Idlib protest

IDLIB RESISTS

Over the past days a popular uprising has broken out across northern Syria’s Idlib against the hardline Islamist group that is militarily dominant in much of the province—Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam or HTS, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The uprising began when HTS increased zakaat (taxes) on a number of goods and services including bread, electricity and olive oil. The anti-Assad regime protests which are held almost every Friday in Idlib are now also demanding the expulsion of HTS from the province. The dominant narrative promoted by the regime and supporters of Assadist fascism is that Idlib is a “terrorist enclave.” Today’s uprising should challenge this narrative. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami provides an account.

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Tapachula protest

LEFT WAITING

For months, hundreds of African migrants and asylum seekers from conflict-ridden countries like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been camped out in tents in front of the main immigration detention facility in the town of Tapachula, in southern Mexico. Most flew halfway around the world to Brazil, then made the dangerous journey north through the Darien Gap— a remote, roadless swath of jungle—before traversing Central America into Mexico in the hope of finally reaching the United States to claim asylum. Instead, they were detained upon arrival in Mexico, under terms of the new migration agreement between the US and Mexican governments. Melisa Valenzuela reports from Tapachula for The New Humanitarian.

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Rome protest

ROME SQUATTERS FACE CLAMPDOWN

Italy’s far-right interior minister (and de facto ruler) Matteo Salvini was just removed from power in a government shake-up—but not before passing his draconian “Salvini Law.” In addition to restricting the rights of migrants and refugees to asylum and government aid, the Salvini Law imposes a five-year prison term for squatting. Italy’s thousands of squatters—many of them displaced from their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and South America—are now in a precarious position. Bill Weinberg offers a first-hand account from the squats and migrant enclaves of the Eternal City.

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Kashmir

HOW INDIA COMPLICATED KASHMIR DISPUTE

By revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, India has seemingly abandoned the notion of Jammu & Kashmir state as a special territory deserving autonomy. However, the revocation is being challenged as itself unconstitutional, and in violation of both international agreements and the Instrument of Accession by which  J&K joined the Indian union in 1947. The revocation may yet be overturned by India’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, unrest and repression mount in J&K, and tensions are escalating with Pakistan—raising the possibly an armed conflict between the Subcontinent’s nuclear rivals. L. Ali Khan, writing for Jurist, offers a legal and historical perspective on the crisis.

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SYRIA: FROM REVOLUTION TO QUAGMIRE

If 2011 looked like the moment when people could unite, both within and across borders, to topple decades-old dictatorships with the demand for freedom and social justice, today looks like the moment of counter-revolutionary success. After eight years of increasingly brutal conflict in Syria, Bashar al-Assad still presides as president over a now destroyed, fragmented and traumatized country. The dominant narrative is that the war is nearing its end. States once vocally opposed to Assad now have other strategic concerns which take precedence over the victims of his savage efforts to hold onto power. Yet, on the ground, conditions are far from stable; civilians remain trapped and are paying the price for ongoing struggles for power and territory between the regime, foreign states and ideological warlords. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami writes for the North American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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‘RUSSIAGATE,’ SYRIA AND THE LEFT

Why have there been so few large protests against the daily abuses from the Trump administration?  Where is the opposition?  Syria solidarity activists have watched disinformation contribute to uncertainty and division on the left.  Trusted “left” writers have created confusion by supporting the Assad regime and dismissing the extensive evidence of Russian interference in the US elections. Scholars of authoritarianism are warning us of the dangers of the Trump/Putin collusion—while the so-called “alternative” media increasingly functions as an “echo-system” of Russian propaganda. Terry Burke deconstructs this reality in a special for CounterVortex.

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CRITIQUE OF GEOPOLITICS AND THE LEFT

Jae Carico of The Fifth Column Network interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg on Eurasianism, Red-Brown politics, and how the consensus position of the contemporary American “left” is now pro-fascist. They also discuss the prospects for reviving the traditional anti-fascist stance of the left, through a ruthless critique of its existing leadership and active solidarity with the civil opposition in Syria.

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U.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN

The US government’s announcement that it has opened negotiations with the Taliban to help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end should be a source of concern for women’s rights advocates everywhere. While it’s still not easy to be a woman in Afghanistan, women have made progress in the areas of education, employment and representation in government since the Talban were overthrown by the US-led invasion of 2003. Pro-war and anti-war voices in the US alike have instrumentalized the suffering of Afghan women to advance their political aims. In a special for CounterVortex, journalist Andy Heintz provides an overview of Afghanistan’s courageous women’s rights advocates, and calls for heeding their voices—which hold a spectrum of opinion on the US military presence in the country.

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ANTI-TERROR LAW COULD TARGET AID GROUPS

A new US anti-terror law that has forced the majority of American-funded aid operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to grind to a halt may have even wider humanitarian consequences, leaving nonprofits around the world more vulnerable to litigation. While the 700-word bill appears to have been targeted at the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, experts say the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, or ATCA, is poorly crafted and could result in some non-governmental organisations and businesses being reluctant to take US funding or be associated with US-financed programs. Samuel Oakford explores for IRIN.

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WEATHER WAR

How Iran's Regime Uses Floods and Drought as Tools of Ethnic Cleansing

by Rahim Hamid, Dur Untash Studies Centre

In most countries prone to regular severe weather events such as heavy flooding, governments take precautionary measures in vulnerable regions to at least minimize the probable damage and protect citizens' lives and property. 

Unfortunately, however, some governments not only exploit such disasters but deliberately manufacture and intensify them as a strategic weapon against parts of the population that threaten the leaders' economic exploitation of their resources. These governments spare no effort to engineer or exacerbate the effects of such disasters, effectively weaponizing climate change against the people.

Iran's theocratic regime is one such government, pursuing policies that effectively amount to ethnocide against the Ahwazi Arab population. Ahwazis have the misfortune to live in an oil-rich region, from which Iran extracts 95% of the oil and gas resources that it lays claim to. This massive oil wealth, which was the primary reason for Iran's forcible annexation of Ahwaz in the early 20th century, has been a far greater curse than a blessing to the Ahwazi people, most of whom now subsist in nearly medieval conditions of poverty. The international community, meanwhile, seems indifferent to their plight

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TOGO PROTESTS CHALLENGE DICTATORSHIP

by Regina Asinde, Waging Nonviolence

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of cities across the West African country of Togo on Dec. 8, as part of a recently revived wave of nationwide protests demanding political reforms. At the center of their demands is the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution, which included a two-term limit on the presidency before being stripped away by former president Eyadéma Gnassingbé, father of current president Faure Gnassingbé.

Mass protests first erupted in August 2017, forcing the government into internationally-moderated negotiations, which—in an attempt to resolve the decades-long political crisis—led to the reinstatement of the two-term limit. However, outrage was soon reignited when it was discovered that past presidential terms would not apply, thereby allowing Faure Gnassingbé—already in his third term—to run for president in 2020 as if it were his first time. Negotiations broke down soon after that, leading to the revival of protests in November.

"Nobody is willing to take that in Togo," said Togolese Civil League executive director Farida Nabourema. "After 51 years of the Gnassingbé, asking us to give them an additional 10 years, starting 2020, is basically asking us to commit suicide. It's something we cannot let happen, and it’s the reason we are back on the streets."

After first allowing protests in pre-approved zones, the government outright banned large demonstrations before the Dec. 8 mobilization. When upwards of 500,000 people turned out in Lomé, the capital city, the regime deployed heavy military force, wounding dozens of civilians and killing at least three—including an 11-year-old boy.

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