Yet again, we face, or don’t, the fearful symmetry of white supremacy

March 15, 2019, and the news, once more, is terrible. In Christchurch, New Zealand, 49 Muslim worshippers massacred in the name of white supremacy. Off the coast of Morocco, 45 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Three years ago, all that was human drowned in the seaall that was holy had been profaned, and we thought, we hoped, we were at last compelled to face with sober senses our real conditions of life, and our relations with our kind. Seven years ago, we thought it might be too late to sing songs beyond mankind. We thought there had to be songs to sing, and that those songs had to begin by turning swords into ploughshares, immediately, right away. And then we moved on, which is to say we went nowhere.

Today, the news and much of the world is filled with discussions of “white supremacy.” The butcher of Christchurch was “deep” into white supremacist culture. The drowned migrants, many of them women and children, had to take to the sea because Europe (and the United States and Australia) have declared a “just war” on migrants of color who are represented as an “invasion” at the border and in the homeland.

There are no more songs to sing; even silence fails us, as we fail silence. Here’s how the news from Christchurch was contextualized, “Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, which is known to have an active white-supremacist subculture.” Known to have an active white-supremacist subculture. What kind of knowledge, what kind of knowing, is that which knows and does nothing? White supremacy is hate; white supremacy is a hate crime. It is not a preference; it is a deadly assault always already in motion. 

Having survived, at times regretfully, the Holocaust, Paul Celan tried, and failed, to turn the pain, horror and anguish of mass violence into the possibility of understanding. Poetry is what emerges from that failure. May it not be too late.

Whichever stone you lift

Whichever stone you lift – 
you lay bare 
those who need the protection of stones: 
naked, 
now they renew their entwinement. 

Whichever tree you fell – 
you frame 
the bedstead where 
souls are stayed once again, 
as if this aeon too 
did not 
tremble. 

Whichever word you speak – 
you owe to 
destruction

(Image credit: Meditatioprodomo)

Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean

Helena Maleno Garzón at a workshop

The year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost, sinking into the sea bottom as it reveals the sinking of our own collective humanity. Last year, over 5000 women, children and men drowned in the Mediterranean. The year before close to 4000, and the year before that, a little over 3000. This year, the reported death toll hovers just over 3000. That “success” is largely due to draconian measures that have sent refugees back to slave markets and brutal prisons in Libya and life-in-death in Morocco. Spain has replaced Italy as the preferred port of entry for those seeking a life, be they called migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers. Such is today’s morbid mathematics that over 3000 innocents drowned in one body of water in one year is touted as “success”. This is who we are … or not. Helena Maleno Garzón is a Spanish activist and journalist based in Tangiers. Working with Caminando Fronteras, a human rights group founded in 2002 that monitors and reports on the Spanish – Moroccan borders, Helena Maleno Garzón has spent the last years documenting, working with, rescuing and insisting on the dignity of migrant, refugees and asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean, and for that refusal, she is described as a criminal by both Morocco and Spain.

Two Spanish cities – Ceuta and Mellila – sit on Morocco’s coast. In 2015, Helena Maleno Garzón described the two enclaves as “the most heavily guarded borders in the EU to keep out African migrants.” Two years ago, Helena Maleno Garzón described a scene of mounting violence, excessive and illegal use of force, and preventable tragedies, such as the massacre of 15 African migrants on February 6, 2014, at the El Tarajal beach, in Ceuta. As a Liberian woman refugee explained, “We are subjected to ongoing institutional violence when we reach the border. This can range from denial of access to basic rights, to torture, physical abuse, and even sexual violence. What you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer in transit.” In the intervening years, that fraction has grown as it has intensified. After 15 years of engagement in the area, Helena Maleno Garzón and her colleagues at Caminando Fronteras have declared that the area is now a war zone.

And so, the Moroccan government, at the behest of the Spanish government, has charged Helena Maleno Garzón with smuggling and human trafficking. The Spanish government tried the same trick a few years ago, but had to withdraw the charges earlier this year. Earlier this week, the Moroccan court postponed Helena Maleno Garzón’s trial until January 10 of next year. In Morocco and in Spain, many are rising to Helena Maleno Garzón’s defense. Across Spanish social media, #DefendiendoAMaleno appears next to #NoEsDelito. The defense of Helena Maleno Garzón rejects the criminalization of assisting others in need.

Helena Maleno Garzón stands trial for asking which is the greater crime, to cross a border, to assist crossing a border or to maintain that border with lethal force?  Spanish policy mirrors European policy, and “what you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer.” Look into the mirror. Let us move closer to the water’s edge, grasp one another’s hands, encircle the Mediterranean, and speak the names of every child, woman, and man who died in the sea or at the hands of border guards while trying to find haven. Let us do so for the sake of humanity.

 

(Photo Credit: El Pais / Caminando Borders)

Takbar Haddi’s hunger strike for her son and Saharawi independence

Takbar Haddi begins her hunger strike

For forty-one years, we have never known liberty,” says Takbar Haddi as she explains the brutal murder – assassination of her son, Mohamed Lamine Haidala, at the hands of Moroccan settlers. For thirty-six days, Takbar Haddi was on a hunger strike, sitting at the doorsteps of the Moroccan Consulate in Las Palmas, Gran Canarias, where she now lives in exile. She was demanding something as simple, complex, and powerful as simple justice. On June 19, at the insistence of doctors and supporters, she ended her individual hunger strike, but others have taken it up, and so now people across Spain are on one-day hunger strikes. The hunger strike continues.

On January 30, 2015, 21-year-old Mohamed Lamine Haidala came to the rescue of a woman, a neighbor, who was being harassed by five Moroccan settlers. According to many reports, later that night Mohamed Lamine Haidala was killed by those same five settlers, stabbed numerous times. Haidala, who lived in El Aaiun, the capital of occupied Western Sahara, was an activist for Saharawi independence.

Seriously injured, Mohamed Lamine Haidala was taken to hospital, where he was denied anesthesia and painkillers during the procedure; arrested; and hauled off to the police station, where he spent the night sleeping on the floor. He was released the next day.

His situation deteriorated. The family took him from one hospital to another, and each refused treatment. Finally, he was taken, by ambulance, to Agadir, almost 400 miles away, where, again, he was denied treatment repeatedly. On February 8, Mohamed Lamine Haidala died in a hospital waiting room.

The story of occupation continues. Police confiscated Mohamed Lamine Haidala’s body. As of now, authorities still hold his body, and no autopsy has been performed. Takbar Haddi returned to Western Sahara, to no avail. When Takbar Haddi entered into her hunger strike, she demanded that an independent body conduct an autopsy and that her son’s body be returned to the family, so that they might honor his life and memory properly.

During her hunger strike, Takbar Haddi received support and visits from Saharawi independence activists such as Hmad Hmad, Brahime Dahane and Aminatou Haidar. Takbar Haddi said her son visited her in a dream and said, “Mother, find justice for me, mother, find justice for my body.” She then went on to explain, “Every mother knows the pain that one must feel at losing a child and not even knowing where his body lies. My heart is breaking.”

Since Takbar Haddi ended her hunger strike, others have taken it up, beginning with Teresa Rodríguez, Regional Deputy for Podemos Andalucía. They are joining with Takbar Haddi in her pursuit of justice: “For 41 years, the Saharawi have had no right to justice, to life, to anything.”

It is time. It is way past time to listen to the women of Western Sahara and end the occupation and the reign of torture. It is time to break the silence surrounding the violence. How many more must die before we realize our part in the deaths? How many more sons and mothers must suffer torture before we realize our role in the commission of terror? How many more Saharawi women must endure State violence before we realize that we are that State?

What happened to Mohamed Lamine Haidala? Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day in the occupation.

 

(Photo Credit: https://www.diagonalperiodico.net)

Nowhere to go: Women and migrants fight for their rights

Recently, the Spanish government made headlines when it tried to sharply curtail women’s reproductive rights. Now, another set of human and civil rights is in shambles: the right to be, the right to seek safer grounds.

The European Union has two main points of entry on African land, Ceuta and Melilla. These two cities are Spanish territories on the coast of Morocco. Their existence is linked to the complex history of invasions and establishment of protectorates on Mediterranean shores. The EU has been walling up some of its borders in the South against migrants. In 2005 the EU financed the raising of a double iron curtain 6 meters high around these two Spanish enclaves. The Rajoy government had cutting blades installed on the top of the fence. The EU has also built a 12.5 kilometers wall between Turkey and Greece. Bulgaria is building its own iron curtain.

On February 6, 2013, 200 migrants tried to enter Ceuta. Fourteen died at sea as they tried to get around the fence. After some denial, the Spanish Guardia Civil finally admitted that they had used rubber bullets and tear gas against the migrants. The Minister of Interior Jorge Fernandez Diaz has been vague about these incidents that killed desperate migrants. At first, he denied any involvement or responsibility of the Guardia Civil. Then he recognized the use of riot gear only as a deterrent. Shooting at fragile craft with people onboard who don’t know how to swim is not a deterrent. Remember that, on the other side of the border, Moroccan forces are busily cudgeling migrants.

Ten days later, another 300 migrants forced the gate of the city of Melilla. About 50 were able to go in. They were then sent to temporary camps, where eight died.

In Spain, people were outraged. Within a week, demonstrations to denounce these disguised murders were organized in numerous Spanish cities. Various slogans were shouted: “Natives or foreigners, we’re all the same working class”; “No one is illegal”; and, alluding to the government’s anti abortion stand, “Where are the pro lifers?” The assault on women’s rights and the sealing of the borders are intimately linked.

In these times of global deterritorialization, with climate and economic insecurity, people migrate to escape armed conflict, starvation and misery. The non-negotiable rights to life are easily forgotten.

In the United States, immigration rights and women’s rights have been compromised, even more so recently.

In Greece, with the “debt crisis”, politically motivated violence against women and the increasingly restricted reproductive rights leaving many women without safe delivery or abortion services links with the extreme violence that migrants face at the hands of the police and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn. These various issues developed with the austerity measures brutally imposed by the Troika (the European financial power), and only now finally questioned. They have deeply destabilized every sector of the Greek society, except for the rich and powerful. In Greece, as in Spain, people are demonstrating for human rights, and against fascism.

Economic austerity measures have allowed a state of emergency to administer cruel treatments onto displaced populations. The migrant population that lands on Greek soil escapes one set of dangers only to face another. Despite the EU official commitment to human rights, there is no protection for them, and so they are abandoned in the streets of Athens and eventually attacked by Golden Dawn squads. They are the hidden casualties of the austerity measures.

The common thread that joins these stories is the elusive reliance on a neoliberal vision of the world order that displaces, isolates, impoverishes populations, and in particular women. Migrant rights and women rights are the first victims. If we don’t fight for these rights, we would have nowhere to go.

 

(Image Credit: http://www.4ojos.com)

Does David Cameron support slavery? Ask the domestic workers.

Last year, England declared October 18th as Anti-Slavery Day. Today is the second Anti-Slavery Day. How will Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron celebrate this day? Let’s ask their nanny, Gita Lima.

Gita Lima is originally from Nepal. She worked, in England, for a family that proved to be abusive. She received assistance from Kalayaan, an advice and advocacy center for migrant domestic workers. Lima’s situation was all too familiar to Kalayaan. According to Kalayaan, nearly 70% of migrant domestic workers work seven days a week, almost half work 16 hours a day, and nearly 20% have been physically abused. More than half of the transnational domestic workers report that their bosses seize their passports and do not let them leave the house unaccompanied. Many report being denied food, many report sexual abuse.

Among its services, Kalayaan runs an ethical employment agency. David and Samantha Cameron came to that agency and hired Gita Lima, a number of years ago. Lima cared for their four children. In particular, she took care of the eldest child, Ivan, who had been born with a combination of cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, and required round the clock care. Ivan died in 2009, at the age of six. Gita Lima continued to work for the Camerons, moving with them to 10 Downing Street.

The government, David Cameron’s government, recently proposed a change in visa regulations. This change would require migrant domestic workers to stay with the employers who sponsored them. Like the song says, “You’d better dance with the one that brung ya.” Or else.

Many domestic workers, and their allies like Kalayaan and the trade union Unite, understand the removal of the limited protections provided by the current system, the elimination of the right to change employers, as slavery.

They’re right, it is slavery, and it’s the Parliament of the United Kingdom that says so, in its Anti-Slavery Day Act: “In this Act “slavery” includes—
(a) trafficking for sexual exploitation,
(b) child trafficking,
(c) trafficking for forced labour, and
(d) domestic servitude.”

Domestic servitude. Gita Lima, Marissa Begonia, Noor, Mira, and all the transnational domestic workers did absolutely nothing wrong, did everything right, in fact. They have worked hard, they have taken care of children and households, and in the case of some, like Gita Lima, they have wept at and mourned the loss of a loved one. Who is the criminal here, the one placed in slavery, in “domestic servitude”, or the one who holds the woman worker in bondage?

 

(Photo Credit: BBC)

 

I see Ché

I see Ché
on the streets
of Morocco
and Egypt
and elsewhere too

(And not just
on sale
in the market
of labels
and brand-names
and football stadiums)

I see Ché
articulated
on posters
banners
and T-shirts

I see Ché
to my left
to my right
and in between
too

(Are there women
rebelling and protesting
in the food-chain of
African-grey male-dictators
and anti-female traditions)

(Africa, our begging bowl
of structured poverty
and personal patronage)

I see Ché

Do you

(Wide-eyed at seeing our anti-hero on the streets of Darkest Africa, the week of 24-28 January 2011.)

 

(Photo Credit: Cryptome)