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.

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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.

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MASS PROTESTS SWEEP VIETNAM

by Vu Quoc Ngu, Waging Nonviolence

"An Arab spring has started to emerge in Vietnam," said Pham Chi Dung, a former member of the ruling Communist Party, following the largest and most widespread protests in years.

Over the weekend of June 9-10, tens of thousands of Vietnamese took to the streets across the country to protest two bills on cyber security and the creation of new special economic zones, or SEZs. The protest began with the participation of around 50,000 workers from the Pouchen footwear factory in Tan Tao industrial zone in Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest economic hub in the Southeast Asian nation.

Thousands of people gathered in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang and other cities, chanting and carrying banners that read "Say no to bill on SEZs," "No land lease to China even for one day," and "Cyber security law means silencing people."

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IN DEFENSE OF TACTICAL VOTING

With No Illusions —and No Apologies

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

My attitude about voting has been like the old Jewish joke about chicken soup when you've got a cold—it may not help very much, but it can't hurt. The more ideological argue that voting legitimizes the system, and they've got a point. The more pragmatic counter that such a purist position is an irresponsible luxury in the face of emergency—such as we in the United States are clearly now facing.

Donald Trump's presence in the White House makes the world a more dangerous place—and, as ever, it is the least powerful who are at the greatest risk.

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OUTCAST LAWYERS IN CHINA

Disbarment, Suspension and Harassment

by Patrick Poon, Jurist

When Sui Muqing became a lawyer in 1993, he couldn't imagine that 25 years later he would become a "post-lawyer" (lüshihou), a self-deprecating term often used by lawyers in China who have been stripped of their license to practice.

The authorities accused Sui Muqing of confronting a trial judge and separately of taking a picture of his client, dissident writer Chen Yunfei, when visiting him in detention. This was enough for the Guangdong Provincial Department of Justice to formally revoke his license, after a heavily guarded hearing in early February this year.

However, it is more likely the authorities' motivation was to neuter a vocal and effective human rights lawyer. A thorn in the side of the government, Sui Muqing defended many activists and victims of human rights abuses, including representing high-profile human rights defenders like Guangdong activists Guo Feixiong and Wang Qingying and Falun Gong practitioners. Together with other lawyers, he had written statements on the difficulties for lawyers in sensitive cases, ranging from not being allowed to meet clients to challenges in defending their clients in court.

Sui Muqing's experience exemplifies how much pressure a lawyer in China faces now if he or she takes up human rights cases considered sensitive by the authorities. Since the crackdown against more than 200 human rights lawyers and activists which began in July 2015, that sparked international condemnation, the authorities have increasingly deployed bureaucracy to stifle these determined voices.

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THE STRUGGLE FOR A FEDERAL BURMA

Interview with Moon Nay Li

by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex

Moon Nay Li is the general secretary of the Kachin Women's Association-Thailand, based in Chiang Mai near the Burmese border. KWAT was founded in in 1999 to help women organize themselves to solve social and economic problems in Burma's Kachin State. The organization has documented human rights abuses, sexual violence, and land-rights violations committed by the Burmese military. Moon has called for the international community to engage more with ethnic leaders, civilians and community-based organizations to help bring peace between the Burmese military and ethnic minorities in the country's restive north. Despite a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement that was signed in October 2015 between the Burmese army and some of the ethnic armies, many other ethnic groups have not signed the agreement; human right abuses by the military against the Kachin people and other groups remain ongoing. Moon has criticized the international community for not focusing enough on regional autonomy for ethnic groups such as her Kachin people, who were promised autonomy by Burma government in the Panglong Agreement of 1947. She also has called for a moratorium on foreign funding of development projects in areas where the military is clashing with ethnic armed groups. She also criticizes the governing National League of Democracy, and its leader Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for pressuring ethnic groups to sign the NCA while not addressing the outstanding issues.

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THE ‘ANTI-IMPERIALISM’ OF FOOLS

by Leila Al Shami

Once more the western "anti-war" movement has awoken to mobilize around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime's military capability (but didn't) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, the crossing of a supposed a "red line." The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.

The first thing to note from the three major mobilizations of the western "anti-war" left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 percent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime's brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There's no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities, or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are evidently expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan "Hands off Syria" really means "Hands off Assad," and support is often given for Russia's military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.

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ISRAEL’S GREATER JERUSALEM BILL

by Moien Odeh, Jurist

In 2017, two bills were introduced from the Israeli government coalition's members—the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel (Amendment No. 2) Bill and the Greater Jerusalem Bill—both designed to substantively alter the borders of Jerusalem and to change its demographics. Introduced during the 50th anniversary year of the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, their shared objective was the de facto annexation of the settlement blocs surrounding Jerusalem and the displacement of approximately 140 thousand (one third) of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem living in the neighborhoods already effectively detached from the city by the Separation Barrier. These proposals were not raised in a vacuum; they are part of a continuum of initiatives advanced in recent years, all of which aim to unilaterally force determinative territorial-political facts on Jerusalem in the guise of "municipal measures."

Following the Israeli occupation of the Holy City in 1967, the Israeli authorities annexed approximately 70 square kilometers of West Bank land to the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality and imposed Israeli law on it. The annexed land did not include only the eastern city with its borders that were under Jordanian control, but also included an additional 64 kilometers that were located in the surrounding Palestinian villages and towns. Almost a third of the annexed territory was expropriated in order to build expansive Israeli neighborhoods/settlements along the annexation line. Additional areas were expropriated officially while others were declared national parks or green areas, effectively resulting in the expropriation of those areas as well.

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PEOPLE OF THE EARTH

The Mapuche Struggle in Chile

by Jesús Sepúlveda, Fifth Estate

During his visit to Chile in January 2018, Pope Francis officiated a mass in the Araucania region—the ancestral territory of the Mapuche people.

The night before, unknown individuals burned three forest company helicopters, three churches, and a school. Fliers demanding the liberation of Mapuche political prisoners were found nearby.

So far, no one has been charged in connection with these acts.

The Mapuche are indigenous people of South America who have been involved in a long struggle for cultural autonomy and territorial independence since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. They call themselves the "people of the earth," which is the meaning of the word Mapuche in their language. Their ancestral territory, known to them as Wallmapu, stretches across the Chile-Argentina border.

From 2001 on, the Chilean state used the Pinochet-era Anti-Terrorism Law against the Mapuche. Since then, police and landowners have killed sixteen Mapuches. One of the most controversial cases was the assassination of the activist Matias Catrileo, shot in the back by an officer in 2008.

In 2013, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera's government prosecuted protesters for Anti-Terrorism for the death of landowner Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivianne Mackay in an arson attack which occurred during a protest in commemoration of Catrileo’s death.

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CHINA’S PEACEFUL RISE?

The Fate of Lawyer Liu Yao

by Elizabeth M. Lynch, China Law & Policy

Since 2004, it has been illegal to build golf courses in China. Not only do they suck up a tremendous amount of water, but all too often local officials unlawfully appropriate farmers' land for these golf courses. In 2015, President Xi Jinping focused his anti-corruption campaign on the sport, forbidding Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials from playing the game. But even with these prohibitions, golf still reins. Since 2004, over 400 new golf courses have been illegally built.

Thus, one would think that the Chinese government would welcome a local tip that an official was appropriating village land to sell to a developer to build a golf course. But that is not how the Chinese government responded when, in August 2015, Guangdong attorney Liu Yao reported precisely that. Instead, Liu Yao now sits in a jail cell, serving a 20-year sentence on what most believe are trumped-up charges in retaliation for his whistle-blowing.

Like many Chinese human rights lawyers, Liu Yao is not a stranger to the inside of a Chinese prison. In 2008, Liu was given a four year sentence for leading a demonstration of farmers who had not been properly compensated when government officials took their land. His sentence was decreased to 18 months after the Shenzhen Lawyers Association began a campaign to expose the sham that was his conviction.

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POSITIVELY QUILCA STREET

Anarchist Scene Survives 'Clean-Up' in Lima, Peru

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

When Lutxo Rodríguez recalls the local punks and social outcasts of the downtown district he habituates "dressing in black in the '80s," I smile wryly, remembering the Lower East Side of my own youth. But the urban decay that allowed for the florescence of bohemia and an anarcho-punk scene in this small enclave of a South American capital came "in the context of political violence."

This is Jirón Quilca, a narrow street just off downtown Lima's Plaza San Martín. Follow it west, and the stately old hotels and restaurants around the plaza quickly give way to dusty second-hand bookstores, where surviving murals on the exterior walls speak to a recent past of oppositional culture. Quilca, and the warren of small streets surrounding it, was long the haunt of Lima's "poets, punks, writers, and marginalized people," Rodríguez recalls.

A veteran leading figure in the scene, Rodríguez himself looks like he’s changed little. He is still dressed in a black-and-red color scheme, with long partly dyed hair, black beard and nose-ring. "But Quilca is not the same," he says. "It is full of lumpen as well as bohemia. There are still lots of bookstores, people still gather there in the evenings to drink and talk. But it isn't a focus of resistance the way it used to be."

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SEEKING JUSTICE FOR GUJARAT GENOCIDE

Interview with Teesta Setalvad

by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex

Teesta Setalvad is a social activist and an ardent defender of India's secular tradition, which is now under attack. She is founder of Citizens for Peace and Justice, a non-profit organization formed to seek justice for the victims of the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002. She and her husband Javed Anand started Sabrang Communications and co-founded the magazine Communalism Combat in 1993 to highlight and oppose both majoritarian and minority communalism—which in India is used to refer to narrow allegiance to one's own ethnic or sectarian group. A feminist and defender of minority rights, she has supported the efforts to prosecute Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged approval of the pogroms when he was chief minister of Gujarat. The Modi government has accused Setalvad of coaching witnesses, violating India's Foreign Contributions Regulation Act by taking money from the Ford Foundation, and misappropriating money that was earmakred for constructing a "Museum of Resistance" in honor of those who died in the pogroms. None of these accusations have been proven in court. Critics decry the allegations as politically motivated and meant to intimidate Setalvad and her husband. Teesta is the author of Foot Soldier for the Constitution: A Memoir, and is a contributor to the book Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy

What has led to the ascension of Hindu Right in India? Did corruption in the [previously long-ruling] Congress Party help give rise to this movement?

I don't think corruption is the only reason. The single biggest presence in education today is the Hindu Right. They are working to change the mindsets of people. I think a lot of the current success and presence of the Hindu Right in the public sphere is because of their high level of organization. Americans even fund Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh- and Vishwa Hindu Parishad-run schools that promote Hindu supremacy—and often even hatred against minorities—because they think they are charity schools for tribal children. What they actually are doing is trying to re-fashion a culture and education that is inherently unequal and anti-Constitutional.

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