Sunday, August 31, 2014

10 Revolutionaries You Should Know ...

Nadezhda Krupskaya
Many people know Nadezhda Krupskaya simply as Vladimir Lenin’s wife, but Nadezhda was a Bolshevik revolutionary and politician in her own right. She was heavily involved in a variety of political activities, including serving as the Soviet Union’s Deputy Minister of Education from 1929 until her death in 1939, and a number of educational pursuits. Prior to the revolution, she served as secretary of the Iskra group, managing continent-wide correspondence, much of which had to be decoded. After the revolution, she dedicated her life to improving education opportunities for workers and peasants, for example by striving to make libraries available to everyone.
Nadezhda Krupskaya
Constance Markievicz
Constance Markievicz (née Gore-Booth) was an Anglo-Irish Countess, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil politician, revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist. She participated in many Irish independence efforts, including the Easter Rising of 1916, in which she had a leadership role. During the Rising, she wounded a British sniper before being forced to retreat and surrender. After, she was the only woman out of 70 to be put into solitary confinement. She was sentenced to death, but was pardoned based on her gender. Interestingly, the prosecuting counsel claimed that she begged “I am only a woman, you cannot shoot a woman”, while court records show she said “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me”. Constance was one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922), and she was also the first woman elected to the British House of Commons (December 1918)—a position which she rejected due to the Sinn Féin abstentionist policy.
Constance Markievicz
Petra Herrera
During the Mexican Revolution, female soldiers known as soldaderas went into combat along with the men although they often faced abuse. One of the most well-known of the soldaderas was Petra Herrera, who disguised her gender and went by the name “Pedro Herrera”. As Pedro, she established her reputation by demonstrating exemplary leadership (and blowing up bridges) and was able to reveal her gender in time. She participated in the second battle of Torreón on May 30, 1914 along with about 400 other women, even being named by some as being deserving of full credit for the battle. Unfortunately, Pancho Villa was likely unwilling to give credit to a woman and did not promote her to General. In response, Petra left Villa’s forces and formed her own all-woman brigade.
Nwanyeruwa, an Igbo woman in Nigeria, sparked a short war that is often called the first major challenge to British authority in West Africa during the colonial period. On November 18, 1929, an argument between Nwanyeruwa and a census man named Mark Emereuwa broke out after he told her to “count her goats, sheep and people.” Understanding this to mean she would be taxed (traditionally, women were not charged taxes), she discussed the situation with the other women and protests, deemed the Women’s War, began to occur over the course of two months. About 25,000 women all over the region were involved, protesting both the looming tax changes and the unrestricted power of the Warrant Chiefs. In the end, women’s position were greatly improved, with the British dropping their tax plans, as well as the forced resignation of many Warrant Chiefs.
ABA Women
Lakshmi Sehgal
Lakshmi Sahgal, colloquially known as “Captain Lakshmi”, was a revolutionary of the Indian independence movement, an officer of the Indian National Army, and later, the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government. In the 40s, she commanded the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, an all-women regiment that aimed to overthrow British Raj in colonial India. The regiment was one of the very few all-female combat regiments of WWII on any side, and was named after another renowned female revolutionary in Indian history, Rani Lakshmibai, who was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Lakshmi Sehgal
Sophie Scholl
German revolutionary Sophie Scholl was a founding member of the non-violent anti-Nazi resistance group The White Rose, which advocated for active resistance to Hitler’s regime through an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign. In February of 1943, she and other members were arrested for handing out leaflets at the University of Munich and sentenced to death by guillotine. Copies of the leaflet, retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich, were smuggled out of the country and millions were air-dropped over Germany by Allied forces later that year.

Blanca Canales
Blanca Canales was a Puerto Rican Nationalist who helped organize the Daughters of Freedom, the women’s branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. She was one of the few women in history to have led a revolt against the United States, known as the Jayuya Uprising. In 1948, a severely restricting bill known as the Gag Bill, or Law 53, was introduced that made it a crime to print, publish, sell, or exhibit any material intended to paralyze or destroy the insular government. In response, the Nationalists starting planning armed revolution. On October 30, 1950, Blanca and others took up arms which she had stored in her home and marched into the town of Jayuya, taking over the police station, burning down the post office, cutting the telephone wires, and raising the Puerto Rican flag in defiance of the Gag Law. As a result, the US President declared martial law and ordered Army and Air Force attacks on the town. The Nationalists held on for awhile, but were arrested and sentenced to life in prison after 3 days. Much of Jayuya was destroyed, and the incident was not fairly covered by US media, with the US President even saying it was “an incident between Puerto Ricans.”
Blanca Canales
Celia Sanchez
Most people know Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, but fewer people have heard of Celia Sanchez, the woman at the heart of the Cuban Revolution who has even been rumored to be the main decision-maker. After the March 10, 1952 coup, Celia joined the struggle against the Batista government. She was a founder of the 26th of July Movement, leader of combat squads throughout the revolution, controlled group resources, and even made the arrangements for the Granma landing, which transported 82 fighters from Mexico to Cuba in order to overthrow Batista. After the revolution, Celia remained with Castro until her death.
Celia Sanchez
Kathleen Neal Cleaver
Kathleen Neal Cleaver was a member of the Black Panther Party and the first female member of the Party’s decision-making body. She served as spokesperson and press secretary and organized the national campaign to free the Party’s minister of defense, Huey Newton, who had been jailed. She and other women, such as Angela Davis, made up around 2/3 of the Party at one point, despite the notion that the BPP was overwhelmingly masculine.
Kathleen Neal Cleaver
Asmaa Mahfouz
Asmaa Mahfouz is a modern-day revolutionary who is credited with sparking the January 2011 uprising in Egypt through a video blog post encouraging others to join her in protest in Tahrir Square. She is considered one of the leaders of the Egyptian Revolution and is a prominent member of Egypt’s Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution.
Asmaa Mahfouz

Sunday, August 17, 2014

10 Things That Have Changed Forever On Gaza

After every bloody episode of violence perpetrated by Israel, media spin doctors are deployed with one grand mission: Absolve Israel of any responsibility in its acts of carnage.
These apologists not only demonise Palestinians, but also anyone who dares to take a stand on their behalf. The main staple of this Israeli strategy is blaming the victim.
There is nothing new in this tactic - this is how the so-called “Arab-Israeli conflict” has been presented in Western media.
The narrative is always much closer to that of Israeli official and media discourses than that of Palestinians' - despite the decades-long military occupation, successive wars, and countless massacres.
Since the Israeli siege on Gaza began, following the democratic elections that brought Hamas to power in January 2006, Israel has needed all of its hasbara savvy - alongside that of its backers in the West - to explain why a population was brutalised for making a democratic choice.
The sheer amount of deception involved in the cleverly knitted story, which among other ruses equates Hamas with al-Qaeda (as Israel once did between late Yasser Arafat and Hitler), has represented a new low - even by Israel’s own standards.
The West’s media demonised Hamas, the resistance and all the other “bad” Palestinians who voted for the movement, while intentionally ignoring the fascism that has taken over Israeli society.
For the “bad” Palestinian to exist – ie a “radical”, “extremist” who is anti-peace - there always had to a “good” Palestinian, represented by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas or any faction, person or leader willing to co-exist with the Israeli occupation.
The PA has gone even further cooperating with Israel to ensure the demise of the Palestinian “radicals”, as in those who insist on resisting the occupation. 
Thanks to the PA, the price for the Israeli occupation has never been so cheap. Despite repeated attempts at re-activating the so-called peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always found a way to torpedo such efforts, even those promoted by his closest allies in Washington.
“Peace” is a major risk for Netanyahu, because his government is sustained by Jewish nationalists and extremists who feel no particular need to end their colonization of the West Bank. Abbas had done a great deal to ensure that Israel feels no pressure to negotiate. Every attempt at resistance, even by standing peacefully with placards and banners in Ramallah’s al-Manara Square was crushed; often brutally.
Gaza, however, remained an exception. Israel’s brutality there has reached unprecedented levels, especially after Israel’s Cast Lead Operation, which killed and wounded thousands. Many predicted that the crimes in Gaza would turn the tide against Israel, but they didn’t. Israeli influence over the media was still tight enough that somehow they managed to, at least, neutralize the impact of Cast Lead. The advent of the Arab Spring and the devaluing of human life, as happened in Syria, Libya and Egypt, somehow buried the Israeli crimes in Gaza; however temporarily.
 But Israel’s latest war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 has amounted to a genocide. Israel’s argument that it was “defending itself” was no longer sufficient. No amount of hasbara was enough to explain the burying alive of entire families, the summary execution of civilians, the pulverizing of entire neighbourhoods, the shelling of fleeing children playing at a beach during a deceptive “lull,” the destruction of dozens of mosques and churches, and the killing of more children sleeping in UN schools-turned temporary shelters.  
It is particularly embarrassing for Israel, but also poignant, that the Gaza resistance, which stood alone against tens of thousands of well-armed invaders from tunnels, killed 64 Israelis. All but three were soldiers, mostly killed inside Gaza.
As the world was awakened to the level of devastation created by Israel in Gaza, many also became aware that such wrath is not independent from the fascism that has gripped Israeli society for years. In Israel, there is no longer room for dissent, and those in the highest positions of power, are the ones who openly and freely preach genocide.
In an excellent article in the American Conservative in August 2006, Scott McConnell, wrote, “All societies have their hate groups and extremists, but nowhere in the democratic world are they nearer to the centre of power than Israel.”
He elaborated, “In the 1980s Meir Kahane had a small following in Israel, but his pro-ethnic cleansing party was made illegal. Now Kahanists are in the center of the country’s ruling ideology.”
This was discussed in context of statements made by Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Knesset and a “top player in Israel’s ruling Likud Party”. Fieglin called for Palestinians from Gaza to be resettled in concentration camps, and all of Hamas and its supporters to be “annihilated”. Who can now, with a good conscience, protest those who infuse the Nazi analogy to what is happening in Palestine?
Meanwhile, in this age of social media, where mainstream news networks no longer have complete command over the narrative, no self-respecting intellectual, journalist, official or any citizen with a conscience can plead ignorance and stand on the fence of neutrality.
Gaza has indeed changed everything. Israel’s criminality and fascism should no longer be open for vibrant media debates, but it must be acknowledged as an uncontested fact. Our language, as in our perception, must also change to accommodate this uncontested reality:
First - military occupation must be fully and unconditionally rejected. Palestinians cannot be judged for defending themselves and for resisting Israel to end its military occupation, end the siege and achieve freedom. Armed struggle is a right defended by international law for people living under foreign occupation.
Second - as anti-Apartheid icon, Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” There can no longer be a place for neutrality when thousands of civilians are brutally murdered by an invading army. Neutrality in this context is outright intellectual cowardice, if not even support of Israel’s crimes.
Third - taboos placed on analogies comparing the Israeli occupation to apartheid, and Nazi conduct should be dropped. While the racist notions that enabled apartheid are practiced daily by Israel, the analogy should go much further, considering that genocide has in fact been carried out in Gaza.
Fourth – There can be no mutual blame as a way to avoid placing full responsibility on the Israeli occupation and military. Palestinian resistance that blocked the way of the Merkava tanks in Jabaliya and Shejaiya is a heroic expression of the valour of the Palestinian people. Armed struggle in World War II continues to be admired throughout the world. Palestinians should not be made an exception.
Fifth – There can be no bad vs good Palestinians. There are those who resist, and those who collaborate with the enemy; those who pay the price, and those who benefit from the occupation.
Sixth – Israel is a fascist state. It controls the media, and cracks down on dissidents. It uses violence to achieve political ends, and doesn’t shy away from genocide when it suits it interests. Reverting to “only democracy in the Middle East” statements is a sign of willful ignorance that can no longer be tolerated.
Seventh – The “Arab-Israeli conflict” is a misleading notion. The confines of misleading geography must end. Moreover, there is no conflict per se, but a military occupation and a state of one-sided war. Palestinians are fighting this alone, but are supported by people from around the world, from every color, race, religion and nationality.
Eighth – The Israeli siege on Gaza would have not been possible without full Egyptian support. Egypt is a culprit in the suffering of the Palestinians, and it must be recognized, condemned and held legally accountable for such a crime.
Ninth – Palestinian supporters should no longer view Palestinians with a sense of pity, but respect and admiration for their courage and heroism.
Tenth – And finally, to end the Israeli genocide and occupation, the wheel of continuous action must turn and keep on turning. Those who support Israel must be exposed, and those who facilitate the Israeli occupation and sustain its war machine are partakers in the war crimes committed daily in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. They must be boycotted. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement must grow and serve as the main platform for international solidarity.
The time for clever words and no action is long gone, and those who remain “soft” on Israel, for whatever reason, have no place in what is becoming a global movement with uncompromising demands: end the occupation, punish its sustainers, halt ethnic cleaning and genocide, end the siege, and bring Israeli and other culprits to the international criminal court for their massive war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People's History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo credit: Palestinian people stage a demonstration to protest the Israeli attacks in Ramallah (AA)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Debunking Israel’s Self-defence Argument

Israel claims that it is acting in self-defense in Gaza, thereby portraying itself as the victim in the present conflict. President Barack Obama and both houses of the U.S. Congress have endorsed this justification for the use of force. But is it an accurate assessment?
Gaza is not an independent state like Lebanon or Jordan. Israel accepts this but instead sees Gaza as a “hostile entity,” a concept unknown to international law and one that Israel has not sought to explain.
But the status of Gaza is clear. It is an occupied territory — part of the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2005 Israel withdrew its settlers and the Israel Defense Forces from Gaza, but it continues to retain control of it, not only through intermittent incursions into and regular shelling of the territory but also by effectively controlling the land crossings into Gaza, its airspace and territorial waters and its population registry, which determines who may leave and enter.
Effective control is the test for occupation. The International Court of Justice recently confirmed this in a dispute between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. The physical presence of Israel in Gaza is not necessary provided it retains effective control and authority over the territory by other means. Modern technology now permits effective control from outside the occupied territory, and this is what Israel has established.
That Gaza remains occupied is accepted by the United Nations and all states except, possibly, Israel.
An illegal occupation
Military or belligerent occupation is a status recognized by international law. According to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 — to which Israel is a party — a state is allowed to occupy a territory acquired in armed conflict pending a peace settlement. But the occupation must be temporary, and the occupying power is obliged to balance its security needs with the welfare of the occupied people. Collective punishment is strictly prohibited.
The occupation of Gaza is now in its 47th year, and Israel is largely responsible for the failure to reach an agreement on a peaceful settlement. Moreover, Israel is in breach of many of the humanitarian provisions contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention as a result of the siege it has imposed on Gaza since 2007. In short, Gaza is not only an occupied territory; it is also an illegally occupied territory.
The present operation in Gaza — Operation Protective Edge — must therefore not be seen as an act of self-defense by a state subjected to acts of aggression by a foreign state or nonstate actor. Instead, it should be seen as the action of an occupying power aimed at maintaining its occupation — the illegal occupation of Gaza. Israel is not the victim. It is the occupying power that is using force to maintain its illegal occupation.
The rockets fired by Palestinian factions from Gaza must be construed as acts of resistance of an occupied people and an assertion of its recognized right to self-determination.
History is replete with examples of occupying powers using force to maintain their occupations. Apartheid South Africa used force against the people of Namibia; Germany used force against the people of France and the Netherlands during World War II.
The rockets fired by Palestinian factions from Gaza must thus be construed as acts of resistance of an occupied people and an assertion of its recognized right to self-determination.
Before Israel’s physical withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinian acts of violent resistance were directed at Israeli forces within the territory.This was during the second intifada. Since then, Palestinian militants have been obliged to take their resistance to the occupation and the illegal siege of Gaza to Israel itself. The alternative is to do nothing, a course no occupied people in history has ever taken.
It is unusual for an occupied people to take its resistance outside the occupied territory. But it is also unusual for an occupying power to maintain a brutal occupation from outside the territory. When the occupying power maintains its status through military force within the occupied territory because of these acts of resistance on its own territory, as Israel has done, it acts as the enforcer of an occupation — not as a state acting in self-defense.
Lack of accountability
A state seeking to enforce its occupation, like a state acting in self-defense, must comply with international humanitarian law. This includes respect for the principle of proportionality, respect for civilians and the drawing of a distinction between military and civilian targets, and the prohibition of collective punishment. Both Israel and Palestinian militants are obliged to act within the confines of these rules.
Sadly, Israel is in violation of all three of these basic tenets. Its action is a clear collective punishment of the people of Gaza. The numbers of the dead and wounded and the property damage inflicted on them are completely disproportionate to the few civilians killed and wounded and property damaged in Israel. It is also clear from its bombing of schools, hospitals and private homes that Israel makes little, if any, attempt to distinguish between civilian and military targets.
What is to be done? The United Nations is powerless to act in the face of the U.S. veto. This places a heavy burden on the European states to use their influence to stop the bloodshed.
It is also incumbent on the International Criminal Court to act. Palestine, recognized as a state by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, has accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Under pressure from the U.S. and Europe, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court refuses to hold Israel accountable for its crimes. History will surely judge unkindly both the prosecutor and the institution that she serves if nothing is done.
John Dugard is emeritus professor of international law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy. Operation in Gaza is aimed at maintaining its illegal occupation
July 31, 2014 6:00AM ET

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Muslim Women 'Systematically Targeted' By Cambodian Regime...

A new study focused on sexual violence perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s has found that women from the country’s Cham Muslim minority were intentionally targeted.
The rule of the ultra-Maoist group, which seized control in 1975 and controlled the country for four years, saw around 1.7 million people killed through execution, starvation and overwork. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, all religion - the main faith being Buddhism - was banned, and places of worship and religious documents destroyed.
There were about 200,000 Cham Muslims - originally believed to have come to Cambodia from the ancient kingdom of Champa in what is now Vietnam centuries before - when the Khmer Rouge took over. At least a third of them were killed during the regime, according to Minority Rights Group International.
There is a population of about 400,000 Cham Muslims living in Cambodia today.
A United Nations-backed war crimes court in Phnom Penh is currently trying the surviving leaders of the regime for crimes against humanity, but charges of genocide relate specifically to the minority ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims—many of whom have testified as civil parties, or witnesses.
“Religion was reviled by the Khmer Rouge. Muslim communities were particularly targeted because of their different language, food customs, clothing and prayer,” the new study, produced by local legal aid group The Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP) and based on interviews with 105 survivors and witnesses, reads.
“Within this xenophobic environment, sexual violence appears to have been another method by which the Khmer Rouge persecuted minorities,” it continues.
“Respondents reported that sexual abuse and rape of Cham women were commonplace at worksites and cooperatives,” the study says, referring to the large worker co-ops established in the Khmer Rouge’s failed attempt to create an agrarian utopia.
“Further, Cham victims were silenced by their offenders with threats... or were raped before execution.”
A recent book by Cham Muslim academic Farina So titled “The Hijab of Cambodia: Memories of Cham Muslim Women After the Khmer Rouge,” also details cases of Cham women being forced to marry Khmer husbands for the purpose of breaking up the specific ethnic groups.
Interviewed for the study about forced marriage, one unnamed Muslim respondent said: "I was forced to make a commitment [to marry]... I was very small. I was just over 10 years old... How could I protest?”
Another respondent added that after marriage: ”We were spied [upon to see] if we had sexual intercourse.”
One Khmer Muslim recounted the brutal gang rape of a Cham woman, saying a Khmer Rouge cadre "wanted her when he saw that she was very beautiful. Her husband was taken to be killed. Four men had sex with her... and she was [then] taken to be killed.”
In yet another tale, a respondent detailed how some Khmer Muslim women were forced into sexual slavery, being made to provide nightly sex to groups of young militiamen.
“About ten beautiful [Khmer and Khmer Islam] women were kept for rape.... After three to seven days of rape, they were killed,” she said.
Few people who experienced sexual violence under the regime spoke of it for fear of retribution and even those who witnessed such incidents were careful to remain silent, according to the study.
“She was raped by three men... one Khmer asked if I knew the Cham woman who was killed and if that one is my relative. I said that I did not know her. During that time, if we said we know [a victim], they will kill us altogether.”
Asked by the researcher if she did in fact know the victim, the respondent answered: “Yes... she was my aunt.”
The study, which was funded in part by the German government, is focused on minority groups - the Cham, the Ethnic Vietnamese and another group known as the Khmer Krom—but it stresses that it is important to note that many other ordinary Khmer women faced the same sexual suffering at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.
However, as one Muslim respondent put it: “They hated the Khmer Muslim. They just had to rape them... They persecuted the Khmer Muslim.”
“Efforts to extinguish Cham culture and ethnicity [including though mass executions] would have created an ideal environment for sexual violence to flourish,” the study says.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Look Back At The Trial That Made Rape A War Crime...

The task was almost unimaginable in its magnitude.
After the Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered over a hundred days in 1994, the U.N. created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda with the goal of bringing the organizers of the bloodshed to justice.
The tribunal's inaugural case, led by two young U.S. prosecutors, would set a number of precedents -- but perhaps none more significant than classifying rape as a war crime.
Journalists Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel have directed a new documentary, "The Uncondemned," that takes a powerful look back at the tribunal and the unique challenges faced by Pierre-Richard Prosper and Sara Darehshori, the lawyers who prosecuted the first genocide trial. They won their case in 1998 and made history as sexual violence was judged part of genocide for the first time.
"When people think about war crimes tribunals today, they have a vision because it's been going on for 20 years. But back then, the last time someone had attempted to do anything like that was Nuremberg," Prosper told HuffPost. "Failure literally was not an option -- too much depended on it. If we lost, what would that mean to the victims and the survivors? Their deaths were not being recognized or valued."
pierre sara
Sara Darehshori and Pierre-Richard Prosper photographed in 1997.
Darehshori, his co-counsel, was only two years out of law school when she got the assignment of a lifetime.
"It was all very crazy," she said. "We were sort of isolated. We didn't have the Internet. We didn't have email, still sending faxes; it wasn't that reliable. We kind of felt like we were on our own. There wasn't a huge body of law to look to. We were winging it."
Among the unsettled matters of law was the connection between rape and genocide, despite their long historical association.
According to a 1996 U.N. report on the Rwandan genocide, perpetrators of the killings used rape systematically as a weapon. "Rape was the rule and its absence the exception," the report noted, estimating that between 250,000 and 500,000 women and girls were raped during the course of the three-month genocide.
The rape crisis that accompanied the mass killings was so widespread that Prosper and Darehshori saw the need to argue that rape should be classified as a war crime and was itself a major component of the genocide.
"Before [the tribunal], rape and sexual violence was just seen as spoil of war," Prosper said. "For the first time in history, rape was put on equal footing with all other crimes committed during the time of war."
The New York Times reported at the time that the decision advanced the "world's legal treatment of rape and sexual violence," and provided the first international definition of rape as "a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive."
While participating in the documentary, Prosper and Darehshori returned to Rwanda, where they were reunited with the three Rwandan women who testified about their rapes. While the women were anonymous during the tribunal and had code names to protect their identities, they have come forward publicly for the first time in the documentary.
"It was interesting, over this much time, to get their perspective on the trial and to see they really appreciated playing a role in this," said Darehshori. "It was important to them to tell their story. They felt empowered by their experience at the tribunal."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Islamic State Isn't Circumcising Women and Didn't Steal $400 Million Either...

Since the Islamic State captured Mosul last month, it hasburned shops selling alcohol, ordered veils placed over the faces of mannequins in store windows, andimplemented discriminatory policies that forced the majority of the city's Christians to flee. You'd think that was dramatic enough -- but a number of apparently false stories about the jihadist group's behavior in Iraq's second-largest city are spreading like wildfire through the Western media.
The latest culprit appears to be U.N. official Jacqueline Badcock, who told reporters on Thursday that the Islamic State had issued a fatwa ordering women to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). The procedure is quite rare in Iraq -- it is far more common in sub-Saharan Africa -- and is not typically something that jihadists demand. As Agence France-Presse reported, instituting FGM in areas under the control of the Islamic State, which was previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, could place 4 million women and girls at risk of undergoing the procedure.
Thankfully, Badcock's claim has been widely debunked by reporters and analysts. NPR's Cairo bureau chief, Leila Fadel, reported that residents of Mosul, including a doctor and a tribal leader, had not heard of the fatwa. Meanwhile, an alleged Islamic State decree announcing the implementation of FGM was revealed to be a hoax. (The U.N. office in Iraq did not respond to requests for comment on the source of Badcock's claim.)
But the furor over FGM is far from the only questionable claim that has been made about the Islamic State's reign in Mosul. Last week -- as the jihadist group's very realcampaign to force Christians to pay a tax levied on non-Muslims, convert to Islam, or face death reached fever pitch -- multiple news outlets reported that the Islamic State had burned down the St. Ephrem's Cathedral.
There was just one problem: The pictures published by news outlets and shared on social media of the supposed burning of the Syriac Catholic cathedral were from church burnings in Egypt or Syria. To this day, there has been no confirmation from anyone in Mosul that a cathedral was burned.
But the most spectacular story about the Islamic State relates to what would have been one of history's most spectacular bank heists. Shortly after the group stormed Mosul, the provincial governor in the region told reporters that it had raided the city's central bank, making off with more than $400 million, in addition to a "large quantity of gold bullion." The alleged raid -- which was widely reported in papers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post -- would likely have made the Islamic State the world's richest jihadist organization, as well as giving it more resources than many small states.
There's only one problem: The heist doesn't appear to have happened. The regional governor who initially described the raid changed his tune in an interview with the Financial Times last week, saying that "nobody until now has confirmed that story." Meanwhile, the chief executive of the association of Iraq's private banks said that no raid occurred, and that "nothing has been removed from the premises of any banks [in Mosul], not even a piece of paper."
Given the extreme difficulty of reporting in areas under the control of the Islamic State, it is perhaps not surprising that the news coming out of Mosul is so frequently incorrect. And the jihadist group's well-deserved reputation for implementing its brand of medieval justice does admittedly make it hard to separate fact from fiction. But the next time you read a story and think that it's too spectacular to be true -- you just may be right.