Archive for the ‘The Dialogue’ Category

War cry.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Sometimes it’s funny what speaks to you. Not funny, ha ha. Just…odd.

In late 1993 it was a bridge.

Not just any bridge. The 16th century bridge in Mostar, a concrete victim of the wars that ripped apart Yugoslavia in a bloody mess that struck horror through the hearts of people around the world.

Why the bridge and not the scores of people dying? Honestly, I can’t quite say for sure.

When I traveled to Yugoslavia for the first of many visits in 1981 it was still Tito’s land. Sure the “great” man had passed the year before, but the ugliness that would consume Marshal Tito’s Yugoslavia had yet to overwhelm the country. One of my fondest memories (keeping in mind I was all of 10 years old at the time) was sitting near the Mostar bridge after an adventure in a restaurant bathroom that ended with my mother’s wet shoe. She had slip-stepped into “the hole” during a desperate bid to outrun the water cascading down the walls. (If you don’t know what I mean? Two words: Turkish toilet.) That memory still makes me smile.

When the Bosnian War claimed the Mostar bridge over a decade later, I was incensed. I was also still young, passionate and naïve. So I took action.

I hand-wrote a petition to then U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton begging him to take action to stop the carnage. I begged (forced) friends and family to sign my letter (I think the final count was 33 signatories). And then I faxed it off to the White House from the office of a local congressman.

I haven’t thought about that youthful adventure with the White House in years.

But last night, as our current President Barack Obama invoked the memories of the Bosnian War and the human costs of delayed and, in some very memorable cases, ineffective action (think: Srebrenica)  I found myself nodding at the television screen.

Obama said:

As President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action

 

And I agree. All these years later I still believe that people of good conscience have a duty to their fellow man to intercede when possible to prevent atrocities or human rights abuses on a major scale.

At the same time, I find it galling that this standard of intervention is applied by the international community selectively. What about Iran? What about Burma? Or North Korea? If we look back over the 15-plus years since the end of the Bosnian War how many dozens of examples could we find of governments brutally repressing the aspirations of their people without really trying all that hard?

As it happened I wasn’t the only one thinking it. @TechSurgeons and I began a short conversation on Obama’s Libya defense and I almost fell over when he tweeted:

@jterzieff I think “international community” just means France & wonder why he didn’t have a stronger reaction when Iran crushed its revolt.

So I guess the question is what is our standard for intervention? Because we need one folks, we really do. Do we need to intervene militarily every time a government calls out its troops to crush the people? Does the international community have the chutzpah to stand behind that every.single.time?

Is Libya our new standard? If yes, and it’s applied equitably around the globe, then – and only then – Mr. President, you have my support.

It scares me to say that. Violence almost always results in more violence. The deaths of so many innocents. Blood on all of our hands. But what’s the alternative?

If anyone has any ideas, I’ll gladly listen ….

Social Media leads 21st Century Global Revolutions

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Hosni Mubarak should have given me a call on January 25. His mistake.

But if he had, I would have told him something Joss Whedon already made perfectly clear in Serenity: “you can’t stop the signal.”

Actually if Mubarak had called Beijing, Tehran or Rangoon he would have heard much the same message. Sure governments can still limit communications capabilities, but the measures are temporary stop gaps at best. Time and time again over the last two years, popular uprisings have found ways to sidestep official controls and use the Internet to get their messages out to the world.

The message hasn’t always achieved the desired results – think crackdown Iran, think crackdown Burma – but as we have seen in Egypt and across the Arab world over the last month, technology (and social media, in particular) is the revolution weapon of choice for the 21st century. There is real power there.

Truth be told all it takes to galvanize international support and drive a movement is a few enterprising individuals. In the case of Egypt the tweets and Facebook updates of a small group of Egyptians sparked a massive worldwide explosion of support with the #Jan25 and #Egypt hashtags that overwhelmed the social media airwaves virtually non-stop until Hosni Mubarak announced his departure on Feb. 11.

Bloggers picked up the call. Journalists covering the protests tweeted instant updates. Major media outlets continue to produce in-depth packages on the influence of social media and the Internet. And when the Egyptian government attempted to shut down those inside the country, Internet giant Google stepped in to lend a hand. Google teamed up with Twitter to run a voice-to-tweet service that allowed Egyptians to call into international numbers and leave voicemail messages that software then translated into tweets with the hashtag #egypt.

And while it is most certainly people – not technology – that drives the campaigns, social media has emerged as potent weapon.

“Egypt made a radical maneuver, ultimately counterproductive, trying to cut access …but when you are willing to dismantle your country’s entire communication network in an attempt to quiet people you are really scared,” says John Perry Barlow, political activist and fellow emeritus of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Barlow, like many observers, believes technology is causing a paradigm shift in traditional power structures.

“We’re witnessing revolutions that are self-organizing, without central leadership, and that is all a direct result of technology.”

Social media is now being used by protesters in Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Jordan and elsewhere to reach out across social and economic boundaries to build broad coalitions of diverse people united around a common cause.

In countries with mammoth ruling systems in place, like Libya or Syria, shutting down the Internet – at least partially or temporarily – can forestall large public movements. And while Chinese authorities have been able to fight off massive political unrest by pushing rapid economic development for millions of Chinese, activism and unrest are growing there too.

As we’re seeing in Libya not all ruling systems will be as mature about stepping down in the face of the flood as the Mubarak regime was. Leaders like Muammar Gaddafi will fight – unfairly and with little regard for the lives being destroyed – to cling to the old systems.

But for every individual that falls, dozens more around the world will pick up the call and blast the information across the Internet keeping the eyes of the world on any abuses perpetrated against people raising their voices for change ….and that is a power greater than any gun, goon or jail cell.

Walking like an Egyptian!

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Today is a day for celebration. Tomorrow the work begins anew.

 

And while the people of Egypt have a long road ahead of them to continuously push for reform and work to dismantle a pervasive sub-culture of official corruption and impunity within the ruling systems, they also have great cause to dance in the streets.

They have done what few would have believed possible one month ago. With amazing grace, determination and demonstrations of love towards each other, the Egyptian nation put aside internal differences to band together. They fought off physical challenges. They fought off political challenges. They stood. And stood. And stood.

And by failing to allow the situation to disintegrate into the bloodbath many feared, Egypt has set the example for the Arab world.

No longer will political leaders be free to act with impunity. No longer will the “Arab street” be viewed unfairly by Western pundits as a symbol of chaos and fear.  No longer will the people of the Arab world have their spirits crushed by the grind of greedy political systems that function only to repress.

Is everything in Egypt now suddenly roses and daisies? No.

The country’s economy needs work. Reform of the judicial system and security forces is paramount. And it’s human rights record? Ai yai yai, abysmal doesn’t even come close. Favoritism, nepotism and the entitlement of the few? Yeah, that’s going to need work too.

But today is a day to celebrate.  

 

Egypt has spoken …. Damascus, Amman, Sana’a, Tehran, are you listening???

Challenging China

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

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I’ve been a bit silent here as the news of the first week of a new year washed over me in a literal flood. From the tragedy in Arizona and the floods in Australia, to the referendum in Sudan and political assassination in Pakistan.

Each and every one of those stories worth a blog post (or three) on their own.

But this morning as I did my daily news search one story jumped out at me — an interview/profile of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng – and I just had to comment.

It wasn’t his tale of official intimidation and abuse that grabbed my attention. Sadly, beatings and electric shocks to the genitalia in custody are hardly enough to surprise regular China watchers anymore. Nor was it the fact that this individual – known for defending the defenseless – has been repeatedly placed under detention….again, hardly surprising in the criticism-phobic corridors of power in Beijing.

No, what got me was that this interview was conducted by The Associated Press eight months ago in the condition that it not be released unless Gao was able to secure asylum in another country OR he disappeared again. As it turns out the interview took place during a brief period of time that was Gao’s only taste of freedom in the last two years.  

This story comes just days after Chinese authorities made it plainly clear that they no longer feel the need to sit through human rights lectures from Western officials. Apparently Beijing feels it has enough economic and soft power on the international stage to begin flexing muscle in this arena despite an abysmal record. And, of course, this comes just a few short weeks after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo – or rather, to an empty chair representing Liu.

The truth is that “Western officials” haven’t the political will, the moral authority or the legal grounds to really challenge Beijing significantly. But that doesn’t mean any individual, group or country should stop trying ….

Beijing needs our markets as much as we need their products (and investments) and there is little doubt politicians could do more to place public pressure on China and keep the spotlight fixed on Beijing’s record. As China continues to edge out from the protectionism of yesteryear and becomes more comfortable with the worldwide engagement and interconnectedness of the new global reality, Beijing will loosen the reigns…in the meantime we all have an obligation to continue to speak for individuals like Gao and Liu as long as Beijing views them as a threat.

Are your eyes open?

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

A lot has been written about the relatively lukewarm response to the monsoon flooding in Pakistan that uprooted over 20 million people and destroyed the lives of millions of families: Pakistan suffers from a reputation deficit, the disaster didn’t unfold rapidly like Haiti’s earthquake, and/or donors are just tapped out after the string of massive natural disasters over the last decade.

And sure, every single one of those reasons/excuses/arguments reflects a portion of the truth.

But behind all the handwringing and suppositions lies the most important truth of all:

Millions of mothers and fathers continue to ache every second of every day

because they cannot feed, clothe or house their children;

they cannot protect their families from the ravages of exposure and disease.

 

That is the truth that Salman Ahmad, lead singer of the rock band Junoon and one of Pakistan’s most effective – and dedicated – global ambassadors, wants us all to remember.  

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Hope Restored in Burma

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

 

The Lady is free!!

 

Who is The Lady, you ask? And why should you care?

 Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi – who spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest while the country’s ruling military junta systematically worked to break the spirit of not only Suu Kyi’s as an indivudual, but of the Burmese people collectively. Today the junta ended her isolation and The Lady emerged to greet supporters who have endured abuse and harassment for supporting her cause.

Suu Kyi was placed under arrest when her political party won elections in 1990. A powerful clique of military men seized power, tossed the election results, changed the country’s name, sealed the borders and began a standoff with Suu Kyi that appears to have ended today.

And the truth is she could have left. She could have walked away. The junta gave her the chance (though it would have resulted in her exile). But she refused. Refused because she believed in something bigger than herself.

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Global Call for Justice in the DRC

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Congo Week: Day Six

 

Guest Post from:

Kambale Musavuli

Student Coordinator, Spokesperson
Friends of the Congo

 

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This week – October 17 – 23 – Friends of the Congo is running its third Congo Week – Breaking the Silence – in a bid to raise awareness of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and help end the violence. All week I will be featuring blog posts related to the DRC from activists, academics and Congolese citizens.

Today – Friends of the Congo’s Kambale Musavuli examines what you can do to support the Congolese-led call for justice in the DRC. The views are his own. Global Citizen has done only mild editing for length and clarity.

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October 1st, 2010 marks a historic date where finally the Congolese people have been given a chance to demand justice for the atrocities that have been taking place in the Congo since 1996. On that day, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report documenting 617 alleged violent incidents occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo between March 1993 and June 2003. In light of this report, people throughout the globe have issued a worldwide call for justice in response to the greatest crimes committed against humanity at the dawn of the 21st Century in the heart of Africa.

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Warscape: Rape and Commerce in the DRC

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Congo Week: Day Five

 

Guest Post from:

Pamela Scully

Professor of Women’s Studies and African Studies,

Chair of Dept of Women’s Studies

Emory University

 

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This week – October 17 – 23 – Friends of the Congo is running its third Congo Week – Breaking the Silence – in a bid to raise awareness of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and help end the violence. All week I will be featuring blog posts related to the DRC from activists, academics and Congolese citizens.

Today – Emory University Professor Pamela Scully examines “economic Warscape” — the use of rape as a weapon of war and a means of driving profit. The views are her own. Global Citizen has done only mild editing for length and clarity.

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The Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is a perfect example of what I call an economic Warscape—a place where individuals, groups, and companies profit off systemic and systematic violence.  Structures of exploitation in the DRC now depend on fermenting and regulating “chaos.” What look like random acts of rape and terror, are in fact part of complex negotiations and structures that have emerged in the eastern DRC in the conflagration of the region in the wake of Rwandan genocide of 1994.

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Getting Active for Congo

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

 

Congo Week: Day Four

 

Guest Post from:

Sadia Hameed

Raise Hope for Congo Campaign Manager, the Enough Project

 

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This week – October 17 – 23 – Friends of the Congo is running its third Congo Week – Breaking the Silence – in a bid to raise awareness of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and help end the violence. All week I will be featuring blog posts related to the DRC from activists, academics and Congolese citizens.

Today – The Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign Manager Sadia Hameed takes a look at the differences she observed in the DRC as a result of action by Congolese civil society, U.S. consumers and constituents – and the need to get, and stay, involved. The views are her own. Global Citizen has done only mild editing for length and clarity.

 

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After spending over a week in eastern Congo I find myself staring out of my office window watching the bustle of DC streets contemplating how to give voice to the many complexities that I learned, witnessed and discussed in my exchanges with Congolese men, women and youth. One clear recollection I have is how not a single person I met or spoke with was unaffected by the conflict – it is pervasive and touches everyone, even if they have not been directly targeted by armed groups.  Their stories told tales of surviving brutality that I can barely begin to digest, but despite the haunting sorrow, trauma and loss recounted, they each emanated strength and conviction that a future unstained by death and devastation will be realized. Their sheer resilience in the face of steep challenges was both staggering and deeply inspiring. I witnessed the energy of Congolese professionals, activists and survivors, actively engaged in combating the effects of conflict and finding solutions toward peace and stability, often at the risk of their lives, security and bodily integrity.

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Finding a Voice for the DRC

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

 

Congo Week: Day Three

 

Guest Post from:

Patricia Sula

 

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This week – October 17 – 23 – Friends of the Congo is running its third Congo Week – Breaking the Silence – in a bid to raise awareness of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and help end the violence. All week I will be featuring blog posts related to the DRC from activists, academics and Congolese citizens.

Today – Congolese activist Patricia Sula talks about cross-generational hopes for positive change in the DRC. The views are her own. Global Citizen has done only mild editing for length and clarity.

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“Never forget the blood running through you is Congolese. Nothing else.” This is something I heard my mother say a thousand times. Nowadays when she starts saying it, I just finish her sentence; “Yes, Mom I know I know I’m Congolese.”

I grew up in the United States but was born in the heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I don’t remember Congo but I’ve been there a thousand times. As a child I would spend hours at my father’s feet. For bedtime stories he told tales of the life he lived in the DRC. He told me how rich our culture was and how beautiful the land was, “A paradise on earth” he would say. As an adult today, I clearly see the sadness in my father’s eyes reflect in my own, but his patriotism is still there every time we discuss our native land, a land that has known a war since 1996.

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