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November 17 2013

Chileans Abroad Hold Symbolic Vote with Surprising Results

Results are in for votes cast by Chileans living abroad who participated in a symbolic election through the online platform “Voto Ciudadano” [es, Citizen vote], since Chilean law does not allow voting from overseas.

The results show a surprising difference with the forecasts made by pollsters in Chile, which placed Michelle Bachelet -the candidate from the left wing Nueva Mayoría [New Majority] coalition- as the winner, and Evelyn Matthei -the candidate from the right wing Alianza [Alliance] coalition- in second place.

According to these results, however, Michelle Bachelet would compete in a run-off election with Marcel Claude, the candidate from the Partido Humanista [Humanist Party].

Results #VotoExterior via @elquintopoder

The symbolic vote had a high turnout, as detailed on Twitter by El Quinto Poder:

The votes on #VotoExterior were 12,486 and were cast from 105 countries all around the world.

This map shows the countries where the votes were cast:

Countries where most of the votes came from #VotoExterior via @elquintopoder

These are some reactions on Twitter about this symbolic election:

I would have never guessed the % of the vote from abroad, here are the results

Even though it was symbolic, it was still exciting.

Thanks to #votociudadano [citizen vote] I was able to vote today from Mexico. Good initiative! We have to keep fighting for the vote from abroad.

People living abroad know! It's terrible that those votes are not valid :/

In the Voto Ciudadano website [es] you can find more details about the vote from abroad and its results.

November 15 2013

Polish Right-Wing Nationalists Hijack Country's Independence Day

Nationalists at Rozdroze Square, picture posted on Twitter by @PolandTalks

Nationalists at Rozdroze Square; image posted by @PolandTalks, used with permission

Poland's National Independence Day, traditionally celebrated on November 11, ended in violence this year. Young right-wing Poles torched cars, threw stones at police and even attacked and set fire to the Russian Embassy in Warsaw during a march organized by a nationalist movement. Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades, then detained around a dozen individuals from a group of a few hundred mostly masked men who began the march.

Over the last few years, Warsaw's inhabitants anticipate Independence Day with mixed feelings of fear and disgust. Usually a festive day that is supposed to unite Polish citizens in a joyful celebration of independence regained in 1918 after more than 100 years of foreign rule, this one turned out to be quite the opposite. Political discourse over the issue of patriotism and ways of expressing one's national pride was dominated by the definitions and viewpoints of right-wing nationalist and neo-fascist groups.

Twitter user @p_ministra tweeted a comment from her grandmother that perfectly depicted the day:

My grandma called me today (with a teary voice): Anuszka, how did you survive this independence yesterday?!

- p_ministra (@p_ministra), November 12, 2013

This tendency has recently been highly supported by the media, which have been looking for controversial content to improve their ratings. It has become clear that only the few “true Poles” will be defining what it actually means to be a patriot. It has also become obvious that the definitions of patriotism provided by these few are tremendously narrow and based on the drastic exclusion of many groups identified as “alien elements”.

And so the spiral began towards the violent events of November 11, 2013 during a ring-wing march organized by All-Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska) in Warsaw. During this march, a group of masked men attacked two squats in downtown of Warsaw and set fire to artistic installation [pl, photos] “The Rainbow” – a representation supporting LGBT rights, located in the most popular nightlife area of the city – then proceeded to attack the Russian Embassy. Poland Talks, a blog that follows social struggles in Poland, tweeted:

Poland seems to be painfully helpless in this matter, not for lack of trying to find a solution though. In the past few years, some attempts to block marches like this one were quite successful, but many now believe that they just escalated the violence instead of reducing it. So a decision was made this year to, instead of banning their march, organize an alternative march on a different day for those who refuse to support the exclusive definition of belonging by these ring-wing groups and believe in a broader one. 

The meme says:

The meme says: “Poland / USA – why are we able to copy Haloween, but a shared national party – not really? picture posted on demotywatory.pl

This alternative march was organised on November 9, 2013 by a coalition of organisations dubbed Together Against Nationalism, and it had a significant turnout.

A statement by coalition organisers said:

We turn to you on the 75th anniversary Kristallnacht in Germany when hordes of Nazis, with the support of the state apparatus, intensified the persecution of the Jewish minority. Europe today is reminiscent of the times of the Great Depression. As a result of social exclusion there is increased support for the violence embedded in nationalist, racist and fascist ideas.[...]

The most effective way to combat these sick ideas is with social self-organisation. In Poland local groups of antifascists have brought about the cancellation of many events organised by the nationalists. We have also blocked the attempt by the National Movement to make inroads into the academic world. We will allow neither the tragic events of the past nor the present incidents to pass unnoticed.

Immediately after the riots started, many questioned why the city's authorities were not prepared for the expected violence. Since authorities were never very fond of the squats, it is suspected by some that the police were somehow instructed to do nothing during the attack and let the hooligans do the job that the city isn't allowed to. A statement published by the inhabitants of Squat Syrena [pl] said:

Today, on Independence Day, the police maintained constant patrol over the streets Skorupki and Wilcza where the autonomous spaces Syrena and Przychodnia are located.

About 3:30 PM, the nationalist March of Independence moved through the city center. The police troops standing guard near Skorupki street dispersed and disappeared.

Simultaneously, a several dozen-strong group of neo-Nazi demonstrators arrived. They broke the chains at the gate and entered the site. Armed with machetes, bottles, and clubs, they proceded to attack the people inside. At the moment, Syrena’s quarters held eight children aged 3 to 14, among other persons.

The greatest damage was done to Przychodnia – with cars burned and destroyed, people injured, and windowpanes knocked out. For about thirty minutes – due to the police forces’ retreating – we were forced to defend ourselves on our own. Had it not been for our firm response, the scene would have ended in tragedy: the neo-Nazi attackers were ready to kill.

This is what your ‘patriotism’ looks like today. Every single person taking part in the Independence March shares the responsibility for the attacks on homes of evicted families, of the elderly, of people with disabilities and all those who cannot afford neither their rent nor a 30-year bank loan.

This is reality in Warsaw today – those in power evict, the fascists strike.

We will endure both.

Rainbow - an artistic instalation by Julita Wójcik, built in the centre of Warsaw as a symbol of tolerance, was burnt. Picture Posted by @PolandTalks

Rainbow – an artistic installation by Julita Wójcik, built in the centre of Warsaw as a symbol of tolerance, was burnt. Photo posted by @PolandTalks

The following day, many Warsaw citizens showed their solidarity with the values under attack by decorating the burnt rainbow and creating Facebook groups demanding that the guilty parties rebuild it themselves.

Picture posted by @</a><a href=czapskipawel, drawn by a famous blogging cartoonist AndrzejRysuje.pl. The girl says " class="size-medium wp-image-442190" height="400" src="http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/BY87-reCEAA5lby.jpg-large-332x400.jpeg" width="332" />

Cartoon posted by @czapskipawel, drawn by famed cartoonist AndrzejRysuje.pl. The girl says “People are decorating the burnt rainbow with flowers, on Friday there is a flash mob organised – people will be kissing under the burnt rainbow and the nationalists are supposed to pay for its reconstruction…”

“Rainbow in Poland” – satirical picture posted by @p_ministra

There were many, who highlighted the right of citizens to march under any circumstances, blaming organisational skills of the march leaders rather than the general attitude of it's participants:

It's true – the Independence March was not perfect. But it was better than a year ago. And Poland with this March is better then on without it!

- Krzysztof Bosak (@krzysztofbosak), 12 November 2013

Hanna Kozłowska, a Polish blogger writing for Foreign Policy Blog highlighted the influence of the change in political moods over the last years on the events of November 11, 2013:

While the nationalist hooligans make up a fringe group, their actions reflect a larger shift in Polish society. With the once vigorous economic growth falling from 4.5 percent in 2011 to 1.8 in 2012, the unemployment rate high at 13%, Poles are increasingly dissatisfied with their government, the European Union and their lives. Polls indicate that the main conservative party, Law and Justice which has been out of power since 2007, is now gaining support over the centrist, pro-European Civic Platform, idle and incompetent in the eyes of many.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

November 13 2013

Ethiopians: #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia to Stop Immigration Crackdown

On November 4, 2013, Saudi Arabia began enforcing a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Saudi Arabia is believed to be home to more than seven million foreign workers and their families. The Saudi government issued an amnesty period in April 2013 giving illegal immigrants seven months to gain legal status or leave the country.

Immigrants from Ethiopia, a Sub-Saharan African country, are one of the most affected by the crackdown, which has resulted in riots and violence. The Ethiopian government is repatriating its citizens living in Saudi Arabia illegally after it was reported that an Ethiopian was killed by Saudi police.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia Tedros Adhanom acknowledged the right of Saudi Arabia to expel illegal immigrants but condemned the use of force and rape against Ethiopian immigrants as it has been reported on different news and social media sites.

Below is a video posted on YouTube by user Amharictube showing mass exodus of immigrants in Saudi Arabia:

A petition has been created on MoveOn.org to alert the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International about the plight of Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia.

Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia online have been using the hashtag #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia to condemn the treatment of Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia.

Mahlet (@Mahlet_S) noted that immigrants are not criminals but job seekers:

Addis Standard (@addisstandard), a monthly magazine in Ethiopia, wrote:

Some users revisited the historical relationship between Islam and Ethiopia. Hafsa Mohamed (@hafsamohamed1) pointed out that:

Kali (@KaliDaisyy) wrote:

Pschologist Antonio Mulatu (@AntonZfirst) referred to advice given by Prophet Muhammad about Ethiopia:

The relatonship between Ethiopia and Muslim dates back to the time when Ethiopia provided a safe haven to Muslims who were fleeing persecution from the rulers of Mecca. Bilal ibn Rabah al-Habash, one of the foremost companions of Muhammad and the first Muezzin, the person who recites the call to prayer, was Ethiopian.

Ethiopia is home to Harar, which is considered the fourth holy city of Islam, with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.

Ethiopia is also the site of the First Hijrah, the migration of Muslims to escape persecution, in the history of Islam.

However, anoof (@anoofesh) from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, disagreed with the comparison between Ethiopia immigrants in Saudi Arabia and Muslim immigrants in Ethiopia:

Melak Mekonen (@melak_m) observed that:

Lee Jasper (@LeeJasper), a member of Respect Party in the UK, saw the plight of Ethiopian immigrants similar to that of Palestinians under Israeli occupation:

جبرتينهو (@iabj) opined:

Ethiopian human rights specialist based in Geneva, Switzerland, Yehenew Walilegne (@YeheneWalilegne) opposed Saudi Arabia's candidacy to the United Nations Human Rights Council:

Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Cuba won seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.

anoof told Ethiopians:

November 12 2013

Can a Foreigner Becomes a Chinese Communist Party Member?

Marco Loglio, a long-term Shenzhen expat from Italy, attempted to apply for Chinese Communist Party Membership to help protect the environment and conserve the culture. But he found out that has to give up his or her nationality and become a Chinese national first. Nanfang Daily has the story.

November 10 2013

Hungary Criticized for Lenient Naturalization Policy

With unemployment and economic concern growing in the European Union, Hungary is among some of the EU member states being criticized by its Union neighbors for more lenient laws passed in 2011 for attaining Hungarian citizenship. Charles Richardson explains why on Crikey's blogs:

Hungary has been giving some grief to its neighbors with a new law that allows people to claim Hungarian citizenship if they have (a) a direct ancestor who was a Hungarian citizen and (b) a basic knowledge of the Hungarian language. Apparently the latter requirement is being leniently interpreted.[...]

Two things make this more controversial than it might sound. One is that substantial chunks of Hungary’s neighbors were, at times in the last century, Hungarian territory. That means that a lot of Serbs, Slovaks, Romanians and Ukrainians are potential claimants, and it may make some of those neighbors worry about whether Hungary’s leaders have really given up the dream of recreating the “Great Hungary” that existed prior to 1920.[...]

The BBC reports that more than half a million people have taken advantage of the new law since it came into effect at the beginning of 2011, with about 100,000 from Serbia alone.

November 08 2013

GV Face: Dreams of US Immigration Reform

“Time Is Now” Immigration Reform Rally in Washington, DC (April 10, 2013). By David Sachs/SEIU (CC BY-NC-SA)

Is immigration reform just a dream?

Millions have emigrated to the US, for family, opportunity or in the pursuit of a better life. Today, there are 40 million immigrants in the United States, of which an estimated 11 million, live and work without legal status. Fear of deportation drives many to live in the shadows, making them vulnerable to violations of basic rights protected under US and international law.

In this week's GV Face, l talk to activists and experts about the movement for immigration reform, and discuss what the proposed reform could mean for the daily lives of millions of immigrants.

Activist Marisol Ramos talks to us about the various youth immigrant movements offline and online.

Alfonso González author of Reform Without Justice and editorial committee member of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) questions whether guest worker programs can solve the deadlock over immigration.

Global Voices author Robert Valencia talks about the various times reform seemed within reach but then got sent to the back burner.

Global Voices Managing Editor Solana Larsen will be leading the discussion.

Read our Special Coverage page Migrant Journeys for background (in partnership with NACLA).

November 07 2013

Russian Maternity Ward Turns Away Illegal Immigrant in Labor

Shaira Urlasheva, lying on the roadside outside the Vladivostok maternity ward that turned her away, 6 November 2013, YouTube screenshot.

Shaira Urlasheva, lying on the roadside outside the Vladivostok maternity ward that turned her away, 6 November 2013, YouTube screenshot.

The night staff at a Vladivostok maternity ward reignited Russia’s immigrant debate yesterday, when obstetricians refused to admit a woman in labor [ru], because she lacked both health insurance documentation and the 25 thousand rubles (771 US dollars) to pay the hospital’s child delivery fee. Shaira Urlasheva, a 28-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, came to Russia more than three years ago, but she has been living illegally in Vladivostok since 2011, when her registration expired. When doctors denied Urlasheva access to the maternity ward, she walked out into the cold and collapsed on the roadside, where passersby soon discovered her and called both the police and paramedics. After lying on the ground and managing contractions for roughly an hour, the paramedics and police finally convinced the hospital staff to admit Urlasheva into the maternity ward, where she soon gave birth to a boy—her fourth child.

The story of Russian doctors turning away an illegal immigrant in labor has sharply divided bloggers. While nearly everyone reacting online seems to agree that forcing a woman into the street to give birth is a regrettable tragedy, the split between Russian nationalists and Russian liberals largely determines whom people tend to blame for the calamity.

Liberal reactions

In a Facebook post [ru] that has attracted over 375 comments and more than 200 “likes,” Olga Tukhanina asked readers to imagine that Urlasheva had been a Russian citizen, who merely forgot her wallet and papers.

Из Москвы в гости приехала, ага. Гулять пошла на девятом месяце, воздухом океанским дышать. […] И тут – ага! – воды отходят, и начинаются роды. А у мобильного зарядка села. А врачи говорят ей: иди, иди, тетка, отсюда. Вон, в кусты иди. Потому что не положено.

Так лучше?

[Let’s say] she came from Moscow [to Vladivostok] to visit friends. She goes for a walk, nine months pregnant, to breathe the ocean air. […] And then—bang—her water breaks, and she goes into labor, and her mobile phone’s battery is dead. But the doctors tell her: you get out of here, lady. Go into the bushes or something. Because we don’t help without papers and money.

Is this better?

Writing from Sweden, a woman named Maria von Josefsson commented [ru] on Tukhanina’s post, expressing disbelief that doctors could have refused to help a woman in labor:

Ё-моё, кто-нибудь из вас вообще рожал??? Как можно не пустить в роддом рожающую женщину??? Что вы все к это роженице прицепились, врачи не оказали экстренную помощь нуждающейся в ней женщине. Блин, что-нибудь человеческое вообще в людях осталось? […]

Christ, have any of you ever given birth??? How can somebody deny a woman in labor access to a maternity ward??? You're all on this pregnant lady's case, [but what really happened was that] doctors refused to give her essential help. Jesus, is there anything human left in people?

Worries about “unsanitary” immigrants & beggars

Others on Facebook, like Pravda.ru correspondent Nadezhda Alekseeva, acknowledged that the Vladivostok doctors broke the Hippocratic Oath, when they turned away Urlasheva, but worried that admitting undocumented people off the streets could pose a health risk to patients already hospitalized. Alekseeva explains that migrant workers, like homeless people panhandling in the Moscow metro, have exhausted the public’s charity. On the threat to maternity wards’ sterility, she writes [ru]:

[…] не стоит забывать о том, что принимать в стерильный роддом женщину, которая не сдала ни одного анализа и жила в подвале – риск для других рожениц и их детей. Беда не в гастарбайтерах, а их количестве.

[…] we shouldn’t forget that it’s a risk to the other new mothers and their children to accept into a sterile maternity ward a woman, who hasn’t undergone any examination and who lives in a basement. The problem isn’t the migrant workers, but their numbers.

While the hospital staff has emphasized sanitation concerns, it's worth noting that a news report by OTV Primorye (accessible on YouTube) recorded the negotiations between paramedics and doctors. When one of the paramedics tried to evoke sympathy for Urlasheva by asking a woman on the hospital staff if she has children of her own (at 2:46 in the video), the latter explodes in anger, yelling, “[Urlasheva] already has three kids! Why does she need to come to Russia to have another one!”

Nationalist reactions

For many bloggers, the incident in Vladivostok is a bitter reminder that illegal immigrants who give birth in Russia without medical insurance do so at the expense of taxpayers. Writing on Facebook, DemVybor’s Kirill Shulika accused [ru] both the Kremlin and “progressive society” of supporting a flawed immigration policy that encourages Central Asians to exploit Russia’s healthcare system, where “even the dirtiest maternity wards are better than what they have back home.” Therefore, Shulika claims, “they come here in their ninth month, without any kind of visa, and calmly have their babies, at our expense.”

The nationalist website [ru] Sputnik & Pogrom also addressed Urlasheva’s story, calling her actions “maternity tourism,” framing it as evidence that illegal immigrant labor is in fact not as cheap as some claim:

И всякий, рассказывающий про “дешевую рабочую силу”, по сути хочет залезть к вам в карман, заставив общество платить за обслуживание рабской рабочей силы. И труд даже самого негодного русского работника лучше труда самого лучшего таджика именно потому, что русский со своей зарплаты вносит свои социальные взносы, поддерживая российскую социальную инфраструктуру, тогда как таджик ее грабит.

And anybody who tells you about this “cheap workforce” really just wants to slip his hand into your pocket, forcing society to pay for the maintenance of his slave labor. The labor of even the most useless Russian worker is better than the labor of the best Tajik, precisely because there are social insurance taxes on the Russian’s wages, supporting Russia’s social infrastructure, which the Tajik then robs.

Calls for a visa regime against immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus have circulated in Russia for years now. Most recently, prominent blogger and oppositionist Alexey Navalny launched a federal petition [ru] to introduce such legislation, after an ethnic riot outside Moscow last month. In connection with the Vladivostok hospital incident, Sputnik & Pogrom now advocates a new tax on all new immigrants, designed to finance possible medical and deportation expenses, like those Urlasheva cannot afford.

Dominican Republic and Haiti: Two very different versions

The blog Repeating Islands republished two letters to the editor of the New York Times that paint two very different pictures on the situation regarding the recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic to strip citizenship from all descendants of immigrants who entered the country extralegally, retroactive to 1929. The first letter is from Aníbal de Castro, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Washington, who considers the Dominican Republic unduly pressured by the international community:

The Dominican Republic has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration and having clear rules for acquisition of citizenship. It should not be pressured by outside actors and other countries to implement measures contrary to its own Constitution and that would be unacceptable to most other nations facing similar immigration pressures.

The second letter is signed jointly by authors Mark Kurlansky, Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Julia Álvarez, who dispel the assurances of the ambassador that no one will be negatively affected by the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling:

The ruling will make it challenging for them to study; to work in the formal sector of the economy; to get insurance; to pay into their pension fund; to get married legally; to open bank accounts; and even to leave the country that now rejects them if they cannot obtain or renew their passport. It is an instantly created underclass set up for abuse.

November 06 2013

D.R., Haiti: We Can Work It Out?

This is an island. No way out. So these two nations, who have been doing a live rendition of a Russian novel for 500 years, are going to have to work it out.

Contrary to many of the opinions expressed in this post, Changing Perspectives weighs in on the decision by the Dominican Republic to deny citizenship to subsequent generations of illegal immigrants, most of whom are Haitian.

November 03 2013

Nine Maps to Understand World Trends

NASA map

NASA/NOAA map showing world vegetation (public domain)

A series of maps shared by Goodnet show how more than 200 countries deal with social issues including freedom of the press, maternity leave, and attitudes towards foreigners.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

November 02 2013

Alexey Navalny Will Not Attend Nationalist “Russian March”

Orthodox activist attends Russian March, 4 November 2011. YouTube screenshot.

Orthodox activist attends Russian March, 4 November 2011. YouTube screenshot.

Every year in Russia, ironically on the “Unity Day” holiday, the country’s nationalists stage a march in Moscow. Alexey Navalny—Russia’s most prominent blogger and oppositionist—attended every one of these rallies between 2007 and 2011. Last year was different. Navalny stayed home on Unity Day, claiming to have come down with a cold. It was the first “Russian March” since the anti-Kremlin protests of the 2011-2012 winter season, and many speculated that Navalny feared risking his new dissident credentials by parading alongside skinheads and masked hooligans (staples of the parade). Earlier today, November 2, 2013, Navalny announced outright that he will not attend this year’s Russian March, scheduled for November 4.

Navalny revealed his decision in a LiveJournal post [ru], describing his inability to participate in the nationalist rally as his “own political failure.” In the post, he laments that the march has not transformed, as he hoped, from a “gathering of marginal characters and sieg-heiling schoolchildren” into an “ordinary procession of conservative citizens.” Citing his experiences on the mayoral campaign trail this autumn, Navalny says Muscovites still fear nationalist street demonstrations, and explains that he now bears “a great burden of responsibility” to “observe the political balance” that won him second place in the election.

While insisting that his absence at the march reflects a new “balance,” Navalny also praised the event’s organizers (applauding three—Konstanin Krylov, Aleksandr Belov, and Vladimir Tor—by name), and promised to continue promoting nationalist activism in the future. Navalny even calls the nationalist Russian Social Movement [ru] “an excellent example of a new kind of human rights organization.” Responding to a reader’s comment, Navalny also pledged [ru] to “see through to the end” his online petition initiative to introduce a visa regime against immigration from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Indeed, he concludes his post with the clarion call:

Участие в РМ важно. Все, кто раздумывает идти или нет – приходите.

Participating in the Russian March is important. Everyone who is thinking about whether to attend—come!

Are statements like this what Navalny means when he talks about managing “burdens” and showing “balance”? More likely, Navalny has in mind the need to outmaneuver Kremlin operatives, who have used his past participation in the Russian March to argue that he is a racist and an extremist. Specifically, Navalny says he will not supply his enemies with footage of him standing next to “sieg-heiling schoolchildren.” He even singles out the need to thwart pro-Kremlin television journalists Evgeny Kiselev and Vladimir Solovev, who have compared him to fascists before.

Additionally, Navalny writes that he is not the only nationalist politician to suffer repression under the Putin regime, citing the authorities’ refusal to register political parties [ru] organized by nationalists like Krylov, Tor, and Valery Solovei. The Kremlin, Navalny says, refuses to recognize these factions, but finances “marginal stooge groups that use violence” and supports mass media that make nationalists into “boogeymen.”

Most heartfelt in Navalny’s blog post is his disappointment in many of his own followers. The text begins with a description of a man who confronted Navalny at a non-nationalist rally last month, carrying a sign that read, “Navalny, will you be going to the Russian March, too?” Though other demonstrators soon dragged the man away, convinced apparently that he was a hired provocateur, Navalny had his doubts, writing, “I don’t think he was a provocateur (in the sense that he’d been paid). He was just a fool.” Where anti-nationalists aren’t fools in Navalny’s post, he portrays them as cowards. “Liberal-democratic society,” he writes later on, “is unwilling to assume any responsibility for the civilized development of nationalism.”

Clearly, Navalny does not intend to renounce nationalism, but he is eager to finesse his views on Russia’s “ethnic question.” For instance, mere hours before publishing his Russian March LiveJournal post, Navalny shared the link to a YouTube video [ru], where a young Chechen boy is depicted being encouraged to “kill Russians.” In his tweet [ru], Navalny does not comment on the video, except to quote bits of the dialog. He carefully leaves it to his readers to draw their own conclusions about the boy’s curious upbringing.

In Internet parlance, Navalny’s decision to avoid future Russian Marches seems calculated “not to feed the trolls” like Kiselev and others, who would “unfairly” use images of Navalny beside skinheads to attack his reputation and undermine further the effort to bring nationalism into Russia’s political mainstream. In this respect, Navalny shows a growing appreciation of television media, where visuals, more than written arguments, carry the day.

VIDEO: Saudi Man Beats Worker for “Talking to his Wife”

A video of a Saudi man beating and insulting a foreign worker is making the rounds online.

In the video, a Saudi man is seen repeatedly slapping the worker, from South Asia, accusing him of speaking to his wife. He calls the man an animal and a son of a dog, while spitting at him. He then starts kicking and whipping the man, who is heard screaming of pain.

On Twitter, netizens react to the video with outrage.

Ahmad Sabri writes:

Laila Rouass notes:

And Ari Akkermans says countries should not allow their citizens to work in Saudi Arabia:

Such incidents are not new to the region, where expatriate workers are abused and denied basic human rights.

Previously, this video of a Saudi man, slapping and hitting a Bangladeshi went viral.

The Saudi is seen slapping and insulting the Bangladeshi man, also calling him an “animal.”

Another video, this time in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, shows a local beating up an expatriate driver, after they got into a road traffic accident. Passers by try to stop him:

According to Human Rights Watch, while the Middle East depends heavily on domestic workers, it fails to protect them.

A recent report reads:

As Human Rights Watch, the IDWN, and the ITUC have documented, domestic workers in the Middle East – many of them migrants from Asia and Africa – experience a wide range of abuses, including unpaid wages, restrictions on leaving the households where they work, and excessive work hours with no rest days. Some may face psychological, physical, or sexual abuse and can get trapped in situations of forced labor, including by being trafficked.

The report adds:

Almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa region excludes domestic workers from the protection of labor laws, though, and subjects them to restrictive immigration rules, granting inordinate power and control to their employers under the “sponsorship” or kafala system.

November 01 2013

Former Bosnian Refugee Running for US Congress

Anesa Kajtazovic; official campaign photo.

Anesa Kajtazovic. Official campaign photo.

Anesa Kajtazovic, currently a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, was born in Bihać, Bosnia, then a part of the former Yugoslavia. Anesa and her parents and sisters fled the war-torn Balkan country in 1992 and settled in the US state of Iowa. After a few years in politics, Kajtazovic is now running for a seat in the US Congress [ba], and after kicking of her campaign in the summer of 2013, has started receiving endorsements from labor unions and celebrities alike.

It seems her past experiences as an immigrant child of parents who worked to build a future for their family in a new country is making quite the difference in her relationships with voters. Bleedingheartland.com says:

The United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 431 and 1149 decided to support Kajtazovic because “she understands better than anyone the concerns of Iowa's working families,” and “She shares the experience of arriving to Iowa as an immigrant with many of our members.”

Kajtazovic was the youngest woman ever to be elected to Iowa's state legislature and, if elected to Congress, she will be the first Bosnian-born member of Congress. She calls herself proof of the “American Dream”, but Kajtazovic, who runs an active Facebook fan page sharing both professional and some personal moments, seldom forgets that she has friends, family and support both in the US and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In the past year or two, her professional successes have become a regular fixture on Bosnian news sites, and her homeland seems to be following her career in the US with great interest and celebration.

October 31 2013

Kazakhstanis Divided on Whether Home Is Really Best

A debate about why some Kazakhstanis stay in their country while others choose to emigrate has unfolded online. It started after Daniyar posted his “What Is Keeping You in Kazakhstan?” [ru] on yvizion.kz. The blogger identified seven main reasons why he preferred to stay in the country:

#1. Великая история…

#2. Гражданин РК…

#3. Женщины… Я люблю наших женщин…

#4. Природа…

#5. Друзья…

#6. Президент РК. Огромное спасибо, нашему президенту Назарбаеву Нурсултану Абишевичу.

#7. Любовь… к родине…

1. [The country's] great history…

2. [Being] a citizen of [Kazakhstan]…

3. Women… I love our women…

4. [The country's] nature…

5. Friends…

6. President of [Kazakhstan]. Lots of thanks to our dear president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

7. Love… for Motherland… 

The blog has so far drawn more than 110 comments, with most comments following the line of “East or West, Home is Best”.

The discussion has prompted another blogger, Artyom Volkov, to look at the issue from an opposite angle. In his “What Is Driving You to Leave Kazakhstan?” [ru], Volkov named five problems leading young people to want to try their luck abroad:

1. Низкое качество высшего образования…

2. Фальшивая демократия…

3. Страх перед будущим…

4. Проблемы с трудоустройством…

5. Экология…

1. Low quality of higher education…

2. Fake democracy…

3. [Uncertain] future…

4. Difficulties with finding jobs…

5. Environmental [problems].

“I'm Dominican, Just Like You”: Thousands of Dominicans of Haitian Descent Are Left Stateless

Protesters against the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic’s decision to strip thousands of citizens of their nationality. Taken from the reconoci.do Facebook page.

Protesters against the Constitutional Court's decision to strip thousands of their nationality. Taken from the Facebook page of the organization, reconoci.do.

[All links in this article lead to Spanish language sites, except where otherwise noted.]

¿Por qué en el Caribe siempre hay que huir hacia la libertad, o mejor, hacia un espacio que se dibuja en la imaginación como el de la libertad? La respuesta es obvia: las sociedades caribeñas son de las más represivas del mundo.

Antonio Benítez RojoLa isla que se repite: El Caribe y la perspectiva posmoderna

Why is it that in the Caribbean people must always flee in search of liberty, or towards an imaginary space portrayed as liberty. The answer is obvious: Caribbean societies are among the most repressive in the world.
Antonio Benítez RojoLa isla que se repite: El Caribe y la perspectiva posmoderna

Following the decision by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic (Tribunal Constitucional de la República Dominicana) to strip citizenship from all those born in the country to immigrants with an illegal status, the truth contained in the above quote is revealed with stunning clarity.

The repercussions of this unappealable decision by the Constitutional Court will affect several generations of Dominicans of Haitian origin, whose families came to make their lives in the Dominican Republic. The majority have never even visited Haiti, nor have family there. Even so, from one day to another, thousands of people have been left effectively stateless.

It is unknown exactly how many people will be affected by this decision. According to information from the National Office of Statistics (Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas), there are 244,151 persons born of “foreign” parents in the Dominican Republic; 86 per cent of these are people of Haitian origin.

The reconoci.do campaign has taken up the task of collecting testimonies from Dominicans whose legal situation is now in a limbo due to the denationalisation policy of the Dominican government. Below, Deisy Toussaint [fr], a young author, the recipient of numerous national literary prizes,  describes how she was not allowed to obtain a passport in order to represent her country at international cultural events:

The reconoci.do campaign also has a Twitter presence (@reconoci_do), where it it is in active communication with its followers. On Twitter, the #EsoNoSeHaceRD [You do not do that DR] hashtag has also been created.

@Evenelr: One hundred years of injustice do not create rights… #EsoNoSeHaceRD

This Constitutional Court sentence reminds us that: racism and xenophobia are the shame of humanity.

Imagine that a group of people full of prejudice are able to decide who is and isn't Dominican. How would they feel?

The international community responded to the Constututional Court's decision with alarm. Chiara Liguori, investigator for Amnesty International in the Caribbean said:

Esta última decisión destroza totalmente las vidas de los ciudadanos dominicanos de origen haitiano, especialmente si son obligados a salir del país por el Plan Nacional de Regularización.

Es totalmente injusto decir que personas que han vivido como dominicanos durante décadas ya no pertenecen al país ni tienen ningún derecho en él.

This recent decision totally destroys the lives of Dominican citizens of Haitian origin, especially if they are forced to leave the country due to the Plan Nacional de Regularización (National Regularization Plan).

It is totally unjust to say that people who have lived as Dominicans for decades now no longer belong to the country, nor do they have any rights here.

UNICEF (The United Nations Childrens Fund) followed suit in its press release, stating that, long before the Constitutional Court’s decision, it had expressed its concern regarding the large number of children who would be left stripped of all legal protection:

En 2008, en las observaciones finales para la República Dominicana, el Comité de los Derechos del Niño señaló que el derecho constitucional de adquirir una nacionalidad por jus solis se negaba frecuentemente a niños que carecían de certificados oficiales de nacimiento o que habían nacido de padres sin residencia oficial en la República Dominicana. El Comité expresó su grave preocupación por el amplio número de niños apátridas que generaba esta política.

In 2008, in the concluding observations on the Dominican Republic, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated that the constutional right to acquire nationality by jus solis was frequently denied to children who lacked official birth certificates or who had been born to parents without legal residency in the Dominican Republic. The Commitee expressed its grave concern for the high number of stateless children created by this policy.

This past January, the blog La neurona impasible posted a reflection on Haiti which gains special relevance in the current moment:

Realmente somos todos Haiti ? Cuando hace tres años tembló la tierra y arrasó un ya de por sí desolado país, la comunidad internacional enseguida salío al paso con promesas de ayudas materiales y económicas. Que muchas de ellas se quedaron en eso, en promesas, al fin y al cabo publicidad para sus causas particulares y sus ansiado y ególatras baños de masas.

[...]

La comunidad internacional no ha hecho seguramente todo lo que podía, aunque los ciudadanos han hecho el grueso.

Quizás vaya siendo hora de redimirse y enmendar todos los errores del pasado.

Really are we all Haiti? When three years ago the earth shook and tore apart an already desolate country, the international community got away with mere promises of material and economic aid. The fact is that most of them remained just that; promises. Ultimately, publicity for their personal causes and ambitions, complete with egomaniacal photo-ops mingling with the victims.

[...]

The international community has clearly not done all that it could, while ordinary citizens have provided most of the relief.

Perhaps the hour of redemption and remedying of all the errors of the past is on its way.

The multifaceted author and singer Rita Indiana Hernández added her voice to the chorus of indignation in the El País newspaper:

La maldición que ahora se cierne sobre los haitianos es producto de artilugios más potentes, siniestros y escurridizos que los que se hacen acompañar del tambor. Esta magia, como otros colegas han señalado, es la que se ampara en la ley para justificar un racismo despiadado. Ya la temían las víctimas del holocausto esclavista, quienes durante generaciones le vieron la cara a esa maldad que la avaricia habilita en los hombres. Entre las muchas tradiciones heredadas por la sincrética sociedad dominicana, esta magia sobrevive de manera especial. Tras casi un siglo de trabajos forzados y maltratos de todo tipo, queremos arrebatarle el derecho a la nacionalidad a los hijos que los haitianos tienen en la República Dominicana.

The curse which now hangs over the Haitians is the product of more powerful, sinister, slippery devices than those accompanied by the beating of a drum. This magic, as others have pointed out, is enshrined in the law to justify a ruthless racism. The victims of the holocaust of slavery lived in fear of it, generations of them stared at the evil that avarice builds in men. Among the many traditions passed down by the syncretic Dominican society, this magic survives in a special way. After nearly a century of forced labour and abuse of all kinds, we want to destroy the right to citizenship of the children born to Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

Narciso Isa Conde, in the Lo Cierto Sin Censura blog, points out the racist motives behind the Constitutional Court’s decision:

Mis abuelos paternos eran árabes libaneses, vinieron con pasaportes turcos truqueados y se registraron con nombres no originales, al punto que el abuelo Antonio Isa no era ni Isa ni Antonio.

Si nos atenemos a la esencia de esa cruel sentencia, mi papá, Tony y yo, sus hijos y los míos, descendemos de “ilegales” y, entonces, deberían despojarnos de nuestra nacionalidad y documentos dominicanos.

Pero sucede que somos “blanquitos” y no provenimos de la inmigración haitiana.

Es claro que más allá de la población dominicana haitianodescendiente, muchos dominicanos y dominicanas de hoy estamos en condiciones parecidas, procedemos de troncos familiares traídos o venidos de fuera. Nuestros habitantes originarios, llamados “indios”, fueron exterminados por invasores blancos.

Entonces, es fácil percatarse del carácter racista, neonazi, de esa sentencia, en un país donde el racismo y la xenofobia dominantes se expresan fundamentalmente contra la emigración negra de origen haitiano y contra su descendencia; al extremo de imponerle la declaración como “indios/as” en el registro de identidad a los/as dominicanos/as color café o café con leche claro u oscuro.

My paternal grandparents were Lebanese Arabs, they came here on forged Turkish passports and registered with names so altered from their originals that Granddad Antonio Isa was, in actuality, neither Isi nor Antonio.

If we accept the essence of this cruel verdict, my father Tony and I, his sons and mine, descend from “illegals” and thus we should also be stripped of our Dominican nationality and papers.

But as it happens we are “white” and do not descend from Haitian immigration.

It is clear that beyond the population of Dominicans of Haitian descent, many Dominicans today are in similar circumstances; we descend from family trees which came or were brought from abroad. This country’s original inhabitants, commonly called “indios”, were exterminated by white invaders.

Thus it is easy to perceive the racist, neo-Nazi character of this decision, in a country in which the dominant racism and xenophobia is expressed fundamentally against black immigrants of Haitian origin and against their descendants. A racism which goes to the extreme of imposing the categorization of “indio” on Dominicans with coffee or milk-and-coffee coloured skin in the national identity registers.

Earlier coverage of this story can be read here.

October 30 2013

Documentary Provides Intimate Look at Venezuelans Living Abroad

Desde Afuera (From Abroad) is a documentary which follows the stories [es] of five Venezuelans who recorded their daily activities living abroad using mobile and handheld cameras for over one year. 

Producers Johann Pérez Viera and Pedro Camacho put together this footage and Skype calls with the five participants to create a “collective portrait that explores distance, identity and everyday life as a Venezuelan immigrant”.

The documentary is available (with English subtitles) online until November 15, 2013.

100% Bolivian: Video of Life as a Migrant in São Paulo

Denílson and other teenagers meet one Sunday at the Kantuta fairground, a meeting point for the Bolivian community in São Paulo. Photo: Agência Pública

Denílson and other teenagers meet one Sunday at the Kantuta fairground, a meeting point for the Bolivian community in São Paulo. Photo: Agência Pública

[This article, written by Alice Riff and Luciano Onça, was originally published by Agência Pública, on 27 September 2013, with the title 100% Boliviano, mano [100% Bolivian, buddy].

Denílson Mamami, aged 15, lives in Bom Retiro, a central district of São Paulo. Like all young men of his age, he dreams of going to university, having a good career, making his mother proud, getting married and having children. He is studying at the João Kopcke state school, also in the centre, a few metres away from the Júlio Prestes station. He likes hanging out with his girlfriend and meeting his friends to listen and compose romantic and hip hop songs. But Denílson – known as “Choco” – along with one-third of the pupils at his school, was born in Bolivia. He has lived in Brazil since he was 9 years old. Like him, thousands of Bolivian teenagers, or children of Bolivian immigrants, currently live in São Paulo.

The association ‘Pastoral do imigrante’ estimates that the Bolivian population of São Paulo is between 50,000 and 200,000 (a figure which cannot be confirmed as many are in an irregular situation). The vast majority work in sewing workshops located throughout the city, but which are concentrated in central districts such as Brás and Bom Retiro. The Bolivian community is considered to be the biggest community of Latin-Americans resident in Brazil. In 2010, when the Lula government granted an amnesty to the country's irregular immigrants, of 42,000 requests for naturalisation, more than 17,000 came from Bolivian citizens.

Choco's parents came to Brazil 15 years ago in search of job opportunities. During his childhood he was cared for by his grandmother in La Paz, Bolivia's capital, while his parents sought to establish themselves in São Paulo as seamsters. When he was just 9 years of age, his mother, now separated from his father, went to bring him from Bolivia to live with her in the Bom Retiro district, where they live and work in the same room of an old multi-story house which they share with other Bolivian families. In the house's living room there is a sewing workshop, where the adults work very long days.

São Paulo's Bolivian seamsters have achieved visibility in the media following various complaints of workshops which kept immigrants in conditions akin to slavery. But the mini-documentary 100% Boliviano, mano sought to investigate the way of life of the second generation of Bolivians who live in the city. Against a backdrop of daily prejudice – pejoratively called “Indians” or “Bolivias”, they describe a day-to-day life of physical and verbal attacks – they share their desire to remain in Brazil and to avoid working in the sewing industry.

Watch the video, with Portuguese subtitles, which was produced by Pública, a partnership with Grão Filmes, and shown in the 4th series of the programme Sala de Notícias on Canal Futura.

Russia's Demagogues Just Can't Get Along

Zhirinovsky (on the left) debating Maksim Shevchenko on

Zhirinovsky (left) debating Maksim Shevchenko on “The Duel.” YouTube screenshot.

Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky often serves as a kind of Kremlin bellwether, a role he adopted in the early 90s when his KGB-conceived Liberal Democrats became a party of nationalist loyal opposition in the Duma. His seemingly outrageous statements often preface actual reforms in the same vein — only less radical. In this way he makes the new course more palatable by comparison, and at the same time gives marginalized sectors of society an outlet, allowing the Kremlin to placate them.

So it was hardly surprising when Zhirinovsky ranted about natives of the North Caucasus on the popular debate show “The Duel”, on October 24 [YouTube] — mere weeks after the ethnic riots in Biryulyovo [Global Voices report] and a suicide bombing in Volgograd [Global Voices report]. As usual, his rhetoric was bombastic:

Они должны рожать столько детей, сколько рожает в среднем человечество, два, один, все, за третьего — штраф. Не хотят — ограничим, окружим колючей проволокой, закроем все, что можно, пусть сидят там. 15-20 детей пусть сами кормят, сами дают работу. Но убивать в России никому не позволим. Вот этот автобус Москва-Махачкала надо закрыть немедленно. На этих автобусах уже неоднократно приезжали террористы, убийцы, криминал.

They should give birth to a number of children that matches the universal average, two, one, that’s it, for a third one you're fined. If they don't agree — we will confine them, surround them with barbed wire, close down all that we can, let them sit there. Let them feed 15 to 20 children themselves, let them employ themselves. But we will not allow anyone to kill in Russia. The Moscow-Makhachkala [capital of Dagestan] bus needs to be shut down immediately. Terrorists, murderers and criminals have visited us repeatedly on these buses.

The Chechen branch of the LDPR at first denounced Zhirinovsky’s statements, but then later backtracked, implying that his statements had been made under duress. The Russian blogosphere meanwhile, reacted in true form — someone immediately photoshopped Zhirinovsky as Hitler.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky as Hitler. Anonymous image distributed online.

Crude, yet effective, photoshop of Vladimir Zhirinovsky as Hitler. Anonymous image distributed online.

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin posted Zhirinovsky’s Dagestani campaign poster, where the politician is wearing a traditional Caucasus woolen hat and holding a rifle. Yashin noted the irony:

Zhirinovsky wants to fence the Caucasus in with barbed wire and limit their birthrates. During the elections in Dagestan he said otherwise.

Leader of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, himself a pro at using hyperbole for political effect, responded almost immediately on both his LiveJournal [ru] and Instagram [ru] accounts. Both entries included a picture of Zhirinovsky wearing a clown wig. In an impassioned bit of rhetoric Kadyrov ridiculed Zhirinovsky and at the same time reaffirmed his loyalty to Putin and to the Russian state:

Я знаю, что президент страны Владимир Путин никогда не позволит развязать межнациональные и межрелигиозные конфликты. Это наша с вами страна, уважаемые россияне! Жириновский может жаждет, чтобы воцарились хаос, смута! Но этому не бывать. Жириновские приходят и уходят, а Россия остается.

I know that President Vladimir Putin will never let ethnic and religious conflicts to be unleashed. This is our country together, dear Russians. Zhirinovsky may be eager for chaos and turmoil! But this is not to be. Zhirinovskies may come and go, but Russia abides.

Russian nationalists, however, aren't buying this vision of Russia united. Opposition nationalist Vladimir Tor addressed Kadyrov on his blog:

Жириновский, конечно, ещё тот марципанчик – но никакой общей “нашей с вами страны, уважаемые россияне” в природе не существует. И никаких россиян – мифической общности, где русские братаются с чеченцами – тоже нет.
Это всё бредовые фантазии в голове Путина и Кадырова.

Zhirinovsky is, of course, a fruitcake – but in general there can't be any “this is our country together, dear Russians.” And there are also no civic Russians — there is no mythical community where Russians are brothers to the Chechens. These are simply delusional daydreams in Putin's and Kadyrov's heads.

October 29 2013

15-Year-Old Roma Girl's Deportation Shakes Up France's Immigration Debate

[All links lead to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

student-activist mobilization Leonarda

A student protestor during the demonstrations supporting undocumented students Leonarda and Khatchik, Paris, 18 October 2013. By Valentina Camozza, Copyright Demotix

The deportation of Leonarda Dibrani, a 15-year-old Roma student, continues to rattle France. It is not the first time that a school-aged child has been forced out of the country, but this time all the ingredients were there to expose, to a shocking degree, the contradictions of the country's poorly executed immigration policy, against the backdrop of a rise in deportations of undocumented immigrants, in the stigmatization of Roma people, and in political power of the populist extreme right.

The facts are as follows: On 9 October, just a few months shy of her family's five-year anniversary in France – a milestone which which would have granted them eligibility for a residence permit – the girl was forced to get off the bus that she was riding in on a class field trip. She was put on a plane by the police along with her mother and siblings to join her father, who had been deported the night before, in Kosovo. She has never lived there, she doesn't speak the language, and will be the target of discrimination there.

The Réseau Education sans frontières (Network for Education Without Borders), which lobbies against the deportation of students, quickly mobilized and denounced the actions of “blind and inhumane politicians”. A Facebook page was created with more than 3,200 likes, and a petition was opened on Avaaz:   

The petition “Leonarda 15 years old arrested and deported” seems to be very successful. New signatures are constantly arriving http://t.co/kCurd50f6H - lebrubru (@lebrubru) October 15, 2013 

A political firestorm

As a first move after the outcry, and in the absence of both the Minister of Interior and the President who were both overseas at the time, the Prime Minister ordered an administrative inquiry about the conditions of Leonarda's deportation, promising the family would come back if there was a error.

France's Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls, who oversees policy on migrants and asylum seekers and enjoys high popularity in opinion polls, is ruffling feathers more and more, even within his own party, with his tendency to act alone without consulting the rest of the government. Huffington Post blogger-journalist Romain Herreros wondered if this time, with the case of Leonarda's deportation, the minister went too far: 

What Valls’ strategy is masking about immigration http://t.co/N76OHZU6AK via @LeHuffPost — Romain Herreros (@Romain_Herreros) October 18, 2013

The case has exposed a rift in the ruling French Socialist Party (PS) [en]. The cacophony in the media and elsewhere grew louder all the way to the top, as described in the blog Sarkofrance saison 2:   

Le gouvernement a été ébranlé. Peut-on le dire ? Oui. Jean-Marc Ayrault a demandé une enquête; Manuel Valls a fait publier un communiqué défensif. Le président de l'Assemblée nationale, Claude Bartolone, celui qui institutionnellement pourrait remplacer le président de la République si celui clamse, a fustigé publiquement les conditions de l'arrestation. Le Parti du président, le PS, s'est indigné. François Hollande, en déplacement à quelque 3.000 kilomètres de là, a réagi. Cette indignation s'est vue jusque dans les blogs politiques.

The government has been weakened. Can one say this? Yes. [Prime Minister] Jean-Marc Ayrault called for an inquiry; Manuel Valls issued a defensive statement. The president of the National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, the very person who could, based on the institutional order, replace the president of the Republic if it were to collapse, publicly denounced the circumstances of the arrest. The President's Party, the PS grew indignant. François Hollande, some 3,000 kilometers from here reacted. Even the political blogs perceived this indignation.

Students protesting Leonarda Khatchik Paris

Students protest during the demonstrations in support of Leonarda and Khatchik, undocumented students in Paris, 18 October 2013. Photo by Valentina Camozza. Copyright: Demotix

On the eve of school holidays, on the 17 and 18 of October, thousands of secondary school students blocked access to their schools and protested in support of deported undocumented students. The demonstration was meant to demand the return of Leonarda, but it received limited public support from an immigration-weary public. Its motives have been deemed purely political by some, such as journalist Patrice de Plunkett:   

Ce qui s'exprime ressemble plutôt à un règlement de comptes. Le secrétaire national du PS expliquant, au ministre PS de l'Education nationale, que les lycéens PS bloquent des lycées pour contester le ministre PS de l'Intérieur ? ça va encore faire du joli dans les sondages.

There seems to be some sort of settling of scores (between leaders of the Socialist Party PS). The national secretary of the party explaining to the Minister of National Education [also from the same party] that left-leaning students are blocking school gates to challenge the Minister of the Interior? This internal battle is going to look fabulous in the polls [for the socialist party]  

Meanwhile, others saw nothing but political manipulation against the already divided government: 

[AFP] #Léonarda: according to [former Interior Minister and former member of the PS] Chevènement,  students might be manipulated to undermine Valls http://t.co/GFFgGJ9z3q [fr] — J-P. Chevènement (@chevenement) October 18, 2013 (ed's note: as a consequence of the internal battle within the party) 

Blogger Seb Musset called for taking politics out of emotional issues:   

Pendant combien de temps encore 20.000 Roms vont être instrumentalisés à gauche comme à droite dans le débat politique, et tout ça pour un statu quo ? Rien ne change pour eux, rien ne change dans notre regard. 

How much longer do 20,000 Roma have to be used by both the left and right as pawns in the political debate, and all of that just to maintain the status quo? Nothing ever changes for them, nothing changes in our eyes. 

Lies and imbroglio

In order to sort through what has become the Leonarda Affair, an investigation was requested by the prime minister to understand the context of the deportation. Even before the report of the investigation was made public, word got out that the family was far from exemplary, did not make an effort to integrate into French society, and that the father, aside from having a reputation for violence had lied about his wife's nationality and that of his children, who were all in fact born in Italy. These details turned everyone into a judge of the validity of the deportation: 

Pages 16 and 17 of the report (about the unwillingness of the family to integrate #Leonarda) are damning. http://t.co/wiesb3Wg3v [fr]— Olivier Siou (@oliviersiou1) October 19, 2013

Christophe Giltay of RTLInfo.be wrote:

Le plus fou c’est que si ce qu’il [le père] dit est vrai, ses enfants sont de nationalité italienne, ils ont donc tout à fait le droit de résider en France comme partout dans l’union européenne. Et comme c’est le père qui a menti à l’office des étrangers, la femme et les enfants ne risquent rien devant la justice française. Mais ont-ils vraiment la nationalité italienne ? Difficile à savoir puisqu’ils ont détruit leurs papiers.

The most insane part is that if what he (the father) says is true, his children are Italian. They therefore absolutely do have the right to reside in France or anywhere else in the E.U. And if it is the father who has been dishonest with the department of immigration the wife and children are at no risk if called before the French justice system. But are they really of Italian nationality? It is difficult to know as they destroyed their documents. 

A challenge specific to the Roma population? Christophe Bouillaud, political science professor at IEP in Grenoble, reflected on how impossible it is for this underclass to escape their circumstances, despite the schemes that they may drum up: 

De fait, le coup de théâtre de l’italianité (légale) des membres de la famille n’en est peut-être pas un, il peut s’agir d’une autre embrouille encore, mais une fuite d’Italie, c’est tout à fait possible, c’est crédible,  cela en dit long sur la condition des “zingari” en Italie. On peut d’ailleurs supposer qu’ils ne savent pas eux-mêmes quelle est leur nationalité réelle en fait. Le père aurait déclaré à la presse que sa femme et ses enfants avaient des papiers italiens qu’ils auraient détruits, c’est bien possible qu’ils n’aient justement pas eu de tels documents de la part d’une administration italienne assez peu prompte à démêler les fils compliqués de ces vies transnationales.

In fact, the surprising turn of events that certain members of their family are legally Italian may be much ado about nothing. It could be one more scheme, but it is also possible that they just want to escape from Italy. If that is the case, it says a lot about the condition of the “zingari” [gypsies] in Italy. One could still suppose that they themselves don't even know what their actual nationality is. The father would have revealed to the press that his wife and children had Italian papers that they would have destroyed. It's very possible that they didn't have the documents due to the Italian bureaucracy that is slow to untangle the maze of these transnational lives. 

Is a return possible?

While the legal experts were pondering the possibility of a compromise for her, President François Hollande announced on the 19 October that because places of academic activity are exempt from deportation, Leonarda could return to France to complete her education, but without her family. The girl, who has publicized her cause with some of the characteristic awkwardness of someone of her age, has publicly refused. 

Leonarda journalists

Leonarda faces a large crowd of journalists from France and Kosovo.  Mitrovica-Kosovo, 19 October 2013. Photo Agron Beqiri, copyright Demotix.

The public debate is ongoing. Gilles Langoureau, an activist for the Left Front coalition, a coalition of left-leaning political parties and a frequently challenging ally for the current government, posted the following statement on Facebook: 

#Léonarda: Une enfant de 15 ans est ainsi mise en situation de choisir entre l’école de la République et ses parents, entre la France et sa famille. Le piètre jugement de Salomon de François Hollande contrevient à l’esprit de la Convention internationale des droits de l’enfant et à l’article 8 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme. Il est humainement indigne [...].

#Léonarda: A 15-year-old child is put in the position to choose between Republican school and her parents, between France and her family. The poor judgement of Solomon by [President] François Hollande goes against the spirit of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and also against Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is inhuman and shameful [...].

Thomas Wieder, a journalist from Le Monde, stated: 

#Leonarda, as a new commentator, responds to Hollande's decision through the 24-hours news channels. It's completely crazy! — Thomas Wieder (@ThomasWieder) October 19, 2013

Meanwhile, the expulsion of an Armenian high school student named Khatchit, this time one who is legally an adult, has also arisen. Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, has cut his trip to the Caribbean short and is paying very close attention. 

Latest update: Leonarda and her family are not, as one may have feared, in safe circumstances in Kosovo [Albanian]:

“Familja Dibrani ishte duke ecur në Mitrovicë kur ata janë sulmuar nga persona të panjohur”, ka thënë një oficer policie.

“The Dibrani family was walking in Mitrovica when they were attacked by unidentified people”, reports a police officer. 

 This article was co-written with Suzanne Lehn.

October 26 2013

A Muslim Schoolgirl and the Volgograd Suicide Bombing

Russian special forces training in the North Caucasus. Screenshot from Youtube video published by hardingush.

Russian special forces training in the North Caucasus. Screenshot from Youtube video published by hardingush.

RuNet Echo rarely translates entire blog posts, but in this case we are making an exception. In the wake of the Volgograd bus bombing [Global Voices report], when a female suicide bomber killed 6 people and injured dozens more, a Muslim girl wrote a letter to the anonymous blogger hardingush [Global Voices report], a Russian special forces soldier operating with an anti-terrorist team in the North Caucasus who blogs about his experiences. In this letter the girl addressed some of the concerns, fears, and hopes that many Russian Muslims are faced with today. hardingush published [ru] the letter, eliding the girl's personal information, and correcting her spelling, because, as he said “it contains important information that gives hope for the future…” We also think that it's important. Here is the letter in its entirety:

Салам тебе, Хардингуш!

Я читаю все, что ты пишешь. Почти с самого начала, как ты начал вести блог. Спасибо за то, что ты показываешь людям другой Кавказ. Настоящий. Мне очень нравится как ты пишешь. Я живу в Волгограде. Наша семья приехала сюда из ______. Учусь в ______ классе _______ школы. В Волгограде я живу уже больше 6 лет. Я, конечно, мусульманка. Никогда у меня здесь не было проблем из-за моей религии или национальности. Но когда произошел терракт, родители запретили мне ходить в школу. Они боялись, что меня могут обидеть. Многие девушки, мусульманки тоже не пошли в школы и институт, потому что тоже боялись, что вся вина будет возложена на нас. Мы переписывались с ними в интернете и все друг другу советовали вообще никуда не выходить. 

Позвонила учительница, она тоже волновалась за меня. Я ей сказала, что пока не буду ходить на уроки. Она отнеслась к этому с пониманием. Мне звонили одноклассники, тоже волновались за меня. Я тоже ответила, что пока не могу ходить в школу. На следующее утро ко мне в дверь позвонили одноклассники. Они сказали мне, собирайся, мы будем сопровождать тебя в школу и  домой столько времени, сколько понадобится и никому не позволим обидеть. Все они – русские мальчишки и девочки. Даже мама моя заплакала, когда услышала.

Просто хотела с тобой поделится. Ты недавно писал про народ и про то, что все равнодушны к другу другу. Это не так. Меня провожают в школу и из школы мои русские братья и сестры – я так их называю теперь, потому что не могу называть просто одноклассниками. Мы, мусульмане, против террористов. И никогда их не поддерживали. Не публикуй мое письмо, потому что мне плохо дается русский язык и я допускаю много ошибок. Но, если будешь писать в блоге, исправь, пожалуйста, ошибки и не пиши мое имя и где я учусь. Я их только для тебя написала. Просто хотела рассказать тебе, что у нас не все так плохо. 

Salaam, Hardingush!

I read everything that you write. Almost from the very start, when you started this blog. Thank you for showing people the other Caucasus. The real Caucasus. I really like how you write. I live in Volgograd. Our family moved here from ______. I am studying in the ______ grade, in the ______ school. I've lived in Volgograd for 6 years. I am, of course, a Muslim. I've never had any problems because of my religion or nationality. But, when the terrorist attack occurred, by parents forbade me to go to school. They were afraid someone might hurt me. Many Muslim girls also didn't go to school and university, because they were afraid that we would be blamed. We wrote to each other on the internet and advised each other not to leave home at all.

My teacher called me, she was also worried about me. I told her that for now I wouldn't come to school. She was very understanding about it. My classmates called me as well, they were also worried. I also told them that for now I can't come to school. The next morning my classmates rang our doorbell. They told me, get your stuff, we will escort you to school and back home as long as it takes, and we won't let anyone hurt you. They are all Russian boys and girls. Even my mom started crying when she heard this.

I just wanted to tell you this. Recently you wrote about the people, and about how no one cares about each other. This is not so. I am accompanied to school by my brothers and sisters – I call them that now, because I can't call them simply classmates. We, Muslims, are against terrorists. We have never supported them. Don't publish this letter, because I don't speak Russian very well and I make many mistakes. But, if you do, please correct my mistakes and don't write my name and where I go to school. I wrote them only for you. I just wanted to tell you that things aren't so bad.

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