Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Blog

Hi everyone.

I will continue updating the stories coming out of Darfur, Burma, and other human rights hot spots, but I wanted to also make my readers aware of my new blog:

This is Citizen Boo's Rational Revolution! Come join in~

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, With Perfect Hypocrisy

I’m wondering if anyone has seen any of the refugees in Darfur, whether in Mornei Camp or Kalma Camp, drinking a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola? Me neither. However, Coke is doing great business in Khartoum, according to a recent New York Times article.

“In 2002, Sudanese investors opened a new Coca-Cola factory, with Coke syrup legally exported to Sudan under an exemption for food and medicine. The $140-million plant churns out 100,000 bottles of Coke, Sprite and Fanta per hour”. [1]

How interesting. Especially since the company has recently announced a land donation in Atlanta, Georgia worth $2 million for a museum that will exhibit the papers of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wonder what Dr. King would say about the donation?

Representative John Lewis, D-GA said about the donation: “It helps to educate and sensitize [the business community]. When Coca-Cola speaks, the business community listens.” [2]

Maybe Coca-Cola needs to stop speaking, and start listening a little more. In their own words, Coke has this on their website:

“Our actions – the way we treat our people, produce our beverages, protect the environment and benefit communities – determine whether we will be invited [into people’s lives] again. We strive to listen and respond to the needs of people and the planet. For us, corporate responsibility is an ongoing journey, not a destination.”

Maybe the corporate heads of Coca-Cola need to journey to Kalma Camp. I’m sure they can afford the trip.

There’s a place on their site to talk back:

The address is:

The Coca-Cola Company
P.O. Box 1734
Atlanta, GA 30301

[1] Gettleman, Jeffrey. “War in Sudan? Not Where the Oil Wealth Flows.” The New York Times. 24 October 2006

[2] Dewan, Shaila. “Coca-Cola Donates Land to Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta.” The New York Times 23 October 2006.

The Shame of Darfur

Estimates for the death toll in Darfur are reaching the 300,000 mark. I find it interesting that we use the phrase “death toll” and not “death count” for such things. It underlies the cost of the loss of life – this is a toll not on the victims, but on us, the communities of the world that allow such a price to be paid.

Collective guilt is not apropos to what we have allowed to happen. And let me be clear – we allow this to happen. We allow China to trade lives for cheap oil. We allow the Khartoum government to get away with genocide for tips on Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist cells. This last revelation, made during the 60 Minutes segment, is especially repulsive because it shows how little the White House values life in general, ineffectively trading a life for a life is no fair trade at all.

But collective guilt will not plague us if this ever ends. No, we will again feel collective shame. The shame we tried to brush off after Rwanda. The shame we tried to sweep under the rug after Cambodia. And we deserve this, this shame that haunts the world over our apathy to allow fellow mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters to die at the hands of men who have the ability to view human beings as animals.

Recently, I have been reading Primo Levi’s haunting last work, The Drowned and the Saved. He committed suicide shortly after he finished the work in 1987 as he was able to see history repeated in Cambodia while the world wrung its hands and said, “What can we do??”

The most interesting chapter Mr. Levi writes is that on Shame. The shame the survivors felt after liberation. The shame of knowing what they had to do in the camps to survive, and the shame of knowing they had been “diminished” by the world. Interestingly, Levi draws a line: prisoners were victimized by the Nazis, but they were diminished by the world.

“And there is another, vaster shame, the shame of the world. … And yet there are those who, faced by the crime of others or their own, turn their backs so as not to see it and not feel touched by it … deluding themselves that not seeing was a way of not knowing, and that not knowing relieved them of their share of complicity. … Never again could it be cleansed; it would prove that man, the human species – we, in short – had the potential to construct an infinite enormity of pain, and that pain is the only force created from nothing, without cost and without effort.”

~Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

How unfair, that survivors will feel the same shame of the world?

You can check out more of the 60 Minutes segment on Darfur by clicking on the following link:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

UN: New Offensives in Darfur and Chad Threaten Civilians

Security Council Must React Strongly to Expulsion of UN Envoy

New Press Release from Human Rights Watch Africa

(New York, October 23, 2006) – Rising violence in eastern Chad and Darfur highlights the immediate need for the United Nations Security Council to strengthen civilian protection by the UN mission in Sudan following Khartoum’s expulsion of the UN secretary-general’s special representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, Human Rights Watch said today.

“The Security Council should not accept Khartoum’s endless intransigence over any UN effort to protect Sudanese civilians,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Violence in Darfur and eastern Chad is escalating, and the strong UN force that the Security Council mandated back in August is urgently needed to protect civilians on both sides of the border.”

Violence against civilians in Darfur has been escalating in the past two months following clashes between the Sudanese government and a coalition of Darfur rebel factions that refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in May.

The coalition, which calls itself the National Redemption Front, is mainly active in North Darfur, where civilians have been victims of indiscriminate bombing carried out by government forces as part of Khartoum’s recent military offensive.

The Sudanese government’s formal expulsion of Pronk on October 22 came two days after the Sudanese army voiced anger over the UN envoy’s statement in his weblog that the Sudanese army had suffered two major losses and declining morale in the clashes in North Darfur.

“Pronk’s expulsion is Khartoum’s latest tactic in its ongoing effort to subvert UN efforts to protect civilians in Sudan,” said Peter Takirambudde. “The Security Council needs to implement targeted sanctions against senior Sudanese officials to press Khartoum to cooperate with the UN.”

Inter-ethnic attacks on civilians by militias in eastern Chad have also been increasing since early October, partly due to an increase in armed groups and rising ethnic and political tensions linked both to the violence in Darfur and domestic politics in Chad.

On the same day as Pronk’s expulsion, a Chadian rebel group attacked the Chadian town of Goz Beida in a sign of escalating conflict in eastern Chad. The Chadian government claimed to have recaptured it later on October 22.

Although there were no reports of civilian casualties, concerned by the potential for ethnic reprisals against civilians Human Rights Watch called for all armed groups operating in the area, including the Chadian government, to fully respect the rights of civilians and their property to protection, and to always distinguish civilians from combatants in armed conflicts.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Much Does Genocide Matter to You in the Voting Booth?

As elections draw nearer, voters will be able to hold representatives accountable for their decisions, their representation, and their records. There are many issues on which to base your decision; however, I found a really great site that will inform you what your Congressman and Senator did about the situation in Darfur:

Here you can find tons of good information about how your representatives voted on issues of human rights. And with Habeas Corpus just repealed, the rights of every human being on the planet lay in a delicate balance.

Barack Obama recently stated: "It is my job to represent my constituents to Washington, not represent Washington to my constituents."

What does genocide mean to you in the voting booth?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Fundamental Issue

First I would like to thank everyone who's been emailing me during my break from the blog. I was traveling and working on various other projects, but I'm excited to get back down to business ...

Fast forward video to 2:20.

I must admit that I've watched this clip at least a dozen times. First, a little background: Jack Straw of the British House of Commons recently declared that he will not speak with women who wear burqas because it is a "symbol of intolerance." Interestingly, the burqa for Muslim women has the same intention as a snood for Jewish woman, or a habit for a nun, i.e., because women are so often objectified by men, they dress modestly in order to avoid this objectification. The idea is that all you need to reveal in order to make your point is your hands and your face.

There is no doubt that this has been used to push women off the social strata in some Muslim countries, but to make this generalization about ALL MUSLIM WOMEN IS DISRIMINATION. After all, Jack Straw did not make this rule for Jewish women or Catholic nuns. He singled out Muslim women.

It is sad that 4 educated, albeit white, people could not make this connection between ethnocentrism and discrimination. Bill Maher even asked, "Why come to the West [if you're going to continue to wear your burqa]?" Maybe because Muslim women are under a delusion and still insist on believing that freedom of religious expression means something in the West.

What is even more ironic is that during Bill's New Rules segment, he had the audacity to call for action in Darfur. So let me ask you this Bill Maher:

African Muslims are being killed because they're black. If they find refuge here, who will tell them that they will be discriminated against because they are Muslim??

I am very disappointed with this show of disrespect ... I am a huge Bill Maher fan, but this - to answer Danielle Pletka's question - is where you draw the line.

EU: Darfur Escalation Demands Sanctions

Sudanese Government Offensive Threatens Civilians
Most recent post from Human Rights Watch
(Brussels, October 19, 2006)

European governments must apply targeted sanctions on President Omar El Bashir and other top Sudanese officials responsible for the ongoing military offensive and associated abuses against civilians in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today.

A summit of EU heads of state is scheduled for October 20, 2006 in Finland. In October, the UN Panel of Experts reported to the UN sanctions committee that almost all the warring parties in Darfur were blatantly violating the arms embargo and recommended that individual sanctions be applied to a confidential list of individuals.

“The UN Panel of Experts has recommended sanctions on those who continue to abuse civilians and violate the arms embargo. Clearly Khartoum policymakers should be top of this list,” said Peter Takirambudde, director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. “The European Union says it supports sanctions. If this is more than rhetoric then now is the time to apply them at the European level.”

In August, the Sudanese government launched a major offensive against rebel factions who refused to sign a May 2006 peace agreement. The past two months have seen fierce fighting in North Darfur, and Sudanese government aircraft have repeatedly bombed the area, on some occasions destroying villages and indiscriminately targeting civilians.

On October 7-8, fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and Darfur rebel groups could be heard in refugee camps in eastern Chad, and more than 100 wounded and detained Sudanese soldiers are reportedly being held across the border in Chad in circumstances that remain to be clarified. This development could mark a serious deterioration in the recently-restored relations between the governments of Chad and Sudan, each of whom continues to support insurgent groups against the other.

There are no reliable estimates of civilian casualties from the fighting in North Darfur due to the limited international access to the area, a result of the significant increase in attacks on humanitarian workers across Darfur. (The bold is my addition).

In South Darfur, attacks by various tribal militia groups have killed hundreds and displaced thousands of civilians in three areas: Buram, Greida, and in the vicinity of Muhajariya, all strategic areas for the Sudanese government due to rebel presence. Although the attacks are apparently undertaken by militia members, the groups appear to receive support – and possibly coordination – from Sudanese officials, and follow longstanding patterns of destruction, forced displacement and violence against civilians.

“Diplomacy is having no effect on the Sudanese government: Khartoum’s hand is clearly behind not only the aerial bombardment in North Darfur, but also, less obviously, the vicious militia attacks in South Darfur,” said Takirambudde. “As is the rule in Darfur, once again civilians are bearing the brunt of the Sudanese government offensive.”

The May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), which was signed by the Sudanese government and one faction of the main Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), has contributed to the serious deterioration in Darfur’s already appalling security situation.

Most of the non-signatory factions have grouped together under an alliance called the National Redemption Front (NRF), which has attacked government targets and has also been involved in bouts of inter-rebel fighting that have caused displacement and other serious abuses of civilians.

“Continuing Sudanese offensives and rebel fragmentation will produce nothing but more misery for the civilians of Darfur and an increasingly unstable Chad,” said Takirambudde.

Related Material
Crisis in DarufrCountry Page
U.N.: Sanction Sudanese Leaders for Failing to Protect CiviliansPress Release, September 15, 2006
Darfur: Indiscriminate Bombing Warrants U.N. Sanctions

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Khalid Kodi, Darfur Dirty Laundry

"When the challenge comes to examine what's been going on in Darfur, people will fail to answer the question of how can we have all these wonderful values and there is still 2 million [refugees] and more than 500,000 people [have] lost their life."

~Artist Khalid Kodi

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Moment to Think

It is the poetry of this song that makes it so powerful. An idea that sometimes seems so far away encapsulated in a simple melody.

What is life worth to us?

Pray for Peace~