Wednesday, January 31, 2007

For May: Imperial Reckoning

For May we have selected Caroline Elkins Pulitzer-winning Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya:
As part of the Allied forces, thousands of Kenyans fought alongside the British in World War II. But just a few years after the defeat of Hitler, the British colonial government detained nearly the entire population of Kenyas largest ethnic minority, the Kikuyusome one and a half million people. The compelling story of the system of prisons and work camps where thousands met their deaths was the victim of a determined effort by the British to destroy all official records of their attempts to stop the Mau Mau uprising. Caroline Elkins spent a decade in London, Nairobi, and the Kenyan countryside interviewing hundreds of survivors of the camps and the British and African loyalists who detained them. The result is an unforgettable account of the unraveling of the British colonial empire in Kenyaa pivotal moment in twentieth- century history with chilling parallels to Americas own imperial project.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eritrea Update

A must read for our on-going project to bring attention to human rights issues in Eritrea, Michela Wrong (Rights Readers Selection, I Didn't Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation) writes in the New Statesman about the conflicting interests of Eritrea and Ethiopia in the renewed Somalian conflict. [Link]

Monday, January 29, 2007

LA Event: Combatants for Peace

From the Levantine Cultural Center Calendar, noting especially the participation of Amy Wilentz (Rights Readers selection, Martyr's Crossing),
Jan. 31 (Wed), 8 pm—Combatants for Peace Elik Elhanan and Sulaiman Al Hamri with Amy Wilentz

Combatants For Peace is a group of Israelis and Palestinians (currently numbering 150) who previously were engaged in the cycle of violence between the two peoples. The Israelis are comprised exclusively of combat soldiers—including pilots, tank commanders, and members of elite commando units. The Palestinians have each participated in violent activities against Israeli targets, and have nearly all served time in Israeli prisons. After brandishing weapons for many years, these former combatants have realized the futility of the violence they have perpetrated on each other. In a unified voice, they have renounced violence and are calling for a peaceful resolution to the seemingly intractable conflict between their peoples. They hope to serve as an inspiration and example to those who continue to engage in violence, and they ultimately intend to influence their political leaders to meaningfully pursue peace.

Amy Wilentz, the former New Yorker correspondent in Jerusalem and author of the acclaimed novel Martyr's Crossing, will moderate a Q & A following a short film screening and presentation by Elhanan and Al Hamri.

A concert follows with Israeli composer and musician Yuval Ron, musical director of the Yuval Ron Ensemble, and Palestinian artist Saleem, a playwright and actor.

Magnin Auditorium at Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 North Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 90049. This event is open to the public – free of charge. Space limited, RSVPs are required: 310.621.6654 or email your first/last name and phone number to register.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Meditation: The Poetry of Guantanamo

For your Sunday contemplation, here is news of a forthcoming collection of poetry, including a sample poem by Jumah al-Dossari, from detainees at Guantanmo. Jumah al-Dossari's personal account of his incarceration was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times,
I would rather die than stay here forever, and I have tried to commit suicide many times. The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed. I am hopeless because our voices are not heard from the depths of the detention center.

If I die, please remember that there was a human being named Jumah at Guantanamo whose beliefs, dignity and humanity were abused. Please remember that there are hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo suffering the same misfortune. They have not been charged with any crimes. They have not been accused of taking any action against the United States.
Lengthier testimony is also available from Amnesty along with a case sheet and downloadable action.

This reminded me of the story from nearly a year ago of another Guantamo poet (now released and writing a book). From the BBC,

At first, deprived of paper and pen, he memorised his best lines or scribbled them secretly on paper cups. He recited a verse: "What kind of spring is this where there are no flowers and the air is filled with a miserable smell?"

Sadly, it looks like there is no shortage of poets for the collection.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Outlawed - Extraordinary Rendition Testimony

We are still working out the technical issues involved in showing videos like these at our non-virutal meetings, however, in the meantime here is an important 25 minute film, Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the "War on Terror"

Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the complicity of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture. The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance. No one knows the exact number of persons affected, due to the secrecy under which the operations are carried out. For more information visit
Take action here.

Update: One of the cases detailed here concerns Khaled Masri, the German citizen whose case has prompted arrest orders for 13 CIA agents.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Our January Author: Sandra Benitez

I'm very late with this, (and I promise to get back to regular posting), but here is the website for our January author, Sandra Benitez. There are also a couple of interviews available on her page at Las Mujeres.
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