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Iran says Bahrain has crossed line by stripping Shia cleric of citizenship

The Guardian | Protest -

Revolutionary Guards commander says Manama’s move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim will trigger armed resistance

Bahrain has stripped the spiritual leader of the kingdom’s Shia Muslim majority of his citizenship, resulting in protests outside his home and furious threats by neighbouring Iran over the escalating repression.

The move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim comes less than a week after a court banned the country’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, accusing it of fomenting sectarian unrest and having links to a foreign power – a clear reference to Iran, which is a fierce critic of Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy.

Related: Bahrain detains rights activist as UN official criticises repression

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Classic account of Soweto revolt in 1976 | Letters

The Guardian | Protest -

In your article on the Soweto revolt (40 years on, victims reflect on Soweto uprising, 16 June), I was surprised to find no reference to Baruch Hirson’s classic account of the revolt, Year of Fire, Year of Ash, first published by Zed Books in 1979 and recently reissued.

It not only gives a detailed description of the uprising in Soweto in 1976, but also shows that this was part of wider opposition to apartheid, as well as tracing the history of protest against African educational institutions in South Africa dating back to the 1920s.

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Let Orlando drive us to action, not fear

Waging Nonviolence -

by Lucas Johnson

Embed from Getty Images

As the debate and the raw emotion of June 12 subsides and the discussion moves into a second week, I find myself still reeling. I am not among those grieving the personal loss. My family and friends in Orlando are safe and the depth of my gratitude reflects this haunting and pronounced awareness that it might not have been so. That life must not be taken for granted. The grim reality that the news that shook mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters from their sleep last Sunday could have been mine. I feel this from far away from Orlando, and it is not lost on me that I write this waiting to retrieve a dear friend from the Brussels airport, where yet another tragedy, just months ago, shook so many.

As I consider the grief of those in Orlando, what shakes me the most is the moment those doubtlessly beautiful and brilliant lives were taken. My mind keeps drifting to the last moments for those murdered — ordering drinks or texting their mothers from bathroom stalls — and the thought that keeps haunting me is that it was just after “last call.” The night was almost over.

The paradox is unrelenting, and it’s the moment of their death that compounds my empathy and grief. I know what it feels like to be free on the dance floor at 3:00 a.m., working it out, happy, with friends, lovers and potential lovers. So many of us know that feeling — that joy, that relative bliss and the vulnerability that comes with it. It is human. I imagine and remember the reprieve from work, from the 9-5, 11-3, or 6 until closing shift, a break from the other complications of life. I also know, as many LGBTQ people know, the sweet feeling of release from having performed our best drag all day to conform to the expectations of the dominant culture. The freedom found in some dark and crowded place where we can shake defiantly, kiss passionately and grind on the dance floor with abandon. The taunts, ridicule, and all manner of violence held at bay by the beats that feel as much within us as round us.

These spaces and moments are not perfect, but in this beautiful and sweet moment we are fully in our bodies, free in our love and desire. The more we’ve suffered and endured, the more the space is needed. I’ve always thought the song “God is a DJ” got it right, and the thought of that sacred moment interrupted by evil exacting such an unimaginable pain leaves me breathless. To the 49 souls whose lives have been lost, to the 53 injured and those who escaped, I will never again be able to dance without thinking of you.

Embed from Getty Images

When I’ve danced before, like many of us, I feel the weight of the gay clubs raided, bombed, the people beaten by police, forced to the ground while assaulted with billy clubs and police dogs. I have danced with the awareness that for the freedom we’ve gained and could express in Orlando, others in many other parts of our world cannot move their bodies so freely, cannot press their bodies against the bodies of those we desire without risking grave consequence. Perhaps that’s what makes it all the more painful, the feeling of progress halted in one horrible instant. We had come to not expect such concentrated horror in places like Orlando.

For this reason and many, the shock of the country is understandable, and it is not at all mitigated by the fact that atrocities have happened before or persist elsewhere in similar or greater magnitude. No parent anywhere should have to feel what these parents must now feel. Yet, many have, do and will. As the war planes ready, and the soldiers prepare to be deployed, to think that the actions of this murderer will be cited as justification for the deaths of thousands is simply too much to bear. Perhaps one of the symptoms of the creeping inhumanity of our culture is our inability to mourn.

That grief drives us to action is not wrong, but for it to drive us to fear is dangerous. It is so dangerous because we are so very ill informed; we in the U.S. public are ignorant and some of this ignorance is willed. Thus, it goes that the horrible acts of a demented man serve to confirm the shortsighted convictions of ignorant people. Hypocrisy reigns, as they wrap themselves in rainbow flags to mourn lives they deemed unworthy of rights like hospital visitation.

Then comes the picking apart of the dead, perpetrator and victims. The New York Times publishes headlines like “Gays and Latinos, 2 Cultures Once at Odds,” that speak of stitching together. The article eloquently chronicles the pain and homophobia of generations past. Yet this is the way the majority always tells the story, as if to be gay is to surrender your claim to Latino, as if being gay could make anyone any less Boricua, as if any of us with more complex identities could separate these insoluble aspects of our being. There is no Latino community without its LGBTQ members anymore than black or African American could exist without James Baldwin or Bayard Rustin, Alice Walker or Angela Davis. I don’t wish to dishonor the victims by pointing out the violence of this reduction. Rather, I find it illustrative of a persistent problem that contributes to the creation of more victims.

Reporters, commentators and the like speak of “separate communities” reducing millions of people — and in the case of Islam, 1.6 billion people — to such a simplified caricature that, were the consequences not so frighteningly real in our time, it would be immediately taken as absurd. They say things like “Muslims are responsible,” or “Muslims don’t like gays,” accepting a logic so faulty it’s hard to understand how it could be said seriously. They render the Muslim gay, lesbian and trans people who have been among my friends in the United States and Europe invisible. These friends who I have, whom I’ve loved, also dance, arms extended, shoulders twisting. They also know the freedom of Pulse. It is true that they have struggled within their communities, as many of us have. Yet their struggle is made more difficult, not less, by bigotry and discrimination, bombs and military occupations directed at them. The W.E.B. Du Bois’s phrases “What does it feel like to be a problem?” and “double consciousness” serve both LGBTQ people globally and Muslim-identified people living in Europe and the United States well. Du Bois wrote those words in 1903. Why haven’t we learned?

It’s all too much to deal with really. As I sit and write, my friend, Zoharah Simmons, who happens to be Muslim and feminist — and a 50-year veteran of the Black Freedom Struggle — arrives at Brussels Luchthaven. Following up on a conversation about nonviolence from our first event with young Belgians, our second event will be about the role of love and education in organizing for a more peaceful and just world. The airport is repaired, one does not notice the traces of the carnage that was here just three months ago. There is a part of me that wishes that I could just go from here to find a club and dance and forget it all. I’m sure I’ll be able to again some day, but right now, my DJ is bowled over and weeping.

Three environmental activists killed each week in 2015

The Guardian | Protest -

Global Witness figures show last year was the deadliest for environment and land campaigners since 2002

Three environmental activists were killed per week last year, murdered defending land rights and the environment from mining, dam projects and logging, a campaign group said on Monday.

In 16 countries surveyed in a report by Global Witness, 185 activists were killed, making 2015 the deadliest year for environment and land campaigners since 2002.

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How we launched Egypt’s 2011 revolution

Waging Nonviolence -

by Alex Mayyasi and Ahmed Salah

Ahmed Salah in Egypt’s Tahrir Square on January 29, 2011, after his release from prison. (WNV/Ahmed Salah)

It took the crash of an Egyptian airplane for the world to notice that Egyptians are defying the military tyrant who rules our country.

The airline, of course, is EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on May 19. While the press speculated about the cause of the crash, they reported that an eerily prescient graffiti message had appeared on the belly of the plane two years earlier: “We will bring this plane down.”

The military tyrant is Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian president and former general who was “elected” by 96 percent of voters after ordering the massacre of 1,150 men, women and children who died protesting peacefully.

Sisi was the reason for the eerie message. The graffiti was not a threat of terrorism. Rather it was a response to the plane’s technical name: SU-GCC. Since the last two letters (‘CC’) sound like the president’s name (Sisi), workers who wrote the message intended to make a political statement about removing Sisi from power.

It’s unfortunate that this is what it took to get Egyptians’ resistance to our president in the news. Because while the world has called the Arab Spring a failure and moved on, the protesters who denounce the president at demonstrations and sit-ins have not given up. Since we ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egyptians have never ceased to risk incarceration or death to fight for real democracy.

I know this because I am an Egyptian democracy activist. I attended my first protest in 2001; I helped organize the Egyptian Revolution in 2011; and I attended nearly daily protests against the corrupt political system that remained after Mubarak’s ouster until I fled the country in 2012.

I had to leave due to assassination attempts, which made me part of a community of Egyptian dissidents who now have to watch Egyptians fight for freedom from afar. Nobel laureate and former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei lives in Europe. “Facebook activist” Wael Ghonim works in Silicon Valley. Political satirist Bassem Youssef films comedy in the United States. Ramy Essam, Egypt’s “Revolutionary Singer,” records music in Sweden.

Many of us are hopeful about Egypt; many of us are despondent. In other words, we feel just like Egyptian exiles, emigres, and dissidents did from 2005 to 2010, when regular protests occurring in Egypt felt inspiring but perhaps hopeless. They felt that way until January 24, 2011. Because on the next day, January 25, we took to Egypt’s streets and started a revolution.

I was there that day, after spending two feverish weeks preparing for the protests on January 25. I recently wrote a book about my life as an activist, hoping to show the world and other activists what Egyptians accomplished, and why we are still fighting.

The following is an excerpt from that book, “You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution,” that describes the first day of the 2011 revolution and the events that led to it. It is now a historical document — a first-person account of the Egyptian Revolution.

But it is my belief that it is also a playbook. One that we created and that Egyptians will use again as many times as it takes to achieve our dreams of bread, freedom and dignity.

The night of January 24, 2011, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned and worried about what would happen the next day in cities across Egypt. For 30 years, a dictator had ruled my country. Under President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s economy deteriorated, political prisoners languished in jail, and corrupt politicians rigged elections for the president and his allies. I had spent nearly a decade working with democracy activists to overthrow Mubarak through nonviolent protest, and I believed the success or failure of our 10-year struggle would be determined tomorrow, on January 25.

I belonged to a loosely unified opposition movement of activists, politicians, workers and judges that wanted to overthrow Mubarak and bring democracy to Egypt. In 2006, we criticized the government in protests and press conferences in downtown Cairo so often that we referred to the area as “liberated territory.” In recent years, however, we struggled to challenge Mubarak’s rule. Just months earlier, the president’s National Democratic Party swept parliamentary elections in one of the most corrupt elections in Egyptian history. Egyptians agreed that Mubarak was grooming his son Gamal to succeed him as president.

The rigged elections and prospect of hereditary rule insulted Egyptians’ dignity and focused people’s anger against the regime. On January 14, 2011, twenty-eight days of protest culminated in the downfall of Tunisia’s longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This inspired Egyptian dissidents, who set the date of January 25 for similar protests in Egypt. It was an ironic choice. January 25 is a national holiday that celebrates Egypt’s once admired but increasingly despised police.

I doubted we would succeed as quickly as our Tunisian brothers and sisters, and I feared the protests would fail entirely. In mid-January, I posed as a journalist and asked Egyptians in Cairo, where I lived, if they planned to protest on January 25. “What protests?” they answered. After attending hundreds of protests attended by only a few dozen people, I knew better than to expect an overwhelming response.

After that discouraging afternoon, I worked non-stop with other activists to spread the word, share the strategy I believed in, and train new protesters. We recruited Egyptians who had attended protests or signed political petitions. My fiancée Mahitab, who excelled at recruiting people to our cause, set up dozens of meetings in Cairo and northern Egypt. I talked with volunteers until I spoke with the rote consistency of a tape recording.

I did not set an alarm for the morning of January 25. I was tired, and I worried that I would find my hopes dashed again the next day. Since I focused on training others, I had not planned to lead a rally. The role of an activist is not to lead the masses with a flag draped around his or her shoulders. Activists meet a few people at a time in a coffee shop to explain in hushed tones why they should believe when no one else does. An activist’s moment is not the moment of change; it is the period when change seems impossible. We did our best to strike a match. We could only pray that it would catch.

When I finally slept, the sun was up. A phone call from the Delta, the area north of Cairo where the Nile spills into the Mediterranean, woke me at 11. Even though January 25 was a national holiday, and shops and offices were closed, I struggled to hear the caller. He told me that protesters had driven the police outside the city. “Turnout is massive,” he told me. “It is like the city is on fire.” I was stunned.

Over the next half hour, I dressed while answering phone calls from activists and protesters I had met over the past week. Each told the same story. One man relayed news of successful protests in Mahalla, an industrial city that Egyptian riot police had patrolled like an occupying force since it held massive anti-government protests in 2008.

I felt euphoric as I left my apartment to join the protests. I did not know exactly where I was going. Along with other activists, I advised people to assemble and rally in side streets, gaining numbers before moving to more central locations and eventually to Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. No one set exact times and gathering points, as that would allow the police to disperse protesters before we achieved safety in numbers.

Following the noise in my neighborhood of Shubra, I found a main street packed with thousands of protesters. I looked around in amazement. During my 10 years as an activist, I had met thousands of activists, politicians, and politically active Egyptians. Yet the streets were full of men and women I had never seen, and they were leading chants! As I lifted my voice to join them, I thought to myself: My God! Where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you!

Policemen also lined the streets. Egyptian law bans street demonstrations and non-approved public gatherings, and the country had lived under emergency law almost continually since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Every Egyptian joining a rally knew that the police usually attacked protesters, and that he or she could face arrest and torture.

That day in Shubra, however, security forces watched without intervening. Egypt’s protest movements preached nonviolence and banned weapons from demonstrations. We knew that violence only legitimized the government’s brutal methods and that many policemen did not want to hurt us. People standing near the police chanted, “Peaceful! Peaceful!” and told them, “You are our brothers.”

We spent the next four hours marching through the streets of Cairo. Enthusiasm, rather than any individual, led us. Microbuses became islands in a sea of protesters. People drinking tea and playing backgammon in cafes looked up in amazement. “Join us!” we shouted. “Come on! Come on!” Most people stared back in disbelief. But over the course of several hours, we recruited two thousand more Cairenes to join our rally, swelling our numbers to five or six thousand.

The protesters that day resembled those who attended protests over the past decade. Most were middle class and educated. As many women wore the hijab [headscarf] as not, and very few men had long beards or wore the galabiyya, the traditional Egyptian garment consisting of a long, loose robe. In the following days, Egyptians from all cross-sections of society joined the protests. On January 25, however, I marched with middle-class Egyptians who wanted to depose Mubarak and vote in real elections. Although Egypt’s ailing economy motivated us, the revolution was not about bread. It was about dignity.

We had never achieved a turnout like this before — almost everyone was attending his or her first rally — yet people displayed the passion of lifelong activists. I remember one young woman who wore a red scarf and struck me as a nice girl who introduces herself with a shy smile. On January 25, 2011, she was a thundering revolutionary. “Down! Down Mubarak!” she screamed, as dozens echoed her and the group picked up the cry.

As we approached downtown, we found more security forces waiting for us. In Bolak Abou El Ela, an area near Tahrir Square, we marched toward a thousand policemen. Yet we provoked no response. We outnumbered them by more than four to one.

The rally could have continued into Tahrir. Although many protesters had joined the rally without knowing activists’ plans to occupy Tahrir, the square was a logical destination. I doubted security would act as leniently, however, in Tahrir. Other rallies were coming from throughout the city, but Shubra was one of the closest neighborhoods to downtown. We could not arrive alone, and I suspected that we needed more time. Waving my arms like a madman, I pointed away from Tahrir and yelled, “Come on! This way! This way! Back to Shubra!” Luckily, the crowd followed my lead.

We returned two dusty hours later.

Tahrir means liberation in Arabic, but the symbolic value of Tahrir Square goes beyond its name. It is the heart of downtown Cairo, surrounded by symbols of the government’s power: the main office of the state’s political party, the Omar Makram Mosque, where the funeral services of prominent Egyptians take place, the headquarters of a regional organization called the Arab League, and the Mugamma, a massive bureaucratic building. Apartment complexes topped with enormous billboards, fast food chains, cafes, the site of the future Ritz Carlton, the Egyptian Museum, and the old American University in Cairo campus encircle Tahrir. Seven streets pour into a three-lane traffic rotary with a large green space in its center. The square is as large as 10 American football fields. Egyptians have rallied in the square since the days of British occupation.

As we approached Tahrir, several people joining our rally told us that police had blocked the nearby 6th of October Bridge, which spans the Nile. We heard them fighting to keep protesters from crossing. Amidst the smoke obscuring Tahrir, we could make out the hazy forms of protesters and the thick, dark tide of police opposite them.

Very few of the people around me had protested before, and yet, with a yell, they charged forward. Spreading out into the open space, they sprinted the equivalent of several city blocks to the frontlines and dodged the stones and teargas canisters raining down. As I huffed and puffed in the back, I remembered how I had dreamt of scenes like this.

Now I was living it.

We arrived in Tahrir at a critical moment. Multiple rallies arrived from different directions, and the police began to cede ground. When I caught up, I took shelter behind a fence, looked for projectiles coming my way, and rose up to throw stones at the lines of security.

We were facing the Central Security Forces, or CSF, which Western press refers to as riot police. The CSF wear a visored helmet and a cheap imitation of a bulletproof vest. They carry shields and batons, and they also wield tear gas, water cannons and shotguns loaded with rubber-coated bullets, birdshot or even live ammunition.

Young men fulfilling their obligatory military service make up the rank and file. A popular joke about the CSF goes as follows: An army officer greets a group of recruits and says, “All of you who can read and write: move to the left.” He waits for the recruits to obey and says, “All of you who never learned to read and write: move to the right.” He waits, and then adds, “All of you left in the middle: you are Central Security Forces.” Most men in the CSF are illiterate, uneducated, and tend to believe government propaganda about defending Egypt from American-Israeli plots and the foreign agents behind every opposition group.

Fighting raged on and off for the next two hours. We faced only batons, stones, tear gas, and water cannons, but it was a battle. I believe in nonviolent activism, and I oppose tactics like destroying government buildings or killing government forces. Yet I do not advocate meekly bearing the blows from the regime’s thugs. We knew we had to defend ourselves. We broke up rocks, which are plentiful among Tahrir’s cracked sidewalks, to use as ammunition, and urged each other to break them smaller and smaller and to avoid aiming at the head. The CSF are still human beings, we reminded each other.

We were not being overly idealistic. At one point, I helped escort a group of riot police out of the battle after they yelled, “We don’t want to fight! We just want to pass!” We formed a human ring around the young men and helped them out of the square to an area where the policemen were inactive. “We are your brothers,” we told them.

After shielding the policemen, I retreated to the roundabout in the center of the square and collected my thoughts. I figured that if we could hold the square for three or four days, it would be a real revolution that could not be ignored. I looked around at the thousands of Egyptians with me in Tahrir, and at the acts of bravery being committed in the swirling tear gas, and I cried.

We had a secret weapon in our confrontation with the CSF: Cairo’s soccer hooligans. Egypt has two main soccer clubs, El Ahly and El Zamalek. Both are based in Cairo, but anywhere in Egypt, asking a man which team he supports is like asking an American if he is a Republican or a Democrat. Each club has a group of diehard supporters called Ultras. Their involvement on January 25 represented the government’s worst nightmare.

The Mubarak regime worried so much about Egyptians forming political groups that it banned or harassed all types of organizations. Even the organizers of charity groups and yoga clubs received threatening phone calls from State Security, the police branch that deals with political dissidents and internal threats to the regime. The government banned the Ultras’ fan clubs, but that only made them more dangerous.

Pushed underground, Ultras clandestinely raised money to buy fireworks and banners and organized rallies in support of their teams — rallies the regime condemned but failed to prevent. Cairo was home to tens of thousands of Ultras. They were athletic guys who hated the government’s attempts to control them and the police who treated them like low-class scum. They scuffled with Egypt’s security forces on a regular basis.

The Ultras did not care about politics, but several of my fellow activists lobbied them to participate on January 25 by speaking their language. A few activists told the Zamalek Ultras, “Guys, El Ahly said that they are coming to the protests and that they will beat the shit out of security. They also said you cowards won’t come.” Other activists told the El Ahly Ultras the same thing about Zamalek. Both groups promised to come.

We needed them. Most protesters clashed with the CSF from a distance. We threw stones and the security forces threw them back. The only way to make progress was to force our adversary to cede ground, denying them ammunition. When the riot police advanced through the rocks to press our lines, it was the Ultras who pushed the CSF back. They brought the confidence of a group that had challenged security before, and they spearheaded our defense. I am not a soccer fan, but I am a huge fan of the soccer fans. The Ultras saved the revolution that day.

As protesters continued to fill Tahrir and the Ultras led the way, we pushed the CSF further and further until they retreated out of the square and down Kasr Al Ainy Street to the parliament building. At 6 p.m., we realized that security had orders to hold their fire. They stopped shooting, throwing rocks and charging us. An uneasy truce began. The police remained in several streets around Tahrir, but they did not attack. With the exception of Mohammed Mahmoud Street, which led to the fortress-like Ministry of Interior, they let people pass through. Yet none of us believed they would leave the square to us.

My suspicions were confirmed, surprisingly, in a Pizza Hut at the intersection of Mohammed Mahmoud Street and Tahrir. When the truce began, I entered the restaurant to refill a bottle of water. The Pizza Hut was closed, but the doors were open. I snuck upstairs to the bathroom. I expected to find a few dirty trays and the smell of pizza grease. Instead, I discovered the temporary operations room of Cairo’s security forces.

Twenty officers reclined in their chairs, trying to outdo each other in the role of the nonchalant tough guy. My heartbeat rose as I opened the door to the bathroom. On the far side of the room, I saw the Director of Security for the Cairo governorate, General Ismail il Shaer. I had encountered General il Shaer numerous times since 2005 and 2006, years that were especially charged for the protest movement. Many of my friends bore bruises or worse as a result of his orders. As I left the bathroom, I imagined him barking my name and catching me on the stairs. I kept my head down and exited to the street. Once I escaped, I worried about what they could be planning.

For the next two hours, I spent time with my fellow protesters. I shared my conviction that we needed to hold the square overnight and establish a permanent presence. I received triumphant phone calls from Alexandria, Mahalla and Suez. I joined in chants of “Ish-sha’ab yurid isqat in-nizam.” First heard during Tunisia’s revolution, the chant means, “The people want the fall of the regime.” It became a staple in Egypt and in protests across the Arab world. Everyone in Tahrir expressed incredulity. Were we really here, turning back the feared CSF?

We had been here once before. In 2003, protesters held Tahrir Square, albeit with fewer numbers. At night, security forces turned off the lights in the square, attacked, and scattered and arrested us. That evening in 2011, I imagined myself as General il Shaer. What would I do? Looking around the square at dusk, the answer was obvious. I would wait until late at night and attack in full force.

I could predict the attack, but I could not prevent it. Warning cold and tired protesters of an all-out assault did not strike me as a promising way to keep people from returning home to their families. So I did what I could: I urged people to buy onions.

Egyptian security forces use an alkaline-based tear gas. As alkaline is a base, acids neutralize its effects. Over the years, protesters learned to use the acidity of onions or vinegar as protection from tear gas. I had a small onion in my pocket that I brought to protests. It was imperfect, but it helped us stand our ground, and it dulled the pain of the gas. I doubted people would trust a stranger telling them to rub onions and vinegar on their faces. Instead, I sought out people I knew from past protests, counting on them to spread the word to their friends.

When I found my friend Mohammed il Gebba in Tahrir, I realized I could try one more tactic. I could contact the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood was by far the largest and best-organized opposition group in Egypt. It was both a social and charitable organization, and an unlicensed political party. The government had not given the group permission to form a party, but Muslim Brothers held parliament seats as independents, and the Brotherhood’s political ambitions were never in doubt. The Brotherhood had over a hundred thousand members organized in a tightly knit and hierarchical structure.

In the days preceding January 25, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it would not participate in the protests. So when I crossed paths with Mohammed il Gebba, a member of the Brotherhood, he said he knew of only two other Muslim Brothers in Tahrir Square. Mohammed told me that the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council decided to meet when they saw the turnout for the protest. He put me on the phone with a member of the council.

“We’ve come this far,” I told him. “But people are tired and leaving. We will be attacked and driven out after midnight, and this will end.” I did not see eye to eye with the Brotherhood, but we had a common cause in opposing Mubarak. “If you strengthen our lines,” I said, “we can hold the square and bring change to the country.” He told me that he would share my view with the leadership.

At 10 p.m., Mohammed and I heard from the Guidance Council. The leaders of the Brotherhood would not prohibit their members from attending the protest, but they had decided not to participate.

We were on our own.

The attack started shortly after midnight. Tahrir’s street lamps went dark, and police surged from the positions they had maintained for nearly six hours. They fired rubber-coated bullets, water cannons and tear gas canisters at the small, scattered groups of protesters that remained. We were quickly overwhelmed. The lack of wind, which we initially welcomed as a respite from the chilly night, meant there was nothing to disperse the gas. I could only see several feet ahead. Protesters fled in every direction. I ran away from the popping noises of fired tear gas canisters and down a side street.

Outside of the square, policemen from State Security, who wore plainclothes, hunted us through the maze of downtown’s back alleys. Anyone they caught, inside or outside the square, they beat with billy clubs and arrested. I made several unsuccessful attempts to team up with other protesters and re-enter Tahrir. There were too many police, and the gas was too thick for my onions to work. I eventually joined a group that returned to Shubra.

Roughly 2,000 of us gathered on Shubra Street and continued to chant and march. Fifty policemen stood nearby and watched as we yelled “Down! Down, Mubarak!” and “The people demand the fall of the regime!”

It was a short reprieve. At 2:30 a.m., police trucks packed with CSF sped down Shubra Street, which is one way, against the direction of traffic. With military precision, they got out, took up positions facing us, and shot teargas and shotguns loaded with rubber-coated bullets. Skirting the line of fire, I ran up to the riot police. “Why are you doing this?” I asked. “We left the square! We are peaceful! This will all die down soon.”

A policeman shooting tear gas canisters responded, “Haven’t you heard? A policeman was killed in Tahrir today!” His response implied that this legitimized their brutality.

Before I could say that I heard no such thing — it was likely a lie told to rile up security forces — I heard a voice used to being obeyed. “So, it’s you here.” It was the head of security for that part of Shubra, a hard man I knew from past protests. He always seemed to look down at me despite needing an inch or two to match my height. Marching into view, he told me, “I will teach you a lesson that you will not forget for your next 40 years.”

He ordered several Central Security men to “discipline” me. A cop grabbed my glasses, smashed them, and punched me in the face. As three others joined him in punching, kicking, and throwing me, the abuse barely registered. I felt little pain, and I was uncertain what was happening. When they threw me in a white microbus, I assumed they had arrested me at random. I later learned they had a warrant for my arrest on charges of “masterminding a plan to overthrow the regime.” Dictators always give you extra credit.

Sitting with my head against the cool window, I slowly regained my senses. The microbus was one of the ubiquitous vans that keep Cairo moving. For a few cents, passengers hop on the vans that fill up until people hang off the side. Like any Cairene, I had ridden microbuses countless times, but this was my first time being arrested in one. I searched for my wallet and cell phone, but found only my phone. When I pulled it out, blood poured onto it. My nose was a broken faucet and my clothes were bloody. The police saw the phone in my hands and demanded that I turn it off.

Every few minutes, another protester joined me on the bus. They were all bruised and bloodied; security did not stop hitting them as they loaded them in. Only one man seemed to have escaped a beating. A well-dressed girl crying near the front of the bus reminded me of the girl in the red scarf who chanted “Down! Down Mubarak!” She seemed to belong in a modest home reading a book, not in a dingy microbus full of bleeding men in the middle of the night. The policemen never stopped calling her a whore as they hit her on the back of the head. Once security had filled the bus, a driver entered. The only sounds were the engine and our breathing. When anyone attempted to speak, the cops in the front seats responded with more kicks and slaps.

The one small mercy of the night was that the police let the young woman leave before we reached the police station. The rest of us were not as lucky. As we entered the drab building, we received the customary greeting: a beating. I was used to it. I smiled and joked that they were pulling their punches. I had more luck with the man escorting me upstairs. “I’m coming with you,” I told him. “You don’t need to be so hard.” He stopped pushing me, and we walked to the cells.

A day that began with exuberance ended with the cold reality of the Mubarak regime: pulverized bodies, broken spirits, and incarceration in a grimy prison. The police beat anyone who talked. We listened for hours to the sound of our breathing and the occasional whisper or moan. The only words I spoke all night were a few words of comfort to a man I recognized, a lawyer who was in great pain.

The cells were so full that we had to stand in the hallways. But therein lay our one consolation. Every five to 10 minutes, the gun of a microbus engine announced the arrival of new prisoners. Each time, we heard the scuffle of security hitting them before they joined us in the hallway. A hundred more busloads arrived by dawn.

This many prisoners meant that security succeeded in capturing and arresting protesters. Yet it also meant that people were still in the streets and that the protests continued. Even if I did not see it, maybe it would be a real revolution.

Indonesia accused of arresting more than 1,000 in West Papua

The Guardian | Protest -

Activists say detentions taking place during rallies calling for independence referendum

Indonesian police have been accused of arresting more than 1,000 people at rallies in West Papua demanding an independence referendum.

Part of Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province on New Guinea island, West Papua is ethnically distinct from the rest of the country and was annexed by Indonesia in 1969. Many Papuans consider the takeover to have been an illegal land grab.

Related: West Papua: UN must supervise vote on independence, says coalition

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Greece: Queer feminist squat evicted in Exarcheia

House Occupation News -

A privately owned building on Anexartisias street, Exarcheia district, was occupied by a queer feminist group since May 28th until today (16/6/16). The police evacuated the squat and proceeded to the arrest of many activists while supporters held a solidarity rally at the Attica Police Inspectorate. Below is the announcement of the squat as published on Contra Info:

”This morning Women*Squat, a queer feminist squat, which began on May 28th in a privately owned building on 13 Anexartisias street, was evacuated by cops and 6 people were arrested (3 adults and 3 children). The purpose of the squat was to provide a shelter to women with/without papers in a space we would all organize together. Updates will follow.

We call for a solidarity rally at the Attica Police Inspectorate at 13:00.

Immediate release of all the arrested activists


(via, translated by BlackCat)

Councils or company bosses, those in power have a duty of stewardship | Letters from Paul Nicolson and Les Bright

The Guardian | Protest -

Related: More freeloaders than free market. How Britain bails out the business chiefs | Aditya Chakrabortty

Aditya Chakrabortty (Opinion, 14 June) compared my appearance before a Tottenham magistrate [for refusing to pay council tax in protest against cuts to social security] with Philip Green’s appearance before MPs. It is an apt comparison. In both cases the authorities failed to take steps to prevent the kind of disasters facing the pensioners of BHS or the benefit claimants of the London borough of Haringey.

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Anti-Israeli occupation group struggles to reconcile movement building and allyship

Waging Nonviolence -

by Max Zahn

A Liberation Seder protester outside the office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Boston on April 19, 2016. (Normal/Leonardo March)

The security guard didn’t look angry, but instead bemused. A hundred or so young Jews — replete with skinny jeans and matching white t-shirts — circled his desk, hand-in-hand, singing. They’d come to the glass-enclosed lobby of a high rise in midtown Manhattan to protest one of its tenants: the Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel Jewish organization.

They’d also come to celebrate the holiday of Passover, drawing a parallel between the Jewish exodus from Egypt and the liberation of Palestinians in the occupied territories. An air of unabashed jubilance, on account of the festivity, seemed to cause the guard some discomfort. Mere demonstrators, he may have encountered before. These Jewish 20-somethings, however, began to dance.

Soon enough the cops arrived, arrests were made, and the crowd dispersed.

The event — equal parts direct action and religious ritual — was one in a series of “Liberation Seders” held on April 20 by If Not Now, an organization of young Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The protests occurred in five cities, each one at the office of a conservative Jewish institution — like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, or the Jewish Federation — that If Not Now deems responsible for preserving American Jewish support of an unjust status quo.

If Not Now’s strategy is simple: force American Jewish institutions to oppose Israel’s occupation by turning public opinion against them. It has organized trainings and direct actions that build membership and spread the word. By emphasizing the reform, and thereby redemption, of the American Jewish community, the group has attracted first-time activists struggling to reconcile progressive politics with the support for Israel common among their parents and grandparents. The organization has drawn criticism, however, for its lack of partnerships with Palestinian advocates and its unwillingness to support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions, or BDS, movement that is being mobilized by such advocates.

The varied responses to If Not Now stem from the contradictory demands of allyship and movement building. If the group serves as a gateway for radicalizing young Jews, it will prove a boon for America’s pro-Palestine left. But by insulating itself and sustaining moderate positions, the organization risks misalignment between its priorities and those of the Palestinians themselves.

A broad-based, multifaceted campaign is vital for bringing the Israeli occupation to an end. So too, however, is a unified movement that foregrounds the Palestinian struggle. If Not Now exemplifies the difficult choice between the two.

A moment of crisis

“If Not Now emerged out of a moment of crisis,” said Naomi Dann, an activist who participated in the group’s initial protests in New York City during the summer of 2014 when violence erupted between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Dann is a spokeswoman for a different anti-occupation organization called Jewish Voice for Peace but consults regularly with members of If Not Now. “A lot of people were distraught at the horrible things that were going on in Gaza at the time and were alienated by the way that the Jewish community rallied around Israel’s disproportionate use of force,” Dann explained. That disproportionate force resulted in the death of at least 1,500 Palestinian civilians and just six Israelis, according to estimates from the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.

As Dann notes, the largest organizations of American Jews, like AIPAC and Hillel International, backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s military campaign. Even the left-leaning lobbying group J Street released a statement that spared Netanyahu criticism. On the other end of the spectrum, far-left groups like Jewish Voice for Peace held solidarity demonstrations with Palestinian-American organizations denouncing Israel’s violence as yet another, if particularly egregious, example of the country’s imperial overreach.

Falling between these poles, If Not Now offered an outlet for young Jews who wanted to target both the Israeli government and its American Jewish backers with a critical but hopeful message: Jews can do better. “[If Not Now members] are people who care about organized Jewish community enough to want to challenge it,” said Peter Beinart, a journalist and professor at City University of New York. The protests quickly spread to neighboring cities, including Washington D.C. “It naturally decentralized,” said Sarah Brammer-Shlay, a founding member of If Not Now’s Washington, D.C. affiliate. “We saw what was going on [in New York] and we wanted to replicate it.”

Brammer-Shlay was born in Minneapolis but her parents met in Israel, where she has spent an extended period. “Supporting Israel was a big part of what it meant to be Jewish,” she recalled of her youth. It wasn’t until college that she befriended a Palestinian-American classmate who first exposed her to an alternative narrative of the conflict. She remembers how the classmate’s irreconcilable perspective made her feel “at odds with [her] Jewish identity,” causing her to seek an end not only to the Israeli occupation but to the Jewish community’s support for it. Many If Not Now members share Brammer-Shlay’s upbringing in uniformly pro-Israel communities and her subsequent disillusionment. “My story is not unique,” she admitted.

The group’s name embodies its commitment to criticizing Jewish institutions on the religion’s own terms. It originates from the last of three questions posed by Rabbi Hillel in a millennia-old collection of Judaism’s ethical teachings: “If I am not for myself, who is? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Despite the urgency indicated by its name, If Not Now soon realized it could not sustain the initial burst of outrage inspired by the Gaza war. It needed organizational structure, funding and a membership base. The group held planning meetings and raised enough money — through online crowdfunding and other donations — to hire three full-time staff members. Over the ensuing months, it held a series of weekend-long trainings, which reached approximately 300 people in cities from San Francisco to Boston. Adopting an organizational model akin to that of Occupy Wall Street, the group is non-hierarchical and decentralized.

This year’s Liberation Seders marked the If Not Now’s return from hibernation. With over 500 protesters risking arrests, the demonstrations garnered coverage in American Jewish outlets like the The Forward and Israeli ones like Haaretz. The institution targeted by the New York City protest, the American Defamation League, even tweeted an offer to meet with representatives of If Not Now. The group declined in an article penned by one of its members, Ethan Miller, who cited “a chasm that cannot be bridged by a few meetings and press photo-ops.” The snub brought condescension from the right but applause from If Not Now members and like-minded groups.

“We are extremely excited about how the Liberation Seders went,” said Brammer-Shlay. “We’re going to move forward with the momentum we’ve built from that.”

A daunting and narrow task

The group’s excitement appears well founded. In just two years, it has developed a network of self-sustaining chapters in several cities across the country. More chapters are on the way, as well, with one forming in Philadelphia and another in Los Angeles. Each chapter meets every five or six weeks for what the group calls “hive meetings,” which are “devoted to community-building, group reflection and action-planning,” according to an outreach email.

“[If Not Now] is forming a new Jewish communal space, and that’s an incredible achievement,” says Julia Carmel, who participated in the group’s initial protests in 2014.

Survey data suggests that that new community has room to grow. A 2013 Pew poll found that 70 percent of Jews age 18-29 believed that Israelis and Palestinians could coexist peacefully, while just 26 percent thought the Israeli government was making a sincere effort to do so. A full 50 percent, meanwhile, believed that Israeli settlement building was hurting Israel’s security, while just 11 percent thought it was helping. Since 2013, the anti-occupation fervor among young Jews has likely become even more pronounced after the 2014 Gaza war and the ascendance of Jewish presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has sharply criticized Israel.

“[If Not Now] has a certain kind of generational self-expression,” described Beinart. But that expression has its limits. The same Pew poll found that just 18 percent of young Jews felt the Palestinian leadership was making sincere efforts to achieve peace.

That residual wariness about Palestinian attitudes toward the conflict may explain If Not Now’s reluctance to participate in solidarity actions with Palestinian and Palestinian-American groups.

“There are [Jewish] groups, like Jewish Voice for Peace, that do better movement building with people coming at the issue from the Palestinian, anti-Islamophobia side of things,” said Clare Maxwell, a spokeswoman with the Palestine Advocacy Project. Dann, the spokeswoman with Jewish Voice for Peace, echoed the sentiment, saying If Not Now “could do a better job of having relationships with and being accountable to the voices of Palestinians on the ground in Gaza or the West Bank, but also Palestinian activists leading the fight internationally and here in the United States.”

Dann cites Jewish Voice for Peace’s support for BDS as an example of its “following the lead of Palestinian activists and responding to their very concrete call for solidarity.” If Not Now has not taken a position on BDS, which Dann considers an effort by the group “to bring in people who aren’t ready to make that commitment.”

Rob Bryan, a participant in If Not Now’s early protests and planning meetings, says he spoke up about the group’s lack of partnerships with and involvement from Palestinians. “It didn’t seem to get much traction,” he recounted. He soon discovered that one of the group’s primary objectives was to “give American Jews from somewhat religious or conservative backgrounds the courage to … come out to their parents about how they felt about Israel and the occupation.”

In this sense, If Not Now serves as a support network helping young Jews broach Israel-Palestine with family and friends who may consider their anti-occupation advocacy nothing short of betrayal. “The representatives of this [establishment] community are the people we love the most, our grandparents, our ancestors,” said Carmel, the former If Not Now member. She considers the generational conflict within the American Jewish community a “secondary trauma” that follows from the primary trauma of the occupation.

This secondary trauma can be overwhelming for some, but Carmel said that, “in order to overcome that victimhood or secondary oppression, we need to ally with the people who are primarily being oppressed,” referring, of course, to the Palestinians.

For its part, If Not Now lauds Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish organizations that do Palestinian solidarity work. “There are a lot of groups that are doing it, explicitly, really well,” said Brammer-Shlay. “What we’re trying to do is change the American Jewish community.”

“Their goal is to be a popular movement,” observed Dann. “To pick positions that are within reach.”

The perspective aligns with If Not Now’s recognition of what Brammer-Shlay described as “movement ecology” in which “different groups that are doing anti-occupation work are taking different approaches to doing it.” She acknowledged, for instance, that American Jewish institutions are “not the only thing that upholds the occupation.”

“This is an issue that’s going to take a multiplicity of different strategies, approaches, and people to create the kind of change that’s necessary,” affirmed Dann. “If Not Now’s strategy is to target the Jewish American public and end the Jewish American community’s support for the occupation. That’s a big daunting task and it’s also a fairly narrow task.”

In a political landscape where specious peace talks seem to begin, end, and resurface every few months, If Not Now has a refreshingly concrete aspiration. But it’s also an objective, some critics argue, that mimics the pro-Israel right’s tendency to privilege Jewish voices in the Israel-Palestine debate. “Israel does not now, and indeed never did, speak for all Jews,” Palestinian scholar-activist Nada Elia wrote for Mondoweiss. “It is time we put an end to that myth by putting an end to the celebration of Jewish voices denouncing Zionism as ‘exceptional,’ or ‘heroic.’ They belong with all other such voices, and must magnify, rather than occupy, the Palestinian narrative.”

Elia articulates the notion of allyship, in which those who aren’t directly affected by a particular form of oppression play a supporting role for those who are. When I brought up the significance of allyship to Bryan, he said it seemed “like almost too obvious a point to mention but maybe it needs reinforcing.”

Bridging the divide

For If Not Now the dueling needs of allyship and movement building seem, at bottom, irreconcilable. Former members of the group, like Carmel and Bryan, said they respect the group’s leadership but simply disagree with its tactics. They prefer groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, that align with Palestinians. Other young Jews, like Brammer-Shlay, are grateful for a political space that allows them to shift away from the pro-Israel views of their parents and friends, while not disavowing the community ties altogether. If it continues to energize young Jews, If Not Now will expand and therefore strengthen the anti-occupation movement in the United States.

For some advocates, such ends may not justify the means. Activists like Elia suggest that the value of allyship is so sacrosanct that the benefits of movement building do not outweigh the sidelining of Palestinian voices. This isn’t a frustration shared by Jewish Voice for Peace.

“There is a lot of opportunity to build a movement together,” said Dann, speaking of potential partnerships between Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now. Allying with Jewish groups that themselves ally with Palestinians may bring If Not Now further left. Brammer-Shlay said the coming months at If Not Now will bring trainings for new members and planning meetings to decide next steps.

Whether it chooses to pivot toward allyship or double down on movement building, If Not Now promises to be a central player in the American anti-occupation campaign for years to come.

Bahrain paying for Royal Navy base despite human rights criticism

The Guardian | Protest -

New base in Gulf funded by kingdom recently condemned for arresting activists and shutting down opposition party

The Bahrain government, under renewed international criticism for arresting human rights activists and closing down an opposition party this week, is paying the bulk of the costs of the construction of a new Royal Navy base in Bahrain, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The precise value of the Bahrain contribution is being kept secret under UK government disclosure rules, but the UK is to pay only £9m over three years towards the construction of the new naval base central to the UK government’s new “East of Suez” strategy. The contract for the Mina Salman support facility was signed in 2014. It is currently under construction and is designed to service all Royal Navy ships in the region.

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Demonstration in Paris against the labour law reforms – in pictures

The Guardian | Protest -

Labour unions demonstrated during a national strike across France to protest against employment law reforms in the so-called El Khomri bill. According to the police department, around 80,000 people attended the demonstration and 29 riot police officers and 11 demonstrators were injured with 58 arrested.

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Maastricht: Squatters are victorious in first step of eviction case!

House Occupation News -

Since february this year a group of squatters in Maastricht has moved into an old garden center with multiple greenhouses and a house on the premises. Occupying a huge piece of property belonging to a Belgian based supermarket corporation which had been unoccupied for 9 years.

As soon as the owner contacted us after police informing them about our occupation, we handed over our proposition for a user agreement to which they did not agree. When we still didnt leave after they cut the power and gas to the terrain and sending us threats that we should leave within 8days etc. They hired a specialised Dutch lawyer and we we’re summoned in court. In the subpoena they stated that we we’re the cause of lots of noise complaints and garbage on the terrain while the opposite was true. In those 9 years they had visited only once and never cleaned up anything, the terrain was a notorious illegal dumping site.

After our occupation they wanted to visit the terrain for maintenance, we told them they we’re welcome. When they arrived they didnt want to come through the rear gate and instead proceeded to saw open the lock of the front gate, we didnt want to call the police because we we’re still hoping for a user agreement. Their employees we’re very aggressive and knocked over barrels with chemicals, we video taped the whole ordeal. After they left, the terrain was ravaged and we we’re quite pissed off. When they asked again a few weeks later if they could come for maintenance (ofcourse now that people are using it, it has become top priority xD). We told them again that they are welcome but only if they would use the correct gate and if they informed us of the work they planned to do. When they arrived they did not want to inform us, they just said “let us in or we’ll call the cops” to which we replied that they should.

The judge completely agreed, they behaved ridiculous and she didnt think it was odd that we didnt want to let them in again.

We documented everything we cleaned up and repaired, so our case was very strong. We defended ourselves in court without a lawyer with a 4 page defence we made, taking apart every argument in the subpoena. Their plan was to demolish and sell and their argument was that we are negatively influencing a sale. We made very clear that this is not our intention. It didnt help them that they had no proof at all that they we’re about to make a sale, or had a permit to demolish, or that they had even managed to change the destination plan of the terrain.

The judge continued to say that their plans seemed very vague and did not want to kick us out! They we’re told that they really should make a user agreement with us and if we cannot come to an agreement then our case will continue in august. We personally never expected to have any succes with current laws and judges.

It also really helped and I want to thank this group, that there was a precedent of a case in 2012 in Groningen. Where the squatters did not get evicted because the plan was to demolish and leave the terrain empty and unused.


source: Indymedia

WNV is hiring a blogger!

Waging Nonviolence -

by The Editors

Waging Nonviolence is seeking a journalist and/or activist with writing experience to provide regular coverage of movements focused on racial justice, immigrant rights and LGBTQ equality.

Writers should be able to produce two short blog posts (300-700 words each) per week, focusing on breaking news and/or movement-oriented analysis (for examples, see here and here). We are able to pay $50 per post.

To apply, email with a short description of your professional background, the issues you have experience writing about (with links to published articles), and two story ideas for posts you would have written this week. Resume/CV is not necessary. Application deadline: Friday, June 26.

Paper cranes too scary for Trident police | Letter

The Guardian | Protest -

I have just returned from a peace camp at AWE Burghfield, near Reading, where actions are taking place throughout June in protest at the government’s intention to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system (Report, 8 June). Ministry of Defence police have generally been friendly and restrained, but there is one remarkable sticking point – they don’t like paper cranes.

The story of the paper crane and its significance for the anti-nuclear movement is poignant. Sadako Sasaki survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but developed leukaemia 10 years later. Her hospital room-mate told her of the Japanese legend that whoever makes 1,000 origami paper cranes will be granted a wish. Sadako decided to do this before she died, aged 12. Her wish was for world peace.

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Gov. Cuomo’s executive order against BDS may strengthen the movement

Waging Nonviolence -

by Tekendra Parmar

A march in support of the BDS movement after Gov. Cuomo announced his executive order targeting the movement. (WNV/Tekendra Parmar)

On June 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to create a blacklist of entities that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement for Palestinian rights and remove New York State funds from any “institution or company” determined to advocate for or participate in the BDS movement.

In response, protesters picketed outside Cuomo’s New York City office on June 9. The crowd was a mix of old and young — teachers, musicians, lawyers and journalists. They sang, “He blacklists. We protest. Boycott, sanctions and divest,” as a drummer marched them along. “Boycott worked in Montgomery and South Africa and it will work in Occupied Palestine,” read a sign carried by one protester.

“He [Cuomo] was telling us we can’t boycott — that hit my heart,” said Robert Hubbard, a 29-year-old veteran. “They were taking away our freedom of expression. Right is right. Wrong is wrong.” Hubbard said his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan drew him to social movements and activism. “I know real Muslims aren’t bad,” he said. “The people in Palestine are the real victims.”

A protester at the march on June 9. (WNV/Tekendra Parmar)

After the order was signed, an emergency meeting was convened between members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Adalah-NY, and Jews Say No, to organize a concerted effort against the executive order. She said more protests were to come, until the executive action against the BDS movement is rescinded. Another protest is scheduled to take place in Albany on Wednesday.

Adalah-NY, among many other civil liberties groups, have called the executive order “blatantly unconstitutional and shamelessly designed to attack the movement for Palestinian rights.” However, in doing so, the governor may inadvertently be making the movement stronger by drawing supporters of not only Palestinian rights, but also free speech advocates who see the action as an afront to a constitutionally-protected right to free expression — which political boycotts fall under.

“Thankfully, we have a constitution in the United States that protects our rights to dissent from the views of political elites like Cuomo, who believe they are scoring political points by trampling on our First Amendment rights,” said Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal. “The order is unconstitutional and Cuomo will find himself on the wrong side of history.”

If anything, this latest maneuver by the governor only emphasizes the growing strength of the BDS movement and serves as a recognition of its threat to Israel’s political status quo. “In signing the order, Gov. Cuomo only made BDS stronger,” said Beth Miller, an organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace.

Cuomo seems to be an attempting to co-opt the language of BDS in order to de-legitimize the movement. After signing the executive order, Cuomo told members of the Harvard Club in midtown Manhattan that, “It’s very simple. If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.” However, if the action outside the governor’s office is any indication, New Yorkers will continue to boycott and protest for Palestinian rights despite his political calculus.

Clinton’s nomination a victory for the women’s movement, not women

Waging Nonviolence -

by Kate Aronoff

Embed from Getty Images

Tuesday was a historic day. For the first time in history, a woman will — barring some major shift — become the presidential nominee for a major American political party.

“Tonight’s victory is not about one person,” Clinton declared in a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard later that night. “It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”

Clinton situated her nomination in the context of the movement for women’s rights, noting that her mother, Dorothy Rodham, was born on June 4, 1919 — the same day that Congress passed the 19th amendment that gave them the right to vote. (Although, thanks to largely race-based restrictions and widespread voter suppression, many women were denied suffrage for years after that.) “In our country it started right here in New York [in] a place called Seneca Falls in 1848, when a small, but determined group of women and men came together with the idea that women deserve equal rights,” she said. History has been made and glass ceilings have been broken.

It’s true. Women have been all but locked out of the United States’ highest office for decades, and Clinton herself has faced a barrage of sexist attacks since long before her campaign began. That she is now a legitimate contender for the Oval Office is an unambiguous testament to the power of feminist movements throughout this country’s history, from those who came together in Seneca Falls to the women who’ve fought back against toxic birth control and forced sterilization this last half-century. Those who fought for these victories changed the political weather, and stripped away the idea that women are unfit for either high office or basic dignity.

Clinton’s nomination, though, can be a victory for the women’s movement without being a victory for women.

Many of the women who made Tuesday’s historic night possible also might not see her as a feminist champion. Alice Paul — founder of the National Woman’s Party, or NWP — was one of the key drivers behind both the 19th Amendment and, later, the Equal Rights Act. A Quaker, Paul was as committed to pacifism as she was to nonviolent direct action. She first became interested in the suffrage fight while studying in Britain, where she met and joined forces with the militant Pankhurst sisters and their Women’s Social and Political Union. In her time fighting for the vote there, she admitted to “personally breaking more than 48 windows and being arrested and imprisoned on several occasions” — a tactic she would later abandon.

After joining the suffrage movement back in the states, Paul split with the country’s then-premier suffrage organization, the National Association for Women’s Suffrage, over its incremental approach and insistence on pursuing change through lobbying, referenda and other designated routes. She instead set out to “punish the party in power” — then the Democrats — and shift public opinion against Woodrow Wilson on the issue of women’s equality. In the 1914, the NWP ran campaigns against Democrats as an independent political party.

To achieve women’s suffrage, Paul’s NWP opted for massive marches and boundary-pushing demonstrations. Long before picketing at the gates of the White House was commonplace, NWP held over 1,000 “Silent Sentinels” outside its gates, eventually facing arrest and imprisonment. Paul went to jail for seven months in one stint at the Occonquan Workhouse. Going on hunger strike while inside she was subjected to solitary confinement and forced feedings.

Paul and Clinton would disagree on foreign policy as much as they would about theories of change. Clinton has a long history of supporting expansions of the U.S. military, from the invasion of Iraq to coups of democratically elected governments to the drone program. Against advice and all standards of respectability at the time, Paul and the NWP chose to continue picketing a wartime president, opposing both the war and asking how “Kaiser Wilson” could ask men to die for democracy abroad as he denied women the vote at home.

According to one NWP document from 1919, “On the day of the draft day parade in Washington 16 [suffragettes] went forth — in pairs — to stand before the White House with their bannered sentiments: ‘It is unjust to deny women a voice in the government when the government is conscripting their sons.”

In the streets and in the jails, women faced reactionary violence, which picked up aggressively after the start of World War I. At the White House gates, women were pelted with rocks and trash before being dragged off by police. In one  “Night of Terror,” the Occonquan superintendant gave the green light to 40 guards to beat and torture suffragettes.

Paul’s effort to polarize the fight for women’s right to vote runs counter to Clinton’s calculated realpolitik. While Paul would likely celebrate her nomination, it’s hard to imagine her mustering much enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy. “I think if we get freedom for women,” she once said, “then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn’t do.”

As many have pointed out, too, Clinton would not be the first woman to run a major global north country. Angela Merkel has been the chancellor of Germany since 2009. And Margaret Thatcher, of course, broke the glass ceiling at 10 Downing Street when she was elected prime minister in 1979. Each have driven brutal austerity agendas that left women worse off — Merkel in Greece and Thatcher in her own backyard.

“For a woman to occupy that office is a tremendous moment in the country’s history,” one NBC correspondent remarked, as Thatcher took office. “Britain may have entered a new era today. Not just because the prime minister is a woman, but because of the strong conservative policies she intends to push.”

The neoliberal orthodoxy Thatcher pioneered has had a devastating effect on women worldwide. In the global north, shrinking welfare states leave working mothers without access to either basic social services or common sense policies like paid family leave. The free market fundamentalism Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both evangelized lingers on, no less so than in Britain and this country’s starved social safety net. A study last summer committed by the United Kingdom’s Labour party found that of the more than $13 billion cut from families in the Conservatives’ 2015 budget $10 billion would come directly from women.

Cuts to services like the National Health Service and the wholesale privatization of healthcare in this country have annihilated reproductive health services and made care work — the vast majority of it done by women — both more painstaking and expensive.

In 1985, Thatcher helped cement her legacy by breaking the National Union of Mineworkers’ massive national strike, setting a troubling new normal for labor relations on both sides of the Atlantic. Now public sector unions in healthcare and education, securing job security and better wages for millions of women, are on the defensive thanks to shrinking budgets and anti-union dogma.

The situation is even more bleak in the global south, where free trade deals have opened the door for a race to the bottom in terms of wages, working conditions and regulations. Some 90 percent of sweatshop employees are women, many of them making less than a few dozen cents an hour under grueling conditions.

Years later, Bill Clinton would pick up Thatcher’s legacy, keeping his word to “end welfare as we know” it and championing disastrous trade deals like NAFTA. In Davos, after its passage, Hillary Clinton thanked business for lobbying for the agreement, while chiding them for not giving her husband fast-track authority to implement it sooner. Later, as Secretary of State, she called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard in trade agreements” while lobbying for it. (She later abandoned her support for both under public pressure.)

The point here is simple: Women can back policies that are bad for women, even if the fact that they are in office at all is a win for women’s movements. Thatcher’s victory made life harder for millions of women. If her career has been any indication, Clinton won’t do any better by women simply by virtue of being one.

Nude protests, sex strikes and the power of the taboo

Waging Nonviolence -

by Phil Wilmot and Johncation Muhindo

A cartoon depicting Stella Nyanzi’s victorious nude protest. (Daily Monitor)

Stella Nyanzi is a fearless, vulgar woman. A medical anthropologist affiliated with the Makerere Institute for Social Research in Uganda — one of the most prestigious academic departments on the continent — she recently gained widespread attention across Africa when she stripped naked to protest having been evicted from her office by her male boss.

Nyanzi claims to have sought redress for a number of concerns over the years through formal channels, which have mostly gone ignored. After posting pictures of her naked body on Facebook, her office keys were quickly returned to her.

Nyanzi’s social media accounts are riddled with scathing, sexualized criticisms of the state. In one scene, she imagines a sex​u​al encounter with President Yoweri Musevni: “H​is dancing-stick is dead asleep. I try to touch his man-boobs and tickle the old nipples with my hands, but he’s tightly clad in his bulletproof vest until a time when Uganda is safe enough for him.”

Nyanzi has compared Museveni’s regime to an expired condom prone to bursting inside a nation’s proverbial vagina, as he continues to rape everything in sight. In a Facebook post prior to Uganda’s disputed February presidential election, she pledged to roast her clitoris, should the 30-year dictatorship award itself another five-year term. While Museveni has since claimed victory, Nyanzi has yet to follow through on her promise because her beloved opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye circumvented security agents surrounding his home and arranged his own swearing in a day before Museveni’s. (Besigye has since been exiled to the distant land of Karamoja, Uganda’s “Robben Island,” where he was rushed to appear in court without a lawyer, charged with treason and remanded in Luzira Prison.)

Ugandans are quite polarized on the topic of Nyanzi and her disrobing. Even her own family members have tried convincing her to ease up. Widespread allegations note that the use of what has become known in Uganda as the “​Amuru tactic”​ is simply over the top. Some have even called such actions v​iolent,​ or at least inexcusable in a society where traditional modesty demands refraining from displaying female private parts (which Museveni has famously renamed “something-somethings”) with such aggression.

The unspeakableness of Nyanzi’s resistance is exactly what generated so much attention and support for her struggle. In a nation where parents seldom tell their children about sex and human anatomy — leaving them to learn about it from friends, personal exploration or the single-day sex ed class in secondary schools — an off-limits topic predictably bursts into the public discourse whenever so aggressively introduced. Nyanzi had shamelessly tapped into the historical power of taboo in igniting social change.

Resistance in the nude

Another female East African academic — the late Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai — also understood the potential for disrobing, as a tactic, to spark public discourse and encourage more resistance among an oppressed population. Before tapping into the power of taboo, however, she began with a seemingly apolitical approach: organizing peasant women to grow trees where they lacked firewood. As her influence among fellow women and others grew, almost everything she touched was dubbed a threat to President Daniel arap Moi’s regime in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Of course, she had not been oblivious to the potential of escalating conflict with the environmentally destructive Kenyan government. Like Nyanzi, she too hoped to break open a dialogue that her fellow citizens were only having behind closed doors, despite the fact that it was affecting them all.

For days, in 1992, mothers of detained political prisoners and torture victims gathered, praying, fasting and singing for the release of their sons. As their numbers grew hour by hour, police batons and tear gas were deployed. Maathai claimed her space in the public discourse by committing what some call an “abomination.” She stripped naked in protest of the violence, cursing the aggressors and soon procuring the release of those jailed. Her exposed body was a kind of tipping point. Some of the younger officers couldn’t dare strike a nude woman the same age as their mothers.

Nude protesters such as Nyanzi, Maathai and — again, recently — the South African students at Rhodes University who were arrested for demonstrating against rape culture and policies that support it did not just stumbled upon this tactic. The power of anatomical taboo had long been leveraged by women — and sometimes men — throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In one case, in 1929, bare-chested Nigerian women gathered to defy colonization and the violent perceptions of the female anatomy that came with it.

There are at least two primary layers to the efficacy of disrobing. First, there is the gravity of a cultural omen. Nobody really wants to be on the receiving end of this. Then there is the employing of forbidden means, which inevitably results in highly polarized dialogue, which tends to support the victim and ostracize the oppressor. Nyanzi’s actions, in this way, symbolically undressed her university for what it was. This garnered widespread support (as well as intensified opposition that she used to her advantage) for her cause, which was seen as a microcosm of other struggles against patriarchy and the breakdown of institutions.

Sex strikes and political procreation

Nudity isn’t the only tactic that works by leveraging taboos. In 2003, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace decided to try withholding sex from their husbands until they put down their guns and returned home from war. However, for the sex strike to work and for women to feel safe engaging in it, they needed mass participation. So, Gbowee and her associates tapped into their social networks: the churches and mosques. In an interfaith effort, they encouraged their fellow women to join the campaign until it became absurd not to participate. Ultimately, this undertaking — which forced the public discussion of a taboo subject — helped the women achieve their goal of ending the 14-year war.

While the tactic of withholding sex has been used elsewhere in Africa and is relatively well known around the world — having been the subject of a Greek comedy, as well as Spike Lee’s 2015 film “Chiraq” — few have heard of its inverse: engaging in sex to acheive a desired political outcome. But that’s exactly what the Bakonzo, a people who pride themselves as guardians of the “mountains of the moon,” have done.

The story begins with a traditional healer named Nyamutswa, who hails from the slopes of the Rwenzori mountains between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Nyamutswa had been spearheading a liberation movement against Toro Kingdom and the British empire in 1918. To resist this double-colonization as a minority group, he projected, would be quite difficult. So, he advised his fellow Bakonzo to outsmart their opponents by producing as many children as possible.

At this time, in many tribes throughout the area, baring twins was considered a curse, but he developed a substance that would enable many women – even formerly barren ones – to do so. Soon the Bakonzo became the most populous people on the Rwenzori slopes. (Some attribute the modern cultural shift toward twins being considered a blessing to Nyamutswa’s controversial vision-casting.)

Nyamutswa was sentenced to death by the occupying colonial government after escaping prison in 1921 and then buried in a single grave with two other resistance leaders. A monument has since been erected to commemorate the freedom fighters. Indeed, the offspring of the reproduction movement have posed a strong threat to all who have wished to declare their legitimacy over the Bakonzo ever since.

Rwenzururu flag (Wikipedia)

Although Uganda became an independent state in 1962, the Bakonzo considered themselves a self-governed and autonomous nation for an additional 20 years. A tax system was in place. A flag with a monkey perched atop a tree branch rose every morning. Social services were rendered unto the people of Mt. Rwenzori. Even school children insisted on singing their own indigenous anthem in schools — a demand that sparked marches by teenagers to local government offices.

Because of the spirited resistance of the Bakonzo, President Milton Obote’s government was forced to directly negotiate a settlement with leaders, granting them some autonomy and benefits in exchange for the abandoning of absolute succession.

Nyamutswa’s “embita,” or secret, has been shared across Bakonzo, enabling his spirit to thrive even as Uganda’s political space is rapidly shrinking. The Bakonzo population has skyrocketed, presenting a major threat to Museveni’s regime in a region of the country from which Museveni expects to win a clear majority of the votes. During the February election, the Electoral Commission (overseen by the dictator himself), neglected to report results from many polling stations in Bakonzo. Some reports noted Museveni couldn’t even score double digits at certain polling stations. The Rwenzori mountains were decorated in blue, the Forum for Democratic Change opposition party colors. In Kasese District, not a single ruling party candidate was elected to parliament, despite the abundant financial support Museveni’s kleptocratic National Resistance Movement provides to its candidates.

Far be it from Museveni to allow newly-inducted citizens of Uganda to undermine him in the oil-rich western region without consequences. No dictator wants the gate to his mineral-wealthy neighbor closed. Killings of unarmed civilians were carried out in the far western fringes of Uganda with immediacy. One young man was assassinated in broad daylight at the royal palace in Bakonzo. The death toll rose to triple digits, as Museveni militarized the area with ground troops, tanks and heavy artillery. Meanwhile, the ruling party’s propaganda machine kept playing the “ethnic conflict” card, successfully curbing those journalists who called the violence what it was: genocide.

Crime is much harder to conceal, however, when there are so many people watching. Nyamutswa deserves some credit for increasing the population, creatively using the power of taboo by encouraging sex and twin-baring as a nonviolent weapon against imperialism.

Last June, across the Nile from Bantu groups like the Bakonzo, MP Odongo Otto made a similar call to action as Nyamutswa, urging victims of foreign land grabbers in Acholiland to “have at least eight or nine children so … they can be able to effectively reoccupy the remaining land.”

While the development community in Africa is preoccupied with family planning programs to halt overpopulation in East Africa, it may be that Otto and others calling on their communities to be fruitful and multiply are onto something.

Understanding the power of taboo

Those employing nonviolent tactics like stripping naked, withholding sex and producing twins have tapped into highly effective forms of political advocacy. Tangible victories have been realized in all of the efforts discussed here. Is the taboo nature of these tactics the reason for their effectiveness? The question warrants much deeper research. Feminist lawyer Godiva Akullo — whose name fittingly evokes another legendary nude protester of systemic injustice — points out that “Ugandans have largely ignored the issues that Dr. Nyanzi’s protest highlights, focusing instead on the nudity.”

What’s more, we can’t simply write them off as products of their cultural and historical contexts, which, however true, is not the full picture. According to Barbara Allimadi, who in 2012 stripped down to her bra to protest sexual assault by police against a fellow Kampala woman, “Our response was a way to say that we respect our bodies and are in control, as opposed to any cultural beliefs.”

The only conclusions we might draw from these stories pertain to the obvious reliance on the power of taboo, especially as it relates to getting things done that people fear to discuss without some kind of dramatic event that gives them the platform to participate. As researchers (hopefully) pursue the complexities of this matter, we will surely witness more tactics drawing on these historical traditions of resistance, while Africans across the continent continue resisting patriarchy, the breakdown of institutions, abuse and imperialism.

Papua New Guinea shootings: university wins injunction banning further protests

The Guardian | Protest -

Injunction comes after after police open fire on students demonstrating against prime minister Peter O’Neill

The University of Papua New Guinea has won a court injunction banning further protests after police opened fire on students demonstrating against the country’s prime minister and government on Wednesday, shooting at least eight.

The students’ simmering five-week protest demanding the resignation of Peter O’Neill over corruption allegations reached a brutal zenith on Wednesday, when students tried to board buses on campus to travel to Parliament House – where parliament was sitting – to protest and to present a petition to the PM.

Related: Papua New Guinea's students have a point. Peter O'Neill should talk to them, not send police | Jonathan Pyke

Related: Four students reported dead after police fire on protest in Papua New Guinea

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