Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.
Boozarjomehri: And I’m Fatima Boozarjomehri. Ukrainian military forces left Crimea earlier this week as acting-defense minister Ihor Tenyukh stepped down from office. The Ukrainian Parliament initially rejected his resignation, but ultimately named Colonel General Mikhail Kovalyov as his replacement. Tenyukh, a strong supporter of the uprising against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, rebuffed critics who labeled his response to the Russian annexation of Crimea as indecisive. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly has dismissed the annexation of Crimea as illegal. Several former Soviet republics, including Albania, Estonia, and Slovenia, joined the list of the resolution’s co-sponsors.
Okabe-Jawdat: An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 529 people described as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have been convicted of participating in a riot in which an Egyptian police officer was killed. The trial itself lasted less than two hours, and 400 defendants were sentenced in absentia. The judge has been accused of violating criminal law procedures by preventing defense lawyers from calling witnesses, and Egyptian legal experts believe the sentences will be overturned or reduced following the appeals process. Each death sentence must be ratified by Egypt’s grand mufti before it can be carried out, which provides a measure of hope to those affected by the ruling. 683 more people have also been put on trial this week and are still awaiting a verdict.
Boozarjomehri: Egyptian General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has announced his resignation from the military in order to run for President in Egypt’s upcoming elections. Sisi deposed Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in 2013, and he is expected to easily win the election. Although he has acknowledged the economic and political difficulties the country faces, Sisi has promised to build a, quote, “modern and democratic Egypt”. Despite the continuous crackdown on, and recent conviction of over 500 Muslim Brotherhood members, Sisi vowed that his politics would be non-exclusionary and that he would extend a hand to, quote, “all those who have not been convicted”.
Okabe-Jawdat: A pro-government militia killed at least 151 rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan this week. Several commanders of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement–or S-L-M–died in the fighting, according to a report by the Sudanese Media Center. The SLM is a rebel group that formed in 2003 in response to perceived governmental discrimination and neglect. This recent incident is the latest in a string of violent assaults on rebel groups by Sudanese government forces. Human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the Sudanese government for the attacks, noting that over 100,000 citizens have been displaced since the violence escalated earlier this month.
Boozarjomehri: Taliban militants attacked an election commission office in Kabul this week, killing at least five people. Two suicide bombers detonated their vehicle outside the office while three other militants stormed the building, engaging in a five hour gunbattle with Afghan security officers. The victims include a provincial council candidate, two police officers, two election commission workers and five militants. This assault is the latest in the Taliban’s campaign to disrupt Afghanistan’s crucial presidential election on April 5th. The elections will decide the successor to president Hamid Karzai, marking the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.
Okabe-Jawdat: North Korea launched two medium-range ballistic missiles earlier this week as part of a military technology test. The launch may have been timed to coincide with a nuclear security summit attended by Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Kim Min-seok, a spokesman from the South Korean defense ministry, said that the decision to launch the missiles from mobile vehicles was a clear move by North Korea to, quote, “show off its ability to attempt a surprise attack.” The defense ministry also reported that the missiles flew about four hundred and three miles into the sea between North Korea and Japan. This launch represents an escalation from the test-firing of twenty-five short-range rockets by North Korea earlier this year. A North Korean diplomat, however, has claimed that the test launches are meant to protest the continued US and South Korean military drills near the Demilitarized Zone.
Boozarjomehri: Dozens of people were killed this week as a series of attacks swept across Iraq. The deadliest attack occurred in northeastern Baghdad after a suicide bomber crashed a truck filled with explosives into a security checkpoint, killing 6 and wounding 21 others. Gunmen in Tarmiyah and Mosul, cities north of Baghdad, killed 13 soldiers and wounded 13 in separate attacks on army checkpoints. Two bomb blasts in Baghdad also killed 5 and wounded 17. In Baghdad’s Ghalibiya district, 2 bodyguards were killed and 7 wounded in an attempted assassination of Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri. Although no group has claimed responsibility for these attacks, they are similar to acts of violence by an Al-Qaeda breakaway group. These attacks come just weeks before Iraq is set to hold national elections on April 30.
Okabe-Jawdat: Three Venezuelan air force generals were arrested under charges that they were planning a coup against the current regime. None of the generals have been identified. This most recent development comes as the government has increasingly cracked down on opposition groups. Other high profile arrests have included opposition party leader Leopoldo Lopez and the mayor of San Cristobal, Daniel Ceballos. These arrests followed weeks of protests in Venezuela that have left at least 34 people dead and dozens more injured. The anti-government protests have criticized President Nicolas Maduro’s administration for failing to address shortages of basic goods, increased crime, and rising inflation.
Boozarjomehri: Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has been convicted by a New York federal court jury of, quote, “conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists”. The prosecution accused the 48 year old Kuwaiti clergyman of serving as Al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece and main recruiter, pointing to his fiery speeches in which he glorified the 9/11 attacks. Abu Ghaith, however, testified that he had never joined Al Qaeda. He also insisted that his videos were only meant to encourage Muslims to rise up against their oppressors and that the more severe threats against America were fed to him by Bin Laden himself. Abu Gaith will be sentenced on September 8th and faces life in prison.
Okabe-Jawdat: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Aneesa Andrabi, Caroline Batten, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, Chloe Wittenberg, and Rachel Yang. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.
Boozarjomehri. And I’m Fatima Boozarjomehri. Until next time, thanks for listening.
Henry Zhang: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Henry Zhang.
Jay Clayton: And I’m Jay Clayton. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea, after the region voted to join the Russian Federation earlier this week. Putin justified the move by citing the plight of ethnic Russians in Crimea. Russian officials have also pointed to the results of the recent referendum, in which a reported 95% of Crimean voters expressed support for joining Russia. The interim Ukrainian government has denounced the vote as illegal. The United States government has also criticized annexation, with Vice President Joe Biden calling the move, quote, “a land grab.” The US and European Union have since imposed sanctions on Russia, ranging from travel bans to the freezing of assets of Russian and Ukrainian officials. These sanctions target those linked to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, including two top aides to Putin, Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev.
Zhang: Israeli air forces fired on Syrian military bases in the Golan Heights in response to a bombing earlier this week that injured four Israeli soldiers. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks against the Israeli Army patrol, Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner stated that Israel would hold the Syrian Army responsible for the blast. Israel’s subsequent military action killed one Syrian soldier and wounded seven. The Syrian Army claimed that Israel’s attack was a violation of the 1973 Separation of Forces agreement, which maintained relative peace along the Syrian-Israeli ceasefire line in the Golan Heights. This border conflict marks the most serious confrontation between the two countries since the start of the Syrian civil war three years ago and has led many to question the extent of Israel’s involvement in the conflict.
Clayton: Syria has failed to eliminate 12 chemical production facilities by the March 15th deadline set in place by the United Nations Security Council last September. Syrian government officials argue that security concerns are the reason for such delays, citing recent attacks on convoys transporting chemical weapons. Inspectors overseeing the demolition of chemical weapons facilities have also come under sniper fire. While Syria has not been granted an extension beyond the April 27th deadline for the complete elimination of its chemical weapons program, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that almost half of Syria’s declared stockpile had been destroyed.
Zhang: The second round of international talks over Iran’s nuclear program continued this week, complicated by tension between the United States and Russia over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Political tensions in Ukraine may make it difficult for the US, European Union, and Russia to present a unified front in nuclear negotiations, potentially reducing the pressure on Iran to make concessions. Recent negotiations between the US and Iran have eased tensions between the two countries, though domestic criticism has limited progress. Upcoming negotiations will deal with regulating the level of uranium enrichment allowed in Iran. Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program will be peaceful, but many countries remain skeptical about Iran’s intentions.
Clayton: Thailand has lifted the state of emergency that has been imposed on Bangkok and surrounding areas since late January, following Thailand’s February general election. Protests erupted in Bangkok in November of last year, with the goal of ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The results of the election might soon be annulled, due to boycotts by a large portion of voting districts. Ms. Yingluck’s government lifted the state of emergency in an attempt to boost Thailand’s suffering economy, particularly the tourism industry. A less stringent law, the Internal Security Act, remains in place to allow the Thai government to impose curfews, operate security checkpoints, and control protesters if demonstrations flare up once again.
Zhang: Seven Taliban fighters attacked a police district base in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, leaving a total of 18 dead. Soon after, four Taliban militants assaulted a luxury hotel in Kabul, resulting in the deaths of the four attackers. These attacks are the latest in a series of violent incidents around the country, as Afghanistan prepares for its upcoming presidential elections. The Taliban have issued a threat to use violence in order to disrupt the elections, which are scheduled for April 5th.
Clayton: The South Sudanese army recaptured the town of Malakal this week following a month-long rebel occupation. A spokesperson for former Vice President Riek Machar, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, confirmed that the rebels retreated from the northern city but vowed that they would, quote, “retake the town soon.” Due to its vast oil fields, Malakal has been a center of violence since the conflict between the South Sudanese government and rebel factions began last December. The fighting over Malakal may hinder attempts to resume peace negotiations between the two parties. Past peace talks have floundered, and both rebels and government forces have violated the cease-fire deal signed in January.
Zhang: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Caroline Batten, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Mackenzie Welch, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Henry Zhang.
Clayton: And I’m Jay Clayton. Until next time, thanks for listening.
Forty-three years ago this month, a group of anti-war activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and made off with every document inside. The leaked reports led to the discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s secret campaign to harass and intimidate opponents of the war in Vietnam, leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and even students on college campuses. War News Radio’s Caroline Batten sat down with two of the burglars, husband and wife John and Bonnie Raines, to talk about conflict, activism, and the whistleblowers of today.
BATTEN: March 8, 1971. The night of the World Championship in Heavyweight Boxing, the Fight of the Century, Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier.
BATTEN: People across America were tuning in on their radios — which was just what activists Bonnie and John Raines, along with their six partners, were banking on.
BONNIE: Maybe the police would be not quite as vigilant about their patrols listening to the fight.
BATTEN: Bonnie and John were part of a secret group of anti-war activists, calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. That night, with everyone listening to Frazier pounding Ali, the group broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and made off with every single document inside.
The documents that the Citizens’ Commission stole and leaked to The Washington Post led to the discovery of COINTELPRO, a program designed by then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The goal of COINTELPRO was to intimidate and harass leftist leaders, even trying to blackmail Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into committing suicide. They monitored student activists on campuses, wiretapped various organizations, discredited everyone from actresses to athletes, and tried to get investigative reporter Jack Nelson fired from his job at the LA Times. Fred Hampton, the national spokesman for the Black Panthers, was killed as part of a COINTELPRO operation.
Bonnie, John, and their partners didn’t know what the word COINTELPRO meant when they leaked the stolen documents, but they did know that a memo from J. Edgar Hoover encouraging FBI agents to, quote, “increase the paranoia” for liberal activists was serious news.
JOHN: We had ‘em. We had ‘em nailed. That was it. It wasn’t surveillance, it was intimidation.
BATTEN: Bonnie and John had been activists for years. John was a Freedom Rider during the height of the Civil Rights movement, where he first noticed FBI agents taking pictures and harassing protesters. When the two moved north to Philadelphia, they started protesting the war in Vietnam.
JOHN: We brought from the South to the North knowledge about J. Edgar Hoover and his dirty tricks. We also brought expectations of success, which would be frustrated time and time again. I mean, we tried all the street tactics, we tried all the nonviolent protests, and none of them were getting us anywhere.
BATTEN: Bonnie says it was clear the FBI was constantly watching.
BONNIE: Everyone realized they were being watched. And their photographs were taken when they were in marches or rallies. People knew their phones were tapped… and we knew that if we were meeting to plan something that there would probably be FBI plants in our midst.
BATTEN: And all that surveillance was starting to derail the anti-war movement.
JOHN: And if you have the suspicion, well, is this person next to me who says all these right things, I mean, is he really working for the FBI, that begins to break the trust that is at the very heart of a community of resistance.
BATTEN: That’s when Bonnie and John met Haverford physics professor Bill Davidon, who was determined to prove that the FBI was disrupting the anti-war movement. Former Washington Poster reporter Betty Medsger, who published the documents stolen by the Citizens’ Commission, says Davidon felt he was up to the challenge.
MEDSGER Instead of thinking like most people would about such a problem, how you get evidence that the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country is suppressing dissent, when it’s also the most secretive and the most protected organization in the country, most people, I think it would safe to say, would have thought, this is a problem that cannot be solved, sure, it’s terrible, and simply lament. And Bill was a problem solver.
BATTEN: Determined to find evidence of Hoover’s dirty campaigns, Davidon rounded up a group of eight activists and planned to break in to the FBI satellite office in the small town of Media. Bonnie and John were ready to try something drastic.
JOHN: America was on fire. And that anger was constantly being frustrated from having any success at stopping the war in Vietnam. We knew he was using massive surveillance, we knew he was using infiltrators and provocateurs, and we also knew that nobody in Washington was going to hold him accountable.
BONNIE: We came to the realization that it really is up to every citizen in a democracy to protect rights in a democracy, and if there is abuse of those rights you can’t just sit back and wait for someone else.
BATTEN: The Citizens’ Commission had no idea what they would find in the Media office, or if the documents they wanted would even be there. They were counting on the fact that Hoover was a bureaucrat who kept endless files on his programs. So they spent months casing the office, which was inside an ordinary apartment building.
JOHN: In order to make that burglary something that was… that would look safe and rational to do rather than absurd, because, you know, who’s going to rob the FBI? Crazy people, right? So we had to make sure of… exactly what those folks, the patterns of their behavior at night were, when they got back from work.
BATTEN: But that wasn’t enough. They had to get inside.
BONNIE: So I called the office and said I was a student at Swarthmore, and I was doing research on opportunities for women in the FBI.
BATTEN: Bonnie managed to get inside for an interview, wearing borrowed glasses and a hat over her long hair.
BONNIE: He never seemed to notice that I never took my gloves off, the whole time I was taking notes.
BATTEN: On the night of the burglary, everything almost went wrong. Taxi driver Keith Forsyth had learned to pick locks, but the FBI had added a new lock to the door — one he didn’t know how to open.
FORSYTH: At that moment my heart just sank. Because immediately I thought, a, I’m incompetent because I didn’t see this lock before, and b, the whole thing is off because I can’t get through this door.
BATTEN: That’s Keith, speaking at the Philadelphia Free Library. He headed around to a second door and pried open the deadbolt with a crowbar. Then he had to use a car jack to budge a hundred-pound file cabinet blocking the way. But the surprises didn’t stop there.
FORSYTH: Somewhere in this process of getting through the second door, I heard a clanking sound inside the office, and I didn’t know if it was the heating system or the FBI jostling furniture.
BATTEN: But the coast was clear, and Forsyth, Davidon, and their partners emptied the contents of the file cabinets into their suitcases and drove off to a farmhouse to examine their finds. When they found the memo with the words “enhance the paranoia”, they were furious — and thrilled.
JOHN AND BONNIE: Ohhhh boy, we got him, we got him, we got old J. Edgar Hoover!
BATTEN: After sending out copies of the files to a list of reporters, the group needed to lie low. Hoover sent out more than two hundred agents searching for the Media burglars.
JOHN: The reason they didn’t find us is important. I’m convinced this burglary could only happen in the Philadelphia area. Because back in the late 60s and early 70s, Philadelphia was the national center of resistance to the war in Vietnam. We could hide out in plain sight.
BATTEN: And if Betty Medsger hadn’t written a book about the Citizens’ Commission, called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, they might never have come forward.
JOHN: Why would we? BONNIE: No, I don’t think we would have. JOHN: We did what we did, it was effective… we don’t think of ourselves as heroes, we think of ourselves as everyday citizens.
BATTEN: That’s where John thinks whistleblower Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency who leaked details of global surveillance programs, may have made a tactical mistake.
JOHN: We didn’t take public responsibility. And therefore the focus of public opinion stayed on the issue, stayed on the issue of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and his dirty tricks. Once Snowden says, I did it, then all of the public media attention focuses upon him, not the issue. And in a certain sense, we were more effective because we hid out.
BATTEN: Bonnie and John weren’t inside reporters, like Snowden, but they still think he’s done the people of the United States a public service.
JOHN: So citizens will always have to fight, always bring a suspicion to those institutions that embed and enact power and privilege… We must hold, as citizens, hold those institutions vulnerable and accountable to the voice of the people.
BATTEN: Not everyone agrees with him — like Patrick Kelly, the FBI agent who first discovered the break-in. Kelly told NBC reporter Michael Isikoff:
KELLY (clip from NBC.com): They’re rationalizing a criminal act. I don’t believe such people have the right to take upon themselves and make decisions.
BATTEN: Bonnie has thought about responses like Kelly’s — and she says she still believes the Citizens’ Commission did the right thing.
BONNIE: A greater crime has been occurring and the government is responsible for that. So I think that when all the means that one can try as an ordinary citizen… when they’re not producing any results, then I think that it is time for something to be more drastic.
BATTEN: John and Bonnie agree that if citizens refuse to let their voices be drowned out, government policy can change for the better.
JOHN: It’s amazing what government officials will do if they begin to feel the pressure of public opinion.
BATTEN: And he thinks we need to keep holding our government accountable, as the War on Terror declared by former President Bush in 2001 continues with no end in sight.
JOHN: The gasoline that the terrorists run on is the same gasoline that NSA runs on, and its called the endless hole of fear. We are safe, and we need to keep saying that to each other.
BATTEN: Keith Forsyth says the message he and the Citizens’ Commission sent to the people of the United States still holds true today.
FORSYTH: The Goliath is tough, but he’s not invulnerable.
BATTEN: For War News Radio, I’m Caroline Batten.
WARNING: this piece contains discussions of rape.
Host Intro: Sex trafficking is a widespread problem for women and girls in Iraq. For sex trafficking victims, currently their voice is silenced under the law, society typically views them as prostitutes, and limited social resources exist once they are free. War News Radio’s Sabrina Merold spoke to Sherizaan Minwala, an expert on the sex trafficking of women and girls in Iraq about how honor codes predispose women to become victims of sex-trafficking, why combating sex-trafficking is not a priority in Iraq, and what could be done to change sex trafficking in the Iraqi legal system and in society.
MEROLD If you’re a woman in Iraq and, for whatever reasons, you’re seen with a boy who is not a close family member, you don’t return home for a night, or you stay in a women’s shelter, the last thing you want to do is go back home. That’s because these all expose a woman or girl to face honor violence at her home, leaving her afraid to return and susceptible to falling into the hands of sex traffickers. When these women and girls are arrested for prostitution, even though Iraq signed into law a comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in 2012, they are typically convicted and placed in jail. With turmoil and violence in Iraq, the issue of sex trafficking is just not a priority. On the societal level and in the legal system, for change to occur, Sherizaan Minwalla believes we need to reframe how we view women and girls. They are victims of sex trafficking not prostitutes. The problem is, we rarely hear from a girl in this situation.
MINWALLA The laws, the systems, the practices all of that is important but I think starting from the perspective of the victims, hearing their voices and really listening to them is so important. The piece that is so tough is just having compassion for the victims and really understanding how they got there, what they are going through, what keeps them in that situation. I think once we develop that compassion and that understanding a lot can come from that.
MEROLD That’s Sherizaan Minwalla, the Deputy Country Director in Iraq for Mercy Corps, an international development organization based in the United States. In Iraq, honor codes run deep. These traditions – not strictly religious, but common in Muslim societies – mean that an entire family’s reputation is jeopardized by the perceived sexual impurity of any female member. In the eyes of many tribal, religious, and community leaders, killing a woman that has had sex outside of marriage, even in the case of rape, is the best way to restore family dignity. Minwalla believes honor violence leaves women fearful for their safety yet escaping honor violence does not ensure freedom but a high risk of being trafficked into prostitution.
MINWALLA You know if the relationship comes out that puts you at risk. You might be killed by your father or uncle or someone else in the family but then also once you leave home because you are afraid, that puts you at risk. I’ve seen cases where girls have been involved in a relationship. Then they are afraid that they father is going to find out and then the men who they were involved with they ask for help to get away or run away and then they end up taking them to a brothel.
MEROLD Surprisingly, Minwalla says that in many cases, women can’t even trust another woman to help them find a safe way to independence from their families. Women are often complicit in the sex trade, working as middlemen between traffickers and vulnerable populations or even as traffickers.
MINWALLA I have seen those really awful cases where women have been recruited through women’s protective shelters. In 2007, where the director of a women’s shelter was trafficking and abusing and exploiting residents in the shelter along with her husband. I also saw another case of a shelter in Sulaymaniyah. One of the smaller shelters where one of the night monitors recruited a 14 year old girl into trafficking by promising to take her to her parents where she would have a better life and where she could live in a center protected shelter. She called two men who picked them up and raped this young girl and then left her at a brothel.
MEROLD Iraq passed a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in 2012, but the justice system is still stacked against victims of sex trafficking. Women are seen as prostitutes, people that don’t deserve legal representation, rather than the targets of crime. Lawyers have to prove that their clients are even worth defending.
MINWALLA Lawyers would go into court and essentially say that these women and girls were forced into prostitution and that is a defense to criminal activity because under the Iraqi code if you are forced into committing a crime you could claim a legal defense. Then they really need to be able to have quality representation. There is a lot of crimes you will find that the evidence is out there that could bolster their case but nobody is really looking for it and everyone is just complacent. I’ve seen judges who have called clients and lawyers whores in court. It simply requires training of lawyers and lawyers who are willing to put their own reputation on the line when they go into court.
MEROLD Beyond training lawyers, in order to further the progress that is currently been made in dropping cases or finding victims of sex trafficking not guilty, Minwalla believes that judges need to be educated on the issue of sex trafficking.
MINWALLA I think there are some judges who you may never win over but there has definitely been change and the fact that we have seen judges drop charges, not refer cases for trail, find their clients not guilty. I mean I think that is huge progress and so if we could sort of start from where we have seen success and build out from that I think a lot of change can happen.
MEROLD Although change could happen, a consequence of the ongoing volatile security situation in Iraq is that the Iraqi government, donors, and policy makers disregard the importance of implementing change and developing a response to sex trafficking. In Minwalla’s opinion, it does not make sense to wait and respond once the security situation is resolved because sex trafficking and security are greatly interconnected. Syrian refugees pouring into the northern region of Kurdistan have added to instability. These populations, Minwalla says, easily get caught in existing trafficking webs.
MINWALLA Again, there is a lot of trafficking in Kurdistan so when these refugees came they were already walking into a situation where the environment existed that could exploit their vulnerabilities. Of course when refugees don’t have money or resources and they are vulnerable you always end up finding these situations where poor women and girls are trafficked.
MEROLD For women that manage to get their case cleared or dismissed and escape sex trafficking, they still can’t return home. Their purity and honor have been lost. The few shelters that exist for these victims are hardly safe. Even some Ministry of the Interior guards tasked with policing shelters could be linked to traffickers. Minwalla believes that addressing legal issues is important but a long-term social service program is also needed to provide victims with safe shelter and figure out long-term solutions so they do not end up being recruited back into trafficking. Currently, the resources in Iraq are so limited that the focus on victims of sex trafficking is very minimal. Yet, according to Minwalla, change can slowly begin by simply having compassion for the victims of sex trafficking and being willing to listen from their perspective, as victims, and hear their voices.
For War News Radio, I’m Sabrina Merold.
This week on War News Radio, “Control and Conflict.” First, we learn more about the origins of the conflicts in Ukraine and Venezuela. Next, we interview two anti-war activists about their role in the 1971 FBI break-in in Media, Pennsylvania. Then, we hear from a Swarthmore student about her experiences studying abroad in the Middle East. Finally, we talk to an expert about the problem of sex trafficking in Iraq. Stay with us.
Allison Hrabar: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Allison Hrabar.
Henry Zhang: And I’m Henry Zhang. Tensions rose between pro-Russian and pro-Western protesters in Ukraine this week following the collapse of the government under Viktor Yanukovych. Pro-Russian separatists brawled with supporters of the new government outside the regional parliament in Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea. As protests escalated, Russia suspended its financial and political support for Ukraine and moved naval forces to the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov vowed that Russia would not intervene militarily in Ukraine. The country, however, recently began surprise military exercises in the Crimean peninsula. The recent tension in Crimea has demonstrated the potential challenges that Ukraine’s new government will have to confront. The ethnic, religious, and political diversity of the region has historically bred conflict, and the political instability of the country may only increase the likelihood of violence.
Hrabar: Anti-government protest leaders in Venezuela have refused to enter peace negotiations with President Nicholas Maduro, continuing to demand his resignation. Demonstrations have persisted in and around the capital city of Caracas, after two weeks of violent clashes between government forces and protesters, leaving 14 people dead and 147 injured. Opposition leaders, including Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez, have accused Maduro of failing to control inflation, crime, and food shortages throughout the country. Although United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has formally called for an end to the violence, protesters on both sides show no signs of ceasing demonstrations.
Zhang: Tensions between security forces and anti-government protesters in Thailand continued to escalate this week. At least four people were killed–including three children–and more than 50 were injured in clashes with police officers in the capital city of Bangkok and in the northeastern Trat province. President Yingluck Shinawatra condemned the violence and labeled the conflict, quote, “terrorist attacks for political gains.” The protesters, however, allege that the demonstrations are merely a response to government crackdowns imposed last month. Despite a recent court decision ruling the protests non-violent, both protest leaders and government officials have acknowledged the inevitability of future violence. Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the protest movement, has threatened to use violence if the police infringe on the rights of protesters, while ruling officials have expressed willingness to kill protesters who continue to defy the government.
Hrabar: North Korea fired four short-range missiles into the East Sea earlier this week. Although spokespeople for North Korea have not released any information about the motivation behind the test launch, the incident coincided with the beginning of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. In the past, North Korea has protested annual South Korean military exercises–which they perceive as rehearsals for future invasions–by launching similar short-range missiles. Unlike in past years, however, tension has actually diminished between North and South Korea in recent months. Last week’s reunion of family members separated during the Korean War has inspired optimism about an improvement in relations between the two countries. This week’s launches do not seem likely to disrupt this trend. Many foreign policy experts have noted that the fairly routine tests are purely symbolic and do not pose a direct military threat to South Korea.
Zhang: Syrian armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 175 rebels in an ambush earlier this week. The majority of the rebels killed and injured in the assault were members of the Al Qaeda-backed Nusra Front. Several combatants, however, were foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, and Qatar, affiliated with the Salafi Jihadist Liwa al-Islam group, according to a report released by the Syrian state news agency SANA. The assault was one of the deadliest attacks on rebel forces by the government during the three-year conflict, underscoring the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shi’ite groups in the country. Sunni factions have spearheaded much of the rebellion against former president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while Assad has found Shi’ite allies in Iran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group.
Hrabar: The Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group threatened to retaliate after Israeli warplanes struck one of its military positions near the Lebanese-Syrian border this week. Hezbollah released a statement condemning the attacks, saying, quote, “The resistance will choose the time and place and the proper way to respond to it.” Israel has neither directly confirmed nor denied the attack. Although Israeli jets have bombed Syrian targets several times during the current Syrian conflict, this could be the first strike by Israel on Lebanese territory since the Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah has allied with both Iran and Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad and has sent thousands of fighters to the country to back Assad’s regime.
Zhang: At least 14 people were killed in an attack on a medical facility in the South Sudanese city of Malakal this week. Patients at the facility were shot in their beds while attackers looted and set fire to the building. Violence continues to escalate throughout the country as government forces and rebel factions clash over oil-rich territory. According to a statement released by the aid group Doctors Without Borders, Malakal is not the only city in which hospitals have been targeted. Two facilities run by Doctors Without Borders in other cities were looted and destroyed this week as well. The violence has caused the organization to re-examine their operations in the country, in order to ensure the safety of their staff and patients.
Hrabar: At least 29 students were killed this week in an attack on a Nigerian boarding school by the Islamist militant organization Boko Haram. At a federal college in the northeastern Yobe state, the assailants separated the male and female students before shooting dozens of the male students and setting several buildings on fire. None of the female students were harmed. The assault was the fourth attack on a school by the group in less than a year. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has targeted public education institutions throughout the country as part of its campaign against the secularization of the school system.
Zhang: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Aneesa Andrabi, Caroline Batten, Jay Clayton, Anita Desai, Joelle Hageboutros, Sabrina Merold, Jerry Qin, Zoey Werbin, Tyler Welsh, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Henry Zhang.
Hrabar: And I’m Allison Hrabar. Until next time, thanks for listening.