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3 September 2003
No. 141

In this issue:
    Is Islam Compatible with Democracy and Modernity?
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Malaysia: Malaysia and Indonesia to step up cooperation on terrorism
    Burma: Suu Kyi on Hunger Strike
    East Timor: East Timor - Indonesian Amnesia
    Iraq: The UN Bombing: Act of Terrorism or Guerrilla Warfare?
    - A deadly franchise
    - Who are the extremists?
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    Philippines - Killing of Mangyan family in Mindoro by Army personnel
    Calling for Volunteers
    New additions to the website


1. FEATURE - top


by Asghar Ali Engineer

Because of certain happenings and because there happens to be monarchy or dictatorships in most of the Muslim countries it has been concluded that Islam is not compatible with democracy and also with modernity. Some even maintain that very Islamic culture is an stumbling block and cannot permit democratic polity and modernistic society. To maintain this amounts not only to misunderstanding religion but also society, history and social forces at work.

If this logic is to be accepted then Christianity will also come under cloud as the Christian Church also opposed democracy, secularism and modernity until 18th century. A great struggle ensued between church and princely rulers on one hand, and between church and secular elements in the society, on the other. It was finally only during 19th century that democracy and modernity became acceptable to western society.

However, even some well-known scholars and orientalists have often accepted such superficial view of Islam and Islamic society. The western media partly for political reasons and partly for ignorance of social and material forces at work, also has been a great instrument of propagating such views about Islam and Islamic societies. In order to understand reality one has to bring to bear not only religious, but also sociological, political and historical view of reality. It requires deeper insight into social processes and working of societies.

Recently a debate took place on a web page and 10 questions were circulated to be replied by the participants. These questions were 1) Whether Islam and democracy are compatible; 2) Can Shari’ah laws with their harsh punishments and democracy go together; 3) Is it possible in Islamic countries to separate religion and state? 4) Can Islam support individual rights i.e. human rights?; 5) Has United States contributed to hampering democracy in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc; 6) Is Islam opposed to modernity and refuses to come to terms with it; 7) Could religious texts be used as blueprints to structure modern society; 8) Do women hold inferior position in Muslim society? Can equality for women be ensured only through secular laws; 9) Is Islam tolerant and progressive? Islamic countries ban music and T.V., cinema posters etc.

We will try to answer these questions one by one. As stated before to understand the problem it is not enough to see what is happening in Muslim countries today and ascribe it to religion and religious teachings. Religion may appear to be a dominant cause but often it is not. Much happens behind the cover of religion and religious teachings. One who has penetrating insight into socio-political affairs would know what role religion and other forces play in a society. There are all sorts of interests, particularly political and economic which are more determinative than any thing else and while exercising ones judgement one should not ignore the role of these forces. One also has to remember that there is no single interpretation of religion. It generally has multiple interpretations. And ones interpretation is deeply influenced by ones socio-political inclination and ones bent of mind. The contemporary forces also play an important role in interpretation of religion. Contemporary Islam is being interpreted in multiple ways.

Also one should keep in mid the role of history, historical forces and culture. Certain cultural formations also play important role. Culture, in turn, is not determined wholly by religion and religious teachings though it does play part therein. For understanding contemporary socio-political set up one can hardly ignore the role of culture as well as that of historical heritage.

With these preliminary remarks I would throw light on the questions detailed above. The first question is whether Islam is incompatible with democracy. It is certainly not. In fact even if one goes by religious text the Qur’an lays emphasis on what it calls shura’ (consultation) (3:159, 42:38). Even the messenger of Allah is required to consult his people in worldly matters and Muslims are required to consult each other in their secular affairs.

Now it is true such consultation and modern day representative democracy may not be exactly similar. However, the spirit of modern democracy and the Qur’anic injunction to consult people is same in spirit. New institutions keep on developing and human beings, depending on their worldly experiences keep on changing and refining these institutions. The Qur’anic text not only gives the concept of shura’ (democratic consultation) but does not support even remotely any concept of dictatorship or authoritarianism.

Some people try to use the Qur’anic verse 4:59 to justify obedience to any kind of authority including a monarch or a caliph or a military dictator. It is certainly not the spirit of the Qur’anic verse. One has to see it in historical background. The verse is addressed to Bedouins who were nomads and were not habituated to submitting to any authority. The Prophet used to send his representatives to these Bedouin tribes and they will refuse to follow their instructions. The verse thus exhorted them to obey these authorities. One cannot justify submission to illegitimately constituted authority. And, if this verse is read in conjunction with the verses 3:159 and 42:38 it would mean one has to submit to properly and democratically constituted authority. An authority has to be legitimate and properly constituted.

In contemporary world the concept of shura’ should mean democratic process and constitution of proper democratic institutions of which elections are a necessary requirement. In Islam any authority forcibly constituted or acquired by power of swords or arms can have no legitimacy whatsoever. The institution of monarchy or military dictatorship did not exist during the prophet’s time at all. These are subsequent developments and were legitimised by the ‘Ulama in order to prevent anarchy. Thus ‘Ulama conferred some legitimacy on monarchy, not in the light of Islamic teachings but only to prevent anarchy. Some of them also became part of power structure and their pronouncements had no Islamic legitimacy. One sees this today in most of the Islamic countries. The ‘Ulama in Saudi Arabia are very much part of monarchical power structure and legitimise everything the Saudi rulers do.

Thus the absence of democracy in Muslim countries is by means on account of Islamic teachings or incompatibility of democracy with Islam but due to host of factors political, historical and cultural. The imperialist powers, firstly of Europe and then those of United States also play their own role. The early Islamic democracy breathed its last within thirty years of the Holy Prophet’s death. The institution of monarchy crept in under Roman influence. It is important to note that the capital of Islam had shifted from Madina to Kufa in Iraq and then to Damuscus in Syria which was once under Roman Empire. Mu- ‘awiyah who siezed power without consent of Muslims was functioning from Damascus and adopted Roman monarchical ways. Thus deeper historical and cultural forces must be taken into account to understand the political institutions in many Muslim countries today. The US and British interests also play their role in shaping things in these countries. In many Islamic countries including the Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim countries there is deep urge for democracy and popular government among the people but it is frustrated by heavy hand of authoritarian rulers. Islam in no way comes in the way of establishing democracy in these countries. It is powerful vested interests both internal and external, which do not permit democracy to be established.

The next question is of implementation of Shari’ah law in Muslim countries. Many theologians and their followers believe sincerely of course that problems confronting their countries and societies can be solved by enforcing Shari’ah laws and the punishments prescribed therein. Also, they believe these laws must be enforced as they were evolved by the early jurists (fuqaha’) without any rethinking.

This is certainly not the spirit of the Qur’anic injunctions. Many Qur’anic verses were revealed in a particular situation and while applying these laws that has to be kept in view. The fundamental principle is to prevent crime and crime can be prevented in number of ways. At times harsh punishments become necessary and at times reformative efforts more relevant. The Qur’anic injunctions about crimes like murder, theft, robbery, rebellion, rape and adultery are understood carefully it becomes quite obvious.

For example, the verse on cutting off of hands 5:38 is immediately followed by verse 5:39 which says, "But whoever repents after his wrongdoing and reforms, Allah will turn to him (mercifully). Surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." Thus emphasis is on reform and repentance, not on harsh punishment. It may be awarded only in extreme case. Also, if it is read in conjunction with the verse 5:33 where punishment for "those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is that they should be murdered, or crucified, or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides, or they should be imprisoned", it should become obvious that one must distinguish between ordinary and ultimate crime. When for mischief in earth or waging war against Allah and His Messenger could be imprisonment as well, how can the punishment for mere theft could be cutting off hands.

It could be interpreted as metaphorically as well i.e. cutting off of hands means taking measures which will prevent him from committing theft in future as cutting off tongue means silencing some one, not literally cutting off tongue. Also, one must keep conditions in Arabia at the time. This was the traditional punishment meted out at that time and also some tribes indulge in crimes for their survival. The Qur’an used prevalent punishment and also added the concept of reform and repentance and talked of Allah’s Forgiveness and Mercy. A criminal, if repents and reforms should be forgiven and shown mercy. Thus the Qur’an accepts the prevalent punishment but also improves upon it. The real purpose of the Qur’an is not to give harsh punishments but to reform the criminal but not to spare him if he persists despite better opportunities in life.

Another question relates to separation of state and religion. It is true Muslims in general believe that in Islam religion cannot be separated from religion. This belief has acquired almost a status of doctrine among Muslims. However, it has no such doctrinal position in the Qur’an. In fact it has been pointed out that Qur’an does not even give any concept of state, only a concept of a just society.

However, in Arabia there was no state at the time of appearance of Islam and the Prophet laid down a bare framework of administration of newly emerging society. There was no paid police, army or bureaucracy during his time. It was during the time of 2nd Caliph Umar that a register (Diwan) of paid army soldiers was started. Thus it was mere historical coincidence that a state structure came into existence along with a religious movement. The Shari’ah law has such status in Islam as in Arabia as there was total legal vacuum and Islam provided, for the first time a cohesive and logical legal structure. This legal structure was provided in total legal vacuum. It was great development. Hence Shari’ah law acquired very high status in Islam.

So integration of state and religion is historical coincidence rather than religious doctrine. Over period of time Shari’ah law which was result of dynamic process became stagnant. Some modern scholars tried to infuse the principle of dynamism by invoking the institution of ijtihad but did not succeed much in view of total stagnation in Muslim countries. The authoritarian rulers in Muslim countries find legitimisation only by seeking support of the ‘Ulama and ‘Ulama insist on retaining the Sahri’ah law as inherited from the past. If Shari’ah law is rethought or re-interpreted keeping in view the modern conditions, the orthodox ‘Ulama fear loosing grip over power structures. Thus such collaboration between authoritarian rulers and orthodox ‘Ulama has resulted in total social, political and legal stagnation in Muslim countries.

Though in given circumstances it may not be possible to attempt total separation between state and religion in Muslim countries as this has become integral part of historical legacy, one should begin by taking gradual steps in that direction. There cannot be any universal recipe as much will depend on concrete conditions in each Muslim country. But an overall Islamic moral framework has to be retained as had happened in many western countries including USA where an overall Christian moral frame-work has influenced law making. There are few countries in the West, which have discarded such influence totally. Among Muslim countries Turkey has achieved separation of state from religion. It also has to be borne in mind that forcible imposition of modernisation and separation of state and religion has failed in Muslim countries like Afghanistan during thirties and in Iran during Shah’s time. Such attempts resulted in Islamic revolution and imposition of Shari’ah law from above.


Individual rights are very fundamental to functioning of any liberal democracy. In fact the concept of individual rights or human rights has evolved along with evolution of democratic power structure. Since there is no full fledged democracy in any Muslim country there is no respect for individual rights and many authoritarian rulers in Muslim countries reject the very concept of human rights denouncing them as western and secular in origin.

Thus one has to struggle for democratic power structure in order to usher in the concept of individual rights in Muslim countries. The Human rights activists in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc. are dubbed as western agents, persecuted and thrown into jails. As a result of this anyone who holds different political opinion faces persecution. Some who advocate change in Shari’ah laws in view of changed conditions or attempt to re-conceptualise Islamic philosophical doctrine face severe persecution. Thus there is no respect for individual rights and individual dignity. It will be possible only when democratic culture prevails. For that there is basic need for democratic polity.

Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech has never been denied by Qur’an or the Prophet. The Prophet never suppressed individual freedom or discouraged differences of opinion. He even said that difference of opinion in Islamic ummah is matter of grace and mercy. However, with evolution of feudal and monarchical culture differences of opinion were not permitted and ruthlessly suppressed. During the early Abbasid period a controversy raged whether the Qur’an is created or co-eternal with God. The Abbasid who supported the Mu’tazilah viewpoint that Qur’an is created forcibly suppressed the other point of view that Qur'a’ is co-eternal with God and flogged person of Imam Abu Hanifa's’stature for holding views contrary to those of Mu’tazilah. This authoritarian culture has not changed in Muslim countries until today. Many profound scholars of Islam had to leave for western universities from countries like Egypt, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

It is for this reason that in no Muslim country today one has good tradition of social or physical sciences. For these sciences to flourish one needs liberal democratic culture. The Muslim countries would remain far behind in these fields if authoritarian power structures are not demolished and replaced with democratic ones. Unfortunately there is no such movement in sight. The United States has always propped up corrupt and authoritarian rulers in Middle East who suppress freedom of _expression and these countries remain totally dependent on the west in every respect. They cannot develop even like India has developed. No Muslim country can boast of any modern scientific discovery.


In fact democracy and modernity go hand in hand and one can hardly be modern without being democratic. One can say that there are authoritarian models of modernisation like China and Singapore but on deeper reflection it will be seen that democratic model is far more congenial to modernisation in all spheres including social sphere. Modern social sciences cannot flourish in authoritarian regimes though natural sciences might.

However, lack of modernity in Muslim countries is not on account of Islamic teachings but more due to its medieval interpretation. Islam can not only come to terms with modernity but its teachings were quite modernistic if one goes by the Qur’anic pronouncements. Qur’an encourages pluralism if one goes by the verses like 5:48,6:109, 60:8 etc. All these verses are quite supportive of pluralistic social structure. In fact earlier the Islamic societies were much more pluralistic than any other societies throughout medieval ages. The Qur’an not only recognises validity of other faiths but also makes it incumbent for Muslims to respect equally all past prophets and one who does not, is not true Muslim. The verses 4:150-152 are clear proof thereof.

Intolerance in Muslim societies today is more political than religious. Islam is not intolerant of any other religion including that of kufr (unbelief) if it agrees to co-exist peacefully and harmoniously. Thus Islam and pluralism always go together. In fact it was in Europe in medieval ages that non-Christians were not tolerated. Islam today of course needs to be freed from intolerant theologians who are close to authoritarian power structures, which is at the root of their intolerance.


It is true religious texts pose some serious problems for modern society. But it need not be so with all religious texts if they are appropriately interpreted, at least not with Qur’anic text if it is understood in its real spirit. But at the same time one should not obstruct democratic social and political structure if some text is problematic. The religious text were revealed or evolved in very different social background and one must take today’s relevance into account. One need not reject religious text per se but examine its suitability or otherwise for modern societies.


It is true that Muslim countries are treated women as inferior to men and try to justify this treatment by quoting from the religious texts including from Qur’an. But they quote very selectively from Qur’an to prove women’s subordination to men. Qur’an, if approached holistically promoted equal status for women. The verse often quoted by theologians to show inferior status of women is 4:34 and ignore verses like 2:228, 33:35 and several others or try to explain away them as merely promoting spiritual equality. It is far from true. The Qur’an taken as a whole is far more supportive of equality of sexes. The modern Islamic scholars are totally rejecting orthodox interpretation of the verse 4:34 which was done in an atmosphere wherein male superiority was considered as quite natural, social and biological. I have discussed this in details in my book Rights of Women in Islam. It need not detain us here.

But one has to wage serious struggle to promote sexual equality in contemporary Muslim societies wherein Muslim women suffer several disabilities. Again, it should be a part of democratic struggle. One can break stronghold of conservative ‘Ulama only in a tolerant, pluralistic modern democracy. It is not Islamic teachings which come in the way, it is orthodox ‘Ulama on one hand, and authoritarian power structure, on the other, which come in the way. Qur’an, in fact, can become a great asset for promoting sexual equality.

For that we need not only modern interpretation of the Qur’anic text but also female theologians fully conscious of their rights.

[Source: Institute of Islamic Studies, Mumbai, Islam and Modern Age August 2003]


2. NEWS in Brief - top


Malaysia and Indonesia agree to step up cooperation on terrorism

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri agreed to step up cooperation in the fight against terrorism during talks here Thursday.

"We agreed to cooperate in defense and intelligence sharing to ensure national security," Mahathir told a joint news conference. "We spoke of the need for closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism."

Megawati said Indonesia would press its proposal for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Security Community to enhance regional security.

The proposed ASC would include centres for combating terrorism, training in peacekeeping, a centre for cooperation on non-conventional issues and regular ASEAN police and defence ministers' meetings.

[Source: AFP 28.8.03]


Suu Kyi on Hunger Strike

One day after Burma’s newly appointed Prime Minister presented his road map to democracy, the US State Department reported that Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was on a hunger strike.

Suu Kyi is refusing food to protest her illegal detention by the country’s military regime known as the State Peace and Development Council, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement released yesterday.

The Burmese government did not deny the news of the hunger strike by the Nobel Peace laureate, but said it was "confused" by the reports.

A press release from Rangoon said, "The government as well as governments around the world are confused and we firmly believe it is quite odd for the US State Department to make such a claim without stating any sources to verify its allegation."

Burma’s pro-democracy leader was taken into "protective custody" on May 30, shortly after her convoy was ambushed by government-backed thugs. Authorities have refused to reveal where Suu Kyi is being held. Representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the UN Special Envoy to Burma Razali Ismail were granted access to Suu Kyi, and reported that she was in good health.

"The timing is very convenient," a veteran journalist in Rangoon said of Suu Kyi’s decision to go on a hunger strike after the Prime Minister’s first address. "Though we cannot confirm [news of the strike], it is possible that she went on a hunger strike to show that she is unhappy with Khin Nyunt’s speech."

In an address on Saturday morning, new Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt outlined the junta’s road map. He said Burma would resume the National Convention, which was adjourned in 1996, and that "free and fair" elections would be held after the drafting a new constitution.

In Burma’s last free elections, held in 1990, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide, but the results was never honored. Khin Nyunt mentioned Suu Kyi’s name only in a criticism of her party’s boycott of the National Convention six years ago.

"Many in Rangoon were disappointed with Khin Nyunt’s speech," a journalist in Rangoon said. Pro-democracy forces see Khin Nyunt’s road map as a dead-end which excludes Suu Kyi and the NLD.

Rangoon-based political observers who are close to the NLD told The Irrawaddy that veteran politicians held a meeting this morning to discuss Suu Kyi’s health and the current political deadlock.

They expressed great concern for her health and asked the junta to open a dialogue with Suu Kyi. They asked the government to stop her from staging the hunger strike, and even issued a plea to Suu Kyi herself to quit her strike. The statement was signed by the veteran politicians, some of who are in their 90s, and sent to junta chairman and now President, Sr-Gen Than Shwe, and Khin Nyunt this afternoon.

Saturday also marked three months since her arrest and US government officials claim Suu Kyi is protesting her ongoing detention.

"We are deeply concerned for her safety and well-being," Reeker said. "This courageous leader of the National League for Democracy and proponent of non-violent political change, has placed herself at risk on many occasions in pursuit of democracy and respect for basic human rights in Burma."

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said it will try to visit Suu Kyi but it cannot confirm if she is on a hunger strike. After the ICRC first visited Suu Kyi under detention, the junta agreed that ICRC would be allowed to see her again.

Washington has been the regime’s toughest critic since Suu Kyi's arrest on May 30. Last week, stiff US sanctions came into effect, crippling Burmese trade. The US government called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and all political prisoners; and urged the regime to enter into serious political dialogue with Burma’s political parties.

[source: Irrawaddy 1.9.03]



East Timor - Indonesian Amnesia

By Andre Vltchek

At 55 she looks shockingly old and frail. She lives in Ermera - poor town lost in the green lush hills of East Timor -- Timor Leste, the youngest country on earth. Of course she has a name, but it is irrelevant to quote it here -- her fate is the same as that of so many women of her land. I follow her with my eyes as she walks slowly to the main street, to the market.

She looks more like a spirit than a living person. I was told that she, as so many women of this land, had been gang raped by Indonesian soldiers some twenty years ago. As if rape was not enough, she was tortured, burned, humiliated. She survived, unlike so many others. As tens of thousands of women of Timor Leste she lost her son and her husband and her house.

After witnessing horrors of Indonesian occupation of East Timor several times in the past, after being arrested and tortured myself for simply trying to do my work -- to alert the world about the genocide - I decided to return again to Ermera, to the area that witnessed some of the fiercest resistance battles. I came to interview this woman, some woman like her; to interview any woman that survived the horrors of the occupation. But when I saw her in Ermera, I couldn't approach her, I couldn't ask her to relive her past.

East Timor is free. It is living what can be described as "Year Zero". It is still dirt poor, desperate, confused and in pain. Even combatants of resistance get almost no help from the government. Recently, one of the legendary commanders reduced to subsistent existence of selling wood, drove to the house of the President Gusmao, almost running his guards over and yelled: "Look at me, this is what I became. Buy my wood". And Gusmao bought it with his own money and just stood there, repeating to his former comrade in arms: "I don't know what to do. I am a President, but what can I do?"

I had been asked by my Indonesian friends: "How is East Timor doing now? With all that foreign aid they are getting, is the situation improving?" This simple and innocent question shocked me. How can the nation that lost over 30 percent of its population recover in two or three years? And then I understood: 'They really don't know. They don't realize the magnitude of the past extermination. They don't realize that the policy of "transmigrasi" ("trans-migration", when those dead were 'replaced' by the Muslims from Java and Sumatra and even Hindus from Bali) was in fact an ethnic cleansing on enormous scale'.

Much bigger Chile lost during and after the coup 3 to 4 thousand people and has still not fully recovered from the shock and nightmares of the military dictatorship. And it is not expected to fully recover anytime soon. If East Timor would be the size of Chile, it would proportionally have lost over 5 million people.

"This country is being helped and to the certain extend controlled by the foreigners", explain a student of political science. "We are grateful to them, but they don't understand us. Their job is to make our economy work, to establish our institutions as quickly as possible. But this nation is still in shock, it is still in deep trauma. And people who fought for our freedom - the soil and blood of this country - are now close to starvation. Look at Indonesia.

When they won independence against Holland, Sukarno took to his government and to the top military ranks those men who fought for freedom, even if they were illiterate. Because he knew that his nation trusted them and needed them. But when our resistance leaders come to the UN people, they have to prove that they have "skills", that they know how to read and how to write, that they speak the languages. There are no emotions involved, no respect for our past."

Many former FRETILIN fighters still hold to their arms and recent riots show how unstable is the situation. Called "extremist", a Marxist old guard of FRETILIN is running for a head-clash with the present government that is going out of its way to please its mighty neighbors -- Indonesia and Australia -- and to reassure the United States that there is no left-wing philosophy engraved in the present leadership of the country.

In 2002 (then Presidential candidate) Gusmao explained to me that "a good relationship with Indonesia is a priority". That 'people of East Timor should forget the recent past and look into the future.' That they should 'forgive'. In the meantime, Indonesia never put one single high ranking official in prison for a substantial amount of time, in connection with the genocide in East Timor. There has been no official apology from Jakarta, not even one privately organized delegation from Indonesia that would take pains of coming to Dili and offer condolences to East Timorese people for what has been done to them.

With all due respect, President Gusmao is wrong. This sort of "reconciliation" based on silence never worked. It was tried in Argentina and in Chile after the dictatorship and it failed. It is an obligation of the East Timorese government to demand an official apology from Jakarta, to demand opening of the Indonesian archives and informing the Indonesian public of the horrors their country inflicted on its neighbors. Not for the purpose of revenge, but in order to help to heal the wounds of those who were and are suffering tremendous injustice.

The truth about the past is almost as important for Indonesia as it is for East Timor. Since 1965 when Indonesia endured massacres that took between 500 thousand and one million human lives during the anti-Sukarno coup led by the pro-Suharto military clique (which lied to Indonesia and the world, claiming that it was fighting 'a Communist coup' that of course never took place), successive Indonesian leaders have managed to create myths and amnesia which are still plundering the nation's intellectual well being. Lies about 1965 were followed by lies about East Timor and later about Ambon, Iryan, Jaya, and Aceh.

It is insulting to tell East Timorese who survived rape, torture and loss of their loved ones that they should forget and forgive. Even if they would want to, they couldn't. Does anyone dare to say to Poles, Russians, Yugoslavs, or the French right after the Second World War that they should just "forget and forgive"? And they lost relatively lesser amount of people than East Timorese. Could anyone be so cynical as to tell Jews who survived the Holocaust that they should "just forget it, forgive, and go on with their lives as if nothing really happened?"

And could they; could they ever forgive, after experiencing and witnessing some of the most barbaric acts ever committed by mankind? My Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust as children are still waking up in the middle of the night. And they scream, covered by cold sweat. And so do my East Timorese friends. And they still will twenty years, fifty years from now.

My liberal Indonesian friends tend to endlessly repeat that in fact the "East Timorese massacres would never happen if the United States wouldn't give the green light to the invasion". True. The United States, UK, Australia, all of us should live with the guilt for standing by, for not intervening while the occupation took place, for encouraging Indonesia to invade. We should speak about it, write about it as some of us (though not enough of us) do.

But this time it was not the United States that did the actual killing, raping, ethnic cleansing, and torturing. Should Soviets be blamed for Nazism because Stalin ordered the Communist Party of Germany to withdraw from the coalition with other leftists in an act that helped the Fascists to win elections? To some extent, yes. But it was Germans who were designing the crematoriums and camps and it was their army that massacred tens of millions of men, women, and children.

The Indonesian people have to face up to their responsibilities. They have to acknowledge their own past. Not only for the sake of their victims in East Timor, but also for the sake of their own future. No decent society can be built on lies. The past returns, it divides nations, it haunts and eventually, if not faced honestly and with dignity, it kills.

Until the crimes are acknowledged, until there is a sincere apology and endless grief, until Indonesian children start learning at school that their nation massacred the innocent people of a small nation that never had a chance to resist but resisted nevertheless in one of the most heroic acts of defiance known to history, the old woman from Ermera with her back bent, will be climbing the hill, abandoned and forgotten, alone. Her government can suggest a thousand times that she should forget.

But the memory is all she has left; those whom she loved are all dead. Each day that goes by, each day that cameras will be showing cynical crimes of untouchable Wiranto and other Indonesian generals, she will be descending deeper and deeper into her past, to her previous life brutally interrupted twenty years ago. I was not brave enough to stop her, too scared of the magnitude of pain that she was radiating.

[source: zmag]


The UN Bombing: Act of Terrorism or Guerrilla Warfare?


Is it a surprise unknown persons have bombed the United Nations building in Baghdad? No, the bombing was inevitable, considering the United Nation's role in the occupation of Iraq. It is surprising, however, that the bombers were able to so easily drive a cement truck filled with explosives into the lobby of the hotel converted into an office building.

Considering the UN imposed various resolutions on Iraq after Bush the Elder's brutal invasion (specifically, resolutions 661 and 687) -- which eventually resulted in 600,000 children under the age of five dying of entirely preventable diarrhea, pneumonia, and respiratory and malnutrition-related diseases -- is it any wonder more than a few Iraqis are motivated to kill UN employees?

Moreover, the UN building in Baghdad also housed the World Bank. Back in May, the World Bank sent "a senior Bank official" along with Sergio Vieira de Mello (who died in the bombing), UN Special Representative in Iraq, "to assess reconstruction and development needs on the ground," according to the World Bank's website. The IMF and the World Bank "stand ready to play their normal role in Iraq's re-development at the appropriate time," the said the IMF and World Bank in a press statement after their Spring Meetings, held April 12-13 in Washington, D.C.

So, what is the "normal role" played by the World Bank and IMF? Imposing poverty, that's what.

"Structural adjustment programs are a set of economic policies required by the World Bank and the IMF as a condition of loans these institutions make to developing countries," explains CorpWatch. "These programs often include austerity measures such as high interest rates and reduced access to credit, which result in slower economic growth as well as increased poverty and unemployment. Other adjustment policies include cuts in government spending on health care and education, increases in the cost of food, health care and other basic necessities, mandates to open markets to foreign trade and investment, and privatization of state-run enterprises... structural adjustment has exacerbated poverty in most countries where it has been applied, contributing to the suffering of millions and causing widespread environmental degradation. And since the 1980s, adjustment has helped create a net outflow of wealth from the developing world, which has paid out five times as much capital to the industrialized countries of the North as it has received."

In other words, the IMF and World Bank are rackets designed by immoral bankers and loan sharks to rape the Third World. The United Nations is essentially a handmaiden of the IMF, World Bank, and the United States. So, from the point of view of many Iraqis, the lightly protected UN complex in Baghdad was an appropriate target, as were the main northern oil export pipeline into Turkey and warehouses scattered around Baghdad. Undoubtedly, the idea is to make Iraq so dangerous, violent, and unprofitable that the parasites on Wall Street and in Washington will think twice about implementing and supporting an occupation engineered to steal its oil and "privatize" its ravaged economy.

The murder of a Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Cheney's Halliburton) employee north of Tikrit on August 5 served as a warning of things to come for these corporate looters and profiteers.

Increasingly, Iraqis involved in the resistance are targeting "civilians," who are in fact working for military contractors and organized theft operations such as the World Bank. The Kellog, Brown, and Root employee killed by an anti-tank mine was working on something call Material Command Logcap III. According to a CNBC business snapshot, Logcap III's purpose is to "deliver Combat Support and Combat Service Support (CS/CSS)" to the US Army. In other words, this anonymous employee was providing support to the occupation forces and was undoubtedly regarded as a legitimate military target by Iraqi guerilla forces. No doubt these same guerilla forces, if they are indeed responsible for the United Nations compound bombing, also considered Sergio Vieira de Mello a legitimate military target. Not only US soldiers are targets in Iraq, but so are the corporate enablers of the occupation.

Once again, the corporate media has shifted into speculative overdrive: is it possible this was the handiwork of al-Qaeda? "There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack," reports the Bush Ministry of Propaganda (read: Fox News). "But its careful orchestration and very public, Western- world target immediately evoked past strikes by Usama bin Laden's terrorist network."

It's as if the entire history of "terrorism" -- the title given to all national liberation movements directed against US hegemony -- has disappeared since 9/11. Predictably, Fox trots out the same old shopworn "experts" to pin the blame on al- Qaeda. According to one such expert, Dia'a Rashwan, an expert on radical Islam at Egypt's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, the UN bombing fits "the ideology of Al Qaeda... They consider the U.N. one of the international actors who helped the Americans to occupy Palestine and, later, Iraq."

Of course, the US does not "occupy" Palestine, Israel does, admittedly with much assistance -- both financial and military -- from the United States. It's true al-Qaeda's "ideology" (or, rather, the pronouncements of its apparent titular head, bin Laden) is directed against US imperialism, but this ideology is not significantly different from that of other national liberation movements over the last fifty years, especially those in the Middle East. Fox and its experts assume we suffer from both amnesia and stupidity. In fact, unfortunately, many of us do.

At the time of the bombing, Dubya was on a golf course in Waco, Texas. "The terrorists that struck today again showed their contempt for the innocent," said Bush later. "They showed their fear of progress and their hatred of peace. They're the enemies of the Iraqi people. They're the enemies of every nation that seeks to help the Iraqi people... The civilized world will not be intimidated and these terrorists will not determine the future of Iraq they are testing our will, it will not be shaken."

It's ironic, if not criminally insane, of Bush to so disingenuously express his concern for "innocent" Iraqis when he is responsible for slaughtering nearly eight thousand of them (according to the Iraq Body Count Project). Bremer and Bush may consider the growing Iraqi resistance as consisting of little more than "terrorists," but the fact of the matter is Iraq did not invade the United States or Britain -- or, for that matter, it did not attack Poland, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Denmark, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Albania, countries that have sent or will send "stabilization" forces to Iraq -- nor did Iraq ask for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Halliburton, Bechtel Group, Fluor Corp., Parsons Group, Stevedoring Services of America, and other corporate leeches to elbow their way into Iraq against the will of the Iraq people and line up to make a killing (literally) off oil, water, roads, trains, phones, ports, drugs, and anything else they can get their avaricious paws on. So, who are the terrorists here -- average Iraqis fighting a war of national liberation or the stockholders of Halliburton and Bechtel?

"Entirely absent from this ["reconstruction"] debate are the Iraqi people, who might -- who knows? -- want to hold on to a few of their assets," writes Naomi Klein of the Nation. "Iraq will be owed massive reparations after the bombing stops, but without any real democratic process, what is being planned is not reparations, reconstruction or rehabilitation. It is robbery: mass theft disguised as charity; privatization without representation."

Mass theft backed up the world's most homicidal war machine. The IMF and World Bank have done likewise for decades in Latin America. But Iraq is not Argentina or Uruguay -- in Iraq there are hundreds of thousands of weapons in the hands of ordinary people, many of them with years of experience in Saddam's military. In Latin America, US-trained thugs and death squads have made sure there is no serious opposition to what the swindlers on Wall Street and in Washington have done and continue to do. That's not the case in Iraq.

Bush had his chance to hire the Ba'athists to do what they have done since the early 60s -- terrorize and keep the Iraqi people in check -- but thanks to the neocon aversion of anything even remotely Arab or Muslim, that opportunity has vanished. The Bushites have "de-nazified" their way into a completely untenable situation.

"We're still, needless to say, much closer to the beginning than the end," said Rumsfeld of the situation in Iraq back in March. Needless to say, that situation is far worse now. It gets worse every day. It will be worse next week and even worse next month.

Like Vietnam, the "beginning" will stretch out forever, consuming an undetermined number of human lives and billions of dollars. There will be no "light at the end of the tunnel," as General Westmoreland would have liked to have it. In the months ahead, as the psychopathic Bushites attempt to redouble their efforts to eliminate the "bitter enders" and "Saddam remnants" in Iraq, support for an immediate and unconditional end of the occupation will grow in the United States. The Bushites know this and that's why they devised and rushed through the Patriot Act. Patriot II waits in the wings. In fact, since nearly the whole of the federal government and Congress is "Bush territory," the only political solution to the murderous insanity currently on tap in Iraq will likely come from the people, as it did during the Vietnam War. Civil disobedience and direct may be required -- again. But this time around the stakes will be much higher. In fact, considering the severity of the mental illness afflicting the Bushites, it may be cataclysmic.

[Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent online gallery Ordinary Vistas. Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair's forthcoming volume, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.]

[source: 20.8.03]

A deadly franchise:
The global war on terror is a smokescreen
used by governments to wipe out opponents

Naomi Klein

The Marriott hotel in Jakarta was still burning when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's security minister, explained the implications of the day's attack: "Those who criticise about human rights being breached must understand that all the bombing victims are more important than any human rights issue."

In a sentence, we got the best summary yet of the philosophy underlying Bush's so-called War on Terror. Terrorism doesn't just blow up buildings; it blasts every other issue off the political map. The spectre of terrorism - real and exaggerated - has become a shield of impunity, protecting governments around the world from scrutiny for their human rights abuses.

Many have argued that the War on Terror is the US government's thinly veiled excuse for constructing a classic empire, in the model of Rome or Britain. Two years into the crusade, it's clear this is a mistake: the Bush gang doesn't have the stick-to-it-ness to successfully occupy one country, let alone a dozen. Bush and the gang do, however, have the hustle of good marketers, and they know how to contract out. What Bush has created in the WoT is less a "doctrine" for world domination than an easy-to-assemble toolkit for any mini-empire looking to get rid of the opposition and expand its power.

The War on Terror was never a war in the traditional sense. It is, instead, a kind of brand, an idea that can be easily franchised by any government in the market for an all-purpose opposition cleanser. We already know that the WoT works on domestic groups that use terrorist tactics such as Hamas or the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (Farc). But that's only its most basic application. WoT can be used on any liberation or opposition movement. It can also be applied liberally on unwanted immigrants, pesky human rights activists and even on hard-to-get-out investigative journalists.

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was the first to adopt Bush's franchise, parroting the White House's pledges to "pull up these wild plants by the root, smash their infrastructure" as he sent bulldozers into the occupied territories to uproot olive trees and tanks to raze civilian homes. It soon included human rights observers who were bearing witness to the attacks, as well as aid workers and journalists.

Another franchise soon opened in Spain with the prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, extending his WoT from the Basque guerrilla group Eta to the Basque separatist movement as a whole, the vast majority of which is entirely peaceful. Aznar has resisted calls to negotiate with the Basque autonomous government and banned the political party Batasuna (even though, as the New York Times noted in June, "no direct link has been established between Batasuna and terrorist acts"). He has also shut down Basque human rights groups, magazines and the only entirely Basque-language newspaper. Last February, the Spanish police raided the Association of Basque Middle Schools, accusing it of having terrorist ties.

This appears to be the true message of Bush's war franchise: why negotiate with your political opponents when you can annihilate them? In the era of WoT, concerns such as war crimes and human rights just don't register.

Among those who have taken careful note of the new rules is Georgia's president, Eduard Shevardnadze. Last October, while extraditing five Chechens to Russia (without due process) for its WoT, he stated that "international human rights commitments might become pale in comparison with the importance of the anti-terrorist campaign".

Indonesia's president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, got the same memo. She came to power pledging to clean up Indonesia's notoriously corrupt and brutal military and bring peace to the fractious country. Instead she has called off talks with the Free Aceh Movement, and in May invaded the oil-rich province in the country's largest military offensive since the 1975 invasion of East Timor.

Why did the Indonesian government think it could get away with the invasion after the international outrage that forced it out of East Timor? Easy: post-September 11, the government cast Aceh's movement for national liberation as "terrorist" - which means human rights concerns no longer apply. Rizal Mallarangeng, a senior adviser to Megawati, called it the "blessing of September 11".

The Philippines president, Gloria Arroyo, appears to feel similarly blessed. Quick to cast her battle against Islamic separatists in the southern Moro region as part of the WoT, Arroyo - like Sharon, Aznar and Megawati - abandoned peace negotiations and waged brutal civil war instead, displacing 90,000 people last year.

But she didn't stop there. Last August, speaking to soldiers at a military academy, Arroyo extended the war beyond terrorists and armed separatists to include "those who terrorise factories that provide jobs" - clear code for trade unions. Labour groups in Philippine free trade zones report that union organisers are facing increased threats, and strikes are being broken up with extreme police violence.

In Colombia, the government's war against leftist guerrillas has long been used as cover to murder anyone with leftist ties, whether union activists or indigenous farmers. But things have got worse since President Alvaro Uribe took office in August 2002 on a WoT platform. Last year, 150 union activists were murdered. Like Sharon, Uribe quickly moved to get rid of the witnesses, expelling foreign observers and playing down the importance of human rights. Only after "terrorist networks are dismantled will we see full compliance with human rights," Uribe said in March.

Sometimes WoT is not an excuse to wage war, but to keep one going. The Mexican president, Vincente Fox, came to power in 2000 pledging to settle the Zapatista conflict "in 15 minutes" and to tackle rampant human rights abuses committed by the military and police. Now, post-September 11, Fox has abandoned both projects. The government has made no moves to reinitiate the Zapatista peace process and last week Fox closed down the office of the under-secretary for human rights.

This is the era ushered in by September 11: war and repression unleashed, not by a single empire, but by a global franchise. In Indonesia, Israel, Spain, Colombia, the Philippines and China, governments have latched on to Bush's deadly WoT and are using it to erase their opponents and tighten their grip on power.

Last week, another war was in the news. In Argentina, the senate voted to repeal two laws that granted immunity to the sadistic criminals of the 1976-1983 dictatorship. At the time, the generals called their campaign of extermination a "war on terror," using a series of kidnappings and violent attacks by leftist groups as an excuse to seize power. But the vast majority of the 30,000 people who were "disappeared" weren't terrorists; they were union leaders, artists, teachers, psychiatrists. As with all wars on terror, terrorism wasn't the target; it was the excuse to wage the real war: on people who dared to dissent.

[source: Guardian 28.8.03]

Who are the extremists?

John Pilger

The "liberation" of Iraq is a cruel joke on a stricken people. The Americans and British, partners in a great recognised crime, have brought down on the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world, the prospect of terrorism and suffering on a scale that al-Qaeda could only imagine.

That is what this week's bloody bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad tells us. It is a "wake-up call", according to Mary Robinson, the former UN Humanitarian Commissioner.

She is right, of course, but it is a call that millions of people sounded on the streets of London and all over the world more than seven months ago - before the killing began. And yet the Anglo-American spin machine, whose minor cogs are currently being exposed by the Hutton Inquiry, is still in production. According to the Bush and Blair governments, those responsible for the UN outrage are "extremists from outside": Al-Qaeda terrorists or Iranian militants, or both.

Whether or not outsiders are involved, the aim of this propaganda is to distract from the truth that America and Britain are now immersed in a classic guerrilla war, a war of resistance and self-determination of the kind waged against foreign aggressors and colonial masters since history began.

For America, it is another Vietnam. For Britain it is another Kenya, or indeed another Iraq.

In 1921, Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude said in Baghdad: "Our armies do not come as conquerors, but as liberators." Within three years 10,000 had died in an uprising against the British, who gassed and bombed the "terrorists".

Nothing has changed, only the names and the fine print of the lies.

As for the "extremists from outside", simply turn the meaning around and you have a succinct description of the current occupiers who, unprovoked, attacked a defenceless sovereign country, defying the United Nations and the opposition of most of humanity.

Using weapons designed to cause the maximum human suffering - cluster bombs, uranium-tipped shells and firebombs (napalm) - these extremists from outside caused the deaths of at least 8,000 civilians and as many as 30,000 troops, most conscripted teenagers. Consider the waves of grief in any society from that carnage.

AT their moment of "victory", these extremists from outside - having already destroyed Iraq's infrastructure with a 12-year bombing campaign and embargo - murdered journalists, toppled statues and encouraged wholesale looting while refusing to make the most basic humanitarian repairs to the damage they had caused to the supply of power and clean water.

This means that today sick children are dying from thirst and gastro-enteritis, that hospitals frequently run out of oxygen and that those who might be saved can not be saved.

How many have died like this?

"We count every screwdriver," said an American colonel during the first Gulf war, "but counting civilians who die along the way is just not our policy."

The biggest military machine on earth, said to be spending up to $5billion-a-month on its occupation of Iraq, apparently can not find the resources and manpower to bring generators to a people enduring temperatures of well over the century - almost half of them children, of whom eight per cent, says UNICEF, are suffering extreme malnutrition. When Iraqis have protested about this, the extremists from outside have shot them dead.

They have shot them in crowds, or individually, and they boast about it. The other day, Task Force 20, an "elite" American unit murdered at least five people as they drove down a street. The next day they murdered a woman and her three children as they drove down a street. They are no different from the death squads the Americans trained in Latin America.

These extremists from outside have been allowed to get away with much of this - partly because of the web of deceptions in London and Washington, and partly because of those who voluntarily echo and amplify their lies.

In the current brawl between the Blair government and the BBC a new myth has emerged: It is that the BBC was and is "anti-war". This is what George Orwell called an "official truth". Again, just turn it around and you have the real truth; that the BBC supported Blair's war, that day after day it broadcast and "debated" and legitimised the charade of weapons of mass destruction, as well as nonsense such as that which cast Blair as a "moderating influence" on Bush - when, as we now know, they are almost identical warmongers.

Who can forget the BBC's exultant Chief Political Correspondent Andrew Marr, at the moment of "coalition" triumph. Tony Blair, he declared, "said that they would take Baghdad without a blood bath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both those points he has been conclusively proved right." If you replace "right" with "wrong", you have the truth. To the BBC's man in Downing Street, up to 40,000 deaths apparently does not constitute a "blood bath".

According to the independent American survey organisation Media Tenor, the BBC allowed less dissent against the war than all the leading international broadcasters surveyed, including the American networks.

Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter who revealed Dr David Kelly's concerns about the government's "dodgy dossier" on Iraq, is one of the very few mavericks, an inconvenient breed who challenge official truth. One of the most important lies was linking the regime of Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda.

As we now know, both Bush and Blair ignored the advice of their intelligence agencies and made the connection public. It worked. When the attack on Iraq began, polls showed that most Americans believed Saddam Hussein was behind September 11.

The opposite was true. Monstrous though it was, Saddam Hussein's regime was a veritable bastion against al-Qaeda and its Islamic fanaticism. Saddam was the West's man, who was armed to the teeth by America and Britain in the 1980s because he had oil and a lot of money and because he was an enemy of anti-Western mullahs in Iran and elsewhere in the region.

Saddam and Osama bin Laden loathed each other. His grave mistake was invading Kuwait in 1990; Kuwait is an Anglo-American protectorate, part of the Western oil empire in the Middle East.

The killings in the UN compound in Baghdad this week, like the killing of thousands of others in Iraq, form a trail of blood that leads to Bush and Blair and their courtiers. It was obvious to millions of people all over the world that if the Americans and British attacked Iraq, then the fictional link between Iraq and Islamic terrorism could well become fact.

The brutality of the occupation of Iraq - in which children are shot or arrested by the Americans, and countless people have "disappeared" in concentration camps - is an open invitation to those who now see Iraq as part of a holy jihad.

When I travelled the length of Iraq several years ago, I felt completely safe. I was received everywhere with generosity and grace, even though I was from a country whose government was bombing and besieging my hosts.

Bush's and Blair's court suppressed the truth that most Iraqis both opposed Saddam Hussein and the invasion of their country. The thousands of exiles, from Jordan to Britain, said this repeatedly. But who listened to them? When did the BBC interrupt its anti-Christ drumbeat about Saddam Hussein and report this vital news? Nor are the United Nations merely the "peacemakers" and "nationbuilders" that this week's headlines say they are.

There were dedicated humanitarians among the dead in Baghdad but for more than 12 years, the UN Security Council allowed itself to be manipulated so that Washington and London could impose on the people of Iraq, under a UN flag, an embargo that resembled a mediaeval siege.


It was this that crippled Iraq and, ironically, concentrated all domestic power in the hands of the regime, thus ending all hope of a successful uprising.

The other day I sat with Dennis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, and the UN in New York. Halliday was the senior UN official in Iraq in the mid-1990s, who resigned rather than administer the blockade.

"These sanctions," he said, "represented ongoing warfare against the people of Iraq. They became, in my view, genocidal in their impact over the years, and the Security Council maintained them, despite its full knowledge of their impact, particularly on the children of Iraq.

"We disregarded our own charter, international law, and we probably killed over a million people.

"It's a tragedy that will not be forgotten... I'm confident that the Iraqis will throw out the occupying forces. I don't know how long it will take, but they'll throw them out based on a nationalistic drive.

"They will not tolerate any foreign troops' presence in their country, dictating their lifestyle, their culture, their future, their politics.

"This is a very proud people, very conscious of a great history.

"It's grossly unacceptable. Every country that is now threatened by Mr Bush, which is his habit, presents an outrage to all of us.

"Should we stand by and merely watch while a man so dangerous he is willing to sacrifice Americans lives and, worse, the lives of others."

[source: daily mirror 22.8.03]


3. Urgent APPEAL - top

25 August 2003

PHILIPPINES: Killing of Mangyan family in Mindoro by Army personnel

Dear Friends

We are forwarding updated information from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) regarding the killing of the Blancos, a Mangyan family, by elements of the 16th Infantry Batallion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA). The Blanco family were part of the Hanunuo tribe, situated in Sitio Talayob, Nicolas, Magsaysay Occidental Mindoro.

Name of the Victims:

Roger Blanco
Olivia Blanco (and her 8-month unborn child)
Kevin John Blanco (3 years old)
Dexter Blanco (1 1/2 years old).

Date of Incident: 21 July 2003.

Place of Incident: Sitio Talayob, Nicolas, Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro.

The Blanco family was killed during what was claimed by the military to be an 'encounter ' between the 16th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) Army and the New People's Army. During the 'encounter', soldiers fired indiscriminately at the Blanco's house, and Roger and Olivia Blanco, and their three children, were killed.

The TFDP maintain that in all cases where the military in the Philippines have committed human rights violations, they tend to fabricate issues in order to justify their abuses. This is why the military has kept insisting that there had, in fact, been an 'encounter' between the military and the New People's Army. However, there is a witness to the fact that the military killed the Blanco family, and evidence gathered from the scene confirms this.

Indigenous peoples in the Philippines are repeatedly the victims of violations at the hands of the military, and the Mangyans are often accused of being members, sympathizers and supporters of the New People's Army when, in reality, they are not.

The TFDP stresses that there was no encounter between the military and the New People's Army, and that the attack on the Blanco family was unprovoked.

The only witness to the event was told to put his signature on a scrap of paper (the foil insert from a cigarette packet). The witness was not aware of what was subsequently added to the paper, and the piece of paper (which already had the witness' signature on it) was produced the following day.


The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and the Mangyan Mission of Occidental Mindoro, together with the Mangyan Communities, urge all organizations and agencies that are concerned about the killing of the Blancos to call on the government and perssurise them to ensure that justice be served and that the perpetrators be arrested and punished. Please ask that the authorities do the following:

  1. Conduct a thorough investigation into the death of the Blancos perpetrated by elements of the 16th IB, PA, who were conducting operations in the area.

  2. Sanction, or punish, the military officers and personnel who are found guilty of these abuses.

  3. Offer some help to the bereaved families of the victims.

  4. Stop militarization in the area, and in all Mangyan communities.



I urge you to fully investigate the murder on 12 July 2003 of the Blanco family. Soldiers belonging to the 16th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA), operating in Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro, allegedly opened fire on the Blanco's house, killing all but one person. The military's response was to say that they were involved in an 'encounter' with the New People's Army. However, evidence from the scene, and from an eye witness, confirms that this was a deliberate act.

Please take immediate steps to find the military personnel responsible for this abuse, and punish them. Please also stop militarisation in the area, and in all Mangyan communities.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully


Send Letters to:

1 Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
President of the Philippines - Malacanang Palace Cpd.,
New Executive Building,
San Miguel, Manila
Tel: 632-735-6201

2 Rep. Loreta Ann P. Rosales
Committee on Civil Political and Human Rights - Congress
Rm 511 South Wing, House of Representatives Constitutional
Hills, 1119 Q.C.
tel: 632-931-6288

3 Senator Francisco Pangilinan
Committee on Justice and Human Rights - Senate
Rm 526 GSIS Bldg. Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City
tel: 632-552-6748/ 552-6747

4 Hon. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commission on Human Rights
Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City

5 Sec. Angelo Reyes
Camp General Aguinaldo, Quezon City
Tel: 632-911-9181/ 911-0488

For more information contact



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