Tag Archives: genocide

Gay History: The Pink Triangle: From Nazi Label to Symbol of Gay Pride

Pink triangles were originally used in concentration camps to identify gay prisoners.

Before the pink triangle became a worldwide symbol of gay power and pride, it was intended as a badge of shame. In Nazi Germany, a downward-pointing pink triangle was sewn onto the shirts of gay men in concentration camps—to identify and further dehumanize them. It wasn’t until the 1970s that activists would reclaim the symbol as one of liberation.

Homosexuality was technically made illegal in Germany in 1871, but it was rarely enforced until the Nazi Party took power in 1933. As part of their mission to racially and culturally “purify” Germany, the Nazis arrested thousands of LGBT individuals, mostly gay men, whom they viewed as degenerate.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates 100,000 gay men were arrested and between 5,000 and 15,000 were placed in concentration camps. Just as Jews were forced to identify themselves with yellow stars, gay men in concentration camps had to wear a large pink triangle. (Brown triangles were used for Romani people, red for political prisoners, green for criminals, blue for immigrants, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses and black for “asocial” people, including prostitutes and lesbians.)

Homosexual prisoners at the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, Germany, wearing pink triangles on their uniforms on December 19, 1938.
Homosexual prisoners at the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, Germany, wearing pink triangles on their uniforms on December 19, 1938. Corbis/Getty Images

At the camps, gay men were treated especially harshly, by guards and fellow prisoners alike. “There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” Pierre Seel, a gay Holocaust survivor, wrote in his memoir I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror.

An estimated 65 percent of gay men in concentration camps died between 1933 and 1945. Even after World War II, both East and West Germany upheld the country’s anti-gay law, and many gays remained incarcerated until the early 1970s. (The law was not officially repealed until 1994.)

The early 1970s was also when the gay rights movement began to emerge in Germany. In 1972, The Men with the Pink Triangle, the first autobiography of a gay concentration camp survivor, was published. The next year, post-war Germany’s first gay rights organization, Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW), reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation.

“At its core, the pink triangle represented a piece of our German history that still needed to be dealt with,” Peter Hedenström, one of HAW’s founding members said in 2014.

Memorial plaques for homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and Wehrmacht deserters are placed where once stood one of the demolished barracks in Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.
Memorial plaques for homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Wehrmacht deserters are placed where once stood one of the demolished barracks in Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany. Horacio Villalobos/Corbis/Getty Images

Afterwards, it began cropping up in other LGBT circles around the world. In 1986, six New York City activists created a poster with the words SILENCE = DEATH and a bright pink upward-facing triangle, meant to call attention to the AIDs crisis that was decimating populations of gay men across the country. The poster was soon adopted by the organization ACT UP and became a lasting symbol of the AIDS advocacy movement.

The triangle continues to figure prominently in imaging for various LGBT organizations and events. Since the 1990s, signs bearing a pink triangle enclosed in a green circle have been used as a symbol identifying “safe spaces” for queer people. There are pink triangle memorials in San Francisco and Sydney, which honor LGBT victims of the Holocaust. In 2018, for Pride Month, Nike released acollection of shoes featuring pink triangles.

Although the pink triangle has been reclaimed as an empowering symbol, it is ultimately a reminder to never forget the past—and to recognize the persecution LGBT people still face around the world.

Reference

The New Genocide?

What is happening in Myanmar (Burma) is truly terrible, but seems to be a microcosm of events currently occuring in many corners of the world! A toxic mix of religious intolerance (religion, as always, causing problems, no matter its breed or creed!); intolerance of ethnicity (when are we going to accept others for just being what they are -people!); environmental vandalism (FFS leave things alone!); brought about by multi-national corporate greed! These huge, unethical, money-grabbing corporations are going to destroy us long before climate change does!; politics – a hedonistic institution at its best, destructive and nihilistic at its worst! Add media misinformation, and bias, into the mix, often stirring up trouble that was never there in the first place, and you have a sure recipe for disaster. This beautiful country, once famous for its ancient culture and tea, is now a place of potential genocide. This is how we manage to change beautiful landscapes into ruination! The following article sheds interesting insights into the current state of affairs in Myanmar.


Religion is not the only reason Rohingyas are being forced out of Myanmar
September 12, 2017 4.35am SAST

Updated September 19, 2017 3.43am SAST

 Giuseppe Forino, Jason von Meding, and Thomas Johnson

Minorities in Myanmar, including the Rohingya, are resilient in the face of persecution. Giuseppe Forino, Author provided
Recent weeks have seen an escalation of violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine, the poorest state of Myanmar. A tide of displaced people are seeking refuge from atrocities – they are fleeing both on foot and by boat to Bangladesh. It is the latest surge of displaced people, and is exacerbated by the recent activity of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Religious and ethnic differences have been widely considered the leading cause of the persecution. But it is becoming increasingly hard to believe that there are not other factors at play. Especially given that Myanmar is home to 135 official recognised ethnic groups (the Rohingya were removed from this list in 1982).
In analysing the recent violence, much of the western media has focused on the role of the military and the figure of the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Her status as a Nobel Peace prize laureate has been widely questioned since the latest evidence of atrocities emerged.
She continues to avoid condemning the systematic violence against the Rohingya. At least the media gaze has finally shifted somewhat towards their plight.
But there remain issues that are not being explored. It is also critical to look beyond religious and ethnic differences towards other root causes of persecution, vulnerability and displacement.
We must consider vested political and economic interests as contributing factors to forced displacement in Myanmar, not just of the Rohingya people but of other minorities such as the Kachin, the Shan, the Karen, the Chin, and the Mon.
Major ethnic groups in Myanmar. Al Jazeera

Land grabbing

Land grabbing and confiscation in Myanmar is widespread. It is not a new phenomenon.
Since the 1990s, military juntas have been taking away the land of smallholders across the country, without any compensation and regardless of ethnicity or religious status.
Land has often been acquired for “development” projects, including military base expansions, natural resource exploitation and extraction, large agriculture projects, infrastructure and tourism. For example, in Kachin state the military confiscated more than 500 acres of villagers’ land to support extensive gold mining.
Development has forcibly displaced thousands of people – both internally and across borders with Bangladesh, India, and Thailand – or compelled them to set out by sea to Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.
In 2011, Myanmar instituted economic and political reforms that led it to be dubbed “Asia’s final frontier” as it opened up to foreign investment. Shortly afterwards, in 2012, violent attacks escalated against the Rohingya in Rakhine state and, to a lesser extent, against the Karen. Meanwhile, the government of Myanmar established several laws relating to the management and distribution of farmland.
These moves were severely criticised for reinforcing the ability of large corporations to profit from land grabs. For instance, agribusiness multinationals such as POSCO Daewoo have eagerly entered the market, contracted by the government.

A regional prize

Myanmar is positioned between countries that have long eyed its resources, such as China and India. Since the 1990s, Chinese companies have exploited timber, rivers and minerals in Shan State in the North.
This led to violent armed conflicts between the military regime and armed groups, including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its ethnic allies in eastern Kachin State and northern Shan State.
In Rakhine State, Chinese and Indian interests are part of broader China-India relations. These interests revolve principally around the construction of infrastructure and pipelines in the region. Such projects claim to guarantee employment, transit fees and oil and gas revenues for the whole of Myanmar.
Among numerous development projects, a transnational pipeline built by China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) connecting Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, to Kunming, China, began operations in September 2013. The wider efforts to take Myanmar oil and gas from the Shwe gas field to Guangzhou, China, are well documented.

Rohingya Muslims tell of gang rapes and secret killings in Myanmar’s hidden region

Pipeline from the Shwe gas field to China. The Shwe Gas Movement

A parallel pipeline is also expected to send Middle East oil from the Kyaukphyu port to China. However, the neutral Advisory Commission on Rakhine State has urged the Myanmar government to carry out a comprehensive impact assessment.

In fact, the Commission recognises that pipelines put local communities at risk. There is significant local tension related to land seizures, insufficient compensation for damages, environmental degradation, and an influx of foreign workers rather than increased local employment opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Sittwe deep-sea port was financed and constructed by India as part of the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project. The aim is to connect the northeast Mizoram state in India with the Bay of Bengal.
Coastal areas of Rakhine State are clearly of strategic importance to both India and China. The government of Myanmar therefore has vested interests in clearing land to prepare for further development and to boost its already rapid economic growth.
All of this takes place within the wider context of geopolitical maneuvering. The role of Bangladesh in fuelling ethnic tensions is also hotly contested. In such power struggles, the human cost is terribly high.

Compounding the vulnerability of minorities

In Myanmar, the groups that fall victim to land grabbing have often started in an extremely vulnerable state and are left even worse off. The treatment of the Rohingya in Rakhine State is the highest profile example of broader expulsion that is inflicted on minorities.
When a group is marginalised and oppressed it is difficult to reduce their vulnerability and protect their rights, including their property. In the case of the Rohingya, their ability to protect their homes was decimated through the revocation of their Burmese citizenship.
Rohingya settlement near Sittwe. Thomas Johnson
Since the late 1970s around a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape persecution. Tragically, they are often marginalised in their host countries.

With no country willing to take responsibility for them, they are either forced or encouraged to continuously cross borders. The techniques used to encourage this movement have trapped the Rohingya in a vulnerable state.
The tragedy of the Rohingya is part of a bigger picture which sees the oppression and displacement of minorities across Myanmar and into neighbouring countries.
The relevance and complexity of religious and ethnic issues in Myanmar are undeniable. But we cannot ignore the political and economic context and the root causes of displacement that often go undetected.

This article was amended after publication to correct the mislabelling of the Karen as Muslim.