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Monday, January 1, 2018

Tula Toli Massacre: The Visual Record

Tula Toli Massacre: The Visual Record
January 1, 2018
last edits Jan. 2, 11, 13...

I'm considering all the available evidence for the massive alleged Tula Toli massacre of 500-2,000 innocent Rohingya. But I'm putting this part here as I seek more input and may have more to analyze, more images than the rest of it - this part at least deserves its own post. (main Tula Toli post and Myanmar masterlist, forthcoming - see also rudimentary ACLOS page).

In short, we don't see much of the actual crimes. We do hear the stories told, and sometimes see that happening on video. But of course, stories can be untrue. So we turn to the physical/visual evidence to see what it can bear out. This may expand, but so far what I see in three video-recorded scenes adds some to the picture, but not much.

Moved below: Why wounds seen non survivors don't count. Let's get right to any supposed video of the events themselves. 

No (Clear) Video of the Massacre
Anyway, wounds shown on video along with a story don't count to prove anything. And separately, it seems no one filmed the alleged massacre in Tula Toli.

The scene everyone describes is a wide-open massacre on the river, visible from both sides for a distance. It was all in daylight and ran for hours. BBC video says it started in the morning, no exact time. Amnesty report says it started in the morning, no exact time given. The Guardian heard that the first house burned at 3:30 am. HRW heard 8 a.m. from Shawfika, and summarized "At about 8 a.m., Burmese security forces and armed Rakhine villagers approached Tula Toli from three different directions and began to burn homes on the outskirts of the village." The killings came a bit later and "went on from when they arrived to the time of the Juhur prayer [approximately 2 p.m.]."  (December report)

And yet, there's not a single video of any part of the killings. Nor is there a single photo or video of the mass graves, burn pits, etc. In most reports, it's mentioned the army guys took everyone's cell phones/devices as a first order of business before they killed anyone. And clearly, most people's first worry in fleeing a massacre won't be to film the event. 

But there are videos from across the river, maybe people lucky enough to be nearby but not get rounded up, and to still have their phones. Mohammed Islam, 40, says he was coming back from a trip when the massacre started. Hearing the news, "He joined his neighbours and ran to a nearby hill in the forest, on the west side of the village. “I watched everything,” he said. “My wife and three children were killed.” (Frontier Myanmar) He saw it, but he didn't film it.

Some with an excuse not to film testify to what was visible for those few who could record events. Amnesty: "Several people who swam to Wet Kyein said that, from across the river that afternoon, they could see soldiers burning bodies." At 6:00 in the BBC video: from across the way, this guy watched soldiers "lining up the dead bodies on the river bank," finishing off some survivors with the rifle butts. HRW: "...across the river, he watched as the soldiers fired into the terrified crowds until only piles of bodies remained on the beach. He said he saw 20 to 30 bodies of villagers floating in the river, shot while trying to escape. He then watched the soldiers dig holes in the soft sand to put the bodies in before burning them with fuel." All this too passed through pupils, but no camera lenses. "Omar Ali, said that he had witnessed the landing of the helicopter and the distribution of weapons and uniforms to the Rakhine villagers from the helicopter." That sounds like damning video footage to share, but ... eh. "Witnesses estimated that about 400 women and children were held under guard nearby in the shallow water." I'm not convinced even this actually happened, because it too has no video evidence, when it probably should. 

This absence of evidence doesn't prove there was no massacre, but it certainly raises questions, and at the lest, it leaves open the possibility that there was no such event. 

And it's not just that there's no video, but that the scant video there is also fails to support any of the hideous details it probably should show. Some had phones/cameras and claim to have filmed a few boring or unclear parts, but no one filmed any of the more crucial and hard-to-believe aspects. These videos below (3 so far) are presented as massacre-related scenes that were filmed, all in daylight, from the opposite shore and not close up. Is that because it was the only safe place to film? the only place phones weren't taken? Or by choice because from the opposite shore the lack of evidence for a massacre is a bit less obvious? 

Geolocation and site verification may not work very well here, and I may not try. Directions aren't totally clear. It's on a river, etc. I'll check for internal consistency between videos at least and  might sort out the scene ...

Offered Video Evidence
1) Gathering Near the River
There's a November 23 video titled (from Azerbaijani) "Rulers of the Tula Toli village, fleeing the Myanmar army." It shows quite a few people - not 1-2,000 as claimed, but a couple of hundred - are near the wide shoreline if not the water, around mid-day (sun is indistinct, fairly high, from the left - depending, that's mid-morning or early-afternoon). People are milling about mainly at the edge of the mud beach, not at all on the mud or in the water, and partly on the grass, and back towards the village. Off to the left we see more cattle and less humans (see full view below). This to me looks unusual - they all came to the river why? No one's coming for the water or there would be some people in it, or coming or going across the mud. 

There's no audio track to say if there's shooting sounds, but no one is running. A lot of white shirts, no green uniforms noticeable, or army vehicles. The view and resolution is limited, of course. But as far as we can see, no one's been killed, is being killed, or is waiting like we heard - hundreds of women and children made to stand out in the water as the men were killed, and then as they were taken and raped in small groups. It's not clear if there's enough water anywhere to stand in. There also may be an issue with the reports of a raging swollen river that swept away many who tried to swim. Here the level seems very low here (or is that just a depth illusion where the even-wider river is just off-frame?) 

Note the village isn't burning here either. If the first home(s) started burning at 3:30 am ... maybe those had gone out by now, and the rest would be torched later? So that's probably just a non-massacre scene, and should be from a different day - if this is August 30, they have an even worse problem.

This could show a raid by authorities, where people were told to gather near but not in, the river as their homes were searched for militant materials. That may have all been taken out of town first, across the river on boats, along with the guy holding this camera, perhaps. Okay so that's the army arrival, people sent off to the side, maybe ... that could prove interesting.

But the part where the soldiers started killing people, burning them in pits, having women stand out in the water, then mass-raping them and torching homes, all in plain sight and allegedly seen by so many ... was it just too horrible to film? for this guy or anyone else? Or was it just too boring? Things that are never going to happen are boring like that, and they fail to appear on video like this.

2) Burning the Village
A BBC video report on the alleged massacre shares this and more possibly relevant footage at 5:47 of the same or a similar place (see comparisons below). We see in low resolution a fire and smoke rising from the burning village.

It seems like a different day from above, or different time anyway. The sky seems more overcast, and with a slightly higher water level. There are sounds of gunshots at perhaps the right distance, or maybe too close. But it's not clear who's shooting or burning, and there's no sign of bodies piled or burning, or people gathered and waiting, nor milling around like in the other video.  The shore is just empty.  To the right (see below) may be a boat parked on the opposite shore. Someone who crossed over, or hasn't fled yet?

3) Dead Children
At 7:00 in the BBC video (also in CNN video) is the most graphic and compelling case for a real massacre that got partly filmed. Still, it's not that convincing. We see 3 or more children found in the water - a lady says it was 12 total from a single family - with plenty of people onshore, men recovering the bodies, women mainly staying away. No one seems dead or running, or panicked or traumatized about just surviving a massacre. They seem animated with curiosity about the unusual dead kids everyone's that seem to be creating a fresh bad mood from thin air. -  but it seems to be the opposite shore, but we see no sign across the water of burning piles of bodies or even a burning village to go with the claims of maybe 2,000 villagers massacred. (see composite view below).

If the river was  full and flowing swiftly like people say, these babies wouldn't float straight across from the village (if that's the village...). They'd have to be dropped in somewhere well upstream, I guess to the north, or maybe just be dropped and found in the shallows, all on this side. One young girl was apparently shot in the head (blurred), but another child (girl?) and a boy bear no visible wounds. But for the one, I'd say maybe they just drowned. I can't say who they really are. Maybe some massacred Rakhine neighbors, or Rohingya massacre victims as claimed. Facial features seem unclear, but they look a bit pale in pigment to be "Bengalis." Rohingya-Arabic names are given to the BBC crew, but those can be made up. 

This video may attach to a story of children found hiding in a rice paddy after the main massacre, stabbed to death and tossed in the river. (details...)

Opposite Shore Comparison
Below, the opposite shore as seen in each of these three scenes, and I'm comparing the line of near hills. The first two seem to match in the sharp peak, possibly everywhere else. Left of center, a square-ish hill may line up. To the right, the larger view is unclear in the top view (foreground leaves), but it could be the smaller sharp hill you can see below. The village seems to be mainly in between these two sharp hills. The view of it burning  (bottom) is less clear- possibly the same panned out and to the right, with the burning area at the far end of the above line of near hills and everything else I'm comparing off-frame.

As the children wash up - 1000+ bodies and a village burning across the way? 

OK, app. village burning - but no piles of bodies burning in pits, or anything like alleged

Compared to the map. these view almost must be aross the mud flat at the bend just east of town, so on the northeast shore, across a narrow stretch about at the north end of the Rakhine village of Wet Kyein, raided and burned on August 28 (or, that's disputed...) 

All these are filmed from the opposite shore, or from next to Wet Kyein as labeled above. According to the government and Human Rights Watch, that's the name of an ethnic Rakhine village somewhere around there. According to others, it's attached to a Rohingya village right there HRW and some others refer to as Dual Toli. Each version is based on what people were telling them, and some of that information has to be false. As I reason here (aside from explaining the details of this confusion), this might be a Buddhist village that was raided and torched, and where babies perhaps too pale to be Rohingya are seen floating dead.

More Examples
Added Jan. 11, along with early tweets - unlike Maung Nu, this one had reports lodged at the time.
Local time in Myanmar is 14.5 hours ahead of me and the timestamps for Youtube, Facebook I think, and Twitter. Why .5 I don't know, but there are some spots in the world offset like that.

Not quite worth counting, but related - a pre-massacre video claiming to show people hiding near Tula Toli.
Tun Lin Soe tweet @TunLin781, 29 Aug 2017 11:18 am = 1:48 am on the 30th, local time
After burnt down #PadagaYwaThit  #WakChin and #GahratawVill by Militaries villagers hided
at #TulaTuli  Hills side too #TulaTuli  Villagers
WakChin = Wet Kyein? Likely not, but maybe... Right across the river from Tula Toli. Everyone agrees on some attack and home-burning there on the 28th. PadagaYwaThit = Ywar Thit (Wikimapia)? -  if that's what he means, is right by Maung Nu - alleged massacre on the 27th all the witnesses forgot about early on, but remembered later - from that area, it's around 20 km or more and uphill into the mountains east of Tula Toli. add 1/13: A map I was shown has a (district?) just north of Wet Kyein called Pa Da Kar (Padaga) Ywar Thit, so it's just a bit northeast of Tula Toli. GahratawVill = Gheratabil? said to be attacked Aug, 28, with a survivor fled to Tula Toli (Nurul Amin, 33?), and surviving that too - not placed, but probably somewhere in this 20 km span -

4) Village Burning
Tun Lin Soe tweet - @TunLin781 29 Aug 2017 9:15 pm = 11:45 am on the 30th
Update:Mymr Extremists #Militaries  &#Kamui jointly started firing #TulaTuli Villg nrth MaungDaw2day frm 9am @nslwin @mir_sidiquee @AJ_Omarr

A photo or video still, not video, is included: partial burning village, at right. Aside from 2 or more fires raging, there's no sign of the massacre here. Apparently a different view from above. Filming location might be of interest (if this even is Tula Toli). How many places can you manage to see on sign of the massacre or the forces surrounding them on three sides, and freely film this quiet portion of their attack? Rice paddies seem to along the river, east and south of Tula Toli, and on the opposite side further to the north. This is supposed to be after 9 am and probably closer to 11:45. Sunlight direction isn't clear. Which way these taller mountains are visible isn't clear yet.

?) Possibly meant as video from Tula Toli, but maybe not:
Jalal Tarafdar tweets at 9:06 am on the 30th (= 11:36 pm local) a link to his Facebook post of the same time, showing people crossing a river.

Aug 30 9:06 am
Almost entire villagers of Dualtoli & Tulatuli villages of Maungdaw have been killed by Burmese Regimes, leaving remaining Rohingyas in shock & fear.
At the same time Military started burning down Zurkhafara village of Naisafuru,#Maungdaw, where entire village is burning,leaving villagers displaced.

Same video was used hours earlier:
@TunLin781 30 Aug 2017 12:28 am = 2:58 pm
2dy more thn 5K Rohingyas frm #TulaTuli #WakChin #SadulaSor  #DiyalTawli crssng river to #SanGapin  nrth MDW 2Save their lives @nslwin @hrw
we see hundreds of people crossing the river at once, and freely. Some have a boat, some have paked bags. The opposite shore isn't extremely clear, but we see no piles of bodies, no soldiers shooting at them, or anything. The village does seem to be on fire.
It's not clear if this is even supposed to be Tula Toli, but if it is ... this is nothing like what they described - the panicked escape of a "handful" amidst the chaos of a huge massacre.

So it's just people from there and other places crossing later. San Gapin could be placed, but eh... it's not across from Tula Toli. Whatever seems to be burning here is not directly related. Note here WakChin and Diyal(Dual)Toli are named as two places, so WakChin is probably not the Wet Kyein, the alternate name they would try to shift with the help of Human Rights Watch.

Note: all these people fleeing massacres sometimes on fire or with loved ones left behind hacked up and only the clothes on their back ... must have already passed by? This is pretty early for Tula Toli people, depending, before 3pm local time, so still on their way? These other class of people mostly all packed bags before they left, as if they were given time for that. I suspect it was largely at gunpoint either way, but partly voluntary. Either way, it seems time was allowed to pack, and thus bring their most prized few small things, if not much else - no one's carrying a TV, but most probably have their gold and jewels, smaller electronics, koran, etc (in plastic bags). These ones won't be carrying weapons at the moment. And they were told to pack light. I deduce the people rushing them to leave didn't want to sour these people more than necessary. That seems like a clun.

No more video, but huge massacre reports sounding confident by mid-afternoon:
Tun Lin Soe tweet @TunLin781, 30 Aug 2017 1:48 am = 4:18pm
More thn 100 families were shot dead and the Extremists #Militaries burying all dead body now  #TulaTuli call Min Gyi Ywa north MaungDaw .

Rohingya Vision tweet @RohingyaVision 30 Aug 2017 3:30 AM = 6:00 pm local
#UPDATE:3pm:Almost entire villagers of Dualtoli&Tulatuli,Maungdaw have been killed by Regimes,leaving remaining Rohingyas in shock &fear @UN

Wounds Seen on Survivors?
These don't count, and here's why
Some of these witnesses bear scars of the massacre that are shown as proof. Perhaps the best source on this is International Business Times report with photos and stories for four women (and just a photo for another, Minwara Begum as the Daily Mail gives it). Of the four, each has some kind of scars to show. Of the five, four are alleged survivors from Tula Toli. Most of these women have been put forth to the media several times, generally telling the same story, and especially two who remain especially photogenic despite their dramatic scars.

Roshida Begum claims she had her baby killed and was raped in one of those huts at Tula Toli, along with other women. IBT quotes her as explaining "After they were done, they slit our necks with machetes. They thought I was dead and they left and set the house on fire. I was the only one who escaped." She shows convincing neck wounds - one is deep and wide, a tear, at the collarbone - the other is on her throat, seeming less substantial. I'm not an expert in healing, but... it's allegedly non-fatal, anyway. She also shows a series of two slices on the back of her neck, now fully healed.

Mumtaz Begum, 30, who remain fairly photogenic despite their scars. Mumtaz is perhaps the star survivor here, with nasty burns on her right side (upper face, arm and hand, and down the right leg, at least).

Besides this IBT piece, Mumtaz Begum has spoken to/been published by CNN, HRW, Independent, Daily Sun, Daily Mail, and BBC (still at right, with her daughter Razia, age 7, who'd been hacked in the head).

Side-note/small question: At first I wondered why so many alleged survivors and witnesses of this and other massacres are named Begum. In this case, the  four Tula Toli survivors in the IBT report are all named Begum. It seems well over half of them are among those I've seen named speaking of all the massacres combined. I don't think I've seen a single man named Begum yet. Is it even a family name, or a feminine title used for most but not all women? Or is this some kind of clue?---

Mumtaz and little Razia I had already noted in my post "Rohingya" Crisis: what do we really know?:
Consider a young woman with a badly burned face and child with major head gashes (couldn't re-locate that video at the moment). She says army men did this to them, but she says this living among people who may have actually done it, sparing her and child from one of their massacres, keeping her imprisoned and afraid to tell the truth.
Now I've seen more reports, she's a supposed survivor of this massacre, and a very prominent, widely cited witness. That impression still holds. To CNN she claimed to have been shot and left for dead in a pile of bodies, after her husband was killed. Then she was found alive, and dragged to a raping hut, along with some living children (who were not on that pile, but somehow reunited to die with her?). Two of her younger kids were brutally killed there, and they tried to kill Razia too. Then Mumtaz says she was beaten, raped, and left for dead again, as they lit up the hut. But she woke up with the help of Razia noticing her finger was on fire, and escaped from the burning hut, smashing through the wall to find Razia already outside. Both managed to flee the scene without being shot, and made it to Bangladesh to tell this story.

How could we doubt the account of a woman burned in the massacre, that other one neck-sliced in it, or the others? First, I note  that other than the burns, Mumtaz displays no other wounds we see to justify the killers leaving her for dead - not once but twice - prior to that fire. The others in this injured women set do show various cuts - and her daughter does, apparently real sword slices across the head - but not Mumtaz herself. That's a logic problem with her story, suggesting that however it came to be, maybe the story isn't true. On top of the others, it's an all-around dubious account.

Here's another woman, apparently ethnic Rakhine, recently hacked in the head and left for dead. She bled a lot, and might look fatal to a pressed fighter with no experience. But her skull was intact, and thus brain, and she survived. Myanmar security forces found her after the militants had fled. (or so I gather - back-story unknown) 

And as precedent for doubt, and a damn good one, I explained in that last post about the 8 women - not even wounded - who said they survived another government massacre in Kha Maung Seik. They were Hindus, whose Hindu husbands were allegedly killed ... because they wouldn't help the Buddhists... to kill the Muslims. Then some non-killed Muslims in town... married and converted these 8 widows. As luck would have it, the prettiest ones were spared. Then they brought them to Bangladesh to tell these stories of inspiring Muslim-Hindu solidarity. (this is part of where these headaches come from.)

Well, then the women were identified by family members and asked after. They and their 10 spare children were removed from their Muslim hosts. Once in a Hindu camp, they explained how the ARSA Islamists had murdered their families and husbands, cutting their throats, and had kidnapped these prettiest ones once they agreed to convert, presumably raped them under cover of coerced "marriage," and also made them lie repeatedly, telling the story upside-down to a gullible world media hungry for accusations against the Myanmar government.

Now, what if some others had been hacked and burned first in some other ARSA offensive, and then "spared" in a similar way? Perhaps less out of sexual attraction than ability to really prove the stories they can be made to tell. Any wound they showed as proof of the government crime would just be a different kind of coerced lie, and one that would actually prove the brutality of those holding her prisoner. And that may be just it with Mumtaz and the rest. Even the names they give (mostly "Something Begum") could be fake, maybe bestowed by some wealthy opposition financier lady named Begum (for example). 

But we can't know for sure either way. The test would be to remove these people from their Muslim hosts so they can speak freely, and then see what happens. They could give the same story and freely go back to the camp, or change their story like those Hindu women did and start the long path back to what's left of their true homes. If this is needed, as I suspect it is in some cases, I hope it's happening. Is anyone still missing? Any way to get the videos to their family members inside Myanmar to check? 

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