The siege imposed by Syrian government forces on Daraa al-Balad enclave since June 24 could lead to serious humanitarian repercussions if it continues, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement on July 15. Russian-backed regime forces are trying to get remnant rebel fighters in the district of Daraa city to surrender their medium and light weapons, and accede to installation of military checkpoints. The statement urgently called for lifting the siege and allowing delivery of humanitarian aid, noting that shipments from the World Food Program have been barred entry to the district. It also stressed that all roads to the hospitals in government-controlled parts of Daraa have been cut off by regime troops, leaving district residents without access to medical facilities, except for a single insufficient clinic within the encircled area. Food, medicines and other basic materials are already running low, threatening 40,000 residents with starvation.
Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a "coup" with the help of the country's military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament July 25. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saied had been engrossed in disputes with the now-ousted prime minister Hichem Mechichi since the pandemic struck.
As before, thoroughly controlled elections were held in Syria on May 26, with completely predictable results. Regime officials have declared Bashar al-Assad the winner with 95.1% of the vote. This is even higher than the 88.7% claimed by Assad in 2014, Syria's first presidential ballot since his father Hafez died in 2000 (who had held even more thoroughly controlled elections only rarely after taking power in a 1970 coup d'etat). Assad ran against two nominal challengers, with another 49 candidates disqualified. State TV and official news agency SANA promoted Assad relentlessly; his posters were displayed on walls and billboards throughout regime-controlled territory.
One protester was killed and dozens injured as security forces opened fire on a May 25 rally in Baghdad, where thousands had gathered to demand accountability in the murder of Iraqi activists and demonstrators. Video footage on social media showed live fire, tear-gas and street-fighting reminiscent of October 2019, when the nationwide uprising first broke out. Since then, almost 600 protesters have been killed and at least 30 activists slain in targeted killings, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights. The new protests were sparked by the killing of activist Ihab Jawad al-Wazni near his home in Karbala on May 9, and calls by his family for an end to impunity. (Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye)
Security forces in Algeria put down weekly pro-democracy protests in the capital and cities across the country May 21, detaining hundreds of would-be demonstrators. "March prevented and suppressed in Algiers and Annaba, confrontations in Bouira, arrests in several provinces," reported Said Salhi, head of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH), adding that demonstrations had gone ahead in Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou. He said nearly 500 people had been detained across 15 provinces, but mostly in Algiers. Protests had been held every Friday since the Hirak pro-democracy movement emerged in February 2019. In early May, just as the weekly protests were starting to re-mobilize after a period of abeyance due to the pandemic, the Interior Ministry announced new rules barring unauthorized demonstrations. This past Friday marked a second consecutive week that police flooded the streets of the capital to head off the protests. Said one activist on the scene: "For the 118th Friday [since the first Hirak protests], 'Algiers the White' has turned police blue." (TRT World, Al Jazeera)
Libya's Government of National Accord officially handed power over to a new interim government in Tripoli on March 16, the day after Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh's cabinet was sworn in by the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk. This is the fruit of a long and complicated UN-led process with multi-track negotiations. The new leadership faces multiple challenges, including holding elections and restoring much-needed government services. It also needs to unite a country that has largely been in chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, helped by NATO's decision (exactly 10 years ago) to intervene. The new cabinet contains five women, including the ministers of foreign affairs and justice. Together they make up 15% of the leadership—not the 30% delegates to the UN process had promised. But many Libyan women are viewing this as at least a step in the right direction.
In Episode 65 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers his presentation on the panel "Kronstadt 1921 and the Social Crises of 2021," part of the online conference Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021 and Beyond, marking the centenary of the Kronstadt uprising in revolutionary Russia. In March 1921, Russian naval troops mutinied and took over their island garrison as an autonomous zone, in solidarity with striking workers in Petrograd, and to demand greater freedom and power for democratic soviets (worker councils) against the consolidating one-party state of the Bolsheviks. When the uprising was brutally put down, this marked the first time that international leftist forces found themselves on the side of repression rather than rebellion. A century later, all too many on the international "left" similarly find themselves on the side of repression rather than rebellion in Syria. And the dictatorship of Bashar Assad, unlike the Russia of 1921, is by no stretch of the imagination a revolutionary state. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
A Tunisian appeals court ordered the release of jailed activist Rania Amdouni on March 17, following an outcry from civil society and human rights groups. Amdouni had been charged with "insulting police and abuse of morals," which sparked concerns from rights groups over suppression of free speech. Amdouni is the president of Chouf Minorities and a member of the Tunisian Association for Justice & Equality (DAMJ), both organizations concerned with rights for women and the LGBT. She has faced abuse from law enforcement over of her involvement in recent protests against austerity policies and police brutality. Police and politicians have shared her photo on social media with disparaging comments about her appearance and presumed sexual orientation and gender identity.