It is said that 2016 may have been the year in which a coordinated terrorist attack involving bombs and knives reached Melbourne. St. Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square and Flinders St, possibly on Christmas Day. 400 AFP and ASIO officers and regular police arrested seven men. Four were charged: Abdullah Chaarani, Hamza Abbas, Ahmed Mohamed, and a fourth man. Little is known. Per The Age, ‘Police said the suspects were “self-radicalised” but inspired by Islamic State.’
Tunisians pulled off a few memorable atrocities in the West. A man ran over and killed 86 people in a truck careering along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The divorced bisexual French father of three and alleged wife basher at the wheel was shot dead. Though Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was Tunisian by birth, and ISIL claimed responsibility, actual links with terrorists still seem remarkably speculative. Such religiosity as he acquired was acquired very shortly prior to the attack, as in the fortnight prior. His phone suggested he loved men, women, booze and drugs.
Did you hear about the cyclist, Alexandre Migues, who attempted to open the 19 tonne truck’s cabin door to halt the attack as he and the truck were both moving? Chutzpah.
Then another Tunisian, whose asylum claim had been rejected, stole a lorry and drove it into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin killing 12 people and injuring at least 56. It seems the original driver of the stolen truck may have attempted to intervene, relegated by the hijacker to the passenger seat, taking a bullet to his brain for his efforts. This Tunisian had made a video swearing his allegiance to ISIL’s head honcho, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
There were coordinated bombings in Brussells at the airport and a metro station killing 32 victims, critically injuring 62 and injuring over 240 more. The ISIL terrorists had had a hand in planning the co-ordinated bombings in Paris the previous year. They were Belgians of Moroccan ancestry and a Swede of Syrian ancestry. Presumably this was part of an announced intention on ISIL’s part to bring terror to the people of nations who participated in operations against it.
There were masses of massacres elsewhere. On the first day of the year, for example there are some reports that Islamic State apparently rounded up 300 west African migrants and executed them in Libya. Not travelling beyond January still, on the 10th day of the year, Islamic State lined up 5 ‘apostates’ in Mosul and crushed them to death with a bulldozer.
The Nice attack occurred on Bastille Day, 14 July 2016. That month, for example, 23 people were killed and 50 injured in an Islamist attack by Bangladeshi born terrorists in Dhaka’s diplomatic district. One good looking, urbane, highly educated, English speaking terrorist may have been educated at Monash University’s Malaysian campus. More July massacres: 1. Three hundred and twenty-five people died, many burned alive, in the Karrada and Sha’ab districts of Bagdhad in two ISIL bomb attacks. More than 225 were injured. 2. Eighty mainly Hazara people died in Kabul when suicide bombers struck a protest march. Two hundred and sixty were injured.
The previous month saw a new twist on the recurrent and rarely reported mass shootings in the US: a 29 year old security guard, Omar Mateen, slaughtered 49 people and injured 53 others in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Though ISIL claimed responsibility, the CIA could find no links between Mateen and ISIL.
Yazidi genocide ISIL really was astonishingly evil. It is engaged in a genocide against the ancient and mysterious Yazidis, ethnic Kurds who speak Kurdish but do not identify as such. You may recall that it was Yazidis who were trapped up the top of that mountain by an ISIL siege in Iraq and were freed by President Obama’s intervention. The Yazidis were enthusiasts for the American and Australian invasion of Iraq because we protected them from time to time against everyone else who persecutes them. They are not Muslims but an amalgam of Zoroastrianism and other Mesopotamian religions including Christianity, which is why ISIL is seeking to ‘cleanse’ Iraq of them. They recognise Jesus as a prophet. They believe in reincarnation.
Almost unbelievably to my mind, one of the reasons why it is said that ISIL hates the Yazidis is because in the Yazidi story of the beginning of the world, God’s first creation, an archangel named Tawûsê Melek refused to bow to Adam after God made Adam out of some dust he had Melek bring up to heaven. This is the same Adam as Eve was fashioned from a rib of, regarded by Muslims, Yazidis and President Trump alike as the first prophet (except that the Yazidis say Adam was forgiven long before Jesus apparently unnecessarily submitted to crucifixion). Crazed thugs who purport to follow the teachings of a bloke born in the sixth century are therefore running around engaging in genocide and sexual war crimes at least in part because of a different idea about how the world was created a very long time before Muhammed came along.
ISIL literally enslaved Yazidis and thousands of them remained enslaved in 2016, though ISIL and the Yazidis is more a 2015 story. Sex slaves were sold in markets in Mosul and Raqqa for pitiful sums. ISIL gave the widows of men it executed to fighters as rewards. Its corps of fighters reduced, it kidnapped children, perhaps 900 in one go. Boys under 10 were put into religious education while those 10 and above were sent off to fight.
There is a resistance movement in which a lawyer, Khaleel al-Dakhi is prominent. Spies within ISIL territory provide information, as do Yazidi girls and women who escape by their own ingenuity. Then the resistance infiltrates ISIL territory and rescue the girls and women. It seems that Kurds, including battalions of women, are brave and efficient fighters. Yazidis too.
A UN report chronicled some of the terrible abuses of Yazidis in Iraq:
‘According to a press statement women interviewed by the UN spoke of being sold multiple times and having their young children and babies snatched from them. One woman told how she was sold to a 26-year-old Syrian ISIL member who raped her regularly for at least 15 days, threatening to kill her daughters if she did not submit.
Another woman was bought and sold to six successive men. She managed to rescue her seven-year-old daughter from the man who tried to abduct her, and tried to keep her safe by cutting off her hair and eyelashes, putting the child in a diaper and telling her to pretend to be mentally ill. However, in spite of this, an ISIL member tried to rape her daughter, driving the woman to attempt to kill her daughter and herself in despair. She eventually escaped with the help of a smuggler.
The report contains many accounts of men being separated from women, and of the mass killings of the captured men. In one instance, up to 600 men were reportedly killed in Tel Afar District. In other instances, members of the Yezidi community were forced to convert to Islam or be killed.’
But there is much truth in this observation by The Economist’s Robert Guest:
‘People are seldom moved by statistics. When they hear that 5,000 Yazidis have been murdered by IS, or that 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain in slavery, they struggle to process the information. But when a little, mouse-like Yazidi woman describes how she was violated by gloating, self-righteous thugs who called her a “dirty unbeliever”, they are outraged. It is the details that provoke the most horror. For instance: Nadia’s nephew, who was captured as a child, has been brainwashed into joining IS and now rings her up to threaten her.’
So read Mr Guest’s article about the super-spunky Nadia Murad, pictured, an eye-witness, survivor and escapee of the Yazidi genocide, a torture victim, the subject of war crimes. She wanted to be a make-up artist, but has now hired Amal Clooney to sue ISIL for genocide, and travels the world telling, over and over again, her horrendous story of gang rape and the execution all at once, more or less in her presence, of nearly all of her family, including her seven brothers. Alternatively, read The Girl Who Beat ISIS by Farida Khalaf.
Philippines The Philippines have two dreadful law and order problems. First, it has 100 million people, between 1.3 million and 3 million of whom are thought to be ice addicts. Secondly, a 71 year old named Rodrigo Duterte, was elected President on a platform of shooting the druggies dead in the street, drowning them in Manila Bay, or hanging them using fishing wire, which is pretty much what he has been doing ever since. Al Jazeera estimates that almost 6,000 people have been executed without the slightest judicial involvement in the half year since Duterte won the election. Though he is a former lawyer, he advocates and engages in extra-judicial execution by death squads. I was privileged to meet Dr Margaret Simons last year when we spoke together on a panel which addressed principally Victorian judges and magistrates on Social Media and the Judiciary. Her outstanding report from Manila in The Monthly is here. It is hard to know where to start with this guy whose contempt for the United Nations makes the Turnbull Government look like a bunch of Norwegian Quakers at a hardanger fiddle festival.
Duterte’s braggadocio about his philandering and comments about women makes Donald Trump look like Natasha Stott-Despoja. An Australian missionary, Jacqueline Hamill was gang raped and had her throat slit years ago. During the Presidential campaign, he joked ‘I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful, I thought “the mayor should have been first.”’ He declined to apologise, explaining ‘It was not a joke. I said it in a narrative. I was very angry when I spoke. I said “Sons of whores, she is as pretty as an American movie star. They got to her before me. So kill them all.”’ (He called everyone a ‘son of a whore’, including Barrack Obama, Filipino bishops and, it was widely thought until he clarified that he was talking about the traffic, the Pope.) Eventually he gave a kind of apology.
Mr Duterte also said ‘Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million – what is it? – three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.’ He bragged about shooting people dead from the back of a motorcycle whom he believed to be criminals. This occurred while he was mayor of Davao, an office he held for 22 years. He said he did not go to mass because if he obeyed the Ten Commandments, he could not get anything done as mayor.
Myanmar A civilian President was sworn in for the first time in 50 years. As the BBC said:
‘Five years ago Myanmar was an international pariah, rusting in the sidings. Sanctions were in place, and people were scared to speak their minds. More than 2,000 political prisoners languished in jail. … Where once people were jailed for criticising the junta, there is now a vibrant media and open public debate. The economy’s growing rapidly and a telecoms revolution is under way. With a few exceptions, notably the Rohingya minority, life for Burmese people has got better, and much of the credit for that must go to the stewardship of Thein Sein.’
Nevertheless, that would be small consolation if you were a Rohingya. The terrorism perpetrated, incredibly, by Buddhists under the gaze of an Oxford educated Nobel laureate who has accused the media of ‘concentrating on the negative side of the situation’, was up there with ISIL’s campaign of terror against the Yazidis. Both have succeeded in forcing the ostracised population to flee their territories. Unspeakable atrocities have been documented by the UN. A small minority of Buddhist monks have criss-crossed the still poorly educated nation whipping up hatred. That has resulted (admittedly in 2017) in the assassination of a constitutional lawyer and key player in Burbma’s democracy movement, Ko Ni. No doubt that was because of his advocacy for the Rohingya. Jack Kornfield has explained that Buddhist practice in Myanmar is highly ritualistic and not particularly philosophically sophisticated, which must be true if the renegade monks can convince adherents that hatred of Muslims is what Siddhartha would have wanted, and that violence is a good way of expressing it.
Pope Francis has excoriated Aung San Su Kii. The Dalai Lama and other notable Buddhists took out a full page ad in Burmese print media urging more Buddha-like behaviour, even though as head of Tibetan Buddhism, he has no authority over Burmese Buddhists. The Age‘s Lindsay Murdoch has commendably asked ‘Where is the Outrage?’ and provided good coverage.
Above, we saw how Nadia Murad lost seven Yazidi brothers. Again, an individual story is more powerful than statistics. Noor Ayesha, a Rohingya in Rakhine Province where the genocide is underway, had seven of her children murdered, five boys burnt to death, two daughters raped and them dispatched to the afterlife:
‘“A group of about 20 of them [i.e. Buddhist thugs] appeared in front of my house,” the 40-year-old Rohingya woman recalled of the morning in mid-October when her village was invaded by hundreds of Burmese government troops. “They ordered all of us to come out in the courtyard. They separated five of our children and forced them into one of our rooms and put on the latch from outside. Then they fired a ‘gun-bomb’ on that room and set it on fire.
“Five of my children were burnt to death by the soldiers. They killed my two daughters after raping them. They also killed my husband and raped me.”
She said just one child survived the frenzy: five-year-old Dilnawaz Begum, who hid in a neighbour’s house when the soldiers arrived in the village of Kyet Yoe Pyin, in the Maungdaw township of Rakhine state.’
‘Penny Green, a professor of law at Queen Mary University of London, led a 12-month investigation into the Burmese military’s campaign against the Rohingya and concluded that the military was “engaged in a genocidal process” against the minority group.
“It’s important to understand genocide as a process which may evolve over many years, beginning with the stigmatisation of the target community and moving into physical violence, forced isolation, systematic weakening and finally mass annihilation,” she said.
“For four years now the Rohingya have suffered state-sponsored denial of access to healthcare, livelihood, food and civic life as well as debilitating restrictions on their freedom of movement.
“And now, since 9 October this year, the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state are facing a terrifying new phase in the genocide: mass killings, rapes, village clearings and the razing of whole communities, committed with impunity by the Myanmar military and security forces,” she said.’
Scores of thousands of traumatised utterly destitute poor bastards have fled into impoverished, over-populated neighbour Bangladesh. They have turned back boats even though the Rohingya are essentially Bangladeshis who have come relatively recently over the past century to Rahkine. Scores of thousands have nevertheless got to Bangladesh in recent times and more than 450,000 refugees live in absolute squalor but in comparative safety. The Bangladeshis plan to dump them all onto a low lying uninhabited island with nothing at all on it, no arable land, and which is prone to severe flooding, Thengar Char. It in incredibly low-lying, having poked its crown above the sea only 8 years ago. Perhaps this is the evil offspring of the Australian government’s genius idea of relegating refugees to inhospitable islands.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a global fund to provide compensation (not necessarily by direct payments of money, but by the provision of succour) to these ultimate victims of unspeakable atrocities? If there were, of course, it would be described as yet another indicator of a socialist world government, the very antithesis of the nationalist mood which is becoming increasingly prevalent in some more visible and powerful bits of the world.
- 2014: not such a great year (planes, boats, Sri Lanka)
- 2015, not such a good year (part 4: domestic politics and refugees)
- 2015, not such a great year (part 3: abuse, terrorism, misery and disaster, power)
- 2015, not such a great year (part 2: death, crime, marriage, war)
- 2016: not such a good year (part 1: Iceland, Syria)