Two Upcoming Screenings of SYRIA’S DISAPPEARED in Chicago

The film Syria’s Disappeared has been called “brilliant and sickening” and a “must-view can’t-look documentary…about the 200,000 people arrested and detained after the Arab Spring took hold in Syria.”

Amnesty International is partnering with the filmmakers on a series of screenings and panel discussions around the world. Amnesty International – UK recently hosted one in London.

Amnesty International – Chicago is hosting two screenings: one at Loyola University’s lake shore campus on Wednesday October 25 at 6pm; one at DePaul University’s downtown campus on Thursday October 26 at 6pm. Following both screenings, Sara Afshar, the film’s director and co-producer, ​will discuss the film and take audience questions. At DePaul, she’ll be joined by Elisabeth Ward, executive director of the university’s International Human Rights Law Institute. Both screenings are free of charge and open to the public.

Want to organize a screening in your city? Want to review the film? Get in touch with Sara Afshar.

Highly recommended reading:

‘Please don’t forget us’: the hellish search for Syria’s lost prisoners (Nicola Cutcher)

The Syrians Campaigning for Justice for Those ‘Disappeared’ by Assad (Nicola Cutcher and Sara Afshar)

“Syria’s Desaparecidos (Budour Hassan)

“Syria’s Disappeared” (Bente Scheller)

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stargazing on the backs of our children

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by Huma Dar

stargazing on the backs of our children
what kind of heaven lies under our feet, yet
starry, starry nights on the backs of our beloveds:
“Andromeda, you see, sweeps from right to left. Ursa Major just above it, Cassiopeia is the loose bunch near the shoulder, within, there are all the signs.”

stars, also, on the pitch-black eyes of our daughters, our sons
dying stars, supernovae of frightful beauty
freedom’s terrible thirst clotting into black holes
amidst galaxies of desire
desire of freedom, both deadly and rejuvenating
the dead(ly) gaze of our youth
still threatens to annihilate the brutal
despite their guns
turn the enemy into stone, my dear child!
look him in the eye.

“Make this your star gazing, your horoscope for the week, for all of tomorrow. A starry eyed tomorrow…”

they shoot our young on their backs, on their eyes,
our eyes will petrify them still
the battle will be won
Medusa, the freedom fighter, will have her day

P.S: This poem was originally written as a Facebook post on Aug 27 or 28, 2015, inspired by Najeeb Mubarki’s caption, within quotation marks above, of a photograph of a Kashmiri youth’s back, shimmering with scores of pellet injuries… Pellet injuries that are touted to be “non-lethal,” but are anything but.

It happens to be one of the few things coincidentally saved from my now-disabled account — please sign here to demand that Facebook reinstate it.

Read more about this horrifying oppression by the Indian Occupation in Kashmir – Scars of Pellet Gun: The Brutal Face of Suppression by Mannan Bukhari.

 

“India,” “Secularism,” and Its Dissenting Authors Or “Der Āyad, Durust Āyad, but is this even an arrival”?

by Huma Dar

“Prominent writers in India are collectively protesting what they consider an increase in hostility and intolerance, which they argue has been allowed to fester under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by returning a prestigious literary award.”

Referring to attacks against Muslims, including the killing of a man who had been suspected of slaughtering a cow, he said, “This is not the country that our great leaders had envisioned.” (Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Sahitya Akademi Award, 1975)
The newsfeed on most South Asian social media has been deluged by articles like the one in The New York Times above. However, one has to wonder what kept these literary “stars” from this praiseworthy gesture of returning their State-given awards when the Gujarat pogroms were going on in 2002, or against the pogroms that followed the demolition of Babri masjid in 1992/3, or against the genocide of Sikhs around 1984, or heck, against the ongoing genocide in Indian Occupied Kashmir or that of Dalits…
My apologies for this query, which despite seeming cynical at first blush, is actually a probing of the very problematic and exceptionalizing notions of “India as a nation” and “Indian secularism” that these authors and poets valorize, explicitly or implicitly, through this joint gesture of returning their awards or through their separate oeuvre at large. It is precisely these twin concepts of unprobed “Indian secularism” and even more foundationally, the unproblematized, dehistoricized, and normalized idea of “India as a nation” (see The Indian Ideology (2012) by Perry Anderson for a resounding deconstruction of this) that are the fecund incubating grounds of much violence – violence which is Brahminical, colonial, and Islamophobic at the core. This is true not only with regard to the acts of spectacular violence, like the mob lynching of Muhammad Ikhlaq in the current context of Dadri, at the contemporary moment of Modi-fied India, but also for the billion and one banal acts of quotidian casteist, colonial, and communal violence that fertilize the roots of the phenomenon in modern India. This is especially true for the comparably spectacular violence of the allegedly “secular” contexts – the genocidal violence of the Indian state in Kashmir, Punjab, Hyderabad, Assam, Manipur, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, in every Dalit basti et al – that preceded the current Hindutva regime (and co-exist at any given time). In fact, it can be argued that the exceptionalization of India not only papers over much of this epistemic violence by making it invisible but actually enables it by helping it elide scrutiny. Thus no gesture of protest, however “well intentioned” it might be, will bear fruit until and unless the very problematic exceptionalism that undergirds the allegedly “secular India” is deconstructed.

Continue reading ““India,” “Secularism,” and Its Dissenting Authors Or “Der Āyad, Durust Āyad, but is this even an arrival”?”

Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’

This essay first appeared in The Drouth (‘The Thirst’), a quarterly magazine published in Glasgow (Issue 50, Winter 2014/2015). I wrote it in December 2014.

The Road to Iraq book coverThe Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Edinburgh University Press
£19.99

Reviewed by Danny Postel

I was reluctant to review this book. With all the dramatic developments in the Middle East today—the ISIS crisis, the siege of Kobanê, the deepening nightmare in Syria, the escalating repression in Egypt, the fate of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the sectarianization of regional conflicts driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—delving back into the 2003 invasion of Iraq seemed rather less than urgent. It’s hard enough just to keep up with the events unfolding day-to-day in the region. Reading—let alone reviewing—a detailed study of the internal processes that led to the United States toppling Saddam Hussein over a decade ago seemed remote, if not indeed a distraction.

But I’m glad I set these reservations aside and took the assignment. This forcefully argued and meticulously researched (with no fewer than 1,152 footnotes, many of which are full-blown paragraphs) book turns out to be enormously relevant to the present moment, on at least three fronts:

  • ISIS emerged from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, which formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Without the 2003 invasion, there would be no ISIS as we know it—and the region’s political landscape would look very different.
  • The US Senate report on CIA torture has brought back into focus the rogues gallery of the Bush-Cheney administration—the same cast of characters who engineered the 2003 Iraq invasion. This book shines a heat lamp on that dark chapter and many of its protagonists.
  • There is talk of a neoconservative comeback in Washington. This thoroughly discredited but zombie-like group are now angling for the ear of Hillary Clinton, who might be the next US president. Ahmad’s book provides a marvelously illuminating anatomy of the neocons, which has lessons that apply directly to this movement’s potentially ominous next chapter.

The central question Ahmad attempts to answer is: Why did the 2003 Iraq War happen? In one of the book’s most valuable sections, felicitously titled ‘Black Gold and Red Herrings’, he goes through several prevalent explanations/theories and takes them apart one by one: Continue reading “Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’”

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

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.

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.

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

PRESS RELEASE from Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners Campaign

Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners, an online campaign to release Kashmiri political prisoners from various Indian jails, has attracted endorsement and support from academics, intellectuals and filmmakers from around the world. The campaign has been successful in raising awareness about the condition of Kashmiri political prisoners, young and old, who have been languishing in Indian prisons for years or live under continuous threat from draconian ordinances like Public Safety Act. This might also be the beginning of the end of Indian colonial obfuscation around its occupation of Kashmir in academia worldwide.

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. Continue reading “PRESS RELEASE from Free Kashmiri Political Prisoners Campaign”

Aziz’s Story

aziz cellThis was published at NOW

The Syrian city of Selemiyyeh lies to the east of Hama, where the fertile crescent becomes barren. The ruins of Shmemis castle, dating to the late Hellenistic period, cling to the cone of an extinct volcano nearby. The major historical site in the city itself is a shrine containing the tombs of Imam Taki Muhammed and Radi Abdallah. Some believe that Imam Ismail, the foundational figure of the Ismaili sect, is buried here too.

Although it’s an ancient city, with ancient links to the Ismaili faith, the ancestors of its present population were 19th and 20th Century migrants from Ismaili hill towns to the west, places such as Qadmous and Misyaf. The town, which also houses significant populations of Sunnis, Twelver Shia and Alawis, has long been a model of sectarian co-existence. Its secularism has been real – a genuine popular tolerance for difference, not the debased, propagandistic ‘secularism’ of the regime.

Along with Homs, Darayya, Dera‘a and Kafranbel (each one for different reasons), Selemiyyeh has become one of the capitals of the Syrian revolution. As a predominantly non-Sunni community which has since the start stood solidly for freedom and against the regime, its example proves both the mendacity of Assad’s sectarian narrative and the oversimplified western media discourse which portrays the fight as one between Sunni extremists and minority-secularists.

As part of its divide-and-rule strategy, the regime has spared Selemiyyeh the aerial bombardment and rocket attacks it has visited on majority-Sunni areas, but the city has suffered as much as anywhere from detentions and disappearances. Its revolutionaries, like all revolutionaries in regime-controlled areas, live underground.

Selemiyyeh has also bled (in January and February) from bomb attacks, probably organised by Jabhat an-Nusra, which targetted the regime’s shabeeha militia but also killed many innocent civilians. Despite such provocations, Selemiyyeh’s revolutionaries have cooperated with the Salafists of Ahrar ash-Sham, who have brought food aid to the city. And the community has done a great deal to house and feed its brothers and sisters of all sects fleeing violence in Homs and Hama. Pioneers of the early non-violent protests, many of Selemiyyeh’s residents are now engaged in the armed struggle.

When I met Aziz Asaad, an activist from Selemiyyeh, across the Turkish border in Antakya, I asked him why the community was so revolutionary, why it hadn’t been scared into fencesitting or even grudging support for Assad by the Islamist element of the opposition. His answer: “We read a lot. We’ve always read books.”

Continue reading “Aziz’s Story”