Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poland / Jewish Holocaust / Genocide Rescuers

"Dozens of elderly Poles who helped save Jews during World War II were celebrated and praised for their heroism at a lunch in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday July 15, 2012." (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Polish Rescuers of Jews Celebrated as Heroes
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, July 15, 2012
"For decades, nobody really talked about them: the thousands of Poles, mostly Roman Catholics, who risked their lives during World War II to save Jewish friends, neighbors and even strangers. Those discovered by the Germans were executed quickly, often with their entire families. And then, under communism, there was silence. The Jewish survivors would send letters and gifts in gratitude. But the Polish state ignored the rescuers. And they themselves kept quiet, out of modesty, or shame or fear of anti-Semitism. Sometimes they worried gift packages from the West would arouse the jealousy of neighbors in a period of economic deprivation. 'It wasn't considered anything to be proud of,' said Ewa Ligia Zdanowicz , an 81-year-old whose parents hid a Jewish teenage girl in their home during the war. That era is over. A moving gathering of dozens of the rescuers on Sunday in Warsaw shows just how much has changed in Poland in the 23 years since communism fell. Dozens of Polish rescuers were celebrated and dined over a kosher lunch in an upscale hotel where Jewish representatives took turns praising them in speeches for their heroism. The rescuers themselves deny that they are exceptional. With each other, they discuss other things, often their failing health, avoiding memories of executions and other brutality that they witnessed and which still bring them to tears. 'We did what we had to do,' said Halina Szaszkiewicz, 89. 'There was nothing heroic about it.'

Burma / Extermination

"Burma is accused of continuing its 'abusive treatment' of ethnic Rohingya minority in Arakan state, many of whom have be put in displacememnt camps." (AFP/Getty Images)
Burma "Creating Humanitarian Crisis" with Displacement Camps in Arakan
By Francis Wade
The Guardian, July 13, 2012
"Aid workers have warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in western Burma as authorities attempt to isolate tens of thousands of the displaced ethnic Rohingya minority in camps described by one aid worker as 'open air prisons'. Aid has struggled to reach those affected by sectarian unrest in early June, as abusive treatment by Burmese authorities continues. The UN announced on Friday that 10 aid workers in Arakan state had been arrested, five of whom were UN staff. Some have been charged, although the details remain unclear. Rates of malnutrition among the Muslim Rohingya, who have borne the brunt of emergency measures implemented in the wake of fierce rioting in early June between the minority group and the majority Arakanese, are said to be 'alarming'. The vast majority of aid workers assisting the Rohingya in Arakan have been either evacuated or forced to flee in recent weeks. 'We are worried that malnutrition rates already have and will continue to rise dramatically; if free and direct humanitarian access accompanied by guaranteed security is not granted with the shortest delay, there's no way they won't rise,' said Tarik Kadir of Action Against Hunger. The group's staff were forced to leave northern Arakan state, where some 800,000 Rohingya live and where malnutrition rates were already far above the global indicator for a health crisis. With scant medical care reaching the area, the situation is likely to worsen. 'There's no way of measuring the impact over the past month because staff have either been evacuated or forced to flee,' he said. 'And given that rainy season is underway, when you factor in all these other problems, we don't need to measure it to know it's a catastrophe.'

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bosnia and Herzegovina / Srebrenica Massacre

"A woman weeps over the coffin of a relative before the burial of 520 newly identified victims of the Srebrenica massacre." (Fehiim Demir/EPA)
Hundreds of Srebrenica Massacre Victims to be Laid to Rest
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, July 11, 2012
"Muslims in Bosnia are heading to Srebrenica to attend a funeral for 520 newly identified victims of Europe's worst massacre since the second world war. The remains of those Muslim men and boys slaughtered 17 years ago at Srebrenica around 11 July 1995 will be laid to rest on Wednesday in the town whose name is now synonymous with genocide. Ambulances are also standing ready to help those among the tens of thousands for whom the event will be too much to handle. Rabija Hrustanovic found the remains of her husband and brother among the sea of simple green coffins waiting to be buried. 'I want to lay down next to them and stay here forever,' she said before breaking into tears. Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim town in Bosnia besieged by Serb forces throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic overran the enclave in July 1995, separated men from women and killed 8,000 men and boys within just a few days. Dutch troops stationed in Srebrenica as UN peacekeepers were undermanned and outgunned, and failed to intervene. The bodies of the victims are still being found in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia. The task has been made even more difficult by the fact that the perpetrators dug up mass graves and reburied remains in other mass graves to try to cover their tracks. The victims have been identified through DNA analysis and newly identified ones are buried at the Srebrenica memorial centre every year. So far, more than 5,000 Srebrenica victims found this way have been laid to rest. Mladic was arrested last year in Serbia and is on trial now at the tribunal in The Hague. He faces 11 charges, including genocide, for allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the war that left 100,000 dead, especially the Srebrenica massacre. He denies wrongdoing."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Friday, July 06, 2012

India / Kashmir / Forced Disappearances

"Relatives of the missing attended a protest organized by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons in Kashmir on November 28, 2010." (Rouf Bhat/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
India's Blood-Stained Democracy
By Mirza Waheed
The New York Times, July 6, 2012
"Last September, a lawmaker in Indian-controlled Kashmir stood up in the state's legislative assembly and spoke of a valley filled with human carcasses near his home constituency in the mountains: 'In our area, there are big gorges, where there are the bones of several hundred people who were eaten by crows.' I read about this in faraway London and was filled with a chill -- I had written of a similar valley, a fictional one, in my novel about the lost boys of Kashmir. The assembly was debating a report on the uncovering of more than 2,000 unmarked and mass graves not far from the Line of Control that divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The report, by India's government-appointed State Human Rights Commission, marked the first official acknowledgment of the presence of mass graves. More significantly, the report found that civilians, potentially the victims of extrajudicial killings, may be buried at some of the sites. Corpses were brought in by the truckload and buried on an industrial scale. The report cataloged 2,156 bullet-riddled bodies found in mountain graves and called for an inquiry to identify them. Many were men described as 'unidentified militants' killed in fighting with soldiers during the armed rebellion against Indian rule during the 1990s, but according to the report, more than 500 were local residents. 'There is every probability,' the report concluded, that the graves might 'contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances,' a euphemism for people who have been detained, abducted, taken away by armed forces or the police, often without charge or conviction, and never seen again. Had the graves been found under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound in Libya or in the rubble of Homs in Syria, there surely would have been an uproar. But when over 2,000 skeletons appear in the conflict-ridden backyard of the world’s largest democracy, no one bats an eye.