SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Forty-five years ago today, March 16, roughly 100 U.S. troops were flown by helicopter to the outskirts of a small Vietnamese hamlet called My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Over a period of four hours, the Americans methodically slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systematically burned homes, and fouled the area’s drinking water.
On this day, I think back to an interview I conducted several years ago with a tiny, wizened woman named Tran Thi Nhut. She told me about hiding in an underground bunker as the Americans stormed her hamlet and how she emerged to find a scene of utter horror: a mass of corpses in a caved-in trench and, especially, the sight of a woman’s leg sticking out at an unnatural angle which haunted her for decades. She lost her mother and a son in the massacre. But Tran Thi Nhut never set foot in My Lai. She lived two provinces north, in a little hamlet named Phi Phu which—she and other villagers told me—lost more than 30 civilians to a 1967 massacre by U.S. troops.
I remember Pham Thi Luyen who lived several provinces north in Trieu Ai village, Quang Tri Province. Decades old Marine Corps court martial records—which told a story of scared and angry Americans under command of an officer bent on revenge for recent casualties—led me to her hamlet. There, she and other survivors told me what it was like to live through a night of sheer terror, in October 1967, when Americans threw grenades into bomb shelters with women and children inside and gunned down men and women in cold blood. It was the night that Pham Thi Luyen became an orphan and 12 fellow villagers died.
I think of Bui Thi Huong who was, according to court-martial records, gang-raped in Xuan Ngoc hamlet by five Marines while her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, husband, and 3-year-old son were shot dead. Her 5-year-old niece was slain too, but by another method. The Marine who killed her did so by “mashing up and down with his rifle,” according to a fellow unit member. Another recalled, “I said one… two… three… And he was hitting the baby with the [rifle] butt!”
I recall too my conversations with Pham Thi Cuc, Le Thi Chung, and Le Thi Xuan who told me about a 1966 massacre by Americans in My Luoc hamlet that claimed the lives of 16 civilians. I think of Vi Thi Ngoi, an elderly woman who told me about the day American and South Korean troops opened fire on more than 100 of her fellow villagers and of the bodies that fell on her tiny frame, shielding her from the bullets. I remember how she explained what it felt like to lie there, for what seemed like an eternity, feigning death, amid the blood and viscera of friends and neighbors.
I remember my time spent talking with Jamie Henry, decades after he had been a young draftee and then a decorated medic. Just over a month before the My Lai massacre, Henry’s unit entered a small hamlet, rounded up the civilians—about 19 women and children—and gathered them together. A lieutenant asked his superior, a West Point-trained captain, what he should do with them. As Henry later told an Army criminal investigator in a sworn statement: “The captain asked him if he remembered the op order [operation order] that had come down from higher [headquarters] that morning which was to kill anything that moves. The captain repeated the order. He said that higher said to kill anything that moves.” Henry tried to intervene, but instead could only watch as fellow unit members opened fire on the civilians. An Army investigation determined the massacre occurred just as Henry said it did, but no action was taken against any of the troops involved, while the files were kept secret and buried away for decades.
In short, on this anniversary, I think of all the My Lais that most Americans never knew existed and few are aware of today. I think about young American men who shot down innocents in cold blood and then kept silent for decades. I think about horrified witnesses who lived with the memories. I think of the small number of brave whistleblowers who stood up for innocent, voiceless victims. But most of all, I think of the dead Vietnamese of all the massacres that few Americans knew about and fewer still cared about.
I think of the victims in Phi Phu and Trieu Ai and My Luoc and so many other tiny hamlets I visited in Vietnam’s countryside. And then I think of all the villages I never visited; the massacres unknown to all but the dwindling number of survivors and their families; the stories we Americans will likely never know.
I wonder if, 45 years hence, someone might be writing a similar op-ed about civilian lives lost these past years in Iraq or Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen; about killings kept under wraps and buried in classified files or simply locked away in the hearts and minds of the perpetrators and witnesses and survivors. Four and half decades from now, will we still reserve only this day to focus on these hard truths and hidden histories? Or will we finally have learned the lessons of the My Lai massacre and the many other massacres that so many wish to forget and so many others refuse to remember.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Vietnamese police have broken up anti-China protests in two cities and detained 20 people in the first such demonstrations since tensions between the communist neighbours flared anew over rival claims to the oil and gas-rich South China Sea.
Hundreds of protesters, some waving banners and chanting "Down with China's aggression!", were intercepted by security forces as they tried to approach the Chinese embassy in the capital, Hanoi, on Sunday.
Activists at the scene said that the 20 demonstrators were rounded up into a bus after the half-hour rally, the fifth such display of public discontent in Hanoi this year against Beijing's perceived aggression in the sea.
Security forces also broke up a similar anti-China protest in the southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City.
Protesters shouted "Down with China" and carried banners bearing the slogan "China's military expansion threatens world peace and security."
Using loudspeakers, authorities urged them to disperse and tried to reassure them that "the Communist Party and government are resolutely determined to defend our country's sovereignty and territory through peaceful means based on international law."
Vietnam and China have long sparred over who owns the South China Sea, which is also claimed in whole or part by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Vietnam last week alleged that Chinese shipping vessels sabotaged one of its seismic survey vessels in the South China Sea.
This week the government warned Beijing not to do that again and presented a list of its violations in the disputed sea.
China responded by denying the allegations and demanding that Vietnam stop its navy harassing Chinese boats.
China recently issued new passports containing a map showing the sea as belonging to it, causing anger in Hanoi and other regional states.
The South China Sea is strategically significant, home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in resources.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Vietnamese police broke up anti-China protests in two cities on Sunday and detained 20 people in the first such demonstrations since tensions between the communist neighbors flared anew over rival claims to the oil and gas-rich South China Sea.
Any sign of popular anger in tightly controlled Vietnam causes unease among the leadership, but anti-Chinese sentiment is especially sensitive. The country has long-standing ideological and economic ties with its giant neighbor, but many of those criticizing China are also the ones calling for political, religious and social freedoms at home.
Police initially allowed about 200 protesters to march from Hanoi's iconic Opera House through the streets, but after 30 minutes ordered them to disperse. When some continued, they pushed about 20 of them into a large bus which then drove quickly from the scene. It was unclear where they were taken, but in the past people detained at anti-China protests have been briefly held and released.
As foreign tourists and Sunday morning strollers looked on, protesters shouted "Down with China" and carried banners bearing the slogan "China's military expansion threatens world peace and security."
Using loudspeakers, authorities urged them to disperse and tried to reassure them.
"The Communist Party and government are resolutely determined to defend our country's sovereignty and territory through peaceful means based on international law," it said. "Your gathering causes disorder and affects the party's and government's foreign policy."
A smaller protest also took place in Ho Chi Minh city, according to blogger and activist Huynh Ngoc Chenh.
He said he was ordered to leave by police, but about 100 people gathered for 10 minutes before being dispersed.
"I'm frustrated," he said by telephone. "There's nothing to ban, the government should allow people to express their patriotism peacefully."
Vietnam and China have long sparred over who owns the South China Sea, a dispute that the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are also parties to. Over the last two years, America's diplomatic tilt to Southeast Asia and energy-hungry China's growing assertiveness has focused international attention on the issue.
Vietnam last week alleged that Chinese shipping vessels sabotaged one of its seismic survey vessels in the South China Sea. This week the government warned Beijing not to do that again and presented a list of its violations in the disputed sea. China recently issued new passports containing a map showing the sea as belonging to it, causing anger in Hanoi and other regional states.
In the summer of 2011, there were two months of weekly protests in Hanoi, an unprecedented show of popular anger in the country. Earlier this year, there were also some demonstrations. Police dispersed them, gradually using more force as it become clear they were becoming a source of domestic opposition to the party.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Taking care of the only Muslim worship place in northern Vietnam, Doan Hong Cuong stands a symbol on the Muslim presence in the atheist Asian country.
“We get up at 4.15 every morning and pray for the new day,” Cuong told VietNamNet newspaper on Sunday, November 11.
Cuong is taking care of Al Noor mosque, the only Muslim worship place in Hanoi in northern Vietnam.
“When the sun rises, every family member starts work,” he said.
“My son tends his own small shop and as our grandchildren go to school, the women in the family do the housework.”
Born in Hanoi, Cuong is the son of a Pakistani father who married a Vietnamese woman and settled down to in the northern Vietnamese city in 1940.
He formed a small Muslim community in the capital city, and then later became the mosque's caretaker.
most Muslims chose to leave for the South in 1954, Cuong’s father decided to stay in Hanoi to take care of the mosque.
When their father died in 1963, Cuong and his eldest brother decided to take care of the mosque.
Al Noor mosque, the only one in northern Vietnam, was built in 1890 by Indian Muslims who originally went to Vietnam to do business.
It is fairly small with a limited space of only 700 square meters.
Yet, the worship place was built in the typical Islamic style of mosques that can be seen all over the world, especially in India, with a dome, arched door and pointed tower.
The mosque’s design is simple and airy, with large high arched doors in the main praying hall and the whole building painted white.
Muslims pray five times throughout the day and Cuong opens the doors of the mosque at pre-ordained times to welcome worshippers in.
On the weekly Friday prayers, around 200 Muslims arrive at the mosque to pray.
Cuong says he will continue his mission of taking care of the mosque until the end of his life.
“The most important thing is belief and to want to do good for the world at large,” the Vietnamese Muslim said.
“Our religion does not ban people from enjoying themselves or insist they must live austere lives.”
Built more than 100 years ago, Al Noor mosque has fallen into disrepair.
Cuong says the Muslim community in Hanoi will hold the first congress in December to discuss ways of restoring the mosque.
Vietnam is home to a tiny Muslim minority of 73,000, who make up nearly 0.1 percent of the country’s 91 million population.
Muslims of Cham ethnicity account for one-third of the Muslim community in Vietnam, while the remaining are of Khmer, Malay, Viet, Chinese and Arab origins.
Most Muslims live in southern Vietnam.
There are nearly 79 mosques in Vietnam, most of which are in the south.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam