Russia this week completed a high-tech security fence along annexed Crimea's border with mainland Ukraine. The fence, more than 60 kilometers long, is topped with barbed wire and equipped with hundreds of sensors. Russia's FSB security agency in a statement called the fence a "boundary of engineering structures," and said it is necessary to prevent "infiltration attempts by saboteurs," also citing traffic in drugs, arms and other contraband. The statement boasted of "the most complicated system of alarm sensors in the Isthmus of Perekop," the stretch of land where annexed Crimea borders the Ukrainian mainland.
Protests have been mounting across Sudan in response to the nation’s acute economic crisis. Inflation reached 70% in November and many have been forced to spend significant portions of their income on bread, leading to local media designating the demonstrations as "bread protests." Protesters have repeatedly called for President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1993, to step down. President Bashir promised reforms on Dec. 25 after police blocked protesters who marched on his presidential palace. The protests have been organized by professional organizations and trade unions as well as Sudan's principal opposition group, the Umma Party. Sudan's government on Dec. 20 shut off internet access to prevent the protesters from organizing via social media. According to an Amnesty International report released Dec. 24, at least 37 protesters have been killed so far as Sudanese authorities attempt to quell the demonstrations by releasing tear-gas and firing live ammunition, sparking international criticism.
Days after Trump's announced imminent withdrawal of US troops from Syria, Turkey has started massing tanks and troop carriers on its southern border, preparing to move into the Kurdish autonomous zone of Rojava once American soldiers have left. Turkish forces are reported arriving in the border towns of Kilis and al-Rai, after Ankara's foreign minister said they will push into Syria as soon as possible. Mevlut Çavusoglu told reporters Dec. 25 that "if Turkey says it will enter, it will." He said the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is "determined" to move against the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia that is the central pillar of the (heretofore) US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
UN Special Rapporteur of the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales on Dec. 24 called for an independent investigation into the death of Jakelin Ameí Caal, a Guatemalan migrant child who died while in US Customs and Border Protection custody. Jakelin was detained, along with her family and other migrants, after crossing the Mexico border. The factual causes leading up to her death are currently disputed. In the report, Morales stresses the importance of finding out what happened to Jakelin, stating that "if any officials are found responsible they should be held accountable."
CounterVortex needs your support! This is the first time we have asked our readers for money in a year, and three of you have responded for a total of $55—just over one-tenth of the way to our modest goal of $500. We think we have more than three readers. And $500 is just a quarter of our annual operating costs. Last year, we were able to raise $500, and we are depending on you again. As most of the American left succumbs to abject glorification of reactionary dictators, we think it is more vital than ever to keep alive an intransigently dissident voice that still has fundamental anti-fascist principles intact—CounterVortex. If you don't think the pro-dictatorship position has become hegemonic on the "left," the latest example comes from the holiday statement just issued by Veterans for Peace (sic!), hailing the genocidal regime of Bashar Assad as the "secular, multi-religious Syrian state." Somebody needs to forthrightly repudiate this repugnant jive, and that responsibility falls to us. We are also the only website on the American left that provides ongoing, serious coverage of under-reported or downright forgotten wars in places like Chechnya, Mali, the Philippines and Colombia. Please give what you can to sustain our efforts.
In Episode 23 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the assassination of Raed Fares, a courageous voice of the civil resistance in besieged Idlib province, last remaining stronghold of the Syrian Revolution. The resistance in Idlib, which liberated the territory from the Bashar Assad regime in popular uprisings seven years ago, is now also resisting the jihadist forces in the province, expelling them from their self-governing towns and villages. Their hard-won zones of popular democracy face extermination if this last stronghold is invaded by Assad and his Russian backers. As Assad and Putin threaten Idlib, Trump's announced withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops embedded with Kurdish forces in Syria's northeast is a "green light" to Turkey to attack Rojava, the anarchist-inspired Kurdish autonomous zone. The two last pockets of democratic self-rule in Syria are each now gravely threatened. Yet with Turkey posing as protector of Idlib, the Arab revolutionary forces there have been pitted against the Kurds. The Free Syrian Army and Rojava Kurds were briefly allied against ISIS and Assad alike four years ago, before they were played against each other by imperial intrigues. Can this alliance be rebuilt, in repudiation of the foreign powers now seeking to carve up Syria? Or will the US withdrawal merely spark an Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria? Weinberg calls for activists in the West to repudiate imperial divide-and-rule stratagems, and demand the survival of liberated Idlib and Rojava alike. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
In the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism, thousands have repeatedly taken to the streets in Hungary to oppose Prime Minister Viktor Orban''s controversial "slave law." The square outside the parliament building in Budapest was massively occupied Dec. 12 as the law was approved. It was subsequently signed by President Janos Ader. Orban said the law scraps "silly rules," and will help those who want to earn more by working more. He dismissed the opposition to the law as "hysterical shouting" by people "whose lies have no limits." In fact, the law will allow employers to demand workers put in up to 400 extra hours per year of overtime, compared with the current limit of 250. Meanwhile, payment for this overtime may be delayed by up to three years. Local media in Hungary report that Orban pushed through the law in a bid to lure German auto-maker BMW to invest a billion euros in a new plant in Debrecen, Hungary's second city, situated in the poorest region of the country, the northeast. The move is portrayed as intended to undercut labor costs in Slovakia, where BMW was initially considering investment.
Migrants and refugees in Libya are facing severe human rights violations, according to a UN report (PDF) released Dec. 20. The UN Support Mission in Libya and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights collaborated to generate the report, which is based on some 1,300 first-hand accounts, detailing human rights violations by state officials and armed groups, as well as abuses committed by smugglers and traffickers. The report finds that Libya "criminalizes irregular entry into, stay in or exit from the country with a penalty of imprisonment pending deportation, without any consideration of individual circumstances or protection needs." This policy has resulted in arbitrary and abusive detention of migrants.