of the end.
By the end of the war, between 70% and 80% of the Romani population had been killed by Nazis. Yet Romani were conspicuously absent at the war crimes trials after the war.
The extermination attempts of the Roma in the Czech protectorate by the Nazis is one of the underreported features of WWII. One of the reasons given for that is that the Roma concentration camp near Pilsen was mostly staffed by Czechs. To add insult to injury there is now a pig farm on the site which the Czech government has so far failed to relocate.
The following is from Romea.cz.
Activists want to compensate more Czech Romany Holocaust victims
Ten Romany activists want to re-open the issue of compensation to Czech Romanies who were persecuted during WW2 on racial grounds and had to hide, since the state has not compensated all of them, Cenek Ruzicka, head of the Committee for Compensating the Romany Holocaust Victims, told CTK today.
The Romanies have sent their statement to Czech PM Mirek Topolanek, the chairmen of the parliamentary parties and the Government Council for Romany Issues.
Ten renowned Romany activists, who met in Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia, on Saturday, say in their statement that the government does not promote Romany integration, and that Romanies themselves want to help improve the situation of their minority.
The text was signed, among others, by Ruzicka, Karel Holomek from the Romanies' Association in Moravia, Ladislav Bily from the Board of Romany Regional Representatives and Ondrej Gina who represents Czech Romanies in the European Roma Forum.
The statement also mentions the pig farm on the premises of the wartime internment camps for Czech Romanies in Lety, south Bohemia.
According to historical documents, some 1,308 Romanies were deported to Lety during WW2, while 326 people perished there and more than 500 of its inmates ended up in the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
A similar internment was also in Hodonin u Kunstatu, south Moravia, where 207 prisoners died and 800 were sent to Auschwitz. At present there is a recreational facility at the same place.
"The Romany Holocaust is unfortunately not perceived properly in society, the state and governmental institutions, and consequently concrete steps to redress the wrongs have not been taken," says the statement.
According to activists, the law enabling compensation to Romany Holocaust victims determines too strict criteria. Romanies must for instance prove that they were in hiding for at least three months during WW2, Ruzicka said, adding that the law does not reckon with the fact that a number of elderly Romanies are illiterate.
A couple of years ago some 8,000 Romanies asked for compensation for wartime sufferings, but only some 300 received it, Ruzicka recalled.
"If the proceedings were just, some 30 percent of the applicants should have been compensated," Ruzicka claims.
Romany activists have also agreed on concrete steps to improve the situation of the Romany community in the Czech Republic. They insist of Romany representatives working in a new agency to prevent the existence of Romany ghettos.
According to an analysis, there are some 300 such deprived localities with predominant Romany population where up to 80,000 people live in the Czech Republic.
According to official estimates, there are 200,000 Romanies in the 10-million Czech Republic, however Czech Romanies put the total number of Romanies in the country at about 300,000. Nevertheless during the latest census in 2001, only 11,746 inhabitants claimed to have Romany nationality.
The activists held banners "Russia Without Putin," "We Are for Justice" and "Take Elections Back."
Protest leaders said they were staging a “march of the discontented” to resist what they called the Kremlin’s tightening grip on power and to demand a fair presidential election next year.They called for the ousting of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of the president, accusing her of corruption and incompetence.
The coalition called "The Other Russia" a main organizer of the protest is composed of groups that would normally be at political odds--democrats, nationalists, socialists. At a recent conference of the group in attendence according to the Moscow Times were "...ultranationalist Eduard Limonov, head of the National Bolshevik Party; Viktor Anpilov, head of the Working Russia party and an open admirer of Josef Stalin; and liberal leaders such as former presidential candidate Irina Khakamada and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, among many others."
In fact, it seems all the group agrees on is that they don't like Putin. That is not enough to know whether they deserve support or not. Some of those involved are certainly "no friends of mine." There look to be too many right wing nationalists floating around in this thing to me.
Anyway, I'll keep an eye out and I would love some real analysis of "The Other Russia" from someone who knows what they are talking about.
The following article is from Kommersant (Russia).
Those Who Disagree Marched in St. Petersburg
The opposition coalition of The Other Russia ultimately succeeded in St. Petersburg after the December failure in Moscow. Roughly 5,000 marched down the city’s main Nevsky Avenue in the March of the Discontented Saturday.
In St. Petersburg, The Discontented broke through cordons of the riot police and marched down the Nevsky Avenue of the home city of President Vladimir Putin. The slogans were: “It is our city!” and “Russia without Putin, St. Petersburg without Matvienko!” More than 100 were beaten and detained during this public event of opposition, which the St. Petersburg authorities called “the provocation funded by Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky,” and to which the leaders of The Other Russia referred as the stunning success.
The authorities, which prohibited the march, did utmost to prevent the gathering. The police raided flats of the opposition activists and quite a few were pulled out of busses and trains heading for St. Petersburg from Petrozavodsk and Murmansk. Some unidentified hackers broke the web-sites informing about the event. In the city’s metro, they were constantly warning about destabilizing attempts to be taken during the extremist march.
But defying a police ban, a coalition of liberal opposition parties staged on Saturday what they called a March of the Discontented in St. Petersburg to protest at the Kremlin's tightening grip on power. At least 5,000 took part in the event instead of 2,000 promised by the opposition. They faced 3,000 officers of police and riot police summoned up from St. Petersburg, Karelia, Pskov and Vladimir.
As St. Petersburg authorities had duly prohibited the event, 113 participants faced the unsanctioned action charges. In general, the police started releasing the arrested after 5:00 p.m. Saturday. Three guards of Limonov got 15 days of administrative arrest. All Muscovites arrested during the march, including Limonov, were provided with detention protocols and would be put on trial in Moscow.
The trucks with the riot police could be seen in central St. Petersburg far into the night.
The March of the Discontented was staged by The Other Russia coalition uniting the People’s Democratic Union of Mikhail Kasyanov, United Civil Front of Garry Kasparov and National Bolsheviks of Eduard Limonov.