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Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights

Norman Geras Falls Foul of Reading University’s ‘Prevent’ anti-Terrorism Strategy.

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Image result for Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution'.

“Security-sensitive material,” Says Reading University.

Several days ago this story appeared on Twitter,

And then on Facebook.

As a result of PREVENT, an academic was required to send this to third year undergraduates taking an optional module […]. The required piece is Norman Geras’ ‘Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution’.

Dear students,

As you will probably be aware, the last of the nine substantive topics considered in this module is the permissibility and appropriateness of revolutionary violence. As a result, the material covered in the module falls within the University’s understanding of its legal responsibilities under the UK Government’s PREVENT programme, which is designed to reduce the threat terrorism poses to the UK.

The University understands its responsibility to require it to control access to security-sensitive material, which includes but is not limited to material which might be thought to encourage the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism; material which would be useful in the commission of acts of terrorism; and material which glorifies acts of terrorism. Academic work defending the permissibility or appropriateness of revolutionary violence might well be thought to encourage the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, and may glorify it, at least where terrorism is understood as the use of violence to encourage the government to do things – as it basically is in this context. As a result, you are now all apparently required to complete the form available through the link on ‘Learning Materials’ tab of the module’s Blackboard page and return it to Dr Firstname Lastname. If you are concerned about completing the form, please let me know. I also advise you to contact [the student union] if you find the University’s interpretation of the requirements of the policy in any way worrying, as I think you may well reasonably do so.

When completing the form, I suggest you fill the section ‘Material’ as follows:

The module includes a discussion of the conditions under which revolutionary violence may be acceptable. Students are required to read a journal article which defends the use of revolutionary violence, including against groups and individuals who are not members of the armed forces, in circumstances of obvious injustice, and several other academic pieces on the reading list cover similar topics and express similar views. These articles are widely available through electronic databases to which the University offers students access without any checks.

You should fill out the section ‘Relevance’ as follows:

It is not possible to discuss the possibility of permissible revolutionary violence without considering defences of the idea that some revolutionary violence is permissible and even justified.

I am very sorry that you have to do this. I was informed of this policy after I had put together the module for this year, and would have thought differently about what I included if I had known of its requirements. Please let me know if you have any questions.’

Martin Thomas, on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty site flagged the story up.

Now the bizarre decision by reading University is on the Guardian website.

Prevent critics slam Reading for labelling ‘mainstream’ academic text as extremist

An essay by a prominent leftwing academic that examines the ethics of socialist revolution has been targeted by a leading university using the government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

Students at the University of Reading have been told to take care when reading an essay by the late Professor Norman Geras, in order to avoid falling foul of Prevent.

Third-year politics undergraduates have been warned not to access it on personal devices, to read it only in a secure setting, and not to leave it lying around where it might be spotted “inadvertently or otherwise, by those who are not prepared to view it”. The alert came after the text was flagged by the university as “sensitive” under the Prevent programme.

The essay, listed as “essential” reading for the university’s Justice and Injustice politics module last year, is titled Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution. Geras was professor emeritus of government at the University of Manchester until his death in 2013. He rejected terrorism but argued that violence could be justified in the case of grave social injustices.

The University of Reading said: “Lecturers must inform students in writing if their course includes a text deemed security-sensitive, and then list which students they expect will have to access the material.

“As laid out in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the University of Reading has put policies in place to take steps to prevent students being drawn into terrorism.” One aspect of this is to safeguard staff and students who access security-sensitive materials legitimately and appropriately used for study or research.”

Norman Geras’s writings were and are important to many people on the left.

To give just one example, I re-read his critique of the ‘post-Marxism’ of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe only a few months ago: Post_Marxism New Left Review. 1/163 1987 and Ex-Marxism Without Substance (a reply to these writers’ response). New Left Review. 1/169. 1988.

They were followed his criticisms of post-modernism and the retreat from Marxism in  Seven Types of Obloquy: Travesties of Marxism (Socialist Register 1990)

Books such The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg  (1983) and 1983Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend remain significant essays in democratic Marxist theory.

Like many on the left I had the chance to meet Norman, one of the most approachable of academics.

I had, and have, an interest in ethical theory and asked his opinions on Marxism and morality (see story above). We had some correspondence on the issue, covering what many consider to be the ethical void of Leninism.

In the Essay handled with Kid Gloves he wrote, that sometimes the need for justice trumps the absolute respect for human rights but that,

If there are indeed circumstances to make some moral crimes unavoidable, it is still necessary to have the rules and restraints which define them as crimes and which serve as a barrier against the avoidable ones. Socialists surely have good reason to be on their guard against forms of argument that are used to throw off all ethical constraints from around the conduct of war; and that were used, specifically, to justify opening the latest and potentially the most lethal chapter in the history of human warfare. Where there are established  parliamentary democracies, with a set of basic civil and political rights and freedoms protected under law, there is no right of revolution on account of tyranny. There is a right of social revolution – on account of grave injustice – against the capitalist forms of power, wealth and privilege over which these democracies preside, but the thing is complicated by the claim the latter make to democratic legitimacy.

You can read Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution (Socialist Register 1989, pictured) through this link.

 

When Norman Geras backed the Euston Manifesto(2006), an initiative which my part of the left, the democratic Marxists, roundly criticised them (including an article I wrote in a left-wing paper)  I could not help but feel that this burning concern with justice continued to inspire him.

 

The Euston Manifesto was much less qualified on human rights,

We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone. Violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.

The Euston Manifesto  Norman Geras.

Reading University has reminded me, and others, not just that we miss Norman, but that it would be good to hear his views today.

I would enjoy hearing or reading his opinions on the work about human rights which some of us have developed, beginning from a different starting point in Claude Lefort and the more Marxist views of Étienne Balibar  and present days debates about Giorgio Agamben. Not to mention the book I am reading at present (in relation to Jacques Rancière’s theories of Dissensus and ‘post democracy’)   Relire la Révolution (2016) by Jean-Claude Milner which turns again to the “ethics of revolution”.

Reading University has also reminded us that there is no fool like a learned fool.

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 11, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Christian Asia Bibi Death Sentence in Pakistan for ‘Blasphemy’ Overturned; Islamists Protest Against the Verdict.

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A poster bearing an image of Asia Bibi.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges, after accepting her appeal against her sentence.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel had reserved its ruling on Asia Bibi’s final legal appeal against execution (Asia Bibi v. The State, etc) on October 8.

Follow Dawn.com’s live updates on the protests against the verdict here.

The appeal, accepted by SC in 2015, challenged the Lahore High Court’s October 2014 verdict upholding a trial court’s November 2010 decision sentencing Bibi to death for committing blasphemy in 2009.

“The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgement of high court as well as trial court is reversed. Her conviction is set aside,” said Justice Nisar in the ruling.

“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” he added.

The 56-page detailed judgement has been authored by CJP Nisar, with a separate concurrent opinion note from Justice Khosa.

“Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam,” the top judge read out, noting that the religion condemns injustice and oppression.

“It is a well settled principle of law that one who makes an assertion has to prove it. Thus, the onus rests on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial,” noted the top judge in the order. “Presumption of innocence remains throughout the case until such time the prosecution on the evidence satisfies the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence alleged against him.

“[…] The expression ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ is of fundamental importance to the criminal justice: it is one of the principles which seeks to ensure that no innocent person is convicted.

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” concluded the chief justice.

The court also noted that “it is not for the individuals, or a gathering (mob), to decide as to whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C has been committed or not, because as stated earlier, it is the mandate of the court to make such decision after conducting a fully qualified trial and on the basis of credible evidence brought before it”.

The CJP ended the judgement with a hadith of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) on the rights of minorities.

Justice Khosa, in his note, said: “Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.”

Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, rejected the verdict, saying Bibi had confessed to making derogatory remarks against the prophet to seek pardon.

Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Mulook told AFP: “The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings. This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.

Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing the decision from her lawyer.

“I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?” Bibi told AFP by phone from prison after the ruling. “I just don’t know what to say, I am very happy, I can’t believe it.”

Bibi’s husband also hailed the verdict. “I am very happy. My children are very happy. We are grateful to God. We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice. We knew that she is innocent,” said Ashiq Masih.

My wife spent so many years in jail and we hope that we will soon be together in a peaceful place,” he added.

Shortly after the ruling, hundreds blocked a key road linking Rawalpindi with Islamabad. People are also gathering for protests in Karachi and Peshawar. Similar rallies are being held elsewhere as police urge demonstrators to disperse peacefully.

Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich described the SC decision as a “landmark verdict”.

“For the past eight years, Asia Bibi’s life languished in limbo. The message must go out that the blasphemy laws will no longer be used to persecute the country’s most vulnerable minorities.”

The decision to take stringent security measures in the capital was made after a number of meetings held to thrash out a strategy to deal with any unforeseen situation after the verdict.

On Oct 13 this year, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, a religio-political party headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, threatened to “paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Asia Bibi free”.

Islamabad was put on high alert on Tuesday night. Extra contingents of police and law enforcement agencies have been deployed in the capital.

Paramilitary troops have been deployed in the capital to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court, where security for the judges was beefed up.

About 300 police personnel, along with paramilitary units, are guarding the SC building, adjacent to Parliament House on Constitution Avenue.

Sources in the administration told Dawn that Rangers and Frontier Constabulary had been called as part of measures to step up security in Islamabad. Security of the Judges Enclave and the Diplomatic Enclave has been handed over to Rangers.

The sources said security personnel had been asked to guard the Red Zone as it houses sensitive installations, including the Supreme Court.

According to the sources, when some senior police officers met officials of the apex court, the law enforcers were asked to adopt security measures for the Supreme Court and other key points.

Dawn provides a full account of the background including this:

Case history

The prosecution had claimed that Bibi “admitted” making the blasphemous statements at a “public gathering” on June 19, 2009 “while asking for forgiveness”.

A trial court convicted Bibi for blasphemy in November 2010 and sentenced her to death. The Lahore High Court (LHC) had upheld her conviction and confirmed her death sentence in October 2014.

She had then challenged the LHC verdict in the Supreme Court, which stayed her execution in July 2015 and admitted her appeal for hearing.

The top court had first taken up the appeal in October 2016, but had to adjourn the matter without hearing after one of the judges recused himself from the SC bench. Two years later, the appeal was heard earlier this month and the CJP Nisar-led bench reserved its verdict.

Bibi’s supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute, and the Vatican has called for her release.

In 2011, former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who spoke out in support of Bibi, was gunned down in broad daylight in Islamabad. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed in 2016 after the court found him guilty of murder.

CNN: Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has death penalty conviction overturned

Pakistani Christian on death row acquitted. 

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN)Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acquitted a Christian woman who has been on death row for almost eight years on blasphemy charges.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five from Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to hang after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammed during an argument the year before with Muslim colleagues.

The workers had refused to drink from a bucket of water Asia Bibi had touched because she was not Muslim. At the time, Asia Bibi said the case was a matter of women who didn’t like her “taking revenge.”

She won her appeal against the conviction and subsequent death sentence on Wednesday.

The court quoted Shakespeare’s “King Lear” in its ruling, saying Asia Bibi appeared to have been “more sinned against than sinning.”

“Even if there was some grain of truth in the allegations leveled in this case against the appellant still the glaring contradictions in the evidence of the prosecution highlighted above clearly show that the truth in this case had been mixed with a lot which was untrue,” the ruling said.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that lobbies on behalf of Christian minorities, said in a statement that “we are breathing a sigh of relief today.”

“These charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her,” he said. “We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country.”

Islamist movement Tehreek-e Labbaik had previously vowed to take to the streets if Bibi was released, and protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced.

Within hours, the protests were large enough that government officials in the cities were urging people to stay inside and avoid adding to the chaos.

The Bigots were out in Force:

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political party chant slogans during a protest against the court decision to overturn the conviction of Christian woman Asia Bibi in Lahore on October 31, 2018.

Christians have had to be protected from racist Islamist attacks.

29 minutes ago

Rangers deployed in Lahore’s Youhanabad

Rangers officials have been deployed in the Youhanabad area of Lahore to deter any potential unrest.

Youhanabad is the largest Christian neighbourhood in Pakistan.

16 minutes ago

TLP protesters shut railway lines in Upper Jhelum Canal

The railway line along the three bridges in the Upper Jhelum Canal has been shut completely by TLP protesters.

“The traffic will remain blocked until Asia Bibi is hanged,” the protesters demand.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2018 at 11:57 am

Moroccan feminist activist, Ibtissam Lachgar, arrested for Public Drinking and Disturbing Order.

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Solidarity with Ibtissam Lachgar!

ABAT, Morocco (AP) — A prominent Moroccan feminist activist has been arrested for alleged public drinking and disturbance of order, in what her association called an attempt to quash its campaigning for abortion access and LGBT rights.

An online campaign was launched soon after Ibtissam Lachgar’s arrest Friday in Rabat, demanding her release.

Lachgar’s group Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms, or MALI, said in a statement that “we strongly condemn these arbitrary arrests and intimidation of members of the movement.”

Hours earlier, MALI criticized the Health Ministry in a press release for banning sales of a drug used to induce abortion. The group also created an online platform to provide women with abortion pills.

Women who intentionally attempt or undergo abortion in Morocco face up to two years in prison and a $50 fine.

AP News.

Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles – Maroc

(from Face Book)

Image may contain: text

Betty Ibtissame Lachgar was assaulted in town, and unjustly detained at the police station while she wanted to file a complaint against her attackers ” with knives ‘: change of police stations, interrogations, degrading situation in the jails…

According to Betty’s family and friends, she’s supposed to be out in the morning to get past the da.

If Betty was to be a victim of violence, human rights violations or humiliation during her detention, the Moroccan state will be held in full responsibility by Mali, such violence will be prosecuted.

My house was smiling to thank you for being assaulted in the ancient city of Rabat, and was unjustly detained at the police station while she wanted to file a complaint against her attackers “with knives”: changing police stations, interrogations and humiliating situation at the theoretical guard.

According to Betty’s family and friends, you’re supposed to come out tomorrow morning to go to the d.a.

If Betty is a victim of violence, human rights violations or humiliation during her detention, the Moroccan state will be fully responsible by ” Mali and this violence will be pursued legally.

She has now been released.

There is a ‘debate’ about the MALI  including allegations that they have been “provocative”.

That is, they have organised a campaign about the dramatic position of Moroccan women who wish to have an abortion and have to resort to clandestine methods. The movement is also charged with “muscular” activism having held a picnic in the month of Ramadan, a  ‘kiss in’ to support two adolescents charged with embracing in public, backing gay rights and supporting Femen.

Ibtissam Lachgar alleges that before her arrest she and a friend were threatened by a group of young men for their “libertarian” lifestyle and, in the process of complaining to the local police, she was again menaced and insulted before finding out, later, that charges against her had been made. (Here)

Huffington Post reports on this:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Tragedy of Yazidi Woman Who Met Islamic State Gaoler in Germany.

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Yazidi woman encounters ‘Islamic State’ captor in Germany

The past she was attempting to flee came back to haunt a young Yazidi woman in a small town in Germany. Her former IS tormentor confronted her on the street and “told me he knew everything about me.”

A 19-year-old Yazidi woman has fled Germany with her family after encountering the “Islamic State” (IS) fighter who had enslaved her in Mosul on the streets of Schwäbisch Gmünd, a town in Baden-Württemberg.

Ashwaq Haji Hamid arrived in the southwestern state with her family in 2015 through a programme aimed at assisting Yazidi women who had been subjected to violence by IS.

In 2014, IS committed what the UN concluded was a genocide of Yazidis in northern Iraq. The militant group also abducted scores of women and children, including Hamid, who were sold into slavery.

But while attempting to leave her past behind, she was confronted by her tormenter, who had kept her as a slave for 10 weeks.

“I ran away from Iraq so I would not see that ugly face and forget anything that reminds me of it, but I was shocked to see him in Germany,” Ashwaq Haji Hamid told InfoMigrants, a news site about migration run by DW, France Medias Monde and Italy’s ANSA agency.

“The first time was in 2016,” she said. “He was chasing me. He was the same person, but the second time, he came close to me and told me he knew everything about me.”

Deutsche Welle.

This tragic case raises the issue of how to prosecute Islamic state genociders.

Some of the members of the modern Einsatzgruppen who went and fought for Daesh have been found, some executed,  and others face prosecution.

Prosecuting the Islamic State Fighters Left Behind.

Jenna Consigli

 

In Syria, the SDF operates amid a civil war and depends on U.S. aid to maintain operations. It is reportedly holding 593 fighters from more than 45 countries, including Egypt, France, Germany, Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.

For local IS fighters, the Kurdish enclave also holds no official legal authority complicating their ability to prosecute Syrian and Iraqi fighters. Still, the SDF set up counterterrorism courts, which have focused on reconciliation and prohibit the death penalty. In some cases, the SDF negotiated with local tribal leaders to have fighters released to face tribal tribunals. Though, the Kurds face an uncertain operating environment and overstretched prisons. Lack of adequate security has already allowed a number of ISIS fighters to escape.

In Iraq, out of the approximately 19,000 individuals detained for ISIS-related terrorism charges since 2014, some 1,350 are foreigners. Foreigners and citizens face quick trials, differing standards of evidence and harsh penalties. Iraq’s 2005 counterterrorism lawpermits judges to sentence anyone holding membership in a terrorist organization—regardless of their role—to death. As of March, more than 3,000 individuals had received the death penalty and many others faced life in prison for their involvement in the group. The Iraqi government now needs to delicately balance sectarian tensions. Building trust between citizens residing in formerly ISIS held territory and the Baghdad-led government remains its biggest challenge to permanently rooting out the Islamic State.

Western governments shifting responsibility to local forces to prosecute or indefinitely detain their citizens are unlikely to prevent these individuals from falling through judicial loopholes to reengage in jihadist activity. Especially for those detained in Syria, uncertainty about the country’s future and U.S. engagement creates potential for foreign fighters, like John Doe, to be released if they are not sent home. Such releases are likely to further destabilize an already volatile region.

Foreign fighters are known to exploit weak political and security environments to advance their jihadist agendas. If released, these fighters are likely to find another conflict zone to advance their violent ideology, disrupt communities and conduct attacks. Foreign fighters well versed in governance and combat will continue to pose a global threat, whether or not their citizenship is revoked. And if countries do not take responsibility for their citizens, the alternative—fighters further destabilizing other countries and taking advantage of civil unrest—feeds the cycle of terrorism.

Recall that those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and subsequent strikes across Europe fought in foreign conflicts and formed global jihadist networks. While counterterrorism efforts have improved since 9/11, ISIS attacks across Europe, especially those in France in 2015, demonstrate that foreign fighters, and their networks, still pose a threat.

The U.S. and its allies need to choose a path for those who become Islamic State fighters. History has shown that leaving foreign fighters on the battlefield can have serious repercussions.

Daesh poses  the same kind of problem that came after the Second World War, of tracking down and prosecuting war criminals and those who took part in genocide.

This present case illustrates the difficulties faced: Two British ‘Beatles’ Islamic State Fighters Captured In Syria. They were part of the same group as ‘Jihadi John’.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 17, 2018 at 4:27 pm

As ISIS Massacre in Sweida Druze call for “international force” protection as charges of Assad and Russian complicity surface.

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Druze Women Kidnapped by Daesh.

“She thinks reports of the demise of Isis are exaggerated and dangerous. “Every politician wants to be the one to prove he has made real headway against this group. Granted, 97% of the territory it held is now gone. But 3% is still around 1,000 square miles. That’s not a small amount of land. And its caliphate was never just Iraq and Syria. It was this global project. It is growing in Niger, it’s growing in Nigeria, it’s growing in Afghanistan, in Libya. It’s like seeds that have gone to the wind.”

Rukmini Callimachi: the podcasting terror expert getting into the minds of Isis.

Yazidis in Afrin forced to convert to Islam

5th of August. ANF News (Kurdish News Agency)

Occupation forces are forcing the Yazidi people in Basufane village of Afrin to send their children to mosque. Those refusing to do so are subjected to torture.

According to the sources, Yazidi citizens A.S. ve F. S. were tortured by the gangs because they refused to obey this imposition.

According to sources from Kaxira village of Mabata district, Furqat al-Hamzat gangs under the command of Abu Amsha have turned the village school into a center where religious lessons are lectured.

The house of villager Henan Ebdo stated has been turned into a mosque where children are given religious lessons. Another resident’s house has been burned down by the gangs.

Two months ago, the gangs tore down the Afrin Yazidi Union building, detonated the Zarathustra statue and burned the books about the Yazidi faith kept in the building.

After a New Massacre, Charges That ISIS Is Operating With Assad and the Russians

Daily Beast.   

The slaughter in the Druze region of Syria cost hundreds of lives last month. It happened after the Druze told the Russians they wouldn’t fight for Assad.

July 25 in the Syrian province of Sweida a massacre began in the early morning. Ten jihadists from the so-called Islamic State entered Sweida town. They wore the traditional baggy trousers and loose-fitting overgarments of Druze men, but beneath the clothes they had hidden explosive vests. Three detonated in the main vegetable market, then one of them accompanied the many injured to the hospital and set off his explosive charge there. The other six suicide bombers were overcome before they could detonate, according to senior officials in the Druze community.

At the same time, hundreds of ISIS fighters entered three nearby villages, moving house-by-house slitting throats and shooting to death men, women and children. Some reported that the killers left a witness from each family alive to tell their hideous story. In all, 273 Druze were killed and 220 injured, Druze officials told us.

They strongly suspect that the attack by ISIS was carried out in cooperation with the Russian-backed Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and this is corroborated to some extent by ISIS prisoners we have interviewed who are being held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces here in northern Syria.  The Druse politicians and officials came here to try to forge an alliance with like-minded Kurds for mutual self-protection, which is when they told us the details of the massacre.

The horror of the Sweida massacre in an area most considered safe—and in these last moments when ISIS rule in Syria appears to be all but over—was magnified when the Druze learned that some of their women and children had been taken captive by ISIS cadres. “Most of the Daesh attackers were killed,” a Druze official told us. “The only escapees were those who were kidnapped in the first village: 29 women, teenagers and babies.”

One 19-year-old student already has been beheaded by ISIS, which also quickly posted pictures of their Druze female captives and demanded that the Syrian regime stop attacking them and exchange ISIS prisoners held by the regime for these women and children.

In addition to the sensational pictures of the helpless women holding their hands above their heads in the desert, ISIS sent a video of one of their Druze captives, 35-year-old A Shalguinz, who delivered her baby in the desert.

“Daesh said they will make them sabaya [slaves] if the regime doesn’t’ give 100 prisoners to them and the regime refused,” one of our interlocutors told us.

The article, by respected reporters of the horrors of the Syrian events gives details of why the Druze suspect Syrian state complicity.

“We think there is complicity between Daesh and the regime,” another of the Druze leaders said. “It’s so obvious to us. The regime refused to send ambulances to assist the population. They cut the electricity as well and the local telephone service to make it difficult to communicate. They couldn’t cut the mobiles.”

One of the 10 captured ISIS attackers admits on an interrogation video shared by the Druze leaders that in the village massacres a man from the Syrian government guided them from house to house, knocking on the doors and calling the inhabitants by name so they would unwittingly open their doors to the ISIS attackers.

This is the heartfelt conclusion,

The leaders of Druze mountain tell us that they are now also appealing to the international community to be protected by an international force, as the Kurdish area is protected by the Americans, and to assist them to bring back the kidnapped women to their families.

“To safeguard our community and to protect the diversity in the future of Syria, we need to create a crescent against aggressors,” said one of the politicians. Running from north to south, including parts of Iraq, it would protect the Kurds, the Yazidis, Christians, and Druze. “The minorities are looking to the Coalition as the only credible force in the area,” he said, adding, “The crescent strategically speaking would also cut the Iranians from access to the regime.”

The world must decide whether or not to respond, but the record thus far does not hold out much hope.

Background:

Lebanon’s Druze leader attacks Syrian government over massacre

Reuters 27th of July.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The main leader of the Druze sect in Lebanon on Friday attacked the Syrian government for failing to stop an Islamic State massacre of Druze in Syria, saying it should have noticed the militants gathering to attack.

No one can tell me that the squadrons of many American, Russian and foreign planes did not see this gathering which suddenly took the regime by surprise and raided Jebel al-Arab,” said Walid Jumblatt.

Islamic State’s assault on the city of Sweida and nearby villages in the Jebel al-Arab area on Thursday killed more than 200 people, many of them civilians.

Syrian state media said the army had intervened and battled the militants with both ground forces and air strikes.

Jumblatt, who heads the largest Druze political party in Lebanon, is a strong critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Other Druze parties are pro-Damascus.

The Kurdish led YPG issued this statement,

People’s Defense Units (YPG) Press Office released a statement condemning the ISIS attack in Suwayda city of Syria.

The statement by YPG Press Office reads as follows;

On July 25, more than 250 people were killed and hundreds more got injured due to IS attack on the Druze people in the city of Suwayda. During the attacks, hundreds of other people, mostly women, were kidnapped by IS. The attack carried out through suicide bombings and the following random shootings, caused us great sorrow.

The attack reveals once again the true face of IS and shows clearly that this terrorist group must be destroyed as soon as possible. IS terrorist organization continues its existence as a threat to the Syrian and all Middle Eastern peoples. As People’s Defense Units we will continue to intensify our efforts to struggle against the IS. As YPG-YPJ defense forces, we will continue our struggle in every place where the IS terrorism is present. We once again emphasize our determination to fulfill our responsibility concerning protection of all the peoples of Syria, including the Druze people, and we declare that we are ready to protect them everywhere where it will be necessary. This attack is as burdensome and painful as an attack on Kobanê and Cizir for us.

We give our condolences and respect to the Druze people, to those who lost their lives in this massacre.”

There is an entire Wikipedia pages in English, and in French on these massacres:  2018 As-Suwayda attacks.  Attaques de Soueïda.

The lack of an international response led the French weekly Marianne to write with indignation:

SILENCE, DAECH MASSACRE LES DRUZES

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Today is the Anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide.

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SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN AIMS FOR AWARENESS ON 4TH ANNIVERSARY OF YAZIDI GENOCIDE

Activists on social media hope to raise awareness for thousands of missing people kidnapped by ISIS in 2014, hold events around the world and online.

 

Absolute solidarity and love to the Yazidi people.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2018 at 11:22 am

General Strike In Nicaragua. Left Condemns Ortega who “Puts Down Protests Violently”.

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General Strike in NIcaragua: Demonstrator in Burnt-out Bus in Tipitapa.

Nicaragua protesters stage national strike as clashes persist.

A 24-hour general strike has brought much of Nicaragua to a standstill, as anti-government campaigners demand the resignation of President Daniel Ortega.

Streets have been deserted and businesses closed in the capital, Managua, but violent protests have broken out in other cities.

Reports say at least three people died on Thursday, bringing the total killed in eight weeks of clashes to about 160.

Fresh talks aimed at ending the stand-off are due to take place on Friday.

The protests began on 19 April after the government imposed cuts to pension and social security programmes.

The cuts were later scrapped but the protests evolved into a rejection of the Ortega government and thousands of people have since taken to the streets.

Nicaragua se paraliza mientras Ortega mantiene la represión

El País

A detailed report on the strike, which has already resulted in deaths,  has just appeared:

Paro total y varios muertos: la huelga general en Nicaragua pone aún más contra las cuerdas a Daniel Ortega

Nicaragua paralysed as Ortega continues the repression.

Despite the report in the Sun today on British apologists for the repression (“Top Corbyn allies ‘help spread propaganda for murderous dictator who’s killed dozens of protesters in Nicaragua”)  there have been strong left criticisms of the Ortega regime from the left.

A massive violation of human rights” Mike Phipps

From the latest Labour Briefing.

In late April, civil unrest swept across Nicaragua. Over 40 people were killed, ostensibly over social security reforms proposed by Daniel Ortega‘s government. Many more were injured at the hands of the police who used live rounds, or in beatings by pro-government groups, western media reported.

One local blogger reported: “Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government proposed a rise in employer contributions, a smaller one in employee contributions and a 5% cut in pensions (offset by stronger health care entitlements). The employers’ federation, which is opposed to paying more and would prefer more drastic cuts, called for protests. University students obliged. The government dispatched anti-riot police who – having never done so before – fired live rounds.”

Pitched battles followed in several cities and the army was deployed amid widespread looting. Independent media were censored and Nicaraguan state news outlets blamed the protesters. The unpopular social security overhaul was suspended and the violence subsided.

For some. President Ortega continues to enjoy huge legitimacy as a  key figure in the 1979 popular revolution that overthrew the decades-long Somoza dictatorship. Through the 1980s, Nicaragua pursued policies popular with most ordinary Nicaraguans – in the teeth of armed subversion by the USA. The Sandinistas lost power in 1990, but bounced back in 2007, with Nicaragua receiving economic help from Venezuela, but facing renewed pressure from the US.

Last year, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, which would cut the loans Nicaragua receives from international financial institutions. This legislation is currently stalled in the Senate. Nicaragua’s uncharacteristic violence comes at a convenient time for US policymakers seeking to tighten the screws on the country.

Additionally, the US National Endowment for Democracy has been channelling money – over a million dollars last year – to student and civil society groups opposed to the Nicaraguan government. For some, the recent violence resembles unrest in Venezuela, both in its choice of weapons – homemade mortars and rockets – and in the prominent role played by students, who are not directly affected by the social security reform.

But for others, the involvement of many young people, often from Sandinista families, underlines their anger at the corruption of revolutionary values by the Ortegas. Ortega’s latest term in office has seen power centralised, with presidential term limits scrapped and the unpopular first lady, Rosario Murillo, made vice president – potentially the successor.

The Ortegas dominate Nicaragua’s Congress and judiciary. Their children run the family’s considerable business empire and the government’s radicalism has been superseded by an alliance with conservative sections of the catholic church, exemplified by harsh anti-abortion legislation. The government’s latest target appears to be social media and the internet.

The Economist accuses Ortega of “establishing a family dynasty reminiscent of the dictatorship he overthrew in 1979,” comparing him to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, “re-elected last year in a vote widely believed to have been fraudulent.” This is cynical obfuscation: Honduras, remember, saw its elected government overthrown in a US-backed coup in 2009. It quickly became one of the most dangerous countries in the world for political activists and its current president is a US placeman.

But this longstanding hostility in the mainstream media  to Nicaragua’s government makes the left wary of criticising it. Activists in Nicaragua allege violence on both sides, saying some protesters had highly hostile political agendas. One reported significant vandalism, for example of mobile health clinics. A Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign statement confirms this analysis with considerable detail.

But other reliable local sources alarmingly report that the Ortegas now hire thugs from the poorest neighbourhoods to put down protests violently. Videos show goon squads in pickup trucks, driving up and beating protesters with pipes and clubs despite the presence of the police. A leading member of the country’s Human Rights Commission was herself injured in such an attack while observing a peaceful protest.

The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights, whose director is Vilma Núñez, a woman of great stature who was imprisoned and tortured under Somoza and served on Nicaragua’s Supreme Court following the 1979 Revolution, has produced a scathing report. It lays the blame for the “massive violation of human rights” that it documents squarely on the Ortegas. As for the Truth Commission set up to investigate the bloodshed, the Report concludes, “ Nicaraguans can in no way accept the manoeuvre of setting up a Truth Commission by the President of the National Assembly, who has not the moral authority or credibility to initiate something of this nature.”

This view is widely shared: critics see a whitewash in preparation. Ortega’s time in office may well have been shortened by recent events, but what follows is uncertain – especially as violence flared up again in mid-May.

There is from Paul Canning.

For Sandinistas, who aren’t Danielistas, it’s Time to Serve your Country.

The hour for our nation has come, for a new republic, with new thinking that has been incubating in the new generation of Nicaraguans.

The civic struggle, headed by the university students, stands out for their refusal to use the methods of war to confront the State repression against Nicaraguan society. The densely populated citizen marches and the roadblocks are their principal instruments of struggle. The civic struggle has reached the heart of the people and shown itself to be an effective tool for awakening political conscience. The organized repression of the National Police, the paramilitaries and the so-called “Sandinista mobs,” all respond to political orders from a unified command.

Everything seems to indicate that the capability of the Police to order and repress was outflanked in the first days of the civic insurrection. Ortega’s paramilitary bodies, the mobs who identify themselves as Sandinista Youth, and the incorporation of the so-called nostalgic Sandinista combatants and retired military officers into reserve squadrons, became, and continue to be, the reconstructed forces for repression.  It’s this new conglomerate that the masses of people have been facing, and they’ll continue doing so peacefully and civically with a great cost in lives. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Army maintains its political commitment to remain in their barracks.

The massacre of young people from all social classes and religious creeds, students and workers from all trades, is a wound that won’t close nor should it ever close in our people’s memory.

More than anyone else, it was Sandino who taught us the importance of national sovereignty in constructing the foundation for a republic. Sandino pointed us to the specific import of this fundamental value.

The confiscations permitted under Law #840 (the canal law), have offered up our national sovereignty to a Chinese magnate in exchange for the promise to construct an inter-oceanic canal across our national territory. Where does that situate Ortega’s government and those who organized this so-called public-private model? We should recall that the leadership of Danielismo, plus the Private Enterprise Council (COSEP) and its spokespeople greeted the handing over of our National Sovereignty as an inevitable trade-off for Nicaragua’s economic and social progress.

How far did that model get us? What should we recognize as good and what should we censure and correct in it? The rural residents who have fought against Law #840 in favor of sovereignty and against the canal are now part of the current struggle against the tyrant and his dictatorship. How do the spokespeople of large capital see them and weigh their actions?

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, his wife, fed on that stew of our political history. They abandoned the ideas inherited from the peoples’ revolutionary struggles against colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and those of our own history as exemplified by Sandino. They abandoned the patriotic education of their early political days for the unholy practice of forging pacts with the lowest elements if such alliances brought them closer to the political power they desired.

As architects of evil, they elaborated a mixture of strange and hybrid ideas that allowed them to pact with large capital, preach a socialism with no genuine substance and a Christianity with esoteric practices of dolls and pins. Daniel and Rosario filled the vacuum left by the ideological emptying of Sandino’s thought, and skillfully embraced cynicism, the art of deceit, “banditry” as cunning and practice.  Internationalists abandoned him for his empty praises, false discourses and undisclosed agreements.

The activists who hold Sandino in their hearts but are naïve enough to maintain that in Nicaragua Danielism is developing a new stage of the FSLN’s revolutionary project are either fools or acting the fool for convenience.  On the other hand, those citizens who are FSLN militants but who consider themselves Sandinistas but not Danielistas, are called upon to reflect profoundly about their political militancy in this dark hour. Because the hour has come to defend our nation, and we should only see light emerging from it. To act the fool or ignore the murderous repression that Ortega and Murillo are leading is to become an accomplice of the entire tragedy we’re living through.

Justice and democratic institutions are the themes of the dialogue that simultaneously opened and closed the people’s expectations. From the guts of the youth who head the civic rebellion, the slogan was born: “Ortega Out!” The couple have equaled Somoza in many things and they’ve outdone him in others, because as they say out there, history repeats itself either as a comedy or a tragedy. Nicaraguans today are going back through the tragedy of yesterday. The popular struggle comes at an opportune moment, and opens a historic window on a new Nicaragua, with clear rules for democratic coexistence, the legal Rule of Law, with transparency and accountability before the eyes of Nicaraguans of all territorial and social sectors.

The condition that the young students and representatives of the farmers’ movement have imposed for continuing the Dialogue is correct and healthy for assuring a response and stopping the tyrant from spilling so much young blood. With the pair of dictators out of the national territory, other architects the public knows and believes in will be able to create the new figure of the Republic that we’ve dreamed about.

Students and farmers are the crucible of our struggle: the different strata of our society are headed towards developing a potent force capable of finishing off the resistance of the tyrant and his woman.

There are many indications that Ortega is militarily shoring up his residence in El Carmen. He’s equipping himself to resist and improve his negotiating position – not before the kids and the anti-canal farmers, but with large capitalists. “If they want to screw just me, well then we’ll all get screwed.” He doesn’t care about the political verdict on his proven murders, just as he cares little about the conclusive preliminary report of the IACHR.  Or about the upcoming documenting of the experts from the IACHR, because in his desperate clutching to sick, brute force, he prefers to think that like Hitler, he’ll die in his bunker before he’ll be made accountable for his crimes.

The figureheads of large capital, in particular Pellas, have proposed Ortega’s exit by the institutional route, that is, by moving up the date for elections. Some of his spokespeople have called that initiative “the soft landing.” This isn’t a possible solution. Force is what can and will move Ortega. The Ortega Murillo family and those close to them also understand the interests of large capital. There will come a moment in the people’s fight in which his family members and close circle reflect on the exit from power. It will involve an arrangement, and in such an arrangement the young people and the rural residents can’t be erased.  Large capital has a part in this scenario. Pontius Pilate has nowhere to wash his hands in this game; and Judas shouldn’t be at the table either.

If we need to count on strength and the Constitution, the elections should take place in October at the latest, with the necessary structures in place, even if they’re transitory ones to be perfected later. The Episcopal Conference should continue facilitating the solution, but good faith isn’t enough in this commotion.  The Catholic temples like the University halls should be ready for the final battle. The National Army must be pressured; there shouldn’t be any room for conjecturing whether the snipers, an active contingent in the savage repression of the protesting masses of citizens, are coming from their ranks. The presence of Dragonov weapons has been uncovered, and this type of rifle is principally the property of the National Army. The communiques from the National Army urge the citizenry to believe hook line and sinker in their declarations, but the proof in these situations can be deceiving.

Ortega Out! Murillo Out! Long live the April Mothers! Eternal memory for the immolated youth!

Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2018 at 12:49 pm