Friday, 28 February 2014

Central African Republic: Neighbor against neighbor

French President Francois Holland has made a quick stop in Central African Republic's capital Bangui to check in on French troops stationed there. His visit has no doubt boosted the troops' morale and provided a worthy photo op for many journalists. This despite the fact that most French people are against sending troops to CAR or Mali and Ivory Coast. While his visit is being broadcast by the media, Central Africans civilians are still scrambling from one refuge to the next. There are doubts among the government and citizens that French troops operating along with African Union troops could end the violence and ethnic cleansing against Muslims and Christians alike. CAR civilians awaiting for airlifts to Chad and Cameroon were in the shadows of Hollande's visit.

Centrafrique: Musulmans et Chrétiens dénoncent la manipulation du religieux par le politique Muslims & Christian denounce religious manipulations for political gains

Neighbor attacking neighbor for revenge 

Muslim civilians are being punished by Anti-Balaka rebels and their supporters for Seleka rebels' overthrow of Francois Bozize and Seleka rebels violence against Christians during the early days of the Bozize coup as they tried to establish their hold not only in Bangui but across the country. Now the Muslims are being targeted by the Anti-Balaka who have the upper hand after forcing the previous CAR president Mohammd Djortodia into exile. In suburbs around Bangui, the town of Bossanga and other towns, Central African Muslims of Chadian descendant and other backgrounds still regard CAR as their home and want to remain in the country. Even Central African truck drivers and traders who happen to be Muslim are not spared from the rebel forces' targeting. The drivers are halted by long queues at rebel checkpoints or ordered to wait until the next day to move their crucial products from Bangui to rural towns that rely on the truckers for their livelihoods. Muslims have been escaping ethnic cleansing and violence committed by their own Christian neighbors whom they known for years if not decades. Mosques, homes and people have been burned by rebel forces and their supporters to the horror of many Central Africans. A rebel named Mad Dog reportedly burned a Muslim bus passenger after dragging him off the bus and in a gruesome video posted online ate the man's leg similar to Syrian rebels eating the heart of a Syrian soldier. The bus passenger had done nothing to Mad dog and was simply on a trip to his specific destination. Gruesome revenge attacks against other Muslim Central Africans featuring large bystanders have been posted online. Christian neighbors who do not belong to any rebel forces or have any political affiliations have refused to allow the violence and hatred to dehumanize their Muslim neighbors. Many Christians have aided children and families as well as men from being harmed by rebel forces through hiding them in homes at churches and schools. It is worth noting that during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that Rwandan Muslim protected their Christian neighbors and countrymen from rebel forces. Muslims were spared from the violence visited on their neighbors  regardless of religion. Rwandan troops make up a portion of the African Union troops. The Rwandans are all but familiar with the war and hell that is occurring during their operations. Nearly 1 million Central Africans have been displaced by the violence from both Anti-Balaka and Seleka rebels. Out of a population of 4 million people, 1 out of 4 Central Africans are either IDPs or refugees. Other Central Africans are hiding in forests without shelter or food.

Multireligious and multiethnic neighborhoods in Bangui, Bossonga and other towns are now segregated along religious lines as former neighbors part ways for safety outside their diverse communities. Some neighborhoods still have both Christian and Muslims living together defying both the hatred attempting tear Central African society into two halves. France even fears that CAR might be heading to a partition like Bosnia after Daytona Accords that created a Croat-Bosniak federation and a Serbian Republic. However, Central Africans themselves are not calling for no such partition. The Western media's "sectarianism" label reduces the complex origins that caused Central African Republic's current war and grievances. While praising ethnic and religious diversity for enriching society, United States and Western European countries forget or overlook the fact that diversity is not uniquely a Western invention. Pluralism and teaching respect for diversity is common in many African and Asian countries ie Malaysia, Singapore, India, Liberia and Senegal. Even Syrians and Iraqis both the wars, lived in pluralistic societies where even when religion or ethnic differences were emphasized, it didn't signal violent clashes between neighbors. People saw (still see) themselves as Iraqis or Syrians. Within families its the same. No one would attack their aunt for belonging to a different religion or ethnic group as the US paints CAR or Syria and Iraq as though sectarianism is ingrained in society. Christian leaders and elders have condemned rebel forces using religious identity to further their aims and create a permanent state of fear. Muslims have also distinguished between their neighbors who have protected them from harms way and vice versea for Christians who were protected by Muslims. The Chadians who are now refugees within Chad and Cameroon do plan to return to their homes in CAR eventually when the chaos dies down and the situation stabilizes.

Central African Republic: On Brink of Genocide Press TV In Focus

لقاء خاص إبادة وتطهير لمسلمي أفريقيا الوسطي  

A discussion on ethnic cleansing and violence against Central African Muslims on an Arabic language channel. The discussion also extends to violence against Muslims living across Africa and Asia

Revenge attacks between neighbors also occurred in Libya during the 2011 war when Misrata and Benghazi rebel forces uprooted and later carried out ethnic cleansing against their own fellow Libyans in Tarwegha and Benghazi. All for having dark skin and wrongly accused of being African mercenaries fighting on behalf of the late Libyan leader Maumar Gaddhafi.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ukrainian language

Taking a breather from the intense news from Ukraine. What is the difference between Russian and Ukrainian language? Even language within Ukraine is politicize as much as it is cultural. Ukrainian linguists and the government have been trying to promote Ukrainian language across the country including in Crimea since the fall of Soviet Union in 1990. A recent language policy in 2012 made Russian a co official language in Ukraine. Ukrainian and Russia do share some similar words and grammar. Enjoy the vids below.

Ukraine Seeks Linguistic Revival 
VOA Voice of America report from linguistic divide in Crimea   

Learn Ukrainian Language - Lesson 1 from Learn UKrainian

On the Line "Ukrainian Language Policy" VOA

Central African Republic Miles to Refuge

Miles to Refuge for Central African children

Children across the Central African Republic both Muslim and Christian (violence and war does not discriminate against religion) have walked hundreds of miles from their homes to safety. Some children have been fortunate to flee from Anti-Balaka and Seleka rebels with their entire families or single parents. The families have found safety at the Bangui International Airport while waiting to be evacuate. Other families have had to flee directly to the border with Chad and Cameroon. Some families have been turned away by border police . Thousands of Chadian refugees and other Central Africans have made it safely to Chad. Many children who have lost their parents and siblings are now orphans who can not easily find safe haven in Bangui or other towns. The children have to keep moving relying on the kindness of strangers both Christian and Muslim adults who have gone out of their way to protect orphans, other displaced and dispossed children. One such orphan, Ibrahim Adamou walked a 100 kilometers from his destroyed hometown into the safety of a Catholic church protecting both Muslim and Christian children from the rebel forces. He was helped by both peacekeepers and ex rebels to safety. Ibrahim and other children's trek is not a uncommon. rebel forces (reminisce of Darfur, Sudan) have been known to harass and terrorize refugees and IDPs who are sheltered behind secure walls at Bangui Airport or hidden by neighbors and kind strangers at greatest risk. Most refugees and internally displaced as well as their fellow countrymen who have escaped the rebel violence are exhausted by the show of force from rebels and the peacekeepers' tiptoeing response to disarm them. 

President Francois Hollande who might be visiting CAR soon, recently committed some 400 more troops to boost the 2, 000 French troops already operating in Central African Republic. The French military relies on its permanent base at Bangui Airport to conduct its troop and equipment deployments including its strategies for combating the rebel forces. The French military intervention is appropriately named Operation Sangris which is Latin for blood. The French parliament has extended the operation which has raised some eyebrows. Underneath CAR's soil and rivers one can find gold, diamonds, and metals that can literally develop nations if used for the benefit of the people. France relies heavily on natural resources such as Uranium, diamond and gold trades among many other resources to keep the nation's electricity and infrastructure development grinding. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Ukraine: After the protests, seperatism rises and Geopolitics spillover

The major protest that transformed from Pro European Union financial reform and pro Western sentiments of protesters at Euromaidan aka Maidan into the ousting of a Democratic leader (or coup since Ukrainian Constitution was ignored) for an interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov. The speaker of the Parliament has also been replaced as the first session addresses the possible arrest and charges against Yanukovych for crimes against the protesters. Some 100+ protesters have been killed since the protests and violence began three months ago. More than 400+ people have been injured including both police and protesters. Neo Nazi groups, anti Russian and anti-Semitic right wing protesters some responsible for violence with police are taking credit alongside peaceful protesters for overthrowing Yanukovych and his cabinet. Western countries are nervously observing events in Kiev and the Crimea to keep an eye on Russia's next move concerning Ukraine. Ukraine is crucial to Russia for geopolitical reasons. Russian pipelines run under Ukraine delivering petroleum and natural gas (in the form of Russian giant Gazprom) to Europe. Both natural resources are two of Russia's main exports to its neighbors and far west frienemies. Just as pipelines have been a blessing for fostering Ukrainian-Russian economic relations has been a source of dispute. Ukraine is Russia's closest neighbor that has served as a buffer zone between Russia and Western leaning Baltic and Balkan countries ie Romania, Moldova, Latvia and Estonia. Other than Belarus, Russia has few strong allies on its border. The 1853 Crimean War was the first strategic war Russia lost when it attempted to gain territory lost by the Ottoman Empire. Previous Russian governments were and with Putin are weary of any military maneuvers or political alliances between Western Europe and United States and Ukraine or any other borderland countries. Pro Russian governments and alliances serve as a regional alternative to the NATO alliance across Europe.

Ukraine: History of a Nation Part 1

After the protests, separatism is rising in the Crimea and geopolitics are spilling out

Ukraine at various times, played a role in Russian history as the confederation of Kievan Rus to being the bread basket of the Soviet Union and Russia, home to some of Eastern Europe's largest agricultural lands. Similar to the rest of Ukraine, the region Crimea which coincidentally borders Sochi, Russian province Krasnador and Black Sea has been pulled literally between Russia and Ukraine for centuries.  Historically Crimea was home to Crimean Tatars (Turkish speaking Muslims who are the indigenous people in Crimea) until the 1930s when Josef Stalin began his long project of deporting so called rebellious ethnic minorities from Crimea, North Caucasus and Ukraine to Kazakhstan, Siberia and Central Asian republics. Russian settlers were allowed to relocate to Crimea while the Crimean Tatars were forbidden like the Chechens and Circassians from returning to their homelands. Russians make up the majority of the Crimea today although Crimean Tatars have been slowly returning to the region. Over the past decades, Crimean Russians have demanded that Crimea receive autonomy and recognition of their cultural and linguistic identity with Russia. Ukrainians within Crimea and across the country regard Crimea as part of Ukraine and not Russia. Separatism has been rising in Crimea over the past years as Russian speaking Crimean regard themselves as pro Russian. The tensions between Ukrainians and Russians in Crimea has caused Putin to place the Russian military in Western Russia on high alert during military drills.

Crimean Tatars returning home: On history, culture and politics of Crimea Al Jazeera

Crimean War 1853-1856

Monday, 24 February 2014

Democracy imposed by protest or necessity?

In Central African Republic as in Liberia, Iran (which also has a parliament known as the assembly or Majili despite having a supreme council), Palestine and Argentina, Democracy with a big D is enforced and strengthened through national elections involving all citizens from every walk of life. In some of these societies, referendums (like in Switzerland but unusual in US) are called for the people to make crucial decisions on constitutional reforms or leaders will occasionally publicly apologize for their corruption or mistakes. Despite being "young democracies," citizens are able to hold public forums in cafes known as Hatais in Liberia and cafe politics in Egypt. While the citizens privately and publicly criticize government policies and leaders. Its the same method in most Western countries too. However in Ukraine, Libya, Syria and Lebanon, Democracy comes via protests ranging from peaceful to violent sometimes backed directly by the West or Washington Consensus if not paid lip service. If you are Iraq through sanctions and bombings not to mention destruction of infrastructure. Ukraine has recently witnessed its successful rebirthing of democracy through overthrowing the country's democratically elected leader through a combination of Western pressure and stubborn people power inspired by Tahrir Square and the protest in Thailand. Coups seem to be the weapon of choice for the international community ie West when elections do not remove long standing enemies. Or when a hated political leader manages to hold power through switching titles or posts ie Putin moving from Prime Minister to President or Mugabe becoming President for Life. Not to mention, Central African Republic's President Bokassa transformed himself into the Emperor of CAR.

When leaders are democratically elected by their people Jean Betrand Aristide in Haiti, Patrice Lumumba in DR Congo, Salvador Allende in Chile, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras or Chavez in Venezuela, they are than overthrown or demonized for opposing neoliberal economic policies by the World Bank and IMF and pro Anglo American friendly political systems that cater to Western sensibilities but do not fit the aspiration or relate to the culture of local societies. Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is facing weeks of protests against him by anti Chavistas and anti Bolivarian revolutionaries led by Leopoldo Lopez who has become the voice of Democratic reform in Venezuela. It appears that the US, Europe and occasionally Canada are comfortable with Democracy being imposed on a country through protests no matter how violent. Western support for Democracy protests or different color revolutions are easier to justify to the public compared to military spending or NATO bombings. America and European direct monitoring of internal affairs within Ukraine, the early anti Assad protests in Syria and Libya that have been overshadowed than replaced by violent rebel groups or the ongoing violent protests in Thailand involving small grenade attacks against ordinary Thais are viewed as a necessary "concern" for the Global North. There is nothing wrong with revolutions changing society. Revolutions are necessary for transforming and developing societies in need of justice and equality. But when Democracy gets thrown around as the penultimate raison d' entre for the revolution, than society should ask why must Democracy trump the society's other pressing issues ie access to health, human rights, education or privatization of water at the expense of everyone having access to water resources. Democracy according to Western leaders is seen as the cure all for Ukraine, Syria and Libya even Russia not to mention other countries experiencing violence emerging from long standing marginalization, state abuses, lack of addressing basic needs among countless overlooked issues. Democracy is not the only factor to creating a just society it involves addressing the people's grievances and needs through creative ways that doesn't always involve impromptu elections or a coup.

Six Nations Indigenous Demcoracy: Iroquois Confederacy oldest participatory democracy on Earth

Rivalry among opposition groups oppose to Maduro in Venezuela

War on Democracy (full film) by John Pilger

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sochi Olympics ends peacefully

Closing Ceremony of Sochi Olympics from RT

The IOC's strict copyright laws make it nearly impossible to rebroadcast or reproduce the Olympic ceremonies in their entirety

Now that the athletes have finished with their various competitions and carry home their gold, silver or bronze medals, the world can relax knowing that the Sochi Olympics were successfully safe. Everyone's blood pressure has returned to normal. Pre Game anxiety over terrorism were unfounded. Despite the tension between the United States and Russia over Ukraine or the earlier smear campaigns against Putin and painting him as a self absorbed despot by mainstream media, the Olympics went off without any serious incidents. The exception being that Pussy Riot members were beaten by security forces during a protest performance against Putin and the Olympics. No one was injured in a terror attack, everyone's toothpastes were untampered with and Russian security forces will earn its bragging rights as a top notch security. Russia has a decent track when it comes to defending itself from outside attacks ie defeating the Nazis in World War II, Napoleon Bonaporte's army failed to penetrate the Russian line of defense during the Napoleonic invasions and Georgia's stalement with Russian troops stationed in South Ossetia during the 5 day war and Abkhazia. Within Russia, the track record wobbles from terror attacks in Volgagrad, war in Chechnya and Daghestan.

Netherlands won 23 medals in speed skating. Its not a shock from a country that takes short and long distance bicycling seriously as well as host an 120 miles 11 cities cross country endurance speed skating tournament known as the Elfstedentocht.

The first Elfstedentocht tournament in 1954

Russia won 13 gold medals, Norway won 11, Canada won 10, United States 9 and Netherlands 8 as the top ranking countries for gold medals. As with other previous Olympics, the US was competing with its rivals for top medal rankings. But so were other countries competing against each other. Sochi will now go down in history as the warmest Winter Olympics on record. In two weeks, Sochi will host the 2014 Paralympics which is already being advertised.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Yanukovych ousted by Parliament, replaying Bosnia or Yugoslavia?

Yanukovych is out and Ukraine is being pulled into the EU's orbit. Compliments by Carlos Latuff

Parliament dismisses Yanukovych

Despite all the efforts made to come to an agreement with the armed and outraged protesters, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has been ousted by a parliamentary vote. He condemns it as an outright coup orchestrated by the West. Protesters in Kiev and elsewhere are cheering that their demand has been met. But the protesters are not ready to leave just yet. Western media has also applaud that the protesters' demand was met with the peaceful removal of Yanukovych. The now former president was so hated by the Maidan protesters that he had to flee the capital. His departure and lavish estate is already being compared with descriptions saved for Ben Ali  or Gaddhafi. Western leaders are happy to see the president go celebrating the news as much as a victory for the EU and West as it is for Ukraine. Meanwhile former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed to the delight of protesters and the West. She was originally jailed for 2 years for an abuse of office prior to the three month long violence. She is now making her rounds around Kiev's Maidan Square speaking to thousands of enthusiastic supporters. Ukraine's orbit towards Russia remains unknown as the EU aims to draw the country into its full orbit as a direct challenge to Russia's attempts to keep Ukraine in its political and cultural alliance. A peace pact is in the making between the protesters and the government as a final agreement. There is still talk of Ukraine being split into two parts recalling the partition of Bosnia in the aftermath of its Civil war in 1995. Keep in mind that a Democratically elected leader has been replaced by the combined violence and threats from a combination of nationalistic and violent protesters who have reiterated that neither Russia or its influences are not welcomed in Ukraine. A statue of Vlad Lenin left over from the Soviet days was toppled by happy protesters. Alongside Lenin, late Soviet leader Josef Stalin is regarded by many Ukrainians as a brutal dictator and murderer. If any Stalin statutes are still standing they will be smashed as well. Protesters in Benghazi during the Libya's protests cheerfully toppled a statue of Gamel Nasser mimicking the toppling of 2003 Saddam Hussein's statute in Baghdad, Iraq. Smashing statutes and the strong anti Russian sentiment among the Maidan and other protesters across Ukraine has created tensions from Western to  Eastern Ukraine. Russia is observing the situation closely anticipating violence that could easily resurface from the protesters who do not want to end their threats to challenge the government even without Viktor Yanukovych.

Lenin statutes toppled in Kiev

Former PM Yulia Tymoshenko

Friday, 21 February 2014

Ukraine: Violence and agreements

Protesters beat and arrest Governor Oleksandr Bashkelano

Some 101 people both police and protesters have died from the running gun and street battles between the Ukrainian police and protesters in Maidan in Kiev. President Yanukovych has compromised considerably to halt the protesters' rage and return Kiev and Western Ukraine to normal to no avail. He has sacked a military general, recently expelled the interior minister and now has signed an agreement with opposition leaders on holding early elections while parliament is in the process of reducing presidential powers. Hopefully, the agreement will be enough to halt the violence. Some protesters have fired on police with guns on the road to the Ukrainian Parliament where police have formed a human shield to protect the building from being stormed by protesters. Police have been blamed from over hundreds of injuries including sniper fire and firing directly into protesters using homemade riot shields as they face off with the police. Injured protesters were taken to Hotel Ukraina. Protesters have also been violently attacking police, burning government buildings in Kiev and smaller towns across Ukraine and have been joined by violent nationalists and deeply anti-Russian and anti-Semitic protesters.

In Western Ukraine, where some protesters are still not satisfied with the government's recent move to avoid the Tahrir Square like removal of the Yanukoyvch government, Governor Oleksandr Bashkelano was handcuffed and beaten by protesters in Lutsk to pressure the government to resign. The rising violence by the police and protesters have made some observers wonder and believe that Ukraine might be heading to a split in the manner of Yugoslavia or Civil War. Maidan does resemble the scenes from Tahrir Square in Feb 2011 when then President Hosni Mubarak sent his thugs to crack down on thousands of protesters in the Midan. Slobadan Milosevic's overthrow by massive protests across the former Yugoslavia (Serbia) in 2000 shares similarities with Ukrainian protesters rallying against the government. But Kiev police are not thugs and President Yanukovych is not Mubarak. Disagreements and hatred against the government aside, Yanukovych was democratically elected by Ukrainians. Mainstream media and the international community aka Western Europe and Uninvited States and occasionally Japan, have been observing and reporting positively on the Maidan protests from the first day. The West has sided with the protesters almost from day one. Western media has painted Kiev police and the Ukrainian government as merciless in the same manner of a former Soviet state. Sanctions against Yanukovych has been approved by European Union, U.S and even Canada. The sanctions are against a Democratic government not a dictator or authoritarian such as Mubarak or Gaddhafi who was ousted by rebel militias.

Russia too has been watching Ukraine's protests with interest. Russian influences, culture and language is still felt across Ukraine but its the strongest in Eastern Ukraine. Eastern region looks to Russia from time to time. Russia regards Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Ukraine is one of the few Eastern countries that is not under the EU's complete financial and political control. An American diplomat Victora Nuland has gone so far as to  curse the EU for not intervening in Ukraine's internal affairs. Both the West and Russia are playing tug of war with Ukraine hoping that the Ukrainians' commitment to join the European Union and leave Russia's influential sphere and Eursian alliance.

Is Ukraine the next Yugoslavia?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Truce called in Ukraine

Uneasy truce in Kiev

Both the protesters and wider Ukrainian government through President Viktor Yanukovych has agreed to a truce. In the midst of the firy barrage at Maidan square, a calm has settled for the time being while the police clear the encampment that has seen nights of violence. The truce has brought a sigh of relief to the Ukrainian capital and smaller towns also experiencing violence. President Barack Obama hinted there would be sanctions against President Yanukovych as demanded by the protesters who represent the main opposition bloc to him. Since when was the last last time anyone has demanded a foreign country place sanctions on their own government? If the demand for sanctions sounds like Libya during the violence in Benghazi prior to the start of NATO bombing its not a coincidence. Sanctions hamper the movement of government officials or freezes their assets. Long term sanctions affect the entire country's economy hurting the people more than the government. In the case of sanctions in Ukraine, it would only be aimed at Yanukovych. Meanwhile the main opposition leader Vitali Klitschko (a former boxer turned political activisit) has called on the protesters in Maidan square to abide by the truce.

Boxer turned political activist Vitali Klitschko before the Maidan protests punching his way to the top as a champion. Picture from telegraph on Kitschko's boxing bouts.

Blood in the Streets: West is repeating Syrian Model in Ukraine

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Ukraine: The meaning of the name

The protesters in Kiev and smaller towns in Western Ukraine are not stopping their protests against the government despite all attempts the national parliament, the prime minister and local governments have made to appease the protesters. Now 14 people have died from new clashes between the protesters against the police. The majority of the protesters have been peaceful and non violent. But it is the violent, right wing and nationalistic (borderline anarchists) protesters sometimes believed to belong to the Svoboda Party that have been causing the most chaos in the four months long protest. Protesters are still wearing helmets and military fatigue barricading themselves in Midan (Maidan), in Kiev City Hall and other government buildings or throwing molotovs (petro bombs) at nearby offices. It is not only happening in Kiev but in smaller towns too. A new organization has emerged called the Maidan Council that officially deals with the government and has its on spokesman similar to the transitional councils created by Tahrir Square protesters and Libyans during Feb 17th protests in Benghazi. Just as the protesters have refused to compromise until the end, the Maidan Council still seeks to negotiate with the government while the protest continue.

Ukraine aka "The borderlands" surrounded by multiple borders and the sea and regional powers

The name Ukraine ironically roughly translates to borderlands or the marsh. It borders Russia, Poland, Belarus, Moldova and Romania as well as the Black Sea. As a country, its been pulled left and right, East and West. Ukrainians have their own identity and have constantly fought Russification against both the Soviet Union and Russia. Ukraine is often seen as being split into five significant regions: West, East, South, Central and Crimea. When language is spoken and written in Ukrainian or Russian it tends not purposely to follow the Western and Eastern regions divisions. Language policy and linguistic politics are even further in tangled in the five regions against the two main regions. During the days of Soviet Union, Ukraine was seen as the breadbasket and also suffered a horrendous fame in 1930s. Ukraine has been leaning for many years if not decades towards the West. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Updates from CAR, Syria and Egypt

France has approved and sent 500 additional troops to Bangui in the midst of the fleeing civilian and violence carried out by the Anti Balaka rebels against CAR Muslims. Many civilians have continued to remain sheltered at Bangui National Airport or flee to other towns around the capital or part of the country. French and CAR troops alongside the African Union troops are still keeping the peace. What little peace remains for Central Africans who have to move or shuffle around Bangui and CAR to keep themselves alive and safe.

Egyptian children have been arrested by the military during protests to shock of parents and human rights organizations alike who have condemn fully torture and violence aimed at the children for the actions of the adult protesters.

Generation Jihad BBC Part 1

First British suicide bomber, 41 year old Abdul Waheed Majed, a father of three children from Crowley, Sussex in England died during a premature explosion. The Jihadist/Takfiri group he'd linked up with after arriving in Syria, recorded his last minutes as he nervously waited for instructions to ram his assigned truck into the walls of Aleppo Prison. The martyrdom video has been posted online. While a couple of feet away from Aleppo prison's wall, Majed's improvised armoured truck exploded killing him without demolishing any parts of the wall. A week prior, Majed's family had filed a missing person's report after they lost contact with him. Majed and other fighters mentioned as Chechens seen in the video are only a handful of thousands of foreign fighters linking up with Jihadist/Takfiri groups and organizations in Syria fighting against Assad government and Syrian army. The Takfiris have overshadowed the secular and unified Free Syrian Army to become the prime opponent against Assad. The Takfiris have vowed not to rest until Assad is completely removed from office or captured like Gaddhafi or Saddam.

Thousands of Westerners such as Majed and younger fighters from Belgium including women, France, UK, Netherlands and other European countries have been crossing the border in Turkey to join the Syrian war. Foreigners are also coming from Tunisia Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt as well as Turkey and apparently Chechens. Many fighters who are videotaped in Syria often give the alibi that they are going to Syria for humanitarian work which some are doing humanitarian work such as providing aid to refugees. A British doctor Abbas Khan also a father of young children was killed by Syrian prison guards while providing medical help and treatment to Syrian civilians. Western and North African governments are horrified of many of the young foreign fighters' return back to their home countries who could recruit and convince other youngsters to follow in their footsteps to Syria. Not to mention that the returned fighters could pose a security threat as a potential terrorist or link up with home based Takfiri groups. One Belgian father has been on a nonstop search to Aleppo, Syria to find his young son who left but never returned to Syria. His  son hasn't contacted him in months. The father said his son was radicalized prior to going to Syria through online videos (English to appeal to an international audience) and chat rooms similar  to Boston bombers Tsarnaev brothers in the United States. He won't rest until his son is found. Radicalism has long been a fear throughout Western Europe in France, Netherlands and UK. The three countries are home to diverse multilingual and first generation born Muslims who often feel marginalized and alienated from their home countries by society's ignorance, discrimination/racism and the massive security measures and policies set in place throughout the War on Terrorism. The mainstream media's labeling and stereotyping of Islam and Muslims as undercover menacing terrorists does little to ease the fear on both sides. Some of the European born Muslims live in suburbs on the outskirts of small towns and large cities. Others are Middle Class and well traveled who go about life normally going to work or school to mention keeping busy. The Syrian Jihadist/Takfiri groups take their inspirations from Al Qaeda in Syria-Iraq in its actions and terminology. By Al Qaeda's own standards, many such groups ie ISIS or Nusra Front are regarded as more violent and unafraid of the consequences than Al Qaeda who even denounced the Takfiris' violence to chagrin of the media. Videos below complements of Euronews and Deutsche Welle.

Former Dutch Soldier Yilmaz 

lays its down the multiple factors that sent him to Syria in the first place

Belgian Families' fear for their children as foreign fighters in Syria

Life of Brian, young fighter in Syria

Prez Obama: Climate change threatens our nation

President Obama arrives in Fresno, CA

President Obama is in California. He arrived in Fresno, Northern California in Central Valley, the breadbasket of the United States. He is on an official tour to address the drought and see its impact with his own eyes. He has also come to announce aid to Californian farmers and rancheros who rely on the San Joaquin Delta and several other waterways and mini rivers for irrigation and their livelihoods. While some Californians may be excited to see the president in person, many more are upset and outright frustrated by the lack of attention the drought has received from the President or the national media. California is a semi arid state that has been experiencing hot summers and occasional water  rationing in the past. In addition to the drought, every summer, Los Angeles' pristine forest is swallowed by wildfires that burn for weeks on end. The LA wildfires have become so common in the last twenty years it doesn't startled people as much as before. The president did acknowledged that climate change is a serious threat to the nation.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Mother Nature pounds the United States

ABC News reports on the titanic size storm across the East Coast

Mother Nature is beyond upset. First the polar vertex pummeled the Midwest and Northeast with snow. Now abandoned cars have been picked up from the highways in North Carolina the previous week and Atlanta two weeks earlier. Now hundreds of millions of people are forced to stay in doors for Valentine's Day as snow rains down and winds across the East Coast from Boston down to the Carolinas. Perhaps it is Mother Nature's way of reminding the world that climate change is here to stay and that no matter how much everyone wishes the weather would cool down it gets worst every year. The snowfalls are heavier, summer is drier and Spring rains come with a vengeance. For some the extreme weather may seem like the move the Day After Tomorrow minus the twenty plus inches of snow in the film. For many it is an ordeal that they have little control over. The schools are closed except for New York City, of ices are also closed and businesses are shuttered up for the day and night. The irony of all this Olympic size weather is that it is warmer in Sochi now than in the United States. Sochi was reported to have 63 degree weather and snow on the Caucasus Mountains had melted bit by bit which makes some of the skiing events tricky and difficult. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Central African Republic's woes

After months of rebel forces fighting and the Central African government failing to halt the destruction of the people, ethnic cleansing against Central African Muslims and Chadians has sent many innocent people fleeing in Bangui and towns throughout the country. Neither rebel forces Seleka or Anti-Balaka have called a ceasefire for the people's sake. The combined African Union, Central Africa Republic military or the French troops patrolling the country has failed to halt ethnic cleansing or fully disarm clashing rebels. The French Defence Minister while on an official visit to CAR has also decried the possiblity of ethnic cleansing in the country. President Panza has threatened to fight the Anti-Balaka rebels to halt the ethnic cleansing. There's little chance that the European Union troops' intervention when it comes will help the situation or exacerbate it. Coincidentally it is nearly a year since Mali had its own coup that led to a separatist rebel uprising by the Malian Taureg in Northern Mali. Rebranding themselves as the Movement National for the Liberation of Azwad, the rebels fought months long conflict that almost reached the capital Bamako and would've greatly endangered Bamako residents had the forces not been halted North of the city. Central Africans most likely see a parallel between their conflict and Mali with the same rebel forces causing hell across the country and Bangui. Hundreds of thousands of Central Africans and Chadians are still internally displaced. Hundreds have been killed and continue to live in fear regardless of the peacekeeping troops' presence.

Chad's role behind the scenes in CAR

Meanwhile French President Francois Hollande recently wrapped up a trip to President Obama in United States capital Washington, DC. Hollande, who was eager to intervene in CAR, has now refocused his efforts on US French relationship while attempting to distract the French public's attention away from a recent scandal involving an affair. The lavish but low key state dinner at the White House didn't raise eyebrows among ordinary Americans who went about their business throughout the French President's visit. The exception being President Hollande stopped over in Sicilon Valley in San Francisco bay area to promote the and offer the French government's support to tech industry and collobrations between France and United States. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Passport Olympians and dual nationality

Veneuzla's sole winter Olympian in Sochi
One unique aspect of the Olympics is the dual citizenship of some Olympians. American Viktor Ahn born Ahn Hyun Soo changed his name and became a Russian citizen to speed skate for Russia after not finding enough support in the United States for short speed skating. He had previously played on the South Korean team again finding the same challenge in financial support and necessary track to practice skating. Another pair of Americans, sibling team figure skating duo Chris and Cathy Reed are representing Japan. Both brother and sister were born in Michigan to an American dad and Japanese mom. The Reed siblings train in New Jersey nevertheless prior to the Sochi Games. However they decided to go with their mother's country for the games. There are many reasons for olympians switching nationalities to compete in the games. Climate and season is an obvious reason. The 2 member Jamaican bob sledding team returning to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, had to relocate to Wyoming in the US to practice. Tropical and Mediterranean countries including Sochi's warm weather is a challenge for many Olympians wanting to compete in the Winter Olympics. Zimbabwe recently sent its first Winter Olympian Luke Steyn to Sochi for sking competition. He moved to London but was still able to practice alpine skiing across Western Europe. Limited appropriate equipment or track courses as in Ahn's case is another obstacle. Russian American Simon Snapir was born in Moscow came to America when he was one years old with his parents. He represents the United States in the team figure skating. Despite the obstacles, the bureaucratic red tape that comes with naturalization and citizenship and the literal thousands of miles each Olympian has traveled to represent their home or adapted countries, many will enjoy an experience most people can only see or .

Passport Olympians and winter games

Monday, 10 February 2014

Switzerland limits immigration

Cartoon by Latuff on Swiss Migrations

Switzerland is known for its banks, chocolate, alpine sking and its ability to choose whether it wants to be neutral in times of war or any political bickering and conflicts. Its a choice few countries enjoy. The country is also home to several well known international organizations: World Heath Org, International Labour Organization, International Organization for Migration, UN Commission on Refugee, Humanitarian Affairs and Human Rights to name a few. Today, Swiss people narrowly voted to restrict immigration to the neutrally wealthy and internationally minded country. On issues of immigration, referendums have often determine the direction of Swiss policies towards migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, students and others enjoying the European Union's heralded freedom of movement. The new immigration quota that was backed by 50% of Swiss public places one of Europe's strictest immigration quotas on new migrants to the country no matter if they are from Eastern Europe or Africa and Asia. The law affects refugees and Asylum seekers in need of safe refuge. It also greatly reduces freedom of movement for neighboring EU workers.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Circassian Genocide and Sochi 150 years ago

As the opening ceremony comes and passed, Sochi's unique history begins to slowly surface. Circassians aka Agydhe have been in protesting in Turkey, Russia and in other countries against the Olympics. About 150 years ago, the Circassians also known as the Agydhe were forcefully removed from North Caucasus where they live in Adgygea or Circassia, Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Sochi which is a Circassian word also had a large Circassian population until 1860. Circassians made up the majority of the people in North Caucasus a century ago. They were massacred and removed from republics outlined in red in the map below. Today, Circassians are scattered around the region and Turkey.

Circassians and Olympics: Did age of Genocide begin in Sochi?

Sochi stirs Circassian nationalism?

The North Caucasian republics that were once home to a large Circassian population outlined in red and bordering Sochi on the Black Sea.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Sochi hotel horrors await international journalists and visitors

Sochi Hotels not ready

The media scrutiny on Sochi's preparedness to host the Olympics not only providing security but also safeguarding the venues and hotels has taken on a new leap. Now the focus is on toothpaste bombs and hotel horror stories from dozens of international journalists, athletes and visitors who are complaining and photographing their unfinished hotel rooms. The stories and photos of the unfinished hotels may sound like a national lampoon movie or comedic skit. However, it is not a joke considering safety and the Olympic Opening Ceremony begins tomorrow. The army of construction workers, exposed wires, doorknobs falling off of doors or leaving in visitors' hands, hotel lobbies with no floors and some hotel buildings with no lobbies are making many media pundits question Russia's competency to host such a massive sporting event. As though Russia has never hosted the Olympics or is in need of lecturing on how to provide foreign guests with top notch facilities. Most of the buildings within the Olympic buildings do not have names but numbers that have not been placed on the buildings. Visitors and journalists have also suffered from lack of water in many of their rooms. Some receptionists even told the guests not to use the water because it contained dangerous chemicals not fit for the face. Meanwhile other guests were greeted with signs warning them not to flush the toilets due to limited indoor plumbing or no plumbing. Construction workers are still miling about the village putting on the finishing touches. Nevertheless, the sports venues themselves are completed and ready for use.

First Events of Sochi Olympics: The Hotel Construction Sprint

Journalists find their hotels still under construction

Hotel horrors via CNN

Big sporting events and displacement

Batman fights for Rio's Poor and displaced

Oldest Favela in Rio updated for Olympics

While the Olympics and World Cup are fun events for many people who are able to go or watch via TV or online and listen through radio, many residents and local peoples who live near such large events often bear the brunt of the hosting city. In Brazil there have been nearly a year and half of protests by residents both middle class and poor in Rio de Janiero and San Paulo among other cities. The protesters have channel their frustrations and anger at the continual demolition of their homes and displacement by city and state as well as national government construction firms making way for the multimillion sometimes billion dollar Olympic villages, World Cup stadiums and commercialized districts for visitors. Such new brilliant constructions are seen as opportunities to promote Rio or Sochi as the city of the world, ripe for tourism and business investments. Big business is rubbing its hands together at all the possible investments and new links. Many of these billion dollar stadiums, hotels and mini cities are inaccessible for local people who literally live in their shadows. Just to get a ticket or even go near the Olympic or World Cup venue is impossible for local residents who are unable to pay an arm and a leg for seating or entrance to specific  venues. Many residents see the games as exciting but not representing them or their neighborhoods that are being bulldoze. The big sporting events are geared toward the international tourists and visitors. Various construction firms in Sochi, Rio and San Paulo as in Beijing and London are attempting to beautify the city at the expense of neighborhoods that are regard as part of their residents' identity. Protests in Brazil are also aimed at inaccessibility to education, healthcare, lack of teachers and doctors, dilapidated transportation and infrastructure in the major cities hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

The Cost of Glory: 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Games

Exploitation of migrants workers from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, non compensated and forced eviction and home demolitions for 2000 families, shooting stray dogs and limiting access to city residents are many reoccurring frustrations the residence in Sochi deal with as the city prepares to the host the Olympics.

The Debate: Hosting the olympics in Sochi

Favela Wars: Demolitions and heavy policing in favelas on the heels of Olympics and World Cup

Old Beijing being demolish to make way for 2008 Olympics

When Beijing hosted the Olympics, the city lost several historical neighborhoods named hutongs that had survived centuries of attempted demolitions. The hutongs are part of Beijing's Old City and historic district which have gradually been replaced over the years by rings and neighborhoods of high rises  overshadowing the remaining Old City of Beijing. The neighborhoods that are saved from destruction do receive infrastructure development and upgrades in its social services along with beautification projects. The beautification projects are key to representing a hosting city as an idealized symbol of what the host country best represents on the world stage.

Protests against the high cost of hosting events

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Real life Monuments Men and women

Monuments in Peril: The Rape of Europa 

On Friday, the movie Monuments Men based on the book by the same name comes out in theaters. The Monuments Men tells the story of the real life team of curators, artists, writers, historians and cultural preservationists who went behind enemy lines with allied forces toward the end of World War 2 to save Europe's cultural heritage. The team who were not soldiers nor military men were racing against time and fleeing Nazi army to save irreplaceable artwork, books, manuscripts, historical buildings, original works of art that the Nazi troops attempted to destroy and steal. Some of the stolen art and cultural collections were to go towards creating a super museum under the orders of Adolf Hitler. Part of the cultural destruction by Hitler and Nazis as well as other war perpetrators (before and since than) is physiological: it is meant to physically erase connection to previous identities in order to create new ones. Sort of a tabla rasa approach to building and shaping a new society in the eyes of a hegemon.

Saving Haiti's cultural heritage 

Wars not only destroy human lives and infrastructure but also cultural heritage left behind by our ancestors and preserved throughout the centuries through painstaking care by teams of countless preservationists, historians, and countless curators or museum directors. To lose cultural artwork and monuments no matter if it is historical building or a small statue comes with great loss to a country and peoples. Culture and art is tied to identity. All three connect modern society to ancestral knowledge, creativity, language and the foundations that society and civilization has built itself on. Even with globalization, each region or country of the world has a unique heritage that has been preserved by the thousands of nameless monuments men and women who sometimes risked their lives so future generations can learn from their ancestors, appreciate their heritage and grow with it.

Iraq's cultural heritage under fire

Syria and Iraq have lost and are loosing some of the oldest cultural artwork and monuments in the world. Afghanistan's two famous Buddhist statutes that have stood for over five hundred years were destroyed by the Taliban. Liberia's national museum which is housed in the country's first parliament building in Central or Downtown Monrovia, lost 5,800 handcrafted art ranging from brightly colored paintings, detailed curved masks and statutes to furniture depicting everyday life. Some of the artifacts were looted and stolen by rebel forces throughout the decade long war. Liberia's handcrafted masks are recognized as symbols of Liberian culture in the US and around the world. Israel's collective punishment and bombardment of occupied Palestine since 1948 has destroyed centuries old buildings and monuments representing Cannites, Byzantines, Ottomans and Arabic heritage of Palestine prior to Israel's creation. During the 1948 war, 400+ Palestinian villages home to mixed Christian, Muslim and Jewish Palestinians were destroyed by Haganah and Arab forces fighting to preserve Palestine as a state. The separation and apartheid wall that zigzags in and out of the occupied West Bank has destroyed hundreds of ancient olive trees and home demolitions have damaged homes dating back to Ottoman Empire and before. Palestinians have made cultural preservation of art and monuments a top priority for the past decades. Natural disasters too aid in the destruction of national treasures. Haiti's priceless monuments, arts and galleries and historical buildings among them the national assembly, presidential palace and thousands of schools were leveled in 2009 Earthquake that leveled most of the capital Port au Prince while flattening other cities. Since the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti has reconstructed and revived its art and heritage with renovated or recreated artwork.

Collateral Damage: Destruction and looting of cultural property in armed conflict

Cultural property at war: Protecting heritage during armed conflicts

Impact of War on Iraq's Cultural Heritage: Operation Iraq Freedom

Destruction of art in Afghanistan

Cultural heritage activists warn against the destruction of Russian monuments