Summary of the Japanese-language HURIGHTS OSAKA Newsletter No. 123, September 2015 (bimonthly)
Feature story: Peace and Human Rights Now!
Why Okinawans are not allowed to exercise the right to self-determination?
(part-time lecturer, Okinawa International University
Ph.D. candidate, Osaka School of International Public Policy, Osaka University)
The opinion survey conducted by Ryukyu Shimpo (a local newspaper in Okinawa) dated 3rd June, 2015 regarding the self-determination of Okinawa revealed that 41.8% of the respondents support the idea of extensively expanding the right to self-determination of Okinawa, 46.0% support “the moderate expansion,” 6.8% support “not really need to expand,” 2.4% “no need to expand at all,” and 3.0% “do not know.” Virtually, 87% of the respondents in Okinawa call for the expansion of the right to self-determination of Okinawans.
Why do Okinawans seek the exercise of their right to self-determination? Because, they now recognize that the central government has ignored their will as Okinawans, and they are not allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. Results of the four recent elections, both national and local, held in Okinawa since 2014 demonstrate this. In the elections for the mayor and City Council members of Nago City (where “Henoko,” the proposed relocation site of Futenma US airbase is located), for Nago, Okinawa Governor and for their representatives to the House of Representatives, candidates who opposed the construction of a new military base in Henoko won. As for the Nago City Council, the party opposing the construction of the new base in Henoko won the majority. Nevertheless, the government of Japan kept ignoring the public will and pushed forward their plan of landfilling of Henoko. This is not for the first time that the government of Japan has ignored the will of the Okinawans. This is traced back to the time when Japan annexed Ryukyu (the former name of Okinawa, it was an independent nation) without having any consultation with the people of Ryukyu in 1879. Since then, discrimination against Ryukyu people by Japanese became apparent. This attitude culminated at the time of the Battle of Okinawa when a large number of local people died for the sake of “the defense of mainland Japan.” After the war, the governments of Japan and the US agreed to place Okinawa under the control of the US for 27 years without having any consultation with Okinawans. In 1972, Okinawa was returned to Japan again without reflecting the will of Okinawans. After the return, several occasions on determining the future of Okinawa arose without allowing Okinawans to exercise their right to self-determination. This indeed constitutes discrimination against Okinawa.
Of all US military facilities stationed in Japan, 74% are concentrated in Okinawa since late 50s. Younger generations in Okinawa do not know that there was a time when Okinawa did not have US bases. Younger generations in Japan believe that the defeat of Japan led to the presence of US military bases in Okinawa because of its geopolitically important location. For those generations in Okinawa who have seen the presence of US military as part of their daily life, military aircrafts flying over the sky or incidents caused by US military operations or personnel are daily sceneries. Some even consider that the US bases are profitable for Okinawa. In reality, "the Emperor's message" made immediately after the defeat of the war included the proposal to place Okinawa under the US control for 25 to 50 years. Subsequently, the US military bases were constructed in Okinawa in the early 1950s. Later, in 1956, US marines stationed on the mainland Japan were relocated to Okinawa, concentrating US military facilities in Okinawa. Under the excuse that Okinawa has good geographical conditions military- and defense-wise, Okinawa and the US military bases have been "segregated" from the rest of Japan, while keeping the potential violence of the Japanese invisible. Meanwhile, it has also made Okinawa people feel that they are helpless before the US and Japanese governments.
The 2015 survey on the public opinion on the Self-Defense Force and national security issues conducted by the Cabinet Office reveals that 82.9% of the people in Japan consider the Japan-US Security Treaty has helped in the defense of Japan. Since majority of the people in Japan support the Japan-US security policies, it is reasonable that the maintenance of US military bases in Japan should be equally shared by the whole nation. While Okinawa has kept calling for the withdrawal of all US military bases from Japan including Okinawa for the past 70 years, it has never been heard. Against this backdrop, there has been the call to return of all the US military facilities to the mainland Japan where they once had been relocated from.
When I provided an American Deserter with a shelter
In the fall of 1967, four US marines run away from the aircraft carrier while it was calling in Yokosuka Port (close to Tokyo). It was widely covered by the media in Japan with the help of Japanese peace group called Beheiren (Peace for Vietnam – Citizens’ Alliance). Around that time, the Vietnam War was already in a full-scale operation. From Kadena Air-base in Okinawa, B52s the strategic bombers were taking off for Hanoi one after another. The number of American soldiers dispatched to Vietnam reached 100,000 then, with an increasing number of the war-dead on both the US and Vietnam sides.
In the spring of 1968, I was asked by my senior colleague if I could provide accommodation to an American deserter for three days with the conditions that no written note must be left behind, the stay must not be disclosed to anybody; and it must be kept confidential. I decided to accept the soldier and asked my mother to provide a room for him in her house. Then, he came to us on March 2.
I was supposed to leave no notes, but I found later that my mother had left a short memo in her notebook. She wrote down the word “secret” on the date of March 2, 1968. He was 19 years old. He asked us to call him Cal. On the first day, we were awkward because of the language barrier. On the second day, we became a little closer to each other, and I asked him if I was could shoot a film of him.
In the film, Cal was eating “sukiyaki” with fork. Behind him were a kerosene stove and our cat lying flat beside it. He was asking our cat, “You are being shot. You are an actor. Here is a microphone. You sing a song.” Gradually, he was getting relaxed, and said, “Beer is good, whisky is better, and sake is the best.” Then, I asked him the reason why he deserted. “With crimes going on there, I have taken an extreme form of action such as desertion, because American military is injuring our beloved country. This is only an action that I can take to resist against the Vietnam War. If I raised my objection within the military, I would be put into jail and my voice would never be heard. So, I decided to desert to tell people what I believe.”
Cal also said that “in 1776 America fought against Britain to liberate itself from colonial rule. The resistance of America was supported by the bravery of the people. Now, Vietnam is doing the same. The consistent resistance of the Vietnamese is supported by people in the free world. Eventually, after having gone through fear, hatred and prejudice, people will seek peace, not war.” I was moved by his words. I wanted to make efforts to help him be safe and in peace.
On the third day, he was picked up by a car to go to another place. It was March 5. After traveling around Japan for a month, he got on board a fishing boat in Hokkaido and left Japan with five other deserters. In Moscow, they had a press conference and travelled to Sweden.
Through the same way, 17 American soldiers escaped to Sweden with the help of a network called JATEC (Japan Technical Committee to Support American Anti-War Deserters) that was organized by members of Beheiren. The successful desertion was completely due to the work of people in the network who clandestinely and efficiently carried out the plan.
This year, I decided to make public the film of Cal I took in 1968. Meanwhile I was concerned how Cal has led his life. He must be 67 years old now. If he lives in peace, I do not want to disturb him. On the other hand, I was also wondering that there is no other film of a deserter staying in a private house, and if I did not make it open, it would be lost in the passage of time. Finally, I showed it to college students and had a discussion with them about the Vietnam War and the policies of the Japanese government.
It has been 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War. The Republic of Korea joined the US in the war, and sent 50,000 Korean soldiers. 5,000 among them were killed. Meanwhile, Japan did not dispatch troops of the Self-Defense Force. Under the Constitution, Japan was not allowed to exercise the right of collective self-defense. Now, the situation has changed. What will happen in the future?
Caricature “Child and Soldier”
(Advisor, HURIGHTS OSAKA)
In May 2015, I was invited to the auction “Artists in Service” held in Geneva. Funds raised by the auction were to be donated to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organization, or UOSSM, a group of medical professionals who support civilians in difficult situations caused by military combat and other causes.
There were some ten pieces of painting or carving of famous artists in the auction. I was attracted to the 2014 painting entitled “Child and Soldier” by Hani Abbas. The soldier in the drawing is standing making a peace sign with his right hand raised, while the child next to him looks sad and tired, raisig the right arm without the hand.
When no one made a bid for the “Child and Soldier” painting towards the end of the auction, I made the bid to get this painting with a strong message. The artist, Hani Abbas, was born in a Palestine refugee camp in the suburb of Damascus, Syria. He was a caricaturist for newspapers and magazines in Syria where many journalists and artists were assassinated by the Syrian security authorities. He fled his country, and continued his work for other media companies popular in the Arabic speaking world. After he was threatened for the second time, he was again forced to seek asylum.
Hani Abbas was awarded the world grand prix for the freedom of the press in Doha in 2013. In the following year, he was again awarded the prize by “the panel of caricatures for peace” for his brave and dedicated work for peace and freedom of speech.
The victims of oppressive rulers or armed conflicts always include the most vulnerable people. While such an armed conflict is said to be for freedom, justice or self-defense, it is always non-combatant civilians who face immediate danger and harm. In the real world, we see massacres, accidental bombings, and collateral damage from combats occurring every day in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.
The works of Hani Abbas express aspiration for peace, pardon and conciliation, pains, and compassion and attention for sufferers and forgotten people.
His work reminds me of the present Japan where the controversial bills for security are being discussed at the Diet. If these bills are passed, there will be good chances that the Japan’s Self- Defense Force will be dispatched abroad to use force. For the past 70 years since the end of the war, Japan has never been involved in any armed conflict thanks to Article 9 of the Constitution. It has been reported that in those countries that sent their soldiers to battlefields many of the veterans suffered serious difficulties including physical or mental illness. However, as many cases of the use of force have demonstrated, the consequences are disastrous.
This single caricature makes me think of people in Syria and Iraq who continue to live in agony and sadness, while being disturbed with the future direction that Japan may take.
My Visit to Associations for People with Disabilities in Central Asia
(Secretary-General of the DPI Women’s Network Japan)
Excerpt from our interview made with Ms. Fujiwara who visited several organizations for people with disabilities in Central Asia to in June, 2015.
Q: What were the purposes of your visit?
A: The purposes were to monitor JICA’s program being implemented in Central Asia for mainstreaming and empowerment of people with disabilities and to observe the life of people with disabilities there.
Q: Where did you go?
A: We stayed in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for four days and five days, respectively. We visited facilities for the disabled and met people to exchange views.
Q: How do you find the life of people with disabilities there?
A: Basically in both countries, family is big. People with disabilities usually continue to live with their families unlike Japan where the independent living has been advocated. With a limited amount of pension for the disabled, it is not easy for them to live independently unless they have jobs to secure income. In both countries, people are kind to the disabled, but not treat them equally.
Q: Do children with disabilities go to ordinary schools, or special schools?
A: Some schools in Tajikistan offer inclusive education with support from NGOs in Japan. I heard that many children with disabilities do not go to school. Basically, children with disabilities are taken care of by their parents. When a family has a disabled child, the whole family takes care of the child. When the countries were part of former USSR, the state took care of them, whereas the family takes care of them at present. Of course there still are facilities for the disabled, though less than before. Regardless of where they live, they cannot easily go outside since access facilities are not good.
Q: Do people call for barrier-free facilities?
A: Those who have been to Japan for a training program are strongly impressed with the good accessibility in Japan. On return, some of them successfully approached the government asking for the improvement of accessibility in the country. Uzbekistan has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and with JICA cooperation, there are now organizations for the people with disabilities in the country jointly working for the ratification of the Convention.
Q: What about the situation of women with disabilities?
A: I have heard that women with disabilities are likely to be barred when they want to marry, whereas there are many men with disabilities who are married. A woman I met in Uzbekistan said that she was preparing the application for the setting up a group of women with disabilities. In Tajikistan, women with disabilities have already set up a women’s group for peer-counseling and advocacy activities. They are aware that dependence on the state does not help them to become independent.
Q: What challenges do disabled organizations address to?
A: All of them uniformly say that the accessibility is the most important issue. I do not deny it, but I want to remind them that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities advocates a social model, not a medical model. It is a rights-based approach. How do we develop the leadership is most important.