Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 11th, 2015

Backed by the U.S: Five human rights abusers you never heard of

Lands of the free?

You’ve probably never heard of Hissene Habre, but you should have.

Former Chadian dictator (Hussein) Hissene Habre gesturing as he leaves a Dakar courthouse after a hearing on June 3.

An official truth commission report in 1992 accused his regime of committing some 40,000 political murders — although only 4,000 victims were officially named.  (Sey Llousey/AFP/Getty Images)

Andrew Bossone shared this link
The U.S. government continues to court some of the world’s most corrupt and brutal autocrats.|By Sudarsan Raghavan

Your taxes helped fund his brutal regime in Chad in the 1980s for 8 years.

The former dictator was one of Washington’s many “men” in sub-Saharan Africa. Backed by American dollars, they brutalized their own people in the name of fighting communism or terrorism. They were feted by American presidents and invited to state dinners in Washington, even as they jailed and tortured anyone they deemed a threat to their way of life.

In Habre, the United States and its close ally France saw a way to counter Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

Brought to power by covert CIA support under the Reagan administration, Habre’s security forces were trained by key American allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. Habre used them generously and lethally:

His secret police are accused of killing some 40,000 people in political prisons between 1982 and 1990, according to findings by a Chadian truth commission. An additional 200,000 had been unjustly imprisoned and tortured.

Now, Habre is finally being held accountable.

His trial for allegedly perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes began this week in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where Habre, 72, has lived in exile, peacefully, for the past quarter century.

A special court, formed especially to prosecute him, will serve as a test of whether African nations, who have a long history of dictators among them, have the power and the will to punish one of its own members.

On Monday, Habre was hauled into court by masked guards as he shouted in protest and tried to resist being seated inside the court.

Justice could soon be served for all the relatives of Habre’s victims. But the support of vicious human rights abusers remains an integral part of U.S. foreign policy.

Here are five of the most egregious U.S.-backed violators operating today that Americans have never heard of.

Islam Karimov — president of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov attends an informal Commonwealth of Independent States leaders summit on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 8. (Host Photo Agency/RIA Novosti via Reuters)

Former Communist party leader Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan with an iron first since it won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

He has brutally quashed all political opposition and jailed dissidents and journalists.

Human rights activists speak of forced child labor and systematic oppression of anyone who poses a threat to the regime.

The most infamous abuse occurred in 2005,  when Karimov’s security forces fired into a crowd of demonstrators in the city of Andijan, killing hundreds, according to activists.

Now, the Obama administration is courting Karimov, seeing Uzbekistan as vital to U.S. goals in Afghanistan, as well as to fend off the growing presence of the Islamic State in Central Asia.

This year,  the United States gave about 300 armored vehicles to Karimov’s military, the largest donation of military hardware from the U.S. to a former Soviet Central Asian country.

2.  Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa — king of Bahrain

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa waves to reporters after a meeting with French President François Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Sept. 8. (Christophe Ena/AP)

The minority Sunni Muslim monarchy, led by Khalifa, cracked down heavily on largely Shiite protesters during 2011 Arab Spring revolutions with the help of soldiers from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

More than 30 were killed, mostly at the hands of Bahraini security forces, and hundreds more were wounded, according to human rights groups. Hundreds more were arrested and scores faced trials before a military court.

Washington has significant geopolitical interests in Bahrain.

Key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia backs Bahrain, and the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is stationed in Bahrain.

So it comes as no surprise that the U.S., after initially criticizing the monarchy for the crackdown, has resumed military aid to a nation that the watchdog group Freedom House describes as “Not free.”

“The Obama administration’s decision to lift the hold on military assistance to Bahrain cannot be attributed to improvements in political rights or civil liberties in Bahrain because no such improvements exist,” Mark P. Lagon, president of Freedom House, said this summer in a statement. “Thousands of Bahrainis remain imprisoned  for voicing opposition to the government, and reports of torture are widespread. If anything, punishment and discrimination for ordinary Bahrainis is deepening. As a result of its latest decision, the United States has stepped away from trying to improve respect there for fundamental human rights.”

3. Emomali Rahmon — president of Tajikistan

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon attends a meeting  at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Sept. 2.  (Lintao Zhang/Pool photo via Reuters)

Under Rahmon, Tajikistan’s human rights abuses have grown. He has cracked down hard on political opponents as well as independent media.

His security forces routinely use torture to obtain confessions, according to Human Rights Watch.

They have also targeted lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, and cracked down on religious freedoms. Freedom House describes the country as “Not free.”

Last month, the group said that a banning of an opposition  by Rahmon’s government confirms that the country is now a “dictatorship.”

Rahmon, in a 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, was described, along with his family, as playing “hardball to protect their business interests, no matter the cost to the economy writ large.”

It described a culture of “cronyism and corruption” plaguing the country. The United States, though, considers Rahman as vital to American interests in Afghanistan  and preventing Islamic militancy and opium smuggling from spreading into Central Asia.

In late August, Gen. Lloyd Austin III, head of U.S. Central Command, visited Rahmon in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to discuss bilateral cooperation in counterterrorism and to fight the drug trade.

 Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov — president of Turkmenistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, and Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, hold a meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 27. Berdymukhamedov was on an official visit to Kabul to discuss issues of mutual interest with Afghan leadership. (Jawad Jalali/Pool photo via AP)

Berdymukhamedov, who came to power in 2006, presides over one of the world’s most repressive nations.

Virtually every basic right — from freedom of expression to media to religion — is denied.

Berdymukhamedov and his relatives control all aspects of public life.

According to Human Rights Watch, relatives of people jailed during  waves of mass arrests in the late 1990s and early 2000s still do not have any information about their fates.

Berdymukhamedov, though, has allowed U.S. military aircraft en route to Afghanistan to fly through his country’s air space.

Also attractive to U.S. interests in the region is Turkmenistan’s vast gas reserves — the largest in Central Asia. He has discussed strengthening energy relationships with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Washington views Turkmenistan as a vital piece of its goal to bolster Afghanistan’s economy by creating a new “Silk Road” — investment projects and regional trade blocs that would bring economic growth and stability to Central Asia.

Chief among the projects is a long-proposed gas pipeline that would flow from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan.

This year, Freedom House named Turkmenistan one of its 10 “worst of the worst” nations in terms of democracy, human rights and other basic freedoms.

The list includes North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Central African Republic — and Uzbekistan and Equatorial Guinea.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo — president of Equatorial Guinea

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and wife Constancia Mangue De Obiang arrive for a dinner hosted by President  Obama for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit on Aug. 5, 2014.  (Susan Walsh/AP)

He is Africa’s longest-reigning autocrat, in power since 1979. Oil-rich Equatorial Guinea is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Obiang and his family own luxury properties around the world, drive expensive cars  and fly in a private jet, as the vast majority of his people live in dire poverty, and one fifth of children die before  age 5.

There is virtually no freedom of the press, no political opposition. Allegations of torture of political prisoners abound.

Washington has long sought to keep strong ties with Obiang because of Equatorial Guinea’s oil reserves, seen as a way to lessen dependence on Middle East crude. U.S. oil companies are one of Equatorial Guinea’s largest investors, playing a lead role in oil and gas exploration and extraction.

Last year, during the U.S.-Africa leaders summit, President Obama posed for a photo with Obiang and his wife, who were his guests at a White House dinner.

The magazine Mother Jones at the time labeled Obiang one of Obama’s “5 most atrocious dinner guests.”

Thousands of Empty Air Conditioned Tents? For the 7ojjaj?

While European countries are being lectured about their failure to take in enough refugees, Saudi Arabia – which has taken in precisely zero migrants – has 100,000 air conditioned tents that can house over 3 million people sitting empty.

Four adjacent countries to Syria have hosted 95% of the Syrian refugees: Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq. Europe is barely shouldering its share of the burden when its aided in destabilizing Syria.

Andrew Bossone shared Merissa Khurma
While Europe takes the burden of the migrant crisis.

The sprawling network of high quality tents are located in the city of Mina, spreading across a 20 square km valley, and are only used for 5 days of the year by Hajj pilgrims.

As the website Amusing Planet reports, “For the rest of the year, Mina remains pretty much deserted.”

The tents, which measure 8 meters by 8 meters, were permanently constructed by the Saudi government in the 1990’s and were upgraded in 1997 to be fire proof.

They are divided into camps which include kitchen and bathroom facilities.

The tents could provide shelter for almost all of the 4 million Syrian refugees that have been displaced by the country’s civil war, which was partly exacerbated by Saudi Arabia’s role in funding and arming jihadist groups.

However, as the Washington Post reports, wealthy Gulf Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and others have taken in precisely zero Syrian refugees.

Although Saudi Arabia claims it has taken in 500,000 Syrians since 2011, rights groups point out that these people are not allowed to register as migrants. Many of them are also legal immigrants who moved there for work.

In comparison, Lebanon has accepted 1.3 million refugees – more than a quarter of its population.

While it refuses to take in any more refugees, Saudi Arabia has offered to build 200 mosques for the 500,000 migrants a year expected to pour into Germany.

Saudis argue that the tents in Mina are needed to host the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, but given that the Arabic concept of Ummah is supposed to offer protection to all Muslims under one brotherhood, surely an alternative location could be found so that Mina can be repurposed to house desperate families fleeing war and ISIS persecution?

While Europe is being burdened by potentially millions of people who don’t share the same culture or religion as the host population, Gulf Arab states refuse to pull their weight, resolving only to throw money at the problem.

The likelihood of the Saudis inviting Syrian refugees to stay in Mina is virtually zero, but the thousands of empty tents serve as a physical representation of the hypocrisy shared by wealthy Gulf Arab states when it comes to helping with the crisis.

Photos credit: Akram Abahre.




Are you recognizing the signs of colonial superiority, wherever you go?

Partha Chatterjee:

Why I Support the Boycott of Israeli Institutions

[Savage Minds is honored to publish this essay by Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University, and of the Centre for the Studies of Social Sciences in Calcutta.

He is a founding member of the Subaltern Studies Collective.]

Having taught for a lifetime in Indian institutions and, alongside, about two decades in US universities, I have a position on this question that is somewhat unusual from the point of view of most American anthropologists.

My political views were formed in the course of growing up in a country (India) that was once the classic colonial possession of the British Empire, achieving its independence in the year of my birth.

I grew up with the marks of colonial rule scattered all around me – equestrian statues of colonial governors and generals at street corners, all-white sporting clubs and swimming pools where native youngsters were shooed away by turbaned gatemen, rows of office buildings with names like McKinnon and McKenzie or Jardine and Henderson whose top officers, I was told, were still spotlessly white.

I went to an elementary school run by an English couple whose son – I still remember his name, Stephen Hartley – was routinely awarded the top prize by our Indian teachers at every school competition.

Ever since, no matter which country I have visited, I have rarely failed to recognize the signs of colonial superiority.

I first came to know about the fate of European Jews in a roundabout way.

Sometime in my childhood, I came to hear the phrase notun ihudi – the new Jews.

It was probably the title of a movie. It referred, I was told, to people like us, thrown out of our homes in the eastern half of Bengal which had now become part of another country called Pakistan.

Both my parents came from there. Once every few months, I would wake up in the morning to find the house full of strangers – relatives from Pakistan who stayed with us for a few days and then moved to a more permanent dwelling.

We were, I heard, the new Jews – refugees, forced to make a new life in a strange land.

Later, I read about the history of Nazism and the Second World War in school.

I read stories of the persecution of Jews.

Our English teacher told us that Shylock’s character only made sense if one shared the prejudices of European Christians about Jews.

At the time, I didn’t quite understand the meaning of that remark. But as I grew older, I learnt about the long history of racism in Europe, a history that bound together in the same chain of hatred and condescension the Jews of Europe with Orientals and Africans.

I also discovered why our elders among the Bengali Hindu refugees from East Pakistan so loved the analogy with European Jews. The latter represented, they pointed out endlessly, the cream of European intellectual and cultural life.

Some of the greatest scientists, writers, musicians and artists of our time had been driven into exile by European racists who hated Jews. They were, of course, quick to add that the same thing had happened to the Hindus who were the intellectual elite of East Bengal: they had been expropriated and expelled by an ignorant Muslim peasantry and its bigoted leaders.

It didn’t take me long to recognize in this comparison the signs of class prejudice tinged with religious animosity.

Even more perplexing was the discovery that the expelled European Jews had sought and had been granted a homeland by Britain in their colonial possession in Palestine.

My journey from adolescence to adulthood was marked by the realization that in the world of politics, few things were painted in black or white.

Yet judgments had to be made. On Palestine, my judgment was clear.

Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe had found hospitality in the United States and Western Europe. Nevertheless, they insisted on a state of their own, moved into the British territory of Palestine and, after the British left, began to seize the lands where Palestinians had lived for centuries, driving them into refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries.

I remember the war over Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal – a last desperate attempt by a pathetic British aristocracy to hold on to the vestiges of its colonial empire.

From then on, the United States became the guardian angel of the Zionist state as the latter emerged as a major military power in the region, armed with a nuclear arsenal it refuses to acknowledge.

More ominously, it became a security state singularly aimed at the protection of one section of its population – the Jews – and treating its Arab citizens as lowly barbarians threatening to swamp the Jewish nation with their fast-breeding families and actively assisting the hostile forces ranged across the border.

Israel continues to build walls to fortify the Jewish population, imposes a ruthless regime of passes and security checks that every Arab-Israeli or Palestinian has to daily negotiate, and ignores every international norm to build Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands in order to permanently scuttle all chances of a sovereign Palestinian state coming into existence.

I don’t need to mobilize any scholarly knowledge at all: my inherited common sense tells me what I need to know. This is colonial rule as well as apartheid, both based on the exercise of brute force.

In my personal capacity, I have always boycotted Israeli institutions.

Despite having dozens of friends in Israeli universities, I have never agreed to visit Israel. There was a particularly poignant moment a few years ago when I was invited to be present on the occasion of the release of the Hebrew translation of one of my books.

It was hard for me to refuse the heartfelt invitation of my Israeli friends who, I knew, deeply disliked and actively opposed most of the policies of their government.

But the thought of applying for a visa at an Israeli embassy, passing through Israeli immigration and, who knows, answering questions at check points and barriers put me off.

An unfortunate fallout of this reluctance on my part is that I have been also unable to accept invitations from Palestinian institutions.

But how else does an individual like me show, in a private capacity, my refusal to submit to the blatantly colonial protocols of the Israeli authorities in order to accept the hospitality of my Palestinian friends?

In case I am accused of holding double standards, I must hasten to clarify that I have not failed to see the signs of colonial superiority in the country of which I am a citizen.

I have visited every state of India except two – Kashmir and Tripura.

Irrespective of my political views, I know that people on the street in Kashmir would regard me as just another “Indian” – perhaps a tourist out to have a good time while caring nothing about the hardship of the local people, or worse, a shady character sent out on a sinister security-related assignment.

Those are not presumptions with which I would feel comfortable.

And Tripura, a place that’s hardly known even in the rest of India, has remarkable similarities with Israel.

A princely state of British India inhabited almost entirely by indigenous “tribal” people, Tripura was practically overrun after independence by Bengali Hindus from East Pakistan.

Led by an educated middle class, enterprising Bengali farmers drove the indigenous population into the hills, cleared forests and settled down to an agrarian way of life in a new land.

True, the Communist Party which has been in power for a long time in Tripura has tried to build bridges with the tribal population, but the demographic facts are too stark to ignore: the tribal peoples are now a mere 30% of the population.

The seventy per cent who dominate the state are ethnically my people. I have imposed a prohibition on myself from travelling to Tripura.

It is relevant to add that the party currently in power in India professes a right-wing ideology of Hindu nationalism and frequently points to Israel as the exemplary case of a country fiercely asserting its cultural identity based on religion and brooking no compromise against the threat posed by political Islam.

Boosted by increasingly close ties based on huge defence purchases and security assistance from Israel, the Indian government has been carefully shifting its traditional support for the Palestinian cause in the United Nations and other international forums.

This has deepened my aversion towards the current regime in New Delhi.

I often hear the question: what is a boycott going to achieve?

I remember hearing the same question in the 1970s and 1980s when the campaign was on in British universities for boycotting South Africa.

It would be stretching the point to claim that the boycott campaign ultimately led to the end of the apartheid regime. But looking back, I have no doubt that the furious debates the campaign unleashed in the public media, sporting arenas, living rooms, bars and numerous other places went a long way in shaking people off their complacent positions of ignorance and indifference.

I earnestly hope that the present campaign of boycotting Israel will have a similar effect.




September 2015

Blog Stats

  • 1,516,526 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 822 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: