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Ed Webb

Cultural heritage and violence in the Middle East | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • According to reports of the activist Facebook group Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger, all six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been damaged, major museum collections at Homs and Hama have been looted, and dozens of ancient tells have been obliterated by shelling.

    In Iraq, recent media stories recount ISIS fighters’ use of antiquities to raise revenues. So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS.

    As devastating as this news is, Syria and Iraq are simply additional chapters in the long-running story wherein conflict is characterised by a two-fold assault on humanity: human bodies themselves as well as the objects and sites that people create and infuse with cultural meaning.

  • So-called blood antiquities function as cash-cows, fetching high prices from unscrupulous collectors and netting a handsome cut for ISIS.
  • Current scholarly discussion on the Armenian genocide, however, focuses almost exclusively on the human destruction, not taking into consideration the systematic annihilation of Armenian sites and monuments that has taken place since then
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  • The destruction of human communities is incomplete without cultural violence. This was the conclusion of lawyer and human rights advocate Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-born jurist who coined the term “genocide” and fought successfully for its recognition by international legal bodies as a crime. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), he argued:

    By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group…[It signifies] a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. (Lemkin 1944: 80)

    Among the “essential foundations” of the life of human societies, Lemkin argued, were cultural sites, objects, and practices. The Holocaust galvanised his human rights work, but it was the tragic case of Turkish Armenians during the beginning decades of the twentieth century that served as the basis for Lemkin’s theory of genocide.

  • the Turkish state and its governments have systematically removed all markers of the Armenians’ civilisation
  • Also significant in this context was the systematic replacement of Armenian place names (on streets, buildings, neighbourhoods, towns, and villages) with Turkish names. The erasure of Armenians from collective memory was completed during the Turkish Republic; in their history textbooks, Turkish children hear nothing about Armenian culture or learn simply that they were enemies of the Turks.
  • This is cultural death, and it is especially dangerous because it legitimates the denial of diversity by authoritarian states and their societies.

  • Historical records document previous erasures of peoples and their culture: the Native Americans and First Nations of north America; the Mayas and Aztecs of Mesoamerica; and the Roman destruction of Carthage (north Africa), which some scholars point to as the earliest recorded organised genocide.
  • the harrowing plight of Syrian journalist Ali Mahmoud Othman, co-founder of Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger. Othman was arrested by government forces in March 2012 and has not been heard of since his televised “confession” in May 2012
  • Recurring Internet images of ISIS fighters beheading western men obscure the equally outrageous and horrific acts of sexual violence against women, torture of children, and destruction of homes, markets, churches, Shi’a mosques, and ancient monuments. All of this constitutes the challenging environment in which cultural activists must do their work.
  • Lemkin’s teachings still have something to say to us today: without monuments and cultural objects, social groups are atomised into disaffected, soulless individuals
Ed Webb

Yazidis urge UN to define IS onslaught as genocide - 1 views

  • “For Yazidis, it is very important to secure recognition that a genocide was committed against us,” she said. “The word genocide is important, and starting an ICC case will eventually bring recognition, reparations and ensure the protection of civilians in the future.”
  • n September, Ibrahim’s organisation, the Free Yezidi Foundation, teamed up with Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former ICC prosecutor, to release a report about IS atrocities that focuses on foreign fighters who have traveled to join IS.

    Many of these militants come from countries that are members of the ICC and should face genocide charges at the international tribunal, rather than terrorism, murder or rape cases in national courtrooms.

  • “We want to highlight the failure of the Security Council, the mechanisms we have and of member states, which should be more open to giving the ICC information about foreign fighters who leave their countries to kill, rape and commit genocide against Yazidis.” 
Ed Webb

Turkish-French spring may end early due to new bill over 'genocide' denial - 1 views

  • “Turkey is aware of the relations between the Socialist Party and the Armenian lobby in France. Therefore, Turkey didn’t think that the Armenian claims in France would end with the election of Hollande,”
  • Turkish-French ties deteriorated sharply during Sarkozy’s rule, not only because of the genocide debate but also due to the former French leader’s outspoken opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. Thus, his election defeat in June opened the door for a new era between France and Turkey, with Ankara praising the new administration’s willingness to restore ties. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a “new page” in relations.

    “Turkey was hopeful of Hollande because the newly elected French president was positive towards Turkey-EU relations. If Hollande brings up the genocide issue as a factor that would affect Turkey’s relations with the EU, then not only would Turkey’s relations with France be affected, but also its relations with the EU would be affected,”

Ed Webb

The United States and "atrocity prevention" | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • US military will incorporate counter-atrocity planning into its operating procedures
  • a presidential study directive (number 10 ) issued in 2011 that aimed to bridge the gap between national interest and altruistic intervention. It claimed that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest" as well as "a core moral responsibility of the United States. Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America's reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide."
  • genocide campaigners should beware functioning as the administration’s cheerleaders. Even if atrocity-prevention is a national interest, that hardly means it will trump other national interests - strategic and commercial, for example.The fate of the "ethical dimension" of New Labour’s foreign policy is a warning: it remained just a dimension, and an increasingly subordinate one at that.
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  • It is one thing to sanction your enemies in the name of fine ideals, but if you don’t mobilise the United Nations to do the same against your allies, these ideals are tarnished
  • Israel’s leaders, the pro-Israel lobby in the US, and some "genocide scholars" are already framing their proposed attack as "genocide prevention". Yet the last thing genocide prevention needs is to be linked to aggressive war, which will severely discredit the whole idea.
  • The Atrocities Prevention Board, to live up to its name, cannot ignore the way that US military policies daily produce atrocities. Genocide campaigners need to be alive to these dangers, and campaign against US policy when it too causes violence against civilians. The potential of the Obama administration’s latest moves to prevent some atrocities should be noted, but there must be sustained vigilance lest they end up being mobilised to produce other atrocities.
Ed Webb

Will House pass Armenian genocide resolution this time? | McClatchy - 0 views

  • "Our interests remain a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts related to the historical events," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last Thursday. "But the best way to do that, with all respect, is for the Armenians and Turkish people themselves to address the facts of their past as part of their efforts to move forward."

    In a similar vein, Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned last month that, "Anything that would impede the success of those (Turkish and Armenian) discussions and negotiations I think is objectionable."

  • The 2000 census recorded 385,000 U.S. residents of Armenian ancestry, three times the number who claim Turkish ancestry.
  • passing the resolution would "make it very difficult if not impossible" for the Turkish legislature to ratify protocols negotiated between Turkey and Armenia. The protocols seek to reconcile the two countries, in part by establishing a historical commission to research what happened during World War I and afterward.
Julianne Greco

Blowback: Why Armenian's can't 'get beyond' the genocide -- - 0 views

  • For Armenians, there is no "getting beyond" the issue of the genocide. Turkey's denial of the genocide, for which it has gone unpunished, is an injustice all Armenians must live with every day.
  • For the West to applaud the agreement reached by Turkey and Armenia, presumably due to geopolitical gains, is to condone sweeping under the rug one of the world's worst unpunished crimes.
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