From our Daily Report:

Central Asia
KAZfem

Kazakhstan: women sentenced for opposition activism

A court in Kazakhstan sentenced two activists to two years of “freedom limitation” (similar to probation) for their involvement with banned political groups. The court in the southern city of Taraz found Nazira Lesova and Nazira Lepesova guilty of organizing and participating in prohibited demonstrations as part of their activities with the groups Koshe (Street) Party and Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK). The sentences came two days after Zhazira Qambarova, another DCK activist, received two years of “freedom limitation” for similar activities. The three women, detained in February, are among several activists across Kazakhstan who have been arrested for participating in demonstrations including marches in support of women’s rights and calling for pro-democratic reforms. (Image: KazFem)

The Andes
Yaku PĂ©rez

Ecuador: protests in wake of disputed elections

Hundreds of indigenous protesters rallied outside the offices of Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito to demand a recount of the presidential vote. Third-place finisher Yaku PĂ©rez of the indigenous-based Pachakutic party, eliminated from the run-off election to be held in April, led a week-long cross-country march of his supporters from Loja province in the south which repeatedly blocked traffic on the Pan-American Highway before arriving in the capital for the rally. He then led a delegation to the CNE office, carrying boxes with more than 16,000 statements purporting to show irregularities. At the demonstration, his supporters chanted, “Transparency yes, fraud no!” (Photo of Yaku PĂ©rez, on bicycle, via Wikipedia)

The Amazon
facebook

Facebook enables deforestation in Brazilian Amazon

Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In a documentary, “Selling the Amazon,” BBC Brasil went undercover to reveal how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. Contacted by BBC, Facebook said it was “ready to work with the authorities” to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. (Photo via Mongabay)

Oceania
Taranaki

New Zealand settles Maori land claim

New Zealand iwi (Maori kinship group) Ngāti Maru signed a deed of settlement with the Crown, resolving its historical land claims under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Ngāti Maru is the last of eight iwi in Taranaki, a North Island region, to settle its claims under the treaty. The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Andrew Little, announced in a statementthat the iwi, which comprises 2,800 registered members, will receive financial and cultural redress as part of the settlement, including an apology from the Crown. The financial redress is valued at NZD$30 million (about USD$20 million). The agreement also includes the vesting of 16 culturally significant sites to Ngāti Maru. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Caribbean
Haitians in Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic to build wall on Haitian border

The Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinador announced that work will begin this year on a wall along the country’s 376-kilometer border with Haiti. “Within two years we want to end the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and the transport of stolen vehicles that we’ve suffered from for two years,” said Abinader. Weeks earlier, Abinader and his Haitian counterpart Jovenel Moise signed an agreement that included a commitment to take measures against “the wave of illegal migration” and to “reinforce border security and vigilance.” Two years ago, Dominican authorities started erecting a section of fence along the border at El Carrizal, sparking angry protests by Haitian immigrants living in the area. (Photo: Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores via Change.org)

South Asia
Mushtaq Ahmed

Bangladesh: protests erupt as writer dies in prison

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated. (Photo via Twitter)

Syria
Afrin

Syria: factional violence in Turkish-occupied Afrin

Internecine fighting among collaborationist militia in the Turkish-occupied northern Syrian town of Afrin left at least two civilians dead in the crossfire. Clashes broke out between Jabha al-Shamiya (Levant Front) and the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam)—two armed groups affiliated with the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA). Shops and civilian homes were also damaged in the clashes. Witnesses  said the fighting began when Levant Front militants attempted to arrest a member of the Army of Islam who they suspected of smuggling people across border into Turkey. (Photo of Jaysh al-Islam via Syrians for Truth & Justice)

Africa
lake victora

Pipeline project threatens Lake Victoria

More than 260 organizations issued an open letter to banks and financial institutions involved in the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which would carry oil from fields in western Uganda to a port on the northern coast of Tanzania, passing near critical wetlands in the Lake Victoria basin. The human rights and environmental organizations say the line’s construction poses “unacceptable” risks to communities in the immediate 1,445-kilometer (898-mile) path of the project and beyond. They are calling on banks not to fund the $3.5 billion project, and asking government leaders to shift funding from infrastructure for fossil fuels to renewable energy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Mongabay)

East Asia
qiaochu

China: rights defender detained in ‘quarantine’

Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for “subversion of state power.” Li was detained in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li’s detention follows her disclosure of Xu’s torture and mistreatment in detention. When Li’s lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, he was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed. (Image: FrontLine Defenders)

Syria
free-syria

Landmark verdict against Syrian ex-officer

A court in Germany convicted a former officer of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Eyad A., on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity—specifically, torture and deprivation of liberty committed against 30 persons. Eyad received a sentence of four years and six months for his role in arresting people who were later tortured. The 30 persons, who were all civilians, had been participating in anti-government protests in Douma in 2011 when they were rounded up and sent to Branch 251, or the al-Khatib detention center in Damascus. At Branch 251, they suffered grave physical, emotional and psychological abuse, in addition to being subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions. The verdict marks the first time that a court anywhere in the world has ruled on torture inflicted by the Syrian regime, and it sets the stage for the prosecution of high-ranking officers. The trial of the officer who headed Branch 251 is pending before the same court. (Photo of early Arab Revolution protest in Syria via Fightback)

Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq. The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
South Sudan

South Sudan: ‘localized’ violence despite ceasefire

In a new report, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan found that over two years after the signing of a peace agreement officially ending a seven-year civil war, the country is still experiencing extreme levels of violence. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of armed struggle. But civil war erupted in the new nation in 2013 following President Salva Kiir’s dismissal of then-Vice President Riek Machar—respectively belonging to the largest rival ethnic groups, the Dinka and Nuer. The war ended in 2020, after claiming over 400,000 lives. But commission chair Yasmin Sooka said that violence is currently at its highest level at any time since the start of the war—if now at hands of “localized” militias. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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Featured Stories

Burma protest

BURMA: A NEW DEMOCRATIC UPRISING

Burma is once again in the international headlines, as the Southeast Asian nation has lost another opportunity to sustain its credibility as a multi-party democracy. A one-year state of emergency and period of military rule were announced in the early hours of February 1, when the generals again seized power. Many newly elected lawmakers were detained just hours before Parliament was to convene its fresh session. But over a hundred thousand Burmese citizens have taken to the streets across the country in the days since then, demanding restoration of democratic rule and release of all detained political leaders. The spontaneous demonstrations bring back memories of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which paved the way for the democratic transition four years later. The coming weeks and even days will be critical in determining whether Burma will face another dark period of military rule—or if the country’s new democratic uprising will meet with effective international solidarity. CounterVortex correspondent Nava Thakuria, across the border in northeast India, reports.

Continue ReadingBURMA: A NEW DEMOCRATIC UPRISING 
Capitol

INVOKE INTER-AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC CHARTER FOR U.S.A.

Americans were shocked by the storming of the US Capitol by the right-wing mobs and militia. Some commentators now refer to the country as a “banana republic”—a derogatory term for Central American states with histories of unstable government. But Latin Americans, with greater such experience, can more easily recognize anti-democratic behavior and its dangers—and have been at the forefront in taking multilateral and region-wide action to promote and protect democracy. The Western hemisphere has, in fact, designed a process to collectively defend against threats to democracy like that now faced by the US: the Inter-American Democratic Charter. It has been invoked twice before—in Haiti and Venezuela. In a commentary for Jurist, international law scholars Henry “Chip” Carey and Jennifer McCoy make the case for its invocation in the United States.

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Nagaraj

JOURNO-MURDER SURGE IN INDIA

In an industry already hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s media this year also saw an alarming increase in the slaying of journalists. As 2020 approaches its end, India emerges as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for working journalists—second only to Mexico. While Mexico has seen 12 journo-murders this year, the world’s largest democracy has registered 12. Local journalists reporting on land-grabbing and illegal resource exploitation have been especially targeted. Writing from Assam in India’s conflicted northeast, Nava Thakuria provides an overview of the grim national toll.

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hibakusha

HIBAKUSHA ‘STILL CANNOT GET OVER IT’

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will finally come into force after the 50th country, Honduras, ratified it in October. The treaty will make the development, testing, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons illegal for those countries that have signed on. None of the nine countries that currently have nuclear arms are signatories, and some have vocally opposed the treaty—especially the United States. Nonetheless, this is an extraordinary achievement for those that have suffered the most from these weapons—including the hibakusha (survivors) of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have been some of the most strident campaigners against the use of these weapons. Writing for The Conversation, Gwyn McClelland, a researcher collecting the oral histories of atomic bomb survivors, discusses the role of the hibakusha in the campaign for the nuclear weapons ban.

Continue ReadingHIBAKUSHA ‘STILL CANNOT GET OVER IT’ 
Shinmin Prefecture

ANARCHIST COMMUNE MANCHURIA

By the official version of history, World War II started in Poland in 1939, but cases can also be made that it really began in Austria in 1938, Spain in 1936, Abyssinia in 1935—or Manchuria in 1931. However, it is nearly forgotten that the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria that year was partially aimed at crushing a self-governing anarchist “autonomous prefecture” that had been established in the region by exiles from Korea, which had been occupied and annexed by the Japanese Empire in 1910. This anarchist commune, dubbed Shinmin Prefecture, was an inspiring model of autonomy and resistance, akin to the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Makhnovtchina of 1918 in Ukraine, and the Magonista Revolution of Baja California in 1911—but is considerably more obscure to contemporary historians. Francesco Dalessandro explores this critical episode for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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It Can't Happen Here

TWO FACES OF FASCISM

In his latest contribution to the anarchist journal Fifth Estate, Bill Weinberg explores the twin threats of a totalitarian order that the United States faces at this history-making moment: Trump-fascism, perhaps to be lubricated by a “Reichstag Fire” scenario ahead of the November election, and a post-pandemic “new normality” of complete surveillance and social control. Eerily predictive of these twin dystopias are two works of “future fiction” from the 20th century—It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis and The Machine Stops by EM Forster. With the Black Lives Matter uprising deepening the ugly backlash from the Trump camp and a COVID-19 “second wave” looming, the US is poised on a razor’s edge between long-overdue leaps of social progress and descent into some kind of updated American variant of fascism.

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refugees

TRUMP’S AMERICA: NO LONGER SAFE FOR REFUGEES

Recently a Canadian court threw out the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) with the USA, finding that the detention centers in the United States violate the human rights of refugees. This pact compels refugees seeking asylum in Canada through the US-Canadian border to first seek asylum in the US. The pact was challenged last year by Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches. A lawyer for the refugees stated that the US does not qualify as a “Safe Third Country” under the administration of Donald Trump, as refugees are subjected to family separation and illegal pushbacks. The judge in the case pronounced that the STCA violates the Canadian Constitution guarantees of life, liberty, and security. Shaurya Shukla discusses the decision for Jurist, and explores its implications for the United States’ standing under international law.

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Washington Square

THE MONUMENTAL DILEMMA

The sight of statues of Confederate generals and slavocrat politicians coming down in several states across the country is a long-overdue correction. There is no ambiguity on what those monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, John Calhoun represented. These men stood in life for the most oppressive white supremacy, and their images were raised after their deaths as proud signifiers that the fundamentals of white supremacy remained intact despite the Civil War and Reconstruction. These monuments were raised as ritual intimidation and humiliation of African Americans. But things get a little more complicated when monuments to figures on the Union side are targetted, such as Ulysses S. Grant. Bill Weinberg explores the dilemma for Lower Manhattan’s new online newspaper, The Village Sun.

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Tiananmen

HAS COVID-19 STRENGTHENED XI JINPING?

Xi Jinping’s regime has attempted to shield itself against a massive global blowback from the COVID-19 pandemic, or even parlay the disaster into a victory. But conflicts with India and the US, splits within the CCP dictatorship, and tens of millions unemployed within China indicate the regime is facing its most serious crisis since the mass anti-authoritarian struggle of 1989. Vincent Kolo of chinaworker.info cuts through Beijing’s propaganda of “victory” over the pandemic.

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Colombian border troops

SHADOW WAR ON THE BORDERLANDS

Even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, a war is being waged along the vast and porous Venezuela-Colombia border, across which people, narcotics, black-market gasoline, food, and medicine are smuggled—and where criminals and guerrillas find refuge. Joshua Collins reports for The New Humanitarian.

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Otay Mesa

IMMIGRANTS & COVID-19: WE ARE KILLING THEM

By now, the effects of COVID-19 on American life and society are widespread and deeply felt, almost regardless of one’s socioeconomic status. However, for undocumented immigrants in the United States, the COVID-19 crisis compounds issues that have existed for years, exposing them to a barrage of political, social and economic storm fronts now disastrously colliding at once. Whether for those detained by ICE in overcrowded conditions or those working “essential” frontline jobs without adequate protection or oversight, the impacts on undocumented immigrants and their families could be uniquely devastating. Allyssa M.G. Scheyer writes for Jurist.

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Assam newspapers

CAN NEWSPAPERS SURVIVE COVID-19?

As an unprecedented lockdown imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues across India, the country’s newspaper groups face an uphill battle to maintain their devoted readership. The complete shutdown declared last month instantly prevented deliveries of morning papers to readers’ doorsteps, and rumors spread that a paper itself could carry the novel coronavirus. Many publishers have been forced to drastically reduce their circulation figure, or suspend publication entirely, as vendors and delivery workers walked off the job. This has  particularly critical implications for India’s restive northeast. The region with a population of over 60 million supports over 50 morning dailies in different languages including Assamese, Bengali, Boro, Meitei, Karbi, Khasi, Mizo, Nagamese and Nepali, as well as English and Hindi. The world will eventually return to some kind of normality after the ravages of COVID-19 pass. But whether newspapers, and especially regional ones in places like northeast India, will be able to revive in the post-corona era is an open and difficult question. Nava Thakuria reports from Guwahati, northeast India.

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