Syria

Idlib bombardment resumes after brief respite

Russia and the Assad regime resumed attacks on opposition-held northwest Syria, breaking a four-day pause declared by Damascus. Russian and regime forces, whose spring offensive shattered a “demilitarized zone” announced last September by Moscow and Turkey, again began bombing and shelling both rebel positions and civilian areas. The regime’s military said last week that it was halting operations, which have killed more than 700 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 since late April, while giving an ultimatum to anti-Assad forces to withdraw from the 20-kilometer “demilitarized zone” through Idlib and northern Hama province. As the new air-strikes were launched, an army statement said: “The agreement to a truce was conditional… This did not happen… We resume our military operations against terrorist organizations.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

South Asia
Kashmir

Militarization as Delhi prepares to dismantle Kashmir

India’s government has flooded the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir with troops and cut off internet access upon announcing the revocation of its constitutionally protected autonomy, and plans to divide the disputed territory into two new political entities with reduced power. Article 370 of India’s constitution grants Jammu & Kashmir a high degree of autonomy, a concession to the demands of the territory’s Muslim majority, many of whom favor independence or union with Pakistan. In addition to abrogating Article 370, Delhi announced plans for a bill to divide India-controlled Kashmir into two “union territories,” which have lesser powers of self-government than states. A reduced Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory would continue, at least, to have a legislature. But it would be separated from the Buddhist-majority region of Ladakh, which is to become its own union territory, without a legislature. Complicating matters further is that the populace of Ladakh itself is divided along sectarian and regional lines. News of the plan to separate Ladakh from Jammu & Kashmir was met with jubilation in the principal Buddhist town of Leh, but with foreboding in Kargil, an enclave within Ladakh inhabited by Ismaili Muslims.  (Map via Wikipedia)

Iran

Iran: women’s rights activists get 16 years

Three women in Iran received prison sentences of at least 16 years, for offenses such as not wearing hijab and handing out flowers on a Tehran subway train on International Women’s Day. Civil rights activists Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz were condemned by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Each was given 10 years for “encouraging and promoting corruption by de-veiling,” five years for “collusion and assembly to act against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.” Keshavarz was given an additional seven years and six months for “blasphemy.” The attorney for the women said lawyers were not allowed to attend the trials, which were scheduled without notice. The court said no attorney access would be granted until an appeal is scheduled. (Photo via HRANA)

The Amazon

Brazil: garimpeiros kill indigenous leader

Brazilian authorities are investigating the murder of an indigenous leader in the northern state of Amapá, in the Amazon region, where violence has escalated since a group of some 50 heavily armed men—believed to be garimpeiros, or outlaw gold-miners—reportedly invaded the Wajãpi indigenous reserve. Indigenous chief Emyra Wajãpi was found stabbed to death close to the village where he lived, according to the Council of Wajãpi Villages (APINA). Three days later, the group of armed men appeared in the neighboring Yvytotõ indigenous village and threatened residents, forcing them to flee, according to APINA. Invasion of indigenous territories by ostensibly illegal mining outfits has escalated dramatically under current Presdent Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo of Wajãpi indigenous people via Mongabay)

The Andes

Colombia: Duque expelled from rights march

Protesters expelled Colombia’s President Ivan Duque from one of many marches held throughout the country to protest the ongoing killing of human rights defenders and community leaders. Tens of thousands took part in the mass event organized by Defendamos la Paz, a civil organization that defends the country’s peace process that is opposed by Duque’s far-right party. Duque and his vice president attempted to join the march in Cartagena, but upon arriving at its gathering point in the city’s central plaza, they were chased off by angry protesters chanting “Assassin! Assassin!” (Photo: Contagio Radio)

Syria

Podcast: Spain 1939 = Syria 2019?

In Episode 37 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Spanish Civil War—how leftists around the world mobilized to support the anti-fascist struggle, despite contradictions and complexities within the anti-fascist ranks; how this heroic resistance was betrayed by the world; and how this betrayal presaged a greater and far more destructive war. Today in Syria, a similar struggle is being waged against a fascistic regime—similarly heroic, despite inevitable contradictions and complexities within the anti-fascist ranks. Yet this time, leftists around the world are deeply complicit in the world’s betrayal of the Syrian resistance. Weinberg asks: Why is that? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image via LibCom.org)

North America

SCOTUS overturns injunction on border wall funds

The Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that blocked President Trump from using $2.5 billion from military accounts to build a portion of his pledged border wall. The order lifts an injunction from a federal judge in a case brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition challenging Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency to access more than $8 billion to build the wall. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month declined to lift that injunction. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority found that the administration had “made a sufficient showing at this stage” that the challengers do not have standing to block the diversion of the funds. (Photo via Jurist)

Syria

As Russia bombs Idlib, Turkey threatens Rojava

Some 100 civilians have been killed over the past week as Russia and the Assad regime step up aerial attacks on Idlib, the northern Syria province that remains outside regime control. Meanwhile, Turkish officials again warned of an offensive against the Kurdish-controlled area in northeast Syria, known to the Kurds as Rojava. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara has “no patience left” with Washington’s perceived accommodation of the Syrian Kurds. At issue is the size of the military “buffer zone” Ankara seeks to create along the border in northern Syria. The US has agreed to a “safe zone” that would cut through the Rojava autonomous cantons of Kobani and Cezire. However, the two sides differ over the depth of the zone. Ankara wants a 40-kilometer belt while the US is supporting only 10 kilometers. Turkey is also demanding the complete departure of the Kurdish militia from the area, and full control by Ankara’s forces. (Photo of White Helmets in Idlib via EA Worldview)

Africa

Land defender slain in Democratic Republic of Congo

A Congolese environmental and human rights activist was killed by a security guard of the Canadian palm-oil company Feronia Inc, near the company’s Boteka plantation in Eqauteur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The killing follows months of intimidation directed at local communities that have filed a grievance against the company for its occupation of their lands. Joël Imbangola Lunea operated a motor-boat to transport people and goods between local villages. He was also a community leader and member of the NGO Information & Support Network of the DRC (RIAO-RDC), and was involved in mediating land disputes. He was killed when his boat, filled with passengers and luggage, was approached by a security guard who accused him of transporting stolen palm oil from the plantation. He was beaten and finally strangled to death, his body thrown into the Moboyo River. (Photo of Lunea at mediation session via RIAO-RDC)

East Asia
Ji Sizun

China: justice sought in death of ‘barefoot lawyer’

International rights groups are demanding accountability from China in the death of Ji Sizun, the most recent victim of the ongoing crackdown on dissident lawyers in the People’s Republic. Two months after being released from prison, Ji, 69, died from unknown illnesses, guarded by state security in a hospital in his native Fujian province. He had reportedly been ill-treated in detention, and was released in a comatose state. One of China’s most prominent “barefoot lawyers,” or self-taught legal advocates, Ji spent most of the past 10 years in prison. “Chinese authorities need to investigate Ji Sizun’s hospitalization and death and hold accountable anyone responsible for wrongdoing,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher with Human Rights Watch. “For human rights defenders in China, prison sentences are increasingly turning into death sentences.” (Photo: Chinese Human Rights Defenders)

The Amazon

Brazil: Yanomami lands overrun by illegal miners

Thousands of illegal gold-miners (garimpeiros) have invaded Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous reserves, covering 96,650 square kilometers of rainforest in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, near the border with Venezuela. An incursion of this scale has not occurred for a generation, bringing back memories among Yanomami elders of the terrible period in the late 1980s, when some 40,000 garimpeiros moved onto their lands and about a fifth of the indigenous population died in just seven years due to violence, malaria, malnutrition, mercury poisoning and other causes. (Photo via Mongabay)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: pilgrims slain in Kandahar attack

In the latest of mounting attacks across Afghanistan, an bomb blast near Kabul University left eight people dead and some 30 wounded. Days earlier, a roadside bomb killed at least 11 pilgrims riding a truck in the southern province of Kandahar, headed for the shrine that houses the tomb of Sufi Shah Agha, a companion and relative of the Prophet Mohammad. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Kandahar authorities blamed the Taliban, which often uses roadside bombs to target security forces in the province. Days before that, at least six people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a wedding celebration in Nangarhar province. Paradoxically, the escalating violence comes just after Afghan officials met face-to-face with Taliban leaders as well as US negotiators at the peace talks in Doha, Qatar. (Photo of Shah Agha shrine via Geoview)