Thursday, August 31, 2017

Floods in South Asia

At least 1,200 people have been killed and millions have been left homeless following devastating floods that have hit India, Bangladesh and Nepal, in one of the worst flooding disasters to have affected the region in years.
International aid agencies said thousands of villages have been cut off by flooding with people being deprived of food and clean water for days.
South Asia suffers from frequent flooding during the monsoon season, which lasts from June to September, but authorities have said this year's floods have been much worse.
In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, the death toll has risen to more than 500, the Straits Times reported, quoting disaster management officials.
The paper said the ongoing floods had so far affected 17 mllion people in India, with thousands sheltered in relief camps.
Anirudh Kumar, a disaster management official in Patna, the capital of Bihar, a poor state known for its mass migration from rural areas to cities, said this year's farming had collapsed because of the floods, which will lead to a further rise in unemployment in the region.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, reports said more than 100 people had died and 2.5 million have been affected.
In Mumbai, authorities struggled to evacuate people living in the financial capital's low-lying areas as transport links were paralysed and downpours led to water rising up to five feet in some parts of the city.
Weather officials are forecasting heavy rains to continue over the next 24 hours and have urged people to stay indoors.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, at least 134 have died in monsoon flooding which is believed to have submerged at least a third of the country.
More than 600,000 hectares of farmland have been partially damaged and in excess of 10,000 hectares have been completely washed away, according to the disaster minister.
Bangladesh's economy is dependent on farming and the country lost around a million tonnes of rice in flash floods in April.
"Farmers are left with nothing, not event with clean drinking water," said Matthew Marek, the head of disaster response in Bangladesh for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.
In Nepal, 150 people have been killed and 90,000 homes have been destroyed in what the UN has called the worst flooding incident in the country in a decade.
According to the Red Cross, at least 7.1 million people have been affected in Bangladesh - more than the population of Scotland - and around 1.4 million people have been affected in Nepal. 
The disaster comes as headlines have focused on the floods in Houston, Texas, which authorities have described as "unprecedented".
Officials in Texas have said the death toll now stands at 15 in the wake of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, with thousands forced to flee their homes.
The rise in extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods have been identified by climate scientists as the hallmark of man-made climate change. 
The US has seen two of its worst storms ever, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina, in just over a decade.

Mueller stopping Trump from pardoning him

Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly teamed up with a powerful New York prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump’s former campaign manager – a disturbing development for the White House as the President does not have the power to pardon state crimes.
To find out more, click here.

India’s Tryst with Godmen Criminals by Farzana Versey

Charlatan godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, head of the Dera Sacha Sauda, has been sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment for the rape of two of his devotees. To prepare for this court pronouncement, the army had to conduct a flag march, the police was on high alert, some areas were placed under curfew. One might have imagined that a terrorist was on the loose.
In India when a godman is arrested on rape or murder charges, his followers can and will take to the streets to avenge a court order. This happened on Friday, August 26 as a Central Bureau of Investigation court convicted Singh. The country was shocked that 200,000 of his band of followers had congregated well before the verdict precisely as a strategy to create mayhem — they stoned building windows, torched buses and cars, including television broadcast vans; 30 people were killed and over 250 injured. What the country does not get shocked over is the existence of such fake gurus and the respect they command among those who matter and their constant presence in the media.
Gurmeet Singh has been sentenced for a crime he committed 15 years ago; the sexual assault on the two young women continued over three years. It was Ram Chander Chhatrapati, a journalist from a small local Hindi newspaper called Poora Sach (the full truth), who had exposed the sins of the saint. A few months after he carried the letter of a victim, he was shot dead outside his house. The murder case is still pending.
The letter was addressed to the then prime minister, BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The young woman had given a detailed account of her trauma. She was not the only one. Her turn to be used came once every month. When she was sent for the first time, Singh was sprawled in his bed watching porn, a remote in his hand, a revolver by his side. Her parents who were followers had insisted that she join the sect. She was stunned by what she saw. She is educated and asked questions. He silenced her protests with threat, flashing her parents’ devotion as well as his clout.
And then he used his spiritual hold over her: “He told me that at the time of becoming his disciple, I had dedicated my wealth, body and soul to him and he had accepted my offering. By this logic, your body is mine now.”
In fact, many female disciples were asked to go into his private chambers for ‘maafi’, forgiveness.
He sold sexual assault as penitence although there was nothing they had to repent for. “We appear like devis (pious women), but our situation is that of prostitutes.”
If women were sexually exploited, men were rendered sexually incapable. There are reports of castration of at least 400 men. They were drugged and their testes were surgically removed.
Singh seems to have wanted to play the role of an ancient king with a harem and a retinue of eunuchs. Clearly, it appears his masculinity felt threatened.
Singh’s Dera Sacha Sauda empire is spread across 700 acres in Sirsa, Haryana. It is a fort-like establishment that ran along the lines of a philanthropic corporation even as the guru produced kitschy films on social consciousness where he essentially promoted his ego. Not only was he cocking a snook at the famed Indian austerity and belief in abjuring, he was also challenging the white and saffron robed hypocrisy of the prevalent uniform of godmen.
His seeming lack of hypocrisy should have been a red rag. Instead, he was feted as a guru reaching out to the new masses with chutzpah. Where other gurus had bhajans (religious hymns) playing in the background, he brandished a guitar and belted out off-key pop music. News channels that began trending him as “RapistRamRahim” and inviting responses to increase their viewership were promoting him a few months ago as a movie messiah, a multi-talented maverick. The mainstream media that is today taking a moral high ground did not bother about following up on the cases against him or even boycotting him until the verdict had been pronounced. He added to the entertainment quotient as “bling baba”. Were they not alerted by his lifestyle to question his credentials?
When they now flash the photograph of Chhatrapati with the “lest we forget” hashtag it is ironical, for they had forgotten. They were woken up with a jolt only because their vans and their reporters became the targets. And much of their ire was against the followers.
Singh has around 60 million followers, and most would not be aware of what happened inside the gufaa, his cavelike residence. The Dera Sacha Sauda, like other deras, isn’t a cult started on the whims of a guru. It is a group of sects that believes in the scriptures but does not owe sole allegiance to it. Their tagline is “confluence of religions”. The guru’s name itself reflects that confluence. Everybody uses ‘Insan’ (human being) as their last name.
Following Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan’s sentencing, there has been discussion on what drew so many people to him. One of the reasons put forth was that he catered to the lower castes that were left out of the upper caste hold on the faith and the economy. It is a plausible argument. However, this assumes that the poor kept his image alive, which is not true. Indeed, those who are denied comfort and luxury do look up to pomp and pageantry, as can be witnessed in loud and garish celebration of festivals in the streets. But that cannot be sustained over such a long period. Besides, how would they identify with his “love charger” blatancy, that too in English?
Like most gurus, he offered welfare. The Dera ran a hospital, had medical camps. It is unlikely that this is what the devotees came for and stayed back with, although it might have helped them at some point. The operative term is slavish obeisance. Whether through drugs, hypnosis, guilt, threat or fear, followers can be held hostage.
Political leaders genuflect before these godmen in full public view, often consulting them on matters of state and law, making a mockery of the Constitution. Singh had helped the BJP win seats in the Punjab and Haryana regions. The Congress Party too had earlier enjoyed his goodies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised his efforts for his government’s cleanliness drive. Two days after the godman’s men went on a rampage, the PM in his radio address to the nation said, “No one has the right to take the law into one’s own hands in the name of one’s beliefs.” It is easy to pick on a mass of unknown faces and names with pop pleas. He made no reference to the charlatan or his crime or to the verdict. Because there are many such gurus who owe their existence and provide patronage to politicians.
And one reason Indians even on the right are celebrating this conviction is because Gurmeet Singh is a Sikh who took potshots at Sikhism and Hinduism. He was grudgingly accepted for facilitating new money and votes, unlike the glowing accolades reserved for the levitating elevated gurus of mainstream godliness.
Rather shockingly, a day after the protests in support of Gurmeet Singh The Indian Express carried a piece by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (who is often invited by media think tanks for their seminars) in which he wrote: “All the embodiments of the divine you worship — Rama, Krishna, Shiva — cannot call be called morally correct figures. They are not. Because it never occurred to them to be that way. But they are the peak of human consciousness.”
This echoes Singh’s stance. When he boasted that he was god to the sadhvi he planned to rape, she had asked him whether god did such things. He replied: “Sri Krishna too was God and he had 360 gopis (milkmaids) with whom he staged Prem Lila (love drama). Even then people regarded him as God. This is not a new thing.” Asaram Bapu, another godman and rape convict, had said: “Lord Buddha, too, had faced such kind of allegations and I am also facing the same. But the truth will come out…I am willing to go to jail with a smiling face. And I think I want to spend some time in Tihar jail. I consider jail as my Vaikunth (heaven).”
But Indians live in denial. Each time a person who owes allegiance to a god comes under the scanner, the knee-jerk reaction in the 140-character and 4-minute read op-ed world is, “Stop calling him a godman.” The fact is that they become the powerhouses they are because they project themselves as men of god and are accepted as such not only by the masses, but by the elite too. India is a country of gods and in this crowded environment there are bound to be middlemen who make devotion accessible and human, even if not humane.
In 2005, the Communist Party of India had exposed Baba Ramdev for using human and animal bones and flesh in his ayurvedic concoctions; he runs a thriving empire today. Yogi Adityanath is the chief minister of the largest state in India. MPs attend Parliament wearing saffron robes. A monk even addressed the Haryana assembly naked.
Indians love to idolise, whether it is godmen or judges. The judge who sentenced Gurmeet Singh is being lauded for his bravery. It does not strike anybody that this is what the law says and the judge was doing his job.
The CBI took 15 years. This, when the victim had stated categorically in her letter: “If a probe is conducted by the press or some government agency, 40 to 45 girls — living in utmost fear at the Dera — if they are convinced, are willing to tell the truth.
There are many more victims of many more such godmen who represent neither religion nor culture. Their ashrams are dens of vice preying upon gullible minds to further their spiritual corporate empires.

The endless wait for Kashmir's disappeared to return

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir - In a central park in Kashmir's Srinagar, relatives of the disappeared gather for a day of remembrance and mourning.
Some burst into tears as they hold photographs of their lost loved ones, some of whom have been missing for years and whose fate remains unknown.
It is the International Day of the Disappeared and these families have one simple question: are their loved ones dead or alive?
They have waited years for any sign of them.
They have visited graveyards, morgues, prisons and torture centres, but found no trace of their missing kin.
The families were brought together by Parveena Ahanger, a 55-year-old woman whose own teenage son disappeared in 1990.
Ahanger heads the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and tells Al Jazeera that the group will continue to protest and appeal to the international community until they are informed about their missing relatives.
"We want to ask the government what they have done to our sons," Ahanger says. "Have they been killed in fake encounters or are they buried in unknown graves?"
The APDP says that at least 8,000 people have gone missing in enforced disappearances by Indian government forces since 1989.
Zareefa Bano, from Kupwara district, was nine months pregnant when she last saw her husband in 1990. Ghulam Rasool had herded his cows into a forest. He never returned.
"Who knows about the disappeared?" says Bano, a wrinkled-faced mother of two daughters.
She travelled more than 130km from her village home to Srinagar with her 26-year-old daughter, Zahida, who was born days after Rasool disappeared.
"I never saw him," says Zahida. "Life is very difficult without a father in the family. My mother cannot do all those things which our father would have done. We have been broken all these years."

'We cried so much our tears have dried'

Abdul Aziz Pir's only son, Farooq Ahmad Pir, was a college student when he disappeared in the summer of 1994. Pir says his son was detained by the army and never returned.
Pir, who looks older than his 60 years, has not stopped searching for him for the past 23 years.
"We have cried so much all these years that our eyes have now become dry," he says.
Officials in Indian-administered Kashmir deny charges they are involved in capturing young men from their families.
Paul Vaid, Jammu and Kashmir police chief, tells Al Jazeera that the question about their whereabouts should be "asked to Pakistan".
"Those who were killed on border, I cannot say anything about them. But many people went to Pakistan and other countries," he said, implying the missing had left to join groups fighting for the separatist cause.
Zareefa, right, was pregnant with her daughter Zahida, left, when her husband disappeared [Rifat Fareed/Al Jazeera]
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Separatist groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed since the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Back at the park, 65-year-old Rehti Begum reflects on her quiet life in Chaki Kawoosa village of Budgam, before her only son went missing.
Begum said Muhammad Ramzan was detained in 1994 by the army. He was never seen again.
"There is no one around with whom I can share my pain," she says.
Her husband died months after their son disappeared and she has since worked odd jobs.
She searched for Ramzan for two decades, even as age took a toll on her health.
"I went to every village, every mountain, every police station and every jail, but I could not see a glimpse of him."
Source: Al Jazeera

Since Trump’s Mideast visit, extrajudicial killings have spiked in Egypt

Two months after Sabry Mohammed Said vanished, his body turned up at the morgue. He had been shot three times and severely beaten, his family said.
The 46-year-old accountant and father of five was a rank-and-file member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement. Egyptian authorities claimed he was also a terrorist who was killed in a June gun battle with police.
But Said’s daughter Sara Sabry said he hadn’t been politically active in three years and had never been arrested. When relatives went to get a police report, the precinct had no record of the incident.
Now, Sabry is convinced that her father died in the custody of Egypt’s notorious state security forces.
“They killed him because he opposed the government,” said Sabry, her face somber and framed by a lime-green headscarf. “Anyone in the opposition is at risk of having this happen to him these days.”
Said’s death is part of a spike in extrajudicial killings and other forms of state abuses that have been committed in recent months under President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, according to activists, victims and their families. They date the dramatic rise to President Trump’s visit to the Middle East in May, in which he urged Arab leaders to take a tougher stance against Islamist extremists and made clear that human rights would not be a high priority for his administration in its dealings with regional allies.
State security forces have arrested dozens of opposition party members. More than 100 websites deemed critical of Sissi’s government have been blocked. Human rights lawyers and activists have been jailed for staging protests, and their assets have been frozen. The judiciary is being stacked with pro-Sissi appointees, lawyers and judges say.
In July alone, there were 61 reported extrajudicial killings, more than double the total over the previous six months, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom.
“The arrest campaigns have become fiercer, and the numbers of people and groups being targeted are scary,” said Asmaa Naem, 27, a human rights lawyer in the northern city of Alexandria. “This is reaching even apolitical people, not just those who are politically active.”
The Egyptian government did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Previous U.S. administrations denounced Egypt’s rulers for abuses and pressed for democratic reforms, often using the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid Egypt receives annually — second only to Israel — as leverage. President Barack Obama froze part of that aid for two years after Egypt’s military, then led by Sissi, overthrew the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi.But Trump has embraced Sissi, even inviting him to the White House, something Obama never did. Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia was widely seen as solidifying a new relationship focused on combating terrorism.
“The visit has emboldened the Arab rulers that whatever violations they commit against their people are going to be accepted by the Trump administration,” said Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. “This gave Sissi the green light to increase the repression. He’s been empowered.”
Early last week, the United States notified Egypt that it would slash or delay more than $290 million in military and economic aid, partly in response to a law that undermines nongovernmental organizations. “We remain concerned about Egypt’s lack of progress in key areas, including human rights and the new NGO law,” said a State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity as per diplomatic protocol.
The cuts surprised many observers and angered the Sissi government. But last Thursday, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Sissi in Cairo. Sissi’s office said that Trump phoned to stress “the strength of the friendship between both countries” and that their conversation “showed Trump’s keenness to step over any obstacles facing this friendship.” A U.S. official confirmed the call.
The State Department official said the administration “will continue to support Egypt in defeating extremists and terrorism.” Egypt should eventually get $195 million of the restricted aid slated to fight internal security threats and terrorism, U.S. officials said.
In speeches, Sissi has declared war against Islamist extremist groups, including an Islamic State affiliate based in the northern Sinai and its counterparts in neighboring war-divided Libya.
But under the guise of fighting terrorism, security forces are also cracking down on moderate Islamists and secular opponents, as well as independent media. Since taking office in 2014, Sissi has jailed thousands of members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
With a presidential election scheduled for next year, Sissi is facing mounting criticism over rising prices and reduced government subsidies. Critics say he’s clamping down on dissent to prevent a repeat of the revolts that ousted President Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprising six years ago.
‘They killed him’

Said was visiting Alexandria when he vanished. A friend traveled there to find him, and he, too, disappeared. Sabry said her family’s Cairo apartment was raided by state security agents. The family filed a case with the government and found a human rights lawyer.
For the next month, she and her family searched police stations and prisons for her father. Then, in late June, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page that Said had been killed in a clash with police.
“I dropped my phone and screamed: ‘They killed him. They killed him,’ ” Sabry said.
Two days later, the ministry issued another statement: Said’s friend had also been killed in a gun battle with police, it said.
Four days after Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the website of an independent Egyptian newspaper, Mada Masr, was shut down. Lina Attalah, the paper’s top editor, initially thought it was a problem with the Internet provider. “Egypt was never a country that used to block websites,” Attalah said. “It was never like China or Syria.”
That was the start of a government campaign to censor the Internet. By early August, 133 websites had been blocked, including privately owned media, NGOs and human rights groups, activists say.
Egypt has also blocked several websites based in Qatar, including the Al Jazeera news network, as part of a Saudi-led alliance that has severed ties with the tiny nation. The countries accuse ­Qatar of backing terrorism, which it has denied.
Mada Masr is now publishing articles via Facebook and Twitter. But even that is under threat: A proposed law, also in the name of fighting terrorism, seeks to restrict the public’s access to social media.
“Before the revolution, there was little margin in which we could operate as independent journalists or human rights defenders or women’s rights activists,” Attalah said. “Right now, this margin is becoming tighter like no other time.”
Egypt’s parliament passed the NGO law last year, but it was shelved following international condemnation. Eight days after Trump’s visit to the region, the government ratified a similar law that makes it more difficult for the groups to raise money and prohibits them from engaging in political activities that “harm national security.” Violators could face prison sentences of up to five years.
“It means the death of civil society,” said Nour Khalil, an Egyptian human rights activist.
Under Sissi, thousands of people have vanished into the state’s security apparatus, but until recently, most were eventually found at police stations, often after being tortured and facing charges. “But now our biggest hope is to find that person alive,” said Khalil, a slim, thin-bearded 24-year-old who has been detained and imprisoned, and who tracks “forced disappearances.”
‘Sending a message’

Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer and opposition politician, was detained for “violating public morals” the day after Trump left Saudi Arabia.
The charges stemmed from a January photo showing Ali celebrating outside a court after a government decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia was reversed.
In the photo, government prosecutors allege Ali was flashing the middle finger.
But pro-democracy activists saw a different motive for the charges, which came four months after the incident. Ali is the founder of the Bread and Freedom Party and recently announced his intention to run for president. If convicted, he faces a year in prison and a fine.
And he will be legally barred from running for president.
“They are sending a message to intimidate society,” Ali said.
Dozens from several political parties were arrested in May and June in late-night sweeps, including 30 members of the Bread and Freedom Party. Five are still in jail, he said.
“Sissi is using terrorism as an excuse to do whatever he wants,” he said. “Now, he’s trying to control the political scene in the name of fighting terrorism.”
The members are being held on what Amnesty International described as “a series of vaguely worded counterterrorism-related charges.” If convicted, they could be sent to prison for five to 25 years.
“There used to be harassment against us,” said Naem, the lawyer in Alexandria, who is also a Bread and Freedom Party member. “Now, it’s much more violent and apparent.”
In mid-June, Naem and five other lawyers were arrested for protesting parliament’s decision to hand over the two islands to Saudi Arabia despite the court’s ruling against the transfer. They were charged with demonstrating without permission and fined $2,700 each. One lawyer was jailed.
A law passed in March allows Sissi to appoint judges, and he recently replaced two senior justices with pro-government ones, activists said. One of the ousted judges, Yehya al-Dakroury, issued the first ruling last year that nullified the island handover.
“I no longer have trust in the judicial system,” said Eid, the human rights lawyer.
Nor does he have any faith that Washington’s sanctions will pressure Sissi to respect basic freedoms or improve human rights, he said.
Increasingly, Eid’s world is closing in on him. He has been banned from traveling outside the country, and his assets have been frozen. And this month, his NGO’s website was shut down.
Heba Farouk Mahfouz contributed to this report.

US Ambassador Rejects Govt Implication of Aid Agencies

YANGON — The US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel on Thursday rejected suggestions by the Myanmar government that international aid agencies—including the US Agency for International Development (USAID)—are supporting the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in northern Rakhine State.
“Any suggestion that USAID, or any other US government agency is providing support to ARSA, an organization we have condemned, is absurd,” Marciel told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
“Everything that we have been doing, and that we continue to do, is in support of the Myanmar people and their effort to build democracy, peace, and prosperity,” he said, adding that embassy staff had spoken to the government regarding the allegations.
The Myanmar government reported the discovery of aid items in suspected militant camps in a number of official statements, as it has launched large security operations in northern Rakhine State after ARSA attacked police and military posts last Friday.
The attacks and continuing violence have left more than 100 confirmed dead—including 12 security personnel—and displaced thousands, with the International Organization for Migration estimating on Wednesday that some 18,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh.
On Wednesday, the government’s Information Committee reported that packets of high-energy biscuits provided by the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) and packets of USAID-branded rice were found at suspected terrorist camps near Kyeekyun in Maungdaw Township on Monday.
At a press conference held by National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun on Tuesday, police Brig-Gen Win Tun said militants had made land mines from aid groups’ construction materials such as ammonia nitrate fertilizer and metal pipes, though he did not specify which aid groups and how militants accessed the materials.
WFP said it was aware of photographs circulating of WFP-branded food and had asked Myanmar authorities for more details in order to track the supply batch and investigate the matter further in a statement released Thursday.
“WFP takes any allegations of food diversions very seriously and considers any manipulation of food assistance destined for needy families as theft,” the statement said.
A US Embassy spokesperson said because the situation is fluid, and access to reliable information is limited, it cannot verify the discovery of the bags of rice or investigate how they might have been diverted.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern about claims by the government that international aid workers were complicit in or supporting the attacks.
“Such statements are irresponsible and only serve to increase fears and the potential for further violence,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I am extremely concerned that the unsupported allegations against international aid organizations place their staff in danger and may make it impossible for them to deliver essential aid.”
There were 77 aid agencies active in Rakhine State in March 2017, including 28 international NGOs, according to the Myanmar Information Management Unit.
Reuters reported this week that the UN and other aid groups had evacuated non-critical staff from northern Rakhine in response to the violence.
Anti-NGO sentiment has developed in Rakhine State since conflict in 2012, with ethnic Arakanese protesting what they feel is unfair favorable treatment of the Rohingya.
Marciel echoed sentiments of the UN and other embassies in condemning Friday’s vicious attacks and said he welcomed government comments that security forces would restore law and order with restraint.
He also urged unfettered access for monitors, aid groups, and journalists.

Are Rohingya Muslims On The Path To Extinction? by Ewelina U. Ochab

Are Rohingya Muslims On The Path To Extinction? asks  Ewelina U. Ochab.
I write on human rights and persecution of minorities around the world Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Over the weekend, Pope Francis spoke about the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma (also known as Myanmar). Pope Francis is also planning a visit to Burma later this year. His speech was followed by statements from the United Nations and state officials about recent developments in Burma and the worsening situation of the Rohingya Muslims. The question is: what is happening to Rohingya Muslims in Burma?
This August 29, 2017, photo shows an elderly Rohingya refugee holding her sleeping grandson in her lap at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh. (Photo credit: EMRUL KAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Rohingyas are the people indigenous to the western Rakhine State of Burma. They are predominately Muslims. Despite their indigenous status, the Burmese government refuses to recognise their identity as Rohingyas, labelling them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The effect on their rights within Burma has been profound.
The lives of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma have never been without challenges, their immigration status especially so. Their situation deteriorated rapidly after the events on October 9, 2016, when nine Burmese police officers were killed by an armed militia. It is a given that any armed insurgency or terror activities have to be adequately addressed by the state to ensure the safety of the people. However, the response to the killings of the Burmese police officers was reportedly violent, leading to widespread and systematic indiscriminate attacks against Rohingya Muslim civilians. The events of October 2016 put Burma firmly onto the United Nations' radar.

On February 3, 2017, the OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh released a report based on interviews with Rohingyas who fled Burma since the events of October 9, 2016. The report was commissioned as a result of reports that over 66,000 Rohingyas had fled Burma to Bangladesh since October 9, 2016. The OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh interviewed 240 people who informed the preparation of the report, including 204 in-depth interviews. The OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh summarised that the interviewed Rohingyas reported the following atrocities:
Extrajudicial executions or other killings, including by random shooting; enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention; rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence; physical assault including beatings; torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; looting and occupation of property; destruction of property; and ethnic and religious discrimination and persecution.
The OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh raised its concerns that the atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims amounted to ‘persecution against a particular ethnic and religious group.’ The report further indicated that as of January 20, 2017, over 22,000 Rohingyas remained internally displaced in Burma. The report suggested that crimes against humanity or even ethnic cleansing were taking place.
Rohingyas who escaped from unrest brush their teeth at a temporary shelter in Sittwe, Rakhine State on August 31, 2017.  (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In March 2017, as a result of the deteriorating situation, and in response to the report of the OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution establishing an independent international fact-finding mission to collect information about the alleged human rights violations in Burma, and focusing mainly on the Rakhine State. The resolution condemned the violence in Burma and called for peaceful resolutions. The ethno-religious character of the conflict in Burma was also recognised in the March 2017 resolution of the Human Rights Council when it:
Strongly encourage[d] the Government of Myanmar to take the measures necessary to address discrimination and prejudice against women, children and members of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities across the country, and to take further action to publicly condemn and speak out against any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and to adopt measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on nationality, race or religion or belief…
Following the passage of the March 2017 resolution, the UN Human Rights Council appointed two of the members of the fact finding mission in May 2017, namely, Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy and Mr Christopher Dominic Sidoti. The Chair of the fact finding mission, Mr Marzuki Darusman, was announced in July 2017. Despite the fact that the fact finding mission is ready to fulfil its obligations to explore the human rights violations in Burma, the Burmese government refused to cooperate and allow the fact finding mission into the country. Hence, despite the establishment of the fact-finding mission, it is prevented from conducting its work from the field and clarifying the situation in Burma. Instead, it is forced to continue its work remotely and will present an update on the situation in Burma during the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.
In August 2017, the Burmese government released a report into the alleged crimes against humanity and the Rohingya Muslims. The report concluded that no such crimes had taken place.
Despite Burma’s increased scrutiny by the United Nations, the plight of the Rohingya Muslims has deteriorated further over the past few days sparking international condemnation and criticism. Media reports confirm that hundreds of people were slaughtered in clashes between Burmese forces and Rohingya insurgents. The fatalities reportedly included civilians. Many buildings were destroyed in the fighting and thousands of Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee to Bangladesh. The Burmese government blames Rohingya insurgents for the killings and property destruction. However, some reports suggested that it was the Burmese army that was burning down villages and shooting civilians.

In response to the ever growing crisis in Burma, on August 29, 2017, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein made a statement condemning the dire situation of Rohingya Muslims in Burma. He noted that since the recent clashes, over 8,700 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh. He called for peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Crimes against humanity or genocide?
The atrocities perpetrated against Rohingya Muslims have also been flagged as possible crimes against humanity and 'the precursor of other egregious international crimes' by UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.
Despite the fact that the word 'genocide' in relation to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma has not been used by any international institutions yet, not surprisingly considering the re-occurring reluctance to do so, it must be examined whether the atrocities have met the threshold of genocide.
For mass atrocities to be classified as genocide, all particulars of Article II of the UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide have to be fulfilled. Genocide occurs when the Article II litany of offences is perpetrated against one of the protected groups (either national, ethnic, religious or racial) with the specific intent to destroy the group in whole or in part.
It was made very clear from the report of the OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh, the conflict has an ethno-religious character. Rohingya Muslims, as a religious and also an ethnic minority in Burma, are a protected group under Article II.
The atrocities allegedly perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims, which still require an adequate investigation, fall within the listed in Article II methods to bring about genocide.
The question is then whether it is possible to establish the specific intent to destroy the group in whole or in part. This is what differentiates genocide from other mass atrocities. The specific intent does not have to be explicit as in the case of Daesh who made numerous statements expressing its aims of destroying religious pluralism in Syria and Iraq, targeting Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. This specific intent may be inferred from the atrocities themselves, as was confirmed in one of the cases of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR v Akayesu. In the absence of any clear expression of any such specific intent, the patterns of the mass atrocities and their impact on the Rohingya Muslim population in Burma must be considered in favour of establishing such an intent.
Lastly, this genocide, if in fact, it is genocide, does not have to materialise fully before the international community responds. Indeed the notion of an attempted genocide is rarely used. However, to make the best of the mechanisms to prevent genocide, an attempt of the ‘crime of offences’ must be recognised accordingly.

The situation of Rohingya Muslims requires an urgent and comprehensive response: to stop the ongoing violence and to help the victims with all their needs before the ethnoreligious remnant disappears from Burma. The response must include an adequate investigation of the alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims.
Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.”

Charlie Hebdo in the news

Remember Charlie Hebdo?
The most recent cover of French magazine Charlie Hebdo mocks victims of Hurricane Harvey with art of neo-Nazis drowning and text that translates to, “God Exists! He Drowned All the Neo-Nazis of Texas.”
The cover features an image of swastika flags and arms in the Nazi salute being submerged in rainwater. The hurricane and massive flooding in the Houston area has killed at least 31 people and left thousands stranded.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rohingya: Even Women and Children Not Spared by Myanmar army

I have stated a few times that what the Myanmar rapist military is doing in the Rohingya territories is nothing short of genocide in which even the fleeing women and children are  shot at and are not spared.
The minority Rohingya community have told Al Jazeera that the casualties are much higher. They say nearly 800 Muslim Rohingyas, including women and children, have been killed in the latest violence.
Locals and activists accuse the state police of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks in what they have declared is a war against "terrorism," especially around the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung. The area has a population of around 800,000 people. They have also imposed a curfew in the affected region.
Thousands of Rohingya have tried to flee into Bangladesh, but Bangladeshi border guards are reportedly turning them back.
Aziz Khan, a Maungdaw resident, said the army stormed his village early on Friday and began "firing indiscriminately at people's cars and homes."
"Government forces and the border guard police killed at least 11 people in my village. When they arrived they started shooting at everything that moved. Some soldiers then carried out arson attacks.
"Women and children were also among the dead," he said. "Even a baby wasn't spared."
The Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy, NLD, has been in power for nearly two years now but the renowned human rights leader has been widely criticized for not acknowledging the grave human rights violations against the minority Rohingya people.
At the beginning of 2017, Suu Kyi denied visas to members of a UN fact finding mission who were to investigate the ongoing human rights abuses by security forces in the Rakhine state against the Rohingya Muslim minorities.
Over several decades, the government has made consistent efforts to erase the minority-Muslim Rohingya’s historical ties to Rakhine state that date to the 8th Century A.D. by denying them basic human rights such as citizenship, access to education, among others. Since 1994, they have not received their birth certificates from the state. They also require a government permit to marry.
The Myanmar government refuses to consider the Rohingya as a legitimate native ethnic minority and considers them as illegal immigrants who came from neighboring Bangladesh.
According to a UNHCR report on forced displacement in South-East Asia, over 168,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar in the last five years as a result of violence and desperation.
Between 1991 and 1992, nearly 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh amid grave human rights violations such as rape, forced labor, and religious persecution.

Read the link here to find out more.

Journalist Detained in Myanmar For ‘Defaming’ a fascist Monk responsible for initiating genocidal crimes

Read the news below to see the height of moral bankruptcy in this Buddhist country called Myanmar. A fascist monk - Wirathu - who has been responsible for initiating genocidal crimes against the most persecuted Rohingya people is treated as a celebrity - an untouchable Don. He had a role in the killing of a prominent Rohingya lawyer. When a honest journalist shared a post on Facebook suggesting Wirathu had violated the monastic code of conduct by making statements commending the Jan. 28 assassination of a well-known Muslim lawyer, the journalist was charged for defaming Wirathu. What a sickening display of law and justice in this den of hatred!!

Burmese authorities arrested an award-winning investigative journalist at Yangon International Airport last montht as he was preparing to fly to Bangkok, claiming that he might try to evade a criminal defamation charge leveled against him earlier this year.
Local broadcaster DVB reports that Swe Win, chief editor and correspondent for Myanmar Now, will be transferred to a jail in Mandalay where he is expected to face trial for allegedly defaming Wirathu, a monk known for giving incendiary anti-Muslim sermons in the majority Buddhist country.
Swe Win is also the fourth journalist to be detained in the country in just over one month, alarming press freedom and rights watchdogs in Southeast Asia. In late June, Myanmar's military detained seven people — three journalists and four men who were traveling with them — in the country's war-torn Shan State under a draconian Unlawful Association Law, claiming they had connections with armed rebels.
In September of last year, Swe Win was awarded the President's Certificate of Honor for his groundbreaking investigation into years-long abuse of domestic workers at a tailor shop in the country's biggest city and former capital, Yangon. If convicted of the charge against him, he could face up to three years in prison.

About 18,000 Rohingya Have Fled Myanmar Since Genocidal Violence Erupted Last Week

An estimated 18,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border into Bangladesh since Friday to escape the latest escalation of violence in western Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday that more are expected in the coming days as “hundreds and hundreds” remained stranded at the border, Reuters reports.
Violence erupted on Aug. 25 when Rohingya insurgents allegedly attacked dozens of state security stations as a result of on-going genocidal crimes of the Myanmar government and its Buddhist people.
 At least 109 people were killed during and after the the attacks, most of them insurgents, according to government figures.
The attacks occurred shortly after a sharp uptick in the deployment of Myanmar military troops to the volatile area, a move prompting the U.N. rights rapporteur to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, to express "major concern."
Rakhine is home to an estimated 1.1 million Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority that has suffered decades of persecution. In 2012, deadly riots between Muslims and the majority Buddhists forced more than 100,000 Rohingya from their homes. The state has remained strictly segregated ever since.
Bangladesh already hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees and has turned back thousands more, according to Reuters. In Oct. 2016, a smaller attack by insurgents triggered a counter-terror operation that ultimately sent some 74,000 Rohingya civilians fleeing across the border, bringing with them horrifying allegations of rape, torture, murder and fire.
The U.N. has concluded the "very likely commission of crimes against humanity" as the so-called "clearance operations" were carried out by the Myanmar military and other armed security forces. The Myanmar government's treatment of the Rohingya has been likened to ethnic cleansing.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Tuesday that he condemns the recent attacks on security personnel, but urged restraint by all involved as the suspects are brought to justice. He further urged the government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to condemn inflammatory rhetoric that has proliferated in the local press and on social media since the attacks.
“This turn of events is deplorable," Zeid said in a statement. "It was predicted and could have been prevented.”

How Israel Won the War and Defeated the Palestinian Dream

To read the story, click here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Report from Rohngya victims

Here below are eye-witness reports, published in the Arakan Times, from  victims of the latest genocidal activities of the Myanmar army:
A middle school teacher, U Maung Ni, from ThihoKyun of Northern Maungdaw reported that Myanmar army burnt down their homes, killed 100s of civilians and alleged them Bengali terrorists.
Maung Ni said “Military came to our village and started open fire on us on 26 August 2017. We all ran to save our lives. Later, army blazed our homes. Myanmar regime has been labeling us Bengali terrorists since 1990. We are not terrorists. We are victims of Genocide since 1990. I condemned ARSA militants’ attack on Border Guard Posts in October 9, 2016. Instead of finding the attackers, military and border guards targeted only civilians in October, November and December. In November, ARSA militants came to our village, forced villagers prepare food for them. Ali Akbar informed military about the militants. When soldiers came, they arrested those who fed militants because militants left at that time .Now, ARSA again attacked police posts. Though we don’t support them, we became target of military. Why? We are not terrorists . We are victims of genocide.”
On 28 August, army officers warned Anauk Pyin and Nyaung Bin Gyi villages of Rathedaung, two Rohingta villages among twenty two Rakhine villages, depend on ration of WFP since 2012, to leave wherever they can or army will torch the villages.  said Amir Hakim
Myanmar’s State Media broadcasts propaganda against Rohingya twenty four hours; Bengali terrorists are torching houses and killing Rohingyas, in Ratheduang, Buthidaung  and Maungdaw. State Counselor Office Information Center is under supervision of genocider, Zaw Htay who has been organizing propaganda against Rohingya since 2011.
According to latest information, 19 Rohingya villages have been blazed into ashes, 700 Rohingya civilians were slaughtered or shot to death  by military, 90000 Rohingyas lost their homes.
U Kyaw Naing from ThaeChaung IDP camp of Sittwe said, ”Current situation in Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw is hundred times worse than 2012 massacre. In 2012, Myanmar army used Rakhine extremists to destroy us but since October 2016, military, border guards police and Rakhine extremists led by Aye Maung have been killing us in the name of ARSA. If ARSA really committed crimes, we have no objection to punish them. Why are the thousands of innocent civilians being target of security forces?"

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Rohingya: Even babies were not spared by the army

Myanmar troops shot at Rohingya civilians with mortars and machine guns near the Bangladesh border yesterday. They were mostly women and children.
The Myanmar army has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings in the restive Rakhine region, with residents and activists accusing soldiers of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks.
Authorities in Myanmar say close to 100 people have been killed since Friday when armed men, reportedly from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), launched a pre-dawn raid on police outposts in the restive region.
The army has declared a war against "terrorism", encircling the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, home to around 800,000 people, and imposed a curfew from 6pm (11:30 GMT) to 6am (23:30 GMT).
However, advocates for the Rohingya have given a much higher death toll, telling Al Jazeera that at least 800 of the Muslim minority, including dozens of women and children, have been killed in the violence.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures. 
Aziz Khan, a Maungdaw resident, said the army stormed his village early on Friday and began "firing indiscriminately at people's cars and homes.
"Government forces and the border guard police killed at least 11 people in my village. When they arrived they started shooting at everything that moved. Some soldiers then carried out arson attacks.
"Women and children were also among the dead," he said. "Even a baby wasn't spared."
Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist and blogger based in Europe, said anywhere between 5,000 - 10,000 people had been driven from their homes by the recent offensive.
Using a network of activists on the ground to document the conflict, San Lwin said mosques and madrasas (religious Islamic institutions) had been burned to the ground, with thousands of Muslims stranded without food and shelter.
"My own uncles were forced to flee by the government and the military," he told Al Jazeera.
"There has been no help from the government, instead people's homes have been destroyed and their goods looted.
"Without food, shelter and protection, they don't know when we'll be killed."
Speaking to Al Jazeera under a pseudonym, Myint Lwin, a resident of Buthidaung township said that "fear had gripped every household.
"People have been sharing videos of the killings on WhatsApp. Videos of women and children being killed. Innocent men being shot dead. You can't begin to imagine how scared we are.
"Nobody wants to leave their home. Muslims are scared to go anywhere, hospitals, markets, anywhere. It's a very dangerous situation."
Videos uploaded on social media showed dozens of men, women and children fleeing with only the clothes on their backs while seeking refuge in rice and paddy fields.
Security has deteriorated sharply in Rakhine since Aung San Suu Kyi's government sent thousands of troops into Rohingya villages and hamlets last October after nine policemen were killed by suspected Rohingya armed group in attacks on border posts.
The security forces' offensive has been beset by allegations of arson, killings and rape; and forced more than 87,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights, a human rights group, said with the "authorities treating all Rohingya as combatants", the government's account of the violence would be "dubious at best".
"The government has refused to cooperate with a UN fact-finding Mission on Rakhine and there are serious allegations of the military attacking unarmed civilians," he told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
"A lot of people are on the run and they need serious protection and the authorities have not made it easy to help them."
Rakhine state is home to most of Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya, who live largely in abject poverty and face widespread discrimination by the Buddhist majority.
The minority are widely reviled as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, despite having lived in the area for generations.
They have been rendered stateless by the government and the UN believes the army's crackdown may amount to ethnic cleansing - a charge the government of Aung San Suu Kyi vehemently denies. 
Follow Faisal Edroos on Twitter: @FaisalEdroos

ARNO press release on Kofi Annan-led Commission Report on Arakan

Press release 27 August 2017

Implement Recommendations, Stop Military Atrocities, and Allow UN Fact-Finding Mission
Arakan Rohingya National Organisation welcomes the report of Annan's Advisory Commission on Rakhine State released on 24 August 2017. Now the responsibility lies with the NLD-led government for the full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. It is noteworthy that the Commission has stressed to address the Rohingya problem and their "legitimate concerns" without use of force, and warned of radicalization if not executed swiftly.

We reiterate that the deployment of hundreds of soldiers to Northern Arakan from 11 August was a joint conspiracy of some Rakhine leaders and Myanmar military. Despite concerns raised by ARNO with the Rohingya people, and international rights groups, including UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee, the armed forces have created an extreme situation that caused the latest unwanted clashes from last Friday, between soldiers and a Rohingya armed group, moment after former UN chief Kofi Annan suggested Myanmar Government to immediately put an end to all restrictions on the basic freedoms of Rohingya, ensure their rights and freedoms, and grant their citizenship.

The rejection of the UN Fact-Finding mission by the Government of Myanmar is a further setback regarding accountability for systematic violations and abuses of human rights. It is terrible that the authorities continue to ignore the ongoing killing of innocent Rohingya civilians, rape of their women and girls, looting, torching and destruction of their houses and villages by the soldiers and Rakhine extremists causing fresh outflows of refugees from Arakan into Bangladesh.

Annan’s Rakhine Advisory Commission supports the dispatch of UN fact finding mission to the Northern Arakan as a credible venue for the justice and accountability citing that his commission was not mandated to investigate the specific cases of human rights violations, and that the report released by the investigation commission of Vice President U Myint Swe is highly flawed and its credibility is highly questionable. It indicates that the Rohingya problem is an issue of "international concern" although the Myanmar government wishes to treat it as a "domestic issue".

We, therefore, demand the Government of Myanmar:

(1) Fully implements all recommendations of the reports, as promised by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, without delay;

(2) Constitutes an independent commission to investigate into the recent/ongoing atrocities against the civilians in Arakan;

(3) Allows the UN Fact-Finding mission to investigate into atrocity crimes perpetrated against Rohingya population.

To these facts we invite the attention of the UN and international community, powerful countries, OIC, ASEAN and Myanmar’s neighbours to bring consistent pressure to bear on the Myanmar Government and the military.

For more details, please contact:
Australia: Dr. Hla Myint + 61-423381904

Bangladesh: Ko Ko Linn: + 880-1726068413

Canada: Nur Hasim +1-519-5725359

Japan: Zaw Min Htut + 81-8030835327

U.K. Ronnie: +44-7783118354

USA: Dr. Habibullah: +1-4438158609


Kushner's visit to the Middle East

Kushner tells Abbas Israeli Squatter Expansion can’t be stopped b/c Netanyahu Gov’t would Fall. To read more, click here.

The tragic tale of Egypt’s decline: Is it also the story of America’s future?

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, "False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East," was recently published by Oxford University Press. Here is the link to his article on Trump's America and Egyptian dictators who led to her decline.

Two Muslim youths Carrying Cattle Lynched By Mob In West Bengal's Jalpaiguri

Eid al-Adha will be celebrated by Muslims next week in commemoration of sacrifice made by Prophet Abraham. India has nearly 14% Muslims who are preparing for the festival. Unfortunately, Hindu fascism is now the new norm in India which lets Hindu fascists to lynch anyone suspected of being a non-Hindu. And when it comes to trading in cattle, carrying cows these low lives are all excited and don't mind taking actions in their own hands. Two teenager Muslims were beaten to death in West Bengal of India. This is the new India we have learned to see these days!!!
See the latest report below:
According to police sources, the incident took place around 3 am in Dadon 2 village about 15 kms from Dhupguri town.
Two persons were lynched by a mob, which dragged them out of a pick-up van carrying cows, at Barhoria village in Jalpaiguri district on Sunday the police said.
According to police sources, the incident took place around 3 am in Dadon 2 village about 15 kms from Dhupguri town, reported The Indian Express.
The victim were travelling on a pickup van through the village. The van had seven cows in it. The van somehow lost its way and kept circling the area. Alerted by the noise of the van, the villagers tried to stop it, but the vehicle sped off.
Anwar Hussain, 19, and Hafizul Sheikh, 19, were beaten to death by the mob, which intercepted their vehicle and pulled them out of it in the early hours, the police said, adding that the pick-up van was also badly damaged by the mob.
Police took Hussain and Sheikh to the Dhupguri hospital where they were declared brought dead.
The police also took charge of the animals in the vehicle.
A large contingent of police was deployed in the area.
According to the police, it is not confirmed that the victim’s were cow thieves or cattle traders who bought the cattle from a market in the area.
(With PTI inputs) 

Myanmar troops open fire on civilians fleeing attacks

Myanmar soldiers opened fire on fleeing Rohingya civilians - mostly women and children - as they attempted to cross the border into Bangladesh and escape surging violence.
On Saturday, an AFP news agency reporter at Bangladesh's Ghumdhum border post counted more than a dozen mortar shells and countless machine-gun rounds fired by Myanmar security forces in nearby hills onto a large group of Rohingya desperately trying to cross.
It was not immediately clear if any were hit, but the civilians scattered to evade the barrage.
"They have fired on civilians, mostly women and children, hiding in the hills near the zero line," Border Guard Bangladesh's (BGB) station chief Manzurul Hassan Khan confirmed.
"They fired machine guns and mortar shells suddenly, targeting the civilians. They have not consulted with the BGB," he added.
Anita Schug of the European Rohingya Council, speaking from the Swiss city of Solothurn, told Al Jazeera her organisation could verify the report.
"We have videos from the ground and we can share them if requested confirming that this news is true," she said.
"Burmese military together with the Rakhine extremists armed with knives, swords, machetes and guns are attacking the Rohingya innocent civilians who are not armed at all."

Thousands trapped

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims escaping violence in Myanmar were trapped at the border with Bangladesh as new fighting erupted in restive Rakhine state.
Clashes began on Friday between security forces and Rohingya rebels leaving at least 92 people dead, including 12 soldiers, forcing civilians to flee.
"Many Rohingya people are trying to enter the country, but we have a zero tolerance policy - no one will be allowed," Mohammad Ali Hossain, deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar district near the Myanmar border, told Reuters news agency.
Later on Saturday, Mohammad Nur - a Rohingya leader at an unregistered camp in Cox's Bazar - told the AP news agency by phone he heard about 100,000 Rohingya had gathered along the border to try to enter Bangladesh. That figure could not be confirmed.
Gunfire rang out across the northern part of Rakhine state on Saturday as clashes between the two sides continued.
Bangladeshi officials regularly advocate a tough approach to refugees in official interviews, but typically end up letting them through.
An AFP reporter at the scene said hundreds of Rohingya made it across the porous border early on Saturday when border patrols were relaxed because of heavy rain, with some swimming across the Naf river.
An emergency ward doctor said two Rohingya men who had been shot in Myanmar entered Bangladesh and were taken to a hospital.
"One of them, aged 25, died hours after he was admitted here," the doctor said on condition of anonymity.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are already in Bangladesh and 87,000 have arrived since October 2016, after an attack by rebels killed nine security forces and resulted in a major crackdown in Rakhine state.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto leader, "strongly condemned" Friday's "brutal attacks by terrorists on security forces in Rakhine state".
"I would like to commend the members of the police and security forces who have acted with great courage in the face of many challenges," Aung San Suu Kyi said.
The government said it had evacuated officials, teachers, and hundreds of non-Rohingya villagers to army bases and police stations.
The focal point of Friday's unrest was Rathedaung township. The area has seen a heavy build-up of troops in recent weeks, with reports filtering out of killings by shadowy groups, army-blockaded villages, and abuses.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks in a Twitter post, but did not mention casualty figures or how many fighters were involved.
ARSA, accusing the Myanmar forces of killings and rape, said on Friday it was "taking defensive actions" in more than 25 different locations.
The government has declared the group a "terrorist" organisation.
Observers worry the latest attacks will prompt an even more aggressive army response and trigger communal clashes between Muslims and Buddhist ethnic Rakhines.
"25 Aug attack in N Rakine utmost concern! Violence must stop in Rakhine. Heartfelt sorrow 4 deaths. Beg all sides 2 take restraint! Everyone!" Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said on Twitter.
The Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite claiming roots in the region that go back centuries.
About 1.1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar.
The mistreatment of the Rohingya Muslims, often described as the world's most persecuted minority, has emerged as Myanmar's most contentious human rights issue as it makes a transition from decades of military rule.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

UN Aid Chief Issues Bleak Warning On Central African Republic - Genocide Watch

The UN's aid chief Stephen O'Brien has briefed the Security Council on the ethnic clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR). He echoed his own earlier comments that "the early warnings of genocide are there."
As  I have also noted separately in my blog, the Muslims of CAR face genocide. The warning from the UN's aid chief should be a sufficient wakeup call to stop that genocide of minority Muslims in CAR.
Violent clashes in the Central African Republic could soon become genocide if the United Nations doesn't bolster its peacekeeping mission, the UN's humanitarian chief said on Tuesday.
Aid chief Stephen O'Brien made the remarks during a closed-door meeting with the Security Council, requested by France, following his return from an official visit to the strife-torn country. O'Brien had said earlier this month on his return that "the early warnings of genocide are there."
O'Brien told the Associated Press news agency that he witnessed 2,000 Muslims holed up in a Catholic church in the southeastern town of Bangassou. After Christian militiamen burnt down the Muslim civilians' houses, they were "just lying in wait to kill them if they tried to move," he said, speaking to AP after briefing the Security Council.
The Central African Republic, one of the world's poorest nations, has been plagued by violence since a Muslim-majority "Seleka" rebels overthrew Christian President Francois Bozize in 2013. They were subsequently ousted by a French-backed military intervention, although this was followed by deadly reprisals by the so-called "anti-balaka" Christian militants on the country's Muslim population. Fighting between the sectarian groups for influence and natural resources has rarely ceased since, resulting in thousands of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
O'Brien's report echoed similar remarks he made last month and comments by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres late in July that gains made towards lasting peace, including last year's relatively peaceful election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, a Christian, risked being undone by rising ethnic tensions.
"The escalation is very real," O'Brien said. "We're looking at things which we haven't heard about for a long time. There's a very deep ethnic cleansing approach."
The UN aid chief also pointed out that the number of displaced persons had increased by 40 percent from last year, up to 600,000 people in a country of 4.5 million.
The UN aid chief also stressed that the UN must bolster its force of 12,000 peacekeeping troops in the region, many of whom have become direct targets in the sectarian conflict.
O'Brien told the Security Council that he witnessed Muslim troops from Morocco directly targeted by Christian militiamen "who saw them as partial to protecting the Muslim community they were trying to get rid of." Violence targeting humanitarian actors had forced many of them to drop their duties, O'Brien added.
According to a diplomatic source, members of the Security Council proposed a visit to the impoverished country to better grasp the situation in the country.

Uri Avnery's latest article

Jabotinsky and Greater Israel

The spectacle is almost bizarre: a political party refuses to accept new members. And not just a few individuals, but tens of thousands. And not just any party, but the Likud ("Unification"), the main force in Israel’s governing coalition.
Strange? But there is method in this madness. It may soon come before Israel’s highest court.
The present leaders of the party, Binyamin Netanyahu and his fellows, are afraid that the people who are now seeking to register as Likud members are really settlers in the occupied territories, who want to take over the Likud, while in practice remaining loyal to their own parties, which are even more extremist.
One of the present Likud members of the Knesset has submitted a bill that may well be unique in the world. It arises from the fear that these new Likud members will not vote for the Likud in the general elections. To counter this possibility, the bill says that when a new member registers in the Likud party, their name will be struck from the general election voter registry, and they will be recorded as having voted for the Likud.
This is manifestly unconstitutional, since it negates the secrecy of the ballot. The legal advisor of the Knesset will probably block it. If not, it will go to the Supreme Court.
This all shows that the Likud is really a curious kind of bird. And not from today.
Years ago, a leading French journalist came to me during an Israeli election campaign. I directed him to an election rally of Menachem Begin’s.
When he came back he was bewildered. "I don’t understand it," he exclaimed. "When he was talking about the Arabs, he sounded like a rabid fascist. When he was talking about social affairs, he sounded like a moderate liberal. How can this fit together?"
"Begin is not a great thinker," I explained to him. "All the ideology of the Likud goes back to Vladimir Jabotinsky."
Vladimir (or Ze’ev) Jabotinsky was the founder of the "revisionist" party, the parent of the Herut Party, which was the parent of the present-day Likud. He was born in 1880 in Odessa in the Ukraine. When he was young man he was sent as a journalist to Italy, a country that had attained its freedom not so long before.
The Italian liberation movement was an unusual mixture of extreme patriotism and liberal social ideas. This fixed the young Jabotinsky’s political outlook for life.
He was a very captivating person, extremely gifted in several fields. He wrote a novel (about the Biblical hero Samson), translated Edgar Allen Poe’s poems into Hebrew, was a brilliant orator and gifted journalist, wrote songs and much more. In World War I he helped form Jewish battalions in the British army and was a junior officer in the conquest of Palestine.
A few years later the British partitioned Palestine and set up the separate Arab emirate of Transjordan. Jabotinsky objected and founded the ultra-Zionist "Revisionist Party", which demanded the "revision" of this decision.
Jabotinsky loathed the dour, socialist "pioneers" who dominated the Zionist community in Palestine and who hated him. I suspect that he was not too unhappy when the British kicked him out of the country. David Ben-Gurion called him "fascist" – though, as an Italy-lover, Jabotinsky loathed Benito Mussolini.
During those years Jabotinsky was a globe-trotting agitator, who wrote a weekly article which I read piously. I admired his clear, logical style. His movement grew in several countries, especially Poland.
In Palestine, Jabotinsky’s Revisionist movement remained a small and isolated minority. However, when violent Jewish-Arab clashes broke out, his movement established the Irgun, an armed underground organization. Jabotinsky was its nominal commander-in-chief. Largely because of him, I joined when I was hardly 15 years old.
In early 1939, Jabotinsky’s followers around the world assembled in Warsaw. The clouds of war were already gathering, but Jabotinsky proclaimed that war was impossible – modern arms were much too murderous. When one of his Polish followers, a youngster called Menachem Begin, dared to contradict him, the leader acidly responded: "Sir, if I had your convictions, I would jump into the Vistula!"
However, World War II did indeed break out. Jabotinsky fled to the US, were he died aged 59 of a heart attack. Begin, who had not jumped into the river, eventually reached Palestine and was appointed commander of the Irgun, which became one of the most successful terrorist organizations in the world.
When the State of Israel was born, Begin became the leader of the opposition and a stickler for democracy. He discarded the "revisionist" party and created his own Herut ("Freedom") party, at the head of which he lost eight consecutive election campaigns.
When he reached power at last, in 1977, he surprised the world by making peace with Egypt, the most powerful Arab country. I was not surprised at all.
Begin was not a brilliant personality like Jabotinsky. He followed his master religiously. Jabotinsky’s ideology was geographical: "Eretz Israel on both sides of the Jordan". The map did not include the Sinai peninsula, so Begin had no qualms about giving it back to Egypt. (It also did not include the Golan heights, which Begin would have returned to Syria without hesitation.)
With time, Begin and his followers forgot about the land beyond the Jordan river. They still sang the song written by Jabotinsky ("The Jordan has two banks – the one belongs to us and so does the other"), but realpolitik is stronger than songs. The Kingdom of Jordan is now one of Israel’s most important allies, and Israel has saved it from extinction several times.
However, the claim that Jordan, like the West Bank, must be part of the Jewish State appears prominently in the Likud party program. Everybody had forgotten this long ago, until this week.
Binyamin Netanyahu’s assistants, who are fighting to prevent the "new applicants" from becoming members of their party, demand that they declare their full acceptance of all parts of the official Likud program – including the demand that Jordan become a part of Israel.
As a personality, Netanyahu is far below Begin, much as Begin was far below Jabotinsky. There never was a whiff of personal misbehavior about Begin, who was famous for his modest standard lifestyle, after risking his life every minute for years. Netanyahu is surrounded by a strong smell of corruption. Several investigations against him and his wife Sarah are in progress, each of which could well land him in prison.
Jabotinsky would have looked upon him with disgust.
A Jewish joke tells about the death of the rich man in the ghetto. According to custom, somebody had to eulogize him, presenting him positively. Nobody could be found to fulfill this duty. At long last, one man volunteered.
"We all know that Rabbi Moshe was a loathsome person," he said, "stinking rich, mean and cruel. But compared to his son, he was an angel!"
Something like this is happening in Israel now. The spotlight is on Ya’ir, Netanyahu’s 26-year old elder son.
"Bibi" has already been in power for 12 nonconsecutive years and behaves like a king. "Sarah’le", his wife, behaves like a queen, in the style of Marie Antoinette. In popular parlance, Ya’ir is the "crown-prince".
A very unruly prince. He lives with his parents in the official residence and behaves like a spoiled brat. He is trailed everywhere by bodyguards provided by the state. He has no visible job. And during the last few days, he has become notorious.
Like Donald the Trump, Ya’ir spews abusive comments in all directions on the Internet. For example, he calls "The New Israel Fund", a foundation that supports leftist groups, "The New Fund for the Destruction of Israel".
The latest episode concerns the by-law that orders dog owners to pick up the excrement of their animals in public places. Ya’ir was walking the royal dog, the now famous Kaya, without picking up her excrement in the street. When a lady stopped him and demanded that he follow the law, he made a lewd gesture – which the lady duly photographed.
Jabotinsky, Begin, Bibi, Ya’ir – quelle difference!
Uri Avnery is a peace activist, journalist, writer, and former member of the Israeli Knesset. Read other articles by Uri, or visit Uri’s website.