The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
Tag Archives: Human Rights
The persecutors of Chechnya’s gay citizens now feel strong, untouchable, invincible. Their victims, who they arrest, beat and torture, are at their mercy. They are protected by many things: by the tinpot tyrants who rule a republic violently subjugated by Vladimir Putin; by the den of reactionary views that is the Moscow regime; and by the acquiescence – support even – of a society soaked in homophobic hatred.Their consciences will not trouble them. It is always comforting to imagine that those who commit atrocities against fellow human beings are sociopaths or evil. But that does not explain the great horrors of human history, from fascism to colonialism. Inhumanity is only made possible by stripping a group of its humanity. You only feel empathy, after all, for those you feel are human beings like you. That’s how human beings who in other contexts feel compassion and love and warmth can become capable of the most unspeakable horrors.
By all accounts, what’s been happening to gay men over the last few weeks in Chechnya is absolutely chilling: reports detail authorities rounding up large numbers of gay men, illegally imprisoning them, and carrying out beatings and murders. Human rights groups, from Human Rights Watch to Outright Action International, are now sounding urgent alarms, with numerous international organizations pressuring Russian officials to act while others are poised to evacuate queer citizens.
Earlier in April, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a startling report: that police in Chechnya had detained over 100 gay men and killed three in a state-sponsored anti-gay campaign. Now, human rights groups and the U.S. State Department are calling for a full investigation.
From above, these streets in Bucharest seem eager to connect. They dart towards each other, straight ahead, no windings. But less than half a kilometer farther, they end in a larger road. Separated by it, they never get to meet.
On the sidewalks and on the road, children play ball, climb fences, hide behind trees. They rollerblade and ride bikes. The boys tease the girls: “Who wants a candy bar smushed under the wheel?” The girls complain to their parents that boys won’t leave them alone. Lazy dogs watch them with the same indifference as they would strangers.
In the evening, when the outlines of buildings begin to fade, dogs and cats, adults and children, neighbors gather around plastic tables and chairs. Under the moonlight and street lights they share, as the case may be, leftovers, beer, cigarettes, games, and ideas. The street belongs to them all.
An late warm spell warmed Washington in fall 2016. Pumpkins sat squarely on porch stoops and Halloween skeletons dangled from red-tinted trees in the yards of Georgetown, an upscale neighborhood in the US capital city. John Rizzo, the former Deputy Counsel of the CIA, is spending a peaceful retirement there. Each morning, he takes care to match his socks to his polo shirt before going for a stroll down the pretty streets lined with small brick homes.Fourteen years ago, this snowy-haired dandy was part of a small group of people who, in the secrecy of their meeting point in the CIA’s headquarters, decided to legalize a new method of interrogation. These enhanced techniques were supposed to “break the resistance” of prisoners captured in the War on Terror.The decision to use these techniques in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other secret locations would forever change the face of the United States. It would open the door to the use of multiple forms of torture that would cause prisoners physical, psychological… and sexual trauma.
From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret C.I.A. program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats. In 2002, Haspel was among the C.I.A. officers present at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda suspect who was tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead.On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced that Haspel would become the C.I.A.’s new deputy director.
Remember the 1990s? Anyone who cares about human rights must now recall the era with a knot in their stomach. Compared with what’s happening today, that decade feels like a lost era of Enlightenment. Donald Trump’s installation in the White House is not just a threat to global alliances, international trade or even fact-based discussion – it risks unleashing a tsunami that could sweep away the human rights movement as it has so far existed.
I finally managed to get around to reading A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the Game of Thrones series. For those not familiar with the books, the character of Theon Greyjoy is captured and tortured, badly, by Ramsay Snow (later Ramsay Bolton).
Although the detention and torture starts in the previous books, it is in A Dance with Dragons that it takes on a completely new meaning and effect. Theon Greyjoy is tortured to such a degree, that he takes on a completely new persona, the character of Reek, one that has been entirely constructed in the mould set by his suffering:
Despite the New York Times liberal wishful thinking, Donald Trump is still in favour of waterboarding
Where does Donald Trump stand on the use of torture by US security agencies? During the presidential election campaign he notoriously recommended a return to waterboarding, the repeated near-drowning of detainees that was banned by President Obama in 2009. But last week The New York Times reported that in an interview with its senior staff, he said that he had changed his mind after talking with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, who is a leading candidate to be the next secretary of defence.
Trump quoted Gen Mattis as saying that “I’ve never found it [waterboarding] to be useful”. He had found it more advantageous to gain the cooperation of terrorist suspects by other means: “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better.” Trump recalled that he was very impressed by the answer, adding that torture is “not going to make the kind of difference that a lot of people are thinking”.