More From Alder's Ledge

April 29, 2013

Bizarre Benefit

Hoosiers Fighting For The Rohingya
(part of the Screamers series)

(Yeah, my graphic artist made a spelling error...)

If you have ever watched the Travel Channel then chances are you have seen the show Bizarre Foods. It is one of my favorite shows and has inspired me to try the foods that the host samples from around the world. So much so that I rarely pass up an oddity in the supermarket anymore. And yeah, that means that if there happens to be a place selling edible insects... I've probably ordered, purchased, and sampled everything they have.

But the combining of this passion with the work Alder's Ledge does was a long process. I rarely find that people who are willing to listen to me when I talk about genocide are up for eating afterward. And the people willing to eat my not so bizarre dishes rarely want to talk about genocide while eating. So the thought of combining the two has been hard to decide upon.

So why is Alder's Ledge putting the two together? It allows us to offer a "hook" that draws in the listeners'. After all, how many people do you know who would pass up free food? Thus giving us the opportunity to scream.

But before we explain the Bizarre Foods aspect I should explain screaming once again.

A screamer is a person who has witnessed or learned about a genocide and therefore finds him or herself incapable of remaining silent about the tragedy they now know about. This screamer goes out into the world around them and attempts to tell others in anyway they can so that hopefully the information spreads. Like a spark in a dry field of grass... the screamer starts a fire in their own community. Their screams build up the flames of outrage and, with any luck, create a movement to stop the injustice that we know as genocide.

Alder's Ledge is attempting to draw in the world around us here in central Indiana and spread the word about the Rohingya Genocide. Through our interactions with the community around us we have started a small group of screamers. And through the author's own bullheadedness, we are driving the message home as best we can.

Yet the topic of genocide seems to be difficult at best to broach with new audiences. And then there is the underlying prejudices that sadly exist when you bring up Muslims here in Indiana. Combining the two creates an uphill battle that we are struggling to fight. That is why we are approaching the struggle in a way that we personally know Hoosiers cannot resist... through their stomachs.

Now Indiana people are not generally believed to be adventurous eaters. There are three or four typical dishes that Hoosiers refuse to modify or abolish all together. However it has been my experience that there are just enough foodies in this state (there most likely more restaurants in Indy than bookstores, libraries, and schools combined) to expand the audience to which we can spread our message. And when you factor in the ones who just come to watch their friends eat "icky" stuff... well the audience keeps getting bigger.

The only problem is that Alder's Ledge is not an organization in the traditional sense. We are just a bunch of misfits from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of us don't even live here in Indiana. So the move to set out as an organized front and spread our message in this manner depends on one thing... volunteers.

Alder's Ledge is currently looking for people in the area surrounding Indianapolis that would be willing to host a Bizarre Foods Night to Benefit the Rohingya of Burma. We should first point out that we do not collect any form of currency ourselves. We only give you the information so that you can then donate yourself to Partners Relief and Development.

These events should be considered for church and religious groups, educational organizations and facilities, and companies in the general area. We need churches, synagogues, mosque, school leaders, and any other groups interested to help support us. Without the help of the community we will continue to fight this fight the way we have been... through social media, this blog, and my personal favorite... one on one, face to face.

If you or your organization is interested please leave a message below. Note that messages are moderated and so they will most likely not be posted. But we will get back to you as soon as possible. Want to put together something like this with your friends and family and become a screamer? Inquire by leaving a message below, I will personally get back to you as quickly as I can.

April 28, 2013

Ripples in the waters of Humanity

(Move- Screamers post)

As you are reading this on some sort of back-lit screen, it's hard to imagine a world that has as much tragedy when sitting here on a chair, reading a blog, where we ourselves feel pretty secure and safe in our everyday lives.  It's even harder to relate to the fact that people are being abused for notions of hate and prejudice. Harder still is to believe that one can do anything that affects the tide of injustice and suffering for people you never heard about and probably will never meet.  But I'm here to tell you that one small gesture can be the difference!  Each of us a drop in the water of humanity and when moved- we are able to cause ripples that traverse distance and obstacles.  The question then sits at our feet- of whether to move or not.  Not moving or doing anything is as if condoning the acts of travesty when you are knowledgeable. 

It's so easy to go on, to move pass or brush past these events without so much as a blink.  Sitting here, reading this screen- are we so apathetic?  Can we sit here and condemn the acts of the past and then hypocritically stand by while they are being reenacted in our generation and time?  There are people, human life being snuffed out, stomped out vehemently through the acts of genocide.  They may not be literally in our very backyard- but in the scope of this world and how much smaller it has become- something that happens on one side of the planet- should matter in the whole scheme of humanity. 

So how much is a human life worth?  Imagine having to decide which of the children get to eat and then watch the other waste away as the starvation campaign against you and your people carry on.  Fathom a mob of people you once called neighbors, dragging out your loved ones to be beaten and killed because of your faith.  Push yourself to see how leaving your aged ones back to be slaughtered, knowing you will never be able to give them a burial or a memorial to return to.  In the short-sightedness of our own problems with smartphones, fashion trends, busy schedules, and other shallow entreaties seen on social media,  by far in comparison to our brothers and sisters in humanity, we have got it easy.

Come June this year one of the most fanatical genocides will hit it's one year mark in Burma. Thousands have died thus far, and the escalation of violence is sure to increase the death toll.  A repeat of the holocaust- following the historic mass murders from the 1940's.   An oath was made- "to never again," has fallen to deaf ears.  But we can not say our eyes are shut!  To be more than just a by-standing witness- MOVE!  Contact your government officials and ask them why nothing is being done to aid the Rohingya people.  Reach out to legitimate organizations/charities who are trying to aid the victims like Partners in Relief and Development.  Share this information by social media or even a more personal word of mouth. 

We have no excuse for being idle.  There is no justification when we are capable of creating more than ripples but waves.  We are capable if only there are those who are willing to move.

April 23, 2013

The Death Of The Individual Is A Tragedy

The Deaths of Thousands Are A Statistic
~ Joseph Stalin 
(part of The Darkness Visible series and Screamers series)

Almost a year ago the pogroms of the Rohingya in the Arakan began in earnest. After months of Nazi style propaganda being pumped into the region the murmur of hatred erupted into violence. We were told that the "ethnic violence" went both ways. We were told that the Rohingya started the ethnic clashes and therefore could not be considered the victims. This all came from countries that had just previously lifted their sanctions upon Myanmar and were suddenly interested in doing business with the second most reclusive country on the planet. Of course, with Burma opening up the country did jump up in the rankings leaving North Korea alone once again.

Yet with all the talk about how horrible (code in the West for inconvenient) the slaughtering of Rohingya men, women, and children; the supposedly civilized world did nothing to stop the bloodshed. European leaders welcomed Suu Kyi and Thein Sein to endless events and even awarded the two architects of death with the Nobel Peace Prize. When Thein Sein's military establishes concentration camps and converts Rohingya neighborhoods into ghettos... automatically nominated for a Peace Prize. When Suu Kyi tells the West that the Rohingya "question" can only be answered by Burma and that her country will decided who gets citizenship or not... pat on the back and oh yeah, Peace Prize.

Then there is Obama. The great supporter of democracy. The anointed leader of a failed agenda to get the world to love America once again. And yet all he can afford the Rohingya is a short speech and some hollow promises about America's support for equality and justice. But to be fair, this was another Nobel Peace Prize winner who did nothing to earn it. So it only makes sense that Obama, like Suu Kyi, shouldn't have to denounce the murderers and admit that Myanmar is committing genocide.

On April 22nd, 2013 Human Rights Watch once again released a report in which they spell out just how the government of Myanmar is committing "crimes against humanity" and "ethnic cleansing". Once again the human rights organization spells out the long list of sins the leaders of Burma have committed and just where and when these crimes were committed. The report is aptly named "All You Can Do Is Pray" (link: )

Time and time again Alder's Ledge has recorded events from the Arakan without much help from our usual supporters. We have reported on the attempts by the Burmese government to force Rohingya out of Burma by driving them into the sea or over the border and into Bangladesh. This was then followed by reports of Burmese officials helping Buddhists "Burmese" to immigrate from Bangladesh and take over the suddenly unoccupied Rohingya neighborhoods and villages. Yet with the striking similarities to past and other present cases of ethnic cleansing the world remains silent.

For the past year Alder's Ledge has made it a top priority to highlight the plight of the Rohingya people. Now we are asking our old followers and our new ones to join with us and help spread the news about the Rohingya genocide. This is a simple act that helps break the silence surrounding the genocide and raises awareness of it. We here at Alder's Ledge call it "screaming".

All you have to do to take part is to share these articles here and the reports we share such as this one by Human Rights Watch. By posting the links on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or even Instagram you allow these articles a wider audience than they would otherwise receive. Reports like this one from Human Rights Watch are only usually given blips in news reports and short articles by media around the web. Your sharing them allows this important topic to be seen by people who might never hear about it otherwise.

Help Alder's Ledge bring some form of recognition to the plight of Rohingya people. Let us not fall into the mindset illustrated by Joseph Stalin. May we never believe for even a moment that the death of one person is somehow more of a tragedy than the deaths of thousand of innocent people.


April 18, 2013

The People From Nowhere

Forced To Live Nowhere
(part of Footsteps In The Dark series)

(Eritrea's Human Rights Record Turns Out Thousands Of Refugees)


The list of what an Eritrean refugee has to look forward to is tragic at best. Many of these victims of government indifference have no way of seeking justice. They often find themselves trapped between fences (literally) as the world argues about who should help them. All the while they did not choose to be there. This was not their way of taking the easy way out of an already hellish situation back home. For many Eritrean refugees their story begins with human trafficking, kidnapping, and/or a handful of other methods of exploitation. 

On the Sinai peninsula between Africa and the Middle East the story of the Eritrean refugee plays out every day. Bedouin criminal gangs traffic Eritrean hostages across the Sinai in hopes of extorting cash payments from impoverished families back in Eritrea. When the families obviously cannot pay the extortion the rate asked does not come down. Instead the victims are tortured, some to the point of death. Those who survive are sold to other Bedouins to be used as slaves. Other survivors are at times told to run... to head toward Israel and get out of the Bedouins' sight. 

For the runners the wretched fate that has been handed to them has only just begun. A life that many could never imagine has just gotten worse. And yet for these refugees the journey to a better life in their eyes has just begun. 

At the border with Israel the Eritrean refugees are greeted with barbed wire, landmines, and border guards on either side of the fence. If the hot sand and lack of water don't kill them the possibility always lingers just beneath their feet and in the hands of the guards both in front and behind them. This long stretch of wire is the Eritrean refugees' version of limbo. 

For these refugees their part in an over forty year history of Eritrean refugees has only just begun. For the Eritrean refugees who aren't taken to the Sinai and never have the hope of entering Israel there is another version of limbo. 

In camps just over the border in the Sudan the Eritrean refugees attempt to hide from human traffickers who would send them north into Egypt. At Kilo 26 Camp some 12,500 Eritrean refugees wait till the day they can return home. These refugees are among the 130,000+ Eritrean refugees in camps all across the border with Sudan. All of them are subjected to over the border raids, kidnapping, and human trafficking. And yet around 22,000 Eritrean refugees have crossed the border since November of 2003.

Life in camps in Sudan is difficult, if not impossible at times, for the Eritrean refugees. They are reliant upon UN and other foreign aid in a country where human rights abuses are already common. When they attempt to make themselves more self reliant in the Sudan they open themselves up to new threats of exploitation and attack. For most the dream of returning home is the only thing they have keeping them alive. And yet for over a decade now they have been living as the people from nowhere with nowhere to go. 

So for us in the West the question should have already arisen as to why and how this many refugees could be fleeing a tiny country such as Eritrea in the first place.

The protracted hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea have created running battles in which innocent civilians are made intentional "collateral damage". Fighting between the two sides often ends up becoming so bitterly entrenched that any member of the opposite state is considered fair game for war weary soldiers. Battlefields spill over into villages and urban areas. Rape and summary executions were all to common when open hostilities existed. Now the uneasy peace still sees militant acts between factions of the two sides. War is never to far from reality along the border between the two states. 

Then when you add the horrific human rights record of the Eritrean state itself to the matter the reality of becoming a refugee is almost all the Eritrean people have left. Eritrean men and boys often "disappear" never to be heard from or seen alive again. Women and girls are subject to rape by government forces and police. This is then complicated by unjust taxation and extortion by government officials. 

For the Eritrean refugees clinging to the wire along the border with Israel there is only the hope of life beyond the oppression they have come to know back home. This longing for freedom is so embedded in human nature that the Eritrean people would risk death to just get a peek at it. And yet if caught staring upon its beauty, these Eritrean people face prison in Egypt and Israel alike. 

These are the people from nowhere...
These are the people with nowhere left to run.

Source Documents
(Note note all sources are listed)


Amnesty International


April 17, 2013

Footsteps In The Dark

Pathway To The Edge Of The World
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Syria's Refugee Crisis Continues)

Where would you go if you were made homeless tonight? What would you do if your house was burnt out and your neighborhood destroyed? How would you live if the place you have called home all your life was suddenly plunged into the nightmare of war... or worse yet, genocide? 

Imagine that you are the one that is suddenly without shelter, without refuge from the lingering threat of death. Imagine that you instantly find yourself being hunted like an animal; no matter where you go, how far you run... you are pursued without mercy. Imagine being forced to watch everything and everyone you hold dear ripped away from you and but to the torch. Violently, horrifically... imagine that you have watched all of these things be destroyed... stripped from you so violently that you have no time to mourn your loss. 

For countless people, innocent in every way, this is reality. As your read this, as these words are typed, they are being hunted down like wild game. They are rounded up and killed, some are sent off to slaughter, but in the end their lives are ended in the most senseless acts of violence mankind has to offer.

Three long years after the beginning of their nightmare the Syrian people still dream of hope. It is fading, the night is threatening to swallow them whole. And yet the Syrian resistance continues... the fight rages on with no end in sight. Their footsteps still fall in the darkness of war. They still follow a path to the ends of the earth, their killers never to far behind. 

In recent weeks the world has finally realized that Assad has well crossed the line they drew in the sand. As the Syrian refugees run Assad uses helicopters and jets to track them down. Death falls like rain upon the dry desert sands as blood and tears turn to mud beneath the refugees' feet. When they feel safe, when they go just beyond the sight of the vultures above, Assad uses scuds to wipe them from the face of the earth. And if they survive, Assad uses gas to poison those who remain. 

Soil samples smuggled out of Syria show that chemical weapons were used. This was the thin red line that Assad was supposed to stay behind. This was the supposed tipping point for the war weary West. Yet here we are once again... the Syrian refugees continue to make the trek to the edge of their world. They walk through the shadows of the abyss with the fires of hell flying upon vultures wings overhead. Their tears dot the roads and paths through which they come. And now, now that their butcher uses the one forbidden tool in his arsenal, the world abandons them. 

The United Nations has registered 1.35 million Syrians as refugees at the current time. With 8,000 Syrians fleeing Syria everyday that number is only going to continue to rise. It is also important to note that only a year ago that number stood at 33,000 Syrians outside their homeland as refugees. This number does not include Syrians who are internally displaced or those currently on their way out of the country. 

But the Syrians are not the only people currently walking through this long harsh night...

 (Rohingya Refugees In Bangladesh 1992)

For countless decades now the Rohingya people have been a people without a homeland. The ancestral homeland they have tried to remain in has been hostile at best. People they called neighbors are now their murderers. A government that hates them continues to use them as slaves. This is only highlighted by the current conditions that they currently face... conditions that warrant being called genocide. 

Since the summer of 2012 the Rohingya have been facing government backed genocide. Their homes were burnt to the ground as the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) pumped the Arakan state full of racial propaganda. In a fluid motion the RNDP made certain that the Burmese military would establish concentration camps in which to round up the displaced Rohingya. Nasaka (Burmese border guards) were enlisted, all to voluntarily, to kill the Rohingya that tried to escape. What followed the "ethnic riots" (genocidal pogroms) of that summer was nothing short of chaos... organized mayhem. 

Once the Rohingya were sealed off in their own villages or rounded up into death camps the government of Myanmar set up blockades. These checkpoints were designed to keep food and water out of the Rohingya villages and camps. Medicine was quickly added to the list of things that the Rohingya were forbidden to have or use. It appeared that the government of Myanmar was not willing to allow the world to watch the full-fledged slaughter but was more than willing to allow the Rohingya to starve to death.

Today the Rohingya that are able to escape do so by putting their lives at risk. They trust human traffickers and profiteers to get them a place on a boat destined for Malaysia or Indonesia. By handing over everything they have and abandoning everything they have ever known, the Rohingya gamble upon the unknown. The devil they can't see waiting is somehow better than the devil they currently know in Burma. 

Boats out of Myanmar are death traps. They are rarely equipped with the food, fuel, or water to get the overloaded vessels more than a day or two out to sea. Starvation, drowning, and slaughter are all very real possibilities for those who set out to flee Burma. And once they arrive at their destination, given they didn't perish by then, there is no certainty that they won't be sent back Myanmar. 

This long trek out across the unfamiliar lands and seas of Southeast Asia have been the subject of countless news articles and documentaries over the years. With each "season" the Rohingya are referred to as "boat people". With every "season" the Rohingya are abandoned by the world as country after country set them back out to sea. 

For the Rohingya there are no official numbers for just how many are refugees. This is mainly due to the fact that Myanmar views all Rohingya as illegal even in their homeland, the Arakan region of Burma. Thus all 800,000 estimated Rohingya within their own homeland could be considered refugees even though they have not left their homes. As for those in camps, there are 125,000 estimated Rohingya (and other Muslim minority groups) being counted as refugees. 

Life for the Rohingya is nearly impossible. For the Rohingya trapped in camps the coming rainy season will bring new challenges. Their camps are set up in flood plains. Once the rains start their makeshift homes could be underwater. And according to some even this was intentional, that in some way the government of Burma had planned for the coming rains and the trouble they would cause. 

In a matter of weeks the rains will come. Like clockwork, the rains always arrive in Burma.

The long road to the edge of their world calls to the Rohingya. The devil they can't see waiting at sea calls to them with the same song of Homer's sirens. In the dark night, as the flames of hate gather all around, the Rohingya look for a way out... they seek hope in a place where there is none to be found. 

And yet beneath this shroud of black there are still more footsteps to follow...

(North Koreans Captured Trying To Seek Asylum)

When you look at a picture of Korea at night there is a remarkable apparition that appears. Between the bright lights of Seoul and the illuminated border with China it will always show its face. There, in the eternal darkness of pride and self-loathing, that is where you can see the face of evil. In the darkened landscape of North Korea you can see what the ego of a twisted individual can do when left unchecked. 

For the peasant class of North Korea this darkness has been a cloak from under which they have never been allowed to peek. Their homeland, or a portion of it, has been transformed into the worlds largest open air prison. The lights come on when the warden says so. Food comes out when the warden says so. And their time in the yard is regulated by the warden's guards. Even the elite amongst them are subject to the whims of their sovereign leader.

This insanity has led some North Koreans to risk everything on the off chance that they might escape. But unlike the Syrians, unlike the Rohingya... the North Koreans risk the lives of their families, their friends, and even their acquaintances once they take to their pathway to the edge of the world they know. One footstep down this path and there is no turning back. With one move in this direction they suddenly find themselves hunted. Their families are hunted. Their friends disappear. 

Yet despite all that the North Koreans risk for liberty, for hope, for freedom... there is a network that keeps the pathways open. In the darkness these warriors fight for freedom. Without firing a shot they wound the system from which they came. This is the underground railroad of North Korea. 

At the edge of the Korean world there is a passage to freedom. Nobody knows where it starts. Nobody dares speak of how you get there. But it is from there that gateway that the journey to freedom begins for North Koreans. 

Death however is forever present for the refugees of North Korea. Once in China, the North Koreans are considered illegal "economic migrants". The People's Republic of China does not recognize North Koreans as refugees due to its alliance with North Korea. To admit that people would become refugees from North Korea would mean that China would have to admit that communism in North Korea is broken. And it is in this aspect of escape that death readily awaits North Koreans fleeing over the border to China. 

"[T]he term “refugee” shall apply to any person who … owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it." ~1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (UN)

Despite agreeing to the terms that the United Nations laid down in 1951, China refuses to stop it's program of "repatriating" North Koreans to the government from which they fled. Once caught the North Koreans know what awaits them. If taken over the border and put back into North Korea the refugees face certain death, either immediate or after lengthy prison sentences carried out in work camps (death camps).

At the moment there are an estimated 250,000 North Koreans hiding within China. Most are refugees still attempting to make their way to countries that do not "repatriate" them back to North Korea. Others are simply trying to live under the radar in hopes that eventually either the laws will change or the North Korean government will cease it's pursuit of them. For all 250,000 the threat of death and or capture still lingers over their heads. 

For North Koreans who become refugees the long pathway is filled with danger. Agents from North Korea are openly allowed to cross the border and hunt "defectors" down like animals. China proudly engages in raids to root out Korean refugees. And the local populations through which they travel hold racial bias that make them prone to turning over refugees to the authorities (with added incentive of bounties). But their footsteps continue to be heard in the darkness. 

The plight of the refugee is never an easy thing to imagine. It is hard for those of us in a world so different from theirs' to fully comprehend what it is like to be pursued in this way. Even at our best, with the most sincere intentions, we may never know what it means to be a refugee...  a person without a home or country. Yet that should never stop us from trying to understand. It should never keep us from trying to help those in the most need of it. 

For some the plight of of the Syrian people may be where your heart calls you. For others it may be the Rohingya and their desperate situation. And for a few it may even be the oppressive reality of the North Koreans that calls to you. No matter where your heart is leading you, these people need your help. Their paths lead them through the darkest places on this planet. Their lives have been made almost unbearable for circumstances far beyond their control. They need your help. 

There are numerous organizations that are helping these very people mentioned here. Below you can find ways you too can help. But it is most important to remember that the quickest way to help is always to "scream" (search 'scream' here on Alder's Ledge to learn more). 

To help the Syrian refugees:

World Vision

To help the Rohingya:

Partners Relief And Development

To learn more about and help North Korean refugees:

Seoul Tran Documentary

Source Documents 
(Note not all sources listed) 

Enet English

Radio New Zealand

Seoul Train (movie)

April 15, 2013

A History of Broken Promises

Rohingya Genocide 1942 - Present
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

How long should a people have to suffer before the world decides to act? How often do they have to be killed in senseless pogroms and orgies of violence? Why do they have to grow-up in a culture of oppression and fear? Why do they have to raise their children without food or education? When will the cycle of neglect and abuse end?

Since the days of British colonialism in Myanmar the Rohingya people have been been subject to systemic racism in the governments that have come and gone over the years. The British gave them just enough to keep them alive, to make them useful, but never the rewards for loyalty that the United Kingdom had promised them. The Japanese both paid their murderers for each dead Rohingya and engaged in massacres of the Rohingya themselves. And then there came the Rakhine... the Buddhists... the supposed peaceful monks.

In 1942 the British were forced out of the Arakan state as the Japanese continued to spread out over Asia. Able to hold onto Bengal, the Brits were just near enough to the Rohingya to keep them alive under the horrific rule of the Japanese. Yet this was just the next chapter in a long history of suffering for the Rohingya people. This was the start of the modern genocide of the Rohingya people.

Japanese forces fed the Rakhine peoples' hatred for the Rohingya people. They goaded on the wrath of the Buddhists as they rewarded each passing massacre of Rohingya. And yet the rate of death amongst Rohingya communities was not enough to satisfy Japanese lust for blood. The Japanese decided that their forces had to use the modern weapons of war to annihilate the Rohingya. Bullets were more efficiently distributed from modern rifles rather than those of homemade Rakhine mobs.

Around 22,000 Rohingya fled the Japanese's wrath in the Arakan. Their families and friends had fought the invasion. They had remained loyal to the British. So clearly the old master, no matter how miserable, was clearly better than this new tyrant.

Upon arriving the British suddenly realized what a stroke of luck they had just been given. The Japaneses' excesses had driven a small army across the border. The abuses of the Japanese had given the British a group of people that had lost everything and therefore could be promised everything. And that was just what the British began to do... they promised the Rohingya a "national area" in the Arakan if they would simply fight for the British.

In times of upheaval the Rohingya had fought for the British before. So why should they set this one out? After all, the land they would be going back to was their homeland. This was the place they had raised their children. This was the home where they had been born. And this was the only land where they could ever envision their future generations living for the rest of time.

When the Japanese massacres were ended and the invader was driven out the Rohingya were seen by the Rakhine as traitors. They had once again sided with the British. They had once again gone against the original goal of expelling the colonialist. And thus the genocide of the Rohingya would continue.

So when the British pulled out of Pakistan and Myanmar the Rohingya were faced with few options. They had established an army to defend themselves against Rakhine aggression. But now, as the Arakan was drawn into Burma rather than Bengal, the Rohingya were trapped. Their homeland was once again given away to someone else. Their land was once again taken out from underneath their own feet. Thus in 1947 the Rohingya approached the government of Pakistan and pleaded for a desperate solution to a desperate situation. It was then that the Rohingya asked to be incorporated into East Pakistan (Bangladesh).

From that point on the Rohingya sealed their fate in Myanmar. Pakistan would never allow the Rohingya into Pakistan due to their own innate bigotry. And the Rakhine, along with the rest of Myanmar, would forever see the Rohingya as outsiders. This act of asking to leave Burma and take their homeland with them was another act of treason in the eyes of their Rakhine neighbors.

In response, upon Burmese independence in 1948, the leaders of Myanmar began to impose countless limitations upon the Rohingya. In direct response to the move to leave Burma and join Pakistan the Rohingya were given limitations upon their movement within Burma. Then to add to this the Burmese wrote laws that allowed Rohingya to be used as slave laborers within the Arakan. And those who had fled Burma during the war with Japan, around 13,000, were not given the right to return to their homes after the war.

In effect, the Rohingya were stripped of their nationality and their citizenship to their own homeland.

The next chapter of the Rohingya genocide began with the military coup that led to the Junta rule of Myanmar in 1962. Under the military rule the generals began initiating programs that would "encourage the Rohingya to leave Burma". These included the total withdraw of Rohingya citizenship and severe restrictions upon their freedoms. From the 1970's the Rohingya were forced out of the military and none have been allowed to join the military since. Then in 1974 when the citizens of Burma were required to carry National Registration Certificates the Rohingya were forced to carry Foreign Registration Cards (which few were even allowed to have).  And finally came the Nagamin programs (Kingdom of Dragons) that were meant to increase harassment of Rohingya and allow for their deportation.

In 1991 the Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar began to tell the West about vast human rights abuses in the Arakan. This was the largest migration of Rohingya across the border since the Junta took power. In May of 1991 nearly 10,000 Rohingya fled the Arakan. They told reporters of summary executions, rape camps, vast amounts of torture used by the Burmese military and Rakhine mobs in the Arakan. They told of forced labor in which the Rohingya were worked till they either died or could be of little use once they collapsed. And yet their stories remained muted even as 270,000 Rohingya fled by March of 1992.

The same atrocities continue to this day. The main weapon used to justify the ongoing atrocities is the 1982 race laws (actually called the Citizenship Law) that were designed to restrict citizenship of the Rohingya who fled in 1978. Though today they are still employed to deny all Rohingya their due citizenship. They are also used to clarify that the Rohingya are not Burmese but rather foreign invaders.

Today the Rohingya face starvation as they are forced into concentration camp style ghettos and refugee camps. Nasaka, the Burmese gestapo, kill the Rohingya who attempt to flee the mobs that carry out the massacres of Rohingya. In addition, the government of Burma continues to deny the Rohingya access to food, water, and medical treatment.

All of this leaves me, the main author here at Alder's Ledge, to ask just how much different history would have been if those who have used and abused the Rohingya had simply kept their promise? Would the Rohingya been spared this seemingly endless genocide? Or would they simply been subjected to some other form of neglect and abuse by those who have helped ensure their current plight?

Better yet, the question still remains...

How much longer should the Rohingya be left to suffer before the world acts to save their lives?

April 12, 2013

Sins Of The Past

Tragedy Of The Present
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

The quickest way to destroy an enemy that you perceive due to race is ironically not through the bullet. Bullets are costly when you are talking about killing not only the living but those still yet to be born. Soldiers have to be rewarded for their efforts in annihilating another race of man. Eventually hatred alone is not the only sin needed to continue the descent into hell. Bullets are the embodiment of hate on genocidal battlefields. But they can't sustain a prolonged effort to exterminate. That is where other sins come in. Sins such as lust.

When the Serbian militias began their war to purge old Yugoslavia of Bosnian blood their commanders knew the battle would be long. Almost from the beginning the leaders of death squads knew that payment and patriotism alone would not keep their savage troops on the battlefield. Leaders like Mladic and his fellow dogs told their soldiers that the rape of a Bosnian was their duty to the Serbian people. Through "breeding" the Bosnian out, the Serbs could end an entire ethnicity. And through that approach they could save their bullets for the religion of the Bosnian people while their soldiers could get cheap entertainment at the cost of the Bosnian women and girls.

Today the lessons of Bosnia are being repeated as history itself tries to teach us what we apparently didn't learn the first time. In places such as the Congo and Burma rape is once again being used to motivate murderers and keep them on the battlefield. The human cost unfortunately is harder to measure than simply putting another tally mark on the wall or adding another body to the count. The initial victim passes on her misery and pain to future generations. Her family and friends experience the crime in ways they themselves could have never imagined. And the war criminal usually gets to walk away without even facing a judge or jury.

Recently Assed Baig released an article about the Myanmar military's use of sex trafficking as a weapon of war. In it he describes how the Burmese government is complacent in allowing it's soldiers to keep Rohingya women as sex slaves. In particular, Assed Baig focused on Regiment 270's encampment just outside Sittwe where Rohingya girls are taken and held as sexual slaves.
(Link listed in Source Documents)

The story of the Rohingya's exploitation is remarkably similar to that of the Bosnian people during the Serbian prosecuted genocide against the Bosnians. Once again we can see that the militants use the Rohingya as a source of military moral. Prisoners that happen to be male are beaten and at times killed by Burmese military who become bored with the lulls between "riots" (pogroms). Rohingya women however are subject to a living hell.

 Rohingya women are claimed by a Burmese soldier or the entire camp. Their families, especially their children, are used as leverage to keep them silent during their imprisonment. During their imprisonment the Rohingya women are subjected to abuse and rape whenever the Burmese soldiers wish. It is only upon release that the Rohingya women are given an illusion of liberty. Their families are still kept as leverage (threatened to kill or have killed) to keep them quite after they have left the custody of the camp.

This is how rape is used in war. It is a weapon meant to degrade the lives of the targeted community. When it kills its victims it adds another number to the body count in the eyes of the outside world. But for the victims, death is a release from the hell their captors have made for them. For most this form of victimization is one that they will have to live with. It is a nightmare that will forever haunt them. It is a weapon worse than bullets alone... for it not only damages the flesh but manages to wound the soul as well.

Source Documents
(note that not all sources are listed)

Assed's Article via Vice

April 11, 2013

Break Their Backs

Carpet Bombing and Targeting Civilians
(A look at Syria's war crimes)

"Revolution means democracy in today's world, not the enslavement of peoples to the corrupt and degrading horrors of totalitarianism." ~ Ronald Reagan

The object of war has and will forever be the total destruction of one's enemy. This is the very reason war should never be taken lightly. For no matter how measured the acts of aggression are, no matter how precise the bomb, no matter how careful the soldier aims... somebody dies. And more often than not, it isn't the other combatant. It is the civilian population in and around the battle field that bears the brunt of war. It is upon their backs that the war is waged. It is upon their backs that the battles are won or lost.

Assad has been waging a campaign of "total war" against his own citizens. The line between combatant and civilian has all but vanished in the eyes of the Syrian Army. The man with a kalashnikov is no longer the primary target. Instead it is the little boy playing amongst the rubble, the little girl hiding in the doorway of her house, and the war weary mother who has buried her husband. This is what war becomes when one's enemy no longer is so easily defined. This is how war degrades the value of life by shrouding it in hate. 

Western leaders should be quick to remember that in the war for Syria's freedom it was Assad that fired the first shot. When his people rose up to demand their rights it was the Nero of Damascus that set Syria ablaze. Every death, every martyr, every slaughtered baby rightfully belong to Assad's long list of war crimes. He started this war. It was his brutality that left the masses with no other option but to side with armed rebels. And it will be his brutal tyranny that will inevitably lead to his own downfall. 

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." 

Today Human Rights Watch released statements pointing out Assad's war crimes. Once again the human rights group has pointed out that Assad has been using cluster ammunition to carpet bomb the civilian areas of Syria's cities. They pointed out that Assad has moved on from rocket attacks to heavy "dumb" bombs to level neighborhoods. And in the end they mentioned the ballistic missiles that Assad has begun to use against civilian areas not even involved in direct combat between the rebels and his own forces. 

These sorts of attacks would seemingly warrant some form of UN intervention in any other country. Yet in Syria the attacks, after more than two years of armed conflict, are becoming a part of daily life... or survival of it at least. While children are forced to live without the basic assurance of their safety, lack of access to schools, and face starvation at times; the UN avoids interaction. 

"The sin of silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." 
~Abraham Lincoln

Currently the G8 are meeting to discuss a wide array of issues. Potential war with North Korea has many of the countries sidetracked from the current crisis in Syria. Yet the issue of Assad and the Syrian rebels is said to be up for conversation. But just how much will come out of a distracted and unwilling convention of Western leaders? 

At the same time it is important to note that Barack Obama promised "dire consequences" if Assad crossed the "red line" with chemical weapons. But what about the use of ballistic missiles? Should it be acceptable to allow a dictator the option of annihilating his own citizens just as long as they don't have to suffer like the Kurds did under Saddam? Should we not consider the use of cluster bombs, carpet bombing, and ballistic missiles as being a "step too far"? 

It is clear when looking at Assad's war crimes that the UN is woefully ill-equipped to deal with Syria and it's supporters (Russia, China, and Iran). When it comes to standing toe to toe with Putin and Assad it would appear that the UN has no stomach for that fight. And for that reason the civilians of Syria must have their backs broken under the weight of a tyrant who knows no limits to his cruelty. 

Source Documents 
(Note that not all sources are listed)

Human Rights Watch

The New York Times

Frontline (PBS)

Washing Away The Kalar

Buddhist Water Festival Could Spark Ethnic Violence
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

On April 13th the Buddhist Water Festival will begin in Myanmar. This holiday is symbolic and sacred to the Buddhist people of Burma. However in the Arakan this holiday could flow with blood rather than water.

Reports of racist Buddhist clergy participating in spreading the message of the Burmese hate group 969 have been popping up every since the riots and anti-Muslim attacks in March. The tweeters who have been reporting these warnings of potential attacks on the Rohingya all point toward the Water Festival as the key time for such pogroms. People like Jamila Hanan and Aung Aung (@JamilaHanan1 and @AungAungSittwe on twitter) have been sounding the alarm of yet another attempt by groups like 969 to complete their campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Arakan. It is also important to note that these same citizen reporters were the first to warn about the pogroms that took place in Meiktila and other areas were Muslim minorities were attacked in Burma last month.

In a recent report by Burma News International ( information about tensions leading up to the Water Festival have come out. In their account of the rising tensions in the Arakan region the Nasaka (Burmese Border Guards) have been extorting money from impoverished Rohingya communities to help fund the Water Festival in neighboring Buddhist villages. In the case they reported the Rohingya were forced to pay an exuberant amount of cash despite being hungry and without water. The money was then going to fund a Buddhist village that consisted of Rakhine from Sittwe and neighboring areas in addition to Rakhine who had migrated from Bangladesh once the Rohingya homes had been burnt.

Once again the racial element of the tensions in the Arakan cannot be overlooked. It is clear through reports like the one from Burma News International that government affiliates are using racial code to enforce biased laws. And yet despite clear cases of ethnic cleansing, pogroms, and racial discrimination within Burma the West remains eerily silent on the issue. Great world leaders, or so they claim, have failed to put pressure on Thein Sein and his military puppets as they continue to grind the Rohingya community into dust.

It should be clear that when a government openly refers to a community as "Kalar" (or any other racially charged term) that the said government does not intend to defend the basic human rights of that targeted community. It should also be clear that when an exploited community has been targeted by government funded mobs and military alike that if violence restarts the world should expect no different outcome than the last.

This is genocide.

If the world will not listen, if it will not stand up and fight for the down trodden... if nothing is to be done to stop it... Burma will wash away it's "kalar" communities. And like a river of blood, the stain this chapter in our history will not simply disappear. The stain this has left, the blot it will leave, will forever be upon our hands as well as upon those of the murderers'.

Source documents

Burmese News International

April 3, 2013

Open Your Eyes

It's Time To Wake Up...
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Soldier On Patrol In Rohingya Part of Sittwe, June 2012)

For the past six months the world has been basically shut out of the Rohingya ghettos and IDP (internally displaced peoples) camps. The government of Myanmar has made it hard if not impossible at times to reach the Rohingya minority as the Buddhists extremist attempt to complete their intended genocide. But there are brave individuals still attempting to get the word out of the "open air prison" that Burma has made for the Rohingya. 

Assed Baig is one of those people. His voice is lending an outlet to the Rohingya who have been made voiceless by their own government. His articles give a written word to a people who are being forgotten. And his broadcast out of Burma are being leaked through the iron grip of the Myanmar government. 

These are few of his reports... this is the news from the front line. 

(Rohingya IDP Camp Outside Sittwe, 2012)

Please note that it is hard to get information out of Burma. When the government notices that Assed is trying to get information about the Rohingya out they take actions to hinder or stop his progress. The work is hard, the government is hostile, and the local Rakhine are possibly violent to an individual they view as "Kalar" (unclean or dark skinned). Yet Assed is still over in Sittwe doing the work that the European and American media refuse to do. 

The facts from the front still support the information we have received from people like Aung Aung in Sittwe. From the outside looking in it is still incredibly dangerous to be doing the things that Assed and Aung Aung are doing daily. But their work is vital. The world must bear witness. We can not look away and pray for the best of luck. 

It is time for the West, and perhaps long overdue, to begin to scream for the oppressed. It is time that good, honest, decent people stand up and step into the gap between the Rohingya and death itself. We can not in good conscience set on the sidelines and wait till this is all blow past and the blood finally stops trickling out of the Arakan. If you can not donate your time or money, for the love of G-d, scream for the those who are dieing. 

By sharing videos like these and articles like this one you can help raise awareness of the Rohingya Genocide. It does not take any measurable effort with all the social networking we do these days. And would your time really be better spent on Pintrest for the next five minutes than it would be by spending a few minutes tweeting or sharing these images on Facebook? 

Its time to wake up to the suffering of others, to feel their pain and make it your own. It is time to join the fight to stop this senseless slaughter of the Rohingya people. It is time to scream America.