Central Asia

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)

Europe

Russia tightens screw on Crimean Tatars

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the homes of several Crimean Tatars, officially as part of an investigation of activities linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned as a “terrorist” organization in Russia although operating lawfully in Ukraine. FSB agents carried out at least 25 searches and detained at least 20 people. In Simferopol’s Kamyanka district, officers of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs cordoned off the neighborhood and ordered residents who assembled during the operation to disperse. According to reports, residents were not allowed to enter their homes and their lawyers were not permitted to be present during searches. Amnesty International Ukraine director Oksana Pokalchuk said: “The crackdown on the Crimean Tatar community, whose members are regarded as disloyal to the de facto Russian authorities, has continued unabated for five years.”

Oceania

Taiwan: indigenous seek Austronesian unity

Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples signed an agreement with the Pacific Island state of the Marshall Islands aimed at increasing bilateral exchanges to promote Austronesian culture. The agreement seeks to promote cooperation between Taiwan's indigenous communities and the linguistically related people of the Marshall Islands, particularly in the fields of language and preservation of traditional wisdom. The agreement, signed last month, coincides with the opening of the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, which acknowledges to the critical state of many indigenous tongues, and seeks to promote their protection and use, both at national and international levels. (Photo of Bunum people via Mata Taiwan)

The Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)

Central Asia

US companies profit from Uighur forced labor?

A top US sportswear company announced that it has dropped a Chinese supplier over concerns that its products were made by forced labor in detention camps in Xinjiang. Reports have mounted that the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs believed to be held in a fast-expanding system of detention camps are being put to forced labor for Chinese commercial interests. An Associated Press investigation tracked recent shipments from one such detention-camp factory, run by privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, to Badger Sportswear of North Carolina. After long denying that the camps exist, Chinese authorities now say they are "vocational training centers" aimed at reducing "extremism." (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Syria

Syria: did Kurdish militia fire on protesters?

A disturbing report from the Assyrian Policy Institute provides details on an incident in the northern Syrian town of Qamishli in which Kurdish militia fighters supposedly opened fire during a protest by local Assyrian Christians. The incident began when militia forces attempted to carry out an order by Rojava regional authorities to close Assyrian parochial schools in the town following their refusal to accept a new curriculum that school administrators said emphasized Kurdish nationalism. It ended when militiamen fired in the air to disperse the protesters who gathered at the scene. (Image: Assyrian Policy Institute)

North Africa

Podcast: Toward Berber-Palestinian solidarity

In Episode 16 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how Berbers, Palestinians, Sahrawi Arabs and other subjugated peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are pitted against each other by the Great Game of nation-states. Berbers in North Africa and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories face identical issues of cultural erasure, yet the Arab states' support for the Palestinians and retaliatory Israeli support for the Berbers constitute an obstacle to solidarity. The Sahrawi Arabs meanwhile fight for their independence from Morocco in the occupied territory of Western Sahara. But the Arab-nationalist ideology of their leadership is rejected by the territory's Berbers—leading to Sahrawi-Berber ethnic tensions in Morocco. Yet there are also signs of hope. Arabs and Berbers were united in the 2011 "Arab Revolution" protests in Morocco, and greater Berber cultural rights were a part of the constitutional reform won by those protests. And the new protest wave in Morocco's Rif Mountains over the past year has again united Arab and Berber. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image of Berber flag via Kabylia Information Agency)

Europe

Russian repression mounts against Crimean Tatars

Four years after Russia's annexation of Crimea, repression is mounting against the peninsula's Tatar people—whose autonomous powers, officially recognized under Ukrainian rule, have been unilaterally revoked. The group Human Rights in Ukraine is demanding that Russian authorities provide details on the death at the hands of Russian agents of Vedzhie Kashka, an 83-year-old veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement. Last November, a team of Russian National Guard troops  and FSB secret police carried out raids in which five Tatar leaders were detained while their homes were searched. Kashka was among those targeted, and died during the operation. An initial report said Kashka had died of natural causes, but an investigation carried out after her family had contracted a lawyer revealed that she had suffered several broken ribs. Kashka was a survivor of Stalin's 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan. She had been agitating for greater political rights for the Tatar people since they were allowed to return to Crimea in 1954. (Photo: Crimean News Agency)

Central Asia

China: anti-Islam police state —and Muslim protest

China is denying claims aired by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that up to a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang region. But Beijing appears to be imposing harsh surveillance and restrictions on freedom of worship on Muslims throughout China, even requiring those making the pilgrimage to Mecca to be fitted with GPS tracking devices. Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to. This week saw mass protests in Weizhou, Ningxia province, after authorities attempted to demolish a newly built mosque which they said had not received construction permits. After days of protest, authorities backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (Photo of protest at Weizhou Grand Mosque from Weibo via BBC News)

Palestine

Arabs, Druze protest Israel nation-state law

Tens of thousands of marched in Tel Aviv to protest Israel's new "nation-state law," which officially establishes Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people" and downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing. The march, led by Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, follows a similar mobilization in Tel Aviv one week earlier by members of Israel's Druze community. Both rallies filled the city's Rabin Square. Under the banner "Abolish Nation-state Law – Yes to Equality," the Arab-led march was organized by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and allied groups. In a joint statement, participating organizations said the Nationality Law "will turn racism, discrimination, humiliation and segregation into an inseparable part of our lives…. Our statement is clear: All citizens—all of them—are equal." (Photo: Druze elders from the Golan Heights, via LookLex)

Central Asia

Podcast: The Tibetan uprising 10 years later

In Episode 15 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reports on the 10-year commemoration of the 2008 Tibetan uprising held by Students for a Free Tibet in Astoria, Queens, New York City. A decade after the uprising was put down, struggles for land recovery and language preservation continue in Tibet, as well as among the Mongols, Uighurs and other indigenous peoples of the territory that constitutes the People's Republic of China. Weinberg provides an overview of these ongoing struggles, and draws parallels to related struggles in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and elsewhere in the Americas—including the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline. These parallels point to the urgent need for grassroots-to-grassroots international solidarity across superpower infuence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Uprising Archive)

North Africa

Berber language rights at issue in Libya, Morocco

The Libyan Amazigh Supreme Council, representing the country's Berber ethnic minority, has decided to boycott the referendum on the country's newly released draft constitution, in protest of the lack of provisions for their language and cultural rights. Berbers want their language to be official in the Libyan constitution, given equal status with Arabic in administration and education. Meanwhile in Morocco, Berber leaders are protesting a move by the city of Agadir to remove street names in the Berber language, Tamazight. The Agadir city council voted to change Tamazight street names to the names of Palestinian cities, ostensibly as a show of support for Palestinians. Abdullah Badou, head of Morocco's Amazigh Network, said: "We do not have a problem with Palestine. Certainly, we support the Palestinians, but we do not agree with those who ignore the nature of the area and the history of Morocco." (Photo of Agadir port via Morocco World News)