what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 267

June 7 – 13, 2021

Aloha, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says namaste. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • Protests against police brutality in Brazil and Tunisia
  • Democracy troubles in Nigeria
  • Racism in Canada and Germany
  • The lost forests of Ghana and Ivory Coast
  • China's 'confused' elephants (that for some are clear signs of climate change), and much more.
Simi also says thanks for all the feedback on her audio-version of the newsletter (she low-key hates the sound of her own voice). However, you'll get another one next week. This week, we're running into some timing issues. Meaning, I had a few deadlines for the jobs that pay my rent. Unfortunately, whlw doesn't pay my rent yet.

Speaking of, did you know that more than 14,000 people read this newsletter? 227 (+3 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. While you do, listen to this week's Decolonize Weekly Spotify playlist or watch the songs's amazing music videos on my YouTube playlist.

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

what happened last week

We need to talk about police brutality in Brazil and Tunisia
In Brazil... Last week, a 24-year-old Black, pregnant woman named Kathlen Romeu was killed 'by accident' while police were looking for a drug-gang suspect in Rio de Janeiro. 

Tell me more
Romeu was an interior designer and pretty popular on
Instagram. She told her 20,000 followers about baby names just hours before she was hit by a bullet. She was visiting her grandma in a neighbourhood in Rio, a favela called Lins de Vasconcelos. This police-killing-people-in-favelas is quite common. Romeu was even the sixth pregnant woman who has been hit by a ‘stray’ bullet since 2017.

What do you mean it’s common?!
Police go into favelas aka working-class neighbourhoods looking for criminals. And a lot of times, as a result, innocent people die. Between January and March alone,
404 people were killed

Why this matters: Some 12 million people live in favelas. It’s home to generations of mostly Afro-Brazilians. But a lot of police and drug violence takes place; and the UN calls what the police are doing there ‘human rights abuse.’ 
In Tunisia… A 32-year-old man named Ahmed Ben Ammar was killed in police custody (apparently because he took marijuana) and a 15-year-old boy was beaten up by police in a viral video in two working-class neighbourhoods of Sidi Hassine and Sejoumi in the country’s capital, Tunis.

Tell me more
Now, hundreds of people have taken to the streets in these neighbourhoods to
protest police brutality and to ask for reform. Photojournalist Yassine Gaidi is in Tunis right now to capture the mood; it’s crazy, look. The police officers caught on video have been arrested and the country’s president, Kais Saied, visited Sidi Hassine in the meantime, saying that these are ‘isolated incidents’ aka ‘the entire police does not have a violence problem.’

Why this matters: Like the rest of the world, however, police violence is a real problem in Tunisia. These ‘isolated incidents’ keep happening. Remember all the democratic rights Tunisia fought for in 2011? Now, this is making people wonder, ‘hey, what was the point of that if you’re still going to abuse your power?’ Plus, this affects over 11.7 million people who live in Tunisia.

Refresher: Throwback to 2011 when the
death of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi started the Tunisian Revolution, turned the country into a democracy, forced out the former president Ben Ali after 23 years in power and set off the so-called Arab Spring.
We protested against the government in Nigeria again – and demanded that the president steps down, too

A lot of people across Nigeria took to the streets on June 12, also known as Democracy Day, to protest against the government. ‘You’re making bad decisions and President Muhammed Buhari must step down,’ they said. ‘Also, why the f did the president ban Twitter in Nigeria?’

  • Good to know: Democracy Day is a big day in Nigeria. On that day, in 1993, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (he looks like this) was elected president. However, that didn’t end well. The military government was like, ‘nah, we’re in charge now’ for six years until the country returned to civilian rule in 1999. Somewhat ironically, Buhari chose June 12 as Democracy Day after becoming president to honour Abiola and other heroes of the struggle.

Why this matters: First, more than 200 million people live in Nigeria. Plus, this protest was the biggest since October last year. That’s when another protest (the so-called #EndSARS movement led by, among others, 22-year-old woman Rinu Oduala) became the largest anti-government protest in Nigeria’s modern history.

Tell me more
The protest started out peaceful but turned ugly after police started firing tear gas in Lagos, the capital Abuja and other cities across the country. There were protests in Ibadan, Osogbo, Abeokuta and Akure, all in southwestern Nigeria, too. And some outside, too; like
New York City, United States or Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Even Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey joined digitally, tweeting the Nigerian flag.

Speaking of, the Nigerian president has just recently decided to ban Twitter indefinitely after the social media company deleted one of his own tweets. ‘I want to keep disinformation from spreading,’ or so Buhari said. Of course, former U.S. president Donald Trump thought that that was a ‘good move.’ Now, some 40 million people will not be able to access the site any longer, ‘this is a direct attack on our free speech.’

  • Dive deeper: Abuja-based journalist Basil Abia wrote a chilly blog article about ‘How We Should Resist Buhari’. He writes: “If we do not resist, we will adjust and then normalize; if we continue to adjust and normalize, we will lose our democracy and devolve into the largest fascist regime contemporary Africa has ever seen.”

Btw, do you know how to speak Nigerian Pidgin? Here are some common phrases you need to know. On your next Tinder date, just say ‘how far’ instead of ‘how are you?’. Or you can send him*her this BBC article about the anti-government protests in Nigeria in Pidgin.
We are finally talking about anti-Muslim violence in Canada
In Canada... Last week, a Muslim family went for a walk in a quiet neighbourhood in London, Ontario, and four people were killed by a white man. He ran them over with his truck, simply because ‘they were Muslim,’ police said. Only the 9-year-old son survived. After the attack, some 20,000 people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came together at a local mosque there.

Tell me more about the family
The four people that died were Madiha Salman, a 44-year-old working on a PhD in environmental engineering, her husband Salman Afzaal, a 46-year-old physical therapist who worked with seniors, their daughter, 15-year-old Yumna Afzaal, honour student and
artist as well as Talat Afzaal, Salman’s 74-year-old mother. They immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago.

Why this matters: The attack has since started a really important conversation in mainstream media: ‘Islamophobia is alive in this country and we must do more to stop it.’ As a matter of fact, anti-Muslim hate and white supremacy exist in Canada and put the lives of a lot of people in extreme danger. 

How dangerous? Gimme numbers.
What do people in Canada think about what happened? 
Basically, people are saying ‘we need to stop this hate. But first, we need to find out where all this anti-Muslim hate comes from.’ One of the reasons could be a law in Québec called
Bill 21, banning ‘religious symbols’ in some workplaces. Even though the law doesn’t say what religion specifically, and Quebec’s leader says ‘hey, we’re not racist’, a big part of the Muslim community keeps repeating, ‘this is anti-Muslim hate and it is marginializing Muslim women who wear the hijab even more now.’ But there are other reasons, too. 

Want to help?
You can donate
to this fund with the goal to collect CAD$1 million to financially support Fayez, the 9-year-old kid who survived, or to the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
In Germany… the country is also (and has been for a long time) dealing with far-right extremism, especially within the police. Last week, the police in Frankfurt have decided that their ‘special task force’, also known as SEK, must no longer exist and have to get ‘reformed’ (whatever that means) because it found out that 17 police officers there had been active in far-right chat groups from 2016 and 2017 and three supervising officers knew about it but didn’t do anything to stop it. Now, all 20 of them are being investigated.

How did the police find out about this?
The police were looking into the phone of an officer who they believed was into child p0rn. And that’s when they found the chat groups.

Far-right extremism is still a thing in Germany?
Yep. Far-right extremism in German police and military is pretty common. It’s especially bad in the German state of Hesse (where Frankfurt is located). The police chief there even had to step down after police computers were used (not sure by whom) to search for prominent people’s addresses and to send them life-threatening letters and emails. And then there’s the
case of Franco A. and so much more. Plus, far-right extremism is also part of the country's politics, with the first far-right political party since World War II being in German parliament since 2017. *insert extremely nervous laugh from a person of color living in Germany right now*

Why this matters: A racist far-right extremist killed ten people in Hanau (a smaller city close to Frankfurt) on February 19, 2020 (I helped make a podcast about this day). And that’s not all: More than 200 people have been killed by far-right extremists since 1990. This is why a lot of people (of color) in Germany feel unsafe, ‘how can the police protect us against far-right extremism if we keep finding out about far-right extremism cases in the police and military itself?’
We planted five million trees in Ghana in one day – we now call that day 'Green Ghana Day'
Last week, Ghana planted five million trees in one day to help regrow the country's lost forests and to fight climate change. From now on, June 11 will be known as Green Ghana Day.

Tell me more

The government gave out seven million seedlings for free to parks, schools, businesses as well as planting kits at shopping malls in cities across the country. Even President Nana Akufo-Addo planted a memorial tree, a palo santo, in the garden of Jubilee House, Ghana's 'White House' in the capital, Accra. 'We have to keep this every year,' he said.
  • Good to know: Neighbouring Ivory Coast last year is doing something similar. They are losing trees because of cocoa. Ivory Coast is the world's biggest cocoa producer. Yes, that means a lot of money but also a lot less trees and animals. 
How bad is the forest situation? 
Pretty bad. Farmers keep moving further into forests, but there's also illegal mining and logging. The level of deforestation in Ghana is pretty high; it is one of the tropical countries with the highest percentage of rainforest loss in the world. Scientists say, 'if we don't do anything, Ghana's forests could completely disappear in 25 years.' 

Why this matters: We keep looking at the Amazon rainforest, especially at what Brazil is (not) doing to save it from dying. However, no other continent loses this many trees except Africa. There are other forests, like Ghana's Atewa Range Forest Reserve (one of the most important natural resources in Africa), that also need our attention.
We are worried that China's elephants are having a really hard time right now
A group of 15 wild elephants has wandered close to the city of Kunming, China and scientists do not know why.

Tell me more
The elephant group left a nature reserve in the region of Xishuangbanna, near China's border with
Myanmar and Laos, more than a year ago and have trekked more than 480 kilometers since. Hundreds of people and drones are now busy making sure that the elephants do not go further into Kunming, a city of around seven million people. They're using fruits and vegetables as bait.

What is the scientists' best guess?
'Well, they're moving away from danger. Elephants, like us human beings, move to places where they can easily get food and water. And they move for 'better Tinder matches and less competition' aka social reasons, too.' They believe that the nature reserve they came from was simply '
too crowded.' But there's also the suspicion that human beings are the bad guys and girls again, as always. *cough*

Why this matters: Elephants around the world are an ‘endangered species’ and going this far from their habitat is something we need to take a much closer look at.
  • Last week, David Dushman died. He was the last surviving liberator of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, Poland, where around 1.1 million people died in World War III. 
  • The United Nations and the International Labour Organization published a new report: Around 160 million children worldwide were forced to do child labour in 2020 (even dangerous work like mining, farm, agriculture) and the pandemic (think more poverty) might make things worse. If you haven't guessed it by now, much fewer children have to work in Europe and North America compared to children elsewhere.
  • We talked about this before and we'll do it again: The Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan is in danger and the government isn't doing much to protect them. Again, last week, ISIS (or so they claimed) killed ten people in Baghlan. Witnesses say, the attackers specifically wanted to kill Hazara Shiites. The situation in the country is itself pretty tense as peace talks between the Taliban and the government in the country are still not looking good and foreign military is getting the f out (the German are even taking their beer home with them).
  • In other but related news, four young Hazara asylum seekers were sentenced to ten years in jail each in Greece because they were accused of starting the fire that destroyed Moria camp, Europe's largest migrant camp last year. The defence said the trial was unfair as just one Afghan asylum seeker said 'they did it'. 'They could have been framed by him because the were Hazaras,' said the defence.

On a good note

Last week, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un decided to call K-Pop ‘a vicious cancer.’

He hates the music genre so much that there are actual laws in the country that will send you to prison to do hard labour for more than five years if you consume any South Korean pop culture.

We’re a little surprised. Does Kim Jong-un not know about the
power of the BTS army?

Btw, Simi had tickets to a BTS concert in Toronto before it all got cancelled because of COVID. Don’t bring it up, she’s still devastated.
That’s it from Sham and Simi. This was written to sound of BTS’ Black Swan playing on repeat in the background (in protest obvs). 
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