From Our Daily Report
In a move protested by rights groups, Iran's regime hanged Kurdish political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani—despite a pending appeal of his death sentence before the country's high court.
Chinese authorities arrested 12 individuals for illegally storing dangerous materials that led to the Tianjin warehouse explosions, which killed at least 139 people.
Protesters cut off access to the Bolivian mining city of Potosí for almost a month in a dispute with the central government over development and investment in the remote region.
Aid workers in Aleppo governorate report treating patients for symptoms of a mustard-gas attack in a rebel-held town that had come under mortar fire by ISIS.
by Anneliese Mcauliffe, IRIN
BANGKOK — Despite Thailand's recent deportation of 109 ethnic Uighurs to China where they could face torture, about 60 members of the persecuted minority who remain in detention are refusing to register with the United Nations as asylum seekers.
Uighur activists say the detainees are likely reluctant to apply for asylum because they do not trust that the UN will be able to prevent their deportation, and they are afraid that personal information provided during the registration process could fall into the hands of Chinese authorities and endanger their families.
Seven weeks after Thailand deported the group of 109 to China, the future is uncertain for the remaining Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from China's western region of Xinjiang. Their forced removal sparked protests in Turkey against the Chinese embassy and the Thai consulate, as well as Chinese-owned businesses.
Fighting on Amid Reactionary Retrenchment
by Kevin Anderson, Logos
Despite the resurgence of military authoritarianism and fundamentalism in Egypt and Syria, several more positive outcomes of the Arab revolutions are seen in the Tunisian constitution, the rise of the Syrian Kurds, and continuing ferment in Turkey. This analysis by Kevin Anderson of The International Marxist-Humanist appeared in the Summer issue of Logos.
The Present Moment
Over the past year, the outlook for revolutionary change, for democracy and social justice in much of the Middle East and North Africa has become bleak. Egypt has experienced authoritarian military rule at a level that exceeds the repression of Mubarak, thus rolling back the 2011 revolution, even as the US has restored military aid. Libya has descended into chaotic war between rival factions, both of them marked by warlordism. Bahrain continues under lockdown, with the US maintaining both its imperialist naval base and its support for the sectarian Sunni monarchy. Yemen’s democratic opening has given way to a sectarian civil war with massive bombing of civilians by the US-backed Saudis. And most tragic of all, Syria has seen its grassroots democratic opposition shrink as jihadists gain more and more power, sometimes with the collusion of the murderous Assad regime, which itself projects a Shia-oriented sectarianism amid massive backing from Iran. To cap it all, the ultra-fundamentalist ISIS (so-called Islamic State) has maintained most of the territory it seized last year in Iraq and Syria, visiting horrors upon women, religious minorities, and any who dare to express any reservations about its retrograde worldview.
However, this is not the whole story.
An Interview with Brant Rosen
by Eli Ungar-Sargon, JewSchool
If you've heard of Rabbi Brant Rosen, chances are that you know about his vocal and principled stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rosen has been on a personal journey ever since Israel's 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, the brutality of which compelled him to question his beliefs about the State of Israel and Zionism. Much of this journey unfolded in public as Rosen courageously wrote about his evolving views on Israel/Palestine in his well-read blog, Shalom Rav. These blog posts and some of the responses to them formed the basis for his 2012 book Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's Path To Palestinian Solidarity. Rosen is the founder of the Jewish Voice For Peace Rabbinical Council and for 17 years he was the Rabbi of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston. He stepped down from this pulpit in September and took a position as the Midwest Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee. On July 5, he announced the founding of a new community called Tzedek Chicago. I contacted Rabbi Rosen earlier this week to learn more about his politics, identity, and new community.
by Joe Dyke and Almigdad Mojalli, IRIN
BEIRUT/SANAA — As ceasefires go, the latest one in Yemen might go down as one of the most irrelevant ever. It was supposed to be in place for 10 days but, depending on who you ask, it lasted for somewhere between 30 seconds and two hours.
Its dismal failure, analysts said, leaves the United Nations weak and immediate hopes for a peace deal dashed. But it also further illustrates how Yemen's civil war—which began when Houthi rebels seized the capital Sana'a last September, and eventually forced President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile—is fracturing rapidly out of control.
A Saudi Arabian-led coalition has been bombing the Houthis to try to return Hadi to power, but new groups have risen to prominence on both sides with only loose loyalties and distinct local agendas. Convincing them to agree to any peace deal will only get harder with time.
by Florian Neuhof and Louise Redvers, IRIN
ERBIL/DUBAI — A month after fleeing his home in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in northern Iraq's Nineveh province, to escape the advance of militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS), Basim Mansour Yohanna received a telephone call. It was a former colleague, a Sunni Arab, who told the Assyrian Christian he was standing inside his family's apartment, preparing to ransack it.
"I won't go back with Sunnis there," the 55-year-old said angrily. "When I see them, it's like they are stabbing me in the stomach. They all betrayed us, we cannot trust any of them."
Huda Salih Marky, a member of the Yazidi religious community from Kocha, also in Nineveh, told IRIN how she was captured by IS and forced to work as a domestic servant in Mosul for a militant for several months, before being sold for ransom. "Yazidis will not be safe here in future, they can't stay in Iraq, the best thing is to emigrate to a country where there are no Muslims," she said.
These views may be extreme, but they are not uncommon.
by Ruben Andersson, IRIN
The warning was restrained, as was to be expected from a European border police chief, yet it was a warning nonetheless. Amid European leaders' scramble to launch a military operation targeting migrant smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean, the director of EU border agency, Frontex, voiced some caution: "If there is a military operation in the vicinity of Libya," he said in early June, "this may change the migration routes and make them move to the eastern route." One route closes; another opens up. Simple, really—yet rarely are any migration control lessons drawn from this elemental fact.
In the "war on drugs," it is often called the "balloon effect": squeeze the balloon in one place, and it expands somewhere else. Something similar is happening with efforts to crack down on irregular migration, with an important difference: when the balloon consists of people, they get more desperate the harder you squeeze. So too do border officials and politicians, as demonstrated by Italy's growing frustration with other EU leaders reluctant to help the country deal with the influx at its southern shores.
by Nava Thakuria, World War 4 Report
Amidt the heat of protests over the killing of three secular bloggers this year, the government of Bangladesh has banned an Islamist militant group named Ansarullah Bangla Team (Volunteers of Allah Bangla team). The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued a notification May 25 declaring the group outlawed under the Anti-Terrorist Act of 2013. The most recent victim, hacked to death May 12 in a street attack in the northeast city of Sylhet, was Ananta Bijoy Das, 33. At least four assailants chased Das as he was headed for his office in the morning hours, killing him in full public view. Das was hurried to a local hospital, but the attending doctors declared him dead.
Das was the former editor of a Bengali-language periodical entitled Jukti (meaning Logic), and also wrote for Mukto-Mona, a website developed and moderated by atheist blogger Dr. Avijit Roy—who faced a similar end three months earlier in Dhaka, the country's capital. Das, who also campaigned for banning Islamist parties, had faced threats for his activities. Dr. Roy, 43, was slain on February 26, and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya was seriously injured in the attack. Another Bangladeshi activist-writer, Washiqur Rahman Babu, 27, was slain under similar circumstances in Dhaka on March 30. The only visible reason for their brutal murders was that they were free-thinkers who spokes out against the fundamentalists of all religions, including the Islam.
by Philippa Garson, IRIN
The United States may be the global leader in refugee resettlement, but so far it has opened its doors to a mere 1,000 Syrians looking for a safe haven from their war-torn country. Human rights groups, members of Congress and city planners are among those trying to persuade President Barack Obama to allow more Syrians to settle here. However, security concerns, anti-immigration sentiment and bureaucratic hurdles all stand in the way.
It has taken the world a long time to acknowledge that most of the 12 million Syrians displaced—inside and outside their country—by the five-year civil war will not be going home anytime soon. Neighbors Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have absorbed nearly four million Syrians between them. Other countries have been slower to step up to the plate, particularly in terms of pledging to take some of the 88,000 Syrian refugees allocated for resettlement by the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR. Twenty-eight countries have so far agreed to take in 62,000 of them—with Germany taking nearly half.