Michael Ubaldi, August 15, 2003.
They weren't Islamic extremists, thankfully, but when contacted by authorities, demanded immediate scree-scree, scree-scree:
In an extremely rare incident, seagulls forced the closure of a runway at Haneda Airport three times Friday, airport officials said.
The incident caused delays in numerous flights by up to 107 minutes, inconveniencing a large number of holidaymakers, according to airline officials.
Security negligence at a federal level. This clearly would not have happened if the Japanese harassed more children and elderly passengers at airport checkpoints.
BONUS: Repeat the sentence "Only in Japan" to yourself and complete a mental picture. Two or three, to be generous. Ten to one says you still didn't think of this.
Michael Ubaldi, August 14, 2003.
Fumiaki Yamada's wife joins the plea for mercy on Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (HRNK) and North Korean detainees in Shanghai. Her first challenge is to persuade Japanese diplomats in Shanghai:
The wife of a Japanese nongovernmental organization (NGO) head detained in China has said she will visit China Saturday in hopes of meeting her husband.
Mariko Yamada, 52, wife of Fumiaki Yamada, 54, who was arrested in Shanghai for allegedly helping North Koreans to illegally enter China, said Wednesday that she and some of her husband's colleagues will meet officials of the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai to learn more about his situation.
Though the power of condemnation lies with the Chinese, Japan's unhelpful disinterest is obvious from the most detailed account of Yamada's underground railroad's final hours:
HRNK members said Yamada and his associates visited the library of the Japanese cultural center in Shanghai on Aug. 6 to see if it would be an appropriate safe haven.
Yamada decided the presence of security guards there made the library a risky prospect. The plans were changed to seek asylum at a school in Shanghai for children of Japanese. The group started out for the school on Aug. 7, but Shanghai authorities detained the members before they reached the school grounds.
Yamada is the second Japanese NGO activist helping North Korean defectors to be detained by Chinese authorities since October 2002.
Others who have helped North Koreans said new approaches must be explored.
Lee Young Hwa, who heads Osaka-based RENK, or Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network, said NGOs may have reached their limits on what they could do to help North Koreans.
"If we are detained, we will not be able to help those fleeing North Korea,'' Lee said. "The international community will have to offer further support. The frigid attitude of the Japanese government toward refugees and North Korean defectors is encouraging the strong-arm tactics of the Chinese authorities.''
The article reports a similar incident that ended in an NGO leader's deportation. The North Koreans with him weren't as lucky. Peace or conscience: Japan can keep only one undisturbed.
Michael Ubaldi, August 13, 2003.
Japanese liberator Fumiaki Yamada, held by Red Chinese authorities after being captured in Shanghai, has put the conscience of Japan on trial with a weighty petition:
The leader of a Japanese nongovernmental organization being held by Chinese authorities in Shanghai called on Japanese Consulate officials Tuesday to urge Beijing not to repatriate the North Koreans who were detained with him, Japanese officials said.
According to Foreign Ministry officials, Yamada told the consulate staff that the North Koreans who were detained with him were all relatives of North Koreans who left Japan under a 1959-1984 repatriation program, and that they could be executed if they are repatriated. He asked the officials to work with the South Korean government to call on China to consider the matter from a humanitarian viewpoint, they said.
The NGO's members visited the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, urging it to demand that China release the detainees and allow the North Korean escapees to depart for their desired destination. The North Koreans all want to go to South Korea, according to the group.
It's difficult not to have seen a tearjerker story in the last few years about Korean families separated since the early '50s, particularly with well-publicized familial exchanges between the two Koreas. Those are, unfortunately, photo-op high points from the otherwise feckless Sunshine policies of Kim Dae Jung; North Korea remains a gigantic prison run by a Stalinist lunatic. Escape from the DPRK nightmare is all but impossible for millions of people. South Korea and Japan are generally timid and ambivalent on the increasingly pressing issue of refugees when they're not downright xenophobic - South Korea particularly - so the task inevitably falls to activists like Mr. Yamada.
Since this story broke on Monday, Mr. Yamada hasn't been touched by the Chinese and the momentum of the exchange - as described by reports - seems to be moving towards the release of Yamada and his NGO partners. Japanese authorities could nevertheless make a silent tragedy out of this by turning their back on the ill-represented, detained North Koreans.
Michael Ubaldi, August 6, 2003.
Iranian freedom fighter Koorosh Afshar informed me of his latest article in Iran va Jahan. It's an open letter to President Khatami from a certain "A. Hedayat" describing the price Hedayat paid for the so-called insolence of free will. A horrifying account, abduction and torture failed to do anything more than simply strengthen his resolve. A few excerpts (grammar correction my own):
I am Ali Hedayat, a journalist who was captured and, after being beaten, got transferred to the Police Intelligence prison on 16th June by the vigilantes of Tabriz. Seventeen members of the vigilantes were involved in this process; they punched and kicked me for more than 300 times. They cursed me, my mother and my wife with very obscene words for hundreds of times which I will have to mention exactly in the following without any consideration and euphemism.
Also you will find out in this report that by "Plain clothes of Tabriz" I do not only refer to the Basiji forces or the forces of the so-called Mosque Bases. 90 percent of those people were the official personnel of the police (disciplinary forces of the Islamic Republic "NAJA"), the intelligence office of the disciplinary forces, the anti-narcotics office of the disciplinary forces and public places supervision office. The remaining 10 percent were members of the Guards of Revolution Army (Sepaah-e-Paasdaaraan) and Basiji forces of the factories and official organizations.
The blows that the trained members of the disciplinary forces inflicted on people were much more painful than those of the Basiji's and the members of the revolutionary guards (they need to be trained and practice more!) since the latter left bruises and wounds and inflammations unlike the former, who were trained and knew how to do their job without leaving an evidence.
Before I get to the point let me inform you that none of the judges or the interrogators of our trials ever bothered to ask us why our eyes, foreheads, chins and whole bodies were inflamed and bruised. They didn't bother to ask us who had attacked us so savagely and ruthlessly. They didn't bother to ask whether we wanted to see a doctor or to be sent to a medical examiner. They didn't bother to ask us whether we had any complaints or not.
They did not even suspect that these ruthless vigilantes arrested people and beat them to death, and after discovering that they were innocent kept them in prison for some time until their wounds [were] cured, so that nobody would detect the truth.
I take witness the primary verdicts made by the judges of the revolutionary courts who had ordered (after the interrogations) that many of the young prisoners had to be released on the 20th and 21st of June in case their families could afford to pay a five-million-toman security. On the contrary, they were kept for more than three more weeks so that their wounds wouldn't be left as evidence against the vigilantes.
I apologize if (in some sentences) my pen is fouled with swear words and obscenity. For if you had also received knee-kicks in your testicles and could have also been able to feel the killing pain you would definitely stop smiling and sitting calmly in rest posing as a reformist. You would have definitely started the never-put-into-practice reforms in the Executive. In spite of the fact that 17 people had mistaken me for a punching bag, all my emphasis on being sent by the judge to a medical examiner was in vain.
Hedayat goes on to describe his ordeal. It's graphic, not to mention heartwrenching:
After some time one of [my captors] said "Handcuff him and hold his hands up so that everybody [who] would see him wouldn't kill him!" This was the first time that I felt the cold steel handcuffs on my wrists. As my nose, my mouth, [and] my teeth were bleeding, and there was a lot of blood on my clothes, we left the room and, passing though these people, each one of them took advantage of the time once again and kicked me. After a short while they changed their minds and decided not to walk. They stopped a car and we three people sat in the back seat.
The driver was astonished, therefore he asked "what has this poor guy done?"
One of the vigilantes answered: "This motherf*cker is a journalist for VOA and BBC and Radio Farda. He informs that bitch, Maryam Rajavi. He is a spy. He is a traitor. And…etc."
They asked what he thought so he turned back and cursed me, but I could read it in his eyes that he was afraid and was begging me with them.
I forgave him there.
This is not a story of student protest: this is an entire nation at the brink of open revolt, and all for the desire to live freely. Hedayat's cuts and bruises can likely be matched by thousands of others - those who have been left alive. Read the article. We each owe it to ourselves as people who daily enjoy the security and bounty afforded under the rule of law.
Michael Ubaldi, August 5, 2003.
Too many people I know still hold Iran with the revulsion one would associate with the Khomeini regime of the 1980s. If I asked them what a "Khomeini' from "Iran" said about Allied democratization of Iraq, I doubt they'd ever consider this:
The grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the cleric who launched an anti-American Islamic revolution in Iran that sparked 25 years of unrest in the Muslim world has condemned his country’s clerical regime and suggested military intervention by the United States as a possible path to liberation.
Mr Khomeini - in Iraq on a religious pilgrimage to Shiite holy sites in Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad - also praised the US. takeover of Iraq, saying American forces were seen by Iraqis as liberators rather than occupiers.
"I see day-by-day that the country is on the path to improvement," he said. "I see that there’s security; that the people are happy; that they’ve been released from suffering."
And for those of us who aren't aware, Khomeini clarifies the proper Shiite opinion on God and government:
Mr Khomeini argues for the separation of religion and state and criticised "velayat-e-faqih" - the religious doctrine mandating Iranian Shiite clerics as God’s representatives on earth, giving them near-absolute power.
He said nationalism has no basis in religious doctrine, and freedom was more important than independence from foreign rule. "Freedom is a basic right. It supersedes all," he said.
Find this man a megaphone. And, if at all possible, a freed Iran in which to preach.
Michael Ubaldi, July 30, 2003.
It's the most effective form of military preventive dentistry:
Four truckloads of weapons and munitions have been seized in raids by Afghan forces targeting suspected Taliban hideouts in eastern Afghanistan.
The haul includes rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, assault rifles and other weapons.
An Afghan commander says it's believed the Taliban wanted the weapons for terrorist attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. No one was arrested in the raids this week in Afghanistan's Khost province.
The Associated Press report is undated and unclear as to whether the operation was related to the Afghan army's first assignment, Operation Warrior Sweep. I'll update if the information becomes available.
Also, Saddam's seven-inch singles are stiffing on the charts:
There is a reluctance among Muslims to replicate in Iraq the jihad fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Saddam Hussein's exhortations to the Muslim world to join him in a war may strike a powerful chord, but for now, many of the Muslims are staying out of the fray.
[T]here may be recruitment drives in the future, but it would take six to nine months to yield results. Right now, there is little evidence of recruiting on campuses or on websites.
Many of those non-Iraqi fighters [detained by Allied forces in-country] have returned home, disillusioned by Baghdad's quick fall and stories of Iraqis showing little enthusiasm to fight to save Saddam's regime.
The article serves up an obligatory reference to the anger "stirred up" in the "Arab world" by Allied postwar conduct but as has been demonstrated for two years now, the Arab street never rises. The article's author is astute nonetheless, and understands Bush's judgment of being "With us or with the terrorists":
[A]rab governments may think twice about supporting Al-Qaeda, for fear of US punishment.
Bingo. The next step is, over the next years, enabling liberated Near East populations to think twice about even listening to hateful ideologies, for fear of destroying their newfound freedoms.
Michael Ubaldi, July 22, 2003.
Solidarity among men is perhaps the greatest bond they can possibly share. Nearly two weeks ago I referenced the latest report from Iranian patriot Koorosh Afshar; his was a petition: "Does the world understand? Does the world support us?"
I drew an immediate parallel to our own John Adams who, in the historical fiction of the musical 1776 sings, "Does anybody care?" Indeed, Koorosh is a like revolutionary, leading a group of intellectuals and common people against despotism, absent arms sufficient to yet best their tyrannical government but for no lack of spirit. Just as the resilience of my own Founding Fathers never ceases to amaze me, I cannot hope to emulate the physical bravery of Iranian democrats.
A letter found its way into my e-mail box. I don't usually print letters but this typewritten sentiment was far too touching - and should be as such for the rest of us in the West, eager to help our allies of liberty from across the globe:
Thank you very very much for your fantastic and overwhelming compliment on comparing me with your national hero, John Adams, I know that he was a great man of your great nation. And I also know that when a patriotic and freedom-lover American, like you, gives a "Koorosh Afshar" from Iran such a compliment it must have been the effect of the words that happened to come from the depth of two hearts from two sides of the world.
I am very glad that I have a friend like you in America. I am sure that we will win over the darkness all over the world, with the help of eachother.
My hat is off to your sweet words and your generous resolve.
I responded in the only way I could: "You're very welcome, Koorosh. Take heart, and take heed: you and your democrats shall defeat your oppressors."
And one day he will address his countrymen with his own identity. Godspeed.
Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2003.
Koorosh Afshar's latest appeal in National Review:
So many of us are willing to sacrifice whatever we have to — even our lives — to free our nation. It's the basics we yearn for: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of expression — we want to be free to decide how to dress ourselves in the morning!
The question foremost in our hearts and on our tongues here, though, is one you, especially, need to hear: Is the world seeing this? Does the world understand? Does the world support us? Does the United States? How many times do we have to pour onto the streets and chant slogans, get beaten and imprisoned or kidnapped — or even killed — before the world will "wake up" and start to listen?
"Is anybody there? Does anybody care?"
I hear you, Koorosh. We hear you.
Michael Ubaldi, July 9, 2003.
You needn't say a word, Iran. Your hearts alone trumpet across the earth.
(Click for the full page and proper composition)
Michael Ubaldi, July 3, 2003.
Nonmilitarily, they don't get any better than this:
The U.S. government plans to launch a Persian-language television newscast in Iran on Sunday as the Bush administration continues to encourage internal dissent against the ruling clerics, administration officials said yesterday.
The Voice of America program, to be announced today, will be sent from Washington by satellite to avoid the jamming that has interfered with U.S. government radio programs aimed at the Iranian people.
The program, "News and Views," will include headlines, a report about the United Nations and a cultural package. It will air nightly from 9:30 to 10 p.m., Tehran time. VOA said a network of Iranian stringers will supply news from within the country.
People of Iran, take heed and take heart: we hear you.