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July 30 2013

Immigrants Are Much More Than an Abstract Number (Part II)

This post is part of our series on Latin America: Migrant Journeys in collaboration with The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). Stay tuned for more articles and podcasts.

This is the second and final part of an interview with Mexican journalist Eileen Truax. You can read the first part here.

Mexican journalist and author of Huffington Post Voces Eileen Truax [es] recently released her book ‘Dreamers: The Fight of a Generation for its American Dream.’ Migrant Journeys talked to Truax, who spoke about the responsibility of the mainstream media and their coverage of immigration issues, among other topics.

Robert Valencia: Let’s talk about the role of media, especially the English-speaking media. We always hear about stories that concern Latinos but in the sections solely dedicated to Latinos, such as NBC Latino or FOX Latino. Do you think that the fact that mainstream media have exclusive platforms for Latinos may have a counterproductive effect since the point is to share the story of immigrants with those who are not connected to this issue or who are not close to the Latino community?

Eileen Truax: I share the same inquiry, however, this doesn’t mean these alternatives should disappear. It is important that these platforms address the topics of a community. The problem is that these platforms become the only place that talk about this community. Mainstream media still see immigrants (or what they call “ethnic” groups) as foreign bodies that invade this country. When you read Los Angeles Times or The New York Times or you watch TV, the discourse is still “them”, or “the Salvadoreans” or “the Asians”, but there is never an inclusive language or something like “we as an American society.” But we, immigrants and citizens alike, share the same problems. When the housing market crashes or there’s a change in the healthcare system, it affects us all. If our education system suffers another blow, your kids and mine are being affected. That is to say we have problems not just related to Latinos or Asians, but we have issues as an American society because we’re one country. Whoever thinks that just because a person is not named Gonzalez is not affected by what occurs in the Latino community has no common sense and is not familiarized with the reality of our country. The big problem is that mainstream media are in denial, that is, they haven’t accepted that diversity is a reality in this country.

RV: Undocumented immigrants also pay taxes that have amounted to $1 billion dollars, but these stories don’t make it to the national spotlight. What should we do as journalists or communicators to take these stories get to the general public and counterattack the “amnesty” rhetoric?

ET: What we need to do is to give [these stories] a human face all the time. I think that we should stop

Eileen Truax. Photo used with permission.

Eileen Truax. Photo by René Miranda, used with permission

chasing the news that stirs controversy. Unfortunately, the rhythm in which we see ourselves immersed in as a result of the surge of the Internet, despite being positive, has forced us to become “slaves of a click button.” There are three myths since the onset of Internet for those who are involved in journalism. First, that we have to be the first in delivering news before anybody else because then we lose. The second myth is that the more clicks we receive for our story then it becomes more important, and the third one is that people don’t read in full, so we have to give information piecemeal because people don’t like to read online. I believe these three myths are ruining in-depth journalism, which precisely has the function to make reality understandable to society. We are becoming people who just announce stories and we don’t take time to understand what’s happening. Case in point: “A truck crashed. A human trafficker was detained. Four were abducted. Two were killed.” This reads like an ad, but we don’t go in depth into these stories. We don’t know who the person who went to jail was or what happened to the immigrant who just arrived or the person who went to jail. We are not seeing stories in the long term; we just care about who publishes the story on the web first and how many clicks we receive. We even forget about our own mission and we have the moral obligation to tell stories we learn about. If you’re a reporter and have the privilege to discover stories first hand, we have the obligation to tell them and find the way to do so.

RV: Do you think it’s necessary to deploy more border security officers even if immigration to the United States has decreased considerably and thus this could represent an unnecessary expenditure to taxpayers?

ET: One thing is that the bill enacts a program that will allocate human and material resources to border security, and another is that a budget will be approved for this end. We had a similar experience in 2007 with the creation of a virtual wall on the border. Recession came and there were no funds to finance what the law approved. Now, budgets are approved each year, so just because the law says we can earmark millions and millions of dollars to the border doesn’t mean each year when budgets are approved the money will be there. I don’t believe this is the most important factor, the problem is that we’re losing the focus of what immigration reform is. The very same initiative is founded on its name; it starts by determining the element of security to later talk about immigration. Determining the well-being or the recognition of rights of more than 11 million people based on how the government can successfully protect the border is purposeless. Again, from my viewpoint, the failure of it all is that we are not understanding immigration reform as a human rights and social justice matter, but rather as an issue of state security and partisanship.

RV: Anything else you’d like to add that was not discussed in this interview?

ET: We must stop thinking about immigration as a partisan matter and a negotiating prize come Election Day. We must think of people and I believe that in order to achieve this end a fundamental tool is to have a close approach to the DREAMer story. I return to the beginning of this interview, because I still believe that the DREAMer generation is the most generous face of undocumented immigration and what this country can be. These youth seek to legalize their status and give back to this country. By definition, the DREAMers are people who want to continue their higher education studies and become doctors, lawyers, nurses, etc. They are young people who will become the labor force in this country, the ones who will be paying retirement for those who are now seating in Capitol Hill and the “baby boomers” who know they don’t have a generation below them that is wide enough to sustain their social security and retirement funds. We’re not talking about just doing a favor to a handful of youth; we’re talking about keeping this country buoyant if these are the youth that will become the working force while we’re retired. So the question is, where do we want them? Do we want them to work in the shadows at a restaurant or do we want them becoming successful professionals who spur economic growth and stability? Let’s answer these questions and then we’ll understand the need for an immigration reform.

July 28 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Will Warner Win?

Austin “Jack” Warner has held many important posts in his lifetime, including FIFA Vice President (beleaguered though his tenure was) and Minister of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago. Tomorrow, he will be fighting to reclaim the title of Minister of Parliament for Chaguanas West, the post from which he voluntarily resigned on the heels of his resignations from Cabinet and as Chairman of the United National Congress, one of the political parties that forms the governing People's Partnership government. He will be contesting the by-election under the banner of his newly-formed political entity, the Independent Liberal Party.

The “Green Party”, as it is called, has been holding elaborate political rallies almost every night in the lead-up to the polls, many of which have been broadcast by mainstream media. The large crowds, questionable campaign tactics and race-centric rhetoric have prompted heated discussions on Facebook, but bloggers have also been sharing their perspectives.

aka_lol expained, tongue firmly in cheek, that the key issue in this election is box drains:

Despite all the learned talk, the Chaguanas West by-elections is not about good governance since the average citizen of this country has no idea what that means or care to Google it. The successful candidate in this election, aka voters’ choice, will be the person who the majority wants to be in charge of their most primal need, the need for proper box drains.

He continued:

In choosing a box drain leader, the people of Chaguanas West will have to go with their guts. We all know that Jack, the owner and CEO of the Independent Liberal Party’s (ILP), has listened to more box drain woes from citizens of this blessed land than any person on the planet. Because of his compassion for the box-drain-challenged, Jack is considered by many to be the foremost box drain authority in the country and probably the entire universe. I am not sure how much Kadija, the United National Congress (UNC) candidate, actually knows about box drains but she has been campaigning in the area with the Prime Minister, giving out gift boxes which might be symbolic of both future box drains and empty promises inside. Avinash, the Peoples National Movement (PNM)’s candidate, is a farmer and because of his party’s track record may prefer to build an aluminum smelter or church with state funds.

The Rag, a blog by Robin Montano, understandably had a lot to say on the election. Montano, a former senator for both the People's National Movement (currently in opposition) and the United National Congress, has joined Warner's new party as interim Chairman. The upcoming Chaguanas by-election got him talking about race in politics:

For the very first time in our modern political history the country has an opportunity to turn away from the traditional racial voting and trying something ‘new’ (and I put that word deliberately in inverted commas). The PNM has always been openly, if not blatantly, racial.

As for the UNC, well under Basdeo Panday it made a serious effort to move to the centre and be ‘all inclusive'. It's predecessor, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a right wing Hindu party where only Hindus needed to apply. Panday, to his great credit, was much more secular and pragmatic in his thinking…which brings us down to today. The present leaders of the UNC certainly held themselves out to be ‘all inclusive’ in the Panday mode…but since the by-election was announced, the gloves have come off and all pretence (sic) about being a national and a nationalist political organisation has been dropped. Just about every single person in the top brass of the UNC from Prime Minister Persad Bissessar on down has come out and preached a line that sounds dangerously close to saying to the people ‘vote race'.

And here is where the opportunity for the country is rearing it's head. If Jack Warner was to win in next Monday's by-election it will send a very loud signal … an almost earth shattering one … that the old way of thinking is well and truly dead. No longer can politicians come to us and say ‘vote for me because I am African/Indian'. Now they are going to have to come and say ‘vote for me because I can and will perform!’

Unsurprisingly, the post predicts that Warner will win the Chaguanas West seat, saying:

It is clear that only Mr. Warner has approached the electorate with a modern 21st century mindset. Mr. Warner has basically said ‘look, I am a performer. When I was your MP I performed and delivered those services that you required. Further, when serious allegations were made against me (all of which I deny) I resigned my seat to give you the opportunity to decide whether or not you still wanted me to represent you in the Parliament of our country'.

A Trini Speaks, a blog written in the slang of Trinidad and Tobago, was also leaning towards a Warner win:

When people wake up on de mornin’ ah July 30th, it go be tuh de realization dat Jack Warner representin’ Chaguanas West again. I tinkin’ it go only be one set ah people who go be surprised doh – Kamla an’ she peeps.

Dis is ah increasingly dutty fight Kamla havin’ wid Jack. It just happen tuh be in Chaguanas West. Yuh eh go be able tuh dodge de unparalleled bacchanal dat comin’ wid Jack’s victory doh.

The blogger took issue with the level of “electioneerin” by the United National Congress, the party of the current Prime Minister:

Who is Khadijah Ameen?

Yes, she is de UNC candidate fuh Chaguanas West.

Maybe ah should ah ask who is de UNC candidate fuh de seat. Den yuh would ah start tuh say, ‘Kaam’, den cyatch yuhself. De way Kamla been campaginin’ it look like she, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is de real candidate.

Why Kamla refusin’ tuh remember de larse election? She fuhget how she waltz over tuh de sister isle an’ try tuh take over? Actin’ like she presence alone would sway voters? She figured eef she convince dem dat cat in bag is ah good buy, dey would ah buy all de candidates she had in dem bags. Well people in Tobago eh dotish an’ Kamla end up holdin’ de bag an’ covered in whitewash.

It eh de same strategy in Chaguanas West only more personal an’ stinker? Kamla’s goal is tuh destroy Jack at all costs…She was perfectly fine tuh have him in she inner circle when he was dis hardest wukkin’ minister, buh now, she more den willin’ tuh criticize all de tings she didn’t have ah problem wid before.

He continued:

Although ah say plenty times me eh no fan ah Jack Warner’s politics, dat eh have nuttin tuh do wid he intelligence. Eef he was dotish he wouldn’t have dis bottomless pit ah money dat Kamla only now questionin’.

Jack eh just catch ah vaps an’ resign he seat den say he goin’ an’ ask he ex-constituents tuh re-elect him. He have ah plan.

The post also made the point that Warner has strong ties with his constituents. The blogger should know; he lives in Chaguanas West:

Certified or not, ah know it have someting between Jack an’ he constituents. It eh tribal politics an’ Kamla tactics eh breakin’ dat bond. Jack is dey don.

He ended by revealing who he will vote for tomorrow:

I so reach mih limit wid dis campaign. While ah not ah vengeful person ah cyar see mihself votin’ fuh de UNC/PP.

Me eh care eef he was de hardest wukkin’ minister. Not even eef he eh spend plenty time applyin’ fuh houses fuh people outside he district. Ah parsin’ on Jack. Plus he might ups an’ disappear an’ gorn. Next ting ah hear, he in ah land far away on ah multi year restricted forced vacation. From all dat hard wuk maybe?

I eh even have tuh tink about mih no vote fuh de PNM. I cyar support ah belief in tribal politics like is someting multi ethnic Trinbago cook up.

Dat leave Dr. Kirk Meighoo. Me eh know nuttin…

Buh wait.

Dat eh it?

Dat is it right dey!!

Jack go win buh ah know who I votin’ for.

If Warner does win, The Rag says it will “[change] the politics of this country for what can only be the better”. aka_lol sees it an entirely different way:

Regardless of the victor in these elections there will be fireworks on the night the results are known with the country being the biggest loser.

July 26 2013

A Jewish Russian Mayoral Candidate Even the Nazis Can Love

While Moscow's upcoming mayoral election [GV] may be getting the lion's share of attention from the Russian public and the world, September 8, 2013, actually sees mayoral and gubernatorial elections in a variety of Russian regions and cities. One of the more interesting campaigns may turn out to be in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth largest city. Yekaterinburg's political climate differs from the rest of Russia. The ruling United Russia party performs poorly here (finishing second in the 2012 Duma elections, behind the nominally social-democratic party “A Just Russia”), and oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov did relatively well in the 2012 presidential elections, taking 18.75% of the vote, compared to his 7.98% share of the electorate nationally.

Yekaterinburg is also home to one of Russian politics’ most unusual and independent political figures, Yevgeny Roizman. A Duma Deputy from 2002-2008, an anti-corruption blogger, and the head of the highly controversial anti-drugs charity [GV], “City without Drugs,” Roizman officially announced his candidacy for mayor on Friday, July 19, 2013. Roizman is currently involved (but not implicated) in a number of legal proceedings, including the trial of his partner, Aksana Panova, the former head of the regional news network, and an investigation headed by the FSB into the illegal wiretaps on his phones.

Evgeny Roizman in an interview in November 2012, screenshot from YouTube.

Evgeny Roizman in an interview in November 2012, screenshot from YouTube.

Announcing his mayoral run on the web portal [ru] (Panova's new outfit), Roizman first claimed that he had received 12 million roubles from Prokhorov, whose “Civic Platform” party Roizman would represent, promising that the oligarch would “give as much as necessary.” Roizman then backtracked, declaring [ru] at a press conference that “we won't take and we won't spend a single kopeck of his money,” now claiming that Prokhorov had not asked [ru] him to run. “I'm not a little girl who needs to be persuaded. I've been thinking about this for several months… I made the decision,” he explained.

Unsurprisingly, readers greeted Roizman's announcement with great enthusiasm. One commenter was moved to compose a short poem lauding Roizman, whom he addressed affectionately by his diminutive “Zhenya.”

Женя, Женечка, Евгений,
Ты в работе просто гений!
Раз решил – не отступай!
Пять лет городу отдай!

Zhenya, Zhenechka, Yevgeny,
There's no work you find too heavy!
Once you've decided, don't waver!
Give the city five years of your labor!

Roizman's candidacy excited many members of the opposition, as well. Indeed, he is a nationally-known opposition figure with political experience and a large, concentrated power base, which is highly unusual in Russia. Vladimir Milov, a Moscow oppositionist, wrote a blog post on Ekho Moskvy, titled, “These Elections could be Revolutionary“:

Навальный в Москве, Ройзман в Екатеринбурге – слушайте, а чего вам еще надо-то? Вот они, выборы вашей мечты.

Navalny in Moscow, Roizman in Yekaterinburg, listen, what more could you need? Here they are: the elections of your dreams.

Not everyone shared Milov's enthusiasm. Roizman is viewed with suspicion in many quarters for his views on migrants, his criminal record (he served two years for armed theft in the mid-1980s), and his strict detox clinics, where patients are reportedly handcuffed to beds. One Yekaterinburger astutely pointed out [ru] the problems that could arise from Roizman's election:

В случае избрания Ройзмана, отношение к нему Кувайшева неизбежно будет вызывать конфликты между городом и областью, что явно не на пользу Екатеринбургу.

If Roizman is elected, his relations with [governor of the Sverdlovsk Region, Yevgeny] Kuivashev's will inevitably cause conflicts between the city and wider region, which is clearly not to Yekaterinburg's advantage.

Others’ took issue with Roizman's character, like the Yekaterinburg-based research center “Analitik,” which wrote on its LiveJournal blog:

Это неловкое чувство, когда неглупые вменяемые люди на полном серьезе считают Ройзмана достойным кандидатом в мэры Екатеринбурга. Иконы, поэзия, борьба с наркотиками, романтика с псевдо-оппозиционными журналистками – это на здоровье, каждый дрочит как он хочет. Но лично мне будет как-то неуютно, если главой моего города станет человек с мутным прошлым (и не менее мутным настоящим), тюремной ходкой в анамнезе и очень запущенными отношениями с областными властями.

It's an awkward feeling when intelligent and responsible people in all seriousness consider Roizman an appropriate candidate for Yekaterinburg's mayor. The [religious] icons, the poetry, the fight against drugs, the dalliance with pseudo-oppositionist journalists—that's all fine. To each to his own, if it pleases him. But personally I'd be really annoyed if someone with a murky past (and a no less murky present), а criminal record, and shabby relations with the regional authorities became mayor of my city.

Others are happy to look past Roizman's colorful past. As one commenter pointed out [ru] to Analitik:

В нашей стране получить судимость-легко,как насморк.
ИМХО,Ройзман-намного честнее,чем все эти ставленники ПЖиВ.

In our country, getting a conviction is as easy as catching a cold. IMHO, Roizman is a lot more honest then all the other candidates from the party of cardsharps and thieves [a common disparaging term for United Russia].

Roizman's grassroots popularity and reputation for getting things done has won him fans not only among liberals but among nationalists as well, who like his tough stance on drugs and willingness to face down the “ethnic gangs” associated with drug smuggling. Roizman's efforts have, somewhat amazingly, even won him the endorsement of the neo-nazi “People's Socialist Initiative,” whose stated anti-semitism did not preclude [ru] them from listing the achievements of Roizman, who is half-Jewish:

Чем он занимался последние годы? Решительной и бескомпромиссной, а зачастую и опасной борьбой с распространением наркотиков. Войной с этническими кланами, живущими наркоторговлей, и с крышующей их властью. В активе Ройзмана – спасенные наркоманы, посаженные наркобарыги, снос цыганских особняков… Поэтому Ройзман – это правильный еврей. Еврей, своими действиями показавший, на чьей он стороне.

What has [Roizman] been doing these last few years? Waging a decisive and uncompromising, not to mention dangerous, fight against drug distributers. Fighting with ethnic clans who survive by dealing drugs and with the authorities who shelter them. He has saved drug addicts, helped imprison drug-pushers, and demolished the Gypsies’ garish homes… For this reason, Roizman is the right kind of Jew. A Jew who has shown through his actions whose side he's on.

Roizman is a highly divisive figure. But his popularity is genuine and crosses through multiple demographics, his anti-drug charity enjoys real support in a city that has been plagued by heroin addiction, and his tenure as a Duma deputy for the Sverdlovsk region gives him a proven political record. While polling suggests that Navalny's Moscow candidacy is highly unlikely to result in his victory, Roizman has a good chance of actually winning. Like him or loath him, his candidacy means the Yekaterinburg elections may prove the most interesting to watch in the coming months.

July 25 2013

Ethnic Slurs Haunt Alexey Navalny

Alexey Navalny came under harsh criticism from Russian opposition movement colleagues as soon as he was released from Kirov jail on a “podpiska,” (an agreement to stay at his current place of residence — the Russian equivalent of making bail), and as soon as it became clear that he would continue to run for mayor of Moscow throughout the appeals process for his 5-year long prison sentence.

These fair-weather enemies restrained from public disagreement while it appeared that Navalny was getting the full brunt of government persecution in a trial most view as unjust and political in nature. However, now that Navalny stands a chance to keep himself out of prison by garnering a critical mass of public support in the mayoral elections against current mayor Sergey Sobyanin, the flood-gates have opened. First, Evgenya Chirikova, environmental activist and former opposition darling with her own mayoral ambitions [GV], wrote a harsh blog post [ru] attacking Navalny for skipping the environmental policy section in his electoral platform [GV].

Navalny responded to Chirikova's criticism promising to include the environment, but could not refrain from dismissively joking that her and her supporters would be distributed propaganda materials made out of “sticks, moss and tree bark. [ru]” It is partially his abrasive sense of humor and uneven tone that got Navalny in the next bit of trouble. The same day that Chirikova wrote her blog, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Moskovsky Komsomolets Ayder Muzhdabaev wrote an open letter [ru] in his Facebook asking questions about the opposition candidate's perceived nationalist views.

Navalny has never hid his sympathies for the Russian nationalist movement — only a few weeks ago he co-authored a statement on ethnic violence in Pugachev [ru] with prominent nationalist opposition leaders. Muzhdabaev's questions, however, were much more personal. In particular, he addressed allegedly racist episodes in Navalny's biography — one in which he reportedly called a female Azerbaijani co-worker a “darkie” (“chernozhopaia,” literally “black-assed”), and another in which he referred to Georgians as “rodents” (a play on words: Gruziny (Georgians) and gryzuny (rodents)) during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

Navalny's answer wasn't gracious. He started by tweeting [ru]:

My staff demands that I answer some kind of disgusting open letter. I hate stuff like that. Total waste of time. It sickens me

With a mindset like this, it's no wonder that Navalny ended up with a letter [ru] that can be described as patronizing. After prefacing with how much he dislikes writing answers to such “pointed” [the scare-quotes are Navalny's - A.T.] questions, and how he is going to do it anyway because its his “duty,” Navalny petulantly wrote that he has already answered them 138 times (later he upped that figure to 138,000). At one point he started an answer with an exasperated “Hellloooowwww.” In fact, Navalny seemed so rude that some people drew comparisons between him and President Putin. Olga Allenova, a Kommersant journalist, wrote [ru]:

Этот хамский, снисходительный тон в ответах журналисту никого нам не напоминает? По-моему, парень – истинный преемник ВВП.

Does this boorish, condescending tone when answering a journalist remind you of anyone? I think the guy is a true successor to VVP [Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin]

Journalist Stanislav Minin made a similar connection [ru] to Putin's patented “macho” style of answering questions.

Rudeness aside, the biggest point of contention turned out to be the alleged ethnic slur against Saadat Kadyrova, who worked for the Moscow office of the opposition Yabloko party in the early 2000s together with Navalny. While in the original letter Muzhdabaev referred to statements that Kadyrova herself made about the incident (probably this Novemeber 2012 interview [ru] with Kadyrova where she says that Navalny's behavior forced her to leave the party), Navalny chose to interpret the question as referring to a blog post by a different former party colleague. He linked to a November 2011 post [ru] by Engelina Tareeva, an 88 year old woman who briefly mentioned the incident in her LiveJournal, but seems to have a generally positive view of Navalny. In this way Navalny evaded answering “Yes” or “No” to the original question, instead intimating that the incident was simply imagined by a half-senile “grandma” who only saw him a few times at the office.

This claim forced several of Navalny and Tareeva's Yablko colleagues to chime in with their own recollections. Semyon Burd, former Deputy Chairman of Moscow's Yabloko, wrote [ru]:

Вот лжет и не краснеет. Я несколько раз был свидетелем длинных разговоров Энгелины Борисовны и Алексея в 101 комнате. Она работала много на выборах 2005 года, работала на телефоне, еженедельно рассказывала Алексею о своих результатах. [...] Энгелина Борисовна была членом регионального совета, где Алексей Навальный был заместителем председателя. А теперь она стала бабушкой, видевшей его несколько раз в офисе.

He's a bold-faced liar. I have on several occasions witnessed long conversations between Engelina Borisovna and Alexey in room 101. She worked a lot during the 2005 elections, worked on the phone, and gave weekly updates to Alexey about her results. [...] Engelina Borisovna was a member of the regional party council, where Alexey Navalny was deputy chairman. And now shes suddenly a grandma, who saw him in the office a few times.

Another former Yabloko activist wrote [ru]:

рабочие места милой бабушки и Алексея Навального на первом этаже в период избирательной кампании разделяло метров десять [...]

the work spaces of the cute grandma and Alexey Navalny, on the first floor, during the election campaign, were about ten meters apart [...]

He also recalled Kadyrova, as did Alexander Gnezdilov (Alexandra Garmazhapova posted the following in a Facebook comment [ru]):

Александр Гнездилов пишет: “Когда в 2007 году Навального собирались исключать за национализм – Явлинский на бюро при десятках свидетелей напомнил Алексею об этом эпизоде и тот даже не заикнулся о том, что это ложь [...]“

Alexander Gnezdilov writes: “When in 2007 Navalny was being kicked out of the party for nationalism, during the working meeting [Party Chairman Grigory] Yavlinsky reminded Alexey about this episode in front of dozens of witnesses and he didn't even try to claim it was a lie [...]“

Tareeva herself also weighed in [ru], thinking that Navalny made a mistake:

Ему не нужно было отрицать общеизвестный факт, я имею в виду эпизод с азербайджанкой, зафиксированный в партийных документах. Лучше было сказать, что этот случай имел место, что то, что он сказал, он сказал в состоянии аффекта, а вовсе не по тому, что так думает, что он сожалеет об этом, и извинился.

He shouldn't have denied a commonly known fact, I mean the incident with the Azerbaijani girl, which was recorded in party documents. It would have been better for him to say that it did take place, but what he said he said in the heat of passion, and not because he actually thinks like that, that he is sorry for it, and has asked for forgiveness.

The preponderance of evidence seems to suggest that Navalny lied when giving his answer — in her interview, Kadyrova mentions the incident in passing, and does not appear to think that it's at all controversial:

Он вместе со мной начинал работать в «Яблоке». И когда-то я впервые услышала от Алексея Навального националистические высказывания вроде «вы — чернож…е», я рассказала об этом Григорию Алексеевичу Явлинскому.

He started working at Yabloko when I did. And when I first heard Alexey Navalny say nationalist things like “you're darkies”, I told Grigory Alexeevich Yavlinsky about it.

A scene from the cult 90s Russian movie "Brat" (Brother). A veteran of the first Chechen war, played by Danila Bagrov, returns home and finds employment as a mafia hit-man. Here we see him force two raucous North Caucasian immigrants to pay for their tram ticket at the point of a gun. Bagrov's character uses the slur "chernozhopyi" to address them as he his celebrates victory. Some accuse Navalny of exploiting the same populist anti-immigrant sentiments that made this scene popular. YouTube screenshot.

A scene from the cult 90s Russian movie “Brat” (Brother). A veteran of the first Chechen war, played by Danila Bagrov, forces two raucous North Caucasian immigrants to pay for their tram ticket at gunpoint. Bagrov's character uses the slur “chernozhopyi” to address the men. Some accuse Navalny of exploiting the anti-immigrant sentiments which made this scene popular. YouTube screenshot.

Supporters were quick to defend Navalny, whose situation is still precarious, but who at the same time stands a slight chance of changing the balance of power in Russia. Afisha's Yury Saprykin, for example, thought [ru] that it doesn't matter what Navalny really thinks or how he would act when in office — to him, the situation is akin to Pascal's wager, i.e. the worst thing that could happen is that Navalny turns into another Putin, and Russia already has a Putin, so it can only get better. (Even Saprykin, however, thought that Navalny needs to dial down his haughtiness when talking to critics.)

Some, like blogger Varvara Turova and LGBT-rights activist Maria Gessen, disagreed. Turova wrote [ru]:

Представьте, что у Путина есть брат-близнец. И он точно такой же человек. И он борется с настоящим Путиным. Будете вы за него голосовать?

Imagine that Putin has a twin brother. And he is exactly the same kind of person. And he is fighting the real Putin. Will you vote for him?

Gessen simply said [ru], referring to Navalny's ambitions of eventually running for President:

Я не хочу такого будущего, оно у нас и так есть.

I don't want a future like this, we already have one like it.

For some Navalny supporters his nationalism is a feature, not a bug. The journalist Oleg Kashin made this joke [ru] (in somewhat poor taste), for instance:

- Алексей, скажите, вы действительно назвали черножопой женщину из партии “Яблоко”?
- Да, а что?

-Alexey, tell me, did you really call a woman from the Yabloko party a darkie?
-Yes, what of it?

The publicist Dmitry Olshansky went further [ru], seeing a nationalist strategy as the only way forward for a attracting the electorate:

Если бы Навальный в сознании всех жителей РФ, кто о нем откуда-нибудь узнает, четко связался бы с идеей, назовем это так, этнокультурного замещения – 50% победы было бы в кармане. “Придет Навальный – выгонит всех этих”

If Navalny, in the mind of all the denizens of Russia who ever find out about him was clearly tied with the idea of, lets call it ethnocultural replacement – 50% of the victory would be a cinch. “Navalny will come – and kick all of these [people] out”

Perhaps he is correct — people of all walks of life seem to be sounding off about the “minority problem.” Former government adviser Alfred Koch, for example, wrote this [ru] about Muzhdabaev (an ethnic minority), who started the ball rolling with his questions:

Этот Айдер Муждабаев – банальный провокатор. Все так очевидно. Взяли нацмена и вот он задает “острые” вопросы с национальным орнаментом.

This Ayder Muzhdabaev, is simply a provocateur. It's obvious. They took a natsmen [old Soviet abbreviation from "natsional'noe menshistvo", ethnic minority, mildly derogatory/dismissive - A.T.] and now he is asking “pointed” questions with ethnic color.

With friends like this, who needs enemies? The satirical Twitter account IgorSechinEvilTwin (parodying the former deputy chief of Putin's administration, and current chairman of Rossneft) was on the same page [ru]:

Sergey Semenovich [Sobyanin], you don't need to find money for the Navalny-walloping. His own fans will do it for free.

July 24 2013

Sudanese Refugee Detained for Owning a Bicycle in Israel

In September 2012, the Israeli Ministry of Interior implemented a new regulation that allows the State of arrest and detained indefinitely, without trial, asylum-seekers suspected of crimes, even if those suspicions are unsubstantiated and would have not led to a conviction in court. In July 2013, the regulation, The Procedure for Handling Infiltrators [the term used by the State of Israel to vilify asylum-seekers] Involved in Criminal Proceedings, was expanded to include refugees suspected of even misdemeanors. Over 500 asylum seekers have been detained under the Criminal Procedure and sent to the internment camps for refugees in the Negev desert until their deportation from Israel is possible.

On July 18, a Darfuri asylum-seeker and actor, Babaker (Babi) Ibrahim was arrested by Israeli police for not having a receipt for his bicycle, which was thus presumed to be stolen. Babi, a well-known figure in the Sudanese community in Israel, is a member of a refugee troupe that recently staged a satirical play about the mistreatment of refugees in Israel, One Strong Black. Babi's arrest and indefinite detention without trial sparked outrage and an online and offline campaign to release him and other refugees in his situation. On July 20, dozens protested in front of the residence of Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein, who approved the regulation:

The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an NGO advocating for the rights of refugees, migrants and human trafficking victims in Israel, provided an update about Babi's current legal situation [heb]:

לאחר שעתירת הביאס קורפוס שלנו נדחתה על ידי בג”ץ, אתמול הגשנו עתירה בשם באבי… עתירתנו דורשת את שחרורו של באבי וגם תוקפת את הנוהל שמכוחו הוא עצור בטענה שאינו חוקתי…
אנו נמשיך להאבק למען שחרורו של באבי ושל כל הפליטים הכלואים בישראל ללא משפט. לא ייתכן שיתקיימו בישראל שתי מערכות משפט נפרדות: אחת לפליטים ואחרת לכל היתר. לא ייתכן שפליטים ייזרקו למעצר עולם ללא ראיות, ללא משפט הוגן, ללא יכולת להתגונן ומבלי שהמשטרה תצטרך להוכיח שהם אשמים בדבר. לא ייתכן שבמדינה דמוקרטית יתקיים נוהל שמשמעותו הנחה מראש שכל רכוש שנמצא בידיהם של בני אדם בעלי צבע עור מסוים הוא גנוב.

After our habeas corpus petition was rejected by the High Court of Justice, yesterday we filed another petition on behalf of Babi… Our petition demands Babi's release and the abrogation of the regulations under which he has been arrested, claiming that the regulation is unconstitutional… We will keep fighting for Babi's release and the freedom of all refugees detained in Israel without trial. The existence of two separate legal systems in Israel: one for refugees and one for everyone else cannot stand. It is outrageous that refugees are sent to life in prison without evidence, without a fair trial, without the opportunity to defend themselves and without the police having to prove that they are guilty of anything. A regulation that it predicated on the assumption that all property possessed by people of a certain skin color is in fact stolen cannot exist in a democratic country.

Advocates Yonatan Berman and Oded Feller wrote on their blog Laissez Passer about the absurdity of detaining people for owning property:

הבלוג פותח בפני קוראיו את פינת הרולטה – נחשו מה יהיה הצעד הבא. ההימור שלנו – מבקשי מקלט שלא יוכלו להציג קבלות המוכיחות כי רכשו את הבגדים שלגופם ייעצרו. כך נבטיח כי כל מבקשי המקלט יסתובבו בעירום. או שאולי, בעצם, כך נבטיח כי כל מבקשי המקלט שיסתובבו לבושים ייעצרו בגין עבירת גניבה, וכל מבקשי המקלט שיסתובבו בעירום ייעצרו בגין התערטלות במקום ציבורי.

The blog opens the roulette section before its readers – guess what will be the next move [by the government]. Our guess – asylum seekers who won't be able to present receipts proving that they've purchased the clothes on their back will be detainees. Thus we will ensure that all asylum-seekers will walk around naked. Or maybe, actually, this way we will ensure that all clothed refugees will be detained for stealing, while all the asylum-seekers who walk around naked will be detained for indecent exposure.

Prominent leftist blogger Yossi Gurvitz wrote on his blog Friends of George:

כמעט 160 שנים אחרי דרד סקוט, כמעט 150 שנים אחרי שהתיקון ה-13 שם קץ לעבדות, מאשר וינשטיין בחתימתו שיש קבוצה שלמה של בני אדם – לגמרי במקרה, כמובן, צבע עורם שחור – שהם, אם לא סחורות ממש, פחותים מבני אדם. די בעלילה עליהם (למשל, מצד נוכל בן העם הנבחר שלא רוצה לשלם להם את משכורותיהם) כדי להשליך אותם לבור משפטי שממנו אין כמעט דרך לצאת. לאברהים יש מזל נדיר: הוא דמות מוכרת. יש לו לא מעט חברים. כמאה מהם יצאו במוצ”ש הביל של יולי להפגין למענו מול ביתו של וינשטיין. לרוב הפליטים אין מזל כזה. אין מי שיכיר אותם, אין מי שיגיש בשמם עתירות הביאס קורפוס. הם נאלמים, ונעלמים אל הבור שחפר עבורם וינשטיין. בציבוריות הישראלית, המקבילה של החלטת דרד סקוט של וינשטיין עברה ללא כל רעש; יש בה יותר מדי תואמי יאנסי, ומעטים עדיין מעיזים לומר ש”אתם טועים בנו, לא נעשה זאת.”

Almost 160 years after Dred Scott v. Sandford, almost 150 years after the 13th Amendment ended slavery [in the U.S.], Weinstein approved with his signature that there is an entire group of people – incidentally, of course – their skin color is black – that they are, if not property per se, are less than human. Libelous claims (for example, from a swindler of The Chosen People who does not want to pay them their salaries [refugees have been threatened with this by employers - E.T.] are enough to dump them into a legal hole from which it is almost impossible go get out. Ibrahim is very lucky: he is a known figure. He has quite a few friends. About one hundred of them went out on a hot July Saturday night to protest for him in front of Weinstein's home. Most refugees are not that lucky. There is no one who knows them, there is no one of file a habeas corpus for them. They are silenced and disappeared into the hole Weinstein dug for them. The Israeli public did not react to Weinstein's decision that parallels the Dred Scott ruling; there are too many twins of William Yancey [southern Democratic congressman, leading proponent of slavery] and few still dare to say “you mistake us. We will not do it!” [response by a northern Democrat to Yancey's demand that the Democratic Party's platform for the 1860 election include pro-slavery statements]

The Facebook page freeBabi was launched, quickly gaining hundreds of “likes”. The page asked users to submit photos and videos of themselves asking for Babi's release. Many sent in their photos, including famous Israeli actors and musicians.

Famous Israeli singer-songwriter Alma Zohar posted a photo of herself with a sign reading: “Free Babi! Keeping innocents in jail costs you and me a lot of money!”

The producers and directors of the play One Strong Black visited Babi in Giv'on Prison on July 23 and informed him about the ongoing campaign to release him. Babi is set to be transferred to the Sahaornim internment camp on July 24.


The campaign received attention in Turkey, Tunisia and Greece as well. Simge and Vulkan from Izmir, Turkey, took this photo of themselves.

John Brown created this meme using the image of Attorney General Weinstein:

"I don't always approve to lock up innocent people for life But when I do, they're always black"

“I don't always approve to lock up innocent people for life
But when I do, they're always black”

July 22 2013

Visit to Israel Gets Filmmaker “Cleansed” from Iran's Cinema Museum

Iranian film maker, M. Makhmalbaf, at JFF, photo courtesy of JFF official website

Iranian film maker, M. Makhmalbaf, at Jerusalem Film Festival, photo courtesy of JFF official website

An internationally renowned Iranian filmmaker, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, outraged many Iranians by accepting an invitation to the Jerusalem Film Festival in Israel this month.

Makhmalbaf, who is also a Green Movement activist and a former revolutionary, has divided Iranians over whether his attendance is a step towards healing “rifts and distances” between the nations, as he stated, or is an absolute disregard for Palestinian human rights, as his critics say.

Makhmalbaf participated in the Jerusalem Film Festival with his new movie, The Gardner:

The conversation is still hot and fresh among Iranians in social media and has prompted petitions signed by activists, academicians and journalists within the diaspora. The virtual world became a battleground for discussions about Makhmalbaf's trip.

First, an open letter signed by a group of “Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists” was published [fa] lamenting the director's neglect of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel:

We cannot in good conscience stand by Mr. Makhmalbaf and his decision which will inevitably validate the Israeli occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We ask not only that Mr. Makhmalbaf stand with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, but that he be a messenger of liberation for everyone, including both Palestinians and Iranians.

Then, another group of activists and academics penned a letter [fa] in support of the director's visit to Israel lauding his “brave action” as a peaceful gesture towards “conveying the message of friendship”:

We condemn the politics of war whether it is advanced by officials of the Islamic Regime or some officials in Israel. Instead, we endorse, support and welcome, the position of Mohsen Makhmalbaf that instead of a military attack, Iran’s “democratic forces” should be supported. Just like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, we are unafraid to stretch out our hands in friendship with the citizens of Israel and believe that art can be a tool that brings people together regardless of people’s racial, linguistic and political differences.

The polarisation was not limited to academia. In social media the subject of the director's visit to Israel was hot among the netizens too.

Samareh, looks at the criticism with a pinch of salt and a bit of cynicism, commenting on Balatarin, an Iranian link sharing website:

Makhmalbaf took a great measure going to Israel and speaking of peace. He showed that the Iranian nation is different from the Iranian regime which is a big blow to the clerical government. One reason [for such harsh criticisms] is a by-law from the ministry of intelligence to all its footmen: “Tarnish Makhmalbaf's name immediately, only make sure that this is done from the position of the Islamic Republic's enemies to divide the opposition. If, in the meantime, you had to swear to the Islamic Republic there is absolutely no problem with that.

Iranian blogger, Adel, expresses his disdain, seeing a big distinction between what artists do from the realm of politics and, thus, dismissing what Mohsen Makhmalbaf did as futile from the very beginning:

If we are a bit realistic, we will see that the political discourse of artists oftentimes does not have any effect on politicians; Especially Israeli politicians who do not even listen to their American counterparts! Now which cause is Mr. Makhmalbaf is trying to serve? If he wishes to bring the two nations closer to peace, its actual outcome will not be anything other than bringing out a racist government from isolation.

Following this trip, the Islamic Republic's deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Javad Shamaghdari, ordered all Makhmalbaf's memorabilia to be “cleansed” from the Iranian national museum of cinema and a cleric has renounced him as an apostate.

One thing is for sure in this heated conversation: that just like any other debate in the Iranian context, Mohsen Makhmalbaf has brought out the colourful sphere of Iranian society that is unlike what many may wish to think.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

July 21 2013

Poland Bans Ritual Slaughter of Animals

Online magazine Commentary and many others have been discussing the decision of the Polish government to ban ritual slaughter of animals, in accordance to humane slaughter practices, which many EU countries have recently been leaning towards. For Poland however, this decision is a controversial one, in light of its history and significance to the Jewish community in the country and world-wide:


July 19 2013

60 Deaths during Fights in Nzérékoré, Guinea

Guinee News reports the latest tally, 60 deaths, from the killings in Nzérékoré, Guinea [fr] :

Les cinquante deux corps qui étaient non identifiables ont été enterrés dans une fosse commune hier. Les autres corps reconnaissables ont été remis à leurs familles.

52 non-identified bodies were buried in a mass grave yesterday. The other bodies were returned to their families.

Experience of Being Black in China

Marketus Presswood, who previously lived in Beijing for more than eight years, wrote in Tea Leaf Nation about his experience of being black in China in late 1990s.

I overheard students speaking in Chinese about how they were paying so much money and wanted a white instructor. One student went so far as to say, “I don’t want to look at his black face all night.”

July 18 2013

Russian Nationalists Score Victory in Opposition Council

The Coordinating Council of the Opposition has released [ru] a statement on the ethnic clashes and protests taking place in the town of Pugachev [ru]. First posted to the e-democracy website [ru] on July 9, the draft was republished [ru] on the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) website on July 15. By then, it had already been signed by Alexey Navalny, as well as several known nationalist members of the Coordinating Council. The resolution was accepted on July 16, by 10 Yeas and 4 Nays (with 26 abstentions).

A note at the beginning of Ekho Moskvy’s publication of the statement said this of the text:

Некоторые уже называют его националистическим.

Some are already calling it nationalist.

Was it even possible to comment on a matter such as Pugachev without at least touching on some aspect of nationalism? While the majority of the document focuses on the inability and/or refusal on the part of authorities to respond to their constituents (whose demands are to drive the local Chechens from their town), one paragraph was called out for being particularly “nationalist”:

Попытка приравнять к «экстремизму» законный протест коренных жителей против демонстративно вызывающего поведения выходцев из других регионов, которое грубо противоречит местным традициям и моральным нормам, а также упрямое желание со стороны властей сводить происходящее к «бытовым» причинам, напоминает позицию страуса.

The attempt to equate “extremism” and legitimate protest of the local people against the deliberately provocative behavior of people from other regions [i.e. the North Caucasus], which is grossly contrary to local traditions and moral standards, and the stubborn desire on the part of the authorities to reduce what's happening to “common” causes, is reminiscent of an ostrich [hiding its head].

One user on Ekho’s website commented sarcastically:

авторы могут назвать «местные традиции и моральные нормы», которые нарушают «приезжие»?
может быть они имеют в виду повальное пьянство, мат и т.д. и т.п.?

can the authors name any “local traditions and moral standards” that the ”newcomers” violate ?
maybe they are referring to general alcoholism, swearing, etc., etc.?

Over on the Coordinating Council’s website, Professor Mikhail Gelfand voted against the statement and noted:

Требования поголовного выселения по национальному признаку, т.е. тотальных этнических чисток не являются “законным протестом”.

Demands of wholesale ejection on the basis of nationality, meaning total ethnic cleansing, are not “legitimate protest”.

An example a popular image distributed on the RuNet. Emelian Pugachev, 18th century rebel, pretender to the Russian throne, and namesake of the town of Pugachev, says of the two North Caucasians on either side of himself "I've been asleep for a long time, but I'm going to have to eject [them]." Part of the message is probably lost because this portrait of Pugachev looks much scarier than the presumed Chechen youths. Anonymous image freely distributed online.

Emelyan Pugachev, 18th century rebel, pretender to the Russian throne, and namesake of the town of Pugachev, says of the two North Caucasians on either side of himself: “I've been asleep for a long time, but I'm going to have to eject [them].” Part of the message is probably lost because this portrait of Pugachev looks much scarier than the presumably Chechen youths. Anonymous image freely distributed online.

Another Pugachev meme: "I'm sorry, but have you tried ejecting them?" Anonymous image freely distributed online.

Another Pugachev meme: “I'm sorry, but have you tried ejecting them?” Anonymous image freely distributed online.

However, some on Ekho Mosvky's website did not object to the statement at all:

Вполне взвешенный документ, ничего националистического в нем нет.

This is a balanced document, nothing nationalist about it.

Another commenter felt that the real problem was the Kremlin’s refusal to address the issues of inter-ethnic relations in Russia:

Федеральная власть должна высказаться и определиться по поводу взаимоотношения людей различной национальности. Власть должна провести совещание на высоком уровне с представителями различных республик и принять согласованное заявление о национальной политике в России. Сам КСО тоже должен определиться со своей позицией. Я против выселения, я за дружбу народов (как ни по советски это звучит). Но жители всех республик должны понять, что Конституция России действует на всей территории, что надо всем соблюдать права людей и вести себя доброжелательно по отношению друг к другу.

The Federal government should speak out and decide about the relationship between people of different nationalities. The authorities must hold a high level meeting with the representatives of the various republics and accept an agreed statement of national policy in Russia. The CCO [the Coordinating Council] itself must also define their position. I am against ejection [of ethnic minorities], I'm for the friendship of peoples (no matter how Soviet it sounds). But the residents of all of the republics should understand that the Russian Constitution applies to the entire territory, that everyone must respect the rights of all people and behave kindly toward each other.

26 members of the Coordinating Council either did not care enough to vote on the statement, or perhaps thought to distance themselves from it. Only 4 members voted against: biology professor Mikhail Gelfand, journalist and radio host Sergei Parkhomenko, professional oppositionist Ilya Yashin and human rights activist Anna Karetnikova. The 10 members who voted to adopt the statement, included Alexey Navalny, conservative philosopher Konstantin Krylov, the usually liberal journalist Oleg Kashin, and nationalist leader Vladimir Tor. The only non-nationalists to vote for the resolution were members of the so called Navalny's Bloc – Alburov, Naganov, and Sobol. All three work on Navalny's projects outside of the Coordinating Council.

July 17 2013

#Justice4Trayvon Rallies Across America

NYC #Justice4Trayvon rally reaches Times Square, July 15, 2013. Photo posted by Macey J. Foronda on Twitter

Thousands joined peaceful protests held in many U.S. cities after the acquittal in Florida on July 15, 2013 of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Protesters condemned the “Stand Your Ground” laws, legislation in effect in more than 20 states that allow the use of force as self-defense when a person feels reasonably threatened, as racist. Global Voices social media editor Asteris Masouras curated updates and photos of the protests on Storify. On the day following the protests, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder slammed ”Stand Your Ground” laws as dangerous to public safety, in line with research asserting that they result in an increase of homicides.

Russian Blood on the Asphalt, Armenian Hands on the Wheel

It’s not every day in Russia that over a dozen people die in a single traffic collision, so when an Armenian national crashed a freight truck into a bus full of passengers last weekend, killing eighteen, it caught people’s attention. The incident was even captured on amateur dashcam video (see below). Two days after the accident, on July 15, 2013, a Moscow court sanctioned the arrest [ru] of the truck driver, 46-year-old Grachia Arutiunian, whom authorities had recently awakened from an artificially induced coma, which doctors decided was unnecessary, after determining that his injuries (while significant) were not life-threatening. The Armenian driver stands accused of negligent homicide and faces up to seven years in prison.

In conversations online, Arutiunian’s case has stoked the fires of Russia’s unabating nationalist debate, which most recently flared up in the city of Pugachev, where the July 5 murder of an ethnic Russian local by a Chechen youth provoked anti-immigrant street demonstrations.

With Pugachev still fresh in the public’s mind, Russian nationalists have seized on last Saturday’s tragic crash as another government failure to protect the country from lawless immigrants. For example, Vladimir Tor complained [ru] on LiveJournal that people like Arutiunian represent a danger to the public:

Но главное – надо решительно менять ситуацию на дорогах: масса диких шахид-такси, джихад-газелей, камаз-бабаев в ужасающем техническом состоянии и с дикими шоферами за рулём – это постоянная угроза нам всем. Так жить нельзя – этому необходимо положить предел.

But the main thing is that we have to change the situation on the roads decisively: all these wild shakhid-taxis, jihad-shuttles, and truck-babevs [slurs directed at Russia’s Muslim migrant-worker drivers] are all in terrible technical condition and operated by wild drivers behind the wheel. It’s a constant threat to us all. We can’t live like this, and we must put a stop to it.

Writing on the National-Democratic Party’s website, Rostislav Antonov made a similar argument [ru], faulting federal lawmakers for allowing foreign nationals to operate motor vehicles in Russia without obtaining Russian driver licenses, which Arutiunian indeed lacked. (As it happens the government already in April 2013 adopted new legislation [ru] to close this loophole, though it doesn’t take effect until November 5, 2013.)

Many Russian bloggers have also taken issue [ru] with the Armenian community (both its diaspora in Russia, which provided Arutiunian with two defense lawyers, and Armenian bloggers [ar]) for its outpouring of support for the now incarcerated driver. In truth, several dozen Armenians did stage a rally [ru] outside Russia’s embassy in Yerevan on April 16, demanding an end to Arutiunian’s degrading treatment while in custody. Bloggers, too, have reacted sharply to photos of Arutiunian in court, where he appeared on July 15 in a women’s hospital robe and rubber slippers. Covering his tear-strewn face and relying on a translator to understand the court’s Russian-language proceedings (a necessity despite his living in Russia for a decade, nationalists are eager to point out), Arutiunian did appear to be a man thoroughly humiliated.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 6.26.45 PM

Grachia Arutiunian in court, 15 July 2013, screenshot from YouTube.

LiveJournal user maggel offered his own deeply unsympathetic suggestion [ru] for “rehabilitating” the man:

1. Халат снять.
2. Выдать белые тапки.
3. Отвезти в Подольск на тот самый перекресток.
4. Положить обиженного под вот это-

5. Дать порулить агрегатом родственникам погибших.

1. Remove the robe.
2. Issue him some white slippers.
3. Take him to Podolsk, to the same intersection [where the crash occurred].
4. Place the offended [Arutiunian] under this thing:
[an image of a steamroller]
5. Let the victims’ relatives steer the steamroller.

Another LJ user, pavell, attacked expressions of compassion for Arutiunian, but admitted a certain envy for the community’s solidarity. Posting excerpts of a letter [ru] from Armenia’s human rights ombudsman to his Russian counterpart that condemned Arutiunian’s treatment, pavell called [ru] the text arrogant, but wondered aloud which if any state officials were working as devotedly for the protection of Russians:

И всё же, несмотря на плевки в лицо Лукину, завидно. Армянина, убившего в России 18 человек, есть кому защищать. А кто защитит русского? Я не говорю в Армении, а просто в России?

And, yet, despite the [Armenian official] spitting in the face of Lukin [his Russian counterpart], I’m jealous. An Armenian who’s killed 18 people in Russia has someone to defend him. But who would defend a Russian? I’m not even talking about in Armenia—what about just in Russia?

Even if the Moscow court convicts Arutiunian and sentences him to several years in prison, the decision isn’t likely to calm fears that ethnic Russians are a persecuted majority. The prominence of criminal groups tied to certain ethnicities and the ongoing tensions between Russia’s native population and migrant workforce—two of the most significant root causes of the country’s nationalist fervor—aren’t going anywhere. Whether Arutiunian is given back his clothes or executed under a cement truck, Russia’s troubles with race and assimilation haven’t claimed their last victim.

With Russian Netizens Like These, Who Needs Trolls?

The Russian Internet, much like the Internet at large, runs on short cycles of outrage. Bloggers get incensed over a current event, be it a murder in a provincial city [GV] or LGBT rights [GV], but in the span of a week switch their attention to a new thing that angers them. Although sometimes these news cycles repeat, or are recycled, it is still rare for the same event to create two different waves of outrage within the span of a month. Yet, this is essentially what happened this July when Pavel Astakhov, Russia's children's ombudsman, yet again blithely mentioned [ru] the possibility of sending Russian orphans to the North Caucasus for adoption.

Astakhov's earlier, May 30, 2013, statements to that effect (he dubbed the possibility an interesting “experiment”) weren't well received [GV], to say the least. This time, however, Astakhov was more specific — naming Chechnya as an example of a Russian region where orphans are immediately adopted and well taken care of, and promising to chat with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov about the possibility of establishing a process for cross-regional adoption. It appears that his suggestion was particularly tone-deaf given recent ethnic violence between Russians and Chechens [GV] in the town of Pugachev.

Pavel Astakhov gearing up for a day's work. Image remixed by author using "Pavel Atakhov" by Dmitry Rozhkov, 25 November 2011, CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons.

Pavel Astakhov gearing up for a day's work. Image remixed by author using “Pavel Astakhov” by Dmitry Rozhkov, 25 November 2011, CC 3.0 Wikimedia Commons.

The main gist of the RuNet commentary was predictable — Russian orphans would be sold to white slavery and forced to grow up to become suicide bombers. In fact, it was curious to see how similar the arguments were, although this time RuNet nationalists were perhaps even harsher in their criticisms. LiveJournal user mouglley, for example, hearkened back [ru] to the time when Russian principalities were forced to pay tribute to the Mongolians:

Астахов предложил платить дань еще и детьми, отсылая русских сирот в Чечню, чтобы из них делали чеченцев — самих чеченцев пока еще слишком мало, чтобы установить прямой контроль над Россией.

Astakhov has offered to pay tribute with children, sending Russian orphans to Chechnya, so that they make Chechens out of them — as of now there aren't enough Chechens to establish direct control over Russia.

A different netizen tweeted [ru]:

Всё думаю, вот Астахов хочет чтобы наших сирот воспитывали в Чечне-так как убийцу в Пугачёве? Ах да, зато русские будут резать русских-так?

I keep thinking, does Astakhov want our orphans to be brought up in Chechnya — just like the murderer in Pugachev? Oh yeah, but this way Russians will be killing Russians, right?

Another wondered [ru]:

На органы, в рабство или как?

[Will they harvest them] for organs, enslave them, or what?

To round out the collection, one user of a city forum in the Siberian town of Prokopievsk was quite sure [ru] about the Manchurian Candidate angle:

Лично я уверен, что через несколько лет результаты чеченского воспитания дадут о себе знать в виде светловолосых шахидов …

Personally, I am convinced that in a few years the results of a Chechen upbringing will let themselves be known through blonde suicide bombers …

Unlike the last wave of outrage about orphan slaves, this time even ostensible liberals were incensed. Dmitry Olshansky (a liberal, cosmopolitan publicist with some nationalist tendencies) wrote [ru] in his Facebook:

Это невыносимая по своей гнусности новость. Просто невыносимая.

This news is unbearable in its odiousness. Simply unbearable.

Andrey Malgin, a liberal blogger opposed to the Kremlin, went a different route — he simply made a reference [ru] to a novella by Anatoly Pristavkin [en], which is set in post-Word War II Chechnya (after the Chechen deportation), and follows two Russian orphans, one of whom meets gruesome death by disemboweling at the hands of local Chechens. Malgin left his readers draw their own conclusions.

Of course, it turns out that Astakhov's comments were taken out of context and blown out of proportion. One blogger [ru] contacted Astakhov's press secretary, who explained that Astakhov had only mentioned Chechnya as one region among several others, including Krasnodarsky Krai, which also has good adoption statistics. But that doesn't seem to matter — this particular story no longer incites outrage on RuNet, and will be all but forgotten by the time someone else says something about orphans in the near future.

July 09 2013

The “Fair” Factor in Bangladesh

Aziza Ahmed writes about the Bangladeshi social prejudice on dark-skinned girls in matrimonial affairs.

Vigilante Justice & Race Riots in Provincial Russia

A bar fight that broke out last weekend between two young men in a small town of Pugachev in Russia’s central Saratov region, ended with racial violence. The victim, 21-year-old Ruslan Marzhanov, a town local of Tatar extraction, died of knife wounds in the hospital on Saturday, July 6. The suspect, 16-year-old Chechen Ali Nazirov, was later detained for the murder.

What should have been a tragic, but routine case, quickly morphed into something else. The murder underscored long-standing ethnic tensions between the native Russian population and the town's North Caucasian diaspora. After the funeral, which was held the day after Marzhanov died, hundreds of locals marched into a Chechen neighborhood, demanding that the Chechens “leave.” Several people were reportedly injured in the brawl that ensued, although the police maintain [ru] that they were able to prevent the violence.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the victim was reportedly friends with local Chechens. Azamat Mitsaev, a Moscow resident involved with youth city government, reported [ru] on his Facebook that Marzhanov's Chechen friends were the ones who took him to the hospital, and were also apparently the ones to find Ali Nazirov and turn him over to the police, having first “beaten him up.”

The acting Governor of Saratov Oblast, Valery Radaev, urged the people to remain calm, saying [ru]:

Неконтролируемая стихия может повлечь за собой цепную реакцию, в результате чего не исключены новые невинные жертвы. Мы не имеем права такого допустить! [...] кровная месть и национальная ненависть – не способ решения проблем, а бомба замедленного действия”

An uncontrolled force of nature [like a popular uprising] can lead to a chain reaction, resulting in new innocent victims. We cannot allow this! [...] blood feuds and national hatred are not a way to solve problems, but a ticking time bomb.”

His entreaties fell on deaf ears — when Pugachev Mayor Stanislav Sidorov walked out to speak with the crowd that congregated in the town square Monday, he was heckled, reports [ru] Twitter user Liudmila Rossenko:

Главу облили водой. Народ ликует #Пугачев

The Head [of Administration] got water poured all over him. The people are happy #Pugachev

Pugachev Head of Administration addressing the crowd moments before getting a bottle of water poured on his head. YouTube screenshot.

Pugachev Head of Administration addressing the crowd moments before getting a bottle of water poured on his head. YouTube screenshot.

According to locals this was not the first time the Chechens had caused problems. The BBC’s Russian Service quoted [ru] the chairman of the regional branch of the opposition RPR-PARNAS party:

У меня родственники там живут в Пугачеве. Не первый раз у них, четыре или пять убийств уже было. Дагестанцы, чеченцы облюбовали город Пугачев. Эти конфликты у них происходят последние два года все серьезнее и серьезнее. И встает вопрос, почему власть в это до сих пор не вмешивалась?

I have relatives living in Pugachev. This is not the first incident, they've had four or five murders already. Dagestanis, Chechens have taken a fancy to the city of Pugachev. These conflicts have, over the past 2 years become more and more serious.  And the question arises, why don’t the powers that be intervene?

Marzhanov's mother emphasized this point [ru]:

Я не имею претензий к чеченцам, у меня претензии к власти, которая допускает и потворствуют их беспределу.

I have no complaints about the Chechens, I have complaints about the government, which allows and indulges their lawlessness.

Marzhanov's mother addressing the crowd and speaking about her son's military service. YouTube screenshot.

Marzhanov's mother addressing the crowd and speaking about her son's military service. YouTube screenshot.

The Kommersant [ru] newspaper reports that in the meantime, residents of Pugachev have come together in a working group, which will establish “people's patrols” to patrol the town streets along with the police. The people have “lost faith” in the regional government, and seem ready to resort to “vigilante justice.”

The situation is exacerbated by episodes of mass hysteria. For example, a video posted on YouTube [ru] Monday alleged that the authorities had sent armored personnel carriers (APCs) to Pugachev because of the escalating protests. The video, which now has over 200 thousand views, turned out to be a fake, shot last month during local military exercises. This did not prevent it from fooling many bloggers, including the popular opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who used the apparent establishment of martial law as an excuse to sarcastically blog “this is what ‘stability’ looks like.” [ru] Navalny later removed the video from his blog.

Meanwhile, in response to appeals from the local government, the Investigative Committee (Russia's federal investigative agency) agreed [ru] to launch an inquiry into events in Pugachev. This seems to indicate that the federal government is concerned that the situation could still spin out of control. But, perhaps, this is a case of too little, too late. Vigilante justice may still prevail.

July 03 2013

We're Uyghurs. We're not terrorists.

Against the background of two violent unrests in Xinjiang, a plea from an Uyghur from Xinjiang stirred up discussions of how to make peace with people from different ethnic backgrounds on Chinese social media. More from Offbeat China.

July 01 2013

Riots Spark China's Ethnic Policy Debate

While Chinese government is tightening anti-terror efforts in Xinjiang due to the recent Xinjiang riots, an online plea from a Xinjiang native has triggered discussions on the causes of the constant violent clashes between Uyghurs and the Han people. Some netizens think the problem lies in the Chinese government’s ethnic policies. Offbeat China has translated some comments into English.

June 30 2013

Brazilian Tribe Opens Indigenous Education Center

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

An education center created by the Paiter-Surui [en] tribe in the Brazilian Amazon that will offer professional courses to the area's indigenous has finally opened.

The Paiter-Surui Cultural Training Center was launched in June 2013 and will offer technical and professional courses to the Paiter-Surui and other indigenous groups of the Amazon with a special focus on environmental preservation. In anticipation of the opening, the group published a video in March 2013 announcing it:

Local indigenous peoples will have the opportunity to take courses in law, job creation and revenue and mapping, which will last two years. Classes will be daily, consisting of both theoretical and practical applied components. Although enrollment will not be unlimited, the Surui expect each course to enroll around 30 students.

The Paiter-Surui Formation Center is awaiting for formal approval from the Brazilian Minister of Education to start running its classes.

The Paiter-Surui tribe have faced a number of struggles since first contact with outsiders in 1969. Road construction invaded their land and disease devastated the population, reducing their population from 5,000 to around 290 individuals as the tribe chief affirmed in a video interview. More recently, the community has responded to threats of mining and illegal logging on their territory.

They hope a cluster of buildings will grow to serve as the site of the future Paiter-Surui Indigenous University of Brazil, the first of its kind in the country. According to Chief Narayamoga Almir, the leader of the Surui people:

Inicialmente os cursos serão destinados apenas para os indígenas, porém já estamos construindo uma Política Pedagógica do Centro, para que esses cursos sejam estendidos para toda a sociedade.

Initially, courses will be only open to indigenous individuals, but we are also building an Educational Policy Center so that these courses can be extended to all of society as a whole.

Leaders of the Surui people and representatives from partner organizations as the Amazon Preservation Team (Equipe de Conservação da Amazônia or ECAM, in Portuguese) and the Association of Ethno-Environmental Protection Kanindé traveled to the Indigenous University of Venezuela [en] in May 2013 to learn how the model could be replicated in their own country. The Indigenous University of Venezuela, a public university created in 2010, is situated on 5,000 acres of rainforest in southern Venezuela and serves students [en] from many different ethnic groups.

A building of the Paiter-Surui Formation Center in Cacoal, future site of planned indigenous university. (Photo by Rachael Petersen)

A building of the Paiter-Surui Formation Center in Cacoal, future site of planned indigenous university. Photo by Rachael Petersen.

The Association of Ethno-Environmental Protection Kanindé wrote:

Já temos muitos indígenas fazendo curso superior nas faculdades e universidades espalhadas pelo Estado, mas com uma universidade indígena vamos fortalecer a relação dos índios com a terra e a natureza, já que o conteúdo vai valorizar a cultura dos indígenas.

We have many indigenous people doing courses in colleges and universities through the state [of Rondônia], but with an indigenous university we will strengthen the relationship of indigenous peoples with land and nature, because the content will bolster their culture.

The Indigenous University could be one more success in a long line of innovative approaches to development. Led by Chief Almir Surui, the Paiter-Surui people have gained international attention [en] for their visionary 50-year management plan for the sustainable development of their people and natural resources. The plan includes a scheme to sell carbon credits [PDF] from avoided deforestation, money which would be re-invested in the community. In June 2013, they became the first indigenous group to gain certification [en] for their carbon project under two emerging carbon market standards.

The video below explains how they partnered with Google Earth [en] and other organizations to use digital technology to map deforestation on their territory. You can also download a cultural map of their lands here to view on Google Earth.

They hope this new university will help indigenous peoples reconnect with traditional values and their lands. To get connected with the Surui, like the Associação Metareilá Facebook page or check out their blog.

June 26 2013

The Bahamas: Intellectual Property & Reparations

The amount of traditional knowledge that is stolen from our region on a daily basis is staggering.

Blogworld suggests that there is a link between that knowledge and required compensation for “the slaves and their ancestors [who] have never been paid for the generations of their labour.”

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