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)

Iran
Ahwazis protest

Iran: protests over water rights in Ahwazi region

Two were killed as Iranian security forces opened fire on Ahwazi Arab protesters in Ahvaz, capital of southwestern Khuzestan province. The deaths came after days of demonstrations in the Arab-majority region, which is stricken by withering drought. Hundreds of sheep, cattle, buffalo and other livestock have died over the past weeks. The protests began a week ago, with a peaceful vigil outside the governor’s office, demanding that authorities open the sluice gates on the network of massive hydroelectric dams built upstream on the region’s main rivers, which divert some 90% of the waters to other regions of Iran. Protesters held up placards in Arabic, Persian and English, with messages including: “Water is a human right”, “We are thirsty–give us water!”, “Stop killing our environment!”, and “Stop drying out the Ahwazi rivers and marshlands!” The protesters also chanted slogans condemning Iran’s central government, such as “The regime keeps us in poverty in the name of religion!” (Photo: Dur Untash Studies Center)

Iran
ahwaz women

Iran: sweeps target Ahwazi women activists

Rights advocates in Iran’s Khuzestan province, homeland of the marginalized Ahwazi Arab people, report another wave of sweeps and incommunicado detention of local activists. Among those detained in raids by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are Zeinab Sawari, a teacher and prominent Ahwazi advocate for women’s and children’s rights, who had recently been involved in fundraising for victims of the severe flooding that devastated the region this year. Also detained by IRGC agents were Maryam Ameri and Fatema Tamimi, whose homes were searched and ransacked, with computers and extensive archival material confiscated. Maryam and Fatema had worked on Ahwazi cultural programs together, cataloguing traditional folk songs and producing short documentaries about Ahwazi music, lore and history. Azhar Alboghbiesh, a young activist volunteer for the project, was likewise arrested in a raid on her home, in which agents reportedly fired in the air to intimidate her family. All remain in detention at undisclosed locations. (Photo of Azhar Alboghbiesh and Maryam Ameri via Dur Untash Studies Center)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Iraq
Yazidis

Yazidis call Middle East indigenous alliance

In a meeting hosted by the Yazidi autonomous territory of Ezidikhan in northern Iraq, representatives of tribal peoples and ethnic minorities from across the Middle East and North Africa agreed on a framework for a region-wide alliance of stateless nations struggling for self-determination and autonomy. The meeting at the Ezidikhan seat of Shingal was attended by representatives of the Mandaeans and Zoroastrians as well as Yazidis. Messages of support were also sent by the Shabaks of Iraq, Ahwazi Arabs of Iran, Berbers of Libya, and Palestinian Bedouins residing in the state of Israel. Delegates announced formation of a Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Middle East open to all stateless peoples of the region. The Confederation pledges to seek greater recognition for stateless peoples of the Middle East at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to seek redress for persecution, exclusion and genocide. (Photo of Yazidi delegates: Ezidikhan.net)

Iran

White House exploits Iran democracy struggle

As in the Venezuela crisis, Donald Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, is making a cynical pretense of concern for democracy in Iran. Fortunately, his latest bit of exploitation of the Iranian protesters has blown up in his face. Noting the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, he issued a tweet featuring a meme with an image of a student protester from the 2017 anti-austerity uprising and the words: "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure." Now, the courageous photographer who snapped the image at the University of Tehran in December 2017, Yalda Moayeri, comes forward to express her outrage at its co-optation by Trump. Alas, Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American feminist who last week met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, seems not to get how she is endangering opposition activists in Iran, allowing the regime to paint them as pawns of imperialism. (Image via @realDonaldTrump)

Iran

Iran: Ahwazi Arabs face torture at ‘black sites’

Following the mass sweeps of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran's Khuzestan province in the wake of a September terror attack in capital city Ahwaz, reports are mounting of horrific torture used against activists detained in secret prisons or "black sites." Anonymous activists on the ground in Khuzestan spoke to a researcher writing for the Canada-based Dur Untash Studies Center, which closely monitors the Ahwazi struggle. Among the cases vividly described is that of Ali Hilichi, detained by intelligence agents at the carwash where he worked in November 2018, accused of participating in public demonstrations. He was kept in solitary confinement and subject to torture for weeks before being released at the end of December. His wife said that when he was freed his body was covered in bruises and welts, adding that he could not take a shower or sleep on his back due to the pain from his injuries. He still suffers from nightmares, crying out in his sleep, "Don't beat me…give me water." (Photo: Iran Human Rights Monitor)

Iran

Iran: mass execution of Ahwazi Arabs

The Iranian regime has reportedly hanged 22 Ahwazi Arabs in a 72-hour period, after arresting over 1,000 in mass sweeps across Khuzestan province. The executed are said to include a 58-year-old man, who was hanged along with his son aged 30. According to human rights activists in the region, the victims' families were summoned to local regime Intelligence Ministry headquarters to be informed of their loved ones' execution, and were warned against holding any funereal rites or ceremonies. The bodies had apparently been buried in unmarked graves. The victims were accused of "acting against national security," but the executions seemingly took place after summary trials with no legal representation, behind closed doors at Ahwaz Central Prison. At least 500 arrested in the sweeps remain detained, and there are fears that more summary executions could be imminent. (Photo: Iran Human Rights Monitor)

Iran

Iran: repression escalates against Ahwazi Arabs

Iran's government has unleashed a wave of arrests in western Khuzestan province since the Sept. 22 deadly attack on a military parade in the city of Ahwaz, with sweeps targetting dissidents, journalists, intellectuals, human rights activists and members of the Ahwazi Arab minority generally. Some 1,000 Ahwazis have been detained in the weeks since the attack, with at least 600 still being detained. Many of the detained have been taken to unknown destinations, with their families denied any contact or even information on their whereabouts. Local rights groups report that security forces have raided activists' homes, and the detained include women and the elderly. Karim Dahimi, an Ahwazi human rights worker based in London, said that the Iranian government has been systematically detaining Ahwazi activists in clandestine torture facilities known as "black sites." Ahwazi Arabs in the international diaspora have been holding demonstrations at Iranian consulates demanding an end to the regime's anti-Arab racism and repression (Image: The Herald Report)

Syria

Syria: Idlib ‘buffer zone’ takes effect

The “buffer zone” through Syria’s northern Idlib province, negotiated by Russia and Turkey to forestall an Assad regime offensive on the opposition-held portion of the province, officially takes effect this week. Rebels began withdrawing heavy weapons from the zone at the start of the month, but said that fighters are remaining. Fighters from designated “radical terrorist groups”—primarily Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)—are supposed to withdraw entirely from the zone. HTS initially said it would comply on a “de facto” basis, but the zone is being implemented despite the fact that a deadline has been missed for withdrawal of all its fighters. Bashar Assad insisted that the so-called “demilitarized zone” is temporary. Addressing the central committee of his Baath Party, Assad reiterated his pledge to retake “every inch” of Syrian territory: “This province and other Syrian territory remaining under the control of terrorists will return to the Syrian state.” (Photo: EA Worldview)

Iran

Iran: deadly attack on Revolutionary Guards

At least 24 people, including 12 Revolutionary Guards, were killed and more than 60 were wounded when gunmen attacked a military parade in the city of Ahvaz, capital of Iran's restive southwestern province of Khuzestan. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed "a foreign regime" backed by the United States for the attack. A representative for the separatist al-Ahwaz Arab Liberation Front told the London-based Iran International TV that the Ahwaz National Resistance, a coalition of separatist groups, was responsible for the attack, but insisted that civilians were not the target. (Map: ResearchGate)

Iran

New oil shock feared in wake of Iran debacle

After all the talk we've heard in recent years about how depressed oil prices are now permanent, in the wake of Trump's announced withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal Bank of America is predicting that the price of Brent crude could go as high as the once-dreaded $100 per barrel in 2019. The report also cited collapsing production in Venezuela due to the crisis there. Brent prices have risen above $77 per barrel since Trump's announcement. Prices have jumped more than 8% over the past month and 15% since the beginning of the year. According to the analysis, investors fear that renewed sanctions on Iran could lead to supply disruptions. Although the report failed to mention it, the Israeli air-strikes on Iranian targets in Syria have doubtless contributed to the jitters.  (Photo: Shana)