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Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted



Genocide comes in many forms. From the calculated attacks on Bosnian Muslims and Croats two decades ago, to calls for rounding up gays and lesbians today, it’s important to remember the past to prevent it from repeating.

Many in the LGBT community, which this blog focuses on everyday, have witnessed an increasing level of hate speech and attacks on our community that seems to be escalating. An illustrative example, was a southern minister, while preaching to his congregation, called for rounding up and detaining gays and lesbians in a pen and suggested dropping food into the pen to feed them– is such an overt act of hatred–there are no words to describe. But this is how genocide begins, as societies break down and politicians refuse to protect or worse yet, become perpetrators of violence and hatred themselves.

This is why we must stand in solidarity with others, as they come under attack. As a member of humanity, we must extend ourselves, and by doing so, we lift all of humanity up with dignity and decency.

Twenty years ago yesterday, the Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor, a town in north western Bosnia and Herzegovina, issued a decree for all non-Serbs to mark their houses with white flags or sheets and to wear a white armband if they were to leave their houses. This was the first day of a campaign of extermination that resulted in executions, concentration camps, mass rapes and the ultimate removal of more than 94 percent of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the territory of the Prijedor municipality.

This was the first time since the 1939 Nazi decree for Polish Jews to wear white armbands with the blue Star of David that members of an ethnic or religious group were to be marked for extermination in this way.

Prijedor became a notorious location for some of the most brutal acts of torture, enslavement and rape that occurred during the Bosnian War.

The crimes of the Omarska concentration camp  in Prijedor are well known to the world–first reported by then Newsday European correspondent Roy Gutman, who earned the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his stories on the Bosnian war.  The prisoners were beaten, starved, tortured and many died in captivity, while a rape camp of women was included within Omarska. Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac, survivors of the rape camp went on to document hundreds of rapes of women, submitted the witness statements to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague that led to prosecutions of rape as a war crime.  It is believed that 20,000 to 50,ooo women were raped during the Bosnian war.

In honoring the loss of that terrible day of reckoning, Refik Hodzic, the communications director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, based in New York City, organized a day to Stop Genocide Denial after several friends from Prijedor, Hodzic’s home town, came together to organize a memorial service to those who died at Omarska during the war. But they had one little problem–they had to speak to Mayor Marko Pavic, a Bosnian Serb and a notorious genocide denier who said in 2009 that “Muslims are lying and accusing without proof” for crimes in Omarska and that those who “smear Prijedor’s name should not be looking for employment here.”

Despite their well founded fears, they approached Pavic to discuss the possibility of holding a commemoration on the 20th anniversary of Prijedor’s ethnic cleansing. Not surprisingly, Pavic told them  that as long as he was mayor, under no uncertain terms would he permit a “genocide” commemoration to those who died. Hodzic told me that after the meeting with Pavic, his friends became very, very frightened and given the history of such terrible events there, I could completely understand why people would be afraid. So what to do?

Hodzic called up his friend Azra Selak, a resident of Denver, Colorado and a beautifully talented Sevdah singer, also from Prijedor, along with his brother Emir Hodzic (who designed the website).  Together, they strategized and came up with the plan of a global campaign, declaring May 31st a “World Wide White Armband Day” to protect their family and friends who remain in Prijedor and bring attention to the continued lies about what happened during the war.

With the assistance of the Youth Initiatives in Human Rights organization in Sarajevo, and other civil society leaders throughout the region, like the Belgrade based Women in Black, the Hozic brothers and Azra, launched the campaign on multiple platforms using the web, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. People were urged to  join thee campaign by wearing a white arm band or hanging a white sheet in their window.

Azra composed a song of tribute to her Prijedor home–a traditional Bosnian song, delivered it the style known as “Sevdah,” which is considered an expression of the soul. Azra says, “Sevdah is what carries us, people from the former Yugoslavia–immigrants, refugees, former soldiers of many armies, former prisoners of war, prisoners of our memories…there is a sense of not belonging and of permanent and unspeakable loss…”  This song and its moving music will take you to a different place of existence.

Throughout the day, with participants  from 69 countries generating more than 30,000 hits on the campaign’s Facebook page alone, thousands of people took self portraits or groups shots and sent them to Refik, who posted and tweeted them throughout the day. Many of these photographs, posted on the campaign’s Facebook page are so moving, that they brought me to tears. The humanity, solidarity and the dignity expressed  in these photographs, many in black and white, reflect a palpable and unprecedented hope–something I have not seen or witnessed in the 20 years I have had the honor to work on the consequences of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the broader region of the former Yugoslavia. The day ended in the United States from Chicago where the Bosnian national soccer team played Mexico that witnessed the unfurling of a banner that read “Stop Genocide Denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

According to Refik, photographs are still coming in from all over the world. A few I would like to share:


Ivana, D.C.


Women in Black, Belgrade

Admira, city unknown



History is replete with terrible pogroms, the casting out of “others.” We are all too familiar with hatred and being cast out from our families of origin, fired from our jobs, refused housing–this happens to many of us in the LGBT community. So as a human being, I can not help but be moved by the fate of the Bosnian Muslims and Croats and in some cases Serbs too, but  join in solidarity with them they take up this courageous fight to shed light on the genocide deniers in their communities, beginning in Prijedor. These are the children of war, who may remember the war or not, but know why they no longer live in Bosnia–or for those who remain, must daily confront  the consequences of war.

But most importantly, these young people are the future of hope, their actions of taking a stand to stop genocide denial creates an opening  that embraces possibility and  the return of optimism by revealing the ugly truth. May it be so.

It is important that we stand with them because as Martin Niemoller once wrote:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.


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Images of the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, courtesy of the CIA Factbook.  Images of the individuals and the Bosnia-Mexico soccer match were provided by the Stop Genocide Denial Campaign. The Niemoller poem is courtesy of Wikipedia.


Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in East Central Europe and the former Yugoslavia.  She is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi also worked internationally in a dozen countries for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.  She is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.

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Reporters Reveal Some Republicans Don’t Understand What a Default Means – and Don’t Believe the Debt Ceiling Is Real



CNN’s Jim Acosta and John Avlon compared notes on Republicans speaking on raising the debt ceiling over the weekend only to realize that the far-right members refuse to support the deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

Acosta cited an interview he conducted Saturday with Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who said he’s voted for shutdowns and would vote again this week.

After ranting about cutting spending, Acosta said, “Well, you can have the argument about cutting spending during the budget and appropriations process, but as you know, Congressman, the U.S. has never missed making payments on its bills before. In the last 45 years, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 65 times. So, again, I go back to the question: is it responsible — I understand what you’re saying about how much your daughter spends, but we’re not talking about $15. We’re talking about the American economy. Is it responsible to be the deciding vote to send the country into default?”

Burchett claimed that the country wasn’t going to be sent into default. He crafted a conspiracy that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen kept changing the date the U.S. default would happen.

“Nobody is, as the young people say, nobody has provided the receipts. Nobody has called her into Washington and said, ‘Show us the math on this,'” he said.

Yellen works at the Treasury Department, which is in Washington.

Burchett also had his own math, saying that if they cut the budget spending to the 2022 levels, the country would be in a surplus. The House passed a massive defense spending package that would have required cuts from other places.

“All they’re doin’ right now is scarin’ people,” Burchett claimed. “They’re talkin’ about cutting programs that have no need other than political cronyism, we’re tellin’ our seniors — and the Democrats will, and I get it — they’re tellin’ the seniors they’re gonna be cut. Veterans are gonna be cut. And nothing can be farther (sic) from the truth. And that’s just the reality of politics.”

The reason Democrats were citing cuts to seniors and veterans goes back to the Republican Party budget bill that required cuts to seniors and veterans. That’s because returning to the 2022 budget levels means making cuts to increases already passed by Congress.

Acosta turned back to Burchett to ask if he believed the debt ceiling wasn’t real.

“I think the debt ceiling is — it’s just a creative thing to hold us into responsible — into check,” said Burchett.

Avlon cited Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who claimed he refused to sign a bill that would bankrupt the economy.

“Well, hold it right there,” said Avlon. “I mean, if you let the country default on its debt, that’s functionally the same thing.”

An annoyed Avlon was frustrated the process was even something allowed to happen.

“It’s a fact, Congress has to control the pursestrings. So, frankly, someone should figure out the 14th Amendment side of this because I think this is not the way we’re supposed to play ball, the greatest nation in the world constantly every couple of years when there’s a Democratic president flirting with defaulting on our debt because it’s fiscal policy by extortion,” said Avlon. “This is a win to the extent that we came up to a bipartisan agreement, but this is not the way the greatest nation in the world should conduct its fiscal policy. It’s ridiculous. And it didn’t happen when Donald Trump was president because Democrats worked with Republicans to ensure the debt ceiling was raised three times.”

See the discussion below or at the link here.

Image: GOP Rep. Tim Burchett


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‘Start the Kevin McCarthy Death-Clock’ After Biden Wins Debt Ceiling Battle: Rick Wilson



Appearing late Saturday night on MSNBC after it was announced that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had reached an agreement “in principle’ on a budget deal, former GOP strategist Rick Wilson claimed this could be the beginning of the end for McCathy’s speakership.

Sitting in on a panel with guest host Michael Steele, Wilson suggested that McCarthy’s decision to compromise with the president to avoid a default that would spin the economy into chaos will not go over well with far-right members of his House caucus who could make a motion to “vacate the chair” to express their displeasure.

Asked by host Steel about what comes next, Wilson stated it was a win for the White House which will not make conservatives happy.

RELATED: ‘Crazy cuckoo MAGA people’ could sink debt ceiling deal: Dem strategist

“Great night for Joe Biden, great night for the White House even though I think their messaging has been kind of tentative the past few weeks” the Lincoln Project founder began. “I think though we are now going to start the Kevin McCarthy death-clock. He has certainly got a very angry part of his caucus tonight who probably burning up his phone no matter how good it is for the country not to default.”

“It’s not going to please the chaos caucus in the GOP,” he added.

Watch below or at the link:


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Debt Ceiling: McCarthy Faces ‘Lingering Anger’ and a Possible Revolt as Far-Right House Members Start Issuing Threats



As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continues to negotiate a deal to avoid a debt crisis, members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are growing furious with him over broken promises he made to them.

According to MSNBC political analyst Steve Benen, with a slim GOP majority in the House, McCarthy is walking a tightrope to get a budget deal passed and may need help from House Democrats if members of his caucus refuse to go along with him.

As Benen points out, in order to win the speakership McCarthy agreed to an easier path for a motion to “vacate the chair” which could end his tenure as Speaker. That could come into play if the Freedom Caucus stages a revolt.

“… as the negotiations approach an apparent finish line, the House Republicans’ most radical faction is learning that it isn’t likely to get everything its members demanded — and for the Freedom Caucus, that’s not going to work,” he wrote in his MSNBC column.

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Citing a Washington Times report that stated, “[Freedom Caucus members] want everything from the debt limit bill passed by the House last month plus several new concessions from the White House,” Benen suggested far-right House Republicans are now issuing veiled threats.

In an interview, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) stated, “I am going to have to go have some blunt conversations with my colleagues and the leadership team. I don’t like the direction they are headed.”

With Politico reporting, “The [House Freedom Caucus] was already unlikely to support a final bipartisan deal, but lingering anger with Kevin McCarthy could have lasting implications on his speakership,” Benen added, “If this is simply a matter of lingering ill-will from members who come to believe that GOP leaders ‘caved,’ the practical consequences might be limited. But let’s also not forget that McCarthy, while begging his own members for their support during his protracted fight for the speaker’s gavel, agreed to tweak the motion-to-vacate-the-chair rules, which at least in theory, would make it easier for angry House Republicans to try to oust McCarthy from his leadership position.”

Adding the caveat that he is not predicting an imminent McCarthy ouster he added, “But if the scope of the Freedom Caucus’ discontent reaches a fever pitch, a hypothetical deal clears thanks to significant Democratic support, don’t be surprised if we all start hearing the phrase ‘vacate the chair” a lot more frequently.”

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