Voices from S-21 by David P. Chandler

This excerpt was part of Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison by David P. Chandler, a book about the prison discovered in Cambodia called S-21. It was used during the 1975-1979 Khymer Rouge era in which Pol Pot and his government party, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, otherwise known as Khymer Rouge, executed or imprisoned Western sympathizers, intellectuals, members of the previous Lon Nol regime, Buddhist monks and distinctive minority communities such as Cham, the Chinese, Lao, Vietnamese Cambodians. Some of those who were imprisoned were subjected to forced labor.

One thing that I found interesting about this genocide was that fact that the main authorities were schoolteachers. Here’s a list of who I have tracked so far—note these are people who were in charge of the prison:

  • Pol Pot
  • Son Sen, Army Commander
  • “Duch” (Kang Kech Ieu), commander of S-21
  • Chan, Head of Interrogation unit in S-21
  • “Pon” (Tang Sin Hean), deputy to Chan in Interrogation Unit
  • Puy and Tuy, chief interrogators

It is often said that the subordinates of those listed above regarded them as their “older brothers”. The subordinates were often young, rural, primary school-educated men, a fact which made me wonder if because of their previous careers as school teachers, Pol Pot and the others were able to capture and maintain the minds of these young followers in order to train them to kill their fellow citizens and watch them slowly wither away from starvation and overwork. In fact, Chandler says one-hundred and eight of the guards were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, ages at which people are highly impressionable, and have “psychology that is not complicated”, according to psychiatrist Richard Mollica. I found this statement and those following poignant because they demonstrated the extent to which young people are vulnerable to hateful ideology and the trap of becoming mass murderers. In Rwanda and more recently in ISIS, we see the danger that young people, especially young men, pose when they are exposed to such ideology because of their desire to impress and their malleability in the presence of authority. I think that it is important to acknowledge this fact when considering not just genocide, but conflict in general. And I will end with that comment.

Central African Republic

So this was my final presentation for my Freshman Seminar. It took a while to get to this point but I’m happy for all of it because it helped me get to a topic that I love, so much so that I think I might make a website dedicated to it, although, we’ll see how that goes. There’s a handout that goes with it.

here’s the link to the presentation. There are notes at the bottom of the slides.


Here’s the handout


Final Project and Presentation

So for our final project, we had to write a 10-12 research paper and present our research in a roughly ten minute presentation.  I’m not gonna upload my paper because certain people on the internet might try to steal it, but I will include my presentation and handout that I used.  I wrote and presented about the moral dilemma of the ICRC during the Holocaust.

FSEM Presentation.pptx

Project Handout

Genocides: A World History by Norman A. Naimark, Chapter 8

So, aside from the discussion of the genocide in Darfur, which I will get to in a minute, this chapter was a basic summary of the 1990s genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. Just a couple weeks ago, the Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić was convicted of genocide for his role in leading the Siege of Sarajevo which left ten-thousand dead. I’m not sure if anything has happened with the Rwanda genocide, and I can check, but I’m pressed for time.

Shifting to Darfur. Arising out of increasingly violent disputes over land and resources between black pastoralists and Arab nomads, the Darfur genocide began in 2002 and is in certain ways, still happening. The main perpetrators were Janjaweed militias, who were paid by the Sudanese government, led by Omar Al-Bashir, to wipe out rebel groups found in the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes and the will of the non-combatants’ will to survive. The height of the killing occurred during 2003-2004. The Janjaweed often worked jointly with the Sudanese army in attacking villages, often striking in the mornings, kidnapping and raping women and girls, destroying infrastructure, poisoning water, mutilating and shooting women, men, and children. The Janjaweed militias often circled back to the villages they attacked to kill remaining survivors and were also present at refugee camps, located in other parts of Darfur, and its no mystery that they killed there as well.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Omar Al-Bashir in 2009 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and eventually genocide. Omar Al-Bashir was sited in South Africa, but the South African authorities did not arrest him because there’s this whole controversy between the ICC and the African Union about what I like to call “racial profiling”, because the ICC has opened twenty-five investigations and all of them have concerned a country in Africa. Some scholars say that the indictment of Omar Al-Bashir ignited this anger because he was a sitting head of state as opposed to private insurgency or opposition parties, which was the hope of the African states, and now current heads of state have their panties in a twist because they recognize their own mortality. As of 2016, the ICC opened an investigation into Georgia—the one in Eastern Europe—for the crimes committed in 2008 (I don’t know what happened but I will have a link for you to find out and tell me). And also, Burundi has left the ICC, however the ICC is still investigating crimes committed there, as well as South Africa. The ICC is also hosting preliminary investigations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine Ukraine, and the Registered Vessels of Comoros, Greece and Cambodia. Eight of those are not on the African continent, but we will have to see if the ICC decides to launch a formal investigation.

Some information on Mladić:


Some information on Rwanda (because I realized that I forgot to when I was discussing Gourevitch):


Some information on Darfur:


https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/darfur-the-most-successful-genocide-in-a-century_us_58fa0eb9e4b086ce58980fe3 (I hate the title, but it is a good article nonetheless)

for information on the ICC cases, go to https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Main.aspx . There is a dropdown menu under “Situation and Cases” that will go over the ICC’s investigation and preliminary examinations in the various countries that I mentioned and some that I did not, including the Central African Republic, which I did my paper on! There’s also information on what the ICC is and other background things. CHECK IT OUT!

Information on the ICC and AU dispute:


A scholarly article: file:///C:/Users/Nina%20Burges/Downloads/UMW/ICC/ContentServer.pdf

For information on the ICC investigation into Burundi


I will leaving information on the other ICC investigations to you, but I will have information on the ICC’s  investigation into the Central African Republic, which ICC has intervened twice, because that was my research topic this semester:



Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia by Michael Sells

A nice, quick read, Michael Sells’ Bridge Betrayed discussed the causes of the genocide within the former Yugoslavia from a religious perspective. In my opinion, Sells’ analysis was simplistic and superficial. Sells only approaches the causes of the genocide solely from a religious war perspective, but he declines to delve any deeper, leaving many questions to be answered. I cannot imagine that the perversion of one religious ideology could explain the Bosnian genocide. One would counter this argument by citing Islamic terrorism, but I would respond by pointing out that while Islam is the banner under which Islamic terrorists commit their atrocities, the motivation behind their atrocities arises from a combination of a lack of economic opportunity and resentment towards abusive regimes propped up by Western governments.

My point is that Sells’ argument about Christianity’s role in the genocide is incomplete. I have no explanation as to why mythological interpretations of Prince Lazar’s death by authors such as Petar II Petrovich and Vuk Karadžić resonated so closely with Serbians in Yugoslavia during the 19th century and thus motivated them to murder, rape and imprison millions of Bosnian Muslims. There is no mention of the extent of Christianity’s importance to the Serb population in Yugoslavia, or the extent of the mistreatment of the Serbs while they were under Ottoman rule. If Sells had explained this part of the story in the book then his argument wouldn’t have fallen flat on its face.

Alright now time for positive comments. I thought that Sells explains the timeline of the Bosnian genocide beautifully in a way that is compelling to someone like me, whose interest mostly lies in African and Middle Eastern history and politics. The story about Prince Lazar was really clear and easy to follow. Sells’ pronunciation guide was very helpful in pronouncing all of the names of the places and the leaders.

For some background:



Genocides: A World History by Norman M. Naimark, Chapter 7

This chapter centered on the anti-communism genocides of the Cold War in Guatemala and Indonesia. Here I am going to discuss the civil war in Guatemala, but I will have links about the Indonesian anti-communist genocide below. In 1960’s Guatemala, the CIA trained guerrilla fighters to combat the leftist ideologies that were spotlighting U.S neocolonialism in the form of the United Fruit Company. The newfound CIA training of the right-wing guerilla fighters emboldened them to invade Guatemala, under the leadership of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, and overthrow Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, who was already the subject of an American sponsored fake news publicity campaign to paint him as a communist. During the rule of the right-wingers, who were supported by CIA, leftist counterinsurgencies were violently crushed and the majority of the population—Mayans, mestizos, and Ladino campesinos—were fated to poverty, unemployment and forced labor.

The one story that was poignant for me was the account of the woman whose neighbor had been raped and her lips cut off. Although taking this class has no doubt taken the “sting” out of atrocities such as rape, torture, and murder, to me, these accounts are no less poignant. To consider the amount of sadistic depravity present in those committing these acts me hace deprimida para nuestro mundo–makes me depressed for our world. I guess I have exhausted all of my outrage and my declarations of bewilderment, and all that remains is a resigned shadow that just wishes that this depravity and sadism would cease to exist.

And here my outrage come again. Does the U.S. government understand the shit that it causes? Does it understand that them going in and fucking with shit that had nothing to do with them endangers innocent lives and forever fucks up lives like the one in the account above? Do the atrocities that it essentially sparks through these covert CIA operations ever weigh heavily on its mind (yes I’m aware that the government is an inanimate object, but it is made by and functions through people)?


Does the U.S. bear responsibility for the events that occurred in Guatemala? Should they be punished as an accomplice?

The Nazis killed the Jews using guns, gas and concentration camps. Hutu Power and its supporters used machetes, clubs and guns to kill Tutsis? Guatemalan army and police units used machetes, blunt objects, guns and extreme regulation of food and culture to murder and persecute the Mayans. In your opinion, does the brutality of the method of killing convey the degree of hatred in a genocide? Explain.

What do you think motivates the international community to intervene when atrocities are being committed in one’s country? Explain with evidence.

Here’s some links about the Guatemalan Civil war:


http://cja.org/where-we-work/guatemala/, this source has additional sources within it.

Here are some links about the Indonesia anti-communist purges:



Latcho Dram

Some background on the movie. According to my professor, Latcho Dram is an anthropological musical set in 1933 that details the travels of Roma, or the Gypsies from India to Spain over about one thousand years. The movie is an allegory, though for what I’m not exactly sure about. Since there were very few subtitles, I was unable to focus on the story line of the musical, which I do not think that the director wanted you to focus on in the first place, so I focused on the changes in musical style, instrumentation, and dance as the Roma migrated from South Asia to Central and Western Europe (Thanks Professor Al-Tikriti. In some instances, I noted the cultural changes as well but that was mostly in the beginning. Anyways, here are some of my observations:

  • In India the movie depicts them as nomads, travelling with cattle and tents. The women wear very colorful garments while a majority of the men wear white. There was an image of a woman blacksmithing and I thought “Girl Power!” and “Egalitarianism!”. The elements of Indian culture the dress and the drum heavy music and the dancing. Instruments in the music were unique, sounded like a can clanging. Drums were ceramic vases made out of clay.
  • In rural Egypt, there is a change in the musical style, more heavy sounding drums, maintenance of “scratchy violin” and finger cymbals. Also, the dance changes, with more hip motion.
  • By ship, the Romas travel to Istanbul and make their living doing jobs like selling flowers and such. Although they live in impoverishment, the Romas maintain their close ties each other. One observes that music incorporates new instruments such as clarinet, guitar, violin, finger guitar, tambourine, and drums. Fun fact: My professor knew the clarinetist in this movie, named Selim Sesler, he died in 2014.
  • Move to Romania. I observe the following instruments, violin and hanging xylophone. The instrumentalist had a weird technique of pulling the violin strings. There was a structure shown in this number, that was the Nicolae Ceaucescu palace, the largest building in Europe by a dictator, which is now surrounded by city. According to my professor, the creation of this huge-ass palace came at the destruction of a Jewish neighborhood. Through the music, one understands the resistance to the persecution of the Roma (I’m going off of the tone of the song, because it sounds pretty sorrowful. This sad song is exchanged for a song that is mostly violin driven but accompanied by the accordion and a sitting string xylophone (I think that this is a cimbalom but it might be a gusli, not sure) and some type of lone recorder. Overall the music has lost the busyness of drums and cymbals characteristic of their Indian roots.
  • By this time, the Romas are fleeing by train into Hungary singing about their woes and misfortune. By this time they are Christian. However, further along on railroad, a family is singing a joyous song in which they bring back the vase, although this time it is made out of tin or aluminum. They also using spoons, a homage to the finger cymbals
  • The train turns into a train carting the Roma to Auschwitz. Here, a woman who survived the camps, sings about her time in the camps. The following scene shows the Roma living in above-ground tree huts, singing lyrics that translate to “God has condemned us to wandering, we have fled misery and hate”.
  • 1993: The Romas are in France, and they are living in what look like trailer cars, although my Wikapedia article said they are called vardos, wagons that are complexly carved on the inside. But back to the music! The music is mostly guitar based with one lone bass. The melody comprises a lead guitarist making an array of notes and the rest following by trilling on notes. the bass strikes with the followers as well.
  • This scene leads into the pilgrimage to Saintes Maries de la Mer, the holy site of the Roma patron saint, St. Sarah—Abraham’s wife, who laughed at the thought of bearing children at over eighty years old and then bore Isaac at ninety years old. In the music, the violin leads and guitars accompany in the A Section. In the B section, the guitar leads and other guitars accompany along with the violin.
  • In modern age in Spain there is dancing! The dancing, involves a lot of jumping, fancy footwork and hip movement, the majority of which is deliberate. At least for the younger dancers, there is a lot of reliance on sex appeal. And I just realized while I was typing this that I did not see any males dancing like I have seen in previous scenes. As they arrive in Spain, the inhabitants brick up houses because they do not wish the Romas to arrive in Spain. This prompts the final number, in which four female members of the flamenco group the Gitanos sing about the prejudice and mistreatment they receive because of their ethnicity. And they are speaking Spanish which I loved because I could understand it without the subtitles!

I would reckon to say that this movie is a great example of syncretism, or the fusion of different culture, intellectual thought, and religion. As to what prompted these changes in musical style, that is a topic for another paper, which I just finished writing one for this class so “no thank you” right now, but I would guess that it would have to do with the desire of the Romas, or any culture, to fit in. I know that with Sufi Islam, the Islamic missionaries allowed the incorporation of Hindu ideas into Islam in order to attract more converts in India and Southeast Asia, so maybe the reason would work the other way around, or maybe not. Oh well, maybe I will think about it more next semester when I take Intro to Human Geography.

I have articles and videos for your literary and intellectual enjoyment:

For more about St. Sarah: http://romove.radio.cz/en/clanek/18906

For more about vardos: http://gypsywaggons.co.uk/varhistory.htm

For more about cimbalom: https://www.britannica.com/art/cimbalom

To hear gusli being played: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDWwHONEvxY

For the full movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTuXveZStUo