This Week in Oppressive Government Violence: July 7, 2013

Since I didn’t do one of these last week this will actually cover the past two weeks.

Egypt: Obviously this is the big story of the last couple of weeks, with massive protests against the administration of President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies finally reaching the point where the Egyptian armed forces stepped in and removed Morsi from power. The occasional military junta is obviously the best thing for any democracy, especially one being run by people who “lack even the basic mental ingredients” to manage their own democratic transition, and anyway the military promises they won’t be in power long, unless Egypt gets really lucky and a Pinochet-like figure emerges.

People really didn't like this Morsi guy.
People really didn’t like this Morsi guy.

Sorry, I’ll stop now. While there had been violence and casualties in the run-up to Morsi’s ouster in clashes between partisans on both sides, in truth the real government-on-citizen violence didn’t start until after the coup–um, I mean, temporary military-led democracy realignment–had taken place. The Egyptian military moved to shut down television stations that had ties to the MB and/or were broadcasting news that the new regime didn’t like, which is obviously what a regime planning a quick return to civilian democratic rule would do. Arrest orders were issued for the top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Morsi, for the crime, I guess, of being leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, showing the kind of deep commitment to freedom of thought and freedom of association that you’d want out of a brief, interim military regime intent on restoring democracy ASAP. Finally, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 people were killed in clashes on Friday in which the military elected to fire live ammunition into crowds of pro-MB protesters, displaying their strong respect for liberty by liberating those folks from having to live under a government they didn’t like.

Meanwhile, back here in US Amercia Like Such As, we’ve identified the Key Issues in this story: first, was this military coup really a military coup, if calling it a “military coup” might mean reducing or suspending our military aid to Egypt? What if God Abdul Fatah al-Sisi was one of us? Second, and obviously more important, is the issue of whether a rich dude was on his yacht on a holiday weekend while this was all going on. Because as we all know, it’s simply impossible for anybody in the federal government to get any work done if they are not in Washington, DC, in their designated federal government offices.

Also, Saturday there was the hilarious episode where Mohamed ElBaradei was appointed as Egypt’s new prime minister, then almost immediately unappointed when one of the Sunni fundamentalist parties that hasn’t rejected the military government threatened to walk if ElBaradei got the job. But that’s not really germane to the topic, just funny.

More around the world adventures await below.

Syria: Somewhat forgotten with Egypt imploding is the fact that there’s still a war going on in Syria, one that continues to have the elements to spill out over Syria’s borders and become a region-wide Sunni-Shi’i war. Government forces and their Hizbullah auxiliaries/shock troops launched a major assault against the city of Homs, which is one of the key strongholds for the Syrian rebels and has been in a stalemate between government and rebel forces for around a year. In a gutsy effort to squander any moral edge he might have gained when rebel foreign fighters massacred dozens of Shi’i in the eastern part of the country almost a month ago, Assad’s troops have elected to indiscriminately strike civilian neighborhoods throughout Homs by air and artillery, causing the opposition Syrian National Coalition to call upon the international community to intervene to protect Homs’ civilians and to prevent a government victory that could threaten the rebellion’s continued viability. It appears as though things are ramping up for another government offensive against Aleppo, another city that is crucial to the rebels, thereby putting still more civilians at risk.

Turkey: Also basically forgotten in the wake of Egypt, because the American media is pretty sure that Americans can only keep track of what’s happening in one foreign country at a time, and they know damn well that they, themselves, can only manage to cover one foreign country at a time. Little has changed, frankly: protesters attempt to regain Taksim Square in Istanbul and are water cannoned and tear gassed by Turkey’s freedom-loving riot police at the behest of her totally representative democratic government. Possibly seeing the writing on the wall after Egypt (though certainly Turkey’s own history should also be enough of a warning), it seems the government is taking steps to change the country’s constitution to prevent another military coup, because military coups never take place in countries where they’re against the law?

Myanmar: The government is denying any role in recent violent clashes between Buddhist and Muslim populations that has killed over 200 and displaced around 140,000, most of them Muslims who are primarily the targets of the violence. Observers contend that the government has at least stood by and allowed the violence to occur, and that it has actually been complicit in some of the attacks. Gosh, I wonder who to believe?

China: Police in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang fired on a crowd of what the New York Times terms “rioters” on June 26th, killing 10, after the rioters killed 17, “including 9 police officers and security guards.” Normally I’d give the police a break here, since it seems like the rioters struck first, but a. this is China, so who knows if the actual story is anything like what’s being reported and b. the rioters were almost certainly Uyghurs, rioting because the Chinese government has been detaining and/or “disappearing” Uyghur men in Xinjiang with some intensity for at least the past year plus. The Uyghurs, a Turkic, mostly-Muslim people, make up a plurality of the population in Xinjiang, but complain that Han Chinese are increasingly moving into the province and taking the best economic opportunities for themselves at the Uyghurs’ expense. Allegations of China’s second-class treatment of its Uyghur citizens have been around for years now. This doesn’t justify the violence of the rioters, but it does meant that their rioting has some context.

Brazil: Violent clashes between protesters and police took place during the finals of the Confederations Cup in Rio de Janeiro on June 30th. Police employed tear gas and its modern equivalent, stun grenades, to help the crowd exercise its right to protest grievances against the government. By this week the large public protests that had been taking place over the past few weeks seemed to have tapered off, with protesters apparently allowing the government (whose popularity has been severely weakened) a chance to respond to their grievances. However, police once again tear-gassed protesters in Rio on Friday, though if the linked article is correct and these people were protesting in favor of “transparency in government spending,” then clearly these are dangerously unhinged thought criminals and must be stopped at all costs.

USA: From the “it can happen here too” file, 12 protesters who sued the city of Oakland over allegations of police brutality stemming from the 2011 Occupy Oakland demonstrations (which saw more than its share of alleged poor conduct on the parts of both police and some of the protesters) were awarded a combined $1 million in compensation this week by the US district court in San Francisco. The Oakland PD has quite the history of police misconduct on its record, and this award is a nice thing, although not as nice as if the police hadn’t done this stuff in the first place.

Turkmenistan: This is a touchy subject for me. Long-time readers will recall the shameful episode where I wrote a blog entry extolling the virtues of Turkmenistan, and the ensuing scandal wherein it was discovered that I had [very much wished that I had] been paid by the Turkmeni government for my writing. But I feel like I must speak out here, because President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov hired Jennifer Lopez to play at his birthday party, which any sensible person would consider to be a violation of basic human rights. Lopez has subsequently apologized, because in all seriousness Turkmenistan’s government is terrible in the “we steal our nation’s oil wealth and torture people for kicks” sense of “terrible,” but she’s apparently not sorry enough to give the money she was paid to charity or anything like that.


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