Sunday, April 22, 2012

Brazil / Genocides of Indigenous Peoples

"They're Killing Us": World's Most Endangered Tribe Cries for Help
By Gethin Chamberlain
The Observer, April 21, 2012
"Trundling along the dirt roads of the Amazon, the giant logging lorry dwarfed the vehicle of the investigators following it. The trunks of nine huge trees were piled high on the back -- incontrovertible proof of the continuing destruction of the world's greatest rainforest and its most endangered tribe, the Awá. Yet as they travelled through the jungle early this year, the small team from Funai -- Brazil's National Indian Foundation -- did not dare try to stop the loggers; the vehicle was too large and the loggers were almost certainly armed. All they could do was video the lorry and add the film to the growing mountain of evidence showing how the Awá -- with only 355 surviving members, more than 100 of whom have had no contact with the outside world -- are teetering on the edge of extinction. It is a scene played out throughout the Amazon as the authorities struggle to tackle the powerful illegal logging industry. But it is not just the loss of the trees that has created a situation so serious that it led a Brazilian judge, José Carlos do Vale Madeira, to describe it as 'a real genocide'. People are pouring on to the Awá's land, building illegal settlements, running cattle ranches. Hired gunmen -- known as pistoleros -- are reported to be hunting Awá who have stood in the way of land-grabbers. Members of the tribe describe seeing their families wiped out. Human rights campaigners say the tribe has reached a tipping point and only immediate action by the Brazilian government to prevent logging can save the tribe.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Iraq / Iraqi Kurdistan

"Kurds in northern Diyala Province have faced a campaign of terror. In Jalawla, a Kurdish official's home was bombed." (Ayman Oghanna/The New York Times)
In the Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity
By Tim Arango
The New York Times, April 21, 2012
"In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed. 'Wisam has been killed,' read one message sent to a cousin. 'Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.' After Mr. Jumai's killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein's policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs. Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq's Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military's withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Baghdad. The schism, which is most immediately over sharing oil wealth but is more deeply about historical grievances and Kurdish aspirations for independence, raises serious questions about the future of a unified Iraq. The crisis, American officials say, is far more grave than the political tensions between the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the country's Sunni Arab minority set off by an arrest warrant on terrorism charges issued in December for Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president. The Kurds, unlike the Sunnis, have their own security forces, oil reserves, ports of entry and even their own de facto foreign policy, with envoys operating in other countries. This could eventually lead them to seek more independence from Baghdad. 'Fearing a resurgence of a strong central state, Kurdish leaders want to leave Iraq, and they appear to believe their moment to do so may soon arrive,' wrote Joost Hiltermann, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, in a recent report. [...]"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sudan / South Sudan / South Kordofan

"Rahma Mohammed Osman, Sudanese undersecretary of foreign affairs, pictured after Sudan's parliament called a halt to negotiations with South Sudan." (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)
The International Community Must Wake Up to Looming Sudan Disaster
By Simon Tisdall
The Guardian, April 18, 2012
"Sudan burns -- and the world yawns. Clashes along the north-south border multiply and spread, presaging all-out war -- and the UN talks vaguely of new sanctions. Khartoum's parliament brands newly independent South Sudan an 'enemy', oil wells burn, civilians are bombed, a humanitarian emergency looms -- and Thabo Mbeki, the African Union's forlorn mediator, suggests there is not much he can do. In the order of global business, it seems Sudan does not rate highly. This is odd, given the massive effort the US, Britain, and other guarantors put into securing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended 22 years of civil war. The deal was loudly applauded at the time, leading directly to last year's southern secession. But its loose ends, principally over border demarcation and oil sharing, may be its undoing. Both countries say they remain committed to peace. Neither can afford another conflict. But in Mbeki's words, they are trapped in the 'logic of war'. Expressions of alarm are not in short supply following the provocative occupation by southern forces last week of the oil-producing Heglig region of South Kordofan state. The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called for an immediate halt to hostilities. Egypt has tried in vain to bring the two sides together. China, which will host South Sudan's president Salva Kiir this month, seeks a resumption of suspended oil output. Even Iran, ostensibly playing the good guy though doubtless eyeing Israeli support for the Juba government, has called for calm. But Kiir, like his opposite number in Khartoum, President Omar al-Bashir, is acting stubborn, drawing on decades of mutual distrust, bad faith and bloody-mindedness while casting aside more recent pledges of amity. Kiir complained last week, in a boastful sort of way, that he could not sleep for all the phone calls he was getting. 'Those who have been calling me starting with the UN secretary-general, he gave me an order that I'm ordering you to immediately withdraw from Heglig. I said I'm not under your command,' Kiir said. For his part, Bashir told Egypt's foreign minister he would resume negotiations only after southern forces left Heglig (which produces half of Sudan's oil). According to the official Sudan news agency, Bashir said Sudan reserved the right to respond to the occupation of Heglig 'in any manner that guarantees its security, sovereignty and stability'. That was a clear hint that a big counter-offensive could be in the making. And for once at least, Bashir has a modicum of western understanding, if not sympathy. [...]"

Monday, April 09, 2012

Sudan / South Kordofan

Southern Kordofan: Unfinished Business
Al Jazeera, April 9, 2012
"Sudan, once Africa's biggest country, has been in conflict for decades. The mainly African south and predominately Arab north fought for almost 40 years over the past six decades over differences in ideology, politics, resources, land and oil. The most recent war raged from 1983 to 2005, claiming the lives of at least two million people and leaving another four million displaced. When South Sudan became independent in July 2011, it was supposed to usher in a new period of peace and stability in the region. But Sudan is still highly unstable with a continuing humanitarian crisis in Darfur in the west and fighting in oil-rich regions bordering South Sudan together known as the 'Three Areas'. The country is also recovering from a conflict in the east. Southern Kordofan is region that used to be the geographical centre of Sudan, but when the south won independence, it found itself on the southern border.  At its heart is the Nuba Mountains where some 50 black African tribes have lived for thousands of years. There was heavy fighting in the region during the north-south civil war, but the comprehensive peace agreement that ended the conflict never resolved its status. In a special show, Al Jazeera investigates a hidden war in the remote state of Southern Kordofan in Sudan where rebels are fighting to defend their people against what they say is 'genocide'. Al Jazeera's Peter Greste travelled to the isolated Nuba Mountains where he found entire communities hiding in caves from a bombing campaign that Khartoum says is aimed only at putting down an armed insurrection. [...]"

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Serbia / Kosovo

"Graffiti criticising the EU's rule of law mission in Kosovo, which is known as Eulex." (Mary Fitzgerald)
Festering Sore That is Northern Kosovo
By Mary Fitzgerald
The Irish Times, April 9, 2012
"Not so long ago the smoke-filled La Dolce Vita bar next to Mitrovica’s flashpoint bridge was synonymous with Serb vigilantes known as 'bridge watchers' whose job it was to keep ethnic Albanians out of their enclave. Its position overlooking the Ibar river that marks the dividing line between the town's Serb-dominated northern flank and its ethnic Albanian south provided the bar's patrons with a birds-eye view, but also made it a target for attack. The 'bridge watchers' are still there, but La Dolce Vita's customers are now a more diverse bunch. They include university students such as Alexandra and Sasha who chain-smoke while bemoaning the lack of opportunity in this grimy former industrial town. 'We have cafes like this and nothing else,' says Alexandra. 'Sometimes it feels like we have been forgotten.' Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since been recognised by the US and 22 of the EU’s 27 member states. But the fate of the Serb-dominated pockets of northern Kosovo, whose residents effectively live as if still forming part of Serbia, remains a festering sore, while their resentment of the Pristina government continues to bubble. Nowhere is the divide between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and its Serb minority as obvious as in the hinterland that surrounds this contested northern town.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Bosnia and Herzegovina / Post-Genocide Reconciliation

"A woman peers from the window of her bullet-riddled flat in the Grbavica district of Sarajevo, Bosnia, during the war." (Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Images)
Bosnian War 20 Years On: Peace Holds But Conflict Continues to Haunt
By Julian Borger
The Guardian, April 4, 2012
"In the last heavy storm of the winter, so much snow built up on the roof of Skenderija, one of Sarajevo's most important commercial centres, that it caved in, crushing cars, offices and shops. The cause was evident: no one had got round to clearing the roof until it was too late. Nonetheless, the authorities blamed the war. Bosnia's war, which brought the worst atrocities Europe had seen since the Nazi era, began 20 years ago on Thursday. It has been over for more than 16 years, in which time the country has been more peaceful that even the optimists dared hope. Yet it continues to haunt the blighted country -- as a constant excuse for dysfunction, as a bitter memory, a psychic scar and a malaise. At the anniversary of the conflict the internationally enforced peace settlement still holds, but there is little else to celebrate. Bosnia is more divided now than two decades ago. Intermarriage between the three principal ethnic groups -- Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs -- is far less common that it was before the war, and children in Bosnia's two constituent entities, a Bosniak-Croat federation, and a Serb republic (Republika Srpska) are now growing up with minimal contact with each other. The once cosmopolitan capital, Sarajevo, is now almost monolithically Bosniak.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Germany / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide and Restitution

German Railway Fears Flood of Lawsuits over Holocaust Trains
By Tony Paterson
The Independent, April 3, 2012
"The German railway company Deutsche Bahn has engaged a New York law firm to fight off compensation claims that it might face under proposed legislation enabling Holocaust victims and their relatives to sue for damages in US courts. The state-owned network is the main successor to the Nazi-run Deutsche Reichsbahn which, along with other railways in German-occupied Europe, deported millions of Jews to death camps during the Second World War. Deutsche Bahn has in the past compensated Holocaust victims under extensive German government reparations to survivors. The German Foundation Agreement reached with the US in 2000 was considered to have conclusively resolved all outstanding claims against Germany. But under the laws proposed by the US Holocaust Rail Justice Act, which is now before Congress, Deutsche Bahn fears it could face fresh compensation claims in US courts. Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said: 'To the best of my knowledge, no railroad company has ever been forced to compensate deportees. The cardinal question is the degree of independence which each railway company had in dealing with the deportations of the Jews.' Deutsche Bahn has been highly guarded about Holocaust issues in the past. In 2006, it refused to allow a French exhibition about the role of trains in death camp deportations to be shown at German stations. Last year, a group of eastern European victims of the Nazis announced plans to file a suit against the company in an American court. Contacted by Der Spiegel magazine yesterday, Deutsche Bahn said it had recruited lawyers and PR advisers to monitor the situation in America, but refused to comment further. It is reported to have contracted the New York PR company Strategy XXI Partners to develop a 'communications plan related to Holocaust asset issues'.

Eastern Europe / Baltic States / Neo-Nazism / Anti-Semitism

"With Latvian flags, people march in a procession to honor soldiers who fought in a Waffen SS unit during World War II, in Riga, Latvia, Tuesday, March 16, 2012." (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov)
Eastern Europe's Hitler Nostalgia
By Michael Goldfarb
Global Post on, April 2, 2012
"In the Baltic States they celebrate their liberation from the Soviet Union in the middle of March. Winter's worst lies grey on the streets, but that doesn’t stop people in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, and Riga, capital of Latvia, from marching solemnly to honor the heroes who fought vainly to keep the Soviet Union at bay. Among those who march are groups who honor those who fell wearing the uniform of the Waffen SS, the military arm of the notorious Nazi paramilitary unit. These SS veteran marches are not fringe events. Thousands march and thousands more turn out to cheer them on. The parades' permits are applied for by members of the governing party in parliament. Marchers are defended by the government. Latvia's president Andris Berzins reportedly praised the SS veterans on Latvian television last week, 'It's crazy to think they're war criminals.' Berzins added, 'Many people lost their lives for the future of Latvia. I don't see any basis to deny this ... it seems to me it's not acceptable to dishonor these people, before whom we should bow our heads,' he said. It's not just on Independence Day that the Nazi past intrudes on public life. In 2008, the Lithuanian parliament passed a law banning the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols. In 2010, a local Lithuanian court ruled that Swastikas were exempt from that law because the twisted crosses were 'Lithuania's historical heritage rather than symbols of Nazi Germany.' It would be easier to accept that explanation if the crowds didn’t cheer the marchers on with cries of 'Juden Raus!' or 'Jews out!' as eyewitnesses have attested. The official tolerance for marches honoring those who fought with the SS is part of a general trend in the Baltic States and all along the eastern borders of Europe: an embrace of a form of exclusionary nationalism that belongs to the 19th century, rather than the globalized 21st. It is the kind of nationalism that underpinned Hitler's theory of 'One People and One Reich.'