Afghan returnees

by Ruchi Kumar, IRIN

In a cafe in Kabul, Mohammad Elham’s eyes dart back and forth between a steaming cup of tea and the front entrance: the months since his return to Afghanistan have been spent in a state of constant fear.

Elham left Afghanistan on a cold night in 2010, he says, after the Taliban killed his wife and two children. Last year, he returned to the country he fled — this time, in handcuffs, one of a surging number of Afghan deportees ousted from Europe.

"It was hurtful and humiliating," Elham said of his journey from Germany, where his asylum application was rejected, to Afghanistan, where he says his presence may again jeopardize his family's safety. The 36-year-old says he fears for his life because of his previous work with Afghanistan's intelligence agency.

As European countries tighten borders and asylum policies, the number of Afghan asylum seekers pushed out of Europe has soared. But returnees like Elham are being forced back to a volatile country, where conflict has uprooted more than one million people over the last two years and civilian casualties are at near-record levels.



by Walter Vargas Díaz, openDemocracy

Peru has become the country of greatest attraction for mining investment in Latin America, according to a recent study by Fraser Institute, which assesses geological aspects, political environment and favorable regulation. However, this growth of investment has unleashed tensions in territories of indigenous communities, creating a powerful private force capable of influencing state decisions and exerting violence on lands, the environment and indigenous activists. Recently, the southern, Andean part of the country has experienced intense conflict at one of the largest copper mines in the world: Las Bambas.

Open-pit mining: Las Bambas
Las Bambas started commercial production of copper and molybdenum in 2016, 12 years after its international public bidding. The Swiss company Xstrata won the tender in 2004, in 2011 it obtained state approval of its Environmental Impact Study (EIA), in 2013 it was acquired by Glencore International, and in 2014 it was sold to the MMG Limited consortium, led by Chinese capital.

It is estimated that the mine produced more than two million tons of concentrated copper in its first five years, with direct impact on communities in the provinces of Cotabambas and Grau (Apurímac region) and in the mining circuit that extends to the high Andean provinces of Cusco. Although the project has three open pits, no consultation with the affected indigenous communities has been carried out. State indifference led the communities to direct negotiation attempts amid tensions with the mining companies.

Successive modifications of the EIA have unleashed a confrontation that reveals how the power of the mining industry has paved the way for repression, criminalization of communities, and human rights abuses.


Mega-Dam Project Now a Site of Heightened Conflict in Post-War Colombia


by Jeff Abbott, Toward Freedom

Colombia's 52-year-long war came to an end in September 2016, when the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed the historic peace accords. The peace process has been slow, and the newly signed accords have faced steep challenges in being implemented. Colombia's left has now confronted new threats, including targeted assassinations by paramilitaries, and criminalization for defense of land and the environment.

The 400-megawatt El Quimbo dam sits on the Magdalena River, in the southern province of Huila. Construction began in 2010, but the plans date back to 1995, when companies began to look upon the region as an area for development. The dam is owned by Italian energy giant Enel, but it was constructed with investments made from Spanish company Emgesa and Colombia energy company Energía Bogotá. It is the first privately funded hydro development project in the country.

The project came online in December 2014. Today, communities are demanding the closure of the dam due to the impacts on the region.


The Rise and Fall of Civil Liberties in Afghanistan

Afghan women

by Susan Farooqi, Jurist

When we think of women in Afghanistan, we often assume that they are oppressed, and recall images of women in burqas and stories of women being brutalized. Although there is a lot of truth to these perceptions, the situation has been different in the past, and could be different in the future. Efforts to improve women's rights do not need to resist centuries of tradition; they need to merely reverse recent developments, which are themselves ahistorical.

Although women in Afghanistan were indeed historically oppressed by patriarchy, just as women in medieval Europe were often treated more as property than as individuals, this process began to change during the nineteenth century, as liberalism became an increasingly global philosophy. In particular, during the 1920s, just as women in the United States experienced new freedoms, including the right of suffrage, women in Afghanistan were also able to extend their rights and achieve what was essentially a modern status. It was not until the 1980s that this trend was reversed.



by Bill Weinberg, Los Angeles Review of Books

A strange paradox of the vertiginous world situation is that a radical left movement strongly influenced by anarchism is being massively backed by the Pentagon in the war for northern Syria. This movement, in fact, is now the United States' closest partner among the indigenous forces in the Syrian war.

The Kurds of northern Syria call the region Rojava (sunset or west in their tongue), and since 2012 have had their own autonomous zone. Two years later, the celebrated battle of Kobani opened as this town within the autonomous zone was besieged by the self-declared "Islamic State" (ISIS). Kurdish women fighters with a consciously feminist ideology driving back the ultra-reactionary ISIS became a global meme.

The US, after initially writing off Kobani, started aiding the Kurdish fighters as they began to turn the tide, against all expectations. Warplanes were sent in their support, and the pact between the Pentagon and the revolutionary Kurds was forged. US military advisors were embedded in their militia. Kurdish-led forces are now fighting to take the ISIS de facto capital Raqqa in a Pentagon-directed campaign backed by US air-strikes.


Standing for the Human Rights of Journalists in India


by Nava Thakuria, CounterVortex

India, touted as the world's largest democracy, is and remains a dangerous place for working journalists irrespective of the regime in power at New Delhi or any provincial capital. The populous country witnesses the murder of around five media workers each year, an average that has not changed for decades. And few of these cases see any justice in the country's court system. The media workers' community in the South Asian nation now plans to observe the Oct. 2 birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi—a lawyer turned journalist turned India's liberation hero—with countrywide demonstrations to demand freedom of expression and an end to the atmosphere of impunity.

The month of September saw three shocking journo-murders from different parts of India. So far, 2017 has witnessed the killing of eight journalists—to a lukewarm reaction from the authorities. It was only the murder on Sept. 5 of editor-journalist Gauri Lankesh, 56, at her home in Bangaluru (formerly Bangalore) that aroused massive protests across the country.



by Tracy Barnett, Intercontinental Cry

Manolo Miranda, leader of an indigenous community recently flooded by Panama's Barro Blanco dam, now faces up to two years in prison for causing delays and financial losses to the company that has ruined his community's way of life.

Miranda began trial Aug. 18, together with two other leaders of the Ngäbe-Buglé who opposed the dam, regional cacique Toribio García and religious and protest leader Clementina Pérez. All three face up to two years in prison for trespassing and interfering with the "inviolability of work" for their alleged role in an encampment that blocked the entrance to the hydro dam site in May and June of 2015. Charges against two other activists who were present at the encampment, Oscar Sogandares and Carmen Tedman, have been provisionally dismissed.


Will Island's Ecological Solutions Survive Economic Opening?


by Bill Weinberg, Earth Island Journal

Bicycle-taxi driver Yeral García has a keen sense of the events on the world historical stage that led to him pedaling me around Old Havana.

"In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia cut back subsidized oil to Cuba," he told me while deftly maneuvering through the traffic. "The country was paralyzed. Those were terrible years. But the government began importing bicycles."

Indicating the pedal-cab he was assiduously working as he spoke, he added, "That’s where this came from."

But these taxis, while plentiful on the streets of Havana, are lone survivors of that era. Although universally called bici-taxis, they are actually tricycles—retrofitted work-trikes initially imported from China to carry loads around the city during that interval of crisis and scarcity referred to officially as Cuba's "Special Period."

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