From Our Daily Report

  • Bardarash CampAfter meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a "ceasefire." However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a "ceasefire" but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

ROME SQUATTERS FACE CLAMPDOWN

Rome protest

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate/The Villager

It was a multicultural crowd that gathered in Rome's Plaza San Silvestro to oppose the draconian Security Decree then pending in the Italian parliament. Popularly called the "Salvini Law" after Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (who appears to be the real power behind the government), the Security Decree was explicitly aimed at two broadly overlapping groups: immigrants and squatters.

Many of those in Plaza San Silvestro were both. One prominent banner read: DALLE MONTAGNE DEL KURDISTAN AL CUORE DI ROMA, ARARAT NON SI SGOBERA. "From the mountains of Kurdistan to the heart of Rome, Ararat will not be evicted." It displayed painted images of a mighty mountain and an old industrial building. Flying above the banner was the red-star flag of the Kurdish revolutionary movement in Turkey and Syria.

Ararat is, of course, the famous mountain in Turkey’s Kurdish east, but here it also refers to the Ararat Kurdish Cultural Center, one of Rome's many squatted community centers, in a reclaimed industrial space in the city's outlying Testaccio district. There was another contingent at the protest of Peruvian migrants living in a squatted building, and yet another of squatters from various Horn of Africa countries. The contingents clustered in groups, while the riot police and paramilitary Carabinieri formed a ring around the perimeter of the plaza.

HOW INDIA COMPLICATED KASHMIR DISPUTE

Kashmir

by L. Ali Khan, Jurist

In the first week of August 2019, the Indian Parliament passed, and the president signed, legislation to remove Articles 370 and 35A of the India Constitution. Article 370 preserved the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), a princely state that has been forcibly divided up between India and Pakistan. Article 35A empowers the J&K state to determine its permanent residents.

The constitutionality of the legislation revoking Articles 370 and 35A has been challenged in the India Supreme Court.

By revoking Articles 370 and 35A, India has seemingly abandoned the notion of J&K state as a special territory deserving autonomy. However, as discussed below, the revocation complicates matters more than it resolves. The revocation does little to lawfully change the autonomy of the State or alter the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the revocation will foment domestic unrest and possibly an armed conflict between nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan.

ALGERIA: BOUTEFLEXIT COMPLETE. NOW WHAT?

Algeria protests

by Faten Aggad, African Arguments

It all started on February 16, with protests in the small town of Kherrata in eastern Algeria. Of all places, it had to be here to capture the symbolism of this "Algerian Renaissance"; Kherrata was one of three towns where the French massacred an estimated 45,000 people on May 8, 1945, giving impetus to the war that would eventually lead to Algeria’s independence in 1962.

From Kherrata, the protests quickly grew in numbers and presence. By February 22, they had spread across all districts of the country. Protestors marched every Friday, reminded through messages on WhatsApp and social media that the demonstrations should remain silmiya (peaceful). By April 2, this unrelenting pressure from the streets had made President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's position untenable. After 20 years in office, he resigned.

Why were the protesters successful? And where do we go from here?

SYRIA: FROM REVOLUTION TO QUAGMIRE

Civilians trapped between Assad regime, foreign states and warlords

Idlib protest

by Leila Al Shami, Fifth Estate

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.

'RUSSIAGATE,' SYRIA AND THE LEFT

Russiagate

by Terry Burke

The last major national protest in the US was "Families Belong Together" in June 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country demonstrated against the Trump administration's policy of separating children and families at the border. People who had never protested before brought their families. It's now a year later and the situation for immigrant families has only gotten worse. Where is the outrage?

Plans for ICE raids targeting millions of immigrants. Preparing military strikes on Iran. Pulling the US out of climate and arms-control treaties. Conniving with "alt-right" and ultra-nationalist movements around the world. Defying congressional subpoenas. Corrupt, incompetent people heading every federal agency. The list of destructive Trump policies and provocations seems endless.

Trump's recent visit to London brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets. Where are the protests in the US? Where are the coalitions in the US organizing against Trump's anti-democratic, inhumane policies? Where is the left?

Part of the problem is the enormous amount of disinformation that has been specifically directed at the left, disinformation that most of those targeted don't recognize. The disinfo uses anti-imperialist language and is posted on "left" sites that usually have nominally accurate stories on issues such as Palestine, climate change, corporate corruption, and other questions of concern to progressives.

CRITIQUE OF GEOPOLITICS AND THE LEFT

An Interview with Veteran Journalist and Activist Bill Weinberg

Bill Weinberg

by Jae Carico, Pontiac Tribune

This interview with CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg was conducted via email by Jae Carico of The Fifth Column Network for its organ Pontiac Tribune. It also appeared on the Patreon page of Guillotine Press.

Could you introduce yourself for those unfamiliar with your work?

I'm a 30-year veteran journalist in the fields of human rights, indigenous peoples, drug policy and war. I've reported widely from Latin America and am the author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico, about the Zapatistas and related movements. I'm struggling to finish a follow-up book about indigenous struggles in the Andes. I was news editor at High Times magazine in the '90s, and continue to cover the drug war beat for Cannabis Now magazine.

I was a producer on WBAI Radio here in New York for 20 years before being purged for my political dissent in 2011. Since 9-11, I have been obsessively blogging world affairs from an anarchist/autonomist point of view. You can read my daily offerings at CounterVortex.org. I have also been involved in solidarity work with the left and anti-occupation civil resistance in Iraq after the US invasion, and then the pro-democratic resistance in Syria after the revolution broke out in 2011. I was involved in similar solidarity efforts with anti-nationalist and anti-militarist opposition in all the ex-Yugoslav republics during the Balkan wars of the '90s.

U.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN

Afghan women

by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex

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. President Donald Trump also has worried many Afghans—although some were optimistic about the decision—by talking about pulling troops out of the country to end US involvement in what is now its longest war.

The danger of women losing hard-won rights should not only be a concern to those who supported the war—but for anyone who cares about human rights and gender equality. The feminist writer Meredith Tax has a point when she criticizes many anti-war activists for not being able to hold two ideas in their heads at the same time. While the anti-war movement is not homogeneous, too many activists see the world from a US-centric viewpoint that narrows their vision and prevents them from seeing and understanding the struggles of progressive figures in other countries.

ANTI-TERROR LAW COULD TARGET AID GROUPS

UNRWA

by Samuel Oakford, IRIN

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 organizations and businesses being reluctant to take US funding or be associated with US-financed programs.

Signed in October last year and law as of January 31, ATCA is an attempt by US lawmakers to make it easier for American courts to hear civil suits related to terrorist attacks abroad, specifically those involving authorities tied to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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