Thursday, September 1, 2011

Obstructing Business: South Koreans on the March

I was in Seoul, South Korea this month at the invitation of the wonderful EBS TV Documentary Festival, and was truly, happily surprised to see a resurgence of activism among ordinary Koreans. 

Don't get me wrong. Since its founding, Korea has had a tradition of fierce, die-hard activism (which Koreans themselves may attribute to a diet high in garlic and red pepper, as well as their commitment to social justice), but this ferocity seemed to have gone dormant in the mid-nineties. I was overjoyed to find that this was no longer the case.

While in Korea, I had the opportunity to slip away to Jeju-do for a few days. It had been 20 years since the last time I had visited the island, when I had gone for vacation like most visitors to Jeju-do. An idyllic, sub-tropical climate and a UNESCO heritage site status have made Jeju-do an extremely popular tourist and honeymoon destination, while the remoteness of the island from mainland Korea has bred a unique and independent culture.

In 2005, Jeju-do was dubbed "Island of World Peace" by then Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. This was perhaps in an effort to scrub itself clean of a bloody past, as Jeju-do is the site of one of the most disturbing and grisly episodes leading up to the Korean War

Under the leadership of American puppet Syngman Rhee, right-wing paramilitary forces from the mainland waged a brutal campaign against a "communist" uprising which, at the most conservative estimates, killed 30,000 people (one-tenth of the population of the island) and displaced countless others. This memory of the April 3, 1948 massacre is still vivid in the minds of Jeju-do villagers, who are once again mobilizing against repression.

One might also see this designation of "peace island" as a hopeful talisman against further abuse, but for several years the South Korean government, at American urging, has been relentless in its attempts to build a naval base on Jeju-do, and now have their sights set on the tranquil coastal village of Gangjeong.

Members from the international community, including Japanese people from Okinawa Island (where the U.S. has military bases) join locals in Jeju Island to protest against the construction of a U.S. naval base.

While offering several reasons for building the base -- to protect commercial interests, to serve as yet another defense against a belligerent North Korea -- most of the islanders understand that the base at Gangjeong will offer little protection against a possible attack by North Korea, functioning mostly as a proxy for American missile defense against an ascendant China. 

In other words, American militaristic posturing at a grievous cost to the local ecology -- an unwelcome combination to the island, and to a region that has suffered enough war in the 20th century.

The Jeju-do I visited this time around was radically different from my previous experience. In addition to water sports and walks along the shoreline, the people there were engaged in some less likely activities for a paradise island, like chaining themselves to construction equipment, tethering their bodies to each other and to the site of the proposed naval base. 

I also attended the celebratory release of Sung Hee Choi, an artist who was being released from jail after three months and remains on probation. Her crime, like so many others protesting the base, was "obstructing business" -- in Choi's case, standing in front of oncoming cement trucks. 

Choi was in good company, as people from all sectors of the community, including the mayor of Gangjeong, have also been brutalized and imprisoned by police forces. Upon my arrival, I have learned that an additional 600 riot police, including water cannons and riot buses had been imported from the mainland in anticipation of larger protests, leaving the community on edge.

Korean activists prepare to chain themselves to construction equipment, tethering their bodies to each other and to the site of the proposed U.S. naval base.

Back on the mainland, things are equally restless. As the economy lags, and the government of South Korea moves increasingly to the right, labor has suffered greatly. Enter Jin-suk Kim and her "aerial protest."

In the southern coastal city of Pusan, a woman named Jin-suk Kim has been confining herself in a high-rise crane for nearly eight months. Kim is a member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and has been up in crane no. 85 in the Yeongdo shipyard since January 6, in protest of severe layoffs by the Hanjin corporation (HHIC).

Incidentally, crane no. 85 was the site of another protest eight years ago -- but rather than a prolonged sit-in inside the crane, the protestor in question preferred to string a noose and hang himself from it.

Although initially flying solo in her aerial protest, Kim is not alone. Caravans of "Hope Buses" carrying thousands of supporters have been visiting the crane area to offer their support. Like the protests on Jeju-do, this has not been without obstacles -- one caravan was met with batons, tear gas, and water cannons as they tried to push the police line. 

The founder of the Hope Bus campaign, a poet named Kyung-dong Song, himself stands a vigil of sorts in the KCTU trade union offices in Seoul. If he leaves KCTU safe haven, he will be immediately arrested by the police hovering around the building day and night, waiting for that opportunity. 

This is the price Mr. Song will pay for successfully "obstructing business" and organizing large demonstrations without a government permit. Again, just this past weekend in Seoul, hundreds of miles from the no. 85 crane in Pusan, 9,000 police have been deployed to disrupt around 2,500 "Hope Bus" protestors demonstrating against the Hanjin layoffs with water cannons and other means of force.

Hanjin is hardly the only corporation being targeted by this resurgent labor movement. The ordinary citizens who protest the naval base on Jeju are also protesting Samsung, a chaebol (family-run mega-corporation), which has offered obscene bonuses to upper management while laying off thousands of workers, and which stands to profit from the construction of the base in Gangjeong.

And here we find a lovely coalescence, as these protestors are not "labor," strictly speaking. Many of the activists I met in Korea told me how inspired they have been by the Arab Spring protests, and of their hope for a similar "Asian Spring" in South Korea and elsewhere to fight against corporate greed and militarism. 

Accordingly, the Hope Bus campaign found support not only from labor, but from the disabled, sexual minorities, religious figures, and other groups, all of whom stand unequivocally opposed to the immoral practices of the chaebol culture. 

And it is not only Koreans getting involved. Renowned American feminist Gloria Steinem has offered her voice in support of the protestors on Jeju-do, and prominent anti-war activists from the west have arrived on the island to join in the opposition. Figures like Noam Chomsky are coming out in support of Jin-suk Kim and the Hope Buses.

What I saw in Korea was a beautiful thing, true solidarity among people of different interests and nationalities, thousands of people, ordinary people, who have found that when they speak as one, it is impossible not to hear them.

Exclusive cartoon by Brazilian artist Carlos Latuff, hero cartoonist of FREE PALESTINE cause. Here he extends support to Jeju Island villagers who protest against the construction of the U.S. naval base. cartoon translation: shark's teeth IMPERIALISM bites green Unesco site JEJU ISLAND ... but locals resist!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

International Day of Missing Persons: Amina Masood: The UN

The United Nations marked today [Eid] as the International Day of the victims of enforced disappearance. 2011 is sorrowful for Families of Missing Persons of Pakistan as International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance and Eid fall on consecutive days.

For some, it's the 1st without a family member, for others, the 5th and some, the 10th.

"Enforced Disappearance” is a legal term of international law. It denotes a disappeared or missing person who has been kidnapped and detained illegally by state run institutions, placing them outside the protection of law; the very institutions which are created and constituted to prevent citizens from all atrocities including kidnapping.

It is akin to being robbed by your own watchman.

The perpetrators of this crime not only kidnap people, but harass their families to the point that most of them don’t dare launch a complaint.

More than 1200 families have contacted and registered their cases with Defence of Human Rights. Due to hurdles and lack of enough funds, Defence of Human Rights is representing only 322 cases in Supreme Court. 

Punjab has 174 cases, KPK 96, Balochistan 19, Sindh 25, Azad Jammu Kashmir 7, and Islamabad Capital Territory with 11 cases.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances asserts:

“Unfortunately, enforced disappearances continue to be used by some States as a tool to deal with situations of conflict or internal unrest. We have also witnessed the use of the so-called ‘short term disappearances,’ where victims are placed in secret detention or unknown locations, outside the protection of the law, before being released weeks or months later, sometimes after having been tortured and without having been brought in front of a judge or other civil authority.

This very worrisome practice, whether it is used to counter terrorism, to fight organized crime or suppress legitimate civil strife demanding democracy, freedom of expression or religion, should be considered as an enforced disappearance and as such adequately investigated, prosecuted and punished.”

On this day, Defence of Human Rights Pakistan needs to draw your attention to thousands of Pakistani families aggrieved for years whose loved ones [brothers, sisters, Fathers, Mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters and small children] have been abducted by local and foreign agencies.

Our intention as voice of Missing Persons and their familes are acording to international law, keeping anyone "missing" is illegal.

United Nations convention decalred this as a "crime against humanity."

When a loved one is kept in secret confinement without any contact with or for their family, often for years, it is the worst torture on Earth.

Defence of Human Rights enjoys a unique status in the fight against Enforced Disappearance as an organization created and run by the victim's families. We have been making efforts, and struggling day and night for years to trace our loved ones.

The sufferings and agonies involved in illegal abductions are enormous and must be dealt as priority.

Defence of Human Rights is supported by all factions of the society. The only faction unmoved is the Government of Pakistan.

The need to intensify pressure on the Government of Pakistan demands: 

88 countries have already signed it. We also demand to stop all brutal, inhumane treatments and tortures in jails and secret detentions.

We please to raise this issue in parliament and take measure to ratify the UN's : International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance"  and to legislate proper laws to end this shameful practice.  

We demand that Enforced Disappeared and their families be given rehabilitation, compensation and all the medical and psychological treatment required, provided by the government.

On this occasion, we thank civil society, the lawyer’s community, political parties, groups of civil society, and students for sharing our grief and taking part in our struggle.

We also thank international human right’s associations
for their extraordinary support: 

Amina Masood Janjua, Chairperson, DHRPK
(Campaign for the Release of Missing Persons in Pakistan)
3rd floor Majeed Plaza, Bank Road Rawalpindi Cantt

Sunday, August 28, 2011

100 Thousand Poets For Change: A Global Movement

500 Events – 400 cities – 95 countries

What kind of CHANGE are we talking about?

  • To create, perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously.
  • Global solidarity.
  • Political/social change.
  • Transformation towards a more sustainable world.
  • To move forward and stop moving backwards.

Global events HERE
Global Posters HERE

Do you want to join your voice across the planet in a demonstration/celebration of poetry to promote effective social, environmental, and political change? 

100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE is a global event on September 24, 2011

To participate or organize your own event, sign up on Facebook or contact 100 Thousand Poets for Change at

Don't just say: Be a part of the change. 
Get out there and BE the change.  

Organized by:

Michael Rothenberg: 

Terri Carrion: 
Associate Editor, Visual Designer Big Bridge Press and zine

Susan Marie 

Write, Speak, Create, Peace. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Educate Pakistan!

The Youth of Pakistan are focusing on what is most needed in Pakistan, as a whole. Please watch the video below, share it and become a part of the solution.

On Sunday, August 28 · 8:00pm - 9:30pm, PYA Canada will hold an Iftaar Fundraiser Dinner to Help Educate Pakistan!

Iftaar is an evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Iftaar is often done as community, with people gathering to break their fast together. This month is about giving [the wealthy] and receiving [those in need.]

To become a part of the event, you can view the details HERE. Donate, share and educate yourself while educating others.

To view photos on recent work in schools damaged by 2010 floods in Pakistan, which this event supports, see below:  

Floods affected schools renovation drive


School Renovation # 2 & 3 [Delivery 40th]


Flood Relief & Rehab Delivery # 41


To attend, purchase ticket online by clicking on the "paypal" button HERE

Email your name to to make sure it were received and your ticket is reserved. If you cannot make it to dinner and wish to contribute,  please use paypal link above. 


For more info:

For tickets:

  • Sana Khan (403) 619-4666
    Ayesha Nasir (403) 975-3872
    Asim Irfan (403) 835-1379
    Haris Basharat (403) 615-3677


Help us Educate Pakistan!

PARTICIPANTS: Arif Khan, Asad Tirmizi, Asim Mubashir, Fatima Fasih, Incia Khalid Qureshi, Pakeezah Malik, Romesa Khalid Qureshi and Maryam Noor Malik

PHOTO CREDITS: "ART FOR CHANGE" 2010 Artists: Ahmed Rammay, FurSid, M . Omair, Mariya Abdul Ghafoor, Mashooque Ali, Misha Tanveer, Rizwan Ahmed Qureshi, Sahar Azeemi, Sana Makhdoom and Shk. Shakeel Ahsan, "PHOTOGRAPHY FOR CHANGE" 2010 Artists"
Nabeel Ahmed and Obaid

VOICE-OVER:  Susan Marie

MUSIC: "Heartbreaking" - Kevin MacLeod

SONG: "Main tou daikonga" - Strings Band




Monday, August 22, 2011

Tunisia Sparks Arab Spring: Headmasters Forced to Resign

As of Sept. 28, all headmasters have now had no choice but to resign. 

Tunisia Sparks Arab Spring: 
Headmasters Forced to Resign 

After the Tunisian revolution, the Tunisian people began to dream after 23 years on a large scale. Opportunities to earn a decent salary was a main issue that sparked the Tunisian Revolution.

Shortly after the revolution, the people of Tunisia had yet to struggle. Accusations in different sectors became a problem. I am writing this article, as a Tunisian, to educate the world on an problem that media has yet to report.

My name is Hind Houas, I am the daughter of a hardworking Tunisian. My Father has taught his entire life so Tunisians can enjoy freedom and education. 

Currently, my Father is subject to resigning from his career as Headmaster. 

My Father, as well as all of the headmasters of Tunisia, have kept education in order, even under the strict dictatorship of Ben Ali. In the most unstable conditions during the Revolt, the Headmasters made sure education was key.

My Father informed me of his decision to resign from his job and it did not surprise me. He made a life changing decision based upon his ethics, morals, character and 17 years experience in the field of education as Headmaster in various parts of Tunisia. 

My Father loves his career. His decision was based upon the actions of the current Minister of Education [Minister Bakouche] who declared that ALL Headmasters must give up their current positions to new and younger educators, as well as sit for an exam in order to prove they were as worthy as the new and younger educators to teach in Tunisia. 

This announcement was a horrible shock to Headmasters. The Minister of Education previously asked for a meeting with the Headmaster’s Representatives and assured them that there will be no change. Headmasters have spent their lives serving their country. 

This unilateral decision taken by the Minister, without any discussion with the people involved, was wrong and likened to the previous government Tunisia so boldly revolted. This decision affects not only the careers of the educators, the education of Tunisia, but the families where a Headmaster is the sole provider. 

This is humiliating to Headmasters and caused them all to protest against this decision. The Tunisian media, or any media, did not report a single story about this grave situation. The Headmasters were not asked to speak. People of Tunisia were deprived of their jobs due to one decision made by the Ministry.

I thought of the repercussions of this rash and insensible decision: 

  • Father, Son or Mother left without a job, explanation or solution.
  • The affect on each family
  • How will the families survive?
  • Where will they live?
  • How will they pay for their children's expenses?

For my Father and other headmasters with whom I spoke, it is not a question of money, it is a question of dignity. All of them worked hard to get their jobs and maintain them. Years to make sure their schools are run no less than excellent.

My Father used to wake early with all Headmasters for the Tunisian Nation Exam [Baccalaureate Exam] to make sure the conditions were good for the students that sat for such exams. 

I have witnessed Headmasters be sworn at by angry students simply for caring for the well being of their students, the priority of any educator. 

What I am unable to comprehend is that legally, The Department of Ministry REWARDED Headmasters by depriving them of their career, placing them in a humiliating situation, and stripping them of their pride and dignity. This has not only occurred with my own Father, it has affected all headmasters of Tunisia and their families.

This is a grave abomination of human rights. specifically Workers Rights.

Headmasters have no one to speak for them, to help them defend their rights, and to defend their right to work. Most Headmasters live in houses inside the school provided by the school. What is going to happen to their families? Where are they going to live? One rash decision affects massive groups of people.

The Tunisian Media is turning their backs on this issue and Minister Bakouche is a temporary government minister until the first elections, Fall of 2011. 

You may be wondering why I chose to write of this. The answer is simple. I have experienced the fear and anxiety of knowing that your Father is about to lose his job for no rational reason, and is being deprived of a basic right guaranteed to all. I am also concerned about my beloved Tunisia.

After the revolt, the first thing the Ministry does is take away jobs and mix education with politics to reach a goal that does not include the people of Tunisia.  

My people, great and strong Tunisian people, sparked a worldwide event. Tunisians were the people that began The Arab Spring. I see people paying for mistakes they haven’t made.  That is the reason why I am making this world wide appeal.

We need help. We need the Tunisian government to cease being unfair to Tunisian Headmasters and find a solution. When the headmasters gathered in front of the Higher Education Municipality to protest civilly for days, no one was there to listen to them.

I dedicate this article to All Tunisia`s Headmasters from Bizerte to Ben Guirdan to tell them that even though the government does not  care, I do, as do the people of Tunisia. 

A human being deserves better treatment, deserves the right to freedom of expression and the right to work. 

I were raised by my Father to never accept humiliation or accept to be treated in an unfair and disrespectful manner. 

I am thankful to each and every one of you.
Hind speaks of the Tunisian Revolt that sparked the Arab Spring, Jan. 2011: 

© Hind Houas
Tatouine, Tunisia 2011 

For press/radio/media inquiry ONLY:

Friday, August 19, 2011

UN: Office of the High Commissioner: Pakistan: Journalists: Forced Disappearances

Since 2007, OHCHR has received numerous reports of abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. 

In the past eight days alone, we have received reports on the killing of one journalist, Munir Shakir, in Baluchistan on 14 August 2011, and the disappearance of another journalist, Rehmatullah Darpakhel, three days earlier in North Waziristan on 11 August.

In March, the High Commissioner spoke out about the escalating trend of journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in Baluchistan.

We call on all responsible parties to immediately stop such violations of human rights, and we urge the Government to take immediate steps to independently investigate these cases.

In response to a follow-up question about numbers of journalists killed and abducted:

Pakistan is cited by various journalist groups as one of the most dangerous if not the most dangerous place for journalists, with at least 16 killed in 2010. 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 9 journalists have been killed in Pakistan so far in 2011 and none of the cases have been fully investigated.

In Baluchistan alone, there were disturbing reports that 25 people,including journalists, writers, and human rights defenders,have been extrajudicially killed within the first four months of 2011.

In June 2011, a report on Baluchistan by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan revealed 143 cases of disappearances, including journalists, as of May 2011. 

The same report indicated a list of 140 missing persons, including journalists, found dead in Baluchistan between July 2010 and May 2011, which is a very large number indeed.


Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville, Geneva

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amal Mathluthi: My Word is Free

"I am those who are free and never fear, I am the secrets that will never die, I am the voice of those who would not give in, I am the meaning amid the chaos." 
- Amal Mathluthi - My Word is Free, Tunisia
January 14, 2011, Tunisia - Above the noise of the crowd, she sings for freedom. She says she is the secret of the red rose who calls the freemen. Whatever their faith, may God bless all those who seek their freedom throughout the world. And who sometimes have to fight for it. The language doesn't matter, listen to the spirit in the song.
I didn't know her name at the time, but I recognized the voice. It's the voice of freedom.

Amal Mathluthi - My Word is Free (Kelmti Horra)

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice of those who would not give in
I am the meaning amid the chaos

I am the right of the oppressed
That is sold by these dogs (people who are dogs)
Who rob the people of their daily bread
And slam the door in the face of ideas

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice those who would not give in
I am free and my word is free
I am free and my word is free
Don't forget the price of bread
And don't forget the cause of our misery
And don't forget who betrayed us in our time of need

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice those who would not give in
I am the secret of the red rose
Whose color the years loved
Whose scent the rivers buried
And who sprouted as fire
Calling those who are free

I am a star shining in the darkness
I am a thorn in the throat of the oppressor
I am a wind touched by fire
I am the soul of those who are not forgotten
I am the voice of those who have not died

Let's make clay out of steel
And build with it a new love
That becomes birds
That becomes a country/home
That becomes wind and rain

I am all the free people of the world put together
I am like a bullet
I am all the free people of the world put together
I am like a bullet

Pendent le bàl african du 13 Julliet à Bastille

Sunday, August 14, 2011

World Food Programme and The Horn of Africa

• WFP is rapidly moving life-saving food and nutritional products by sea, air and road to hungry populations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Djibouti to address the needs of the most vulnerable, especially young children and their mothers.

Young Girl Treated For Malnutrition At Ifo Hospital In Dadaab

• WFP is providing the right foods at the right time to prevent malnutrition in the first two years of life, which can lead to irreversible damage to children’s minds and bodies.

• WFP is working to strengthen the resilience of communities that live in drought-prone areas, working with governments and other agencies, using food assistance to support smallholder farmers and helping people to adapt to changes in weather patterns.


• More than 11 million people need WFP food assistance in five countries.

• In Somalia, WFP is planning to feed 1.5 million people, including 300,000 in and around Mogadishu.

WFP Food Aid At Dagahaley Camp In Dadaab

• WFP is looking at ways to reach a further 2.2 million in areas of the south that have been inaccessible since January 2010.

• WFP is reaching 3.7 million people in Ethiopia (including 226,000 refugees.)

• WFP is targeting 2.7 million people in Kenya (including 496,000 refugees.)

• WFP is also working in the Karamoja region of Uganda reaching 700,000 and in Djibouti (109,000.)

Refugees At Wajadir Line Up To Receive A Hot Meal

• The budget shortfall for WFP’s Horn of Africa operation for the next six months, taking pledges and confirmed contributions into account, is US $250 million.

• Operations in Somalia are among the highest risk in the world, with the loss of the lives of 14 relief workers since 2008.

• WFP is also providing emergency food assistance to 238,000 refugees, bringing the total number of people receiving food assistance in Ethiopia to 3.7 million.

Josette Sheeran And Kevin Rudd At A Temporary Registration Camp In Dolo, Somalia

• WFP is feeding 1.8 million people in Kenya (including 496,000 refugees). With additional resources and expected arrivals of commodities, Kenya CO will scale up to 2.7 million people in the coming weeks. The government of Kenya is feeding an additional 800,000.

• WFP is implementing blanket supplementary feeding for all children below 3 years in six Kenyan districts where malnutrition rates have been found to be well above the emergency threshold.

• Existing food and cash-for-asset activities to help people to be to be more resilient to future droughts have been scaled up to reach 760,000 people in arid areas.

• WFP is providing food assistance to about 496,000 refugees in Kenya. Approximately 417,000 are in Dadaab, near the Somalia border and about 80,000 in Kakuma (which hosts refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.)

• WFP is scaling up general food distributions to around 100,000 people from this
month, increasing to 109,000 in September when schools re-open.

Arriving In Dadaab 6

WFP will pursue efforts to mitigate risk, including thorough, robust assessments and monitoring, but we are calling on the international community to stand together in recognising the inevitable risks that will be present.

Easy ways to help


  • In the USA: Donate $10 to our efforts in the Horn of Africa by texting the word AID to this number: 27722
  • In Canada: Donate $5 to our efforts in the Horn of Africa by texting the word RELIEF to this number: 45678
  • In the UK: Donate £3 to our efforts in the Horn of Africa by texting the word AID to this number: 70303 
  • Place a donation banner on your site or blog. Choose from the selection we have here: Banner selection