Philippine soldiers harass mission probing rights abuses in Mindanao

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Philippine soldiers harass mission probing rights abuses in Mindanao

Soldiers stop a human rights mission delegates in Northern Mindanao stopped in a checkpoint yesterday. Image: Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

By Ronalyn V. Olea in Manila  

Philippine state security forces have repeatedly blocked members of a fact-finding mission investigating human rights violations against peasant farmers and indigenous Lumads in Mindanao.

Since their arrival at the airports in Davao City, Lagindinangan and Butuan City yesterday, all the way to highly-militarised peasant and Lumad communities in Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and the Caraga region, members of the three-team mission have been subjected to different forms of harassment and intimidation.

Suspected soldiers took pictures of the Caraga team members and “welcomed” them with a banner that read “Just do it right” upon their arrival at the airport in Butuan City.

The Southern Mindanao team members saw streamers in Tagum City that read, “OUT NOW IFFSM [International fact-finding Mission]; WE WANT PEACE.”

READ MORE: Manila brands volunteer teachers as ‘terrorists’, say Lumad advocates

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao said the military was behind the streamers.

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“The AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] has no credibility in talking peace. We thus revise the slogan; instead it should read: AFP OUT NOW; WE WANT PEACE,” he said.

The Northern Mindanao mission team was blocked three times by police and military forces from the airport in Lagindingan to Cagayan de Oro.

From the city to the mission site in Patpat village in Malaybalay, the team was blocked eight more times.

‘No wonder military don’t want us’
Rafael Mariano, former Agrarian Reform Secretary and head of the Northern Mindanao team, said, “We came here for a very urgent reason, we came here to verify mounting reports of rights abuses against peasant and Lumad communities perpetrated allegedly by military elements.

“No wonder the military people don’t want us here.”

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the whole island under martial law on May 24, 2017, after an attack in Marawi City.

Citing “continued threat of terrorism and rebellion,” Duterte asked Congress to extend martial law until December this year. Duterte’s supporters in Congress railroaded the extension.

Seventy-one full battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are operating in Mindanao, of which 41 are focused on counterinsurgency operations.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said at least 65 percent of the AFP’s combat troops are concentrated in Mindanao, where large-scale foreign plantations and mining concessions are to be found.

Human rights alliance Karapatan documented 126 victims of political killings as of December 2017, of whom 110 were farmers mostly coming from Mindanao.

In Southern Mindanao alone, 63 cases of extrajudicial killings have been recorded,

‘Bulldozing their way into vast lands’
“The unabated militarisation and Martial Law itself in Mindanao must be understood as a means for government, big landlords, oligarchs and multinational corporations to further bulldoze their way into the vast lands and resources of the island,” Mariano said.

“This is not the way to address the roots of the armed conflict. This is not the way to a just and lasting peace.”

The teams also reported to have been closely tailed by several vehicles from the airport to the orientation sites and to the villages where interviews with victims victims were to be held.

Undeterred, the teams were able to finally proceed to their respective mission areas.

“We managed to get past all the checkpoints so far after seemingly endless negotiations with the state forces but this is only the first day and the day is still long and so we must remain vigilant throughout the rest of the day and the entire duration of the three-day mission,” Mariano said.

Former congressmen Satur Ocampo and Fernando Hicap, and incumbent representatives of the Makabayan bloc, are among the delegates of the International Fact-Finding Mission to Defend Filipino Peasants’ Land and Human Rights Against Militarism and Plunder in Mindanao organised by KMP and the Mindanao for Civil Liberties.

Also joining the mission are the Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network – Asia Pacific, People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) Commission 6, Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS), Karapatan, and Tanggol Magsasaka.

In the past two weeks, a group of Lumad educators have visited New Zealand to talk about the human rights violations in education as part of the Save Our Schools programme.

Ronalyn V. Olea is a reporter for Butlalat.

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One Palestinian family’s devastating story of Israeli military cruelty

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: One Palestinian family’s devastating story of Israeli military cruelty

OPINION: By Sister Barbara Cameron

When I read last week of the detention of a young Palestinian teenage girl, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, dragged from her bed in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, for me it wasn’t just another Palestinian teenage protester.

I was devastated. This is the beautiful young woman I’d met as a happy, innocent 10-year-old, in whose house I’d slept, with whose family I’d sat at table, to whose grandmother I had listened as she shared the pain of the terrible things her own children had suffered at the hands of the Israeli military, her daughter shot in a military court room, her son detained innumerable times.

I was gutted thinking of this family having to deal with yet another trauma, fearing what might happen to their 16-year-old daughter in military detention.

READ MORE: Why is the West praising Malala but ignoring Ahed?

Ahed with her mother Nariman … a family suffering again from the cruelty and injustice of the Israeli occupation. Image: Al Jazeera

Not only that but her 15-year-old brother, Mohammed, is now lying in an induced coma as the result of the injury caused by being shot in the face by a rubber bullet. For me it was heartbreaking news.

In 2011, as a NZ Catholic nun, a Mission Sister, I had volunteered with the International Women’s Peace Service group in Palestine on the West Bank, a group that supports the Palestinians in any nonviolent resistance to the occupation of their land by Israel, and reports on human rights abuses.

It was at that time I had the privilege of meeting Ahed’s father, Basem Tamimi, a charismatic village leader (in my book, another Gandhi or Mandela), whose gentleness and commitment to nonviolent, peaceful protest against the Israeli occupation of their land was in stark contrast with the picture of protesters I’d formed, from the media, of Palestinian resistance to occupation.

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In that man’s home, with that little girl and their family, we enjoyed the warm, generous hospitality, typical of Palestine.

Accused by military police
Within days of that experience Basem was picked up by the Israeli military police accused of inciting protesters to throw stones at the soldiers.

What follows are excerpts from the speech Basem gave in the military court in June 2011.

“In my lifetime I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost three years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralysed as a result of torture by your investigators…

“International law guarantees the right of the occupied people to resist occupation. In practising my right I have called for and organised peaceful, popular demonstrations against the occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half the land of my village…

“Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe like us that had it not been for the occupation, we could all live in peace on this land…

“I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror…

“Despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion, or ethnicity, embodying thus the message of the messenger of peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy”.

“With love and justice we make peace and build the future.”

Again suffering cruelty
Now, six years later in the wake of the demonstrations on the West Bank following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this family is again suffering from the cruelty and injustice of the occupation.

Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested by the Israeli army on December 20 is now scheduled for trial. This is the second delay in her trial date. Her father, Basem, has been summoned for interrogation. Her mother, Nariman, is still being held in detention.

This update from Basem:

“They dragged Ahed out of bed, handcuffed her and put her in the back of their military jeep. She is 16 years old.

“The next morning, my wife went to the police station to be with our daughter as she was interrogated. But Israel took her into custody as well. The following day, they arrested my 21-year-old niece Nour.

“This is too much! Israel must immediately release the Tamimi women! They must stop their persecution of my family.

“All of this started last Friday when soldiers in my village shot 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi directly in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Following surgery, Mohammad had to be placed in a medically induced coma.

“Then the soldiers came to our home. Ahed and Nour slapped the soldiers in the face and pushed them back, yelling that they could not enter our home.

“The Israeli military is threatened by our regular protests, by our refusal to live with occupation.”

Focus on ‘slapping’
What some people will focus on reading this or hearing the news will be the slapping of an Israeli soldier by a 16-year-old Palestinian girl.

What we don’t usually hear about is the provocation that leads to the reaction. In this case we do … the shooting of a rubber bullet in the face of the girl’s 15-year-old brother which has left her brother in an induced coma, and the ongoing history of harassment that family has experienced .

In the light of all this suffering by the Palestinians over 50 years and in an effort to end the violence and the occupation, Palestine leadership some years ago asked the international community to support them in one of the few nonviolent ways pressure can be brought to bear on the occupying force, that is through the BDS movement – the boycott of Israel, as was done in the past to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.

That is why Lorde’s decision to cancel her tour to Israel is significant and she deserves to be commended for her courage in taking such a principled stand. Where you have victims and oppressors we all know on whose side we should stand.

New Zealand and New Zealanders have done that in the past. Let’s continue to do this for all the children and young people of our world, who suffer at the hands of military power, for Ahed and Mohammad, for their grandmother, for their mother and father, for the whole Tamimi family.

Sister Barbara Cameron is a Mission Sister in Morrinsville.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz