"Der verwundete und zu Boden gefallene Mensch, ist das nicht Jesus selbst?" (Pfr. SEKI, Kyoto, 2002)
"Anerkennung verweigern nicht zuletzt viele Christinnen und Christen" (M. Sonntag)
"Ich bin doch ein Mensch" (Kalligraphie aus der Befreiungsbewegung der Buraku)
2008: Harassments - Belästigungen per Post
The Postcard Harassment Incident
by TANBA Fumio
From May 2003 until October 2004, over 400 postcards and letters containing threatening and discriminatory language were anonymously sent to leaders of the Buraku Liberation League and other people of buraku descent. The victims of this harassment totaled a few dozen, but the vast majority of this harassment was concentrated on just a few individuals.
One individual in particular was the focus of this concerted attack. Yoshifumi Uramoto, an activist with the Buraku Liberation League's Tokyo chapter, received his first harassing letter in Sept. 2003. The letter began as follows: "Etafumi Uramoto. ... You are an Eta and you were Eta from your birth. Garbage! Tick! Eta! Uramoto, you die! From the Kill Uramoto Association." (The term "Eta" (literally "great filth") is a derogatory term for people of buraku descent, and is the term they were called by in ancient times.)
Letters and postcards with similar derogatory language continued on an almost daily basis, and in addition to this type of harassment, he began receiving C.O.D. deliveries of expensive items he had never ordered. The culprit had simply used Uramoto's name and address in placing these fake orders. Other similar harassment included registering him at a dating service, applying for membership in the Aum Shinrikyo cult, and contacting the electric and gas companies to have utilities to that address cut off saying he had moved. A few other victims of this ploy actually had their utilizes turned off without warning.
On top of all of this, the culprit began an anonymous campaign to force Mr. Uramoto to move out of the community. He sent letters to the neighborhood stating that Uramoto was a burakumin and should be run out of town. Due to this, several neighbors actually began pressuring Uramoto to move somewhere else.
When an incident involving former Hansen's disease patients who had been denied lodging in Kyushu was making big news in Japan, the culprit composed a letter purporting to be from Mr. Uramoto addressed to an organization of Hansen's disease patients stating, "You are just a bunch of maggots, and so what makes you think you can stay in a hotel? You must apologize to the hotel!"
Along a different line, the culprit also sent postcards to the neighbors of another victim ("victim A") in that person's name stating that while "victim B" (another harassment victim in the same neighborhood) had a family of his own, he was having an affair with his (victim A's) daughter. This was, of course, a total fabrication, but as the actual names of these people were used, they ended up in a "living hell" for quite some time.
The victims of this harassment appealed to the human rights department of the Tokyo branch of the Ministry of Justice as well as to the police to do something about this, but they were simply told there wasn't much that could be done. They tried themselves to see if they could figure out who was behind this harassment by clues from where the letters were being mailed from, but in the end, they got nowhere.
The breakthrough finally occurred after they appealed to the mass media to take up their plight and ask for information from the public. An employee of the city of Ome (near Tokyo), who had become aware of their plight through the mass media, happened to see the culprit writing such a letter in a restaurant and followed him home to see where he lived. With that information, the police were able to arrest the perpetrator in October 2004.
The culprit was an unemployed 34-year old man, who was sentenced to 2 years in prison for his crime. As there is no specific law in Japan against buraku discrimination, he was charged with intimidation, libel and forgery. The criminal himself knew very little about discriminated-against buraku. He had failed the exam for public employees and had not been able to find a job he liked. He testified in court that he had thought of himself as being superior, and yet he was still unemployed. He said he had read a book entitled, "The Truth About Buraku Rights," (implying that these "less qualified" people took away his job), and so to relieve the stress he was feeling, he decided to harass them.
With the culprit’s arrest and conviction, can we say that the problem was solved? Unfortunately, no, and that is the main difficulty with this issue. For instance, the numerous people who actually did try to force Uramoto to move as a result of the letters from the perpetrator where never charged with any wrongdoing, and they never even apologized for their actions. Likewise, shortly after the culprit was caught and put on trial, a different kind of campaign was launched by various people on internet bulletin boards accusing Uramoto of being the real culprit. He was accused of staging the whole thing himself, and other such ridiculous statements on these sites totaled several thousand. Thus, it is apparent that within our society there are numerous individuals who feel they can relieve their stress or whatever by attacking victims of discrimination in such a manner.
The harasser was released from prison on Jan. 19, 2008 after serving his term, and he agreed to participate in a discussion at the Tokyo Human Rights Plaza. In addition to a description of the "Living hell" his victims went through being read, there was also a statement that he himself read describing his remorse and heartfelt apology to his victims. Thus, from the stand point of this particular individual, the issue is now settled. However, as the Ministry of Justice did not itself do anything to help solve the situation, the Buraku Liberation League announced its campaign for public support to call for new laws governing "Relief for Victims of Human Rights Abuses" and tor the establishment of a government agency focusing on such relief.
Aus: "Crowned With Thorns" Nr. 48, März 2008.