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October 22 2013

“Orphaned Parents”: Emigration in Venezuela from the View of Those Who Stay Behind

Photo from Only J. under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

International Terminal of Maiquetia International Airport, Venezuela. Photo from Only J. under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, unless otherwise noted.]

For the first time in Venezuela's history, it is undeniable that an important diaspora of Venezuelans is being formed. Even though there aren't precise or current figures of that diaspora, it is estimated that in 2010 more than a million Venezuelan citizens were living abroad.

Saying goodbye to family and friends has become common, and on social networks there had been little debate around the situation until the controversial video “Caracas, City of Goodbyes” [en] was released. The video generated a heated conversation on social networks about the migrant movement that started in the country in 2000.

The majority of texts that have been generated about the topic, as much by the media as by citizens on the Internet, talk about the reasons for which a Venezuelan decides to abandon his or her daily life and family. The Venezuelan doctor Samir Kabbabe wrote in his post “What do you say to those who leave?” posted on Prodavinci :

Sea por expulsión, persecución, fracaso, inseguridad, imposibilidad para la satisfacción económica o por desarrollar un proyecto de vida, todo exilio es político. Y el exilio va en aumento.

It could be due to expulsion, persecution, failure, insecurity, the impossibility of economic satisfaction, or to develop a life project–all exile is political. And exile continues to increase.

However, journalist Elizabeth Fuentes (@fuenteseliz) recently wrote a post that has been shared by many on social networks and which has once more generated debate about emigration in Venezuela, this time from the perspective of the family that stays behind.

Posted on the blog Jokeslab under the title “Orphaned Parents”, the journalist tells, from her experience, what the moment of separation and then the brief reunion means for the parents of young Venezuelans who left the country.

‘Madre muerta caminando’ es como lo describo, mala traducción de ‘dead men walking', que es como rotulan a los condenados a muerte mientras atraviesan el pasillo que los llevara a la silla eléctrica. Exagerada la comparación, por supuesto, pero igual lo repito mentalmente cada vez que me despido de mi hija y comienzo a atravesar ese trocito de aeropuerto donde ya no hay regreso.

‘Dead Mother Walking’ is how I describe it, a terrible translation of ‘dead men walking', which is what they call those sentenced to death as they cross the corridor that takes them to the electric chair. The comparison is exaggerated, of course, but all the same I mentally repeat it each time I say goodbye to my daughter and start to cross that small section of the airport, from which there is no return.

Fuentes suggests that an Orphaned Parents Day could be invented, in which they take plazas in silence, and a mourning flag is flown on balconies, in cars, on motorcycles, and on ranches. “How about December 6? When the gem of Hugo Chávez won?, she suggests with irony.

Elizabeth Fuentes comments that there are no longer young people at family reunions, only parents talking about their absent children and about the hoops they will have to jump to organize their next trip. But in her post, the journalist doesn't only tell the story of the Venezuelan middle and upper classes, she also refers to what happens in the lower classes:

Pero no solo se van por razones “mercantilistas”, como metió la pata una de las tantas ministras de salud que tampoco sirve para nada: la señora que gerencia nuestra casa me dice quiere mandar su muchacho de vuelta a Colombia ­ un jovencito buena conducta – porque en su barrio todo es drogas, asesinatos y ajuste de cuentas.

Cada día me llega con un cuento más espantoso que el anterior. Que si a la clase media se le van los hijos, a los humildes se los asesinan, un dolor incomparable a nuestro rito de aeropuerto. Una nadería nuestra despedida frente a una espera a las puertas de la morgue.

But they don't only leave for “mercantilist” reasons, like one of the many ministers of health who made a mistake said which didn't help at all: the woman who manages our home tells me she wants to send her boy back to Colombia–a well-behaved young man–-because in her neighborhood it's all drugs, murders, and settling scores.

She comes to me each day with a story more frightening than the last. When the middle class children leave, the poorer ones are being murdered, an incomparable pain to our airport ritual. Our goodbye is nothing compared to waiting in front of the morgue doors.

Comments and debate have gone around the web for several days as a result of this post.

Maritza González commented that she never thought that she would go through a similar situation to that of a friend who moved to Venezuela to flea from Francisco Franco's regime in Spain:

En una oportunidad, una amiga que llego a Vzla huyendo del Franquismo, me dijo cuando decides irte los dolores son muchos, las familias se dividen y ve tu a saber cuando se pueden volver a reunir.. Me dijo soy Huérfana de Familia, mi hermano murió en Argentina y ni sé donde llevarle unas flores… Jamás pensé que eso, me llegara a pasar a mi, en ese momento, mi País era el refugio de muchos, hoy mis dos hijos ya están fuera… aunque lucho con todos los organismos del estado para visitarlos, no hay consuelo cuando regreso, el momento más duro no es ir a visitarlos, sino ese mismo pasillo pero en Barajas…

Once, a friend who came to Venezuela fleeing from Franquismo told me that when you decide to leave there are many things that cause pain,  families are divided and who knows when they can be reunited again. She told me, I am a family orphan; my brother died in Argentina and I don't even know where to bring him flowers… I never thought that that would happen to me, and in that moment, my country was many people's refuge, and today my two children are away… Even though I fight with all the state agencies to visit them, that is no consolation when I come back. The hardest moment isn't when I'm going to visit them; instead it's that same hallway but in Barajas [Madrid, Spain airport]…

For her part, Alejandra Lopez in her intervention names the reasons that caused her to leave the country, and she considers that society is responsible for the country's situation:

Esa es la realidad por la que me fui hace 6 meses me cansé de luchar por hacer las cosas bien y ayudar a generar justicia en un sitio donde mucha gente, se queja y echa culpas, pero siguen actuando de manera deshonesta e irrespetuosa con los derechos de los otros. Me duele mucho porque sí existen venezolanos honestos, pero la vida se le hace 10 veces más difícil. Y amo a mi país, y lo siento pero esto es una consecuencia histórica que merecemos como sociedad por haber permitido que las diferencias sociales fueran tan grandes y la gran mayoría de nuestra población viviera en carencia.

That's the reality and the reason I left six months ago–I got tired of doing things well and helping to see justice done in a place where many people complain and blame others, but they keep acting dishonestly and disrespectfully with other people's rights. It really hurts because honest Venezuelans do exist, but life is ten times harder for them. And I love my country, and I am sorry but this is a historic consequence that we deserve as a society for having allowed such big social differences and that the great majority of our population live in poverty.

Vane commented that even if she feels like she has a lot to do for her country, she wants to leave because she doesn't want to keep living in fear.

Siempre pensé que enterraría primero a mis padres y luego me marcharía, pero vivir en Venezuela, y más aún en Caracas, ya es insoportable. Tengo el trabajo de mis sueños, vivo en un lugar propio y en una de las mejores zonas de CCS, y de qué me sirve si a las 10 de la noche me despierto por tres tiros que suenan casi en mi oreja porque estaban tratando de secuestrar a alguien que salía de un restaurant [...]

Lo peor de todo es que siento que profesionalmente todavía puedo hacer muchas cosas aquí, pero valdrá la pena quedarse? O repetiré la historia de mis padres que abandonaron sus países de origen para buscar un futuro mejor (que hace 50 años era en Venezuela).

I always thought I would bury my parents first and then I would leave, but living in Venezuela, even more in Caracas, has become unbearable. I have my dream job, I live in my own place, and in one of the best areas in Caracas, and what good does it do me if at ten o'clock at night I wake up to three gunshots that nearly sound in my ear because they were trying to kidnap someone who was leaving from a restaurant [...]

The worst thing of all is that I feel that professionally I can still do a lot of things here, but is staying worth it? Or will I repeat the story of my parents who abandoned their countries of origin in search for a better future (which 50 years ago was in Venezuela).

Maiquetia Airport, Venezuela- LuisCarlos Díaz photo under Creative Commons license

Maiquetia Airport, Venezuela- LuisCarlos Díaz photo under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Beatriz Rezzin explains that in her family they take advantage of Skype to stay close to family:

Me gusta la idea del día del luto migratorio. Mi esposo y yo somos padres y abuelos huerfanos pegados al Skype para sentirlos cercanos.

I like the idea of the migration mourning day. My husband and I are orphaned parents and grandparents who are stuck to Skype to feel close to our family.

Although some use technology as a way of lessening the emptiness, for Alberto it is increasingly hard to face the idea that someone else may leave. He only hopes that the country's condition will improve so that his family can return, for that reason he writes:

Pensé que iba a acostumbrarme a la idea de escuchar que alguien más se va el próximo mes… Pero es al revés, cada vez me duele más cada conocido y cada amigo que se va… Mi familia casi por completo se fue solo tengo a 4 familiares aquí en Venezuela, el resto fue a más de un país, imposible y doloroso pensar que jamás volveremos a estar juntos…

Amigos como 10 que se han ido… Solo me pregunto si yo también me iré… No sé por que todo esto? (bueno si sé, pero que duro ya resignarse a esto ¿no?).

No me quiero ir en verdad… Mas bien quiero que esto cambie y que los míos regresen… En verdad ese es mi sueño.

Mientras me encuentro extranjero en mi propio país porque desconozco tanta violencia, tanta cochinada, tanta miseria, tanta ignorancia y sobretodo tanta falta de valores.

¿Esto ha de cambiar???

I thought I was going to get used to the idea that somebody else was leaving the next month… But it's the opposite–it hurts more each time an acquaintance or friend leaves… Almost my whole family has left so I only have four family members here in Venezuela; the rest went to more than one country, and it is impossible and painful to think that we will never go live together again…

About 10 friends have left… I only wonder if I will also leave… I don't know why? (okay, yes I do know, but it's so hard to resign yourself to this, isn't it?).

I don't really want to leave… What I really want is for this to change and for my family and friends to come back… That is truly my dream.

Meanwhile I am a stranger in my own country because I am unfamiliar with such violence, such filth, such misery, such ignorance, and above all, such a lack of values.

Will this ever change???

But Luis Díaz determines that not all of those who have stayed behind in Venezuela have done so due to a lack of a chance to emmigrate, but rather because some of them dont’ want to be foreigners:

No todos los que nos hemos quedado es porque no hemos tenido la oportunidad de irnos, yo la he tenido y aquí sigo, no sé si es un error, pero no tengo intención de vivir como extranjero pase lo que pase.

Not all of us who have stayed behind are here because we have not had a chance to leave; I've had the chance and here I am. I don't know if it's a mistake, but I don't intend to live like a foreigner because what will happen will happen.

“Let Russians Sweep Their Own Streets”: Minorities Ponder Ethnic Violence

Migrants detained at a raid on a Moscow market. Authorities have been cracking down in what some see as an appeal to Russian nationalism. YouTube screenshot.

Migrants detained at a raid on a Moscow market. Authorities have been cracking down in what some see as an appeal to Russian nationalism. YouTube screenshot.

Public unrest, rioting, and the destruction of a vegetable warehouse in Moscow's Biryulyovo district has once again forced Russia to confront its “nationality question.” The unrest follows the murder of 25-year-old Egor Shcherbakov, allegedly at the hands of an Azerbaijani national.

“Progressive,” anti-Kremlin nationalists like Alexey Navalny [ru] and Egor Holmogorov [ru] have used the rioting as a springboard to call for the introduction of a restrictive visa regime with the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Pro-Kremlin bloggers like Stanislav Apetyan [ru], on the other hand, chalk the violence up to religious tension and police incompetence. The one voice that is largely missing from public dialogue, is of the “people of non-Slavic appearance” — a vague term that describes millions of Russia's ethnic minorities, both migrants from the former Soviet Union and the internal enclaves of the North Caucasus. These folks have perhaps the most at stake in the developing dialogue, and some of them have been speaking out online.

For instance, an Azerbaijani blogger based in Baku, lon43, wondered [ru] why Caucasian and Central Asian immigrants in Ukraine and the Baltic states haven't caused the same levels of social tension. His answer is that the unrest had been cynically whipped up to serve a wide variety of domestic and foreign interests: a redrawing of Moscow's criminal spheres of influence and forcing holdouts among the former Soviet states into a Customs Union with Russia.

Other Azerbaijanis were more self-critical. Tair Aliev, a 53-year-old plastic surgeon who moved from Baku to Moscow when he was nine, wrote about how poorly suited some of his compatriots were for life in Russia and claimed that the situation would have come to a head years ago if it hadn't been for the Russian national character of “hospitality, tolerance and laziness.” In a post entitled “Who prevents us from having a normal life?” [ru], Aliev noted how his childhood views of Baku as a cultured and cosmopolitan city had been ruined by the Azerbaijanis he actually met when the Soviet Union disintegrated:

Они плохо воспитаны, плохо говорят по русски, многие неопрятны и имеют вид дикарей. Поэтому ещё тогда, в середине 90-х, я стал опасаться, что по национальному признаку буду ассоциироваться с ними

They are poorly brought up, speak Russian poorly, many of them are slovenly and look like savages. This is why even in the mid-90s I began warrying that because of my national background I'd be associated with them.

Aliev's views are largely atypical for Russian minorities. Nazim Kalcha, an ethnic Kyrgyz living in Moscow, noted the irony [ru] of how Central Asians seem to always be targeted in response to murders of ethnic Russians by South and North Caucasians. Writing on the Central Asian online news portal Fergana News, Kalcha claims that Russian hostility is simply projection:

Раздраженному, обманутому и обозленному народу нужен четкий и конкретный враг, с резкими контурами, чтобы выделялся, контрастировал с основной массой. Может, нос побольше, или глаза поуже, для верности еще, чтобы по-русски ни бельмеса, а если и бельмеса, то самую малость.

An irritated, bamboozled and angry people need a clear and concrete enemy, with sharp contours, one that is in stark contrast with the general populace. Perhaps the noses are slightly bigger, or the eyes slightly narrower, and to round off the picture, someone that doesn't speak any Russian, and if he does, then just a bit.

The Biryulyovo riots were also discussed at length [ru] in the comments section of the independent Uzbek News site UZNews.net, where many were incensed at the treatment of migrants in Russia. One user, “hank,” writing in transliterated Russian, placed the blame on the Soviet Union's failure to implement a working nationalities policy, somewhat confusingly using the United States as a counter example:

Posmotrite na Ameriku – kakie tam nacionalnosti?? pravilno – vse amerikanci. tak oni reshali razom vse nacionalnie voprosi.Uchites! A v SSSR vsyu dorogu -70 let mi imeli russkiy nacionalniy imperializm.

Take a look at America – what nationalities do they have there?? That's right – they're all Americans. That's how the solved all their nationality problems at once. Learn from it! But in the USSR for the entire 70 years we had Russian ethnic imperialism.

Another user, who posted under the name “Non-Russian”, sarcastically flipped the tables on the proposed visa regime:

Был бы я главой Средней Азии, с Россией отменил бы без визовый режим. Раз народ без работы, пусть лучше едут в ту же Турцию или Корею (там сотни тысяч узбеков трудятся мирно и спокойно, на порядок лучше России и никто никого не гонит не то что бы убивать). Пусть Россияне сами свои улицы подметают, посмотрим смогут ли ваши алкоголики нормально работать.

If I were in charge of Central Asia I'd cancel the visa-free regime with Russia. The unemployed are better off in Turkey or Korea (there are hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks there working peacefully, exponentially better than in Russian, and no one persecutes them, let alone kills them). Let the Russians sweep their own streets, lets see if your alcoholics can work properly.

“Let the Russians sweep their own streets” – despite populist nationalism, Russia is heavily dependent on migrant labor. Photo CC2.0 Cea

Regardless of such sentiments, Central Asia and the Caucasus are extremely dependent on Russia for jobs and remittances. Almost half of Tajikistan's entire GDP is based on remittances from Russia. At the same time, Russia's economy is dependent upon a pool of cheap migrant labor. While economics and history still bind Russians, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Dagestanis and Azerbaijanis together, government inaction in the face of rising nationalism means inter-ethnic relations will continue to deteriorate.

October 20 2013

363 Coffins Close, Reopening the Debate on Illegal Immigration in Europe

Coffins containing the remains of the drowned before their burial in various Italian cemeteries. Photo published on Twitter by Aleem Maqbool

Coffins containing the remains of the drowned in Lampedusa before their burial in various Italian cemeteries. Photo published on Twitter by Aleem Maqbool

A boat carrying almost 500 immigrants, many of them women and children, caught fire and sunk [es] off the coast of Lampedusa on October 3, leaving at least 363 dead.

Lampedusa is a small Italian island located between Sicily and the north of Africa, a little more than 100 km from Tunisia. Due to its proximity to the African coast, the island is one of the entry points used by refugees and undocumented migrants to reach the European Union. Citizens of Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea or Syria fall into the hands of mafias dealing in human trafficking, who use old fishing boats to carry them to the European coast.

These dangerous journeys, in old and overburdened boats, increase at the end of the summer in anticipation of the winter “break” during which such crossings are suspended due to poor sailing conditions.

Many of the survivors of this shipwreck are alive thanks to the help of fishermen who were in the area, although various witnesses state that at least three boats passed close to the site of the tragedy without stopping to help the victims [es].

This behaviour is due to the fear inspired in fishermen by the strict Bossi-Fini law against illegal immigration, supported by the far right and passed in 2002 during Berlusconi's mandate, which criminalises immigrants with an irregular status and those who assist them in any way.

According to the blog Kaos en la Red [es],

El otro horror de la ley Bossi-Fini reside en la condena por complicidad con el delito de clandestinidad a las personas que ayuden a un supuesto clandestino a poner el pie en “la tierra de Italia”. Así, los pescadores de Lampedusa que ayuden a una persona que esté ahogándose pueden ver su barco, su instrumento de trabajo, confiscado y ser condenados. Lo cual va completamente en contra de la Convención de las Naciones Unidas sobre los refugiados y del derecho internacional de navegación. Así, Giorgio Bisagna, experto en derecho a la inmigración, abogado en Palermo, afirma: “En el caso del naufragio de Lampedusa, el delito podría haber sido cometido por quienes no han intervenido para auxiliar a refugiados que se encuentran en la mar”.

The other horror of the Bossi-Fini law lies in the conviction on the basis of collusion with the crime of clandestinity of those persons who assist a presumed clandestine migrant to set foot on “Italian soil.” In this way, those fishermen in Lampedusa who assist a person who is drowning can see their boat, their working material, confiscated and may be sentenced to prison. This goes completely against both the United Nations Convention on Refugees and international maritime law. Thus, Giorgio Bisagna, expert in immigration law and a lawyer in Palermo, states: “In the case of the Lampedusa shipwreck, the crime could have been committed by those who did not intervene to assist the refugees who were in the sea”.

Map of African immigration routes to Europe. Image from Wikimedia Commons uploaded by the user historicair. With licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Map of African immigration routes to Europe. Image from Wikimedia Commons uploaded by the user historicair. With licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The case of Spain

Spain is another of the entry points to Europe used by African immigrants. The Strait of Gibraltar, just 14 km wide, is one of the routes preferred by mafias to move immigrants in pateras [es], small boats or inflatable dinghies which are too fragile to cross these dangerous waters. Shipwrecks are common and immigrants must often be rescued by fishermen and coastguards in the area.

But this could soon change, as the website cuartopoder.es [es] reports:

Según la reforma del Código Penal que el ministro de Justicia, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, tiene en cartera quienes faciliten la entrada, acojan, ayuden o alojen a inmigrantes indocumentados incurrirán en delito punible y podrán ser castigados con dos años de cárcel. Algunos colectivos de ayuda a los inmigrantes se movilizaron en abril pasado y han recogido más de 100.000 firmas con la campaña “salvemos la hospitalidad”.

According to the reform of the Penal Code which the Justice minister, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, is planning, those who facilitate the entry of undocumented migrants, and shelter, assist or lodge them, will commit a punishable crime and will be able to be punished with two years of prison. Some collectives assisting migrants mobilised in April and have collected more than 100,000 signatures with the “let's save hospitality” campaign [es].

Lack of will from European authorities

Besides the Strait of Gibraltar, other important entry routes to Spain for immigrants are the Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the north coast of Africa.

European Union (EU) policy leaves the rescue of undocumented immigrants in the hands of the member states in whose waters they are shipwrecked, and does not allocate special financial assistance to those most affected by this problem. The Mediterranean countries, which are suffering more severely from the economic crisis than those in the north, have been asking Europe for help for years without obtaining any response.

The rise of far-right parties with a pronounced xenophobic ideology which support the strengthening of fortress Europe against illegal immigration, is causing European governments to adopt a tougher position on the issue in an attempt to counteract the populist discourse of the far right.

On October 8th, 28 European interior ministers met in Luxembourg with the intention of tackling the issue of the rescue of immigrants on the EU's Mediterranean coast. Once again, the meeting was a disaster, as El País [es] describes:

Toda la reprobación y la vergüenza que han expresado los políticos europeos tras la tragedia de Lampedusa han quedado, de momento, en una mera declaración de intenciones. La Unión Europea se mostró ayer incapaz de concretar un proyecto para rescatar a inmigrantes que naufraguen en las costas del Mediterráneo. La Comisión Europea trasladó su propuesta a los Estados miembros, pero ninguno fue capaz de ofrecer ni calendarios concretos ni dotación económica para intentar paliar el drama de quienes se lanzan al mar para llegar a Europa. 

All of the condemnation and shame expressed by European politicians following the Lampedusa tragedy [es] has been, for the moment, no more than a mere declaration of intentions. The European Union demonstrated yesterday that it is incapable of settling upon a project to rescue immigrants who are shipwrecked on the Mediterranean coast. The European Commission transferred its proposal to member States, but none was able to offer a concrete timeframe or economic resources to try to alleviate the suffering of those who set out to sea to reach Europe.

Nacho Torreblanca sums it up in the following way on Twitter:

Lampedusa is not a tragedy. It is the consequence of a series of deliberate political decisions http://t.co/YJGRe13257

— Nacho Torreblanca (@jitorreblanca) October 11, 2013

Tombs of unidentified immigrants in Tarifa's cemetery (Spain). Screen capture from a video by canalsuresposible on YouTube

Tombs of unidentified immigrants in Tarifa's cemetery (Spain). Screen capture from a video by canalsuresposible on YouTube

Manuel Zaguirre says on the website Rebanadas de realidad [Slices of Reality] [es]:

El Papa Francisco, cuyas declaraciones, decisiones, tomas de postura y testimonio de vida me merecen cada vez más interés, visitó en el mes de Julio la isla de Lampedusa. Pudimos conocer entonces que tiene apenas 5000 habitantes y que han sido casi el doble los inmigrantes que han muerto a orilla de su “mare nostrum” en los últimos 15 ó 20 años. Conocimos, también, de la solidaridad de sus habitantes y de la combatividad de sus autoridades locales, con la Alcaldesa al frente, denunciando la falta de apoyos e interés ante el desborde y la tragedia de los inmigrantes.

Pope Francisco, whose declarations, decisions, stances and life's testimony deserve more and more of my interest, visited the island of Lampedusa in July. We were thus able to learn that the island has just 5000 inhabitants and that the number of immigrants who have died on the shores of its “mare nostrum” in the last 15 or 20 years is almost double this figure. We also discovered the solidarity of the island's inhabitants and the fighting spirit of its local authorities, with the Mayoress at the helm, condemning the lack of support and interest in the face of the overflow and tragedy of the immigrants.

October 19 2013

Race Riots Remind Russians About Political Divide

Demonstrator injured in Biryulevo, 13 October 2013, screenshot from YouTube video.

Demonstrator injured in Biryulevo, 13 October 2013, screenshot from YouTube video.

This week’s reactions to a riot that took place outside Moscow are a reminder that the subject of ethnic nationalism deeply divides Russians. The rift between the RuNet’s liberals and nationalists was one of the key findings of a mapping project by Harvard’s Berkman Center in 2010. Three years later, the divide persists.

One of the controversial interpretations of the Biryulevo riot, which involved upwards of a thousand young men breaking into and vandalizing a vegetable market, is the idea that it represents a display of the popular will. Such characterizations, of course, mirror the narrative routinely offered to explain Russia’s “Winter of Discontent,” which produced the many spectacular political demonstrations of the 2011-2012 season. Inherent in such storytelling, however, is a degree of vindication. The rioters (and the relatively peaceful protesters who took to the streets in their defense against responding police officers) were reacting to the murder of a local ethnic Russian—killed by a then-still-unidentified man, presumed to a (non-white) Caucasian.

If Biryulevo’s violence was a reaction against police corruption and ethnic mafias, does it diminish the rioters’ savagery and racism?

Indeed, many Russian liberals refuse whatsoever to see the Biryulevo riot as a manifestation of popular dissatisfaction with the state. To do so, they seem to fear, would poison the well of democratic credibility feeding their own anti-Kremlin movement.

Blogger and opposition leader Alexey Navalny is Russia’s most prominent “liberal nationalist.” Throughout his time as the biggest star of the protest movement, Navalny has worried liberals with his nationalist views, and disappointed nationalists with his liberal views. Surprisingly, the delicate dance has worked, so far. Navalny has benefitted from the senescence of the Putin regime, the intolerability of which has increased Navalny’s viability as a political alternative. Nevertheless, there are bumps in the road, and Navalny’s response to Biryulevo (promoting an anti-immigrant petition [ru] to require travel visas for citizens of Russia’s southern periphery) hasn’t curried favor [ru] with Russia’s bleeding hearts.

That said, the division between liberals and nationalists doesn’t prefigure everything about Russian politics. Valery Fedotov (a former United Russia functionary, who jumped ship in July 2013) is an example of someone who disparages how liberals dismiss the popular sentiments behind Biryulevo, but also mocks [ru] Navalny for an excessive, poorly designed visas initiative. Consider Fedotov’s October 17, 2013, LiveJournal attack [ru] on Dmitri Oreshkin, a noted liberal-leaning “politolog,” whom Fedotov criticizes for speculating [ru] that the Biryulevo riot was the result of an orchestrated campaign to destabilize Moscow, in order to justify canceling next year’s city council elections (where the liberal opposition is expected to do well). Oreshkin’s conspiracy theory, Fedotov points out, is eerily similar to the tropes Kremlin propagandists used to trivialize (and criminalize) anti-government demonstrations in 2012:

[…] когда речь заходит о «социально неблизких», те же журналисты и политологи без каких-либо угрызений совести готовы сменить свою точку зрения и превратиться в «Аркадия Мамонтова».

[…] when it comes to discussing those who aren’t “social allies,” the same [liberal] journalists and political analysts—without any compunction—are ready to change their point of view and transform into “Arkady Mamontov” [the man behind the hated anti-opposition TV series, “Anatomy of Protest”].

Seizing on the fact that Oreshkin even implicated the Internet in riling up Biryulevo’s rioters, Fedotov also attacked him for recycling the Kremlin’s open-ended distrust of netizens and its refusal to surrender the slightest legitimacy to political rivals:

[…] куча таинственных намеков о «круге специальных товарищей», преувеличение злокозненной роли интернета и полное неверие в то, что люди могут выйти на улицу сами, просто потому что «достало».

[…] there are a bunch of mysterious hints [in Oreshkin’s comments] about “a circle of special friends,” the exaggeration of the Internet’s insidious role, and an utter disbelief that people might go out into the streets on their own, simply because they’ve “had enough.”

The ethnic question promises to estrange and exasperate bloggers and oppositionists more now and in the coming weeks, than it has in the months and years previous. Aside from a brief disturbance [ru] last July in the small town of Pugachyov, the post-December 2011 opposition movement has not had to endure any significant explosions of ethnic tensions.

With Biryulevo, society’s movers and shakers in Moscow now face such turmoil, and at their very doorstep.

October 16 2013

Asylum-Seekers Continue Hunger Strike in Hungary

Sixty asylum-seekers went on hunger strike yesterday in a southeast Hungarian detention camp for asylum-seekers, atlatszo.hu investigative journalism site's blog reported in their Blog Action Day post [hu] on human rights. The Office of Immigration and Nationality confirmed that the strike was started by five Malian citizens who were joined by 55 others requesting their replacement in an open camp. As of July 2013, Hungary places the undocumented asylum-seekers in detention camps. The five initiators continue the hunger strike.

Léonarda, 15, Arrested During a School Trip and Deported

Léonarda Dibrani, 15, was on field trip with her schoolmates when she was detained by the french police, near Levier, France. She was later deported with the rest of her family [fr] to Kosovo as illegal immigrants. The Dibrani family fled Kosovo about five years ago because they are Roma. Léonarda tells the story of her deportation andthe conditions in which she lives now[fr], not being able to speak Albanian nor Serbian. In a social context where Roma population is frequently stigmatized, the french government has promised to conduct an investigation on the conditions of the arrest. The hash tag #Leonarda has been a trending topic on French social networks since the arrest and more 3000 people have already signed a petition for her return. Many observers have noted that the law has been applied appropriately in this particular case.         

October 15 2013

Russian Muslim Websites Defaced by Hackers During Eid

Mosocow Muslims praying during Eid. YouTube screenshot.

Moscow Muslims praying during Eid al-Adha in 2013. YouTube screenshot.

As anti-migrant sentiments in Russia run high in the aftermath of last weekend's ethnic riots [Global Voices report], some individuals seem bent on increasing the tension. On October 15, the day that Russian Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha (or Kurban-Bairam as it is known in Russia), several websites of the Russian Muslim community were defaced with a photo of a severed pig's head holding the Koran in its mouth.

Screenshot of a defaced Muslim website.

Screenshot of one of the defaced Muslim websites.

The photo, along with a short text, appeared on the websites of the Mufti Council of Russia, Moscow's Cathedral Mosque, and the personal website of Ravil Gaidutdin, the head of the Mufti Council, soon after a DDoS attack. Right now all three websites are offline. The text read as follows:

Здравствуйте, мусульмане. Обращаются к вам жители Москвы. Вы нас уже заебали. Мы прерасно осведомлены, что свинья является для вас грязным животным, поэтому вот вам свинка с кораном в пасти. Теперь ваше доменное имя осквернено и вы не можете больше держать тут ваш сайт. Скоро мы зароем свинок около всех ваших мечетей. Хороших праздников, хуесосы.

Greetings, Muslims. You're being addressed by the people of Moscow. We've f*cking had it with you. We know full well that the pig is a filthy animal for you, so here is a piggy with the Koran in its maw. Now this domain name has been defiled and you can no longer host your website here. Soon we will bury piggies near all your mosques. Happy holidays, c*cksuckers.

According to Russia's Twitter aggregator Tjournal [ru], the first news of attack appeared [ru] on the social network VKontakte page of Evgeniy Volnov. Volnov is a ranking member of Russia's pranker [ru] community — a subculture of people who make prank phone calls, record them, and distribute the results via the Internet. It is unclear whether Volnov had anything to do with the attacks. In the meantime, it appears that the Mufti Council IT staff has identified the source of the attack. RIA Novosti quotes [ru] a Mufti Council press release:

[...] источник грязного и трусливого действия определен, о чем проинформированы соответствующие правоохранительные структуры

[...] the source of the filthy and cowardly deed has been identified, and the relevant law-enforcement authorities have been informed

Muslim religious festivals have in the past been used by Russian nationalists to point to the “growing threat” of (predominantly Muslim) migrants from Central Asia, as well as internal migrants from the North Caucasus. Both Eids are particularly susceptible to such rhetoric because tens of thousand's of Russia's Muslims congregate on the streets, sometimes engaging in the traditional slaughter of farm animals as part of the celebration, which alienates the locals.

Can Kremlin Control Moscow Ethnic Violence?

Rioters tipping over a delivery truck in Western Biryulyovo during recent unrest in the Moscow neighborhood. YouTube screenshot.

Rioters tipping over a delivery truck in Western Biryulyovo during recent unrest in the Moscow neighborhood. YouTube screenshot.

A poverty-stricken industrial Moscow neighborhood has erupted in ethnic violence last week, after a local man named Egor Sherbakov was stabbed to death while walking home with his girlfriend by someone described as “not a Russian citizen.” Residents of Western Biryulyovo began to gather on Saturday, demanding that local police to apprehend the killer. Initially, the protest was relatively peaceful, but by Sunday afternoon it had turned aggressive, as rioters began targeting migrant workers from Central Asia and their property. Particularly, a local vegetable warehouse (the largest in Moscow), was singled out as a place that employs thousands of illegal migrants. Police from all of Moscow have been brought into the neighborhood to pacify the situation. By the end of Sunday night hundreds of people were arrested.

The response from the Russian blogosphere mainly came in two flavors. As Novosibirsk university lecturer Sergey Schmidt noted [ru], those opposing the government see the riots as proof of what the country has come to with the “crooks and thieves” in power, while those who support the Kremlin argued that the riots show what Russia would look like without a strong leader.

Pro-Kremlin newspaper editor Ashot Gabrelyanov, for example, argued the latter point:

The situation in Biryulyovo has once again proved that Russia needs a harsh Tsar and the most severe dictatorship.

Anti-Kremlin nationalists like Egor Kholmogorov have, as usual, tried tried to exploit the ethnic violence to promote their cause. Kholmogorov wrote [ru] an article titled “We are not vegetables,” where he blamed the grocery warehouse run by migrants for the current violence, calling it a “chancre” and a nest of “criminality” in the region. His solution for “ethnic crime” is simple: a visa regime with Central Asia and the Caucasus, and “zero tolerance for criminal actions of migrants.”

“Where's Biryulyovo?” asks a scared Sergey Sobyanin, Moscow's mayor, in a recent demotivator. Anonymous image distributed online.

Others, like the blogger colonelcassad, also see [ru] this “pogrom” as yet another in a long line of flare-ups over migration, despairing that anything would change as a result:

через несколько дней ситуация информационно сойдет на нет, до следующего взрыва аналогичного содержания ибо нет совершенно никаких предпосылок к устранению тех тенденций, которые приводят к систематическому повторению одного и того же сценария.

after a few days the informational coverage of the situation will diminish to nothing, until the next, similar, explosion because there is absolutely no reason to eliminate the trends that lead to the systematic repetition of this same scenario.

Some might disagree — in an interview [ru] on the internet TV channel TV-Rain, human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina of Memorial blamed the anti-migrant rhetoric of the September Moscow mayoral election for inciting the violence:

Ответственными за все делаются мигранты, хотя никаких доказательств пока нет. Если мы сейчас опять слышим разговоры о визах для жителей Центральной Азии, хотя вообще непонятно, оттуда ли он (убийца Егора Щербакова. – Ред.).

Migrants are being made responsible for everything, although there is still no evidence for it. If we once again see discussions about a visa regime for residents of Central Asia, although it is not clear at all if he (the killer of Yegor Sherbakov – ed.) was from there.

Internet guru Anton Nosik also thought that someone was to blame for inciting the race riot, but for him it was the Kremlin. Nosik reminded [ru] his readers of the pogroms that were so frequent 100 years ago, towards the end of the Russian empire:

Поэтому все погромы, которые тут случаются — или случались сто лет назад — так или иначе связаны с попытками власти решать свои проблемы за счёт иноверцев и инородцев, направляя в их сторону народный гнев. Опыт Николая II подсказывает, что пользы от этих попыток нет ни малейшей, а расплата за них запредельно дорога.

That is why all the pogroms, which happen here — or happened 100 years ago — in one way or another are connected with attempts by the government to solve its problems at the expense of other religions and foreigners, directing popular anger toward them. The experience of Nicholas II suggests that these efforts have no benefit, and the price paid for them is prohibitively expensive.

While Nosik thinks that the Kremlin is pulling a fast one by distracting people from their own corruption by encouraging nationalist tendencies, blogger russkiy_malchik manages to keep a brighter outlook [ru]:

Проблема межнациональных отношений в стране и в столице особенно – созрела и дошла до той кондиции, когда её хотят решать и власть, и общество.

The problem of inter-ethnic relations in the country, and especially in the capital, has reached the stage when both the government and society want to solve it.

October 11 2013

Re-Imagining Lusophony and Decolonizing the Mind

The Fourth International Congress in Cultural Studies – Colonialisms, Post-colonialisms and Lusophonies has a call for paper submissions open until October 15, 2013:

To demystify, to dehierarchize, to establish a policy of difference, to allow a multiplicity of voices, to constitute so many projects of possible modernities/rationalities within post-modernity, to mobilize, to re-politicize, to imagine other political, social and economical models, this is the task (utopian, of course) that is, for us, essential in the re-imagining of Lusophony.

(…)

A postcolonial reflection in a Lusophone context cannot avoid the exercise of criticism to the old dichotomies of periphery/center, cosmopolitanism/rurality, civilized/savage, black/white, north/south, in a context of cultural globalization, transformed by new and revolutionary communication phenomena, which have also globalized marginality.

The congress will take place from April 28 to 30, 2014, in the city of Aveiro, Portugal.

Hong Kong: 2010 Manila Hostage Incident and Banning Maid

Tom Grundy from Hong Wrong comments on the local community call for banning Filipino domestic workers’ working visa to pressure the Philippine President Aquino III to apologize to the 2010 Manila hostage Incident's victims and their families.

The incident in 2010 was obviously awful and tragic and the authorities were ill-trained and ill-equipped to cope with the situation – the Philippines is, after all, a developing country. Nevertheless, to be pressuring the country’s president, years later, to personally apologise is unusual and misguided. These were not the actions of a political or militant group. The perpetrator did not have an ideology or agenda beyond his own deranged personal interests. It was a lone-wolf incident.

October 10 2013

A Call to Rekindle Immigration Reform Amidst United States Government Shutdown

Cientos de familias hispanas salieron a las calles por un llamado a una reforma migratoria integral. Foto cortesía de Alliance for Citizenship.

Hundreds of Hispanic families took to the streets to call for comprehensive immigration reform. Photo courtesy of Alliance for Citizenship.

The “National Day of Dignity and Respect” on October 5, 2013 was a huge event in the United States involving hundreds of vigils, marches and pilgrimages across the country that demanded definitive immigration reform.

One of the largest gatherings took place at Washington DC's National Mall.

The shutdown of government operations that began on the October 1 has threatened the country's economic stability. As Republican and Democrat Members of Congress have not reached agreement on a spending plan for the new financial year and the start of the so-called “Obamacare” healthcare program, important issues like immigration reform have been in danger of once again being left behind. In the midst of this government chaos, the Democrats in the Lower House presented their own bill on the 2nd of October aiming to improve immigration law, while also calling for Republican Members of Congress to take immediate action.

The national march received support from figures such as the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel and the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, who came together in Chicago's Union Park to request an end to deportations and to vote for proposed changes to federal immigration law. Another march is expected to take place on October 8, called “Camino Americano”, which aims to bring together thousands of people in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

On Twitter, the hashtag #TimeIsNow was created for the national march, and these were some of the most notable comments:

October 08 2013

Court Ruling in Discrimination Case Puts Caribbean First

In March 2011, a Jamaican national arrived in Barbados on holiday – but instead of the typical visitor's welcome, Shanique Myrie was subjected to a cavity search, kept in a dark room and subsequently deported, even though she was carrying no illegal substances. Claiming that her rights as a CARICOM citizen had been trampled upon, Ms. Myrie hired lawyers and a year later, the case was being heard before the Caribbean Court of Justice. Jamaican blog Active Voice took note of the “landmark” case, making the point that the issue of class was playing a key role in the hearing. Back then, the blogger, Annie Paul, explained:

This landmark case is not only about nationality, it’s also about ‘class’, the ungainly elephant in the room no one wants to explicitly mention. It is important to portray Myrie as ‘decent’ ‘respectable’ and ‘sober’ because the image of Jamaicans in the region is overwhelmingly influenced by the higglers, DJs and hustlers who often represent the face of Jamaica, visiting, even migrating to other countries, where they are not always welcome.

Why? because these enterprising but capitally-challenged individuals (ie owning little capital, whether financial or social) often violate all the dearly held norms of ‘decency’ ‘respectability’ and ‘good taste’ with their choice of garments, raw speech and boisterous behaviour. They regularly transgress the zealously guarded borders of civility and decorum as much as the borders of nation states which under the new Chaguaramas Treaty they now have a right to breach.

Perhaps this was why Myrie was given the finger when she arrived in prim and proper Barbados, regionally glossed as ‘Little England’. Not just because she was Jamaican but because she was perceived to be a particular kind of Jamaican.

Last Friday, the court ruled in favour of Shanique Myrie – and bloggers have been taking about it. Today, Propaganda Press posted the executive summary of the ruling. The Support Shanique Myrie Facebook page was also full of status updates and comments about the favourable judgment:

Shanique won, we all won, justice is served we r free to move abt OUR caribbean!!

Luther Tull wrote:

Congrats to Ms Myrie, U stood firm against a state n won, some of these officers don't seem to think that people have basic HUMAN RIGHTS n abuse what authority they have, so this victory is for all the people of the caribbean who were abuse n was scared to challenge the state.

Jersey Jersey quipped:

…looks like Barbados may have to pay some money that we cant (sic) afford. Civil Servants again, we need to be like Greece, fire them when they don't perform

The Facebook page, unsurprisingly, kept diligent track of the events, and was very clear in the understanding that the case was also about the state of regional relations. Quoting from a Jamaica Observer editorial, the page administrator posted this update:

All of this has raised questions about the value and relevance of Caricom to the citizens of its 15 member countries.
Indeed, these events have created resentment and an inclination to dismiss Caricom as nothing but a government ‘talk shop'. The governments themselves have not done enough to address the problem, which, if a solution is not found, will undermine the worth of Caricom to many of its citizens.
On January 28, the highly regarded former prime minister of Jamaica, PJ Patterson, publicly asked at a meeting of the Rotary Club in Guyana: ‘What purpose does the Caricom passport serve if travelling within the region is still like an obstacle race?’

This post explored the issue even further:

As a Jamaica[n] living in Barbados, I must say that we all need to look beyond our nationalities and face the issue for what [it] is. Whether the young lady is telling the truth or not, this incident should be used by both states to take an internal look at its domestic policies and address the various issues with prudence. Issues such as, to what extent are we truly committed to free movement?

Is there proper legislation in place to ensure that Immigration officers, Customs Officers, Police and other civil servants do not usurp their powers? I can attest to ill treatment from Barbadians at the airport too, but one could proffer that this is exemplary of immigration officers all over…or not?

The point is that we need to train our public personnel to address each other in a cordial manner and to not constantly overstep their boundaries. There is an underlying problem that we must address, and it has very little to do with Jamaicans backing Jamaicans and Barbadians being Xenophobic…we need to reassess the extent to which we are committed to integration and to earning rather than demanding respect.

Finally, Barbados Underground wrote an in-depth blog post about the outcome of the controversial case:

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision between Shanique Myrie and Barbados…continues to resonate across the region – editorials, talk shows and on the streets. What is evident is that members of Caricom need to better manage how we promote freedom of movement given our obligation under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).

Loud by its silence has been the reaction of Barbados to the decision. The DNA of the Barbados government is to be slow in deliberation. One wonders though if the Prime Minister sees a need to demonstrate a departure from the norm given the psychological punch Barbadians have taken since the decision was delivered.

There is general acceptance that Immigration, Customs and Police officials in Barbados need to be more efficient in the execution of their duties. The Myrie matter hopefully has embarrassed the country enough to drive needed change at our borders. The bigger issue arising from the CCJ decision is the protocol which ALL Caricom States must establish to allow Caricom nationals to cross borders…

The post went on to question the wisdom of a free market economy

There are lessons coming out of the EU experience which exposes the weakness of a free market. There are the borders of member countries whose economies are stronger which will be bombarded. There is currently discussion in the UK about floating a referendum to decide on the whether to leave the EU. Until then its borders continue to be peppered by the Easter Europeans.

There is something wrong with the Caricom free market model when there is mass movement from the largest members to the smallest.

…and ended with more questions than answers:

Now that we have this decision how will Jamaica treat with the Haitians? How will Barbados respond to the CCJ decision? Hopefully it will not ignore the CCJ Order…

October 05 2013

Interview with Guinea Boxing Champ Turned Belgian Politician

Six time intercontinental International Boxing Federation middleweight boxing champion, Lansana Bea Diallo, better known as Bea Diallo [fr], born in Liberia and of Guinean stock, is also a Belgian politician.

Béa Diallo, boxeur. Photo extraite de sa page Facebook

Bea Diallo, Last Fight as boxer. Photo taken from his Facebook page (with permission) 

 

Elected to the Brussels regional parliament and to the parliament of the French community, Bea Diallo is alderman for Youth, Employment, Family, Inter-generational relations and Equal Opportunity in Ixelles, one of the nineteen municipalities of the Brussels-Capital region.

Global Voices put some questions to him.

Global Voices (GV): We know you as a boxing champion, but you are also a local representative in Belgium?  What a career!

Bea Diallo (BD): Yes, well, Guineans knew me as a boxer, but most of all as a man who tried to promote the image of Guinea and today. Not only have I been a member of the Belgian parliament for nearly ten years, but soon I will have been a local representative for almost seven years. I became a man of experience and recognised by the political world which was not a given.

GV: It is often difficult to combine high level sport with studying, you have a degree in Economics.

BD: Yes, high level sport is often incompatible with university studies, but, as I often say, with determination you can achieve many things and my dream was to succeed at both to be able to serve my country of origin one day. To help Guinea become a truly independent country and most of all to benefit the people with this blessing.

GV: How did you enter into politics?

BD: I really managed it by chance, I had never wanted to work in politics, but being a fighting man, committed to lots of causes, one day it was proposed that I supported a party as consensus candidate without even being in a position eligible for office as I occupied 69th place on the list. I found myself fifth out of twenty-five representatives.

GV: You fought in a boxing match in Guinea, what memory do you have of this?

BD: I think that it was the best moment of my sporting career. That is an unforgettable time, to box in front of 60,000 people and to have over 300,000 in the streets. It was quite simply magic.

GV:   You have tried to help inhabitants of Conakry [capital of Guinea], notably in the sphere of transport. What lessons do you take from this, and how?

BD: You know I have no regrets, I imagined that it was necessary to do it at that very moment; if I lost a lot of money with the bad faith of our politicians who were, besides, continuing to kill the people while living in opulence without any projects for Guineans.

GV: Do you have other ambitions for your country of origin, Guinea?

Béa Diallo en homme politique. Photo extraite de sa page Facebook, oeuvre de Francine Verstraeten

Bea Diallo in political mode. Photo taken from his Facebook page, taken by Francine Verstraeten

 

 

BD: The sole ambition that I have for Guinea is still the same – to help this wonderful country to free itself from the shackles imposed by our own Guinean brothers: the politicians, mostly in the opposition.

GV: Facebook, twitter and a blog! Should we conclude from this that Bea Diallo is like Barack Obama with social media, using it regularly, or do you just use it occasionally?

BD: No, unfortunately not enough, I still have to optimise and most of all be more professional in my use of these networks which are a real communication force.

GV: There are more and more young Africans who try to come to Europe, despite the serious risks to which they are exposed. What would you advise them?

BD:  It is difficult to give advice to these young people who are trying to improve their living conditions as well as those of their families with all the risks this brings. At the same time, no policy exists to encourage these young people to stay in their home country or continent.

But, in Europe today it is difficult to find work and to sort yourself out when you come from Africa so the fight must continue in the continent [of Africa] with a new generation taking power to give it to the people.

GV: Do you have a thought to leave us with?

BD: My conclusion is my dream! I would like Africans to come to Europe just as Europeans can go to Africa, in other words, on holiday and to go home because they have work and a family waiting for them.

GV: Thank you for answering our questions and good luck with your projects.

October 01 2013

Spain Is Not Very Happy

It seems that Spain is not very happy. According to a study by Carlos III University in Madrid (uc3m) [es], Spaniards rank 49th in happiness out of the 112 countries polled.

kdmskdfnwkjdThis happiness index (pdf) is based not on subjective questions, but on “revealed preferences,” using migration as a standard; that is, what people do, not what they say. Per Juan de Dios Tena [es], a statistics professor at Carlos III University: “Migration flows are closely linked to psychological issues related to happiness,” that is, people tend to leave a country if it lacks the conditions for their happiness, in favor of someplace where they think they can be happy.

The researchers took into account both economic and non-economic factors of happiness, which overlap with what can be considered the determining factors of migration: absolute and relative income, demographic and social characteristics, social development, relationships with others and characteristics of the place where one lives, as well as variables like distance or a common border and language.

Considering all these factors, and led by Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand, Spain is 49th out of the 112 countries in the ranking, followed by Mexico, Iran and Costa Rica, among others. In last place are countries like Afghanistan, South Africa and China.

Tena also claims that migration flows don't just depend on the possibility of finding work, as is commonly thought, but are also influenced by pollution, terrorism and economic inequality, variables that psychologists consider determinants of happiness.

The study concludes that well-being cannot be solely measured by per capita income and notes that good policies increase the willingness of people to live in their country, while bad ones reduce that willingness.

Here are some relevant Tweets:

Spain is far from the top ranking of happiness per the UC3M.. we're not even laughing ,,clearly we are things aren't for that now 

— Beatriz Bonmatí (@b_bonmati) September 23, 2013

@marianorajoy we need more soccer, it's urgent!: Another happiness ranking shows Spain far from the top http://t.co/kNJqZKXZDZ
— Hrœrekr (@iGNUrante) September 23, 2013

WHO THINKS THIS IS STRANGE???? AT THIS RATE WE WILL RANK 112 IN JUST A FEW MONTHS…. http://t.co/ppWpTHl9TZ

— AutonomosEnLaLucha (@UNI_CAES) September 23, 2013

Tajik Children in Russia “Should Go to School”

A Russian lawmaker and member of the ruling party recently suggested [ru] that the children of labor migrants should be barred from Russian schools and kindergartens. LJ user prosto_vova explains [ru] why this is a bad idea. His list of reasons for not barring migrants’ children from Russian schools includes the following one (among several others):

Children are children. They should not be blamed for the fact that their parents have moved to an alien country in search of food for their family… Children should go to school – this is simply humane [to allow them to do so]

More than one million nationals of Tajikistan work in Russia. Although most of them leave their children at home, an increasing number of labor migrants take their families to Russia with them. Most of these children go to Russian schools.

September 30 2013

Foreign Domestic Migrants’ Flashmob Dance in Hong Kong

Hundreds of foreign domestic workers and migrants had flashmob dance at the heart of the city on Sunday in respond to the call for

Hundreds of foreign domestic workers and migrants had flashmob dance at the heart of the city on Sunday in respond to the call for “the Millions Migrants Mobilising Worldwide” action on the eve of the United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development (UN HLD) in October 2013. Photo by Tom Grundy.

September 26 2013

Europe Warns French Minister over Statement Regarding Roma Community

Manifestation de Roms à Paris en 2007 photo Philippe Leroyer licence creative commons

 ”Stop the Raids” Roma protest in Paris – photo by Philippe Leroyer – creative commons license 3.0

The statement from the interior minister of France Manuel Valls gave new life to the tense relationship of France with the Roma community. Mr Valls said on France Inter radio [fr] on September 24 :

ces populations ont des modes de vie extrêmement différents des nôtres et qui sont évidemment en confrontation [avec les populations locales]“.

This community has a way of life that is very different from ours and their way is clearly at odds with the way of life of their neighbors.

The statement got plenty of reactions from the francophone community on twitter, some with a hint of sarcasm :

Roma people are the reasons for all of our misfortunes. It's because of them that more than 25% of youngsters in Europe are unemployed.

These families are caught between a rock and hard place: a declining Europe that rejects them and the mob that is getting richer

On a subject that was already quite sensitive for Human rights in France, the Minister's statement got him a warning from the Council of Europe:

Ce débat perpétue une tendance inquiétante vers une rhétorique anti-roms discriminatoire et incendiaire, et risque de prendre un virage dangereux avec les prochaines élections municipales et européennes.”

This debate is taking a worrisome path towards a narrative hostile and discriminatory towards the Roma community. It might also take a turn for the worse during the next European parliamentary and municipal elections.

September 16 2013

Hong Kong: Indonesian Maids Rally Against Abuse

Around 350 Indonesian maids rallied in Hong Kong on Sunday in support of a fellow domestic helper,  Kartika Puspitasari, who was allegedly beaten with a chain and a shoe, scalded with a hot iron, tied to a chair, had her hair chopped off and was forced to wear a diaper and children’s clothes by her employers between 2010-2012. More from Hong Wrong.com.

Around 350 Indonesian maids rallied in Hong Kong on Sunday in support of a fellow domestic helper, Kartika Puspitasari, who was allegedly beaten with a chain and a shoe, scalded with a hot iron, tied to a chair, had her hair chopped off and was forced to wear a diaper and children’s clothes by her employers between 2010-2012. More from Hong Wrong.com.

September 10 2013

Indian Border Guard Acquitted of Brutal Shooting of Bangladeshi Girl

A special court in India's state of West Bengal has found an Indian border guard not guilty in the shooting death of a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl on the India-Bangladesh border, touching off a wave of anger in Bangladesh.

The court acquitted Border Security Force constable Amiya Ghosh of murder charges on September 6, 2013. Ghosh was accused of shooting Bangladeshi Felani Khatun on January 7, 2011 as she tried to cross the barbed-wire fencing at the Anantapur border point in Kurigram’s Phulbarhi Upazila on her way back to Bangladesh with her father. Fatally wounded, Khatun was left hanging in the barbed wire, screaming, for four hours until she died. Nobody helped her.

Photographs of her dead body tangled in the wire were widely published at the time. Ghosh's acquittal on September 6 only aggravated the already strained relations between India and Bangladesh.

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission at Gulshan in Dhaka, protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India.  Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission at Gulshan in Dhaka, protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)

The court's decision triggered much uproar in Bangladesh, especially on social media.

Asfaque Nipun called the special court a farce on Facebook:

So the verdict came; “No One Killed Felani!” What a joke!

Farjana Jannat (@farjana_neela) wrote on Twitter that this verdict was the death of justice:

Twitter user Subal Sarkar ( @burningNlearnin) believed that the verdict will escalate extrajudicial killings on the border by the Border Security Force:

RT@bewahid: The Felani killing verdict gives us the message that these kind of brutal assassinations will continue.

Bangladesh has a 3,715 km long land border with India along its three sides. Each year, many face bullets from the Indian border guards, some unlucky for traveling close to the border. According to a BBC report [bn], 38 Bangladeshis were shot dead by the security force in 2012.

Shantanu Banik explained on Facebook why these people face death:

Bangladesh is a small country next to the mighty India. Therefore, illegal immigration and border-crossing isn't uncommon. Everyday, ordinary people choose to take unthinkable risk in hopes of a better life on the other side of the fence.

It is [a] crime, but a petty crime. Not one that deserves the ‘Shoot on sight’ policy enforced by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). [...]

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India.

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)

Bangladesh is a large market for Indian products and media. Many angry netizens have called for boycott of Indian products. Blogger and writer Akter Ahmed told Bangladeshis on Facebook:

এই রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে আপনার ক্ষুদ্ধ প্রতিক্রিয়া এবং অনুভূতিকে সম্মান জানিয়ে বলছি- সম্ভব হলে টিভিটা একটু বন্ধ করেন, ‘কৌন বনেগা ক্রোড়পতি'র অমিতাভ বচ্চনের দরাজ গলার সামনে আপনার কথাগুলো বেশ অস্পষ্ট এবং বেমানান লাগছে!

With respect to your outraged reactions and feelings I am requesting – please turn off the TV for a while. Amitabh Bachchan's [Indian actor and anchor of India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"] loud voice on TV is overshadowing your voice.

But Facebook user Muquit Muhammad does not subscribe to that:

ফেলানী হত্যার রায়ের সাথে ভারতীয় টিভি অনুষ্ঠান পছন্দ করার সম্পর্ক কি? ঐদেশের টিভি অনুষ্ঠান পছন্দ করি বলে আমার দেশের মানুষকে তাদের মেরে ফেলা যেমন জাস্টিফাইড না, তেমনি এই কুবিচারের প্রতিবাদে ঐদেশের টিভি অনুষ্ঠান বর্জনও কোনো যৌক্তিক প্রতিবাদ না|

How is the Felani killing related to liking an Indian TV program? Just as it is not justified to kill us because we like their TV, it is not logical to boycott their TV programs because of a sham verdict.

A Facebook event has been created to organize a sit-in protest in front of the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. The High Commission requested everybody to wait till the final outcome. According to a spokesman “this is subject to review by a competent authority”. But the special court does not allow the victims family to appeal.

September 08 2013

Hong Kong: A Cautionary Tale for Taiwan

A group of 300 individuals in Hong Kong published a statement in Taiwanese newspapers warning the Taiwan society against Sinicisation [i.e. the bad influence of mainland China]. The statement has two versions one published in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan. Dictionary of Politically Incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese has translated the Taiwanese version.

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