Tuesday 2 November 2021

Into the Lyons Den

 He recently penned an extended essay on one of the thorniest, intractable minefields in journalism. It is hardly surprising, then, that John Lyons has ignited passions, debates and controversy. Ori Golan 

Thursday 7 October 2021

Even if you choose not to read this post, you should not say you did not know.

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“My name is Mehray Mezensof. I am 27 years old. I’m an ethnic Uyghur but I was born and raised in Australia so I’m an Australian citizen by birth.” 

This was the opening testimony of one of the witnesses who took part in the Uyghur Tribunal hearing held at Church House Conference Centre in London, recently. The tribunal is attempting to determine a very simple question: is China carrying out a genocide against the Uyghur people? Mehray’s husband, Mirzat, is one of approximately 1.3 million Uyghurs living in China who have been rounded up for a miscellany of ‘crimes’. His was visiting Turkey during 2014.

Like hundreds of thousands other Uyghurs, he ended up in one of China’s notorious re-education camps where he endured a regime of humiliations, starvation, punishment and brainwashing. Mirzat was eventually released, after he had shown to be ‘re-educated’ and compliant. In May last year, he was re-detained, released and then arrested. In April of this year he was handed down a prison sentence of 25 years, for ‘separatist activities’.

Mehray has not heard from him since; he has vanished.

One witness after another, they recounted stories of extreme suffering, inhumane treatments and unimaginable horrors which included group rape, forced sterilisation, involuntary abortion and sadistic punishments. One woman was allocated the job of waiting outside the interrogation room, and then cleaning the women as they came out, after being savagely raped. 
The witnesses demonstrated incredibly bravery in giving these testimonies. Most of them had been threatened and harassed by China’s security services prior to the tribunal; their families back in China are now facing the consequences. Some have been arrested, others have disappeared. The tribunal, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice, is expected to reach a verdict in December this year.

But whatever the verdict, it is not legally binding and has no power to impose any punitive sanctions against individuals or states, since it is not government mandated. 

And this is the true tragedy of this tribunal. 

To date, no national or international body has shown a willingness to launch an evidence-based process to determine whether these allegations of genocide are proved. 
The UN, with its many delegated powers and judicial bodies, will not go there. Nor will the UK, the US or Australia, although these countries have ratified the Genocide Convention, which codified for the first time the crime of genocide under international law (Australia ratified it in July 1949).  Article I of the convention stipulates that the government has a duty to act if genocide is established to its satisfaction. But of course, if no judge is appointed, then these allegations cannot be established in a court. 

I am reminded of what a South African colleague once told me of his country. Many who lived there during the Apartheid era claim that they had no idea what the regime was doing at the time; “and it was true, because they chose not to know.” 

Meantime, hundreds of Uyghurs who have managed to escape the horrors of China and have sought refuge in other countries, are laying bare their testimonies, in all their gruesome details, to have them recorded and documented. These disempowered people are bravely speaking out, at enormous risk to themselves and their family, to tell the world, to warn the nations of the free world and to raise the alarm. They are the Jan Karski of our generation.* 

As our governments look away, not wanting to raise the ire of the big tyrant, Xi Jinping, the facts are inescapable: colossal crimes against humanity are perpetrated in our lifetime, within view and, so far, with impunity. 
What will our governments say in 80 years from now? That they did not see, did not hear and did not know? 

In setting up this tribunal, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who led the prosecution in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, has forced us all to see, hear and know. And all this through a legal process that is meticulously proper and undeniably fair. He and a panel of eminent jurists, are all working pro bono. They should be roundly lauded for this selfless act of humanity.

We should all be supporting this tribunal which is funded by public 
donations.  Looking the other way is an option. Ignoring these testimonies is an inalienable right. But claiming we didn't know is both untrue and immoral. 

 During World War 2, Jan Karski escaped Poland and gave first-hand testimony of extermination camps on Polish soil. His attempts to persuade world leaders, including US President Roosevelt and British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, to take action were unsuccessful; they did not believe the scale and scope of what he was describing.

Monday 14 June 2021

Bedtime reading this is not.

Last Thursday, Amnesty International published a document titled China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Five thoughts on the situation

1.The most fascinating periods in history were filled with tumult and upheaval - and art. Tales of treachery, greed and chaos provide compelling reading and fuels the imagination. So it is now, too. Songwriters, playwrights, artists and bored school kids are currently in forced confinement, but they are not in hibernation.

Saturday 28 March 2020

An Open Letter to Gladys Berejiklian- Premier of NSW

Dear Gladys,

We have not met, so here is a brief introduction: my name is Ori. I am a mathematics teacher at a public High School in NSW.

The Koala photo-op we will not remember.

Israel’s President, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, arrived last week for an official state visit. But his visit has been marked, or marred, by the on-going extradition dispute involving Malka Leifer. 

Sunday 2 June 2019

Where the Son don’t Shine

The French poet, Charles Baudelaire once remarked that that the biggest sickness is horror of the home.  

I cannot imagine what horrors Yair Netanyahu, Benyamin Netanyahu’s son, has endured, and neither, I don’t suppose, will I ever know. But it is patently clear that this young princeling, has not only had a life of privilege, but also of untold drama. Otherwise how can anyone explain his brutish behaviour?  

Wednesday 18 July 2018

From Faith book to Facebook.

Ari Hershkowitz has already experienced a lot in life. A former member of Satmar, Brooklyn, he has endured sexual assault, substandard education, substance addiction and the loss of his faith. And yet he remains defiantly optimistic.

Saturday 8 July 2017

"Someone I had trusted had abused that trust and I had felt powerless.”

At 15, Dassi Erlich was repeatedly molested by Malka Leifer, the headmistress of the Adass community school in Melbourne. For years she remained silent. Now she is demanding justice for herself and the many other victims who don’t have a voice. But the wheels of justice, she is discovering, grind exceeding slowly.

Friday 24 February 2017

"We need to stop the Silence".

When he reported that he had been sexually abused in the Chabad centre of Melbourne, Manny Waks discovered a culture of cover up, intimidation and ostracism. He has since fought for recognition, reform and redress. For himself and for the many otheranonymousvictims. He talks to Ori Golan.