From our Daily Report:

Syria

Amnesty International: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Idlib

The Assad regime, supported by Russia, is carrying out a “deliberate and systematic assault” on hospitals and medical facilities in Syria’s northwestern provinces of Idlib and Hama, Amnesty International charges. With the UN Security Council set to discuss northwest Syria, Amnesty urged action, calling for Russia to be pressured over the deliberate targeting of 15 hospitals in Idlib and Hama over the past three weeks. “Bombing hospitals carrying out their medical functions is a war crime. These latest attacks have eliminated vital lifelines for civilians in desperate need of medical care. This is part of a well-established pattern targeting medical facilities to systematically attack the civilian population and it constitutes crimes against humanity,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East director. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Africa

Burkina Faso faces ‘unprecedented’ crisis

Attacks by Islamist militants, military operations, and waves of inter-communal violence have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced since January in Burkina Faso, triggering an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis that has caught many by surprise. Homegrown militant groups, as well as extremists linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, have been operating in the country’s north since 2016, but have expanded to new fronts. As the state struggles to contain the insurgencies, a growing number of “self-defense” militias have mobilized, escalating ethnic tensions in a country once considered a beacon of coexistence and tolerance in West Africa. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)

Africa

Sudan charges al-Bashir with killing protesters

Sudan public prosecutors announced that they have charged ousted president Omar al-Bashir with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters during the uprising that drove him from power last month. Protest organizers say security forces killed around 100 demonstrators during the four months of rallies leading to al-Bashir’s overthrow. The Transitional Military Council and opposition forces have reached a formal agreement, but street clashes continue in Khartoum. (Photo: Sudan Monitor)

Iran

Orwellian ironies of US Persian Gulf war moves

Amid alarmingly sketchy accounts of Iranian attacks on Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, Trump has dispacthed the USSS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf. An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was also hit by drones, according to the kingdom’s energy ministry. Meanwhile, Iran-backed war crimes and “sectarian cleansing” in Syria and Iraq are safely invisible to the outside world. Well, oil matters; people do not. We already knew that. But adding to the Orwellian nature of it all—the US and Iran are on the same side in Syria and Iraq. De facto in the former (where the US has tilted to Assad, rhetoric notwithstanding), de jure in the latter (where Washington and Tehran alike openly back the Baghdad regime). Let’s hope that Trump’s mutuality of interest with the ayatollahs (however sinister) will compel both sides to retreat from the brink before they blunder into total disaster. As always, US war moves put the civil opposition in Iran in a more difficult position, making it easier for the regime to paint them as pawns of Washington. Any anti-war position must be clear on solidarity with the people of Iran, including in their democracy struggle—emphatically not with the regime. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Iraq

Shi’ite militia forces ‘sweep’ Iraq-Syria border

Baghdad’s irregular Hashd al-Shaabi militia has joined with the National Defense Forces, one of the Assad regime’s paramilitary militias, to conduct “sweeps” along the Iraqi-Syrian border for remnant ISIS cells. These are both sectarian Shi’ite formations backed by Iran. The use of such sectarian militias has been concomitant with widespread abuses of the Sunni population of the region. Human Rights Watch is now urging the Iraqi government to reject a plan for the indefinite detention of whole families with suspected ISIS affiliations. Under the plan, up to 300,000 could be interned in camps in the desert. (Photo: Defense Post)

Syria

Podcast: genocide, propaganda and the Idlib offensive

In Episode 33 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares coverage of the Idlib offensive from CNN and its Turkish counterpart TRT World, illustrating how the US corporate media uncritically echo the propaganda of the Assad regime. While TRT emphasizes civilian casualties, the CNN headline says “terrorists” are being killed—the propaganda technique of dehumanization and objectification of victims. Shamefully, “progressives” in the West are far more complicit with Assad’s genocide. The deplorable Amy Goodman has now repeatedlyallowed voices such as Phyllis Bennis and the inevitable Noam Chomsky to spew genocide-abetting propaganda on Democracy Now. Weinberg also discusses the contradictions facing the Rojava Kurds in the areas of Syria they control. He closes with a call for Syria Solidarity NYC and Rojava Solidarity NYC to hold a joint workshop at the NYC Anarchist Book Fair, to try to arrive at a unified pro-revolutionary position on Syria. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Freedom)

Planet Watch

UN report: ‘unprecedented’ biodiversity collapse

Biodiversity is declining globally at rates “unprecedented” in human history, and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, warns a landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The Global Assessment, approved at the 7th session of the IPBES in Paris, foresees grave impacts for people around the world. “The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Caribbean

Arrests at Havana’s first independent gay march

Activists in Havana held Cuba’s first independent gay pride march, after authorities cancelled the officially sanctioned event. The march assembled in Old Havana’a Parque Central, where the official event had been shceduled to start. Accompanied by a large escort of riot police and State Security agents, including some with dogs, the activists headed down the Paseo del Prado, waving rainbow flag. Upon arrival at the Malecón, Havana’s seaside promenade, plainclothes agents moved in on the march, arresting at least six. (Photo: CubaNet)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Democratic Forces fire on Arab protesters

The final defeat of ISIS in Syria’s northeast has left many Arab-majority areas of the region under occupation by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—a situation obviously fraught with risk. Over the past weeks, protests have mounted in Arab villages across Deir ez-Zor province against the SDF, with residents demanding better services, employment and a greater role in decision-making. Finally, SDF fighters opened fire on protesters in the village of Shheil, killing one person. The protest came after an overnight raid in the village, in which SDF fighters besieged a neighborhood and killed six people. (Image via Rudaw)

Syria

Assad, Russia launch Idlib offensive

The Assad regime and allied militias, backed by Russian air-strikes, this week launched the long-feared offensive on Idlib, the northwest Syrian province that is the last under rebel and opposition control. The offensive places at risk the lives of more than 4.5 million civilians. Just this month, a further 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Idlib, joining the ranks the displaced. The UN has previously warned that an assault on Idlib could cause “the worst humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen in the 21st century.” At particular risk are 350,000 people living in displacement camps, who have no protection from the bombs. The more recently displaced are now without any shelter on lands near the Turkish border, which Ankara has shut to prevent a refugee influx. (Photo: EA Worldview)

South Asia

Pakistan: Taliban target Sufi shrine —again

At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide blast that targeted security forces guarding a famous Sufi shrine in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The attack, which came during the holy month of Ramadan, was apparently aimed at a police vehicle, and five officers are among the dead. The Data Darbar shrine, where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried, was the target of a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 worshipers, and has since been under heavy security. The new attack was claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Palestine

Gaza invasion averted; West Bank land-grabs escalate

An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip took effect with no formal announcement, after two days of hostilities that saw the most extensive Israeli air-strike since 2014. Hidden from the headlines, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank meanwhile continues. The day after the ceasefire, Israeli troops forced several Palestinian families to evacuate from their homes in the Jordan Valley, in order to make way for military training. Days before, Israeli bulldozers uprooted some 120 fruitful olive trees west of Ramallah, to pave a settler-only road through the area. A document said to outline Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” to end the Palestinian conflict calls for a reduced Palestinian state on lands not already appropriated by settlement blocs. The areas of the blocs are to expand, incorporating outlying settlements, and will remain under Israeli control—apparently amounting to a de facto annexation. (Photo: Ma’an)

More Headlines

Featured Stories

U.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN

by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex

The US government’s announcement that it has opened negotiations with the Taliban to help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end should be a source of concern for women’s rights advocates everywhere. While it’s still not easy to be a woman in Afghanistan, women have made progress in the areas of education, employment and representation in government since the Talban were overthrown by the US-led invasion of 2003. President Donald Trump also has worried many Afghans—although some were optimistic about the decision—by talking about pulling troops out of the country to end US involvement in what is now its longest war.

The danger of women losing hard-won rights should not only be a concern to those who supported the war—but for anyone who cares about human rights and gender equality. The feminist writer Meredith Tax has a point when she criticizes many anti-war activists for not being able to hold two ideas in their heads at the same time. While the anti-war movement is not homogeneous, too many activists see the world from a US-centric viewpoint that narrows their vision and prevents them from seeing and understanding the struggles of progressive figures in other countries.

Continue ReadingU.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN 

ANTI-TERROR LAW COULD TARGET AID GROUPS

by Samuel Oakford, IRIN

A new US anti-terror law that has forced the majority of American-funded aid operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to grind to a halt may have even wider humanitarian consequences, leaving nonprofits around the world more vulnerable to litigation. 

While the 700-word bill appears to have been targeted at the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, experts say the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, or ATCA, is poorly crafted and could result in some non-governmental organizations and businesses being reluctant to take US funding or be associated with US-financed programs.

Signed in October last year and law as of January 31, ATCA is an attempt by US lawmakers to make it easier for American courts to hear civil suits related to terrorist attacks abroad, specifically those involving authorities tied to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Continue ReadingANTI-TERROR LAW COULD TARGET AID GROUPS 

WEATHER WAR

How Iran's Regime Uses Floods and Drought as Tools of Ethnic Cleansing

by Rahim Hamid, Dur Untash Studies Centre

In most countries prone to regular severe weather events such as heavy flooding, governments take precautionary measures in vulnerable regions to at least minimize the probable damage and protect citizens' lives and property. 

Unfortunately, however, some governments not only exploit such disasters but deliberately manufacture and intensify them as a strategic weapon against parts of the population that threaten the leaders' economic exploitation of their resources. These governments spare no effort to engineer or exacerbate the effects of such disasters, effectively weaponizing climate change against the people.

Iran's theocratic regime is one such government, pursuing policies that effectively amount to ethnocide against the Ahwazi Arab population. Ahwazis have the misfortune to live in an oil-rich region, from which Iran extracts 95% of the oil and gas resources that it lays claim to. This massive oil wealth, which was the primary reason for Iran's forcible annexation of Ahwaz in the early 20th century, has been a far greater curse than a blessing to the Ahwazi people, most of whom now subsist in nearly medieval conditions of poverty. The international community, meanwhile, seems indifferent to their plight

Continue ReadingWEATHER WAR 

TOGO PROTESTS CHALLENGE DICTATORSHIP

by Regina Asinde, Waging Nonviolence

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of cities across the West African country of Togo on Dec. 8, as part of a recently revived wave of nationwide protests demanding political reforms. At the center of their demands is the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution, which included a two-term limit on the presidency before being stripped away by former president Eyadéma Gnassingbé, father of current president Faure Gnassingbé.

Mass protests first erupted in August 2017, forcing the government into internationally-moderated negotiations, which—in an attempt to resolve the decades-long political crisis—led to the reinstatement of the two-term limit. However, outrage was soon reignited when it was discovered that past presidential terms would not apply, thereby allowing Faure Gnassingbé—already in his third term—to run for president in 2020 as if it were his first time. Negotiations broke down soon after that, leading to the revival of protests in November.

"Nobody is willing to take that in Togo," said Togolese Civil League executive director Farida Nabourema. "After 51 years of the Gnassingbé, asking us to give them an additional 10 years, starting 2020, is basically asking us to commit suicide. It's something we cannot let happen, and it’s the reason we are back on the streets."

After first allowing protests in pre-approved zones, the government outright banned large demonstrations before the Dec. 8 mobilization. When upwards of 500,000 people turned out in Lomé, the capital city, the regime deployed heavy military force, wounding dozens of civilians and killing at least three—including an 11-year-old boy.

Continue ReadingTOGO PROTESTS CHALLENGE DICTATORSHIP 

IT’S NOT ABOUT ‘REGIME CHANGE’

A Brief Account of US Intervention in Syria

by Ani White, Fightback

Noam Chomsky's recent criticism of US withdrawal from Kurdish-held territory in Syria poses a strange contradiction: Why have so many on the left accused Syrian Arab rebels of being US proxies, while either supporting or remaining silent on the far more consistent US support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) against ISIS?

Given the widespread misinformation about Syria, a basic rundown of the facts about US involvement is necessary. What follows is a very brief outline of well-established facts about the war.

The dominant narrative on the left holds that US involvement in Syria is an attempt at "regime change." As highlighted by Michael Karadjis' Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis, this is in contradiction with the statements of US officials:

Continue ReadingIT’S NOT ABOUT ‘REGIME CHANGE’ 

CUBA SURRENDERS ‘GREEN SCARE’ FUGITIVE

Is Assata Shakur Safe?

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

Even amid worsening US-Cuba relations under Trump, it still seemed like a sign of changing times when Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, a fugitive animal-rights militant, was intercepted by Cuban authorities and turned over to the FBI in early August.

Popped by Cuban cops on an INTERPOL Red Notice, Dibee was flown to Portland, Ore., where he pleaded not guilty Aug 10 to taking part in a 1997 arson attack. The target had been a meatpacking plant in the Oregon desert, where wild horses were processed into dog food. This was but the first of several charges he faces before federal courts in Oregon, Washington and California.

The Cubans had apparently been tipped off by US authorities, who had learned that Dibee would pass through the island while traveling from Central America to Russia. He was apparently keeping mobile in a bid to avoid detection.

Continue ReadingCUBA SURRENDERS ‘GREEN SCARE’ FUGITIVE 

BLASPHEMY LAWS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Ireland's Vote to Remove Blasphemy from Constitution and the Asia Bibi Case

by Pearl Goldman, Jurist

In a referendum held on October 26, 2018, the people of Ireland voted to amend the Irish Constitution to remove the word blasphemy from Article 40.6.1, which declared that "[t]he publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law." This constitutional change enables the Oireachtas, Ireland's National Parliament, to change statutory law so that blasphemy is no longer a crime. It also represents the most recent advance in this predominantly Catholic country toward a more secular society. Same-sex marriage and abortion were legalized in two earlier referenda. And it might constitute an important step in undoing some of the unintentional international consequences of Ireland's criminalization of blasphemy.

Ireland's blasphemy ban was enshrined in the constitution in 1937, during an era when church and state were seen as a single entity and defaming the established religion was tantamount to treason. Corresponding definitions and penalties were enacted in the 2009 Defamation Act. In contrast to Article 40.6.1 of the constitution, which had protected only Christians from blasphemy, the 2009 Act was designed to protect all religions. The Act defined blasphemy as "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defenses permitted." However, it was widely believed that the Act did no more than give lip service to the constitutional requirement that blasphemy be declared a crime because, on any fair reading, the statutory provision was unenforceable.

Continue ReadingBLASPHEMY LAWS AND HUMAN RIGHTS 

THE GUATEMALA GENOCIDE CASE

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied?

by Aisling Walsh, openDemocracy

On September 26, at about 7 PM, in a courtroom filled to bursting point, the High Risk Court B declared, for the second time in five years, that genocide was committed in Guatemala.

Following more than two years of witness testimonies, forensic evidence and expert reports, the court declared that they had sufficient evidence to prove that the Guatemalan army committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Mayan Ixil people between 1982 and 1983, one of the most violent eras of the 36-year internal armed conflict in Guatemala.

A dehumanized army
In their declaration, lasting up to two hours, the panel of three judges elaborated in detail the "abhorrent" acts that convinced them that the Guatemalan army was indeed responsible for committing genocide and crimes against humanity.

They could verify that there were at least 60 massacres carried out in the Ixil region of Quiche department, and that a total of 50 villages were affected by the Guatemalan army's counterinsurgency operations. This policy resulted in acts of extreme and dehumanized violence against a civilian population that had been singled out for their struggle to defend their rights. They were accused of being communists and guerrillas and collectively declared an "internal enemy" of the State.

Continue ReadingTHE GUATEMALA GENOCIDE CASE 

NO! IDLIB IS NOT A ‘TERRORIST ENCLAVE’

by Sina Zekavat, Mangal Media

As Turkey and Russia step towards implementing a 15-20 kilometer "demilitarization zone" between Idlib and the surrounding regime-held areas of northern Syria, mainstream media and the forces of status quo are bent on portraying Idlib as a "terrorist enclave"—hile people inside Idlib are determined to break this false and dangerous image.

Days after the renewed aerial bombardment of Idlib by Russia and the Assad regime, the Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard called Idlib an "Al Qaeda stronghold" in a recorded video message published on her Twitter account. In the same tweet, she called Idlib an "Al-Qaeda controlled city." A week later, during a speech addressing members of the US Congress, she claimed that there are "20,000-40,000 al-Qaeda and other jihadists" in Idlib, a number that vastly exceeds those reported by the UN and even pro-regime propaganda platforms.

David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan (and a vocal supporter of both Trump and Gabbard) has also been tweeting in support of Russian and Assad regime bombardment of Idlib. He claimed this was in order to "protect the real children of Idlib," presumably implying that those children who are targeted by the Assad-Putin aerial bombings are fake "crisis actors" and deserving of death, for the crime of misinforming the American public.

Vijay Prashad, a prominent academic in leftist circles, has joined the chorus by using dangerous and stereotypical portrayals of Idlib. In his latest article, Prashad writes that it's "intolerable to the government in Damascus to allow an enclave of al-Qaeda rebels inside the country—which is why the main battle is to be there, in Idlib." He calls the military campaign against Idlib by Assad and his allies "ugly" but "inevitable." Further normalizing this horrific scenario, Prashad ends his piece by advising everyone in Idlib to "cut a deal now before the terrible slaughter starts. This bombing is not the first salvo in the final battle but the last attempt at a negotiation."

Continue ReadingNO! IDLIB IS NOT A ‘TERRORIST ENCLAVE’ 

FIRST NATIONS RESIST B.C. PIPELINE PLANS

by Nick Engelfried, Waging Nonviolence

For thousands of years, Whey-Ah-Whichen has been a site of importance to the Tsleil-Waututh people. This hospitable flat peninsula in the Pacific Northwest was home to one of their major villages, standing in the shadow of surrounding hills and mountains covered in towering Douglas fir and other ancient trees. Today, Whey-Ah-Whichen is the site of Cates Park, so-named by the descendants of English colonists in what is now British Columbia. It overlooks Burrard Inlet, a finger-like extension of the Salish Sea separating the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. The Tsleil-Waututh still live nearby, many of them on a reserve just down the highway.

On July 14, Tsleil-Waututh community leaders brought together several hundred people for a rally on the site of the former village. Many carried signs with messages including "Water is Life," "Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline," and "Protect the Water, Land, Climate." They came to participate in a fight against one of the largest proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Canada, an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to a Kinder Morgan-owned storage facility directly across the inlet from Whey-Ah-Whichen. There, oil from the pipeline would be loaded into tankers for transport to the United States or across the Pacific.

The rally was only the latest manifestation of the indigenous-led resistance to the Trans Mountain project, which has grown in size and boldness this year. As more and more people arrived at the park, some prepared to take to the water in kayaks, canoes and other small vessels. Hundreds of others massed near the shoreline, watching as the boats headed across the inlet and gathered in front of the razor-wire fence erected by Kinder Morgan to keep people away from its facility. From one of the canoes, Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George led a water ceremony expressing participants' intent to care for and protect the inlet.

Continue ReadingFIRST NATIONS RESIST B.C. PIPELINE PLANS 

RED-BROWN POLITICS: DON’T TAKE THE BAIT!

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

After April's gas attack at the Syrian city of Douma, and Trump's retaliatory air-strikes, the poorly-named "anti-war" protest held in Los Angeles actually featured placards with the portrait of Bashar Assad and expressions of open support for genocidal dictator. Slogans like "Assad is protecting civilians, he is not bombing his own people."

Now, where else have we seen such open support for the dictator? At the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that saw deadly violence last August. One figure on the scene was David Duke, who proclaimed on Twitter, "Civilized world stands with Assad." Video clips from Charlottesville showed the "alt-right" mouthpiece called Baked Alaska saying to the camera with his buddies, "Assad's the man, brother! Two chemical bombs would have solved this whole ISIS business!" A sentiment less hypocritical than that of the supposed peaceniks in L.A.

Not too surprisingly, there was even overlap between the two rallies. Baked Alaska (real name Tim Gionet) appeared in a selfie-video at the anti-war march in L.A. Eventually, some marchers got wise to him and chased him off. But they do not appear to have been from the organizers of the march, the ANSWER Coalition.

There is a definite convergence underway between the anti-war left and alt-right (or fascist right to be less euphemistic) around support for Assad—part of a phenomenon termed Red-Brown politics. That is the phrase actually used by its advocates in Europe: the notion of an alliance between the left and fascism against the liberal order and the West. You do not have to be any supporter of the liberal order and the West to recognize this as an incredibly dangerous idea.

Continue ReadingRED-BROWN POLITICS: DON’T TAKE THE BAIT! 

TURKISH KURDISTAN: ERASURE OF A CULTURE

by Diego Cupolo, IRIN

In July 2015 a new phase of the decades-old conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants erupted after a two-and-a-half year peace process failed: the largely rural guerrilla war entered majority-Kurdish towns and cities in the southeast as government forces went house-to-house to root out PKK-linked fighters.

Fighting was most intense in the central neighborhoods of Sur district, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the provincial capital of Diyabakir, where ancient fortified walls surround historic mosques, churches, and synagogues. The ten months of conflict, including a three-month siege that damaged or destroyed the majority of buildings, has left many of those displaced by the violence feeling as if they must now fight for their homes and for their community and culture to live on.

On the hunt for votes ahead of his June re-election, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Sur in March, promising to renovate the district as part of a 2.3-billion Turkish lira ($500 million) plan to revitalise the southeast. He spoke of creating a vibrant economy and a new tourism boom.

But most of Sur’s original residents – the majority Kurds, 24,000 of whom are still displaced by the fighting, which lasted until March 2016 – won’t be able to afford the new buildings going up where their homes once stood.

Continue ReadingTURKISH KURDISTAN: ERASURE OF A CULTURE