When I was a teenager I went to West Berlin with my local youth orchestra to take part in an Anglo-German cultural exchange. It was 1983 and the wall was up. As we toured the city over 10 days, we would keep butting into this grotesque cold war installation blocking our way, and butting up against my 14-year-old’s defence of socialism.At that age I reflexively rejected most dominant narratives about race, class and nation. During a period of sus laws and anti-union legislation, I already understood there had to be another version of freedom out there that included me, and I was busy piecing together the fragments of my own worldview. And yet no amount of rationalisation could shake my conclusion that people whom I disagreed with about pretty much everything else were right about the wall.Clearly, built with the deliberate intention to trap people in a place they might not want to be, the wall was heinous – not just a bad idea, but morally wrong. As such, it was the most obscene symbol of the broader case against the eastern bloc. The fact their governments would not allow residents to travel to the west was prima facie evidence of their lack of freedom: they were understood to be like open prisons.Not long after the wall came down, this entire logic went into reverse. As country after country shed its Stalinist overlords and went into free-market freefall, the case for their peoples’ right to leave was eclipsed by the fear that they might actually come. In the west their “freedom” was welcomed; their presence was not. While they were demolishing the wall, we were building a fortress. Politics kept them in. For more than a decade, before they gained admission to the European Union, economics would keep them out.
Tag Archives: Human Rights
It was close to midnight on the coast of Libya, a few miles west of Tripoli. At the water’s edge, armed Libyan smugglers pumped air into thirty-foot rubber dinghies. Some three thousand refugees and migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, silent and barefoot, stood nearby in rows of ten. Oil platforms glowed in the Mediterranean.
The Libyans ordered male migrants to carry the inflated boats into the water, thirty on each side. They waded in and held the boats steady as a smuggler directed other migrants to board, packing them as tightly as possible. People in the center would suffer chemical burns if the fuel leaked and mixed with water. Those straddling the sides could easily fall into the sea. Officially, at least five thousand and ninety-eight migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, but Libya’s coastline is more than a thousand miles long, and nobody knows how many boats sink without ever being seen. Several of the migrants had written phone numbers on their clothes, so that someone could call their families if their bodies washed ashore.
The smugglers knelt in the sand and prayed, then stood up and ordered the migrants to push off. One pointed to the sky. “Look at this star!” he said. “Follow it.” Each boat left with only enough fuel to reach international waters.
In one dinghy, carrying a hundred and fifty people, a Nigerian teen-ager named Blessing started to cry. She had travelled six months to get to this point, and her face was gaunt and her ribs were showing. She wondered if God had visited her mother in dreams and shown her that she was alive. The boat hit swells and people started vomiting. By dawn, Blessing had fainted. The boat was taking on water.
Allegations that three Qataris were ‘tortured’ by UAE officials will put the UK at the centre of an inter-Arab squabble
The Metropolitan Police in London will in a few hours’ time find themselves involved in the Gulf crisis when UK lawyers for three prominent Qataris submit their evidence of alleged torture and illegal imprisonment for which they blame up to 10 senior officials of the United Arab Emirates – including a cabinet minister and a high-ranking security adviser.
Human Rights lawyer Rodney Dixon QC will hand the Met details of alleged beatings, torture and illegal imprisonment of the three Qataris, one of them close to the head of Qatar’s own State Security Service, under the terms of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act – which allows British police to investigate and arrest foreign nationals entering the UK if they are suspected of war crimes, torture or hostage-taking anywhere in the world.
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.
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.