More From Alder's Ledge

July 30, 2013

The Reality of Marriage Inequality in Israel

Ethnic and Religious Based Restrictions On Marriage
(A Bridge Too Far series)

In 1935 the Nazis Introduced the Nuremberg Laws
Creating Marriage Restrictions On European Jews.

I have been told that to start this post I should clarify that I myself am Jewish and do have ancestors who died in Croatia during the Holocaust. I never felt compelled to make such a distinction before yet while writing a much longer post from which this article is taken it was pointed out to me such a distinction should be made. This is in part due to the fact that many of our readers seem to be under the impression that I am either Christian or Muslim. Though I have no problem with either religion, I don't belong to them. So with that said I do not take it lightly when I talk about Israel or the Holocaust. Both are dear to me and it is due to that love that I can't tolerate what I see as wrong in my beloved Israel. 

With that said, here is the portion of this new series dealing with marriage in Israel and the segregation the current system enforces. 

Marriage in America is depicted as a right that all citizens should be granted to enter into freely. Though we should not take it lightly and the current system in America may not reflect that view we are forcibly pushing for change in our homeland. It has been during this battle over equality in marriage that I could not help but look across the sea at my beloved Israel with weary eyes. For despite America's failures in removing the church from a state regulated legal contract we have at very least removed race and religion as disqualifications for marriage. This is something that I could not say about Israel. 

On August 1st of 2003 those in charge of Israel found it fitting to expand upon the ethnic bylaws for marriage in Israel. After rushing a new law through the government in Israel offered a it's Arab citizens a new set of laws that would ban the marriage of Israeli citizens to Palestinians. Arabic citizens who chose to marry Arabs from the West Bank or Gaza would therefore be forced to move out of Israel or live apart from their new spouse. The law had dictated that even when married to Israeli citizens Palestinians could not gain citizenship or residence within Israel. 

Marriage in Israel has always been something of a contentious subject. Jews in Israel are not permitted to marry non-Jews if they want their marriage recognized by the government. Jews who are not considered Orthodox are also banned from marriage to Orthodox Jews in the fact that the state of Israel will not recognize the marriage. This was highlighted in story of Rita Margulis when she, having served in the Israeli armed forces and lived in Israel since the age of four, was denied a legal marriage by the state.

For me it has been these two main parts of the laws governing marriage in Israel that has taken my mind back to the days where we Jews were faced with similar restrictions on our decisions to marry. We all know the laws to which my mind wanders. Yet far to often it seems Jews around the world try to avoid the reality of how Israel treats marriage and how we as a people were once treated in the same light.

In 1935 the fascists in Germany introduced a series of laws that would live in infamy for the rest of time. Under Nazism the Jews of occupied Europe were officially from that point on banned from marriages with non-Jews. Any marriages that existed from that point on were considered void. The offspring of all these marriages were considered "tainted" and thus Jewish. It didn't matter in reality what amount of blood was Jewish or not, children from these marriages were targeted just the same.

"Marriages between Jews and Staatsangehörige (Germanic citizens) or kindred blood are forbidden. Marriages concluded in defiance of this law are void, even if, for the purpose of evading this law, they were concluded abroad."
~Nuremberg Laws, Section 1: Article 1

The laws regarding marriages between Jews and Germans (or non-Jews) was so important to the order of Hitler's Europe that it was the first part of the new race laws. The need to discriminate against the Jews in the aspect of marriage was so important that it couldn't wait for economic policies or property ownership to be addressed first. This was in part due to the genocidal efforts of the Nazis and the desire to limit the ability of Jews to reproduce. It was also due to the idea of "blood purity" that perverted the Nazi view of marriage.

These laws had direct effects upon the Jewish population of Germany from the very moment they were implemented.

"They also, at the same time a law took effect that did not allow a Jewish person, male or female, to go with a gentile person, male or female. At that time, I was going with a nice young lady that I had gone with for some time, and we were out camping, I remember very well. I had a kayak, and we went out camping near Hamburg, and there was a fellow and, next to us, near us, in another little camp with a tent, we slept in tents. He wanted to make a date with this young lady that I was going with, and she didn't want any part of it. He reported me to, to the Gestapo, and I was arrested for going with a gentile girl. I got six months in prison, solitary confinement in 1935."
~ Edward Adler, Born 1910 in Hamburg Germany

In Israel the laws regarding the marriages of Jews to non-Jews may not word for word reflect the harshness of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, yet the spirit of the law does. Despite the notion of being the one true democracy in the Middle East the reality remains in question when such laws are permitted. If the letter of the law is allowed to be interpreted in such a manner that it denies citizens basic human rights then the spirit of the law is dead. And without spirit the nature of democracy crumbles.

When we add in the laws that deny citizenship, revoke citizenship, or restrict the rights of certain citizens due to the religious or ethnic heritage of that citizen the spirit of democracy is faded even more. A democracy cannot tolerate the denial of human rights to any member of it's society if it desires to be a vibrant and healthy democracy. Yet in Israel, a purported beacon of democratic values, the spirit of Nuremberg taints the letter of the law when the state approaches marriage from this angle.

The most basic answer to this problem is the lack of "civil marriage" instead of Orthodoxy governed marriage is the disbanding of the Orthodoxy's monopoly upon the state sponsored establishment of marriage. For us in the United States this was supposed to be solved through the separation of Church and State. For Israel however the state is nearly governed by the Orthodoxy in the fact that despite being a democracy Israel is a Jewish state. It is an aspect of the relationship between Orthodox Judaism and the state that has long hindered any such separation.

For people like Rita Margulis this means that even being a Reform Jew in Israel means having fewer rights than those who subscribe to Orthodox Judaism. As for the Arabic Israelis, such laws add further pressures upon a portion of the population who was polled in 2007 as being 47% "less than patriotic". Such laws undoubtedly do not help create more patriotic Arabic citizens or even promote pride in "Jew-ish" citizens. And yet these laws continue to be enforced and thus help to segregate Israeli society.

Now, while I do understand that the comparison to Nazi laws may be considered offensive, this undeniable haunting reminder of such laws is meant to make you think. In a modern society should we accept the notion that religion or race should have anything to do with whether two people are permitted to marry one-another? Or should Israel be forced to rethink it's position upon marriage and the approach the state has taken to the issue thus far?

As for Alder's Ledge it is a sad reality that such laws still persist in a country where the values of liberty and freedom are espoused by both citizens and politicians alike. We would wish to see Israel take this step as one of many initial steps toward reconciliation with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. For we cannot see a future ahead where lasting peace is established and sustained when such laws are permitted to exist. Legalized discrimination, in this form and all others, will forever be a thorn in our side as long as we continue to willingly suffer it so.

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Source Documents
(Note: not all sources listed)

Huffington Post

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

July 29, 2013

One Step Ahead Of The Hounds

Rabid Racism and White Europe

(Image via AP/Vadim Ghirda)

When African American slaves were on the run they had to keep out of sight and hide from the white population of the American South. But it wasn't just the hate filled eyes of their would be masters that the runaway slaves had to avoid, they also had to cover up their scent and trail. Bounty hunters would often deploy dogs to chase down fugitive slaves. Their packs of foaming mouthed hounds could pick up the slightest smell of a fleeing slave without so ever being in sight of the fugitive. Once on the trail the dogs would release a call to their master. This baying tell the ruthless hunter that their human prey was just down the path a little ways. And once the dogs were on the heels of the fleeing slave the game was about up.

Extreme prejudice was used once a slave was taken back into custody. Whips, chains, and torture were all used to subdue the spirit of the victim. The desire to crush the "rebelliousness" of the victim was the main priority of the slave owner. It was the necessity to break the desire for freedom that kept the whip so close at hand. Yet it was that very same desire for freedom that led the slave to run away time and time again.

Mankind is made with a desire to live free. It is an intrinsic part of our natural state that no matter how grotesquely oppressed it may become the desire for freedom always finds an outlet. Against all odds, against all obstacles, the longing we have for liberty finds a path out of our minds and into reality.

For the Roma of Europe the desire to live in a land of liberty cannot be denied. For this desire they risk physical abuses of all sorts. For this desire they risk death at the hands of radical hate groups. For this desire they cross border after border as they flee the oppression that has long kept them captive in Eastern Europe. For the Roma this desire for freedom was stoked with the ascension of their respective homelands to the union with Western Europe. It was with this hope that many have moved Westward.

The migration of poor communities to countries where economic growth is taking place is not a new concept. It occurred in waves of immigration here in the United States. The Midwest was essentially built by the first waves of immigrants seeking the benefits of America's economic boom. Yet Western Europe, currently in a state of stagnation, seems to think it is somehow immune to this natural desire of all mankind.

Extreme poverty is a form of slavery in the aspect that it keeps a people in bondage to the monotony of simply surviving from one day to the next. Given a glimpse of hope, even if it is what we call poor in the West, those kept in the chains of such poverty will always take the chance at running. For these runaways the end reward is a better future for their children. For these runaways the light ahead is a life lived with less hunger and less want. Yet for these refugees the dogs don't seem to nip at their heels till they arrive at what they once viewed as freedom.

Roma have always lived in France, Germany, England, Spain, and the rest of Western Europe. Their numbers in these countries have increased with each economic downturn due to the need for cheap labor in semi-free markets. Agricultural outfits have for decades utilized the Roma community as near slave labor as they utilize the desperation of Europe's most discriminated against ethnic group. So it is unlikely that we can write-off the latest upward tick of xenophobic attitudes across Western Europe to a make-believe "influx" of Roma from the East.

Yet in places like France this portrayal of the Roma, as invading Mongol hordes, is catching traction amongst both politicians and hate groups alike. The dogs that the Roma have to run away from lay in wait in the National Front and amongst the right wing politicians. The rabid response to the propaganda these organizations create is an ever increasingly racist France. By telling the same lies that Hitler did over a long enough time without relent these politicians have garnered support amongst their rage filled base. And in addition they have planted the seeds of for their bitter harvest.

One politician in particular has done more to rally the dogs of France in recent days then MP Gilles Bourdouleix. While visiting a Roma encampment Mr Bourdouleix told a reporter in regards to the Romani, "Maybe Hitler didn't kill enough of them." It wasn't till the media took the story and ran with that Mr Bourdouleix decided that his words were perhaps "poorly chosen". And yet the French MP didn't redact his words, no; instead Mr Bourdouleix decided to blame the reporter for the story and claimed he had been "misquoted".

An American would expect that a politician who openly used such hate speech would be dragged out of office by his own party. But the French didn't seem too eager to bring out the guillotine. Instead they seemed reluctant to denounce Mr Bourdouleix. Some might say that the French politician is receiving a relative slap on the wrist for his statement. Even though Europeans will be commemorating the Porajmos (The Devouring or the Romani Holocaust) on August 2nd, Mr Bourdouleix's comment was then repeated as an opinion poll on a popular French news website. One can only guess from our side of the pond how the French voted in such a poll.

So lets take a moment and pretend that Mr Bourdouleix's view of the Roma is even remotely viable. Let us take a look at what the Romani people would be fleeing from in the East if they are really "invading" Europe....

In Slovakia the citizens of the town Kosice have erected walls to "keep the Roma out". However the concrete walls in effect have created a massive ghetto that confines the Roma within. The claimed purpose of the wall drastically contradicts the actual purpose it serves for the "settled" citizens of Kosice. And that is to keep the Roma in one place where they can easily be attacked or gathered. Either scenario is far more sinister than the purported goal of keeping the Roma segregated (an already devious objective).

Across the rest of Slovakia the more discrete methods of segregation are institutionalized. Slovakia does not allow Roma to be in the same schools (if in schools at all) as the non-Roma citizens. Roma are run out of cities and villages alike by Slovakian police. Politicians in Slovakia use even more racially tainted slurs than French politicians. And vigilantism amongst Slovakian civilians is far worse than in France (though in 2012 French citizens did take to burning out Roma camps).

Then you factor in the abuses Roma face from Slovakian government directly. In recent years the European Roma Rights Center has documented 200 cases of Romani women who were forcibly sterilized by the Slovak government. In many cases the Slovak government obtains coerced signatures of their victims by either sedating the victim or operating first and offering consent forms afterward. In most cases the government does not fully depict what has been done until the woman finds out in a later exam. This very tactic of abuse would in any government indicate a state sponsored campaign of ethnic cleansing. Yet Slovakia denies every case due to the coerced signatures they obtain under duress.

"While I was on the operating table and under anesthesia, the doctor gave me some papers to sign. I asked what it was and he told me that it was 'something about the child'. I was not able to read what was on the paper because I was not fully conscious at the time. I only found out later that I had signed consent to be sterilised and now I cannot have any more children."
~Roma Woman Forcibly Sterilized in Slovakia

So lets take a moment and pretend that racist like Bourdouleix aren't spreading hate about the Roma. How can we blame a people for moving West when the East has offered them only unmitigated suffering? How can we blame the Roma for attempting to flee decades of abuse at the hands of civilians, governments, and brutal armies and militias? Should the Roma be expected to stay in countries like Slovakia where they are subjected to abuse without legal recourse? Should they be forced to have their basic human rights stripped from them while they live in hellish conditions? Or should the Roma be permitted to seek refuge in the West?

It is not hard to see that the Romani people have suffered for centuries at the hands of bigots like this French politician. They have endured more hardship than any other European minority of our time. They died in the camps alongside the Jews and yet they are widely forgotten. It was the Roma who bore the brunt of socialism's wrath. It was the Roma who were silently sacrificed to the purges of Communism. The other victims have had their names recorded. The other victims have had their stories told. Yet it is the Roma who are forgotten to history and forced to live beyond the realm of modern day Europe's prosperity. They are a people that have clung to existence by holding onto the fringe of Western society.

So why now that we have accepted the tolerance we so proudly boast about that the Roma still cling to the edge of our so called enlightened society? How can we, the Western world, accept this sort of deplorable segregation and institutionalized discrimination?

It is obvious when stepping away from the mainstream and looking in that the gap between the Roma and the rest of society has not shrank. Slurs for the Roma still are used like the word nigger was used in the dirty south. Portrayals of Roma in the media are still just as derogatory (if not more so) than they were during Hitler's reign. Pop culture has romanticized the Roma to the point that their image of the Roma is more vile than even some Medieval caricatures of the them.

If this gap is to be closed society must stop projecting upon the Roma what we would wish them to be and accept the Roma for who they truly are. We cannot expect the Roma to assimilate to the point of surrendering their culture (if at all). Instead our societies must take pride in the differences between us and celebrate the Roma culture for all it is and not just the parts we find favorable.

As for our governments, they must be forced to implement programs designed to integrate Roma into society. These programs must combat the segregation of Romani from schools (either forcibly or through "white flight"). They must combat hiring processes that would discriminate against the Romani in both Eastern and Western Europe. And they must desegregate housing across Europe and bring Roma out of ghettos and slums and offer humane living conditions for both Roma and non-Roma citizens.

These are not suggestions in all reality but rather demands for a civilized society. Without these the West cannot claim that we are free and open societies but rather repressive regimes in which "separate but equal" is accepted over "justice for all".

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Source Documents
(Note: not all sources listed)

New York Times

Eurasia Review

Mint Press News

France 24

Huffington Post

New Europe

European Roma Rights Center

July 24, 2013

Don't Drink The Tea

China's Response To Uyghur Dissidents

(Image via The Diplomat)

In a nation that represses even the most basic of human rights what can we honestly define an activist as? Is it not somebody who seeks the liberties that social media and television flaunt before them every day? Is it not a person who asks of his/her government why they cannot say or write what they wish to express to the world at large? Is it not a person who seeks the freedom to pursue their own happiness over that of the “greater good”… especially in a nation that dictates just what the greater good is?

For the supporters from both the Uyghur community in China and those from the outside the definition is unclear. It isn’t until a government official ask them to “drink tea” that they realize that they are considered activist by Chinese standards. But by that time it is too late. The government has already cast its judgment. False charges are already being drawn up and indefinite detention is already a reality. For the supporters of the Uyghur in China the mere appearance of activism is a crime.

After the ethnic violence in Xinjiang over the past two months the government of China has been increasing it’s military presence in the region. Paramilitary units meant to reinforce the police state have been deployed in Uyghur neighborhoods to create a permanent police presence. Curfews are imposed in areas where China’s police have deployed riot vehicles and stockpiled tear gas. This drastic response to 35 deaths in June would indicate at very least a tinge of fear on China’s part. It most certainly would instill fear on the targeted community, the Uyghurs of Western China.

This response is the largest such response in four years since the 2009 riots in Urumqi. It was in that massive riot that 200 plus citizens were killed, hundreds were arrested, and an untold number were found to be missing after China deployed it’s dragnet approach to policing it’s citizens. After the Urumqi tragedy the state cut off Internet for an entire year. In addition the Uyghur, blamed by the state for the violence imposed against them, were left with a police state where constant surveillance and police harassment became the new normal.

This latest round of ethnic violence in the region shows that at least on some level the Uyghur people have grown tired of being forced to work for China’s “greater good”. While the Eastern portion of China has prospered off the sweat of Uyghur youths’ brows the Uyghur people themselves have been left out of the economic growth. Their villages, their cities, and their “autonomous region” has watched as the natural resources they posses have been shipped eastward. Uyghur parents have watched as their children have been forcibly stripped of their culture and ethnic heritage. All that has been left for the Uyghur community living in China’s shadows is resentment.

Now as the youth of the Uyghur community show an interest in advancing their own prosperity the state has shown it’s willingness to utilize it’s iron fist. Students who have spoken out in the most moderate of fashions have been told by Beijing’s agents in Xinjiang to go with them to “drink tea”. This is an informal way of arresting the student and forcing them to go along with the state agent. What happens next can vary in many ways. At times the student arrested can end up in official jails to be detained for crimes they clearly did not commit. At other times the state can make these “dissidents” disappear by taking arrested Uyghur “activist” to black prisons. All connection to the outside world is cut off and the student is not heard from again till the state decides to release it’s victim. For Mutellip Imin this is exactly what happened on July 15th. Imin, 24 years of age, has not been heard from yet. His cellphone has been shut off and the last message received from him was “SOS”.

This strategy is just one more way China has followed the West in an unholy war on terror. For the past decade China has been labeling Uyghur groups and individuals as “jihadist” to excuse the excesses of government officials and police agents. When China overreaches and, if for a moment, the media begins to pick up on the state’s abuses the magic word “terrorism” appears. It is China’s new method of spreading Beijing’s authority further westward as economic growth fuels ethnic cleansing.

In the past four years China’s iron fist has shown the Uyghur that if they will not work as slaves for the greater good they will be expected to leave the country all together. Any that stay in their homeland are expected to accept the religious and ethnic discrimination imposed by Beijing. Those who stay are expected to work themselves to death for a country that views them as permanent outsiders.

As for the West, the reality of what the Uyghur community in China faces has been covered up by the obsession with a romanticized “Arab Spring”. In our attempts to view the Middle East as “coming over to our side” or “becoming more secular” we have ignored the plight of ethnic minorities across the globe. While Egypt fights to determine it’s own fate the Uyghur people struggle to throw off a fate imposed upon them by a nation that has rejected them. While Iran toys with the notion of moderating the role of religion over the state the Uyghur have their religion banned by a state that touts it’s authority over them. And yet for the past four years we have heard little to nothing about the Uyghur people who are fighting for their dignity, their culture, and their heritage.

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Source Documents 
(note: not all sources listed)

The Diplomat 

Epoch Times

Alder's Ledge

July 20, 2013

Romanticized Barbarism

Sexual Violence As A Means Of Ethnic Cleansing
(Open Eyes series)

For as long as there has been war amongst nations of men the use of sexual violence as a method of breaking the will to fight of an opponent has been present on the battle field. As with all other forms of military excesses, rape and sexual violence have always been the burden of noncombatants and civilians. Women and children who have been unable to flee the advancing troops of an attacking army have always been the most targeted group of victims for sexual deviancy amongst soldiers and commandants. Their vulnerability, the lack of meaningful defenses, has always left these victims susceptible to rape, sexual slavery, forced marriages, and sexual mutilation.

This brutal reality of war is exactly why the international community created laws to prohibit such actions amongst the signatories of these laws. Nations who have wanted aid and trade agreements with members of these agreements have often been forced to agree to the conditions of existing laws and treaties that state the nature of such atrocities as being illegal and punishable through economic sanctions and judicial reprisals. Sadly however the reality of ethnic conflict and the wars that have spawned from such situations has not reflected the legal ramifications of such agreements. Sri Lanka is just such a case.

A Peace More Brutal Than War

On May 19Th of 2009 the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (aka: Tamil Tigers) were defeated by the Sri Lankan Military. The world watched as Sri Lanka promised to bring about peace across the country now that the Tamil Tigers had been militarily defeated. For the West it was a chance to applaud Sri Lanka for what many European countries and the United States referred to as "demonstrating restraint" in victory. The naive notion that Sri Lanka was going to allow the Tamil people to once again live in peace alongside Sinhalese people was prevalent amongst the US and EU. What little concern there was for the political prisoners, concentration camp inmates, and displaced civilians was quickly forgotten as Sri Lanka made one false promise after another. 

The forgotten people of the war was ironically the very people many outsiders viewed as the cause for the war, the Tamil people. These were the people who continued to suffer as "peace" ground their community down under the weight of Sri Lanka's political agendas. Retaliation and reprisals against Tamil civilians had not nor would not end with the coming of so called peace. Instead, police and other security forces took over the role that Sri Lanka's military had played in committing vast atrocities against the Tamil civilian population.

Home invasions, mass arrests, and police harassment began immediately in areas where Tamils had been seen by Sri Lankan officials as supporting the Tamil Tigers. Collective punishment became the trademark of Sri Lanka's politicians. It was the marching orders for police as they swept through Tamil neighborhoods casting a broad net. 

For the Tamil people what followed May of 2009 was a peace more brutal than war. The actions used by Sri Lankan military personnel to crush their will to resist were being ramped up as though to boast the hollow victory. People who had lost everything to two decades of war were now expected to surrender their dignity as well. 

Sodomy and Genital Mutilation

When male combatants are taken by enemy soldiers they naturally expect some abuse. For most it these expectations are limited to verbal and mild physical abuse. A kick or jab of the fists is as much physical contact one might expect. At worst the defeated soldier might expect to be shot or stabbed to death. Sexual violence is usually not the first thing one might fear from an enemy.

It is even more unexpected when the person being taken into custody is a civilian. People in our Western world would be appalled by any form to sexual misconduct by police, military, or government official. We only have to look back at Abu Ghraib to note that, at very least, many in American society find it disturbing and disgusting for our men and women in uniform to use sex as a method of warfare. We here in America typically don't even condone torture (most of us at least). So it would be expected that general outrage would sweep the country if a situation that paralleled the nature of Abu Ghraib had happened to American prisoners here on American soil.

For Tamil men who are rounded up by Sri Lankan security forces this is exactly the sort of thing that they are forced to fear. In Human Rights Watch's "We Will Teach You A Lesson" report the human rights group documents cases of such violence being committed against Tamil men. In a few such cases Tamil men have had sharp needles inserted in their genitals and small metal balls inserted into their urethra. And in each case it has been documented that the security officers have utilized sodomy, rape, genital mutilation, and other sexual acts of violence against Tamil men kept in police custody.

The reason: they are Tamil men accused of, yet not proven to be, supporting the Tamil Tigers.

Yet despite the release of this report in February of 2013 there has been little discussion about these crimes amongst the media, governments, and NGOs across the globe. Even when foreign doctors have had to perform surgery to remove foreign objects from the genitals of Tamil refugees and asylum seekers (thus documenting the crime) the outside world has remained silent.

Despite the ethnicity of the victims being a clear motivation for the heinous crimes being committed against them, these Tamil men are left voiceless by the silence of the outside world. When sexually molested, raped, or sexually tortured these men have few options but to remain silent themselves. By speaking out they risk being ostracized by their own community while making themselves larger targets for other forms of attack by Sri Lankan police. And yet when faced with the reality of why and how these crimes take place the UN and it's member states have refused to take legal actions against the government of Sri Lanka.

Gang Rape And Blindfolds

For Tamil women on the other hand it is almost always expected that sex will be involved when dealing with Sri Lanka's security forces. Whether they are being detained, abducted, or incarcerated long-term; Tamil women are always subjected to some form of sexual violence. The most common however is rape. 

In areas where Sri Lanka wants to drive Tamil civilians out the most prevalent use of sex as a weapon is the abduction of young Tamil women and any lone Tamil woman. Once abducted the victim is taken to either a "black prison" (unofficial detention center) or a local police station where they are raped constantly for days. In addition to rape and gang rapes these victims are sexually tormented by having their breasts and buttocks bitten, burnt, stabbed, and mutilated. Their genital regions are often sodomized and abused even while the official act of rape is not being conducted. This form of sexual abuse can last for days on end, and in some cases weeks. 

Yet it isn't only male Sri Lankan police that conduct such violence against abducted Tamil women and girls. Female Sri Lankan police officers have been reported to have "prepped" the Tamil victims for rape and even taken part in sexual acts of torture on the Tamil victims. These female assailants also are reported to use asphyxiation as a method of subduing a victim by placing plastic bags over the victims' heads till they pass out. 

Once the police are finished with their victim the Tamil women are blindfolded and taken back to their villages or the internally displaced peoples' camp from which they were abducted. The abuse they suffered is apparent by both the wounds inflicted and the infamy the Sri Lankan police have accumulated for themselves.

The guilt and shame that is often associated with such crimes is one of the most lasting scars that these victims will carry. Their nightmares of such events is another. These emotional burdens inevitably drive some victims to self-destruction. While at other times these scars act as constant reminders; reminders that often bring about depression and isolation. 

Once again the outside world has had every opportunity to come along side these victims and rally around them in defense of their basic human rights. With countless organizations documenting the crimes and large international ones like Human Rights Watch releasing documentation on such incidents there can be no meaningful excuse for inaction. After the Bosnian Genocide, in which rape was extensively used as a weapon of genocide, we as a world community did far too little to help the victims. Those that were helped were often given recognition not for the crime itself but for the sad reality that they were the first such victims to receive such attention. Now with Sri Lanka's victims before us the world must ask itself if we can afford to turn away these individuals like we did so many other victims of sexual abuse during times of war and/or ethnic cleansing.

Sex To Survive

One of the most perverse uses of rape as weapon is that when used upon already displaced people. Many of these victims have already been victimized during the conflict and now fact further victimization by so called security personnel. One of the most prolific ways in which sexual abuse is applied by the Sri Lankan security forces in IDP camps and amongst refugees is that of utilizing a perverted practice often referred to as "survival sex". 

Survival sex can most adequately be described as the withholding of basic needs for survival by the authoritarian figure unless sexual services are given in exchange. While some in Sri Lanka's government have accused the victims of prostitution the reality of the sexual violence is that it is committed against them, not by them. Soldiers, police, and government officials in Sri Lanka have all utilized this heinous act of barbarism to fulfill their deviant sexual desires in regions where Tamil families have been displaced. It is so common in fact that Tamil refugees often surprise interviewers by just how easily the topic is addressed in comparison to the what many consider more violent sexual abuses. 

This method becomes efficient in pushing Tamils out of areas by acting upon the nature of the family unit in its desire to safeguard it's youth from sexual and physical abuse. When sex is demanded in exchange for the "right to stay" put in the area it is inevitable that some (and at times, all) Tamil families would prefer to leave rather than have their youth utilized as sexual slaves. At other times when sex is demanded in exchange for food or water the situation is created where Tamil families face illegal actions to obtain such necessities or submit their wives, daughters, or even sons to dehumanizing acts of violence. 

In the end the goal of survival sex is not the obtaining of sexual pleasure but the dehumanizing of the targeted community. It is utilized so as to force the community to pull up its root, no matter how temporary they might be, and move out of a desired location. By attacking the family unit itself instead of the communal bond between families the aggressor aims to destroy the foundation of the targeted society. For this reason violent application of sex in conflict can be seen as objectively aiming for the destruction of a community's unity long term rather than the immediate annihilation of the community itself. It rips away at the fabric of both the community and the structure of the family unit within it. 

No Sex In Violence

Sex in violent conflict has nearly always been a checkpoint on the path to victory for waring states and tribes. From the time of the initial founding of nation states to our modern day the act of rape by soldiers and warriors has far often been overlooked. In the West the act of raping another man or boy has been the line in the sand. It is a point we don't readily accept. Yet we far too often look the other way as our boys in arms still commit violent sexual acts against our enemies. 

This cultural acceptance of sex in war has eroded in recent generations. But for all our moral outrage against the acts we have yet to bring the full weight of justice against those who commit these war crimes. We have in recent years established laws for both ourselves and the international community at large that prohibit the use of sex as a weapon of war. But for all our efforts the act itself has not yet had the full weight of the international community applied to it. 

If we; as a people who value liberty, honor, dignity, and the sanctity of human life, are to end the use of sex as a weapon in both war and peace we must first realize the vigilance it requires. Sri Lanka has unfortunately provided such an opportunity to exercise the vigilance. In cases such as this the world community must be seen as tenacious in our efforts to both end the use of sex as a weapon and ruthless in our efforts to punish those responsible. We must be tireless in our pursuit of justice for all victims of these barbaric acts. 

In the end we must make a break with our romanticized views of war. The aspects of it that our ancestors accepted as necessary evils can no longer be allowed to prevail in our time nor should they be permitted to enter our children's era. Unlike our parents' generation, we have the ability to unite through the technology they made possible. We have the ability to maintain solidarity with the victims through the connections we have forged. All we have to do now is breathe life into the idea that romanticized barbarism has no place in the modern world.

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Source Documents
(note not all sources are listed)

International Committee of The Red Cross

Human Rights Watch

Tamil News

Women Under Siege Project 

Christian Science Monitor 

July 18, 2013

Where Civil Blood Makes Civil Hands Unclean

Death Toll Rising In Guinea

Religion. Politics. Tribal Vengeance. Old Mutiny.

Any of these things can be blamed for the latest spat between the Guerze and Konianke peoples. More poetic writers might be more apt to exaggerating the events to make it sound more dramatic than it really was. Yet what happened Monday in Nzerekore, Guinea was far from poetic. It was barbarism, at best.

A simple spat over supposed theft was all it took to drag a city of nearly 300,000 people into the chaos of ethnic violence. The brutal beating and murder of a Konianke youth by Guerze gas station guards was a spark. It lit a fire in the city that took two days to exhaust as police presence on the streets began to resemble military might. Law enforcement, dressed in battle gear, rode out the violence since they could not quell it through brute force.

By Wednesday morning the streets in Nzerekore resembled a war zone. Around 80 people had been wounded, including a Guerze tribal chief, and at least 54 had been killed. According to a doctor that refused to identify himself there were many more who had been either burnt beyond recognition or hacked to pieces. Leaving the official death toll limited to those that could be readily identified through ID papers or by relatives and friends.

In addition to the sudden influx of wounded and dead in Nzerekore there had been cars and homes destroyed by arson attacks and vandalism. For many these very places had been the only safe refuge they had as the rival mobs had carried out rolling battles across the city.

So what lay at the root of this latest outbreak of ethnic violence in Guinea?

Politics and Old Mutiny

In recent years the West, and Americans in particular, have come to realize that diamonds and precious metals originating in West Africa are often products of war and genocide. The term "blood diamonds" was coined and led to countless books and even an award winning movie produced in Hollywood. But the reality of what these conflict minerals actually leave behind has eluded many in Western culture. We tend not to think of the crimes these materials help fund or how many lives they cost. We really only tend to think of how we can obtain said materials without the guilt of purchasing "blood diamonds" while still affording such luxuries.

For the citizens of Sierra Leone these diamonds helped directly fund the horrific crimes of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the RUF/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). These barbarians mutilated civilians, massacred their victims, and forcibly conscripted children into their ranks to serve as child soldiers. One of their most prominent purchasers was the then acting president of Liberia, Charles Taylor.

It was this bankrolling of crimes against humanity that ended up having Charles Taylor becoming the first head of state to be formally charged with such crimes in an international court since Nuremberg. This was the first case in which a tyrannical savage (former state leader) was brought to justice in decades. And yet the legacy his time in power had left upon the region would not be so easily forgotten.

During Charles Taylor's run for presidency in Liberia a savage civil war broke out. What was supposed to be a civil election process had turned into a barbaric battle for total power over the country and it's resources. Charles Taylor only "won" the election by threatening to restart the war if he was not elected. Thus the savage took power under threat of more blood shed.

So what does this have to do with the ethnic violence in Guinea?

Every since Charles Taylor's insurgency against the setting president of Liberia in December of 1989 the war criminal has drawn upon support from the Guerze tribes, known as Kpelle in Liberia. Taylor exploited the animosity that the Guerze tribal leaders had instilled in their people against the "newcomers", the Konianke people. Using this tribal divide, Taylor was able to build upon the hatred that already existed and work the tribal groups into ready-to-fight militias. This was a tactic that Taylor would again utilize during the rebellion against him in 1999 (later called The Second Liberian Civil War).

In successive struggles to maintain power the war criminal would continue to feed the hatred and distrust that fomented between the Guerze and Konianke people. In 1999's rebellious days Taylor would tell his loyalist that the Mandingo (considered to be Liberia's Konianke community) were the cause for the countries problems. Scapegoating the Konianke, Taylor then added to the accusations that Guinea was behind the rebellion in his country.

This legacy of mistrust and political hatred for one another has been left behind by corrupt politicians like Charles Taylor. It is one of the reasons that such ethnic tensions become strained to the point of violence in Guinea (and the region for that matter) during times of political elections. Any spark during these times leaves the communities of these two tribes susceptible to ethnic violence.

It is a reality in Guinea that the government has become far to aware of. In May there were more than 50 people were killed in violence resulting from ethnic and political protest ahead of the expected electoral process in Guinea. These deaths, not related to the incident above, were results of clashes between the Peuhl tribe and Malinke tribe. Yet both cases of ethic violence are heralds of the upcoming elections across the country.

Religion and Tribal Vengeance

When you talk about the "holy war" between Christians and Muslims in Africa you most often end up in Nigeria. The bitter struggle for control over the religious aspect of African society has nearly drawn a line between the Northern half of sub-Saharan Africa and the Southern half. With Arabic influences in the north and black African Muslims spreading their faith southward the battle for souls has turned into a bloody stalemate. Animist and people of local religions have been the bait for the two hungry armies as they bite at the bit in deadly head-on charges against their opposing faith. Nigeria is just the apex of this struggle.

For Guinea the clash between Islam and Christendom has left the country in a constant state of potential war. Christians in Guinea to this day hold deep prejudices against Muslims they view as "new comers" or interlopers. While Muslims in Guinea continue to find themselves as pawns in political struggles in Guinea and the surrounding area. The religious fervor on both sides however leaves the two communities far to willing and ready to fight one another at the drop of a hat.

When looking at Guinea it may not seem fair to compare it to the hellish state of affairs that is Nigeria at the moment. But it is completely understandable that the rolling battles of Guinea are just a short distance away from the entrenched wars of Nigeria. If the religious aspect of the feuds between Guerze and Konianke peoples is not formally addressed by both government and religious leaders the situation the two communities face is quite possibly more similar to Rwanda than Nigeria.

This religious divide that for the moment seems to act as an impasse is only further exacerbated by the ethnic divide. With the Guerze people compiling around 40 percent of the population in Guinea they act as the ethnic majority. And nearly since the initial independence of Guinea from France the Guerze people have been the political backbone of the country. This changed however with the succession of coups and deaths of one corrupt politician after the other. In 1984 when Lansana Conte (a member of the Susu people) took power the Christian population of Guinea found themselves under a Muslim ruler. For the Guerze community leaders the divide on religion took the forefront of the disputes between their community and the Konianke every since.

In the coming election this divide between religion and politics has narrowed even more. With the Konianke people backing Alpha Conde and the Guerze people backing the opposition the religious views of Conde are at the forefront of the political struggle. The Konianke only comprise somewhere around 30 percent of the population, so it is clear as to why they would back Conde. After all, Alpha Conde is a Mulsim from their own ethnic group. So it is seen that he would assure their community some stability in this long standing war between the two religious parties involved.

For the Guerze community leaders the presidency of Alpha Conde would be yet another Islamic leader who could reinstate a junta style government. The fears of living under Islam are palpable in the way these community leaders address the issue. Hate and vitriol spill from both sides, yet it is more prevalent in a community that seems to believe they have more to lose than their opponent.

Endless Misery

It is impossible for somebody in my position to adequately address the issues these two ethnic groups face in this upcoming election. It would be arrogant to say that I fully understand the nature to the conflict that exist between them. Yet at the same time I can honestly say that if neither side makes drastic changes in the way they view the other then the misery that has been Guinea's past will continue to be its future. Without compromise and some form of strong leadership, whether that be political or religious, an accusation of theft will always risk countless days of senseless violence and bloodshed.

As for the government of Guinea, there are serious steps ahead in the path to social and political reforms that are desperately needed. There is a clear hunger for democratic reforms amongst the people of this country. Yet whenever they show up to make their voices heard they have been met with religious and racial violence. It is a problem that everyone is watching yet no one seems willing to address.

If social and political reforms are not carried out immediately under the next president the country of Guinea should face more stringent criticism and economic reprisals from the UN and Western world. A government that would tolerate the senseless violence that has become the hallmarks of its electoral process cannot be treated with kid gloves. If we would not tolerate it within our own borders we must not make excuses for it when such atrocities are imposed upon other people.

In Guinea the endless misery of religious, ethnic, and political violence has been rewarded by a world that remains silent.

Want to learn more about this issue and others covered by Alder's Ledge? 

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Source Documents
(note not all sources are listed)

Al Jazeera


All Africa

Fox News

Human Rights Watch

Christian Science Monitor

BBC News

July 16, 2013

The Devil Amongst Us

Going Back To The Devil's Playground
(Devil's Due series)

(one simple hand gesture...)

When President Nixon gave the peace sign as he left the office a lot of Americans cheered. It wasn't because he was well liked or that he had done a good job. It wasn't that America had become a better place due to his leadership. It was simply a show of how much the man had become villain to the people who had elected him into office. It was this show of disgust for the man that made the act of lifting your hands and giving the peace sign a symbol that would give generations flashbacks to the devil of the White House.

It is amazing what a simple gesture of the hand can do in our world. When we are in traffic and somebody cuts us off only to stop short right in front of us we often are tempted to "give them the bird" by simply raising our middle finger. When somebody does a good job and we want to show them so we sometimes give them the "thumbs-up" to show them with just a movement of the hand. It is stunning how these little gestures can elicit rather complex responses from the person they are directed at. It is even more astounding how the same simple gesture can elicit dramatic responses in large crowds when just one person gives one of these simple hand gestures.

On February 4th Jamaat leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, gave a hand gesture that would shake a nation. Upon receiving a life sentence for his role in the Bangladesh Genocide, Mollah left the court to an awaiting public. There, before the entire nation, Mollah flashed the "V for victory" sign... the same sign that Nixon had flashed when leaving office. Yet this would not be a sign of peace. It instead would recreate the devil's playground by resurrecting Shahbag Square (a scene of an infamous massacre in 1971).

Life in prison? Yet he took the lives of so many.

What kind of prison? How can a man who created hellish conditions be fit for even the worst of prisons? Is there truly a prison wretched enough, tormenting enough, to lock this monster away in?

Abdul Quader Mollah had made a name for himself in 1971. Across his neighborhood of Dhaka, Mollah was known as "The Butcher of Mirpur". He had earned this name by collaborating with the Pakistani Army and leading his own band of thugs. His actions in Mirpur directly led to the death of a confirmed 344 innocent people. In addition Mollah's contributions to the genocide of his own people included the rapes of women and children, burning of Hindu homes, and the destruction of opposition homes and businesses.

Despite the litany of crimes this wretched man was charged with the International Criminal Tribunal somehow could not find it within itself to issue the death sentence. A man who had terrorized his neighbors, his countrymen, and the world was surprised by the reaction Bengali youth had to his less than favorable jail sentence. This seems odd when you think about it from a Westerners' point of view. For the rest of the world it appeared that justice had finally been served. And yet here we are today. Shahbag Square is still the scene of a nation's unrest when faced with living with the devil for any more length of time than they already have. 

So let's take a look at this from halfway around the world.

In 1971 Abdul Mollah violently raped an 11 year old girl. For most this would be reason enough to face a criminal charge. Then you add on the fact that this man committed the rape under the assumption that the war would cover his transgression. It is a common aspect of war after all, the penis is far worse a weapon than the bullet... it destroys the life of the victim and leaves them to suffer. Yet for this Mollah was not brought to justice. He still had other crimes to commit before being charged.

A typical soldier can't account for the number of people he has killed. A stray bullet here and there may add up the number of deaths. The spray and pray method used by soldiers for multiple of reasons can tick the death toll higher. Yet in 1971 Abdul Mollah racked up a known 344 victims. How many soldiers do you know that can count the number of people they killed? Let alone any that can count up even close to 344?

For most people in the West it would only take one innocent victim's death to warrant bringing the murderer to justice. For the ICT in Dhaka it wasn't till decades had passed that the 344 confirmed victims warranted such a case. And yet when Abdul Mollah was brought before them the ICT could not find it within itself to pull the lever and let the criminal hang for his sins.

As a head member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Mollah carried out a policy of ethnic cleansing in his part of Dhaka. Using religion and politics as excuses for his crimes, Mollah targeted Hindus for extermination. Old religious divides that were left from British occupation were used in attempts to drive the Hindu population out of Bangladesh. When religion failed as an excuse for ethnic cleansing, Abdul Mollah used political allegiances to further drive a wedge in his community and exploit the divides he created to help create violent pogroms. According to the Genocide Convention adopted by the United Nations these all are acts that define genocide. And yet for this the ICT in Dhaka could not find it within itself to hang Abdul Quader Mollah.

For the world to ignore the outrage of the protesters in Shahbag Square is to ignore the open wound the genocide left upon Bengali society. This is a festering wound that has been ripped wide open by the lack of justice in the International Criminal Tribunal's decisions. This is a wretched agony that families across Bangladesh have to live with as they watch the men who perpetrated genocide give the "V for victory" upon learning the devil will not pay his due.

If Hitler had lived to face trial would we have ignored the ruling of a court that only gave him life in prison of the deaths of 6 million innocent Jews?

If Stalin had been brought to trial and the court only gave him life in prison for the starvation and slaughter of 7.5 million Ukrainians would we ignore it?

So why is the world so willing to ignore the voice of a nation as they scream for the rightful justice they deserve? When will Bangladesh be able to say that it's Hitler, it's Stalin, it's Talat Pasha have been brought to justice and killed... just as they did to their victims. Or has the world decided on Bangladesh's behalf that "an eye for and eye" is simply out of the question when dealing with the legacy of genocide? 

Want to learn more about this topic or others covered by Alder's Ledge?

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Or Follow us on Facebook: Alder's Ledge

Source Documents
(note: not all sources are listed)

The National

Alder's Ledge

Guava Puree

July 11, 2013

Return To My Punk Roots

From Civil Debate To Kamikaze
(Screamer Post)

(A Decade Ago)

For most of my adult life the nature of hate groups has fascinated me. It has been a part of society that I have often found myself unable to peek into. Every time I have tried to approach members of these closed cliques I have found myself either with a door slammed in my face or a fist to my gut. Either way, I wasn't getting straight answers to simple questions. And yet I persisted almost relentlessly.

When I was younger it was easier to use these encounters with "skin-heads" and hate group members as excuses for senseless violence. An exchange of slurs often resulted into our own miniature recreations of the Civil War. It wasn't till after the first time I found myself out numbered that I realized the hostile method of approach wasn't exactly working. So with a little bit of time to lick my wounds I returned to the battlefield with the idea that I would exercise my brains instead of my brawn... I had more of the prior anyhow.

The first time I got to debate a guy that claimed to support the idea of an "Aryan Race" I miserably failed in my attempts to remain civil. Defenses for Nazi ideology proved my weakness. And the conversation exploded as tempers became painfully apparent. It wasn't till the guy, about a foot and a half taller and nearly a hundred pounds heavier, stood me up and prepared to knock me down that I began to think... maybe, just maybe, I had crossed a line somewhere.

Some of those who are reading this might think that it is never "crossing the line" to get in the face of an ignorant racist ideologue. Some of you might find it entertaining even... getting to jab your opponent with mildly clever attacks. But what do we really learn about the mindset of the individual when we resort to methods they regularly use against us? And is it not a tab bit hypocritical of us to stoop down to the level of degrading another human being when that is in fact the very reason we are opposed to their opinions?

But I digress...

The line I had crossed was the point in the debate where I no longer viewed the person I was talking to as an equal on any level. In a matter of moments I had gone from assuming the person was misguided in their beliefs and ethical views to disregarding my own. When I allowed a few remarks to put me on the defense I went from having a civil debate to engaging the "enemy" in kamikaze mode.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~JFK

From the moment I allowed myself to degrade the other person I now viewed as my opponent I closed off all routes of peaceful interaction. Where there had been an outlet for fair and honest exchange of ideas I had helped create a battlefield. And though many people who do debate may view their debates as such, most wouldn't feel comfortable viewing it as tolerable to shoot the wounded. Yet that was precisely the level of relentlessness I had engaged in when lowering my standards to meet those of my challenger.

Thus we can fast forward to today.

Hate groups are still a major part of why Alder's Ledge is around today. We are intrigued by both the hate groups themselves and the reasons for which these groups survive and thrive in given areas. That is why the 969 Movement in Burma has been a particularly interesting subject to both our writers and contributors. And yet for all the discussion we have had amongst ourselves, we have had little opportunity to write about the group so far. 

Then came an American (possibly more than one) with a strange obsession with Wirathu and the 969 Movement. This English speaking outlet for the 969 movement was immediately seen by Alder's Ledge as an opportunity to learn why and how the group operates and spreads. It was a chance for Alder's Ledge to peek behind the curtain so to speak.

So after a few messages back and forth, we decided to go for it.

Our twitter handle, run by the main author, engaged the unofficial 969 twitter handle. Following our conversation while keeping an eye on other public conversations the 969 twitter account was having, we attempted to see what information slipped out. This method of passive debate got us nowhere. All the group would give us was the same answer it gave everyone else: "Email your questions to..."

So we did just that. And we waited. And after some time had passed we found ourselves waiting some more. Then a little more time had passed and I found one of my most trusted advisers telling me to wait some more. But given the title of this post... I didn't.

We asked our twitter followers to email the account with the following list of questions. This method was meant to flood the 969 twitter operator with emails till he listened and/or replied. Sure it isn't the most passive and respectful method and may have pushed that line between civil and ruthless... but it worked. And for the most part, we maintained a healthy level of respect in our exchange with the twitter handle for 969 (the American version).

1)      Outside Myanmar it is difficult for the world to understand the reasoning behind the original arrest of Ashin Wirathu. Could you please help clarify why a peaceful monk would have faced 10 years in prison? And why after less than half his original prison sentence was even close to having been served why was Ashin Wirathu released from prison?
2)      In previous remarks you have stated that 969 does not support nor perpetrate genocide. When Alder’s Ledge asked about this you told us “we did not know the definition of genocide”. So here is the legal definition of genocide:
"Article II:  In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a)     Killing members of the group;
(b)     Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c)     Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d)     Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e)     Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Would the actions that your organization has helped put into motion in Myanmar, in your opinion, constitute any of the actions listed above by the UN’s Genocide Convention?
3)      Is the forcible detainment and blockading of internally displaced peoples’ camps by the Burmese military not constitute section C listed above? By keeping people in confinement with little or no food not “deliberately inflict on the group conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction” of the targeted community?
4)      If Ashin Wirathu is as peaceful as your organization insinuates then why do his speeches repeatedly instigate actions that would, as section B states, cause “serious bodily or mental harm to members” of the Rohingya community? Actions that include but are not limited to; rape, mutilation, murder, destruction of property, criminal confinement, and persistent verbal degradation targeting their ethnicity and religious beliefs.
5)      Over the past few decades the government of Myanmar has imposed laws upon the Rohingya community limiting the number of children they can legally have. Your leader, Ashin Wirathu, publicly supported a new law even further limiting the Rohingya peoples’ reproductive rights (covered in international law). For you as an organization is it tolerable to, as section D states, impose “measures intended to prevent the births within the group” targeted by genocidal policy? And if so could you please elaborate upon your views on the reason why Rohingya should be prevented from giving birth?
6)      In countless encounters between members of your organization and Rohingya (unarmed civilians) there have been violent clashes based upon race and religion. In every well-documented occasion of this violence the number of Rohingya killed dramatically dwarfs that of Buddhists killed. Can you explain how a peaceful faith such as yours’ can justify what section A of the Genocide Convention states is the deliberate “killing members of the group” you target with genocidal economic policies?
7)      Going beyond the genocide convention set forth by the UN shortly after the Holocaust in Nazi Europe, is not the implication of economic boycotts against a given ethnic group or religious group detrimental to the harmony of Myanmar’s society? What is the reason for the forced boycott of Rohingya in the Rakhine state? And for what reason do you feel it is necessary to deprive a targeted portion of society for economic starvation?
8)      The Dalai Lama has condemned both the resulting actions of your organization’s boycott and the motive behind it. If you could, what would you say to Tenzin Gyatso about his lack of support for your cause?
9)      In recent statements Ashin Wirathu stated that he would like the 969 Movement to be more like the English Defense League. His exact words in an interview were, “Do you know the English Defense League? We would like to be like the EDL.” However the English Defense League is a well-known hate group in England that targets Muslims for violent crimes and physical assault. Is this what you would like the 969 Movement to be associated with? Is 969 a movement based upon racial or religious ideology that would claim to be superior to the group they target in hate speech?
10)     You claim to be defending your religion and the public. What is it that you are defending the public against? For decades under the Junta in Myanmar there was far less racial and religious violence regarding the Rohingya. So why now are you so worried about a people that have lived alongside Buddhists for centuries?
Four hours after the twitter handle for 969 had promised to "answer" our "questions right away", we received a reply. The answers began simple and straight forward without much deviation from the sorts of responses we had expected. Of course this final response was predicated by several responses refusing to answer until we provided countless sources to "support" our questions in the first place. But anyhow, I won't complain about the lack of cooperation... we got what we wanted from this engagement.

Here is what we got. Raw and unedited.

Answering question one: 

"That is not clear to us at this time since our campaign is based in the
United States. However I can note that many monks were imprisoned and
persecuted during the military control of Myanmar and I believe Ven.
Wirathu was one of those. The reasoning I have for this is that he was
given an amnesty for "political prisoners" in 2007."
Answering question two:
"Some clarifications. 969 is a social movement and not an organization. It
acts as a Buddhist mutual aid campaign and is organizing petition
campaigns to show support for pro-Buddhist laws. Riots that have occurred
in Myanmar did not take place in areas directly influenced by 969 leaders,
e.g., Mandalay."
Answering question three:
"The displaced people are not citizens of Myanmar and have no right to
travel in the country at will. The military is there to protect them from
further mob violence. The reality is that they are being cared for by
UNHCR aid."
Answering question four:
"Venerable Wirathu has repeatedly called for calm and non-violence and is
on the record for supporting the government prosecuting convicted
criminals of crimes both Rohingya and Buddhist."
Answering question five:
"Countries choosing to regulate the birth of citizens or non-resident
aliens is nothing new. China has a one child per family policy to deal
with the problem of overpopulation. As a foreigner to Myanmar, it is not
proper for me to comment further on what is or is not the proper
demographic policy of their country nor do I think it is any one else's
Answering question six:
"969 is not an organization, it is a social movement. Rohingya's rape of
Myanmar women, forced marriages, and burning monks alive has inflamed the
wrath of the Myanmar people. This is not a new phenomena. The bad actions
of Rohingya's, armed and unarmed, with words and without words, with
machetes and with guns and bombs, has been going on for decades longer
then 2012.  I will offer this link for documented evidence"
(Link omitted due to being broken)
Answering question seven:
"969 is a movement in support of Buddhists businesses, Buddhist households,
and Buddhist individuals. 969 only developed in response to the Rohingya's
Islamic 786 campaign which is for Muslims in Myanmar to only do business
with Muslims, who were refusing to offer services to monks and Buddhists."
Answering question eight:
"With all due respect, I would ask the Dalai Lama how many Buddhists must
be burned to death, how many women to be raped and sold into slavery, and
how many temples have to be bombed before he supports the physical and
spiritual self-defense of Buddhism in a Buddhist country?"
Answering question nine:
"From what I understand of the EDL, EDL members are targeted for hate
crimes, EDL members are targeted for expressing their opinions, EDL
members are fired from their places of employment, and they are made
scapegoats for Muslim crimes in their country.  The Islamification of the
United Kingdom, such as the call to prayer on the BBC, is exactly what 969
is designed to prevent in Myanmar. The people of Myanmar are acting on
their own accord. That they refuse to allow Myanmar to become a formerly
Buddhist country like the long list of  Afghanistan, Sri Lanka,
Bangaladesh, Nepal, Iran, Indonesia, Tibet (by communism), and others who
have been vanquished by the sword of Islam. This triumph of democracy
should be praised."
Answering question ten:
"This is far from true as the above link describes in detail, in fact it
was merely less known to the Western media. The British brought the
Rohingya to divide and conquer the people of Myanmar. The Myanmar
Buddhists are peace loving people. Only the spark of Buddhist women being
violated and Buddhist monks being murdered set forth the long checked
wrath of an insulted people. You say peace lasted for years but it was
fake. The same fake peace that existed under Tito and his communist regime
disappeared after the fall of Yugoslavia and the ethnic and religious
conflict that followed was terrible. Thankfully the Myanmar military and
police are able to limit the damage from the warring parties from being
worse then it already is. A not dissimilar situation also exists in
Thailand where the southern provinces are under an Islamic insurgency,
people are killed all the time. You would blame the military of Thailand
for violating your human rights for not allowing you to visit these areas
but as a Western foreigner you would likely be attacked, killed, raped, or
held for ransom by terrorists like many before you. 969 means we say "no
more" to the people and causes of violence against Buddhist people. Thank

Question one was a simple and straightforward question that has been answered by media outlets around the world. Yet I had to keep in mind that the operator of the 969 twitter handle had routinely discredited and hinted that media in the West was bias toward Muslim causes. So I avoided arguing the point with the person behind the 969 twitter account and American based webpage. 

However question two had nothing to do with 969 or the "movement". We had simply taken the opportunity to readdress the lack of knowledge on behalf of our counterpart regarding the legal definition of genocide. As the question is predicated it remarks that we had already asked one question and were now wanting clarification on the previous response. In doing so we had stated word for word the UN's definition of genocide. And yet we did not get a response that clearly and honestly stated that 969 (either here or in Myanmar) rejected the implementation of genocide as a method to completing current 969 economic policies.

Then came question three...

We blatantly stated the fact that the Burmese military is confining Rohingya to camps and villages while keeping food, water, and basic living necessities out of reach. This was not the question, it is the fact of the matter. And yet we did not receive an answer that would clarify the beliefs of this 969 supporter or the group at large when dealing with section C of section A of the Genocide Convention. Instead we got a short response about how the Rohingya are "not citizens" and therefore have no right to life apparently. The last part of the response showed a drastic lack of information or the intent to mislead us when talking about humanitarian aid the Rohingya have not readily received in their blockaded villages and camps that Myanmar claims are illegal yet the government established. 

Question four pushed the envelope on what our opponent could tolerate. By asking about Wirathu we made the response shorter than we had wished. But we did get enough out of the 969 unofficial account to realize that they have a blind devotion to the criminal monk Wirathu. Despite blatant calls for violent annihilation of the Rohingya people coming directly from Wirathu himself this 969 account refuses to admit the truth. There is clearly no room for debate upon the issue of their cult like leader. 

Our next question brought up the long history Myanmar has with regulating the birth rate of the Rohingya people. We have noted that it decreases the population and "prevents births" in a targeted community. Thus these laws violate the Genocide Convention and most human rights laws currently enforced by the UN. Yet the response we got showed a direct condoning of the genocidal law. The other side went as far as to hint that such issues were none of our concern. Bold. 

We didn't hide our intent after question five. In question six we went for the meat of the matter by opening up the question of section A in the legal definition of genocide. Yet the other side only had blame to offer for the Rohingya. One might even believe that this response could be used as justification for the outright slaughter of Rohingya in Myanmar. But that would be insinuating I suppose. So I'll have to wait to ask another 969 member... someday. 

Question seven targeted the economic boycott imposed by the 969 members in Myanmar. We wanted to understand the logic behind this economic attack. And yet the response we got once again blamed the Rohingya for the actions of the 969 members themselves. Instead of accepting some guilt in the conflict, this member gave justification by accusing the other side of instigating it. This sort of excuse does little in the way of answering our original question. But it does show us a little of the mindset one has to have to believe the reasoning behind such hate filled ideas. 

Eight was like putting a toe on the line. It was the point where I realized I was getting close to bringing the questioning to a close. To get this I had to dial back and offer a chance for my opposition to show their human side. Sadly I didn't get a very good look at that. 

Instead of asking the Dalai Lama about their own guilt and what could be done to end the conflict if their current actions would not... we got more hate. The persistent desire to paint the victims of their actions as the guilty party is a hallmark of hate groups around the world. The Nazis painted the Jews as the evil villains that were attempting to take over the world only so that the Nazis could do just that. 969 tells the world that the Rohingya are a rabid army of invaders ready to rape and pillage Myanmar yet we watch 969 do both those things with impunity as the government watches. 

Now question nine was a rather odd question really. We had given this 969 account seven links to show we weren't just making up this connection between Wirathu and the English Defense League. And yet we had to prove this connection a few more ways before getting this response. Then what we got was just appalling.
Instead of denouncing the EDL, this 969 account defended the neo-Nazi hate group. However we didn't ask him/her to back up their claims that EDL members were discriminated against by a mythical Muslim upper class. We didn't ask him/her to clarify just how they knew that 969 members were being fired because Muslims had somehow gained control over these EDL members' employment. We just went on to our next question. After all, doesn't that response raise an eyebrow on it's own? I really didn't think I needed to address it. 
So we finished with the question that gave our paste-bin it's name... the kamikaze.
The response we got shows the level of hatred that a follower of this 969 Movement can obtain without even once stepping foot in Myanmar (he/she told me, I'm not just guessing). It is a level of intolerance that is absolutely alien to me. No matter how hard I try I can't bring myself to hate somebody or a group of people I have never met. And I'll be honest, brutally honest, I have dealt with resentment for Croatia and Germany due to my own family history. Yet even for all the crimes committed against my ancestors, I couldn't bring myself to loath the people of those two countries. It just wasn't something I had been taught. 

So to end this I'm going to offer a simple response to the person or persons behind this 969 twitter handle. 

I was never taught to hate a group of people for any reason. I will never understand that part of the argument I got in response to my questions. But I do have one question left for you. If the tables were turned and the situation was reversed, you are now in the position of the Rohingya people, would you still be comfortable hearing the answers you gave us? Is there not a way that you would wish this could end without more deaths, without continued starvation, without this hatred between your faiths... your people... your communities?