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Category Archives: Government Oppression

Campaigners call for global response to unprecedented oppression in Xinjiang – The Guardian

Posted: April 21, 2021 at 9:30 am

The Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, where it has escalated its oppression of Turkic Muslims to unprecedented levels, Human Rights Watch has said, as the NGO called on governments to take direct action against officials and companies that profit from labour in the region.

HRW also recommended the EU delay ratifying its recent trade agreement with China until forced labour allegations were investigated, victims compensated, and there was substantial progress toward holding perpetrators to account.

In a report produced with Stanford Law Schools Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, HRW called for stronger UN investigations and responses, and for allied countries to impose further sanctions as well as visa and travel bans, and to use domestic laws to prosecute perpetrators.

HRW said the governments oppression of Turkic Muslims, including Uyghurs, was not a new phenomenon but had reached unprecedented levels.

Since Xi Jinpings rise to power in 2013, the Chinese government has aggressively pursued assimilationist policies in ethnic minority regions, increasingly insisting on the Sinicization of those communities, driven by nationalism and in many instances Islamophobia inside and outside China, it said.

Defining crimes against humanity as serious specified offences that are knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population, the report found the strongest evidence in relation to enslavement, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, torture, persecution, and enforced disappearances.

The report says the extent to which other violations were being perpetrated including sexual violence against women and coercive fertility controls was unclear, and the gravity of sexual violence allegations warranted further investigation.

The HRW report draws on new and recent research documenting the enactment of government policies in Xinjiang, and alleged human rights violations, finding many were supported by vast amounts of documentary evidence.

Chinese authorities have continued to deny due process and have arbitrarily detained an estimated 1 million people in hundreds of facilities, subjecting them to political and cultural indoctrination, torture and other ill-treatment, the report says. Outside the detention facilities Beijing operates a a pervasive system of mass surveillance, controls on movement, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance, cultural and religious erasure, and family separation.

HRW said it had not yet documented the existence of the necessary genocidal intent to make a finding of genocide, as the Canadian, Dutch and Belgian parliaments, the US state department, and legal groups had done. Nonetheless, nothing in this report precludes such a finding.

China resolutely denies all accusations of wrongdoing in Xinjiang, and runs an increasingly vociferous global campaign to discredit accusers, deny allegations and findings, and promote the region as a wonderful land where minority communities are protected and celebrated. It refuses journalists and human rights groups free access to the area and repeatedly dismisses investigative findings as lies.

Chinese authorities have systematically persecuted Turkic Muslims their lives, their religion, their culture, said Sophie Richardson, the HRW China director. Beijing has said it is providing vocational training and deradicalisation but that rhetoric cannot obscure a grim reality of crimes against humanity.

HRW noted the difficulties in investigating abuses in Xinjiang and ensuring justice. Beijing frequently claims sovereignty to reject accusations against it, or coordinates letters of support to counter joint statements at the UN.

China is also not a signatory to the international criminal court and so the ICC has no jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute individuals alleged to have committed international crimes. The only way for the ICC to assume jurisdiction is if the matter is referred to it by the UN security council, of which China is a permanent member with veto powers.

To address the worsening situation, HRW called for more coordination by world governments, which it described as increasingly critical. This could include targeted and other sanctions of government officials and agencies and companies implicated in violations of peoples rights, and joint government statements. These sanctions will be more effective if pursued collectively, it said.

Domestically, HRW recommended individual countries consider pursuing criminal cases under universal jurisdiction laws that permit a prosecution of certain crimes committed elsewhere if the victim was one of their own.

Government agencies should also review all investments in Xinjiang and impose trade sanctions, including divestment, in sectors facing credible allegations of serious abuses such as forced labour, it said, and on technology companies contributing to Chinas mass surveillance operations. Any company operating in Xinjiang should also be subject to legally binding requirements for human rights due diligence.

To countries with Turkic Muslim diasporas, HRW called for guarantees of a fair asylum assessment and support process, the facilitation of family reunions, and an end to refoulement and other forced returns of people back to China.

Given the gravity of the abuses against Turkic Muslims, there is a pressing need for concerned governments to take strong, coordinated action to advance accountability, HRW said. It suggested the creation of a UN commission of inquiry, consisting of experts with a mandate to determine facts, identify perpetrators and make recommendations.

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Oppression of journalists in China may have been factor in Covid pandemic – The Guardian

Posted: at 9:30 am

Persecution of journalists in China may have contributed to the global coronavirus outbreak by stopping whistleblowers coming forward in the early days of the pandemic, according to the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.

China ranks 177th out of 180 countries on the organisations annual Press Freedom Index, with the organisation warning that persecution of journalists in totalitarian regimes affects citizens in western democracies.

We can sit in the UK and think its mostly OK here but actually whats happening on the other side of the world can affect us, said Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at the organisation. Weve argued and still argue that if the press had been freer in China then its possible a global pandemic could have been averted.

China initially attempted to restrict reporting of a new infectious outbreak with the states online censorship tools, keeping other countries in the dark even as the disease began to spread around the world. Officials also persecuted whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang who later died from Covid-19 after he tried to share information in late December on patients with a new highly infectious disease in his Wuhan hospital.

Vincent said Chinas growing global influence meant its government was exporting its attitude to the media throughout the world through state-backed news services such as CGTN: Its not just a danger for the people of China they have more journalists in jail than anyone else but its trickling throughout our international information systems. Theyre trying to influence how we get and perceive information everywhere.

Reporters Without Borders latest index places the UK at 33rd behind countries such as Ghana, Spain and Lithuania, a slight improvement on last year. The organisation praised the governments national action plan to protect journalists from abuse and harassment. But it said concerns remained about the attacks on journalists in Northern Ireland and the treatment of Julian Assange, who is being held in prison despite winning the latest round of his legal battle against deportation to the US.

The top spot on the press freedom index once again went to Norway, while Australia ranked 25th and the US came in at 44th. The biggest year-on-year fall on the index was in Malaysia, which fell 18 places to 119th, reflecting wider clampdowns on press freedoms across Asia.

The index is based on a survey of Reporters Without Borders regional correspondents and takes into account issues such as the level of attacks on journalists, media independence, and transparency of government institutions.

As in previous years, the countries with the worst record on press freedom tend to be dictatorships or one-party states such as North Korea or Turkmenistan, although the authors noted growing global animosity towards journalists.

Top 10 best countries for press freedom:1. Norway2. Finland3. Sweden4. Denmark5. Costa Rica6. The Netherlands7. Jamaica8. New Zealand9. Portugal10. Switzerland

Top 10 worst countries for press freedom:1. Eritrea2. North Korea3. Turkmenistan4. China5. Djibouti6. Vietnam7. Iran8. Syria9. Laos10. Cuba

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A century of oppression: The Kurds and the Turkish state – Green Left

Posted: at 9:30 am

In recent weeks, the autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved to ban the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) and jailed the 14th member of the partys 56-strong parliamentary caucus.

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Erdogans attack is the latest iteration of repressive, and at times genocidal, anti-Kurdish policies that go back to the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The banning of the HDP will mark the transition of Turkey to outright dictatorship.

Not coincidentally, Turkey has also just quit the Istanbul Convention on violence against women this, as the writer Elif Shafak warns in a country where three women are killed daily and femicide is a huge crisis". The HDPs strong pro-feminism contrasts starkly with Erdogans crude misogynism.

HDP MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on March 17 and given a one-year prison sentence for a social media post he made five years ago. The partys imprisoned co-leaders, Leyla Guven and Selahattin Demirtas, are facing decades behind bars Demirtas up to 132 years.

The indictment against the HDP MPs alleges support for terrorism is a catch-all charge, applied at the whim of Erdogans ruling party, the Law and Development Party (AKP), to any opponent of his corrupt and repressive government and enforced by his creatures in the judiciary.

Earlier hopes that Erdogan was a liberalising reformer have been dashed. Under pressure from the European Union at a time when Turkey wanted EU membership, Erdogan had lifted restrictions on the Kurdish language and in 2013 opened peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Now, he has thrown all of that into reverse; the price of EU membership being too steep.

The HDP ban and withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention cap a wave of terror that began in 2016 when elements of the Turkish military staged an abortive coup, allegedly in concert with followers of Erdogans former ally, the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. The HDP unequivocally opposed the coup, but this did not save it from Erdogans confected wrath.

In effect, the coup was Erdogans Reichstag Fire moment, giving him the pretext to repress his real and imagined enemies, particularly the Kurds, despite the HDPs unequivocal opposition to the conspirators.

There have been vast purges of the civil service, schools and universities, and Islamist functionaries have replaced secular officials and academics. Simultaneously, there has been an enormous increase in government funding for religious education 68% in 2018 alone as Erdogan seeks to overturn the original secular character of the Republic and usher in clerical fascism.

The repression has raged most fiercely in the majority Kurdish districts of southeast Anatolia, centered on the city of Diyarbakir. The military and police have attacked Kurdish towns and villages, including with artillery and jet fighters.

Since 2016, the government has arrested 20,000 HDP members and jailed 10,000 of them. It has dissolved about 48 local government administrations headed by the HDP and installed pliant Islamist stooges against the wishes of the population. Hundreds of the HDPs militants, including the partys former co-chair Guven, have staged hunger strikes to back demands for the release of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and a resumption of the peace negotiations that Erdogan broke off in 2015.

Erdogan launched the Orwellian sounding Operation Olive Branch in March 2018, an illegal invasion of the majority Kurdish districts of northern Syria, which the Kurds call Rojava. The Turkish military, acting in concert with Syrian jihadis, has been guilty of serious war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the ethnic cleansing of Kurds and Assyrians from towns such as Afrin and along a so-called cordon sanitaire along the border. Many of those who drove the Kurds and Assyrians from their homes in Rojava were recycled Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.

Earlier, while the Syrian Kurds and their allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces were fighting to liberate their homeland from the genocidal barbarians of ISIS, Erdogan and his cronies were acting in concert with the jihadis, providing them with hospitals and selling oil for them on the international market. Erdogan was appalled and furious when the Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Women's Protection Units (YPJ) lifted the siege of Kobane, put ISIS to flight, to defeat it at Raqqa.

Although he pays lip service to democracy when it suits him, Erdogan is an instinctive and ideological autocrat with a visceral hatred of the Kurds. He is also the quintessential sexist who insists that women are not equal to men; that their sole role is housewifery; that women who work outside the home are half persons supposedly denying their femininity; and that Turkish Muslims who practice birth control and family planning are denying the divine will. Erdogan also fears that the Kurds, who have higher birth rates, might one day outnumber Turks.

Erdogan and his family are deeply corrupt and he fears that losing power will lead to his prosecution and jailing. While living standards drastically decline in a crisis-stricken economy, and two out of every three children live in poverty, the tyrant lives the life of a caliph in a 1100-room palace on the outskirts of Ankara. Built at a cost to taxpayers of about US$686 million, this monstrosity costs almost $700,000 in heating bills each winter. At a time when the number of Turkish billionaires has risen, total wealth has fallen, and the poorest 10% of the population own only 2.1% of it.

It is unclear what the future holds. On the one hand, Erdogan is faced with a mounting economic crisis and rising disgust over the regimes corruption and brutality. On the other hand, many poor rural Turks have been indoctrinated since birth with the governments bigoted anti-Kurdish ideology and its appeal to religious obscurantism.

Cynically making political capital from poverty, the AKP has tied access to food relief and loans to support for the government, and posed as a good Muslim benefactor for dispensing zakat or alms for the poor.

The HDP opposes everything Erdogan stands for. It is a pro-feminist, pro-ecology, left-wing party and although pro-Kurdish, it is multi-ethnic and seeks to embrace progressive Turks. It is an associate member of the Party of European Socialists, a consultative member of the Socialist International, and a full member of the Progressive Alliance.

Formed in 2012, the HDP is now the third largest party in Turkey. In the 2018 elections, despite vicious repression, official chicanery, a virtual government monopoly of the media, and rigged ballots, it secured 11.7% of the vote and won 56 out of 600 parliamentary seats.

The party has continued to reach out to the Turkish population and, although the success of this should not be overestimated, its growth has spooked Erdogan because it threatens to undermine the chauvinist anti-Kurdish consensus that has existed since the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

One thing is clear. Despite a century of persecution since the creation of the Turkish Republic, the 15-20 million-strong Kurdish minority will never agree to be Turkified, and many Kurds have developed a high level of political sophistication. Many, too, have never given up the dream of an independent Kurdish state, and millions support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The tragedy of the Kurds is that their awakening as a people and demand for self-determination coincided with the decline of the old Ottoman Empire and the rise of virulent, ethnically hegemonic Turkish nationalism. The tragedy has been compounded by the indifference of the outside world, and the alliance of the Western Powers with the Turkish Republic.

For centuries, the Ottoman Empire had practised what was at best a rough form of multiculturalism exemplified by the decision to grant sanctuary to the Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Catholic Spain in 1492. Although the population was mainly Muslim, large Jewish and Christian minorities were tolerated as peoples of the book. By the 1890s, however, with the empire in terminal decline, Turkish ethnic nationalism was taking root and the Young Turks began to favour the creation of an ethnically homogeneous Turkish state in Anatolia and the Ottoman European districts.

One model for the modernisers was the centralised French state, which sought to assimilate its large non-French populations.

World War I saw the increasingly ruthless Young Turks organise the genocide of the empires Christian Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian populations; the aim being the creation of an ethnically and religiously homogeneous state. This genocide was followed up in 1923 by the mass population transfer of Muslims and Christians between Greece and Turkey. The Young Turks grand design had been that non-Turks could make up no more than 5% of any town or district, and that they should become good Turks.

Defeated by the Western Allies, the Ottoman rulers had no choice but to accept the carve-up of the empire along the artificial lines decided by Britain and France in the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement. They were, however, determined to hang on to the core regions in Anatolia and Europe and fought a war of independence to secure them against foreign intervention.

The Turkish government declined to ratify the Treaty of Svres, signed with the victorious Allies in 1920, which provided for the creation of a Kurdish state in eastern Anatolia. When, in 1923, the final peace settlement with the Allies was ratified at Lausanne, all mention of Kurdish independence or autonomy had been dropped. The Lausanne Treaty made no reference to the Kurds, but did stipulate the right to language and cultural rights for non-Turkish subjects of the new Republic.

The language clauses proved to be a dead letter. The Allies looked the other way when Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, the dictatorial Turkish ruler and former Ottoman general, banned the use of the Kurdish language, along with Kurdish place and given names and Kurdish customs. Continuing the genocidal program of the Young Turks, Ataturk was determined to create a linguistic and culturally homogeneous Turkish state.

The Kurds rose in revolt, but the uprising was drowned in blood. In scenes reminiscent of the Armenian genocide, Kurdish villages were razed, crops and livestock destroyed, and whole populations massacred or deported. Once again, according to the Young Turks 5% rule, Kurds were to comprise small and manageable minorities in all towns and districts.

In 1934, the Turkish government passed a Resettlement Law, which sought to break up non-Turkish populations. Thereafter, periodic uprisings such as at Dersim in 1937-38[1] were stamped out with such appalling brutality against civilians that some Turkish officers refused to continue to serve. Turkish scholars have described the massacres and deportations as genocide. Vast swathes of countryside, already devastated by the Armenian genocide with the concomitant elimination of entrepreneurs and skilled artisans, fell into long-term economic and social regression.

Large sections of eastern Anatolia remained off-limits to foreigners until 1965, and the very existence of the Kurdish people was denied: they were Mountain Turks earmarked for forced assimilation. Mention of the Armenian genocide was made a crime, along with insulting Turkishness, and a falsified version of history was taught in schools the unthinkable corollary would be if the German state criminalised mention of the Holocaust.

The most recent revolt has been the guerrilla insurgency of the PKK, which was launched in 1984 with the aim of creating an independent Kurdish state.

Despite ceasefires between 1999-2004, and 2013-15, the war has caused some 40,000 deaths and led to widespread devastation. Some 2 million Kurds were driven from their homes and the civilian suffering has been horrendous. Predictably, the Turkish government has prevailed upon its allies, including the United States, Australia, the EU and Britain to proscribe the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

In the past, the Wests slavish devotion to Turkish interests was explicable in part by Turkeys role as a frontline NATO state, and while this is still the case up to a point despite the fall of the Soviet Union, it is clear that the imperialists are happy for Turkey to crush any prospect of a genuinely independent Kurdish state that might threaten their strategic and economic interests.

The PKK has proven to be a remarkably resilient and disciplined force capable of resisting the powerful Turkish military, which is armed to the teeth with high-tech weaponry, much of it supplied by Turkeys NATO allies. Nevertheless, the war has reached a stalemate; it is unlikely that the current Turkish offensive will be successful, but neither will the PKK defeat the Turkish military.

The stalemate has caused the PKK leadership to re-examine its original aims and ideology. The PKK has twice declared ceasefires and sought to negotiate. Indeed, Erdogan negotiated with Ocalan, before calling talks off in 2015.

Formed in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist party, the PKK aimed to create an independent Kurdish state. This has proved chimerical. The Turkish state has been implacably opposed to ceding even an inch of territory; has been able to secure the support of the big powers in labelling the PKK as terrorist; and has, at times, received support from the corrupt Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq. Moreover, most of the Turkish population has backed the war, indoctrinated by Kemalist ideology that sees Turkeys boundaries as fixed and immutable, and Turkey as a state exclusively for Turks.

At the same time, the government has used the perceived threat of the Kurdish other to cement its control over the Turkish population. This has been as true of the Kemalist military and the secular Republican Peoples Party as it is of the Islamist AKP.

Since his capture 22 years ago, however, Ocalan has read widely outside of the orthodox Marxist-Leninist canon, most notably works by Benedict Anderson on imagined communities, and by Murray Bookchin on libertarian socialism. Under his influence, the PKK has abandoned its aim of the creation of a separate Kurdish state in favour of the demand for autonomy, and advocates what he calls democratic confederalism in place of statist solutions.

Orthodox Marxist-Leninist theory has insisted on the right of peoples to self-determination (although in practice, in its degenerate Stalinist iteration, it trampled all over it for raisons dtat). Arguing against Marxists who regarded all nationalism as reactionary diversions from the internationalist struggle, Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin insisted there were two types of nationalism that of the oppressor and the oppressed and that it was the duty of Marxists to support the struggles for self-determination of Ireland and other oppressed nations.

So far, so good, but as poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously wrote: All theory is grey, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life. The theory ran the risk of becoming a dogmatic prescription rather than a guide to action. Whereas application of the theory to, say, Vietnam, is straightforward, not even Ireland was plain sailing with its large pro-British majority in the countrys northeast. In the case of the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the problems of competing nationalisms continue to this day.

In the former Ottoman territories inhabited by a myriad of different ethnic and religious groups, often living cheek by jowl in the same town or village the problem was compounded by the emergence of states and boundaries artificially created by the victorious western imperialists in the aftermath of World War I.

Lenin was indubitably correct to insist on the distinction between the nationalism of the oppressed and the oppressor, but in practice the difference could be difficult to discern in regions of mixed ethnicity. Moreover, the nationalism of an oppressed people can mutate into the nationalism of an oppressor, as is the case with the Jewish people in Israel/Palestine today. In any case, as Anderson and other writers have demonstrated, nationalism is itself a relatively recent phenomenon and attempts to read back its existence into history to justify a contemporary nationalism are inventions.

Turkish nationalism and that of the Baathists in Syria and Iraq is virulently reactionary and repressive, even genocidal, and the Kurds have every right to oppose it, even by force of arms. The problem is that, in part because of social engineering deportations, resettlement of Turks, forced assimilation, etc by the Turkish state, the Kurds are spread far outside their heartlands in southeast Anatolia.

Outside of Turkey, in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, the Kurdish population is often inextricably intermingled with a bewildering plurality of other ethnic and religious groups, including Turkmen, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Ajam (Persians), Circassians, Chechens, Shabaks, Yazidi Kurds and Roma.

Confronted with a similar situation 100 years ago, in the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Austro-Marxists advocated replacing the dual monarchy with a democratic federation of the peoples. In light of subsequent horrors, including mass deportations, forced assimilation, internecine wars and ethnic cleansing, we may ask if their ideas were so wrong.

These were the problems Ocalan wrestled with in his cell in the prison on Imrali island in the Sea of Marmara. His solution is democratic confederalism, based on direct democracy, mutual respect for ethnic and religious difference, equality for women in all spheres, and respect for the Earth that gives life to all.

Ocalan today is revered as a leader by millions of Kurds, and his ideas have spread far beyond the PKK. The Rojava Kurds have attempted, even during war against ISIS and Turkey, to put his ideas into practice, notably in the case of the all-female YPJ (although it should be stressed that the PKK has always favoured equality for women in both theory and practice) and in a system of democratic councils. The same is true of the HDP, which is implacably feminist and multicultural.

The Great Powers have always looked the other way when the various post-Ottoman states, including Turkey, have viciously repressed the Kurds and other peoples. The phrase that the Kurds have no friends but the mountains may be hackneyed, but it is all too true.

Just a few years after promising the Kurds their own state at Svres, British leader Winston Churchill was demanding they be bombed and gassed. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union abandoned the Mahabad Republic, which they had sponsored in the Kurdish regions of Iran, leaving the people to suffer cruel repression. The Republics elected President, Qadhi Muhammad, was publicly hanged.

The United States, too, incited the Kurds in Iraq to revolt against Saddam Husseins dictatorship, only to abandon them. Most recently, under Donald Trump, the US rubber-stamped Erdogans illegal invasion of Rojava this after the Kurds had sacrificed their blood to rid the world of ISIS.

It should be clear that the Left has an internationalist duty to support the Kurds, but painful to admit, all too many western socialists and Marxists have been indifferent or even hostile to the Kurdish peoples long struggle for justice. With honourable exceptions, this has also been the case with the Turkish left.

It would be wrong, though, to see the Kurds merely as victims. They have resisted their oppressors, sometimes by armed struggle, at other times by peaceful mass mobilisation. It is the duty of all progressive people, and especially of socialists, to stand by them, because the Great Powers will not break from the pattern of using and abusing the Kurds. Their struggle is also an inspiration, pointing the way forward for western socialists. This is the context in which we should view the current struggle of the HDP against Erdogans fascist dictatorship.

Notes

[1] In 2011, Erdogan admitted the Dersim massacres and apologised for them. The apology may have been sincere, but he also pointed the finger at his Republican Peoples Party opponents, who were in power at the time of the massacres. It is also likely that he hoped to undercut support for the PKK.

[This article also appears in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.]

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Myanmar: National Unity Government Must Be Recognised | Scoop News – Scoop.co.nz

Posted: at 9:30 am

Tuesday, 20 April 2021, 6:19 amPress Release: ITUC

The ITUC has welcomed the formation of anationalunity government in Myanmar and calledfor it to be formally recognised by the United Nations,governments and inter-governmental bodies as the legitimategovernment of Myanmar.

The government iscomposed of parliamentarians elected in November 2020,representatives of the ethnic nationalities, academics andothers with specialist expertise.

Sharan Burrow, ITUCGeneral Secretary, said: This is the legitimategovernment of Myanmar reflecting the will of the people asexpressed in the November elections. The international tradeunion movement recognises its legitimacy and so should theentire international community.

The military junta,which is continuing its murderous campaign against thepeople of Myanmar, should be completely isolated.Governments should have nothing to do with it and allbusinesses must sever any economic ties they have with themilitary.

Failure to do so means direct complicityin mass murder of people who yearn for democracy and freedomfrom violent oppression.

The government includes UWin Myint as President, Aung San Suu Kyi as State Counsellorand Mahn Win Khaing Than as PrimeMinister.

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Forward campaign focused on intention, connection, progression | Student Government | utdailybeacon.com – UT Daily Beacon

Posted: at 9:30 am

One of the three campaigns running in this years Student Government Association elections isForward. Forward is made up of Claire Donelan, running for student body president, Reginald Williams II, running for vice president, Nia Myrthil for student services director and Simon Jolly for executive treasurer.

The members of Forward base their campaign off of a three-pillar policy guidance for their approach to representing the student body: Intention, Progression and Connection.

Donelan explained that Forward was intentional with who they built their campaign with and who is in leadership positions. Their goal is to have people involved from all over different parts of campus and from different backgrounds.

Progression, as explained by Donelan, is making sure that Forward is focusing on important policy goals that benefit the student body and also working on past initiatives, like current president Karmen Jones anti-racism efforts.

When we transition into office, we wanna make sure we arent just forgetting about the history that came behind us. Like, right now, I am serving on Karmens executive team, and I know that we are doing great things. And it would really be a disservice to the student body if we stopped those initiatives, Donelan said.

By having previous experience with Jones executive team, Donelan wants to extend the efforts they have been working on into the next year, as to not backtrack.

Connection is where Forward wants to bridge the gap between the student body and SGA, making sure there is mutual understanding between the two, as well as promoting inclusivity amongst different communities on campus.

If elected, Forward has some of its own policy initiatives that the team wants to focus on, such as legislation on sustainability and legislation on LGBTQ+ issues.

Sustainability has been a big thing for our campaign, as well as when it comes to writing legislation, writing about LGBTQ+ housing issues and job opportunities is something that members of our campaign have been fighting for and pushing for and excited about; I think that will come up next year, Donelan said.

A big goal for the Forward team is to see a push toward the university adopting visible renewable energy on campus.

A unique characteristic about Reggie Williams as the VP candidate is that he has little experience with SGA, only serving on First Year Council during his freshman year. Williams accredits this lack of time in SGA as a benefit, as he was able to experience most of college as a part of the general student body, giving him an advantage in his abilities to bridge the gap between SGA and the student body.

Being a part of the general student body, I was able to see how people were ill-informed or didnt take part in SGA because they just didnt know about it. That is why I am really passionate about changing the FYS curriculum, so all freshman students can learn more about SGA then, Williams said.

If elected, Williams has plans to be more communicative to the student body about SGA initiatives and plans, so students are more informed about what SGA is working on.

Another area that Williams would like to focus on is addressing the students skepticism of the efficacy of SGA. Williams plans on using his leadership skills to follow a more hands-on approach with senators.

A soon as the senate gets started, I am going to let the senate know how approachable I am; I will drop in one by one with my senators to have one-on-one time, to let me know how I could do better as president of the senate and see everything they are working (on) to make sure they are staying consistent and being progressive, Williams said.

If elected, a goal of Williams is to stay consistent throughout the year, and as president of the senate, he hopes to work on making the senates process of creating legislation consistent throughout the academic year, as well.

Another area concerning the transparency of SGA, aside from the transparency of its legislation initiatives, is the transparency of SGAs financial expenditures. Talking with executive treasurer candidate Simon Jolly, Jolly has plans to stay on top of communicating this to the student body.

I think it is really important that SGA is transparent with the about $50,000 that we are spending of student dollars. A few ways I would like to see that enacted is by having the sheet where SGA is tracking how it is spending its money available to students on its website. Also, beyond just having a link on the website, I think it is important that we are using our social media to talk about, Hey, SGA spent $50,000, if you want more details, you can find that information on our website, Jolly said. ... The students should be able to see where we are spending their money and should be able to have a say in where that money is going.

With a large portion of Forwards campaign focused on inclusivity, student services director candidate Nia Myrthil talked about how student events should focus more on serving students and uplifting different voices rather than pushing out events that generalize different students identities.

When it comes to events, a lot of the times they are culturally ignorant, they are all just generalized and generalizations can be very disrespectful. I want to make sure with the events that we have, we are celebrating the culture and individuality, Myrthil said.

Myrthil mentioned wanting to start an arts committee that will focus on showcasing students from different cultural backgrounds and focusing on their art and talents.

One of the biggest things I wanted to focus on is I wanted to focus on the joys of our minority students on campus, because a lot of the time when we hear anything about minority students, it is usually about the oppression that we face on this campus, Myrthil said. A lot of time that can be a little bit too much or traumatizing for students of color, so I want to do events that celebrate our students and let them know they are appreciated here.

Myrthil wants BIPOC students to be celebrated on campus and to craft their own narratives through student engagement and events on campus.

Evan Sudduth, Forwards campaign manager, talked about Forwards approach to campaigning during the pandemic.

We built our internal executive board out of people that we handpicked because they come from different walks of life ... we are reaching out to people to let them know how to vote and what its like to be an SGA campaign, Sudduth said. ... We are specifically reaching out to individuals who align with our values and who might get on our campaign and have interests in that.

By reaching out to people of their values, they hope to connect with a larger audience of students that represent their aim to foster inclusivity among all communities on campus.

Forward has been active on social media throughout its campaign and has also held office hours on Zoom, where students can talk to candidates one-on-one.

In addition to the official Forward Instagram page, other Forward candidates have used their social media platforms to promote their campaign. For example, an off-campus senator candidate Stephen Monroe, known for the silly goose TikTok, used his internet fame to tell students to vote for Forward in a TikTok; thevideoreceived over 375k likes in a day.

The Forward team encouraged students to view all three campaigns social media pages to be informed voters. You can view their Instagram page using their handle@forwardutk.

Even if you haven't voted before, even if you haven't been involved in SGA before, I want to make sure everyone knows that it is very important you take place in this election and vote Forward if you really want to see the campus move forward, not in one area, but in all areas, Williams said.

Voting begins on Wednesday, April 21 at 8 a.m. and ends on Friday, April 23 at 5 p.m. Submit your votes atvotesga.utk.edu.

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Majority of World’s Population Lives in Countries That Violate Religious Freedom, Report Says – The Tablet Catholic Newspaper

Posted: at 9:30 am

By Ins San Martn, Rome Bureau Chief

ROME (Crux) A papal charity says that at least two-thirds of the worlds population lives in countries where religious freedom is not upheld, and the most persecuted religious group are Christians.

The 2021 Religious Freedom Report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) found that around 5.2 billion people live in countries where there are grave violations of religious freedom, including three of the worlds most populous countries: China, India, and Pakistan. In most of these countries, religious minorities are the most targeted, and in recent years, the faith-based persecution by authoritarian governments has intensified.

[Related: Survey: More U.S. Catholics Concerned about Global Persecution of Christians]

The report also highlights and denounces the increase of sexual violence used as a weapon against religious minorities crimes against women and girls who are abducted, raped, and forced to convert to another religion.

The promotion of ethnic and religious supremacy in some Hindu and Buddhist majority countries in Asia has led to further oppression of minorities, often reducing their members to de facto second-class citizenship. According to the report, India is the most extreme example, but similar policies apply in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and others.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the international president of ACN defended the importance of religious freedom as an inherent aspect of human dignity, insisting that it cannot be trampled upon for any reason, neither by any government nor by any political policy or any particular agenda.

Ahead of the April 20 release of the report, he said that religious freedom contains within itself the nucleus of all freedoms since it relates to the human conscience and is thus linked to the dignity of every individual human being. Consequently, it may not be violated in any way.

The report found that the most persecuted religion was Christianity.

Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN International, writes in the reports introduction that despite the albeit important UN initiatives, and the staffing of religious freedom ambassadorships, to date, the international communitys response to violence based on religion, and religious persecution in general, can be categorized as too little too late,

Behind the violent conflicts, whether in Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, or Mozambique to mention only a few countries are those in the shadows who, manipulating the deepest convictions of humanity, have instrumentalized religion in the search for power, Heine-Geldern continued.

The 2021 report is the 15th edition of Aid to the Church in Needs Religious Freedom in the World Report, produced every two years. It is published in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. With over 800 pages, the publication has changed much since it was first published as a booklet in 1999.

The report includes case studies that put faces to the statistics such as the burning of churches in Chile, the mass abduction of schoolchildren in Nigeria, and sexual violence and forced conversion in Pakistan.

Among the many findings of the report is the radicalization of the African continent, especially in Sub-Saharan and Eastern Africa regions, where there has been a dramatic increase in the presence of jihadist groups. Violations of religious freedom including extreme persecution such as mass killings are now occurring in 42 percent of all African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and Mozambique.

Yet this radicalization affects not only the African continent: The report tracks a rise of transnational Islamist networks stretching from Sub-Saharan Africa to Comoros in the Indian Ocean, and to the Philippines in the South China Sea, with the aim of creating a so-called transcontinental caliphate.

So-called Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, with ideological and material patronage from the Middle East, affiliate with, and further radicalize, local armed militias to establish caliphate provinces along the Equator; a crescent of jihadist violence stretches from Mali to Mozambique in Sub-Saharan Africa, to Comoros in the Indian Ocean, and to the Philippines in the South China Sea, the report found.

In addition, it speaks of a cyber-caliphate, with a global outreach, that has become a tool for online recruitment and radicalization in the West, with terrorists employing digital technologies to recruit, radicalize and attack.

Among the main findings listed in the report, there are three that particularly stand out. First, the West has jettisoned tools that reduce radicalization, such as discontinuing religious education in many countries, despite governments acknowledging that teaching world religions reduces radicalization as it increases religious understanding among young people.

Second, theres an increase in polite persecution, or what Pope Francis calls the rise of new cultural norms that consign religions to the quiet obscurity of the individuals conscience or relegates them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues, or mosques. These new laws, the report argues, lead to an individuals rights to freedom of conscience and religion to conflict with the obligation to comply with the legislation. According to the report, this polite persecution is a reality in several Western countries, where the right to conscientious objection on religious grounds for health care professionals in relation to issues concerning abortion and euthanasia is no longer meaningfully protected in law, and where graduates from particular confessional universities are increasingly denied access to certain professions. Similarly, its increasingly hard for religious schools to follow their own religious ethos.

Third, the report highlights the Vaticans renewed impetus to foster interreligious dialogue, an initiative spearheaded by Pope Francis, who back in 2019 co-signed the declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together with the Grand Imam Ahamad Al-Tayyib of Al-Azar, the leader of the Sunni Muslim world.

Persecution by region

When it comes to Africa, the question is not whether the continent is the next battleground against Islamist militants, but rather when will sufficient lives be lost and families displaced to move the international community to action? Already the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands killed, and millions displaced.

According to the 2021 report, Sub-Saharan Africa is ripe for the infiltration of Islamist ideologies.

On account of generations of poverty, corruption, pre-existing intercommunal violence between herders and farmers over land rights (exacerbated by the consequences of climate change), and weak state structures, this area has become a breeding ground for marginalized and frustrated young men, the report notes. This, in turn, has become a recruitment opportunity for extremists who prey on them with promises of wealth, power, and the ousting of corrupt authorities.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the predominance of Christianity is no guarantee that religious freedom is upheld. The greatest violations of religious freedom occurred in nations with questionable records of respect for human rights and democracy, including Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

These governments expressed hostility and aggression towards Christian Churches both Catholic and non-Catholic when religious leaders denounced corruption, and social and political policies understood to be detrimental to the common good, the report argues.

The Middle East-North Africa region goes from Pakistan in South Asia to Morocco in northwest Africa. This transcontinental region is home to over 6 percent of the worlds population, encompassing a variety of cultural and ethnic groups.

The birthplace of the worlds great monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam these countries include more than 20 percent of the worlds Muslims and 60 percent of the worlds oil reserves. Two facts that, according to the report, make this a region of powerful global influence in politics and religion.

Several countries in this area have experienced positive political and societal changes during the period under review, but have stopped short of furthering the promotion and protection of human rights, the report notes. The legal and societal environment shows a reluctance to change, as discriminatory laws and practices, mainly against non-Muslims, continue.

The Islamic State terrorist organization, the report notes, is currently weakened but not destroyed, and even though heinous crimes committed by jihadist groups were less numerous in the past two years, armed Islamist fanaticism remains a major military concern.

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Georgias voter suppression bill is an assault on our democracy – Brookings Institution

Posted: at 9:30 am

Just three short months ago, a violent mob overran our nations Capitol Building to revolt against certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Many of the rioters carried signs proclaiming Stop the Stealreflecting the lies that President Donald Trump and his team stoked about voter fraud. Today, many elected officials are using that same pretext to dismantle the voting rights won during the civil rights movement.

As many Republican officials continue to spread lies about the last election, they are working in state legislatures across the country to create the conditions that will allow them to suppress enough votes to win future elections. Just as President Trump targeted voters in majority-Black cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, these state lawmakers are taking their cues from the old white supremacy playbook, which teaches: If you cant win fair and square, then suppress the vote.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp just signed into law a bill that adds many obstacles to voting, including reducing the number of ballot boxes, shrinking the window for early voting, adding additional photo ID requirements, and allowing state officials to circumvent the work of county election officials if they dont like the outcomes they are seeing. The Georgia bill even goes so far as to make it illegal for outside groups to give water or food to voters stuck in long lines.

We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything weve seen since the Jim Crow era, Georgia state Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, a Democrat, said of the bill.

Georgia is sadly not alone in its assault on democracy. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states.

These bills are the aftermath of the Supreme Courts 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which said that state and local governments with a history of discrimination are no longer required to preclear amendments to voting laws and processes with the federal government.

Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court in its 5-4 ruling. Racial disparity in those numbers was compelling evidence justifying the preclearance remedy and the coverage formula. There is no longer such a disparity.

But the recent flood of voter suppression bills is a powerful reminder that voter registration and turnout in those states rose dramatically in the years since passage of the Voting Rights Act because of that preclearance. It is no coincidence that the day after the Shelby ruling, North Carolina lawmakers began work on a voter suppression bill that the United States Court of Appeals would later strike down, finding that the provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.

Indeed, voter suppression for party and voter suppression of race are intricately connected. For example, in 2020, The Guardian found that growing Black and Latino or Hispanic neighborhoods in Texas saw the majority of polling station closures.

This year, the Supreme Court will decide another landmark case that will determine the future of the Voting Rights Act. This case revolves around Section 2 of the act, which expressly forbids any election law that results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color. This is important because it focuses attention on disparate outcomes regardless of the legislations purported intent. Section 2 provides protections so that even if unscrupulous lawmakers use the pretext of voter fraud, their suppression efforts can be challenged. If the Court rules against Section 2, it will further embolden voter suppression efforts like the Georgia bill.

The United States is supposed to be a bastion of political freedom and democratic participation. Indeed, our foreign policy explicitly claims to advance these values abroad. But if we are suppressing the vote at home, what does that say about the values we supposedly hold? Fifty-six years after passing the Voting Rights Act to counter the systemic oppression encoded into law through the Jim Crow regime, we find ourselves right back in the fight to ensure that every American has the opportunity to help direct the future of the nation.

It is time to stop the real steal. We need new federal legislation that will defend voting rights against the encroachment of unscrupulous lawmakers. And we also need the Supreme Court to do its job in vindicating minority rights against the tyranny of white supremacy and systemic racism.

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CHRO welcomes formation of (NUG) the parallel government – Burma News International

Posted: at 9:30 am

The CHRO honors all elected cabinet members of the National Unity Government. we send our best wishes for all those who will try to forge a new democratic path for our conflict-torn country amidst bloodshed and grief.

Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) welcomes the formation of the National Unity Government formed by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), according to its statement on April 17th.

Salai Za Uk Ling, Assistant Executive Director of the CHRO said: The main point is they emerge from widespread consultation with ethnic peoples organizations. On the other hand, the army regards themselves as the government after illegally grabbing power. We welcome and support the NUG in its work for the public and the implementation of human rights, democracy and federalism.

But the NUG needs to think about the fact that the successive governments failed to conduct an analysis on the source of oppression against the minorities and change it. I think now is the best time for the current government to correct the past mistakes after doing a thorough review.

In its statement, the CHRO urged the people that how different races, religions and politics are, all Myanmar citizens should stand in unity behind the NUG.

All together we need to protest against the lack of legitimacy of military leaders who operate using illegal means and violent means.

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A message to the UVM community as we await the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial – UVM News

Posted: at 9:30 am

Dear UVM Community Members,

As many of you are aware, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been on trial facing murder charges for the death of George Floyd. Yesterday marked the closing statements in the trial.

As we await a verdict, our attention and hearts are with Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color who continue to experience the heartbreak and violence of systemic racism in our country and in our communities.

There is no way to give full honor to the victims of racial injustices, and this is why we continue to work for justice and equity. At UVM, we strive to be in solidarity with our BIPOC community, and believe that Black lives matter.

We understand that each of you will have unique needs as we navigate the potential and cumulative impact of this moment. What follows are some of the opportunities for learning, community support, and space for healing: In solidarity with the BIPOC community, the Student Government Association (SGA) has approved our request to raise the Black Lives Matter flag in front of the Davis Center this week, per the SGAs flag protocol. Beginning Friday, the Interfaith Center will host an interactive art installation on the fourth floor of the Davis Center inviting people to share their hopes and concerns for racial justice in this moment. Counseling support is available for all students via Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS) and through the identity centers on campus. Community gatherings to learn, be together, and process are being developed by campus partners, including the Center for Cultural Pluralism and Identity Centers.

As we continue to reflect, we want to highlight UVM's Our Common Ground:

"...we unite against all forms of injustice, including, but not limited to, racism. We reject bigotry, oppression, degradation, and harassment, and we challenge injustice toward any member of our community."

Racism is an ongoing problem rooted in a complex history, and it impacts us all. As you continue to reflect on what your role is within the work of equity, justice, and inclusion please know that as challenging as this work can feel, it is our responsibility to continue, together.

In solidarity,

Erica Caloiero, Interim Vice Provost for Student AffairsSherwood Smith, Senior Executive Director for the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and InclusionJim Vigoreaux, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

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China, Myanmar and others criticized in report on rising religious persecution – The Japan Times

Posted: at 9:30 am

ROME Violations of religious freedom are increasing and persecution takes place in more than 25 countries, with China and Myanmar among those that have the worst records, according to a report by a Vatican-backed charity.

The Religious Freedom in the World Report, covering 2019-2020 and issued on Tuesday, said that in some countries, such as Niger, Turkey and Pakistan, prejudices against religious minorities led local residents to blame them for the COVID-19 pandemic and denial of access to medical aid.

The 800-page report was prepared by Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), a worldwide Catholic charity that studies violations of freedoms of all religions.

The latest report put 26 countries in a red category denoting the existence of persecution, compared to 21 countries at the time of the last report two years ago.

It put 36 countries in the orange category denoting discrimination, compared to 17 two years ago.

The report describes discrimination as when laws or rules apply to a particular group and not to all, and persecution as when there is an active program to subjugate people based on religion.

There has been a significant increase in the severity of religiously-motivated persecution and oppression, the report said.

It was particularly scathing about China and Myanmar.

The apparatus of repression constructed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in recent years is fine-tuned, pervasive, and technologically sophisticated, the report said.

The most egregious violations were against Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang where the atrocities have reached such a scale that a growing number of experts describe them as genocide, it said.

In February, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden endorsed a last-minute determination by the Donald Trump administration that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang and has said the United States must be prepared to impose costs on China.

China says the complexes it set up in Xinjiang provide vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has called allegations of forced labor and human rights violations groundless rumor and slander.

The ACN report said Catholic hierarchy in China continue to suffer harassment and arrest despite a landmark deal signed in 2018 between Beijing and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops on the mainland.

Reuters reported last year that two nuns who work at the Vatican mission in Hong Kong were arrested when they went home to the mainland for a visit.

China was increasing the use of facial recognition on worshippers of various religions, it said.

In Myanmar, the report said Rohingya Muslims have been the victims of the most egregious violations of human rights in recent memory.

Last year, the International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to take urgent measures to protect Rohingya from genocide. The government has denied accusations of genocide.

The ACN report said the military coup on Feb. 1 was likely to make things worse for all religious minorities in Myanmar, where about 8% of the population is Christian.

Africa would be the next battleground against Islamic militants, the report said.

Militant groups were causing havoc in countries including Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, northern Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Mozambique, it said.

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