politics of archaeology
New clashes broke out on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan Sept. 13, with each side accusing the other of violating the ceasefire. Fighting was first reported near the Lachin Corrdior, which connects Armenia to the autonomous ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh. But attacks on the Armenian border have also been launched from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan (also rendered Nakhichevan or Naxçıvan), which is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. A land corridor through Armenia to Nakhchivan is one of Azerbaijan's key outstanding demands in the conflict. (See map)
The Israeli Supreme Court on May 15 ruled in favor of the government's planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling was met with approval by proponents such as Jerusalem's mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project will "reduce air pollution in the area, solve the transport and parking distress and allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City." However, the decision has been met with condemnation by many, including city planners and architects, environmental groups, and Karaite Jews, a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car's path. Palestinian groups have especially criticized the proposed path, as it would travel over East Jerusalem, an area ceded to Arab control in the 1949 armistice but occupied by Israel in 1967. Ir-Amim advocacy group tweeted: "Folks will hop in in WJ [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they're cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians."
The Republic of Armenia on Sept. 16 instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations' top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that "for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination," including mass killings, torture and other abuses. Armenia also contended that these violations were directed at individuals of Armenian ethnicity regardless of their actual nationality.
Local indigenous peoples and their environmentalist supporters have rallied outside the federal courthouse in Reno, Nev., as they await a decision on their request for an injunction to stop the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project, set to be developed on public lands within the ancestral territory of the Paiute and Shoshone. Opponents have also established a protest camp near the mine site. If the injunction is denied, Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Canada-based Lithium Americas, will be able to move ahead with an archaeological survey in preparation for breaking ground on the mine.
A US District Court in New York on July 27 ordered craft chain Hobby Lobby to cede its claim to the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a rare cuneiform text from ancient Mesopotamia that was smuggled into the United States from Iraq, so that it may be repatriated. The company's founder and president, Steve Green, bought the 3,500-year-old Akkadian artifact in 2014, intending to display it in his Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC. The tablet is one of approximately 17,000 looted artifacts that Washington has agreed to return to Iraq.
Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Reportedly at the direct instigation of President Donald Trump, the US State Department has ordered a suspension of aid to Ethiopia over its move to begin capturing water behind a controversial new mega-dam on the Blue Nile that has been opposed by Egypt and Sudan. A State Department spokesperson said the decision to "temporarily pause" some aid to Addis Ababa "reflects our concern about Ethiopia's unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place." The statement said the decision was taken by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "based on guidance from the president." The freeze could affect as much as $100 million in aid. The reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began filling in July, over the protests of Egypt and Sudan. (Al Jazeera, Sept. 3; AP, Sept. 2)
Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination on Jan. 3, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. And, in fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a "dirty war" in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad over the past months. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani also provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. As overall commander of Iranian forces in Syria backing up Assad's genocidal counter-insurgency campaign (and by no means just against ISIS and jihadists, but the secular opposition as well) Soleimani is probably responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of Syrian lives.