Archive for October, 2007

Graça Machel
October 30, 2007



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.


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,

The Quiet Femicide
October 23, 2007

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, 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


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.

October 14, 2007

bookcover-en1.gif bookcover-en2.gif bookcover-en4.gif

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,

Women in the Congo
October 9, 2007


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

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.

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


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

October 5, 2007


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



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

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


Burma: US Senate Hearing Tomorrow
October 2, 2007

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 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:




before the




Wednesday, October 3, 2007

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

Presiding: Senator Boxer


Panel 1:

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

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

October 2, 2007

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 . 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,