Category Archives: Human Spirit

Love in a time of fear: an interview with Dashni Morad

‘The Shakira of Kurdistan’ discusses feminism, Kurdish unity, and healing the scars of war.

By Benjamin Ramm. Published 3-30-2017 by openDemocracy

Dashni Morad. (Credit: John Wright, February 2016)

As the battle for Mosul nears its conclusion, the fate of civilian survivors remains uncertain. The Kurdish singer and humanitarian Dashni Morad, whose youth was defined by conflict in the region, aims to highlight the psychological scars of living under a brutal regime. In 2014, Morad raised funds for refugee camps outside Mosul, where she witnessed the impact of three years of war on displaced children. Tutored only in fear, the children are aggressive even in play: “it made me so upset to see that a kid can be taken from its inner child”, she says. “It is the worst thing you can do to a human being – to take away that magical world”. Continue reading

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Nadia Murad recognized by Occupy World Writes on IWD

“I have met young girls who were raped at an age when they didn’t even know what the word meant. I met people who lost their entire families; whole families were wiped out.”

Written by Carol Benedict

In 2014, ISIS advanced on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq (also known as Şengal in Kurdish), capturing or killing thousands of Yezidi (Ezidi) people. Many of the women were taken as sex slaves into the ISIS barbaric practices. Nadia Murad Bassee was one of those women. She survived long enough to escape.

Driven to end the suffering for her community in captivity and to stop an enemy bent on genocide of the Yezidi people, Nadia began to tell her story. Again and again. It became a burden of reliving those moments of hell so others would not have to. It meant revealing the most horrific details of her ordeal to get people to understand and listen. It is easier to hide than to step out of the shadows. Nadia did that, knowing full well what it meant.

In an interview from October of 2016, Nadia commented, “I was not raised to give speeches. Neither was I born to meet world leaders, nor to represent a cause so heavy, so difficult,” she said.

But she would continue “so that one day we can look our abusers in the eye in a court in The Hague and tell the world what they have done to us,” she said. “So my community can heal. So I can be the last girl to come before you.”

Murad was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, was named a United Nations good-will ambassador on behalf of victims of human trafficking, and she was widely mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016.

NADIA’S MESSAGE

Being a survivor of genocide comes with great responsibility –for I am the lucky one.  Having lost my brothers, mother and many more family members and friends it is a responsibility I embrace fully and take very seriously.  My role as an activist is not just about my suffering  — it is about a collective suffering.  Telling my story and reliving the horrors I encountered is no easy task, but the world must know.  The world must feel a moral responsibility to act and if my story can influence world leaders to act then it must be told.

After the Holocaust, the world decried, “never again” but yet Genocide occurs with haunting frequency.  What’s puzzling to me is that it occurs in full view of the world community.  When ISIS trapped the Yazidi community on Sinjar Mountains, the world watched and world leaders chose not to act.  In fact, we still find ourselves begging the United Nations to act – to stop ISIS – to hold ISIS accountable for all the horrific crimes committed. A fundamental goal for me is to fight impunity for crimes committed against all margined communities devastated by global terrorism.

I am committed to leading a campaign to prompt peace through de-radicalization. I will focus my power to deliver a message to the Muslim world to condemn extremism, particularly against children and women, carried out in the name of Islam.  We must work together to counter terrorism and deter the youth  from joining or supporting radical groups and united to teach all youth the importance of tolerance towards the beliefs of others.

Recent terrorism brought sufferings beyond our any understanding, and women and children have become the population mostly affected, notable, human trafficking and mass  enslavement have become a tool used by terrorists to humiliate societies and humanity at large, I am committed to fight human trafficking and mass enslavement.

We cannot depend solely on the actions of the United Nations and world leaders.  Individuals can contribute to the fight as well.  If we all do our small part, in every corner of the world, I believe we can end genocide and mass atrocities against women and children.  If we have the courage to stand up and fight for those we don’t know – who live thousands of miles away – we can make a difference.   The world is one community and we need to act as such.

I ask you as a survivor and a friend, to join my Initiative and help all victims in the conflict zones, especially those targeted for their identify .  ISIS must be stopped.  Please contribute to this important cause, for we all humans that deserve to live peacefully.

With much gratitude,

Nadia Murad Bassee

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an indépendant researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State

Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.

By . Published 2-16-2017 by YES! Magazine

Josef Terboven, Reichskommissar for Norway during the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1945. Photo courtesy of The National Archives of Norway / Flickr.

Donald Trump’s obvious affection for authoritarians is prompting worried comparisons of our polarized country to the polarized Germany of the 1920s and ’30s. Since I’m known to see in polarization both crisis and opportunity, my friends are asking me these days about Hitler, the worst-case scenario.

I grant the possibility of the United States going fascist, but argue that will not happen if we choose the practical steps taken by progressive Nordic social movements when they faced dangerous polarization. Consider the Norwegians, who experienced extreme polarization at the same time as the Germans did. Continue reading

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Indivisible: A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda

Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.

Women’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017. Photo: VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

NOTE FROM THE INDIVISIBLE TEAM

Since this guide went live as a Google Doc, we’ve received an overwhelming flood of messages from people all over the country working to resist the Trump agenda. We’re thrilled and humbled by the energy and passion of this growing movement. We’ll be updating the guide based on your feedback and making it interactive ASAP. You can sign up for updates at www.IndivisibleGuide.com.

Every single person who worked on this guide and website is a volunteer. We’re doing this in our free time without coordination or support from our employers. Our only goal is to help the real leaders on the ground who are resisting Trump’s agenda on their home turf. We hope you will take this document and use it however you see fit. Continue reading

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Mexico: Massive Anti-Trump Rallies Staged Across Nation

Marches in over 20 cities across country to protest US President Trump

By Common Dreams. Published 2-12-2017

Mexico City March against Donald Trump, February 12, 2017

Tens of thousands of Mexicans protested Sunday against US President Donald Trump, hitting back at his anti-Mexican rhetoric and his depictions of them as “rapists” and “criminals” and to demand “the respecting of Mexico.

“Mexico must be respected, Mr Trump,” said a giant banner carried by protesters in Mexico City, who waved a sea of red, white and green Mexican flags as they marched down the capital’s main avenue.

In what is shaping up to be Mexico’s biggest anti-Trump protest yet, over 20 cities joined the call to march. Dozens of universities, business associations and civic organisations are backing the protest. Continue reading

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“Minnesota Nice” is not extended to water protectors!

Lake St. bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul on 1-27-2017. Photo: Screenshot from Fox 9 livestream

Yesterday afternoon, activists gathered on a bridge over the Mississippi River to protest the Trump administration”s executive order concerning the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines. It took place on Lake Street Bridge, near where Marshall intersects with Lake Street. To those not familiar with our city, this is where Minneapolis and St. Paul meet, over a river that has been polluted by industrial and agricultural runoff to the level that fish consumption advisories are common. The protest was peaceful, with the police shutting down access to the bridge from either direction and redirecting traffic to protect all citizens, including the protestors.

As many of you may know, Occupy World Writes is based in the Twin Cities. When most people think of Minnesota and the people who live there, they usually have two preconceptions about the place. The first is that it resembles the Arctic Circle during the winter (which it occasionally does), and that the people are basically decent, caring human beings. “Minnesota Nice” is one of those catchy phrases that our state tourism departments love, and use to their benefit.

We monitor local actions, on the ground or via social media feeds, where we can also examine different angles and hear perspectives from all sides of an issue. We also monitor the comments to see what kind of reactions the community that’s watching have. We were shocked, saddened and outraged by what we were reading. Some examples:

“Run ’em down!” “Arrest them all!” “Go get a job!” “This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!” “It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”

In other words, “WAAH! You’re inconveniencing me! I have to drive a whole two or three miles out of my way! How DARE you!”

“Run ’em down”: Vehicular manslaughter is a crime in Minnesota, as it is in all US states. To cause bodily injury with intent by using a motor vehicle against a pedestrian is also illegal. The protesters were there legally, as proven with the law enforcement officers protecting them.

“Arrest them all!”: In order to be arrested, a person must be breaking the law. These people were protected BY the police, not trying to escape them. Law enforcement understands that 1st Amendment rights and peaceful protests are completely legal. To arrest people for NOT doing anything against the law is an overreach, at best.

“Go get a job!“: Assessing one’s employment status by appearance alone is not a skill – it is a judgement. The activist community around here is the same as it is in most big cities across this country – very diverse. Most are employed; everyone who works, works hard. Some work 2nd or 3rd shift, some work over the weekends and have other days off during the week, and some are retired or full time students between class schedules. When people go to a sporting event, we don’t look at all the spectators and say “Go get a job!” Maybe this what these people CHOOSE to do when not at their jobs.

“This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!”: Assault is defined as an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. We have not been able to assess how motorists in cars across the city were “assaulted” by people standing on a bridge.

“It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”: The people we observed in the footage were not African American. They appeared to be a diverse group of white, native, latino and other sects that represent a cross section of the greater metro area. Many of the posters and other supporting demonstration gear was identical to what was seen in Standing Rock and Sacred Stone Camps in North Dakota, where people in the Twin Cities swore their solidarity with the water protectors.

What we observed the most was the total disconnect between what should be an obvious 1st Amendment right being exercised, and the assumption that this was somehow “illegal” and should not be allowed.

It does not seem to have occurred to any of those criticizing this action, that when the Bill of Rights was written, it was done so very methodically, in a certain order, for a reason. You would not need 2nd Amendment rights if you did not have 1st Amendment rights worth defending.

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Women’s March Against Trump Turns Into Global Day of Action

Over 600 marches will take place in 57 countries around the world

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-19-2017

Shepard Fairey’s “Defend Dignity” protest art, designed for the Women’s March and other inaugural weekend actions. (Image: Shepard Fairey/Obey Giant)

The Women’s March on Washington on January 21 has gone global, with over 600 “sister marches” planned in 57 countries that same day, as an international display of opposition to the far-right populism embodied by President-elect Donald Trump.

A map on the Women’s March Global site shows the hundreds of events worldwide:

A map of the "sister marches" around the world

With protests planned in Berlin, Oslo, Toronto, Nairobi, and other cities around the world, many organizers cite the threat to human and civil rights posed by Trump’s election.

“The recent elections in the United States have shown how real the threat is to our collective rights and liberties. We march together for the protection of our rights, our safety, our families, our health and the health of our planet—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our society,” write organizers of the march in Nairobi, Kenya, on Facebook.

“We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”
—Women’s March in Berlin
“Nationalist, racist and misogynistic trends are growing worldwide and threaten the most marginalized groups in our societies including women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQIA community, and people with disabilities,” states the Facebook page for the march in Copenhagen, Denmark. “The violence of the global capitalist system only upholds and strengthens these dangerous trends.”

In Berlin, Germany, organizers declared: “This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”

And in Sydney, Australia, organizers write that they are marching “to raise our voices in defense of women’s rights and against hatred and bigotry.”

Artist Shepard Fairey, famous for the 2008 “HOPE” poster of Barack Obama, has also designed along with other artists a new series of downloadable protest art for the march called “We The People.” The posters, featuring only images of women, call on observers to “defend dignity,” “protect each other,” and be “greater than fear.”

Huffington Post reported last week that organizers are hoping the global day of action will result in new coalitions and a worldwide movement to fight the rise of hate, xenophobia, and the far-right around the world.

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Post-Fascist Europe Tells Us Exactly How to Defend Our Democracy

Have your passports ready, watch your language, and other advice from a Yale history professor.

By . Published 1-13-2017 by YES! Magazine

Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933 and established a totalitarian one-party state. Photo from Imperial War Museums

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from the 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance.

Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom. Continue reading

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2016 Person of the Year Named by OWW

Editorial Note: Occupy World Writes has selected our 2016 Person of the Year. Our criteria is based on contributions toward uniting various peoples for a common cause, gaining world attention for that cause, and through pressure from these gains, has been able to affect change for the united people’s concern.

In 2016, we can think of no better example than that of Sacred Stone Camp co-founder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. Through her leadership, we now all appreciate the message that “Water Is Life.” Without her, a black snake would already be pumping poison under the sacred waters of Lake Oahe.

We honor you, LaDonna, by presenting here a story told in your own words. Thank you for your gifts to all of us; may we all learn by the example you have shown.

Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre

We must remember we are part of a larger story. We are still here. We are still fighting for our lives on our own land.

By . Published 9/3/2016 by YES! Magazine

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard at Sacred Stones camp along the banks of the Cannonball River. Photo by Kat Eng.

On this day, 153 years ago, my great-great-grandmother Nape Hote Win (Mary Big Moccasin) survived the bloodiest conflict between the Sioux Nations and the U.S. Army ever on North Dakota soil. An estimated 300 to 400 of our people were killed in the Inyan Ska (Whitestone) Massacre, far more than at Wounded Knee. But very few know the story.

As we struggle for our lives today against the Dakota Access pipeline, I remember her. We cannot forget our stories of survival.

Just 50 miles east of here, in 1863, nearly 4,000 Yanktonais, Isanti (Santee), and Hunkpapa gathered alongside a lake in southeastern North Dakota, near present-day Ellendale, for an intertribal buffalo hunt to prepare for winter. It was a time of celebration and ceremony—a time to pray for the coming year, meet relatives, arrange marriages, and make plans for winter camps. Many refugees from the 1862 uprising in Minnesota, mostly women and children, had been taken in as family. Mary’s father, Oyate Tawa, was one of the 38 Dah’kotah hanged in Mankato, Minesota, less than a year earlier, in the largest mass execution in the country’s history. Brigadier General Alfred Sully and soldiers came to Dakota Territory looking for the Santee who had fled the uprising. This was part of a broader U.S. military expedition to promote white settlement in the eastern Dakotas and protect access to the Montana gold fields via the Missouri River.

As my great-great-grandmother Mary Big Moccasin told the story, the attack came the day after the big hunt, when spirits were high. The sun was setting and everyone was sharing an evening meal when Sully’s soldiers surrounded the camp on Whitestone Hill. In the chaos that ensued, people tied their children to their horses and dogs and fled. Mary was 9 years old. As she ran, she was shot in the hip and went down. She laid there until morning, when a soldier found her. As he loaded her into a wagon, she heard her relatives moaning and crying on the battlefield.  She was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Crow Creek where she stayed until her release in 1870.

Where the Cannonball River joins the Missouri River, at the site of our camp today to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, there used to be a whirlpool that created large, spherical sandstone formations. The river’s true name is Inyan Wakangapi Wakpa, River that Makes the Sacred Stones, and we have named the site of our resistance on my family’s land the Sacred Stone Camp. The stones are not created anymore, ever since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mouth of the Cannonball River and flooded the area in the late 1950s as they finished the Oahe dam. They killed a portion of our sacred river.

I was a young girl when the floods came and desecrated our burial sites and Sundance grounds. Our people are in that water.

This river holds the story of my entire life.

I remember hauling our water from it in big milk jugs on our horses. I remember the excitement each time my uncle would wrap his body in cloth and climb the trees on the river’s banks to pull out a honeycomb for the family—our only source of sugar. Now the river water is no longer safe to drink. What kind of world do we live in?

Look north and east now, toward the construction sites where they plan to drill under the Missouri River any day now, and you can see the old Sundance grounds, burial grounds, and Arikara village sites that the pipeline would destroy. Below the cliffs you can see the remnants of the place that made our sacred stones.

Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.

Again, it is the U.S. Army Corps that is allowing these sites to be destroyed.

The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.

If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?

Today, on this same sacred land, over 100 tribes have come together to stand in prayer and solidarity in defiance of the black snake. And more keep coming. This is the first gathering of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux tribes) since the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Bighorn) 140 years ago. When we first established the Sacred Stone Camp on April 1 to stop the pipeline through prayer and non-violent direct action, I did not know what would happen. But our prayers were answered.

We must remember we are part of a larger story.  We are still here.  We are still fighting for our lives, 153 years after my great-great-grandmother Mary watched as our people were senselessly murdered. We should not have to fight so hard to survive on our own lands.

My father is buried at the top of the hill, overlooking our camp on the riverbank below. My son is buried there, too. Two years ago, when Dakota Access first came, I looked at the pipeline map and knew that my entire world was in danger. If we allow this pipeline, we will lose everything.

We are the river, and the river is us. We have no choice but to stand up.

Today, we honor all those who died or lost loved ones in the massacre on Whitestone Hill. Today, we honor all those who have survived centuries of struggle. Today, we stand together in prayer to demand a future for our people.

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

If you want to know more about LaDonna, we recommend you start with this article.

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Dakota Access Pipeline Permit Denied

‘For the first time in Native American history, they heard our voices.’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-4-2016

The water protectors have been battling the pipeline construction for months. (Photo: Joe Brusky/Overpass Light Brigade/flickr/cc)

The water protectors have been battling the pipeline construction for months. (Photo: Joe Brusky/Overpass Light Brigade/flickr/cc)

In a long-awaited victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, tribal leadership announced late Sunday.

The agency will not allow the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a reservoir near the tribal reservation, without a full environmental impact assessment that examines alternative routes for the pipeline. Continue reading

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