First, you need to ask the following question and attempt to answer it yourself.
Can you think like a military's political strategist in Burma? You need to. You must. Or you don't get it.
What Aung San Suu Kyi is pushing for is the amendment to the Constitution of, for and by the generals, just so the clause that bars her (and, really, any Burmese who has organic foreign ties through children, marriages, etc), can be removed.
She is pursuing an ultimately doomed strategy, abandoning her real platform and base of human rights, humanism, liberalism etc. Ultimately doomed, simply because the military has institutionalized loathing - not fear - towards her. It can't even stomach the idea of Aung San Suu Kyi, President of Myanmar, let alone the reality.
Be that as it may, if I were a military's political strategist I would do 2 things: 1) allow the constitutional change to fuel her presidential delusions and 2) even let her party win with a narrow or slim majority votes, which in turn would enable her to become president.
All the levers of power are locked in the hands of the military, the military-controlled bureaucracy and the judiciary. The economy of the country has been sliced out among key military and crony families - with one or two peripherally linked 'clean' businessmen like Michael Moe Myint or Surge Pun.
I would continue to use Aung San Suu Kyi, now the nominal President of Myanmar, as a strategic proxy who has self-consciously making the military's bidding: on China's copper mine, on China's investment projects, on the military conglomerates, on land confiscation, on the ethnic minority issues, on foreign relations, on civilian-military affairs ('I love my daddy's army' line), on the Rohingya genocide ('no such thing as ethnic cleansing'), on the war against the Kachin, on foreign aid, on the defense of police brutality('inexperienced police force'), on the cover for the Pentagon-Myanmar Armed Forces Ties via Australia and Britain, initially), etc.
What I would do as a military strategist, is simply block, frustrate and otherwise stonewall her 'democracy and human rights agenda' - I mean, whatever little is left of that original agenda.
The above, actually, may be the best case scenario for both the Lady and the general. She gets to be the President, nominally. The military-crony complex carries on as business as usual.
As my friend Carlos said the military can simply give her the rope to hang herself with: let her fail irreversibly, blame the failures of reforms and transitions on her Presidency and play her against the people who once invested their hopes and emotions in her.
The people's welfare, future? That's a different story altogether.
Racism at BBC Burmese, Radio Four's "Beyond Belief" and BBC Complaint Handlers
Dated 27 Nov 2013
Following up with the complaint about the BBC Radio Four and BBC Burmese Editor's verifiably anti-Rohingya racism:
"I was told by the BBC complaints website that if I was unsatisfied with the latest of their responses to my complaint first lodged in August 2013 relating to the above mentioned programme, that I should refer the issue to the Editorial Complaints Unit. I remain deeply unsatisfied, shocked and disturbed by the BBC complaints response and procedures thus far, hence referring this complaint to you.
This is the first ever complaint I have made about broadcasting and I have taken it up because of the seriousness and gravity of the impact of negative and inaccurate media portrayals of the Rohingya and Muslim minorities in Myanmar.
The issue of unfounded Islamaphobic fears in Myanmar being presented as fact and presenting the conflict as one of two-equal-sides as opposed to Muslim persecution, ethnic cleansing or genocide has recently come to light since Aung San Suu Kyi’s comments in an interview with the BBC’s Mishal Hussein, in which she claimed that the Buddhist majority in Myanmar had a well-founded fear of the rise of global Islam. These comments which caused outrage around the world were understood to be Islamphobic, as noted by The Telegraph, Myanmar Times and Aljazeera. The reason I bring this reaction to Aung San Suu Kyi’s comments to your attention is because on the Radio 4 programme, “Beyond Belief” the BBC Burmese editor was allowed to present similar and even more outrageously biased claims on Beyond Belief without refute – and presented them as fact as opposed to opinion. This is the subject of my complaint.
It is widely understood that the media, including Burmese language media, is a key contributory factor in the rise of hate-speech and the accompanying violence against Myanmar’s Muslims, including the Rohingya. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has called for the Government of Myanmar to stop the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment, hate-speech and violence. The responsibility for stopping the spread of anti-Rohingya sentiment in the overseas Burmese language media, or international media about the Rohingya, does not lie with the Government of Myanmar, but with the bodies that govern editorial content in international contexts, such as yourselves at the Editorial Complaints Unit. For this reason I hope you take the complaint seriously. You may be aware of the central and important role the BBC Burmese language service has played in Myanmar in making unbiased information available to the Burmese public during the 50 years of military dictatorship. It would be a deep shame to tarnish this record with the presentation of state-based and prejudicial information on Muslims in Myanmar in the face of Myanmar’s ethnic-cleansing.
Whilst the situation relating to the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities in Myanmar has been documented by Human Rights Watch as Ethnic Cleansing and by the Sentinel Project for the Prevention of Genocide as impending genocide, thus far the response from the BBC complaints website including from the Producer of the programme have been insulting, offensive and ignorant. Beneath, I include the correspondence between me and the BBC on this issue as well as between Maung Zarni and the BBC (who was interviewed on the programme in question), including his open letter of complaint to Lord Pattern, which can be found on the following web link:
http://www.maungzarni.net/2013/10/a-public-complaint-to-chris-patten-bbc.html and my own letter providing an detailed rebuttal as to what the programme presented “as fact”. This can be found on the following web link: http://www.maungzarni.net/2013/10/bbc-attempts-to-defend-its-racist.html
The complaint regarding the programme relates to two areas:
A) HARM AND OFFENSE
Two key issues arise in this category from the programme:
1) Discriminatory language on the grounds of race and religion. Throughout the programme, the terms “Rohingya” and “Bengali” were used interchangeably. Rohingya is a term that means Muslim indigenous to Rakhine State – Bengali is a label imposed by the State and by hostile populations on to the Rohingya or Rakhine Muslims with the purpose of marking them out as outsiders and racial “others” - a process that is part and parcel of denying them their fundamental rights, including their right to nationality, and ostracising them from the rest of society. Even following my complaint, the Producer of the programme, backing up comments by the BBC Burmese editor who was involved in the discussion in the programme, continued to use the terms Rohingya and Bengali interchangeably. In her response to my complaint Liz Leonard claims that it is “fact” that:
“95% of the population is Rohingyas, or Bengalis there.”[referring to two of the townships of North Rakhine State where the Rohingya are ghettoised and subject to several decades of discrimination and human rights abuses]
This is clearly a racist use of the term “Bengali” used to describe the Rohingya rather than people who would self-identify as Bengali, since to insinuate that within this area, that has a massive presence of security forces that regularly conduct household checks against family lists, often resulting is arbitrary detention, torture and extortion, killings, enforced disappearances and sexual violence hosts a growing population of “Bengalis”, i.e. immigrants, is frankly preposterous. This comes on top of the fact that the term was also used interchangeably throughout the programme.
The first response quoted above utterly undermines the claim in the second response to my complaint,
“I can assure you that Soe Win Than did not intend to undermine the Rohingya, but instead try to explain the fact that the term Rohingya is not widely recognised in Burma and that the local Burmese population regards the Rohingya population as Bengalis”
Both Soe Win Than and producer Liz Leonard continue to use the two terms interchangeably in the first response to my complaint. Further it was absolutely clear that in the programme the terms were not effectively problematized and were used interchangeably causing considerable offense.
There is a reason why in the UK we respect people’s right to self-identify – so that we do not insult people racially or discriminate against people. The BBC would not call, for example, someone who identifies as black British “African” against their wishes because it could be racist and insulting. And we certainly would not do so if that person had roots in the UK going back centuries. Why is the same code of conduct regarding self-identification – also used by the UN- not applicable to the Rohingya in the eyes of the BBC?
2) Factually misleading the audience
Burmese editor Soe Win Than, claimed that violence against Rohingya and Muslims by local populations in Myanmar was a result of a “well-founded” fear of Rohingya population growth. This was backed-up by producer Liz Leonard, who stated,
“For example, when he says “well-founded fear” he is referring to figures about Rakhine townships and that “originally there were more Rakhine people but now 95% of the population is Rohingyas, or Bengalis there.”
This is factually misleading. Rakhine State as a whole is roughly 30% Muslim today – as it has always been since records began. See for example the Paton, C. Sub-Commisioner of Arakan, April 26, 1826, A Short Report on Arakan P36, which notes that at the very start of the colonial period, a third of the population in Rakhine State was Muslim. In a major study and analysis of the available post-independence data, David Dapice and Nguyen Xuan Thanh of Harvard University conclude that there is: “no evidence of large post-1950 migratory flows into Rakhine – indeed both the official data and information on income and poverty would suggest the opposite” http://www.ash.harvard.edu/extension/ash/docs/creating.pdf
In referring to 95% Rohingya areas, Mr Soe Win Than is referring to the townships of North Rakhine State which have majority Rohingya or Rakhine Muslim (over-lapping terms) population–not Bengali. In fact these areas have for centuries had a majority Rohingya population. Since the 1960s the increase in the proportion of Rohingya is not due to in-migration from Bengal as he and Ms Leonard would have us believe but through forced migration under a xenophobic military dictatorship and latterly military-civilian rule. Thus the areas that are majority Rohingya – not Bengali- do not represent a “well-founded” demographic threat to the Rakhine, but a deliberate system of segregation, apartheid (as Bishop Desmond Tutu put it) and ghettoization of the Rohingya population who have been squeezed into geographical pockets, no longer able to survive in areas where they are in the minority. The restrictions in these townships have been compared to “open prisons” and “concentration camps.”
I do not believe the BBC would consider it appropriate to call complaints of Jewish population growth by the residents of areas hosting concentration camps in Nazi Germany “well-founded”, so why would they consider a similar claim appropriate in the case of the Rohingya in Myanmar who are facing ethnic cleansing and genocide?
Whilst in the first response to my complaint relating to “well-founded” fear, the producer Ms Leonard stood by the claim of “well-founded” fear in the programme stating that it was backed up by “facts and figures”(which I refute in my letter to her copied below). In the second response to my complaint I was given a contradictory answer,
“Soe Win Than’s reference to “well –founded fear” should have been attributed to the views of the Rakhine population. It did unfortunately sound as if he felt the fears were well founded, which was not what he meant.”
This is an utterly ridiculous statement. There is only one way for the audience to understand the term “well-founded” in relation to other peoples’ Islamaphobic and racist concerns about population growth – and that is that the person speaking has weighed up the evidence and come to the conclusion based on the evidence that their fears are not perception-based but valid. It is impossible to use the term “well-founded” in relation to others’ perceptions, it is a term that means “justifiable, valid, legitimate, well-grounded, sensible and acceptable”. Further to this ridiculous statement, I was told,
“His knowledge of the views of the local Rakhine population is based on the reports from Burma about the concerns of the local Rakhine population.”
This statement is extremely concerning to two ways. Firstly, if he was only aware of reports from a genocidal local population and not of the more neutral kind, why was he allowed to present these bias prejudicial opinions as fact without anyone available to refute the allegations? Secondly, and more alarmingly, why is an editor of BBC Burmese service not in possession of balanced information on the single most important issue to affect his country in transition– the issue of violence and hate speech against Myanmar’s Muslim population (see recent UNGA resolution on Muslim violence in Myanmar)? Does this not ring alarm bells with the BBC as to what the editorial line of BBC Burmese language broadcasts relating to this issue might be? If not, it should.
In fact throughout the discussion Soe Win Than’s comments presented a bias perspective against the Rohingya. His comments were utterly shocking to all that have a balanced knowledge of the situation for Rohingya in Myanmar. Equally shocking was that the programme did not question these biased perspectives. The reason I have picked out the “well-founded” fear comment rather than others as an example is that it clearly indicates that Soe Win Than was presenting his own views as fact, not simply presenting the perceptions of the Buddhist society in Myanmar.
B) REPRESENTATION AND UNDUE PROMINENCE OF VIEWS AND OPINIONS
My original complaint asked the question of why a programme about Buddhist violence against Muslims in Myanmar (the vast majority of those who have suffered violence are Rohingya Muslims) did not include a single Muslim voice. And why no-one was made available who was in a position to refute the un-problematized repetitions of state-based racist and Islamaphobic propaganda that were voiced by the BBC Burmese editor. In the first response to my complaint, producer Ms Leonard claimed,
“Whilst the programme did refer to the Burmese Rohingyas, they were not its focus. Its purpose was to examine Buddhism and non-violence, using the example of what is happening in Myanmar. Until the very end of the first half, the discussion in the opening part of the programme was solely about whether violence is permitted in Buddhism generally.”
I pointed out that she admitted herself that over half the programme was not about Buddhist scriptures but about violence against Muslims in Myanmar. It is impossible for a programme about Buddhism and non-violence in Myanmar, where ethnic cleansing against Myanmar’s Muslims is taking place to not also be about violence, Islamaphobia and racism (racism is inseparable from Islamaphobia in Myanmar) no matter how much emphasis is given to scriptures. Since the brunt of the violence against Muslims is born by the Rohingya Muslims, of course the violence against them is an integral part of the discussion.
In the second response to my complaint, I was told,
“The second half of the programme highlighted the violent nature of the Buddhist extremists in Burma and it was not about racism and violence against Muslims. We would definitely include a Muslim voice if the programme was to be about racism.”
I hope that the Editorial Complaints commission find this statement as utterly ridiculous and ignorant as I do. How on earth can a programme intending to highlight the violent nature of Buddhist extremism in Burma (which manifests itself as violence against Muslims including mostly the Rohingya) not be about Islamaphobia, racism and violence!? I just cannot think of a more stupid response that this. I find it utterly insulting and defensive. If you listen to the programme, you will be clear that the programme is about Buddhist violence against Muslims regardless of whether it explores scriptures or not. To claim it is not, is dishonest. As such, it is unfathomable why a Myanmar Muslim voice was not included in the programme. To make it worse, no-one who had a contextual understanding of the issues in Myanmar was made available to refute the BBC Burmese editor’s racist claims.
As I mentioned in my original complaint, it would be entirely unacceptable to broadcast a programme about Islamaphobia or anti-Muslim violence in the UK without including a single Muslim voice. So why does the BBC think it is acceptable to have a programme about violence against Muslims in Myanmar (even if looked at in parts through the lense of deconstructing notions of Buddhism and non-violence) without including a single Muslim voice?
To be clear about what response from the BBC we would be appropriate to this very serious complaint, I would like to highlight the following expected/suggested outcomes.
A) A public apology from the BBC for using the term “Bengali” to refer to the Rohingya population in Myanmar including clarification as to why it is insulting.
B) A public apology for claiming that local Myanmar and Rakhine populations have a “well-founded” fear of Rohingya population growth, with clarification as to why this is factually misleading and biased.
C) An investigation into the editorial line of BBC Burmese language service on the Rohingya crisis including considering the discourse they use in relation to the Rohingya and other Muslims.
Below, I copy the correspondence between myself and BBC complaints for your easy reference and to assist you in understanding the context of the situation relating to the Rohingya and Muslims in Myanmar. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with either myself or Maung Zarni, who is cced.
By Roger Mitton
It’s nothing new. Throughout history, prominent political and even religious leaders and institutions have kept silent about enormities which they had vehemently opposed in the past.
From the late Pope Pius XII’s failure to loudly condemn Nazi Germany’s extermination of millions of Jews during World War II, to Washington’s reticence in denouncing Cairo’s brutal suppression of Islamist protests earlier this year, there are many examples of tongue-tied regimes playing politics with morality and justice.
That doesn’t make such politically motivated no-comments right; nor does it serve the entities keeping mum in the long run. Silence means consent, the law has long stipulated, and renowned opponents of abuse and oppression send that very signal when they don’t speak out against such abuses and atrocities, whatever their reasons.
Speak up, Aung San Suu Kyi
So it is right and just for many human rights advocates across the globe to attack Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi for her public acquiescence in the persecution of Muslims in her country.
Ethnic violence erupted in June and October last year between Buddhists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and its Muslim minority, which comprised most of the 140,000 rendered homeless and the hundreds killed. The government puts the death toll at 192; one Muslim group, the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship despite having lived in Myanmar for generations, count 748 dead.
While not state policy, animosity and violence against Muslims has been tacitly sanctioned for years, and foreign governments and world media have long ignored it. But it’s still reprehensible, and even more so is the assenting silence of a widely admired and supported advocate of freedom and democracy.
A condemnation from Suu Kyi might not have stopped the excesses, but then her word’s failure to stanch the Myanmar junta’s suppression over two decades didn’t stop her from speaking out against it, so why not the ethnic attacks? Is it because opposing military rule and keeping silent about the Muslims’ plight both help her quest for national power?
Well, if Suu Kyi won’t speak up against the oppression and killing of Myanmar Muslims, she should, among other remedies, return her Nobel Peace Prize.
The presidency before principles
The belated outrage over recent pogroms, the latest in Thandwe last month, have centered less on the inaction of President Thein Sein’s government and more on the lack of condemnation by the country’s democracy icon Suu Kyi.
Recently, Maung Zarni, a Myanmar academic at the London School of Economics, said: “It is Suu Kyi, not the ethnic cleansing itself, that the media finds worthy of a headline.”
Certainly, there have been lots of headlines that have battered her freedom-loving reputation by exposing her as a hardheaded politician focused on one and only one thing: the presidency of her country.
Hence, her utter silence about the ultra-nationalist Buddhist majority’s attacks on Muslims, in her calculated tactic to win voter support at the expense of what is right and just.
No matter that the presidency is a goal almost impossible for her to achieve. But she will give it her best shot, even if it means turning her back on the democratic principles for which she suffered more than two decades of house arrest.
For sure, the Lady’s not for turning on this, as indicated by her recent refusal to meet a delegation from the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which groups the world’s Muslim nations, and as she coldly demonstrated in her October interview with the BBC’s Mishal Husain.
Repeatedly asked to condemn anti-Islamic sentiment and the wave of mob-led massacres of Muslims in Myanmar, she declined to do so. No sense, she evidently thought, in riling the country’s huge Buddhist majority, which loathes its small Muslim community with a passion.
A passionate hatred for Muslims
As Thomas Fuller wrote in The New York Times on November 9: “Hatred for Muslims and the fear of appearing sympathetic to them run so deeply in Myanmar that officials seem afraid even to console the victims’ families.”
Fuller’s report about the latest butchery includes an account of the hacking and burning to death of crippled and elderly Muslims. His story, headlined ‘Horrendous killings, without an uproar’, noted: “In Myanmar today, deploring the fatal stabbing of a 94-year-old woman is considered taking sides.”
That animosity is now openly displayed in Nazi-inspired 969 signs on shops and restaurants to indicate Muslims are not welcome. And Suu Kyi is not going to alienate her biggest vote bank by sympathizing with the Muslim minority no matter what atrocity befalls them. Instead, she is going to do what her fellow bigoted Buddhist compatriots do: stay quiet or dissemble, and in private cheer.
Especially since many Muslims aren’t even voting citizens. Last week, the government rejected a U.N. General Assembly resolution asking for citizenship to be granted to the Rohingya. “Citizenship will not be granted to those who are not entitled to it under this law no matter whoever applies pressure on us,” government spokesman Ye Htut said in a statement. “It is our sovereign right.”
Like Fuller’s report, most Western press also deplore not just the institutionalized abuse and violence against Muslims, but the silence of Suu Kyi. Her evasive answers to the BBC, said David Blair in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, “sent a shiver down my spine.” He was particularly shocked when the democracy icon claimed that Buddhists suffer as much from the fear of violence as Muslims.
Suu Kyi was lying. They don’t.
The latest anti-Muslim pogroms have occurred in 11 towns across Myanmar, causing more than 100 deaths, displacing 12,000 people and destroying 1,300 homes and 32 mosques. Nothing remotely comparable has happened to the Buddhist community.
Where is her courage now?
When Mishal Husain asked her: “Do you condemn the anti-Muslim violence?” Suu Kyi replied: “I condemn any movement that is based on hatred and extremism.” Blair aptly remarked: “How could a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize fail to answer that question with a simple ‘Yes’?”
Well, Suu Kyi could and she will continue to do so because she wants to be president.
But others, especially in this region, can act by not visiting Myanmar till this carnage ends.
Or if a visit must be made, take a big black marker pen and daub a swastika over those foul 969 stickers. But it’ll take courage. Something evidently gone on this issue from Myanmar’s freedom advocate-turned-political animal.
(Roger Mitton is a Southeast Asia regional consultant and a former senior correspondent for Asiaweek magazine and The Straits Times of Singapore.)
Go to Original - The Manila Times
By Maung Zarni
Myanmar’s radical “969 movement” has been central in the recent brutal pogroms against minority Muslims that have left hundreds dead and 12,000 displaced. The Buddhist monk-led group, however, cannot be understood outside of the interface between President Thein Sein’s government and the country’s racist society at large.
Nor can it be explained without examining the respective roles of a) the State, which in effect offers the country’s neo-Nazi Buddhists impunity, b) Thein Sein’s inaction, even amid indications of ethnic cleansing against minority Muslims, and c) the Aung San Suu Kyi-led opposition’s moral bankruptcy throughout the crisis. The orgy of violence has raised several important questions about the country’s direction and hopes for reform.
How popular and widespread is the “969 movement” and how likely is it to spread throughout the country?
As a new nationalist movement with a clear message of “racial and religious purity,” a false sense of Buddhist victimhood, and cultural and economic nationalism — not dissimilar to Germany’s Nazism in the 1930s — 969 is gaining popularity for three main reasons. First, some of the militant Buddhist preachers from nationally well-connected Buddhist teaching colleges (such as 969 leader Wirathu) effectively scapegoat the country’s Muslims for the general economic hardships and cultural decay in society, portraying the ethnic Burmese as victims at the hands of organized Muslim commercial leeches and parasites. Second, 969 preys on the historical and popular anti-Muslim racism among the majority Buddhists. Last but not the least, virtually all state institutions at all levels — including the police, intelligence agencies, the army, local civil administration and even fire departments — under Thein Sein’s management have offered this Buddhist neo-Nazi movement both impunity and passive cooperation. What is the Naypyidaw government doing to crack down on the radical movement?
Thein Sein’s official report to Parliament on the anti-Muslim violence against ethnic Rohingyas last year in western Burma/Myanmar’s Rakhine State blamed political parties and Buddhist monks for spreading “ethnic hatred.” Yet his administration has not taken a single action against anyone who openly incited anti-Muslim hatred or ethnic hatred toward the Rohingyas. Nor has his government detained or even deterred a single Buddhist preacher of hate for acts of spreading anti-Muslim hatred in society and inciting blatant calls for phase-by-phase elimination of Muslims and their influence in society.
“Political parties, some monks and some individuals are increasing the ethnic hatred. They even approach and lobby both the domestic and overseas [Arakan] community,” Thein Sein’s report, submitted to Parliament last August, said. There is thus an unbridgeable gap between Thein Sein’s messages of coexistence and tolerance, to which the Western mainstream media has given wide coverage, and his government’s inaction, which the same media has failed to report beyond the observation that local police have stood by idly when organized mob violence unfolded before them.
All over Myanmar one can easily find numerous publications, DVDs, CDs and other anti-Muslim propaganda materials. It is not illegal to spread anti-Muslim misinformation and hateful views in the country’s more open environment. Instead, the government sued the Voice Weekly newspaper for printing a single article about corruption at the ministry of mines.
Unless Thein Sein’s government systematically cracks down on those who promote and organize Islamophobic violence and hate speech and effectively ends its long-standing policy of impunity for those who commit crimes against Muslims (and other ethnic minorities), it will run the risk of 969 morphing into a full-blown genocidal movement. Despite its pretensions toward democracy, Thein Sein’s military-propped regime has over 50 years of proven experience in suppressing organized opposition movements. For decades, the military was effectively able to censor and stop any news or messages it didn’t want disseminated in society.
In his article “Challenging the authoritarian state: Buddhist monks and peaceful protests in Burma, issues and policy”, published in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs in 2008, Kyaw Yin Hlaing, a Burmese academic from the City University of Hong Kong and now a top Thein Sein adviser who directs the government’s Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), observed the military’s central role in inciting anti-Muslim riots in the past:
In 1997, the junta became aware of the monks’ plan to protest against the regional (military) commander’s improper renovation of a famous Buddhist statue in Mandalay. Before the monks could launch the protests, a rumor emerged that a Buddhist woman had been raped by a Muslim businessman. The government diverted their attention from the regional commander to the Muslim businessman, eventually causing an anti-Muslim riot. Some observers noted that intelligence agents often instigate anti-Muslim riots in order to prevent angry Buddhist monks from engaging in anti-government activities. (pp. 137-138). As recently as March 30, Prof. Donald Seekin, the author of The Disorder in Order: the Army-State in Burma since 1962, wrote, in a response to a New York Times op-ed on March 29 entitled “Kristallnacht in Myanmar:”
“Hatred of Muslims is deeply rooted in Burmese society, and was actively encouraged by both the Ne Win and SLORC/SPDC regimes during the 1962-2010 periods. One of their favorite tactics was to spread rumors that Muslims had raped Burmese Buddhist women, and plotted to convert the entire Buddhist population to Islam. The ‘divide and rule’ tactic used by the authorities in the recent past possibly grew out of the British colonial regime’s policy of fostering a “plural society” with minimal national unity.” In spite of Thein Sein’s official messages of religious harmony and coexistence in society, he has so far done virtually noting to nip the neo-Nazi Buddhist movement of 969. Nor has the military suddenly embraced unconditional free speech after overseeing decades of harsh media censorship. Rather, the impunity and inaction are more likely anchored in Naypyidaw’s strategic calculation to create a general climate of fear and uncertainty; consistent with the divide-and-rule tactics it has always used to exert unrivaled control and influence over the state and economy. What is Aung San Suu Kyi, the global icon of non-violence, doing to stem the tide of violent racism among her main Buddhist supporters?
Incomprehensibly, Suu Kyi herself is complicit in the spread of Islamophobic hatred and fear, both by her silence over the violence perpetuated against Muslims and by spreading moral responsibility for the death and destruction across both Muslim and Buddhist communities. For whatever reason, she has ignored blatant facts, including: 1) The violence and hate campaigns are one-directional in that they target only Muslims and are organized by Buddhist mobs which are made up of both out-of-towners and local community members; 2) the Muslims (and other minorities such as the Kachins) bear the brunt of the violence, death and devastation; and 3) the military and security forces have 50 years of experience in crowd control.
To be sure, Suu Kyi has not been entirely quiet on the anti-Muslim violence. After the three days of attacks against Muslims in the central town of Meikhtila, she spoke out in defense of the way the local security forces handled the situation, despite widespread evidence security forces sat on their hands while organized mobs went on sprees of slaughter and arson. For three days, security forces let roaming gangs of armed Buddhists burn down nearly 1,000 buildings, including mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and houses. In her Burmese language press interviews, Suu Kyi defended the deliberate inaction of the local security forces, offering the excuse that they weren’t experienced in riot control in the country’s new democratic context.
Despite serving as chairwoman of an inquiry of commission into protests and violence at a Chinese and Myanmar military-invested copper mine in central Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s comment overlooked security forces’ recent use of firebombs laden white phosphorous to crack down on protesters who lost their land and Buddhist monks who lent their demonstration moral support. Rather than visiting Muslim victims of the recent violence in Meikhtila, Suu Kyi instead attended the annual military parade on March 27, where she shared intimate moments with highly decorated generals.
Will recent rumors and violence persuade more people to participate in anti-Muslim actions? And from where do these rumors claiming expansionary designs of Islam in Myanmar originate?
Frighteningly for the country’s Muslims — who make up about 4% of the total 60 million population — one of President Thein Sein’s own spokespersons, ex-Major Zaw Htay, or Hmu Zaw, has served as a major source of anti-Muslim rumors and slanders since the first wave of violence against the Rohingya last June. On his Facebook page, the spokesman for the President’s Office has posted several one-liners designed to stoke popular anti-Muslim hatred and fear. One example: “We have just received information about a group of armed Muslim terrorists who are crossing the Burmese-Bangladesh borders. Stay tune.”
The state media, meanwhile, has published several articles with anti-Muslim slants and used the word “kalar,” the Burmese language equivalent of “nigger”, in referring to Muslims and people of Indian sub-continental origin. With state security and propaganda agencies, as well as culturally and ideologically influential figures, working in unison to stoke anti-Muslim hatred and fear, public opinion naturally follows. Culturally, Buddhist monks are very influential in Burmese society — more so than dissidents and generals. It is extremely difficult to draw a line between the government’s anti-Muslim activities and propaganda and those carried out by influential skinhead monks. Anti-Muslim postings on Facebook, including those with images of the recent deaths and destruction in Meikhtila, have been “liked” by thousands and solicit approving howls from Burmese netizens who show no restraint in expressing their neo-Nazi views in public online domains.
In recent interviews, Buddhist monk and 969 movement leader Wirathu has seemed to condemn the violence and even claimed in cases he had stopped rampaging, anti-Muslim rioters. Does this indicate he is toning down his movement’s rhetoric, or is the 969 movement still calling for the elimination of Muslim influence in Myanmar? In his Burmese language Facebook pages, Wirathu has posted several irreconcilable messages. On certain mornings he has posted messages of religious tolerance and compassion, while in the afternoon of the same day he has written provocatively anti-Muslim statements, including warnings against the “forced conversion of Burmese women who marry into Muslim families” and are coerced into changing their names from Burmese to Muslim and Indian ones. It seems unlikely that a preacher like Wirathu, who was jailed for his public incitement, which resulted in the death of an entire Muslim family in an arson attack in the small town called Kyauk Hse in 2003, would suddenly feel repentance for his inflammatory rhetoric. To date he has shown no sign of remorse or regret about his role in recent anti-Muslim violence.
Ten years ago, Wirathu was a fringe figure, perceived as having fringe anti-Muslim views. Now, with the rise of state-tolerated neo-Nazism, he has emerged as a cultist hatemonger, and a must-meet for visiting international media. The popularity of this neo-Nazi Buddhist preacher does not augur well for the country’s “democratic” future, and most certainly not for its minority Muslims and Rohingyas.
Go to Original - Arab News
By Peter James Spielmann
November 19, 2013
The General Assembly's human rights committee on Tuesday passed a resolution urging Myanmar to give the stateless Rohingya minority equal access to citizenship and to crack down on Buddhist violence against them and other Muslims in the southeast Asian nation.
The resolution passed the committee by consensus, meaning under General Assembly rules the body will unanimously pass it later this year.
Myanmar emerged from a half-century of military rule in 2011, but its transition to democracy has been marred by sectarian violence that has left more than 240 people dead and sent another 240,000 fleeing their homes, most of them Rohingya. Some say the inter-communal violence presents a threat to Myanmar's political reforms because it could encourage security forces to re-assert control.
In 1982, Myanmar passed a citizenship law recognizing eight races and 130 minority groups — but omitted the nation's 800,000 Rohingya, among Myanmar's 60 million people. Many Myanmar Buddhists view the Rohingya as interlopers brought in by British colonialists from modern-day Bangladesh, but many Rohingya say they have lived in the country once known as Burma for hundreds of years.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, seen as likely to be elected as the next president of Myanmar, has had little else to say about Rohingya rights. She declined to meet with an Organization of the Islamic Conference delegation visiting Myanmar this week to look into the plight of the Rohingya.
Myanmar had been ostracized by most of the world for 50 years after a coup that instituted military rule. But in recent years the nation has been cautiously welcomed into the international community after it freed many political prisoners and ended the house arrest of Syu Kyi and instituted reforms. President Barack Obama visited the country last year on an Asian tour, as a hallmark of Myanmar's rehabilitation.
The General Assembly resolution welcomed a statement by Myanmar's president that "no prisoners of conscience will remain in prison by the end of the year." Myanmar released 69 political prisoners last week.
But it also "expresses concern about remaining human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions of political activists and human rights defenders, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence and torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, and urges the government of Myanmar to step up its efforts to put an end to such violations."
In the resolution, the Assembly reiterated its serious concern about communal violence and other abuses of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State in the past year, and about attacks against Muslim minorities elsewhere.
Myanmar's government calls the Rohingya "Bengalis," a reference to their reported South Asian roots. Rohingya leaders object to the terminology.
The Rohingya speak a Bengali dialect and resemble Bangladeshis, with darker skin than most people in Myanmar. Bangladesh also refuses to accept them as citizens.
Go to Original - ABC News
|Kachin civilians fled Mungding Pa village as Burmese army troops surround their village (Photo: KBC)|
By Kachinland News
November 18, 2013
Fighting between Kachin Independence Army and Burmese Army continues today in Namlim Pa and Kawng Ja village, with more government troops reported to have arrived in current conflict area in Mansi Township.
About 350 Burmese army troops from 47th, 56th, 240th and 276th Light Infantry Battalions under Bhamo-based 21st Military Operations Command (MOC-21) led by Lt. Col. Min Naing Oo entered Namlim Pa village, where over 1000 IDPs and 700 students are sheltering in makeshift tents in a village of about 2300 residents, and subsequently seized the village on Nov 16 at 4 pm.
Namlim Pa residents together with aid workers from Bhamo and Maija Yang fled their homes and tents to the mountains in the middle of Saturday night as battle looms in their village.
The battle started at 7:40 am on Sunday morning when Burmese army troops came closer to KIA positions outside Namlim Pa village. The two sides waged a series of battles that lasted until 2:30 pm on Sunday. KIA sources say they found the body of one government soldier and no casualties on their side during Sunday battles.
KIA’s 12th Battalion commander Major John Awng said fighting between the two sides continue today at Kawng Ja and Namlim Pa village. He said his troops engaged in a firefight in Kawng Ja at about 7 am and again in Namlim Pa at about 11 am.
Local sources say at least 16th Infantry Battalions from Burmese army’s Theinni-based 16th Military Operations Command (MOC-16) and Bhamo-based 21st Military Operations Command (MOC-21) are currently deployed in Mansi Township. A source in Bhamo says a ship carrying about 300 Burmese army soldiers from 99th Light Infantry Division based in Meiktila have arrived in Bhamo from Shwe Gu. Another source says additional troops from 68th Light Infantry Battalion came from Man Win Gyi to reinforce Burmese army troops in Kai Htik in Mansi Township.
Thousands of Namlim Pa residents have fled their homes and are still on their way traveling on foot. They made a brief stop in Man Gau village yesterday and continued their journey to Man Win Pa and Lagat Yang IDP camp. About 40 IDPs together with aid workers from Karuna Bhamo Social Service (KBSS) arrived in Bhamo yesterday adding already crowded IDP camps.
Go to Original - KLN
Two days of talks this week between Burma's armed ethnic groups and the government aimed at a national cease-fire that would lead to an all-inclusive political dialogue are not expected to result in any immediate breakthrough. The leader of the representatives of the 17 armed ethnic groups (Naing Han Tha) told Radio Free Asia it was "impossible" for a peace agreement this month due to the number of proposals on the negotiating table.
The U.N. Secretary-General's special envoy to Burma, Vijay Nambiar, Monday said the talks in the northern Kachin city of Myitkyina (myit-chee-NAH), are significant and hopeful.
[[DALET - NAMBIAR ACT :18 (SAME KIND OF OPTIMISM)]]
Ethnic minority groups are supporting the creation of a federal system allowing for shared power with the central government that could impact the future role of the military. Burma analyst Nicholas Farrelly of the Australian National University told VOA's Victor Beattie the ethnic groups see federalism as being in their best interests:
[[DALET - FARRELLY/BEATTIE Q&A 3:24 (A PEACEFUL AND UNITED FASHION)]]
Farrelly says both the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would stand to gain politically from agreement to a national cease-fire in the anticipated 2015 national elections. He says what will be intriguing is the reaction among the ethnic minorities who could stand to influence races in dozens of seats in parliament.
Burmese exile activist Maung Zarni of the London School of Economics and the Center for Democracy and Elections at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur says, while the talks are important, the two sides hold what he calls radically different views on the meaning of reconciliation:
[[DALET - ZARNI/BEATTIE Q&A 3:07 (LOW-INTENSITY WARS IN THE COUNTRY)]]
Zarni says the Burmese government is not pursuing national reconciliation, but national reconsolidation, consolidating what it considers its power over Burma's peripheral regions. And, he calls on the international community to demand the government clarify its vision of national reconciliation.
After five decades of harsh military rule, Burma's nominally civilian government embarked on a two-year reform program in 2011. Under President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was allowed to contest seats in parliament, political prisoners have been released and media censorship relaxed. The reforms have won praise from Western governments resulting in an easing of economic sanctions.
By Nang Lao Liang Won
I am a Shan ethnic woman from Burma who has been working for human rights and democracy in my homeland for decades. I had the opportunity this year to spend time at the National Endowment for Democracy as a visiting fellow, researching the role of women in Burma’s democratic transition. During my time in Washington, I remained in touch with my colleagues in Burma and areas along the border to keep track of the changes that were taking place. But instead of hearing excitement in their voices about democratic openings, I heard growing fear.
While there has been much change in Burma over the past two years, the glowing talk one hears in Washington is at odds with the reality on the ground. Shan state, where I am from, and other ethnic areas continue to experience intense political and armed conflicts. Across the country, human rights abuses are rampant, perpetrated with impunity. Activists and even ordinary farmers and villagers have been arrested, beaten and jailed for engaging in nonviolent efforts to challenge mega-projects such as mining, gas pipelines and dams. Police routinely crack down on peaceful demonstrators with excessive force.
Yet these same authorities are unwilling to stop violence that genuinely threatens Burma’s future. Their failure to intervene in attacks on Burma’s minority Muslims — including in Lashio, a beautiful city in the heart of northern Shan state — has been especially shocking. Even though I have seen terrible violence in my homeland, I never expected to see anti-Muslim attacks of the kind that took place in May. Friends, relatives and colleagues talk about an atmosphere of pervasive fear. They speculate about the “strangers” and “outsiders” they saw among the mob, people who disappeared after the violence was over. They express dread that such a riot could happen again, anywhere and at anytime. They lament a climate of extremism unlike anything in their memories.
I am Buddhist, and I learned from earliest childhood that hate is a negative, destructive emotion that we should strive to eliminate through the spread of metta, or “loving-kindness,” and compassion for others. I therefore cannot understand how the 969 Movement, which serves to foster division and hatred, can be defended in the name of “Buddhism.” Yet instead of rejecting the views of monks such as U Wirathu , the fiery 969 Movement leader, the Burmese government and political elite have supported and cultivated him.
As I studied the recent violence more closely, I began seeing a pattern to attacks across Burma. First, a woman or girl is brutally attacked or raped by an individual of a different faith. This incident triggers broader violence by organized “Buddhist” mobs that attack local Muslims: torching their homes, businesses, schools and places of worship; beating and killing civilians, including burning them alive; and destroying the social fabric of communities. Security forces stand by as violence rages. While there are often efforts to investigate the initial incident, the instigators and perpetrators of violence remain at large, literally getting away with murder.
Despite the risks of doing so, some Burmese — especially female activists — are standing up to extremists. The strongest example is the fight against a proposal to outlaw interfaith marriage. While political leaders have failed to forcefully reject this discriminatory and dangerous initiative, women have spearheaded efforts to block it.
Burma’s leaders, who ignore United Nations resolutions with impunity, have increased their engagement with the outside world, making an all-out effort through media, diplomacy and peace missions to polish the country’s image. It seems to be working: Former military officials have been welcomed to Western capitals and treated as honored guests with seemingly little regard for whether they have blood on their hands. Burmese authorities’ dismissal of an outrageous Aug. 19 mob attack on Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special human rights rapporteur in Burma, should have drawn condemnation from the international community rather than silence — or, worse, sympathy for the “challenges” authorities face.
Human rights violators have gotten away with crimes in Burma for decades. The Burmese people had hope for justice as long as the international community documented and condemned their abuses. As the U.N. General Assembly writes its annual resolution against Burma, it must make serious recommendations that accurately reflect the realities in my country. If countries that long supported our struggle for human rights and democracy instead decide that the status quo is “good enough” and turn a blind eye to ongoing abuses, our dream of justice may never be part of Burma’s future.
Nang Lao Liang Won was a 2013 Reagan Fascell democracy fellow at the International Forum for Democracy of the National Endowment for Democracy. She is a member of the advisory team of the Shan Women’s Action Network.
This article was originally published here.
November 3, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR — With Myanmar coming out of the cold after five decades of military rule, President Thein Sein and his deputies are eager to show the world they are making progress on political reforms. The latest government ploy is to pressure minority groups — through a buildup of troops in a minority-held region — into signing a national cease-fire agreement in the coming weeks in the nation’s capital, Naypyidaw.
While minority leaders are negotiating with the government this week, many are dubious of the proposal. Government troops have failed to honor agreements in the past. And Naypyidaw’s chief negotiator makes it plain that he and his team do not have control over the military. Rebel leaders are mindful that the Burmese military has exploited earlier lulls in fighting around cease-fire negotiations for its own strategic ends.
But the main problem with Naypyidaw’s approach to peace is that government leaders and the military remain wedded to a highly centralized — as opposed to federal — vision of government that is unacceptable to the minorities.
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities make up about a third of the nation’s nearly 55 million residents and live in some of the most resource-rich areas along the borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. There are a handful of major ethnic minority groups, and dozens of smaller ones, with unique cultural and linguistic heritages. Though independent statehood was the original aim of most minorities following independence from Britain in 1948, most groups chose long ago to fight for a federal system of government, an idea the Burmese generals have been reluctant to embrace since they came to power in 1962.
Several years ago, one of the country’s highest ranking generals complained to me about the minorities’ push for a federal system. In a view typical of the leadership in Naypyidaw, he said federalism would be the first step toward disintegration of Myanmar.
The government’s military presence in ethnic minority regions is another sticking point. Government troop reduction is something all minority communities want. The army’s abysmal human rights record in the contested areas has perpetuated conflict over the decades and hardened resistance to the military.
When it comes to negotiating peace, the military has in the past used its bilateral cease-fire agreements as opportunities for troop reinforcement, or the construction of strategic roads for sending in supplies to front-line positions.
General Baw Kyaw Heh, the deputy chief of staff of the Karen National Liberation Army, told Karen News in September that despite a bilateral cease-fire between his group and the government, the Burmese Army has “continued to transport their military supplies, rotate their troops, modify and fortify all of their bases.”
Based on my experience working with the generals as an unofficial advocate for Western re-engagement with the country, I know that the military leaders who may be inclined to compromise hold an instrumentalist view of reconciliation. For them, peace is not a worthwhile goal in and of itself but a means to another end: financial reward.
Myanmar is well-known for its untapped natural resources, much of which are in the minority controlled areas. Kachin state is famous for jade; Karenni state’s tungsten deposit is one of the world’s largest; Karen state has vast virgin teak forests and potential as a source of hydropower.
A cessation of the violence in these regions is a prerequisite for commercial development. To be sure, some minority leaders would stand to benefit personally from the buildup of these areas. But many ethnic people look at the national leaders and well-connected businessmen with more skepticism, assuming they will exploit their land.
The idea of a national cease-fire has gained traction, in part, because former President Jimmy Carter led a delegation of former heads of state, known as the Elders, to Myanmar. They met with the government, civil society groups and ethnic minority leaders and threw their weight behind Naypyidaw’s cease-fire call. Locals explain the Elders’ endorsement as a case of outsiders being misinformed about the true nature of the government, which talks peace to the West while waging quiet wars against the minorities outside the media’s gaze. A version of this is under way now in the Kachin region, where the government has recently sent in troops just as cease-fire negotiations were beginning.
On the eve of independence in 1948, the Burmese nationalist leaders promised that ethnic equality would be a cornerstone of the new Burma. But equality has remained elusive.
Until the promise of equality and the vision of a federated union are genuinely pursued, the government’s offer of peace will have few local takers. No amount of aid or international cheerleading by celebrity statesmen will make it work.
Maung Zarni is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and an associate fellow at the University of Malaya.
This article was originally published on New York Times.
|"Suu Kyi's denial of what Human Rights Watch has called "ethnic cleansing" and "crimes against humanity", deserves international scrutiny," writes Maung Zarni [AFP]|
Myanmar's Muslim minority, demonised and persecuted for decades, is facing a fresh wave of violence amid media silence.
By Dr. Maung Zarni
November 3, 2013
Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the contemporary world's most celebrated icons of human rights, non-violence and reconciliation, crossed the line into Myanmar's world of "Buddhist" Islamophobia. Disturbingly, on BBC Radio Four's flagship programme, "Today", she characterised the waves of organised violence and Nazi-like hate campaigns currently being committed by her fellow Buddhists - the lay public and clergy alike - as violence of two equal sides, claiming that Burmese Buddhists live in the perceived fear of the rise of great Muslim power worldwide.
As a revered dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi's idea of 'freedom from fear' inspired millions both in Myanmar and world-wide. I think she herself has succumbed to a different type of fear, namely Islamophobia.
Far from recent waves of violence being horizontal communal violence, the truth is that the country's Rohingya Muslims - numbering 1.3 million out of the country's 60 million people - have been the subject of a slowly unfolding genocide. This is the conclusion I have drawn from a three-year study that I have just completed with a researcher colleague at the London-based Equal Rights Trust.
A history of ethnic cleansing
In February 1978, the military-controlled state launched its first large-scale operation in Arakan State (now known as Rakhine) in western Myanmar. This first exodus of an estimated 240,000 into neighbouring Bangladesh, took place long before the West's "war on terror" against "radical Islam." The Oxford-educated Nobel Peace Prize laureate whom the majority of Burmese, including Muslims, call "Mother Suu" can only be using what she calls the "great rise of Muslim power" as a convenient excuse.
When Aung San Suu Kyi observed that Myanmar's Buddhists and Muslims, of diverse ethnic backgrounds, fear one another, she was falsely putting them on a moral parity. Worryingly, she displays deep ignorance of the empirical facts: It is the Muslims that have borne the brunt of death, destruction and displacement. The Rohingya and other Muslims make up more than 90 percent of the victims of violence, which has displaced more than 140,000 in Rakhine State. Anti-Muslim violence spread to 11 different towns elsewhere in the country, resulting in 100 Muslim deaths, displacing 12,000 Muslims, and destroying 1,300 Muslim homes and 37 Mosques.
Since the 1990s, Rohingya Muslims of northern Arakan state have been confined within a web of security grids where they are subject to extreme restrictions of movement, preventing them from accessing adequate healthcare, education and jobs. Summary executions, rape, extortions, forced labour and other human rights atrocities, mostly at the hands of state security forces, are rampant.
Restrictions on marriages and births have resulted in over 60,000 Rohingya children who are not registered or recognised by the Burmese government, in violation of the Rights of Child, hence depriving them of access to basic schooling. In a country that has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Asia, a staggering 80 percent of Rohingya adults are illiterate. The doctor-patient ratio among the Rohingya Muslims is 1 to 75,000 and 1 to 83,000 in the two major ancestral pockets of the Rohingya respectively, as compared with the national average of 1 to 375.
Suu Kyi's denial of what Human Rights Watch report has called "ethnic cleansing" and "crimes against humanity", deserves international scrutiny. Her wilful silence on the racially-motivated violence against a Muslim minority, that only makes up about 4 percent of the total population, has led to a growing chorus of international criticism.
However, the details of this slow-burning genocide of the Rohingya which has been set in motion as a matter of state policy since 1978, and the more recent anti-Muslim mass violence, again with state impunity, generally play second fiddle in the media, to Suu Kyi's failure to condemn it.
The patterns of the systematic elimination of the Rohingya have been largely over-looked by the media over the decades. Even now, it is Suu Kyi, not the ethnic cleansing itself, that the media finds worthy of a headline. Since Myanmar's military rulers opened up the country - along the Chinese model of capitalism without democratisation - the media and international policy hype has been about Myanmar's emergence as one of the last remaining lucrative, virgin economic markets. Everything else is secondary to this narrative of Myanmar's Golden Promise.
The Rohingya and other Burmese Muslims are confronted with threats to their very existence. They are already in a weak position as a very small minority, without leverage in the Burmese economy, polity or society. They pose no existential threat to the Buddhist way of life, national security or sovereignty. Still they are in deep trouble, not only because the country's "Mother Suu" has, in effect, chosen to side with their societal oppressor, namely well-organised, anti-Muslim racists, at every level of society, but also because governments such as the US and the UK have chosen, out of their own strategic needs and commercial pursuits, to embrace the military leadership that has reportedly backed the Islamophobic perpetrators and hate-preachers.
Maung Zarni, a Visiting Fellow with the Civil Society and Human Security Unit, London School of Economics, is an outspoken critic of neo-Nazi "Buddhist" racism and racist violence in his native Myanmar. He blogs at www.maungzarni.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @drzarni
This article was originally published on Al Jazeera.