Nonviolent Action around the World – 3 June 2009 (Part 2)

June 3, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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EUROPE

Former South African activist fights discrimination in Ireland
By: Henry McDonald, The Guardian, June 1, 2009
A former African National Congress activist who faced constant arrest under apartheid is standing in Ireland’s local government elections to highlight racism and discrimination against foreign migrants. With Ireland mired in recession the presence of tens of thousands of immigrants has prompted fears of rising xenophobia in a country that once exported its people to all parts of the world.
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EU condemns South Ossetia elections
By: Al Jazeera, June 1, 2009
The European Union has condemned parliamentary elections in South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian province, as “illegitimate” and said it will not recognise the results. Parties supporting Eduard Kokoity, the region’s pro-Moscow leader, won Sunday’s poll by a landslide, with Yedinstvo (Unity), his party, in the lead with half the votes. The election, which Kokoity has hailed as a vindication of the region’s independence, is its first since last year’s Russia-Georgia war over the status of the province. The EU said the vote “represents a setback in the search for a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia.”
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Armenia: Transparency International shocked by yesterday’s elections
By: PanArmenian, June 1, 2009
“We are just shocked by what we saw with our own eyes. Never before were such kind of cynical and illegitimate elections held in Armenia. If elections in our country are marred by such disgrace, why do we conduct them at all?” Amalia Kostanyan, Chairwoman of Transparency International-Armenia, told a news-conference. Mrs. Kostanyan distinguished 3 stages of falsifications and wrongdoings during elections. First stage (08-10 a.m.): minor breaches, including ballot box stuffing and repeated voting. Second stage (around 12:00): intimidation of observers and journalists. Third stage (from 05:00 p.m.): disputes among commission members on the number of ballots to be cast in favor of this or that candidate.
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Armenia: Opposition ready to rock Yerevan following disputed municipal vote?
By: Frontline Club, May 31, 2009
An opposition supporter friend and blogger calls it a travesty of democracy, but many of us are instead resigned to elections being business as usual in Armenia. Indeed, Josef Stalin summed up the situation perfectly. “Those who vote decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything,” he reportedly said, and after speaking to an American journalist who witnessed a count in one district of the capital, it seems like the Soviet dictator was spot on. Reporting that the opposition was neck and neck with the main governmental candidate for most of the time, the latter eventually overtook the former after ballot after ballot marked in his favour appeared towards the end.
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Belarus: The last dictatorship of Europe
By: Riccardo Valsecchi, World Press, May 31, 2009
In Minsk, the capital of Belarus, behind Oktyabrskaja Square there is the residence of President Alexander Lukashenko. First elected in 1994 and confirmed in subsequent presidential electoral contests in 2001 and 2006, Lukashenko has built a strong and powerful government around himself, based on the state monopoly of economic resources, on holding all executive power in his hand, on media demagogy, as well as on repression of the opposition. The Western media refers to him as “the last dictator of Europe,” while his supporters call him “bat’ka” (father), but Belorussians prefer not to speak at all, as 21-year-old Natalya confesses, “I’m afraid to talk about him.”
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Old dissidents still a voice in Russia, but fading
By: Douglas Birch, Washington Post, May 31, 2009
They would meet in secret, terrified of a KGB knock on the door. They laboriously typed out banned publications. Many ended up in prison, labor camps and exile. They were the Soviet dissidents, the human faces of the Cold War, waging nonviolent resistance against a cruel and cynical system. Today, 20 years after Eastern Europe shook off its communist chains, the Berlin Wall fell and the death knell sounded for the Soviet Union, Sergei Kovalyov might have expected to be feted for his role in breaking the chains of communism. Yet the man regarded by some as the patriarch of the dissident movement is almost forgotten at home.
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Georgian opposition protest masks inherent weakness
By: Tamar Kadagidze and Tamar Kvirtia, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, May 29, 2009
When Georgia’s opposition leaders summoned a 60,000-strong protest against President Mikheil Saakashvili on May 26, it looked like a show of strength – but it masked major differences over strategy that may destroy their challenge to his rule. Opposition activists have been protesting for weeks against Saakashvili, and demanding his resignation for – among other things – alleged mismanagement of the disastrous war against Russia last August. They have blocked the main street in the capital Tbilisi, and lined it with tents made up to look like prison cells. But many of these tents are now empty, and activists appear to be exhausted by their failure to achieve results.
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UK: ‘Invisible’ protestors condemn tribe’s destruction
By: OneWorld, May 29, 2009
“Invisible” demonstrators in London protested Wednesday the Indian government’s decision to permit a British company to mine the Dongria Kondh tribe’s sacred mountain and source of livelihood in Orissa, India. Wearing t-shirts spelling out the word “invisible” and carrying blank placards, protesters from the indigenous rights group Survival International targeted the Indian High Commission in London, drawing attention to how the human rights of the Dongria peoples have been largely ignored.
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TOP

 

MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA

Syrian dissident praises Syria-US talks
By: The Boston Globe, June 1, 2009
Syria’s leading dissident yesterday said US efforts to improve ties with Damascus could help democratic reform in his homeland. In a rare interview, Riad al-Turk, 79, said President Obama’s initiative could also undermine an “unconvincing alliance” between Syria and Iran. Arrests of opposition figures continue, despite US-Syrian diplomatic contacts, but mending relations would make it difficult for Damascus to crush dissent, Turk said. “The rapprochement helps stabilize the Middle East and puts pressure on the Syrian regime to improve its policies,” he said.
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Iran arrests ‘rogues’ over unrest
By: Iran Focus, June 1, 2009
Iranian police have arrested a group of people accused of instigating sectarian violence in the restive southeastern city of Zahedan, a senior police chief was quoted as saying. “Some rogue elements and agents of the enemy who want to divide Muslim brothers sought to create insecurity in some spots in Zahedan,” deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan told the Mehr news agency. Those arrested “are both Sunni and Shiites and they sought a Sunni-Shiite divide,” Radan said.
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The politics of Facebook in Iran
By: Babak Rahimi and Elham Gheytanchi, openDemocracy, June 1, 2009
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been and remains one of the world’s harshest censors of the Internet, frequently blocking sites that are deemed “immoral” and politically offensive to the unelected authorities in power. In many ways, the Internet is viewed by the ruling clerics as potentially a dangerous domain, which requires harsh measures to control its content. In February 2009, however, Iranian authorities took an unusual step of unblocking the popular social networking website of Facebook. Surprisingly, the move coincided with the authorities’ relentless push to block a number of dissident websites ahead of the presidential elections, scheduled in June this year.
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Egypt and human rights ahead of Obama’s visit
By: The Star, June 1, 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech to the Muslim world from U.S. ally Egypt on June 4 aimed at repairing ties hurt under his predecessor George W. Bush. Egyptian rights activists worry that Obama, by choosing to give his speech in Cairo, will lend undue credibility to an autocratic ally that uses harsh tactics to stifle opposition and whose progress toward democracy has been slow. Many hope the Obama administration will press Egypt quietly for democratic reforms but doubt he will directly address the human rights situation in Egypt in his speech to the Muslim world.
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Egypt: Dissident Ayman Nour is pessimistic on eve of Obama visit
By: Jeffrey Fleishman and Noha El-Hennawy, LA Times, May 31, 2009
Egypt’s leading dissident, his forehead singed from a recent attack, sits near a window in an armchair, depressed and wondering whether he was better off behind bars. “I want to go back to jail,” says Ayman Nour, whom the government released in February as an apparent goodwill gesture to the Obama administration. “The government insists on getting the maximum benefit out of my liberation, but they are causing me the maximum harm. I am denied all rights. My party cannot return to the political scene. I am stalked by the police. There is no ceiling to the injustice and the revenge of this regime.”
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Egypt: The justifications of the torturer
By: Alaa Al-Aswany, LA Times, May 31, 2009
Some years ago, I was invited to a relative’s wedding, and at the wedding, I sat next to one of the bridegroom’s relatives. He introduced himself to me by saying: “My name is such-and-such, police officer.” I couldn’t help but challenge him, and I will reconstruct the conversation that followed to the best of my ability: “Excuse me. You are religious, it seems,” I said. “Thank God.” He replied. “Don’t you see any contradiction between being religious and working in State Security?” He started to get emotional and said: “First, those who are beaten deserve to be beaten. Second, if you study your religion thoroughly, you will find that what we do in the State Security department is fully compatible with Islamic teachings.”  
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Palestine: “Comrades, your enemy is yourselves!”
By: Mats Svensson, openDemocracy, May 29, 2009
It feels like a very long time ago. Between a then and a now walls have been built. The walls have also become higher, uglier, thicker and today the walls seem impossible to destroy. Then, four years ago, we told each other that it couldn’t get worse. The suffering couldn’t become deeper. And during this time of constant darkness and humiliation the Palestinian fractions gathered in mid-December 2004 to discuss a common future. At a conference hotel in the ghetto of Gaza the political leaders sat lined up like school boys to listen to Yvette Lillian Myakayaka-Manzini (Mavivi), vice president of the ANC women’s department. Listen and discuss something important, the struggle against apartheid.
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Martin Ennals Award 2009 goes again to a human rights defender from Iran
By: Martin Ennals Award, May 20, 2009
Today the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) announces as the 2009 Laureate. Emad Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights defender based in Tehran. He founded the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, and has been a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the death penalty in Iran. His campaigning includes a scholarly examination of Islamic law (shari`a) on the subject, in which he demonstrates the absence of any doctrinal requirement for maintaining capital punishment. In addition, Baghi’s inventory of death row prisoners in Iran, including juvenile offenders, has been an important resource for UN human rights bodies as well as human rights groups outside the country.
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Working Paper: Freedom of association and civil society in Egypt
By: Kristina Kausch, FRIDE, May 12, 2009
The earthquake of unprecedented social mobilisation throughout 2005 triggered hopes that Egypt would finally move towards a genuine democratic opening and lead the region away from its long history of authoritarianism. However, these hopes have now largely faded away. For the time being, talk of democratisation in Egypt seems to be off the agenda. Egyptian rights NGOs are working under increasingly heavy pressure from the government. This paper by Kristina Kausch analyses freedom of association in Egypt and identifies the main obstacles that Egyptian NGOs, political parties and unions are facing.
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OCEANIA

Amnesty says Pacific facing unfolding human rights crises
By: Radio New Zealand International, June 1, 2009
An Amnesty International report highlights an increase in slums, as well as violence against women and a very high maternal death rate in many parts of the Pacific. The report released last Friday says the region is sitting on a social, political and economic time bomb fuelled by unfolding human rights crises in the past year. The organisation’s chief executive officer in New Zealand, Patrick Holmes, says extreme poverty in the Pacific is a major abuse of human rights.
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NOTICES

20th Tiananmen commemoration: Remembrance and truth
By: Initiatives for China, June 4, 2009 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, Capitol Hill, West Lawn, Washington, DC
Join distinguished leaders of government, faith, human rights groups and leaders of 1989 Tiananmen Square student democracy movement. Stand by the people of China in their struggle for democracy, justice and the rule of law. Sponsored by Initiatives for China and more than 30 other human rights groups.
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Online discourse in the Arab world: Dispelling the myths
By: USIP, June 17, 2009 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, U.S. Institute of Peace 2nd Floor Conference Room 1200 17th St, NW Washington, DC 20036
At this event, Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society will present for the first time its new report on the Arabic-language blogosphere. The unprecedented application of cutting-edge social network mapping analysis to more than 10,000 blogs from 18 countries will change your view of political and cultural discourse in the Arabic-speaking world. The report provides fresh insight to questions of critical concern as a new U.S. Administration strives to engage the Arab and Muslim worlds.
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IN PAST NEWS

For one Moldovan activist, ‘We are freer, because we have nothing to lose’
By: Bernd Volkert, RFE/RL, May 15, 2009
The sudden outburst of public unrest that followed Moldova’s recent parliamentary vote surprised many inside and outside the country. But not Oleg Brega, a journalist and filmmaker who says the upheaval was the natural outcome of years of political repression. A founding member of the Moldovan public activism group Hyde Park, Brega has been opposing the government for many years. But after glimpsing a brief chance for change in the April protests following the country’s parliamentary elections, the 35-year-old now sees few opportunities left for activists like him.
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Moldova: The next generation revolution?
By: Jos Boonstra, FundaciĆ³n para las Relaciones Internacionales y el DiĆ”logo Exterior, April 16, 2009
Riots broke out in Moldova’s capital Chisinau after the parliamentary elections held on Sunday, 5 April handed victory to the Communists for a third time in a row. Electoral fraud was widespread, but such a response came unexpected. Is Moldova heading towards another colour revolution or are we witnessing the first ‘electronically’ spurred revolution attempt through the increased communication possibilities offered by internet forums such as blogs and twitter offer?
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The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict is pleased to circulate this daily selective digest of world news related to past, present and potential nonviolent conflicts, including active civilian-based struggles against oppressive regimes, nonviolent resistance, political and social dissidence, and the use of nonviolent tactics in a variety of causes.  We also include stories that help readers glimpse the larger context of a conflict and that reflect on past historical struggles.

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