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Challenging liberty from ‘Goddess of Democracy’ to Pillar of Shame

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zh:User:Duanhua, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

After more than 30 years of the oppression that resulted in the Tiananmen massacre, its fragments still live on. One of the examples of it was seen earlier this week as the Pillar of Shame was taken down by the authorities from the Hong Kong University. The statue by a Danish artist, Jens Galschiot, was erected at the university to signify the lives lost to the tyranny of the Chinese regime in 1989. The statue that displayed 50 bodies piled upon each other was placed in the university, as a monument to the 1989 events, 24 years ago.

The issue of the Tiananmen massacre is still considered taboo in China with people and textbooks holding binary opinions on the incident. Even the number of victims has not still been issued officially. The creator of the statue, Jens Galschiot, in his statement to the media said that the statue is his property, and he will protect it. He further said that:

“in the moment they are destroying (which) belong to foreign artists…of course, we will try to protect our property in Hong Kong and even sue them if this is necessary.”

Critics from around the world came together to protest against this act including the Scottish Member of Parliament, Steward McDonald who condemned the act and called for people in Scotland and around the world to “erect a similar memorial in solidarity with those who stood for freedom.”

HKU, Hong Kong University, Council issued their statement over the issue and said that the decision came “on external legal advice.” The university council justified its decision saying that ”the University is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statute. The latest legal advice given to the University cautioned that the continued display of the statute would pose legal risks to the University based on the Crimes Ordinance enacted under the Hong Kong colonial government.” They reported that the statue has been removed and placed in storage until further action.

Following the removal of the Pillar of Shame, two more universities of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University, removed two monuments that were placed in memory of the Tiananmen massacre. Both universities released similar statements to that of HKU to justify the decisions.

In the Tiananmen square, the Goddess of Democracy was taken down by the authorities which symbolized the quest for the liberty of the protesters. 32 years later, statues and monuments are still taken down by the authorities while the massacre stands as a taboo.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Buffalo Shooter Allegedly Targeted African Americans

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Jason Lawrence via Flickr.com

An 18 year old man charged with first degree murder for shooting 13 people, including 10 fatally, at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, allegedly chose the location for its high population of African Americans.

The suspect, Payton Gendron, who did not plead guilty, is originally from Conklin, New York, and is believed to have driven 300km to execute the attack.

The attack was livestreamed by Gendron himself on the streaming service ‘Twitch’, a platform that allows creators to live stream to millions of viewers. Gendron confessed on his livestream to be a white supremacist.

Gendron had already made “generalized” threats during high school, Joseph Gramagiia, Bufallo’s chief of police said. But he did not face any real consequences for this though, and he was discharged after a day and half spent in hospital for a mental health evaluation.

On the day of the attack, Gendron arrived at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, which he is also said to have observed a day earlier, and started his livestream at about 14.30 EST. He shot dead a security guard, after one unsuccessful attempt. He then killed 9 other people and injured 3 more. The victims range from the ages of 20 to 86.

Evidence has emerged that Gendron had initially planned to move on to another store to continue his attack but surrendered to police at the scene of the first: “There was evidence that was uncovered that he had plan, had he gotten out of here, to continue his rampage and continue shooting people. He’d even spoken about possibly going to another store.”, Gramaglia reported to CNN News.

The attack caused international uproar from many people around the world. The US President Biden wrote on Twitter that “we must work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of this nation”. He later announced that he will travel to Buffalo with the First Lady on Tuesday to grieve with the community.

Alongside politicians, artists such as Cardi B and Justin Bieber also expressed their grief on social media. 

Less than 24 hours after this attack, four other attacks happened in the US: two in Texas, and two in North Carolina and California.

Despite many mass shootings this year, this attack is said to be the worst mass shooting in the US in 2022 so far. 

It is not the first time an extremist attack has been livestreamed. In 2019, another white supremacist in Christchurch, New Zealand decided to attack a mosque at Jumma, the Islamic Friday prayer. Like Gendron, the attacker, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, also left a ‘manifesto’, a public declaration of aims expressing his extremist beliefs.

This attack has once again reignited debate about gun regulation in the US. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Crimean Muslims Sentenced to Jail by Russian Courts

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Adam Jones from Kelowna, via Wikimedia Commons

Crimean Tatars are a Muslim minority group, that once were spread throughout the Black Sea Peninsula. Russia has a history of targeting this minority group, labeling them as terrorists.

On Thursday,  Russian military court sentenced 5 Muslim Crimean men, out of dozens who are awaiting “trial”. They are set to serve between 12-14 years in jail for being part of an “Islamist” organization. The group these men were apart of, Hizb-ut Tahrir, peacefully advocates for a Muslim Caliphate and operates freely in the Ukraine. 

According to activist Mumine Salieva, the Kremlin has specifically ordered courts not to release any official information on sentencing, even while dozens of men await trial for years on end. Salieva, whose husband was arrested in 2017 and has been kept in a pre trial detention facility, said, “Russian media outlets don’t write about it, and the court doesn’t release [the information] that is handed to lawyers.”

The Crimean Tatars fully resisted the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and now face new threats after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since 2014, at least 36 Tatar Muslims have been sentenced to long years in prison, including 17 just this year alone. Already about 200 children have been left fatherless as Russians round up the Muslim men. 

Hundreds of Crimean Muslims and secular activists fled after 2014, seeking refuge in Ukraine, Turkey and other nations. Observers have noted Russian authorities following the same persecution pattern as they did with Muslims in Chechnya and other Muslim dominant regions. 

The Crimean Tatars have a long history of being displaced and persecuted. In 1944, Joseph Stalin deported the entire community of Crimean Tatars from the Black Sea. They were taken in cattle cars to Central Asia in a brutal trip where half of the deportees died. For decades, the Tartars protested the deportation. Finally, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, allowed them to return, however did not provide any compensation for lost property or family. 

Then, in post-Soviet Russia, the Tatars were highly discriminated against, barred from employment with the police or government. 

During the annexation of Crimea, the Tatars sided with Ukraine against the Russian invaders. By using smart phone apps, Tatars were able to give real time information about Russian troop and armored vehicles’ movements. They then used this information to form blockades for the Russians trying to enter their neighborhoods. In response, the Kremlin cracked down through intimidation, abductions and pressure. Many Tatar men disappeared, eye witnesses saying they were thrown into unmarked vehicles. 

More recently, Russia persecutes the Tatar community by suppressing their cultural identity. They have reduced education in Tatar schools and demolished their historic sites.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Gun Deaths- the Leading Killer of US Children in 2020

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New research based on data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that guns overtook car crashes to become the leading cause of death in US children aged 1 to 19. In 2020 alone 4,300 young Americans died of gun-related injuries. Suicides and homicides were major contributors to the death toll.

The new research was published in the New England Journal Medicine and it concluded that the rise in youth gun-related deaths was part of an overall 33.4% increase in firearm homicides nationwide. The study notes that homicide, the single largest contributor to gun-related deaths in the US, disproportionately impacts young Americans. From 2019 to 2020 the overall rate of gun deaths rose nearly 30% in US children and teenagers, more than twice the rate for the general population. Gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents increased for both men and women with the largest increase among black Americans.

Previously, car crashes were the leading cause of death among young Americans. However, over time car deaths have decreased while gun-related deaths have spiked in the Covid pandemic. A separate study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 7.5 million Americans became first time gun owners during the pandemic from January to April 2021.This increase in gun ownership exposed an additional 11 million people, including 5 million children,  to household firearms.

In total, US civilians own more than 390 million guns. Lax gun control laws and strong lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) have made it extremely difficult to restrict who can and can’t buy firearms. Current gun laws restrict certain people such as fugitives and patients involuntarily committed to mental institutions from purchasing firearms, however there are several loopholes in legislation which make obtaining a firearm quite easy. Any dealers interested in selling firearms for a profit must obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL). FFL holders are required to conduct a background check before selling firearms, however individuals may sell guns without a FFL if their motive is not to make profit through regular sales. Non-FFL sellers are also not legally required to conduct a background check. 

Even if the US cannot agree to completely ban firearms from commercial sale and possession, it is the responsibility of the federal government to tighten gun control laws and protect citizens from dangerous arms sales. School shootings and active gun crimes have become commonplace in the US and those most affected are the nation’s youth. Rather than requiring background checks on all arms sales and requiring gun owners to obtain a license for possession, children as young as 5 years old are being taught drills on how to respond to active shooters in school. With gun-related deaths being identified as the leading cause of death in young Americans, this is a perfect opportunity for lawmakers to step up and make a change in US gun control laws to ensure a safer future for the nation’s youth. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Saira Shah
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Saira is a Muslim American with a passion for writing, economics, and justice.  With a background as a UC Berkeley graduate with a bachelors in economics allows her to quantitatively analyze critical developments from around the globe as well as their long term impacts on financial systems and social welfare. She is dedicated to reporting in an investigative, honest and compassionate manner to give voice to those who need it most.

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Crime

Man Who Made Offensive Grenfell Effigy Video Pleads Guilty

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Natalie Oxford, via Wikimedia Commons

A man who made an incredibly offensive video of a cardboard model of the Grenfell Tower being burned, has pleaded guilty.

The video was originally posted in November of 2019 by Paul Bussetti who was cleared of any charges at that time. However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) appealed against this verdict and a retrial was ordered. 

The video showed a cardboard model of the tower with people as it goes up in flames in a bonfire. It was filmed in his friend’s backyard. The prosecutors in the original trial also urged that there were racist motivations behind the video considering it had black and brown figures burning.

“That’s what happens when you don’t pay the rent,” he is heard saying in the video after he makes siren noises. 

He is also heard saying “who’s jumping?”, “don’t worry, stay in your flats” and “jump out of the window” among many other offensive remarks. 

The video was shared initially on two Whatsapp groups and then on other social media sites by a member of the group. After it went viral, Bussetti handed himself to the police. The main reason it was considered offensive was because of the Grenfell Towel fire which killed 72 people and is considered one of the worst disasters in the UK. 

In the trial, Bussetti claimed through his lawyer that the video was a private joke among his friends and was not intended to cause offense. However, he was still given a 10-week jail sentence while also being suspended for 2 years. Moreover, he also has to pay CPS £6,095 within 28 days. 

The survivors and bereaved of the horrible incident were outside the court and expressed how they were “relieved” by the sentencing. 

“When one is ignorant of the world and people that are around them they do the most stupid and vile things,” said the family of a survivor. 

The Aylan Kurdi incident 

This isn’t the first time that someone has made terrible jokes at the expense of a tragedy. One of the most controversial incidents is that of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who drowned with his mother and brother after the boat traveling from the Greek island of Kos to the Turkish town of Bodrum capsized. 

After the incident, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon depicting the death of the three-year-old as its own controversial take on the refugee and migration crisis. The cartoon had him lying face down on the beach with a text reading “So close to his goal…” and a McDonald’s-style Happy Meal Board in the background stating “Two children’s menus for the price of one.”

The same magazine also posted another islamophobic cartoon on the incident since he was a Muslim refugee. As a result, the cartoon received backlash with Twitter users calling it “disguising”. 

“Charlie Hebdo is a purely racist, xenophobic, and ideologically bankrupt publication that represents the moral decay of France,” said Barrister Peter Herbert, Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and former vice-chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. 

However, despite all the backlash, the cartoonist and the magazine faced no consequences whatsoever and soon the incident was brushed under the rug. 

The Prophet Muhammad Incident

Another controversial cartoon was again published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. The cartoon was offensive to Muslims worldwide since the depiction of the Prophet is not allowed and the message of the cartoon was itself offensive as well. 

Moreover, a teacher in a French high school displayed caricatures of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. These actions had a terrible impact and the teacher was beheaded by Islamic extremists in 2020. The French Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron defended these actions under freedom of speech. In fact, the offensive cartoon from the magazines was displayed on the government buildings in the country after the high school incident. 

As a result, Muslim countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates boycotted French goods while there were protests in Muslim countries all over the world. 

The law did not punish the offensive cartoons in France, however, a similar incident in the UK, which was also allegedly a joke did result in a sentence. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Six Sentenced to Death Penalty for Murder of Sri Lankan Factory Manager in Pakistan

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Six people have been sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of Priyantha Diyawadanage in Pakistan. “Mr. DDN Piryantha Kumara, General Manager, Rajco Factory, Sialkot was murdered on the allegations of blasphemy by the mob. Later on, the mob desecrated the dead body and ablaze the same,” the Anit-Terrorism court in Lahore reported. 81 others have also been charged, with nine serving life sentences in prison, one serving five years, and the rest serving two years. 

In December of 2021, Diyawandanage was seen taking down posters of Prophet Muhammed, throwing them in the trash, which began rumors of blasphemy. Hundreds of people gathered around Diyawandanage’s workplace in response, dragging him outside and lynching him. Videos broadcast on social media show individuals beating Diyawandanage, burning his body, and taking selfies.  

A close colleague of Diyawandanage’s told local news that he took down posters because the buildings were being closed. The then Prime Minister Imran Khan called it a “day of shame,” for Pakistan. “Let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law,” he had also stated via Twitter. 

Baseless accusations in Pakistan often result in violence and lynching, with heavy targets on minorities. Rights groups also claim that such accusations are used to get back in personal feuds. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Daesh Fighter Elsheikh Could Face Life in Prison as US Jury Finds Him Guilty on 8 Charges

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  • El Shafee Elsheikh was convicted by a US federal jury in Virginia for his involvement with an Islamic State terror cell in which he captured, tortured, and beheaded many IS hostages in Syria, including 4 Americans. After a three-week trial, Elsheikh, who is the highest profile IS fighter to be tried in the US, was found guilty on 8 charges, including lethal hostage taking and murder conspiracy, which means he will face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
  • Elsheikh and three other men, his co-conspirators Mohammed Emwazi, Alexanda Kotey, and Aine Davis, are nicknamed the “Beatles” for their British accents. The group worked together to kidnap and torment more than 2 dozen hostages, which eventually led to the deaths of 4 Americans: journalists Sten Sotloff and James Foley, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. Their actions also led to the deaths of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Japanese journalists Huruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. 
  • Elsheikh is the only one to go on trial in the US, since his extradition to the US was part of a complicated negotiation agreement between the US and UK. Kotey pleaded guilty to his charges last September, Emwazi was killed in 2015 in a drone strike, and Davis is currently imprisoned in Turkey. 
  • Four rows of the courtroom were reserved for former hostages and their families. Several of the hostages took the stand to recount the horrendous treatment they faced from the Beatles, and illustrated how they were a cohesive unit that relished in brutality. 
  • However, Elsheikh’s defense attorney, Nina Ginsberg, claimed that although Elsheikh went to Syria and joined ISIS, that did not prove that Elsheikh was part of the Beatles group, since he was never identified by any of the former hostages. 
  • Jurors deliberated for less than six hours before stating their verdict, causing a small sigh of relief from the victims’ families. Mike Haines, the brother of David Haines, stated, “this unanimous judgement is a triumph for society over ills like terrorism and helps differentiate us from the hateful, divisive ideologies that fuel these individuals.” 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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