fear of music
Supporters of imprisoned Cuban rap artist Maykel Castillo Pérez, better known by his stage name "El Osorbo," warn that his life is in danger one week into a hunger strike, and that he has been removed to a "punishment cell" where he is being held incommunicado. Academic and fellow dissident Anamely Ramos said that when she last heard from him, he was being taken to a prison doctor with swollen lymph nodes. Castillo is a leader of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of Cuban dissident artists and intellectuals, and co-author of the viral song "Patria y Vida," which became an anthem of the mass protests across the island in late July. He has been repeatedly arrested since 2015, including for protesting the controversial Decree 349, which places restrictions on artistic expression. He has been held at the maximum-security Pinar del Río prison since his May 31 arrest for the vague crimes of "resistance" and "contempt." He launched his total hunger and thirst strike on Nov. 11, in protest both of his own detention and the general crackdown on freedom of expression in Cuba. (CiberCuba, Periódico Cubano, PEN America)
The Taliban killed an Afghan folk musician Aug. 29, days after stating that they would ban music from being played in public places. Fawad Andarabi was shot dead by Taliban fighters who arrived at his farm in the village of Kishnabad, Andarab district, in the southern part of Baghlan province. The district is near the Panjshir Valley that harbors a resistance force rejecting Taliban rule. Four days earlier, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the New York Times: "Music is forbidden in Islam, but we're hoping that we can persuade people not to do such things, instead of pressuring them."
Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Aug. 2 charged pro-democracy activist Au Nok-hin and Cantopop singer Wong Yiu-ming, AKA Anthony Wong, with "corrupt conduct" for allegedly breaching election laws by having Wong perform two songs at a rally for Au in his 2018 run for the Legislative Council. The ICAC cited provisions of the Elections Corrupt & Illegal Conduct Ordinance, which define as corrupt conduct meeting "all or part of the cost of providing food, drink or entertainment for another person for the purpose of inducing a third party to vote or not vote for a particular candidate at an election." Hong Kong's Department of Justice withdrew the charges against the pair two days after Wong was arrested, but they were both placed under a "bind-over order." Under terms of the order, they each put up a $2,000 bond and will face no criminal charges if they maintain "good behavior" for a period of 24 months. "Hongkongers keep singing, Hongkongers keep going," Wong told reporters as he left the courtroom.
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.
The arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy has sparked angry protests in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other Spanish cities. Facing charges in relation to his tweets and song lyrics, Hasél barricaded himself alongside supporters inside Catalonia's University of Lleida on Feb. 16. His supporters sprayed fire-extinguishers at troops when the building was raided later that day by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. As he was led away, supporters shouted, "They will never silence us; death to the fascist state!" Hasél was turned over to Spanish authorities to begin serving a nine-month term. Angry protests immediately broke out, with several demonstrators arrested that night. Protests have continued throughout the week.
Rights advocates in Iran's Khuzestan province, homeland of the marginalized Ahwazi Arab people, report another wave of sweeps and incommunicado detention of local activists. Agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Dec. 11 detained Zeinab Sawari, a teacher and prominent Ahwazi advocate for women's and children's rights. Sawari's younger siblings were also detained when they came to her defense during the raid on the family's home in Neysan district of Howeyzeh shahrestan (county). Agents simultaneously raided the nearby home of their aunt, Fatema Sawari. Zeinab Sawari had recently been involved in fundraising to help victims of the severe flooding that devastated the region both this year and in 2019. Both Zeinab and Fatema Sawari remain in detention at an undisclosed location.
Cuban police agents raided the headquarters of the dissident San Isidro Movement (MSI) in Old Havana on Nov. 26 and arrested the 14 activists who were inside the building, several of whom had been on hunger strike for the past week. Simultaneously, authorities cut off access to Facebook and Instagram across the island, in an apparent attempt to prevent images and reports of the raid from being disseminated. A tweet from MSI stated: "Agents of the dictatorship broke into our headquarters, savagely beat our compañeros, took them away and we do not know their whereabouts. We fear for their physical integrity." Cuban authorities said the raid was carried out over a violation of pandemic restrictions.
At least 16 people have been killed in protests in Uganada since the arrest of two leading opposition candidates in upcoming presidential elections Nov. 18. One of the detained candidates, popular musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi), was accused of breaking COVID-19 restrictions at campaign rallies. Both he and fellow candidate Patrick Amuriat Oboi were detained while on their way to attend rallies. Four candidates, including two former military generals, have suspended their campaigns following the arrests. The military has been deployed to put down the protests in Kampala and other cities. Protesters are tearing down and burning campaign billboards of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power since 1986, before the majority of Ugandans were born.