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February 27 2014

Chechen Dictator and Russian Nationalist NOT Taking Over Ukraine

A Yin and Yang of Russian trollitics, Leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin. Unlikely bedfellows. Images remixed by author.

Yin and Yang of Russian trollitics, highly unlikely bedfellows Leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov and nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin. Images remixed by author.

Time and time again Russian Internet users and Russophone mass media prove that they will fall for any hoax, no matter how bizarre or unbelievable. It's not as if it is the first time someone took the fake Twitter account of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for the real thing. @KadirovRussia [ru] was started before the real Kadyrov joined Twitter and quickly gained a following. These days, however, almost everyone is aware that although Kadyrov does tweet at his own account, @rkadyrov [ru], he mainly uses it to link to his favorite social networking platform, Instagram [Global Voices report].

Nevertheless, multiple bloggers, forum users, and online media outlets were taken for a ride with a recent tweet by @KadirovRussia:

Prosvirnin and I are riding the “friendship train” to support Russians in Crimea.

Crimea is a primarily Russophone region of Ukraine currently protesting the change of power in Kiev. Crimeans are afraid that nationalist Ukrainians will infringe on their culture, and many Russians share their fear, stoked as it is my mainstream Russian media. A beach paradise not far from where the Sochi Winter Games took place, it is also home to a Russian naval base, and is currently a pressure cooker of ethnic tension between Russians, Ukrainians, and Crimean Tartars. Not a day passes that there aren't rumors of Russia deploying troops or Kiev sending its own militia to the region. The most recent development [ru] is that armed men have occupied a regional administration building and hung Russian flags from it.

In this climate the announcement that the gruff Chechen leader has joined causes with nationalist blogger Egor Prosvirnin (of Sputnik & Pogrom fame), who has been vocally advocating for Crimean independence [ru] for the past several days, fell on fertile ground. Never mind that Prosvirnin harshly mocks and lambastes Kadyrov, the news was reported by several Ukrainian outlets, including Ukrainian Komsomolskaya Pravda [cache], Obozrevatel [ru], and Korrespondent [cache], with commentary noting the increasingly violent climate in Crimea. Kadyrov's alleged involvement must have been particularly troubling — it was the Chechen “Vostok” Battalion that was in the lead during Russia's 2008 armed conflict with Georgia over the breakaway province of Abkhazia.

Prosvirnin himself was amused with the confusion, writing [ru]:

Разбудили звонком с НТВ, спросив, правда ли мы с Кадыровым едем в Крым. Спросонья ступил и сказал, что они там совсем что ли ебу дались, и уже повесив трубку понял, что НАДО БЫЛО ВСЕ ПОДТВЕРДИТЬ.

Was woken up with a call from NTV, asking if its true that Kadyrov and I are going to Crimea. I was still dozy and stupidly said that they were out of their f*cking mind, but as I hung up I realized that I SHOULD HAVE CONFIRMED EVERYTHING.

He said that the news might have scared the Crimean Tartars who are currently against any talk of secession. Later he also joked [ru] that Kadyrov has agreed to take charge of the western Ukrainian province of Lviv.

Chechen “Vostok” Batallion troops at a Crimean beach, or what it might look like if they were. Images remixed by author.

Meanwhile, the real Kadyrov has actually sounded off about Ukraine [ru] on his Instagram account:

Получаем информацию, что у проживающих в этой стране соотечественников появились серьезные проблемы с сохранностью бизнеса и личной безопасностью. Мы никогда не претендовали на чужое, но и своё защитим. Следует четко осознавать, что не дадим в обиду чеченцев и других россиян, где бы они не находились.

We have received information that our countrymen living in that country are having serious problems with safety of their businesses and personal safety. We have never wanted what isn't ours, but we will protect our own. It needs to be clearly understood, that we won't let Chechens and other Russians come to harm, wherever they may be.

A troubling statement — perhaps more troubling than any fake news of rapprochement with Russian nationalists.

February 26 2014

Brazil's Racism Problem Front and Center After Black Teen Brutally Beaten

O jovem preso ao poste apenas com um pedaço de jornal para cobrir sua nudez após ser humilhado. Foto de uso livre.

The young boy tied to the lamp post with only a piece of newspaper to cover himself. Photo free to use.

[All links lead to Portuguese-language websites unless otherwise noted.]

A 15-year-old black teenager was found sitting on the ground at Botafogo beach in a central area of ​​Rio de Janeiro completely naked and with a bicycle lock around his neck chaining him to a lamppost on February 1, 2014.

Unfortunately, it is not an isolated case, as attacks by groups of “vigilantes” have become somewhat common in Rio de Janeiro.

Activist Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, who discovered the minor, wrote on her Facebook profile that she was preparing to sleep when a friend who was driving by on Rui Barbosa Avenue called her to say he “saw a young boy bruised, naked and tied to a pole by a bicycle lock. He was beaten by a gang of bikers that often steals on my street.”

She called the firefighters to release him and he was then taken to the hospital. She, in turn, began receiving threats.

In a statement to police, the young man said he had been chased by a group of about 30 men on motorcycles armed with at least one pistol while walking with three friends (two escaped) to take a swim in the sea. He was then beaten, stripped naked and chained to the pole. The 15-year-old has been on the streets of Rio for at least two years since he was caught stealing an electric drill from a family neighbor and being forced to leave his home.

Police believe those responsible for the attack are the “Flamengo vigilantes”, who attack and torture whomever they consider to look suspicious; they are also accused of assaulting gays. About 15 suspected members of the group were arrested by the police.

Cartum de Carlos Latuff, uso livre.

“Any odlCartoon by Carlos Latuff. Free to use

Journalist Rosiane Rodrigues, writing for Afropress, criticized Bezerra de Mello's for taking a photo of the victim and posting it on Facebook rather than just calling the fire department and an ambulance. In her opinion:

A cena chocou. É possível que o motivo da consternação tenha sido o local da ação e não a ação em si. Sim. Um menino, amarrado ao poste, em uma rua da Zona Sul do Rio de Janeiro, não é um fato comum. Meninos, amarrados em postes, baleados, espancados, violentados não cabem na paisagem da Zona Sul da cidade. Essas devem ser imagens periféricas, cotidianas das favelas, dos subúrbios. Imagens de barbárie que já não chocam nem causam espanto aos olhos dos que estão – e devem continuar – à margem. 

O “menino amarrado ao poste”‘ deu sorte. Ele poderia estar morto. Se assim fosse, seria mais um a entrar para a estatística da barbárie cometida diuturnamente nos becos e vielas em todo País. Imagens de corpos violados, machucados, inertes… reflexos distantes de uma realidade encoberta aos olhos sensíveis de uma parcela da população que teima em não querer enxergar: a indústria do genocídio da juventude preta e pobre.

The scene was shocking. It is possible that the reason for the consternation was the location of the incident and not the incident itself. Yes, a boy tied to a lamp post in a street in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro is not a common occurrence. Boys chained to lamp posts, shot, beaten, raped do not fit in with the landscape of the city south. These should be peripheral, everyday images of slums, suburbs. Images of barbarism that no longer shock or cause astonishment in the eyes of those who are – and should continue – at the margin.

The “boy tied to the post” got lucky. He might have been dead. If so, he would be the latest to join the statistics of barbarism committed incessantly in the alleys and lanes throughout the country. Images of bodies violated, hurt, inert… distant reflections of a reality hidden from the eyes of a sensitive population that insists on not wanting to see: the industry of the genocide of black and poor youth.

Activist Caio Almeida warned on Facebook of the danger of the formation of a “fascist militia” in Rio de Janeiro, like the so-called “vigilantes”, and added that “what is going on in the Flamengo neighborhood is very serious”:

Esses caras agridem homossexuais, ambulantes que não concordam com o preço cobrado pela cerveja, usuários de maconha ou negros sozinhos. Em suma, tocam o terror para garantir que o bairro deles sejam para os ricos, brancos e com os mesmos hábitos sociais(e até sexuais!) que eles.

These guys attack homosexuals, hawkers who do not agree with the price charged for beer, marijuana users and blacks alone. In short, they play on terror to ensure that their neighborhood belongs to the rich and the white with the same social habits (and even sex habits!) as them.

According to the assaulted boy, all of his assailants were white “playboys” except one who was brown.

Montagem de Paul Henry Jr.

“Southern USA, 20th century / Brazil, 21st century. Racism always camouflages itself as ‘justice’ to act.” Mock-up by Paul Henry Jr.

Activist Paulo Henry Jr wrote on Facebook that even if the man was really responsible for thefts in the region, the attitude of beating and humiliating him “does not cease to be brutal”, and that it should be up to the police to investigate the veracity of the charges and take him to trial. He added:

Mas a Ku Klux Klan versão brasileira que de tão cômoda nem sequer precisa usar capuz e lençóis, age livremente sem ser perturbada fazendo nas ruas a sua maneira aquilo que considera justiça.

But the Brazilian version of the Ku Klux Klan, which feels so comfortable that it doesn't even need to wear hoods and sheets, acts freely undisturbed on the streets, going their own way with what they consider to be justice.

Similar cases have occurred recently. A few years ago in the Botafogo neighborhood of Rio, bikers stripped a black man naked and left him on the pavement under the scorching sun after they accused him of trying to steal a motorcycle, described John Batista Damasceno. Firefighters helped the bikers take off the man's clothes, and a municipal guard witnessed the scene without intervening:

The role of the media in spreading the horror

Outrage over this most recent case would have been smaller had it not been for the intervention of TV anchor for “Jornal do SBT” Rachel Sheherazade, known for her conservative comments. On primetime, she said:

“Num país que sofre de violência endêmica, a atitude dos vingadores é até compreensível”, disse a apresentadora. “O Estado é omisso, a polícia desmoralizada, a Justiça é falha… O que resta ao cidadão de bem, que ainda por cima foi desarmado? Se defender, é claro”. E finalizou: “O contra-ataque aos bandidos é o que chamo de legítima defesa coletiva de uma sociedade sem Estado contra um estado de violência sem limite”.

“In a country that suffers from endemic violence, the attitude of the avengers is even understandable,” said the anchor. “The state is absent, the police demoralized, justice flawed… What is left for the good citizen, who moreover was unarmed? Defend themselves, of course.”. She concluded: “The counterattack to the thugs is what I call collective self-defense of a stateless society from a state of violence without limits.”

The reaction was immediate, both in support and against. Businessman Vinicius Duarte commented on Facebook:

Quando um telejornal de grande audiência permite que se faça apologia a um crime (sim, ~cidadão de bem desarmado~, acorrentar bandidos ou inocentes nus em postes é CRIME), é sinal que a barbárie está vencendo o jogo.

When a news program with a large audience allows an apology for a crime to be made (yes, you ~disarmed good citizen~, to chain bandits or innocents to lamp posts is a CRIME), it is a sign that barbarism is winning the game.

The profile of social collective Pedra no Sapato, making a pun on the name of the presenter, stated that Sheherazade outdid herself with her statements:

[ Cheira a Nazi ]
Defendeu a ação da milicia carioca que prendeu o adolescente ladrão e negro num poste com uma tranca de bicicleta no pescoço, o espancou e o deixou nu. Acha normal, natural algo assim. Afinal, já que vivemos em estado de barbárie, não custa nada nós mesmos começarmos as nossas, né? Ninguém esta defendendo os atos de banditismo do moleque, agora chamar de ‘compreensível’ e ‘legítima defesa’ uma barbaridade dessas é sinal de que essa mulher não tem um pingo de humanidade!

(Smells of Nazi) [a play with the sound of words Sheherazade]

She defended the action of Rio militia who chained the thief and black teenager to the lamp post with a bike lock around his neck, beat him and left him naked. She finds it normal, something like that is natural. After all, since we live in a state of barbarism, it costs nothing to start our [own barbarism], right? No one is defending the banditry of the boy; but saying that a barbaric act like this is “understandable” and “self-defense” is a sign that this woman doesn't have a shred of humanity!

Montagem do ativista Julio Ferreira

Mock-up made by activist Julio Ferreira: “‘Good citizen’ was the name of KKK's newspaper”.

Student Mosiés Teixeira demanded that Sheherazade “be liable for the blunder issued in primetime” and that those who supported it should “reflect a bit before issuing opinions full of catchphrases that are just polished stupidity.”

According to the Union of Journalists of Rio de Janeiro, the punishment will come. The union and its Committee on Ethics not only expressed their disgust, but also demanded that the National Federation of Journalists take action “in this and other cases of human rights violations and of the Code of Ethics of the Brazilian journalists, which occur routinely in broadcasting programs in our country.” The Union of Journalists of the Federal District also declared their disgust with Sheherazade's statements and added that they will ask a prosecutor to act.

The Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) announced that it also will demand punishment for the presenter.

For activist and journalist Rodrigo Mariano, Sheherazade “reached a level that she now supports murderers openly on national television. And the girl shares the same profession as me, you see. She took the oath she swore and reversed it. She wiped her ass with her diploma, certainly.”

After all repercussions, SBT issued a note stating that the journalist does not represent the opinions of the channel. Sheherazade using airtime on “SBT Journal” tried to explain herself, saying that she was “on the good side, the side of the angels”, which is:

uma crítica da violência. Eu defendo as pessoas de bem deste País, que foram abandonadas à própria sorte, porque não tem polícia, não tem segurança pública. O que eu fiz não foi defender a atitude dos justiceiros. O que eu defendi foi o direito da população de se defender quando o Estado é omisso

a critique of violence. I defend the good people of this country, who were abandoned to their fate because they have no police, no public security. What I did was not defend the attitude of vigilantes. What I defended was people's right to defend itself when the state is absent

Imagem de Divulgação do SBT.

Rachel Cheherazade. Image for publication from SBT.

In other words, Sheherazade maintains a view that, for activist Robson Fernandes, “is tradition among the Brazilian conservative right” and consists of “making a Manichean division of society between ‘good citizens’ and ‘bums'.”

He added:

Nessa crença que divide a sociedade entre “bons” e “maus”, os primeiros seriam pessoas “cidadãs” que “pagam impostos”, “respeitam as leis”, “lutam para vencer na vida” e se dizem “incapazes” de cometer qualquer crime ou dano contra outras pessoas e também contra animais não humanos. E os segundos seriam inimigos da ordem, ameaçadores da vida alheia, preferidores de “caminhos fáceis”, como a criminalidade ou o recebimento de benefícios financeiros pelo Estado, sendo muitos deles autênticos demônios do mal que deveriam ser presos, torturados pela polícia e/ou mortos.

In this belief that divides society into “good” and “bad”, the former would be the “citizen” who “pay taxes”, “law-abiding”, the ones who “struggle to succeed in life” and are said to be “not able” to commit a crime or harm other humans and non-human animals. And the latter are enemies of order, threatening the lives of others, those who prefer the “easy path”, such as crime or to receive financial benefits from the state, many of them being authentic evil demons who should be arrested, tortured by the police and/or dead.

Military police officer from the state of Bahia and contributor to Global Voices Danillo Ferreira made it clear:

Nenhuma violência deve ser celebrada. Tentativas violentas de vingança e “resposta” a outros atos violentos apenas alimentam os ciclos de violência. 

No violence should be celebrated. Attempts of revenge and violent “response” to other violent acts only feed the cycle of violence.

A petition that so far has more than 50,000 signatures was created to demand punishment for the journalist. A Facebook event was created to humorously ask for the replacement of the news programme anchored by Sheherazade by the popular Mexican series ”Chaves”, whose main character “has much to teach us about tolerance and equality.”

February 24 2014

Ukrainian Revolution Rattles Russian Nationalists

Photoshopped image of politician Yulia Timoshenko, released from jail by the opposition controlled Ukrainian parliament. Many view her as a strong candidate in the coming presidential elections. Anonymous image found online.

Photoshopped image of politician Yulia Timoshenko, recently released from jail by the opposition controlled Ukrainian parliament. Many view her as a strong candidate in the coming presidential elections. Anonymous image found online.

Remarkably, it is now a fait accompli that the Ukrainian opposition has taken control of the country's political process. President Yanukovich's fall from power was in no small part due to the radical nationalists who made up the core of the street activists standing opposite Ukrainian riot police for the last three months. Nationalist parties like Svoboda, and radical organizations like the “Right Sector” (see this early YouTube video [ru] of Right Sector leader Yarosh talking about taking the fight to “Ukrainian” lands in Russia) contributed to the eventual victory of the Maidan movement, and now appear to be in a unique position to influence Ukrainian policy making.

At least this is what Russian nationalists fear — not only that the new Ukraine will look towards the West, rather than Russia, but that the Russian speaking population in Ukraine will come under attack from radicals who will attempt to “derussify” them. The prominence of Ukrainian nationalists in the opposition movement gives fodder to these fears. A Russian radio-host Ilias Mercury, for example, tweeted about statements previously made by leader of the Svoboda party Oleh Tyahnibok:

Tyahnibok declared that the Russian language in Ukraine will be made illegal. Clear?

and 

Tyahnibok declared that Russians living in Ukraine will be made “non-citizens of Ukraine.” Clear?

It doesn't matter if such policies will ever come to pass. The very thought of them scares nationalists who feel that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are also Russian.

Some Russians blame Yanukovich for this turn of events. Blogger and publicist Egor Holmogorov wrote [ru] recently that:

Судьба Януковича – великолепный урок всем мелким тиранам, предающим русских. Он мог бы сделать русский язык государственным и править опираясь на русскую половину, которая постепенно стала бы русским большинством. Он предпочел прямо противоположный путь.

Yanukovich's fate is a great lesson for petty tyrants who betray Russians. He could have made the Russian language an official state language and rule relying on the Russian half of the country, which over time would become a Russian majority. He chose an exactly opposite approach.

This language map by Kiev National Linguistic University shows the split between Russian speaking east and Ukrainian speaking west.

This language map by Kiev National Linguistic University shows the split between Russian speaking east and Ukrainian speaking west.

In general, language appears to be a major point of contention for nationalists on both sides. In the past couple of days the new opposition controlled Rada has passed several laws, one of which was to repeal of an older law that gave Russian the status of a secondary official language in Ukraine. This led nationalist philosopher and founder of the National Democratic party Konstantin Krylov to proclaim [ru] the new regime “anti-Russian.” Krylov claims that such laws diminish political freedoms and Ukraine, and calls for new policy that would allow Ukrainians to easily acquire Russian citizenship, if they so choose.

Nationalist publication Sputnik & Pogrom also commented on the law repeal, saying [ru] that it fits with their predictions of increased nationalism in Ukraine in the case of an opposition win. S&P also criticized Alexey Navalny for supporting the Ukrainian opposition movement, as it seems contrary to his claims of looking out for the interests of Russians. S&P also published an address to “all Ukrainian Russians,” [ru] in which they call on them to self-organize and create “Russian national organizations,” because, “that's the only way to create a European Ukraine.”

Conservative publicist and radio-show host Dmitry Olshansky, on the other hand, made a more emotional appeal [ru]:

Можно себе представить, что было бы, если бы не было 1941 года, и существовали бы те, кого убили, и их потомки, – а Рада отменила бы идиш в качестве регионального языка.

You can imagine what would happen, if there was no 1941, and all of those who had died and their descendants would now be alive – and the Rada took away the regional status of Yiddish.

Truly, Russian nationalists are vehemently against any kind of ethnic discrimination — unless, of course, they get to be in charge.

Reposted byepimetheus epimetheus

February 23 2014

Census Could Worsen Conflict in Myanmar

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from  Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Myanmar’s nationwide census scheduled from March 23 to April 10 threatens to inflame more ethnic and religious conflicts in the country over some ‘antagonistic and divisive’ issues included in the questionnaire. Myanmar’s last census was held more than 30 years ago.

The census, supported by the UN, aims to determine Myanmar’s key demographic and socio-economic statistics in order to ascertain the country’s particular development needs. But questions about ethnicity or tribal identification have become controversial after the government listed 135 ethnic groups and sub-groups on the questionnaire. Critics reminded the government that the listing is a colonial legacy which must be revamped. Several ethnic groups have complained about being lumped with other minorities while others claimed they were dropped from the listing.

The government is urged to reclassify the listing based on consultation with ethnic communities. And while the government is doing this, some groups wanted the census delayed for another month.

In Myanmar, majority are Burmans. An estimated 40 percent of the population is considered an ethnic minority, with Shan composing the biggest minority group.

The common complaint of many groups is the inaccurate categorization of ethnic groups. For example, the Palaung (Ta’aung) tribe questioned their inclusion as a Shan race:

We, Ta’aung, settled down in this land before the Shan…We are not the same with other races. We live in mountainous area and have a different culture and language.

Kyaw Thu, head of the civil society consortium Paung Ku, thinks questions on ethnicity and religion should be dropped because they are no longer necessary:

If development is the priority, the data of headcounts—the numbers of people and the age group—is enough to conduct economic projects.

Tun Myint Kyaw, local coordinator in Mon State for the European Union-funded Rule of Law Project, also urged the removal of some controversial questions in the census:

If [the Ministry of Immigration and Population] has a plan to omit the ethnicity and religion category from the national identity card, why would they still include in the census data collection?

Khun Jar of the Kachin Peace Network explained how inaccurate ethnic categorization can cause trouble; and he also warned about the danger of conducting census in some remote areas where armed conflicts are still taking place:

If the government accepts 135 ethnic groups only, it can cause harm to the peace process because ethnic groups can get into armed conflicts if disagreements arise among them

We can’t anticipate who will conduct the census in remote areas and places where there is no ceasefire. In some places there are no schools. Teachers are normally used to collect data on the population. So with no schools, it will not be easy to collect population figures at the refugee camps.

Thet Ko from Minority Affair proposed the drafting of a new listing based on the principle of democratic consultation:

The list of ethnics should be compiled again after consulting with ethnic groups through a democratic procedure.

Some ethnic groups are worried that they might lose political representation if the proposed census will adopt the official listing of ethnic groups in the country. Ethnic minister positions in local parliaments are automatically given to ethnic groups with more than 0.01 percent of the population in the area.

The government is accused of deliberately bloating the number of ethnic subgroups to deny representation to some tribes.

But in the case of the Rohingyas, the government refuses to recognize them as citizens. Kyaw Min of the Democracy and Human Rights Party is appealing for the recognition of Rohingyas, who are mostly Muslims:

Every human race has its own identity. We have our identity already…This is not just now—we have had it for a long time. But we have found that there is discrimination in the country, which ignores our demand that our identity be recognized.

One concern about the inclusion of religion in the census is the destabilization it might generate. In particular, the census might confirm that Myanmar has a growing number of Muslims which could provoke Buddhist extremist groups to cause trouble in many villages.

Worried about the threat, the International Crisis Group, is proposing to limit census questions on age, sex and marital status:

…the coming census, consisting of 41 questions, is overly complicated and fraught with danger. Myanmar is one of the most diverse countries in the region, and ethnicity is a complex, contested and politically sensitive issue, in a context where ethnic communities have long believed that the government manipulates ethnic categories for political purposes

A poorly timed census that enters into controversial areas of ethnicity and religion in an ill-conceived way will further complicate the situation.

Meanwhile, the Burma Partnership fears the census might undermine the national reconciliation process:

Yet the lack of transparency and consultation is a damning indictment of the UN’s – and donors’ – role in the census, while the accusations of inaccuracy and divisiveness only serve to further undermine the credibility of these parties. Moreover, there are real fears about the logistics of collecting the data, both in terms of authorities using the correct forms and accessing remote areas or conflict zones, which would have implications for the accuracy of data recorded

It is clear that this census represents a Pandora’s Box of potential ethnic tensions and conflict. At a time when the Burma government claims to be striving to secure a sustainable peace deal with the armed ethnic groups and cementing political reforms before the 2015 national elections, the timing and nature of the census is strange, to say the least. It risks jeopardizing national reconciliation, undermining the peace process, and exacerbating inter-communal violence.

Apparently, some ethnic groups are cynical of the census process that they chose to conduct a census on their own.

February 20 2014

Ethnic North Korean Schools in Japan Face Ever-Hostile Situation

Koreans living in Japan‘ is a vague word glueing very different groups together under the same umbrella term. Based on their affiliation to North/South Korea and the timing of diaspora (whether it happened before/after the Japanese imperial rule during the World War 2 ear), each sub-group goes by a different name, sharing little similarities. Stark division between them is once again solidified by education system; North Koreans in Japan attend a special ethnic school that resembles ones that are in North Korea. Markus Bell, after visiting one North Korean school in Japan, wrote an extensive report on multiple threats those schools face, with some background information about the concerned ethnic group, as the financial help from their home country has been significantly reduced and also funding from the Japanese government was recently cut off. 

Russians Eye Ukrainian Turmoil with Hope, Fear

Iron Maiden's

Heavy metal band Iron Maiden's mascot “Eddie the Head” gets a Ukrainian restyling in this meme. Anonymous image found online.

The latest development in a long running stand-off between the Ukrainian government and opposition, deadly clashes between protesters and riot police erupted near Kiev's Independence Square on Tuesday, February 18. As events unfolded, authorities halted the city subways, barricaded roads, and blocked a major opposition TV channel,  Channel 5 Ukraine [Ukr]. According to recent numbers as many as twenty-five protesters and police have died in the violence, over 200 people have been hospitalized, and over 1,000 have been otherwise injured. The numbers also include journalists and bystanders.

Russian bloggers have been carefully observing these events, so much so that many Russian Internet users have lost interest [Global Voices report] in the Sochi Winter Games in favor of protests on the Maidan. Positive commentary ranges from expressing sympathy for the protesters to demanding that Russia not meddle in Ukrainian internal affairs. At the same time pro-Kremlin bloggers and state-sponsored Russian media outlets have lambasted the protesters as extremists. 

As usual, members of the Russian opposition gave some vicarious analysis of the situation. Journalist Sergei Smirnov, formerly a member of the radical and banned National Bolshevik party, tweeted:

Seriously, 13 wounded armed cops equals urban warfare. That is, this means the opposition has several times more wounded.

Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov made the same comparison, lamenting the violence [ru]:

В Киеве продолжаются уличные бои. 9 убитых. 7- гражданских и два милиционера. И все потому что Янукович цепляется за власть и не хочет объявить досрочные выборы.

Urban warfare is continuing in Kiev. 9 killed. 7 civilians and 2 policemen. And all because [President] Yanukovich is hanging on to power and doesn't want to announce snap elections.

Vladimir Milov's second in command at DemVybor party, Kirill Shulika wrote [ru]:

Виноват, естественно, Янукович со своим маниакальным желанием удержать у власти группировку донецких бандитов. Да, можно говорить о вине оппозиции, но есть президент, который просто обязан не допускать этого. А если он уже не в состоянии контролировать ситуацию, ему надо уходить.

Of course Yanukovich is to blame, with his maniacal desire to maintain power for a group of Donetsk bandits. Yes, one can also fault the opposition, but there is a president who simply cannot not allow this [violence]. And if he can no longer control the situation, he should leave.

Some Ukrainians also tweeted in Russian. Singer Oleksandra Koltsova tweeted about the much-discussed split between Ukraine's Russian speaking East and EU-oriented West:

People in the east aren't “for Yanukovich.” They've also been robbed. They are also ready to trade him in for a better candidate, but they need concrete proposals and different faces [in the opposition leadership.]

In the end, though, RuNet discussions of the Ukrainian “problem” should remain online discussions, thinks Russian writer Maxim Kantor [ru]:

Началась украинская гражданская война. [...] Россия не должна участвовать в этой войне. Сегодняшнее украинское правительство дискредитировано, и его призыв о помощи (если будет) нельзя рассматривать как призыв народа. А народ ни о чем не просил.

The Ukrainian civil war has begun. [...] Russia should not participate in this war. The current Ukrainian government has lost credibility, and its call for help (if it happens) should not be seen as the voice of the people. And the people themselves haven't asked for anything.

Vladimir Putin, who reportedly ignored a recent phone-call from President Yanukovich, seems to be on same page.

Jamaica: Breakespeare & Bob Marley

Inspired by Cindy Breakspeare's recent lecture on Bob Marley, Annie Paul republishes a 2007 interview she did with her, in which Breakspeare discusses her youth, her Jamaican-ness and of course, meeting Bob.

February 19 2014

“Now is the Time for Men of Goodwill to Stand Up” in the Central African Republic

Andrew Harding on Africa Review reports on the courageous acts of a congregation in the shabby town of Boali, Central African Republic and notably one Father Xavier Fagba. The St Peter's Parish church has sheltered Muslims seeking sanctuary from ethnic cleansing perpetrated by anti balaka gangs:    

“Now is the time for men of goodwill to stand up and prove the strength and quality of their faith,” said Father Fagba, [..] ”When I did this, nobody in the community understood me. They attacked and threatened me.” The Muslims – about 650 in all – arrived at the church on January 16 and 17. ”The Muslims discovered in our church that the God we worship is the same as their God,” said Father Fagba.

On twitter, a hashtag #CARKindness reports the local acts of kindness amidst the unspeakable wave of violence that plagues the country. Here is another instance of such kindness:

February 18 2014

“Bring All the Culprits of Ethnic Cleansing to Justice” Says a CAR Citizen of Muslim and Christian Descent

Here is Moussa Tanko–Tchaibou's take on the ethnic cleansing that is underway in his country, the Central African Republic and what should be done to stop it [fr]:

Je suis centrafricain de confession musulmane avec cette particularité illustrative de la cohésion sociale, celle d’avoir un père de confession musulmane et une mère d’origine chrétienne [..]  Alors que la maison commune est en train de bruler qu’apportent-ils comme contribution afin de mettre fin à cette situation? Rien à part se préparer pour les prochaines échéances électorales, à attiser à distance cette haine contre une certaine catégorie de population [..]  il faudrait que les choses avancent vite, car ne pas traduire les coupables de ces crimes horribles devant la cour pénale internationale laisse la porte ouverte à d’autres massacres.

I am a Central African Republic citizen who happens to be muslim. In what used to be an illustration of the social cohesion of the past in my country, my father is Muslim and my mother is Christian. [..] While the house of Central Africa is now burning, what did that they (political leaders) do to put an end to this situation? Nothing but prepare for the next elections and stir up hatred against a certain group of people [..] The world needs to move quickly (in identifying the culprits), because if we doe not bring the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to the International Criminal Court rapidly, we will leave the door open for other massacres to occur.

Hayes Brown unpacks why it is important to better understand the two-way atrocities in the region and whether the use of the term genocide in the media is appropriate. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch states that without prompt action, the country will be emptied of its Muslim population [fr]. 

February 17 2014

Race as a Political Weapon in the Caribbean

Of all the offensive – and unintelligent – statements made in the politics of the post-independence Caribbean, an assertion, that Dr Keith Rowley, the leader of the Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, is ‘too black’ to be Prime Minister, has to rate as the worst.

Bajan Reporter explains why such a notion “highlights the continuing insecurities in persons and groups in the Caribbean.”

Zambia Ditches English in Primary School for Government-Approved Local Languages

In what is probably the most radical policy change by Zambia's just over two-years-old Patriotic Front (PF) government is the change in the language of instruction in lower primary school from English to local languages.

Lower primary school in Zambia is from Grade 1 to Grade 4 and caters to ages anywhere between three and 12 because there is no policy regarding how old a child has got to be to start or complete school.

The language change has its supporters, but it also has it is critics, and among the latter are chiefs, the traditional leaders who head various ethnic groups as custodians of language and culture of their ethnic groups.

The problem is that there are 73 recognised languages—although most of these can be classified as dialects—in the country, but only seven are recognised for official communication and are broadcast on government-run national radio by the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). These seven, which are Nyanja, Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, Kaonde, Lunda and Luvale, will be the only local languages of instruction, despite the existence of many others.

The story of Chieftainess Nkomeshya opposing the use of the seven

An image of the Post newspaper's story on Chieftainess Nkomeshya opposing Zambia's use of the seven “official” local languages in primary school. Image from Zambian Watchdog Facebook page. Used with permission.

A full year before the language policy was rolled out, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who is also the ruling party’s Secretary General, wondered why people insisted on the use of English:

Our education system does not meet the demands of a third-world country. We are producing students who are not relevant to the needs of our country […] It is the policy of the PF to revive vernacular languages because a language gives us identity.

The first signs of trouble for the proposed policy was when pupils in a rural school in Zambezi District of the North-Western Province protested being taught in one of the two languages, Lunda and Luvale, in use in the area. The protest forced government authorities to close the affected school temporarily.

One blogger, Munshya wa Munshya, argued that the policy is based on useless Pan-Africanist motives:

When a government has no tangible plan for development, it begins to couch useless pan-Africanist ideals that have no practical value. Nothing demonstrates this recklessness better than the recent decision of the Michael Sata government to introduce vernacular languages as the sole media of instruction in lower primary school. According to the Hon. Kabimba, government introduced this policy so that Zambia can truly be free from the foreign language of English. The Permanent Secretary in the ministry responsible for education is couching this new policy as “the necessary revision to the educational curriculum.” At close inspection, however, we find this new policy is nothing other than a noisome invention that lacks any proper objectives.

He criticized the policy, calling it absurd:

The government is saying that they have revised the curriculum in such a way that the pupils will now be taught in the “local languages”. This is absurd. In order for this reasoning to stand, we must first deconstruct what is meant by “local language”. The idea that Zambia has seven local languages is perhaps the greatest fabrication to have ever come from the Kenneth Kaunda [Zambia’s first president] dictatorship. Zambia does not have seven local languages. In fact, the seven local languages are not in any logical way expressive of the language status of the Zambian majority. Kaunda picked on the seven languages in an arbitrary manner and imposed them on us.

Chiefs in the mining province of Copperbelt, a very urbanised area of Zambia where Bemba or variants of it are widely spoken, rejected its teaching in favour of their ethnic Lamba which is mostly spoken in the rural areas. Senior Chief Chiwala said in a statement:

We, the Chiefs of the Copperbelt Province observe that it is a violation of human rights to impose on children the teaching of vernacular language that is not their own […] The position the Lambas have taken shall never be compromised and no amount of intimidation shall sway the people of Lamba land from this decision.

Throughout British Colonial and independent Zambia’s history, Lambas have been tolerant and sacrificed enough of their land for the sake of national development, mindful of the fact that Zambia is a unitary state in tribal diversity.

In Lusaka Province, where the capital city Lusaka is situated, Chieftainess Nkomeshya of the Soli, whose indigenous language has largely been sidelined, opposed the training of area chiefs in selected languages. Solis have to learn Chewa/Nyanja instead, a practice that has practically killed off Soli.

Similarly, some people hailing from Central Province have also rejected the use of languages other than Lenje, which is spoken in most parts of the region.

Whether the policy works or not is yet to be seen.

February 16 2014

South Korea Lost Genius Skater Viktor Ahn, Who Won Two Medals for Russia

dddddddd

Image by Flickr User @CanadianPhotographer (CC BY SA 2.0)

Short-track speed-skating star Viktor Ahn, formerly known as Ahn Hyun-soo, has brought his adopted home Russia two medals, one gold and one bronze in Sochi Olympics. With his winning streak likely to continue, discussions sparked in South Korean online forums about what has driven this skating genius from his birth-country and criticisms mounted on the deep-rooted clique culture that perpetuates not only in the Korean skating world, but in Korean society in general and the media's sudden focus on Ahn ‘being a Korean'. 

Mr. Ahn made headlines on international level as early as back in 2002 Olympics with his unfortunate crash with eight-time medalist skater Ohno during the race. Four years later, Ahn surged back as Ohno's formidable rival by grabbing three gold medals and a bronze. However, Ahn failed to compete in the following Olympics in 2010. The official reason given was that it was due to his knee injury, but it was an open secret to net users that Ahn had a fallout with the Korea Skating Union and severely been bullied [ko] well before the 2006 Olympics and by the time around 2010 that Ahn was de-facto abandoned and cast out by the union. He left his country and became a naturalized Russian in 2011. For playing for Russian team, Ahn has reportedly been rewarded [ko] with much higher salary, benefits (private tutor and coaching staff) and even promised a stable job after his retirement.  

Too late too little

As Ahn won a bronze medal earlier this week, every media outlet has seemed to gain sudden interest to the unfair treatment he suffered– which happened several years earlier. Even the President made a comment about Ahn that ‘we have to look back on whether it (referring to Ahn switching his nationality) is because of irregularities lying in the sports world, such as factionalism, favoritism and judging corruption'. Politicians have chimed in and the ruling Saenuri party posted in their Facebook page a emotional photo with text [ko] that read ‘Sorry, But we will always be supporting you', although net users seem not that impressed with this belated response. Many Koreans seem rather happy for this under-appreciated star's newly-found happiness and seem unmoved, even offended by the Korean media suddenly emphasizing his nationality. Here are several tweets about Ahn. 

If only he'd been given full support and nourishment from the state, then one can trash-talk Ahn Hyun-soo and claim that he betrayed his country and left us for Russia. But no, that is not the case. There was no good support, but continued fights between cliques, and brutal beating he got (for not obeying the union's order) and no good environment for practice. There is no justification for trash-talking Ahn.

It was told that Ahn said that he loves skating, and he is not sure whether he loves it more than he loves his country. One thing for sure is that he wants to continue skating and that he will live in Russia forever. This shows that how country has driven geniuses out instead of embracing their talents. Viktor Ahn, you take that gold medal. We don't deserve you/the medal.

(1st tweet embedded) He became a Russian citizen and even changed his name. But those media keep insist calling him Ahn Hyun-soo. (2nd tweet) This player, after cannot take any more of the clique culture and power-wielding, changed his nationality. But when he wins gold medals, some media would pull those ridiculous cliche clauses, such as ‘His nationality may be Russia(n), but his heart beats for Korea'. LOL.

After hearing that there are groups of people who try hard to portray Viktor Ahn as ‘Ahn Hyun-soo who so loves his country, South Korea', I wasn't that surprised. When someone achieves success, they do so desperately try to link that success to the nationality. When it seems like a failure, they try to distance from them. (i.e. against some Korean-Chinese)

February 14 2014

Protests Erupt Against a TV Show in Iran

Sarzamine Kohan

Sarzamine Kohan

Protests against a TV series called Sarzamine Kohan (Ancient Land) erupted this week in several Iranian cities, including Dezful and Ahvaz in the oil-rich Khuzestan province. Demonstrators say the show was insulting to Bakhtiari people and the role its leaders played in Iran's Constitutional Revolution.

In at least one dialogue of the fictional show, Bakhtyaris are said to be “at the service of English”, meaning they were traitors. Sixty members of parliament wrote a protest letter to state-run Iranian television complaining about this representation.

Bakhtiari people, who primarily live in Chahar Mahaal, Bakhtiari and parts of the Khuzestan, Lorestan and Isfahan provinces, played played an important role in Iran's history.

Demonstration in Dezful

Freedom Messenger shared several films from a demonstration in Dezful, on Friday 14, 2014.

Several netizens tweeted about the controversial series.

Tevis tweeted

Today they destroy Bakhtiari, tomorrow they will do it with other ethnic groups.

The_Sina tweeted

Here are the photos of demonstration in Masjed Soleiman on Friday, February 15. If you demonstrate, do it the right way, without violence.

Mehdi Mohseni previously tweeted

Iran's Third Channel (the one broadcast the controversial series) played Bakhtiari music several times today. Probably to soften the present atmosphere.

Protests Against Death of Immigrants in Ceuta, Spain: “No One Is Illegal”

Image from Fotomovimiento taken at the Barcelona protest

Image from Fotomovimiento taken at the Barcelona protest. Used under CC License.

A group of 200 people tried to enter Spain from Morocco by swimming around the fence at Ceuta, and some 14 sub-Saharan African migrants were crushed to death or drowned. The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) has been condemned by the immigrants and by a number of civil society organisations alike that argue that the security forces neither assisted [es] the immigrants nor alerted the coastguard to rescue those who were at sea. They also condemn the use of rubber bullets and tear gas against the immigrants in an attempt to prevent them from crossing the border.

The Guardia Civil has denied the accusations and created confusion by daily changing their version [es] of the events of Thursday 6th February.

Map of the border zone between Morocco and Spain - Wikipedia

Map of the border zone between Morocco and Spain – Wikipedia

A week after the tragedy, protests were convened in 15 Spanish cities to condemn the immigrants’ deaths. At the citizen gathering in Madrid, the most popular slogans [es] were: “They didn't drown, they were murdered”, “Natives or foreigners, we're all the same working class”, “No one is illegal” and “Where are the pro-lifers now?”, the latter in reference to those who support the controversial reform of the Abortion Law that the Spanish conservative government is currently preparing. 

The Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz finally acknowledged the use of riot gear by the security forces, although he claimed that it was used “only as a deterrent” to prevent the migrants from crossing the border. While the minister was appearing in the House of Representatives and facing the questions and accusations of the opposition parties, Twitter was transformed into a vehicle for people to express their indignation via the now trending topic #muertesCeuta [#Ceutadeaths]:

It seems that when prospecting for oil the borders are a lot wider than when for saving lives #muertesceuta

— Leire Iglesias (@leireis) February 13th, 2014

The minister acknowledges that rubber bullets were fired but not at people… what were they firing at then, the seagulls? #muertesCeuta

— Lorena Sainero (@Anerol27) February 13th, 2014

There are some things which we should never allow to happen. #muertesCeuta
— Ani ツ (@Vaquesinmas) February 13th, 2014

Shooting into the water near people who are desperate and can't swim isn't deterring them “for humanitarian reasons”, it's something entirely different #muertesCeuta

— Juan Luis Sánchez (@juanlusanchez) February 13th, 2014

There are still many questions to be answered: 

Autor Dani Gago - DISO Press

Photo by Dani Gago – DISO Press. ‘More bridges, no walls’

What is the existing protocol for managing the entry of immigrants in Spain? Did the Guardia Civil's actions in Ceuta show respect for the law and the immigrants’ human rights? Were some of the immigrants who did manage to reach Spanish territory returned to Morocco, in spite of the illegality of such an action? 

One Twitter user briefly summarises the need for accountability: 

Why should the minister provide answers to the mysteries surrounding the #Ceutadeaths? Above all, for them: http://t.co/TzhPH6zS9M

— Gabriela Sánchez (@Gabriela_Schz) February 13th, 2014

February 13 2014

The Iconic Trinidadian Film You've Never Seen

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

The 1970s saw the release of two important indigenous Caribbean films: Jamaica’s iconic The Harder They Come, starring musician Jimmy Cliff, which still takes some measure of credit for introducing reggae music to the world, and Bim, which explores race, politics and working class challenges in colonial Trinidad.

If you’ve never heard of Bim, far less seen it, that’s all about to change, thanks to the power of social media.

Pat Ganase, who has had a long career in journalism, publishing and communications in Trinidad and Tobago, has started a Facebook page called “BIM the movie” in an attempt to ignite online discussion about the film and the issues it deals with.

“I decided it was time for the first all-Trinidad film to have a Facebook fan page,” Ganase says. “It was the first film that didn’t just use our environment as a location and our people as exotic natives or extras. It is a film with a story that is authentic…and ours.”

Fellow journalist and writer Raoul Pantin collaborated on the script. The actors were all local. So was the majority of the film crew. The early fusion soundtrack was composed by Andre Tanker and performed by some of the country’s most outstanding musicians, including Mungal Patasar. But most importantly, it was a Trinidadian story.

Ganase is friends with Suzanne Robertson (who co-produced the film with her late husband Hugh, an American who edited the Oscar-winning film Midnight Cowboy) and says that even back then, the couple saw a bright future for the film industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The first Trinidadian film company was SHARC,” she explains, “named for Suzanne, Hugh and their children (Antonio and Anna) Robertson. Bim—and SHARC—probably failed then, for the same reasons that film, as a viable industry, is not succeeding today. There is a failure to appreciate it as a productive industry that can employ many, many people and bring returns on investment through distribution.”

As Ganase notes, the challenges for young filmmakers today are the same: “Funding, institutional support, distribution and marketing. The film industry is not a solitary art, which is why it is an Industry with a Capital I.” But the sense of déjà vu does not stop there—it extends itself to societal challenges as well. While the film marked a particular time in Trinidad and Tobago's history, addressing attitudes towards issues such as racial identity, Ganase believes  its lessons are still relevant. “Maybe it can tell us something about ‘crime’ in our society,” she offers. “It certainly has something to say about young men who grow themselves up, without father or family.”

The plot follows the main character Bhim (initially pronounced Beem) Singh, whose father, a union leader for workers in the sugar cane fields, is killed on the day of his sister’s wedding. Bhim leaves the only life he knows in rural Trinidad to live with his aunt and her ne’er-do-well husband in Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. From the get-go he's an outcast, and is soon drawn into a life of petty crime, working for an underworld type who re-christens him Bim. Meanwhile, the winds of political change are blowing. Bim seizes the opportunity, crushes the son of the man who killed his father and gets himself elected as head of the sugar cane workers’ union. His victory is short-lived, however, and his demise comes rather quickly, as a result of alcoholism.

Upon its release, the film was not panned by critics, but it didn’t quite get rave reviews either. The New York Times critique in 1974, for instance, opened by saying, “By no conventional standards is ‘Bim’ very good, but it’s still vastly more interesting than lots of other movies you’re likely to stumble on.” ‘Interesting’ may have been an understatement; it certainly struck a note with local audiences, presumably even before anyone had even seen it. Trinidad and Tobago had an active Censors Board at the time and the film’s planned debut in December 1974 never happened thanks to a ban. A month later, after legal action was taken against the Censors Board, the film was finally screened—uncut—at the landmark Roxy cinema in St. James.

“The language is harsh; it had plenty cusswords [obscene language],” Ganase recalls, “but not unwarranted. People who have seen the film are the ones who perceive it as seminal and important. There is a ring of truth in Bim the movie.”

There's certainly a timeless quality to Bim. Ganase says that “viewers of all ages and in every decade respond [to the film] the same way…as if it is something that they were deprived of.” She thinks this is because the story is as relevant now as it was then. “It’s not that I want people to know the film,” she says. “It is that people have a hunger for it.”

In just three days, the Facebook page has received over 130 “Likes” and a substantial amount of commentary, both from people who have already seen the film and from those who would like to. Ganase says the page will develop according to the discussion it generates: “It will point us in a direction that comes from the collective.”

One idea that came out of user comments was the suggestion by Trinidadian visual artist Christopher Cozier to work towards having Bim listed in Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, which restores and distributes films from countries that are underrepresented in global film culture. “It is a worthwhile idea that might be an avenue for new distribution,” Ganase explains. “There will be a showing in the future. But that will happen when the time is right.”

Janine Mendes-Franco is a communications consultant, media producer and writer. When she's not blogging about the Caribbean for Global Voices, you can find her blogging here and tweeting here.

The image used in this post is from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions, used with permission. A version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian Arts section.

February 12 2014

An “Increasingly Uncertain” Future for Central Asia's Fergana Valley

On the Caravanistan blog, Cycloscope writes about radioactive landfill sites in the Fergana Valley, a region “absurdly divided between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan”:

Unaware of the dangers of radioactivity, the locals take the equipment in the old abandoned mines and sell them as scrap, risking not only their own lives but also the spread of radioactivity. A further problem is the use of rock from landfills as a building material for houses and roads.

The threat coming from radioactive waste is aggravated by unsettled borders, water scarcity, and a history of ethnic riots, making the future of the region “increasingly uncertain”.

February 11 2014

A Personal Tribute to Jamaican “Interventionist” Stuart Hall

As tributes to late Jamaican cultural theorist Stuart Hall keep coming, Jamaica-based blogger Annie Paul posts a personal and stirring acknowledgement.

Titled “A Stuart Hall-shaped hole in the universe…”, she begins by saying:

When I saw Stuart at his home in London on December 14, 2013, I knew he wouldn’t last much longer. He had been ill for years and his health had deteriorated considerably since the previous year when we celebrated his 80th birthday at Rivington Place, the art centre born of his inspiration and hard work. All the same his departure comes as a blow. It’s too early for me to come to terms with this loss, for Stuart has been a close friend and mentor since 1996 when he came to the University of the West Indies to speak at the Rex Nettleford Conference.

Paul chooses to share some of her own photographs in the post, which alone makes it extraordinary – snapshots of Hall with Paul herself; with David Scott, the editor of Small Axe magazine; a few pics of him both in England and in Jamaica. These are rare glimpses into the ordinary days of an extraordinary man. Paul says:

Stuart Hall was such an extraordinary thinker that his work ranged over a broad field of interests including visual art which was the one thing we truly bonded over. It was a preoccupation that didn’t get much coverage in other interviews which tend to focus more on his activism, his Marxism, and his political interventions.

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 - Photo by Annie Paul

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 – Photo by Annie Paul

She links to a post she wrote in November 2013, in which she reviews The Stuart Hall Project, the John Akomfrah film about him, which she hopes will be screened in Jamaica soon. In it, she says:

One of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, Stuart Hall, was born and brought up here, made his career in Britain, become an intellectual powerhouse there, and is virtually unknown in the land of his birth. So true what Jesus said: A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. Ah well.

Still, she shares links about his life and work in an effort to make “young people here realize that Jamaicans excel not only in track and field and music but also in the intellectual arena…”

Another piece of memorabilia Paul shares in the post is one of her “treasures”:

…a letter Stuart wrote to the Librarian at Birmingham U so that I could gain access to their inner sanctum.

She ends with an upload of an interview she did with Hall, titled The Ironies of History:

The Ironies of History:An Interview with Stuart Hall by Annie Paul

The interview (read it, above) begins by quoting Professor Grant Farred of Duke University:

Such was Hall’s impact on the US, British, Euro pean and Australian academy via cultural studies, mainly through a range of essays he published during the 1980s, that by the 1990s he became one of the preeminent intellectuals in the world. In truth, because of the international rise of cultural studies, Hall came to be regarded as an academic star, an intellectual celebrity, and a philosophical guru: he became the incarnation of cultural studies, first in Britain and then in the United States, widely anointed as the spokes man for the politics – and the endemic politicization – of the popular, the theorist in the fore front of politicizing (all) identity.

In it, Paul discusses with Hall everything from immigration and deportation to dancehall music, black masculinity and homophobia. He talks about art, architecture and visual culture. He even talks about himself and his work:

I was an interventionist, my writing is interventionist ok? That is to say I write in order to intervene in a situation, to shift the terms in which it’s understood, to introduce a new angle, to contest how it has been understood before; it’s an embattled form of writing…a kind of intellectual interventionism.

This is a kind of politics in theory, because it’s interested in struggling thought – struggling in thought. Not interested in the production of pure truth, absolute truth, universal truth. It’s interested in the production of better ideas than the ones we used to have. So it’s a kind of struggle in thought, a struggle with thought and a struggle inside thought, struggle inside thinking to change the terms of reference with which we’re thinking. There’s also a politics of thought in the sense that it wants to make the ideas useful for some purpose; it wants to help people think more clearly about their situation or to help to advance nationalism in a more progressive direction or to help the world become a more equal and just place.

The image used in this post is by Annie Paul, used with permission.

When Algeria's Police Fail to Act, Citizen Journalists Step in

Not long after evidence of police abuse was exposed by citizen journalists there last month, cyber activists in the city of Ghardaïa have once against uncovered failings of Algeria's police forces, this time for not stepping in to protect a man who as killed in public after being kidnapped by a group of local gangsters.

Sectarian tensions in this region situated in the heart of the M'zab valley are high, and cyber activists and citizen journalists are doubling their efforts to expose the violent clashes between the Ibadites minority (a.k.a Mozabites in this region) and the majority made of Muslim Sunni communities, publishing video evidence on YouTube. The publicity generated by the activists’ first videos showing police abuse against Ibadites prompted Algerian authorities to launch an investigation and sanction the officers involved.

The goal of these citizen journalists is clear: share the reality on the ground with the Algerian population, whose awareness of the situation is obscured by the lack of reporting in the mainstream media. In fact, many facts and elements of the situation are not reported. For instance, the media seldom reports on the complicity of security forces with local thugs who vandalize and wreck havoc in the city to increase sectarian conflict between the Ibadites and the Sunni. The photos below taken by Mozabites activists show the reality of the crimes occurring in Ghardaïa right under the nose of police: