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Sozialverantwortlicher öffentlicher Einkauf in der Praxis

WEED - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 22:00
09.10.2018: In dieser Schulung an der VAK Berlin erfahren interessierte Beschaffungsverantwortliche wie sozialgerechter Einkauf praktisch umgesetzt werden kann.
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Make IT fair: Auftakt zur Fairen Woche in Hamburg

WEED - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 22:00
14.09.2018: WEED nimmt am 2. runden Tisch öffentliche Beschaffung in Hamburg teil: Freitag, 14.9., 10-12:30 Uhr
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WEED bei Tagung "Zwei Jahre Reform des Vergaberechts"

WEED - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 22:00
05.09.2018: Berlin, 5. September 2018, 10 Uhr bis 17.15 Uhr
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Israel's New Law is a Form of Apartheid

Alternatives International - Sun, 07/29/2018 - 16:58

International support for racism in historical Palestine is only going to add fuel to the fire

The Israeli nationality law is now a fact. Its full name is “Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people”. It states that Eretz Israel (historical Palestine) is the homeland of the Jewish people and that the state of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. Furthermore, only the Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. Hebrew is the only official language (until now Arabic was also an official language) and Arabic has a special status, which is undefined in the text of the law. The law defines future Jewish settlement, which some would call colonisation, in historical Eretz Israel (Israel and the occupied territories) as of supreme national value and vision. It grants religious and national communities the right to maintain a segregated habitat in the state (namely, the practice of having exclusive villages and towns for Jews). These are the main points of the new law.

A historical overview

A closer deconstruction of this document reveals why this law changes the nature of Israel and, more importantly, why it is ominous as far as the Palestinians are concerned. First, this law denies the fact that within the state of Israel, and indeed within what is called Eretz Israel, there are two national movements. This total denial of the Palestinians' right to Palestine as a future vision has to be seen in the wider context of the historical circumstances in which Israel was born in 1948. Zionism was a settler colonial movement and Israel is a settler state. This means that Jewish colonisation and the oppression of the Palestinians is on par with the European destruction of the native Americans or of the genocide of the aboriginals by the Australians. The difference is in the historical timing: the Zionist settler colonial project is an unfinished historical episode, as is the Palestinian resistance to it. The project has been quite successful: in 1948, Israeli ethnically cleansed half of Palestine's population and took over 78% of the land. The Palestinian minority left under its control was put under a harsh military rule on the basis of British colonialist practices.

This same regime was imposed later on the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which Israel occupied in 1967. After the 1967 war, Israel stretched over the whole of historical Palestine, but still ruled millions of Palestinians despite its “success” in turning millions of them into refugees over the years. The so-called peace process that ensued after 1967 from an Israeli point of view was meant to find the best way of having as much of historical Palestine with as few Palestinians in it as possible. This is not an easy task in our times as it had been during the days of colonialism and imperialism — partly because of international sensitivity about ethnic cleansing and mainly due to Palestinian steadfastness. Even the most forthcoming Palestinian leaders and movements could not accept the best solution that Israel had to offer for the tension between the Jewish state's territorial ambition and its demographic concerns. The two-state solution offered by some as a basis for peace is meant to allow Israel total territorial control over autonomous Palestinian Bantustans that could be called a state. The intentional community may support this formula, but Palestinians cannot and will not accept it.

Attempting a new approach

The nationality law in many ways is an attempt for a new approach. It is part of a strategy that was born out of the failure of the charade of two states offered by Israel and the search for a new method for implementing the settler state's vision. The architect of this strategy that can be called “unilateralism” is the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Its logic is that there is no need to negotiate with the Palestinians over the future, there is a need to decide what part of historical Palestine should be annexed to Israel and what parts can be ruled from the outside. The first step in 2006 was to enclave the Gaza Strip and take out the Jewish settlers from there (Sharon did not anticipate that Hamas would take over the evicted Strip, but nobody in Israel wants to go back and rule Gaza directly). The “unilateralists”, who are the vast majority of the Israeli policymakers today, do not wish to control directly the densely populated area A (the area designated under the Oslo Accord as being part of the Palestinian authority exclusive rule), which constitutes less than 40% of the West Bank. The rest of the 60% of the West Bank and pre-1967 Israel is now the Jewish state. Parts of it still have to be officially annexed to Israel, but this will probably happen in the near future.

The nationality law defines clearly how Israel will deal with the millions of Palestinians under its direct rule. They will be citizens who will be tolerated only if they deny their national identity and the historical narrative. Despite the fact that they are the original and indigenous inhabitants of this country, they will be officially second-rate citizens under an apartheid system that will not allow them to live in exclusive Jewish communities or have the same state benefits, access to land, and freedom of movement and association as the Jewish citizens. Thus, the limitation of freedom and rights articulated in the new nationality law are guiding future governments not only in their attitude towards those who are today Palestinian citizens of Israel, but also those who might find themselves under such a category when other Palestinian areas are annexed to Israel.

If any of these limitations, indeed if even one of them, had been imposed on Jewish citizens anywhere in the world, Israel and its supporters worldwide would have cried out that the worst kind of anti-Semitism had returned. Racism exists everywhere, of course, but institutionalised racism has been erased from almost everywhere in the world. The last triumphant battle against such racism took place in South Africa. It is no wonder that South Africa at the time of apartheid had strong and excellent ties with Israel.

The world must react

India recently strengthened its ties with Israel. The nationality law should remind Indian politicians who their new bedfellows are. For those of us who struggle for justice and equality in Palestine, India symbolised the way forward in its anti-colonialist liberation campaign and its resistance in being drawn into Cold War imperialist politics. Tolerating a new apartheid state in West Asia, with international and particularly Western immunity, will not help the Arab world get out of the horrific bloodshed that it experiences these days. Such international support for racism in historical Palestine is only going to add fuel to the fire that we are all trying to extinguish. The nature of that racism may have been hard to detect in the past or from a distance, but today it has unfolded in all its inhumanity and ugliness and anyone with a modicum of decency should not stand by it. The world has helped to abolish one kind of apartheid and it can do it again.

Ilan Pappe is a Professor of History, Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, U.K.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/israels-new-law-is-a-form-of-apartheid/article24513993.ece

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Pakistan's Most Rigged General Elections

Alternatives International - Sat, 07/28/2018 - 14:16

ON 26th July 2018, in his election victory speech, Imran Khan gave a sober talk contrary to his very violent language used throughout the election campaign. He has “won” 116 seat of the 342 seats National Assembly of which 278 seats are contested directly on First Past The Post (FPTP) system. He is short of the 137 seats needed for the majority in the parliament. However, there are plenty of parliamentarians elected as “independents” who would either join his party or would vote for him.

Demonstrations in several cities are taking place against the post poll rigging. The majority of several dozen candidates has been turned into minority votes overnight by “unknown hands” These unknowns: are known to everyone but if you write with the right name, you may disappear for this crime. Almost all the commercial media is under control by these “unknowns”.

The media is instructed on daily basis by these “unknowns”, all this to get a favorable mandate for their loved one “The great Imran Khan” who once was captain of the most popular game, the cricket, and won a world cup for Pakistan in 1992. Imran Khan is a conservative politician who had developed in recent years his magic love for the army generals and is keeping a kind heart for religious fanatics.

This was the most rigged elections in the history of Pakistan. From Pre poll period until today on 28th July, all efforts are made that Imran Khan gets a simple majority. Prior to the elections, there were consistent attacks on Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the ruling party, by the judiciary on the name of accountability.

The PMLN has fallen apart from the military and judicial establishment on mainly two issues. The most important was the supremacy of civilians over the military. The second was the relationship with India. PMLN wanted more trade with India and no war.

Mian Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and a right wing politician, has to pay a heavy price for his insistence that as PM, he rules Pakistan and not the army. He was ousted by the Supreme Court, disqualified for life and now serving a ten years sentence along with his daughter at a Rawalpindi jail.

When the dates of the elections was announced, the media portrayed Imran Khan as the cleanest politician with a plan to curtail corruption. His main election slogans were “change” and “a new Pakistan”. Billions of rupees were spent on advertising by his billionaires party men. The richest always smells the changing directions of power and they accordingly change their political affiliations. Most of these are called “electable”, a politician who could spend billions on elections and buy votes. Imran Khan Party, Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (Justice Movement), saw an influx of these “electable” who changed their party from PNLN to PTI without a hint of shame. They always did the same at the election times.

When PMLN gave tickets (nominations) to their probable candidates, phone calls were made by these “unknowns” to those nominated and were asked to return the tickets at the eleventh hour and contest elections as independent. Those who refused were beaten up physically in their offices and homes. Threats and intimidations worked and around 40 of those who were nominated by PMLN returned their tickets and announced to contest as independent.

During the election campaign, several PMLN nominees were arrested and some disqualified for life and sent to jail on pretext of corruption. All these measures gave a general impression that military and judicial establishment want Imran Khan to win the general elections at any cost. Imran Khan has already created a myth among the youth that we need a change and a corruption free government. There was a euphoria among a large section of youth in Pakistan that Imran Khan is not corrupt and that he needs “electable” to win an overall majority.

The two banned outfits of religious fanatics were allowed to contest elections by the Election Commission. The strategy was if the extreme right would contest elections, they will reduce the PMLN votes who were favored by these religious groups in the past. One religious group Tehreek Labaik became the third largest party in terms of fielding candidates all around Pakistan after PTI and PMLN.

Over 300,000 military men were deployed in all the polling stations with a judicial power to military officers on the “request” of the Election Commission to ensure a complete security. This was aided by the religious terrorists who carried out suicidal attacks on public meeting during election campaign killing hundreds including the candidates. In one unfortunate incident, over 150 were killed in Mastung district of Balochistan province including the candidate.

Most of the human rights groups in Pakistan including Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) criticized this gross pre poll rigging through press conferences and termed these extra ordinary measures to favor a certain political party.

On the Election Day, the polling went smoothly and military presence was at everywhere. However, the rigging work started after 10 pm, four hours after the counting started. Suddenly most of the results of the constituencies where the difference was between 1000-5000 were stopped. Then, there was an almost blackout of the counting, it remerged early in the morning, those winning elections at night time were losing and PTI candidates were always the winners.

The final results were delayed for over 72 hours, it never happened earlier.

The results showed PTI with 116 seats, PMLN 63 and PPP with 43 seats at the national parliament. PPP under the young leadership of Bilawel Bhutto improved from their previous devastating results of 28 seats. PPP kept control of Sindh assembly with more seats than they held previously, Khaiber Pukhton Khwa saw PTI “land slide”. In Punjab, PMLN kept it majority with a drastic reduction of seats and PTI now vowing to form the government in Punjab also with the help of the elected “independents”.

The two religious fanatic groups who contested got no national assembly seat but one of them Tehreek Labaik got two Sindh assembly seats. They did not do badly. In almost every constituency, they got from 1-10 percent of the votes and in some they got over 20 percent votes. This is quit alarming situation.

The Left contested almost 50 national and provincial seats from all over Pakistan. However, one Wazeer Ali from The Struggle group who is part of Left Democratic Front won a national assembly seat from former federally administered area called FATA. The area is dominated by religious fanatics. However Ali Wazeer comfortable majority of 16000 votes had given a new hope the forces of the Left in Pakistan. Ali Wazeer contested as independent candidate. He was leader of Pashtun Tahafaz Movement which has organized this year mass public rallies across Pakistan for compensation of those victims of “war on terror”.

In my home constituency of Toba Tek Singh, where I contested elections for Punjab Assembly in 2013 elections, AWP candidate Mohammed Zubair came on third position with 4586 votes leaving behind the candidates of the religious fanatic parties and Pakistan People's Party.. I did not take part in the elections as candidate because of health issues, however, campaigned for our candidate with two mass rallies in the constituency.

Almost all political parties except PTI has termed this general election as the most rigged. They have rejected the results. PTI who launched a three year long movement against the rigging during 2013 elections termed this election as the most free and fair in history of Pakistan, the only party to say so.

The new government is in the making. It is quite obvious that Imran Khan will become the new prime minister. This new government will be a weak one and would have to face a severe economic crisis. The designated finance minister of PTI has already hinted to turn to IMF for a new loan. One of the main issue that PTI campaigned was the massive foreign loans obtained during PMLN five years from China. Now they have no shame to say even before taking over power that they have to turn to IMF.

The government would try to improve the tax base in the initial period and that would bring them into contradiction with strong traders lobby who have no habit of paying taxes. Imran Khan hinted to have friendly relationship with India. This would not be done. With an open support of the army generals, it is out of question that there will be improved relationship between Pakistan and India.

Religious fundamentalism will grow in the next period as Imran Khan has already pledged to “negotiate” with Taliban and he had always a soft attitude towards religious fanatics. He has supported some known Madarasas associated with Taliban with state subsidies while he controlled KP government during 2013-18.

Although the opposition parties have announced agitation against the election results and have demanded fresh elections. However, they might not succeed in launching a successful agitation. Interesting times ahead.

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Welcome to “New” Pakistan!

Alternatives International - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 15:46

Before the elections, every political party (except PTI), every foreign newspaper and every independent journalist had concluded that The Aliens, Khalai Makhluk, Agriculture Department, Miltablishment, Whatever, had conclusively pre-rigged the elections in an unprecedented manner. A day after the elections, every political party (except PTI), every foreign newspaper and every independent journalist has confirmed the finding. Before the elections, the Miltablishment, Supreme Court and Media were on trial. After the elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan has joined them in the dock.

The ECP claims that “the Remote Transmission System (RTS) broke down, hence the announcement of results was delayed by a few hours.” Was the RTS deliberately glitched because the Agriculture Department panicked when the opposition began to weigh in and something had to be done to get things back on track? Even if it was an unforeseen breakdown, this does not explain why the polling agents were kicked out while the votes were being tabulated or why such lengthy delays ensued.

In the next year or so, we should expect scores of petitions to be filed wherever the margin of PTI's victory is less than 10,000 or thereabouts. Thousands of bags will be opened and hundreds of thousands of ballots recounted and thumbprints matched. Thousands of Form 45 will be scrutinized. But none of this huffing and puffing will bring Imran Khan's house down because he is protected and propped up by the Miltablishment.

Imran Khan will be Prime Minister, he will choose the next President of Pakistan and the PTI will rule in Islamabad, KP and possibly even in Punjab while mounting stiff opposition to the PPP in Sindh. Why was such a sweeping victory required of it? What should we expect in the new Pakistan?

To be fair, Imran Khan cannot be denied his fair share of the voter, especially among the new youth, urbanising white-collar middle-class and rich. His prospects became brighter after he started to enroll “electables” regardless of the colour of their money or character. Equally, the PMLN, whatever its self-righteous claims or principles, was well and truly on a suicidal path. But electoral engineering on such a large scale was still necessary to provide legitimacy for a constitutional and political overhaul. What's on the cards?

A State of Emergency could be imposed under the garb of financial necessity pinned to the alleged misdeeds of the previous regimes. The numbers in parliament will not be too difficult to get. Such an Emergency would restrict fundamental rights and pave the way for a witch hunt of political and media opponents in order to satisfy the bloodlust of the winners (IK has said he won't do that), protect them from any potential buffeting by a disgruntled opposition and detract criticism from unpopular policy decisions or incompetent and corrupt mismanagement. If that happens, we should expect NAB, FIA, FBR and IB to get hyper active after all state institutions are brought on the same page.

The constitution may also be targeted for amendment. The 18th Amendment, for starters, has become irksome because it shaves the federal pool — which is required to pay for increasing defense expenditures and pensions— by devolving financial resources to the provinces. A need may also be felt to reduce the size and strength of Punjab in the scheme of things, especially since the development of a critical fissure in the historical pro-Miltablishment character of the province. Plans remain on the anvil to carve it up into three or more “units” that are politically more “manageable”.

But the “new dream team” that is lining up to run the “new Pakistan” will not find it easy going. The economy needs more than a shot in the arm. Hard times are upon us and the very middle-classes and rich that have catapulted Imran Khan to office will have to pay the price of their convictions. The value of their rupee is going to fall, so their everyday needs will become expensive; they will have to pay more indirect taxes and duties; and IMF structural reforms will dampen infrastructural growth and employment. This will give grist to the opposition, media and judiciary to stand up and create hurdles in his path.

Admittedly, the Miltablishment has stitched up an extraordinary political dispensation in difficult times. But, unlike Nawaz, the person they have chosen to lead it is strong-willed and unpredictable. In fact, Nawaz was eminently pliant. Yet, after a while, he felt compelled, given the nature of power, to try and be his own man. But this was unacceptable and he had to pay the price for even thinking such rash thoughts. Imran Khan, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. He may have embraced the Miltablishment as a tactical move but sooner rather than later he will begin to challenge the conventional wisdom of the national security state handed down to him. That's when all bets will be off.

Meanwhile, let us not spoil their honeymoon with grudging digs and pin pricks.

Source: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/welcome-to-new-pakistan/

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Will Modi Stop India's Cow Terrorists From Killing Muslims?

Alternatives International - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 17:52

There is a repugnant euphemism that has entered the lexicon of Indian prime-time television lately. “Cow vigilantes” has become contemporary shorthand for murderous right-wing mobs who kill Muslims simply for being Muslim. They shelter behind the misleading respectability of the euphemism.

For us in the media to use the word “vigilantism” to describe hate crimes against India's Muslims is nothing more than the hideous normalization of bigotry.

The debate has been falsely posited as one about eating beef. (Cows are worshiped by millions of Indians, and many Indian states have banned cow slaughter.) The reality is that rumor, hearsay and prejudice are being used to assault Muslims, many of whom are cattle traders and shepherds or are linked to the dairy and leather business.

A few days ago, 28-year-old Rakbar Khan was killed in Alwar, in the western state of Rajasthan. His attackers accused him of being a cow smuggler.

His death brought home the truth we refuse to say out loud: India's state and its insitutions have become part of the mob.

Horrific details have emerged about how the police, who found the injured Khan lying in a pool of mud, reportedly took three hours to ferry him to a hospital, stopping instead to drop the cows off at a shelter. Then they allegedly took a break for tea while Khan bled to death. Some eyewitnesses say Khan, who was already reeling from his injuries, was also beaten by the cops. Either way, through their life-endangering callousness, the Rajasthan police have blood on their hands.

But if India is in danger of descending into a Muslim-hating mobocracy, it's not just because of the police force's violations and failures. Lawmakers and legislators, most of whom are from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are guilty of coming to the defense of the Muslim-murdering mobs.

Indeed, Gyandev Ahuja, the local BJP legislator from Alwar, reacted to Khan's death by defending the men accused of killing him. Khan's friend Aslam told the police that their attackers specifically named Ahuja, boasting about how no one could touch them because the legislator was on their side. Since then, Ahuja has tried to pin the full blame on the police and has disavowed all responsibility. He has shown this kind of impunity before. Last year, Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer in Alwar, was beaten to death by right-wing mobs who falsely accused him of smuggling cows. Then, too, Ahuja defended those accused, warning that “sinners” like Khan would meet this fate.

In case one thinks Ahuja is a fringe leader who can be ignored, let's talk about Indresh Kumar, a senior functionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP. His response to Rakbar Khan's killing was to put the onus on Muslims for their own safety. Stop eating beef, he declared, and the lynchings will stop on their own. His words were supported by Union Minister Giriraj Singh, a ministerial colleague in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's council. Another cabinet colleague of the prime minister, Jayant Sinha, the former India head of Omidyar Network, was photographed garlanding men who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for lynching a Muslim man. They were released on bail.

Why would Modi not take action against these leaders? Or at least reprimand them by name? If nothing else, one would imagine that a party blemished by the tag of being anti-Muslim would be jolted into doing some serious damage control.

Yes, Modi has more than once condemned the thuggish violence of the cow terrorists (albeit not always swiftly enough). But either his rebukes have been too gentle or his partisans are just ignoring him. Given that the prime minister is a strongman who rules the government and controls the party with an iron fist, it's tough to believe that an unequivocal message from him would be ignored.

So why isn't Modi doing more to reign in the cow terrorists — as well as those from his party who defend them? Unless the prime minister shows he means business, the support of BJP leaders will only continue to embolden the Muslim-hating mobs.

The data is especially embarrassing for a prime minister who has sought to showcase Indian soft power and civilizational multiculturalism on the global stage. Last year an analysis by research group IndiaSpend tabulated that 97 percent of the cow-related violence that has taken place in India from 2010 to 2017 was reported after Modi's government came to power in 2014 — and half of these cases were from states governed by the BJP.

It doesn't matter that not all Indian Muslims eat beef. Cow consumption in India can be mapped along regional and cultural lines; some surveys show that 12.5 million Hindus are among the 80 million Indians who eat either beef or buffalo. The BJP displays its hypocrisy by not opposing beef consumption in the northeast or in states such as Goa, where many of its constituents enjoy a good steak.

Is the life of a cow more valuable than the life of an Indian Muslim?

In 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq, father of an air force official, was killed in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and politically significant state, after rumors that he had beef in his fridge. A slew of BJP politicians defended his killers. In 2016, when one of those charged with murder died from health complications, his coffin was draped in India's national flag. The BJP has always distinguished itself by its brand of muscular nationalism. Ironically for the party, the flag wrapped around the coffin of an accused murderer was not just defiling the Indian tricolor; it was fully anti-national. Among those who defended the accused at the time was Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed monk. He was once considered part of the extreme fringe of the BJP. Today, he is the state's chief minister.

It all makes one wonder whether the Hindu-Muslim polarization that every such incident creates is not part of some larger plan, especially in election season.

But if Modi really wants to honor his promise that the constitution is India's holy book, then he needs to stop the cow from becoming a cloak for the cowardice of men who hate their fellow citizens.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/07/24/will-modi-stop-indias-cow-terrorists-from-killing-muslims/?__twitter_impression=true&noredirect=on

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Prostitution is Slavery

Alternatives International - Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:30

The free-market arguments won't wash: prostitution trades on the lives of the poor and marginalised – just like slavery

Prostitution is a system of commercial sexual exploitation, which is reliant on and steeped in racism, colonialism, slavery, genocide and abuse of the most marginalised and disenfranchised women and girls. The sex trade has much in common with the slave trade.

Transatlantic slavery was a centuries-long international trade in people and their labour, spanning from the early 1500s to the 1880s. Since the end of transatlantic slavery in 1888, nation-states and international institutions have legally recognised and been committed to protecting the fundamental rights of human beings. In light of these promised protections, resurgence in the enslavement of human beings would seem impossible.

Sexual abuse, harassment and prostitution, as well as enforced pregnancy, were commonplace for women living under slavery. Soldiers on slave ships, as well as slavers and other men working in the slave trade, would routinely abuse enslaved women and girls. Then, as today, sexual violence was used as a weapon of terror – to dehumanise the women and to humiliate their husbands, brothers and sons who were reminded of how impossible it was to prevent such debasement. In North America, there was a ‘fancy girl' trade, in which young and usually light-skinned black women were sold into prostitution, at rates four to five times the price of women field labourers.

Reminiscent of the tactics used by contemporary pimps and brothel-owners to sanitise the sex trade, for example referring to commercial transactions between older men and teenaged women as ‘sugar daddies' and ‘sugar babes', it is well-documented that slavers' similarly attempted to sanitise the slave trade by repackaging it as simply ‘labour'. For example, in a letter dated 1 April 1789, a pro-slavery strategist in the West Indies suggested: ‘Instead of “slaves”, let the Negroes be called “assistant-planters”; and we shall not then hear such violent outcries against the slave trade by pious divines, tender-hearted poetesses, and short-sighted politicians.'

The goal of the slave trade was to make as much money as possible. And the goal of pimps, traffickers and brothel-owners today is exactly the same. In both cases, the merchandise on sale is the human body. Prostituted women rarely use their given names, often adopting a new name suggested by their pimp or brothel-owner. These women are considered to be so lowly that they are only worthy of selling for sex. Some of the women are branded with tattoos by their ‘owners' to stop them escaping or being controlled by another pimp. And life expectancy for women in the sex trade is lower than average, while murder rates are far higher.

I have been researching and campaigning against the global sex trade for more than 20 years. During this time, I have travelled and spent time with hundreds of women (and some men) who have shared their stories of abuse and exploitation. In arguing here that prostitution is slavery, I am relying on the reality of these women's lives, rather than presenting a statistical case study.

The pimps, brothel-owners and sex-buyers I have encountered during my journey have told me various stories, usually without shame, of how they dehumanise and ‘own' the women in prostitution in order to rationalise using them as merchandise. Links between slavery and the pornography trade are also clear. Take porn videos such as Black Wives Matter and 12 Inches a Slave. Like the slave trade, the sex trade operates as a huge commercial business.

The existence of the sex trade is reliant on misogyny, class prejudice, racism, colonialism and imperialism. There is much written about the gendered nature of the sex trade, as well as how poverty is a key driver. Meanwhile, there has been a resounding silence regarding racism in prostitution, yet many of the 50 sex-trade survivors with whom I spent time while researching my book on the global sex trade, The Pimping of Prostitution (2017), spoke of the dual oppressions they faced as women from minority ethnic communities. I will share some of their experiences here.

I have heard many black sex-trade survivors link their prostitution experience to that of slavery. Vednita Carter, an African-American sex-trade abolitionist, told me:

The slave-trade era is where sex trafficking began for African-American women. Even after slaves were free, black women and girls were still being bought and sold. Today there are too many poor urban areas that middle-class men drive through for the sole purpose of finding a woman or girl of colour to buy or use.

In 1996, Carter set up Breaking Free, a support service for women and girls in prostitution in Minneapolis. She tells me that more than 60 per cent of the service-users are black. According to US-wide criminal justice data, women and girls of colour are significantly overrepresented as a proportion of the US population in arrest, charge and conviction of prostitution-related offences. ‘Black women are more likely to have their children removed than white women on the streets, and more likely to be arrested,' says Carter.

Carter recounts a story that illustrates the links between racism and prostitution told to her by two women who were prostituted on the streets of Minneapolis:

The women, one black, one white, were pulled over by a white police officer who made them get into the back of his police car. After sitting in his car for a minute the officer told the black woman to go back to what she was doing. She quickly jumped out of the car. The white woman said angrily: ‘That's not right. Why did you let her go and not me?' The officer replied: ‘Because that's all she's worth. She doesn't know any better, you should know better, you have options, I'm taking you to jail to teach you a lesson, with the hope that you will get out of prostitution and make something of yourself.'

‘I think the statement says it all,' says Carter. ‘Black women are at the bottom of society's barrel. That officer's view of black women has been engrained from the ethos of our society since slavery.'

African-American women and girls are far more vulnerable to being lured into prostitution than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, many women in and from Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, South Korea, Cambodia and Vietnam are sold to men visiting as sex tourists.

In my experience of researching the sex trade in legalised zones, such as the window brothels of De Wallen, the red-light district in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, racist attitudes of sex-buyers towards prostituted women are commonplace. For these men, selecting a woman of colour is all about fulfilling a fantasy that is grounded in racist and colonialist stereotypes. This is also reflected in advertising: African-Caribbean women are billed as more sexually adventurous, Chinese and eastern European women are presented as more submissive, and Latina women are deemed more sensuous.

The marketing of sexual services is often reliant on racist and colonialist stereotypes. For example, when the Asian Women for Equality Society in the US analysed 1,472 online advertisements for prostitution, it found that 90 per cent used racist tropes regarding Asian women as a selling factor. The women were ‘branded and packaged as submissive, exotic, newly immigrated, fresh off the boat, young and inexperienced – this is what men are looking for in Asian women'.

Women in Europe are also marketed along stereotypically racist lines. One of the many Asian women I have interviewed in the window brothels of De Wallen explained:

I am from Thailand and the man who owns this window tells the men outside that I will do anything because I am ‘oriental'. He tells [them] that I will have anal with no protection and will be very submissive. The white customers expect me to do everything, maybe more than the white girls.

The evidence that the sex trade is endemically racist is there for everyone to see. Just look at the example of the UK's Leicester City Football Club scandal in 2015. Three of the club's players – James Pearson, Tom Hopper and Adam Smith – were in Thailand for an official game. While there, the men hired a group of prostituted women and subjected them to an orgy. The women reported the men as saying offensive phrases including: ‘Come on … you slit-eye.' Another woman was told she was ‘fucking minging … an absolute one out of 10', while a third woman was told to ‘eat shit'. The mobile-phone footage of the abuse was shared with other football players and friends of the men back in the UK. Soon, it became one of the most popular home-made porn films online.

The Thailand scandal resulted in those footballers losing their jobs and being roundly condemned for ‘disgraceful behaviour'. Yet white men who wouldn't normally give a damn about violence against women often justify their own racism by giving men of colour a hard time for misogyny. Consider the gang sexual assaults in the German city of Cologne on New Year's Eve in 2016. The 1,000 drunken and aggressive perpetrators of the abuse were reportedly of ‘Arab and North African' appearance. Consequently, a number of white men in the UK decided this was their moment to defend women and condemn sexual violence. Some men put it down to the fact that the abusers appeared to be of Muslim origin, suggesting that, somehow, street assaults on women had never happened before this ‘influx' of refugees and asylum-seekers.

At the same time as these assaults on women in Cologne were happening, I was visiting one of the city's mega brothels a short distance away. I interviewed the pimps, sex-buyers and one of the women inside the brothel, and was given access to the ‘menu' of ‘services' the women are expected to provide. I was told by the pimp who was showing me around that ‘African girls' were very popular with men who get ‘dominant' and want to ‘try things out' without being handed in to the police station. On further questioning, it became clear that he was talking about extremely rough sex, which is marketed by that particular brothel as something women of African origin ‘enjoy' experiencing.

‘This is a classic racist stereotype about black women,' says Esohe Aghatise, an international lawyer who in 1998 founded the non-profit Iroko in the Italian city of Turin, a support and advocacy service for women and girls trafficked from Nigeria into Europe. ‘Black women are considered as exotic sexual objects that white men buy and use in ways that they would not use other women.' She continues: ‘The kind of “sexual services” they would demand from these “savages” is reliant on a mythical belief that they have a high threshold for pain, so they can carry out different kinds of atrocious activities on their bodies because [black women] are not seen as human, they are closer to the apes.'

Many women of colour have spoken about being raised under a cloud of sexual expectation that leads to them being vulnerable to prostitution. Meanwhile, many white men appear to expect girls and women from particular ethnic backgrounds to be particularly ‘suited' to the sex trade.

Taina Bien-Aimé, a Haitian-American woman, is executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. ‘I learned as a young girl, listening to my mother and aunties around the kitchen table, that men coveted our bodies,' she says. ‘Our full lips and breasts, the way we swayed our hips, the brown hues of our skin had always been targets for the male gaze, sexual harassment and rape.' She explains: ‘The Spaniards first, followed by the French and later the Americans, desecrated indigenous and enslaved African women in Haiti as misogynistic rituals; a pattern found across the “New World”. Prostitution is a legacy of that systemic oppression.'

During prostitution, says Bien-Aimé, the same pattern emerges as did during the slave trade: ‘The only difference with the enslavers is that these men, just a few generations later, pay for that access to black female bodies. Prostitution is not a concept found in indigenous languages – it's colonised exploitation.'

Ne'Cole Daniels is a sex-trade survivor based in the US, who advocates on behalf of vulnerable individuals trapped in prostitution. Daniels's own experience of the sex trade was that black girls and women suffered the dual oppression of racism and misogyny while being exploited by white men. ‘They think they can do whatever to us, including things they can't do to their own wives. Prostitution is like racism,' says Daniels. ‘They are saying that some of us, particularly us black girls, are worth less than others.'

Colonisation and the sex trade go hand in hand. Where there is war, military occupation, and conflict, prostitution often follows. Janice Raymond is an American academic and a feminist campaigner against the sex trade, as well as a former co-director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. She has studied the phenomenon of ‘comfort women', the phrase used to describe women drafted into military sexual slavery by Japan during the Second World War.

The case of ‘comfort women' constitutes one of the most egregious war crimes of the 20th century but it has never been officially recognised as such. The number of women thus subjugated is estimated to be up to 200,000, and the methods for procuring them were highly organised and government-sponsored. The ‘comfort women' system began prior to the war and lasted well over 15 years; the countries in which it operated spanned the breadth of Japan's wartime empire in the Asia-Pacific region. The US military even re-enacted the system of ‘comfort women' during the post-war years when it occupied Japan.

‘Most of these women are now deceased but [those] who have survived and their allies are still pressuring Japan to take responsibility for this crime, apologise and make reparations,' says Raymond. ‘US soldiers in the Philippines described the women they exploited as “little brown fucking machines” … State-sponsored prostitution became an intrinsic part of US colonial practice. Military-prostitution colonialism formed the backbone of an empire that was literally built on the bodies of an alleged lesser race of women – used as a comfort system for the occupying troops and with the full permission of the military authorities.'

The missing and murdered indigenous women prostituted in one of the poorest areas of Vancouver in Canada should tell us something about the predatory nature of prostitution, when it comes to the most marginalised and disenfranchised females. In 1983, a prostituted woman from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside area went missing, the first of 69 such women who disappeared from the area over a period of 20 years before police finally made an arrest.

While researching these murdered and missing women during visits to Vancouver in 2015 and 2017, I met Courtney, an indigenous woman and an advocate for women abused in prostitution who is herself a sex-trade survivor. ‘The sex trade is built on racism and colonialism as well as misogyny,' she says. ‘For native women and African-American women, and all women and girls of colour, it is yet another way in which the white man takes what he wants from our communities, our culture and our souls.'

Trisha Baptie is a Canadian survivor and a citizen journalist. In 2007, she covered the trial of Robert Pickton, the serial killer convicted of the murders of six of those prostituted, mainly indigenous women from Downtown Eastside. Baptie won awards for her coverage, which drew on her intimate knowledge of this part of Vancouver and her perspective as a friend to his victims. ‘I come from a pretty middle-class background,' she says. ‘My dad came from a country that was exceptionally unkind to him because of the colour of his skin. He beat my mum, so we spent a lot of time in transition homes. Just before my 12th or 13th birthday, I turned my first trick, because once you're in the care of the state it just seems to be a natural progression.' Many indigenous Canadian children were snatched from their homes and placed in so-called ‘care'. ‘This is a system of racism, when we are not even allowed to remain in our own communities, because they wanted us to assimilate, leave our culture behind.'

Despite the fact that the majority of those speaking out about racism within the sex trade are women, there are also men who are concerned about the effects on indigenous communities of normalising prostitution. Pala Molisa is an academic at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and a campaigner against male violence. Originally from Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, Molisa considers prostitution to be a form of racialised oppression, and says he has learned from his mother and ‘other indigenous sisters' about the white supremacist and colonial basis of prostitution. ‘We don't just want men to be held accountable for reducing women to sexual chattel status – we want the whole institution of prostitution – [which is] the basis of colonial patriarchal rape culture – dismantled,' he says. ‘The dominant model of masculinity under male supremacy is also shaped by race and class, by capitalism and white supremacy.'

The male sex-buyers, or punters, I have interviewed confirm the racist nature of paying for sex. ‘You get to choose, just like a catalogue,' one UK-based punter told me. ‘Whatever colour, creed or size, I can have them.' And the sex trade is as racist as it is misogynistic. As Marian Hatcher, an African-American sex-trade abolitionist says: ‘We are not chattel branded, nor born with price tags and barcodes on our flesh.'

The earthquake of January 2010 in Haiti claimed 220,000 lives, injured a further 300,000 people, and left 1.5 million individuals destitute. The trusted global charity Oxfam had a £70 million fund to distribute relief and rebuild the infrastructure of this poor, devastated country. However, it later emerged that a group of male aid workers living at a charity residence in Delmas, near the capital Port-au-Prince, were involved in some serious sexual misconduct. The men lived in a guesthouse rented by Oxfam, which they called the ‘pink apartments' and ‘the whorehouse', according to detailed notes and records of conversations with witnesses, confirmed by a source who was shown phone footage by one of the residents of the guesthouse.

The source continued: ‘[The aid workers] were throwing big parties with prostitutes. These girls were wearing Oxfam T-shirts, running around half-naked, it was a like a full-on Caligula orgy. It was unbelievable. It was crazy. At one party, there were at least five girls, and two of them had Oxfam white T-shirts on. These men used to talk about holding “young meat barbecues”.'

Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam's country director for Haiti, was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting that prostitutes visited his Oxfam villa. Yet the following year he went on to become head of mission for Action Against Hunger (AAH) in Bangladesh. The French charity conducted pre-employment checks but said that Oxfam ‘did not share with us any warning regarding [his] unethical conduct, the reasons [for] his resignation or the results of internal inquiry'. A spokesman for AAH said: ‘Moreover, we received positive references from former Oxfam staff who worked with him, among them a [former] HR person.'

It is not a coincidence that white men dominate most of the UK's large aid organisations. Sexual exploitation in developing countries is systematic and institutionalised, and often the perpetrators are those whose mandate is to help. Prostitution is built on inequality, and there is nothing as stark as the power imbalance between women in economically developing countries desperately trying to feed themselves and their children following a disaster, and the white male saviours supposedly there to alleviate terrible suffering. In the words of the Irish sex-trade survivor Rachel Moran, commenting on Amnesty International's policy on prostitution, surely the appropriate thing for any saviour to put into the mouth of a hungry woman ‘is food, not your cock'?

Julie Bindel is a British journalist, author, broadcaster and feminist campaigner against sexual violence. Her latest book is The Pimping of Prostitution (2017). She lives in London.

Edited by Nigel Warburton

Source: https://aeon.co/essays/what-the-sex-trade-has-in-common-with-the-slave-trade

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The World's Worst Industrial Disaster Is Still Unfolding

Alternatives International - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 13:29

In Bhopal, residents who survived the massive gas leak and those who arrived later continue to deal with the consequences.

In old Bhopal, not far from the small Indian city's glitzy new shops and gorgeous lakes, is the abandoned Union Carbide factory. Here, in one ramshackle building, are hundreds of broken brown bottles crusted with the white residue of unknown chemicals. Below the corroding skeleton of another, drops of mercury glitter in the sun. In the far corner of the site is the company's toxic-waste dump, shrouded in a sickly green moss. Not 15 feet away, a scrawny boy of about 6 tries to join a game of cricket. A few skinny cows graze next to a large, murky puddle. Strewn on the ground are torn plastic bags, yellowed newspapers, stained paper cups. And in the air, the pungent fumes of chlorinated hydrocarbons.

On December 3, 1984, 40 tons of a toxic gas spewed from the factory and scorched the throats, eyes, and lives of thousands of people outside these walls. It was—still is—the world's deadliest industrial disaster. For a brief time, the Bhopal gas tragedy, as it became known, raised urgent questions about how multinational companies and governments should respond when the unthinkable happens. But it didn't take long for the world's attention to shift, beginning with the Chernobyl nuclear accident a little more than a year later.

In the decades since, many other sites of industrial waste—in New Jersey, Missouri, Ohio—have been cleaned up. But this 70-acre site in Bhopal has, apart from the riotous jungle basil, remained mostly unchanged. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC); its former Indian subsidiary; its current owner, DowDuPont; the state government of Madhya Pradesh; and the central Indian government have all played an endless game of pass the buck. While this charade plays on, and people continue to think of Bhopal's tragedy as one horrific night in 1984, the site still hosts hundreds of tons of contaminated waste. The Bhopal disaster is, in fact, still unfolding.

From the wooden bed outside her two-room house, Munni bi, the grande dame of Annu Nagar, has a wide lens on the devastation. Munni bi's bed is less than 200 feet from a massive pit that UCC filled with toxic sludge, close enough to witness the damage the ganda pani—dirty water—has wrought.

Right next door is 15-year-old Fiza, who didn't speak for the first five years of her life, and still has heart palpitations, dizzy spells, and headaches. The young woman who grew up two doors down, Tabassum, now has a toddler who doesn't eat much or speak or cry and has seizures. Down the street is Obais, a spindly legged 13-year-old with black pustules all over his body—so painful and grotesque that he rarely leaves the house. Across the street from him is 12-year-old Tauseeb, who is intellectually disabled. And there's Najma, the sweet, young woman who lost her mother to tongue cancer and now sits in front of her house all day, smiling and occasionally shouting out guttural gibberish to passersby. And then there is the house where one daughter has fused bones in her legs, and another has a hole in her heart.

If people were to paint a red cross on every door that harbors illness, as they did during the bubonic plague in England, few doors in Annu Nagar, a small slum in Bhopal, would remain unmarked. The houses of Munni bi's two sons would each display a cross—in the house behind her bed is Bushra, her 14-year-old granddaughter, who is “not quite right” and whose “eyes hurt.” Across the street, her grandson, Anees, was born with skin that looked burned and limbs that lay flaccid and useless; he died five years ago at age 4, never having spoken a word. Three years ago, Munni bi was diagnosed with bladder cancer, a common complaint in these parts. When I visit her on a blisteringly hot day in March of last year, her cancer is temporarily under control, but the diabetic sores on her thighs keep her in bed, where she can do little but lie still, rail against fate, and survey the desolation.

Annu Nagar is one of 22 communities where the groundwater has been known for nearly 20 years to contain toxic levels of chlorinated solvents. Six years ago, responding to relentless efforts from activists, the Indian Supreme Court ordered the city to install pipes that bring in clean water from the Narmada River. But the pipes coming into some houses run right through sewers, and on rainy days, filth and feces mingle with the clean water. In the meantime, each monsoon may be carrying this toxic plume farther. The most recent survey suggests there are 20 more communities where the water is contaminated. In March of this year, the Supreme Court ordered that the city ensure clean water to these areas, too—and that it undertake a project to lay down sewage and drainage networks for the entire city.

These are reactive solutions to an enduring—and expanding—problem, but the bigger question is: What would it take to clean up the waste?

When I posed this question to Vishvas Sarang, the state minister charged with caring for these communities, he told me plans for the cleanup are underway. He said he had written to the Central Pollution Control Board, India's equivalent of the EPA, and that he was confident it would be finished quickly. “It's just a matter of two, three months. It will get done, it's not a big job.”

That was more than a year ago.

The factory in Bhopal launched at a time when India was facing severe food shortages. The country launched its Green Revolution in the early 1960s in an urgent bid to feed its growing population. UCC was one of the early beneficiaries of this new commitment to technology, and began marketing its pesticides with the slogan “Science helps build a new India.” In 1969, UCC built a plant in Bhopal to manufacture carbaryl (sold under the brand name Sevin) and alidcarb (Temik). At first, the company imported methyl isocyanate, the toxic gas required to make the pesticides, but by 1980, it had begun manufacturing the gas on site. MIC is colorless and heavier than air, is extremely toxic, and irritates the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes of the respiratory tract.

The company proceeded carefully, ensuring that the Bhopal plant had all the same modern technologies as its sister plant in West Virginia. The staff held rigorous training sessions for the workers, and installed a sophisticated, computerized system, just like the one in West Virginia, to alert workers to a leak. They set up loud alarm systems that could be heard for miles, distributed fact sheets about MIC to all the local hospitals, and held seminars for medical personnel on treating MIC exposure. By 1984, even as sales of Sevin tanked and the plant was operating at a loss, the company retained the full number of skilled workers and kept up its safety systems.

At least, that would have been the responsible way to run a plant producing a highly toxic substance. But UCC didn't do any of this.

In fact, says Kumkum Modwel, a physician based in Connecticut who was a medical officer at the factory from 1975 to 1982, UCC's operation “was a case study in how not to do things.” (When reached for comment, the company's current owner, DowDuPont, directed me to previous statements on their website.) Modwel (née Saxena) joined the company as a starry-eyed youngster, excited to be a part of this booming American company in her sleepy hometown. Things were sunny at first, but then small accidents and safety lapses began niggling at her. She was troubled by the company's cutbacks on safety as profit margins plunged and truckloads of unsold pesticide returned to the factory. Her turning point came in 1981, when a worker she knew well, Ashraf Mohammed Khan, died horribly after being drenched in phosgene, a precursor to MIC. Shaken, Modwel says she tried to get her superiors to improve the safety procedures, but to no avail. “I left because no one would listen to me. I left in utter disgust,” she says. “This is not the way you run a huge corporate plant handling lethal chemicals. This is how not to do things.”

Even more damning is the account of T. R. Chouhan, an MIC plant operator at the time of the disaster and a vocal critic of UCC. Chouhan and others told government investigators that months before the leak, managers shut down a refrigeration unit that was intended to keep the MIC tank cool enough to prevent accidents. One of the three safety systems in place had been out of service for weeks; the other had broken down days before the accident. Small leaks of MIC had become so commonplace that on December 2, a supervisor discovered a leak of MIC around 11:30 p.m., and put off dealing with it till after his tea break. The alarm that did sound was the same one the workers heard many times a week for other reasons, so they paid it no heed. Within an hour, the runaway reaction had generated enough pressure to break open the safety valve and release 40 tons of MIC and other chemicals into the air.

The swift wind that blew that night delivered the lethal fumes to an area of 40 square kilometers near the site. Those who didn't choke to death woke gasping for breath, their eyes burning from the toxic gas and their mouths frothing. If only they had known, all they had needed to do was climb to a higher spot. Or covered their faces with a wet cloth. As it was, because MIC is twice as heavy as air, children were affected most. With no training and no knowledge of what they were treating, the doctors could do little to help. Overnight, the city turned into a mausoleum.

No one knows exactly how many people died that night. The official government estimates began around 3,000 and have since been revised to 5,295. (Officials from India's Central Pollution Control Board did not respond to numerous requests for interviews.) But other sources, including Amnesty International, say at least 7,000 people died just within the first three days, and about 25,000 people overall have succumbed to MIC exposure. Another 500,000 have lingering health problems.

The government's estimates for deaths makes no sense, notes Rachna Dhingra, who has been an activist in Bhopal since 2003. “Look at it this way,” she says: The government has approved pensions for 5,000 widows. “If you are giving pensions to 5,000 widows, then how can the figure of deaths be only 5,295 overall? It's not just that only men died, yeah? Women too must have died, young children would have died.”

Against this chaotic backdrop, UCC settled in 1989 for $470 million in damages, with each gas-exposed person getting 25,000 Indian rupees (roughly $2,200 at the time). Under the terms of the settlement, UCC continued to deny liability for the incident. Dhingra and others have been trying ever since to get more compensation for those affected, to get the site cleaned up, and to prevent the devastation from spreading.

So far, they've had little luck. Dow Chemical Company acquired UCC in 2001. But Dow, which in September 2017 merged with DuPont to form a $130 billion behemoth, says its purchase of UCC excludes liabilities from Bhopal. In a series of statements addressing the disaster, Dow says responsibility for the cleanup really lies with UCC's Indian partner at the time of the leak, Union Carbide India. That company, now called Eveready Industries India, places the blame squarely at UCC's feet, saying, “The obligation and liability of the cleanup, if any, should be that of the erstwhile owners of UCIL, viz, UCC U.S.” UCC, for its part, says UCIL really owned and managed the factory (even though UCC owned 50.9 percent of UCIL), and that the state of Madhya Pradesh, which owns the land, is responsible for cleaning up the site. The state of Madhya Pradesh says it is unequipped for cleanup and defers to the federal government. The federal government has named Dow in a “curative petition” intended to make up for the inadequate 1989 settlement, and is asking for $1.2 billion (compared with the $8 billion the activists are demanding). And around it goes.

Every few years, a new character enters this theater of the absurd. Two years ago, that was Sarang, the now-46-year-old minister of gas-tragedy relief and rehabilitation—that's really his title, though most people drop the tragedy when talking about him—and a native Bhopali. His job is to make sure that people exposed to the gas, and those still affected by the disaster, are taken care of. (Most people who live in Annu Nagar and thereabouts are Muslim, and Sarang's group, an ardent champion of Hindus, is often vehemently anti-Muslim.) Sarang is not the first gas-relief minister, but unlike his predecessors, he tweets, holds frequent press conferences, and loves to engage with the public. “Sarang is a different creature altogether,” says Dhingra. “He is very concerned about his image—very, very … and he has big political aspirations.”

When I asked for a meeting with Sarang, he summoned me to his house. Raj Sarma, the photographer I was traveling with, and I arrived at Sarang's house on a balmy evening to find a horde of people waiting to speak to him. An aide showed us into a spacious room with bright-pink seats. When Sarang joined us about 20 minutes later, he was polite and charming: He insisted I have some food and tea, worried the snacks were too spicy for me, and complimented me on my Hindi—my protestations that I was not hungry, am no stranger to spicy food, and am fluent in Hindi because I grew up in India seemed to make no difference.

Every Bhopali older than 33 has a story about the leak, so I wasn't surprised when Sarang told me his: He and his parents escaped to safer grounds in one car, but a mob hijacked the car his sisters were in, leaving them exposed to the gas; they survived. (In India, in those days especially, only wealthy families could afford two cars.) Because he is also a gas victim, Sarang said, he understands the plight of the people in the affected communities, and is committed to bettering their lives. He has made many promises along these lines: to introduce “smart cards” for everyone so that the local hospitals can track and coordinate their care; to renew the widows' pensions, which stopped arriving around the time he began, then restarted for a limited number of widows this January; to build roads and parks in the neighborhoods and improve their quality of life; to offer better jobs and economic opportunities.

I told Sarang about Munni bi's problems with getting medicines she needed from the hospital intended to serve that community. He immediately called an aide, threatened to fire whoever was in charge at the hospital, and told me Munni bi would get her meds. (When I went back to Annu Nagar the next day, her neighbor Sakina had been able to pick up the medicines.)

Not all of Sarang's promises come true, however. In a follow-up phone interview in December, Sarang told me that the pensions were starting up again, that parks were under construction, and that gas-exposed people who needed bone-marrow transplants would soon be able to get them for free at private hospitals in Bhopal. When I asked Dhingra about this, she laughed outright. “What lies he's spreading,” she said. The hospitals are nowhere near sophisticated enough to offer bone-marrow transplants, she said, and apart from the inaugural “prayers” offered at the sites of construction, nothing new had sprung up. When Sarang first became minister, she said, she and other activists were optimistic that this savvy, energetic young man could shake up the status quo. “We were fooled for many months, too” she says. “It's all a big facade he puts up.” When I asked Sarang about skepticism about these projects from locals, he insisted that the initiatives were all moving forward.

At his house that evening in March 2017, every time I probed why the site hasn't been cleaned up yet or what his plans are for remediation, Sarang asked me to turn off my recorder. On the record, he told me his main goal is to establish a Hiroshima-like memorial on the factory site—because, he said, that would first require a cleanup. He lamented how difficult it can be to get things done in India. But he also told me I have a responsibility to make India look good in the world press. He said the cleanup could be dealt with quickly, but also that it's extremely complicated. Like a skilled politician, he supplied different answers at different junctures, and seemed to believe himself each time. But he became visibly agitated when I questioned his sincerity. “Do you know who I am? You don't know who I am,” he said. “I am a man of the land.”

The gas leak and its aftermath have split Bhopal's residents: those who could afford to get away, either that night or later; and those who stay bound to the soil by their financial circumstances. At the boutique inn we stayed in, about a 20-minute drive from the factory, the air was fresh and there was mineral water aplenty. The proprietor's daughter-in-law, a fashionable young woman in her 20s, laughingly told us she had never been to the site and wasn't sure where it was.

Munni bi is the richest of her neighbors, but that's not saying much. The houses her sons built are small and dark, with an inescapable stench of sewage and sickness. Like many of Annu Nagar's residents, Munni bi was never exposed to the gas. Her family moved in years after UCC decamped, lured by the cheap land. At first they lived in makeshift homes of corrugated metal and tarps. But several years ago, they saved enough money to build pukka homes of cement and concrete.

She and her neighbors quickly realized that the soil around the solar evaporation pond is dangerous: People who tried to make stoves from the mud broke out in horrific rashes and spiked fevers. “If you dig there in the evening, you'll be sick at night, you'll get fevers; there's that much poison in the mud,” says Sakina, 38, who lives three doors down from Munni bi. “Some kids died in that pond, too, so our kids don't go there.”

Sakina, her husband, and her three children live in a small shack with walls painted purple and white, and a bright-purple door that's always open. The family moved to the neighborhood about a decade ago, when their daughters Sana and Shamaiya were 5 and 3. A year later, Sakina gave birth to a son. From the start, the boy seemed ill and threw up constantly; he died before he was a year old. The following year, she had another boy, Aris. This child, too, developed “brain fever” two days after birth and, although he recovered, is still often sick. Soon after the family moved to Annu Nagar, little Sana had slowly begun losing her voice. She spoke softer and softer, until one day, when she was 8, her parents found her with big blisters all over; she had been scalded, but hadn't been able to cry out.

With help from Munni bi and other neighbors, Sakina gathered money to take her daughter by train to New Delhi. Doctors there diagnosed Sana with respiratory papillomatosis—a rare condition in which a virus infects the voice box—and inserted a tube through a hole in her neck to help her breathe.

Like Munni bi, Sakina is convinced that the water she and her children drank for many years is to blame for all these ills. “When we brought normal kids here who had no problems before, and then we drank the water and this happened, of course we think it's because of the water,” she says.

Munni bi's relative affluence and age may have given her pole position in the neighborhood, but Sakina's physical stamina and fearlessness make her formidable. In 2008, Sakina was one of the women who, along with Dhingra, marched 700 kilometers (about 435 miles) to New Delhi. The women fasted outside the prime minister's house until he listened to their demands. It took the government many more years to take action. In 2014, in response to an order from the Supreme Court, the city finally installed pipes that bring clean water to these communities.

“The water before was really dirty,” says Nasreen, 38, who lives down an alley across from Munni bi's house. After Nasreen moved to Annu Nagar about 15 years ago, she had one child who was stillborn; the other, 12-year-old Tauseeb, has a low IQ and attends a special school. Nasreen recalls that the water was often yellow, sometimes red, and smelled foul. It looks and smells better now, but comes for only an hour a day. “Sometimes it's 2 p.m., sometimes 12, sometimes in the evening … the tap has no time,” she says. “We have to sit and wait.”

On days when the pipes don't sing at all, people still boil the contaminated water from the hand pumps to bathe and wash clothes—as they were doing on one of the days I visited Annu Nagar. “The clean water hasn't come for three days,” Mohammed Akhtar, 56, told me. “We drink this because we have no choice.”

When I asked Sarang about this, he flatly denied any problems with the water supply. “Pipes break sometimes,” he said. “That happens even in my house. This is not America.” He also told me he does not believe any of the reports of water contamination, and has asked the Central Pollution Control Board to conduct a fresh analysis. As of late May, they had yet to respond.

There's also little official attention to the health effects of the gas or water. The only large epidemiological project on people exposed to the gas was abandoned for 15 years. The project changed hands several times and so the scientists lost track of 88 percent of the initial cohort. Activists were able to prove that some of the people who were sent out to conduct government health surveys never did so, and instead filled out the forms with bogus answers.

There is one rigorous study underway that might provide some answers. Over the past five years, the Canadian researcher Shree Mulay and volunteers working with Sambhavana, a nonprofit clinic set up by activists, have been collecting data on mortality, birth defects, fertility, cancer, and many other aspects of people's health. The study includes data from people exposed to the gas who then moved away and did not drink the water; those who, like Munni bi and Sakina, moved into the neighborhoods after the leak and so were only ever exposed to the water; those who were exposed to both; and those who were exposed to neither. The researchers also tried to include controls matched by socioeconomic class, income, level of education, and family size. With about 5,000 families in each group, the study includes 100,000 people in all. Mulay's team is still analyzing the data, but preliminary results indicate that people exposed to the gas or the water or both have a higher incidence of cancer, tuberculosis, and paralysis than those exposed to neither. They also suggest that gas-exposed people have 10 times the rate of cancer, particularly liver, lung, abdominal, throat, and oral cancers, compared to the other groups.

Mulay declined to discuss these results because they are being submitted for publication—and because she first wants to make sure the analysis accounts for all the confounds that may skew the data. “One has to be able to say, ‘What is due to the general poverty of the entire population and what is specifically due to the gas or the water that they have been exposed to?'” Mulay says. “That's why it is such a complicated study.”

For example, Mulay notes that in the heart of Bhopal is a metalworks factory that likely spews toxic gases. It might be difficult—if not impossible—to tease out how much exposures like that contribute to the illnesses in Annu Nagar.

Still, it's hard to ignore the most obvious possibility—the cesspool of toxic sludge right next to the neighborhood.

In the early years of the factory, UCC dumped its waste into 21 unlined pits within the site. This was not, at the time, an unusual practice, although companies in the United States had begun to move away from it. In 1977, UCC built three solar evaporation ponds about 400 meters north of the factory, and piped untreated waste directly into the ponds. Thin liners were put in to keep the chemicals from seeping into the ground, and the strong Bhopal sun was supposed to take care of the rest. But the liners quickly fell apart. Memos in 1982 from the Bhopal plant to the company's headquarters warned that the ponds were leaking, and might contaminate the groundwater. And local farmers lodged complaints that the company's runoff was killing their cattle and their crops. The 1984 disaster derailed the conversations. After the tragedy, UCC closed down the factory. The tanks and vats on the site were finally emptied in 1989, and about 360 tons of the most hazardous waste was locked up in 2005. But the rest—corroding pipes, bottles of unnamed chemicals, and the massive waste pit—have remained untouched.

Today the factory is guarded by a staff of 14, although they only see a few visitors a month—except in December, around the anniversary of the disaster. When Sarma and I visited the site in March 2017, two guards accompanied us on the tour. For 200 rupees (about $3), they looked the other way as we took photos. Chouhan, who gave us a tour of the site, pointed out the drops of mercury sparkling in the soil. He gestured at the brush all around and said: “If you cut down this grass, you'll find a pond of mercury.”

As we approached the farthest corner of the site from its entrance, we discovered several visitors—men and cattle—who were smarter than us and had simply walked in through gaping holes in the wall. One of the young men playing cricket was 22-year-old Zubaid, who said he has been sneaking into the site since he was a child. “There isn't really anywhere else for us to go,” he said. His parents had both been exposed to the gas. His father died years ago of respiratory problems; his mother still struggles to catch her breath. I asked him whether he knew that the soil and water might be dangerous. He shrugged and said, “We're all fine.”

Everyone knows that the gas left a lasting mark on people's health. But it took years for people to acknowledge that the water may be contaminated. In the mid-1990s, the solar ponds were once again covered with a plastic liner and topped with soil in an attempt to convert them into primitive landfills. But the liner is visibly torn in multiple spots, and they turn into cesspits with every monsoon.

Since 1990, multiple organizations have documented unsafe levels of pesticides and chlorinated solvents in the soil and water. Unfortunately, none of the reports validates the others; each sampled different locations at different times.

The lack of consensus even within the government agencies stalled all talk of the key problem: who should clean up the site, how, and when. The government's response to the disaster has been slow, inept, and crippled by corruption—predictably so for this country. But administration after administration has also been bafflingly resistant to offers of help from international groups.

Experts in waste management are flabbergasted to learn that the site of the world's largest industrial disaster has yet to be decontaminated. “Hoo boy, it sounds like somebody with some money and some understanding has to come in there and clean the place up,” says Robert Chinery, who served as acting director of the Center for Environmental Health at the New York State Department of Health.

At least some of the problems have clear solutions, based on experiences at other sites. In 2004, Greenpeace commissioned waste-management experts based in Germany, Switzerland, and the United States, who came back with a plan for cleaning up the soil.

One possible solution is simply to move the waste to a secure landfill, but no such location exists in India. Another is to incinerate the waste in a plant set up to handle this sort of material—a plan under discussion for the Bhopal waste for more than a decade. Done right, the waste would need to be burned at an extremely high temperature, say 800 degrees Celsius, then the gases given enough time to decompose, mostly into carbon dioxide. An air-pollution control system would trap particulates that are given off during the process. And the air would be closely monitored afterward for hazardous emissions.

This was a common way to deal with industrial waste until the 1990s, but the fear of hazardous emissions has almost put a stop to it in the United States, says Jurgen Exner, a waste-management expert and one of the authors of the Greenpeace report. There are only a few such plants remaining in the United States and elsewhere. Over the years, many plans have been proposed and halted: shipping the waste to Germany or to a site in the neighboring state of Gujarat, neither of which happened because of protests in those areas.

In 2015, the government conducted a test run of incineration with 10 tons of the locked-up waste at a plant in Pithampur, about a three-hour drive from Bhopal. There are serious concerns about the plant's ability to handle this waste, and the report from that test is not public (similar tests in the United States usually are)—but Sarang says it was a success. In fact, he told me in March 2017, the rest of the waste would also be incinerated in a matter of two to three months. “That's not an issue,” he said. “It's not a big job.” As of December, there had been no progress on this front.

Sarang was speaking about the 360 tons of locked-up waste. There's still the matter of all of the soil, not to mention the groundwater.

To assess the scale of the groundwater contamination, what's required is a geological study. The way to do that is to sink several wells around the site and sample the wells both vertically and laterally to analyze the water and the toxic plume. “If you just go out and take random samples from existing wells, maybe even drinking-water wells, then that doesn't necessarily tell you what's going in the groundwater,” Chinery says. “It's usually the job of the government to make sure that's done correctly.”

Chinery and Exner both say it would not be at all surprising if, as the activists say, the chemicals have traveled as far as three kilometers from the site. If there are fissures in the ground under the surface, chlorinated solvents would collect in those fissures and slowly dissolve into the groundwater. Exner says he once saw chlorinated solvents three miles from where they had been dumped at a site in Missouri. “That's why chlorinated solvents in groundwater are such a big problem,” he says. “It takes years and years for it all to dissolve out of there.” For example, he says, a small amount of carbon tetrachloride can contaminate millions of gallons of water.

Cleaning up the water is a daunting task. These chemicals would be difficult to treat in the ground, so the solution—once the source and the direction of the plume are known—would be to pump it all out and treat it, says Chinery. That process could take many years and run up to millions of dollars. But “if the source is still there, and the plume is still there, it's just going to keep moving.”

All told, the Greenpeace report estimated that it would cost $30 million over four years. DowDuPont's revenue for 2017 was $62 billion.

The people of Annu Nagar, meanwhile, stay rooted to their homes, unable to muster the money or resources to move their families out of the danger zone. With help from Dhingra and other activists, Sakina and the other women and children are learning how to fight for their rights—either by calling bureaucrats repeatedly, protesting on the streets, or talking to the press.

For Munni bi, however, it is all already too late.

“What will you do for me? You won't come back; 50 people have come and gone,”
she told me last year. “From drinking the water, the public is dying, that's what's happening. Our suffering is slowly killing us. And I don't want to die.”

Munni bi died five months later.

This article was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/the-worlds-worst-industrial-disaster-is-still-unfolding/560726/

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LIC Stake in IDBI — Another Misadventure

Alternatives International - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:19

Amongst all public sector banks, the IDBI has the highest share of gross NPAs of nearly 28 per cent. Instead of making the defaulters accountable, it is LIC finance, ie the public's insurance premium money, which is being used to cover up a hole in IDBI's capital stock.

THE recent stake of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) rising to 51 per cent in the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) carries further the story of many adventures of financial mismanagement by the current NDA government. These adventures are cases of financial mismanagement from a macroeconomic perspective of the Indian economy. But there is a method behind this madness of management, namely the defence of hidden and sometimes not-so-hidden economic interests of the propertied classes aligned to the current government.

Two central planks on which the BJP came to power in 2014 were: Hindutva mobilisation and all-round development ('sab ka vikas'). After coming to power, the Hindutva agenda has been pursued vigorously and even violently, but the development agenda has turned out to be empowerment of the rich and wealthy instead of the promised 'sab ka vikas'.

Any critical observer of political economy would have known during the electioneering for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that given the class interests aligned with the BJP, the slogan of 'sab ka vikas' was a clever exercise in media spin and hoodwinking the electorate from poor and middle classes.

One would have also thought that the gimmickry of 'sab ka vikas' would be maintained in some form at least for some time to retain the pretence of implementing the election manifesto pledge. No one could have anticipated that the BJP would so brazenly abandon, as it did, the veneer of 'sab ka vikas' and launch into a programme of naked defence of the rich and powerful. Demonetisation, GST and recapitalisation of banks were all policy initiatives aimed at defending the moneyed backers of the BJP and which had disastrous consequences for citizens involved in vulnerable, informal and small-scale economic activities.

The recent LIC stake in the IDBI adds to those financial mismanagement initiatives that defend the powerful financial defaulters but increase the exposure and vulnerability of middle class holders of LIC's life insurance policies.

The LIC was established in 1956 by nationalising nearly 250 private insurance companies, some of which had indulged in fraud and other financial malpractices. This nationalisation was also a part of the project then of India's state capitalist model of development to concentrate finance in the hands of the central state to finance planned economic activities. The neo-liberal turn in economic policies initiated by the UPA government in July, 1991 allowed entry from August, 2000 of private and foreign insurance companies, but the LIC still commands 71 per cent market share of the 'total first-year premium', ie the premium paid by policyholders in the first year of the policy. The LIC issues nearly 2 crore policies every year and nearly 25 crore persons in India have policies with it. Since it is mainly adults who have life insurance policies, it indicates the scale of households' involvement in the LIC. Further, since a vast proportion of the very poor and marginalised sections of society are unlikely to be holders of life insurance policies due to not being able to pay the premium, the numbers holding the policies suggest that the scale of involvement of various layers of the middle class in the LIC is likely to be almost universal. The LIC is one of the most trusted brands in India mainly because it is a publicly owned entity and, therefore, safe.

Being an insurance group, risk-oriented investment of its resources is not the remit of the LIC. This government and, to a lesser extent, even previous governments have been pushing the LIC into the risky venture of involving the LIC into banking and other investments. It may be reasonable to support, even if cautiously, LIC finance being used to support infrastructural projects such as railways and power generation partly because such projects, in theory, are supposed to generate long-term returns. However, to get the LIC to start supporting the banking sector involved in risky commercial undertakings is to not only undermine the essential function of the LIC, but it is also, in fact, exposing it to the instability of the banking sector. The history of financial instability in capitalism tells us that if such instability does not lead to loss of political legitimacy of the regime, it is the working and middle classes that end up bearing its burden. Big financial sharks of capitalism look upon financial instability as an opportunity to eat up vulnerable smaller entities through mergers and takeovers.

The NDA government used the LIC in 2015 and 2016 to shore up several banks that were falling short of capital when the LIC bought into preferential share issues of such banks. The LIC already had an 11 per cent stake in the IDBI because of this questionable policy. Now that the LIC share in the IDBI has been raised to a massive 51 per cent, it virtually amounts to making IDBI troubles as the troubles of the LIC. Amongst all public sector banks, the IDBI has the highest share of gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of nearly 28 per cent. In simple terms, it means that out of Rs 100 loaned by this bank, Rs 28 are not likely to be returned. The rise in gross NPAs, ie bad loans, is primarily due to mafia-style combine of top banking officials, capitalists, politicians and bureaucrats facilitating huge bank loans that are never returned. Instead of making the defaulters accountable, it is LIC finance, ie the general public's insurance premium money, which is being used to cover up a hole in the capital stock of IDBI. It is, therefore, also a case of moral hazard where the assurance of a risk protection encourages risky and bad behaviour. Why would other banks saddled with NPAs not turn to government twisting LIC hands to help them out too with capital induction?

Another aspect of the deteriorating financial governance in India that has come to light in the LIC-IDBI saga is the role of regulatory authorities. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is part of the regulatory governance of the LIC and given the LIC remit, the involvement of the LIC in equity investment in other firms is limited to a maximum of 15 per cent, and if this limit is to be exceeded, it requires the intervention of the IRDA for approval. The way the IRDA approved the LIC share in the IDBI, not to a small increase over the 15 per cent limit, but to a whopping 51 per cent raises questions about the autonomy of regulatory structures. It is for the first time in India's financial history that such a step has been taken. The rise of authoritarianism manifests itself not only in political, educational and cultural spheres but also in financial governance.

Pritam Singh is Professor of Economics, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

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Change is coming to Mexico: This Time, No Blood Will Be Shed

Alternatives International - Sun, 07/08/2018 - 19:41

This Sunday, Andrés Manuel López Obrador became the president-elect of Mexico. He won because he convinced a majority that through him, a change of regime in Mexico can be achieved through peaceful means – and without igniting a civil war. It will be a first in our nation's history.

In his final campaign speech, López Obrador announced that his government will push for a “peaceful-but-radical” transformation. He then added that “we haven't made all this effort merely for cosmetic changes, for lip service”.

The task ahead is monumental due to four major challenges Mexico faces today: violence, corruption, inequality and Donald Trump. Their resistance to his government will be vast and the outcome, uncertain.

To understand the significance of this moment, we need to look to the history of the left in Mexico, and how it has confronted countless massacres, assassinations, electoral fraud and smear campaigns over the years. Indeed, Andrés Manuel López Obrador's life story is intermingled with this movement.

Before 1968, leftwing parties were marginalized or irrelevant. When a student movement appeared that year, peacefully demanding less state violence and more liberties for the citizenry, the president at the time sent his guards to shoot into a defenseless crowd. The night of Tlatelolco continues to be engraved not only on individual memories, but on our collective consciousness as well.

Out of this tragedy was born the generation of transition. Some took up arms, while most of us employed peaceful means as we continued to further the agenda of ‘68 as professors, journalists, activists, labor organizers, or professional politicians representing newly created political parties. We also dedicated ourselves to reconstructing past events in order to convey them to subsequent generations.

These efforts have formed part of the Mexican transformation. In the 1970s, the modern human rights movement was born in order to attend to the victims of the dirty war against the guerrillas, later encompassing many other issues as well. Moreover, leftwing parties were legalized and, in the presidential elections of 1988, achieved a basic understanding with the party on the right in order to transform the voting ballot into a lever for change. In the 80s began an alternation that gradually undermined the governing party (PRI).

Then, in 1994, we saw the strength of the nonviolence. In Chiapas, marginalized indigenous peoples rebelled and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation announced that it was launching an offensive against the “nation's capital, to defeat the army”. Once the fighting began, the social and political left poured out into the streets, demanding a cease-fire from the government and from the insurgents. Both government and insurgents acceded to the petition and by the presidential elections that year, the Zapatistas would join in the demand for “free and democratic elections”.

Out of that crucial moment came the great electoral reform of 1996, permitting the defeat of the governing party (PRI) in the year 2000. With Vicente Fox of the rightwing Pan began one of the unhappiest stages of the transition, because he betrayed his democratic commitments. Graver still, the three major parties (and that includes the leftwing PRD) were contaminated with corruption and inefficiency, while the state weakened and de-facto powers emerged, notably organized crime.

During the Fox administration, the career of López Obrador as a presidential candidate began. As the head of government of Mexico City, he stood out for his personal honesty and a reasonably efficient administration, distanced from radicalism. In 2006, he competed for the presidency. Although he led in the polls, he lost due to strategic errors, personality defects, and massive electoral fraud. In 2012, he made another attempt and failed, although his ceaseless nationwide canvassing allowed him to build a new kind of political and social base.

He learned from these lessons and in 2018, unfurled an impeccable campaign that took advantage of the errors of his adversaries and the disrepute of corrupt and inept parties. López Obrador is backed by a formidable coalition of political, social, and cultural forces built on a foundation of veteran leftwing organizations that have tolerated the alliances the candidate has chosen to make with conservative organizations.

Today, the future of Mexico is being forged. Let us indulge in a brief moment of celebration that the Mexican left has resisted aggression and temptation without altering its faith in nonviolence – and that it has been rewarded for its perseverance.

Sergio Aguayo Quezada is a Mexican academic and human rights activist. His op-ed was translated from Spanish by Tanya Huntington

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/03/andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-election-mexico-leftwing-resistance

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Turkish Elections, Looming Fascism and Left Politics

Alternatives International - Sat, 07/07/2018 - 15:18

The elections on 24 June in Turkey for a new president and parliament, which took place under a state of emergency, constitute an historic moment in Turkish republican history with important consequences.

Firstly, it has institutionalized and consolidated the regime change put in place by the controversial 2017 referendum. The Turkish political system has successfully transitioned from a parliamentary to an executive presidential one.

Secondly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent president and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has come out even stronger with new powers, which are likely to bolster his authoritarian tendencies.

Thirdly, Erdogan's presidency and the victory of the coalition of the AKP and the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), the most prominent fascist actor in Turkish politics, should and will revive a debate on states of exception in general, and fascism, in particular.

Last, but not the least, the failure of a reinvigorated opposition to dethrone Erdogan and a likely more authoritarian – or worse – fascist future have exposed the necessity for a different kind of politics on the left.

Challenging the Pillars of the Current Regime

It is imperative for the Turkish left to produce an alternative and inclusive socio-political project that challenges the pillars of the current regime, i.e., crony neoliberalism, increasing authoritarianism, chauvinistic nationalism and social conservatism. Such a project cannot be confined to electoral politics only and requires organizing and resistance in various forms and spaces that are outside those dominated by the ruling bloc. It also requires the inclusion – if not leadership – of the Kurdish movement, which has emerged as the most organized and the only mass political actor able to challenge the dominant structures of oppression in Turkey and beyond.

The AKP was founded in 2001 as a coalition of mostly conservative groups and individuals, and constituted the last representative of a series of legal Islamic parties since the 1970s. The main constituent elements of the party were twofold: the Fethullah Gulen community and a group around the future prime minister and president, Tayyip Erdogan, who had broken away from the Milli Görü? (National Vision) movement and its last political party, i.e. Fazilet Partisi (the Virtue Party), that was shut down in 2001 by the Constitutional Court. These two groups converged on a neoliberal, socially conservative and majoritarian project. This was the marriage of a relatively ‘liberal' version of Islam with neoliberalism, and this combination made the AKP quite popular on the global stage. The party's popularity was mostly thanks to its two achievements:

(1) It was able to defeat the old secularist guard, which was seen as increasingly unreliable by the West; and
(2) it marginalized the radical Islamic groups while sustaining the Western-Turkish alliance in the Middle East. The AKP was viewed by many as an antidote to the revolutionary Islam of Iran and violent Sunni movements/organizations.

The party came to power following the financial crisis of 2001 and only one-and-a-half years after it was founded. Its initial electoral base was composed of those who were demoralized and impoverished by two decades of brutal neoliberalism, corruption, economic crises, instability and rigid secularism. In terms of its relationship with capital and capital fractions, the party's initial base was the internationalizing medium-sized capital groups located mainly in Anatolia. As soon as it came to power, the AKP also won the support of big domestic (mostly Istanbul based) and foreign capital through its refusal to deviate from the neoliberal trend set earlier and by its willingness to strengthen the integration of the Turkish economy into global markets.

Since 2011, which more or less marks the beginning of the authoritarian turn in the country, there has been tension at times between big capital and its organization, TUSIAD (Turkish Industry and Business Association), on the one hand and the AKP, on the other. The main causes of the tension have been twofold: concerns about secularism and increasing authoritarianism, and the deteriorating and unstable relations with the EU, into which Turkish capital has firmly integrated. Despite the ongoing tension, one of the major outcomes of the 16-year old AKP rule has been the creation of conditions most conducive to capital accumulation at the expense of the labouring masses in the country. The current state of emergency, too, has a strong class character, which has empowered capital vis-à-vis labour.1

The AKP came to power for the first time with a sweeping victory in 2002. Despite getting only 34.3 per cent of the popular vote, the party captured 327 of the 550 seats in parliament thanks to the extremely high threshold of 10 per cent. In the 2007 and 2011 elections, the AKP increased its popular support, acquiring 46.7 and 49.8 per cent of the votes respectively. The drop to 40.8 per cent in the June 2015 election was remedied in the November 2015 election after the AKP ended the peace process and resumed its war with the Kurds. The reversion to the nationalist discourse and militaristic policies were rewarded by the electorate with an almost 9 per cent increase in the polls. The most recent election marks a drop in the support for the AKP but the party was still able to garner the majority as a result of its alliance with the fascist MHP.

Although the most recent elections were originally due on 3 November 2019, early elections were called on 18 April 2018 by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was getting anxious to institutionalize and consolidate the regime change put in place by the 2017 referendum.

The controversial referendum, which succeeded with only 51.41 per cent of the popular vote, endorsed a number of constitutional changes, which abolished the then existing parliamentary system of government and strengthened the position of the president, who used to be a rather symbolic figure for most of the republican era.

The president was given powers that included, among others, directly appointing ministers and vice-presidents, imposing a state of emergency, and increased control over the appointments to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). These changes were criticized by both the domestic opposition and international observers for removing some of the critical checks and balances in the Turkish political system and concentrating power in the hands of the president.

The June 24th elections were thus a rushed and pre-emptive effort by Erdogan to consolidate this regime change and secure his power while denying the opposition an opportunity to organize and rally support. Due to widespread corruption involving himself and his inner circle as well as the heavy toll of his authoritarian rule on tens of thousands of people, loss of power is not an option for Erdogan. Becoming stripped of his current immunity would mean years of prison for the Turkish president and his cronies.

Two New Developments

There were two important developments on the part of the opposition in this short period. The first was the foundation of a new party Iyi Parti (Good Party), by those who broke away mostly from the fascist MHP due to the latter's alliance with Erdogan's AKP.

The second was the candidacy of Muharrem Ince, an MP from the Kemalist, social democratic CHP (Republican People's Party). Ince's charismatic personality and campaign came as a surprise to the ruling party, as Ince pushed Erdogan onto the defensive for the first time in sixteen years while gathering large crowds across the country (the one in Istanbul was possibly the largest rally in Turkish history). Despite his subscription to Kemalist nationalism and coalition with nationalists (i.e. Iyi Parti), his rather inclusive discourse and attitude toward Kurds made the latter more receptive to his message and led many Kurds to vote strategically for him in the presidential election instead of for Selahattin Demirtas, the pro-Kurdish HDP's (People's Democratic Party) candidate.

Ince's campaign rejuvenated a dormant and hopeless opposition, which brought together different segments of Turkish society. Although he failed to offer a clear and coherent alternative social project, Ince's clean record, communication skills, and criticism of the AKP's corruption, crony neoliberalism, religious conservatism and increasing authoritarianism made him a beacon of hope for a significant part of the population.

Various colours of the left, too, threw their support behind Ince despite serious reservations about his religious references and nationalism; he was seen as the lesser evil versus a power-hungry warmonger.

The results, however, were quite disappointing. Under a state of emergency and amidst serious allegations of fraud and voter intimidation, the AKP-MHP coalition captured 53.66 per cent of the popular vote and 344 out of 600 seats in parliament. The Nation Alliance, led by the CHP, on the other hand, received 33.94 per cent of the vote with only 189 seats. The HDP managed to pass the undemocratic 10 per cent threshold and increased its vote to 11.7 per cent. The HDP's entrance into parliament played the key role in preventing an AKP majority, which rallied some Turks – mostly on the left – behind the party.

As regards the presidential vote, Erdogan won it comfortably in the first round frustrating all expectations that there would be a second round. There are still conspiracy theories and some controversy regarding the vote-counting process and its aftermath. The former include alleged threatening of the rival candidates by the AKP-controlled state, which led them to concede victory to Erdogan prematurely and disappearing from the public eye for hours, which demoralized and demobilized the opposition.

Notwithstanding these yet unknowns, what is clear is that Erdogan has secured his position as the most powerful political figure in post-war Turkey with even more constitutional powers and a tighter grip over the Turkish state and society. Although his victory is not complete, as the AKP will need the support of the fascist MHP in parliament for a majority, the latter's almost unconditional recent support and the increased powers of the president point to a more authoritarian future for the country.

The dependence of the AKP on the MHP for a parliamentary majority will also likely sustain the nationalist and militaristic approach to the Kurdish issue (and foreign policy in general) and prolong the devastating war between the Turkish state and Kurdish guerillas. It will also strain relations with Turkey's neighbours, who are already quite critical of the aggressive so-called neo-Ottoman turn in Turkish foreign policy in recent years.

The current political and social situation in Turkey calls for a rigorous debate on the new regime and the corresponding state-form that has been in the making for some time. This task becomes even more urgent in the face of a looming economic crisis that will likely lead to tremendous social and economic dislocation, paving the way for even more authoritarian and repressive responses from the state and Erdogan at its helm.

An accurate analysis of the ongoing restructuring and the emergent regime are critical, as it will inform the type(s) of resistance by the progressive forces in the country. What is worrisome is that the regime and the state-form in Turkey display features characteristic of fascism. This does not mean that Turkey is a fascist state at the moment. Nevertheless some of the features of fascism are in place currently and the rise of a truly fascist regime and state is a possibility in the near future.

Fascism, as a modern phenomenon, has been discussed in the literature mostly as an exceptional regime confined to the inter-war period; that is, a one-time only deviation in the development of capitalist states and regimes. This is an erroneous conceptualization and study of fascism. Rather than being a deviation and buried in the ashes of a bygone era, fascism should be studied as a regime whose seeds are present in capitalist social relations and their contradictory nature. It corresponds to a response to a specific political crisis under capitalism and is an outcome of specific class/social relations. At the same time, as opposed to some left analyses, there is no automatic/mechanical relationship between the liberal democratic state and its crisis on the one hand, and the rise of fascism, on the other.

As regards the features of fascism that are existent in the Turkish context currently, we can observe the following:

a. the disciplining of the military accompanied by an increase in the power of the police and intelligence service;
b. the decrease in the autonomy of the media and academia vis-à-vis the executive (this has gone hand in hand with rising anti-intellectualism);
c. restructuring of the judiciary – the implementation of exceptional law(s) has been normalized (particularly via the state of emergency declared following the 2016 coup attempt);
d. the emergence of a new power-bloc composed of a powerful executive, the police, the intelligence service and a restructured judiciary;
e. an increase in the autonomy of the state from the dominant classes (in particular from the TUSIAD) as well as global powers (in particular the U.S. and the European Union);
f. the emergence or creation of paramilitary forces supported and armed by the state;
g. a leadership cult created around the leader, i.e. Erdogan.

To these, we need to add two more features which should be emphasized as arguably the most salient and distinctive features of fascism: chauvinistic nationalism/racism and (attempts at) mass social mobilization aiming at reshaping society in accordance with a particular worldview. This worldview or ideology in the current Turkish context has taken the form of the Turkish-Islamic synthesis, which has its roots in the junta of the early 1980s.

With fascism – or if not fascism, a nevertheless very repressive regime – looming on the horizon, the critical question for the left is that of resistance.

Only a few days after the elections, the incumbent minister of the interior has given the first signals of what is awaiting Turkey in the upcoming months. He has already threatened the leaders of the pro-Kurdish party, HDP, with death and given orders to keep members of the main opposition party, the CHP, from funerals of the military personnel killed in the war against Kurdish militants, which insinuates an association between the CHP and so-called ‘terrorism' – a common form of ‘othering' by the AKP of the opposition since the end of the peace process in 2015 and during the most recent electoral campaign.

Left Opposition

Under these circumstances, it is imperative that the left, ranging from the reformist social democrats to the communists, form a united front around an alternative social project which has the potential to bring together the broad segments of the population that have been hurt by the AKP's rule.

This is not a time for sectarianism. This social project should be based on the following:

a. defense of secularism (not the rigid French laïcité and its bastard version of the republican era);
b. inclusion of and equal status for ethnic and cultural groups, and genders;
c. an end to the aggressive foreign policy and military interventions in neighbouring countries;
d. a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question;
e. an immediate end to the state of emergency and restoration of the liberal democratic institutions and rule of law;
f. an end to neoliberal restructuring and policies in favour of a more equitable redistribution of wealth.

Resistance based on such a political project cannot and should not be confined to electoral politics only. It should combine electoral politics with long-term grassroots politics involving creating solidarity networks and alternative spaces to the ones controlled by the regime. There are millions of young people in the country who have never lived under a different government and are thus unable to imagine a society beyond the one created by the AKP.

The new left politics requires a long-term and patient approach to build the structures through which a new, progressive social imaginary can emerge and ultimately by which state power can be claimed.

This process must also include the Kurdish movement that has risen in the past decade in particular as the most organized and progressive force in the Middle East. The HDP under the leadership of the currently imprisoned Selahattin Demirtas has made a genuine bid to embrace all ethnicities and the labouring classes in Turkey, and voice their concerns and desires within a left program. This should be taken seriously by skeptical Turks, who have not been able to break free from the nationalist propaganda with colonial undertones.

The most recent elections has made it clear that the natural ally of the Turkish social democrats under the current circumstances is the Kurdish left, not the ultra-nationalists nor the dissident Islamic conservatives they entered into an electoral alliance with.

The elections further empowered the AKP and its leader Erdogan despite a drop in the party's popular vote. It also opened the way for the ruling party to strengthen and extend its grip over the Turkish state and society. In the face of deepening divisions exacerbated by the exclusionary politics of the AKP and an approaching economic crisis, it is quite likely that the authoritarian tendencies already inherent in the ruling-bloc will grow stronger.

The June 24th elections have led to tremendous (and rightful) frustration and disappointment among the progressive forces in the country. However, with fascism hovering above like the sword of Damocles, there is no time for grief nor hopelessness. It is time for a new politics that overcomes sectarianism and challenges the pillars of the current regime in favour of all the labouring and marginalized segments of Turkish society. While our intellect may fall into pessimism, the past struggles of the honest and brave people of Turkey (and Kurdistan) should keep our optimism alive. •

Sources:

“Erdo?an'dan itiraf: OHAL'den istifade ederek grevlere anında müdahale ediyoruz,” Cumhuriyet, 12 July 2017. Accessed on 28 June 2018.

Endnotes

1. A speech by Erdogan from 11 July 2017 is noteworthy. At a meeting with foreign investors, Erdogan identified investors, entrepreneurs and international capital as the main pillars of development. He further stated: “When we came to power there was a state of emergency in Turkey but all factories were under the threat of strikes. Remember those days. But now we intervene wherever there is the threat of a strike by virtue of the state of emergency” (Cumhuriyet, 12 July 2018).https://socialistproject.ca/2018/07/turkish-elections-looming-fascism-and-left-politics/ - easy-footnote-1-2336

2. Baris Karaagac teaches international political economy and economic development at Trent University and researches European social democracy, state theory, and Turkish political economy. He is the editor of Accumulations, Crises, Struggles: Capital and Labour in Contemporary Capitalism (2013).

International Relations
July 6, 2018

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American Carnage

Alternatives International - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 16:22

I'm in Europe this summer, though not in exile. I have not been driven to find sanctuary, much less thrown into a cage awaiting deportation, or forcibly separated from my child. When I fly home to New York, I will not be told that my name has ‘randomly' appeared on a list, and taken aside to answer questions about the country of my ancestors, or my religious and political convictions. But for the first time in my life I'm not certain that this privilege, which ought to be simply a right, will last.

By a strange twist of historical fate, people like me, Jews whose families fled to the US from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, became insiders, ‘white ethnics', but the racism, intolerance and sheer vindictiveness that Donald Trump has helped bring into the mainstream are volatile forces, in constant search of new targets. For Muslims, Latinos, immigrants and black people, this has been the Summer of Hatred. Now we can add journalists to the list. Trump, the inciter-in-chief, called them ‘enemies of the American people'. Five were killed in Maryland last week; they are unlikely to be the last.

Any American abroad has had the experience of reading the news from home and experiencing the peculiar shock that others must feel when they learn of another school shooting, another police killing of a young black person. Is it possible, you wonder, that such atrocities fail to provoke a national emergency? But it is, and they do not. Instead, they are followed by similar atrocities, which occur with such numbing regularity that they begin to blur in your mind. This is the real ‘American carnage', and it is permeating the country's most powerful institutions, from the presidency to the Supreme Court.

The brutalisation of American life is nowhere more apparent than at the border with Mexico, where children were wrenched from their mothers' arms by immigration officials and moved to detention centres in 17 states. (The Trump administration asked the Pentagon to prepare 20,000 beds for undocumented immigrants in military bases.) And though Trump rescinded the order, more than 2000 children – some as young as a few months old – have yet to be reunited with their families. Obama sang the praises of American multiculturalism but deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous president. Now Trump has stripped Obama's policy of its already threadbare human face.

Whether American institutions would be resilient enough to resist Trump was one of the questions raised by his victory. We received a bleak answer last week from the Supreme Court, which voted by 5-4 both to weaken the collective bargaining power of public unions and to uphold the Muslim travel ban. Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was a striking example of the topsy-turvy logic of Trump world, invoking the First Amendment right to free speech against the right of public unions to collect dues from non-members.

Some commentators argued that the Muslim ban, an obvious case of animus against members of a religious minority, contradicted the Court's recent decision in support of an Evangelical baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. But the upholding of the ban was consistent in spirit, if not in logic, with the Court's decisions in favour of the strong against the weak. In its judgment, the court took the opportunity to overturn the 1944 decision that authorised the Japanese-American internment camps. Like Trump's pardon of the black boxer Jack Johnson, the decision used the victims of an earlier injustice as cover for new injustices.

Noam Chomsky used to surprise interviewers by saying that he continued to live in America, in spite of his opposition to its foreign policy, because it was the ‘greatest country on earth'. An exaggeration, to be sure, but for many years a case could be made that the United States remained a comparatively free and open society, welcoming of immigrants, more accepting of hyphenated identities and cultural difference than most Western European societies. Even black Americans, who had the least reason to have hope in America (and nowhere else to go), could draw inspiration from its promise. As Langston Hughes put it, ‘America never was America to me,/and yet I swear this oath!/America will be!'

Hughes's certainty that ‘America will be' – a faith that sustained not only the civil rights movement but feminism, gay liberation and other movements for equality – is hard to share today. Trump remains popular with about 40 per cent of the electorate, and among Republicans – 27 per cent of the electorate – his approval ratings are at 90 per cent. He does not command the support of most Americans, but he isn't weak, either, because he has a fanatical cult behind him. Anthony Kennedy, who has announced his resignation from the Supreme Court, has handed Trump another opportunity to cement his judicial legacy. The Court will soon be reconsidering such matters as reproductive freedom, gay marriage and voting rights: right-wing groups are especially keen to limit black turnout in the 2020 presidential election. There's no reason to believe the Muslim ban might not be extended with the Court's approval, or other restrictive measures introduced.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ban is already affecting those who do not fall under its strictures. A French friend of mine, whose parents are Iranian, was recently stopped at JFK and interrogated for three hours, her bag searched for ‘agricultural' items. For people of Muslim origin visiting the States, JFK has increasingly come to resemble Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where marathon searches, based on unconcealed ethno-religious profiling, are carried out on ‘national security' grounds, but are also intended to assert ownership of the ‘homeland'.

One effect of this policy – also not unintended – will be to discourage repeat visits. A friend of mine in London, a British novelist with Somali parents, told me that she has decided not to apply for a fellowship in New York because she's afraid of being denied entry, or subjected to a humiliating search at JFK. Even if she were to come, she would face what Rafia Zakaria has called ‘brown existence anxiety', caused by the ‘scowls and the sneers, all the ordinary inflictions of distress that remain un-tabulated and uncounted'.

As Zakaria points out, ‘brown existence anxiety' is the penalty that Muslims and immigrants are forced to pay for the ‘white extinction anxiety' that has spread among white Republican voters, now that there are more deaths than births among whites in a majority of states. Trump's base isn't that different from Nixon's ‘silent majority', whites outside metropolitan centres who believe in ‘law and order' – i.e. keeping immigrants and people of colour in their place. But over the last half century, people of colour transformed America into a more tolerant, inclusive society, made inroads into the establishment, and helped impose a new set of norms about what could and could not be said about them. Under Trump, these norms – the fragile gains achieved by social movements – are being shattered. For whites who imagine themselves to have been persecuted or silenced, this is experienced as a great moment of liberation. That's why Trump's rallies – like the lynchings they resemble, though the murder is only rhetorical – are such joyous affairs, as full of laughter as they are of fury.

Hillary Clinton was attacked for referring to ‘half' of Trump's supporters as a ‘basket of deplorables', and there's no denying the smug disdain, or the unmerited confidence she expressed in dismissing them. But was she wrong? The great question the Democrats now face is whether Trump's supporters are redeemable, and if so, how many and at what cost. I recently listened to a well-known liberal critic of identity politics pontificate on the sorrows of white Evangelicals who, he said, feel entirely ignored by Hollywood. They had gone over to Trump, he claimed, because for once a politician had recognised them, validated their ‘culture'.

But the Evangelicals have an immense cultural infrastructure of their own, and Trump does not appear to have a comparable following among Black Evangelicals who are no less ignored by Hollywood. Chasing after Evangelicals – or the fabled ‘white working-class' – sounds a lot like compromise with the forces of social conservatism, if not a resurgent white nationalism. In any case, the ‘white working-class' is largely a figure of nostalgia. The actually existing American working-class is increasingly comprised of blacks and immigrants, the people who voted for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old socialist from the Bronx who won the Democratic primary in New York's 14th congressional district, defeating the white incumbent, Joseph Crowley, in the biggest upset so far of the 2018 midterms.

I never thought I'd experience such joy at a congressional primary, but beggars can't be choosers. When, the day after Trump's victory, I wrote a piece for this blog entitled ‘The Nightmare Begins', a radical friend accused me of exaggeration. Trump, he said, had remembered the working-class voters abandoned by neoliberal Democrats, and criticised liberal hawk visions of imposing democracy by force. Sure, he had pandered to racists, but he ought to be given a chance and, besides, Clinton was an establishment candidate and the system needed shaking up.

As Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev argue in a forthcoming book, The Light That Failed, the hard left had trouble reckoning with the danger posed by Trump because he ‘trashed all the essential postulates of the American creed, the set of beliefs underlying the country's missionary zeal to spread its influence abroad'. As it turns out, his foreign policy is more militarist than Obama's. He has deployed drones with abandon, ingratiated himself with dictators, and, by withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, made war in the Middle East much more likely. His foreign policy philosophy was helpfully summarised by one of his advisers as ‘We're America, bitch.'

‘We're America, bitch' is also Trump's message to Muslims denied entry to the US and undocumented immigrants sitting in cages. The reality of America under Trump is much worse than the nightmare I envisaged, because the movement that he leads is more potent than the Republican Party, and much larger than Trump himself, even if he has provided both with a charismatic figurehead. Voting him out may turn out to be the easy part. Repairing the damage he has caused, and containing the domestic forces he has unleashed, will be far more difficult.

2 July 2018

Source: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/07/02/adam-shatz/american-carnage/?utm_source=LRB+blog+email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180703+blog&utm_content=usca_nonsubs_blog

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Pressemitteilung: Absolute Reduktion des Rohstoffverbrauchs muss oberstes Ziel der deutschen Rohstoffpolitik sein

WEED - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 22:00
02.07.2018: WEED und weitere Umwelt- und Entwicklungsorganisationen fordern vor Beginn des BDI-Rohstoffkongresses Neuausrichtung der deutschen Rohstoffstrategie
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Grieve the Beloved Children: Israel and the War on Children

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:34

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported on June 1st that a beautiful young woman medic, Razan Ashraf Najjar, 21, was the second medic to be killed by Israeli army fire since March 30th. To date, Israel has killed 130 and injured more than 13,400 non-violent people in Gaza for protesting the siege. Among the injured are 238 medics, 29 shot with live fire after being directly targeted with high-velocity gas bombs.

Still, Israel is accorded impunity. Even when crimes are acknowledged, they “may” constitute a war crime or a crime against peace (Nuremberg), Israel's destruction of Gaza's entire infrastructure “may” render Gaza unliveable by 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020, Gaza “may” be a humanitarian disaster, or Israel's use of unconventional weapons in 2006, 2009, 2014 and 2018 should be investigated. And always underreported is the participation of nations and institutions in Israel's “military-securitization-pacification” complex. Israel has long violated arms embargoes imposed on some of the most murderous regimes, and has produced and used prohibited weapons with impunity. Germany recently donated to Israel a submarine capable of carrying 144 nuclear warheads (as part of its Holocaust reparations!).

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has substantiated through archival records Israel's ethnic cleansing of 1948 in the formation of the Israeli state, methodically researched and planned since before the Holocaust. Pappe now defines Israel's modus operandi as an “incremental genocide.” At the 2014 Russell Tribunal, former UN Special Rapporteurs on the Occupied Territories John Dugard and Richard Falk also found evidence of “incitement to genocide.” More recently, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy wrote that Israel's real purpose in its Gaza operations is “to kill Arabs” and that the Israel Defence Forces has a “map of pain.”

Israel's lies have been closely interrogated by Noam Chomsky and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress Henry Siegman, among many others. They write that Israel surreptitiously instigates and pre-plans innumerable provocations until Palestinians eventually retaliate, allowing Israel to justify massively disproportionate reprisals in the name of “self-defense.” They document Hamas' consistent compliance with truce agreements (unlike Israel's systemic violations). The world should be forewarned that Israel has long used this same strategy against Iran, secretly “provoking Iran into responding with war or measures just stopping short of war” while manipulating public opinion with “semi-official horror scenarios” about Iran.1

Poetry often captures best what seems unimaginable. Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's eulogy to Edward Said identifies Israel's “maximum proficiency” in killing and Palestinian hunger to live:

…Adept snipers, hitting their target
With maximum proficiency
Blood
And blood
And blood.
…And scream that you may hear yourself,
and scream that you may know you're still alive,
and alive,
and that life on this earth is possible.

Aharon Shabtai's poem “J'Accuse” is a requiem for Muhammad al-Durrah, a child killed with “maximum proficiency.”

The sniper who shot at Muhammad the child
Beneath his father's arm
Wasn't acting alone –
…The tree doesn't go green
When a single leaf unfurls,
many wrinkled brows
leaned over the plans.
History has known
foreheads like these-
technicians of slaughter,
bastards in whose eyes
morality is a pain in the ass…..
Each one of these authorities
sees to his part in the plan:
one's in charge of liquidation,
another of the daily harassment;
this one's field is public relations,
that one's collaboration;
this one deals with expulsion and fencing,
that one with the destruction of homes.
Because, when it comes down to it, we're only speaking
of a population of a certain size,
which needs to be pounded and ground
then shipped off as human powder.
… For the sniper who fired at the child
is only a single stinking instrument
within an enormous orchestra…

Killing and tormenting children and parents are found in many other “civilized” nations: the U.S. policy toward Black and refugee children; the half million dead Iraqi children over the course of the American war and occupation; and Canada's “scooping” tens of thousands of Indigenous children into residential schools. Britain's maltreatment of whole classes of children is captured in Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal to eat Irish children to solve the demographic threat and food shortages.

In Israel's disproportionate attacks on Gaza, one-third to one-quarter of the fatalities are children. In Operation Protective Edge, Israel killed 551 Gazan children while one Israeli child was killed. As a result of the Gaza siege imposed in 2007, 70 per cent of babies at nine months suffered from anemia, and about 15 per cent of Gaza's children are reported as stunted in growth due to malnutrition. Closures prevent infants from leaving Gaza for life-saving cardiovascular surgery. As of January 2008, there were no first line paediatric antibiotics available in the Ministry of Health. Physicians for Human Right-Israel (PHR-I) filed a petition and a request to the Israeli Supreme Court for a temporary injunction to stop the nightly sonic booms, deeming it a collective punishment of the civilian population that particularly traumatized children, causing hearing loss, night terrors, and bedwetting, but the petition was rejected. Barring goods like potato chips and toys has to do with absolute power, not security.

Israelis shamelessly desecrate dead Palestinian children and their families. Former Prime Minister Golda Meir: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” Golda Meir, the guilt-inducing Jewish mother in extremis, is utterly devoid of feeling the “majesty and burning” of a child's death (Dylan Thomas). Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked has called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers as they give birth to “little snakes” and Netanyahu accuses Palestinians of selecting photogenic pictures of child victims for propaganda. Israeli soldiers scrawled on a mourning notice for 16-year-old Musab Tamimi, killed by a sniper's shot to the throat: “‘Son of a bitch, slut, dead.' For good measure, they drew a Star of David… Neatly folded, the notice is now in the possession of the bereaved father.” Israel tried to blame the father and cameraman of faking the killing of Muhammad al-Durrah, the child in Shabtai's poem “J'Accuse”. Thousands of Palestinian children have been kidnapped, incarcerated, and tortured in an apartheid juvenile justice system.2

There appears to be no self-awareness. In the article “Tell the Truth, Shimon” [Peres], Gideon Levy admonishes the spineless prime minister to “go to the village of Yamoun and meet Heira Abu Hassan and Amiya Zakin, who lost their babies three weeks ago when IDF soldiers wouldn't let their cars through the checkpoint, while they were in labor and bleeding. Listen to their terrible stories.” Yigal Shochat evokes the gas chamber “selections,” writing that checkpoint officials “make a selection” as to who will be allowed to proceed to a hospital or to a maternity ward.3

Sakharov Peace Prize recipient Nurit Peled-Elhanan lost her own daughter to a suicide bombing. She speaks of “the megalomania of the insolent and corrupt leaders of the state of Israel … [who] have succeeded in converting this whole country into an altar on which they sacrifice other people's children to the god of death….”

The late Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, former director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, wrote that “children experienced beating, bone-breaking, injury, tear gas and acts of killing, and that the most excruciating psychological experience was to see their fathers beaten helpless by Israeli soldiers without resistance.”

Avi Mograbi's documentary Avenge But One of My Two Eyes provides insights into the education of Israel's Jewish youth. From earliest childhood through young adulthood they are repeatedly told by adults in positions of authority about the heroic and exciting suicide terrorism myths of Masada and Samson Under conditions of siege or of insults to male narcissism, they learn that male leaders are entitled to ask hundreds of women and children to commit suicide or to kill thousands of people. These seductive myths conflate the experiences of victimhood and heroic aggression, leading to guiltless entitlement to kill. According to Netanyahu, “We don't educate our people, our children in suicide kindergarten camps, as happens in the Palestinian side, and you should see what Hamas is educating them to do …. And the worst thing that I see, the worst thing, is that they use their children, … they don't give any thought about them.” Gideon Levy writes of Israel whitewashing “kill-and-destroy' operations, with cruelly ironic names like “Locked Kindergarten.”4 For a brief time the 2006 operation was named “Samson's Pillars” before it was changed to “Summer Rains.”

The carnage of the Great March of Return has its precedents: the newly described butterfly bullet belongs to a line of non-conventional and illegal weapons tested in the “lab” of Gaza, including, Dense Inert Metallic Explosives (DIME), flechette shells, white phosphorus, and cube-shaped cluster bombs. Israel cleverly twists the law, claiming that Gaza is a “parastatal entity” to evade the legal obligations of the occupier. It claims that its aggression prevents a greater aggression and is in compliance with the principle of lesser evil.5

The late Israeli linguist and author, Tanya Reinhart, documents in detail the “scale and horror” of Israel's planned killing and maiming in response to Palestinian protest. Since 2000 Israel has targeted the head, legs, knees, or eyes “by carefully aimed shots” that will cripple and maim people for life. By December 2001 there were 25,000 injured Palestinians. Reinhart quotes Ehud Barak: “that with a stable average of five casualties a day, Israel could continue ‘undamaged' in the media for many more months.” She adds that there are no hospitals to care for them, that many are “near starvation amidst the infrastructure destruction that is inflicted on their communities.”6 Israel's doctors have put Gazans on a “diet” by calculating the minimum caloric intake for each age group.

Israel, with its educated population, has squandered the post WWII possibility of “never again” for all people. Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein opposed Israeli statehood, and warned of fascism, racism, and militarism. In 2004 about 200 Israelis, including founder of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel Dr. Ruchama Marton and Jerusalem Assistant Mayor Meron Benvenisti, signed the Olga Document:

“The State of Israel was supposed to tear down the walls of the ghetto; it is now constructing the biggest ghetto in the entire history of the Jews; …[ if Israelis] muster within ourselves the appropriate honesty and requisite courage, we will be able to take the first step in the long journey that can extricate us from the tangle of denial, repression, distortion of reality, loss of direction and forsaking of conscience, in which the people of Israel have been trapped for generations.”

Instead, Israel (and its allies) have justified and facilitated the imprisonment, maiming and massacre of civilian populations with appalling regularity. Here are the final words of “J'Accuse”: when “that man smiles, …. when hoarsely, he pronounces the word ‘Peace' – mothers wake up trembling;… and now, at long last, he'll roll up his sleeves and get down to the work at which he excels, and bring about a blood bath.”

The 1955 exhibit The Family of Man included the photo of Jewish people herded out of the burning Warsaw ghetto, with the caption – “Humanity is outraged in me and with me. We must not dissimulate nor try to forget this indignation which is one of the most passionate forms of love” (George Sand). Israel has reversed its position from victim to perpetrator and, as such, has become an instrumental part of the deadly global political economy of arms and incarceration. The Palestinian struggle is of global significance, a fight for life in the face of legalized illegality, the Orwellian “peace” institutions that do not protect (as with the U.S. again just vetoing a UN resolution to protect Palestinians), proliferating nuclear and new weaponry, closed borders, and the scientifically calculated disposability of a people.

Endnotes

1. Israel Shahak, Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies, London: Pluto Press, 1997, pp. 53-55.https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/ - easy-footnote-1-2327
2. Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh, Adah Kay, Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel's detention of Palestinian children, London: Pluto Press, 2004 and Defense for Children Itl. Palestine Section, 2004.https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/ - easy-footnote-2-2327
3. Yigal Shochat, “Red line, green line, black flag,” p. 129, and Gideon Levy, “Tell the truth, Shimon,” p. 81, in Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin, The Other Israel, New York: The New Press, 2002.https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/ - easy-footnote-3-2327
4. Gideon Levy, The Punishment of Gaza, London: Verso, 2010, p. 24.https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/ - easy-footnote-4-2327
5. Jeff Halper, War Against the People, Pluto Press, 2015 and Eyal Weizman, The Least of all Possible Evils, Verso: 2011.https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/ - easy-footnote-5-2327
6. Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine: How to end the war of 1948, New York: Seven Stories, 2002, pp. 112-16.https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/ - easy-footnote-6-2327

Judith Deutsch is a member of Independent Jewish Voices, and former president of Science for Peace. She is a psychoanalyst in Toronto. She can be reached at judithdeutsch0@gmail.com.

Source: https://socialistproject.ca/2018/06/grieve-the-beloved-children-israel-and-the-war-on-children/#more-2327

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The OHCHR Report on Kashmir: Will India Succeed in Blocking Discussions on the Report in Geneva?

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 13:04

The United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), on June 14 published “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018”. This is the first such report on Jammu and Kashmir by the UN. It covers both India and Pakistan controlled areas of the former princely state. Government of India has rejected the OHCHR report as “fallacious.” The spokesperson of India's Ministry of External Affairs claimed that the report was overtly “prejudiced” and was seeking to “build a false narrative.” He said that the report violated India's sovereignty and integrity.” He also pointed out that the report had described internationally designated and UN-proscribed terrorist entities (such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa/Hizbul Mujahideen) as ‘armed groups' and terrorists as ‘leaders.' India also rejected the UN High Commission's reference to “Pakistan Administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan” as a separate entity on the ground that “The whole state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan remains in illegal occupation of a part of our territory. The two cannot and should not be equated.”

Indian government's claim that the report was “fallacious” and “a selective compilation of largely unverified information” is problematic, as it was the Indian government which had turned down repeated requests of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for unrestricted access to Jammu and Kashmir. Explaining the methodology adopted by the team which worked on the report, the High Commissioner explains, “As OHCHR was denied access to Kashmir, it was not possible to directly verify allegations. OHCHR bases its findings on its methodology, using a “reasonable grounds” standard of proof.

On the issue of the Indian government calling the OHCHR report as a violation of India's sovereignty and integrity, let us briefly examine the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council and India's role in the Council which is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote and protect human rights around the world. Several member countries of the UN, including India were unhappy with the older UN body, the Human Rights Commission as they felt that the Commission was being manipulated by powerful countries such as the US which prevented the review of their friends and allies such as Israel. The Council was created by the General Assembly in 2006. The Council has 47 members elected by the UN General Assembly for staggered three-year terms on a regional basis. India has been a member of the Council for two terms till 2017. On being re-elected for a second term India's Ambassador to the Council, Asoke Mukerji emphasised that India's focus will be to make the UN human rights system more effective and address issues through a constructive approach. The Council set up the process of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) under which the human rights record of each of the 193 UN member countries is peer-reviewed every four or five years. Under the UPR process, the recommendations made by the Council members during the review of each country's record are given to a “troika” of countries drawn through a lot. India has been a member of the Troika in the past.

In September 2017, India's human rights records were examined under the UPR process. Among the issues raised during the UPR were continued discrimination, stigmatization and violence against Dalits; restrictions on free speech and on the work of human rights defenders; attacks on religious minorities; reports of excessive use of force by security officers, including in Jammu and Kashmir; combatting impunity and ensuring accountability and delays in judicial proceedings. Out of the 250 recommendations that were made, India accepted 152 and took note of the rest. Also, India undertook to fulfill its twenty year old promise that it would ratify the UN Convention Against Torture. India, having been an active member of the UN Human Rights Council, having submitted to the UPR process on three occasions, and as a member of the Troika made recommendations to other countries for improving its human rights situation, it is strange that the government now asserts that the OHCHR report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is a violation of Indian sovereignty and integrity.

President Bush had taken the USA out of the Human Rights Council. President Obama had reintegrated the USA into the Council. President Trump is said to be contemplating pulling the USA out again. I wonder, if India under Prime Minister Modi's stewardship will be following the path of President Trump.

The OHCHR report is based on information that largely is available in the public domain including what was obtained by Indian citizens through the Right to Information Act. The report has also made use of government documents and statements, questions in the parliament and the government's response, court orders and police reports. It has relied largely on the Press Trust of India (PTI) for official statements of the government. Additionally, the report writers have also relied on the research and monitoring carried out by local, national and international non – governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders. OHCHR team also conducted a small number of interviews to corroborate information.

While the OHCHR has elaborated on the sources of its data, explained the limitations and detailed the methodology it was obliged to adopt in the face of denial of access to Jammu and Kashmir by the government, the Indian government in turn, has given no reasoned or rational explanation for calling the report fallacious and based on unverified information.

Regarding India's objection to the OHCHR reference to the “Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir” and “Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltisatan” as separate entities, it is pertinent to point out that multiple reports of the United Nations as well as the official correspondence of the UN Secretary General have used nomenclature such as “Kashmir”, “Jammu and Kashmir”, “State of Jammu and Kashmir”, “Indian administered side of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir”, and “Pakistan Administered Kashmir” – while referring to the territory of the former princely state before 1947. Even as recently as August 2016, the UN Secretary General in a statement condemning the terrorist attack on the Uri military post used the term Indian- Administered Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, I would argue that I have yet to come across a statement from government of India, objecting to any UN agency's use of the term, “Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir”.

Government of India's response to the OHCHR report has evoked mainly two kinds of responses. Supporters human rights within India and in other countries have called on India to act on the recommendations of the first-ever report by the United Nations on the human rights situation in Kashmir. Others, including supporters of the ruling BJP and the rightwing Hindu nationalist organisations have vociferously endorsed the Indian government's rejection of the report.

One interesting comment has come from a well-known former editor, Mr. Sekhar Gupta. Mincing no words, he called the report “idiotic”. It is “idiotic not because of the quality of its research, but for its expectation that it will help the people of Kashmir,” he asserted. According to Mr. Gupta the report was “fatally flawed” and “dead on arrival. Debating its accuracy, fairness, methodology or motives is a waste of time.” An interesting position, that allows you to avoid any discussion on the content of the report. This is exactly what India's official response has done when it condemned the entire report as “fallacious”. Mr. Gupta has also accused the OHCHR of allowing NGO-type activists take over the world's premier human rights body and not allow “political oversight”. Clearly, Mr. Gupta believes that the global concern for human rights should be toned down by the political interest of states. Mr. Gupta claims that the report will not only fail to help the Kashmiris, “on the contrary, it will harden India's approach. It will also encourage Pakistan to shove more Kashmiris and its own expendable youth into a jihad (holy war).”

The OHCHR has no political or military arm. The only way it can enforce its recommendations is through repeated requests and by naming and shaming. In a civilized world, it is expected that a sovereign and an honourable nation state would fulfill the promises that it makes to the comity of nations. India has not fulfilled its promise to ratify the UN convention Against Torture for more than two decades.

Mr. Gupta has argued that the report will not embarrass India as the country will be able to garner enough political support at the Council to block any discussion on the report and the recommendation for an independent investigation. India had been able to do exactly that in 1994 in the UN General Assembly (Third Committee) when confronted with Islamabad's allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. India was able to rally sufficient support from the members states including from “human rights rogues like China and Iran”. However, Mr. Gupta forgot to mention that the BJP's Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was a member of India's multi-party delegation sent to the UN by the then Prime Minister Narasinha Rao, at that time had said, “For a great nation like us, there was a certain humiliation involved in having to go around begging for votes on a human rights issue. Let us now use this reprieve to clean up our act in Kashmir or there will be a Geneva every few months.”

The attempt to avoid discussions on the content is an attempt to cover up the gross misuse of the coercive state apparatus against protesting civilians during the period 2016-2018. The discussions on the content will bring out issues highlighted by the OHCHR report such as the killings of about 145 persons and a very high number of injuries. The excessive use of pellet-firing guns that have blinded or injured the eyes of civilians, largely the youth. The awarding of Major Litul for using a Kashmiri civilian as a human shield even before the court of enquiry had completed its investigation. And the hard fact that in these last 28 years the India government has not allowed any civilian court to hear complaints of human rights abuse committed by the members of its security forces. Understandably, Indian government would want to avoid any discussion on the content of the report.

Will India be able to block a discussion on the report by the members of the Human Rights Council? Certainly, it will have to make a very serious effort to gather enough support to prevent the council from discussing the High Commissioner's recommendation for an independent investigation. In this effort India will be joining the ranks of Myanmar which has been accused of committing genocide against the Rohingya. India could also point out that the Council's guidelines do not require setting up such investigation in countries where avenues exist for recourse to judiciary for settling complaints of misuse of power by the state's security agencies. India will then face a conundrum of its own making. Under AFSPA, it has granted complete impunity to its security forces.

Even if India is able to stymie an inquiry by the Council with the support of Saudi Arabia, UAE and possibly China, Russia and the USA, its actions will be carefully watched by Geneva. Under these circumstances, it is possible that the Modi government may be forced to change its purely iron fisted approach. And that will be the achievement of this OHCHR report, with all its “flaws”.

Tapan Bose is an independent documentary filmmaker, human rights and peace activist, author and regular contributor to leading journals and news magazines in India, Nepal and Pakistan. His award winning documentaries on human rights and democratic issues include An Indian Story (1982) on the blinding of under trial prisoners in Bhagalpur and the nexus between landlord, police and politicians and Beyond Genocide: Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1986). His film ‘Behind the Barricades; Punjab' (1993) on the state repression in Punjab, as with the earlier cited films, was banned and after a long legal struggle was shown. His latest film is The Expendable People', (2016) a passionate appeal for justice for the tribal peoples of India, cheated, dispossessed, pauperised and criminalized in their forest homes, made to pay the price for extractive development.

Source: https://countercurrents.org/2018/06/20/the-ohchr-report-on-kashmir-will-india-succeed-in-blocking-discussions-on-the-report-in-geneva/

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6th conference on socially responsible procurement of IT products

WEED - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 22:00
21.06.2018: Stuttgart, 21 & 22 June 2018
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IT-Fachkonferenz 2018

WEED - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 22:00
21.06.2018: Am 21./22. Juni 2018 findet in Stuttgart die 6. bundesweite Fachkonferenz für sozial verantwortliche IT-Beschaffung statt
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Questioning Amnesty International's “New Evidence” on ARSA's Brutal killing of Hindu Rohingyas in Kha Maung Seik

Alternatives International - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 15:16

On May 22, 2018, Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International released a briefing note titled, “Myanmar: New evidence reveals Rohingya armed group massacred scores in Rakhine State”. It may be seen at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/05/myanmar-new-evidence-reveals-rohingya-armed-group-massacred-scores-in-rakhine-state/.

In the briefing note, Amnesty International stated “A Rohingya armed group brandishing guns and swords is responsible for at least one, and potentially a second, massacre of up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children as well as additional unlawful killings and abductions of Hindu villagers in August 2017, Amnesty International revealed today after carrying out a detailed investigation inside Myanmar's Rakhine State.”

From the statement of the Amnesty International it appears that they have gathered enough evidence to implicate the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in genocidal massacres. Apparently, the evidence against ARSA is more clear and convincing than the evidence against the armed forces of Myanmar and the Buddhist mobs. While releasing the briefing note Tirana Hassan also refuted Myanmar government's criticism that the international community was being one-sided while at the same time denying access to northern Rakhine State. Tirana Hassan added that, “the full extent of ARSA's abuses and the Myanmar military's violations will not be known until independent human rights investigators, including the UN Fact-Finding mission, are given full and unfettered access to Rakhine State.”

Two versions of Massacre at Kha Maung Seik

According to Amnesty International it appears that one of the most prominent alleged massacres of Hindu Rohingyas in Kha Maung Seik (also known as Fakira Bazar) in Maungdaw Township was done by ARSA activists on August 25 and 26. Amnesty International claims that ARSA had abducted the eight Hindu women survivors, forcefully converted them to Islam, compelled them to marry and cohabit with the murderers of their husbands, parents and brothers. Amnesty International also claims that the eight Hindu women told the fabricated the story of Myanmar army and Buddhists killing of some 93 Hindu civilians to cover up their genocidal killing of Hindus, fearing for their own lives and the lives of their children who were also abducted by ARSA.

Hindus from Myanmar had joined streams of Muslim Rohingyas to seek refuge in Bangladesh after the killing of 86 people from their community in the ethnic violence in the neighbouring Buddhist-majority country. According to a news story in the First Post, a Bangladeshi government official had said that “a total of 414 Hindus from (Myanmar's) Rakhine state took refuge at a Hindu village in Cox's Bazar.” However, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council President Rana Dasgupta, who visited the village, had claimed that the figure of Hindu refugees was 510, mostly women, children and the elderly, who were crammed into a wooden barn. Dasgupta said ordinary Rohingya Muslims escorted them to borders from where these Hindus entered Bangladesh along with thousands others. [https://www.firstpost.com/world/after-muslim-rohingyas-hindus-from-myanmar-seek-refuge-in-bangladesh-4008439.html]

Recalling the First Version of Kha Maung Seik Massacre

Kha Maung Seik was home to a mixed community, with Rohingya Muslims in the majority along with about 6,000 Rakhine Buddhists, Hindus and others. The relations between the Muslim Rohingyas and Hindu Rohingyas was cordial. However, the relations had been strained after Myanmar government had decided to grant citizenship to the Hindus. Because of the tension between the two communities, since October 2016, more soldiers were posted near the village, with border police. Patrols went house-to-house arresting anyone suspected of having militant links.

It is worth recalling what was reported by the Reuters on September 7, 2017, about nine months ago. Reuters had interviewed about 20 Muslims and Hindus in which they had recounted how they were forced out of their village of Kha Maung Seik in Myanmar's Rakhine State on Aug. 25. Kadil Hussein, a refugee sheltering in Kutupalang camp said, “The military brought some Rakhine Buddhists with them and torched the village. … All the Muslims in our village, about 10,000, fled. Some were killed by gunshots, the rest came here. There's not a single person left.” Villagers from Kha Maung Seik and neighbouring hamlets had described killings and the burning of homes in the military response to the attacks by ARSA

The villagers of Kha Maung Seik interviewed by Reuters said that they heard shooting at 2 a.m. on Aug. 25. A military source in Maungdaw town and two Muslim residents said militants attacked a police post near the village that night. Four Rohingya villagers separately gave Reuters accounts of how, at about 5 a.m., soldiers entered the village, firing indiscriminately. Thousands fled. Abul Hussein a 28 year old Rohingya refugee said, “I was at the front of a big group running for cover, but I looked back and could see people at the back getting shot”

Later, According to Hussein and three other villagers grenades and mortar bombs were fired into the forest. Husain had said, “I saw a mortar hit a group of people. Some died on the spot.” From the forest, residents had watched military and civilians loot and burn houses. Body Alom, another refugee said civilians were helping the army to gather bodies. Body Alom and two other villagers claimed, “they collected the bodies, searching for belongings. … They took money, clothes, cows, everything. Then they burned the houses.”

A group of Hindu women refugees in Kutupalong said they saw eight Hindu men killed by Buddhist Rakhines after they refused to attack Muslims. Anika Bala, who was six months pregnant told Reuters, “they asked my husband to join them to kill Rohingya but he refused, so they killed him.” She said Muslims helped her get to Bangladesh.

Reuters reported that a military official denied that Buddhist civilians were working with authorities and instead accused Muslims of attacking other communities. Anika Bala and other Hindu refugees subsequently changed their story. https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN1BI0EZ

As we seen earlier, these Hindu survivors, particularly the women survivors had told journalists, aid workers and other Rohingya refugees in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh that their men were killed by security forces and armed men from the Mogh, local Rakhine. Their interviews were broadcast and they were quoted in newspapers all over the world. At the request of some Hindu leaders, these Hindu women were removed from the Muslim dominated camp by Bangladesh security forces to a camp for only Hindus. After reaching the Hindu only camp, the women changed their story. In late August 2017, all the eight Hindu Rohingya women had told Reuters and other international media persons that it was Rakhine Buddhists who had attacked them. But later on, after being shifted to the Hindu only camp in Ukhiya, three of them changed their statements to say the attackers were Rohingya Muslims, who brought them to Bangladesh and told them to blame the Rakhine Buddhists. They insisted that it was in fact the Muslim Rohingya activists belonging to ARSA who had carried out the massacre of the Hindus in the village of Kha Maung Seik (also known as Fakira Bazar) in Maungdaw Township.

The Women return to Myanmar

From the Hindu only camp in Cox's Bazaar, the eight Hindu women survivors, subsequently returned to Myanmar at the intervention of U Kyaw Tint Swe a Minister in the office of the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Now they are being sheltered with other remaining members of Hindu community, still living in Rakhine state, by Myanmar authorities. When these survivors returned to Myanmar, their story changed for a second time. According to a news story in the Guardian of October 12, 2017, some of these returnees claimed that the attackers were masked and they did not know who was responsible.

In their video interview which may still be accessed on YouTube, the women did not explain how they knew the killers were Rakhines. As a matter of fact in some of the accounts, they unclear about that detail. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1xrk89bjlw 1:50) In the interview, Rekha Dhar described those wearing black outfits with “faces covered so we could not identify them.” Anika Dhar a Hindu woman survivor told Dhaka Tribune of “a group of men wearing black uniforms … armed to the teeth with guns and long knives” but they did not explain why they thought that the attackers were Buddhist.

The second Version: The killers were Rohingya Muslims belonging to ARSA

The earliest known media report about the second version of the killing in Kha Maung Seik was published on September 5, 2017 in The Irrawaddy, a pro Myanmar government news portal. The story said how an 8-year-old girl from the area was luckily away on the August 25 working in another village. Her family had been killed, except an older sister, who was among the eight kidnapped women living in a camp with Muslims in Bangladesh. She also learnt that her sister and other kidnapped women were rescued from the Muslim camp and had already made contact with home. She had already heard from others that “more than 80 members of their communities in Rakhine State had been killed by unidentified armed men … reportedly … Muslim militants.” In an interview on September 16, 2017 the sisters claimed they were now quite sure that the killers were genuine Islamists with ARSA, shouting Allahu Akbar behind their ski masks as they attacked. They massacred the girls' families and husbands, and called the bloodletting their way of celebrating the feast of Eid al-Adha (feast of sacrifice), something they said they had been wanting to do for three years.
(https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/09/24/hindu-refugees-blame-rohingya-militants-for-attacking-them-in-myanmar

After the women returned to Myanmar around the end of September, they ostensibly provided a fuller account of the happening in their village to state run, Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM), on October 5, 2017. The report quoted one of the women saying, “[A] group of about 500 Muslims terrorists led by a foreigner in black clothing and one Noru Lauk from Khamaungseik Village – attacked their village of Ye Baw Kya claiming this “is our territory. … We will murder Buddhists and all of you who worship the statues made of bricks and stones.” (https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/dozens-hindus-killed-maungdaw-relatives.html)

What the Amnesty International claims

Amnesty International believes the second version of women's story. It also claims that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has links with Islamic Jihadi organisations and that ARSA has a large following and it was able to mount a well organised and a coordinated attack on 30 army and police stations/camps on August 25, 2017. I propose to examine these findings of Amnesty International in the light of what has been extensively reported by many reporters, news agencies, human rights groups, the UN agencies and independent researchers.

Amnesty International says that early in the morning of 25 August 2017, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya armed group, attacked around 30 security force outposts in northern Rakhine State. Amnesty also claims that the attacks, were carefully planned and coordinated and in the days that followed, ARSA fighters, along with some mobilized Rohingya villagers, engaged in scores of clashes with security forces. Based on it interviews conducted in Sittwe and Yangon, Myanmar during April and May 2018 and a report of the ICG, “Myanmar's Rohingya Crisis Enters a Dangerous New Phase”, Amnesty International has concluded that on 25 August, ARSA had mobilized a large number of Rohingya villagers – likely around several thousand with bladed weapons or sticks.

Various news reports that was published during August and September 2017, and particularly the Reuters report that I have quoted above, establish that Myanmar government has been following a dual policy towards the Rohingya. While it had offered to grant citizenship to the Hindu Rohingya, it had told the Muslims Rohingyas that they would get identity cards which would designate them as “foreigners”. This had created dissension among the Muslim in the village of with border police. The Myanmar army was aware of this tension between the two religious communities and as a result, they had deployed additional soldiers with border police near the village. Since October 2016, army and police patrols conducted house-to-house confiscating knives and axes and arresting anyone suspected of having militant links. Yet, on August 25, the ARSA militants were able to walk into the village, round up all the Hindu men and women, take them to the paddy fields, slaughter them, burry the bodies and stay with the captured women in the village for two days. The question that remains unanswered is where the Myanmar soldiers and the border police which was already deployed in this village.

In its briefing on May 22, 2018, the Amnesty International claimed that it has documented serious human rights abuses committed by ARSA during and after the attacks in late August 2017. This briefing focused on serious crimes – including unlawful killings and abductions – carried out by ARSA fighters against the Hindu community living in northern Rakhine State. In the refugee camps in Bangladesh in September 2017, Amnesty International conducted 12 interviews with members of the Hindu community who left Myanmar during the violence. In April 2018, Amnesty International conducted research in Sittwe, Myanmar on ARSA abuses and attacks, interviewing 10 additional people from the Hindu community and 33 people from ethnic Rakhine, Khami, Mro, and Thet communities, all of whom were from northern Rakhine State. Six more people from an area where Hindu killings occurred were interviewed by phone from outside the region in May 2018.

Not much is known about the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA), formerly known as Harakatul Yakeen. It had first emerged in October 2016 when it attacked three police outposts in the Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships, killing nine police officers. According to information given by Myanmar government, ARSA has been operating inside Arakan. On May 15, 2017, in a video uploaded to social media, Ataullah Abu Amar Jununi had claimed that they were mobilizing people for "Our legitimate self-defence is a necessary struggle justified by the needs of human survival." Mr. Phill Hynes, an expert on insurgency in the region had told CNN that he had information that “up to 150 foreign fighters were involved in the ARSA movement”. [http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/10/asia/myanmar-rohingya-militants-arsa-intl/index.html]. ARSA has denied all charges of foreign help and publicly rejected offers by Al Qaeda, Islamic State and others to send fighters. [http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/arsa-group-denies-links-al-qaeda-isil-170914094048024.html]

Contrary to what Amnesty International's claim the ARSA had mounted a well organised coordinated attack on about 30 Myanmar army and police posts, Rohingyas living in Maungdaw Township had told Al Jazeera that the ARSA men, numbered only a few dozen. They had, stormed the outposts with sticks and knives, and after killing the officers, they fled with light weaponry. [https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/myanmar-arakan-rohingya-salvation-army-170912060700394.html]

Clearly, the hitherto small ARSA movement had become surprisingly strong band of well organised fighters to be able to manage such a huge offensive on some 30 security posts at once. And yet clue to this mobilization we have is a WhatsApp audio message reportedly issued by the leader of ARSA on August 24 which asked all Rohingya men above 14 to participate in the attack on August 25. International Crisis Group (ICG) quoted this WhatsApp message perhaps to indicate a massive new recruitment at the last moment, bucking all prior estimates of the group's strength. The theory that they might also have teamed up with other groups to boost their power, but has not been substantiated till date.

The ARSA attack of August 25, 2017 was reported widely all over the world. The most detailed story was published by the Irrawaddy, a pro-government news portal bases in Yangon. As we will see, even the news story published by Irrawaddy does not support Amnesty International's claim of large scale mobilization armed insurgents by ARSA. It is interesting to recall that quoting from a statement issued by Myanmar Army Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the Irrawaddy had reported that about 10 police and one Myanmar Army soldier were killed in attacks on 24 border guard posts, police stations, and army bases by Muslim militants in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in northern Rakhine State on Thursday night and Friday morning, according to on Friday. According to the same report, five firearms were looted by the attackers and the bodies of 15 suspected militants were found. It was the largest attack by Rohingya Muslim militants since assaults on border guard posts in October 2016. In an earlier statement on the official Facebook page of the State Counselor's Office Information Committee had said that “the extremist Bengali insurgents attacked a police station in Maungdaw region in northern Rakhine state with a handmade bomb explosive and held coordinated attacks on several police posts at 1 a.m.”

Though it has been said that thousands of armed Rohingya had joined the ARSA in attacking the army posts, the Irrawaddy story, quoting from the statement of the commander-in-chief had said that, “some 150 men allegedly attacked Infantry Base 552 and an explosive device was used in an attack in Maungdaw”. According to the State Counselor's Office statement, “another 150 men allegedly attacked a police station at Taung Bazaar at 3 a.m. and the bodies of six suspected attackers were found”. The government statement had listed not 30 but the 24 locations that had come under attack—including Koe Tan Kauk in Rathedaung, which were also attacked by militants in October 2016. It said attacks were ongoing at the time of the statement's release early Friday morning. The New York Times on August 25, 2017 had carried a similar story quoting from a statement from the office of Myanmar's de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi claiming that in the attack at least 12 members of the security forces and at least 59 Rohingya insurgents were killed. The New York Times story also said that according to a statement. Myanmar's armed forces the militants used knives, small arms and explosives in the early-morning attacks on several police and military posts around Buthidaung and Maungdaw, near Myanmar's border with Bangladesh. [https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/muslim-militants-stage-major-attack-rakhine.html]

On September 13, 2017, Ms. Anagha Neelakantan, the Asia Programme Director at the International Crisis Group, had told Al Jazeera that there was no clear ideology underpinning the group's actions. "From what we understand the group is fighting to protect the Rohingya and not anything else," she said. Neelakanthan told Al Jazeera that she was unclear as to how many fighters the group currently has, Neelakantan explained, adding that there was "no evidence that ARSA has any links to local or international Jihadist groups, or that their aims are aligned".

Amnesty given Access to Northern Rakhine

Since 25 August 2017, the government Myanmar had blocked access to northern Rakhine State by the UN and most other humanitarian actors. The International Committee, International Federation, and Myanmar Red Cross Society were permitted to work, although they faced delays and restrictions as well as enormous logistical challenges in reaching populations in need. They made repeated requests to the government for grant of access to the communities in need in Rakhine state. It was only on 6 November, the World Food Programme was able to resume food aid to Rohingya and non-Rohingya communities through the government but with no staff access to monitor distribution directly.

Yet Amnesty International claims that it was able to send its investigators to Yangon and Sittwe and talk to the survivors independently. Ashley S. Kinseth a human rights lawyer who worked with a humanitarian NGO in Rakhine and had lived in Rakhine for several months before the August 25 ARSA attack, was told to move out on August 24 by the government. She has said that in Myanmar all movements were restricted and monitored by the army and security forces. Amnesty claims that their investigators met some of these women in Sittwe. Amnesty has not disclosed how they got access to these women and other witnesses to Sittwe. We have also not been told whether Amnesty team examined the three or four graves/pits from which the bodies were recovered and whether those narrow graves/pits could hold so many bodies. It is important for Amnesty International to clearly state its position on the graves/pits, as the photos of the mass graves or pits were publicized by Myanmar army and they exist in the public domain. Adam Larson of The Indicter Magazine had collected and analyzed the photos of the graves to assess whether so many bodies could have been buried in those narrow graves. According to Larson all three graves/pits were remarkably small in area, or narrow – one body wide at most. He concluded that to hold 12, 16, and 17 corpses each, as reported by Myanmar army, these had to be very deep, almost like well shafts. The bodies had to be piled in vertically, perhaps three bodies across and several layers deep. Furthermore, the way each of the pits were tucked into the edge of the brush, it suggested that the killers wanted these to stay hidden. If it weren't for the survivors' tips, they might have never been found. These were found by Myanmar army after the Hindu survivors gave them the location. Yet all the women in their statements have claimed that the black clad Rohingya killers had tied up the captured men and women away from the village to kill and burry the bodies in some place which they did not see. [http://theindicter.com/fake-news-and-massacre-marketing-in-the-rohingya-crisis-part-i-questioning-the-massacre-stories-1/]

Amnesty International's regional director James Gomez needs to look into this chain of contradictions. It is important to remember that an evolving story that adapts to shifting public perception is a sign of repeated falsification. Sloppy accusations of brutal killing of Hindus and Buddhists against ARSA, betray intuitive attachment to a country performing violence rather than empathy for those on its receiving end.

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PM: Bundesregierung muss Blockade bei Steuertransparenz endlich beenden!

WEED - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 22:00
18.06.2018: Das Netzwerk Steuergerechtigkeit, WEED und andere Organisationen fordern anlässlich des Deutsch-Französischen Ministertreffens öffentliche länderbezogene Berichterstattung von Konzernen
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