Shireen Huq has never shied away from taking a stand. Huq, founder of the women’s rights organization Naripokkho (meaning Pro-Women or For Women), has been on the front line of feminist causes in Bangladesh since the group was founded in 1983. Today, however, she not only faces the continuing struggle for basic rights and gender equality in Bangladesh, but a host of related crises that are roiling the country. In a telephone interview from Dhaka, she speaks with CounterVortex journalist Andy Heintz on issues ranging from the plight of more than a million Rohingya refugees living in the Cox’s Bazar district, impacts of the military coup in neighboring Burma, and the crackdown on freedom of speech and expression within Bangladesh.Continue ReadingWOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST CONFRONTS A DIVIDED BANGLADESH
Two years and counting after Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered the country’s Congress to legalize cannabis, the high court justices ran out of patience with the legislative paralysis and issued a new ruling—this one removing penalties for personal use by judicial decree. But there is no provision for commercial production, and the decree calls for tight federal regulation even of personal cultivation. Will this move prove to be at least a beginning in the daunting challenge of ending Mexico’s long and bloody narco-nightmare? Bill Weinberg takes an in-depth look for Project CBD website.Continue ReadingMEXICO: WILL CANNABIS DECRIM DE-ESCALATE DRUG WAR?
Nearly four years after the Burmese army’s genocidal attack, more than a million Rohingya remain in overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh. Repatriation efforts have failed, as the Rohingya don’t feel safe returning to their homeland. A large percentage of Rohingya women and girls living in the camps have suffered sexual violence at the hands of the Burmese army, witnessed the death of loved ones, or been victims of domestic violence. Razia Sultana, a Rohingya lawyer and educator, has documented these crimes and is organizing advocacy and empowerment programs for survivors in the camps. In a phone interview with CounterVortex correspondent Andy Heintz, she speaks about the prospects for building unity with Burma’s other persecuted minority peoples—and even with the ethnic Burman majority now also facing harsh repression since this year’s military coup.Continue ReadingROHINGYA FEMINIST SEEKS INTER-ETHNIC UNITY
Iran is experiencing another wave of mass protests and strikes as economic, social, political, environmental and health problems make it impossible for the large majority of the population to have the bare minimums needed to live. Protests over a severe water shortage in the mainly ethnic Arab province of Khuseztan have now been joined by wildcat work stoppages in the petrochemical and agricultural sectors. In addition to pressing for the right to independently organize, workers are expressing solidarity with the protests over water, and demanding COVID-19 vaccines. Frieda Afary of Iranian Progressives in Translation argues that any effort to engage in solidarity with the people of Iran means not only calling for the removal of US sanctions but also holding the Iranian regime accountable for its repression and exploitation.Continue ReadingIRAN: A NEW WAVE OF MASS PROTEST
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.Continue ReadingSRI LANKA’S ANIMAL EMBLEMS
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.Continue ReadingBURMA’S GENOCIDE —THE VIEW FROM BANGLADESH
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.Continue ReadingANARCHY IN BELARUS
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.Continue ReadingU.S. MILITARIZING BORDERS IN CENTRAL AMERICA
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.Continue ReadingBIDEN MUST STOP DEPORTING HAITIANS
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.Continue ReadingETHNIC MINORITIES AND BURMA’S DEMOCRATIC RESISTANCE
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.Continue ReadingBURMA: A NEW DEMOCRATIC UPRISING
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.Continue ReadingINVOKE INTER-AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC CHARTER FOR U.S.A.