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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Monday, May 23, 2022

The audience chuckled at George W Bush’s Iraq-Ukraine gaffe. I’m not laughing

George Bush accidentally confessed to being a war criminal

“It was a Freudian slip for the ages: during a speech in Dallas this week, former President George W Bush condemned the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq”. Whoops! “I mean of Ukraine,” he added a second later, as laughter rang out in the room. Isn’t it funny when a former president accidentally confesses to war crimes? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Tell you what, I’m not laughing. Nor are a lot of Arabs. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the depravity and horror of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iraqi prisoners of war – many of whom were innocent people who were arrested by mistake – were violently tortured by US and UK troops. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died. The entire country was left in ruins. And the suffering continued long after the occupying forces left. The US military’s frequent use of munitions containing depleted uranium in Iraq, along with military hardware abandoned by troops, poisoned the environment and the population. Even now babies are being born with severe birth defects linked to the invasion. “Doctors are regularly encountering anomalies in babies that are so gruesome they cannot even find precedents for them,” the lead researcher of a 2019 study said. “The war has spread so much radiation here that, unless it is cleaned up, generations of Iraqis will continue to be affected.” So, yeah, please excuse me if I don’t find Bush’s slip-up particularly funny.

You know what’s even less funny? The fact there has been zero accountabilityfor any of the architects of the Iraq war. Sure, some of the military personnel were convicted of crimes relating to torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners, but the people who were really in charge have faced no consequences whatsoever. Bush himself has had his reputation whitewashed in recent years; he has transformed himself into a cuddly grandpa figure who paints and pontificates about “unity”. As for his coterie of enablers, most of them went on to high-paying jobs and prestigious positions.

Before anyone starts making excuses for the architects of the Iraq war (“how could they have known?”), let me remind you that it was clear from the start that the war – and the flimsy weapons of mass destruction excuse used to justify it – was a sham. In February 2003 millions of people, including myself, in at least 650 cities around the world took to the streets to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq. It was the largest one-day global protest in history. Ordinary people could see the war was immoral and probably illegal – and yet there is a concerted effort in some quarters to rewrite the war as a deeply regrettable lapse in judgment that nobody at the time could really have been expected to get right.

Here’s a quick thought experiment for you: imagine it’s 2042 and Vladimir Putin has transformed himself from war criminal to cuddly grandpa who paints in his dotage. Imagine he slips up while making a speech and talks about the wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Ukraine. Imagine everyone in the room laughing. That wouldn’t be terribly funny would it? In fact, the idea that a guy like Putin could face zero accountability and spend his old age giving speeches instead of serving time for war crimes, would be horrifying. And here’s another question for anyone who thinks that a comparison between Bush and Putin is unfair: ask yourself why you think that is? Ask yourself why the Iraq war is any more justifiable than the Ukraine war? Is it because, deep down, you’ve been taught to think that Arab lives don’t matter?“

Haiti ‘Ransom’ Project: Reactions and Updates

Haiti ‘Ransom’ Project: Reactions and Updates

“The New York Times’s publication of “The Ransom,” a groundbreaking report laying out history’s role in Haiti’s poverty, stirred immediate reaction.

In 1791, enslaved people in Haiti rose up, driving out the French.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Over the weekend, The New York Times published a project a year in the making that tried to answer a simple question: How much better off might Haiti be today if foreign powers had not kept draining its wealth for generations after Haitians threw off the yoke of slavery?

The answer, of course, is anything but simple. But drawing on thousands of pages of original documents, some of which are gathering dust in archives on three continents, and with the guidance of prominent historians and economists, The Times found that one of the world’s most desperately poor countries might look a lot of different now if the French had not demanded staggering sums of money under threat of war after Haiti declared independence more than two centuries ago.

The project, “The Ransom,” tells the story of the first people in the modern world to free themselves from slavery and create their own nation. They paid for that freedom first in blood. And then they were forced to pay for it again — in cash.

Haiti became the world’s only country where the descendants of enslaved people paid reparations to the descendants of their masters, and for generations.

The Times tracked each payment Haiti made over the course of 64 years, and calculated that Haiti ended up paying about $560 million in today’s dollars. Factor in what that money could have done to Haiti’s economy over the course of centuries, and it comes out to as much as $115 billion in losses for Haiti over time — many times the size of its entire economy today, The Times found.

Reaction to the project was immediate.

“I live in Haiti, and I’m here right now,” one reader commented. “Today we are lucky: We have had electricity for a few hours.” Reading the articles, the commenter said, drove home the notion that young people in Haiti “were robbed so long before they were born.”

Posting on Twitter, Patrick Gaspard, a former U.S. diplomat who now heads the liberal Center for American Progress, demanded reparations from Citigroup, whose predecessor bank, The Times recounted, drew big profits from Haiti in the early 20th century.

“A silent scream has been in throats for decades about role U.S. played in depleting Haiti,” Mr. Gaspard said. “No one would listen. Finally some truths.”

Other readers suggested that the articles, which noted the role of endemic corruption in Haiti’s woes, let the Haitians off the hook. “I am getting tired of this narrative of victimization, and it is not a particularly helpful way of viewing history, especially in a newspaper,” one commented. “When was there never any victims of something?

France itself had little to say about “The Ransom.” In part, that is because it is in the midst of forming a new government. But as The Times project noted, the country’s history in Haiti — or any talk of compensating Haitians for their losses — is not something the French like to talk “

How a French Bank Captured Haiti

“How a French Bank Captured Haiti

Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
The Ransom

It helped finance the Eiffel Tower as it drained millions from Haiti. The bank, C.I.C., won’t talk about it, but The Times tracked how much its investors made — and what Haiti lost.

Every sentence of the invitation ended with an inky flourish, a triple loop of calligraphy befitting a night of dinner, dancing and fireworks at Haiti’s national palace.

Debt had smothered the country for more than half a century. Despite ousting its colonial rulers in a war of independence, Haiti had been forced to pay the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars to its former French slave masters, a ransom for the freedom it had already won in battle.

But on the night of Sept. 25, 1880, paying off the last of that money finally seemed within reach. No longer would Haiti lurch from one financial crisis to the next, always with a weather eye on the horizon for the return of French warships. The new president, Lysius Salomon, had managed a feat that had eluded the nation since birth.

“The country will soon have a bank,” he told his guests, proposing a toast. Outside, soldiers paraded down streets festooned with enormous flags.

Lysius Salomon
Cannaday Chapman

Salomon had reason for optimism. European national banks had financed railroads and factories, softened the blows of recessions and added certainty to the business of governing. They helped bring life to a majestic version of Paris, one with clean water, sewers and grand avenues — investments that would pay off long into the future.

Paris in 1889.
Getty Images

Now, it was Haiti’s turn. Salomon called it “a great event, which will go down in history.”

It was all a mirage.

The National Bank of Haiti, on which so many hopes were pinned that night, was national in name only. Far from an instrument of Haiti’s salvation, the central bank was, from its very inception, an instrument of French financiers and a way to keep a suffocating grip on a former colony into the next century.

Haiti’s central bank was set up by a Parisian bank, Crédit Industriel et Commercial. At a time when the company was helping finance one of the world’s best-known landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, as a monument to French liberty, it was choking Haiti’s economy, taking much of the young nation’s income back to Paris and impairing its ability to start schools, hospitals and the other building blocks of an independent country.

Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates. But its exploits in Haiti left a crippling legacy of financial extraction and dashed hopes — even by the standards of a nation with a long history of both.

Haiti was the first modern nation to win its independence after a slave uprising, only to be financially shackled for generations by the reparations demanded by the French government for most of the 19th century.

And just when that money was nearly paid, Crédit Industriel and its national bank — the very instruments that seemed to hold the promise of financial independence — locked Haiti into a new vortex of debt for decades more to come.

French elites, including a descendant of one of the wealthiest slaveholders in Haiti’s history, controlled Haiti’s national bank from the French capital. Their ledgers show no investments in Haitian businesses, much less the kinds of ambitious projects that modernized Europe.

Instead, original records uncovered by The New York Times show that Crédit Industriel siphoned tens of millions of dollars out of Haiti and into the pockets of French investors.

The national bank that Crédit Industriel created charged fees on nearly every transaction the Haitian government made. French shareholders earned so much money that in some years, their profits exceeded the Haitian government’s entire public works budget for a country of 1.5 million people.

That history has been all but erased. Scholars say most of Crédit Industriel’sarchives have been destroyed, and Haiti does not appear on the timeline used to publicize the company’s history as one of France’s oldest lenders. When it commissioned an official history to commemorate its 150th birthday in 2009, Haiti barely warranted a mention. The scholar who wrote that history, Nicolas Stoskopf, called the company “a bank without a memory.”

A Crédit Industriel branch in Dijon, France.
Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

A spokesman said the bank had no information about this period and declined repeated requests to discuss it. “The bank that we manage today is very different,” the spokesman, Paul Gibert, said.

Today, the brazen assassination of Haiti’s president in his own bedroom, the rampant kidnappings and the gangland lawlessness in the capital have given fresh urgency to a question that has long bedeviled the Western world: Why does Haiti seem perpetually stuck in crisis, with staggering illiteracy, $2-a-day wages, hunger and disease? A country without public transportation, reliable electricity, garbage collection or sewage systems?

Persistent corruption by Haiti’s leaders is surely part of any answer. But another part can be found in long-forgotten documents sprinkled in archives and libraries across Haiti and France.

The Times sifted through 19th-century texts, diplomatic records and bank documents that have seldom, if ever, been studied by historians. Together, the documents make clear that Crédit Industriel, working with corrupt members of the Haitian elite, left the country with barely anything to operate, let alone build a nation.

By the early 20th century, half of the taxes on Haiti’s coffee crop, by far its most important source of revenue, went to French investors at C.I.C. and the national bank. After Haiti’s other debts were deducted, its government was left with pennies — 6 cents of every $3 collected — to run the country.

The documents help explain why Haiti remained on the sidelines during a period so rich with modernization and optimism that Americans dubbed it the Gilded Age and the French called it the Belle Époque. This extraordinary growth benefited both faraway powers and developing neighbors, yet Haiti had vanishingly little to invest in basics like running water, electricity or education.

The damage was lasting. Over three decades, French shareholders made profits of at least $136 million in today’s dollars from Haiti’s national bank — about an entire year’s worth of the country’s tax revenues at the time, the documents show.

The Times vetted its methodology and sources for these calculations with economic historians and accountants. The financial historian Éric Monnet of the Paris School of Economics summed up the national bank’s role as “pure extraction.”

But the cumulative losses to Haiti were far greater: Had the wealth siphoned off by Haiti’s national bank stayed in the country, it would have added at least $1.7 billion to Haiti’s economy over the years — more than all of the government’s revenues in 2021.

And that’s if the money had simply remained in the Haitian economy, circulating among its farmers, laborers and merchants, without  being invested in bridges, schools or factories, the sort of projects that help nations prosper.

More important, the toll Haiti’s national bank took came after generations of payments to former slaveholders that inflicted as much as $115 billion in losses to the Haitian economy over the last two centuries.

It did not take long after the fireworks and feasting at the palace for Haitians to realize that something was not right. The national bank extracted so much and returned so little that Haitians quickly called it “the financial Bastille,” equating it with the notorious prison that became a symbol of a despotic French monarchy.

“Isn’t it funny,” the Haitian politician and economist Edmond Paul wrote of the national bank in 1880, “that a bank that claims to come to the rescue of a depleted public treasury begins not by depositing money but by withdrawing everything of value?”

Paris during the Belle Époque, a period of French prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Getty Images

Hopes and Aspirations

Haiti’s president was not the only one with heady aspirations. In Paris, the president of Crédit Industriel, Henri Durrieu, had ambitions of his own.

Durrieu was not born into the world of high finance. He started his career as a tax collector, like his father, before striking off in his 40s to join a new bank, C.I.C. But the early years were tough. The bank had introduced the checking account to France, yet the novelty had not taken off and, by the 1870s, the company remained stuck in the second tier of French finance.

Crédit Industriel enjoyed an advantage, though. It was the preferred bank for much of the nation’s Catholic bourgeoisie, clients who had money to invest and expected returns.

Henri Durrieu
Cannaday Chapman

Durrieu, with a taste for risk taking, drew inspiration from state-led banks in French colonies like Senegal and Martinique. He and his colleagues were enthralled by the idea of “creating a bank in these rich but distant countries,” as they described it in handwritten notes found in the French National Archives.

These banks “generally give brilliant results,” the founding fathers of the National Bank of Haiti said.

Haiti — “a country new to credit markets, a country of renowned wealth,” the national bank’s executives concluded — seemed a good bet.

“Wealth” might seem a peculiar word for a Parisien banker to use to describe Haiti at the time. Its capital, Port-au-Prince, was overrun by trash and human waste that washed into the harbor. Streets and infrastructure were so neglected that Haitians had a saying: “Go ’round a bridge, but never cross it.”

But while Haitians themselves were poor, Haiti could make you rich. As a British diplomat, Spenser St. John, wrote in 1884: “No country possesses greater capabilities, or a better geographical position, or more variety of soil, of climate, or of production.”

Slaveholders had taken that wealth for themselves, first with the whip, then with a flotilla of French warships, demanding compensation for plantations, land and what France considered its other lost property: the Haitian people. It was the first and only instance in which generations of free people had to pay the descendants of their former slave masters.

A half-century later, Durrieu and C.I.C. approached Haiti with a different tactic: the outstretched hand of a business partner.

A market in Port-au-Prince in 1922.
Getty Images

‘We Owe More Than Before’

Durrieu knew how to sell a dream.

Five years earlier, C.I.C. and a now-defunct partner had issued Haiti a loan of 36 million francs, or about $174 million today. The money was supposed to build bridges, marketplaces, railroads and lighthouses.

It was a time of worldwide investment. England built new schools and passed laws on mandatory education. Paris opened a 97-mile aqueduct carrying clean drinking water to the capital. In New York, the iconic arches of the Brooklyn Bridge rose above the East River, an engineering marvel that would forever transform the city’s economy.

Beyond bricks and steel, Haiti earmarked about 20 percent of the French loan to pay off the last of the debt linked to France’s original ransom, according to the loan contract.“The country will finally come out of its malaise,” the Haitian government’s annual report predicted that year. “Our finances will prosper.”

None of that happened. Right off the top, French bankers took 40 percent of the loan in commissions and fees. The rest paid off old debts, or disappeared into the pockets of corrupt Haitian politicians.

“None of the goals has been achieved,” one Haitian senator declared in 1877. “We owe more than before.”

The 1875 loan from Crédit Industriel and its partner left two major legacies. First is what the economist Thomas Piketty called the transition from “brutal colonialism” to “neocolonialism through debt.”

Haiti took on millions in new interest, hoping to finally shed the burden of paying its former slave masters.In that way, the loan helped prolong the misery of Haiti’s financial indentureship to France. Long after the former slaveholding families considered the debt settled, Haiti would still be paying — only now to Crédit Industriel.

Haitian leaders, of course, share the responsibility, and some scholars have argued that this loan shows that politicians cared more about lining their pockets than developing a nation.

The second legacy was felt more immediately. The loan initially obligated the Haitian government to pay C.I.C. and its partner nearly half of all the taxes the government collected on exports, like coffee, until the debt was settled, effectively choking off the nation’s primary source of income.

That was the first step, giving Durrieu and his French bank a claim to much of Haiti’s financial future. He soon set his sights on even more.

The National Bank of Haiti in 1907.

The National Bank

Haiti had tried to start a national bank for years.  Salomon’s predecessor had even bought bank vaults. But in 1880, Haiti’s longing for financial independence aligned neatly with Durrieu’s plans.

The contract establishing Haiti’s national bank reads like a series of giveaways. Durrieu and his colleagues took over the country’s treasury operations — things like printing money, receiving taxes and paying government salaries. Every time the Haitian government so much as deposited money or paid a bill, the national bank took a commission.

Lest there be any doubt where that money was headed, the contract said the National Bank of Haiti would be chartered in France and exempted from Haitian taxes and laws. All power was put in the hands of the board of directors in Paris. Haiti had no say in the operation of its own national bank.

The national bank’s headquarters — which also happened to be Crédit Industriel’s headquarters — sat in the Ninth Arrondissement of Paris, in the shadow of the lavish Palais Garnier opera house.

Durrieu was the first chairman of a board that included French bankers and businessmen, including Édouard Delessert, a great-grandson of one of the biggest slaveholders in Haiti’s colonial history, Jean-Joseph de Laborde.

Handwritten notes from the national bank show, from the beginning, who was in charge. As the Paris Financial Association wrote in 1896: “The National Bank of Haiti is a French financial institution whose headquarters, which is open to bondholders, is in Paris. Its offices in Haiti are only branches, placed under the authority and control of the head office.”

Durrieu’s gamble paid off. At a time when typical French investment returns hovered around 5 percent, board members and shareholders in the National Bank of Haiti earned an average of about 15 percent a year, according to a New York Times analysis of the bank’s financial statements. Some years, those returns approached 24 percent.

Durrieu made out handsomely. His contract with Haiti granted him thousands of special shares in the national bank, worth millions in today’s dollars.The same year he christened Haiti’s national bank, he was named a commander of the Légion d’Honneur, an order of merit awarded for service to France.

Members of the government of Haiti, in a woodcut from 1892.
Getty Images

‘Betrayed by Their Own Brothers’

The fact that Haiti would agree to such debilitating terms — particularly with the same bank behind an earlier loan so publicly condemned — shows its desperation. But it also highlights a recurring figure in Haitian history: the self-serving member of Haitian society who prospers as his country suffers.

In the case of the national bank, Haiti’s chief negotiator was Charles Laforestrie, a Haitian official who had spent most of his life in Paris. The French newspaper La Petite Presse described him at the time as a man whom “fortune had always taken by the hand and led to the best seats in government.”

When Parisian bankers held a party to celebrate the 1875 loan from Crédit Industriel, Laforestrie made a grand entrance. At a time when Haitian coffee farmers raised families on roughly 70 cents a day, Laforestrie arrived elegantly dressed, passing out expensive cigars, according to Paul, the Haitian economist, who described the gala a few years later.

Laforestrie pushed so hard to get the national bank approved that the president of Haiti called him out by name during the palace celebration, according to a diplomat’s handwritten notes of the party. But Laforestrie did not stick around for the fallout. Dogged by corruption allegations, he resigned and retired to France.

Laforestrie’s critics ruefully noted that he retired with a generous pension from the Haitian government. He later padded that retirement with another job: as a board member of the National Bank of Haiti.

“That’s not the first case of a Haitian official selling the interest of his country for personal gains,” said Georges Michel, a Haitian historian. “I would say it’s almost a rule.”

That’s why, historians say, Haitians cannot blame French or American meddling alone for their misfortunes.

“They were betrayed by their own brothers,” Mr. Michel said, “and then by foreign powers.”

Dashed Hopes

Soon after the fireworks display at the national palace, Haitians began realizing they had received a raw deal.

The national bank offered no savings accounts to Haitian people or businesses. And though the contract allowed it to loan money to businesses — and Haitians clearly hoped it would — bank ledgers from an archive in Roubaix, France, showed that seldom, if ever, happened.

“It is not from the Bank of Haiti, as it functions, that Haitians can expect their recovery,” Haiti’s finance secretary, Frédéric Marcelin, wrote at the time.

Frédéric Marcelin
Cannaday Chapman

Marcelin, the mustachioed son of a successful Haitian merchant, emerged as the bank’s most passionate opponent. A businessman, journalist and politician, he spent years trying to wrest control of the national bank from Paris.

The relationship was so lopsided that, Marcelin wrote, “at the National Bank of Haiti, the only positions reserved for Haitiens are the cashier boys.”

The Crédit Industriel et Commercial bank headquarters in Paris.
Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Yet Another Loan

The second half of the 19th century should have offered Haiti an enormous opportunity. Global demand for coffee was high, and Haiti’s economy was built around it.

Across the Caribbean Sea, Costa Ricans were putting their coffee wealth to work building schools, sewage systems and the first municipal electrified lighting system in Latin America. Haiti, by contrast, obligated much of its coffee taxes to paying France — first to its former slaveholders, then to Crédit Industriel.

Despite all that, Haiti was a middle-of-the-road Caribbean economy, thanks to high coffee prices. But when the market tanked in the 1890s, Haiti’s coffee taxes exceeded the price of the coffee itself. The entire economic model was on the brink of collapse.

It was time for yet another loan: 50 million francs (about $310 million today) from the National Bank of Haiti in 1896. It was, once again, guaranteed by coffee taxes, the country’s most reliable source of money.

Haitians had been poor for generations. But this moment — when the country was tethered to coffee, C.I.C. and the national bank — is when Haiti began its steep decline relative to the rest of the region, according to data compiled by Victor Bulmer-Thomas, a British economist who studies Caribbean history.

“Haiti made plenty of its own mistakes,” he said, like taking on new debt and failing to diversify its economy. “But there’s no doubt, a lot of its problems from the late 19th Century onward can be attributed to these imperial powers.”

The Fall of the National Bank

Durrieu died in 1890, before the unraveling of the national bank he created.

The Haitian authorities began accusing the bank in 1903 of fraudulent overbilling, double-charging loan interest and working against the best interest of the country. But the bank reminded them of an important detail: It was chartered in France, and considered such disputes beyond the reach of Haitian courts.

Undeterred, Marcelin persuaded Parliament to retake control of the government treasury. Haiti would print its own money and pay its own bills.

But records in the French Diplomatic Archives show that the national bank still had a powerful ally in its corner: the French government.

In January 1908, France’s envoy to Haiti, Pierre Carteron, met with Marcelin and urged him to restore normal relations with the bank. Marcelin refused. The National Bank of Haiti, should it survive at all, would actually need to work toward the economic development of Haiti, he said.

That might be possible, Carteron replied. Of course, he added, Haiti would first have to return its treasury to French control. And besides: “You need money,” Carteron said, according to his own notes. “Where are you going to find it?”

As his handwritten messages show, Carteron suspected Marcelin would never agree to that. So he encouraged his colleagues in Paris to come up with a new plan.

“It is of the highest importance that we study how to set up a new French credit establishment in Port-au-Prince,” Carteron wrote, adding: “Without any close link to the Haitian government.”

That new institution opened in 1910 with a slight tweak to the name: the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti. France still had a stake, but, after 30  years, Crédit Industriel et Commercial was out.

By then, there was a new center of gravity in the financial world: Wall Street, and a swaggering group of bankers from the National City Bank of New York, which ultimately became Citigroup.

The American financiers continued operating from Durrieu’s playbook and became the dominant power, leading to a consequence even more lasting than the debt he helped orchestrate.

After all, Wall Street wielded a weapon more powerful than a French diplomat making oblique threats. American bankers called on their friends in Washington and, 35 years after Durrieu’s bank came into existence, the United States military invaded Haiti.

It was one of the longest military occupations in American history, enabling the United States to seize control over Haiti’s finances and shape its future for decades to come.

Once again, the country had been undermined by the institution President Salomon had so proudly feted that night at the palace: Haiti’s national bank.

Reporting was contributed by Daphné Anglès and Claire Khelfaoui in Paris; Sarah Hurtes and Milan Schreuer in Brussels; Kristen Bayrakdarian in New York; Ricardo Lambert, Harold Isaac and Charles Archin in Port-au-Prince. Photo editing by Craig Allen. Produced by Rumsey Taylor. Additional production by “

Sunday, May 22, 2022

As Public Jan. 6th Hearings Draw Closer, New Revelations Continue To Be ...

Religious Extremists Mix Trump Worship With Christian Nationalism. These people are pure evil.

Murder, rape and abuse in Asia’s factories: the true price of fast fashion | Garment workers | The Guardian

Murder, rape and abuse in Asia’s factories: the true price of fast fashion

Muthulakshmi and Kathiravel with a portrait of their daughter, Jayasre Kathiravel, a 20-year old Dalit garment worker murdered in Tamil Nadu, India, in January 2021
Muthulakshmi and Kathiravel with a portrait of their daughter, Jayasre Kathiravel, a 20-year old Dalit garment worker murdered in Tamil Nadu, India, in January 2021

"Jeyasre Kathiravel had always dreamed of a life beyond the garment factories of Dindigul, a remote corner of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Despite the meagre wages she was earning – about £80 a month – Kathiravel knew she was lucky to have a job at Natchi Apparels, a local factory making clothes for H&M and other international brands.

Like many Dalit women in her community, a job at the factory had provided her family with a stable salary. Yet she wanted more. So, with dreams of escaping the deprivation and caste discrimination that had stalked her family for generations, the 20-year-old studied for the civil service exams by night before leaving her home each morning to work long shifts sewing clothes for other, luckier, young women thousands of miles away.

Jeyasre Kathiravel was allegedly killed by her supervisor.
Jeyasre Kathiravel was allegedly killed by her supervisor.Photograph: Handout

Kathiravel never escaped the factory floor. On 1 January 2021, she failed to return home from work. Despite her family’s frantic attempts to find her, four days later her decomposing body was discovered by farmers just a few miles from her village.

When her supervisor, a man named by Indian media as V Thangadurai, was arrested for her murder, few of her intimate circle were surprised. Thangadurai has since been charged with her murder and is in jail awaiting trial.

For months before Kathiravel’s death, her family and co-workers say that Thangadurai was perpetrating a relentless campaign of sexual harassment towards her, which she felt powerless to report or stop.

“She said this man was torturing her but she didn’t know what to do because she was so scared of losing her job,” says her mother, Muthuakshmi Kathiravel.

“She was such a good girl, she was the best of all of us. She was always helping me and supporting the family, but wanted to do different things with her life.”

Workers at Natchi interviewed by the Observer in the weeks after her murder say Thangadurai was known to be a sexual predator operating with impunity at the factory.

“We all knew what he was doing to Jeysare but nobody in management cared,” says one woman who worked alongside Kathiravel. “If she complained she was scared she would lose her job or that men from the factory would visit her family and say she was a troublemaker.”

A year later, Kathiravel’s family are still deep in grief. In their home, Kathiravel’s face smiles down at them from a photo on the wall and they say they can never fill the hole she has left behind. Yet they now believe her death has not been in vain.

Kathiravel’s family outside their home in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.
Kathiravel’s family outside their home in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.

In the weeks after her murder, dozens of other women working at the factory came forward to claim that they too were being harassed and assaulted at Natchi. Their bravery set off a chain of events that could transform the lives of the 3,000 women working at the factory and provide a blueprint for how global fashion brands can stop the epidemic of sexual violence that has taken hold in fast fashion supply chains.

The inexorable rise of the multi-billion pound fast fashion industry has conditioned consumers to expect rock-bottom prices and a constant churn of new products, ramping up the pressure brands place on their overseas suppliers to produce ever-higher volumes of clothing in less time – with garment workers on poverty wages facing the consequences on the factory floor.

“The sexual harassment the women are facing in the garment industry is directly linked to their desperation to keep their jobs at all costs,” says Thivya Rakini, president of the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU). “Their fingerprints are all over the clothes that people in rich countries wear, but their suffering is being silenced.”

Despite the factory’s denials after the allegations were made public, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a global organisation investigating labour abuses, launched an independent investigation into Natchi.

Its findings, shared exclusively with the Observer ahead of publication by the WRC, are a grim read.

In a detailed report, investigators say that multiple interviews and evidence gathering with more than 60 workers led them to conclude that Kathiravel was not the first garment worker to have been murdered at Natchi.

Investigators say they are confident that at least two other female workers besides Kathiravel were killed while working at Natchi between 2019 and 2021.

The WRC says it is “virtually certain” that a company-contracted bus driver and labour recruiter murdered a female worker following a sexual relationship that began while they were both working at the factory.

Thivya Rakini, president of the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union speaks with Kathiravel’s family at their home.
Thivya Rakini, president of the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union speaks with Kathiravel’s family at their home.

The report claims there is a “high likelihood” that a migrant worker was also murdered on factory grounds by an unknown perpetrator and her body dumped in a shipping container. The report claims that multiple Natchi employees, including an eyewitness, testified that the murder had occurred on factory property and that afterwards managers had told workers not to talk about the incident.

The WRC has made it clear that investigators did not find concrete evidence to hold Natchi management directly responsible for these alleged killings or for the death of Kathiravel.

However, the report argues, multiple murders of female Natchi employees by men working for Natchi in supervisory or quasi-supervisory roles could not be detached from the environment of gender-based violence and harassment that Natchi management had allowed to flourish at the factory.

WRC investigators concluded that over the past decade, women working at Natchi had been subjected to “pervasive” physical sexual harassment, verbal sexual harassment, non-verbal sexual harassment and sexual coercion, with male supervisors propositioning female workers at the workplace for sexual relationships by coercive means.

Women workers told investigators that their male supervisors routinely bullied and publicly humiliated them for missing production targets and they were subjected to constant verbal abuse and sexual slurs. Investigators also found that factory management tolerated an environment of caste discrimination, where workers from the lowest Dalit castes were shunned by employees from higher castes.

The TTCU is investigating 29 other cases where women have died non-natural deaths while working in garment factories.
The TTCU is investigating 29 other cases where women have died non-natural deaths while working in garment factories.

Eastman Exports, which owns Natchi Apparels, says it “disputes the accuracy of a number of statements in the WRC report” and denies that the murder of a migrant worker occurred on Natchi premises.

However, the company says it has taken all the allegations seriously and “has created systems, processes and procedures to protect and promote the rights of female workers”.

“We have listened very carefully to our women workers and we are going to make sure that no woman ever feels unsafe again in one of our workplaces,” says Subash Tiwari, chief executive of Eastman Exports, who says he was shocked by the murder of Kathiravel and that his top priority was ensuring the safety of his female workers.

Last month, groundbreaking legally binding agreements were signed between Eastman Exports and the TTCU – a local female-led garment worker trade union that represents women at the factory – as well two international worker rights groups, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF). Among other provisions, the agreement will overhaul the factory’s internal complaints process, install TTCU members on the factory floor to ensure women are safe at work and operate a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and verbal and physical abuse.

Thivya Rakini of the TTCU in discussion with textile workers.
Thivya Rakini of the TTCU in discussion with textile workers. The union will now have members on the factory floor to ensure women are safe at work

Despite cancelling its orders at Natchi, H&M has signed a separate agreement with the TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF and has committed to staying at the factory to help with implementation. It is the first time a brand has signed up to an initiative to tackle gender-based violence in Asia’s garment industry, where women make millions of tonnes of clothing for UK high streets every year.

If the agreement is properly implemented, the WRC says that Natchi could become one of the safest places for women to work in Tamil Nadu, a region notorious for dangerous working conditions for women.

“Our report documented serious abuses at this facility; however, because Natchi has made enforceable commitments to protect workers, it now presents a lower risk to buyers than just about any other supplier they might use,” says Rola Abimourched, deputy director of investigations and gender equity at the WRC.

Yet the labour rights groups involved in the Natchi case say the abuse that was uncovered should not be seen as an isolated incident. Instead, it is an indication of how sexual violence has flourished and become deeply embedded into the production model of fast fashion.

“What we are facing is an epidemic of gender-based violence in the global fashion industry, but because it is happening to poor women working thousands of miles away it isn’t considered the huge human rights scandal that it is,” says Abimourched.

In Tamil Nadu, the TTCU is investigating 29 other cases where women have died non-natural deaths while working in garment factories supplying brands sold in the UK. It says that in many cases, the women were murdered by male colleagues after alleged rapes and campaigns of sexual harassment.

Thivya Rakini
Thivya Rakini

“The abuse and harassment that was happening at Natchi is just everyday life in the factories where we work,” says Rakini. “We have seen many cases of women dying in garment factories across the region and nothing being done to investigate or seek justice.”

Anannya Bhattacharjee, international coordinator at the AFWA, says her organisation has catalogued multiple cases of egregious gender-based violence at garment facilities across Asia.

“Over the years, across production countries, we have witnessed and documented women garment workers being verbally and physically harassed, assaulted, threatened with retaliation for refusing sexual advances and denied basic rights,” she says.

Interviews with female workers by AFWA researchers in 2021 paint a horrifying picture of the scale and impunity of the sexual violence faced by the women who make our clothes.

“I have worked in this industry for more than 20 years and I have seen terrible things happen within these factories – rapes, suicides and even murders,” one woman working in a factory in India producing clothing for foreign brands told AFWA researchers.

“Women workers have no power to oppose the men in power – be it supervisors or managers. They can do anything to any woman – we are all at their mercy and we have no one to support or stand for us.”

The TTCU say they are working with women across the region as more come forward asking for help.
‘We have to make sure that Jeysare’s death is the start of something that could prevent other women from also losing their lives,’ says Rakini

Female workers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also spoke to AFWA researchers about similar conditions at their factories. They spoke of managers forcing women to take pills to delay their periods in order to meet production targets, male workers coercing women into sexual relationships to get their sewing machines fixed and women being fired if they complained about sexual harassment.

“We keep silent due to fear of losing our jobs … the mental stress reached the point of breakdown – I was feeling almost suicidal,” says one woman at a factory in Pakistan that the AFWA says was making clothing for multiple brands selling in the UK.

For years, campaigners have warned that the fashion industry’s use of ethical codes of conduct and factory inspections to flag up human rights abuses don’t work; instead they allow brands to swerve responsibility for abuses that their production model and profit margins have created.

In the weeks after Kathiravel’s murder, women workers at Natchi told the Observer that the factory inspections conducted by brands were a sham. “The management knows when the auditors are coming and they tell us what to say,” said one young woman. “They say if we complain the factory would close and we would lose our jobs.”

When abuses are uncovered, especially sexual violence, this allows brands to “cut and run”, pulling their business from suppliers and protecting their reputation.

“When trade unions raise issues of gender-based violence in a garment supplier factory to a brand, they generally just cut sourcing from that supplier. When they do this women lose jobs, are doubly victimised and become fearful of speaking out about what is happening to them,” says Bhattacharjee.

The WRC says that in the case of Natchi, brands that sourced from the factory had a moral responsibility to keep their business there.

“H&M has committed to support this vital programme to combat gender-based violence and harassment by signing the agreement. If H&M does not restore orders soon, it will gravely undermine the success of its own programme,” says Abimourched.

She also says that brands, including Marks & Spencer and Walmart, that were sourcing from the factory in the period of time when workers testified to experiencing sexual abuse had an obligation to resume orders.

“If they do not place orders now to support this process, it will be clear that their claims about respecting worker rights are meaningless.”

Muthulakshmi shows her daughter’s work identity pass.
Although still mourning her deeply, Kathiravel’s family believe that as the catalyst for change to protect other women, her death was not in vain

H&M says that while it had stopped orders at Natchi, “our focus and hope is that the agreement reached will contribute to sustainable and lasting change for the industry as a whole beyond one individual company”.

Marks & Spencer says it ceased trading with Natchi in January 2020 and will not be working with the factory nor signing up to the agreement.

“We have not sourced from Natchi Apparels for over two years and had ceased the relationship prior to the WRC investigation. Ethical trading is fundamental to how we do business and we fully support the principle of remediation to improve working conditions,” it said in a statement.

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

In Dindigul, the TTCU says it is working with women across the region who are now coming forward to ask for help.

“We are all human beings, all of our lives matter,” says Rakini. “We have to make sure that Jeysare’s death is the start of something that could prevent other women from also losing their lives because those in power simply don’t care.”

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This article was amended on Sunday 22 May 2022 to correct references to Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)."

Murder, rape and abuse in Asia’s factories: the true price of fast fashion | Garment workers | The Guardian