Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Libyan slits daughters' throats in 'honour killings' after raped by Gaddafi's troops

The Times of India
Middle East

TRIPOLI: A Libyan father slit the throats of his three teenage daughters in an 'honour killing' after they were raped by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists during the siege of the port city of Misrata.

The shocking incidents have been mentioned in a report by the respected Physicians for Human Rights group into war crimes and atrocities in the embattled city, which faced two months of being cut off from the rest of Libya.

The report has suggested that the father carried out the 'honour killings' after facing humiliation and shame over the rape of his 15, 17 and 18 year-old daughters in Tomina, on the outskirts of Misrata. The victims were not named, the Daily Mail reports.

This incident is just one among series crimes carried out on civilians by Gaddafi's troops.

The human rights group, which is based in Boston has concluded that there was widespread evidence of war crimes during the siege.

"Four eyewitnesses reported that (Gaddafi) troops forcibly detained 107 civilians and used them as human shields to guard military munitions from Nato attacks south of Misrata," the report said.

A huge controversy emerged earlier this year after a woman named Al-Obeidi claimed that she was raped by Gaddafi's men. She had later moved to the US.

Reports had also emerged that Gaddafi troops and loyalists were issued Viagra-type drugs to sustain their systematic rape campaign.

The world's strongest children survive killer

The Wife of Gaddafi's Son Burning the Face of an Ethiopian Woman Working as Her Nanny

Black in Norway

AL Jazeera Opinion
In the wake of the Norway massacre, we should focus our attention on the role racist ideologies have played there.
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2011 08:53
Of the 69 people killed in the July 22 rampage on Utoya island, at least nine of the victims were people of colour [EPA]

Ingerid S. Straume, vice president of Attac Norge (an independent organisation that seeks to reveal the relationship between global capital and local experiences), argued in a July 29, 2011 column of the newspaper Class Struggle that Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik "did not attack Muslims; he attacked politics. He had a self-proclaimed intention to frighten away young people from participating in political life".
Breivik is the accused perpetrator of the July 22, 2011 massacre in Oslo, Norway that left eight people dead after a bombing outside government offices, and 69 dead after a shooting rampage at the Labour Party's summer youth camp on Utøya, an island in the Oslo fjord. At least nine of the shooting victims were people of colour. Straume might deny the connection to race and Islamophobia, but Breivik himself acknowledged the connection between Western politics and race.
In his 1,500-page "manifesto" he writes: "Don't let multiculturalists define what racism is or isn't. Keeping an African against his [sic] will in your basement as a slave is racism. Loving your extended family/your ethnic group and fighting for ethnic and/or indigenous rights does not make you a racist; quite the opposite in fact. It makes you a civil rights activist."
The underlying presumption of Breivik's thoughts is that White European interests, investments, and identity are what "politics" should protect and serve in a zero-sum game pitted against peoples of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. As it reflects a resurgent racialised European notion of nationalist politics, his perspective - about what racism is or isn't - remains unchallenged. Instead, many commentators attempt to change the subject away from race and towards youth, immigration, and the economy, as if those issues can be understood without consciousness of their racialised dimensions.
One month after the massacre in Norway, attention now turns to that country's political parties' preparation for municipal elections this fall. For all parties, immigration remains a central issue. In a typical "authoritarian populist" inversion of logic, the extreme right wing portrays itself not as the advocates of hate but as the victims of repression, as the race whose rights are under siege.
And the extreme right wing gets away with it. Thus the possible repression of "free speech", a sacred idea within democratic societies, is now a focal concern in Norway's press. Nikolai Astrup, deputy Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party ("Høyre"), states in the Morning Press (July 29, 2011) that "freedom of speech cannot and should not be restricted. Extremist attitudes must be confronted and overcome on an open terrain. This is best accomplished in free, unrestricted and public debate."
Although post-July 22 Norwegian political rhetoric tries to temper or even replace extremist xenophobic and anti-Islamist positions with the abstract concepts of openness, tolerance and democracy, illuminating race and racism's role in contemporary Norwegian society remains vital to the debates about Norway specifically and to the West generally. The Office of the Norwegian Prime Minister has already established a "July 22 Commission" bestowed with the responsibility, for example, to "reveal plans about/of future attacks" and to "protect against and reduce the consequences of an attack".
Rejecting the false divide between race and politics allows us to see Norway more clearly within global racial processes, and to recognise the transformative contribution of Norwegian citizens and residents who have redefined their society as diverse and "multicultural". Rather than shying away from an analysis of race and racism, explicit attention to the ways that racist ideologies have functioned in Norwegian society before and after July 22 can help us to contribute positively to determining what Norway could be after the country's attack.
An African-American in Norway
The first time I went to Oslo, Norway was during the summer of 1994. There was a running joke among Norwegians that they first brought their foreign lovers to their country during the summer months of (relatively) warm weather and long days because that plan ensured that their romantic partners would fall in love with Norway as well. I was impressed with Oslo and later married a Norwegian. It was a pleasure to see cops without guns, to discuss politics and religion over beer, and to learn that the longest prison sentence was just over twenty years (and rarely handed out). I taught English at some of Norway's largest companies, I lectured in intercultural communication at the Norwegian School of Management, and I completed graduate studies at the University of Oslo.
As an African-American woman in Scandinavia, I was, however, a bit of an anomaly in Oslo. Although Norway had been receiving non-Western immigrants since the 1970s, the country has struggled both then and now to alter its steadfast perception of itself as homogeneous and consensual. Once I was a legal resident of Norway, no longer a romantic summer sojourner, developing a critical reading of racism abroad became a project of intellectual growth, activism, and survival. In 1997 I briefly worked with Oslo's Antirasistisk Senter (Antiracist Centre) to translate a document, "Mangfold og likeverd" ("Diversity and Equality"), about racial discrimination in Norway for a United Nations panel.
Seeking recognition for racial and ethnic minorities in the country, the authors of that report addressed issues related to gender (DNA testing was sometimes applied as a requirement to prove the basis for Somalian immigrant women's applications for familial reunification), sexuality (Norwegian women were alerted by the Red Cross to avoid sexual relations with African men for fear of HIV contamination), and the development of transnational, Nordic neo-Nazi cadres. The report was read with interest, but the demand for recognition ultimately denied.
While living in Oslo I sometimes referred to myself as Helga Crane, recognising the similarities between my experiences in Scandinavia and the protagonist of Nella Larsen's Quicksand. In the novel Helga Crane, a woman of African-American and Danish parentage, leaves Harlem, New York in the 1920s for Copenhagen, Denmark. Initially she believes that she belongs to herself alone, and not to a race. Quickly she discovers that the Danes view her as an exotic, foreign other, but not as one of them, not as someone who counts. 
On January 26, 2001, the day after my daughter was born in Oslo, a group of neo-Nazi teenagers fatally stabbed a 15-year-old boy of Ghanaian and Norwegian parentage in Holmlia, a suburb of Oslo. The racially-motivated murder of Benjamin Hermansen mobilised tens of thousands of Norwegians to march against racism and to mourn Hermansen. The prime minister at that time, Jens Stoltenberg, and Prince Haakon of Norway joined the rallies appealing to a country united against hate and calling for a national, public campaign against racism. The 2001 rally after Hermansen's murder was considered the largest demonstration in Norway since World War II.
In a country with fewer than 5m inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of people gathered together again during the July 25 rallies in mourning and in solidarity to demonstrate a commitment to unity, democracy, antiracism, and love after the Oslo attacks on July 22, 2011. Aksel Hagen, a politician in the Norwegian Socialist Left Party, stated that the attack was against "multicultural Norway" (Aftenposten/The Norwegian Post, August 19, 2011).
Again, the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Eskil Pedersen (leader of the Labour Party's Youth League), the Norwegian royal family, survivors of the July 22 massacre, Norwegian artists, Norwegian citizens, and other speakers expressed their commitment to the ideals recognised as foundational to Western democracy. Norwegians continually re-articulated the Prime Minister's description of Norway as a country refusing to be "broken by fear" and poised "to challenge evil with love". They expressed a commitment to increase cross-cultural understanding and to examine attitudes about national identity. Tolerance, equality, inclusion, solidarity, and democracy represent the key words pronounced by a nation in mourning and in hope. 
In the most recent National Memorial Ceremony in Oslo on August 21, 2011, and in the ongoing media coverage of Norway since the July 22 attacks, a dedication to democracy and against racism might insinuate that the two terms are mutually exclusive. Norwegian citizens and residents of Norway have marched together recognising that Scandinavians and the populations of former European colonies are no longer strangers, but actors together on a shared stage.
During the July 25 rally, Prime Minister Stoltenberg recognised that he stood "face to face with the people's will", and that with free speech and democracy "we set a course for Norway after July 22, 2011". Similarly, King Harald of Norway declared in his August 21, 2011 speech during the country's Memorial Ceremony that "the tragedy has reminded us of the fundamentals that bind us together in our multicultural and diverse society. May we be mindful of this acknowledgment - and may we take care of each other."
Nevertheless, sustained attention to how typecast that stage is remains an aside from mainstream discussions. In an age more often characterised by bottomless greed, possessive individualism, and resolute cynicism, I still choose to take those protestors, speakers, and the place I once called home at face value and to task. The lingering question after the Norwegian marches and memorials and the work that we are all implicated in is how to define and commit to the ongoing pursuit of democratic ideals.
I am not a cynic; I am hopeful. The kind of transformations required to combat racism and build democracy in Norway are not separate from the necessary changes desired in the rest of the world. But I do believe that there are two main obstacles to the transformational work that lies ahead of Oslo, Norway and the rest of the world.
Analysing Norway's role in 'global racism'
The first is our ability to understand what I call "global racism". As Charles Mills states in The Racial Contract (1997), understanding global racism obliges all of us to acknowledge "the realities of European domination and the gradual consolidation of global white supremacy". Our collective histories of conquest and imperialism, chattel slavery, Native land removal, colonisation, de jure discrimination and segregation, and apartheid (to name a few) established economic, political, legal, social, and cultural structures to divide societies racially and to grant privileges to those defined as "White".
Even for nations like Norway that did not directly participate as, for example, colonisers, the international enterprise that global racism involves enabled other nations to benefit from established economic, political, and ideological ruts based upon racial exploitation. Norway's entry into oil wealth began in the early 1970s with multi-billion dollar investments from the world's largest oil companies including BP, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, Conoco, Phillips Petroleum, and TotalFinaElf. The development of Norway's oil industry encouraged immigration and depended upon immigrant labour. Pakistani immigrants, for example, were crucial to building Norway's new and prosperous infrastructure, but have not shed the stigma of foreign-ness and racial otherness.
According to Statistics Norway, the country has also been one of the world's largest exporters of munitions, (third in Europe after France and Germany), increasing its exports of weapons to the US and decreasing its supply to non-NATO countries since 2002. Ideologically, Norway has also participated in the cultivation of ideas about racial and cultural superiority that stem from the genocide, enslavement, and exploitation of non-White peoples. Ida Børrensen, the director of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, wrote in a July 31, 2011 opinion piece for The Norwegian Post (Aftenposten) that she "often hears that the Polish and other Europeans who come [to Norway] to work are fine, but those with very different cultures from ours should be restricted".
She confirmed that the majority of such inquiries come from Norwegians who use the type of rhetoric and arguments "that can be found in the so-called terrorist's July 22 "manifesto". Børrensen outlines Norway's strict rules for immigration from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries (an applicant in need of "protection", employment that requires higher education or special competence, or marriage to or offspring of a Norwegian or a Norwegian resident), and states that asylum seekers represent only 3-8 per cent of immigrants to Norway. If these applicants were to be forbidden entry to Norway, Norwegians would have to "withdraw from several international conventions with which the country is affiliated".
She concludes by stating that in actuality there is "vast agreement across Norwegian parties and among the Norwegian population about current immigration laws". Børrensen's article acknowledges the significance of Norway's Western European relations and presumes broad Norwegian consensus regarding the maintenance of strict immigration laws and practices. Given Norway's relatively minor population of non-EEA immigrants, such attitudes actually reflect a racist and xenophobic attitude.
The perception of Norway as an idyllic land of fjords, peace, consensus, and racial homogeneity may have never existed, but it is nevertheless inseparable from a White supremacist mythology. Norwegian author Cornelius Jakhelln describes his own battle to come to terms with contemporary Norwegian masculine identity forced to let go of his ancestors' Norway due to the counter-discourse of multiculturalism and the growing opposition from immigrant communities in Paris and in Oslo. Although his July 29, 2011 Morgenbladet (The Morning Paper) article " Ære og demokratiet" ("Honour and Democracy") intends to depict the makings of a "ticking bomb", (or a Norwegian male on the verge of mental collapse and violence), Jakhelln actually describes the presumption of White racial superiority. "Keep other people out of your own problem," he writes, rendering the affective psychology behind masculine racial violence personal and individual. The supposed individualistic psychological explanation of a "loner" is actually a profile of White supremacy.
Rather than revealing the struggles of some Norwegian young men, his discussion conceals the social and racial construction of contemporary White masculine identity. In an attempt to shed light on that mindset, he ends up reifying the mythology of Norway's racial singularity: "What once was a homogenous population has become diverse in composition. The development is irreversible. Our parents' Norway is gone forever." The ugly histories of racial terror and injustice are collective, not individual. They have endured for centuries and have a definitive impact on the structures and forms of racism at local and global levels into the present. 
The second obstacle to antiracist social transformation is powerfully connected to the first: our ability to learn from those who have been its objects and most diligent opponents. Philosophy professor Charles Mills describes White supremacy as "the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today". Similarly, Norwegian sociologist Henrik Lunde of Norway's Antiracist Centre asserts that "racism and inequality cannot be dismissed because they influence society in a way that affect everyone".
Race and politics are inseparable
White racial privilege, however, is usually taken for granted and not even seen as political, despite the fact that it is responsible for defining a system of domination over nonwhite people both historically and currently. Contributors to Media in Motion: Cultural Complexity and Migration in the Nordic Region (2011), for example, describe how "few Norwegians know personally people of ethnic minority backgrounds".
Coupled with Norwegian self-images of homogeneity, personal and mediated distances from immigrant communities and populations of colour in Norway enable blindness about the histories that have propelled peoples from Pakistan, Iraq, and Somalia (apart from Poland, the largest non-Western immigrant populations in Norway) to find residence in Scandinavia. Moreover, the refusal to acknowledge White racial privilege disregards the realities of "integration" as a two-way process that re-shapes the meanings of community, social relations, and democracy.
The denial and minimisation of the obvious fact of global White domination results in White resistance to anything more than the formal extension of the terms of inclusion into the White racial polity, and therefore facilitates the sense that European civilisation is being threatened from outside. Because White privilege and advantage are not questioned, discussions of immigration, assimilation, and/or integration in Norway shy away from posing any fundamental change or challenge to the arrangements resultant from de jure racial privilege and the processes of global racism. 
The mental horizon of global white supremacist thought must therefore eclipse nonwhites and nonwhite spaces conceptually and historically irrelevant to European development and civilisation. Antiracist movements, from abolitionist movements against slavery, civil rights movements, anti-apartheid movements, decolonisation movements, the Black Power Movement, and the intellectual and literary movements that accompanied these political and social transformations showed us that challenging the political bases for justice required a dramatic alteration of hearts, minds, and attitudes.
Racism, they understood, was an economic, social, cultural, and ideological system for making and understanding society, determining social relations, protecting who was perceived as deserving, and who was superior. The denial of our collective histories and fates means the refusal to learn, the absurdity of dialogue or debate, and the impossibility of transformation.
At the one-month mark of the massacre in Oslo, Norway, our attention has now turned to other phenomena (Libyan opposition struggles, riots in London, social unrest in Syria, human tragedy in Somalia, ongoing conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, global economic crises, new elections, celebrity weddings). But we must still assess the lessons learned from the loss of lives, life chances, and livelihoods. What are we working towards, against, or even for - and why is it so hard for us to name it?
Since my first trip to Oslo in 1994, I have wondered about the ways that contradictory feelings of fascination and dread, curiosity and rejection, openness and exclusion could persist without the common racial ground of these sentiments being interrogated. Norwegian discussions about immigration, assimilation, and integration have produced three powerful responses: contradiction, chaos, and crisis. 
Prior to July 22, 2011, immigration and integration were central topics to Norwegian politics and to political debates throughout Western Europe. The conversation in Norway most often leaned towards how to integrate immigrants into the polity or how to restrict what was perceived as the insupportable economic and cultural burden that immigrants and continued immigration represented. As W E B Du Bois baldly stated about African-Americans in the racially segregated southern United States in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), immigrants one hundred years later in Norway and in other countries of Western Europe were also being asked "how does it feel to be a problem?"
After the July 22, 2011 massacre the immigrant population has not been any less in focus. Anticipating scheduled Norwegian elections during the fall of 2011, some politicians from The Progressive Party ("Fremskrittspartiet"), known for their explicit anti-immigration positions, have decided to shift their anti-immigrant rhetoric from a focus on cultural differences in order to prioritise the seemingly neutral economic impact argument against further immigration.
While the party's mayoral candidate for Oslo, Carl I. Hagen, stood by his observation that "almost all terrorists are Muslims", another party member argued that their "language use has to be different and more objective". In Aftenposten (The Evening Post) on July 28, 2011, mayor Knut Hanselmann of Askøy stated that "the Progressive Party is the party that wants the least possible immigration to Norway and we will continue to demand that".
Nonetheless, he claimed that a focus "on things like a municipality's limited capacity to process immigrants, integration, child welfare, and related issues" provide the bases for a more objective discussion about why immigration to Norway must be restricted. Presumptions about immigrants as burdens, undeserving, and inferior lie thinly veiled behind supposedly neutral economic debates. Whether politicians see immigrants in need of integration or exclusion, the immigrant is seen as a problem to be solved. What remains absent from the discussion are the logic of global racism and our ability to think critically about the production, maintenance of White racial privilege, and how a commitment to an antiracist form of democracy must address both. 
The 32-year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, accused author and perpetrator of the violence committed in Oslo on July 22, imagined himself as being betrayed by the Norwegian liberal state. Despite his alleged experience as a graffiti "tagger" and involvement in the urban hip hop scene, his focus was on waking up the masses by "making sure the current system implodes". According to his manifesto, this implosion requires violently opposing multiculturalism and participating in a campaign to restore so-called indigenous European control of Western Europe. Breivik claims:
"It is counterproductive, even lethal to waste another five decades on meaningless dialogue while we are continuously losing our demographical advantage ... It is expected that native Europeans shall humbly watch and applaud their own annihilation and extinction. The fact that we are persecuted and harassed in our own countries does not violate our human rights because we are white Christians and therefore evil by default."
Breivik's analyses, conclusions, and actions were heinous. His disidentification with the liberal state and its focus on gender equality, integration and racial diversity, however, give us reason for increased critical investigation. Racism, sexism, and anxiety about the threatened privileges of racialised heteropatriarchy (the supremacy of White male heterosexual superiority) represent longstanding ideals about European nationalist identity and illustrated concerns about political, social, and cultural transformations. The Norwegian Labour Party's stance on integration and (hopefully) antiracism could betray the White racial contract.
As we have seen, however, the state's rhetorical commitment to racial diversity and equality without an interrogation of the structures of inclusion and the realities of global racism only produce contradictions. Breivik's perspectives and actions have happily, though inadvertently, presented Norway with the challenge to articulate an explicit antiracist stance and with the opportunity to be a global leader in confronting the histories, legacies, and structures of racial inequality.
Back in 1994, some Norwegians confided to me that Norway's "Black people" were Pakistanis, not African descendants like me. Communities of colour in contemporary Norway, however, use the term flerkulturell ("multicultural"), a word often criticised in the US for masking interracial conflict.
Given the emphasis on homogeneity in Scandinavia, "multiculturalism" can be seen as bringing into view interracial, inter-ethnic, and cross-cultural alliances that are attentive to the lives, experiences, and challenges of a diverse and vibrant population. Utrop, (Outcry), described as Norway's "first and only multicultural, web-portal, newspaper, and web TV channel" dedicated to racial, ethnic and cultural diversity is also a clearinghouse for media throughout the country on issues that affect their target populations.
Linking to an August 28, 2011 article from Bergenstidende (The Bergen Times), Utrop separates the facts from fiction within Norwegian immigration debates. Four out of ten Norwegians still perceive "immigration as a threat to the country's distinctive character", and over half of all those polled were of the opinion that in times of adversity "employment should first be secured for Norwegians". Despite the slow increase in Muslim populations in Europe generally and in Norway specifically, not everyone in Norway anticipates a tempering of Norwegian immigration debates.
So how do we encourage Norwegians to become conscious of their unrecognised racial order and systems of privilege? How can white Norweigians build up the courage and awareness to become heroic "race traitors", disloyal to their own economic, social, and ideological investment in Whiteness?
Current approaches that deny racism's existence and its affects on people of colour and on Whites is certainly not the answer. The third response after contradiction and chaos that we saw in Norway was crisis. In this instance, crisis must be understood within the practices of antiracist struggles and perspectives elaborated by peoples of colour and White race traitors across the globe.
These historical and contemporary actors understand crisis as painful, difficult, and even uncertain. Our collective histories of unnatural disasters (slavery, colonisation, apartheid, et cetera) are not invisible or acceptable. As we stand at the crossroads of crisis, confronted with two different paths to venture upon, what better place to look for direction than those young people and cultural activists who have always stood at the forefront of racially-imposed battle lines? Along with my own child, born in Norway of Norwegian and African-American parents, I too am making a commitment to listen to them.
Black to Norway
"Mela", Norway's first multicultural performing arts festival, confronted the crisis that the July 22 massacres unleashed based on the knowledge that the organisers and participants have long developed and shared. A week after the violence in Oslo and Utøya, festival chairperson Khalid Salimi stated in an interview with the newspaper Klassekampen (The Class Struggle) that "Mela was established to strengthen cultural diversity - it isn't a festival for the sake of the festival itself".
Fortifying cultural diversity and international solidarities were priorities of Norwegians of colour long before the July attacks. Participants at Mela this year included dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson (famous for his poem "Inglan is A Bitch"), who shared multiple poems like "The New Crossfire" and "The Great Insurrection" from his activist experiences in England that he felt connected directly with the Oslo crowd. "We understand how people are feeling today in Norway as a consequence of the atrocity which has taken place here," he stated, "it just reminds us that we have to be alert and vigilant against racism and against fascism".
During the festival, Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi also responded to the massacre, connecting the violence against racial, gender, sexual, and religious minorities in Oslo to the oppression that occurs in other parts of the world. In a conversation with Fakhra Salimi, a Pakistani immigrant to Norway who leads a national resource centre for immigrant women, Saadawi argued that "we have to fight together".  She emphasised that "there must be solidarity, global solidarity between us to fight against this type of crime".
Apart from international figures, Mela also featured Norwegian artists of colour, such as the popular hip-hop group Karpe Diem (comprised by Chirag Patel and Magdi Ytreeide Abdelmaguid) and the Norwegian/African art collective Queendom (consisting of Hannah Wozene Kvam, Asta Busingye Lydersen, and Monika Ifejilika). Hanna Wozene Kvam spoke about music's ability to reflect Norway's shifting national identity and to heal a people in mourning. "I can understand that after situations like [the July 22 attacks] people take refuge in traditional Norwegian values. But I hope that in light of this we can also see that modern Norway is comprised of expressions from the whole world, with multiple flags, and with the entire world's music … This isn't simply music, but music with meaning."
Kvam also situates Queendom's and other artists' cultural contributions during Mela within a global context:  "We have seen music's significance in important political circumstances - just think about the revolutions in Tunisia and in Egypt. Many performers, poets, and artists stood up for what they believed in."
These cultural and political activists see themselves as part of a global dialogue about race, equality, and democracy. Why not establish an international think-tank on the legacies of colonial rule, an international think-tank on the legacies and ongoing impact of White racial ideology, and an independent, international committee assessing the role of the IMF with regard to the above two? Youth energies across the globe have already pointed us in these directions.
Why not establish an international, independent committee for reparations due to slavery, a Scandinavian Nobel committee and prize dedicated to the eradication of racial inequality resultant for colonial rule, and an international centre for the study of race and racism at the Norwegian Universities of Oslo and Bergen? The interest and longing, as we know, are already there.
Why not develop an international fellowship for the advanced study of contemporary racism and provide economic and institutional support of cultural productions committed to antiracism? Artistic groups like Queendom are already providing creative, heartfelt, and provocative analyses of the realities faced by those who are in some way self-identified as Norwegian. Members of Queendom are also active in Nordic Black Theatre and Afrikan History Week, organisations that provide creative, intellectual, and community-based outlets for multiracial collaboration and alliances. Utrop (Outrcry) and the Antiracist Centre continue to report on and work against racism and inequality. Taking Norwegians to task means participating in the ongoing discussions of what Norway and the world will be after July 22.
The presence of these immigrant populations in Europe attest to the longer, interrelated histories of slavery, imperialism, colonisation, and globalisation. In fact, knowledge and memories of those experiences have produced epistemologies, moral psychologies, resistance strategies, and alternative imaginaries for many of us. In short, our recognition of these collective experiences demand that we question how we know, struggle to know better, and commit to doing better. The ones we have lost, who have become our ancestors expect nothing less.
Dr Felice Blake is an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She specialises in twentieth-century African-American literature, Afro-Latin American literatures, African-American studies, racial communities in the post-civil rights era, and critical analyses of gender and sexuality. She can be reached at
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Al Jazeera

Fatal torture 'widespread' in Syrian jails

AL Jazeera Middle East
Rights group Amnesty International says it has documented the cases of 88 people who have died in custody since March.
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2011 12:08

Amnesty International says it has documented the cases of 88 people who have died in Syrian prisons since anti-government protests began in the country.
Citing footage of victims before burial provided by families and activists, the UK-based rights group said there was evidence of torture and abuse.
Injuries identified by forensic experts showed evidence of abuse, including broken necks, cigarette burns to the chest and face, electrocution to genitalia, fractures and whipping slashes.
According to the organisation's report , released on Wednesday, the victims were all male and include 10 children, some as young as 13.

The previous average annual death rate was five, the rights group said. "Such an increase in deaths cannot be a coincidence," Reto Rufer, who heads the Middle East section for the Swiss chapter of Amnesty International, said.

"It appears to be the expression of the same brutal violence that is being shown daily in the Syrian streets."

'Eyes gouged'

Hazem al-Hallak, whose brother's body is one of those documented in the Amnesty report, told Al Jazeera that Sakher al-Hallak was abducted on his way home from his medical practice in May and taken to the intelligence offices.
Two days later, his body was found "hidden in a ditch" outside Aleppo.
"He was gouged everywhere," al-Hallak said. "His eyes were gouged. He had rope marks on his hands ... His genitals were mutilated. His feet had marks of electric shots."

Syrian authorities said Sakher al-Hallak had never been detained and that his death was a criminal act being

The official autopsy said the cause of death was "cerebral hypoxia resulting from being hanged".
However, Hazem al-Hallak said the coroner who made the autopsy had brought "pre-typed, pre-signed documents".
Most of the cases documented by Amnesty, from April to mid-August, happened in the governorates of Homs and Deraa.
Amnesty called for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court, and for an arms embargo, tighter asset freezes and financial sanctions to be declared against senior members of the government.

"Taken in the context of the widespread and systematic violations in Syria, we believe that these deaths in custody may include crimes against humanity," Neil Sammonds, Amnesty's researcher on Syria, said.

On Tuesday, the US froze the US assets of Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali and President Bashar al-Assad's adviser Bouthaina Shaaban in response to the crackdown on protesters.
'House raids'
In Syria on Wednesday, troops backed by tanks raided houses looking for activists in two main districts of the
city of Hama, residents said.
"Several light tanks and tens of small and big buses parked at al-Hadid bridge at the eastern entrance of Hama," Abdelrahman, a local activist, told Reuters news agency by phone.

"Hundreds of troops then went on foot into al-Qusour and Hamdiya neighbourhoods. The sound of gunfire is being heard.

"These neighbourhoods have been among the most active in staging protests".
Another resident said pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns and buses full of troops also assembled near the northern entrance of Hama.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 473 people were killed during Ramadan (the first 29 days of August), including 360 civilians and 113 members of the Syrian military and security forces.

Twenty-eight others died under torture or in detention during the Muslim fasting month, the group said.
Activists had earlier said about 1,900 people had been killed up to July.
Most international media have been barred from entering Syria, making it almost impossible to verify accounts.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Deadly explosions rip through Chechen capital

AL Jazeera Europe
Festivities marking the end of Ramadan cut short in Grozny, after twin suicide bombings leave eight people dead.
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2011 09:36
Eight people, seven of them police, have been killed in two suicide bomb attacks in Chechnya's capital Grozny during celebrations marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
A man detonated an explosive device on Tuesday when a police patrol tried to detain him. A second blast occurred soon afterwards.
The state-run RIA news agency said two suicide bombers were behind the blasts.
The explosions killed seven police officers and an emergency services worker, and wounded at least 16 people.
The scene of the explosion, in a densely populated district of Grozny, 50 metres from a local parliament building, was cordoned off by police.

Residents told the Reuters news agency they heard gun shots after the explosions.
A decade after Russian forces drove separatists out of power in Chechnya, the Kremlin is still struggling to contain Islamist armed groups fighting in the north Caucasus.

The violence has now spread from Chechnya to other mainly Muslim regions.
None of the Islamist rebel leaders claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Today is the most sacred day for all Muslims. On that day a trained and zombified bandit attempted to carry out a terrorist attack," Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov told RIA.
"The bandits have shown their real face, which only proves that this evil should be eradicated."

Saving children in the Horn of Africa

AL Jazeera Opinion
It's not too late to make a difference in famine-ravaged East Africa.
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2011 11:48

The famine in the Horn of Africa has forced millions of people, such as the children above, to flee to refugee camps [EPA]
What can we do, collectively and individually, in response to the famine in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, which has been called “the most severe food security emergency in the world today”?

Since the rains failed in October 2010, famine in Somalia has already caused tens of thousands of deaths, including more than 29,000 children under age five, and is likely to persist through at least December. This is part of an even wider regional drought and conflict-induced humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa that threatens the lives and livelihoods of some 12.4m people. This includes people not only in my native country of Somalia, but also people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries.

The situation is worsened by prolonged conflicts that have forced millions of people to flee the security of their homes and abandon their pasture and livestock. Thousands every day are arriving in already disastrously overcrowded refugee camps.

But the famine conditions were foreseen, and the world possesses resources enough to cope, if they were shared and distributed more promptly and effectively. So people in the Horn of Africa are dying not just because the rains have failed but also because politicians and policies - and to some degree, all of the parties to Somalia’s prolonged armed conflict - have failed.

On August 25, the African Union hosted a fundraising conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where African leaders and institutions pledged more than $380m, including $300m from the African Development Bank, to be spent over four years for long-term development in the Horn of Africa. African leaders promised to donate more than $51m. However, aid groups say there remains a shortfall of some $1.4bn. So far, 21 out of 54 AU member states have contributed, with Algeria, Angola and Egypt leading the way by donating a combined $20m. Yet some African activists and citizens are calling for even more leadership to meet the shortfall.

For example, Africans Act 4 Africa, a coalition of civil organizations, has urged countries to donate a “proportional” share based on their economies, calling for pledges of at least $50m, and even larger commitments from economic powerhouses, such as Nigeria and South Africa.

Check out this inspirational YouTube video by Africans Act 4 Africa, which challenges us all to act for Africa, because no Africans should die from famine.

Absolutely, even more international aid is needed. A top UN official, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, has warned the African leaders gathered in Ethiopia this week that the crisis extends beyond issues of hunger to issues of public health, security and livelihood. People living in overcrowded camps need clean water, medicine and hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera and measles. There is a need for greater protection in the camps, too, for orphaned children alone and afraid, and for women who face the threat of rape. Refugees trekking to camps need protection from armed groups and bandits. Farmers and pastoralists who have lost their livestock need to rebuild their livelihoods.
For the people of Somalia, that will only be possible when conditions are in place for a durable peace, for regaining the resilience of communities in Somalia, which has not had a stable, functional government for the past two decades.

Andrew Meldrum of GlobalPost provides a handy list of organisations to which we can all donate to help get resources flowing:

“The United Nations’ World Food Programme and the High Commission for Refugees are doing extensive work on the ground. International charities are also providing food, medicine and other care. Oxfam International, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and MercyCorps are just a few of the groups that have impressive track records of responding to cataclysmic emergencies. USAID also provides a list of organisations.”

It is not too late to make a difference. Donate now to eradicate famine, and intervene to provide life-saving healthcare and security for children and families in the Horn of Africa. For a few dollars, you can provide starving children with nutritious oral fluids and peanut butter packed with vitamins. You can help provide vaccines to prevent the spread of deadly diseases like cholera and measles in overcrowded refugee camps.

Help save a generation of children in the Horn of Africa, so that they can grow up to rebuild their livelihoods, restore their communities, regain their resilience, and become self-sufficient.

Iman is a supermodel, entrepreneur, ambassador for Save the Children, and a human rights activist.
You can follow Iman on Twitter: @The_Real_IMAN

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Al Jazeera

Somali refugees have little chance of celebrating Eid as famine spreads in the south English

An internally displaced family stands inside their makeshift shelter structure at the Qansahaley settlement camp in Dollow town along the Somalia-Ethiopia border. (Photo by Reuters)
An internally displaced family stands inside their makeshift shelter structure at the Qansahaley settlement camp in Dollow town along the Somalia-Ethiopia border. (Photo by Reuters)
Hauling plastic sheeting through the barren scrub of southern Somalia, Jamal Aden and his heavily pregnant wife have no chance of scraping together the meal that traditionally marks the end of Ramadan.

“Apart from the will of God, we have nothing to help us celebrate Eid, nothing to sacrifice,” the devout Muslim said. “At home, in good times, we would have slaughtered a camel and collected wild fruits.

“Ramadan has been tough, almost unbearable,” the 30-year-old told Reuters, sifting through blankets donated by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).
The couple are among the latest wave of Somalis fleeing a deadly combination of war and drought -- one of the worst to afflict the region in decades -- in the lawless country where Islamist rebels are waging an insurgency.

The Islamic holy month, during which the Muslim faithful go without food and water during daylight hours, has been grueling for the family, who huddle under a shelter made of branches, cardboard boxes and a torn mosquito net.

The landscape surrounding the border town of Dollow has been stripped clean of nearly all vegetation, while the drought wiped out Aden’s livestock.

Less than two kilometers from the Juba river that separates Somalia and Ethiopia, Dollow has been a major transit point for the refugees that have flooded across the frontier since a famine in southern Somalia first began to bite.

More than 800,000 Somalis are refugees outside their own country, according to UN estimates, while up to 1.5 million are displaced within the Horn of Africa country.

As the relief operation to reach some 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation is ramped up, aid groups want to focus on stemming the latest exodus.

“We should not aim at emptying Somalia. Our aim should be to create conditions for Somalis to be able to live in Somalia and for Somali refugees one day to have the opportunity to go back in safety and in dignity,” Antonio Guterres, the global head of UNHCR, told reporters on a visit to Dollow.

Dignity is in short supply for one-year-old Abdi. Weighing little more than a new-born baby, his wrinkled skin hangs loosely off his stick-thin arms.

Only intravenous feeding, available at a clinic across the border, might save Abdi’s life, one aid worker said.

Emergency relief operations across southern Somalia have been hampered by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab rebels who control huge swathes of the region and banned numerous Western aid agencies from operating in the area almost two years ago.

As Somalis in the distant capital of Mogadishu prepared to break the Ramadan fast, al-Shabaab vowed more attacks against African Union troops and the government during Eid celebrations.

Guterres urged the militants and other militia groups to allow aid agencies access to the millions of hungry people.

“We appeal to all the parties in the conflict to respect humanitarian law, to grant access, for humanitarian aid to be (seen as) neutral and not diverted for devious purposes,” said Guterres.

Algeria would hand over Qaddafi to ICC as Libya ‘final battle’ approaches English

Libyan rebel fighters celebrate on a golf buggy belonging to Muammar Qaddafi at the entrance of Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli. (Photo by Reuters)
Libyan rebel fighters celebrate on a golf buggy belonging to Muammar Qaddafi at the entrance of Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli. (Photo by Reuters)
Algeria would hand over Muammar Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court if he entered the North African country, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday, a day after Algiers gave safe haven to members of his family, as the rebels' military chief said the final battle in Libya was imminent.

Algeria announced on Monday that Qaddafi’s wife, two of his sons and his daughter had crossed into its territory, prompting Libya’s ruling interim council to demand that they be handed back to face trial.

Quoting Algerian sources, the el-Shorouk newspaper said on its website that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had told government ministers during a cabinet meeting on Monday that Algeria would respect international law on all matters related to the Libyan conflict.
“Should Qaddafi try to enter Algerian soil amid talk that the rebels are tightening their grip on the border with Tunisia, and Egyptian (border) restrictions, Algeria would arrest him and hand him over to the International Criminal Court in compliance with international agreements,” the newspaper said, according to Reuters.

It said the decision was not a reaction to the toppling of the Qaddafi regime but was in accordance with the ICC’s arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and his intelligence chief over accusations they committed crimes against humanity.

No one was immediately available for comment from the government.

In a separate report, Shorouk said Qaddafi’s family members, who had crossed into Algeria, were in the southeastern Illizi province, which borders Libya, and would not be allowed to go to the capital Algiers.

Qaddafi’s location remains unknown a week after Tripoli fell to his foes.

Meanwhile, Algeria’s al-Watan newspaper said the country was closing the southern part of its border with Libya. Quoting diplomatic sources, al-Watan said an instruction had gone out to security services to close the southern part of the border with Libya, because of the “precarious situation” there, according to Reuters.

The Algerian government could not immediately be reached for comment. Algeria’s border with Libya is hundreds of kilometers long and stretches through vast expanses of empty desert.

Algerian officials say they are concerned that Islamist militants have infiltrated Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), and that al-Qaeda’s North African wing will exploit the chaos in Libya to acquire weapons and explosives.

The NTC has angrily denied those charges and in turn accuses Algeria of siding with Muammar Qaddafi during Libya’s civil war, something the Algerian authorities deny.

"Zero hour approaching"

The rebels’ military chief Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani, meanwhile, told reporters on Tuesday the launch of the final battle in Libya was imminent.

“Zero hour is quickly approaching. We would like everyone to know that we are ready for a final military battle,” he told a news conference in the rebel stronghold in the east, according to AFP.

“So far we have been given no indication of a peaceful surrender. We want everyone to know that we are prepared militarily for the battle that will end the conflict,” Bani said.

Asked about possible rebel moves, he replied this was “military intelligence” and declined to elaborate.

“We continue to seek a peaceful solution, but on Saturday we will use different methods against these criminals,” he said.

Earlier, National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters in Benghazi that the NTC was giving a Saturday ultimatum for Muammar Qaddafi’s forces to surrender or face a military onslaught.

Bani expressed “surprise” that the inhabitants of Sirte “still reject our peaceful overtures to avoid the spilling of blood on both sides.”

He also said that rebel fighters may have killed Qaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Rebel fighters had destroyed two armored vehicles between the towns of Bani Walid and Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli, and captured Kadhafi loyalists told them that one of the passengers was Senussi, Bani said.

The vehicles were destroyed by fire after the convoy refused to stop as rebel fighters demanded, he said, adding that Senussi has yet to be buried.

In June, the Hague-based court issued arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and Senussi for murder and persecution since mid-February, when a bloody uprising started.

Senussi is Qaddafi’s brother-in-law.

Khamis Qaddafi alive

Separately, Libyan state television denied in a message posted on the Internet on Tuesday that Khamis Qaddafi, a son of the strongman, was dead as claimed by the rebels.

“We repeat that information on the death of Khamis Qaddafi is a lie," the Allibya network, which is run by Seif al-Islam, reported on its Facebook page, according to AFP.

Late on Monday, opposition officials said that Khamis, 28, was killed south of Tripoli and buried on Monday, citing rebel leaders.

The death of Khamis, a feared military commander, has been prematurely announced several times during the Libyan conflict.

Qaddafi female bodyguards say they were raped by leader and sons English

Five of Qaddafi's former bodyguards have stepped forward to talk about the sexual assaults committed by him. (File photo)
Five of Qaddafi's former bodyguards have stepped forward to talk about the sexual assaults committed by him. (File photo)
Five female bodyguards of Muammar Qaddafi say they were sexually assaulted by the former Libyan leader in a report published in the Malta Times on Sunday.

The claims have been collected by Benghazi-based psychologist Sehram Sergewa who is compiling a dossier for the International Criminal Court for any criminal proceedings against Qaddafi.

Qaddafi was known for his female bodyguards who were always well groomed and rumored to be up to 400 according to a recent report in Al Arabiya. Qaddafi made his guards take a vow of virginity and renamed all of them Aisha, after his only daughter.

The women who stepped forward to share their experiences, however, speak of horrifying crimes of rape by the leader and then his sons or other officials.
One woman, who said she was raped before becoming a female guard by Qaddafi when she sought his intervention to be re-instated at university, was blackmailed into becoming a bodyguard.

“She was told you either become a bodyguard or your brother [detained on fabricated charges of drug trafficking] will spend the rest of his life in prison,” Dr. Sergewa told the newspaper.

Charges of rape aren’t limited to Qaddafi. When conducting a survey at a refugee camp in Tunisia, Dr. Sergewa spoke to women who said they were raped by Qaddafi troops.

An 18-year-old claimed she was raped in front of her father by a soldier.

The United States had accused the Qaddafi regime of supplying its troops with Viagra to engage in sexual violence earlier in April this year according to a report in Al Arabiya English.

Dr. Sergewa estimates that there may be “as many as 6,000 victims of such rape,” she told the Malta Times.

South Sudan denies Khartoum accusations of backing South Kordofan rebels English

As many as 40,000 people may have fled fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan. (Photo by REUTERS)
As many as 40,000 people may have fled fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan. (Photo by REUTERS)
South Sudan on Wednesday denied accusations by Khartoum that it was helping rebels in South Kordofan, Sudan’s main oil-producing state, where fighting broke out with government troops in June.

The south won independence from the north last month after a January referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war in the vast African country.

Sudan sent a letter to the UN Security Council on Tuesday accusing the south of causing instability and disrupting peace in the neighboring state of South Kordofan.
“This is an absolute lie on behalf of the government in Khartoum. We are not giving any support to the rebels,” South Sudan’s Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Reuters.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) fought alongside its southern counterpart against Khartoum during the civil war in which some two million people perished.

Benjamin said the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) now has no links with the SPLM-N.

Sudan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday accused the South of “standing behind all hostile activities in South Kordofan” and “supporting it with weaponry and equipment.”

Benjamin rejected the charges. “Khartoum is trying to set up a smokescreen to cover up Security Council concerns that they are bombing civilians in South Kordofan,” he said.

Rights groups say Khartoum has broken its own ceasefire announced last week in South Kordofan by continuing to bomb civilians indiscriminately, frequently rolling bombs manually out of Antonov cargo planes.

According to a leaked UN report, the Sudanese army has carried out killings, arbitrary arrests, abductions, attacks on churches and aerial bombardment in Southern Kordofan which, if proven, might constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Researchers from New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International say some of these allegations have now been proven.

The Sudanese government has dismissed the UN report as unfounded and malicious and has said it will form its own committee to assess the situation in South Kordofan.

Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, South Kordofan and Blue Nile state, which also fell north of the disputed border after the south seceded, were offered popular consultations to decide their future relations with Khartoum, but these have yet to take place.

“(Khartoum) has failed to bring peace to Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. They are looking for a scapegoat and blaming the South,” Benjamin said.