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Trudeau’s pal in Rwanda a ruthless dictator

By Yves Engler · August 25, 2017

Why is the Trudeau government supporting Africa’s most ruthless dictator?

After amending the constitution to be able to run indefinitely Paul Kagame recently won 98.63 per cent of votes in Rwanda’s presidential election. In response, Canada’s High Commissioner Sara Hradecky tweeted “Congratulations to Rwandans for voting in peaceful presidential election” and “Canada congratulates Paul Kagame on his inauguration today as President of Rwanda.” The latter tweet was picked up by the state propaganda organ New Times in a story titled “Heads of State, diplomats laud Kagame’s ‘visionary leadership’.”

If garnering 99 per cent of the vote wasn’t a clue that Kagame is a dictator, the High Commissioner could’ve taken a look at Canada’s ‘paper of record,’ whose Africa bureau chief has shined a critical light on Rwanda in recent years. At the start of 2016 The Globe and Mail reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of the regime.

“Village informers,” wrote South Africa-based Geoffrey York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

In 2014 York wrote an investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program outside of east Africa, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety while the Toronto Star revealed five individuals in Canada fearful of the regime’s killers.

On top of international assassinations and domestic repression, Kagame has unleashed mayhem in the Congo. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Rwandan proxies have repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 The Globe and Mail described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

The Rwandan government’s domestic repression and violence in the Congo is well documented. Yet I couldn’t find a single tweet or comment by Hradecky critical of Kagame since she became High Commissioner in January. Yet she found time to retweet Kagame’s International Women’s Day message that “Realizing women’s full aspirations is inextricably linked to achieving whole nation’s potential.”

Re-tweeting a tyrant’s message or applauding spurious elections are clear forms of support for the “butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes.” But, Hradecky has offered less obvious backing to the regime.

On July 4 Hradecky tweeted “From the Canadian High Commission, we wish Rwandans a Happy Liberation Day!,” which was picked up by the New Times in a story titled “Messages of solidarity as Rwanda marks Liberation Day.”

The Ugandan-sponsored Rwandan Patriotic Front officially captured Kigali on July 4, 1994. Trained at a US military base in Kansas, Kagame’s forces apparently waited to take the capital so their Liberation Day could coincide with their US backers’ Independence Day, a public relations move that continues to pay dividends as demonstrated by a July NPR story titled “In Rwanda, July 4 Isn’t Independence Day — It’s Liberation Day.”

Four years after 3,000 Ugandan troops “deserted” to invade their smaller neighbour the force of mostly exiled Tutsi took Kigali. Today, Rwanda continues to be ruled by largely English-speaking individuals who often are descended from those who had authority in a monarchy overthrown during the 1959–61 struggle against Belgian rule. The Guardian recently pointed to “the Tutsi elite who dominate politics and business” and the Economist detailed “The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s business empire” in the country.

Underpinning the “liberation” story is a highly simplistic, if not counterfactual, account of the 1994 genocide. Widely hailed as the person who ended the killings, Kagame is probably the individual most responsible for the mass slaughter. His RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda, engaged in a great deal of killing and blew up the presidential plane, an event that unleashed the genocidal violence.

As Hradecky should know, last year the Globe and Mail described two secret reports documenting Kagame’s “direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.”

Echoing Kigali’s narrative, Hradecky published a half dozen tweets (or retweets) in April commemorating the Genocide. “Canada stands with Rwanda to commemorate the victims of Genocide,” read one. Hradecky also retweeted a Government of Rwanda statement: “Today marks the beginning of the 23rd Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.”

Promoting simplistic commentary on the subject effectively strengthens a regime that derives much of its legitimacy from purportedly stopping the genocide.

From commemorating Liberation Day to applauding questionable elections, Canada’s High Commissioner has provided various forms of ideological support to Africa’s most ruthless dictator. That should embarrass everyone who wants this country to be a force for good in the world.

August 27, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How The NY Times Trashes Palestinian Society

By Barbara Erickson | TimesWarp | March 21, 2016

Once again, The New York Times has provided us with a Palestinian “slice of life,” a look at that society from within, and once again the portrait is unflattering. In recent articles the newspaper has shown us Palestinian sexism, patriarchy, prudery, violence and general backwardness. Now we get a close look at the “dysfunction of Palestinian politics.”

The latest piece by Diaa Hadid is titled “A Legislature Where Palestinian Lawmakers Go to Hide,” and it introduces us to Najat Abu Baker, a member of the defunct Palestinian parliament, who took refuge in an “all-but-abandoned legislative building” in Ramallah. She was avoiding prosecutors who had summoned her to answer charges of insulting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The building is considered a “protected space” where security forces do not enter, but it serves for little else. A few guards patrol the site, and some 120 employees show up in order to collect their paychecks, although they have little real work to do.

No doubt the system is dysfunctional, but in all her 1,200 words about the subject, Hadid never once mentions the Israeli occupation as a factor in the breakdown of Palestinian governance. Israel has arrested and currently imprisons elected members of parliament, for instance, but in her telling it is all a Palestinian problem, fed by rivalries between the Fatah and Hamas factions and nothing else.

Hadid fails to mention the occupation in other stories that depict a “slice of life” in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel proper, and these articles also present Palestinian society in a censorious light. Since the beginning of the year, she has published the following in the Times:

  • An article about nightlife in Haifa, shown as a “liberal” refuge from the backward and conservative Palestinian community. (1-3-16)
  • A story about Gaza women who ride bicycles in defiance of the sexist norms of local society. (2-23-16)
  • A piece about the killing of a Hamas fighter, allegedly for homosexual acts and theft. (3-2-16)
  • An article about a Gaza woman who was allowed to sing in public under the watchful eyes of prudish Hamas officials. (3-14-16)

The Haifa piece was the subject of comments by Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, who noted that the story lacked context. “While it’s impossible (and a bad idea) to summarize the history of Israel and Palestine in every piece of news coverage or every feature article, this article needed more political and historical information to put it in perspective,” she wrote.

But neither Hadid nor her editors took this advice to heart. In each of the following feature stories context is almost totally missing. The three Gaza articles fail to mention the eight-year blockade of the strip—a stunning omission.

The best Hadid can manage is this vague reference in the article about the Gaza singer: “In recent months, Hamas officials have been quietly loosening the reins as Gaza residents chafe under years of restrictions on their movement by neighboring Israel and Egypt. They have endured three wars in a decade, and poverty and unemployment are rampant.”

Readers are left with no real sense of Israel’s role in these successive disasters. Once again, the focus is on Palestinian shortcomings.

If they were so inclined, Times reporters could choose to write any number of positive stories underscoring Palestinian resilience, perseverance and achievements. Here are just a few:

  • Only last week Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian elementary school teacher in the occupied West Bank, won the $1 million Global Teacher Award for 2016, beating out other talented educators throughout the world with her inspired teaching of nonviolent conflict resolution.
  • Gaza fishermen have been braving the constant harassment of Israeli gunboats, the threat of arrest and live fire each time they go to sea in search of their daily catch. They continue to work even as Israeli sailors damage and confiscate their boats and equipment.
  • Herding communities in the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills cling to their land in spite of repeated demolitions and encroaching settlements. Some of them take refuge in caves after bulldozers destroy their tents and houses.
  • Authorities have demolished the Israeli Bedouin community of Al Araqib at least 95 times, but the residents keep returning to rebuild in an incredible show of determination.
  • The Nassar family has held off Israeli confiscation of their ancestral land in the West Bank for decades, drawing on international support for their community, the Tent of Nations, where they operate under the slogan, “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”

The Times has shown no interest in highlighting any of these topics, although they provide first-rate material for profiles and “slice of life” feature stories. It appears that such articles would also carry the risk of challenging the accepted narrative by exposing Israeli brutality as well as Palestinian efforts at peace-building.

Times editors and reporters can claim that they have provided sketches of Palestinian life from inside the occupied territories and in Israel proper, but they show little interest in moving beyond facile stereotypes. Robbed of context and viewed through a prejudicial lens, Palestinian society takes a beating in the Times.

Follow @TimesWarp on Twitter

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

FEMEN And The Suppression Of Native Voices

By Roqayah Chamseddine | Letters From The Underground | April 6, 2013

I loathe the premise that people of colour should be ‘grateful’ that others are taking notice of their subjugation, or that they should bite their tongues and clench their fists and instead show gratitude because their varied plights are being in some way ‘acknowledged‘ by others.

“Shouldn’t you be glad that people are recognizing these issues?” is the arrogant lamentation which customarily follows even the most cautious criticism of these perverse pseudo-solidarity actions – FEMEN’s nude predominantly white, predominantly thin photo-ops “for Amina,” a 19 year-old Tunisian woman who posed for them with the words “my body belongs to me, it is not the source of anyone’s honour” scrawled across her torso, being the latest example, and KONY2012 being an earlier one. This aforementioned response contends that we should withhold criticism, alleging that even being ‘noticed’ should be good enough.

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Despite having our religious attire, skin colour and even facial hair, being routinely mocked and worn as makeshift costumes as a part of ‘solidarity actions’ it is said time and time again that we should be ‘grateful’ that anyone simply has reason enough to ‘care.’

Despite the watered down slogans of liberation and freedom being copy-pasted by the parade of online followers of groups such as FEMEN many of these same activists are so inebriated with colonial feminist doctrine that they gleefully take part in patronizing, Islamophobic and misogynistic rhetoric in response to women of colour telling them that they take great offence, that their voices will not be usurped, that they are the sole guardians of their plights and no one has the authority to speak on their behalf, no matter how allegedly ‘well-intentioned’.

In response to FEMEN’s topless “jihad day” event Muslim women created #MuslimahPride on Twitter; Sofia Ahmed, one of the women behind “Muslimah Pride Day” described the campaign as follows:

“Muslimah [term for a female Muslim] pride is about connecting with your Muslim identity and reclaiming our collective voice. Let’s show the world that we oppose FEMEN and their use of Muslim women to reinforce Western imperialism.”

Using #MuslimahPride many Muslim women began voicing their disapproval of FEMEN, one such woman was Zarah Sultana who posted the following photograph on her public Twitter page, which I have received permission to post here, and which in turned catalyzed many other Muslim women to do the same in an array of languages, by women from multifarious backgrounds:

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The responses Sultana received were drenched in perverse Islamophobia, sexism and pure, unashamed hatred: “Fuck off back to your own country”, “burn in hell”, “grab your ankles and remain silent”, “Mohammad was a pedophile”, “put on your burka”, “she’s happy with her chains” etc.- all coming from those who, just moments earlier, were tweeting gleefully in support of Muslim women.

When it comes to non-natives speaking in regards to native issues – it is a path that must be tread upon lightly in order to avoid (a) tokenization and (b) the usurpation of native voices. Solidarity is great, but it is when campaigns turned publicity stunts like the ones FEMEN indulges in begin using brown bodies as props while at the same time perpetuating orientalism and engaging in blatant prejudicial acts to promote their idea of ‘liberation’ does this become more a theft of native voices than a rallying cry for ‘freedom’. FEMEN, and other such groups, offer no solution to the undeniable subjugated of women present in the Middle East-North Africa, it is all a show of thin, white grandeur.

Simply stating that you are in solidarity, that you support a woman’s right to don the headscarf, remove it, cover/uncover etc. is in no way dubious. It is when aforementioned solidarity crosses the red line and veers into the seizure of native voices and the tokenization of these voices does this become intensely problematic, ineffective and perverse.

Also it has long been chronicled that women of colour are often left out of mainstream feminist discourse, unless it is by means of humanitarian imperialism channels where they are simply tokenised. Bell Hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins), a feminist, social activist, does a magnificent job describing this in much of her work.

In terms of the mounting questions in regards to how one is to raise awareness in light of such groups as FEMEN: you raise awareness by highlighting native voices, not co-opting them. It is your duty to amplify, not commandeer.

As Sara Salem, PhD researcher at the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, notes:

“Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic. By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, Femen is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion, while no mention is made of capitalism, racism, or global imperialism. It is actively promoting the idea that Muslim women are suffering from “false consciousness” because they cannot see (while Femen can see) that the veil and religion are intrinsically harmful to all women.

Yet again, the lives of Muslim women are to be judged by European feminists, who yet again have decided that Islam – and the veil – are key components of patriarchy. Where do women who disagree with this fit? Where is the space for a plurality of voices? And the most important question of all: can feminism survive unless it sheds its Eurocentric bias and starts accepting that the experiences of all women should be seen as legitimate?”

Post-Colonial feminists worth mentioning, a few of many:

Arundhati Roy
Gloria Anzaldúa
Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Audre Lorde
June Jordan

Responses to FEMEN by women of colour, others:

The Inconsistency of Femen’s Imperialist “one size fits all” AttitudeBim Adewunmi
Femen’s Neocolonial Feminism: When Nudity Becomes A Uniform – Sara Salem
The Fast-Food Feminism of the Topless FEMEN – Mona Chollet
That’s Not What A Feminist Looks Like – Elly Badcock
The African History of Nude Protest – Maryam Kazeem

My piece on rediscovering Feminism

Suggested reading:
“Is Western Patriarchal Feminism Good For Third World/Minority Women?” By Azizah Al-Hibri

“Women and Gender in Islam” by Leila Ahmed

And two relevant books by Edward Saïd:
Culture and Imperialism
Orientalism

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Off the Mark With Femen

“Muslim Women Let’s Get Topless!”

By BINOY KAMPMARK | CounterPunch | September 21, 2012

If you are interested [in registering], it’s not complicated.  You just have to take off your t-shirt. – Eloise, Femen co-ordinator in France, September 19, 2012

The founding of the militant anti-prostitution outfit Femen had, and still does have, a genuine basis of protest.  Exploitative sex-tourism in the Ukraine is something women and men would understandably take a strong stand against, and local resistance has been scanty (no pun intended). Ditto numerous countries where sexual slavery has found itself growing on the coat tails of globalisation and corrupt governments.  But as has been noted by commentators in, for want of a better term “industrialised” countries, rarely does the conversation move beyond the shock photo stunts the group wishes to disseminate.  In other words, the conversation becomes less a matter of revolution than a sense of whether one’s sets of breasts are better than another’s.  When the message of protest gets mired in tactics rather than aims, it’s bound to get lost in the hubbub.

The attempt by Femen to project a more European-broad protest – bare-breasted, of course – has been announced, with the ladies of the group taking their tops off in various European capitals.  So far the group have lacked a “base” to launch their indignation.  Paris has been greeted with the Femen flavour, and the website of Femen France features “Nudité, Lutte and Liberté” in the tricolour scheme, all against a backdrop of taut, curvy flesh.  Products can be purchased as well – the Femen Handbag, the Femen Hoody, and an assortment of shirts such as “F’Kamikaze.”  The latter is surely ironic – a topless women’s outfit that makes money selling tops.  Themes of protest do move in mysterious ways.

Paris is now the base for the first ‘training centre’ which will school feminist recruits on the art of dodging security forces.  In the words of one of the outfit’s more notorious figures, Inna Shevchenko, “We’re opening the first international training centre for feminists… who want to transform themselves into soldiers” (Spiegel Online, Sep 19).  To celebrate the occasion, the protestors marched through a largely Muslim neighbourhood in the 18th arrondissement. “Muslim women, let’s get naked.”

Mindful of her audience, Shevchenko makes sure that the press know her intellectual interests.  She is re-reading August Bebel’s Women Under Socialism (1883).  “Women, in the new society will enjoy total independence; […] she will be placed, in relation to man, in a position of total freedom and equality.”  She has no desire to return to unequal Kiev yet, not after she was filmed chain sawing an Orthodox Cross in the city in support of her sisters in Pussy Riot.

London has been witness to the topless protests taking a stance against Sharia law and the participation of various “bloody” Islamic states in the Olympics.  A hotchpotch medley of rationales were thrown in by Reza Moradi, who did not name any of those offending states in a protest in August.  “The Olympic Committee must not have allowed those governments to be represented in the Olympics.  They are fascists of our time, they treat women like third-class citizens” (Telegraph, Aug 2).

While much of what Moradi is lamenting is relevant, the institutional framework of the Olympics has been historically favourable to “bloody” states, not all of them necessarily Islamic. Oppression, not just of gender, is a spreadable commodity, and there is much of it about.

Femen also made a splash of sorts at the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and the Ukraine, where they targeted prostitution in host cities.  A notable effort was made by Yana Zhdanova in Lviv to snatch the Euro 2012 championship cup, left tantalizingly on display.  Femen activist Oleksandra Shevchenko offered an explanation for the foiled action.  “We needed to tear down this trophy to show that this phallic symbol does not need to stand on a pedestal, when our country is being turned into a brothel.  UEFA have arranged this with our politicians in order to win back the money that has been put into Euro 2012” (Telegraph, May 24).

Parisian booby marches certainly garner attention, but of a different sort. It doesn’t necessarily consider issues specific to various groups of women in different countries.  Femen risk looking like a noisy university protest group, a tried and tired form of student radicalism that does, at some point, have to find a political agenda.  As Joseph Bamat notes, writing for France 24 (Sep 19), “Most feminists in France do not feel politically persecuted or oppressed, and tend to focus on more specific problems, such as domestic abuse and equal pay for equal work.”  Bamat further speculates that French feminists will retort that “we didn’t have to show our bums to win the right to vote or to abort”.

Sex is a tricky and volatile business, and Femen has taken the slippery line.  The coin of oppression and liberation is often one and the same thing.  Femen might see their Islamic sisters as enslaved, while many of them most certainly will not.  The view is bound to not only be contrary in some circles but dismissed as smutty claptrap, the fantastic yearnings of a pop feminism.

Then, there will be opposition of a different sort.  The counter to the bare breast heroines of Femen come from the French prostitutes’ union STRASS, who have been demanding a legalisation of prostitution for some time.  When a law was being considered in April 2011 to fine and jail sex clients, members of the organisation went apoplectic.  The order of battle has been made, and its bound to be vicious.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

September 21, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment