Sunday, December 22, 2019

Japanese Manga About A Uighur Woman's Persecution In China Becomes Viral Hit...

TOKYO - A Japanese comic book telling the powerful and tragic tale of a 29-year-old Uighur woman from China has become a surprise viral hit.
"What has happened to me - A testimony of a Uyghur woman" recounts the story told by Mihrigul Tursun, a member of the Muslim minority in western China that has faced relentless crackdowns from authorities in Beijing.
The manga - as all comic-style works are known in Japan - describes Tursun's imprisonment and torture by the Chinese government, the death of one of her young children while in custody, and of the jailing of her husband for 16 years.
The manga, drawn by Japanese artist Tomomi Shimizu, has been translated into English, Chinese and Uighur. Shimizu said it has now been viewed on her website more than 240,000 times, and her tweets have drawn more than 2.6 million likes, retweets and other online engagement.

It has been cited by pro-democracy protesters on the streets of Hong Kong and generated feedback from the United States to Europe, from Russia to Taiwan.
China has incarcerated at least 1 million Uighurs in camps re-education camps in its western Xinjiang region. The mass internment is framed by Beijing as a war on extremism, but it has been widely denounced as an attempt to stamp out Uighur culture and Islam and replace it with devotion to President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party.
Shimizu has not been in direct contact with Tursun, who now lives in the United States with her two surviving children But the artist says she was inspired after hearing about the repression of the Uighurs and then hearing Tursun's story.
"I thought, 'What can I do?'" she said. "I started drawing cartoons 20 years ago, and I thought, 'I can do manga.'"
It begins with Tursun's marriage in Egypt five years ago, and of the birth of healthy triplets.
In 2015, Tursun she flew to her hometown in China with her triplets to see her parents. "But as soon as I arrived at Urumqi airport, I was handcuffed and put a dark sack over my head," the manga quotes her as saying. "My triplets were separated from me."
Tursun says she had "no idea" what she was supposed to have done wrong. "Of course I didn't commit any crime."
She says was interrogated and tortured with electric shocks, before eventually being given the dead body of her eldest son. All three children bore scars of being operated on in their neck areas, she said - a doctor told her this was done to insert feeding tubes.

Soon after being released, Tursun was detained again and taken to a crowded prison camp, where she was repeatedly beaten and deprived of sleep.
"During day time, we had to pray to the Chairman of the Communist Party to live long, and sing songs hailing the communism," she said. "They forced us to take different kinds of unknown pills and have injections every single day."
Tursun was sent to a mental hospital after losing consciousness during a beating and then released a second time, only to have two Chinese cadres living in her home, eating her food and following her everywhere. She was soon detained a third time, forced to wear an orange prison uniform and told to prepare for her death in prison.
Finally, only because her children hold Egyptian citizenship, she was released to take them back to that country.
But, in a cruel twist, 26 of her relatives were then detained by the Chinese government, and she was told they will only be released if she returns to China within two months, she said.
Shimizu first heard about China's treatment of the Uighurs on news show on a TV documentary, and her first manga on the subject in May was called "No one will say the name of that country."
In it, she described the destruction of mosques, the establishment of a surveillance state, the disappearance of young men, the ripping apart of families as internment camps are established - and finally the arrest of one woman for daring to call her land "East Turkestan," a term used by Uighur separatists to refer to Xinjiang.
That manga brought her to the attention of Uighurs living in Japan, and she heard Tursun's story at an event organized by Amnesty International and Meiji University.
Shimizu says her manga has had some coverage in Japanese media but not much, with one scheduled television appearance canceled at the last minute. Similarly, she says several editors are keen on publishing the manga, but she has been told publishers are reluctant.
She suspects self-censorship and business ties with China make the story a little too sensitive for Japan's cautious, corporate media and publishing industry.
"I know it is tough for mainstream television networks, but I just want ordinary people to know about this situation and think about it," she said. "This is not about some poor people in a remote country, I want people to see this as an issue relevant to Japan. These Uighur people were also living an ordinary life, just like us."
Tursun's story ends with her returning to Egypt, only to find her husband had followed her to China to look for her - and been arrested and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Even after getting U.S. asylum, Tursun said she has been pursued and harassed by Chinese agents.
Tursun testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and appeared at the National Press Club in Washington in November 2018.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry disputes her version of events, saying she was taken into custody "on suspicion of inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination" but was only held for 20 days before being released. Chinese officials said she was never sent to a "vocational education and training center," as Beijing calls the camps.
It also denied that one of her sons died in hospital in Urumqi, suggesting he had been taken to Turkey and entrusted to the care of a relative, calling her account "a lie fabricated with ulterior motives."
"My oldest son who passed away will not come back no matter what," Tursun says in the manga's closing pages. "So I gathered my courage and decided to tell the world what happened to me."
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The Washington Post's Akiko Kashiwagi contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

How A Kurdish War Scarf Became A Symbol Of Epic Resistance!

KURDISH history has no written laws, but Kurds are an ancient people and there have always been unwritten customs and traditions. If, despite assimilation into foreign states, they have yet retained their own Kurdish values, it is thanks to those unwritten, but sacred, customs and traditions. Traditions that were upheld by Kurdish women.
According to one of these traditions, whenever there was a dispute between two sides – two tribes or two people – the women from both sides would take the initiative to calm the fight and intervene for peace.
Indeed, a woman who did not take on this role was seen as lacking. And if the protagonists did not respond to their call, then the women peace ambassadors would take the scarves from their heads and wave them into the middle of the fight.
I should mention that the women of Mesopotamia were wrapping their heads before the invasion of Islam, and their head coverings are very different from those of the Islamic tradition, serving not just as coverings but more as ornament.
The actions taken by women in the name of peace were a more binding demand than any written law. Those who refused to obey would lose the respect of their community.
Historically, Kurdish women took off their scarves for peace, but in Kobane the opposite happened.
This time it was not for peace, but for the war for freedom. In a challenge to the dark mentality that ordered them to be covered, the women took off their colourful scarves.
Waving them with a cry of “Jin Jiyan Azadi” – Women Life Freedom – they fought street by street, house to house, position to position. Now these were no longer scarves, but symbols of freedom – a women’s flag. In Kobane, we witnessed how the peace scarf became the scarf of war.
I first heard of the “Sarpika Ser” – the scarf of war – from Viyan Peyman. While she prepared for conflict, which intensified with the darkness of evening, Viyan tied her scarf in her distinctive style; and saying “Sarpika Ser is complete”, she moved into position.

This scarf of war and of freedom became the holiest possession of every warrior. It was used as a belt for their gun, and as a bandage for the wounds of the friends shot next to them.
An anonymous friend who had been shot and breathed their last would be covered with a colourful scarf from an anonymous warrior. Blood stains added new patterns to the design.
As the women challenged the mentality that wanted to enslave them, the war scarf began to be worn by male friends and the adoption of the women’s scarf by male warriors was as significant as the Kobane victory.
This action, symbolising woman and freedom, penetrated the enemy mind more effectively than any bullet. The YPJ scarf that appeared, danced, and fought in those days in Kobane, was soon waving with the cry of victory in Raqqa, former capital of darkness.
The war scarf has become the most beautiful and potent women’s flag, proudly worn by women throughout the world. Today, once again, it shows an epic resistance, soaked in dust, blood and sweat, and fluttering with all its strength so as not to fall to the ground. The women of Rojava, with their colourful scarves of freedom, are resisting for the future of all women.
Roni Riha is a Kurdish journalist based in Switzerland who fought with the YPG for the liberation of Kobane. November 1st is celebrated as Kobane day in memory of the breaking of the siege and turning of the tide against ISIS five years ago.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Earth Is Closing On Us...

The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she'd be kind to us.
I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers ?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky ?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air ?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Letter from the Zapatista Women to Women in Struggle Around the World !

February 2019
To: Women in struggle everywhere in the world
From: The Zapatista Women
Sister, compañera:
We as Zapatista women send you our greetings as the women in struggle that we all are.
We have sad news for you today, which is that we are not going to be able to hold the Second International Encounter of Women in Struggle here in Zapatista territory in March of 2019.
Maybe you already know the reasons why, but if not, we’re going to tell you a little about them here.
The new bad governments have said clearly that they are going to carry forward the megaprojects of the big capitalists, including their Mayan Train, their plan for the Tehuantepec Isthmus, and their massive commercial tree farms. They have also said that they’ll allow the mining companies to come in, as well as agribusiness. On top of that, their agrarian plan is wholly oriented toward destroying us as originary peoples by converting our lands into commodities and thus picking up what Carlos Salinas de Gortari started but couldn’t finish because we stopped him with our uprising.
All of these are projects of destruction, no matter how they try to disguise them with lies, no matter how many times they multiply their 30 million votes. The truth is that they are coming for everything now, coming full force against the originary peoples, their communities, lands, mountains, rivers, animals, plants, even their rocks. And they are not just going to try to destroy us Zapatista women, but all indigenous women—and all men for that matter, but here we’re talking as and about women.
In their plans our lands will no longer be for us but for the tourists and their big hotels and fancy restaurants and all of the businesses that make it possible for the tourists to have these luxuries. They want to turn our lands into plantations for the production of lumber, fruit, and water, and into mines to extract gold, silver, uranium, and all of the minerals the capitalists are after. They want to turn us into their peons, into servants who sell our dignity for a few coins every month.
Those capitalists and the new bad governments who obey them think that what we want is money. They don’t understand that what we want is freedom, that even the little that we have achieved has been through our struggle, without any attention, without photos and interviews, without books or referendum or polls, and without votes, museums, or lies. They don’t understand that what they call “progress” is a lie, that they can’t even provide safety for all of the women who continue to be beaten, raped, and murdered in their worlds, be they progressive or reactionary worlds.
How many women have been murdered in those progressive or reactionary worlds while you have been reading these words, compañera, sister? Maybe you already know this but we’ll tell you clearly here that in Zapatista territory, not a single woman has been murdered for many years. Imagine, and they call us backward, ignorant, and insignificant.
Maybe we don’t know which feminism is the best one, maybe we don’t say “cuerpa” [a feminization of “cuerpo,” or body] or however it is you change words around, maybe we don’t know what “gender equity” is or any of those other things with too many letters to count. In any case that concept of “gender equity” isn’t even well-formulated because it only refers to women and men, and even we, supposedly ignorant and backward, know that there are those who are neither men nor women and who we call “others” [otroas] but who call themselves whatever they feel like. It hasn’t been easy for them to earn the right to be what they are without having to hide because they are mocked, persecuted, abused, and murdered. Why should they be obligated to be men or women, to choose one side or the other? If they don’t want to choose then they shouldn’t be disrespected in that choice. How are we going to complain that we aren’t respected as women if we don’t respect these people? Maybe we think this way because we are just talking about what we have seen in other worlds and we don’t know a lot about these things. What we do know is that we fought for our freedom and now we have to fight to defend it so that the painful history that our grandmothers suffered is not relived by our daughters and granddaughters.
We have to struggle so that we don’t repeat history and return to a world where we only cook food and bear children, only to see them grow up into humiliation, disrespect, and death.
We didn’t rise up in arms to return to the same thing.
We haven’t been resisting for 25 years in order to end up serving tourists, bosses, and overseers.
We will not stop training ourselves to work in the fields of education, health, culture, and media; we will not stop being autonomous authorities in order to become hotel and restaurant employees, serving strangers for a few pesos. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a few pesos or a lot of pesos, what matters is that our dignity has no price.
Because that’s what they want, compañera, sister, that we become slaves in our own lands, accepting a few handouts in exchange for letting them destroy the community.
Compañera, sister:
When you came to these mountains for the 2018 gathering, we saw that you looked at us with respect, maybe even admiration. Not everyone showed that respect—we know that some only came to criticize us and look down on us. But that doesn’t matter—the world is big and full of different kinds of thinking and there are those who understand that not all of us can do the same thing and those who don’t. We can respect that difference, compañera, sister, because that’s not what the gathering was for, to see who would give us good reviews or bad reviews. It was to meet and understand each other as women who struggle.
Likewise, we do not want you to look at us now with pity or shame, as if we were servants taking orders delivered more or less politely or harshly, or as if we were vendors with whom to haggle over the price of artisanship or fruit and vegetables or whatever. Haggling is what capitalist women do, though of course when they go to the mall they don’t haggle over the price; they pay whatever the capitalist asks in full and what’s more, they do so happily.
No compañera, sister. We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women. That is what we have decided and that is what we intend to do.
It seems that these new bad governments think that since we’re women, we’re going to promptly lower our gaze and obey the boss and his new overseers. They think what we’re looking for is a good boss and a good wage. That’s not what we’re looking for. What we want is freedom, a freedom nobody can give us because we have to win it ourselves through struggle, with our own blood.
Do you think that when the new bad government’s forces—its paramilitaries, its national guard—come for us we are going to receive them with respect, gratitude, and happiness? Hell no. We will meet them with our struggle and then we’ll see if they learn that Zapatista women don’t give in, give up, or sell out.
Last year during the women’s gathering we made a great effort to assure that you, compañera and sister, were happy and safe and joyful. We have, nevertheless, a sizable pile of complaints that you left with us: that the boards [that you slept on] were hard, that you didn’t like the food, that meals were expensive, that this or that should or shouldn’t have been this way or that way. But later we’ll tell you more about our work in preparing the gathering and about the criticisms we received.
What we want to tell you now is that even with all the complaints and criticisms, you were safe here: there were no bad men or even good men looking at you or judging you. It was all women here, you can attest to that.
Well now it’s not safe anymore, because capitalism is coming for us, for everything, and at any price. This assault is now possible because those in power feel that many people support them and will applaud them no matter what barbarities they carry out. What they’re going to do is attack us and then check the polls to see if their ratings are still up, again and again until we have been annihilated.
Even as we write this letter, the paramilitary attacks have begun. They are the same groups as always—first they were associated with the PRI, then the PAN, then the PRD, then the PVEM, and now with MORENA.
So we are writing to tell you, compañera, sister, that we are not going to hold a women’s gathering here, but you should do so in your lands, according to your times and ways. And although we won’t attend, we will be thinking about you.
Compañera, sister:
Don’t stop struggling. Even if the bad capitalists and their new bad governments get their way and annihilate us, you must keep struggling in your world. That’s what we agreed in the gathering: that we would all struggle so that no woman in any corner of the world would be scared to be a woman.
Compañera, sister: your corner of the world is your corner in which to struggle, just like our struggle is here in Zapatista territory.
The new bad governments think that they will defeat us easily, that there are very few of us and that nobody from any other world supports us. But that’s not the case, compañera, sister, because even if there is only one of us left, she’s going to fight to defend our freedom.
We aren’t scared, compañera, sister.
If we weren’t scared 25 years ago when nobody even knew we existed, we certainly aren’t going to be scared now that you have seen us—however you saw us, good or bad, but you saw us.

Compañera, hermana:
Take care of that little light that we gave you. Don’t let it go out.
Even if our light here is extinguished by our blood, even if other lights go out in other places, take care of yours because even when times are difficult, we have to keep being what we are, and what we are is women who struggle.
That’s all we wanted to say, compañera, sister. In summary, we’re not going to hold a women’s gathering here; we’re not going to participate. If you hold a gathering in your world and anyone asks you where the Zapatistas are, and why didn’t they come, tell them the truth: tell them that the Zapatista women are fighting in their corner of the world for their freedom.
That’s all, compañeras, sisters, take care of yourselves. Maybe we won’t see each other again.
Maybe they’ll tell you not to bother thinking about the Zapatistas anymore because they no longer exist. Maybe they’ll tell you that there aren’t any more Zapatistas.
But just when you think that they’re right, that we’ve been defeated, you’ll see that we still see you and that one of us, without you even realizing it, has come close to you and whispered in your ear, only for you to hear: “Where is that little light that we gave you?
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

The Zapatista Women
February 2019