The Bangladesh factory fire was a massacre of women workers


On Sunday, November 25, 2012, Bangladesh suffered its worst-ever factory fire, at the Tazreen Fashions factory. At last count, 123 workers died. By all accounts, the workers were all or almost all women. Nothing here was new. Bangladesh has 4500 garment factories. The garment industry in Bangladesh employs more than 3 million people. Most of them are women. Many of them have died in `industrial accidents’.

There was no accident.

And now, less than two weeks later, the `discoveries’ begin. Today’s breaking news is the factory had no safety certificate. No one thought it did. Exit doors were locked. We knew that. Managers wouldn’t let workers leave until the flames were obvious, until it was too late. We `learned’ this week that Wal Mart actively blocked, or nixed, safety moves in Bangladesh, including in Tazreen Fashions factory. Are you surprised? Neither am I. The news is not that Wal Mart stopped a move towards worker safety, but rather than now the documents proving it have been made public as have the Wal Mart receipts left on Tazreen’s burnt floors. All of this has undermined Wal Mart’s account and credibility. Who believed Wal Mart in the first place? Who believes Wal Mart now?

Who believes the fashion industry when it claims shock and dismay? Who believes The New York Times or any other news outlet when they only now `discover’ a “gap in safety for local brands”?

Investigative reporting is important, as is research. So is accountability, including accountability in tone and diction. There was no accident, there was no gap, there was no absence, and there is no surprise. Call the event by its proper name: massacre. “An indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people”, specifically of women. And the factory was no factory. It was a slaughterhouse. It always was, and we cannot claim to be surprised when the flames burst and the women workers’ bodies explode … again.

(Photo Credit:

Lonmin: Massacre is never justified

Police, armed to the teeth, kept the peace at the tumultuous Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, Rustenburg, in the North West province of South Africa. The reports differ as to the price of peace. Some claim nearly 50 dead, others 30 some. Killed by police bullets.

Striking miners had occupied a hill, Wonderkop, ostensibly because “it is not mine property and the police would not kill us here.” They did. The police came, surrounded the hill, and, at some point, opened fire on the protesters. The police opened fire with live ammunition.

The State claims to have claimed to accept responsibility. What could we do, it says, when the miners were so violent, when protests have become so violent? `We’ could show up with some other than live bullets.

There’s more to the story … and there’s less.

Massacre is never justified. In the very many, eloquent, passionate, and often persuasive analyses that have followed the massacre that occurred just yesterday, one thing is being missed. Massacre. The existential thing that massacre is.

Massacre is not just another word. Massacre is when language stops, when reference and when representation stop. It is an absolute rupture of all. One doesn’t `explain’ massacre. One simply stops. Because massacre is absolutely impassable.

The question of how the massacre occurred will be debated and, hopefully, answered. Hopefully, the answers will lead to humane policy and practice.

But first … stop. Remember, massacre is never justified. No peace follows massacre. No justice emerges from massacre. Nothing emerges from massacre.

And now?

A hundred women danced in a dirt road on Friday, singing protest songs amid ramshackle wooden and corrugated metal shacks sitting over one of the world’s richest platinum deposits. These songs were once directed at South Africa’s white apartheid government, but these women were singing to denounce their own police who fired on their striking menfolk, leaving 34 dead, the day before. The police came here to kill our husbands, our brothers. Here. Our children!” said 42-year-old Nokuselo Mciteni.”

Nothing emerges from massacre. Nothing.

(Photo Credit 1: AFP)

The murdered mothers of Côte d’Ivoire continue their march


On Thursday, March 3, 2011, there was a women’s march for peace in Abobo, a suburb of Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire.  This was not the first women’s peace march in Côte d’Ivoire. In the past weeks, the violence of the `stalemate’ has both increased and intensified. Neighborhoods are regularly tear gassed, houses invaded, men taken off. One side attacks, the other responds with either greater force or at the very least with the threat of greater force. Barricades are met with tanks, tanks are met with paving stones or with petrol bombs. Blood flows, and then more blood flows.

The women of Côte d’Ivoire have lived through this. They have lived through the intensification and expansion of violence before. They have lived through the increase and intensification of sexual violence as well. They have experienced rape used as a weapon of war, in not so distant times of `civil strife’ and of `national stalemate’.

The women of Côte d’Ivoire have lived through incarceration at the infamous Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction, or MACA, reputed to be one of the worst on the African continent. They have lived through the torture, the massacres, the brutality, the lethal conditions of MACA, where any sentence is a virtual death sentence. They have lived through the brief improvement of conditions, only to see them deteriorate into even worse depravity. The women of Côte d’Ivoire know the meaning of `civil strife’, of `national stalemate’, of mass and targeted detention.

And so they have organized. They have organized women’s marches, peaceful marches, marches of peace.

The women march because they do not want to become the mourning mothers, nor do they want to become the grieving widows. They know there is an alternative. They march for an immediate cessation of the violence, in their own names, in the names of their children and of their partners.

Last Friday, February 25, 2011, the women of Treichville, a district of Abidjan, organized a march. They marched “to liberate our husbands and children.” Five hundred or so women marched, with whistles, banging pots and pans. They were followed by the security forces. Men armed to the teeth surrounded the women on both sides. The women sat down in the street then, and shouted, “”Tirez-nous dessus, qu’on en finisse!” Roughly translated: “Attack us then, and be done with it.” And with that, the women took off their clothes. They sat in the street, naked, and dared the police, the armed forces, the paramilitaries, to come forward. They sat naked in the street, and they said, “So much blood has flowed. We have nothing to lose. We are not afraid to die. We are not afraid of you. We are not afraid of men with guns.”

Six days later, on Thursday, the women of Abobo took to the streets.

Suddenly, tanks appeared, men with guns appeared, gunfire exploded, women ran for shelter, and seven fell, dead. According to one eyewitness, “We were slaughtered. Eight women, including a pregnant woman, were killed on the spot. During the shooting, a bullet blew open the head of one of the victims. It was the first time I had seen someone’s brains out. As for the pregnant woman, her belly literally exploded. We have no idea why they shot at us. We were just a gathering of women, nothing else but women.”

Men with guns, men with tanks, fear women with whistles and pots and pans. Men with guns fear women’s autonomy, they fear an alternative to the exclusive power of violence. Why else would they murder the innocents? The murdered women of Côte d’Ivoire continue to march, continue to blow their whistles and bang on their pots and pans, continue to sit down in the streets, continue to strip naked, continue to demand their bodies be recognized, continue to demand the peace of justice, the justice of peace. Those women, the women of Côte d’Ivoire, haunt the world.


(Photo Credit: France 24 / AldoLaClass)