political geograpy

Anti-terror 'security state' in Xinjiang

The Uighur people of China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region are coming under unprecedented surveillance and militarization amid official fears of terrorism in the far-western territory. In the latest draconian measure, residents of one prefecture are being ordered to install a government-developed GPS tracking system in their vehicles. By June 30, all motorists in Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture must have the BeiDou navigation satellite system installed in their vehicles, under an order aimed at "ensur[ing] stability and social harmony." Gas stations will only be permitted to serve cars that have the system. Installation is free, but vehicle owners will be charged 90 yuan a year for the Internet fees.

Erdogan revives Ottoman-era designs on Iraq, Syria

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. 

UNESCO nomenclature wars in Jerusalem

UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova issued a statement Oct. 14 repudiating a resolution approved by the body's member states that had been harshly condemned by Israel. The resolution concerns threats to East Jerusalem's holy sites under Israeli occupation, and calls on UNESCO to appoint a permanent representative there to observe. What made it an easy target for Israeli criticism was its reference exclusively to "Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif"—not the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall. Israel froze cooperation with UNESCO after the resolution passed. Wrote Bokova: "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list."

Ukraine and Palestine: geography denial

This is pretty funny. Israel's progressive +972 mag reports March 7 that a delegation from the group Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation organization made up of Israeli army veterans, recently arrived in Hebron to be greeted with two prominently placed banners raised by local settlers, reading: "Palestine never existed! (And never will)". Both the banners, which were very professionally produced (no hand-painted job), were hung on sections of Shuada Street that Palestinians are barred from entering under restrictions imposed in the wake of Baruch Goldstein's 1994 massacre at Hebron's al-Ibrahimi Mosque. 

China: Han-Tibetan solidarity emerging

Police in Sechuan's Aba county on Dec. 11 detained two Tibetan men—a monk at the local Kirti monastery and his nephew—on charges of "inciting" self-immolations. Four days earlier, the self-immolation of a 17-year-old girl at Rebkong monastery town in Qinghai brought the total number of such cases to 95. Chinese authorities again accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging the practice. (The Hindu, Dec. 11) The following day, the New York Times ran an op-ed, "Tibet is Burning," by prominent human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong, who has defended peasants struggling to keep their lands before China's onslaught of "development."  Xu writes about his journey in October to pay respects to the family of Nangdrol, an 18-year-old self-immolation martyr. Paraphrasing the note left by Nangdrol, Xu calls the current situation in Tibet "scarless torture." He writes about his fellow passengers on his ride in a car packed with locals to Nangdrol's hometown of Barma in northeast Tibet:

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