Europe
Free them all

Catalan independence leaders get prison terms

Spain’s Supreme Court ordered imprisoned nine Catalan political leaders—with sentences ranging from nine to 13 years for the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds—over their role in organizing the 2017 independence referendum. The sentences are each followed by equal periods of absolute ineligibility for public office. Oriol Junqueras—the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking of the defendants—received the longest sentence. The sentences sparked protests in the region, with assembled crowds causing flights to be canceled at Barcelona’s airport. Police used rubber bullets to regain control of the facility. Demonstrators also gathered at Barcelona’s Plaça San Jaume, the seat of the Catalan government, and erected barricades across roads and rail lines. Catalonia’s feared anti-riot force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, has been mobilized to clear the streets. (Image via Twitter)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Kurds forge military pact with Assad regime

In a deal brokered by Russia, the leadership of the Rojava Kurds have agreed to cooperate with the Assad regime in resisting the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria. With Assadist forces already mobilizing to the region from the south and Turkish-backed forces advancing from the north, the Kurds have been left with little other choice. Accepting a separate peace with Assad is now their only hope to avoid outright extermination, or, at the very least, being cleansed entirely from their territory. But the sticking point in previous peace feelers between the Kurds and Assad has been the latter’s refusal to recognize the Rojava autonomous zone*—so its survival now is gravely in doubt, even in the improbable event that the Turkish advance is repulsed. Worse still, with the Kurds now open allies of the brutal regime that Syria’s Arab opposition has been fighting for nearly eight years, a general Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria appears terrifyingly imminent. (Photo: SOHR)

Syria
Rojava

Turkey prepares ‘humanitarian’ genocide of Kurds

Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)

Mexico
Yucuquimi

Troops occupy ‘autonomous’ pueblo in Oaxaca

Tired of what they call political paralysis and corruption in the local municipal seat of Tezoatlán de Segura y Luna, in Mexico’s Oaxaca state, the Mixtec indgenous community of Yucuquimi de Ocampo last month declared itself to be a “free municipality” under its own “autonomous” self-government. Since then, the state and central government have had the community floded with troops both from the army and newly created National Guard force. Residents have clashed with National Guard troops, and local followers of the Agrarian Indigenous Zapatista Movement (MAIZ) marched on the state capital to demand withdrawal of the troops from the community. The Zapatista rebels in neighboring Chiapas state have issued a statement in support of the “free municipality.” (Photo: Pagina3)

Syria
Rojava

Kurds iced from Syria constitution talks

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced formation of a constitutional committee on Syria that will include members of the Assad regime and opposition representatives. Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the  Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), protested that no representatives from the organization have been invited to join the committee. UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen said that although the main Kurdish militia in Syria was not represented, “it is important for me to emphasize that of course also we have Kurdish representatives on the committee.” Bali responded on Twitter that Pedersen “must know that having a couple of Kurds…who [are] allied with the Syrian government or the opposition doesn’t mean Kurds [are] represented in the committee.” Representatives of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria had been iced from the summit in Sochi, Russia, in January 2018, where the decision was taken to draft a new constitution. (Photo: ANF)

East Asia
Su Beng

Taiwan independence activist Su Beng dead at 100

Lifelong Taiwanese independence activist Su Beng died in Taipei, just a few weeks away from his 101st birthday. A resistance fighter against the Japanese during World War II, he subsequently became an underground militant who plotted against the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. After being forced into exile in Tokyo, he wrote his history of Taiwan, an openly partisan work with an anti-imperialist perspective, and became a vocal advocate for democracy in his island home, and its formal independence from China. He returned to Taiwan with the democratic transition of the 1990s, where he continued to agitate for independence, eventually becoming a respected advisor to current President Tsai Ing-wen. (Photo of Su Beng with Tsai Ing-wen via SupChina)

Syria

Erdogan exploits refugees in Syria land-grab

A meeting in Ankara between the Turkish, Russian, and Iranian presidents failed to reach a breakthrough on what is obviously a planned carve-up of Syria. But a consensus does appear to be emerging on betrayal of the Syria Kurds. Ankara is promoting a plan to resettle displaced Syrians in a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” stretching across Syria’s north. While the US wants the width of the “safe zone” confined to 10 kilometers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the zone could be expanded to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor—respectively some 100 and 200 kilometers from the Turkish border. Significantly, the city of Raqqa and much of Deir ez-Zor province are controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Erdogan has named a figure of 3 million refugees and displaced persons to be settled within the “safe zone.” (Photo via Ahval)

East Asia

Hong Kong: will protests spread to mainland?

Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “fake concession,” with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam’s supposed “withdrawal” of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. ChinaWorker.info, a Hong Kong-based website that supports independent labor struggles in China and is now supporting the protest movement in the city, warns of an imminent escalation in repression: “What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses.” (Photo: ChinaWorker.info)

Syria

Erdogan bargains with refugees in Syria land-grab

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Europe if his long-sought “safe zone” in northern Syria is not established. Having recently declared the EU-Turkey deal on refugees struck back in 2016 to be no longer in effect, Erdogan is now using the some 4 million Syrian refugees in his country as a bargaining chip in his dispute with Washington over the size of the military “safe zone.” US Central Command maintains that Kurdish militia forces have withdrawn from the strip along the Turkish border, acquiescing in establishment of the “safe zone.” But the US and Turkey remain at odds over the width of the zone, with Ankara demanding 40 kilometers and Washington insisting on 10.  (Photo via Ahval)

Oceania

West Papua rights lawyer faces imprisonment

Indonesian police have named human rights lawyer and prominent West Papua advocate Veronica Koman as a suspect in the spreading of “fake news,” accusing her of “incitement” in the widespread unrest that has swept the country’s easternmost region in recent weeks. Koman has been charged under Indonesia’s controversial cybercrime law, and faces up to six years in prison and a $70,000 fine if convicted. Police specifically mentioned Koman’s online posts of an incident in Java, in which army troops and nationalist militiamen were captured on video calling Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs.” Indonesian authorities have contacted Interpol to seek assistance in locating the Surabaya, who they believe is outside the country. Indonesia’s National Commission of Human Rights has assailed the move, saying Koman had merely attempted to provide “necessary information.” (Photo via The Guardian)

Greater Middle East

Turkey: sweeps, unrest follow electoral dispute

The municipalities of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van in Turkey’s east have been rocked by unrest since the central government removed their mayors from office over alleged links to a Kurdish armed group last month. “Trustees” have been appointed to govern the municipalities, as protesters have repeatedly clashed with riot police, who have deployed tear-gas, water-cannons and armored vehicles. The leftist and Kurdish-supported Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has refused to accept the suspension of the mayors and called for ongoing protests to uphold “the will of the people.” Amid the protest wave, Ankara has launched “Operation Kıran,” a new campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the region, with hundreds arrested. Among those sentenced to prison last week was Raife İnatçı, a 70-year-old Kurdish woman in Diyarbakır, whose six-month term was upheld by a local court. She was accused of spreading “terrorist propaganda” with a placard she carried at a demonstration. (Photo of Raife İnatçı via Turkey Purge)

East Asia

Podcast: the politics of separatism in China

In Episode 39 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Hong Kong protests—and especially how they have been playing out in New York’s Chinatown. It is natural that the Hong Kong protesters have made common cause with the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols also struggling for their rights and dignity against China’s ruling party-state. But some supporters of these movements have come to embrace a separatist position, actually seeking independent states in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkistan and South Mongolia. Will self-determination for these regions and peoples be possible without active solidarity with the struggles for democracy and political empowerment by the Han Chinese majority of the People’s Republic? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)