politics of cyberspace
Garment workers in Bangladesh walked off the job, blocked roads, attacked factories and smashed vehicles April 26, paralyzing at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka. Some 1,500 workers, many armed with bamboo sticks, marched to the Dhaka headquarters of the main manufacturers association. The uprising began when police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at anxious relatives as they massed at the site of a collapsed factory where resuce workers were attempting to dig out their loved ones trapped under rubble. About 3,000 people are thought to have been in the Rana Plaza complex in Savar industrial zone on the outskirts of Dhaka, when it collapsed on the morning of April 24 shortly after the workday started. Only some 60 have been found alive; some 1,000 are thought to have escaped unharmed. The complex housed factories that made clothes for retail chains Benetton, Primark, Matalan, Children's Place, Cato Fashions, Mango and others.
Chinese authorities say order has been restored after clashes between armed men and officials and police in Bachu (Uighur: Maralbeshi) county near Kashgar in the western part of Xinjiang April 23. The death toll stands at 21, including 15 police officers and social workers, in what official news portal Tianshan Net called a "violent terror incident." Fighting apparently started when a patrol of police, local officials and community workers were set upon with knives and axes. Ethnic Uighurs were blamed for the attack, in which six of the assailants were slain. The Foreign Ministry said a "violent terrorist group" was behind the assault. (BBC News, April 25; BBC News, AFP, Al Jazeera, April 24)
What are we to make of this? The Atlantic boasts photos of an April 4 international protest called by Ukrainian feminist group Femen in support of young Tunisian activist Amina Tyler, who received death threats after posting topless pictures of herself online in defiance of the growing hegemony of political Islam in her country. Femen's followers waged a "topless jihad," baring their breasts in cities across Europe—including in front of the Great Mosque in Paris. The Kiev protest was also in front of a mosque. Some of the targets were more appropriate, such as the Tunisian consulate in Milan and the embassy in Stockholm. The women scrawled slogans on their bared torsos, like "FREE AMINA." Somewhat disturbingly, some also appropriated the Islamic crescent in a sexualized way, using it to accentuate their breasts. This irreverent image actually appears on the logo of the Femen wesbite, which also touts its own movement as one of "Titslamism."
Authorities in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region earlier this month blocked an attempted cross-country march by traditional Mongol herders, with police assaulting hundreds in two incidents. In the first incident, herders from Inner Mongolia’s Durbed (Chinese: Siziwang) banner (county) gathered at Hohhot train station on March 1, intending to march nearly 500 kilometers to Beijing. But police quickly arrived and broke up the gathering, according to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC). The following day, troops in a dozen police vehicles descended on Halgait village in Zaruud (Zhalute) banner, breaking up another group that intended to march on Beijing. The herders hoped to arrive in Beijing for the meeting of the National People's Congress where Xi Jinping was installed as president, to protest confiscation of grazing lands.
Thousands of rescuers are struggling to reach 83 workers trapped by a landslide at a gold mine at Gyama, Maizhokunggar county, in China's Tibetan Autonomous Region March 29. The facility is operated by the Tibet Huatailong Mining Development Co, a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Gold Group Corp. Ironically, the Gyama mine was something of a showcase for Beijing's development of Tibet; the Huatailong company took it over in 2009 from some dozen small-scale private companies that operated on the margins of the law in what official news agency Xinhua called a "rat race for the rich ore supplies." The disaster prompted a flurry of criticisms on Chinese social media, but AP reports these were quickly "scrubbed off or blocked from public view by censors."
Two Bahraini human rights activists have intensified their hunger strike and are refusing fluids, according to a report released March 25 by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). According to the report Zainab al-Khawaja and her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja began refusing fluids in response to being denied visits from their families. Earlier this month, the Bahrain court of appeals overturned the acquittal of Zainab al-Khawaja, who has been accused of insulting a government employee, and sentenced her to three months of imprisonment. She began her hunger strike on March 18. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison for his role anti-government protests by a military tribunal in June 2011. The Bahraini government has denied the report.
Two women are among the dead in a fierce gun battle that claimed five lives March 16 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, just across the Mexican border from Hidalgo, Tex. Tamualipas state authorities said the women were among the combatants. The fire-fight came one day after Mexican federal police found more than five tons of marijuana, 370 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and a large weapons cache in underground bunkers in Reynosa—including 20 rifles, 10 bulletproof vests, a gas grenade, 20 uniforms, radios and tire spikes. March 11 also saw a three-hour gun battle in the streets of Reynosa, with rival narco-factions using automatic weapons and grenades. Authorities were absent for most of the shoot-out that left some three dozen gunmen and two bystanders dead—one just a teen. An exact death toll was elusive, as cartel gunmen collected their own dead during the battle.
Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, who has won world fame with her Generación Y webpage, spoke March 15 at a conference entitled The Revolution Recodified: Digital Culture and the Public Sphere in Cuba, at New York University. One lone protester stood across the street from the auditorium overlookig Washington Square Park, while the hall was filled with hundreds, all eagerly engaged. Sánchez opened with the assertion that digital technology is "bringing about a democratic, pluralistic Cuba," opening a new space in a country where "the press is a private monopoly of the Communist Party." She said a "slow, timid process of opening dissent from below" is underway, emphasizing that it is neither a reform imposed by foreign designs, nor the "formal limited reform" being advanced by the regime. She explicitly repudiated notions of militant opposition, saying she rejects the "cycle of violent revolution."