Sunday, November 28, 2010

Russia / Poland / Katyn Massacre

A memorial dedicated to the Polish officers murdered in the Katyn forest in 1940. (Dario Thuburn/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian Parliament Admits Guilt over Polish Massacre
By Tom Parfitt
The Guardian, November 26, 2010
"In a symbolic admission of guilt, Russia's parliament has declared that Joseph Stalin ordered his secret police to execute 22,000 Polish army officers and civilians in 1940, in one of the greatest mass murders of the 20th century. Today's acknowledgment of Stalin's personal culpability over the Katyn massacre comes amid a cautious thaw between Moscow and Warsaw, whose recent relations have been thorny at best. It was also seen as a sign that Russia may finally be ready for muted self-scrutiny over its totalitarian past. Mikhail Gorbachev admitted in 1990 that the NKVD was to blame for the massacre, after a half-century of the Soviets blaming it on Nazi troops. However, there has never been a formal statement which implicates the Soviet leadership in such explicit terms. Officials in Warsaw greeted the declaration positively. 'It is a good step, an important sign,' Poland's speaker of parliament, Grzegorz Schetyna, told reporters. It would ensure a 'better atmosphere' for Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Warsaw next week, he added. The 21,768 officers, doctors, policemen and other public servants -- captured by the Red Army when it swept into Poland after the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 -- were mainly shot in Katyn forest near Smolensk in western Russia and in several other places. The current improvement in ties accelerated after Poland's then president, Lech Kaczynski, and 95 other people including scores of high-ranking government and military figures, died in April when their plane crashed on landing at Smolensk. The passengers were on their way from Warsaw to attend an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the massacre. In the wake of the crash, Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, made unequivocal statements about Soviet responsibility for the Katyn massacre and urged reconciliation. Historian Natalya Lebedeva, a Russian member of the two countries' intergovernmental commission on 'especially complex questions,' told the Guardian that Putin's words had helped the healing process. 'Both Russia and Poland realise it is time to stop the confrontations,' she added. [...]"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Denying Rwanda: A Response to Herman & Peterson

[Introductory note: In July 2010, published a long review by Gerald Caplan of the recent book by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, in which Caplan accused the authors of denying the 1994 holocaust in Rwanda. Herman & Peterson responded with a lengthy broadside against Caplan, published on Pambazuka on July 8, to which I issued a stopgap response from my temporary base in Burkina Faso. That intervention elicited another outpouring by Herman & Peterson, specifically attacking me, posted to the Monthly Review blog on August 14. The following comments represent a fuller engagement with Herman & Peterson's assertions, accusations, and denialist fabrications.]

When I first learned of the publication of Edward Herman and David Peterson's barely-a-book, The Politics of Genocide, and when I read Gerald Caplan's lengthy review followed by Herman & Peterson's 8,000-word response, I was travelling with no fixed address in West Africa. While necessarily postponing an engagement with the volume until I returned to Canada, I felt justified in preparing (from Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso) a thousand words or so of comments explicitly limited to the assertions made in Herman and Peterson's riposte to Caplan. Having now imbibed a further 6,000 words from the authors, specifically denouncing me and my work, and having read The Politics of Genocide, my concerns about their denialist and fundamentally anti-scholarly enterprise have only deepened.

In a paper to be presented to the conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars next year, I will examine Herman & Peterson's work alongside that of their fellow Rwandan genocide deniers. I limit my comments here to the authors' published statements on Rwanda, both in their online posts and in The Politics of Genocide. (I trust I have the title of their book right, by the way. Herman & Peterson manage to misstate the name of my own work, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, no fewer than eight times in the footnotes of their latest post.)[1]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Romania / Jewish Holocaust

Photo: Elisabeth Ungureanu
A Mass Grave Raises Ghosts of Romania's Holocaust Past
By Rupert Wolfe Murray, November 12, 2010
"One day in 1941, Vasile Enache was tending his cows in the forest of Vulturi, near the city of Iasi, 260 miles (420 km) northeast of Bucharest, when he heard people sobbing. He went to investigate and saw hundreds of civilians being marched through the forest by Romanian army soldiers. Enache didn't know it at the time, but he was witnessing part of Romania's 'Iasi pogrom,' which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 14,000 Jews. For almost 70 years, successive Romanian governments have downplayed the nation's role in the Holocaust. But now a suspected mass grave has been found in the Vulturi forest, and some are hoping that the discovery will help Romania face up to one of the darkest periods in its history. Rumors about a mass grave in the Vulturi forest had been circulating for years; when a similar grave was found near Iasi in 1945, it led to a trial that ended with several top military commanders being sentenced to jail. After persuading Enache to show him the exact location of the Vulturi grave, local historian Adrian Cioflinca organized a team of people from Romania's Elie Wiesel National Institute for Studying the Holocaust to start excavating the site last month. They uncovered the remains of 16 bodies -- including the skeletons of children, a lady's shoe and Romanian-army bullets from 1939 -- but have since called a halt to the dig while they wait for rabbis to bless the site.

United States / Jewish Holocaust

The Plot to Cheat Germany's Holocaust Survivors Fund
By Claire Suddath, November 13, 2010
"[...] On Nov. 9 the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, announced charges against 17 people believed to have knowingly defrauded the Conference for Jewish Material Claims Against Germany -- the New York-based organization responsible for processing and approving Germany's restitution payments to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution -- out of more than $42 million. Five former Claims Conference employees -- case agents and at least one supervisor -- along with recruiters and an expert document forger, allegedly submitted or otherwise tampered with more than 5,600 applications over 16 years. The extent of the fraud is so large that at a Nov. 9 press conference even Bharara admitted surprise, saying that he would have expected the nonprofit Holocaust survivors' organization to be 'immune from base greed and criminal fraud.' 'They knew to change all of the things we routinely check,' says Claims Conference executive vice president Greg Schneider. 'The forged documents look exactly like real ones. You cannot tell the difference.'

Spain / Spanish Civil War

Scandal of the Spanish Civil War Mass Graves
By Alasdair Fotheringham
The Independent, November 14, 2010
"When 'A M', a Spanish lawyer in her forties, talks about the Franco death squads who murdered her grandfather and tossed his body in a roadside ditch where it remained hidden for the next 74 years, any hatred or anger at the perpetrators is either long gone or deeply buried. But a huge reservoir of sorrow remains, together with resentment at extreme bureaucratic insensitivity. 'In the records of the government office where he worked, he's still noted as "absent from his work station for unknown reasons",' she says. 'We want those records put straight, with recognition of what really happened.' She has requested anonymity for herself and her grandfather because 'that's what my late father would have wanted.' But, in any case, remaining nameless is all that is on offer to the vast majority of the 120,000-plus victims believed to have been killed and buried by Franco's militias -- and who are still waiting to be dug up. That wait is coming dangerously close to becoming permanent. Today, 71 years after the Spanish civil war ended, 35 years after Franco's death, and four years after a law was passed authorising exhumation of the war's mass graves, barely 10 per cent of the estimated 2,052 sites have been investigated.

Iraq / Violence against Christians

"A burnt out vehicle at the site of one of the bomb attacks targeting Christian homes in Baghdad." (Mohammed Jalil/EPA)
Christians in Iraq Living in Fear of "Pogrom" after Bomb Attacks
By Martin Chulov and Enas Ibrahim
The Guardian, November 12, 2010
"For the second time in four years, Linda Jalal and her family are on the run inside their own country. On Tuesday afternoon, they abruptly packed their meagre belongings and abandoned their house in east Baghdad. The family had been fixing the shattered windows from a bomb placed next to their car when dawned -- the attack was not random; it was one of many that day targeting Christian families. 'I am scared,' she said from a relative's lounge. 'How could this happen to us again?' For Jalal and her mother, Iyada Marouky, the past week has been the worst of their lives. Worse than the grim months of 2003 when they fled their first home in the south Baghdad suburb of Dora after armed men came to their doorstep with a warning. Worse, too, than the initial days of anarchy after the ousting of Saddam Hussein. For all his atrocities, the dictator left the Christians well alone. 'We didn't suffer under him,' said Jalal. 'But now I am terrified to live in this society. We are being slaughtered like sheep. Yet we are civilians and this is our country.' Jalal's house was one of at least a dozen Christian homes attacked on Wednesday morning. Three more were bombed on Tuesday night. The bombings were the first co-ordinated attack on the city's Christians following almost eight years of civil strife.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sri Lanka

Photos Allege Sri Lanka Massacre, November 10, 2010
[Includes accompanying video]
"Al Jazeera has obtained photographs that appear to show Sri Lankan army soldiers abusing Tamil civilians in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war. The pictures show various graphic scenes, with dead bodies blindfolded and hands bound, shot through the head and mounds of bodies on the back of a farmer's trailer. It is claimed that the photos were taken in the closing months of the country’s long-running conflict that ended 18 months ago. One of the photos shows a line of bodies, including what is believed to be the body of the son of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, that was defeated in the civil war. Another photo shows the naked body of a young woman and the body of a boy, perhaps in his early teens. It is not possible to verify the authenticity of the images that were obtained by Al Jazeera from Tamil contacts who said the photos were handed over by someone from the Sri Lankan military. It is unclear why it has taken so long from them to surface.

Iraq / Violence against Christians

"At least 14 roadside bombs exploded across the city [of Baghdad] on Wednesday." (Agence France-Presse)
Christians Targeted in Iraq Attacks, November 10, 2010
"A series of bomb and mortar attacks targeting Christians have killed three people and injured 24 others in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, according to police sources. Attackers detonated at least 14 roadside bombs in predominantly Christians areas within a two-hour period on Wednesday morning and a mortar round struck in the southern Doura district. 'These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the [October 31] attack that targeted the Salvation church,' an Iraqi interior ministry source said. The official referred to the October 31 attack that killed more than 50 people at a Catholic cathedral in the capital. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for that attack and has threatened more violence against the Christian community. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghdad, said Christians in Iraq have been a typical target of al-Qaeda fighters following the US-led invasion in March 2003. 'We have seen Christians fleeing Iraq between 2004 and 2006. Their numbers now are down to a third,' she said. 'This is a stepped-up attack to revive the chaos that has affected the Christian community in the past.' Younadem Kana, a Christian parliamentarian, condemned the violence and blamed police and military for failing to protect Christians despite boosting security measures at churches around the capital. 'These attacks are not targeting only Christians, but also the government that has promised to protect the Christians,' Kana said. He said Wednesday's bombings exposed "grave flaws in the structure and the work of Iraq's security forces," and that attacks will continue as long as the country remains without a government that represents all Iraqis. Tensions have been running high since the inconclusive parliamentary elections in March left Shia, Sunni and Kurdish political factions rallying support for a new government and raising fears of renewed violence."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Iraq / Anfal Campaign

"Ali Ahmad, who survived the gas attack in 1988, greets his mother after more than two decades apart." (Associated Press)
A Happy Ending to the Worst Atrocity of Saddam's Regime
By Catrina Stewart
The Independent, November 10, 2010
"Etched on to the marbled walls of Halabja's memorial centre are the names of the thousands of victims of the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja. One name, though, is ringed in green, because the boy who died never actually died at all. At four months old, Zmnaku 'Ali' Ahmad was believed to be one of the youngest victims of the attack, which claimed 5,000 lives and remains the single worst atrocity of Saddam Hussein's rule. But he was whisked away to safety by Iranian soldiers, and grew up in Iran, believing that his real mother was dead. But last year he was reunited with his birth mother, Fatima Saleh, after a request for Iraqi identity papers led him to find his real parents. 'When I first saw Halabja [last year], I started crying,' says Mr. Ahmad, 23, who is now studying English in Sulaymaniya before embarking on a degree course in IT. 'It was a very strange feeling for me.' The tragedy of Halabja was the culmination of the Iraqi regime's brutal campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s, aimed at crushing Kurdish resistance in the northof Iraq. Some 200,000 Iraqi Kurds died during the campaign, often brutally, and hundreds of villages were destroyed. But it was the particularly horrific nature of the attack on Halabja that would come to symbolise the regime's ruthless repression of the Kurds.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Romania / Jewish Holocaust

Mass Grave with Remains of 100 Jews Found in Romania
Associated Press dispatch in The Irish Times, November 6, 2010
"A Holocaust-era mass grave containing the bodies of an estimated 100 Jews killed by Romanian troops has been discovered in a forest, researchers said yesterday, offering further evidence of the country’s involvement in wartime crimes. The grave, in a forest near the Romanian town of Popricani, contained the bodies of men, women and children who were shot dead in 1941, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania said in a statement. The find offered evidence of pogroms against Jews in the region, scholars said, campaigns that were long minimised in a country whose official history taught that Germans were the sole perpetrators of the Holocaust. Sketchy reports about the possibility of a mass grave in the forest began to appear in 2002 and local authorities began an investigation, but it was later suspended after nothing was found. Experts resumed the investigation at the site and began interviewing witnesses again in 2009, according to Romanian historian Adrian Cioflanca. Some 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was prime minister from 1940 to 1944.

Congo / Sexual Violence against Women

Hundreds Were Raped on Congo-Angola Border
By Jeffrey Gettleman
The New York Times, November 5, 2010
"More than 600 women and girls were recently raped along the Congo-Angola border during a mass expulsion of illegal immigrants, according to the United Nations. Many of the victims said they were locked in dungeon-like conditions for several weeks while they were raped repeatedly by security forces. At least one woman died from her internal injuries, United Nations officials said. Maurizio Giuliano, a United Nations spokesman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Friday that it was unclear on which side of the Congo-Angola border the women had been attacked, and that the United Nations was calling on both countries to investigate promptly. 'What worries us is that rape seems to be becoming endemic in several parts of Congo,' Mr. Giuliano said, also referring to recent rapes in the eastern Kivu provinces. 'We fear it’s becoming part of the routine.' For the past decade, Congo has been torn apart by dozens of rebel groups that have often swept into villages and brutalized women. United Nations officials call Congo the worst place in the world for sexual violence, and even the longstanding presence of international peacekeepers has not been able to stop it. A few months ago, more than 200 women were raped in a single thatched-roof village in eastern Congo while United Nations peacekeepers were less than 12 miles away. [...]"

Video of the Month

Daniel Goldhagen, author of Hitler's Willing Executioners and the recent Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault against Humanity, provides a wide-ranging two-hour overview of genocide in the modern world, in this 2010 PBS documentary. Goldhagen's egotism is a little overweening, but the film is well worth watching. View it in its entirety here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

European Union / Iraq

European Court Demands Halt to Forcible Return of Iraqi Asylum Seekers
By Owen Bowcott
The Guardian, November 5, 2010
"The government's programme of deporting failed asylum seekers to Iraq has been thrown into confusion after the European court of human rights ruled that forcible returns to Baghdad should be suspended immediately because of an upsurge in sectarian violence and suicide bombings. The court decision has already led to the Netherlands halting all removal flights to Iraq. In the UK, the Home Office pledged to 'continue to undertake' deportations but acknowledged that in cases where the Strasbourg court supported petitions from individuals it would not enforce removal. Since the European court of human rights (ECHR) has indicated that requests from Iraqis heading for Baghdad should, for the time being, be granted as a matter of routine, it means that many Iraqi deportees who apply to the court will be allowed to stay in Britain. But the impact of this legal advice could trigger a clash with the Strasbourg court. The Kurdish regional government in the north of Iraq already refuses to accept flights from the UK which carry forcibly deported Kurds, so the latest restriction will effectively prevent the government removing most Iraqis for the time being.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Indonesia / West Papua

Papuan Tells of Torture by Indonesian Soldiers
By Tom Allard
The Sydney Morning Herald, November 5, 2010
Photo: Karuni Rompies
"A Papuan man depicted in a video being burnt, suffocated and hit by Indonesian troops says he was tortured for two days, according to his testimony recorded and translated by Papuan activists. Tunaliwor Kiwo was shown in agony as the soldiers burnt his penis in the video, which was filmed in May and revealed exclusively in the Herald last month. It prompted a horrified response in Indonesia and around the world, and led to the rapid arrest of five Indonesian soldiers, who face a military tribunal today. But in the new testimony Mr. Kiwo, filmed two weeks ago, said the abuse was far worse than depicted in the first video. He spoke of being repeatedly beaten and suffocated, of his head being crashed into a wall and of being burnt with cigarettes during the first day of torture, which followed his arrest as he travelled by motorcycle with his friend Telangga Gire on the road from Tingginambut to Mulia, the capital of Puncak Jaya regency, a hotbed of separatist activity.

Serbia / Croatia

Serbian President Apologizes for 1991 Massacre of Croats
Associated Press dispatch in The Hamilton Spectator, November 4, 2010
"Serbian President Boris Tadic apologized Thursday at the site where more than 200 Croats were massacred, offering the strongest condemnation to date by a leader from Serbia of wartime atrocities committed by the country. Laying a wreath at Ovcara, a former pig farm where a mass grave remains a painful symbol for Croats of Serb brutality during the 1991 ethnic war, Tadic said he came to 'bow down before the victims.' 'By acknowledging the crime, by apologizing and regretting, we are opening the way for forgiveness and reconciliation,' Tadic said. A few hours later, Croatian counterpart Ivo Josipovic laid a wreath at the graveyard of 18 Serbs killed by Croats in 1991 in a nearby village of Paulin Dvor and Josipovic said that 'those who are left behind those victims deserve our apology.' 'A crime has no justification; revenge cannot be justified by a crime,' Josipovic said. The slaying in Paulin Dvor came a month after the massacre at Ovcara. Though relations between the neighbours have vastly improved, the two presidents’ joint tour of the killing sites and apologies offer a symbolic step of reconciliation after years of mutual accusations over atrocities. Tadic is the first Serb leader to visit Ovcara, the site of one of the worst massacres of the Balkan conflicts that followed the post-communism breakup of Yugoslavia. Accompanied by Josipovic, Tadic said the two of them visited the site near the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar 'to create the possibility that Croats and Serbs can turn a new page of history.'

Israel / United Kingdom / Universal Jursidiction

Israel Ambushes Hague over Arrest Warrants
By Donald Macintyre
The Independent, November 4, 2010
"Israel and Britain moved last night to limit the damage of an Israeli diplomatic ambush that threatened to overshadow the first official visit to the Middle East by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary. British officials were infuriated yesterday when Mr Hague arrived in the region to be confronted with the news that Israel had unilaterally cancelled a series of high-level 'strategic dialogue' meetings between the two countries. The move was a protest against the UK's failure to block arrest warrants being issued against Israeli generals and politicians visiting Britain. The news of the cancellation was broadcast by Israel Radio yesterday, which cited anonymous sources in Israel's foreign ministry. It was quickly confirmed by the ministry. British officials were taken by surprise by the move and were particularly disturbed by the cancellation as Mr Hague was intending to announce later this week that the Government would legislate this year to prevent private individuals from issuing arrest warrants. The warrants -- which have been issued against Israeli politicians and generals accused of war crimes -- have been a source of tension since 2005 when Doron Almog, a retired Israeli major-general, decided not to land at Heathrow after being tipped off that he was facing an arrest warrant from a private prosecution in an English magistrates' court for alleged war crimes. A number of prominent Israeli figures have subsequently cancelled trips to the UK, including the leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, who was a member of the Israeli government when it ordered the military onslaught on Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2008-09. This week it was disclosed that Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, had cancelled a private trip to London after being advised that he could face private proceedings over the interception of a Gaza-bound Turkish vessel in May. [...]"

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Iraq / Violence against Christians

Al Qaeda Ally in Iraq Says All Christians "Legitimate Targets"
By Taylor Barnes
The Christian Science Monitor, November 3, 2010
Photo: "Iraqi Christian women react during a funeral for two slain priests and their parishioners in Baghdad on Nov. 2." (Hadi Mizban/AP)
"The Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent group and Al Qaeda ally, on Tuesday declared all the country's Christians 'legitimate targets.' The group says it believes that Muslim women are being held against their will in Coptic churches in Egypt. The Egyptian state; the Coptic church; and Egypt's leading Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, have all condemned the threats of violence against Christians. The threat came while Iraq was still reeling from a series of car bombs across the capital Tuesday that killed at least 113 people in Shiite neighborhoods. The attacks bore the hallmarks of Sunni Arab militants like the Islamic State of Iraq. Tuesday's massacre appeared designed to fuel sectarian violence against Shiites. That followed Sunday's targeting of Christians, when the Islamic State of Iraq seized a Catholic church in Baghdad and killed 58 people during a standoff with police. It was said to be the deadliest attack against Christians ever recorded in Iraq. 'All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the mujahideen [holy warriors],' the Islamic State of Iraq said in a statement posted online late Tuesday. Sunni militant chatrooms have been inflamed in recent weeks with claims that the Egyptian Coptic church is forcibly holding two women, wives of Coptic priests, who converted to Islam. 'Let these idolaters, and at their forefront, the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican, know that the killing sword will not be lifted from the necks of their followers until they declare their innocence from what the dog of the Egyptian Church is doing,' the message continued. The Coptic church is the Egyptian branch of the Eastern Orthodox right and as many as 10 percent of Egyptians claim the faith. [...]"

Liberia / Sierra Leone / International Criminal Court

Is the Case Against Charles Taylor Falling Apart?
By Thomas Darnstädt and Jan Puhl
Spiegel Online, November 3, 2010
Photo: "Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appears with his defense attorney in the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2006." (Agence France-Presse)
"[...] Crimes against humanity, mass murder, rape, mutilation, the blame for the massacres that took place during the civil war that raged in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002: the charges against the African politician are as massive as the prosecutors' ambition to force a murderous head of state to atone for his crimes for the first time in history. But the more unbearable the details of this bloody African conflict become in the neon-lit courtroom, the more agonizing is the game of guilt and atonement, and the more untouchable this former president, in his silver-gray tie, gray suit and white pocket handkerchief, becomes. Nothing seems to stick this defendant. Cannibalism? Taylor feigns disgust. What does he have to do with such atrocities, he asks? More than 90 witnesses have already testified. The International Criminal Court in The Hague is currently in the process of hearing the last of the oral evidence, and the man who was almost certain of taking his place in history as the 'Butcher of Monrovia' appears to be emerging as a winner, at least for now.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Uganda / Violence against Homosexuals

Ugandan Tabloid Publishes New "Gay List", November 1, 2010
"The editor of a tabloid in Uganda who argues that homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking, has published a list of 10 gay and lesbian people in the African nation, urging readers to report them to the police. It's the second time that Rolling Stone -- no relation to the iconic U.S. music magazine -- has published such a list. Last time it listed 100 of what it called the country's top gays and lesbians, with photos and addresses alongside a yellow banner reading 'hang them.' Gay rights groups in Uganda say at least four people have been attacked since then. And a bill that would make homosexuality potentially punishable by death is working its way through Uganda's parliament. The new gay list includes addresses and alleged intimate details about the anatomy of people on it. Editor Giles Muhame, 22, has discouraged readers to physically attack people on the list, but he claims gay people are going to schools and 'recruiting' schoolchildren. He says the bill imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality will become law when Uganda begins drilling oil and becomes less dependent on foreign donors.

Zimbabwe / Matabeleland

It Was Genocide -- Coltart
By Mernat Mafirakurewa
Newsday (Zimbabwe), October 31, 2010
"Education, Arts, Sport and Culture minister David Coltart has equated the post-independence disturbances in Matabeleland that left an estimated 20 000 people dead, to genocide. Coltart said it was a shame that the country had failed dismally to deal with past disturbances by setting up a truth, justice and reconciliation process as had happened elsewhere on the continent. Speaking at the 13th annual Lozikeyi Lecture at the Bulawayo National Art Gallery on Friday, Coltart described Zimbabwe as a nation with a bloody history littered with years of serious human rights violations, violence, abuse of power, racial and ethnic discrimination. Queen Lozikeyi was one of the senior wives of King Lobengula, the second and last monarch of the Ndebele people who ruled until 1894. 'The first 30 years post-independence have been marked by serious and consistent human rights abuses, including a politicide, if not genocide, which occurred in the mid-1980s in the south-west of the country,' said Coltart. 'In other words, Zimbabwe has had a lot of psychological and physical trauma to deal with as a nation and art has a critical role to play as we delve beyond subjective interpretations of history and begin to realise the truth of our past.' He said 2010 had been a traumatic year for the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo because it has been the focus of a clash between certain arms of government and art. The exhibition by Owen Maseko entitled Sibathontisele, focusing on the Gukurahundi mass killings era, was earlier this year banned and the artist still faces serious charges in court. At the same time the sculpture Looking Into The Future, by Stanley Hadebe, of a nude man, was also banned. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Geoff Hill for bringing this source to my attention.]

Iraq / Violence against Christians

Iraqi Christians Mourn after Church Siege Kills 58
By Barbara Surk and Hamid Ahmed
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, November 1, 2010
Photo: "Iraqi security forces survey the scene outside the Sayidat al-Nejat Catholic Cathedral, or Syrian Catholic Church, in central Baghdad." (Sabah Arar/Agence France-Presse)
"Iraq's dwindling Christian community was grieving and afraid on Monday after militants seized a Baghdad church during evening Mass, held the congregation hostage and triggered a raid by Iraqi security forces. The bloodbath left at least 58 people killed and 78 wounded -- nearly everyone inside. The attack, claimed by an al-Qaida-linked organization, was the deadliest ever recorded against Iraq's Christians, whose numbers have plummeted since the 2003 US-led invasion as the community has fled to other countries. Outside Our Lady of Deliverance church, Raed Hadi leaned against the car carrying his cousin's coffin, waiting for the police to let him bury him on church grounds. 'It was a massacre in there and now they are cleaning it up,' he said Monday morning. 'We Christians don't have enough protection. ... What shall I do now? Leave and ask for asylum?' 'Now they make a show,' said Jamal Jaju, who watched as Iraqi forces set up a chain link fence around the church and pushed back observers. 'What can I say? I lost at least 20 friends in there.' Pope Benedict XVI denounced the assault as 'ferocious' and called for renewed international efforts to broker peace in the region. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also condemned the siege, saying it was an attempt to drive more Christians out of the country. Islamic militants have systematically attacked Christians in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. Catholics made up 2.89 percent of Iraq's population in 1980; by 2008 they were merely 0.89 percent. [...]"

Bosnia and Herzegovina / Sexual Violence against Women

Rape Victims Tell Jolie to Leave Stories Untold
By Vesna Peric Zimonjic
The Independent, November 1, 2010
"The women's stories are all the same, about men carrying automatic weapons and flashlights, and breaking into their homes in the middle of the night at the beginning of the Balkan war in April 1992. After the men had been taken away or killed, the Muslim girls and women were repeatedly raped for weeks or even months by Serb soldiers, before managing to flee in the summer of 1992. Since then the women have had to live with the trauma of what happened, and have spent nearly two decades looking for justice. The ordeal of the Bosniak women has been thrust into the spotlight again, after it was announced recently that Angelina Jolie is to make a film which will allegedly tell of the love between a Serb rapist and his Muslim victim. The Hollywood star is to begin shooting her first project as a director and scriptwriter, as yet untitled, in Sarajevo next month. But for victims of mass rapes in Bosnia, the idea of their stories being retold is almost torture. Their faces offer horrified expressions, their hands shake and bodies tremble as they speak, in tears, about events that changed their lives forever. For Bakira Hasecic, the 55-year-old head of the Women Victims of War (WVW) association, there is no way anyone can turn the trauma of Bosniak women into film. 'What we have gone through cannot be filmed,' says Ms. Hasecic in Sarajevo. Originally from Visegrad in Bosnia, she is also victim of repeated rape and has dedicated her life to finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. 'I'm doing all this to prevent our ordeal from ever happening again ... but revenge leads nowhere,' she told The Independent. [...]"