PEACE WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION CIVILITY REPORT 2022

In Civility Report 2022, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 193 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2022 today.

PEACE WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION CIVILITY REPORT 2022

In Civility Report 2022, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 193 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2022 today.

KEY AREA FOCUS: TUNISIA

Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. Africa covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With 1.0 billion people, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population.

KEY AREA FOCUS: COSTA RICA

Americas are lands in the Western hemisphere of the world. In English, the plural form of the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions.

KEY AREA FOCUS: AFGHANISTAN

Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. With approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population.

KEY AREA FOCUS: ENGLAND

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres or 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Yet the borders of Europe, can incorporate cultural and political elements.

KEY AREA FOCUS: SYRIA

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

The Worrying Consequences of the January 6 Insurrection

 

The January 6 insurrection on the US Capital can only be compared in severity with the 1814 British burning of the White House. The aggravation of the rivalry between Democrats and Republicans represents an existential threat to US democracy.

3D render of Democrats Donkey vs Republicans Elephant symbols on dark blue background © pryzmat / shutterstock.com

The United States (US) is on a perilous path that has a potential to end in tragedy, pulling apart the nation. As January 6 demonstrated, a few thousand resolute individuals can initiate the fragmentation of the union, a process that began with the bickering between Democrats and the Republicans. If it hopes to survive, the US must change its course.

In contrast to popular belief, life in the US is not as rosy as it may appear in the popular media. Americans suffer from inequality in gender, income, and wealth. They receive poor healthcare and face frequent violence. Minority groups are routinely subjected to cultural and racial discrimination. Poverty and homelessness are visibly growing. Minorities and the poor disproportionately die from the COVID-19 and its variants.

In the US, human rights have deteriorated. Nepotism, corruption, racism, and impunity of much of the criminal class persist. Former US President Donald Trump retained his immediate family members among his top advisors. He threatened and harassed political opponents, whistleblowers, and others. He pardoned criminal associates and friends. His administration continued promoting discrimination and xenophobic nationalism. US President Joe Biden is still unable to explain how his son Hunter secured a high paying directorship in Ukraine’s largest privately owned gas producer Burisma Holdings Ltd when his father was the White House’s point man for that country. US presidents often enjoy impunity with regard to such arrangements.

The list of human rights’ concerns is impressive in a nation that accuses other nations of not living up to the highest standards. It includes violence against women and girls, an increasing number of hate crimes, the tolerance of gun violence and mass shootings, abuse of Native American women and girls, permitting an environment of Islamophobia, a carceral system that reduces 1.3-percent of the population to modern-day slavery, and international trafficking of women and children.

In particular, the judicial system rather than reducing injustice perpetuates it. 

The US possesses the world’s highest criminal incarceration rate, disproportionately imprisoning Native Americans and blacks. The justice system routinely excuses law enforcement guilty of excessive force employed against minorities, protesters, detainees, and prisoners. The US by far leads all other democracies in “police killings”. A high number of detainees die in custody and abuse of migrant workers and asylum seekers is rampant. In 2022, a major blow to women’s rights was especially initiated by the US Supreme Court’s reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade, which gave rights to abortion for nearly 50 years.

January 6 Insurrection

Many of the problems derive from the competitive political rivalries between the two dominant parties. Both have developed the reflex of serving the rich at the expense of other segments of the population. The bickering between Democrats and Republicans peaked on January 6, 2021 in the attack on the US Capital in Washington, D.C. That assault could only be compared with the 1814 British attack on Washington DC when they set the White House on fire.

On January 6, 2021, the US President Donald Trump gave a speech before a large crowd of his supporters in Washington, D.C.. He persisted in promoting his conspiracy theory claiming that Democrats had stolen the presidential election. He repeatedly asserted that Democrats rigged the Presidential election in favor of their candidate. This inspired his supporters to march to the Capitol to threaten the US Congress as it was about to certify the election of Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s victory. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats,” said Mr. Trump. He urged the supporters to take action. “Together, we will drain the Washington swamp and we will clean up the corruption in our nation’s capital,” he said.

Inspired by Trump’s bombastic rhetoric, his supporters broke into the Capitol and rampaged through its corridors, forcing the US Vice President Mike Pence and the members of the US Congress to flee to save their lives. Several people died before it was brought under control. That assault on the Capitol did not make Mr. Trump damp down his rhetoric. Instead, it impelled him to repeat that the election was fraud and rigged by the Democrats. His position fortified his standing among Republicans, many of whom question the validity of the 2020 election results and demand for more restrictions on voting rights.

The insurrection could have turned into a revolution, and proved fatal to American democracy.

Power of the people

We must not underestimate the power people have to change things. We should remember, for example, that the Soviet Union headquarters in Moscow was not attacked by resurrectionists but fell apart under pressure from generally peaceful nationalist protesters. The Soviet fall simply began when some small nationalist groups in Latvia and Lithuania demanded independence for their republics. Other republics gradually joined the movement with similar demands, leading, within 2 years, to the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

In the case of the January 6 resurrection, we might imagine what would have happened if the police had faced an aggressive confrontation from the insurrectionists. Camouflaged federal police might have responded heavy-handedly in Humvees as the local police had done in the 2014 Ferguson crisis. The assembled crowds were protesting the killing by a white police officer of an unarmed African-American 18-year-old, Michael Brown., At the moment the fatal shots were fired, the teenager was reportedly “trying to surrender”. As the protests grew, the police didn’t hesitate to greet the crowd with “teargas and stun grenades.” 

If Trump had ordered something similar by calling out the National Guard, it would have resulted in a large number of the insurrectionists being brutally killed. That in turn would have incited large numbers of people across the country to come out in support of the insurrectionists. Trump would then have been in a position to declare a national emergency. That would then serve as an excuse for remaining in the White House and canceling Mr. Biden’s coming inauguration. Protest movements would have expanded and intensified, pitching Democrats against Republicans. General mayhem would have followed and the US and its famed constitution, could have become history.

Superpowers are not invincible

In 1985, people assumed that the Soviet Union, the other superpower that shared a claim to global domination, was invincible. In March of that year, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. A year later in February 1986, he introduced a policy orientation known as glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”).

Focused on opening the prospects for world peace, Gorbachev enthusiastically proposed the concept of a new world order at the UN General Assembly in December 1988. His initiative played out in unanticipated ways. In November 1989, the Soviets under Gorbachev allowed the Berlin Wall to fall. That would eventually lead to the unification of East and West Germany in October 1990.

In March 1990, the Soviet Union’s Congress of the People’s Deputies elected Gorbachev as its president. He pushed for an amendment to the Soviet constitution intended to strengthen his position as president. That month, Lithuania declared its independence, and Latvia followed in May.

By November 1991, nationalists in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kirgizia Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and other Soviet republics arose to declare their independence from the Soviet Union. To Gorbachev’s credit, in contrast with his predecessors, he refrained from using brutal force to restore the dying order.

In December 1991, to the disbelief of even the foreign policy experts in the US, the Soviet Union, a global superpower collapsed. Much of the old Soviet world collapsed with it.

The US World’s Superpower

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the world’s unique superpower. With such power goes immense ethical responsibility. It creates the opportunity to collaborate with other nations in enhancing human rights, freedom from oppression, and global peace.

The US found itself with a chance to redefine its role in the world. The most obvious urgency was to fill the void that the Soviets had left behind by saving the former republics of the Soviet bloc from falling into economic collapse, ethnic tension, and political instability. This would have played a major role in leading the world towards the ideals of freedom and peace. 

President George H. W. Bush hadn’t forgotten Gorbachev’s call for a “new world order.” Appropriating it for his own purposes, he referred to it over forty times thereafter, turning it into a personal slogan. But like most slogans, the repeated declarations were little more than talk. Since then, the US has persistently contributed to global conflicts by venturing military into various countries and threatening others with either invasion or sanctions. Instead of becoming a global peacemaker, the US has become the world’s worst troublemaker.

Following the US invasion of Iraq and the fiasco of Afghanistan, the standing of the US even among its allies has reached an historic low. Furthermore, the position of the US as the world’s unique superpower is being challenged by its adversaries, most notably China, Iran, and Russia. If the US intends to remain a major player in international affairs, it will need to change its course. To start, it must first clean up its house.

An action plan

“The time is always right to do the right thing,” said Martin Luther King. The US should learn the major lesson from the fall of the Soviet Union: being a superpower is no guarantee for survival when people begin to rise and challenge its authority. As January 6 has shown, the biggest threat to the US appears to be domestic. For its own good, the US must seriously address its own internal issues.

To carry out its ethical responsibilities, the US could start with two important steps. The first would be to give opportunities to more than the two established parties that function as a permanent duopoly. So long as there are only two favored parties, the rivalries between them to govern the nation will continue, polarizing the electorate with the risk of dissolving an ever more fragile union.

The second would be to reverse the trend of outrageously funding the military and spend more generously to improve domestic prosperity. Both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were built on strong, advanced military forces. People thought both of them were unbeatable, yet neither exists today.

But there is more to do. To ensure domestic tranquility the US should provide more opportunity to nearly 35 million Americans who live in poverty.  It should begin to implement programs to elevate women and halt widespread and alarming violence against women and girls. It should have the honesty to refrain from labeling — on the basis of ethnicity, race, and religion — some crimes as terrorism while dismissing others simply as a personal psychological disorder.

It is also time to make right certain obvious historical wrongs by addressing the question of persistent cultural and racial injustice against Native Americans, African-Americans, and other minorities. And for a country that claims to believe in human rights, the US should make a real effort to provide intensive training for judicial and law enforcement personnel on how human rights play out, notably by respecting fellow human beings regardless of gender, race, religion, and ethnicity. 

As for US citizens, to function in an increasingly complex world, instead of hiding behind a superficial idea of “exceptionalism,” you should take seriously the responsibility leadership implies. What are the buzzwords and propaganda patterns of your news station, your peers, your president? Instead of repeating them blind, try another approach. Think. Reason. Criticize. Elect ethical people who truly represent your interests. It is only then that you can bring to overcome inequalities, to prosper, and go boldly forward on the world stage in unison. Then, you can proudly say, “America is great”.

Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on November 12, 2022.







Why are Young People Protesting in Iran?

Women are chafing against intrusive restrictions. Young women and men worry about lack of opportunities and well-paying jobs, making marriage difficult. Resentment is on the rise and the regime faces a rocky ride.


Headlines in the BBC, The Guardian and other western media have focused on protests in Iran. They erupted after a tragic incident in Iran. On September 13, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd, was arrested by irshad, the morality police. She was taken to a detention center to receive training to observe hijab rule where she fainted. Amini was then taken to a hospital. Three days later, she died in police custody. The next day, protests broke out across Iran and continue to this day.

The BBC tells us that women around the world are now cutting their hair to show their solidarity with their Iranian counterparts. Abir Al-Sahlani, a Swedish Member of the European Parliament, cut her hair in the midst of her speech, giving a rallying cry: “women, life, freedom.”

Why are women protesting?

Since 1979, Shia clerics have ruled Iran. They have imposed strict moral codes and restrictive rules on society. Women are supposed to dress modestly and cover their hair in accordance with clerics’ strict interpretations of Islam. As education levels increase, Iranian women are increasingly unwilling to play by such rules.

Irshad can stop and intimidate any woman for the most arbitrary of reasons. Over the years, Iranian women have become highly educated. The percentage of females in higher education increased from 3% in 1978 to 59% in 2018. Women have entered almost all professions now. Their expectations have risen similarly. Even when there have been no protests, there is a simmering discontent among women about the restrictions they face on a daily basis. Many women hate the morality police. 

So unpopular is irshad that conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed to parliament to get rid of this morality police but he was shot down by those far more conservative than him, led by Parliament’s members Mutahari and Pizishkiyan. He explained that the police are also young people and they cannot make a correct diagnosis. Overall, Ahmadinejad opposed forcing people to observe the hijab rule. He held that people had rights to choose and they must be given choices so he was accused by ultra-conservatives of supporting indecency. 

While women may have done well in gaining an education, jobs have been hard to find. Glass ceilings remain thick and strong. Few women make it to top positions. They also find it difficult to get married because educated men with good jobs are in short supply. Furthermore, strict rules make it difficult for women and men to socialize. Like women elsewhere, Iranian women want some choice when it comes to their life partners.

Last year, Ebrahim Raisi was elected president. He is a conservative cleric who has sought to reinvigorate the old cultural revolution. Irshad have stepped up patrols and taken women away for “re-education” because of their supposedly improper dress. A hijab-and-chastity decree bans women without headscarves from posting pictures of themselves on social media. Naturally, women are dissatisfied with the tightening of restrictions and Amini’s death has set off a powder keg.

Why are men protesting?

Not only women but also men have taken to the streets. If Iranian women are dissatisfied, so are the men. They are really frustrated with the lack of opportunities. Many have lost hope in the future. In particular, educated men are most discontented. They are unable to get decent well-paying jobs. This restricts their marriage opportunities.

Young people are increasingly influenced by western media. They think of the US as a land of milk and honey. Alumni of the elite Sharif University of Technology leave the country in the search of a better life. Those who remain behind are frustrated by the lack of jobs in Iran. They access western media and want similar lifestyles to what they see on screen. This exacerbates their discontent.

American sanctions have taken their toll on the Iranian economy. Since 2012, per capita income has stagnated. After the Russia-Ukraine War, inflation has further soared. To make matters worse, Iran is facing an environmental crisis. Rivers have run dry, groundwater is falling, lakes are drying up and farmland is parched. A growing population has led to wanton felling of forests. In turn, deforestation has exacerbated desertification. As in India and China, pollution is choking cities. Young men find it very difficult to be hopeful about the future.

Over 60% of Iran’s 84 million population is under 30. Historically, young single men have been a source of instability in any society. Iran has millions of discontented young men. During the recent protests, unknown assailants have attacked banks, police, ambulances, other government officials, mosques, clerics and religious people. The 1979 revolution may not yet be at risk but Iranian society is volatile and could erupt in a volcanic eruption given the slightest provocation.

Mehdi Alavi and Atul Singh

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on October 15, 2022.

Belgium’s Regrets Not Enough: Congo Deserves Apology and Reparations for War Crimes

Belgium committed war crimes and vicious human rights abuses against the Congolese people. The Belgian King has finally expressed regrets but still not offered an apology. Belgium must offer an apology, pay reparations and bring its brutal officials to justice. So must the US, which colluded with the Belgians to exploit the Congolese.


On June 8, 2022, Belgian King Philippe expressed his regrets for the exploitation, violence and racism during the colonization of the Congo Free State, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This followed  years of denials and excuses by Belgian authorities.

The DRC, a territory 76 times bigger than Belgium, is the second largest country after Algeria in Africa and the 11th largest in the world. Today, it is torn by conflicts between armed groups that recruit children as soldiers. To make matters worse, DRC’s security forces operate with impunity. They continue harassing, threatening, attacking, arresting and murdering human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition. Civilians are arbitrarily killed and abducted. Women and girls are systematically raped and subjected to other forms of violence. Communal violence and ethnic cleansing are widespread. Most minorities including Hutu, Tutsi, Hema, Lendu, Lunda, Luba, Mbororo, and Batwa live under continuous threat. The country remains the source and destination point for trafficking in children and women for prostitution. The country desperately needs humanitarian assistance.

The DRC’s problems are not entirely the fault of the Congolese people. Their roots can be traced back to Belgian King Leopold II and successive Belgian governments.

The Belgian King belatedly expresses regrets

Before his recent admission, Philippe denied Belgian atrocities and made excuses for Leopold II and Belgium for years. Despite pressure from his own country’s people along with that of the international community who were inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Philippe hesitated to take any action other than offer excuses for the last two years.

On May 27, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke at the genocide memorial in Rwanda’s capital Kigali where many victims were buried. He asked Rwandans to forgive France for its role in the 1994 genocide. On May 28, 2021, Germany apologized for its genocide against Herero and Nema tribal people in Namibia and offered to launch “projects over a billion euros” as compensation. Even those apologies did not inspire Philippe to admit Belgian atrocities in the Congo.

Over a year later, increased Belgian and international pressures finally forced Philippe to face reality. When he finally spoke out, the Belgian king just expressed regrets. Philippe stopped short of formally apologizing for Belgian atrocities during the colonial period. “This [Belgian] regime was one of unequal relations, unjustifiable in itself, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism,” he said before a joint session of parliament in the DNC capital Kinshasa, He want to state: “I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past.”

The toxic legacy of the past

Leopold II was a tyrant who pursued a brutal pogrom that resulted in the deaths of millions. His policies also led to the destruction of the livelihoods and cultures of the people of the Congo. Leopold II came to power in 1865 and was determined to build an empire. Authorized by the 1885 Berlin Conference, he formed the Congo Free State, separate from Belgium but privately owned and controlled by himself. Leopold II knew evangelization was the most effective way to dominate people. He took the view that, if the Congolese converted to Christianity, they would become more subservient. This would allow Leopold II to plunder Congo’s valuable resources. So, this ruthless Belgian king brought in missionaries to convert the Congolese people to Christianity. He issued and enforced inhumane decrees that not only caused misery and death but also pushed the Congolese to convert to and practice Christianity.

To extract ivory, rubber, and minerals, Leopold’s men viciously used whipping, wounding, enslaving, beheading and severing body parts, including the penis. They routinely resorted to sexual violence against the Congolese people. They treated the Congolese as animals, exhibiting them in their zoos in Belgium. Their atrocities are estimated to have caused the deaths of around 10 million, then 50% of the Congolese population. This led to international scandal and outrage, forcing the Belgian government to take over the colony.

In 1908, under immense international pressure the Belgian government took over Leopold II’s private estate and made it a Belgian colony, christening it Belgian Congo. After 23 years of Leopold II’s rule, the Belgian government ruled Belgian Congo for another 52 years. The colony only gained its independence in 1960.

Under Belgian rule, genocidal actions reduced in number and severity but persecution and forced labor continued. The racism initiated by Leopold II continued though. Africans were excluded from education, employment and other opportunities. Children of mixed race were abducted and sent to orphanages in Belgium.

After World War I, European and US companies moved in and used the Congolese as indentured laborers to produce cotton, coffee, cacao, palm oil, rubber, copper, gold, diamond, cobalt, tin, zinc, uranium and other raw materials. They used forced labor to develop roads, railroads, utility stations, and other public facilities in Belgian Congo. During World War II, the US was heavily involved in mining uranium in the Congo. When postwar decolonization began, Belgium insisted that the Congolese were not mature enough to run their own country. So, Belgium stood firm on retaining its Belgian Colony, forgetting that the Belgians had wanted freedom from Nazi Germany themselves.

Under Belgian annexation, Congolese education undermined critical thinking and ripped up the social fabric. Only a very few were allowed to get basic education by the government-paid Christian missionaries whose primary goal was to advance colonization and conversion to Christianity. Only in 1954, a Congolese was first admitted to a Belgian university to study a subject other than Christian religion. To this day, the DRC is hobbled by its toxic colonial legacy.

Independence is snuffed out, exploitation continues

Starting from 1919, the Congolese began fighting for their independence. Their revolts were regularly suppressed by the Belgian authorities. In 1958, the Congolese formed their first political party. Riots broke out in 1959 with mobs demanding independence. A year later, Belgium capitulated, granting its huge colony independence. On June 30, 1960, the nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba became the prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu president. They put Colonel Joseph Mobutu in charge of the defense. Backed by Colonel Joseph Mobutu, Kasa-Vubu soon removed Lumumba. In January 1961, the US and Belgium backed a military coup. Mobutu murdered Lumumba. Mobutu went on to take over the presidency from Kasavubu in 1965. Backed by the US, he ran the DRC as a brutal dictator for 32 years, embezzling government funds at a gargantuan scale.

In 1997 backed by Rwanda and Uganda, Laurent Kabila took over the presidency and ruled for 4 years, causing over 3 million deaths. In 2001, he was killed and his son Joseph Kabila took over the presidency and ruled until late 2018 when opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi supposedly won an election that did not meet international expectations and was contested by the country’s dominant Catholic Church. He has remained in power as president to the present time.

In the 1880s, the US was becoming a world power. Leopold II used the services of an American to survey the Congo. He also sought American recognition of his personal rule over Congo. Some Americans were fearful of the power of American blacks who were demanding equality and liberty. They saw Leopold II’s  request as an opportunity to cleanse the US of its black population by sending them to the Congo. In exchange for the favor, Leopold assured the US that its citizens could buy lands in Congo and US imports would be exempt from all customs duties. Leopold received recognition of his rule in Congo by the US, paving the way for him to earn recognition from European powers. Leopold II’s deal with Uncle Sam also opened the gate for the US to plunder Congo”s wealth.

The US emulated Leopold II’s egregious abuses in minute detail, including displaying Congolese people in zoos in numerous cities across the country. As late as 1906, New Yorkers would rush to see a Congolese in the Monkey House at Bronx Zoo. This led to protests by American blacks and became a national scandal.

Suffice to say, the US has been exploiting Congo since Leopold II’s days. In particular, the US has been extracting uranium from Shinkolobwe mine since the 1930s. This small mine in the southern province of Katanga provided most of the uranium used in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, US mining companies backed by the American military continue taking cobalt, copper, zinc and other minerals from the DRC, giving the country peanuts in return. 

The Belgian role in the Rwandan genocide

After World War I, the League of Nations transferred Rwanda and Burundi from Germany to Belgium. Taking a leaf out of its Congo playbook. Belgium yet again resorted to Christian evangelization and appointed white agents to dominate and control the new colonies. It also implemented a caste system, decreeing the minority Tutsis, a cattle-herding people, as superior to the majority Hutus, a farming people, and the native Twa, a pygmy people.   

In Rwanda, the Hutu king was removed for refusing to convert to Christianity. Then, the religion was forcefully imposed on the masses. Imana, the local monotheistic religion, was wiped out. For centuries, it had been the cultural force unifying the community. To dominate Rwanda, Belgium offered the Tutsis access to education and designated them as superior to others. The Tutsis became subordinate agents of Belgian colonial administration.

Belgium authorized the Tutsis to impose forced labor and punishments on other communities. Belgian policies imposed by Tutsis caused several famines. Later, Belgian colonial authorities took the administrative step of issuing identification cards for each ethnicity. That racial segregation policy along with the removal of their king angered the majority Hutus. To the Hutus, the Tutsis became known as “invaders”. In the late 1950s, the Hutu movement began to organize to oppose the Tutsis and expel Belgium. The Hutus also finally  began to earn some sympathy from Belgians.

When Rwanda won independence in 1962, a Hutu campaign to incinerate Tutsi huts sent many Tutsis fleeing into exile. The Hutu president JuvĂ©nal Habyarimana, known for his anti-Tutsi rhetoric, maintained a good relationship with Belgian King Baudouin. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana, Burundian President Cyprien Ntarvamira, and other high-ranking officials was shot down, killing all on board. Blaming the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Hutu extremists began the slaughter of Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers. On April 7, 1994, Rwandan forces killed 10 Belgian officers. They threatened Belgium not intervene in the ongoing genocide against the Tutsis. Belgium dutifully abandoned Rwanda to the Hutu killers. In April 2000, Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian prime minister, went to Rwanda and said, “In the name of my country and of my people, I beg your forgiveness.”

French forces were also present in Rwanda during the genocide. They watched the massacres, but did nothing. The French government persistently denied this until recently. After 27 years of denial, France was finally forced by its own government commission to officially admit its complicity in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. As stated earlier, Macron asked Rwandans for forgiveness in May this year. He said, “Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness.”. 

As in Rwanda, Belgium divided Burundi people into Tutsis and Hutus, which led to ethnic conflicts and civil war, causing the deaths of 300,000 people. In 2009, Belgium officially apologized for its atrocities. 

Imperial powers must compensate their victims

In 2022, the time for reparations has come. So far, the UN proved impotent in the face of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The oppressed people of the Congo are still waiting for justice and reparations for Belgian atrocities that still haunt them. It is for good reason that  Human Rights Watch observed, “Belgium cannot undo its colonial past but it’s not too late to redress its contemporary fallouts to build a future based on justice and equality.”

Fortunately, many Belgians today recognize that apology must be accompanied by reparations. Patrick Dewael, the speaker of the Belgian federal parliament, said: “apart from any apologies or excuses … anyone who makes a mistake, says our legal code, must compensate for the damage.” In 2001, the Belgian Parliament found the nation morally responsible for the assassination of Lumumba and apologized for its role. Belgium has yet to make any reparations though.

The “Belgium’s Colonial Past” commission, founded in 2020, is still working on issues related to the pre-independence history of the country’s three former colonies: Belgian Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. To address the crimes of the past, Belgium must take these actions:

  1. Acknowledge all the past abuses that include genocide and crimes against human rights.
  2. Bring to justice all those individuals, living and dead, who perpetrated those egregious abuses.
  3. Make reparations to all three former colonies based on the harm done to the Congolese people from Leopold II’s personal rule as well as Belgian colonial exploitation. The reparations must meet the following criteria:
    • correlate directly with all the economic profits Belgium earned from Congo, and
    • ensure that reparations do not go to the coffers of DRC’s corrupt government but are spent to improve education and infrastructure, bringing them to Belgian standards within 10 years.

As we have seen above, the US was Belgium’s accomplice in colonization of the Congolese people. Therefore, the US must take the following actions.

  1. Acknowledge its collaboration with the Belgian authorities in the Congo regarding human rights abuses, including violence and genocide, and economic exploitation..
  2. Form a committee that brings to justice US officials, living or dead, who abetted Belgian atrocities in the Congo.
  3. Make reparations to remedy the harms done to the Congolese people. The reparations must meet the following criteria:
    • include a bipartisan committee to evaluate all the economic profits earned by the US from the Congo, starting 1885 to today, and
    • ensure that reparations do not go to the coffers of DRC’s corrupt government but are spent to improve education and infrastructure, bringing them to Belgian standards within 10 years.
  4. Emulate Belgium and apologize for assassinating the nationalist leader Lumumba,

None of these actions can destroy the hurt and pain from the past but they will make our world a kinder, gentler and more just place.

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on August 13, 2022.


Negotiate With Russia and Let Ukraine Have Peace

NATO continues interfering in the affairs of other countries, causing much pain and suffering across the world. It is time to tether it or dissolve it for good.


Ukraine is the largest country in Europe after Russia. Surrounded by Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, the Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea, it shares the longest border with Russia. 

According to the Peace Worldwide Organization’s Civility Report 2022, Ukraine has a population of about 44 million. It has a reputation for being racist and widely corrupt. It faces internal armed conflict for suppressing the people of Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk regions), a fact that has resulted in many civilian injuries, deaths, and displacements. Torture and other forms of human rights abuses are widely used. Human rights defenders and independent journalists risk being attacked. Harassment and suppression of non-Slavic ethnic minorities, especially the Roma, Tartars, Jews, and political asylum seekers continue. Violence against women and girls remains widespread. 

Ukraine has a short history relative to its powerful neighbor Russia. Although people lived there for centuries, as Ali Rogin, a foreign affairs producer at the PBS Newshour, explains, the region was often ruled by Austria-Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, or Russia. The end of World War I inspired an independence movement that led to the birth of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic in 1922. Ukrainians nevertheless remained divided. Some favored Nazi occupation before World War II. 

The territory we now know as Ukraine was finalized when the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev took Crimea away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine. In 1991 when the Soviet Union fell, Ukraine declared independence. In 2004, Ukrainians elected Vikto Yanukovych, a pro-Russian prime-minister, to lead the country, though the election failed to meet international standards.   

A Free Election, Status of Russian and Crimea

In 2010 in a fair and free election in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine. The new president favored better relations with neighboring Russia. In 2013, a pro-European Union uprising broke out in Ukraine. Ukrainian security forces over-reacted, shooting and killing numerous people, which led to much wider protests against Yanukovych. Instead of an official impeachment, the Verkhovna Rada Committee, composed of experts advising the Ukrainian parliament, declared that Mr. Yanukovych should be removed from office on February 22, 2014. The large Russian ethnic minority in Ukraine rejected that declaration and generally remained loyal to Mr. Yanukovych.  

On February 23, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill that repealed Russian language as an official status. That further angered the pro-Russians in Ukraine. Their protests intensified causing a rebellion to emerge against the Ukrainian forces. Russians formed about 90 cent of Crimea’s population and overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to leave Ukraine and become a part of Russia. Days later, In March 2014, the Russo-Ukrainian War began with Russia lending its support to pro-Russian separatist forces in Crimea. 

Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, a territory that Russia had previously received from the Ottomans in the 1774 Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, at a time when it was fully inhabited by ethnic Tatars. Crimea remained a part of Russia for 180 years until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev assigned it to Ukraine. Prior to 1954, Crimea had been inhabited by Russians and persecuted Tatars. 

It was only on May 25 of that year that President Yanukovych was officially impeached and removed from office by the Ukrainian Parliament.

A History of Cold War and More

Russia and Ukraine have deep cultural, economic, familial, and political ties, going back for centuries. Millions of Russians live in Ukraine and have family ties with other Ukrainians. Furthermore, Russia and Ukraine were the two original members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that was formed in 1922, eventually consisting of 15 republics, including Russia and Ukraine.

The US, the Soviet Union, and a number of other countries allied to defeat the Nazi Germany in the Second World War that was followed by the Cold War, a political rivalry began between the US and the Soviet Union. They emerged as the world’s two superpowers, competing for political influence and access to resources. They waged proxy wars throughout the world, producing many bloody conflicts across the globe.

In 1949, the US led the move to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), specifically designed to resist Soviet aggression. Paradoxically, the US-led NATO has been amongst the first to violate its commitments to the UN, leading to its perception by some  as the world’s leading troublemaker since its inception. According to the previously cited Civility Report 2022, NATO has continued “stockpiling as offensive; conventional, biological, radiological, chemical, and nuclear weaponry as well as arming other nations or groups, having a military presence in other nations, giving military aid to belligerent nations, participating in military alliances,” actions that “would increase tension worldwide and violate the commitments to the UN for working towards peace and security.” NATO countries are responsible for over 75% of global arms exports. Among  the recipients are some of the world’s most repressive regimes, such as “Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.”

In 1955, the Soviet Union led the formation of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), also known as the Warsaw Pact, as a balance of power to NATO to resist NATO’s aggression. The Korean War and the Vietnam War are just two examples where the two fought proxy wars, wasting millions of lives.

In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the US and Russia agreed that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany after its reunion with Germany. This was confirmed by NATO’s secretary. That set the stage for the unification of East Germany and West Germany later that year.

In 1991, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact fell. However, NATO did not dissolve, but continued. Despite the assurances from the US and the NATO’s Secretary that NATO would not go beyond the former East Germany into the former republics of the Soviet Union, they did not live up to their promises. On the initiative of the US,  NATO moved eastward, taking in former Soviet republics. In 1994 as a response to NATO, Russia persuaded  Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to sign a defense treaty – the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), similar to the NATO – stipulating that aggression against any signatory is to be seen as aggression against all. 

Russian Invasion a Reaction to NATO Expansion

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has persistently expressed its disapproval of NATO expansion into the former Soviet states. The last official warning to NATO was given in December 2021. The US has consistently ignored those warnings, including the latest one. In its 2021 draft agreements with NATO, Russia demanded, among other things, that NATO bar any military activity in Ukraine. NATO ignored the warnings.

To stop the NATO aggression, Russia deemed itself forced to invade Ukraine. The invasion kicked off on February 24, 2022. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine could be seen as an escalation of the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian War.

For Americans to understand why Russia believes that Ukraine must not be a member of NATO they might see a parallel with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviets installed some of their offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. If the Soviets had not  withdrawn those missiles, it could have resulted in another world war. If Ukraine joins NATO, Russia could have the US offensive nuclear missiles at its borders. 

It has now become apparent that most nations representing a majority of the world’s population do not support the US-led NATO’s action against Russia and reject the US effort to isolate Russia.

The US political leaders should learn lessons from their past mistakes. Sanctions are counterproductive. The US has imposed particularly hard sanctions on Iran with no effect on the Iranian government’s behavior. Rather, Iran turned to developing its own military capabilities and becoming a far stronger adversary to the US hegemony in the region. US sanctions have caused price increases on many goods and services across the world, resulting in more poverty and destruction worldwide. If US sanctions against Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and other countries continue, it may have the effect of leading the world into a deep recession, where the American people themselves would be among the victims..

Negotiating Peace Is the Right Thing to Do

“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom,” said Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. Instead of pouring fuel on fire by arming Ukraine in the war, the US should take the lead negotiating with Russia. If the war continues, both the US and Russia will lose.

Just as in the Cuban Missile Crisis, negotiation is the only path for resolving the issues. Escalation may ultimately lead to a nuclear war, threatening the existence not only of the US and Russia, but the entire world. 

Most of the world’s population is sympathetic to Russian security concerns and fears NATO’s aggression. Regional powers like China, India, and Iran would like to see a ceasefire and negotiations to address the Russian issues. Former U.S. secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, who has blood on his hands for the US interventions in other countries, has come to the realization that NATO’s aggressive stance is counterproductive. Kissinger has urged NATO to negotiate and give up territory to Russia to stop the war.

It is now time for the US to act. On behalf of NATO, the US should negotiate directly with Russia, addressing its security concerns. The US must be willing to let Ukraine remain a neutral country. If that does not mitigate the Russian security concerns, the US may have to consider letting Estonia’s, Latvia’s and Lithuania’s membership be withdrawn from NATO to become neutral countries as well. Once the negotiation is completed, the UN Security Council would have to guarantee the neutrality of those countries.

Yet, far better would be an initiative of the US to prepare the  dissolution of NATO, an organization  that has brought about so much pain and suffering across the world. This would be the first step in working towards a world free from armaments.

As for Russia, it should make reparations for the loss of lives, injuries, human displacement, and property destruction inflicted on Tatars and Native Crimeans, since taking over from the Ottomans in 1774.

The path to peace can only be achieved by everyone coming to the negotiating table, giving up something they want and atoning for past wrongs. With 250 million people on the verge of starvation, that time has come.

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on July 9, 2022.