In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)
From our Daily Report:
Named the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders, the Philippines has become an even deadlier place for activists in 2019, with 46 recorded deaths so far this year, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. The same organization recorded 28 killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018. Global Witness, an environmental watchdog, tallied 30 such killings in the Philippines that year and designated the country the most dangerous in the world for defenders based on sheer number of deaths. Small farmers and agricultural workers accounted for the majority of the deaths recorded by Kalikasan PNE this year with 29, or 63%. This was followed by forest rangers or government officials involved in environmental oversight, at 35%. Next were members of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples at 20%, and finally lawyers and church workers at four percent. (Image of man from the Manobo tribe of Mindanao via Mongabay)
More than a decade after 58 people were killed in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, a court in Quezon City found Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan guilty of overseeing the November 2009 massacre at Maguindanao. They were sentenced to 40 years without parole. The pair were convicted on 57 counts of murder in the attack on a convoy that included journalists covering an opposition candidate for the governorship of Maguindanao province. Police said 58 were killed in the massacre, but the body of one victim was never found. Their father, then-incumbent governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was arrested in connection with the case and died in prison while awaiting trial in 2015. The court sentenced a further 15, including more Ampatuan family members and police officials, to between six and 10 years as accessories to the crime. (Photo: Relatives of victims burn portraits of Ampatuan clan members during visit to massacre site. Credit: MindaNews)
Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General António Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)
Families of young children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been injured or killed while mining cobalt have launched a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft. Cobalt is used in batteries for the electronic devices that technology companies manufacture and is abundant in the Congo. The complaint, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, details the dangerous conditions in which children are working, and makes comparisons with the conditions during the 16-19th century slave trade. The impoverished children are digging with rudimentary equipment and without adequate safety precautions for USD $2-3 a day. (Photo: Julien Harneis/WikiMedia Commons)
Thousands of Gambians took to the streets in the capital Banjul, demanding that President Adama Barrow honor the agreement he signed with the opposition to step down after three years in office. Barrow, a relative unknown at the time, defeated long-ruling Yahya Jammeh in elections in the small West African state in 2016. He promised to rule for three years before stepping down, but he has since said he will govern until 2021, serving a full presidential term. The protests were organized by the movement “Operation Three Years Jotna,” which means “three years enough” in a mix of English and the Wolof language. (Map: CIA)
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a new report that international human rights norms had been violated by both police and army personnel during the recent mass protests in Chile which led the government to declare a state of emergency. The report said that these rights violations should be prosecuted. The 30-page report, based on research during the first three weeks of November, extensively details multiple allegations, including of torture, and rape and other forms of sexual violence, against people held in detention. The leader of the OHCHR mission in Chile, Imma Guerras-Delgado, told journalists in Geneva, that the overall management of demonstrations by the police “was carried out in a fundamentally repressive manner.” (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)
India’s northeastern state of Assam has exploded into protest over the passage of a new national citizenship law. The army has been deployed, a curfew imposed in state capital Guwahati, and internet access cut off. At least five people have been killed as security forces fired on demonstrators. The new law allows religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship. This means it effectively excludes Muslims, and mostly apples to Hindus and Sikhs. Critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist government say it therefore violates India’s founding secular principles. But while secularists and Muslims are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on this basis elsewhere in India, the biggest protests have been in Assam—motivated by fear that the state will be overrun by an influx from Bangladesh, threatening its cultural and linguistic identity. (Image: Sowmya Reddy)
President Trump’s executive order, ostensibly extending civil rights protections to Jewish students on college campuses, is a masterpiece of propaganda and disguised motives, actually criminalizing opposition to the expropriation of the Palestinians, making a consistent anti-racist position legally impossible—and thereby, paradoxically, abetting anti-Semitism. (Image: frgdr.com)
The UN says it is unable to help most residents of an overcrowded refugee center in the Libyan capital it once touted as a safe haven. To encourage people to go, it is offering money and aid—and even telling them they won’t be able to register as refugees to leave the war-torn country if they remain. Originally intended as a temporary residence for a small fraction of refugees—just those already vetted by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and scheduled for evacuation or permanent residency in other countries—the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) now has some 1,150 residents, well over its stated capacity. Most arrived over the last eight months of clashes in Tripoli, including 900 who UNHCR says entered “informally”; some even bribed their way in to escape more oppressive conditions at other facilities run by the Libyan government. But conditions are now rapidly deteriorating at the GDF as well. (Photo of Triq al-Sikka migrant detention center via TNH)
In a referendum held over two weeks, the people of Bougainville, an archipelago in the South Pacific’s Solomon Sea, voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). The referendum was the centerpiece of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement between the PNG government and Bougainville independence leaders to end a devastating decade-long war that claimed nearly 20,000 lives—nearly a tenth the territory’s total population. Negotiations between PNG and Bougainville about the road forward will now begin and could continue for years, with the PNG parliament having the final say. Control of the territory’s rich mineral resources has been a key issue in the conflcit. (Photo via UNPO)
“Who is James Bay?” That’s the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a “who” but a “where,” and a large portion of New York City’s electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s so-called “Green New Deal,” and how maybe it isn’t so green after all. The mayor’s plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as “zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity.” But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” Listen on SoundCloud,and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)
As the year 2019 is approaching the finish line, India appears to have improved its journalist murder index—with authorities counting only two slain in circumstances directly related to their work this year. Reporters Without Borders counts nearly 50 journalists killed for their work worldwide to date this year (compared to 95 in 2018), and India’s share has also gone down considerably—from six last year. However, there were several other cases across India in which it is yet to be confirmed that the victims were targeted for media activities. And with multiple conflicts now escalating around the country, this promises to be a critical question in 2020. Nava Thakuria reports from Guwahati, in India’s strife-torn northeast.Continue Reading2019: INDIA IMPROVES JOURNO-MURDER INDEX
Over the past days a popular uprising has broken out across northern Syria’s Idlib against the hardline Islamist group that is militarily dominant in much of the province—Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam or HTS, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The uprising began when HTS increased zakaat (taxes) on a number of goods and services including bread, electricity and olive oil. The anti-Assad regime protests which are held almost every Friday in Idlib are now also demanding the expulsion of HTS from the province. The dominant narrative promoted by the regime and supporters of Assadist fascism is that Idlib is a “terrorist enclave.” Today’s uprising should challenge this narrative. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami provides an account.Continue ReadingIDLIB RESISTS
For months, hundreds of African migrants and asylum seekers from conflict-ridden countries like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been camped out in tents in front of the main immigration detention facility in the town of Tapachula, in southern Mexico. Most flew halfway around the world to Brazil, then made the dangerous journey north through the Darien Gap— a remote, roadless swath of jungle—before traversing Central America into Mexico in the hope of finally reaching the United States to claim asylum. Instead, they were detained upon arrival in Mexico, under terms of the new migration agreement between the US and Mexican governments. Melisa Valenzuela reports from Tapachula for The New Humanitarian.Continue ReadingLEFT WAITING
Italy’s far-right interior minister (and de facto ruler) Matteo Salvini was just removed from power in a government shake-up—but not before passing his draconian “Salvini Law.” In addition to restricting the rights of migrants and refugees to asylum and government aid, the Salvini Law imposes a five-year prison term for squatting. Italy’s thousands of squatters—many of them displaced from their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and South America—are now in a precarious position. Bill Weinberg offers a first-hand account from the squats and migrant enclaves of the Eternal City.Continue ReadingROME SQUATTERS FACE CLAMPDOWN
By revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, India has seemingly abandoned the notion of Jammu & Kashmir state as a special territory deserving autonomy. However, the revocation is being challenged as itself unconstitutional, and in violation of both international agreements and the Instrument of Accession by which J&K joined the Indian union in 1947. The revocation may yet be overturned by India’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, unrest and repression mount in J&K, and tensions are escalating with Pakistan—raising the possibly an armed conflict between the Subcontinent’s nuclear rivals. L. Ali Khan, writing for Jurist, offers a legal and historical perspective on the crisis.Continue ReadingHOW INDIA COMPLICATED KASHMIR DISPUTE
A huge, diverse and overtly political movement has removed President Bouteflika, Algeria’s long-ruling strongman. Now attention turns to the transition. Peaceful protests continue each Friday, demanding that the military-dominated regime step aside, with a new constitution and full civilian rule. Faten Aggad reports from Algiers for African Arguments.Continue ReadingALGERIA: BOUTEFLEXIT COMPLETE. NOW WHAT?
If 2011 looked like the moment when people could unite, both within and across borders, to topple decades-old dictatorships with the demand for freedom and social justice, today looks like the moment of counter-revolutionary success. After eight years of increasingly brutal conflict in Syria, Bashar al-Assad still presides as president over a now destroyed, fragmented and traumatized country. The dominant narrative is that the war is nearing its end. States once vocally opposed to Assad now have other strategic concerns which take precedence over the victims of his savage efforts to hold onto power. Yet, on the ground, conditions are far from stable; civilians remain trapped and are paying the price for ongoing struggles for power and territory between the regime, foreign states and ideological warlords. Syrian writer and activist Leila Al Shami writes for the North American anarchist journal Fifth Estate.Continue ReadingSYRIA: FROM REVOLUTION TO QUAGMIRE
Why have there been so few large protests against the daily abuses from the Trump administration? Where is the opposition? Syria solidarity activists have watched disinformation contribute to uncertainty and division on the left. Trusted “left” writers have created confusion by supporting the Assad regime and dismissing the extensive evidence of Russian interference in the US elections. Scholars of authoritarianism are warning us of the dangers of the Trump/Putin collusion—while the so-called “alternative” media increasingly functions as an “echo-system” of Russian propaganda. Terry Burke deconstructs this reality in a special for CounterVortex.Continue Reading‘RUSSIAGATE,’ SYRIA AND THE LEFT
Jae Carico of The Fifth Column Network interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg on Eurasianism, Red-Brown politics, and how the consensus position of the contemporary American “left” is now pro-fascist. They also discuss the prospects for reviving the traditional anti-fascist stance of the left, through a ruthless critique of its existing leadership and active solidarity with the civil opposition in Syria.Continue ReadingCRITIQUE OF GEOPOLITICS AND THE LEFT
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. Pro-war and anti-war voices in the US alike have instrumentalized the suffering of Afghan women to advance their political aims. In a special for CounterVortex, journalist Andy Heintz provides an overview of Afghanistan’s courageous women’s rights advocates, and calls for heeding their voices—which hold a spectrum of opinion on the US military presence in the country.Continue ReadingU.S. LEFT MUST NOT FORGET AFGHAN WOMEN
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
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 plightContinue ReadingWEATHER WAR