Yesterday’s News Today’s Reality

Turkey/ Syria. On October 9, the Turkish military started an offensive in North Syria against the Kurdish militia YPG, seen as a terror organisation by Turkey, following the USA’s decision to withdraw their troops from the region. The declared goal of Turkey is to bring peace and prevent the “creation of a terror corridor. Following a cease-fire, Turkey has now created a safe buffer zone between Turkey and Syria. Already existing humanitarian problems are increasing due to the war. What’s more, Kurdish militias that were fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS) have stopped their efforts due to the new, more urgent, threat. The fear of a resurgence of IS in the region is therefore increasing. Turkey’s actions have led to international criticism including the German Bundestag concluding that the invasion is in opposition to international law, and protests in several countries showing solidarity with the Kurdish people under attack.

Catalonia. After the Spanish Supreme Court convicted nine separatist leaders who had been involved in the 2017 attempt to achieve Catalan independence of sedition, pro-independence protests – some peaceful, others escalating – are taking place since October 14. 41 injured people have been counted on October 18 and Mèdia.cat reported that 20 journalists – mostly easily identifiable as such – were hurt. Amnesty International criticised the excessive use of police force, directed also against protesters posing no risk. Meanwhile, the Spanish government has rejected negotiations on the Catalan issue and stated that independence would not happen as it is not legal.

Chile. At least 15 people have been killed in Chile’s protests against high living costs and inequality. The unrests started as student-led protests against an increase of transport fares that turned into a nationwide movement against increasing living costs, low wages and pensions, a lack of education rights, an insufficient public health system, and calling for President Piñera’s resignation. During the protests clashes between protesters and police – using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets – occured. On October 19, Piñera declared a state of emergency that involves the deployment of military on the streets, curfews and (temporarily) revoking freedom of movement and assembly. According to the National Institute of Human Rights 1,420 people have been hospitalised, and a government spokesperson confirmed that armed forces were involved in four of the 15 deaths. By October 23, Piñera announced welfare reforms to appease the protesters.

Lebanon. A tax on WhatsApp voice calls has triggered wide-spread protests in Lebanon lasting for days on end. The tax was quickly revoked by the government but the protests had already turned into a more general expression of the people’s frustration over economic stagnation, corruption and a lack of public services. The government has announced reforms but it has lost the trust of the people mobilised across political and sectarian lines. In Lebanon, demonstrations are usually called for by party leaders and protesters remain divided into different political and religious groups. Now, however, it is one united people filling the streets with one goal: bring down the government.

Ecuador. Protests in Ecuador, which were led by indigenous groups, ended after President Moreno cancelled the austerity package adopted in early October which sparked the protests. The protesters demanded the return of fuel subsidies, and some even called for Moreno’s resignation. The country saw roads blocked, businesses shut down and the oil production – Ecuador’s most important export – halved. The UN calls on the government to investigate the deaths that occurred during the protests: seven people died while 1,340 were injured and 1,152 arrested.

Germany. The German government has agreed on a new climate programme, on September 20. It includes stronger control mechanisms to reduce CO2 emissions in various sectors such as traffic and agriculture, aims at making train tickets cheaper and increasing taxes on flight tickets. It sets fixed CO2 prices, which will not become practice until 2021 and are much too law, according to climate economists. The programme is supposed to guarantee that climate goals for 2030 will be achieved. Critics claim, however, that the measures agreed upon are not enough to effectively counteract global warming. The German newspaper Zeit and Süddeutsche Zeitung moreover report that concrete numbers concerning the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions have been removed.

Paris. I am free!”, tweets journalist Gaspard Glanz in the late afternoon of October 2. About two hours earlier he was taken into custody while filming a protest of police officers. His arrest happened under the pretext of there being a notification of a judgement concerning Glanz. A notification that he was never presented with, so his lawyer Aïnoha Pascual. It is not the first ‘unfounded, illegitimate, illegal custody for the journalist. In April, he was forcefully taken into custody after giving a police officer the finger – for which he was tried on October 18. His lawyers demanded his acquittal due to the context of having a sting-ball grenade launched – not by mistake”, so Pascual – in his direction and being forcefully pushed back by a police officer when he demanded an explanation. On November 15, the tribunal announced its verdict: a fine of 300€ that together with other costs amounts to a sum of 1200€.

Hong Kong. The tensions between Hong Kong and the Communist Party of China have not stopped. Protests achieved a complete withdrawal of the contested extradition bill in September. But the protests are still ongoing voicing new demands including the resignation of Lam, amnesty for arrested protesters, inquiries into police brutality and the protection of the basic law of “one country, two systems” under which Hong Kong is ruled. China has condemned the protests, and an emergency law now bans the wearing of masks which the protesters use to protect themselves from teargas and to hide their identity. Brutality in the clashes is an increasing issue; recently, an activist was shot by a policeman in a live round on October 1, the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Authorities claim that the officer who fired the bullet was acting in self-defense.

Qatar. From September 27 to October 6, 2019, the athletics world championships took place in Doha, Qatar. The decision to let Qatar host this major sport event has been controversial for several reasons, from the sports and environmental perspective as well as for the political one. The country has been, just as many other Gulf states, under harsh critique in the international sphere because of the kafala system. Migrant workers, who come to the Gulf states with the hope of earning money for a better life, experience among others exploitation and dangerous working conditions. NGOs pressure for change and reformations in the region has led to improvements that are however considered to be not enough. In three years the football world cup will take place in Qatar and the expectations, demands, presentations and justifications are already appearing on the horizon.

Photo Credits

pi-IMG_5623, zhrefch, CC0 1.0