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Kerim's Triptych for Sunday, May 12th, 2024

Kerim's Triptych for Sunday, May 12th, 2024
Picasso, Massacre in Korea (1951)

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1️⃣ Sexual Violence in Wartime

Picasso, Massacre in Korea (1951)

This is a tough topic, but the Iranian journalist and writer Azadeh Moaveni does a better job of tackling it than anyone else I have seen. Writing in the London Review of Books, Moaveni points out that "It’s hard enough to determine the facts of sexual violence during war; it’s even harder when avenging sexual violence has become a pretext for continuing the war." Particularly useful for me was the way she explores, not just the issues of reporting sexual violence, but also what UN special rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin calls "obstetric violence":

It is estimated that fifty thousand women in Gaza were pregnant when the war began: since then, many of them have miscarried or had stillbirths. Since proper medical care is non-existent, women often go into labour in the dark of a tent encampment, aided by mobile phone flashlights, or undergo C-sections without anaesthesia. Even before Israel’s starvation campaign reached famine levels, insufficient calories and continual bombardment made it difficult for women to breastfeed. A UN team recently found that no babies of normal weight are being born in Gaza. Many babies, the World Health Organisation said in March, are ‘simply dying’.

It is a long and tough read, but it is well worth your time.

2️⃣ Indian Democracy

As India continues its six week long election process (which will wrap up on June 1st), many Indian's I know feel that the future of Indian democracy is itself at stake. While the Western media somewhat regularly write pieces on the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, as well as the even rarer piece on Modi's authoritarianism, there is a general unwillingness to dive down into the details regarding the scale and depth of recent attacks on Indian democracy by the ruling party. While Jacobin magazine can be uneven on international politics (especially when it comes to Russia and China) they do occasional run excellent accounts that you can't find elsewhere. I saw this with Taiwan, when they were one of the only venues to write about the Sunflower student movement in 2014. And now again in Achin Vanaik's piece on Modi.

I can't summarize the whole article which looks at constitutional changes, corruption, criminal law, education, etc. but I will share what he says about laws affecting the election itself:

Firstly, the three-member Election Commission (EC) is now packed with Modi favorites . . .

Secondly, the SC judges only mustered the courage after a seven-year delay to declare the electoral bonds scheme for large donations to political parties unconstitutional . . . strong circumstantial evidence shows shell companies funneling money to the BJP and widespread extortion and bribery by the powers that be . . .

Thirdly, government agencies are arresting senior opposition leaders on the mere suspicion of financial wrongdoing, using a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that shifts the burden of proof onto the accused and can allow for detention without bail for as long as the investigation may take . . .

Fourthly, there are genuine and legitimate worries about the possibility of electronic voting machine (EVM) manipulations.

Nobody I know is optimistic about the outcome of this election.

3️⃣ Su-Hua Precipice

Kuo-Hseuh Hu 郭雪湖 is one of Taiwan's most famous painters. Born during the Japanese period in 1908, he lived through the white terror and the rise of democracy, dying at the age of 104 in 2012. He pioneered the use of gouache (opaque watercolors) in Taiwan, and is most famous for his work "Festival on South Street" 南街殷賑 which portrays the vibrant urban culture of Taipei during the height of the Japanese period. He made this painting, "The Su-Hua Precipice" 蘇花斷崖 in 1978. It captures the dramatic highway that used to be the only way to get to Hualien from Taipei. This road was damaged by the recent earthquake, but was quickly repaired - a fact which was attributed by some to the high quality of Japanese-era infrastructure.


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