the best of (one of the) worst

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2017 has been marked by symbolic images: of Nazi marches in the United States, genocide in Myanmar, destruction in Syria. Few photos that have featured in end-of-year round ups – Time, the New York Times – have illustrated hope, vision, progressive ideals. So has the written word, a literary record of how the disastrous 2016 has only extended into a nightmare that led to the UN Human Rights Commissioner to lose faith in his office’s capacity to protect and promote.

Below are ten articles that I’ve appreciated reading, that demonstrate commitment to defining what may come to be a historical era and to highlight the intolerable.

 

Making of an American Nazi – Luke O’Brien, The Atlantic

This profile is necessary because it highlights the various complexities of political identities over the course of one’s lifetime. Starting on the fringes of the left then moving completely across the spectrum to the point of terrifying entire communities, this very American Nazi illustrates the banner-carriers of the Trump era: angry, and needing direction, any direction, toward violence.

“The hospitals were slaughterhouses” – Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria, Washington Post

If we are to document years-long systematic human rights violations, taking place amidst one of the most dangerous conflicts of this era, we must rely on a courageous local and international press to listen to victims and cross information with surviving on the ground. The scale of the torture inflicted upon thousands and thousands by Syrian regime in incommunicado prisons located inside hospitals is stomach-churning. This is one of many pieces that makes denial, especially on international scale, especially egregious.

The Uncounted – Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, New York Times

Documenting the crimes committed in conflict requires a critical and stable approach to data collecting, and a strong sense of empathy transcribing survivor’s story.  If the Pentagon has attempted to clarify the discrepancies between its own investigations and claims by human rights agencies, the truth lies in those lives, those elements, those near-certainties – it lies with those uncounted, because of a category that no one bothered to reveal. The interactive piece compiled months of research and humanizes those we barely see as dots on a screen.

The Unclaimed Dead – Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept

For well over two years Devereaux has carried with him the weight of covering US border security and US immigration police, with increased risk and danger under an administration that has waged war on freedom of movement and right of entry. Border patrols, ICE raids, and the burden of undocumented immigrants feature prominently in the work that, again, is meant to highlight those never addressed, never spoken about out loud, those who died at the feet of an outdated and unlawful vision of state sovereignty littering those dark lines on bureaucratic maps.

A Journey Into the Destroyed Heart of the ISIS Capital – Martin Chulov, the Guardian

Strikes on Iraq were well covered, but strikes on Syria were seen as part of interference in an internal conflict and benefited from much less transparency. The destruction of Syrian civil spaces however, between Russian and coalition air drops, disappeared at an appalling rate, killing civilians even as they fled. A few months before most of the west declared victory on ISIS-held territories, and with Lebanon already processing the return of Syrian refugees, this illustrates that there is not much, if at all, to go back to.

The Ungrateful Refugee – Dina Nayen, the Guardian

Grasping the full picture of displacement is almost impossible, but we must never lose sight of what refugees and asylum seekers have suffered to reach the place where they can live rather than survive. The myth of the “good refugee” endures and perdures, requiring lack of political confrontation, immediate and unconditional gratitude, despite the rights granted to them under the 1951 Convention to fully participate in civil and political society where they have settled.

Of Course Ireland Was Going To Be a Thorn on the Side of Brexit – Dr. Alan Greene, his own blog

It was too late when most of the British commentariat realised that Northern Ireland was an unstable issue in Brexit negotiations underpinned by international legal obligations and the threat of ripping the extremely thin safety net of the peace process. For all the talk about the existence of the border between Ulster and the Republic, mostly from local commentators like Siobhan Fenton, the one that stuck was a half emotional, half resigned interdisciplinary take on border-living in our generation, stuck between the conflict and transition, by a legal scholar.

Freed From ISIS, Not the Torment – Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times

Of all the war crimes and crimes against humanity that ISIS has compiled since its existence, one element has been a painful reminder of the group’s capacity to commit genocide: sexual slavery. Women were routinely dehumanized, but industrially so when they belonged to a group they considered to be unworthy, such as Yazidi. With photos by Alex Kay Potter, this piece gives women who have lost everything a space and a relay to the world at large.

A Most American Terrorist – Rachel Kaadzi Gharisah, GQ

It’s a very long read that digs deep at the American heartland, at its myths, its intentionally disregarded history, and the figures that trailed Donald Trump’s run for presidency. Dylann Roof has been sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of 9 churchgoers in Charleston, SC, and his lank, sickly disposition casts a long shadow over 2017 America’s struggle with a more persistent and emboldened white supremacy.

UN Rights Chief Will Not Seek New Term “In Current Geopolitical Context”

I will end on this sour, bitter note that has shaken the foundations of many of my colleagues and their institutions: the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, has circulated a memo explaining why he will not seek a new term at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva: politics – and political context – have made it nearly impossible for human rights promotion and advocacy in 2017.

 

 

 

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