ISIS, Imperialism, and Rojava

The Ottoman Empire (1299–1923) united much of the Arab World for centuries. In the 19th century, however, it began to decline, and the imperial powers of Europe tried to ensure their own political influence in the region. The UK, for example, occupied Egypt in 1882 to ‘protect its interests’ in the Suez Canal.

When the empire finally collapsed, following the end of the First World War, the UK and France had already agreed to divide the old Ottoman territories between themselves. Russia was going to participate in this carving up of the Middle East but, after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the country renounced its imperialist claims in the region. This arbitrary imperialist division of territory was the root cause of many of the conflicts we see today in the Middle East. In particular, the Kurdish community was left without a country, with its land being shared out between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran – under whose governments the Kurds would be marginalised, excluded, and repressed for decades.

The UK, in its search for allies during the First World War, had promised both a united nation for the Arabs and a nation for Jewish Zionists – promises that were clearly contradictory. It tried to install monarchies throughout the region to protect its interests, and allowed thousands of Zionists into Palestine to help ‘westernise’ the Middle East and divide the Arab population. These actions logically saw significant opposition from the local populations.

One of the monarchies supported almost from the beginning by the UK was that of the Al-Saud dynasty in the Arabian Peninsula. In the 18th century, the founder of ‘Wahhabism’ (a violently puritan and discriminatory current of Sunni Islam) had formed an alliance with the Al-Saud tribe, which saw the strict ideology as a means of assuring its own political domination in Arabia. Their brutally extremist coalition was soon suppressed by the Ottomans, but would re-emerge after the fall of their empire. This time, however, it would be more successful, thanks to its commitment to more ‘stately’ means of spreading its marginalised school of thought. As a result of this change, the Saudi monarchy managed to attract the support of the UK early on.

Although Wahhabism dominated Saudi Arabia, it would only spread further afield after the discovery of oil in 1938. After the Second World War, the USA stepped in as the colonial master of the region, and helped to transform the Saudi kingdom into an important regional power, exchanging weapons and money for unrestricted access to Saudi oil, and Wahhabism quickly spread in Muslim nations as a result of Saudi Arabia’s new-found oil wealth. Today, the country invests hundreds of millions of dollars into schools, mosques, newspapers, and Wahhabist groups throughout the world.

With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there were a number of movements in the Arab World offering resistance to the domination of European imperialists. In Egypt, an inclusive but authoritarian form of Arab nationalism grew in strength under the wing of the charismatic Gamal Abdel Nasser after a 1952 military uprising against the monarchy. In Iraq, meanwhile, nationalism was also powerful but, when one nationalist (Qasim) got too close to the Soviet Union, the CIA funded a coup in 1963 (involving Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party) to overthrow him. The Ba’ath Party, however, would not prove to be as reliable a puppet as the West had initially thought. In the same year, the Syrian Ba’ath Party was also involved in a coup, and would soon forge a close alliance with the USSR. In both Ba’athist countries, a military elite would dominate politics, repressing opposition groups and persecuting non-Arab ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, Turkey sought to recover some of the power it had lost after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, installing a secular nationalist regime which sought to assimilate minority groups into Turkish society. Those who resisted its chauvinist policies would soon suffer the consequences, but that did not stop the large Kurdish population from frequently resisting the regime’s policies. In 1973, the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK) was informally created, and it advocated Marxist-Leninist and anti-fascist policies. Along with other left-wing groups, it was repressed, and war forced it to begin a guerrilla war against the State in 1984. Between that year and 2010, around 45,000 people died, and up to 150,000 Kurds were ‘disappeared’ by the Turkish regime.

In 2005, the PKK adopted the idea of “democratic confederalism” (an ecological, libertarian socialist ideology that accepts being part of a confederation if individual communities are allowed to govern themselves). The KCK (Group of Communities in Kurdistan) was founded by PKK members in the same year, with the aim of encouraging learning, unity, and organisation in Kurdish communities in Turkey, along with equality and freedom for all ethnic and religious groups in the region.

As this change occurred in the PKK, Iraq’s Kurdish community seized the opportunity (after the Western invasion against Saddam Hussein) to gain more autonomy from the Iraqi central government. But at the same time, Wahhabist extremism was on the rise, as Hussein’s supporters fought against the occupying forces and the new Shiite government excluded non-Shiite ethnic and religious groups from the political process.

With the Tunisian Revolution inspiring 2011’s ‘Arab Spring’, Western imperialists, hoping to look away as security forces repressed protesters, suffered the loss of friendly regimes in both Tunisia and Egypt. When protests grew in Libya and Syria, however, the West suddenly ‘stood with the people’, cynically taking advantage of the opportunity to overthrow unfriendly regimes that were neither reliable nor completely subservient to imperialist interests (NB: this does not mean to say Gaddafi and Assad did not lead repressive, parasitic regimes).

As a consequence of the NATO bombardment of Libya, extremist Wahhabist groups grew in strength. The organisation’s priority was always to get rid of Gaddafi, regardless of the instability and insecurity that would cause. Having succeeded in that aim, the West sought to do the same with Assad in Syria, though the case for intervention there was considered a lot weaker. Ethnic and religious tensions were indeed spilling over in Syria, and Assad’s security forces were guilty of a number of crimes against the Syrian people. The West, however, could not get the support needed for a full-blown military intervention, though it soon found other ways to interfere.

With the economic and military support of the USA, Saudi Arabia and Qatar began to train and arm their Wahhabist allies from Syria and elsewhere in the world to fight against Assad’s regime. At the same time, Turkey’s repressive Islamist government left its borders open to opposition groups, allowing a free flow of money and arms to anti-Assad rebels (as long as they weren’t Kurdish, of course). As a result of all this foreign interference, what had begun as popular protests in Syria soon turned into a violent civil war. And the influence of Wahhabist nations (which have long been close allies of Western imperialists) was always bound to encourage the domination of Wahhabist extremists in the fight against Assad. ISIS was one of these Wahhabist groups, even if it turned out to be more extreme than the West’s allies had expected it to be. It is a direct consequence of Western interference in Syria (and in Iraq in 2003).

ISIS can be stopped, but not by further Western intervention. Only unity between non-Wahhabists (which are the majority) will be able to stop it. One example of unity in Syria at the moment comes from the Syrian branch of the PKK, or the Party of Democratic Union (PYD). The PYD has taken advantage of the growing chaos in Syria to establish its own autonomous communities in Rojava (the Kurdish areas of northern Syria). In 2012, its armed militias – or Units of Popular Protection (YPG) – expelled government forces from the region and, in 2013, they had to expel Wahhabist extremists in Ras al-Ayn. This year, they have fought fierce battles against ISIS, sometimes collaborating with the Free Syrian Army or Iraqi Kurds to do so. Made up of both Rojavan women and men, the YPG consider themselves to be popular and democratic militias, holding internal elections to determine who should occupy key posts. Although the majority of their members are Kurds, there are also Arabs and Christian Syriacs who participate in the militias, seeing them as the best guarantee of regional security.

In August 2014, ISIS entered into Sinjar in Iraq, defeating the Iraqi Kurdish forces there and causing a mass exodus of residents (mostly from the Yazidi community). The YPG, however, along with the Popular Defence Forces of the PKK (the HPG), came to the rescue, helping thousands of Yazidis to escape to Rojava and Turkey.

At the moment, the YPG have not received any financial or military support from the outside world (partly due to the West’s alliance with NATO-member Turkey, but also due to the libertarian socialist principles practised by Rojava’s PYD). As a result, they have suffered significant losses at the hands of ISIS – which has vast resources at its disposal.

Whether the Rojavan experience survives the advances of ISIS or not, it will have shown the world that there is an alternative to the conflict, discrimination, and oppression in the region (and the world). For now, though, we must spread the word about Rojava and, if possible, offer its inhabitants support and solidarity. A better future is at stake, not just for Rojava, but for Syria, the Middle East, and the whole world.

Rojava_map

Posted in Anarchism, Arab Nationalism, Assad, Autonomy, Ba'ath, Ba'ath Party, capitalism, CIA, Democracy, dignity, Education, Environment, Europe, Exploitation, Iraq, ISIS, Islamic State, Kurdistan, Kurds, Libertarian Communism, Libertarian Socialism, PKK, PYD, revolution, Rojava, Saddam Hussein, Salafism, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Wahhabism, YPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El EIIL, El Imperialismo, y Rojava

El Imperio Otomano unía mucho del Mundo Árabe durante siglos. En el siglo 19, empezó a deteriorarse, y los poderes imperialistas de Europa intentaron asegurar su influencia en la región. El Reino Unido, por ejemplo, ocupó Egipto para ‘proteger sus intereses’ en el Canal de Suez.

Cuando el imperio se acabó definitivamente después de la Primera Guerra Mundial, el Reino Unido y Francia ya habían acordado dividir los viejos territorios otomanos entre sí. (Rusia iba a participar en este acuerdo pero, con la Revolución Bolchevique en 1917, el país había renunciado a sus derechos imperialistas en la región.) Esta división arbitraria de territorio en el Medio Oriente creó muchos de los conflictos que vemos hoy. En particular, la comunidad kurda se quedó sin país, y estaría repartida entre Turquía, Siria, Irak, e Irán, donde estaría marginalizada, excluida, y reprimida durante décadas.

El Reino Unido, en su búsqueda de alianzas durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, había prometido ambos una nación unida para los árabes y una nación para los judíos sionistas. Intentó instalar monarquías en la región entera, y permitió que miles de sionistas entraran en Palestina – creando grandes tensiones con la población local.

Una de las monarquías apoyadas casi desde el principio por el Reino Unido fue la saudita. Durante el siglo 18, el ‘wahabismo’ (una violenta corriente puritana y chovinista del Islam suní) se unió con la tribu Al-Saud, que vio las creencias del wahabismo como una forma de asegurar su dominio político en la península arábiga. La alianza brutal y extremista fue oprimida por el Imperio Otomano, pero volvió a surgir después de la caída del imperio. Logró el apoyo del Reino Unido por buscar maneras menos violentas de difundir su mensaje puritano.

Aunque dominaba Arabia Saudita, el wahabismo fue una corriente menor en el Islam hasta el descubrimiento de petróleo en 1938. No obstante, cuando formó una alianza con los EEUU después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, el país se convirtió en un poder muy importante en la región, y pudo mejorar la posición del wahabismo en el Mundo Árabe gracias a los nuevos ingresos petroleros. Hoy en día, Arabia Saudita invierte cientos de millones de dólares en la creación de escuelas, mezquitas, periódicos, y grupos wahabitas por todo el mundo.

Con la caída del imperio otomano, había un número de movimientos en el Mundo Árabe que quería resistir el dominio de los imperialistas europeos. En Egipto, una forma inclusiva pero a la vez autoritaria del nacionalismo Árabe creció gracias a la figura carismática de Gamal Abdel Nasser a partir del alzamiento de 1952. En Irak, los nacionalistas árabes del Partido Baaz llegaron al poder gracias a la CIA en 1963, aunque no resultaría ser un títere tan confiable. En Siria, el mismo partido también ganaría el poder en 1963, aunque muy pronto se acercaría a la unión soviética. En los dos países, dominaría una elite militar que no permitía oposición política y que perseguía a los grupos étnicos que no eran árabes.

Mientras tanto, Turquía buscó recuperar un poco del poder que había perdido al derrumbe del imperio otomano, e instaló un régimen secular y nacionalista, que buscaba asimilar las minorías a la sociedad turca. Si alguien resistiera, sufriría las consecuencias. Sin embargo, la población significativa de kurdos en Turquía frecuentemente resistiría esta asimilación y opresión. El Partido de los Trabajadores de Kurdistán (PKK), fundado informalmente en 1973 con principios marxistas y antifascistas, fue reprimido junto con otros izquierdistas en Turquía. Entre 1984 y 2010, libró una lucha guerrillera contra el Estado Turco, y aproximadamente 45.000 personas murieron. Hasta 150.000 kurdos desaparecieron en este periodo.

Alrededor del 2005, el PKK adoptó la idea del ‘confederalismo democrático’ (una ideológica ecologista, libertaria, y horizontal que acepta ser parte de una confederación si las áreas kurdas gozaran de un alto grado de autogobierno). La Confederación de Pueblos del Kurdistán (KCK), con vínculos con el PKK, se formó en el mismo año con el objetivo de fomentar el conocimiento, la unidad, y la organización en las comunidades kurdas, junto con la igualdad y la libertad para todas las etnias y religiones de la región.

Mientras se desarrollaba el cambio dentro del PKK, los kurdos de Irak obtuvieron más autonomía del gobierno nacional gracias a la invasión occidental de Irak que derrocó al líder Baazista Saddam Hussein. Mientras los seguidores de Hussein resistían la invasión, el nuevo gobierno chiita en Irak empezó a implementar políticas que excluían a los otros grupos religiosos y étnicos en el país (y ayudaban más a los ciudadanos de la rama chiita del Islam). Gracias a estas tensiones, el extremismo wahabita empezó a crecer en el país.

Cuando la Revolución Tunecina detonó la ‘Primavera Árabe’ del 2011, el imperialismo occidental sufrió la caída de regímenes amigos en países como Túnez y Egipto. Cuando protestas llegaron a países enemigos como Libia y Siria, el occidente por fin decidió ‘ponerse al lado del Pueblo’, viendo una oportunidad para derrocar gobiernos que no eran confiables o serviles al imperialismo (Nota: todo esto no significa que Gadafi y Assad no encabezaban regímenes represivos y parasíticos).

Con la intervención occidental en Libia, los grupos extremistas islámicos crecieron en fuerza. Derrocar a Gadafi fue la prioridad para el occidente. Asegurar la estabilidad política o seguridad popular nunca fue el objetivo. Y pronto, lo mismo pasó en Siria. Las tensiones étnicas y religiosas en la región se desbordaban, y las fuerzas de Assad cometían crímenes contra el Pueblo. El occidente vio otra oportunidad para interferir en la política de la región.

Arabia Saudita y Qatar, con el apoyo económico y militar de los Estados Unidos, entrenaron y armaron a sus aliados wahabitas en Siria y el extranjero, y los mandaron a luchar contra el régimen Baazista de Assad. Mientras tanto, el gobierno turco islamista dejaba que cruzaran grupos opositores al país vecino. Las protestas populares se convirtieron en una guerra civil y, desde el principio del conflicto, era obvio, debido a la injerencia de los países wahabitas (aliados importantes del imperialismo occidental), que el islamismo wahabita iba a dominar la oposición anti-Assad. El crecimiento del Estado Islámico (EIIL) en la región ha sido una consecuencia de todo este entremetimiento.

Sin embargo, la rama del PKK en Siria, el Partido de la Unión Democrática (PYD), también se aprovechó del caos creciente en Siria. Durante 2012, sus fuerzas armadas – o Unidades de Protección Popular (YPG) – expulsaron a las fuerzas gubernamentales. Oponiéndose a los extremistas wahabitas y a las fuerzas de Assad, establecieron territorios autónomos en las áreas kurdas del norte del país. En 2013, expulsaron a un grupo de yihadistas en Ras al-Ayn, y en 2014 han combatido fuertemente contra los wahabitas del EIIL, a veces en colaboración con el Ejército Libre Sirio. Compuestas por mujeres y hombres de Rojava (Kurdistán sirio), las YPG se consideran milicias populares y democráticas, y elecciones internas determinan quienes ocupan los puestos más importantes. Aunque la mayoría de los miembros son kurdos, también participan árabes y siríacos cristianos, quienes ven al grupo como el mejor garante de seguridad regional.

En agosto de 2014, el EIIL entró en Sinyar en Irak, causando un éxodo masivo de residentes (especialmente de la comunidad yazidí) y la derrota de las fuerzas del Kurdistán Iraquí. Sin embargo, gracias a las YPG y las Fuerzas de Defensa Popular del PKK (HPG), miles de yazidíes lograron escapar a Rojava y Turquía. Actualmente, las YPG no han recibido ningún apoyo económico o militar de afuera (tal vez debido a la alianza entre el occidente y Turquía – un miembro de la OTAN, pero probablemente debido principalmente al socialismo libertario practicado por el PYD en Rojava). Como resultado, han sufrido derrotas a manos del EIIL, que tiene amplios recursos económicos y militares.

Si el experimento de Rojava sobrevive el avance del EIIL o no, habrá demostrado que existe una alternativa al conflicto, explotación y opresión en la región (y el mundo). Por ahora, es importante compartir lo que está pasando en Rojava y, si posible, ofrecer nuestro apoyo y solidaridad con su revolución.

Rojava_map

Posted in Anarquismo, Arabia Saudita, Autodefensas, Autonomía, Democracia, EIIL, Estado Islamico, Extremismo, Imperialismo, Irak, PKK, política, PYD, Qatar, Rojava, Siria, Socialismo Libertario, Turquía, Wahabismo, YPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel: The Power of Indoctrination

In response to my criticism of Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law, and thanks to my consequent support of the BDS campaign against Israel, I have received messages from a number of supposed Israeli ‘citizens’.

As explained in my essay, there are genuine reasons for Israeli fears, but there is little justification for Israel’s violent, inhumane actions. A schizophrenic, “catastrophalist” mentality has developed in Israel, and many citizens feel that the whole world is against them. Any criticism of Israel’s massacre of Gazan civilians, continued settlement in the West Bank, or daily humiliation and mistreatment of Palestinians, therefore, is considered to be an attack on Judaism (which it is not, and should not be).

We need to emphasise that Judaism is not the same as Zionism. Many prominent Jews have been highly critical of the creation of the Israeli State in 1948, and of the subsequent crimes committed by that state. The Haredi Jewish community is also strongly opposed to Zionism and its crimes. We need to make it clear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about religion, but about politics. The fact is that a foreign population exploited colonial rule in Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century to buy up land from landowners and gradually push indigenous people out of the territory. This population sought to control the land just as other colonial powers had before, and its mistreatment of the local population was just as bad. Anger and conflict were bound to arise, and they did.

For criticising Israel’s crimes, so-called Israeli ‘citizens’ have said I am “supporting anti-Semitism, homophobia, and the oppression of women”, “glorifying terrorism”, “licking the feet of those murdered by Assad” in Syria, and supporting a “typical colonialist line”. If the extremism of these comments is not yet evident, I must take this opportunity to say that I obviously am not doing any of these things when I criticise Israel. Those who have made these comments to me may well just be Israelis who have been indoctrinated by state propaganda, but they may also be part of the Israeli propaganda system. Either way, they have refused to accept respectful, educated debate with me, and have instead insulted me and sought to attack my character. I have rarely encountered such a violent approach, and I must say it has shocked me to a certain extent.

I am heavily critical of any form of colonialism or imperialism, whether it comes from Europe, the USA, Israel, or elsewhere. I glorify no religion or ethnicity, and I condemn all forms of discrimination. Although I believe it is important to make a distinction between the violence of the oppressed and the violence of the oppressors, I do not approve of any violence. I believe that education, along with respectful and peaceful dialogue, is the ideal way to truly resolve human conflict.

Without the will to enter into such dialogue, however, violence is inevitable. That is not a preference, but a logical deduction based on historical analysis. And unfortunately, if the comments I have received from Israelis do indeed represent the thoughts of a significant proportion of people within Israeli society (which, from my research, I believe to be true), there is no hope for peaceful dialogue under the current circumstances. That is why I repeat the need for the international community to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and Israeli dissenters, who have called for a campaign of boycotts, sanctions, and divestment from Israel. That is why we need to force our governments to stop supporting Israel. Their continued silence should be seen as complicity in Israel’s crimes – as pointed out in my essay.

Zionism is just one aspect of the destruction caused by capitalism. Nationalism and ethnocentric politics cannot truly end violence, injustice, or oppression. The only chance for peaceful co-existence between people from different religious and ethnic groups is the creation of a political system build on respect, justice, equality, and co-operation.  Those values cannot truly exist within a society in which one socio-economic group exploits and exercises domination over another – they cannot exist within a capitalist system! Those values can only exist within a system controlled by the workers – a system of freedom and of socialism.

For more on my stance, see the following posts:

http://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/gaza-a-capitalist-genocide-essay/

http://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/gaza-a-capitalist-genocide-key-points/

http://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/gaza-a-ceasefire-is-not-enough/

http://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/for-gaza-poem/

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The new airport

Originally posted on dorset chiapas solidarity:

 The new airport

Gloria Muñoz Ramírez

Los de Abajo, 6th September, 2014

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The PRI triumphalism lavished on the announcement of the construction of the new airport for Mexico City contrasts with the resistance maintained by the ejidatarios grouped together in the People’s Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) from San Salvador Atenco, who, while recognizing the breakdown of the community social fabric as a result of the deception and manipulation strategies of the regime, are ready to return and give battle again.

The situation is not the same as it was 13 years ago when, taken by surprise by a decree of expropriation, dated October 22, 2001 by the then President Vicente Fox, the five ejidal nuclei of Atenco and the 13 communities affected began a struggle which culminated in one of the most notable victories by a social and campesino movement in the last two decades. In…

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UK: March for the NHS (06/09/14)

Popular opposition to austerity and privatisation are on the rise in the UK, and unions, left-wing political parties, and civil society groups have all come together to assert that the NHS will not be given away to corporations. Today’s march in London was yet another example of the popular uproar that has been caused by the Coalition’s neoliberal policies.

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MEXICO: Indigenous People of Chiapas Oppose Megaprojects

Communique from September 1st, 2014

 

To the people of Mexico and the world,

To the national and international press,

To national and international civil society groups,

To human rights organisations,

To adherents of the Sixth Declaration,

To social organisations,

To the alternative media,

 

[This is a statement from] the women, men, ejidal and religious indigenous authorities, and organised Chol and Tseltal peasants from the following communities and ejidos: Ejido Tumbo, Ejido Ignacio Zaragoza, Ejido Agua Dulce Tehuacán, Ejido San Jerónimo Bachajón, Ejido Cuauhtémoc, Ejido Nueva Esperanza, Ejido La Nueva Providencia – all gathered in the Ejido Peña Limonar in the municipality of Ocosingo. We wish to make public our words, denunciations, and demands directed at the three levels of government – federal, state, and municipal – and at multinational corporations.

 

We indigenous women and men have been meeting to analyse the causes and consequences of the government-imposed Megaprojects such as the construction of the San Cristóbal-Palenque and Comitán-Palenque roads, hydroelectric dams, and wind parks; the mining of natural resources like oil; the Fanar programme; the National Forest and Ground Inventory, and so on. We have also sought to reflect on the public policies used as a strategy to counteract indigenous resistance.

 

Our women, men and authorities live and work on this land with our families, planting and farming food for our own subsistence. However, we are faced with violent invasions carried out by the three levels of government and large corporations.

 

For that reason, we wish to raise our voices to tell the Bad Government that:

 

  • We totally reject the Mesoamérica Project that puts the lives of women, men, children, and elderly people at risk, along with the flora and fauna of the numerous nations in which governments and multinational corporations violently impose their Megaprojects. They will have a negative impact on our mother earth, and therefore on our families. They will also put at risk our fertile lands, wild food, natural springs, mountains, grass, sacred sites, medicinal plants and, above all, the culture we have inherited from our parents and grandparents.

 

Today, the interests of the Patriarchal and Neoliberal Capitalist System want to destroy our territories through the exploitation of our natural resources, which will cause the deaths of thousands of people, the mass destruction of nature, and irreversible damage to our fertile lands. Our families will subsequently be brought even more suffering and poverty, while businessmen will grow even richer at the expense of thousands of people.

 

  • We totally reject the militarisation of our region and country, and we will not allow the military to enter into our communities.

 

  • We shall defend our native seeds, which are in danger from companies like Monsanto and Syngenta.

 

  • We do not want genetically modified seeds or agro-chemical packages because they damage our mother earth, our health, and contaminate our native crops.

 

  • We shall not allow any government or corporate employee into our communities.

 

  • We are aware that the government, through its policies and strategies (including money and gifts), seeks to convince ejidal and community authorities to support its projects, and thus turn them into accomplices in the dispossession of indigenous territories and lands.

 

We assert that we will not allow this to keep happening. We women and men shall make all the decisions regarding the natural resources of our lands, and the authorities will have to respect those decisions.

 

  • We shall put our political, religious, and organisational differences aside and become one united heart and objective in order to defend our land and food.

 

  • We shall inform ourselves about political processes and gather within our communities – with all the women, men, youngsters, children, and elderly people – to forge strategies of resistance in each one of our communities, and we shall coordinate our efforts to make our resistance stronger.

 

  • We shall meet with other communities to inform them of the damaging and underhand policies of the government.

 

  • We stand in solidarity with those fighting against the construction of the San Cristóbal-Palenque motorway. Let them not be afraid, for they are not alone. We know they are being threatened strongly by the government, and we wish to tell them that they can count on our support for whatever they need.

 

  • We totally reject the forms of violent dispossession exercised by the three levels of government, because they put our lives, food, and environment at risk.

 

  • We totally reject the energy, property, education, and agrarian reforms, among others.

 

  • We demand that the government respect the communal land and property of indigenous people. Our land is not for sale. It is the heritage of our parents and grandparents.

 

  • We affirm that our struggle will continue, with sit-ins, marches, and denunciations. We will make our fight known at a national and international level.

 

  • We demand that our human rights, established in Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), be respected. Currently, the rights of indigenous people to information and consultation are being violated.

 

  • No programme or project will be able to dispossess us of our natural resources. If our grandparents lived without government support, we can do the same, by working and growing our own food, conserving our native seeds, and curing ourselves with our medicinal plants.

 

  • We say no to the privatisation of our land and the pillaging of our natural resources!

 

  • We wish to tell all the women, men, and ejidal authorities of different communities and ejidos that they should not be afraid of government threats. Let us all come together to analyse the problems we are facing, and organise resistance to defend our mother earth and territory against Megaprojects. Let us fight together against the Patriarchal and Neoliberal Capitalist System.

 

Our land is not for sale! It is to be worked and defended!

 

Let us globalise the struggle! Let us globalise hope!

 

The women, men, ejidal and religious indigenous authorities, and organised Chol and Tseltal peasants from the following communities and ejidos: Ejido Tumbo, Ejido Ignacio Zaragoza, Ejido Agua Dulce Tehuacán, Ejido San Jerónimo Bachajón, Ejido Cuauhtémoc, Ejido Nueva Esperanza, Ejido La Nueva Providencia – all gathered in the Ejido Peña Limonar in the municipality of Ocosingo.

 

 

Translated by Oso Sabio from an article originally published in Spanish at http://www.pozol.org/?p=9797

 

Source: The Chiapan Centre for Women’s Rights https://www.facebook.com/notes/centro-de-derechos-de-la-mujer-de-chiapas/pueblos-orginarios-de-chiapas-en-contra-de-los-megaproyectos/443830412425757

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MEXICO: Six Reasons Why Indigenous Communities Are Opposed to the San Cristóbal-Palenque Motorway

July 31st, 2014

 

In Chiapas, Mexico, there are plans to build a motorway between San Cristóbal de Las Casas and Palenque – two of the most important tourist sites in the state. The Department of Infrastructure and Communications in Chiapas (SinfrayC) has said the road will be “a tool for the development of historically backwards regions of the state, providing them with mechanisms for self-sustainable economic growth”. However, just two days before that statement, 15,000 people marched through ten Chiapan municipalities between San Cristóbal and Palenque to show their opposition to this project, which was initially proposed ten years ago.

 

The march was organised for July 19th, with the diocese of San Cristóbal inviting communities to march “for peace” and for “the defence of life, mother earth, and local communities”. Women and men of all ages responded by marching from 9am to 2pm in Huixtán, Tenejapa, Oxchuc, Cancuc, Pantelhó (Altos), Altamirano, Ocosingo (Selva), Chilón, Yajalón, and Tumbalá (Tujilá), chanting “it will only benefit companies, not communities” and “it will damage Mother Earth”. [1]

 

“The road will only pass through our municipalities if people allow it”

 

The project is currently in the hands of the Department of Communication and Transport (SCT), which has hired Mexican engineering consultants ‘Cal y Mayor’ to design the road. The plan is for a 153km-long two-lane road to be built between San Cristóbal and Palenque, along with a 16.3km connecting road to Ocosingo, though exact details have yet to be published. In 2009, the motorway was due to pass through 31 communities in the municipalities of Chilón, Tumbalá, Tila, Salto de Agua (Tujilá), Palenque (región Maya), and Macuspana (Tabasco), but those plans have changed several times. In February 2014, the SCT said it was still looking into a new route as a result of communal opposition to the initial route. Dozens of communities in the municipalities of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Tenejapa, Huixtán, Oxchuc, Ocosingo, Chilón, and Palenque could all now be affected.

 

“The road will only pass through our municipalities if people allow it to pass through, and for that reason we should not stop fighting”, affirmed one Huixtán resident who participated in the march on July 19th. According to him, the route of the road could affect up to ten communities in his municipality. He hopes, however, that popular resistance will lead to the suspension or cancellation of the project, in spite of the federal government’s commitment to beginning work this year.

 

To understand the issue in greater depth, it’s necessary to take a closer look at why thousands of Chiapans are opposed to the road passing through their communities:

 

1) Violation of the Right to Consultation and Lack of Government Communication

 

One key issue is the lack of government communication and the violation of the right to consultation. As we have seen, the plans for the road are still not clear, and the indigenous people in the region (from Tzotzil, Tseltal, and Chol communities) are committed to asserting their right to free and informed consultation before the government-corporate coalition begins the project. According to Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which refers to the rights of indigenous and tribal communities, they are entitled to demand that the Mexican government, which is signed up to the agreement, respects this right.

 

Up to this point, however, indigenous communities have not been involved at all in the process of designing the road. In certain areas, ejidal assemblies have gathered on their own initiative to vote “no” to the road project, but have still seen engineers fly over their territories in helicopters in an attempt to study the feasibility of building on their land. According to one resident of the López Mateo Ejido in Huixtán, this was precisely the case in his community, where an assembly officially rejected the project at the end of 2013.

 

2) Destruction of the Environment

 

Communities are also opposed to the road because they believe it will affect their environment, crops, and housing. The building of the road, for example, will require openings to be created in the hills surrounding the route between San Cristóbal and Palenque – land where houses, crops, woods, and springs are found.

 

According to the most recent SinfryC statements, the motorway will include three bridges – of 400, 450, and 500 metres in height. The two lanes, meanwhile, will be twelve metres wide in total, though a further 60 metres will be a ‘no-go zone’ for local inhabitants, according to a 2009 environmental study carried out by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat). When the study was released, there were employees of the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp) who told an Ecoportal journalist that they were personally opposed to the project because of the environmental damage it would cause.

 

Although the planned route has changed since 2009, Semarnat has yet to publish another study of the predicted environmental impacts.

 

3) Dispossession and Displacement

 

One resident of the Chilil Ejido in Huixtán fears that the houses, lands, and “whatever [the inhabitants] have” will be “invaded” if they happen to be near the route of the new road. As a result of such worries, the Tzotzil inhabitants of Los Llanos (a municipality of San Cristóbal) set up a defence group in January 2014 in order to protect their land, in the hope of preventing the road from being be built there. They said they opposed the megaproject because it “puts [their] food sovereignty at risk and violates their right to land, autonomy, protection of their environment and natural resources, and freedom from discrimination”. They also affirmed that the sinister behaviour of government officials was responsible for their actions. Fidencio Pérez Jiménez, for example, from the council of San Cristóbal, “came here to warn us that the motorway would pass through our common land and that, if we resisted, the authorities in our community would be sent to jail and the Army would come in to set the construction project in motion”.

 

4) Not for the People?

 

The project will not be free. When it was restarted under President Calderón in 2008 (after being forgotten about for years), it initially looked set to be a toll-road under the control of the Spanish-Mexican company CAS (Concesionaria de Autopistas del Sureste). This firm, owned mostly by the Spanish group Aldesa, has been the owner of the road from San Cristóbal to Tuxtla since 2008, and charges a minimum of 48 pesos (far out of the reach of the majority of inhabitants in the area). According to SinfrayC Secretary Bayardo Robles Riqué, the San Cristóbal-Palenque road will not be a toll-road, even though estimates suggest it will cost around 10,600 million pesos. For precisely this reason, critics do not believe Robles’s claim, asserting that the government will seek to recover its money in some way.

 

5) The Road to Exploitation

 

Inhabitants of Chiapas also feel that the road will facilitate the arrival of extractivist companies which will plunder their land. The General Secretary of Government, Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar, was interviewed by the Heraldo de Chiapas in January 2014, and laid out clearly the intentions of the government. The main reason for the building of the road, he said, would be to “connect Chiapas”. He insisted that “we cannot bring investment if we don’t have the infrastructure”. Both foreign and national companies ask for “good road links” before investing, he asserted, adding that “in Chiapas we have very few”. And, as these are in a poor state (having been “built more than 30 or 40 years ago”), Ramírez said it’s no wonder they “don’t want to invest in Chiapas”. The road project, he argued, would open up a “horizon of opportunities”, and was therefore worth the “economic… and social investment” of the government.

 

6) Corporate Profit Is the Driving Force

 

Perhaps the most important reason for the opposition of Chiapan communities to the road project, however, is that they will not be the ones who will truly benefit. They will indeed be able to sell more of their handicrafts and crops to tourists at some point in the future, but that will be nothing compared to the profits that big companies will get when they enter into the territory of indigenous communities without problems to profit from their natural resources. Nature will simply become a commodity, and will be commercialised and privatised more and more as the number of eco-tourist or ‘adventure’ projects multiplies. The land and lives of ordinary Chiapan inhabitants, on the other hand, will see themselves threatened.

 

The San Cristóbal-Palenque motorway will allow companies to build factories a lot more easily and, in Huixtán in particular, residents fear that Coca Cola will set up a plant near to one of their natural springs, threatening their water supply in the process (see video below). Energy megaprojects such as reservoirs and mines, meanwhile, which require large machines and trucks, will benefit immensely from the construction of the new road. The simple fact is that, thanks to the government’s approval of the Energy Reform (which has legalised privatisation of land and resources for supposed ‘public gain’), the road will facilitate a capitalist orgy of extraction of whatever resources are found underground. And that is precisely what many Chiapan communities want to avoid.

 

 

Note: Videos of the marches for “Peace, the Defence of Life, and Mother Earth” in Huixtán and Cancuc can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpHUa9v3NiM and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPEhhnnNiDs

 

[1] http://peregrinacion19julio.wordpress.com/comunicados/comunicado-espanol/

Article translated by Oso Sabio from an article originally written in Spanish at: http://otrosmundoschiapas.org/index.php/temas-analisis/31-31-resistencias/1718-porque-los-pueblos-originarios-rechazan-la-autopista-san-cristobal-de-las-casas-palenque

rechazamosautopista

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