Tag Archives: human rights

Civil disobedience for immigrant rights

I salute the civil disobedience outside the House of Representatives to encourage serious action for imprisoned immigrants.

In a historic action, today approximately 100 women will risk arrest by blockading the intersection outside the House of Representatives to send a message: inaction on comprehensive immigration reform that treats women and families humanely is unacceptable. The action is being organized through We Belong Together, a national campaign to bring forward the priorities of women in immigration reform. Their priorities include: a clear path to citizenship; a system that keeps families together and upholds the family immigration system; protects survivors of violence; honors women’s work inside and outside the home; and is not driven by enforcement. Today’s act of civil disobedience is expected to include the largest ever number of undocumented women to date to willingly risk arrest, and will also include allies from organizations advocating for reproductive justice, racial justice, LGBT people, and domestic workers, among many others.

via Immigrant women and allies risk arrest to demand humane immigration reform.

And cheers to Feministing, one of the most consistently intersectional feminist news outlets.

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Overpopulation fear-mongering, Structural adjustment and Peru

The simplistic blame-game associated with over-population is ridiculous.  The dynamics of what happens when people have children are more complicated than the traditional privileged environmentalists articulate in their ‘more babies mean more trees get cut down.’

Consumption of things that are made out of trees is why trees are cut down.

I almost always credit Betsy Hartmann whose insights have helped me to better understand population and consumption issues.  Here is Betsy explaining the distinction:

Don’t get me wrong. I support the provision of contraception and abortion as a fundamental reproductive right and as part of comprehensive health services. What I’m against is turning family planning into a tool of top-down social engineering. There’s a long and sordid history of population control programs violating women’s rights and harming their health. That’s why feminist reformers in the international family planning field have fought hard to make programs responsive to women’s — and men’s — real reproductive and sexual health needs. A world of difference exists between services that treat women as population targets, and those based on a feminist model of respectful, holistic, high-quality care.

via On The Issues Magazine: Fall 2009: The ‘New’ Population Control Craze: Retro, Racist, Wrong Way to Go by Betsy Hartmann.

Of course, the enthusiasm for reducing population translated into devistating programs of sterilization around the world.  Most recently this history of sterilization is impacting the election in Peru.  Paid for with United States Agency for International development money, the Peruvian dictator Fujimori sterilized almost 300,000 women against their will.

The sterilisation program came about as a poverty reduction strategy. In the early 90s Peru had, under Fujimori, put in practice one of the most aggressive structural adjustment policies ever implemented. It was so forceful that even the World Bank advised the Peruvian government to slow down. As a result of prolonged economic crisis and neoliberal reform, 50% of Peruvians lived under the poverty line and population control was an ideal to aspire to. The UN population conference in Cairo in 1994 and the women’s Beijing conference of 1995 provided Fujimori with inspiration, and his government received funding from USAid to undertake the ambitious project.

via Peru’s sterilisation victims still await compensation and justice | Natalia Sobrevilla Perea | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

That’s right.  We have to lay some of the responsibility for this systemic violence against women at the feet of the United Nations and the leaders of first world nations.   The forced structural adjustment policies, and the US-funded United nations overpopulation projects also deserve blame.

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On the extradition of Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic taking command in Srebrenica. Thanks to http://www.gendercide.com for the image still

Today Ratko Mladic, the Serbian commander who ordered the execution of at least 7,000 men in Srebrenica was extradited to the Hague to face charges under the International Criminal Court.  The write up in the Guardian ends with the probably justification for this move — Serbia’s desire to enter the E.U..  As is noted in the article, the Serbian president Boris Tadic made clear that he viewed the arrest and extradition of Mladic not as an ethical move, or a truth-seeking in a climate of national amnesia, but as a political token.

The president also said it was time for the EU to do its part by boosting his country’s efforts to join the bloc, arguing the arrest of Mladic proves it is serious about rejoining the international fold.

“I simply ask the EU to fulfil its part,” he said. “We fulfilled our part and we will continue to do so.”

The EU had repeatedly said Serbia could begin pre-membership talks only after it arrested the wartime Bosnian Serb commander. Some EU countries have said Serbia needs to do more, including arresting its last fugitive, Goran Hadzic, who led Croatian Serb rebels during the 1991-1995 war.

Tadic said Hadzic would be arrested as soon as possible.

via Ratko Mladic bound for The Hague to face war crimes charges | World news | guardian.co.uk.

This sixteen year-delayed arrest seems like an attempt to sanitize and distance the violence by suggesting that a few toxic leaders can be prosecuted.  No better time to pretend to care about systematic violence than when your nation is up for consideration by the E.U..   And of course, note the language of the Guardian describing Hadzic as the nation’s “last fugitive.” It isn’t surprising that many believe that the Serbian government long knew the whereabouts of the brutal Serbian general who was ‘hiding’ with relatives.

It would be nice to think of this as a win for the extra-national organizations — particularly the International Criminal Court.   This seems like a romantic view — President Tadic didn’t turn Mladic over until they could see the cash just out of reach.  And of course, it wasn’t the moral judgment of the International Criminal Court which reached the Serbian’s leaders hearts, it was the threat of losing their bid to become members of the European Union.

The other part of this idea that extra-national organizations can affect cultural change within a nation should be held in the context of international involvement in the very war crimes that Mladic is accused of.

Summarizing the catastrophe in 1997, David Rohde — who as a journalist with the Christian Science Monitor won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the first mass graves around Srebrenica — offered a blistering critique of the moral lapse on the part of the “safe area’s” alleged guardians: “The international community partially disarmed thousands of men, promised them they would be safeguarded and then delivered them to their sworn enemies. Srebrenica was not simply a case of the international community standing by as a far-off atrocity was committed. The actions of the international community encouraged, aided, and emboldened the executioners. … The fall of Srebrenica did not have to happen. There is no need for thousands of skeletons to be strewn across eastern Bosnia. There is no need for thousands of Muslim children to be raised on stories of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers slaughtered by Serbs.” (Rohde, Endgame, pp. 351, 353.)

via Gendercide Watch: The Srebrenica Massacre.

That’s right, United Nations observers had convinced Muslims to disarm and then turned them over to the Serbians under Ratko Mladic.  How did they do that?  Well, the United Nations security council passed a resolution which declared that Srebrenica was a safe zone where “all parties and others concerned treat Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act.” In the months before this, hundreds of Bosnian Muslim villages had been destroyed — when the UN declared that Srebrenica was the safe zone and sent blue helmet UN peace-keepers — refugees flooded into the town. 

Ratko Mladic seized Srebrenica and took every Muslim captive.  Mladic divided the men from the women and then had the men executed in a gymnasium in Srebrenica.   Thousands of Muslim men were rounded up from the surrounding areas and were trucked into Srebrenica where they were executed and buried in mass graves.  Where were the U.N.? Well, that depends who you ask.  The official charges against Mladic say that he kidnapped and held hostage those two hundred United Nations blue helmets.

I don’t really care.  What is valuable to note is that the best of intentions — those who were attempting to bring peace and reduce the conflict became complicit in systematic violence against unarmed civilians.   The United Nations promise to keep Srebrenica safe, and the disarmament of the Bosnian Muslims should be remembered as part of the event.

This isn’t to excuse Mladic, but to  put into context the extradition and the trial-to-come.

Mladic was a General in an army.  The political forces which operated to sustain these forces are still unaccountable.  Ratko Mladic was also the general who oversaw the siege of Sarajavo.  He was (and still is) heralded as a hero by many nationalistic Serbs.  He was beloved by his nation precisely because he did what no one else could do — he purified the Serbian nation of outsiders and acted as the uncompromising agent of nationalistic vengeance.

Now that the Serbian leaders desire to be seen as European Union members who are supposed to exhibit the symbolic pursuit toward a vague notion of human rights, Mladic is cut loose.


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Why so valuable? Ai Weiwei can not be replaced

Ai Weiwei dropping a han dynasty urn

Thirty seven days.  Artist Ai Weiwei has been locked up by Chinese authorities for thirty seven days.  Rumor is that he is being tortured and beginning to admit to his ‘crimes.’

Weiwei is priceless.  Artistic installations and performances that point to a better world than one without him.

Adrien Serle writes about Weiwei’s blog writings in a recent Guardian.

I can think of no equivalent recent writing by an artist in the west, none that confronts political and social realities so eloquently or with such passion and controlled rage. Thoughtful, acerbic, angry, increasingly outspoken, the blogs cover innumerable subjects, from attempts to rescue the cats rounded up and left to starve in warehouses in the clean-up campaign before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to architecture and design. He writes about Andy Warhol, about the destruction of China’s heritage and the unthinking cynicism and idiocies of city planners and cultural officialdom. He documents the Chinese government’s handling of the 2003 Sars epidemic, the contaminated milk scandal, the “tofu-dregs” construction of the schools that collapsed during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. He damns the mendacity of the Chinese media (“To call them whores would be to degrade sex workers. To call them beasts of burden would humiliate the animal kingdom”), and the hypocrisy of some Chinese public intellectuals. But there are also lighter essays on haircuts, humour, creativity and much more besides. After the closure of his blog, Ai turned to Twitter, saying that in Chinese the 140-character brevity of the form almost amounted to a novella.

via Where is Ai Weiwei? | Art and design | The Guardian.

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