My morning headache had a name (as they always do), and beyond the nightmare that is swine flu, this one is named Stupak.

Stupak is also one of those Democrats belonging to the blue party for reasons that are beyond our comprehension (he’s fiercely pro-life, much in the likes of Sarah Palin currently hosting fearfully successful pro-life rallies in the South). The Stupak Amendment is an amendment to the current healthcare bill that considerably reduces the federal funds given to abortion. Basically, if you need an abortion, please pay out of your own pocket, thank you. Considering the fact that women in need of abortion are generally mostly of lower to poor working classes, this is not going to help women at all. But this is 2009 and Maine has already given us our federal quota of legal gay-bashing for November; so who else were we going to stump on this time? You’re right, the <i>other</i> second-class citizen: poor women.

The Stupak Amendment, which real name is Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts-Smith-Kaptur-Dahlkemper Amendment, is already mirroring the Hyde Amendment asking for the complete refusal of federal funds for abortion under health care policies, and the removal of abortion from government-funded health care programs. Planned Parenthood was just about to shoot itself in the head before it heard the news, and is now considering committing itself to the nearest government-funded mental illness program created just for women who have no other choice in life but to turn to the 19th century literature already condemning the use of underground abortion. Guess that a teenage Austrian Jew knew more about women than Democrats do.

As per Republican custom – which once again makes me question Stupak’s allegiance to the Democrat Party – at the moment of voting, Stupak called to the “conscience” of Congressmen, in order to secure the place of his amendment on the bill. The proposed health-care reform, already the product of a severe compromise and the dismissal of anything that would be actually historical and life-changing in the history of healthcare in the United States, is now crowned with the title of the first health care program that completely ignores women’s rights and women’s health in it. I am talking about western countries obviously since we have already stated that the United States has a healthcare record placing them behind Cuba. According to Stupak,

“Passage of the Stupak Amendment does not impose a new federal abortion policy; it simply continues what has been the law of the land since 1977 and I am pleased that with the addition of this amendment the House health care reform bill will continue that policy.”

“I have long been an advocate of health care reform. My goal has always been to ensure that the voices of the majority of Americans who oppose federal funding for abortion were heard in this important debate. Now that those voices have been heard we must move forward and pass a bill that provides quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

“I thank Speaker Pelosi for allowing this important vote to occur and I appreciate the hard work and perseverance of my pro-life colleagues in Congress who held strong and stood with me over the past several months as we worked to find a way to allow this vote against all odds.”

Against all odds, indeed, since Nancy Pelosi is herself a woman and should vote in her conscience with the hundreds of thousands of women she is now condemning by allowing Stupak to use all his manly force to restrict women’s rights a little bit further, in case we weren’t already worried with our situation. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a teacher at Princeton University, twittered this morning: “So angry about Stupak last night that I had to practice meditation at 2:30AM to finally get to sleep.” Then: “It’s Sunday morning and I am seeking more balance, greater optimism, and the courage to move in a new direction.” We do, actually, and proponents of women’s rights such as Rachel Maddow and Planned Parenthood have already geared up their responses for the bill that passed with a bipartisan vote of 220 – 215 (thank you, Anthony Weiner!)

“Planned Parenthood serves three million women every year through its more than 850 affiliate health centers across the country and has worked tirelessly on behalf of those patients for affordable, quality health care. On behalf of the millions of women Planned Parenthood health centers serve, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has no choice but to oppose HR 3962. The bill includes the Stupak/Pitts amendment that would leave women worse off after health care reform than they are today, violating President Obama’s promise to the American people that no one would be forced to lose her or his present coverage under health reform.

It is strange, a bit eerie, and terribly confusing that this health care reform, so long promised, so long talked about and so long decried by a Republican Party afraid to lose its homophobic, women-hating and gun-toting base, finally became exactly what the Republican Party expected it to be: expensive for sick people, unaffordable for minorities, reducing women’s rights, denouncing equality, and finally going back to square one, all of that without having mastered a single debate yet. We had been encouraged to look toward European countries and favor systems such as La Sécurité Sociale in France and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, without ever using this said inspiration to anything progressive, productive in useful. In times of recession, only government-based means of social security are saving societies from decrepit downfalls of epic proportions. It is only because of health care and welfare that most European countries managed to keep their level of conumption to a degree that kept their economies somewhat afloat. What will happen to the United States now?

One question: what is the use of Congress – and most importantly, the use of a majority in Congress – if we are not using it to bring about the ideas and the reforms propulsed by said majority? It’s not as if the Republicans had ever hesitated to press with all their weight when they were in Office. Why, all of a sudden, must everything be bipartisan, to the point it’s not even a question of balance, but a question of pleasing the minority? Barack Hussein Obama wanted to bring the United States into the third millenium after George W. Bush had run it into the ground and hit reverse – now we are retreating further back into the Dark Ages of feodal rule, and I am not so happy about the future of women, of gay people, of minorities, and of low incomes anymore. If anything, brace yourselves, because this future is indeed a bleak one.

By the way, Stupak, please do leave your Democrat Party card at the door when you leave, thank you.

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Seriously, guys.

Seriously.

September 2008 was a catastrophe of a kind we had almost forgotten, so deeply engrossed we were in our illusion of comfort: a financial crash of epic proportions, a Steinbeck-type of depression that sent the western world into a whirlwind of home foreclosures, a steady and steep rise in unemployement rate and a (justified) growing mistrust in the free market. For the first time in a really long time, people called for regulation. They called for governmental intervention. The ghost of the red scare, floating over the United States despite skinny dipping into a pool of debt, was pushed away by people falling below the threshold of poverty, or reaching new lows they thought they would never attain. No social security to catch those millions on the downfall. Surely this would be enough of a nightmare for a deafening, international wake-up call? Surely, this depression would bring about the change we had all been waiting for? Finally, we would treat bankers like the irresponsible children that they are and would reign in the market to protect our assets that are, ultimately, our livelihood.

Yeah, well, no. Guess we never learn.

A year after the record plummeting of Wall Street, unemployement rates are peaking at 9.8% , foreclosures are planned to reach 2.3 million , but the banks are doing obnoxiously well. As a vast majority of us are contemplating a bleak and dull future, as employers of national companies are throwing themselves out of windows, financial markets are registering historic profit. On average, traders of the 23 first banks in the United States will cash an annual income reaching $143,400. This is when some of us will no longer be able to meet our mortgage payments or pay our rent. Bill Clinton’s miserably failing welfare system is tested in the most cruel and inhumane ways as Wall Street investors will pocket a total of $437 billion. Billions. Billions that have not been handed out by Congress in support of universal health care, when medical expenses in these uncertain times are undoubtedly going to send people into a spiral of financial distress. Bonuses pocketed by the sole Bank of America CEOs (who have begged for a $45 billion bail-out out of taxpayer’s money) will be six times as much as the IMF annual budget that tried to feed the very same people Bank of America majorly, royally and unapologetically screwed over.

Let’s face it: bankers were once on top of the world, and regardless of the pretty, hopeful and thoughtful rhethoric the new administration has been blasting in our ears, they still are. They literally got away with murder, and keep on living their lavish lifestyle while the dark clouds of the recession are still casting a long shadow over our heads.  The regulation we had been promised, supposedly extensively discussed during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh just a few months ago, has yet to be felt. Peter Kennen, professor of economics at Princeton University, told Le Monde that “the state does not have the power to act, but banks have to realise by themselves that the public opinion  can no longer accept such practices – and that they must change before Congress is forced to pass law.” Let it be clear: the government does have the power to act, it simply chooses not to do so. With all due respect for Mister Kennen, if any form of action is easily labeled – and thus slandered – by the conservatives as being an oppressive form of that scary socialism, it does not necessarily mean it is beyond Obama’s reach. As a matter of fact, this might be exactly what he has been elected upon: for once, a presidential candidate felt ready and even obligated to act upon the people’s wishes. Would that be a little too democratic for a country that’s not ruled by the Constitution, but simply being a by-product of the free market?

Robert Shapiro, president of Sonecon, is a little less positive and optimistic. He claims that banks are simply making a risky, short-term quick buck at the minute, and that the Dow Jones’ spectacular rise from its ashes (passing the bar of over 10,000 points) may only be temporary. Despite the banks’ goodwill plea that the bonuses fixed by the G20 summit will be respected, Shapiro is realistic enough to take those moral conversions with a grain of salt: “they only have their word for it”, he said, “and if they really commit to those principles, I want to see proof.” We all do, and we are all waiting for our returns on investments they have greedily swallowed along with their half-ethics never to plunge an entire country – and an entire economic system – into the Dark Ages ever again. Oh well, cross your heart and spit on it, because Goldman Sachs is not exactly anywhere near retiring from the business.

I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow.  Maybe they will turn violent.  Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed.  I’m listening to all my favorite music.  I even want to dance to a few songs.  I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows.  Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see.  I should drop by the library, too.  It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again.  All family pictures have to be reviewed, too.  I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye.  All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them.  I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that.  My mind is very chaotic.  I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure.  So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them.  So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism.  This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…

These words are from a courageous Iranian blogger, struggling against Ahmadinejad’s willingness to shut down internet access to rebels; defying the very rationality that is supposedly an inherent ingredient to political, social and human apathy; challenging his very life by fighting for the only life is worth living for: freedom.

UN Resolution 1540, pertaining to the rights of colonial people – and technically not applicable to Iran’s case – is however universal in its call for independance, uncompromising freedom and as a hidden, half-secretive call for rebellion: All peoples have the right to Self-Determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. any have called international law and the subsequent humanitarian and human rights legal branches utopist, ideological, and completely unpragmatic. What is happening in Iran right now is proving that whenever a population is vehemently, violently and obnoxiously denied their rights of expression, they rebel, and would fight with all their might to prove that they exist, that they deserve to exist, that their voices deserve to be heard. If you are, by any sort of complex and cynical stretch of the soul, unconvinced that revolutions can reach their goals, keep in mind that the goal is not necessary the focal point of a revolution. The point is to revolt.

is it safe to ignore that many peoples plight?

is it safe to ignore that many people's plight?

Revolutions are bloody. They are also often unplanned, chaotic, and often become historically embellished over the years, depending on which side have won over the flesh and limbs of the nation to form the government forcing it to return to relative peace. Revolutions are progressive. They are driven by a force that goes way beyond national interest, and appeals to the very core of a population that had often been divided and isolated in the past. Revolutions are collective, they call to the heart of empathy, of community, and of solidarity. They’re a fantastic means of social upheaval. Iran is revolting because they believe their votes have been hijacked, and that the election has been stolen away from them. They believe Ahmadinejad is attempting a coup to stay in power despite a relatively democratic regime, and they want him to leave. All they want are for their votes to be counted.

In the meantime, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is flaunting his racist rhetoric, anti-semitic speeches and bragging about his hatred for the western world. Giving Samuel Huntington a little more than he’s asked for, he’s build nuclear weapons faster than India even did, once again showboating to the greatest dismay of the United States, unnerved, afraid and aggravated by such a mental, unstable presence a little too close from the hot spot that is Palestine. Ahmadinejad has been running towards a war with the United States in the last few years, begging for it, calling for it, praying for it, hoping that a strike from the long-standing ignorant and revengeful enemy will give him the legitimacy he’s always waited for. Unable to bring his country back into the light it once was for its surroundings, Ahmadinejad chose the path of the religious crusade to the Ayatollah’s greatest delight. Now that a more moderate candidate is claiming victory, Ahmadinejad sees his martyrdom dream vanish in front of his eyes.

But that’s not what matters here. What matters is the spontaneous, willing, and sudden outburst of a young, motivated, and fearless population, claiming the core values of democracy, marching for the respect of their human rights, and re-establishing what we in the western world had taken for granted, then entirely forgotten about: by the people, for the people, and for this precise reason, people are killed. People are being targeted by a governmental police for being patriotic. They’re being dragged away and beaten to the pulp for having a political conscience. Their legitimate electoral winner has been placed on house arrest for simply defying the leader of the coup. Now, shamelessly, in front of the whole wide world to watch, in front of our bewildered eyes, murder is taking place for one simple ideal: freedom.

Ahmadinejad wanted a war. It may not be the one he had been longing for, but he’s got one. Civil wars are shameful and their long-lasting effects are devastating. The outcome is not known yet, but here’s the bottom line: anyone marching in the streets of Tehran with a piece of green fabric tied around their arms knows what they’re here for. And we shall take lessons from them.

Be informed: Twitter #iranelections,  ontd_political Iran Elections Watch. Also keep in mind that Iranis are being refused Internet access: bloggers and twitters can be arrested for giving out info to the rest of the world. Find more about how to become a proxy server for the Iranis (thanks to mr_spivens)

We westerners have been so patronizing and condescending towards Middleeastern countries in the last few decades we had almost forgotten that they, like us, uphold the long-standing tradition of regular scheduling of people-sponsored freedom: democratic elections. The meaning of democracy and the extent to which it is applied varies from nation to nation, but the principle remains the same: the population decides who they trust enough to become their leaders, from a list of potential candidates supposedly representing various sides of the ideological spectrum. Whichever candidate gets the most votes win. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s worked since the dawn of times in the countries politically secure enough to implement the process, and generally guarantees relative social satisfaction. Unless, of course, the result is not good enough for some, and is hi-jacked.

Hi-jacking election results is a concept probably born at the same time as elections themselves, since leading elites generally mistrust the people and its capacity to know what is best for the country. There is a general consensus among powers that be that the bewildered herd that we, little people, are, is hardly au fait of the struggles and nerve-wracking games of the political system and should therefore be left out of it. Should we be surprised that now that the United States are feeling confident enough to monitor Iran’s elections, the aftermath turns sour?

Tehran, shortly after the election results

Tehran, shortly after the election results

Iran has been the thorn in the United States Foreign Affairs’ side ever since its race to enriched uranium made it one of the most threatening nations in the Middle East, especially under the rule of Sarkozy-sized leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, conservative enough to earn Ayatollah Khomeini’s good graces, belligerent enough to infuriate the powers that be, powerful enough to make his threats a top priority in diplomatic relations. Alas, Iran hardly ever benefited from the sweet game of chess that international relations are, suffering from an embargo implemented under Reagan and only just relieved by President Obama, keen on trying new methods to rally Iran to the good cause of pretend democracy and political stability. Ahmadinejad, a fervent believer in the clash of civilizations, and staunch adversary to Israel, could care less of what Europeans and Americans think – his own agenda is pushing him closer and closer to severing any ties he’s had with the United Nations.

In that regard, Ahmadinejad was not the moderate, open-minded leader we us white privileged spin doctors had requested. Iran, proud of its revolutionary past, even more proud of its revolutionary and forward-thinking civilization, lifting their noses high at the ignorant calling them “arabs”, defied western culture, western beliefs, and more importantly, western imperialism. The problem lied in how they did it – by becoming a threat to security, a threat to human rights, and a threat to civil liberties. Ahmadinejad has perhaps more in common with the western world than he thinks. Election times coming, several candidates opposing the former president rose to the challenge, including Mossavi, a moderate, educated, politically-inclined former advisor. In Iran, every candidate must be validated by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeiny, whose preference for Ahmadinejad was hardly a secret.

From prohibiting the access to Facebook for fear of letting moderate candidates do some online canvassing, to coercing voters into picking the right candidate by bringing the army to voting booths, Iran did everything by the book to make this election illegitimate and completely unnecessary. There were times when former Presidents were too insecure about the results of forthcoming elections and would rather release a decree instauring them a lifelong position on top of the government. Ahmadinejad played the game, but tricked them, with the complicity of the Ayatollah, the police, but forgetting the most important key ingredient of all: popular support. Mind you, there is only so much oppression a population can take before the spark turns into fire, and Tehran is now facing another cultural and social revolution, of the utmost democratic kind.

In a world both fascinated and obsessed by the seemingly constant threat of terrorism, world leaders had forgotten the power of a popular uprising, and its undeniable capacity to overthrow governments. Too busy debating the alleged necessity of torture in pseudo-philosophical terms, and too self-absorbed to contemplate the decay of the social and economic fabric right underneath their soundproof windows, nothing but a brick could have awaken them to the harsh reality of revolution. Ahmadinejad claimed over 62% of the vote. The population – around 75 percent of the country’s 46.2 million eligible voters, according to MSNBC – heavily supported Mossavi, and wants to be heard. If the process of democracy is simple, so is the context surrounding the abrupt and obnoxious loss of democratic values: it becomes the most threatening incentive for violence. Hell hath no fury as a cheated people’s scorn.

If anyone believed that the sudden popular outburst would convince Ahmadinejad to back down, and the Council to investigate a possible fraud, they were deadly wrong, as Ahmadinejad’s first move as a reconducted president was to indulge into a vast array of several law enforcement decrees violating every liberty in the book, starting with putting his opponent under house arrest, raiding the offices of newspapers Green Word and Etemademelli, and arresting the head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front.  What will happen to the journalists caught in the descent is not yet known, but imaginations are running wild, and they have every right to do so: if it looks like a coup, smells like a coup, and sheds as much blood as a coup, chances are you are in the presence of an illegitimate, coercive, and liberticide government.

It is now Sunday evening, temperatures are rising all over Western Europe, and if you live in Iran, stay in hiding, we will shortly contact you… if we remember.

Christian Bale, working on taxcuts.

Christian Bale, working on taxcuts.

This week, a leaked tape has made the rounds on the internet, providing the young and urban crowd with more cult material. No, it wasn’t a sextape. The audio file of Christian Bale ranting out at the director of photography, a man named Bruce, calls him an amateur, and insulting him for over three minutes for walking on the set, distracting Bale from his important job as an actor. In the background, we can hear the director trying to reason Bale, feebly, pleading for a break, and probably praying for this all to be over.  We are only hoping that, at this stage, President Obama will side with Christian Bale. Let’s face it: the general reaction to the reworking of the stimulus package left the same bitter, angry, and desperate impression. Distracting, nerve-wracking, unnerving, and seriously, fucking amateur.

Paul Krugman is also shaking his head in disbelief. He agrees that the fuss made over the stimulus package by the resident Republicans in the House was distracting, to say the least, just as distracting from the situation – a simmering economic crisis that could as well become the new Great Depression – as a walking DP on the set of an intense scene. We may know what their names are, we may not exactly know who hired them; all we know, is that what should have been an inclusive, collective, collegial consensus on the ways to possibly fix this giant mess turned into a childish and petty fight over half a popsicle. The determination to obtain a rewrite from the Obama Administration, delaying the moment of implementation and aggravating pounding headaches was indeed worth a “bale-out”. Let’s just not take five, should we? Let’s just go at it again. Let’s work, and let’s be able to work on something decent here.

Thing is, this entire crisis sounded like a joke, from the get-go. The real estate bubble bursted and created a domino effect, not just throughout the United States, but throughout the world. Somewhere in the middle, irresponsible and immature speculation forgot that globalization also meant co-dependance. Everything we had ever heard in terms of harsh criticism, borderline communism, conspiracy theory and anarchism has suddenly exploded in our faces, in the light of a truth we simply never wanted to hear: not only did we screw up, but we screwed up ourselves, everyone we know, their moms, their distant relatives, their kindergarten friends, and some folks in another continent we would have never heard of if it wasn’t for Facebook. Yet, a cacophonic cohort of Republicans are howling at wasteful governmental expenses and scream for more taxcuts. Such are the wonders of the perpetually unsatisfied. The failure of the subprimes and mortgage credits was predictable. A complete lack of government intervention means free reigns on money transfers. 1992 taught us that a government should never leave Wall Street completely unattended. A blind eye was turned, and the Amber Alert was called on our hard-earned paychecks, retirement savings, health care benefits and mortgage payments. Our whole lives, blown up in smoke. One conclusion: the previous idea didn’t work, but before trying another one, let’s clean up this mess.

economic hotline.

Barack Obama: economic hotline.

Sadly enough, some PR whispered in Christian Bale’s ears that his attitude wasn’t respectful; and despite its recent success as a dance hit, the “bale-out” hysteria came to an end the second Bale apologized for his rant. After gaining so much support from his grassroots fanbase and even the film director himself, Bale decided to take it down a notch, trying to appease the angry voices. We disagree – respectfully, of course. Likewise, Barack Obama tried his best to make everyone feel respected, included, ensuring everyone’s names were on the guest list, listening to any advice or opinion in the room – including Rush Limbaugh’s, whose point of view we could all honestly do without. It’s a good thing to have the opposition walk on set, mind you, and to let them feel they’re just as important as the majority in the global theater of politics. They are, indeed – it’s the fundamental, core principle of democracy. However, Obama needs to take the reigns. It no longer is about playing checkers with Nancy Pelosi. Action has to be taken, and it has to be taken now. Krugman was hardly exaggerating when depicting this generation as victims of “shattered optimism”.  The Federal Reserve cut back on interest rates, but this didn’t stop the economy from prolonging its downfall into the abyss. The “Buy American” trend that had saved the automobile industry in the past won’t jump-start a skeptical consumer already on the brink of losing his house.

That is precisely the reason why I don’t think Christian Bale should apologize for exploding into rage. We’re all falling extremely close to becoming american psychos ourselves. Barack Obama won the election. His administration has the qualifications and the experience to draft a proposal capable of redressing the wheel, if only a little. Let’s face it: it won’t fix it. We are way beyond the possibilities of a healing process. Yet it has become painfully obvious that standing in the way of an immediate plan would decrease, if not suppress, the odds of seeing any improvement. There is no time for dance steps, for waltzing with John McCain’s speech on Obama’s dangerous inexperience. This is not about the GOP’s future, it’s about the nation’s future, and that of all the Obama must now walk them out of the set. A plan might be drastic, radical, controversial – and it should be. Believing into endless negotiations and talks in the name of an economic ideology that had already proved itself wrong and irresponsible will not stop the country’s downward spiral.  Let’s just not waste any time in apologies or endless protocol. Let’s do another take, and this time, let’s not have Limbaugh walk all over the set to fix the lights, shall we?

So, you still think about another rewrite? OOOOOOOH, GOOOOOOD FOR YOUUUUUU.

Our beloved and admired friend Erin Cunningham, special correspondant on the Gaza Strip, has sent us a few words and photos yesterday. We thought it was compelling enough to share.

because of my press card, i am able to go into the ‘no man’s land’ between the egyptian and gaza border, where all the ambulances and red cross people are loading things, and we can see hamas on the other side. we’re so close we can see the rockets being launched by hamas and not only see but feel the vibrations and the ground shake from the israeli bombs. i’m in shock, and can’t be very articulate at the moment because of it. here are some very amateur shots i took in the few hours i was actually at the border crossing.

also photos of some rioting in a nearby town.

© Erin Cunningham 2009

erin7

© Erin Cunningham 2009

© Erin Cunningham, 2009

© Erin Cunningham, 2009

See all of Erin’s photos in our Flickr Account.  Photos will be added as Erin uploads them – don’t forget to come back and check for updates.

Erin Cunningham graduated from the American University of Paris in December 2006. Her journalism errands sent her to Bosnia, Macedonia, Palestin. She traveled to Kurdistan, Syria, Georgia, Israel, and Croatia. Raised in Huntington Beach, CA, she now lives in Cairo. Erin Cunningham has recently accepted to become a contributor here at semi-autonomous collective.

There is no escape from history. There is no escape from trauma. There is no such thing as a clean slate. Tonight, the United Nations Security Council is calling for an extraordinary reunion concerning the impending risk of genocide at the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.

In 1994, hundreds of thousands of Tutsis had fled Rwanda and the Hutu rebel militia to Congo, where they have stayed in refugee camps since then. In the last several days, the Tutsi militia, led by Congo renegade leader General Laurent Nkunda, has embarked into a hunt towards those refugee camps, and all the survivors, some accused of having taken part in the genocide, have fled their camps again, risking for their lives and their livelihood. Tonight, Nkunda has called for a truce, and has urged the DRC government troops to follow suit. As reported by the BBC, “there was a “stampede” as thousands of displaced people poured into Goma on the third day of fierce fighting in the area. Congolese soldiers withdrawing from the village of Kibumba, 30km (20 miles) to the north, also retreated to the city, creating a sense of panic among the population.”

Rape is widely used as a weapon of destruction and retaliation, and has yet to be recognized as a crime against humanity under international law.

For more information on the crisis in Congo: DRC Conflict Q&A by the BBC // Army retreats, citizens flee (CNN)