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Op-Ed: Do not neglect the struggle against other forms of racism

Tue, 16/06/2020 - 00:57

Demonstrators hold signs at a Black Lives Matter protest in Birmingham, England, on June 4, 2020. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

In recent days, headlines in America have been dominated by pundits raising awareness about the widespread racial inequality in America following the brutal murder of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks by white police officers and the subsequent race riots that have occurred across the nation.  Both murders were horrific and unjustifiable.  However, it is pivotal to note that in our quest for equality and justice, not only African Americans have suffered from racist prejudice and other instances of bigotry should not be neglected at this critical hour.

Jews, Hindus, Maronite Christians, Muslims, and other groups have also suffered from religious prejudice and their struggle for justice should not be neglected merely because they have not taken to the streets in protest.  Indeed, if the recent protests in America have taught us anything, it is that we should all be fighting against all forms of racism.

During the recent race riots in America, a Maronite Church was defaced with hateful graffiti.  Around the same period of time, five synagogues and three Jewish schools fell victim to hate crimes.  One of the synagogues was defaced with graffiti that read “f_ck Israel.”  Another Moroccan Jewish synagogue had graffiti reading “f_ck pigs” written on it as well.   A statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, was smeared with anti-Semitic slogans.

Jewish owned businesses and buildings were also looted and targeted with anti-Semitic graffiti. In fact, according to Yeshiva World News, nearly 75% of the Jewish-owned stores in an Orthodox enclave in Beverly Hills were looted. Closer to home in the Washington, DC area, the windows of Chai Bar, a Kosher restaurant, were smashed.  Another kosher restaurant, Shouk, was looted and set on fire.

More recently, the Anti-Defamation League reported than an anti-Semitic flier has been circulated, which proclaims, “If Jewish Americans make up two percent of the population, why do they get a special privilege when it comes to top universities?   Ending white privilege intersects ending Jewish privilege.”

This flier has been circulated at a time when there are many tweets speculating that George Soros, a Jewish billionaire, stands behind the recent race riots in America.   Such incitement will do nothing but encourage more violence against Jews in America, at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are at an all time high.  Yet sadly, the anti-Semitism that has come to the fore during these race riots is not being widely covered by mainstream American media outlets.

As Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights noted, there are different types of racism, including racism based on skin color, ethnic racism and religiously based racism.   Racism based on skin color is what existed in the Jim Crow South, while the Kurds experience ethnically based racism in countries like Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

According to Safadi, religiously based racism is what Jews and the Hindus of Bangladesh and other religious minorities in places like Syria experience: “A mixture of different religions is considered unacceptable to such people.” As a consequence Syria and Bangladesh have seen the horrors of ethnic cleansing.

Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, proclaimed, “The percentage of Hindus living in Bangladesh has gone down from more than 30% of the total population in 1947 to a mere 7% today. The heinous crimes that have been committed against the Hindus are physical assault, rape, murder and forced conversions.  These crimes take place on a daily basis in Bangladesh.”

Basu himself was imprisoned for his work advocating for persecuted Hindus in Bangladesh and he called upon other members of the international community to take a stand against anti-Hindu racism: “We have been striving for the rights of all Hindus in the Indian subcontinent for the last twenty years and have been able to convey our message on behalf of the Hindu community to different human rights groups such as the United Nations and other international groups about the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Historically, Hindus were oppressed in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan”

“Our struggle for peaceful coexistence for the Hindu Community along with other religious sects will continue until we obtain equality,” he declared.  “Like the protesters in America, we seek for racism to come to an end.  As the Americans fight against racial inequality, Hindus are still getting murdered in Bangladesh merely due to the racism against them  One African American man was killed and the American people are on strike, and they are doing many things to stop racial inequality.  But in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus are killed and nothing happens.  As we are facing the coronavirus pandemic, we feel frustrated and depressed that the persecution of Hindus has increased exponentially.  Hindu lands are being taken away by force.  Hindu girls are getting abducted and forced into marriages.  It is time to break the silence on this.”

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The Plagues of Debt and Deficits

Tue, 02/06/2020 - 18:11
Hong Kong: Lawmakers carried out during parliament mayhem – May 18 2020

With the sudden shock of Covid-19, almost all economic activity locally and globally had ceased after February 2020. Only now towards the end of May 2020 have some countries decided to carefully open up businesses, economies and society in returning to normalcy. Much of the idea of a return to normal is linked to the views of how some believe the post pandemic world can and will operate. The reality is that this pandemic was not the first, and will not be the last. In many parts of the world, economic collapse and crisis is almost a generational plague, with each new generation facing their own dilemma and recovery over many years. What many in regions like Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe have experienced may come to pass in Western nations, that is, if they ignore the experiences of these other regions since the end of the Second World War.

The post war German economy survived the near total destruction of German infrastructure and society with intense aid for allied countries in order to build a strong Germany as a bulwark against the Iron Curtain. The progress of Germany since the 1950s has been remarkable, even though the country was left in ruins post 1945. Regions like Latin America that never received a sustained and focused bail out after the Great Depression in 1929 were plagued with generations of debt, accompanying corruption and even government sponsored terror. In the early part of the 20th Century, countries like Brazil and Argentina received as much immigration from the South of Europe as did New York. Some of the reasons for this was that Argentina was in better shape economically than Italy was at the beginning of the era. With the arrival of the Great Depression, the recovery of Argentina and much of Latin America never enabled Argentina to become more prosperous than any Western European country ever again. Much of the regions was plagued by debt, low growth, overspending and corruption, problems that have existed for generations.

With many Western countries now being challenged by a possible era of Depression and massive debt, it is important that the lessons of these other regions ring loudly in the application of policies to get all countries out of this economic crisis. Support for citizens require funds to be used liberally, but for a set period of time. Political advantages should not be taken in the middle of a Depression, and using absolute powers given to many governments to push their agendas will absolutely corrupt any democracy. Hiding or blurring information about how much money has been used should be considered criminal, as it will hurt the lives of average citizens and disadvantage the poor and middle class. The absurdity of giving raises for politicians or public sector employees, or adding additional taxes during a Depression is also cruel, and a clear sign of a government that represents the 1%, the takers, and not the producers in a society. Any actions that may limit PPE, medicine, food and general health for citizens should be strictly addressed. Without foresight and the diminishing of congressional or parliamentary powers, generations of debt and corruption will absorb otherwise healthy democracies. Hundreds of years of civilization gave us divided power and full rights, it can all be lost within a few years. A charter enshrining these values is likely needed, with no caveats or preferences given to any group in society. Weak societies who do not take actions now to preserve their representatives and democracy will surely lose it.

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Op-Ed: South of Siyaf is a secret Iranian nuclear site

Wed, 20/05/2020 - 01:03


By Mendi Safadi

Another Iranian site has been discovered in Syria near Al Baida en route to Siyaf and it is intended for an attack deep inside of Israel.  This is an Iranian nuclear site deep inside the heart of Syria that poses a tangible danger to the Jewish state.

The site is located south of Meisaf.  The construction began four years ago in an old military site belonging to the 47th Missile Brigade.  The area was bombed by Israel in August 2019.  The site is very important in several ways, the most important one being its strategic location.  It has an eastern entrance along the road and another secret entrance on the northwestern side.

This is an Iranian site.  The function of the Syrian officers and recruits is to provide Iran with relief, to serve them and to provide some maneuvers at a number of points at a distance from the site.  The Iranians refuse any Syrian presence except for a few undeniable loyalists to Iran.

A study revealed about a year ago the entrance of a number of vehicles with building materials and cement, provided by the General Housing Organization and the Ibaa Building and Mortgage Organization.  It is owned by Hussein Shahin.  Concrete walls were added to the site.  It is intended for excavating underground tunnels and others works over a period of months.

According to our sources, the excavations are intended for establishing our warehouses and underground halls.  The depths of the halls are 17 meters.  Private flights also landed on the site several times.  When each flight arrived, all of the Syrian soldiers and officers were removed from the base.  People with cameras were also banned from the site.

Trucks full of Russian and Iranian long-range missiles were brought into the site for development and improvement.  There is also a fighter jet facility in the southwestern part of the base.  Our sources indicate that the present work of the site includes the development of long-range rockets and missiles.  It was confirmed that there is suspicious equipment at the site. 

As for the Syrian officers at the base, there is a lietenant colonel named Hassan Khalef and an officer named Ali Asif Al Muhammed.  Among the most important Iranian officers at the site are Hussein Abdul Ilai AL Bashiri, Hussein Ali Kashbaf, the son of one of the military leaders killed in Syria, and Ali Mohammed Madani, who is directly responsible for Iran’s bases and military power in Syria.

Also, according to our sources, a couple of months ago, a meeting of senior level Iranian officials took place that included the late Qassem Soleimani accompanied by General Ali Asgar Nourazi, who is one of the most wanted in Israel and Mohammed Hussein Zadeh, who is responsible for supplying Iranian forces in Syria. 

Our information indicates that the Sayif Base will be ready for full military action by the middle of next year and will focus on: 1) hitting any target by sea that threatens Iran’s existence within Syria by more than 700 meters; 2) Attacking deep inside of Israel; 3) Attacks capable of reaching Turkish bases.

It is important to note that the base is purely Iranian military and contains a number of halls, plazas and underground tunnels, as well as several aircraft.  There is also a suspicion that there may be a nuclear reactor.  Furthermore, after the site was constructed, the back of it was filled with more than two feet of black red soil covered in cement. 

Mendi Safadi, the head of the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Human Rights and Public Relations, is a lecturer and expert on Islamic affairs, terrorism, Syria and the Middle East.  He has published numerous articles and served as a political and strategic adviser about the Arab Spring and the Syrian revolution. Previously, he was the chief of staff in the Office of the Deputy Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee and Regional Cooperation.  He served as a link between officials in the government and the Syrian opposition.  

The post Op-Ed: South of Siyaf is a secret Iranian nuclear site appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

Foreign Affairs Quiz

Mon, 18/05/2020 - 17:22

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Op-Ed: Are Hindus being persecuted amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Tue, 12/05/2020 - 19:06

In an interview, Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, reported that the Sheikh Hasina government has been only praying that Muslims get spared from the coronavirus pandemic yet had no blessings to give to the minority communities within her country: “A number of non-Muslims live in Bangladesh.  No prayer was offered for their protection at this time. The question to the international community, are non-Muslims not citizens of Bangladesh? Do they not pay taxes and VAT to the government?”

Advocate Govinda Pramanik, the Secretary General of the Hindu Mahajot, noted, “During the pandemic, my organization is helping Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians by providing relief. But a number of Muslim organizations, including Bangla Aid, are only giving relief to Muslims.  Hindus, Buddhists and Christians have to convert to Islam if they are to get relief.  How can a secular country conduct themselves like that?”

He added: “Hindus are being tortured, killed and raped every day in Bangladesh during the Corona epidemic but Sheikh Hasina is not taking any action.”  Debasis Basu, president of the Bangladesh branch of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, concurred that attacks on Hindus by Muslims continue in Bangladesh: “Even in the midst of the Corona pandemic, Muslims are attacking Hindus. But the dictator Sheikh Hasina did not take any action in this regard.”

Shipan Kumer Basu, president of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, noted that Bangladeshi human rights activist Aslam Chowdhury, who has tirelessly worked in order to advance Hindu minority rights, remains in jail despite the pandemic, which already caused a football player whose cell was in the vicinity of Chowdhury to succumb to the virus: “He had gotten bail at a different time from the High Court but the Supreme Court overrode it. Chowdhury is a well-respected human rights activist associated with the Bangladeshi opposition and this stands behind his imprisonment.  His continued imprisonment during the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the bad intentions of the Bangladeshi government.  We demand his immediate release.”

Bangladesh Janata Party (BJP) President Mithun Chowdhury has been imprisoned for almost three years for working to protect the interests of the Hindus as well. Although all Muslim parties have been politically registered in Bangladesh, no Hindu party has yet been registered. While working to protect the interests of minorities, Mithun Chowdhury wanted political registration of the BJP but was arrested by the government. Mithun Chowdhury could have stood by the Hindus in dealing with this difficult situation in the country.

However, Bangladesh is not the only country where Hindus are getting persecuted amid the pandemic.  In Pakistan, there are reports that both Hindus and Christians have been denied food aid amid the pandemic.  Furthermore, recently in Pakistan, during the height of the pandemic, a 14 -year-old Christian girl was abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and then married off to her abductor.   

Abhishek Gupta, president of the World Hindu Struggle Committee India, said the Mamata government in West Bengal was also creating divisions between Hindus, Muslims and various parties in the distribution of relief: “The Mamata government is giving priority to Muslims and their party TMC in distributing relief and isn’t providing any aid to Hindu religious priests , which is anti-democratic. The Mamata government is also hiding the number of patients and deaths from Corona, which puts the people of West Bengal at the highest risk of death.”

In conclusion, Basu called upon the international community to not neglect the Hindus of Bangladesh, Pakistan and West Bengal at this critical time and to ensure that Hindus also receive assistance in dealing with the coronavirus.  

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Foreign Affairs Quiz

Mon, 11/05/2020 - 19:06

The post Foreign Affairs Quiz appeared first on Foreign Policy Blogs.

The Grand Disengagement

Wed, 06/05/2020 - 15:04

There has been a great deal of discussion in Western and other countries surrounding an economic and political disengagement from China’s economy. Since the acceptance of China into the WTO in 2001 and the great re-introduction of China into the world economy after 2008, the Chinese economy has flourished, mainly based upon supplying consumer goods to the US and Europe. With an ever growing middle class in China, it made sense for many international firms to create a presence in China, all the while adapting their manufacturing processes to produce in China while exporting less expensive, Union free products back into the US and EU. The growth of China’s economy reached double digits in some years, with masses of rural Chinese residents flocking into the larger cities to take jobs in the newly reinvigorated manufacturing sector. Most international companies took advantage of this years long boom in China’s growth, setting up Chinese firms in a legal and political environment that took little notice of labour rights, while allowing for a maximization of profits in China and the ability to ship and profit abroad. Western companies made money, and the owners of these companies made money, allowing China’s government to profit and reinvest in China. The West and East were linked economically, with losses in China’s RMB value now affecting those in New Jersey, Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi.

The strategy of integrating two large economies was hailed as a success post Second World War. The idea of integrating the German and French economies into a European Economic Community arose from the theory that economic losses on both sides would deter future conflict, in a region that was known for having a great many conflicts over generations. While integrating China into the WTO and world economic system was not intended to solely reduce conflict, the hope was that implementing China into a democratic economic system would influence China to become more economically motivated, thus motivating property rights and the values of Western democracy in some form. The motivation on making money while passively promoting human rights values was part of the theory, but for the most part it never took shape. Nations that were once considered strong democracies, as in Hong Kong, are now losing rights rapidly while the rest of the world ignores their challenges. The suspicion of influence over international organisations has lead some countries to question the advice of those international bodies that have the majority of their economic ties to one or two countries. Even strong democracies are showing signs of influence, to the detriment of their own citizens.

For many large companies a pulling away from China’s economy would mean a great loss of revenue, and it is likely the case that any downsizing or sale of many of these companies may only find buyers from the Chinese market. For those who have benefitted from China’s economic boom to take a decade of lost revenue and little to no growth produces a large disincentive for them commercially. While often running very wealthy companies, the reality is that owner and CEOs would lose money personally as well. A separation from China’s economy would not only take a massive economic hit on most companies, it would also place them into the political realm as the idea to separate would place hard working Chinese employees against hard working American, European and other employees where the population, through no fault of their own, would take the brunt of the losses during separation. In the event that post-Covid-19 economies do not recover in the next two to three years, the reality may be that economic suffering hurting workers in the West may become the catalyst for political leaders to enforce a real separation from China’s economy.

To enable companies and governments to change their economic model that has been enshrined since 2008 would likely require a great deal of government lead incentives to push industries back into their own national economic system and away from China’s low cost production economy. Part of China’s economic plan in recent years has been to move from manufacturing into more Research and Development intensive industries and compete with Western economies on more value based product categories. While China still is in the process of making this change, Western governments may force rapid change before the new policy takes shape fully in China. In order to do this, Western governments would need the money and political will to fund losses to companies and incentivize them to return. Carrots may work better than sticks, as a move to another low cost production economy may become more of an incentive than returning home.

With the massive losses from Covid-19 shutdowns, even the US and EU have taken a great deal of economic damage, so much so that Chinese companies would benefit from gobbling up companies in other countries while the value is low. For the grand disengagement from China to work, it would have to be done with like minded countries working in concert, still depending on each other but collectively deciding to move their industries back into their own backyards. Trade and development would likely continue within these blocks of nations, or within large self-sustaining economies, but with the shared goal of reducing dependency. The ties between nation states and flag ship national companies may become crucial, and weaker countries may end up having to choose their blocks as nationally supported companies take precedence over shared trade. Legal instruments like prohibiting key industries from being sold to foreign entities would become crucial, as well as a restriction on the sharing of Research and Development. China would likely have a harder time reaching record growth levels in this scenario, but with so much economic development and new technologies now residing in China, they would be a strong competitor within the world economy. Without this massive and nearly implausible push, it will be the case that the international economy will remain the same for generations to come.

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Pastor Saeed Abedini to President Trump: “Please help Iranian political prisoners”

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 15:15

After large scale protests have been reported in over a dozen prisons and several rebellions have broken out in prisons across Iran, Pastor Saeed Abedini and a number of other political dissidents wrote a petition to US President Donald Trump.  They proclaimed that the United States should help Iran’s political prisoners by increasing American pressure on the mullah’s regime at this critical time.  They adamantly oppose any sanctions relief offered by the Democrats, claiming that it will do nothing but embolden the terrorist ambitions of the mullah’s regime at the expense of Iran’s political dissidents.   

“On behalf of Iranian Americans who are former political prisoners and have experienced firsthand the torture and the violence of the Iranian mullah’s, we write to urgently request your support for political prisoners in Iran,” the petition reads.  “Based on the information that we received, all prisoners and especially political prisoners are at severe risk of infection and death due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Iranian regime’s systematic mishandling of the health crisis.”

According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Conditions in Iran’s prisons were dire even before the threat of coronavirus, but activists had become increasingly concerned with the ability of overcrowding to facilitate the spread of coronavirus.”  There are reports that the situation for prisoners “began deteriorating rapidly as coronavirus spread, including floods of raw sewage and rarely functioning water supply.”  According to the petition, many Iranian political prisoners are outraged and have protested against this, yet their pleas have been ignored by the regime:  “In response, the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guards has attacked, wounded and killed dozens of prisoners, many of whom are prisoners of conscious and some of whom are as old as 80 years old.  In addition, the Iranian regime has executed a number of protesters in order to create fear among the inmates.”  

The petition by the Iranian dissidents added: “As you are aware, Iran’s ruling regime has grossly misreported its COVID-19 cases and engaged in a malicious cover-up of fatalities.  Accurate figures provided by the National Council of Resistance of Iran reveal that the coronavirus death toll is nearly 35,000.   The conditions inside of Iran’s overcrowded prisons are uniquely disturbing.   Many of us can provide first-hand accounts of how the regime uses prison conditions as a method of torture.   Infected prisoners have not been quarantined or isolated.   Eye-witness reports indicate that the prison overcrowding and lack of sanitary essentials has led to high rates of infection.  This is not only inhumane but exacerbates the pandemic both in Iran and across the world.”

Given this, the petition emphasizes that humanitarian and medical assistance should only go to the Iranian people and not the mullah’s regime.  They also stressed that the Trump administration should be applying maximum pressure in order to ensure that political prisoners are released from Iranian prisons.  It should be emphasized that Iran has already released some criminals but to date continues to refuse to release political prisoners due to the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps because the Iranian regime wants the political prisoners to die.  However, the petition stressed that it is the duty of the free world to apply maximum political pressure in order to liberate all prisoners of conscious from the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

As Amnesty International proclaimed, “The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release hundreds of prisoners of conscience amid grave fears over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran’s prisons. The authorities should take measures to protect the health of all prisoners and urgently consider releasing pre-trial detainees and those who may be at particular risk of severe illness or death.”  

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Local Business and your Democracy

Thu, 30/04/2020 - 15:50

The loss of local businesses will likely have a greater long term effect on your community and country past losing your favourite pub or preferred place to eat. Besides making communities interesting, innovative and increasingly energetic, smaller and medium sized companies are a significant contributor to a healthy democracy. While the Corporatist model of policy development brings together large industry, government and labour to determine policy approaches in many Western European nations, the power and influence of small and medium sized businesses is lacking. Unfortunately, many who will experience job loss in Corporatist systems may not have other options for work as there are likely only a few larger companies that would avail themselves of the skills needed for employment. We have learned in the past that economic upheaval and abrupt policy changes many years ago at France Telecom and other large companies lead to a significant number of employees committing suicide. While the direct reason prompting this hopelessness was not determined, the inability to see a future for many of them may have been the cause. Increased economic opportunities at the time might have given employees some added hope for their future.

While the Industrial Revolution produced models for economic policy development that often only included large industry, labour and the government, those that were not fully integrated into those interest groups had limited their career prospects. During the industrial revolution, locals were the ones that moved from rural to urban centres and took up positions in newly formed industries. Newcomers to North America and South America did find employment in many of those industries, but they also expanded in the next generations to make their own start-up companies, creating employment for many of those who would have not been able to find work in the few large industrial firms at the time. For these reasons, the entrepreneurial class rose to such a great degree than they compete, and often provide more employment in the US and Canada than large industry. While the SBA and CFIB still have little influence over the policy decisions of governments in the US and Canada, the number of employees that depend on the entrepreneurial class is significant.

Hernando de Soto Polar produced some of the most interesting studies on how small and medium sized companies can promote a more equitable society in his research at the beginning of the 2000s. Latin America at that point had gone through twenty years of economic upheavals after the end of many years of closed borders and Import Substitution Industrialization policies that left most nations bankrupt. He saw that his fellow Peruvians were very capable of producing economic growth in their own communities, but did not have the power to influence policy decisions that made it easier to set up and run their own companies. In his analysis on Peru and Egypt, he showed that increased ability for smaller entrepreneurs to succeed also transformed economies into more equitable places to operate, and have added powers to those motivated and intelligent individuals who wanted a healthy community, thus producing a healthy country. It can be argued that much of the wealth and flexibility in the job market in the US and parts of Canada can be attributed to small and medium sized businesses contributing to low unemployment, and having some say in the policy decisions in society.

The loss of many small and medium businesses might have a negative effect on democracy as a whole. To lose much of the entrepreneurial class by further burdening small and medium sized businesses during a recession, or depression, not only limits their progress, but also reduces jobs and eliminates the best and most innovative in society from bettering that society. In the case of Canada for example, small and medium sized businesses actually make up the the majority of job producers in the country at over 65%, but during the current crisis the Federal Government of Canada added environmental taxes on all companies and citizens in the country, and even had the audacity to give all Federal politicians a raise on the same day. In comparison, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has recently declined a large portion of her own standard pay as a message of solidarity with the public. With the country possibly heading into depression era levels of job losses, the new tax deters rehiring those who lost their jobs, while adding to the cost of living for those who now live with no income. It is tantamount to cheering on the Sheriff of Nottingham when he takes from the newly poor and gives to the rich elites in society. In addition, it reduces the power of small and medium industry to have influence on policy decisions made by the government. With those most interested in vibrant communities being punished by bad policy, it may actually be detracting from a healthy democracy in that country.

While it will be impossible to save many small and medium sized companies during this crisis, the way in which many entrepreneurs operate will allow many to return when times are better. What must be done however is to not burden them or our communities further when recovery is possible. Without their voice on local matters, jobs will not return and our economy and government will not be as in-touch with us past elite opinions and elite options.

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Coronavirus proves what Ukrainians already knew – the UN doesn’t work

Wed, 29/04/2020 - 17:08


Co-Authored by Pavlo Klimkin

The coronavirus crisis is still in full swing, but attention is already turning towards the international environment we are likely to encounter in the post-pandemic world. With entire countries currently in lockdown and comparisons with major wars becoming commonplace, many expect the impact from the crisis to be genuinely historic.

One popular subject of speculation is the need to rethink the global architecture of international relations. In particular, many observers are highly critical of the United Nations response to the coronavirus outbreak and see it as a damning verdict of an organization that was first established in the aftermath of WWII to transform the way the nations of the world interacted. Such criticism is nothing new in Ukraine, where the idea that the UN is not fit for purpose has been widely discussed since 2014. Will the coronavirus crisis now lead to serious debate over the need for fundamental reform at the United Nations?

When Russian aggression against Ukraine first began six years ago, it quickly became obvious that the existing international institutions were completely ineffective and often failed to function at all. Ukrainians found themselves in the absurd position of facing an aggressor country with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council that used this exclusive position to veto any official acknowledgment that international aggression was taking place at all. This created a farcical situation wherein one part of the UN Charter could not be implemented because of another part. By its mere existence, the UN’s most prominent decision-making body, the Security Council, had come to implicitly legitimize the military expansion of one of its permanent members at the expense of another UN member state. This sorry state of affairs directly undermined the central rationale behind the creation of the United Nations following WWII, which was to prevent any more wars of aggression.

Despite the obvious injustice of the situation the country found itself in, there was little in practice that Ukraine could do except continue fighting Russian aggression while attempting to rally international solidarity and support. Admittedly, Ukraine’s plight did help to generate discussion over the need to reform the UN Security Council. Working groups were created with this in mind, and some new concepts emerged. However, the debate did not lead anywhere.

This failure to reform was due to the fact that the world’s leading nations did not see sufficient need to reboot the entire existing international system. Even more troubling has been Russia’s efforts to bypass its expulsion from the G8 group of leading nations and engage diplomatically with the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In effect, the Kremlin has sought to discuss the fate of Ukraine without any Ukrainians being present, and has exploited the outdated idiosyncrasies of the UN’s structure in order to do so.

The current pandemic is now disrupting international affairs in ways that make reform of the United Nations realistic for the first time in a generation. Indeed, the global mood is now beginning to share some similarities with the climate at the end of the twentieth century’s two world wars in 1918 and 1945, which gave birth to the League of Nations and United Nations respectively. In this environment, Ukraine has a far greater chance of finding like-minded allies who also seek to pursue the wholesale transformation of the United Nations.

Resistance to any such proposals would be stiff. However, failure to address the shortcomings exposed by such landmark events as the coronavirus crisis and Russian aggression against Ukraine would risk further undermining the legitimacy of the current UN system. This could lead to the United Nations becoming increasingly irrelevant and ineffective in addressing the major challenges facing humanity, much as its predecessor the League of Nations faded into redundancy and was eventually washed away by a rising tide of totalitarianism in the late 1930s.

Talk of change at the United Nations is not in itself controversial. Today’s reform-minded UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has initiated a wide-ranging discussion on the subject. However, he has not yet been able to implement any of the substantive changes he planned when he first took office in January 2017. As a result, we may have already passed the chance for a gradual reform of the UN system. Instead, with confidence in the world’s current institutional structures dwindling with every passing week of coronavirus shocks, the prospect of radical change becomes more and more realistic.

Before beginning any reboot, the entire UN system would have to be thoroughly reassessed. Ideally, this would be done by an external and independent auditor. The most obvious candidate for change is the World Health Organization, which is widely seen to have failed in its duty to provide adequate monitoring and early warning of the current pandemic. A more decisive response could have saved thousands of lives and prevented the economic collapse that now menaces the entire planet. Questions are also being asked over the WHO’s relationship with China and its apparent unwillingness to complicate ties with Beijing. International institutions that cannot act on the basis of impartial analysis are doomed to be ineffective. Ukrainians learned this painful lesson in 2014. It is now also increasingly obvious to wider international audiences. 

The question remains of who would be best-placed to initiate, formulate and implement a global solution to the questions currently being asked of the existing international system. During the two previous formative periods following WWI and WWII, the victorious allies inevitably took the lead. In today’s very different circumstances, there is no clear candidate camp or driving force to initiate and push through a comprehensive reboot. Instead, Ukrainians should look to join forces with other nations seeking a fundamental remake of the current UN system. Their goal should be to put the issue on the agenda for diplomats, politicians, and journalists. The coronavirus crisis is exposing the weakness of today’s international institutions, but it may also pave the way for long overdue and radical reform. 


Pavlo Klimkin was Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2014 until 2019 and is Head of the European, Regional and Russian Studies Program at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future in Kyiv.

Andreas Umland is General Editor of the book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society” at ibidem Press in Stuttgart and a Senior Expert at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future in Kyiv.

This article was first published by the #UkraineAlert of the Atlantic Council and kindly edited by Peter Dickinson.

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Sarwar Kashmeri: The Deadly Coronavirus Crisis is Also an Opportunity

Tue, 28/04/2020 - 16:08

The Pew Research Center recently reported that 66 percent of Americans view China unfavorably. And the Chinese are returning the favor in spades. Meanwhile, politicians in each country continue to encourage these nationalistic feelings instead of cooling their citizens’ tempers. The die is cast to tear up 50 years of cooperation and mutually beneficial ties that have benefited Americans and Chinese alike. 

The fact is unless America and China stop this mutually destructive trajectory and assume joint leadership for global economic recovery, reconstruction of the post-coronavirus world could take years, with unimaginable consequences for the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants, including unprecedented levels of global unemployment, famine, and even war.  

In the pre-coronavirus world, suggestions for a partnership between the world’s two superpowers would have been met with gales of laughter. But now, despite the two leaders’ daggers drawn posture, hundreds of doctors and scientists in the U.S. and China are already working together on clinical trials of potential coronavirus drugs; and one of China’s biggest property developers has funded a five-year $115 million project between Harvard University and the Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health.

But the window of opportunity for acting together is short. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to decimate the world’s economies. Unemployment in the U.S. now tops 22 million, a level not seen since the Great Depression of the nineteen-thirties; while China’s economy stopped growing for the first time in four decades as half a million small and mid-size businesses, the backbone of China’s economy closed; and Italy, the second largest manufacturing economy in the EU watches helplessly as the pandemic axe dismembers its economy. If India and Africa are unable to control the coronavirus the results would be catastrophic.

So, are there issues of such import and mutual benefit that they would convince Presidents’ Trump and Xi Jinping to work together? I believe there are. My two cents worth below.

The two superpowers could leverage China’s vast, trillion-dollar global infrastructure project—the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI, that aims to build infrastructure in over 120 countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. The BRI is designed to act as a conveyer belt to transmit Chinese investment and technology into these countries to improve their economies, and to link them to China.  But now Covid-19 has crimped China’s ability to sustain BRI’s trillion-dollar underwriting tab and President Xi Jinping’s grandiose vision is at risk.

On the other hand, the United States, which has been searching for a counter to BRI, has settled on an initiative called the Blue Dot Network or BDN. The idea behind the BDN is the U.S. would rigorously vet infrastructure project applications in developing countries to ensure high levels of transparency, sustainability, and economic viability before seeding them with startup funds from the U.S. Government. The BDN hallmark would then inspire confidence in the projects to attract private U.S. funding.  

But the relatively paltry BDN budget of $60 billion (versus China’s 1000 billion or trillion-dollar BRI budget) and developing countries’ skepticism of Western (read American) dominated standards for infrastructure construction have hobbled the BDN.

If the U.S. and China could find a way to combine BRI and the BDN it would ensure a stream of dollars from private U.S. companies into BRI and ensure its projects remain on track to create jobs and raise living standards around the world. The compromises required by America and China to weld BRI and BDN together would ensure the U.S. gets a seat at the table to influence the adoption of standards for starting and executing BRI projects. 

Here’s another thought:  The U.S. military is especially qualified to help fight natural disasters. In 2004, for instance, 3,000 U.S. military personnel were deployed to West Africa to help combat a deadly Ebola epidemic. Their work included constructing 17 hospitals, field training, and deploying assistance by air to remote villages. Today the U.S. military is being used to rapidly set up hospitals in U.S. cities to handle the burgeoning coronavirus caseload. The People’s Liberation Army meanwhile seems determined to play a more active global role in peace-keeping projects around the world. How about combining the two militaries capabilities to provide medical assistance for coronavirus stricken countries with marginal medical facilities.

Coronavirus-aid projects delivered to less-off countries through joint U.S.-China military teams would double what the U.S. and China could do on their own. And help establish the military to military connections that the U.S. has tried to foster with China for some time. A working relationship between the two nations’ militaries might even lead to a more stable geopolitical balance of power.

The Chinese word for crisis contains two characters. One signals danger, the other opportunity. Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping should boldly find a way to join forces to convert the deadly Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity that would supercharge global economic recovery and could even lead to a more stable balance of power.  It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that ought not to be squandered.


Sarwar Kashmeri is the author of “China’s Grand Strategy; Weaving a New Silk Road to Global Primacy, (Praeger 2019);” He is a Fellow, Foreign Policy Association, and an Applied Research Fellow, Norwich University’s Center for Peace and War.


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Foreign Affairs Quiz

Mon, 27/04/2020 - 15:18

The Significance of the Have-Nots

Wed, 15/04/2020 - 16:21
Pigeons roam around Piazza Duomo square after the government decree to close cinemas and schools. Guglielmo Mangiapane / Reuters

It is no surprise to those that live on the Mediterranean that often policy that is made in Brussels, Berlin, and Paris foresee little impact on the borders of the EU. When many decision are made in the centre of Western Europe, often it is Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal that have to manage the outcome. What has made many of these issues contentious is that while the policy and funds may come from Brussels, actual physical help is more often than not denied. Since before 2007’s migrant crossings, it has always been the border patrols and national Navys that have to manage a problem that is sometimes exacerbated from another country’s actions. With reduced help, the response by national governments to EU policy places the enforcement officers as well as migrants themselves at greater risk.

The significance of Milan and the region of Lombardy is the economic centre of not only Italy and its northern region, but is a key hub between Vienna, the Swiss centres of Zurich and Geneva as well as Southern France, most notably Marseilles, Nice and Lyon. When the virus hit Milan and Lombardy, it amputated much of the economic, cultural and political strength of Europe itself. What many in Italy must be asking is what help could the EU and NATO have provided to address the outbreak sooner, and why was there not more physical help given to Milan and the region when it was apparent that it would be overwhelmed by the pandemic?

Italians are likely to question their place in the EU after the pandemic subsides, considering in great detail the actions by central governments on regions that become increasingly apparent in times of crisis. The region of Alberta in Canada, while ignored almost wholly by the Federal Government and the financial centre in Toronto, has been put under a government created recession over the last few years. With policy designed to halt and disrupt the production of oil and gas from Canada, competitors like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria and Iran have increasingly entered the world market and have placed local politics at the forefront of the global energy industry. With the ignored economic turmoil in Alberta came permanent job loss, a loss in local revenue and unfortunately suicides. With COVID-19 ravaging Alberta, Canada and the rest of the world, it is likely the case that we are all becoming Alberta , albeit with the support of our community and central governments, a luxury Albertans have not had for years.

With the pandemic still intensely punishing Northern Italy and having spread in equal fashion to Spain and the rest of Europe, it might be too late for resources from one region to be dedicated to another at this point. Whatever can be done, should be done however as this virus will be conquered by the communities we live in, not the governments at the top. Governments should not get in the way of communities trying to help themselves, and in Canada after giving away 16 tonnes of their emergency PPE stock in February, it seems that this might be the case. In an absurd and insulting move, the Prime Minister of Canada has decided to pick April 1st to give all Federal politicians a raise in pay. He also added a tax that discourages the largest national employers, small and medium sized businesses, from hiring in the middle of a guaranteed recession and likely depression in some regions, namely Alberta. With Canada still taking in flights from hot spot countries and having what is surely the most lax health screening measures globally at its international airports, even as late as April 2020, it might be the case that the lessons ignored from Milan will punish Canada as much as it has Italy, Spain and the Europe.

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Op-Ed: Will coronavirus transform Bangladesh into the next Iran?

Wed, 01/04/2020 - 21:09

Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, proclaimed in an interview: “Coronavirus is the latest pandemic that is affecting the international community.  So far, there is no official record on how the coronavirus is affecting the people in Bangladesh.  We believe that 13 Bangladeshis have succumbed to the illness, but the government is not recording these deaths as related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather due to coughing and a cold or a respiratory disease.  The state administration is completely inept in handling the situation.”  These leaves one to ponder, with the time, will Bangladesh become the next Iran?  

According to Human Rights Watch, even after the first person died from coronavirus in Bangladesh, “tens of thousands of people gathered in Raipur in the south of the country in order to pray from the Quran in order to protect them against the pandemic.”  The BBC reported that eyewitnesses reported that up to 30,000 people attended that massive prayer session and a similar massive prayer session in Malaysia caused 500 coronavirus infections.   Interestingly, Basu argued that many religious Muslims in Bangladesh believe that their faith makes them immune from getting the coronavirus, but now many religious Muslims are suffering from the pandemic within the country.  

“While the authorities discouraged mass gatherings, they haven’t offered much else to build up confidence that they are adequately responding to the crisis,” Human Rights Watch added.  “The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research is currently the only facility with the capacity to run a coronavirus test for a country of more than 164 million.  Testing is only available in the capital city Dhaka, so the thousands who gathered to pray in Raipur for instance cannot be checked for the virus.  There have been reports that the IEDCR’s hotline is not working but meanwhile, some hospitals are apparently refusing treatment to patients displaying symptoms.” 

The Bangladeshi health system is simply not equipped to handle the situation.  As the Andalulou Turkish News Agency noted,  “many have expressed concern that there is a serious lack of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds with facilities with ventilators, shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers, testing kits and other resources, including a national fund to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.” 

Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi public health activist and founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, a rural health care organization with a modern medical facility, proclaimed: “Bangladesh is facing these challenges because of a weak Health Ministry. There is a serious crisis of ICU beds prepared for patients and necessary training and supply of PPE to physicians and health care associates.  If something happens, even one-tenth of what the U.S., Italy, or Spain are facing now in the coronavirus pandemic, then we [Bangladesh] could not deal with such a situation because of insufficient ICU facilities and lacking preparedness in other areas.” 

It is true that Bangladesh recently announced a lockdown.  All Bangladeshis who have recently returned from working in the Persian Gulf are under a 14-day quarantine.  Similarly, all the Rohingya refugee camps have been closed off from the rest of the country.  At the same time, Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Hasina has told her citizens not to leave home unless it is an emergency.  All trains, buses and flights leaving Bangladesh have been suspended until April 4, and the whole country is presently on a national holiday with all the schools and colleges closed, while the government has offered financial relief to the garment industry, which is critical for the Bangladeshi economy yet presently is at risk of collapsing. 

Nevertheless, many critics are pondering whether the Bangladeshi government is a bit late in their response and whether this is enough given that it is one of the more densely populated countries on earth, with a population of 10 million who recently returned to the country after working abroad.   Furthermore, given the nature of Bangladeshi culture, not many Bangladeshis are absorbing the concept of social distancing well.  The Diplomat reported that a large party was held in order to celebrate the release of Bangladeshi Opposition figure Khalida Zia under the supposed Bangladeshi lockdown.  It should also be noted that the Bangladeshi government has hosted events with visitors from abroad during the supposed lockdown as well.  Furthermore, Al Jazeera reported that many Bangladeshis live in crowded urban slums, which makes the task of containing the coronavirus even more difficult.

Even before the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, the Bangladeshi government has been under fire for massive human rights violations.  The US State Department recently reported that the Bangladeshi government systematically murders, imprisons, tortures and rapes political dissidents and members of minority groups.  For example, the US State Department noted that three Bangladeshi soldiers raped a 12-year-old Rohingya girl and photojournalist Shahidul Alam was tortured in prison for “making provocative statements” regarding the student protests.   Similarly, the Bangladeshi Minority Council UK released a reporting demonstrating that Debashish Chakraborty, a failed Bangladeshi Hindu asylum seeker in the UK, was recently killed upon his return to Bangladesh.   Now, there is a fear that things can only get worse.  The discriminatory treatment of the Rohingya has only worsened since the pandemic broke out.  Furthermore, Bangladeshi dissident Aslam Chowdhury was recently re-arrested during the coronavirus pandemic. 

It should be noted that there are some parallels between how Bangladesh and Iran related to the pandemic.  In Iran also, the government tried to hide the outbreak in the beginning and was in denial about its existence.  Initially, the Iranian government refused to quarantine affected areas and Shia holy shrines, believing their faith would protect them from the pandemic, just as many religious Bangladeshis believed Allah would protect them from the virus if they just prayed enough.  

Instead, the Iranian government helped to spread the virus all over the world.  MEMRI reported that the Syrian Opposition blames Iran for the spread of the coronavirus into Syria.  Iraqi dissident Nakeeb Saadoon similarly blames Iran for the pandemic spreading into Iraq.  Foreign Policy reported that Mahan Air, an airline linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which has been designated as a terror organization by the US and other governments, continued flights to China until after the Iranian Parliamentary Elections, knowing full well the health risk that such flights entailed.  Similarly, it took some time for the Sheikh Hasina government to block off flights into the country.  

When the Iranian government could no longer hide the pandemic due to the existence of mass graves within the country, they started to blame their traditional enemies for the pandemic.  According to Foreign Policy, Hossam Salami, the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claims that the virus is a “Zionist biological terror attack” and an “American biological invasion.” The Times of Israel reported that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blames the virus on demons identified in the Quran as “jinn,” or genies and the American intelligence forces working in tandem with them.    If Bangladesh reaches to where Iran presently is, then one can only expect the creation of conspiracy theories blaming religious minorities for the virus, just as Iran blames its traditional adversaries for the pandemic and YNET reported that some Neo-Nazis extremists in America are blaming the coronavirus on the Jews.  If this should happen, then the plight of minorities in Bangladesh will go from horrific to worse.  



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Foreign Affairs Quiz

Mon, 30/03/2020 - 18:17


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Emergency Powers Not Becoming a Permanent Destiny

Fri, 27/03/2020 - 16:33
Empty shelves and Masked Citizens: Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

With the necessity of applying emergence powers to governments in this and other times or economic, political or heath crises, there needs to still be a culture where the governments are consistently held to account for their use of powers and their actions in relation to the operation of a healthy democracy. No one in the world would be content with a government agent summarily taking their home or arresting them and their family without just cause in the application of justice, but many Emergency powers under Acts of legislature can be greatly abused by governments. These nations who are at risk of losing part of their constitutional rights permanently are those who before their actions on COVID-19, did not have governments that treated the freedom and justice in their society with the respect it deserved.

One of the first detrimental elements of governments that may use Emergency Powers to go beyond its normal reach are those economies that relied on deficit spending during times of healthy economic progress to ensure their control and power over society. Often these type of governments rely on several entrenched interest groups that operate to the detriment of average, everyday citizens. With the shifting of the public purse towards specific interests of those in power, the country suffers. When there is an immediate need to direct funds towards those who produce wealth and work in a society, the cupboards are often bare. This quick dash for cash is almost never taken from the takers who previously profited in a healthy economy, and in many cases the much needed help; via medical or other emergency equipment, is taken by those same people who punished the makers in society previously. The long term issue is that they never get into a healthy economic position again because it is already known that the permanent damage in the long term will not recover from short term stimulus. Without investment, the lost powers during in an emergency may never fully recover either as the takers need to ensure their actions against their own society are never discovered.

We have already seen what can occur when those societies that lack human rights have to deal with an outbreak. Since individuals in dictatorships have little value, saving them also has little priority. In healthy democracies individual rights are fought for and formed the basis of many of their systems of governments. When those rights to property, free speech and freedom of expression are targeted during emergency crises, they are often done not to help society and promote information to help the general public, but are done to hide the truth from the public the government claims to help by using those absolute powers. When a government in a productive time operates by means of altering facts, abusing the justice system and threatening truth tellers in society for holding them accountable, their past actions show that any amount of power will lead to immediate corruption. Corruption is always bad for the economy as we see above, but it also has the effect of permeating the entire systems and infrastructure of a society and spreads like a virus in itself. When the top is corrupt, the rest of the structure quickly learns that the only way to get ahead is to operate within a corrupt system. It is almost impossible to get rid of corruption once it takes place. This is why Emergence Powers and the Acts that enshrined them in many constitutions were placed in with caution. It takes generations to build a healthy society, but often only one generation to destroy it completely.

When we heard messages from leaders, the messages can only be effective and galvanize us all to act to protect the weaker members of our society if everyone contributes towards positive actions in our society. When a government asks much from its citizens, but only commits to the words and ignores the deeds, it creates complete chaos in a society. A lie in the case of the current pandemic should be considered as a criminal act when leaders have knowledge that their acts can hurt people and get them killed. The long term effect of such lies means that any positive actions are questioned and not relied upon. Often characteristics of those governments come from those that are self-interested, corrupt or come from a truly horrific dictatorship that pay little to no attention to their own people. This means, if your country is run by a dictatorship or one that has those dictatorial tendencies, you must rely on smaller, more democratic sub-governments that operate compassionately or push for a change in government and hope that the effect and losses in society are minimal. In all cases, neighbours needs to support neighbours, and communities need to be strong, healthy and open to freedom so the damage is not permanent. These communities must take account of their governments during crises and afterward so that the loss of democratic values does not become permanent.

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When Regimes Fester

Tue, 25/02/2020 - 22:41
Iraqi Protester in Oct 2019 demonstrations (AFP)

What is the appropriate way to deal with a country and a government that continuously abuses its own citizens and foreign nationals in 2020? International legal norms are often buried for the sake of political expediency so local elections can be won, but why do local elections depends on whether or not we acknowledge the genocide of the Yazidi people, or the plight of the Uighurs? Why is Venezuela only an issue for a week, and why is it considered at all appropriate after such a week for a world leader of a democratic country to shake hands with a regime that murdered its citizens? It is up to the citizens of democratic countries to hold their governments to account. We see in 2020 that a government that is not held to account can commit some grievous errors and even crimes. Supporting corrupt practices locally hurts those globally, especially in countries where wealth and political power guides the rest of the world.

The Inter-American Dialogue’s Venezuela Working Group has recently published a report to highlight the need for inter-regional and international focus on the government of Venezuela, done for the sake of Venezuelans at home and abroad. Part of the tools many regimes use to advance their power and many of their abuses is just to wait out the impatient international media and foreign interest until another issue captures their attention. This tactic was used in 2009 when Iran’s liberal minded protesters were violently put down after the world’s attention shifted to other issues. This tactic spread to Venezuela, Syria, Iraq and many other parts of the world when people under regime rule spoke up and asked for international unity. The years surrounding 2020 and the global era of mass communication and incredible technology has actually given us less useful information about how to be more human to those who scream for help across the world. It is not the case that the information is not available, it is that the culture around information has become very regressive. One horrific example is that of the genocide of the Yazidi people, a modern Holocaust that shows no lessons have been learned since the end of the Second World War.

While Iranians still protest and are murdered, and Iraqis protest and are murdered in kind by those linked to the same regime, the week that saw the murder of many Canadians, Iranians and other foreign nationals via missiles downing an airliner is barely discussed. The issue never met justice, and the silence is allowing not only the evidence to be wiped clean and a new narrative to be set by those who committed the crime, but also enabled them to use the time and ignorance of the issue to convince those speaking for victims to embrace, smile and bow at those who openly killed their citizens. It will surely come to pass that in the future our time will be looked at as an era of mass murder, shadowed in mutually assured ignorance.

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International community condemns persecution of Bangladeshi Hindus

Wed, 19/02/2020 - 21:16

As we speak, the Hindus of Bangladesh are slowly being ethnically cleansed from the country.  Their holy sites are being burned and desecrated.   Their people are being murdered.  Their women and girls are getting raped.  And developments on the ground indicate that with the time, the situation is becoming graver, not better.

This month, Muslim assailants set the Kali Temple ablaze.  According to the reports, everything in the temple was burned in the fire.  This arson attack came after Muslim assailants desecrated four Kali idols.  Following that incident, the police refrained from arresting anyone.  Nevertheless, the local Hindu community had appealed to the authorities for help, demanding a fair investigation and the arrest of the perpetrators, a call that went unheeded.  Now, it remains to be seen how the Bangladeshi authorities will respond to the Kali Temple arson attack.    As a result of these developments, the World Hindu Struggle Committee reported that there is reportedly “extreme tension and panic among the Hindus of Bangladesh.”

Kali is not the only area in Bangladesh that has suffered recently from anti-Hindu violence.  There were three incidents of vandalism targeting Hindus inside two temples in the South Sonakhuli village of Botlagari union in the Sayedpur of Nilphamari district.  Local resident Jyotikumar Roy said, “The assailants have done this to hurt religious sentiments.”  Rajkumar Poddar, president of the National Worship Celebration Council Sayedpur Branch, said, “There is a deep conspiracy behind breaking idols inside of temples. It is the police’s responsibility to find out who is behind it. I demand immediately the arrest of the assailants.”

Also this month, Arun Das (60), a Hindu member of ward no 8 of Pukra union no 9, was murdered in Baniachang.  This comes after last month; an elderly Hindu woman was hacked to death and another Hindu man was murdered while his wife was gagged up in the Asian country.  Around the same time period, a 16-year-old Hindu girl was abducted by a Muslim gang in Bangladesh and the authorities refused to intervene in order to rescue her. 

Following these developments, Shipan Kumer Basu, the President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, and Snata Mukherjee, his pollical secretary, met with British Ambassador Peter Cook, former IAS officer of India Ujar Singh and the special advisor to the Indian Prime Minister Deepak Vohra in order to raise awareness about the dismal plight of Hindus in Bangladesh.  

In a conversation with Deepack Vohra, Basu related that since the Awami League government was formed in 2009, anti-Hindu persecution has been widespread and there is extensive evidence that the Bangladeshi government stands behind the wave of oppression sweeping the Asian country: “They stand behind every incident of Hindu persecution and every rape of Hindus in the country.  The people of Bangladeshi want to get rid of this oppressive government.”  The officials promised to investigate the matter.  

Considering these developments, a delegation is being formed that will include men from all strata namely spiritual leaders, technicians and professionals such as doctors, engineers and the like.  It will also include members of the Israeli government.  Alongside investigating the plight of Bangladeshi Hindus, they will also discuss improved Hindu-Jewish cooperation in the fields of agriculture, technology, education, banks, etc.  The delegation will be headed by Mendi Safadi, the head of the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  

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Preserving Humanity Through Language and Culture

Tue, 11/02/2020 - 19:46
Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery-  more than 100,000 people were interred here stacked on top of each other up to twelve layers deep. Photo credit: Maros M r a z/Wikimedia

A great loss to Syrian and Iraqi culture came from the intentional destruction of many ancient sites and artifacts of those people that came before the modern era, practiced ancient religions and spoke languages that may never be spoken again. With the disappearance of those heritage sites comes new ways of discovering the ethnic and genetic roots of the original people that settled those lands. The families of many of those who are creating conflict and that are victims of mass conflict are rooted directly to those ancient cultures. What is even more telling is that the divisions in the region are among those that share the same DNA makeup. While divisions abound in the region, modern science shows us that opposing groups and religions are really the same people when we look into their family histories.

Many smaller ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq have been the target of mass genocide in recent years. With the targeting of cultural sites that garnered a lot of international attention, the systemic murder of entire communities passed by the same media cycle without hardly a mention in Western media. Modern 3D scans of some of the destroyed ruins saved some imaging and perhaps can become a blueprint for the reconstruction of some ancient sites. What cannot be restored however are the people, cultures that are some of the oldest and most well entrenched in human history being wiped out due to violence, ill-informed faith and a wider international society that forgot the lessons of the Holocaust.

The best method for preserving the knowledge of a culture is to provide a safe and liberated community for those survivors to speak freely about their life experiences and pass on their heritage to future generations. The surviving Yazidi communities that were able to escape ISIS terror and genocide have established some cultural centres abroad and are attempting to re-acquire humanity in the face of tragedy. There are still few efforts coming from the international community to help them seek some stability or free many of those still enslaved, and in some cases they have been placed in further danger without justification in communities intended to be peaceful.

Another method to preserve culture and heritage is to seek to understand their language, and by way of open communication, preserve some of their culture. Some ancient languages had laws regulating the translation of the text as to not alter the wording or sentences, so that the meaning would be preserved in its clarity. This was often done for religious reasons, but it links language to culture, and anyone who speaks more than their mother tongue will often be aware of the greater perspectives they share by being able to understand another world view via another language. Efforts to entrench language in places like smaller regions of the EU not only ensure the local culture of places like Calalunya, the Basque region, Friesland, Flanders, and Naples but preserves past heritage in order to contribute to the future culture of the region.

A new method for understanding and promoting cultural awareness is the popularity of DNA testing that shows the heritage of individuals and families though scientific discovery accompanied by historical understanding. Leaders in the field like Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. initially sought to give a detailed account of this history of cultural groups where past traumas had removed them from a detailed understanding of their ancestors. While discovering positive, and in many cases, difficult histories for many he assisted, the ability to re-open the past gives many people pride and direction in their personal lives. In many cases as well, cultures that have been lost to terror and genocide can use this method to regain some of their identity, and in a few examples it might even be able to be used as a tool to reclaim cultural artifacts and heritage once intentionally separated from those communities. To lose ones heritage creates an tremendous motivation to reclaim it. This is best understood by those who live with that loss.

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