Turkey: Large protests against the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan continued into a second day in cities all across the nation. The protests, which began as a relatively minor episode of civil disobedience in Istanbul to protest the bulldozing and redevelopment of one of that city’s few green spaces, Gezi Park, have grown considerably and were taken up nationwide after Turkey’s police brutally cracked down on the Istanbul protesters. The protests now seem to be fueled by general discontent among Turkey’s largely secular urban middle class over the increasingly fundamentalist and authoritarian-seeming bent of the Erdogan government, as well as (possibly) Erdogan’s actions with respect to the ongoing civil war in Syria. The Turkish police, which is a national police force and does not report to local authorities, has responded in various cuddly ways, from using electric shock batons and water cannons as crowd control to firing tear gas canisters into crowds of protesters from helicopters. Erdogan has called on the protesters to stop, acknowledging only that “mistakes” have been made in the police response but clearly blaming the protesters for the violence (which, you know, they were opening expressing opposition to the government, so obviously they were asking for it). On Saturday police seem to have stopped preventing protesters from entering Taksim Square, where Gezi Park is located, but it remains to be seen if that move was tactical or really represents a shift in the Erdogan government’s treatment of the protesters.
Syria: Fighting over the key western city of Qusayr, a logistically important city that is particularly vital to rebel fighters, has reached such a fevered pitch that the International Red Cross is calling on both sides to allow relief aid into the city, and to allow the estimated 30,000 civilians left there the chance to escape the fighting. The UN was also set to issue a “declaration of alarm,” but that was blocked by Russia because Assad is buying a shitload of their top-of-the-line explodey stuff, and you always protect a good customer. And you thought the UN couldn’t get things done! Oh, wait, they can’t, even when those things are utterly pointless. One interesting aspect of the fight over Qusayr is that it has exposed the degree to which the Assad regime is being aided in its efforts to end the rebellion by Hizbullah fighters from Lebanon. The large role being played by Hizbullah increases the risk of the Syrian war flaring out to other parts of the region, spilling over into Lebanon, for example, or inflaming sectarian tensions, perhaps in in Iraq or between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, or creating conflict between the terrorist groups Hizbullah and Hamas, which backs the Syrian rebels.
El Salvador: A 22 year old Salvadoran woman, given the name “Beatriz” to protect her real identity, was denied permission to terminate her 26 week pregnancy this week by El Salvador’s high court, despite the fact that the pregnancy has already aggravated her lupus and caused her to go into renal failure, so carrying it to term will probably kill her, and the fact that her fetus is anencephalic, meaning it has no brain. El Salvador has had a blanket ban on abortion since 1999, even to save the life of the mother, because something something sanctity of life, but it was thought that “Beatriz” might be able to obtain the life-saving procedure because of the unique situation regarding her fetus. That turned out not to be the case, but later in the week the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a non-binding resolution calling on the El Salvadoran government to take action to save her life. Now it appears that “Beatriz” will be allowed to have a Caesarian section “birth” in order to get past the abortion ban on a technicality while still ending the pregnancy in time to minimize the risk to her. Meanwhile the law that says that a pregnant woman has to die rather than terminate a risky pregnancy is still on El Salvador’s books, because apparently women have no more agency in El Salvador than an incubation unit.
Myanmar: The gang of thugs currently passing itself off as a “government” in Myanmar has imposed a forced two-child limit on Rohingya Muslim families in Rakhine State, Myanmar, just the latest technique in Myanmar’s/Burma’s decades-long official policy of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. The Rohingya people, arguably the most oppressed minority group in the world, are essentially stateless, since Myanmar officially recognizes them as Bengali migrants and refuses to give them citizenship, despite the fact that there’s no actual evidence to support this claim. In related news, a violent mob of Buddhists (which was a phrase I would never have thought I might type) in Shan State, Myanmar, has been attacking Muslim-owned shops, mosques, and schools this week. At least one person is dead so far in the violence. Per its usual policy of ignoring Buddhist violence against Muslims, Myanmar’s “government” has made no effort to stop the violence, nor will it arrest any Buddhists in connection with said violence. It may arrest Muslims for getting their faces in the way of precious Buddhist throwing rocks, but we’ll see.
Bangladesh: From our “In Case You Missed It” file, Bangladesh government forces killed several in clashes in early May with protesters, Islamic hardliners who want to see new anti-blasphemy laws put on the books. Protesters attacked security forces with sticks, so naturally the security forces had no choice but to use their high-end semi-automatic firearms to indiscriminately open fire into crowds of protesters. It’s just common sense.
China: From our “Where Are They Now” file, the Chinese government is trying to bring its own heady brand of censorship up to code by changing the way it censors internet searches for topics about which it doesn’t want Chinese folks to be reading. Where past searches for sensitive topics have returned a “these results cannot be displayed page,” now they return actual search results that have had all the potentially sensitive links carefully scrubbed from them. So instead of the government saying “You aren’t allowed to know about that thing you just searched,” now they’re saying “See? Clearly the thing you just searched was not a thing at all, you silly goose!” All this is happening in the run-up to the June 4 anniversary of China’s biggest contribution to state brutality in the past quarter-century, the Tienanmen Square massacre. Keep reaching for that rainbow, guys!