Tuesday, December 24, 2013

South Sudan

"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)
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)
Names of 5,000 Afghans Killed in Purges Published 35 Years On
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

United States / Historical Cases of Gendercide

Thomas Ewing Jr.
(Library of Congress)
Tom Ewing's Dirty War
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."
A Return to Homs
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)
Bodies Pour In as Nigeria Hunts for Islamists
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,"
Indian Women Are Victims of Discrimination before They Are Even Born as Baby Boys Get Better Medical Treatment before Birth
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)
Syria: The Story behind One of the Most Shocking Images of the War
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.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Female Infanticide / India

A Fight to Save Baby Girls in India
By Kamala Thiagarajan
The New York Times, March 7, 2013
"Back in the 1980s, this rural patch of the southern state of Tamil Nadu had the dubious distinction of the worst reputation for 'gendercide,' or murder of unwanted baby girls, in India. There were no official statistics, of course. Just as no one keeps a tally of how middle-class Indians today use scans to determine a baby's sex and whether to abort a female fetus, the child deaths in the Usilampatti region, home to about 85,000 people, were whispered about, not totaled. Often, births were unregistered, conducted by a village midwife who would then also kill unwanted girls. This was done quite openly -- and prompted Valli Annamalai, head of the Mother and Child Welfare Project, an initiative of the Tamil Nadu state branch of the nongovernmental Indian Council for Child Welfare, to act. She started by trying to grasp the size of the problem. Council statistics suggest that, in 1990, there were as many as 200 unaccounted-for infant deaths, all of girls, in this region. 'Girls were considered a burden and a liability in these parts,' she recalled during a recent visit to a council center in the village of Pannaipatti. Raising economic prospects 'was the only way to stop the mindless violence and discrimination.' One way to improve women's lot, she said, was to care for infants and thus allow mothers to return to their work -- mostly toil in the fields of this spottily fertile region, where women have been second-class for centuries.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rape in the Military: An Open Letter to Kirby Dick

February 7, 2013

Dear Mr. Dick,

As a longtime advocate for victims of sexual abuse and editor of a forthcoming book titled The Rape of Males in War and Genocide, I am writing to express my great concern over the apparent content of your film The Invisible War (which I have not yet seen), and the marketing and publicity campaign surrounding it.

You are aware that in absolute terms, more men than women are sexually assaulted each year in the U.S. military. As reported on MSNBC.com, two of the male rape survivors interviewed for your film have accused you of marginalizing male victims by devoting less than five minutes of your documentary to their plight.

Moreover, according to the MSNBC.com report, "The publicity campaign hawking the film -- and its Academy Award candidacy -- includes a website that shows the faces of six female victims of military sexual assault, and no male survivors of that crime, as well as formal screenings to which only female victims have been asked to attend." I find this extraordinary and frankly outrageous. It is a real slap in the face to thousands of victims, declared or hidden, who already confront enormous obstacles, as male victims of rape and sexual assault, to getting a hearing and redress. Your justification for "invisibilizing" these male victims -- that "We kind of felt women would get the discussion going and push the military to make the change for everyone" -- is truly lame. The reality is that you have chosen the easy path of generating concern and sympathy for female victims of sexual assault, and have deliberately avoided devoting meaningful attention to the inconvenient majority of victims.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Witch-Hunts / Papua New Guinea

Woman Burned Alive for "Sorcery" in Papua New Guinea
BBC Online, February 7, 2013
"A woman has been tortured and burned alive in Papua New Guinea after being accused of using sorcery to kill a young boy, local media report. The woman, a mother aged 20 named as Kepari Leniata, was stripped, tied up and doused in petrol by the boy's relatives in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands, said the National newspaper. She was then thrown onto a fire in front of hundreds of people. Police and firefighters were unable to intervene, the paper said. The Post Courier newspaper said they had been outnumbered by the crowd and chased away. Both newspapers published graphic photos of the incident on their front pages. Provincial police commander Supt. Kaiglo Ambane told the National that police were treating the case as murder and would arrest those responsible. In parts of the Pacific nation deaths and mysterious illnesses are sometimes blamed on suspected sorcerers. Several reports have emerged in recent years of accused people, usually women, being killed. In 2009, after a string of such killings, the chairman of PNG's Constitutional Review and Law Reform Commission said defendants were using accusations of witchcraft as an excuse to kill people, and called for tougher legislation to tackle the issue. Local Christian bishop David Piso told the National that sorcery-related killings were a growing problem, and urged the government to 'to come up with a law to stop such practice'. The US embassy in the capital, Port Moresby, condemned the killing as a 'brutal murder', the AFP news agency reports, and evidence of 'pervasive gender-based violence' in Papua New Guinea."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


"Free Syrian Army fighters say they are still recovering bodies at the river, where several people were found dead." (EPA)
Aleppo Executions: 65 Bodies Pulled from Syria River
The Telegraph, January 29, 2013
"The bodies of at least 65 young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were found on Tuesday in a river in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a watchdog and rebels said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 65 bodies were found in the Quweiq River, which separates the Bustan al-Qasr district from Ansari in the southwest of the city, but that the toll could rise significantly. A Free Syrian Army officer at the scene said at least 68 bodies had been recovered and that many more were still being dragged from the water, in a rebel-held area. 'Until now we have recovered 68 bodies, some of them just teens,' said Captain Abu Sada, adding that all of them had been 'executed by the regime.' 'But there must be more than 100. There are still many in the water, and we are trying to recover them.' A senior government security source said many of the victims were from Bustan al-Qasr and had been reported kidnapped earlier. He accused 'terrorists,' the standard regime term for people fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, of carrying out the executions and spreading propaganda to deflect responsibility. 'They were kidnapped by terrorist groups, who some are accusing of being pro-regime, and executed last night in a park in Bustan al-Qasr under their control,' the source told news agency Agence France-Presse by telephone. ... A volunteer said as he helped load one of the bodies on a truck: 'We don't know who they are because there was no ID on them.' At least 15 bodies could already be seen on the truck, an AFP correspondent said, with other continuing to arrive.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Serial Killings of Women / Canada

Serial killer William Pickton
How the Horrific Case of Serial Killer William Pickton, Who May Have Killed Up to 50 Women, Shone Light on Plight of Vancouver's First Nation Women
By David Usborne
The Independent, January 18, 2013
"Women vanish from Vancouver’s grimy Downtown Eastside with numbing regularity. But the fact a disproportionate number are of First Nations origin has plunged Canada into a political crisis. Ernie Crey, an aboriginal Canadian, is angry. It is twelve years since his sister, Dawn, vanished from Vancouver's downtown eastside -- an utterly dismal skid row of slum hotels, pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, pushers and charities that try to help them -- and nine years since he learned that her DNA had been drawn from a pair of bloody women's knickers on the pig farm of convicted serial-killer William Pickton. It is worse when you have nothing to bury. Remains from the some victims were found at the farm, 40 minutes outside the city, and given to the families, including cleaved skulls. But nothing of Dawn was recovered. Mr. Crey might have ignored the stories of Pickton mincing human flesh with pork meat and selling it to neighbours, or having the victims' bones boiled down for pet food, but he didn't. 'I have gone there, yes, thought about it,' he admits quietly. 'Not knowing what really happened to her bothers me the most,' says Mr. Crey, 63, a member of the Cheam First Nation and a fisheries advisor to the Stolo Tribal Council. 'Barring Pickton coming forward and saying that yes, he was the asshole who killed her and the other women I don't think I will ever know'. But Mr. Crey is not despairing, in part because the pig-farm murders have not faded from the headlines. Though Pickton was convicted of the second-degree murder of six women in 2007 (the true number of his victims may have been closer to fifty or even higher), and he is now serving life in a federal prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, the case continues to shed light on Canada's most shameful secret: how its most ignored underclass -- indigenous women -- is preyed upon by men with impunity, and with terrifying consequences.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Female Foeticide & Infanticide / India

The "Genocide" of India's Daughters
Inside Story on AlJazeera.com, January 11, 2013
"Supreme Court judges in India have summoned the health secretaries in seven states over a worrying fall in the number of young girls in India. They are demanding details about clinics flouting the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act -- to determine the sex of unborn babies -- with potentially fatal consequences. The judges are blaming what they call rampant foeticide and infanticide, and they say the mindset of parents and society need to change. The UN children's charity UNICEF says the culture of favouring males in India is costing the lives of millions of young girls. The agency says more than 2,000 illegal abortions are being carried out every single day, and it is dramatically altering the balance of the population. It warns: 'Decades of sex determination tests and female foeticide that has acquired proportions are finally catching up with states in India. This is only the tip if the demographic and social problems confronting India in the coming years.' Speaking in April 2011, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, called for a crusade against the widespread practice of foeticide and infanticide. 'The falling child sex ratio is an indictment of our social values. Our girls and women have done us proud in classrooms, in boardrooms and on the sports field. It is a national shame for us that despite this, female foeticide and infanticide continues.'