How does the “Islamic State” change the perception of the conflict in Syria?

November 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Bente Scheller delivered the following keynote lecture at a recent conference on Syria at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin.

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War, it is commonly said, is a last resort. That is a wise notion and one that should be in the best interest of every party. However, it is problematic to use it as legitimation for the choice to perpetually remain in an observant position. ‘Last’ should mean: last possible – when diplomatic efforts are of no avail, and not for when it is already too late.

The Syrian regime has turned the concept of ‘war as a last resort’ inside out. It commenced the war against its own population without seriously considering the reforms initially demanded by protesters. Children were the first victims of the regime, the first victims of torture in the recent conflict, which led to the outbreak of the revolution in March 2011. Rarely did the regime negotiate in the course of this conflict – and when it did, it regularly broke its promises.

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: Inferring Israel’s Genocidal Intent

November 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Is this what genocide looks like?

When I first set out to prove that Israel is committing the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people, I focused mostly on its genocidal acts. While there’s consensus between pretty much anyone that bothered to examine the Convention of Prevention of Genocide [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] on the fact that Israel is committing the first three out of five genocidal acts:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

A debate remains about Israel’s intent to bring about the Palestinian people’s “destruction in whole or in part”. The Russell Tribunal, in its latest “Extraordinary Session on Gaza” and the 2009 “Fact Finding Committee On Gaza” chaired by John Dugard, both illustrate a narrative of colonialist destruction of the social fabric and a partial wiping out of the indigenous population. Frustratingly enough, both stop short of ruling genocide. While the Russell Tribunal simply says “it would be for a criminal court to determine”, the Dugard report goes into much greater detail.

Palestine in Whole or in Part

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Time to Act: End Sexual Violence as War Weapon and End Impunity to Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir

June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Women protesting in the Press Enclave, Lal Chowk, Srinagar, against the double rape and murder of Shaheed Aasiya and Shaheed Nilofar, from Shopian, by the Indian Occupation Army. 2009  Photo Credit: Bilal Bahadur

Women protesting in the Press Enclave, Lal Chowk, Srinagar, against the double rape and murder of Shaheed Aasiya and Shaheed Neelofar, from Shopian, by the Indian Occupation Army. 2009
Photo Credit: Bilal Bahadur

Rt Hon William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, UK

12 June, 2014

Time to Act: End Sexual Violence as War Weapon and End Impunity to Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir

Dear Foreign Secretary,

As the world looks to the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict as a ‘pioneering’ movement, we must speak against rape as a weapon of war in Kashmir, and foreground the survivors whose suffering you have neglected throughout the two-year high profile global campaign.

We are writing to ask you to support an independent international investigation into the rapes and sexual violence that continue to take place in Kashmir since 1989 as a weapon of war. Crimes of sexual violence and sexual torture against Kashmiris have been extensively documented by international human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontière (Doctors Without Borders). According to one such report, “Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War” (by Asia Watch of HRW and Physicians for Human Rights), Indian Armed Forces have used rape in Kashmir as a weapon of war to punish, intimidate, coerce, humiliate and degrade Kashmiri women and men. The Indian State grants its military forces occupying Kashmir legal impunity so that they cannot be prosecuted for rape and other violent crimes including murder. It is time for the international community to break its long and unconscionable silence over rapes in the internationally recognized disputed region of Kashmir.

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UNRWA iconic image goes to Times Square

March 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

United Nations, New York, 20 March 2014 – “The iconic image of a huge crowd waiting for UNRWA food parcels in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, Damascus has gone up on the “Jumbotron” billboard in New York’s Times Square. This sends a powerful message to the world diplomatic community down the road at UN Head Quarters that the world has had enough of Syria’s pitiless conflict. The photo which went viral on the internet within minutes of being released has come to symbolize the revulsion of the world with what is taking place in Syria. The showing in Times Square follows a successful, celebrity backed social media campaign by UNRWA to secure support from 23 million people worldwide, the pre war population of Syria. As the image went up, a crowd below held up pita bread as a symbolic gesture of support for the starving masses in Syria.” (UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness)

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The Syria Test

February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Residents wait to receive food aid distributed at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on January 31, 2014. (UNRWA)

Residents wait to receive food aid distributed at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus on January 31, 2014. (UNRWA)

Tonight I’ll be joining Stephen Walt on the wonderful Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon to debate the crisis in Syria. I rarely disagree with Steve on anything but on Syria our views diverge. Steve is a formidable interlocutor and Chris is a radio legend who knows how to cut to the heart of a subject. I am hoping that today’s debate leads to greater clarity. Here’s from Chris’s introduction:

The nightmare in Syria has slipped off the front page. Yet civilians are still dying by the hundreds every day. Thousands are dead and millions more displaced across Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq. Petroleum “barrel bombs” have replaced sarin gas and the specter of al-Qaeda seems to hover over it all.

We’ve been there before, debating how to respond to a humanitarian crisis halfway across the world. Vietnam in the ’70s, Beirut in the ’80s, Kuwait and Bosnia in the ’90s, and of course Iraq and Afghanistan. Four months ago, Syria looked like the next in that series, with destroyers sailing to the Gulf and Tomahawk missiles armed and ready to fire. Were we right to breathe a sigh of relief, or was non-intervention a worse course than risking another quagmire?

What should we have done, what can we still do, and is it too late to pass the test in Syria?

PRESS RELEASE from Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners Campaign

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Indian Occupied Kashmir

Indian Occupied Kashmir

Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, an online campaign for the release of Kashmiri political prisoners from various Indian jails, has attracted endorsement and support from academics, intellectuals and filmmakers from around the world. Eminent intellectuals and scholars like Judith Butler (Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School and Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley), Hamid Dabashi (Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University), Ayesha Jalal (Mary Richardson Professor of History, Professor at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Director of Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University), Lisa Duggan (Professor, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University (NYU), President-Elect American Studies Association (ASA), USA), Tariq Modood (Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy, Director of the University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Bristol), Lisa Hajjar (Professor of Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara), Chandra Talpade Mohanty (Distinguished Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University), Abdul R. JanMohamed (Professor, English Department, Emory University, University of California at Berkeley), Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi (Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies/Race and Resistance Studies, Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED), San Francisco State University), Suvir Kaul (A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania), Ania Loomba (Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania), Joel Beinin (Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Professor of Middle East History, Department of History, Stanford University), Sherene Razack (Professor, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education and Department of Comparative, International and Development Education,  OISE, University of Toronto), Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and American Studies, Director of Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, Graduate Center, City University of New York), Ibrahim Abdurrahmani Farajajé (Provost and Professor of Cultural Studies and Islamic Studies, Starr King School, Graduate Theological Union (GTU), Berkeley), Neferti Tadiar (Professor and Chair of Women’s Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University), Kamala Visweswaran (Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin), Piya Chatterjee (Dorothy Cruickshank Backstrand Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies, Scripps College), and Joseph Massad (Associate Professor, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University) are amongst the prominent signatories. « Read the rest of this entry »

Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, End the Occupation of Kashmir

February 3, 2014 § 2 Comments

Indian Occupation Forces and their 'Fearsome' Targets: Young Kashmiri Boys

Indian Occupation Forces and their ‘Fearsome’ Targets: Young Kashmiri Boys

Greetings,

We send you this request in hopes of garnering your crucial and valuable support for the letter attached below. This letter is a response to the dire conditions of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, both adults and minors, under the Indian Occupation.  Your support will help bring global attention to this critical and urgent issue.

On the ground, in Kashmir and elsewhere, we have a concurrent month-long campaign, the “Fast for Freedom,” first initiated via Facebook, which involves optional fasting, sit-ins, protests, lectures, and film-screenings.  This will culminate in civil protests, fasts and sit-ins by various organizations – including the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons(APDP) – and campus events in Srinagar, Delhi, and Berkeley et al, from 9th to 11th February 2014.  It is an opportunity not just for Kashmiris but for all people of conscience to show solidarity with an oppressed people, to protest an illegal military occupation, the illegal detention and torture of thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners, and incessant human rights abuse, including mass graves, fake encounters, forced disappearances, mass and gang-rapes, and daily humiliation under the ongoing military occupation.  (Please see the linked report Alleged Perpetrators for more details.)

Your endorsement of the attached letter will help bring urgently needed political attention to this long-festering issue, as well as help to generate intellectual energy to begin necessary conversations on military occupations with regard to power and privilege, coloniality and postcolonialism, sexual assault as a weapon of war, imperial and decolonial feminisms, the colonial politics of prisons and capital punishment, post/colonial tourism, the construction of the “terrorist,” Islamophobia and other forms of racialization in the context of Kashmir.   « Read the rest of this entry »

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