US recognition of Armenian genocide is a victory in ‘fight against denialism,’ UN told

US recognition of Armenian genocide is a victory in ‘fight against denialism,’ UN told
Mher Margaryan. (Photo/Twitter: Armenia Mission to UN)
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Updated 27 April 2021

US recognition of Armenian genocide is a victory in ‘fight against denialism,’ UN told

US recognition of Armenian genocide is a victory in ‘fight against denialism,’ UN told
  • Armenia’s envoy ‘deeply grateful’ to President Joe Biden for acknowledgment of the true nature of atrocities committed during First World War
  • Members urged to ‘end century of indifference and denial’ over the genocide; reminded ‘speeches do not prevent atrocities, timely political action does.’

NEW YORK: The announcement by US President Joe Biden on Saturday recognizing the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces during the First World War as genocide not only honors the victims and their families, it is also a victory in “the fight against denialism and attempts to whitewash past crimes,” the UN was told on Monday.
Mher Margaryan, Armenia’s permanent representative to the UN, added that the decision by the administration in Washington is a contribution “for which we are deeply grateful.”
His comments came during a panel discussion organized by the Armenian mission at the UN to reflect on the legacy of US-based humanitarian organization the Near East Foundation, and the effect it has had on the evolution of humanitarian multilateralism. The foundation, which was established in 1915 to tackle the humanitarian consequences of the Armenian genocide, is one of the world’s oldest international philanthropic organizations.
“We are paying tribute to this outstanding effort, initially established with the support of the American people to help alleviate the suffering of the Armenians,” Margaryan said.
It is estimated that the systematic massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 led to the deaths of about 1.5 million people. The killings and mass deportations of Armenians, and other mass atrocities around the world, prompted Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin to coin the term “genocide” and initiate the Genocide Convention, which sets out the legal definition of the term. It was unanimously adopted by the UN in December 1948 and came into force in January 1951.
Margaryan said that although there has been a lot of discussion over the years about the failure of the world to prevent the Armenian genocide, “100 years on, the ability of the international community to properly identify and react to humanitarian crises is still being considerably challenged.”
He added: “Only recently, Azerbaijan and Turkey unleashed brutal, senseless violence against the Armenian people, amid the global pandemic, in an attempt to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force with the involvement of foreign terrorist fighters and mercenaries, accompanied by numerous, extensively documented war crimes.”
The envoy said the continuing detention of prisoners of war and civilian hostages by Azerbaijan, in contravention of international humanitarian law, as well as “the widespread, state-led campaign of dehumanization of Armenians (show that) genocidal ideology does not merely belong to history.”
Savita Pawnday, deputy executive director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said that genocide denial “aggravates the injuries of the past and sows the seeds of future injustice.”
While conceding that Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide was largely symbolic, she said that accepting the truth of genocides can help to prevent their recurrence, and is a first step toward securing justice for survivors and other victims and acknowledging the patterns of discrimination that can lead to genocide.
“Finding solutions becomes easier (with acknowledgment of genocides), whereas denial aggravates the injuries of the past and sows the seeds of future injustice (in a) world where 18 million people are currently displaced by conflict and war,” Pawnday said.
She called on all UN member states to officially recognize the Armenian genocide and “end one century of indifference and denial.”
One form denial can take, she added, is the characterization of atrocities as a “humanitarian crisis.”
“We all know that current humanitarian crises cannot be solved by blankets and bandages alone,” said Pawnday. Addressing the UN in general, she added: “Speeches do not prevent atrocities. Timely political action does.”
She highlighted the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar in recent years by the military junta in the country, during which more than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh. She said it was once described by a deadlocked UN Security Council as “‘a humanitarian crisis taking place in Bangladesh’ rather than a genocide perpetrated by the Tatmadaw.”
Pawnday added: “In the multilateral sphere, viewing the crisis through a humanitarian lens is seen as apolitical and a neutral way to build consensus. Yet the reality on the ground is that humanitarian assistance is deeply political.
“The international community has become complicit in giving some perpetrators a free pass. The failure of the Security Council to adequately respond to the 2017 genocide of the Rohingya has created a climate of impunity that the generals exploited.
“The February coup is the price that the people of Myanmar are going to be paying for very long time for the international community’s failure to uphold human rights and to hold those generals accountable.”
Sarah Lea Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now and the moderator of Monday’s event, said it had been painful for the Armenian diaspora to have to “beg” for US recognition of the genocide.
But she added: “I am very grateful that (Biden) has finally taken this step, taking the genocide issue off of the political table.”
Khatchig Mouradian, a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies at Columbia University in New York, challenged the widespread implicit perception of Armenians as passive recipients of violence on the one hand, and of western humanitarianism on the other.
In his book, “The Resistance Network,” he demonstrates how Armenians coordinated a “robust self-help, humanitarian resistance effort” even during the darkest hours of the genocide.
Ultimately, he said, this effort raised tremendous funds, particularly from US schools, families and Congress. He described it as “one of the bright spots of a dark history.”
Armenian activists are a crucial part of the story and should not be sidelined in the way they traditionally have been, Mouradian added, because they were the intermediaries and activists who defied fear and the Ottoman authorities, and through whose efforts aid reached those who were suffering.
“It is important to integrate this in the narrative because it has a lesson,” he said. “Every time the accomplishments of human rights organizations are being counted, it is a helpful exercise to ask: What about the local activists and humanitarian workers? Is their work being suppressed or erased from the narrative?”
This, he said, is important not only when it comes to holding the perpetrators of atrocities to account, it also helps to determine the form and future of humanitarian actions.
“What kind of world we’re going to (pass on to our) children is very much conditional on how we see ourselves — as individuals or groups or organizations — intervening,” said Mouradian.
“Do we see ourselves as leaders, and the locals are supposed to work for us and follow us as we engage in humanitarian action? Or do we stand next to the locals, allowing them to chart their own future?”
Hugo Slim, a researcher at Oxford University, called for changes to the current global humanitarian system, which he described as an “imperial, Western club system, financed almost entirely by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries and driven in New York and Geneva by the Western groups.”
He added: “It is operated colonially by a big group of big agencies who dominate the resources and policy, and who function as an imperial elite upon a subject people around the world. Governments become contractors to this rather imperial system.”
The Near East Foundation was called The American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief when it was founded in 1915. It organized the world’s first major international humanitarian relief operation, supported by the US government, in response to reports of the atrocities against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. It helped save more than 132,000 Armenian orphans and more than a million refugees, and helped establish more than 400 hospitals, schools, orphanages and processing centers for refugees.
Renamed the Near East Foundation in 1930, the pioneering organization defined many of the strategies employed by leading international humanitarian groups.

 


Husband of detained Iranian-British woman on hunger strike

Husband of detained Iranian-British woman on hunger strike
Updated 24 October 2021

Husband of detained Iranian-British woman on hunger strike

Husband of detained Iranian-British woman on hunger strike
  • Richard Ratcliffe started his fast on Sunday outside the British government’s Foreign Office in central London
  • He plans to maintain a “constant vigil” by sleeping in a tent outside the building’s main entrance

LONDON: The husband of UK charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained more than five years in Iran, has gone on a hunger strike again after a court decided she has to spend another year in prison.
Richard Ratcliffe started his fast on Sunday outside the British government’s Foreign Office in central London.
He plans to maintain a “constant vigil” by sleeping in a tent outside the building’s main entrance in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure the release of his wife and other detained dual British-Iranian nationals, Amnesty International said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe served five years in prison after being taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 and convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.
In May, she was sentenced to an additional year in prison on charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for having participated in a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009 — a decision upheld this month by an appeals court. The verdict includes a one-year travel ban, meaning she wouldn’t be able to leave Iran until 2023.
Ratcliffe went on a 15-day hunger strike two years ago outside the Iranian Embassy, a move he credits with getting their 7-year-old daughter Gabriella released.
“We are now giving the UK government the same treatment. In truth, I never expected to have to do a hunger strike twice. It is not a normal act,” Ratcliffe said on his change.org petition.
He said Iran remains the “primary abuser” in Nazanin’s case, but the “UK is also letting us down.”
“It is increasingly clear that Nazanin’s case could have been solved many months ago – but for other diplomatic agendas. The PM needs to take responsibility for that.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and was arrested as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family. Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West, something Tehran denies.
Iran doesn’t recognize dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe can’t receive consular assistance.


Taliban kill three ‘Daesh kidnappers’ in shootout

Taliban kill three ‘Daesh kidnappers’ in shootout
Updated 24 October 2021

Taliban kill three ‘Daesh kidnappers’ in shootout

Taliban kill three ‘Daesh kidnappers’ in shootout
  • The clash erupted in Herat when the new Taliban government's fighters cornered the gang in a high-rise building
  • An interior ministry spokesman said the three Daesh-Khorasan members were involved in major kidnappings

HERAT: Taliban forces fought a three-hour gun battle with a group of alleged Daesh kidnappers on Sunday, killing three of them, officials said.
The clash erupted in the western Afghan city of Herat when the new Taliban government's fighters cornered the gang in a high-rise building, Herat Police Command said in a statement.
Local residents said they heard light and heavier weapons used in the fighting. Police said three Daesh members were killed and two Taliban were wounded in the clash.
Videos circulating on social media appeared to show that at least one suspect was shot dead after he had been detained and disarmed, during a scuffle with his captors.
The footage also showed victorious Taliban forces driving through town with three corpses exposed on the back of a pick-up truck, as cheering supporters followed on scooters.
Interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti tweeted the three Daesh-Khorasan members were involved in major kidnappings across Herat province.
"Special forces surrounded them, and they started firing. The men were killed in a shootout with security forces."
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August, overthrowing the previous US-backed government, and have vowed to restore stability after a 20-year war.
But their efforts have been undermined by a series of attacks claimed by Daesh-K, another hardline Sunni extremist group that has a bitter rivalry with the Taliban.


Man shot dead in Kashmir as security tight for minister’s visit

Man shot dead in Kashmir as security tight for minister’s visit
Updated 24 October 2021

Man shot dead in Kashmir as security tight for minister’s visit

Man shot dead in Kashmir as security tight for minister’s visit
  • The victim, a milk seller in Kashmir, is the 12th civilian killed by militants or security forces this month
  • Amit Shah, India’s home minister, has been in Kashmir since Saturday

SRINAGAR: Indian paramilitaries shot dead a civilian in Kashmir on Sunday, residents said, as authorities tightened security across the disputed territory for a visit by a top Indian minister.
The victim, a milk seller in the southern Kashmir Valley, is the 12th civilian killed by militants or security forces this month as attacks increase in the Muslim-majority region.
New Delhi has about 500,000 troops and paramilitaries in Kashmir seeking to contain a rebel movement agitating for independence or the region’s merger with Pakistan.
Police said the man was hit in “crossfire” during “militant action” near a police paramilitary camp in the village of Zainapora and that the incident was being investigated.
Villagers told AFP the man had been fatally shot without provocation.
Amit Shah, India’s home minister and effective deputy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been in Kashmir since Saturday, adding to security concerns.
It is Shah’s first trip to the Himalayan region — also claimed by Pakistan — since New Delhi canceled Kashmir’s semi-autonomy in August 2019 and placed it under direct rule.
His visit follows a series of targeted killings by militants, with minority Hindus and Sikhs as well as migrant workers from elsewhere in India the main targets.
Sandbag bunkers have been erected across Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar and snipers positioned on rooftops around the building where Shah is staying.
Police have in recent days impounded hundreds of motorbikes in the city and intensified checks on pedestrians including women and children. Motorbikes have been used for drive-by killings.
India’s chief of defense staff General Bipin Rawat said security monitoring was being intensified to thwart attacks by rebels.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947.
Rebels launched an insurgency in 1989 and the fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mainly civilians.


Ethiopia launches air strike on Tigray’s ‘western front’

Ethiopia launches air strike on Tigray’s ‘western front’
Updated 24 October 2021

Ethiopia launches air strike on Tigray’s ‘western front’

Ethiopia launches air strike on Tigray’s ‘western front’
  • The seventh aerial bombardment in the war-hit region this last week

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military launched an air strike on a rebel-held facility in Tigray’s west on Sunday, a government official said, the seventh aerial bombardment in the war-hit region in a week.

“Today the western front of (Mai Tsebri) which was serving as a training and military command post for the terrorist group TPLF has been the target of an air strike,” government spokeswoman Selamawit Kassa said, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been locked in a war against the TPLF since last November, though Tigray itself had seen little combat since late June, when the rebels seized control of much of Ethiopia’s northernmost region and the military largely withdrew.

But on Monday Ethiopia’s air force launched two strikes on Tigray’s capital Mekele that the UN said killed three children and wounded several other people.

Since then there have been three more strikes on Mekele and another targeting what the government described as a weapons cache in the town of Agbe, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the west.

The strikes coincide with ramped-up fighting in Amhara region, south of Tigray.

They have drawn rebukes from Western powers, with the US last week condemning “the continuing escalation of violence, putting civilians in harm’s way.”

A strike Friday on Mekele forced a UN flight carrying 11 humanitarian personnel to turn back to Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, and the UN subsequently announced it was suspending its twice-weekly flights to the region.

The conflict has spurred fears of widespread starvation, as the UN estimates it has pushed 400,000 people in Tigray into famine-like conditions.


Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan government

Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan government
Updated 24 October 2021

Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan government

Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan government
  • Pakistan government had agreed to drop pending charges against the party's leader
  • The head of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labiak party was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad

LAHORE: A radical Islamist party agreed Sunday to suspend for three days its march of thousands toward the capital Islamabad after Pakistan agreed to drop pending charges against the party's leader.
Party supporters Saturday departed the eastern city of Lahore, clashing for a second straight day with police who lobbed tear gas into the crowd. The group began its journey a day earlier with the goal of reaching Islamabad to pressure the government to release Saad Rizvi, head of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party. Rizvi was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.
Raja Basharat, provincial law minister, told The Associated Press that under the agreement Punjab will withdraw charges against Rizvi and release all those detained during the protest march by Tuesday.
Rizvi had been detained pre-emptively on a charge of inciting people to assemble unlawfully. It was unclear when he would be released.
Basharat also said the agreement stipulates that the federal government will honor a previous agreement with the TLP to address diplomatic ties with France over the publication of the caricatures.
Sajid Saifi, spokesman for Rizvi’s party, confirmed the minister’s account and said thousands of party supporters will stay in the town of Mureedke waiting for the release of party leaders and members who have been detained.
Pakistan Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed told reporters that the TLP's demand that the French ambassador to Pakistan be expelled over the caricatures would be taken to a parliamentary committee in the coming days.
Basharat, Ahmed and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri took part in the talks with the TLP executive council.
Violent clashes erupted between security forces and the Islamists in Lahore killing at least two police and injuring about a dozen, police said. Saifi claimed four party supporters were killed by police fire and “many” others were injured. Police said the demonstrators torched several police vehicles there.
Ahmed said the government was unaware of any deaths of TLP supporters.
Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on the single issue of defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. It has a history of staging violent protests to pressure the government to accept its demands.