Arundhati Roy Under Attack, Canadian Activists Fight Back

Vancouver and Surrey social-justice activists protest contempt charge against Arundhati Roy

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Arundhati Roy has received a contempt citation for criticizing the arrest of a high-profile Indian human-rights activist. Vikramjit Kakati

The judicial persecution of a prominent Indian author and essayist has riled activists around Vancouver.

Many of them gathered in Surrey to protest a charge of contempt of court filed against Booker Prize-winning Delhi writer Arundhati Roy.

The demonstration included Chinmoy Banerjee, Parminder Swaich, Hardev Singh, Harbhajan Cheema, Harinder Mahil, Jai Birdi, and Avtar Gill, all of whom belong to different progressive groups in the Lower Mainland. Continue reading

US Border Patrol troops’ free-fire zone over borders

[Once, when a country attacked another by force of arms, it was called WAR, and human rights violations were identified as WAR CRIMES.  Now, as the US shoots Mexicans in Mexico, it is called an approved, acceptable, police action.  It is another obscenity of arrogance and impunity.  Frontlines ed.]

mexico

US border patrol agent looks towards Mexico from the bank of the Rio Grande River. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

US border agents shouldn’t have the courts’ permission to shoot people in Mexico

If you shoot an unarmed teenage boy in the head, 3 days of administrative leave isn’t nearly enough punishment

A United States court has all but declared open season on Mexican nationals along the US-Mexico border. Border patrol agents may shoot foreign nationals in Mexico with impunity – provided that those at whom they aim are standing within feet of US territory.

According to a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last week, agents who shoot and kill people in Mexico while standing on US soil will never be held to account, except before their administrative agencies. No court will ever review these actions and the families of the victims will be left with no avenue for justice. An agent’s actions will not be governed or restrained by the constitution nor subject to review by US courts.

This isn’t a hypothetic situtation: all of this has already happened.

Continue reading

France: A Message From the Dispossessed

[A long, drawn-out racist and xenophobic campaign in Europe, rooted in values that once marked the French colonial assault and occupation of Algeria, has re-intensified in recent months with neo-Nazi power moves and anti-migrant pograms and massive police round-ups, specifically but not exclusively aimed at Arab and African migrants and long-term residents alike.  A media campaign, both racist and Islamophobic, has heralded every new attack, and the hate-filled, quasi-satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper has been a key “culture-building” instrument for this.  Recent cartoons debasing Islam have clearly had openly provocative intentions, and with the enraged revenge attacks on the newspaper, the cartoon-provocateurs succeeded in further xenophobic expression: “Je Suis Charlie” meaning, among other things, “Je Suis Racist” and “Je Suis Xenophobe”.  Further attacks on the poorest migrants, Arab and African workers, are already underway.  The following article gives some background on all this. — Frontlines ed.]
By Chris Hedges, January 11, 2015

The terrorist attack in France that took place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not about free speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not illustrate the fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of an emerging dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of resources to survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled and mocked by the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of the industrial West, lash out in nihilistic fury. Continue reading

The Border-Industrial Complex Goes Abroad

“Nothing will stop our national security officials from making this country more secure from one of the least pressing dangers Americans face: terrorism.”
In this Nov. 12, 2013 photo, a Haitian man crosses into Haiti along the border with Jimani, Dominican Republic. In September, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that being born in the country does not automatically grant citizenship, including people born to non-legal residents going back to 1929. The ruling is a reflection of deep hostility in the Dominican Republic to the vast number of Haitians who have come to live in their country, many brought in to work in the sugar industry and their descendants. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

In this Nov. 12, 2013 photo, a Haitian man crosses into Haiti along the border with Jimani, Dominican Republic. In September, the Dominican Constitutional Court ruled that being born in the country does not automatically grant citizenship, including people born to non-legal residents going back to 1929. The ruling is a reflection of deep hostility in the Dominican Republic to the vast number of Haitians who have come to live in their country, many brought in to work in the sugar industry and their descendants. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

It isn’t exactly the towering 20-foot wall that runs like a scar through significant parts of the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Imagine instead the sort of metal police barricades you see at protests. These are unevenly lined up like so many crooked teeth on the Dominican Republic’s side of the river that acts as its border with Haiti. Like dazed versions of U.S. Border Patrol agents, the armed Dominican border guards sit at their assigned posts, staring at the opposite shore.  There, on Haitian territory, children splash in the water and women wash clothes on rocks.

One of those CESFRONT (Specialized Border Security Corps) guards, carrying an assault rifle, is walking six young Haitian men back to the main base in Dajabon, which is painted desert camouflage as if it were in a Middle Eastern war zone.

If the scene looks like a five-and-dime version of what happens on the U.S. southern border, that’s because it is. The enforcement model the Dominican Republic uses to police its boundary with Haiti is an import from the United States. Continue reading

Greece: Farmer shoots 30 unpaid Bangladeshi migrant workers when they demand pay

Greece farm shooting: 30 injured in pay dispute
BBC, 18 April 2013

Migrants are employed to pick strawberries in Nea Manolada

Migrants are employed to pick strawberries in Nea Manolada, a Peloponnesian village in souther Greece.

 

About 30 migrant workers have been injured in a shooting on a strawberry farm in Greece after requesting salaries that had not been paid.

The migrants – mainly from Bangladesh – were shot at by at least one farm supervisor, in a Peloponnesian village in southern Greece.

Several of the workers have been taken to hospital but none are in a critical condition.

The owner of the farm in Nea Manolada and one foreman have been arrested.

Nea Manolada, about 260km (160 miles) west of Athens, is an area where thousands of migrant workers are employed.

Around 200 workers had gathered to request their unpaid salaries when at least one farm supervisor opened fire, reports the BBC’s Mark Lowen.

Police Captain Haralambos Sfetsos told the AP news agency that the workers had “moved threateningly” towards foremen when the shots were taken.

In addition to the two men already arrested, warrants for two further arrests have been issued.

‘Blood strawberries’

Nea Manolada has previously been in the spotlight over exploitation of migrants.

In 2008 workers staged a strike against inhumane conditions. There have also been reports of previous attacks.

A social media campaign has now been launched to boycott the fruit from Nea Manolada, calling them “blood strawberries”.

The Council of Europe – the main European human rights watchdog – issued a report this week detailing abuse against migrants in Greece.

The report warned of a growing wave of racist violence, stating that “democracy is at risk”. It highlighted the role of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

Pennsylvania: McDonald’s Guest Workers Stage Surprise Strike

Josh Eidelson, The Nation, March 6, 2013


A McDonald’s store in the Philippines. (Flickr)

Alleging unpaid wages and repeated retaliation, McDonald’s workers in central Pennsylvania launched a surprise strike at 11 this morning. The strikers are student guest workers from Latin America and Asia, brought to the United States under the controversial J-1 cultural exchange visa program. Their employer is one of the thousands of McDonald’s franchisees with whom the company contracts to run its ubiquitous stores.

“We are afraid,” striker Jorge Victor Rios told The Nation prior to the work stoppage. “But we are trying to overcome our fear.”

The McDonald’s corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The J-1 visa program is officially intended to promote educational and cultural exchange. But advocates allege that J-1, like the other guest worker programs that collectively bring hundreds of thousands of workers in and out of the United States each year, is rife with abuse. The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the organization spearheading today’s strike, charges that such programs—whose future is intimately tied up with the fate of comprehensive immigration reform—offer ample opportunities for employers to intimidate workers, suppress organizing and drive down labor standards.

“McDonald’s is just the latest in a long line of corporations that have hijacked the US guest worker program to get cheap, exploitable labor, and that’s what the students are,” NGA Executive Director Saket Soni told The Nation. “The conditions are horrific, but have become the norm for guest workers.”

The workers are striking over what they charge are rampant abuses at their stores in Harrisburg and nearby Lemoyne and Camp Hill. According to NGA, the visiting students each paid $3,000 or more for the chance to come and work, and were promised full-time employment; most received only a handful of hours a week, while others worked shifts as long as twenty-five hours straight, without being paid overtime. “Their employer is also their landlord,” said Soni. “They’re earning sub-minimum wages, and then paying it back in rent” to share a room with up to seven co-workers. “Their weekly net pay is actually sometimes brought as low as zero.”

“We are living in [a] basement,” said Rios, “cramped together, with no divisions, in bunkbeds which are meant for children.” Continue reading

The barbaric comprador monarchy of Saudi Arabia defends beheading

[That barbarism, feudalism, monarchism, and imperialism present an undivided front of arrogant impunity–of acting like nothing’s wrong–is shocking and disgusting, but expected, given their history and nature.  But that the story is so hidden, in the highly touted “information age,” is a shameful crime of media who claim, falsely, that they are objective, the basis for an informed democracy.  No, they are premeditated co-conspirators with the barbaric powers-that-be. — Frontlines ed.]

Charlotte Rachael Proudman, The Independent (UK), Tuesday 15 January 2013

The beheading of a housemaid in Saudi Arabia highlights slave-like conditions

In 2010, 27 migrant workers were executed in Saudi Arabia and, according to Amnesty International, more than 45 foreign maids are currently on death row

A young Sri Lankan woman was beheaded with a sword last Wednesday in a Dawadmi, a small town in Saudi Arabia. Rizana Nafeek was found guilty of murdering her employers’ child – a crime she vehemently denied until death.

Rizana is not the only migrant worker to have been executed in Saudi Arabia – at least 27 were executed in 2010 and more than 45 foreign maids are facing execution on death row according to Amnesty International. Rizana’s deadly fate highlights the plight of migrant workers all around the world.

Like many migrant workers’ Rizana’s story began when she left her home country Sri Lanka in 2005 for Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid where she could earn enough money to support her relatives. In the same year she was arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to death for murdering her employers’ four-month-old son, Kayed bin Nayef bin Jazyan al-Otaibi. Rizana said the child choked on milk and died. The child’s family believed Rizana had strangled the child after attempting to bottle-feed him.

Once arrested Rizana battled with an unjust Saudi legal system. “Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer and in many cases are kept in the dark about the progress of legal proceedings against them,” Amnesty International said. The Sri Lankan government and human rights organisations campaigned for Rizana to have a fair trial.

Rizana did not have legal representation prior to her trial – and – she was physically assaulted and forced to sign a confession under duress, which she later retracted. Under international law Rizana at the age of 17 was too young to receive the death penalty. As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia is prohibited from sentencing a child under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence to death. It is unlikely Saudi Arabia will be subject to any stringent sanctions for violating international law, which led to the death of a young woman. Continue reading