With international eyes on the crisis facing the Rohingya in Burma's Rakhine State, the UN human rights rapporteur for the Southeast Asian country expressed grave concern over a sharp escalation in hostilities in northern Kachin State—where peace talks with ethnic rebels have broken down. Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee said she had received reports that the military had carried out aerial bombings, and used heavy weapons and artillery fire against civilian areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes. "What we are seeing in Kachin State over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately,” Lee said. (Photo of Kachin Independence Army fighters via WikiMedia Commons)
In Episode Seven of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the sinister development of pro-war propaganda masked as "anti-war" propaganda. The overwhelming response of the "anti-war" left to the Douma chemical attack and Trump's retaliatory air-strikes is to baselessly deny that Bashar Assad was behind the attack, to portray the victims as CIA-jihadists, and to change the subject ("What about Gaza, Yemen, etc?") These are all propaganda tactics lifted directly from the Assad regime's playbook. "Anti-war" hypocrites may protest that they do not support Assad, they just oppose US air-strikes. But when you echo the Assad regime's propaganda and rush to exculpate it of every atrocity, you objectively do support Assad. You are actively abetting his war of extermination against the Syrian people. Any legitimate anti-war position must begin with opposition to the genocidal regime of Bashar Assad and his foreign backers in Moscow and Tehran, and with solidarity for the Syrian Revolution. Listen on SoundCloud. (Image: Syria Solidarity NYC)
Abdul-Al Duraqi, a poet and activist from the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran, arrested during the most recent protests in the city of Ahwaz (Khuzestan province), has been hospitalized after torture sessions at the hands of his interrogators. Family members told the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) that Duraqi was transferred to hospital due to deterioration in his physical condition after severe torture. Duraqi is revered in his community for keeping alive an Ahwazi literary tradition in the Arabic language. Nearly 400 have been arrested in protests in Ahwaz over the past month. AHRO charges that the detained are being denied their due process rights. (Photo via UNPO)
Human Rights Watch released a report charging that Ecuador's former president Rafael Correa abused the criminal justice system to target indigenous leaders and environmentalists who protested mining and oil exploitation in the Amazon. The report details use of criminal prosecution to silence ecological opposition, and the closure of one environmental organization by presidential order. The report credits new President Lenin Moreno with making positive change, opening a dialogue with environmentalists and indigenous leaders. But abusive prosecutions initiated by his predecessor remain in motion. (Photo: HRW)
After three years of investigation, Bolivia's Public Ministry reached a decision not to bring criminal charges against Adolfo Chávez, former leader of the Confederation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian Oriente (CIDOB), and 21 others linked to a corruption scandal in a case many saw as politically motivated. Chávez and the others were accused of illegally misappropriating monies made available through the government's Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples. But he claimed he was targeted for his opposition to the government's development plans for the Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), in the eastern rainforest. In October, Chávez testified before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission that coca-growers in the TIPNIS loyal to the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) were attacking the reserve's indigenous inhabitants. (Photo: ANF)
Oromo activists in Ethiopia launched a "fuel blockade," occupying roadways to halt shipment of oil through the country. The action was called following a massacre at the village of Moyale, near the Kenyan border. Troops gunned down nine unarmed residents, apparently mistaking them for militants of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Nearly 5,000 have fled across the border to Kenya—some having directly run from gunfire. Ethiopia last year imposed a state of emergency in response to mounting Oromo protests. Roadblocks are reported from several points around the country, so far without violence. (Photo via UNPO)
The Turkish assault on Afrin has forced the enclave's Kurdish defenders into an alliance with the same Assad regime that is committing war crimes in Eastern Ghouta. This tragically poses an obstacle to any solidarity between the respective defenders of the besieged enclaves. But we in the West are faced with no such grim choices, and should be capable of a consistent position. Yet Noam Chomsky, who signed a statement in support of Afrin, has shamefully abetted Putin's propaganda portraying the repeated chemical attacks on Ghouta as "fake news." (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)
Burma's Rakhine state is being militarized at an alarming pace, as authorities build security force bases on lands where Rohingya villages were burned to the ground just months ago, Amnesty International charges in a new report. The chief UN official investigating human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, called for an immediate investigation into "clearance operations" in Rakhine state, stating she is increasingly convinced that actions by the Burmese security forces amount to genocide. (Photo: VOA via Wikimedia Commons)
Colombia's peace process continues to advance, with institutional mechanisms for a post-war order falling into place. But violence in the countryside across Colombia remains at an alarming level, as social leaders are targeted for assassination by paramilitary factions. The ELN guerilla organization—which, unlike the FARC, remains in arms—released a statement noting that January had seen an assassination every day across the country, and charged that rightist paramilitary networks are carrying out a "systematic genocide."
Chilean activists protested in Santiago against the signing of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, now rebranded as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), or TPP-11. Protesters outside La Moneda Palace, headquarters of the Chilean government, held banners reading “No to modern slavery, no to the TPP-11” and “The TPP and TPP-11 are the same!” Lucía Sepúlveda, leader of the organization Chile Mejor Sin TPP, said the agreement would “deliver full guarantees to foreign investors” at the expense of “rights and national interests.” (Photo: Chile Mejor Sin TPP)
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said that the "ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues," after a four-day visit to Bangladesh. During his visit, he focused on the situation of thousands of refugees who have fled from Burma (Myanmar). Recently-arrived Rohingya gave credible accounts of continued violence against their people, including killings, rape, and forced starvation, Gilmour reported. Burma has been saying that it is ready to receive returning Rohingya refugees, but Gilmour maintains that safe returns are impossible under current conditions. (Photo: EU/ECHO via Flickr)
Four armed men attacked the cabildo (town hall) in the indigenous reserve of Pioyá in Colombia's Cauca department, killing Eider Campo Hurtado, a young activist with local media collective Pelsxhab Stéreo. Pioyá's Indigenous Guard mobilized in response to the attack, and apprehended four men said to be members of a renegade FARC faction that has refused to lay down arms and abide by the peace accords. The four are being held by Pioyá indigenous authorities; it is unclear if they will be turned over to state security forces.