From our Daily Report:

Syria
Saydnaya

US imposes sanctions on Syria prisons, rebels

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of Assad’s regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians. (Image: Syria Untold)

Africa
iswap

ISIS franchise takes insurgency to Cameroon

The under-reported conflict in Cameroon’s Far North Region is heating up, as an ISIS franchise has usurped leadership of the local Boko Haram insurgency. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed this week in a raid on an army post near the Nigerian border. The heavily-armed insurgents are believed to be from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has “regained strength following internal restructuring,” according to the Cameroonian defense ministry—a reference to the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, and the absorption of his forces by ISWAP. (Photo: ISS Africa)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: populist president prevails amid polarization

Proclaiming that “change is coming,” Pedro Castillo, a left-populist former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru’s new president on the bicentennial of the country’s independence. He pledged to redraft the constitution, raise taxes on mines, and form a “Binational Cabinet” with neighboring left-led Bolivia. But Castillo assumes office amid a profound political crisis and growing polarization—as well as the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world. His far-right opponent Keiko Fujimori, who challenged his victory with baseless claims of voter-fraud, has a formidable bloc in Congress and promises to obstruct his agenda. (Photo: Diario Uno)

Afghanistan

Podcast: Afghanistan and the politics of withdrawal

In Episode 82 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the Orwellian pronouncements from media and politicians that Biden is “ending the war” in Afghanistan—as the war is actually escalating. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the US “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. In both cases, the war went on—and actually got worse, with the emergence of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis. Weinberg recalls with grim vindication that he similarly called out the glib optimism about a  withdrawal from Iraq in CounterVortex commentaries during the occupation. Meanwhile, Hazara women—who face the threat of genocide if the Taliban re-take power—are arming to resist the Taliban advance. The critical task now is to loan what solidarity and visibility we can to such efforts—not to engage in hubristic crowing about the “end of the war.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

North Africa
tunisia

Tunisia: president accused of ‘coup’

Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a “coup” with the help of the country’s military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund aimed at controlling mass inflation further raised the ire of Tunisians; terms require Tunisia to raise taxes, set higher prices on goods, and implement austerity policies reducing public-sector employment and programs. (Image: Pixabay)

Syria
Raqqa

Survivors struggle four years after battle of Raqqa

Children in Raqqa, northeast Syria, are still living among ruins, with limited water, electricity, and access to education, four years after the city was taken from ISIS, according to a new report by Save the Children. Thousands of people have returned to Raqqa since the battle for the city ended in 2017. But levels of rebuilding and rehabilitation of housing remain low, with children living in constant fear of their homes collapsing on top of them. Research estimates that 36% of the city’s buildings remain entirely destroyed. At the peak of the bombing campaign, Raqqa faced 150 air-strikes a day. (Photo: Mahmoud Bali/VOA via Wikimedia)

Iraq
mosul

ISIS regroups amid slow rebuilding in Iraq

A suicide bomb killed at least 30 in Baghdad, exploding in a busy market as people prepared for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast. Nearly four years after the liberation of Mosul, remnants of the militant organization are regrouping to stage scattered attacks across the country. And Iraq has yet to recover from the fight against ISIS. In a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mosul residents offer sobering testimony on the challenge of trying to restart their lives despite a failure to rebuild much of the city’s devastated homes, infrastructure, and economy. There are still around 1.2 million Iraqis displaced across the country, including 257,000 in Nineveh province, where Mosul sits. Aid groups warn that these people are being exposed to new risks as camps close, leaving some with nowhere to go. (Photo: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC via ReliefWeb)

Planet Watch
greenland

Greenland suspends oil exploration, citing climate crisis

The government of Greenland announced that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis… The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain.” The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory’s lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to acheive independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Amazon
Amazon Fires

Brazil’s Amazon is now a net carbon source: study

The Amazon has long played a vital role in balancing the global carbon budget, but new evidence suggests the climate scales are tipping in the world’s largest rainforest. Now, according to a study published in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. Emissions were high in 2010, when the study began, because of a dry El Niño year, and researchers expected to see emissions return to normal afterward. But this never happened. The reason: emissions from forest fires—which have accelerated dramatically under President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo via Mongabay)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Africa
mumuila

Angola: drought threatens traditional pastoralists

Millions of people in southern Angola are facing an existential threat as drought continues to ravage the region, Amnesty International said. The organization highlighted how the creation of commercial cattle ranches on communal lands has driven pastoralist communities from their territories since the end of the civil war in 2002. This shift has left huge sections of the population food-insecure, and especially vulnerable as the acute drought persists for over three years. As food and water grow increasingly scarce, thousands have fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring Namibia. (Photo of Mumuila woman: Pixabay)

North Africa
Libya detainee

Libya: ‘horrific violations’ in migrant detention

Fresh evidence of harrowing violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya, highlights the grave consequences of Europe’s ongoing cooperation with Libyan authorities on migration and border control, said Amnesty International in a report. Since late 2020, Libya’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration, a department of the interior ministry, has “legitimized abuse” by integrating two new detention centers under its structure where hundreds of refugees and migrants had been “forcibly disappeared” in previous years by militias. Amnesty is calling on European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

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Featured Stories

Razia Sultana

ROHINGYA FEMINIST SEEKS INTER-ETHNIC UNITY

Nearly four years after the Burmese army’s genocidal attack, more than a million Rohingya remain in overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh. Repatriation efforts have failed, as the Rohingya don’t feel safe returning to their homeland. A large percentage of Rohingya women and girls living in the camps have suffered sexual violence at the hands of the Burmese army, witnessed the death of loved ones, or been victims of domestic violence. Razia Sultana, a Rohingya lawyer and educator, has documented these crimes and is organizing advocacy and empowerment programs for survivors in the camps. In a phone interview with CounterVortex correspondent Andy Heintz, she speaks about the prospects for building unity with Burma’s other persecuted minority peoples—and even with the ethnic Burman majority now also facing harsh repression since this year’s military coup.

Continue ReadingROHINGYA FEMINIST SEEKS INTER-ETHNIC UNITY 
khuzestan

IRAN: A NEW WAVE OF MASS PROTEST

Iran is experiencing another wave of mass protests and strikes as economic, social, political, environmental and health problems make it impossible for the large majority of the population to have the bare minimums needed to live. Protests over a severe water shortage in the mainly ethnic Arab province of Khuseztan have now been joined by wildcat work stoppages in the petrochemical and agricultural sectors. In addition to pressing for the right to independently organize, workers are expressing solidarity with the protests over water, and demanding COVID-19 vaccines. Frieda Afary of Iranian Progressives in Translation argues that any effort to engage in solidarity with the people of Iran means not only calling for the removal of US sanctions but also holding the Iranian regime accountable for its repression and exploitation.

Continue ReadingIRAN: A NEW WAVE OF MASS PROTEST 
Sri Lanka flag

SRI LANKA’S ANIMAL EMBLEMS

Much controversy surrounds use of the flags associated with the Sri Lankan peoples, as they are loaded with ethnic symbolism in a country recovering from a generation-long civil war along ethno-nationalist lines. The flags of concern here all feature big cats as central to their designs—the Sinhalese identifying with the lion and the Tamils with the tiger. The lion adorns both the flag of the Sinhalese people as an ethnicity and the national flag of Sri Lanka. The tiger adorns both the flag of the Tamil people as an ethnicity and that of the Tamil Tiger rebels—which is officially outlawed. Yet neither of these animals can actually be found on the island of Sri Lanka. In a commentary for Jurist, legal scholars Samir Pasha and Naga Kandiah make the case for the indigenous Sri Lankan leopard as a new, neutral symbol for a unified post-civil war nation aspiring to ethnic co-existence and social justice.

Continue ReadingSRI LANKA’S ANIMAL EMBLEMS 
Rohingya

BURMA’S GENOCIDE —THE VIEW FROM BANGLADESH

It has been four years since Burma’s military launched an assault against the country’s Rohingya Muslim population with genocidal intent, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee across the border to Bangladesh. Today, the number of Rohingya living in Bangladesh has climbed to more than a million. Plans by the Bangladeshi government to relocate the refugees from overcrowded camps to an isolated island off the coast have rightly drawn protests from international human rights groups. But it must also be acknowledged that Bangladesh has received all too little aid from the international community to address the refugee crisis in the country’s south. Andy Heintz provides an in-depth look for CounterVortex.

Continue ReadingBURMA’S GENOCIDE —THE VIEW FROM BANGLADESH 
belarus

ANARCHY IN BELARUS

The former Soviet republic of Belarus exploded into angry protests last August in the wake of contested presidential elections that resulted in a totally implausible landslide victory for long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Police, riot squads and army troops unleashed harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water-hoses against demonstrators in the capital Minsk and other cities. Since then, protests have been held every weekend. Industrial strikes have spread across the country as sectors of the working class broke from the regime-controlled labor unions to organize independently. Over the past months, tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anarchist Black Cross Belarus has been specifically monitoring repression against anarchists and anti-fascists in the ongoing protest wave. One member of the group, known as “Sonya,” spoke with Bill Weinberg in an email interview for the American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

Continue ReadingANARCHY IN BELARUS 
Tecun Uman

U.S. MILITARIZING BORDERS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

The Biden Administration recently came to agreements with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to increase their border enforcement. These agreements aim to reduce the number of migrants who are able to make their way to the US-Mexico border by extending American border defense thousands of miles south of that border. And they do so in a very American fashion—through deterrence achieved by militarizing borders. Now, the US is outsourcing the militarization to other nations. Legal scholar Kevin Lapp critiques the policy in a commentary for Jurist.

Continue ReadingU.S. MILITARIZING BORDERS IN CENTRAL AMERICA 
Haitian_immigrants

BIDEN MUST STOP DEPORTING HAITIANS

While Haiti is facing its worst violence since the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Biden Administration is expelling or deporting thousands of Haitians back to a country in turmoil, where civilians experience brutality at the hands of government and criminal forces. Both immigrant advocates and voices on Capitol Hill are urging the administration to re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protective Status (TPS). The Trump administration declined to redesignate Haiti for TPS, meaning the status granted by the Obama Administration is set to end in October. Meanwhile, Haitians are beng summarily expelled under Title 42 of the Public Health Code, which had been invoked by Trump in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden White House has designated Myanmar and Venezuela for TPS, while continuing to send Haitians back to face state terror. In a commentary for Jurist, Anne Bloomberg calls upon the new president to live up to his promises to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

Continue ReadingBIDEN MUST STOP DEPORTING HAITIANS 
burma ethnic protest

ETHNIC MINORITIES AND BURMA’S DEMOCRATIC RESISTANCE

With its February coup d’etat, Burma’s military—known as the Tatmadaw—has unwittingly created a nonviolent resistance that is more diverse and inclusive than any movement in the country’s history. The threat of death, torture or prison has not deterred protesters from continuing to participate in acts of civil disobedience against the military junta. And unlike past protest movements in Burma, this new movement features an alliance between the Burman Buddhist majority and the country’s ethnic minority groups. The Kachin, Karen, Shan and Rohingya have harshly criticized deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for acquiescing in the Tatmadaw’s genocidal campaigns of repression, counter-insurgency and ethnic cleansing. But these ethnic minorities and pro-democracy protesters from the ethnic Burman majority now perceive that they have a common enemy in the new military dictatorship. Journalist Andy Heintz explores the question in a special for CounterVortex.

Continue ReadingETHNIC MINORITIES AND BURMA’S DEMOCRATIC RESISTANCE 
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.

Continue ReadingINVOKE INTER-AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC CHARTER FOR U.S.A. 
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’