From Our Daily Report

  • SyriaThe UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report condemning pervasive sexual and gender-based violence that has occurred over the past seven years in the Syrian conflict. The report, based on interviews with more than 450 survivors and other affected individuals, details systemic rape, torture, and other acts of sexual violence perpetrated by Assad regime forces and affiliated militias at checkpoints, in detention centers, and during interrogations. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)


The Fate of Lawyer Liu Yao

\Liu Yao

by Elizabeth M. Lynch, China Law & Policy

Since 2004, it has been illegal to build golf courses in China. Not only do they suck up a tremendous amount of water, but all too often local officials unlawfully appropriate farmers' land for these golf courses. In 2015, President Xi Jinping focused his anti-corruption campaign on the sport, forbidding Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials from playing the game. But even with these prohibitions, golf still reins. Since 2004, over 400 new golf courses have been illegally built.

Thus, one would think that the Chinese government would welcome a local tip that an official was appropriating village land to sell to a developer to build a golf course. But that is not how the Chinese government responded when, in August 2015, Guangdong attorney Liu Yao reported precisely that. Instead, Liu Yao now sits in a jail cell, serving a 20-year sentence on what most believe are trumped-up charges in retaliation for his whistle-blowing.

Like many Chinese human rights lawyers, Liu Yao is not a stranger to the inside of a Chinese prison. In 2008, Liu was given a four year sentence for leading a demonstration of farmers who had not been properly compensated when government officials took their land. His sentence was decreased to 18 months after the Shenzhen Lawyers Association began a campaign to expose the sham that was his conviction.


Anarchist Scene Survives 'Clean-Up' in Lima, Peru


by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

When Lutxo Rodríguez recalls the local punks and social outcasts of the downtown district he habituates "dressing in black in the '80s," I smile wryly, remembering the Lower East Side of my own youth. But the urban decay that allowed for the florescence of bohemia and an anarcho-punk scene in this small enclave of a South American capital came "in the context of political violence."

This is Jirón Quilca, a narrow street just off downtown Lima's Plaza San Martín. Follow it west, and the stately old hotels and restaurants around the plaza quickly give way to dusty second-hand bookstores, where surviving murals on the exterior walls speak to a recent past of oppositional culture. Quilca, and the warren of small streets surrounding it, was long the haunt of Lima's "poets, punks, writers, and marginalized people," Rodríguez recalls.

A veteran leading figure in the scene, Rodríguez himself looks like he’s changed little. He is still dressed in a black-and-red color scheme, with long partly dyed hair, black beard and nose-ring. "But Quilca is not the same," he says. "It is full of lumpen as well as bohemia. There are still lots of bookstores, people still gather there in the evenings to drink and talk. But it isn't a focus of resistance the way it used to be."


Interview with Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad

by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex

Teesta Setalvad is a social activist and an ardent defender of India's secular tradition, which is now under attack. She is founder of Citizens for Peace and Justice, a non-profit organization formed to seek justice for the victims of the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002. She and her husband Javed Anand started Sabrang Communications and co-founded the magazine Communalism Combat in 1993 to highlight and oppose both majoritarian and minority communalism—which in India is used to refer to narrow allegiance to one's own ethnic or sectarian group. A feminist and defender of minority rights, she has supported the efforts to prosecute Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged approval of the pogroms when he was chief minister of Gujarat. The Modi government has accused Setalvad of coaching witnesses, violating India's Foreign Contributions Regulation Act by taking money from the Ford Foundation, and misappropriating money that was earmakred for constructing a "Museum of Resistance" in honor of those who died in the pogroms. None of these accusations have been proven in court. Critics decry the allegations as politically motivated and meant to intimidate Setalvad and her husband. Teesta is the author of Foot Soldier for the Constitution: A Memoir, and is a contributor to the book Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy

What has led to the ascension of Hindu Right in India? Did corruption in the [previously long-ruling] Congress Party help give rise to this movement?

I don't think corruption is the only reason. The single biggest presence in education today is the Hindu Right. They are working to change the mindsets of people. I think a lot of the current success and presence of the Hindu Right in the public sphere is because of their high level of organization. Americans even fund Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh- and Vishwa Hindu Parishad-run schools that promote Hindu supremacy—and often even hatred against minorities—because they think they are charity schools for tribal children. What they actually are doing is trying to re-fashion a culture and education that is inherently unequal and anti-Constitutional.


But Has Disney Been Revolutionized? The Paradoxical Politics of Black Panther

Black Panther Huey

by Khaleb Khazari-El, CounterVortex


For some intransigent radicals, the movie Black Panther can only be seen as recuperation and exploitation of radical legacies by the capitalist Spectacle—specifically, Disney and its Marvel franchise. But the film is more morally serious—and morally complex—than simple blanket dismissal will allow. That Disney has decided that such a film is in the interests of its bottom line is itself a kind of victory. It reflects progress in mass consciousness won by the very social struggle that the Spectacle now seeks to capitalize on—from the real Black Panthers of the 1960s, to Black Lives Matter and the anti-Trump Resistance today.

First the good news...


Turkey's Offensive in Afrin Follows Assad's Offensive in Idlib


by Aron Lund, IRIN

A Syrian government offensive in northwestern Syria has already forced more than 200,000 civilians to flee in less than a month, with tens of thousands more at risk as fighting escalates. And with Afrin now under fire from the Turkish army and its allies, it could get much worse still.

Over the past month, Syrian government forces have been pushing into rebel-controlled Idlib Province, and Turkey is now in the early days of an attack on the nearby Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Both areas, particularly Idlib, house large numbers of civilians who have already been internally displaced. While Afrin’s crisis is just beginning, some 210,000 people are on the run in Idlib Province. More than half are minors, and Save the Children describes this wave as one of the worst displacement crises of Syria’s nearly seven-year war.

"Many are sheltering in the open in freezing temperatures or in abandoned buildings," the group said in statement. "With fighting closing in on all sides, many are trapped with nowhere left to flee."


Afghan returnees

by Ruchi Kumar, IRIN

In a cafe in Kabul, Mohammad Elham’s eyes dart back and forth between a steaming cup of tea and the front entrance: the months since his return to Afghanistan have been spent in a state of constant fear.

Elham left Afghanistan on a cold night in 2010, he says, after the Taliban killed his wife and two children. Last year, he returned to the country he fled — this time, in handcuffs, one of a surging number of Afghan deportees ousted from Europe.

"It was hurtful and humiliating," Elham said of his journey from Germany, where his asylum application was rejected, to Afghanistan, where he says his presence may again jeopardize his family's safety. The 36-year-old says he fears for his life because of his previous work with Afghanistan's intelligence agency.

As European countries tighten borders and asylum policies, the number of Afghan asylum seekers pushed out of Europe has soared. But returnees like Elham are being forced back to a volatile country, where conflict has uprooted more than one million people over the last two years and civilian casualties are at near-record levels.



by Walter Vargas Díaz, openDemocracy

Peru has become the country of greatest attraction for mining investment in Latin America, according to a recent study by Fraser Institute, which assesses geological aspects, political environment and favorable regulation. However, this growth of investment has unleashed tensions in territories of indigenous communities, creating a powerful private force capable of influencing state decisions and exerting violence on lands, the environment and indigenous activists. Recently, the southern, Andean part of the country has experienced intense conflict at one of the largest copper mines in the world: Las Bambas.

Open-pit mining: Las Bambas
Las Bambas started commercial production of copper and molybdenum in 2016, 12 years after its international public bidding. The Swiss company Xstrata won the tender in 2004, in 2011 it obtained state approval of its Environmental Impact Study (EIA), in 2013 it was acquired by Glencore International, and in 2014 it was sold to the MMG Limited consortium, led by Chinese capital.

It is estimated that the mine produced more than two million tons of concentrated copper in its first five years, with direct impact on communities in the provinces of Cotabambas and Grau (Apurímac region) and in the mining circuit that extends to the high Andean provinces of Cusco. Although the project has three open pits, no consultation with the affected indigenous communities has been carried out. State indifference led the communities to direct negotiation attempts amid tensions with the mining companies.

Successive modifications of the EIA have unleashed a confrontation that reveals how the power of the mining industry has paved the way for repression, criminalization of communities, and human rights abuses.


Mega-Dam Project Now a Site of Heightened Conflict in Post-War Colombia


by Jeff Abbott, Toward Freedom

Colombia's 52-year-long war came to an end in September 2016, when the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed the historic peace accords. The peace process has been slow, and the newly signed accords have faced steep challenges in being implemented. Colombia's left has now confronted new threats, including targeted assassinations by paramilitaries, and criminalization for defense of land and the environment.

The 400-megawatt El Quimbo dam sits on the Magdalena River, in the southern province of Huila. Construction began in 2010, but the plans date back to 1995, when companies began to look upon the region as an area for development. The dam is owned by Italian energy giant Enel, but it was constructed with investments made from Spanish company Emgesa and Colombia energy company Energía Bogotá. It is the first privately funded hydro development project in the country.

The project came online in December 2014. Today, communities are demanding the closure of the dam due to the impacts on the region.

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