Southeast Asia
R2P

Burma: protesters demand ‘R2P’ as massacres mount

The death toll since the Feb. 1 coup in Burma has now exceeded 100 as security forces continue to fire on pro-democracy protesters. Most recent repression has been in Yangon’s outlying townships, where protesters have barricaded off streets in an attempt to secure territory. Martial law was declared in six of these townships, giving the military broad authority over those areas. Protesters have started using the hashtags #WeNeedR2P and #WeNeedR2PForMyanmar. In images seen from the air, protesters have arranged placards or lights from their mobile phones to spell out “WE NEED R2P.” This is a reference to the “responsibility to protect” doctrine developed in the 1990s following the disastrous failures to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. (Photo: Myanmar Now)

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)

South Asia
Mushtaq Ahmed

Bangladesh: protests erupt as writer dies in prison

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated. (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished MaranhĂŁo state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)

Greater Middle East
GergerlioÄźlu

Turkey upholds sentence of MP for ‘terror propaganda’

Turkey’s Court of Cassation upheld the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Ă–mer Faruk GergerlioÄźlu, a human rights activist and MP belonging to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In 2016, GergerlioÄźlu raised alarm in parliament and on social media platforms about detained women being subjected to unlawful strip searches by police in the city of UĹźak for “security reasons.” He was later accused by several members of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) and the UĹźak Police of being involved in terrorist activities. The case hinged on social media posts by GergerlioÄźlu that supposedly included photos of armed fighters from the PKK guerillas. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
Hasél

Spain: protests follow arrest of Catalan rapper

The arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo HasĂ©l on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy has sparked angry protests in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other Spanish cities. Facing charges in relation to his tweets and song lyrics, HasĂ©l barricaded himself alongside supporters inside Catalonia’s University of Lleida. His supporters sprayed fire-extinguishers at troops when the building was raided by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. As he was led away, supporters shouted, “They will never silence us; death to the fascist state!” HasĂ©l was turned over to Spanish authorities to begin serving a nine-month term. Angry protests immediately broke out, with several demonstrators arrested that night. Protests have continued throughout the week. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
Loujain_alHathloul_

Saudi women’s rights activist freed after three years

Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released after spending a total of 1,001 days—almost three years—in prison. Al-Hathloul had been championing women’s rights since 2013. She lobbied especially for the right to drive, as well as for an end to male guardianship laws in the Saudi kingdom. While women were granted the right to drive in 2017, advocates for the change were detained by the authorities weeks before it took effect. Al-Hathloul will remain on probation for three years and is banned from traveling for five years. Her family claims that she had been held in solitary confinement and subjected to torture and abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging, sexual assault, and deprivation of sleep during hunger strikes against her imprisonment. An appeals court dismissed her suit alleging torture, citing a lack of evidence. Amnesty International said, “Saudi Arabia’s authorities must ensure those responsible for her torture and other ill-treatment are brought to justice.” (Photo of al-Hathloul in Madrid before her arrest: Emna Mizouni/Wikimedia Commons)

Southeast Asia
burma coup

Military re-seizes power in Burma

Burma’s military announced that it has taken control of the country and imposed a state of emergency. The country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in an early morning raid along with President U Win Myint and other figures associated with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). Although the internet was cut off by the military, Suu Kyi managed to get out a statement to social media calling on Burma’s people to “protest against the coup.” The military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, said the state of emergency will last for a year, during which time armed forces chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will rule. The Tatmadaw is justifying the move by asserting that there was voter fraud in the November parliamentary elections, in which the military-linked Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) suffered a crushing defeat to the NLD. No official election observers had made any claims of fraud. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Africa
National Unity Platform

Uganda: disputed elections amid net silence

Ugandan authorities allowed restoration of some internet services in the country, five days after a shutdown that hit as last week’s election approached. Connectivity was restored to 90% of ordinary levels following the announcement of the election result—a landslide victory for President Yoweri Museveni, who has held office since 1986. But Ugandans can only access social media via virtual private networks (VPNs). Through VPNs, users can bypass internet censorship by having their IP address appear as if based overseas. Museveni is believed by the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) to have shut off internet access “to prevent [the NUP] from sharing evidence of fraud.” Internet freedom monitoring group NetBlocks statedthat the net shutdown left “citizens in an information vacuum.” (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
ahmadiyya

Pakistan: crackdown on internet ‘blasphemy’

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for “disseminating sacrilegious content” through their platforms. The notices accused the these sites of hosting “misleading” content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the “present khalifa of Islam.” Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an “unauthentic” version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms “to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. (Image: Ahmadi Answers)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Huawei ethnicity-recognition tech tracks Uighurs

Top Chinese technology firms have registered patents for tools apparently designed to detect, track and monitor Uighurs, according to research by the Pennsylvania-based video surveillance watchdog group IPVM. A 2018 patent filed by Shenzhen-based tech giant Huaweiwith the State Intellectual Property Office lists attributes by which an individual may be targeted, including “race (Han, Uighur).” IPVM also released details of a document issued by Huawei and its Beijing-based corporate partner Megvii, dubbed an “Interoperability Test Report,” which boasted of a “Uighur alarm” among the “basic functions of Megvii’s facial recognition system.” Said Rushan Abbas, executive director of the DC-based Campaign for Uyghurs: “We cannot ignore the fact that these technologies have been developed in order to be able to efficiently carry out…brutal oppression.”  (Photo: Mvslim.com)

South Asia
kashmir

India extends internet restrictions in Kashmir

The government in the Indian union territory of Jammu & Kashmir issued an order extending the suspension of high-speed 4G internet services. The government said it received credible reports of terrorists attempting to infiltrate from across the Line of Control that separates the territory from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The order ostensibly seeks to deter recruitment of youth into terrorist groups, and the circulation of provocative videos and “fake news” on social media. The restrictions are held to constitute the longest such outage ever imposed by a “democratic” government. The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) called the outage a form of “collective punishment” against Kashmiris and accused New Delhi of “digital apartheid.” (Photo: Daniel Bachhuber/Flickr via Oxford Human Rights Hub)