what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 268

June 14 – 20, 2021

Aloha, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hello. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • Deniz Poyraz and anti-Kurdish racism in Turkey
  • LGBTQIA+ rights in Hungary and Poland
  • modern slavery in Ivory Coast because we love our chocolate
  • what happens to young Africans who go to Libya to reach Europe
  • the really great news that Montenegro recognized the Bosnian genocide
In good news, the Taj Mahal finally reopened to the public in India, Botswana's president Mokgweetsi Masisi was gifted a 1,098-carat diamond (probably the third-largest diamond ever) and my colleagues and I won a Grimme Online Award for our Spotify Original podcast "192020 – Ein Jahr nach Hanau" on the racist shooting in Hanau, Germany last year. (omfg!)

Did you know that more than 14,000 people read this newsletter? 228 (+1 from last week) support it financially on Patreon, and sometimes on PayPal. If you're short on money but would like to support still, you can forward this email to just one person today.  

P.S., here's the audio version of this issue (read by Simi, again).

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

what happened last week

Reminder: This is written by a Kurdish woman (me).
We are mourning the death of Deniz Poyraz – she's the latest victim of anti-Kurdish racism in Turkey
A 27-year-old Turkish fascist killed 38-year-old Kurdish woman and activist Deniz Poyraz in Izmir, Turkey when he stormed a local office of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey's third-largest (and pro-Kurdish) opposition party.

Tell me more
The man shot Poyraz six times (an employee of HDP) while she was alone working. Party leader Mithat Sancar
said, 'we had planned a meeting of some 40 people on that day but we postponed it last minute. It would have been a massacre.' The man is behind bars now, and a full investigation is underway. 'We blame the AKP and their allies, the MHP,' said the HDP. The AKP, also known as the Justice and Development Party, is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling party.

Who was she?
She was from a small town in Turkey called Mêrdîn (Mardin) who moved to Izmir with her family when she was seven years old. The family escaped the violence between the Turkish military and the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that’s killed more than 40,000 people since the 1980s. 
  • Good to know: The PKK is a Kurdish armed group ’fighting for greater rights for the Kurdish minority in Turkey’ but the country believes that the PKK is a 'terrorist organization' (so do the United States and the European Union).
The man’s motive? 
He said his goal was to 'kill members of the PKK.' He had planned to kill more than just Poyraz; he had even
updated his WhatsApp status after killing her, with a picture of a dead person and the caption ‘Carcass one.’ The gunman also shot at a picture of an imprisoned female Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel. On his social media he liked to flash ultra-nationalist Turkish hand signs. The motive, then, is clear: Anti-Kurdish racism.

Why this matters: Anti-Kurdish racism in Turkey is real and has been going on for a long time. Poyraz
isn’t the first Kurdish activist who has been killed. Plus, in the last two years alone, Turkey has even tried to shut down the HDP, firing and arresting many top Kurdish politicians (elected members of parliament even), including the party’s former leader Selahattin Demirtaş, and co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ. And they’ve charged more than 7,000 members with ‘terrorism.' 

Decolonize your feed:
We are making the lives of LGBTQIA+ more and more difficult in Hungary and Poland
Hungary banned teachers from teaching about homosexuality and non-binary gender identities in school to anyone under the age of 18 (minors), and from showing TV and movies (like Harry Potter). ‘Because we want to protect children,’ the government said. Hundreds of protestors took to the streets of the capital Budapest to protest this, 'you are actually damaging them. Change it back ASAP.'

Why this matters: Hungary has been very anti-LGBTQIA+ for some ten years now. This new law is breaching a lot of European Union laws as well as international human rights agreements. 'Just how human-rights-friendly is Europe?' people ask. 'Do something already, Europe,' said opposition leader Anna Donáth (btw, she's two years older than me; yay to young politicans).

What can the European Union even do about this?
There are some things. They could deny funding. This is
what they did to six towns in Poland in 2020 after some 100 city governments said they are so-called 'LGBT Free Zones'. However, it wasn't a lot of money. According to a 2020 survey by ILGA-Europe, an international gay rights organization, Poland is the most anti-LGBTQIA+ country in the European Union (27th on the list; Hungary is 18th).

Tell me a little about politics in Hungary right now
Sure. The country is ruled by the conservative party Fidesz, under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He's pretty popular. Since 2010, he has won three elections and the opposition has little influence. And in less than a year, Hungary is going to elect a new parliament. Human rights groups are like, 'you introduced this law only because you want your conservative Christians to vote for you, we know.' 

How conservative is this current government?
Very. This is not the only human-rights-breaching law in this country. It also has laws to making sure that transgender and intersex people
cannot change their gender on official documents, has practically banned same-sex couples from adopting children and says 'gay marriage is a no-no'. Yet, some Fidesz members have orgies on yachts and/or watch child porn.

Decolonize your solidarity for LGBTQIA+
As always, I asked journalist
Schayan Riaz to recommend movies, and he came through:
  • South Africa: Watch John Trengove's Inxeba (The Wound) about a hidden gay love story in the middle of a traditional Xhosa initiation in South Africa. 
  • Paraguay: Watch Marcelo Martinessi's The Heiresses (Las Herederas) about a lesbian couple in Paraguay.
  • Taiwan: Watch Tsai Ming-liang's Rizi (Days) about two lonely men who find love and comfort in one another in Taiwan.
  • India: Watch Hansal Mehta's Aligarh. It is based on a true story about a gay professor named Ramchandra Siras.
We tried to end child slavery in the chocolate industry but the United States Supreme Court said, 'no'
Back in 2005, six men from Ivory Coast had sued the U.S. company Cargill and U.S. branch of Nestlé at the Supreme Court in the United States for being OK with child labor at their cocoa farms on the continent of Africa. Last week, the men lost the case. 'Because everything you say these companies did, they did that in Ivory Coast and we can't prosecute them for that here,' said the Supreme Court.

Why this matters: At least 1.5 million kids (2020 numbers) in West Africa (especially Ivory Coast and Ghana) work at cocoa farms that sell some 70 percent of the world's chocolate to companies like Hershey, Mars and Nestlé. And they know (officially since 2001) but they aren't doing much to change that. Maybe because the chocolate industry is worth so much right now; in 2019, it sold chocolate bars worth US$103 billion. Plus, these two companies in question are pretty huge food giants; Nestlé is the world's biggest food producer, and commodities trader Cargill is one of the largest private U.S. companies.

Tell me more about the men
The six men were child slaves from
Mali who were forced to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast themselves. In their lawsuit, the group of men said that they were forced to work on the cocoa farms for 12-14 hours a day. They also said while they slept, guards with weapons watched them so they couldn't escape and paid very little. 'This is slavery. And back then, we were children, too.' Now that they have lost, the men's lawyers want to sue again, next time with more proof.

Help me understand why there is child labor in chocolate
Well, there are basically two ways children end up working at cocoa farms. Some farms belong to their own parents. They employ their own kids not because they're necessarily evil but because they can't afford to send them to school. The typical cocoa farm in Ivory Coast is small and makes about $US1900 per year (2019 numbers). Other farms force child migrants to work. Poverty and exploitation are the real reasons for this.

Just how much child labor is in my favorite chocolate? 
Well, Mars, maker of M&M’s and Milky Way, says, '24 percent of our cocoa comes from these farms.' Hershey, the maker of Kisses and Reese’s, less than half and Nestlé 49 percent (
2019 numbers). If you need an ethical shopping guide, try this. Best buys: Divine if you live in the U.S. or U.K. or Tony's Chocolonely if you live in Germany. And remember: just because it's vegan, it doesn't mean it's cruelty-free.
We Europeans will force more people into situations like slavery or human trafficking in Libya – if we don't do something
The International Organization for Migration (IMO) and the UNHCR said that coast police in Libya had returned at least 13,000 people wanting to reach the European Union crossing the Mediterranean to Libya

Why this matters: Many young Africans go to Libya to then try to reach Europe by boat. It’s an extremely dangerous journey; more than 19,000 people have died from 2014 to 2019. And if they don’t make the journey, most of the time they end up in slavery or human trafficking networks. Europe knows about this but doesn’t (some say, 'doesn't want to') have a plan to stop it.

Zoom out: Today,
82.4 million people have left their homes because of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations. This number is an all-time high.

What happens when people are returned to Libya?
Police puts them into prison-like migrant camps; some of them are sponsored by the government, others are illegal. There, they are tortured, forced to work and are sometimes sold as (sex) slaves, too.
CNN in 2017 found out they sold people for as little as US$400.  What can Europe do to stop this?
The IOM and the UNHCR are
like, 'create rules so that people don't end up in these places and release those imprisoned now.' Human rights activists agree and dozens of them even blocked the Croatia-Bosnia border last week in demonstration. Harrison Mwilima for Deutsche Welle recommends that 'Europe and Africa must finally work together. Create more legal migration opportunities. Africa needs the money that's sent back from family members in Europe, and you need fewer Africans coming to Europe. It's a win-win.'

Btw, I also talked about this in the
latest episode of Die Wochendämmerung podcast (in German).
We finally recognized the 1995 Bosnian genocide in Montenegro
Last week, Montenegro’s parliament said ‘we are finally calling the massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995, a genocide. And we’re even going to look for ‘a date to remember’ (likely July 11, the date the violence started). They also voted to replace the Justice and Human and Minority Rights Minister Vladimir Leposavić, who said ‘I don’t believe the Srebrenica genocide really happened.’

Why this matters: More and more people worldwide are in denial about the genocide against Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995; even the mayor of Srebrenica denies that it happened. Also, Bosnian-Serb schools don’t even teach kids about it. As a result, the true horrors have become more myth than history. 

Refresher: What happened in Srebrenica?
More than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys (Bosnian Muslims) were killed by Bosnian Serbs in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was the worst mass killing in Europe after WWII. 
  • Genocide: The absolute worst crime, according to the United Nations. A genocide has the goal of ‘destroying a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.’ Think, the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Holocaust in WWII, or the genocide against the Yazidis in 2014 in Iraq.
Tell me more about Montenegro 
Remember, Montenegro is a country in the Balkans that has gone through a lot. It was once part of Yugoslavia, then it was part of
Serbia. They teamed up in the war against the Croats and Bosniak Muslims (which is when this genocide happened). Then they were like ‘we’re breaking up with you, Serbia’ and became independent in 2006. There are a lot of pro-Serbian nationalists that still live there, and they are fans of Leposavić for saying what he said.  

Zoom out: The genocide has long been an inspiration for far-right extremists worldwide. The far-right extremist who
attacked the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last year played a song glorifying Karadžić (then-president of Serbia, who has been convicted of genocide by the ICC) moments before the attack, and in 2011, a far-right extremist committed Norway’s worst massacre and we found out that he was also inspired by the Balkan wars and Serb ultra-nationalism.
  • Zambia: The country's first president died; he stayed in power for 27 years. His name was Kenneth Kaunda and was one of the last of the generation of African leaders who fought colonialism.
  • Myanmar: It was Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday last Saturday (she's a Gemini, huh) and her supporters took to the streets, wearing flowers in their hair (because she's known for it, look) and demanding that she be set free. Remember: She's been in prison since February 1 when the military took over control. Some 870 people have died since. Of course, the military is like, 'don't be dramatic. That number is a lie.'
  • Ethiopia: The African Union decided to look into what the f is going on in Ethiopia's Tigray region. 'Has there been any human rights abuses?!?'
  • Hong Kong: Hong Kong's independent media and press freedom is hanging by a thread. Five people working at the Apple Daily newspaper (critical of China) have been arrested
  • IranThe country has new a president: the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi. Did you know that he's been blacklisted by the United States?
  • Speaking of United States, they're now going to pay for trans veterans to get gender confirmation surgery for the first time ever.

On a good note

We have a new favourite TikTok comedian named Finlay Christie. In his latest videos, he makes an on-point impression of every American in a foreign country according to Hollywood (or every Indiana Jones movie ever). Complete with cliché soundtrack. Here’s part 1 and part 2. Watch both for double the laughs.
Please send us your recommendations for our Decolonize Weekly playlist. We add new songs every week. We'll stop deleting the old songs.  

Ok, that's it from Shimi and Sam. 
Copyright © 2021 what happened last week?, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can
update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp