Africa
tigray

Harsh abuses seen at Tigray refugee camps

The head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, expressed concern over the humanitarian conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and its impact on civilians, particularly Eritrean refugees living in four camps. Grandi said he continues to receive reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity in the region and “grave and distressing human rights abuses including killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea.” He also cited open-source satellite imagery from California-based company Planet Labs which indicates fires and other fresh signs of destruction at the two camps located in Shimelba and Hitsats. Grandi termed these “concrete indications of major violations of international law.” (Photo: Chris Melzer/UNHCR)

Africa
National Unity Platform

Uganda: disputed elections amid net silence

Ugandan authorities allowed restoration of some internet services in the country, five days after a shutdown that hit as last week’s election approached. Connectivity was restored to 90% of ordinary levels following the announcement of the election result—a landslide victory for President Yoweri Museveni, who has held office since 1986. But Ugandans can only access social media via virtual private networks (VPNs). Through VPNs, users can bypass internet censorship by having their IP address appear as if based overseas. Museveni is believed by the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) to have shut off internet access “to prevent [the NUP] from sharing evidence of fraud.” Internet freedom monitoring group NetBlocks statedthat the net shutdown left “citizens in an information vacuum.” (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Central African Republic

CAR: disputed polls spark rebel offensive

At least 100,000 people have fled their homes in Central African Republic as a rebel coalition calling for the resignation of the president launches attacks around the county, throwing into question almost two years of peace efforts. The capital, Bangui, has come under fire and major towns are occupied by the rebel coalition, which formed shortly before December elections won by President Faustin-Archange TouadĂ©ra but contested by the opposition. By capturing the western town of Bouar, the rebels—known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, or the CPC—have cut off the main trade route linking Cameroon to Bangui in what could be a strategy to “asphyxiate” the city. (Photo: Adrienne Surprenan/TNH)

North Africa
Tunisia

Youth revolt rocks Tunisia

The army has been ordered into the streets in Tunisia following days of angry protests by disaffected youth that led to hundreds of arrests. Enraged over widespread unemployment, youth have erected roadblocks of burning tires, clashed with police, ransacked shops and banks, and hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at government buildings. The protests began in poor districts of Tunis, but quickly spread to other cities. At the more organized demonstrations, marchers carry placards reading “Employment is a right.” The new revolt comes on the ten-year anniversary of the overthrow of long-ruling dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first regime change of the Arab Revolution. (Image via Twitter)

South Asia
ahmadiyya

Pakistan: crackdown on Internet ‘blasphemy’

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for “disseminating sacrilegious content” through their platforms. The notices accused the these sites of hosting “misleading” content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the “present khalifa of Islam.” Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an “unauthentic” version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms “to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. (Image: Ahmadi Answers)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Huawei ethnicity-recognition tech tracks Uighurs

Top Chinese technology firms have registered patents for tools apparently designed to detect, track and monitor Uighurs, according to research by the Pennsylvania-based video surveillance watchdog group IPVM. A 2018 patent filed by Shenzhen-based tech giant Huaweiwith the State Intellectual Property Office lists attributes by which an individual may be targeted, including “race (Han, Uighur).” IPVM also released details of a document issued by Huawei and its Beijing-based corporate partner Megvii, dubbed an “Interoperability Test Report,” which boasted of a “Uighur alarm” among the “basic functions of Megvii’s facial recognition system.” Said Rushan Abbas, executive director of the DC-based Campaign for Uyghurs: “We cannot ignore the fact that these technologies have been developed in order to be able to efficiently carry out…brutal oppression.”  (Photo: Mvslim.com)

New York City
BLM

New York AG sues NYPD over excessive force

New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed suit in federal court against the New York City Police Department over its handling of peaceful protests and use of excessive force. In her complaint, James charged that the NYPD unjustifiably used pepper-spray and batons against Black Lives Matter protesters in violation of official department policies, asserting that such action caused protesters to suffer both physical and psychological harm. Additionally, James charged that officers corralled protesters without an opportunity to disperse, resulting in mass arrests without probable cause. James stated that this use of excessive force violated protesters’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Photo: The Village Sun)

Watching the Shadows
Capitol

Podcast: Stop the Coup! II

In Episode 61 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that following Trump’s instrumented right-wing insurrection at the Capitol building, violence in the final lead-up to Inauguration Day could provide the expedient for execution of his long-planned coup d’etat—precisely as had been foreseen in the novel It Can’t Happen Here. Despite fascist-abetting denialism from elements of the “left,” even members of Congress are now asserting that the ransacking of the Capitol was carried out with complicity of elements of the security forces. Republicans meanwhile engage in despicable propaganda that equates the insufficient Democratic support for the Black Lives Matter uprising or protests against ICE putting kids in cages with Republican support for an attempted right-wing putsch. The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds out hope that leaders in the Pentagon may refuse Trump’s orders. But a popular outcry to #StopTheCoup could be critical in giving them the courage to do so. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Tyler Merbler/WikiMedia)

Southeast Asia
Malaysia

Malaysia: elections suspended amid lockdown

Authorities in Malaysia have declared a state of emergency that suspends Parliament and puts on hold any new general elections at least through August. The order is ostensibly a measure to contain COVID-19, coming as Kuala Lumpur and other cities are being placed under near-total lockdown. But critics are portraying it as a ploy by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to remain in power despite a corruption scandal engulfing his ruling party, the right-wing United Malays National Organization (UMNO). The accusations prompted Muhyiddin to go on national television after the declaration to insist the move is “not a military coup.” But the left-opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance issued a statement assailing Muhyiddin over the order: “Do not hide behind COVID-19 and burden the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving yourself.” (Photo via CodeBlue)

The Caribbean
havana

US returns Cuba to ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list

The US Department of State has once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.” Ironically, this is a reference to Havana’s hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogotá over the past six years. (Photo: Falkanpost/Pixabay)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Iraq
Nasiriyah

Iraq explodes into protest —again

Two protesters were killed and several injured in Iraq, as security forces attempted to put down angry demonstrations in the southern city of Nasiriyah. A police officer was also reportedly killed in street clashes. Anti-government protesters had earlier re-occupied Haboubi Square, demanding the release of their comrades arrested in recent weeks. A protest encampment had been in place in the square for over a year until November 2020, when the camp was attacked by followers of Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, with several killed. Witnesses said that in the new violence, security forces opened fire to disperse protesters from the square. (Photo via Twitter)