Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Commandos free kidnapped NYT journalist in Afghanistan
NATO commandos rescued a New York Times reporter held by the Taliban in Afghanistan during a dramatic airborne swoop in which his colleague and a British soldier were killed Wednesday, officials said.
Gunmen snatched Stephen Farrell, who has dual British-Irish nationality, and Sultan Munadi four days ago while they were reporting on the aftermath of a controversial NATO air strike on fuel tankers that killed scores of people.
Farrell and Munadi were the second team from The New York Times to be kidnapped in Afghanistan in less than a year. Their abduction highlights the growing insecurity in the once relatively peaceful north of the country.
London's Ministry of Defence said a British soldier was killed but refused to confirm media reports that British special forces were involved in the raid.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which deploys 64,500 troops from more than 40 nations against a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, confirmed the operation.
"Early this morning, joint forces from ISAF and Afghanistan entered a series of compounds in Kunduz and rescued the New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell," an ISAF spokesman told AFP.
Farrell was unhurt but his interpreter -- a 34-year-old father of two who was working in Afghanistan on a break from university studies in Germany -- was killed in a hail of gunfire, the newspaper reported.
In a brief telephone call Farrell, 46, told The New York Times foreign editor: "I'm out! I'm free!" the newspaper reported.
"Farrell told her that he had been 'extracted' by a commando raid carried out by 'a lot of soldiers' in a fierce firefight with his captors. Mr. Farrell said he had also called his wife," the newspaper added.
Until now, the kidnapping had been kept quiet by the newspaper and most major news organisations out of concern for the men's safety.
In a second phone call to a New York Times reporter in Kabul, Farrell said he and his captors heard helicopters approach before the dramatic rescue.
"We were all in a room, the Talibs all ran, it was obviously a raid," Farrell said. "We thought they would kill us. We thought, should we go out?"
Farrell said as he and Munadi ran outside, he heard voices. "There were bullets all around us. I could hear British and Afghan voices."
The Afghan governor in Kunduz, Mohammad Omar, said initially that it was a US military operation and that Munadi was killed by the Taliban during the raid, but Farrell told the paper he did not know who fired the fatal bullets.
Munadi advanced shouting "journalist! journalist!" but dropped dead in a hail of bullets just in front of his colleague.
After a minute or two, Farrell said he heard more British voices and shouted, "British hostage!" The British voices told him to come over.
Farrell's release comes 11 weeks after New York Times journalist David Rohde and a local reporter escaped following seven months in captivity after being abducted outside Kabul with their driver, according to the newspaper.
"We're overjoyed that Steve is free, but deeply saddened that his freedom came at such a cost," said Bill Keller, the executive editor of the New York Times.
"We are doing all we can to learn the details of what happened. Our hearts go out to Sultan's family," he added.
Farrell is an experienced and well-respected reporter who has worked for the New York Times since July 2007, largely in Iraq, and was formerly Middle East correspondent for Britain's The Times newspaper.
He was also kidnapped and held captive for around eight hours at gunpoint near Baghdad in April 2004.
Recent weeks have been bloody for journalists covering the conflict in Afghanistan, where a Taliban insurgency is now at its most virulent in the eight years since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the regime.
In August, three journalists working for US-based media were wounded in roadside bomb blasts in the country -- a correspondent with CBS Radio News, and a photographer and videographer working for the Associated Press.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
If Huntley, a member of an ethnic minority in his home country, cannot be considered a refugee, then what are the criteria for asylum seekers to be judged? The argument from some quarters (including, it seems, the author of the article below) is that because Huntley's ethnic group was initially the 'oppressor', he has now got no right to claim asylum now the shoe is on the other foot.
Even if this were the case, the implications of that statement cannot be described in strong enough terms. The past actions of an ethnic group negate any future right of theirs to be considered an oppressed group?
Think about that.
During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Hutus killed anywhere between 500,000 and a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in an orchestrated campaign lasting three months. It can, and has been argued that the Tutsis were formally the oppressor group. Does that mean they have no right to be considered victims of the genocide?
History has shown that the shoe can shift to the other foot quite quickly, and many ethnic feuds, particularly in Africa, have lasted for centuries. To say that the group that "started it" are condemned to be the oppressors, and never the victims, for all time is plain rubbish and denies the basic realities of history.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Huntley himself is a fraud. But his arguments aren't. To deny white South Africans as a category the right to be considered an oppressed people denies the realities of life on the ground in South Africa. If his stories of multiple stabbings are true, considering the area he comes from, he is either the unluckiest man in Cape Town, or else he was out doing things he shouldn't have been doing in areas he shouldn't have been.
But his case is hugely important. It is not about the man, it is about the case. Huntley opens the door for questions about ongoing discrimination in South Africa, fifteen years after the end of Apartheid. No moratorium was placed on "restructuring", Affirmative Action or BEE, leading one to assume they will carry on indefinitely.
Finally, the article below is posted not because I agree with it, but because I largely don't. The assumptions contained in it are worth noting and he does make some good points, however, and it does make an interesting read.
Huntley’s stunt a symptom of growing white amnesia
We can afford to lose a hosepipe salesman to Canada and we may want to. But we need to tempt back home those living abroad with skills that are urgently needed to solve SA’s problems, writes Carlos Amato
Perhaps Brandon Huntley has pointed the way forward. If Canada is happy to welcome enterprising South African jerks, we should seize the day by offering Ottawa a bulk deal: buy 10 of our doctors and get a hosepipe salesman, a sports administrator, a lion canner and an SABC executive absolutely free. No terms and conditions apply.
It’s easy to laugh at Huntley, but his brazen cheek is not just a joke. It’s a sad index of an alienated historical ignorance that plagues many white South Africans of his (and my) generation. Just as the blustering Julius Malema has no grasp of the immensity of this country’s leap to freedom , so do a swathe of young white South Africans who were children in 1994 .
The Malemas and the Huntleys inspire each other to greater depths; every bigotry needs an equal and opposite bigotry to flourish. For evidence of this, consult the multiracial festival of knee-jerkery that passes for political “debate” in the South African blogosphere. No matter how annoying Huntley and his ilk may be, the cry of “good riddance” is too glib and easy. The stubborn mental scar tissue of apartheid is clearly passing between generations, and we can’t export it. We have to heal it.
While fear and anger about criminal violence is entirely rational, white self-pity fictionalises both the past and the present. Most infuriating is a widespread white urge to amnesiac self-aggrandisement, linked to a ludicrous myth of white South African excellence. Because we’re privileged, we imagine we’ve somehow earned our privilege.
There’s nothing to be smug about. Barring a small minority of dissidents, the three apartheid generations of white South Africans nearly destroyed this country — whether through active or passive complicity in oppression. Only a tour de force of political genius from the ANC and a visionary National Party elite averted the cataclysm of civil war.
And now, with all the sins of our fathers and mothers so wisely forgiven, it remains astonishingly easy to lead an easy life if you’re a young, white South African. White wealth (like black wealth) has grown massively since 1994. Most of us have the priceless advantage of a decent education in a skills-starved economy, along with the assets of family surety, family property, and an abiding prejudice in our favour among white employers. These factors far outweigh the corrective prejudice of affirmative action, particularly since that policy nudges white graduates towards lucrative entrepreneurial and private sector work, and away from the public service, where our skills are so desperately needed.
Whites are too quick to forget that the crime wave is a long, slow reverberation of apartheid’s violence. The figures show this clearly: violent crime is slowly but surely abating, despite the chronic incompetence of our criminal justice system. In 1994-1995, 67 of every 100 000 South Africans were murdered; by 2007-2008, that toll had fallen to 38 of every 100000.
History does not absolve the government’s infuriating failure to slash crime to acceptable levels, or to educate our children or heal our sick. Nobody can make any sense of South Africa without looking through a double lens: identifying the roots of a problem, and then identifying how and why that problem isn’t being fixed. The paradox is that while apartheid directly or indirectly explains all our biggest problems, it doesn’t explain our solutions.
So do we carry on bickering and bitching and waiting for another political tour de force, or do we get on with the tough, incremental business of finishing the job we’ve started? Strangely, Huntley’s story offers a clue to the biggest single solution.
Leaving your homeland is not a betrayal ; it’s a healthy exercise of human freedom. All over the globe, millions of Brandon Huntleys are emigrating in pursuit of more money and more happiness.
Immigration is a vast, amoral game, in which skills are the points, and South Africa isn’t playing it. We’re losing far too many medical professionals, teachers and future hosepipe moguls for every hosepipe salesman that we lose — and cold cash is often a bigger factor than crime in motivating departures.
South Africa should be retaliating boldly and creatively. The state should be paying whatever it takes to attract the skilled foreign public servants we need to break our vicious circles. That’s an expensive project — but far cheaper in the long term than the monumental price of cyclical semi-literacy, sluggish innovation and appalling public healthcare.
At present, our absurdly defensive immigration law implies we are doing skilled foreigners a favour by letting them build our future. All the most dynamic modern economies, not least Canada, have been fuelled by the potent oxygen of immigration. South Africa has benefited richly from an influx of skilled Zimbabweans, but we need much, much more.
And there’s no room for jingoism or sentimentality in the immigration game. If skilled white and black South Africans choose to leave, they should not be condemned — and the state should actively tempt them to come home.
Most of them ache to return, not least those Perth-packers who mask their loneliness in a carapace of bitterness.
The recession has already turned the tide, and if the Zuma government tackles the crime crisis once and for all, the expats will swarm back in droves.Even Huntley should be welcomed home if the Canadians do get cold feet. Because idiocy is not a crime, and he’s not the only idiot among us.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
The South African government, both at home and in Canada through its High Commission there, called the verdict racist, and said that the ruling is a stain on the reputation of South Africa. The government also defending its record on racial reconciliation.
Dr Abraham Nkomo, South African High Commissioner to Canada told the Saturday Star that he had been informed of the Canadian government's decision and that the court would take between 30 and 90 days to review the decision.
"They have understood our case and submission and want to place on record that they have a very high regard for SA's track record, its interracial harmony and democracy that has been observed in our country," he told the Saturday Star on Friday.
The government expressed outrage that it had not been consulted on the decision, but this rarely occurs in asylum cases and there are assessed on a case by case basis without consultation with the government involved. Doing so would not help the applicant, as most refugees will be coming from an unstable country where the government can't be trusted anyhow. At least, that's the assumption.
Huntley is no doubt a chancer, and hardly a poster boy for the plight of the many white South Africans who live in daily fear for their lives, particularly in the rural areas where they are seen as easy targets for roving bands of thieves. The death toll now stands at 3,082 the number of rural dwellers who have been brutally murdered - often having been tortured and/or raped first - since 1994. Huntley lived in the relatively much safer middle-class suburb of Mowbray, which, while a little run-down in parts, is a far cry from the free-for-all slaughter that takes place in many parts of South Africa.
So where is the South African government's outrage towards the Irish government, which has seen fit to grant asylum to 46 citizens of South Africa? And, indeed, on what were their claims based? They are presumably black, and as the High Commissioner quoted above says, crime is no basis for asylum. Will he be appealing for their return?
I think not, because this is about race, pure and simple. Like many so-called "liberation" movements, the ANC can't bear to admit that not only might they have got it wrong, but they might themselves be seen as oppressors in some quarters. Huntley is an innocent, he was 17 when Apartheid ended. He and his family, as middle-class suburban Capetonians, may very well have been firmly against Apartheid. But now, he is discriminated against by Affirmative Action policies by virtue of his white skin.
Just as many of his generation (Huntley is the same age as me) are now suffering although they have never cast a vote in favour of racial segregation, they are now being targeted by a generation of criminals who have never in their lives been discriminated against; highjackers start as young as 13 - and they were born after 1994.
The New South Africa is a story of waves of crime perpetrated by a generation born with the world as their oyster, claiming as justification for their atrocities a revenge for imagined crimes that never touched them, and directed against an innocent generation of white South Africans whose parents were willing to give democracy a chance.
Government policy has only intrenched racism against whites. And what the Brandon Huntley case proves, is that they can't even see it.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
A choice must be made. The argument for allowing such refugees in order to protect them from barbarity at home is in direct confrontation with the idea that "their culture must be respected". This man may have been rescued from some kind of poverty and oppression - but because he was told his culture would be respected, now his daughter has to suffer her entire life from his barbarity.
Amsterdam - A Dutch man faces a possible six years imprisonment for having allegedly performed a domestic circumcision on his own daughter, a court in Netherlands heard on Thursday.
The public prosecutor at the court in Haarlem, north of Amsterdam, requested the sentence against Moroccan-born Mustapha el-Meddioui, 30, for allegedly circumcising his five-year old daughter.
The accused has dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality.
The prosecution requested the sentence saying that the girl has been permanently mutilated.
The father was arrested last year after the girl told her foster mother her father "put scissors" in her genitals.
Investigators later established the girls' clitoris and inner labia had been cut off.
Accusing the public prosecutor of "racism", el-Meddioui however denies responsibility and says other people, such as the girl's foster parents, probably mutilated his daughter.
The girl made allegations of sexual abuse, but experts said this would be hard to prove in court.
A verdict and possible sentencing is due on September 17. - Sapa-dpa