By Ahsan Qazi*
Major global events, committed in the name of freedom and democracy, have occurred in the past two decades that cannot be categorized as anything but global atrocities, Looking back from the year 2000 to the present, the invasion of the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Rohingya Genocide, Israel’s continuous occupation of Palestine, India’s oppression of Kashmiris, and Uyghur Muslims’ imprisonment in Chinese concentration camps resulted in severe oppression, massive loss of life, total annihilation of social and governmental systems, and absolute economic collapse. While the world is reminded repeatedly of the Holocaust and the 9/11 tragedy with slogans like “Never Forget,” the noted global events in the last two decades have gone by ignored and the culprits behind such atrocities roam the world free. No mention or accountability of the architects behind these noted events exists in the media. No international entity exists that calls for the accountability of these individuals or groups that led the invasion of the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Rohingya Genocide, Israel’s continuous occupation of Palestine, India’s occupation of Kashmir, and Uyghur Muslims’ imprisonment.
Invasion of the Middle East and Afghanistan
The tragedy of 9/11 provided an opportunity for the United States and other Western nations to invade the Middle East and Afghanistan. Strangely, from the objective of capturing the perpetrators of 9/11 and dismantling groups like Al-Qaida, ISIS, and evil groups as such, the United States mission transformed to nation-building, and It invited all the major Western powers to unite under the banner of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, two terms repeated in the media like a magic spell as if freedom and democracy had been championed at home.
Explaining the problems of Western democracy in his book, The Sacred Freedom, Haneef Oliver quotes Ian Bell from The Herald, “Judging on how it works at home,” Bell quoted Oborne as saying, “We should all be very afraid.” The world was led to believe that “freedom” and “democracy” were missing and only wars could change the trajectory of the Middle Eastern nations and Afghanistan, but behind the facade of freedom and democracy, a darker reality for Middle Eastern nations and Afghanistan was engineered. Oliver further mentions that “Making false promises and lying is encouraged in the democratic political system to achieve authority. How then could it ever be considered a truthful, correct, or morally superior ideology, never mind one that everyone in the world must apply- or else face war?” This is exactly what happened in the Middle East and Afghanistan. What kind of democracy is it where a government administration decided to invade two different regions of the world by engineering lies, falsely eliciting the support of masses through lies?
By just examining the statements of the architects of the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, one understands that the lies in the past two decades and the sinister campaign against the Middle Eastern nations and Afghanistan cannot be termed anything but atrocities. Oliver points out in The Sacred Freedom, “In an article entitled ‘Cheney: Nations Must Join in Terror Fight,’ The Associated Press’ Deb Riechman quoted Dick Cheney, the United States Vice President, as saying: ‘Ideologies of violence must be confronted at the source by nurturing democracy throughout the Middle East and beyond.’”
In the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium, Condoleezza Rice supported her decision for invading Iraq by proclaiming “I would have overthrown Saddam Hussein again.” This was in 2013, and by 2013, the world knew well that Saddam Hussain never had weapons of mass destruction nor was he planning to invade any country; yet, Rice showed no remorse or regret about the decision she took, keeping her statement in mind. Fast forward to 2017, an article appears in Newsweek by Tom O’Conner who highlighted Rice’s statement, “We didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to Iraq, we went to Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who we thought was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction and who we knew had been a threat in the region. It was a security problem.” Such contradictory statements from the architects of the war in the Middle East and Afghanistan evoke disgust in anyone who examines their statements.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney aimed to use democracy as a pretext to invade the Middle East and Afghanistan while his own Secretary of State, Rice stated that importing democracy was not the objective but stopping Saddam Hussain, who did not have any weapons of mass destruction nor was he a proven threat in the Middle East. Such kind of deliberate lies and deception resulted in destroying the culture, traditions, economy, and political structure of the Middle Eastern nation-states and Afghanistan where its citizens have no hope left. How could the world then stay silent and allow the perpetrators to get away after committing such crimes that resulted in the mass death of innocent civilians? Why is it that individuals who hold political positions, small or major, are usually protected through some sort of justification while an ordinary man is held liable for minor misconducts? If justice is to be preached and taught to the world and forced upon nations, then it must be served to all in every political position in a straightforward and swift manner.
What is the result of Bush and his administration’s lies and deceitful decision-making? The World Bank Group provides the statistics, “In 2016, about 87 million people from four MENA countries directly affected by war—Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen—represented about one-third of the region’s population. Every aspect of people’s lives has been affected by the intensity of the fighting in these separate conflicts.” Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs reported that “At least 929,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan.”
Additionally, “The number of people who have been wounded or have fallen ill as a result of the conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.” This result of wars based on deceit caused major loss of life and destruction of nation-states that were fully functional. The death toll and total crippling of economies are major crimes against humanity, and no legal action is taken against the ones who have ruined the Middle East and Afghanistan by depriving people of future opportunities in their own homelands.
The Rohingya Genocide
Who is behind the Rohingya genocide and mass displacement of the Rohingya Muslims, and why are the culprits not behind the bars yet? BBC’s article, “Myanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis” reported that “At least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the month after the violence broke out, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Additionally, Amnesty International research concluded that the Myanmar military also raped and abused Rohingya women and girls. Where is the slogan “Never Forget?” Where is the outrage over the genocide that Rohingya faced? Where is the outrage over the rights and freedom of Rohingya girls and women? Did the Burmese state not have elements of fascism that required the injection of Western democracy? While evoking outrage is not the objective of what has been recorded in worldwide media, the severest form of punishment should be served to those who used their political and military power to rape and commit Rohingya genocide.
A report published by UN investigators in August 2018 accused Myanmar’s military of carrying out mass killings and rapes with “genocidal intent”. Is the United Nations’ purpose only to publish reports and conclude what is apparent or does the United Nations serve a greater purpose? Is an international body of nation-states that came together to solve the problems of human race only attentive and swift in action when it comes to major global powers like the United States or European nations?
Aung San Suu Kyi, as noted in BBC’s report, rejected any allegations of genocide during her appearance at the ICJ court in December 2019. BBC article mentions, “While the ICJ only rules on disputes between states, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has the authority to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. The body approved a full investigation into the case of the Rohingya in Myanmar in November. BBC’s Roland Hughes reported in his article “Myanmar Rohingya: How a ‘genocide’ was investigated” that “Indiscriminate killing; villages burned to the ground; children assaulted; women gang-raped – these are the findings of United Nations investigators who allege that “the gravest crimes under international law” were committed in Myanmar last August.” Hughes, moreover, mentions that the UN report “says that the six military officials should face trial. It also condemns Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop attacks, and the UN’s outgoing rights chief this week said she should have resigned as a result.” The evidence that the UN collected is more than sufficient to put Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese military generals in jail yet the political noise and lack of action against the criminals seems to just halt as a result of political noise.
Furthermore, how ironic, and absurd it is that a Burmese military that carried out the genocide against the Rohingya Muslims turned against its own leader Aung San Suu Kyi who did nothing to stop the Rohingya genocide. In an article by Amy Gunia, “How Myanmar’s Fragile Push for Democracy Collapsed in a Military Coup,” Gunia writes that “The move came after Myanmar’s generals complained of fraud in the Nov. 8 election—citing evidence that is, at best, disputed.” While Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to protect Rohingya went unquestioned or unchecked, nor any international swift action was taken to protect the Rohingya from the brutality and animalistic behavior of the Burmese military, ousting Aung San Suu Kyi based upon the charges of “corruption” shows deprivation of morality in all its forms.
Two sets of groups, the Burmese military and Aung San Suu Kyi who were accomplices in their crimes against the Rohingya fell into a legal battle with each other over “corruption.” How could a Burmese military find corruption wrong but not the genocide of Rohingya? This shows that both parties are morally bankrupt. The absurdity of this is best for mockery. Gunia also points in her article, “But more recently, she has faced international scorn for her response to a violent crackdown by security forces against the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority. U.N. investigators determined that the violent campaign of arson, rape, and murder was carried out with genocidal intent.” Though proven that there was a genocidal intent, Aung San Suu Kyi whom the Burmese military discarded from her political position still protected the military. Gunia writes, “But Suu Kyi has publicly rejected accusations that the military waged a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.”
Israel’s continuous occupation of Palestine
It has been 55 years since Israel occupied Palestine by forced expulsion of Palestinians that has been well documented by major international organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International. No culprits have been arrested or held accountable for dehumanizing and displacing the Palestinians from homes they were once settled in. Mohammed Haddad’s points out in his article, “Mapping Israeli occupation,” in Al Jazeera that “From 1947 to 1950, during the Nakba or “catastrophe”, Zionist military forces expelled at least 750,000 Palestinians and captured 78 percent of historic Palestine.” Furthermore, Israeli forces ended up expelling 300,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1967. This form of oppression has been well documented, yet no action has been taken to assist the Palestinians in their struggle for dignity. Haddad highlights in his article, “According to Human Rights Watch, Israel is “committing crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” against the Palestinians.” Despite the overwhelming evidence of Israel’s transgression, no legal action or sanctions have been placed against Israel. How much evidence and how many investigations are needed to prove what the world has been witnessing for the past 55 years?
Amnesty International’s article “Israel’s Occupation: 50 years of Dispossession” points out, “Israel’s policy of constructing and expanding illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land is one of the main driving forces behind the mass human rights violations resulting from the occupation.” Israel has settled over 600,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank. As the Palestinians are stripped of their land and Israeli settlement has doubled down, the Western powers that are so concerned about democracy in the Muslim world deliberately neglect the brutal mass occupation of land where Palestinians are settled. Amnesty International notes “This “settlement enterprise” relies on unlawfully appropriated Palestinian resources, including land, water, and minerals, to produce goods that are exported and sold for private profit. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of settlement goods are exported internationally each year.” Not only Palestinians are removed from their homes, but the land also has been used for enterprise where local and international businesses have moved in to cater to the needs of Israeli settlers.
Why is Israel’s government not put on trial by the ICJ? Why are the IDF heads and its members who have caged Palestinians like animals not put on trial for atrocities that have been carried out for the past 55 years? Who is to hold Israel’s government responsible for its severe oppression where Israel’s government places “hundreds of Israeli military closures across the West Bank such as checkpoints, roadblocks, and settler-only roads, as well as the overall permit regime, make simple daily tasks for Palestinians who are trying to get to work, school or hospital a constant struggle?” Amnesty International further affirms “Israel claims the winding 700-km fence/wall is there to prevent armed attacks on Israel by Palestinians. But that does not explain why 85% of it is built on Palestinian land, including land deep inside the West Bank.”
When Palestinians attempt to make a stand against the barbaric treatment that they receive at the hands of Israel’s government and IDF, the international media jumps to labeling Palestinians’ self-defense as a terrorist activity. International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion declares, “Israel is (…) under an obligation to return the land, orchards, olive groves, and other immovable property seized (…) for purposes of construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (…) All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall.” The evidence against the state of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians for the past 55 years is well documented. Unfortunately, no Western power has thought about the young Palestinian girls and women whose social and economic rights have been taken away by Israel, but all Western powers are quick to scream about the rights of young girls and women when Islamic countries are discussed or when its Taliban and Afghanistan in the media. When will ICJ start to hold the government of Israel and IDF members, and all those who have been accomplices in committing massive atrocities against the Palestinians? Action is needed now to restore the dignity of Palestinians.
India’s oppression of Kashmiris
India’s oppression of Kashmiris has recently resurfaced with India’s revocation of Article 370 that allowed the natives of Indian-occupied Kashmir their right to make their own laws. Revoking Article 370 was used to lockdown the Kashmiri natives. CNBC reported, “On Monday, Interior Minister Amit Shah told India’s parliament that the central government would scrap Article 370, a constitutional provision that grants special status and allows the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir to make its own laws. The order was subsequently approved by the Indian President.”
India’s ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been elected as the ruling party, which BJP has used to implement their manifesto of Hindu superiority. BJP, also known as the RSS, was “Founded 94 years ago by men who were besotted with Mussolini’s fascists, the RSS is the holding company of Hindu supremacism: of Hindutva, as it’s called” according to Samanth Subramanian.
Subramanian points out in his article “How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart” writes, “In its near-century of existence, it has been accused of plotting assassinations, stoking riots against minorities and acts of terrorism. (Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in 1948 by an RSS man, although the RSS claims he had left the organisation by then.)” This is the BJP that has taken away the special status by revoking Article 370 from the Kashmiris who have been now under lockdown. The Western media is yet to highlight the freedom and rights of the women now caged in their homes by the BJP party. Why? Do Kashmiri Muslim women not deserve freedom and democracy as Western ideals dictate for the Middle East and Afghanistan? Where are the Western powers and their voices for Kashmir and its women, and where are the words of condemnation and sanctions against India’s government and its ruling party BJP, once designated as a domestic terrorist organization by the past Indian government. ISIS is condemnable because of calling for a caliphate but what about India’s BJP party that pushed India into an authoritarian and fascist state. Subramanian states, “But among its affiliated groups is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party that has governed India for the past six years, and that has, under the prime minister Narendra Modi, been remaking India into an authoritarian, Hindu nationalist state.”
A Hindu nationalist state means a state only for Hindus, and Hindu nationalist and extremist voices have been loud to call for genocide against the Muslims and other minorities in India. What is significant to emphasize here is, as Subramanian states “In its 72 years as a free country, India has never faced a more crisis. Already its institutions – its courts, much of its media, its investigative agencies, its election commission – have been pressured to fall in line with Modi’s policies. The political opposition is withered and infirm. More is in the offing: the idea of Hindutva, in its fullest expression, will ultimately involve undoing the constitution and unravelling the fabric of liberal democracy.” This is the mindset and ideology behind locking down Kashmiris and revoking Article 370, which strips Kashmiris of special status of autonomy. As a result of such atrocity, “Kashmir’s leading opposition politicians were arrested; they haven’t been heard from since. Justifying a draconian detention order, the government argued that one of these politicians deserved to be held because of his ability “to convince his electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers”. How worse could things get for Kashmiris and their representatives? What further evidence is needed for ICJ or United Nations to intervene for Kashmiris? Is there any legal entity with a moral backbone that can step forward and point wrong for what it is?
Ahmer Khan and Billy Perrigo mention in “What Life Is Like Inside the World’s Longest Lockdown” that “Even so, the lessons from the world’s longest lockdown appear to be less about epidemiology than democracy itself. ‘Even in the 21st century, in the middle of a global pandemic, 8 million people can be deprived of access to education, livelihood, entertainment, and mental health respite via a medium that has become an essential service for the rest of the world,’ says Choudhary. ‘Even democracies can kill the switch and take away all human rights.’ The lockdown of Kashmiris is evidence against India, the second largest democracy that stripped Kashmiris of their democratic rights. What India refers to itself and hopes that the Western world could also refer to it as “the second-largest democracy in the world” is no longer a democracy but an authoritarian state that has locked down an entire region that is Muslim majority and has been on a killing rampage within its borders, killing Indian Muslims and other minorities to purify India; thereby, making it a purely Hindu nation. This was the objective of Hitler once, to purify Germany from the Jews, and now Modi and his party has adapted the same ideals. When will the leadership of India and its ruling party BJP be held accountable for the atrocities they have been committing?
China’s Persecution and Confinement of Uyghurs Muslim
In China’s north-western province of Xinjiang, the Uyghurs are the largest minority ethnic group. The Uyghurs were rounded up in accordance with China’s state policy of persecuting the Muslim minority group. The camps were established in 2017, established by the administration of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping. BBC reports in “Who are the Uyghurs and why is China being accused of genocide?” that “China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against the Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups in the north-western region of Xinjiang.” Many human rights groups have reported that China has detained 1 million Uyghurs and locked up the Muslim minority in what the government of China terms as “Re-education Camps.”
China was able to take advantage of the Islamophobia, hyper-escalated by the Western governments and the Western media that gave China the excuse it needed to attack the Uyghurs. This form of oppression that the world is witnessing happened once in Germany where 6 million Jews were placed in concentration camps, and the world is reminded of such atrocities against the Jews every year. Washington Post’s Eva Dou writes in her article, “Who are the Uyghurs, and what’s happening to them in China?” that “Definitions differ for the emotionally charged term, but the Xinjiang camps have key similarities to the early Nazi concentration camps. They similarly targeted ethnic minority and political dissidents, with detainees explicitly expected to contribute factory labor. In both cases, the detentions were made without formal charges or trials.” The world is reminded each year of the Holocaust that has happened while the genocide of Uyghurs is happening presently, and the world powers are immobile to rescue the persecuted Uyghurs. Where are the United Nations and ICJ? Where is NATO? Who will step in to stop the atrocities happening against the Uyghurs presently?
BBC also mentions, “There is also evidence that Uyghurs are being used as forced labour and of women being forcibly sterilised. Some former camp detainees have also alleged they were tortured and sexually abused.” To once again raise the point that Western media and Western government’s lack of aggressive measures against the oppressors in China would merely be redundant and futile because the West also has been the accomplice to Uyghurs’ plight. China has used terrorism charges against the Uyghurs as an excuse, an unproven charge against the whole Uyghur group to justify their oppression against the Muslim minority group. Presently, what China has done to the Uyghurs is the result of hatred, paranoia, propaganda, and crusade led by the Western governments and Western media against Islam and Muslims.
What one sees is an international pattern where minorities, especially when the minorities are Muslims who raise their voices or come out to the streets to protest against the oppression that they have been facing for many years, such struggle against the oppression is politicized and instantly labeled as a terrorist activity. This logic and reason can no longer stand, and it must no longer be accepted. If the United States and Israel amongst other global powers could send warplanes and bomb the countries to preserve their own interests and the “freedom” of its people, then why cannot minorities that have faced years of torture and oppression not come out to the streets to protest and defend themselves?
The only reason that the United States continues to ring alarm bells against China’s oppression of Uyghurs is that the United States own economic interests are being challenged by China, because China has appeared as an equal or better force economically and militarily, and China has surpassed the United States in every sphere. It has been well recorded that China has been targeting Muslim religious figures and banned religious practices in the region and destroyed mosques. Dou further explains in her article that “Starting in 2017, China carried out a sweeping crackdown in its northwest Xinjiang region under the banner of counterterrorism. It was a harsh campaign to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur population, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group native to Xinjiang.” If the so-called tyranny of the Middle Eastern “dictators” checked off the Western powers’ criteria to destroy the Middle Eastern nation-states and Afghanistan, why do Western powers become numb when it comes to nations like Israel, Burma, China, or India where the world is seeing atrocities happen against the Muslim minorities?
In December 2020, BBC’s research recorded that up to half a million Uyghurs were forced to pick cotton in Xinjiang. BBC asserted that “there is evidence that new factories have been built within the grounds of the re-education camps.” Dominic Raab who is the UK Foreign Secretary stated that the treatment of Uyghurs is described as “appalling violations of the most basic human rights”, and the UK parliament declared in April 2021 that China was committing a genocide in Xinjiang.” What evidence is further needed to step in and capture the culprits behind the Uyghurs genocide? Does the West not see other evil men besides Bin Laden or criminals that just appear in the Middle East? Ironically, the damage that the West has done through its propaganda against Islam and Muslims, which led to China also being an accomplice in their oppression against the Muslims, the Western powers whose economic world standing is now being challenged have united to capture all the statistics in support of Uyghurs. BBC writes, “The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found evidence in 2020 of more than 380 of these “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, an increase of 40% on previous estimates.”
With placing Uyghurs in labor camps, China also used technology to surveil the Uyghurs. Dou writes, “During the same period, the Xinjiang government rolled out a high-tech surveillance system across the region that tracked Uyghurs’ movements through police checkpoints, facial recognition surveillance cameras, and house visits by officials. Dou finally concludes her article, which has been emphasized in this article as well, “Many countries, however, have been muted in their responses, as Beijing has warned foreign governments not to interfere in its internal affairs.” How long can the world stay silent for atrocities being committed for the political and economic interests of the ruling elites?
In the past two decades, the invasion of the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Rohingya Genocide, Israel’s continuous occupation of Palestine, India’s occupation of Kashmir, and Uyghur Muslims’ imprisonment are nothing less than vile crimes or atrocities that cannot be ignored. Behind such atrocities are people who should be tried for war crimes, but they roam the world free because of the political power they held or still hold. Unfortunately, we live in a time where lies and hypocrisy are the best tools that allow people in political seats to commit atrocities in the name of freedom and democracy or in the name of anti-terrorism measures that have ruined nation-states, cultures, religious identities, and economic structures of societies that wanted a better future that would work for them within their respective regions.
Human Rights groups, Amnesty International, the United Nations, and many organizations that have numbers of reports and significant data to charge the culprits behind such crimes against humanity remain stationary. The United Nations, ICJ, and NATO that are supposed to step in and bypass the political noise to bring criminals swiftly to justice are lost in the political noise and continue to cater to the global powers when the crimes of these culprits are very clear.
The Muslim world was served quick justice, but now that it has weakened, and has Muslim minorities suffering under Israel, Bruma, India, or suffered under the bombing of Western nations, no international entity has risen to protect the Muslim minorities. As a result, thousands have died, millions are displaced out of their native homes and regions where they were living once and are “re-educated” either according to the Western ideals of democracy attached to warplanes, dropped on them daily, through guns, drones, or fighter jets or through Chinese manifestos.
Have all of us lost our morality and sense of justice that we can no longer differentiate between right and wrong, justice and injustice, innocent and oppressor, lies and truth? The past two decades have seen world leaders that have brought havoc to the world and because of the actions of such individuals, the world has seen nothing but chaos. And in that chaos, Afghans, Palestinians, Iraqis, Rohingya, Kashmiris, and Uyghurs are left with no future or hope. In an unjust world, is there an international entity, worthy of serving justice that will come to the rescue of the victims of genocides that are happening before us, those who have died, and the future generation that is left to mourn?