On Dec. 27, leaders of the Kurdish autonmous administration in northern Syria, meeting as a Constituent Assembly at the town of Rmeilan (Rimelan), voted to remove the name "Rojava" from the federal system that governs the region. Initially called the "Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria-Rojava," it is now to be named simply the "Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria." (Kurdish Question, Jan. 3) The dropping of the traditional Kurdish name for the region is something of an about-face, following a campaign to revive Kurdish-language toponymy. This would appear to be motivated by the current political re-alignment in Syria, and the final breaking of what some have seen as a de facto alliance between the Kurdish forces and the Bashar Assad regime against Turkish-backed rebel militia.
An Oct. 23 AFP story relates how Syria's Kurds are restoring ancient names to "Arabized" towns in the country's north (where the regime has collapsed an a Kurdish-led autonomous administration holds power). Writer Delil Souleiman reports from a small town in the "official" governorate of Hasakeh known for decades as Shajra but now once again by the older Kurdish name of Joldara. Said one elderly resident: "Joldara in Kurdish means a plain covered in trees. This was the name of the village before it was Arabized by the Syrian government in 1962 and changed to Shajra," which means tree in Arabic. Joldara is one of hundreds such towns where new road-signs have been raised by the autonomous administration, with the Kurdish names in both Latin and Arabic script.
Peru launched its first satellite into space this month, to monitor illegal mining, logging and other extractive activities in the country's vast stretch of the Amazon rainforest. The Peru SAT-1, developed with French aid and the most sophisticated in Latin America, was launched Sept. 15 from Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana and monitored from the Satellite Images National Operations Center (CNOIS) in Pucusana, south of Lima. The satellite bears the logo of Peru's space agency, CONIDA, with the words "Kausachun Peru" (Viva Peru in Quechua). (Peru This Week, Nature, Sept. 15)
Following a trial lasting seven years and four months, a court in Peru's Amazonas region on Sept. 22 absolved 52 indigenous leaders in charges related to the 2009 Bagua massacre. Initially, charges were brought against 53, but one defendant died over the course of the proceedings. The Penal Chamber of Bagua district found insufficient evidence that the accused indigenous protesters had handled firearms at the scene of the massace, in which at least 32 lost their lives. The defendants faced charges in the deaths of 12 police officers at the scene. The violence began when National Police troops attacked protesters blocking the road at Devil's Curve on June 5, 2009—yet no police officer or commander has served time for the massacre. The incident came amid indigenous protests over changes to Peru's land tenture system pushed through in preparation for the Free Trade Agreement with Washington and aimed at opening the rainforest to oil exploitation.
Dozens of Ahwazi Arab farmers held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Iran's state sugar refinery, the Amir Kabir Company, near the regional capital Ahwaz on Aug. 25, protesting the parastatal's confiscation of over 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The farmers from two villages, al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, brought documents they said prove their ownership of the lands, which were seized for sugar-cane farming with no warning, legal justification or compensation. Representatives of the firm clashed with protesters after security forces threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they failed to leave the area around the entrance to the headquarters building.
On Aug. 1, Indigenous People's Day, President Tsai Ing-wen issued a formal apology to Taiwan's aboriginal peoples for centuries of oppression, and outlined her policies for reconciliation. In a ceremony attended by leaders of aboriginal communities from throughout the island, she said: "For the past 400 years, each regime that came to Taiwan has brutally violated indigenous people's existing rights through military might and land looting." She pledged that her government will give indigenous communities greater autonomy, improve their land rights, and work to preserve native languages.
Tizi Ouzou, principal city in Algeria's restive Kabylia region, saw two mass mobilizations April 20 to commemorate the 1980 "Berber Spring" uprising. One, organized by the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RDC), pressed demands for official recognition of the Amazigh language in Algeria's constitution. But the second, led by the Kabylia Self-Determination Movement (MAK), called for the region's actual independence from Algeria. Each drew thousands, and several arrests were reported. Amazigh was recognized as a "national language" in a 2002 constitutional reform, and second reform earlier this year upgraded it to "official" status, meaning it can be used in government functions. However, Berber activists say that even the new reform maintains Amazigh in a subsidiary position to Arabic.
A businessman from Yushu prefecture, Qinghai province, has spent more than six weeks in prison after his attempts to persuade the local government to provide Tibetan language information in schools were featured in a lengthy article in the New York Times last November. According to a new article in the Times, his family reports that he has been in police custody since January but they have not been allowed to see him and have not been informed of the reason for his detention. Tashi Wangchuk repeatedly expressed that his actions were not political and related solely to the preservation of Tibetan culture and he even offered praise to Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, any challenge to the authorities over matters to do with Tibetan identity risk being treated as "separatist"—a criminal offence carrying a potentially very lengthy prison sentence.