Interview with Houzan Mahmoud
by Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Conatus News
Houzan Mahmoud is the co-founder of the Kurdish Culture Project (or the Culture Project) and the valued partner of Conatus News in the Conference on Defending Progressivism. She is a women’s rights activist, campaigner and defender, and a feminist. In this wide-ranging and exclusive interview, Mahmoud discusses the Kurds, Iraq, women's rights, and more.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You are a women's rights activist, feminist, and an anti-war activist. You were born in Iraqi Kurdistan. What were the moments of political awakening for you?
Houzan Mahmoud: One of the things I'll never forget is the break-out of war between Iraq and Iran. I was only six-years-old at the time. Iraq's bloody dictator Saddam Hussein coming to political power in 1979 changed our lives in Kurdistan and Iraq forever. Being Kurdish poses all sorts of problems as it is, and living under the fascist regime of Saddam made things incredibly hard for my family. Prior to Saddam coming to power, my brothers took up arms during late 70's against Iraq's regime, I was too little to remember the particulars. However, what I do know is that from 1973 to 1991 I grew up and lived under one of the most horrendous regimes in modern history.
Reaching a Humanitarian and Political Breaking Point
by Chloe Benoist, Ma'an News Agency
BETHLEHEM — As the Gaza Strip marked the ten-year anniversary of Israel's siege of the small Palestinian enclave on June 15, the humanitarian situation has continued to alarm rights groups, which have denounced the "inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world."
Gaza, which has often been compared to an "open air prison" for its 1.9 million inhabitants crowded into 365 square kilometers, has suffered from a decade of isolation and deprivation, made all the worse by three devastating Israeli military operations, and persistent intra-Palestinian political strife.
The recent decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to request that Israel reduce its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip has made many fear that the situation in Gaza could soon reach a political and humanitarian breaking point with unforetold consequences.
by Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info
Three Chinese activists have been detained and face criminal charges after an undercover investigation of working conditions at two factories belonging to the Huajian Group, a supplier of shoes for the Ivanka Trump fashion label. The arrests came just weeks after the brand owned by the US president’s daughter secured three new exclusive trademarks in China.
On June 5, the US State Department called for the release of the three men. No statement has been issued by Trump or her father however. The Chinese authorities immediately rejected the US call, stating on June 6 that foreign countries have no right to "interfere" in China's judicial sovereignty and independence. This is a standard response from the Chinese dictatorship using nationalism to avoid deeper scrutiny of its increasingly repressive rule.
The past few years, especially since Xi Jinping came to power, have seen a deepening crackdown on labor activists, lawyers, feminists, NGOs and social media. A raft of new laws under the banner of "state security" is being used to criminalize peaceful protests and actions to expose human rights abuses, environmental crimes, and violations of workers’ legal rights. Forced disappearances, televized "confessions," taking family members or colleagues hostage, and torture, are all features of this crackdown.
by Bill Weinberg, The Villager
This May Day season has been a real political eye-opener for me.
On International Workers' Day itself, I was part of the Free Syria bloc at the Foley Square rally—consciously dissident, in repudiation of the growing flirtation by elements of the American left with the genocidal dictatorship of Bashar Assad. In our contingent was a woman from Syria's Idlib—capital city of the province of that name, where last month the regime carried out a deadly chemical attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun.
It was heartening that we got a lot of positive reactions from the crowd. One young woman who gave us the thumbs-up had a handwritten sign reading: "I am the product of Mexican & Syrian immigrants. This is what an American looks like."
But some other moments were not so heartening—indeed, downright disturbing.
Please Don't Call Us Terrorists
by Belal Younis, Middle East Eye
I fought in Libya against the oppressor Muammar Gaddafi. I think what I and others did was for a worthy cause. It certainly was not terrorism.
For 41 years, Libyans were forced to live under Gaddafi's police state where human rights abuses were routine.
Student demonstrations were put down violently, security forces rounded up academics and lawyers, and political opponents were arrested and sometimes disappeared, if not gruesomely publicly executed for trumped up charges.
In 1980 Gaddafi introduced a policy of extrajudicial executions of political opponents across the world whom he called "stray dogs." And according to Human Rights Watch in 1996 up to 1,200 out of 1,700 prisoners were shot dead in cold blood by security forces in a span of two days.
Then, when on 15 February 2011, a group of locals turned out for a peaceful demonstration, and received bullets in return, we knew that we had no choice but to fight.
Did Trump Commit Them?
by Marjorie Cohn, Jurist
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has responded to the crescendo of outrage by appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump'' and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation'' as well as any other matters within the scope of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulation on special counsel appointments.
"In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,'' Rosenstein stated.
"My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,'' Rosenstein added.
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr thought he had "substantial and credible" evidence against President Bill Clinton in 1998. Starr turned over the results of his investigation to the House of Representatives, who then initiated impeachment proceedings.
As evidence of President Donald Trump's malfeasance emerges, the old adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime may once again prove true.
Key to Ending the War
by Maria J. Stephan, Waging Nonviolence
Debates over the morality, legality and strategic efficacy of US missile strikes in Syria will dominate the news for the foreseeable future. It is understandable why so many people, notably many Syrians, would want to see a regime that has repeatedly targeted its population with sarin and chlorine gas, barrel bombs and starvation tactics, be punished for its actions. The Syrians I know feel alone and abandoned by the world. They have seen the United States and its Western and Arab allies undertake massive diplomatic and military action targeting the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, while regime-sponsored violence has been responsible for a vast majority of the close to 500,000 civilian deaths in Syria since 2011.
No matter where one stands on the issue of military intervention—and there are legitimate reasons to doubt the effectiveness of air power to deter or erode Assad's killing machine—it should be possible to agree on one thing: There will be no end to the civil war in Syria without the sustained and active participation of Syrian activists, peacebuilders and humanitarians inside the country, in the surrounding region, and dispersed in the diaspora.
Tribal Rights and Federal Obligations from Dakota Access to Keystone XL
by Monte Mills, Jurist
On March 23, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, determined (PDF) that issuing a permit to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) "would serve the national interest." In doing so, Under Secretary Shannon admitted that, from an environmental justice perspective, the 875 miles of the KXL traversing portions of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, "could...disproportionally affect[ ]" Indian tribes in the region "should an oil release occur."
The State Department's national interest determination relied upon environmental reviews completed in 2014, but the legal, cultural, and social protests brought last year by the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes to the Dakota Access Pipeline prompted a distinct shift in the world's consciousness of tribal rights. Although the water protectors have been evicted from their camps and oil can now flow beneath Lake Oahe, Standing Rock's legal challenge to the pipeline is yet to be resolved. As lawsuits over the State Department's KXL decision begin to mount, the pending outcome of Standing Rock's case may give tribes new grounds on which to challenge the State Department's decision by properly protecting tribal treaty rights and the federal government's trust responsibility to tribes.