Watching the Shadows
khazaria

Podcast: whither Khazaria?

In Episode 123 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the history of Khazaria, the medieval Turko-Jewish empire in what is now southern Russia and eastern Ukraine. While the fate of the mysterious Khazars has won much attention from scholars—and controversy—because of what it may reveal about the origin of the Jews of Eastern Europe, this question also touches on the origins of the Ukrainian people and state. Whatever the validity of the “Khazar Thesis” about the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazim, it is the Ukrainian Jews—such as President Volodymyr Zelensky—who are the most likely to trace a lineage of the Khazars. In 2021, Zelenksy and the Ukrainian parliament passed a law recognizing the cultural and autonomous rights of three indigenous peoples of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula: the Muslim Tatars and the Jewish Krymchaks and Karaites. Of any Jews on Earth, it is these last two groups that have the best claim to the Khazar inheritance—and are now a part of the struggle for a free and multicultural Ukraine, in repudiation of the Russian neo-imperialist project. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Fanciful rendering of Khazaria flag via AlternateHistory.com)

Southern Cone
mapuche

Chile: Boric faces Mapuche challenge

Gabriel Boric, a young leftist lawmaker and former student protest leader from Punta Arenas, is celebrating his victory in Chile’s presidential run-off election. He was the candidate of a new coalition that came together to press for progressive reforms under Chile’s new constitution. The constitutional redrafting process was set in motion by incumbent President Sebastian Piñera in response to a wave of popular protest two years ago. But Boric will face an immediate challenge from the mounting armed resistance movement of the Mapuche indigenous people in Chile’s south. Following his victory, the group Lavkenche Mapuche Resistance issued a statement claiming responsibility for arson attacks on trucks and equipment of timber and mining operations on traditional indigenous lands. The statement said: “The struggle will not cease. Neither with Piñera nor with Boric.” (Photo via Twitter)

Central Asia
Ilshat Kokbore

Podcast: Ilshat Kokbore on the Uyghur struggle

In Episode 96 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Ilshat Kokbore, former president of the Uyghur American Association and current director for China affairs with the World Uyghur Congress. Kokbore relates the story of his exile from his homeland in East Turkistan, known to its current Chinese rulers as Xinjiang, for petitioning against the purge of the Uyghur language from the educational system in 2003. Since then, of course, the situation has escalated to mass detention and even, in the opinion of many international legal experts, genocide. Kokbore discusses the history of the independence struggle in East Turkistan and the current campaign to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Europe
Crimea protest

Putin rejects Ukraine law on indigenous rights

A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine’s parliament is aimed at protecting the culture, language and autonomy of the Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea. Putin in an interview after passage of the law asserted that the present leaders of Ukraine are clearly hostile to Russia. “Otherwise, how can you explain a law where Russians are a non-indigenous people? What will this lead to? Some people will simply leave.” He then compared these imagined “consequences” with the effects of a “weapon of mass destruction.” In another interview, he said that the bill “reminded” him of Nazi Germany, as it divides people into “indigenous, first-class and second-class people and so forth.” (Image: One of the last demonstrations in Crimea in March 2014, before the Russian occupiers crushed almost all protest. Via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

The Amazon
facebook

Facebook enables deforestation in Brazilian Amazon

Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In a documentary, “Selling the Amazon,” BBC Brasil went undercover to reveal how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. Contacted by BBC, Facebook said it was “ready to work with the authorities” to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. (Photo via Mongabay)

North Africa

Algeria: Berbers boycott constitution vote

Amid low turn-out and a boycott in regions of the country, Algerians approved a new constitution pushed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a referendum. The referendum took place on the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s war for independence from France in 1954, with the government adopting the slogan “November 1954: Liberation. November 2020: Change.” The preamble to the new charter actually invokes last year’s Hirak or “revolution of smiles” protest movement, and the reform was clearly intended as a response to the movement’s demands. But in the northeastern Kabylie region, heartland of the country’s Amazigh (Berber) people and a bastion of support for the Hirak, demonstrators blocked polling stations to enforce a boycott. In response, election authorities annulled the votes from 63 of the 67 towns in the region. (Map: Kabyle.com)

The Amazon
santacruz

Protests break out in Bolivia’s Oriente

In Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, known as Oriente, the regionally powerful right-wing social networks have responded rapidly to the victory of socialist candidate Luis Arce in the presidential elections. Thousands filled the streets of the region’s principal city, Santa Cruz, waving Bolivian flags, honking car horns and chanting “¡Anulación, Anulación, Anulación!”However, the protesters’ accusation of “fraud” was explicitly rejected by Manuel González, head of the OAS mission in Bolivia. He said in a statement: “The people voted freely and the result was clear and overwhelming, which gives great legitimacy to the incoming government, the Bolivian institutions, and the electoral process.” (Photo: Nuevo Sur Bolivia)

Central Asia
mongolian

China: resistance to curbs on Mongolian language

Thousands of ethnic Mongolians in the remote north of the People’s Republic of China have gathered outside schools to protest a new policy that would restrict the use of their language in the public education system—a rare display of mass discontent. The policy change in Inner Mongolia means all schools in the region will now be required to teach core subjects in Mandarin, mirroring similar moves in Tibet and Xinjiang to assimilate local indigenous peoples. Students have walked out of classes and assembled outside school buildings shouting, “Mongolian is our mother language!” The protests have seen hundreds of students and parents face off against police. (Photo: Student holds banner reading “Foreign language is a tool, own language is soul,” via SMHIRC)

New York City
hazarika

Podcast: BorderTalk with Tej Hazarika

In Episode 47 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg speaks with Punnag Tej Hazarika of the Brooklyn-based small-press imprint Coolgrove and affiliated BorderTalk blog, which explores questions of cultural intersection. Among Coolgrove’s recent titles is Winged Horse: 76 Assamese Songs, a collection of translated lyrics by Tej’s father, Bhupen Hazarika, the “Bard of Brahmaputra,” who campaigned through his music for a dignified place in India for the peoples of Assam and other minority ethnicities. Last year, Tej traveled to New Delhi to receive the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, on behalf of his late father. But the honor came with India—and especially Assam and the restive Northeast—on the cusp of exploding into protest over the Citizenship Amendment Act. The politics of the situation, and dilemmas of interculturality from Assam to New York, are discussed in a wide-ranging interview. Listen on SoundCloud, or via Patreon. (Photo via Time 8, Guwahati)

Europe
ATR

Exiled Crimean Tatar TV threatened with silence

The only Crimean Tatar TV channel is facing a new threat to its existence—this time not from the Russian occupiers of Crimea, but the Ukrainian authorities. A dramatic cut in state funding for ATR TV has coincided with Kiev’s decision to drop Tatar-language services on the state network UATV in favor of a new Russian-language channel to be broadcast into rebel-held territory in Ukraine’s heavily Russophone east. ATR has reduced production of its own programs by 90% due to underfunding, and the station’s debts forced it to turn off its satellite signal this month—the only means of actually reaching the Crimean Peninsula. It has been able to restart its satellite service thanks to emergency aid from the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich. (Photo: European Federation of Journalists)

South Asia
CAA

Protests sweep India over citizenship law

India’s northeastern state of Assam has exploded into protest over the passage of a new national citizenship law. The army has been deployed, a curfew imposed in state capital Guwahati, and internet access cut off. At least five people have been killed as security forces fired on demonstrators. The new law allows religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship. This means it effectively excludes Muslims, and mostly apples to Hindus and Sikhs. Critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist government say it therefore violates India’s founding secular principles. But while secularists and Muslims are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on this basis elsewhere in India, the biggest protests have been in Assam—motivated by fear that the state will be overrun by an influx from Bangladesh, threatening its cultural and linguistic identity. (Image: Sowmya Reddy)

Mexico
Servín Herrera

Language rights advocate slain in Chihuahua

Enrique Alberto Servín Herrera, a promoter of indigenous language preservation in northern Mexico’s Chihuahua state, was found slain by a blow to the head at his home in the state capital, Chihuahua City. Authorities have made no arrests, nor named a motive in the attack. Servín Herrera headed the Department of Ethnic Cultures & Diversity at the state Secretariat of Culture, and was known for his efforts to help revive and sustain the language of the Tarahumara people. The Sierra Tarahumara, homeland of this indigenous people, has been torn by violence related to control of lands by narco-gangs and timber mafias in recent years. (Photo via La Izquierda Diario)