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May 22 2013

Bahamas: Haitians are our Brothers

One of the most dastardly parts of the Atlantic slave trade was how fellow human beings were treated as as if they less than men and women. And it seems that many of us feel the same way about illegal Haitians here in The Bahamas.

Weblog Bahamas’ Rick Lowe adds, “I agree they are illegal and we must deal with it, but do we have to pretend these people are not human beings?”

May 18 2013

Turkey: Syrian Refugees Targeted after Reyhanlı Blasts

On May 11th, Reyhanlı [en] small Turkish town on Turkey-Syria border, was under terrorist attacks. This was the biggest terrorist attack [en] in country's 90 year-old republican history. After the explosions nine people were detained [en] by the security forces. Officials said [en], two vehicles were used in the bombings and more than 50 people were killed and at least 100 people were injured. But on social media, there were rumors that the real number of the victims is more than 100.

Twitter user shiny (@Idauk) tweets [Tr]:

@Idauk Simdi Antakya'dan arkadasimla konustum.Olu sayisi 100′un uzerinde diyor.Reyhanli'da fiili sokaga cikma yasagi varmis.Hastahaneler perisan.

I just talked with a friend from Antakya. As my friend said, the number of the people were killed is over 100. Also, there is a curfew. Hospitals are all miserable.

Just after the explosions, the Turkish government issued a media ban [en] on the Reyhanlı blasts. This ban received a big reaction on social media. Twitter user denizatam (@denizatam) writes:

@denizatam AKP çareyi buldu, Reyhanlı için yayın yasağı başladı! Ana akım medya yetmedi yerel basını sustur şimdi. …

AKP (Justice and Development Party) found the solution. A media ban was initiated for the Reyhanli Blasts! Mainstream was not enough, now it is the time to silence local media.

Journalists protested [en] the media ban. On Türkmax, the media ban was protested in a more sarcastic way, on their comedy show “Heberler”. In the video, the anchorman is opening the program with Reyhanlı blasts. Due to media ban, he remains speechless. Here is the video [tr]:

A picture at on the blast media ban

A picture at on the blast media ban

A Turkish viral graphics and design website,, published a picture about media ban. User brewolve prepared a graphic about the Turkish media's reaction on Reyhanlı blasts, since the media was just following their normal program line and not mentioning Reyhanlı blasts. Graphic can be seen here.

Although the media ban was lifted by Turkish courts, on May 16, a video on YouTube claims that the ban has fulfilled its purpose. In the video [tr], a journalist interviews several people on the street asking them “what do you think about Reyhanlı?”. The answers are shocking; only one person recognized the blasts, and a few remembered where the town was, and rest had no idea where it was or what happened in Reyhanlı, even though the video was recorded only five days after the blasts. Here is the video:

There are also reports [tr] on racist attacks on Syrian refugees. Since the Syrian civil war, Syrian refugees and militants fled to Antakya [en], a Turkish city on Syrian-Turkey border, and Reyhanlı, a town of the same city. Since the refugees and militants moved [en] into Antakya, the tension between the locals and Syrians has been high. In the report it says:

“Suriyelilerin yaşadığı binalara topluca gidilmiş birçok ev yakılmaya çalışılmış, ele geçirilen kişiler darp edilmişlerdir. Aşırı milliyetçi/ulusalcı eğilimlere sahip partilere mensup fanatiklerinden olduğu söylenen ve her geçen gün sayıları artmakta olan bu gurup, yaşanan gelişmelerden Suriyelileri sorumlu tutmakta, Reyhanlı ilçe merkezinde devriye gezerek sıklıkla yol kesmekte, Suriyeli veya Suriye vatandaşı olduğunu zannettikleri kişileri linç etmeye çalışmaktadırlar”

A group of people went to the buildings that Syrians are living in, they beat the people they caught. As said, these people are the members of ultra nationalist parties and they increasing in numbers, they blame Syrians for the blasts, and they patrol the Reyhanli city center, where they are attacking Syrians or people who look like Syrian citizens.

Turks on social media gave mixed reactions on the attacks on Syrians in Reyhanli.

Twitter user T.C. Zehra Aydogan (@TurkKizi1919) is angry at Syrians in Antakya:

 @TurkKizi1919 Turkiye'ye yerlestirilmeye calistiklari Suriyeli Multeci dedikleri terorsitlerdir.

The so called Syrian refugees that they want to settle in Turkey are, actually terrorists.

Another user, T.C.Devrim #ATATÜRK (@saadet_karakus), is angry at government for helping the refugees instead of the locals:

@saadet_karakus Suriyeli multeci icin milyar dolar harcayanlar,Reyhanlı esnafının vergi, sigorta borçlarını 1 yıl erteliyor.Silsene o borcu buyuk devlet!

The ones, who spend billions of dollars for Syrian refugees, are delaying Reyhanli store owners’ debts for one year. Write off those debts, you big government!

Twitter user Sami Pelitli (@SamiPelitli) says:

@SamiPelitli Reyhanli'da patlayan bomba yuzunden multecileri suclamak, onlara saldirmak nasil bir vicdansizliktir? Bir de irkci degiliz dersiniz.

What kind of remorselessness it is, to blame refugees for the blasts in Reyhanli, and to attack them? And you also say we are not racist.

Journalist Hayko Bağdat (@haykobagdat) tweets:

@haykobagdat ÖSO, cemaat, AKP'li filanlı olmaktan değil, tehcirin ne olduğunu bildiğimden Suriyeli mültecilere toz kondurmuyorum ben.

I am defending Syrian refugees, because I know the meaning of emigration, not because I am fan of FSA (Free Syrian Army), AKP (Justice and development Party), or congregation.

After the death of tens of people and a border town with tens of buildings collapsed [en], life still continues in Reyhanlı. Twitter user Bünyamin Salmanyan (@bunyms) remembers Mustafa Ayaz [tr], who was killed by the blasts in Reyhanlı:

@bunyms Reyhanlı'daki saldırıda hayatını kaybeden 25 yaşındaki Mustafa Ayaz'ın eşi bugün doğum yapmış, adını Mustafa koymuşlar..

Mustafa Ayaz, 25, was killed by the blasts; his wife gave a birth to his son today, and they named him Mustafa…

Australia Excuses Itself from Refugee Law

On 17 May 2013 Australian blogger and self-styled ‘global nomad’ More Atlitude posted a lengthy and detailed post in response to “Australia’s decision yesterday to excise its mainland from the migration zone” this week. He argues that it

essentially reinforces a horrible, horrible policy of enforced detention for legal (I stress, again and again and again, people, LEGAL, good grief do I need to paint it neon and string it with lights?) asylum-seekers.

May 15 2013

Uprooted by Brazilian Power Plant, River Residents Try to Rebuild

This story by Ana Aranha was originally titled Vidas em Trânsito (Lives in Transit) [pt] and is part of Brazilian investigative journalism agency Pública's special coverage #AmazôniaPública (Public Amazon) [pt], which reports on the impact of mega-construction projects in the Amazon along the Madeira river in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. The story will be published in a series of five posts on Global Voices Online. 

Previous post: Displaced Residents Accuse Brazilian Power Plant of False Promises

After spending almost two years in the village of New Mutum, a city constructed by company Energia Sustentável [en] to house the engineers and foremen of its Jirau power plant [en] as well as the river dwellers, known as ribeirinhos [en], who were displaced when the area was flooded for the plant, the Batista family decided to return closer to the river. Alongside the same neighbors from the old Mutum, they constructed a wooden house next to a bayou called Jirau.

But now there’s a suspicion that this area will also be flooded.

This news flows among the inhabitants and workers of the power plant and is being investigated by public attorney Renata Ribeiro Baptista from the federal public prosecutor’s office in the federal state of Rondônia [en]. “Jirau denies it, but we are following this closely,” she declares:

Essa situação mostra o dilema dos ribeirinhos. Eles correram de volta para os seus hábitos de vida, que estão ligados à proximidade ao rio. Mas a vida como eles conheciam foi tomada pela usina.

This situation shows the dilemma faced by the river dwellers. They went back to their way of life, tied to the proximity of the river. But life as they knew it was taken away by the power plant.

“I no longer consider myself a Brazilian citizen. I feel like a dog on a leash that can’t choose where to go,” says Jonas Romani, a 55-year-old fisherman. He lived in the district of Jaci Paraná that was flooded by the Santo Antônio power plant [en]. Like Batista, he moved to the Jirau river and now loses sleep over the possibility of having to move again. “If they aren’t sure if this area will be flooded, why not close this area off? They let us come here, build our things, plant our manioc, only to flood everything all over again?”

Esmeralda Marinho Gomes used to lived in the village of Mutum Paraná, which was relocated because the area was to be flooded by the Jirau power plant. She states she has never been compensated. Esmeralda explains how the riverside dwellers never adapted to the village constructed by the power plant, New Mutum, and went to live in another location close to the river. She worries about what will happen to the community when the construction project is finished and the jobs are gone.

The process of wrenching people from where they have built their lives is always subject to injustices. There are small injustices and there are big ones. The story of Esmeralda Marinho Gomes, 63, is one of the larger ones.

She had rented a house in old Mutum since 2006. Even those who rented had the right to choose between a compensation of 55,000 Brazilian reais (about 28,000 US dollars) or a small house in New Mutum. But the week that the power plant employees came through to create a registry of inhabitants, she was away working at the mine. When she returned, she began her saga of attempts to contact the power plant. As the community was one of squatters, the houses didn't have official documentation and therefore, there was no contract, only an agreement with the owner:

Primeiro disseram que era estudo de caso. Depois, que não tinha prova suficiente.

They initially said her case was under study. Later, they stated there was insufficient proof.

She never received compensation.

While her neighbors were in New Mutum, Esmeralda rented a room in the village. When the first few began moving to the Jirau bayou, she moved with them.

With the breakup of the river dwellers and cuts at the power plant, the future of the 1,600 homes in New Mutum becomes worrisome. The Jirau plant is progressively reducing the number of workers. The work is scheduled to finish in 2016, when the number of employees near the infrastructure created to house them will be reduced to a minimum. Until now, no industry or activity generating an income independent from the construction of the power plant has been created in the area.

“I've already got my little house in Jaru [another river different than the Madeira river]” says Sônia, a former inhabitant of the old Mutum who has a clothing shop in New Mutum:

Quando acabar a obra, acabou o emprego, acabou tudo. Isso aqui vai virar uma cidade-fantasma.

When the construction is finished, the work is finished, everything is finished. This here will become a ghost town.

The project Amazônia Pública [pt] (Public Amazon) took three teams of reporters from the Reporting and Investigative Journalism Agência Pública to travel through three Amazonian regions between July and October 2012, among them the hydroelectric plants of the Madeira River in Rondônia. All of the reports search to explore the complexities of the current investments in the Amazon, including the negotiations and political maneuvering as well as listening to all the actors involved — governments, companies, and civil society — to trace the context in which these projects have been developed. The principal viewpoint of these reports, as with all reports from Agência Pública, is always the public interest: how actions, political negotiations, and economics have had an impact, in practice, on the lives of the population.

May 07 2013

Congolese-Italian Woman Joins Italy's Cabinet

[All quotations are translated from the original French articles, except the Twitter quotes, which were originally Italian]

Two months after the February 2013 Italian general election, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, selected by the President Giorgio Napolitano to create a consensus government, revealed the members of his team. Among the surprises was the nomination of Doctor Cecile Kyenge, specialist in Opthamology, as Minister of Integration. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she is the first immigrant ever to accede to a ministerial position in Italy.

News website described her [fr] as follows:

Cecile Kyenge, member of the Democratic Party, was born on August 28, 1964 in Kambove in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She arrived in Italy in 1983 and is now an Italian citizen. She obtained her degree in medicine and surgery at the Catholic University of Rome, before specialising in opthamology at the University of Modena.

Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Dr Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Although elected into the left wing Democratic Party during the recent elections, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, she had already become the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament, when she was elected provincial councillor in Modena for the Democratic Party. In an article published on [fr], Rene Kouame wrote:

The honorable Cecile Kyenge is not taking her first steps in the political life of Italy. She has been a councillor since the last legislature of the Emilia Romagna regional council. At the heart of the Italian Democratic Party she occupied the role of responsibility for the immigration forum for several years. As a human rights supporter, Cecile Kyenge has fought for several years to gain respect for the rights of immigrants in Italy. She is spokesperson of the national movement March First (a national organisation fighting against any kind of discrimination and for respect for the rights of immigrants).

The following video [it] shows Cecile Kyenge swearing in before President G. Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace in Rome:

She has fought for many years for better immigration laws, notably for repeal of the crime of illegal immigration which has filled Italian prisons with people whose only crime, for the most part, is to not have identity papers. News website covered her journey [fr]:

Minister of the Democratic Party, the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament was in the middle of preparing a file on ‘institutional racism’ in Italy. She was also fighting for repealing the crime of illegal immigration and wants to make the job market more accessible to foreigners.
According to Cecile Kyenge, it is also necessary to ‘fight against violence of a sexist, racist, homophobic, or any other, nature.’ Mr Letta, who also belongs to the Democratic Party, exulted in this choice which ‘clearly demonstrates belief in a more integrated, truly multicultural Italy.’

Blog said this [fr] about her:

She owes her position as a M.P. to her engagement at the heart of the Democratic Party in the Emilia-Romagna region. In particular, she looked after immigration questions – the portfolio that she will be in charge of at the heart of the new government.
At the heart of her political, associative and militant combat lies the free circulation of people and the desire for a new citizenship law. What is more, in September 2010, she became national spokesperson for the March First movement where she promoted human rights, including those for migrants.

Before the elections Cecile Kyenge defined her combat objectives [fr] in an article published on blog

My candidacy represents and gives a voice to the ‘New Italians’ (term designating foreigners who become Italian), these foreigners who only ask to become a citizen. As a minister of the republic, my voice must also defend the community of Italian citizens, because I believe intermixing can and must be an added value in our culture and not an obstacle like some would have us believe for so long.

Of course, as soon as the composition of the government was published, right wing extremists and xenophobes unleashed themselves to denounce her presence among the other ministers. @adilmauro cited Roberto Maroni, ex-Minister of the Interior and leader of the Northern League, on Twitter:

@adilmauro: Cecile Kyenge is not Italian, say those who want to make Italy change. Here we have the League who ‘march on racism’ (said Maroni)

Journalist Enrico Grazioli (@engraz), also on Twitter, commented on the racist reactions :

@engraz: Cecile #kyenge has ‘already been welcomed by the worst of Italy as we should have expected. But she will not be afraid #governoletta

May 03 2013

Central Asia: From Zhirinovsky With Love

Despite being the major destination for Central Asian migrant workers, Russia is famous for regular intolerance towards ‘non-Russians’ residing within its borders. Hate crimes based on race and ethnicity are not rare in the multinational federation, and migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus are the usual victims [ru] of racist sentiment. Aware of deepening anti-migrant feelings, many of Moscow's politicians look to boost their capital among voters by promoting right-wing policies. But there is always one politician that goes a step further than the rest.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, is a combustible MP famous for making statements that are neither liberal nor democratic. Long-accustomed to playing the fool in domestic politics, Zhirinovsky's April performances seemed designed to send the entire Central Asian region into non-comic uproar.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, image from the LDPR's website, used with permission.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, image from the LDPR's website, used with permission.

His assault on the peoples of the area began with a proposal in the Russian parliament to relieve [ru] the Kyrgyz Republic of the Issyk-Kul, a picturesque lake ringed by the awesome Tien Shan range, in order to pay off the large debt the former Soviet republic owes Moscow.The following week he was at it again, ranting [ru] at Central Asian migrants on a political talk show.

While Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs laughed off [ru] the suggested lake-for-debt deal, a number of Kyrgyz internet users failed to see the funny side of the suggestion.

Under a YouTube video of Zhirinovsky's parliamentary speech, bekturel commented [ru] :

Иссык – Куль он захотел. Ни одной кыргызской лужи не получите! Долг мы вернем, только не водой, и не землей, а бумажками.

So he wants Issyk-Kul. You will not get a single Kyrgyz puddle! We will pay off our debts, not with water or land, but with [paper money].

‘They are like slaves…’

Russia's parliament ignored the proposal of the ‘showman of Russian politics‘ and ratified a write-off of the $500 million Kyrgyz debt without confiscating any national treasures. But Zhirinovsky did not stop at that and, a few days later, made another colorful performance [ru] at a political talk show on Rossiya, a state-owned television channel. During the show, Zhirinovsky spoke of the need to introduce visa requirements for nationals from Central Asian states, who currently do not need visas to travel to Russia. He also indulged [ru] in expressive descriptions of Central Asian labor migrants:

Им не надо жилья, страховок. Oни как рабы крепостные, спят в подвалах, едят любую гадость.

They don't need accommodation or insurance. They are like slaves or serfs, sleeping in basements and eating any filth.

Zhirinovsky Banner

Banner of Zhirinovsky-led LDPR, reading “LDPR for Ethnic Russians!” Imabe by Ilya Radnets, used with permission.

The majority of people commenting under the YouTube video of the debate agreed. A user under the nickname ‘nekto1rublik' wrote [ru]:

давно пора уже ввести самый жесткий режим для их въезда вы посмотрите на улицы наших городов скоро на нас уже будут смотреть как будто мы не у себя дома кругом одна чернота сколько можно то уже….а те которые уже приехали нужно в вагоны и желательно грузовые и в Таджикистан!!!!!!

It is high time to introduce the strictest regime for the entry [of migrants from Central Aisa]. Look at the streets in our cities. Soon we will be looked at as if we are not at home, there is blackness everywhere. How much more can we take?… Those who have already arrived should be put on trains, preferably on cargo carriages, and sent to Tajikistan!!!

The comment voted most popular came [ru] from a user ‘CSKA Ultra', whose name refers to the group of right-wing football hooligans supporting the football team CSKA Moscow:

ЗА визовый режим с чуркостанами.

I am for a visa regime with Churkostans ['Churki' is  derogatory slang for Central Asians].

Later during the same debate, Zhirinovsky argued that the Taliban might “trample on Tajikistan” and ”hang [Tajik President Emomali Rahmon] in the center of Dushanbe”. This statement provoked mixed reactions, earning the politician some respite from Tajik internet users who oppose their country's regime. But it led the Tajik parliament to register a complaint [ru] with the Russian ambassador.

‘You all have 15 children…’

Zhirinovsky concluded [ru] one of his anti-Central Asia rants during the talk show with some damning stereotypes:

Все бывшие советские республики живут лучше нас. То есть Россия через 20 лет снова всех кормит. Они все откормленные, все одетые и едут сюда погулять, бандитизмом заниматься, понасиловать. Естественно там у них работы не хватает, но эта причина ваша, это ваша релишия, у вас по 15 детей. Если  у вас как у русских будет один ребёнок, вы вообще не будете думать о России. Пускай все Таджикские семьи имеют два ребёнка в семье и проблемы никакой у вас не будет! Тоже самое узбекистан и весь исламский мир

All post-Soviet countries live better than us. Twenty years [after the break-up of the Soviet Union], Russia feeds everyone again. They are all well-fed and well-dressed, and they come here to have a good time, to do banditry, and to rape. Of course they don't have enough jobs at home; but that is your fault, [the fault of] your religion. You all have 15 children. If you had only one child, like Russians, you would not even think about Russia. Let all Tajik families have only two children and you will not have any problems! The same [concerns] Uzbekistan and the whole Islamic world!

During his long political career, Zhirinovsky has earned the reputation of an eccentric, populist, and nationalist politician. Born in Kazakhstan, the son of a Jewish lawyer, he still has some close friends in Central Asia and remains something of a contradiction in terms. Only 6 percent of Russia's electorate voted for him in the 2012 presidential vote that secured Vladimir Putin's re-election as head of state.

Given these discrepancies, it has often been suggested that Zhirinovsky is a kind of diversion for Putin's United Russia party: a way of soaking up nationalist votes without offering a credible alternative to the ruling elite. That refrain was echoed [ru] by MrFury1984 under a YouTube video of Zhirinovsky on another television show, where he was asked to change his profession:

Да жирик не хочет быть у руля ))) это много ответственности , он часть пирога имеет от бюджета.. и радуется )))

[Zhirinovsky] doesn't want to be in the driver's seat ))) That would be too much responsibility. He is happy getting his piece of the budget pie )))

That is good news for Central Asian migrants in Russia, but the plain fact that Zhirinovsky is supported by thousands of people is a reason to be concerned. YouTube user ‘Anonim Anonimov' writes [ru] underneath the video of the talk-show with Zhirinovsky:

А были ли фальсификации на недавних выборах если Жириновский из передачи в передачу побеждает адекватность с подобным перевесом? Может у нас и вправду с народом просто что-то не то?

Maybe there were no falsifications during the recent elections if Zhirinovsky goes from debate to debate winning with such massive margins? Maybe there is really something wrong with our people?

April 27 2013

Russian Conspiracy Theories About Boston Bombings Abound

Conspiracy theories flourish in times of confusion and uncertainty. Claims that the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings were part of some sort of US government-led false flag operation were circulating on the English-speaking internet before the dust had literally settled, particularly on conspiracy forums and social media groups like the Citizens Action Network.

The news that the two bombing suspects were ethnic Chechens turned what had been a passing interest for the RuNet into the number one topic of conversation [GV]. Because the RuNet, just like the Internet at large, has always had a penchant for conspiracy theories, the events in Boston provided ample fodder for some its more paranoid denizens. For example, the pro-regime nationalist LiveJournal community vvv-ig [ru] was quick to place the blame on the American intelligence services, running an extremely graphic post [ru] from the blogger frallik [ru], outlining how the bombings had in fact been faked using actors. The post, mainly using materials and memes sourced from western sites, alleged, among other things, that a man who was in the epicenter of the explosion and lost both of his legs was in fact an Iraq war veteran and previous amputee named Nick Vogt.

Despite the fact that the vvv-ig commonly deals in anti-American conspiracies, the allegation that the bombings had been faked proved too bizarre for some contributors. Blogger proobman [ru] published a rebuttal [ru] in the same community, pointing out that the man who lost his legs was in fact named Jeff Bauman, who has a Facebook page and a fund set up to aid his recovery. Interestingly, proobman's issues with accusations of “staging” appears partially due their similarity to ones leveled at the Russian security services: that they were behind the bombings of several apartment buildings in 1999 [en] as a pretext for the Second Chechen War. proobman quipped:

Башни-близнецы взорвал Буш, Буйнакск и Волгодонск – Путин. Обама взорвал марафон. Продам шапочки из фольги, недорого.

Bush blew up the Twin Towers, Putin blew up [the towns of] Buinaksk and Volgodonsk. Obama blew up the marathon. Tin foil hats for sale, cheap.

The two suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev., April 25, 2013

While many Russian bloggers were quick to accuse the FBI and CIA of carrying out or staging the bombings, one group in particular has almost entirely rejected the official version of events: the Chechens. The Tsarnaev family itself continues to profess their sons’ innocence. The belief that the Tsarnaev Brothers are innocent (or have at least been set up in some way) is common among groups and individuals ranging from Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, to his sworn enemies at KavkazCenter [ru], the online mouthpiece of the Caucasian Emirate. While the Tsarnaevs’ innocence may be one of the incredibly few things Chechens can agree on, radically different conclusions have been drawn about who is to blame. Kadyrov stated publicly [ru] that “what happened in Boston is the fault of the American security services”. Kavkaz Center pointed the finger [ru] squarely at Kadyrov himself, and claimed he was acting on orders from Putin.

Кадыров очень удобная фигура для выполнения «грязных дел». В случае необходимости его можно в любой момент ликвидировать, спрятав все концы, и никто этому не удивится. На нём кровь десятков тысяч чеченцев, да и моджахеды ведут на него постоянную охоту.

Kadyrov is a very useful figure for carrying out “dirty business”. If the situation required it, he could be liquidated at any moment, concealing all evidence, and no one would be surprised. He has the blood of tens of thousands of Chechens on his hands and the mujaheddin are constantly hunting him.

Chechen blogger Zulikhan [ru], whose views on the Boston bombing are discussed in detail here [GV], saw the hands of both the Russian and American security services at work in the bombings.

Путин и Обама, по инициативе российской стороны, договорились по телефону о координации усилий в борьбе с международным терроризмом. Считаю, что за событиями в Бостоне торчат уши российских спецслужб. По принципу “кому выгодно”. [...] Путину выгодно – чтобы Штаты не мешали России творить на Северном Кавказе все, что угодно, под видом борьбы с терроризмом.

Putin and Obama, at the initiative of the Russians, have come to an agreement about coordinating efforts in combating international terrorism. I think that the Russian special services are visible behind the events in Boston. Based on the “who profits” principle. [...] Putin profits — so that the States let Russia do what it wants in the North Caucasus under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Netizens have not confined themselves to speculation and counterfactuals. Some have set up an active defense of Tsarnaev. An April 21 petition on entitled “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is innocent” [en] gained over 5,500 signatures in four days. Ethnic Chechens actively distributed links [ru[ to the petition on social media. A rolling tally at the side of the page showed the names and locations of the signatories, many of whom were located in Russia and many of whom had Chechen names. According to the author of the page, when enough signatures are collected the letter will be delivered to Barack Obama.


List of recent signatures to an online petition proclaiming Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's innocence. “Lom-Ali” and “Khamzat” are Chechen names. Screenshot. April 25, 2013

Chechnya and her people have suffered greatly throughout this century and the last. It seems in this case they are reluctant to suffer yet another indignity – that of having their people's name tied to a terrorist act half way around the world. Someone is to blame no doubt, but few in Chechenya want to believe it is the two young men whose family left their war-town country years ago.

Chinese Dream: To Become the Father of an American

Seeing Red in China has translated current affair commentator, Jia Jia's Chinese dream. Nowadays, most Chinese middle class want to see their daughters and sons going to the U.S and become Americans.

April 24 2013

RuNet: What Does Boston Mean for Chechen Cause?

In the days since the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechen and “Suspect #2″ in the Boston Marathon bombings, there has been surprisingly little cogent analysis of the situation from Chechen bloggers active on the RuNet. Of course, some have commented on the matter, but mostly to link to viral conspiracy theories (some of these were alluded to in RuNet Echo's original article [GV]; a more in-depth look is to follow).

This makes a recent post by one Chechen blogger particularly interesting. Like many others, Zulikhan [ru], “a Chechen, an Ichkerian [wiki], a Muslim, a wife, and a mother” who runs a popular blog on LiveJournal, subscribes to the theory that the Boston bombings were planned by Putin and Russian special forces, using the Tsarnaev brothers as pawns. In her first post on the bombings she wrote [ru] about the potential motivation for such a plot:

Ну вот, что-то уже прояснилось. Путин и Обама, по инициативе российской стороны, договорились по телефону о координации усилий в борьбе с международным терроризмом. Считаю, что за событиями в Бостоне торчат уши российских спецслужб. По принципу “кому выгодно”. [...] Путину выгодно – чтобы Штаты не мешали России творить на Северном Кавказе все, что угодно, под видом борьбы с терроризмом.

Well, some things are clearer now. Putin and Obama, at the initiative of the Russians, have come to an agreement about coordinating efforts in combating international terrorism. I think that the Russian special services are visible behind the events in Boston. Based on the “who profits” principle. [...] Putin profits — so that the States let Russia do what it wants in the North Caucasus under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Regardless of her suspicions (which are rather mild compared to those professed by some of the others), it is worth looking at Zulikhan's later analysis of what Boston means for the Chechen people, the cause of Chechen independence, and for the North Caucasus in general. Her opinions should be viewed through the prism of Chechen nationalism. She is no fan of Putin, and names Dzhokhar Dudayev, ex-Soviet military leader of Chechnya's bid for independence in the early 90s, (and likely the man Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was named for) as a personal hero. (As more conspiracy fodder for the aficionados, Dudayev was born on April 15, 1944, which means that the bombing took place on his birthday.)

Dzhokhar Dudaev addressing his Chechen troops. YouTube screenshot. April 24, 2013.

Dzhokhar Dudayev addressing his Chechen troops. YouTube screenshot. April 24, 2013.

With that said, here are some excerpts from her most recent post [ru]. First, Zulikhan makes sure to note that the repercussions of the Boston bombings will be felt by all of North Caucasus, including Dagestan and Ingushetia where much of the separatist movement is concentrated at the moment:

Если бы несчастные Тамерлан и Джохар устроили мозговой штурм именно с этой целью – как сильнее навредить своему народу – вряд ли додумались бы до такого. [...] для Запада все кавказцы, которые что-то такое творят – чеченцы. Бренд работает. Как в том анекдоте про ингушей, которые позавидовали чеченцам, что весь мир их знает, решили переплюнуть их достижения и захватили Кремль. После чего все СМИ сообщили: “Группа чеченских террористов захватила Кремль. Непонятно почему они называют себя ингушами”.

If the hapless Tamerlan and Dzhokhar brainstormed with precisely this question in mind — how to greater harm their people — they would have hardly thought of this. [...] for the West everyone from the Caucasus that does something bad is a Chechen. The branding works. It's like that joke about the Ingush [a neighboring, rival culture of mountaineers  similar to the Chechens], who became jealous of the Chechens because the whole world knows them, decided to one up them, and took over the Kremlin. After this mass media reported: “A group of Chechen terrorists hijacked the Kremlin. It's unclear why they keep calling themselves Ingush.”

She predicts, rather astutely, that the days of Chechens being unequivocally accepted as political refugees in the West are over:

Из-за этих двоих чеченцев – всего лишь двоих! – и в Штатах, и в Европе кавказцам перестанут давать убежище. Будут высылать чеченцев прямо в руки Путину и Кадырову – не только каких-нибудь грабителей, но и воинов, т1емлой. Тех, кто будет сидеть тихо-тихо, может, и не вышлют – просто будут мучить и унижать всевозможными проверками.

Because of these two Chechens — only two! — in the States and in Europe they'll stop accepting refugees from the Caucasus. They will extradite Chechens into the hands of Putin and Kadyrov — not just robbers, but warriors, “tlemloi”. Those who will sit there quietly, maybe wont be expelled, but will be tormented and humiliated with all sorts of checks.

She also talks about the difficultly of distinguishing an actual extremist from someone like her, who simply supports the idea of Chechen independence:

Какие-то американские сенаторы или конгрессмены уже возмущаются, почему ФБР не отреагировала должным образом, получив от российских спецслужб сведения, что Тамерлан Царнаев связан с террористами. Значит, теперь ФСБ сможет про любого беженца, любого эмигранта заявить, что он террорист, и ФБР отреагирует. “Доказательства” долго искать не придется – ведь все мы регулярно посещаем “сепаратистские” сайты и форумы. Значит, все связаны с террористами.

Some American Senators or Congressmen are already outraged that FBI did not react properly, having received notice from the Russian special services that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had ties to terrorists. So, now the FSB can say about any refugee, any emigrant, that he is a terrorist, and the FBI will react. It won't be that hard to find “proof” — we all regularly visit “separatist” websites and forums. So, we are all tied to the terrorists.

Finally, she predicts a general crackdown on Chechen organizing in the West:

Чеченцев в Европе и Штатах начнут преследовать за любую политическую и общественную активность. Станут невозможны мероприятия, подобные этому – когда чеченская молодежь из разных стран собралась в Эстонии под ичкерийским флагом для знакомства и обсуждения политических и культурных проблем.

Chechens in Europe and the States will be persecuted for any kind of political and social activity. Eventss like this — when Chechen youth from different countries came together in Estonia under the Ichkerian flag, to meet and discuss political and cultural problems — will become impossible.

According to Zulikhan, such meetings are important if exiled Chechen separatists are to ever organize into a structure that would be able to take over Chechnya once it finally gains its independence (of which she has no doubt).

Are some of her predictions over-the-top? Perhaps. However, even if one does not agree with the analysis in all of its particulars, one thing is certain — life has definitely gotten more difficult for Chechen emigrants.

April 23 2013

Expectations Run High With Immigration Reform in the United States

Blazing temperatures didn't deter protesters, activists and community leaders from taking to the streets of Washington DC earlier this month in a show of support for immigration reform that would legalize some 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Their cause seems to have been heard by a bipartisan group of senators who proposed a new immigration bill this week.

La reforma migratoria vuelve a ser noticia este mes. Foto tomada de Flickr/nathangibbs (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Immigration reform is again front page news this month. Photo taken from Flickr account of nathangibbs (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The so-called “Gang of Eight” (comprised of four Republican and four Democratic Senators), have been working on drafting the bill since February of this year. Among other things, the proposed S.744 bill includes the creation of a provisional program aimed to assist immigrants who meet certain requirements begin their application for legal residency; provisions to increase the strength of border security; the establishment of a merit-based system whichs awards green cards based on education and job stability; the development of electronic verification system e-verify, which employers will use to check an applicant's legal status; and a system that will track all foreigners exiting the counry. Without a doubt, some of these measures are quite controversial and problematic.

What remains to be seen, however, is how the attacks at the Boston Marathon on 15 April will play into this bill's success. The suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 26 and 19-years-old respectively, are originally from Chechnya in southern Russia although they had been living in the U.S. for nearly a decade. Actually, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a US citizen. Tamerlan died Thursday night in a shootout with police in a Boston suburb, while Dzhokhar- detained Friday after a massive manhunt closed down the city and surrounding areas- remains in critical condition in one of the city's hospitals.

For some, like those at Encuentro, the proposed bill is merely a first step:

What this means is that there is so much more to do. We have to now assure that the plan is detailed with the clearest, attainable path to citizenship, that there be no discriminatory barriers that could impede people in our community. We want the best because our struggle has been big and united. Encuentro wants to highlight that this struggle has been happening from Albuquerque to Alabama and beyond, and is finally getting to the hearts of the entire country. We want to celebrate with you all, but at the same time, we still recognize there's much to do, especially going out and celebrating the migrant worker this year by going to the May Day celebrations and marches.

Father José Eugenio Hoyos explains how he views the relationship the Catholic Church has in immigration reform on his blog:

Nuestra Iglesia Católica desde los comienzos del Éxodo masivo de inmigrantes dentro de la historia y en la actualidad siempre ha estado acompañado y apoyando a las familias inmigrantes…Las dificultades y sufrimientos de los inmigrantes sobre todo de los indocumentados golpean nuestras conciencias de cristianos y nos invitan a adoptar actitudes iluminadas por la fe y la Palabra de Cristo, especialmente desde nuestra comunidad. Las Sagradas Escrituras nos llaman a ser más sensibles y dar la bienvenida a los extranjeros, a los inmigrantes y a los enfermos (Mateo 25: 31-46).

Since the early days of the Exodus our Catholic Church has always been joined and supported by immigrant families…The difficulties and suffering of immigrants- above all the undocumented immigrants- weigh heavily on us as Christians, and are inviting us assume stances rooted in faith and the Word of God, especially on behalf of those within our community. The Sacred Scripture call us to be more sensitive and graciously welcome the hungry, the stranger, and the sick (Matthew 25: 31-46).

This month marked the launch of a new campaign by American news sources to deter the use of the term “illegal immigrant” in print. The initiative was started by the Associated Press, who claims the term “illegal” implies a criminal act, and identifies the person as illegal instead of explaining their immigration status. News outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post and other new conglomerates are likely to follow this example. Social media giants like Mark Zuckerberg have also recently expressed an interest in the topic, though some reports say the interest goes only as far as to gain the human capital from the country's developing demographics according to the newspaper Politico.

The proposed bill and the decision to cease using pejorative terminology in reference to immigrants have been major topics on Twitter.

Cindy Y. Rodriguez (@cindyrodriguez) says:

@cindyrodriguez: Hasta ahora, la campaña contra dicha palabra ha tenido un éxito limitado

@cindyrodriguez: Until now, efforts to stop using the word “illegal” have had only limited success.

Some like Alfonso Hernández (@alhezjr) urge followers to support the reform:

@alhezjr: Apoyemos la Reforma Inmigratoria Comprensiva esta semana de apoyo,15-20 de abril @worldrelief #G92 #ReformaInmigratoria

@alhezjr: Show your support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform this week, 15-20 April@worldrelief #G92 #ReformaInmigratoria

Finally, Karina Sánchez Campos (@karisanchezc) quotes Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of the eight senators in the bipartisan group that drafted the bill:

@karisanchezc: #ReformaInmigratoria Pagar impuestos mientras tiene este estatus temporal y “demostrar que no son una carga pública” (Marco Rubio).

@karisanchezc: #ReformaInmigratoria Pay taxes while you are in temporary status and “prove that you are not a public charge.” (Marco Rubio)

April 22 2013

Greece: #BloodStrawberries Boycott Over Migrant Workers’ Shooting

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Supervisors shot and injured dozens of undocumented migrant workers from Bangladesh in the strawberry farms of southwestern Nea Manolada for demanding months of owed wages, the latest incident in a country where antipathy toward immigrants is on the rise.

The horrific show of violence on April 17, 2013 sparked uproar throughout Greece, prompting netizens to launch a boycott of the “blood” strawberries that originate at the scene of the crime.

Following national and international outcry, Greek police arrested three suspects in connection with the shooting, and charged them with attempted murder on April 19, 2013. The country's citizen protection minister promised that none of the victims would be deported from Greece, and the ministry announced that it is considering granting them residency permits on humanitarian grounds.

This grainy mobile phone video, posted on YouTube by Kathimerini journalist Kostas Onisenko, shows the injured migrant workers laying on the ground a few minutes after they were shot:

Racism and ethnic nationalism on the rise in the economically devastated country, with extremists, such as the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, thriving on racist rhetoric, systematic violations of human rights, and the ill-treatment of immigrants.

Just three days before the Manolada incident, Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias, as well as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, were criticized in a report issued by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights for rhetoric stigmatising migrant. Dedalos (@dedalos_gl) commented on Twitter:

@dedalos_gl: What was the greek government's answer to the late report for the human rights in greece #Manolada#Dendias_resignation

Initially, mainstream TV channels barely — if at all — mentioned events in Manolada. It was Twitter users from Greece and those responding from abroad that drew public attention to the incident, as Craig Wherlock (@teacherdude) pointed out:

@teacherdude: Greek TV news shamed into covering #Manolada shooting. This afternoon, it was 6th item on NET and not reported at all on Star. See my TL

As news of the shooting spread, Twitter erupted in shock and outrage. User @MavriMelani shared a photograph of the wounded workers:

@MavriMelaniΦωτογραφια με τραυματισμενους μεταναστες μετα τη δολοφονικη επιθεση που δέχθηκαν#Manolada

@MavriMelaniPhoto of injured immigrants after the murderous attack they received #Manolada #rbnews

Giorgio (@Zorzinio) commented on the violent scene in the photograph, referencing the bombings that killed three and injured hundreds in Boston that same day:

@Zorzinio: Οταν είδα την φωτο νόμιζα ότι ήταν απο Βοστώνη!! #Manolada #rbnews

@Zorzinio: When I saw the photo I thought it was from Boston!

Cyberella (@Cyberela) invoked the American far-right white supremacist group the Klu Klux Klan:

@Cyberela: Reviving the KKK at #manolada. Migrants being shot because they demanded their 6 months owed fees. #bloodstrawberries

Questioning how something so terrible could happen, Katerina Kanelidou (@KatKanelidou) wrote:

@KatKanelidou: How do we allow such things to happen? Do we still call ourselves ‘civilized'? #manolada #Greece

Harris (@hchrono) saw the tragedy as a step backwards for Greece:

@hchrono: Slavery and barbarity. Greece welcomes the Middle Ages #manolada

Combining the titles of the famous song by The Beatles and a film about the Cambodian genocide, Bilibidon (@bilibidon) quipped:

@bilibidon: Strawberry Killing Fields Forever… #manolada


Boycott Manolada strawberries graphic, tweeted by @giannisg_

Graphic urging a boycott of Manolada, tweeted by @giannisg_

Citizen media boycott

A citizen media campaign [el] was launched to urge consumers and businesses worldwide to boycott the #bloodstrawberries, as protesters are calling them, from the Nea Manolada farm:

@moumouris#greece #manolada field workers are paid with bullets. don't buy #bloodstrawberries

@IrateGreek: My mum was at the fruit stand in the supermarket. An old man behind her whispered: “Don't buy strawberries.” #manolada #bloodstrawberries

@alepouda: 2 supermarkets in #greece are banning #bloodstrawberries of #manolada after emails send by people #boycott

@myScarletCarpet: Do you like strawberries? What about #BloodStrawberries? …

International response to the campaign prompted an official reaction from the EU Home Affairs Commissioner on Twitter:

@MalmstromEU: Shocking news about shooting of migrant workers in Greece. I expect full investigation by the Greek authorities/CM…

“My little sister is boycotting #bloodstrawberries”. Photo tweeted by Maria Sidiropoulou

A form of modern slavery

Although the severity of the incident is unprecedented, it's not isolated. Efforts have been made in the past to draw the attention of authorities to this form of modern slavery, such as a 2008 investigative report by journalists Dina Daskalopoulou and Makis Nodaros for which an English translation is available here.

There have been similar incidents before in the same area, with scant coverage in mainstream media, as the writer and activist collective The Multicultural Politic wrote:

[...] Activists from Greek Communist Party [initiated] a campaign in 2008 for a daily wage increase from 22 Euros to 25. The workers and campaigners were met with a violent confrontation in which many workers were beaten suffering serious injury. [..] Further investigations by journalists revealed how local municipal officials were selling fake documentation to migrant workers, and police prosecutions meant that employers in the town became very hostile to “Athenian” journalists which might partly explain the limited information that has been reported about the most recent violence.

In August 2012, an Egyptian worker was dragged with a car through the streets of Nea Manolada town, but the incident didn't trigger a closer look at the working and living conditions of farm workers in the area by authorities. One of three foremen awaiting trial for the latest shooting was the suspected perpetrator of the car dragging.

Journalist Yannis Baboulias explained the reasons for the continuing impunity:

The farmers of Manolada, praised many a times for their entrepreneurial spirit from government and media alike, have enjoyed this impunity for years. Nodaros’ report speaks of shacks in which the workers are forced to live and pay rent for to their bosses, illegal supermarkets among them selling expired products at two and three times their price, and a shocking tolerance from the authorities who have done nothing to stop this despite the 150 plus cases on file against them.

@Cyberela: In conclusion it seems that #Greece‘s officials knew about the conditions & celebrated @ European forums the “red gold” innovation #Manolada

At the time of writing this article, a dedicated blog has been set up to promote the boycott call in seven languages [en, de, es, fr, it, pl, pt], and cancellations for standing orders of strawberries from Nea Manolada are continuing.

The incident was storified by journalist Nikos Moumouris and by GV author Asteris Masouras, who contributed to this report, while BeatriceDeDante collected the imagery of the incident.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

April 21 2013

Detained and Desperate – Undocumented Migrants in Greece

Stories of despair were transmitted through Twitter, when politicians, journalists and anti-racism activists visited a detention facility within the Drapetsona police station in Piraeus city, where more than 100 unauthorized migrants are living in cramped, dark and deplorable conditions.

One detainee said he hadn't seen the sun for months. Another had attempted suicide.

I was part of the group that visited the detention facility outside capital city Athens on April 6, 2013. In this post, I describe the conditions of the migrants through my tweets and include testimonies from other people who also visited the facility or #GreekGuantanamo, as it was referred to on Twitter.

Protest against inhuman immigrant detention conditions in Drapetsona. Photo by author

More than 60,000 migrants have been detained in police stations ever since sweep operations, under the name of “Xenios Zeus” (ironically, the name of the Greek god of hospitality) were initiated in August 2012. Only 4,000 have been formally arrested.

Since the 1990s, Greece has become a popular entry and transit point into the EU, for hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Anti-immigration, fascist groups, including the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, have increasingly become vocal in a country with a weakened economy and few jobs. According to some statistics, illegal immigrants currently make up 10% of the Greek population.

For the second time in two months, a delegation visited this particular police station to record the conditions under which unauthorized migrants that fail to meet Greece's legal living  requirements are forced to endure.

Most members of the visiting delegation were motivated by a detailed letter [el] from George Karystinos, a member of the Antifascist Front of Piraeus, who was a part of the first delegation that visited the police station and witnessed the conditions there. What he described was utterly shocking. About 100 migrants were detained in a 70 meter-square space, some of them for more than 9 months.

Some migrants were on hunger strike after a fellow 28-year-old Palestinian detainee, had tried to commit suicide because of the conditions there, and they were allegedly beaten by police officers to end their strike.

During the first visit, one of the detainees started injuring himself in front of the committee as a way to show his despair. George Karystinos writes [el]:

The police department commander announced that the detainee who injured himself, as well as the Palestinian who had tried to commit suicide, would be set free. What was his message? You will have to attempt suicide in order to be released, and if you get lucky, you'll survive in a hospital.

Recent photo from the Drapetsona precinct detention. No windows, no outdoors. Photo posted by @eleniamorgos on Twitter

Recent photo from the Drapetsona precinct detention. No windows, no outdoors. Photo posted by @eleniamorgos on Twitter

Our visit coincided with a protest outside the facility. Twitter users present at the protest reported the extensive presence of police forces outside the police station [el]:

@Cyberela: Εχουν κλείσει τα ρολά του ΑΤ. 3 σειρές απο ματ. #greekGuantanamo

@Cyberela: Police station's shutters down. 3 rows of police special forces. #greekGuantanamo

I was also outside the police station, about to enter as a member of the committee, and tried to report what was happening on Twitter through my account @WonderMaS:

@WonderMaS: Outside the police station of Drapetsona with the Antifascist Front of Piraeus, Amnesty International, and two members of Parliament, Dritsas and Lafazanis who are just coming out of the police station.

After MP Dritsas, of the Syriza party negotiated the number of people that would be allowed inside, with the precinct commander, we entered and I tweeted:

@WonderMaS: Just came out of police station in Drapetsona, Pireaus. Immigrants there living like animals, eating twice a day, first meal at 16.00 #rbnews

@WonderMaS: One immigrant told me he hasn't seen the sun for months #rbnews

A member of the Antifascist Front of Piraeus tweeted [el]:

@eleniamorgos: Δεν σταματάει η κράτησή τους όταν περάσει ο νόμιμος χρονος, λόγω γραφειοκρατίας του αλλοδαπών

@eleniamorgos: Their detention isn't terminated even when the assigned period of time has come to its end, due to Immigration (ministry's) bureaucracy.

@eleniamorgos: 2. Δεν παρέχεται ιατρική περίθαλψη όταν νοσούν ή κάνουν απεργία πείνας

@eleniamorgos: They are not provided with any medical care when they get sick or when they go on hunger strike

The precinct chief also made clear that they are trying their best to improve holding conditions, with little or no help from the Ministry. Teseris told us that he has to bring medicine from home to cover the department's deficiencies.

@WonderMaS: commander of police dept, Teseris says this isnt a proper place to detain ppl for months, only for 2-3 days detentions #rbnews

Some of the detainees told me there are no proper health facilities, and sometimes they don't have soap. Others told me that not all police officers are civil to them, even though they don't beat them. Most of them don't have any lawyers or contacts outside, and the ones that do have legal help, told me there hasn't been any progress in their situation.

The majority seemed desperate, and were looking at me as if I were their only hope.

As I tried to have a look inside their cells, I noticed some washing hanging from clotheslines. With all their inconvenient conditions, they still try to keep their prison proper, a fact which only reminded me that these people are coming from homes and families that taught them how to be civilized and cherish dignity. For some maybe their quest for dignity, brought them to these living conditions.

Their attendant psychologist was firm on the desperation these detainees were experiencing:

Abatzidi Dionusia is a psychologist at Drapetsona police dep, said those ppl are desperate

Some of the detainees told the delegates that there was no physical violence; this time, at least, as an activist pointed out [el]:

@Cyberela: Το ότι δεν διαπιστώθηκαν ξυλοδαρμοί στους κρατούμενους στη σημερινή επίσκεψη δεν σημαίνει ότι ξαχάσαμε τους προηγούμενους. #greekGuantanamo

@Cyberela: The fact that there were no visible beatings administered on the prisoners prior to today's visit doesn't mean we have forgotten about the others #greekGuantanamo

One of the detainees also told us that since the first protest and outside visit, some things had changed, “they fixed our lights, the lamps had been off for days”. Other visitors concurred:

@Cyberela: Δριτσας: οι κινητοποιήσεις έχουν βοηθήσει την κατάσταση των συνθηκών. Οι χώροι αυτοί είναι για κράτηση το πολυ 48ωρου #greekGuantanamo

@Cyberela: [Syriza MP] Dritsas: the mobilization has helped their situation. These facilities are made for a 48 hour detention, at the most #greekGuantanamo

A few days after the visit, Mr. Dritsas announced [el] a parliamentary inquiry, demanding from the Citizen Protection Minister to call off the “Xenios Zeus” program of immigrant sweeps, that clearly results in a series of human rights violations.

Photographer Stefanos Koufopoulos published a photoset of the Drapetsona protest on the Dromografos blog. Global Voices author Asteris Masouras collaborated in editing this report and curated resources on Storify.

April 20 2013

Boston Bombings Opens Debate on Rights

After the explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday April 15, Twitter became a primary source of breaking news, and also of misinformation. Conversations were curated around the hashtags #bostonmarathon and #bostonexplosions the first days. On Thursday night, one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a police persecution in Cambridge, and the city of Boston and close communities were on lockdown on Friday during the search (#manhunt) of Tamerlan's younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.  Dzhokhar was found wounded Friday evening in Watertown (#watertown). A debate has ensued after it was announced that he will be questioned without being Mirandized (#mirandarights). Many are also worried about how this will affect immigrants in the U.S. due to the Chechen ethnic origin of the Tsarnaev brothers.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

April 16 2013

Residents Displaced by Brazilian Power Plant Struggle to Earn Living

This story by Ana Aranha was originally titled Vidas em Trânsito (“Lives in Transit”) and is part of Brazilian investigative journalism agency Pública's special coverage #AmazôniaPública, which reports on the impact of mega-construction projects in the Amazon along the Madeira river in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. The story will be published in a series of five posts on Global Voices Online.

In the first article of this series, Agência Pública reported on the social chaos that has taken over a fishing town in the Madeira river region due to the Jirau Dam construction project. Leaving the dusty streets of Jaci Parana 15 kilometers further down the national highway, the village of New Mutum Parana stands in stark contrast with Jaci.

The only similarity with Jaci is the group of [working] men in uniform at the bus stop at the end of the day [coming from the construction site]. But in New Mutum Parana, all the roads are paved. There are sidewalks and large roundabouts with lawns planted in the center. Everything is planned and symmetrical. There is a commercial zone and a residential one, which holds 1,600 houses in different blocks. In each block, the houses are identical and so are the lawns separating them.

Deserted street at Nova Mutum Parana, a village built by Jirau power plant, which contrasts with Jaci's demographic explosion.  Photo: Marcelo Min

A deserted street in Nova Mutum Parana, a village built by the Jirau power plant, which contrasts with Jaci's demographic explosion. Photo: Marcelo Min

New Mutum Parana was planned and built by Energia Sustentável (Sustainable Energy) to house the engineers and officers of Jirau – workers that bring their families with them to the Brazilian state where they are working. Instead of folk music and bare stomachs, pregnant women and little children appear at the front doors of their homes as the men make their way towards the bus stop.

The largest part of the village is occupied by workers. At the entrance, there is an area reserved for the 150 families brought from Old Mutum Parana, a village of river dwellers that was removed to flood the area for the power plant. The community had around 400 families, and the majority of inhabitants chose to receive the compensation.

New Mutum is the apple of the eyes of Energia Sustentavel's social corporate responsibility advertisements. Ads about sustainability are spread around town and stay side by side with pictures showing river dwellers and workers, always accompanied by the company’s seal.

But after walking around for a few minutes with no one in sight, the question is unavoidable: Where is everyone?

“The houses are really pretty, but what about our existence?”, asks Rovaldo Herculino Batista, a river dweller who sold the house he received from the power plant company because he did not find a job in Nova Mutum:

Não adianta fazer a cidade maravilhosa, a Nova Jerusalém, se você tira a pessoa do seu lugar, onde tem seu trabalho e vida. Como vamos ganhar dinheiro?

It’s no use to make a wonderful city, the New Jerusalem, if you take the person out of his or her place, where their work and life are. How will we make money?
Batista não se adaptou à vila construída pela usina e voltou para a beira do rio Foto: Marcelo Min

Batista couldn't adapt himself to the village built by the power plant company and went back to the riverside. Photo: Marcelo Min

In Old Mutum – the river dwellers’ way of referring to their old community – they fished, mined and performed other types of jobs. Batista used to work as a miner and he had a place with a bunch of scrap metal where he dismantled the abandoned dredgers to sell the pieces. His wife used to sell fruits and vegetables throughout the community in a handcart. Money wasn't a problem for the family.

After they were displaced, they got a little grocery store, but the neighbors didn't have the same income anymore to buy [from the store]. The scrap metal place was gone, so was the access to fishing. Batista intensified his travels to the mining area, but it became hard to balance the bills at the new house, with six children and three grandchildren. Besides the fact that the products were more expensive at the local market, the electricity bill was outrageous. In the three months before giving up his “New Jerusalem”, Batista received [electricity] bills of 629, 671, and 547 Brazilian reais (318, 339, and 276 US dollars).

It is ironic. The inhabitants most affected by the construction of one of the biggest power plants in the country are obliged to pay one of the most expensive electricity fees. Plus, a monthly payment of 19 reais (around 9.5 US dollars) for public lighting.

Project Amazônia Pública is composed by three teams of Agência Pública de Reportagem e Jornalismo Investigativo reporters who travelled to three Amazon areas from July to October 2012 – among which the hydroelectric plants along the Madeira river, in state of Rondônia. All stories aim to explore the complexity of current local investments in the Amazon, including negotiations and political articulations, and to listen to all agents involved – governments, enterprises, civil society – in order to frame the context in which these projects have been developed. The key perspective of such stories, as well as Pública's entire production, is the public interest: how do actions and political and economic negotiations impact people's lives.

April 15 2013

Majority of Venezuelans in Panama Vote for Opposition Candidate Capriles

Panama, with its large number of Venezuelans, closely followed the Venezuelan election which took place on Sunday, April 14, 2013. Social networks resounded with the reactions of Panama-based Venezuelans as well as Panamanians who wanted to follow what was happening in Venezuela, their near neighbour.

Panamanian daily Día a Día (@DiaaDiaPa) [es] tweeted that some 900 Venezuelans had turned up to vote:

@DiaaDiaPa: A esta hora se calcula que alrededor de 900 venezolanos han votado en la Embajada de Venezuela #panama

@DiaaDiaPa: At this time we calculate that around 900 Venezuelans have voted at the Venezuelan Embassy #panama

Many Panamanian users followed closely, waiting for results, and some even dared to remember the time Panama spent under dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega. In May 1989, after losing the election, Noriega gave orders to the electoral tribunal to declare the polls null and void. This triggered a series of abuses and arbitrary violence which led to the United States invading Panama. Twitter user Panamá Vieja Escuela (Old School Panama) (@PanamaHistoria) [es] said:

Venezuelans voting in Panama. Photo @Yacare45 Twitter.

Venezuelans voting in Panama. Photo via @Yacare45 on Twitter.

@PanamaHistoria: Me preocupa que mucha gente habla de la situación de Venezuela como si #Panama fuera inmune. Que no se les olvide a Noriega y su pandilla.

@PanamaHistoria: I am concerned that many people talk about the situation in Venezuela as if #Panama was immune. Let us not forget Noriega and his gang.

When they learned the results of the polls, a group of supporters of the winner, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’ vice president, launched fireworks from the Embassy of Venezuela in Panama. Venezuelan resident in Panama, Marian Queen (@inagc) [es] said on her Twitter account:

@inagc: Empleados de la Embajada de Venezuela en Panamá celebrando con fuegos artificiales. Mucho miedo a que los desenchufaran, no?

@inagc: Employees of the Embassy of Venezuela in Panama are celebrating with fireworks. Afraid they would lose their jobs at the embassy?

Supporters of Capriles reacted unpleasantly and tried to enter the Embassy of Venezuela in Panama, accusing the elections of being fraudulent. The police had to intervene to protect the Embassy according to reports from website La Verdad (The Truth) [es]:

La acción policial se produjo después de que simpatizantes del candidato presidencial Henrique Capriles intentaran ingresar la noche del domingo, por la fuerza y en medio de gritos de presunto “fraude”, a la sede diplomática localizada en el quinto piso de una torre en el área bancaria de la capital panameña.

The police action came after supporters of presidential candidate Henrique Capriles tried to enter the diplomatic headquarters, located on the fifth floor of a tower in the Bank area of the Panamanian capital, on Sunday night, by force amid shouting about the presumed “fraud”.

In the end 1,036 Venezuelan citizens exercised their vote from Panama, where the majority voted for the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Website El Venezolano [es] reported:

Finalmente, Miguel Martínez de la Riva, jefe Del Comando Simón Bolívar en Panamá, aseguró que mil 36 venezolanos votaron en Panamá, de los cuales 991 prefirieron la propuesta del candidato opositor, Henrique Capriles.

Finally, Miguel Martínez de la Riva, head of the Simon Bolivar command in Panama, said that 1,036 Venezuelans voted in Panama, of whom 991 preferred opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

Construction Project Fuels Sex and Violence in Brazilian Amazon

This story by Ana Aranha was originally titled Vidas em Trânsito (“Lives in Transit”) and is part of Brazilian investigative journalism agency Pública's special coverage #AmazôniaPública, which reports on the impact of mega-construction projects in the Amazon along the Madeira river in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. The story will be published in a series of five posts on Global Voices Online.

Sex and violence are a part of life in the small Brazilian fishing town of Jaci Parana, where police struggle to keep up with crime as a nearby hydroelectric construction project in the state of Rondonia pumps money into the local economy.

Michele (not her real name) is 20 years old. Four months before this interview, she left her hometown in the state of Pará and landed in the fishing town of Jaci Paraná, on the outskirts of Rondônia's capital city, Porto Velho. She found work and shelter in a “brega”, the local name for a brothel, where she began helping out in the cleaning. Two weeks later, she was prostituting, just as “almost all the girls are”:

Quando cheguei aqui, achei triste, chorava toda noite. Essa poeira, as ruas sem asfalto. Eu trabalhava lavando louça, não lembro como fui pela primeira vez. Ele era estranho, levou pó pra cheirar no quarto, queria beijar na boca, transar de novo. Depois chorei. Se fosse na minha cidade, ia ter vergonha, nojo. Aqui é normal, quase todas as meninas fazem. Eu mudei, não sou a mesma mulher.

When I first came here, it was depressing, and I cried every night. The dust, the streets without pavement… I worked washing dishes; can't remember how well I did it the first time. He was weird, took powder with him to sniff in the bedroom, wanted to kiss me on the mouth and have sex again. I cried later. If it had been in my hometown, I would be ashamed, disgusted. Here it is normal, almost all the girls are doing it. I changed, I'm not the same woman anymore.

Prostituta em salão de beleza em Jaci Paraná, a vila mais próxima da usina de Jirau  Foto: Marcelo Min

Prostitute in a beauty parlor in Jaci Paraná, the closest town to the Jirau hydroelectric plant. Photo by Marcelo Min.

It's impossible to wander the streets of Jaci and not stumble upon bregas. They are open pubs, sometimes featuring plastic tables on the sidewalk. At night, they play loud music. During the day, it's normal for women to walk around town in shorts with their bellies exposed.

They are in Jaci to offer a service to the thousands of men who come in and out of town in shifts, at 7 a.m. and at 5 p.m. These are the hours when workers begin and finish their shifts at the Jirau hydroelectric plant construction site, one of the largest projects of the Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento - PAC), currently being undertaken in Brazil. The plant is located on a dam in the Madeira river in the Amazon forest, and the town of Jaci 20 kilometers away is the nearest urban settlement.

At its peak, the construction boasted a workforce of 25,000 employees, more than double what the project expected. Some workers settled in town, while others just go there for their days off. The Public Ministry of Rondônia estimates the town's population has grown from 4,000 to 16,000 since 2009, when the Jirau hydroelectric construction began. Workers carry around their very own accent of Brazilian Portuguese, from the North, Northeast, South and Mid-West regions of Brazil. Some workers, such as Haitians and Bolivians, haven't mastered the Portuguese language yet.

The majority of workers travelled there alone. They remain away from their homes from three months to one year. “Some of them just want to party, others are sad. They say they cheat on their wives because they need to, but they don't like it”, Michele said:

É trabalho pesado. Quando acaba, eles querem se divertir, beber

It's heavy work. When it's over, they want to have fun, and drink

There are 68 houses of prostitution in Jaci. For Michele, the worst part about the work is when clients get aggressive after having too much alcohol or cocaine, which are supplied in excess at the bregas, or when they request to spend the night with her. “God forbid sleeping with them as if we were husband and wife”.

Quartos onde mulheres se prostituem no fundo de um brega, nome local para bordel Foto: Marcelo Min

Women work as prostitutes in rooms located at the back of a brega, the local name for a brothel. Photo by Marcelo Min.

The fishing town became a place of transit. People are searching for money, not bonding. There is a constant tension in the air. Sexuality pulsates out from under the short clothes, which sometimes expose women's intimate parts. Stories of fights inside bregas are common – these occur between workers, or between prostitutes. There is a growing tension between Brazilian women and the Bolivian women who moved into town. Many fights end in stabbing, and some end in death.

Where the money goes, crime follows

When its pay day for Jirau plant workers, Jaci Paraná sizzles with their money.

First, at the brothels. Aside from local prostitutes, women from other Brazilian states travel to work only when the worders are paid. According to Michele, some of these women split their time between Jaci and Belo Monte, the hydroelectric plant under construction in the state of Pará. Their movements are guided by each plant's pay period.

During those days, the price of sexual services rises notoriously. The most experienced women negotiate up to 200 United States dollars for a half an hour with a high ranking-employee. As Michele has restrictions (she doesn't perform anal sex or group sex), the maximum she has made in a half an hour was 65 US dollars. During regular weeks, she charges 40 US dollars, of which ten belong to her procuress for using the room.

Shirley is one of several hairdressers who moved to Jaci to serve these women. She said:

Quem ganha mesmo são elas, as donas dos bregas, sempre prostitutas muito experientes,

They're the ones profiting, the brega owners. They're usually very experienced women prostitutes.

She doesn't want to make her name public. Shirley said procuresses earn money from room rental, plant workers’ drink consumption, and money loans to prostitutes.

As competition is rough, they offer help so their women may “invest in their beauty”. Michele was convinced by her procuress to abandon her curls for long and straight hair, so bought hair extensions for 575 US dollars. Now she is bound by debt to her procuress for buying the hair extensions and to their hairdresser for the labor. Since then, all of Michele's services go to her procuress, although her debt hasn't gone down at the pace it should:

É assim mesmo, elas mandam as meninas aqui e depois não passam o dinheiro do trabalho delas.

That's the way it is. They send girls here, and then they won't pass on the cash for their services.

Beside the bregas, beauty parlors are the second commercial activity to benefit from the flow of paychecks from the Jirau plant construction site. There's one beauty parlor on every corner of the town. Ever since she began doing hair extensions, Shirley has managed to earn more than her husband, who is in charge of building Jirau's hydroelectric turbines.

Jaci Paraná tem 68 pontos de prostituição e um salão de beleza em cada esquina Foto: Marcelo Min

Jaci Paraná features 68 houses of prostitution and one beauty parlor on every corner. Photo by Marcelo Min.

It is dangerous, however, to accumulate goods in Jaci. Public security's fragile structure is powerless before the force of money circulating in town. Two weeks before this interview, Shirley's house was robbed, and her husband was held as hostage. The loss in money and electronic equipment exceeded 10,000 US dollars, but she won't complain to the police because everyone knows who the robbers are and what they do.

Police are powerless against local crime. Shopkeepers now pay a private company to drive around the town's three main streets with their well-identified cars and motorcycles. In September 2012, the military police chief of Jaci was murdered inside a police office. The same group responsible surrendered other police officers, who were forced to lie down on the street facing the pavement, while the robbers blew up the cash machines at the small Bradesco bank agency.

Project Amazônia Pública is composed by three teams of Agência Pública de Reportagem e Jornalismo Investigativo reporters who travelled to three Amazon areas from July to October 2012 – among which the hydroelectric plants along the Madeira river, in state of Rondônia. All stories aim to explore the complexity of current local investments in the Amazon, including negotiations and political articulations, and to listen to all agents involved – governments, enterprises, civil society – in order to frame the context in which these projects have been developed. The key perspective of such stories, as well as Pública's entire production, is the public interest: how do actions and political and economic negotiations impact people's lives.

April 12 2013

You're Sponsoring Neonazis on Greek TV!

@northaura#xa_advertising is about a twitter movement protest by email in #Greece to push advertisers off ever again supporting pro-neonazi TV shows.

Blogger @ypopto_mousi started a campaign to inform the sponsors [el] of a highly controversial SKAI TV panel featuring four neonazi Golden Dawn MPs, that they are sponsoring hate speech. The blogger is urging netizens to email advertising companies, providing sample emails [el] and addresses of advertising companies, while blogging [el] and posting regular updates on Twitter on the campaign's results under the hashtag #xa_advertising.

April 11 2013

Bahamas: Limericks for Thatcher

She has to be admired for her ability to transform her country…as a middle-class woman in the conservative party. But I remember apartheid, and…how she almost destroyed the British university system, and…made Britain unwelcoming.

Blogworld writes limericks in commemoration of the Iron Lady.

April 04 2013

Berezovsky's Last Words: Yet Another Version

Pavel Pryanikov, of the blog (Blog Tolkovatelya, The Explainer's Blog) has published [ru] yet another “last interview” with the deceased Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky [GV]. According to Pryanikov, the conversation was meant for a book on Russian political refugees in England, and took place two days prior to March 23, 2013, when Berezovsky presumably committed suicide by hanging. Unlike the interview with Berezovsky published in the Russian Forbes [ru], where the exiled businessman does indeed appear despondent and darkly philosophical, if not to say suicidal, the man who talked to Pryanikov's correspondent seems much more optimistic, discussing his plans for the future and Russian politics. RuNet Echo has translated some of his statements below.

Berezovsky being interviewed by Sky News, in his better days. YouTube screenshot, April 4, 2013.

Berezovsky being interviewed by Sky News, in his better days. YouTube screenshot, April 4, 2013.

Responding to a question about what he would do differently if he had the chance:

На самом деле время подведения итогов ещё не наступило. А вот через 20 лет я вам на этот вопрос отвечу. [...] Наслаждение в моей жизни только одно: думать о будущем. В будущем я надеюсь жить где-нибудь за городом, под Москвой, где прошло моё детство.

In truth the time to take stock hasn't yet come. But in 20 years I will answer this question. [...] There is only one pleasure in my life: thinking about the future. In the future I hope to live somewhere in he countryside, outside Moscow, where my childhood passed.

Talking about the difference between Jews and Russians (Berezovsky, ethnically Jewish, says he does not identify as a Jew):

В чём сила евреев по сравнению с русскими? В интуиции. Это не расчёт. Вот я плохой аналитик, плохо считаю, плохо играю в шахматы. Но каким-то таинственным образом чувствую, что произойдет через некоторое время. Если в логических терминах сформулировать это различие, то русские – это индуктивный способ мышления, а евреи – дедуктивный способ.

What's the strength of Jews in relation to Russians? Intuition. It's not calculation. Take me — I'm bad at analysis, I count poorly, play chess poorly. But in some mysterious way I feel what will happen soon. If we formulate this difference in logical terms, Russians have an inductive way of thinking, while the Jews have a deductive way.

About Putin's supposedly Germanic qualities:

Путин в первую очередь русский. Например, он умеет дружить и ненавидеть, причём одного и того же человека – типично русская черта.

Putin is primarily Russian. For example, he can love and hate, and one person at same time to boot — a typically Russian trait.

About Western politicians and their role in upholding Putin's regime:

Я в огромной степени разочаровался в западных политиках за 10 лет, я разочарован их безволием, их глупостью. Они не видят того, что у них под носом, они абсолютно не понимают, как устроен современный мир.

I have become greatly disappointed in Western politicians over 10 years, I am disappointed by their lack of will, their stupidity. They don't see what's in front of their nose, they don't understand how the modern world works.

About how easy it would be to target Putin through his elites who have bank accounts, families, and property in the West:

Как на них воздействовать? Очень просто: визы аннулировать. И не нужно даже для 2-5 тысяч человек, а для 200 человек. И второе: тотальная проверка и блокирование счетов. Всё, больше ничего не нужно! Они сами вынесут Путина ногами вперёд.

How to influence them? Very easy: annul their visas. And you don't even have to do it for 2-5 thousand people, it's enough to do it for 200. And secondly: total audits and blocking of bank accounts. That's it, you don't need anything else! They will carry Putin out feet first all on their own.

About the Russian opposition movement:

Одна из самых больших проблем, которая сегодня существует в оппозиционном движении – это отсутствие внятной идеологии.

One of the main problems that exists in the opposition movement is the absence of coherent ideology.

Berezovsky was found dead two days later. While it is now an established fact that he was clinically depressed, this interview will surely add to the controversy over his death, and vindicate the people who think that he could not have committed suicide.

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