Sri Lanka flag

SRI LANKA’S ANIMAL EMBLEMS

Much controversy surrounds use of the flags associated with the Sri Lankan peoples, as they are loaded with ethnic symbolism in a country recovering from a generation-long civil war along ethno-nationalist lines. The flags of concern here all feature big cats as central to their designs—the Sinhalese identifying with the lion and the Tamils with the tiger. The lion adorns both the flag of the Sinhalese people as an ethnicity and the national flag of Sri Lanka. The tiger adorns both the flag of the Tamil people as an ethnicity and that of the Tamil Tiger rebels—which is officially outlawed. Yet neither of these animals can actually be found on the island of Sri Lanka. In a commentary for Jurist, legal scholars Samir Pasha and Naga Kandiah make the case for the indigenous Sri Lankan leopard as a new, neutral symbol for a unified post-civil war nation aspiring to ethnic co-existence and social justice.

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Rohingya

BURMA’S GENOCIDE —THE VIEW FROM BANGLADESH

It has been four years since Burma’s military launched an assault against the country’s Rohingya Muslim population with genocidal intent, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee across the border to Bangladesh. Today, the number of Rohingya living in Bangladesh has climbed to more than a million. Plans by the Bangladeshi government to relocate the refugees from overcrowded camps to an isolated island off the coast have rightly drawn protests from international human rights groups. But it must also be acknowledged that Bangladesh has received all too little aid from the international community to address the refugee crisis in the country’s south. Andy Heintz provides an in-depth look for CounterVortex.

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belarus

ANARCHY IN BELARUS

The former Soviet republic of Belarus exploded into angry protests last August in the wake of contested presidential elections that resulted in a totally implausible landslide victory for long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Police, riot squads and army troops unleashed harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water-hoses against demonstrators in the capital Minsk and other cities. Since then, protests have been held every weekend. Industrial strikes have spread across the country as sectors of the working class broke from the regime-controlled labor unions to organize independently. Over the past months, tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anarchist Black Cross Belarus has been specifically monitoring repression against anarchists and anti-fascists in the ongoing protest wave. One member of the group, known as “Sonya,” spoke with Bill Weinberg in an email interview for the American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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Tecun Uman

U.S. MILITARIZING BORDERS IN CENTRAL AMERICA

The Biden Administration recently came to agreements with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to increase their border enforcement. These agreements aim to reduce the number of migrants who are able to make their way to the US-Mexico border by extending American border defense thousands of miles south of that border. And they do so in a very American fashion—through deterrence achieved by militarizing borders. Now, the US is outsourcing the militarization to other nations. Legal scholar Kevin Lapp critiques the policy in a commentary for Jurist.

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Haitian_immigrants

BIDEN MUST STOP DEPORTING HAITIANS

While Haiti is facing its worst violence since the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Biden Administration is expelling or deporting thousands of Haitians back to a country in turmoil, where civilians experience brutality at the hands of government and criminal forces. Both immigrant advocates and voices on Capitol Hill are urging the administration to re-designate Haiti for Temporary Protective Status (TPS). The Trump administration declined to redesignate Haiti for TPS, meaning the status granted by the Obama Administration is set to end in October. Meanwhile, Haitians are beng summarily expelled under Title 42 of the Public Health Code, which had been invoked by Trump in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden White House has designated Myanmar and Venezuela for TPS, while continuing to send Haitians back to face state terror. In a commentary for Jurist, Anne Bloomberg calls upon the new president to live up to his promises to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

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burma ethnic protest

ETHNIC MINORITIES AND BURMA’S DEMOCRATIC RESISTANCE

With its February coup d’etat, Burma’s military—known as the Tatmadaw—has unwittingly created a nonviolent resistance that is more diverse and inclusive than any movement in the country’s history. The threat of death, torture or prison has not deterred protesters from continuing to participate in acts of civil disobedience against the military junta. And unlike past protest movements in Burma, this new movement features an alliance between the Burman Buddhist majority and the country’s ethnic minority groups. The Kachin, Karen, Shan and Rohingya have harshly criticized deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for acquiescing in the Tatmadaw’s genocidal campaigns of repression, counter-insurgency and ethnic cleansing. But these ethnic minorities and pro-democracy protesters from the ethnic Burman majority now perceive that they have a common enemy in the new military dictatorship. Journalist Andy Heintz explores the question in a special for CounterVortex.

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Burma protest

BURMA: A NEW DEMOCRATIC UPRISING

Burma is once again in the international headlines, as the Southeast Asian nation has lost another opportunity to sustain its credibility as a multi-party democracy. A one-year state of emergency and period of military rule were announced in the early hours of February 1, when the generals again seized power. Many newly elected lawmakers were detained just hours before Parliament was to convene its fresh session. But over a hundred thousand Burmese citizens have taken to the streets across the country in the days since then, demanding restoration of democratic rule and release of all detained political leaders. The spontaneous demonstrations bring back memories of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which paved the way for the democratic transition four years later. The coming weeks and even days will be critical in determining whether Burma will face another dark period of military rule—or if the country’s new democratic uprising will meet with effective international solidarity. CounterVortex correspondent Nava Thakuria, across the border in northeast India, reports.

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Capitol

INVOKE INTER-AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC CHARTER FOR U.S.A.

Americans were shocked by the storming of the US Capitol by the right-wing mobs and militia. Some commentators now refer to the country as a “banana republic”—a derogatory term for Central American states with histories of unstable government. But Latin Americans, with greater such experience, can more easily recognize anti-democratic behavior and its dangers—and have been at the forefront in taking multilateral and region-wide action to promote and protect democracy. The Western hemisphere has, in fact, designed a process to collectively defend against threats to democracy like that now faced by the US: the Inter-American Democratic Charter. It has been invoked twice before—in Haiti and Venezuela. In a commentary for Jurist, international law scholars Henry “Chip” Carey and Jennifer McCoy make the case for its invocation in the United States.

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Nagaraj

JOURNO-MURDER SURGE IN INDIA

In an industry already hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s media this year also saw an alarming increase in the slaying of journalists. As 2020 approaches its end, India emerges as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for working journalists—second only to Mexico. While Mexico has seen 12 journo-murders this year, the world’s largest democracy has registered 12. Local journalists reporting on land-grabbing and illegal resource exploitation have been especially targeted. Writing from Assam in India’s conflicted northeast, Nava Thakuria provides an overview of the grim national toll.

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hibakusha

HIBAKUSHA ‘STILL CANNOT GET OVER IT’

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will finally come into force after the 50th country, Honduras, ratified it in October. The treaty will make the development, testing, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons illegal for those countries that have signed on. None of the nine countries that currently have nuclear arms are signatories, and some have vocally opposed the treaty—especially the United States. Nonetheless, this is an extraordinary achievement for those that have suffered the most from these weapons—including the hibakusha (survivors) of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have been some of the most strident campaigners against the use of these weapons. Writing for The Conversation, Gwyn McClelland, a researcher collecting the oral histories of atomic bomb survivors, discusses the role of the hibakusha in the campaign for the nuclear weapons ban.

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Shinmin Prefecture

ANARCHIST COMMUNE MANCHURIA

By the official version of history, World War II started in Poland in 1939, but cases can also be made that it really began in Austria in 1938, Spain in 1936, Abyssinia in 1935—or Manchuria in 1931. However, it is nearly forgotten that the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria that year was partially aimed at crushing a self-governing anarchist “autonomous prefecture” that had been established in the region by exiles from Korea, which had been occupied and annexed by the Japanese Empire in 1910. This anarchist commune, dubbed Shinmin Prefecture, was an inspiring model of autonomy and resistance, akin to the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Makhnovtchina of 1918 in Ukraine, and the Magonista Revolution of Baja California in 1911—but is considerably more obscure to contemporary historians. Francesco Dalessandro explores this critical episode for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate.

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It Can't Happen Here

TWO FACES OF FASCISM

In his latest contribution to the anarchist journal Fifth Estate, Bill Weinberg explores the twin threats of a totalitarian order that the United States faces at this history-making moment: Trump-fascism, perhaps to be lubricated by a “Reichstag Fire” scenario ahead of the November election, and a post-pandemic “new normality” of complete surveillance and social control. Eerily predictive of these twin dystopias are two works of “future fiction” from the 20th century—It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis and The Machine Stops by EM Forster. With the Black Lives Matter uprising deepening the ugly backlash from the Trump camp and a COVID-19 “second wave” looming, the US is poised on a razor’s edge between long-overdue leaps of social progress and descent into some kind of updated American variant of fascism.

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