what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 274

July 26 – August 1, 2021

Hellow, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hi. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • The massacre of a Kurdish family in Turkey – and why the motive is anti-Kurdish racism
  • What climate change is and will be doing to Afghanistan
  • The kidnapping business in Nigeria (I invited Nigerian analyst Basil Abia to explain why tf so many schoolkids get abducted)
  • New Zealand's racist police brutality against Pacific Islanders in the 1970s
  • Really cool but also super dangerous drone technology in the United Arab Emirates
Are you listening to our Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly yet? I can't stop shaking my bootay to Afghan pop princess Aryana Sayeed's 'Bache Kabul' (I mean, check the music video) or halperke-ing to Kurdish GOAT Naser Rezzazi's 'Berzi Berzi' like this. However, by the time you're reading this, I'm probably still shaking my head to Yasser Abd Alwahab's 'YalJamalg'. I'm one of the five million views of his music video. Oh, and I've added music from Samoa, too!

If you appreciate this work, you can support it financially on Patreon or PayPal or just forward this email to a friend today. 

Now without further ado, here's what happened last week,

what happened last week

We witnessed the massacre of a Kurdish family in Turkey
Last week, in Konya, Turkey, gunmen killed a Kurdish family of seven and set their house on fire. ‘This is yet another attack on the Kurdish ethnic group in the country,’ says the Kurdish community. Ten people have so far been arrested. There is little information about who they are but we know that they were not Kurdish.

Why did they kill the family?
The Kurdish side believes it was anti-Kurdish racism. The Turkish-government side is like, ‘nah, it was just two families fighting.’

Why do Kurds think it must be anti-Kurdish racism?
Well, the Dedeoğulları family has been
living in Konya for 24 years. They were attacked before; by about 60 people back in May. ‘They told us they wouldn’t let Kurds live here,’ the family said in an interview to media outlets back then. They also said that the attackers described themselves as the ‘Grey Wolves,’ a far-right ultranationalist extremist group in Turkey, responsible for murders and attacks on Kurds, Armenians, leftists, and members of the Alevi religious minority since its founding in the 1960s. But most of the attackers were set free for some reason and the police, according to the family, tried to pin the blame on them. ‘What have you done to these men that they want to kill you?’ 

Why this matters: Kurds make up around a fifth of Turkey's population; they’re the country’s second-largest ethnic group. However, being Kurdish in Turkey comes with a whole set of problems and challenges. Since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923, Kurdish identity has been heavily repressed.

I have a feeling Kurds are being targeted in Turkey a lot.
Yep. This is the second attack on Kurds in Konya alone this month. On July 21, a
Kurdish farmer was killed in a village nearby by attackers who reportedly shouted ‘we don’t want Kurds here’. Just last month, maybe-members of ‘Grey Wolves’ burnt down the office of the country's main pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in İzmir, killed Deniz Poyraz (a Kurdish woman) there, and attacked another Kurdish family in the Mersin province in May. If you ask Kurdish politicians in Turkey, ‘this is because the current government is promoting anti-Kurdish racism.’

Give me some examples
Sure. Since 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political party, the AKP, has partnered up with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who are pretty famous for their anti-Kurdish-rights political views. The MHP is also connected to the ‘Grey Wolves’ group.

Plus, the current government is trying to shut down the only pro-Kurdish (and third-largest) political party in Turkey right now, the Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP). A lot of its members, including mayors, are in prison at the moment; including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. The official motive: ‘They’re linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)!’ 
  • Reminder: The PKK is an armed organisation that has been at an extremely ugly war with the Turkish state since 1984.
We are worried about what climate change might do to people in Afghanistan
At least 150 people were killed in heavy floods in Afghanistan’s eastern province, Nuristan. There’s at least dozens missing, even children. More than 200 houses were destroyed. The death toll is likely going to go up, say officials. 

Tell me more
The Taliban
control this province; the Nuristan government has asked them to ‘please allow rescue teams into Nuristan’ but the Taliban say ‘we got this, we’re going to provide about US$62,000 worth of help.’ But what that help actually looks like isn’t clear. 

What’s causing the floods? 
There are a couple of reasons. First, it’s been raining a lot more – and that could be because of
climate change. Also, the houses in the villages aren’t the most stable; just take a look at this video on Twitter shared by a resident in Merdesh, one of these villages. On top of that, a lot of trees have been cut down in the last few decades, so there’s nothing to stop the flow of water down the mountains.
  • Zoom out: There were floods last year, too. Actually, every year. And they’re super dangerous, too. More than 150 people were killed in flash floods all over the country in August 2020. Over 110,000 people in Afghanistan have had to deal with some kind of natural disaster this year alone. Earthquakes, landslides are really common, too. 
  • Decolonize your Twitter feed: Follow Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary. If you’re trying to get a feeling for what’s going on in Afghanistan right now (hint: so frikkin’ much), it’s a good account to start with; Sarwary is talking a lot about the almost-humanitarian crisis and the intense fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan government right now. As a result of this fighting, ‘more civilians have died in May and June than in the previous four months,’ says the United Nations (UN). 
Why this matters: Over 38 million people live in this country. Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and one of the least equipped to handle what's to come. The United Nations says 80% of conflicts there are over food insecurity, land and water which will all get worse because of climate change. 
We need to talk about the mass kidnappings in Nigeria – an entire generation of children are missing school
I promised to dig deeper into Nigeria’s mass kidnappings. To do that, I reached out to Nigerian researcher Basil Abia (follow his Twitter). He is based in Abuja and a political analyst. Basically, turn to Basil for anything Nigerian politics. ‘Sham, it’s quite tricky, but I’ll do my best to explain.’ 

Since December 2020, at least
2,370 people (including 1000 children) have been kidnapped in Nigeria. That’s about 11 people per day. Some other sources say ‘the number is much higher.’

Why, though?
Kidnapping is a kind of business transaction in Nigeria (the ‘hostage business, as the
New York Times calls it). And it happens across the country, especially to Borno, Kaduna and Niger in the northeast and the central part, mostly in places where the government has ‘lost control over law and order.’ According to the SBM (a Nigerian domestic intelligence think tank), kidnappers ‘earned’ at least US$18.34 million as ransom between 2011 and 2020. In 2021 alone, they made close to $US20 million. 
  • Good to know: I talked to security expert Yusuf Anka (follow his Twitter) about when this business became a lucrative one. ‘Actually, it started as ‘cattle kidnapping’. People would steal cattle to then demand ransom from farmers. And then, they just turned to kidnapping human beings between 2015 and 2017 to demand more ransom. That’s when the ‘business’ really popped off.’ 
  • In detail: Sometimes, to make the families pay the ransom quicker, kidnappers even take babies.
Is this a new thing?
Not really. It’s been a ‘thing’ since the 2000s. Back then, people would especially kidnap others
in the Niger-Delta region. It was a pretty good ‘business,’ with some US$100 million in ‘earnings’ (aka ransom demanded) between 2006 and 2008. Why this matters: Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. One out of every five children are not going to school at the moment because parents are scared to send their kids there. That’s where a lot of the kidnappings happen. Meaning, there will be a whole generation of children without the means to escape poverty, the security crisis in their region and political radicalization or extreme ideas. Additionally, this ‘hostage business’ is hurting farmers so much that many are afraid of going to their own farms. Like South Sudan and Yemen, Nigeria, too, is dealing with food security issues and might even face ‘acute famine’ if nothing else happens.

Do people ‘return’?
Yes, once the ransom has been paid, obvs. But many also do not. For example, remember the worldwide-famous case of the
276 schoolgirls that were abducted by the militant group Boko Haram back in 2014 in Chibok? Well, 112 of the 276 schoolgirls (103 schoolgirls returned) are still missing and may have been forcefully married off to their kidnappers.
  • Btw: The #BringBackOurGirls dedicated to this news story in 2014 started a hashtag war. U.S. media said it was started by a filmmaker in Los Angeles but it was really started by Ibrahim Abdullahi, a corporate lawyer in Abuja, Nigeria. He says ‘Obiageli Ezekwesili actually said it first.’ 
What is the Nigerian government doing about this?
Not very much. It keeps
firing and hiring new ‘security chiefs’.

Dig deeper: When you’re poor, every option you have matters. This has been proven again and again in academia; like in
this paper by William W. Hansen, Nurudeen Abbas, Kingsley and myself.
We said ‘sorry’ about the racist police brutality against Pacific Islanders in the 1970s in New Zealand
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern made a big statement last week, ‘we’re sorry’ for how the police treated Pacific Islanders (Sāmoa, Tonga, and Fiji) who were living in New Zealand as farm and factory workers some fifty years ago. Ardern, btw, asked for forgiveness in true Samoan fashion, covered in finemat, look.

Tell me more
From 1974 until the beginning of the 1980ies, the country’s government was super harsh on immigration, and started the so-called Dawn Raids. It was an extremely racist policy that gave police permission to randomly break into people’s homes at really early hours in the morning, look for ‘them’ at church or at school and, should they have overstayed their visas, deport them to their countries of origin. ‘They were verbally and physically abused,’ said Ardern in her apology, and ‘it created deep wounds. We also
need to teach this in schools.’ Did you know that New Zealand's minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio (follow his Twitter), was himself a victim of the ‘Dawn Raids’? ‘This day is etched into my memory,’ he said when he opened up about his trauma in June. 

But why?
So, it all started with New Zealand inviting more than 50,000 migrant workers from Pacific Islands in the 1950s and 60s because it was lacking a workforce for its booming economy. Then an economic crisis hit in the early 1970s, a lot of people became unemployed and, you guessed it, a lot of white New Zealanders became mad at people who did not look white, claiming ‘
they’re stealing our jobs!’. A study later showed Polynesians had made up only a third of overstayers but more than 80 percent of all prosecutions for overstaying.

How did people react?
We welcome this,’ said Princess Mele Sui'ilikutapu of Tonga. Some say ‘An apology isn't enough. We felt so unwelcome and unsafe in this country.’

Why this matters: Today, there are over 200,000 Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand. They are still dealing with a lot of the trauma that was brought on by the ‘Dawn Raids.’ The apology is one step in acknowledging New Zealand’s racist past, and is hopefully rebuilding trust for the next generation of Pacific Islanders.

Uganda: LGBTQ activists are working to stop a super hateful bill from becoming a law.

Canada just recognized its first Emancipation Day, marking the end of slavery by the British Empire in 1834. 

Myanmar: Yesterday was the six-monthversary of the coup d’état that put the military in power. Last week, the military leader was like, 'f*ck it, I'm staying. I'm the prime minister until 2023.' Get used to his name: General Min Aung Hlaing.

Peru: Pedro Castillo, the country's new president, is putting together his team. He put a leftist (Pedro Francke) as finance minister, and an anti-LGBTQ, misogynistic, Marxist 'Shining Path'-defender (Guido Bellido) as prime minister.

China: The maybe-rapist pop star we talked about last week? Yeah, Kris Wu has been detained.

On a funny note

It was over 50°C last week in the United Arab Emirates, and the National Center of Meteorology in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has found a new way to make it rain. It is using drones to electrify clouds – and it worked

Why this matters: ‘Fake rain’ is super important because Dubai doesn’t get enough rain every year. This makes farming difficult and forces the country to import most of its food. However, before you tweet how ingenious this is, this drone technology might cause massive flooding.
Please send us your recommendations for our Decolonize Weekly playlist. We add new songs every week.

Ok, that's it from Sham and Simi. 
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