Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hirotoshi Iha explains the "Heart of Okinawa"

On September 4, 1955  exactly 40 years to the day before the 1995 gang kidnapping, beating, and rape of a 12-year old Okinawan girl – an American soldier, Sergeant Isaac Hurt, kidnapped Yumiko Nagayama as she was walking to kindergarten. Then he raped her, disemboweled her, and threw her into a military base garbage dump. Less than a week later, another US soldier raped another child. 

The rape-murder of Yumiko-chan  took place during "Bayonets and Bulldozers" – a period of US forced seizure and destruction of 50,000+acres of land (including entire villages), to make build military complexes across the islands. The seizures  usually at gunpoint – left 250,000 Okinawans homeless and without means of livelihood.  Because the US did not allow Okinawans any real legal protections, Okinawans had no legal recourse against the US military violations of their property rights and human rights.

Okinawan mass protests, marches, and sit-ins date back to this period because the people had no legal power to resist the US use of force against them.  The pattern of American soldiers taking young girls from civilian houses at gunpoint to rape (and even murder them) began during the early days of the US occupation of Okinawa and worsened during the 1950's violent period of "Bayonets and Bulldozers."  At this time, the US military rape of women and children became synonymous with the rape-like taking and destruction of their land.

The 1955 murder of Yumiko-chan outraged the Okinawan public, sparking what Okinawan  Moriteru ARASAKI calls the first wave of the Okinawa Struggle for human rights and property rights. Okinawan resistance culminated in the 1956 "island-wide struggle" (shimagurumi toso) challenging US military  domination.

Korean American filmmaker Annabel Park's five-minute video interview of Hirotoshi Iha brings us back to 1955 by illuminating how deeply Okinawns have been injured by the pattern of US violent violations of human rights, land rights, and also why the US and Japanese governments have never been able to extinguish the Okinawan struggle for rights, self-determination, safety from US military violence, and peace.

Filmed in Takae in 2010, Mr. Iha explains why he became an activist and the deep meaning of the "Heart of Okinawa."  Yumiko-chan was his cousin.

The life-long activist then explains why the majority of Okinawans don't want  Futenma training base "transferred" to Henoko: "because we know the human cost of it."

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