Greater Middle East
Palestine

From Palestine to Iran: free the land

In Episode 160 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes hideous ironies in the current horrific headlines. Russia was excluded from the official commemorations of Holocaust Day at Auschwitz-Birkenau as it pursues its war of aggression and extermination in Ukraine in the perverse name of “de-nazification.” But Israeli flags were of course displayed at the commemoration—even as Israel escalates toward a genocidal solution to the Palestinian question. The fundamental contradiction driving the conflict is the expropriation of the Palestinian people of their lands, and the denial of their self-determination by Israel. The emergence of an explicitly anti-Zionist bloc in the protests against the new far-right government in Israel is a sign of hope. The US, however, is undertaking its biggest joint military exercises ever with the new Israeli regime, despite Biden’s supposed rejection of its extremist policies of settlement expansion and annexation—viewing the Jewish State as a strategic ally against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Meanwhile, the oppressive regime in Iran treats minority peoples such as the Kurds, Baluch, Ahwazi and Baha’i much as Israel treats the Palestinians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: B’Tselem)

Palestine
khan al ahmar

New Israeli admin in West Bank propaganda ploy

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met in Jerusalem with President Isaac Herzog, signaling continued US support for Israel’s new far-right government—despite the Biden administration’s supposed opposition to its policies such as settlement expansion and annexation of the West Bank. The trip coincided with Israel’s eviction of a wildcat settler outpost in what Israeli authorities call the “Samaria” region of the West Bank. Simultaneously, the Israeli government announced it is preparing to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, home to at least 180 people. Khan al-Ahmar lies within a key corridor stretching to the Jordan Valley, where Israel aims to expand and link settlements, effectively cutting the West Bank into two. (Photo: B’Tselem)

Europe

Germany calls for Ukraine war crimes tribunal

In an address at the Hague Academy of International Law, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for an international tribunal to prosecute Russian officials for war crimes and the crime of aggression in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. Making her case for the tribunal, Baerbock said loopholes in international criminal law allow Russia to escape the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Baerbock was referring to the 2010 “Kampala Amendments” to the Rome Statute, which allow the ICC to prosecute the crime of aggression—but only with a referral from the UN Security Council. Since Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, it can veto any such referral. (Photo: EuroMaidan Press via Twitter)

The Andes
Juliaca

‘Genocidal’ massacre of protesters in Peru

The prosecutor general’s office in Peru, the FiscalĂ­a, opened a preliminary investigation into President Dina Boluarte and five of her current and fomer cabinet members for possible acts of “genocide” in the repression of the mass protests sparked by the ouster of president Pedro Castillo last month. The announcement came a day after 17 were killed, including two teenagers, as protesters attempted to occupy the local airport in Juliaca, Puno region. The total death toll in the unrest since Castillo’s ouster now stands at 47. Peru’s southern regions of Puno, Cuzco, Arequipa and Madre de Dios have been almost entirely cut off by roadblocks since the protests remobilized with the new year. The giant Antapaccay copper mine in Cuzco region, operated by the Swiss multinational Glencore, is also under occupation by protesters, who set company vehicles on fire and clashed with police sent to remove them. (Photo: Max Nina/Pachamama Radio via Wayka)

Africa
Ethiopia

Ethiopia: violence ebbs in Tigray, flares in Oromia

The war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has cooled down since the signing of a peace deal in November. But a separate conflict is intensifying further south, in Oromia, where civilians are suffering as anti-government rebels step up attacks. Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) guerillas were previously confined to the fringes of western and southern Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region. But analysts say the Tigray war created a security vacuum that has helped the OLA expand its long-running insurgency. The security situation is now “fast deteriorating,” the UN’s aid coordination agency, OCHA, warned in a report last month. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been uprooted and essential services are not functioning in some conflict-affected areas. (Map via EthioVisit)

Africa
VDP

Ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso: report

A human rights group in Burkina Faso reported that 28 people were found shot dead in the town of Nouna, in apparently ethnically targeted killings at the hands of a volunteer militia group. The Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC) said the killings were perpetrated by members of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP). The VDP allegedly killed 21, including children, in a year-end attack in a part of Nouna inhabited by the minority Fula community. The report stated that the VDP appears to have targeted “resourceful” or “influential” people in the community. The report further found that similar extrajudicial executions were carried out by the VDP in the same community earlier in December. The VDP is a citizen militia formed to help the Burkina Faso military fight jihadist rebels. (Photo of VDP fighters: Henry Wilkins/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

Iraq
Sinjar

The Yezidis, ‘esotericism’ and the global struggle

In Episode 156 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses Peter Lamborn Wilson‘s last book, Peacock Angel: The Esoteric Tradition of the Yezidis. One of the persecuted minorities of Iraq, the Yezidis are related to the indigenous Gnostics of the Middle East such as the Mandeans. But Wilson interprets the “esoteric” tradition of the Yezidis as an antinomian form of Adawiyya sufism with roots in pre-Islamic “paganism.” Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, the divine being revered by the Yezidis as Lord of This World, is foremost among a pantheon that ultimately traces back to the Indo-European gods. Wilson conceives this as a conscious resistance to authoritarianism, orthodoxy and monotheism—which has won the Yezidis harsh persecution over the centuries. They were targeted for genocide along with the Armenians by Ottoman authorities in World War I—and more recently at the hands of ISIS. They are still fighting for cultural survival and facing the threat of extinction today. Weinberg elaborates on the paradox of militant mysticism and what it means for the contemporary world, with examples of “heretical” Gnostic sects from the Balkan labyrinth. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Kurdistan Source)

The Amazon
Loreto

‘Law of Genocide’ introduced in Peru

In the midst of the political crisis gripping Peru, reactionary elements in the country’s Congress have launched an initiative to repeal the 2006 law establishing reserves to protect isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. AIDESEP, Peru’s trans-Amazonian indigenous alliance, is calling Law Project 3518/2022 the “Law of PIACI Genocide”—a reference to the Spanish acronym for Indigenous Peoples in Isolation or Initial Contact. The AIDESEP statement also charges that the congressional Commission on Decentralization & Regionalization submitted the bill without first seeking clearance from the Commission on Andean & Amazonian Peoples, which holds authority in the matter. AIDESEP believes that the PIACI population in Peru is roughly 7,500 people—5,200 in isolation and 2,300 in a process of initial contact, mostly in the regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios. But a new alliance in support of oil, timber and other extractive industries, the Coordinator for the Development of Loreto, asserts that their existence is “not proven.” (Photo of Loreto rainforest via Pixabay)

Europe
Duma

Russia: bill to remove liability for war crimes

The Russian State Duma passed the first reading a bill concerning the use of Russian criminal law in territories of Ukraine that Russia now occupies. The bill includes a provision stipulating that a deed considered criminal under either Russian or Ukrainian law is not to be qualified as a crime if it “aimed to protect interests of the Russian Federation.” Saying that passage of the bill would constitute “impunity made law,” Amnesty International warned: “Russian servicepeople should remember that even if this unprecedented bill is eventually passed, it will not override international law and will not protect war criminals from eventually facing trials abroad under universal jurisdiction.” (Photo: State Duma via Xinhua)

Africa
south sudan

Thousands flee worsening South Sudan clashes

Among the long list of ostensibly local conflicts that have broken out in South Sudan since a national peace deal was inked in 2018, analysts say the current violence involving Nuer and Shilluk militias in Upper Nile state ranks among the deadliest. Thousands of people have been uprooted since mid-November and there are concerns of an imminent attack on Kodok—a town hosting more than 10,000 displaced Shilluk. Nuer forces have encircled Kodok and cut off escape routes, including to the nearby UN protection camp in Malakal. Though clashes are along communal lines, they were triggered by internal tensions within a splinter group of the country’s main opposition movement, the SPLA-IO. Simon Gatwech (a Lou Nuer) and Johnson Olony (a prominent Shilluk) defected from the group last year before turning on each other. President Salva Kiir has said he “cannot stop” the fighting, though critics say his regime benefits from pitting the feuding factions against each other.  (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
kordofan

Sudan: regime spurring Kordofan violence?

At least 30 people were killed and dozens injured in armed clashes between members of the Hamar and Misseriya pastoralist groups in Sudan’s West Kordofan state. ​​​​A Hamar militia that had been organized to protect against cattle rustlers was apparently ambushed by Misseriya gunmen in the locality of Abu Zabad, setting off the violence. Hamar leaders charge that state authorities and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are protecting Misseriya bands that raid their lands with impunity. In Khartoum, the pro-democracy Resistance Committee is meanwhile calling for continued protests despite the new pact for a transition to civilian rule, saying that any deal must include provisions for transitional justice and reform of the security forces. (Photo: Tim Freccia/Enough Project via Dabanga)

Africa
ethiopia

Ethiopia: continued fighting hinders Tigray aid

A month after the two parties signed a ceasefire agreement, the truce between Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is holding. But while aid flows into Tigray are scaling up, deliveries still aren’t matching needs. The World Food Program reports that while corridors into Tigray have reopened, access to some areas in the region remains off limits. Essential services, including banking and the internet, remain switched off, with no date set for restoring them. And while plans are proceeding for the disarmament of TPLF fighters, that process is complicated by Eritrean and Amhara forces, which were allies to the government during the conflict—and are reportedly still carrying out attacks on civilians in Tigray, including killings, kidnapping and looting. (Map: Political Geography Now)