Colombian border troops

SHADOW WAR ON THE BORDERLANDS

Even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, a war is being waged along the vast and porous Venezuela-Colombia border, across which people, narcotics, black-market gasoline, food, and medicine are smuggled—and where criminals and guerrillas find refuge. Joshua Collins reports for The New Humanitarian.

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Otay Mesa

WE ARE KILLING THEM

By now, the effects of COVID-19 on American life and society are widespread and deeply felt, almost regardless of one’s socioeconomic status. However, for undocumented immigrants in the United States, the COVID-19 crisis compounds issues that have existed for years, exposing them to a barrage of political, social and economic storm fronts now disastrously colliding at once. Whether for those detained by ICE in overcrowded conditions or those working “essential” frontline jobs without adequate protection or oversight, the impacts on undocumented immigrants and their families could be uniquely devastating. Allyssa M.G. Scheyer writes for Jurist.

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Assam newspapers

CAN NEWSPAPERS SURVIVE COVID-19?

As an unprecedented lockdown imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues across India, the country’s newspaper groups face an uphill battle to maintain their devoted readership. The complete shutdown declared last month instantly prevented deliveries of morning papers to readers’ doorsteps, and rumors spread that a paper itself could carry the novel coronavirus. Many publishers have been forced to drastically reduce their circulation figure, or suspend publication entirely, as vendors and delivery workers walked off the job. This has  particularly critical implications for India’s restive northeast. The region with a population of over 60 million supports over 50 morning dailies in different languages including Assamese, Bengali, Boro, Meitei, Karbi, Khasi, Mizo, Nagamese and Nepali, as well as English and Hindi. The world will eventually return to some kind of normality after the ravages of COVID-19 pass. But whether newspapers, and especially regional ones in places like northeast India, will be able to revive in the post-corona era is an open and difficult question. Nava Thakuria reports from Guwahati, northeast India.

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Chechen deportation

STALIN’S CAUCASUS CRIMES

On February 23, the Chechen and Ingush peoples of Russia’s North Caucasus remembered a tragedy in their history—the start of the Soviet deportation in 1944. Initiated by Stalin and supervised by his intelligence chief Lavrentiy Beria, it was carried out by a force of approximately 120,000 NKVD officers that would round up and expel 478,479 people. Today, Vladimir Putin is trying to suppress this history, barring public commemorations and censoring works that depict the mass deportations. James Oliver explores for Euromaidan Press.

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Hotel Occupato

SQUAT CALABRIA

In the provincial city of Cosenza, in Italy’s traditionally marginalized southern region of Calabria, migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East are squatting empty buildings as they wait on their asylum claims or residency applications. They have the support of local Calabrese activist allies who are standing up to a growing xenophobic atmosphere in Italy. The country’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini was recently removed from power—but not before passing his draconian “Salvini Law,” which cracks down on squatters and migrants alike. The squatters of Cosenza recall that Salvini, who now demonizes immigrants under the slogan “Italians First,” rose to power by demonizing southern Italians in similar terms, as chief of the separatist Northern League. These activists link a regional pride to their solidarity efforts with the displaced from across the Mediterranean. Bill Weinberg offers a first-hand account for the Brooklyn Rail.

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gauri lankesh protest 759

INDIA 2019 JOURNO-MURDER INDEX

As the year 2019 is approaching the finish line, India appears to have improved its journalist murder index—with authorities counting only two slain in circumstances directly related to their work this year. Reporters Without Borders counts nearly 50 journalists killed for their work worldwide to date this year (compared to 95 in 2018), and India’s share has also gone down considerably—from six last year. However, there were several other cases across India in which it is yet to be confirmed that the victims were targeted for media activities. And with multiple conflicts now escalating around the country, this promises to be a critical question in 2020. Nava Thakuria reports from Guwahati, in India’s strife-torn northeast.

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Idlib protest

IDLIB RESISTS

Over the past days a popular uprising has broken out across northern Syria’s Idlib against the hardline Islamist group that is militarily dominant in much of the province—Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam or HTS, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The uprising began when HTS increased zakaat (taxes) on a number of goods and services including bread, electricity and olive oil. The anti-Assad regime protests which are held almost every Friday in Idlib are now also demanding the expulsion of HTS from the province. The dominant narrative promoted by the regime and supporters of Assadist fascism is that Idlib is a “terrorist enclave.” Today’s uprising should challenge this narrative. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami provides an account.

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Tapachula protest

LEFT WAITING

For months, hundreds of African migrants and asylum seekers from conflict-ridden countries like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been camped out in tents in front of the main immigration detention facility in the town of Tapachula, in southern Mexico. Most flew halfway around the world to Brazil, then made the dangerous journey north through the Darien Gap— a remote, roadless swath of jungle—before traversing Central America into Mexico in the hope of finally reaching the United States to claim asylum. Instead, they were detained upon arrival in Mexico, under terms of the new migration agreement between the US and Mexican governments. Melisa Valenzuela reports from Tapachula for The New Humanitarian.

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Rome protest

ROME SQUATTERS FACE CLAMPDOWN

Italy’s far-right interior minister (and de facto ruler) Matteo Salvini was just removed from power in a government shake-up—but not before passing his draconian “Salvini Law.” In addition to restricting the rights of migrants and refugees to asylum and government aid, the Salvini Law imposes a five-year prison term for squatting. Italy’s thousands of squatters—many of them displaced from their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and South America—are now in a precarious position. Bill Weinberg offers a first-hand account from the squats and migrant enclaves of the Eternal City.

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Kashmir

HOW INDIA COMPLICATED KASHMIR DISPUTE

By revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, India has seemingly abandoned the notion of Jammu & Kashmir state as a special territory deserving autonomy. However, the revocation is being challenged as itself unconstitutional, and in violation of both international agreements and the Instrument of Accession by which  J&K joined the Indian union in 1947. The revocation may yet be overturned by India’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, unrest and repression mount in J&K, and tensions are escalating with Pakistan—raising the possibly an armed conflict between the Subcontinent’s nuclear rivals. L. Ali Khan, writing for Jurist, offers a legal and historical perspective on the crisis.

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SYRIA: FROM REVOLUTION TO QUAGMIRE

If 2011 looked like the moment when people could unite, both within and across borders, to topple decades-old dictatorships with the demand for freedom and social justice, today looks like the moment of counter-revolutionary success. After eight years of increasingly brutal conflict in Syria, Bashar al-Assad still presides as president over a now destroyed, fragmented and traumatized country. The dominant narrative is that the war is nearing its end. States once vocally opposed to Assad now have other strategic concerns which take precedence over the victims of his savage efforts to hold onto power. Yet, on the ground, conditions are far from stable; civilians remain trapped and are paying the price for ongoing struggles for power and territory between the regime, foreign states and ideological warlords. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami writes for the North American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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