Bill Weinberg

Afghanistan: schoolgirl massacre amid 'peace' talks

Explosions outside a high school in Afghanistan's capital on May 8 killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens more—most of them girls who were leaving class. The Sayed ul-Shuhada school holds classes for boys in the morning and for girls in the afternoon. The attack occurred around 4 PM, as the girls were leaving and the streets were packed with residents preparing for the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The school is in Kabul's western Dasht-e-Barchi district, where many residents are of the Hazara ethnic minority. Almost exactly a year ago, a maternity ward at the district's hospital was attacked, leaving 24 women, children and infants dead.

Electoral impasse exposes Jerusalem apartheid

Some 200 Palestinians as well as a handful of Israeli police officers were hurt in clashes at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem the night of May 7, the latest outburst in a series of confrontations in the city throughout the current month of Ramadan. Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades as Palestinians threw stones and bottles. For weeks, East Jerusalem has seen nightly protests over the impending eviction of hundreds of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district. So far, 12 Palestinian families in the neighborhood have received eviction orders issued by the Israeli courts. Four of the families have filed a petition with the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in their cases next week.

Massacres, assassinations continue in Colombia

Police killed at least eight people in Colombia's southwestern city of Cali, amid national protests against President Iván Duque's proposed reform of the tax code, local human rights defenders said April 30. The city's independent Francisco Isaías Cifuentes Human Rights Network (REDDHFIC) put the number dead at 14. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Bogotá, Medellin and other cities on May 1. In response to the protest wave, Duque said he would revise his proposed "Sustainable Solidarity Law," and that the new taxes on sales of food and gasoline would be dropped. (Reuters, BBC Mundo, Colombia Reports, May 1; InfoBae, April 30; BBC Mundo, April 29)

Kyrgyz-Tajik border clash over water

The armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan clashed at a disputed section of their border on April 29, leaving 30 dead and thousands displaced before a ceasefire was declared. The fighting broke out near the strategic Golovnoi (also rendered Golovnaya) water pumping facility, in the Tajik-controlled exclave of Vorukh. Kyrgyz protesters gathered on their side of the de facto border after Tajik authorities installed surveillance cameras at the facility. The two sides began hurling rocks at each oher across the line before military troops intervened, and the situation escalated. The Golovnoi facility pumps water from the Isfara River, a tributary of the Syr Darya, to irrigate agriculture in the area. It is in the Fergana Valley, a small fertile pocket in the arid Central Asia region. Soviet authorities drew the boundaries so that Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan each got a portion of it. However, this meant intricate, twisting borders between these nations, and territorial disputes have arisen.

Syria: Kurdish forces take Qamishlo from regime

The local Kurdish Asayish militia announced April 26 that it has taken control of the last contested district of the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli from pro-regime forces. An Asayish statement said that after several days of fighting, al-Tay neighborhood is to be in their hands under terms of a truce with the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF), enforced by Russian troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). "The residents of al-Tay neighborhood who left their homes due to escalation will be assisted by our forces to return to their homes," the Asayish statement said.

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections April 11, that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June 6 run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru's electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country's elites, and has actually been assailed by columnist César Hildebrandt as a "mafia organization."

South Sudan: protests after singer's death

Juba, the capital of South Sudan, saw street protests last week after popular singer Trisha "Cee" Cosmas was killed when the bici-taxi she was riding in was struck by a tanker-truck on March 29. Using the usual jaundiced terminology, the local Radio Tamazuj writes that the "bodaboda [bici-taxi] carrying the musician collided with a truck..." Far more likely that the truck ran down the bodaboda. Indeed, local Eye Radio states that "a water tank lost control and ran over a boda-boda at Mobile Roundabout." The Radio Tamazuj account adds: "Trisha's family, friends, and fans say she died due to reckless driving and poor services at the Juba Teaching Hospital, the country's main referral hospital where she was left unattended for more than four hours until her death." Three companions of Trisha Cee were also injured.

Ten years after: the Syrian Revolution betrayed

Ten years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of large areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II.

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