Inter Press Service » Armed Conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:22:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Uncertainty Mars Potential for Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:26:14 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147127 A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

By Jonathan Rozen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2016 (IPS)

Nearly one month after UN Security Council members visited troubled South Sudan, disagreement reigns over even the limited outside measures proposed to try to bring the security situation in the world’s newest country under control.

“To fix South Sudan you will need 250,000 soldiers, you will need four or five billion dollars per year. Who is going to do that? Nobody.” Berouk Messfin, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, told IPS.

While it is clear that neither an arms embargo nor an additional 4000 UN troops – two measures currently on the table – will be a panacea for troubled South Sudan, there is a slim hope that they may pressure the country’s leadership to act in the interests of its people.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level meeting on South Sudan’s humanitarian situation on September 22: “Time and again, (South Sudan’s) leaders have resorted to weapons and identity politics to resolve their differences.”

For three days in early September Security Council members traveled to South Sudan. At the end of the visit a ‘joint communiqué’ was issued that seemingly brokered an agreement with the interim Transitional Government of National Unity. It outlined the strengthening of the existing 12,000-troop UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) through an additional 4000-troop Regional Protection Force, and the removal of restrictions to humanitarian access. But in the days since the communiqué, South Sudanese officials have insisted that specifics of the additional force remain unresolved.

“We have agreed in principle … but the details of their deployment, the countries that will contribute … that is the work that is left now,” Hussein Mar Nyuot, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management for the South Sudan government told IPS. “I don’t see the difference that this [4000] will come and do.”

“To fix South Sudan you will need 250,000 soldiers, you will need four or five billion dollars per year. Who is going to do that? Nobody.” -- Berouk Messfin, Institute for Security Studies.

The proposed additional force would be under the command of UNMISS and was endorsed in July by the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) body leading the South Sudan peace talks. Building on UNMISS’ existing mandate, which already calls for the “use all necessary means” to protect UN personnel and civilians from threats, the Security Council believes the additional troops would strengthen the security situation.

The force is to be deployed as soon as possible, Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters Friday. Though he also said they were trying to elucidate “contradictory statements” from the capital, Juba.

In this context, human rights advocacy groups, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have continued their calls for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo to stop both sides’ continued militarization.

“It’s going to be more difficult for parties to the conflict to get access to ammunition and supplies,” Louis Charbonneau, UN Director for Human Rights Watch, told IPS. “Combine it with the boosting of UNMISS … [and] it’s going to make a difference for civilians.”

However, the South Sudanese government, whose soldiers have been implicated in ethnically motivated killings, rape, and looting, disagrees on the value of an embargo.

“[The] issue is not actually the arms that are coming … even if you have an arms embargo there are already arms in the hands of the local people … the arms that are coming in are not actually the ones causing any problems,” Hussein Mar Nyuot told IPS.

If they say they want to have [an] arms embargo, ok, but what will you do with the arms that are in the hands of the people?” he continued. “We should encourage the government to disarm the civilian population.”

Peacekeepers and UN police officers (UNPOL) with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Peacekeepers and UN police officers (UNPOL) with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

As a party to the conflict, South Sudan’s government is not impartial in their position, however they are also not entirely alone in their hesitance. “[An embargo] has to be a last course … we are not there yet,” Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD, told IPS.

Despite the existing arms in the country and the potential for continued illicit inflows, targeted sanctions by the Security Council may signal deeper commitment to ending the violence and protecting civilians. Nevertheless, neither an embargo nor 4000 additional troops will cure the political divisions among South Sudan’s leadership, which lie at the heart of the conflict.

Paths forward

“The South Sudanese have a string to hang on now … and that is the implementation of the [August 2015] agreement,” Maalim said. “It has had some problems because of the July incident, but it’s going to come on track,” he added referring to violent clashes which took place in South Sudan in July, bringing the country to the brink of all-out war.

However, not everyone agrees on the viability of the previous agreement.

“You have two sides that are not negotiating in good faith … who do not understand how to implement peace agreements they have signed,” said Messfin.

So what is to be done? Beyond the intended value for the protection of civilians, additional troops and restrictions will only go so far without political commitment from the country’s leadership.

Conflict prevention in South Sudan is about strategically applied political leverage, Cedric de Conning, Senior Researcher at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, explained to IPS.

A protection force like a reinforced peacekeeping mission can only implement what is agreed to politically, and the warring parties are not committed and remain mistrustful. While immediate action is necessary to save lives, there will eventually need to be a “reset” and a new administration, he continued.

Meanwhile, civil society groups have also reported increased repression of their activities, indicating a further weakening of South Sudan’s social resilience.

“There has been a steady uptick in press freedom violations in South Sudan in recent months,” Murithi Mutiga, East Africa correspondent for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told IPS. “We have seen a number of cases of newspaper outlets being arbitrarily closed down, the most prominent cases being the Nation Mirror and the Juba Monitor.”

Press freedom can support the pursuit of a sustained cessation of hostilities, urged CPJ, because accurate and accessible public information allows citizens to better understand how to react to crises without turning to violence. A well-informed population may also be better positioned to define a peaceful future for their country.

The importance of uninhibited civil society for conflict prevention also matches the priorities outlined in two identical resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly in April, which recognize pathways to “sustaining peace.” Notably, this includes the development and maintenance of social, political and economic conditions necessary for conflict to be prevented.

South Sudan has experienced persistent violence since 2013, when armed conflict broke out between groups loyal to president Salva Kiir and opposition leader in exile Riek Machar. Fighting escalated along ethnic lines, pitting Dinka against Nuer, until a peace agreement was signed in August 2015. But fighting continued and escalated in July 2016 with a series of clashes in Juba, which left approximately 300 dead. Over the last three years thousands have been killed, over 1.6 million people remain internally displaced, and roughly 4.8 million currently suffer from food insecurity, according to the UN.

While the implementation of September’s joint communiqué will be reviewed with next steps considered at the end of the month, South Sudan’s Humanitarian Response Plan is severely under-funded at just over 50 percent; despite there being no doubt that South Sudan needs immediate assistance.

But this will only serve as a stop-gap against man-made famine. While the Security Council may still unite for the application of an embargo, the fate of South Sudan ultimately lies with its leadership. Their ability to find a lasting agreement, with support from the UN, the African Union, and IGAD, hinges on their willingness to stop the conflict.

“The lives and future of an entire generation hang in the balance,” Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, said Thursday. “Literally the future of South Sudan.”

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Colombia Referendum – First Acid Test for Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 20:52:15 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147126 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the peace agreement, observed by FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, Latin American presidents and other dignitaries, in an open-air ceremony in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Colombian presidency

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the peace agreement, observed by FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, Latin American presidents and other dignitaries, in an open-air ceremony in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Colombian presidency

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

It was like a huge party in Colombia. “Congratulations!” people said to each other, before hugging. “Only 20 minutes to go!” one office worker said, hurrying on her way to Bolívar square, in the heart of Bogotá. And everyone knew what she was talking about, and hurried along too. Complete strangers exchanged winks of complicity.

Starting at 5:00 PM on Monday Sept. 26, the people in the square watched a live broadcast of the ceremony in Cartagena de Indias, 664 km to the north, where the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels signed a peace agreement, putting an end to 52 years of armed conflict.

Fifteen presidents, 27 foreign ministers and three former presidents, as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in and witnessed the historic event.

The first big test for peace will come on Sunday Oct. 2, when Colombians will vote for or against the peace deal, in a referendum.

The ceremony began with one minute of silence for the Colombians who were killed or forcibly disappeared in the last half century, while dozens of white flags were raised.

This was followed by an a capella song by traditional singers from Bojayá, a town in the northwestern department of Chocó where 79 people were killed in May 2002, including 44 children. The United Nations blamed the FARC, the far-right paramilitaries and the army for the war crime.

“We are very happy/full of joy/that the FARC guerrillas/are laying down their arms,” they sang. During the war, “in our community/they didn’t even let/us go out to fish or work. We want justice and peace/to come from the heart/for health, peace and education to reach our fields.”

At 5:30 PM, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, signed the “final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace”, agreed on Aug. 24 in Havana after five years of peace talks held with international observers.

Colombians are “bidding farewell to decades of flames and sending up a bright flare of hope that illuminates the world,” Ban Ki-moon said.

The two leaders signing the accord spoke next.

The former rebel leader apologised “to all the victims of the conflict for all of the pain that we have caused in this war,” receiving a standing ovation in Cartagena as well as Bogotá, while thousands of people chanted “Yes we could!”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Credit: UN

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Credit: UN

The FARC rebel organisation will now become a new political party. ““No one should doubt that we are moving into politics without arms,” Londoño said. “The war is over. We are starting to build peace.”

Santos said “I welcome you to democracy. Exchanging bullets for votes, weapons for ideas, is the bravest and most intelligent decision…you understood the call of history.”

“We will undoubtedly never see eye to eye about the political or economic model that our country should follow, but I will staunchly defend your right to express your ideas within the democratic regime,” the president said.

After 14 years, the European Union removed the FARC from its list of terrorist organisations. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said his government would “review” doing the same.

Ban confirmed that the signing of the agreement marked the start of the U.N. Security Council peacekeeping mission to verify and monitor the ceasefire and the laying down of arms within 180 days.

On the sunny afternoon in Bolívar square, 70-something Graciela Laverde, wearing a colourful cotton dress, told IPS her biggest wish was “peace, education and recreation for so many children, an end to all the corruption and the killing of so many innocent people….If God wills, there will be peace.”

The referendum

The first big step along the complex route to consolidating peace will be the Oct. 2 referendum in which Colombians will vote whether or not they back the final peace deal.

The campaigns urging people to vote “yes” have been diverse and have included initiatives too numerous to count. For example, grandmothers playing with their grandchildren cut out large signs reading “si” (yes) to tape in their windows.

The campaign for the “no” vote, meanwhile, was led first and foremost by the far right: former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and former attorney general Alejandro Ordóñez, who may be Uribe’s candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.

The campaign has targeted Colombians in urban areas, who make up 70 percent of the population. “The people living in rural areas are prepared to vote ‘yes’,” analyst Jesús Aníbal Suárez told IPS, adding that it was urban residents who had the most doubts.

Suárez expects low voter turnout of around 35 percent, which would still be high enough to meet the legal requirements for the referendum. He projects a 60-40 percent result in favour of “yes”.

President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shows FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño the symbolic pen that the two will use to sign the peace agreement putting an end to over half a century of conflict in Colombia. Credit: Colombian presidency

President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shows FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño the symbolic pen made from a bullet that the two used to sign the peace agreement putting an end to over half a century of conflict in Colombia. Credit: Colombian presidency

“There is a great deal of uncertainty, and that leads people to abstain from voting,” he said. “Uribe’s effort has made its mark, it has managed to confuse people,” by widely disseminating false information about the peace agreement, he added.

But there is a new segment of the population in favour of the “yes” vote: the military and police, who total nearly half a million people in this country of 48 million.

“The members of the military can’t vote, but their families, the people around them, can,” said Suárez. “I heard retired general (former police chief) Roso José Serrano say: ‘I don’t want one more police officer to die.”

“Soldiers and police officers feel like they have been cannon fodder. Their families will vote for the ceasefire, just as a matter of logic,” because the deaths in combat have been reduced to zero.

During the 2014 presidential elections voters were polarised between reelecting Santos, so he could continue the peace talks with the FARC, and voting for Uribe’s candidate Óscar Zuluaga, who wanted to suspend the negotiations and relaunch them on a different footing.

Today, the “no” camp is calling for a renegotiation of the accord.

Suárez believes that in 2014, the families and friends of the half million soldiers and police voted for Zuluaga, but will now vote “yes”.

At the same time, the “no” campaign has complained about the government’s new sex education for preteens.

Because the peace agreement has a gender perspective, an unprecedented aspect in any peace deal anywhere in the world, Ordóñez’s followers protested on the day of the signing ceremony, in a small demonstration in Cartagena, that the peace accord represented a threat to children because of its “gender ideology.”

Evangelical Christians, who number several million in Colombia, vote in a disciplined manner, and their preachers have told them to vote “no”. The local Catholic Church leaders, despite Pope Francis’ support for the peace talks, declared themselves neutral with regard to the referendum.

“The referendum will define which direction this will take,” said Carlos Lozano, director of the Communist weekly publication Voz, who was close to the Havana talks.

“If the ‘no’ vote wins, which I don’t believe will happen, things would change a great deal, even if the war didn’t break out again,” he told IPS.

“It would be very difficult to hold another process of peace talks and reach another agreement,” he said. “It’s a document that has consensus support, which is worthy of the state, worthy of the guerrillas, and was built with great care, in a very detailed manner.”

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South Sudan and Uganda’s Intertwined History of Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/south-sudan-and-ugandas-intertwined-history-of-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-and-ugandas-intertwined-history-of-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/south-sudan-and-ugandas-intertwined-history-of-violence/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:25:54 +0000 Gabriel Odima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147117 South Sudanese President Salva Kiir with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

By Gabriel Odima
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

Uganda has and continues to play a major role in fueling the conflict in South Sudan. The recent events in South Sudan have brought that moral challenge into a very sharp focus.

The banishment of democracy from and suppression of the human rights of the citizens in South Sudan have persisted for the last five years since the birth of the nation. What appeared to be a hidden agenda is beginning to emerge in South Sudan.

These sad events in South Sudan have some similarities with events in Uganda. In 1981 thirty five years ago and fifteen days after elections in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni plunged Uganda – where peace had returned following the fall of Idi Amin – to war. Museveni launched the war in what became known as the Luwero Triangle, a district adjacent to and north of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

The war was a direct attack on democracy. It made the policy and work of the newly elected government in healing and reconciliation, development, rehabilitation, and transformation towards a culture of peace extremely difficult.

Like the case of South Sudan, the international community turned a blind eye. The continued support of Museveni’s rule in Uganda for the last 30 years raises very serious concern regarding the implications of U.S. foreign policy in Africa. The circumstance in which Museveni launched his war against the constitution and people in February 1981 exposed most clearly that he is a man of violent disposition who has a thirst for power in its most naked and atavistic form. Single handed, Museveni has exported this violent approach to South Sudan.  Indeed, all the subsequent wars which he waged in Luwero, Northern Uganda, Eastern Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan were totally unnecessary and cannot be justified.

During the Luwero war, Museveni and his army exhibited a very high degree of a most ignoble mendacity- not only as a war exigency but also as a means to conceal their crimes against humanity. They would, for instance, attack a village posing as government troops, cause much havoc, including massacres, and then on cue, the aggressors would hurriedly depart from the scene only for second unit of Museveni’s army to conveniently arrive to rescue the village from”government troops”. The second unit using a combination of persuasion and coercion would then cause the exodus of the villages to fortresses under the control of the insurgents after ransacking and destroying much of and in the village. The ignoble mendacity in the fact that at the time those atrocities were committed by Museveni’s army, road, foot paths and even  cattle tracks had been heavily manned by them and government troops were nowhere in the interior of Luwero District or in the village.

In 1971, the international media uniformly described Idi Amin repeatedly and for a whole year as " the gentle giant".

It became routine and an article of faith in Museveni’s subsequent wars in Northern Uganda, East, West Uganda, as well as in Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan, for atrocities committed by his army to be credited to his victims.

Those who are in the position to help the people of South Sudan to find and form a basis for harmony and rebuilding of South Sudan carry a very heavy burden and responsibility.

The Ugandan military regime, right from its installation in 1986 by the gun and bloodshed, has consistently, arrogantly and cynically suppressed and never permitted the citizens and their organized political parties to enjoy the freedom to hold opinions on political or public matters except the opinion of the regime. The fact that never, in the past, had the people of Uganda known so much death, oppression and repression as under the present military regime has been and is still being strenuously concealed by world leaders.

The cause of Democracy and the enjoyment by the citizens of human rights and freedoms have suffered in Uganda and South Sudan and will continue to suffer so long as politicians, church leaders and foreign governments and media give support and credibility to oppressive and repressive regimes established by the gun. The support and the credibility sometimes give the impression that the givers have removed the victims, that is, the oppressed citizens from the human race.

The general trend has been in many African countries for the Church leadership, politicians, the media and the international community to turn a blind eye on the atrocities in Uganda and South Sudan.

There are several reasons for the silence of these groups on democracy and observance of human rights in Uganda and South Sudan. Two of them stands out. The first is the tendency of both the spiritual and laity Christian leaders in a country faced with a difficult political or economic situation to accept wittingly or unwittingly a regime established by the gun and bloodshed. The second is the powerful influence of external forces namely, foreign governments, international media and human rights organizations when they give support and accolades to regimes established by the gun and bloodshed.

In 1971, the international media uniformly described Idi Amin repeatedly and for a whole year as “the gentle giant”. The evidence of massacres and terror by Amin’s soldiers was of no interest to the media until much later. Foreign governments also showed no interest in the evidence and Amnesty International, for instance, never reported even once throughout Amin’s rule of over eight years on the observance of human rights in Uganda.

In the case of South Sudan and Uganda, for instance, the military regime waged vicious wars to hold on to power and to ignore the lives of their citizens. There will be no peace in South Sudan as long as President Museveni of Uganda continues to play a role in fueling the conflict there.

The promotion and development of democracy and its attendant enjoyment of human rights by the citizen is under attack in Uganda and South Sudan not only by those holding the guns but also by the donors who provide funds indiscriminately. The donors know that no military regime in Africa, from Kampala through Juba is accountable to the people but still credit such regimes with accountability.

It is amazing and foreboding of hard and evil days ahead for Africa that although for the past 50 years, African countries have been largely ruled either by military dictators or single parties, opinions in the donor countries which have been in recent years strongly against single party rule are now shifting towards and in favor of military rule and against multiparty rule.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IPS’s editorial policy.

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A Historic Day in Colombiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/a-historic-day-in-colombia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-historic-day-in-colombia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/a-historic-day-in-colombia/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 06:46:42 +0000 Martin Santiago http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147109 Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Colombia and Resident Representative of UNDP]]>

Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Colombia and Resident Representative of UNDP

By Martín Santiago
BOGOTA, Colombia , Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

Betsaida and her family abandoned their home and a small business in the port of Tumaco, in the Pacific of Colombia, and were forced to follow the road that more than 7 million displaced Colombians have as a result of the armed conflict.

Their story, and that of millions of victims of the war, is at the heart of what the United Nations Organization is and does. Seventy-one years after its creation, the universal aspiration to end war, reaffirm the fundamental human rights and promote social progress is latent and more crucial than ever.

Despite the progress we have made in the last quarter of the century, in which we achieved a significant reduction of armed conflicts, we have witnessed serious setbacks in the last four years: the number of civil wars and attacks by governments and armed groups against civilians have increased for the first time since 2005. More than fifty million people, the highest number recorded in history, have been uprooted from their homes around the world as a result of armed conflicts.

In the face of adversity by human tragedies, the Peace Agreement by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP that will be signed today is of great significance for Colombia and for the world. With it, the possibility of ending 52 years of war in Colombia, and ending the scourge of armed political violence throughout the Americas, becomes real. Before this beacon of hope, the United Nations System in Colombia pays tribute to the victims of the conflict and to the many Colombians who have fought every day to build peace in their country.

We are privileged to accompany this crucial moment in history, and, with the excitement, I also feel a deep sense of solemnity, characteristic of those historic moments that challenge us and urge us to step up the realization of the purpose to which we owe ourselves: that peace be translated into the real expansion of human freedoms for everyone, and, in particular, for those most severely affected by the conflict, and to whom development has bypassed: the rural population, peasants, women, indigenous groups, youth, Afro-Colombians and the displaced.

Experience demonstrates that it is not enough to sign peace. That building peace and, furthermore, making peace with each other, entail arduous work. The commitment of the United Nations System in Colombia is to work relentlessly, together with the national public and private stakeholders, for Betsaida, and thousands of families like hers, to restore their livelihoods and realize themselves with equal opportunities; to generate reconciliation and sustainable development that contributes to closing the gaps that originated the conflict; to promote that each community and municipality be a peacebuilding agent.

The prospect of a Colombia in peace invites us to walk the path firmly and decisively on the basis of reparations for the victims, of an inclusive democracy and a more equitable development in which no one be left behind.

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Yazidi Survivor of ISIL Appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:31:35 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147033 Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Yazidi Nadia Murad – who survived being kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by ISIL – was honoured by the UN on Friday September 16 for her work to help human trafficking survivors.

At a ceremony held ahead of the International Day of Peace Murad was appointed as the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She is the first survivor of human trafficking to hold the position.

In early August 2014 Murad’s home town of Kocho in Northern Iraq was attacked by ISIL – also known as ISIS or Daesh.

Murad, who belongs to the Yazidi minority religion, described ISIL’s impact as “a nightmare that has struck our society.”

ISIL executed men and older women from the village in the attack, including Murad’s mother and six of her brothers.

Murad and other women and children were captured as “war-booty” and trade merchandise.

ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis have been described as attempted genocide, since ISIL aims to kill all Yazidis which it describes as infidels.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” -- Nadia Murad.

Murad later escaped in November 2014 when her captor left the door unlocked and a neighboring family smuggled her to a refugee camp, Duhot, in northern Iraq before she sought and was granted asylum in Germany.

Murad’s advocacy against ISIL’s trafficking of Yazidis later led her to testify before the UN Security Council in December 2015.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” Murad said, describing the Islamic State’s action as an orchestrated “collective genocide against Yazidi identity” and religion.

She called for the case of genocide against the Yazidis to be brought before the International Criminal Court and for an international budget to compensate Yazidi victims to be established.

Murad also expressed her wish to witness the liberation of occupied Yazidi territory and urged states to open their societies to Yazidi refugees.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on ISIL’s June report, some 3200 women and children are currently enslaved by ISIL.

Murad would “bring much needed attention to international efforts to end human trafficking and help keep it on the Security Council’s agenda,” US Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council Sarah Mendelson said.

The international response should be “commensurate with the scale of human trafficking” said Mendelson, noting that human trafficking generates an estimated 150 billion dollars in revenue annually with over 20 million victims.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Murad as a “fierce and tireless advocate for the Yazidi people and victims of human trafficking everywhere.”

Ban also described the crimes against Yazidis by ISIL as possible genocide.

“The crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq against the Yazidi may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide.”

He called for the immediate release of thousands of Yazidis being held in captivity.

Human rights barrister, Amal Clooney, who represents Murad, described ISIL’s violence towards the Yazidis as a “bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale.”

ISIL have released a pamphlet entitled ‘Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves’ which describes acts such as beating female slaves, raping female slaves who have not reached puberty, buying or selling or gifting female slaves.

Clooney also expressed her disappointment in the UN’s failure to stop the ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis.

“I am ashamed as a supporter of the United Nations that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide because they find their own interests get in the way.”

“I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it.”

“I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia can have their bodies sold and used as battlefields.”

“I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help,” said Clooney.

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U.A.E Stands By Conflicted Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/u-a-e-stands-by-conflicted-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-a-e-stands-by-conflicted-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/u-a-e-stands-by-conflicted-yemen/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 11:34:42 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146827 By providing military assistance for the ultimate eradication of extremist groups in Southern Yemen, the U.A.E have played a significant role in the rebuilding of peace and security in Yemen. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By providing military assistance for the ultimate eradication of extremist groups in Southern Yemen, the U.A.E have played a significant role in the rebuilding of peace and security in Yemen. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Sep 7 2016 (IPS)

As unrest and chaos plague Yemen, the U.A.E is not waiting in silence. Recognising that in spite of being impoverished Yemen has always been strategically important for U.A.E and the region, the warfare and conflict will not only gravely affect the region itself but could also obstruct the future security of the Middle East as a whole.

Extremist forces continue to hinder Yemen’s development and block any path to peace for the strife-torn nation. However, the U.A.E is determined to put the threat radical armed groups pose to a halt.

According to a recent report issued by Emirates News Agency, WAM, the U.A.E has played a crucial role in the growing success in the fight against Al Qaida in Southern Yemen.

Recently, the U.A.E supported Yemen’s significant military advancement. After five years of lawlessness and terrorist control in the province of Abyan, the Yemeni army managed to liberate the region and wipe out the deathly threat of terror posed by Al Qaida and its allies in Daesh. (ISIL) The U.A.E played a fundamental role in this military triumph through the extensive aerial cover provided whilst the Yemeni army advanced on the militants.

However, once secure in the knowledge of having gained back control over the conflict-ridden territory, the U.A.E did not stop there. The Emirati volunteer organization, the Emirates Red Crescent, successfully launched several humanitarian missions and provided vital food and water supplies to civilians most affected in the province.

The U.A.E’s forces have not only been victorious in their attempts to eradicate the chaos inflicted by extremist groups, they have also placed a strong emphasis on providing aid to all civilians, including those considered “unreachable”. They are committed to their pledge to provide sustainable development and long-term aid in a bid to rebuild Yemen’s civil society.

The recent military success in Abyan follows the recapturing of a major port in addition to an airport and surrounding territory in the coastal city of Al Mukalla, once seized by Al Quaida.

The operation had been planned six months in advance in order to ensure its success . More than 20,000 soldiers engaged in the warfare which lead to victory and a weakening of the Al Quaida threat. Subsequent operations focused on sustainable development for the city including the rebuilding of demolished buildings and the restoration of security at the city’s airport and port.

The Emirates News Agency, WAM, emphasises that “”it is just as important to root out the terrorists from their bases and bring Yemen’s coastal territories back to orderly government so that some measure of calm, normal business and social life can restart.” The U.A.E’s commitment to restore stability, security and order in Yemen is admirable. Through the donation of roughly 1.17 billion USD in the past 16 months to the crucial military assistance to eradicate the threat extremist armed groups pose, the future prospect of peace brings more hope to strife-torn Yemen.

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Yemeni Refugees Still Stuck on Wrong Side of the Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 13:38:32 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146799 A Yemeni man proudly watching over an infant in the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A Yemeni man proudly watching over an infant in the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
OBOCK, Djibouti, Sep 6 2016 (IPS)

Tears emerge from the slit of 20-year-old Gada’s black niqab face veil. After more than a minute’s silence she still can’t answer the question: How bad was it in Yemen before you left?

During 2015, escalation of fighting in Yemen led to a mass exodus. The UN refugee agency estimates that more than 2.4 million Yemenis have fled their homes to elsewhere in the country, and 120,000 have sought asylum in other countries.“My future used to be in Yemen when I had a father with an income. But if we go back we’ll be starting from scratch. Before, we depended on ourselves, but how do we do that now?” -- Issa, an 18-year-old refugee in the camp in Obock.

This includes Somalia and Djibouti on the opposite side from Yemen of the 30-km stretch of water known as Bab-el-Mandeb, meaning the Gateway of Tears—a name derived from the long history of people perishing when trying to cross it—at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

Some of those who went to Djibouti settled in a refugee camp that grew outside Obock, a small sun-parched town on the Horn of Africa coast. Facilities in the camp remain basic, though they now include a school started singlehandedly by an American missionary to provide Yemeni children and young adults with education, as well as something more intangible.

“Education is obviously important, and the school gives parents a much needed break from their kids in the cramped camp, but this is more to do with showing the refugees that they matter and have a future—that they’re not left out,” says Marianne Vecchione, a Los Angeles resident who has spent the past year in Obock.

After one typically sweltering day in the camp—daily temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit—as the sun sets Yemeni children giggle among themselves as they hesitantly approach and pet a group of camels, idling in a sandy lane running between groups of tents.

: With little to provide excitement in the camp, Yemeni children are drawn by a group of camels. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

With little to provide excitement in the camp, Yemeni children are drawn by a group of camels. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The sight of the camels provides a rare moment of excitement amid the drudgery of camp life. Housed in the simple tents are Yemeni from all over the country and from all walks of life: from poor fisherman to relatively affluent professionals of the middle class.

“I had everything, a job and an internet shop, but the Houthi rebels took it,” says 25-year-old Saddam from the city of Alhodida. “Everything’s gone. The shop was probably worth 25,000 dollars. Mum and dad are still there, my sister is in Ta’izz and I have two brothers in the camp, but we don’t know where my other brother is—he’s lost somewhere.”

Despite such deprivations, refugees try to keep a sense of humour about their predicaments.

“Welcome to the Middle Ages,” 22-year-old Ali says with a smile as he lifts a hanging cloth acting as the entrance to an enclosed area, comprising a small central open area with a tent at either end, in which lives Ali, his mother and five siblings, two of whom go to the camp’s school where Ali volunteers as a teacher. Ali says his family knew a much better life in Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city, before his father was killed by a military plane’s bomb strike during fighting and the family fled.

“My future used to be in Yemen when I had a father with an income,” says Ali’s 18-year-old brother Issa. “But if we go back we’ll be starting from scratch. Before, we depended on ourselves, but how do we do that now?”

The camp at its peak had about 3,000 people, now there are about 1,000. Refugees have started returning to Yemen, braving the ongoing fighting there.

“There’s nothing like home,” says one woman in a group of Yemeni female refugees discussing what they miss. “Even if you are somewhere better, you can’t compare with it—where you had your childhood, the traditions, the parks, the mosques and culture. We miss everything, the breath and waves of Yemen. We even miss the shop keepers as they were part of daily life.”

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

In August, UN-sponsored talks in Kuwait for establishing peace in Yemen ended after 90 days unresolved, with fighting resuming between government forces and rebels.

“When will there be peace? Maybe in 30 years if the old generation dies and the young are more peaceful and loving,” says a 45-year-old Yemeni who back in Yemen is head of a tribe and didn’t want his name used due to his position. “The rebels came from nothing and took over everything, killing a lot. They had to have someone behind them—big support to get all the weapons.”

Yemen has fallen foul of a proxy war being waged between Saudi Arabia, supporting Yemen’s government forces, and Iran, backing the Houthi rebels who, according to Yemeni in the camp, having committed the most and worst atrocities.

Vecchione recounts how one day she told young school children to draw pictures for a class and by its end she found herself looking at scrawled pictures of the likes of bombed-out houses, dead people and boats being shelled—as refugees fled over the sea to Djibouti they were targeted by unknown forces on the Yemen mainland firing artillery at boats.

Many refugees are deeply traumatised, something the aid world can forget in its haste to deliver assistance, according to Vecchione.

“In the aid world things are done according to projects and programs, they’re not done according to individuals,” Vecchione says. “So the aid world can forget you’re dealing with someone who is traumatized and who needs special care, and needs a different way of handling.”

Djibouti’s government is often criticiz]sed for not doing enough to help large numbers of unemployed and impoverished in the country. But Vecchione notes how its Ministry of Education helped and cooperated fully with her when she undertook to take two groups of students to Djibouti City to complete exams, enabling them to progress to high-school and university in the future.

“The government does have challenges but they are showing the way internationally [with refugees],” says Tom Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, who has visited the camp a number of times and hosted the students at his residence while they took exams in the city. “They’ve saved thousands of lives. It deserves credit for opening its borders to people who had nowhere else to go.”

The influx of Yemeni refugees into Djibouti has totalled about 35,000, Kelly says, adding how, relative to the size of Djibouti’s population, this is like 13 million people entering the U.S.

Despite the refugees’ dire situation, Vecchione encountered opposition to her endeavours to help. She was accused by some of trying to convert students to Christianity—even though the school taught the Yemeni curriculum including lessons on the Koran and Islam.

At one stage, tensions were such her bosses considered pulling her out of Obock. But she stayed, and is adamant it was worth it. Everywhere she goes around the camp and small town she is accompanied by a common refrain from both young and adult voices: “Marianne! Marianne!”

It’s clear that some refugees appreciate what one Christian volunteer has done for them, despite what can be vast cultural and religious differences.

Meanwhile, although the ongoing war in Yemen can easily appear impossibly intractable, and its terrible fallout insurmountable, Vecchione notes how often the smallest things can still make a big difference.

“The school also breaks down some of the regional challenges people have based on the war, as there’s a lot of north/south and inter-city squabbling based on the fighting and trauma,” Vecchione says. “Different cities committed different atrocities, but the school brought [children and parents] together, and unified them as one people.”

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Islam Right Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/islam-right-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islam-right-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/islam-right-now/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 13:26:35 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146798 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Sep 6 2016 (IPS)

Watching Christianity nearly a century–fundamentalist Christians fighting ritualistic Christians fighting secularism, generally moving fundamentalism–>ritualism–>secularism–maybe the same for Islam? Their similarities make “Islam right now” a repetition of Christianity; their differences shout, Watch Out! Let us see where this leads us.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Violence-prone fundamentalist evangelical Christians are still on top of the USA and some Nordic countries; but much less in ritualistic Catholic-Orthodox Christianity, meaning by far most of Europe.

Beauty of worship, the psychology of confession, less verbalism; all help.

Secularism makes faith so metaphorical for many that Christianity becomes only a ritual for Christmas-Easter, baptism-marriage-funeral (if there are no secular alternatives). Result: empty churches.

Our secular age makes literal faith in dogmas difficult, and that tears at the faith. But this is where two major differences enter:
• Islam is much less dogmatic, there is much less to tear at, only the readily acceptable shahada, faith in one Alla’h and his prophet Muhammad;
• If that faith turns metaphorical, Islam has the other four pillars of Islam to fall back upon: prayer together, sharing, fasting, pilgrimage, every day, a whole month every year, once a life.

The point of gravity in Islam moves more easily from faith to practice; and may stop there. There is much built-in outer practice that will survive a decrease in inner faith. Result: full mosques.

Moreover, the four pillars are compatible with key secular values:
• prayer together: with more we-, less I-culture less loneliness;
• sharing: with more altruism, less egoism;
• fasting: with more solidarity for those in misery and self-control;
• pilgrimage, with the sharing of something sacred, above our selves.

A “good Muslim” does all that; what does a “good Christian” do? Going to mass and to the confession booth are church, not social, answers. The clear social answer is monastic orders, monks and nuns dressing, living apart from others, doing Samaritan work. Others are invited to do the same, but where-when-how? Easier leaving it to the state.

The West should stop talking about jihad and jihadism as “holy war”, even if also abused by some Muslims, and try to understand[i]. Jihad means “to strive, exert oneself in the path of God”[ii].

There are four aspects: inner, greater jihad fighting the evil in oneself; spreading Islam by the word; by good deeds, like honest business; and defensive jihad if Islam is trampled upon with moderate retribution. No aggression: “Fight in the way of God against those who fight you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggression.” (Qur’an 2:190).

Jihad accommodates honest business a religious duty. Like chosen people, promised land (Genesis 15:18) in Judaism makes fighting for Israel from Nile to Euphrates a religious duty. Like warfare to protect the West is a Christian duty, for God, King and Fatherland.

God is divine, King semi-divine as rex gratia dei, Fatherland not. The gap between Christianity and secular Fatherland has been bridged by preventive war as sacrament[iii]; reactive war against attack not needed. In EU, however, there is a mix of Fatherlands with no King and no God. Hence Br-exit for her to continue to Rule the Waves, for God or not.

Imagine Muslims abusing a Western sacred word, democracy, calling Western wars “democratism”.

They would be right because people who profess democracy also often go to war. And they would be wrong by missing the whole idea. Like “jihadism”, “democratism” would locate the cause of war on the other side, and not in the relation between them; making the relation even worse instead of appreciating the profundity.

Christians give to Caesar that of Caesar and to God that of God, opening for secularism. Islam does not, but moves from fundamentalist true faith to ritualistic true practice are compatible with secularisms.

Such as democracy, in Muslim Egypt and Turkey; Islam embracing “all equal under the law” as a special case of “all equal under Alla’h”. USA did not like it but preferred a military coup. To Washington, national evangelist, “true” democracy means “pro-USA” democracy.

How about IS, is it more I for Islamic faith, or more S for State with institutions for the other four pillars? It could be both, making transitions from true believers to true ritualistic practitioners easy. The problematic word is not “Islamic” but “State”. Pitted against USA and EU IS may take on their attributes; after Brexit more USA than EU.

The historical record is terrifying and long-lasting, including:
• Islam expanding East-West to the Iberian peninsula 711-1492, north but beaten at Tours (732), Lepanto (1571), Vienna (1683); stopped in the Balkans;
• The Catholic Christian Crusades 1095-1291 against Muslims but also against Orthodox Christians and Jews;
• Three centuries across the Mediterranean to Barcelona-Genoa-Napoli to catch Christian slaves for heavy road work[iv];
• West colonizing Islam (except Iran) 1830-1960, starting with Algeria;
• The massive US-led coalitions attacking in Afghanistan from 2001 and in Iraq from 2003 with 9/11 as a pretext, killing, displacing millions;
• IS now killing a small fraction, as retribution with moderation[v].

Six violences, three by each. The first four lasted centuries, a bad omen for the last two. But have a second look. In the first two the two religions played major roles; in the last two the state system, United States vs Islamic State[vi].

State wars are shorter; decades, not centuries. However, the wisdom of challenging US as an Islamic state rather than as an invincible ummah with provinces can be disputed[vii].

We have given reasons that Islam will survive secularization better than Christianity, having much to fall back upon; how about IS vs US?

We might argue that both will lose because the state system itself is yielding to regionalism and localism. Islam is ready, with ummah regionalism and imam localism.

Christianity, however, is split between Latin and Anglo America, US and EU, Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox Europe–much more than Sunni vs Shia and Arab vs non-Arab. And local churches are more for spiritual, not also for mundane affairs[viii].

On top of that: the world, even USA, is tired of endless warfare. Let Islam settle. The West and Christianity have serious work to do.

NOTES:

[i]. Gary Wills, the famous columnist, took the trouble to understand: “My Koran problem”, NYRB, 24 March 2016. His Koran problem was that he knew nothing: “–we Christians begin with the greatest deficit of knowledge /whereas/those who know the Koran have quite a lot of knowledge about Torah and Gospel, since Allah sent them both to earth before he sent the Koran.–we Westerners cannot even remember it unless we learn something about the Koran. It’s about time”. Indeed.

[ii].Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, chairman of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, in a lecture and in articles like “Concept of ‘jihad’ misunderstood”, New Straits Times 14 July 2014.

[iii]. Look at who comes to the funerals of Norwegian soldiers with mandate to kill in Afghanistan: the King, top bishops.

[iv]. Robert Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, Palgrave Macmillan.

[v]. Sarah Birke, “How ISIS Rules”, NYRB, 5 Feb 2015: armed resistance being difficult, the alternative from the inside was silent resistance, or migration. Or what we have now, open US/IS warfare.

[vi]. But religious discourse did not wither away, here are two:
* George Bush 10 Feb 2003, on a possible attack on Iraq: “Liberty is God’s gift to every human being in the world”. (Washington Post, 10 Feb 2003);
* Osama bin Laden 11 Feb 2003: “victory comes only from God, all we have to do is to prepare and motivate for jihad”. Audio message conveyed by jorgenj@peace.uit.no.

[vii]. For a deep analysis of the present situation, see Abbas Aroua, “The Salafiscape in the Wake of the Arab Spring”, www.cordoue.ch.

[viii]. In a play, Maria og Magdalena; Lidelseshistorien og kristen=dommen (the Passion Story and Christianity) Oslo: Kolofon 2016, this author tries to liberate Crist, driven by conscience and compassion, from the Church as Mary’s son, not God’s begotten by the Holy Spirit–as inspiration for us all.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 September 2016: TMS: Islam Right Now

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Yemen’s Children Deserve Betterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemens-children-deserve-better/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemens-children-deserve-better http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemens-children-deserve-better/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2016 13:06:51 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146756 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemens-children-deserve-better/feed/ 0 Tracing War Missing Still a Dangerous Quest in Sri Lankahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:51:46 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146673 The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that there could be as many as 65,000 people missing following three decades of civil war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that there could be as many as 65,000 people missing following three decades of civil war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
MANNAR, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

As Sri Lanka readies to begin the grim task of searching for thousands of war missing, those doing the tracing on the ground say that they still face intimidation and threats while doing their work.

The government will set up the Office for Missing Persons (OMP) by October following its ratification in parliament earlier this month. The office, the first of its kind, is expected to coordinate a nationwide tracing programme."We don’t even have an identification card that says we are doing this kind of work." -- Ravi Kumar, Volunteer Tracing Coordinator in the Northern Mannar District

However, officers with the Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC), which currently has an operational tracing programme, tell IPS that it is still difficult to trace those who went missing during combat, especially if they are linked to any armed group.

“It is a big problem,” said one SLRC official who was detained by the military for over three hours when he made contact with the family of a missing person whose relatives in India had sent in a tracing request.

“The family in India did not know, I did not know, that he was a high-ranking member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The moment I went to his house to seek information, the military was outside,” said the official, who declined to be named. He was later interrogated about why he was seeking such information and who he was working for.

The official told IPS that as there was no national programme endorsed by the government to trace war missing, security personnel were unlikely to allow such work, especially in the former conflict zone in the North East, where there is a large security presence since the war’s end in May 2009.

However, the Secretariat for Coordination of Reconciliation Mechanism and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation both said that once the envisaged OMP is set up, the government was likely to push ahead with a tracing programme. The draft bill for the office includes provisions for witness and victim protection.

War-related missing has been a contentious issue since Sri Lanka’s war ended seven years ago. A Presidential Commission on the Missing sitting since 2013 has so far recorded over 20,000 complaints, including those of 5,000 missing members from government forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has so far recorded over 16,000 complaints on missing persons since 1989. The 2011 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka said that over 40,000 had gone missing.

In 2015, a study by a the University Teachers for Human Rights from the University of Jaffna in the North said that they suspected that the missing figure could be over 90,000 comparing available population figures.

After years of resistance, in 2014 the then Mahinda Rajapaksa government gave the ICRC permission to conduct the first ever island-wide survey of the needs of the families of the missing. The report was released in July and concluded, “the Assessment revealed that the highest priority for the families is to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relative(s), including circumstantial information related to the disappearance.”

ICRC officials said that it was playing an advisory role to the government on setting up the tracing mechanism. “The government of Sri Lanka received favourably a proposal by the ICRC to assist the process of setting up a mechanism to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people and to comprehensively address the needs of their families, by sharing its experience from other contexts and its technical expertise on aspects related to the issue of missing people and their families,” ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said.

The SLRC in fact has an ongoing tracing programme active in all 25 districts dating back over three decades. “Right now most of the tracing work is related to those who have been separated due to migration,” Kamal Yatawera, the head of the tracing unit said. It has altogether traced over 12,000 missing persons, the bulk separated due to migration or natural disasters.

However, the SLRC is currently not engaged in tracing war related missing unless notified by family members, which happens rarely. “But we do look for people who have been separated or missing due to the conflict, especially those who fled to India,” said Ravi Kumar, Volunteer Tracing Coordinator in the Northern Mannar District. He has traced four such cases out of the 10 that had been referred to him since last December.

He added that tracing work would be easier if there was a government-backed programme. “Now we don’t even have an identification card that says we are doing this kind of work. If there was government sanction, then we can reach out to the public machinery, now we are left to go from house to house, asking people.”

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, life in the war zone was dominated by the fighting. Thousands of youth either joined the Tigers or were conscripted into their units. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, life in the war zone was dominated by the fighting. Thousands of youth either joined the Tigers or were conscripted into their units. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

 

A small child and a woman sit next to LTTE cadres training in a public playground in Kilinochchi, a district in the Northern Province, in this picture taken in June 2004. The Tigers held sway over all aspects of life in areas they controlled until their defeat in 2009. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A small child and a woman sit next to LTTE cadres training in a public playground in Kilinochchi, a district in the Northern Province, in this picture taken in June 2004. The Tigers held sway over all aspects of life in areas they controlled until their defeat in 2009. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Now, young people have more freedom than they did under the Tigers, but many are frustrated by the lack of proper employment opportunities six years after being promised a peace dividend by the government in Colombo. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Now, young people have more freedom than they did under the Tigers, but many are frustrated by the lack of proper employment opportunities six years after being promised a peace dividend by the government in Colombo. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

 

A quarter of a million people who were displaced during the last phase of the war, along with tens of thousands of others who fled at other stages of the conflict, have moved back to the Vanni. Many families with small children continue to live in slum-like conditions, as a funding shortfall has left many without proper houses. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A quarter of a million people who were displaced during the last phase of the war, along with tens of thousands of others who fled at other stages of the conflict, have moved back to the Vanni. Many families with small children continue to live in slum-like conditions, as a funding shortfall has left many without proper houses. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women have been forced to take up the role of breadwinner, with aid agencies suggesting that single females - either widows or women whose partners went missing during the war – now head over 40,000 households in the province. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women have been forced to take up the role of breadwinner, with aid agencies suggesting that single females – either widows or women whose partners went missing during the war – now head over 40,000 households in the province. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A woman stands in front of this small business she operates in Mullaitivu. The single mother was able to open the shop with the help of a grant she received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A woman stands in front of this small business she operates in Mullaitivu. The single mother was able to open the shop with the help of a grant she received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The war left tens of thousands disabled, but six years on there are hardly any programmes or facilities that cater to this community. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The war left tens of thousands disabled, but six years on there are hardly any programmes or facilities that cater to this community. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

This man, a former member of the LTTE who was blinded in one eye during the war, bicycles over 20 km each day in search of work. A father of one, he has found it hard to adjust to post-war life. Credit: Amantha Perer/IPS

This man, a former member of the LTTE who was blinded in one eye during the war, bicycles over 20 km each day in search of work. A father of one, he has found it hard to adjust to post-war life. Credit: Amantha Perer/IPS

Other former Tigers, like this rehabilitated cadre-turned-barber, were fortunate to benefit from government-sponsored aid programmes. Here, the one-time militant attends to a client at his barber’s shop in the village of Mallavi in Sri Lanka’s north. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Other former Tigers, like this rehabilitated cadre-turned-barber, were fortunate to benefit from government-sponsored aid programmes. Here, the one-time militant attends to a client at his barber’s shop in the village of Mallavi in Sri Lanka’s north. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Many in the Vanni struggle due to a combination of poverty, war-related injuries and untreated trauma. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Many in the Vanni struggle due to a combination of poverty, war-related injuries and untreated trauma. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The election of a new president and the visit of Pope Francis to the former war zone – two monumental events coming within five days of each other in early January – have raised hopes in the north that real, lasting change is close at hand. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The election of a new president and the visit of Pope Francis to the former war zone – two monumental events coming within five days of each other in early January – have raised hopes in the north that real, lasting change is close at hand. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

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US, EU Accused of Paying Lip Service to Global Arms Treatyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/us-eu-accused-of-paying-lip-service-to-global-arms-treaty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-eu-accused-of-paying-lip-service-to-global-arms-treaty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/us-eu-accused-of-paying-lip-service-to-global-arms-treaty/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 19:06:32 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146636 The non-violence knotted gun statue at UN headquarters in NYC. Credit: IPS UN Bureau.

The non-violence knotted gun statue at UN headquarters in NYC. Credit: IPS UN Bureau.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22 2016 (IPS)

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which was aimed at curbing the flow of small arms and light weapons to war zones and politically-repressive regimes, is being openly violated by some of the world’s arms suppliers, according to military analysts and human rights organizations.

The ongoing conflicts and civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Ukraine are being fueled by millions of dollars in arms supplies – mostly from countries that have either signed or ratified the ATT, which came into force in December 2014.

Dr. Natalie Goldring, UN Consultant for the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy and a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, told IPS: “The Arms Trade Treaty is incredibly important. Put simply, if fully implemented, it has the potential to save lives.”

But if implementation is not robust, the risk is that “business as usual” will continue, resulting in continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, she warned.

“Recent and proposed arms sales by States Parties and signatories to the ATT risk undermining the treaty,” said Dr Goldring, who has closely monitored the 20 year long negotiations for the ATT, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2013.

The reported violations of the international treaty have coincided with a weeklong meeting in Geneva, beginning August 22 through August 26, of ATT’s second Conference of States Parties (CSP).

Recent reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Control Arms, Forum on Arms Trade and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) document the continued transfer of conventional weapons that may be used to violate international humanitarian and human rights law.

Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said the ATT has the potential to save millions of lives, which makes it especially alarming when states who have signed or even ratified the treaty seem to think they can continue to supply arms to forces known to commit and facilitate war crimes, and issue export licenses even where there is an overriding risk the weapons will contribute to serious human rights violations.

“There must be zero tolerance for states who think they can just pay lip service to the ATT.”

“The US government’s response to apparent Saudi bombings of civilian targets is to sell them more weapons? This makes no sense." -- Natalie Goldring

He said the need for more effective implementation is painfully obvious: “from Yemen to Syria to South Sudan, every day children are being killed and horribly maimed by bombs, civilians are threatened and detained at gunpoint, and armed groups are committing abuses with weapons produced by countries who are bound by the treaty,” he noted.

Providing a list of “unscrupulous arms transfers,” Amnesty International pointed out that the US, which has signed the ATT, and European Union (EU) member states who have ratified it, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France and Italy, have continued to lavish small arms, light weapons, ammunition, armoured vehicles and policing equipment on Egypt, “despite a brutal crackdown on dissent by the authorities which has resulted in the unlawful killing of hundreds of protesters, thousands of arrests and reports of torture by detainees since 2013.”

In 2014, France issued export licences that again included sophisticated Sherpa armoured vehicles used by security forces to kill hundreds of protesters at the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit in just a year earlier.

Arms procured from ATT signatories have also continued to fuel bloody civil wars, the London-based human rights organization said.

In 2014, Amnesty International said, Ukraine approved the export of 830 light machine guns and 62 heavy machine guns to South Sudan.

Six months after signing the ATT, Ukrainian authorities issued an export licence on 19 March 2015 to supply South Sudan with an undisclosed number of operational Mi-24 attack helicopters.

Three of those attack helicopters are currently in service with South Sudan government forces, and they are reportedly awaiting the delivery of another.

Additionally, in March 2015 the US State Department approved possible military sales of equipment and logistical support to Saudi Arabia worth over $24 billion, and between March 2015 and June 2016, the UK approved the export of £3.4 billion (approximately $4.4 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

“These approvals were given when the Saudi Arabia-led coalition was carrying out continuous, indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes and ground attacks on civilians in Yemen, some of which may amount to war crimes,” Amnesty International said in a statement released August 22.

Jeff Abramson of the Forum on the Arms Trade said the Geneva meeting takes place during a time of ongoing conflict and controversy over the responsible transfer and use of conventional weapons.

He said key topics that may be addressed, either formally or informally, include better promoting transparency in the arms trade and arming of Saudi Arabia, in light of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen — including recent US notification of possible tank sales to Riyadh

Dr Goldring told IPS the US government recently proposed to sale of 153 M1A2 Abrams tanks to Saudi Arabia.

She said the written notification of the proposed sale notes that 20 of the tanks are intended as “battle damage replacements for their existing fleet.”

As Brookings Institution Scholar Bruce Riedel has noted, the Saudis are only using tanks in combat along the Saudi-Yemeni border.

“The US government’s response to apparent Saudi bombings of civilian targets is to sell them more weapons? This makes no sense. This is part of a pattern of continued arms transfers taking place despite a high risk that they will be used to violate international human rights and humanitarian law,. ” declared Dr Goldring.

She said States parties to the ATT are required to address the risks of diversion or misuse of the weapons they provide. But if this criteria are taken seriously, it’s virtually impossible to justify continued weapons deals with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Countries without strong export control systems have argued that it will take time to fully implement the ATT, while other countries such as the United States have domestic impediments to ratifying the treaty.

But one of the treaty’s strengths, Dr Goldring, argued is its specification of conditions under which arms transfers should be blocked. States do not have to wait for ratification or accession to the treaty to begin implementing such standards.

“The ATT is a new treaty, but we can’t afford to ‘ease into’ it. While we discuss the treaty, lives are being lost around the world. We need to aggressively implement the ATT from the start,” Dr Goldring said.

Another important issue in full implementation of the ATT, she noted, is making the global weapons trade transparent, so that citizens can understand the commitments their governments are making in their names.

“Governments should not be transferring weapons unless they are willing to take responsibility for them. Their opposition to openness and transparency raises questions about what they’re trying to hide,” she added.

But in the end, although it’s important to bring transparency to the discussion of these issues, the real issue is whether the transfers are being controlled. Recent sales raise significant concerns in this regard, Dr Goldring said.

“The Conference of States Parties that is being held this week in Geneva presents a critical opportunity to face these issues. To strengthen the Arms Trade Treaty, the conference must focus on this key substantive concern of the risks entailed in continuing business as usual. States should not allow their attention to be diverted to process issues,” said Dr Goldring who is currently participating in the Geneva meeting,

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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133 Organisations Nominate Syria’s White Helmets for Nobel Peace Prizehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/133-organisations-nominate-syrias-white-helmets-for-nobel-peace-prize/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=133-organisations-nominate-syrias-white-helmets-for-nobel-peace-prize http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/133-organisations-nominate-syrias-white-helmets-for-nobel-peace-prize/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 11:34:27 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146605 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/133-organisations-nominate-syrias-white-helmets-for-nobel-peace-prize/feed/ 2 Interview: The UN Security Council and North Korea’s Nuclear Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/interview-the-un-security-council-and-north-koreas-nuclear-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=interview-the-un-security-council-and-north-koreas-nuclear-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/interview-the-un-security-council-and-north-koreas-nuclear-threat/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:17:42 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146542 Ambassador Choong-hee Han of South Korea with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Ambassador Choong-hee Han of South Korea with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Rose Delaney
UNITED NATIONS / ROME, Aug 14 2016 (IPS)

Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, UN representative of the Republic of Korea, spoke with IPS about the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2270, which was unanimously adopted on 2 March 2016.

The resolution calls for the universal condemnation of the nuclear threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK / North Korea) and was prompted by repeated missile launches by North Korea in defiance of opposition from the international community.

North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs not only violate UN Security Council resolutions but also pose a grave threat to global peace and security. Ambassador Hahn, from neighbouring South Korea shared his views on North Korea with IPS.

IPS: Undoubtedly, the North Korean nuclear threat endangers and poses a great threat to global peace and security. In light of the UN Security Council Resolution 2270 discussions in New York on the 30th of June, how will the Security Council tackle nuclear weapon issues? In other words, what role will the UN and the global community play in the North Korea Sanctions Regime?

Ambassador Hahn: The conference on Resolution 2270 held in New York in June 2016 was very significant as key discussions were developed on the topic of North Korean evasion tactics. The discussion was hosted by three major sponsoring countries, South Korea, the United States and Japan, who are all leading voices in the strive against North-Korean nuclear advances.

With diplomatic démarche I believe we can overcome North Korea’s defiance.

In order to enforce UN Sanctions on North Korea, the most significant criteria for member states to comply with the sanctions regime is to present a 90-day report. As of yet, we’ve received around 40 reports from a select number of countries. The generation of reports this year has been above average, however, in spite of this great intake, it is still not enough. It is now time to raise global awareness on the importance of the enforcement of this sanction.

The implementation of Resolution 2270 has proved exceedingly difficult as North Korea is defiant and acts out against the international voice. In fact, they’ve launched 7 missiles recently. The missiles were particularly alarming worrisome because if they had been successful, there impact could have reached as far as Japan and US territory. Although North Korea’s Musudan last missile launch attempts have failed. The latest missile to be launched was more successful than the rest, as its maximum delivery was 1000km and its distance 400 km. This is why the international cooperation of state agencies and civil society organizations is critical at this juncture to put the threat of nuclear advancement to a halt.

IPS: Will the development of nuclear technology in the DRPK have a grave impact on the world? How does the UN Security Council plan to address these advancements?

Ambassador Hahn: Most definitely, the impact would be immense if the advancements proved successful. North Korea is continuously trying to improve on tried and tested nuclear methods and are relentless in their belief that nuclear power ensures national security or regime survival. They are currently attempting to work on a nuclear technology referred to as “musudan” in the Korean language. This is an intermediate missile, if it’s further developed it could be used as a delivery means carrying nuclear warhead. It’s a particularly precarious advancement as this missile could cover the US territory of Guam.

Japan is particularly concerned about North Korea’s continued launch of missiles. This has become a critical issue for Japanese security. Whenever North Korea launches any mid to long range missile, Japan has been reacting strongly against the last seven missiles.

Another international preoccupation comes from the launching of missiles from mobile pads. These missiles could be concealed and launched at any time and in any given place. We’ve already born witness to this danger as they’ve attempted to launch missiles in a similar manner 7 times. The UN has issued a press statement each time, even if it was a failure, to communicate the message that the UN is watching and we are, by no means, disregarding what they are doing.

In reaction to North Korea’s defiance, we’d like to share a strong message. The international society are both committed and rigorous in their fight to stop North Korea’s engagement with nuclear weapons.

North Korea has tried to avoid their compliance with the sanction through many evasion tactics. By issuing the publication of case studies on North Korea with all member states, a strong emphasis will be placed on the country’s refusal to comply with international regulation. In this way, each member can compare what they’re doing against North Korea and what other countries are experiencing in relation to implementation of the sanction.

We believe that by condemning the actions of North Korea through global dissemination and by member states openly discouraging their behaviour we will eventually stamp out the North Korean nuclear threat.

IPS: How can North Korean defiance and refusal to comply with Resolution 2270 be resolved in a peaceful manner? How significant will international cooperation and coordination be in countering the impact of North Korea’s violations?

Ambassador Hahn: As we are all too aware, there is a critical need to implement sanction pressure in North Korea at this juncture. In several countries, bilateral sanctions have been introduced. For example, the US passed a law to introduce the so-called “secondary boycott”, this is a way to condemn and place penalties on foreign companies, for example companies from other states operating with North Korea, which is helping North Korea’s WMD capabilities.

This law gives leverage to the administration to decide what kind of sanction measures they can take. The US is trying to penalise regions such as North Korea for human rights violations. The EU has also introduced various forms of sanction pressure.

Bilateral pressure will also be encouraged to put a stop to North Korea’s clandestine cooperation with Middle Eastern and African countries. “Diplomatic demarche” has led to clandestine transactions between companies from North Korea and African and Middle Eastern countries. It is now time for the global community to condemn North Korea’s abuse of the international finance system and shut down their clandestine systems of trade and banking. Through the enforcement of laws together with the strength of bilateral pressure, with diplomatic demarche I believe we can overcome North Korea’s defiance.

IPS: In accordance to the UN Security Council, the implementation of the core Sanctions measures contained in resolution 2270 will counter the North Korea’s illicit activities. In light of this, how has China, a neighbouring country and significant partner in trade to North Korea, fared in their implementation of the sanctions?

Ambassador Hahn: Unfortunately, as of yet, the implementation has been met with nothing more than a series of unmet promises on China’s part. Which is worrying as I truly believe a solution to the “North Korea problem” could come through the continued pursuit and that China take faithful implementation of 2270.

The Chinese government continuously assure us that they’ll implement the Resolution 2270 sanction, however it seems premature to say that China is in full implementation as there is a so-called “livelihood” exception in some of the sectoral ban of the resolution.

We will have continued discussions with China to see how they are going to realistically implement the 2270 general and ensure their future commitment to it.

IPS: In spite of China’s current position on the implementation of Resolution 2270, have North-Korean-Chinese relations worsened due to the nuclear threat North Korea endangers the world with?

Ambassador Hahn: Yes, relations between North Korea and China have been tarnished. In a recent diplomatic visit to China, North Korea demonstrated their need to avoid diplomatic isolation. Lee Soo-Yong, North Korea’s senior worker’s party official, met with the president of China, and expressed the importance of maintaining good relations with China in a bid to avoid isolation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping communicated the message to the North Korean delegation that while China acknowledges the importance of bilateral relations between China and North Korea, they do not support North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missile launches.

However, in spite of North Korea’s fear of exclusion and isolation, they did not seem to take heed of China’s advice, protest, and warning. North Korea believe nuclear weapons are the key to their survival and they refuse to compromise anything for it.

IPS: As the number of North Korean labourers in the international workforce grows and illicit negotiations between Middle Eastern and African companies ceases to discontinue, North Korea’s defiance has shown that it not only endangers the world with the threat of nuclear warfare, it also poses a grave threat to the international financial system. How does the UN Security Council together with the aid of the international community aim to eliminate this threat?

Ambassador Hahn: A big stake in North Korea’s relationship with other countries, is its labour force abroad. So far, over 35,000 North Korean workers worldwide are on special contracts, generating over 300 million dollars a year. Some countries are now reviewing and reconsidering these contracts and a couple of countries have made a decision to discontinue some of the contracts.

We’ve approached several countries about the implementations of these types of sanctions. Recently, Qatar, sent over 100 workers back home to North Korea. These actions discourage the continuance of North Korea’s careless attitude. China are also attempting to implement a lot of diplomatic demarche. For example, several North Korean restaurants have now closed in China.

Cooperation with North Korea and some African countries, has led to the development of bilateral military cooperation projects, recently South Korean president Park Geun-hye visited Uganda and condemned this illicit cooperation and Uganda subsequently agreed to discontinue their military cooperation with North Korea.

IPS: Finally, what are the expected outcomes of Resolution 2270 and where will the UN Security Council go from there?

Ambassador Hahn: At present, North Korea’s power consolidation process is very troubling. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un wants to demonstrate his absolute power through the showcasing of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. In this way, North Korea has demonstrated zero intention to abandon their nuclear weapons program. They consider it to be a form of economic prosperity and ultimately, survival. They are trying to go ahead with “Byungjin”, literally “going together” with nuclear and economic development.

As of yet, it is much too early to judge whether the 2270 general is being implemented in a faithful manner on an international level. As North Korea is defiant and is engaged in the launching of missiles it’s clear that they do not respect the UN sanctions. This attitude will be exceptionally challenging for the future success of the Resolution. North Korea is not interested in complying with internationally beneficial regulations and this is something that will be difficult to reverse.

As I mentioned before, it is not not easy to predict any future measures but what is important to emphasis is that there should be a very steady, orderly mid and long-term process of implementation of Resolution 2270 in North Korea. I hope that the diplomatic demarche from member states will enable us all to work together, along with the critical assistance of China, to ultimately, put North Korea’s engagement with nuclear weapons to a stop.

 Valentina Ieri, IPS UN Bureau, interviewed Ambassador Hahn in New York.

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History and Society in the Shaping of Terrorism Todayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/history-and-society-in-the-shaping-of-terrorism-today/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=history-and-society-in-the-shaping-of-terrorism-today http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/history-and-society-in-the-shaping-of-terrorism-today/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 15:55:53 +0000 Ahrar Ahmad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146503 “The past is never dead. It's not even past”. - William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun]]>

“The past is never dead. It's not even past”. - William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

By Ahrar Ahmad
Aug 10 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Among the anxieties, fears and confusions generated by the grisly tragedy that occurred on July 1 at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, one refrain was fairly consistent – how could some young men, presumably from relatively affluent and educated families, not only become radicalised but also engage in the horrific, detached, surreal brutality through which they killed their victims. The sheer wickedness of some young men repeatedly, deliberately, cold-heartedly hacking, stabbing and decapitating people to death, left us traumatized. How COULD they? Their brutality became the story, and our response reflected the worldwide horror and disgust at the tactics used by terrorists of their particular ilk.

history_and_society_450But, cruelty is not new to human history. Biblical stories and ancient texts indicate a dark and sinister side that lurks just below the surface, and can be summoned quite easily. The books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy describe entire groups of people who had been brutalised, at times, exterminated (e.g., Canaanites, the Amalekites, the Midianites, the Benjamites, the Gibeonites, the Ephramites, and others), and refer to people being killed through smiting, stoning, burning, boiling, being trampled by horses and fed to the beasts, of little ones being “dashed against the stone”, and even cannibalism involving parents and their children.

Many stories in various other sources are not much kinder. Beheadings were not very uncommon, e.g., Arjun killing Jayadratha whose severed head is made to fall on his meditating father’s lap, Imam Husain’s head being hoisted on a lance and carried to Yazid’s court in Damascus, Saint John the Baptist’s head being presented on a platter to Herod. Moreover, human beings had been most creative and nasty in devising forms of torture to punish, intimidate and kill, and violence against people perceived as “others” had been endemic throughout history.

One can suggest that we are referring to old texts and events that have little bearing today. After all, it may be argued, have we not evolved morally, learned from our mistakes, become more enlightened, more sensitive, more “human”? Surely, multiple treaties, conventions and protocols, have been formulated to establish some universal principles and regulate our conduct even in war. Surely, the message of the common humanity of man (aided by travel, technology and trade) must have gradually prevailed over the calls for bigotry and brutishness.

But the 20th century did not offer much hope in that direction. It was by far the most violent in human history, and atrocities were many, severe and relentless. War deaths in the last century totaled over 187 million (including 15-18 m in WWI and 60-70m in WWII). Brutality emerged from being mere public spectacle and political statement to being clinical and bureaucratic. This was most clearly reflectedin the coldefficiency through which the “final solution” imposed on Jews was undertaken at Auschwitz, Birkenau, Dachau, Buchenwald, Sobibor, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen and other concentration camps. Stalinist purges and Mao’s policies decimated millions, and localised wars and internal conflicts after WWII killed hundreds of millions more (those with more than a hundred thousand casualties included Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India-Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda-Burundi, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Congo-Zaire, Iraq-Iran, Nigeria-Biafra and many others), and continue today.

One may get the misleading impression from the short list above that violence was being committed in the poor, non-white, “third world” countries, while the industrial, capitalist, developed countries were more moral, refined, and peaceful. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, till 1945, more Europeans were probably killed by other Europeans than the rest of the world put together, and it was Western colonialism, racism and arrogance that was largely responsible for most of the deaths elsewhere. It was the French in Algeria, the British in South Asia, the Dutch and Germans in southern Africa, the Spanish and Portuguese in Central and Latin America, and everybody in the Middle East, that created most of the problems in those areas. They exploited the region’s resources, introduced new and lethal instruments of violence, divided the people, created artificial countries with arbitrary borders, and ruled ruthlessly in order to benefit themselves and advance their colonial ambitions.

The US was late to the game of acquiring external possessions (its first formal colony was the Philippines in 1898). But it quickly became an imperialist on steroids. It carved out countries at will (e.g., Panama); engaged in assassinations of foreign leaders (e.g., Lumumba, Allende); overthrew democratic governments and established puppet dictatorships (e.g., Iran, Indonesia, Guatemala, Chile); invaded countries on flimsy grounds(Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Grenada) and, at times, on lies (e.g., Iraq); imposed crippling sanctions according to its interests (e.g., Cuba); destabilised entire regions (e.g., Central America, but most egregiously, the Middle East today); and became the foremost salesman of armaments in the world.

It perfected sophisticated weapons of mass destruction and was the only country to use nuclear weapons in August 1945, immediately incinerating thousands, and affecting millions later. It used chemical weapons in Vietnam (the iconic picture of that war was the naked girl fleeing her burning village), and dropped almost 7 million tons of bombs on it (with some in Laos and Cambodia) which was twice the tonnage used in the European and Asian theaters in WWII. It has used CIA “dark sites”, rendered detainees without trial for months, tortured prisoners. It uses drone attacks in undeclared wars to kill people at a distance where civilian casualties are many and mostly uncounted.

Internally, it forcibly annexed about half the territory of Mexico in 1848, Native Americans were often massacred, dispossessed and ushered into reservations in violation of treaty obligations, and African-Americans were treated with unspeakable inhumanity. Even in the middle of the 20th century Black people had been lynched (often in festive, picnic environments), and Black kids accused of “crimes”, such as whistling at a white woman, had been beaten to death so badly that their own mothers could not recognise their faces (e.g., the 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955).

For America and the Western countries today to shake their heads, wag their fingers, and lecture the world on how terrible today’s “others” are, is an exercise in historical amnesia and self-righteous hypocrisy of rather spectacular proportions. This is all the more ironic because it is obvious that, in many ways, they have been complicit in creating the very Frankensteins they battle today.

The realities in our own country are similarly not entirely consistent with our professed self-image as a tolerant and tender-hearted people. We have engaged in communal frenzy; poured acid on women’s faces; fire-bombed passenger-carrying buses; assassinated leaders; tied a boy to a pole and mercilessly beaten him to death (with spectators milling around); made people disappear, perish in cross-fire, or die in police custody; murdered children by pumping air through their rectum; gouged out the eyes of a university student studying abroad because her husband suspected her of infidelity; killed student leaders because of factional in-fighting over turf and resources; attacked, sometimes burned, ashrams, baul akhras, and temples; wrongfully occupied properties owned by religious minorities and indigenous peoples; treated the poor with contempt and subjected them to persistent micro-aggressions; and took almost two months and two autopsies even to determine if a young woman had been raped by three criminals. Our outrage, in most cases, was only selective and fleeting, our system of justice not very reassuring, our callousness increasingly palpable.

This essay is not meant to minimise either the horrors or the dangers that terrorists acting in the name of Islam currently represent. NONE of their heinous acts – the murder of innocents in San Bernardino, Orlando, Nice, Paris, Moscow, Mumbai, London, Madrid, Brussels, Frankfurt, the targeting of students at Garissa University in Kenya, tourists in Tunisia, a boy’s school in Peshawar, a Russian plane over Egypt, girls in northern Nigeria, Christians celebrating Easter in Lahore, cartoonists in Paris, film-makers in Amsterdam, bloggers in Bangladesh, a Sufi qawwal in Pakistan, a priest in Saint-Etienne, an archivist in Palmyra, enslaved Yazidi women in Iraq, and many more, can EVER be excused. Every single one is an ugly reminder of their bloody-mindedness, totalitarian sentiments, and cowardice.

These self-proclaimed jihadists are criminals thrice over – in defaming and perverting their faith, in seducing some vulnerable and impressionable youth to their vision of nihilist despair, and in inspiring, sometimes directing, terrible offenses against humanity. They must be condemned and neutralised.

However, it must also be pointed out that, from a scholar’s perspective, the fact that the vast majority of people victimised by them are other Muslims; that other people experiencing relatively similar pressures of inequity, instability, corruption and alienation are not necessarily reacting in the same manner; their willingness, at times their eagerness, to die for a cause that is neither well-articulated nor seemingly realistic; and their fierce impatience with free speech, their anti-historicism (which leads them to destroy vestiges of their own glorious past), and their pronounced misogyny, all complicate simplistic explanations of this complex and daunting phenomenon.

Recoiling at their “barbarism” is naïve at best. Human cruelty is nothing new, or novel, or alien, or atypical. It is part of the “human condition” and implicit in our texts, traditions, narratives and practices. Let us not distract ourselves with the revulsion at the macabre and the ghoulish, and allow it to confound the essential questions that we must ask today – why is this happening now, what is the appeal of these extremists, how best do we counter it? The rest is just theatre, an epiphenomenon, perhaps a freak-show. We must explore the underlying causes. We must accept responsibility.

Both the West, and we (including Bangladeshis, and the larger Muslim world), must realise that the awkward and perilous situation we face today came about because we have all contributed to creating the enabling conditions that made it possible and, perhaps in some ways, inevitable. Before we blame others we must subject ourselves to some self-interrogation that is open-minded, honest, and unflinching. It is entirely possible for us to climb out of this dismal situation. After all, the mischief mongers are few, their message is hateful and ignorant, and their frustrations, resentments and desperations have proximate causes that may be identified and addressed. But, the response has to be measured, informed and sensitive to civil liberties and human rights, and not be spasmodic, intellectually lazy, or driven by partisan agendas. That, ultimately, is both our challenge and our opportunity.

The writer is Professor Emeritus, Black Hills State University, USA and may be contacted at ahrar.ahmad@bhsu.edu.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Turkey’s Syria Headachehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/turkeys-syria-headache/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turkeys-syria-headache http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/turkeys-syria-headache/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 20:48:18 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146489 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Aug 9 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Five years into the ‘oust Assad’ campaign, Turkey finds itself isolated in the region and beyond. After a narrow escape from a failed coup attempt, President Erdogan may finally be rethinking his Syria policy. Because the arming of rebels that included hard-line Islamists has not only contributed to the killing of some 280,000 innocents, it also brought upon Turkey the problem of millions of cross-border refugees and failed to put a dent against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, i.e. PKK. The overly ambitious foreign policy of the Turkish government where Erdogan found himself at odds with Egypt, Libya and of course Syria, has done little to raise his profile in the region. That the Syrian engagement is a foolhardy experiment where the rebels cannot bring down Assad is now all the more evident with Russia’s entry into the conflict.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Photo: afp

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Photo: afp

While support for Sunni groups allied against Assad have not made much headway, the pro-Kurdish forces have effectively seized Turkey’s southern borders and more alarmingly appear to enjoy the strong confidence of both the Americans and Russia! This is unthinkable from Ankara’s point of view and hence a rethinking is obvious. Changes, in fact, are evident from a reshuffle in the top echelons of administration; Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was replaced in May and this man is deemed to have been the architect of Turkey’s foreign policy.

The most important change is related to Syria. That Assad has the unwavering support of both Russia and Iran is an established fact. Both nations have committed man-and-material that not only ensures the survival of the regime but forged alliances with the Kurds to take the fight to the Islamic State (IS). To think about a 180 degree shift in policy is unthinkable for Turkey. Yet to continue the proxy war is already proving too costly and given Ankara’s increased isolation amongst its allies in NATO, particularly the US and European Union, the time for eating some “humble pie” is already being played out (Erdogan has apologised to Russia in a letter of regret of the shooting down of the jet incident in 2015). The Turkish government has come down from its high horse and sought rapprochement with Israel. And indeed, going by what has been reported in international press of late “Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, was quoted by RIA, the Russian news agency, as saying Ankara and Moscow should work together for a political solution on Syria after meeting Servei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart” in late July.

The time for rapprochement has gained momentum as Ankara comes to terms with a suicide bombing that took 43 lives in Istanbul’s main international airport. That IS was blamed for the attack merely goes to show the futility of funding and arming Sunni rebel groups (some with seriously dubious jihadi credentials) has come back to haunt Turkey today. Years of hawkish foreign policy has landed Turkey with broken alliances, a loss of trade and worse of all, allowing militants and insurgents to attack Turkish soil with impunity. Today, Turkey too is suffering the full brunt of extremism, some of which can be attributed to Ankara’s flawed interventionist policy in Syria. For, Turkey has much bigger problems on its hand than the removal of Assad. It wishes to see a weakening of Kurds and marginalisation of IS, but for that to happen Erdogan will require Putin’s assistance – and the only way that can happen is if Turkey moves away from its regime-change policy in Syria. As pointed out earlier, Turkey has begun a reshuffle and is relieving some officials that head the Syria campaign. Reports have emerged that Ankara recently sacked its intelligence official responsible for Syria – the move sends the signal that perhaps there will be a shift in Turkey’s hard-line position on Assad’s removal.

The diplomatic flurry is happening behind the scenes and Algeria has been active in trying to diffuse the situation between Syria and Turkey. A normalisation of relations is not even on the cards at this point; what is on the cards is to find some middle ground whereby Turkey moves away from its staunch position of a Syria minus Assad situation. The Syrian adventure has actually helped Kurdish separatists to re-emerge in mainstream Turkish politics as a potent political and military force and Turks have been trying for decades to push the Kurdish question to the sidelines. Hence, for Turkey and its national and regional interests, there needs to be some form of dialogue that will help Erdogan to disengage from the region without losing face.

The Syrian conflict has gone on for long enough. Too much blood has been spilled and has drawn in too many foreign powers into the quagmire. It is time for military disengagement and political dialogue between nations and not combatants. Only when there is peace in Syria can there truly be regional stability. Yes, atrocities have been committed on a massive scale on both sides and although human rights organisations will not be happy, the alternative to a negotiated settlement involving Syria, Turkey and other powers is to effectively prolong a war that has already descended into a war of attrition with no clear winner.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The Day a Soviet Leader Banged His Shoe at the UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-day-a-soviet-leader-banged-his-shoe-at-the-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-day-a-soviet-leader-banged-his-shoe-at-the-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-day-a-soviet-leader-banged-his-shoe-at-the-un/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 06:28:37 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146471 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

During the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and particularly in the 1960s, the United Nations was the ideological battle ground where the Americans and the Soviets pummeled each other– metaphorically speaking — either on the floor of the cavernous General Assembly hall or at the horse-shoe table of the Security Council.

A photogrpah showing Khrushev banging his shoe on the podium while delivering his 1960 speech at the United Nations General Assembly. The photo in circulation was dismissed by some as a fake concocted by US intelligence – and that was long before the age of digital technology and photo-shopping. The picture on right shows the official picture

A photogrpah showing Khrushev banging his shoe on the podium while delivering his 1960 speech at the United Nations General Assembly. The photo in circulation was dismissed by some as a fake concocted by US intelligence – and that was long before the age of digital technology and photo-shopping. The picture on right shows the official picture

Perhaps one of the most memorable war of words took place in October 1962 when the politically-feisty US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson challenged Soviet envoy Valerian Zorin over allegations that the USSR, perhaps under cover of darkness, had moved nuclear missiles into Cuba—and within annihilating distance of the United States.

Speaking at a tense Security Council meeting, Stevenson admonished Zorin: “I remind you that you didn’t deny the existence of these weapons. Instead, we heard that they had suddenly become defensive weapons. But today — again, if I heard you correctly — you now say they don’t exist, or that we haven’t proved they exist, with another fine flood of rhetorical scorn.”
“All right sir”, said Stevenson, “let me ask you one simple question. Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba?”

“Yes or no? Don’t wait for the translation: yes or no?”, Stevenson insisted with a tone of implied arrogance.
Speaking in Russian through a UN translator (who faithfully translated the US envoy’s sentiments into English), Zorin shot back: “I am not in an American courtroom, sir, and therefore I do not wish to answer a question that is put to me in the fashion in which a prosecutor does. In due course, sir, you will have your reply. Do not worry.”

Not to be outwitted, Stevenson howled back: “You are in the court of world opinion right now, and you can answer yes or no. You have denied that they exist. I want to know if …I’ve understood you correctly.” When Zorin said he will provide the answer in “due course”, Stevenson famously declared: “I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over.”

An equally memorable Soviet-US confrontation took place at the General Assembly hall in October 1960, but this time it was between the USSR and the Philippines, considered a close US ally at that time. The Filipino delegate Lorenzo Sumulong, lashed out at the USSR, pointing out that “the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere (under Soviet domination) have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights and which have been swallowed up, so to speak, by the Soviet Union”.
Incensed by the remark, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was leading the Soviet delegation, hit back with a vengeance, describing the Filipino as “a jerk, a stooge, and a lackey”, and a “toady of American imperialism” –words that are rarely heard in the General Assembly or the Security Council these days.

Forget the North Korean refrain: “Running Dogs of Imperialism”.
But an equally legendary story was the longstanding rumour that Khrushchev removed his shoe and kept banging on his desk, to be recognised, on a point of order.

According to one rumour, the shoe-banging never happened (and there were no UN photographers or cell phone cameras to record the incident for posterity or for the UN archives). The only evidence was a single photo in circulation, which was dismissed by some as a fake concocted by US intelligence – and that was long before the age of digital technology and photo-shopping.
But according to another unconfirmed rumour, Khrushchev did bang his shoes – but the sole was riddled with holes and the shoe was badly in need of urgent repairs. That was probably an anti-Soviet canard by the US or its allies, who claimed they were witnesses to the incident in the General Assembly hall.

As the Hollywood comedian Grouch Marx once remarked: “Who do you believe? Me. Or your own eyes?”
Both UN anecdotes are worth recalling at a time when another Cold War between Russia (this time, minus the USSR and the Soviet Union) and the United States is simmering in the geopolitical arena.

As a former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, said recently US-Russian relations have reached one of their lowest points since the end of the Cold War. The current battle ground is the Security Council where both the Americans and the Russians (and this time joined occasionally by the other veto-wielding member, China) are pounding at each other over Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Israel, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and North Korea.

The conflicts in the Security Council are reminiscent of the Cold War era when each of the two superpowers were in a relentless battle to protect their allies and safeguard their own national interests at the cost of international peace and security.
The US has remained an eternal saviour of Israel and Russia has prevented all attempts at “regime change” in Syria, a longstanding Soviet ally going back to the days of President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current embattled President, Bashar al-Assad, whom the Americans want ousted from power.

In recent years, the Security Council has remained deadlocked because Russia has used its veto power on four occasions to block resolutions on Syria, including one resolution aimed at taking Syria before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

Having annexed Crimea, Russia has also forestalled US action on Ukraine, leaving the Security Council in limbo.
Samantha Power, the US permanent representative to the UN, told the London Guardian last year: “It’s a Darwinian universe here.”

“If a particular body reveals itself to be dysfunctional, then people are going to go elsewhere,” she said, “And if that happened for more than Syria and Ukraine and you started to see across the board paralysis … it would certainly jeopardise the Security Council’s status and credibility and its function as a go-to international security arbiter. It would definitely jeopardise that over time.”

Meanwhile, the recent hacking of emails inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee, has been attributed to the Russians thereby escalating the threat of a Cold War even further.While US intelligence has confirmed the Russian hacking, there is speculation that this was an attempt to embarrass Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and a boost for Republican candidate Donald Trump, both running in the US presidential elections. If true, this will be the first time that Russia (or for that matter any foreign country) has interfered in a US presidential election.

Asked whether the charges were true, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (a former Russian diplomat based in Colombo in the early 1970s) remarked: “I don’t want to use four-letter words”.
And he did not mean: Nyet.

To add fuel to the fire, Trump last month invited Russia to unearth Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails from her private email server—a suggestion condemned even by his own Republican Party members.

Trump’s bromance – defined as a non-sexual relationship between two men — with Russian President Vladimir Putin has prompted some to jokingly remark that his running mate as Vice President should have been Putin, not Governor Mike Pence of Indiana.

(The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com)

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“Non-lethal” Pellet Guns Maim Hundreds in Kashmiri Protestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/non-lethal-pellet-guns-maim-hundreds-in-kashmiri-protests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=non-lethal-pellet-guns-maim-hundreds-in-kashmiri-protests http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/non-lethal-pellet-guns-maim-hundreds-in-kashmiri-protests/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 13:55:16 +0000 Umar Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146407 X-ray of a pellet victim injured during the current protests in Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

X-ray of a pellet victim injured during the current protests in Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

By Umar Shah
SRINAGAR, Aug 5 2016 (IPS)

Hospitals in Kashmir’s summer capital are packed to capacity these days, their wards overflowing with pellet gun victims injured during violent clashes with government forces.

Sixteen-year-old Kaisar Ahmad Mir has been in hospital since July 9. As X-ray films dangle near his bed, Kaisar stares with haggard eyes at each passerby. Doctors had to amputate three fingers on his right hand after pellets were fired at him from close range during one of the demonstrations.“After the autopsy was done, there were 360 pellets found in [my brother's] body.” -- Shakeel Ahmad

“I felt some electric current when the pellets hit my right hand. Then the blood started oozing out, followed by intense pain,” Mir told IPS.

Deadly clashes between protestors and government forces engulfed this Himalayan region –  India’s only Muslim majority state – on July 8, a day when the army gunned down militant leader Burhan Wani during a three-hour gun battle in the remote south Kashmir region of the state.

The government quickly instituted a curfew across the Kashmir valley, severing internet and phone service. But people defied government restrictions and came out in hordes to protest in cities, towns and remote hamlets of the state. Since July 8, 52 protesters have been killed and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets. Many of the victims are children.

Aaqib Mir, Kaisar Mir’s younger brother, told IPS that Kaisar was preparing for his class 10 exams this year.  “My brother is now crippled for life,” Aaqib said.

Eleven-year-old Umer Nazir received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged his both eyes. He was shot during anti-government protests in the Indian state of Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

Eleven-year-old Umar Nazir received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged his both eyes. He was shot during anti-government protests in the Indian state of Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

The pellets are loaded with lead and once fired they disperse widely and in huge numbers. Pellets penetrate the skin and soft tissues, with eyes especially vulnerable to severe, irreversible damage.

Pellets were introduced in Kashmir as a “non-lethal” alternative to bullets after security forces killed nearly 200 people during demonstrations against Indian rule from 2008 to 2010.The state government’s reasoning was that when fired from a distance, shotgun pellets disperse and inflict only minor injuries.

During this summer’s protests, pellets were extensively used against the protesters, injuring hundreds. According to figures issued by Kashmir’s SHMS hospital, out of 164 cases of severe pellet injuries, 106 surgeries were performed in which five people lost one eye completely.

Among those who lost their eyesight due to pellets is 11-year-old Umar Nazir. Umar received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged both eyes. As he lost vision in his right eye, doctors attending him have told his family that Umar’s left eye is also deteriorating due to a severe injury to the optic nerve.

Human rights groups criticize the heavy-handed approach to dealing with the protest demonstrations, and contest the government’s claims that pellet guns are “non-lethal”.

Riyaz Ahmad Shah, 21, was killed on Aug. 2 after being hit by pellets.  An ATM security guard, Shah was returning home when, according to his family, state forces fired pellets at him from close range, killing him on the spot.

“After the autopsy was done, there were 360 pellets found in his body,” said Shakeel Ahmad, Riyaz Shah’s brother.

According to Al Jazeera, at least nine people have been killed in the region since pellet guns were introduced in 2010.

“Pellets are not being used against rioters in other parts of the country, but here in Kashmir they are being used quite openly without any remorse from the government,” said human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who is also a program coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

To protest against the use of pellets, the coalition has created posters with text written in braille to make the world aware of the suffering in Kashmir. “When you don’t see eye to eye with the brutal occupation in Kashmir, this is how they make you see their point,” reads a campaign poster.

Sajad Ahmad, a doctor treating pellet victims in Kashmir, said he had never seen such a “brutal use of force upon people in the past.” He added that while pellets may not kill most victims, they can still be left disabled for life.

“We have done hundreds of surgeries since July 8 and there are children who were crippled and can no longer work or earn,” Ahmad said.

Since July 8, 2016, 52 protesters have been killed in Kashmir and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets fired by security forces.  Many of the victims are children. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

Since July 8, 2016, 52 protesters have been killed in Kashmir and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets fired by security forces. Many of the victims are children. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

On Aug. 5, Amnesty International issued a statement asking the Jammu and Kashmir government to stop using pellet guns.

“Pellet guns are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, and have no place in law enforcement,” Zahoor Wani, a senior campaigner with Amnesty International India, said in a statement issued in New Delhi.

“Amnesty International India calls on the Jammu and Kashmir government to immediately stop the use of pellet guns in policing protests. They cannot ensure well-targeted shots and risk causing serious injury, including to bystanders or other protesters not engaging in violence. These risks are almost impossible to control.”

Kashmir’s High Court has issued notices to the state government and the national government of India seeking a response over litigation demanding a ban on pellet guns used by security personnel to deal with protests in Kashmir.

The state government says it is working to find alternatives to the pellet guns to quell the violent protests.

“We disapprove of it… but we will have to persist with this necessary evil till we find a non-lethal alternative,” J&K government spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said.

Many people in Kashmir want an end to Indian rule and either full independence or a merger with Pakistan, which also claims the territory.

At least 50,000 have died in an insurgency that began in 1987. Over the years, anti-government rallies have occurred frequently, raising tensions between security forces and civilians, which have led to accusations of police heavy-handedness in trying to impose order.

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Threat Perceptionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/threat-perceptions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=threat-perceptions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/threat-perceptions/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2016 14:37:16 +0000 Owen Bennet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146394 By Owen Bennett-Jones
Aug 4 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Here — in alphabetical order — are six countries that have considerable involvement in Pakistan: Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The writer is a British journalist and author of Pakistan: Eye of the Storm.

The writer is a British journalist and author of Pakistan: Eye of the Storm.

I once asked a senior Pakistani military officer to consider how the army perceives the threat each of these countries pose to Pakistan and then to rank them with the most threatening first. You will probably not be surprised to learn that he came up with India, the United States, Afghanistan, and then, after a bit of thought, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Let us consider each country in turn.

Since 1947, an element of Indian society has believed Pakistan should not exist. In 1971 India made a big contribution to the loss of the then East Pakistan. India shells Pakistan positions in Siachen and occupies disputed territory in Kashmir. There is good reason to believe India’s RAW has over the years organised bomb attacks in Pakistan. According to numerous interrogations of MQM suspects who spoke with the confidence that comes with impunity, India has trained MQM fighters. Many believe it has also put money into the Baloch insurgency.

Pakistan can hardly consider itself to be the sole victim in all of this. Pakistan shells Indian positions in Siachen and also holds disputed Kashmiri territory. There is good reason to believe the ISI has planted bombs in India and a group with close links to Pakistan’s security establishment, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has mounted attacks in India, including that on Mumbai.

But the point here is not to argue about which side is justified — it is rather to assess the level of threat India poses to Pakistan compared to the five other countries on the list.

Assess the number of Pakistanis whose deaths can be traced back to the countries on the list.

So, what of the United States? Looking back, the US helped the ISI create and train ‘jihadi’ forces that now threaten Pakistan. More recently Washington has directly attacked Pakistan. There have been hundreds of drone strikes. But some of these drone strikes were requested by Pakistan which, for many years, even provided an air base to facilitate the American activity.

It is also worth noting that since 9/11 the US has given over $25 billion to Pakistan. Most of it has gone to the army.

Next up, Afghanistan. It acts as a safe haven for fighters who want to attack targets in Pakistan (just as Pakistan has provided a safe haven for fighters who want to attack targets in Afghanistan). But the main threat posed by Afghanistan is long term. Successive Afghan governments have rejected the validity of the Durand Line but have been too weak to advance their claim. Should a strong Pakhtun-led government ever be established in Kabul, Pakistan should expect a challenge to its territorial integrity.

During the 1980s, the Saudis matched US spending on creating anti-Soviet ‘jihadis’. And Pakistan still suffers from the political dispensation under which the House of Saud enjoys clerics’ support so long as they are free to export their brand of Islam. It is widely accepted that Saudi Arabia has poured vast sums of money into Pakistani madressahs that have produced some of the fighters who have killed tens of thousands of people. Riyadh’s reluctance to accept Shia officers amongst the ranks of Pakistani army personnel deployed to Saudi Arabia undermines the tradition of harmonious inter-communal relations within the Pakistan army. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has for years provided Pakistan with cheap oil.

You could argue that neither the UK nor the UAE are powerful enough to merit inclusion on the list. Yet, both have played quite important, negative and enabling roles by providing a place of exile for corrupt politicians and coup leaders. The UK also provides a safe haven for the political

leadership of MQM, despite knowing that the organisation is involved in considerable levels of violence in Karachi. On the other hand the UK is spending quite considerable sums on education, especially in Punjab.

So is the military officer’s ranking of the relative threat posed by these countries correct? It is a difficult assessment. Should US aid and Saudi oil, for example, offset some of the harmful actions by those two countries? And are long-term threats more or less important than short-term ones?

One way of looking at it is to try to assess the number of Pakistanis whose violent deaths can be traced back to the countries on the list. One might compare, for example, the number of people being killed by US drones (bearing in mind that Pakistan facilitated most of them) with the numbers being killed by Saudi-funded Afghanistan-based militants. It is complicated because some of the sources of violence overlap in not very holy alliances. Still, a consideration of who the Pakistani victims might reasonably blame could result in the following ranking of threats: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the US, India, the UK and the UAE.

The writer is a British journalist and author of Pakistan: Eye of the Storm.
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Is Hypocrisy The Silent Strategy of Western Democracy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/is-hypocrisy-the-silent-strategy-of-western-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-hypocrisy-the-silent-strategy-of-western-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/is-hypocrisy-the-silent-strategy-of-western-democracy/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 15:12:55 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146376 The invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in 2003 has brought destruction and despair to the lives of countless Iraqi citizens. Credit: IPS

The invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in 2003 has brought destruction and despair to the lives of countless Iraqi citizens. Credit: IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Aug 3 2016 (IPS)

The official reasons for the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003 were to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, end Saddam Hussein’s support of terrorism, and free the Iraqi people.

However, immediately after the United States deposed and killed Iraq’s dictator and established a new authority to govern the country, a chaotic post-invasion environment surfaced, militias formed, inter-ethnic violence between Sunnis and Shias increased, and the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light.

In the following years, communities have been displaced, terror attacks have increased, and the Islamic State has emerged. Since the beginning of the invasion by the US and its allies until the present day, 180’000 civilians have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a database by the Iraq Body Count.

While it is undisputable that Saddam Hussein’s regime was brutal and appalling, the misery brought on by the war and endured by Iraqis until today is incomparable to the former dictator’s reign.

The Iraq War represents a catastrophe that could not have been more disastrous. It most certainly brought the calamitous failures of western powers to the fore.

On the 6th of July 2016, Sir John Chilcot delivered a crushing 6000-page verdict on the Iraq War and condemned former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision in backing George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

In the document, Blair is accused of exaggerating the threat Saddam Hussein posed to British interests. The report states that peaceful alternatives to the war were not explored.

It further states that the information regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was presented in the media and named as one of the main causes of the war in spite of there being no proof of the existence of such weapons.

Chilcot writes that the United Kingdom and the United States have undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council by going ahead with the invasion, and concludes that the war in 2003 was indeed, unnecessary.

Although Blair openly acknowledged parts of the accusations, he also rejected others. Blair believes that it was essential to remove Hussein and that the war is not the cause for the terrorism of today in the region. In the midst of all these allegations, American officials so far have kept quiet.

The families of the 179 Britons killed so unnecessarily during the war will use Chilcot’s report to seek justice. The families of the thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, however, may never receive it.

They never decided to be in a war. They were no soldiers. Yet their houses, their streets, their infrastructure, their way of making a living – everything has been destroyed, as life in the UK and America goes on as undisturbed as it has before the Iraqi war.

Saddam has gone, but in his place, we now have 1000 Saddams”, Kadhim al-Jabbouri, an Iraqi who used to repair Hussein’s motorcycles, told BBC news.

Blair and Bush have repeatedly insisted that Iraq and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein.

However, as the ringleaders behind the mass violence executed in Iraq, who are they to decide who deserves to live and die?

Blair and Bush are responsible for havoc and murder, and the galling question cannot be avoided: In the end, who killed more Iraqis?

The two democratically elected representatives of Western democracies, or the dictator who ruled Iraq before their arrival?

Wanting to bring freedom to the people in Iraq is an honourable endeavour, however, whether this was the genuine intention of the US and Great Britain remains doubtful.

In many ways, Blair and Bush’s decision to wage war on Iraq represents the notion that Western democracy can easily be turned into western hypocrisy

Broadcasting the inhumane violence conducted in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention and as “war on terror”, the whole invasion really seems to have been engineered as a means of gaining power for the US and the UK.

In the end, this power-hungry style of governance has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

It is thus deeply appalling that today, the entire Muslim population is held responsible by presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Islamophobes in the United States and Europe for the criminal group that calls itself the Islamic State – a group whom no one has elected, and maybe would not even exist if it were not for countless US interventions.

Why then should Western liberal democracies not be held accountable for mass murderers like Tony Blair and George Bush who were in fact fairly and freely elected?”, Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies at Colombia University, argues on Aljazeera.

In the process of writing the Chilcot report, the British government has prevented the release of specific documents. The exposure of extracts of a conversation between Bush and Blair recorded prior to the invasion of Iraq has been blocked.

The publishing of the Chilcot report had been postponed due to difficult negotiations with the United States, and now, certain content has been removed from the media with suspicious haste.

The manner in which the Iraq war is being dealt with thereby gives strength to the allegation that it was nothing less than an illegal war.

If this is truly a democratic world, should the initiators of the war not be prosecuted in the same way as previous African dictators and despots from the Middle East guilty of the same crime?

I will be with you, whatever”, Blair wrote in one of his secret letters to Bush, written exchanges wherein the two leaders shared the belief that the time had come to define post-cold war world order.

It is this kind of western incompetence and adoption of imperialistic war tendencies that have created a platform for years of strife and conflict in the Middle East.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Jihadism: The Radicalisation of Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/jihadism-the-radicalisation-of-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jihadism-the-radicalisation-of-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/jihadism-the-radicalisation-of-youth/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 15:03:13 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146358 In light of ongoing terror attacks and the relentless recruitment of young fighters, "Jihadism" must be viewed as a critical global problem. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

In light of ongoing terror attacks and the relentless recruitment of young fighters, "Jihadism" must be viewed as a critical global problem. Credit: Mel Frykberg/IPS

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Aug 2 2016 (IPS)

To 13-year-old Gauher Aftab, the path to eternal bliss never seemed more enticing than in the pivotal moment a pious man with a flowing beard entered his 9th-grade Islamic studies classroom.

For a young influential student like Gauher, the professor’s pristine shalwar kameez (a traditional outfit originating in South Asia) , coupled with his regal demeanor, and further accentuated by exhilarating recounts of battle as a Mujahideen fighter in Afghanistan, is exactly what set the mark for Gauher’s future aspirations.

According to the influential professor, the boys in Gauher’s class all had one fundamental duty, that being; to fight all enemies of Islam. His energetic lectures focused more on the condemnation of non-Muslim religious denominations than on the academic syllabus.

Alarmingly, during these “academic” sermons, the professors call for violence was deafening. He legitimised it in the name of honour, otherwise known as “Jihad” which is defined as being a religious struggle against yourself or in society.

The message was clear, if Gauher and his companions did not comply with this age-old “code of violence” they would be deemed as unworthy of “Jihadism”.

Gauher recalls his professor stating that those who did not believe in forceful violence against “heretics” were no better than men who “wear mehendi on their feet and bangles on their wrists”.

“Mehendi” the art of applying temporary henna tattoos is believed to have been used by the prophet Muhammad to dye his beard, therefore, henna cannot be used on feet as a mark of respect to him.

Traditionally, “mehendi” is practiced in the Middle East and in South and South Asia by women for cosmetic purposes.

Given this background, these calculated verbal attacks on a young boys masculinity are what first ignites the fire to prove their manliness and fight in the name of religious “honour”.

Gauher claims that as a young boy the very thought of “Jihadism” was self-actualizing and granted him with a feeling of self-fulfilment.

What started off first as meagre donations to the Jihadi movement, “10 Rupees for Allah” (the equivalent to 15 US cents) that the professor claimed could purchase a bullet that would rip through an infidels chest, subsequently led to a fixation with the idea of martyrdom.

Due to the professor’s subtle forms of indoctrination, Gauher yearned for the opportunity to fight and wage war on the Islamic “enemy”.
Gauher’s story represents one of thousands of cases of young men being led astray by religious leaders.

Thankfully, divine intervention played its part and Gauher still lives to tell the tale of his dip into the world of “Jihadism”.

Now, he advocates for the widespread protection of youth against these indoctrinating “religious” forces.

Gauher lectures on extremism and the process of radicalization. In this sense, his life-changing experience can be viewed as a blessing in disguise. He has used it to inform others and to contribute to the reversal of the growing trend of “Jihadism”.

The key message he strives to disseminate is that the process of radicalization can happen to anyone and at any given moment.
As someone who led a privileged lifestyle, Gauher is fully aware that extremism knows no bounds.

Whether one is underprivileged and illiterate or affluent and worldly, religious Jihadi recruiters know where to strike a chord, leave you unnerved, and willing to succumb to their “pious” demands.

Ironically, the core meaning of “Jihad” has been distorted in recent years, particularly post 9/11 and the consequential war on terror. In reality, The Arabic word “jihad” is often translated as “holy war,” however, in purely linguistic terms, the word ” jihad” actually means struggling or striving.

In a religious sense, as described by the Quran “jihad” has many meanings. It can refer to internal as well as external efforts to be a devout believer, as well as a strong strive to inform people about the faith of Islam.

As a direct consequence of ongoing terror attacks, sensationalism, and anti-Islamic fear-mongering, the term “Jihad” has exploded across global media outlets.

For this reason, misunderstandings of what “Jihad” actually signifies have arisen. It has become associated with violence, brutality, and martyrdom.

It’s fundamental to note that military action only represents one form of “Jihad” which in itself is very rare. Religious extremists have corrupted the meaning of the term “Jihad”. Unfortunately, the media has fed off their distortion of religion.

Indeed, corruption and misinterpretation seem to be at the heart of the extremist movement. In a recent Ted Talk in Lahore, Pakistan, Gauher Aftab analysed the process of radicalization and how extremists target those most vulnerable and susceptible to indoctrination, in other words, children.

Gauher emphasises the fact that in many cases, children are open to radicalization even before they are approached by extremists. In a field study conducted in rural villages in Pakistan by the Paasban Project, 50% of both children and adults believed that violence was a justified means of enforcing one’s opinion. An additional 66% agreed that religious leaders could not lie or do harm.

In this sense, this radical belief system is ingrained into the collective psyche from a young age and the extremist’s work is already partly done.

Undoubtedly, the rise of “Jihadism” must not be seen as a uniquely “Islamic” problem. Non-Muslims are both equally accountable and responsible for the critical global crisis. In fact, 1 in 6 ISIS recruits are Western converts to Islam.

In many cases, Western citizens who feel disenfranchised, isolated and failed by society view extremist groups as their “call for revolution”.

In this way, the media’s scapegoating of the Muslim population in light of ongoing terror attacks is nothing short of a form of Islamophobic sensationalism.

However, in spite of the ongoing rise of terror attacks, there is a strong belief by activists that the growth of Jihadism is not irreversible.

Through a change of heart and mind and a strong advocacy for peace, we can put a stop the “kill and be killed” philosophy sweeping across our radicalised world.

With Open dialogue and a cry for the reform of radicalised education systems, we can steer thousands of young vulnerable men away from violent extremist groups.

Gauher and global peace activists encourage us all, as a united community, to stand our ground in the face of terror.

We must not view the eradication of extremist violence as an impossible task. It is now time to put an end to terror in the name of an “honour” that has led to nothing more than the corruption of youth and the mass killings of countless.

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