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 “¬°Anulaci√≥n, Anulaci√≥n, Anulaci√≥n!”However, the protesters’¬†accusation¬†of “fraud” was explicitly rejected by Manuel Gonz√°lez, 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‚ÄĒa 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‚ÄĒand especially Assam and the restive Northeast‚ÄĒon 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‚ÄĒthis 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‚ÄĒthe 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‚ÄĒmotivated 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 Serv√≠n 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. Serv√≠n 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)

Central Asia
East Turkistan

China’s rulers fear balkanization ‚ÄĒwith reason?

Chinese state media are promoting an official “white paper” entitled “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang,” denying the national aspirations and very identity of the Uighur people of China’s far western Xinjiang region. These are portrayed as inventions of Western-supported “separatists.” Yet some leaders of the Uighur exile diaspora have indeed launched an “East Turkistan” independence movement, and are seeking allies among Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Hong Kongers.¬†China’s rulers may be creating exactly what they fear with their intransigent denialism on identity and ultra-draconian measures in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong. (Map:¬†East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

Europe

Russia tightens screw on Crimean Tatars

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the homes of several Crimean Tatars, officially as part of an investigation of activities linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned as a “terrorist” organization in Russia although operating lawfully in Ukraine. FSB agents carried out at least 25 searches and detained at least 20 people.¬†In Simferopol’s Kamyanka district, officers of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs cordoned off the neighborhood and ordered residents who assembled during the operation to disperse. According to reports, residents were not allowed to enter their homes and their lawyers were not permitted to be present during searches.¬†Amnesty International Ukraine director¬†Oksana Pokalchuk¬†said: “The crackdown on the Crimean Tatar community, whose members are regarded as disloyal to the de facto¬†Russian authorities, has continued unabated for five years.”

Oceania

Taiwan: indigenous seek Austronesian unity

Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples signed an agreement with the Pacific Island state of the Marshall Islands aimed at increasing bilateral exchanges to promote Austronesian culture. The agreement seeks to promote cooperation between Taiwan's indigenous communities and the linguistically related people of the Marshall Islands, particularly in the fields of language and preservation of traditional wisdom. The agreement, signed last month, coincides with the opening of the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, which acknowledges to the critical state of many indigenous tongues, and seeks to promote their protection and use, both at national and international levels. (Photo of Bunum people via Mata Taiwan)

The Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)

Central Asia

US companies profit from Uighur forced labor?

A top US sportswear company announced that it has dropped a Chinese supplier over concerns that its products were made by forced labor in detention camps in Xinjiang. Reports have mounted that the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs believed to be held in a fast-expanding system of detention camps are being put to forced labor for Chinese commercial interests. An Associated Press investigation tracked recent shipments from one such detention-camp factory, run by privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, to Badger Sportswear of North Carolina. After long denying that the camps exist, Chinese authorities now say they are "vocational training centers" aimed at reducing "extremism." (Photo via Bitter Winter)