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Calling for The Arrest of An African Head of State

March 01, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

How ironic. An arrest warrant is issued by a European-based court for an African head of state.

We have just witnessed millions of Palestinians subjected to a massive assault with the loss in just 22 days of 1,400 lives, hundreds of them children, the wounding of almost 5000 following years of an unopposed and unpublicized ethnic cleaning campaign. Can anything happening in southern Sudan match this?

Has anything conducted by Khartoum match the US aggression on Iraq, the displacement of up to 6 million and the deaths of millions, the compounded inestimable destruction, following 13 years of a massive US-designed and executed blockade?

Can anything in Sudan match the assault on Afghan society and nation, where numbers of dead and destroyed livelihoods are not even tallied? Yet, it is an African, an Arab-speaking leader, a Muslim who is indicted by the European court.

To make matters more troubling this policy being vigorously endorsed by the new US administration, where the new US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, sounds chillingly like Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice.

Some Americans are outraged by the abuses of the past former President Bush for what is now agreed was a war (in Iraq) fostered by lies and other deceptions. There is talk of possible prosecutions of former white house officials in connection with abuses. This is largely talk, although someone may be singled out and made a scapegoat. There is almost no chance of George W. Bush or his V-P being charged with any wrongdoing.

 It is clear that indeed there are unresolved conflicts that result in the plight of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese now huddled in the Darfur camps. Meanwhile no major international body is able to or wants to resolve the conflict peacefully. And who is really trying?

In the West, conflicts around Darfur provide a convenient arena for certain international interests to highlight the Sudanese suffering as a campaign of Arab domination and Muslim excesses. It is presented as religious and racial persecution, thus justifying international moral indignation.

In reality, we have the targeting of yet another wealthy Arab nation whose resources are much coveted, but whose competitors-- China among them—are in line ahead of Europeans and Americans. The Sudanese leader may not be far off when the charges his accusers of seeking to make a grab for Sudan’s resources. The country is the largest in Africa and one of its richest. European colonial attitudes and tactics have not changed much.

[ Calling for The Arrest of An African Head of State ]

Gazan Inaugural

January 19, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

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Israel’s assault on the Gazan people began November 4, 2008, the day Americans proudly elected Barak Obama to be their 44th president.

On January 19th, 2009 the eve of Obama’s inauguration, Israel announces its pullout from Gaza territories.

Who are we to thank: the Israeli murderers and their supporting citizenry around the world? American legislators who fund and endorse the long ethnic-cleansing campaign against Palestinian peoples? An indignant but ineffectual United Nations does no more than feed a people forced into penury? Or our glorious celebrity president, Mr. Obama himself?

[ Gazan Inaugural ]

Gaza; end of year, or a beginning?

January 01, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It is less heart wrenching if we call the war against Gaza an end of the year review rather than “a beginning of.” Regrettably it is neither. The cowardly punishment of the Palestinians is a long and now well understood agenda.

No one is fooled by statements from Tel Aviv or Washington politicians. Nor are we fooled by the silence of the US president-elect. Remember the guy who made “change” his campaign agenda.

Put aside the numbers of dead and wounded in this campaign, on any side. I have seen enough to remember the blind school for girls, Bashir’s father bedridden and speechless from a stoke, a boy born unable to walk, an aunt in prison, the heart attack of Mona’s mother, the engagement of the boy upstairs, the anticipated university admission of the shopkeeper’s daughter, the pregnant girl, the boy with a limp. All these ailments and hardships, we find in any society, and more.

There are sicknesses, treatments, applications, fights between neighbors or women and daughters-in-law anywhere, including Gaza. think of your own family, and your friends whose children are born with illness, of a father’s sudden death, cancer patients awaiting treatment, a runaway child, or husband, of all that a car crash brings, of a lost gift or a broken sink. A youth wants to write a book, another loves art and dreams to become a sculptor. A young couple fall in love and intend to marry. We all deal with accidents and illness, with marriage and funerals and celebrations, dreams and defeats.

Add to all this, a savage one-sided war. Not just days of bombs, but a siege: no ambulances, broken phones, smashed windows, dwindling food supply, crippled hospitals. Being unable to move from one neighborhood to the next, denied a visit from your son since 1985 because he is barred from returning to his homeland.

This is life in Gaza, in a few sentences. This is everyday in Gaza. The present attacks, in addition to any Israeli and US policy strategies, are aimed at humiliating a people, forcing them to succumb to further disgrace and helplessness. It won’t work.

In his December 28, 2008 address in Lebanon, Hezbullah leader Seyyed Hassan Nassrallah recalls the choice made by Imam Hossein (PBUH): "And how far disgrace is from us! Allah refuses us the life of disgrace, His Messenger and believers do too."

Nassrallah asks: “Why did he declare ‘And how far disgrace is from us’, Why did he say ‘we shall never be disgraced?’ “It was not an emotional outburst! The matter was rather one of humanitarian, ideological spiritual, religious and humane commitment springing from human values, dignity and human rights. As Hossein (PBUH) later tells us ‘...Allah refuses us the life of disgrace, His Messenger and believers do too. Indeed, proud, exalted and lofty spirits will never prefer to obey the vile people, rather than the death of the honorable ones.’"

[ Gaza; end of year, or a beginning? ]

"story of a duck and a slipper"-- an end of year tale

December 20, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

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What a wonderful end of term send off Iraqi journalist Muntathar el-Zeidi (petition in support) gave the US president and the world!

This young man achieved the ultimate ridicule, the ultimate insult, the ultimate weapon. The simple shoe, heaved so accurately with its heavy meaning has hit homes across the globe. For those of us from eastern and Arab culture, our humble slipper has deep social significance to a foe. Directed at an adversary, it can be a stronger statement than any deadly weapon.

But what about the presidential duck. Holder of the most powerful office in the world, they say, ducked to miss the beautifully timed and perfectly directed missile. How this weapon forced GW Bush to duck is even more of a victory than if the thing had hit him smack in the face. Imagine, any person of such stature forced to crouch behind a post, like a scared rabbit. He ducked, like any common sniper or scared cowardly, defenseless animal. Regardless, Bush did not evade the attack. It could not have been a more perfect scenario— an internationally covered press conference.


The symbolism both of the ‘ducking president’ and the ‘shoe’ has not been lost on anyone, most especially Arab journalists and the public. What a heyday they are enjoying. It is truly an historic occasion, to record in drawing and song, to tell and retell our grandchildren, something to restore pride, to revive hope, to know this giant can be felled.

How poignant that this simple (almost) harmless act can indeed be so redeeming an action for the millions of humiliations, murders, insults, losses and hardships of years of US brutality starting with the embargo in 1990.


I recall a colleague in Algeria noting how US leaders were forced to sneak in an out of their occupied lands, despite garrisons of troops, tanks, combat aircraft and ultra super surveillance at their disposal. “Remember how Ms. Rice, Mr. Gates, Mr. Rumsfeld and GW always arrive in Iraq unannounced to visit the troops or review their battlements? They fly into a secured green zone or a US military base, and are out of Iraq within hours.” This, my colleague points out, laughing, in contrast to the Iranian head of state who announces his visit to Iraq two weeks before, flies into Baghdad airport greeted by officials and press, then makes his way by motorcade into the capital.

What is imperial power?


[ "story of a duck and a slipper"-- an end of year tale ]

Why I Am Joyful About The Election of Barak Obama

November 05, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It’s gratifying. It’s thrilling. It’s a redemption of the American public; perhaps they now realize that they themselves do make a difference.

I myself cast my presidential vote for third party candidate Ralph Nader; it was a statement of my support for badly needed party reform here in the US. Even though I am a registered member of the Democratic Party. And my Democratic congressional candidate got my vote at the local level.

          But I felt it was Barak Obama who we needed to lead this nation. The decision had to go his way; American voters, sometimes irresponsible and shockingly naïve, had to grasp the terrifying dangers of an alternative.

          Barak Obama is a real leader. Increasingly over the months as I observed the campaign from a distance—I did not attend campaign rallies but reported on campaigns-- I became increasingly convinced that this man possesses extraordinary qualities, including leadership skills.

          My journalism brought me into contact with people across the country, a broader range of citizens than normal. I also read more widely, on all sides of the political spectrum to inform myself as a reporter. And what I learned, although not always what I wanted to believe (more of that next week) about the new Black leader, told me he had to win--had to win not because the alternative held frightening consequences for the nation and the world. Had to win because citizens were being involved in the civil (election) process, if not the real politic alone, more than I witnessed in 40 years living in the US. Had to win not just because of charm or charisma or profound statements. But had to win because Barak Obama is unarguably a brilliant, skilled, and experienced community organizer. One can see the facts: millions more Americans registered to vote; millions of students and youth, new voters, brought into his campaign; millions of Black Americans, politically very sophisticated but marginalized over the years by racism and other inequalities, motivated. Surely the Obama slogan “Yes we can” which could have been a fatuous, prosaic media bite, held special meaning for them. The statement rings deeper for the Americans of African heritage than for anyone else:--

Yes, we can: “We can alter the course of our history;

“We can realize the dreams of Malcolm X, Fanny Lou Hammer, Martin K King, Rosa Parks, WEB DuBois, Anglea Davis and the millions more who fought, who dreamed, who died.

And “Yes we can lead this nation, as president.

“Yes, we can break though the awful, shameful cycle of racism.

“Yes we can change our leadership.

“Yes, we African Americans can speak and act free of the stereotypes we have been associated with, bringing the highest standards of language, thought, compassion to an issue.

“Yes, White Americans can accept us and chose a great and Black American as their president too.”

So November fourth’s victory, I believe, is a special and powerful one for all African Americans. And thereby for the USA.

Some of us witnessed and noted the rallies for Obama--facts the media chose to play down. Hundreds of thousands of Obama supporters flocked to his campaign gathering in numbers never seen before. Those numbers foretold his certain victory on Tuesday.

          Now to Mr. Obama the campaigner. Through all the debates, and all the rebuttals to malicious attacks re Obama’s relationships with individuals, the African American kept his cool. He responded with facts, and in a dignified yet forceful manner. He defended himself without falling into a cycle of counter attacks. In his debates with campaign opponents, first Hillary Clinton, then John McCain, Barak Obama displayed extraordinary composure, respect, and control. He is grace embodied. He is firm; he is confident.

          In Chicago where Obama has lived for over a decade, his community organizing skills are well known. His professional partnership with an astute wife, Michelle, is legend. These he brought to the national campaign in a masterful way. First, essential to any community mobilization, Obama was optimistic. He believed negative situations could be reversed, that despair could be turned to hope and action. And he transferred this to others. He worked with Americans long marginalized—the Arab American, the Hispanic, the Black. His efforts brought them into the political process in Chicago like never before.

All this Obama applied then on the national scale. Not for 100 years or more, has the grass-roots political landscape be altered. Never has such a high percentage of Americans voted. Have you ever seen lines of waiting voters outside the poll booths like that before, except in South Africa, Chile, Nepal, Palestine, and India? This is new for USA!

          Next? Now that Obama is president-elect, what we can expect? Next week, we share thoughts stemming from the irrefutable campaign decisions by Obama --downside of the campaign. Facing some realities.

[ Why I Am Joyful About The Election of Barak Obama ]

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