Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Central Asia
Uzbek migrants

Migrants stranded on Russian-Kazakh border

Thousands of migrant workers from Uzbekistan have been stranded for weeks at the Russia-Kazakhstan border. Left without work in Russia amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they sought to make their way home by land through Kazakhstan—only to find the border closed by Kazakh authorities. The migrants have set up a makeshift camp in an open field, where they are struggling without adequate food, water or supplies in severe summer heat. (Photo: Meduza)

Central Asia
East Turkistan

China’s rulers fear balkanization —with 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)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan civilian deaths reach new high —again

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have reached a new high at the mid-year point, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Although there was a slight decrease in total casualties (deaths and injuries), there have been more fatalities than in previous years, with nearly 1,700 killed so far in 2018. Since UNAMA started documentation in 2009, almost 15,000 civilians have lost their lives to the armed conflict in Afghanistan. UNAMA also reports that deliberate attacks on civilians from anti-government elements are increasing at concerning rates. In June there was an unprecedented ceasefire for three days as Eid al-Fitr was observed, with no casualties in attacks carried out either by Taliban or government forces. ISIS, however, did not observe the ceasefire. (Photo via Pixabay)

Greater Middle East

Tatar militants pledge to Syria’s Nusra Front?

In a claim convenient to Russian war propaganda, a group of Tatars calling themselves the Crimean Jamaat reportedly pledged loyalty to Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise.

Central Asia

Aral Sea almost gone: NASA

Satellite photos released by NASA reveal  that the eastern basin of the Aral Sea has completely dried up. Water levels are less than 10% of what they were 50 years ago.

Central Asia

Central Asia opium wars escalate

Tajikistan sealed its border with Afghanistan after clashes with armed rebels left 48 dead—a re-escalation of conflict over control of the cross-border traffic in Afghan opium.