Torturing Aristotle

An article from the Ovi magazine

Is there any way to identify the meaning of the word ‘torture’? I grew up through a dictatorship and I heard unbelievable stories about torturing and methods of torturing, then after the dictatorship and all the cases came to the courts we saw pictures of the victims and their bodies, we heard detailed descriptions and we saw it in their eyes. I even have a friend who went through that during those dark days.

torture01_400But then I have another friend whose father used to beat his mother and lock him sometimes for a whole a day inside a dark closet. My friend in his early fifties and he still has nightmares of that time and when he left home at sixteen he never returned, he never spoke to his father again and, according to him, the best day of his life was when his mother left his father. Isn’t this torture? What’s the difference or what’s the distance between the two cases? I know I have too many questions but honestly I don’t know the answers. For me is just inhumane!

I have seen with my own eyes what torture means in Sudan and Sierra Leone, I saw torturing in South Africa and I saw victims of torturing in Chile. One night a very good friend of mine, a lecturer in the University of Buenos Aires, who was a political prisoner during the dictatorship, opened her heart after a few drinks and started telling me what she had gone through. In the beginning there were tears but after a bit the tears became sobs and then when she started telling me about the rapes the sobs became silence. Then I was in tears. Her words were torture for me who was just listening, who never went through the same things.

When I was fourteen the dictatorship’s police arrested me as a suspect – you see on top of everything I had long hair something that didn’t go down too well with the ethics of a dictatorship – for two hours I lost every sense of where I was and what was happening to me and the only sensation I had left was the taste of blood in my mouth. My crime? I was walking in a street at the wrong time! I’m serious, that was my crime and straight away I became a suspect, that’s how dictators think and until my family found out and until they come to save me I had two broken bones and a face you could hardly recognize that it was mine. And I was just …fourteen! That’s how dictatorships think!

torture02_400For years a family friend lived in real hell with a husband who never touched her in the sense beating her but living in constant sentimental blackmails that reached her life and the life of her own kids. The worst part was that she could never talk about them, just having to live her hell, full of threats and mental violence. Is that torturing? I don’t know and the longer I’m thinking more and more cases coming to my mind. I can only sense that torturing is not only the visual but there are many kinds even the sentimental or the blackmail, it’s all torture and it’s all inhumane and painful.

Oddly 2,500 years ago Aristotle pointed that any confession coming through torturing should not stand in any court, 2,500 years ago and in 1987 the United Nations signed a treaty against torturing to get a confession. In the year 2008 we have Guantanamo!!! We obviously learned nothing! And did they use torture all through history? The states did, the kings and the lords did, the bandits did and criminals did, dictators and warlords, even the churches did. The Inquisition, they made torturing science. In a museum in Spain I saw for the first time an iron maiden, not the rock group, and only the sight of it was enough to scare you so much to confess just anything not going through that.

And there are states that still practice torturing, George W. Bush’s administration has even legalized them in Guantanamo, I’m not joking, the water torture is consider a normal practice to make terrorism suspects to confess. Aristotle didn’t know anything about George W. Bush back then, he only knew about democracy, poor chap! What remains? For me to apologize to my ancient compatriot, if he was still alive most likely he would be victim of torturing as well!

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The challenge

An article from the Ovi magazine

Living in the EU I have seen refugees for decades coming not only for a better future but for the simple reason to save their and their children’s lives and the bitter truth is that in the beginning of the twenty-first century the refugee reality becomes more and more challenging for all the world.

refugees01At this very moment more than forty million people all around the world have become refugees escaping from their homes, roots and countries because of violence and persecution and this doesn’t include a lot more millions that were forced to immigrate due to economic reasons. In contrast with the economic immigrants who are aiming the industrial west, refugees are often forced to escape anywhere as long they can survive away from their home violence and most of time anywhere is better than home.

refugees02_400And it is not only a civil war, warlords or a dictatorship the only reasoning, homosexuality is punished with death in most of the Middle East and Arab countries with Iran championing. And it doesn’t stop in the dark dictatorships, in Turkey to say anything about a Kurdish state or against the army means imprisonment, in Zimbabwe if you don’t agree with Mugabe you are an English spy and you endanger your life, in the ‘secure’ Iraq people sleep with a gun under their pillow.

People nowadays due to expanding information are more aware of their rights and rightfully they demand them, often having to face with a hard and injustice state. So you find people asking for the refugee’s status from the most surprising countries. The same time waves of refuges have to deal with local xenophobia and sometimes racism with latest example the embarrassing events in Soutrefugees03h Africa. The role of the hosting states becomes increasingly serious as well having except provide shelter and protection but to advocate and help to build a new life and this is were all the challenges start.

The role of the UN and the Refugee Agency is critical since they are oblige to make reality all the above, lead and help the host countries and most of all put a blueprint for all the government to secure health, education and protection for the refugees.

What we have to understand is that these people didn’t have a choice; the alternative to their fleeing would have been their life. And I have no idea how bold to make that for everybody to understand it, to tell you imagine living the circumstances that led them to their action is nothing to the reality they lived. Just think that 30,000 kids die every single day with the majority of them victims of wars and conflicts; just think what thousands of other kids have seen while our kids were playing in the park or at the seaside.

I don’t know if there is anything else to say but give a chance to these people who had none in their own homes.

Don’t let it be

An article from the Ovi magazine

Kids live their darkest times, not that they ever lived any better times since they have been the victims all through human history, but what they have to deal with today in the beginning of the 21st century with all this social and scientific advance is nearly unbelievable. Paedophilia is nothing new and has existed since the beginning of history and in some times it was not even a taboo and a crime, the use of kids as slavery is something that we saw even at the beginning of the last century, crimes with kids as the victims are immeasurable from the beginning of history. But we thought that humanity evolved.

And when I’m talking about evolution I don’t mean the physical or the technical evolution of the society but the social evolution where humanity became better and more aware of the environment as a wide meaning. Actuality and environment, where humanity realized the crucial part it plays and its role in this gigantic chain for survival, should evolve to something better. Respect to others’ rights didn’t even exist two centuries ago and it was a case of personal honour and ethics; nowadays there are laws to protect human rights and most importantly to protect the defenceless, much more to protect the kids. But what happens when the ones who are oblige to protect the innocent and the kids turn to be the bad wolves?

A leading UK charity organization, the organization Save the Children, accused peacekeepers in Ivory Cost, Sudan and Haiti for sexually abusing kids as young as six-years-old. The dramatic part of it is that this is not the first time peacekeepers have been accused for similar cases and it still remains to find the truth what happened in the former Yugoslavia and the many places the peacekeepers where based and there is a lot of talking for similar accusations.

A thirteen-year-old girl has already described in an interview how ten UN peacekeepers gang-raped her in a field near her Ivory Coast home and I quote her own word, “They grabbed me and threw me to the ground and they forced themselves on me… I tried to escape but there were 10 of them and I could do nothing. I was terrified. Then they just left me there bleeding.” Despite her testimony and recognizing her tormentors no action was taken against the soldiers. When the UN was informed and received a full report from the organization including a series of testimonies the answer was that they will study the report …closely!

According to the same organization, the testimonies they managed to collect were very few even to give an idea of the reality since most of the kids are scared to report anything in front the authority of the UN so the majority of these crimes go unpunished giving the criminals a chance to repeat their crime again and again. The UN spokesman, Nick Birnback, said to international media that it was impossible to ensure “zero incidents” within an organization that has up to 200,000 personnel serving around the world. “What we can do is get across a message of zero tolerance, which for us means zero complacency when credible allegations are raised and zero impunity when we find that there has been malfeasance that’s occurred,” he added.

I’m really sorry but I find his excuses very poor and sad. It’s pathetic if we excuse crimes like that blaming them on …human nature and I demand a better and more careful evaluation for the peacekeepers from the UN and the responsible officers. These people are not just soldiers, they are ambassadors of peace and arguments like …zero instincts have no room here but in a mercenary army out of a Rambo film! I’m not going to go after Ban Ki-moon, the UN General Secretary, I thought from the very beginning that he was the wrong person for the seat and unfortunately he hasn’t proved me wrong; but the act and the UN’s reaction probably shows that there is something seriously wrong with our society where we can excuse acts like that arguing about human nature.

Death Screaming in Darfur

This is an article published in Ovi magazine.

This week seven trucks with food on their way for the refugees in the camps of Darfur were stolen and their drivers were abducted. The UN’s World Food Programme announced that less than 50% of the deliveries actually reach the camps and the people of Refuges and, of course at the same time, the UN General Secretary is still negotiating who is going on a peace mission that hasn’t started yet and this ‘yet’ lays too heavily on humanity.

darfur01How many more are going to die? I would really like to finish this article exactly here hoping that Ki-Moon might read this and do something but I think I’m screaming in the desert, there is nobody there! Perhaps somebody didn’t make it clear to him that this is part of his job description, to take care of these people, to stop death, obviously they forgot to tell him and he thinks that he is a tourist with a cool title.

darfur02WFP says that 37 trucks and 23 drivers are missing and naturally drivers are refusing to risk their lives into a drive to Darfur. So it is not enough that less than 50% reaches the camps in Darfur due to bandit attacks soon there will be no drivers willing to drive what is left to these people. The WFP warns that the Humanitarian Air Service, which transports aid workers and medicines, might be forced to stop due to lack of funding. Mr. General Secretary if you take off the headphones with the music from your ears you might hear the people screaming, death screaming in Darfur.

Five years and the death-toll piles more and more bodies in Darfur and the responsibility is international, we cannot hide our heads in the sand, we are all aware of what’s going on in Darfur. For five years none, absolutely none, of the powers has done any move for the peacekeeping, including the African powers in the neighbourhood, the African Union is just watching!

darfur03_400Diplomacy has failed in every single way and I feel that we have become so cynical that pictures of kids with skull faces and swollen bellies don’t touch us anymore; we are just turning the page of the paper or zap to the next channel to avoid the advert. It’s not the case that diplomacy was not enough, diplomacy has failed, UN diplomacy has failed and the General Secretary holds full responsibility for that.

Even the International Criminal Court tried to get involved and despite the fact that Yugoslavia is blackmailed in dichotomy for not arresting the wanted war criminals, the people who actually acted genocide in Sudan are …free warlords controlling areas and plot in politics. It gets even worse when one of these warlords, responsible for a series of crimes after being appointed darfur04_400Defence Minister by the Sudanese government, was put in charge of the government refugees camps and responsible of monitoring the deployment of the AU-UN forces. This is the reality of Sudan, this is the reality the refugees of Darfur have to deal with, and this is the reality we deny to see. This is the damn reality the General Secretary of the United Nations deludes of seeing.

What comes next? We are all giving up, since miracles do not happen, and that’s the only way to save lives in Darfur, with a miracle. We’ve given up on human lives, we have given up on children’s lives, we have given up on our existence as humanity, since we are losing the elemental differences: our humanity!