Some of the grim things I’m reading

According to the latest International Crisis Group report, Tajikistan is a weak state quickly sliding toward failure. Here’s hoping the lights stay on in Dushanbe. [For some reason, the ICG website isn’t loading, so here’s the BBC article.]

Luke Harding of The Guardian summarizes the most recent developments in the ongoing wave of  racist skinhead terrorism in Russia.

A 19 year old Kazakh journalist was severly beaten and needs brain surgery. Here’s hoping the kid lives.

The indispensable Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi of IWPR writes about how evidence of past mass atrocities is being destroyed in Afghanistan.

And finally, there’s child slavery and debt bondage, also in Afghanistan.

Oh. ‘Eff.


To An Ocean Of Violence/A World Of Empty Streets

Grim bits of news I’ve been following:

Terrible suicide bombings in Afghanistan. Lots of families mourning in Kabul tonight.

A Russian Neo-Nazi group has released a  list of journalists, activists and academics involved in anti-racism and human rights activities that its members intend to kill over the next year. Courageous human rights defender Galina Kozhevnikova of the SOVA Centre is on that list.  The Russian state isn’t taking the threats against Kozhevnikova and others too seriously. Journalists and activists, like Russia’s poor and preyed upon migrant workers (even more on their plight here) aren’t people the regime exactly minds seeing eliminated. Russian civil society is  literally being wiped out at a frightening pace.

Mass displacement and mounting civilian casulaties in Sri Lanka’s civil war. Hundreds of thousands are trapped and in need of assistance.

Extreme right Dutch MP Geert Wilders is not being allowed to enter the UK because the British Government fears his presence will trigger social unrest. As much as I think Wilders is a creep, I also think the UK is setting a dangerously anti-free speech precendent here. As far as I know (and I follow news of the extreme right in Europe closely), Wilders has never said anything that could be interpreted as an attempt to incite violence. Racists and xenophobes are nasty people, but allowing them to spew venom within the boundaries of peaceful speech  is a price we pay to live in open societies.

The vast majority of refugees in the US contend with everything poor native-born Americans do, with the added challenges of language barriers and conflict-related physical and mental health problems. The recession (are we allowed to use the D word yet?) is predictably making their hard lives even harder. More on this soon.

Ocean of Noise – by Arcade Fire

Ocean of noise
I first heard your voice
Ring like a bell
As if I had a choice, oh well

Left in the morning
While you were fast asleep
To an ocean of violence
A world of empty streets

You’ve got your reasons
And me, I’ve got mine
But all the reasons I gave
Were just lies
To buy yourself some time

An ocean of noise
I first heard your voice
Now who here among us
Still believes in choice?
Not I

No way of knowing
What any men will do
An ocean of violence
Between me and you

You’ve got your reasons
And me, I’ve got mine
But all the reasons I gave
Were just lies
To buy myself some time

And can we work it out?
It’s time to work it out
Gonna work it out
It’s time to work it out for you
We’re gonna work it all out
It’s time to work it out
We’re gonna work it out
It’s time to work it out
Time to work it all out

Ann Corcoran, The Anti-Refugee Activist

It takes a really sick person to run an anti-refugee resettlement blog and engage in anti-refugee activism.

If I believed in reincarnation, I would wish for Ann Corcoran to come back as a pregnant teenage Somali girl. Or a Rohingya asylum seeker in Thailand. Or a gay, disabled Iraqi.

Any of those would be fitting.


Ann’s co-blogger, “Judy W”  (Judith Warner) was also born without the compassion gene. A sample of what she writes:

BANGKOK (AP) — Angelina Jolie, a Hollywood star deeply involved in the plight of refugees, has called on the Thai government to respect the human rights of Myanmar’s Rohinyga boat people whom Thai authorities have pushed out to sea in recent weeks, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday.

Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, are on a visit to Thailand, where on Wednesday they toured one of several camps along the Thai-Myanmar border sheltering refugees from Myanmar’s military regime.

We’re not against respecting human rights, but Jolie needs to get some perspective on the Rohingya. Ann has written 62 posts on this group. Jolie needs to know that they are Muslim, some of them are trained as jihadists, they do not get along with other groups, they are highly aggressive and intimidate other people, and many other facts before she passes judgment.

There’s simply no adjective appropriate for someone like Judy W., at least not that I know of in English.

Some days, I wonder how I would react if I ever met people like Ann Corcoran and Judy W. in person.  (When I was a manic, caffeine pill-popping college freshman, I got in trouble with my professor after having a semi-shouting match with a spokesman at the State Department over a human rights issue during a class field trip –true story. I’m a much calmer woman in general now, but I still have trigger issues. ) A former colleague  from the refugee resettlement office and I read one of Ann’s attacks on our organization this past summer, and we spent the next couple of days thinking and saying some very un-human rights-y things.

I like Dave over at the Immigrant Rights blog on, but I feel like he’s way too soft on the army of anti-immigrant trolls in his comment threads. In this fight, there’s no room for nice.

Russia’s big hate crime problem

Yet another immigrant worker has fallen victim to ethnonationalist terrorists (yes, the people who carry out these attacks are terrorists) and the IHT has the gruesome details:

MOSCOW: The police in Moscow are investigating the killing of a Central Asian migrant worker, who was stabbed several times and decapitated in an apparent attack by ultranationalists.

The severed head of the victim, a citizen of Tajikistan, was discovered Wednesday in a trash can, wrapped in a plastic bag, the press service for the investigative wing of the Prosecutor General’s Office said.

Investigators said the victim and another Tajik migrant worker were attacked Dec. 6 after they left work at a food warehouse south of Moscow. The newspaper Kommersant quoted unnamed police sources saying the victim was Salekh Azizov, 20, from Vidnoe, also south of Moscow. The second Tajik worker escaped but was hospitalized with injuries, the investigators said.

In an e-mail statement sent to two human rights organizations that monitor hate crimes in Russia, an obscure group calling itself the Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists claimed responsibility for the killing. The statement included a photograph of the victim’s severed head.

This isn’t the first time. As I wrote in a paper on this subject recently: Russian skinheads made headlines worldwide in 2007 when a previously unknown group calling itself the National-Socialist Party of Russia released a video showing the murders of two men who had gone missing weeks earlier.

In the video (now removed from the internet but described by journalists) titled “Operation of the National-Socialist Party of Russia to Arrest and Execute Two Colonists from Dagestan and Tajikistan,” skinheads force their two bound and gagged captives to say that they have been “arrested” by the National-Socialist Party of Russia. Then, one of the men is beheaded with a knife as heavy metal music plays in the background. The other is shot in the head execution-style, and both men are pushed into a shallow grave.

The video was uploaded to a file-sharing website and became one of the most widely circulated Russian internet videos. It was released to the press with a note demanding the release of a jailed skinhead propagandist and the creation of an ethnically “pure” Slavic state led by notorious Moscow skinhead leader Dimitri Rumyantsev.

The IHT article quotes Galina Kozhevnikova of the SOVA Centre, an organization that monitors extremism and hate crimes throughout the Russian Federation.

Galina Kozhevnikova, a deputy director of the Sova Center, one of the organizations that received the statement, said it asserted that the killing was a demonstration of the group’s “resolve to fight against the non-Russian occupation, and a warning to officials that the same will happen to them if they do not stop the flow of immigration.”

This year, 85 people have been killed and 367 have been wounded in attacks by violent nationalists, Kozhevnikova said. She said the numbers were probably far higher because many attacks go unrecorded or are reported months later.

A student who was attacked Dec. 5 – Stanley Robinson, an black American from Providence, Rhode Island, who was on a study-abroad program to Volgograd in southern Russia – remained in critical condition after being stabbed three times on his way back from a gym, a relative said. The police are still investigating whether the attack was a hate crime.

Hate crime is an enormous problem in Russia. I personally know four people who’ve been either threatened or physically attacked by skinheads, and my professor for Post-Communist Politics told my classmates and I that the co-author of one of her books, who happens to be Indian-American, was brutally assaulted in Moscow when he was there doing research a couple of years ago.  A friend of mine who is Yakut (a Russian-speaking Russian Federation citizen of a Turkic ethnicity) told me she feels constantly under threat when she’s in any large Russian city, and that she and other students from her university in the Sakha Republic could not go out after dark, even as a group, when they were in Moscow a few years ago. When my boyfriend lived in Moscow, he saw foreign students targeted for beatings regularly, barely survived an attack on foreign students at his university, and remembers the bombing of Cherkizovsky Market by two “lone nationalists” who met online, built a bomb, and blew it up in a market packed with traders from Central Asia and the Caucasus, killing fourteen people.

In 2005, the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation estimated that the number of skinheads numbered around sixty thousand.

That might warrant addressing.