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Right and wrong

I must apologise for being somewhat remiss in my blogging of late.  Sometimes when I am doing research for a post, I come across such poison and vitriol that it makes me sick to my stomach.  Like a rabbit in the headlights or a moth to a flame however, I am drawn to read these accounts and it just saps away my blogging energy.

That happened as I was researching the Srebrenica Massacre.  It shocks me to this day that people can deny that a massacre occurred.  In July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered and between 25,000 and 30,000 women and children were removed from the area. 

Srebrenica_2005_burial
Burial of 610 identified Bosniak civilians on July 11 in 2005. killed by Serb forces during Srebrenica Genocide [Image Source]

Since the Genocide Convention was created in 1948 at the end of World War II, there have been only two events that have been deemed to have constituted genocide. Those events are Srebrenica and Rwanda. Srebrenica was the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. People who deny that this massacre happened or who claim that it was somehow justified make me sick.  Genocide and holocaust deniers are simply poison.

Instead of linking you to the article that has me so upset, I will link you to an article about it on the excellent Srebrenica Genocide blog: Carlos Martins Branco Has No Credibility.  I also found the Wikipedia article on the massacre to be especially useful.  It is my erstwhile intention to spend some time at a future date going through the Balkan conflict.


Last weekend, I was quite pleased to get this blog onto Blogged.com and I dutifully clicked on the “South Africa” tag to see what I could find there.  I was sickened by the racist, white supremacist, vile and hateful blogs that I found there.  There are loads of lovely blogs about South Africa but lots of not so lovely. 

Racism%20Ruins%20Lives%20logo

I believe that racism is a weakness.  I believe that simple-minded people find it difficult to expend the mental energy required to view people as individuals and so they view the world in generalisations.  When simple-minded people feel threatened or inevitably inadequate, I believe they resort to racist behaviour and overly aggressive behaviour.  They try to harm with words and they call people vile and insulting names to hide their own feelings of inadequacy and failure.  Unfortunately, being a coward does not necessarily imply a lack of action and all two often these people will engage in violent and equally cowardly attacks or simply spread their vitriol to anyone who will listen.

Yes, there is an extremely high crime rate in South Africa.  Yes, white people who previously treated black people like dirt are being targeted in reprisal attacks.  Yes, people who are innocent and have done nothing to warrant such attacks are being killed too.  Well, here is the thing: no matter how you coat it, the attacks don’t comply with the United Nations definition of genocide.  High crime in South Africa affects everyone.  One in two women is raped in her lifetime in South Africa but that figure is absolutely misleading.  Far, far more black women living in townships and shanty towns are raped than white women living in the plush Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg. 

These are crimes committed against the “Haves” by the “Have Nots”; crimes of opportunity and crimes against women by a patriarchal society in which women are nothing.  Drugs, alcohol and rising gangsterism play a huge part in the crime in South Africa today and the most vulnerable, marginalised people remain the biggest victims of crime.  To imagine that this is a racist issue is to deny the vast majority of crimes that are committed by people that are known to the victims, that are of the same race, community or even family. 

Crime in South Africa is out of control and I blame the criminals for that.  I also blame the government for not tackling crime, for not reducing poverty, for not creating enough jobs. 

Yes, a huge part of the reason for us leaving South Africa was the crime.  I knew four people who died of gunshots wounds inflicted to their heads but not one of those situations was the same as the others.  To generalise, to claim racism or hate crimes would be to ignore the facts and uniqueness of each of those cases.  It would have prevented resolution and understanding.  Only in applying one’s mind and in not generalising can you ever grasp what happened and what went wrong: greed and betrayal; a robbery gone wrong; inadequate control of a service weapon and the final one, the one that broke my heart, the rise of methamphetamine use and gangsterism amongst impoverished youths in the Cape. 


Perhaps it is more of the moth syndrome but I’d love to know what you think.  Even if (or especially if) you disagree with me, tell me about it.  Tell me how you feel and why you feel that way.  You can answer anonymously but it would be great if you could let me know who you are and if you’re a blogger too.

Cambodia: The Killing Fields 30 years on

It is almost 30 years since John Pilger revealed the horror of post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in his film “The Silent Death” which I featured back in May [link].  The Mirror has run two stories to commemorate the anniversary of Pilger’s documentary and they remind me again of the mindless and tragic evil that occurred in Cambodia.  I don’t usually read Mirror articles let alone link to them but today I shall make an exception.

Phnom Penh After Khmer Rouge
Phnom Penh After Khmer Rouge [Image source]

Link: Beyond the imagination of mankind [Mirror.co.uk]

This is an incredibly poignant article written by John Pilger as he remembers arriving in Phnom Penh.  I feel as if I could quote the entire article but instead, I will quote two small snippets:

“The aircraft flew low, following the Mekong River west from Vietnam. Once over Cambodia, what we saw silenced all of us on board. There appeared to be nobody, no movement, not even an animal, as if the great population of Asia had stopped at the border. Whole villages were empty. Chairs and beds, pots and mats lay in the street, a car on its side, a bent bicycle. Behind fallen power lines lay or sat a single human shadow; it did not move”

“Today, Pol Pot is dead and several of his elderly henchmen are on trial in a UN/Cambodian court for crimes against humanity. Henry Kissinger, whose bombing opened the door to the nightmare of Year Zero, is still at large” – John Pilger, Mirror.co.uk


Tortured and Killed at S-21
Tortured and Killed at S-21 [Image source]

Link: 'They will kill our parents tonight... we must escape' [Mirror.co.uk]

This is the story of Somaly Lun a young Cambodian who lived through the US bombing of Phnom Penh as a child and was captured and sent to work in a Khmer Rouge labour camp as a teenager.  Remarkably, she escaped and made it to Thailand and was then brought to the UK by Oxfam’s Marcus Thompson. 

The story in this article was so typical of the experiences of families who survived the Khmer Rouge regime and reminded me of the book First They Killed My Father which I reviewed earlier this year.  The book has received a lot of criticism as it was written as an autobiography yet contains information the author could not have possibly known or remembered.  As with my review of A Long Way Gone though (a memoir of a boy soldier), I still believe these books to be of great value and authentic enough to give a realistic portrayal of conditions in Cambodia and Sierra Leone respectively.

The Khmer Rouge was a communist, Maoist party that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 under the leadership of Pol Pot. They set up a radical form of agrarian communism where city dwellers were forced to leave cities and work on farms. Their murderous regime resulted in genocide - between 850 000 and 1.5 million people died from execution, torture, forced work or starvation, representing between 20 to 25% of the total population.

Human Trafficking Defined

humantrafficking
Image source: Human trafficking, slavery and the sex trade

I found this fantastic table on the US Department of State website and I do hope it is acceptable to reproduce it here for purely educational purposes.  The chart was developed by the Solidarity Center and is meant to be a simplification of the 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

In order for an a situation to be considered an act of human trafficking, it must have at least one the elements listed below in each of the criteria of process, ways / means and goal.

This is especially significant as the ways and means generally refer to an element of force and imply that the individual is a non-willing participant and the goal speaks to the perpetrators’ nefarious and illegal intentions.  When we speak of human trafficking in the current sense, we are not talking about refugees banding together to boat their way into a safer country.  These are people who are tricked or coerced during the process and are forced into slavery, prostitution or bonded labour on the other side in order to “buy” their freedom or simply save their own life or the lives of their families.

Process + Way/Means + Goal

Recruitment

or

Transportation

or

Transferring

or

Harboring

or

Receiving

A

N

D

Threat

or

Coercion

or

Abduction

or

Fraud

or

Deceit

or

Deception

or

Abuse of Power

A

N

D

Prostitution

or

Pornography

or

Violence/Sexual Exploitation

or

Forced Labor

or

Involuntary Servitude

or

Debt Bondage 
(with unfair wages)

or

Slavery/Similar practices

Source: US Department of State: Human Trafficking Defined

Child Sexual Exploitation: Silence is Acceptance

Unicef

There is a fantastic photo essay on the UNICEF site entitled Silence is Acceptance. It has a really powerful message to tell about the proliferation of child sexual exploitation worldwide and is accompanied by photographs and personal stories of a number of victims and survivors.

UNICEF does a number of thought provoking photo essays and other titles include: Building a world fit for children, The rights of the child - Part I and The rights of the child - Part II.  Their site is certainly worth a visit; in fact, the “rights of the child” photo essays gave me goosebumps over every single part of my body.  It is a chilling and poignant reminder of how precarious the state of our world’s children that we had to codify and implement such a rights charter.


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