what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 270

June 28 – July 4, 2021

As Salamu Aleikum, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says shalom. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • Trans rights in Latin America and how much progress we made
  • White supremacy in Canada and what we do (not do) about it
  • The dangerous migration route to Europe that is still killing people
  • The action-thriller style turn of events between Ethiopia's government and Tigray
  • What climate change is doing to 400,000 people in Madagascar 
This email will probably take you 15 minutes to read. You'll read about 34 countries. I have summarized 60+ articles for you. 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 made so much progress in trans rights in Latin America
Trans people, especially women of color, within the LGBTQIA+ community face a lot of discrimination and violence all over the world. But a lot happened last month in order to expand their rights, their safe spaces and their social participation.

I invited journalist Gabriela Mesones Rojo to tell us about how Pride Month went in
Latin America. She’s a Venezuelan journalist based in Madrid, Spain specialized in sexual violence, gender isssues and migration. You can follow her on Twitter.

In Argentina… The government finally introduced a new law, ‘we now promise to give one percent of all our jobs to trans people!’ Plus, they also want to ‘inspire’ private businesses to hire more trans people by offering them tax breaks and better loans. 

Why this matters: Argentina is Latin America’s third-biggest economy. However, many trans people here are poor and discriminated against. This is because only 9% of trans people have a formal job while 70% are sex workers (there are other reasons, too). 

Tell me more

55 lawmakers made this law happen, one voted against it and six were like, ‘no comment.’ To celebrate it, the office of the president was lit up in the colours of the trans flag. *everyone, please take notes*

Oh, and the law is named after two trans activists, ‘Ley de Cupo e inclusión Laboral Travesti Trans Diana Sacayán-Lohana Berkins.' Sacayán and Berkins were both murdered in 2015 and their deaths, for the first time ever, were called a ‘
hate crime’ (meaning they were killed for being ‘trans’). Did you know that Argentina has some of the world’s most trans-friendly laws? It was first in the world to offer better public health care for trans people. In 2012, they introduced the now-famous Gender Identity Law. And because of this, the country’s universal health care now includes hormonal treatment and surgical operations for gender reassignment for free.

What does the trans community say?
super excited about it. ‘This law will change our lives. Having a formal job, or a salary receipt and a credit card are natural things for a heterosexual person, but not for us. More of us will now be able to study and rent a place to live.’

Decolonize your LGBTQ+ activism
Watch Sebastián Lelio’s ‘
A Fantastic Woman’ (2017), a movie starred by transgender actress Daniela Vega, about what it means to be a trans woman in Chile. If you care about Western awards, it’s even won an Oscar. 

Elsewhere on the continent
  • Mexico: For the very first time, two trans women in September will be sworn into the country’s Congress. Their names? Maria Garcia and Salma Luevano. (Venezuela did it first in 2015.)
  • Honduras: A human rights court said that the government was responsible for the death of trans woman Vicky Hernández in 2009. She was a 26-year-old woman from San Pedro Sula. This ruling could mean a lot for trans rights in the country.
  • Colombia: This video of three trans female voguing artists went viral last week. They are called Piisciiss, Neni Nova and Axid and became the faces of the non-violent anti-government protests in Colombia.
We are now calling three neo-Nazi groups in Canada ‘terrorists’ because, yes, white supremacy is real and dangerous
Last week, Canada banned a couple of neo-Nazi groups. Meaning, they were put on Canada’s ‘terrorist’ list for being a threat to the country’s security. 

There are neo-Nazi groups in Canada?!
Oh, yes. In total, Canada has now banned The Three Percenters, the Aryan Strikeforce, Atomwaffen Division, The Base, Russian Imperial Movement and
Proud Boys. Most of them are based in the United States and the United Kingdom and are pretty dangerous. The country has also banned an ISIS ‘cousin’ from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What does it mean if they’re banned?
  • You cannot join these groups legally anymore. (You could do that before though, lolz.)
  • You can take away all their money. *poof*
  • You can now remove stuff they post online more easily.
Why this matters: White supremacy is not just a Canadian problem. These groups all belong to a global network. White supremacy breeds hatred, and a recent attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario proves that it kills.

Zoom out: Remember the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6? So many white supremacist groups with links to Canada took part. More than 500 people have been charged for what they did that day. Weirdly, the United States is
behind when it comes to recognizing that white supremacy is dangerous and… deadly.
We really, really need to talk about the many deaths in the Mediterranean 
Last week, at least 43 people died on their way from Zuwara, Libya to Italy in a shipwreck off Tunisia. Most of them were from Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Bangladesh. 84 survived. 

Note: I’m saying ‘people’, and not ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’ because that distinction isn’t important here.

Why this matters: People-dying-in-the-Mediterranean news have become somewhat of a ‘thing’. Nevertheless, some 20,000 people have made this dangerous journey since the beginning of the year (last year, in the same time period, it was just over 6,700). In total, since 2014, more than 20,000 people have died at sea (at least 866 this year) while trying to reach Europe from Africa.

Why is this journey so dangerous?
Europe is
trying to make it difficult for people to arrive on European land. As a result, people take really sketchy routes, with the help of smugglers or traffickers.

Why are they fleeing their countries in the first place?
Think war, extreme poverty or violence because of their ethnicity, their religion or sexual identity. Maybe they just want to get a job or go to school and they don’t have that opportunity back home.
There are a lot of reasons. Elsewhere in Europe, Belarus (not a European country, sanctioned by Europe though) is trying to put pressure on the European Union. So, it opened its borders to Lithuania for some 150 people, mostly from Syria. ‘You are doing this on purpose, Belarus. We cannot deal with this many people,’ said the government of Lithuania. Even though some 2.8 million people live here, the country has now declared a ‘state of emergency’ and the EU is sending Frontex.
We are worried about some 800,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray and Madagascar who really, really need food ASAP
Pick me up: Ethiopia is still going through a lot right now. The country’s government has been at war with Tigray (one of ten regions in the north of the country) since November. The political group Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) runs the region and fights to protect their own ethnic group, the Tigrayans. Thousands of people have died and some 1.7 million people have had to flee their homes. Even neighbouring country Eritrea joined the fight at some point and did some really, really bad sh*t.

Last week, things took a turn, action-thriller-style: Tigray forces took back the region’s own capital city, Mekelle. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a ‘
ceasefire’ and Tigray’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael was like, ‘The most important thing is that my people are free — free from the invaders.’

Tell me more
Social media went cray-cray; pictures like
this went viral on social media, showing thousands of men who looked like they were government-soldiers being paraded on the streets and taken to prison. The government has been strangely quiet since.

Why this matters: The war is making the lives of five million people in Tigray so much worse. More than 400,000 people there desperately need food ASAP but humanitarian organisations have a hard time reaching the province because of all the fighting. In total, some 115 million live in Ethiopia. 

I need a quick history lesson, please
Sure. The country’s politics is quite complex as the ten regions are divided on ‘ethnic lines’, meaning different ethnic groups like the Oromos, Amharas, Somalis or Tigrayans live in different regions. All have their own police, military and even a regional government. And in 2018, that’s when the situation got even more tense and Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister. He was like, ‘let’s do things differently around here’ and made up with Eritrea
(they were once at war; got a Nobel Peace Prize for that). He also suggested that the country forms one big happy-family political party. The TPLF in the north slowly lost its grip, ‘enough is enough.’ Enter government forces, Eritrea and… now, we’re here. 

What now?
TPLF said it will continue fighting to protect Tigray, especially because the Amhara are like, ‘uhm, we also claim this land.’ Also, the world is looking to the United Nations (UN). Not much has happened besides ‘please stop fighting so humanitarian aid can get to these people’-style diplomacy.

Elsewhere on the continent, some 400,000 other people in
Madagascar need food ASAP. This time, it’s not because of war, ‘it’s because of climate change. It’s been too dry for too long,’ said the UN. There are reports that say people have been eating wild leaves, raw red cactus fruits and locusts for months now.
  • Why this matters: ‘This is not because of war or conflict, this is because of climate change. This is an area of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now, they’re the ones paying the highest price,’ says the UN’s World Food Program head David Beasley.
We are holding politicians accountable in South Africa, Brazil, and Tonga for sh*t they (probably) did
Last week, we were putting a couple of politicians on trial for things they did, which they shouldn’t have.

South Africa, former President Jacob Zuma was sentenced to jail for 15 months because he didn’t show up for court. Now, he’s like, ‘wait, hear me out first.’ The country’s court has been looking into whether he played a big part in an arms deal in 1999 and in 2009 got US$34,000 hush money per year for a few years by an arms company from France, Thales. He was deputy president then. ‘This is just politics. I haven’t done anything wrong,’ the 80-year-old said. He has thousands of really angry supporters.  In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro might go to trial for one and/or two things. The country’s looking into whether he didn’t do enough to stop a maybe-corrupt deal with a vaccine company from India (‘all was OK,’ said the company) and whether he could have done a better job protecting the population during the pandemic. The decision’s still out, and the president’s like, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’ The country’s opposition really wants him gone.

Tonga, former Minister for Infrastructure and Tourism ʻAkosita Lavulavu and her husband will go to prison for six years. The country’s Supreme Court found them both guilty because they got money for running an educational institution for children but kept the $ for themselves.
  • Canada: Last Thursday was ‘Canada Day’. Usually, people celebrate the ‘birth’ of the country. But this year, the celebration was quieter than normal. There’s a lot of anger and sadness around the recent discoveries of remains of Indigenous kids in unmarked graves.
  • Rwanda: Cannabis was legalized but only if it’s for ‘medicinal’ use. It’s still illegal if you do it for fun. In the meantime, Mexico just decriminalized using and even growing your own cannabis and people that support it say this will ‘hopefully help stop some of the violence in the illegal drug trade.’ 
  • Uganda: People now pay taxes for using the internet (they protested against this in 2019). It’s also known as the ‘social media tax.’ Why? President Yoweri Museveni thinks mobile data is something you should pay for, ‘social media is a luxury.’
  • China: The country is finally malaria-free. It’s the 40th country worldwide to achieve that title.

On a good note

A Polish mother and her baby went to the supermarket in Taichung, Taiwan. She wanted to buy a toy for her kid and laid eyes on a 32-cm tall electric furry cactus that can dance and sing. 

Seconds after asking the cactus out for a dance, she hears and understands
this Polish rap song about cocaine; here’s the English translation of the lyrics.

Here's the demo video for the product: 
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 Sham and Simi. 
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