Eerily familiar

January 29, 2008 - Leave a Response
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Graffiti in Kisumu, on the side of a destroyed and looted shop owned by a Kikuyu.
  • “Human rights violations against women and children will continue to increase, particularly in conflict-ridden areas of Africa, unless the international community steps up its efforts to combat gender-based violence (GBV), according to UN officials.

– IRIN NAIROBI, 28 January 2005

  • “United Nations officials are saying that the government has failed to protect civilians, including girls who are getting raped at displaced persons camps.”
-NYTimes reporting on Kenya, January 30, 2008
  • “For the umpteenth time, we again ask President Kibaki and Orange Democratic Movement leader Mr. Raila Odinga to work for peace, truth, and justice. Kenya has bled enough.”

-The Sunday Standard (Kenya) editorial, January 2008

Rape in Kenya’s Post-election Chaos

January 25, 2008 - Leave a Response
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Mathare slum in Nairobi

The sexualized tactic of brutality will not be contained in it’s [DRC’s] heart of darkness…

A new press release issued by UNDP states concern about the increasing reports of sexual violence in Kenya as election violence continues. Excerpt from the release is below:

Hospitals and health organizations in Kenya are pressed to treat the rising number of rape victims. Reports from Nairobi indicate that some hospitals saw the number of rape cases double within days after violence erupted as a result of the disputed presidential election, which took place 27 December 2007. Medical personnel say that for each of the new cases they are treating, there are many more victims who fail to seek help – either because of security reasons or the fear of stigmatization.

While sexual assault against women has always been a consequence of war, in recent decades it has reached epidemic levels. Wherever there is conflict –in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Liberia– women and girls have been systematically raped. An estimated half a million women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, approximately 60,000 women were raped in the war. The scale of violence against women in conflict situations is staggering, yet there is no evidence this epidemic is abating. The early warning signs in Kenya make that all too clear where, like in other conflicts, women and girls are targeted.

other reportings:
BBC News

IRIN News: “she said, noting that in Kenya’s case, it was too early to tell whether the rapes were gratuitous or targeted, although investigations had begun. ”

PlusNews

December 13, 2007 - 2 Responses

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(refugees hiding out in an abandoned Catholic Mission)

War in the Congo is threatening to erupt again a fighting between rebel Tutsis and the government forces flare. The disatrous war in the Congo was a direct result of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Refugees, including Hutu rebels who partook in the genocide of the Tutsis, feld to the Congo. The region was destabalized as aid was exploited by Hutu militias while civilias received little. In 1996, the most intense war Africa has seen to date–claiming more lives than WWII–began.

 We are still dealing with the the ripple effect of the Rwandan genocide in the Congo. Activist, policy makers, and aid workers must keep such “ripple effects” in mind with the Darfur genocide as refugees flood Chad and the Central African Republic.

 Just a few thoughts for the blog while I am here in Ghana. Not much time for more. Please post thoughts and interesting finds!

 Katie

Traveling to Ghana

December 4, 2007 - 2 Responses

As many already know, I’m headed off the Ghana today! The blog may be a bit spotty, but I’m still going to be writing while I’m away and updating the blog when I get the chance–so keep checking back!

I will miss all of my amazing family and friends in the US and am expect lots of emails : ) orlemanski@gmail.com

Love you all!

Katie O

WANTED for War Crimes

November 30, 2007 - 5 Responses

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(Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo)

There is a man named Ocampo. He will bring the criminals of the regime to justice. The killing will stop and we will return to our villages in Darfur, says the women rebel to her fellow women comrades as they carry their guns through the countryside.

This man of whom the rebels speak is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor is the International Criminal Court (the first global court devoted to prosecuting crimes against humanity). He and his team have gathered evidence and are ready to try the first darfur war-crimes cases.

Can it be done? Moreno-Ocampo believes the court will be successful. His belief in his case and the court are buoyed by his involvement in the successful prosecutions of war criminals in his home country of Argentina.

His case is solid. The warrants have been issued for Ahmad Muhammad Harun, Sudan’s former Interior Minister who Moreno-Ocampo has charged with orchestrating the slaughter in Darfur and for Ali Kushayb, leader of the janjaweed militia who continue to carry out the genocide (janjaweed means devil on horseback in Arabic).

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(WANTED: Harun and Kashayb)

However problems persists. The Sudanese government does not recognize the ICC and has not turned over the men to the court. Justice may not be servede because of the world wide push for a truce in Darfur. With a negotiated peace may come some type of pardon for the criminals. “The world is complicated,” says Moreno-Ocampo.

–Debbie Orlemanski

See the documentary Darfur Now to learn more about Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC, and the continued genocide in Darfur.

Hypocrisy in Bush’s War on Terror

November 28, 2007 - 5 Responses

The Case of Luis Posada Carriles  

by Logan Puck

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(“There’s not much difference, I would like to live in Miami too…”)

“If you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorists.” -President George Bush, August 26, 2003

“For me, there are two classes of terrorism, one that is condemned and another that is pardoned.”      –Panamanian President Martín Torrijos

One of the main tenets of the Bush Administration’s fight against global terrorism has been targeting foreign governments known to be harboring terrorists. George W. Bush’s claims that Saddam Hussein harbored terrorists was used as one of the pretexts to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, anti-Castro Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, a man the Justice Department recently has labeled “a dangerous criminal and an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots,” lives freely within our borders. Posada’s life is full of sordid affairs including assassination plots, civilian bombings, illegal smuggling rings and more. The Bush Administration is fully aware of Posada’s diabolical past; however, it apparently has no plans to prosecute him for his crimes, thus exhibiting the blatant double standard and hypocrisy involved in Bush’s “War on Terror.”

Luis Posada Carriles receives special treatment because the U.S. government has tacitly supported his past acts of terror. Posada served as a CIA agent from 1961 to 1967 and continued regular contact with the agency until 1976. He was trained in demolitions, a skill he later utilized with deadly results. In 1976, Posada allegedly orchestrated the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 that killed 73 passengers, many of whom were teenage members of the Cuban national fencing team. It has been called “the worst terrorist attack in Cuban history.” Posada was arrested by Venezuelan authorities and placed in a minimum security prison to await trial. In 1985, Posada escaped after spending nine years in jail despite before never being formally convicted or acquitted. The details of the escape are vague, however it’s rumored that the prison guards were bribed by a member of the anti-Castro Cuban-American exile community. Afterwards, Posada immediately went to El Salvador where he began illegally supplying the Contras in Nicaragua through a program financed by the Reagan Administration.

In the 1990s, Posada spent time in Central America and the Caribbean devising attacks on the Cuban tourist industry, including a 1997 bombing of a Cuban hotel that resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. In a 1998 interview with a New York Times reporter, Posada publicly claimed responsibility for the attack and showed little remorse for the casualties involved. He has never been charged for the attack.

In 2000, Posada was arrested in Panama for plotting to explode a bomb in the University of Panama’s Conference Hall, where Fidel Castro was scheduled to speak in front of hundreds of people. Posada was charged with endangering public safety and received an eight-year sentence in April 2004. However, just four months later, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned Posada a few days before she left office. Martín Torrijos, Moscoso’s successor criticized the pardon, declaring, “For me, there are two classes of terrorism, one that is condemned and another that is pardoned.”

In March 2005, Posada snuck into the United States in hopes of obtaining political asylum for having served as a past CIA agent. The Bush Administration decided to cast a blind eye to the situation as the State Department declared they were unaware Posada was in the country, even though Posada’s lawyer declared his arrival weeks beforehand. Two months after illegally entering the country, Posada forced the government’s hand by holding a press conference to deny the accusations directed towards him. Posada was subsequently arrested with seven counts of immigration fraud.

The Venezuelan government immediately filed multiple extradition requests for Posada so that he could be properly put to trial for the 1976 airliner bombing. According to a bilateral agreement signed in 1922, the United States is bound by law to either extradite Posada to Venezuela or try him for the same charges in the United States. Nevertheless, a judge ruled that Posada could not be extradited to Venezuela for fear that he would be tortured. No efforts were made to properly try Posada within U.S. borders either.

Instead, Posada was sentenced to go to trial for the immigration charges on May 11, 2007. The case, however, was dismissed by Judge Kathleen Cardone, who wrote in her 38- page ruling, “In addition to engaging in fraud, deceit and trickery, this court finds the government’s tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice. As a result, this court is left with no choice but to dismiss the indictment.” Posada was hence released and currently lives freely in the United States to the outrage of citizens across the world.

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Posada’s newfound freedom completely contradicts the Bush Aadministration’s commitment to combating terrorism and sets a dangerous precedent for other nations to follow. The government’s refusal to extradite Posada or properly try him exhibits their willingness to harbor those who murder and terrorize civilians. The Bush Administration cannot expect foreign nations to prosecute or hand over suspected terrorists hiding within their borders when they blatantly flaunt international treaties and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 which “calls upon states to cooperate, particularly through bilateral and multilateral arrangements and agreements, to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks and take action against perpetrators of such acts.” The United States government must restore its credibility on in the War on Terror by prosecuting [or extraditing] Posada and bringing justice for the victims of his fatal attacks.

–Logan Puck

TAKE ACTION:

  • Write a letter to your local newspaper expressing your disgust with the U.S. government’s handling of Luis Posada Carriles and its contradictory stance towards harboring terrorists. A major reason why Posada has not been prosecuted is because most Americans have never heard of him or his case. Change will not occur until the general public is made aware of the Bush Administration’s complicity with allowing an admitted terrorist to live freely on our national soil.
  • Write a letter to your representative and or senators expressing your concern about Posada’s release and demand he either be extradited to Venezuela or be tried in the United States for his involvement in the 1976 bombing of Cubana flight 455. (It’s easy to write your representative online and write your senator online)

The Crime Without a Name

November 13, 2007 - 2 Responses

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(Two young girls who were raped in the DRC and are too young for fistula surgery. It is not permitted to show the faces of these young girls.)

I have been thinking about a response my sister made to one of my posts about rape as a weapon of war (“Women in the Congo” 10/09/07). She wrote:

Do you think all of the focus on the word “genocide” makes issues like this one harder to act on internationally, when a gender, not a race or ethnic group or nationality, is being attacked, and not necessarily being “exterminated” but attacked with a specialized, sexualized tactic of brutality? Have there been political or anthropological analyses of this outbreak/growth of extreme violence against women in the Congo?

At the League of Nations conference in 1933 Raphael Lemkin, a polish Jew, argued to outlaw “race murder”. He was laughed out by people who believed that this crime took place too seldom to legislate. In 1941, Lemkin managed to escape the Holocaust with his life and became convinced that the “crime without a name” needed a word that would connote the ultimate moral imperative and thus trigger action. He invented the word “genocide” in 1944. The word genocide today signfies the massive and intentional annihilation of an entire group (the specifics of the legal definition are more detailed) based upon nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion.

But what if there existed an unlegislated horror as hideous as extermination? An unparalleled tool of destruction that leaves its victims silent and mutilated, but alive. And what if, to an unprecedented and undeniable degree, the victims were targeted not for what they had done, said, or believed–but for what they were?

In the same way that Raphael Lemkin was moved to speak out about race murder after over 1 million Armenians were annihilated by the Turk regime in the early 20th Century, so too have a few brave witnesses been willing to speak out about the tens of thousands of women brutally raped every year in the Congo. U.N. crisis expert Kathleen Cravero has said that although rape has always been used as a weapon of war, the type of brutality inflicted on women today is unprecedented. She notes that not even history’s most notorious warmongers would have mutilated women’s bodies in the same way as the Congolese rebels and militia are doing. We are in the midst of a 21st Century crime without a name.

Dr. Denis Mukwege works in the Congo to provide support and treatment for women who have been raped and tortured during the conflicts that officially ended in 2003 but have raged unabated for the women of the region. “At the beginning I used to hear patients’ stories,” Dr Mukwege says. “Now I abstain.” The stories I have read are descriptions of hell too hideous to report here. Recounting the traumas, tortures, and the hell lived by these women on such an undistiguished forum seems trivializing. I can imagine few forums with the strength to bear the weight of their stories.

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(Women at Dr. Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital)

And just as others dismissed the universal importance that Lemkin argued of race murder, people today claim that the accounts coming out of the Congo are unique and specific to that conflict–not something that could affect the greater part of the world. But the changing nature of conflict, a root cause according to Cravero of the increasing vulnerability and brutalization of women, is not limited to the Congo. Wars are being waged to a much lesser extent between countries with formal armies and increasingly within countries between militias and rebel groups without formal observances of conduct rules. Sudan, Iraq, Israel-Hezbollah, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Colombia… This changing nature of conflict isn’t unique to the Congo. Unfortunately neither will the sexualized tactic of brutality against women, as Julie succinctly described it, be contained in its heart of darkness.

Like Lemkin we must name the horror. Eva Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, calls it “femicide”–the attempted destruction of women. The word has been used quietly in places like Guatemala and the border towns of Mexico for years, but never has the international community acknowledged it with an international convention. The word in unknown, the crimes are unnamed, and we are poised to make the same mistake. “Lemkin,” they said, “this crime that you describe takes place to seldom to legislate.” Six years later Hitler would invade Poland, and Lemkin would lose 49 member of his family in the Holocaust.

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(Kathleen Cravero stands with her arms crossed on her chest to show support for the effort of ‘Stop Rape Now: UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict’ the new joint initiative involving 10 UN agencies.)

  • November 14th, 6-7:30, Center for American Progress 10th Floor (1333 H Street NW, Washington DC 20005) Attend a presentation by Dr. Mohammed Ahmed on “Today in Darfur: What’s Really Happening on the Ground.” Dr. Ahmed, who treats torture survivors in Darfur, has worked tirelessly to create a network of health providers to care for victims of torture and sexual violence, which has become a hallmark of the brutal genocide in Darfur. He is in town to receive the 2007 RFK Human Rights Award. Talk to Matt, I’m pretty sure he’s planning on going.
  • Educate Yourself
  • UNICEF campaign to end the femicide in DR Congo. Write a letter addressed to His Excellency, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila Kabange. Demand that he take action to stop the attacks on women and support the hospitals and services that are helping women to heal. Send it to:

    U.N. Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict,
    P.O. Box 3862
    New York, NY 10163

    Your letter will be delivered to Kabila.

  • Run for Women in the Congo

Responsibility to Protect,
Katie

Darfur Now

November 8, 2007 - 2 Responses

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Hejewa Adam’s village was attacked and destroyed by Janjaweed militias and government forces. When she fled, her three-month-old son was beaten to death as he clung to her back. Faced with abandoning her home forever or bringing justice and peace back to Sudan, she joins the rebels.

Each of the six stories including Hejewa’s in the new documentary Darfur Now is an inspiration for people everywhere to become involved to resolve the conflict and bring hope and peace to the people of Darfur. The struggles of each of these individuals outlines a different facet of the ongoing crisis in Darfur – but they all point to the need for immediate action.

View the film trailer:

Genocide Intevention Network’s Adam Sterling tells about his appearance in the documentary “Darfur Now”:

What do George Clooney, Don Cheadle and presidential candidates John McCain, Hilary Clinton, and Sam Brownback have in common? They all appear with me in the new documentary Darfur Now!

About 18 months ago, I was introduced to Ted Braun, the director of Darfur Now. We met for coffee in Los Angeles and about a week later he gave me a call and asked if he could follow me around with a camera crew for a couple of days. I had just finished college at UCLA and was working as a waiter five days a week and traveling to Sacramento to lobby for our Sudan divestment bill the other two days. I told Ted that I had to work the next day and to my surprise, he showed up at my restaurant! It was a unique experience and it took me a few weeks to stop talking to the cameras (a big “no-no” in documentary filmmaking).

As the co-founder of the Sudan Divestment Task Force and member of the Genocide Intervention Network, it has truly been an honor to appear as one of six featured subjects in Darfur Now, a theatrical documentary produced by Participant Productions (Inconvenient Truth) and Warner Independent Pictures. Although I may be biased, it is truly a wonderful film and a great advocacy tool that has the potential to shine a powerful light on the crisis in Darfur.

Darfur Now opens nationally this weekend, and I strongly encourage everyone to check out the film. Depending on how well it does, the distributors will determine how many more theatres to send it to. We’ve got a chance to see Darfur Now across the country next to movies like Saw IV and Fred Claus, so please check out the showtimes below and spend a couple of hours checking out Darfur Now this weekend. And don’t forget to bring friends!

 

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– Adam Sterling, Genocide Intervention Network

  • Click here for Darfur Now showtimes
  • Email us for more information on group sales, Darfur Now house parties, and special promotions (including a phone call with Don Cheadle!)

Pakistan: It’s Complicated

November 6, 2007 - 9 Responses

In an attempt to understand why Pakistan has made the front page of the Washington Post and the NYTimes over the past two days, I did some researching. The following is a summary of what I read–and it took me long enough just to establish the broad, take-home points in my mind. One definate that I can say with confidence: things are complicated. Nuclear arms; Al-Queda; the choice between a weak, fragile democracy with nukes or a strong, controlled military regime with nukes; Kashmir; Bhutto; where did the Constitution go? I’m going to revisit this stuff and try to get more in depth. Stay posted. Anyone else have insight?

Katie

 

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CrisisWatch recently publicized a list of nine conflict situations that have deteriorated during the month of October. Pakistan ranked high on the list, being at risk for escalating conflict in the unfolding month of November.

Currently under the military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf—and more recently his emergency rule—Pakistan suffers from thirty years of corruption, drugs, military rule, rising Islamist extremism and a general decline in education and health standards. Religious extremists play an increasingly important role in providing education and other services to the poor, resulting in the radicalization of areas of the country.

Pakistan’s Kashmir conflict with India has caught the world’s attention with both states employing high-profile nuclear brinkmanship. The conflict in Pakistan’s Balochistan region is less well-known. Musharraf’s government has used increasing force to impose force over the region in which Baloch militants are demanding political and economic autonomy citing the absence of real democracy in Pakistan.

 

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Provincial elections are supposed to be held later this year or in early 2008. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan on October 18th to lead her party—the Pakistan Peoples Party—in the parliamentary elections scheduled to begin early 2008. Benazir Bhutto has twice served as Prime Minister of the country before living in exile for 8 years due to corruption charges that some say were politically fabricated. If she can win a change in the law, she will run for prime minister for a third time, something now legally barred.

Bhutto’s triumphant return to crowds of hundreds of thousands was literally blasted into chaos by two bomb explosions that killed 140 of her supporters and nearly missed her bus. Bhutto remains a polarizing figure with an outspoken stance on terrorism, publicly criticizing suicide bombings as being against the teachings of Islam—a unique stance among Pakistani politicians. Some argue that allegations of her corruption, her pro-American agenda, and the questionable murder of her brother in 1996—a time when Bhutto ruled and her brother may have been challenging her power in the Pakistan Peoples Party—is jeopardizing the hard-won progress in grassroots democracy within the country.

Gen. Musharraf declared emergency rule on Saturday, November 3rd justifying the move with pro-democracy and anti-terrorist jargon. It is difficult to imagine that the suspension on the Constitution, the dismissal of the Supreme Court (the Supreme Court could bar Mucharraf from another term as president), the silencing of privately owned television stations, and the arrest of human rights activist and other lawyers will have any affect on the tribal regions of Pakistan where Al-Queda and other groups reside. After a meeting with Musharraf, Western diplomats say their fears that the general was vanquishing his political rivals more than fighting terrorism were reinforced

Protests to Musharraf’s emergency rule began on Monday and have continued today. Some 3,000 protesting lawyers (out of Pakistan’s 12,000 lawyers) have been rounded up by authorities in clashes with batton-weilding police officers. The ousted chief of justice of the Supreme Court urged people to continue defying the emergency rule. “The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the Constitution,” the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, told dozens of lawyers on speakerphone at a meeting of the Islamabad Bar Association before his cellphone line was cut. He urged them to go to “every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice. I am under arrest now, but soon I will also join you in your struggle.”

 

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Graça Machel

October 30, 2007 - One Response

 

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Graça Machel remains one of the most respected, charismatic, and influential leaders of the African continent. Machel was born in Mozambique in 1945 and became a freedom fighter against Portuguese colonialism during the mid ‘70s. After independence, Machel was the only woman to hold a post in the new government’s cabinet. As the Minister of Education and Culture, Graça Machel worked relentlessly to educate as many Mozambicans as possible—eventually increasing the number of children in school from 400,000 when she arrived to 1,500,000 when she left office.

Her dramatic but humble commitment to children’s and women’s rights, education, and development soon earned her recognition beyond Mozambique and Africa. In 1993, the UN asked her to conduct and lead a study of the impact of armed conflict on children. The groundbreaking report presented by Machel in 1996 forever changed the world’s policy on protecting children from being brutalized, used, and murdered as part of adult conflicts. I recently heard someone describe Machel’s command of communication as Shakespearean: exquisite in presentation and relentless. I certainly found this to be true in her writings:

I come from a culture where traditionally, children are seen as both our present and our future, so I have always believed it is our responsibility as adults to give children futures worth having.

I have been chilled listening to children who have been so manipulated by adults and so corrupted by their experiences of conflict that they could not recognize the evil of which they had been a part.

These are the stories behind the figures given in this report — figures of such magnitude that they often hide the impact of these horrors on each child, each family, each community.

Machel continues her global activism today tackling issues from education to HIV/AIDS to land mines. Most recently, Machel confronted the genocidal Khartoum regime during a trip to Sudan with the Elders Project. The Elders is a small gathering of independent world leaders including Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Aung Sun Suu Kyi, and Mary Robinson among others. The Elders project is free from political, economic, and military pressures and its only stated agenda is that of “humanity”. Each Elder speaks not for a government but as an individual with their own moral imperatives.

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I was fortunate to be able to sit in on an absolutely incredible debriefing of the Elders’ trip. The anecdotes and stories shared during this off-the-record meeting blew me away. Graça Machel is apparently so well-known and loved on the continent that as she walked through the refugee camps in Chad and Darfur, villagers, refugees, and African Union forces would crowd around her crying out “Mother! Mother!”—hardly taking notice of Desmond Tutu. It seems she represents to them a worthy vessel in which to send out their complex message of hope and fear. When Graça speaks, she will demand the world to acknowledge our obligations. Those within her reach will listen—not because she is an elder of our global village—but because she will have reminded us of an important point. Not to feel these losses and not to acknowledge these gross atrocities against innocence, manifests another type of loss: that of one’s own humanity.

Graça Machel wrote the preface to the 2004 Global Report on Child Soldiering and signed off with this:

Finally: a message to all activists – in families, in governments, in civil society groups – who work with such commitment and courage.

To all of you, throughout the world: your determination to bring an end to the[se abuses], your perseverance and your unstinting efforts in the face of grave dangers are shining examples of what true humanity and commitment mean.

You keep alive the flame of hope and the belief that by working together we can create a world where children can grow up with love, in dignity and in peace.

South African Civil Rights leader Nelson Mandela is married to Graça Machel.

Responsibility to Protect,
Katie

The Quiet Femicide

October 23, 2007 - One Response

Recent Guatemalan history has seen a military regime overthrown and replaced with a democracy.  However, the supposed transition from war to peace has only seen an increase in domestic violence, homicides, and rape in this Central American country.  The Guatemalan government strives to project an image of a stable political system and a growing economy, to improve relations with the UN and world leaders.  Internally, atrocious acts are committed daily with impunity.  A lax judicial system, ambivalent government officials, and scant world press coverage, are among the many factors that have allowed femicide, the murder of women, to continue unabated.

 

In their report, Three Thousand and Counting: A Report on Violence Against Women in Guatemala, Marty Jordan and Julie Suarez, co-directors of the Guatemala Human Right Commission, declared Guatemala “…the most dangerous place for women in all of Latin America.”  Below are excerpts from GHRC publications.  For more information, go to www.ghrc-usa.org, where you can read past publications, sign up to receive bi-monthly updates on Guatemala, learn about upcoming events, and learn how you can help. 

In solidarity,

Matt Goodridge   

   

Exerpts from:

 Three thousand and Counting:A Report on Violence Against Women in Guatemala

By Julie Suarez and Marty Jordan

“In May 2007, a mother of two small children left her house in Guatemala City to look for work. She never returned home. The woman’s mother, at home watching her grandchildren, frantically called her daughter’s cell phone. Finally, someone answered.  An unidentified man said, “You can find your daughter at the morgue.” Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common in Guatemala. The brashness of a killer to answer his victim’s telephone illustrates the impunity with which assailants commit murder, knowing that the case will never be investigated. It is a daily occurrence to read newspaper articles about women or girls that have been raped, tortured, mutilated, and killed. Their body parts are tied up in garbage bags or abandoned in ditches. This is Guatemala, where more than 3,000 women have been brutally murdered since 2000, and fewer than 2% of cases end in convictions. This is Guatemala, where femicide, or the murder of women, claimed the lives of at least 665 women in 2005, 603 women in 2006, and 306 women during the first seven months of 2007. The majority of the victims are young, poor women between the ages of thirteen and thirty. This is Guatemala, the most dangerous place for women in all of Latin America.”

 

“When posed with the question “Who is killing these women?”, the most common response is members of organized crime. Guatemala ended a brutal 36-year civil war in 1996 that left more than 250,000 dead or disappeared.  Many of those victims perished at the hands of “death squads” that roamed the country committing heinous, torturous acts on behalf of the US-funded Guatemalan military government. When the Peace Accords were signed officially ending the war, the death squads stopped serving as State sanctioned units, but maintained connections to Guatemala’s power structure.

 

Today, members of those death squads have emerged as participants in clandestine operations that have become entrenched in every facet of Guatemalan society. They have de facto control throughout communities, traffic drugs, buy off judges, and keep politicians in their back pockets. These illicit groups demonstrate their power through intimidation, violence, and terror. Women suffered atrocious human rights violations during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. Females were seen as potential mothers for future guerrillas and were therefore deemed threats to the State. Pregnant women were butchered, and rape was commonly used as a tool of war. Ten years later, former death squad participants have not changed the way they view women. As they were trained to rape, dismember, and torture in the past, they continue to use the same tactics now. Although these organized criminals no longer have the State’s explicit permission, the government’s indifference has become a form of permission nonetheless.”

  

Excerpt from:

 “For Women’s Right to Live” Delegation Reflection.  July 29th-August 6th 2006. 

“Over and over again, we were told that the laws in Guatemala fail to protect women and, in some cases, even place them at further risk. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape by a spouse are not considered crimes in Guatemala. In fact, if a woman is experiencing violence in the home, it is considered a reasonable response to her inability to obey and please her husband. Until recently, a rapist was exonerated if he married the victim, as long as she was over twelve years old. The police told one woman who was trying to report her husband for abuse that there was nothing they could do. In Guatemala, “it is a right to hit a woman, not a crime,” as one woman told us during our meeting at Nuevos Horizontes, one of the only women’s shelters in Guatemala where women can stay with their children for over five days. One month before our visit, there were seventy people living there.”

 

Somebody’s Heart is Burning

October 15, 2007 - One Response

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Here’s what I love about travel:

Strangers get a chance to amaze you.

Sometimes a single day can bring a blooming surprise, a simple kindness that opens up a chink in the brittle shell of your heart and makes you a different person when you go to sleep–more tender, less jaded–than when you woke up.

Somebody’s Heart is Burning

Photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans. Tillmans is internationally recognized for creating work that captures evocative, intimate reflections of often overlooked objects and moments in everyday life. As a teenager, he kept a scrapbook of found photographs.

R2P

October 14, 2007 - 2 Responses

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27-year old Executive Director of the Genocide Intervention Network Mark Hanis recently started off a discussion about genocide with 400 college students by saying, “R2P rocks my world and I hope it’ll rock yours too.” R2P is the common abbreviation of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine which states that when a government is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens from mass atrocities, the international community must take responsibility. This doctrine is unique in that it calls for the untouchable international relations principle of non-interference to yield to the principle of responsibility to act. R2P acknowledges that the primary responsibility of protecting a state’s people lies within that sovereign state. But if that state is unwilling or unable to protect its civilians from serious large-scale harm, it becomes the responsibility of the international community to act. Although R2P has only recently and imperfectly been accepted by member nations at the UN World Summit in 2005, the doctrine has redefined sovereignty.

R2P advocates working through peaceful means to protect citizens. Non-peaceful measures may be necessary on an ad-hoc basis, but only after considering the 6 principles of military intervention outline by the doctrine. For example, there must be a “just cause” to intervene—defined as large scale loss of life with genocidal intent or not—and the “intention” to intervene must be purely motivated by the goals of halting or averting human suffering. Military intervention should only be used as a last resort, according to the principles, and only when there is a reasonable prospect for success.

R2P is not perfect. Realistically states are not going to act to protect civilians half way around the world simply because of a new legal definition of sovereignty or another international convention on genocide. But R2P remains important in that is sets a new norm. Sates generally act for 2 reasons: geo-political interests like oil or, because their citizens demand action. Establishing legal norms like R2P are crucial. Without such standards citizen voices often float aimlessly in a vacuum. But with them, citizens can push their governments to take actions based upon a set of accepted norms, principles, and standards.

R2P moves beyond addressing every international crisis on an ad-hoc basis and establishes a norm of responsibility to act in the face of any genocide, war crime, instance of ethnic cleansing or crime against humanity. Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power once wrote that, “It is [unfortunately] within the realm of domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide is lost.” Fostering real change in human rights policy takes domestic pressure from a constituency that cares. Citizens armed with knowledge and a belief in ending crimes against humanity are the missing link to holding elected officials accountable to their responsibility to act.

Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept this responsibility and will act in accordance with it… (¶ 138).
Paragraphs 138 and 139 of the United Nation’s 2005 World Summit Outcome on the Responsibility to Protect doctrine

A few ways to have a hand in stopping genocide by becoming an involved citizen:

  • Create a YouTube video for the upcoming Republican Presidential Debates on November 28th asking about Darfur. Did you know that in seven Republican presidential debates, the candidates have been asked about Darfur only once? That’s one question out of 247. Submit your question about Darfur today.
  • Divesting your own mutual funds, investments, and pensions from companies supporting Sudan and the junta in Burma. Then pressure your state government officials to do the same. Learn more from the Sudan Divestment Task Force.
  • Calling 1-800-GENOCIDE to pressure your senator or rep. Just call the number and you can receive talking points and then be connected to your congressperson. I was nervous because I hate talking on the phone, but my first time was really easy because it gives you ideas on what to say. Our government is putting on a repeat performance from Rwanda by dragging its feet on releasing funding and supplies for the UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur. Put on the pressure!

If you are in DC this coming Sunday, Mary Jo and I are holding a Bake-Off for Darfur to raise money for and awareness about the genocide.

Responsibility to Protect,
Katie

Women in the Congo

October 9, 2007 - 4 Responses

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The New York Times recently ran an article as its cover story in the world section concerning the epidemic of rape in the Congo. Brutality towards women in this conflict-ridden area has become almost “normal”. André Bourque, a Canadian consultant who works with aid groups in eastern Congo, is quoted: “Sexual violence in Congo reaches a level never reached anywhere else. It is even worse than in Rwanda during the genocide.”

After returning from a trip to the Congo in 2003, John Prendergast penned a journal entry:

It has become a cliché over the past half century that women bear the brunt of war. That would be an understatement in Congo. Rape has become a routine tactic of war and instrument of violence in Congo. Gross atrocities are routinely committed in the context of mass rape. Lately, there are reports of atrocities and deliberate acts of mutilation committed in the context of mass rape. Brutal rape, kidnapping of women, and forced concubinage have become war behaviors. The brutality of rape appears to be unprecedented globally, and certainly without historical precedent in Congo. The ages of rape victims range from 4 to 80.

At a recent conference hosted by the Genocide Intervention Network, I sat in on a panel discussion with Colin Thomas-Jensen, policy adviser for the ENOUGH project and co-author of the report Averting the Nightmare Scenario in the Eastern Congo. He briefed our group on the current situation in East Congo and expounded on four major reasons why the DRC is a qualifying candidate for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine (Member nations at the UN World Summitt in 2005, agreed to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine which states that when a government is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens from mass atrocities, the international community must take responsibility). The second qualification provided by Thomas-Jensen–following the declaration that the DRC has the highest death rate in the world–is that the crisis in East Congo is a full-scale war against women. “There is no worse place in the world to be a woman”, said Thomas-Jensen, conceding that the panel was not the appropriate forum to detail the horrific violations systematically taking place against females there.

Prendergast asserts that an end to the suffering in the Congo depends on the international’s community’s responsibility to protect those being adversely affected: “That responsibility to protect means a number of things. It means providing much more humanitarian aid. It means giving much more support for UN troops to protect civilians. It means becoming much more serious about disarming the predatory militias. It means engaging in much more diplomacy aimed at healing regional and internal rifts. And it means providing much more support to the new Congolese government.”

GET EDUCATED! To learn more about the conflict in Eastern Congo visit the ENOUGH Project.

TAKE ACTION! Learn more about actions you can take against genocide by visiting the Genocide Intervention Network.

BECOME PART OF THE ANTI-GENOCIDE CONSTITUENCY! Call 1-800-GENOCIDE to find out how to talk to your congressional representative.

Responsibility to Protect,
Katie Orlemanski

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Our mission is to stop and prevent genocide and mass atrocities by promoting Peace, providing Protection, and Punishing the perpetrators. We use field and policy analysis and strong policy advocacy to empower a growing activist movement for change.

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Our mission is to empower individuals and communities with the tools to prevent and stop genocide.

One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace

October 7, 2007 - One Response

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Greg Mortenson proposes to change the world – one school at a time. He describes his idea in his book, Three Cups of Tea. He tells the story about how building schools, mostly girls schools, is the surest way to change the world. He bases his premise on an African proverb: “If you educate a boy you educate an individual, if you educate a girl, you educate a community.”

When you think about how educated men often leave the village to work, leaving behind the women and children, it makes sense to educate those left behind (women) so that they can pass on knowledge and the desire for education to their children and others.

Hatred is based on ignorance. Education can bring hope and with hope we can move toward peace. Mr. Mortenson has built his first school in Pakistan. (Summary of an article by Mark Trahant, AJC, Oct. 2007)

New York Times Best-Seller
TIME Magazine – Asia Book of the Year
Kiriyama Prize Nonfiction Award
PNBA Nonfiction Book of the Year
Borders Books Original Voices Selection
Montana Honor Book Award

Debbie Orlemanski

Rwanda

October 5, 2007 - One Response

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Serving in Rwanda during 1993-94 as UN Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire and his small peacekeeping force found themselves abandoned by the world’s major powers in a vortex of civil war and genocide. At a presentation following his return from Rwanda, a Canadian Forces padre asked Dallaire how, after all he had seen and experienced, he could still believe in God. He answered, I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil.

I’m currently reading Dallaire’s account entitled Shake Hands with the Devil: The failure of humanity in Rwanda. The following is a journal entry I wrote after spending the better part of a day entrenched in its pages:

 

It happened in a moment. I looked up from my book, and as I did so Rwanda spun away from me. Another world rushed forward slamming into my view, knocking me off balance. A violent image of rape instantaneously replaced by a chatty couple. My mind teetered between Rwanda and Dupont as my eyes tried quick to play catch up. Where was reality? Dallaire:

As I said goodbye to Beth and the bustling city of Nairobi, I was caught in an emotional mental battle that pitted what I now consider the “real” world–genocide in Rwanda–and the “artificial” world–the detachment and obtuseness of the rich and powerful.

But I was holding a book. And still–as I read the genocide, images of Dupont don’t enter the pages, but when I look up at my surroundings Rwanda creeps in. I slid my focus back to the page. Dallaire: “Perhaps it was a symptom of how far gone I was that I was glad to be back.”

Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire is the highest-ranking military officer ever to suffer openly with post-traumatic stress disorder, making him a moral example for citizens of conscience and militaries worldwide.

Katie Orlemanski

Burma Update: “We may fail, but we will win.”

October 4, 2007 - 2 Responses

 

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Yesterday, Oct 3rd:
*UN worker and her family were abducted

*One blogpost for Burma: Idea that all bloggers were to abstain from writing and post the simple graphic below. I’m not sure how well it worked, but creative!

*Matt and I attended the US Senate Hearing on the Saffron Revolution: The room was packed out. Supporters wearing shirts with the graphic above filled the front rows along with several monks and prominent leaders of the US Campaign for Burma. The discussion focused on economic sanctions especially from China, Thailand, and India. A witness from Human Rights Watch, Mr. Tom Malinowski, outlined targeted banking sanctions as a strategy for denying the military junta access to the wealth they currently have.

The Mme Chair of the committee, Senator Boxer, was awesome at exposing some of the inadequacies of the actions taken by the executive branch which were outlined by a witness from the State Department. Two of her feisty-er highlights were: those economic sanctions have “a loophole the size of a mack truck” and we’re interested in “giving you the back bone” to act further.

Senator Kerry was also present and certainly went on the record as grilling the State Department witness–but I’m not sure he was effective at doing much more than letting us all know he wanted to see some progress on Burma. Thanks for your 6 minutes Kerry, now back to some constructive sass from Boxer!

Today, Oct 4th: The junta has totally shut down the Internet in Burma and suddenly the voices of the monks are silenced.

Tomorrow, Friday, October 5th is National Campus Day for Action in Burma. Check out www.studentsforburma.org

Saturday, Oct 6th: Global Day for Burma: Marches across the US

Washington DC: There will be a large march happening this Saturday starting at 12 noon. We will begin our march at the Burmese embassy (2300 S St NW) and from there march to the Chinese embassy, and then onto the Indian embassy, where, standing in front of the Gandhi statue, we will point out the hypocrisy of the Indian government.

Finally, the quote above was issued by witness Aung Din at the hearing yesterday. Aung Din survived torture and served over 4 years as a political prisoner in Burma. Senator Boxer vowed to fight even if we don’t have the votes in both the Senate and the UN after listening to Aung Din’s statement.

October 3, 2007 - Leave a Response

ONE BLOGPOST FOR BURMA

Burma: US Senate Hearing Tomorrow

October 2, 2007 - One Response

October 3rd, 2007: Wear red as a symbol of solidarity with the monks and protesters in Burma tomorrow (and attend the US Senate Hearing on the Saffron Revolution at 2:30). The following is a request for support from the US Campaign for Burma sent out late this afternoon. I’ll be at Union Station at 1 pm, call me 770-403-9294.

Dear all,

We are asking for all of our friends in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC to attend a hearing in the US Senate tomorrow (Wednesday) and help us fill the room with people wearing the color red. For the front row of the hearing room, we have printed dozens of t-shirts that demand UN Security Council action. We need 30 people to meet at the fountain in front of Union Station at 1:00 pm. We will give you t-shirts so that you can sit in the front row at the hearing so that the media cameras will see you with your t-shirts. From Union Station, we will all walk to the hearing together.

We need to know who the 30 people are right away — so please email me at jennifer@uscampaignforburma.org and let us know if you can be there. Bring your friends too. The hearing starts at 2:30 and we need to be there early to make sure we can get seats so be sure to be at Union Station at 1:00 if you want to help us wear the shirts.

If you can’t be there early, show up on time but BE SURE TO WEAR A RED SHIRT IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE MONKS. LETS PACK THE ROOM IN RED. You will still need to be there at least 45 minutes early so you can get a seat.

Jennifer Quigley

Details of the hearing:

BURMA’S SAFFRON REVOLUTION

——————————————————————————-

HEARING

before the

COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION

——————————————————————————–

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

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Time: 2:30 PM
Place: 419 The Dirksen Senate Office Building

Presiding: Senator Boxer

Witnesses:

Panel 1:

Mr. Scot Marciel
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Department of State

Witnesses:
Ko Aung Din
Policy Director and Co-Founder
U.S. Campaign for Burma

Mr. Tom Malinowski
Washington Advocacy Director
Human Rights Watch

Dr. Michael Green
CSIS Japan Chair, former NSC Asia Director

Burma

October 2, 2007 - 2 Responses

Everyone’s probably been reading the headlines and news trickling in about the protests in Burma over inflated fuel prices and the ruling junta’s bloody retaliation to the peaceful marches. The junta has shut down all internet and media sorces in the country to prevent images of the violence from leaking. Reports have just been issued that the regime is burning the bodies of protesters, including those still alive.

A good resource that I have found for keeping abreast is the US Campaign for Burma website. Besides breaking news coming out of Burma, they also have listed a number of solidarity actions taking place across the world.

Today there was an emergency march in NYC from the Myanmar Mission to the UN in which Rachel was able to participate. Rachelly rocks!

Friday, October 5th is National Campus Day for Action in Burma. Check out http://www.studentsforburma.org . Hopefully my rad activist friend Alicia is on top of this at UGA.

Saturday, October 6th is International Day of Solidarity with Burma: Support the monks in Burma at noon in every major city across the world. Has anyone heard anything about plans in DC? I’ll check with GI-Net and post when I hear. Also, ATL? Athens?

Ok, here’s the a brief version of the recent history of Burma taken from the US Campaign for Burma’s website. I didn’t know any of these details until I heard Patrick from the Campaign speak at a panel discussion this past weekend:

Burma in Brief

The people of the Southeast Asian country of Burma are locked in one of the world’s great freedom struggles. The country’s military rulers, the State Peace and Development Council, have run the country with an iron fist for the past 15 years, after they assumed power from a 26-year socialist dictatorship. In 1988, students, professionals, and others launched a nationwide uprising aimed at bringing an end to authoritarian rule during which millions of people courageously marched on the streets, calling for freedom and democracy.

The military responded by gunning down thousands of demonstrators and imprisoning thousands more in one of Southeast Asia’s most bloody episodes in recent history. The leader of the demonstrations, Min Ko Naing (pronounced Min Ko Nine), has been held behind bars ever since, where approximately 1,400 political prisoners remain. The most recognizable face of Burma, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Daw Aung Sawn Sue Chee), has been in and out of house arrest and prison since 1988. Presently, she is held under house arrest.

Worried that they could not hold on to power in 1988, the ruling generals announced they would hold a democratic election. Aung San Suu Kyi and many allies formed a political party, which they named the National League for Democracy (NLD). The party went on to win the election in a landslide victory in 1990, garnering an astounding 82% of the seats in parliament, even though many pro-democracy leaders were already imprisoned. Tragically, instead of permitting the electoral winners to assume office, the regime has maintained its grip on power ever since.

In 1996, students again organized major protests on the streets of Rangoon, with thousands conducting sit-down demonstrations at key traffic intersections. The regime responded again by force, brutally beating them with batons and water canons, and arresting hundreds. This time, a videographer managed to capture some of the events on camera, which were then shown on CNN and other news stations.

In May 2003, Burma again made international headlines when Aung San Suu Kyi, just released from house arrest a year earlier, was traveling on a speaking tour near Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city. During her tour, approximately 600 members of her caravan were brutally attacked by the political arm of the regime, the Union Solidarity and Development Association. Up to 100 supporters were brutally beaten to death with blunt clubs, bamboo sticks, and spears, while Aung San Suu Kyi narrowly escaped assassination. She was held in prison and is now under total house arrest.

At the same time, many of Burma’s ethnic groups, including the Karen, Shan, and others, have been waging armed freedom struggles against the regime, some for up to 50 years. The regime, intent on dominating the entire country, has responded with brutal force — raping, slaughtering, or forcibly displacing millions of ethnic peoples. Reports of some of the world’s most horrific human rights abuses have been documented by governments and credible organizations in Burma’s ethnic regions, yet these peoples never give up the struggle to protect their homelands and way of life.

The NLD, the true elected leaders of Burma, have called on citizens and governments around the world to put international pressure on Burma’s regime. Our mission is to respond to this call — please contact us today or become a member to get involved. We are grassroots citizens just like you — and we need your help.

Responsibility to Protect,
Katie