what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 275

August 2 – 8, 2021

Hellow, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hi. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • The murder and rape of a nine-year-old Dalit girl in India
  • How always-close Armenia and Azerbaijan are to another escalation
  • Guatemala's anti-corruption fight is a love letter to democracy
  • The LGBTQ+ community in Ghana is under threat
  • The genocide against the Yazidi community in 2014 in Sinjar, Iraq
Are you listening to our Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly yet? For your morning routine, I added my Iranian sweetheart Mohsen Yeganeh's 'Behet Ghol Midam' (I mean, look at him perform that song live), India's most streamed artist Ritviz and Angel Maxine's love letter to Ghana's LGBTQ+ community. She's also the country's first openly trans musician.

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

what happened last week

Trigger warning: violence, sexual assault
We are angry about a rape and murder of a nine-year-old Dalit girl in India
The family of a nine-year-old Dalit girl in New Dehli, India says ‘our daughter was raped, murdered, and cremated when she went for a walk to get water by the crematorium and she never came back.’ Now, the Dalit community has come together to protest. They want the police to arrest the men who did this and give them the death penalty. 

Tell me more
Four men (including the priest) that worked at the crematorium
have been arrested. They are suspected for the murder and for destroying the evidence. 

Who are Dalits again?
They are a really, really oppressed minority group in India; the ‘lowest rank’ of India’s really old, complicated caste system, which is a hierarchy. They are also known as the ‘
untouchables’; the word literally means ‘oppressed’ or ‘broken.’ They are not allowed to join ‘religious or social life’ and they can only do really small, low-wage jobs for a living. There are 200 million Dalits in India (out of 1.3 billion). India’s centuries-old caste system goes way back to the Hindu religion, so, there’s lots of hate and racism towards them. A report in 2018 says there was a crime against a Dalit every 15 minutes (42,793 cases) that year alone.

Just how bad is it?
This story of a Dalit man
killed by upper-caste men simply because he was eating a meal in front of them should tell you. Dalits have been subject to violence, abuse, racist attacks for a long, long time. 

Did you know India’s caste system is actually illegal according to their Constitution? But it still exists in the minds of a lot of people in India. At the ‘top’ of that hierarchy are the ‘Brahmins’ or priest-caste. Dalits aren’t even written into the hierarchy. Also, India actually has a law which was passed in
1989 that’s supposed to protect Dalits. It’s supposed to make it easier for them to actually take these crimes against them to court.

Is there any hopeful news here?
The fact that the men have been arrested, and the Western media is covering this story is a very, very small but promising sign of progress. It means, this generation of Dalits are telling India and the world ‘we deserve to be treated like human beings – with dignity,’ and people are starting to listen.  

Decolonize your Twitter feed: Follow Dalit journalist and writer
Yashica Dutt. In this podcast episode of Ideas of India, she explains what it means to be Dalit and ‘passing’ as non-Dalit. Her book, ‘Coming Out as Dalit’, is a memoir of her experience as a Dalit woman and the history of the Dalit movement.
We are seeing more violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan months after a so-called ceasefire
Refresher: Armenia and Azerbaijan got into a really ugly war for more than two months last year. Some 6,500 people (of which were 188 civilians) died. Azerbaijan ‘got back’ territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenia had controlled since the 1990s. Mostly Armenians live there, and they call it the Republic of Artsakh. Russia then brokered a ceasefire and that (sort of) ended the war in November.

Now, ten months later, this very ceasefire is under threat. It’s (been) super tense at and around the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Last week, at least four people (not civilians) died in shootouts in different places close to the border in Azerbaijan. And then, Armenia was like, ‘I think it’s best if Russia takes care of more parts of the border. Until we… find a solution without killing each other’ and deployed Russian ‘border guards’. So far, there are more than 2,000 (Russian) peacekeepers in the area.

Is that it?
No. Azerbaijan last week also convicted
dozens of Armenian soldiers to six years in prison, which they aren’t technically allowed to. ‘Hello?! The Geneva Conventions on war crimes?! You should have sent them back to Armenia instead!!’ said Giorgi Gogia from Human Rights Watch.

What’s next?
‘You should talk,’
said the Minsk Group, a ‘group chat’ that both countries opened to, well, sort things out after the last time things escalated in Nagorno-Karabakh. ‘Only if you two talk it out for real for real, will there ever be peace.’ And by that, Ned Price (he works at the Group) means a ‘comprehensive resolution.’ 

What does the international community say?
United States was like, ‘both of you violated human rights. You broke international humanitarian law, too.’ Iran agreed (yes, these two countries sometimes say the same thing). In the meantime, Turkey is helping Azerbaijan militarily and Russia is sending (some) help to Armenia, too. 

Decolonize your Instagram feed: During the war last year, a digital arts platform was created.
Check it out. Last month, they organized their very first offline event, too.
We are defending democracy in Guatemala
It’s really messy in Guatemala right now. Someone who was fighting corruption was fired by the government. The reasons for it were super vague. And now, people are calling for the president and the attorney general to resign

Tell me more
It all started on July 23, when the Attorney General María Consuelo Porras
fired prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval; he leads the anti-corruption unit FECI. He’s an anti-corruption champion or a ‘wolf’, as Alonzo Harris in 'Training Day' would call him (I only recently watched this film and I’m a megafan now). But Porras claimed, ‘Ehm… he was disrespectful.’

‘Lol? You just don’t want me to do my job right. You’re protecting people close to the president,’ Sandoval
replied and fled to El Salvador. Porras and President Alejandro Giammattei both deny this. You see, a mess.

How much corruption is there in Guatemalan politics?
Oh, so much. Fighting corruption is an Olympic sport in this part of Central America because, well, it goes all the way up. For example,
former President Otto Pérez Molina is at trial for corruption right now. The president that came after him, Jimmy Morales, is also under suspicion

What do people think?
Oh, they’re fed up,
especially the country’s Indigenous people. Thousands of people quickly organized themselves, blocking highways to Guatemala City to protest. Some lawmakers even filed formal complaints against Porras, ‘you are an enemy to justice.’  What about the international community?
United States was the loudest country and condemned the whole thing. ‘You need to commit to the rule of law.’ France, Germany and Switzerland also agreed.
  • Reminder: The United States plays a huge role in Guatemalan politics. Back in 1954, the government supported a violent military coup in the Central American country. A dictatorship and a civil war for 36 years followed. Some 200,000 died, another 45,000 disappeared. Most of the victims were Indigenous people (Maya civilians). The United Nations later called what the military did back then a ‘genocide.’ 
Why this matters: Some 18 million people live in Guatemala. The country’s justice system is at a breaking point, and this recent protest against corruption is one for democracy in a country that has seen more authoritarian governments rule (and violate a lot of human rights). Plus, poverty is disproportionately high here – even though the country has the largest economy in Central America.

Decolonize your literature: More than half of the population in Guatemala is Indigenous. 
Mundo Chapin recommends six Indigenous authors you should read.

In other non-political news from Guatemala, Luis Carlos Martínez (
follow his Instagram) became the first male swimmer from Guatemala to reach an Olympic final, ranking in the top 10 in the 100-meter butterfly final of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Congratulations!
We are very worried about the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana right now
  • Refresher: Police in Ghana arrested 21 LGBTQ+ activists in Ho in May.
Last week, a court released them, ‘there is not enough evidence that they did anything wrong.’ While that is a small win, at the same time, the country’s parliament is also talking about an extremely anti-LGBTQ+ bill (meaning it’s not a law yet). Activists in Ghana suspect that the United States might have something to do with this. 

Tell me more
The bill will put anyone into jail for up to five years who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, pansexual and non-binary. It will also punish those wanting to help the LGBTQ+ community; think medical professionals providing healthcare to trans (gender-affirming surgery) or gay people (HIV care). 
What does the United States have to do with Ghana?
Anti-LGBTQ+ groups in the United States (like the World Congress of Families) are
besties with Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ groups (like the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values). Sometimes they even organize entire conferences together; like this one in 2019. The anti-LGBTQ+ bill parliament is talking about right now is also named after the latter.

What do people say?
‘We can’t believe how much hate they were able to fit into this bill,’ said
Rightify Ghana, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ rights. ‘This is a gross violation of human rights,’ said the United Nations.

Why this matters: The LGBTQ+ community has a hard time in this English-speaking, socially very conservative West African country. Think discrimination and a lot of abuse. Plus, sex between men is forbidden in Ghana; if they catch you, you can go to jail for up to three years.

Decolonize your music taste: Ghana’s first openly transgender musician Angel Maxine recently wrote the song ‘
Wo Fie’ (‘Your Home’ in the Twi language). It’s a kind of love song to the West African nation’s LGBT+ community. I’ve also put it into this week’s Decolonize Weekly Spotify playlist.
Trigger warning: violence
We must do better to protect the Yazidi community in Iraq and elsewhere
On August 3, 2014, the Islamist terrorist group ISIS massacred some 5,000 Yazidi men and boys and enslaved thousands of women and children in Sinjar, Iraq. The international community agrees, ‘it was genocide, yes.’ In total, some 10,000 Yazidis were either killed or kidnapped in 2014. To this day, some 3,000 people are still missing.

Have the murderers been caught yet?
Most of them but… they also have to stand trial. However,
there is no court that is able and willing to address these very crimes. A couple of them stood trial (and were convicted) in Germany; but nowhere else (yet). In Iraq, tens of thousands of former ISIS members have been charged in Iraq under ‘counterterrorism’ laws — but not for genocide. And in neighbouring Syria, some 12,000 others are in prison and nobody knows what to do with them.

What do Yazidis in Iraq need today?
A couple of things. Currently, some 200,000 Yazidis are
still living in refugee camps (and will continue to do so for a while). They’re waiting for their homes and villages in and around Sinjar to be rebuilt. There has been some progress (see the 'Yazidi Survivors’ Law') but it’s… just… not… enough. The suicide rate is high and the trauma, too. Plus, there’s also Turkey fighting against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) there – an armed Kurdish group that, in 2014, helped Yazidis escape ISIS.
  • Dig deeper: Prioritize the Yazidi perspective and read stories from survivors. Best place to start: Nadia Murad’s memoir ‘The Last Girl’.
Did you know that Germany's Yazidi community is the largest Yazidi diaspora worldwide? ‘What happened to Yazidis in Iraq had a huge effect on Yazidis in Germany,’ said this study, the first of its kind, in 2017. More than 100,000 Yazidis have fled Iraq since 2014.

Why this matters: The Yazidis are one of the most vulnerable religious minorities in the world. There’s fewer and fewer of them in Iraq today. Before, there were between 500,000 to 700,000 Yazidis before 2014. Now, just over 300,000.

Iran: It’s official: Ebrahim Raesi is the new president of Iran.

Moldova: The country’s parliament chose a new prime minister. Her name: Natalia Gavrilița.

China: In just three days, Zhengzhou (a city in central China) saw a year’s worth of rain. At least 302 people have died so far. In another part of the country, another #MeToo case popped up.

Sudan: The country is one step closer to joining the International Criminal Court. 

Afghanistan: The Taliban keep capturing new cities and it’s scaring the sh*t out of everyone. Rightly so.

Myanmar: New protests against the military government broke out yesterday.

Lebanon: On August 4, 2020, thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded at the port of Beirut. 214 people died. Many of the country’s political and security leadership knew that there were this much ammonium nitrate and that it was super dangerous but did nothing. ‘We want justice,’ victims of families keep saying.

Czech Republic: Hundreds of mostly Roma women were threatened, tricked or bribed into being sterilised until 2012. Now, President Miloš Zeman is like, ‘that was wrong. You’ll get 300,000 Czech crowns (around US$14,000) from the government as compensation.’

Bangladesh: At least 22,000 people died from COVID-19 last Friday. It’s super bad right now.

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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