Chechnya’s Anti-Gay Pogrom

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/opinion/chechnyas-anti-gay-pogrom.html

By Ekaterina Sokirianskaia
May 3, 2017

MOSCOW — At the beginning of April, reports surfaced that a crackdown on gay men was afoot in Chechnya, the small, turbulent republic on the southern edge of the Russian Federation. According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, more than 100 gay men were rounded up by the police and brutalized in secret prisons, and at least three of them were killed. Many remain in detention.

In fear and desperation, 75 people called in to the Russian LGBT Network’s Chechnya hotline. Of these, 52 said they had been victims of the recent violence, and 30 fled to Moscow where they received help from L.G.B.T. activists.

“Once they bring you there,” a survivor told me, referring to the secret prison in Chechnya where he’d been detained, “they immediately start the beatings and electrocutions, demanding information about who you were dating.” The guards, he said, would spit in the prisoners’ faces, and worse: “We were such hated creatures that each guard felt obliged to hit us when passing by.”

This persecution of gays is symptomatic of the repressive regime that now runs Chechnya. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, that rugged outpost of the old empire has lived through separatist agitation, terrorism and two bloody wars. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, some 5,000 are still missing, and its towns were left in ruins.

Chechnya’s autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has enjoyed near unconditional support from Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad, started out as a separatist Islamic leader, but at the beginning of Russia’s second military campaign against Chechen rebels, which began in 1999, he swapped sides to support Moscow.

When Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a terrorist attack in 2004, his son took his place, muscling out rival strongmen and monopolizing power in the republic by placing his people in charge of federal institutions. Mr. Kadyrov ensured that his fighters were integrated into the local police force, largely preserving the command chains, and their violent skills were deployed in heavy-handed counterterrorism operations on behalf of the Kremlin.

In 2009, by the end of what was officially called “the counterterrorism operation,” he had succeeded in suppressing the separatist insurgency and consolidating his regime. Loyalty to Moscow was rewarded with lavish federal funds to raise Chechen towns from rubble and build shiny skyscrapers in the capital, Grozny.

Collective punishment is the hallmark of Mr. Kadyrov’s repression. Relatives of those who displease the authorities are threatened, beaten, held hostage, expelled from the republic or have their homes burned down. Such methods were first applied to suspected rebels but have spread to regime critics, religious dissenters, even drunken drivers. The same techniques have now been applied to the families of men thought to be gay, which are threatened with detention unless the suspects turn themselves in to the police.

“If somebody does not obey my orders in this republic, I’ll force him,” Mr. Kadyrov boasted on Chechen TV in 2013.

In this climate of humiliation and immense fear, Chechens are fleeing the Russian Federation en masse. Yet the Kremlin turns a blind eye to such excesses in return for allegiance. Mr. Kadyrov calls himself a foot soldier for Mr. Putin. Chechnya sends thousands of state employees, students and schoolchildren into the streets to celebrate Russia Day, Mr. Putin’s birthday and the annexation of Crimea. Chechen “volunteers” have fought in Ukraine and in Syria, and Mr. Kadyrov regularly assails the West, Russian liberals and the opposition. Above all, Mr. Kadyrov has pursued the fight against separatism and Islamist insurgency.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/opinion/chechnyas-anti-gay-pogrom.html

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Ron Howard: There are alarming similarities between 1930s Nazis and Trump

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/ron-howard-there-are-alarming-similarities-between-1930s-nazis-and-trump/


25 Apr 2017

Famed physicist Albert Einstein is the subject of a new series produced by Ron Howard. The National Geographic Channel’s show depicts the funny and controversial side of the “Genius” scientist who was known for being silly and political as well as amorous.

According to a Daily Beast interview with Howard, the first episode of the series breaks down the man who became known as one of the world’s most well-known Jews to stand up against the Nazis. Einstein ultimately ends up on a Nazi hit list and the pilot episode opens with the assassination of one of his dearest friends. The scene that follows it shows Einstein “shagging his secretary,” Howard explained.

The team working on “Genius” was keenly aware of the existing political problems scientists are facing with conservatives, many of whom reject science on a number of issues from climate to evolution and even basic biology. The second episode finds Einstein and his wife trying to flee Nazi Germany but the U.S.’s immigration policies block them. Einstein’s science was often dismissed as “Jewish physics” by anti-Semites and detractors. The story follows the couple as they come to the U.S. as a refugee.

“Those pressures and threats on people and narrow-minded thinking and greed and careerism around science and politicizing science and discovery—they’ve never faded entirely,” Howard told the Daily Beast. “But it certainly has not been lost on us that these issues are more up front and center, and reemerging with a level of intensity that we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s the U.S. but it’s also around the world. So those scenes in episode one and in the series definitely carry with them more impact than I think we expected when we began.”

Howard also wondered openly about the ways in which the world would have been different if Einstein had simply arrived in the U.S. and hidden from public view. Instead, Einstein continued his anti-Nazi political activism and continued doing his life’s work.

Complete article at:  http://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/ron-howard-there-are-alarming-similarities-between-1930s-nazis-and-trump/

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Why Won’t the Press Ask Trump Anything? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann

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More black women are learning to use guns: ‘this is a movement, and it starts now’

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/27/black-women-guns-classes-racism-trump

African American women organizing shooting classes are finding a surge of interest – and many say it comes down to feeling less safe in the era of Trump

in Lawrenceville, Georgia
Thursday 27 April 2017

It was a modest setting for the launch of a movement: 10 African American women sat on folding metal chairs lining the edges of a small, gray-carpeted room on the second floor of the Bullseye Indoor Range and Gun Shop in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

They nervously giggled as Marchelle Tigner began her lesson. Seven of them had never held a gun before.

“This is a movement, and it starts now,” Tigner told her students. Heads nodded.

The class was one of four scheduled back to back on 26 February, to meet unexpected demand as dozens had responded to announcements on Facebook for Tigner’s first Atlanta-area class for black women to learn to shoot.

micThe movement, she said later, is no more and no less than “black women learning how to shoot, and purchasing firearms”, and it’s happening in cities across the country.

Tigner, who lives in Savannah, Georgia, sensed that there was pent-up demand when she launched Trigger Happy Firearm Instruction in November. She found the Bullseye firing range near Atlanta and offered the class through social media, hoping for 20 students. But the class sold out in two days, so she expanded it to 40. Another class scheduled for 4 March sold out to 40 students in 24 hours; a third class for 30 on 18 March sold out in 30 hours; and so did a fourth on 19 March. Tigner’s now got classes scheduled through the end of May, including several in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

She said she’s surprised at the response her classes have received. “The growth of these classes – I never expected it,” she said. “It shows me how unsafe these women feel in their communities.”

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Tiffany Ware, 44 – founder of the Brown Girls Project, which offers makeup workshops and other activities for building self-esteem in young black girls – organized a group of black women for a firearms training class on 18 December. The cap of 20 was quickly met; 45 signed up for a waiting list. Another class was held a few weeks later. A waiting list soon grew to more than 100, and now Ware organizes monthly classes.

In Dallas, the Black Women’s Defense League, launched in 2015, has seen the number of black women signing up for time at local shooting ranges at least double in the past 10 months or so.

“I can confirm that more African American women are learning to shoot,” said Kenn Blanchard, author of Black Man with a Gun, a gun ownership manual. “I’m getting emails from places like Pennsylvania, Arizona, saying: ‘Hey Kenn, these seven ladies were shooting – look at their scores.’ That’s never happened before,” said Blanchard, who’s based in Maryland.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/27/black-women-guns-classes-racism-trump

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Yes, I Can Be A Zionist And A Feminist

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-double-standards-of-anti-zionism-and-sexism_us_58f410a9e4b04cae050dc8ac

I am tired of people pitting my identities against one another.

Andrea Cantor
04/16/2017

Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American political activist, expressed back in March how feminists need to care for Palestinian women, and alluded to the sentiment that Zionism and feminism are incompatible. Sarsour said to The Nation, “It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

Big Bang Theory actress and Orthodox Jew, Mayim Bialik, retaliated by writing an article for Grok Nation, which outlined how Sarsour’s statements were not only offensive, but also false. Bialik wrote on her Facebook page, where she also apologized for making it seem as though Sarsour directly said that Zionism and feminism are incompatible, “[The] conversation surrounding Zionism finally went too far for me to keep my big mouth shut.” Bialik vocalized her frustrations, and now I am following suit. I am tired of the discrimination against my people and of activists, such as Sarsour, who think they can pit my identity as both a Zionist and feminist against each other.

The headline-making feud between Sarsour and Bialik made me start to think about the correlation between my feminism and my support of Israel. Zionism is the belief that Jews have the right to a state, just as feminism is the right to equality. But both definitions have been shanghaied by anti-Semitic and misogynistic rhetoric. This is where I realized that the ways in which people express anti-Zionism are very much alike to sexism.

My stances with Israel are not straightforward, because sociopolitical realities are complex. As a liberal Zionist I do not support Likud or Netanyau, just as I do not support Trump. But as a Jew, I was raised to love my Jewish homeland and to appreciate it as the only true sanctuary for my people. My view is further complicated because as an academic I praise the country for being the only democracy in the Middle East. Most importantly for me, as a feminist, I value Israel for its progressive stances on women’s and LGBTQIA’s rights.

As a Zionist and a feminist my stances have been relegated to black and white understandings, leaving me a blank canvas for others to picture me. Once people at my liberal arts college, Sarah Lawrence, discovered the dark truth that I do not despise Israel, I was labeled as a Zionist-extremist. Similarly, as a female, I am labeled as a slut or prude, dumb or overbearing—the latter being when they realize I have a brain. It is this labeling of my Zionism and of my womanhood that reduces the beauty of belief to something ugly and untrue.

Beyond the labels themselves, it is the mindset behind them that is disturbing. It is as though they are created in a moral-complex vacuum, which only spouts double standards but refuses to take in any insight. If a woman speaks her mind she is considered angry, whereas a man is deemed intelligent and forthright. Similarly, Israel is constantly under threat of destruction by surrounding countries, but Israel is seen as the Goliath perpetrator.

The Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be reduced to good and evil. This is not to relegate the human rights violations that have occurred, but to contextualize them. We are dealing with Likud, a right-winged government, and Hamas, a UN recognized terrorist regime. I am critical of the government just as I am with most current countries. But Israel is more than a government. It is a country that allows trans people into the army, has Arab women representation in government, and maintains women’s rights, such as education, in their legislature.

It is absurd, especially when one looks to any country North, South, East, or West of Israel and understands their human rights violations, that I am told my feminism and Zionism are incompatible. Our allegiances should be with the people—both Israeli and Palestinian—and not focused on demonizing either, that is unless we demonize the entire Middle East for their relatively greater human rights violations. People call Israel an ethnic cleansing, apartheid state but Israel has a more diverse population than its surrounding countries and, unlike South Africa apartheid, has laws of nondiscrimination within its constitution. Yes, racism exists within Israel, as it does in most parts of the world. But singling out the Jewish State above the rest shows how these double standards are a projection of anti-Semitism as opposed to true concern for the people.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-double-standards-of-anti-zionism-and-sexism_us_58f410a9e4b04cae050dc8ac

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