Ethnically targeted attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's resource-rich Ituri province may be reaching the point of "crimes against humanity," United Nations officials warned May 27. A report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) documents a dramatic escalation in hostilities between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by fighters linked to the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed group, whose members are predominantly of the Lendu ethnicity.
Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The nationwide death toll in Brazil has soared above 11,000 amid growing anger at President Jair Bolsonaro's dismissive response. The situation is particularly bad in the Amazon gateway city of Manaus, where the number of fatalities is feared to be many times the official 500 to 600. Peru and Ecuador also have large outbreaks and significant Amazonian indigenous populations.
The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a diplomatic think-tank established by presidential decree, has issued a report predicting that Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon reach a joint agreement to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, replacing him with a transitional government including members of both the regime and opposition, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In its coverage of the report, Russian news agency TASS suggested that Moscow fears a repeat of the "Afghan scenario" in Syria if it continues to back an unpopular regime. It also suggested that Assad is perceived by Moscow as too beholden to Tehran.
The trial of an accused former high-ranking ISIS member charged with taking part in the genocide of the Yazidi people of northern Iraq opened in Frankfurt April 24. The suspect, identified only as Taha al-J., is under indictment in the murder of a five-year-old girl who he had "purchased" along with her mother at a "slave market" in 2015. The girl is said to have died of thirst while chained up for hours in blazing heat as "punishment" for having wet the bed. The girl, named Rania, was taken captive with her mother when ISIS seized the Yazidi enclave of Sinjar in 2014. They changed hands repeatedly before ending up as slaves in the home of the accused in Fallujah. The suspect faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and human trafficking.
As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, with more than 200 deaths already reported in Brazil, an evangelical Christian organization has purchased a helicopter with plans to contact and convert isolated indigenous groups in the remote Western Amazon. Ethnos360, formerly known as the New Tribes Mission, is notorious for past attempts to contact and convert isolated peoples, having spread disease among the Zo’é living in northern Pará state. Once contacted in the 1980s, the Zo’é, lacking resistance, began dying from malaria and influenza, losing over a third of their population. Ethnos360 is planning its conversion mission despite the fact that FUNAI, Brazil's indigenous affairs agency, has a longstanding policy against contact with isolated groups. The so-called "missionary aviation" contact plan may also violate Brazil's 1988 constitution and international treaties such as the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Nine 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 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.
In Episode 49 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the grim political implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant hysteria. Even before the outbreak, China had detained perhaps upwards of a million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps as a "counter-terrorist" measure. Under emergency measures imposed in response to the outbreak, a staggering half-billion people have been placed under lockdown in Hubei and surrounding provinces. Italy has now just imposed a similar lock-down, affecting 16 million people in the country's north. Here in the United States, where Trump is building an incipient concentration camp system for detained migrants, the White House has thus far been trying to downplay the COVID-19 threat—as Xi Jinping did before the depth of the crisis became inescapable. If such a point is reached here as well, the posture of the Trump administration could change fast—with potential for sweeping lockdowns, mass internment of targeted populations, and even exploitation of the crisis as a "Reichstag Fire" to throw or suspend the 2020 elections. The coronavirus hysteria could be a terrifying advance for the global detention state, and progressives must urgently formulate a response. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Some 1,000 activists from various civic groups marched in Taipei on Feb. 22, commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the "228 Incident"—the 1947 uprising and massacre that marked the beginning of Taiwan's "White Terror." Li Ssu-yi, chair of TW Gong Sheng, a youth group dedicated to remembrance of the Incident, said, "We refuse to forget and insist on carrying on the spirit of what they fought for during this year's march." Other participating groups included the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Dr. Chen Wen-chen Memorial Foundation—named for a student activist killed on probable orders of the regime in 1981. The route of the march passed various sites connected to the Incident, including Tianma Tea House and the former Tobacco Monopoly Bureau building.