Tuesday, June 30, 2020

AP sources: White House aware of Russian bounties in 2019

© Provided by The Canadian Press

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.
© Provided by The Canadian Press

Bolton declined to comment Monday when asked by the AP if he had briefed Trump about the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he suggested to NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of a response.

“He can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it,” Bolton said.

The revelations cast new doubt on the White House’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments. The AP reported Sunday that concerns about Russian bounties were also included in a second written presidential daily briefing earlier this year and that current national security adviser Robert O’Brien had discussed the matter with Trump. O’Brien denies he did so.

On Monday night, O'Brien said that while the intelligence assessments regarding Russian bounties "have not been verified,” the administration has “been preparing should the situation warrant action.”

The administration’s earlier awareness of the Russian efforts raises additional questions about why Trump did not take any punitive action against Moscow for efforts that put the lives of Americans servicemembers at risk. Trump has sought throughout his time in office to improve relations with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, moving earlier this year to try to reinstate Russia as part of a group of world leaders it had been kicked out of.

Officials said they did not consider the intelligence assessments in 2019 to be particularly urgent, given that Russian meddling in Afghanistan is not a new occurrence. The officials with knowledge of Bolton’s apparent briefing for Trump said it contained no “actionable intelligence,” meaning the intelligence community did not have enough information to form a strategic plan or response. However, the classified assessment of Russian bounties was the sole purpose of the meeting.

The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the highly sensitive information.

The intelligence that surfaced in early 2019 indicated Russian operatives had become more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012 during the Obama administration.

The National Security Council and the undersecretary of defence for intelligence did hold meetings regarding the intelligence. The Pentagon declined to comment and the NSC did not respond to questions about the meetings.

Concerns about Russian bounties flared anew this year after members of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000 in U.S. currency. The funds bolstered the suspicions of the American intelligence community that the Russians had offered money to Taliban militants and other linked associations.

The White House contends the president was unaware of this development as well.

The officials told the AP that career government officials developed potential options for the White House to respond to the Russian aggression in Afghanistan, which was first reported by The New York Times. However, the Trump administration has yet to authorize any action.

The intelligence in 2019 and 2020 surrounding Russian bounties was derived in part from debriefings of captured Taliban militants. Officials with knowledge of the matter told the AP that Taliban operatives from opposite ends of the country and from separate tribes offered similar accounts.

The officials would not name the specific groups or give specific locations in Afghanistan or time frames for when they were detained.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, denied that Russian intelligence officers had offered payments to the Taliban in exchange for targeting U.S. and coalition forces.

The U.S. is investigating whether any Americans died as a result of the Russian bounties. Officials are focused in particular on an April 2019 attack on an American convoy. Three U.S. Marines were killed after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armoured vehicles as they returned to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan.

The Marines exchanged gunfire with the vehicle at some point; however, it’s not known if the gunfire occurred before or after the car exploded.

Abdul Raqib Kohistani, the Bagram district police chief, said at the time that at least five Afghan civilians were wounded after the attack on the convoy, according to previous reporting by the AP. It is not known if the civilians were injured by the car bomb or the gunfire from U.S. Marines.

The Defence Department identified Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware; Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania; and Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York, as the Marines killed in April 2019. The three Marines were all infantrymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve infantry unit headquartered out of Garden City, New York.

Hendriks' father told the AP that even a rumour of Russian bounties should have been immediately addressed.

“If this was kind of swept under the carpet as to not make it a bigger issue with Russia, and one ounce of blood was spilled when they knew this, I lost all respect for this administration and everything,” Erik Hendriks said.

Marine Maj. Roger Hollenbeck said at the time that the reserve unit was a part of the Georgia Deployment Program-Resolute Support Mission, a recurring six-month rotation between U.S. Marines and Georgian Armed Forces. The unit first deployed to Afghanistan in October 2018.

Three other service members and an Afghan contractor were also wounded in the attack. As of April 2019, the attack was under a separate investigation, unrelated to the Russian bounties, to determine how it unfolded.

The officials who spoke to the AP also said they were looking closely at insider attacks — sometimes called “green-on-blue” incidents — from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Deb Riechmann in Washington, Deepti Hajela in New York and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

James Laporta, The Associated Press
Migrant workers face racism and rampant human rights violations across the Gulf

Migrant workers face COVID-19 with no medical care or unions

Posted 17 June 2020

Anti-kafala demonstration in Lebanon. The sign in Arabic reads “I'm a [female] human and I have a right to live.” Photo by International Domestic Workers Federation, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0.This post was written by Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in the MENA region.

Migrant workers in the Gulf region and neighboring countries have been subjected to fierce campaigns calling for their deportation that is riddled with racist speeches and hatred. They have been left alone to face the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with no access to medical care or unions, according to research by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

Over the years, migrant workers in Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Bahrain have been subjected to massive human rights violations through the notorious kafala (sponsorship) system that strips them of their basic civil and human rights. They lack the right to move, travel or change work, the right to health care and the right to union representation or formation of organisations. In addition, migrant workers are denied the right to citizenship — even if they spend their whole lives working in these countries.

The kafala system, which enshrines discrimination and exploitation, contradicts the principles of human rights and modern work systems that are guaranteed under the International Convention on the Rights of Migrants and Members of their Families, signed in 1990. This convention entered into force on July 1, 2003, after being ratified by 20 states, but has not been signed by the Gulf states and Lebanon.

With the collapse of the Lebanese pound and the stress of COVID-19, migrant workers — especially domestic workers — face extremely harsh conditions. The Lebanese labour law does not protect domestic workers — who are usually women — because they are subject to a sponsorship system that links their legal status with a contractual relationship with employers. At the end of this contract, workers lose their legal status and face possible detention and deportation. Likewise, they can only change their place of work with employer consent, which exposes them to exploitation, forced labour and human trafficking.

The number of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon stands at 250,000, most of them women, who immigrate from different countries — notably Ethiopia. On June 5, Ethiopian domestic workers gathered in front of their country's consulate in Beirut, waiting to return home. Some left work after being paid in Lebanese pounds, which was inadequate to meet daily needs and made it impossible to send any money home to their families. Others left work who had not been paid in the past several months. Their status has become illegal and they need a speedy resolution from authorities.

The crisis in Lebanon has cast a shadow on all migrant workers, according to this BBC report. In 2012, Stop Violence and Exploitation, a civil society organisation, published a study on the sponsorship system, calling for the end of exploitation of women migrant workers and an alternative system that provides legal protection and freedom to choose their workplace.

On May 28, blogger Reem al-Shammari posted a video on Snapchat, verbally attacking Egyptians working in Kuwait. She said:

Kuwait is for Kuwaitis, not for Egyptians. … You are hired. Understand … Egyptians are not partners with Kuwaitis in the homeland.

The video met widespread opposition from Kuwaiti citizens, but hate speech is still a growing phenomenon on social media sites, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of this hate speech has illogically linked migrant workers to the spread of COVID-19. However, moderate voices have defended migrant workers and their achievements as a result of their hard work.

Due to COVID-19, a sharp decline in oil prices has led Gulf countries to reassess their policies regarding migrant worker numbers — many companies have laid off thousands and started deporting those who work illegally.

On June 3, in a press interview, Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid al-Hamad al-Sabah noted that 70 percent of the 4.8 million population was foreign, and said that this amount should be reduced to half in stages. He concluded that “we have a future challenge to address the demographic imbalance.”
Saudi Arabia

In May 2020, in an episode of “We Are All Responsible,” presented on the official Saudi TV channel, the host, Khaled al-Aqili, said:

Unfortunately, the control of expatriate workers over the economy has become a real threat to national security and not only on the economic side but beyond much of that.

He concluded:

We ​​must stop making the Saudi employee a scapegoat with every crisis, and make the expatriate workers, who replaced Saudi workers — who are more efficient than them, the first to be dispensed of, not the sons of the homeland.

This was preceded by a ministerial decision issued on May 3, to regulate labour contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Promoting discourse that directly targets foreign workers and portraying them as a national security threat definitely stirs up racist, hostile feelings. Justifying this sentiment only fans these flames.
United Arab Emirates

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, press reports have confirmed the prevalence of the disease among migrant workers, due to a lack of protection and lack of social distancing. Most migrant workers live in crowded common areas and in densely populated commercial neighborhoods.

On April 10, a letter sent by a coalition of 16 nongovernmental organisations and trade unions to UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Affairs Nasser bin Thani al-Hamli states:

Low-wage migrant workers remain acutely vulnerable to severe human rights violations, that increase their risk of infection from COVID-19.

On March 26, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation issued an arbitrary ministerial decree that allows private companies to amend migrant worker contracts, force them on unpaid leave, or to accept permanent or temporary salary reductions. This decision legally protects companies 100 percent — expatriate workers have no right to complain or resort to the courts.

Migrant workers in Qatar are not allowed to form unions. Many are exploited doing heavy work for long hours with low paying salaries. COVID-19 has revealed another chronic problem — a lack of health care and adequate housing. The drop in oil prices has led to the layoff of thousands of migrant workers, forcing many onto the streets.

In an April 15 statement, Amnesty International said that Qatari authorities had arrested and expelled dozens of foreign workers after informing them that they would be tested for COVID-19.

On May 23, 100 foreign workers demonstrated in Doha, to protest non-payment of their wages by Qatari authorities.

Local sources confirmed that migrant workers who work for World Cup 2020 suffer from widespread human rights violations, including low pay and long work hours under the harsh sun. They can not terminate their contracts or return home. A recent report issued by Amnesty International UK on June 10 confirmed these conditions and mentioned workers who have not been paid for seven consecutive months.

Bahrain also targets migrant workers. On June 5, Member of Parliament Ghazi al-Rahma announced that he and a number of deputies would present a proposal to amend the labour law in the private sector, favoring Bahraini citizens in the private-sector recruitment process and prioritizing terminations for foreign workers.

Gulf states must abolish the kafala system, ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Migrants and Members of their Families and allow equal civic rights for all migrant workers.

Written by Gulf Center for Human Rights
Actually, anti-Blackness has everything to do with Sri Lanka

Posted 9 June 2020

“Colonial rule resulted in social stratification that privileged English speakers and those mixed with European ancestry. And it thrived off a fragmented nation, polarizing our ethnic groups to prevent a united front that would defy the colonial state.” Photo: The Governor of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) introducing Sinhalese chiefs to the Prince of Wales, 1876. Public domain.

This post by Shenali Pilapitiya originally appeared on Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices.

It is easy to feel disconnected from incidents of police brutality in the USA, and ongoing race wars across the world that continue to marginalize and disenfranchise Black communities, when we fail to recognize our own connection to the issue at hand. The truth is that regardless of where you are Sri Lankan in the world—be it a member of the diaspora, or a resident at home—Sri Lankans are complicit in systems of anti-Blackness. As long as colonial legacies continue to govern our sense of identity, politics, and society, and until we unearth internalized and systematic prejudices against Black communities and ourselves, we will continue to be complicit in anti-Blackness.
Why anti-Blackness is the essence of our racial struggle

In light of recent events of police brutality resulting in the murder of George Floyd—and the centuries’ worth of cases that we may never hear of—a global outcry against the prevalence of anti-Blackness has emerged.

At its core, anti-Blackness is the systemic and normalized marginalization, belittling, and undermining of Black folks and those in proximity to Blackness. Within our communities, it manifests itself through racism, colorism, and false logics of Asian superiority and exceptionalism. The concept emerges through colonialism, wherein anti-Blackness was used to dehumanize Black bodies and therefore justify a white supremacist sociopolitical order. Anti-Blackness and racism are inseparable schemes; it is the logic of anti-Blackness that enforces racial hegemonies worldwide.

Recognizing systems of anti-Blackness is a critical step towards solidarity against white supremacist institutions that continue to affect people of color. What is so distinct about racism is that it is heavily intertwined and inseparable from social organization, class relationships, and societal stratification processes. With the onset of modern capitalism, which is founded through the anti-Black and racist transatlantic slave trade, a world order based on the economic exploitation of the Global South emerges. There is no modern industry, no world trade, and no capitalism—the very foundations of the West as we conceive it today—without slavery and imperialism. And of course, slavery and imperialism are materialized through the injurious and devastating construct of racism, which has always relied on anti-Blackness.

The reach of imperialism and modern capitalism was soon extended from the African continent to our own shores with the arrival of colonization. It was the economic exploitation of Sri Lankan goods and labor that gave rise to a prosperous colonial state. Colonial rule resulted in social stratification that privileged English speakers and those mixed with European ancestry. And it thrived off a fragmented nation, polarizing our ethnic groups to prevent a united front that would defy the colonial state. Today, racial hierarchy is continually evidenced through the global monopoly on trade by Western countries, the exploitation of Asian and African economies through structural adjustment programs, and trade agreements that ultimately harm our nation and others in the Global South.

The anti-racist struggle is thus the collective struggle of the Global South, of which Sri Lanka is naturally a part. It is the rejection of a colonial logic that perpetuates Blackness as inferior, and denies humanity and dignity to people of color. By being complicit in systems of anti-Blackness, we are merely contributing to a sustained racial hierarchy that privileges white supremacy.
Forms of anti-Blackness among Sri Lankans

To propel systemic anti-Blackness, other minority groups have been co-opted to further a white supremacist agenda. The Model Minority Myth, as originating in relation to the Asian-American community, characterizes Asians as a monolith: polite, hard-working and law-abiding peoples who have achieved higher levels of success than other people of color and immigrants – specifically, Black people. The result is a false narrative of Asian exceptionalism. The myth fallaciously lauds Asians in service and in proximity to whiteness, while erasing narratives of Asian poverty, exploitation, and continued subordination to a white supremacist governing class.

For diaspora Sri Lankans, the Model Minority Myth is integral to the immigrant experience. It is the social conditioning that wires us to believe that hard work and compliance will reward us and ease our integration into white society. And it forces us to believe that we are somehow better than other minority groups, particularly, Black and Latinx communities, because we have abided by the status quo. The tragic Catch-22 of the myth is that we merely become pawns in a racial game designed to uphold white supremacy, and are complicit in the subjugation of other minorities.

At home, our colonial hangover crashes course with the Model Minority Myth at the intersection of white institutions and credibility. Its manifestations are numerous: the prestige and exclusivity of international schools, the prevalence of foreign advisors in our government institutions, the brain-drain of Sri Lankan intellectuals to the West, the major missionary schools that dictate much of our social conditioning long after the completion of final A-level examinations.

A common example of the Model Minority Myth at home is the presence of ‘foreign-only’ and ‘tourist-only’ businesses. Despite government threats to cancel the licenses of such institutions, these businesses have prevailed over the years due to economic dependency on white, foreign patronage. If you are a local Sri Lankan visiting popular tourist destinations such as Ella, or Mirissa, you are no stranger to the foreign-only service concept. And, even when restaurants and businesses do not explicitly state that they only serve foreigners, the foreigner-only mentality prevails and you are certain to feel unwelcome at these locations. Of course, the notion that it is favorable to serve a white customer reveals an insidious, internalized racism—to serve people from your own racial and ethnic background is belittling because they are somehow ‘lesser than’. In reality, it is simply contributing to the model minority myth, a fallacy spearheaded by white supremacist norms that applaud us as exceptional because we are hardworking in our service to them. We proudly champion our hospitality, but this quickly turns to indulgence when our businesses pander to serve foreign customers. We are complicit in systems that patronize and condescend to us, and we internalize a logic that we must uphold and cater to white supremacy.

The lesser-known minority of Sri Lanka are the Kaffirs: an ethnic group of Afro-Sri Lankans originating from the slave labor brought into Sri Lanka by the Portuguese. Today, the Kaffirs face cultural and linguistic extinction; there are only 500 or fewer Kaffirs living on the island. It is impossible to ignore the anti-Blackness that has contributed to a lack of cultural preservation and awareness of Kaffir peoples. Kaffirs have historically lacked property and have largely been relegated to work as daily paid laborers, which contributed to a lack of economic capital and mobility within Kaffir communities. They have faced discrimination and isolation on the basis of their distinct physical features. Their histories are not taught in schools, and their narratives are not incorporated into the vista of Sri Lankan identities. The result is a chronic neglect of Kaffir peoples, marginalizing and isolating their communities for generations. It is undoubtedly their Blackness that has relegated them to a status that is somehow “less” Sri Lankan, or deviant from whatever it means to be Sri Lankan in mainstream understanding.

Across Sri Lanka, colorism is hardly a foreign concept. A newspaper advertisement for a suitable bride will use fair skin as a bartering tool. The praise of lighter-skinned women is a recurring theme in Sri Lankan popular music—one of our favorite Baila anthems is literally titled “Sudu Menike”, meaning white or fair-skinned lady. Proximity to whiteness, via fairer skin tone, has conferred privilege in our societies resulting in practices such as skin bleaching which have vast physical and mental health consequences. It is the epitome of anti-Blackness, a Machiavellian notion that dark skin is inferior.

Anti-Blackness is relayed through covert, everyday forms of racism and appropriation. It is the use of the word “kalu” (black) as an insult, as opposed to “sudu” (white or fair) as a compliment. It is using the N-Word and undermining the severe historical and present-day ramifications of the slur. It is the selective participation in Black culture—to love reggae and rap, to mimic Black fashion and trends, and to then ignore the very real and damaging sociopolitical issues that plague Black communities worldwide.
Why we need to care

Assuming that we are untouched by anti-Blackness as Sri Lankans is a false and harmful premise. We have directly benefited from systemic anti-Blackness, and we have also internalized these racist systems in ways that are harmful to our own communities. We are implicated in anti-Blackness the minute we interact with Black culture and knowledge production without accounting for—and acknowledging—the ongoing oppression of Black folks. We fail to recognize that being complicit in anti-Blackness is contributing to our own socio-economic exploitation by Western capitalism.

Nevertheless, there are some simple steps we can take to rectify anti-Blackness. We can dismantle and reject the Model Minority Myth. We can take collective steps to preserve and celebrate our own Kaffir peoples. We can consciously work to correct colorism in our societies by calling out the people around you who reinforce colorist standards, reporting damaging media promoting whiteness as beauty. We can support local and small businesses, Black artists and musicians, and attempt to reclaim some economic leveraging that has been compromised by the economic monopoly of the West.

Eliminating racial oppression must come from confronting the implicit biases in our personal and structural wiring. Addressing anti-Blackness can hopefully resolve some of the long-lasting implications of colonization and white supremacy by promoting solidarity across communities of color.

Written by GroundViews

Students arrested for demanding internet facilities in Balochistan
3G/4G services are not available in many places in Pakistan


Posted 29 June 2020 13:08 GMT

Kids in Balochistan. Image via Flickr by Beluchistan. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Students across Pakistan have been protesting against the online classes organised by colleges and universities in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown. It's not that they don't want to learn, but that they lack access: many areas in Pakistan do not have reliable internet service and most students can't afford to buy devices that facilitate online learning.

Nationwide protests on June 23 featured slogans advocating for justice and free internet for all. However, in Quetta, Balochistan, a number of students — many of them female — were manhandled, baton-charged and arrested, with many being dragged into police vans:

Picture 1: Students from Balochistan climbing a mountain to get signals for attending a class

Picture 2: Students in Quetta being arrested for demanding termination of online classes and provision of internet
Welcome to Naya Pakistan!#ReleaseAllStudents#SayNoToOnlineClasses pic.twitter.com/OK6B4XIcbX

— Nazar Mohammad Domki (PSF) (@nazarbaloch07) June 24, 2020
Pandemic increases inequity

As a result of the spread of COVID-19, Pakistan's Higher Education Commission asked educational institutions to shift to online classes from June 1. The countrywide closure of schools forced students living in hostels back to their homes, many of which are located in remote areas where 3G/4G internet connection are not available.

The lack of access had students coming out in their numbers to protest in every province, roundly rejecting the introduction of online classes:

There was zero work done on anything called “Online Class” in Pakistan. AND all of the sudden all school wants to go online …. despite they know the internet system of the region….😏😏😏

— Farah Jaffar (@FarahGojali) June 20, 2020

All students should have equal opportunities to get their money’s worth of education. Online classes cannot deliver that in the context of Pakistan. Poor students cannot afford Internet and facilities to take online class.
#StopOnlineClass https://t.co/mvUm3t13fI

— Abdullah Gul (@WaxirAbdullah) June 21, 2020

Arrests, however, only took place in Balochistan where human rights violations have drawn concern in the international community. For years, several thousands of people were subjected to enforced disappearances and their fate is unknown. The news soon went viral on social media, with the hashtag #ReleaseAllStudents trending, resulting in widespread condemnation of these incidents:

Around 70 students arrested in Quetta for protested against online classes. Convenor of Students Action Committee, Muzammil Khan, BSO’s @jiandbaloch5 and @MahrangBaloch5 among the arrested ones. Police also used brutal force against the studnets. pic.twitter.com/Qx1oquKTVS

— Haider Kaleem (@HaiderKaleemB) June 24, 2020

Mahrang Baloch, a medical student actively involved in student politics, posted videos of her being arrested by the police:

I am arrested along with other Peaceful students .we were protesting against online classes.police has beaten and arrested male and female students.This barbaric state doesn’t changed its behaviour towards oppressed nations .#SayNoToOnlineClasses pic.twitter.com/2VLfcQTG2E

— Mahrang Baloch (@MahrangBaloch5) June 24, 2020

According to police reports, the students were charged with organising a rally during a lockdown. Section 144 of Pakistan's Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) has allowed for a complete ban on gatherings as a result of COVID-19.

The spokesperson for the Government of Balochistan, Liaqat Shahwani, stated, “Students have temporarily been detained for their own safety against COVID-19 and will be released soon.” The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Jam Kamal Khan, however, tweeted that government did not order the police to arrest the students and that they should all be released immediately. All students were released subsequently.

Amnesty International South Asia also condemned the arrests.

Meanwhile, Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party raised the issue of online classes in Balochistan in the National Assembly, because there was no 3G or 4G service in the province.
No proper internet for online classes

Access to the internet is a fundamental right — but according to DataReportal, there were only 76.38 million internet users in Pakistan. The country's population, as of January 2020, was 212 million.

In fact, 3G/4G services are not available in many parts of Pakistan, including tribal areas, nor can everyone afford a laptop or smartphone. The divide is also gender-based: compared to men, fewer numbers of women have internet access.

Nighat Daad from Digital Rights Foundation tweeted about the importance of “internet for all”:

Would you scale a mountain to get access to Internet? Some students in former FATA do this every day in order to attend online classes. May be IT ministry should first focus on providing internet to all during pandemic instead of focusing on enacting new laws? #InternetForAll pic.twitter.com/soJqHwL5Nt

— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) June 22, 2020

In the second week of June, students across Pakistan organised an online campaign under the hashtag #OnlineJaloos (online procession). Voicepk.net, an open platform dedicated to highlighting human rights concerns within Pakistan, created the hashtag in an effort to show the challenges students faced in attending online classes — including climbing mountains just to catch a signal.

Students living in the tribal areas of Pakistan also raised their voices to gain the government's attention on this issue:

Speaking at the #OnlineJaloos, Amir Ali from district Chiniot says he cannot benefit from online education because he does not have a laptop or any access to the internet at home. He demands a more inclusive education policy from @Shafqat_Mahmood.#RightToEducation pic.twitter.com/7C45M3UMNJ

— Voicepk.net (@voicepkdotnet) June 9, 2020

Haris Shinwari from Khyber district says internet services have not been restored in his area since June 2016 despite promises and announcements by @IMMahmoodKhan. They are still forced to take online classes which is impossible for them.#OnlineJaloos #RightToEducation pic.twitter.com/V4S9s7jA8S

— Voicepk.net (@voicepkdotnet) June 9, 2020

On June 16, students in Islamabad held a protest outside the Higher Education Commission (HEC) office to express their concerns about the closure of educational institutions and the resulting switch to online classes and exams.

HEC officials held a meeting with student representatives at its headquarters and assured them that the commission would look into their concerns. However, one of the meeting's attendees reported that even as an HEC official at the meeting assured the students that their issues would be resolved, he insisted that exams cannot be cancelled.

Written by R Umaima Ahmed
How Kazakhstan's youth are forging their own national identity

Beginning with a feud between an LGBT activist and a boxer

Posted 10 June 2020 13:49 GMT

A photo collage from the Kazakhstani LGBT magazine Kok.team. The Russian language text reads: “LGBT Versus Coward”. Image used with permission.

A row between a lesbian activist and a weight fighter has launched a fierce debate on Kazakhstan’s social media networks, revealing deep fractures about national identity among the youth of this Central Asian nation.

In mid May 2020, the Kazakh heavyweight fighter Kuvat Khamidov started uploading a series of tweets on his account calling for the killing and rape of members of the LGBTQ community, including posts such as:

почему есть отстрел бродячих собак, но нет отстрела педиков?

— Kuat Khamitov (@Kuat_Khamitov) May 22, 2020

Why are stray dogs shot, but not fags?

This caught the attention or Nurbibi Nurkadilova, an LGBTQI rights activist who responded to Khamitov on May 17, the International Day against Homo-, Trans- and Biphobia. She wrote a long letter addressed to the fighter on her Instagram account, which has so far received nearly 3,000 comments.

Part of her letter states:

Original Quote

I am a member of the LGBT+ community!

With your statements, you have insulted me, my friends and the person I love! What do you mean when you say that “those people are worse than dogs” [In reference to one of Khamitov's tweets, since deleted.] Are you comparing my human rights, my civic rights with those of dogs? Does that mean you consider me to have no rights? With your statements, you're taking this country backwards! You are an obstacle to progress!

Following her post, Nurkadilova says she has received threats from sportsmen and wrestling fans:

Original Quote

I had to urgently leave the place where I used to live, I was evacuated by human rights activists. I changed flats when unknown people started showing up at my door.

Clearly she has struck a nerve, which she mentions in her long post: the different – and conflicting directions young people in Kazakhstan would like their country to take.
The (re)invention of ‘traditional values’

In the ideological vacuum left after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of post-Soviet states had to build alternative nation-making narratives. It was a challenging task: many former Soviet republics had only a very short prior history as modern nation-states, their intellectual elites had been wiped out in the Stalin-era purges of the 1930s, and the ethnic balance of power had been established by Soviet policies of privileging ethnic Slavs and Russian speakers. Kazakhstan was no exception.

The relative ideological leniency of the perestroika period of the mid-1980s allowed for the emergence of new discourses which had been severely suppressed in previous decades. The strongest of these new discourses concerned religion and national identity.

So when Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, the groundwork for an ethno-nationalist awakening had been laid for decades. Citizens sought to rekindle religious and conservative social norms and models which they could define as both non-Soviet and non-western. They advocated a return to an imagined and invented “traditional” model of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and strictly defined gender roles. It was a trend observed across the former Soviet Union, from Central Asia to the Caucasus and Russia itself.

In this understanding of Kazakh society, LGBTQ people were outsiders. Although the country decriminalised same-sex activities in 1998, there is still no legal protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; according to Human Rights Watch hate crimes against LGBTQ people are frequent. Meanwhile, religious leaders of both the Islamic (about 70 percent of the population) and Orthodox Christian communities are known to support a strongly anti-LGBT discourse.

But there are some young Kazakhstanis who reject those values, such as Nurkadilova herself.

Global Voices asked the founders of Kok.team, a trilingual Kazakhstani LGBT online magazine founded by Daniyar Sabitov and Anatoly Chernoussov what the Nurkadilova versus Khamitov spat reveals about the worldview of Kazakhstan's youth:

Original Quote

This once again confirms to us that there are two groups of people in Kazakhstan who stand in radical opposition to each other when discussing the human rights of the LGBT community. Their fight is important, because it takes place before third group — people who remain undecided.

Nevertheless, Sabitov and Chernoussov believe that this scandal is particularly unique:

Original Quote

The fact that [Nurkadilova] has a stable and loyal audience that keeps growing is perhaps an indicator that part of Kazakhstan's youth is seeking new role models. She is the first LGBTQ person who cannot be simply dismissed as one of the “urban crazies who are influenced and bought by the US,” as we are often described. She is an activist who has her own significant social capital.

Music versus stereotypes

In recent years, music has become an important means for Kazakhstan's youth to raise issues of identity and gender inequality. One band which has played an important role in that discussion is the wildly popular K-pop style boys band Ninety One. The band sings almost exclusively in Kazakh and its public presentation shows its members’ interest in subverting gender stereotypes and identities. This video alone received five million views — not a trivial number given that Kazakhstan has a population of 18 million.

The fact that such a band could become cultural icons is highly significant in modern Kazakhstan. Yevgenia Plakhina, a Global Voices contributor and close observer of Kazakhstan's popular culture, co-produced a documentary about Ninety One which seeks to expand the debate about role models for Kazakhstan's youth. She shared her thoughts with Global Voices about the band's importance to discussions on gender identity in Kazakhstan:

Original Quote

The band Ninety One emerged when Kazakhstan was undergoing a “return to traditions”, or the reinvention of traditional values. Why did the band become the subject of so many debates? Firstly, because they have a large number of fans compared to others in Kazakhstan: around 600,000 subscribers on Youtube and 575,000 on Instagram. Secondly, they do not appear as traditional Kazakh men are supposed to: they wear earrings, dye their hair, and wear bright clothes. This is why many young girls and women love them;they are tired of the typical Kazakh macho man. Furthermore, one cannot use them to advance the narrative that all evil comes from western culture: K-pop [Korean pop] came from the East, and turned into Q-pop in our country [Kazakh is written Qazaq in Kazakh Latin script]. Finally, they sing in Kazakh and gather the audience that supporters of traditional values would like to influence the most.

Plakhina sees the roots of these alternative role models in the 1990s, when the winds of change inspired artists across the region to explore. She points out that there is real continuity among generations of artists who dare to own Kazakh culture:

Original Quote

Ninety One fans are open to new ideas and do want to build a society inspired by their ancestors 200 years ago. In the late 1990s, Kazakhstan experienced relative freedom. When I was a student, the female rapper MC Gul was popular. In Kazakh-speaking areas of the country, it was the band Orda, whose member Erbolat Bedelkhan became the producer of Ninety One.

It can even be argued that Ninety One has been more successful than Kazakhstan's government in promoting the use of the Kazakh language, by singing almost exclusively in Kazakh and promoting the new spelling of the language in the Latin alphabet. The following video, which already has over 200,000 views on YouTube, is a good example:

Perhaps the strongest message of Nurkadilova's letter was that Kazakh culture is not solely the property of nationalists and traditionalists —and that exploration and a thirst to explore new pastures is not a novelty for Central Asia's largest country.

Written by 
Filip Noubel

Viktor Tsoi: The undying icon of Soviet dissident rock
"And there is nothing else / All is within us."

Posted 20 June 2020 17:52 GMT 


The Viktor Tsoi wall in central Minsk, where the Chinese character “崔” is used to write his Korean surname. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

June 21, 1962, is the birth date of Viktor Tsoi, a Korean-Russian rock star from the late years of the Soviet Union who now enjoys cult status across Russian-speaking countries, 30 years after his tragic death.

Rocker, actor, dissident

Tsoi was born in Leningrad to an ethnic Russian mother, Valentina Guseva, and an ethnic Korean father, Robert Tsoi. Tsoi's father traces his origins to today's North Korea via Kazakhstan, as his family was deported to Soviet Central Asia during Stalin's rule.

Viktor Tsoi studied art, but soon dropped out of school and started playing rock music in the 1970s. During that period, rock was mostly banned by Soviet authorities as a symbol of “Western decadence” incompatible with communist ideology.

After meeting one of the most influential alternative Soviet musicians of the time, Boris Grebenshchikov, in 1980, Tsoi's career would take a turn. By 1982 Tsoi had created his own band, Kino, which propelled him to rapid fame across the Soviet Union. Kino's first album, “45”, was recorded in 1982 together with Grebenshchikov's band, Akvarium. Another album, “Noch,” was recorded in 1986 and released in the US on a double-album titled “Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR.”

Portrait of Viktor Tsoi on his memory wall in Minsk in Belarus. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Altogether Tsoi composed and recorded over 90 songs that became instant hits through unofficial channels, including underground concerts and bootleg tapes, at a time when, due to censorship, tape recorders were difficult to obtain.

Regardless, the lyrics of his songs spread by word of mouth, attracting underground audiences with their messages of youth empowerment, independent ideas, and absence of praise for the Communist Party. The song “And from now on we are the ones in charge” (Дальше действовать будем мы), for instance, has a line that goes: “So we came here to claim our rights: yes!” (И вот мы пришли заявить о своих правах: “Да!”)

After perestroika, which allowed more space and tolerance for alternative ideas, particularly in the arts, Tsoi and Kino would be allowed to perform officially and to be interviewed on Soviet television.

In 1988, Tsoi appeared in a film called “The Needle” (Игла) by director Rashid Nugmanov that was filmed in today's Kazakhstan. It caused a sensation with its depiction of drug addiction, an issue that was unmentionable under Soviet ideology and considered an exclusively “Western” condition, in spite of affecting many young Soviets, particularly after the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

The movie, which also features songs by Kino, is available on YouTube:

On August 15, 1990, Tsoi died in today's Latvia at the age of 28, after his car collided with a bus. His untimely death became the subject of many myths, including the idea that he had committed suicide, or had been killed by the Soviet secret service.
Tsoi the icon

Thirty years after Tsoi's death, he continues to have countless fans in Russian-speaking countries and communities and has inspired a wide range of people, from musicians to astronomers.

On YouTube, some videos of his songs have over 37 million views. Some of his hits have also been covered by contemporary stars of the Russian rock and pop scene, such as the Tatar-Bashkir singer Zemfira in her remake of the song “Cuckoo” (Кукушка):

His songs are also remixed and played by DJs across Russian-speaking countries and communities. Global Voices talked to DJ Hem, a native of Tashkent who lives in Helsinki and runs live DJ sessions of Soviet music on YouTube, including a special Tsoi Birthday Party on June 21. Here is DJ Hem's take on the Tsoi phenomenon:

Original Quote

The band Kino was the second band from Leningrad that I had ever heard, with the song “Aluminium Cucumbers“, which with its content and lyrics somehow dramatically changed my perception of rock of and Soviet rock.

I think Kino's popularity is due mostly to Tsoi's heroic aura — his bearing on stage, his style of performance, his voice, his entire image… This was missing on the [Soviet] stage, and in life.

Back then this was an issue for the entire country that had just completely changed its direction. Generations of people who had grown up on images of [Communist] heroes suddenly experienced an internal vacuum because of perestroika. People had no experience of living without heroes. Thus, a hero had to show up, and this happened with Viktor Tsoi.

The lyrics of his songs are unlikely to get old. And the songs with a civic subtext sound very contemporary in the context of the current Russian life, and still relevant. What is extraordinary is that the Russian rock and pop scene hasn't produced to this day any group or singer who could just with three chords touch the soul of such a large number of people!

Here is DJ Hem's Tsoi Birthday Party session:

In 2018, Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov made a film called “Leto” (Summer, in Russian) about Tsoi's life and the making of Kino's first album in the early 1980s. The movie was selected for the Palme d'Or category at the 2018 Cannes film festival.

Tsoi is also an inspiration beyond the world of music and movies: he is an icon of the contemporary urban landscape in a number of post-Soviet cities that display murals, statues, and graffiti celebrating his songs. One popular Tsoi-related graffito is “Tsoi is alive” (Цой жив!).

In Minsk, the capital of Belarus, there is a memory wall devoted to Tsoi in a park in the city center:

Tsoi wall in Minsk. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

In Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, a statue of Tsoi was erected on June 21, 2018 in honour of his numerous connections to the country. This tweet from May 2019, when the country experienced anti-government protests, features the Tsoi statue in dissident icon mode:

“И больше нет ничего
Все находится в нас»
Виктор Цой вышел с плакатом «Перемен» в Алматы pic.twitter.com/tWCSiOfvlD
— Timur Nusimbekov (@mr_mysyk) May 30, 2019

“And there is nothing else
All is within us.” [Lyrics from Tsoi's song “Changes” (Перемен)]

Viktor Tsoi came out to protest in Almaty with a poster saying “Changes”

Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, also has its own Tsoi wall as can be seen in this video:

Tsoi has even inspired the astronomers from Crimean Astrophysical Observatory at Nauchnij, who have named the asteroid 2740 Tsoj after him.

But there is no doubt the thing that will continue to inspire new generations of fans are his lyrics, which people still learn by heart and are quoted and referenced in daily life by Russian speakers around the globe. Among some of his best are the following, from the song “A pack of cigarettes” (Пачка сигарет):

Original Quote

Sitting and looking at an alien sky from an unfamiliar window
I do not see a single familiar star,
I walked all the roads, here and there,
Turned around – and couldn’t find my tracks.

But if you have a pack of cigarettes in your pocket,
Then things are not that bad for today.
And an air ticket to sit on a plane with silver wings,
That as it takes off, leaves nothing but a shadow on earth.

Written by Filip Noubel

Milada Horáková: 70 years after her sham trial and execution, Czechs reflect on their communist past

A creative visual campaign reopens old wounds in Czech society

Posted 29 June 2020

A large billboard representing Milada Horáková and a slogan beneath reading “Zavražděna komunisty” (Murdered by communists) hanging on Prague Old Town Square. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

June 27 marks a special date in the Czech Republic: Remembrance Day for the victims of the communist regime (Den památky obětí komunistického režimu).

This year, it was commemorated with particular force because exactly 70 years ago, on June 27, 1950, Milada Horáková, a lawyer, politician and Nazi resister, was hanged along with others after a show trial under the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Remembrance Day was inaugurated in 2003 with the date chosen to honor the memory of Milada Horáková.
Feminist, resister, survivor

Comics released in 2020 to mark the 70th anniversary of Milada Horáková's death, by Zdeněk Ležák and Štěpánka Jislová. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Milada Horáková‘s biography reads like a Hollywood movie: She was born in 1901, in what was then still the Austrian-Hungarian Habsburg Empire, into a middle-class family. She managed to study law at a time when very few women did and became active in women's emancipation movements.

Czechoslovakia, which emerged in 1918 from the Habsburg Empire, allowed women's vote as early as 1920, ahead of many other European states, thanks to Senator Františka Plamínková, the founder of the Women's National Council for whom Horáková started working in 1924.

From 1927, she worked in the social welfare department, promoting reforms aimed at women's equality. During World War II, she entered the resistance movement against the Nazis, along with her husband, but both were arrested in August 1941.

Horáková, who spent four years in camps and prisons, managed to represent herself at her own trial, and therefore avoided the death penalty. She returned to her work in 1945, and agreed to run as a member of parliament for the Czech National Socialist Party. She quickly became a target of the communists for her outspoken criticism of their agenda to curb democratic freedom in post-war Czechoslovakia.

She was eventually arrested on September 27, 1949, along with her husband and others, and charged with treason in June 1950 in a sham trial that was meant to show that the new regime would not stop at anything — including sentencing women to death — to impose its policies, with zero tolerance for the slightest criticism. The trial was scripted on similar parodies of justice already carried on in the Soviet Union.

She gave her final speech on June 8, 1950, during her trial, in which she refused accusations of treason with strong determination. Here is a segment of her speech in this video in Czech: SEE BELOW

She was eventually sentenced to death. On June 27, she was given 20 minutes to see her sister and her daughter before she was hanged. She was cleared of all accusations posthumously in 1991, when she was awarded by President Václav Havel the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the highest state honor made for outstanding contributions to the development of democracy, humanity and human rights

In 2017, an English-language movie was made about her life by David Mrnka:

A still painful assessment: 40 years of communism

After communism collapsed in Czechoslovakia in 1989, authorities faced a difficult choice when justice for victims of the previous regime surfaced. Eventually, they opted for a process of non-judicial lustration — the purge of government officials — that prevented all employees of communist-era state security from holding office in the higher levels of civil service, including the judiciary, until at least the year 2000. In Czechoslovakia, this status lasted until 1992, and from January 1, 1993, in the Czech Republic.

The government also allowed the Communist Party to continue to function. The Party, renamed the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (known in Czech under its acronym KSČM), remains small during elections but plays a key role in tipping alliances and voicing support for Moscow and Beijing influence in the Czech Republic. It now holds 15 out of 200 seats in parliament.

A number of political forces and civic movements have recently stepped up their criticism of KSČM and the communist legacy in Czech society. This year, the civic movement Dekomunizace (De-communisation) launched a visual campaign across Prague, the capital, hanging large size billboards with images of Horáková and strong messages such as Zavražděna komunisty (“Murdered by communists”).

While some higher education institutions and political forces support the campaign, others have described it as offensive and divisive by reopening old wounds.

The most outspoken critic has been KSČM, which stated in a Facebook post:

Original Quote

The regional committee of KSČM for Prague strongly protests against the distortion and rewriting of historical truth and against the spread of anti-communist hatred, which is again fomented in the capital. The current aggressive campaign against the KSČM fits into the scenario of the European Parliament resolution ‘On the importance of European memory for the future of Europe,’ adopted in September 2019. This resolution puts communist and Nazi ideology, socialist and Nazi regimes on an equal footing.

Journalist Petr Šabata wrote in a column published on the portal of Seznam Zprávy on June 26:

Original Quote

Yes, Milada Horáková was murdered by communists. But to reduce the memory of her life to the communists would be once again unfair to this unbreakable woman. Because Milada Horáková had a rich and original personality and her life has multiple layers and provides a lot of inspiration.

For Michal Gregorini, the official representative of the movement Dekomunizace, the aim of the movement is to prevent the loss of historical memory, as he explained in an interview to the news portal iRozhlas on June 22:

Original Quote

Why Milada Horáková? It was just 70 years ago. It might seem as being a very long time ago, in the previous millenium, but my mum remembers it, so it is actually in the very recent past. That is why we remind everyone about her.

The campaign also included an “audio-collage” as sound segments of her trial were broadcast in Prague metro on June 27.

Written byFilip Noubel
New law forces Hungarian transgender people to choose exile

Responses in the field 'sex at birth' on new ID documents will be unchangeable

Posted 21 June 2020 15:37 GMT

Transgender people protesting against article 33. Credit: Bankó Gábor/Prizma

Being a transgender person in Hungary is about to become even harder, after the government passed a law that will demand all citizens write their “sex at birth” on their national IDs. And the response in this field cannot be changed.

“I have no hope of getting my gender recognised now,” said Ivett Ördög bitterly, sitting behind her home desk, which has now become her office, with her dark hair and eyes, a colourful floral shirt, and big earrings.

She is a software developer, a very successful one, but she has struggled a lot in the workplace. Why? Because she was biologically born as a man.

She told her story with half a smile and plenty of concern and desperation. Desperation over what is happening in her country.

Ivett Ördög. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

Ivett is a transgender woman who said that her rights “are being violated by an European Union (EU) country.”

On May 19, the Hungarian Parliament passed the Omnibus Law, by 134 votes to 56.

This is the law whose 33rd article forces all citizens to write “sex at birth” on their national IDs.

This result of the law is that no Hungarian citizen will be able to legally change their gender and those who have undergone a physical transformation are vulnerable to potential discrimination upon document-checking.

Document checks are fairly frequent in Hungary, where identification is required to pick up a parcel, pay with credit card and get on a bus.

“It could become dangerous,” said Ivett, explaining why she doesn’t use public transport or go to the doctor’s anymore.

She didn’t get her gender legally recognized, so anytime that someone checks her ID, they will see that she was a man, and this scares her.

Just imagine […inaudible…] being pulled by policemen, and you show your ID and they don't believe you it's your ID. What do you do then? Policemen can get quite brutal at times, and then I can't even call the police! Because – they are already there. […] Especially in a country that is so homophobic, and, obviously also trans-phobic, it's not safe. Definitely not safe.

Hungary has shed 8.46 percentage points on the 2020 ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map — an online index that ranks all 49 European countries to see how laws and policies impact LBGTI people's lives. That was the most drastic drop in Europe.

Click to see infographic about LGBTQI discrimination in Hungary.

Dorián Palai, a transgender man, explained that when someone checks their ID, they might be tolerating, but they might also start to make fun of them, “out” them or even attack them.

“Your whole life will depend on other people’s kindness,” Palai said .

Despite the fact that Palai secured recognition of his gender, he has still been discriminated against by medical professionals. Their rudeness, especially when he took his clothes off, left him utterly dejected.

When I left the medical center I started to cry, because it was not just frustrating — it was very frightening. And also very disheartening.

Hungary doesn’t have a law that regulates gender recognition and for the last 3 years nobody could get their gender legally changed.
Between bureaucracies

Ivett told Global Voices that she has sent all the papers to have her gender recognised, but she was told the government was “reorganizing” legislation for gender recognition.

Little did she know that this reorganization was actually Article 33 of the Omnibus Bill.

Many transgender people believe that the law was passed precisely to close the debate on gender recognition and prevent all transgender people from getting their gender recognized.

One such person is Zsófia Szabó, who left Hungary because she was discriminated for being a transgender woman. She now lives in Sweden and manages the Prizma organisation to help the transgender community in Hungary.

She said the purpose of the Omnibus bill is to “throw transgender people to the trenches.”

But Zoltán Koskovics, an analyst for the Center for Fundamental Rights, a conservative research institute in Hungary, said in an interview with Global Voices that the legislative procedure was transparent and necessary to “fill a legal gap”, because the Hungarian law didn’t have a legal definition for “sex”, so it was creating uncertainty.

He noted that the Hungarian constitution doesn’t recognize the category of “transgender,” but protects every citizen from discrimination.

Palai disagrees with that take and said that he doesn’t feel like “a real citizen”.

But where is the EU in all of this? Hungary is, after all, a member of the European Union, as of May 1, 2004.

Dunja Mijatović, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe tweeted that the new omnibus law is against the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisprudence.

I regret that parliament in #Hungary adopted today a law that makes it impossible for #transgender people to obtain legal gender recognition. This is contrary to @ECHR_CEDH jurisprudence & a blow to trans people's human dignity.

Trans rights are human rights. #Drop33

— Commissioner for Human Rights (@CommissionerHR) May 19, 2020

But a spokesperson for the EU Commission said in an interview with Global Voices that “the procedures for legal gender recognition are a matter of national competence and fall outside the scope of EU law.”

Ivett said that the EU has failed to enforce respect for human rights in countries like Hungary. She now wants the chance to leave the country and obtain citizenship somewhere else, in order to have her gender legally recognized.

The problem is that she would have to live in that new country for at least 10 years, without moving away, before she can get the citizenship.

“What the EU can do right now is to help transgender people to leave Hungary and get citizenship elsewhere really quickly,” she said.

In the meantime, Hungarian activists are trying to fight this law.

Áron Demeter, the program director of Amnesty Hungary, said Amnesty will ask the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights to bring the law to the Constitutional Court, which is the only institution that could annul article 33.

Please spare a moment and TAKE ACTION NOW to protect trans and intersex people's rights in #Hungary👇https://t.co/2eQV3vMm2R@budapestpride @hattertarsasag pic.twitter.com/1t4SC6SS7l

— Amnesty Hungary (@AmnestyHungary) June 2, 2020

“It’s the only hope we have,” Demeter told Global Voices via email.

Written by Sara Pasino

As election looms, Serbia's leading party wants to defend citizens AND TIME TRAVELERS from dinosaurs

This is scaremongering taken to a new level

Posted 19 June 2020 18:33 GMT

Photo: Screencap from video clip featuring dinosaur chasing a time traveler by Serbian Progressive Party.

Serbia has entered a an election silence before a vote scheduled for Sunday, June 21, which is probably a good thing.

Since the biggest opposition parties have declared a boycott, blaming the government for a failure to provide conditions for fair elections — including freedom of media — the issue of voter turnout has taken on particular importance.

In order to undermine the legitimacy of the ruling parties, some opposition groups like “Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own” (“Ne da(vi)mo Beograd” in Serbian) staged protests.

The most recent one was in front of the Parliament, featuring their symbol, the rubber duck.

Danas ispred Skupštine #Bojkot2020
sutra na završnoj reči na suđenju Jutki u Kruševcu.#PravdaZaMarijuLukić#PravdaZaSveŽeneBrusa pic.twitter.com/zHwooq8uXf

— Ne davimo Beograd (@nedavimobgd) June 18, 2020

Tweet: Today in front of the Parliament #Boycott2020, tomorrow at the closing of the trial to Jutka in Kruševac #JusticeForMarijaLukic #JusticeForAllWomenOfBrus
Video: Today we are in front of the Parliament. We call upon the citizens to join the boycott of the fake elections on Sunday. While the fight for free and democratic Serbia is taking place, another struggle is taking place tomorrow in Kruševac, the trial of [suspected sexual predator] Milutin Jeličić Jutka and we hope for justice for Marija Lukić and all women of Brus.

On June 17, the day before the silent period, the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) concluded its series of controversial election videos with one addressing people who would abstain from voting.

The video titled “Don't remain in the past, vote for the future!” vent viral across the Balkan region. In a warning tone, the clip presents citizens who would stay at home on election day on Sunday as potentially responsible for the demise of the economy and chaos that would ensue if the opposition unites.

This messaging was complemented by a footage showing “people going crazy” — fighting in the streets and looting.

If the video had ended there, that would be pretty standard scaremongering.

However, the campaign ad then went to a very strange place.

Original Quote

By the time you realise you've made a big mistake, it will be clear that you can't pay the rent. When you can't pay the rent, the only thing left for you to do is build a time machine, go back in time and vote. When you use the time machine you've built to return back in time and vote, you might accidentally travel to distant past and get eaten by a dinosaur!
Why would you like to be eaten by a dinosaur? Don't remain in the past, vote for the future!

The ruling SNS has named it's electoral list after their leader Aleksandar Vučić, who is currently the president of the country, despite these elections being parliamentary rather than presidential ones.

The SNS has spent its campaign promoting Vučić's cult of personality, drawing on the president's time during a pandemic and generally draining state resources. This is unlikely to earn the party any attention from anti-corruption authorities, however.

Screen shot of the website of Socialist Party of Serbia, with their election slogan “We stand firm” (Ми стојимо постојано) in the header.

Its nominal competitor, the Socialist Party of Serbia, a junior member of the populist ruling coalition, has made campaign missteps of its own.

That party botched its initial campaign video based on the phrase “Count on us” — a phrase made famous in a once-popular Yugoslav patriotic song — by making zombie-like animations of voters the centrepiece.

Their follow-up slogan “We stand firm” (“Mi stojimo postojano” in Serbian) was taken directly from the song “Hey Slavs” – the anthem of disbanded Yugoslavia.

Original Quote

We stand firm
like the big cliffs,
May he be damned, the traitor
of his homeland!

SPS official campaign videos tend to use music from former Yugoslavia, such as anti-fascist partisan songs from World War II like “Through valleys and over hills.”

The irony of the fact that this party, and its late leader Slobodan Milošević, were among the chief perpetrators of the bloody destruction of Yugoslavia, has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Also glossed over are ideological inconsistencies. Such as the fact that the socialist party's website has as a key feature a photo of its leader the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić posing with Donald Trump — a politician who would usually be considered an opposite of socialist.

All these paradoxes aside, Serbia is getting ready to vote. The number of people who are supporting the boycott will remain unknown until Sunday evening.

Written by Filip Stojanovski