Friday, 20 April 2018

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's daughter Speaks up (Sümeyye Erdoğan)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

In the Israel/Palestine conflict, is Israel guilty of genocide against the Palestinians?

Yes– absolutely.
The other day I wrote a short piece on why the Bible does not command us to blindly stand with the modern state of Israel, and one of the points I made is that Israel is guilty of genocide. There were no shortage of internet commenters who objected to my use of this word and felt it was over the top. However, I stand by my assertion that Israel is guilty of genocide, so allow me to expand upon that.
I believe the main reason many push back on the idea that Israel is guilty of genocide is because of a lack of understanding of the full nuance of the word, and what genocide can look like in a modern context. While rounding up people for mass executions would be obvious evidence of genocide, the reality is that genocide can take place in ways that are more subtle– making it palatable for the masses, and even seem justified at times.
Some scholars have referred to the Israel/Palestine conflict as “incremental genocide” and I would agree with that term. Instead of an overt, blatant attempt to eradicate a people group, incremental genocide involves actions and policies that are designed to slowly erode, break up, and destroy a specific population. Think for example of early American history and the genocide of Native Americans. While it wasn’t always mass killings, genocide occurred by military conflict, expanding land holdings, resettlements, and creating conditions that were destructive for the indigenous population. While it took many years to complete, and while it took many forms, what early Americans did to the indigenous people of North America was nothing short of genocide.
The same holds true for Israel.
The legal definition of genocide includes the following:
“Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group such as:
(a)        Killing members of the group;
(b)        Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c)        Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
While A and B are both elements we find present in Israel’s approach to Palestinians, the key aspect of genocide being waged by Israel is found in C: the deliberate infliction of conditions that in part or as a whole will destroy a people group. Arab Christians and Muslims known as Palestinians have been undoubtedly the target of Israel and a desire to eradicate them from the land.
When Israel was created it resulted in an instant crisis for the Christians and Muslims who had lived together quite peacefully for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even today there are somewhere around 3.5 to 4 million Palestinian refugees who wish to have the right to return to their homes and land– a request that will never be granted by Israel.
For those who remain in Palestinian territory, they might as well be living in a massive open-air prison, because they live under the occupation of a foreign army. Children are routinely tear gassed on the way to school. Imports are severely restricted, with even basics like water being tightly controlled. Their rights of passage are severely curtailed– families have been broken up and people have died at military checkpoints because they were delayed or denied passage to access critical medical care.
To top it all off, what little land Palestinians have left is under systematic erosion by Israeli policy. Illegal Israeli settlements continue to crop up in Palestinian territory, in violation of international law. These illegal settlements, in addition to literally confiscating land from indigenous people, often bring violence to the Palestinians who live there. Even just a brief youtube search will bring up countless examples of women and children being assaulted by illegal settlers, or examples like Palestinian farms being attacked and destroyed at harvest time.
Let’s not be dishonest in the ultimate goal here: it is to rid the land of Palestinians.
Capture their land. Develop policies to evict them from their houses. Send in settlers and soldiers to colonize what land they still have. Refuse to let refugees back. Make them miserable under military rule. Limit their access to basic, life-sustaining resources.
The goal? Be not deceived: this is ethnic cleansing.
Do the Palestinians ever fight back and use violence? Yes, of course. This is equally wrong. It is also highly ineffective because it plays right into the hands of Israel, who uses this as an excuse to respond with utterly overwhelming military violence, such as arresting and incarcerating children accused of throwing rocks, or wiping out entire communities in the name of self-defense, such has been seen in Gaza.
So here’s where we’re at: Many of the indigenous people were displaced upon the creation of the modern state of Israel, and the number of displaced people has continued to grow. They are refugees who live in poverty and painful conditions at refugee camps. Israel has systematically expanded its borders to functionally capture more and more land that belonged to Palestinians. Of what’s left, Palestinians have to suffer under a brutal military occupation where so many aspects of life are restricted or deprived. To top it all off, Israel continues to expand illegal settlements into Palestinian territory, further creating conditions designed to break up and destroy the will of Palestinians to even exist.
That folks, is genocide. It is incremental, slow-motion genocide. If the international community continues to turn a blind eye, it will do nothing short of ensure the complete destruction and or displacement of the Palestinian people.
Is calling this genocide over the top? No, it’s not. It’s genocide. Legally. Morally. It’s genocide.
It’s just happening in slow motion, so the world doesn’t see it.
(And it’s being done by the people we’re told are God’s favorite, so we don’t even want to see it.
Read more at 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza

White phosphorus burns in contact with oxygen and causes deep burns when it touches human skin, sometimes reaching to the bone. The weapon is not illegal itself and can be used to provide a smokescreen on the battlefield or as an incendiary weapon against a military target. However, its use is regulated even by customary international law. It must be used in a way that distinguishes between combatants and civilians and cannot be used to target civilians.
Most of the Israeli military's white phosphorus in Gaza was fired in 155mm artillery shells, each containing 116 wedges soaked with the chemical.
In January, the Guardian found one such shell still smoking several days after it was fired, outside the home of the Abu Halima family in Atatra. One white phosphorous shell hit the house directly, killing a father and four of his children. His wife was severely burnt. Human Rights Watch also reported the same case.
Human Rights Watch found 24 spent white phosphorus shells in Gaza, all from the same batch made in a US ammunition factory in 1989 by Thiokol Aerospace. Other shells were photographed during the war with markings showing they were made in the Pine Bluff Arsenal, also in America, in 1991.
Human Rights Watch said the Israeli military often used the weapon even in areas where there were no Israeli troops on the ground, which it said, "strongly suggests that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was not using the munition for its obscurant qualities but rather for its incendiary effect".
The group said it found no evidence that Hamas fighters used Palestinian civilians as human shields - a key Israeli claim - in the area at the time of the attacks it researched.

Monday, 16 April 2018

'Mr President, grant mercy to my daughter who was tortured into a false murder confession'

Dear Mr President,
I’m a poor man. I don’t have much. But what I do have is a daughter. Kanizan is my only child. Even when she could talk, she wouldn’t speak much.
She was a timid child, who never talked back. She would do as she was told, and never say no. She would cry easily, as fragile as her little wrists.
Because Kanizan was so delicate, she was very attached to her mother, often seeking shelter in her arms. She looked just like her mother, the same complexion, the same round face.
But this comfort was taken away from her all too quickly. My wife died very suddenly, leaving Kanizan and me completely alone in the world.
I was a farmer, but money had become tough. What little I had eventually turned to nothing. Luckily, I still had Kanizan.
She used to help me around the house but when she saw how difficult it had become to put food on the table, she told me she wanted to work. I hesitated at first. I had been unable to put Kanizan in school. What would she do?
Kanizan began working as a housemaid for a rich, landowning family. She was little more than a child herself.
It is no wonder that she quickly befriended the very children she was charged with taking care of, the children of Muhammad Khan.
Their mother would often admonish her for not being more responsible with them, considering she would play with them more.
She began contributing what little she could. It was not much, but it was a helping hand. I could not be more grateful for this lifeline.
But Sir, this did not last.
The murder took place not too far from where we lived in Kamaliya. I will never forget the way Muhammad Khan screamed when he saw his wife and children murdered.
Muhammad Khan and his family had been involved in a property dispute that had started to get uglier by the day. The police had asked him at the scene of the crime if he had any enemies. He had named four of them, all his cousins. The police registered a case against them.
They were in jail for about two days. Bail is easy to come by when money is not a concern.
One night, Kanizan and I were about to have dinner when there was a knock on our door. Our village elder, Allah Yar, was at the door. He looked solemn, but determined.
He told me that people had started to talk, that someone had to be punished. He looked at Kanizan, who was sitting in the corner of the room.
Allah Yar looked me in the eye, put his hand on his heart, and said, “I swear by the Quran, I know your daughter is innocent, but let me take her to the police station.” They’ll question her, and she’ll be home in the morning, he promised.
She never came back.
Kanizan had played with those children, loved them, cared for them. She would tell me all about them. When she heard of their killing, she was utterly distraught. Naively, she thought she would be helping the police find their killer. She agreed to go.
Allah Yar took her to the police station, and left her there. Kanizan was 16 years old. The police recorded her age as 25.
My nephew lived very close to the police station. He trembles when he tells me of what he heard they did to her.
Women in our village, never interact with men outside of our immediate family. But Kanizan spent nights trapped in a jail cell with strangers. When I went to see her, they didn't let me meet her.
They hung her from a fan with ropes thicker than her tiny wrists, beating her small frame with all their might. They let mice loose in her pants, which they tied from the ankles so that they could not escape. Kanizan had been terrified of mice her whole life.
They electrocuted her repeatedly. I can only hope that she fainted during this ordeal. This is how I comfort myself as a father, forcing myself to believe that my daughter was not conscious during this abuse.
When they had broken her, they forced her to sign a confession. It’s not difficult to see how her mind gave up on her.
I didn’t have the money to go see her for her trial. I did not even know that she had been sentenced to death until much later. I borrowed money from everywhere. Whenever I would have enough, I would try to find my way to her.
But every time I met her, Kanizan was a little bit less. Soon after, her mental state began to deteriorate. Even the jailers were concerned, so much so that, in 2006, she was transferred to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health.
Today I'm told she hears voices, trembles, can’t clothe or feed herself. The hospital wrote a letter in 2015 to the Superintendent of Lahore Central Jail saying she was not fit to be executed.
Mr President, my daughter hasn’t said a word for years. She is terrified, and cries all the time, and needs me and her family to take care of her. She is an unwell woman who does not belong on death row.
I'm a poor man. I can’t do anything in return. But I humbly beg you to find it in your heart to grant mercy to a poor woman who has spent almost her life in jail. Her silence shouldn’t silence what you can do for her.
I know that if this letter reaches you, your good heart will follow.
Yours Humbly,
Sher Muhammad

Sher Muhammad died in 2016. Kanizan continues to languish on death row, despite her diagnosis, strong evidence of innocence, and nearly 29 years behind bars.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

An Activist Filmmaker Tackles Patriarchy in Pakistan

“No girls in our family go to coed schools,” he told her, but eventually she wore him down. She is the eldest of six children, five girls and one boy; her brother is the youngest. “My father was always on the elusive chase for a son,” she said. Her parents believed that girls should be educated and permitted to work, but they were also strict. Until Sharmeen left for college, she had to be home by nightfall.

Her maternal grandparents moved from India to Karachi shortly after Partition, inspired by Jinnah’s democratic vision. Her father’s parents migrated from India to Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan, in 1947, and then, in 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, fled to Karachi. Her grandfather worked for a shipping company. Sharmeen’s father, Sheikh Obaid, began a textile firm, and the family lived in a spacious house in Defence, a wealthy enclave for the élite. Sheikh, who died in 2010, was a loud, warm man with a ribald sense of humor, and he and Sharmeen’s mother, Saba, frequently hosted business guests. Sharmeen and her siblings were accustomed to sitting down to dinners with buyers from Europe, Asia, and North America, and the family accompanied him on trips to the United States. Sharmeen grew up swimming at her parents’ sports club and competing in tennis tournaments. On Sundays, if her father was not travelling, the family drove around the city to try new eateries.

One morning, as a driver took Sharmeen to school, they stopped at a traffic light, and a young girl pressed herself against the window, begging for money. “She had the most beautiful eyes, and wispy hair in front and a little bit of dirt on her,” Obaid-Chinoy recalled. “Her hand was just stretched. She didn’t ever say anything.” For the first time, Sharmeen realized that the comforts she had always taken for granted were uncommon in Karachi. “I was sort of an angry child,” she told me. “I asked my parents a lot of questions about things I saw around me and things that I read.”

At home, she grew increasingly upset about the place of women in society. “I would often hear from my extended family, ‘So-and-So couldn’t finish her studies and was married off,’ ” she said. A girl in her neighborhood play group was engaged at sixteen and had a child less than two years later. “I realized that we accept things for women because that’s just the way they are,” Obaid-Chinoy said. “It made me question what my rights are, and what I will be ‘allowed’ to do. And that became such a troubled word for me. Why should I be ‘allowed’ to do something? Shouldn’t it just be taken for granted that I would be studying, or going to work?” One afternoon in the family’s kitchen, a female relative told Saba that she was unlucky to have so many girls. Obaid-Chinoy retorted that her mother was actually very lucky; her mother quickly removed her from the room. Obaid-Chinoy’s classmate and friend Masoomeh Hilal recalled, “If anyone messed with us, she would be the first one to stick up for her friends. And she was extremely focussed. If there was something she wanted to do, she would find a way to do it.”

Saba, a quiet, intelligent woman, had wanted to be a journalist, but she married at seventeen and stayed home to care for the children. When Sharmeen was fourteen, Saba suggested that she channel her outrage into writing for local newspapers. Saba’s uncle, who worked as a journalist at the News, encouraged Sharmeen to write opinion pieces about the rights of girls to go to school and of citizens to vote; later, she wrote investigative pieces for the newspaper Dawn. Obaid-Chinoy recalled one article about a government office that sold passports to Afghan refugees, and another about students who smoked weed—a taboo subject that shocked the parents. Obaid-Chinoy’s most memorable story was about the sons of wealthy feudal lords at schools in Karachi who ran a bullying ring: they went to parties with guns and, if they weren’t allowed inside, fired them into the air. They would beat up students, tear their clothes, drive them around for hours, and shave their heads before releasing them. “I went undercover and named and shamed them,” Obaid-Chinoy said. The morning the article came out, her father shouted for her to come downstairs. Her family’s name, interspersed with profanities, had been spray-painted across their front gate and down the street for blocks, presumably by the boys she had written about. Obaid-Chinoy was energized. Her father, she recalled, told her, “Amplify that voice. Speak the truth, and I will stand with you."


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Imam Who Saved Not Just Asansol, But Perhaps India From Burning

Imam Imadadul Rashidi’s voice was matter of fact when contacted by The Citizen, as if what he had done was what any one would do. Asansol was in the grip of violence threatened by a tornado as the Muslims started gathering to retaliate against the violence triggered by Ram Navami processions. Why? Because the Imam’s 16 year old son had been brutally beaten to death by a communal mob, and the news of the incident had spread like wildfire across the town.

The crowds gathered, with now the police and the state government aware of their own helplessness, when the Imam addressed a congregation of thousands at the funeral prayers of his son Sibtullah Rashidi who had just appeared for teh Class X Board examinations. With his son’s body lying before him, the Imam pleaded for peace in a short address that had the entire crowd in tears, with all then dispersing for their respective homes.

As he told The Citizen this morning, all he said was, “my child has lived the life that Allah ordained for him. Now please ensure that no one else’s child is killed, that there is peace and amity. If you love him, and me, do not turn to violence, but keep peace.”

Asked how difficult a statement this was Imam Rashidi said quietly, “ no it was not, it was clear to me that my child had died, there was nothing we could do about that, and it was thus my duty to ensure no other child died, no house was torched, no family bereaved.” He said he was responding to the anger in “my” Asansol, where people were bent on taking revenge. “I knew I had to stop this, I knew this was necessary for harmony in my shahr (town) and in my country” he said.

“I knew my child has lived the life Allah had marked for him, I pleaded with the people not to kill anyone else’s child, “ he said. The Imam made it clear to the congregation that “if you do not listen to me I will leave Asansol and go away.” He said he was firm about that, as he could not bear the thought of more violence and bloodshed.

The Imam said that he told the people exactly what he believed. “Islam is a religion of peace and amity, it does not preach violence and revenge,” he said. Asked what he would like to convey to the country where communal harmony is currently under stress, he said, “ I would only say please do all you can to ensure there is peace and unity. And no one is able to break that.”