Ziaur Rahman on trafficking of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh & Thailand

Ziaur Rahman photo

In October 2014, Ziaur Rahman was among a boatload of 310 Rohingya & Bangladeshi men, women, & children being kidnapped from Bangladesh & forcibly trafficked for sale by Thai brokers. They were taken to uninhabited islands off Thailand used as a base for smuggling, eventually to be trucked south to Malaysia.

The group had been divided–some were still in hiding on the island, some had already been trucked south, & Ziaur was among a group of 53 men hiding in the bushes when Thai police intercepted them. The traffickers fled & the Rohingya & Bangladeshi men were incarcerated as undocumented immigrants rather than treated as trafficking victims & asylum seekers–a common human rights abuse in most countries, including the US. Local officials concerned about the human rights of the 53, took them into custody & called in human rights lawyers to defend them.

Zaiur, who was then 22, was interviewed by Phuketwan, a local newspaper that covered the tourist beat with restaurant & nightlife reviews since the area is a major tourist destination but also reported local & national news & has reported almost daily on Rohingya abuses since 2008. Their report on the 53 arrests was a cogent, concise, & moving report on human trafficking of thousands through Thailand & on the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar.

The article reported claims by human rights groups that “increasing numbers of men from Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority are being arrested & tortured because of alleged ties to a militant Islamic organisation.” That is an alarming development for Rohingya asylum seekers since it uses Islamophobic hysteria to justify their indefinite incarceration, deportation, & denial of human rights protections.

A particularly moving part of the article quoted Ziaur who told them he became desperate after a lifetime as a refugee in a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh where they suffer persecution, poverty, & degradation. To forge a better life, he left behind his mother, wife, & one-year-old child–only to find himself in the grips of human traffickers. It’s a reality most of us can’t imagine but common to Rohingya fleeing genocide.

Phuketwan quoted this moving passage by Ziaur from his FB wall:

”I ask you, Government of Burma says, ‘This is not your land.’

“Government of Bangladesh says ‘This is not your land. So I ask UNHCR (the UN refugee body) I ask Burma & Bangladesh, to please tell me, ‘Where do I belong? Where is my house? Where can I go?

”I do not want to be a refugee any more. I just want to live in peace.”

Zaiur is now a human rights advocate for Rohingya, currently campaigning against their incarceration in several countries as undocumented immigrants rather than given asylum as refugees from persecution & genocide.

(Postscript: in December 2014, the editor & a journalist of Phuketwan were sued for defamation by the Royal Thai Navy for their coverage of trafficking Rohingya. They were both acquitted in September 2015 but were forced to end publication later that year. Their fearless reporting & the influence of the Navy caused sponsors & advertisers to pull out.)

(Photo is Ziaur Rahman)

Rohingya human rights activist Ziaur Rahman on incarceration of Rohingya refugees as undocumented immigrants rather than asylum seekers

Rohingya in Saudi jail

Rohingya refugees in Saudi Arabian prison

Rohingya in Bangladesh jail

Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi prison

Rohingya in Indonesia jail

Rohingya refugees  in Indonesian prison


Rohingya in Thai jail

Rohingya refugees in Thai prison

This is an appeal from Rohingya human rights activist Ziaur Rahman focusing on the imprisonment in several countries of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, genocide, incarceration, & concentration camps in Myanmar:
Remembering the jailed Rohingya around the world:
My people are suffering around the world: over two million have become stateless and refugees to others countries because of persecution in Myanmar and especially the conflict in 2012. My people have been forced to leave their country in record numbers to seek safety in other countries, to be able to save their future and well living, and without knowing the risks they will face in others countries, especially without their family life.

After the violence and attacks on my people in Arakan State of Myanmar in 2012, thousands of Rohingya fled. Many were killed by human traffickers on the way to Malaysia, especially in Thai human trafficking camps. Most of the Rohingya girls were raped while traveling to Malaysia by boat. Most of the Rohingya were also arrested in Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Malaysia. A few have been released with the help of UNHCR. A few Rohingya went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Unfortunately, most of them were arrested in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some are also missing.

Still, their families are crying with the dreams and hopes of their relatives in Myanmar. As you know, the Myanmar government is still persecuting & ethnically cleansing Rohingya people from Arakan state of Myanmar. But my people are also suffering in prisons in Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia–sentenced for one, two, and three years for no crime other than seeking asylum. My people did not wish to leave their community and did not wish to leave their country. They only fled to other countries because of Myanmar government persecution.

Even though Rohingya are indigenous in Myanmar, we are made stateless and face increasing and daily persecution in our country. We are scattered all over the word but are not involved in any criminal activities and are not trying to harm any community. I am always sad for my people. Shame to those countries where my people are neglected and where they are hated and persecuted.

FOR MY ROHINGYA: I request you voice solidarity more and more which will hearten Rohingya in our troubled lives. It would be a huge support for that ill-fated community of the world as most persecuted and stateless . You will loose nothing by doing that but you will be rewarded by God for helping that almost missing community of the world.

Now I am appealing from the international community the rights of human beings for my people and you too and ask you to share this news with other people around you.

“My people are not numbers. They are human beings like you and I, except they have seen unspeakable horror and have experienced unthinkable tragedy and hardship. They risked everything, their families, their possessions just to make it to safety.

“We need to bring humanity and compassion back into the narrative, because this crisis is about people not borders and barriers. It’s about human dignity not deals.”

I would like to recommend that you speak out regarding this injustice and the silent genocide of my people.

(Photos of Rohingya refugees jailed in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, & Thailand)

Musical tribute to Kashmiri freedom struggle

Israel intentionally uses artistic culture (& sports) to promote colonial legitimacy & ethnic cleansing & pays musicians exorbitant fees to perform there. That’s why the cultural boycott aspect of BDS is so important.

Despite what seems overwhelming evidence to the contrary, human beings are magical creatures in some ways & that’s reflected in our profound need for art, music, dance, poetry. Human creativity should never be demeaned to serve apartheid & militarism but only to oppose it.

For Kashmir, we’ve seen the resistance & solidarity art of Mir Suhail, Rollie Mukherjee, & V Arun Kumar & the resistance music of Kashmiri rapper MC Kash. This is a tribute to the Kashmiri freedom struggle by Ali Saffudin, a Kashmiri singer/songwriter.

(It came from Huma Dar on Twitter who is permanently suspended by Facebook for posting a photo of the Kashmiri man whose funeral was attended by 600,000 people but whose name may not be mentioned on Facebook without threat of suspension.)


The “American exceptionalism” of US immigration policy

Obama caricature as Mad Magazine

An estimated 5 million Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, & Pakistani refugees have fled to other countries, including to Europe which is denying most of them asylum. The international agencies monitoring refugees have conflicting estimates of the numbers coming on the Turkey to Greece route. The usual media estimate of one-million comes from the UN refugee agency which does not accord with other agencies & is in fact quite unreliable.

What can be reconstructed from half-assed statistics using questionable methodology reported by different agencies is that between 2013 & August 2016, closer to 2.6 million refugees entered Europe on that route. Some of the agencies base their estimates on asylum applications to different European countries when many refugees, like Afghans & Iraqis, have been determined not eligible to apply & try to go under the radar to avoid deportation.

Given those staggering statistics, it’s embarrassing that we in the US are expected to go gaga that Obama has accepted 10,000 Syrian refugees as an expression of that very special American largesse & humanitarianism elaborated in Clinton’s doctrine of American exceptionalism. In fairness to Clinton, it should be said that to her, US exceptionalism means the right to wage war on other countries & does not include accepting refugees from those wars. That’s for chump nations.

Obama’s stingy Syrian immigration policies are a piece with his brutal policies toward undocumented immigrants from Mexico & Central America. It is not overstatement to say that Obama’s policies on Latino immigrants, many who are fleeing extreme violence & sweatshop economics, are indistinguishable for the most part from Trump’s proposals. Someone should do a textual exegesis to see how Obama differs from Trump, especially in practice. It is Obama, after all who sent national guard troops to the border, reinforced the border wall with thousands more border patrol, & introduced drone surveillance along the US-Mexican border.

In 2014, Obama directed US immigration enforcement to focus on deporting undocumented immigrants convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, driving under the influence, & drug trafficking. In his November 2014 executive order, Obama said to deport “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” Yet there are reports this year from immigration rights activists that women & children are in fact being deported at record rates.

The are numerous studies going back nearly 100 years done by reputable US research institutions that show beyond the shadow of a doubt that contrary to racist stereotypes, immigrants, including the undocumented, have a crime rate considerably lower than natural-born citizens.

But during Obama’s administration, between 2009 & 2015, under his executive orders, over 2.5 million mostly Latino undocumented immigrants have been deported, including women & children. The 2.5 million deported do not include those deported in 2016 for which data is not yet available. Are we to believe that of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US, nearly a quarter of them are criminals?

According to the US government’s own data, the Obama regime has not just deported more immigrants than any other US president in history (including George Bush who deported 2 million) but more than the sum of all 19 presidential regimes between 1892 & 2000. That’s why Immigration rights groups not silenced by Democratic Party controlled foundation grants have titled Obama the Deporter-in-Chief.

Immigration is a human right. Open the damn borders. No human is alien.

(Caricature is Obama of the less than endearing toothy gin.)

Embedding journalists with the US military leads to media lies about war

Khalid (Lynsey Addario) Sept 10 2016

This investigation was originally done in February 2015. It’s a bit lengthy but it is about how embedding journalists up the ass of the US military completely falsifies the narrative about US wars. I’m reposting it to remind us of how that media/military collaboration functions to deceive but also because there has been a complete lack of reporting about the war in Afghanistan (which also involves Pakistan) as we approach the 15th year of US occupation, bombing, & massive war crimes against the peoples of Afghanistan & Pakistan.
This haunting photo is 7-year-old Khalid after his shrapnel wounds were treated by US army medics in the Korengal Valley in northeastern Afghanistan. It was taken in 2007 by Lynsey Addario, then a NY Times photojournalist, but first published in her recent memoir “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love & War” where she describes its unsavory political history & the role of media in covering for US war crimes.

Korengal Valley is a sliver of mountainous terrain only six-miles long & a half-mile wide but for the duration of the war it has been a focus of intense US-NATO land & aerial assault because it borders the area of Pakistan where US drones & the Pakistani air force have been attempting to bomb out the Taliban. An estimated one-fifth of all combat in Afghanistan occurs in Korengal & 70% of US-NATO bombs are dropped in the area.

Addario was assigned along with writer Elizabeth Rubin to cover the area for the NY Times Magazine in 2007 at the same time British photojournalist Tim Hetherington & writer Sebastian Junger were assigned there by Vanity Fair magazine. Both teams were embedded with US troops.

The NY Times team went there originally to report the affects of massive bombing on civilians, including what Rubin referred to as “collateral damage.” (When you start talking the language of the military you might consider un-embedding your head from the Pentagon’s ass.) The article shifted from less about civilian deaths to a profile of Captain Dan Kearney, in charge of a US platoon. On a followup trip, Rubin’s video documentation primarily follows Kearney (referred to by Rubin as Dan) & his platoon as they try to take out the Taliban.

Originally, the NY Times Magazine was going to publish this photo of Khalid with Rubin’s article. But just days before publication, fact checkers at the NY Times asked for evidence the injuries were caused by bombing shrapnel. Since the story had shifted from civilian deaths to hunting the Taliban & glorifying Kearney, the photo wasn’t so relevant anymore but this was one of the few photos of civilians injured or killed by bombing. Most of Addario’s photos were of US soldiers.

Addario, Rubin, & even Captain Kearney agreed it was from shrapnel because they were present when Afghan elders brought the boy for treatment & said he was injured the previous night when the US bombed a compound where the boy lived. The NY Times instead took the word of public relations officers from the US military who said that could not be verified. Addario protested the blatant censorship to the NY Times, which did not use the photo because it does not suit the Pentagon script about the US-NATO war. (Addario doesn’t tell us much about her views on the war.)

Hetherington & Junger were also embedded with a US army company in Korengal Valley & made an industry out of their work. Combined, they’ve produced three documentaries & each a book on the experience. Their 2010 film, “Restrepo” was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary & received several other awards. A sequel by Junger (Hetherington was killed in 2011 during the US-NATO war in Libya) using Hetherington’s footage was produced in 2014. Hetherington received many awards for his work.
Like Rubin, Junger & Hetherington focused on the human experience & emotional distress of US soldiers using the film tagline, “This is what war feels like.” Some reviewers faulted the documentaries for divorcing the personal trauma of soldiers from the politics of the war. In fact, that’s baloney. Both Junger & Hetherington supported US-NATO wars in Afghanistan, Libya, & elsewhere & detested those who opposed intervention. At his death, Hetherington was feted by the Pentagon, right-wing veterans, & people like Senator John McCain.

Focusing on soldiers was their way to ennoble the US-NATO war. Ignoring the affects of fighting & bombing in Korengal Valley on Afghan civilians was an expression of colonialism, white supremacy, & pro-war ardency. Afghans were intentionally excluded in that tagline, “This is what war feels like” because to racist, colonial thinkers what Afghans feel like when they’re being bombed to smithereens is of no consequence whatsoever.

US out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq! US out of Pakistan! US out of Syria!

(Photo by Lynsey Addario)

The Jim Crow racism & segregation in American country music

What’s up with the Academy of Country Music Awards? Blacks have sung the country genre for a long time. They don’t just do gospel, blues, jazz, rap, & rock. They dominate music & not just in the US. But there isn’t a single Black person anywhere in that audience that I can see.

Alicia Keys, who is not a country singer, is on the program probably as window dressing to forestall criticism of racism & segregation in the industry. She’d be the perfect candidate for that since she refused to honor the cultural boycott of Israel after months of appeals (including a personal appeal from Alice Walker) & performed there as a flunky for apartheid.

Why isn’t Mickey Guyton, a Black country singer, on the program? She was nominated by the ACM for best new female vocalist of the year just last April. Doesn’t she make more sense than an R&B singer like Keys?

In the 21st century it’s the creepiest thing you ever saw to see an audience that looks like Jim Crow America.

We’ll do our own tribute to Black country singers. This is Guyton, a Texan, singing her hit “Better Than You Left Me.”


The commemoration of 9/11/2001: a festival of Islamophobic war-mongering

Every year since 9/11/2001, I have dreaded the patriotic, Islamophobic war-mongering that comes with commemoration of the day & grieve the anniversary next month of the invasion of Afghanistan.

That morning I was home & watched the entire thing unfold on television in utter disbelief & am not detached from the horror. Who knew then the price millions of people would pay for that pointless act of terrorism? Not just the thousands of victims & their families but the hundreds of first responders (police & firemen) who died or suffer chronic health & psychological problems as a result–& of course the people of Afghanistan & Pakistan who continue to bear the brunt of US military revenge.

The only worthy commemoration is to rebuild the international antiwar movement to end US militarism which is the root of the reactionary & violent politics of terrorism.

One of the arts of politics is knowing when to save your breath

Every once in a while one of my posts about Kashmir attracts packs of nationalists in a frenzied state to defend the honor of Modi. Rabidity (in the sense of deranged convulsions) is a word that comes to mind.

It feels a lot like being at a Donald Trump convention or at the Vampire’s Ball. But I come from a rightwing family so sometimes it reminds me of a family reunion & not in an endearing way.

There’s always those who want to take them on but as I have made abundantly clear, one of the arts of politics is knowing when to save your breath. At my age, another consideration is preserving adrenalin for the things that really matter in life. This is where the block button is like a magic wand.

If you think me intolerant & want to engage with them, just let me know & I’ll refer them to your wall. It will only take a few months of their vituperations for you to realize the wisdom of my words.

Conservative thinkers are seldom persuaded by reason so much as by political power. So the real work is supporting Kashmiri resistance & building solidarity & leaving the pissing contests to others.