Palestinian gives a personal account of the Middle East tragedy

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- Some 45 villages with a population of 70,000 in the Negev Desert face the danger of being wiped out any time because they are not recognised by Israel, a resident of the area has told the ongoing World Conference Against Racism in Durban.
As the crisis in the Middle East dominated proceedings at the Conference, Ibrahim Abu Sbeih, a Palestinian refugee, shared his personal plight with a forum set up to hear personal grievances from victims of gross human rights violations.
Abu Sbeih hails from a small village in the Negev Desert and described himself as an unrecognised human being because Israel refuses to recognise the existence of the village.
The plight of the Arab unrecognised villages began in 1948.
Even though these villages existed hundreds of years ago, the Israeli government ignored their existence and the inhabitants were denied their rights as citizens of the country.
For more than 50 years, these villages have not appeared on any map.
As a result, they lack basic infrastructure.
Today, there are approximately 70,000 people who are dispossessed or denied any basic services such as running water, electricity and health services and access to roads constituting a gross violation of human rights.
Abu Sbeih told the forum that his village is under threat of being confiscated, the village inhabitants are under threat of being uprooted and the homes are under threat of being demolished.
In other words, all 70,000 inhabitants of the 45 unrecognised villages are under threat of being uprooted, their land being confiscated, and their 23,000 houses being demolished.
He appealed to the international community to recognise that human consciousness cannot be selective and should not be limited to any particular ethnic group.
"What fault did our children commit to be denied a drink of water, a dose of medication and a schoolbook? It is now time for the world's conscience to have the courage to differentiate between the victim and the executioner", he added.
Three other victims of human rights violations were also given the opportunity to address the forum.
Murugesen Manimegalai's husband was elected president of the Village Council in Melevalavu, but because the Manimegalais are Dalit, also known by the derogatory term "untouchables", members of the upper castes said he wouldn't last six months.
After six months in office, he and seven other Dalit men were separated from the non-Dalits and brutally murdered on a bus.
Witnesses feared coming forward with information and the police claimed that the men responsible disappeared.
Only after three years of protests by Dalits were the men arrested.
Manimegalai was left destitute, and widowed, along with the wives of the other Dalit men.
While the government of India has put in place a legal framework to protect Dalit rights, the discrimination against them remains a cultural reality.
Huj Tuerdi lives in the Xinjjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China which is home to 8.
7 million Uyghurs, the indigenous Muslim population.
He has fought racial discrimination by the Chinese all his life.
As one of the top students from his region, he witnessed racism throughout his education, and in his employment opportunities.
Tuerdi was continually degraded by Chinese contemporaries, abused by Chinese officials and dismissed as having nothing to offer society as a result of his Uyghur heritage.
Since 1949, the region has had a growing influx of Han Chinese, the majority population of China.
The migration of the Han Chinese into the region, lead to unequal economic opportunities, curbs on religious freedom, and inadequate government services, leaving the Uyghurs to feel increasingly marginalised.
Over the past 10 years, the Uyghurs have experienced increasing infringement of their social, cultural and economic rights.
Severe repression of the local population and gross human rights violations are fostering ethnic unrest.
As a Mapuche woman, Jeanette Paillan grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Santiago, Chile.
As a professional working in government agencies, Jeanette began to document, through writing, photography and video, the misery that Mapuche face living on the margins of Chilean society.
From the deforestation by industry to the construction of hydroelectric centres in the south, the Mapuche have been displaced, and suffer the plight of many indigenous peoples around the globe of losing ties to the land and a sense of belonging and tradition.
When her supervisor found out she was documenting these issues, she was told to stop her support for subversive activities and her job was terminated.
Even though she was a trained professional, as an indigenous woman, she found people always doubted her capabilities and ethics based on her identity, "for people simply found it unthinkable that the Mapuche can work in professional positions".
On the final day of the Voices Special Forum, High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson will receive a statement from the 21 people who have testified, making their statements part of the official proceedings at the conference.
Seen together, these personal stories paint a larger picture of racial discrimination in the 21st century.

06 september 2001 08:11:00

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