The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By Casey Quackenbush

3:58 AM EST

A video of men appearing to be sold at auction in Libya for $400 has shocked the world and focused international attention on the exploitation of migrants and refugees the north African country.

The footage and subsequent investigation conducted by CNN last month has rallied European and African leaders to take action to stop the abuses. On Wednesday, the leaders of Libya, France, Germany, Chad and Niger and four other countries agreed on a plan to evacuate thousands of migrants stuck in Libyan detention camps.

The grainy undercover video appears to show smugglers selling off a dozen men outside of the capital city Tripoli.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” said an auctioneer, according to CNN. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”

The report has drawn attention to an issue that aid and migrant groups say has gone on for years.

Why is there a slave trade in Libya?

Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. In each of the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.

The Libyan Coast Guard — supported with funds and resources from the E.U. and more specifically, Italy — has cracked down on boats smuggling refugees and migrants to Europe. With estimates of 400,000 to almost one million people now bottled up Libya, detention centers are overrun and there are mounting reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants, according to a September report by the U.N. human rights agency. Conditions in the centers have been described as “horrific,” and among other abuses, migrants are vulnerable to being sold off as laborers in slave auctions.

“It’s a total extortion machine,” Lenard Doyle, Director of Media and Communications for the IOM in Geneva tells TIME. “Fueled by the absolute rush of migrants through Libya thinking they can get out of poverty, following a dream that doesn’t exist.”

The IOM said in April that it had documented reports of “slave markets” along the migrant routes in North Africa “tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.”

“There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value,” Doyle said in the April statement.

Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Taha Jawashi—AFP/Getty Images

How is Libya handling the crisis?

According to CNN, the U.N.-backed Libyan government has launched a formal investigation into the allegations. But Libya is largely considered a failed state. Since Muammar Gaddafi, who ran the country for four decades, was ousted in 2011, the country has descended into civil war. A transitional government failed to implementrule of law in the country, which has splintered into several factions of militias, tribes, and gangs. In lawless Libya, many see the slave trade and smuggling as a lucrative industry. Tackling the country’s humanitarian crisis will require international assistance.

On Wednesday, Libya reached a deal with E.U. and African leaders to allow the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants facing abuse in its detention centers. The government also agreed to open a transit center for vulnerable refugees after months of negotiations, according to Reuters. The center is intended to safely house people before they are resettled or sent to a third country.

How is the international community responding?

Following the publication of the video, there was outcry from all corners of the globe, with some nations recalling their ambassadors from Libya. Protesters rallied outside Libyan embassies across Africa and in Europe.

On Wednesday, African and European leaders met at a summit in the Ivory Coast and agreed on an urgent evacuation plan that would see about 15,000 people flown out of Libya. Most of the migrants will be sent back to their home countries. Speaking at the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, called the abuse “a crime against humanity” and vowed the summit members would “launch concrete military and policing action on the ground to dismantle those networks,” according to the Guardian. The deal also included initiatives to target traffickers, including setting up a task force to dismantle trafficking networks, the BBC reports.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed shock at how his compatriots were being treated “like goats.” On Wednesday, 242 Nigerian migrants were flown out of Libya back to Nigeria.

The day before, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and said it would be “stepping up its work” to stop the abuses. However, the U.N refugee agency said it faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially for its operations in sub-Saharan Africa. “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the 21st century,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Since 2015, the IOM has repatriated 13,000 people from Libya under a voluntary program. But Doyle, the IOM spokesperson, says more needs to be done to stop migration at its core, particularly from tech companies who own online platforms where traffickers can falsely lure people into paying smugglers.

“They’re being completely misled into thinking that’s a happy future for them and being misled thorough social media,” he tells TIME.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry of Rwanda said it would extend asylum to 30,000 mainly sub-Saharan Africans stuck in Libya. “Given our own history … we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle,” the foreign ministry said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the abuses, saying: “To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, ‘big strong boys for farm work,’ should shock the conscience of us all.”

“There are few greater violations of human rights and human dignity than this.”

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India Voices Concerns Over Pakistan’s Release Of Mumbai Mass Murderer Tomorrow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

((oped) TO SAVE THE LIVES OF MANY THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE IT IS OF UP MOST IMPORTANCE THAT SOMEONE IN PAKISTAN PUT A LITTLE GRAY PILL BETWEEN THIS MANS EYES AS SOON AS HE STEPS OUT OF HIS HOUSE TOMORROW, ISN’T IT?) (trs)

India on Thursday expressed displeasure at the imminent release of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who it accuses of organising the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

A day earlier, the Lahore High Court had refused to extend detention orders against Saeed, whose current house arrest is going to expire on Nov 24 (Friday).

The review board under the chair of Justice Abdul Sami Khan passed these orders after a senior finance ministry official failed to convince the board that the release of Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems to the country.

The JuD chief had been placed under house arrest on January 31 for 90 days. Subsequently, his house arrest had been extended several times.

“India is outraged that a self-confessed and a UN proscribed terrorist is allowed to walk free and continue with his agenda,” Raveesh Kumar, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters at a weekly briefing in New Delhi.

Kumar said Saeed’s release will give an impression that Pakistan supports non-state actors.

Saeed was declared a global terrorist by the US and the United Nations over his alleged role in the attacks that left nearly 166 people dead, including Western nationals.

JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for the attacks.

The United States identifies Lashkar-e-Taiba as one of the largest and most active terrorist organisations in South Asia. Founded in 1987 by Hafiz Saeed, Abdullah Azzam and Zafar Iqbal in Afghanistan, the group was headquartered in Muridke before it was disbanded and re-organised.

Following the LHC’s decision to cut his detention short, Saeed had told media that the decision was tantamount to “the victory of truth” and called it “a serious blow” to India’s demands.

Commemorating Indigenous History on Alcatraz Island

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘KQED’)

Video: Commemorating Indigenous History on Alcatraz Island

On an average day, Alcatraz Island bustles with visitors taking tours of the former federal prison. Twice a year, however, people adorned with colorful feathered headdresses and instruments in hand board the ferry hours before dawn and travel to the historic site in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

On Oct. 9, a crowd of early risers visited Alcatraz on Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate the history and culture of native peoples.

Before the sunrise broke through the fog, people quietly circled around a fire to honor their ancestors with a sunrise ceremony, commemorating the occupation of Alcatraz Island from November 1969 to June 1971 by “Indians of All Tribes,” a pan-tribal group of Native American leaders and activists.

On that day, 46 years after the original occupation, Alcatraz pulsed with energy once again. The sound of a conch shell initiating the ceremony interrupted the silent morning. As the drumming intensified, indigenous people from across the country danced to sacred songs, moving around their elders who tended to the flames in the center of the crowd.

“I come out here because it’s who I am,” said Desiree Adams, an indigenous woman of Navajo descent. “It’s in my blood to be here and stand for my ancestors and to keep our tradition and culture alive.”

On Nov. 23, another sunrise ceremony will be held for the annual “Unthanksgiving Day” celebration.

In Paraguay, a Community Fights for the Right to Grow Food

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

In Paraguay, a Community Fights for the Right to Grow Food

In Paraguay alone, between 700 or 800 varieties of mandioca (also called yuca or cassava) are grown on 445,000 acres, yielding 6 million tons of the staple crop. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

This post is an abridged version of a story produced by Kurtural and published on Global Voices with the author’s permission. It is part of the series “The landless don’t go to the supermarket,” which will be published and re-edited by Global Voices.

Before dawn, Severiano Ruiz Díaz detonates an explosive firework beside his house, but his children slept right through the blast. Throughout the rest of the community of Primero de Marzo, Ruiz Díaz’s neighbors wait, listening for a second explosion that would signal the presence of police. But today, there is no second blast, and a new day begins for the 300-plus families in Primero de Marzo, a community where food is plentiful in a hungry nation.

Primero De Marzo is an asentamiento or informal settlement, one of at least 200 similar communities established by landless farmers in Paraguay. It has three schools, no church, and nearly 2,500 acres of rich red soil.

The settlement of smallholder farmers is surrounded by soy fields, engulfed by mechanized farming in a country that is the world’s fourth largest exporter of the crop. But in an effort to encourage family agriculture, Primero de Marzo prohibits cultivating soy within its territory. Instead, the community sustains itself through a diverse array of crops.

Paraguay’s small farmers face many obstacles. In Primero de Marzo, those include the lack of roads and competition from contraband produce smuggled in from abroad. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

Their small fields are the the last plots of land in the county where food crops — not commodities — are grown. They harvest two kinds of bananas, three varieties of corn, four types beans, sugar cane, yerba mate, peanuts, papaya, sweet potatoes, watermelon and cassava.

Each member of the settlement is assigned at most 25 acres of land, which totals a little less than half of the 4,000-plus hectares of land whose ownership in disputed by the residents, the Paraguayan government, and a group of powerful landowners — the Bendlin Family.

During the long-running dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, the Bendlin family illegally traded an airplane for the land where Primero de Marzo now stands, an airplane that does not exist in the country’s official aeronautical records. The family are the Paraguayan representatives of a famous German vehicle brand; have relations with Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes; and own a lot of real estate in Paraguay’s largest city and capital, Asunción.

The Bendlins were accused of hiring thugs who harassed Primero de Marzo for years and who, on June 11, 2014, attempted to kill Severiano Ruiz Díaz.

But bullets aren’t the community’s only problem. Police have officially evicted the community from their lands on three occasions, burning houses, destroying crops and confiscating or killing livestock. Government officials have charged members of the community with crimes of occupying land and accused them of criminal association. In contrast, the attack on Severiano Ruiz Díaz and instances of police violence during the evictions have not been investigated.

The right to land

Activities in Primero de Marzo begin early and include the whole family. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

Severiano Ruiz Díaz speaks about the evictions while finishing breakfast in the hallway of his family’s wooden home. It’s the second house he’s built here, just five meters from the first house that police burned to the ground. The new building is small, but has basic amenities like electricity, thanks to the 14 miles of power lines the community installed themselves to serve all the families in Primero de Marzo.

For rural farmers, the right to land transcends purely economical considerations: It is the right to a domain, the right to exist. But it is a right enjoyed by few in Paraguay. About 94 percent of the nation’s arable land is farmed using mechanized agricultural techniques to produce commodities for export, including soy, corn and wheat.

Conventional agribusiness requires only one employee for roughly every 500 acres, or 40 times fewer jobs than the style of smallholder agriculture practiced in Primero de Marzo — the kind of agriculture that got Severiano Ruiz Díaz shot.

Paraguay faces extreme inequality in land ownership, according to the Gini Index, which measures the extent to which incomes deviate from perfectly equal distribution. Fifteen landowners in Paraguay together hold property twice the size of Puerto Rico, while more than 300,000 Paraguayan families own no land at all.

Days of halfway peace

Every June, the colors of harvest fill Primero de Marzo. Along the crooked path worn by tractors and motorcycles, you can see fields of corn, banana and towering manioca rocking in a winter breeze. These are days of “halfway peace” say the residents.

The community’s agricultural abundance stands in contrast to the violence it has endured, and to the reality of the entire country: Every day, 700,000 Paraguayans face hunger. None of them lives in Primero de Marzo.

Nonetheless, the farmers of Primero de Marzo struggle to sell their products to a hungry nation. The problem begins with transporting their harvest: inadequate roads and exploitative middlemen. Then — even if products reach Paraguay’s main produce market, Mercado Abasto — they must compete against the prices of contraband produce, much of which comes from Argentina.

Although the Paraguayan government is committed to supporting smallholder agriculture in theory, between 2013 and 2016 the importation of fruits and vegetables to Paraguay doubled. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of acres dedicated to growing tomatoes, a staple of Paraguayan cuisine, was halved. This loss of production and diminishment of Paraguay’s food sovereignty has resulted in recurring periods where tomatoes cost more than five times their usual price in Asuncion.

Farmers in Primero de Marzo grow three kinds of corn: white, tupí, and chipá, but famers complain that they have no market for their harvest. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

The families in the settlement still inhabit a territory of uncertainty. But while their land remains in dispute, a second generation is growing up in Primero de Marzo, a generation that has inhabited these lands since birth. A generation of children that run and laugh and splash in mud puddles and go to school. Who, like Ruiz Díaz’s children, hope that lunch will be chicken stew.

And while these children grow, the community of Primero de Marzo keeps waiting, each morning, for a second explosion.

Why Did Catalonia Just Vote for Independence From Spain?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Why Did Catalonia Just Vote for Independence From Spain? Here’s What to Know

1:35 PM ET

The ongoing standoff between the Spanish region of Catalonia and Spain’s central government in Madrid escalated Friday when the Catalonian parliament voted to declare the region an independent republic.

“We constitute the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign country, under the rule of law,” read a motion that passed 70-10, fueling the biggest political crisis to hit Spain since the 1970s.

Catalonia’s move defies Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who’s been working to quash the succession effort and keep Spain intact. Just minutes after Catalonian lawmakers voted on Friday’s resolution, Spain’s senate granted the central government powers to impose direct rule on the region, setting up what is likely to be a raucous few days in Barcelona and elsewhere.

Friday’s vote was greeted with cheers by supporters of the independence movement, many of whom view have economic grievances about Madrid’s tax policies and view their region as culturally distinct from the rest of Spain. But some anti-independence lawmakers boycotted the vote — one warned his colleagues that “you will go down in history for having fractured Catalonia and for sinking the institutions of Catalonia” The New York Times reports.

Here’s what to know about Catalonia’s independence vote.

Where is Catalonia, Spain on the map?

Why is Catalonia seeking independence?

Catalonia, which is Spain’s richest region, has a distinct cultural heritage and language. The push for independence crystallized during the fallout of the global financial crisis in 2008. Some Catalans believe the country’s rising unemployment levels and languishing economy was pulling the region down, and they began to seek greater autonomy from Madrid.

What led up to Catalonia’s independence vote?

Friday’s vote came after weeks of brinksmanship between Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The situation first escalated on Oct. 1, when nearly 90% of Catalonian voters backed independence from Spain in a controversial and disputed referendum. Catalonia officials say turnout was about 43%, despite the vote being suspended by Spain’s highest court and deemed illegal by the federal government in Madrid.

The Catalonia independence referendum led to weeks of political maneuvering and mixed messages on all sides. During an Oct. 10 speech, Puigdemont stopped just short of declaring independence, opting instead to pursue a dialogue with Madrid. But Rajoy has maintained a hard line throughout, announcing Oct. 21 that he was invoking a constitutional rule allowing him to “restore the rule of law, coexistence and the economic recovery and to ensure that elections could be held in normal circumstances.”

Puigdemont appeared to take a step towards détente on Thursday, when he held off from declaring independence and suggested early elections instead. But the attempt fell apart in the face of his own hardcore supporters and opposition from Madrid, the Financial Times reports. Puigdemont then turned the matter to Catalonian parliament, which on Friday voted to declare independence.

Will Catalonia become independent of Spain?

What happens next is unclear. But Catalonia will face significant challenges attempting to assert its independence in the face of Spain’s decision to impose direct rule on the region. It will get little help from abroad, as other European nations, many of which are facing separatist movements of their own, have shown little indication that they will acknowledge Catalonian independence. Even Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgoen, who has been seeking a new vote for independence from the U.K., has refused to recognize Catalonia’s declaration.

The European Union, meanwhile, has distanced itself from the crisis, deeming it an internal Spanish issue. “For E.U. nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted on Friday.

LoC: Line Of Control, Really? Then Us It! Kashmir-Jammu

My Philosophy On This Issue

This commentary is admittedly by a person who has never stepped foot in the region. My opinions formed are from thousands of miles away, formed by TV News slots and articles I have read. I look for only one thing, and that is peace. I look for the day that no one will ever need to defend themselves, because it is the day there is no such thing as an aggressor. I am realistic to the lack of love between segments of Pakistan and India. There has been bitter issues throughout the region for centuries, there is little love loss between many of the people who favor Islam and those who favor Hindu or even the Buddhist  Seventy years ago when India and Pakistan were formed it was a bitter and bloody divide.

 

As you probably know, most of the people on the Pakistan side of the LoC are people who believe in Islam. Also, almost all of the people on the India side of the LoC are Hindu. If the LoC has any real meaning, if it has been good enough for a temporary fix, cement the foundation in concrete and use it now, mark it with a forever marker. Here in the U.S. this would not be Constitutional but maybe there? Can the two governments work out a deal where all Hindu people in Pakistan are given free, peaceful, safe passage out of Pakistan to India on the India side of the LoC. India should do exactly the same thing, all of the people who are believers in Islam and would prefer to be citizens of Pakistan should go and do so. My suggestion for the leaders of Pakistan and of India, make the LoC, the final border between the two Countries. This is a harsh thing that I suggest I guess you call this segregation but in some cases of physical hatred, safety of all must come first. Learn to grow, to become peaceful neighbors and trading partners. Or, you can just go on as is, hating and killing, you, your wife, your kids. I pray that we can all find peace, before and after we die.

 

 

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASIA FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FORBES)

 

Asia #ForeignAffairs

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.
  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.
  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”
  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”
  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.

Middle-East Plans Genocide Against Kurdish People: World Stays Silent

Genocide Is Being Planed Against The Kurdish People

 

The President of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan has for a long time been committing mass murder against the thousands of Kurdish people who live within the borders of Turkey. He and his government consider these people as his  enemy when these people really only want peace and a small piece of the land they already live on, to be their own. The Kurdish people are the fifth largest ethnicity in the middle-east, yet they technically have no homeland.

 

Now that the Kurdish people in Iraq have voted to ‘take’ the piece of land they already live on as their own Nation, more than just Erdogan’s hate has been turned upon these people. There are millions of Kurdish people who live in the region of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey so now these countries leaders are going to ban together against the Kurdish people also.

 

Hypocrisy Against The Kurd’s

 

Particularly in Iraq the Kurdish people have helped the Government in Baghdad to stay alive, and in power. Even the governments in Iran and Syria have greatly benefited from the Kurdish people fighting against the oppression of ISIS. Particularly in Iraq the governments military ran like scalded dogs when they were attacked by Isis. If not for the Kurdish fighters the ISIS fighters would right now have Baghdad as their Caliphate capitol. The government in Baghdad owes the Kurdish people their very lives yet they collude with Asps in Iran, Syria and Turkey to eliminate them. If it had not been for the Kurdish fighters all of these aforementioned countries would have had to have spent billions of more dollars and thousands of their won lives in defeating ISIS and kicking them out of their own countries. There are two other groups that I have not yet mentioned in this situation and that is the Hezbollah government in Lebanon and the government in Washington D.C..

 

Personally I first remember hearing of the Kurdish people in about 1990. What I have learned during this time is that the U.S. Government has used them in a ‘proxy since’ for at least this long and before it. We have used them and their desire for freedom and democracy as a tool of the CIA to fight against extremest in that area of the world. We make promises to them over and over again, then turn and walk away from them when they need us the most. Today, we send them items like military trucks and some small arms in their fight for their won right to life as a free people. The United States and the U.N. should at this very moment be working out a plan with the other countries in this region to create a Kurdish homeland, one homeland, not a ‘homeland’ inside all of the different countries.

 

Does the U.N. and the United States just stand by and allow a total elimination of millions of people whose only crime is wanting to be a free people? It is just my opinion but to me this whole region would be better served, the people of all of these countries would be better served with a peaceful Kurdistan as a neighbor, than to have another un-needed war. Give to these people the land they already possess as a thank you for the sacrifices they have given to help keep these other governments in power, especially concerning Iraq. It is the only intelligent path to be taken, one of free trade with all their neighbors along with friendship between the people and the governments. The other path leads only to genocide and if this is the chosen path that the War Drums beat, the leaders of the U.N. and in Washington should be taken to Times Square and flogged publicly with the tongues of the World for their hypocrisy. Then deported to live with their friends in Gaza City.

 

 

Free Speech Does Not Harm Minorities Or Majorities, It Protects Them

(THIS IS A COMMENTARY FROM SOHRAB)

 

The rising tide of anti-free speech sentiment on the American left has now engulfed the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU’s principled position on the First Amendment has long seen it come to the defense of Nazis, neo-Confederates, and sundry other groups with rancid ideologies. But now it is facing pressure, from within and without, to dial down its commitment to free speech for all.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported on an open letter, circulating inside the ACLU, that urges the organization’s leaders to balance free-speech rights against racial equality. The writers argued that “our broader mission—which includes advancing the racial justice guarantees in the Constitution and elsewhere, not just the First Amendment—continues to be undermined by our rigid stance.”

Meanwhile, at the College of William and Mary last week, Black Lives Matter activists heckled and silenced Claire Gastañaga, an ACLU representative who was to speak on “Students and the First Amendment.” These spectacles have become commonplace on university campuses, but the latest footage is chilling all the same.

When it became clear that she was being “no-platformed,” Gastañaga said: “I’m going to talk to you about knowing your rights, and protests and demonstrations, which this”—meaning the gathering BLM intifada—“illustrates very well.” But she got further as the mob began howling: “ACLU, you protect Hitler too!”; “The revolution will not uphold the Constitution!”; “Liberalism is white supremacy”; and so on. Afterward, the BLMers went so far as to prevent individual students from asking Gastañaga their questions.

Give the William and Mary BLMers points for honesty. At least they made it clear that their real beef is with America’s constitutional order. Like all totalitarians, they see things like free speech and due process as pesky obstacles on the path to utopia. More dismaying is that some ACLU staffers—and I’m willing to bet they tend to be the younger ones—have come to view free speech as inimical to free speech.

This is a grave mistake. In fact, free speech is the best tools for securing other rights, including the right to equal treatment before the law. This is why free-speech rights were high on the civil-rights movement’s list of demands. As Martin Luther King noted in 1968:

If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could . . . understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.

If America is going in an ugly majoritarian dimension, as liberals fear, then it is all the more crucial to rally to the First Amendment. That means defending the right of unpopular groups and minorities so as to secure it for everyone. The fact that young lawyers at the ACLU—the ACLU!—don’t understand the ideas behind the First Amendment is a reminder that the country is in a very dark place.

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Two Years on, the Stakes of Russia’s War in Syria Are Piling (Op-ed)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MOSCOW TIMES)

 

Two years ago, on Sept. 30, 2015, Russian warplanes launched their first airstrikes in Syria, plunging Russia into a civil war that had already been festering for four years.

Moscow intervened in Syria vowing to fight Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, terrorist groups banned in Russia. Its objective was to transform its relationship with Washington and Brussels by disarming an imminent threat to the West after it had hit Russia with sanctions for the Kremlin’s “adventures in Ukraine.”

Days before the airstrikes began, Putin delivered a speech at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a united front against international terrorism, framing it as the modern equivalent of World War II’s coalition against Hitler.

But two years later, Russia’s hopes of winning concessions in Ukraine for its campaign against Islamic State have come to very little. Putin’s strategic alliance with the United States never materialized.

Russia, however, has met two less lofty goals. One was to rescue the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, Moscow’s longtime ally, from the inevitable defeat at the hands of an armed Sunni rebellion.

Moscow leveraged its ties with Iran, another regime ally, to deploy Shia militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the Syrian rebels. This allowed Moscow to send a modest ground force to Syria — artillery and some special operations forces — without a large footprint.

Russia helped Assad recast the civil war and the popular uprising against his regime as a fight against jihadi terrorists by focusing its airstrikes over the last two years on moderate Syrian rebel groups, while paying little attention to Islamic State.

This rendered the conflict black and white — a binary choice between Assad and jihadists. It allowed Moscow to sell its intervention as support for Syria’s sovereignty against anarchy and terrorism. Russia made clear that it saw the path to stability in the Middle East as helping friendly autocrats suppress popular uprisings with force.

At home, the Kremlin sold its Syrian gambit as a way of defeating terrorism before it reached Russian soil. Russia, after all, needed to prevent Russians and Central Asians who joined Islamic State from returning home to wreck havoc at home soil.

Moscow was also able to use Syria as a lab for its newest weaponry.

By workshopping newly-acquired precision cruise-missile strikes, Russia joined the United States in an exclusive arms club. Showcasing military prowess, while keeping casualties figures low — some 40 Russia servicemen died in Syria — it was able to win public support at home for the intervention.

But perhaps most importantly, the Kremlin’s intervention in Syria has reaffirmed Russia’s status as a global superpower which is capable of projecting force far from its own borders.

Andrei Luzik / Russian Navy Northern Fleet Press Office / TASS

While Moscow may have been offended by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s dismissive description of Russia as a “regional power,” it impressed Arab leaders with its unwavering support for Assad, which was important at a time when U.S. commitment to allies’ security and the stability in the region was in doubt.

Moscow’s backing of Assad ensured it had channels with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, despite their support for Syrian rebels. It was even able to convince the Gulf to wind down its support for the opposition as a Russia-led victory for the regime became inevitable.

Russia’s alliances with Jordan and Egypt proved useful in setting up direct lines to armed opposition groups to reach de-escalation agreements. And even as it fights alongside Shia Iran, Moscow has avoided being drawn into a sectarian proxy war with Sunni Arab states.

Russia’s most stunning diplomatic coup was to change Turkey’s calculus in the war from a proxy adversary into a major partner in securing the decisive victory in Aleppo. Through the Astana process, Russia alongside Turkey wound down fighting with moderate rebels.

Russia’s victory in Syria was helped by Washington’s decision not to immerse itself into Syria and a war by proxy with Russia. Instead, the U.S. focused its military operations on defeating Islamic State in eastern Syria.

Now, with de-escalation in western Syria, regime forces and Russian airpower are turned to defeating Islamic State, which has brought them into contact with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advancing from the northeast as part of their offensive to liberate Raqqa from Islamic State.

The potential for a U.S.-Russia kinetic collision in Syria with unpredictable consequences is escalating. This highlights the looming endgame in Syria and the choices Moscow and Washington will have to make moving forward.

Washington needs to decide whether it wants to stay in Syria for counterinsurgency operations to prevent the re-emergence of Islamic State. It may also decide to block Iran from establishing the “Shia land bridge” from the Iraqi border to the Mediterranean.

But this entails supporting the SDF and helping them control sizeable real estate northeast of the Euphrates river and blocking regime forces and Russia from advancing east.

Moscow needs to decide whether it wants to be dragged into Assad and Iran’s strategy of ensuring a complete military victory in Syria and preventing the opposition from exercising any autonomous self-rule. That could see Russia pulled into a nasty proxy fight with the Americans.

Two years after Russia intervened in Syria, the war may be winding down. But the stakes for Moscow and Washington are stacking.

The views and opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.

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