Africa
ISIS Nigeria

Vigilantism fears in Nigeria’s conflicted north

Traditional rulers in Nigeria’s strife-torn north are warning that vigilante militias now forming to fight Boko Haram are a sign of a generalized social breakdown in the region. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, told a public meeting in Kaduna that the new paramilitaries could themselves metamorphose into terror groups. “Governors must see that they do more to address insecurity, just imagine that there are over 50,000 orphans. They will be worse than Boko Haram if allowed to grow without proper care,” he said. Abubakar is chair of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, but a youth-led Coalition of Northern Groups has emerged outside control of the traditional rulers, and launched a paramilitary network called Shege Ka Fasa to defend against the Islamist militias. (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

Africa
Mozambique displaced

ISIS behind Mozambique insurgency?

The UN refugee agency is boosting its response in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, where a recent escalation of violence has forced thousands to flee for their lives. At least 100,000 people are now displaced throughout the province. There has been a dramatic increase of brutal attacks by armed groups, with recent weeks being the most volatile period since the outbreak began in October 2017. Bands of gunmen have been targeting local villages and terrorizing the populace. Those fleeing report random killings, maiming and torture, torched homes and shops, and crops burned in the fields. There have been reports of beheadings, kidnappings and disappearances of women and children. Several of the attacks have been claimed in the name of the Islamic State. (Photo: UNHCR)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: UN protests slaying of rights activists

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia last year. The statement said the commission is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019.” The commission asserted that there were between 107 and 120 killings of rights activists in Colombia over the course of the year. It called on the “Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Iran
Iran protests

Podcast: solidarity with Iran —the people, not the state

In Episode 46 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the racist imperial narcissism in coverage of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani—all of which (left, right and center) is solely concerned with whether he was responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of Americans.” Safely invisible is the reality that Soleimani and his militia networks were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians. Iranian forces in Syria have been carrying out a campaign of sectarian cleansing, with Shi’ite militia leaders usurping the lands of displaced Sunnis. Soleimani’s militias in Iraq have meanwhile been serially massacring protesters. Over this same period, hundreds of protesters have been killed in state repression in Iran itself. Anti-war forces in the West must not be confused by Trump’s cynical pretense of support for the Iranian protesters. Our opposition to Trump’s war moves must be in explicit solidarity with Iran —meaning the people of Iran, not the state. And that includes solidarity with the struggle of the Iranian people against an oppressive regime. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: @iranprotest2019)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

Iran
Persian Gulf

Trump sends more troops to Persian Gulf

In response to the recent escalation in Iraq, President Trump has ordered thousands more US troops to neighboring Kuwait—and hudreds more Marines into Iraq itself. The US and Iran are playing a geo-strategic game for control of Iraq, and the greater region. Both sides are treating the Iraqi people as pawns. As long as ISIS and Sunni jihadists remain a threat, Washington and Tehran can only push things so far. But things could still escalate toward US war with Iran, even if neither side is seeking that outcome. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Europe
berkut

Maidan martyrs betrayed in Ukraine prisoner swap

Activists in Ukraine are protesting a judicial ruling they say defers accountability in the massacre of scores of protesters during the Maidan Square occupation of 2014, popularly known as “Heaven’s Hundred.” Five ex-officers of the Berkut, the former regime’s now-disbanded political police, faced charges of killing 48 protesters and wounding 80 others during the February 2014 repression. Another 21 sought in the violence, also members of the Berkut’s elite Black Company, managed to escape to Russia after the fall of the Viktor Yanukovich regime later that month, and some are now believed to have been incorporated into paramilitary groups by the Vladimir Putin government. The five were ordered released from custody by the Kyiv Court of Appeals—among the 200 prisoners freed in a swap between the Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists. Their release was protested in an open letter to President Volodymyr Zelensky by the group Families of the Heaven’s Hundred Heores, who asserted that it violates international law.  (Photo: EuroMaidan)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: against the global detention state

In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)

Southeast Asia

Killings of ecological defenders rise in Philippines

Named the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders, the Philippines has become an even deadlier place for activists in 2019, with 46 recorded deaths so far this year, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. The same organization recorded 28 killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018. Global Witness, an environmental watchdog, tallied 30 such killings in the Philippines that year and designated the country the most dangerous in the world for defenders based on sheer number of deaths. Small farmers and agricultural workers accounted for the majority of the deaths recorded by Kalikasan PNE this year with 29, or 63%. This was followed by forest rangers or government officials involved in environmental oversight, at 35%. Next were members of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples at 20%, and finally lawyers and church workers at four percent. (Image of man from the Manobo tribe of Mindanao via Mongabay)

Southeast Asia

Philippines: convictions in Maguindanao massacre

More than a decade after 58 people were killed in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, a court in Quezon City found Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan guilty of overseeing the November 2009 massacre at Maguindanao. They were sentenced to 40 years without parole. The pair were convicted on 57 counts of murder in the attack on a convoy that included journalists covering an opposition candidate for the governorship of Maguindanao province. Police said 58 were killed in the massacre, but the body of one victim was never found. Their father, then-incumbent governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was arrested in connection with the case and died in prison while awaiting trial in 2015. The court sentenced a further 15, including more Ampatuan family members and police officials, to between six and 10 years as accessories to the crime. (Photo: Relatives of victims burn portraits of Ampatuan clan members during visit to massacre site. Credit: MindaNews)

Africa
Congo mining

Congolese survivors sue US tech companies

Families of young children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been injured or killed while mining cobalt have launched a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft. Cobalt is used in batteries for the electronic devices that technology companies manufacture and is abundant in the Congo. The complaint, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, details the dangerous conditions in which children are working, and makes comparisons with the conditions with the 16-19th century slave trade. The impoverished children are digging with rudimentary equipment and without adequate safety precautions for USD $2-3 a day. (Photo: Julien Harneis/WikiMedia Commons)

Europe

Russia deploys Cossacks to police Crimea

Russia’s Interior Ministry has announced that “Cossacks” will be deployed, together with thede facto police, in patrolling occupied Crimea, as well as in “carrying out anti-drug measures and educational work with young people.” So-called “Cossacks” were used, with other paramilitaries, during the annexation of the peninsula in 2014 to carry out violence that Russia did not want attributed to official security fources. The group Human Rights in Ukraine believes a similar role is planned again, and that “educational work” means propaganda for the Russian military. (Photo via Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)