Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Leaked Myanmar Police Documents Reveal Mastermind Behind Muslim Lawyer’s Murder

Here below is the latest report from the RFA on the murder of the Rohingya community leader who was also a lawyer:

Leaked Myanmar police documents published on social media on Tuesday about the investigation of the gunman who killed prominent Muslim lawyer and government advisor Ko Ni named a man who is said to be the mastermind of the brutal murder.
Arrested gunman Kyi Lin, 54, who shot Ko Ni at point blank range on Sunday outside Yangon airport as he held his grandson and then killed a taxi driver who chased him, told police in his five-page statement that a man named Myint Swe hired him to murder the lawyer.
Ko Ni had just returned from Indonesia where he had been part of a Myanmar government delegation to discuss interfaith tolerance and reconciliation.
Kyi Lin said he met Myint Swe—who is not connected to the vice president of Myanmar who has the same name—in the town of Mae Sot on the border with Thailand in late 2014.
Myint Swe promised him a car as a reward for killing Ko Ni, he said, according to the documents.
Kyi Lin also said Myint Swe was “somewhere around”—meaning presumably in Yangon—when the killings took place, the social media reports said.
Kyi Lin, who hails from Yinmabin township in northwest Myanmar’s Sagaing region, served two years and seven months in prison for stealing Buddhist statues in Mandalay in 1985.
He went to jail again in 2003 for smuggling Buddhist statues to the border. Sentenced to 20 years, he was later freed under a presidential amnesty in 2014.
He is now being held at Mingaladon police station, about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of downtown Yangon.
Social media posts Facebook said his statements were leaked as they changed hands in the police department.
RFA could not independently confirm the Facebook reports.
The motive of the killing remains unknown.
Two burials in Yangon
Ko Ni was buried Monday in a Muslim cemetery on the outskirts of Yangon in a funeral attended by tens of thousands of people.
The funeral for slain taxi driver Ne Win was held on Tuesday in Yangon, where he was praised as a national hero and his coffin was draped in the NLD’s fighting peacock flag.
“If he hadn’t given up his life to capture the killer, things might be different today,” said Min Ko Naing, a student leader from the 1988 uprising against the military junta that then ruled the country.
“[But] there would have been lots of accusations and suspicions between communities and among individuals, and we might have a dangerous situation,” he said at the funeral.
The ultranationalist Buddhist monk group Ma Ba Tha issued a statement on Tuesday expressing its condolences for the slain lawyer and taxi driver.
“Every life is precious and has to be appreciated,” said Ma Ba Tha member Ven Tezaniya. “Torture, killings and all acts of violence should be stopped at all costs. We condemn all these acts which are against the principles of Buddhism. We are sorry for the families of the victims too.”
The statement also cited the recent killings of a schoolteacher in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, five Myanmar workers in Malaysia, nine border policemen in Maungdaw township in Rakhine state, and a family of four in Mingaladon, calling them “senseless.”

U.N. envoy speaks out

On Monday, the United Nations human rights envoy for Myanmar issued a statement on Monday strongly condemning Ko Ni’s brutal murder, calling it an “act of reprisal.”
“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” said Yanghee Lee, who ended a 12-day trip to Myanmar earlier this month.
She said the act was also “an act of violence against children” because Ko Ni was holding his grandchild when he was shot in the back of the head, “exposing the child to witness one of the most horrific acts of violence.”
“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” said Lee who had expressed concern about the growing risks faced by human rights defenders and lawyers in a statement she issued at the end of her visit.
Lee also called on the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government to conduct an impartial investigation into the murder.
“U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar, Lee said. “The state counselor and the NLD-led government must get to the bottom of this senseless act, and give answers to his family and to us all.”
The NLD has called the murder a political assassination and “terrorist attack.”
Reported by Zarni Tun, Kyaw Thu, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

92,000 Rohingyas displaced in Myanmar

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
A series of attacks on Border Guard Police posts on 9 October 2016 in which nine police personnel were killed and subsequent security operations have triggered a new humanitarian crisis in the northern part of Rakhine State. At least 92,000 people have fled their homes, hundreds of houses and buildings have been burned, many people have been killed and allegations of serious human rights violations have been widely reported.
Due to access restrictions imposed by the Government, the United Nations has not been able to independently investigate the reports of abuse. UN agencies in Bangladesh estimate that 69,000 people have fled across the border into Bangladesh since the attacks, while more than 23,000 (over 12,300 women/girls and over 11,100 men/boys) are estimated by the UN to remain displaced inside Maungdaw north. The majority of those displaced are Muslims who identify themselves as Rohingya; however, members of other communities were also displaced. The majority of the ethnic Rakhine and Mro people who were displaced have returned to their villages, although around 272 Rakhine and Mro people remain displaced in Maungdaw and Buthidaung. Security sweeps are continuing in the north of Rakhine State and a dawn to dusk curfew remains in place.
After a three month interruption to most of the services being provided by UN agencies and humanitarian organizations in northern Rakhine, the Government has been permitting an incremental resumption of some activities, but with national staff only.
International staff still face severe movement restrictions. While they have been permitted to observe some Government-led food distributions and while some high level visits are being permitted, most international staff based in northern Rakhine remain confined to the township capitals (Maungdaw and Buthidaung towns). While distribution of food and some other relief items is now being permitted (with national staff only), the Government has not yet permitted humanitarian organizations to resume protection activities.
A Multi-Sector Initial Rapid Assessment was initiated in Maungdaw south in January but permission has not yet been granted by the authorities for a similar assessment to be carried out in Maungdaw north where security operations are ongoing. While WFP has been able to gather information related to its food deliveries in some areas of Maungdaw north, completion of a comprehensive needs assessment across all affected areas is critical to understanding the overall situation facing affected people. In the meantime, observations from humanitarian staff working in affected areas suggest that food, shelter, household items, medical kits, water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, education and protection support are the key humanitarian needs. Health services, including some NGO clinics, have resumed in some areas, but coverage is patchy and humanitarian staff report low patient attendance as the situation remains tense. People are still afraid to move freely to access services and travel passes are restricted. Emergency medical referrals have also been severely impacted, limiting options for treatment and placing patients at risk. Emergency medical referrals outside Maungdaw District are not permitted for Muslim patients.

Quebec Mosque Attack Forces Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance

Quebec Mosque Attack Forces Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance. To read the NY Times story, click here.

Trump killed an 8-year old girl

"In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate — the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out — another drone killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention," Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept writes.
Greenwald's remaining part of the article is posted below:
Two weeks after the killing of Awlaki, a separate CIA drone strike in Yemen killed his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis. The U.S. eventually claimed that the boy was not their target but merely “collateral damage.” Abdulrahman’s grief-stricken grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, urged the Washington Post “to visit a Facebook memorial page for Abdulrahman,” which explained: “Look at his pictures, his friends, and his hobbies. His Facebook page shows a typical kid.”
Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the arguments of the Obama DOJ for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.”

The U.S. assault on Yemeni civilians not only continued but radically escalated over the next five years through the end of the Obama presidency, as the U.S. and the U.K. armed, supported, and provide crucial assistance to their close ally Saudi Arabia as it devastated Yemen through a criminally reckless bombing campaign. Yemen now faces mass starvationseemingly exacerbated, deliberately, by the U.S.-U.K.-supported air attacks. Because of the West’s direct responsibility for these atrocities, they have received vanishingly little attention in the responsible countries.
In a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism, Nasser al-Awlaki just lost another one of his young grandchildren to U.S. violence. On Sunday, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, using armed Reaper drones for cover, carried out a commando raid on what it said was a compound harboring officials of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A statement issued by President Trump lamented the death of an American service member and several others who were wounded, but made no mention of any civilian deaths. U.S. military officials initially denied any civilian deaths, and (therefore) the CNN report on the raid said nothing about any civilians being killed.
But reports from Yemen quickly surfaced that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children. Among the dead: the 8-year-old granddaughter of Nasser al-Awlaki, Nawar, who was also the daughter of Anwar Awlaki.View image on Twitter

As noted by my colleague Jeremy Scahill — who extensively interviewed the grandparents in Yemen for his book and film on Obama’s “Dirty Wars” —  the girl “was shot in the neck and killed,” bleeding to death over the course of two hours. “Why kill children?” the grandfather asked. “This is the new (U.S.) administration — it’s very sad, a big crime.”
The New York Times yesterday reported that military officials had been planning and debating the raid for months under the Obama administration, but Obama officials decided to leave the choice to Trump. The new president personally authorized the attack last week. They claim that the “main target” of the raid “was computer materials inside the house that could contain clues about future terrorist plots.” The paper cited a Yemeni official saying that “at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13, had been killed in the raid,” and that the attack also “severely damaged a school, a health facility and a mosque.”
As my colleague Matthew Cole reported in great detail just weeks ago, Navy SEAL Team 6, for all its public glory, has a long history of “‘revenge ops,’ unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities.” And Trump notoriously vowed during the campaign to target not only terrorists but also their families. All of that demands aggressive, independent inquiries into this operation.
Perhaps most tragic of all is that — just as was true in Iraq — al Qaeda had very little presence in Yemen before the Obama administration began bombing and droning it and killing civilians, thus driving people into the arms of the militant group. As the late, young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana told Congress in 2013:
Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants. … Unfortunately, liberal voices in the United States are largely ignoring, if not condoning, civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings in Yemen.
During George W. Bush’s presidency, the rage would have been tremendous. But today there is little outcry, even though what is happening is in many ways an escalation of Mr. Bush’s policies. …
Defenders of human rights must speak out. America’s counterterrorism policy here is not only making Yemen less safe by strengthening support for AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] but it could also ultimately endanger the United States and the entire world.
This is why it is crucial that — as urgent and valid protests erupt against Trump’s abuses — we not permit recent history to be whitewashed, or long-standing U.S. savagery to be deceitfully depicted as new Trumpian aberrations, or the war on terror framework engendering these new assaults to be forgotten. Some current abuses are unique to Trump, but — as I detailed on Saturday — some are the decades-old byproduct of a mindset and system of war and executive powers that all need uprooting. Obscuring these facts, or allowing those responsible to posture as opponents of all this, is not just misleading but counterproductive: Much of this resides on an odious continuum and did not just appear out of nowhere.
It’s genuinely inspiring to see pervasive rage over the banning of visa holders and refugees from countries like Yemen. But it’s also infuriating that the U.S. continues to massacre Yemeni civilians, both directly and through its tyrannical Saudi partners. That does not become less infuriating — Yemeni civilians are not less dead — because these policies and the war theories in which they are rooted began before the inauguration of Donald Trump. It’s not just Trump but this mentality and framework that need vehement opposition.

Suspect in Quebec Mosque Attack is a White Nationalist

A mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque last night left six people dead and eight wounded. The targeted mosque, the Cultural Islamic Center of Quebec, was the same one at which a severed pig’s head was left during Ramadan last June. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the episode a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”
Almost immediately, various news outlets and political figures depicted the shooter as Muslim. Right-wing nationalist tabloids in the U.K. instantly linked it to Islamic violence. Fox News claimed that “witnesses said at least one gunman shouted ‘Allahu akbar!’” and then added this about the shooter’s national origin:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer exploited the attack to justify President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said at this afternoon’s briefing when speaking of the Quebec City attack.
But these assertions are utterly false. The suspect is neither Moroccan nor Muslim. The Moroccan individual, Mohamed Belkhadir, was actually one of the worshippers at the mosque and called 911 to summon the police, playing no role whatsoever in the shooting.
The actual shooting suspect is 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a white French Canadian who is, by all appearances, a rabid anti-immigrant nationalist. A leader of a local immigration rights group, François Deschamps, told a local paper he recognized his photo as an anti-immigrant far-right “troll” who has been hostile to the group online.
The Globe and Mail added that he “was known in the city’s activist circles as a right-wing troll who frequently took anti-foreigner and anti-feminist positions and stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump.” And Bissonnette’s Facebook page — now taken down but still archived — lists among its “likes” the far-right French nationalist Marine Le Pen, Islam critics Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Donald J. Trump (he also “likes” the liberal Canadian Party NDP along with more neutral “likes” such as Tom Hanks, the Sopranos, and Katy Perry).
It is usually the case that there is significant confusion in the wake of attacks of this sort. And local police did apparently arrest two suspects at first: Bissonnette along with Belkhadir. And until the investigation is complete, one cannot know for certain what the motives here were. One should be careful about trying to infer too much from a hodgepodge of Facebook “likes” and, this early, even anecdotal claims about Bissonnette’s political views. As for reports that someone yelled “Allahu akbar,” it is perfectly natural that someone in a mosque would say that upon seeing a homicidal killer randomly shooting people, or it’s possible that the shooter said it mockingly.
But this is exactly why no responsible news organization, let alone the White House, should rush to depict the shooter as Muslim and of Moroccan descent when so little is known about what happened. Yet not only did Fox and the Trump White House do exactly that, but worse, neither has retracted or corrected their claims long after it became clear that they were false:

The inflammatory effect of this sort of reckless, biased “reporting” is as predictable as it is toxic. All day long, people around the world cited these reports to justify Trump’s ban as well as their own ugly views of Muslims:
The only part of any of this that’s true is that it was an act of terrorism: terrorism aimed, yet again, at Muslims by someone who has apparently been indoctrinated with a great deal of hate toward them. Media outlets and the White House led people all over the world today to believe exactly the opposite.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ohio Community Rallies Behind a Mom - labelled as a 'Terrorist'

 An Ohio community came together on Sunday to rally for a woman who was allegedly the target of anti-Muslim flyers posted around her neighborhood.
Over 300 people from all across the state of Ohio rallied in front of Mason Community Center in solidarity with Rawd Saleh, 41, Saleh said. The rally was in reaction to flyers allegedly posted around Saleh’s neighborhood with her address illustrated on a map and a picture of her titled “neighborhood terrorist warning.”
"As Americans, if we see suspicious activity, we should tell the authorities," Saleh told ABC News. "I don’t see any other suspicion that this person could’ve had other than I wear hijab."
Saleh said she has lived in Ohio for 35 years and Mason for a year. When the mother of three returned home last week after a weekend out of town, her neighbors notified her immediately about the alleged flyer labeling her as a terrorist and said that they had contacted the police, she said.
Saleh said that she was assured by her neighbors that they did not feel threatened by her and supported her living in the community.
Plans for the rally came about when Saleh was contacted by Sarah Martin, a nurse who said she received a flyer in her mailbox, and Martin's friend Cyndi Ritter, a licensed therapist.
All three met over coffee for the first time Friday discussing how to react to the alleged flyers in Mason and ultimately decided to organize a rally at the Mason Community Center for two days later, inviting their friends on Facebook.
Ritter, 31, told ABC News that she felt empowered after attending the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, adding that the march encouraged her to “[not] go back to your communities and just stay silent.”
“I think that when a hate crime like this happens that you need to have a swift reaction,” Ritter said, highlighting that this is only the third rally or demonstration she has been involved in, “which is why we had the rally two days after we planned it.”
As a woman born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and Turkish mother, Saleh said that she was shocked by the incident because Mason is such a diverse neighborhood.
Mason police are still investigating to determine who allegedly made and distributed the flyers.

The Case for Impeachment of Donald Trump

"The ink on Donald Trump’s executive order barring Muslim immigrants from the U.S. is barely dry, but that’s all the more reason to begin calling for his impeachment," Dr. Anthony DiMaggio of Lehigh University writes. To read his article, click here.

Mikhail Gorbachev is worried about a world war

The last time Mikhail Gorbachev made American news, the former Soviet leader sounded upbeat.
Of the incoming President Trump, he told the Associated Press in December: “He has little political experience, but maybe it's good.”
Of his successor, autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin: “He is a strong person,” Gorbachev, 85, said.
“Together, they could lead the world” to peace, he told the reporter, and he sang a song after the interview.
Putin and Trump have called for stronger nuclear weapons in their countries since then. Now Gorbachev is back in the media — warning of possible global war.
“The world today is overwhelmed with problems,” he wrote in the first line of his essay. “Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.”
He listed some problems: “the militarization of politics and the new arms races,” bellicose world leaders and a media that echoes them. Tanks and weapons in Europe — “placed closer to each other, as if to shoot point-blank.”
“It all look as if the world is preparing for war,” Gorbachev wrote.
His tone had darkened since his song in December — if not since the Soviet Union dissolved beneath his feet a quarter-century ago. But Gorbachev's advice for the world was much the same: Do like he and former president Ronald Reagan — whose cooperation and mutual disarmament may well have averted World War III.
Gorbachev's essay summarizes the lurching end of the Cold War in a few brief lines: “In the second half of the 1980s, together with the U.S., we launched a process of reducing nuclear weapons and lowering the nuclear threat.”
The reality wasn't so neat, though it seemed impossibly rapid to a world that had spent a century under the cloud of global war.
Gorbachev took over the Communist Party in 1985, as Reagan was beginning his second term in the White House with pushes for a new nuclear missile and a more robust military.
Many Americans credit Reagan's hard line on military policy — like his push for missile defense — with forcing the Soviet Union to reform and eventually collapse.
In his own interviews, Gorbachev has spun history differently.
“Our interests coincided,” he told The Washington Post in 2004, after giving Reagan's coffin a fond pat at his funeral.
“We both knew what kind of weapons we each had,” he said. “There were mountains of nuclear weapons. A war could start not because of a political decision, but just because of some technical failure.”
Whatever inspired him, Gorbachev is remembered for softening a totalitarian empire — making the Soviet Union more open and liberal while cutting its nuclear stockpiles, as Reagan reciprocated.

Yanghee Lee of the UN condemns assassination of Rohingya lawyer

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee  on Monday strongly condemned the murder of Muslim lawyer Ko Ni, who was shot to death on Sunday outside of an airport in Myanmar. In a press release Lee said, "I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country." The lawyer, who worked as the legal adviser to the National League for Democracy, was shot while holding his grandchild. Lee called on the Myanmar government to condemn the killing and thoroughly investigate. A suspect has been taken into custody [BBC report], but no motive has been determined.
Reports of human rights violations in Myanmar has prompted international concern. In November a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern [JURIST report] about possible crimes against humanity committed against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority. The Myanmar military's "campaign of violence" against Rohingya people constitutes crimes against humanity [JURIST report], according to an Amnesty International (AI) report in December. The UN announced [JURIST report] in early January that Lee would travel to the country to assess the human rights situation following concerns over the safety of refugees in Kachin State and reports of increased violence in Rakhine State. Last Lee voiced concern [JURIST report] that the people of Myanmar who met with her might face retaliation.

Texas mosque destroyed on Saturday

VICTORIA, Texas (AP) — An early-morning fire Saturday destroyed a Texas mosque that was a target of hatred several years ago and experienced a burglary just a week ago.
A clerk at a convenience store spotted smoke and flames billowing from the Islamic Center of Victoria at around 2 a.m. and called the fire department.
"It's sad to stand there and watch it collapse down, and the fire was so huge," Shahid Hashmi, the Islamic center's president, said. "It looks completely destroyed."
Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler asked for help from the Texas Fire Marshal's Office and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine what caused the blaze. Hashmi said authorities have told him it was too early to speculate.
"None whatsoever right now," the center director said. "We don't have any lead or information as to what started the fire and what happened. So I'm sure it's going to be a few days, they told us, before they can come up with any answers for us."
The congregation's pastor, known as an imam, was awake in the early morning hours and checked online surveillance of the mosque and found no alarm active and the doors unlocked, Hashmi said. On Jan. 21, someone broke in and stole some electronics, including laptops.
"He was worried about it and drove over there," Hashmi said. "By that time, fire engines were already there pouring water on the fire."
The structure was built in 2000.
No injuries were reported. It took about four hours to extinguish the blaze.
Hashmi, who's lived in Victoria 32 years, said the congregation of about 140 has had few other problems and has enjoyed support from the city of about 115 miles southwest of Houston. He already has received offers of temporary quarters for the congregation to worship.
"When 9/11 happened, Muslims and non-Muslims, we all got together," he said. "Of course, we will rebuild."
The Victoria Advocate on Saturday reported (http://bit.ly/2k388PZ ) that in July 2013, a man admitted to painting "H8," a computer shorthand for "hate," on the outside of the building.
On Jan. 7, a mosque under construction near Lake Travis in Austin was burned to the ground.
The Texas office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said like that blaze, it would monitor the investigation of the Victoria fire.
"Because of growing anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation, and because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions and individuals, we urge investigators to keep the possibility of a bias motive for this fire in mind," CAIR-Houston Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll said.
There's been no determination yet for the Austin blaze, Diane Kanawati, with CAIR-Austin, said Saturday.
In December, a man was sentenced to four years in prison for setting fire to a Houston mosque where he worshipped. Gary Nathaniel Moore pleaded guilty to arson and using a fire as a deadly weapon in a Dec. 25, 2015, blaze that caused significant damage at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston mosque.

6 dead in Quebec mosque shooting

Quebec City (CNN): Six people are dead after a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, according to Quebec Provincial Police. Eight people were injured. The attack, which took place at the city's Quebec Islamic Cultural Center on Sunday, is being investigated as an act of terrorism by police.
In what was described as a coordinated attack, witnesses say at least two gunmen wearing black fired indiscriminately into the dozens of worshipers -- including families -- in the mosque.
    Thirty-nine people who were at the mosque during shooting were unharmed, Christine Coulombe, spokeswoman of National Police of Quebec, said. Of the eight injured, six are described as being in critical condition.
      Two people have been arrested, a police said at a news conference. One was captured near the mosque and the other was apprehended on a highway nearby.
      The Canadian province's premier, Philippe Couillard, called the shooting a terrorist act on Twitter.

      Assassination of U Ko Ni - message from Rohingya leaders

      The murder of U Ko Ni, a longtime rights and democracy activist, respected constitutional lawyer, and legal advisor for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, is a grave loss for Burma and for all those who seek to promote tolerance and respect for human rights in the country. As one of the few remaining Muslims with the stature to influence the NLD’s policies, he was a voice of reason amid a rising tide of intolerance. 

      On Sunday afternoon, U Ko Ni was shot dead outside Rangoon airport while holding his grandson in his arms. He had just returned from accompanying a government minister on an official trip to Indonesia to discuss ways to overcome inter-religious differences. The alleged gunman was arrested while attempting to flee the scene. 
      I first met U Ko Ni in Rangoon last June, at a Human Rights Watch news conference for the launch of a report I wrote calling on the newly elected NLD government to amend or repeal laws criminalizing peaceful speech and assembly. While he supported our call to reform Burma’s outdated and repressive laws, he stressed that changing a system developed over the course of 50 years of military rule could not all happen at once.
      After the news conference, we met in the hotel coffee shop. U Ko Ni, fasting for Ramadan, spoke quietly but intensely about the many ways in which Muslims are marginalized in Burma and his desire to make a difference. He raised concerns about the prevalence of anti-Muslim hate speech on social media and the need to find ways to counter it. He was thoughtful, creative, principled, and determined to fight for justice – all qualities that are much needed in Burma today.
      While the motive for his murder is still unknown, what is clear is that the country has lost a strong voice for tolerance and inclusion at a time when it needs it most. The many people whose lives were touched by his activism, his legal work, and his principled compassion will mourn his tragic death. But the greatest challenge falls now to the NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who should honor his legacy by forcefully and consistently acting to protect the rights of the country’s increasingly persecuted Muslim population – whether ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State or the minority communities in Burma’s urban areas.
      Read the Joint Statement      below from Rohingya associations:
                                                                                       Date: 30th January 2017
      Rohingya Condemn Assassination of U Ko Ni and Call for Urgent investigation
      We, the undersigned Rohingya organisations worldwide strongly condemn the assassination of U Ko Ni, 65, a high profile Muslim leader and legal advisor of NLD on Sunday, January 29, 2017 upon arrival at Yangon international airport from his official tour to examine the Indonesian model of interfaith. 
      U Ko Ni, a 1988 activist, was well known in Myanmar as a sincere, honorable, dedicated and patriotic man. He was the founder of Myanmar's Muslim lawyers Association and had contributed the nation with his expertise in law. He was a strong advocate for peace, interfaith dialogue and harmony in the country. It is an irreparable loss for the nation.
      We express our deep condolences to the members of the bereaved families U Ko Ni and Ko Nay Win, the taxi driver who bravely chased the murderer.
      The assassination of U Ko Ni, is a reflection of how intimidating the situation is for those who are working for peace and dialogue, especially when they are from minorities or non-Buddhist religious groups.
      We call for an urgent independent investigation to identify the motives and people associated with this heinous murder.
      We also call on Rohingya people and all Muslims of the country to pray for U Ko Ni.
      U Ko Ni will be remembered all times for his heroic struggle for the rights of Muslim communities and other minorities in the country, and also for his relentless fight for constitutional changes for a truly democratic Myanmar.
           1.    Arakan Rohingya National Organisation
      1. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
      2. British Rohingya Community in UK
      3. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
      4. Burmese Rohingya Association Japan
      5. Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan
      6. Burmese Rohingya Community Australia
      7. Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
      8. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
      9. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia (MERHROM)
      10. Rohingya American Society
      11. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
      12. Rohingya Community in Germany
      13. Rohingya Community in Switzerland
      14. Rohingya Community in Finland
      15. Rohingya Community in Italy
      16. Rohingya Community in Sweden
      17. Rohingya Organisation Norway
      18. Rohingya Society Malaysia
      19. Rohingya Society Netherlands

      Saturday, January 28, 2017

      The Washington Post Editorial on Myanmar

      The editorial below is from the Washington Post Editorial Board:
      TRANSITION FROM military rule to democracy remains far from assured in Burma, where the military continues to be a formidable force. Now it is carrying out a scorched-earth offensive against Rohingya Muslim militants in Rakhine state, a campaign that has forced 65,000 civilians to flee across the border to Bangladesh amid reports of mass rape, torture and the killing of innocents. Some 90 people have died. Therein lies a challenge for Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democracy movement who now tenuously steers the country, and for Burma’s foreign partners.
      We have urged Aung San Suu Kyi to be more outspoken in support of the long-suffering Rohingya minority, especially now that she has made the crossing from dissident to political leader of her country, which is also known as Myanmar. We think she should bring to bear her considerable moral standing as a Nobel laureate and do what she can — including promote unhindered investigation and reporting from the region — to end the abuses. But the ferocious assault on the Rohingya is being waged by the military, and the generals must be held to account first and foremost. With a quarter of parliament seats reserved for the military, those generals still dominate the power structure of this Buddhist-majority country.
      The latest conflict began Oct. 9 when a newly formed group of Rohingya insurgents struck in the northern part of Rakhine state at three posts near the border with Bangladesh, killing nine police officers. The group, well-funded and organized, has been identified as Harakah al-Yaqin by the International Crisis Group, marking a turn to guerrilla tactics and violence by Rohingya militants. Since then, the Burmese military has responded harshly, including with widespread destruction of villages and atrocities against civilians. The government has denied allegations of abuse, but human rights investigators and journalists have been largely barred from the scene.
      This is a delicate moment when outside pressure might do some good. The Obama administration celebrated Burma’s progress toward democracy, lifting sanctions and making high-level visits to encourage it. We have no idea whether President Trump will care a whit for the plight of this battered people. He and his appointees have shown no enthusiasm for advancing human rights abroad, and Mr. Trump is fond of strongmen. But the United States has made a big down payment on Burma’s journey toward a democratic society; further effort is called for, if a way can be found to do it without undermining Aung San Suu Kyi’s shaky position. The conflict in Rakhine state should also bring a stronger response from the United Nations.
      The Rohingya civilian suffering is intense, even if it is not on the radar screen in the West. Though the scale of violence so far is smaller, think of it as the Aleppo of Asia — a nascent armed insurgency; a mass of helpless, innocent people; religious fault lines; and crushing blows from a powerful military. This is a powder keg that should concern all.

      Emily Hilton's article on Trump presidency

      Here below is the link to article:
      In the last six months of the Second World War, my grandfather escaped a train travelling to Auschwitz. He cut a hole in the bottom of the cattle cart and lay down on the tracks. He often remarked how slowly the trains moved, rendering him completely unharmed by this process. Afterwards, he walked back to Budapest and was hidden by a woman for the remainder of the war, then working with the Soviets pointing out collaborators and Nazis once the city was liberated.
      Therefore, I was rather unsettled by the fact that a week before Holocaust Memorial DayDonald Trump used his inauguration speech to bring back into fashion that classic phrase ‘America First.’
      I had many conversations in the lead up to the election with colleagues and friends that Trump’s words were just ways of galvanising voters (as if using racism to make people vote for you isn’t in itself extremely offensive ), and that it would be different if he’s actually elected. Then he was elected and named Steve Bannon as his chief of staff. Then he was inaugurated and called CNN “fake news”. Then the White House Website deleted its page on the Civil Rights Movement and replaced it with information on “law and order”. Then in his first six days as President, Trump has pilloried and threatened almost every vulnerable group and minority community in America with destructive executive orders. Seems to me like Trump is doing exactly what he said he was going to do.
      I’m generally sceptical of the idea that we can learn from trauma. There is little I can glean, other than utter horror, about the world from my grandmother being spat at and called a Jewish pig in Berlin in the 1930s, or the fact that there are pits all over Eastern Europe filled with remains of Jewish bodies.
      But what I do feel very strongly is that we can see the warning signs. When those warning signs erupt, be it a member of the alt-right as the chief of staff, or the campaign advisor talking about “alternative facts” or the lists of crimes committed by immigrants, we can begin to think about our choices over the next four years.
      Language is important. The rhetoric, the lies, the manipulation of the media that is hurtling out of the White House right now is ripping at the fabric of American society. It is a way of dividing people, of creating scapegoats for socio-economic problems. As a Jew I feel all too aware of these warning signs. I grew up hearing about these warning signs. They changed the entire course of my family’s life.
      The choice I recommend this Holocaust Memorial Day: fight like hell. Fight for your Muslim neighbour who experiences hate crime. Fight for the Jewish communal centre that has bomb threats. Fight for the undocumented worker who is terrified they will be separated from their family; for the LGBTQ people whose identity is denied by this administration. Fight for women who want to have ownership and choice over what they do with their bodies and for those who continuously suffer under police brutality.  The elation or excitement that came out of the women’s marches across the world last weekend must be replaced with a clear sense of the impending damage and violence that is about to be inflicted upon our communities. It must a call for those of us who are allies to organise, and to stand up.
      There will be those that challenge the idea that comparing Trump to Hitler is perhaps not only a bit lazy, but also inaccurate. Sure, the likelihood of a second Shoah is small. But make no mistake that there is danger in the rise of nationalist politics. The policies and posturing of Trump’s first week in office will have very real, painful consequences for millions of people. It must galvanise us to resist, and offer support to those who are under threat. 

      Banning Refugees From Countries America Destroyed Is Wrong

      Here below is an article from antiwar.com:
      President Donald Trump has been busy during his first week. The speed of his executive orders, and the confidence with which he has signed plans to build a wall, and to replace ObamaCare with… something else has been shocking, considering how shellshocked he looked when he actually won. Trump also followed through on his campaign promises – or threats, if you prefer – to ban refugees from nations "of particular concern," if his apparent draft executive order is to be believed.
      Which nations are included in that list? Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Let’s see, the US played both sides in Syria, helped it destabilize, bombed it; they completely took over Iraq, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands; they helped stage a coup in Iran, not to mention helped Iraq use chemical weapons on its soldiers and shot down one of its passenger planes in the 1980s; the US invaded Libya and overthrew its leader; and it sent drones to Somalia and Sudan, while bombing a pharmaceutical plant in the latter for good measure. Yemen it has also sent drones to, and its buddy Saudi Arabia is currently bombing and starving their population.
      There is not a nation on that list that the US doesn’t owe something to. But because people are terrified of terrorism, now, now is the time to say sorry, but we’re closed, huddled masses. We’re all filled up, and we’re starting that isolationist thing now – not by removing all troops from abroad, or stopping drone strikes, but by saying we can’t trust the people from the countries we broke.
      According to The Washington Post, "If authorized, the executive action would temporarily block visas from seven countries for 30 days and suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days." This isn’t a sweeping ban on refugees forever, but it’s a nasty, cowardly policy. If America breaks a country, many hawks believe it has to stay (endlessly) in order to "fix it" somehow, with more troops, and more bombing campaigns – then building the nation back up. The correct response to making refugees, however, is to let them emigrate to your country as recourse. (Especially ones who were told that helping America was the thing to do.) After a security check, fine, but not one that will leave them in the lurch while America trembles forever in an exaggerated fear of terrorism.
      Terrorist attacks are not outside the realm of possibility, though they remain a rare risk compared to heart disease, cancer, and slipping in your bathtub. However, the most recent attacks in San Bernardino, CA and the Pulse nightclub in Florida were not performed by immigrants. Both of these alleged killers were born in America.
      Unless Americans are ready to ban certain religions, strip citizenship for suspicious behavior, destroy what remains of privacy, and to hand over even more freedom to the imperial security state, there isn’t much that they can do to prevent lone wolf attacks; much like there’s not a lot they can do to stop school, workplace, or other shootings and violence, no matter their motivation. A society with freedom contains the capacity for bloodshed by individual actors. Law is a clunky took that rarely stops those determined to do violence, but often hinders peaceful people from working, moving, or living their lives.
      Most refugees who are considered such a problem today are risking so much because they’re fleeing from war zones that the US helped create. Individual residents of the US may not owe something to those people (though if they backed George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, and other warhawks, perhaps they do). However, before the day comes that the people take Cheney’s wealth and hand it over to a nice Iraqi family, the US has no business banning immigration from countries it ruined.
      Friday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Too often comparing alarming leaders or dictators to Hitler, or every tragedy to the Holocaust has dulled many people’s reaction to the horror of that genocidal campaign. However, even if we think we know the story, most of us were not presented with the chapters where the US failed a desperate people who were in mortal peril. The world mostly failed the Jews, in fact. And not, as some myths go, because people weren’t aware of what was being done by the Nazis. People knew, and they spent years thinking that someone should really do something about it. Mostly, they didn’t.
      A twitter account named after the SS St. Louis has been dutifully tweeting out names and photos, when possible, of passengers on that famous vessel packed with Jewish refugees who were refused entry to both the US, Canada, and Cuba in 1939. About a quarter of the 900-plus passengers later died in Nazi camps. The US turned away the ship because it was politically awkward, and because President Franklin Roosevelt was not willing to risk reelection in 1940 just to prevent the loss of a few immigrant lives.
      Worse still was the later decision to prevent some 20,000 children fleeing the Holocaust from coming into the US. After all, even little kids could carry the germ of Bolshevism, or perhaps, as others argued, refugees would be made to spy for Nazi Germany if they still had imperiled relatives back in their home countries. The easiest thing to do was not to commit to anything except a savage war until it was too late. Flatten Dresden, killed 100,000 in order to knock out the railroads for a few days? Fine. That’s how we’re fighting this war. Somehow fire storming the enemy (and the civilians who dwell next door to him) was reasonable while saving refugee children wasn’t. We haven’t shook off this attitude today.
      The exception to this moral failure was the effective, though extremely late War Refugee Board, which helped to fund the heroic efforts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved 100,000 Hungarian Jews. Just imagine if that had started in 1933, instead of more than a decade later. Just imagine if, say, the US hadn’t admitted fewer immigrants from imperiled countries than the quotas allowed during those most dangerous years. What if they had cared enough to, say, welcome them to Alaska, as a Michael Chabon novel imagines (based on a fanciful idea that never went anywhere in real life)?
      Sure, not everything is the Holocaust. As bad as Syria is, it’s not a concerted effort to kill an entire minority group, just an appallingly brutal war between multiple, murderous factions, with millions caught in the middle. And yet, in November 2015, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested that even Kindergarten-aged orphans from Syria were not safe to welcome into the land that helpfully placed the Statue of Liberty in the port that million and millions of immigrant passed through, it was difficult not to remember that unwillingness to save even the Jewish children in 1940.
      And though you can argue that the Treaty of Versailles eventually lead to Hitler, and therefore the US at least plays a part in the blame, more importantly, it would have been easy to simply open the doors, and to save people. The US didn’t.
      "Humanitarian" hawks always think that this time, this time we have to bomb and save the oppressed group. Welcoming the people, letting them come here, and to start their lives again, to teach them about secular values, and pluralistic freedom, that idea never seems to be as convincing as war or drones.
      There’s never going to be a good time to pull all US troops out of the world. It’s got to be done sometime, however. It is, however, laughably cruel to declare that now, if now is the time for Trumpian "isolationism," we’re really withdrawing from the world, and that begins with letting the refugees we created survive on their own. It’s not our problem. We can bomb their cities, but we can’t help them, that’s too dangerous.
      Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com.

      Friday, January 27, 2017

      A bigot attacks a hijab-clad airline employee at JFK

      A Massachusetts man is accused of attacking a Muslim airline employee at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly kicking and shouting obscenities at the woman and telling her that President Donald Trump “will get rid of all of you,” authorities said.
      The Queens District Attorney’s Office said Robin Rhodes, of Worchester, had arrived from Aruba and was awaiting a connecting flight to Massachusetts Wednesday night when he approached Delta employee Rabeeya Khan, who wears a hijab, while she was sitting in her office.
      Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Rhodes came up to the door and went on a profanity-laced tirade, asking the woman if she was praying. Rhodes then allegedly punched the door, which hit the back of Khan’s chair. Khan asked Rhodes what she had done to him and Rhodes replied, “You did nothing.” He then cursed at her and kicked her in the leg, Brown said.
      When another person tried to calm him down, Brown said Rhodes moved away from the door and Khan ran out of the office. Rhodes followed her, got down on his knees and began to bow down in imitation of a Muslim praying, shouted obscenities and said “Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You see what happens,” Brown said.
      At the time of his arrest, Rhodes allegedly told police, “I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head.”
      Rhodes was charged with assault, unlawful imprisonment, menacing and harassment as hate crimes. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney who can comment on the charges.
      “The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society — especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation,” Brown said. “Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”

      The Empire Has No Clothes by Paul Street

      Here is the link to Paul Street's article on The Empire Has No Clothes.

      Israel approves 153 more east Jerusalem settler homes

      Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli officials gave final approval Thursday to 153 east Jerusalem settler homes, the deputy mayor said, adding to a sharp increase in such projects since US President Donald Trump took office.
      Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman told AFP the approvals by a city planning committee were among those held up due to pressure from former US president Barack Obama's administration.
      Turgeman said developers "could start building from tomorrow".
      To read the full text of the news above, click here.

      Rohingya Children Give Eyewitness Accounts of Atrocities in Myanmar

      Myanmar government is in its denial of gross violations of human rights including raping of Rohingyas by its rapist security forces. But facts are facts, and cannot be hidden under the rug. Here below are some reports on rape from Rohingya refugees, as reported by Radio Free Asia.
      Rohingya boys and girls as young as 11 and 12 spoke of atrocities they had witnessed that forced them to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state in recent weeks, with some telling BenarNews they saw Burmese security personnel burn their siblings alive.

      A correspondent for BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, interviewed at least 19 children during visits to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, a district in southeastern Bangladesh where some 65,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Rakhine state since early October, according to U.N. estimates.
      “The military whisked away my brother and killed him, set fire to our house, and tortured the women,” said Tasmin Khatun, 11, using a term that refers to the rape of women.
      “We hid in the nearby jungle. I still shudder in fear when I think about it. I cannot sleep at night,” the Rohingya girl told BenarNews at the Kutupalong camp for unregistered refugees in Ukhiya sub-district.
      Myanmar security forces have been accused of committing atrocities against the Rohingya population, such as targeted killings, rapes and the burning of homes, while mounting a crackdown after the killings of nine Burmese border guards by suspected militants in October.
      Myanmar’s government has defended itself from widespread international criticism, denying that its forces committed such abuses against members of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority.
      Last week, BenarNews reported that 17 of 54 Rohingya women interviewed at refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar said members of the Myanmar security forces had raped them.
      Thrown into flames
      Rohingya youngster Abdul Malek, at the Leda refugee camp in Teknaf sub-district, said he witnessed Myanmar security personnel throw his brother into the family’s burning home.
      “Military threw my twin into the fire. … They have been killing everybody by setting fires,” Abdul told BenarNews.
      He and the rest of his family members were able to escape by jumping into a river as security forces shot at them, Abdul alleged.
      Zohur Ali, 12, a refugee at the Kutupalong camp, recounted a similar incident, saying that security personnel snatched his two small siblings from his mother’s lap and threw them into the flames of their home that had been set alight.
      Zohur’s mother Rahima Khatun, 35, told BenarNews: “Zohur cries even while sleeping. I do not know when he will recover from this.”
      Nazim Uddin, 12, whose mother died during childbirth several months ago, said he saw his father beaten and arrested by Myanmar security personnel “some days ago,” before he, four siblings and an uncle fled across the border.
      Two of his siblings, 2-year-old Md Yeasin and 4-year-old Umme Salma, whom he cradled, remain traumatized, Nazim told BenarNews.
      Count under way
      An official with the Dhaka office of the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said it is working to verify the estimate that 65,000 Rohingya have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh since October.
      This number does not include at least 300,000 Rohingya refugees who live in camps in Cox’s Bazar but who fled violence in Rakhine state years ago.
      “To determine the number of the newly arrived Rohingya, we have been conducting a survey. So far, we have registered 12,000 new arrivals including 5,000 children,” the UNHCR official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.
      Ali Hossain, the deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar district, told BenarNews the government had yet to count the number of Rohingya “who entered Bangladesh afresh.” The government, however, has been immunizing children age 5 and younger at the camps and giving them doses of Vitamin A, he said.
      Md Alam, a leader of Block B at the Leda camps, said officials were finding it difficult to feed all the children in the camp.
      “Where is the time to look after the mental trouble?” he told BenarNews.
      “These children are mentally devastated as they came across a horrible reality; counseling is a must for their mental recovery. But where is the opportunity? Many of them are not getting food for survival,” C.R. Abrar, an expert on refugee issues and professor at the University of Dhaka, told BenarNews.
      Reported by Jesmin Papri from Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, for BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.