The Caucasus
Lake Sev

Armenia-Azerbaijan border stand-off —over water

Armenia’s Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to a reported border incursion by Azerbaijan. Local authorities in southern Syunik province issued urgent reports that Azerbaijan’s forces had crossed the border and completely surrounded Lake Sev. The glacial lake, which provides water for irrigation in the area, is bisected by the frontier between the two countries, with its northern third lying within Azerbaijan. But the territory on the Azerbaijan side had been held by Armenia between the 1991-4 war and last November’s ceasefire, under which it was ceded back. The two sides remain at odds on the precise demarcation of the line, which had not been formalized in Soviet times. (Photo: Albero/Wikimedia Commons via Armenian Weekly)

The Andes
paro

Colombia: gunmen fire on indigenous protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured. Amid a national strikesparked by Duque’s proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a “Minga,” or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. Bogotá has also seen days of street fighting, while an ongoing street festival, with music and dancing, is being maintained by strike supporters in MedellĂ­n—despite police repression that has led to hundreds of detentions. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

Afghanistan
Sayed ul-Shuhada

Afghanistan: schoolgirls massacred amid ‘peace’ talks

An attack on a high school in Afghanistan’s capital killed at least 50 and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The school is in Kabul’s western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority, who were subject to genocide under Taliban rule in the 1990s. The students appear to have been doubly targeted as both girls and Hazaras—raising further questions for the status and security of women and ethnic minorities as the power-brokers race to declare “peace” in Afghanistan. (Photo of girls from the targeted school: HRW via Twitter)

Palestine
Palestine

Electoral impasse exposes Jerusalem apartheid

For weeks, East Jerusalem has seen nightly protests over the impending eviction of hundreds of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district—culminating in violent clashes with riot police at al-Aqsa Mosque. Compounding the anger is another grievance—Israel’s denial of East Jerusalem Palestinians’ right to participate in elections for the Palestinian Authority’s Legislative Council. With the overwhelming majority of East Jerusalem Palestinians denied Israeli citizenship by an array of bureaucratic artifices, this means they are effectively disenfranchised of the vote in either sovereignty. (Photo: RJA1988 via Jurist)

The Andes
Cauca

Massacres, assassinations continue in Colombia

Police killed at least eight people in Colombia’s southwestern city of Cali, amid national protests against President Iván Duque’s proposed reform of the tax code. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Bogotá, Medellin and other cities. In response to the protest wave, Duque said he would revise his proposed reform, and that new taxes on sales of food and gasoline would be dropped. The protests come as political violence is escalating nearly across Colombia, but especially the southwest. Amid the violence, a locally-organized “Caravan for Peace” is making its way through the region, calling for a dialogue with armed actors and civil society to arrive at a new “Pact for Life & Peace,” addresing needs for security, land, and economic sustenance. (Photo: Colombia Informa)

Syria
qamishlo

Syria: Kurdish forces take Qamishlo from regime

The local Kurdish Asayish militia announced that it has taken control of the last contested district of the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli from pro-regime forces. An Asayish statement said that after several days of fighting, al-Tay neighborhood is to be in their hands under terms of a truce with the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF), enforced by Russian troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Qamishlo District Council, an organ of the Rojava autonomous administration, issued its own statement, charging that NDF attacks on Asayish checkpoints were “evidence of their desire to inflame the discord among the components of the region…in particular the Kurdish and Arab.” (Photo of Qamishlo District Council reading statement: ANHA)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)

Africa
Juba protest

South Sudan: protests after singer’s death

Juba, capital of South Sudan, saw street protests after popular singer Trisha “Cee” Cosmaswas killed when the bici-taxi she was riding in was struck by a truck. At least a score were arrested in the demonstrations, and the local Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) charged that peaceful protesters were swept up by police. A demonstration called by youth group Anataban decried both lawless motorists on the capital’s streets and a lack of emergency services. Tanker-trucks delivering water to districts where residents have no indoor plumbing have been involved in several such incidents. Speaking before his arrest, one activist told local Radio Tamazuj, “The same government that gives foreigners driving licenses, without a street driving test, has failed to provide health services, and many people have died because of water truck accidents.” (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

Syria
syria betrayed

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years after the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful anti-regime protests, the UN Human Rights Commission released a report finding that actions by the Assad regime and its Russian allies over the course of the Syrian war have likely constituted “crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes, including genocide.” The UN and human rights groups have issued such findings repeatedly—to little media coverage. The charge of genocide officially requires the world to act under the Genocide Convention. But the world is no longer even paying attention. (Image: Delawer Omar)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq. The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game. (Image: Pixabay)

North America

Did Biden cave to ICE mutiny?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo with “temporary guidelines for enforcement and removal operations” by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), giving ICE agents discretion on enforcement actions and overturning the “100-day pause on certain removals” instated by President Biden’s executive order of Jan. 20. The move was protestedby the ACLU as a “disappointing step backward.” But litigation was already pending over the “pause.” A federal judge in Corpus Christi had granted a preliminary injunction blocking the moratorium, in a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had filed a lawsuitagainst the “pause.” After this, ICE agents resumed deportations that had been blocked by Biden’s Jan. 20 order—in open defiance of White House policy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)