Civilian deaths

World Wide Snippets: Women’s Rights, Galloway And Attacking The Disabled.

A slightly delayed round up from a few weeks back.

Lest we forget, Exhibit focuses on scientists’ role in Holocaust.

How did this come about? As HOPE Note Hate comments.

Individual tragedy from the Middle East, the Oasis of Peace’s sad news.

Still no freedom for poorer rural women in South Africa.

The Women of Afghanistan:

“A recent study by Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 58 women and girls in prison, found that half were jailed for acts that any reasonable person would not consider a crime, like running away from abusive situations. People who force women into marriage, often at very young ages, or subject them to violence, are rarely prosecuted, the group said. Female victims get little support from police and judges, and they face the added injustice of being punished for committing “moral crimes,” like “zina” — sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. Criminalizing zina is contrary to Afghanistan’s international obligations, the group says. “

No means no, lest George Galloway and his supporters forget that.

ADL’s Snapshot of Al Quds Day 2012:

“While the largest Al Quds Day events gen­er­ally take place in the Mid­dle East, protests are also held in cities across the United States. The protests, which took place last Fri­day in a dozen U.S. cities, were rife with extreme lan­guage, includ­ing signs that com­pared Israel’s treat­ment of the Pales­tini­ans to the Holocaust.

In New York, L.A. and Hous­ton, large ban­ners read­ing “Stop Pales­tin­ian Geno­cide” were on dis­play, as well as other signs that read, “Israel is a Can­cer,” “Down with Zion­ism,” Holo­caust in Pales­tine” and “Gaza=Auschwitz.” A woman in New York held a sign that said, “Free Pales­tine! End ZioN­azi Apartheid! No $$ to ‘Israel!’ Boy­cott ‘Israel’.” “

WNN is a superb source of underreported news. Recommended.
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Rape And Sexual Violent in Syria

I recently read a disturbing and under-reported aspect of the conflict in Syria, violence against women.

Video: WMC’s Women Under Siege director tells CNN of the horrors we’ve documented in Syria.

Lauren Wolfe in the ultimate assault: Charting Syria’s use of rape to terrorize its people
writes:

“A woman swathed in black squares her shoulders and calmly looks into a camera. She holds a Quran. Only a sliver of her face—her eyeglasses—shows. “What happened to me hasn’t happened to anyone, or if it has affected anyone else I do not know,” she says. “But I will speak and let all the people know what [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad and his men are doing.” Over the next four minutes, her breathing grows labored and her voice breaks as she describes how, in May 2011, five men wearing black entered her home on the outskirts of Homs and raped her.

“This is my message to the world,” she says. “Let all the world hear what is happening to us. And I might not be the first one nor the last who was treated in this way.”

The still-unidentified woman posted the video to YouTube on February 11, 2012. It is one of the earliest reports on our live, crowd-sourced map of sexualized violence in Syria. The Women’s Media Center project Women Under Siege has been collecting reports out of Syria for three months, during which time we’ve seen many stories similar to this, in which multiple attackers, usually government forces, are said to gang rape a woman in her home. We have also mapped stories at the extreme edge of nightmares; of teenage girls given shots that immobilize them while their genitals were burned or filled with mice. Government forces and others appear to be carrying out appalling sexualized attacks against women, men, and children in Syria as the conflict there continues. Although we are unable to independently confirm these stories—Syria is simply too dangerous, and our research staff too small—they are consistent both internally and within the news and NGO reports telling similar stories from the Syrian conflict.”

Also, see documenting sexualized violence in conflict: Syria.

Not forgetting Mika Yamamoto’s death in Syria.

Reuters Hacked by Pro-Assad supporters

According to the CS Monitor, supporters of the Syrian dictatorship had hacked into a Reuters’ blog to push propaganda on behalf of Assad’s regime:

“On Friday, Reuters said its “blogging platform” was hacked illegally. The hack involved at least two false stories being posted in favor of the Assad regime. Overnight, hackers managed to seize control of a popular Reuters Twitter account and briefly blasted out propaganda in Reuters’ name to its followers.

According to the news service, the twitter account @ReutersTECH (thanks to Khadijah Britton for pointing this out) was hacked and then renamed to @ReutersME. While the account has since been suspended, a screen cap of the deceptive tweets captures the flavor of internet hacking, complete with sophomoric snark and patently absurd claims.

One says “FSA source confirms heavy losses within their ranks due to the superiority & sheer force of the Syrian army.” (“FSA” stands for the Free Syrian Army, the nominal umbrella for insurgents fighting against Syria’s Baath regime). Another says “FSA source complains that Syrian army ‘broke their back’ in Salah al Deen.” These are the sorts of things that commanders of armies simply don’t say, at least not until after the war is over and their side has lost (while much is uncertain about Syria’s future, the fact that the civil war is set to grind on for a long while yet is clear).

The snark comes in statements targeting the US. One tweet says “Friends all along: Obama signs executive order to release classified info that US never stopped funding Al Qaeda since ’80s” (in fact, the US has never funded Al Qaeda). Another says “Obama takes Al Qaeda off the List of terrorist organizations” and yet another says “Clinton vows to ‘make Egyptian pay a heavy price’ after being humiliated with chants mentioning Monica” (a reference to Bill Clinton’s long affair with a White House intern).

It’s hard to know if this kind of ham-handed propaganda has much impact. It probably doesn’t, though fake news reports have become a popular tool for online propagandists, thanks to the ease with which hoaxes can be set up on the Internet. When a fake story was planted in the press about the Egyptian parliament planning to legalize necrophilia, many of the ignorant ran with it.

Last week Julian Assange pursued his long running feud with the New York Times Bill Keller by having WikiLeaks participate in creating a fake news story under Mr. Keller’s byline. While that didn’t involve a hack, the hoax was elaborate, with a website set up to look just like The New York Times and fake Twitter accounts created to astroturf the tale.

The Syrian civil war, with limited access for journalists but a proliferation of rebels and regime supporters with smart phones and Internet connections, has been a particularly fertile propaganda battlefield. Far too often, unconfirmed claims emerging on Twitter or YouTube are taken as fact, and presumably the pro-Assad hackers were seeking to amplify this phenomenon in recent days.

What good does it do them? It’s hard to imagine much. These kinds of hoaxes are run to the ground fairly quickly and the only people they appear to take in are those inclined to want to believe them in the first place.

British Royals Suck Up to Bahrain’s Despot

 

Never one to let human rights get the way of business and old pals Her Majesty’s Government, in the form of  Lilibet, has invited the King of Bahrain to lunch:

“The King of Bahrain, whose regime has been accused of brutally suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations, will have lunch with the Queen in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.

The Middle East ruler is one of a number of foreign monarchs criticised for their human rights records or extravagant lifestyles who have been invited to dine with the British Royal Family.

Buckingham Palace has released a guest list for the Sovereign Monarchs lunch being held at Windsor Castle – the biggest gathering of foreign royals in the UK since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding last year.

Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa has been condemned as a despot by former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane in the run up to the lunch.

The Labour MP said many would regret Foreign Secretary William Hague’s decision to approve the inclusion of the Middle East ruler. But the Foreign Office has stressed it is supporting Bahrain in its attempts to improve its human rights.

Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait and Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

Mr MacShane said: “Arab nations must let their citizens vote in free elections and let them speak without fear of arrest, torture or death.

“For too long we have turned a blind eye to the repression carried out under the rule of royals in Arabia.

“The FCO should protect the British Queen rather than expose her to having to dine with a despot.” “

Lest we forget, the Guardian’s page on Bahrain.

Meeting Bahrain’s hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

AI’s page on Bahrain.

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Syria, No Accident

This clip from PBS News provides an insight to the diabolical attack on a refugee camp for displaced Syrians:

Syria's Cross-Border Violence May Be No Accident

What Syrian Refugees Say.

AP relates:

“The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that as many as 2,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon over the last two days to flee the violence in their country. In the Lebanese border village of Qaa, families with women with small children came carrying only plastic bags filled with a few belongings.

“We fled the shelling and the strikes,” said Hassana Abu Firas. She came with two families who had fled government shelling of their town al-Qusair, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away, on the Syrian side.

The town is in Homs province, where the government has been waging a brutal offensive for the past month.

“What are we supposed to do? People are sitting in their homes and they are hitting us with tanks,” Firas told The Associated Press. “Those who can flee, do. Those who can’t will die sitting down.”

Lebanese security officials say more than 10,000 Syrians are believed to be in the country. One official said as many as 3,000 are believed to have crossed in recent days because of violence in Homs, though it is unclear how many have returned to Syria.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under government protocol.

Inside Lebanon, many Syrians fear agents from their own country’s security services. Stories have circulated of kidnappings and collaboration between Lebanese and Syrian security forces. Syria controlled Lebanon for decades and Hezbollah, the party which now dominates Lebanon’s government, is closely allied with Syria and Iran.

Turkey says it hosts more than 11,000 Syrians in camps along the border with Syria, including more than 1,000 who crossed in the last month. About 100 have entered in the last two days.

Jordan has more than 80,000 Syrian refugees, according to the government.”

The Huff Post has more news of atrocities, and still international inaction.

In Syria Residents Suffer Death and Destruction

HRW has released some striking images of the Syrian government’s shelling in Homs:

“Local sources have reported that approximately 700 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in Homs since the Syrian military began its current assault on the city on February 3, 2012. Indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire has caused most of the casualties in Baba Amr, which is a residential area where elements of the armed opposition have sought refuge. Human Rights Watch interviewed 15 Homs residents who escaped the city in the last two weeks, as well as two foreign correspondents who spent time in Baba Amr during the military assault.

“These new satellite photos and witness accounts show the extent of the brutality unleashed on Baba Amr,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite the killing, Russia and China continue to block any international action.”

Human Rights Watch acquired and analyzed this commercial satellite image of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs on February 25. A wide view of the image clearly shows the extensive damage caused by the use of surface-delivered explosive weapons in a populated area. The image reflects the damage that has occurred since previous images were taken between four and six weeks ago.”

Yossi Gurvitz on Syria

I suspect that lot of what Yossi Gurvitz says applies to attitudes in Britain and Europe:

“Last Thursday, a special UN commission on Syria found that the Assad regime is committing crimes against humanity, and that senior regime officials are participants in these crimes. The commission was significantly limited in its ability to report on events, as the regime denied it entry into Syria, and it had to rely on the testimonies of refugees. Even so, it is important to take its conclusions seriously: in several previous cases, the first testimonies about crimes against humanity came from refugees.

The refugees supply us with only a partial view, yet they indicate a terrible desolation, thousands of casualties, the systematic use of rape as a tool of terror, and prevalent torture. The number of civilians massacred by the regime in the last year is estimated in the many thousands – many more, for instance, than the number killed by the IDF during the Second Intifada. Naturally, the precise number is not known, but an opposition site that is considered reputable cites 8,791 dead; another site, which also furnishes a map of the atrocities, estimates the number of dead at 9,236. These numbers are updated to the time of writing of this post, and both of them reflect only the known dead – people identified by others. It’s very probable that there are hundreds more, unrecognized.

Read more at Opposition activists must choose: Either human rights or Assad.

Marie Colvin, Syria And Abyssinia.

Marie Colvin’s killing reminds us how brutal the Syrian regime is. How it will murder anyone that opposes it by virtue of their words or actions. Marie Colvin is a victim like thousands of dead Syrians who have died over the past year.

The murderous events in Syria should remind us how little we have learnt since Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia. It is a standard text amongst Western children on the nature of the 1930s, aggressive dictators and the failure of the West to stop them, yet it could be rewritten in terms of 21st century Syria.

Despite a year of merciless murder, the slaughter of civilians and numerous war crimes the West has done little to stop the carnage in Syria.

There has been plenty of hand wringing, a lot of coughing and arguments trotted out that would shame a 1930′s isolationist by their naiveté, repetition and cynicism.

Hugh Dixon looks at some of the issues, in How to help the Syrians.

Elsewhere, Slain journalists may have been targeted by Syrian military.

Marie Colvin’s last piece ‘We live in fear of a massacre’.

My friend, Marie Colvin.

Recalling a Last Dinner With a Journalist Killed in Syria.

Marie Colvin’s November 2010 speech on the importance of war reporting.

Journalist Marie Colvin in Homs.

Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria Shelling.

We can only hope that in 20 years from now that children are taught the lessons of not allowing dictators and murderous regimes to slaughter civilians whilst the world looks on. I am not that optimistic.

Homs, Syria

This video detailing events in Homs, Syria makes for distressing but necessary viewing.

Update 1: PRI describes what is happening in Homs:

“Dayem said shelling has been going on for hours in his hometown. They will stop at 7 p.m. — their normal time. Dayem said shelling goes on all day, every day, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“That’s the way we live now,” Dayem said. “This is not a normal life.”

Dayem said in addition to the shelling, venturing outside puts you at risk of being shot by a sniper merely for crossing the street. Kids as young as 8 and 9 years old know that they can’t walk outside, they have to run.

“That isn’t a life. A kid has to run to cross the street so he doesn’t get shot by a sniper,” Dayem said.

Before the current outburst of violence, Dayem said the presence of Arab League monitors had actually forced the army to lessen their attacks. But with the monitors having pulled back, violence is escalating.

“They did a big massacre three days ago,” Dayem said.”