Beyond International Women’s Day, Honoring Women Who Defend Land and Human Rights

Photo credit (above): Women of Green; Featured image (background): People gather to form a woman symbol to celebrate International Women’s Day at Manila’s Rizal Park on March 8, 2014. (Photo: AFP/Jay Directo)

Women around the world stand at the forefront of rising movements to defend and protect the health of water, land, air and diverse communities. While we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, it is vital to honor the women defenders who, with incredible courage and effort, are taking on corporations and governments to say “no” to resource extraction and the continued violation of human rights, women’s rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and front-line communities. Through their work, these women act so that the generations to come may yet stand a chance of inheriting a sustainable and livable planet.

With increased frequency however, many of the women and men who advocate daily in defense of a just world are being systematically criminalized, attacked and murdered with impunity. According to 2016 reports by Global Witness, 2015 was the most dangerous year on record for land defenders, with at least three people per week killed for nonviolent opposition to mining and fossil fuel projects, agribusiness, hydroelectric dams, logging and other extractive industries.

Indigenous peoples defending ancestral territories represent upward of 40 percent of those killed. Women, and indigenous women in particular, face even greater challenges and dangers as they navigate the brutal intersection of environmental devastation, cultural dislocation and sexual violence and gender-based persecution.

Tragedies such as the 2016 murder of Honduran activist Berta Caceres indicate the acceleration of these trends, which have prompted United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz to warn of an “epidemic” of murder of Earth defenders. The violation of women’s rights and land defenders speaks in a profound way to the derangement of our times, and to the dangerous worldviews of domination and exploitation, which sit at the root of both degradation of Earth’s natural systems, and violence against women of the world.

Despite experiencing the impacts of environmental harms with disproportionate severity, women are rising in diverse manifestations to demonstrate that they hold the knowledge, skills and heartfelt passion needed not only to protect their homelands, but also to build substantial and creative solutions needed to avert the worst impacts of environmental destruction and the climate crisis.

In this context, standing in solidarity with women defenders is critical — to uphold fundamental human rights, to protect front-line communities and to ensure sustainability on Earth. Front-line women can also be supported by demanding governments and corporate actors comply with indigenous rights and sovereignty, issues which often lie at the root of violations.

On International Women’s Day, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network shared the stories of just a few of the world’s countless women human rights and Earth defenders, and raises the call to visibilize, support and honor all frontline women defenders for their fierce dedication and unrelenting voice and action for justice.

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Click the image above to see the full sized image and read the name of the featured frontline woman.

Melania Chiponda, Zimbabwe
After bearing witness to violence and sexual abuse of women by security and military forces attempting to suppress local opposition to mining, Melania Chiponda of Marange, Zimbabwe began advocating as a woman defender, working independently and with WoMin. For many years, Melania has been speaking out against actions by the diamond mining industry to forcibly break the connection between women and their ancestral lands. For her work to protect indigenous women’s land rights and stop land grabbing and militarization of mining regions, Melania has been arrested, detained and threatened many times. She commented recently as part of the #DefendHer campaign.

“If you take away land from women in the rural areas, you take away their livelihoods; you take away the very thing that they identify with. Then we fight. Because we have nothing else to lose.”

Josephine Pagalan, Philippines
In the Philippines, Manobo indigenous woman leader Josephine Pagalan is fighting to protect her people’s ancestral lands from mining and logging operations. Following the murder of several of her colleagues, Josephine was forced to leave her community to seek safety in the city, fearing that impunity in her remote village would lead to her own death. Despite harassment, Josephine continues representing the public face of the many indigenous Lumad women who are on the front lines demonstrating, documenting human rights abuses and filing legal suits in opposition to the militarization, violation of community rights and environmental devastation taking place across their homelands.

Josephine explained to Womens E-News, “We want the government to be made accountable for the human rights violations and attacks. Mining companies promised too many things in the past but they did not deliver. We don’t want to give up our land because money can be consumed but land will not perish.”

Ana Mirian Romero, Honduras
In Honduras, Ana Mirian Romero, leader of the Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz and San Isidro Labrador Indigenous Council, is standing for land rights for the region’s indigenous peoples, working most recently in opposition to the Los Encinos hydroelectric dam, a project which never received free, prior and informed consent, as required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Repeatedly since 2014, Ana Mirian has been subject to harassment, death threats, raids, beatings by police while pregnant, arson attacks and gunmen outside her home. In 2016, while being awarded the Front Line Defenders Award for outstanding contribution to the protection of human and land rights despite the immense personal risk endured, she explained, “We defend the river, the forests and the pure air that we breathe. That is all we want — land, air and water that is not contaminated by the dams. We are persecuted and threatened for this, but we do it for our children’s future.”

LaDonna BraveBull Allard and Joy Braun, North Dakota, United States
Joy Braun (Cheyenne River Sioux Peoples) and LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (Standing Rock Sioux Peoples) are two of the extraordinary indigenous women defenders of the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline resistance movement, both taking action to protect water and life since the first day of the encampments. For many months, both women and their families have been exposed to violence, militarized police forces, raids and surveillance.

Joy Braun works in the region of North Dakota where rampant fracking (which would supply the Dakota Access Pipeline if it becomes operational) has been taking a devastating toll on the health and safety of indigenous women for many years.

LaDonna’s home, and the grave of her son, overlook the Missouri River at the point of Dakota Access Pipeline crossing. During a fall 2016 interview she pronounced:

“First and foremost we are water protectors, we are women who stand because the water is female, and so we must stand with the water. If we are to live as a people, we must have water, without water we die. So everything we do as we stand here, we must make sure that we do it in prayer, and that we do it in civil disobedience. We do it with goodness and kindness in our hearts, but we stand up. We will not let them pass. We stand. Because we must protect our children and our grandchildren.”

When women land and water protectors are harmed we must speak out and take action to resist and repudiate these abuses, and acknowledge that these women put their bodies on the line for the survival of all of us. Though the challenges and dangers faced are dire, we cannot help but remember the proverb which says: “They tried to bury us, they forgot that we are seeds.”

For each woman persecuted for her courageous defense of people and planet — let 100 more rise to build the world we seek.

Source: On International Women’s Day, Honoring Women Who Defend Land and Human Rights -By Osprey Orielle Lake and Emily Arasim | Moyers & Company


Osprey Orielle Lake is the founder and executive director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and serves as Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Follow WECAN International on Twitter: @WECAN_INTL.

Emily Arasim is an avid photojournalist, writer, seed saver and farmer from New Mexico. She has served as WECAN International‘s communications coordinator and project assistant since 2014.

Fault Lines – The Economic, Racial, & Social Inequality That Persist in South Africa

All photography by Johnny Miller.

In Makause, a sprawling settlement of overcrowded shacks built on an abandoned gold mine, some 30,000 residents face the leafy streets and gracious homes of Primrose, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg. Separated only by a narrow highway, the two neighborhoods offer a stark reminder that, 22 years after apartheid was abolished, South Africa is still defined by massive inequality and stark segregation.

This is where apartheid was born. When British financier Barney Barnato arrived in Johannesburg, not long after miners struck gold there in 1886, it was little more than a tent city, with a single hotel and a handful of saloons. The following year, Barnato founded his first mine just outside the settlement, and named it after his daughter, Primrose. The city’s fault lines were quickly established: Black Africans lived in cramped barracks, set apart from affluent whites.

Today, the residents of Makause live sardined in small shacks constructed from corrugated tin, scrap metal, and wooden planks. The ground is contaminated with toxic chemicals. Water was not available until 2008, when two pumps were installed. Fires are common. One, in 2012, destroyed 18 homes before fire trucks lingering across the street in Primrose finally arrived.

Photographer Johnny Miller moved to South Africa that year and set out to chronicle the country’s segregation from the skies. “Drones have an incredible ability to transform how we see the world,” he says. “There is an electricity in the air in South Africa right now, a nervous tension. People are tired of relying on platitudes and promises from 22 years ago. They want to see change.”

A sprawling settlement borders the Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course in Durban.

The settlement of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay has few toilets and no sewage system for its more than 15,000 residents. The shacks are just a stone’s throw from sprawling homes.

Leafy trees and swimming pools in the middle-class suburb of Bloubosrand border the Kya Sands settlement in Johannesburg.

The Killarney industrial park borders Dunoon, an informal settlement on the northern outskirts of Cape Town.

Source: South Africa’s Fault Lines | New Republic


Johnny Miller is a freelance documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow on Twitter @UnequalScenes

The Case of Théo L. and The Toxic Legacy of Police Brutality in French Suburbs

A rally in Paris against police violence when they arrested a young man called Theo in early February. (Photo: AFP / Irina Kalashnikova); Featured imaged: The Observers via FRANCE 24. 

A horrific case of alleged rape by police officers has once again highlighted the culture of abuse and impunity that has driven a wedge between law enforcement and youths in France’s deprived suburbs.

Alexandre T. was enjoying some late drinks with his friends when a police car rolled up outside their estate, one of the huge – and often bleak – housing blocks that have turned parts of Paris’s northern banlieues (suburbs) into giant dormitories. When the inebriated young man reportedly insulted the officers, he was bundled into their car and driven to the local police station. Shortly after, he landed in hospital with a 1.5-centimetre-deep anal perforation caused by an expandable police baton. His blood was found on his clothes and in the car. The tip of the police baton bore traces of his DNA.

Sixteen months later, the 28-year-old man told a court in Bobigny, northeast of the French capital, that he was still bleeding from the wound, had trouble sleeping, and had lost his job as a result. The public prosecutor asked for the officer who wielded the baton to be given a six-month suspended jail term, charging him with “aggravated assault”. He dismissed calls for rape charges, arguing that the incident had a “sexual connotation” but not a “sexual character”. The nuance was rejected by the court, which ruled on February 20 that the policeman should indeed face “criminal proceedings” for rape.

Welcoming the ruling, the victim’s lawyer Marie-Cécile Nathan said the prosecutor had been “wrong” to reject rape charges. She suggested the initial leniency was indicative of a wider tendency to hand out “disproportionate sanctions” when dealing with police violence. “Abusive police officers do get punished,” she told FRANCE 24. “The problem is that the punishment hardly ever reflects the gravity of the offence.”

Théo’s Ordeal
Alexandre’s case had gone largely unnoticed, until a similar incident involving a black man in the nearby town of Aulnay-sous-Bois cast a spotlight on the festering issue of police violence in some of France’s most deprived suburbs, blighted by poverty, unemployment and a dearth of public services. The brutal encounter, on February 2, between a police patrol and the young man, known as Théo L., left the 22-year-old with such severe wounds to the rectum that he required major emergency surgery and was declared incapacitated for 60 days. The incident, part of which was caught on CCTV, sparked outrage and protests – some of them violent – in suburbs across France.

Théo’s ordeal stemmed from a routine ID check, a fraught issue in France’s economically poor and immigrant-rich suburbs, where men of African and North African origin have long complained about being routinely stopped and searched simply because of the colour of their skin. A study conducted by France’s National Centre for Scientific Research has shown that blacks are 11.5 times more likely to be checked by police than whites, and those of Arab origin are 7 times more likely. In a landmark case last November, France’s highest court ruled for the first time that police had illegally stopped three men based on racial profiling, setting more specific rules to ensure ID checks are not discriminatory.

Activists say the identity checks frequently bear a sexual component, ranging from heavy-handed frisking to extreme – and much rarer – cases such as Théo’s. On three occasions since 1999, the French state has been found guilty of police sex abuse by the European Court of Human Rights. The abuse included anal rape with a baton, a fractured testicle, and an attempt to force oral sex. In each case the victim was a man of North African origin.

Ceremony of Degradation
“Some officers do their job extremely conscientiously, but others behave like thugs,” said Omer Mas Capitolin, a community worker in Paris who helps youths victimised by police. While he conceded that cases like Theo’s and Alexandre’s were rare, Capitolin argued that abuse of a sexual nature was “frequent, even regular”. He pointed to groping and repeated homophobic taunts as part of a “ceremony of degradation” designed to assert the police’s domination, with devastating consequences for youths’ physical and psychological integrity.

“It’s perfectly normal for police officers to pat down individuals they deem suspicious,” he told FRANCE 24. “But it’s not normal for the procedure to include stroking their testicles, passing a finger between their buttocks, or staring at their privates. Remember we’re talking about kids here. They might be as tall as adults, but they’re not mature. They’re uncomfortable with nudity. Some may also be unsure about their sexuality.”

While the abuse is generally aimed at visible minorities, Capitolin said white youths can also be targeted if they come from the “wrong” neighbourhood or stick to the “wrong” crowd. “Some officers might ask them why they ‘hang around with bamboulas [a racist slur to refer to a black man]’, or say, ‘watch out, you might turn into a monkey’,” he said. When a police union representative argued on national television that using the term bamboula was “just about acceptable”, days after Théo’s assault, critics saw this as evidence of widespread tolerance of racism within the police.

When Outrage Stifles Outrage
Capitolin said many cases of abuse go unreported because victims fear they will be exposed to taunts in their neighbourhoods. “They dread being ‘the one who shows his arse to cops’ or ‘who got a baton up his bum’,” he said. “Besides, who are they supposed to report abuses to? The police? And then end up with an outrage and a conviction?” he added, referring to a “contempt of cop” rule, known as outrage à agent public, that allows for the arrest and prosecution of individuals deemed disrespectful of public authority.

Rights groups working in the banlieues have expressed fears that Théo’s ordeal will ultimately go unpunished, their suspicions heightened by a police inquiry that suggested the 10-centimetre-deep anal penetration had been “accidental”.  Months earlier, the muddled investigation into the death in police custody of another black youth, 24-year-old Adama Traoré, had already amplified the feeling that the justice system cannot be trusted to protect minority youths and punish abusive officers.

Both cases have stoked fears of a repeat of the huge riots that followed the 2005 deaths of teenagers Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré (no relation to Adama), who were electrocuted in a power station while hiding from police in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. The officers in pursuit, who left the scene when a phone call would have sufficed to cut the voltage and save the two boys, were cleared of wrongdoing.

“Théo and Adama remind us of why Zyed and Bouna were running,” says this poster, referring to the teenagers’ death while running away from police in 2005. (Photo: Florence Richard)

Sophie Body-Gendrot, a researcher at the Centre for Sociological Studies on Penal Institutions (CESDIP) who has written extensively about the 2005 riots and policing the suburbs, said the odds tended to be stacked in favour of the police when disputes made it to court. “It is hard to catch officers at fault, and their accounts are smoothened by lawyers and their hierarchy,” she told FRANCE 24. “In contrast, minority youths are generally reluctant to speak to institutions they don’t trust. And when they do come out, they are often intimidated, confused and incoherent.”

Them and Us
A member of the National Police Complaints Authority for five years, Body-Gendrot said the “rotten apples” on display in the worst cases of abuse were not representative of the institution as a whole. “Most officers are very professional,” she noted, adding that the antagonism with youths in sensitive suburbs meant police patrols were “constantly being targeted and provoked”.

With France’s security forces under exceptional stress due to the threat of terrorism, police unions have reacted angrily to the stinging criticism elicited by Théo’s alleged rape. Replying to an op-ed signed by several artists in left-wing daily Libération, the Unité SGP union wrote on its website: “Do you know that dozens of police officers are attacked and injured each day? Do you know that hundreds of officers receive insults and threats each day? Do you know that hundreds of officers cannot live and work in the same neighbourhood because of the risk for their families, their children?”

Body-Gendrot said the antagonism between police and minority groups in deprived areas reflected a structural reluctance to engage with local communities. “New recruits don’t join the police in order to give free rein to racist or violent impulses,” she said. “It is once they are inside the institution that a ‘them and us’ mentality develops. Officers feel – often wrongly – that they are despised by residents, magistrates and the media. Sometimes they snap, verbally or physically; particularly when they operate in small units, hidden from the public eye.”

The establishment of community policing, at the turn of the century, marked a short-lived attempt to bridge the gulf with residents of the banlieues. But the so-called police de proximité (proximity police) jarred with the tough “law and order” rhetoric of conservative firebrand Nicolas Sarkozy, who disbanded the unit after becoming France’s interior minister in 2002. “You’re not a social worker,” Sarkozy famously told an officer who had helped organise a football tournament for youths in a poor suburb of Toulouse. Most unions were happy to see the programme ended. “Police unions hated the idea of being accountable to the local community,” said Body-Gendrot. As a result, “community policing was never really given a chance to prove its worth”.

Politicians’ Betrayal
Ever since, left-wing politicians have regularly floated the idea of reintroducing some form of police de proximité. But President François Hollande’s Socialist government made no such attempt. Instead, to the dismay of minority youths singled out by police, Hollande’s administration reneged on a campaign promise to introduce a form of written receipt for all identity checks carried out by officers – a measure long advocated by campaigners against racial profiling.

“The receipts would have protected our dignity and our essential right to move freely in the public space, without being constantly harassed,” said Capitolin, the community worker, for whom Hollande’s U-turn explained why many in the banlieues have “no faith in politicians”. Another of the president’s broken promises, to give foreign nationals the right to vote in local elections, was seen as further evidence of politicians’ neglect of the immigrant-rich suburbs.

Nor is the prospect of national elections in two months raising hopes for change. Body-Gendrot said she was doubtful governments would, in the near future, take concrete steps to address the problem of policing the suburbs, such as improving police training and supervision, and ensuring seasoned officers are deployed where they are most needed. “The strength of police unions means junior officers will continue to be deployed to sensitive neighbourhoods they are unfamiliar with,” she said. “Sadly, the banlieues are simply not a key electoral issue.”

Sources
Racism, Sex Abuse and Impunity: French Police’s Toxic Legacy in the Suburbs -By Benjamin Dodman | France 24
The State of the Suburbs: Is France at its Ferguson Moment?: Part 1 | France 24 (Video)
The State of the Suburbs: Is France at its Ferguson Moment?: Part 2 | France 24 (Video)


Recommended…
Police Violence and Discrimination in France’s Suburbs | The Observers | France 24

Justice for Theo: ‘Police Abuse Is An Everyday Thing’-By Shafik Mandhai | Al Jazeera
Investigators Say French Police Who Sodomized Black Man With A Baton Did So By Accident -By Jesselyn Cook | Huffington Post
The Tragedy of Theo L. Reveals France’s Failures on Race -By Joel Dreyfuss | Washington Post

Husbands Are Deadlier Than Jihadist Terrorists in America

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With the President Trump Reality Show, it’s easy to be distracted by ANGRY ALL-CAPITAL TWEETS or Oval Office tantrums. But resist, and stay focused on matters of life and death. Consider two critical issues: refugees and guns. Trump is going berserk over the former, but wants to ease rules on the latter. So let’s look at the relative risks.

In the four decades between 1975 and 2015, terrorists born in the seven nations in Trump’s travel ban killed zero people in America, according to the Cato Institute. Zero. In that same period, guns claimed 1.34 million lives in America, including murders, suicides and accidents. That’s about as many people as live in Boston and Seattle combined. It’s also roughly as many Americans as died in all the wars in American history since the American Revolution, depending on the estimate used for Civil War dead.

It’s true that Muslim Americans — both born in the United States and immigrants from countries other than those subject to Trump’s restrictions — have carried out deadly terrorism in America. There have been 123 such murders since the 9/11 attacks — and 230,000 other murders.

Last year Americans were less likely to be killed by Muslim terrorists than for being Muslim, according to Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina. The former is a risk of approximately one in six million; the latter, one in one million. The bottom line is that most years in the U.S., ladders kill far more Americans than Muslim terrorists do. Same with bathtubs. Ditto for stairs. And lightning.

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

dv-chart

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves. Yet Trump is raging about a risk from refugees that seems manageable, even as he talks about relaxing rules on another threat, guns, that is infinitely more lethal.

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools,” Trump said last year. “My first day, it gets signed, O.K., my first day.” Trump hasn’t in fact signed such an order, but his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, backed him up at her confirmation hearing last month, saying that guns might be necessary in schools because of “potential grizzlies.”

Then there’s Sebastian Gorka, a White House aide to Trump, who wrote a book in which he suggested that Americans engage in their own private counterterrorism strategy: “Consider applying for a concealed-carry permit.” One reason to think that this isn’t great advice: Gorka was arrested at Reagan Airport in Washington last year for trying to bring a gun through security. This didn’t prevent him from getting a White House job.

The House of Representatives this month voted to end a restriction on people with severe psychiatric disorders buying guns. Likewise, there is a strong push in Congress — backed by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son — to end longstanding curbs on the purchase of silencers. The younger Trump and other advocates say that silencers would reduce the danger of hearing loss from gunfire.

“It’s about hearing protection,” Donald Jr. explained in a video for SilencerCo, a Utah company that makes silencers. “It’s a health issue, frankly.” He expressed admiration for silencer technology and frustration that “I don’t get to use it in the People’s Republic of New York.”

The truth is that we don’t have much evidence on the impact of silencers (partly because the gun lobby tries to block research on gun safety). But the sale of silencers has been restricted nationally since the 1930s because of fears that they help criminals avoid attention after shootings, and the National Rifle Association’s battle for them seems to be rooted in its broader campaign to eviscerate gun laws.

The evidence does suggest that if we really want to make Americans safer, then we should require universal background checks before gun purchases (22 percent of guns are purchased without background checks). We should work hard to get guns out of the hands of people subject to domestic violence restraining orders, or people with recent histories of crime or alcohol or drug abuse.

We should also require trigger locks or safe storage of guns, especially in houses with young children. We should crack down on gun trafficking and straw purchasers.

So let’s not be diverted by shiny things and furious tweets. With his travel ban, Trump is peddling an ineffective policy that is morally repugnant, even as he marches toward a looser policy on guns likely to result in more school shootings, more shattered families and more lives lost.

Those graves will last long after Trump’s tweets are gone.

Source: Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists -By Nicholas Kristof | New York Times


Recommended…
Little National Security Benefit to Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration -By Alex Nowrasteh | Cato Institute

Guns and Violence Against Women: America’s Uniquely Lethal Domestic Violence Problem | Everytown for Gun Safety

Guns in the US: The Statistics Behind the Violence | BBC

Compare These Gun Death Rates: The U.S. Is in a Different World -By Kevin Quealy & Margot Sanger-Katz | The Upshot via New York Times

The NMAAHC Explores the Beauty and Brutality of African-American History

shackles-worn-by-childrenSlave shackles used to chain children (Credit: All Artifacts from the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in December 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at 14th Street and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Historian Lonnie Bunch is the museum’s founding director; Jacquelyn Serwer is its chief curator.

Early efforts to establish a federally owned museum featuring African-American history and culture can be traced to 1915, although the modern push for such an organization did not begin until the 1970s. After years of little success, a much more serious legislative push began in 1988 that led to authorization of the museum in 2003. A site was selected in 2006. The museum opened September 24, 2016, in a ceremony led by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The museum confronts head-on America’s history of slavery and racial oppression. Yet, while memorializing suffering, the museum wants even the bleakest artifacts to have a positive message. As visitors face an auction block where slaves stood to be bought and sold, they can also imagine the strength slaves summoned to survive.

Unusually, the museum had to start from scratch without a collection. It ran an “Antiques Roadshow”- style project in 15 cities that encouraged people to give heirlooms from their closets and attics, and yielded some of the 40,000 objects the museum now holds. About 3,500 artifacts will be on display in the opening exhibitions, many of them treasures donated by ordinary people.

Click the images above to enlarge or read the caption.

The museum tells its story in part chronologically rather than thematically. This decision is written into the architecture itself, as visitors descend 70 feet below ground to begin the historical journey centuries ago with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The museum displays the original coffin of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old savagely killed in Mississippi in 1955; Ku Klux Klan hoods; and a piece of rope used in a lynching. The museum tells a history that continues to evolve. It documents the presidency of Barack Obama, but artifacts reflecting events like Black Lives Matter protests underscore persistent inequality and police brutality.

Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the history sections below.

Some exhibitions depict the diverse experiences of African-Americans in regions across the nation, from the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx, for example, to life in the South Carolina rice fields. Though here, too, the exhibitions refer to the oppression and discrimination that African-Americans experienced and highlight their fight to overcome segregation and bring about social change.

From the building’s upper levels, visitors can view the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, the White House and the National Mall — a symbolic reminder, officials say, that the museum is a lens on the broader American experience.

Visitors are able to leave their own thoughts at public video booths. After such powerful displays, they can also sit in a space called the Contemplative Court to come to terms with what they have witnessed.

Appropriately for a public museum at the heart of Washington’s cultural landscape, the museum’s creators did not want to build a space for a black audience alone, but for all Americans. In the spirit of Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too, Sing America,” the museum and all of the artifacts within it make a powerful declaration: The African-American story is an American story, as central to the country’s narrative as any other, and understanding black history and culture is essential to understanding American history and culture.


The National Museum of African American History and Culture
I, Too, Sing America | The National Museum of African American History and Culture | New York Times (Interactive)

Killed by the Mafia at 7, Nicholas Green’s Heart of Gold Finally Stops Beating

How a 7-year-old American boy, murdered by Mafia hit men on a lonely Italian highway 22 years ago, changed a nation.

Nicholas Green was a thoughtful, imaginative 7-year-old boy touring southern Italy with his parents, Reg and Maggie, and younger sister Eleanor. On a lonely stretch of highway the night of Sept. 29, 1994, bursts of gunfire targeted their car, and a bullet hit Nicholas. After two days fighting to survive, his life ended tragically on Oct. 1 in a Sicilian hospital, and his parents decided to donate five of his organs and his corneas to seven different people.

One of Nicholas’s corneas went to Domenica Galletta, who had been waiting for a transplant for five years and who had never seen her daughter. Another went to Francesco Mondello, a young father. The liver went to 19-year-old Maria Pia Pedalà, who went on to have a child she named Nicholas. His kidneys went to 14-year-old Maria Di Ceglie and 10-year-old Tino Motta. And his heart went to Andrea Mongiardo, who, at 15, had spent more than half of his life in hospital before Nicholas’s death saved him.

Sadly, Mongiardo died of lymphoma in a Rome hospital late last week, silencing Nicholas’s heart forever, but reminding Italians once again about the gifts of life the Green family had bestowed. Mongiardo’s funeral was attended by a group of young transplant recipients who credit Green with their survival, and the doctor who performed the heart transplant who came to give “a final farewell” to both Green and Mongiardo.

The organ donations enhanced and saved lives, but more importantly the act forever changed organ donation in Italy because of what is commonly referred to as the “effetto Nicholas” or “the Nicholas effect.” Previously, transplants were regarded with superstitious suspicions and in some cases ran afoul of the Catholic Church. But since Nicholas’s death, organ donation has tripled in this country, unquestionably thanks to the Green family’s generosity.

“Every year tens of thousands of people around the world at the worst moment of their lives resist the temptation to turn inward in sorrow or bitterness and instead put their grief on one side long enough to reach out to complete strangers—people they can’t even visualize—and transform their lives,” Reg Green told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “The enormous increase in donations represents the generous hearts of the Italian people. I doubt that any other country in the world would have shown the compassion that Italy has. When Nicholas was killed it seems as though the whole country wanted to comfort us.”

A month after the murder, two local thugs, Francesco Mesiano and Michele Iannello, were arrested for the shooting. They pleaded their innocence, even though the car from which they shot was owned by Iannello, who says he had loaned it to his brother that fateful night. They were initially acquitted in 1997 due to the fact that none of the Green family survivors could positively identify them. How could they? The killing had taken place in the dark of night with Reg Green trying to save his young family by attempting to outrun the perpetrators as the masked killers fired shots. An Italian appellate court overturned the acquittal in 1998 and convicted the duo of the murder, which was upheld by Italy’s high court in 1999.

Over the last 20 years, Green has written two books, The Nicholas Effect and The Gift that Heals and Jamie Lee Curtis was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Maggie Green in a made-for-TV movie called Nicholas’ Gift. Green has become a global advocate for organ donation, speaking on the cause and keeping in touch with the those who got a second chance at life thanks to Nicholas.

During that time, Mesiano served his sentence and is now free, and Iannello, who turned state’s evidence against other mafiosi, managed to win house arrest. He is now living in northern Italy with his wife and two children, despite having been given a life sentence, and he has been quietly petitioning for a full pardon from Italy’s president. His case most probably would have gone unnoticed if Mongiardo’s death had not brought to mind again the murder of the little boy. Now the killer’s plea for a pardon is being met with fierce public opposition.

Iannello “has consistently denied his guilt but the evidence was very strong against him and Francesco Mesiano,” Reg Green told The Daily Beast. “We have never wanted revenge, only justice, and we accepted without protest their acquittal at the first trial. Victims make very bad judges, as you know, so my opinion about his pardon is too subjective to be of value.”

Iannello, who admitted to killing four other people under contract with the Calabria ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, would be able to move from his house and even leave the country if he were pardoned. “Your readers will have to decide for themselves if a man who was sentenced to life imprisonment and admits to a series of other killings but who has lived outside prison for years, has paid the price for taking the life of a child,” said Green.

Still, the most important legacy is not that of his son’s killer, but that of his son. “He saw the best in everyone so that when you were with him you always wanted to be your best,” Green says of his son. “On the plane on the way home, after he had been killed, Maggie was sitting on the row behind me with Eleanor. She leaned forward and said quietly, ‘You know, I never heard him tell a lie.’ There was something shocking about it. It seemed so absolute. I thought about it and said that was true for me too — nor any of the sneaky half-truths I and just about every other child I’ve known has done.”

In Italy today, “the Nicholas effect” is a household term that carries with it a whole history of love and generosity. “Of all things I think it is the longevity of Italy’s loyalty to Nicholas’ memory that has surprised me most,” Green says. “One small death more than 20 years ago in a place almost no-one has been to should have been forgotten long ago by everyone except those closely connected to it.” Luckily, for the thousands of people who are alive because of the impact of that “one small death,” no one wants to forget it, and no one will.

Source: The Mafia Killed This Boy—but His Heart Lived On -By Barbie Latza | The Daily Beast


Recommended…
❤️ The Final Beat of Nicholas Green’s Heart of Gold | Los Angeles Times
❤️ The Nicholas Green Foundation

James Baldwin: I Am Not Your Negro | Film Review

james-baldwin-2Photos: Mark B. Anstendig (above); featured: Daniel Bretton Tisdale, “James Baldwin,” 2007, (graphite on Italian handmade paper) from the “Harlem Masters” series.

James Baldwin is having a posthumous resurgence, but we are so in need of his words at this moment that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t still been writing every day since his death in 1987. In every genre Baldwin dabbled, from novels to political commentary to arts criticism, he found the core of our identity as a nation: a core that feeds off division and prejudice; that celebrates its own history while refusing to learn from it; and that was, and plainly remains, too painful for anyone other than him to talk about honestly.

Today’s media is flush with essayists who trace a direct line to Baldwin, the most prominent being Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose bestselling sensation Between the World and Me is a grim postscript to Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and dispels even the slim notion of hope for true racial justice Baldwin offered in 1963. But Baldwin refused to see himself as a “race writer”: Instead, he framed arguments for equality as pleas to save the entire American soul from corrosive hatred and isolation. The exceptional new documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which director Raoul Peck began to work on before the Obama presidency, gives us a fresh new view on Baldwin’s words, while also reminding us that the same American soul he struggled so hard to convince us was worth saving remains on life support today.

“If any white man in the world says ‘Give Me liberty Or Give Me Death,’ the entire white world applauds. When a black man says EXACTLY the same thing; he is judged a criminal, and treated like one, and everything is possibly done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be anymore like him.” – James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro is also not your Baldwin CliffsNotes. Instead, Peck gives us a far more urgent, revelatory document: a visual imagining of the writer’s last, unfinished manuscript. Titled Remember This House, it was to be Baldwin’s personal reflection on the lives and assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, all of whom he was close with. “I want these three lives to bang against and reveal each other,” Baldwin wrote. And as these lives bang, Baldwin’s (and Peck’s) gaze turns: from the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s to America’s insistence on imagining great social progress where little has occurred.

The film uses only Baldwin’s words, superbly narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. There are no talking heads to put them “into context,” because the context is already there, in our history and all around us. Peck, working from 30 pages of raw text gifted him by Baldwin’s sister Gloria, animates the prose with archival news clips, still photographs, and scenes from popular films of Baldwin’s time. And he also, with dreamlike continuity, grants brief passage into the modern day: young black men shot by police, the Black Lives Matter protests, a montage of superficial apologies from white politicians. Robert Kennedy accurately predicts that America will see a black president 40 years from his time, and then Baldwin takes apart the idea that we had to wait so long in the first place.

Baldwin was also a voracious consumer of pop culture. Some of the film’s most intriguing passages muse on the history of onscreen black identity from Stepin Fetchit to Sidney Poitier, the latter characterized as a kind of panacea to comfort white people. (Poitier’s escaped convict in The Defiant Ones jumps off a train carrying him to freedom in order to save the white escapee he’s been chained to for the entire film. Baldwin’s response: “Get back on the train, you fool!”) These bits are where you realize just how much of a documentary’s strength depends on its editing. Would Baldwin’s memory of finding a black woman who “looked exactly like Joan Crawford” have carried as much symbolic weight were it not overlaid on the perfect clip of the lily-white Crawford boogying in Dance, Fools, Dance?

Peck renders his subject’s prose with brisk pacing, without turning Negro into a soundbite film — a remarkable task, given how much Baldwin structured his sentences with the intention of his audience getting to reread them, picking over their bones for protein. It helps that the film frequently leans on Baldwin’s gift for oratory, as he delivers his own message on college campuses and late-night television, with his wry smile and searching eyes. This approach is dense and yet accessible, and seems to be a direct challenge to Baldwin’s own musings that television “weakens our ability to deal with the world as it is, as we are.” (That Jackson, the reigning king of escapist entertainment, is the one reciting these words adds a delicious layer of irony.)

“What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it… then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it’s able to ask that question. -James Baldwin, “The Negro and The American Promise”, 1963

It is easy, in a time when protest feels urgent and the past seems to have vanished, to get swept up in Baldwin’s essays, and in so doing to forget that he was also a peerless storyteller. One flaw to the film is that, by painting such a convincing portrait of Baldwin-as-polemicist, it neglects that only a great novelist could make those arguments as forthright and necessary as he did. In books like Another Country and Giovanni’s Room, he could take manners of race and sexuality no one was talking about in public and render them with such finely wrought passion as to rip their invisibility cloaks to shreds. Negro wants to anoint Baldwin as the voice of reason in our troubled, divided times, but we need to remember he valued the power of stories and chastised those who did not. Of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, he once wrote, “She was not so much a novelist as an impassioned pamphleteer.”

Though it was just nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, Negro seems at risk of being overshadowed in the public eye by the two more popular nominees that broadly deal with that discordant, shapeshifting topic we call “race relations”: the sweeping yet granular true-crime saga O.J.: Made in America, and the fiery mass-incarceration lecture 13th. All are worthy of attention. But to dismiss all three movies as different pages of the same pamphlet — or to declare that Negro is only relevant now because it’s Black History Month — is to continue to misunderstand Baldwin’s message. He wasn’t lecturing to “white America” or passing instructions to “black America”; he truly wanted everyone to confront the same narrative together, to stop hiding behind fictions and make some sense of the country. Did he succeed? Well, when confronted with such pressing, vibrantly cinematic power built entirely from decades-old words, we must ask ourselves exactly why, in 2017, these words may as well have been written for the first time.

Reprint: James Baldwin, In His Own Searing, Revelatory Words: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ -By Andrew Lapin | NPR (Movie Review)


Recommended…
James Baldwin from “The Negro and the American Promise” | PBS

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Review: Brilliant Notes on a Native Son -By Joe Morgenstern | Wall Street Journal

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race -By A.O. Scott | New York Times

Box Office: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Shaping Up to Be Documentary Hit -By Brent Long | Variety

The Misunderstood Ghost of James Baldwin -By Ismail Muhammad | Slate

The Tragically Chronic Relevance of James Baldwin -By Wesley Morrison & Jenna Wortham | New York Times

Do Yourself a Favor: Go See Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro -By Julia Felsenthal | Vogue

James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78 | Interview by Jordan Elgrably | Paris Review, Issue 91, Spring 1984

Court After Court Refuses to Reinstate Donald Trump’s Travel Ban

Featured image: Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. (Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

On January 27, Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that banned immigrants from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) from entering the United States for the next 90 days. New refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days. The Syrian refugee resettlement program was suspended indefinitely. Trump’s ill-conceived and illegal order has, predictably, thrown thousands of lives into chaos. Immigrants and refugees with visas are either being prevented from entering the country or are being detained when they arrive.

On February 1, I posted a blog titled “18 Ways to Help Immigrants & Refugees Impacted by Donald Trump’s Executive Order“. The post was my “reply all” to the many people who have reached out to me, asking how they can help. Consider this an update of sorts. This post chronicles the foreseeable journey of Trump’s  executive order through America’s co-equal branch of government: the judiciary. Spoiler alert: It hasn’t gone well for the Trump administration. Predictably, Trump  attacked the judges, cursed the rule of law, and blamed the media  for the many problems he created. I’ll continue to update this post as major events happen on this topic, but please keep one thing in mind as you read the content below: This is Not Normal!


February 4
United States District Senior Judge James Robart for the Western District of Washington State issued a nationwide restraining order blocking the travel ban put in place by Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order.

Washington became the first state to sue Trump over his controversial executive order on immigration, with a number of states, including New York, joining the effort this week.  The Seattle decision comes after other federal judges in Boston, Virginia and New York granted restraining orders preventing the government from deporting people affected by Trump’s travel ban.

In issuing his decision, Robart was siding with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed a suit to block key provisions of Trump’s executive order, including the travel ban and sections that bars Syrian refugees from entering the country.

Judge Robart suggested in court that Trump’s 90-day entry ban on people from the countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen was not “rationally based,” since no one from any those countries had been arrested in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Additionally, Judge Robart’s order argues Trump’s executive action “adversely” affects “areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.” Reversing the action, the suit concluded, is thereby in the public interest: “These harms are significant and ongoing,” the order states.

Naturally, Mr. Trump to lashed out at Judge Robart  throughout the day, prompting criticism that Trump failed to respect the judicial branch and its power to check on his authority.  In a Twitter post on Saturday, Mr. Trump wrote, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The Justice Department filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The DOJ’s appellate brief asked the 9th Circuit to stay Judge Robart’s order pending the appeal, arguing Trump has an “unreviewable” constitutional authority to suspend the entry of any class of foreigners into the United States. The DOJ further argued that any judicial ruling contrary to Trump’s executive order “second-guesses the president’s national security judgment.”

The Ninth Circuit court moved quickly to reject the administration’s appeal, a measure of the urgency and intense interest in the case.

free-attorneyPro bono lawyers and protesters at Los Angeles International Airport on January 29, 2017, rally against the Muslim immigration ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photo: Amanda Edwards / Getty).

February 9
A federal appeals panel has maintained the freeze on Trump’s controversial immigration order, meaning previously barred refugees and citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries can continue entering the United States.

In a unanimous 29-page opinion, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit flatly rejected the government’s argument that suspension of the order should be lifted immediately for national security reasons, and they forcefully asserted their ability to serve as a check on the president’s power.

The judges wrote that any suggestion that they could not “runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

Trump reacted angrily on social media. He posted a Tweet just minutes after the ruling, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Hillary Clinton, who lost the presidency to Trump in November, posted on Twitter simply, “3-0.”

The Justice Department could now ask the Supreme Court — which often defers to the president on matters of immigration and national security — to intervene. The Supreme Court, though, remains one justice short, and many see it as ideologically split 4 to 4. A tie would keep in place whatever the appeals court decides. The Justice Department could also ask the full 9th Circuit to consider the matter.

The appeals court opinion was written by Judge Michelle T. Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama; Judge Richard R. Clifton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush; and Judge William C. Canby, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter. It was detailed, but it does not represent a final judgment on Trump’s immigration ban.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart granted the states of Washington and Minnesota a temporary restraining order on the ban. The appeals court judges noted their ruling was a “preliminary one,” and they were deciding only whether the government had “made a strong showing of its likely success” in getting the restraining order thrown out.

Federal courts in New York, California and elsewhere already had blocked aspects of the ban from being implemented, although one federal judge in Massachusetts declared that he did not think that challengers had demonstrated that they had a high likelihood of success. The case before the 9th Circuit, though, was much broader than the others, because it stemmed from a federal judge’s outright halting of the ban.

The court ruling did not affect one part of the executive order: the cap of 50,000 refugees to be admitted in the 2017 fiscal year. That is down from the 110,000 ceiling put in place under President Barack Obama. The order also directed the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security to prioritize refugee claims made by persecuted members of religious minorities.

As of February 9, that means the United States will be allowed to accept only about 16,000 more refugees this fiscal year. Since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, 33,929 refugees have been admitted, 5,179 of them Syrians.

sarah-assaliSarah Assali, 19, left, who just arrived from Syria, is embraced by her brother Tawfik Assali, 21, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, upon her and other family members’ arrival from Syria at Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on February 6, 2017. Attorneys said Dr. Assali’s brothers, their wives and their two teenage children returned to Syria after they were denied entrance to the United States on January 28 although they had visas in hand after a 13-year effort. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP).

February 13
A federal judge in Virginia just handed down one of the biggest defeats yet to Donald Trump’s travel ban. Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the ban in Virginia until it can be fully argued out in court. That means it could be weeks or months before overseas travelers are again blocked from coming into the country via Virginia’s international airports.

The case pitted the federal government, represented by lawyers from the Justice Department’s Civil Division, against the Commonwealth of Virginia, represented by State Solicitor General Stuart Raphael and Attorney General Mark Herring.

Unlike temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions can become permanent. Some legal experts say the fact that Brinkema has issued this injunction means the Virginia case could potentially reach the Supreme Court before the Washington case—a possibility that reporters brought up to Herring when he held a press conference after the last round of oral arguments in that case on Feb. 10.

In her ruling, Brinkema wrote that it’s likely Virginia will successfully argue that Trump’s travel ban violates the First Amendment. The ruling cited Trump’s interview with Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, where he said his administration would prioritize the asylum claims of Christian refugees over refugees of other religions.

“The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign for months,” she wrote, “and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered.” And she wrote that just because the travel ban doesn’t impact all Muslims doesn’t mean it isn’t discriminatory.

“[T]he Supreme Court has never reduced its Establishment Clause jurisprudence to a mathematical exercise,” she wrote. “It is a discriminatory purpose that matters, no matter how inefficient the execution.”

Trump Travel Ban AtlantaA demonstrator holds a sign at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during a demonstration on January 29, 2017, in Atlanta. (Photo: Branden Camp/AP)

February 16
Donald Trump said Thursday that he will issue a new executive order on immigration by next week, and Justice Department lawyers asked a federal appeals court to hold off on taking action in the legal battle over his initial travel ban until that new order is in place.

In a news conference at the White House, Trump said the new order would “comprehensively protect our country,” and he hinted that it might contain new vetting measures for travelers. Trump’s first order temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from entering the United States, ostensibly so officials could review and tighten screening procedures.

“Extreme vetting will be put in place, and it already is in place in many places,” Trump said. He said the administration “had to go quicker than we thought” because a federal appeals court refused to lift the suspension on his travel ban.

Trump’s comments and the Justice Department’s request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit mean that the administration – at least for now – is pumping the brakes on the furious court battle to restore the travel ban. Instead, the administration indicated in its filing that it expects that a revamped executive order will eliminate judges’ concerns, even those the Justice Department views as unfounded.

Sources: Virginia Judge Blocks Trump’s Travel Ban—Maybe Forever -By Betsy Woodruff | The Daily Beast

Federal Appeals Court Rules 3 to 0 Against Trump on Travel Ban – By Matt Zapotosky | Washington Post

Appeals Court Rejects Request to Immediately Restore Travel Ban -By Mark Lander | New York Times

Trump Promises New Immigration Order as DOJ Holds Off Appeals Court -By Laura Jarrett, Allie Malloy and Dan Merica | CNN


Recommended…
Syrian Family Forced To Return To Middle East After Arriving In Philadelphia | All Things Considered | NPR

Trump’s Executive Order On Immigration, Annotated | NPR

How Trump’s Travel Ban broke from the Normal Executive Order Process -By Kim Soffen and Darla Cameron | Washington Post

Trump’s Immigration Ban: Who Is Barred and Who Is Not -By Anjali Singhvi and Alicia Parlapiano | New York Times

 

Blood-Thirsty Mob Storms Afghanistan Police Station and Murders Eloping Couple

honor-killingPhotos: AFP (above). Featured image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images 

An armed mob that included relatives of a young woman who had eloped with her lover stormed a police station holding the couple in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend, then dragged the lovers off and killed them, officials and witnesses said. The mob wounded three police officers, one of them seriously, the officials and witnesses said Sunday and Monday in providing accounts of the couple’s violent deaths, often called honor killings.

The woman, Fatiha, 18, was described as having been married against her will and eloping instead with a young man, Hedayatullah, believed to be in his early 20s, from a neighboring village in Wama District of Nuristan Province. But on Saturday the police caught and arrested the couple on suspicion of adultery.

Within hours an armed mob formed at the police station, led by Fatiha’s husband and his family, but also including her brothers and cousins, the officials and witnesses said. The authorities said there were only 30 police officers at the station facing a mob of 250 to 300 heavily armed men. “If police had fired bullets at the people, a massacre could have happened,” said Hafiz Abdul Qayoom, the governor of Nuristan, claiming the police had no option but to surrender the couple to the mob, especially after three officers had suffered gunshot wounds from the angry crowd. Enayatullah, the district governor in Wama, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said the couple were apparently killed soon after they had been taken out of the police station.

Salam Khan, 22, a witness from Fatiha’s village, Sar-i-Pul, said he saw what had happened to the couple after the police surrendered them. “Some of Fatiha’s relatives, her cousins, were beating her with their fists and saying, ‘Why did you do this?’ Then her older brother got angry and shot her with a hunting rifle and her younger brother shot her with an AK-47. I don’t know how many bullets they fired,” Mr. Khan said, speaking by telephone from the remote village.

The man described by officials and witnesses as the woman’s husband, who was not identified, shot and killed Hedayatullah, with whom she had eloped, according to Mr. Khan. Hedayatullah was described as a member of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s paramilitary intelligence service, who was stationed in the village.

The Nuristan case recalled a 2014 case in which a young couple from Bamian Province eloped to escape an arranged marriage, but last year fled to asylum in the United States to escape family retribution.

“Such cases happen a lot in Nuristan, but they don’t come into the media,” said Hawa Alam Nuristani, a member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission from Nuristan. This case came to attention because of the notoriety surrounding it and what Ms. Nuristani said was a high bride price paid to the girl’s father, reputedly 30 goats and seven cows. “In such cases when something goes wrong, people do not know other ways except killing, and women are not aware of their rights,” Ms. Nuristani said.

Governor Qayoom said he was sending a delegation to the district to investigate the crime. “People there are ignorant, just like what people did in Kabul with Farkhunda,” he said. He was referring to a 2015 killing in which a female Islamic scholar was lynched by a mob over false rumors that she had burned a Quran.

As of Monday in the Nuristan case, no one had been charged or arrested in the fatal shootings of the couple or the shootings of the police officers.

Governor Qayoom said there had been reports of several recent cases of elopements in the district, so villagers were on the lookout for unaccompanied women. Saeedullah Payendazai Kamparwal, the chairman of the Nuristan provincial council and a native of Wama District, said Fatiha’s plan had been to climb the mountain above her house to a road on the other side, where Hedayatullah was awaiting her. Two young boys were suspicious after seeing her on her own, however, and they alerted police officers.

The Afghan police typically consider an unmarried couple alone together to be guilty of adultery or attempted adultery, and the couple were presumably arrested for that. They claimed to be married but the police could tell they were from different districts and therefore did not believe them, according to Mr. Kamparwal’s account.

Once word reached the families of the woman and her husband that she was being held, they formed the mob that stormed the police station, according to the authorities. “People said to the police, ‘Hand them over to us or we will raid the offices and break off relations with the government,’” Mr. Kamparwal said. The district is in a pro-government part of a province where the Taliban also have some control.

Saheb Dad Hamdard, the head of the Nuristan Journalists’ Shura, or council, cast doubt on claims that such large numbers of people had attacked the police station. “How can anyone believe that 250 to 300 people attacked? Wama District in total has four villages. Where would 300 people come from?” he said. “And where did they get arms? There’s no armed group in the village.” Mr. Hamdard suggested that the authorities had acquiesced in turning the couple over to the families. Others, however, said that in such rural areas of Nuristan Province, people are often heavily armed.

Source: Mob Kills Eloped Lovers After Storming Afghan Police Station -By Zahra Nader and Rod Nordland | New York Times

Recommended…
The Lovers: The True Story of Afghanistan’s Romeo & Juliet -By Rod Nordland | Mashable
Flawed Justice After a Mob Killed an Afghan Woman -By Alissa J. Rubin | New York Times

Child, Bride, Mother: Nigeria

Yakaka, center, and her two sisters, Yagana and Falimata, were all abducted and married to Boko Haram fighters. Photographs by Stephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed

After conquering Bama, the second-largest town in Nigeria’s Borno state, a small group of fighters from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram forced their way into the thatched-roof home of Hawa’s family, demanding the 15-year-old girl as a bride.

“My parents refused to give me away in marriage,” Hawa told me in November. “So they killed them in front of me.” They then turned to her grandfather. “What do you have to say?” the fighters asked. He reluctantly acquiesced, and they handed him a few thousand Nigerian naira as a bride price, roughly $10. The men carried Hawa away. “I was terrified,” said Hawa, recalling that night in September 2014. Along with about 20 other girls, many of them friends and classmates, Hawa was taken to one of the militants’ camps deep within the 200-square-mile Sambisa Forest.

Since beginning its insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009, Boko Haram has unleashed bombings, assassinations and abductions from its bases in the forest in an effort to topple the government and create an Islamic state. Kidnappings like Hawa’s were not uncommon in northern Nigeria, yet it was only when the group abducted 276 schoolgirls from their dormitory in the town of Chibok in 2014 that the world took notice. With the mantra “Bring Back Our Girls,” the issue exploded on social media. But with little news from the remote region, the public’s interest waned.

Nearly three years later it’s now becoming apparent that the Chibok abductions were just one instance of a profoundly disturbing tactic: child marriage as a weapon of war.

According to the International Crisis Group, the relative ease with which Boko Haram carried out the Chibok abductions emboldened the group. With increasing frequency, both Christian and, more recently, Muslim women and girls have been kidnapped, dismantling communities that oppose the group’s brutal tactics. To attract male recruits and motivate combatants, Boko Haram awards these “wives” to fighters. As these girls reach puberty, forced marriages often turn them into unwilling mothers; their children are destined to become the next generation of fighters, raised with their fathers’ twisted ideology.

This trade in child brides was common even before the conflict. According to Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of civil society organizations, across Nigeria 43 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthday. In northern Nigeria, the rate is as high as 76 percent. Girls are most commonly forced into marriage for economic reasons: one fewer mouth to feed for their birth families and sources of labor, sex and childbearing for the groom’s family. Now, with the region devastated by violence, desperate parents increasingly see early marriage as a way to protect their daughters as fighting closes schools, and families grow more impoverished.

Click on image to enlarge or read caption. Photographs by Stephanie Sinclair/Too Young to Wed

On a hot afternoon, in a cramped office in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, Photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair discussed the status of the Chibok girls, many reportedly married off to fighters, with Engr Satomi Ahmad, the executive chairman of Borno’s State Emergency Management Agency. “Being the chairman of this agency, the Chibok girls, for me, don’t even represent 0.1 percent, not even 0.1 percent, of the entire abduction of girls,” Mr. Ahmad said.

Reports provided to the Nigerian government estimate that up to 9,000 women and girls have been abducted since the start of Boko Haram’s insurgency. Mr. Ahmad believes that at least 13,000 more are unaccounted for, and likely even more from areas that are too dangerous to assess.

Last November, Sinclair spoke with about 30 girls who had been abducted and forced to wed some of the world’s most violent men. They spoke of being caged for months, of friends set on fire, of being forced into marriage and sexually assaulted by men who “smelled of blood.” They described the risks they had taken to free themselves: racing through gun and mortar battles, sometimes pregnant or carrying a child, crossing rivers, walking for days without food or water, and the suspicion they were met with even after reaching safety.

Hawa didn’t know how long she’d spent in Boko Haram’s camp in the bush, though it was enough time to give birth to a baby boy, whom she named Mubarak. The child was nearly 6 months old when Hawa, now 17, escaped from her captors. But the journey home provided new tragedies: During the long walk to Maiduguri the baby died.

“I did not have enough milk to feed him,” she said.

Life outside of captivity has its own hardships for the girls called “Boko Haram wives,” with other Nigerians wary of their allegiances after so long in captivity. The terrorists’ calculated use of children as suicide bombers — 75 percent of them girls — has added to the atmosphere of fear and distrust, with a devastating cascade of consequences for girls who do manage to escape.

“Some pity us, others don’t want us near them,” Aisha I., 17, told Sinclair.  After three and a half years in captivity, she arrived in Maiduguri homeless and three months pregnant. Like the other former abductees Sinclair spoke with, Aisha and Hawa found themselves without education, money, family support or anyone to help them reintegrate peacefully and safely into society. In fact, Sinclair learned in interviewing representatives from multiple global aid organizations, few even knew the escaped girls were living in Maiduguri.

Why is no one trying to help Nigeria’s missing girls, either the ones held in the forest or those who have escaped? The effort and resources appear focused on the 276 Chibok girls. Boko Haram leaders claim the girls they’ve taken don’t want to come home. But government officials and escapees Sinclair spoke with say otherwise.

On her last morning in Maiduguri, Sinclair went to say goodbye to Aisha. Light streamed into the simple room in which she lived, as the photojournalist watched her make tea, organize her few belongings and nurse her son; each task a small step toward the life she hoped one day to rebuild.

“My dream for the future is for God to help me,” Aisha said. “And those who are still in the forest to escape.”

Source: Child, Bride, Mother: Nigeria | Stephanie Sinclair (feat. The New York Times)

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Stephanie Sinclair, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Too Young to Wed. The Ford Foundation contributed support for this project.