|"A young cattle herder from the Dinka tribe carries his AK 47 rifle near Rumbek, capital of the Lakes State in central South Sudan." (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)|
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
By Daniel Howden
The Guardian, December 23, 2013
"A week ago, Simon K, a 20-year-old student living in the capital of South Sudan, was arrested by men in military uniforms. He was asked a question that has taken on deadly importance in the world's newest country in the past seven days: incholdi -- 'What is your name?' in Dinka, the language of the country's president and its largest ethnic group. Those who, like Simon, were unable to answer, risked being identified as Nuer, the ethnic group of the former vice-president now leading the armed opposition and facing the brunt of what insiders are describing as the world's newest civil war. Simon K was taken to a police station in the Gudele market district of Juba, where he was marched past several dead bodies and locked in a room with other young men, all Nuer. 'We counted ourselves and found we were 252,' he told the Guardian. 'Then they put guns in through the windows and started to shoot us.' The massacre continued for two days with soldiers returning at intervals to shoot again if they saw any sign of life. Simon was one of 12 men to survive the assault by covering themselves in the bodies of the dead and dying. Simon spoke from inside the UN compound that has become an emergency sanctuary to the remaining Nuer in the capital. Sitting on a filthy mattress by the side of a dirt road, with bandages covering bullet wounds in his stomach and legs, he recalled: 'It was horrible, because to survive I had to cover myself with the bodies of dead people, and during the two days, the bodies started to smell really bad.' In the space of seven desperate days, the UN base has been transformed from a logistics hub for an aid operation into a squalid sanctuary for more than 10,000 people. Amid the confusion of bodies and belongings, a handmade sign hangs from the rolls of razor wire. 'The lord is our best defender,' it reads. But there is no sign here of the lord's defence, as the country that gained independence in 2011 with huge international fanfare and support has come apart in the space of a week.
Friday, September 20, 2013
|"Many of the men named on the list were arrested or disappeared in 1978 and 1979 after a military coup." (AFP/Getty Images)|
By Emma Graham-Harrison
The Guardian, September 20, 2013
"The names of nearly 5,000 Afghans killed by a Soviet-backed government in purges that marked the start of decades of violence have been published by the Dutch government, 35 years after the men died. The release has been a rare chance for survivors of Afghanistan's civil wars to find out what happened to sons, brothers, fathers and other relatives who have been missing for more than 30 years. The list only names male prisoners. Many of the victims were arrested -- or simply disappeared -- in 1978 and 1979, after a military coup known as the Saur Revolution brought to power the Soviet-backed president, Nur Muhammad Taraki. He was killed months later by a rival whose rule was so brutal it precipitated the arrival of Soviet troops, who assassinated him in his palace. Successive Afghan governments have made almost no attempt to hold anyone to account for the abuses of the past three decades. The most notable legal effort since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 was a sweeping amnesty law passed in 2008 that angered many survivors and relatives of victims. 'Disclosure of Afghan victims from 70s killings is big step towards accountability and ending impunity for past human rights violations,' said the head of human rights for the UN in Afghanistan, Georgette Gagnon, on Twitter. The list is a key part of people's right to truth, she added. Afghans living at home and in other countries rushed to find their dead on the list, as well as relatives of prominent figures, including the head of the independent human rights commission, Sima Samar. Her husband and his brothers disappeared in 1979. The list stands as a gruesome and depressing testimony to the cruelty of the regime.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
|Thomas Ewing Jr.|
(Library of Congress)
By Nicole Etcheson
The New York Times, August 23, 2013
"Thomas Ewing Jr. was a conscientious man. Though never as flamboyant as his foster brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ewing was ambitious for political fame and fortune, as befitted the son of one of Ohio's leading Whig politicians. His father had served both in the United States Senate and in the cabinets of Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor. Thomas Ewing Jr., or Tom, was his father's personal secretary when the elder Ewing ran Taylor's Department of the Interior. Tom Ewing graduated from Brown University and became a lawyer. He migrated to Kansas Territory and settled in Leavenworth, where he practiced law, speculated in land and railroads, and engaged in free-state politics. Kenneth J. Heineman, a biographer of the Ewing family, believes Tom wanted to re-create in Kansas his father's rise to wealth and power a generation earlier on the Ohio frontier. But drought and political instability in Kansas rendered Ewing's land speculations unprofitable, leaving him in debt and reliant on income from his law practice when the secession crisis came. ... Tom became colonel of the 11th Kansas Infantry, which stayed in the Midwest. Early on, Tom had not seen the Missourians as a threat to Kansas, and doubted that they would disturb 'the Kansas Hornets nest.' Considering the Missourians 'devils, but also cowards,' he was actually more worried about the destabilizing incursions of Kansas Jayhawkers into Missouri. ... Along the border, Kansans and Missourians had persisted in the animosities of the pre-war period. Kansas Jayhawkers, under leaders like the fiery James H. Lane, who had received one of the Kansas senate seats, had been sent away from the border because of their depredations against Missourians. Yet increasingly, the problem was that of bushwhackers, pro-Confederate guerrillas, who attacked Union troops and targets inside Missouri, and occasionally raided across the border into Kansas.
Friday, June 28, 2013
|"Syrian youths walk amongst the rubble in the village of al-Hamidiyeh, north of Qusayr, in Homs province."|
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, June 28, 2013
"Khalid is too frightened of travelling the 100 miles from Homs to Damascus to ask officials if they know what happened to his three sons, who disappeared 16 months ago as government troops over-ran the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr. He has not heard anything from them since and does not know if they are alive or dead, though he has repeatedly asked the authorities in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, about them. Khalid, a thick-set man of 60 with grizzled white hair -- who used to be a construction worker until he injured his back -- says he dare not make the journey to Damascus because 'as soon as the soldiers at the checkpoints on the road see I come from a place like Baba Amr, with a reputation for supporting the rebels, they are likely to arrest me'. He explains that he cannot risk being detained because he has a wife and four daughters who rely on him. He is the last man left in his family since his sons went missing. Syria is full of parents trying to keep their children alive or simply seeking to find out if they are already dead. It is as if both sides in the civil war are in a competition to see who can commit the worst atrocities. A few days before I spoke to Khalid I saw a picture on the internet of a fresh-faced 23-year-old soldier called Youssef Kais Abdin from near the port city of Latakia. He had been kidnapped a week earlier by the al Qa'ida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra while serving in the north-east of Syria, close to the Iraqi border. The next his parents heard of Youssef was a call from their son’s mobile at 4am from al-Nusra telling them to look for a picture of their son online. When they did so, they saw his decapitated body in a pool of blood with his severed head placed on top of it. The Syrian conflict is a civil war with all the horrors traditionally inflicted in such struggles wherever they are fought, be it Syria today or Russia, Spain, Greece, Lebanon or Iraq in the past. For the newly appointed American National Security Adviser Susan Rice, David Cameron or William Hague to pretend that this is a simple battle between a dictatorial government and an oppressed people is to misrepresent or misunderstand what is happening on the ground.
Monday, May 13, 2013
|"The hospital morgue in Maiduguri, Nigeria, where large numbers of bodies have been brought." (Adam Nossiter/The New York Times)|
By Adam Nossiter
The New York Times, May 7, 2013
"A fresh load of battered corpses arrived, 29 of them in a routine delivery by the Nigerian military to the hospital morgue here. Unexpectedly, three bodies started moving. 'They were not properly shot,' recalled a security official here. 'I had to call the JTF' -- the military's joint task force -- 'and they gunned them down.' It was a rare oversight. Large numbers of bodies, sometimes more than 60 in a day, are being brought by the Nigerian military to the state hospital, according to government, health and security officials, hospital workers and human rights groups -- the product of the military’s brutal war against radical Islamists rooted in this northern city. The corpses were those of young men arrested in neighborhood sweeps by the military and taken to a barracks nearby. Accused, often on flimsy or no evidence, of being members or supporters of Boko Haram -- the Islamist militant group waging a bloody insurgency against the Nigerian state -- the detainees are beaten, starved, shot and even suffocated to death, say the officials, employees and witnesses. Then, soldiers bring the bodies to the hospital and dump them at the morgue, officials and workers say. The flood is so consistent that the small morgue at the edge of the hospital grounds often has no room, with corpses flung by the military in the sand around it. Residents say they sometimes have to flee the neighborhood because of the fierce smell of rotting flesh. From the outset of the battle between Boko Haram and the military, a dirty war on both sides that has cost nearly 4,000 lives since erupting in this city in 2009, security forces have been accused of extrajudicial killings and broad, often indiscriminate roundups of suspects and sympathizers in residential areas. The military's harsh tactics, which it flatly denies, have reduced militant attacks in this insurgent stronghold, but at huge cost and with likely repercussions, officials and rights advocates contend.
Friday, March 29, 2013
|"Discrimination: Expectant mothers carrying girls are less likely to give birth in hospital, take iron supplements and receive tetanus immunisation,"|
By Olivia Williams
The Daily Mail, March 28, 2013
"A survey of more than 30,000 Indians by Michigan State University and University of California has revealed that preferential treatment for men starts before they are even born. Women expecting boys were more likely to get prenatal medical appointments, take iron supplements, and receive vital tetanus shots. They were also more likely to deliver a son in a health-care facility, as opposed to at home. It is even still common practice to have an abortion based on the baby's sex in India, though it is illegal. When baby girls are carried to full term, they still face medical discrimination with serious long-term health consequences. Assistant professor Leah Lakdawala from MSU who carried out the research said: 'This type of discrimination, while not as severe as sex-selective abortion, is very important for children's well-being' Missing out on the Tetanus vaccinations is a particular worry as it is the main cause of newborn deaths in India. Babies whose mothers had not received a tetanus vaccination were more likely to be born underweight or die shortly after birth. The researchers compared the survey to other patriarchal nations such as China, Bangladesh and Pakistan and saw similar evidence of medical discrimination. This could mean that girls are already at a serious disadvantage when they are born. 'We know that children born at higher birth weights go to school for longer periods and have higher wages as adults, so the future implications here are serious,' Lakdawala said.
The study was published in the Journal of Human Resources."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]
Monday, March 11, 2013
|"Bodies revealed by the Queiq river's receding waters." (Thomas Rassloff/EPA)|
By Martin Chulov
The Guardian, March 11, 2013
"It is already one of the defining images of the Syrian civil war: a line of bodies at neatly spaced intervals lying on a river bed in the heart of Syria’s second city Aleppo. All 110 victims have been shot in the head, their hands bound with plastic ties behind their back. Their brutal execution only became apparent when the winter high waters of the Queiq river, which courses through the no man’s land between the opposition-held east of the city and the regime-held west, subsided in January. It's a picture that raises so many questions: who were these men? How did they die? Why? What does their story tell us about the wretched disintegration of Syria? A Guardian investigation has established a grisly narrative behind the worst -- and most visible -- massacre to have taken place here. All the men were from neighbourhoods in the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo. Most were men of working age. Many disappeared at regime checkpoints. They may not be the last to be found. Locals have since dropped a grate from a bridge, directly over an eddy in the river. Corpses were still arriving 10 days after the original discovery on January 29, washed downstream by currents flushed by winter rains. Just after dawn on 29 January, a car pulled up outside a school being used as a rebel base in the Aleppo suburb of Bustan al-Qasr with news of the massacre. Since then a painstaking task to identify the victims and establish how they died has been inching forwards. The victims, many without names, were mostly buried within three days -- 48 hours longer than social custom dictates, to allow for their families to claim them. Ever since, relatives have been arriving to identify the dead from photographs taken by the rescuers.