To all those in the United States currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice.
Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call ?The Arab Spring? has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in yearslong struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a System that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.
An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organizations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the ?free market? pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the South found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
The current crisis in America and Western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austeritystate now even attack the private realm and people’s right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosedupon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets. Continue reading “Letter of solidarity to Occupy Wall Street, from Tahrir”
21 October 2011 ??The Greanville Post ? Qaddafi, From Beginning to End
NATO?s Agenda for?Libya
On the dusty reaches out of Sirte, a convoy flees a battlefield. A NATO aircraft fires and strikes the cars. The wounded struggle to escape. Armed trucks, with armed fighters, rush to the scene. They find the injured, and among them is the most significant prize: a bloodied Muammar Qaddafi stumbles, is captured, and then is thrown amongst the fighters. One can imagine their exhilaration. A cell-phone traces the events of the next few minutes. A badly injured Qaddafi is pushed around, thrown on a car, and then the video gets blurry. The next images are of a dead Qaddafi. He has a bullet hole on the side of his head.
These images go onto youtube almost instantly. They are on television, and in the newspapers. It will be impossible not to see them.
The Third Geneva Convention (article 13): ?Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.?
The Fourth Geneva Convention (article 27): ?Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.?
One of the important ideological elements during the early days of the war in Libya was the framing of the arrest warrant for Qaddafi and his clique by the International Criminal Court?s selectively zealous chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. It was enough to have press reports of excessive violence for Moreno Ocampo and Ban Ki-Moon to use the language of genocide; no independent, forensic evaluation of the evidence was necessary. [Actually, independent evaluation was soon forthcoming from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, decisively debunking Ocampo?s charges. AC/JSC.]
NATO sanctimoniously said that it would help the ICC prosecute the warrant (this despite the fact that the United States, NATO?s powerhouse, is not a member of the ICC). This remark was echoed by the National Transitional Council, NATO?s? political instrument in Benghazi.
Humanitarian intervention was justified on the basis of potential or alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions. The intervention?s finale is? a violation of those very Conventions.
It would? have been inconvenient to see Qaddafi in open court. He had long abandoned his revolutionary heritage (1969-1988), and had given himself over to the U. S.-led War on Terror at least since 2003 (but in fact since the late 1990s). Qaddafi?s prisons had been an important torture center in the archipelago of black sites utilized by the CIA, European intelligence and the Egyptian security state. What stories Qaddafi might have told if he were allowed to speak in open court? What stories Saddam Hussein might have told had he too been allowed to speak in an open court? As it happens, Hussein at least entered a courtroom, even as it was more kangaroo than judicial.
No such courtroom for Qaddafi. As Naeem Mohaiemen put it, ?Dead men tell no tales. They cannot stand trial. They cannot name the people who helped them stay in power. All secrets die with them.
Qaddafi is dead. As the euphoria dies down, it might be important to recall that we are dealing with at least two Qaddafis. The first Qaddafi overthrew a lazy and corrupt monarchy in 1969, and proceeded to transform Libya along a fairly straightforward national development path. There were idiosyncrasies, such as Qaddafi?s ideas about democracy that never really produced institutions of any value. Qaddafi had the unique ability to centralize power in the name of de-centralization. Nevertheless, in the national liberation Qaddafi certainly turned over large sections of the national surplus to improve the well-being of the Libyan people. It is because of two decades of such policies that the Libyan people entered the 21st century with high human development indicators. Oil helped, but there are oil nations (such as Nigeria) where the people languish in terms of their access to social goods and to social development.
By 1988, the first Qaddafi morphed into the second Qaddafi, who set aside his anti-imperialism for collaboration with imperialism, and who dismissed the national development path for neo-liberal privatization (I tell this story in Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, which will be published by AK Press in the Spring of 2012). This second Qaddafi squandered the pursuit of well-being, and so took away the one aspect of his governance that the people supported. From the 1990s onward, Qaddafi?s regime offered the masses the illusion of social wealth and the illusion of democracy. They wanted more, and that is the reason for the long process of unrest that begins in the early 1990s (alongside the Algerian Civil War), comes to a head in 1995-96 and then again in 2006. It has been a long slog for the various rebellious elements to find themselves.
The new leadership of Tripoli was incubated inside the Qaddafi regime. His son, Saif al-Islam was the chief neoliberal reformer, and he surrounded himself with people who wanted to turn Libya into a larger Dubai. They went to work around 2006, but were disillusioned by the rate of progress, and many (including Mahmud Jibril, the current Prime Minister) had threatened to resign on several occasions. When an insurengy began in Benghazi, this clique hastened to join them, and by March had taken hold of the leadership of the rebellion. It remains in their hands.
What is being celebrated on the streets of Benghazi, Tripoli and the other cities? Certainly there is jubilation at the removal from power of the Qaddafi of 1988-2011. It is in the interests of NATO and Jibril?s clique to ensure that in this auto-da-f? the national liberation anti-imperialist of 1969-1988 is liquidated, and that the neoliberal era is forgotten, to be reborn anew as if not tried before. That is going to be the trick: to navigate between the joy of large sections of the population who want to have a say in their society (which Qaddafi blocked, and Jibril would like to canalize) and a small section that wants to pursue the neoliberal agenda (which Qaddafi tried to facilitate but could not do so over the objections of his ?men of the tent?). The new Libya will be born in the gap between the two interpretations.
The manner of Qaddafi?s death is a synecdoche for the entire war. NATO?s bombs stopped the convoy, and without them Qaddafi would probably have fled to his next redoubt. The rebellion might have succeeded without NATO. But with NATO, certain political options had to be foreclosed; NATO?s member states are in line now to claim their reward. However, they are too polite in a liberal European way to actually state their claim publically in a quid-pro-quo fashion. Hence, they say things like: this is a Libyan war, and that Libya must decide what it must do. This is properly the space into which those sections in the new Libyan power structure that still value sovereignty must assert themselves. The window for that assertion is going to close soon, as the deals get inked that lock Libya?s resources and autonomy into the agenda of the NATO states.
VIJAY PRASHAD?is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His most recent book,?The Darker Nations: A People?s History of the Third World,?won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. The Swedish and French editions are just out. He can be reached at:?firstname.lastname@example.org
An extraordinary artist, Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, activist, and social entrepreneur who uses his art to chronicle the social and artistic struggles.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam?s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organisations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam?s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts that are at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.
Supported by the Bengal Foundation and published by Skira Editore there will be a short film and brief talks by the author, editor and sponsor accompanied by a book signing.
Date and Venue:
5.30 – 7.30pm Monday 10th October 2011
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill
30 Portman Square,
London, W1H 7BH
Due to limited numbers please RSVP by Thursday 6th October RSVP email@example.com
Drik Day 24 september
On the 4th Septeber 1989, something remarkable happened in Bangladesh. Please join us as Drik joyously celebrates 22 years of distinctive creativity
Saturday, 24 September 2011
6.00 pm?Welcome Dr. Shahidul Alam
6.10 pm?Memories 2010-2011
6.20 pm?Golam Kasem Daddy Memorial Lecture III?by Catherine Masud
7.00 pm?Photo exhibition by Drik?s staff photographers: Mahabub Alam Khan, Saikat Mojumder and Wahid Adnan
Opening by Guest of Honour?Frederiek Biemans, World Press Photo
Photo Exhibition:?25-30 September, 2011, 3 pm-8 pm
Golam Kasem Daddy Memorial Lecture::?Drik Rooftop
Photo Exhibition:?Drik Gallery 1 (first ?oor)?House 58, Road 15 A (New)?Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209
Lookout for the newly launched Drik website
For those of you who cannot come to the book launch of “My journey as a witness” watch it live at Drik TV
Eid at Shaheed Minar
by rahnuma ahmed
We’d mourned deaths from road accidents at central Shaheed Minar earlier as well.
When we rallied in support of Viqarunnisa students protesting against school rape, we had risen to grieve for 39 people killed, including 38 schoolboys, in the Mirsarai road accident on July 11, four days ago.
Since then, road deaths, according to some, have risen and reached `epidemic’ proportions. The country’s roads are `death traps.’ `Mass killings’, `serial killings’ are how others describe it.
Public anger at spiralling road fatalities has been fuelled by the visible lack of regret and remorse by Abul Hossain, the communications minister, by the prime minister rushing to his defense, reiterating that no, the cabinet would not be reshuffled, `all the ministers are working hard to carry out their responsibilities’ (The Daily Star, August 26, 2011).
And, all this has taken place after August 13th, when Tareque Masud, internationally acclaimed filmmaker, Mishuk Munier, journalist and CEO of the private TV channel ATN News, and 3 others were killed in a road accident in Manikganj.
Continue reading “Simmering discontent”
Internationally renowned Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist Dr Shahidul Alam will lead a free public discussion next week, hosted by The University of Queensland?s Centre of Communication and Social Change, School of Journalism and Communication.
Dr Alam will discuss the role of ?the visual? in communication for social change at the James Birrell Room of the UQ Staff Club on Tuesday August 23 at 5.30pm.
Award ceremony Invitation card
Learning Rights to Make a Difference
Human Rights Training for Journalists in Bangladesh
Drik and INTERNEWS network request the pleasure of your company at the Awards Ceremony of ?Learning Rights to Make a Difference? a human rights training for journalists in Bangladesh on Thursday 11 August, 2011 at 5:00 pm at Drik Gallery, Dhaka.
Participating organisations:?Daily Shokaler Khobor,?Daily Sun,?Prothom Alo,?The Independent,?Independent Television,Diganta Television,?Odhikar,?New Age,?The New Nation,?The Daily Ittefaq,?Dhaka Courier,?UNB,?BLAST,?Daily Inquilab,ASK,?Boishakhi TV, BNHRC
The event will be live-streamed on Drik TV
Dr. Mizanur Rahman
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh
Guest of Honour
Mr. Nurul Kabir
Editor, New Age
Selected work of the 17 mainstream journalists who participated in the human rights training course will be presented at this event.
Drik Gallery, Dhaka ? 11 August 2011 ? Thursday
5:00 pm (GMT +6): Audiovisual Documentation of ?Learning Rights to Make a Difference?
5:05 pm: Welcome by Shahidul Alam
5:15 pm: Presentation of Electronic Report
5:20 pm: Speech by participant (electronic)
5:25 pm: Speech by participant (print)
5:30 pm: Speech by participant (photography)
5:35 pm: Speech by Guest of Honour
5:45 pm: Speech by Chief Guest
5:55 pm: Awards Presentation
6:20 pm: Vote of Thanks by Shahidul Alam
Journalists play an important role as both, providers of information to the public and as a resource for human rights defenders demanding accountability amongst all those who wield power in the public and private domain. Shahidul Alam, Managing Director of Drik at the opening address of the training course said, ?With Bangladesh gaining geopolitical importance, many forces are at play and human rights violations have dramatically escalated with perpetrators operating with impunity. Trained journalists will play a vital role in challenging the abuse of power.?
Journalists? right to information and the right to report are the lifeblood of their profession. However, reporting on human rights issues that plague any country is a formidable task for many. The journalists often come under threats and unwarranted arrests leading to abuse by the very authorities that have been elected to provide and protect their human rights.
Drik as a premier visual media communication provider and an organisation committed to social justice, has always aspired to make Bangladesh a country where people can exercise their right to express dissent peacefully, where information will flow freely and where knowledge and skills needed for individuals to attain their full potential are made available.
The Learning Rights to Make a Difference, human rights training was thus formulated in partnership with Internews Network to train Bangladeshi journalists to learn new skills and examine in depth the special role accurate, fair and professional reporting and analysis play, in upholding human rights and supporting the peaceful resistance to human rights abuses.
The first part of the course from 19-21 July was instructional which used creative, interactive teaching methods, including presentations and discussion by guest lecturers and exchanges with human rights defenders, activists as well as victims. During the second part of the programme the participants were assigned to report on human rights issues under the supervision of trainers and mentors. The final part of the training was a review programme on 8-9 August where the assignments were openly evaluated by the trainers, mentors and the participants themselves.
It is expected that the training will help the journalists contribute towards greater transparency and accountability leading to a more participatory democracy where rights of all citizens are respected.
By Salil Tripathi
Does the controversial book about Bangladesh?s war of liberation uncover new truths, or simply reverse old biases?
It is an article of faith in Bangladesh that three million people died in its war of independence in 1971. At that time, the population of the former East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh) was about 70 million people, which means nearly 4% of the population died in the war. The killings took place between 25 March, when Pakistani forces launched?Operation Searchlight, and mid-December, when Dhaka fell to the invading Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini forces (who was aiding whom depends on which narrative you read? India?s or Bangladesh?s). As per Bangladesh?s understanding of its history, the nation was a victim of genocide. Killing three million people over 267 days amounts to nearly 11,000 deaths a day. That would make it one of the most lethal conflicts of all time.
One of the most brutal conflicts in recent years has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the International Rescue Committee reported that 5.4 million people died between 1998 and 2008. A more thorough Canadian analysis now concludes that the actual figure is about half. At 5.4 million deaths, the daily death toll would be around 1,500; at 2.7 million, around 750. Was the 1971 war up to 15 times more lethal than the Congolese conflict?
A history of violence: A scene from the bloody conflicts of the 1971 Bangladesh war. Photo: Getty Images
It is an uncomfortable question. Many Bangladeshis feel that raising such a doubt undermines their suffering and belittles their identity. But a thorough, unbiased study, going as far as facts can take the analysis, would be an important contribution to our understanding of the subcontinent?s recent history.
Continue reading “Subcontinental drift”
But, will the people forgive the President..?
By rahnuma ahmed
The president has granted clemency to AHM Biplob, son of Laxmipur ruling party leader Abu Taher, a death row inmate, convicted of kidnapping and murdering advocate Nurul Islam on September 18, 2000, who was then organising secretary of Laxmipur BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party).
But will the people forgive the President? This is the question that grips politicians, lawyers, intellectuals and activists as they discuss and debate, that arouses common people’s passions as they argue and pass judgment, even those who are opposed to the death penalty in principle, as I am. The ruling party’s electoral pledge to establish the rule of law now rings hollow. Absolutely. Finally.
Since July 14, when presidential clemency was granted to Biplob.
Ruling party leaders insist that president Zillur Rahman has acted in accordance with his constitutional powers. Part IV, section 49 says, “The President shall have [the] power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.”
But surely presidential pardons must necessarily be exercised with discretion? With caution? Only in cases where there is reasonable ground to assume that a miscarriage of justice has occurred? To prevent it from happening?
That, however, is not the case. The truth can no longer be hidden. It has been exposed as it was bound to, revealing the corrupt arrogance of ruling party talking heads who prove yet again to be blind to the absolute misery of common people devastated ever more by killings. By senseless road accidents.? By sexual assaults,?rapes, mob attacks leading to deaths. By extra-judicial killings.
Continue reading “PRESIDENTIAL CLEMENCY”