Some links related to and around news about political violence over the past few weeks:
FALLUJAH, Iraq, Apr 13, 2012 (IPS) – At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. “Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone,” says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. “It’s all too shameful for them.”
“We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more,” says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.
In attempting to place Tamerlan and Dzhohar Tsarnaev into the mould of the stereotypical “Islamic fundamentalist bomber,” the media used several facts and claims about the brothers that, in my opinion, don’t ring true or were taken out of the Chechen and post-Soviet context and, thus, were misunderstood. I would like to draw attention to several such facts (certainly not all) and clarify them. While these details may seem small, they helped to form an image of the Tsarnaev brothers in the public’s mind, simplifying complex motivations that may exist behind this attack. Words have connotations beyond their direct meanings, and so the choice of something as small as the wrong word can change how we perceive the facts: …
Ethnicity is often used to justify violent behaviour. But no ethnicity is inherently violent. Even if the Tsarnaevs aligned themselves with violent Chechen movements – and as of now, there is no evidence they did – treating Chechen ethnicity as the cause of the Boston violence is irresponsible.
One hundred years ago, the violent act of one Polish-American caused a country to treat all Polish-Americans with suspicion. Now, the Poles have become “white” – which is to say they are largely safe from the accusations of treason and murderous intent that ethnic groups deemed non-white routinely face. When a Polish-American commits a crime, his ethnicity does not go on trial with him.
But this change is not a triumph for America. It is a tragedy that it happened to Poles then, and a greater tragedy that we have not learned our lesson and it happens still – to Hispanics, to Arabs, to Chechens, to any immigrant who comes here seeking refuge and finds prejudice instead.
Today, Americans still often link Islam and dark skin. What’s changed is which category we consider more dangerous. For much of American history, the problem with being Muslim was that you weren’t considered white. Since 9/11, by contrast, one of the problems with not being considered white is that you might be mistaken for Muslim. Thus, four days after the Twin Towers fell, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas-station attendant, was gunned down in Mesa, Arizona, by an assailant who had boasted of wanting to kill “ragheads.” Last December, a Hindu American named Sunando Sen was pushed into an oncoming subway train by a woman who explained, “I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001.” Sodhi and Sen, needless to say, weren’t Muslim. They just looked Muslim because they had dark skin.
Yet even if the military-led government may have helped to ignite the Arakan and Meiktila conflicts, the fuel, in the form of anti-Muslim sentiment among Burmese, has been stored up over decades, born of propaganda campaigns in the 1960s that triggered pogroms against Indian Muslims, and later the Rohingya in Arakan state, and the historic conflation of Buddhism with Burmese nationalism.
That movement has seen a resurgence since the Arakan rioting last year whipped up anti-Muslim fervor across Burma. The situation in Meiktila appears to lend weight to claims by some observers that an ethnic cleansing campaign is underway in parts of the country. There, the town’s once sizeable Muslim population has been driven into camps which journalists are barred from entering; a similar campaign of cleansing has occurred in Sittwe in Arakan state.
The single most important factor determining whatever 20th century concepts of women’s rights in Eastern Europe was communism that came to the Russian Empire with the 1917 Revolution – brought to the rest of Eastern Europe 30 years later. Unfortunately, “our part of Europe” was not exactly what Marx and Engels imagined as an industrialised and urbanised setting – instead, it was more of a patriarchal and mostly peasant society with most women playing their “traditional roles”.
Communists started implementing what they saw as policies of “liberation of women” and began with what they saw as their biggest ideological opponent: religion. In Bulgaria, Christian women were told to take off crosses and stop going to church; Muslim women were told to take off their veils and traditional dresses. There was resistance from both communities. There were even cases of Muslim women beating up party functionaries sent to their villages to distribute “modern” clothes. Forced secularisation eventually succeeded, especially in the growing urban areas.
Authorities confirmed that two investigations have been opened into the possible involvement of a group of officers in the killing of 35 people by death squads in the greater São Paulo city of Guarulhos, home to Brazil’s main international airport.
The latest arrests prompted São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin to promise “zero tolerance” for officers involved in murders, though he denied any knowledge of death squads operating in the state’s police.
But Fernando Grella, São Paulo’s state secretary for security, admitted the possibility of death squads made up of police officers.
Yet the government also resorted to other, more hazardous tactics. It has tried to rally support by claiming protesters are sponsored by Turkey and the Gulf monarchies, harbour terrorists, belong to the banned Baath party or are driven by sheer sectarian animus. The result has been to radicalise the Shiite community, many of whose members now consider this challenge to the status quo an existential threat. This, coupled with the expansion and strengthening of the security apparatus, might well have persuaded the government that it could physically eradicate the popular movement without having to deal with it politically.
The Hawija operation is one indication. Extensive and seemingly well-planned, the purpose appears to have been to discourage any resort to violence on the part of protesters by hitting them directly – and hard. If this was the theory, it has proved deeply flawed. Already, retaliatory attacks have escalated. In a budding cycle of violence, protesters, anticipating further attacks from government forces, have threatened to ready themselves for more robust military resistance.